My parents were married when I was born. They divorced when I was six years old. I have a sister that is four years younger than me. My mom moved around within the small town where we lived. I recall having eight different addresses before I was 12. Each one had a different school. After the divorce, I recall spending time with my dad periodically. I remember as a kid trying to figure out how to behave so that I never displeased either parent. It began my lifelong idolization of the approval and affirmation from others, and eventually led to me marrying the woman I did and how I acted as a person and husband. It also affected my career and overall mental health. I can see that now.

My mother primarily raised me. It was not more than a year or so after the divorce that my dad moved far away. After that, I hardly saw him. I think between the time I was eight and 18 I think might have seen him four times. My mom remarried when I was about eight. That was not a good experience and resulted in another divorce. My mom remarried again when I was about 12. Good guy, but I do not think it mattered much because the die was cast. He is not much of a teacher, and neither is my mom.

The impact of being raised apart from my father was huge. Looking back, it is amazing I turned out as well as I did. My first marriage (she died) and how I raised my sons was greatly impacted by the fact that I had no male model in my life during my developing years. When I met my wife, I was 20 and she had a two-year-old son. There was a lot going on at the same time. My wife and I were both going to college. I was working full-time, and learning to fly airplanes, and in the National Guard. I did not think about it at the time, but I see now that I did not have a clue on how to be a dad. I guess I took the approach that I would work very hard, set and enforce boundaries, provide, and do what I could to please my wife.

My mom’s second husband is not worth discussing, other than to say any impact on me was negative. Her third husband is a hard worker, reliable, and of good moral character. I imagine that impacted. I do love him, and we have gotten much closer over the years. I guess I consider him a parent. I do call him “dad” and have for many years, but when, in later years, I was around my biological father more, it was very clear that we were blood. We had many personality traits and mannerisms in common. I tried to build a relationship with him and get closer to him, but he was not equipped. It was obvious that decades later the divorce from my mom really hurt him.

The divorce and the moves really pounded into me that getting close to people, and allowing them to get close to me, was a fool’s errand. I struggle now with friendships, with allowing anyone to be close to me, even my new wife. I try but there is always this lingering anxiousness about things like:

When will they leave? How will they use what they know to hurt me? When will they find out that I am not that great of a person and want to be apart from me?

This affected my career too. I have left many great jobs because I was worried that at any moment, they would find out I was not good enough and fire me. Or I would make some kind of mistake and that would be it.

This has even caused me to intentionally sabotage my life because I do not like myself and could not see how anyone else could either. Now, honestly, that is not true. Only for the grace of God, I am a good, caring, person, and more. But nearly every day I have powerful thoughts about my inadequacy. Performance anxiety is a problem.

Later in life I was able to spend more time with my father, but we never had a close relationship. I never talked with my parents about why they divorced, but it was a surprise to my dad and my mom once said to me that she left him because she did not think that he would be a good dad. I did not respond, but I think you can see the lunacy in that statement. I am angry with her about it to put it mildly, but have never let her know that.

I could go on and on and feel like I have at least one book in me. I can see now how my developing years affected me, but until I was 45, I was on a kind of autopilot. I just acted and made choices and reacted, not knowing why I did things, or had the feelings and thoughts I did. God taught me so many things in the years since my first wife died. I am very thankful for the self-awareness that I now have. It is a daily struggle to not let my past overcome my present.