Final ramblings from a divorced dad

I was married once. For almost fifteen years. I had three children with my ex-wife and, for the most part, our relationship was actually pretty good. I mean, we had our petty arguments, some disappointments and minor failures, but we had the kind of family people would suggest to us was “perfect”. It wasn’t, but then, whose is? It was quite a shock to many people when we chose to separate and then divorce.

Divorce when you’re parents is trauma multiplied. We both resolved to ensure that the children were as cushioned as possible from the emotional fallout. They have coped admirably, prompting one school counsellor to suggest that they were even doing too well under the circumstances. They’ve had some questions, my youngest son in particular, but we have all managed to adapt.

Dark thoughts

There was a period for about a year after the divorce when I fell apart. Having moved into a tiny cottage (by choice), I found it incredibly difficult to sustain myself emotionally. The slightest hiccup was magnified, so, when I lost my job and was also violently robbed in my home by three attackers, I started having dark thoughts about ending my life. My life insurance policy was still in place, so it seemed to make sense. My crude line of reasoning was that my children would be better provided for if I was dead.

After a dismal attempt at suicide, a few close friends rallied around to keep me going. With words, their presence and well-timed visits I began to re-emerge from the fog.

I’d not realised the extent to which being in a relationship can protect you from having to face your anger, failure and other frailties. Without the buffer, it was as though I’d become childlike again. Every ripple felt like vinegar in a raw and exposed emotional wound.

There were times when I’d not speak to other adults for days, and found my only connection to the world was through social media where I’d make cryptic, rambling updates that left people either amused or worried for my mental health.

Even my ex was concerned. The children came to me every week, but my ability to care for them was diminished by my depression. That said, having them with me some days of the week was a small pleasure. They’d get on with being kids, playing, bickering and arguing over who gets to choose the movie to watch. I was often more of an observer than participant in their lives.

But then a strange thing happened. I began to accept who I was. The identity I’d lost as a husband and father had taken with it my sense of self. It took months to come to terms with being a man in his late thirties with no purpose. It took that in order to become a man in his late thirties with a purpose.

I made an effort to make some new friends to fill the void left by church friends who had disappeared as fast as the ink dried on the divorce certificate and other friends lost in the divorce or to life's natural attrition.

The "D" word

It’s quite obvious that I was in no state to inflict myself on anyone else romantically. I was still disturbed to have to tick that option “DIVORCED” on official forms- it just didn’t seem like me. I imagine that the classification feels as bad as the passive, yet resounding, condemnation the word “single” carries.

Divorced dad. That wasn’t how I felt. “Divorced” describes the end of a relationship, not a current state. It’s a purgatorial state of limbo; suspended animation. It’s a label.

The word “single” didn’t describe me, either. I wasn’t some eligible bachelor, throwing soirées and entertaining loads of women. Single, to me, seems to imply “available”.

My ex is a great person. That’s why we were together so long. Over twenty years. I have huge respect for her as a parent. Her perspective on the same period belongs to her, but she has since married a good man who is incredible with my kids when they’re with them. We get on.

I wasn’t available, but then I met a friend who managed to invert everything I’d been thinking and doing. Meeting her was like having a light going on so that I could see clearly again. Despite the circumstances, we didn’t just fall in love, we plummeted.

I was careful to manage my children’s reactions to this new person in my life, but, since she has worked with children all her life, she’s been fantastic with them.

And that’s it: the end of a divorce. In a few days’ time I am marrying a wonderful person. Both my partner and I have been married before and we’re carrying the lessons learned into our relationship.

The kids? They’re happy, I guess. Soon they'll have more steps than the Eiffel Tower with our blended families. We’re all getting on with life, attempting to keep ourselves afloat.

Divorce- I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but it can teach some brutally elegant lessons about life.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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