The #1 Thing I Wish Someone Had Told Me about Divorce
Don’t expect to be friends with your ex. Not at the start anyways. This is what I wish someone, or many people, had told me at the beginning of my divorce.
I’m not saying you should expect to be enemies; no, not at all. I’m saying you should aim for something in the middle – like a ‘professional working relationship.’ It should be polite, somewhat distant, but functional. No more, but no less.
“But why Delaine?” You ask. “Isn’t it in our best interest to be friends? Isn’t it in the kids best interest?”
Because I’ve seen the same negative cycle repeat itself over and over again with me and my ex, AND other divorcing girlfriends: We start getting along well with the exes, it feels good…we may go the ‘extra mile’ for them in some way like drive the kids somewhere far away to meet them, or invite them in for dinner…and then IT happens: a mini-bomb, some kind of comment or event that hurts us, angers us, and leaves us spiralling for days, if not weeks. We all thought we were ‘moving forward’, that things were going so well, that we were ‘big enough’ to move beyond the enormity of the divorce crisis…
But we are human. And we are grieving amidst a huge life transformation – ALL of us are, exes included. And even though it feels good to connect with our exes, even though it seems comfortable in some ways (though in some ways it’s also strange), the bottom line is our sensitivity levels are high, and people grieve in different ways. Each person needs the time, space and consideration to grieve in his/her own way and if that isn’t offered, if time isn’t allotted to the recovery process, it’s a countdown till explosion.
I really wanted my ex and I to be friends at the beginning for the kids’ sake. I wanted to ease the transition into their lives, as any good parent wants, of course. But two things I MUST point out: first, it is very confusing for the kids to have dad at the dinner table one night, only to then have mom in tears for days and ignoring him the next time he comes by for ‘pick-up.’ It’s no good for the kids to have an unhappy mom, period. And even though we do our best to hide our sadness and anger from them, little ears pick up on our phone conversations with girlfriends. Little eyes see when we’re vacantly staring out the window with swollen eyes…. You get my point, I’m sure.
Secondly, in my opinion, young kids (which is what I and my friends all have) are more resistant to change than we give them credit for. Many of the fears I had around the effects of divorce on my kids were just that: mine. Yes, I had to work hard to ease the change, yes, I had to ‘get in the know,’ read books, and always monitor their speech and action for signs of emotional damage. But children respond to how WE ( us and our exes) are handling the crisis. If tension, criticism, and anger abound, they feel it, even if they don’t see or hear it. On the other hand, if they see mom and dad smiling at each other, talking politely, and acting ‘professionally,’ their world seems safer cause mom and dad are showing kindness and setting a good example of how life change can and should be handled.
So this is the #1 thing I wish someone had told me about the divorce process. And if I were sitting having coffee with you, this is what I’d have said to you as a friend; one warrior woman to another.
(written year two after divorce)