Divorce isn’t easy no matter what the circumstances, and when children are involved it gets complicated. Emotions are high, adjustments are being made, and everyone believes they are right. This often results in a strained and contentious relationship with an ex-spouse that can carry on for years to come as we battle over schedules, parenting styles, and holidays. Because of this strained relationship many people default to the standard way of doing things, with regards to communication, visitation schedules, holidays and living arrangements. I understand why, it provides boundaries and a level of certainty and fairness, which is often needed at that time. However, if we could get past our hurt emotions, let go, and come from a place of love – there doesn’t have to be a “standard”, instead a world of possibilities and new relationships open up, including a new relationship with an ex-spouse. By all means, we do not have to be best friends with our exes, however we can form a new and different relationship with them based on raising our children and building a strong foundation for them.
For me, divorce wasn’t amicable, peaceful, or a mutual decision, there was a lot of hurt, resentment and anger, and I felt like a victim who had been dealt the wrong hand. However, when I was going through the process, I recall telling myself that I will forgive, move past this, and will eventually form a new relationship with my ex, based on the common love and well being of our two kids. I did not know how I was going to do this, but I knew it is what I wanted, and I would achieve it. I knew if I could let go of the negative emotions, and make decisions that reflected who I truly was (not based on anger or hurt), I could have something different, something more whole and complete for myself and my family, and I achieved just that. Over time what I achieved is a new family that includes a new relationship with my ex. A relationship that is peaceful and respectful, and based on the love of our kids. A relationship where we can sit together without animosity, talk amicably, and be a part of our kids’ lives and special moments together. A relationship where we truly wish the best for each other.
Forming this new relationship with my ex, which I call “parentship” was a process, one that took a lot of patience, forgiveness, love, self-awareness and compassion. Here are the steps I took in getting there and lessons I learnt along the way.
Forgive and Let go – To develop a new relationship post-divorce, we need to forgive and let go of the past. We can’t hold on to what happened yesterday, let alone five years ago. Each day is a new day, a new beginning and a chance for something different. This is only possible, when we let go, move on and see and treat that person in a new light.
Be aware of thoughts and actions – If we are constantly thinking negative thoughts about the other person, that will be reflected in our actions, and in turn our relationship with them. I have made a conscious effort to be aware of my thoughts and have realized that when you come from a place of love, others around you will rise up – it may not happen right away or be as high up as you would like them to, but they will rise up to meet you.
Reach out – Too often we let our pride get in the way of reaching out to someone. However, it takes one person to reach out and change a relationship. People often tell me that both have to be willing, and yes that is true, but it starts with one. Our energy can change somebody else’s. It takes one to reach out, to have compassion, to be the bigger person. Even if the other doesn’t accept at first or is hesitant, if you continue to be who you are, you will succeed even if it is in a small way – love always wins.
Have no expectations – Sometimes one makes more of an effort than the other, which can be frustrating. However, I have learnt to live, and do what I do, regardless of the actions of anyone else or how much effort they put in. I have always been and will probably always be the one that puts in most of the effort in raising my kids and in maintaining a positive relationship with my ex. I am able to because of my strong belief in a better way and because I recognize that each person has their own journey to make and personal capacity to give.
Parent together – It is easy to fall into the pattern of doing what you want in raising your children after a divorce, I know I did. However, I soon realized that I wouldn’t act this way when I was married, so why now, when my objective with regards to my kids was the same. While we are individuals with our own opinions on raising our kids, we can still parent together. We just have to learn to work through our differences, understand each other’s views and compromise.
Be Patient – A new relationship does not happen overnight, it’s a process and it takes time. Like any relationship in your life it is evolving, and will have its ups and downs. All relationships involve patience, understanding and flexibility.
Too often, we limit our relationships, because of our own pride and inability to let go of the past. While divorce seems so finite, when children are involved, the relationship is forever. It’s why I chose a different way. I chose love over hatred, forgiveness over holding on, and compassion and compromise over being right. What is the end of one relationship can be the beginning of a new one, if we are open and willing to allow it. For me, the end result is peace in my life, and a strong and united foundation for my children with two parents who share the same goal in raising them.