2 years since my divorce … am I still counting?

A new life
This weekend marks the two year point since my divorce, and just over three years since we split the home in two. It was definitely the most difficult struggle I have had to deal with in my life. After 14 years of marriage my life was left crumbling in the wake of my failures. Yet, it was not the complete downfall, as I had felt at the time … after these many months I am back focused on tomorrow, back in control.

As with any life, there are always ups and downs but recently I have felt in a pretty good spot. Sure my car broke down and I had to get a replacement, work is … work, and Christmas shopping still hasn’t started, heck the Christmas decorations aren’t even out of the closet yet … but that is just life. These are the common struggles, the everyday. Gone are the days of fear, loss, and grieving that felt like they would never pass. Gone on the days of anger and resentment that kept me from engaging with the world.

That life has been left behind,
I now see a new one appearing just beyond the shadows.

It has not been an easy road, but life is not about the easy roads and the sunny days. You need a little rain to water the garden and a little cold weather to harden your resolve, finally allowing the moments to bask in the sunlight when it appears once again. These last 38 months since the separation have taught me some valuable lessons and while I did not enjoy them, I am grateful for them. Looking back I am able to see how I shaped those years. While at the time it felt like my life was on a roller coaster ride, as I look back I can see things broken far clearly into stages. At the beginning of 2017 I was able to identify where I was and where I wanted to go. That gave me focus, allowing me to once again gain control.

Recover – Rebuild – Restore

The largest struggle was getting through the fear and uncertainty of that first year. Slowly I found myself not happy staying where I was … living as I was … and determined to change it. So I painted, bought some new items, and slowly rebuild the home for both me and my kids. The rebuilding of my physical home also ended up repairing a lot of my mental state, restoring how I saw myself in this world. That has allowed me to finally return to a point where I dream about tomorrow, where my ambitions have returned, and where my ideas feel like they have life to them. It took effort, good friends, and a unrelenting focus on being there for my boys. It has allowed me to turn many of the biggest frustrations into things I can accept and kept me from falling prey to many of the demons of life.

From here I look forward to tomorrow … no longer constrained by my past.

New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings…
– Lao Tzu

Communication is key


Since the divorce I have noticed a striking change in our communication. We both started a power play, a jostle for control and dominance by being the person who felt they had control of the communication. I would like to say that those days are in our past, but tonight felt like another frustrating example that that aspect of life is not yet behind us…

Things started off not too bad, she contacted me to inform me of what days I had selected for my vacation – due to some miscommunication during the last few weeks I took as constructive and not as aggressive. The situation also gave us a chance to discuss an upcoming school event and allowed us to coordinate in preparation for that. Was a simple conversation started by responding to her initial text in short order. I treated her as if she was important, and the tension was quickly alleviated and forgotten.

Generally, if she texts I respond as soon as I can. With an email I try my best to respond within 24 hrs if a response is required. When she calls, I try never ignore a call – and call her back if I missed it for some reason. We may be divorced, but I still work hard to treat her as a valuable part of the family unit. Because, that is what she is … no matter how upset I may be at times.

Before, during, and after a marriage – communication is key!

This evening felt to be in contrast to that…

Today was the science fair at the school, so I thought I would check in with the kids before bed and see how it went. I called, voice mail. Called the house, voice mail. Ok, maybe they are busy which is completely understandable so I gave it another 15 minutes … called both numbers again … nothing. Sent a text to have them call me, and tried again a few minutes later … now we are bumping up against the kids bed time and my hockey game is about to start. So I have to leave it, they must have just been busy … such is life.

But now it after midnight and I am off the ice and headed home to bed. I was expecting a call or text saying that they just missed it, but nothing – does she not check her phone at all during the evening? Tonight it is annoying as I really wanted to talk about how things went this morning at school, so I know I am being more sensitive than normal. Yet, this is not a one time situation – simple fact is that she doesn’t seem to pay attention to her communication channels and it can be frustrating. Any time there is an email, text, or call that she does not like, she does not respond – she gets them, cause she gets all the others.

Tonight follows on the heals of a recent weekend when I felt respect for my time with the boys was also not shown. My youngest requested to call her and share that they had completed the science project. Simple enough and of course the answer is “ok”, never hold back communication right. Yet, the call went on for a good 30 minutes before I had to call him off to come ACTUALLY finish his work – so my other son got on to say “hi” and they talked for another 30 minutes. There was no big event to share and we had other things planned. I asked to wrap it up (she heard) … and yet the call continued. Eventually I had to become the bad guy and insist my son say good bye so we could keep our nights plans going.

Yes … right now I am feeling petty. In fact, I have tried for a long time to not go negative, but sometimes negative feelings exist. That is just what this is, emotions and insecurities brewing to the surface. I can’t change her, never could. There are a million and one reasons that they were unavailable tonight, and those have to be acceptable. The boys have a strong relationship with their mother, that is something to promote and not hinder. So I go to bed tonight knowing that I will see my youngest tomorrow morning before school and we have a vacation coming up.

All I can do is continue to act the way I feel is right, not always for me – but for the kids.

Threatened

Life as a co-parent has left both of us feeling a little threatened in our role at times. I was almost right away. I was out of the home that I built, struggling to make ends meet, clinging to the notion that I was still dad. I had visions of all the deadbeat and absentee dads from movies and book constantly running through my head. The life I had known was crumbling before me … and then she was with another man, a family friend for several years, and I saw myself just fading completely. “Family” outings and vacations were now a thing … and in my head, if there was another guy there what role would I have.

It hurt, but more so it made me mad. If you happened to talk to me during that period of my life, you knew it. My very existence felt threatened … and for me this wasn’t acceptable. I vowed to stay engaged … and I have done just that. It has not been an easy path. One with lots of ups and downs. Yet, I fight through the struggle to ensure my time with the boys is secure … they know they are loved, they have a safe and fun place to be, and that dad is both interested and invested in both their schooling and their lives.

This has developed some tense moments between their mother and myself. However, I have not relented. I refuse to be defined on her terms – even when it costs me more money, it often costs me less stress. In some cases I take things too far, draw my lines too early, and push too hard in demanding my allotted time. It results in fights, stress, and has resulted in additional lawyer bills.

Why? Because I felt threatened.

When life is going good? When we are happy? We don’t end up feeling as threatened. Deep down we know, no one can take away our roles … we have to give up on them. Just giving up a weekend, being missed on an email notification from the teacher, or being included in a standard doctors checkup. It takes you giving up on showing love.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t appreciate being left out of communications and if I find out I will say something. I won’t accept failure to adhere to the parenting plan, especially if it is going to impact my time with the boys. That is what the kids expect.

While the boys and I fight over homework, chores, and what is acceptable in-door behavior – what they always know is that I want the best for them, that I love them, and that I will always be there. That is because I am Dad. That is what matters.