Hey Dads, don’t give up on your kids!

I don’t know if it’s just complete coincidence or something more curious, but in the last ten days or so I have had three conversations with men about how some men who leave a relationship leave not just their wife or partner, but their children too.
Most recently, someone named “David” left a comment elsewhere on this blog saying:
“She took her rings off over two and a half years ago. I haven’t given up yet. I don’t know how much longer I can deal with it though. Once it’s over I’ll have to leave the state. My boys are grown, but my daughter is still only 11.”
My earlier conversation with another Dad had quite the opposite skew, and yet…


The earlier conversation was about men who left their children as a result of divorce. Both of us having the conversation are divorcing Dads with children, both dedicated to our children and still very much involved, but I commented that the process of my getting a divorce had really helped me understand why men would walk away from their children when they get a divorce.
He recoiled and without even wanting to hear another word, vehemently said “No way. There’s no reason. That’s BS.”
But the divorce process is one that can and often does feel very alienating for men, as exemplified in “David’s” other comment that “it’s not fair. I didn’t do anything wrong. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, till death do us part.”
I really can sympathize with men who get so alienated by the process that they can’t separate out their children from their ex and get to the point where they’re divorcing their family en masse. From the outside it’s a ghastly mistake and one where the kids should never have to suffer like that, but I can nonetheless understand, just a bit, why some men end up making that decision.
However, it also seems like it’s always a bad solution. I can’t imagine where it would be the best possible decision for all parties involved, however difficult things are between the divorcing couple. In a nutshell, the children shouldn’t have to suffer because Mom and Dad aren’t compatible, and even if there’s abuse in the relationship, the courts have ways of managing that (like supervised visitation) that’s still got to be better than having one of your parents just vanish.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I just don’t know what it’s like to have your ex go on a calculated campaign of propaganda, turning your children against you, and I certainly don’t know what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship where it would be safer for the children to be isolated from one parent or the other.
That’s not really what I’m talking about anyway. I’m more thinking about the situation where the Dad has a good relationship with his child or children, but leaves them and walks away when he leaves his ex because he just can’t cope or just doesn’t want to.
That just seems like a tragedy.
What do you think?

7 comments on “Hey Dads, don’t give up on your kids!

  1. Hey Dave,
    I started following your Tweets for tech stuff and was quite surprised to stumble upon your AP blog 🙂
    I’m divorced and empathize with anyone going through the process. It’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It was one of the worst things I have ever been through, but having gone through it, I can look back now and say it was also one of the best things I have ever done.
    So, anyway, I’m intrigued by this post, but I’d like to hear more.
    You mentioned “I really can sympathize with men who get so alienated by the process that they can’t separate out their children from their ex and get to the point where they’re divorcing their family en masse.”
    So my questions are: What about the process of divorce do men find particularly alienating? Why do you think this aspect hits men so hard, causing them to withdraw?

  2. I found your post interesting as well. I have since remarried, but in my divorce I was able to seperate the wife from the kids. I think the reasons for the seperation can be the factors in whether or not we alienate both the spouse and the kids. My ex cheated on me and therefore I was able to seperate her from the kids. In fact when it came to negotiations on custody I fought very hard to make sure I had my girls 50% of the time. I knew because of what happened with their mother, they would need a father (parent) to step in and raise them.
    Thanks for writing an informative blog on a tough subject.

  3. My children are in the process of being “divorced” by their dad. He has almost ceased contact and has not responded to repeated email requests from me asking if he would be willing to schedule a weekly call to the children. He did call our son (age 6) after he left a pleading message for his dad to call him.
    I would like the kids to have regular contact with their father, but from what I’m reading above, I don’t feel hopeful. We now live across the country (house had to be sold to divide assets) and we had both agreed that it would be best for the kids to move where there would be more family support. He was supposed to move as well, but changed his mind after the kids and I had already moved. Since there is almost no phone contact (our son has called him more than he has called the kids), I don’t hold out much hope for him visiting them.
    I find myself in the position of defending him to the kids, making sure that they know they can call him anytime they want. When they ask when they will see him again I let them know that I don’t know but that they can ask their dad when they talk to him. I know that his lack of contact hurts both children (son 6, daughter 10) but the impact has been most severe on our son.
    It is painfully ironic that the kids’ dad idolizes his deceased father but cuts off his own children. I wish that he would have a change of heart and establish some kind of regular contact with them but I can’t make it happen. It’s up to him. Is there any solution?

  4. Thanks for writing about this topic. I second the questions Wabi Sabi Me asks above – why this process is so alienating and why men would withdraw?
    My parents divorced when I was 11. We all remained in the same area and although I lived with my Mom, I kept up a pretty good relationship with my Dad throughout high school. When I went away for college, however, we really started to lose touch.
    Once you start losing touch of the daily/weekly connections I think it’s really hard to get them back and if, for example, you’re the Dad without primary physical custody, you have to make the extra effort to maintain and improve the relationship. Otherwise, wrong/bad decision it may be, it can start to seem easier to just let it go.
    Thanks for writing about this!

  5. I just sort of stumbled on this, and it may be an older thread that has died out, but it struck such a chord that I had to post.
    I never understood how so many divorcing dads could distance themselves from their children… until I found myself in the middle of an unexpected divorce. And while I have tried hard to avoid it, it has given me a very clear insight into how it happens… it is a process I honestly have to struggle to resist myself.
    When it became clear that my divorce was inevitable, I got really numb and took a “whatever the hell you want sweetheart, just get out of my life” approach to my ex, going so far as allowing her to take the kids and set up household in another state. (That was a really dumb decision I regret to this day). I was so angry and hurt, I threw myself into my job, started working 16 hours a day and avoided thinking as much as possible.
    When I finally started really contemplating the situation and its implications, it was too late. My children had been “established in a homestead” far away from me and out of my state’s jurisdiction. My wife had meanwhile worked hard to spin a version of reality that was far different than mine, surrounding herself with only those who completely shared her vision, and was doing her best to bask the kids in that story as much as possible.
    I’ve done my best in dealing with their pain. I have resisted quid pro quo and don’t berate her. I carefully repress my own sadness when my little one stumbles and calls me by my ex’s boyfriend’s name, correcting herself “I mean…daddy”. I try to visit often and send gifts when I cannot be there for their events.
    There has been a real pull on me to just give up and say “eh just stick with your mother”. I keep the money coming in as best I can, I tell myself they will see that someday.
    Bottom line, it just hurts. Sometimes you just want to run away from it.

  6. My ex has poisoned my daughters against me. She wanted the divorce, got it and I moved on and started dating. This is when my daughters stopped talking to me. Their mother lied to them by saying I had affairs with these women during our marriage. When she in fact was the one caught having an affair by my daughters a year before we divorced. I want to give up on myself due to the loss of my girls. I try to make contact with them, but have been rejected for 3 yrs now.
    I’ll never give up on my girls, but I’m losing my ambition as each day goes by.

  7. I am from a divorced family where my father “divorced” his 4 daughters also. We all lived very close but he was a selfish, narcisstic guy so it was quite easy for him to walk away and start a “new” life. However, during my teen years I found out he regretted it as he happened to show a picture to my co-worker & friend’s mom of his “kids”. The picture was atleast 10 years old. He still kept it in his wallet. However, we have never reconnected, and as I grew up, I had no interest to – including to this day.
    But his departure left room for my step dad to make the big difference in my life.
    Unfortunately, I married a similar selfish and childish man. And after 17 years of marriage, we divorced. He also “divorced” our son who was just into his teen years where he needed a father to help him become a man. Since I had gone through that as a child, I certainly did not want that for my son and woked hard to prevent it but to no avail. Fortunately, my son’s godfather stepped in and filled that gap very well.
    Today, I have a 2-year old daughter from another relationship which just ended. He’s hard to get hold of and we live and work very close. He’s taking his emotional issues out on both of us by shutting down. Won’t answer the phone or plan time with our daughter. Very disappointing and immature as she is the apple of his eye.
    From all that I have experienced, I have to say there is more than one “type” of guy that walks away from their kids. There are those who are very selfish. They will miss out on so many wonderful things and will certainly regret their decisions. When they are ready to reconnect, the children won’t care to – of their own accord.
    One real issue that I do see is men not separating their emotions from the partner and kids – regardless of why the man/woman relationship failed. They don’t want to interact with the woman, so the kids suffer. This is preposterous, immature, and utterly selfish. There is a high road here and, for the kids sake, dads should take it and maintain the relationships with their kids.

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