** A version of this post originally appeared in The Huffington Post **
It was almost a year ago, that I went out and had wine with my husband’s ex-wife.
Actually, it was more than wine. We went out to dinner with some mutual friends and had a “girl’s night out.”
And guess what… it was great.
Even though before I left the house, I was so nervous that I thought I was going puke and questioned whether blurring the boundaries was a good idea, everything turned out fine. In fact, it was really fun!
To be honest, part of my wishes that my husband’s ex-wife wasn’t my husband’s ex-wife, because I really like her. I wouldn’t mind hanging out with her more often.
If you’re reading this with your jaw open, shaking your head, thinking to yourself, “not in a million years…” I hear you. Trust me.
Four years ago, if you would have told me that we would have wine together, I would have said that you were absolutely insane. It just wasn’t in my pipeline. Even though I really wanted to have that type of relationship, I didn’t think there was a remote possibility.
There was a major transition period. Time for us both to figure out what the heck this stepmom gig entailed.
There were some heated conversations. There were months where we didn’t acknowledge each other’s existence. There were awkward moments in the hockey arena.
In fact, I think we were both thrilled when we were able to have healthy email correspondence about the kids, let alone enjoy a glass of pinot together!
Then, all of a sudden there we were…. skinny jeans and heels, heading for a girls-night-out on the town!
Apart of me was in awe, “is this really happening?”
The next day, feeling pretty good about how the night went, I took some time to really think about what had changed.
In doing so, I realized that I’ve learned a lot of “co-parenting” lessons since my rookie stepmom days.
1. I think we can all agree that the stresses that come with stepfamily life, co-parenting and blending families don’t always bring out the best in everyone.
It’s unknown territory full of foreign emotions and situations that were never in anyone’s “five-year plan”. A little empathy and forgiveness can go a long way.
2. Time really does heal.
As time has gone on, everything has become easier on so many levels.
If you’re open to it, you can learn ways to cope, communicate and navigate the world of co-parenting. That doesn’t mean you won’t have different opinions. It’s not always going to be hearts and sparkles. However, if you learn to compromise, let things go and look at the bigger picture, stressors that used to be all consuming, won’t be anymore.
3. There are two sides & two different perspectives to every story.
One person’s truth may be very different from another person’s truth. And that’s okay! The key is acknowledging and accepting that the difference exists.
Two different people can experience the same situation in VERY different ways.
4. Issues that arise between my husband and his ex-wife, are not issues between her and I. We don’t speak about them.
I’m a support to my husband behind the scenes, but I know from experience that I can’t fix something that I didn’t break. To sum it up, I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut!
5. It is just so much easier to get along! It really is!
Some stepmoms have said to me, that’s great for you but that will never happen for us. And many of you are right. If you’re dealing with a high-conflict-ex (or perhaps married to one) a healthy co-parenting relationship may not be in the cards. Parallel parenting may be the way to go!
But, you never know. Maybe his ex-wife also wishes that you could have an amicable relationship, but doesn’t want to be the one to let her guard down and extend that olive branch. Maybe you won’t go out for wine (and maybe you don’t want to go out for wine) but perhaps you could have the odd conversation about the kids, or be able to stand at an extra curricular event without feeling awkward and uncomfortable.
Either way, it’s worth a try. Even if your efforts are shot right down, knowing that you’ve said no to a life full of ongoing anger and controversy can feel pretty damn good.
Look a year later, I’m not going to say that we’ve become besties. I’m not going to tell you it’s kumbaya all the time. That’d be a flat out lie. But I think we have a pretty good co-parenting gig and everyone will agree that we’ve come along way. We have a common goal of raising good, kind-hearted, hard working human beings. At the end of the day, the kids are what’s important.
It’s not easy. It doesn’t just happen. It requires a lot of work, and even more tongue biting! A healthy/amicable relationship is something that you have to work at every single day. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of hard work for all parties involved, but at the end of the day, for us, it sure as heck beats the alternative.