I hear a staggering number of stories about divorced dads who are difficult and inflict both direct and indirect harm on their children and ex’s. And each one of these stories is important because each one of us, whether we are the mother or the child, must live out the ripple effects of the unique circumstances surrounding us.
That being said, I do know three shining examples of men who got it right. By right, I mean they do not see divorce as an endless series of opportunities “to win.” They see it as sad, real and a time to be practical and mindful.
I would love to take a moment to pay tribute to these men and other men like them. I do this to step back and get perspective, myself. But I also do it to inspire divorced moms and to shine a light ahead on our path forward. There are good men out there. There are! Take heart.
Here are three men I know who managed to handled things like child custody and support, alimony, marital property and co-parenting in a mature manner and with integrity:
1. My Step-father: My step-father did not want the divorce from his first wife. Yet, even if he had wanted it, he would have behaved the same way. It’s just who he was. The kids were in college so custody was a non-issue. He helped his sons with costs and getting started and always, always made time for them and maintained close ties with them.
With his former wife, he pretty much divided everything down the middle and said, “Here.” End of story. And he walked away without bitterness; although I know he had to do this as a conscious practice. He managed his anger and hard feelings and made a choice to proceed with respect and a practical generosity.
2. My Brother: You could almost take the above story of my step-father and repeat it here. The difference is that my brother had two young children and was laid off in the midst of the recession and these differences have obvious ramifications. First and foremost, money was tight and the looming picture of their financial world was grim.
So, what did he do? He left her the house. He left her the “good” car, after he fixed it up. He moved out to live with my other brother while he tried to get on his feet. And he always made sure to be available for his kids almost every day. The kids lived with their mother but, because she worked long shifts at the hospital my brother spent his evenings with the girls helping with dinner and homework. He wouldn’t, in a million years say a word against their mother to his kids. He always speaks about his ex in general terms with respect. If you asked him he’d probably say, “I still love her. I mean, I’m not IN love with her, but I love her.”
3. The Other Woman’s Husband: I kept in touch with the “other woman’s” husband after my divorce. In the beginning he basically did the same as my step-father and brother. Marital property was split helf between he and his ex. He didn’t want to win, he wanted to be fair. He just wanted resolution. And most importantly, he wanted his kids to be okay.
Furthermore, he was still able to honor what they had at one time and he had no interest in demonizing her. He asked to have his children every weekend beginning on Thursday afternoons. He wanted to see them as much as possible and be as integrated into their lives as he could while also firmly supporting the bond they have with their mother. He would never in a million years say a word against their mother to his kids.
It is important, regardless of how your ex has behaved, to honor those men who have taken the high road during divorce. And to acknowledge that not all men are jerks. Life, people and some men are still good. Keep the faith!