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I Lost My Temper With My Ex Because, Well, Custody Arrangements Suck

"We’re not together and that’s really my fault, but she does this stuff to make me never forget. It’s tiring, man."

Welcome to “Why I Yelled,” Fatherly’s ongoing series in which real dads discuss a time they lost their temper in front of their wife, their kids, their coworker — anyone, really — and why. The goal of this isn’t to examine the deeper meaning of screaming or come to any great conclusions. It’s about yelling and what really triggers it. Here, Gregory*, a 43-year-old divorced father of  6- and 7-year-old boys in Tulsa, Oklahoma discusses losing his temper with his ex-wife about splitting the kids’ time properly. 

So, who did you yell at?

My ex-wife.

How long have you been divorced?

About two years.

How are things between you two?

I’d say they’re for the most part amicable. We made a decision during the process that we would try to be as civil as possible. Between us, it wasn’t. It makes sense: I cheated on her, which ended things. But in front of the kids, we tried to be as civil as possible; we worked hard to pretend that things were okay whenever we were together.

Did that work?

For the most part. In the beginning, there were times when we got a little short with one another in front of the kids but now things are normalizing. The kids are used to our arrangement. I have them one day a week and every other weekend.

Okay, so what happened that made you yell?

Well, the other week I went to pick my kids up for the weekend and they were not ready. At all. I mean, they hadn’t packed, they weren’t trying to pack, they acted like they weren’t going anywhere. When I arrived, my wife called to them and told them to get ready. But getting ready takes a long time when you’re a kid. You just don’t have the practice of it. This cuts into my time with my kids and allows her to have them for longer.

And I had plans. I was going to surprise my kids with dinner and then a trip to the batting cages. Little League is coming up. And the batting cages get booked quick, so I had a reservation. Had being the appropriate word here. Because I ended up canceling that.

What did you say to her?

I waited for the kids to head upstairs and start collecting their things and I really went at it. It was a whisper fight, where you try to keep your voices hushed but you’re yelling in a whisper. And I was dropping cuss words like, you know “What the eff is going on?” and “I thought we had an effing arrangement.”

How did she react?

She smirked. She just wanted to wound me a bit. Happens every couple of months. Happened when we were married, too. Gets a kick out of making me wince. She just does it. I can normally handle it, but it made me mad as a dog. So I waited in the car and called off our reservations.

Listen, my time with my kids is precious. Life is a lonely thing for me now. Work, home, dinner, bed. My kids are my bright spot and I want to make the most of our time. She makes it feel like my time with them isn’t a priority. We’re not together and that’s really my fault, but she does this stuff to make me never forget. It’s tiring, man. And custody arrangements suck.

How did the rest of the night unfold?

After an hour or so, they met me in the car. I let everything melt away. Like I said, I don’t want them to be harmed by any of our mistakes, not more than already. And, plus, they’re my kids. They were in a good mood when they got into the car. We grabbed pizza and, later, we ended up watching Ghostbusters. It was a good night. And I was able to reserve some cages for the next day. So, all’s well. It’s just frustrating, man.

Do you regret getting angry?

I do. It accomplishes nothing. I’m tired of fighting — I never liked to do it. Makes my insides knot up. Sometimes a moment just gets the best of you. What can you do?