Just look at these happy faces. You’d never know that three years ago, we were getting divorced.
And let me tell you, divorce sucks. Even if it’s what needs to happen. No matter which way I sliced it, it was the end of a relationship. A relationship that at one point, I believed or at least hoped, would last forever.
It was sad. Feelings were hurt, there were fights. Big ones, loud ones! But with kids, I was going to have to learn to parent our kids together with my ex in this new normal that I was creating. For the most part, it would be our decision what life post-divorce would look like.
Having been divorced for nearly three years now, I’ve found five key skills to practice.
These five things have been key to redefining our new normal and creating healthy, happy relationships with each other:
1. Let go of what broke you apart.
2. Agree to make the kids a priority—starting immediately—and act accordingly every day following.
3. Practice compassion with each other.
I knew I didn’t want to be in a constant argument or struggle. I knew I wanted to make sure that my kids grew up in a loving home, as emotionally stable and happy as possible.
I wanted him to be happy. I wanted myself to be happy too, eventually. 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 make our kids the priority.
It had to always be about them. And for the good of them. Now, making that decision together is only a small part of being a good co-parent. 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.
Yes, 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 more blame. No more trying to change things. I had to accept it, and move forward. Was that hard? Hell yes. For both of us. But I will tell you that it all has paid off.
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 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 important for my 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. So, 50/50 is what we did. He could have chosen to move back to his home state, where his family is. But he didn’t. He stayed here. 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 that means we do this together.
Our kids’ problems don’t disappear when they leave my house to go to his. He has to know so that he can help. 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 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.
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.
I don’t hold grudges against him. He doesn’t hold grudges against me, so we can compromise and make decisions in the best interest of the girls. We don’t keep score. We still both divide and conquer together.
Life after divorce doesn’t have to be miserable. It can be okay. It can even be good, no matter what side of the coin you are on. But that decision is completely 100 percent up to you both. Today, he’s one of my best friends. He always will be and I 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. We still get annoyed with each other, but hey, we are only human. And we probably work through stuff better now than we did before. But that’s because our priorities have changed too. It’s always about the kids. We will always have that in common.