I normally write about things I directly have experience with or about current topics that I simply have an opinion about. Today I will make an exception and share the story of some great friends of mine.
The story is essentially this: These two people met when he was married to her good friend. They fell in love while knowing each other just as friends. He then divorced his wife, with whom he had two children, one that was a baby when they broke up, one that was 5 years old. The breakup was not entirely because he had found someone new.
Many men in his position, find it hard to stay close to their children after the breakup of their marriage. Not this man. He insisted on 50%-50% shared custody of the children and he insisted on them being with him 50% of the time. His new wife, who knew these children well already, having been friends with their mother for a long time, agreed completely and welcomed the two children in to her life and loved them like they were her own.
His ex-wife, perhaps more surprisingly, accepted this arrangement. Yes, there was hurt and things said in the heat of a moment, of course, there was anger and arguments, and there was even some times in the very beginning when the two weren't on speaking terms - I'd say that was to be expected. And although the story, as I have shared it, is not the full portrait of the breakup, it does include the main events like they happened.
But after a while, once the hurt on all three parties in this love triangle was a little less raw, the three of them made a decision to put their own feelings aside, completely and truly... for the sake of the two children who, for the rest of their lives, had to be part of two homes. And they did this in the most admirable way, with respect for the children and for each other.
Today, 7 or so years later, this family arrangement is one of the most functional, the most loving and the most respectful family arrangements I've ever witnessed. The two "shared" children are well rounded, they know they are loved by all the adults in their lives and they are not, as many children from broken homes, torn between two homes and two people. There are now more siblings on both sides of their two families and their mother has also remarried.
Now, I may have written that I didn't have any direct experience with this subject... that's not exactly true. Because there is a reason why this family has moved me so much. When I was 8 years old, my parents got divorced. I have experienced this from a child's point of view.
My parents divorce was far from amicable. My dad left my mum for another woman, whom he moved in with straight away. She was not the maternal kind and she didn't take to me or my brother naturally. We only visited my dad every other weekend. My mum was upset and angry for a long time, my dad and his new wife had a child of their own, something that left me even further away from my dad. It was classic and text book, I guess... but that doesn't mean it hurt any less at the time.
8 years after my parents' divorce, they found each other again and have since remarried. They are still together today and in that respect my story is very different from most others, I guess. But them finding each other again, didn't change the years when they were apart. When I think back to the years that followed my parents' divorce, I remember hurt and confusion and being torn between the two of them. I remember being very sad and not understanding what was going on.
Now, I wouldn't say that I have been left "scarred" by being a child from a broken home, but it has shaped me... like all the experiences we have in life do. As an adult I have spoken to my parents about their divorce, separately and together, so I do, with my adult mind, understand what went on, and I don't judge them in any way for the choices they made. But would I have liked for them to be able to handle their breakup like friends? Of course I would... any child during their parent's breakup would!
And this is what brings me back to my friends who have handled the breaking up of a home with children so well, and whose story should be an inspiration to all couples who split up a relationship where children are involved. Please remember that you change the course of your children's lives with every decision you make, you shape them and you mould them at every turn.
So if at all possible, put your own feelings aside, for the sake of your children, to make sure they don't pay for your mistakes and your adult issues. With this piece, I hope that other adults are encouraged to share the feelings they had as children in the middle of their parents breakup... because for an adult in the middle of a breakup where children are involved, perhaps hearing what damage can be done and how their actions are affecting the ones they love, will provide some perspective and give them the strength they need to put their children first.
If you have children and you are going through a breakup, perhaps this article on how to handle divorce with children can help you.