It’s 11:55 pm and I’m still awake. I should have been asleep two hours ago, but it just won’t come. What’s even worse is that I have to get up by 5:45 am to train my clients and I already know it’s going to suck big time trying to roll out of bed in the morning.
But that’s how it is for me most nights. Not because I have insomnia or stay up watching late night TV, but because of the weight of all the stress I feel at the end of each day when my body is finally at rest and my mind is free to wander.
I used to love sleeping and for a long time I would be out as soon as my head hit the pillow. But that was before. Before the magnitude of what is on my shoulders now and how I know more than ever that the future of my daughters is in my hands.
From Unknows To Knowns
When I first got separated in December 2012, it was so new and there were so many unknowns that everything kind of blended together. I was working a regular 9-5 job then and although I missed my girls terribly, I got by OK.
I didn’t have any clue what was going to happen, how my relationship with my ex would unfold, or how my girls would respond to the split. And there was some peace in not knowing what would happen.
Maybe things would turn out great and we would all be good friends, just living separate lives and working together raising our children. Call it “wishful thinking”.
But that didn’t happen. A lot of things I had hoped for didn’t happen either and now, 3.5 years later, it’s a far cry from what I had anticipated.
But now I know what’s going to happen because it is happening. I know what’s going to be said about me when I’m not around. I know the conversations we have are going to be uncomfortable. I know the shitty comments being made and all the small digs at me that the girls have to hear.
It sucks and I know I’m not alone here.
I know because I’ve heard dozens of stories from dads who are part of our community and some are just plain tragic; Mothers moving their kids hundreds of miles away from their fathers. Mothers not letting their kids talk to or see their dads. Mothers lying, manipulating, and gaming the system.
It goes both ways of course but it’s just so wrong in any case to involve your kids in your post marital drama. I just fucking hate it.
It’s Not Getting Easier
I always thought that time would make being away from them easier, but it hasn’t. In fact, it’s been getting more and more difficult and I know it’s because of two main reasons:
- I am growing closer and closer with my girls and my relationship with each of them is stronger than it’s ever been. Leaving them and knowing I won’t see them for a week kills me every time.
- Their mother is making decisions that I feel are affecting them in a negative way and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it. Our co-parenting plan went out the window long ago and we now work independently of one another and don’t often agree with the others decisions. 99% of our interactions are via text and it’s not uncommon to get a response 12 hours or more later after sending one.
It’s just not a great situation and it’s highly frustrating to say the least. And I have no doubt she has the same frustrations with me.
I’m a firm believer that parents, no matter how much they dislike each other, should never talk badly about the other in front of their kids.
I never have and never will, but sadly, I don’t have any control over what my ex says about me.
I get the fact that ex-wives are going to be angry, bitter, and resentful. They all want to believe that we are their one and only and when that doesn’t happen, it becomes “our fault” in many cases. I can live with an ex who can’t stand me, but I can’t stand an ex who talks poorly about me to my very impressionable little girls.
This is why I lie in bed, tossing and turning, for many hours most nights.
- What will I hear from them this weekend?
- What questions will I have to answer?
- What damage control do I have to do?
- Will they start believing the bad stuff they are hearing about me?
These thoughts and dozens more fill my head as I try to play out every possible scenario in my mind. It’s so tiring and although I realize that it’s a battle I will never win, it doesn’t help.
What’s The Solution?
I wish I had the answers. I wish I knew how to put all the “what ifs” out of my mind. But I don’t know how.
The conclusion I have come to is that I just have to take it one day at a time and be the best possible father I can be. If I continue to take the high road, respect them and their mother, and teach them right from wrong, I think I’m doing a pretty good job.
I have no room for hate or anger in my life. I have a great life and very few things to complain about. I have two amazing daughters ages 10 & 7, a tremendously supportive girlfriend, a growing fitness business which I am very passionate about, and I get to work with who I want and on my own schedule every day.
Life is fucking amazing, actually..
But all those things don’t erase the fact that my girls are hearing things they shouldn’t and I have to try to “fix” things every weekend when I see them. I’m a big boy and can handle someone talking shit about me, but it’s just not the right thing for the girls.
My parents divorced when I was 6 and my dad hated my mother for what he saw being “done” to him. It was blatantly obvious and it affected how I looked at my mother. And sadly, I held anger towards her up until my thirties and I know it hurt her deeply.
She was/is a great mother who did the best she could trying to raise two boys and we get along wonderfully now. I can only imagine what my relationship with her would have been like if I hadn’t been negatively influenced at an early age.
Stress Just Sucks
Part of getting and staying fit is not just related to diet and exercise, but also stress management. And as a single dad, I know you know what stress is all about!
I’m not sure there was ever a divorce in the history of the world that didn’t carry with it some form of stress.
Among leading to weight gain and the inability to lose weight, stress fucks us up in so many other ways. It messes with our minds, makes us question ourselves and our decisions, and leaves us feeling beaten down.
I try to fight it, I really do. I train hard, spend a lot of time outdoors, go hiking, and even bought a heavy bag to punch the shit out of. All great stress relievers. But it’s still there, gnawing at the back of my mind like a dirty little rat.
I don’t know if the stress will ever be gone, even when the girls are grown and gone. I just try to stay positive, surround myself with good people, and make good decisions.
At the end of the day, it’s about doing the right things and being a good person. I believe that I am and also believe that good things happen to good people. Time will tell.
What about you? How do you manage the stress that comes with having an uncompromising ex and everything that goes with it?
Hey man. I know what you mean. As you’re aware, I am in the thick of it. Things that I would have said, “that will never happen” are happening. Beasts and ghouls are raising their collective heads around me to try and take a bite. People I believed were friends have betrayed me bitterly and with untrue statements. 2016 has turned into the most difficult year of my life and we are only to June. Everyone around me tells me that I will win… She has no case… No grounds… I nod. I agree… I smile and say thank you. Nevertheless, I doubt. I wonder. I lay awake and think… “Am I crazy?” “Am I as horrible as she says?” “Am I the darkness that she tells the courts that I am?” I don’t know. I don’t have the confidence that those that love me do because their confidence is rooted in love and not reality. I am scared. I am scared of what will happen. I am scared of discovering that she’s right about all the things she has said. I am scared that I will find out that I am a terrible dad. I don’t want to be scared anymore.
All that to say, I know what you’re feeling. I am intimately aware of how you feel. I hate it. It’s terrible.
Like you, I have to confess that my life is pretty great. I have a great girlfriend. I have a great job. A great home. Some great friends. I have nothing that I could ever complain about to the likes of one of the poor Syrian mothers who lost her child in the waters of the Mediterranean today. I don’t know that agony. I hope I never do… But we live and feel what we live and feel in our own sphere… And I feel awful.
I know what you are going through, brother. I have never doubted myself as a good person or father despite what is being said and I know for a fact that you’re a great guy and a loving father. It’s all a game you’re going through and in order to win a case, anything and everything possible that can hurt you, will be said. Stay strong and use your friends and family to lean on. I have no doubt that my ex could twist events and words to make me look like the worst dad in the world, but I know it would be all for show. That’s what fucking sucks about divorce. It’s all just a big pile of shit and the lawyers egg it all on. Fuck them.
I stay active gym, softball, kayak ect ect! I go Church and counseling and ignore my ex completely we never speak and when I have my little girl when I am not working I spend my time with her! She 4 and I already thought her swim this summer!
Sounds like you’re happy where you’re at, Chris..
The children are the most important part in all of this. It is likely that (despite what most people might think) the reason for leaving a relationship may be a better future for the children. Another big challenge is being unable to manage any messaging to friends and family about the divorce. It is likely the ‘why’ question is answered only once and often by the ex wife. It’s just too uncomfortable for others to talk about it further. The likelihood that message is biased and possibly slanderous can also be haunting.
Yea Bill, there isn’t much we can do about what our ex family and friends hear and in my case, it’s not been a great experience. If only the truth were known I think things might be viewed differently, but the only thing that really matters is the kids. I’ve stopped caring what others think about me, whether true or false..
My Brothers, I understand and can relate to what each of you is going through. I found out that my ex was cheating on me over two years ago and despite forgiving her she decided that she wanted a divorce. For several months I was depressed but I found relief through working out and leaning on my two kids, my family, my faith and my friends. It took some time but I got out of my comfort zone by doing things I hadn’t before and it led to new friendships and adventures.
One of the fundamental things that I found out is that kids aren’t dumb. My kids know who and what their mother is all about. But they love her and for good reason… she is their mom…but that doesn’t mean they like what she has done. In hurting me she has hurt them. She has remarried and they aren’t happy about that especially since she did that behind their backs.
Where mutual friends and family are concerned, I lost of them in the divorce but those who truly know me know the truth and reject the lies she has spread about me. Some of those include her own family and friends. For those that accept the lies I say fuck’em. I don’t need them just like I don’t need anything else that is negative in my life.
Everyone has their version of the truth. The bottom line is this my Brothers, we have a responsibility to love and respect our children and ourselves. If we do that the rest will fall into place. Over a year ago I decided, actually decided, that I was not going to be depressed anymore and would leave things in Gods hands…and he has rewarded me with joy and happiness that I have not known in years.
Keep up the good fight my Brothers and stay strong…your kids need you.