History books are filled with tales of battle hardened barbarians, valiant warriors, and brave soldiers waging war throughout history. These books regale in the glorious details, hardships and sacrifices made by men in battle. Stories of triumph and victory are timeless. Why is it then that there is barely a mention of how these men lived their lives after their battle?
It is the struggle of war, of adversity, that men seem content to dwell upon and from which we learn. As men we are designed to conquer, to overcome, and even to seek out adversity. It is through adversity that we grow stronger and it is in the depths of adversity where we truly learn what we are capable of accomplishing and the nature of our character. It is through the stories of the struggles of other men that we can come to understand what we are capable of overcoming.
As a strategist and advisor of men waging war of a different sort (divorce) I can say not many men think beyond the battle at hand. While it is imperative to have a strategic focus on the task at hand it is important to hear the stories of men who have survived and thrived after the war has ended. It is these men who can give us hope and more reason to keep fighting our battle.
For most men it is impossible to envision any life beyond their failing marriage and the legal battle in front of them. Even when I was going through it everyone told me that one day I would look back and see it with a different viewpoint. They claimed the obstacles in front of me would seem small in comparison to what I had gained. I vehemently denied that I would ever be able to see the positive outcomes from the horrendous battle I endured. And yet, here I am along with hundreds of other men looking at all we have gained.
You can get here. It is not easy but if you are enduring a high conflict divorce there is a better life waiting for you on the other side. If you are asking yourself, how could anything positive come from such a devastating life change; you should be asking yourself, how could something positive not come from it?
Almost anything is better than being in the middle of a divorce…
The following will sound trite and I say it slightly tongue-in-cheek because it is so hard for a man to fathom while he is in the middle of a divorce. But you will eventually experience a glorious triumph despite the pain and turmoil you are feeling right now. Hope can never be understated and it is important to understand it gets so much better. Too many men succumb to defeat and hopelessness, some even choosing to end their lives before earning their badge of honor.
If you are in a high conflict divorce or custody battle, this is likely the worst thing in your life that has or will happen to you. Things can only get better. You can survive, you can win, and you can make it to a better place. Thomas Paine said it best, “The harder the conflict the more glorious the triumph”. You have heard this expression in many other forms because it is true. We can only see the beauty in life after experiencing the pain.
The True Spoils of War
Divorce is a war no matter what type of divorce it is. It is a war upon your morals, your lifestyle, your finances, your spirit, and your emotions. If you are in a high conflict divorce and you are the reasonable party; there is a real possibility that you have been in a relationship that has altered your perception of reality and conditioned you to a specific frame of reference for so long that you don’t understand the benefits of getting out. Make no mistake, when the battle is over, there are some serious spoils of war.
Yes, the feeling of true freedom. Unfettered, unabashed, unadulterated and all consuming. The kind of freedom that invokes the imagery of an eagle soaring free above the mountains. The kind of freedom you can literally feel wash over you physically when you realize you are in control of your own life.
High conflict divorcees are typically victims of partners with severe narcissistic or other personality disorders. They are likely to be so conditioned to their way of life that they never imagined a different reality. When you find a way out and discover your freedom, it is almost overwhelming. Imagine, freedom to feel however you choose, act like you want, and do what you feel is important. The freedom to chase opportunity. The freedom to raise your children as you see fit. The freedom to instill your values in your children. You will finally be free from the musings and manipulation of a person who was likely making your life miserable and you didn’t even realize it.
It is important to ask yourself, what freedoms do you want that you don’t have now?
Time & Opportunity
You know all those things you always wanted to do, but never had the time? Now you do. Many men have expressed the same concept to me about their “times”. For me, I am absolutely grateful for what I call my “3 times”. I have time with myself, I have time with my work, and I have time with my kids. Many men I speak with talk of the guilt they first felt when they started to feel like time away from their children was a positive. At first, I felt this way too, but this is an opportunity to grow as a man to be better for them when you do have time together. This is time you can use to chase opportunities that you could never find the time to chase while married. This is the time to spend growing and learning as a man without any encumbrances.
What will you spend your time doing?
Even though I only have my children 50% of the time, I can honestly say that the time I spend with my kids is so much better quality than the time I had with them in the past. It is truly one on one time with my kids where they get my full attention. We have developed a relationship that is stronger now than I think I could have ever created while married. This is the time I use to instill the values, skills, and experiences that I think are important without the interventions of anyone else.
How will you spend your time with your children?
The hope that comes from possibility cannot be understated. When you realize that your new found freedom and time allow you to follow your passions and engage in new experiences you have something to look forward to, something for which you can be thankful. Seriously, there are men that are thankful for divorce, I am one of those men.
This is not just the possibility to pursue hobbies or more activities or vacations with your kids. It is the possibility of a better life. A more meaningful life. A life where you can choose to be open to any and all experiences, to gain knowledge and skills, and to truly experience what life can offer. It can mean the possibility to grow into the man or father that you want to become. It is the possibility of defining life on your terms. What possibilities does your future hold?
The acceptance that you are truly free and can pursue your life on your terms. The acceptance of the death of a life you once conceived and the courage to build a new life. The acceptance that your new reality is up to you and no one else.
Lastly and probably the greatest benefit of divorce is learning to accept yourself, the ability to unconditionally value all the parts of who you are as a man. Perhaps especially the acceptance that you are flawed. The lessons we learn and the character that is built from identifying flaws and working to improve these traits is immeasurable.