What parents and kids lose in divorce is the time spent together doing whatever. I don’t so much care what I do with my kids, I just want to do stuff WITH them. There is no getting back the 70% of their parenting lives I’ve missed. And, as teenagers, there is no forcing the time either. My kids are 18 (freshman in college) and 16 (junior in high school) and I assure you they make their own schedules. Now that they no longer live under my roof, I only see them by appointment. It’s okay, but it’s hard.
I ask my kids for “dates” in many ways and often several times a week. As teenagers, I often will get NO response. None. Nada. With my daughter recently this was a problem. And since their mom has decided to be completely bonkers every time I interact with her, I didn’t have any recourse but to wait. I’ve learned not to panic or worry. I just chalk it up to “teenagers,” and then I move on with my life.
When my kids do come back around with, “I’m sorry, I’m just now seeing this.” Or, “I didn’t really look at my phone all weekend…” I simply respond with this:
Here’s what I’ve come to learn about being a single dad: my job is to keep asking, keep putting ideas forward for us to get together, and then let go of the outcome.
Letting Go of Our Kids
It’s the letting go of the outcome that’s the ninja parenting move on this one. If I got mad or resentful about their disinterest, I’d be setting up a lose-lose conflict. Instead, I have to make the offer and then let go and get on with the other parts of my life.
And in fact, after divorce, there are plenty of parts of being the parent of young kids that are hard and unpleasant. I’d hate to admit it publicly (here I go), but, there are some aspects of being a 30% parent that make it easier. My ex-wife took the lion’s share of school duties. And along with her extended parenting time, essentially 2-out-of-3 days, she had the hard task of dinner, homework, and bed. And the harder “d” task in parenting, discipline.
My ex asked to be the primary parent. Against my will, I agreed. And in the nine years since the divorce, I have used my 70% off-time to do a lot of work on myself, on future relationship growth and experimentation, and more importantly, the “soul work” of releasing the negative and emphasizing the positive in my life.
Getting Our Act Together
If we are afraid to be alone after divorce we are likely to get back into a relationship with the same fundamental problems that broke our marriage. If we don’t pause to be alone, we are doing ourselves a disservice. It’s in the alone times that I figured out more about myself and my needs. Even as a dad, I learned I had a lot more emotional and spiritual work to do on myself.
Soul work is the hard work that needs to be done before we can be happy on the inside. It’s lonely work. It requires time and reflection. If we are unfortunate enough to go through a divorce, we’ve got to have the fortitude to STOP and REFLECT. Some people jump back into dating and trying to secure another person to make them feel happy about themselves. This is an unwinnable and unhealthy strategy. We need to be alone to feel the ache of our soul. We need to be alone to feel the emptiness that turns us back to god, back to our spiritual program, back to our path as seekers.
Walking away from my family was the hardest crash I’ve ever experienced. But it was in this crash that I reached ground zero in my heart. And rather than run from the pain I dug down deeper into the dirt and blood of my family history, and my relationship history, and the bones of the failed marriage. If we can’t learn from our divorce, we can’t possibly expect our behavior and ultimate outcome to be different in the future.
Yes, I Want a Lover, But…
I’ve been questing for a life-time partner in the nine years since my divorce. And in this quest, I have learned a few guiding principles.
- My happiness is up to me alone (kids, lovers, parents, priests, can’t provide the way)
- My emotional sobriety and emotional intelligence are hard-won (what triggers me and how I respond)
- My boundaries need to be firm and loving
- My sensual enthusiasm must be met at 100%
- My partner’s happiness and emotional well-being are not my responsibility (I do have to be a good partner, but I can’t be a rescuer)
- Yes, the WE takes priority, but we’ve each got our own work to do outside of the relationship
- We need to keep turning TOWARDS our partner rather than exiting (emotionally or physically)
In a relationship, we can learn to hold the other person’s heart alongside our own. If we have not had the pause to heal and hear the calling of our hearts, we may jump at relationship opportunities that are less-than-healthy. I’ve had a few of these. And each time I walked away, I had to reset and reveal the lesson to myself. I’ve done most of that on the blog. Writing has been one of my paths toward healing. As I write about this subject (even right now) I am developing and strengthening my plan.
I Have a Plan
Find a woman. Run along side them for a while. Determine if we are a match. Keep checking for snakes (emotional issues) and ladders (tendencies to exit a relationship when things get challenging). Take each day as it comes. Identify and celebrate the wins. Jump fearlessly into the hard places and see if there is a win-win solution. And keep going.
And each time I stumble, I have to reset my markers. One past relationship taught me about drinking. One taught me about unhinged sex. One taught me about fundamental incompatibility in spite of admirable efforts and intentions.
In the end, it’s all about your actions. I talk a lot. I write a lot. But I have to be careful with my actions. I am careful to make sure I am moving TOWARDS my lover in my deeds as well as my words and intentions. I think all of our intentions are essentially good, as we are trying to make a relationship work, but our actions can betray more fundamental problems. So, I guess I’m saying, I hope for the best while listening and observing my partner. And after that, it’s all about DAY BY DAY.
I tend to want to jump ahead in romantic relationships. But we’ve both got some growing to do. (Any relationship does.) And in fact, part of a compatible relationship for me is one that CONTINUES TO GROW. I’m not done. I don’t have a verified road map for how things should go. Do have a plan. And I believe that sticking to the core values above will serve both me and my partner.
And as we ask for and receive the love we need we are also going to have disappointments. My response in life, now, is “No worries, just desires.” If my desires start getting squelched or compromised due to continual misses, then it is up to me to speak up. If my requests and outreach efforts continue to end in frustration and compromise, it might be time to declare a misalignment and move on.
And so we go on.
[Note: I find it funny how I can start a post on single parenting and end up talking about the big “L” Love Relationship. Oh well, it’s all about love.]
More articles from The Whole Parent:
- The Four Simple Rules for Dads Getting Divorced
- Men and Divorce with Children: My 9-year Retrospective
- Dad’s Divorce Journey: 9-years Later I Still Feel the Loss of Kid-time
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