Redefining "Family" Part I - The Shift from "Husband and Wife" to "Platonic
If I'm being totally honest, both Warren and I had hoped that having another baby would help us find some of the passion that we'd lost somewhere along the way. We knew we loved each other, but our lives had become exhaustive and robotic. "Going through the motions", as they say. As parents of a young family, we had PLENTY to distract us from facing the fact that we had become chronically unhappy in life. Our marriage was dying a silent and an "unspoken death" for many months leading up to what I like to call "The Moment".
So...fast forward to the month of May, in the year 2014. The MUTUAL decision to separate had been made and now Warren and I were facing the task of dismantling our existing lives as Husband and Wife and strategically rebuilding a new life with new roles as Co-Parents. The first 2 months of this process was entirely private. Nobody involved, but us. Hours upon hours of talking, sometimes arguing. We both mourned the loss of what we had "hoped" for in our marriage. We discussed logistics of learning to build healthy boundaries and respect them within the house, which we decided to keep as the "family home". We tried to anticipate the 'blow-back' we would get from family and friends.
As a first step I moved out of the master bedroom and began sharing a room with my daughter. Warren and I each defined our own "personal private space" within the home, and treated the rest of the home as "common space". We also began to purposefully engage in separate activities with each child to start building new structure & routine and begin identifying with our new roles. Warren and I discussed finances, household tasks and parenting responsibilities and agreed on a "divide and conquer" approach. We had an agreement to FULLY respect each others drastically different parenting styles and personality differences. NO MORE REASONS TO FIGHT!
I can tell you this...learning to let go, learning to truly put other people (kids) before yourself and supporting your former spouse to be independent, fulfilled and happy while continuing to be a part of their life is HARD....but, not impossible.
During these first 2 months we also slowly and systematically started taking down all the photos and wall decorations that had been part of our "marriage home". We rearranged living areas and did it with subtlety, replacing photos with non-sentimental decorations, all while establishing new communication techniques with each other. Our kids were aged 2, 4 and 5 at the time so they were young enough to still easily manage their perception and keep the positive energy flowing in the home.
By August we felt emotionally prepared to 'go public' about our separation. We had mourned our 'failed version' of marriage, adapted our home, implemented new relationship and parenting methods and resolved a LOT of 'emotional loose ends' in an effort to give our kids the BEST version of ourselves. We agreed to maintain ONE home where the kids stay settled and alternatively, him and I were the ones to transition in and out of the home sharing responsibilities and "family life", or our version of it. We broke the news to our immediate family and also made a humourous 'separation announcement video' to publicly announce what our intentions were and what our new family structure would look like. Some people supported and applauded us, others snubbed and shook their head in disgust. We stayed our course, despite everything.
September, (4 months post decision to separate) presented the most difficult adjustment of all when Warren officially relocated and resided at his parents condo in Hamilton throughout the week. This lessened his commute each day and also allowed me the time and freedom to establish a new life & routine with the kids on my own. We determined that with his work schedule he technically wasn't missing any actual quality time with the kids by not being home each night. Instead, we arranged a nightly Face-Time schedule for him and the kids to maintain a daily connection. It was a chance for the kids to also see us (Mom & Dad) communicate with each other, exchanging updates, discussing household topics and making plans day by day. Warren would return home every weekend to be with the kids, take over the household and establishing his own routines and lifestyle without me being on the scene. In hindsight, this period of time was likely the peak, or "critical mass", in terms of our 'collective emotions' as a family. There were times with many tears when Daddy left after a weekend or during the 'goodbyes' on Face-Time. There were cyclical periods of tension between Warren and I as we navigated uncharted waters... but with confidence we can both say we have never taken our eyes off the goals we have set for our kids.
These were the initial steps we took and beyond that we simply had to endure what I like to call "The Year of Firsts" ...experiencing a full cycle of holidays, traditions, celebrations and memory triggers. I hope you'll want to read more about our personal experience in Redefining "Family" Part II - The Year of Firsts...Coming Soon
Sometimes I wonder if other separated couples can say that they know the exact moment their souls mutually accepted the difficult truth of a "failed marriage"? Warren and I remember it well, and it merits its own spot in the collection of allegories that are my life.
I hope you choose to read more in Redefining "Family" Part III - The Moment of Truth...Coming Soon
Although our marriage only lasted a short 5 years, we had more than a lifetime of pivotal moments and experiences during that time. We faced incredible odds together and persevered through devastating circumstances at times. The story of our marriage is sprinkled with both irony and serendipity. As 2 survivors of Traumatic Brain Injury we plunged into the unknown and managed to build a family and push through an abyss of corrupt business partners, chronic illness, family crisis, back to back pregnancies, entrepreneurship struggles and so much more.
I hope you choose to read more in Redefining "Family" Part IV - 5Years of Attempted Conformity...Coming Soon
Nearly 4 years post separation we've grown leaps and bounds as a family. I hope you choose to follow our continued co-parenting success and read more in Redefining "Family" Part V - Co-Parenting with NO REGRETS...Coming Soon