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It never ceases to amuse me that, as a straight male in my 30's, I still feel much more comfortable around women than men. With women, I can always be myself.

With men, I usually feel out of my element, as if I don't quite belong. I have no problems saying "dude", exchanging high-fives, or cheering for my favorite football team. But ultimately, as much as I feel (and, thankfully, look) like a man, I never feel totally comfortable when I'm actually with men.

I've always suspected the culprit is that I spent much of my life without a Dad around. As I mentioned in my previous post, my Mom had sole custody of me. I had weekend visits with my Dad until I was 6, at which point my Mom and I moved to another state. From that point on, contact with my Dad became less frequent. Weekend visits became brief annual visits. By the time I was 18, I probably spent no more than 10 hours a year actually communicating with my Dad.

In short, I had no male "role model" for much of my life. I don't say this as a criticism of my Dad in any way. I say it as an unfortunate consequence of child custody.

According to the experts, child custody is very different today than when I was a child. More men are seeking custody, and more men are eager to be involved in their children's lives. While this probably makes for increasingly contentious custody battles, I think it's ultimately a good sign — for children, at least. While you may be cursing your Ex for demanding (or receiving) significant time with your children, as long as he's a good father who really cares about your children, there's probably a silver lining in there somewhere.

I can't say what specific arrangements work best. I can only speak to the one I had. I had friends who did the "divorced kids' shuffle" — one week with him, one week with her; alternating weekends on the half moon of odd numbered months. Some of them seemed screwed up, and some seemed perfectly normal and happy. Interestingly, a recent study suggested that kids of divorce aren't as doomed as people once thought, and I'm not surprised. The world is filled with successful people whose childhoods were plagued by war, poverty, and natural disasters. Why wouldn't children of divorce be able to recover?

While I wish I had more contact with my Dad, I ultimately feel the arrangement I had was best for me. My Mom is an amazing woman, and did her darnedest to raise me well. I think my Dad would agree that I was best off being raised by her — at the time, his head just wasn't in it.

As for the side-effects — my lack of comfort around men — it's not that bad. As I said, it amuses me more than anything else. In the end, being comfortable around women is a good thing (I've seen comments on this site by men who have issues with women, and it ain't pretty). And while I might not feel as open to "share" with men as I'd like, I'm getting there. It turns out that, if you meet the right guys, it's not as scary as it seems.

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