Family is a word that encompasses so much, yet doesn’t begin to capture the complexities of the relationships within. When you go through a divorce, you can’t help thinking about family, what it used to look like, what it looks like now, what it will look like in the future. The communicating, the navigating of feelings, the new people brought in or not brought in, new names, new definitions. It can be overwhelming and seem completely impossible. And yet, if no one gives up, if you continue fighting, a breakthrough starts, so slowly at first it seems like one is imagining it. And then you arrive at a new normal, still working through issues as they appear, but more settled.
I am lucky in a sense that this is even an option for me. I realize that for many divorced couples, the best that can be accomplished is a polite and cordial relationship. And even that may be beyond what can be achieved. I am not saying that this was easy to come by, far from it. I had to get over a mountain of pain, hurt and anger to get here. And Brian had his own demons to wrestle with.
But we are still a family, a family of three. We may add other people to this mix as time goes on, it may change shape or it may disappear altogether. I’ve stopped assuming what the future holds. A major life event can do that to you. But I love Brian and always will. He has been my best friend for the better part of two decades and I cannot bring myself to throw that huge a part of my life away. Our relationship will never be what it was before and that is how it should be, though I still get sad about that from time to time. But we are creating together what this new iteration of Melissa and Brian’s story is. I know that I am seen as a fool or idiot by some and that we are confusing or too much to deal with for others. But my daughter is the beneficiary of her parents not just being cordial or being solely co-parents, though we are that, but true friends and family. And I am a beneficiary as well. I keep my best friend, my family for so long, as part of my present. I may lose potential romantic partners because of this and that is fine. When your life gets blown up, you get to choose what the rebuilt version looks like. Our family unit, different, but still intact, is too important for me to sacrifice.
When you divorce, the extended families are affected as well, thrown into confusion and forced to pick sides, especially when one or both of the former spouses get into a new relationship. There is no side to pick, there never was. The only side is Madeline’s. Was there bad stuff that went down? Yes, there was. Was it forgiven by the parties involved? Yes, it was. My personal hope is that anyone that enters Brian’s life will become a friend, to me and to Madeline and vice versa. But that is each person’s decision. I hope that someday the whole family will be healed. But I can’t force that as much as I would want to.
We are an unconventional family, a unique one to say the least. But one of the things that I am most proud of in my 43 years is what we have rebuilt from the ashes. It will stand as one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. It will continue to be hard from time to time, contentious, frustrating and painful. But it will also continue to be imperfectly beautiful, loving and as weird as we all are. The Ball family has been battered and bruised, but we’re still standing.