One of the amazing women I’ve had the good fortune of meeting and interviewing for this project is Kathleen Christensen, who blogs at Head in the Clouds. Kathleen will tell you that the process of her divorce was long, tedious, exhausting and exasperating. What she will also tell you is that she could never have imagined going through it, that the end result would be the productive co-parenting relationship she enjoys with her ex today. And yes, I intentionally used that word “enjoy.”
I first posted Kathleen’s story in November 2009, and I’ve chosen to feature her story again while I’m traveling because to me, it offers so much hope for what life after divorce can be like. I hope you find it insightful – I’m looking forward to reading your comments.
Kathleen and her ex were married for about nine years and at the time of our interview, had been apart for about three years. They have a daughter who was seven when they separated. Kathleen and her ex have come a long way and it’s been a hard, difficult struggle. When I interviewed Kathleen, she started by telling me about the marriage breakdown. Here’s Kathleen:
We worked really hard on the marriage but I think we had too many strikes against us. My ex had severe abuse of all kinds growing up and PTSD as a result of that and I’ve got the ADD thing which I just figured out seven years ago. So we used to joke about our marriage being PTSD meets ADD. We truly did try hard but it was a pretty dysfunctional relationship even thought there weren’t affairs or physical violence.
We saw a couple of therapists and when we were seeing the second one, things just went downhill. They spiraled down. I think part of that was she missed some of the big picture and added gasoline to the fire.
It wasn’t my decision to get divorced although I might have come to the same decision because I knew things were pretty bad. When he first said he wanted to get divorced I was horrified because I thought,
‘Oh my God, we have a child. What a terrible thing to do to a child.’
And given where our relationship was, I thought it could get even worse because that’s the way it is with a lot of people. I could see us going into the future with this terrible relationship having to make decisions about our daughter.
We did try to keep things under wraps and away from our daughter but she sensed the tension and sometimes it would boil over when she was around. When we told her we were getting divorced she said,
‘At least I won’t have to listen to you guys fighting anymore.’
So we obviously didn’t keep it hidden from her.
So now, after all we’ve been through, we can actually be relaxed and friendly with each other, make decisions together, and be flexible about decisions we’ve made. I never would have said this before, but it’s even better for our daughter than when we were married. I didn’t think we’d get here. It feels like a miracle that we can actually have this kind of co-parenting relationship.
The Divorce Coach Says
Kathleen credits a collaborative divorce and counseling for the miracle of her co-parenting relationship and in this series of posts Kathleen will share more about what a collaborative divorce is and how it benefited her.
Given that much of what we hear of divorce are the horror stories, Kathleen’s reaction about what divorce would mean to their child is understandable. Her child’s reaction is very telling – it’s proof that children see and understand more than we give them credit for. The reality is that two reasonable adults who are miserable living together can be two happy parents apart, just as another guest, Megan realized.
If you are separated or divorced and have children, here’s a challenge for you – have a conversation with your child about your divorce, ask them how they felt when you first told them you were getting divorced, do they feel differently about it now? Ask them what they think of your relationship with their other parent now?
Photo credit: alasdair.d