Befriending Your Ex–My Personal Experience
BEFRIENDING YOUR EX AFTER DIVORCE: Making Life Better for You, Your Kids and Yes, Your Ex By Judith Ruskay Rabinor PhD
Although a great many books have been written to help soothe a divorcing couple’s wounds and spare their children, the surprising discovery that ex-spouses can have positive, meaningful, and supportive relationships with one another is sorely missing from popular and professional literature. Befriending Your Ex:Making Life Better for You, Your Kids and Yes, Your Ex helps to fill that gap. Story after story—including the author’s own personal story—reminds the reader that once the tsunami of divorce quiets down, exes can be friends who share a major joy: loving and raising their children.
A divorced parent as well as a clinical psychologist who has worked with hundreds of families struggling with the aftermath of divorce, Rabinor bring to this book a wealth of professional as well as personal experience. Regarding her own divorce, she writes:
I’d been married for fifteen years, my daughter was eight and my son twelve and my marriage was unraveling. My ex and I felt helpless about repairing it. Imagine my surprise when one day, my soon-to-be-ex-husband calmly said to me, “Why should the kids live with you and I get them only on the weekends? Maybe they should live with me during the week and you on the weekends.”
The children live with him? I was stunned. He argued that as a real estate developer in his own business, who worked at home with a flexible schedule, he was the more available parent than me, a psychologist who worked out of the home with fixed hours. As he rattled on, I began hyperventilating: my heart was pounding, my hands sweating. Divorce brings with it a series of losses, and I was absorbing and experiencing this fact in my body.
Once I got over my initial panic I realized my soon-to-be ex was serious about parenting our children after divorce. He truly wanted to co-parent. Hesitantly, I considered his proposal After a great deal of negotiation, my ex and I arrived at a compromise. Our children would live half the time with him and half the time with me. We were pioneering what has now become a more conventional arrangement for divorcing parents– joint physical custody.
At the time I divorced, I could never have imagined I would develop a relationship with my ex that would become supportive and comforting, even friendly. But over time, that is exactly what happened. When we first separated and were newly divorced, it wasn’t that way. We were distant, sometimes aloof, often angry and/or wary of one another. Yet for the most part, we were able to keep the phrase “in the best interest of the children” as our guiding North Star. We quickly learned to collaborate around the myriad issues involved in our children’s daily routines. Together, we attended school conferences and sat in the bleachers, cheering at childrens’ swim meets and gymnastic competitions. We collaborated with each other to help the children resolve problems large and small having to do with school, homework, friends and our family life. We celebrated their birthdays together and slowly, began to establish new ways of celebrating other holidays. Eventually, as time went on, we became more trusting and comfortable with each other, including new spouses in family events. All this occurred over many years, not without many painful moments.
What I have learned, from my own experience and from counseling and interviewing others, is that that although befriending your ex is complex, it is more satisfying and attainable than you may be aware.