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Loving You Every Day of Your Life: A Father’s Journey Thru Divorce

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I never imagined losing a single day of my kids’ lives. My parent’s divorce had destroyed so much in my life. How would I ever make the same mistakes? I wasn’t an alcoholic. I had never been unfaithful. Weren’t our kids more important than our immediate happiness or self-gratification?

How We Divorce These Days

I have to believe that my ex-wife’s decision to break up our perfect little family was a grasp fueled by her own internal sadness and unrest. Somehow, she believed, that she would be happier without me in her life. Without me sharing her house, her bed, or her parenting duties. She wasn’t considering the impact on the rest of us. She could not have been discussing “options” with a divorce attorney because she was concerned for the happiness of her children. And, of course, I was not in her consideration at all. I was, somehow, the enemy.

But I was not the enemy. Nor, was I the cause of her unhappiness. I have no awareness, that 12 years later she has found her joy. She seems unhappy, stressed to the max, and somewhat unhinged. And furious with me, forever and ever amen. I suppose, in her mind, the cause of her anger and unhappiness is this blog. Somehow, I am still the reason she’s not happy. In couples therapy, she made a point of being on the attack most of the time. I was the problem. My employment was the problem. My irresponsible behaviors were the cause of her disappointment.

But she was disappointed in men long before she met me. Starting with her dad who divorced and remarried her mom, TWICE. Twice, he came back and tried to make it work. But the mom was too damaged. And the daughter would inherit the trauma of her mother’s mental illness. Her dad was a gentle and stoic man. He rarely expressed emotional joy. He expressed facts and figures and loved to give advice about career and money. My ex-wife grew up with a father who could never fully embrace her and a mother who was mentally unstable and narcissistic. So, my wife, while we were married, began to look for causes for her unhappiness.

The Causes For Your Unhappiness

Happiness is an inside job. It’s an easy phrase, but what does it mean?

I could not make my wife happy. I tried everything. I made more money. I helped with the kids and the chores. I hired a nanny/maid/cook to give her more freedom. Nothing made her happy. Once the kids were riding the bus to school, and she had her afternoons free, she started exploring new career options. I introduced her to a friend who owned an SEO (search engine optimization) business. He agreed to hire her as an internal and train her in his craft. This, at the moment I was being laid off from my current position. I remember telling her, from the office of my employer, “Sure, honey, you need to find exactly what makes you happy in your work.” She took the offer and completed her career as an SEO expert. She is now a retired SEO expert.

But it didn’t make her happy. The free time did not make her more joyful. The new expertise and learning curve gave her something to sink her dreams into, but it was not an aspirational career. And the paid internship folded when the economy took a dive in 2009. By 2010 we would be divorced.

As I can tell, my ex-wife still holds resentment towards me about the divorce. But, I never understand this, she wanted the divorce. I fought against the divorce for two months, until our kids completed 3rd and 5th grades, and we could divorce with the time and comfort of the summer. How she’s still furious with me is incomprehensible. Unless I remember that she needed a reason to explain her unhappiness to herself.

If you don’t do the work, you may remain stuck in the past. You may wrestle with the depression and demons of your parent’s transgressions and lack of support. I was raised by two unabashed narcissists. One became a successful doctor and alcoholic. One transformed from a South Austin socialite into a wonderful painter and worried grandmother. My parent’s bullshit created massive problems for my own evolution into a happy and happier man. I started the work early, due to the arrival of my depressive episodes in 9th grade. I’ve been doing the “work” of healing myself ever since.

If You Don’t Heal

The work to uncover and disband your chorus of ghosts is not easy. You can’t just talk it out. You can’t just think it out. You can’t just write it out. You’ve got to live it out. Make changes in your self-assessments and self-reliance. If you believe the world or the bad people in it are the reason you are unhappy, you’ve still got a major lesson to learn.

We are all dealing with this global unrest and financial stress. We are all recovering from the pandemic and shutdown of all the familiar entertainments. And we cannot blame politics for our unhappiness. We cannot blame our parents or past lovers.

Truly, when you want to heal yourself, the first lesson is:

Only You Are Responsible For Your Happiness.

And, for my ex-wife, I release her unhappiness from my own story and will continue to connect and reason with my two kids about our relationship and our happiness. I can’t tell them how to be happy.



John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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storm before the divorce john oakley mcelhenneyAvailable on Amazon

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