It's always best if you can consciously uncouple rather than aggressively sever for both the adults and the kids. Less conflict reduces stress all round and anxiety over the future. Kids will feel more secure and know that both parents are still there for them and love them. They won't get drawn as go-betweens into nasty battles or have to take sides. It also means you can hang on to all the good memories from marriage and they don't get destroyed in the break-up.
Don't under estimate how hard it is to be amicable with your break-up. It may appear easy to separate and remain friends but it rarely is as straight forward and easy as it seems. It takes a lot from both parents to be able to put their differences aside and stay friends. In Zoe and Normans' case there was the affair and also the kiss to overcome - as well as the alleged drinking problems. Nobody splits if the relationship is working so there is always some degree of difficulty and conflict to overcome and navigate. It is rarely seamless and without hiccups. So it does take strength of character and hard work to create an environment where this can work.
However it will be made a lot easier if clear boundaries are established early on. If a friendly arrangement is to run as well as it can, especially if you are living next door but one to each other, it's vital to ensure that you don't overstep the mark with each other. Whilst being neighbours will make the logistics it a lot easier for the kids and there won't be a huge upheaval every time they stay at the other parents home, there are still issues that need to be agreed. You need to anticipate and think through the different scenarios that will come up and come up with a plan for them in advance.
For example imagine these situations arise, what would you do?
- What happens if the kids forget something like sports kit or their ipad - can they just pop back into either home whenever they want?
- How do you ensure your privacy which can be an important part of the healing and moving on process?
- Also what happens when a new partner is on the scene? Living in such close quarters means that it would be tricky to keep this hidden.
You do need time to grieve your relationship and also to reconnect with yourself after a break-up, so privacy and time alone or away from your ex and kids is a big part of this. It's key that you work out a plan for this as you want to keep negative emotions away from the kids and start creating a new independent life for yourself as an individual again now that you are single again.
It's important to make sure that you agree boundaries for the adults as well as the kids. If they see you being so friendly and amicable they may cling on to the hope that you will get back together again. This may mean that they are less open to you meeting a new partner. So to avoid confusing the kids it's important to set boundaries too.
It will depend on the age of your children but it is important to take time to carefully consider how to tell the kids you are breaking up. If you handle this well at the get go you will have a greater chance of it being more settled for everyone. Have the boundaries clearly worked out before you sit with them so they are clear how it will work. Reassurance that it is not their fault and that you both still love them is key.
Given the issues that Zoe and Norman have had it is clear that they have worked hard on their relationship to keep it going over the years. However infidelity is difficult to recover from as the whole foundation of trust that your relationship is based on is destroyed. They have proved that it is possible to carry on after an affair however add to that other strains such as a drinking problem and that is when the already rocky foundation will start to falter.
It will take hard work and consistent cooperation between Zoe and Norman and most of all respect for each other to keep this working. But if they can it could be a great solution for all of them.