coparenting after divorce when you have kids: why you don't have to hate your ex

Let me start this post by pointing out that, as someone quite recently separated, I don’t have all the answers. However, I can share my personal experience in an attempt to make things easier for other mothers going through something similar.

When we get married and have kids, the last thing we expect is that our marriage will dissipate. I was married pretty young, at just 25, to someone that I considered to be the love of my life. And he was just that: the love of my life. Then. However, as we grew up, we grew apart and realised that we want different things in life.

Separation hurts

There was pain and heartbreak. I felt anger and hatred, but I soon learned some valuable lessons. Is it necessary to hate your ex after a divorce? I think not!

First of all, you’ve separated because there were issues in your relationship. I won’t get personal about our split, but yes, there were irreconcilable differences (as the lawyers like to say). But whether it’s cheating, abuse, or growing apart, the separation is the resolution. Therefore, shouldn’t we forgive?

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There’s no point in hashing out the problems, either individually or with your ex, as you’ve found a solution – no longer being together. Vent away if it heals you, but we need to put the past behind us and move forward at some point. It will only serve us in the long run.

two separate households: coparenting after a divorce: why you don't have to hate your ex

Going through a divorce: think about your kids

The bravest and most selfless thing you can do in a situation like this is to forgive your ex. Forgiveness isn’t about accepting bad behaviour, it’s about giving yourself inner peace. My husband gave me nine magical years and, at the end of the day, I am eternally grateful for those. While there were rocky moments, we grew together, laughed together, and made the most beautiful daughter together. How can I hate the person who gave me a precious gift, my gorgeous girl?

Also, by he and I being amicable and recently starting to find our way back to a friendship, I’m seeing how this already stressful situation is becoming slightly less traumatic for my seven-year-old daughter. I’ve put aside my anger and found a way to have some family time, reassuring my child that she has two parents who love her enough to try to be friends.

I know I’m lucky: we share custody, and my ex is a fantastic father. Even if your ex is a complete (for lack of a better word) a$$, try your best to let go of that seething anger; it will only hurt you. Meditation and exercise have helped me immensely.

Don’t let others colour your perception of your ex

I’ve noticed that when it comes to divorce, everyone around you actually wants you to hate one another. Don’t get me wrong, I know that friends and family are coming from a place of love: this person has hurt you, and they want to protect you. But who does this benefit?

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For a while, my former spouse and I were clouded by other people’s perceptions and the pain of the past, so we would interpret the other’s behaviour with the assumption that they’re intentionally being the worst. But, I eventually put on my big girl pants and asked my ex to sit down. We realised one thing: we’re both just out here trying to survive and adjust to a new normal.

As much as I feel sad, hurt, and sometimes rejected, I’m slowly learning to stand on my own two feet. Separation has shown me that I have a strength I never knew existed. In addition, my marriage gave me the greatest gift in the world: my beautiful 7-year-old daughter teaches me more about living than anyone else has ever.

Thank you, ex-husband, for loving me for so many years, for helping me grow, and for all the fun adventures we had together. I’ll always be grateful for that.

Nicola Date with her daughter
Nicola Date is a writer, designer, and comedian based in Cape Town. After studying a BA (Hons) Dramatic Arts, she's enjoyed a colourful career in theatre and the arts. With COVID as a driving force, Nicola has found her passion as a writer. Her greatest accomplishment is being a single (but co-parenting) mother to her gorgeous 7-year-old girl, the inspiration behind much of her creativity and drive.