Postpartum Depression and Divorce

Postpartum Depression and Divorce

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.

 

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The One Question to Ask When Contemplating Divorce What you need to know now!

When contemplating divorce things can be confusing; are you jumping the gun and giving up too soon? What will your life look like post-divorce? What about the kids/house/money? And how exactly did you get here? For sure, we’re here to help you answer the one question you should ask when contemplating divorce.

At The Beginning

Let’s start at the beginning. You met the love of your life; or maybe you didn’t, but you wanted to settle down after years of struggling to find your “plus one” at your friends’ weddings and work gatherings. Maybe you wanted kids and wanted the security of marriage and the stability that you expected would come along with marriage. And you thought you’d found a willing, compatible partner with enough common values to make it work.

You know as well as I that there were problems there from the beginning, but you ignored them because the truth is, life was good. The sex was great and married life expanded your social circle. Your boss took you more seriously, as did your friends. Your mom stopped haranguing you about grandkids. You two traveled, made plans and reached goals. You concluded that nobody’s perfect and that if other couples could figure it out, you could too. You reasoned that, given time, the conflicts would iron themselves out. They didn’t.

So, you read the how-to books, watched the YouTube clips offering relationship advice. You went along with using the stopwatch on your phone when airing out your differences, allotting three minutes of uninterrupted speaking time each. You tried arguing from the other person’s point of view for clarity. You agreed to counseling and weekend retreats with other couples struggling to work through their issues, opening up about your problems; surprisingly, you came away with a new understanding and a renewed sense of genuine bonding with your spouse. But a week or two later, you were both back to your old patterns.

Then Things Got Worse

You considered reaching out to family and friends for help but didn’t, afraid to involve those closest to you and raise flags prematurely. Tired of the constant conflicts at home, you avoided them, spending more and more time out with your single friends. You found yourself flirting with the barista at Starbucks and following random yet attractive strangers on social media. Maybe you went further. Maybe your spouse did, too.

So Now What?

Trust me, I’ve been there; after 10 years spent in a marriage that should have never happened in the first place, it took me seven long years before I started to examine the idea of splitting from my partner. And, it was then when contemplating divorce that I realized that divorce really was the only sane option left on the table. I was honest with my spouse from the start, which gave us both the time we needed to exhaust every conceivable option and accept the eventual outcome if we couldn’t improve the situation. Because we were both informed from the beginning, we were able to part ways in peace when it didn’t work out, with no animosity and little cost. This isn’t always the case.

The One Question to Ask When Contemplating Divorce 

While there are many factors to consider when contemplating divorce, they all boil down to one question:

How Much Are You Willing To Give Up?

  1. Money.

Legal Fees. Legal fees are no joke. Whether you’re using a court-appointed attorney or private counsel, if you’re not divorcing amicably, it’s in every lawyers’ best interest to drag the divorce process out for as long as possible. And they will.

Alimony. Many states require that the spouse with the most money continue to financially support their ex until they either increase their income or get remarried. Your ex can legally receive alimony even after they’ve started a committed relationship with someone else. It’s unfair, but it’s the law.

Child Support. Unless your children are going to be adopted by your ex’s new spouse, you’re going to have to pony up. They’re your kids and of course they have a right to your financial support but KEEP RECEIPTS. Of everything. If you work for a company, have your wages garnished ASAP so you never have to worry about missed or late payments. When you take your kids out or buy them anything, do not use cash. Keep a digital trail and set up a spreadsheet to keep track of expenditures.

  1. Assets.

If you own stocks and bonds, real estate, and/or a business with your spouse, you’ll need to get comfortable with the choice of either continuing to share these assets with your soon-to-be-ex or sell the assets and share the gains with them. This may include inheritances, so check with a lawyer.

If the divorce is amicable, there’s no reason you can’t continue a financial partnership if it’s working out for the both of you. If you can’t separate amicably however, splitting the assets will be tough, especially if you’ve spent years amassing financial security only to watch it disappear seemingly overnight.

  1. Kids.

If you’re not the custodial parent, you probably won’t get to see your kids as much as you’d like after divorce; come to terms with this as soon as possible. Life will go on whether you want it to or not; realize that either you or your ex (or both) may meet someone new or get offered a better career opportunity and might end up relocating to another state or country making it difficult for you to stay in touch with your kids, especially if they’re very young.

If your ex is hostile, you’ll be in court repeatedly for visitation rights. If you can afford it and your ex is cooperative, you could conceivably follow your kids around the globe; but if you remarry, have other children, or have a career that requires you to work out of a certain city, this scenario probably won’t be an option. If you can’t bear the thought of this reality, STAY MARRIED until you can.

  1. Friends and Family.

After years spent living with your spouse, you probably share good friends and have (hopefully) gotten close to some members of their family. Divorce sometimes changes that. You’ll probably get to “keep” your friends – the people you knew before your marriage – but friends you’ve amassed during your relationship will most likely take sides.

This can get tricky, especially if those friends are also business connections or have become an integral part of your life. And even if your ex’s family remain friendly, they probably won’t be there after you split up. While this is normal, it can cause loneliness and separation anxiety. Understand that their absence is necessary to make space for new people to enter into their lives and yours; it’s not a rejection of you.

  1. Peace and Happiness.

Divorce incurs loss, but so does staying in a relationship that works against you. If you decide to stay married, you might get to keep the money, the assets, the kids, and the friends and family, but not without giving up your peace of mind and self-fulfillment in return.

How Much Is Your Happiness Worth?

Understand that most anything can be replaced, while your time cannot; once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. Take a step back and realize that the losses you might think unbearable actually are; your willingness to let them go will help you make gains that you never thought possible.

Letting go isn’t a sign of weakness or failure, but a fact of life. Learn to let go without bitterness or contention, or the divorce will negatively affect the rest of your life. Like all baggage, it will hold you back from experiencing a happiness and will only recreate your past conflicts in the future.

How to Mediate Loss:

When contemplating divorce, speak honestly and openly with your spouse about the situation as soon as you can; don’t blindside them. Catching them off-guard causes hostility and will backfire. Explain why you’ve reached your decision and ask for their input; respect their point of view and try to come to some type of an agreement based on mutual interests. If you don’t think your spouse will be open to a civil uncoupling, or if they are and you’d like to avoid legal fees, hire a mediator. The more you can agree to before lawyers are involved, the smoother the process will be.

When contemplating divorce it can become confusing when you don’t know what you really want; identify this and the choice becomes clear. It’s not how you got here that matters most, but where you’re going next and how you decide to get there that will define the rest of your life.

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7 Important Steps for Avoiding Blended Family Chaos Mediating the Challenges to Step-parenting

7 Important Steps for Avoiding Blended Family Chaos Mediating the Challenges to Step-parenting

Anyone out there living the “joy” of a blended family today? Do you find it as shown on television? The world is never as portrayed on television. The best divorce advice for men regarding blended family chaos does NOT come from the Brady Bunch! Here a man with three boys marries the woman with three girls and they all get along wonderfully, and resolve minor conflicts in less than 30 minutes. The real world laughs at this absurdity!

Several years ago, I attended a wedding that set the stage for blended family chaos. The bride’s parents had divorced when “Holly” was in elementary school. Her mother remarried shortly thereafter, and the stepfather, “Tim,” was instrumental in Holly’s life. So important that, when it was time to plan the wedding, there was no question that Tim would walk her down the aisle.

But at the wedding reception when the emcee announced the father-daughter dance, both Holly’s biological father and her stepfather walked onto the dance floor. A shouting match ensued, and it was uncomfortable for everyone. Especially the bride.

How awful do you think this made the daughter and bride feel? It’s easy for us to analyze this from the comfort of our seats and recognize the behavior was pathetic. But when you are the one in the heat of the moment, emotions are flared up, you see your ex happy with another and old feelings kick in, and you potentially have some alcohol giving you a boost, your personal decisions may not be the best. Weddings are hard enough anyway. Non-blended families have their own stresses at the wedding as discussed here. Throw in the old wounds of divorce and you have to be ready to not ruin the event for your kids.

Not All Stepparents are Evil

What did we learn from this awkward scenario? Well, the obvious lesson — anticipate these moments when planning the wedding and reception, and communicate the decisions ahead of time. But what about the subtle lesson? Not all stepparents are evil. Some even have the ability to love beyond their own progeny.  Step-relationships do not have to result in blended family chaos.

Let’s take a look at a couple of scenarios you might be able to visualize.

Scenario #1:  Your ex remarries, and her new husband has kids of his own.  The newlyweds are able to sync their custody/visitation dates together so that they either have all their respective kids, or none.  When your kids spend time with you, all they do is complain about their evil stepfather and his obnoxious children.  What words of wisdom do you pass along to your own kids about their new blended family?

Scenario #2:  You remarry, and your new wife has kids of her own.  She has primary custody of her children, and their father is pretty much out of the picture.  So now you’re a stepdad, essentially raising and supporting somebody else’s kids.  How do you navigate this newly blended family without affecting your relationship with your wife?

Could you be reading about anyone you know?

Exploring the New Family Dynamic

Bringing up the role of a future stepparent isn’t generally discussed during divorce mediation. But subsequent marriages and blended families may eventually happen.  This could be the perfect storm, or it could be a perfect opportunity to revisit your divorce mediator, only this time to talk about issues within the new dynamic.  Sometimes, it’s even a good idea to bring along the entire blended family.

In my mediation practice, I have achieved success in helping families avoid Blended Family Chaos.

Imagine you, your new spouse, and your respective children all sitting in a conference room.  The kids are spinning around in their chairs, your wife is clutching her Starbucks cup with both hands, and you are nervously tapping the end of your pencil against the table top.  I walk in with a smile on my face, and immediately address the kids; writing down their names and ages.

This seemingly simple tactic of writing down the name of each kid and his/her age is my way of showing that the kids are as important in this process as the adults.  Next, I’ll explain the ground rules – that I’m here to listen and to make sure each person has an equal opportunity to talk, uninterrupted, with the goal of achieving some understanding.

I’m not saying this produces instant results. Kids need to feel comfortable with their counselor to even begin to open up. Kids with other mental health challenges present unique challenges. However, all kids need time to get comfortable before the real therapy begins. For you parents this means be patient. Your kids aren’t going to respond right away, that’s the one guarantee.

Not too long ago, in my very own conference room, I empowered a 10-year-old girl to express her concern about sharing a bedroom with her eight-year-old stepsister.  Everybody listened to understand her fears and concerns, and then both sisters created a code of conduct about their stuff.  The entire family talked about acceptable behavior and also about consequences.   I took notes, and then prepared a written agreement between the two girls.  They solemnly signed it as though they were entering into a contract to rent an apartment.  The impact was unmistakable.  And the parents took it very seriously.

Of course, there are different issues when it comes to teenagers.  If the stepparent’s teens are allowed unlimited use of cell phones, computers, and automobiles, but the biological parent’s teens are not, whose rules govern?  This is another opportunity for a neutral third party to help the entire family brainstorm about what is reasonable, fair, and enforceable.  Once decided, the Mediator may draw up a written agreement for the entire family to sign, outlining the new rules.  Naturally, after the agreement is has been signed, it’s binding, and you and your spouse must also agree to the terms, including enforcement of the consequences.

When Kids Hate the New Partner

So what happens if your new partner’s kids take an instant dislike to YOU?  (Or vice-versa?)

I recently had the opportunity to work with a blended family where the stepmother’s dislike of her new husband’s 14-year-old daughter wreaked havoc on their marriage, and she was ready to file for divorce.  The teenager had been in therapy, but it obviously was having no material effect on the family dynamic.  The husband chose not to play the adult card with his belligerent daughter, and opted instead to seek out the help of a family mediator.  Within the first 20 minutes, it was obvious that the daughter was able to open up more to me than she had in several therapy sessions.  Why?  Because I’m a mediator, not a therapist.  Mediators are trained to listen and ask questions without judgment.  In this case, the daughter desperately wanted her biological parents to reconcile.  We all heard her say the words, and then I gently asked her what would happen if the reconciliation was impossible.  She literally took a deep breath, sat up straighter, and began to talk about her future.

Helping people in conflict move forward is what Mediators are trained to do.

Helping people in conflict move forward is what Mediators are trained to do.  Families, especially those with teenagers, seem to find something less threatening about choosing mediation over family therapy.  And let’s not forget that it’s likely way less expensive.

Blended family mediations have tremendous success because all of the family members have an equal voice.   It’s no surprise that many second (or subsequent) marriages fail because of the chaos caused by conflict about the kids and stepchildren.

Critical Steps for Avoiding Blended Family Chaos

So, to avoid Blended Family Chaos, I urge you to consider these seven steps:

  1. Don’t show favoritism.Whether you’re obviously favoring your own children over your stepkids, or you’re over-compensating by favoring your stepchildren over your own, the kids will call you on it.  And they’ll be right to point it out to you.
  2. Don’t be played.Your kids know just how to get to you, whether it’s by dishing out some guilt, or by acting out, or by other devious methods to “punish” you for divorcing their mom and marrying their Wicked Stepmother.  Recognize it and avoid it like the plague.
  3. Be consistent.When you and your spouse establish new ground rules, whether with the help of a family mediator or not, make sure those rules are enforced equally and without exception.   Your entire family will benefit if you and your spouse put up a united front.
  4. Stand by what’s important.You and your new spouse will not always agree. Often the stronger personality will win on many rules and standards for the blended home. As dads, we sometimes seek the compromise and by doing so, can force our kids into a setting that is drastically different for them. Know your key stances on home environment and don’t give in when setting the baseline with the new spouse just to get it moving.
  5. Compliment each kid.Find something to praise each child about frequently.  I’m absolutely not suggesting that you hand out participation trophies simply for being a member of the family.  Rather, I’m encouraging you to find something noteworthy and express it to each child, preferably in front of everybody.  Dinner table compliments are an easy habit to establish and you’ll not only be boosting their self-esteem, but also your own ratings.
  6. Nurture your marriage.I saved this one for last because in my opinion, it’s the most important.  Have regular date nights with your spouse.  Remind yourselves (and each other) why you’re together in the first place, and why you’ve committed yourselves to raising this blended family in the best way possible.
  7. Flexible holidays. When you blend a family, you increase the number of families that have to work together. Your new step-kids have another parent, and your kids have another. At holiday time, the different groups of kids will be heading in different directions. Just remember to stay flexible. Your kids are the ones really feeling the stress of going between households. Do your best to make their time at your home low-stress.

Don’t Give Up On Your Blended Family

Okay, now what?  You say you’ve made the effort to avoid Blended Family Chaos by following the five steps above, but your relationship with your stepchildren is still causing stress in the family, and in your marriage?   Or, what if your blended family needs a tune-up because the kids are older and the issues have changed accordingly?

Find a family mediator in your community and schedule an appointment.  Be proactive and you won’t have to deal with Blended Family Chaos.

Nancy Gabriel is the principal and managing partner of Mediation Around The Table, LLC., a Las Vegas-based private mediation company.  Ms. Gabriel is a founding director of Nevada Mediation Group, a non-profit corporation focusing on the education and training of mediators, a volunteer for the Neighborhood Justice Center of Clark County, Nevada, a member of the divorce panel for MWI, a Boston, Massachusetts firm specializing in alternative dispute resolutions, and a volunteer at Three Square Food Bank.  She is a graduate of UCLA, an avid gourmet cook and NFL fan. She may be contacted through the firm website at www.MediationAroundTheTable.com

 

Image courtesy of stockunlimited.com

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Letter To My Daughter On Her Graduation Sensitive and Inspiring Words from a Divorced Dad

For my incredibly amazing, magnificent and beautiful daughter on her graduation from High School, I give this ‘Letter to My Daughter on Her Graduation.’ Several years have passed since I first wrote this to you, and as I read it again, I’m struck by how true it still is! It will still be valid in another couple of years, and even more beyond that. You continue to amaze me daily and I’m struck so often by how you “have it!”

Hi. This is your father. Most of this letter is a bunch of stuff you may, or may not, decide is useful. I know when I was graduating high school I didn’t give my father’s advice much thought. But I promise you, if he had wrote it down for me, I guarantee I would find it valuable today. Hopefully you’ll find a few nuggets buried in this letter to my daughter now and later.

You’ll excuse me for overstepping my boundaries if you feel I have in writing it down. Since I can’t buy you a car for graduation or fly you around the world as a present when you turn 18 soon (both things I’d love to do, but alas, it ain’t gonna happen), what I can do is this. I can write a letter to my daughter.

To My Daughter

So… here’s the most important stuff (read this next paragraph if nothing else, please):

In all the time you have been on this planet, I have loved you more than words will ever express. You are my daughter, and I am amazed by you. Always and forever. I wish I had more to offer you than simply my pride and love, though I hope they will suffice in this moment. I’m truly in awe at what a smart, sweet, kind, caring and optimistic young woman you have become. You are quite simply the best thing that ever happened to me, and I’m really glad you’re here. I love you. Looking good, kiddo!

Now, on to the graduation address…

That I am sitting here writing to you on the eve of your high school graduation and a month before your official status as a young adult has me simply flabbergasted. I could not possibly have prepared for this day, and yet here it is. What I find more odd is how vivid my memories are of my own graduation and then later your birth. I can still see you as you were before school began for you, when the world is full of wonder. And now you are about to set out on the next chapter. I can’t describe the joy and sadness that swirl in my emotions.

You are a young lady now, hardly the small child of my memories. I haven’t the foggiest notion of how to really talk to you, though it is absolutely my honor, privilege and duty to keep trying, for as long as I live.

Truth told, I’ve never considered myself a very good father, and in many ways I’ve been simply lousy. I’m sorry is about all I can really offer. The older you get, the older I get, the more likely the struggles of my adult life will become things you know more about, and in so doing, will likely shift some of the distance between us, though it will never excuse the places where I failed you. For this, all I can do is say I’m sorry and ask for your forgiveness.

Of course, there are also many little things that I have had a part of along the way that have certainly helped shape the fine young woman you are today. I’d like to think that some of the adventures, people and places I have shown you had an impact, and that my family has had some positive growth for you as well.

Your mother and I made a deal a long, long time ago that no matter what happened, we would always do our best to teach you about the world as best we could without disparaging the other. I think it served you well. I hope it did. It wasn’t easy, for either of us.

Somehow, I missed the part where you stopped being a little girl and started becoming a young adult, and it definitely happened along the way. The young woman I see before me is really an amazing person, and I want to do everything in my power to help ensure she stays that way.

So, I’ve been watching you for awhile now, and I’d like to offer some insight into the world you are about to enter. There are things your father still knows that you do not. There are some pieces of advice you’re unlikely to hear from anyone else, and some of them may piss you off a bit, but if I don’t tell you, no one else will, and forewarned is forearmed.

Know that first and foremost, what I want for you is a joyous and happy life filled with love, friendships, adventures, learning and growing. I also know that there are going to be tough days. I hope you’ll count on me as a voice of reason and wisdom as you grow into adulthood.

Know also that no matter what anyone ever says, you are perfect just exactly as you are. You’re never going to be too short, too fat, too dark, too weak, too dumb, or anything else that people may come along and tell you that you are. Surround yourself with people who remind you of how awesome you are, and avoid the ones that don’t. The only person you need permission from, from now on, is you.

I hesitate to say this part, and I think it is necessary. The world is sometimes cruel and evil people really are out there. You have been incredibly blessed so far that perhaps the worst hardship you have endured is your father’s lack of presence. I’m not aware that you have broken any bones, required surgery or had any close friends die on you or really fuck their lives up horribly while you had to watch. While I truly don’t know what personal struggles you have overcome (though I do know that you have a perseverance about you that is admirable, and that simply learning itself has been a life long challenge for you, and may well continue to be), what I do know is that you really have lived a fairly sheltered life compared to what many children in this world endure. There are a great many “bad” places on this planet, and I hope you’ll steer well away from them, or enter only safely with a good guide. I mean this as much about real, physical places and people as I do about bad decisions and poor judgment, your father being somewhat of an expert on bad decisions and poor judgment.

Your conservative father is deeply concerned that you may not give enough credence to the idea that capable as you are, you are also diminutive, attractive and generally optimistic. While these are cherished things, they are also traits a bad person will try to capitalize on. I don’t want you to be afraid of the world in any sense, and I do want you to be prepared.

My second really important point I want to get through to you is this: There is a huge, amazing world out there, too. Go see it.

You aren’t in a hurry, of course, and I don’t want to see you wasting a minute of your life longer than you have to here. There is an entire planet out there, and you should strive to see as much of it as you can. My largest regret in life is that I didn’t take advantage of the opportunities presented to me to travel in my youth. I got scared and stayed put. Don’t let your fear of the unknown keep you from travelling abroad or moving out of state for college.

This point you seem to grasp really well, but I want to say it anyway: Do what makes you happy! Find your passions and do them! They are absolutely the most important real life work you have to do. When you are passionate, you energize others. When you are working with purpose, you show the way. Trust the little voice in your head when it tells you that you should make art, or plant a garden or help someone. It’s a good voice. Too many ignore it, and after some time, they lose it. I can’t imagine how different and wonderful the world might be if more people listened to that good side just every now and then. Be unique and be that one that does!

Lastly for now, (since I expect to write you again at 21 and offer you a few more pieces of wisdom that you would currently call “lecturing”), I want to remind you again of something that is becoming more and more relevant as you mature.

You are a creative person. Unquestionably. So is your dad.

So, please, help me help you.

I don’t know enough about your inside life to really know what to offer, though I am quite certain that I have some answers for you, and I don’t want to pretend I know which ones are relevant. I just hope you’ll still consider asking me when you feel you have a tough one. This old man might know some things. My life hasn’t been easy. I haven’t followed the cookie-cutter path. I’m certainly not perfect. That’s where I can help. If there is one guarantee in this life it is that you will make mistakes and you will fail at something, and actually several things. I know I have. Dealing with it is extremely tough. I can speak to you as one that’s fought through many tough times, and continues to do so. Don’t seek advice from those that just don’t know.

My dearest daughter, all I really want you to know is that you are loved and supported by many.

I am so proud of you.

With Much Love,
Dad

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Do You Want To Be Right or Happy?

Do You Want To Be Right or Happy?

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.

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