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Why Do You Need Us to Hate Each Other?

The response to Serge and I choosing to chronicle this murky time of separation and divorce has been interesting, to say the least. Because we’re managing to be mostly cool with each other, people have either accused us of staging the whole separation for “Internet fame” (WTF?!) or they can’t understand why two people who still like each other aren’t together.

This fascinates me. The Internet fame thing is clearly a ridiculous notion. That someone would go through the heartbreak of separating their entire lives together they spent 10 years building — that they’d inflict that kind of heartbreak on three children who are the most important things in the world to them — is silly. I bring it up to note the fact that people would have an easier time believing that over a civil divorce between a couple that still likes each other to illustrate how people generally expect a divorce to play out in our society.

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The other response I’ve received: People are pissed at us for separating. Mad that the love story doesn’t have a happy ending. They don’t understand why we’re talking divorce when we still seem to get along. What isn’t apparent when reading our stuff is that it’s the separation that’s helping us get along.

Just because you like someone, hell, just because you love someone, doesn’t mean you should spend the rest of your life together. Some breakups occur for very specific reasons but the disintegration of other couplings is harder to articulate. Things just don’t work. Maybe they used to, but people change and sometimes the change works for a couple and other times it doesn’t. Sometimes you realize you jive best with another person under a specific set of circumstances and if that’s the case, why not make those circumstances happen? Right now, it appears that Serge and I work best under different roofs. While I’ve never stopped loving him, I like him more now than I have in years and I’m almost certain he’d tell you the same about me.

I’m well aware of how violently our dynamic will change should either of us date someone new.

So why do people need us to hate each other? Does a couple hating each other validate divorce more than a couple that chooses to continue loving each other in a new and different way? Will our separation seem more real if we slingshot clumps of mud at each other and string our dirty laundry on a clothesline for the world to see?

We don’t hate each other. We talk a lot: we exchange emails all day long about what we’re writing; the parent who has the kids texts the other parent photos of their day; we’re having dinner with our kids tonight at the restaurant down the street from my house. Does that mean we should be together? No. It means we get along and we’d like to take advantage of that good will and show our kids we’re still a family even if we don’t live together anymore. Because it won’t always be this way. I’m well aware of how violently our dynamic will change should either of us date someone new. I’m mentally bracing myself for the moment I learn Serge has met someone. Because I HAVE to be cool about it — for him, for me, and most importantly, our kids.

I love Serge. And if we can’t be happy together, I want him to be happy with someone else. I want him to find a woman who is absolutely crazy about him and treats him ways I maybe wasn’t able to because of all that came between us. The notion of Serge with someone else isn’t an easy one to wrap my head around. I’m digging deep here, people. I’m reaching clear down into my guts to find the person who can let go of drama, jealousy and nonsense, and realize that life is fleeting and we all deserve to be happy and surrounded by people who love us. I want it for myself, I want it for Serge and I desperately want it for my kids.

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That’s why he and I can behave this way, even when our old dynamic of fighting and being unkind to each other creep up. Instead of fighting with each other, we’re fighting hard to be new people now. The people we couldn’t be when together. That’s the point — if a divorce has to happen, it needs to mean something. It needs to be worth the trauma to our children and even ourselves. If you’re unhappy while married and seek to remedy that by getting a divorce, there is absolutely no point in remaining unhappy while divorced. Turn the bad into good and make it mean something important in your life.

In this new column, "Separating, Together," Serge and Monica Bielanko will be writing about parenting, separation and navigating their relationship in an entirely new way.

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