If you have kids chances are you’ve seen the Shrek series. If you’ve never heard of Shrek, well look at the picture to the right and just follow along. You’ll get the point relatively quickly. There’s a scene in “Shrek 3” where Fiona’s father passes away. As the family gathers around the little amphibious father, it takes him several “last breathes” to actually pass on. Several times the family starts to weep thinking he’s gone, only to have him gasp one last breath and utter one last final thought.
I’ve thought of that scene several times over the past year as I witnessed what I thought was the death of my marriage. I think I was under the impression that once the papers were signed and the judge said, “yer done” it would be over, wrapped, the end. We’d give a little eulogy, the casket would be placed in the ground, the priest would spritz a little holy water, we’d have a glass of wine and move on with our lives. Annnnnddddd scene.
Well, apparently it doesn’t work that way. But then if you’ve ever had a relationship crumble, you already knew that. The closeness of a relationship, the intimacy of a relationship, the bond of a relationship may be torn. Your heart may be heavy and beat up. But the relationship continues on some level the rest of your life. You learn from it, you grow from it, you evolve because of it. The marital union may be eliminated, but the history can’t be erased. Some of it may be tucked deep in the confines of your mind, but it’s still there. And that’s o.k.
And of course if you have kids, it’s all the more true. While some parents choose to pass the kids back and forth like a football without ever huddling to make sure they’re executing the same play; on some level the co-parenting thing is a tie that bonds eternally. When children are a part of the divorce, there is a life long connection. What you do with it is up to you. How you choose to approach it and carry it is your choice. Therefore, a positive approach to moving forward is given even more weight as it’s much easier to work through schedules with someone you’re on good terms with rather than someone you’re continually at odds with. And don’t forget; the kiddos are watching. Oh … are they watching.
Is it always easy? Hello no. Was it easy when you were married? Seriously, parenting is hard. Moms and dads inherently have different styles. There’s a reason my mom always said, “you wait until your father comes home.” There’s also a reason I asked my mom if I could go out rather than my dad. So what makes you think it’ll be any easier when you’re not under the same roof discussing game plans? It’s hard. Especially now that you’re both physically parenting solo. The kids are aware of this. But it’ll be easier if the kids know you’re still working as a team on some level. The bonds of matrimony may be broken, but the parenting bonds are still going to be there and it’s up to you and your ex to ensure that the kids recognize that you have each others back when it comes to them. Even when you completely disagree.
So, what were we talking about? Oh yeah. The death of a marriage. You can look at it that way; a death. But honestly no relationship ever really dies. It just changes form. My best friend passed away when I was 22. When he died, we had a little eulogy, the casket was lowered, the priest spritzed a little holy water, we drank a lot of wine and attempted to move on with our lives. That was 24 years ago. And to this day I talk with Gary from time to time as I’m driving to a video shoot or running trails. His friendship lives on within me and affects me and how I approach life. And so will my marriage. And that’s not a bad thing.
Every relationship, good or bad, is a part of us. We are the sum of our experiences and relationships are perhaps the most significant experiences we can have. So embrace them. Even the ones that caused or continue to cause you pain. You have a choice whether to make it a cause of stress and angst, or a source of motivation and a means of growing. Ain’t easy. But the payoff is huge.
I’m sorry, what were we talking about again? Oh yeah. Death. So skip the eulogy. Put the shovel back in the shed. Poor yourself a glass of wine. And move on with your beautiful, ever evolving life, carrying all of your experiences with you until the day you die. But then, we never really die. Do we?