The Ex’s Perspective on Happily Divorced

For those of you who do not have the book, you may not be aware that Ian’s dad, my ex-husband Bob Harlow wrote the foreword for it. I thought it was important for my readers to know that this is more than just my account of our experience as co-parents.

In his foreword, Bob talks about how me writing this book actually challenged the very foundation of our relationship as co-parents and friends.

In his foreword, Bob talks about how me writing this book actually challenged the very foundation of our relationship as co-parents and friends. There were some pretty tense exchanges. We reverted to our old selves — flinging hurtful words back and forth in email and focusing more on mounting a response to the other than on listening to what we each were saying.

Had we not learned anything in 20 years? Had neither of us healed? Had we really just been standing still this whole time?

You’ve got to be kidding me! We’ve come all this way, supposedly learned so many lessons, and mastered our emotions around our divorce. But the same old arguments, feelings, and insistence on being right were at the forefront once again. Had we not learned anything in 20 years? Had neither of us healed? Had we really just been standing still this whole time? Was this going to be how it all ended? Would I have to rewrite the last chapter of my book? Well, Bob did agree to write the foreword afterall, which may give you a clue. Read on though to see how it actually went down…

Happily Divorced Foreword by Bob Harlow

My phone rings.  I look down, and the Caller ID says “Teresa Harlow,” the ex-wife.  Now that our son has graduated college and moved out of town, we don’t talk as often as we used to, but it’s always nice to hear from her.  So I answer the phone, exchange pleasantries, and ask, “What’s up?”

She tells me she has an idea for a book she is just starting to write, and she has a few things to run by me. “Writing a book?” I ask.  “What’s it about?”  “Well,” she answers, “it’s about us.”   “About us?  In what way?  Is it fiction?  A murder mystery?”  (LOL)

(She says) I’m going to write about our divorce and how we decided to put our differences aside and raise our son together in the best possible way that we could as a divorced family.

“No,” she answers.  “It’s about us and our relationship after the divorce as co-parents of Ian.  It’s called Happily Divorced, and I was hoping you might be interested in possibly being a part of it. I’m going to write about our divorce and how we decided to put our differences aside and raise our son together in the best possible way that we could as a divorced family.” “Sounds interesting,” I respond.  “But how can I be a part of your book?”

“I’m thinking after each chapter or so that I write you could come up with a couple of paragraphs from your perspective to include.  What do you think?”  I answer that I’m intrigued and ask her to give me some more details; we talk for another 30 minutes, and I agree to be a part of her book. I hang up the phone and think, “Man, she might be onto something here.  What could possibly go wrong?”

Man, she might be onto something here.  What could possibly go wrong?

So a few weeks later, I get the first chapter, and after reading it I come up with a paragraph or two of charming, witty comments to add.  A couple weeks later, I get the next chapter, and again I come up with a paragraph or two of charming, witty, hilarious comments. Then the 3rd chapter arrives, and it’s about the actual end to our marriage in the early stages. So I’m reading this chapter. . . this story of our life. . . and as I’m reading it, I notice this version is much different than the version I’ve told countless times over the years.  So I go back and read it again, and as I’m reading it, I get a little more upset with each passing sentence.  

At this point, I decide to give her a call, and I get her voicemail. I leave her a message about my concerns and ask for a return call when she has a minute. So a few days pass with no phone call, but I do receive the next chapter from her, which I immediately read and find myself even madder than after the chapter before.  I reply to her email that I’m not happy.  She suggests I take a break from reading the next couple of chapters, blogs, or posts until she has some time to consider my concerns and get back to me.

20 years of rebuilding our friendship.  And now the book about this very effort could ruin everything.

So here we are almost 20 years after our divorce, 20 years of rebuilding our friendship.  And now the book about this very effort could ruin everything.  This could have ended our relationship . . . the friendship that we worked so hard to maintain.  There were some pretty heated emails flung back and forth between us coupled with Facebook “unfriending” and some time off from each other.  But we didn’t resort to what many divorced couples do when they get mad at each other.  There were no public attacks with horrible and hateful words through social media or even through mutual friends and family. We didn’t do or say anything that we possibly couldn’t come back from. We went to our neutral corners for a while.  Even though we were mad at each other, we still respected each other for the amazing job we did raising our son.

…we used the same formula to come through this conflict as we had used for the entirety of our divorced relationship.

Turns out, we used the same formula to come through this conflict as we had used for the entirety of our divorced relationship.  We put our mutual respect for each other as parents of our son first.  

A couple months into our time-out from one another, my stepdad passes away . . . my son’s grandpa or “Pops” as Ian had always called him. As we always did, we put our differences aside for the best of the family.  Ian and I welcomed Teresa at the viewing and funeral and the family gathering after the funeral.  We were respectful to each other as we always had been even when we were angry at one another.  We always did the right thing when we needed to, and we never went to that place to which there was no return.

About 8 months go by, and nothing had really changed between us – we were still not really talking, and I’d made an effort not to read any new chapters that were posted online.  Then one day, I get a phone call. The Caller ID again says, “Teresa Harlow.”  The ex-wife.

I cautiously answer the phone.  “Hello, what’s up?” She responds that she’s been doing some serious thinking.  She read the book beginning to end trying as best she could to put herself in my shoes.  As a result, she decided to revise the book pretty substantially and asks if I might be willing to take another shot at reading it. Not sure if this is a good or bad idea for me personally, I decide to go along for now.  “Sure, why not?” Turns out she had actually printed a copy for me and asked me if she can bring it to me in person so we could talk a bit. I agree that it sounded like a good idea, and we scheduled a day and time to meet.

She hands me the pages of her new and improved Happily Divorced book – the version you are about to read.  She invited me to highlight anything in the book that still bothered me so that we could discuss it. 

Teresa showed up to the house, manuscript in hand, and we sat down and talked a bit.  She hands me the pages of her new and improved Happily Divorced book – the version you are about to read.  She invited me to highlight anything in the book that still bothered me so that we could discuss it.  I told her I probably wouldn’t get around to reading it until the next weekend.  But as it turned out, I really wanted to see if it read and felt different to me this time.  So I began reading it that evening.  About 9 chapters in, I hadn’t found the need to highlight a thing, and I texted her to let her know we were on a much better path this time. It wasn’t that all the painful stuff had been removed.  But it sure felt more balanced.  And I didn’t feel like I was being cast as the villain in the story.

(Divorce) doesn’t mean you have to hate your ex or present the worst version of yourself to him or her for the rest of your life.

I’m not going to tell you if you read this book that your divorce is going to be perfect. That’s impossible.  Divorce is a failure of something that was supposed to last a lifetime.   But it also doesn’t mean you have to hate your ex or present the worst version of yourself to him or her for the rest of your life.  If you read this book and you try to do what we did, who knows? You might find yourself writing the Foreword to your ex-wife’s first book.  You may actually look back proudly on how you handled what normally is a death sentence for the majority of divorced couples’ friendships. Reading these pages and looking back on the past 20 years, I have to say I’m proud of our marriage, divorce, and the rebuilding of our friendship. Hell, I’m even proud of how we handled the first draft of this book.  Even though we didn’t agree, we found a way through mutual respect to do the right thing.

If divorce is the path you’re on or have already gone down, and you are getting ready to read this book, I hope it will help you, too (or you two) to become Happily Divorced.

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