Divorce: 7 Essential Insights For Men

Divorce: 7 Essential Insights For Men

A reader with the handle Wood Chipper left the following comment on my post about the challenges of being a single father:

“That was an insightful post. As a father in my early 30s currently going through a divorce, there are defininetely a lot of unknowns right now about how things are going to work and what to expect. Was there anything else you found particularly helpful early on when emotions were high?”

The early months of going through a divorce, especially for a blind-sided nice guy, are the most difficult, emotionally, many men will face in their lifetimes. Your whole world is crushed, all of your plans for the future have gone up in smoke, the basis for your entire existence is pulled right from under you.

If I could help divorcing fathers get through this stage even a hair better than I did I will have succeeded in my mission for this blog. I would expect to see much of what I am writing here in my book on divorce that needs to hit top of my priority list ASAP. Consider this a sneak preview.

I gave some thought to Wood Chipper’s comment, and looking back, here are the 7 things I did, or should have done, that would contribute to making the best of being a father going through a divorce.

1. Grind – Go to work every day and give your best to your career

As men, we were meant to work, and work hard. Few things bring greater satisfaction than a hard day of honest effort. This is one of the truly cathartic activities availbe to a father, or any man really, going through divorce.

Your career is your greatest financial asset, do not neglect it at a time when it might be easy to justify doing so. Now, more than ever, your career is the most important pillar of your life.

You need the satisfaction that work brings, along with the economic security provided by the accompanying paycheck. Without this everything becomes much harder for a divorcing father.

Lawyer fees, child support, running a household on one income, etc. This will all require maximum funds from your day job. Grind away.

2. Get a “go-to” friend and tell them EVERYTHING

There are some things that men going through divorce will often keep to themselves. One of the most damaging is the insecurity created when a wife leaves for another man. The mental images of the woman you devoted your life to banging another guy are downright torturous.

During my divorce I called on my best friend. I went to his house one evening, I hadn’t told anyone about what had happened yet, and I spilled everything to him about my situation. Every feeling, thought, and fear was laid right on the table. I knew I could trust him and he wouldn’t judge me.

My friend was absolutely essential to getting through the early months of my divorce. Irreplaceable. A few months into it I hit my lowest point, where I was crying in a courtyard outside of my office. I was completely disoriented, the gravity of it all had finally hit me.

At that point I sent my friend a simple text that said, “Pray for me, buddy, I’m not in a good place today.” His simple reply of “Done” was all I needed to move forward. I needed to know that someone knew what I was going through.

If you can’t think of a friend or family member that you can entrust with darkest details of your divorce, reach out to someone anonymously in the online community. They don’t even need to know your name.

I offer some limited divorce coaching calls through Skype where I simply charge for my time. A couple of hours venting to someone who has been there before can do wonders for your recovery.

3. Don’t date

About two months after my ex moved out of the house I went on a date. It was a total disaster. I met some tatted up chick on PoF and met her at the coffee shop, by the end of our chat I was plotting the course to our wedding. Thankfully, she sensed my neediness and never returned my texts. I took the next year off from dating completely.

I know some guys will advise that you go out and get a few notches to shake off the ego cobwebs and prove your virility. I estimate that very few men will benefit from doing this. Those that would aren’t really struggling with their divorce to begin with.

Most of us fathers who find ourselves in the midst of a divorce are recovering “nice guys” who could easily fall into damaging decisions with new women, even ones that were only meant to be casual and temporary.

My hard and fast rule for divorced guys is to take a full year off of dating, and a full five years off of marriage, minimum. It takes time to overcome and change patterns that caused such poor outcomes the first time around.

Keeping your dating life out of the picture for a while will help you focus on getting other more important areas of your life in order without distraction. There will be plenty of time for dating later on, and trust me, it will be a lot more fun when you’ve shaken the emotional burden of divorce.

4. Cry

About 4 months after my ex moved out I got wind of her dating a new guy. Up until that point, my focus was on simply surviving a move to a new home and keeping my head above water.

Hearing that my ex was now (already) dating someone new was crushing to me. I look back and realize it was silly, especially considering we got divorced because she was having an affair, but for some reason that news hit me hard.

The night I found out about it I stayed up all night crying. I did not sleep a single minute. That was a turning point in my recovery from divorce. Our bodies react chemically to crying, in a good way.

Crying rejuvinates the soul, it’s like a pressure relief valve for our grief. Let it flow.

I’m not getting all sensitive and soft here, but the truth is, it is OK for a man to cry once in a while, necessary even.

5. Go to bed early, rise early

I find it nearly impossible to be depressed watching the sun rise. On the flip side, I find it difficult not to get melancholy when I’m tired and alone at 11pm.

In the first year after my divorce I made a point to get to bed early and rise early. None of my thoughts that occurred after 10pm were productive, and the fatigue only heightened my emotions the next day.

In the peak of summer I found myself going to bed before the sun had even set, it felt great. It was like giving the middle finger to those late night demons that would come to visit if I’d overstayed my welcome in the current day.

Find a reason for a waking early. Mine was taking a walk and drinking a cup of coffee. Simple, but I quite looked forward to that routine, and the fresh air was therapeutic as well.

6. Forgive your ex

I recorded a shaky podcast on this subject recently. Give it a listen.

Forgiveness is the most important thing you can do to clear your emotions. If you harbor any anger your recovery will stall. You must forgive.

Anytime someone hurts us we want to be angry. It’s a nature response, but if it lingers too long ti crushes us.

Remember, your ex is a broken human being that is more deserving of pity than hate. Her own emotional prison is punishment enough to venge for any wrong she’s done to you.

In the words of Elsa, let it go.

7. Take your time

If you have kids then you’ve probably seen the Pixar movie Cars, right? Maybe some of you even saw it as a kid yourself.

You know the scene where Lightning has to repave the road in town, but the first time he goes too fast and it’s a bumpy mess?

The same applies here, there is no rushing this. There is no magic secret that can speed your recovery along, any attempt to do so will result in having to go back and start over, often with more cleanup along the way.

Let this process unfold like any other. When you’re falling in love, and you try to rush it, things come undone. The same applies to recovery, let the pace go naturally.

You’ll want to press and move on faster, that will be the naturaly tendency. The best thing you can do is resist this urge, and approach any feelins of recovery with an abundance of caution.

You will declare yourself healed many times before that statement rings true.

Conclusion

Recovering from divorce is a five year process. However, you can do yourself a lot of favors by taking the right steps in the first few months, this will ease the burden later on. Allow yourself some space to make mistakes while keep the boundaries up on the non-negotiables like your career and your children. Use the hurt as a catalyst to reinvent your life however you see fit, for you’ve been give a blank slate from which to rebuild.

Build The Wall … Around Your Thoughts

My schedule, on a calendar, is linear and structured. I know where I need to be and what I need to be doing at most times of the day.

That’s the easy part.

What is occurring in my head is a whole different story. Morning until night, sometimes even all through the night, is a stream of consciousness unlike any other.

A conversation with myself is occurring and lightning speed, only interrupted briefly by those things on the calendar that require my physical attention, and even then I’m often not fully present.

Presence is lacking in my life, unless you count being present with myself, which I am phenomenal at doing.

As of late, I’ve been using visualization to overcome this challenge.

The same way my schedule is walled off into blocks of time I have started to wall off my mental thoughts as well.

I can’t just “wing it” either. This requires true visualization.

Therefore, when I want to enter into a focused state of concentration, whether that be on a different person or a major project, I picture myself walking through with entrance to a medieval castle.

I picture myself walking slowly across a drawbridge that spans a moat. As I enter into the brick walls of the castle compound the bridge closes behind me, leaving outside all thoughts beyond the current moment, beyond what is happening withing these walls.

I do this as I walk into a restaurant to meet a friend for dinner, or as I start the dishwasher, symbolically starting my evening “kid time” where I devote a few post-dinner hours to fully present interactions with my children.

This also means making a few physical changes to signify the boundary. Most important being the silencing or turning off of my cell phone. The cell phone is like a trojan horse into my castle of thought, a destructive force that I can easily carry right inside with me if I’m not mindful.

While this is a recent revelation for me, it has paid great dividends in just a few weeks. I am more and more present with my children, enriching their incredibly important feelings of attachment to me. Dinner with my folks has taken on a new feeling of calmness and peace, with more time spent listening. Not to mention also the feeling of connectedness it has created in my love life.

It is often said that the best gift one can give to another person is the gift of their full attention, and I have found this to be true. The challenge, as an introvert with a very active thought process, is to channel this focus away from that river of thoughts roaring like rapids in the background, and place it firmly on the rocky shore.

Makeup Days

Have you ever been driving down the expressway on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day and thought to yourself “this just feels different.”

You could have traveled that highway 200+ times that year to commute to work, but on that particular holiday it feels like a different road.

Perhaps it’s the lack of trucks and commercial vehicles, and the abundance of unfamiliar minivans loaded with families.

These may be part of it, but I suspect the real difference is in our minds, the mentality of driving down that road on the way to a traditional family gathering has a certain comfort to it, perhaps.

As a single father I have my children every other holiday. Every other Christmas, every other Thanksgiving, etc.

Tomorrow, the day after Thanksgiving in the USA, I am picking my kids up from their mom’s then we will celebrate with my family and friends.

But it won’t feel the same as if we were celebrating on Thanksgiving Day. The traditions of waking up and watching the parade, then flipping over to football, all while the aroma of turkey and stuffing hangs in the air, simply won’t be there.

Sure, I will experience most of those same things today, but without my kids around. It has a different feel.

Perhaps those that have to work holidays share this same feeling, or anyone that has to celebrate the day on another day.

 

As a person who feels and senses deeply, these makeup holidays are noticeably different from the “real” ones. Not upsetting, or bad, but just different. Like something isn’t quite the way it’s supposed to be.

I love traditions, they are the stitching to the fabric of my life, they hold the different pieces together. They serve as transitions from season to season, from one mode of thinking to another.

Try as I might, I have not been able to recreate that special holiday feeling when celebrating on a different day. Some things just aren’t the same as the original.

To all of my faithful readers out there in the USA, Happy Thanksgiving!

5 Daily Challenges Of A Single Father

As I begin to approach the five year “anti-versary” of my divorce I can look back with a clear head and see where things have shaken out.

In the early months and years I was often too clouded with emotion to take a realistic view of where I stood as a mid-30s single father with three young children.

What did my life have in store going forward? Looking back now I can say my thoughts were either cataclysmic or overly auspicious, depending on the day, or even the hour of the day, and how many drinks I had consumed.

Now things have settled down. The strong emotional responses to my divorce and aftermath have faded. I can now look at my life from a realistic and pragmatic viewpooint and see that neither by biggest fears, nor my highest hopes, have materialized.

Every married father out there faces challenges on a daily basis, but the troubles I am going to list here are unique to use single fathers who find ourselves with substantial roles in our kids’ lives but without a partner to share those responsibilities with.

Honestly, a lot of this stuff seems trivial, and in the grand scheme of life, it really is. But on a day to day basis these are the five things I’ve learned pose the biggest challenge in my life as a single father.

1. Losing Stuff

I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to material posessions, I don’t like to have many, but the ones I do have are well cared for and always in their appropriate place. I rarely “lose” things, and as anyone who has every attended a sporting event with me will attest, I need to be the one holding the tickets, I simply don’t trust others as much as I do myself.

Now, life as a father throws a wrench into any control freaks plans, for sure. Kids are messy, unorganized, and can clutter a room in surprisingly quick fashion. In my married days we were able to keep up with the daily onslaught of clutter and messes, but as a single father it is quite a bit more challenging.

I find that I am unable to keep up with messes my kids make, and it creates a great deal of mental stress for me. As they get older they get better at cleaing up after themselves, but their version of “clean” is nothing close to my own standards.

Finally, as they trek belongins back and forth between my house and their moms, inevitably things get lost in transit. Some nice clothing and toys, given to my children by relatives, have never made the return journey back from the other side of those Sunday afternoon exchanges.

Letting go of my controlling nature has proven difficult, and overcoming it is likely impossible. Therefore, I keep things as simple as possible and limit, within reason, what the kids take to their mom’s.

2. SeeSaw Routines

Back and forth, back and forth. I can’t imagine what it feels like for my children, but I know it isn’t enjoyable for me.

I love my kids, but I also love my alone time. What I don’t live is the drastic swings between the two.

For five days I’ll have a full house of laughing and crying children, then the next five days it’s quieter than a library full of nuns.

Over four years of this routine and I still haven’t gotten used to it. Sometimes I even wake up in the middle of the night and forget whether my children are home or not. It’s surreal to say the least.

Five days is just enough to full adjust to each routine before it abruptly changes again. On Wednesday morning I drop my kids off to school, then return home from work on Wednesday night to a table full of dirty breakfast dishes, but none of the laughter that usually comes with the mess. It’s a dark, lonely feeling each week, no matter how many times I experience it.

Don’t even get me started on how Christmas feels without my kids around.

3. Extracurriculars

I grew up playing baseball all summer long. It was a part of my childhood with very distinct memories and life lessons learned. From about six to sixteen I played every year.

I had always hoped my children would follow in my enjoyment of sports. There is someting uniquely instructional about sports and the things they can teach you about life.

Now that I split time with my children, and my ex and I live in different towns, my kids haven’t had the opportunity to play too many organized sports.

Now, the lack of commitments means we have more time to do other things, like hike and camp, but it still stings a bit to know they’re missing out on something I so greatly enjoyed.

I hope as they get older they can join school sports teams and experience all that they have to offer.

4. Lack of alone time with each child

Having multiple children means I am rarely alone with each child.

Spending one on one time with a child is a unique bonding experience. When I was married this was far easier than it is today, as most of my time is spent with myself and my three kids alone, together.

Every so often I will employ the help of my folks or another babysitter to take two of the kids off my hands so I can connectin individually with one of them.

I consider this time to be crucial and sacred. My children attach strong memories, and hence attachments, to these times spent alone with me.

It is disappointing, as a single father, that these moments don’t happen more often, as I think they should be part of a weekly or biweekly routine for most families.

I chalk this one up to “do the best I can given the circumstances” category.

5. Being a single father is thankless work

Being a parent is thankless work, no doubt about it. Only once your children grow and have children of their own will they truly appreciate things you did for them. This is a long game and the rewards are decades out in the future.

Being a single father, it feels even more thankless because there is no one else to share the grind with. A married couple with kids can share in the loneliness of a never ending parenting routine, but a single father is left with little recourse for this matter.

My girlfriend, a single parent herself, provides some solace from this often lonely feeling, but it is little more than a consolation prize as the challenges we each face are different and difficult to relate to one another.

Thankfulness provides a reprieve from this cloud of thanklessness. I am sometimes, not enough though, thankful for the opportunity to raise three healthy children. A focus on the gravity of my responsibility satiates the ego enough to press forward despite no tangible rewards awaiting anytime soon.

Conclusion

None of these are earth-shattering problems, of course, but I would imagine they are issues that single fathers across the land find themselves facing. I purposely stayed away from the common problems of custody schedules and legal issues, those have been covered on other blogs ad nauseum. I want to keep a focus here on things closer to home, the day-to-day grind of life. I see each passing day as an opportunity to connect with our children that we should be maximizing.

Any single fathers out there I’d be glad to hear about your challenges in the comments.

When An Introvert Stops Giving A Fuck

When we picture someone who doesn’t give a fuck we think of a man who says whatever he wants, does whatever he wants, and outwardly cares little about what others think. Charlie Sheen, for example, is a man who clearly doesn’t give a fuck.

But what happens when an introvert stops giving a fuck?

For me, a known and admitted introvert, it is quite the opposite. When I go through a phase of not giving a fuck I actually speak very little. Speaking to moron normies is a form of giving a fuck for me. Once I stop caring I stop talking.

When I finally break free from the shackles of my day job will I tell everyone off and leave in a blaze of glory? Nope. Once I give notice I won’t say a word to anyone as most of them are not worth the energy expenditure of speaking. I will sit quietly, with a shit grin on my face, as I watch my book sales climb.

Book sales? What book sales? That’s the thing. When an introvert stops giving a fuck his words flow more freely, his ideas that form so perfectly in his overactive mind find their way out to the world. He stops seeing others opinions as important and getting the thoughts out of his head trumps his desire to be accepted.

As I give less fucks my book outline grows and the depths to which I can connect my inner and outer experiences heightens. I will write a fantastic book and it will sell many copies. I look forward to that day.

A quiet cabin in the woods with nothing but a computer and internet connection might be the ultimate “fuck you” an introvert can give the world. One can only dream.

Until then I shall nod and feign a smile as my neurotic coworker tells me about her daughter off at college, while inside I secretly hope her daughter is getting slammed by every alpha on campus as simple reprisal for my having to waste perfectly good minutes on this earth listening to her drivel.

Ok, on second thought, I might say a few things on my way out of the corporate world.