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When Your Soon-to-Be Ex Is Your Soul Mate

My soon-to-be ex-husband might be my soul mate. I’m pretty sure he is. You don’t know someone is your soul mate until the end of your time. Soul mate isn’t a pre-existing condition, it’s an earned title. Soul mates are made over time. That’s what Pamela Druckerman wrote in the NY Times, anyway, and it mirrors what I’ve always felt. Each person has a bunch of soul mates walking around the planet. As Druckerman tells it, “You will miss out on some near soul mates. This goes for friendships, too. There will be unforgettable people with whom you have shared an excellent evening or a few days. Now they live in Hong Kong, and you will never see them again. That’s just how life is.”

Serge and I are bound together for life because we have three beautiful children whom we love more than anything. That’s a heavy bond, and one I’m honored to share with him. Some might say there is no greater bond than sharing children. And so, as I approach my forties while simultaneously divorcing my husband of ten years, I realize the importance of this man—one of the best dads I know, someone I’m ecstatic is the father of my children. I understand that our love story isn’t over, it’s just a new chapter. An exciting one because once we negotiate the monumental assault on the heart that is divorce, we can begin forging a new relationship built on mutual respect for each other and our desperate desire to do right by our children.

In the midst of dealing with so much loss, it’s comforting, the notion that our love story isn’t over, that our marriage wasn’t a failure, it was a success. We created a family together! We’ll be a family forever. He could remarry, I could find new love, but we will always be bonded over our children; it’s in that way that this man is one of my soul mates. My parenting partner. The father of my babies. Soul mates are made over time and we got nothin’ but time because parenthood never expires. The world is full of families created in weird and wild ways—it’s time we let go of the notion that the nuclear family is the best way to raise children. For every divorced couple I know that is handling their situation admirably, I’m aware of other friends choosing to stay miserably married for the children. What’s the point in that?

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Stephanie Coontz, a social historian and author of "Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage," tells The Atlantic she has long been aware that “that the 'Leave It to Beaver'–style family model popular in the 1950s and ’60s had been a flash in the pan, and like a lot of historians, she couldn’t understand how people had become so attached to an idea that had developed so late and been so short-lived.”

Like Coontz, we’re all looking a little bit harder at the institution of marriage now and how and why it actually came to be. Coontz tells The Atlantic, “We are without a doubt in the midst of an extraordinary sea change … The transformation is momentous—immensely liberating and immensely scary. When it comes to what people actually want and expect from marriage and relationships, and how they organize their sexual and romantic lives, all the old ways have broken down.”

The old ways have broken down. The notion that women must marry or have children, for starters. And why is marriage the ultimate ideal, anyway? The rise of women in the past 60 years has negated the need for a legal life partner. As Gloria Steinem famously opined, “Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry.”

It’s these notions I contemplate as I wait for my divorce papers to signify the end of the past decade of my life and plan for my future as a single woman. Why is marriage the ideal when it doesn’t work for so many and was created from a hodgepodge of economic and religious notions that don’t even come close to applying anymore?

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The idea of another marriage fills me with heavy dread. I have children, I'm not looking for a dad for my kids, I take care of myself and my kids on my own. Besides their dad playing his part in our familial equation, I don’t need someone’s help. So what’s left? Companionship. Which, quite frankly, doesn’t require marriage, living together or even monogamy. I’m striking out on my own here, folks. Society has led me astray and now I’m going to figure out what works and what is right for me and my children.

I haven’t met all my soul mates, and probably never will. But I’m looking forward to an interesting relationship with the next one I do meet. And I’ll always look back at my relationship with Serge fondly—my parenting partner, a true soul mate. Someone whose back I will have until the end of time. No matter what. We talk about this. How important it is for us to power through all the weird feelings that come with divorce and especially the awkwardness and inevitable jealousies that arise when someone acknowledges they’re seeing someone new. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, no matter who pulled the plug on the marriage, and you just have to rise above it and think of a future when everyone is happy, especially the children. Now is the time to set the tone for our new relationship. We must be careful, we must be smart, we must be restrained in our dealings with each other now—restrained and respectful.

Rising above is a difficult business. It’s a sledgehammer to the chest to think of someone you spent so much time loving as hard as you could sliding comfortably into the arms of someone else. But that’s where you can shine as a human being. As Druckerman also points out in her NY Times piece, “emotional scenes are tiring and pointless." If I’ve learned one thing this year, it’s that notion. That and the fact that I am in complete control of my response to everything. When I feel like saying something petty and rude, I force myself to wait through at least one full sleep. I won’t want to say the thing the next morning and I'll congratulate myself for not doing so. I promise you will, too.

Feel empowered by the control you have over your emotions. Feel yourself float above it all, feel yourself acknowledge that you two didn’t work together, so what’s the point of jealousy—it serves no one, especially not your children. Let yourself feel happiness that someone so important to you and your children can find happiness with someone who appreciates him (or her). Life is short. We all need to find happiness—or at least contentment and support—wherever we can. You can choose to torture yourself with stuff that doesn’t matter anymore, you can dwell on details of your partners new life without you, or you can feel excitement about the new person you’re becoming. Open yourself up to the universe and let it all go.

Everything is everything.

Our love story isn’t over. It’s just a new chapter.

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