Divorce is a bad word in my household. Divorce in our society is often attributed to failure. Failure in marriage. Failure in relationships. Even failure in parenting. But this is not my case. In my marriage, there was no failure — just a stark realisation that people grow and love comes and goes and that is okay.
I don’t know how it happened and I don’t know why it happened. I could say that we married young and only after dating six months we moved in together and married a month later. I could also say that being two complete opposites was the root cause – different taste in music, food, vacation spots. I could also say that he is a total introvert and I am a total extrovert. Or that we are from two very different cultures. But I really don’t know what happened. All I know is that one day I realised that I was not in love with this man anymore and didn’t want to be in a loveless marriage.
So we grew apart. Our careers took different directions, our values evolved and 13 years after getting married, we were two completely different people. Our relationship became convenient, and day by day it felt more like we were college roommates. I know relationships have their ups and downs, but for me it just felt flat. We could share a meal and talk, but our talks were shallow and they just covered the day-to-day basics of living together and sharing a child. There was no romance involved, and there hadn’t been for years. What summer camps will she go to this year? What will she do for her birthday? Did I pay the car insurance, garbage, phone, bills?
When we finally broached the topic of divorce, my then-husband was scared and had no idea what divorce would look like for us. He was afraid it would devastate our families, based off of his own personal experience of being an eight-year-old when his parents divorced.
“One day I realized that I was not in love with this man anymore and didn’t want to be in a loveless marriage.”
It was important to both of us that we were equally present parents and stayed in a positive relationship that would only benefit our daughter, but it was obvious that our relationship had reached an end. While he felt it was depressing, I felt it was liberating. He didn’t want to get a divorce, so I told him about conscious uncoupling. We were a family and always will be. He will always be the father of my daughter. I will always be the mother of his daughter. We still respected each other as adults and parents but didn’t want to be married anymore.
And that is what we decided to tell our seven-year-old daughter when we explained our transition. We were intentional in not using the word “divorce” or “separation,” and instead we told her we were uncoupling. We told her he was moving downstairs (the beauty of multi-levelled homes in California) and I was going to sleep alone in the master bedroom. Other than that, nothing else was going to change. We continued our family outings to the park on weekends. We continued having family dinners on Friday nights at our favourite restaurants. We shared our house and our time with her.
Sharing and keeping the house made financial sense for the two of us, but I knew there were going to be awkward moments. The day did come when we had to have a conversation about “overnight visitors” and set some boundaries. It was a weird conversation to be having with someone I had been committed and loyal to for 13 years, but in reality we both just wanted to keep things civil and respectful. Our compromise was to become more private with our lives (something that wasn’t that hard since we’d led independent lives as roommates for years at this point) and only introduce new people to the family if they were totally and completely serious.
Communication with our daughter became a top priority, especially because soon both of her parents would start seeing other people. So my daughter and I started having weekly meetings. We would go to her favourite pastry shop, and she would have her notebook and I would have my notebook and we would both design an agenda. We talked about mundane things like school, what she wanted for lunch for the week, my work schedule, school pickup and nights at grandma’s place.
But we also always talked about family. My daughter had friends whose parents were divorced and the family dynamic had become toxic and angry. She was worried this would happen to our family, so it was important that we did our best to make it so that the relationship would be healthy and loving for our sweet daughter.
This was her modern family now. My actual family was a different story. My family is a very traditional, conservative Mexican family, and they were having a really hard time understanding the situation. My parents were married till death did them apart. My father passed away after being married to my mother for 48 years. Before, when we shared our decision to consciously uncouple, they were puzzled and upset. How would we make this living situation work? Why would we want to continue to live together? This was crazy! Think about your daughter!
In reality, living with my ex-husband was not hard at all. We respected each other tremendously and shared the house responsibilities as well as parenting duties. Our friendship and trust grew each day, and it honestly has been great to have the co-parenting support in the house without the expectation of having to make an unhappy marriage work just for the sake of it.
“Our friendship and trust grew each day, and it honestly has been great to have the co-parenting support in the house without the expectation of having to make an unhappy marriage work just for the sake of it.”
Almost three years ago, only a year after our divorce, my ex-husband started dating someone and fell in love. I wasn’t jealous or worried. The reality is, I had been out of love with my husband for a while, and now we were both able to find the love we deserved elsewhere. I was happy that he was doing that. Last year, they got married. And yes, we all live together and get along just fine. A happy man is a good father, and I can see that his new wife brings out the best in him. It’s nice to see, but I am also very aware of the fact that we will all have separate lives at some point. Our commitment is to stay together – in the same house or close to each other – not till death do us apart but only till our daughter goes off to college.
I think his new wife was probably shocked when she first met me. In the beginning, I tried my best to make sure she knew that I was absolutely and completely not interested in ever getting back together with my ex-husband and that our relationship was just as co-parents. I am sure she needed time to process and adjust, but in my opinion she has done a great job. What I appreciate the most about her is the fact that she loves my daughter and it shows. Even my mother sees and appreciates it, too. Family dinners are now real family dinners where we all get together – us and my very conservative family.
My dating life, on the other hand, is more complicated. Dating a single mother who co-parents and lives with her ex-husband and his wife is quite unusual – not really an attractive headline in a dating app. I can’t lie, it has been very lonely at times.
I know one day I’ll meet someone who can understand why we’ve created this living arrangement. Marriage can be the pillar of a strong family, but it can also end without breaking the family apart. Marriage can end amicably and respectfully, and I know that I will only live this life once and I want to be happy and in a relationship full of love. My first marriage was not that, but I am hopeful my next marriage will be. Ending a marriage is not failure. It is a sign of maturity and responsibility, when people are ready for it of course.
Truthfully, my ex-husband and I were able to reconcile the love from our relationship before things got toxic. By getting divorced and consciously uncoupling, my ex and I have been able to maintain our family unit and allow it to grow in ways that are best for each of us and our daughter. We’re still partners in life, but we’re just not romantically or legally married to each other anymore. It works for us, and I feel lucky.
This article first appeared on HuffPost US Personal.
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