By Andrea Hansley Smith
A happy divorce? Is that an oxymoron? Perhaps. But only if you equate 'happily ever after' with matrimony. Marriage isn't always 'magic' and divorce isn't always 'tragic'. They both require a lot of hard work. Just because your marriage didn't work out doesn't mean your divorce can't. What my husband and I failed to find in marriage we've successfully managed to achieve in divorce. Harmony.
We get along so much better now that we don't live under the same roof. When he visits the kids I'm always happy to see him come and that's mainly because I know he'll be going. That's the beauty of our present circumstances. I jokingly tell him: "Don't leave thinking you're not wanted and don't come back thinking that you are."
We were married for 19 years, happily for 17, miserable for 2, and for the last 5 years - blissfully apart. I think we're the exception rather than the rule. That said, I think there is a shift in the perception people have of divorce which is what has paved the way for 'unwedded bliss'. The stigma and taboo of divorce isn't what it once was. As a society we're moving past that. It no longer automatically signifies 'failure'.
Between us we have four children. It goes without saying that we love them whole-heartedly and unconditionally. That love supersedes the reasons we're no longer married. Our goal as divorced parents hasn't changed one iota from the one we shared as married parents. Our children's happiness is all the motivation we need to get along.
Also, there is the genuine fondness we still have for one and other. We go out together often, with the kids and sometimes without. He takes care of repairs and maintenance around the house. My house. The one he vacated for the sake of the kids. When he does visit, which is usually weekly, I cook his favorite meals. He frequently takes the kids and me out to eat and he pays. We exchange birthday presents and Christmas gifts. He pays child support on time and regularly gives more than he's required to. When the kids need something extra for school he's ready and willing to buy it. He'll even take them out to get it.
We go on day trips together. Vacations are still a family affair. We've spent every Christmas together since we separated and it's always at my house, because it happens to be 'home' to our children. We go to family functions together. My family and his, from weddings to funerals and the reunions and gatherings in-between. Invitations still come addressed to Mr. and Mrs.
To some, we're still a couple and a change in geography hasn't changed the way they view us. To others we're a couple of kooks with a wacky unconventional divorce. We're enjoying it for what it's worth. And to us, it's priceless. It's an arrangement that might not work for everyone but it works for us.
That doesn't mean we're unique or special or charmed. It means that even though living together is no longer an option living without each isn't either. We are, for all intents and purposes, interminably linked to each other for all time. Bringing four children into the world together has seen to that.
We didn't enter into marriage or parenthood lightly. The marriage didn't make it but our responsibility to our children didn't end with the divorce decree. We share the pitfalls and we're not willing or able to 'walk the walk'? I don't want to miss the awards and graduations and plays plays and ceremonies that form the landscape of our children's lives. I don't want to put them in a position of having to choose which parent they want to attend an event because we are unwilling to get along. I don't want to be a cause of stress or angst in their lives. The business of living and everyday life will toss enough obstacles, pain, and sadness their way. Our job as parents is to temper life's injustices and run interference for them. The two people who love them more than life itself have no business being the cause of it.
We've spent years teaching our children patience, understanding, and tolerance. Those concepts are the cornerstone of the family foundation we built. What kind of hypocrites would we be if we weren't able to live by the advice we've given them?