I was on at least my 85th self-help book. I was also meditating on releasing resentment and sending positive vibes to my ex-husband as a daily ritual. I’d convinced myself that I used the power of visualization to see the two of us involved in a healthy, post-divorce, co-parenting relationship. But still, I felt empty and resentful. I couldn’t accept that I’d failed. I was a divorced, single mom, an undesirable statistic.
My ex-husband is a free-spirit. He wakes up every morning with no plan, no worries, and no sense of urgency. My type-A personality needed that at first. I was driven by to-do lists, planning for the next 20 years in great detail, orchestrating the symphony of our lives. While he’d wake up and live for the day with no concrete agenda, I’d be knee deep in conference calls and meetings, frantically pushing toward the ideal life. The ideal life was one in which we were both professionals, we followed schedules, we met deadlines, and we stuck to the plan.
The problem was the plan was mine. I chose not to see my husband for who he was and who he would always be. His free-spirt and “Don’t worry ’bout a thing” mentality was the very thing that attracted me to him. It would also ultimately be the very thing that caused a divide that no amount of prayer, marriage counseling, or positive thinking could heal.
There were blaring warning signs that we were headed for the end, but I held onto a lifeless marriage because I wanted our son to grow up with both of his parents in the home. My parents have been together for 45 years; they’ve weathered storms and survived; they are happy. I was determined to have the same fate. I could not fail.
Eventually, life does what it always will: it reveals the truth. Whether we choose to see and accept it is a whole different thing. I finally decided to see what my inner voice had been whispering to me for years.
Post-divorce life has not been smooth. I’ve had to grieve the loss of the person who was my confidante, friend, and companion for the last 20 years. I’ve suffered the disappointment of a less-than-ideal co-parenting situation. My ex-husband and his free-spirit lifestyle has relegated him to the role of “Uncle-Daddy.” He’s a dad because he was biologically involved in the creation of our son. I insert “Uncle” because he gives money when he can, he visits with him when he can, he doesn’t check homework, he doesn’t meet with teachers, he doesn’t get migraine headaches when our son practices his saxophone, and he doesn’t know when his next orthodontist appointment is and yet, he gets all the glory of being the fun, cool guy. He gets all the fun stuff any uncle would, without any of the messiness that parenting a ‘tween entails.
I’m a work in progress. I don’t pretend to be anything I’m not. I’ve accepted that I’m flawed, complicated, moody, and driven. I’ve also accepted that my marriage was meant to be. It was a beautiful dance between two souls who needed one another for the time we were together. Out of our marriage was born wonderful memories and a child that has transformed both of our lives for the better. We created our best work as a loving unit and no amount of bitterness could ever cloud that beautiful truth.
Co-parenting with dignity and respect is not for the faint of heart. It requires digging deep within to keep my child’s best interests at heart, especially on days where I want to stoop to low points of my character. There are days where I want to call my ex-husband and recite a dissertation on all the ways he’s disappointed me. When I feel those negative emotions, I exhale. I pause. I gather my composure and I make the decision to let the emotions come in and not stay too long. It takes a lot of introspection to be able to say, I’m sure he could write a book on all the ways I’ve disappointed him too. I understand that managing life post-divorce while also co-parenting is not easy on anybody involved.
It’s been a journey and I’m still evolving, but I’ve finally been able to let go of self-imposed judgmental and belittling feelings. Once I decided that I was not a failure and did not fail because my marriage ended, my life changed. I began to see myself as brave and strong to end a marriage that was not serving either of us in a positive manner. I took all of the negative language that danced in my head and reshaped my perspective on why I was allowing those thoughts to invade my peace of mind.
The feelings of isolation, embarrassment, and emptiness were beginning to take up permanent residency until I decided they were unwarranted. I certainly had nothing to be embarrassed about, and thankfully I am surrounded by a village of strong women to call upon when I need encouragement and to feel connected. Somewhere along the way, I succumbed to societal standards about how failure is defined and what it means to dissolve a marriage. I’m finally in a place where I’m empowered to define my life (all parts of it) without the input from anyone. And it feels really, really, good.
Yes, I am a single mom. Yes, I am divorced. Yes, I am a statistic, but that doesn’t have to be a negative thing. I’m just another woman whose had to redefine what her ideal life looks like. I’m experiencing and embracing life on my terms. My type-A personality is a lot more fluid now. I no longer plan for the next 20 years. Life has shown me that plans are an illusion. The only thing I plan now is to wake up each day, count my blessings, and live in a state of gratitude and compassion. That gratitude and compassion must encompass my relationship with my ex-husband. Before we were parents, we were the best of friends. So, in honor of that friendship and for the sake of our son, I’ve managed to accept my ex-husband for who he is and who he has always been. Something I was not able to do in marriage, I’m finally able to do in divorce. I know it will serve me well in my quest for co-parenting peace.