My ex-husband and I have created something beautiful. We know it. We’ve been told by others that the meaningful and unique connection that we maintain with each other and with our families extends beyond the definition of an “amicable” divorce. Perhaps it would be akin to a stable and warm friendship. It involves working toward an equal investment in each other’s best future interests, both monetarily and emotionally. It includes relying on each other, when necessary, to help with the kids, without counting score and without carrying grudges. We are allies in our parenting strategies, and we make a conscious effort to continue to celebrate our children together as a unit of four as well as with our extended families. Most importantly, and this is really the key to an amicable divorce, we have profound respect for one another, despite the pain we may have endured in our marriage and its ending, and we have gifted each other with the chance to find happiness again.
Yet despite our good intentions, my ex-husband and I have just managed to make it through one of our worst months of divorce together. About ten months ago, a woman entered his life. Slowly at first, the pendulum swung. There were less phone calls between us and less interactions. As time and space stretched on, as their relationship blossomed, she met my children and his extended family. I was excited for my kids, happy for my ex-husband, and open to all of it. But I wasn’t ready for how it would shift the landscape of our divorce. As time went on and their relationship solidified, I was excluded from some family events and a major parenting decision that I know for certain I would have been a part of just a few months before.
Now, I’m betting that at this point you’ll be assuming that there is some underlying jealousy on my part. But, you’ll have to trust me on this when I tell that that my only clear agenda throughout four and a half years of divorce is to reinvent what divorce can look like for my children and for everyone involved. It means actively creating something unique. Starting with two parents who show each other much love and respect. Yes, we’ll build separate pathways in our lives, but we won’t forget that these pathways should intersect often, meeting naturally to celebrate our children and families together, and never making our kids feel as if they have to choose or protect a side. Remembering that our paths are forever bonded by the love of our children, there should be no lines drawn. Jealous I was not. I was angry that a gateway that was once wide open was now being closed.
But the pendulum swung. And somehow despite my greatest efforts, I saw my ex-husband creating lines and the unique beauty of our divorce began to dissolve. I watched it happen quietly at first, secretly hoping the momentum would change. But months later, a few conversations with my ex-husband made it quite clear to me that we may no longer be on the same page in terms of our expectations for our divorce “together”. I had lost my chance at my vision and I was angry. For a solid month we fought, we ignored, we hated, we grew resentful and bitter. We yelled out in pain and opposition and neither of us listened. I think for the first time in our divorce, we both could see the real possibility of us entering a “typical” nasty divorce relationship, and the end of something special.
The easier thing for us would have been to let it spiral downward. To continue to ignore each other and broaden the separation of our lives. But I just can’t do easy anymore. It’s not who I am. Not anymore. Before divorce, easy kept me comfortable, but not happy. Easy avoided the hard conversations and kept me safe from confrontation. Easy was my excuse for not using my voice. Easy was living a life that didn’t feel like it was a genuine life lived. Living authentically is NOT easy, but these days I’m choosing to live. It means leaning into the discomfort of new things, feeling the fear of it all, and staying in it. So one month after not being able to look each other directly in the eye, my ex-husband and I finally understood that we either had to talk it out together or carry on in anger. We chose to talk, and we sat face to face, the two of us, and we got real uncomfortable. We exposed our pain and our weaknesses. We shared and we listened. We heard and we cried. And the beauty that took flight from the conversation was palpable. It was freeing, releasing, and raw. It gave us the openness to trust in each other once again and to see the value in connecting around our children and our extended family.
It is not easy to erase the blueprint in our mind of a “typical” divorce. It is work on both of our parts to create a new template that shifts the paradigm, and it is far more difficult to invite others to participate in it with us. I want the chance for my kids to explore new possibilities that could be created when a grounded ex-wife and a lovely girlfriend are together in the same space. What risk is there in discovering whether we can unite to watch MY children, HER boyfriend and our families grow in celebrating cherished times? Is it pain we are afraid of? Exposure? Discomfort? Let’s take the risk! It’s possible for us! We’ve come so far in our achievements and so close to attaining it. Why wouldn’t we try for it? Yes, it will be work. It will be challenging, and awkward and possibly even unusual at first to ourselves and to others. It won’t be easy, but it will surely feel alive!
That night, I was graciously invited back into the fold of my ex-husband’s family for a 50th anniversary dinner and we were all there: My kids, my ex-husband, his family and his girlfriend. It was comfortable. It was uncomfortable. But that’s living in the blurred line of divorce, and it opens the gate to creating something beautiful.