I’ve been close to Jayden’s* family for years, and prior to our divorce in 2008, spent many nights bonding with them over good food and good conversation. So I was absolutely crushed when, following one particularly bad argument, he bellowed: ‘You’re no longer part of my family!’
At the time of the divorce, we’d been married seven years, and had two young children. ‘Irreconcilable differences’ was the official reason for the split. But of course, it ran much deeper than that. It was, simply put, an unhappy marriage. First, Jayden drank. His job required him to entertain clients, and things sometimes got out of hand. I was a stay-at-home mum and didn’t know what he was up to when he was out late into the night.
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The more bitter I was about these late nights, the more combative he became. I chided him for his partying ways, while he attacked me with snide remarks, implying that I was not faithful. Our marriage also had a violent streak. Eventually, I wanted out.
But our kids meant I couldn’t just eliminate Jayden from my life. So we worked out an arrangement during the separation, where they’d see him on alternate weeks.
I decided to get a job with flexible hours to support myself. It was difficult enough having to pick up the pieces of my life while working out a routine for my children, and grappling with my new job. I definitely wasn’t willing to let go of my important friendships with Jayden’s cousins just because he and I were no longer married. I’m especially close to Kate*, whom I consider one of my closest friends. She was a pillar of support during the tough times.
Together with a group of mutual friends, we would meet for drinks to let off steam. Jayden wasn’t having it. Whenever he spotted pictures of us on social media having a night out, he would text Kate in a fury, demanding that she stop hanging out with me. I struggled to keep the peace, and pleaded with him to leave Kate and his other cousins out of it. To their credit, they refused to take sides.
My relationship with Jayden was purely functional at first. Our interactions were mostly terse encounters when I dropped the kids off at his place, or when we met at family functions. We made it a point to always be civil. Nonetheless, I knew he still said nasty things about me to his family and our mutual friends.
The turning point in our relationship came in 2009, when my father died. As an only child, it was my responsibility to handle the funeral. I had so much to take care of, I knew I needed Jayden to be there for the children. When I told him about my dad, he was full of concern.
Jayden stayed with me throughout the wake. With the children in his care, I could focus on the funeral. He gently explained to them what had happened to their grandfather and what was going on. He braved awkward conversations with my family. He even acknowledged Owen, who was my new boyfriend at that time, and the man I would eventually marry. I realised then that despite our rocky history, he was someone I could count on. Things improved from that point, and we kept each other up to speed with phone calls and text messages. When we dropped the kids off at each other’s places, we sometimes stopped to have a chat too.
There were still occasional clashes, like at times when Owen disciplined the children. Jayden would hear of it and call me, furious that I was letting Owen yell at our son. Time and again, I had to reassure Jayden he wasn’t being replaced, so that our fragile and newly-budding relationship could continue to thrive.
It would be a long time before our issues, especially the tension between Owen and Jayden, would be resolved. It was on my daughter’s birthday last year that things changed. Jayden decided to throw a big birthday bash for her, and everybody was invited, including me and Owen. With a little help from the festive atmosphere, Jayden and Owen had a bit of a breakthrough, and were laughing together by the end of the night.
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Since then, things have been better. We get together with Jayden and his family at birthdays and Christmas. I still see Kate regularly, and once in a while, Jayden brings his girlfriend over to our place. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
If Jayden and I didn’t have kids, would we be where we are now? Probably not. It took a lot of work for us to become friends. But the fact remains that, apart from Owen, no one understands me better than Jayden. And that’s not easy to let go of. We’ve seen each other at our worst – how often can you say that about someone, and still want to be friends with them?
*Names have been changed.
This article was originally published in the September 2017 issue of Her World magazine.