Fool In The Rain: A Brief Retelling of My Divorce and Rebirth

Fool In The Rain: A Brief Retelling of My Divorce and Rebirth

[This post is cross-posted from the Whole Parent podcast: Love on the Air]

 

How did we get here?

In 2009 I was somewhat happily married.

I say, somewhat, because we were definitely dealing with some issues. I think those issues were primarily about trust and communication, but there was a lot of black snakes coiling below the surface of our quiet upper-middle-class suburban marriage. We were in our second round of marriage counseling. This time we were working on our ability to communicate clearly with each other, and, more importantly, let the other person know you heard them. This is a fairly typical couples therapy technique. We had been here before, in the troubled-water-portion of our married-with-children lifestyle. But this was different.

First, my then-wife had already been to see a divorce attorney. She’d already seen the Divorce Brochure and was using therapy as a way to break it to me, with the help of a therapist. Only one problem, she hadn’t told the therapist that she’d seen a lawyer either.

Second, my then-wife was actually living with a man when we first started going for lunch dates.

Third, my then-wife had also begun having “lunches” with a younger colleague at work. She admitted she saw how this was a bad idea. She said she would stop having lunches and intimate emails with this colleague. She never apologized for the transgression in our marriage.

Forth, at the session where I uncovered my wife’s preemptive legal strategy, she also asked me to move out. In her words, “We need a break. We’re all exhausted. You could go to your sisters and we can tell the kids you’re on a business trip.”

How convenient that would’ve been for her, for all fo us. Well, except for me.

Fifth, as I struggled with my still-wife over the next six weeks, while we waited for our kids (6 and 8) to finish 3rd and 5th grade, respectively, she continued to recite a mantra, “It’s in the best interest of the children.”

Sixth, when I walked out the door for the last time, out of our house (which was soon to become her house) my life changed forever. I lost my house, my neighborhood, my best friend, my sexual partner and mother of my children, but most critically, I lost 70% of my time with my kids. I was prepared to lose the marriage. I was not prepared to lose my kids.

Seventh, in August 2010 I was divorced. So, here we are. My divorce changed everything. And it freed me up to fall apart (depression) to rise again (employment, recovery, and new relationships), and it gave voice to The Whole Parent, my life’s creative opus (for now).

That was nine years ago. My son has graduated from high school and leaves for college in a few weeks. My daughter is a sophomore in high school. And my ex-wife is remarried (happily I hope) and still living in the house where we created the dream together of having children, then we had then, then she asked for a divorce.

I’d like to thank my ex-wife for giving me this trial by fire and for releasing me and my enthusiastic spirit back into the wild. It’s been a hard journey as a single dad. But out of this wreckage, I hope I can bring the stories and lessons I’ve learned and continue to share them with others. Dads don’t have to lose everything in a divorce. And as we go forward together on this journey, I hope we learn from each other, comfort each other, and give each other the support we all hunger for in our isolated and social media distracted lives.

I’d also like to thank both of my dear kids for bearing with me. Someday, they can read, listen, understand what happened nine years ago. But all in their own time. This is an adult conversation we’re having here. This is a conversation about love, about loss, and about coming back to life.

Join me. I’m holding out my hand for you.

John McElhenneyThe Whole Parent
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