‘They’re just better at being best friends,’ my daughter interjected. We’re still a family, just not a couple.’: Mom shares parenting journey through divorce

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“I knew my marriage was over the moment I stopped caring.

We were arguing—and not dramatic, cursing with raised voices—we mastered the art of ‘talk’ arguing so our kids didn’t hear us. But I remember sitting on my bed thinking, ‘I’m done, I can’t, and I don’t want to be his wife anymore.’

mom and dad taking a nice picture together
Courtesy of Delilah Diaz

I love him so much, and he is my best friend, but somewhere along the way, I gradually pulled away as his wife. We were partners, raised our kids together, did all the family things…that was never an issue. As a matter of fact, we thrive when we do family things because we really enjoy hanging out with our kids. They are 9 and 13, and so fun to be around. They can be outspoken but thoughtful, have outbursts but also have the best sense of humor and comedic timing (they did not get that from me).

The ‘how’s, ‘why’s, and ‘what happened’s that got us to this point aren’t important right now, and it’s too difficult to summarize 16 years of life with someone. What’s important is that we really fought for our marriage. We started our first round of marriage counseling 7 or 8 years ago between his deployments. We did all the exercises too: ‘write about when you first met,’ ‘what did you like about each other?’ ‘what is your love language?’ ‘what is your partner’s love language?’ ‘don’t use ‘you always’ statements but instead try…’

woman taking a selfie with her husband
Courtesy of Delilah Diaz

We met at transitional points in our lives: he just finished AIT and jumped back into college to finish his BA; I had lost someone special to me—my grandmother—a month before I met him, and after a series of failed relationships, meeting him was like a breath of fresh air. It seemed like my life was fast forward since then. We got married, started having kids, and we’re still figuring ourselves out as individuals while trying to be partners.

Some of that time feels like a blur to me, I became a stay-at-home mom and occasionally felt like I was going through the motions of parenting and marriage. I can only imagine his struggles; he was providing for his wife and two kids and navigating a military career as an officer.

Prior to his second deployment, our marriage was already on the rocks, so a few months after he came back, after a very challenging year apart, we filed for divorce.

During that time, our son had recently been diagnosed with mild-moderate Autism Spectrum Disorder and was set to start ABA therapy 5 days a week, 3 hours a day.

selfie with family
Courtesy of Delilah Diaz

I was there for therapy in the mornings and in the evenings, I went to school for my cosmetology license. By the time I got home, the kids were asleep. It was during this time when our roles shifted and we both were trying to be better not just for our kids but for ourselves, that we reconciled. I wanted to try again, because, despite everything, I felt like I was losing my best friend, and that scared me. I graduated from my program, got my Cosmetology license, and about two years since his deployment, after marriage and individual counseling, we renewed our vows.

It was a beautiful service, with our son and daughter standing in as best man and maid of honor. Our two high school friends stood as our bridesmaid and groomsman. We wrote our own vows, for a portion of his he had me repeat a verse in Gaelic, which I wish he had warned me about so I could have practiced, but I can’t help but smile when I think about it now, and how special that verse is to me. I remember telling him, in part of my vows, ‘being loved by you is a gift that I cherish,’ and I still do.

I wish I could say that it was smooth sailing from there, it was for a while. We were busy with our careers and juggling the kids’ schedules. We rarely made time for just the two of us but always prioritized the four of us. I can’t say it was one specific thing that broke us, rather a gradual progression, drifting apart as individuals but holding on as partners in parenting. That was probably the worst feeling for me, knowing I still love this person so much, that we built a life together with our kids, but we can’t be the partners we each need to be for each other. I knew I couldn’t be a wife to him anymore, but I was so scared of losing my best friend.

We broke it to the kids after Christmas last year. We agreed on what we would say and how much we would share with them. So here we are, in the living room, telling the kids how much we love them and how we will always be a family. I started to get emotional, so their dad jumped in, reiterated what I said, and told them we were getting divorced, that we were breaking up. I waited for the waterworks, but they never came. My daughter, the 13-year-old, said, ‘I kinda figured. So what happened?’ I told her she was too young to know everything right now, that it had nothing to do with them but had to do with us.

renewal of vows family picture
Courtesy of Delilah Diaz

My son said, ‘But the wedding was beautiful,’ which we all agreed with, and we told him we still loved each other, we’re still a family, just not a couple. My daughter interjected, ‘They’re just better at being best friends.’ My son, as though that’s all he needed to make it clear, said, ‘Oooh, okay.’ When my son understood that he would have two bedrooms, that seemed exciting to him, and his primary concern was that I didn’t install security cameras, because he hates the ones at the house. My daughter came into my room, we smiled at each other, I asked her if she was okay, and she said yes. She asked, ‘Are you okay?’ I replied, ‘Yes,’ and in her best Tiffany Haddish impression, she said, ‘You got this girl.’ I laughed, then she asked me if she could have my wedding ring and took off with it.

Since it takes 6 months to finalize a divorce in CA and we get along so well, we decided to stay roommates until everything is settled. It gives us the opportunity to get our finances situated while the divorce is pending.  We have established a schedule: Mondays and Tuesdays are my days with the kids, I’m responsible for dinner and after-school activities, and he can make plans for himself knowing I have the kids. He has Wednesdays and Thursdays. We alternate Friday and Saturday. Sunday is family day. It’s important to us that the kids feel loved and they know we’re a team. That they know we can still be good to each other even though we are no longer a couple. When it comes to dating, we have agreed to keep it to ourselves, and if it becomes serious, we must be with that person at least 6 months before we bring them around the kids.

We are gradually changing things around the house. A wall full of family pictures surrounding a tree has been replaced with an ocean canvas, which will be surrounded by canvas pics of the kids at the beach, their favorite place. Initially, my son was upset when he first saw it: he said he hated the beach. We expected that and gave him his space to grieve. After a few days, he said, ‘I guess I like it.’ My daughter has said, ‘It’s kinda sad that the house is changing, this is my childhood home.’ I told her I understand, and I’m sorry this is happening, to which my daughter replied, ‘That’s okay, things change.’

woman taking fun selfie with her family
Courtesy of Delilah Diaz

Our kids have had the space and safety to express their sadness: we don’t tell them they’re wrong, we just tell them we’re sorry. On the flip side, when we’re driving around town, my daughter says, ‘You should get a house here!’ or, ‘Mom! We should decorate your house like this.’ She is also planning what she wants to take from her dad’s house to mine. On New Year’s day, the kids and I went to walk a nearby trail, my son said, ‘Dad’s not coming? Oh, that’s right, you broke up,’ then we went about our day, and he didn’t bring it or him up again.

The kids still participate in their extracurricular activities and are maintaining their grades. As of right now, this hasn’t affected their performances outside of the home other than their ‘normal’ defiant behaviors of kids their age.

As of right now, the most challenging thing about this is outside opinions. People assume they know us or know what’s best for us.  They compare us to past versions of ourselves, assuming they know the ‘how’s and ‘why’s of our lives. We are selective about who we let in on this journey. We each have people we can vent to about challenges, and they give us the space to navigate without judgment. I am grateful for them. We also tell our kids they have the freedom to discuss their feelings and frustrations with people they choose and trust. It doesn’t have to be us.

dad taking picture with his kids on horse
Courtesy of Delilah Diaz

After everything we have been through in the last 16 years…it has been a lot…too much to summarize here…I can honestly say I am so proud of us. We loved hard, fought hard. We were heartbroken and scared….we were angry…we forgave. And to survive all of that and not be friends after wasn’t really an option for either one of us. We mourn the marriage we lost but continue to support each other as individuals; we have gone through too much not to. Even though I’m giving up my husband, I get to keep my best friend; I can’t express what a blessing that is.

For a man that doesn’t believe in quitting, he described us beautifully, he said, ‘I don’t see it as we’re waving a white flag. I see it as we’re on the stage, taking a final bow.’ We gave it our all, but our time has come to an end. I don’t know what’s to come as we get to know ourselves as individuals again, but I have faith in our family. I have faith in our love for our kids and our respect for each other. My hope is that if people in our situation can really see and appreciate each other’s struggles in their marriage and not just their own, then maybe they can exit with grace…maybe they can learn to love through a different lens, of friendship and support.”

family selfie
Courtesy of Delilah Diaz

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Delilah Diaz. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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