It was a random Tuesday morning when my ex called and asked what my lunch plans were.
“Nothing much; we’ll probably just eat some leftovers at home,” I said.
“I’ll bring some fried rice then,” he responded.
A few hours later, we were seated at the table with my ex-husband and my boyfriend, devouring the leftover steaks that the aforementioned boyfriend grilled the night before and the rice that the ex brought over.
One day my boyfriend and I were talking about an upcoming camping trip. It would be a seven-hour drive to some secluded nature spot for a long weekend.
“If we were to invite someone to come with us,” I asked, “Who would you invite?”
“Maybe Alex and Katie… Maybe Drew and Meg… What about you?”
“You know… I would invite my ex-husband and his girlfriend! They are awesome travel companions!”
I had many society-ingrained ideas about divorce.
Divorce is devastating. Divorce ruins your children. Divorce is a war. Divorce is when you stop talking with your “better half.” Divorce is alienation…
Most of all, I was afraid that after the divorce, I would no longer have a good relationship with my husband. I loved him dearly, just no longer in a romantic way. This fear was so intense that I avoided the topic for the longest time. For a while, it seemed more manageable for me to continue living with my husband as roommates than to call it quits.
One day after I dropped off the kids at school, I was driving home and suddenly felt this overwhelming sense of grief. It was so strong that I had to pull over on the side of the freeway and allow myself to cry. I cried and cried and cried. It took me a bit to understand where this sadness came from — I was grieving the death of hope that we could salvage our marriage. That’s when I knew that despite all of my fears, I was going to have to face divorce.
Once we decided that we no longer wanted to be married, I was determined to figure out a way to stay friends with my ex.
And I did.
There were a few principles I adopted that made it possible to stay friends with my ex-husband:
Being honest. I had to force myself to be brutally honest about my feelings, thoughts, and intentions. It was tough because some things I said, I’m sure, were hard to hear. However, when I tried to protect his feelings and soften the blow somehow, it inevitably made things worse for us.
Using non-violent communication principles. I learned to express myself in a way that didn’t feel like an attack. I tried to talk about my situation, needs, and feelings rather than focusing on what I thought he could be doing better.
I took responsibility for my well-being. I had to learn that my happiness was in my hands and my hands only. I stopped relying on my ex to be the provider of my happy hormones. I also knew that there was nothing I could do to help him with his.
We assumed the best intentions. Sometimes it was hard to remember that we both had each other’s best interest in mind. Whenever some problematic question or situation presented itself, I remembered that my ex would forever be my kids’ dad. Therefore he ultimately cared about my well-being, at least as the mother of his children. And I cared about him.
We both were willing to compromise. We didn’t always immediately agree on everything throughout the process of splitting up. Compromising was crucial for maintaining a good relationship. We continued to give each other a chance to convince the other of their point of view and always ended up finding the middle ground.
Of course, none of it would be possible if my ex wouldn’t be the awesome person that he is. I married the right man to spend a big chunk of my life with and be divorced from. I got lucky and now have the best ex-husband I could ever wish for, indeed!