My ex-husband and I married nearly a hundred years ago. I woke up on that snowy morning thinking of all the reasons I loved him, my head and heart filled with dreams and hopes for our life together.
I didn’t expect I’d ever wake up married to another man.
Some people think that because Billy and I have an open, friendly relationship now we must have had an “easy” divorce. I don’t think there’s any such thing, and if there is, Billy and I didn’t have it. Our divorce was of the hopeless heartbreak variety. We still grieve that loss.
Even so, our divorce was the right thing for our family, and we’ve each moved forward in a healthier, happier way than our marriage would’ve allowed. The universe is unfolding as it should.
Still, this morning I woke up thinking of the reasons I love my ex-husband.
Billy and I are a team for our children. We are both present at recitals and school conferences. We share birthday party invitations and coordinate Christmas wish lists. We don’t label children’s clothing with who purchased it or ask our children to relay messages to the other parent.
It hasn’t always been this way. Our co-parenting is the result of a conscious choice.
As Simon told me this week, “you and Dad have such different styles.” He’s right. Billy is far more permissive than I am, and probably lots more fun. That’s okay – that dynamic existed when we were married and likely exists for many married first-families. We each balance the other. What matters is that we’re both showing up.
He supports me as a partner
This week, Billy called me about a conversation he’d had with Simon about a tough talk I’d had with our eldest son. Simon left the conversation uncomfortable and confided in his father. Billy approached the conversation as we do, starting with positive intent, and assuring me he’d encouraged Simon to speak directly with me. He caveated his statements as only Simon’s perspective, and knew they likely didn’t reflect our full conversation. He was right.
I thanked Billy for sharing the information and hung up crushed. Simon had missed my message. I felt defeated and misunderstood.
Two hours later, I got a text from Billy, “You ok? Don’t sweat it. He’s 15.” There was my teammate, remembering that I can sometimes be so hard on myself that I find it hard to move forward. The pep talk worked – by the time Simon came off the bus, I was ready to try again.
We present a united front to the kids, answering requests with “have you talked to Dad?” or “I’ll check with Mom.” Our parenting partnership comes first. We make it hard for the kids to play us against each other, and easy for them to see we’re both focused on their best interests. Even when we disagree, we are one team.
He loves his new wife
Billy loves his new wife Stephanie. He cooks for her and makes her laugh. He plays games with her children. Their house is happy. I know because our children talk about it comfortably.
I couldn’t be more delighted. I want them to grow up in homes filled with examples of healthy adult interactions. Billy and I couldn’t do that together. We are doing that separately and all better for it.
He includes my husband and his children
Billy includes Gabe and Sara, Amy and Jack when talking to our children about our family. He doesn’t do so in a way that pumps the children for information or unnaturally focuses on our children’s stepfamily. He simply makes it known that he accepts them as an important part of their lives.
When Billy is in our home, he talks to Gabe. He looks at the toy Jack shows him. He asks Sara about the play she and Caden are working on. Through his actions, Billy acknowledges that Gabe, Sara, Amy and Jack belong.
This allows our children to talk openly with their dad about their life with me. They don’t have to manage what they say or do. The reward? Billy gets to hear the full picture of our kids lives, not an edited version designed for his comfort.
He honors his committment
The promises we made eighteen years ago didn’t all last. We grew in different directions. But the commitments we made in the years that followed to our three children – to put their well-being first, to parent them together, to delight in their successes and support them when their efforts fall short, to show them love and kindness directly and by example, to lift up and encourage every part of them – those commitments endure.
My ex-husband honors those commitments, and I love him for it.