A football (or soccer ball) icon.
A football (or soccer ball) icon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The thought occurred to me the other day, sitting in the soccer stands, watching another of my son’s high school games.  I must be contagious.  Why else would the former friends and soccer-watching-fellow-parents keep a judicious 20 feet away from me?  They’ll say hi, assuming I make eye contact and they haven’t looked away fast enough or assuming there’s no one else within a 50 foot radius and they have no choice in order to avoid a major social faux pas.


I wonder if wives tell husbands they’d better not have friendships with these divorced guys — they might catch that divorce fever and then their marriage is headed for the ICU as well….  I’m being a bit facetious.  Of course wives don’t have these conversations — they don’t need to — their husbands already get it from the negative reactions their wives have to any alternative view of the situation then the poor single mother who now must make a go of it on her own.  

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not judging any single mothers — there are many of them out there who are doing whatever they can to ensure their kids have a great relationship with their father and are working their tails off to support the now split family.  I’m judging this judgment that our society has for single fathers where we are guilty until proven innocent — and theirs no trial or place for us to ever prove that innocence.  So we are just guilty.  Most mature adults realize that it takes two to tango.  Most parents tell their kids that there are two sides to every story and maybe rather than judging the side we don’t know about, we should be curious and care enough to find out what is happening on both sides of the equation.


Instead, we have experiences like a week ago.  One of the mom’s from my old church walked by with her 8 year old son (whom I taught in his Church Programs).  We used to talk very regularly in our small group.  I knew her kids well — I’d taught them, coached them, and been their camp counselor.  As they walked by, I saw the 8 year old tug on her arm and say (not quite out of reach of my ears), “Momma, why don’t we talk to Mr. Jim anymore.”


I would have given $100 to hear her response.


I’m fairly certain I didn’t treat divorcees as contagious before I went through  this.  I’m also fairly certain I didn’t go out of my way to love on them.  One of the last times I was at my old church, I walked in late to a pre-Easter service and there was a chair open next to an acquaintance of mine.  It was three months after my separation and filing for divorce.  It was a pretty emotional time for me.  I sat down next to Charles.  He immediately patted my knee and made me feel welcome.  It was all I could do to keep from breaking down in tears.  Just that little human touch meant so much at that moment for me.  I wasn’t contagious to Charles.


All of this reminds me of the approach Jesus took toward the divorced and the contagious in the Gospels.  The woman at the well had been divorced 5 times and was living with her current man.  Jesus treated her with respect and love when no one else would even talk to her.  If you look at the interactions with the truly contagious, like the lepers, even then, Jesus had no qualms about touching them and being involved in their lives.


What we need is more people treating divorcees and non-divorcees a like as non-contagious and people needing love.  Go do that today.









Good Faith Negotiations

Sign of good faith
Sign of good faith (Photo credit: GravitysAppleNZ)

I had asked in a previous post at what point do I stop doing kind things for my ex-wife if I get no response at all.  I have reached that point.

This weekend I received a call from the ex.  The house has sold, and her concern is that she doesn’t have any cash to put down on a new rental house.  She has looked at over 100 houses (I didn’t have the heart to tell her that seeing houses listed online is not “looking”) and she lost one this weekend because she didn’t have any money to put down.  I said I would love to help her, but would need some help from her in return with the relationship with the kids and with the settlement discussions.  She’s still asking for huge $$ per month and I have no contact with my teens still.

Wondering why she did not see about getting deposit money prior to looking for the new rental house?

She said she can’t “force them” to talk with me (her standard response) and that she deserves all the money.  So I said okay, I can’t help her.  She hung up on me, after some yelling.

I think it is time I stop being walked on like a well-worn welcome mat.  I made a list today of the ways that I have offered Good Faith olive branches to help during the divorce situation and the reciprocation received by the ex.  I came up with almost 20 different points in the last six months where I have paid bills I didn’t have to, solved problems immediately when she requested help and generally jumped right in to assist in any situation she asked me to.  From things like weeding the yard (and paying for a landscape crew to finish it) to paying soccer bills and resolving medical insurance situations to paying above and beyond the money due for Child Support, not getting credited for it and then being forced to pay more as a result.  I’m shaking my head in frustration.

Through all of this, I have asked for one thing — that she not alienate me from my kids, that she encourage them to have a relationship with their dad and that she get them into counseling. It’s been six months, and I’ve heard that they are now finally in counseling, though I don’t have the name of the counselor or her number and the counselor has not spoken to me — but apparently is already telling the kids that they shouldn’t have a relationship with me.

So my theory is — I will not do anything else for her until she shows Good Faith in the negotiation process.  She has done absolutely nothing to this point to show any good faith.  So I’m done negotiating with myself.

My brother told me last night that I’m finally setting up boundaries in my life with her.  That she will most definitely be very, very frustrated by these boundaries, but that they must be set up and held to and that it should encourage a quicker resolution.

That is my prayer. Thanks for all your notes of encouragement and comments of late.  Good to know I’m not in this alone!


Seeds of Discontent

A friend commented the other night that she doesn’t get why some moms and dads continually sow seeds in their families which cause their kids to doubt or think negatively about the other parent.  I replied that I wish only seeds were sown.  My ex backed up a flatbed truck and unloaded a fully grown tree which she proceeded to plant and water…  

But it got me thinking.  Unfortunately this “tree of discontent” has put me in a place where my kids aren’t talking to me at all.  They are calling me by my first name and work to disrespect me or treat me as rudely as possible whenever they get an opportunity.  

I went over to the house the other day to drop off a check for some yard work that was being done to help sell the house.  In an uncharacteristic and abnormal moment, the ex invited me in and we talked for a bit about the house selling.  The kids were out playing in the pool and when they saw Dad in the window, my 17 year old ran up the deck stairs (boyfriend in tow) and poked her head in with a panicked: “Mom, mom, are you okay?”  The ex looked at her quizzically and shook her off like she was being annoyed by even the suggestion that she wouldn’t be.  

That stuck with me.  I know my daughter wasn’t worried about mom being physically or even emotionally hurt by me — the only abuse that happened in the marriage went the other way.  So why make this “scene?”  I think the answer is that it is a direct result of the seeds/tree of discontent that was fostered in the home.  Dad is to blame for anything/everything bad and therefore must be made to feel stupid or awkward as often as possible.  It was a contrived “panic” induced to make Dad feel stupid.  She was a poor actress, but succeeded in making me feel a bit ridiculous.  Also, I think the scene was staged well for the boyfriend…  

These things don’t happen in non-alienated environments. Moms don’t put up with that type of behavior and dads are able to address it on the spot and still have authority to command some form of respect from their children.  

I guess what I am saying is that be careful the seeds you are sowing.  My ex was obviously embarrassed and very uncomfortable by my daughter’s behavior.  It was silly and senseless and obviously a show and she knew it as well as I did.  Hopefully, she realized that maybe this wasn’t the direction she wanted to raise her kids toward?  Maybe that’s wishful thinking.  

When I’m back in relationship with the kids, I need to be very careful to spray some weedkiller on any of the seeds of discontent my kids sow against their mom and be the standard for how we don’t go there.

Until then, still trying to navigate my personal reaction to these types of incidents.  I’m in the ignore them and focus on my love for the kids stage.  Not sure how long that will last or how helpful it really is.  That’s grist for another post.  



The Power of Play

I’m enjoying a weekend with my 5 and 3-year-old nephew and niece this weekend on a family getaway.  Some time ago, I had heard an interview with a Doctor who specializes in treating people with “play.”   He literally sets up games and fun things to do for family members to do together that would help them see each other in a different light and heal some of the wounds of their pasts.  I searched this morning to see if I could find this book or link it and the best I could find was the link below, but I don’t think it’s from the same guy I’d heard.  The concept was initially child-based, but there was talk in the interview about how adults even benefit from this type of interaction and begin to heal as well.

I think that is definitely true for me.  I was miserable after the altercation with my daughter and ex-wife that resulted in our separation and divorce.  I spent a sleepless night in a hotel room and an anguished day just trying to understand what had happened and praying almost non-stop, when I wasn’t on the phone.  That night a colleague of mine who lived in the town where I was meeting clients the next day had agreed to have dinner to discuss covering her accounts during her maternity leave.  She called at the last-minute and said she couldn’t make it because she had to watch her 5-year-old step-daughter.  I told her to bring Izzy along and we’d have a great time the three of us.  So she did.

My colleague and I got through most of the work stuff without much of an issue while Izzy colored and kept herself busy.  She kept asking questions of me by raising her hand and I would call on her like she was a student.  “You in the yellow top, with the cute curly hair, yes, did you have a question?”  She got the biggest kick out of that and halfway through the meal she slid under the table and joined me on my side.  We kept talking about school, her friends, her future career (hysterical from a 5-year-old perspective) and just genuinely had fun together.  As I was getting ready to leave I asked if I could have a hug goodbye.  So Izzy backed all the way to the rear wall of the booth and ran full speed the length of the booth and threw herself into my arms.  I caught her and swung her around a bit just grinning ear to ear. Then she did the thing every normal 5-year-old does. ” Can I do it again?”  Four times later her step-mom decided it might be causing a distraction in the restaurant and said it was time to go.  I told Izzy that I was incredibly blessed to get “jump-hugs” because those are always the best kind and went back to my hotel and cried for a half hour.  Not necessarily out of sadness, but because I had literally felt like God had gifted me that dinner to help get me through the ordeal.  I literally felt so blessed.

I think that was mostly due to play.  There is something so freeing and innocent and loving about truly playing with someone.  Whether you’re kicking a ball around or climbing a tree or playing a video game or giving piggy back rides, a child can help us break out of the shell of despondency and the self-doubt and recrimination and emerge on the other side a more well-rounded person.

Sports are a form of this, but can often be waylaid by hyper-competitiveness or unrealistic expectations.  I’ve found in my volleyball games that if I spend the night encouraging every good thing I see from others, we all have such a great time together.  It’s only when someone starts ripping on someone else’s playing ability that people get frustrated.  So sports allows some of this healing, too. I’m not any kind of expert on medical things, but the endorphins released during exercise have similar ability to heal emotional wounds.  Running, lifting, getting in shape all help us rise above the emotional pain we are struggling with.  Yes there are times when we need a day curled up in a  fetal position on the couch.  There is a time for everything.  But at some point we need to rise from the couch and get active.  There’s freedom, growth, healing in that activity.  Go play today…


The Church and divorce

English: An illustration from Fables in Rhyme ...

In the process of the divorce I am discovering something very sad about our churches.  They are built for women and this is never more obvious than during the divorce proceedings.

I see statistics all the time about how men are not attending church as much as they used to and that women are still pretty committed to churches.  I think that is partly because of the wussy way we portray Jesus (meek and mild, holding little lambs, wearing a dress, etc.).  For those who have read John Eldredge, Walter Wangerin and Philip Yancey, you’ll understand a very different view of Jesus.  Most of the solid Christian men I know are NOT this kind of man, they are strong and wise and work out and love football and aren’t wimpy.

Yet in the church, we have a ton of women’s ministry things and very few men’s offerings.

We tend to overprotect our kids in the kids program and not allow room for adventure or (God Forbid) any kind of risk or danger.  As any boy knows, the memories we have of growing up always involve both risk and danger.  Why does the church have to be so safe all the time?  No wonder many men don’t want to keep coming back.  I’m not talking about safety things like sign-ins or security issues, but I am talking about how we sit and talk about everything, but don’t often experience things.  Guys are all about experience.  When we do sit and talk small groups, we get bored and want to do something about it.  Maybe mixing in the sit and talk with the get out and do in a 50/50 environment would be helpful?

Since this is a blog about alienated Dads, it might help to get back into the real reason for noticing this now.  Part of the “safety” of the church is convincing Dads to be safe and side with their wives during any divorce situation around them.  I joke with my (new) friends about “losing my church in the divorce.”  But it is not a joke.  I am serious.  I led a small group for 3 years for couples, I led a small group of jr high boys for 2 years.  I worked in the children’s ministry for 3 years.  I was INVOLVED in my church.  I knew a ton of people who were my friends, who knew my wife, who’s kids were friends with my kids.

Interestingly enough, as close as I was to the men in my small group, only one of them (my best friend) has reached out to me in any way over the months since the separation.

Please understand, I am not bitter about this.  I’m a bit saddened by it and frustrated with it, but I totally understand why.  I was in the same boat before my separation.  What is “safe” for men is to NOT get involved, to NOT try to understand both sides of the story.  Why?  Because that could breed conflict with their wives.  It didn’t matter that I was closer to the men than my wife was to the women.  I would do lunch with them, work on projects with them, go to retreats with them.  My ex-wife wouldn’t do any of these things.  She really only interacted with these women at church or in the shared events with the kids.

Yet when the separation occurred, I think largely because the kids stayed with their mom, all of these friends immediately rallied around my ex-wife, and completely abandoned me.  In the same way, none, literally NONE of the people I have worked under in ministry in the church have reached out to me one time to check on me or to help.

I think I’m finally writing about this because I’m not angry anymore about it.  I think I understand the whys behind it.  It’s less painful and scary to just have a “goat” in the equation.  “This marriage ended because of Jim’s actions.”  While we all intuitively know that there are two sides to one story, but it is much easier to live on one side of the equation.  There’s a lot less cognitive dissonance that way.

For those not familiar with the term, Cognitive Dissonance is the ability to carry two thoughts that are opposing in your head at the same time without your head exploding.  I’m a Celtic fan, but I can appreciate that LeBron is a great player.  I voted for Romney, but I see value in some of Obama’s ideas.  I believe in traditional marriage, but have friends that are gay.

It is much easier in churches to drink the kool-aid completely and not allow room for variance.  Even in the examples above, the people that don’t value Obama ideas, or don’t even like gays seem to be more acceptable than those who can live in a world that allows competing and different thoughts.  Here’s the aha about all of this.  Jesus LIVED this.  “Go and Sin no more” to the lady in adultery.  He LOVED her, yet encouraged her to leave her sin.  “While we were yet sinners, Christ loved us.”  Jesus does this constantly.  He is not only able to carry these competing thoughts in his head, he seems to relish it.  It is so countercultural and so unusual, it makes him stand out significantly from the rest of the world.  And this is the example that we should also carry.

I’m working on this with my ex-wife as well.  There were many, many things done against me and to help ruin our marriage that are very difficult to comprehend.  I can’t imagine treating someone I love in the way I was treated.  Yet I am working very hard to not see myself as a victim or to not blame her for the failure of the marriage.  It does take two people to make a marriage and two people to break one up.

I think the hard part of what I experience at the church is that this Cognitive Dissonance is a much harder road to navigate than the blame one, support the other road.  It is always easier to judge than to be understanding.

The church I have landed at is literally “designed for men.”  This is a quote I found online about it.  They literal floor plan and architecture is built to help men feel at home.  I do agree that it is very cool in the way it looks.  But this also extends to opportunities for men — to serve in traffic control, rebuilding cars, doing construction projects, etc.  There are also many, many places for Women, and I haven’t yet seen how the youth or children’s ministries are structured, but it is a good start.  I have mentioned to a couple of new friends about going through a divorce and the first comment both times was, “We’re not here to judge, just to help you get through it.”

How refreshing that is.  So I’m not giving up on the church, but I am struggling with how to advise churches about how to get out of this “siding with one spouse” tradition and helping them provide a place for both to work through the divorce and emerge stronger on the other side.

Tips On How To Deal With Stress In Family Court

Great notes about how to Handle stressful court situations. Hope to have this at hand for next week’s sessions.

About The Children, LLC's Blog

Parents Under Duress

            Often times in family law parents are put through the ringer in terms of the stress involved in fighting for custody of their children. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of parents who have been going to court over the same issue for years because their ex keeps bringing it into the court room or they are constantly violating the court order that was originally established or a myriad of other reasons that can cause family legal cases to get drawn out unnecessarily. The best thing you can do for yourself if you find yourself in a stressful court situation is to keep your head straight and your facts straight. Here are some tips for parents going through the family court process and finding the opposition increasingly difficult to deal with.

  • Hold Fast. It’s not uncommon for a mother or father to go to court over…

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Two Sides to a story

So the ex-wife asked for a conversation with me today.  We arranged to meet at a park midway between our homes.  I was going to write something sarcastic, but thought the better of it.

Suffice it to say that the talk didn’t go well and ended with me leaving under a hail of insults, hurled at a volume that any passersby would hear.

That said, I did learn something from the event.  It is fascinating to me the ways different people perceive the same circumstances.  Issues that I have expressed to my friends and family about struggles we had in the marriage were presented back to me in the exact opposite viewpoint.

If there’s anything to encourage you dads/moms also struggling through this, it would probably be that there are two sides to every divorce.  I have been trying to see things from her perspective at times, but have only looked at part of the picture.  It’s caused me to do some soul-searching today and make sure that I am working through all the junk from my marriage that I truly need to manage.  That is sobering.

None of that excuses any of the actions of the alienating parent, but it at least puts it into context with how they are functioning and thinking.

I’ve been praying a lot today about making sure God is working on all the stuff in my life that I need to address.  I think I have addressed and begun to heal from much of the pain of the past, but I also want to make sure that I’m not skipping over some of the littler stuff to work on the big stuff.  It’s all stuff.  It all needs to be brought to God and prayed over and dealt with in order for me to emerge on the other side a better man.

I can’t do a thing to change the ex.  She has not gotten better over the last six months, she has become even more bitter, more angry, more hostile.  I can’t change that.  But I can use whatever bit of truth there was in her anger to continue to ensure that I’m on the path God wants me to be travelling.