I got a divorce but am still with my ex husband — here's how we made it work
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This summer will mark three years since I finalized my divorce from my husband of nearly five years. The process was expensive, painful, and in the end, one of the best decisions I ever made. But not for the reasons you may think.
Yes, I was happy to close the book on a painful chapter in my life and have an opportunity to get a fresh start. I celebrated by changing my hair color, dropping a few unwanted pounds, and starting a new job.
But what I didn’t know was that along with everything else, my relationship with my husband would get a much-needed reboot as well.
Today, my ex-husband and I are closer than we’ve ever been — literally. In fact, we live together, raise our two children together, and even try to enjoy an occasional date night when we can. You may be wondering why we went through the trouble of getting married and divorced only to end up dating again. Well, it’s a long story.
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I didn’t go into my marriage thinking it would end in divorce; though I have to admit the odds were pretty much stacked against me. According to a study by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, the probability of a first marriage ending in separation or divorce within the first five years is 20%.
Not to mention, just about everyone in my family gets divorced — that is if they ever get married at all.
My maternal grandmother holds the record with three divorces to her credit. Without a first hand look at what it takes to make a marriage stick, I was left to piece together my own idea of wedded bliss. After watching lots of love stories and classic sitcoms, I’d determined that staying a size 4, maintaining a well-kept home, and avoiding conflict at all costs would keep my husband and me from ending up in divorce court. But what I didn’t think about was how all of that exercise and housework would affect me — a self-proclaimed career girl who takes her independence seriously.
Like so many single girls, I spent years bar hopping in hopes of finding someone who would give me a reason to never come back. So when I met a man who was funny, kind, and passed my social media background check, I knew I couldn’t let him get away. Because we had both been single in New York City for a while, our courtship moved quickly and it didn’t take us long to realize that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.
But after all of the “I Do’s,” our marriage started off with a string of bad luck.
The ink had barely dried on our marriage license when we found ourselves dealing with issues that could have put a strain on even the strongest relationship. The economic recession of 2008 left us both unemployed and underwater in our home. And if that wasn’t bad enough, we were dealing with a high-risk pregnancy as we prepared for the arrival of our first child. We barely had time to get used to being two, before we were getting ready to add another tiny member to our family who would be completely dependent on us for her every need. With little money and no family support nearby, we were forced to figure it all out on our own.
The pressure of maintaining our home with little money slowly chipped away at my sanity. Along with my career, I felt I was losing my independence, my social network, and my identity. I didn’t feel comfortable among the stay at home mom set in our Brooklyn neighbourhood. Many of them had made conscious choices to stay home and care for their children, while my decision sort of fell in my lap. I went to every meet up knowing that one spontaneous cup of coffee had the potential to throw my budget completely out of whack.
I grew increasingly frustrated with my inability to make any financial contributions. I was annoyed with my husband for preferring to be optimistic over joining me in my den of despair. I didn’t know what it was like not to work and I felt helpless.
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I was jealous of my husband for being able to leave the house without worrying about nap times or feeding schedules. And even if he was only going to a job he hated, he was able to do so without having to find the most stroller-friendly route.
Admittedly, I kept all of my feelings to myself until I reached my boiling point and unleashed my frustration in a rambling tirade that left me to walk away from the relationship and seek refuge at my mother’s house. During our time apart, I tried to distract myself with as many activities as possible to make me forget about the fact that my marriage was over. I became a registered yoga teacher, knitted scarves and hats for everyone I knew, and reflected on the choices that led me back to my childhood bedroom.
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After nearly nine months apart the smoke began to clear and our communication became a lot less combative.
With the help of a little therapy and a lot of honest conversation, we were able to remember what brought us together in the first place, and why it was more important than ever to make things work going forward. We decided to go through with our divorce as a way of closing the chapter on a bad situation but agreed to move forward together in a loving, committed relationship. The end of our marriage didn’t feel sad because I knew our new commitment would be even stronger. I learned that when things get tough, I should be turning to my partner for support rather than pulling away.
We may not be able to agree on a movie to watch on Saturday night or the perfect temperature for the bedroom, but we can both agree that today, we are as committed as ever to each other and our two children.
We’re fortunate to live in a world where a family can be defined in many different ways. I couldn’t be happier to have been blessed with such a wonderful bunch. Our traditional Catholic families may not be able to understand what we’re doing, but they’re happy to support our commitment to one another.
And even if we don’t look like the Brady Bunch to the rest of the world, we have lots of love to go around. And I couldn’t be happier that I don’t have to vacuum in heels.