As friends and readers tell me their horror stories about their exes and how poorly they handled their breakups, I often wonder to myself how did I get so lucky to have a peaceful divorce. I mean...was it luck? Do I just have an extraordinary ex husband (I'm sure he'd like to think so)? While he is undoubtedly wonderful, I do believe that they were some strategies that I somewhat unwittingly employed that helped keep us on a peaceful path and away from ugly confrontations with lawyers.
1) I had a clear vision of what I wanted our relationship to be. He had been my best friend for thirteen years and I was adamant about maintaining our friendship. I wanted us to continue to be a family that had dinners, went on trips, and shared holidays together. I imagined us (and still do) with new partners all celebrating together at parties. Luckily my ex was in agreement about this. He didn't want to lose me as a friend either.
2) I held that vision in my mind no matter what the circumstances were. There were times when my ex would get frustrated and try to get back at me. He made some nasty threats from time to time about how he wouldn't take care of the kids when I needed him to or how he was going to go after the house after he had given it to me. Obviously those weren't pleasant moments, but I held fast to my rhetoric of harmony and friendship. I would remind him how much he loved the kids and would never want to punish them just to spite me. When he would say angry things, I would remind him that deep down inside he really loved me and still wanted to be my friend. Some might call me crazy and say that I wasn't facing reality, and you know what? I wasn't. Because reality wasn't what I wanted it to be yet, and I was waiting patiently for the reality that I did want to manifest itself.
3) I maintained an unwavering faith that we would work things out. My yoga teacher often shares a great St. Augustine quote on faith. "Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe." Well I was stubborn and sometimes lived in a bit of a fantasy world. There were certainly times in which my ex wasn't nice or peaceful towards me, yet I clung to the precious moments when he was friendly and I clung to my vision of the future. Not only did that make me feel better, but it also changed the dynamic between us. He could feel my faith and eventually became convinced himself.
4) I reminded myself that there is a difference between a man and his actions. This was a tough one at times. It is really easy to judge a person by their actions, but I reminded myself that his actions didn't always reflect his true nature or his desires. Despite the fact he sometimes said nasty things to me, I told myself that he was in pain, that he felt powerless and that he was just lashing out in frustration. I will readily admit that it was hard to hear someone that I loved so much saying mean things to me. And I repeated time and time again that he would have to leave the house if he started insulting me here, especially in front of the kids. With time, those insults became fewer and far between, and when he would lose his temper, he would apologize much more quickly and bridge back to me immediately. He is a man with such a tender and loving heart. You might think that I was delusional, but it made me feel so much better to remember that than to focus on his piques of anger. And there was nothing I wanted more than to feel good.
5) I never lost sight of the love that we shared. He was my soulmate. We shared a very deep bond of love and had many happy years together. Yes, the relationship broke down. Yes we developed unhealthy patterns of behavior towards each other. But deep down inside, that love still burned bright. A month or so after our split, we met with Jonah's kindergarten teacher for the first time and told her about our situation. She was impressed with how kind we were to each other and how well we got along (at least in the parent-teacher conference). Hugo told her that we loved each other enough to know that we couldn't be together. That's the truth. And a love like that shouldn't die in the face of conflict.