Common Vices That Keep Us Going

Common Vices That Keep Us Going

Common vices. We all have them. We divorced folks almost inadvertently end up with our chosen addiction. Be it illicit drug use, an alcohol affinity, sex, overeating, or a newfound fondness for nicotine and nicotine accessories, there’s always something. Vices are common, but they don’t have to be a permanent part of our lives.

I’ve had a running theory for quite some time. We arrive here because of where we ended up – because of the aftermath. Once whole and now halves, we leave pieces of ourselves in our failed relationships. Being split in half hurts. Our addictions make the pain tolerable.

Being split in half hurts. Our addictions make the pain tolerable.

But, are common vices healthy? Certainly not. Each of these leads to our demise at some point. But what if it didn’t have to? What if we gave in to our neuroses and let them exist in a controlled environment of our existence? Can it be done?

You Aren’t the Only One Affected

The reality is we don’t live in a controlled environment. The term functional addict doesn’t really mean anything. It’s a temporary state that exists as part of a permanent problem. There aren’t rules governing who can and cannot live this way. And it’s our kids who end up carrying the burden.

Children of Addicts

Prenatal and postnatal exposure to alcohol or other substances are forms of maltreatment and can inflict lifelong trauma on a child. Such trauma can hinder development and impede learning abilities and cognition.

As a youngin’ grows, they depend on us for stability and a source of constant learning. I’ve said it before, we are their first teachers! Kids mimic what they see around them. They become our actions. Kids of addicts sometimes grow up and become addicts themselves. They can experience things like:

  • Conflict
  • Mood swings
  • Unpredictability

Even when the addicted parent isn’t physically or emotionally abusive, they tend to be focused on the next fix when they should be worrying about their offspring.

Societal Issues

When it comes to drug abuse, it impacts all of society on multiple levels. Directly or not, communities are impacted by drug abuse. NIDA, the National Institute of Drug Abuse estimates that drug addiction costs the US an estimated $484 billion each year.

Society pays a significant cost due to other factors, too. Things you wouldn’t ordinarily think about, like lost productivity, job losses, and spent opportunities impact the economy and can affect home sales and debt.

Loss of Income/Productivity

Addicts frequently experience problems at work that endanger job stability and limit their abilities. Chronic substance abusers miss work frequently. They miss out on promotions that could improve their financial situations.

Over time, that lost income translates into missed opportunities (like a lack of educational funding) for their children.

The Mind-Blowing Financial Impact of Common Vices

It’s not just drugs, either. An alcoholic who drinks two cheap sixers a day spends, what, like $9 to support a habit? Expand that rate of consumption to a month and you’re looking at $36. At a year, you’re facing $432 peed away down the toilet!

Nicotine addicts with a-pack-a-day habit blow upwards of $2,000 per year on cigarettes. Heavier users bear costs that can reach or even exceed $6,000 per year. Illicit drugs can be harder to tally up. But some estimates put the total somewhere around:

  • $1,000 for marijuana
  • $4,000 for methamphetamine
  • $10,000 for heroin/cocaine

Mind you, these estimates aren’t taking other vices like gambling and sex addiction into account. Add these factors in, and there’s just no telling what it could cost a habitual user.

Insurance Costs

Health problems go hand-in-hand with addicts of all kinds. Common vices, like smoking, directly lead to increased health insurance premiums. In addition, addiction in general can produce a state of euphoria leading those under the influence of a good fix to feel invincible and take risks they wouldn’t ordinarily take like driving recklessly.

Addiction Alternatives

We’ve all heard that things like regular exercise are positive forms of addiction that add value to someone’s health. And it’s true.

The term positive addiction was coined by William Glasser in his book by the same name. He focused in on activities like running and meditating, though he offers many other examples from the experiences of others.

Glasser claims that positive addictions work in ways that, “…strengthen us and make our lives more satisfying,” thus enriching our overall happiness and health.

For an activity to be considered a positive action, it must:

  1. Be a noncompetitive activity to which you could devote an hour or so each day
  2. Not require much mental exertion
  3. Be done alone and be something you don’t depend on others to do
  4. Have physical, spiritual, or mental value to you
  5. Allow you to improve your ability with practice
  6. Not give you room to criticize yourself or your performance – otherwise, you won’t consider it addicting

Positive actions remain confined within a time frame. From your perspective, it should feel like time you’ve allocated to perform those duties. The beneficial consequences will spill over into your life right away, but the activity itself must remain locked up within a scheduled allotment of time. Jogging is a great example.

The more people identify with positive actions, the better off they’ll be. It’s a way to introduce a substitution for an unhealthy activity, allowing it to become a source of hope.

Positive Addictions Work

And there’s some real science behind it too! In 2008, NIDA pledged $4 million to look into and study the effect of physical activity on drug use. Other researchers have published a wealth of studies on the subject.

Physical exertion causes the brain to release endorphins which create a type of euphoria not unlike that experienced by drug users. Caused by a similar surge of dopamine, it can produce similar effects on the brain. It’s a healthier way to self-medicate with a productive activity.

Choosing Your Vices Wisely

As members of the divorced population our vices are inevitable. Be it food, drugs, booze, or getting laid, we end up picking one. Generally speaking, rarely are the vices we choose ever healthy or productive. They’re, in fact, almost always counterproductive and very un-healthy.

They can affect those around us in addition to ourselves. Overall, the costs of carrying on with a vice post-divorce affects more than we care to admit, but those costs are felt by the public at large. Everyone pays for it.

Choosing Hope

But there are alternatives. Taking a healthier approach isn’t always easy. It requires plenty of work. Given the right support, an addict could and should take up a hobby and diligently take the necessary time to fulfill the activity.

Choosing something non-competitive that can be done alone (like running, cycling, or meditating) while having a wholehearted belief that persistence will improve performance will help by making it more appealing.

A positive action doesn’t dominate or challenge your life. It simply adds a purpose, and a way for you to spend energy in an avenue conducive to your overall well-being. We’re all addicts in some way, but positive actions put good use to our need for vices.

We all struggle with things like weight management, smoking, or alcohol use (to name a few common vices). Would you consider adding a positive addiction to your daily routine? How would you incorporate it specifically? Let us know in the comments!

Recovery takes many forms. Get solid advice from expert Janet Berry-Johnson, CPA on How to Begin Recovering Financially After a Divorce.

It’s all about choices, right? See what it looks like from a child’s perspective in a Daughter’s Letter to Her Estranged Father, Choosing Your Stuff or Choosing Your Kids, by Jennifer Hutto.

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How Getting Married in Las Vegas Began the End of My Relationship

How Getting Married in Las Vegas Began the End of My Relationship

How Getting Married in Las Vegas Began the End of my Relationship

The Signs I Ignored, What I Should’ve Done, and Stuff You Must Consider Before Getting Hitched in Sin City

These things are certain: The sky is blue. Grass is green. And getting married in Las Vegas is a less than good idea.


Despite this hard-learned lesson in common sense, 120,000 folks flock there every year to jump in head first into (what they hope will be) wedded bliss.

Rarely is it that. More often than not, the union doesn’t last long after the couple leaves what happened in Vegas back behind them in Vegas.

My Las Vegas Wedding Story

It rained on that day in July. Of all the times we could’ve gone to the desert to get married, we inadvertently picked the Mojave Desert’s monsoon season! Still, we enjoyed our time there. That was us. We were that kind of couple.

We’d just celebrated our 10th year together, and thought we were sure about what we were getting into – one sure hopes so after a solid decade of living in sin. I thought we knew each other well enough. Then again, how much do you ever really know a person?

It was a cold, rainy day in July in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hell had literally frozen over (well, at least Sin City had).

And despite all of the universe’s efforts to change my mind and head home, I walked through the doors of The Little White Wedding Chapel wearing a huge white poof of a wedding dress and blue Manolos I’d ordered specifically for that day. My groom wore a black pinstriped zoot suit.

Three Factors to Consider Ahead of Your Big Day

1. Use the 60/20 Method for Detecting Weak Areas in Your Relationship

You want my advice? Stop whatever you’re doing right now! Think of all the reasons you not to marry your partner. You have 60 seconds to do so. Go!

Oh, good! You’re back!

In 60 seconds, did you come up with 20 good reasons (and I don’t mean anything like you wish she was shorter, had red hair, etc.) not to get married?

Good reasons include but are not limited to:

  • One of you has massive unpaid debts
  • One of you is a tightwad and the other spends it like there’s a money tree on steroids growing in the backyard
  • You haven’t yet laid out a financial plan for the marriage
  • There are children involved, and you aren’t sure how they’ll feel about becoming a blended family
  • You haven’t worked out permanent living arrangements
  • Whether only once or a hundred times, you’ve been unfaithful
  • You suspect she might have been unfaithful
  • You’re waiting until after the wedding to introduce her to your friends/family
  • You’re marrying in secret

If you came up with 20 reasons (consider 18 reasons to be a lot) in 60 seconds, sit her down. Give her the rundown, and wait for her to do the same.

If she does, you’ll have to work on repairing the relationship before getting married in Las Vegas or anywhere else for that matter.

If she doesn’t, ask her about your concerns. If she doesn’t offer up answers or if a fight ensues, give it time. Talk it out later. But whatever you do, don’t say your I Dos until you get all of it out and you both feel good about the aftermath.

You might not ever get there, but trust me, ending a relationship before walking down the aisle is much easier than dealing with the mind fuckery of divorce.

2. Pay Attention to Ominous Signs and Omens

I’m not someone who believes in superstition. Once upon a time, I was following my dreams of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon. In short, I love science. I trust what I see, what I can prove.

While I’m not someone who avoids walking under ladders or kicking gently nudging a black cat out of my way with my Chuck Taylors to get where I gotta go, I would swear to you that when I think back on it, I distinctly remember signs, omens maybe, telling me the whole thing was a bad idea.

Although subtle, they were clear enough for me to notice in the moment. Instead of thinking about what these strange (perhaps coincidental) occurrences meant, I explained them away as regular happenings in causality. Here are a few:

  • I found my first gray hair ever the morning of my wedding day. Crazy, eh?
  • He and I forgot our wedding rings when we left the house. We realized it several hours into the trip. We thought about doing it without them but instead headed back home to pick them up before heading out again.
  • It poured down rain and hail the entire time we were there. Mind you, it’s literally…a desert, the Mojave Desert!
  • My shoes didn’t fit well and every step I took hurt like hell. If that’s not an obvious Hello! Maybe you should think this one through, ol’girl!! I don’t know what is!

Challenges happen. Ish happens. It’s inevitable. And weddings are the perfect breeding ground for ish to happen. If your Las Vegas wedding is met with a challenge or two, don’t take it to heart.

But if every. Step. You. Take. Leaves you thinking your feet will soon divorce you for abusing them at the end of a long series of ish going wrong, think about it. Seriously think about what these signs mean.

Worst case, talk to your bride. Put the wedding off and make the most of the VooDoo Zipline at the Rio, ride the Stratosphere roller coaster until your feet forgive you, and avoid the time share dweebs like the plague!

3. THE Question You Have to Ask Her the Night Before

Ideally, you want to ask her this anytime before the day of. Don’t wait any longer than the night before your wedding day.

Here’s the question:

“Is there anything you want to tell me right now before we do this?”

Make it clear that this is the one freebie you’re willing to give away. After that, whatever you find out, whatever comes up is fair game and grounds for ending the marriage if it’s bad enough.

Giving each other a freebie doesn’t mean you’re going to forgive and forget without any hurt feelings or without spewing forth any expletives. It just means, that no matter how bad it is, no matter how much it hurts, you’re ready and willing to work it out having cleared the air.

Be prepared. You could just as easily spend the night fighting like never before. So be it. Get it out. Work it out if you can.

If what gets said damages your relationship beyond what you’re willing to repair, end it.

Having this conversation is the single most important thing you can do for your relationship, for your marriage, for yourself. You can only fix what you acknowledge.

Why Getting Married in Las Vegas Gets Such a Bad Rap

1. Vegas marriages rarely last.

Just ask the 100s of divorced famous people who’ve tried! Examples include:

  • Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton
  • Britney Spears and What’s-his-face
  • Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere

That’s not to say that your marriage can’t prove ‘em wrong. Some famous couples who legalized their unions in Sin City have stood the test of time.

  • Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos (eloped to Las Vegas in 1996)
  • Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman (married in 1958 until his death in 2008)
  • Dorothea Hurley and Jon Bon Jovi (married in 1989 and together as of this publishing)

Getting married is nothing. Anyone can get married. If you want to stay married, you’ll have to work at it!

2. Vegas weddings are more likely to be impulse decisions than honest, well-thought-out life choices.

It’s the rebellious thing to do – the ultimate statement to assert one’s independence.

I equate it to buying the first compound bow you’ve lusted after for months only to realize the morning after that you live on the 10th floor in Manhattan and hunting pigeons from your window is frowned upon.

3. The romance element is almost completely gone from the experience.

Getting into the “wedding spirit” of it all is challenging in a Las Vegas chapel. On my wedding day, there were four couples in the lobby waiting for their numbers to get called when we arrived. It was then I realized the place was more like a feedlot than a chapel.

I’ve been to a few weddings. Even the small, more private affairs (a bride, groom, priest, parents, siblings, and a few friends) are full of energy. It gets you in the right mood and adds to the occasion.

In Vegas, strangers marry you, strangers take your picture, and strangers watch you do it. When they’re done with you, those same strangers shuffle in the next number and repeat the process on a loop.

There isn’t an easy black and white way to compare that to a real wedding.

Final Thoughts

If I had it to do over again, knowing it would all come undone only five months later, would I still have done it?


It’s hard to write that. Even as I sit here typing I’m fighting off the urge to erase that word and a positive spin on the situation. And I can’t. For now, at least, “No,” is the best I can do.

Getting married in Las Vegas isn’t the reason it didn’t work out in my marriage. In fact, it was broken long before we ever set out on the highway. I think we both wanted it back then. We wanted it to be real.

Instead of having the uncomfortable conversations no one wants to have (the kind that either end or strengthen relationships), we pretended. We pretended we didn’t see the signs urging us to drive home. We pretended our relationship was real, tangible, and unbreakable. Our problem wasn’t getting married in Las Vegas. We were our biggest problem.

Time has moved us forward. Today, we’re very different from who we were that day in July. While it could just be that we’ve grown up a bit in the last five years, I tend to believe we’ve finally become acquainted with one another and are the better for it.

Did you get hitched in Las Vegas? We want to hear from you! Tell us about it in the gray comments section below!

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The Father’s Day Manifesto to Raising a Teenage Daughter

The Father’s Day Manifesto to Raising a Teenage Daughter

Nothing compares to raising a teenage daughter. There’s just nothing at all like it. Trapped between the whimsy of childhood and yearning for freedom and adulthood, they’re hardly people!

It’s Father’s Day, and I’m writing this at the tail end of sitting on the sidelines of an argument between my 13-year-old daughter, Ana, and her dad. Outwardly, these two have little in common. She looks more like her paternal grandfather (her dad’s dad) and me. Inwardly, however, she’s the spitting image of her father. They think in the same ways, act alike, and share a love of art.

None of that matters when our hearts are broken, does it? She loves her dad, and he, her. They’re just too much alike, and when you-know-what hits the fan, neither is willing to give in. He’s right. She’s right. And both are unwilling to yield. It’s been this way forever with those two, but she’s growing up. She needs to feel that her dad is on her team.

Are you raising a teenage daughter? Here’s what you need to know to do it right.

Respect Their Boundaries

Guys are territorial. It’s not just guys. Women are, too. We spend our lives nesting and renesting to shape our world the way we think it should be. It starts in our teens and follows us into adulthood. If the boundaries of our established “sandbox” are violated, or we anticipate, they could be, hell hath no fury like a woman who fails to defend her space.

Our world starts and ends with our space. Where we belong. It’s part of who we are. Without having a firm grip on that, on our foundation, we can’t move forward. It’s like we’re stymied by being unsure of ourselves. Our space (be it our room, bed, or sleeping spot on the carpet), is where we’ll go to find comfort and escape.

Don’t trust your kid because she’s always doing the wrong thing, or she mistakes that inch you give her for a mile? That’s likely the reason she backtalks, fights about nothing, and goes from zero to crazy in two seconds. She’s looking for her refuge. And she won’t stop looking until she finds it. Be it with you, her mother, or with that stupid-looking boy you’ve caught wind of, she’ll find it anywhere she can.

The Solution

My kids all share rooms because I live in a 3-bedroom apartment. Privacy is hard to come by. But I let my children live their lives as independently as possible. Most of them journal religiously. And I’ve never read their entries. None of what’s written on those pages is for me. Each of my kids is trying to figure out who they are. Their identities are their own. My job is to love them regardless of who they are. And I do.

Secondly, I don’t go through their belongings. If I need something from them, I ask. Growing up, I hated when I’d take off for school in the morning and return to a mysteriously clean room. Like a porcupine, my quills would all rise up on alert. Inevitably, I’d end up in trouble for something I wrote. It felt like I was wrong no matter what I did. And it stuck with me.

The only way to trust your kid is to trust them. Either you do, or you don’t. It’s that simple. There’s no try.

When Raising a Teenage Daughter, Remember That She’s Just a Child

Despite the bras, sanitary napkins, and fascination with the moment’s latest teen heartthrob, she really is a little girl. She lacks the capacity to make intelligent decisions.

Ever wonder why you got that auto insurance discount when you turned 25? You can thank the arrival of your prefrontal cortex for that! Say it with me, “Thank you, brain…”

I won’t give you a biology lesson here, but just know that until she reaches her mid-twenties, she’ll struggle with her:

Attention span – Feel like your kid doesn’t listen to anything you told her to do? Do you find yourself repeating the same thing over and over only to explode when she does something completely different from what you asked? Mm- hmm.

Complex planning – Ever wonder why your teen asked you to drop her off at her friend’s house who lives, “just down the road.” Then, when you’re in the car, ready to drive and you type in her buddy’s address you find out it’s actually across town? It’s happened to me.

Decision making – Is she smart as a whip, but doesn’t understand common sense stuff like making sure she has her backpack with her before leaving for school? Our prefrontal cortex helps us think logically and make periodic assessments of the world around us.

Personality development – She literally isn’t who she used to be just a few short years ago. Technically, she isn’t anyone for a bit. Teenage brains are missing the components of self-identity.

The Solution

Until your teen gets to that golden age of thinking beyond the world of her protective fishbowl, she needs you and her mom to guide her and help her make decisions. Guide her through the rough spots with actionable advice. Hear her out even if all she has to offer are excuses and whines.

Choose Your Battles Wisely

Write this down: Do not nitpick at your kid! Not everything requires a discussion. If she forgot to do the dishes, tell her. Don’t yell at her and throw her 3 AM sandwich in her face. Just tell her about her mistake like you’re telling her about the weather.

If she does it over and over again, don’t flip out. Dishes won’t burn down the house. Handle it the same way you’d want her to handle you. Talk to your kid. Set reminders on your smartphone to remind her about the dishes, so it doesn’t get out of hand.

Save the hash-slinging for the great and terrible 10s. Dishes aren’t more than a four, at best. Sneaking out with her boyfriend, yeah, that’s a 10. Forgetting to do the laundry, that’s a four.

The more you handle the small stuff the right way, the easier it’ll get. It’s not an overnight thing, and depriving her of friends, family, and her phone works, but not for long. Teens are headstrong. There’s only so much you can take away. And if you make it a you-versus-her thing, you’ll never come back from it. Instead, play on her team. After all, you want her to find someone to share her life with who loves her like you do. Teach her that.

And Above All, Love Her Through It

You might not think it’ll happen, but one day, you’ll need her. And these years are her formative years. She doesn’t know your point of view. She’s physically incapable of seeing any other view or opinion or side of an argument other than her own. You’re the adult. You have a prefrontal cortex, so you can understand what I’m saying.

If you do nothing else in your life, be there to love her through her antics. Anger solves nothing. She could cut you with words you never even thought of. Don’t egg her on with jabs and insults.

No matter how stupid you think her social life is, ask her about it. Who are her friends? What do they like? What nonsensical crap have they gotten themselves into? All of it matters because each of these has shaped her.

Raising kids, especially raising a teenage daughter is supposed to be difficult. If you’re not exhausted, pissed off, or disappointed at least once per day, you’re doing it wrong. You get mad because you care. I know that, but at 32 some would say I have a mostly-developed brain. 🙂

And after doing the parenting thing for over half my life, I appreciate dads. I know what it takes to do the job right. You stuck around. That says a lot! You’re still in and still fighting to raise a productive, independent woman with her own life. She’ll have a teenaged mind for awhile but not forever. So dig in. And like Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” You’ll be fine.

Are you a dad struggling to understand your teen? How do you handle the good and bad that comes at you when you’re raising a teenage daughter? Let us know in the gray comments section below!


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What Is a Phenomenal Dad?

Despite what you’ve heard, being a great dad, a Phenomenal Dad, isn’t something you come pre-wired with. You don’t enter a marriage or create a family with the tools you’ll need to successfully raise children.

No, when it comes to fatherhood, your gut is worse than useless. You’ll need training. Someone needs to sit you down and tell you in plain English what your job as a male parental unit entails. Without that, without advice, guidance, and support, most dads give up. They walk away.

And while it might feel like the right thing to do post-divorce, walking away from your kids is the worst thing you can ever do! No matter how bad it is or how your ex is isolating you from them, creating space between you and them won’t make anything better. You’ll only be making their lives worse.

Fighting for My Daughter

You’ve already read my story. If you haven’t, give it a read. And while reading it might give you insight into how and why I developed my theory, what you don’t know is that I spent nine long years tracking down my daughter after she was taken by her father. Finding her was all at once the most exhilarating and most upsetting moment of my life.

The time I’d lost with her hurt. I’d missed out on so many important moments in her life. And I knew that no matter how hard I tried, no matter what I did or bought her, I’d never get that time with my then-11-year-old back. Her dad succeeded in erasing me completely from her world.

Five years later, we’re close. But there still lies an indescribable rift, a void between us. For all that I know about her, and she me, we don’t really know each other. She suffered in my absence. As I was hard at work trying like hell to track down a lead, an address, a rumor, anything to bring me closer to my baby, my daughter was being abused.

Still think your kids will be fine without you around?

This is for every divorced dad and mom, or soon-to-be divorced dad and mom

Starting on the very first page of this book, Cruz Santana loads you up on the simple yet vital things you as a divorced dad can be doing to affirm you child and keep them close through and beyond this difficult time.

The wisdom in the advice in this book is something I wish I’d had decades ago with my own children who, due to my own ignorance, now want nothing to do with me.

– Allan Seabrook

What is a Phenomenal DadHow to Be a Phenomenal Dad

I wrote Phenomenal Dad: Ten Lessons on Single Fatherhood from a Tougher-Than-Nails Single Mom in hopes of reaching out to divorced dads. I want to pull them closer to their kids than they’ve ever been before. It’s my belief that dads can be better as single fathers than they were as married guys.

My process isn’t easy. But it shouldn’t be. Being a parent is the hardest, most emotionally and physically taxing part of my life. When you’re doing it right it always is. That’s how you know. That’s the metric you should use. If you’re not feeling like you’ve spent every possible resource, drop of blood, and ounce of sweat, you’re not giving enough.

Here are three simple tips to get you started:

1. Show up for your kids.

Be there. No, not back in the house. Especially not if you and your ex-wife haven’t yet cooled down. But be as close as you possibly can.

Does your soccer-playing-kid have a meet at a school across town? Get there. How ever you can, get there. Phenomenal dads make every effort, negotiate for time off with the boss, move every mountain to show up. Kids only care that you’re there to celebrate their wins and lend comfort when they lose the big game by one stupid point. So, be there.

Do  you think buying your little ones fancy sneakers, iThings, and all the other crap they want will bring them closer to you? It might for a while.

You see, kids’ attention spans are fleeting. No sooner have you paid off the credit card bill for their junk than they’ve already forgotten how close you were the day you handed them the gizmo-filled box.

2. Video chat often.

I mean like every day, if you can. Take advantage of tech! Why not? You probably paid a fortune for it. So, use it to bridge the way to your little ones. No matter how old they are they’ll appreciate that you took the time to Skype or FaceTime with them.

Bring them into your world. Show them your surroundings. It’s especially useful when you’re traveling. It will mean more to them that you remembered to show them the view from the Empire State Building than buying them that blasted gizmo in the first place.

3. Use technology to fight for your children.

Feel like your ex is pulling you away from your kids? Been there. So, get sneaky and fight for them.

Start by documenting every conversation you and your ex have. You can easily do this by using email. Using email is by far your best bet. While your phone (and various messaging services) can prove that the message was delivered and that it was read, your email serves as legal proof of any agreements you make.

Go a step further and prove that she opened your messages by using Sidekick by Hubspot. It’s a free app that’s easy to use and works with your Gmail account. It will notify you when and if your emails have been opened and by whom! And best of all? It’s free!

If you ever need to prove she’s ignoring your requests to gain access to your kids, simply print off Sidekick’s report and submit it as evidence along with your email correspondence!

A wonderful resource for any parent or guardian

Clear-cut, detailed, commonsensical instructions for bettering one’s parenthood game. Despite the title, there’s something in this for every father, every mother, every aunt or uncle, even.

This book is well laid out and organised into sensible sections, with practical activities given at the end of each section. I particularly like that; not only were there some very useful things suggested, but the very structure of it seems designed to prevent the way that so many people will race through self-help books, skim-reading and not really gaining anything. The activities slow the reader down and cause him to think about what he has just read.

A terrific resource for any parent or guardian, not just the single or non-custodial father.

– T. Ormiston-Smith

Final Thoughts

Remaining in your child’s line of sight is your job! It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are or how far she moved your kid. Mine crossed the country! Nothing should stop you from having the best possible relationship with you kid.

Plan on being there for major events. Set up email reminders if you have to, but show up! Connect with your little ones if you’re away. Use video chat to make it happen. And let tech work for you. Keep your correspondence with your ex limited to email. Text for the small stuff here and there (like to tell her you’re on the way over to pick up your minions), but use email exclusively to set up the date and time to pick them up. This way, you’ll have a record of your intent.

If any of this sounds too hard or requires more effort than you’re willing to put in, start small. Reach out slowly. Your relationship may suffer for it, but at least you’ll be around. Kids need validation. So be their sounding board, they’re champion. Listen, dads have it rough. But a Phenomenal Dad says, “Bring it on!”

Phenomenal Dad: Ten Lessons on Single Fatherhood from a Tougher-Than-Nails  Single Mom is Cruz Santana’s first published book. It’s available wherever ebooks are sold. 

Get it on Amazon today for $4.99. It’s time to let go of who you were. Stand up and be the Phenomenal Dad your kids need you to be!

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Six Tips to a Healthy Marriage

Six Tips to a Healthy Marriage

The way I see it, you have two choices when it comes to avoiding divorce altogether. The first is pretty darn obvious, you don’t get married. If you don’t marry, you technically don’t divorce. At least, that’s how most guys look at it.

The second is to do that working-at-your-marriage thing we keep harping about. The reason? Statistics reveal that most divorced guys get back on the saddle and give marriage another shot at some point in their lives. Interested in how they fare, I did some digging.

Here’s the nitty and the gritty behind what married dudes claim is the ticket to building (and keeping) a successful marriage.

The Seriously Serious Six Tips to a Successful Marriage

Love Potion No. 9 is bologna. You’ve got that much down. But other than the obvious “work at it” and “talk to your partner” brouhaha we’d like you to do and keep doing until you’re blue in the face, there are other things you can keep in mind. While we aren’t specifically telling you what to do (but we kind of are), consider that the advice comes straight from men you can relate to, divorced guys.

So here they are, countdown style.

6. Marry a Similar Spender.

Are you the self-proclaimed King of the Tightwads? If so, find your queen. Go out of your way to find a woman who can see your frugality and raise you a lump of coal-turned-diamond.

The science behind “opposites attract” is legit. Most frugal warriors tend to end up with super spenders. Attracted to the freethinking ways of these folks, it becomes easy to get lost in the fantasy of living off an imaginary trust fund.

Instead, exercise control. Nothing is as it seems, remember? She may actually have a trust fund or rich uncle or annuity coming from the state lottery, but chances are, you don’t. And that caution-to-the-wind way of living won’t last regardless of who her fairy godmother might be.

5. Get Close. Then, Get Closer.

A couple’s sexual chemistry is telling of the type (and level of intimacy) of relationship they have. It’s inately how humans connect. Part of our DNA is encoded in one way or another to be attracted to another person for the purposes of mating. And if some mating is good, more is always better.

And I’m not wrong. A study published in a journal called Social Psychological and Personality Science proves what I’m saying. In it, scientists Michelle Russell and James McNulty of the University of Tennessee concluded that moody, neurotic people who engaged in more frequent sex with their respective partners experienced better outcomes.

Ergo, if you’re a moody person, have sex. If your partner is moody, have sex. Win, win. Right?

4. Be Grateful. Then Say, “Thank you.”

You have to mean it when you say it. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.

We’ve all felt it, haven’t we? There’s this sense of entitlement like, “I took out the garbage and washed the dishes, so I don’t owe you a ‘thank you’ for the dinner that took you six hours to prepare.”

If you’ve ever felt that way, don’t eat the dinner. A healthy marriage isn’t based on tit-for-tat.

Instead, be nice. A foreign concept to some who may be thinking, “I work hard and all she does is…” Nope! Stop there. The old adage is true. You’ll catch more flies with honey than you will vinegar. Don’t be a jerk.

In 2007, researchers from Arizona State University asked married partners and student roomies whether they appreciated the chores done by the other person. Most said they felt gratitude but couldn’t express it. In short, don’t just assume your mate knows you care. Say it.

3. Recognize the Annoyance Factor

You get annoyed. It’s natural. You’re human. You have a short attention span and are probably already waiting for me to get to the damn point.

So what am I trying to say?

You need to bite the bullet and accept that you do that same thing (or many others) too. The annoying behavior you loathe to loathe in your partner is also in you. It happens over time.

In fact, in 2008, at the annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, a research fellow named Kira Birditt presented research proving you, sir, can and will become annoyed by a myriad of things your partner does. You’re not crazy. And it’ll happen in every relationship you’re in. It’s actually happened since you were a wee young lad.

Recognize it. And think of ways to spend some time alone or with the guys doing guy stuff. Retain your identity. Don’t think that suddenly liking the same stuff your spouse does will make it any more tolerable. You’ll only end up hating her for it in the end.

2. Don’t Be a Weenie.

You teach people how they’ll treat you. I include your spouse in that statement.

While it seems unproductive for me to tell you to stand up for yourself, science has actually proven that you should. Some couples thrive on negativity. The relentless back and forth forces you to talk to each other. Inadvertently, you air out your grievances – some you might not have known you had.

James McNulty of the University of Tennesse agrees. Perhaps the behavior motivates and provokes change within the partners.

1. You’ll Get Back What You Put In, So Give It Your All.

Work at it. Then, work some more. There’s no secret to how couples get to the 20-year mark excited to have 20 more. They work at it.

To get there, think it through. What do you want? That’s honestly what matters. Your own heart will tell you what you will or won’t do for it.

A healthy marriage won’t come overnight. Most of the enduring ones I know went through their share of the worst possible situations. Everything from infidelity to disease to poverty was thrown at them. But they knew what they wanted and what they were willing to do to have it.

Research has suggested that couples who work at having a healthy marriage spend time and really care about the relationship. Novel experiences can stimulate the production of norepinephrine. It’s the hormone responsible for all those feelings of puppy love in the beginning. Bianca Acevedo, a post-doctoral researcher authored a study at Stony Brook University. She claims love can last, but you have to be open to creating opportunities for it.

Final Thoughts

If it all makes you want to throw your hands in the air, yeah, no, it’s not for out. Go with our first option and don’t get married in the first place. But if you’re willing, and if you give a damn about what you have, put in the work.

Start by marring someone with similar financial values as your own. When you do, liven up your sex lives, and be openly grateful for their contributions to the marriage. Recognize that you, too, are as annoying as you claim she is. So spend some time apart. Stand up for yourself in arguments and speak your mind. But always give it your all.

If it were easy, everyone would have half-century-long marriages. They’d be everywhere. If you want one. And you’re serious. Put in the work with these six easy steps to a healthy marriage.

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