Not long ago, I ran into a college friend while my husband and I were out to dinner. By way of introduction, I told my husband how she and her husband were my neighbors in our senior year apartment complex.
“Actually,” she interrupted, “X and I broke up.”
After flustering for a second, we were able to resume small talk and bid each other a good night. But I remained surprised and saddened by her news. This is a couple that had two little children and had been together for almost 15 years. This is the third impending divorce in my acquaintance/friend circle. What used to be something that happened to other people distantly is now beginning to encroach much closer to home.
Like many people, I had more than several relationships with varying degrees of seriousness before I met my husband. I think, for the most part, these relationships and experiences have made me a better spouse and much more appreciative of my husband and all his qualities and quirks. None of the break ups in my pre-marriage dating history was easy or fun. But I shudder to think of the challenges of breaking up when there are children involved.
I was discussing my concerns with another friend who happens to be the child of an acrimonious divorce. She made an excellent point: “There is no such thing as a nuclear family any longer. This is just part of it.” She’s right — with families made up of two moms or two dads, or grandparents being the primary caregivers, why isn’t there room for two people — who were previously married — to still be partners in parenting?
Maybe it’s not just about “blended families” anymore but a conscientious and mostly successful effort of co-parenting and creating a co-family. As much as we made fun of the term “conscious uncoupling,” maybe Ms. Goop was on to something. Our parents’ generation of divorces seemed to be mostly bitter and rancorous. I think our generation of more progressive thinking and acceptance can allow for this anthropologic change.
I saw this article the other day about Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck. Jennifer Garner is a classy lady who is a wonderful role model. Even though her marriage has ended, her partnership with her children’s father has not. She acknowledges her “modern family” and makes the point that it’s her children who come first.
I texted my newly single friend the next day apologizing for any awkwardness and wishing her the best. She replied with kind words and stated, “It’s OK — things will be back to normal soon.” And maybe that’s what we are all trying to do. We are all trying to find the new normal for ourselves and our families. That can mean adding a new baby, a loved one passing away, moving to a new city, or ending a relationship. In these major life events, we are all simply seeking happiness and finding the new normal.