I hesitate to use that title, because I don’t like using the word evil when it comes to anything with my family. However; most divorced couples with children would relate to the title on many levels. We have chosen to split, yet we are forever connected. Navigate that landmine peacefully – and please show me how you do it.
My ex and I decided to split back in 2012. Before we decided to split there was a mutual separation. The reasons we did so are nobody’s business and I will not air his dirty laundry (I’ll air mine happily – just ask). It just didn’t work, plain and simple. We decided to split, yet he chose to not share with his family or friends and asked to stay in the house together for an additional six months to pay off debts we had. I agreed that financially this was the best choice. However, it wasn’t like we both woke up one day and “hi, want to get divorced…” It’d been over awhile. I was beyond ready to move on. Six months? I told him that it definitely made sense, but that I’d likely start seeing other people. I wouldn’t flaunt it; and I’d share with him if he wanted.
Silly, yet optimistic me thought we could grace through the divorce and co-habitation like paid professionals. I do that in life though- which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s worked wonders in my career (they didn’t say no; actually what I heard was maybe…) however sometimes makes it hard in my relationships. I learned quickly that even with the optimism of someone with a brimming-full glass; I couldn’t make this situation perfect. I couldn’t make him understand my feelings, or begin to understand his. The lack of communication that had been part of our initial problem only drove a further wedge in our relationship. There were many mean words said…words that couldn’t even trump the unsaid conversations in our eight year union.
And…even with the best of intentions (even if only part-time)- we both failed desperately at being mature in the breakup. I dated someone almost immediately; seeking comfort from my failure of a marriage in someone that didn’t deserve to be heartburn to the father of my children. Don’t feel too bad; my ex pulled a few fast ones too- I think the score eventually was even; although at no loss to the players at hand.
I’m here to tell you that divorce isn’t easy. I’m blessed to have a very good hearted – amazing ex husband with a soul that’s gold. I will also add that he’s blessed to have an ex that always is trying to make things work and still have a whole, happy family (as f**ked up as it is, we can still be divorced and be solid-I’m a believer!). He may say I’m a controlling pain in the ass; I’ve always run the family and sometimes it’s tough to let go of the reins. Hey, I’m a work in progress! I sometimes may say he’s a non-communicating, selfish butt. It depends on the day 🙂
Shannon and I decided early on that we’d both come from broken families, and knowing how it had affected us – we’d do everything in our power to make sure our children had the best possible life growing up. While our marriage didn’t last – our relationship would be eternal. We would work together and not against eachother when it came to the kids. It was an unspoken agreement before it was ever uttered. I looked in his eyes each time he picked up my children to take them – a nod and a silent thank you. He’s such a great dad. Actually, an even better dad now.
We have our disagreements. He is bitter that I dated someone right away and brought them around the kids. I had my reasons, and I can’t defend them now because I shouldn’t have done it. I learned my lesson, and boyfriends since (ok, boyfriend. I wish I could pretend I was a baller of sorts but quite frankly…I don’t have that much game I’m learning.) have not and will not meet my kids. Unless it’s marriage (that word is even hard to type, let alone speak…) or something extremely serious (still hard, but easier than the M word…) it ain’t happening. I saw how hard it was for my kids to see my break up – not just because of the divorce- but because it’s not fair for them to lose someone too.
He dated girls, and it was the same thing. I saw my kids little hearts break every time it didn’t work out (ok, one time for me, twice for him. 3 times. Insurmountable? No. I think we’ve learned our lesson though- again, at least I hope). I retaliated. He laughed when I tried to talk to him about it. Why would he listen? I’d done the same thing essentially. We were fighting a battle that no one would win; and essentially our children would pay the ultimate price.
It’s taken time. Years now to be honest to get over the hurt; the pride- and decide to put the kids first. We have always done decent – with few angry fights compared to most. We did our first full year from Christmas on doing holidays and birthdays together. We are both single and that definitely makes it easier. He doesn’t want to spend hours together, but is very open to doing things together for the most part. I’m a different person; he could come over weekly and we could spend hours together as a family and I wouldn’t think twice.
This weekend was his weekend with the kids. I also knew Jurassic Park 4 was coming out and our kids were super excited. We’d been a Jurassic Park family from day one as my kids both loved dinosaurs. I asked him if I could come. We’d recently been fighting; which was strange because for the previous several months we’d gotten along great. I could sense his annoyance. He just wanted to go and enjoy the movie on his night, with his kids. He didn’t commit, but only in my true style; I persisted. And before I knew it, he’d not only asked me to join; he’d also asked my mom. The kids wanted both mom and grandma to join.
Grandma ended up opting out, but I asked him if he could pick me up. Him and the kids showed up. We talked about a few things that were going on in his life, and I was excited he was sharing them with me. I want nothing more than to see him happy and whole…it was a really fun night. Our kids were super excited for the movie. They seem un-phased by the fact we were all going as a family. I credit Shannon and I both for that. Thank God it’s not weird when we do things as a family, even though we aren’t together. We are making plans to possibly attend a work function together that we always used to do as a family next weekend.
It’s not easy to try to discipline and raise children with someone you aren’t romantically involved with. Guess what? The kids eat take-out now probably several days they’re with dad, and go to bed late. It drives me crazy! I cook nearly every night. And they’re in bed at 8 during the school year, no exceptions. Try having a consistent schedule doing that! But, we do. We talk constantly about what each kid is doing, and how to combat it together. We have mutually put restrictions on “tablet” time (a whole other article…be ready) and try to battle whatever the issue of the month is – currently my kids want to buy something every five minutes; hello materialistic-I’m not playing.
Whether it’s him calling to ask if I will take the kids to his ex-girlfriends because our kids want to see her kids; or us taking my exes daughter to a school function with our kids – we compromise. We aren’t picture perfect – but we’re as great as it can get for dysfunctional. 🙂 I’m actually quite proud of how far we’ve come. Even in our worst of times, we far exceed the norm for divorced couples.
I always say you should put yourself first. That you should be number one above all else -because if you aren’t taken care of…everything else falls apart, momma. So then #2 is kiddos. You’ll always want to put their needs first; it’s our maternal instinct. However make sure you have met your own needs too; you’ll make a much better mom. Promise. I’ve always been a fierce advocator that work comes next; #3 in life (there have been many times it’s been #1 -and it shouldn’t be). I view it as without my job…there’s no house, no car, no gymnastics or soccer or new shoes. But the truth is; Shannon comes next. Because without Shannon, our little family wouldn’t be. So dad is #3 – work comes after. And on my best or hardest of days I’ll remind myself of this…while I haven’t made all the best decisions and am definitely not perfect; my children will not suffer. They will have amazing, fulfilled lives.
I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have the magic equation. I don’t know what advice to give when it comes to co-parenting successfully other than this: Let go of your pride. Selfish is out -putting yourself as #1 only means your true needs-your other desires get put on the back burner to the needs of your kids. Think solely about your children and what’s best for them when it comes to working with your ex. Don’t let the kids see you fight. Be the first to forgive, even when you aren’t wrong. Compromise, compromise..and…compromise. As easy as that sounds; it’s not. Actually- it’s rarely easy. There are days we’re both raw and pist and want to strangle eachother. Some days I’m better; some days he is.
What I do know without a doubt is that I chose him – no matter how young– to father my children. And he chose me as the mother of his. And, while we decided to end the marriage; we’ll always be a family. I honestly don’t regret a moment. He’s an amazing person, and an amazing dad. My kids are blessed and will be better people because he’s in their life – along with his family.
Co-parenting is necessary; however it’s only an evil if that’s what we make it. -Trina