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Every Storm Runs Out of Rain

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Divorce was a hurricane of destruction. Every aspect of my life changed the minute my then-wife mentioned she’d been to see an attorney. That she didn’t mention it in weeks of couples therapy, was an open question, but whatever. She threw out the husband with the bathwater and never looked back.

The Crush of Divorced Dads

In most cases, Dads get the shaft in divorce. The typical package includes four essential elements:

  • mom gets the custodial parent role
  • mom gets the house
  • mom gets 70% of the time with the kids
  • mom gets child support

This is a typical divorce in Texas, for example.

  • dad gets a lot of alone time
  • dad gets to find and afford a new place to live (and pay 2k child support each month)
  • dad has zero legal rights as the non-custodial parent
  • dad becomes, by the numbers, a marginalized parent
  • dad gets put on infinite hold when calling the AG’s office

In my case, the loss of my kid-time was devastating. When you’re into attachment parenting, the loss of your attachment with your kids is as painful for you, as an adult, as it is for your kids. But then, my household ran along as it always did, just without me. Mom got to keep everything the same, AND get two weekends off a month, to pursue a new lover, or potentially a new husband.

For a few months after moving out, I was seeking full-time employment again, and living with my sister. My freelance career could not support a $2,000 monthly payment AND living quarters and expenses for me. I had to get a REAL JOB. Okay. The funny thing was the woman who couldn’t find a job the entire last year of our marriage, got one LIKE MAGIC immediately when she decided she wanted a divorce. It’s as if… She was using not getting a job to pressure me into getting the BIG JOB again, so she wouldn’t have to return to the office.

I learned a lot about myself and my resilience in those first months without my kids. I got myself into a divorce recovery class, I got myself into Aikido classes, and I found a new BIG JOB. Yay, I was relaunched.

Angry Ex-wife Power Move

As the story went along, I did begin to recover my happy and optimistic self. I was able to buy a small 2 bedroom house with my new job, and I was limping along between kid-time in my new job with the worst manager I’ve ever had. (Waves to M Cohen) And my ex-wife could not have been more antagonistic. Maybe she was stressed out by having her own 9 – 5 job again. She was always complaining about something. Not asking for my input, just basically bitching at me. I learned a powerful lesson at this juncture again.

When you get a shitty text from your co-parent DO NOT respond in kind. Never.

And thus was born The Whole Parent. A place where I could find transformative lessons in the asshole moves of my ex-wife. And for the most part, I did pretty good. Then the Huffington Post picked me up, and my ex-wife lost her mind again. She threatened a lawsuit if I continued to write about the divorce. In the end, I learned to blunt, mute, and deflect her angry scree and move along with my own journey to stay connected to our kids in my 6 – 7 days a month.

The ultimate blow was struck about six months after I’d purchased my house. My employer had just lost a major client. I was given notice that my paycheck would be delayed. I relayed the bad, yet optimistic, news to my ex-wife. She threatened to turn our entire case over to the district attorney’s office.

I'm turning out case over to the AG's office

And that’s how her “framing” of the decision to throw me under the bus went. There are several lies embedded in this email. So on the day I was one month late, having described to her exactly what was happening with my job and my ability to pay, soon, she took the most damaging action ever, after initiating the divorce in the first place. Now, she wanted me to suffer.

She was never out of money. Her mortgage was never at risk. And this “supposed to put it through the AG all along” was made up. She made up a lot of stuff. But this was her grand gesture. Her intention was not “in the best interests of the children” it was to hurt me, permanently. It worked. It also backfired.

Losing My Way Again

I’ve written a book about this period. (READ: Fall of the House of Dad) But the part that I could not have predicted in that book, or until recently, the loss of my kid-time made me a much better parent. In the time that I did have my kids, I was giving 110%. I kept my own darkness out of their lives, as much as possible. And for the most part, their mom and I kept our disagreements between us.

By being the mean one in the marriage, by being the instigator of the divorce, by being angry still, 13 years later, she’s really showing her true colors. At that moment, her entire email was a lie. There was NEVER ANY DOUBT that she was going to get 100% of the money. The AG’s office is for deadbeat parents who try to skip out on their financial and personal obligations. I can see, given the reduced time with my kids and the crushing monthly bill of $2,000, how many dads give up, move away, run, or kill themselves. I reached some dark places.

So, for 11 of the last 13 years, my ex-wife has been making moves to hurt me. She’s told the kids lies. She’s withheld co-parenting obligations. She basically, signed me up for the enforcement of our child support agreement to keep me from being able to refi my house. Do you think the kids benefited by having their dad lose his house? Do you think my ex-wife thought for a moment about where I was going to be able to house our kids on my weekends? No, she did not. She could give a …

Full-Circle Karma

My ex-wife is still furious. Perhaps at me, somehow, but I’m guessing it’s something more internal. She married an OCD-enabled man, much like herself. So, that’s good. Well, if that’s what you’re into. She got 70% and then 100% of our kid-time in the divorce. And she’s still got 100% when the holidays roll around. I know my kids would never want to hurt their mom, so they don’t stay with me. But, I’m pretty sure that too will change.

Today, my relationships with my kids is based on the same love and attention I have given them from birth. I did my best to keep the animosity between their mom and myself a secret. They don’t know it was HER IDEA. They don’t know SHE was the reason we lost the Gnome House. And I have no idea what her story was to them over the years about the divorce, and how it was her only option. Of course, the narrator gets to tell the story however they wish.

I have re-established deep respect for both kids. Now that they are mostly out of their mom’s house they have a bit more autonomy of thought. And when she throws a shitty bomb in between us, we can usually identify the *bs* and choose to not bite. She’s still furious. Is she unhappy with her marriage? Is she going back to school because she now really does need the money, or does she just need a project now that the nest is empty?


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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*image: my son’s first haircut, his grandfather is in the mirror taking the picture

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