A GIF I posted on social media recently, of my kids jumping on the trampoline in the backyard, someone left the comment #doingdivorceright.
At first, I didn't think anything of that. It was a compliment. That's what we've mostly received from people—compliments on how we've been handling our divorce.
But then I thought more about it, and I'm not sure we've done everything right. We've had to adjust to new partners, there have been huge fights and we haven't been always the nicest. We have though, always seemed to recover by remembering where we started, with the love that we had together as our base, the foundation.
I had taken that GIF in what used to be my backyard, where I would have picnics with my kids. We would lay in the sun, an effort to make more freckles appear on our faces and shoulders. I would read poetry to them out loud in that backyard. The backyard of my old home.
My kids still live there part time with their dad, and I try not to spend too much time there. It seems to bring up a lot of sad feelings for me, from the new arrangement of the furniture to walking upstairs with my kids and seeing how different their rooms look. I've gone to grab a glass only to find they were moved to a different shelf.
I have so many memories of this house. I remember the day we got the news that it was ours. We had dreamed of owning a home, and it was a dream that was coming true. Now I have no claim to it. On Christmas Eve, I posted a photo of me, my partner, my ex-husband and his partner, sitting on the couch watching Harry Potter with the kids.
It was nice, us all being together.
Later that night though I had a panic attack in the stairway, because I couldn't handle the fact that another woman was going in and out of a room that I used to sleep in. The room that was never clean, the room where we stayed up rocking sleepy babies back to sleep, the room where we would stay in bed all morning. It was still mine in my head.
So I stopped going inside of the house for awhile. I needed more time apparently.
Sometimes, I just want to move forward and leave the past nine years in the past. I don't want to include them in my future, but here they are.
This week, my ex-husband invited me over to work since we both work from home. We were having a good week, so I went over. We sat around talking and working. Like we used to do. It's a bit easier now, now that we are over a year removed from separating. It was wonderful, actually. We picked the kids up from school together, which they were thrilled by. I played with them in the backyard, feeling completely different than the last time I spent time there. I was feeling so much gratitude for being able to spend time together as a family.
There have been so many times throughout the year that I haven't wanted to have family time, because it's a reminder of what really isn't anymore. We are a different family than we were before, and I miss the first us. The new us includes two other people, and sometimes I feel upset about that. Sometimes I want it to just be my ex, me and the kids. Other times, I want my partner to be a part of things, but not my ex-husband's partner.
Sometimes, I just want to move forward and leave the past nine years in the past. I don't want to include them in my future, but here they are. I imagined my divorce to be pretty painless, since we had talked about how we would go about things. But then we both fell in love with other people pretty early in the process, and I moved in with someone else.
My ex and I started discussing money, and we would fight. We would do meals together, go on trips, have family movie nights but there was tension. There were so many unresolved things surrounding our feelings. We didn't have room to mourn, so we did an interesting dance of good moments mixed with completely awful ones. We mourned together, but in different, often painful, ways. I realize now that my social media only reflected the good moments, because who wants to hear about the terrible words I've called a man I once called my husband and everything?
Every day I'm trying. I'm trying to figure out what divorce looks like for us, and how it can still support us as a family.
I've always been sensitive, something I wear proudly. My husband struggled to deal with it during our marriage, so we would fight about it. Now I watch him support someone else with similar sensitivities. While I want to be proud of him for changing, for learning and for being better, I take it personally and cry about my value.
"Why wasn't I good enough for this version of you?" is something I've cried at him.
Yet, then he watches me respect my partner in a way he had always asked to be respected. He doesn't ask me the same questions I ask him, though he says he's proud of me, happy that I've grown. From him, I've learned to be a lot more understanding and gracious. Which is crazy, that even while we divorce, I'm still growing from our relationship.
I imagined us spending time together not only as a family, but alongside our new partners as well. That has been an uphill battle for sure. While I think we acknowledge each other's partners, I wouldn't say we've been the most respectful of these new people in our lives. I've had to come to terms with the fact that when my children aren't with me, they are around another woman who has taken on a role as their step-parent, while my ex-husband has had to come to terms with the same fact. I think I've had a much harder time accepting this change than perhaps he has.
It's when we are all interacting, us as parents, with our partners and the children, where I think, "Why can't I be better at this? Why can't I just be OK with this new family?" It's because I miss who we were, and I'm not the most open to change.
Every day I'm trying. I'm trying to figure out what divorce looks like for us, and how it can still support us as a family. I don't think we are doing "divorce right" necessarily, but I think we are doing what works best for us as a family and for each other.
While we may not be truly doing divorce right, what I do know for sure: We are doing divorce the best way that we can.