Well, it’s finally over, the divorce I mean. But, way can’t you rest? What the heck is going on? You keep re-hashing the old tapes of the relationship in your head. And, a single thought can trigger your emotions to go back to those God forsaken times in your relationship when nothing seemed to go right, and everything you did was wrong, all of which culminated in your failed marriage and the bitter disputes that followed during the divorce. You’re still pissed off all the time and living with sleepless nights, stress, body aches and pains, headaches, maybe even migraines. Fact of the matter is, you may be suffering from PTSD after divorce.
What Causes Symptoms of PTSD After Divorce
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as “a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.” The Anxiety and Depression Association of America explains that PTSD is a reaction to a traumatic event, including experiencing or witnessing natural disasters, combat, sudden death of a loved one, violent personal assault or other life-threatening events.
If your marriage was a disaster, and the divorce was a long, losing battle, you may have experienced your whole life spinning out of your control. The sustained emotional trauma was real, and has lasting effects.
Let’s be honest, most divorces are not easy. You enter into a bond with someone who you plan on building a life with. The fear of things falling apart never enters your mind. Then the unthinkable happens: one day the divorce papers are signed, and life as you know it is over. While that thought alone is traumatic, it is the in-between times that leave lasting scars.
The arguing and fighting takes its toll. The mistrust, the understanding your marriage is ending, or even worse; it all buries deep in your subconscious. Then when these thoughts and feelings are pulled back to the surface, those reactions bring back some extreme emotions. When this happens and you are powerless to stop it, this might be a form of PTSD.
Signs and Symptoms Common to PTSD
While reviewing the signs, remember this is not an all-inclusive list. You may see yourself in some or all of these. Maybe you don’t associate with any but there are different symptoms for you. In either case, the things you are feeling are real, and deserve attention.
Recurrent Distressing Memories
If you’ve become consumed by remembering past upsetting events from your marriage and divorce, and you find yourself getting upset over and over again, it may be a symptom of PTSD.
Can’t sleep? Do you stay up all hours of the night even with an early morning alarm looming? Does your mind race into the wee hours of the morning with thoughts of what you could have done differently? Insomnia is linked to suffering from trauma.
Sustained or Uncontrollable Anger
After my divorce, I was angry constantly. There was little happiness or joy in my life outside of my children. Everywhere I looked I saw reminders of the life I once had and was now gone and every day the anger grew. I finally reached out because if I didn’t, the fire inside me would have consumed me.
How often do you feel defeated and alone? Depression is real. Your pain is real. Feelings of defeat and isolation can lead to severe depression after a tough divorce. There is no shame in accepting depression as a by-product of divorce. Understanding this as another sign of PTSD will lead you to recovery.
Body Aches and Pains
Body aches and pains tend to appear right along with depression or PTSD. Your body reacts to stress in different ways. One is chronic pain that can last until your stress is dealt with.
These are just a few of the many signs of PTSD. Others include: panic attacks, hyperventilating, flashbacks, and issues having or starting future personal relationships.
What You Need to Know
Whether or not you have developed full-blown PTSD after divorce, if you are experiencing many of these signs, you deserve to use every resource you can find to move on to a happy and stable life.
Now that I can look back and recognize many of these symptoms, I can say with certainty that I suffered with symptoms of PTSD after divorce. After many years, I have come to a place in my life where none of these bother me anymore. However, if I would have recognized these symptoms much earlier, I could have saved myself and my children a lot of struggling. This is why you are here, and we are understanding PTSD together.
I am not a psychologist. I can show you from personal experiences of my life and I can point you in what I feel are right directions. But, to beat this, you have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and get a little tough. Are you up for it?
Solutions for PTSD
So what can I do Dwight? I don’t want this to control me but I feel powerless to stop it. My friend, there is good news and greater news. You can, with a lot of hard work, overcome symptoms of PTSD after divorce. There is a life out there for you that is free from debilitating trauma.
It won’t be easy. There is nothing wrong with getting help, even at a professional level, and I encourage it. At the end of the day, you know what works for you.
Acknowledge the Stress
A good starting point is acknowledgment. You have seen the symptoms in yourself, it’s now time to accept them for what they are. By understanding what has brought you to this point, you can begin the process of healing.
Research-based ideas published by Psychology Today emphasizes the need to take care of yourself after a rough breakup.
I want to start with what you can do for yourself, before we get into what someone else can do. Taking care of yourself should start now. Here are a few ideas to get you going:
- Get active – Exercise releases endorphins which are natural mood enhancers and help with pain.
- Eat better – Studies upon studies have been done on the benefits of eating healthier. Bottom line: it will help the body while you are focusing on the mind.
- Connect with yourself – Whatever your preference: meditation, yoga, tai chi, fishing, take some time to connect to yourself and listen to what you’re saying.
- Be prepared to move forward – There is no going around this, you must go through it. Learn, understand, and be open to lessons learned
- Take it easy – Resting, getting extra sleep, and taking time out to relax are all positive steps to help you
Professional Help and Support
Getting off your butt and getting professional help can be a daunting task. Asides from the fact that we men are taught not to let anyone help us when it comes to problems, depression makes it hard to make the effort to do anything. Do it anyway.
Never take professional help for granted.
Military veterans return from war suffering from PTSD every day. They live with the terror and troubles it brings. Many have sought help, sadly many more do not. Traumatic events in our lives need not control us nor keep us from living productive lives. It is time for a change.
Do this for yourself – You’re Worth It
Divorce is rated right up there among the most traumatic events a man can face. Is it any wonder we now understand the impact it can have and the havoc it can cause?
Take some time to evaluate what you have gone through since your divorce. If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD after divorce, admit it. Then take active steps to conquer what is holding you back. You’re worth it.
Does this sound like you? Tell us how you’re dealing with symptoms similar to PTSD in the comments below.
You’re not the only guy struggling with life after divorce. That’s why Real Men Join Divorce Support Groups. Maybe you never saw it coming? Check out How To Keep it Together When Divorce Blindsides You.
Don’t keep it to yourself.
Share this article on your social media.
(c) Can Stock Photo / tashatuvango
It’s over. Finished. Your divorce is final. Now that it’s over, what are you going to do? Maybe you had pictured what life after divorce was going to be like, maybe you never thought about it until after the final decree was entered. Either way, now it’s time to face…
There comes a day when newly single men find themselves back on the dating scene after wading through the complications of divorce. They can't help but wonder how this detail of the past will influence future relationships; if it's a black mark that will be a deal breaker down the…
If you’re a regular reader here, you know it isn’t a question. Yes, you do need to get STD testing. Chances are the world’s a different place than you remember, but that old rule to err on the side of caution holds true. Still, it’s an uncomfortable subject. Doesn’t seem…
The mother of my daughter hates my guts. She doesn’t just dislike me; she loathes me with a passion
And yet, we have no choice but to learn to co-parent together. To be perfectly honest, she’s not really my favorite person in the world, either. However, strange as it might seem, it is more common than we might want to think in this world that you can share your greatest love with your worst enemy.
While she and I are barely civil to one another, we have never allowed this to influence how we set ground rules for our daughter.
This fact alone has allowed us to navigate the last fifteen years of our daughter’s life with a mutual understanding and respect, while maintaining a safe distance from one another.
I am proud to say that my daughter is a sweet, charming, thoughtful and delightful young lady who graduates high school with honors next month, and her mother’s and my early decision (we separated when our daughter was less than two) to keep our personal feelings for one another out of the parenting equation apparently had good results. We didn’t have to like each other to keep teaching our child to make good decisions. In a way, we are very fortunate that we were both raised with the same general principles, social mores and taboos, though we often have very differing opinions about them. And while there are certainly grey areas and some difficult negotiations along the way, we are both coming from basically the same place; we want our child to be happy, and we want to support her growth in learning to think for herself and make choices that will serve her best throughout life.
While we worked hard at putting aside our feelings and personal biases in discussing what is best for our kid, we’re polar opposites in the way we manage our personal lives, and we both take responsibility for exposing our daughter to both the good and the bad of our own personal choices, so that she might make up her own mind.
For instance, my daughter has been raised religiously non-denominational for the most part. This is not because her mother and I don’t both have our individual beliefs; but that they are not the same beliefs, and rather than force one upon our child, we decided to just let her make her own choices and make ours available to her. Her mother is a non-practicing Catholic who still celebrates Christmas and Easter; I am a reasonably practicing Jew. (Which is to say, I observe high holidays and try to at least acknowledge Shabbat.)
The fact of our different heritage has another interesting aspect for raising our daughter. Since Catholicism is passed down patrilineally, and Judaism is passed down through matrilineally, our daughter does not belong inherently to either religion. This oddity in our religious backgrounds actually forced her mother and I to take this issue very seriously and were probably some of the longest discussions we ever had concerning her upbringing. (The other big issue for us became medication, as our daughter was diagnosed with ADHD early in her life, and it has been an area where we disagreed on appropriate treatment, which in turn forced us to have very passionate dialogues about what was important to us.)
While this could have become a really difficult part of parenting, instead it became perhaps the most important aspect for us in learning how to parent together while separate. Because this particular aspect of raising our daughter was a bridge that could not be crossed, what we had to learn early on was how to share our differences to our daughter without making the other party out to be “wrong”.
Now, in some ways, I have to admit that this particular aspect of my parenting might leave others angry or questioning. Even from members of my own faith I have experienced a small and subtle backlash in choosing not to push my personal beliefs upon my child. Still, I am fortunate that her mother shares similar views. So we choose to focus instead on things that we both agree are important. Instead of teaching about Jesus or God (or Buddha, Mohammed, etc.) we talked about sustainability, responsibility, compassion, conservation, philanthropy and other core values we mutually consider important. These are principles that are demonstrable and have proven results. We are also pretty solidly agreed on our lessons concerning work, school, play, friends, and a host of other subjects, so in the grand scheme of “what our kid needs to know”, religion really is pretty low on the totem. We feel that we can talk about religion when she brings it up.
I believe the only truly morally responsible act to take as separate parents is for both to strive to keep the welfare of the child or children the most significant part of any communication, and to strive to create harmonious outcomes (or at least ones that are fair compromises) concerning consequences and rules.
Whenever possible, you should agree on basic principles and expectations and be consistent in both homes:
- If a behavior is not allowed at one house, for example, it shouldn’t be tolerated at the other
- If a punishment is meted out by one parent, it should be upheld by the other
- Curfews should be consistent, as well as what “grounding” means in your home.
- Don’t try and out-do one another on things like allowance and tooth fairy visits – take turns or divvy them up, but always keep them equal
- Compromise on things like healthy eating and the amount of sugar intake, have zero sugar at one house and a veritable treasure trove of gummy bears at the other won’t help anyone
While your child might seem innocent and you are confident they have been brought up well, the urge to play one parent off the other, especially when the parents hate each other and can barely communicate with one another, is just to delicious and irresistible to a child who wants something really, really bad. It becomes easy, and before you know it, they will master the art of lying and manipulating to get their own way. Don’t ever underestimate how smart they are, and don’t make the mistake of thinking they aren’t listening and seeing what is going on when you least expect it.
Don’t Forget Another Very Important Factor
Make sure your new partners respect your wishes with your ex, and are on board with your plans in being consistent. It isn’t a competition. If you aren’t in agreement with your ex, and your new partner supports you in that decision, you can escalate very quickly to a situation that is not manageable without being in a constant state of anger and frustration, or heading back down the very expensive road of court costs.
You don’t have to like your ex, but you have to work together where the kids are concerned. After all, you made them together, right? Well, now you have the responsibility of raising your kids together…and that means getting on the same page when it comes to parenting, even if in no other aspect of your relationship. You owe it to your kids.
Consistently co-parenting after divorce can be excruciating. Co-parenting consistently if you’ve never done any kind of parenting before feels almost impossible. There are countless articles out there about how to co-parent with our respective exes: Co-parenting with a crazy ex Co-parenting peacefully The Zen of co-parenting Co-parenting with a narcissist I’m…
Co-parenting is your single most important right, as well as your single most important responsibility with your ex-spouse post-divorce. If you can co-parent amicably (and no doubt that's a challenge), your children gain stability and the chance to maintain close relationships with both parents. But just how can you deal with or…
We are in an era of people telling us that being vulnerable is being strong, that you need to express your feelings, and that the needs of your children are more important than your needs. Peaceful parenting is not only possible but easy! All you have to do is be…
For those new to blended families, you may find the title confusing. If you are one about to set up a blended family, you may not understand what I mean by blended family chaos when you are planning your future. After all, the kids have been hanging out and playing nicely up until this point. Your story will be different. I’m here to tell you, if you are looking for a key piece of divorce advice for men, read this whole thing! Odds are you will one day attempt this very thing.
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 Mixed Family Chaos
So, to avoid Blended Family Chaos, I urge you to consider these nine steps:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Meet your new kids. Yes, don’s show favoritism. But you also need to get to know your step kids. This doesn’t take much, however you need to be aware of your human nature to go to your comfort zone. You know your kids. So you will naturally chat with them. Get to know the new ones…make an effort. You will likely have to remind yourself.
- 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.
- 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.
- Go almost all-in. You’ve got to be ready to push all the chips in from the start and fully commit to the new family for any hope of making it work. However, just like Vegas, keep a chip or two in your pocket for cab money, or Uber for the younger crowd. Never forget who the #1 advocate for your children is (hint: it’s you)! If you’ve gone the full road and applied your soul to making it work, but your partner has not or it is just tearing your kids apart, you may need to use that saved chip to pack it up. Sad fact, but they come first. Don’t let them know this, or they’ll do everything to get you to depart. But you’ll know when.
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
Just because women are typically more emotional than men doesn’t mean divorce is harder on them. In fact, it’s been found that divorce is harder on men for man y reasons. Throw in the fact that 69 percent of women in the United States initiate divorce, compared to 31 percent of…
Shared custody is never fun, especially not when it leaves you alone on Thanksgiving. The prospect of spending holidays without your children can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be. If you don’t get to see the kids this Thanksgiving, here’s a few things to remember in order to…
The first series of Reverse Firsts is always the most difficult. A Reverse First is any holiday you celebrate during the first twelve months of being newly divorced. The season is bookended by Thanksgiving and New Year's and includes any capital-lettered holidays after divorce you celebrate in between. Reverse Firsts Aren’t Festive…
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.
On this late evening, women and crying babies are on my mind, which leads me to write about erectile dysfunction, a condition that many of us have and almost none of us talk about.
This was an almost perfect evening, abruptly interrupted by two facts:
- A two year old missing her mother is inconsolable after six hours and
- I can’t get it up easily anymore.
My Story Right Now
You may have guessed by this article that I am divorced. Maybe that’s part of the issue, still dealing with the stress of that. But it has been a long time since the divorce, and I’ve had many lovers in my efforts to build my life after divorce.
I had my current lover in my bed much earlier tonight when our focus was interrupted by my housemate’s daughter howling and wailing uncontrollably in the front room, as an exasperated babysitter tried fruitlessly to calm her.
Granted, it is certainly understandable to lose your attention in such a predicament, though it really just served as a reasonable excuse for me to mask the second issue, which was the real reason we hadn’t already conducted our coupling an hour or so earlier.
Few men really talk about erectile dysfunction, the condition formerly known as impotence. There are rampant commercials speaking to erectile dysfunction, but not really about erectile dysfunction. Various ideas are thrown about and quick fix solutions are only a doctor’s prescription or an easy diet change away. And if it lasts more than four hours, call your bookie. Seriously, though, at this point in my life I feel that at least three prior relationships were ruined because of this problem, and I stand at an invisible precipice with my current lover that is disconcerting.
A pattern is emerging, and it starts with my dick and the bad messaging in our society that I have somehow gotten into my psyche (and perhaps more importantly, permeating the psyches of potential long term mates) about my ‘performance’ abilities.
Is It New Or Been A Problem For Some Time
I’ll have it known, perhaps only for my own ego and edification, that I am a wonderful lover. I have years of training with dozens of women that have shown me the glories and wonders of the female form in many of its incarnations, and I have delighted in them all. I like slow, long, sensual exploration; I’m well versed in massage, have been told many times I’m a great kisser, and I have a lovely bag of tricks to unveil over time with a willing partner.
What I don’t seem to possess right now is a dick that responds by mere thought, not taking its sweet time to warm up to touch. I have tried various holistic approaches to overcoming this erectile dysfunction deficiency. Blackberries, salmon, avocados, oysters and almonds, while all tasty and healthy, also did nothing for me. Of course, trying these foods and hoping for results only confirmed what I already knew. For me, it’s not about blood flow or testosterone; it’s about feeling connected. No diet will change that.
Two Possible Problems with Erectile Dysfunction
Where the commercials apply their focus is on the blood flow issue. As men age, our blood vessels become weaker for a myriad of reasons, such as poor exercise, buildup of cholesterol or both. The medicines work to solve this issue. Sildenafil and Tadalafil are the most common ones available.
Sildenafil widens the blood vessels and lower the blood pressure. As a result, the hydraulics of our dicks work easier. The effect is somewhat short lived, about 4 hours, but that’s enough time to take care of business. And the onset can be as fast as 30 minutes.
Tadalafil was not originally targeted to help with erectile dysfunction, but through its enzyme inhibitor testing, a common side effect to this heart medicine was erections. The scientists recognized this as a helpful side effect and this medicine was released as a daily option, with its effects lasting about 24 hours, as opposed to Sildenafil’s 4 hour effect.
For many, applying these drugs to the blood flow side of the equation fits their need and they are happy. For some, though, like me, the problem is deeper.
Heart Driven Sex (and not the flow)
Unfortunately for me (and them), it seems we place a huge emphasis on an erect penis. Since I developed this basic problem, well over 20 years ago now (that my cock doesn’t jump to attention when my brain is horny), I have had numerous short-lived encounters, because there wasn’t a second date, or they expected me to act upon them when what I actually require of my partners is the opposite.
Do the pills help? Sure, but I’m not in it. I’ve just got a rod there for the job and that’s all.
I have heard this preference as a ‘feminine heart’ where the partner prefers to be acted upon rather than to act. See, here’s the thing; my Johnson actually works just fine, IF you turn me on. I masturbate on a regular enough basis to be certain I still possess a life below and I have had at least as many positive encounters over these past decades as negative ones. There is always something to be said for basic chemistry and compatibility, too.
Still, my best consistent lovers have had one thing in common; a tremendous patience and genuine deep affinity developed over time. And therein lies the rub…
Just Sex, Or Something More?
See, I certainly appear to be a normal guy and, in everything outside the bedroom, I am clearly a dude and a fairly dominant one at that. I exhibit tendencies of a man who knows himself and his world and is competent in it. I like to be in control in my environment.
So, it certainly leads that women I attract have expectations that my behavior in the bedroom should be aggressive, dominant and, well, manly. The problem is that most women in our culture are taught sex as an act of being dominated and penetrated and objectified, and over time develop exactly the opposite expectations that I have.
In blunt, simple terms; I want to make love to a women and most women I encounter just want to fuck. Truth told, I just don’t fuck that well anymore. There seems to be a disconnection between mind and body, along with the fact that I’m just not 19 anymore. While my mind is desperately fucking you like that wild animal I was in my youth, my Willie just isn’t whistling the same tune these days. I am slipping into late middle age and my desires have become much more intimate than physical. In fact, it would seem the physical aspect only responds when my spirit is properly nurtured. This really sucks when I’m with a new person and trying to find out if we groove.
I lose what I consider to be potential mates after my particular tendencies are unveiled, either in the first sexual encounter or soon thereafter, if chemistry somehow initially overcomes my usual disconnections. Frankly, this alone is enough for me to really want to go get those little blue pills. I do know that I can cheat and make erectile dysfunction vanish. I’m just not sure I want to, especially at something as important as creating good intimate relations with my partner.
Thing is, at a deeper level, I feel like perhaps erectile dysfunction is some sort of built in protection for aging men that our society doesn’t view correctly. I understand that if I cheat by taking artificial stimulants then I may be capable of performing even when I feel no connection. I’m fairly certain that is a bad way to start, since my partner is going to believe that I am responding to her when actually I am just going through the motions (pleasurable as they might be).
For Me, I Want More Than Sex
I have come to the realization that, at least for me, it’s not that it doesn’t work. It’s just that I don’t give a fuck how sexy you look anymore (well, I do, but not nearly as much as I once did; and the size of the hips of the women I consider attractive has generally expanded through age, as I did) as much as I really want to know if you’ll stick around. Finding a sexual partner in this world of hookup sites and instant messaging is really fairly easy; finding a suitable companion is not.
I was frustrated with all the push to just hook up when dating after divorce.
This makes a sort of evolutionary sense in later adult life. If an adult man chooses his latter life partners based on the same criteria he had as a youth, he would inevitably choose poorly. Erectile dysfunction (our accepted clinical definition) is the male equivalent of menopause in women. Our reproductive interest is waning, even if our mental capacity for even deeper intimacy continues to evolve. We have accumulated more experiences and therefore have even deeper biases for what we appreciate and what we recognize as unsustainable to long term healthy relations.
Perhaps (and to my chagrin) the truth is that we aren’t supposed to be competitive in the mating arena in later life. If we do manage to find a partner at this stage it would be to help us not die alone, after all, and that hardly requires sexual prowess or the absence of erectile dysfunction. Of course, the other thing we have to offer is our companionship, which can be a real asset to a younger woman seeking to learn wisdom from us elderly statesmen. As an older man, this is far more interesting to me than finding someone to sleep with. I want someone to talk to, someone who will appreciate me whether my body works or not, since I have the wisdom of experience to know that a shared life is much more about intimacy than sex.
In base terms, men my age who aren’t already in long term relations face a difficult enough challenge in finding a suitable partner without having to also be concerned with performance. Yet, this is the criterion most women use. Well, young women. So, we have to overcome our disadvantage with artificial means just to compete in this society. I think it’s a mistake. We should be willing to wait for a partner who understands all this and embraces it. The irony is that I would spend the rest of my life savings on those little pills if I knew that my partner already accepted me without them.
That’s my issue in a nutshell, or at least a very large nutshell. For many of my friends, though, the problem is purely in the pumps and lines, like having older plumbing in your home that has clogged over time. After all, these pipes aren’t that large. And if we’re worried about clogging the big ones near the heart with our love of red meat over decades, it stands to reason that we likely clogged the little lines at the extreme ends of the system. Unfortunately, those are in our dicks. Fixing those pipes so you can connect with your lover is fantastic, nothing worth shame, and we should all stand behind the need!
I’m not going to say that solutions to erectile dysfunction don’t exist or that I shouldn’t be using them to ensure I can always perform for a potential partner. I’m saying that perhaps we shouldn’t be in such a rush to jump into bed and that maybe the ‘problem’ with our penis is really an opportunity in disguise. I’m going to continue to see my dysfunction as a chance to find out where I really stand before entangling myself, simply because I can. I deserve a lover who makes me respond without having to resort to medication. I can’t know this without taking the risk of being honest about my condition up front. So, my decision is to accept this as part of who I am now, and to hold onto the belief that my next long term partner will appreciate me all the more for my willingness to take it slow.
Then again, my advice to you; maybe you should just go get those pills. I’m probably an idiot.
You are about to enter into an odd contract. Congratulations! Whether it'll be big or small, packed with guests or at City Hall, putting it all together took strategy, planning, and compromise. Despite all of the time and energy you spent getting down the aisle, the overall odds your first…
Looking for love after a divorce can be daunting. The prospect of starting all over may seem unnerving, but at some point, you may wonder if you’re ready. The internet is full of advice on dating after divorce, but the reality is that there are no rules. It will be…
What to Know Before Your Second Marriage 3 Important Factors to Consider Ahead of the Big Day I'd wager every one of us walked out of our final divorce swearing off marriage. If the problems in the marriage weren't enough, the roller-coaster of divorce certainly kicked you in the butt.…