They are learning from you 100% of the time. They see you deal with disappointments, frustrations, and celebrations. They learn how to behave by watching your life. If you are harboring tremendous anger towards your ex, you might be giving that blind rage as an unwanted gift to your children.
My ex-wife will hardly speak to me. And, the divorce was her idea. And she got exactly what she wanted in the divorce because I agreed to collaborate rather than fight. So she is the custodial parent, she gets $1,350 tax-free dollars from me every month, and she got to keep the house in our nice neighborhood with nice schools for the kids. That’s okay. That’s how collaborative divorce works. But shouldn’t she be grateful and not bitter? Eight years later, shouldn’t she have moved on?
So, in this household of rage, my seventeen-year-old son has more than a few anger issues. It’s fine. He’s a teenager. What teenager doesn’t have anger issues? But his have a more targeted feel, as if I’ve done something wrong. Is he still mad about the divorce? Of course, I can’t tell him it was his mother’s idea. At least, after he’s thirty and asks about it. (Oh, that time will come, I suspect.) No, his anger feels like an alliance with his butt-hurt mom. She’s not able to contain her resentment towards me, how is that not influencing my son? I can only try to be a positive influence in his life.
At some point, I had to let it go. Sure, I was angry at my dad too. (Um, if I’m writing about it does that mean I’ve let it go?) And it’s time for me to move along and listen to something I said in 2014 in the Overdivorce Podcast when I talked about positive divorce.
“Every issue that I have with my ex-wife about the divorce, about money, and about parenting, that’s done. That is history. There is nothing that she owes me. There is no emotional healing that she can provide me. There’s no amount of being mad that’s going to change anything about what I’m going through. So, it truly is my decision about what I want to do from here.”
And with my son, I’m in the same boat. I’ve started slowing my enthusiastic dad offers, to give him a chance to come back to me. Let it be his decision. I know it will come. I know how much I missed my dad, even when he was still alive, but drinking.
I can let go of my side of the problem, right now. And that’s my healing. My ex-wife, she’s got her own road ahead. I no longer have to take her inventory. I can let her sail her own boat without my input or dependence.
I used to imagine us being friendly co-parents. I used to imagine her being cordial. But this summer she showed me her anger and bitterness were not to be tamed or reasoned with. She just angry. And no amount of good dad on my part is going to heal her. Fortunately, that is not my responsibility. I do have a responsibility to my kids, to share the truth with them about anger and life, as they grow older and enter adulthood. But today, I am coping with being dad-on-the-side.
It’s not how I wanted it, but my then-wife knew she did not have to consider 50/50 parenting in Texas. And why would she give up any additional time with her kids in the divorce? I mean, what mom considers the dad’s side of the equation when she’s divorcing him? Certainly, a divorce attorney is not going to advise a friendly partnership, I mean, what would they get paid for?
It is important that I am the best dad I can be. Releasing anger at their mom on a blog post, seems like a reasonable way to handle it. They’re not looking for my divorce story. Yet.