The thing I'm discovering about divorce with children is that not only is it one of the most miserable experiences you will navigate in your life, the experience has no expiration date. What I mean is, awful situations and realizations sneak up on you on a regular basis; things you hadn't even contemplated dealing with are suddenly sliding into bed with you in the middle of the night. Three years later and it still happens all. the. damn. time.
You can get several months of solid, positive relations under your belt and BOOM. One small thing knocks you on your ass. I've spiraled into divorce rage and/or sadness more times than I can count. Days and days where I cannot fathom coparenting positively with my ex-husband for ten minutes at the bus stop let alone the next two decades. I mean, shit. We divorced for a reason, didn't we? And it's not like divorce is the big fix for what went wrong in our relationship. All that shit is still there, waiting to eat our new, hard-fought post-marriage relationship alive if we allow it. The only thing divorce has done is make us less dependent on each other emotionally and affords us a lot of breathing room from each other. When we upset each other now we can retreat to our respective homes and I don't have to ask him what he wants for dinner. His business is no longer my business unless it involves our children and vice versa. Breathing room is nice. It works wonders at getting over most arguments.
But divorce didn't take away all of our mutual responsibilities surrounding our children. And when the handling of life's responsibilities played a role in the disintegration of your marriage, it can be a real motherfucker to handle them while divorced. Because your ex no longer shares a home and experiences with you, they may have become even more entrenched in the ways that slowly destroyed your marriage, yet you have to conduct the business of parenting, just like any married couple does. Finances, bills, where to live, holidays, birthday parties, school, childcare, child issues, the list goes on and on. Pretty similar to marriage, no?
I've put a lot of pressure on myself to maintain a positive divorce, perhaps because I'm a child of a really awful divorce, so when things become rocky I slump into despair. I obsessively contemplate all the usual divorce scenarios I've yet to deal with - stepmom entering the picture, changing custody schedules that accommodate the kids as they age - and I just feel depressed and overwhelmed at the prospect of navigating successfully through it all. I realized something recently, though, in the middle of a divorce rage depression and I thought I'd share it with you for some perspective when your divorce relations get tough...
I remember being married. It was a rollercoaster. Some years were better than others. Some months great, others awful. One week might be wonderful, the next is filled with arguments and anger and contemplation that perhaps you married the wrong person and maybe even your marriage is over. But you forge ahead and make it work because that's all you can do. And it gets better again, things eventually settle into okay and sometimes you even find yourself falling in love with your spouse again... What I realized is that I have been viewing divorce as the antidote to a diseased relationship, the end of feeling numb and terrible as a result of unhealthy interactions with this person. And it was that in a lot of ways, but in many other ways, my divorced relationship with my ex is no different than our married relationship. We're still going to have those good months and we're still going to experience the bad ones. We can still press each other's buttons in all the ways that led to the end of our marriage and all we can do is breathe, try to get perspective, and forge onward. What's the alternative? Hateful, childish assholes who talk shit about each other to our kids and make them uncomfortable when we're in the same room together? Not an option. This man is the father of my beautiful children, a member of my family. Families have disagreements and sometimes fight viciously. There has to be an acceptance of the notion that we are still family in conjunction with acknowledgment that we will always piss each other off, as people in complicated relationships do, and it's not the end of the world. It's fucking hard. But, the mind-blowing realization is that it's not any harder than being married, it's just hard for different reasons.
The notion that the divorce difficulties I'm dealing with now and the ones I'm facing down the road are no more complicated or challenging than the low moments of marriage is comforting, for some reason.
Because guess what? What divorce DOES do with time is make you less reliant on that person for your well-being. If you do divorce right and take some time for you, you learn to turn to yourself for strength and discover who you really are and what's important to you. And, in the process, you fall in love with yourself.
I LOVE MYSELF. The most ruthless battle cry there ever was.
As time goes on the little stuff doesn't faze you anymore and then the big stuff stops affecting you so much. You learn to let go of the things about your ex that upset you because you CAN walk away. You can hold your tongue, smile, say goodbye and go home, sit on your couch and turn on your Netflix and watch whatever the fuck you want while eating Doritos in your underwear with nobody there to judge you. And that, my friends, is one of the most beautiful things in the world.