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A marriage ends, but a family does not

After 17 years of marriage, my husband and I are divorcing.

It isn't that much of a shock to those close to us. We've been dealing with some serious issues, and although we held out hope, deep down I believe we knew it was inevitable.

The kids have been our main concern. The teenagers are at a pivotal point in life, and we've tried to help them navigate through this. But the unfortunate truth is that no one makes it through life unscathed.

Since announcing the divorce, we've made some basic mistakes that any entry-level family therapist immediately would tell you to avoid. But even though we didn't succeed at marriage, we've always been best friends. We were able to sit down objectively and look at what we were doing to our family.

At the outset, we decided to put our emotions and pain aside and be a cohesive unit. Ironically, we are a stronger force separate than we ever were together.

We don't let the kids pit us against each other. They can't call the parent they aren't with when they don't get their way. We don't bad-mouth the other parent. When one of the kids gets angry at us, we immediately try to shut it down. We can't prevent the emotion, but we can ensure we don't allow any negative talk about us as parents.

We now live separately and endure a staggering amount of planning, packing and organizing to make visits work. The kids are of the age where they can decide where they want to be. We share them 50/50. So far, aside from a few hiccups, so good.

I don't feel that we failed. Both of us made many mistakes over our 17 years, and with that comes pain, baggage and resentment. Resentment leads to presumptuous actions and punitive reactions.

Raising kids is tough. You have to maintain your own identity and meet your spouse's expectations while guiding your little people to become who they are destined to be.

My husband and I lost who we were. We played the blame game and no one won. I'm sad that we didn't make it, but when I look back at what we accomplished and how long we did make it, I smile. We brought three amazingly beautiful people into this world. We showed them how to act and pitfalls to avoid.

I have no regrets. I married a good man 17 years ago. He taught me a great deal about life and myself. I attribute much of who I am to him. We may not have made it to the rocking chair years, but we lived a charmed life. And we essentially groomed each other to be better for our next partners.

I'm thankful to have had the fortunate life I was given — the good, the bad, the ugly. I believe everything happens for a reason. This can't be cause for exception. I am full of gratitude toward him for working with me in the best interest of the kids. I'm hopeful that in time, our children will understand why this had to happen.

Hopefully, they will be proud one day of the example we set for them in marriage.

And divorce.

It's easy to lash out. It's more difficult to set aside the differences and the need to be right.

On Sunday, my daughter celebrated her birthday, and he offered to cook dinner for the family, me included. It's nice to be able to show the kids, albeit not 100 percent of the time, how to act like adults. I can see that it affects how they're adapting to all of the changes.

I know that many of you are going through this. Try to see and feel things through the eyes and hearts of your kids. Kids are smart and perceptive. They know when things aren't quite right. The greatest gift you can give your kids during a divorce is likely the side of you they haven't seen.

Divorce actually requires more effort than the marriage did. Save your energy and pick your battles.

Heather Tempesta is a Brandon mother of two boys, 16 and 9, and a girl, 14. She balances a full-time job with youth football, cheerleading and high school football activities, all while serving as a part-time CFO, maid, chef, chauffeur and ATM.

A marriage ends, but a family does not 01/31/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 6:17pm]
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