a good dad in divorce

Can You Be a Good Dad After Divorce?

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When the courts in our country treat fathers like paychecks rather than full members of the divorcing family system, we’re all going to feel the pain. My loss of a father when I was between 3rd and 4th grades was one of the hardest periods of my life. I never got my dad back. He vanished down the bottle. The one dinner per week became a burden. For him and his new wife. Another big drinker. Woohoo.

Being a Good Father After Divorce

Parents entered the “having children” discussion as equals. Why should it be different once one of the parents has decided they no longer want to be in the marriage? Shouldn’t the one asking for the divorce be forced to negotiate for 50/50 custody, since they are the ones putting the family in the family court system? Or what if, both parents were considered equally important by the states?

In my state, red but changing, Texas, dads get the non-custodial role 85% of the time. Why is that? Are dads really that shitty, compared to moms? Or, was the family law precedent set before my parents’ divorce over 50 years ago? In those days, the dads really did provide 90% of the income, and moms really did provide 90% of the emotional love. (This a gross oversimplification, I know.)

My dad was rabid and held the cards of money and power. The courts were on my mom’s side. My dad, with all of his bravado, could not win everything. He kept most of his money. He did not get me. I hear the divorce took so long because my dad was obsessed with getting custody of me. I don’t think that’s the truth. (My mom, however, passed 3 years ago, so I can’t ask her. My dad died in my early college days.

In Today’s Family Courts

Moms are in control during divorce negotiations.

US states parenting after divorce

And staying out of a big legal war was part of my objective. I often wonder what would’ve happened had I taken her to court to try for 50/50 shared parenting. We’d have been forced to concoct character assassinations. We’d both reveal our anti-depressant use and claim the other parent was depressed. We’d need to show how the other parent sucked. (While I can do this now, read this blog, I couldn’t and wouldn’t put all of us through a lawsuit.) I did not sue my still-wife for 50/50 shared parenting, even though that’s the assumption we negotiated the first two months of our divorce around. She renigged. She took the divorce brochure and ran with it.

Most Dads Want To Stay Close

Several big leaps of faith are required for dads to stay connected to their kids:

  • never fight your ex
  • never return fire when the *bs* is aimed at you
  • you can be the bigger partner by not fighting
  • co-parenting is cooperative, do your best
  • do not trash talk your ex to friends, family, or the kids
  • when they go low, stay above the level, never go low
  • remain positive

Finding the high ground, even if you got a non-custodial role (like me) is the only way to go. Attacking or fighting with your ex will cause anger and bad mojo for your kids. Just don’t do it.

It took me several years of negotiating with my narc ex before I realized that her shitty texts were designed to get me upset. She still does this crap 13 years later. This is how The Whole Parent was born. My old divorce blog, The Off Parent, was packed with angry stories. I wanted to put my name on the writing and begin the process of turning these potentially volatile communications into learning opportunities. I learned to:

  • never return fire
  • make your communications about the logistics
  • leave emotions out
  • don’t blame anyone
  • try and be kind
  • forgive but don’t forget

Now, you may see this website as a weapon of shame or war on my ex-wife. I understand your concern. I also get friends from time to time who ask, “When are you going to be over your divorce?” Um, the relationship is ongoing. I don’t ever get to fully divorce myself from my ex-wife and her emotionally stunted partner. I don’t ever get to recoup the time lost with my kids. I don’t need to apologize for telling the truth, albeit my truth, here on this site.

How Fathers and Sons Break In Divorce

Sons will usually side with their moms. That’s just how it works. In my dad’s case, he was a raging alcoholic and a bully. In my son’s case, he was told for years whatever his mom him to believe. Only in the last two years, have we begun to have honest communications about the divorce and all of our experiences. Mostly, it’s too hard for him to talk about any of it.

My daughter on the other hand, never sided with me, but she never bought the *bs* presented by her mom and her new husband about me.

Fathers have a bit of a harder road with their sons. Here’s the good news. You will reestablish connections with your kids once they have moved out of your ex-wife’s house. My co-parent still attempts to throw hot sparks into my relationship with my kids. With my daughter it’s easy. We laugh. With my son, well… He’s still on the momma’s boy IV drip. For now. I still have hope he will grow out of his divorce blindness and hear a different side of the story. For now, that requires a therapist and a major crisis. I’m going to stay out of those, for now.

I am always here for my son. He’s been trained to believe some alternative narratives of what happened. The truth is, my ex-wife bailed on couples therapy twice. (Hey, maybe it was all my fault.) She went to see a lawyer about divorce while failing to mention that in couples therapy. Um… So, you see, you’re not always going to be able to tell your kids everything, and that’s okay. But the truth will eventually come out. I hope it will rejoin my son and me in a way that has been impossible since the divorce.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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*check out the entire story by visiting The Off Parent , where it all began. 

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