Falling in love and the excitement of a wedding day filled with onlookers, well-wishers, best friends, family members, and let us not forget HATERS (because they will show up) is the best experience imaginable. It is an exciting time filled with butterflies, second thoughts, and extremely high emotions. We get married because we are truly in love and we can't imagine our lives any other way. Believe it or not, some people get married because, well, they believe it is the logical or perhaps biblical next step. Whatever the reason that leads a couple to marriage, what we do know is that it is a beautiful day. But, what we don't know or anticipate is...the end!
We don't anticipate the end because we don't enter into the union assuming that an end exists; except for "till death do us part". But even that statement isn't enough for us to believe that an end exists. So, how do you prepare for the END? Do you prepare for it? Why would you? All of the answers to these questions can be found in my book I Didn't Plan for The End! Well, this book doesn't exist but if it did...that is what I will title it.
So, I was married in 1996 to my high school sweetheart. He certainly wasn't who I thought I would marry because honestly he really got on my nerves. He, in my mind, was a typical teenage silly boy and I really tried to avoid him and his friends at all cost. But, when I took the time to get to know him I discovered that I really enjoyed his company, our uncontrollable laughter, our incredible differences, and how we were able to balance each other so well: I'm aggressive and he is passive, I want to talk...he doesn't, I want to travel the world....he likes riding around in the city blasting his music, I like to try a different recipe every day...he prefers chicken and rice daily, I like to discover the lesson in an undesirable behavior...he is the disciplinarian. Despite the differences, we were definitely a cool duo with a tight bond. But, the end happened (you can read about it in my book) and we both weren't prepared for it!
Three children later and I found myself...by myself. Although our ending wasn't mutually accepted we did agree that we wanted to do whatever we could to preserve the friendship so that we can peacefully continue the business of co-parenting and enjoy the 'awesomeness' of each other's personality.
Most people who know both of us would probably say "I still don't get why you two aren't together" or "wow, yall have a very weird relationship". But, it is possible to have an awesome relationship with your ex (a platonic relationship). So here are the top 5 lessons that I learned during this journey (I have about 100) to get us to this very comfortable place in our lives:
IT IS NOT ALWAYS ABOUT YOU: The moment that we both realized that our separation was less about how I felt about him or how he felt about me and that it was more about what we felt about ourselves and our personal, spiritual, and emotional growth at that time, we were less angry about the change and more focused on trying to understand who we are as individuals. The anger wouldn't allow us to move forward and blocked all healthy communication and progression.
WE HAVE A BUSINESS TO RUN: We were like business partners in a fortune 500. Our children were the fortune 500 and we were the Co-Executive Officers. Despite what was going on in our romantic life (or lack thereof) we had a business to run. Like most companies, despite what's going on outside, once you get to that board room...its time to focus. So we both had to get out of our own way so that the health of our children would not be impacted. We had to plan out who would do the soccer games, PTA, after school pickup, Parent-Teacher conferences, field trips. We even had what I coined " The state of the children address". We met up for dinner twice a year to discuss, in detail, what was going on with the kids, financial planning, college preparation, my expectations of him, his expectations of me...are YOU DATING? and that brings me to number three.
Who is NIKKI, HEATHER, TRACI? Of course, I really don't care who he is dating and I know he doesn't give a flying cow who I am dating. However, if it is serious and it is someone who will be involved in my children's lives, I want to meet her. Now trust me, everyone isn't ready for this lesson. You have to be completely OUT of your feelings and in a good place otherwise, the HATER alert (mostly coming from you towards his new mate) will be turned waaaaay up! Meeting the significant other is critical, not only to the health of your relationship with him but also the relationship that he has with his significant other (but if yall still slipping and sliding on the side...don't go there). But seriously this is beneficial for everyone. Once you have an opportunity to meet one another and get a feel for each other's personality and discuss expectations, non-negotiables, etc. it works! Child support payments aren't missed, I'm not yelling (the whole neck motion), weekends aren't missed, needs are met, and everyone's happy. She's not second-guessing what he's doing when he's at my house dealing with the kids, acting a hot fool when he's on the phone with me talking about our children, or if he is spending time mowing my moms' grass; trust me some females believe that once you divorce you divorce EVERYONE. That's ridiculous. GROW UP!
LAUGH: Stop acting like just because the two of you are not together he has somehow lost his ability to make you laugh. If it is funny... LAUGH (unless of course its humor to avoid critical issues). I am completely entertained by my kids' dad's weird humor and my kids enjoy seeing that we can laugh together and can still be serious and hold each other accountable without being disrespectful towards one another. This lesson is difficult for those of us who have never learned how to be friends (I was 15 years old when we started dating) or laugh with one another before jumping into a romantic relationship. It becomes weird and awkward when trying to be friends after the separation, but it's worth trying. Remember: He's a permanent fixture in your life. Enjoy it.
SAY THANK YOU: Raising kids, balancing healthy relationships when you are divorced/separated, working, having a social life, going to school... it's not easy! I don't get extra money on my tax returns because I was able to balance all of this, my job salary hasn't increased because we get along so well, and we don't get "best divorce families of the year" trophies at the OSCARS. Balancing all of this can seem very thankless...so THANK each other. Every now and again send a Thank You Text, acknowledge his support on social media, or simply remember his birthday. it really goes a loooong way.
So, there you have it! Separation or Divorce doesn't mean you have to lose your friendship. Sometimes saving and preserving the friendship is more valuable than trying to force the ROMANCE. These same lessons may not apply to someone divorcing/separating without kids involved; it simply worked for me. It definitely is a start if you are interested in saving the health of your friendship with the person who you once committed to loving...'til death does you part'.