Many of you are just like me. You used to be somebody. You were a kick-ass dude with his life tightly pulled together. Of course, we all know you are still freakin’ awesome. But now, it’s more like the watered-down divorced kind of awesome. The after divorce kind of awesome. And that doesn’t feel the same at all. You work hard, fall behind, miss out on great events, and you doubt yourself. Divorce is a crazy thing for everyone. Everyone. I know because I have firsthand knowledge. It’s my story too.
There is an endless stream of shows, articles, books, and resources to help newly-divorced women learn to cope without a man (as if they need the help). I’m sure you’ve also heard people yammer on about the virtues of putting the kids first. BTW… if I had a dollar for every clichéd “I am doing it for my kids” line of BS I would be a sitting on a giant pile of cash instead of this office chair. But there is deafening silence when you bring up a discussion about how Dad should deal with the mess that’s left behind after divorce. It doesn’t have to be that way.
It’s time to recognize that it is not a sign of weakness to want to be a man. I am not talking about chopping-wood-in-your-flannel-shirt-while-drinking-whiskey man. I am talking about a man who is part of the experience. A man who has a heart and a soul, a man who doesn’t have to measure his worth in machismo. Don’t misunderstand, it is bad ass to chop wood while drinking whiskey– but it’s so much more than that. You are not a criminal if you fight to be a great dad. You are not the bad guy if you fight for more time with your children. You simply need to GET YOUR SWAGGER BACK.
Here is a cursory list of things you can do to get your emotional swagger back.
Go to a counselor
This step was critical for me. I waited until I was in a really bad place before I went to a professional. Do not delay this step! Most psychologists are wicked smart about what you are going through. You would not sit at home and stew about your car not running, you would go to a mechanic. Dr. Perrin was my mechanic. I don’t think there was any magic, he just showed me a path. Maybe he just listened with no pre-conceived notions about me. Maybe he was a safe place for me to be honest. Whatever it was I cannot stress this enough.
Show your kids the real you
You can shed a tear at your kids first dance because that is major life event. Your kids need to know you are fully engaged on many levels. It is very hard to understand what is going on in their minds. They are generally younger than you (right) and don’t have much life experience with emotions. Hell, as grown men we have not generally been given permission to even have emotions let alone understand them. It is critical that they hear from you about life. Not to preach or even teach but to remind them, even subconsciously, that you care and are interested. There could be terribly inaccurate information pouring into their brains daily from well intended people about your relationship with them. They are smart, they know what you say and what you DO.
Don’t forget all this stuff!
Or course you can hit the gym and regain your body which helps your confidence and all that goes with that. You can be super effective at work and solidify one part of your life. You can get a grip on your budget (or at least try). Don’t forget to read a book, a non-fiction book. Build some great play-lists on Spotify and shut off the TV. And… you can share a beer with your inner most doubts, in your garage, and explain why you can’t hang out anymore. Send that stupid inner voice packing and be awesome again.
This is the first of many posts that point toward potential fixes. Life goes on after divorce. It can be better than ever, but it does take time and effort. I am not a PhD in “manology” nor do I have a team of psychologists backing my research. My degree in divorce is from the school of hard knocks. I am a divorced dad who struggled mightily with my place in the world and still do. I am a regular working guy trying to make ends meet and reset myself. Most importantly I am currently busting my ass to get to a great place.
There will be no vitriol and hate, no low-hanging fruit pointed at former spouses or blaming the system. This is a place to grow, think, love, and come up with some cool shit. Stay tuned for a long-running dialog on being somewhere between functional and a rock star after divorce. Jump on and come along for the ride.