What is a successful divorce? In my opinion, it has nothing to do with accumulated assets, properties, alimony, or support payments. It has everything to do with an ability to carry forward the best parts of the person you married while being able to walk away from the parts that don’t work for you. When I think of the term “successful divorce,” three examples immediately come to mind, their pseudonyms are Sandy, Francine, and Veronica and their situations work as part of the larger whole.
Veronica had a daughter named Tara with her first husband, Ned. Veronica’s second husband, Tim, moved in by the time Tara was 4, and has been a second dad to her for the past 28 years. Ned never remarried, and has always been friendly with Veronica and Tim. The three of them respect and appreciate each other as parents and have always done their best to work together on Tara’s behalf. They all helped pay for braces, private high school, college, and eventually Tara’s wedding. It is easy to see that they figured out how to keep their child’s needs above their own, as most good parents would do.
But to me, the most telling part of the success of their divorce happened about three years ago. Around 4 am on a weeknight Veronica and Tim were awakened by a phone call from the hospital. There had been a heart attack, and Veronica was listed as next of kin – for Ned. Tim drove her to the hospital in the middle of the night, and they took care of everything for Ned. Including calling Ned’s sisters to tell them what had happened. Luckily, Ned is okay now, and has been following Veronica’s advice on how to stay that way.
30 years after their divorce, Veronica is still the person Ned most trusts to take care of him in an emergency. But what’s more amazing is that he is right.
Francine’s first Husband was named Harry. They met through Harry’s sister Martha, who happened to be Francine’s best friend. When the marriage was over, Francine was concerned that she might lose not only her home and her husband, but also her sister-in-law. The divorce was inevitable; she and Harry had grown apart and needed to be able to move on with their own lives.
So they went to court, got divorced and hoped for the best. A few months later, Francine was invited to a friend’s wedding. She knew Harry and his sister would be there, but she couldn’t let that stop her from going. She had begun dating Todd by then, and asked him to join her. Once they got to the wedding, Harry and Todd realized that they had similar taste in music, and couldn’t be separated for most of the evening, just talking and enjoying each other’s company. This left plenty of time for Francine and Martha to catch up with each other. Most family events since then have included Francine and Martha in one room and Harry and Todd in another. Everyone is always invited, and everyone always looks forward to going.
Sandy moved from New York to Connecticut and bought a condo with her boyfriend Paul. Paul had a 5-year-old son named Paul, Jr. who lived with his mom in Connecticut. Sandy had never lived outside of New York, had never lived far away from her family, and had never met little Paulie’s mom Tracey. But, she was in a relationship that mattered to her, so she decided to make the best of it. Imagine Sandy’s surprise when she did meet Tracey and the two of them could pass as sisters – beautiful blondes who pay attention to how they dress. Imagine everyone else’s surprise in town that almost every single one of Paulie’s baseball, football, and basketball games had three fixtures on the sidelines – his mom, his dad, and his dad’s wife. The part that was so surprising though was that most people thought that either his mom or his step-mom must have been his aunt, because Sandy and Tracey not only look like sisters but act like best friends.
What We Love: Divorce can open just as many doors as it closes. Each new person in your life has the chance to be an integral of what was already there.
– Sharon Oberst DeFala