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The Red-Hot Poker of Regret in Divorce

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I have regret. I also have sadness and anger. They are all wound together into a source of pain for me. Let me unpack them a bit.

Understanding Your Feelings

climbing rope

Looking at the rope above, let’s say sadness is light blue. The bright orange/red clusters are anger. The purple is regret. If I just look at my regret and generalize, I’m just sad and regretful about the divorce is didn’t cause, and was unable to correct or save. But, that may not be that helpful if I’m attempting to identify and put a name on what I am feeling.

Today I am feeling anger and frustration. Mainly the bright red rope parts. It’s about my ex-wife and her need to insert herself in ways that are not helpful to her children. Today, my son is back in college about four hours away. He needed to come back to Austin, get the rest of his stuff, and return to put his apartment together before classes resume on Tuesday. Simple.

Somewhere along the discussions about my son’s difficulties at finding a place (oh, he might have waited until a week before school to find a place to live (issue 1) and he might have zero rental experience/history (issue 2) and no job (issue 3). My ex-wife began pitching around last week to see if I would put $28,000 of liability on my credit account. Nope. See, she and her husband just sold our old family home for $1,010,000 in May 2023. So, they are renting a second house, while they make plans (for a year, at this point) to remodel the third house. And, of course, they need to finance that remodel. Must be a big one. (LOL) So, their credit was locked. My ex-wife even suggested she ask my sister to sign for our son. My sister laughed when I told her about this. “So you mean, she won’t underwrite him, but she’s hoping I will take the risk?”

That’s frustrating but manageable. They got the apartment done on Thursday. Then, my son merely needs to come get his sh*t. My ex-wife, his Mom, decides she’d rather drive all his sh*t up for him. Nice gesture. Not helpful. He has had very little consequence of his refusal to “find an apartment.” Not unlike the battle she and my son were in (new husband included and disruptive) at the beginning of the summer. “You need to find a job.” He never found a job. Deadlines came and went. Ultimatums were given. And the best my ex-wife and her husband could do was, “You need to find a job.” On repeat.

It’s tragic. Now, I’m feeling regret at not fighting my ex-wife for the 50/50 shared custody and shared parenting that we agreed to. She went rogue and took the golden ring of divorce instead. I could’ve lawyered up and fought for my kids. I guess, in hindsight, that would’ve been the honorable Dad thing to do. But, it wasn’t. In 2010, my chances of fighting her would’ve cost upwards of $50,00 and I most definitely would’ve lost. (I’m glad to say things have changed a little, today.)

I did what I thought best in the situation, I gave my ex-wife exactly what she demanded. The house, the child support, and 70% of the kids’ time. Seventy f*cking percent. Dads typically get two weekends a month. And if they are lucky, a couple of overnight dinners on the off weeks. That’s the state of family law in most states in the US: Moms get the “deal” and dads get to pay. The hope is, that dads will survive. The reality is, my ex-wife, pressed on me even at my lowest points. She got everything she wanted and she’s still not happy. Well, perhaps that’s not about the divorce or, more specifically, me.

Today, she’s apparently going to come by my house, pick up my son’s sh*t, and drive the 4 hours to deliver his mattress. He has been sleeping on the floor since Friday. How is it a better idea to have him sleep on the floor, rather than drive the 4 hours to get his stuff? And, then she was going yesterday. Now, she’s going today. It’s noon, and the sh*t is still on my back porch.

Both of my kids have this, “I’m going to grab some things at the store…” And then it takes them 3 – 4 hours to actually leave the house. So, my ex-wife is going to drive my son’s sh*t up to him in the 106-degree Texas heat? And she’s waiting until mid-day? WTF? Okay, I’m staying out of that one. Why doesn’t her husband do the round trip? Is he too busy working on the remodel? Or, hey, you could both go, make it a lover’s trip. Oh, wait. Her husband asked a few weeks ago, “How soon can you move back to college?” He and my son had run the course on whose OCD was worse. I guess my ex-wife’s husband aced the competition. And my ex-wife drew the short straw.

No, I’m guessing she took the role of the savior. She’s going to save him once again.

Hoping for the Best

In my life, I try and unravel as many of my emotional ropes as possible. The rope of anger/sadness/frustration/fear/regret is will strangle you if you let it. Take the time to pull the issues apart. In my case, my ex-wife, her husband, and my son continue to do stuff that infuriates me. Perhaps it’s none of my business. It’s just my own red-hot poker of regret. What I do with that energy (write maybe) is up to me. My actions and words toward my son, are all good. “Hope it works out.”

In divorce, “hoping for the best” is not a strategy. Today, if you want 50/50 shared parenting, in most states, you are going to have to sue your exiting spouse. My advice, at this point in 2023, FIGHT.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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