Tag Archives: anger at your ex

Carrying the Load: Money Issues from Marriage to Child Support

WHOLE-tango3

Keep the love of your children in your heart and mind and forgive even the egregious actions of your ex-partner.

The most important conversation you can have in your relationship has to do with money. Who will work while you have kids and they need more time and support? If one of you will be the primary breadwinner, when will the transition back to balance take place. In my marriage that discussion was pretty clear for the first 7 – 8 years of our marriage. When I was laid off from my big corporate job, however the kids were finishing up 3rd and 5th grade, I began to ask questions about what’s next.

When my ex-wife did file with the AG’s office she said it was “to protect the kids.”

My then-wife was not happy. She remained unsupportive and even counter-supportive during the next year of our marriage. Finally when the next corporate job, for me turned into a nightmare, rather than a saving grace, I too was done. Done with giving up my health and 120% of my time to a big job. The white picket fence was fine, the kids were happy, and my then-wife was enjoying the same part-time schedule she had become accustomed to. Fine. But I was overweight, stressed out, and exhausted.

I began to ask about this balance in our work life as well as our intimate life. And rather than finding a receptive partner, I ran into my soon-to-be-ex-wife’s brick wall. Emotionally and intimately she had been unavailable for the better part of 18 months. And on the job front she was making efforts to re-tool, re-discover, re-define herself. Um, while our marriage was collapsing under the weight of the money stress, she was not working but having some sort of mid-life crisis. Perhaps I was too.

Either way, the money woes weighed most heavily on our relationship. And 1 month after the next big corp job went away, she let me know she had consulted an attorney to discuss her options. She was working her strategy and spreadsheets to divorce me. Wow. I was slapped in the face. But I was not surprised at her unhappiness, just her choice OUT of the marriage that would obviously destroy our kids happy-ish home.

From then on the friction about money go worse not better. As I was struggling with depression and my own financial trouble a few years after the divorce, I let her know I was about to be late with the child support payments. “I’ll get caught back up, as soon as I can.”

She was not agreeable. She gave me a month and a slew of ultimatum emails.

“I’m thinking of turning the whole thing over to the AG’s office,” she said, repeatedly.

Two things about this threat: 1. don’t ever threaten your ex, it does no good and only makes conversations between you that much more unmanageable; 2. don’t ever turn your ex into the Attorney General’s office. You are demonstrating that money is more important than your kids, and certainly more important than your ongoing relationship with your co-parent.

When my ex-wife did file with the AG’s office she said it was “to protect the kids.”

The effects of that awful and hurtful decision are still wreaking havoc on my life. At that moment I was trying to keep my house and my car in a restructuring bankruptcy. The AG’s ding on my credit killed all of my options. I had to sell the house and move in with my mom. (That was pretty harsh, emotionally. She didn’t care. She wanted her damn money.)

Today I was applying for a loan to replace my car that has been totaled by the insurance company. I was flat-out denied. The financial obligation to the AG’s office was the primary mark against me. No car at all? How am I supposed to go pick up my kids from school or the ex-wife’s house? Maybe she’ll loan me her car. NOT!

The damage you inflict on another person is really damage that you do to yourself. In the case of the co-parent, please reconsider any adverse actions on your part.

Before you file against your ex-parent, please consider your actions. In a moment of frustration and anger she lashed out in the most vindictive way she could. I was pleading for her to reconsider. I was showing her my income statements and asking for a bit more time to put the plan together. Why in the world would she do something to damage the income stream of her co-parent? Anger! Wrong choice.

Money struggles will continue for a long time after your kids have graduated from high school. You will be entangled in money decisions for the rest of your lives together. Why would you intentionally do something that would might keep the other partner from landing a new job, renting a house, buying a used car?

I’m not looking for an apology from her. I know it won’t ever come. She was justified in her mind. But I don’t understand how she thought it was a good idea. As I continually forgive her initially for the divorce and now for the inflexible schedule of the AG’s office I have to laugh a bit. She set us on a course by turning me into a “deadbeat dad” that also complicates her life. As I try to find the next big corp job, one of the vetting steps is often running a credit report. How’s that for justice?

“Honey, I’d love to get the next big job that would ease up the money for all of us, but I keep getting turned down at the ‘credit check’ part of the process.”

Yeah, keep your co-parent in a cooperative teammate role. When you make them the enemy, your actions might create just that. Of course the damage you inflict on another person is really damage that you do to yourself. In the case of the co-parent of your children, please reconsider any adverse actions on your part. Keep the love of your children in your heart and mind and forgive even the egregious actions of your ex-partner.

Today I have to forgive my ex-wife on a regular basis. Her actions with the AG’s office over a year-and-a-half ago will continue to kill my credit score until I can completely pay off the back child support. Unless I want to sue her, but that’s contrary to my entire premise of the positive co-parent. I’m learning to be better, more forgiving, and more loving, even of her.

Stay positive. Love your kids. Respect your ex.

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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Love All Parents: The Single Parent’s Manifesto

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When you become a parent everything in your life changes. The world is miraculously transformed into something mystical, spiritual, and magical. For me, I was able to rise above myself as an individual and recognize the gift that happened in our lifes. That process started long before the birth of my first child, but from the very moment that I helped wiggle his shoulders free from his mom’s body, I was forever aware of my responsibility.

Today, I’m closer to believing that I am happier, that my kids are happier, and even that my ex-wife is happier now, after the divorce.

And now we’re divorced. Hmm. A lot of water has passed under the bridge, but that same moment of realization and awe of responsibility is present with me all the time. As often as possible, when I remember to pay attention to this universal responsibility, I am an awesome co-parent. Other times, I get tired or distracted and I think my ex-wife is more of “the ex” rather than the “mother of my children.” The perspective is important. I am constantly trying to do better.

I am always in the process of becoming the best ex-husband I can be. Yes, you’re kids are the priority, but it’s important to remember the sacred bond between you and your ex-spouse. There’s no escaping it. You both agreed to the deal, you both ushered in new life. And you both have responsibilities to them, but also to each other. YUK. It can be hard sometimes to remember this inclusiveness.

There have been plenty of things in the course of my single parenthood that I would rather strangle her over. However, the trick is to embrace the idea that she is doing the best she can. Always. It doesn’t seem that way when things go differently than you had imagined. It can appear that your co-parent is out to make your life miserable. But in my case, that’s not the truth. It is how I feel sometimes, but my feelings don’t accurately reflect reality. They are just my feelings. I cannot accurately project or predict her thoughts and actions. And obviously, that is not my job. My job is to listen and respond, with compassion. Again, easier said than done, but it’s a process of growth and release. As you release your ex from their faults in your eyes, you can begin to merely support them, no matter what. It’s not their fault they are so stressed out. There is nothing you can do to make them less tired. But you can provide a flexible and supportive response as often as possible.

Here’s the trick for me, when I celebrate the strength and resilience of my co-parent, I can begin to let go of my past resentments. One of the hardest transitions for me was dropping the blame and self-delusion that getting divorced was her idea, and her fault. It sure seemed that way when everything was going down, when I was asking for a reconciliation. However, today, from the 30,000 ft view back into the wreckage that our relationship had become, I can acknowledge that she was indeed doing the best she knew how. She made choices towards what she felt was her ultimate survival plan. Good or bad, the divorce freed us both up to develop into the next iteration of ourselves.

At first, for me, the loss of my primary residence and my unlimited access to my kids was nearly unbearable. The depression and feelings of loss caused me a lot of down time. I struggled. And for a long time I tried to figure out what I could’ve done to save the relationship. I tried to unravel when I had done wrong, or where the two of us had broken some sacred bond. But there were no easy answers.

I wish my co-parent all the joy and love in the world. I can no longer provide any of those things.

We both entered the marriage in order to have kids. Perhaps we compromised or overlooked some of the early warning signs because we were so focused on becoming parents. We did the dream, we had the kids, and we began our lives as a family the best we knew how.

Then, after struggling along for a few rough years, in the best interest of all involved, we divorced. We split into two houses, and resumed our parenting duties.

Today, I’m closer to believing that I am happier, that my kids are happier, and even that my ex-wife is happier now, after the divorce. And even if that is not true, I can only work on my part, my perspective on the situation. I can only do my side of the co-parenting equation. Sure, there are opportunities for escalation, and just over the last two days, she’s been trying to get me to engage in some drama about the family dog, that I simply won’t bite on. Nope.

I can always take the high road. I can refuse to fire back when she’s hitting below the belt, or complaining that things aren’t working out. But I have made a firm decision not to respond in-kind. Compassion first. Then firm resolve to deal with only the part of the relationship that I can control, me and my responses.

I am certain of a few things now, from this 30,000 ft view.

  • I am happier than I was in the final throes of our failing marriage.
  • There were incompatibilities between us that we overlooked in order to become parents.
  • As a young family, we did the best we could at shepherding our babies into young adults.
  • When the mystery and magic of being parents gave way to the more mundane tasks of parenting, chores, and money, we became more functional and less romantic.

I wish my co-parent all the joy and love in the world. I can no longer provide any of those things. But I can be a soft cushion when she needs to hit or collapse into something. I resolve not to hit back. But, I won’t stand-in for the drama any more. I will only take my responsibility. I will only pay attention to the business between us as we continue together in co-parenting.

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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Prayer for Single Parents, and My Ex

WHOLE-prayer

“I wish you happiness in your new life, I always want to see you shine, you are the other half, the partner in this parenting journey we accepted together. Your joy is joy for our kids. Your peace is their peace, and mine. As we walk separate paths we are blameless and grateful for the gifts we’ve been given. And to you, my dear ex, I give the deepest respect and love. Thank you for where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going, still a family, still parents, still blessed.”

I haven’t always been able to bless my ex-wife. And for times in our marriage neither of us were blessing anyone. It was hard. We tried. We worked at it. We raised kids and grew together and then apart in the process. But we never stopped trying. And I can see that we are still trying today.

I know that my ex-partner is doing the best she can under the circumstances. She always has. And though we have both had periods of struggle and doubt, we seem to be on the upswing of our co-parenting transition. I do believe that there is nothing she wouldn’t do to make our kid’s lives better. And I have to believe that she is always looking out for their best interest, even when I can’t see it.

Somedays, I pine for being a core family again. Somedays, I look back and wonder what I could’ve, we could’ve, done to preserve the respect and love that we once had. And other days I can get so mad, wishing things were different, right now. Wishing I had the next relationship under way, like she does. But that’s not what this is about.

Anger today is a motivating force for me. I can be angry at my ex-wife, I can be angry at the economy, angry at the slow-moving car in front of me, there are plenty of things to get angry about.

This is about our kids. Two wonderful kids. The supreme focus of my life. And there is nothing I wouldn’t do for them. To keep them safe, to protect them from unnecessary drama and hurt, to help them grow into strong independent adults. And I have to know that she has the same intention in mind, even when I think things aren’t going as they should. It’s okay. We still have our differences. And my “way” is not the right way, it’s just my way. She has her own connection with the kids. She has her own path. And now we no longer share that path.

Communication is the key. The less we communicate… The more we communicate… It can be hard. And it is often the cause for friction in this co-parenting dance. So we need to take it more carefully. Answer with some thought to how the other person may react. Breathe when we are upset and want to react. It is never a good idea to fire back with anger. Never.

My anger is my own. My ex-wife does not deserve any of it. (Man that is even hard to say.) But it’s true. We tried, we negotiated a truce and separation, and now we are separate countries with shared resources. We still operate with some of the same interdependent budgets, but we’ve got a new autonomy. And what makes me angry is mainly my own unmet expectations. This is not the way I wanted it to work out. But guess what? It’s not the way she wanted it either. So we’re even. And we’re in this together.

Anger is a funny beast. At first I was afraid to express my anger. And I was almost a pacifist. But pacifists get run over. And over time I learned to speak up for my own needs. And indeed, I got mad as we entered the late stages of our marriage, when things were not going well, I spoke up. And again, today, I can feel my anger, but I can use it to change things about MY life and not hers. And anger is not an influencer for her, it’s only an irritant.

It’s ironic, that when she’s frustrated with me, I can tell. And I sort of take offense. AND… I’d like to respond in-kind. But I’ve learned, that I get NO RESULTS and NO SATISFACTION from being an asshole. In fact, being angry back at her, usually causes me to feel sad. That is not to say I should swallow my anger. This is how I gained 15 pounds during the height of our dysfunction. But I should own my anger. It is mine.

Anger is energy. Learn to deal with it and channel it towards something you want. Any anger directed back at your ex is anger that will return to you ten-fold when you are in dire need of support.

Anger today is a motivating force for me. I can be angry at my ex-wife, I can be angry at the economy, angry at the slow-moving car in front of me, there are plenty of things to get angry about. And keeping it inside is not the healthy answer, so what is the way through the anger? For me, anger is energy. When I am angry, I can tap that charge and redirect it towards something constructive or creative. It’s one of the reasons writing has become such a release. It’s important not to bury it or squelch it. Anger is power, use it, but use it towards something you want.

As a single parent, there are many new challenges, things that were easier to coordinate as a couple. Now, when the kids are “with me” I have 100% of the transportation duties, 100% of the entertainment, and 100% of the feeding and handling. It’s a lot. And when I’m in a bind, I can often ask for help from my ex. You can see how my friendliness and flexibility makes things easier for her. Well, when I’m in need that “friendship” is what keeps things balanced between us. When we were in the earlier months of divorce, it was much less easy to ask for anything. Today, we are still learning, and still making adjustments, but for the most part, we negotiate support for one another.

Support for our kids is support for our ex. There is no way around it. Anger towards our ex is anger that ends up in our kid’s world. I can take that shit elsewhere, as I do when they are with me. It’s no different. My anger is my own, and it is my responsibility to leave it elsewhere, and deal with it outside of my relationship to my kids, and even my ex. Yep, it sucks, but there it is.

Anger is energy. Learn to deal with it and channel it towards something you want. Any anger directed back at your ex is anger that will return to  you ten-fold when you are in dire need of support. So a prayer. Our kids are a gift. My ex is blameless in her journey forward, and it is in my best interest to support her and the kids with everything I’ve got. And that’s what I do.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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