Happy Thanksgiving

Most of you reading this are  estranged from your kids because of a former spouse who is alienating them from you.  I wish I had good solid words of hope for you today.  This is my third Thanksgiving without my kids and most likely without even a text or phone call from them.  It just sucks.  People are always telling me that eventually when they get old enough, they will come back and want a relationship with me.  I know I have prayed for that and wanted to believe it.  After 3 years, I’m beginning to think that this is a very long way off.   This blog has always been about how to survive amid the pain of alienation and I will continue that here.

So how am I surviving? I think it’s just a natural follow on to the thread that flows through most of this blog:  I move on.  Having dated a girl with a good size family for the last two years helped a ton.  There was little kids and extended family around quite a bit and that keeps you busy, gives you places to go where people love you and puts somewhat of a bandaid on the pain.  Since we broke up 2 months ago, that is obviously not there like it was in the past.  So this year is a bit different.  That said, the breakup has forced me to push out and make new friends and expand my spheres of relationship over the last few months.  This has been such a blessing for me.

Of particular help has been the Divorced Dads group that I am in.  Each of these guys struggles with kid and ex-wife issues.  I’m fairly new in it, so it’s a bit unclear how many have struggled with Parental Alienation as well, but I’m sure they would understand pieces of it.  I sat in the Thanksgiving Eve service at my church with this group (and some women that seem to just like being with us all as well) and thought over the last few Thanksgiving Eve services.  In spite of the girlfriend and her family, I had been alone in the church for both of them.  They were difficult nights — lots of tears, painful remembrances of past Thanksgivings and my kids and quite simply, just hard nights.  The first Thanksgiving I remember not getting off the couch for 3 hours or so in the morning and just watching the parade and feeling like crap.  They were hard times.

This time, though, I had a group of 10-15 friends around me.  We all went out to a wine bar afterwards and then even later, to Karaoke.  It was a night filled with laughter, bad singing, meeting new friends, banter, teasing and just, well, Fun.  This morning, I was up early picking up a friend to bring her to a “feed the homeless and give them coats” event in my city.  It’s huge .  1000s of homeless and poor come each year, hundreds of volunteers.  We served with our group for 5 hours or so.

Just got a text from her (after I got home and took a nice nap) inviting me to Thanksgiving with her family.  One of the other Dads also wants to go watch the 2nd Football Game with his kids and I.  I have options.  I’m not alone.  I texted a couple of friends last night thanking them for being a friend and got great replies back as well.  I think if anything, this year, God is showing me that I’m not alone.  I have friends.  And they are developing into very good friends.

So I would encourage you.  If this is your first year (like mine on the couch) or second year or wherever you are in your journey, you must move on.  By that I don’t mean that you forget your kids or ignore the pain.  Neither of those options are helpful or good for you.  But you need to work hard at forging your new life.  The more you dig in to making new friends and widening your life — getting involved in your church, in service opportunities, in a 2nd job, etc., the less time you have to wallow in your sorrow and your regret.  You need to be a bit careful in this though — I’m not encouraging you to be so busy you just cover up your pain with activity.  You still need to be honest about what you feel, you need to cry, you need to feel the hurt.  But then, tie a bow on it, put it aside and go serve or sing Dancing In the Dark while doing the Bruce Springsteen dance.  It’s pretty easy to do, and helps you feel alive and pretty cool at that (assuming you are over 35 and know what the heck I’m talking about!).

So I hope you all have a great thanksgiving wherever you are in the process and that your kids would continue on their process to eventually reuniting with you.

And if you need some joy — you must watch the WKRP Turkey Drop video.  Best of all time.

Happy Thanksgiving and God Bless You All.

Jim

Advertisements

Jim 3.0

You know how Software gets a new version number when it achieves a major rewrite?  I moved to Jim 2.0 when I got divorced.  I changed a ton of things in my life, started new things, and became a better person and the person I wanted to be.

Since the breakup of my 2 year relationship, post-divorce, I’m doing the same thing again.  It’s Jim 3.0.  Just thought I’d share some of the things I’m doing as a part of this.  Hope the list below challenges you to reinvent yourself.


Self Improvement items:

  • Aggressively binge listen to the Art of Charm podcasts.  http://theartofcharm.com/  If you haven’t heard these,  please note that I don’t endorse all of them, but there’s some really strong stuff in here about being the best man you can be.  From dating to attraction to productivity, etc.  Hugely helpful.
  • Date in moderation.  For me, before I met the girlfriend, I was doing maybe 6-7 (mostly first dates) a week.  I’m happier around the 3-4 range.  And I’m working on doing more second dates, even if I don’t think they will be girlfriend material — just to keep me busy and get out of the house.
  • Join a divorced men’s group.  I have done this and have met a bunch of new guys that know what I’m going through and also have needs to go out and do stuff.  I’ve been out on the town with them, played pool, watched football games, gone to plays, had dinners and bible studies.  Great group of guys and probably the single most important thing on this list for me.  We’ve got a facebook secret site where we post prayers and needs and events.
  • Become more comfortable saying no.  I found with the ex-girlfriend that I was much too flexible and willing to sacrifice my time and my other relationships for her.  I need to say no more to guard my life.
  • Lead something and Get Involved.  Joined the Christmas cast again at Church, and am planning to be the leader for two major service projects here in the next six months.  I meet more people, including great women and great men that I want to round out my life.


Projects:

  • Work on my novel.  I’m three chapters in already and when I wake in the middle of the night thinking about the last two years or the kids, I’m writing.
  • Self-publish a poetry book.  This is a goal.  I gave the girlfriend one and my mom one last year, but I think this year I’ll work in a bunch of other poetry.
  • Move and Help.  I’m finishing up a bigger house rehab and will move in the next month or so and invite newly divorced dads to stay with me temporarily till they get their feet under them.  I needed a place like this and now I can offer it to others.
  • Re-invigorate efforts to re-connect with kids.  Not that this was at all neglected over the last 2 years, but I’ve got a bit more time to invest now — just not sure how it will look.


Daily/Weekly

  • Workout.  Five times per week — at least 3 times in the gym and usually the others are playing volleyball.
  • Choose Solitude.  Spend time with God, meditating and praying.
  • Writing.  Whether it’s the novel or poetry or my journal or here — keep writing.  It’s cathartic and it’s how I best work through my brain.
  • Feel.  It’s okay to obsess a bit about the ex-girlfriend and rewind the past and think of what I should have done differently — the pain felt there will help me avoid it next time.

Second Time Around Warnings

It’s been a long while since I’ve posted here.  I think mostly because I fell madly in love with a great lady about a month after my divorce was final.  I’d had a couple of short relationships prior to this, so I thought I’d work out the “rebound” fling that everyone talks about after the divorce.  And I probably had.

If you’ve read the blog, you noted in one of the last entries that I mentioned the new girl with her four kids.  So this relationship had so many great experiences in it, but it is now over, and I’m figuring that maybe solitude is what generates writing out of these hands?

So a couple of great things I experienced over the last couple of years and things I think I will look for in the next relationship (and maybe we all should?).

  1. We just fit.  She got me, I got her.  We loved our time together.  There was a better fit between the two of us than maybe I’d ever had in my life before.
  2. I realized I could please a woman (not just physically, but in all kinds of ways) and that there wasn’t something broken inside of me that prevented me from being in a good relationship again.
  3. Fun.  We had so many great memories.  After it ended, I put together a list of the top 50 moments in my life.  In 2 years, I think 8 of those moments were with her.
  4. I have the potential to be a great stepdad.  I got along really well with her kids and probably miss them more than her at this point!  I cannot wait to be a part of someone’s life where her kids and I have this type of relationship.  It was great for my soul to get to see all of that and be a part of their lives.
  5. Getting my mojo back.  It was so encouraging to see I could attract a beautiful, successful woman and date her for almost 2 years.
  6. I felt loved  and was able to love again.

But in spite of all of these good things, the relationship ended very tragically.  I discovered after I broke up with her that she’d been lying to me over those two years and that she had in fact cheated on me repeatedly with multiple different men.  I’m not writing this to make anyone feel sorry for me or to play the victim, but instead to help you see the signs that I missed consistently throughout our relationship — mostly because I just needed to be loved and feel love again.

So here are the signs that I missed and I know I will want to ensure I see next time.

  1. If friends or family of your significant other tell you that you don’t know her well or that you’re missing things — LISTEN.  Even if they don’t give you specifics or reasons to.  They are taking a huge risk telling you even that — and they’re doing it because they like you and don’t want to see you get hurt like the 10 dudes in the last 10 years with her.
  2. Have at least a couple of friends and family that can tell you hard stuff that you don’t want to hear.  Believe them, and listen to them and act accordingly.  Most of my family and several of my friends saw things in my girlfriend that I refused to see or just brushed off as “you don’t know her like I do.”
  3. You don’t have to be paranoid, but be smart.  If you see things that are happening in your relationship that you would question in a friends relationship, that’s a strong indicator that something’s up.  For instance.  At one point I saw that my name wasn’t in her phone anymore — she said it’s cause the kids kept seeing it come up when I called and she didn’t want her ex hearing them constantly talking about me.  I think she didn’t want her other guys seeing it.  Another example?  I think I went to her house 4-5 times in 2 years.  We always met at my place or out somewhere.  Usually for good reason, but the net was she actually wasn’t even separated like she had claimed and maintained from the time we met till we broke up.
  4. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.  If you get weird feelings in your gut when she’s telling you things (which I did repeatedly, but ignored), your body is telling you stuff.
  5. If you keep thinking, this whole thing is just not right, but we have so much fun together and I can’t imagine living without her — something is not right and if you don’t get out, you’ll make it worse by staying.  Your subconscious can play tricks on you, but often it senses the truth much sooner than your conscious mind.
  6. Don’t settle for strange rules in the relationship — question why and if you don’t get good answers, get out.  Like with us — I was always in the friendzone with the kids, and she delayed filing for divorce for 2 years over and over for a myriad of reasons.  I know.  You’re reading this thinking that I’m a complete moron.  I get it.  I feel that too.  People do stupid things when they think they’re in love.
  7. If there’s an incident that seems funny.  Don’t just take the first excuse or reason for it — investigate a bit, or just be more wary the next time.
  8. Audit the relationship from time to time.  Are all your texts about how much you miss her and all hers answering your questions?  Are you texting first, last and 3 times more than her?  Do you always set up dates and suggest things?  Does she travel with her girlfriends, her family, her kids and everyone else and never with you alone?  Do you pay for everything?  Are you always buying her trips that you’re not going on?  Are you being used?  All great questions to periodically just assess the relationship.  If the answers are no — you’re doing good, but be honest.
  9. Finally — cultivate a life apart from your significant other.  Most of my friends were her friends.  Most of my life was spent waiting for her to be available and building it around her.  That’s not healthy and probably ultimately led to our demise as much as her cheating.  Remember, I didn’t know about the cheating when we broke up. I think this point is pretty obvious, but many of us new divorcees are in the immortal words of Potsy Weber “Hot to Trot.”  We just want someone to love us again and are more than willing to overlook whatever we have to so that we can feel that love.   That goes for women and for men.  Just chatted with a female friend today that has a remarkably similar situation with her boyfriend.

Dad told me going into dating that I’m a good guy that makes good money and has a great future.  Women will take advantage of that.  I just thought he was looking out for me but that it wouldn’t happen to me.  It did.

Guys and even ladies:  It’s a jungle out there.  Not everyone approaches life like you do — even if they seem to at the outset.  Be wary, be careful and build your life and make it full apart from your significant other — then “invite her to the feast” that you’ve been able to create of your life.  It’s a great analogy.