The first full week back at work in the New Year is unpopular among most, but for some, Monday marks a particularly difficult day.
The first working Monday of the year (falling on 6 January in 2020) has been dubbed ‘Divorce Day’ by lawyers, due to the spike in people beginning divorce proceedings.
Going through divorce is never easy, with a difficult holiday season often being the final straw, but separating from a partner doesn’t mean unhappiness is an inevitability forever.
After time to heal, some divorcees manage to create a good relationship, sometimes even friendship, with their ex partner.
We spoke to five people about their experiences and found out how they got to the positive place they’re at today.
‘We rock co-parenting’
“Wayne and I decided to separate in March 2017 and are currently finalising our divorce. We had been through a very tough time organising our wedding in just 10 days and the death of both our fathers and my grandfather in three months,” blogger Sarah Dixon tells HuffPost UK.
“I knew it was really important for us to get along, we both didn’t want our son, Harry, to suffer because we had decided to get divorced.
“In terms of childcare we spilt the week, with Wayne having him two nights after school and one full weekend day per week. He doesn’t yet sleep at daddy’s house but that is something we are hoping to introduce later this year. We try to be flexible to each other’s needs and are happy to move our days if either of us has other plans.
“The divorce being finalised is really important to both of us, we feel that it is holding us back in making a fresh start and we are looking forward to that chapter of our lives ending and continuing to rock our co-parenting relationship.”
‘He’s the legal guardian of my daughter with my new partner’
“I have remained in a good relationship with my ex for over 30 years. We originally divorced because we simply no longer enjoyed being together, despite having two lovely boys. In retrospect we probably married when we were both too young,” Heather Sutton tells HuffPost UK.
“Initially things were difficult when he first left and we didn’t even tell our respective parents. We did, however, always agree that the needs of the children were paramount and it was that belief that led us to remain friends. Although I was the main carer of the children, he maintained regular contact and even after we both met new partners we continued to have Sunday lunch as a family.
“I chose to make my ex-husband the legal guardian of my daughter with my current partner. My daughter saw my ex so regularly she never really questioned him being her guardian. Indeed, both he and his wife came to her wedding four years ago and my eldest son’s 40th party held at our home.
“Our reason for making him guardian was that none of us wanted the children to become distant should anything happen to me or the children from my first marriage and it seemed a natural and pragmatic thing to do.
“Divorce is never desirable, especially where children are involved. It is preferable, however, to being in an unhappy marriage which is potentially more destructive.”
‘I was aware I was a lesbian’
“I got married at an unbelievably young age when I was still a teenager. He was my very best friend at that time. I was aware I was a lesbian, but this was the early ’90s when there was a vast cultural and legal contrast with how things are now,” Faith Brown tells HuffPost UK.
“I really liked him, he fancied me, there were all sorts of practical advantages to being married in regards to insurance, finding a flat, etc, for both of us. So, I figured if there was a bisexual side to be discovered he would have had a better chance than anyone thus far. He also had a really kind and lovely family.
“I wanted to be as honest as possible with him, so before we were married I told him I was bisexual and mostly had generally been attracted to women previously. It was more aspirational than a solid reality, but was the best I could figure to do at the time.
“Over time I matured a bit more, then actually met a couple of people my own age who were in a gay relationship - that made the possibility for me feel much more real.
“Separating was a bit of a process and we did the best we could to be forthright about things throughout. He was exemplary all things considered, and very much the gentleman, but it was a grieving process with all the associated stages that go along with that. His mother was far better than mine in reacting to the news about me ‘coming out’.
“We were in the same city for about eight months or so after the break-up and were in progressively less contact. Then I moved to another city about 100 miles away and we fell out of contact. This was still only just at the millennium, so was pre-social media revolution. You really could fall completely out of touch. I heard he got remarried and hoped that it would work out well.
“Years later I wanted to thank him for being integral in my life and potentially also get back into contact. Despite what had happened, I essentially finished growing up together with him. So, I wrote a letter and posted it to his mum’s address. She passed it on and we started communicating again from there.
“Looking back at my previous marriage and divorce I am very thankful to have done it in many aspects. He is a fantastic person I was lucky to have known and it couldn’t have happened any other way. At the same time, it must have been quite painful for him. It certainly was for me and I was the one who instigated the divorce.”
‘Our marriage ended in an ugly divorce’
“My ex husband and I came to a mutually hostile conclusion that we were better off apart when our daughter was fairly young,” L’Tomay Douglas tells HuffPost UK.
“Our belief systems no longer aligned and was negatively impacting our marriage and view of one another. Our marriage ended in an ugly divorce in which I almost lost custody of our daughter. I wanted nothing to do with him.
“Now, my relationship with my ex is amicable; we’re even friends on Facebook. The love for my daughter motivated me to find a way for us to get along. I reflected on my own life experiences and decided that my daughter would have her father in her life.
“It was difficult, but I resolved to move past the pain of our dissolution, recognise that our daughter needed her dad and focused on the good that could only come from having him as an ally. My current partner is very understanding and supportive as he too is friends with his ex. In fact, my ex-husband is known to pop up at family gatherings, summer barbecues and sometimes attend celebratory dinners.
“In order to maintain a good relationship after divorce, you have to give space and time to accept the end of the relationship as you knew it and internalise the truth that it doesn’t mean you failed. Reflect when children are involved and seek to understand how to create a positive parent connection. More importantly, it requires forgiveness, communication and being heard to navigate the painful process that can be repurposed into something beautiful again.
“While the experience of divorce itself felt like a death, I now view it as a very challenging life lesson in which I survived. I have a beautiful gift, (our daughter Kitana), and I learned how to negotiate terms within myself to achieve a win-win under those new terms.”
‘I do not believe in having a war’
“I have two children with two of my ex husbands and have very unique relationships with them both,” Nicki Rodriguez tells HuffPost UK.
“My first marriage ended due to my husband at that time being a professional footballer and the lifestyle was not for me. My second marriage was due to a large age gap and we had nothing in common.
“I do not believe in having a war - your children are the priority and I believe negative behaviour towards their fathers and harbouring bitterness isn’t productive. I had a bad experience as a child when my parents divorced and didn’t want this for my children if this happened to me. My children seeing I have good contact with their fathers, as well as with their new partners, works well for us all.
“I am yet to meet my second ex-husband’s new partner, but my first ex-husband has had a few girlfriends that I have got on well with, which has been great for our daughter because she knows it’s okay to have a good relationship with them.
“Looking back on my two divorces now, I’m very happy that those chapters of my life are over and that I’ve now met the right person for me.”