I have been divorced from my ex-husband for 5 years (separated for 6). I remember when we first split, I felt very confident that we would be one of the couples who would be able to manage our emotions and stay united for our kids. In fact, I thought we were going to rock the divorce game. I knew we would have challenges, of course, but I was certain that we would be able to rise above them. I imagined, somewhat naively, that we would enjoy healthy communication, shared holidays, and group photos with our new blended families. I pictured support, handshakes, and maybe even hugs. I just knew it would all be okay. After all, we were both adults. Adults that had been through a lot together. We had spent 9 years together, most of it decent. We had raised babies, grieved the loss of our parents, and shared a lot of laughter and love together. This is someone who had been my best friend, and I was not going to forget that.
Now, I can recognize that part of my ‘pollyanna perspective’ was due to the fact that I was the one to end my marriage. It is easy to look on the bright side when you are the one making the decisions. But looking back, it is both shocking and devastating to see how wrong I was. I won’t go into the details of our divorce out of respect for both my ex-husband and our children but I will say, in regards to co-parenting, the past 6 years have been indescribably challenging. For me. For him. And worst of all, for our children.
My post-marriage fantasy of laughter and unity has been anything but. In fact, I think that both my ex-husband and I would agree that it has been an absolute nightmare. Complete with contempt, vicious words, and quite frankly, child-like behaviour.
I want to be clear that I am not placing blame here. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango and as much as it pains me to admit it, I have very much been a part of the erosion in our relationship. It becomes easy to point fingers at the other party and point out how difficult or uncooperative they are, but the truth is, we have both played a role. When divorce happens, all of the disagreements, the annoyances, and the differences in parenting get that much louder, that much harder to ignore. Bitterness creeps in if one party thrives while another struggles, or if one moves on while another takes more time to grieve. And I am embarrassed to say that we let all of it get the better of us.
I am embarrassed to say that we didn’t do better.
What I have realized now is that it doesn’t matter how reasonable or kind a person is, hurt feelings and resentment can turn them into someone you barely recognize. Whether it is your ex-spouse, or yourself. And as much as it is important to offer everyone a little grace, when there are kids involved, it is much more important to pull your head out of your ass and put them first.
As I ride this secondary wave of grief realizing my ex-husband and I will never have the friendship that I wanted us to, I have become even more resolute in my determination to move forward from here in a different way. We may never sit around the same table celebrating an engagement or a new grandchild, but we can still do better. And if I have learned anything over the past 6 years, it is that the only actions and reactions I can control are my own.
I don’t know what the future holds for our broken family. Likely lots of biting our tongues, firm boundaries, and very limited communication. And even though that isn’t ideal, it is still okay. Not every divorce story needs to be a hallmark movie, as long as the kids come first. Even when we are angry. Even when we are hurt. Even when it’s hard.
To my babies, I’m sorry. Mama’s going to do better.