When the door slammed shut as my husband walked out 17 years ago, I felt that my heart would break in a million pieces. It was sudden, shocking, and left me reeling for years after. He also left me with a new born baby and a toddler.
I was 30 years old and remember staring out into the garden wondering if and how I would ever recover.
Fast forward 17 years from that moment, and we have slowly but surely found a way to be friends. Do we argue? Yes we still argue, but we also have one goal in common – to make decisions for the benefit of our children.
What gets in the way of couples remaining friends after divorce are egos, the desire to be right, the insistence that someone must pay for the fractured family. Try to combine this with working together for the benefit of the children and this is an impossibility of almost a global scale both in marriage and in divorce.
The reasons for our divorce are private and I would not disrespect him by discussing it in this article. In essence it no longer matters, but boy did it matter at the time. There were times when I found it almost impossible to contain myself, yet the thought of my daughter’s mental well-being continued to take precedence. The anger I felt inside became a catalyst for registering for a course at university which opened up my world in ways I had never imagined possible. I was not going to allow myself to wallow in misery or bitterness however hard it was at times.
Essentially, what my ex and I have done is not easy. It is difficult in the midst of turmoil to keep your composure, and instead we resort to discussing private aspects of our divorce to anyone who bothers to ask. It is so easy to take turns trashing each other publicly disregarding the fact that there are children involved. What I have found, over the years, is that no matter what you or your ex say about each other publicly, or which dirt you want to add onto the pile, people are pretty perceptive and will immediately get a sense of a situation.
In essence, it takes two people to have a relationship, therefore to work at relating when there is a divorce and children involved takes a tremendous amount of commitment from each party. And the rewards are manifold.
The complexities arise when either party is malicious, abusive, unwavering, inflexible, or there are other difficulties which make it almost impossible to be civil. Our situation could have been extremely complex, however everyone from the extended family pulled together to minimize damage on our children.
This is an important component in a divorce, that at times of stress we regress to a toddler state of fighting for the same toy. Whether it is fighting over who gets custody of the children, the property, finances and so on, we all know that divorce brings out the absolute worst in us due to the insecurity, loss and sense of failure that it highlights. This is why friends, grandparents and other family members around the divorcing couple have to keep their wits about them and steer the couple away from further damage.
Revenge, resentment and bitterness has no place in a divorcing couple who want to do the best for their kids. I have seen countess couples drag their children through the most horrendous situation in order to prove a point. We don’t need to criticize an ex though, the children and others pick up signs of their character, consistency and reliability. Children, especially, know who is there for them when all else fails, therefore it is not up to us to point out their shortcomings for the sake of scoring a few extra points.
If seventeen years ago, I would have been told that one day we would all be driving together in the car to drop my daughter off on her first day of university, I would not have believed it. As I sat in the car, I felt a sense of satisfaction in how well things had worked out. We were driving together as a United front, egos pushed well aside for what was a cathartic process spanning many years. The worries I harbored over time about our daughter being emotionally scarred by our divorce dissipated to make way for a huge feeling of gratitude and a feeling that ‘all is well after all’.
Putting the children first and our egos second had paid dividends. The fact is that life happens sometimes in the most bizarre of ways, but we can recover with a degree of composure and understanding, and more importantly forgiveness.