Looking at these happy faces, you’d never know that three years ago, we were getting divorced.
Obviously, getting a divorce isn’t fun. It’s never in our plans, but unfortunately for some… for the majority statistically speaking, it happens. Divorce triggers so many tough emotions. For me, it was sadness, anger, rage, fear, loneliness, embarrassment and shame to just name a few. Understandably so, because no matter which way I sliced it, it was the end of a relationship. A very important relationship that I believed or at least hoped, would last forever. And my life, my kids life and his life were about to change. I kept in mind though, that that was the point. Because it wasn’t healthy for us all to go on like we were. We all deserved better.
I went into my divorce with the hope that all four of us (myself, my ex and our two young girls) could come out the other side as unscathed as possible with a happy, healthy and loving life ahead of us. I didn’t want there to be constant fights or struggles. We’d been through enough already. It was going to be hard, but we all deserved to be happy. And I was going to make sure we had a fighting chance at that.
I knew I was going to have to learn to parent our kids together with my ex in this new normal that I was creating. It would be our decision and our decision alone on what our life post-divorce would look like.
Having been divorced for nearly three years now, I’ve found five key skills to practice every day. These five things have been key to redefining our new normal and creating healthy, happy relationships with each other:
- Let go of what broke you apart.
- This is step one. Mastering this will allow you to move forward with everything else. I wanted to be happy. I wanted him to be happy. So, despite the feelings my ex and I had toward each other at the time of our divorce, we consciously decided to put them aside and focus on what was next. This takes buy in from both sides and constant commitment. I was the one who asked, so I felt that I bared the brunt of trying to define what this was going to look like for all of us, despite how angry and sad I was really feeling. But in order to do that, I had to truly let go of the things that had led us to this point. His failures, my failures, and all the feelings that surround it. No revenge. No more hurting each other. No more trying to change things. I had to see clearly where we were, accept it and move forward. Was that hard? Hell yes it was! For both of us. But we worked hard at it… and I promise you that it all has paid off one thousand times over.
- Agree to make the kids a priority—starting immediately—and act accordingly every day following.
- It has to be about them, for the good of them. ALWAYS. This is non – negotiable. Making that decision together is only a small part of being a good co-parent. It’s the easy part. The hard part, the important part, is actually practicing that day in and day out. And this started immediately after I asked him for a divorce. Decisions are made with their best interest at heart. Nothing else. In order to do this, we both have to pull our personal emotions out of it, put ourselves in our kids’ shoes, each other shoes and decide things together. We talk things through. His opinion matters, my opinion matters, and our kids’ opinions matter. We are all heard.
- Practice compassion with each other. For each other and for your kids. Everyone deserves it
- No parent wants to be away from their kids for prolonged periods of time. But I also knew that my kids loved their dad, and he loved them tremendously. So, I had to remove myself and those feelings from this equation when we were deciding on parenting time. I think he was surprised that I offered up 50/50 physical custody. But I did it for two reasons. One, it’s importantfor the girls to spend time with him. And second, I didn’t want to kill him with huge child support payments. I wanted to set him up to succeed. This is about success for all – while not abandoning myself. So, 50/50 is what we did. He could have also chosen to move back to his home state, where his family is. But he didn’t. He stayed here for his kids. He moved just down the street, to be with them, and help me. That is compassion for each other and for our kids.
- We don’t exclude each other when there are important things happening in our kids’ lives. If I get a call from the school, he’s the first one I call. If the girls are having a tough time with something, he’s going to know about it. We are a team and we always will be. That means we parent together. Our kids’ celebrations or problems don’t just disappear when they leave my house to go to his and vice-a-versa. We both have to be in the know so that we can actively participate. We still do things as a family. Whether or not he and I are married, I believe we will always be family. And we act accordingly. We do things just the four of us. We go out to dinner during the week or we do fun activities like sledding. We spend holidays together when we are comfortable with it. Christmas and birthday presents are split equally, so all the tags read, “Love Mom and Dad.” Christmas morning, we are all together. We trick-or-treat together. Birthday parties are organized and paid for together. We attend kids sporting events—whether its “our night” or not. We still both divide and conquer together. We respect each other’s role in our kids’ lives.
- Compromise is always key. We have to pick and choose our battles. I’ll help here if you can help there? Okay, good. You want that week for vacation? Okay, I’ll take this week. Deal. Not everything has to be a monumental argument. Letting go of control sometimes is okay.
A few extra tips that help!
I don’t hold grudges against him and he doesn’t hold grudges against me. This way we can compromise and make decisions in the best interest of the girls. We don’t keep score. Today, he’s one of my best friends. He always will be and I do love him dearly. It wasn’t always easy, and I have to give him half of the credit for the way things are now. I’ve put in work, and so has he.
I also have a new appreciation for him that I didn’t have three years ago. Sure… we still get annoyed with each other, but hey, we are only human. Honestly, probably work through stuff better now than we ever have. But that’s because our expectations of each other and our priorities have changed as well. It’s always about the kids. We will always have that in common.
Life after divorce doesn’t have to be miserable. It can be okay. GASP! It can even be good, really good. No matter what side of the coin you are on. But that decision is completely 100 percent up to you both. Ask yourself – what do you want for your life and your kids’ life? Think about that and then take action accordingly.
Disclaimer – There was no physical danger to me, him or my kids. I recognize that not everyone is in the same situation as I was. Safety is always the number one priority.