Kate Meyers: James F. is a Connecticut-based dad who works in commercial real estate. He has been married twice and divorced twice. He has three boys -- a stepson and two sons -- from his second marriage. His boys are 20, 14 and 9.
momlogic: How long were you married?
James F.: My first marriage was an hour and 45 minutes .... Actually, it was about two years. My second marriage was 14 years.
ml: Why did you get divorced?
JF: I'm a doer. I just tap-danced. I worked hard; I provided. I love my kids, I love spending time with them, but I felt like I wasn't getting anything back in my relationship. I just felt like I wasn't being met or appreciated. We went to therapy and it was a disaster, then I went to therapy on my own. I learned a lot. I worked hard. I didn't want to give up on my kids. We separated for five months, and I went back for three years ....
ml: What made you finally decide you couldn't make it work?
JF: My sanity. I knew I was not getting what I needed and [that] everything was work. I just felt shredded. I needed my life back. I love my kids, but they weren't getting the real me. I was always trying to please somebody. I wasn't being true to myself or to them or to anybody, and I finally came to the thought [that] it was more important for me to be a relaxed, comfortable, able-to-smile dad, not just someone having to put it on every day. I hated that I wasn't going to get to kiss them every night or in the morning, but I felt like staying with someone for the kids would be a mistake.
ml: What helped you recover most?
JF: My therapy helped me realize that I couldn't stay in the marriage without falling apart. My friends helped me, my family helped me and I started seeing someone who was going through a divorce as well, and she helped me, too.
ml: What's the best advice that you were given at the time?
JF: "Don't pretend; be honest; be yourself. You're going to cry a lot and you're going to need help. Don't pretend you've got it covered."
ml: What is your split?
JF: It's supposedly joint custody, but with my work schedule, that's not realistic. I have them Wednesday nights and Sunday nights and every other weekend. Other than that it's liberal -- whatever works for them. I get them as much as I can, and my ex-wife is usually understanding .... If I get home from the City early and call and say I'd like to take them for dinner, it's not a problem.
ml: What's the hardest part?
JF: Not seeing my kids. It gets harder. I have a 14-year-old with raging hormones and his own life and sports and he's struggling with that teenage "push me, pull you" stuff. We're very close and he doesn't understand why we can't be together all the time. He keeps a lot in and we have him talking to somebody .... I think it's helpful, but he still keeps a lot in and I know he hurts. I just want to reach down and fix it. I try and keep the hug on him and make him not hurt as much. It's easier with the 9-year-old; he's Mr. Happy.
ml: What's the biggest challenge of your co-parenting?
JF: Trying to keep the personal disappointment or anger or frustration -- whatever -- aside. It's not about them, it's about us. On our good days, we do that. The bad days ... I try to ignore.
ml: What's the best thing to come out of the experience?
JF: My peace of mind. I feel so much less weight -- there's a lot of pressure that's gone. I feel better mentally and physically. I hope I'm a better dad because of it.