Health

Happiness: Starting Over

While many separated couples struggle for civility, my ex-husband and I struggle to create healthy boundaries

Finding strength

Others seemed to believe in my strength. Yet little things could derail me without warning. In March, I bravely packed up wind-pants, skis and water bottles for my first cross-country ski trip with the kids since our breakup. Skiing had defined us as a family, and it’s a lot tougher with one parent in charge. After driving three hours from Victoria to Mt. Washington, I unpacked the kids, ran them both to the toilets, put on their skis and rushed to meet the rest of their ski group for our designated time. I was hustling them along the trail when a ski patrol asked me where the kids’ passes were. In the car, I realized with dread. When he insisted that we all turn back, I burst into tears, worn out by the effort of skiing alone with these two little people. What a sight I must have been. Embarrassed and emotionally drained, I packed up the kids and drove back to Victoria.

I still have my moments. This morning I opened the bread cupboard and noticed that my yeast- free, wheat-free bread had mould all over it again. Before my husband left, the two of us could finish it by the week’s end. Each time I throw away another moulding loaf I think of him.

The journey toward forgiveness and healing has not been easy, but our children are the beacon that keeps us on track. Although their father and I live in separate houses, we are definitely parenting them together. We recount their day each night–limits we need to keep firm, what happened at school.

My son, at six, needs to define our new relationship. Last night he asked me, “Mommy, are you still a wife?” When I told him no, he asked, “Is Daddy still a husband?” “No,” I replied. After a long pause he asked, “Are we still a family?” I thought about those nightly kid-focused conversations my ex-husband and I had been having since the breakup. I remembered how he came over and helped get us all through the 24-hour flu. I answered, “We will always be a family.”

Redefining our family is challenging in unexpected ways. While many separated couples struggle for civility, my ex-husband and I struggle to create healthy boundaries. Last week I began to share with him the misgivings I had about a new speech I’m writing about courage. Just in time, I stopped myself. As tempting as it is, this level of intimacy is no longer safe for me. I am trusting my own judgment and when I really need to share an idea I call up a close colleague or a friend.