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The Value of Family

August 28, 2013

Over the past century divorce, as a phenomenon, has altered the landscape of relationships across the country. And while fundamentalists bemoan the loss of family values, not all the effects have been detrimental. Women can escape abusive situations, men must pull their full weight, and either party has a recourse if they find their marriage untenable.

What hasn’t been discussed is how to continue being a family after getting divorced.

The general consensus seems to be that divorced parents want as little to do with each other as possible. Children are shuffled back and forth with meticulous schedules and corresponding budgets often calculated by a third party, and the parents only communicate information relevant to their kids lives.

I am here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. It is absolutely possible to survive divorce and continue to function as a family. Certain parts are actually easier.

This may sound counter-intuitive and I understand if you’re skeptical. Divorce has been painted as failure, and it’s hard not to see it that way from the inside. But if you can, I urge you to discard the old connotations and instead view divorce as a realignment.

When your vehicle is out of alignment, the tires wear and pull to the side, causing costly maintenance and a hazardous situation. Similarly, when your family is out of alignment its component parts don’t work smoothly. The effects may not always appear directly related, as we’re human machines instead of mechanical ones, but they can be just as costly or dangerous.

Unfortunately there’s no family mechanic who can always put things “back into proper order or alignment”, and a family realignment may well refer to the word’s second definition: “To make new groupings of or working arrangements between.”

Isn’t that what divorce is, for parents?

With the inexcusable exception of absolute deadbeats, divorced parents are going to spend a lifetime in each others’ community. Parenthood is a bond. But before reacting with chagrin or frustration, keep in mind that it works both ways. Your ex has probably felt similarly about you at certain points. The question is, can you leave those frustrations behind and find the best ways to work together for your children’s sakes, as well as your own?

At this point I must apologize, for I don’t have a catch-all formula on how to get there from the place you’re standing now. I don’t think there is one – every divorce is different, as we all work to meet our needs and desires – but I can offer a suggestion and a blessing.

Focus on the best parts of your co-parent. Try to remember why you fell in love, hard as it may be. You don’t ever have to say anything to them. But if you can find the place within yourself to love your ex without wanting anything from them, it will make everything easier. You might even become friends, some distance down the road.

As for the blessing, it may go a long way towards explaining why co-parenting can be easier from the far side of marriage. It has to do with the other part of your co-parent. The part you struggled with. The reason you got divorced in the first place.

Rest assured, it’s not your concern anymore.

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