When you get divorced and you have children together with your STBX, chances are you’ll stay in touch. You could even still be connected with your ex after thirty-six years of living apart.
Continuing with this series about my interview with author and marriage and family therapist, Judy Osborne, Judy talks about her own separation and some of the transitions in her relationship with her ex. Here’s Judy:
I have been a separated parent for about thirty-six years and I knew from my own experience that my family wasn’t broken, that we had in fact rearranged around the children and that my experience in working with other families since the early 80’s was similar. Not every family can do this, but the people that I have interviewed and the stories included in the book are people who have managed to find and renew a connection with a former partner in order to keep the children in the center.
It didn’t come about quickly of course. No one does that because there are so many strong feelings as one decides to separate, but we did have many long discussion before we formally separated. All these little separations that people experience when they’re trying to struggle with whether or not to announce it formally or to take action, but we very much wanted to not give up our equal rights to be parents together.
Each divorce and separation seems to fall initially into two places. One is overly-friendly with the ex partner or overly-hostile and ours was an overly-friendly one for a while. The kids went back and forth out of one house and we managed to carve out our time with them and have a separate space for ourselves as well.
Then it changed of course, as we started to add new partners because they didn’t understand this friendly relationship that we had. I think that new partners do catapult you into a new awareness of how to make a space to continue to be parents and a space to continue to be an adult. For those people who have overly hostile relationships at the beginning, I think new partners often helps that, too. It doesn’t always, but it can because it can put a new frame around how to understand families, that you’re both an adult and a parent and those are just things we have to struggle with and figure out how to manage.
So over the years we moved along and for me, added new stepchildren and the children moved into adolescence and we continued not so connectedly, but we lived in the same community so that’s a big factor.
The Divorce Coach Says
I would see the over-friendly/over-hostile classification as being more of a continuum rather than an either/or. For my ex and I, our separation was not overly-hostile; we were able to agree to a financial settlement and parenting plan without having to go to court and we’ve had no legal proceedings since. Nor was it overly-friendly. It probably would have been if I had allowed it but I was the one who asked him not to just walk in the front door as if he still lived here, and I was the one who wanted to adhere to the schedule we’d set out in the parenting agreement. We didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas together as if nothing had happened.
We’ve managed to share birthdays and Holidays, Boy Scout ceremonies and parent-teacher conferences with barely even a discussion and certainly with no drama. I think that was possible in the early days because we could each decide our own involvement and it didn’t require much collaboration. Now, as the children age, that’s changing and I can sense the need for greater co-operation. The milestone events are more external, such as high school graduation and that means working together to include extended family and mutual friends.
We’ve been divorced now for a little over four years and I’m glad for that time. I think it has allowed us to settle into a new comfort zone where we don’t feel threaten by each other. I’m not sure we could have worked together for my daughter’s high school graduation as well as we did if that had happened closer to our separation. I can see now how my son’s high school graduation and their college graduations might look and yes, I’m certain there’ll be more of a connectedness than I imagined four years ago.
Again, why is this important? Because I do truly believe family is important and family is no longer bound by marriage. If my ex and I can develop this connectedness, this ease of being in each other’s company, then our children will have a greater sense of kinship. They won’t sense this big, black dividing line between my ex and I that they have to work around, a line that could stop us from enjoying all the milestones to come. And I definitely do not want that.