I have a girlfriend who was just starting down the journey of divorce. She knows that I've been divorced for over 10 years and have an amicable relationship with my ex. She was asking for some pointers on how we kept the divorce process and post-divorce civil.
When I divorced, I was working, my ex was unemployed and our daughter was four years old. During marriage counseling, we decided it was time to part ways. We had been living in separate bedrooms for several months and an icy chill had settled on the house when we were both home.
We were both experts at pushing each others buttons to invoke anger or emotional hurt. But we both agreed that we wanted to keep our divorce as civil as possible to avoid racking up large lawyer bills. We committed to keep going through the motions of our day as normal as possible for the sake of our daughter. I can tell you it was difficult.
The week after our decision to divorce, a dating agency was calling to arrange an interview with him for their program. I felt so used, unloved and just tossed aside; thirteen years of marriage and he's hollering out to the world 'Next!'
I wanted to lash back with my emotional pain; but I chose not to. I decided to hold on to the vision of our daughter 20+ years from now planning her wedding. I wanted that time for her to be filled with joy and hope; not worried about her parents starting World War III at her reception. To me, that was more important than the pain I was currently feeling and sustained me during our divorce process.
Instead of doing what I had done for years in our marriage of matching my hurt with hurting him; I elected to begin the path of recovery from my broken marriage. I chose to take a business-like approach to our divorce and keep the emotion out of it as best as I could.
A few days after our decision to divorce the house went on the market and we had a firm offer within four days. What was truly a gift was the contingency of finishing our basement. My ex is a gifted handyman; so with the assistance of a neighbor the two of them finished the basement over the next six weeks.
The gift was that when I came home from work, I would make us all dinner. When it was ready they would take a break from working to come up and eat. Conversation would flow around the table and then the two of them would go back to continue working for a couple more hours. Having this gentleman in the house gave us a nice distraction from our issues.
Later after our divorce was finalized, I was talking with the neighbor who stated that he would have never guessed we were in the process of divorce because everything was civil. I took comfort in that for the sake of our daughter who was present through the entire event.
Our divorce was speedy as divorces go, but since we were willing to work together instead of against each other we were able to settle on house, custody and all the finances. Seven weeks after deciding to divorce it was final and cost us $2000.
That marked the beginning of our new relationship. My ex, my daughter and I will always be family; we are just a divorced family. To this day, ten years later we have an amicable relationship for the sake of our daughter.
Visitation schedules are planned up to 3 months in advance so we can both schedule our lives around it. Other than visitation weekends during drop off we rarely talk and we only come together for special events concerning our daughter.
Last week as our daughter was on stage for her dance recital, I had my boyfriend sitting on one side of me and my ex on the other. As our fourteen year old daughter was on stage and sees us all sitting together a smile touches her face. I felt a wave of gratitude wash over me. I say a silent Thank You for making the decision long ago about taking the long view on a ensuring an amicable relationship with her father.