Evil Nostalgia

I don’t know how often this happens to you.  Just heard a song last night while working on one of my houses.



It is the song that I planned to use to propose to my ex-girlfriend.  Actually shared my plan with her brothers about 2 months before we broke up.  They didn’t seem all that excited about it — which should have clued me in a bit more to what was going on, but I really just didn’t see much of that.

I’m putting in cabinets and listening to music and I just cry.  It’s that music always holds a memory.  I thought through how much I loved this woman.  I thought through how much I longed to have what we had.  Or how much I loved what I thought I had.  The sad truth is that the woman I loved didn’t really exist.  That doesn’t make the pain any better.  That doesn’t make the loss any easier to handle.  It might actually make it worse.  Instead of wishing for a return to that relationship, you’re left wondering if it’s even possible to find that kind of love.  Since it didn’t actually exist in reality and what you had was a lie (for those who haven’t read previous posts, she was actually cheating on me during much of the relationship and had lied to me about much of her situation), you wonder if there’s hope for finding that someone who actually is who  she says she is and loves you for who you are and is your future.

So I spent the rest of the night chatting with my brother and one of my best girl friends.  I cried some more.  It’s been four months since the breakup, three since I discovered what was happening in the relationship.  It’s still really really hard.  I’ve dated a bunch.  I’ve met a lot of new friends, I’ve got a strong solid circle of friends around me now.  That’s all good.  But it still hurts.  There’s a loss.  There’s a part of me that thought I was going to be married again by the end of this year.  That I would have someone to come home to.  And I don’t.  No offense to my cat.

I’ve often said that because of my mistakes in my marriage and with the ex-girlfriend, I really want to date someone at least 2 years before remarrying.  I’ve seen so many 2nd marriage mistakes, and I don’t want to have that happen.  So I’m looking at my 50th birthday before I get remarried at this point.

That’s hard to stomach.  Don’t have a lot of answers to any of these things.  Just know that there’s a lot of others out there who struggle like you do.  I guess it’s normal.  But I woke up this morning and got back to work.  Life went on.  It snowed.  I do believe in love and a future and a future love.  I will find someone to Bring it On Home to me.



Dealing with Judgement



Talked with a friend in my divorced dads group yesterday and he made an off-handed comment that struck me as pretty accurate:  “Everyone always judges me when I tell them my kids don’t talk to me.”

Thankfully, I’m in a church where there is tons of grace and people aren’t looking down their noses at me because of divorce, and that really helps.  But I hear what my friend is saying.  I’ve felt that repeatedly.  Actually, I told him that I always get a bit nervous when I hit that conversation in a new relationship.  Now, granted, my charm and sexiness do keep most of these dates interested, but I get a bit concerned about the reaction to that as well.  There’s no doubt that many people (and I would have put myself in this category 5 years ago) assume there must be something wrong with you if your kids aren’t talking to you.  It’s very difficult for people to understand Parental Alienation if they have not seen it or experienced it.  It’s probably even more difficult than it is for married people (who haven’t been divorced) to understand the difficulties of divorce.  There’s no frame of reference, but everyone knows someone who’s divorced.  With Alienation, most people find it to be utterly bizarre and ridiculous and don’t believe it really exists until they see the tremendous impact it has on kids lives.

So how do you handle it when you get judged by outsiders regarding your Alienation situation?  Thinking this through overnight, I realized that those conversations can go either way depending on how I manage it.  So here’s a few quick suggestions for broaching the topic:

  1. Be real, but don’t be angry.  If you go into this conversation with anger, you’re sending a message to the person that you’re sharing this with that you are angry with your kids as well and they then are led to consider that this might be the reason they don’t talk to you.
  2. Pause frequently when you share this.  Think through your words.  This is the single biggest difficulty you are managing in your life right now.  It weighs on you constantly.  Don’t try to blurt it all out and share it all in one breath.  Breathe.  Think through what you want to say.  Your friend will see how heavy this is weighing on you through your hesitance and your pauses and your thoughtfulness.  If they are a friend, they will give you time to share.
  3. Share in bits and pieces.  Most of my friends know that there’s some kind of estrangedness between my kids and I and that they don’t live with me and they don’t see my often.  And that I hurt at times because of this.  Very few of them know the whole story.  Even less have seen this blog.  I think my family and maybe 3-5 close friends even know I have a blog.  When I do open up to a new person, I don’t share all of this at once.  It’s too much, it makes for a very one-sided conversation and it looks like I’m dumping all my problems on someone.  Share a story here, or an incident there as they come up in daily conversations or when you get together.  If they ask more questions, just say something like, “someday when you have time, I’ll share more…”
  4. Reveal deepest hurts/issues reciprocally.  This means that you wait until your friend shares something deep that affected their lives tremendously before you share yours, or after you share a part of yours, you hear a part of theirs.  You don’t want to be the friend that’s always unloading and never taking on baggage, right?  Plus, this also helps you identify who you can trust.  If someone knows all your pains and hurts and you know none of theirs, that can be a signal of a poorly balanced friendship anyway.
  5. Thoughtfully answer questions.  Like my friend in a previous post that asked why I didn’t just grow a pair…  Honest question, that someone who hasn’t been through what I have would be completely entitled to think.  Required a thoughtful answer, which I think I gave.  Don’t be offended by questions.  I could easily have been offended by hers — and that was my first inclination, but again, pause, breathe, and think through what you want to communicate.  We have a tendency in our deepest pains and fears to let our hurt direct our response quickly.  That’s a mistake.  Keep in mind that this is the first time many people may have even heard about Alienation.  They’ve  got lots of questions.  “Why does the court allow this,” “Can’t she get put in jail?” “Why didn’t you fight for them?” “What did you do?”  etc.  All are valid and legitimate and you will get every one of them.  Be ready to not take it personally but respond thoughtfully

Finally — some people won’t get it.  They won’t understand and they will judge you.  You can be acquaintances with these people, but they will never be your friend.  This is okay as well.  Don’t judge them back.  Some people are not in a place to understand.


Why Didn’t You Grow a Pair?

Talking to a new friend over the holidays.  During the conversation where I explained how I was alienated.  Over a period of years, I was excised from relationships with my parents and my brothers and their kids and my friends and quite literally found myself virtually alone upon the eventual separation.  She leaned in and asked, “Why didn’t you just grow a pair and tell her that you were going to see your niece and nephew, your family, your friends and that she should learn to deal with it.”

I think my response was typical of a lot of us confronted with this type of alienation from our families — which is a very common foreshadowing of the type of alienation we would get from our kids during and after the divorce.

Grow a pear

“It was so subtle and gradual, you don’t see it coming and wake up one day and realize how far removed from your family/friends you really are.  You then realize that ‘growing a pair’ means war with your spouse, weeks and months of shunning and contempt, and probably the end of your marriage.” I then said I learned a very very difficult lesson and would never put up with that in a future spouse.

“I think you would be surprised how quickly you could fall into that again,” she replied.

Surprisingly accurate.  I actually did indeed fall into a similar situation with a woman I dated for 2 years after the divorce.  It didn’t involve alienation or separation from my family or friends — those relationships were encouraged and it was very good from that perspective.  But I did indeed fall into a relationship where I hung on too long, I ignored really, really negative signs and I clung to a hopeless situation — I think mostly because I so desperately wanted to be loved, cared for, valued, etc.

It seems I still have a proclivity toward suspending my brain and going with my feelings or my needs and heart-desires.  No matter how stupid it looks or how much I’m warned.

This is not good.  2016 for me will be about thinking through future relationships.  Not in the way of over-analyzing everything (which probably not ironically, I find myself doing now…) but in being honest about where I am at relationally.  My goal is to go into the next long-term relationship with eyes wide-open. Head and heart both engaged.  Guarding my heart is a head exercise.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with taking my time in a new relationship.  My experience with falling head over heels in love quickly is not positive.  The ends completely do not justify the means.  The outcome is predicted by the initial fall.

So, in 2016, I’m taking a step toward thoughtful relationship building.  And growing a pair.

Gaslighting and strange alienation crap


So I have read a bit about Gaslighting over the last few weeks.  Interesting phenomenon that I still really don’t quite understand.  It’s so-named because of  a movie back in the 50s where a husband was proving his wife was crazy but gradually lowering the lighting in their house and then acting like she was crazy when she noticed it.  I guess it’s this intentional creation of events to make another person feel crazy.

I work hard not to assume the crazy in everything.  But as they say, it’s not paranoid if everyone really is out to get you.  Like is Katniss paranoid in Hunger Games?  Or is she just realistic?  When every time you connect well with your kids — which for me is like 3 times in the past 2 years — then they are yelling at you within a week, you start to think someone is changing the story.

Which brings me to Christmas this year.  I once again sent my kids Gift cards for Christmas via email.  I literally do not have their addresses and worry that if I send something to their mom’s new home with her boyfriend, that they will not receive it, so I send via email.  Several friends and family members asked why I would do such a thing.  My reply was, I’m their dad,  I can’t let Christmas go by without giving them something,  however little.  The reply was always — “Why give a gift to someone if they don’t acknowledge it, act like they hate you, don’t want anything to do with you and treat you with contempt and disrespect?”

My reply, “It’s what daddy’s do.  They love unconditionally.”

I received an email from my 17 year old a couple of days past Christmas.

It has come to my conclusion that you have absolutely nothing to do with me. You beg me to contact u and when I finally say thank you and have a good Christmas u don’t even respond. It just really seems like u put on the biggest act for no apparent reason. Just on how you don’t respond when u want me too. It makes me not want a relationship because you can’t make up your mind. I hope you can get some help for your problems and misleading wants and desires. I hope the best for you. But just don’t want to be around you. 

Here’s the problem.  I never received a thank you from him or a “have a good Christmas” message from him.  Checked through all texts, emails, snail mails and literally zero contact from him.  So I naturally respond asking where he sent it or how.  No reply.

A bit of background:  His mom had mentioned to me in November that he was having his wisdom teeth out on Dec. 31st, but in the midst of cross-atlantic and cross continent travel several times, work, 15 performances of a Christmas show I was in and normal busyness, I forgot to put on my calendar and ended up forgetting.  There was one question about it re: insurance and that was the only contact I had about it.  It wasn’t scheduled, she was just thinking she was going to try.  Never heard anything else about it from him or her.

Then I get an email on New Year’s Day from my son.  No word on how he thanked me for his gift, just a note saying “Btw I am doing pretty decent after my wisdom teeth removal yesterday. Thanks for asking about me.”  It’s every dad’s nightmare — forgetting something important about the kids.  But how do you handle this snarky, rude, disrespectful and one-sided relationship expectation?  I tried hitting the apology and asking for help in the future on this.  But again no reply.

My reply to my 17 year old:

See this is where I get confused. I go through birthdays, Christmas and Father’s Day and not a word from my kids. No call; no text; no email. Then my son is angry because I forget to ask about his teeth being pulled. He never mentions it to me. His mom does, six weeks earlier once and I’m in trouble because I forgot to remember and check on him. Meanwhile He won’t respond to emails, texts or phone calls. Yet I’m now a bad guy because I didn’t call.
Son. I would love to have a relationship with you where I would not only hear about your medical situations via emails about insurance, but I would have discussed them with you as well. We would have talked about them in our regular discussions and in the times when you come see me and/or I when I go up there to see you. 
Just to be clear, I’m very sorry I forgot about this. I wish I would have remembered and put a follow up reminder in my calendar so I wouldn’t have neglected this moment in your life.  But like you, I have thousands of things happening in my life in a six week period. One of them was hearing for 2 minutes that my son might have his teeth out on dec 31. No further word or reminder or follow up comment. In fact the only thing from you is your note about not responding to you when you said you thanked me for my Christmas gift — which I emailed back and told you I never received.  There was no mention in that about the teeth either. 
I try to do all I can to build bridges to reach you. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. I didn’t remember. I should have. But it was never intentional on my part to forget or ignore it. I love you and would love to be there through all the issues and pulled teeth in your life (just like I was for the first 15 years you were alive).  
Can you help with this a little bit next time by letting me know just a small amount of what’s going on in your life?

So this is one of those posts where I don’t have any answers.  No recommendations.  Just frustration.  I haven’t seen him since June, haven’t seen his sister since March of last year.  Once again, I keep seeing situations where their entire reality is shifted and everything tilts toward making dad look  like an uncaring idiot.  There is never any need for either of them to use respect or to try to do anything to improve the relationship, it’s all on me, and whatever I do is perceived as negative.  If I communicate, I’m not giving them space, if I give them space, I don’t care.  If I send a gift, I’m a jerk for not responding to some phantom communication (still don’t know what the heck he is talking about…), or I am ignored completely (no response at all from my daughter).

And so begins the new year.