My ex and I are very good friends now – but it took us some time to get to this place. The “conscious uncoupling” method to ending a marriage has so many wonderful benefits to it….but make no mistake, it’s a challenge.
Particularly in the beginning. It’s not particularly difficult or tricky anymore – but in the early days, despite every good intention of ours, the reality was that we simply couldn’t be around each other very often or for very long periods. There was too much anger between us, too much resentment, too much bitterness. Not to mention sadness and grieving. We needed time – to heal from the breakdown of the marriage, to create a framework for our future relations with each other, to put the pieces back together of our own individual lives and selves.
To some extent, we could have this. I moved out….that gave us some space. But we had no choice but to continue to deal with each other pretty frequently, painful as it was, because we have two young children. They were 4 and 2 when we split up – and we owed it to them to find a way to work together. We had to meet their needs….as well as somehow meet our own. It was a rough time.
As it turned out, the “traditional” way of ending things – meaning, I moved out and took the kids with me – didn’t work out very well for our son (the 4-year-old.) He missed his dad terribly. So after a few months, we came to the decision that he would begin a pre-K program in Maryland, living with his dad. Meanwhile I, with our daughter, would hop between my parents’ house in Ohio and my ex’s apartment in Maryland – with occasional stops at my brother’s house in New Jersey.
Obviously, this setup was far from ideal. No situation where parents want to be with their kids every day and can’t is ideal. It was extremely difficult for me not to be with my son every day – much harder emotionally than splitting up with his dad, actually. Getting divorced was incredibly painful and awful on almost every level – but my ex and I are adults. I felt like I was abandoning my son in passing so much of the responsibility for his daily care to his dad.
Of course, there was no abandonment involved – at all. My ex kept me very up-to-date on everything to do with our son – as I did him with our daughter. But that didn’t make it easier. It only marginally helped that he wanted the care and that he and Henry wanted to be together. Also that he and I very much needed the space from each other – and that we both knew we could best serve our kids and ourselves by giving each other time to heal.
It didn’t help that we took a lot of flak from almost everybody we knew (my parents being the almost single exception) because we were (gasp!) splitting up the kids – a la the Parent Trap or something. Which was NOT what were doing, in fact.
It was an incredibly difficult time.
In hindsight though? While I would NEVER want to repeat that period of my life, it was that whole experience with Henry that really showed us that we actually could consciously uncouple. Because the well-being of these two children was the most important thing to both of us – and that, we realized, was a bond that we would always have with each other. Despite the healing, etc, that we still had to do from the pain we’d caused each other, we realized that we could, even in those early days, come together as parents. We couldn’t be a couple – but we were on exactly the same page as to what we wanted and needed to do for our children.
We determined very consciously to keep ourselves open to creative and/or irregular solutions – and to trust ourselves and each other as parents. Which was the foundation for everything that came after: this positive, legitimately nice friendship we enjoy to this day. I trust him completely as a parent – to meet the kids’ emotional needs, to support me and understand me as a mother. And that makes it easy to enjoy him as a friend.
And if you can reach that place of trust, you can be friends. Conscious uncoupling is possible. I don’t want to be married to him or involved with him romantically – and I highly doubt he has any desire to be with me that way either at this point. We’re not compatible on those levels. It really just comes down to that. We don’t want the same things from marriage or long-term partnership. But we parent great together! And that’s been the foundation for so much that is good.
Okay, that turned out to be a rather long lead-up to what I actually wanted to talk about with this post!
Those months that my daughter and I hopped from residence to residence, while I wouldn’t want to repeat them (because I wouldn’t want to be separated from my son so regularly again), did actually have their fun moments. I think I’m a bit of a gypsy at heart. I like change – particularly of scene. I like movement. I like that energy.
My daughter has a little bit of that as well. She fell right into that gypsy lifestyle and had a really good time. There was a place for her everywhere she went, full of love and affection – though the environments were quite different. My parents have a comfortable, spacious home in a modern suburb in northeastern Ohio; my brother lives in an historic home in a little town about 50 miles or so from NYC; my ex (at that time) had an apartment on the Maryland side of Washington, D.C. Quite different scenes.
Mae understood these different environments in the most interesting way: she referred to them as different worlds. That was her terminology. She’d talk about how “when we get back to Daddy’s world” or “next time we go to Uncle Joe’s world,” and so on.
She’s almost 6 now, and barely remembers traveling around, much less the “world” descriptor (except us telling her about how she used to say that.) But the fact that she’d think that through and wrap her mind around her life in that fashion, coming up with such an interesting way of describing it is pretty much classic her. She has a really clearsighted and thinking mind.
As I said, my ex and I are quite good friends these days – and so I don’t have a need to move around to quite the same extent. I can comfortably spend chunks of my time in Virginia (where he lives now) – to the point that we’ve enrolled the kids in school in Virginia now, which requires me to be present, as they have to be. So I work out of his spare bedroom most of the time these days and take care of the kids after school, with occasional touch-base visits to Ohio (where I actually live.)
The closest comparison I can come up with is the away-at-college scenario: when I went away to college, my parents’ house remained where I actually lived. But I kept an apartment and spent the bulk of my time in Columbus, OH, where my school was. And then on holidays and for parts of summers, and for occasional other weekends, I’d be at my parents’.
That’s pretty much exactly how my life functions now (replacing my ex’s apartment with my away-at-school apartment.) It actually works quite well for us.
A slight wrinkle came last week when I was called up for jury duty – in Ohio. My ex can accommodate the lack of me, kid-care-wise, if I need to go someplace for work or whatever, so it wasn’t that much of a problem. But a week is longer than we usually have to consider….and we weren’t expecting this! So it took a little maneuvering of schedules. Thanks to my mom and dad though, operating as a shuttle service for me, it all worked out pretty painlessly!
And my mom and dad and I had a really lovely drive back to Virginia on Saturday.
Even from the backseat of their car, I was able to get some nice shots.
I’m using a Canon EOS M in all of these, in case anybody was wondering. I’m still certainly a novice when it comes to the world of serious cameras….but I think this is pretty good.
It makes me curious as to what the higher end cameras (your professional grade DSLRs) and different lenses could accomplish. Probably more, but how much more?
I wasn’t really in need of something to re-ignite my interest in learning about this stuff (it’s a pretty constant and pressing desire I have to learn and grow as a photographer.) But I have to say, I really do have a new curiosity now! Not that these pictures are SO amazing or something….but they really are more than what I thought I’d be able to get when I was taking them.
What else can my camera do???