My ex and I had a cooperative divorce. Tonight we signed the final paper that would insure that our divorce decree was in the mail. As an English teacher, when I write “cooperative divorce,” I can only think oxymoron. As the mother of two little boys, I am thankful that such a thing even exists.
When my mom and dad went through their divorce, it was a bitter, knock-down fight to the death. Everything a couple should never do during a divorce was done. Every wrong word and phrase used. Parent pitted against parent. Children in the middle to be fought over and used as bargaining chips in the least fun game on the planet. My grandparents entered into the game, too. They picked teams and waged bloody battles from the sidelines even years after the divorce was final. They wanted to make sure the other side was good and dead. Needless to say, but I will say it anyway, it scarred me for life.
As a child I realized that my parents were wrong for each other. My mother is this waif like woman who loved the Beatles and wore flowery skirts. My father is a blue collar working man who liked his dinner at five on the dot and didn’t like women to work outside the home. He was domineering and it almost killed her. I got it. Even then I knew it was too much for her to be married to a man like that. What I didn’t get were the harsh words and the screaming and the fighting and the leaving. The way they made us fight for them to even be in the same room together over a decade later. The surfacing discomfort when they ever had to even hear about the other was often too much to bear.
When I realized I was going to divorce my husband, he loved to say, “Oh, so you’re just going to repeat the cycle? Your parents divorced and look what it did to you. You want to that to our boys?” And the answer then and now has always been no. I did not want to hurt them or ruin their childhood, but I also knew the same thing my mom realized: I could not continue on in the life I built.
When I broached the idea of a cooperative divorce, I think my ex believed it was an idle threat. So many of my words have been idle over the years. I was not surprised. We tried to use a mediator, but the seven thousand dollar price tag was too much for us. When I did some more research, I found that divorce could be done through one lawyer. This was really all that I needed. A lawyer to be my scribe. I included my ex on every part of the decision making process and I gave him everything. The only thing I really cared about was joint custody. I also wanted to keep my pension, but was willing to let it go if it became a sticking point. I won’t go into the logistics of everything he was given, but I walked away from our marriage with nothing after I was the only income for six years.
Many of my friends give my empathic ability credit. Our friends and family cannot believe that we have gone through such a healthy divorce. I don’t think my being empathic has anything to do with it. I could not have done it if my ex was not on board. He did not want the divorce at all, and if he had let his pride get in the way, it would have looked very different. Our love for our children’s childhood circumvented our own feelings. When my resentment was at an all time high and I couldn’t even look at him for fear of wanting to hurt him, I remembered my children.
Now it is really all over. Our marriage is officially done, and I am still very confidant in my decision. Cooperative divorces are possible, but it takes self-sacrifice from both parties. It takes an ability to put your wants on the back burner sometimes. It takes putting your emotions in check to achieve the higher good. Yes, it was important and necessary for me to get a divorce, but I decided up front that it was not always necessary for me to get my way. My ex decided the same thing, and our final gifts to one another is our ever-lasting friendship. Yes, friendship. This is necessary as we continue co-parenting these two little boys who are growing up so quickly. I hope someday they will be able to understand what I did and why I did it and the amount of sacrifice it took to make one of the greatest decisions of my life. I hope they are proud of their father and how he was able to be so loving in the face of something that is never connected with the idea of love. Perhaps as they grow, they will understand the complications of love and what happens to a relationship when people no longer know how to make a marriage work. If nothing else, I just hope they can forgive me.