All separated parents have some kind of relationship with each other. As they move apart as lovers and former spouses the space between them is often filled with anger and sadness. Caring for the children is the primary point of contact. They may do that with lots of struggles.
Popular notions about separated parents focus on the first stages of separation and divorce – the space filled with anger and/or sadness. That’s the picture as they walk down the courthouse steps. They have big feelings moving into unknown futures-apart.
They go on to create new lives for themselves but the daily needs of children keep them bumping into each other. School plays, soccer games, birthdays, holidays, questions about camps and changing finances-fill the space between them. They thought they were getting away from each other and slowly recognize that having children together keeps them tied for life.
As years go by and the kids grow up and legal ties end, connections between separated parents continue to change. The space that was once filled with the energy of anger, abandonment and sadness can change. Anew, more benign energy can fill that space. This is the secret about separated parents. Their relationships continues and feelings continue to change.
The myths about separated parents leave them in those angry/sad early places. How their relationships change over time has often been well under the cultural radar and has not often been the focus of journalists and researchers.
I’ve been talking with parents separated for 10, 20 and even 40 years and want to share their stories. I hope this blog will help dispel the myths of continued struggle. Many separated parents come to cordial connections and are surprised by recognizing they are more than exes, they are kin.
“I did want him to fall off the edge of the earth at one point. It was going to be much easier if he just disappeared. But now, I can’t imagine not having contact with him. Every time there is a passage and these kids seem to have made it to the other side, we can connect. There’s really great tenderness around our parenting. And on Father’s Day, there’s nobody else I could have imagined raising my sons with. He’s a remarkable father.”
(married 1979, separated 1987, divorced 1987, interviewed 2006)
Stay tuned for more thoughts and stories. Please add your thoughts and stories.