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Dear Ex, We Are Different By Design

I’ve worked hard to see the divorce through my ex-wife’s lens. I’ve tried to understand how difficult it was living with me during the collapse of the economy that followed 9-11. Still, we chose to continue and have a second child. But our basic set of operating principles did not match up. There were no Love Languages back then. There were only two high school friends accelerating towards marriage and kids. That’s what we both wanted. We were both reasonably sane and attractive. What could go wrong?

There Are Two Kinds of People

ONE type of person sees the glass as half full, as the days ahead as opportunities to learn and grow. And at the end of the day, no matter the struggle, this optimistic one goes to bed imagining a better day.

The OTHER type of person is more cynical and defensive about the world. They second guess themselves and their people, they make rash decisions based on their own freakout or myopic worldview. The glass is half empty and leaking, in their perspective. Grab what you can and don’t expect help from anyone else in this world.

I fall in category O, optimistic. My mom was always telling to “turn Xs into plusses.”  That was her greatest gift to me. Believe that things can be redirected towards good. Pray for god’s will and then do what you’re supposed to do. Most of all, she gave me an internal voice that has always been positive. Even when things were absolutely NOT POSITIVE, my mom gave me the ability to listen for the good even in the worst of all possible situations.

I think my ex falls in the C, cynical, category. She believes the world owes her something but is probably not going to deliver unless she beats the rug a lot, get’s super uptight about it, and works her ass off to achieve it. Still, I can hear her voice when I asked her to use one word to define our couples therapy. “Cynical,” she said.

I Am Positive By Design

I have always given my ex-wife the benefit of the doubt. I’ve tried to put myself in her shoes and give her a pass for destroying our marriage. I have even tried, over the years, to forgive her for switching from 50/50 shared parenting to the divorce package. I still try to forgive her for this egregious loss of time. I think she’s wired differently. I imagine she will never have an awakening about the horrific ways she’s treated me, the father of our two precious children. She sees things through a different lens. She believes she’s made the best of a terrible situation. She HAD to go for 70/30 custody, she HAD to get the house and child support. It was “in the best interest of the children” to stay with their mom 70% of the time. Kids need their moms.

Even from my positive side of the aisle, I have a bit of resentment about how things went down. There is no silver lining to the loss of my kid time.

There is, however, a point of clarity we are still heading towards as a fractured family. There will be a moment when she realizes she has been mean to the father of her children, and in being uncivil to me she has in turn wounded her children. None of them see it now. It’s odd. As I negotiate young adult time with my 19 and 21-year-old kids, they are still held within the gravity of mom’s house, mom’s world, and mom’s world view.

But the time is changing. My son has one more year of college. My ex-wife has felt the first pangs of empty nest pain last year. And what did she do? Retire and start a big 18-month house remodeling project. She always needed a project. She’s got her new project, the kids are rolling their eyes at the new drama around construction, architects, and planning ideas. Her “spectrumy” husband is apparently interfering with the process. He too is retired and meddling with his architect’s plans until they actually quit the project. They are on architect number three. I hope me ex is happy with that drama too. She deserves it.

Your Drama is Your Own

Let’s get one thing straight, I am. not the victim of a divorce. I am a survivor of a divorce decree that follows the state guidelines and timelines and gives dads 30% of the time with their kids and 100% of the child support. I should be mad at the antiquated state law. I am. And I’m working with several local political action groups to help set divorce law at 50/50 shared parenting to start. But that’s a long haul.

I have always strived to avoid drama. In some cases, to my own detriment, I would put up with *bs* just to avoid the conflict. The term is conflict-averse. I don’t want to fight. I did not fight my then-wife for custody. I prayed about the situation, I put in my best effort to remain centered and positive. And the divorce happened in the typical Texas breakdown. Mom gets the kids, the money, and the house. Dad gets less time with the kids so he can make more money to afford the additional financial burden.

Back in my dad’s day, these laws were probably more appropriate. Today, it’s bullshit. Dads are just as important to their children. Dads can also be the heart of the emotional family. Dads are not to be discarded and left behind as if they were just way on a business trip.

Today, my drama is between me and my kids. I am doing my best to continue to reach out and be rejected. It’s part of being a parent. But, at some point, my kids will come seeking me. At some point, my ex-wife will no longer have them for the summer. And at some point, maybe, she will wake up in her new house, with her edgy husband, and realize she made an enormous mistake.

My drama is my own. My resentment is my own burden. And my kids are one of my primary sources of hope and joy. I would guess that our kids are 100% of her hope and joy. Well, at least now she has a house project for the next year and a half.

Be your best parent. Understand that weapons fired at your ex will likely damage your children too.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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