“Mom, is Dad your friend?” she asked without notice or context as she sat next to me in the car. “What…? Like Facebook friends?” I responded quickly to buy some time for a second to process how best to handle this query. To be truthful, I had never really thought about it.
We didn’t start out as friends. We started out as dating. Then we were spouses. Now we are exes. Ultimately our relationship failed. In the twelve years we were together, we never experienced the lightness and careless independence of being friends. I can go months without seeing or talking to some of my very best friends and the relationship is never impaired. With my former spouse, we were committed and constant from the beginning.
When we divorced, as with most breakups, we stopped knowing about each other. Our interactions were defined by and narrowed to our children. As most divorced parents know, it is a strange dynamic to end the once most important relationship of your life with all that entails, and remain connected by the most important people in your life.
In a perfect world I would have been able to easily say “yes!” when my daughter asked me if her dad and I were friends. But it isn’t easy. Our relationship is not what I consider a friendship. At times it is tense and terse when we do not see eye-to-eye on a parenting decision as we now operate out of two different households with different goals. Other times, it is softer when we see our daughters experiencing major milestones and we puff up together with parent pride. Most of the time we are on a teeter-totter in between having to make decisions together about our children without context to the other person’s life or perspective any longer.
I wish my former spouse and I were friends. I wish the inevitable distance that was created by our divorce didn’t define our relationship now. But it does. So instead I choose to focus on what our relationship is. It is a unique connection created by our children. I focus on the gratitude in my heart. Our relationship was not a failure because it brought us our children.