This is part two 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.
Free. Alive. Awake. Grateful beyond belief. Open. Inspired.
These are just some of the amazing emotions I have felt since my separation and eventual courtship and marriage with my new love and partner in life. I was living on autopilot for thirty years, following all the “steps” for a successful life. In the process of being who I thought everyone wanted me to be, I realized that I never figured out who I actually wanted to be. I never even figured out who I was. I was just a scared, deeply insecure, smart, sensitive, young man driven almost completely by my ego to control the world around me and desperate for the acceptance and validation of others that my life choices were the good ones.
Control was a major factor in the first 30 years of life, either being controlled or trying to control. I think it came primarily from my Dad and Step Mother. I felt extremely controlled by them, almost as if I was made to dance, all under the well-meaning guise of discipline and respect, but likely driven by some insecurities in their own life that I fear they will never truly desire to investigate or understand. Who knows - perhaps I misinterpreted all of it - but that’s at least how I perceived it.
I think I also never felt fully accepted by my Father. I knew he loved me, but he rarely showed it, and was much more passionate about building a business and teaching me responsibility (which he succeeded at by the way). This subconscious desperation for acceptance from my Father manifested in me trying to mimic him as much as possible, including mimicking how he controlled the world around him. My Dad was never wrong. He was the smartest most successful guy I knew. Nobody controlled him, but he controlled everyone else. I fell in love with the college he attended and applied nowhere else. Did I love that school? Absolutely, but it came from my desire to be accepted by my Dad I believe.
So fast forward to adulthood and I’m still doing my best Dad impersonation, trying to earn money, build a career, own a home, etc. I am laser focused on saving money for retirement at the ripe young age of 22! I would forego leisure activities with the excuse of saving for retirement. “If only I could save a million dollars, then I’d be happy,” I told myself. Such a naive outlook on life, but I truly did think that money was the key to happiness for much of my life. As a result, almost all my decision were based around what would lead to a career that earned me the most money.
I did well in this pursuit, earning substantial raises in my early years, but my ego was ballooning out of control. Every extra raise or increased responsibility I earned, my ego compared that against my peers and people more successful than I. The higher I got, the higher my ego wanted to go, until I was legitimately eyeing CEOs of international corporations with competitive envy for their place in life.
I never felt good enough. Not for my Dad. Not compared to my peers or superiors. And certainly not for myself.
Getting divorced is, in a way, a forced rebirth of self.
This desperation for acceptance and validation by others manifested negatively in many, if not all, aspects of my life. I only felt good about something if someone “higher” than me validated my choice. I didn’t know who I was. I just wanted to be better than them. Then I would be happy.
Well, this nasty nightmare of an existence stopped for me at the age of 30. It was finally at this point that I was jolted awake by an intense change in my life, and I’ve never been the same since. This awakening prompted me to change my life completely, including divorcing the woman I was married to.
Getting divorced is, in a way, a forced rebirth of self. You entered into a marriage at some past point of your life, melded together with this person, and became a sort of shared entity. It changes you in countless ways. And when that union goes away, everything is changed again. It’s like a clean slate. For me, it gave me the mental “space” to evaluate life on no one’s terms but my own. I realized things like:
My relationship with my son also brings me more joy than ever as I try to integrate my newfound perspectives into my parenting. The relationship I have with myself is much clearer and healthy than before. I have travelled all around the world in the last two years, experiencing numerous bucket list adventures, like Italy, French Riviera, Niagara Falls, Montreal, and Normandy. Life is good. (life is only as good as we make it!)
So if you are someone facing divorce, don’t despair. There is life after divorce. There is even amazing life after divorce. But be cautious that even finding “the one” will not make you happy. You have to first be happy with yourself, flaws, scars, and all. Only then can you attract the real “one” into your life.
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.