Monkey on My Back

The following is a transcript of the My Crazy Divorce podcast

Guest Name: Kennedy Bell
Release Date: 11.25.2021

Tom Milligan: Hello, and welcome to My Crazy Divorce. I am your host, Tom Milligan and man do we have a crazy divorce to talk about today. A lot of people that go through a crazy divorce say they could write a book about their experience. In fact, I am one of those people. I haven’t gone as far as to put a chapter outline together, but Kennedy didn’t stop with an outline.

Kennedy Bell: I am an author of two books, the first of which is House of Straw, a book on separation divorce for men only. And my second book is, Love With Your Heart, Divorce with your Brain, for both genders and emphasizes relationship dynamics during the separation and divorce process for both men and women. And yes, I was married for 15 years and I’m one of those people that went through the million dollar divorce and look for resources, and honestly couldn’t find anything for men written by men. So I decided to write the book.

Tom Milligan: Yes, he just said a million dollar divorce but we’ll get into that later. For now, just know that when Kennedy puts his mind to something like writing a book, it happens. As I said in the opening, you don’t want to miss anything in this story. But first, remember, I’m not an attorney, I don’t even play one on TV, I don’t practice law or give legal advice and if it’s even possible, I’m even less of a therapist than I am an attorney. What I’m saying is that if you’re stuck in a bad situation, or a crazy divorce, please see qualified and licensed professional guidance. As always, if you have a crazy divorce story, and you never got around to writing your book, so you’d like to share on our show instead, visit and click on the apply to be a guest button at the bottom of the page. I would love to hear from you! And besides, being on our show is a lot more fun than writing a book. So let’s get right into Kennedy’s story.

Kennedy Bell: I grew up in Northern California, the East Bay, and I was kind of pretty much that all American kid living in a nuclear family. Mom and dad, my parents were happily married. We were a middle income family super fortunate mom and dad retired down in the Coachella Valley in Indio, and they live on a golf course, they live happily ever after doing fantastic.

Tom Milligan: That sounds great; I have visions of white picket fences. But as the saying goes, “you never know what’s going on behind closed doors”.

Kennedy Bell: My mom and dad were, again, middle class parents; both of them worked both them were career oriented. My grandmother actually at one point moved in and my mother found that as a reason to maybe stay late at work and so that led to a bit of conflict between mom and dad. And so we had to deal with a little bit of adult alcoholism in the house and there were some disagreements arguments, whichever between mom and dad, when we were growing up, and which I think was probably a little bit more than what the norm might be whatever that is. So, but we were resilient and we were still a very strong nuclear loving family who value the holidays and each other so. But there was definitely that overtone on my mother’s side that there was too much to go into but there was definitely some conflictual points growing up with mom.

Tom Milligan: I asked Kennedy how bad the conflict got.

Kennedy Bell: It was definitely the antithesis of conflict as mom did not want to come home so because she was in the sales and catering business for a local hotel it gave a reason to stay later with all the celebrities that would come into town and stay at the hotel and certainly that led to some overindulgence on her part, sure.

Tom Milligan: So, mom didn’t get along with grandma so she immerses herself in work and starts drinking too much to escape. That’s so tragic, but also so common. Kennedy and I talked about the impact that had on his life, but agree that it’s not the point of this show so we’ll leave it at that. It was about that time that one of Kennedy’s natural gifts emerged.

Kennedy Bell: I was very athletic as kid I played just about every sport, and I excelled it quite a few. And so I’m a little unusual in that I was little ahead of the curve at about the age of 12, I started swimming with the college kids at the University of California, Berkeley, and I was one of the top 10 age group swimmers in the country. And so I experienced a fair amount of success and exposure to some world class personalities and people and mentorship at a very young age.

Tom Milligan: I’m not really a swimmer, I can splash my way from one end of the pool to the other and my cause of death probably won’t be drowning. But to be a competitive swimmer, like Kennedy, you not only have to have a natural talent, but you have to embrace the fact that you’ll be in the pool every day before and after school, that you’ll have green hair from the chlorine, and that you have to spend your weekends at swim meets instead of hanging out with your friends. I personally believe competitive swimming requires more time and dedication than almost any other sport. Keep that in mind as the story unfolds. I believe Kennedy’s desire to compete and win instilled in him from birth, and enhanced through his dedication to his sport is the only thing that allowed him to survive the journey you’re about to hear. As we’ve already heard, Kennedy grew up in a nuclear family and despite some ups and downs, his parents are still together. Sadly, Kennedy’s ex-wife, I’m going to call her Bertha, for this show, didn’t have that upbringing.

Kennedy Bell: My ex grew up in a relatively dysfunctional family whose father left them at very young ages. And so they grew up in a single family house, Dad was completely out of the picture more than out of the picture, he was abused by my ex and the siblings as a sperm donor.

Tom Milligan: Despite the dysfunction, Bertha was very athletic and allowed to participate and excel in tennis.

Kennedy Bell: She was very athletic, very outgoing and very ambitious but otherwise, she was a happy, healthy, all American, blond haired, blue eyed girl who just was very athletic and excelled in the game of tennis, and she was an excellent tennis player and athletes.

Tom Milligan: When Kennedy started high school, he quit playing other sports, so we could focus everything on his swimming and it paid off.

Kennedy Bell: I had won a number of high achievement awards, both nationally, locally and regionally recognized for my achievements, and performance in the sport of swimming. So, my brain as a youngster was removed from the high school ecosystem at a very young age, my mindset was definitely different. It was super motivated and directed towards being the best athlete that I could be and I honestly was mentored and coached into believing that I could be the best in the world at my particular event so, that was what I was focused on.

Tom Milligan: That focus paid off in the pool but his dedication to his sport took its toll on the social aspect of high school.

Kennedy Bell: Although I was still socializing with these acquaintances, and friends and this girl who would eventually become my wife later in life was very temporary. And I knew it was just, again, mentors always telling me that there was more and that had a lot to achieve. So, it wasn’t something I thought of as kind of an end game it was just kind of a process, just like my training was to eventually get to an opportunity where I would make the United States swim team and then make the World University Games or even the Olympic Games, and won the Olympic team so, everything was a process.

Tom Milligan: You heard that right. Our boy was shooting for the Olympics he was that good and that dedicated. But his hours in the pool didn’t stop him from dating altogether. In fact, one girl in particular, we already know her as Bertha, asked him out.

Kennedy Bell: We went on our first date to Sadie Hawkins dance when she was a sophomore and I was a senior. Sure yes, she ask me, hey what you doing with Sadie Hawkins? I say I don’t know she says you want to go? I said, sure. So hey, what do I know?

Tom Milligan: Kennedy and Bertha dated mostly as friends for a while until Kennedy accepted a swimming scholarship.

Kennedy Bell: I graduated high school ended up being recruited by a few 100 Division one, two and three universities ended up going to Florida State University swimming for the Seminoles.

Tom Milligan: While Kennedy was swimming in Florida, Bertha graduated from high school and parlayed her tennis skills into a great gig.

Kennedy Bell: She had a position with Club Med in paradise islands, to teach tennis. I would come home for the summer, for training. And sometimes she would be home as well and so we would connect and we go running, or we’d play tennis, or cycling. And so, we were friends and so we would kind of hang out and do stuff together, just have fun together, and then I go off back to school.

Tom Milligan: The way he tells it, I just don’t see a lot of romance. Something’s got to change, right? Well, just like their first date, sounds like Bertha is going to have to make that first move.

Kennedy Bell: Fast forward we were playing tennis doubles together and winning some tournaments, and having a lot of fun and we were having some wine together. And she asked me this question, it was kin of, like, the pre-close, and I had no idea it was coming. She kind of, asked me, who my ideal girlfriend would be.

Tom Milligan: Look out Kennedy. It’s a trap!

Kennedy Bell: And so I described that and we said goodbye, high five each other, and I was driving home and realize that the person I had just described it was her. So when I got home, I thought well, I should probably pick up the phone and ask her if she’d be interested in just kind of having a relationship.

Tom Milligan: Nice. Kennedy’s finally playing an active role. So he asks if they should have a relationship and.

Kennedy Bell: So, we did.

Tom Milligan: That was easy. Not to be outdone, Bertha made the next move.

Kennedy Bell: It wasn’t too long after that, she mentioned that maybe it’d be good to move in together and get a place together and…

Tom Milligan: Now it’s Kennedy’s turn.

Kennedy Bell: So it makes sense just give us a shot. Hang out and just like any relationship, when you’re good friends, just grows. And then next thing you know, you’re up in the mountains, putting a ring on her finger. So, now you know, so that’s how that happens.

Tom Milligan: I don’t know about you, but I can’t predict what kind of wedding to expect from these two.

Kennedy Bell: Yes, Tom, we were two career people who had saved a lot of money together. And we paid for our own epic wedding that again, was held in the Oakland Hills and a beautiful mansion and park like setting with 250 guests. Champagne and wine from Napa Valley flowed like there was no tomorrow I had friends and relatives flying in from 15 different states. It was the horse drawn carriage it was ideal, it was fantastic. Even today, people mentioned that it was one of the best weddings that they’ve ever been to and it was quite a celebration and so our wedding got off to a bang.

Tom Milligan: Almost immediately after the wedding Kennedy and Bertha bought their first home. And not too long after that welcomed their oldest son Eric to the family. Two years later, Austin was born and the family was complete.

Kennedy Bell: So, our trajectory was very positive, very loving and very healthy and normal. We started our family right away, we ski together, we played tennis together, we did everything. The kids had tennis rackets in their hands at the age of two and they were learning how to swim at eight months, so we were a very active family.

Tom Milligan: No surprise there, it’s always sad at this point of the show, when we remember that we’re here to talk about a crazy divorce. But this is where we learn how this perfect little family falls apart and waste a million bucks in the process. In 2006, after about 16 years of marriage, Kennedy and Bertha went for a walk, something they did almost every day, it was totally normal. But this walk turned out to be anything but normal.

Kennedy Bell: We’re in the middle of our walk and she said, “You’re a monkey on my back.”

Tom Milligan: Whoa, you’re a monkey on my back. That is harsh and no real warning.

Kennedy Bell: I thought she was kidding. So I laughed because of the nervous laugh, kind of like, and she goes no, I can’t take it just a monkey on my back. And I said, “Really, like you’re being serious right now?”

Tom Milligan: Remember, this is 16 years after the wedding people are still talking about. So no matter how good a marriages, she did, it happens along the way. So what happened here?

Kennedy Bell: When you see behaviors that are not normal thing, one thing, and then you rationalize and then you kind of blow it off is just maybe it’s just a phase that you’re going through? Or maybe you said something you shouldn’t have maybe she had an interaction with a family member, that’s not your fault that she’s taking it out on you, or whatever that is. We were not that great at sharing our feelings, thoughts and emotions at sub levels.

Tom Milligan: Nailed it. Why do we suck at communicating?

Kennedy Bell: Yes, that’s a great question because that requires a fair amount of self-analysis, where I honestly believe that both myself and her contributed to the demise of the relationship there’s no question.

Tom Milligan: Well, of course, marriage is truly the most democratic institution in the world. At this point in our story, the kids are still young, and Bertha is a stay at home mom.

Kennedy Bell: I was on the fast track; I was on planes, trains and automobiles, traveling both domestically and internationally for my business.

Tom Milligan: Nice. That’s what’s supposed to happen.

Kennedy Bell: All transparency, I think I was overly gregarious with my social circles. I think the perception of flirting was probably there with some of my female coworkers.

Tom Milligan: Not good Kennedy, not good at all.

Kennedy Bell: But I think it was, honestly, my trajectory was here, and she was staying home. And she felt that maybe, I don’t know, you’d have to ask her and I tried to ask, I asked her to go to therapy and let’s get some counseling, let’s talk about where this divide is. And then we can close this divide and she flat out, rejected those notions.

Tom Milligan: She wouldn’t go to therapy. So what to do?

Kennedy Bell: She had this dream about living in Paris, France and if you want me to fly to Paris and live there for a year, or in and out your system, I’ll do that. Whatever you need to do but I don’t want to go down this road in divorce.

Tom Milligan: That’s quite an offer, but obviously there’s a lot more to this story. So where to start?

Kennedy Bell: I honestly believe that there are two kinds of people, there are many kinds of people obviously, but there are those who are fearful of failure, and those who are fearful of success. And I was fearful of failure which drove me to succeed and whereas I believe she was the personality based on her upbringing, and how she was socialized, familial ecosystem of hers, that she was fearful of success. And so when you’re a personality who is of that genre Self-Sabotage is easy.

Tom Milligan: Interesting, I obviously don’t know Bertha, so I have no idea if he’s right or wrong. So I asked him for an example.

Kennedy Bell: By the way, she’s a 5.0 tennis player. She always had a problem of closing out her matches, even though she would be up by a set or multiple games she always had a tough time finishing.

Tom Milligan: Okay, I guess I can buy that but what gives him the right?

Kennedy Bell: Psychology, Sociology, employers and so human behavior was something that I was super interested in.

Tom Milligan: Well, I’m not qualified, but maybe Kennedy is on to something. So, let’s get back to the walk.

Kennedy Bell: We’re in the middle of our walk and she said you’re a monkey on my back.

Tom Milligan: Yes, that walk I know, we’ve gone back and forth on the timeline. But remember, this is 16 years into the marriage, the kids are teenagers

Kennedy Bell: Keep in mind I am the sole breadwinner. I was doing very well and I had started my business and also working for a firm so I was accelerating financially to the point where retirement might be realized with them by the agency. And she was playing five hours of tennis a day at the local clubs and manicures, pedicures and we were taking trips to Bermuda and Hawaii and Hilton Head and Bermuda and all those great trip.

Tom Milligan: So despite their great lifestyle, Bertha wanted out.

Kennedy Bell: So by the time we got home, which is about a quarter mile walk to the house, we had a comfortable, very real conversation of divorce and selling the house and splitting the proceeds and sharing custody. Things were relatively civil at that point because I honestly think I had had it at that point too, I was at the end of my rope having to deal with her significant emotional outbursts, tirades, disassociated behaviors, so I was open to that.

Tom Milligan: Good for them, work out a settlement, think about the impact on your boys and remain friendly; Bravo!

Kennedy Bell: When we returned from the walk, where she had made the notion that I was a monkey on her back, it wasn’t long after we were at home and I thought, well, we’ve worked things out. It was not within the hour that she grew even more agitated and angry and she said something that I’ll never forget, she said, I’ll take you for everything you’re worth and I’ll spend every last dime that you’ve ever made.

Tom Milligan: My ex-wife cheated on me twice with two of my friends and coworkers and as long as I’m alive I will never understand how a person no matter what happens to cause it, can go from a normal, outwardly, loving and supporting partner to a bitter enemy in just minutes. We will never know what changed in Bertha’s mind during that hour but I know from experience what Kennedy’s is thinking.

Kennedy Bell: That’s a lot too because nobody gave me a dime, I had worked very hard for every nickel that I had to a point where I would put holes in my shoes. And my first job was Dictaphone going door-to-door selling dictation equipment, so I work very hard for every dollar that I had and to hear that was; it scared me, it worries me that was upsetting.

Tom Milligan: Damn that sucks, without warning and without any real choice in the matter, Kennedy’s life was turned upside down. First on the walk then with the bitterness and that’s when the abuse kicked in.

Kennedy Bell: We had also had multiple behaviors that require physical abuse in front of my children, perpetuated by her on me; hitting, kicking, punching, that required police intervention and Child Support Services. And I was like a lot of the guys, I was prideful. We just knew about everybody in our neighborhood, so to have the police with their lights on in front of my house was humiliating.

Tom Milligan: As a man, I can say that having the police in front of your house for domestic violence would be embarrassing, for two reasons. First, no matter what happened, everyone will assume you hit her; second, even if you’re the victim, it’s assumed as a man that you must have done something to deserve it, so you become the victim again. But the embarrassment is just the tip of the iceberg.

Kennedy Bell: I see it as a learning process but it was something I had to work through. It was very hard because my children are exposed to that and I can get over that, my pride and my humility but for my children to witness that, it was very difficult which led to multiple incidences of domestic violence, restraining orders, too many to count.

Tom Milligan: I feel so bad for him, I don’t care what he did, she did or anybody else did; nobody deserves to be abused and the kids certainly shouldn’t have to be a witness to any of it. But all he could do is call the police and hope for the best but guess what, I hope you’re sitting down because this may come as a shock. But almost every time the police came they’d give her the benefit of the doubt.

Kennedy Bell: 98% of those were not enforced so much by the police into my benefits but always in favor of her despite how amazingly abusive she could be. And I could drill down to; and again you could read a number of those incidents in my book. But there’s a huge bias when a man applies for DVRO against his wife versus a wife to her husband. I’m not a small person, I’m six foot one, 210 pounds, she was five-seven, 135, so people looked at you can’t defend yourself, you have to be the abuser because you’re bigger, taller, stronger and you’re the man and so I lived through all of that judgment where apparently, perfectly physically.

Tom Milligan: Despite the abuse and pending divorce, there are still bills to pay so Kennedy has to keep working.

Kennedy Bell: I was in Mumbai, India, and I received a call, this was months after we had talked about our getting a divorce and we agreed that I would just continue to work out of my home office and that we would work towards that goal. So I’m in Mumbai, India with one of my companies and I had to go to the top floor of the office building to get cell service and it was my banker who was notifying me that my wife was taking out a substantial six figure amount from our bank. And I said, no, that’s not okay and he said, well, she’s on the account, so there’s nothing I can do about it.

Tom Milligan: And so the games begin. Greedy partners are the lifeblood of the $8 billion divorce industry, not too long after that very expensive trip to Mumbai; Kennedy was working in his home office.

Kennedy Bell: I was working at my home office, minding my business, trying to pay the bills, our taxes and insurance, everything else that you had to do despite your heartache and pain, and I’m working through it and I get a knock on my door, and it was a local sheriff and I said, how can I help you? And he said, well, I have an order to keep you out of the house and you have 60 minutes to vacate your premises.

Tom Milligan: That sucks.

Kennedy Bell: My whole body went through shock. I felt numb; my whole body felt numb and because I realized that he was serious.

Tom Milligan: So Kennedy is out over 100,000 bucks and he’s homeless, thanks Bertha but she wasn’t done, not even close.

Kennedy Bell: She had started with over $100,000 in my kids college money, she emptied their bank accounts.

Tom Milligan: That’s low but thinks she’s done; think again.

Kennedy Bell: She got one of my ATM cards that was delivered to my secondary house, she came and stole my mail, got my ATM card, figured out what my PIN was and she would take out the maximum amount for five days before I even realized that my card was even issued to me because I’d open up a separate bank account. So, just insidious behavior that shocking, so for her it was all about money.

Tom Milligan: I just don’t get it, where do people get the idea that this would be okay?

Kennedy Bell: She was getting advice from her attorney to manipulate a way to get me out of the house and to take possession of whatever was in the house, whether that be dollars or checkbooks or arts or personal belongings and so she was coached; that’s unfortunate to have also coached by reading a lot of the books that are on the Barnes and Noble bookshelf written by angry vindictive women for women who are going through separation and divorce and want to believe that conflict is a strategy. And so I found one of the books when I eventually took possession of the house and she was ordered out by family law, she had underlined so many angry entries into a number of these books and she left behind, which served to brainwash women about how to take them for everything he’s worth, how to gain custody of your kids, all of those not so savory subject matter that women are coached into behaving against their male counterparts.

Tom Milligan: I hope that’s not true but regardless are you remembering Kennedy’s competitive drive to finish strong?

Kennedy Bell: And I think mostly that my capacity which I’ve also discovered, Tom, in my research is most men just want to give it up, take the house, take the kids, I’m out of here. But the piece that established my resolve was that I had made a promise to my two boys that they would have a life that would be better than mine, and that I knew under my care that they would both attend division one university and be exposed to the opportunities to have choices, to accelerate and be better human beings and contribute to the greater good of society.

Tom Milligan: Kennedy wants a better life for his boys and is willing to fight to make it happen. Poor Bertha is in it for the fight of her life.

Kennedy Bell: And my first court date was to flight the kick out order. And then I had multiple follow ups with regards to my DVRO filings that I would remove her from the house despite the fact that she was proven to be the aggressor and physical abuser, I was ordered to move out of my house with my two boys into a separate residence which if I were a woman, I would have been ordered to remain in the house with my two boys and my husband would have been asked to leave because he was the abuser. So, clearly as a man, there’s huge bias.

Tom Milligan: Boom, round one goes to Kennedy, next up custody of the boys.

Kennedy Bell: I represented myself in a trial, my custody trial of which I want 100% physical custody of my boys and shares pictures, legal custody, so I got to cross examine my ex.

Tom Milligan: I’m not going to lie, I would love to cross examine my ex under oath; what a dream. Well, after the custody hearing came 23 more hearings, each with its experts for both sides to settle the issues around domestic violence, finances and everything in between. With court fees, attorney’s fees, and the cost to hire expert witnesses, every one of those 23 hearings cost at least $5,000.

Kennedy Bell: The way that I fought was not just on principle but I also knew I was innocent and that I was a good person and that I was a loving father and I wanted to be a father to my two boys. And she did everything she could to accuse me of everything under the sun to try and rip them out of my custody and out of my arms and remove my parental rights and she expected that was okay and I objected to that.

Tom Milligan: And I objected to it, I love how calmly he said that but his back was against the wall, what choice did he have? Bertha has never read The Art of War by Sun Tzu, in it general to instruct the reader that once you’ve surrounded your enemy that you should quote, leave an outlet free, do not press a desperate fo too hard. His logic is that a desperate enemy will do anything to save his or her life, so it’s best to ease up and at least give them the impression that they can live on. Bertha tried to remove all hope, the result was a desperate and determined enemy.

Kennedy Bell: Well my attorney would argue, I only had one attorney but my jaw would be open because acting in false accusations would be made and decisions would be made based on those false allegations. And sometimes my attorney would fight and sometimes she wouldn’t and so that became very frustrating, so, Tom, at some point I terminated my relationship with the attorney and represented myself. And I’ve always said to the people that are engaged in helping their divorce process that attorneys don’t make money unless they have clients and those clients will also come and go whereas those attorneys remain in the system and will remain engaged with both commissioner, and that judge and the opposing counsel. So that takes on a certain priority because you’re going to come and go and they’re still going to have to deal with these people long after you’re gone. So there’s a certain amount of gamesmanship that is played within that family law dynamic for both the attorneys and the commissioner, I have Commissioner.

Tom Milligan: He’s not wrong. Attorneys, commissioners, judges and everyone along the way will be at work the day after your case is resolved; they have to play nice. So anyway, Kennedy fired his attorney, what about Bertha?

Kennedy Bell: I had one attorney and unfortunately she had nine separate attorneys.

Tom Milligan: Nine attorneys at once.

Kennedy Bell: They were all separate and different attorney which is indicative of the fact that she would commit to the same behavior, which she would be dishonest and she would lie, she would misrepresent and the attorneys were ended up firing her because the truth would eventually come out.

Tom Milligan: That makes more sense, that does speak volumes though? Seriously, if you are so dishonest that a divorce attorney is offended, am I right? I think this is a good time for Kennedy to remind us that greed isn’t Bertha’s only flaw.

Kennedy Bell: There was a turning point earlier in marriage where we’re at one of my youngest son’s basketball game and I had full custody of the boys and she was upset that the boys didn’t want her to come to there show. So we were out in the parking lot and she was in an argument with my older son and I got in between them to break them up, it wasn’t physical, it was they were just shouting at each other. And I was going to take my two boys home and go have some dinner, well, she decided that she wanted to haul off and hit me and so some innocent bystanders witness that and called the police and they apprehended her at a local hospital, where she had checked into the ER claiming that I had hit her; super deceptive. Anyway, the police finally were not buying into that so they arrested her and she was in jail and her mother bailed her out. But at that point, Child Protective Services in the family law court finally acknowledge the abuse that I was experiencing, at the hands of my children’s mother.

Tom Milligan: She’s just not a nice person, is she? But at least the courts are finally catching on and with that, after 23 court hearings, over seven years, costing hundreds of 1000s of dollars; Kennedy was faced with a huge decision.

Kennedy Bell: And in order to to be done with the process, I was forced into making a very difficult decision that a lot of men have to make which is, am I going to be ordered to pay a certain amount of money for the rest of my life, or for a lot of years to somebody who was the instigator of the divorce and the abuser of the relationship. Just because she got to stay home and play tennis and go to the salon and take fabulous trips, multiple times a year, I didn’t see myself as a lottery ticket.

Tom Milligan: Alimony can be painful especially when the recipient is perfectly capable of earning a living and as Kennedy pointed out, it’s even worse when she instigated and perpetuated the seven year disaster. But no matter what, writing a check every month forces you to remember what she did, I can tell you from experience that really hurts.

Kennedy Bell: Physically, mentally, spiritually, financially I was abused but I was the breadwinner and I love my kids more than life themselves and so I was not ready to make that monthly payment. So again, I’d always believe that if I can make it once, I will make it again, so I took advantage of a buyout. No, in the complaints of alimony I gave her all the proceeds from the sale of the house which was hundreds of 1000s of dollars and let her keep all of the money that she originally stole; we did an accounting. I let her keep a rental home that we had together which was worth a few $100,000 and we own that outright and then some cash, some stock, etc. So it was again, more than a million dollars just from the expense to the buyout, so I had zero obligation to her on a move forward basis from 2013 on.

Tom Milligan: Sounds like a lot.

Kennedy Bell: Well, one simple phrase is a million dollar divorce.

Tom Milligan: A million dollars; a million, what a total waste. You could spend a million dollars on anything else and it would be better than spending it on divorce but at least it’s over. Was it worth the fight?

Kennedy Bell: That my commitment to them was realized that my oldest went off to participate in football at a high division one school and then eventually transferred to the University of Miami and played linebacker for the Miami Hurricanes, an excellent student, graduated on time and did an internship down in South Florida and immediately got a corporate job when he got back home. And my youngest also took the route of an excellent coach, who was my childhood coach, who was still coaching in the Bay Area at a high level community college, went there for two years and then transferred to the University of Miami and became the captain of the men’s swim team for the Rainbow Warriors, and graduated not quite on time. He took a little bit longer, but graduated and so he’s more a Hawaii Time guy whereas my oldest is strong sense of urgency and purpose and so he’s doing well.

Tom Milligan: I’d say Kennedy won the war and he told us in the very beginning, he’s a competitor that finishes strong and Bertha tends to fold even when she’s ahead.

Kennedy Bell: Both of my boys have chosen not to interact with their mother, I have always encouraged a relationship between my boys and their mother despite the significant amount of dysfunction that she continues to display. She’s very latent in her emotional EQ, Emotional Development and whenever they have an opportunity to engage her, there’s a fair amount of dysfunction that happens. So they’ve proactively chosen to remove themselves from that engagement, it’s because of this dysfunction and that’s unfortunate.

Tom Milligan: Despite the big settlement, Bertha lost everything, every divorce battle especially when its long and expensive, produces casualties, Kennedy fought hard and finished strong but that doesn’t mean he went unaffected.

Kennedy Bell: I hate to use the word victim but I was a victim of a fair amount of abuse throughout a period of time and I became not myself for a lot of years, and I was the self-proclaimed president of the he man/woman haters club, for sure. So I didn’t trust women, I didn’t like women a whole lot, I had a very low self-esteem and what was a very strong, confident, self-assured, strong ego, man became less than significantly, and I didn’t because of how I was socialized, I didn’t recognize how hurt I was. So I was very distrusting of women for a long time and this is an important thing that I want to take away, is that because of my hurt and because of my damage, I sought inappropriate ways to be validated. And so I would date women and I would be physically engaged at a sexual point where I was like a robot, and again when I share with women, I get it where you’re able to perform and be intimate but you get almost zero satisfaction from that and that was highly damaging for a long time.

And so I sought approval and validation in all the wrong places, instead of taking care of myself, after I woke up one day, and I felt like I was waking up from a hangover and I said, I’m done dating, I’m just going to focus on being the best father that I can to grow my business and work on my mental wellness. And that was important because I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and I knew that understanding and visualizing my greater-self was important in order for my health and well-being and I knew at the time also that I needed in order to take care of my boys and those around me, I needed to be the best person I could be for myself. And so I reinvested in my mental, spiritual and physical wellness, when I find myself getting a bit in the doldrums, I go workout and I go for a run, I was still swimming and I put on a lot of yardage.

Tom Milligan: Healing one-self is a step too many of us skip altogether or just do halfway. I know that I didn’t take the time to find myself when my wife left two years ago, and I’m paying the price for it now but better late than never. Kennedy believes there’s one more step required.

Kennedy Bell: My life because I had so much more I needed to accomplish and I owed it to not just myself but to those around me and my boys, and to anybody else that I was going to have a relationship with.

Tom Milligan: So after a $1,000,000 7 year war, Kennedy and Bertha were finally done in 2013, I asked how life has been since then.

Kennedy Bell: Established ministry in a very large church that didn’t have a Men’s Ministry and so I was able to draw men out to be more responsible fathers and husbands and men in general. And I think that passion that I had for myself bled over to those Saturday morning men’s group that I would establish and I started out with just a few guys and by the time I handed the group over, we had about 70 to 80 men showing up every Saturday,

Tom Milligan: 80 guys showing up every Saturday to share feelings, I’ve never heard of such thing and I think it’s great, I wish I’d had that type of support a couple of years ago. As I always do on this show, I asked Kennedy how he feels about marriage in general. To my surprise, I learned that he’s been married for about two years now and along with that marriage came a stepson.

Kennedy Bell: I inherited a child who happened to be my son’s best friend in high school and his name is Bobby and he is special beyond words as well. He played golf for the Asian tour, he’s my current wfie’s son, but he’s pretty much my own right now, I love him.

Tom Milligan: It’s obvious, he really loves Bobby as his own. Kennedy spent a fair amount of time sharing how his previous marriage has affected his second marriage and let’s face it, Kennedy had to deal with some serious issues.

Kennedy Bell: Subject matter; trust. And it’s something that I’ve pondered and have thought about for a long time, Tom because trust starts with self-trust, do I trust myself with making decisions, do I trust myself with my emotions and trusting those emotions into another relationship. And I’m going to be honest and very transparent, I was not prepared because of the magnitude of the damage and the hurt that has impacted me, I was still prepared to be wholly committed into another relationship. My wife had to endure a fair amount of unbecoming behaviors that revolved around not trusting myself and not trusting her and unfortunately she was a bit of collateral damage in that regard but she is an exceptional human being, very evolved, very loving and super forgiving and understanding and a very high EQ level.

Tom Milligan: I’m so happy they found each other and that his wife is such a good person. Kennedy offered one last piece of advice and I’ll just say right now that I agree with him 100%

Kennedy Bell: If you’re interested and growing and learning and evolving in this, and you’re going through a separation and divorce, I’m one of many divorce coaches out there that are available to engage in a couple of things. I want to encourage everybody that’s listening right now, is that there’s help out there and there are people that have been there and have done that has gone down this road and felt the pain and they’ve been in the trenches and they’ve taken the shrapnel and they can offer some significant advice and support in what you’re about to go through and/or are going through.

Tom Milligan: What a story, so much pain, so much money, so many lessons to learn. A huge shout out to Kennedy for sharing his story with us this week, I know it’s not always easy to dredge up these old memories, I’m just grateful to learn from his experience. As a reminder, you can buy Kennedy’s first book House of Straw, a book for men on separation and divorce on Amazon