Like most people who get married, I was under the the impression that the person I had committed forever to would be around for that exact amount of time. Divorce always seemed like it would never be an option for us. I didn't believe it could happen to us. We liked each other too much. We were happy and committed. But we were wrong. After eight years of trying to make it work, our friendship wasn't enough to sustain our marriage. When my ex-husband and I separated, it was like learning how to parent all over again, only this time there were two separate homes, two separate locations, and two separate, ever-changing schedules to work around. But our friendship made co-parenting easier. And to this day, I love co-parenting with my ex-husband.
I know better than to think this is the norm, but I always say that my dearest and closest friend is my ex-husband. I've never been a person with one, true forever best friend. I never had that, and I always wanted it. But I found that kind of bond with my husband, and divorce hasn't been enough to shake the foundations of our relationship. I had close friends, sure, but the friendship I share with my ex-husband is like nothing else. Though we're still trying to navigate how to be friends after sharing such an intimate bond as marriage, our relationship has always been rooted in love, value, acceptance, and respect. And luckily, for us, divorce didn't change that. Our friendship holds value for both of us, and we weren't willing to just leave it behind in the ruins of our marriage. Our divorce wasn't easy by any means, and we hit our fair share of roadblocks and bumps around every turn, but there was never a moment where we questioned the other's outbursts or anger. Instead, we gave each other the space to have those feelings, to sort them out, and at the same time, to remember what our foundation was built on. Looking back, Leif and I fought tooth and nail to keep the most sacred part of our relationship alive: our friendship. So far, it's worked out better than we ever imagined.
I love co-parenting more than I ever thought I would. We're more involved in our kids' lives than ever before. And co-parenting has allowed us room to grow as parents as well as individuals.
Shortly after we decided to separate and divorce, there was a moment when I drove over to my ex's house and we walked over to our kids' school to pick them up together. We talked about all the ways everyone had been trying to force their ideas and preconceived notions of what divorce and separation looked like. Yet here we were, just happy to pick up our kids together. We know that friendship after divorce is the outlier in a situation like ours, but when I think about what we valued most in our relationship, it was our ability to connect.
To be totally honest, I love co-parenting more than I ever thought I would. We're more involved in our kids' lives than ever before. And co-parenting has allowed us room to grow as parents as well as individuals. I used to always be the one taking the kids to doctor's appointments, and now my ex and I share that responsibility. He was always the one who dealt with school bills and after-school activities, and now I'm learning how to budget and create schedules for the kids. The burden is never just on one person. Because of that, we both have a deeper respect and appreciation for what the other parent has done and is doing. In our marriage, we lost track of how much the other did — and though we appreciated it at the time, co-parenting has taught us the value of the other person in ways our marriage did not.
Even though our status as a couple changed, our family structure hadn't. We're still parents. We're deeply committed to raising happy, healthly, delightfully unique kids. And we still feel as if we have a responsibility to support each other, especially as parents. We're both aware of how hard parenting can be, even when we were doing it together as a married couple, so we try to be as much of a support to the other as we can now even though we're not together. Although we're divorced, I've never actually felt like it was him versus me. Ever. We're still together in everything we do. And co-parenting has made us both more confident in our roles as parents to our children.
When we threw a joint birthday party for our daughter, some of my divorced friends didn't understand why we would do a party together when we we could do it separately. But that's not who we are. We're committed to raising our children together. And more importantly, our kids see our friendship, kindness, and the respect we share for one another. To us, that's incredibly important.
Once, when we went to a birthday party together, I was introducing my ex-husband to some friends and I referred to him as such. At one point someone pulled me aside, and asked me if it was weird for us to be in the same place. In that moment I wondered, should it be weird? Because it's not. And it never has been. When we threw a joint birthday party for our daughter, some of my divorced friends didn't understand why we would do a party together when we we could do it separately. But that's not who we are. We're committed to raising our children together. And more importantly, our kids see our friendship, kindness and the respect we share for one another. To us, that's incredibly important.
People always ask if it's OK that we're both invited to the same events. Of course it's OK. We've even tried to do a weekly dinner together as a family, with our significant others, but our schedules don't always permit that. So we fit family time in where we can. What used to be a time full of bickering and frustration, is now much lighter and filled with much more laughter. I'd even admit that co-parenting together has been a relief. We've found a way to preserve who we are together with our children, but we've done it in a way that makes us both feel supported, loved, and respected. Of course, it's not always pretty. We've both done things we're not proud of, but we made a commitment to leave behind the baggage and dirty laundry. So far, it's working.
I don't know what the future will hold for us; I know better than to make guarantees on anything, but if this experience has taught us, well me, anything, it's that when something is broken and seems over, there is hope waiting on the other side.