It’s been an event-filled summer here, one filled with big changes and big feelings, and things have finally settled enough emotionally for me to feel at ease with writing about it.
A couple of months ago, my husband and I decided to split up. It’s a decision that’s been a long time coming, and perhaps because of the length of time it took for us to come to this resolution, there was a feeling of inevitability to it for both of us. And, perhaps because we have each grieved in our own ways through the past four or five years as we continually tried to repair our failing relationship, we find ourselves able to proceed amicably.
We’re also moving into our separate new beginnings in a different way than most divorcing couples. We have always homeschooled our 12-year-old son, Dylan, together, and neither of us want our divorce to affect this. We want to co-parent, and we also want to ease this traumatic time in his life as best as we can.
While we aren’t any good at being a couple, at being life partners, our relationship status doesn’t change the fact that we’ll both continue to be Dylan’s parents. So we’re choosing to explore an alternative post-separation living arrangement, one that’s very uncertain, one we know will be filled with all manner of challenges. Still, it feels like an alternative we need to try, one we want to try.
So, in addition to ending our marriage, we’ve decided to try living separately and apart, but under the same roof. Thanks to the generosity of a dear friend of mine, next month we will be moving into a much larger place, a space that has room enough for each of us to have our own “mini-apartments” at opposite ends.
Our new separate mini-apartments are small, but there is room enough for us to have our own bedrooms, our own living areas, our own bathrooms. We will share a kitchen. Dylan will be able to go back and forth between our separate places as he pleases, and while we will each have individual responsibility for him on alternating days, we will both be able to homeschool him on a daily basis. And we will try doing a family activity, the three of us, on Sundays.
While such an arrangement is unusual, it’s one people have tried and are trying, although not always with success. There’s even a name for it: a modified bird’s nest arrangement. After we began exploring this idea, I found a book (I always do, don’t I?) called Reconciliable Differences: Marriages End, Families Don’t, in which author Cate Cochran writes about ten divorced relationships, including her own, in which the former partners embarked on a similar post-separation living arrangement. It was an eye-opening read for both of us, showing us what’s possible, and spelling out clearly and succinctly the many challenges we will be facing.
We both recognize that this arrangement may not work out in the long-term—there are just too many variables, too many potential obstacles that might arise. But we’re both committed to giving it a try.
So. Endings, but definitely a new beginning, too.
A few weeks ago I came across this post from Brainpickings on David Whyte reading from his poem “The Journey”; Whyte had written the poem for a friend who was in the process of ending a relationship. The final lines of the poem really resonated with me:
You are not leaving.
Even as the light fades quickly now,
you are arriving.
I am arriving. That is the hope and the potential that fills me right now, alongside the grief and sadness I feel at the ending of this long-term relationship.