When we separated, our daughter was two and a half years old. At the beginning of the separation process, I felt like a failure as a dad, and I was afraid and stressed about money. And then there was the embarrassment; I was embarrassed that the marriage failed, embarrassed that it didn’t work – That we couldn’t make it work.
I found an excellent counsellor who really helped me to get over the embarrassment. He normalized things: People get divorced. It happens. We did most of the negotiations for our separation ourselves and had family lawyers prepare a written agreement; we never went to court.
My dad was my most significant support. He gave me the best advice I’ve ever received. He told me, “whatever you do, make sure you’re able to hold your head up high when you look your daughter in the eye.” That is something I always keep in mind.
Even though we have a 50/50 parenting arrangement, it bothers me that I don’t get to see my daughter every day. She changes a little bit each day; that’s how kids are. Her mom and I engage with each other and try to make sure we’re on the same page and doing the same thing with our parenting.
If I could say anything to my past self, I would say, “you will get through this.” It’s so overwhelming, and it’s hard, but you have to take the emotions out of it when you’re co-parenting. Don’t respond to your co-parent with full emotions and anger. Sometimes I wait to respond to a message if I can’t respond well. I just take a step back and come at the situation the way I would if I was dealing with a business client.
If I were to advise another parent starting the separation process, I would tell them never to say anything negative about their co-parent. My daughter has never heard me say a negative word about her mom. And never will – not a single negative thing. Do what you can to make it easier on your kid.
I would say the best thing to come out of my separation was my relationship with my daughter. We were always close, but as a result of the separation and divorce, I realized how precious time with her is. That bonding has been great.
My other relationships are have improved as well, with friends and co-workers. I’ve always had good friends, but now if someone doesn’t have the energy I want in my life, I can let go. It’s all about using my time wisely. I even enjoy my time alone and look forward to those opportunities for reflection.
I have learned that though your life is different after divorce, it can even be better in some ways.