Archive for June, 2012

Emotional separation

Posted: June 30, 2012 in Communication, Divorce, Finances

One of the hardest things to do in the divorce process is to disengage from the emotions of the situation and make good choices.  An entire segment of our population, divorce attorneys, are very, very wealthy because they understand this and encourage the contention to manifest itself as long as possible.  As long as you have two people fuming mad at each other, it makes it easy to help them overlook the thousand dollar checks they write each week to keep the adrenaline going.

I think the challenge is more difficult for women, who are more emotional in general than men, but I talk to guys who are just sucked into “not giving that @#%@! a dime!”  One piece of advice given by a divorce lawyer in the DivorceCare program, is to avoid divorce lawyers at all costs.  Once they are involved you lose all control over the process.  Realistically, I understand this is a little utopian in its statement, and we talk about this in the group discussion after the video, but you can still avoid getting them involved except where absolutely necessary and you can maintain control by only working with one who does not insist on advising you on every aspect of your case.  If you read or hear this advice in an unemotional state, it makes a lot of sense.  Problem is no one calls a divorce lawyer in an unemotional state and far too many will manipulate it to their advantage.

A great example of this inability to detach is my brother.  He is involved in what by any stretch of the imagination would be classified as a messy divorce.  They will not cooperate with each other in anyway even down to whether the kid can eat snacks at night.  This has created a situation where they cannot talk or even use a mediator.  He shares e-mails with me from time to time that they exchange through a piece of software (that they must pay for to officially document their inability to be civil) and they are very sad to read.  The accusations and the finger pointing and the “you did” and “you didn’t” that just drag everything into the cellar are all over.  I have had discussions with him about this, but when in that emotional state, it is all about the fight.  I do want to state, that I do understand that in many cases there is one party that will just not give it up, but it also takes one party to keep trying to draw the other away from the chew rag.  If you both are just pissed at each other, the chance of anything civil is zero.

I have talked with people who are insistent they want to get something in their divorce decree that is just not going to happen.  There are at least three different people I am in contact with right now who are in some form of this in their proceeding.  It hurts to watch them complain about how much money they are spending, yet realize that what control they have they refuse to exercise.  How does it serve you to fight to the death and end up with the same result you would have had if you had just realized the court would rule in the middle?  Is there some badge of honor I do not understand that gives us points in some magical land for fighting the fight?  I have never seen it, and all I see are upset, emotional people fighting for that reason.  Just as a parent needs to step away from a child before issuing a punishment and rationally thinking about it and calming down first, so should adults act in the divorce process.  If not, just as I said yesterday, you are free to choose to behave like a hot head, but you are not free from the consequences of behaving that way, and in a divorce nine times out of ten that consequence is a big fat check to continue a process that will end poorly anyway.

My attorney explained out local judge’s favorite statement when a divorce case is finalized in her court; “Neither of you look happy at all.  Means we got a fair settlement.”  That advice was our guiding light as we drafted our papers.  Whenever I wanted to push for something I really wanted, she would bring me back saying we can spend a lot of money to fight long and hard for it and end up back at something the court would do.  Full custody is a great example of this.  Many, especially moms, are convinced they can get this with “no problems” by their attorney who is really thinking that “I can fund my new Porsche with ‘no problems’ by getting her to believe this”.  There are no definitive statistics as the results certainly vary by state as the laws do, but I have found a few examples where if there are no risk factors involved full custody is granted in less than 1% of cases.  The problem ends up with then fighting the battle on risk factors.  Again citing my own case, I was told that in our state unless the PARENT (notice the non-gender bias) is currently in jail or has an active recent arrest for drugs, there is zero chance of them not having joint custody.  Once can certainly go with the group who responds to these stats with the mantra that that attorney does not know how to try that case successfully and that’s why they tell you that.  I guess it could be true, and you need to decide if you want to pay up to find out if your lawyer is the one who can.  I have heard about way more cases where all that happened was the client was out a lot of money and the result was still some type of joint custody, yet everyday people write checks to attorneys who convince them their case will be different.  Emotions and decisions are a poor mix.

There is a reason with serious decisions that phrases such as “sleep on it” and other attempts to encourage people to disengage and calm down and think about it exist.  The decisions are high-risk, yet for some reason we are OK doing this with a decision to take a job cross country, invest a lot of money, or anything else but divorce related issues.  The challenge is that the emotions tend to go on and on in a divorce so that lull does not come as easily.  I hear the argument of it being owed to them because their marriage was so bad, it is for the kids, it impacts the kids.  The problem that needs to be grasped is that if you take it to court they are not emotionally invested, they are impartial and they will award in that vein.  If you can work to get yourself to that mindset, of treating the divorce as a business proposition, because that is what it is, you will save yourself a lot of heartache and money.   Figure out what is really, really important.  No, no, it can’t be all of it, or most of it, or even a lot of it.  It needs to be one or two things.  In my cases it was time with the kids.  Everything else, money, possessions was not on the list.  Even though I feel my ex was not a good parent and my kids have said several times, even once in the last month, where she has told them directly so wants nothing to do with them, I still understand that that would be so ridiculously difficult to prove let alone get action on that if she asked for a 50-50 split in time I have already told her I would just agree to it.  It does not do me or the kids any good to drag things into court to try to keep something that has a small chance from happening anyway.  

So your next question may be, “How is that not just getting taken advantage of and/or giving in?”  Let me be clear.  I do not just give in to any demand that comes along.  What I do is very, very methodically pick my battles.  I would not agree to her having more time with the kids than me.  I would not agree to her wanting the kids to move to her school district, though the level of effort I would expend on that would not be great.  The calculation, if you will, is as unemotional as I can make it.  The chance of me getting sucked in by a lawyer, investigator, or other individual with claims of magnificent victory that feel good on an emotional level is almost zero. 

Even when the specter of getting pulled in against my will surfaces, the analysis I always strive toward is to be dispassionate.  If I feel myself getting angry, or bitter or something else about what she dared to suggest or pull I know I’m not in the right mindset to act.  This is a really tough place to get to.  It is so much more pleasurable to lash out, call a lawyer and get ready to rumble.  A whole industry exists fueled by self righteousness.  “I should win because I’m right!”  or “No one will ever stand for my kids being in that environment” are all heard as the same thing from another perspective—“Ka-ching!” 

In the end the only advocate you have for yourself is you.  Do not be convinced that an attorney is working for you.  They always are working for themselves.  You goal is to be done; theirs is to go on and on forever.  Do you think they really care which client is being billed in a given hour?  Would you in their shoes?  I understand they have a livelihood to make just like I do and in the end if you understand that, you should be able to control things to a certain degree.  It is your life.  If it is not important don’t let someone who gets paid by the hour convince you it is.  Step away from the anger and make the decision calmly and rationally.  It is so excruciatingly hard to do that many times, but you do yourself no favors by giving in. 

I would also suggest asking tough questions.  When I have talked to attorneys about ending spousal support I am not afraid to have them tell me what percentage of cases they win.  The numbers are staggeringly low.  In that case it’s a cost benefit thing.  It eats me up that I know my ex is violating everything in our agreement that should make it a slam dunk, but the reality of how those cases are tried and proven and the legal arguments that can be made will result in such a long drawn out contest with little chance of success that the right answer is to not pursue it.  Emotionally it eats me up from time to time, especially when I’m angry or bitter about something she did.  If I let myself be ruled by emotions I’d be calling up the PI and the attorney saying to let’s go get her.  In the end I’d be out tens of thousands of more dollars with an outcome as uncertain as if I could hit a quarter in my front yard by throwing a pea over the house from the back.  Those ain’t good odds, Hoss. 

It is really, really, really, really hard to boil down decisions about who gets the kids and when, how many holidays you get, what support your kids receive, and what support you receive or provide to a risk/reward calculation.  I think doing it any other way is just a slide into misery.  I’ve seen it played out over and over as I talk and read countless stories.  The best outcomes are from those people who just got through it and moved on, not who slogged it out in the trenches and emerged beaten, battered and bedraggled.  You will feel terrible regardless.  Do yourself a favor and minimize the damage as much as you can.

Freedom of choice

Posted: June 29, 2012 in Accountability, Family, Kids, Parenting

Parenting is full of interesting moments.  As our children get older it is getting more and more challenging.  I originally was going to write about parenting in 2012, but then I realized that would be a whole book, so maybe I should focus on a specific aspect instead, so here goes.

It began for me many years ago while my now fourteen year old was maybe seven.  At that point when I was disciplining her for doing something she should not, I was informed, “My teacher said I have rights!  You can’t make me do that!”  As I tried to convince a seven year old that I did not care what her teacher said when it came to discipline in my house the discussion only got worse.  Over the years I have had various flavors of this topic and as I pulled it apart is comes down to control and choice for the child. 

A while back a friend on Facebook had posed this question: “Someone said to me “I can’t make him do anything!” about their teenage son… that’s been rolling around in my head a few days… How do you or would you make your teen son be obedient to you??”

This really is the crux of the matter when it comes to parenting older children and it really has not changed that much over the years.  I do not know a single parent I have known for any length of time with older kids who has not gotten to that point.  When they are small you can basically make them do what you want.  If you want them to go somewhere you carry them into the car and you go, for example.  As they get out of being toddler’s and get to school age and talk with friends and find out other options it gets a little more challenging.  Many parents, myself included in the past, have resorted to over the top discipline that can all be summed up in some variation of making the child fear you at some level.  Think about how effective that is.  Whole religions are based on the fear of God.  Isn’t is better to listen to someone because you love and respect them instead of doing it because you fear them?  I feel there is a significant difference between fear and respect.  Too many parents feel that they are being effective because the children listen because they are stern, loud, forceful or in some other way belittle the child as an inferior person.  This does work for a while, but inevitably leads to the statement and question above.  Eventually the kid has enough and pushes back following your example; with sternness, force and loud words.  Then we wonder where they got it from.  It’s always tough to look ourselves in the mirror isn’t it?

I’m still digging out of the consequences of this type of parenting with my own kids, though I know it is much, much better than it was years ago.  The revelation was when I changed to a mindset of understanding that for the most part the only way to get kids to do something that will stick with them is to approach it in a similar way to what happens to adults.  Sure people can scream, yell or beat us into submission but that never works long term, and rightfully so it usually results in criminal action at some point.  Does your boss get you to do something by calling you names, or yelling at you to do it now?  Does your spouse?  If so, I imagine of the main things on your mind is to get out of the situation and not about how you want to be compliant. 

With that in mind, one of the responses on the Facebook page really summed things up well and has been a good reference point to how I would like proceed with disciplining my kids.  The quote was, “You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequences of your choice.”  This allows me to be respectful in how they are treated and clearly explains why they may be getting punished for something.  At times I certainly do not measure up to this mantra, but as a mission statement of parental discipline if you will, it is not a bad statement to focus on.

In the end is your child being obedient just because their outward actions are what you asked?  How many times did your child do what you asked but you could tell they were fuming inside and could not wait to get out of your presence?  If you were not there to lord over them and enforce their behavior, so you think they’d be doing what you asked?  If not, then why do we feel we are successful if that is the result?  It really is rather silly.  It is not obedience that is being shown here.  In this situation the person expending the most effort is the once enforcing the punishment, action or activity.  As a five foot tall petite woman do you think this will work with your six foot linebacker build son when you disagree?  That is the beauty of guiding children from the perspective of that quote.

This is in fact what happens to us as adults in life.  If we choose to kick a police officer because we are mad they stopped us for speeding, we are certainly free to do that.  The consequence is most likely that we will be arrested.  It is hard as a parent to realize that we do not have the control, but it is important to understand that before everything becomes a screaming match.  Providing a consequence of lost freedom or privileges consistently helps guide children to understand what is expected.  It certainly is important to not arbitrarily assign consequences in anger as they can result is ridiculous situations and undermine the learning process. 

I’m not sure who made the statement this parent used, but it really makes a lot of sense to me.  If our goal is to help our kids grow into solid citizens, then using a process they will live with their whole lives is a sound direction.

Just like that

Posted: June 28, 2012 in Christian, Christian life, Faith, Family, God

Today is going to be a tough day.  Today we get to let a lot of our employees know that we will be closing down their facility.  As a management team we’ve looked at our market, our company, the world’s economies for years and even though no one could fault us for making the decision, it is still a tough thing.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is not a very compassionate person.  A couple of days ago all those employees were going about their lives coming to work, enjoying their families and friends.  The concern started yesterday when announcements about the meetings today were posted.  Managers shared comments they were hearing from the employees about the worry this unexpected meeting has generated.  Just like that, in the span of a few seconds, as the words are said announcing the intention to close the facility, their perspective will change on a dime.  Much of what is said afterwards will have to be repeated in coming days, as their minds will be on their own situation the instant they hear what is happening.  Some will be more ready as they have already begun that shift in their minds based on the special meeting request.  It will be a tough day.

As a member of management I’ve had the “privilege”(is that what it is?) of knowing about this for months.  I also will still have a job after this goes through, but dozens will not.  I remember nearly ten years ago when I was called into the HR office and told my position had been eliminated.  I had felt this was coming for months, but until that moment, it was all just a possibility.  In that instant it became a reality.  I was unemployed.  I recall how it felt, and I would not wish that on my worst enemy, and so I have been having a tough few weeks since we received the official word that this was finally going ahead. I know first hand how many of these people will feel.  I also know first hand how for many of them this singular act will test their faith in God or if there is a God.

When I went through my layoff I was in a point in my marriage when things were not great.  To be honest there never really was a time in my marriage when things were ever great, but this was still a below average time.  I had been fretting for months.  In fact, two years before that when the trouble with the sales of the company started I had actively looked for other employment, actually going on three interviews, but nothing materialized, in large part because I approached the situation in a state of denial.  My company would be fine, I was worried about nothing, and since I had a job I was being ultra picky in what type of job I would “settle” for.  Coming back to the time near my layoff, I had been talking with my wife and friends about my concerns.  They all were convinced I was being paranoid.  I’d been with the company forever, people there like me a lot, they needed me.  Even though hundreds of people had been let go before me over the last two years and even though my department itself was down to 70% of its size to some degree I wanted to believe.  I was disconnected from God at this point, having stepped far, far away to avoid even more strife in my marriage.  I could not lean on Him because I was not in fellowship with Him at that time.  I only had the people in my life and they were telling me it would all be great.  Like so many false prophets that led nations to disaster in the Bible, I had my own little set of advisors guiding me down the enticing path of belief that what I was seeing was not true because the results were not what I wanted. 

The day finally came a few weeks after Christmas.  I had been right, and my lack of faith in myself had caused me to simply wait for the hammer to drop instead of doing something before hand when the writing was on the wall.  I was so certain that when I got a call from the HR Manager to come to her office, as I left I told one of my staff, “I’m going to HR to get laid off”.  Even at that time I received a “You’re crazy!”  I sat through the brief meeting numb after the first words, “We’re sorry to tell you your job has been eliminated” were uttered.  Everything after that was not really on my mind.  I was already onto what would I do, how I had let my family down, how stupid I was for not acting when I had the control over my life instead of waiting for them to take it from me.  These are many of the same things that will be going through some of our employee’s minds today.  I pray for wisdom for them and strength to handle this with dignity and grace. 

In my case, the situation drove me back to God.  In others, I know they will question how God could allow this to happen and they will flee from Him.  I pray that in whatever way I can, I can influence those individuals to not step away but instead to head toward God and look for strength in this time of trial.  Temptations abound in these times and our character is tested.  In most cases we are not strong enough alone to resist it.  It can drive us to make very poor choices for worldly or short term gain. 

As I attended church during this time, mostly alone, as my wife and children stayed home because she felt it was stupid, I was regularly amazed at how whatever was heaviest on my heart that week was almost always what the message was about.  I had taken a big step back towards God and let Him know that regardless of the consequences in the rest of my life (I knew my already rocky marriage would be tested by this determination to not step away again) I was His.  In turn He quickly showed me that I was doing the right thing my meeting my needs and sustaining me through the period of unemployment. 

The challenge faced by all these employees today and millions of us every day is that life will send things to us in an instant.  One day we have a great job, the next it is gone.  One day our daughter walks out the door to a friend’s home, and the next moment she is in an accident either seriously injured or dead.  One day a parent walks out the door without a word and never returns.  One day we believe was are healthy or on the road to recovery and the next instant we are told the cancer has spread and is worse than expected.  Just like that…. and the world is never the same.  Without faith in God these instants can break us beyond recognition.  Most of us know people who were never the same after a job loss, death of a loved one, or some other trial. Some trials we see coming, like the death of an ailing or aging parent, but I believe the ones that hit us between the eyes when we least expect it are the ones that test us the most.  There is no time to prepare, only to react.

As a Christian, I cannot answer the question of why God let’s bad things happen to good people any better than anyone else, but I feel loved by the fact that He will be there when they do.  By striving to be more Christ like and follow His guidance I strive to be a light to those who are looking for help and encouragement.  It is difficult in our work environment to openly proclaim to people that Jesus is the way to inner peace, but I can certainly pray vigorously that I can be used in whatever way to help even just one of our hurting employees to find a deeper relationship with God that leads them through this facility closure to a better life for them and their family.  I pray for the wisdom to say and do the right things today and in subsequent days to glorify God. 

Dear Lord, please help our employees through this difficult day.  For many of them the announcement will come as a shock and it may be tempting to blame You and draw away.  Encourage their hearts and the hearts of everyone to understand that You are there for them.  Lord grant all of us in leadership the guidance to help everyone through this transition in the most supportive and respectful way possible.  Too many organizations in Your world today treat these situations very callously.  I thank you for the wisdom You have provided so far to allow us to design a plan that cares for the individual and their families in the best way we have seen possible.  I pray you will use this trial to draw people who have not known You to you for perhaps the first time, so that they may begin their life anew in Your saving grace.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

We are coming upon six weeks of being married.  I had mentioned in an earlier post that there were certain things that would only be experienced once we finally all moved in together.  No matter what we did before, there was no way to simulate some of the stresses and events that would happen.

So how are we doing?  I’d say things are going very well.  Things have certainly not been perfect, however no one expected them to be.  Earlier this week we had a child misbehave which led to a relatively unclear discussion with my wife that resulted in a very brief but loud argument.  In the past I would have handled the situation very differently, in large part because the person on the other side of the argument would have handled it very differently.  The key here was to understand that this was a new circumstance and to treat it accordingly.  I spent quite a bit of time that night praying to God for guidance and wisdom, which is not what my reaction would have been in the past.  The calming influence of that comfort, knowing that the right path forward would present itself, made all the difference.  I thought about how I could have been clearer, how I had made my point many more times than necessary only inflaming the situation, and that I needed to trust God to work in her heart to help her see that my guidance was meant for the good of the family and not from any other place.  While in the heat of the moment that may not be what she felt, I believe when she had time to reflect it was more evident. 

A few other times stand out as I reflect on the weeks.  The fact that my wife has created a safe environment for all the children in the house to feel they can know what to expect.  The fact that even though work has turned into a three ring circus ever since I returned from the honeymoon that my wife has been supportive in allowing me to do what is needed rather than making me feel guilty for doing my job.  The time when my wife let me know how happy she was that she could have her sisters come visit for an afternoon and not be worried or embarrassed.  The times we have communicated a need to each other, sometimes me to her, sometimes her to me, and that we are working together to correct our course and steer forward in a productive way. 

Each day we face new tasks to complete from making dinner, to dealing with an unexpected bit of news in the mail, to some drama with the kids.  This is life, and it is the life we agreed to enter into when we decided to unite as one and move forward.  The road is not always smooth, and certainly this early when boxes are still unpacked and there are things left to work through the stresses are higher than normal.  It certainly is more challenging beginning this process in summer when the kids are home all day and it increases the opportunity for friction.  Given all that I think it is going better than expected.  One can only benchmark against past experiences and in a blended family that is not always fair, but there are no other frames of reference.  We do not have ten years of past experience with each other to compare to so the comparisons can only come to what occurred with others.

I for one know that had the same situations occurred before in my world there would have been much more than one serious argument in six weeks and a lot less happiness.  To me it verifies the lessons I learned through my divorce and healing process that it was critical to get right with God and let Him drive me together with the right partner for me.  Marriage takes work but it is so different being in a marriage with someone who does the work and having a shared commitment to a good outcome. 

There is a lot more living left to do, but at this time I think we’re doing really well.

The X factor

Posted: June 26, 2012 in Blending, Divorce

One of the most interesting (yes, I can have a strange sense of what is interesting) aspects of this process is that of the exes.   Unlike the TV show where the aspect is always good, or else you lose, in the world of blended families the aspect is an unknown.  I have discussed my ex quite a bit in the past, but Mr. Ex has been a bit of a mystery.

Much like a naturalist I learned much about him for a long time from distant observation.  I listened to recordings of his patterns of communication and also came across scattered markings sent via electronic means that helped me understand a bit more of his mindset.  What I received were pieces that were passed along as the most telling of examples by my fiancée.  The challenge here is they showed a piece of the puzzle but were not the result of direct interaction with the creature I was studying.  Like learning about an ancient civilization and what made them work, I could only draw so much from the snippets that arrived at various times.  I might get two or three data points in a week, then nothing for months.   Over time a profile formed of what I felt were the key drivers of Mr. Ex.

Even now that we are all living in one house, I have only had one direct interaction and one brief sighting through the forest with this elusive creature.  There was another encounter that was expected, however he failed to materialize at the doctor’s appointment, and while that spoke about certain characteristics of the creature, it denied me another opportunity to study him directly.  Much like examining a thoroughbred, you can only get so much from his stats; you can only see how healthy he is by examining his teeth directly.

The only direct crossing of paths was a few weeks back when he came to pick up the kids.  He emerged from his conveyance from the 70s and ambled up the driveway.  His gait was short and his countenance calm.  He was exploring this new environment.  As I approached him from upwind there was no foliage to hide my advance but even so he only gave a casual nod of his head, not anything more direct as I had come to expect from the studies of his mannerisms over the past months.  As I arrived next to him, I initiated the conversation by introducing myself but one of his children had approached with me, so he reverted to a mode I had expected, that of focused father.  Normally this would be commended, but it was very easy to discern, due to the preparations I had made to not be drawn in by this strange species of pseudo-man-father, that the sounds he was making and the body contortions and physical mannerisms were all meant to try to win me over. 

The problem was that how he was communicating made little sense to me, much less to his daughter.  He spent a large amount of energy preening, scratching the ground, and twisting his neck to catch the light much like a bird trying to be noticed and yet assert some sort of strength.  At one point he cursed at his daughter which confused her more, but fell right into one of my expectations.  I have seen enough poseurs in my life, and here stood one before me in all his glory.  Insincerity and crap dripped from him like so much slop from a pig.  He spoke to his daughter for about three minutes in which he conveyed about ten seconds worth of information, then repeated it eighteen times to fill his air time.  Max Headroom had more personality and wit.  Pompous air bag was a label any man who met him would apply pretty quickly.  At this point my wife had arrived and he attempted to talk a bit about our honeymoon and then proceeded to his real point, which was to explain how something was not going right with his son and how it might impact his diabetes.  Never mind that my wife and their doctors had been trying to get him to make changes to help this for years, but like the poseur he is he continued to insist he was not only a master father, mathematician, event planner, concierge, physicist, Olympic athlete but an expert doctor, nurse, therapist and goat herder.  Oh I think he was trying to convince me he was also an expert Sherpa, Dalai Lama, and yodeler.  In short, no matter what the topic, he was prepared with a made up sack of made up junk.  Carrying all that crap around must weigh on him immensely.  Maybe that’s why he’s so short.

The other sighting through the forest was when he was attempting to collect a youngster he had brought with him who had escaped from the Mystery Machine.  He entered the back yard timidly, and crouching, reached out with an arm to grab his son by the shoulder and encourage him to return back to the land of milk and honey.  Maybe I read more into this than there was, but he certainly did not at all appear comfortable in the yard knowing I was back there mowing the lawn and not knowing what I would do if I saw him enter uninvited.

So that has been my exposure to the creature thus far and there has been nothing I have seen to change my assessment thus far.  I approach my interactions prepared and observing and just as with any encounter he who speaks least will hold the advantage the longest.  I will remain a mystery to him much longer than he will to me.  So far I feel his motivations are clear and therefore can be used in our favor as needed.  I will continue to be cautious, as it is important to press my advantage as much as I can.  The difference with the big mouth poseur is he has a lot of communication around and coming that give him away.  I do not need to hear myself talk to breathe as he does.  Much like a shark needs to swim to stay alive, if something is not coming out of his mouth he cannot exist.  Maybe I will see something that surprises me in the future, but so far the creature is behaving as expected. 

As I mentioned, I know he is doing the same to me; trying to size me up, figure out a play, but it’s hard to play someone who has a simple BATNA.  For those who I just lost, this is a negotiation term that means “best alternative to a negotiated agreement”.  The intent is that you need to understand the opposition’s BATNA.  A good negotiator will not accept an agreement that is below their BATNA, but this can be used against someone if they have a high BATNA and you know it.  The creature falls into exactly this category because so much is tied to what people perceive of him.  His kids need to think he is wonderful, and everyone he meets needs to feel that way too.  That’s a lot of pressure, especially when someone you are trying to impress has no interest at all in being impressed by you, as is the case with me.  His best play is to get me on his side and then he can manipulate.  However, for a manipulator if they never get that buy in they are helpless in that situation so they have to keep investing energy to get it.  My BATNA in this dance of his is I can walk away with zero relationship and be happy as a clam.  He cannot do that.  I can see it already in his reactions.  He is not comfortable being unsure and unconfident.  We’ll see what that drives him to do.  As I learn more about Mr. Ex I will share, so stay tuned.

I have spoken in the past about how our experiences make us who we are.  How we handle a given situation, what we understand about a topic, and ways we engage with the world are by and large learned and honed by our path through life and those we come in contact with.  The Bible refers many times to making sure you surround yourself with good inputs.

For many of us the influence of a father was one of those things that shaped who we are.  There are some, sadly far too many, who are never given this opportunity.  Perhaps their father was taken from them by illness or accident, or more sadly their father was not present by choice through abandonment, divorce, distance or lack of interest.  Study after study has shown that the father figure, either by his presence or absence, has much to do with the outcome in the development of a child and an adult.

As I sit here on this father’s day, I think back to those instances where I was learning from my dad, but not really aware I was and how that has affected me.  A neat exercise is to think back to one thing your father taught you, either directly or indirectly, and how it has made you who you are today.

In my case I found myself thinking recently about my trait of finishing a task completely.  This was on my mind lately because of a situation at work where I had a temp for about a month who did not have this trait.  Not only was it irritating to me when I had to break away from my tasks of the day to pick up the pieces of his, but it also became a source of irritation to other co-workers who were not happy with the results they received in response to support they needed.  As a child it was a very regular occurrence to have my dad “ask” me to assist with something.  The query always was something like “Why don’t you help me replace the water heater today?” or “Why don’t you get the drain pan out so we can change the oil on the car?” but I quickly learned these were not requests they were simply his way of telling me the task I was going to be attached to for a time.

I cannot tell you how many times I would be there with him for what seemed like an eternity working on the task at hand.  As a kid I wanted to go play with friends, or just watch TV, and as I grew that desire changed to being with my girlfriend, but the result was always the same.   I was free to do those things, but only after we were done.  Some people might rush through things and just quickly duct tape something together and move on, but my dad regularly took the time to do the job and check all the extras to make sure he would not have to return to it later.  As a child I felt this was a huge waste of time and just dragged things out, but now as I look back, I see that what has made me successful in my life is in large part those lessons learned to not be satisfied until I am certain the work is really done well.

I find I absorbed this from my dad, not by him sitting me down and saying, “Now son, today I’m going to explain why it is important to finish a job right”, but just by being in his presence, many times reluctantly on a sunny Saturday or Sunday afternoon when I would much rather be somewhere else.  As a dad I wonder what things my kids will absorb from me.  More importantly, I understand that to do that I need to make myself available and deal with the complaints of them not wanting to be involved with something.  The boys are right at that age when my dad began his “why don’t yous” with me.  I am at least a competent handyman all because I was not given a choice.  There is no substitute for experience, and there is no substitute for the influence of a father.  I hope a man out there reading this takes a look into his own actions and makes changes in his life to provide that experience to children around him.  In our actions we teach all the time.  When you get in a disagreement with your spouse, do you yell and berate her, or do you let her anger roll off you and respond in a courteous way to try to resolve the issue?  When a driver cuts you off do you gesture in offensive ways and scream at them or do you react more productively?  When something does not go your way, perhaps a clerk at a store is rude, or a worker at the zoo you are at with your children is unhelpful, how do you handle it?  Little eyes are always watching and ears are always listening, even though they may be in another room or behind a closed door.  Cycles of abuse as well as cycles of caring are fostered because of human beings method of learning by experience.  God directed that a man should lead his home.  This is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.  One can do this with an iron fist or with a firm push.  One is designed to hurt and the other to strongly lead.  Which one will you choose?  A large part of this is determined by what your father taught you.

The power of being a Christian however, adds into the mix another Father.  One that cares about you in a way you cannot imagine.  He tends to lead with a firm push, but just like with your father on earth, to learn from Him you need to be in his presence.  This other father provides a way for you to learn other traits in the event your earthly father has some poor lessons to teach.  Stepping away from a cycle of abuse or other sin is possible because God will help you learn other ways.

So as you enjoy this Father’s Day.  Thank God not only for your father but for Him.  Experience comes from everywhere and it will shape you until your last day.  If you are blessed to be a dad, remember this, and provide a solid example of what it means to be a man.  Happy Father’s Day.

Settling in

Posted: June 13, 2012 in Blending, Family

It’s now been a little over three weeks since the wedding.  A good portion of this time was spent with just the two of us away on a honeymoon.  We relaxed and spent time just being with each other knowing that upon our return this would be a rarity, though we will have the periodic weekend of a few days to be alone, though the first one we spent came and went in a different fashion than before as we had moving work to do and she spent a long time organizing the kitchen trying to bring hers and our together.

In general the transition is what we expected.  I suggested we get the kids locations ready and available for their use before ours to avoid the grumbling of them being displaced.  Just as we were feeling a little discombobulated from having boxes and piles and extra things around, so too would they be, but as adults our capacity to just deal with the anxiety and discomfort was going to be greater than a child’s.  We had focused very quickly after our return on getting the oldest girl’s room together.  This involved switching out a queen bed my daughter had there for two twins that they each had selected from the five existing twin beds we had left over from the transition.  We had decided to bunk the other two rooms in discussions with their inhabitants, so the only possible person who would have kept their bed was my wife’s oldest daughter.  She chose to switch out to my middle daughters bed which has some shelving in the head and footboard and gives them some place for books in the room.  They spent a couple nights the first week organizing the space and staying occupied and more importantly giving the adults time to do the boring stuff they needed to do.

We are just about out of the other house, with a couple more car trips required to remove the remaining items.  The activity of changing things has fallen in large part to my wife and much of the things that need changing involve her name change, and of course getting her name changed.  The process moves forward day by day and it gets a little closer to being done.  We still have things to sell off as we have too many beds, too many dressers and other odds and ends.  A lot of this was done before the wedding in preparation, but a handful of items still remain.

The kids seem to be doing as well as can be expected.  There are a few arguments here and there but it has been pretty calm.  The dog and the cat are the real trial in the blending attempt.  We are following a program to introduce them in small increments but due to a chasing incident in the first week when we tried a little too aggressively to accommodate each other, the cat is gun shy and this makes the times we would like them to at least be in a room together with the dog on a leash and the cat roaming around so they can see they can be in each other’s presence non-existent.   We need to figure out a way to get this to happen or we will be dealing with constantly separating them all day with one in a kennel or one in the basement and the constant possibility of the kids or us leaving the basement door open and the two mixing on their own again, which will just destroy any progress we had made again.  In the grand scheme of things I look at this as the best that could happen.  If I had to pick between the dog and cat being our biggest blending problem or some or all of the kids, I certainly would choose the situation we have.  While it is still not ideal it is much less stressful than the alternative.

We have a few more weeks of getting things situated in the house before things settle into a real pattern of normal.  Her kid’s summer visitation schedule is very chaotic and so it will also create 11 weeks of “different”.  At this point I think best case will be to get into “normal” when school starts at the end of August.  In the interim there will be a period of settling in where routines begin to form and negotiations on how everyone will do things will take place.  It is similar to being married, except rather than just two adults figuring this out we add into the mix all the kids and exes and other things I’ve spoken about before.  So far, my take on it is that most of the stress when things do boil over is self-induced by our impatience to be transitioned and done.  When we step back and do things at a more leisurely pace along with all our other responsibilities it seems to result in less tension.  We will continue to tweak, nudge, twist and turn and go forward.  I’ll keep sharing about the new and also keep returning to the old from time to time to continue providing what insight I can into some of the trials of being divorced and dealing with those issues, as I certainly have not dealt with everything before.  Got to go get on with the day…..