When you make the initial decision to separate, the hurt and pain for one or both parties can be overwhelming, almost to the point of blocking out anything else including wanting to move forward and look after your children. The idea of even wanting to remain friends with your spouse and it actually happening seem remote.
But having been through this experience myself, we found the way to do this was to focus on the one thing we had created from our marriage and had in common – our child. We also found that working with boundaries was the most comfortable way to move forward. We attempted to set some ground rules as a place to start. These ground rules are primarily for the children but also give you, the adults, boundaries in which to work. In this way, there are no assumptions about responsibilities.
When my ex and I first separated we decided on these things, which we wrote down.
First, how would we share child care? As we were both in full time work, the easiest was to split it equally 50-50. This meant that I was in charge of our son from Wednesday night until Friday morning every week and I would have him every second weekend from Friday night until Sunday afternoon. My ex was in charge the rest of the time. I was lucky that my ex was happy to share the child care in this way but he was very determined that he was going to stay in our son’s life. Our son, who was only three at the time, also knew exactly when he was with whom. And he took to it like a duck to water and still did it without batting an eyelid 5 years later! It also meant that as adults we could plan our own social lives and free time quite easily as we knew when we were doing what. There was no tension or opportunity for one partner to take advantage of the other with this arrangement. Of course, your situation may be different but you can still decide on a plan for when you will take care of the children – and stick to it!
The second thing we did was agree that our son would not be subjected to a long line of girlfriends or boyfriends. He would only be introduced to a new ‘friend’ if and when it was serious enough for it to happen. The dating and meeting of new people would happen in the parents’ free time and wouldn’t impact on the child.
Lastly we had a chat about how we would deal with discipline and decision making in connection with our son. This was really important as we were effectively sharing child care and we wanted to be consistent and show a united front.
I also resolved that I would never speak badly of my ex in front of my child and I would never partake in one-upmanship with my ex or any of his partners. This prevents bad feelings and vibes permeating the relationship between the three of us.
Even though we have now been divorced for almost 10 years and I as the mother have been granted sole custody of our son, we still operate in exactly the same way as we have done. My ex is now re-married with young children. I am even able to spend short spaces of time with his new family when I have to collect my son from a weekend with his dad. We have remained friends because we took the time to agree to these important things at the beginning of the break up. Yes, we have had our disagreements in connection with these main agreements but have always remembered that the child is the important person in this and have always tried to resolve those differences out of earshot of our son.
I’m glad we wrote our decisions down, because now I can look back and see that we have achieved exactly what we wanted to when we split up. We have both grown as adults because of it. People have commented that our approach is amazing and have asked how we did it. They also tell us that our child, who is now a teenager, is a well-balanced young man. So we have created something good out of the time we were together, rather than something nasty. Our friendship has blossomed out of the boundaries we set!
Photo from – The Blue Diamond Gallery – Creative Commons
Guest Author Bio
I have been involved in education of one sort or another for my whole life – primary teaching, university teaching, corporate teaching and training, as well as creating educational resources for primary and senior school teachers and learners. I completed my PhD in primary maths education in 2014 with a focus on after-school maths clubs for young primary pupils. Education and learning are important to me in all its forms – formal and informal. I am passionate about encouraging people, particularly children to learn new skills and knowledge, to think for themselves, to understand so that they can grow, be independent, make their own choices and decisions and be empowered to own their own lives. My other passions are photography and non-academic writing in the form of blogging. I have been taking photos since 1997 when I bought my first film SLR and am in the third year of a 365 photography project. I started my “Everyday Delights” blog as part of a 2015 100 Happy Days challenge as a way of combining these two passions.
Blog / Website: Dibz-zen