I will be in the process of recalibrating my life in relationship to my ex-wife probably for the rest of my life. Even after the kids are off and doing their own lives, there are always collective contributions that need to be made, adult advice that needs to be given, and we will never fully separate from the relationship.
That's how the first home base became a hostile environment for both of us. We labored to keep the kids out of the fray and we began couples counseling two very different perspectives.
I'm watching my kids grow up from a distance, and it's painful. Sure, I have the standard possession order, the simple divorce equation for 80% of dads. But we're getting the raw end of the deal. Actually, divorce is the rawest end of the deal, but once that's determined, the only thing you can do is hope for maximizing your time with your kids. Still, it's not enough.
Still, I'm not sure where her playful person went. I was offering new ideas while I was also trying to accommodate her "clean house" and "stable bank account" requirements. But I don't think she ever put a LOVE LIST together.
Today, at this moment as a divorced father, I know I am not repeating my father's mistakes. My son and daughter hear from me all the time how much I see and love them. I try to meet them on their level, rather than making them adapt to mine.
And I am happy for the healing in my family that has come from flipping all the negatives of divorce on their ass and finding the way back to love. Everything in my life is about love. And the love and support of my kids comes before all of my own needs and goals.
As much as we wanted to remain in love and grow in love as parents, there were some fundamental shifts that happened in our lives and in our aspirations. What I learned from my first "touch" lover was that my needs for closeness are fundamental to my complete happiness.
For me, most of the time and energy has been redirected towards being a great dad and being present for my kids above all else. I'd like a relationship, and I'm still casually working the online dating options, but I'm not in a hurry.