Saturday, April 21, 2007

Check It Out: Divorced Dads Matter

If you are a father working through a divorce, one of the sites that I recommend you visit is The site, in the author's own words, was:

"..started by a typical father who was, and is still, constantly amazed at the prevailing social view of father’s as secondary parents and the court systems approval of this attitude. Divorced Dads Matter seeks to offer support, information, and a voice for good fathers that simply want to love and be a meaningful part of their children’s lives. This is not an organization. This is not a legal service. This is just one person’s attempt to shed light on the injustice that father’s often face during divorce and custody rights litigation and post-divorce issues faced by single fathers and fathers in new relationships. All reasonable perspectives are welcome regardless of age, race, sexual identity, creed, or religion. Fatherhood is fatherhood, and all tolerant fathers opinions, needs, and voices are welcome here."
A complete description of what is about can be found on their about page. If you want to learn more, please visit it and read in the author's own words why the site was started, and what was his motivation. If you are a father struggling with fatherhood and divorce or looking to create a tighter bond with your son, then there is something creative, empowering, and informative here for you.

How I Got Started Blogging About Divorce

The driving force behind this blog was that, through my divorce, I have been unable to find truly empowering sources of support online. From the perspective of a husband in mid-life going through divorce, most of the resources I found dealt with either financial, legal, or custody-related issues. Very little spoke of or dealt with the emotional upheaval, or empowering men to move on without anger, resentment, or being victims of their past.

In early January 2007, I finally moved out of my house after living for several months in separate rooms under the same roof with my wife. I worked from home as a computer programmer and my wife did not work. This left us with tension-filled days as we would avoid communicating with each other unless it was absolutely necessary. We would fight out of our resentment and anger towards each other. And while I was angry and hurt, I was still left asking myself the question "why?" Why me? Why now? What did I do to deserve this? I thought I was a good husband. I certainly loved my wife, cared for her, and provided her for unconditionally. Wasn't this enough? Rather, shouldn't that be enough? But it was clear to me finally that my wife did not respect me, appreciate me, or find me attractive. If anything, she now resented me, demeaned me, and felt that she deserved better than I as a partner. With this realization, my self-esteem plummeted and I began to feel scared, guilty, and hateful towards myself. "It has to be my fault", I thought. "You brought this on yourself." Self loathing is a hurtful, angry way to express frustration and fear. At that time, I felt that I controlled nothing in my life; the only bright spot in my day was the time I spent with my son after he came home from school. During those four hours, we would act civilly and as a family. One he went to bed, though, things would go back to "normal" (if you can really call it that).

Once I moved out and in with some family, I soon came to realize that there was a relationship between my feelings of victimization and the negative self image that I had come to adopt. This put me on a journey where for weeks, all I did was read about empowerment, divorce, dating, relationships, and spirituality (as I continue to post, I will share my reading list with you). During this time I did very little else, and piece by piece, aspects of each book began making more and more sense to me. Across all materials, one thing was for sure: the road to empowerment began with personal responsibility and the release of external validation for one's self image and worth. The first law of evolution was born; I just did not know it at the time, and certainly cannot take credit for it. After this, the more I read, the more I began to absorb and write about in my journal. One of the professional skills that I am good at is categorizing information and grouping it logically. So as things made sense to me and I could appreciate their value, I began to reduce these items into statements that, eventually, turned into what I like to call the "Laws of Evolution".

Now, these laws have a "divorce" flavor to them, but honestly they can apply to anyone. They focus first on empowerment, and second on the emotions, roadblocks, and experiences that divorced people go through. While geared towards men, the laws know and respect no gender. They work for anyone open to reading, consuming, and following them. Evolution is not a perfect process; it is, however, smart enough to recognize when something works (like a shark), and something does not (like a Dodo). As men and women struggling to cope with divorce experiences, our hope to evolve into something better, complete, and whole must be fed and supported. That being said, the "Laws of Evolution" are my contribution to this effort. The list is perpetually incomplete, and I will blog about each law, to the tune of two or three per week. I hope they bring value to your life, clarity to your mind, and help you - even if only in a little way - cope with your experiences in a positive way that pushes your life forward.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Evolution Example: Using a Journal as a Measurement Tool

Divorce can be such a roller coaster ride. The range of emotions you experience can be overwhelming at times. And it is during these times that we lose our focus on what is truly beneficial in our lives; what can heal us, give us peace, strength, and prosperity. Since the roller coaster is an internal one, it can be difficult to recognize in the moment what you are feeling and the effect is has on you. Depression, anger, resentment, pity, fear, doubt, guilt -- each of these feelings can be debilitating. Documenting your feelings in a journal can help you make sense of this.

One of the key benefits to the journal is that it is a tool to ground you in your reality and allow you to review your past as it was recorded (vs. as you remember). The benefit to this is that our memories are fallible. Words and ink, however, cannot easily be erased. Written words have power as they paint pictures, evoke emotions, and describe feelings specific to what and when they were recorded. When you read your journal entries, the words you wrote will evoke memories of how you felt when you were writing them - in a way that allows you to observe your behavior and emotions without being completely drawn into them. From this perspective, you can learn about yourself and begin to evolve your behavior in a less reactive and more empowering way. This is what the journal will provide: detached visibility into the history of our experience through divorce.

Here are a few keys to consider when starting a journal. For those of you that do write regularly, please feel free to comment on other tips and suggestions regarding journal authoring:

  • Write often and regular; consistency is key. One of the keys to journal writing is to write regularly. Now, entries do not need to be lengthy as this is not an essay content (that being said, if you like to write allot then power to you; do what you enjoy). Make sure, however, that you do write at least a few times a week. The more you author, the more you will find the journal becoming a constructive outlet for you.
  • Be purposeful and descriptive about your experiences. This is your journal, so make sure that your entries are descriptive about your feelings, emotions, and experiences. Really try to articulate what you want to say (ex. Instead of saying "I miss my son" try and express what it is that you miss, why you miss him, and how missing him makes you feel).
  • Do not judge your writing; journal entries are judgement free. Journals can be very powerful tools when the author is comfortable enough to not censor themselves with natural behaviors such as judgement, guilt, or embarrassment. You might say to yourself "I can't write that; even though its how I feel. I'm too embarrassed, or writing that would make me such a jerk." Let me tell you, as natural as it is, it is also debilitating, regressive, and pointless. No power comes from judgement of one's self. If anything, judgement takes power away from one's self and others. So, have the courage to write what you feel and do it without censoring yourself. If you are hard on yourself, learning to author without judgement will be a key event in your evolution.
  • Respect and honor your privacy; secure your journal in a safe place. If you are willing to take on writing a journal, respect and honor this decision by securing your journal in a safe place. These thoughts are yours; that being said they are important, private, and should not be viewed by prying eyes. Find a safe place to keep your journal, and only share this information with people you choose. The better the security, the more comfortable you will feel about authoring.
Looking to the future, you can use a journal as a tool to document feelings, events, and goals and then review each of these items over time and measure your progress. Personally, starting a journal was one of the key decisions I made during my divorce. It allowed me to articulate my feelings, review them and the circumstances that would trigger them, and then assess whether that behavior pattern moved my life forward or regressed it backwards. It was not always perfect, mind you, but it helps me find and maintain my life's focus when things would get out of control. Hopefully, it will do the same for you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Law of Evolution #2: Measurement Is Empowering

Evolutionary Law #2: Measurement is Empowering. In order to evolve constructively, I must remember where I started, acknowledge the roads taken, and consistently measure my progress. Intelligent evolution cannot occur without consistent and accurate personal measurement.

The purpose behind the second law is to learn how to apply the discipline of the personal responsibility to foster evolution in a positive, intelligent, grounded, and empowering manner. The second law is rooted in the application of personal responsibility with a focus on becoming an observer of ourselves in our lives, instead of just a participant. In order words, we must focus on learning about our behavior instead of being victimized by it. Mind you, this does not happen all the time -- but we need to understand when it does, and why we chose in that moment to react that way.

Divorce can be such a roller coaster ride. The range of emotions you experience can be overwhelming at times. And it is during these times that we lose our focus on what is truly beneficial in our lives. Since the roller coaster is an internal one, it can be difficult to recognize in the moment what you are feeling and the effect is has on you as you live your life. Depression, anger, resentment, pity, fear, doubt, guilt -- each of these feelings can be debilitating. It is in these debilitating moments that we need to look inside ourselves, and make an effort to understand and measure the following about our experience through divorce:

  • Why do I feel like this? It's important to get to the root of our feelings. As yourself why your feelings have taken this turn, and be honest with yourself about what you are experiencing (try to be as specific as possible; "upset" is not the same as "angry and rejected"). While it is important to live in your experience, is it also important to not be driven by it. No empowerment can come from a lack of control. So, ask yourself humble, introspective questions and be brave enough to answer them with dignity.
  • What triggered these feelings? Once you can describe your feelings, the next question to ask is what triggered them. Was it a conversation, or familiar memory, or maybe even a feeling or emotion? The importance behind this question is that we need to understand the root or source of our experience if we are ever going to be in a position to change it.
  • What is my payoff for feeling like this? In addition to getting to the root, we need to ask what is the "benefit" we are receiving for our feelings. Now, I use the word benefit loosely here, because it most cases there really isn't one. As part of our evolution, we need to understand the payoffs that help perpetuate our less-than-beneficial emotional states.

Through these questions, we can construct a framework for measuring and educating ourselves regarding the root of our experiences. Once we understand that, we can then empower ourselves to change our experience for the better. Divorce can be so reactionary, so defensive. Well, when we react and become defensive, we release our ability to be introspective about our experience. Try to recognize this the next time you find yourself reacting to an event stemming from your divorce.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Evolution Example: Taking Responsibility

I think the primary evolutionary law for all people regardless of their life, relationships, or situation is to take or accept responsibility for their surroundings. If you want to evolve, its difficult to change or re-direct your life if you are not in control of it. Well, when you absolve yourself of responsibility, you also relinquish your control and place yourself at the mercy of external forces.

Now, this is pretty standard human behavior - so if you currently do this (and you probably do), don't feel odd or awkward about it. There are no judgments here. The great thing about evolution is that it is an ongoing, continuous process with no end. No one ever stops and says "I'm all evolved out.", right? The important this, however, is to recognize when you are accepting responsibility for your actions, and when you are absolving yourself of it.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, not quite. I have the following exercise I recommend for everyone to take part in. The exercise requires that you document a list of responsible statements specific to a given situation or outcome in your life. Here are the rules:

  • Define scope for the exercise. Before you begin with statements, you need to define a tight/narrow scope for which the statements will apply. The tighter the scope, the more specific you can be with your statements. Good examples of this include "Why my marriage failed", "Why I am unhappy at work", "Why my relationships always end quickly", etc. Bad examples include "Why my life sucks", "Why people hate me", and "Why is life so hard". Remember -- the more specific the better.
  • No put downs or judgemental statements are allowed. Remember that these statements need to be empowering, and provide real, honest, vulnerable insight into a given situation. Saying "My marriage failed because I suck." is not empowering. Saying "My marriage failed because I was afraid to be vulnerable with my feelings and emotions", however, is because it gives you something to work with for the future.
  • Focus on quality vs. quantity. It's better to have a handful of honest, vulnerable, and revealing statements than to have a large list of filler that do not give you any new insight or visibility into your life. The key, here, is to be honest and reflective about what really happened. If you need to involve friends or other people to gain this clarity then do it; the more help and support you have, the better off you will be. The more insightful the statement, the more powerful you will feel -- and that power can then be harnessed to change the direction of your life.

Here is an example from my life. Please feel free to model yours after mine, and I am open to receiving any feedback from people regarding my list. I don't pretend that my list is complete, but I do know that it is honest and a reflection of what I have learned about myself:

Why my marriage failed,and my role in the failure.
by Guy Getting Divorced (

  1. I failed to articulate what my needs were in our relationship.
  2. I did not define boundaries between my wife and I to help describe what was acceptable to me, and what was not regarding her behavior and participation in our relationship.
  3. I did not attempt to meet her needs, and shunned them when I felt violated or abused.
  4. I chose the wrong person to marry.
  5. I reacted without thinking to her, allowing myself to be manipulated by my wife's unhappiness.
  6. I took responsibility for my wife's unhappiness, instead of recognizing that her feelings and emotions were her responsibility and while I could trigger them, she was ultimately in control of them.
  7. I did not pay attention to the subtext of my wife's communication with me. I did not read her body language, mannerisms, or her verbal communication and use this as an indicator of where our relationship was.
  8. I felt obligated to shoulder the blame for our relationship falling apart.
  9. I avoided interactions with my wife as a way to avoid the stress, anger, and anxiety that existed between us.
  10. I over-worked, thinking that money could be used as a way to seek the approval or acceptance of my wife given the strife that existed between us.
  11. I focused too much on my wife's happiness, and neglected my own.
  12. I neglected my health and well being, especially towards the end of my marriage.
  13. I neglected my self image, and purposely lost the will to groom and be impeccable with my looks and appearance. I did this as a reaction to how I felt inside, and this helped push my wife further from me.
  14. I based my feelings of self-worth on my wife and her negative perception of me.
  15. I failed to lead our relationship, and instead was happy maintaining the status quo as long as we did not have any visible conflict between us.
What I learned, through this exercise, was that I basically gave my power away. I allowed the events outside of my life to define how I felt about myself and who I was. Hindsight being what it is, this explained allot to me about why things failed. It also shed light on what I can do to evolve out of this unhealthy, demeaning, and subversive condition.

So now its your turn. Do this on your own. If you want, post your lists to this thread. Seek feedback from other people, and be open to their comments and statements. You don't have to like what they say, or even honor it for that matter. But being open to it, however, is a symbol of evolution in itself. It shows that you are looking for change, but not without purpose, merit, or value.