Divorce is often talked about in the same terms as a death or tragedy. So many couples end their marriage in a storm of hostility and hurt feelings. Often, the family court system even seems to encourage conflict by pitting each spouse against the other.
There is, however, an amicable alternative. That’s the point divorced Boston father Billy Flynn Gadbois recently made by writing a viral Facebook post about how he woke up early to help his two young sons shower their mother with gifts and affection on her birthday.
The post was picked up by the Love What Matters Facebook page and has been shared more than 200,000 times and received over 22,000 comments.
Gadbois, 36, elaborated about his relationship with his ex in an interview with TODAY.
“We decided early on that we were going to put the effort into co-parenting,” he said. “We just think it’s really important to show each other respect and care in front of the kids. Kids want to take care of their parents, and they can’t do it alone. So if it’s Mother’s Day and the kid doesn’t have anything to give to his mom… that doesn’t feels so great.”
The appreciation is not one-sided, either, as Gadbois’s ex makes sure their sons have Father’s Day presents ready for him each year.
There is a movement starting to gain steam that is attempting to reshape society’s attitudes regarding divorce. Rather than taking sides when a couple splits, each spouse should be supported when they break up and remain friendly.
The benefits to children of divorce would be enormous as such an approach would minimize the parental conflict that is associated with so many negative outcomes.
Of course, breaking up on good terms isn’t always possible. It takes two mature people willing to put their differences and emotions aside for a much greater good. It could be that you have an especially difficult ex and such an arrangement just isn’t feasible.
But Gadbois and other parents are showing that it is possible for divorced parents to maintain a healthy and productive post-divorce relationship, and that it can be beautiful.
In the comments section of Gadbois’s post, thousands of people have shared their own stories of how they’ve maintained friendships in the face of divorce.
Below is a sampling of those testimonies.
“I have an amazing ex husband! He is absolutely one of my best friends.. We have 4 kids together and have always spent holidays, birthdays and any other special occasions together. I moved out of state a year and a half ago with my fiancé .. He is also amazing! My ex stays with us when he comes to town to visit… People think it’s weird.. It may not be ideal, but ALL of us luv those 4 kids more than anything and want nothing more than for them to be happy! That’s what it’s about! And if him staying with us means more time with our kids, then that’s what we’ll do!”
– Mandey Troutman
“It’s my birthday today and my ex came over and made me breakfast in bed with our two boys too. Then we all sat in bed with tea and watched cartoons and we’re about to head out on a walk in the mountains. Nobody felt they could tell us how to run our marriage and now nobody gets to tell us how we run our separation. We are a family, we have to teach our children what being a family looks like. To us, it looks like 4 people who take care of each other and who love each other and the other stuff is just not that big a deal.”
– Jenny Tough
“My ex was always there when I needed him and he still is for our kids and grandkids….we do Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving as a ‘family’ …with our new spouses too. Our grandkids have always thought having three sets of grandparents was normal……I tell you it makes life so much easier for all concerned….”
– Maryellen Bartlett
“BOOM – LOVE this – I get along wonderfully with my ex, and we do stuff for each other, etc, all for the sake of the kids. They have enough to deal with in life, and they don’t any extra stress. My kids are awesome, and i think this is a large part of it.”
– Ken Nelson
“Being divorced does not always mean that you don’t love that person. It is SO important for children to know their parents can be civil, caring, and loving towards one another. By being disrespectful to each other, you are disrespecting your children. The blood that runs through their veins is a wonderful combination of both parents. My children’s dad’s and I maintain a wonderful relationship. This is our gift to the people we brought into this world. Kudos to you!”
– Pamela D Lincoln
“I have followed this exact same path to a tee. Exact same path. And I am grateful that I did. I’ve been divorced for 12 yrs now and have a terrific relationship with my ex-wife. It wasn’t always like that at the beginning, but in time I started looking at things differently. I started off doing it just for our kids, but what I eventually learned was that it also helped me heal as well. My relationship with our kids, my ex-wife, her husband, and their son couldn’t be stronger. Yes, I come from a blended family – which has been difficult for people in my past to understand. But I am happy, content, and I wouldn’t change a thing about my past. It has made me into the man I am today. I did it for my kids, but I am the one who ended up being blessed the most.”
– Doug Stallings
“I don’t think it should matter how much hurt or suffering your ex might have put you through.. our kids should never be made aware of any of it.. in their eyes their parents make up the biggest part of their little worlds and no one should aim to destroy the positive image they have of us.. work together as parents to show our kids as much of a loving family as possible and they will enter their own relationships knowing that love and respect is always there if you work at it.. pay it forward people so that our kids don’t grow up thinking that life if full of disappointment and divorce..”
– Benjamin Andrew Stevenson
“My ex and I are experiencing something we never had when we were married for 17 years: friendship. We were married fairly young (25), and had the first of our 4 incredible sons at 26. We have been apart for nearly 8 years now but are closer than we ever were when we were together. We have those moments where we realize that there’s a reason why we didn’t work as a couple, but I wouldn’t change a thing. She’s a good woman, good friend, and most important, an amazing mom. Sometimes things don’t work out the way you thought they would, but in reality, it works out exactly how it should be.”
– Patrick Hunt