“A few days ago, I had my decree absolute posted through the door; my divorce was official.
“It hasn’t been easy for me to write (or share) this, but it’s something I feel I need to do in the hope that it may help other children and families.
“I never expected my marriage to end in divorce. But, it has.
“When we separated, I went through a lot of heartache. It hurt, a lot. The image of how I felt my family should look (and how I wanted it to be) was completely shattered.”
“I found it so difficult having to share my daughter. It was only one day and night a week at first, but in those times I was lost and I was lonely.
“I wondered what she was doing: Was she okay? Did she need me? I felt like I’d not only failed at my marriage but that I’d let her down somehow.
“I spent those first few weeks after she was picked up sitting in the dark, not really moving from the sofa until she came home.
“My own parents separated when I was a little girl and I grew up without my ‘Dad’ in my life.
“I didn’t want this for my daughter. I knew how painful this had been for me and I was determined to hold our family unit together, whether we were together as a couple or not.”
“So, we decided we would still do things together as a family.
“We went out on day trips, spent her birthday/special occasions together, went out for dinner, pre-school events etc. But then, for a short time, I really struggled seeing her dad and spending time together.
“I’d get really upset afterwards and so, for my sanity, I needed it to stop.
“I asked if I could drop my daughter off and pick her up from his parents’ house for a while so I didn’t have to see him.*
“We still spoke on the phone and things were amicable (they always have been), I just needed that headspace for a while.
“My daughter started to notice he hadn’t been around and that we hadn’t been spending any time together.
“One afternoon I’d left her with the paint downstairs, and when I got out of the shower, I found her painting this rainbow and a picture of our family on the wall.”
* Their daughter still saw her dad, but Dutton and her ex took some time apart, where they didn’t see each other in person.
“Her dad (the blue one in the picture) had been painted with a sad face, and when I asked her why she’d drawn him that way she said, ‘His face is sad because he’s not in our family anymore and I know he makes you feel sad.’ She said it with so much hurt and sadness in her little voice that it was a real turning point for me.
“I knew from that moment on that whatever happened in the future between me and her Dad that we had to always be a family for her; we had to stick together.”
“This wasn’t going to be easy, there was a lot to forgive.
“But, I had to let my anger and sadness toward him go, for the sake of our daughter and for the sake of my happiness, so we were all smiling under that rainbow.
“I’d lost part of myself in this whole process. I’d forgotten how to love myself. I felt I wasn’t worthy. I felt like a failure.
“But I’m grateful for my struggle, it’s where I found my strength.
“Some people told me it would be impossible for us to ever be friends and to be truly at peace with each other.
“Well, it was possible and it is possible, and it’s never too late to make peace.
“This doesn’t mean we have to forget the things people do that have hurt us, but we can forgive them. We make that choice and we can choose kindness.
“Life is too short and too beautiful to stay angry, or to sit in the dark.”
“Over the last two years, we have slowly rebuilt our relationship and as parents (and friends) we are stronger than ever for our daughter. It makes it so much easier for everyone.
“We speak on the phone most days, share her achievements, laugh at her funny moments, and support each other in those tricky times too.
“My daughter has us both there when she needs us and when she wants us; her first day at school, at school plays, assemblies, parents evenings, on birthdays, and at parties, and well, just because…
“Because she wants us both to see her ride her bike, because she wants us both to push her on the swing, and because she wants us both to read her a story.
“Because we’re both her parents.”
“Our separation (and now divorce) doesn’t need to be the end of her family.
“I never want there to be a time or a place where we can’t be together for our daughter. She deserves that. She is an absolute delight and she brightens up both of our lives; her Dad and I adore her.
“I don’t sit on the sofa in the dark when she goes anymore. I still feel sad sometimes (although, I sometimes rejoice in the alone time, too). It’s not perfect, but I’m grateful we have the relationship where we are all still connected.
“The rainbow still features prominently on my living room wall. It’s a constant reminder to stay strong for our daughter, for our family.
“And if you look closely at the picture, you’ll see we’re all now smiling.”
If you’re impressed with Dutton’s powerful words, please check out Relax Kids Tamworth to learn more and don’t forget to SHARE with friends and family.