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Rebuilding Myself Into the Person I Was Before We Married

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Divorced dads see their kids about 30% as much as the moms.

It’s been a long road back from the divorce. And I’m not done, I know, but I think I’m out of the woods.

Everything changes when you get married. And again when you have kids. As you adapt your life to the life of being a parent a number of hobbies and habits fall away. For me, those things were playing music in a band and getting enough exercise. Now, I’m not blaming my ex-wife for those things, a lot of changes come with the territory and the new responsibilities of being a grown-up. A grown-up with kids, even.

THEN you lose everything. Divorce.

Dad’s sort of take divorce on the chin and we’re expected to roll with the death-blow and come back up swinging, or not swinging as it were. Once the decision is made between you and your spouse, and the divorce is in progress, a number of dramatic changes happen immediately.

  • You stop being compassionate towards your soon-to-be ex.
  • You start looking for signs of life beyond the world as you’ve known it.
  • You have to start thinking about where you might like to live as a single man.
  • You really have to start thinking about where you can afford to live, that’s not too far from your old neighborhood and your kid’s school. (Because 80% of dads will wind up with a hefty child support payment and no house.)
  • You have to address the rapidly approaching chasm of alone time and what you’re going to do with yourself.

The only part of the process of evolution that I can tell you for sure about is this: “You have no possible idea what life is going to be like the moment you walk out the front door of your house and declare it is no longer your house but “their mom’s house.” For me the shock and disorientation were extreme. My neighborhood with running trails and nearby friends, my tennis club with summer swimming pool, my music studio in the garage… All vaporized as I left the house behind.

Divorce Is Not All Bad

It’s not all bad, this divorce thing, take heart. There are a number of things you get back as well.

  • Time to do whatever the hell you want.
  • An extremely reduced “getting the kids ready for school” mornings.
  • Dropping the little favors and chores you use to do for your then-wife.
  • Doing laundry whenever you feel like it. (Like when you’re out of clean shirts, for example.)
  • A limitless supply of new eligible women and willing women. (Well, at least that’s one of the things that might pass through your mind, what with all this talk of hot cougars these days.)
  • You can eat whatever you want. (No need to consider the kid’s diets all the time.)
  • You can drink whatever and whenever you want. (Though this could be a problem.)
  • You get to sleep all the way across the bed diagonally if you want. (This is much less fun when you are “borrowing” a twin bed at a friend’s house while you catch your bearings.
  • The entertainment agenda is up to you every single night when you’re solo. (Want to go to a movie at 10 pm on a weekend, go for it.)

That’s a fairly good list of how things balance out, somewhat. Emotionally, for me, however, things didn’t go as imagined. First off, my recent employment loss took a lot longer to replace. Needless to say, I wasn’t in top form on interviews for several months. Second, my fantasy about online dating was about as far from the reality as porn is from real life. Um, sure, there are a ton of women on right now, but they’ve ALL got issues. That’s why they’re on an online dating site in the first place.

Then comes the bigger problem: 6-nights of alone time in a row is a killer if you’re not happy or busy. When it’s “not a kids weekend” things can get pretty rough quickly if you’re not careful. I wasn’t careful nor was I prepared for the emotional fallout of being alone.

Dads Are Alone After Divorce

Immediately upon leaving the house and starting the customary SPO (standard possession order) the dads of the world are going to get a lot less than 50% of the time with their kids. Accounting for the laughable “month in the summer” clause that tries to make up for the time imbalance, dads, in general, see their kids about 30% as much as the moms. It’s not fair, but that’s how the old laws were written. The phrase, “In the best interests of the children” will become very familiar, over time.

Okay, so that’s the first big hurdle. What are you going to do with yourself? And for me, I have struggled for years trying to answer that requirement with a positive attitude. And when you are recently divorced you might be missing your kids a lot more than you can imagine. Their entire lives you’ve had little playmates, companions, dependents. Suddenly, as a divorced dad, you’ve got nothing and no one to talk to. I believe this aspect of divorce, the loneliness, and longing to be with my kids, has been the hardest part of the transition for me.

I’m pretty close now, however, to being the happy person I was before we got together. I’m playing music and tennis regularly. I’m waking up singing and going to be early. Alone… But early.

The main thing to remember as the divorce s-storm is heading your way is to take care of yourself. Like on the airplane when they say to put your mask on first and then your kid’s masks. That’s so you are conscious to be able to help them. Divorce is the same way. Take the time you need before jumping back into a relationship. Enjoy your freedom. Explore your alone time. Take up new hobbies if you didn’t have any before. It’s kind of like dating yourself. Get to know your happy-and-alone self before you start looking for another happily-single mate.

Before I got married and had kids and then got divorced I was a happy and highly creative person. I’m getting that back little by little these days. I’m still a ways off from my goal of getting down the same pants size, but that’s in-progress as well.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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image: dinner for one, pascal, creative commons usage

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