Kaitlyn and Skylar,
I love the two of you so much. Nothing, not the divorce, not the distance, not the lack of contact and not anything that has happened in the past, present or future, will ever make your dad love you any less.
There is so much I want to say in this post, but I will save most of it for another day when you can ask me questions and, in return, I will give you my honest answers. This post is simply meant to help you with understanding a very difficult time in our lives.
The divorce was really tough on me because I value honesty and genuinely trust people with their word, especially those I love and from whom I expected honesty, integrity and empathy to be reciprocated. Unfortunately, this was/is not always the case, especially in the divorce. Even worse, the longer the relationship exists and/or the more importance it has in your life (such as marriage), the more damaging the effects of the lies and deceit can be.
When you trust someone you love, you choose to love them as they are and allow yourself to be vulnerable by sharing with them your most intimate hopes, dreams and feelings and exposing to them your deepest concerns and fears. This openness and belief that such person can be trusted makes it near impossible to see, or believe it is possible, that such person would not be honest with you, that they would ever betray such trust and that they would use such information against you. Once you trust someone, you only find out if your trust was misplaced after-the-fact and after the damage is done.
I want you both to know that I was so proud of you when the custody evaluator during the divorce mentioned that, when she asked each of you what rules your dad had, both of you said your dad’s main rule is: “Honesty is the best policy.”
….I’m only going to speak of one lie during the divorce: the relationship with another man your mom concealed from me. This one lie lasted for at least three years that I know of and had the biggest impact on my relationship with the two of you, both in establishing the terms of custody during the divorce proceeding and our relationship since the divorce became final in October 2014.
The divorce agreement simply requires your parents to tell one another about any relationship before such new person meets the two of you. Another provision in the agreement requires your parents to tell the other parent before either one of us lives with another adult. Since neither of these things happened, I was both unaware of what was going on and, therefore, was unable to speak to the two of you about many of the situations you faced. I had concerns, but could not address them with your mom nor speak to you about a situation that was being kept from me.
Before the Divorce
Before the divorce, we had honesty with each other. When we would lay in bed at night and talk before you fell asleep, the two of you would ask me some very profound questions about things that were on your mind or concerned you. I always gave you my honest answer and tried to come about the problem from your perspective as well as the other person’s point of view.
Honestly, trying to put myself in your shoes over the past four years is nearly impossible to do because I did not experience a divorce as a child. My only divorce experience was the same divorce you experienced, except I was an adult and a parent and the two of you were children…. my children.
Unlike other issues we talked about, I was not removed from the situation you were facing. I was dealing with my own pain and at the same time trying to comprehend and help you with yours. The longer the divorce went on, the more pain and hurt we all felt and the more impossible it became for me to talk openly with you. For the past four years, I have tried to think of all the confusing feelings the two of you have had to process at various times without being able to talk freely with me.
As hard as it has been for me as an adult, I knew the divorce was even harder for the two of you as children. Yet, I was powerless to really do anything to help you through it all other than be your dad every chance I could when we got time together to ourselves. While I tried my best not to let my feelings of love and concern for the two of you get the better of me in your presence, there were times it was impossible to do when I knew (and saw) you both were struggling with the divorce and the situations you were facing. This may help explain why your dad cried at times….
By now, the two of you have lived with the relationship between your mom and this man for the past four years. So, you know that your mom’s claim during the divorce proceeding that the relationship was nothing more than a friendship was simply not true. You also know that your mom did not tell your dad about this relationship and that she had everyone close to her (such as family, friends, her lawyers, your teachers and even the school(s)) keep the existence of this relationship from me. With all the things I learned during the divorce (which I am not mentioning here), I knew all along your mom was not being honest about the nature and existence of this relationship beginning in late January 2014.
Four months after your mom and I divorced, I stumbled upon an obituary, dated two days after the divorce was final, naming the two of you as someone’s grandchildren. Contrary to what is claimed therein, this obituary was not for the death of either of your grandfathers. Instead, it was for the father of this man with whom your mom emphatically and unequivocally denied a relationship throughout the entire divorce proceeding to me, lawyers, a custody evaluator, your therapist and everyone else deciding the fate of our relationship.
Even though I felt validated and vindicated at this point, it was really bittersweet. The damage had been done (including, the so-so terms of a hard-fought custody arrangement and the alienation). By the time I discovered the obituary in February 2015, I had realized that just because two people have a custody agreement does not mean they both will choose to honor it.
After the Divorce
Each of you also know that the existence and the extent of this relationship was still kept from me after the divorce was final. Without my knowledge, this man moved with you and your mom to North Carolina and the four of you lived together. This living arrangement was kept from me before, during and for over a year after the move.
When your mom emailed me that the three of you were moving to North Carolina for a fresh start in May 2015 (just three months after I found the obituary), she gave me several reasons for the move and mentioned nothing about this man. In my reply email, I asked your mom four questions, including whether she had found a job in Raleigh and whether this man was still in the picture.
Moving to North Carolina from Connecticut seemed like a drastic measure. For one thing, it more than doubled the distance between us plus you had year-round school instead of summers off. This was bound to have an impact on our relationship and the parenting plan. For another, your mom had no family or friends that I was aware of down there. So, if your mom and this man had broken up (which I thought might have been another reason for such a move), I was concerned about your mom running from her problems, how she would raise the two of you all alone and the impact of the divorce (and then the possible ending of this relationship) could have on the two of you.
Your mom responded with an email saying she did not have a job lined up. She also stated she had not broached the topic of the move with this man because her focus was really on the fresh start in North Carolina and the wellbeing of the two of you. At this point, I chose to believe your mom and assumed that either this man was no longer in your lives or he was not moving to Raleigh (and living with you).
Rather than push back on the move and raise concerns, I chose to take the high road and support your mom’s decision. I figured that by doing so, we could finally begin to work together post-divorce. This approach would also save your mom and me the financial costs of court and lawyers, and keep all of us from reliving the stress, anguish and strife we experienced during the divorce. Unfortunately, my honesty and understanding was not met with your mom’s honesty and understanding.
Being honest, it pains me to know that your mom lied to gain an advantage over me during and after the divorce and that her gain came at the cost of alienating us from each other more and more over time. She would say one thing to me in texts or emails or on the phone and then turn around and say or do the exact opposite. I often wonder how I could have been so naïve. In fact, I’ve often felt like Elmer Fudd in the Bugs Bunny cartoons.
But, I quickly conclude that no matter what I could have done differently, the result would have been the same in the end.
Absent the lies, there was no reason for all the nastiness in the divorce and all the trauma we all experienced with the custody battle. The rationale behind this is simple. With an agreement in principle on Day 1 for the terms of an amicable divorce (including, custody), there was no reason for me to try to do better than…. well, amicable. These terms were favorable, actually they were the best terms I could have hoped to achieve.
Anything other than this amicable arrangement would have resulted in less favorable terms for me, unnecessary trauma for the two of you and the possibility of a high-conflict divorce, all of which had the potential to produce the worst possible outcome for me and our relationship. Unfortunately, even though I tried everything I reasonably could to keep things amicable with your mom, this is exactly what happened.
When I look back over the past four years, I know how the lies have affected me. What’s more troubling for me is wondering how the lies have impacted the two of you and our relationship beyond what I have witnessed. In other words, “What happened with the two of you I don’t know about?” and “How has this affected you in ways I do not see?”
For example, it breaks my heart to realize that during the two weeks we spent together at the shore in July 2015, the two of you knew you were moving to Raleigh and were going to be living with a man. And, we did not talk about it. Even worse, I do not know what was said to you by your mom (and this man) and, what your feelings on all of this were back then. Did you think I did not care because I did not ask? Did you want to talk to me about the move, but were not allowed or made to think you shouldn’t? I just want you to know that we did not talk about the move because I was not told the truth. I did not know what was going on.
Then, there was Christmas 2015. This was my scheduled holiday with the two of you. However, your mom wanted you to have it in Raleigh for a host of reasons and told me I could have New Years instead. I was devastated that she chose to make our first Christmas together in three years an issue in this way. We had agreement(s) on The Holidays, which we both had lived with for two years.
I want you to know that I was so looking forward to spending that Christmas with you. In 2013 and 2014, we had spent Thanksgiving and New Years together. Being without you those Christmases had been tough. There is something special about Christmas.
When I heard that your mom told you I didn’t want to see you for New Years, I realized it wasn’t worth hearing the truth from me and remained silent instead. Like most things I tried to address with your mom, it would have put you in the middle of “He Said. She Said,” which is something I tried very hard not to do to both of you.
That being said, I just knew how awful things would have been for us if your mom had not gotten her way. Not knowing what to say to you — do I address Christmas and New Years by telling you what really happened, namely your mom took the holiday from me, or do I stay silent? This is why I did not call for almost two months.
When I learned six months later that this other man had been living with you since August 2015, had tweeted in November 2015 that the two of you were “his girls” and had gotten to spend our Christmas with you instead of me, I chose not to say anything to your mom. It hurt me tremendously that your mom and this man would choose to do such a thing. Now, knowing the real truth, I felt betrayed and deceived, yet again. Out of my love for the two of you, I chose to take the high road, be silent and not put you in the middle anymore than you already were.
Again, I want you to know that the divorce we experienced was not the divorce I initially agreed to, and planned to have with, your mom. I expected an amicable divorce, a friendly relationship with your mom to resume and at some point both your mom and I might marry someone else. If I could wave a magic wand, I would want everyone to be happy and get along in our “new normal.” I even thought the two of you might one day view the divorce as hitting the parent jackpot. Instead of only two loving adults in your lives, you had the possibility of four. For me, the marriage had ended, but the friendship was salvageable if your mom meant what she had said.
Had I known about the relationship and had your mom been honest about it, I believe the divorce would have been more amicable, less costly and the process more fair. There would have been transparency. The truth would have been out there for everyone to see, and a proper evaluation of the situation could have been made by everyone involved. Unfortunately, even though everyone initially concluded there was a relationship, they needed your mom to admit to it in order to believe it existed. Instead of admitting to it, your mom chose to deny its existence during the divorce and to keep what was going on afterwards in Connecticut and then down in North Carolina from me.
The truth sometimes hurts. The truth exposes lies. The truth is not about, who is right. Lying is a choice. The truth is about what is right. In the end, the truth always prevails. If not in this life, definitely in the next.
I am here. Waiting. We never have to talk about the past. I love you, regardless. But, if you ever want to talk about the divorce or have questions you want to ask me, I promise you that I will always talk and answer with honesty. In order for there to be love, trust and respect, “Honesty is the best policy.”
I love you “to the end of the universe and back, and then some.”