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Divorce Dialogues: 'Live Close to Your Ex'

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Guest blogger Kate Meyers: Janet is a funny, energetic East Coast mom. She first married at 29 and has two kids, ages 15 and 16. She and her first husband were married for seven years. She has been remarried for ten years, and her second husband has two kids of his own (ages 22 and 19).

two houses
momlogic: Why did you get divorced? 

Janet: I don't know if there was a specific reason. We just weren't in love anymore. I'm sure he has his own reasons, but I guess mine would be that he had certain mental issues -- anxiety, depression -- that kept him from being a good husband. He was in bed a lot. He didn't beat me or anything. I don't dislike him. We get along very well now. To this day, he walks into my kitchen and hands me a check every month for child support. 

ml: What was the most difficult part of the divorce? 

J: Listening to my son cry at night. The saddest part of the whole year ... I was driving home from somewhere and we drove onto our street and the kids were in the back in booster seats and my daughter was in kindergarten and she was crying and she said, "I am too young to handle this," and I pulled to the side of the road and started crying. I was so worried about how it would affect them. My ex and I had gone to a child psychologist and discussed numerous times how to have a good divorce. I said, "I'll stay with him for twenty years if that's better for the kids," and I asked [the psychologist], "How do you know what's best for the kids?" He said that if your relationship starts affecting them negatively, [it's not good]. And I remember this one day my daughter was playing with her Barbie and she was having this Barbie-Ken conversation, and Ken said, "Don't let the kids come up in this room, because I have a headache." My ex was constantly saying things like that. There were three Christmas mornings when he wouldn't come down and be with the kids when they opened their presents. So after talking to the psychologist, I felt justified, like someone had given me permission. But the first five years [after the divorce], I was just constantly worried about the emotional status of the kids. I think my ex is now a great father, but he was a bad husband. Divorce is never fun or easy, and it's the end of your dream even if you're not happy in it anymore. 

ml: How do you work the division of time with the kids? 

J: He started out with grand plans [for] every weekend and every Tuesday and Thursday night. It's now every other weekend and Wednesday nights, but we live really close to each other and it's whatever the kids' needs are. My son tends to go over more; my daughter less. School nights it stresses her out, so sometimes she'll just have dinner with him and then come home. But everyone's pretty solid about the arrangement. We always have him for holidays and birthdays. 

ml: What advice would you give someone who's working out a divorce right now? 
J: First, live close to your ex. Mine is five miles away, and I couldn't have done it if he wasn't close. It's so much easier on the kids that way. Second, look long and hard at the finances. I was so young and so worn out from him and I wanted out so bad that I didn't really think the finances through. I was a little too idealistic. I had a little bit of money on my own and I have been OK, but I would definitely say, "Think beyond tomorrow and next week and the next few months."

ml: What's the best thing that has come out of this for you? 
J: Having my health and my sanity, not being constantly dragged down by his moods and his lifestyle. He was like Eeyore. Now I feel like I have my pep and my energy and my personality back! 

ml: What did you learn from the whole experience? 
J: Just what everybody learns from every past. You learn what you wanted to avoid in a person. I just looked for things I knew I needed. I didn't know about my ex's issues, because I hadn't lived with him. We could go out and have a great time and then he'd sleep for three days. I didn't know that part. I think sometimes marriage and love are just crapshoots. No marriage is easy. When I fell in love, I fell in love the same way both times. It didn't change my feeling about love.

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