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Putting the Kids First Might Make YOU Happier

I’m in the airport, early for a change, waiting to fly back home. Just spent three days visiting my oldest at college for family weekend. I hadn’t seen him since August-the longest two and half months of my life, and the shortest three days. Oh, I love that kid!

Seeing him was the highlight, but now that the weekend is over, I can see that the second greatest thing about this trip is that we did it as a family, and it was pretty damn successful! My two daughters and my ex were there, and we all got along, spent a ton of time together and there was actually laughing and teasing and chatting. It was really pretty fun!

Ok, so we hit one snag, but after a short conversation, some tears and a tequila shot, we were back on track and finished out the weekend on a high note.

It’s not easy. I still slip back to wanting what I always wanted in our marriage, though I do now know that I’m never going to get it. Sometimes when we’re together I revert to the old me and find myself in the same place I was 10 years ago. I want my ex to connect with me, see me, understand me, and I, him. Of course, I never got that connection, and I’ve learned to stop expecting it, for the most part, but when we get into these closer situations, thrown back into the same family dynamic we lived for so long, that yearning comes back.

These days the topics might be different. I want to know about his work, his family, his girlfriend, his friends. Often, I’m still left with that familiar empty feeling, because we are still the same people. In a way it’s a good reminder of why we are divorced, a reminder to stop expecting or wanting something that never existed and will never exist.

The best co-parents are friends, so that’s the goal here. At least with friends there are different levels-not every friendship needs to be deep, intense. I remind myself of this often. I have to, because if we are committed to co-parenting successfully, we will inevitably find ourselves in closer situations than may be comfortable for a divorced couple. We swore to each other we would remain friends, no matter how difficult, because the alternative was just not an option for us.

I know I’m different from many. I’m overly sensitive, I don’t let things go easily, I need to see things to completion, including conversations, topics, disagreements. I need to understand the deeper level of how someone’s ideas and thoughts are derived and why they believe things they do. Maybe call it intense?

One of the worst things someone can do to me is make a comment and when I ask for a deeper explanation say “Never mind.” NO! I really want to know! Why did they say that, how do they THINK? I have a need to get to that place of understanding. I’m sure I can drive many close to the edge of sanity pretty quickly.

I’m learning now that I don’t always have to know. I’m learning to accept that there will be things I may never know, but I hope I never lose that interest and curiosity.

Well, we did three days together and it wasn’t only tolerable, but fun. How did this happen? A few things helped:

-Limiting comments that can be taken the wrong way. The one issue I mentioned above started when I commented about where he chose to sit at dinner and he muttered “I can’t do anything right.” (Both wrong and petty, but also taken with more than the grain of salt they should have been.) That brought me right back to the middle of the worst, but this time I was able to get back on track in record time and with few casualties.

-Breathing and letting things go. We are not attached anymore. If I can get through this weekend, I don’t have to deal with all of the bad habits and beliefs that used to make me crazy. Meditation has helped me immensely here.

-Focusing on the most important thing at the time: our kids. What can I do at any given moment to bring the focus back to what’s most important? I do that.

-Reminding myself that my close connections have to come from elsewhere. I consciously focus on that. I spent many years of my marriage looking to my husband to fill an emptiness that he never could. I don’t need from him what I feel missing. I can get it elsewhere-or provide it for myself.

This last realization has actually helped in other relationships. I have far less tolerance for people who are not additive, for friends who don’t value me as I do them, for those who make unnecessary digs and comments that only serve to hurt. This has made room for current friendships to grow deeper, new relationships in my life that leave me feeling full and energized, and has helped me transform toxic relationships to more positive experiences.

Really all of this comes down to living in the moment, getting out of a bad situation as quickly as possible and creating a better one. I try not to dwell on the past. I realize words are just words. It’s my reaction to those words and the people to whom they are attached that ultimately has the greatest impact on my state of mind.

All of this sounds great, and to an extent, it is. However, it’s all fluid. It requires reminders, some of which can be painful or regressive. I am in a great place today. For the most part, the relationship I have with my ex is positive and supportive, but it’s not easy and it’s not without pitfalls, setbacks and many revisions. Writing definitely helps serve as a reminder. And I have to remember what a great weekend we all just had together. Right now, that’s really all that matters anyway.

#zoelogicallythinking #coparenting #divorce