Endings, and A New Beginning

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.

17 thoughts on “Endings, and A New Beginning

  1. Kay

    Ah, Belle, I was afraid this might be what was going on as you shared a little bit over the past weeks. Sounds like you guys have pondered and considered and communicated about your decisions. I wish all of you the best as you explore new avenues and new ways of living and being. Take care and good luck. And hugs. Changes are hard.

    Reply
  2. Stephanie Faris

    Oh wow. I’m so sorry to hear this but I very much admire the way you guys are handling things. Having been through a divorce myself, I know how difficult it can be, especially when children are involved. Sending lots of positive vibes your way in the hopes it will help you find strength.

    Reply
  3. Suey

    Good luck with everything! I have a feeling you guys can totally do this if anyone can. :) You know I’m here whenever should the need for venting (or whatever else) arises. :)

    Reply
  4. Melissa F.

    These significant life transitions are always difficult, but I am so impressed at how much thought and compassion you have both put into this. (I realize that probably sounds odd, because we only know each other through book blogging.) This new arrangement sounds like something that more families in similar situations could benefit from doing. Dylan is lucky to have both of you as his parents. I wish you only the very best as you move forward into this new life.

    Reply
  5. Megan M.

    I’m sorry to hear that. I think it’s great that you’re at least willing to try this living arrangement for your son’s sake. Good luck, Belle!

    Reply
  6. bermudaonion (Kathy)

    I suspected this as well and I’m sorry to hear this. We had divorced friends who didn’t live together but lived very close to each other and did a wonderful job raising their boys. I’m sure y’all can make this work!

    Reply
  7. Care

    {{{{hugs}}}} Sounds challenging; you sound open and ready and mature about it all and that is — I want to say admirable? refreshing? maybe not for me to pick the ‘right’ words to say. Know that I do want to give you support and encouragement and friendship.

    Reply
  8. Athira

    {{{HUGS}}} I had no idea and was wondering about you a lot over the past few weeks since I hadn’t seen you on the blog much. Sending you plenty of good wishes and hoping that you will be able to make this work. I love how you guys worked this out and will be keeping you all in my thoughts.

    Reply
  9. Vasilly

    You are arriving, Belle. It sounds like you guys really thought about all of this. It’s awesome the sacrifices that you and your ex are willing to make for Dylan. I hope everything works out. Sending you a million hugs.

    Reply
  10. Teddyree

    I’m so sorry you are going through this Belle but in this new beginning you have focused on your son and your openness in trying something a little different says so much about you and your ex. Warm hugs as you find your way.

    Reply
  11. jenn aka the picky girl

    I’m so sorry to hear this, Belle. I do think, though, that even if your new arrangement doesn’t work long term, Dylan will appreciate this at some point in his life – that you guys respected one another enough and loved him enough to give it a try.

    And what an interesting book. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  12. Darlene

    Sorry I haven’t been around much lately and even more sorry to hear about what has been going on for you. It’s a lot to deal with – the ending of something that was once so big in your life. I really admire what you’re doing though. Putting your son first is such an amazing thing to do and I really hope the arrangement you all have works. Hugs to you.

    Reply
  13. Becca

    I thought this might be what was bothering you, Belle. I’m sorry for your loss. The new arrangement sounds interesting and promising, though, especially since it was an amicable split. Even if it proves to be challenging in the future, it still will make for an easier adjustment for Dylan. I commend you for giving this a try. I know someone who is in a similar situation, only we did not know there was a name for it.

    Reply
  14. Joy Weese Moll (@joyweesemoll)

    Hugs! The book that helped me most during my divorce was Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends by Bruce Fisher. Lots of helpful insights.

    Good luck with the new arrangement. That is a very cool and interesting thing to try. Very much in the spirit of Big Magic, in fact.

    Reply

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