The Sting of Adultery, Part 3

In parts 1 and 2 I discussed how adultery impacts you as a person as well as the impact to your children. The final focus area is on the last major aspect impacted; your case. When you talk about the types of divorce, there are basically two; fault-based and no-fault. The no-fault divorce was introduced in the United States initially in California in 1970, with New York becoming the last state to legalize it in 2010. Prior to 1970, or the year legalized in each particular state, the only means to legally divorce was fault-based where one party had to be found at fault in the marriage. Adultery and abuse were the main fault-based reasons for granting a divorce, and still are today. While statistics vary based on sources, it is estimated that between 30%-60% of married people cheat on their spouse. Even with these high numbers, and the availability of fault-based divorces, the vast majority of divorces filed today are no-fault based. The disparity between infidelity rates and divorce type filings makes you wonder if proving adultery is worth your time.

When looking at the legal costs, not only in money but also in time and emotional capital, of divorce, the track to prove a fault-based divorce is the most draining. The other party most likely is not going to just agree and admit to the wrong-doing. Instead, you have to prove the fault and go through the entire legal process with gathered, analyzed, and undisputable evidence. Many will start down this path, but as they learn the length and difficulty of the road, they choose to settle the divorce based on no-fault. These people discover they can get the outcome they desire, or maybe are most likely to be awarded in the final court hearing, simply by settling and removing the fault from the basis. They look ahead and learn the areas where proving adultery can help their case and where it really doesn’t matter.

An old boss of mine once told me divorce really comes down to just two things; kids and money. The category of kids is pretty simple, where they live and when you get to see them. Everything else is money. It involves alimony, child support, house, cars, savings, property, and about everything else. When you look at adultery and its impact on a divorce, it’s easy to think in those terms. For kids, where they live and when they see their parents, the only way adultery will play in is when the activity is rampant, flagrant, and in front of the kids. Nearly all the time, though, it is an offense between the parents, so it doesn’t involve the kids. As a result, it doesn’t affect a custody decision.

In terms of money, adultery can have an effect in some of the areas. Child support is based on custody and income, so adultery will have no impact here. But in some areas of the country it does have impact on alimony, either the amount, the duration, or both. All the other property divisions, like cars, savings, and the home are just not a result of adultery. Some areas may lean a little in favor of the person not at fault. But you shouldn’t expect anything beyond a 40/60 split. With so little impact, you have to wonder whether to concern yourself with adultery at all. The very low amount of at-fault divorces in the country is a likely indicator that many share the same question.

The answer to me is its power in negotiations. Very few people, especially moms, want a divorce on the record that shows them at fault for divorce on the grounds of adultery. It may take some time, but just having adultery as an option in the final ruling will bring many to the negotiating table. Every divorce is different, but a common factor for all is the existence of areas where each party can’t initially agree. Any negotiating course will tell you the power of leverage. When you have something the other side wants, you have leverage. Adultery, specifically court admissible proof of adultery, can be your leverage to help unstick some of the points in your favor. You may end up with a no-fault divorce, but you will have won some of your desires.

When you are on the receiving end of adultery, the sting certainly affects you in many ways. Your children are also the victims of adultery’s damage. While there are few actual legal advantages for the party not at fault in adultery, there are absolutely no advantages for the cheater! I’ve never heard an example where proving adultery actually hurt someone’s case. It certainly won’t win all the kids and money, but it can have good effects on your case. If you have the ability to prove it, you should gather the evidence. You may not need it, but that’s a better alternative than needing it and having never collected it. The impact to your case is the one area where the sting of adultery is actually on the one who broke their end of the marital bargain.


The Sting of Adultery, Part 2

Adultery hits a family with incredible force. Earlier I discussed the effects it has on you, not only the incredible weight it bears on its own but also the unwelcome additional stress, anger, and frustration it brings to its usual successor; divorce. What is often overlooked though is the impact adultery has on the children of divorce. The subject generally brings focus to the wrong committed by one and the impact it has on the other parent. If the children know about the infidelity, then the entire subject becomes part of their story and it carries significant impact on them in the short and long term.

Most have heard the odd philosophical question about a tree falling in the wilderness with nobody to hear it. If you know my background you can likely take a safe bet about how much I care if it made a sound or not. But that question does line up with adultery and children during divorce. If the children never know about adultery, can it have an impact on them? I believe the answer is indirectly, yes. They may not know why, but the existence of infidelity in the entire divorce swirl will create more tension, more negative emotions, which all will be sensed by the kids. The reality is that, based on the divorce stories I’ve learned, it is very rare that the children don’t find out.

Children are always observing. During the tension-filled times of divorce, their alert status is elevated to the wartime levels. Their future is uncertain, their foundation is rocked, and they are seeking information to help them make sense of the unknown. If ever you have a doubt, always, always assume your children are listening. They are around the corner, or just down the hall, but they are listening. Odds are also good that their mom or you have confided in a friend about the details. The more people that know, the higher the chances are that a kid from that home will hear. As connected as children are today with social media, the word will get out. Parents getting divorced where adultery is a major factor need to decide whether or not to tell the children themselves. Making that decision requires analysis of many factors, like age, circumstances, likelihood of them finding out, along with many more. I personally feel it is better for them to hear it first from the adults rather than learn from friends or other kids at school. Ultimately, only you as their parents have knowledge of all the issues and can make that call. When making that decision, though, remember that sooner or later, they will likely learn the truth.

With knowledge of the cheating, children will face two major problems. First, they now will have their moral and general life foundation further rocked beyond that of simply divorce. Prior to the divorce and adultery knowledge, their world was based on a home centered around two parents. Already with the divorce this foundation and social norm is shattered. Adultery, though, breaks down the relationship into a clearer black-and-white issue. From early games, reinforced many times during their lives, they learned the meaning of cheating. Very young children know what it means for a person to cheat on another. Now this breakdown of the ideal is a reality for their parents.

Knowing the issue and the right-and-wrong associations that go with it leads to the second problem for your children. Adultery is pretty cut and dry, with one person being in the wrong, and the other being the victim. They don’t understand the many reasons that built up to the infidelity. They won’t grasp the expert opinions that describe adultery as a symptom of a failed relationship, with shared responsibility. In many ways I envy their innocent, simple understanding. As they try to make sense of the divorce, they desperately want to know why it happened, what went wrong, and how to fix it. For most, a large amount of the divorce stress will come from the frustration when they can’t find a reason, or seek to blame themselves. With adultery, they now have a reason. It is one of the parents’ fault. It is simple, it makes sense, and the case is closed.

As one whose ex cheated on him, I firmly stand by my belief that, while there is satisfaction in the children blaming the divorce on the cheater, it is not good for them. They need a good, solid relationship with both parents. When you look at the future from your children’s perspective, you should be able to see how assigning blame to one parent is not right. They will have difficulty understanding how the faults are actually between just the parents and don’t affect either parent’s relationship with the child. Helping them reach an understanding will not be instantaneous, but it will be helped if the same message comes from both parents. Even if you choose to not tell your children, remember that there is a strong possibility that some day they will learn the truth. The strength of the message coming from both of you still holds true later.

While not obvious, adultery in a divorce can impact the children. Aside from the obvious where it actually may cause the divorce, it can erode their foundation beyond the damage just caused by a divorce. One of the hardest lessons in life is when we learn our parents are human also. The lesson is likely best learned in adulthood, when we can relate. In our childhood, our parents are not “real” people, but just simply our parents; infallible and the standards. The divorce crumbles the two-parent foundation of their world and adding adultery brings a hard lesson early during an already rocky period. It further brings the danger of assigning clear blame for the divorce to one parent. We all will someday learn, to varying degrees, the part both parents played in actually causing the adultery and divorce. Children will have a much harder time reaching that conclusion, as they will desperately be seeking a cause. It’s up to the wronged parent to recognize the importance of the relationship between the children and both parents and how adultery should not be allowed to disrupt this source of strength and development for your kids. I’ve walked that road and know how hard it is. But I can tell you now from the other side how grateful I am that I worked to prevent the erosion for my children.

The Sting of Adultery, Part 1

The pain and mental strain brought on you by divorce is intense on its own. The breakup of your foundation, the marital ideal we all sought back when we were married is incredible. As a father, add to that the burden of guilt and pain you also carry by damaging the family bedrock that has been a foundation for your children through their lives. The stress you will experience will be without equal. For many of us though, myself included, you may have the added pain and mental stress created by an unfaithful spouse. It reminds me of those smoothie stores where they keep adding something of this and that to the blender to make it even more special! 

In my years of flying, it was guaranteed that when one thing went wrong, others would follow. I never had engine malfunctions on beautiful clear sky days. They always happened in the goo with bad weather still ahead. As the problems kept piling on, we came up with the term helmet fire. The problems kept coming until you just couldn’t process anymore and smoke was pouring out your ears. Divorce with kids pushes you to a helmet fire on its own. Add infidelity to the mix and you have just pushed the pain meter beyond pegged. Three main areas are key when dealing with the burden of an unfaithful spouse during your divorce. The first area is about you, the second is about the kids, and the last involves your legal divorce position. Basically this falls in line with my common theme of taking care of yourself, your kids, and your case. For now, let’s focus on you. In my next blog, I’ll address the kids, followed by your case. 

Regarding yourself, adultery will hit you at your core. I’m sure the impact is similar for women. For you, as a man, having your wife cheat on you stings like nothing else. The intimacy was between the two of you. For us, we begin to question our very manhood, our abilities as a partner, along with having our belief in every being able to trust again torn to shreds. You may wonder what was wrong with you that drove her to another man, or what needs were you not meeting. Friends, therapists, and family will try to reassure you that the cause was not physical, but rather her need for intimacy that was lost that led her away. It sounds nice, but it won’t ease the pain. I’m here to tell you that they are right and that it will take a very long time for you to believe it. Logically you will follow it, but be prepared for a long road before you actually reach a peaceful understanding. Understanding the basis for your ex’s behavior is important to answering your questions and moving on.

To me, there are two types of cheaters. The first type is the habitual cheater. She’s the type that has a long history of cheating. Many cheat often during the relationship, likely from the beginning. For these types, it is easier to recognize the problem is on their end. Many are in love with being in love. Once the newness and initial fever of love wears off, they lose interest in the longer term relationship. The long-term love is more rewarding, but requires work and effort to sustain. The real danger for you in these cases is being too harsh on yourself, thinking you should have known based on her past or should have seen the signs. Always remember how imperfect we are and take comfort in the knowledge that this is her character flaw, one that has been there before you and will likely be there after you. Don’t waste too much energy trying to understand why. Her flaw here is outside your control and you need to keep your energy focused where you can control. It doesn’t help the sting, but you can take comfort in knowing the majority of the issues are in her camp.

The other type of cheater is the one that develops over time and is symptomatic of the relationship. Experts will categorize the majority of marital infidelity examples in this category, where the adultery was a result of missing elements within the marriage over time. So many of these are not immediate, but instead take time to develop. Kids appear, work demands increase, and over time intimacy or efforts to maintain the marriage fade. The cheater may not even realize what is missing until someone steps in and fills the void. The infidelity may not even be physical, but could just be an emotional cheating where another person steps in and fills the confidant role that you as the husband used to provide. Initially the why doesn’t matter. Your trust has been shattered and what you took as stable has fallen apart.

You will be filled with many emotions, such as hurt, betrayal, and anger. All these are normal. For you it is important to acknowledge where you are and that it is ok to have these feelings. You can’t hide them, because they will never have a chance to heal and really go away, as opposed to just hiding waiting for you to deal with them later. As men today we are hard-wired to suppress these feelings as a sign of weakness. Instead, set the simple goal to accept these feelings, recognize the time you need ahead, and work to not let them dominate you, especially anger. You have many details to work as you separate, divorce, as well as help your children through the divorce. Anger, fueled by hurt, will only spoil the efforts to reach a final divorce and can spill over into your efforts to help your children transition into their new divorced households world.

Everything I state is the right path, but I am fully aware how difficult it will be. I lived it and I stumbled often. When it became very difficult to not let the hurt and anger spill into my decisions, I was successful by reminding myself of how I wanted to be defined. The affair and the betrayal was not how I wanted to be defined or remembered. Allowing the anger to fuel my decisions gave it too much control over me. It gave her and her actions control of my future. I wanted to define that. Vow to yourself to define the future. It will require learning from the past, but you have control there. Be the man and the father you want to be. You will slip, and that is normal and ok. But you can learn what triggered the slip and learn to avoid it. I promise a peace will come and recognition that the experts are right will settle in. It will take time, but it will come. In the meantime, direct your focus on just giving yourself a break. Accept the fact that you are hurt and seek to be ok with that. In time, and with much thought, you will understand how the adultery had nothing to do with your manhood. Give yourself time and that will help you find some peace today, just knowing you have a road ahead but that true peace will come.

The Many Shades of Gray

The thoughts below are nowhere near the same lines as the book and movie out there about types and number of gray shades. Instead, I want to present some thoughts about a comparison of parents. For many of us, actually a large majority according to statistics, we will not agree with the other parent of our kids about custody. We will need some help to get to an agreement or a final ordered solution. Whether through mediation, collaborative law, or straight into the legal court system, an outsider will be getting involved and either making a recommendation or actually ordering the plan forward. There should be no surprise, as the subject of our parenting, roles, and future time with our children is vital, and not a subject we be able to change our minds about easily. A major problem we all will face when trying to help the outside, especially the legal system, determine the right solution for our children is that there very likely is not a clear blank and white answer. One parent usually is not the stand out bad one with the other parent clearly exhibiting parent-of-the-year trophies. Instead we are likely blended in a sea of gray.

The challenge then becomes how to make your position stand out as the right one, or at least not allow the world to view you as the bad parent. Somehow you have to craft black and white out of the gray mess. The path through this minefield is not easy. It will require and constant striving for perfection, at least for the duration of the legal process. In my background in military aviation, we are very hard on ourselves. You may have an instructor or adversary debriefing your event who tells you every weakness of your decisions and technique. But none of that criticism will be harsher than the self-critique and analysis we perform on ourselves later. Very much is valid, as many decisions are either safety or combat life-and-death. But some of it becomes habit to just keep improving. What I recommend ahead is for you to adopt the same mentality in your divorce. It will be required for you to separate yourself from the gray.

Try to imagine the point of view of the family court judge in your case. Both parents are expressing their vital role in the children’s daily lives. Both seem like good people. The father seems to take care of one area while the mother attends to the other. With everything blended in various grays, you the judge will look at the history during the divorce as well as the normal roles prior to divorce discussions. Both parents state they are willing to work together and put the children’s needs first. Now is the time to determine which one really has stepped up compared to the other that just talks. Those of us that have gone down the divorce road before can assure you that almost daily you will have more than enough engagements with your soon-to-be-ex about any number of topics, many to do with the children. Every single engagement presents you with the opportunity to pull yourself out of the shades of gray. Each occasion usually has a variety of choices for your action, and one usually stands out as the proverbial high road.

As you start in your attempts, remember to plan to fail. Taking the high road, biting your tongue, and containing your frustration during a divorce creates an incredible strain. You will slip. Nelson Mandela phrased it best when he said “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.” The key is to build the habit and keep your thoughts focused on the right path. Plan for failures, learn from them, and work to avoid the triggers that caused the slip. No one likely knows your scabs better than your ex!

Besides the legal benefit that comes from standing out of the gray, there are two longer term benefits your will find as well. The legal benefit is important in the short term, as it directly affects your long term role, but once you are past the legal stage and in a post-divorce life, the long term benefits are tremendous. The first of these benefits is accelerating the time through the friction with your ex to get to a manageable, mostly peaceful co-parenting pattern. In my case, the local judge told us that he divorced couples, not families. He was absolutely correct. Like it or not, she is your children’s mother. Past the divorce, you have many years to deal with her when raising your children and grandchildren. It takes two to make a peaceful truce. Striving for the high road sets the example and will show her how the future should be. If she can’t push your buttons and get the reaction she wants, eventually she will just tire and you will get to that end state you and your children need.

The second and strongest benefit will come from the strengthening of your relationship with your kids. Everyone gravitates towards the positive. By you providing them a safe, positive environment, free from the hostility, bad-mouthing, and anger that can swirl between ex’s, your children will be able to move on and heal. If the other household is still clinging to the anger and creating a negative environment, there is nothing you can do about that. But your children will notice. They notice everything. Not only will the environment you create benefit them with each visit, but years later they will remember the difference.

Nothing triggers hurt, pain, and anger like divorce. For so many of us, both parents in your case likely have good qualities and bad. To an outsider, determining the role of each parent and deciding the best plan after divorce for the children requires distinguishing parents, whose behavior and relationship are just shades of gray, into clear black and white answers. Never will it be more critical to toe the line and strive to keep your actions and behavior in line. The short and long term benefits are great. You won’t always be perfect, but by keeping the goals and benefits in mind, and striving to make the right choices, you will get better. You may not get the short-lived satisfaction from throwing that perfect verbal jab at your ex, but you will get the long lasting satisfaction later when you look in the mirror and smirk at how she couldn’t make you take the bait!

It Stings, but It’s the Right Thing to Do

There’s a little over one week until Mother’s Day. On top of planning and shopping for your own mother, many of the solo fathers I know wrestle with the struggle about their kids’ mother, also known as their ex. Before the divorce, most took their kids out and helped them shop for mom and plan something special for her. Depending on any of the pain, hurt, and anger left from the divorce, or even for those of us who have finally entered a calm norm with their ex, the idea of shopping for our ex ranks just behind a nice root canal. In the end, you have to look at this day and a few more through your children’s eyes.

There are three events really in question; mother’s day, her birthday, and Christmas, or any gift-giving holiday your family celebrates based on your beliefs or customs. For me, it is those three. Three times a year I have to think about my ex and still deal with those events. The kids are young and they want to do something for their mom. Specifically for my case, there are no family members in the area, so my decision to help the kids shop for their mother is based on what we did in the past prior to divorce and looking at what means they have to do something for her after divorce.  I have a friend whose ex is living in the same town as her mother. For him, their grandmother takes them shopping and helps them plan for his ex’s three events. I envy him.

I don’t believe what you start today will carry forward forever. Circumstances will change what you do. Your ex may remarry. In my opinion, taking care of these events now falls to him, so long as he picks it up and your children are comfortable shopping with him. As with many issues, your primary concern should be doing what feels reasonable for your kids. Just because there is a step-father in the picture doesn’t mean they want to do that shopping with him. It may take time for them to get to that point, meaning you still have to help them during the transition. 

Age will play a factor in how you help them. For young children, they have little to no means to go out and get presents, and likely can’t remember the date to set aside private time to make something that will be a surprise. As they age, and certainly when they are working, they should be able to save and eventually take care of shopping for their mother on their own. Only you can be the judge of when the right time to end your assistance. You just need to make sure you are making your decision based on the right choice for the kids and not your personal issues with your ex.

For some, it may be a bridge too far. No one can judge you as you are the only one who really appreciates your story and the pain you have endured. In these cases, you should at least make sure there is someone who is stepping in to help. A simple email to the ex-in-laws or a friend of your ex’s to state they have the ball is all that is needed. You should expect some level of backlash, potentially even spilling over to the kids, but as with most things time is generally needed to let the new normal become just the normal.

Kids of all ages want and need a relationship with both their parents. Part of that relationship in our society involves about three events per year where they celebrate with your ex and may even give her a present. There are many little things we dads need do to help our kids during and after divorce. We strive not to talk poorly of the ex to them or around them. We strive to keep our exchanges with the ex strictly about the kids and items of their interest. Even with the little things, helping them prepare for a celebration with their mother can sting. If you are like me, put a little extra bourbon in the glass that night and toast to doing the right thing and to a better future.

The Power of Silence

Another stereotype to fight in divorce is centered around men’s inherent need to fix things. Many relationship books cite men’s inability to really listen as a common frustration among women. I personally have fought the urge to just hear the issue and work to solve it rather than just listen. At work, nobody wants me to just listen. They want it solved. With people and personal issues, though, and not just with women, often they just want an ear.

There’s an old nursery rhyme that rings true for this discussion:

A wise old owl once lived in an oak
The more he heard, the less he spoke
The less he spoke, the more he heard
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?

Whether a man’s inability to listen is stereotype or true for you, take a moment and reread the rhyme above. At any stage in the divorce process, when you feel the urge to speak, pause and remember the rhyme. If nothing else, it will give you the pause to reflect and decide whether you should speak or not. In the beginning of the divorce process, before you determined the best outcome for your kids and you and your ultimate position on custody and settlement, it is best to simply listen. Your ex may want to discuss and come to agreement on the major issues of the divorce. Ask yourself if you head is really in the game. If you haven’t taken the time to determine your position, with sound, local legal advice, then you need to be the wise bird and just soak in her thoughts.

Two main pitfalls that are avoided during these early days are breaking prior verbal agreements and signing anything without knowledge. If you aren’t able to simply listen without committing or agreeing, then you may find yourself making a verbal agreement which you may have to break later. With any transaction and relationship, trust is a key factor. Once broken, it is hard to regain. If unwisely verbally agree to an area early on, only later to have to back out, then you have damaged her trust as well as set a precedent for her to break an agreement as well. Sometimes this can’t be avoided, but silence and listening can protect you and allow you time to gain knowledge so that when you make agreements, you make them from an informed position. If you actually take an undesired verbal agreement into a written agreement, then you will find those much harder, if not impossible to legally break.

Other phases during the divorce process benefit from your listening and thinking prior to speaking. There will be times you are meeting with court officials. Never doubt that each meeting is a graded event. Each response you make will be recorded and analyzed. Take the time to listen to their questions and sort through some answers you prepared in advance of the meeting to help keep your responses aligned with your message. Your silence and thought will carry far more weight than your babbling, or worse bad-mouthing the other parent. You won’t make yourself look better by bashing the other person. Instead, when in doubt, and when silence isn’t an option, discuss your kids, openly and with warmth. Let out your feelings about them, with specific examples of your bond. Caring positive expressions are worth far more than negative ones.

In life, and certainly in divorce, taking the time to listen, process, and give a thoughtful response is far better than jumping in to speak. Abraham Lincoln once said “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”  Old birds and old presidents can’t be all that wrong.

Weekend Cooking Together Great Way to Stay Connected

I’ve found I have some of the best times with my kids when I cook with them. The older ones are very chatty and the younger ones are more than happy to stir and help. The stereotype out there for dad meals is unhealthy junk food or drive-thru. It is not hard to make your dad meals enjoyable and fresh. For me, I’ve found easy meals my kids love and I’ve saved them. One positive for divorce is that, as long as the other parent has some visitation, you don’t have to account for every dinner. This means your bullpen of recipes doesn’t have to be too deep. The evenings they are not with you, they are getting variation from the other parent. You may feel like you are always cooking something you’ve done before, but as long as they love it, they will look forward to it and not get tired of it. That’s because there is space in between the meals provided by the meals the other parent prepares. The point is to not go overboard. You are likely busy enough with work. You can experiment every now and then, but you just need a few homerun meals and you are all set!

One of my main fallbacks is pasta. All my kids love it, and I’ve found with a few minor changes, I have several options available to rotate to make each meal seem different, when in fact I’m just changing the sauce and meat. You can also change the pasta and give the appearance of a whole new meal. With spaghetti, bow time, penne, and many more available, try different types to give it a facelift.

The pasta is the base. After that, you have a foundation to build a different meal. I generally use chicken on top of the pasta before the sauce. The variation there comes in whether or not you have chicken. When I do put chicken on top, it is either grilled/fried or breaded. Having the choice adds variation. The grilled/fried chicken cooks faster. The oven baked breaded chicken is easy to prepare, then stick in the oven while you get the pasta ready. Both recipes start with plain, boneless chicken tenders. They are cheap and easy to buy. The variation comes from how you prepare:

Grilled/Fried Chicken:

  • sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning
  • fry on both sides in nonstick pan or grill until done
  • cut into strips
Breaded, Oven-cooked Chicken
  • 1 cup Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs (or plain and mix in Italian seasoning)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper
Beat a few eggs in a bowl. Salt and pepper both sides of your chicken. Cover both sides of your chicken tenders in the egg wash and then coat with your breading. Bake in a 425 deg oven on a cookie sheet for 15-20 min, turning once during baking. Slice and serve on top of the pasta. Now that you have the meat chosen, you can choose the sauce. My three sauces are pesto, alfredo, and tomato (standard spaghetti). The pesto is the easiet to prepare as you only need a food processor. My alfredo recipe is not healthy, but the kids devour it. You can alter it by substituting skim milk for the cream and adding a little flour to thicken it. As for the tomato sauce, you can feel free to just use the stuff you buy in a jar. But if you want to make a sauce with your kids on a weekend, you'll be surprised how easy it really is. You just need some time to let it simmer. Here's the three sauces: Pesto Sauce:
  • Fresh basil (about 2 cups)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (usually 2 tsp of the chopped or crushed jar stuff)
  • 1/4 cup pine nut
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
Take the above, dump it in a food processor, and blend away until you like it. Alfredo Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed (about 1 tsp of the jar stuff)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh grated parmesan cheese
Melt the butter in a deep skillet. Add the garlic and cook briefly. Add the cream and cheese. Stir with a whisk as it heats to melt the cheese. Don't let it boil, but get it very warm and thick to melt all the cheese. Serve it over your pasta and chicken. For an added twist, crumble some fresh bacon in with the chicken and sauce! Tomato Sauce
  • 2 big cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato sauce
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 small chopped onion - a few links of cooked Italian sausage

Chop your onion to your desired size. Some kids don't want that in their sauce, so make them big to get the flavor, but make it easier to pull them out. Cook the onions in some oil for a few minutes until they are clear. Dump in your cans of crushed tomatoes and sauce. Try different brands, but stick to the same brand. I usually go to the Italian section of the grocery store and get what's there. As that's warming, add your bay leaves, maybe some basil leaves if you want, and drop in your cooked Italian sausage links. I fry those to the side and cut into a few pieces. They mainly add flavor to the sauce. You can pull them out or eat them. Add the rest of your oil, salt, pepper, and add some Italian seasonings as you like. Let the sauce warm and simmer until you like it. This makes a lot of sauce, but you can freeze what you don't use for several months and use it later.

I haven't met a kid that doesn't like to cook. Getting them together in the kitchen to get dinner ready creates that time together, away from homework, tv, texting, and all the distractions to allow us focused time to catch up. Now that I don't have every day with them, I want to seize the time I have. For the meals, I like to keep it simple. Dinner at dad's house should be fun, but it doesn't have to be fast food. Pancake night is always fun, but you need to have good meals in your toolbox as well. Pasta is simple. By changing the noodles, changing the type of chicken, and having different sauces, I can rotate the dinners and keep it new. I recommend you try it out on your own first to get an idea for time. The pesto is the quickest while the tomato sauce takes some time to simmer. For that reason, pesto is a weeknight sauce while tomato sauce is made on the weekends. If you have some good, easy ideas you use, shoot them my way and I'll get them out there for the rest of us solo fathers!

Dads Helping Dads

It’s well known among doctors that men are far less likely to seek help with medical concerns than women. The main reasons cited in the medical articles I read are perceived vulnerability, fear, and denial. Men tend to get most of the push to get medical issues checked out from their wives or other significant females in their lives. In simple terms, we men don’t seek out help for health issues because we don’t want to seem weak, or want to wait until later, unless an important woman in our lives pushes up or asks the obvious questions we choose to ignore. Sounds about right to me.

I’ve found the same is true for divorce. We don’t seek out help naturally, for health or for divorce. We have had the “suck-it-up” mentality engrained in us from early in our development. When faced with all the challenges of a divorce, it is only natural for us as men to hunker down and try to work through it. Unfortunately we miss out on all the benefits that come from getting help. The stress from divorce is extremely high. Being able to gather friends and a support network in, even just knowing they are there, carries with it huge benefits for our mental stress and physical health.

Up until my divorce, I only had a general idea of which friends and coworkers had gone through a divorce. It was sometimes part of a general conversation, but never brought up. The night I was informed by my ex that she wanted a divorce, I was fortunate by being on travel with a friend that I knew had gone through a divorce a few years ago. I called him and asked if he had time for a few questions. Several hours later, though I was still in a fog, I was a bit settled. When you enter this club of men who have gone through a divorce, or are going through one, you find most very willing to open up and help. The few exceptions I have encountered all had very painful divorces. Discussions with them I believe just brought up too many bad memories they would rather leave in the past.

It’s not easy to reach out. I have to be in terrible pain to see the doc. I don’t like to ask the guy at Lowe’s where a certain item is located. But when you take that step to reach out to someone who has gone down this road before you, you will find a whole world opens to you. None of us envisioned joining the group, but we all are full of where we gooned it up or are sympathetic enough just to listen and be a sounding board for your ideas. The help doesn’t have to stop with during the divorce either. Moving on when the dust settles is very hard as well, with many variances in everyone’s stories.

As pointed out in the health care studies, men often need that push to go see the doctor and it usually comes from a woman. During and after divorce, guys like us don’t have that woman in the picture. Therefore, the challenge goes both ways. For those of you who have been down the road before, reach out to a friend or coworker that you know is just starting out. One young engineer that worked on my team a few years ago was a lost soul at work when his high school sweetheart and wife told him she was leaving him for another man. I didn’t know him well, but I pulled him aside and offered my ear as one who went before him. He talked with me several times and I believe left each conversation with a clearer head.

There are plenty of opportunities in life to cowboy up and trudge it out on your own. The stress in divorce and the stakes are too high for that behavior, so leave that mentality at the door. Let’s work together to lend a hand during a divorce. No stories are alike, but the pitfalls can be common. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn when you ask and later, I promise, you’ll be happy to lend a hand to the next guy headed down your path. 

Equal Parental Rights Respects Role of Both Parents

Soccer practice and games for my kids have become a bit interrupted now. There’s one parent on the team that always speaks badly of her son’s father. I remember the first indoor game where I heard it. For those of you out there that participate in the weekend dance of your children’s sports games, you likely know the near random dice roll that comes with which color of jersey to bring. The coaches send out the text that will say whether to wear red or white for this upcoming game. But that often changes, either because someone from the other team is in the wrong color, the whole team is wrong, or the coach may have been wrong. The why doesn’t matter, you just learn quickly to bring both colors. This mom was complaining very loudly, in front of her kid and the other team members, about how he only had white because he was with his father this weekend. She told the dad to bring both, but of course he forgot, and on and on. After that each practice and game included some quip about the dad. As a result, I make sure to sit away from her so my inside voice doesn’t win over and come out.

The scenario above may involve a mom, but it could also be a dad. I’ve heard the complaining about the ex from all sides. We all complain. The line has to be drawn when kids are around. Any parent that thinks your kids aren’t listening to your words, especially if they are about the other parent, is very out of touch with the awareness kids possess. Every parent out there involved in trying to raise our kids in divorced homes experiences frustration with their ex. Some never get past it. The challenge we all face is keeping this frustration out of sight from our children. They are trying to love and be raised by both parents. Each little dig to them puts them in a position where they feel they have to agree or disagree, choose a side, and maybe even try to fix the problem. Every one of those alternatives they face is wrong.

The gut check starts with understanding your true intentions. I speak often about honest self-assessments, and here’s another example. Think of the last time you made a dig about your ex either to your children or in front of your children. What was your honest goal? The choices are:

– Honest venting
– Seeking affirmation of your problem
– Looking for alignment

Any of these are fine with friends, although monitor how often you vent with your friends as eventually everyone gets tired of hearing complaining. If you made a complaint to your kids, then you were seeking something above. If venting was your goal, your children are not the right source. You certainly start crossing a line when you seek their affirmation of your issue and you are starting to dabble in creating alienation behavior when you are seeking their agreement and alignment with you. If you are trying to win your kids to your side, are you aware that means they need to break their relationship with the other parent? If so, please research parental alienation syndrome and seek help. Your behavior is without question damaging to your children. We don’t have to like our ex, but we have to understand the basic need our children have to receive loving parental support from each parent, unadulterated by each parent.

I am not perfect. Just last week I was driving with my oldest child and caught myself speaking about how the other parent was being a pain about an after school activity. As the words were coming out, I knew I was in the wrong. What was my goal? Full of shame I admit it was to gain affirmation and probably to get them, just for that moment, on my side. I don’t need my children to take my side to build my relationship with them. I changed the subject and moved on to enjoying the time with my kid. Rarely do you get one-on-one time with more than one anyway, especially with custody schedules. I like to keep a friend of mine in my head as an example. His ex is an alcoholic. They had shared custody, but when he found out she was drunk when she drove his kids on a vacation last summer, he drew the line. He called her on it and took full custody of the kids until she got her act together. Her alcoholism had been building and she had driven a large wedge in her own relationship with her kids. As she was recovering, he kept taking the kids to visit with their mom. He recognized their need to keep a relationship with their mom. Today she is recovering. She sees the kids more and more, and has overnights with them. He’s not under a court order to do so, but instead is monitoring her behavior while trying to keep the roles of both parents healthy as their kids grow. 

You can be on the receiving end of this treatment or the giving end. As a dad, what can you do to help minimize and ultimately eliminate this behavior for the well-being of your kids? It starts by setting the example. None of us are perfect and everyone will slip up. By being aware, though, you can catch yourself and end the discussion before it drags on. When you hear from your kids about the behavior from your ex, call her on it. You can neutralize the discussion with your kids and shift on to more enjoyable topics. Then later, when they are at school or just not around either parent, call her and bring it up. Understand that she will slip up to, but you have to bring it up. You also need to document the behavior. If your ex continues to pick at you in front of the kids, despite your efforts to curb this behavior, you need some professional advice. Experts today recognize how damaging that behavior is for your kids. While you may be able to deal with it, they are the ones actually suffering.

The soccer games are nicer now that I sit at the other end of the stands. I have to hope the complaints from her side of the stands are just part of the normal transition from separating to divorce. We all need an ear for venting every now and then. Keep reminding yourself, though, to keep venting with your buds or family, and not your kids. It has been decades since my parents divorced, yet still to this day I remember clearly which parent kept their problems with the other away from me, and which didn’t. Your kids will remember as well, and your efforts will be worth it when you are the one on the right side of their memory.

The Line between Healthy Reflection and Unhealthy Regret

In an effort to build consistency, going to try and have the Monday postings expand on the main themes of the book series.  No matter how one enters a divorce, either by your own choice or the choice of your soon-to-be-ex, there are three focus areas you must always address throughout the process and after:

– Take care of yourself
– Take care of your children
– Take care of your case

I am a firm believer that the most important element is taking care of yourself. Your children are extremely important and require a huge amount of your focus, not only planning a future that is best suited to their needs but also helping them through the divorce. The way you handle your case will ultimately determine the custody and visitation that sets the foundation for your children. Those areas are very important, but to be handled at their best, you must be at your best, which requires attending to your own care. In stressful times as the demands on us increase, it is natural, especially the way we dads are hardwired, for us to drop our needs in order to address the increase in demand. It is this natural tendency that you must fight so that you stay on top of your game.

Book 1 covers the importance of self-care and many simple ways to attend to your physical needs. It also touches on the importance of attending to your mental needs. I came across an article the other day discussing regret, how it can be healthy but also toxic if left unchecked:

The process of divorce is extremely stressful, resulting in opening the mind up to ripe conditions for negative emotions. While it is natural to do some soul searching during the process, one can easily let regret slip into rumination. It is important to work to control your thoughts and where they lead you. As an example, your kids will be hurt by the news of divorce. There will be much sadness, blame, and frustration which can wear at you. No matter what control you had in the divorce situation, your natural instinct will be to regret moments and paths from the past that led to the breakup. The healthy side of those thoughts is to keep them focused on self-assessment and learning. It is a dangerous time though to delve too deep into these assessments. You are open to slipping into non-productive rumination. 

You cannot change the past, only learn from it. All you can do is focus on your actions going forward to help steer the future down the road you desire. You only have so much energy to apply to your fight. Keep the energy harnessed on thoughts and efforts that you can control. You can’t control how your children react to divorce. But you can control how you help them. You can control how you take care of yourself so you can be alert to times when they need you. The divorce may be the cause of their churn right now, but you can’t change that. Use your energy to reach out to friends and experts to help you understand their frustrations so you can help, even by just listening and being there for them.

When we talk about taking care of yourself, it is easy to think about the body. Eat right, exercise, and get a good night’s rest and you have attacked some basic, but important areas. Your mind and the emotions and stress resulting from your thoughts are far more difficult to tackle. Many need help to sort through those areas. Not focusing the same attention to the mental aspects of your health as you do to the physical is not really taking care of yourself. Additionally, more studies are popping up every day to show how negatively prolonged stress affects your physical health. Mind and body really are connected. Make sure you take care of your whole self and keep your efforts focused on things you can control while letting go of areas you can’t control.