couples

'Neither of us were angels, but this is how we had a good divorce.'

My divorce is a good one. Or at least that’s what my friends say. More importantly, it’s what my children say.

Although they suffered greatly from the uncoupling of their two favourite people, we spared them the extra pain of seeing their parents scrapping it out like a pair of seagulls over a hot chip.

Why do two people who have shared so much, loved so intensely, then tear each other down in a fight for the ‘spoils’ – money, property or, indeed, the children.

Cathy and Craig. Image: supplied.

In a world where 50 per cent of marriages don't make it to 'till death do us part', we need to be realistic about how to end it without causing more unnecessary pain to those who we love, and have loved.

I met Craig when I was 17. He was already an apprentice carpenter and I was in my final years at school and completing my HSC. We met through friends and shared all the typical Sydney teenager things to do. Days at the beach, nights at the pub, drank too much, went to nightclubs, and smoked some pot. We went away on weekends, North Coast in the summer and snowfields in the winter.

Craig was a kind and thoughtful man, loving and affectionate, but also a man's man. Everyone liked Craig. He was a 'good bloke' who also turned out to be a good husband and an amazing father.

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We were soul mates. We knew everything about each other; our hopes, dreams, backgrounds, vices, fears, past stories ... everything. There was rarely a doubt that we would be together forever.

We married in 1990 at the age of 24. Four years later, our daughter was born and two years later, a son. Our life was complete.

When it all unravelled 17 years later, it was devastating. A combination of factors created a perfect storm of turmoil in me, and it could only be settled by ending my marriage. A husband who drank excessively, an overbearing mother-in-law and a wife who had never really found her feet before marrying her rock, meant for me the only way was out.

Craig and Cathy. Image: supplied.

I'm not saying it all went smoothly, because it didn't - but why would two people who had loved, trusted and shared so much suddenly tear each other apart?

There was barely a discussion about the children. Craig had always been a very hands-on dad, always making the effort to be home in time to spend time with the kids. If that meant he got up at the crack of dawn to go to the gym or swimming, he would. He would never give up time with the kids to do something for himself if he could help it. So joint parenting 50/50 was immediately the option.

In the early painful weeks, I agreed for him to have the kids as I knew he would need them with him to get through.
I would drop them off and drive with tear-stained cheeks to a friend's place. She would meet me at her door with a hug and a bottle of wine. I would sob through the first glass and by the second she would have me smiling again.

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We argued a little over property and money, mainly because I discovered some poor choices had been made regarding our money. I vowed never to allow someone else to control my financial future again.

Cathy and Craig. Image: supplied.

At the time, I had a female lawyer who made Judge Judy look like Mother Theresa. She wanted no less than to take everything Craig and I owned, and give it all to me. This horrified me as she had no concern for his welfare whatsoever. I told her to cancel the forensic accountant she had already enlisted to trawl through his family owned business to find evidence of its higher value, and I worked out a figure that would allow me to be comfortable while I worked myself up to a better earning level, and would allow him to carry on his business and build his wealth again.

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It all comes down to respect for one another. If you maintain respect for each other as the person you have known and loved, regardless of what they have done, you will manage to keep the correct goal in site.

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Another word I kept in the forefront of my mind was 'motive'. I kept myself in check by asking "what is my motive here?”

"Why am I doing this?”

"Am I trying to achieve something positive or am I just being a bitch?“.

Craig, Cathy and their children. Image: supplied.

By applying these questions I avoided a few unnecessary, nasty conflicts.

Thankfully, one of us was always the grownup. I admit it wasn't always me. Sometimes it was Craig, but thank God it was someone.

When I was being a spoilt petulant child, he would be the calm voice of reason. When he was flexing his muscles and quoting his mates' beer-infused advice, I was calm and logical. Even now, six years later, when the wound is almost healed and the children have adjusted, we still have to keep our emotions in check.

There are family gatherings, weddings, christenings, engagements, funerals, birthdays, in our future. Because we make the effort every day to remember to the respect we have for each other and the love we share for our children, those occasions - which could have been filled with bitterness and discomfor- will now be filled with love and laughter.

Have you had a 'good divorce?' Let us know in the comments.

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