Breakups can be draining. The emotional toll, stress, and change; overwhelming. As a father; as men, we want to be seen as strong, tough, unbreakable and resilient. We’ve been conditioned to believe crying and having ‘feelings’ are weaknesses, so we put on our masks and do whatever it takes to make it seem like the breakup and suppressed emotion is not affecting us. But it does. More than people know or let on. It eventually begins to leak out, showing itself as anger, depression, anxiety, suicide, addiction, negativity, bullying, and self-sabotage.
When a relationship ends, it can feel like someone close to us, or a part of us, has died. It can feel like we’ve lost something; everything! How is a man supposed to deal with the pain, the hurt, the loss, the sorrow, while raising kids and trying to make a buck when he’s been raised to be an emotionless rock?
What if, on top of all this, his kids are taken away from him, or alienated against him?!
It can feel all too hard.
Too many good men have gone down this road and lost everything. Too many good men have pushed their feelings down, hidden them with anger, alcohol, drugs, gambling, escaping into work, unhealthy relationships. Too many good men have escaped, medicated and even died because of this pain; because society has told them they are weak for feeling it.
Let’s break this cycle. Let’s change the narrative. Let’s tell our men and our boys a different story. “It is okay to feel weak, it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be vulnerable and express oneself. It’s okay to not have a plan or know all the answers.”
When a man goes through a breakup, he has choices. There are ways to respond, rather than react. We can use the pain to stay small and safe, or, we can choose to learn, and grow.
Saying it’s ok to cry is just not enough. We are MEN. Men like tools and taking action. Here’s how:
Accept the situation for what it is, acknowledge your feelings and where you are at. Accept that and get cool with it. Make the choice to move forward and through this, rather than stay stuck.
Leave with as much love as possible. You don’t know what the future holds, so don’t lash out because your ego’s hurt. Let it go. Let her go. With love. Allow the best possible outcome to unfold. Getting angry never helped anyone! Don’t go burning bridges or doing things you’ll regret. Make it as easy as possible for the two of you, and your children, to move forward.
Stop trying to fix her, or the situation. Or even yourself! Nothing, and no person, is broken.
Take full ownership of your actions. Apologise. But let it go. Remember, there’s a big difference between taking ownership and laying blame.
Start putting yourself first. Sleep, food, water, exercise, and self-care. If you are not looking after yourself, things will feel worse than they really are.
Detach from emotions, outcomes, expectations, and control. Let go of that stuff. As long as you focus on being the best version of yourself and having fun with your children, the rest will fall into place, give it some time.
Spend as much quality time with your kids as you can, in person or over video calls, whatever it takes to keep connection with them, do it. Be present with your children, get off your phone. Think about your ‘problems’ when they go home. When the kids think of you the story in their head is “Dad was there for me, he was fun and also supportive.”
Keep adult issues, opinions and discussions away from your children.
Keeping communication channels open with the other parent if you can and based around the kid’s needs. If email or SMS are the only ways to do this, stick to that.
Seek professional help through counseling and mediation. Legal advice may help, but if it takes a bit of patience, avoiding court can save everyone a lot of time, energy and money. Avoid the drama.
Create a parenting plan or order so that your children’s rights and needs are protected. Given the divorce, separation and suicide rate, I don’t know how this isn’t mandatory. Protect your children.
Let go of blame, judgment, criticism, anger, revenge, the need to be right, feeling helpless and being a victim. Drop the ego. Holding on to any of this stuff will keep you stuck, small and unhappy. Life’s too short.
Put yourself in her shoes, try to understand the situation from both sides, objectively -she’s probably just as hurt as you are! It provides perspective. Your children will appreciate this even if you don’t. Mother Theresa said the best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother.
Respectfully, let her do whatever the hell she wants; worry about yourself and your children. The relationship has ended, respect her space. Give her whatever she wants, as long as your free and the kids get to see you, you’re in front.
Heal your wounds from the past; heal whatever happened when you were a boy that ‘messed you up’. Look into Emotional Clearing. A single 1-hour session can clear up more baggage than 10 years of psychology, counseling and self-help books.
Play the long game. Be patient. Things may be difficult now, but if you keep your cool you will get through this and come out on top. Your kids will love you for it, and you can be proud of your efforts as a Father.
Be kind to yourself. It’s okay to make mistakes, given you learn from them. The world can be harsh enough without beating ourselves up. Learn to laugh at your mistakes and not be so serious. As long as you have your sense of humor, everything will work out fine.
Work out who is your trusted cabinet and counsel. Only share with people you can trust, and who understand. Expressing how you feel and what’s happening is important, but equally so is who you share that information with.
Find a men’s, father’s or parenting support group.
Have fun. Get a hobby. Get some friends. Start dating when you feel ready. Search for more purpose in your life, and less distraction.
Take time out to be still, reflect, chill out, walk on the beach, meditate, journal. Tomorrow’s a new day. A lot can change in 12 months (or even quicker).
Know that children have an innate sense of survivability and resilience. They are able to choose what they need from both parent’s camps. You cannot control what happens at the other house, or who your kids become, but as long as you are consistent and present with the quality of time spent in your camp, and follow these guidelines, over time your children will realise what’s good for them, and face challenges where they need to learn. This may be hard, but it can take the pressure off trying to be the perfect Dad.
Life doesn’t have to be a struggle. Don’t ever give up. Don’t just do it for your kids. Do it for yourself too.