The following content may contain affiliate links. When you click and shop the links, we receive a commission.
Divorce is one of the hardest things I’ve ever survived in my life. It requires you to come apart completely, let go gracefully of any shared dreams you had with a person, and build yourself up as a new version of your hopes and dreams. It requires deeper strength, more profound forgiveness, and more resilience than I even knew I had. But you do get through it. Time and life move forward, and hopefully (if you’re lucky), you come away with a better understanding of yourself and a new set of goals and dreams. My marriage broke apart, but a better version of my life came together. Now, three years later, I am in awe of the process as I look back on it. I truly can’t believe we all made it to where we are today. Big life changes are like that: you lose sight of how steep the mountain is while you’re climbing it, and then you get the opportunity to look backwards and truly see what you’re capable of.
It’s been such an important part of my grieving and healing process to share some of the journey with all of you. I felt SO alone when I was going through my divorce. The only divorces I had seen firsthand were ugly and dark. None of my close friends had gone through what I was going through. As supportive as somebody can be, this is one of life’s “milestones” that nobody can really understand unless they’ve walked the path themselves. As with many of the challenging topics I cover on this blog, I wanted to share some of the more intimate parts of divorce as a resource for others who are going through it. Even if my situation isn’t going to be exactly like somebody else’s, at least discussing my own reality works to normalize some of these processes. Because, sadly, they’re totally normal. Divorce is a common part of life! And many, many families are going through it every day.
I decided today to answer some Frequently Asked Questions I get about divorce. I’m choosing to answer the ones that will be beneficial to people, and not the ones that people are asking just to find out more dirt or details about my personal life. There’s a difference, and we both know it. I hope these answers give some context for anybody else going through it! Feel free to offer your own advice or perspective below for people if you’ve been through it as well!
What do you say to your kids if they ask if you’re ever going to get back together with your partner?
This is a really tough question to hear from your child when you’re going through a divorce. That hopefulness is just heartbreaking, and also made harder by the countless movies and TV shows that glamorize this concept of broken-up parents “ending up together”. I’d love to write a cartoon where everyone is co-parenting and the goal isn’t that the parents get married again! But I digress. I think the healthiest thing to do is to be completely honest and clear about the fact that getting back together is not going to happen. My kids don’t ask me this anymore, but they did sometimes those first 9-12 months after Kyle moved out. I would just say “I know that me and Dad getting divorced is really hard and sad for you guys sometimes. Dad and I are not getting back together as a couple, but we will always be your parents and he means a lot to me as a friend because we share you guys together and you’re half of him too! It’s always going to be a priority for me to make sure we can enjoy time as a family even if we aren’t married anymore” And I’d leave it at that. It’s important, in my opinion, to validate the sadness they’re feeling while also being firm in your decision.
How can you support someone just starting the divorce process?
Just being there for them emotionally and reminding them that you’re committed to your friendship is SO helpful. When you’re getting divorced you truly feel like you’re going to be sad and alone forever, so having friends check in on you and offer their support means the world. Holidays and long weekends are especially isolating, so maybe create fun plans and include them? Just holding space for your friend to be wherever they are in the process of letting go is so important. There’s no “right way” to grieve. I had so many friends who were SO LAME during my divorce and it was shocking and eye-opening. There’s nothing worse than going through the hardest thing you’ve ever been through and having people you thought you were close to operating like business as usual.
How do you handle caregivers/nannies for the kids? Pick together or separately?
I’m more opinionated on this than Kyle is, but I’d say it’s always important to involve each other in the process if you’re hiring somebody who will be spending a ton of time and helping raise your children. When we hire new babysitters or nannies, I involve Kyle in the process as much as he’d like to, and if Kyle is going to have a new person babysitting the kids I require him to share their contact info with me so I can speak to them and be in touch if needed.
What impacts (negative or positive) have you seen co-parenting have on your kids?
So I’ll begin by answering that not all Coparenting is the same– people do it very, very differently. From collaborative co-parenting (which is more our style) to parallel co-parenting which isn’t hostile but where each parent does their own thing as they see fit without breaking any agreed-upon rules. My point is, that I can only really speak to our own situation. Some positives I’ve seen in my own kids in our own co-parenting dynamic is that they have become much more flexible and resilient. I find that going through such a big shift together as a family has really brought our relationship with them much closer and deeper than it was before. I think they really see Kyle and I as the imperfect humans that we are and not just as their parents, and I think that’s a positive thing. It’s also amazing to see them feel so loved and surrounded by multiple parents instead of just two. It’s been great for their self-esteem.
The negatives in a co-parenting dynamic are always going to revolve around inconsistency because kids are going back and forth between different parenting styles. And that’s ok! But my kids, like most post-divorce, have a tough time those couple of days around transitions. I find they test their boundaries, get more emotional, and experience some resentment as well. I don’t blame them! It’s not what they see most of their friends having to do, and so that feeling of “otherness” can be hard for them too. I think it’s a process to feel more comfortable as they grow up.
Did you ever consider “staying together for the kids”? And if so, how did you combat that?
Both Kyle and I agree that the concept of being miserable in marriage and modeling that version of marriage for the kids is probably one of the worst things you can do for your children. My worst nightmare was having my kids watch what our marriage was and think that was a goal for their own futures. I needed them to see us both healthier, and happier, and to know that no matter what you can make changes in your life if it’s not working for you. Kyle and I were always on the same page about that, which made the process of our divorce easier in many ways. We knew as painful as the transition was for everyone, that ultimately we were doing what is best for our kids. I have seen firsthand SO many people I love who are still dealing with lots of trauma ( and recreating unhealthy dynamics) as a result of being parented by a toxic marriage. We live in a new world now, and I think that these really old-fashioned concepts need to change in order for us all to be a healthier society.
How do you keep emotions out of the whole process?
You don’t! Divorce and co-parenting are highly emotional. We are all human, and feeling is a part of being human! But there’s a difference between allowing yourself to feel and process emotion and allowing that process to disturb or affect how you co-parent or what your kids’ experience is. I think it is crucial to be in some kind of therapy while going through a divorce so you can have help processing the emotion that comes up. It has also really helped me to check myself when emotions arise in my co-parenting relationship and deeply examine why the emotion is coming up. Is this really about my kids and what’s right or fair? Or is this about me, my pain and trauma, and my relationship with myself? Conflict does come up but in order to work through it in the most mature way possible you do need a deeper understanding of exactly where those emotions are coming from. Also, normalize apologizing! Everybody has emotional moments of weakness. That’s OK. It’s also OK to gracefully explain yourself after the fact, apologize when you need to, and move on.
It seems like the kids are with you more than Kyle: is that true? If so, why?
Yes, they are. I have primary physical custody of them, and we share legal custody. That was a decision we made based on both of our parenting desires at the time, and because Kyle had originally moved out of state after our divorce. We live in CT and he lived in NYC. He recently moved back to CT, and currently has the kids every other weekend, every other holiday, and can come to see them whenever he’d like. I live around the corner from the kids’ school, so right now the arrangement works well for us. I think our kids, at these ages, wouldn’t be as settled as they are if they were going back and forth more frequently. It’s possible that in the future, we shift to a more 50/50 parenting plan. We will see how life unfolds!
At what point did you tell the kids about the divorce?
Telling the kids we were divorcing was the hardest moment of the whole process for me. It was absolutely awful. I even wrote a blog post about it in the hopes that it could be helpful for parents facing the same conversation. That said, we told them about a week before Kyle moved out. I don’t think there’s ever a perfect time to break that kind of news, but I was adamant that we didn’t let a new living arrangement begin without being honest with them about what was happening. Ultimately I wanted to preserve trust.
How much do you do phone/Facetime with Dad when it’s “your time”?
Something Kyle and I agreed on (and wrote into our parenting plan) was that both parents would always have open access to the kids via the phone when they were with the other parent. That said, it’s never been an issue for us. Ian and I are always involving Kyle as a figure in the kids’ lives even when he’s not here in person, and whenever something exciting happens or they have news we offer to “call dad”. I also will always call him or FaceTime whenever the kids want to. Kyle does the same. I think a major plus of how friendly our co-parenting dynamic has been with the kids is that they never feel like they have to choose between us. They feel totally comfortable showing or sharing a love for both of their parents at whichever home they find themselves at.