The process of divorce is a whirlwind of emotions and chaos. It’s easy to lose sight of just about everything, and fall into routines, behaviors, and actions that might not be the best reflection of who you are, or who you want to be. Even when divorce is the best option for everyone involved, there are plenty of moments and situations that can be looked back on with regret and remorse knowing that they could’ve been handled more maturely, compassionately, or effectively. We spoke to 12 dads who’ve all weathered the turmoil of divorce at some point in their lives. Each told us about his regrets, which didn’t necessarily include the divorce itself. Instead, these men regret things like how they treated their ex during the proceedings, how they treated themselves, and what they would’ve done differently as fathers. Here’s what they said.
1. I Would’ve Leaned On My Friends More
“I wish I would’ve relied on my friends when I was going through my divorce. My friends offered all the support I could’ve asked for, but I never took them up on it. I guess I was scared or embarrassed. I was ashamed and I was also spinning out of control. I know they had nothing but the best intentions, but somehow, I couldn’t bring myself to let them into what I thought was going to be one of the worst parts of my life. In some ways it was, but what I learned was that my friends still stuck by me even though I made it difficult. Coming out on the other end, I do feel like it all was a silver lining. Obviously, I regret my divorce very much, but I think the unconditional love of my friends taught me that in the future I’ll regret not leaning on them when I need to.” - Michael, 45, Colorado
2. I Would’ve Kept In Touch With “Our” Friends.
“I know it’s not common for exes to hang out with each other’s friends once they’ve separated. I was fortunate that our divorce was honestly more of a mutual separation, and we were able to remain pretty friendly and civil. In fact, our friends were supportive, for lack of a better word, and there really was no ill will on either side. I truly enjoyed being with my wife’s friends when we were together, and I think getting divorced convinced me that I could never talk to them again. Like they were ‘her’ friends instead of ‘our’ friends. I regret it because I think it’s rare to have genuine people like that in your life, and even though getting the divorce wasn’t easy, I more so regret that I didn't have the courage or confidence to let those people know I valued them.” - Alex, 43, Missouri
3. I Would’ve Told The Truth
“My divorce was messy, and the thing I look back on with the most shame is lying to my kids so frequently. I wasn’t malicious or anything, but when they asked what was going on, or when they asked why I was upset, I wasn’t honest with them. Granted, they were younger, around 10 and 12. But, with hindsight, I think those conversations could’ve been very helpful for our relationship, possibly their relationship with their mother and, most importantly, their relationships with other people in the future. I regret not teaching them that it’s okay to be honest, even when it gets kind of icky. And that even if you are honest, and it does hurt, things will be alright. That would’ve been a better lesson to teach.” - John, 50, California
4. I Would’ve Taken Better Care Of Myself
“During my divorce I just let myself go. I didn’t care what I ate. I didn’t care what I drank. I didn’t care if I got off the couch. I didn’t care about my physical health at all. I became so depressed that I just stopped caring altogether, and I don’t know that I’ve ever really come back from that. I’m in a much better place now. The divorce is long past. But some of the effects from how poorly I took care of myself still linger. I’m still overweight. I’m still not as fit as I once was. And mentally I think I have more bad days than good. I was feeling sorry for myself when I got divorced, and what I didn’t realize was that in the moment I was cultivating bad habits and justifying them by saying I was going through a rough time. Even if that part were true, I regret not realizing that it probably wasn’t an excuse worth using. All it did was hurt me in the long run.” - Clint, 44, Michigan
5. I Would’ve Been More Mature
“I was very young when I got married, and very young when I got divorced. So, of course, I was about as immature as someone could be. What I look back on and regret the most is probably my pettiness. I was so full of anger and resentment and, as a younger guy, I didn’t know what to do with it. So, I channeled it into trying to make my ex-wife’s life as obnoxious and annoying as possible. I was a dick. I talked badly about her. Every chance I got I made things with the lawyers more difficult than they needed to be. In general, I behaved in a way that makes me cringe when I look back on it. I thought about reaching out to my ex to apologize for it all, but so much time has gone by that I’m not sure if the pros outweigh the cons. Maybe one day.” - Alan, 36, Toronto, Ontario
6. I Would’ve Kept My Kids Out Of It.
“When you’re going through a divorce, it feels like the whole world is against you. You’re constantly on the defensive. You go into survival mode, and in order to survive I thought I needed my kids on my side. By that, I mean I thought they needed to love me more than they loved their mom. Somehow, I felt that would make everything okay. As a result of that twisted thinking, my behavior included a lot of nastiness toward their mother when she wasn’t around. I definitely knew what I was doing, but I did not realize the long-lasting impact it would have. That's what I regret the most to this day. My relationship with my ex-wife is contentious, and even though they’re grown up and all of our relationships have moved on, I know that my kids will never forget how I behaved during our divorce. I hope one day they’ll truly be able to forgive me, because I am truly sorry.” - Sean, 51, Oregon
7. I Would’ve Saved Money.
“I regret not being financially aware, I suppose. I regret not preparing myself for the aftermath of a divorce, financially. We all know divorces are expensive. Lawyers cost money. Assets are divided. All that stuff. But the reality didn’t hit me until about two weeks after everything was finalized, and I saw that I had no savings, I was in tremendous debt, and I was genuinely terrified about how I would survive. Looking back, I don’t think it would be inappropriate to tell myself that, when I first noticed things starting to hint at a divorce, I should start saving money so that I’m not completely broke when it’s over. Best case, my wife and I would stay together and we’d have extra money to spend or save. Worst case, I would end up getting divorced but not financially wrecked like I was.” - Dean, 37, California
8. I Would’ve Bailed Sooner.
“Honestly, I regret not ending things sooner. I learned my wife cheated on me about six months into our marriage. I was new at being married, and I didn’t realize that ending a marriage after six months wasn’t quitting or giving up. It would’ve been an opportunity to save myself from so much unnecessary strife, and suffering. After I found out, my wife begged me to forgive her and assured me that it would never happen again. I took her at her word because I loved her, and I wanted to fight for the marriage. Then she did it again three months later. I’m not saying that people don’t deserve a second chance, but I am saying that I should’ve listened to my gut and not let my pride get in the way of saving myself from that unhealthy relationship.” - Jamie, 35, Ohio
9. I Would’ve Given Myself More Time To Grieve
“After my divorce, I rebounded right away. Within a few months I had been out on several dates with different women, mostly because I didn’t know what else to do. What I regret about it all is the fact that I didn’t give myself time to grieve and process my divorce. I regret this because, not only was it unfair to those women, some of whom I felt a genuine connection with, but it was also unfair to myself. I set myself up to fail at every relationship within that time. I was in a rush to move forward so fast that I ignored the fact that I had just undergone a huge life change. I’m still single and, while I’m in a better place now, I know that I did a lot of damage to what could’ve been a healthy recovery process.” - David, 42, Pennsylvania
10. I Would’ve Challenged The Stereotypes
“I think what I regret most about my divorce is buying into the stigma and stereotypes surrounding failed marriages. Divorce is common today, which is unfortunate. But when I got divorced, it wasn’t as common. Or, at least, it wasn’t as talked about. And it seemed like one of the worst things a person could do. I feared that people would be talking behind my back. I feared that people wouldn’t understand. I feared that people would resent me and pull away because they thought I was not a good person. What I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older is that even if those things were true, they pale in comparison to the importance of my own mental health, well-being and prosperity. While my divorce was difficult, it was ultimately the best thing for me, my ex, and our kids. I suppose hindsight makes that easy to see, but I wish that concept would have been more clear all those years ago.” - Thomas, 63, South Carolina
11. I Would’ve Taken More Responsibility For My Mistakes
“In my first marriage, I was married for 6 years. It was right after college, and I thought I had my life all figured out. However, my marriage ended in divorce. At that time, I was devastated. I couldn't believe that my marriage had ended and it took me a long time to accept the reality of it all. And while going through the divorce process, I struggled with admitting my own mistakes and taking responsibility for them. Looking back now, I realize that my lack of maturity and communication skills played a major role in the breakdown of our marriage. I was stubborn and unwilling to compromise, always thinking that I was right and not willing to see things from my partner's perspective. Through this difficult experience, I have learned the importance of self-reflection and taking responsibility for my actions. If I could go back in time, I would have approached our situation with more maturity and open-mindedness.” - Christian, 34, Arizona
12. I Would’ve Communicated More Effectively
“During my divorce, one of the biggest regrets I had was not managing my emotions more effectively, especially when it came to communicating with my ex-spouse. Emotions run high during such a life-changing event, and it's easy to get caught up in anger, frustration, or sadness. Unfortunately, I often let those emotions dictate my interactions, which only fueled conflicts and made the process more painful for everyone involved. In hindsight, I wish I had taken a more composed and empathetic approach to communication. This would have involved active listening, trying to understand my ex-spouse's perspective, and avoiding knee-jerk reactions. I’ve learned that keeping a level head, even when faced with challenging discussions, can lead to more constructive solutions and smoother negotiations. Divorce is challenging, but by learning from our regrets we can emerge as better fathers and individuals.” - Max, 46, Wyoming