the off parent feet

Dads After Divorce: Never Give Up (But) Do Stop Fighting

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The image above is from the first blog post I wrote for my fiery Off Parent divorce blog. I was so disoriented and depressed. I had to take the kids, to prove to them and myself that I could do it, to the beach for a vacation with “dad only.” We had a moment.

My Feet Under Yours

My daughter was seven and my son was nine. My life had been exploded by an angry wife looking to exercise her own demons by expelling me. I was forced to move in with my sister, while I hunted for a better job, one where I could afford child support AND a place to live. Go figure.

In that post, I outlined my plans, my hopes, and my optimism that I would rise again. I knew I would never withdraw my support from my kids. I was unclear, however, what it was going to take to put my life back together again. I did understand the impact, the second my then-wife said she’d been to see an attorney. I was going to lose most of my time with my kids. That’s all I cared about. The house, the car, the little money we had in savings, my ex-wife got the traditional Texas Divorce. Moms get the custodial parent role, child support, and the house. Dads get 70% of their kid-time taken away, and they often need a second job to keep a roof over their heads.

Over the years that followed, my anger evolved. I turned the ship of The Off Parent back to something even more hopeful and resilient. The Whole Parent concept was born on that first beach trip, but it would take several years of bickering and bitching with my ex-wife before I realized the anger and retaliation got me nothing. I was fighting because she was doing dumb shit. (She still does.) But, I turned a corner and decided to write about the positive side of the divorce. Could I learn from her vindictive actions to become a better single father? Could I soften the blow for all of us, by never responding in kind to my ex-wife’s bitter missives?

Getting Whole Again

The answer was yes. I survived my awful divorce in large part because I documented it. I made my story an epic story. I tried to move from anger to optimism. I learned that positive energy and love always wins out. And I learned that even if I only had limited time with my two kids, I alone could make my weekends the best possible times.

I wasn’t a Disneyland dad, I didn’t have the money for that. What I was, however, was a 100% engaged dad. When I was able to get a house I bought our first trampoline. It had been forbidden by my ex. I loved jumping with my kids. It became their rally cry, “Get up and jump!” I could never refuse them. We jumped a lot together.

I worked diligently on myself and my own healing. I began my quest for a new partner, and improved partner, a lifetime partner. (See my book: Single Dad Seeks for the full story.) I also learned that I would not settle for an “almost” partner. Along the way, I learned many of the things that were more important to me than money, career, or a fancy car. I wanted emotional intelligence in addition to general intelligence and above-average good looks. Seemed like a rational checklist.

It took me over ten years to find my mate. Nearing three years, it feels different being with someone who can express love easily. I’ve written more books on my divorce than I care to comment on. There is one more to complete the set, coming this summer. But, what I’ve discovered is how fragile it all is. Love. Kids. Family. And today, I still don’t understand why my ex-wife took the toxic road to become such a bitter and angry person. Perhaps, that was her natural state, or perhaps she’s still upset that she made the biggest mistake of her life. That’s the one that makes me smile, so I’m going with that one.

Never Giving Up

There were many times over the course of the last 15 years when I considered giving up. But dads, good dads, never give up. As I crafted my positive dad vibe, I could isolate my ex-wife’s *bs* and only respond to logistics and dates. I did not owe her anything. And, more importantly, I owed it to myself to let her go, her anger, her bad decisions, her bad parenting. It’s hard as I see my kids struggling. They are stoic in a way that makes me sad. But, they are moving forward into adulthood with at least one good role model.

My foot will always be there for my son or my daughter to stand on. I will do my best to contain my own disappointments and anger. As we move forward as “this half” of the family, I am certain that my best time with my kids is ahead of me. And that’s all the good news you need to hear today. Keep going. It’s going to get better. And your kids will love you on the other side of the divorce and turmoil. And, with the right diligence and intention, you can find a partner who makes you understand what feeling loved means. YES.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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good dad's guide to divorce - john oakley mcelhenney


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