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Black and White Thinking: Looking At the Darkness of Divorce

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I didn’t want a divorce. I made that clear in the therapy session. Then she admitted she’d been to see an attorney.

“Getting my options.”

“We’re fucked.” I was in shock.

The therapist, Rich, said, “Okay, let’s take a moment and breathe.”

“No,” I stumbled on. “I am fucked.”


At that moment I wanted to shout, implode, vanish, hurt someone, cry, find comfort. There was no comfort in the room. There would be no comfort from either of them, ever. It was over. My life was over. My time with my kids was going to mirror my father’s exit. (A little better, since I’m not an alcoholic.) I was headed toward becoming a footnote in their lives. A 1/3 dad. A loss I could not comprehend. A loss I felt the second she mentioned “options.”

I left the therapist’s office and called my mentor Dan Jones. He had time for me. I drove the 20 minutes to his house flipping like a binary gate: ON happy optimistic: OFF my life is over, death, destruction.

When he let me into his office, I sobbed. I was a ghost now. Dead. A deadbeat dad. A divorced dad. A single father. A NON-CUSTODIAL PARENT in a world full of custodial moms. I was losing my kids. I was going to lose my house, neighborhood, tennis leagues, greenbelt hikes, dogs in the backyard. I was losing my universe.

Except the universe was not going away, I was merely being jettisoned outward. I would have to negotiate my time with my kids. First with my angry ex-wife who didn’t give a shit. Then, with my teenage kids, who didn’t give a shit. Now, with college kids, who are busy and it’s complicated, and loss loss loss after loss.

Divorce was the beginning of my authentic voice. I had been writing a tech blog (uber.la) and was getting into the cadence of writing every day. Feeding the audience. I had one or two viral hits, that boosted my visibility. This was in the day when 5,000 Twitter followers could generate 500 clicks on your site. I have 20,000 followers today, and I get 10 clicks on my site when I tweet to them. Oh well.

I launched a new blog. An anonymous blog. A place where I could wrestle with the devil inside, with my ex-wife’s bullshit, and the devastating loss. I was not going to fall apart and crash land. I was going to write my heart out, find the substance under the anger, and maybe heal some of my own dad-divorce shit.


It’s still up. Some of the writing has been transferred to my going concern, where you are reading this today. But if you spend some time on the site, you will see the beginnings of my story of divorce. My story as a man without a country. My story of loss, depression, frustration, and blackness.

You will also see (if you follow the timeline backward from the beginning to when I stopped contributing to The Off Parent) that I got my shit together. I dealt with the issues. I took no shit. And in the process of trying to make sense of the divorce, I became a writer. I wrote. And The Off Parent gave me the energy and stories to write all the time.

I still write all the time, but not much about my divorce or my ex-wife and he dickish husband. I still take swipes every now and then on this blog. For the most part, however, she is zero I no longer attempt to flip back over to a one. She’s still the mother of my children. But she is an intentional antagonist to both me and my kids. Why? No idea. Most likely, it’s her hurt that is not healed. I’ll leave her biographic story for her to tell, but “rage at your ex-husband” 14 years after the divorce you wanted, is pathological. Right?

Anyway, today I wanted to acknowledge that The Off Parent and it’s vicious energy, rapier wit, and honest expression of a man losing his dream, losing most of the time with his two children, and losing all of his mind. The dark and the writing in and of the dark, gave way to the breakthrough.

Let’s see if I can find the moment on The Off Parent when I understood the next level of healing for me was in releasing my ex-wife rather than responding in anger. Below is the date of the first post of this blog. (Please hold, I’ll be right back.)

the day The Whole Parent blog was started.

Here’s a post from Sept. 4, 2013.

Maybe My Unhappy Ex-Wife Is Simply Unhappy

And on Sept 21, 2013 I make the announcement on The Off Parent.

A New Blog and a New Journey

I didn’t stop writing on The Off Parent, I just made a pivot. When incoming rocket fire would torch my day or mood, I realized I had a choice. I can fire back on The Off Parent, or, better idea, I could try and understand my own side of the response. Let’s see if I can transform incoming bullshit into some wisdom for a future self. For future readers. For future divorce-with-kids adventurers.

Over the years my OFF posts began to taper off. Then I wrote mainly poetry on that blog, as a placeholder for the words. When I wrote the book Fall of the House of Dad I had a conflict. This was definitely Off Parent material. In the initial designs the author was listed as “The Off Parent.”

I asked some friends, some mentors, and some woman in the know, about my path forward with the new book. The response was unanimous and overwhelming.

You have to put your name on it. She’s had a free pass for long enough. Your kids are at an age where they don’t care, and they certainly don’t read. It’s a good book. Put your name on it. Own it. Grow.

I’m inclined from time to time to shutter The Off Parent, or at least remove the vitriol. But then, it would lose its documentary or journal quality. The Off Parent is a journey from loss and devestation to rebirth, dating again, and eventually love poems. It was a hard and long journey with plenty of moments I didn’t think I would survive.

I did survive. The Whole Parent is my opus.

Even then, all good things must come to pass. I’m not winding down either blog, but I can tell you, I’m writing elsewhere these days. About artificial intelligence, about science fiction, about poetry in the age of ai. I’m writing all the time. The Off Parent gave me a hot poker up the ass. The Whole Parent transformed me into a positive influencer and coach for adults heading into or trying to avoid divorce.

I got here with intention and effort. I hope that in your time with me, on this journey, you will see my efforts have not been wasted. Single parenting requires a HEROIC effort. I am here to encourage couples, men, and women, to keep working their own program of healing and recovery. It is only by recovery that we stop the pattern of abuse, neglect, infidelity, and other love destroyers.

Happy Fat Tuesday, 2024. I have arrived here to meet you.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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a good dad's guide to divorce, by john mcelhenney

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