How to Have a Nice Divorce

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It’s strange to be asked for advice about something you never would have chosen to be knowledgeable about. I get calls from women I’ve never met before that go like this, “Hi, I’m friends with your friend so-and-so, and I’m in the middle of a rough divorce. I’ve heard that you and your ex and your new husband all get along well, and that I should talk to you.”

Women call me to find out how to have a nice divorce. And while I won’t go into the details of the demise of my decade-long marriage, I can tell you this: My then-husband and I adored our three sons together and did a good job of taking care of ourselves and working on our careers. What we didn’t do is nurture our relationship. I had no idea how essential a tight friendship is to a good marriage, but I now know that romance and all the gifts of marriage spring from it. Anyway, when serious problems cropped up with my ex and me, our lack of closeness meant there was no cushion to help us work through them. Trying to explain this so that our sons could understand when we told them we were getting divorced was the saddest thing I’ve ever had to do. I felt like I had taken a hammer and shattered their little worlds.

It was then that I talked to their dad about doing the one thing we could for the boys: Become the best divorced parents we could be. That meant putting a few things into place, which wasn’t easy.

I never speak badly about the boys’ father in front of them. Their dad frustrates and sometimes infuriates me. But I don’t share that with my children. They’re smart boys. I don’t need to tell them all the wonderful and challenging things about their dad. They know these things just by spending time with him, and they have the right to form their own relationship with and opinion of him.

When my mother was a teen, her parents divorced. She tells of her parents saying terrible things about each other in front of the kids. Though both parents have passed away, she still harbors anger at what amounted to character assassination. After my biological father left when I was young, my mother shared his lesser qualities with me. The result was that when my mother and I began battling when I was a teen, I secretly idolized my father, which really had nothing to do with reality since I didn’t know him well. Looking back, that taught me that when we don’t speak with care, that thoughtlessness often comes back to bite us.

Another thing I try to do is facilitate the boys spending time with their dad. Early in our separation, an older friend with grown children who’d gone through a divorce said the best thing she’d ever done for her daughters was move down the street from their dad. I couldn’t think of anything more horrifying. I wanted distance between my ex and me. I’d spent nights crying, lamenting the fact that when you have kids together, you really don’t get the clean break you get when you divorce without kids. At some level, you still have to communicate with each other. And I hated that thought. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE.

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“Trying to explain to our sons we were getting divorced was the saddest thing I’ve had to do.”

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