No one in a break up is an inherently bad person. No one. Ok. There's always the exception. But for the most part, everyone has their side, their story, and their truth. So how do people come out the other side? How can couples that separate — especially those with kids and joint custody issues, get back to being friends? And is it even possible for ex-couples to stay amicable during the ‘no that’s actually my Lagostina set’ argument or worse, the inevitable ‘I think I’ve met someone’ bombshell?
Let’s face it. No matter how cool we play it there’s a duality to relationships.
When they start you’re catapulted into an exuberant, giddy kind of grinning seizure. You’re enthralled and terrified. You rush in, but you’re hesitant. There is a desperate need to categorize and define, and an equal desperation not to — to just let things play out.
When relationships end, you just want to move on already. Jump ship. Sever things cleanly and be a free agent. But you also peer over your shoulder. Extend sad laurels of peace and often guilt and grief. You want things to be ok for them, even as you realize you might not really care if they are. You make allowances for them driven by pangs of past generosity, and at the same time bristle to have your own rights heard.
Then just when you think you’ve got a handle on it, throw in the ‘who gets that sofa’ conversation or the ‘well, actually that was my crock pot..’ argument and things get even more interesting.
The coup d’etat though is the conversation that feels like a top rope body slam to whoever is on the receiving end. Even if you’ve been broken up for years. Even if you already kind of know.
“I think I’ve met someone.”
I’ve been thinking about this recently. A lot. Hubs and I are moving on. So how long is it before we hear someone says it? Who’s going to go first? What happens if the super-clean, amicable, separation that we’ve fought so hard to maintain degenerates into a complete shit show?
I sometimes sit there and swirl this around in my brain wondering how I’ll react. Or how he will. Will there be shock? Anger? Friendly acceptance? Relief? I don’t know. Will we bounce between all of those emotions no matter who takes the leap first? Probably. But can we still be friends?
I know I will always share co-parenting with my Ex, and I will always want to be amicable. I do very much want to be able to continue joking and laughing with him –if I could somehow excavate all the good things about our relationship and just sort of transmogrify them into something else I totally would.
Like Hubs & Kat V.20 “The Platonic Sitcom Ex-Couple” (Tagline: “New and Improved: Now with No Weirdness!”)
The truth is, as long as we both work so hard to be friends, as long as we try to keep each other happy as we let each other down slowly (gingerly figuring out the division of assets, coordinating custody schedules, etc.) the more we’re going to build resentment. Or worse, in our well-meaning attempt to be ‘nice’, we’re just going to reinforce the kind of unhappiness that drove us apart in the first place.
So is it possible to get to a place where we’re friends? Where we’re both living separate, happy, fulfilling lives, in great new relationships, and loving every minute of co-parenting our amazing Baby Girl?
Can we survive the ‘That’s my DVD!” and the “You’re DATING?!” conversations? What about the mediators, arbitrators, or lawyers?
And the bigger question is… are we meant to?
I remember our couples’ therapist saying that we needed to bite the bullet and have a complete split. No chatting, no hanging out. No working together, no family time. I thought she was nuts.
But now, I am beginning to see what she means.
The fact is that structure, the split, the distance—those are the things that help us get back on our own feet again; reclaim our own individual cultures and ways of doing things. It’s what lets us heal, gets our power back, and allows us to actually process the experiences we’ve gone through.
And no, in the moment, not everyone is going to be happy, but the trade off is worth it.
Because regardless of who gets the toaster or who’s seeing someone new, a little bit of discomfort, yelling, and some much needed boundaries are actually going to let everyone grow, learn their own unique lessons, and become the people and amazing parents that we are supposed to be. Whether we're friends in the end or not, it doesn't actually matter. We'll know ourselves.
And that, I think, is the ultimate happiness.
Here’s a cool link to a Tedx talk that was shared with me by Jeffrey Eisen from Awakening the Self. It's an amazing look at courage, vulnerability, compassion, and connection. It's pretty powerful—if you're having a tough time, this is great inspiration.