You’ve joined forces and tied the knot, in the name of holy matrimony. And now, baby makes three (or four or five). Marriage brings with it challenges of its own; adding a baby to the mix can further disrupt harmonious functioning. Postpartum depression and divorce are linked and postpartum depression may be to blame. Postpartum depression is no longer reserved solely for women; research suggests men too can struggle with postpartum depression all their own.
Known also as paternal postnatal depression, studies as recent at 2010 suggest that as many as one in ten men struggle with depression following the welcome of a new child into their lives. Truth is, the rates may be much higher as countless men struggle without seeking professional support. While depression itself may not be the culprit for trouble in a relationship or for divorce for that matter, the ripple effect of resulting behaviors triggered by depressive symptoms can place strains on a relationship and divorce may seem the only option.
Postpartum Depression and Divorce
Symptoms of postpartum depression mirror those of major depressive disorder. The onset of the symptoms, dubbing the name ‘postpartum depression’ follow the addition of a child (through birth, adoption or fostering) to the family dynamic. The most common symptoms of depression, per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition, include:
- Feelings of sadness, worthlessness, hopelessness, and/or guilt; most days, for nearly the entire day
- Changes in sleep patterns (difficulty sleeping or desire to sleep all the time)
- Extreme fatigue, and loss of energy
- Difficulty concentrating and/or indecisiveness
- Restlessness and/or irritability
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Changes in eating habits that result in either weight loss or gain
- Recurrent thoughts of death
Professionals working closely with men who struggle with depression – whether postnatal or not – identify some symptoms that seem to be unique to men that include:
- Feelings of anger, frustration and irritability that may include conflict with others (violent or non-violent)
- Isolating from family and friends
- Tendency to work longer hours
- Increased use of substances (alcohol and/or other drugs)
- Risk-taking and impulsive behavior
Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression
You might be wondering what may put you at higher risk for struggles with postpartum depression and divorce. The following variables are all contributors:
- A previous personal history of depression: If depression is something you’ve struggled with previously, for whatever reason, even if you conquered that mountain and moved on, you are at higher risk of depressive symptoms returning. Additionally, a family history of depression may also increase your risk of developing depression yourself.
- Strained relationships: Tension within relationships, including with your partner, parents, in-laws, and friends set the stage for depressive symptoms to occur. Everyone has a unique opinion on how to raise children, right? Inability to agree with your partner or filter through the ‘suggestions’ from friends and family (yours or hers) can create insurmountable tension within your marriage. Add to it, strained relationships with friends and family can lead to further isolation and limited access to much needed support.
- Extreme fatigue due to lack of sleep: Babies sleep a lot. In theory, sleep shouldn’t be hard to come by with baby snoozing 16-20 hours per day. The trouble is babies don’t always sleep for long durations of time, for a variety of reasons. So, when baby is awake often through the night and you struggle to return to sleep yourself, or there are other variables keeping you awake (i.e. stress), sleep can become extremely hard to come by. An extremely fatigued adult has less capacity to tolerate or deal with the curveballs of life productively which can further strain relationships and now a vicious cycle has begun.
- Lack of support: Humans were created as social beings, and support from friends and family is essential. Particularly during significant life changes like adding a child into your mix. Whether the support is hands on (giving you and your partner a much needed break), or emotional (allowing you an opportunity to vent, their normalizing your experience and re-assuring you to the best of their ability that you CAN do this, etc.).
Trying to take on too much yourself and declining invitations for help, or being isolated creates an environment in which depression can thrive.
- Limited economic resources: We hear all the time that “money isn’t everything”. While we know that to be true, it’s also reasonable to admit that having money <versus not> sure makes things easier. If you were strapped financially prior to your child being born, or if the strain hit with the additional expenses that came alongside baby, economic challenges can place an incredible burden on a marriage. Adjusting to parenting a new baby brings with it challenges enough. The additional stress of wondering how the mortgage will be paid, if you’ll be able to scrape together enough to keep the lights and heat on, or how food will land on the table (and diapers on that sweet babe’s bottom) can – and in many cases WILL – contribute heavily to the onset of depression.
- Hormonal changes: That’s right fellas. Hormonal changes happen for you during and after your partner’s pregnancy, too! Not only do they change but they fluctuate, which, you might remember is one of the reasons puberty is so darn hard for teens (and perhaps even harder on their parents). During pregnancy estradiol (hormone found in higher levels in females) increases, and testosterone (hormone found in higher levels in men) decreases for males. Just before birth testosterone fluctuates, and increases, but shortly after birth drops once again. Add to it the fluctuation of the stress hormone cortisol (which drops during pregnancy, rises just before birth, and drops again after birth…only to rise again as stress and tensions grow).
Fluctuating hormones (for both partners) before, during and after birth creates a recipe for depression.
- Non-traditional family structure: parenting alongside your partner is hard enough, but when the family structure resembles something less than traditional, the risk is higher for additional stress, leading to depression. Co-parenting first thing out the gate, without any opportunity to first learn together under the same roof can lead to lots of confusion and disagreement about common goals for parenting the new little one. Plus, bonding opportunity is limited when time is shared between two parents living in separate residences (with dad likely taking more back-seat time to mom as a primary caregiver, at least initially). Add to all of it that living separately means limited resource to share the burden with one parenting having to shoulder it all until baby spends time with the other parent.
All these risk factors work in tandem to increase risk of postpartum depression and divorce. While all factors set a person at higher risk, everyone is uniquely designed with different thresholds for tolerating and navigating these factors. It’s also important to know that risk factors don’t necessarily mean postpartum depression will develop. Rather, it’s just wise to be aware of the factors that may exist and to act when/if a problem is suspected.
Seeking Help for Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is not forever, nor does it have to be a contributor to a failed marriage. Depression is easily treatable via several avenues:
- Talk therapy: talk therapy can help an individual verbally process through the events and associated thoughts and feelings, as well as help an individual learn invaluable healthy coping skills. A professional can also make further recommendations for support and point you in the right direction to access services s/he doesn’t provide.
- Medications: antidepressants are an option, most often in conjunction with talk therapy, for helping an individual get in front of the depression that is wreaking havoc on their life. Get the skinny on medications for treating depression prior to a visit with your doctor with this article published by the National Institute of Mental Health.
- Natural Remedies: if medications aren’t really your thing and you’re not sure how you feel about talk therapy, there are a host of natural remedies in existence that are proven to aid in elevating mood. A healthy diet, exercise and adequate sleep are just for starters. Read more on WebMD for additional natural remedy options.
- Crisis Resources: if you or someone you know is a risk to themselves or others due to a mental health condition, do not hesitate to outreach to either local or national crisis resources for immediate support. The national suicide prevention hotline can be accessed by dialing 1-800-273-8255, or you can visit them on the web for additional information.
Get your marriage back on track after baby makes three (or four or five) with an understanding of postpartum depression risk factors, symptoms and options for support. For both you and your partner. As the saying goes “this too shall pass” and there are indeed happier days ahead.
So, I get it. You’re confused. You’re not sure what to do when contemplating divorce. Sure, life might be less confusing after divorce, but, are you giving up too soon? What of you and your relationship with your kids? Will it change? Will it be better? Or will it get…
As a dad going through a divorce, telling your kids may not be the first thing you think about, but it’s one of the most important things you will have to do as you begin the divorce process. You will have many personal issues to occupy your time and mind,…
So, you’re getting a divorce or think you’re wanting one. There’s an easy way to tell if you’re ready, truly ready. Are you angry, mad, or upset? Then you’re not ready. If you are really emotional right now you may be ready for a break, have a strong need for answers or may really need to just get away for a bit. Truth is, you need to decide if you want to be right or happy. Here’s something that’s not a secret but is something you’ve heard, but may not really get, yet. When you’re ready to walk away, maybe with sadness, some regret, but without a lot of emotions behind it; then, you’re done. Go for it. But, here’s the thing; if you still have a lot of angst or emotions about whatever is going on right now, you can’t really be sure the right course of action and there’s a chance that ANY action while you’re not crystal clear could make things worse. So, pull up a chair and let’s chat.
I know, there are many reasons you’re going through this right now, some could be your fault, some could be hers, and probably there are some shared faults somewhere mixed in there. I think, if you’re here reading this, on this site, then you must be feeling or looking for some answers, so you are showing some empathy and are probably not the potential asshole who’s thinking, …”it’s all her fault, I’ve done nothing wrong.”. The major issue right now might just be something she’s doing or has done that you can’t live with, and if you’re smart, you’ll recognize the person responsible for her actions, is not you; it’s her but not her alone, in a vacuum. And, consequently, the person responsible for your past, present and future actions, is not her; it’s you. So, let’s get the first step laid out plain and simple. Each partner in a divorce is responsible for his or her actions that lead to here, and will be responsible for their actions to get past and beyond this moment, right here, right now. Past can’t be changed; future can’t really be predicted (unless you keep doing the same things over and over). So, we’re here now, you’re here, she’s there (in the other room, at the other house, with her mom, or maybe even some other guy, and we need to decide if divorce is what we really need to do. If there are kids involved, that could make it even more simple. That’s right, kids can make it easier to decide, but not how you’re thinking. We’ll get to that in a moment.
Nothing anyone tells you is going to be accurate 100% of the time, agreed? But, usually where divorces start to fail is not near the end; it’s almost always at the very beginning. And, we have to understand that and think about that to understand what might be happening now. I think most relationships start like this; two people meet, bump into each other, or see each other from across the room, conference table, bar, or some measure of space, and the bells go off. Some talking ensues, smiles are exchanged and in some short period of time, one of two things happen. Either there’s an immediate hooking up, or there’s a plan for a next meeting, which entails an exchange of numbers, email addresses, twitter feeds, etc… so as to facilitate that next meeting. I know, sometimes it takes a couple of gazes or bumps to get there, but you get the point, you get THERE. One thing leads to another, things get physical, and the horses are out of the gate. I know there are some other paths to the here and now and we’ll talk about them, but give me just a little leeway for the moment. You’re horses, racing. neck and neck, sweating and pounding the track towards some finish line, capiche? Good.
Now, the thing that usually doesn’t happen, rarely does, sometimes, maybe, is that instead of horses, you become turtles. Without getting all psychological or dragging it on and on, there’s a very fundamental piece that gets skipped in the majority of relationships that can predict with some accuracy (not 100% remember) that you’re going to be at this point. It’s the part where each of you, and in this case, YOU, have contemplated life to the point of knowing with some reasonable idea just WHAT it is you want out of life, what is REALLY the most important things to you. Also, HOW you plan on getting whatever it is and WHEN do you expect you’re going to get to it. Also, what things will you not accept in your life and what are you willing to do, without sacrificing your good, happy, self, to protect your life from allowing those bad things to creep in? Remember, right now, you’re thinking about or are going through a divorce and we’re trying to make sure it’s what we want and to be at peace with it. Again, you need to decide – do you want to be right or happy?
This chat we’re having isn’t about her, it’s about you. But, we’ll say that the same applies to your partner or soon to be ex-partner that they should have thought about all that meaningful stuff surrounding them self before they hooked their wagon to you. Statistics are that one or both people in a failing relationship didn’t do that work up front and weren’t really prepared whether it was 2 months or 2 years from the initial meeting, to the wedding bells.
What does all that mean right now? It means a couple of very simple things. Neither of you are perfect and you fell in love with someone at the beginning, who wasn’t the same person you’re dealing with right now. Usually the clichés are offered up like “people change” or “we grow apart”. The reality is most people don’t change, but since most people always present their better selves at the beginning of a relationship, the actual-sized person reveals themselves over time and it’s THAT person that you’re sitting here thinking about, or are, divorcing. Not the one you met, but the WHOLE person which includes the one you met, then one you’re dealing with now and all of the good, bad, and ugly in between. So, you have to take that image or picture of your partner and know in your inner core, who knows himself because you can answer the questions of what you want and what your own boundaries are to get it, is the person you know on the other end of this relationship a person you can spend the same amount of time with in the future that you’ve already spent in the past. Are you ok with that? And the kicker is, YOU CAN’T CHANGE THEM, so are they capable of changing themselves into that person you want in your head, or are they just not the person you thought you married. They’re fine, they’re ok, but they’re just not the person you seem to remember. If they’re not that person and the person they are doesn’t match your path and your boundaries, let them go, for both your sakes. Life is a one-way journey that starts counting down at birth and gives no mulligans for mis-spent moments, days, or years. Time is going, going, gone.
Do you wanna to be right or happy?
Usually, you can’t be both. No matter what is going on right now, she cheated, you cheated, no one cheated but you grew apart, or there’s some extenuating circumstance, it boils down to, do you have the willingness, energy and desire to work on a relationship not with the person you married in the beginning, but the person you’re married to now. If you can’t answer that question, you need to go out to that trail or bench and think about that before you initiate or continue your current course of action. If you can answer it, then fine, you have your answer one way or the other. If your answer is no, you’re not willing and you have boundaries that have been broken and keep getting broken, then let it go now, stop the cycling of on-again, off-again relationships, recognize it for what it was, and move on. Yes, it will take time. Yes, there may be some melancholy. Ultimately, you’ll be better off and you’ll be able to define what you know you do NOT want in your next relationship.
As I mentioned, kids can sometimes, usually, complicate matters in your head and in your heart. Here’s the thing with kids. Is the relationship you’re presenting to them with their other parent the type of relationship you want them to have? Think about it. How did they learn to walk? How did they learn to talk? How did they learn most aspects of their behaviors? I’ll answer it; By listening to and watching YOU. So, if you’re arguing, causing or involved in drama, or some bitter divorce arguments, and if you don’t stop it now, either by working on it or walking away, you’re very potentially teaching them that this is an acceptable way to have or be in a relationship and it’s ok to do exactly what you and your partner are doing. Look at yourself and your partner. Is that relationship what you want for them? You answer that question, and then act.
I hope whatever decision you choose, it leads you to a happier place tomorrow, with less stress and a more peaceful life. After all, as our time is ticking down, what is the most important, to be right or happy? When you’re thinking about that next relationship or trying to fix this one, also remember; BE a TUTRLE, not a race horse. Easy does it. Slow and steady, and all that. Clichés are clichés for a reason. Take Care of yourself.
Alimony may have had its place in divorce, but far too often it is like a punishment for men. In a world where women continue to gain more of a percentage of the workforce, the need for alimony continues to come under fire. Some think alimony has traditionally been used as a way to get men to stay in a marriage they possibly did not want anymore. Whether true or not, thankfully, many states are changing those medieval modes of thinking about spousal support!
The Greatest Alimony States for Men
Georgia has some of the best laws in the country in regards to knocking out alimony from the divorce equation. Sometimes you have to wonder if they named it the Peach State after their alimony laws.
While some alimony can be ordered, usually it is not. They keep trying to improve their laws related to alimony, but as with legislation, it is difficult to cover all contingencies, like this one related to trust protection exclusion related to alimony.
Additionally, if the spousal payee committed adultery, they are barred from alimony payments altogether.
Texas is one of the hardest states to get alimony payments in the country. It often is just not awarded at all.
The only downside is that the Lone Star State is a community-property state. Wealthy breadwinners beware! Property gets split down the middle.
The land of quickie marriages and divorces!
While this might not be the place where you make your last stand with your ex in a long, drawn-out battle, it can go very well in short, somewhat amicable divorces.
Note: Nevada is also a community property state.
Alaska has a non-monetary contribution to the marriage where marital fault may also be considered. But, this could be a double-edge sword.
If your wife contributed to the marriage by raising the kids, then, maybe it’s not so good. Conversely, if she cheated, the alimony gets booted.
Like Nevada, New Hampshire has a quick divorce turnaround time. While this does not always help with the alimony, it does give a failed marriage finality, faster. Then, you can move on with your life.
New Hampshire doesn’t just look at the usual things (earnings, children, education, etc.) but also each spouse’s earning potential outside the marriage.
Fault weighs heavily there, too, as does each spouse’s contributions to their joint properties.
The thorough examination is based on need and not a predetermined formula that might unfairly hurt the paying spouse.
In Alabama, the paying partner’s economic conditions are considered and weighed against the other spouse’s financial needs.
Alimony is ordered on a time frame, and ends:
- Upon the death of either the payer or recipient,
- When the recipient remarries, or
- If the recipient moves in with a new mate
Cohabitation is important because (as you will see below) it means the receiving spouse cannot get away with receiving alimony payments for years while living with a new partner.
Delaware has some factors judges use to determine whether alimony is paid, and for how long.
Alimony is awarded for half the length of a marriage in cases where the divorce comes less than 20 years after the wedding date.
After the 20-year mark, however, it can go on for life.
By far one of the simplest systems in the country!
Kansas says alimony can last for a maximum of 121 months after the divorce. But, the awardee can apply for, and be granted, an additional 121 months in payments. This only happens in rare cases, though.
Tennessee is committed to rehabilitative spousal support.They encourage job training and education.
That doesn’t mean judges will not order alimony to provide long-term support. It just means that spouses cannot receive money without genuine need.
Alimony awards ordered not to exceed the length of the marriage. Also, they stop spousal support upon cohabitation and remarriage. What guy wants to pay an ex to live with some new guy?
The Worst Alimony States for Men
While California was the first state to offer no-fault divorces, they are also one of the most expensive states in the country when it comes to court-ordered support after divorce.
Randall M. Kessler, chairman of the American Bar Association’s Section on Family Law, told Alan Farnham of ABC News,
“Child support in California is typically 10 times what it is…in Georgia or Nevada.”
For that reason alone, California, you made it onto the list of nastiest states for alimony in the country.
This state’s laws allow scorned spouses to bring suit against their former partner’s new lover.
Talk about holding a grudge!
Meet the second state to coddle grudge holders! Hell hath no wrath like legislators in New Mexico andMississippi!
Here, too, a scorned partner can legally sue their former spouse’s new lover for damages. Potentially, a non-guilty party can be held responsible for someone else’s failed marriage. Love to meet the jilted lover who created that law!
New York is one of the slowest states to reform their alimony laws. They held out on legalizing no-fault divorces until 2010. The delay cost litigants thousands of dollars in wasted fees.
That is the heart of the matter. New York has not made it easy for men seeking divorce to move on with their lives.
Colorado does not care if one or the other party to divorce can adequately support themselves.
Instead, they use a formula they call “temporary.” It takes 40% of the higher income deducted by 50% of the lower income. It is not based on financial reality. This “temporary” formula often becomes the long-term, more permanent formula.
Furthermore, Colorado is a community-property state. That means all property is divided equally. So, you could lose half of your property and assets. And then, still pay out 40% of your income.
Imagine getting divorced three times!? Does that mean you owe 120% of your income to your ex?
The best way to sum up Florida’s messed up alimony policies is through the story of Debbie Israel.
The 47-year-old college math teacher from Miami refuses to marry her fiancé because of the state’s alimony for life laws. Once they get married, she will have to give a percentage of her wages to her would-be husband’s ex-wife as part of his household, permanently.
Yep, this makes Florida one of the nastiest states for alimony in the country.
They almost didn’t make the nasty list. Their laws regarding marital misconduct ensure no adulterer, convicted felon, or spouse deserter gets awarded alimony.
But they do allow for the ordering of permanent spousal support. Were it not for that, they’d be on the nice list.
The Garden State probably represents a lot of disheartening news for many spouses. They’re one of the last remaining states where permanent alimony is a possibility. While the system is equitable, permanent is not a sound way to set up alimony for couples who were only together for a few years.
Vermont & Connecticut:
I know I’m going all broken record here, but the thought of paying alimony in perpetuity stinks! It is with that thought in mind that I welcome Vermont and Connecticut to the list of nastiest states for alimony.
They round out the list of the worst 10 for that particular reason.
Residing in the right state is not a Get out of Jail Free, alimony card. However, it can significantly reduce your expenses over time.
While many of us can’t just pack up and move to a different state whenever we want, even if for more favorable alimony environment, we can have influence over the working situation in our home. The key reason for alimony across the country is to provide support while a non-working spouse re-enters the workforce. If both spouses work throughout the marriage, or definitely the years before the divorce, the alimony claims reduce significantly.
Alimony laws in this country ultimately vary from state to state. Pay attention (Now!) to the laws in your state before you get married. Make sure you will not get the screw when (and if) you divorce.
Make sure you’re with someone with whom you want to spend your life. Being sure is a much better alternative to being sorry.
How did your state shape up? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
What do you know about alimony for men? Is alimony “gender neutral” just like custody should be? If you’re a stay at home dad, should you expect to be given the same consideration as a woman in divorce court? Here we will give you the latest on alimony for men,…
The Money Trap How NOT to spend money during your divorce So you’re in the middle of a divorce. Let’s say, just for fun, you’re probably not going to be the custodial parent, because even though you have a greater income, you’ve also spent most of your marriage working at…
Welcome back to The Alimony Chronicles! In this second part of a four-part series, we will be looking at spousal support from the woman’s perspective, past and present. Once Upon A Time In Part 1 we looked at the ancient origins of alimony. We peered into the evolution of family law…
Ten years after my own divorce I am absolutely going to go to bat for the benefits of re-partnering. In my unqualified opinion the single most important thing I have done over this decade of separation, divorce and single parenting is to have fallen in love again.
So much of the advice I have received, read, and listened to boils down to the ‘truism’ that time heals all wounds. I don’t agree. I think that if I focussed on feelings I have dealing with my ex-wife, the mother of my two kids, even this far down the track, I would be as defeated and confused as I ever was.
The amount of space on the internet devoted to people trying to deal with anger years after the event of separation and divorce shows that regardless of how much energy you devote to being ‘successful’ in divorce you are likely to be disappointed.
Whether you like it or not you probably divorced for the sort of reasons that can’t be reasoned and negotiated away. You are trying to reason and negotiate with someone who can’t be in the same building with you anymore.
Love heals. The feeling that you are worthy of unconditional love is what heals everything. That is one of the huge benefits of re-partnering.
Katie Hafner, in her blog in The Huffington Post cites research done in the early 1990’s which pointed to the serious adverse health effects divorce could have, especially for men. It’s more than just the bad habits that can creep back in once a man is on his own, the late night burgers and the extra carton of beer. No matter how much we shy away from intimacy as a man, feigning disgust, deep down we all know how good it feels to be touched and to be able to touch. And to simply be around someone who really loves you.
My First Marriage
I was unlucky in that I was part of a marriage which was not much more than cohabitation at its end. And on reflection it was a marriage that didn’t hold many of the pieces needed to make up a marriage that does work.
We didn’t have shared goals in life; we didn’t even really have the same world view. We had no shared interests, and crucially we had very different ideas about raising kids. All those differences meant that in the end we didn’t respect each other as we should have to be married to one another. It can’t become a task to simply like the person you wake up next to.
But on the flipside, that made me lucky in that we had been leading very separate lives for some time when it became evident our marriage was over. I read pieces talking about how on separation you lose half of the man that you have become. I didn’t.
I left and reinvented my life, which was lonely and had the feeling of starting over from scratch. My daughter drew a picture of dad’s new home; it was a trestle table and four chairs in one room and the two single beds for her and her little brother in another. As always, I was a stick man yet somehow she managed to get a certain wistfulness into the smile that was the usual curved line.
A decade later I look back at all that has gone on. I can only speak for myself in terms of what has worked and what hasn’t. One thing stands out for me more than anything else. Successfully re-partnering and falling in love.
The Benefits of Re-Partnering
Like every man with young kids I worried about how they would react to the idea of dad re-partnering. It seems to be something akin to grieving. It’s so hard to quantify when is the appropriate time to begin to think about meeting someone else.
So many people have strong opinions about the subject. Some people, my parents included, seemed to labour under some misapprehension that there wouldn’t be any re-partnering. Perhaps that was to do with the kids, I’m not sure. I think on the part of my mum and dad it was largely because they had been together forever, and the notion of pairing off for life made absolute sense to them. If your partner disappears, you just go on, continuing with life but taking a moment at the end of the day to gaze off into the distance ruefully thinking of the things that have been lost.
As I said, I didn’t feel the sense of loss that many do. I was ready to see what life could be outside a relationship that didn’t bring any of the safety and fulfillment it should.
So it was strange to realize that many people seemed to look at me as only part of the old me now that the married part was gone. They would begin conversations by asking about my ex-wife and so on. And more than that, they did seem to treat me as if I would always be missing a part of myself.
There is a lot to be said for the time spent on your own after separation. It was a time when I rediscovered a lot of things that were important to me as a person that had been subsumed by the fact that I was a husband.
I looked after my kids for most of the week. But they were young and we had a good routine of reading together before bedtime, then them reading in bed for a while longer and then lights out. So, I could get back to an evening for myself where I sat down with a glass of wine and watched the evening news. It made me feel part of the world, informed, interesting, lots of things I hadn’t felt in a while.
During the marriage, especially towards the end, I had given up these things. We were just different people, she would deride the news I watched, ABC or SBS, as being for people with tickets on themselves. The sort of people who saw themselves as superior to the Channel 9 watchers. And alcohol became problematic, she didn’t drink and made out that drinking during the week was a bad behavior and not a good thing to teach the kids.
I could go to the gym again and did so on the nights the kids were away. I worked shifts so that the kids would be at their mum’s when I worked during the day and then with me on my days off. So it meant that in the evening after work I could go to the gym as I had before kids came along, and I could say yes to going out after work, which I hadn’t in a long time. It wasn’t that our kids were difficult. I found towards the end of the marriage things became a contest, if I was to go out, or to have an evening at the gym or playing sport there would always be a period of ill will afterwards, as if I was not being fair.
As the time as a single father lengthened I still enjoyed all of the parts that made up a healthy life after separation. I did a lot of exercise, I had always been a good cook and kept eating well, I had a good network of friends through work and outside. I had friends I had met through the kids so that as a family unit we could spend time with others. I always saw that as a very important part of the kids remembering that dad was a good man, people liked me, they respected me as a man and as a parent and it was natural for life to go on with me being with my kids without their mum.
But, over time I began to find that it is the same as perhaps it had been before marriage. It is great to watch the news. But it is exponentially better to be able to watch it with someone and ask their opinion, realize there are things they know you don’t, and visa-versa. Things you can talk about going forward that you know interest them.
It is great to recognize that you are cooking a good meal, and continuing to eat well and maintain your health through a very stressful time. Eventually, it just becomes eating alone. Or eating with people who may well invite you over, or come over, or meet at a café, and they are with their partner.
Those can be great times, and less stressful perhaps than it was before you separated. I’ve been out a number of evenings where the discomfort between a married couple almost chokes the room. But you are still the odd one out.
The best thing about dinner parties is always the reliving in bed afterwards the things you remember, the things she remembers. When you roll over and there is no one there, then it isn’t the same.
My ex-wife became very angry during the divorce process when any mention was made of the future, in terms of she and I meeting new people. Whether that was raised by court registrars, the family relationship people that you meet as part of the process, even the magistrate. She saw that as a negative, not a positive. Especially for the kids.
Personally I found that the process of separation moves towards re-partnering. Eating habits, exercise, sleep, interests. Great. Those things are really important as a base, they can become hollow if that is all there is.
I think a natural part of remaking yourself is recognizing that you are someone very worthy of being part of a relationship again.
You have come to the end of a marriage. You played a part in that and it is really important to understand what that part was, for you and your kids, your ability to relate to your ex-wife. But most importantly for any other woman who is going to be part of your life.
I have re-partnered, and will remarry shortly. One of the biggest things that we recognize in each other is that we have looked honestly at ourselves back when we both came to the end of a marriage. And we looked at ourselves now, and compared the two. We both agree that what we see most in each other is the lack of the things that drove us apart from the person we married, the things that were innate in them, or that they simply refused to discuss that made things untenable for us.
We’ve been looking at the vows celebrants suggest for the wedding. A lot are cringe worthy, just because. Some are cringe worthy because they are just wrong in my opinion. No one completes anyone. You get divorced for a lot of reasons. You give up a partner. You don’t give up any part of yourself. You are still one hundred percent there from day one of separation.
It’s about finding the things that you gave up of yourself that have made you unhappy in the loss. And recognising the things in yourself that really shouldn’t be part of any relationship, being honest enough to admit what they are because sometimes we all revert to bad habits.
But, more than anything, it is meeting someone who recognizes you are who are now, a single man. That is the day that you realize a lot of the time spent as single has been about people unconsciously, for a thousand reasons, treating you as being ‘okay’.
Okay simply means – you could be doing better. For me, the benefits of re-partnering was about remembering that I am a hell of a lot better than just okay. A lot of the grieving process that goes on at the end of a marriage seems to make the mistake of talking about the loss of love, so much so that I think you can begin to believe that it is like death, there is no coming back. You will never have this thing again.
Some of the vows we have seen are recommended for remarriage. ‘I’ve finally moved on and am giving it another go’, ‘ready to see if we can do it again’. I don’t want to do any of that again.
Re-partnering for me personally seems a very natural end to a decade of change.
Do you have a former spouse that continues to make your life miserable after divorce? Do you feel as though there is way too much interaction and she believes it’s too little? Did you get divorced so you didn’t have to deal with her and now it feels like all you do is hear from her? A parenting coordinator helps get through this communication impasse. It’s true that the stress of prior relationships can weigh heavily on all of us. When you share children, especially young children, interaction will likely happen for many years. Learning to manage the communication is vital to supporting what’s best for your kids and what’s good for you too.
How a Parenting Coordinator Helps
A parenting coordinator helps people figure out how to support their kids and communicate with their former spouse. Often, it’s important to sit down with both people, as parents of the children, to figure out what went wrong and where it can get better. In my practice, I have found four critical tools to success for parents where communication is non-existent to extraordinarily high conflict. You can make it better, for you and your kids, by using these practical tips, either with the help of a Parent Coordinator, or by trying to implement them on your own. My experience suggests the higher the level of conflict the more necessary a parenting coordinator may be, but getting started somewhere is better than having things continue as they have. Give it a try and reach out as needed.
Manage Expectations Around Communications
Does your Divorce Agreement set out how to plan for your children? Is there already a method in place to do so? If so, this is a great “jumping off point” for your communication. Although quoting your Agreement can sound formal and off-putting, it may be time to suggest it. Often, my clients do much better when a structure is in place for their communication. They do better when they have a framework for success.
If you Agreement doesn’t talk about how to plan, you likely need to create some Agreement about how things will go. If things have not gone well, it’s likely important to consider talking with your spouse with a Parenting Coordinator as a professional is likely able to create a framework to help you begin talking productively again. If you can’t do that, it’s likely you will need to meet, in person, or by email to work together on how to manage what needs to be decided. Remember, most adults don’t like to be told what they must do and how they must do it. If you are starting the communication, use words like “cooperate” and “strategize” to create a collaborative environment. Find out, from your ex, what they need to make the plans for your kids work.
If often makes sense to build in deadlines around when things are decided, and to build in flexibility too. Sometimes one parents gets first choice, and the next year it shifts to the other parent. Whatever you and your ex decide, make certain there is give and take about how it will occur. This step is about how to approach communication and not the actual plan. However, this step is often most crucial to success. Even if you dislike your ex intensely, you love your children. Figuring out how to negotiate with her is crucial to your success. Instead of spending time thinking it can’t be done, figure out how it can!
Develop A Plan
Next, once you’ve opened a chain of positive communication with your Ex about the need to do better, execute on your plan to do so. This is just the beginning so don’t assume just because you want something, and think it’s right, you will get your way. Remember that it wasn’t always easy to convince your intimate partner about parenting issues and it won’t get easier now. However, if you are willing to listen as much as you speak, in email, and give a little to get a little, you and your children may find success. A good plan is the best way to achieve success and prepare for unexpected bumps in the road too.
The most important part of developing a plan is to begin to create a system for decision making that allows you and your ex a voice in what happens. Again, it’s usually fairest to allow taking turns for important holidays or vacation choosing but do what works for you and for your ex too. Remember that BOTH of you need to feel empowered to be good parents to your children and providing that neutral support by creating a framework to allow it will get you much further than making demands.
Also, and this is crucial to planning, try to avoid multiple issue emails and get rid of texting for plans altogether. Limit your communication about an issue to one chain of emails on a particular topic. It’s easy to stay organized this way and to have documentation about what you have agreed to do too. You can easily create folders in your email to save the various threads and they will be a handy referral when you need to check what was said about a particular issue. Keep in mind, too, that email can be an unforgiving medium. Many of my female clients complain their exes are “mean” in email. In some cases, this is true, but in other cases a direct tone, without any softening words, can seem too demanding and stern. You should deal with your ex as you would a business colleague, that is, be direct but also kind. You do not need to express how you personally feel about her, ever, in email to her. Save those words for therapy!
You will likely need lots of practice with your ex to create the co-parenting relationship you want for you and your kids. This practice happens when you write emails, get the response you hope for, or don’t get that at all. Each communication is an opportunity to learn what works, in general, and in particular for your spouse.
I worked with one couple who seemed at an impasse to plan the yearly calendar. It turned out the mother was overwhelmed by dad sending an excel spreadsheet with calendar suggestions for the entire year. We talked about breaking down the data contained in the spreadsheet to simple lists and, voila, problem solved. Instead of ignoring the info, mom felt she could manage the same material in bite size monthly nuggets. Dad was thrilled and felt he could then plan for the year. Instead of criticizing mom’s aversion to spreadsheets (which he may have internally done), he acted in a way that served him and his kids to get what he and they needed. Mom is much happier too as she doesn’t feel like she’s ignoring critical information.
Inevitably, disagreements will arise. Using your new style of communication, however, you will remember that you do not need to personally criticize the other parent to make your point. Usually, if something can’t be agreed to after three rounds of email, it makes sense to spend a couple hours of mediation so that a parenting coordinator can help figure out if the matter can be resolved. Doing so may save you lots of time and grief in the future too as a new method of approach may be developed in the process.
Don’t Take It Personally
No matter how carefully you choose your words, you may get some unpleasant communication at least occasionally. Remember that you ex isn’t dealing with you in a vacuum and may be having a bad day, month, year for many other reasons. Responding in kind is likely to only escalate conflict so, if you can, don’t respond at all for a period of time. See if a little time allows cooler heads to prevail. Revisit the issue without personal attack and try to get back on track.
In sum, it is possible to manage a situation with even a horrible ex successfully. The key is your mindset towards success and your willingness not to engage, on the same level, as a co-parent who might bring negative energy and intent to your communications. The simple steps above coupled with the help of a parenting coordinator helps to establish open communications. Remember that you bear half of the responsibility for the way the relationship with your ex is managed, for you and your children. You will never control what they think or even say about you, but you can control how you respond and how you communicate directly. Taking the high road may not always feel satisfying in the moment, but keeping your kids from the conflict, and getting support for yourself will reveal success for you and your kids in the long run. It’s a long road when you are co-parenting with an ex, but your kids are worth it. And so is your peace of mind.