This is part one of a new Mental Jailbreak series examining life through the eyes of a divorced Dad struggling to deal with the emotional fallout of family breakup. While there are many aspects to explore, both positive and negative, each post will try to focus on one topic at a time while still honoring the complexity of the bigger picture. Get a real inside look at the thoughts and emotions of one man’s journey.
Empty. Guilty. Shamed. Broken. Regretful. Overwhelmed.
These are just some of the challenging and painful emotions I have felt dealing with life as a divorced Dad. Every other Sunday is now home to the all-too-routine gut wrenching feeling of dropping my son off at his Mom’s house and driving away with an empty car and an empty heart. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear every now and then thinking about what I’ve lost.
Why did I get divorced? What was so wrong with the life I had to warrant this rhythmic torture of weekend parenting?
Time with my son is perhaps the most precious thing I have on this Earth. Watching him learn something for the first time, form new opinions, experience new things, and light up the world with his laughter are incomparable life experiences. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
But yet...I did exactly that! How do I reconcile those last two facts? I traded time with my son to get out of a relationship that, on paper, wasn’t bad at all. We loved each other, had great careers, owned our dream house in our dream neighborhood, shared interest in traveling, good family, financial security, and a amazing beautiful young boy.
Unfortunately, divorce was not foreign to me. My parents divorced when I was five and my sister was just a toddler. All of my grandparents were divorced. All my best friends growing up had divorced parents. My closest cousins had divorced parents. It was literally *all* around me growing up. I was desensitized to the pain of it. And all the newly re-married couples seemed perfectly happy to me. Maybe that’s why, despite swearing off divorce at a very young age, it seemed like a completely viable “option” to me as an unhappy adult.
Present day “me” would advise the unhappy, still married version of “me” to handle things differently than I did at various points during my six year courtship and marriage. Would things have ended differently? Would they have started differently? Who knows! But again, that’s not a fair standard to hold myself to because present day “me” would also advise past versions of me all the way back to 10 years old on how I could have considered things differently in my actions and decisions, and if any single one decision in my past occurred differently, the butterfly effect would be in full effect and potentially change my entire life’s path. Changing my life’s path is neither a possibility, nor one I would consider if I had the option. I believe everything happens for a reason, even incredibly painful things, and I put faith in the universe that I am on a path with a purpose.
Still, as grateful as I am for my own path in life, and as optimistic as I am about what is yet to come, it’s still very difficult to avoid the painful emotions mentioned at the start of this post. Missing your children can make you ill to your stomach.
The pain is not only personal either. There’s empathetic pain and guilt when you have your children about the fact that the other parent is missing out on the great experiences you are enjoying with the child. It’s hard to forgive yourself for allowing this reality to manifest.
I remember a particularly painful moment when I was picking up my three year old son soon after the divorce and he said to me in the car, “Daddy, do you remember when you lived at my house with me and Mommy?” Even thinking about it today still brings me to tears.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of idealizing the best elements of your past and reconstructing what may have been based on the wisdom you hold today. The reality is when any marriage ends in divorce, there are probably layers upon layers of personal issues on both sides that allowed the ugly conclusion to manifest. You can’t in retrospect hold yourself accountable to the impossible standard of being able to rise above those past issues with the knowledge and life experience you hold today. We are not perfect beings and struggles like divorce are a clear and present manifestation of that.
Hear me when I say this, world. Divorce is painful. And divorce with kids is painful x100.
How do I deal with it? Here are a few things that help me:
Andy is a curious soul with INFJ-T personality who likes to examine life closely and lives for those moments of deep revelation and spiritual connection.