I just got off a long and painful telephone call with an old friend. He’s just separated from his wife. I hadn’t seen or talked to him in about 4 years.
He called me because he knows I ended up with primary custody of my kids (they live with me) after my divorce. He couldn’t imagine how I accomplished that.
He said, “I have nothing – I left everything at the house. I’m starting fresh. There is no way I can get the kids, even if I could take care of them”.
I responded: “OK, that’s fine. I had nothing either. Nothing is an easy place to start.” The rest of this isn’t quoted, it’ just my feelings/recollections about the call.
In fact, when I moved out of my family home I went and stayed with some friends for one week. (About as long as they could stand me). I rented an old farmhouse with no air conditioning or heat (besides a fireplace) and some dangerous old propane heaters I never used. It was 28 degrees outside the first night I slept in my new house. I slept on the floor, in front of the fireplace. I woke up every hour or two to add another log on the fireplace. It would be three months before I could afford to buy a bed. I was almost 40 years old and sleeping on a floor. In the cold.
But don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t broke. I didn’t have any “stuff” or any savings (or much of a house) – but I had an income. I had a decent job – one that turned into a great job for a while. I just wasn’t spending money on anything except a lawyer. I *really* wanted my kids. More than heat and a bed even. Of course I couldn’t get custody of my kids with no heat or furniture, so I started adding stuff as I could. It was hard. It wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t fun. I wasn’t suddenly “free” and out hitting the bars looking for company. I was investing in my chances of getting my kids.
I actually had to call my boss and have him fly halfway across the country to come and meet with me. So I could ask him for more money. So I could afford the fight (and the eventual bed). I was honest with him – and I hardly even knew him. But he knew me – I worked my ass off for the company. He knew that. Over the next 4 years or so we became best of friends. I joined his staff (he was the VP of Engineering). We rode motorcycles together. Our kids were the same age, so we spend time with his family (after our move to Florida). He’s still one of the best friends I have (and I can count best friends on a three-fingered hand).
Anyway, as you can tell by now – I got custody of my kids. I was just trying to let my friend know it wouldn’t be easy, but if he invested his time, and money, and mostly his heart into getting his kids that he might just win. Doing anything else would just guarantee he lost.
I thought I got through to him. But about 30 minutes after we got off the phone I got the following email (shortened – but no pertinent content removed).
“Rob. Thanks. I want to say I can’t imagine what you went through – except now I am going through the same thing. But not really. You know I love my kids, but I really don’t think I could win – even if I went through the shit you did. I think I would still lose”.
So he thinks he’ll lose and guess what? He will. He made it an absolute certainty. He gave up.
Now, to be honest, in his case, I know he would have taken very good care of his kids. I also know his kids were better off with their mom – if they had to live with only one parent. She just had a much better relationship with the kids than he did. To him they were occasionally amusing but often “in the way”. To her they were everything – her babies, her friends, and mostly her responsibility. He never had to do much, if anything when it came to caring for the kids. Never changed a single diaper ever.
So I forget if I ever had a point to this post. Too many thoughts of how things might have been different if I hadn’t chosen to sleep on the floor instead of spending money on me. And my newfound “freedom”.
But I know what caused me to blog this – it was this post on Violent Acres. I caught up on my blog-reading today and saw this. And I thought, “If this is true, why is it true”? I don’t know if it’s true. I don’t know as many pussy-whipped men as Val points to. But it really doesn’t matter – if men are getting taken advantage of in this way then they are weak men.
And then my friend calls. And then I get his resignation email. And I start thinking that maybe Val is right.