Monday, June 18, 2007

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Father

I was talking to a colleague yesterday who is struggling bigtime with personal issues at the moment. I'm not sure exactly how old he is, but older than I he must be because he has children to his first marriage who are in their 30's.

For a number of years he has been a visitor in his own house, sleeping on the couch, cooking and doing most of the housework, but unwilling to leave the family home for the sake of his kids. In recent months he moved from the couch onto a mattress on the floor of the study and over that time his wife gradually packed up everything belonging to him and placed it in boxes in the study.

A few weeks ago he decided to finally leave and his children have not spoken to him since. He is lonely and depressed and I can empathise to a degree.

He admitted that he is going through a grieving process but the major issue for him is that issue with his kids. He is bewildered and hurt and I think a large part of that may be due to what his wife is saying to them. Fortunately for me, whilst some of the issues may be the same, that has not happened in my situation.

Of course children are going to all react differently to these sorts of events, and at some stage we should expect sadness, anger and hopefully one day acceptance. But I can't help thinking that people assume a few things about how the man in the situation will react and cope. One thing we discussed yesterday is that women often have a much bigger support network than a guy. That they have people they can talk to and talk through issues with. For blokes, though, we are often expected to grin and bear it. To actually be open and speak about how you feel is something that is not encouraged. In fact if you do, you risk ridicule and ostracism in some quarters, or at the very least have people think you are a bit strange.

Because feelings are hidden it is often difficult to even find someone in the same situation to talk to anyway. The public face is very different to the private one. Yesterday the conversation began quite innocuously and moved into what might sometimes be called a D & M. Pretty unusual for blokes, but I did find it valuable for myself to understand how someone else was dealing with a similar situation. It also helped to be able to talk about it with another male rather than a female.

It does not matter who is to blame for a marraige breakup and it certainly doesn't help anyone to sheet blame upon someone else. In a sense, everyone is a victim, irrespective of whether they were the initiator or not, and that is particularly true when children are involved. Any parent who suffers the ultimate hurt of losing touch with their children, even if that is only for a short time, will know what I mean by that.

7 comments:

Finn said...

It is interesting that for some reason we assume the guy will be fine after the marriage is over. Maybe because the women usually end up with the children? I don't know, but it's not right.

And it is SO not right for one parent to say terrible things about the other, not matter what went on. One has to remember that the ex is part of those children, and when you trash him/her, you trash them as well.

Jod{i} said...

Incredibly written.
I agree with finn...
I can not say I understand, for many reasons. QUite an honest post! Thanks for sharing...and you still should have said, Happy Father's day..

Loz said...

Hi Finn, I think that at times the trashtalk can even happen unknowingly. Maybe a vibe that's picked up by the kids or an overheard phone conversation is all that's needed. And of course the kids will tend to take the side of the parent they remain with because it is their pain they see more often.

And thnks for the "Happy Father's Day" Jodi, I forgot that the past weekend was father's day in the States. In Australia we celebrate it in September

Vancouver mermaid/Montreal photographer said...

What a fantastic post! I came by here, out of sheer curiosity, after seeing that you stopped by my site.

I was not, however, expecting to be so carefully reading several of your posts, and finding myself in such agreement with this one.

I too, am a divorced parent. One who is about to be remarried shortly. My husband to be left his kids from his previous marriage behind, in a different province when he moved. However, in an effort to continue to see them on a regular basis, he flies out (5 hour flight each way) every SECOND weekend to be with them.

Although that is tough on our finances, we budget with the trips in mind, so that is just how we live now. Most people seem to recognize the selfless decision that he's making by going back so often.

His kids however, being fed lies by their mom, still are hurt and judgemental toward him.

I hate how that hurts him. I hope that when they are older (now 9 and 10) they will understand how hard this distance is for him too.

(By the way, I've recently switched URL's and so my link won't connect you to my current blog... in order to view my blog directly, go to :

www.youmeandfourkids.blogspot.com )

Thanks,
Michelle

Loz said...

Thanks for dropping in and comenting Michelle. And tell your husband to persevere. The bloke I am talking about in this post has spoken to his kids by phone this week but they hung up on him. He too will continue to try.

Jeremy Jacobs said...

"I was talking to a colleague yesterday who is struggling bigtime with personal issues at the moment. I'm not sure exactly how old he is, but older than I he must be because he has children to his first marriage who are in their 30's.

For a number of years he has been a visitor in his own house, sleeping on the couch, cooking and doing most of the housework, but unwilling to leave the family home for the sake of his kids. In recent months he moved from the couch onto a mattress on the floor of the study and over that time his wife gradually packed up everything belonging to him and placed it in boxes in the study".

And people wonder why I've never married. Who needs that sort of aggro?

Loz said...

Hi folks - you may wonder why I would post a comment on my own blog here on a post that is getting on to two years old. The reason is that a lot of people happen onto this post by doing a google search on the combination of words of father, lonliness and long distance. Can I put out a request to any of you who actually stay around long enough to read not only the post but this comment, to let me know why you came and tell me a bit of your story. We can all learn from each other and men need all the help we can get. :)

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