CHRISTMAS is a time of reflection. And when I do this, I reflect that I chose my three husbands rather well.
You might say that because things didn’t work out, that the choices weren’t optimum. That they were bad — or I was.
But for me, it’s not so much about the quality of the duration of a marriage, but rather how things end.
With all of us living longer and choosing multiple partners during our lifetime, it is inevitable relationships finish, it’s just a fact of life.
And in some circumstances it may not matter how things end, but it really does when there are children involved.
I’m not going to pretend it was all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.
The very first Christmas I spent apart from my first husband — a mere two months after my marriage came to an end — I had to bite the bullet and let my ex have our son.
I’d been unfaithful and guilt definitely got the better of me.
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Our son was just over a year old and I spent that Christmas alone. It was painful, but it felt like the right and reasonable thing to do.
After that we shared our darling boy over Christmases, which we do to this day.
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In the very early days, some Christmases were spent together, then after that we divided our time with him. He is now 27.
We gradually found our way towards compromise and a Yuletide respect, of sorts.
With my second husband, we spent that first Christmas after our split together, to show a united front.
It was difficult, but also easy as long as we kept our daughter at the forefront of our minds.
Nowadays we alternate who she is with at Christmas.
Sometimes there are tweaks and minor changes, but we do not unreasonably withhold “permission” for each other because we want what is best for our girl.
I’m so grateful for that.
That takes the will and selflessness of both parents, which is something that can never be taken for granted.
And I still spend Christmas with my third husband.
We’ve been divorced some three and a half years but we have a good working relationship.
We co-parent well and I want us to still be together as a family on high days and holidays because — well — because, quite frankly, there is no reason not to.
This situation has never felt difficult.
We celebrate a big Swedish Christmas Eve together. I crack on with the food and my ex helps out with decorations and sorting the kids’ stockings’.
We’ve both been so focused on what is right for the children but it’s also been possible because things have been amicable.
We celebrate a big Swedish Christmas Eve together. I crack on with the food and my ex helps out with shifting furniture, decorations and sorting the kids’ stockings.
Then we spend Christmas morning together opening presents.
Then I chain myself to the sink and the oven while he chills out with the kids.
It’s a balance that worked while we were married and nothing has really changed.
So, in the run-up to this so-called “festive” season, the division of children between you and your ex has most likely been a hot subject.
It couldn’t be more pertinent.
Some of you will spend Saturday with your arms around your little or big ones, enjoying a united festive period largely untouched by the demise of a previous relationship with an ex you no longer want in your life.
Others, less fortunate, will be separated from your kids, being forced to endure Christmas Day apart from them because it is the ex’s turn.
Or because you aren’t allowed to see them.
Or simply because this time of year really does bring out the worst in people and you have discovered there has been no civil way of working out a way to “share” the products of a once successful relationship.
Compromise can be very thin on the ground, especially when you’re dealing with someone you may have chosen to break away from.
In the run-up to this so-called 'festive' season, the division of children between you and your ex has most likely been a hot subject.
Or they broke away from you.
I have friends doing both this Christmas.
Forced to be apart from the children they love due to stubborn exes, making this period feel significantly more painful and lonely.
Others sharing the big day with as much acrimony and bitterness as when the relationship ended.
Throughout my life I’ve always found it amusing that many men have seemed as wary of marriage as they are of the bubonic plague, always joking about it and living in fear of marriage and its commitment.
Historically, they’ve seen it as a ball and chain, something that weighs them down and signifies the end of their brilliant, independent lives.
And yet, what they have conveniently and completely ignored is that having a child with someone represents so much more than that.
Marriage may be for months, years, possibly even a decade or more, if you’re unlucky.
A child is for ever.
The link you are forced to have with someone when you share a child is unbreakable, resistant and unyielding — you are bonded and united by something far stronger than a band of gold around your finger and those statutory papers.
That bond may be pure joy when you, together, are preparing to bring a child into the world — that knowledge that you will forever be glued together via genes, biology and personality.
But that joy quickly turns into a nightmare when you are forced to separate as a couple due to incompatibility or, quite simply, because your love tank ran out.
Marriage may be for months, years, even a decade or more if you’re unlucky. A child is forever. The link you are forced to have with someone when you share a child is unbreakable.
Tension builds, communication breaks down and becomes fraught and the whole situation is hugely exacerbated by animosity, belligerence and a drawn-out battle for control over the children.
Fact is, it takes two to make a child and it takes two to compromise.
I have, without doubt, found it the trickiest tightrope to walk in my life — and I’ve had to walk it three times.
Four children but only three active fathers.
Fundamentally, I guess I have been rather lucky. And skilful.
The luck has largely come from a desire by both parties in my marriages to make the best of a dissolution because there are children at the centre of what we once represented.
There has been — for the most part — a maturity and under-standing that just as there will for ever be children, God willing, there will for ever be Christmases, and we must go on sharing them and compromising ad infinitum.
I think, if ever there was a skill bestowed on me, it was the reminder to always put the child or children first.
I have always had an ability to understand that our kids are so often collateral damage from heartbreak and an inability to go on living together.
Kids are forced to skirt the sidelines of a battle between two adults who are so consumed by hurt, anger and disappointment that it is quite easy to forget that you were once united in producing these wonderful creatures.
I have also been lucky with my exes in this respect.
I can’t deny there hasn’t been anger and heartache, and there were times when contact and conversation was beyond tricky and a brighter day seemed almost impossible to consider.
Hope, after all, is all we have in difficult times.
I think we all had the children at the very forefront of our hearts and minds.
I understand my situation is rare.
I know I am quite blessed in this regard.
But even if it’s rare, it is entirely possible. And hopeful.
Hope, after all, is all we have in difficult times.
I am acutely aware that my situation with my recent ex-husband will change.
At some point, one of us might meet a new partner we may want to have by our side on Christmas Day.
I have no idea how that will fit into our big family puzzle of arrangements and I don’t know how that will feel.
But I’m a realist, and accept that there will have to be new compromises and plans and I might not like them as much as I like things now.
We will cross that bridge together when we come to it.
I reckon if we’ve got this far without spitting fire at each other, I’m hopeful we will find our way to a “new normal”.
Because, fundamentally, as hard as it may be sometimes, I always have to remind myself that I must always love my children more than I might dislike any of my exes.
And this is the season of goodwill, after all.
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