Divorce & learning to be a better father…

I am writing this because I wish I had read it 7 years ago.

It is written to all, but I am writing it as a man and it will probably be male biased for a few reasons, for those who are finding separation and divorce difficult, but it equally applies to anyone feeling on the outside. The sharing is carthatic for me, and I do hope others read it to gain some insight into what it’s like being on the outside of a family I was once in and the feelings I believe we all have post divorce and particularly with children. 

I feel it important as a man to engage a little in ‘gender politics’ as we are drowned daily with female injustices so perhaps let’s start to talk about how men feel. Let’s encourage the debate so we all get to express our frustrations and help the healing for men (and women)

The divorce system ‘appears’ to favour female custody with huge amounts of men finding it difficult to achieve joint custody (as they are often working, further as the adult who has to leave the family home and often remain on the back foot from there on, with little control over parenting decisions) and yet female financial equality on divorce is given regardless of who bought what into the marriage with most men remaining the main financial provider in the divorce and of child maintenance, yet without equal access opportunities.

I am generalising here but I am also talking about real experiences many men have shared, as it is seen as politically incorrect to share these feelings in public. Men internalise a huge loss and sadness at only getting to see their children ‘every other Wednesday and alternate weekends’, often to be used a financial bargaining pawn in settlements and because they have no choice but to work (and most jobs unfortunately don’t finish at 245pm for pick up)

Something is not right, and put simply, many men are fed up with it. Just as feminism strives to equalise opportunities for women, and rightly so, it should not be at the cost of penalising men for providing and being fathers, when these decisions were made between the couples before they decided to have a family. The patriarchy is as much a function of reproduction and women’s life choices as it is the perception that all men are somehow abusing their positions to frustrate female progress. We are not living in 1920, nor living in the Middle East where women have limited equal rights and Father’s need to find their voice. I have found mine.

Back down off my soapbox, the frustration of being on the outside at the same time as dealing with feelings of failure, self loathing, guilt, shame, loneliness was tough, very tough. I would never consider myself suicidal, because I love myself, my children, my family and friends but I have come about as close to it as I ever want to get. I understand why men (and women) see no other way out. I would say if you are reading this, don’t. Call someone, call me, call the doctor, the Samaritans, call the bloody first girl/boy/them you dated, the milkman, your best mate, anyone….just CALL! Things do get better but you HAVE to share your pain until it passes.

Marriages and relationships end and sometimes it’s actually the best course of action. Nobody wishes that, especially with children, so show some love and kindness to your ex. My truth is we reached the end of the line and the trust, friendship and love became bitterness, frustration and a complete lack of communication. I realise now after 6 years of self development and some therapy that I carried around of lot of hurt and unresolved issues relating my childhood. That is not for now,  but I would describe myself as lacking in self love, not knowing who I was, what kind of man and father I wanted to be and unable to control my emotions when I was rejected and this fuelled deep insecurities in me and a degree of co-dependency. I was unable to talk and communicate about my feelings and needs and the marriage spiralled down. My ex wife is a good mother and I am grateful for her sacrifices to nurture two simply wonderful children. Tell your partner this regardless. We did the best we could.

That is done, but if you are in that situation now try the following

  • Therapy, Therapy, Therapy (Together and alone)
  • Talk regularly but ARRANGE to talk. Set an hour aside twice a week
  • Say positive things to each other, remembering what’s good about your partner even if you can’t stand them. That act alone helps respect and kindness
  • Express how you FEEL and what you NEED to change.
  • When your partner says the same HEAR them and acknowledge to them you have HEARD them and agree what you are going to change
  • BE HONEST – If you are carrying issues express them, doubts, fears, pain, unfulfilled desires, all of it. Get it out! 

” What’s better? Uncomfortable Truths or Comfortable Lies” – Mark Groves

What if things don’t improve? 

Set some timelines to make the effort to communicate and discuss the what-ifs with regard to separation, the dog, the kids, money, logistics etc. Accept that after a while the relationship may need to end. However hard it is the main consideration is to think of the wellbeing of the children, not what your ego demands. Don’t force them to jump between houses because you don’t want to lose the battle. Decide between you what is best for all of you and try and COMPROMISE. There is clearly nothing wrong with splitting childcare but let’s be frank, some people (and many men and women who work) can’t physically be home at 3pm to collect the kids from school. One of you will need to make sacrifices and that will be reflected in the time you see your kids and financial settlements and that is fair. It also needs to be acknowledged in your mind. However, hurt and aggrieved you feel I am sure your partner feels the same, even for reasons you can’t fathom.

The main thing I wanted to say is this. You become a different person after divorce. The pain of it, the loss of dreams and the concern for your children change you both. I hope and think I am a better person and father in the last 6 years than I ever was. It is a wonderful chance to reinvent yourself and grow. Sure, I have made mistakes and made poor choices, but at the centre of all of it is to not let my children down, I am there when I am meant to be there and to talk and listen to them. Your relationship and the love you can develop even outside a marriage can be just, if not more, a wonderful reflection of the powerful bond between parents and children, that is probably the most meaningful thing in life. You can earn £1,000,000 a year, drive a Porsche and date models, if you mess up being an authentic parent it will burn you eventually.  Being divorced is not a failing, kids don’t judge you, if you are honest, you show up, you say sorry and you action your love to them and yourself.

Regardless of how you ended up here be the most amazing parent you can be for them, but also for yourself. Let love do the talking and build your life around who you can be not what you left behind. Be kind to yourself, know that being a single parent doesn’t make you a worse parent, you will still mess up and with any luck I believe your children will actually become extremely resilient, thoughtful, kind and emotionally mature. Being married is not a badge worth having any more than being single is. It’s hard to let go of that comparison but in a way it’s just a social stigma you need to let go of. In a way it’s a positive that your children know you are self aware enough to change your life for the better.

Live with integrity, forgiveness and compassion as it’s your values that you live with everyday you go home from work and your values you will take to your grave. Your legacy drives a constant in your behaviour so centre on what you do for others not around your own self. It’s a powerful way to try and live and a good example to try to give to your children.

Good luck and I am here to help as needed

With love,

Ed

USEFUL LINKS

The Samaritans

Relate Marriage Guidance

Find a UK councellor

 


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