When my current guest, Molly mentioned that her ex still joins her and her children each week for Friday night family dinners, I was curious. I understood Molly wanted to see her ex as a good guy and was determined that her family was not going to ‘broken’ by divorce, but as Judy Osborne observed, some separations can be overly-friendly at first as each partner adjusts to the new boundaries. I asked Molly to talk about how her dinners came about and what they meant for her family. Here’s Molly:
It started when we broke up. He still came over to eat dinner here for the first couple of months, pretty much on a nightly basis. I think we were sort of broken up but we didn’t really know how to break up. We were following those family rituals and dinner time had always been an important part of our family life. I love to cook and he cleans up afterwards, we just like the whole sitting around the table and talking moment.
Then as we started to disconnect and our jobs got busier and we started practicing yoga on opposite nights from each other, we stopped getting together on that regular of a basis, but we were informally having Sunday dinners. Then about a year ago, we finally solidified the idea of,
“OK, we seem to be doing a family dinner, let’s make it a certain night and let’s make that a sacred thing that we will keep as something that we won’t make other plans on that night.”
My parents were like that, too. We had Sunday night family dinners, so I think that probably it was somewhat influenced by them, but it took on a new importance in terms of having the ability to make the kids understand that we still are a family.
There are lots of studies that say that family dinners or sitting down with your kids for dinner does great things for them in terms of helping keep them away from drugs and bettering their scores in school and their grades. Because my ex and I both enjoyed having dinner together and the bond it created, it was important to us.
The Divorce Coach Says
When Molly and I spoke, she and her ex were living close to each other making family dinner nights easy. Molly has since moved away in a job-related move, making family dinner night more challenging.
Family dinner nights would not have worked for my ex and I – I think there was just too much hurt and pain for us to sit together over dinner with the children and chat about normal everyday things. My sense is that would have been too awkward and probably overly-friendly for me. I needed a clearer boundary than that. I needed markers that made it clear our relationship had changed and perhaps I needed that because my ex had had a difficult time accepting our marriage was over.
However, as you move forward with creating your post-separation life, there are no set rules. You and your ex can write your own rules and not be bound by what society normally expects of divorced couples. Another of my guests, Kristen impressed upon her ex that while their marriage had fallen apart, they were still parents together and could still be successful parents together. They also had family dinners and shopping trips together.
Would family dinner nights work for you? Do you do any other activities together with your ex?
Photo credit: paparxazzi