The end of Carolyn’s marriage involved infidelity, her husband’s infidelity with her friend, the friend who’d held her hand during the birth of her daughter. Her friend and her ex were married two months after the divorce so today while the friend is no longer a friend, she is stepmom to Carolyn’s children.
Infidelity hurts and compounds the pain of divorce making it even harder to build that co-parenting partnership for your children. I asked Carolyn to talk about her relationship with her ex and how that has evolved in the two years they’ve been divorced. Here’s Carolyn:
It’s better in that we don’t have much to argue about anymore. At first it was difficult. We had a lot of arguing because I wanted to move to where my mom was and I needed support. As a child who’d grown up in a broken home where the father was absent, it was difficult for me to really grasp what I would have been giving up if I had moved away, in terms of having his help. Now, I can see that having a half-time schedule is really a blessing when you’re in school.
Once those things were resolved and settled down, things got better. We’re not close but we don’t argue about things so much anymore. We occasionally have difficulties like this fall, I need to be in class on Mondays and Tuesdays and then Wednesdays he gets the kids anyway. What we’ve been doing on transfer days is I drop them off at school, he picks them up from school, but with his class schedule, he needs them in school the second half of the week. So we’re going to have some scheduling difficulties because he doesn’t want to have to pay for my son to be in daycare five days a week. But, even when we have to negotiate those things, we usually just work it out.
Neither of us likes to fight. I say that, like anybody likes to fight, but I think some people really do. Some people are better at it and some people can handle it. I can’t handle it. To me, it’s often better to just concede because I can’t handle the stress of having an ongoing battle about anything.
I laughed the other day because my kids’ stepmother was here dropping the kids off and she came in for a few minutes. My landlord stopped by and without even thinking, I almost introduced her as “my friend” but I caught myself and said “my children’s stepmother” because I’m not going to call her my friend. She doesn’t get to called my friend anymore, but I almost referred to her as my friend because I guess we’ve distanced ourselves from all the initial stress. Our interactions now are pleasant enough that for a minute, I guess I forgot.
My sister’s having her own marriage problems now and she’s probably going to be divorcing her husband. I feel sorry for her because her husband, unlike my ex, is kind of a flake. She expects him to show up to pick up the kids at a certain time and he won’t show up and she has to call around to figure out where he is and she’ll have fights with him because he was in a bar instead of picking up his kids.
I realized that while I did certainly have a lot of interpersonal drama between me and my ex husband and his now-wife, one thing we didn’t have drama about was the kids. He’s never flaked on me, ever. He shows up when he’s supposed to and he values his time with the children. He takes them half of every week and when they’re at his house, I don’t have to worry that they’re being poorly supervised or not fed well or anything like that. I don’t have any of those concerns. I guess I appreciate the relative luck I have in that I picked a good ex-husband. He wasn’t a very good husband, but he’s a pretty good ex husband.
The fights we had in the beginning were because he was worried he was going to lose his children. His focus this whole time has been on yeah, he screwed up his marriage, but he didn’t want to screw up on being a parent. I guess I consider myself lucky there.
The Divorce Coach Says
I think Carolyn shows admirable maturity in being able to accept her friend as her ex’s wife and children’s step-mom. It can’t be easy. However, the phrase that stands out the most to me is
The fights we had in the beginning were because he was worried he was going to lose his children.
This echos what a number of women have told me. In my interview with Judy Osborne, author of Wisdom for Separated Parents, Judy talked about intention and time being just two factors in reaching a benign space that allows for the possibility of on-going kinship. Another of my guests, Holly, found that their parenting became easier and more flexible over time, as she and her ex built a mutual trust that neither was trying to take away parenting time.
How about your co-parenting relationship? Could it be improved if you reassured your ex you weren’t trying to take away parenting time?