He realized he didn’t want to be married, to anyone, but that doesn’t get in the way of being a great father.
Despite what others may believe about single dads, if you’re truly happy, your children can feel it and that’s the best gift you can give them. But when you throw something like divorce into the mix, your actions to maintain it can really start to go against what some would consider established societal norms.
Growing up the media and my own parents perpetuated the belief that one’s happiness is dependent on the ability to find a partner, churn out a couple of kids, work a “normal” job and then die. What’s funny about all this is the fact that they divorced when I was three, and then proceeded to cycle through multiple relationships before finally settling down with their respective partners. However, despite all of this, they continued to propagate the belief that one must get married and procreate to achieve true happiness.
However, this bipolar approach to raising me did little to help me later in life when I became a father myself, only to be ousted by another man not even two years after my son’s birth, leaving me to cope as a single parent. In what already sounds like a terrible daytime talk show episode, I entered into another relationship about a year after striking out on my own, and got married to her four years later.
Given my son’s escalating behavioral problems, my wife’s struggle with drug addiction, and my own mounting frustration, we were clearly a shoo-in for counseling.
For most people, the importance of a family counselor cannot be ignored. The right counselor is able to:
- Help parents cope with grief, anger and sadness.
- Effectively address problem behaviors in their children.
- Overcome substance abuse.
Once we got started, I had a revelation that flew right in the face of everything my parents and even society had told me up to this point: marriage wasn’t for me and never had been. After coming to this simple and life-changing conclusion, I asked for the divorce.
No wonder all of my relationships kept failing so miserably — I’d been lying to myself this whole time! Part of my previous reluctance to accept this part of myself is that society seems to think that if you don’t marry or are otherwise in a relationship that there’s something wrong with you.
Bottom line, being single is not a reflection of your value as a person. And by continuing on with a loveless relationship, I couldn’t help but wonder what type of example I was setting for my son. My own parents would inexplicably stay with partners that were either abusive or unfaithful simply for the kids’ sake.
I didn’t want to perpetuate this with my own son. Yes, divorce can be tough on children, but there are things parents can do to help them cope. For us, it involved:
- Maintaining an open dialogue where no subject was off limits.
- Talking whenever and for as long as we needed to.
- Maintaining a stable and positive environment that belongs to us.
- Fully accepting that marriage is not a gauge of self-worth.
My son had to deal with not one, but two, significant losses during his formative years. Throw in the fact that his biological mother has gone through four different relationships, one of which resulted in a half-brother, since our split and you have what should be a very confused child and an extremely bitter father.
But here’s the funny thing: we’re not. And why is that? Simple. We talk every day. Good or bad, great or horrible, we talk for as long and as often as we need to.
It is a habit we first picked up when our family sought out a counselor. We knew we needed help coping and communicating, but we didn’t have the skills to do it on our own — initially.
As for now, my son and I are enjoying a closeness that continues to grow. I now have the energy to help him with his homework and attend school functions. I even helped his home room with Rake Up Boise. When I’m at my strongest and happiest, I know that I can be the best father for my son, and despite what anyone else thinks, that’s good enough for me.
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Photo: Getty Images