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Embracing the Win in My 12-years As a Single Dad

I did not want the divorce. The divorce set me free. I did not fight for my right to be a 50/50 parent, as we had planned. I would’ve lost the legal battle in 2010. In my loss of the majority of my time with my kids I renewed my commitment to being the best dad I could be. Given the time I had, I would always strive to remain close and connected to my daughter and my son. Today, I still feel the pain of the divorce, the loss, and the injustice of the family legal system in Texas and in most states in the US.

What I Won In the Divorce

Perhaps, it’s important to count my blessings.

The divorce gave me:

  • time off to rediscover my inner strength and tenacious love
  • a burning desire to be supportive and kind in all interactions (ex-wife included)
  • something vital to write about
  • many moments of zen (be still and feel this loneliness)
  • several dark nights of the soul (months, years)
  • deep commitment to the well-being of my kids
  • an opportunity to seek a healthier love for myself
  • the creative drive to express, explore, understand, learn, and listen
  • release from a dysfunctional and unhappy relationship

I fought against the divorce. But, I soon realized I was fighting for my kids and not my relationship. The joy of my partnership with the mother of my children had been poisoned by toxic anger and resentment, that I could not own, influence, or continue to fight. I was released, in many ways, from my own unhealthy codependence to a stoic. As I began to unravel the marriage, I realized, I was the emotional heart of the family.

May You Be Released

As part of my mission, I coach parents who are anticipating, going through, or survivors of divorce. My singular mission is to support healthy parents and a renewed prioritization of their children. In divorce, at least one of the parents must hold the true center of the love and support. Even in the hurt and anger that is circulated in a failing family, one strong voice, one voice of reason, can help avoid a lot of unnecessary pain. I help counsel parents to be the healthiest co-parents they can be. That journey begins with an absolute commitment to supporting the parents.

Divorce is a loss for everyone. The chaos that ensues after the family fractures is challenging and fraught with traps and snares.

Anger – Hot emotions are a two-way interaction, the heat dissipates when one parent is able to deflect and not respond in kind.

Resentment – Parents must do the work to forgive and move on with their lives after divorce.

Frustration – It is easy to blame your ex-partner for the growing pains of parenting. The trick is to cooperate and share the process not fight about it.

Miscommunication – Unkind texts are often the source of a lot of anger and resentment. It’s easier to be an assh*le over text.

The goal of a healthy co-parenting relationship is to redirect your attention to the kids and away from your ex. What they do on their weekends off, who they date, how they spend money, what they wear, how they present themselves on Facebook, are no longer important to you. It is hard to let go. In my experience, the only path forward is low-contact.

Your ex is like a convenience store clerk. It’s all about the kids and logistics. You want to go in, get your Slurpee, and get out. You don’t really care about the clerk’s day.

The more we can let go and let God the better our divorce recovery will be.

Divorce Recovery Process

Initially, when I came up with this roadmap, I used years instead of stages. But your timing may vary. The process is the same. Over the course of my divorce journey, I struggled with depression and severe financial strain due to the high cost of my child support and health care expenses. And once my ex-wife sent our divorce decree to the AG’s office for collections (I was one week late.) my financial life really took a hit. There was ZERO probability that I was going to skip out on my obligation to my kids. My ex filed with the Attorney General’s Office to hurt me. (It’s all here. READ Fall of the House of Dad)

But here’s the truth: You cannot fire bullets at your ex without collateral damage.

When you take action to hurt your co-parent you are also hurting your kids. I still don’t think my ex understands this, as she still tosses damaging comments and takes adverse actions. I’m not sure where she got stuck along the anger and resentment recovery part, but she’s clearly still acting out of pain. Could she be so unconscious of her negative behavior and its effect on her own kids? How does my ex-wife not understand that a blow against me is a blow against her own children?

The cool part about the process is you can move along towards your own recovery even if your co-parent is stuck in resentment and anger. As I learned, that my positive only attitude was kryptonite to her rage, I began to reshape my own healing away from the divorce. I learned to focus my attention and energy on my kids. My ex-wife was free to stay mad, stay mean, and shoot off bitter barbs at me. I learned to never respond with anger. The anger was the reaction my ex-wife was seeking. It was her way of knowing she hurt me. I learned to selectively respond to the logistics of our communications and not the emotional warfare.

Once I took my own anger out of the communication loop I began to heal and move on to stage 2.

What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been

It has taken me 12 years to find a healthy and loving relationship. My hope is that by sharing my experience I can show you the way to heal with less trauma and heartache. I can help you regain your inner badass and learn to put your kids’ health back in perspective. “In the best interest of the children” is a phrase that is used and often abused in the divorce process. My ex-wife still does not see how her negative behaviors toward me affect our kids. She does not see how her resentful and negative attitude colors her entire life. Cynicism is not a trait they got from me.

My wish for you:

May you find joy and strength in your time alone.
May you learn to place your children’s health above your resentment towards your ex.
May your parenting relationship thrive and grow healthier each day.
May you let go of what wounds and hurts you about the divorce and your ex.
May you find a partner who renews your faith in love.

Namasté,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
Facebook  | Instagram | Pinterest |  @wholeparent

How I Can Help

I am a relationship coach and a dating coach. I coach women in 1 x 1 zoom or facetime calls. I work in monthly blocks (4 sessions). We establish a relationship. I become your wingman in navigating and sorting through the bullshit of dating and relationships. If you are here, you’ve probably already read some of my opinions. If we’re a fit, we will both know on our first call.

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