Defending Divorced Dads: Nine Years and Counting

One divorced dad shares his reflections, both positive and negative, of the experience of divorce in today’s shifting social arrangements.

This article is probably one of the hardest pieces I have ever chosen to write, but it’s the one to which I have given the greatest consideration. Discussing divorce is much like discussing death. It’s painful and sad, but it cannot be ignored. If you have been through it, the experience and the status of being divorced is part of your identity and consciousness no matter how much you want to deny it. Having an adult discussion about what it does to families and to the lives of individuals takes courage and openness.

It’s easy to think that what I have to say might anger or alienate someone. I have no intention of doing that. For years, I have dreamed about writing a book entitled “Surviving Divorce,” but since this is a process rather than an event, it would be hard to write a concluding chapter. After twelve years of marriage, my then-wife and mother of three children decided that the man she met at work would make a better spouse than I was. She waited six years to marry him, and now he is the stepfather of my children.

In that whole process, the greatest lesson I came to learn was one of forgiveness. As a Christian, this was also the greatest test of my faith in God and his commandment for me to forgive others as He forgave us. Moreover, I pray that, whatever pain I have caused my ex-wife and my children in the process, they might one day be able to forgive me. From the start, I knew it would be important to remain civil and keep the lines of communication open with my ex-wife. We had to work together to co-parent our children of school age. I knew that the pain of rejection and loss of the ideal of marriage would compound the trauma of a loss of family that the children were already experiencing. I give my ex-wife credit for raising the children in as positive atmosphere as she could create given the changing circumstances, and we both pride ourselves on our ability to coordinate events and communicate our concerns without letting the pain of our separation get in the way.

My greatest regrets aside from the destruction of the family unit is the loss of time that I could have had with my children. Our custody arrangement is “joint” in name since we both make decisions affecting the children together. But I am the non-custodial parent, so they spend more time at their mom’s than at their dad’s. To compensate for the loss of time with the kids, I know that every minute I spend with the kids is precious. I see their time with me as formative in that it is during those weekday dinner times, our weekends together, and our summer months that I have to put my imprint on my kids as they become adults. As a teacher, I try to share my love of learning, music, art, and culture with my children. As a Christian, I try model for them what it means to have a relationship with God through worship and prayer. I know their mom does these things for them as well in her own way. The aspects of her personality with which I fell in love with more than twenty years ago are still a part of her personality, and I see them shine through in the developing personality of our kids.

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