'I Spent Christmas With My Ex-Husband and His New Wife'

My marriage ending was an overnight decision on my then husband's part, but unfortunately it happened without him mentioning it to me first. One night in 2003, he simply didn't come home. I had been waiting for him to return from a short journey to the pub, so I actually thought he'd had a car accident. By the time I found out he'd run off with someone else, it was something of a relief.

We had three children; the eldest had just turned six and the youngest was 18 months old, and so his leaving was the most shocking and unexpected experience I've ever had. It was very messy and I had to grow up fast, because while I was upset, furious and heartbroken, at the same time we had three very young children. I remember saying to him that they weren't interested in what had happened, we just had to do right by them. I was committed to that, but I didn't know how I would imagine it emotionally at all.

I moved out quickly and so I do feel for those people who are stuck in the same house and can't do that. Particularly in 2020, with the pandemic. My moving out gave us space. And fortunately, the person my ex-husband went on to marry was not the person he had left me for—which was a blessing. A few years later his new partner came along and I immediately saw the benefit of that relationship, which people thought was unusual. But by that point my ex and I had been managing the co-parenting well.

People did even say that our peaceful co-parenting was weird—it did seem to challenge people that we made an effort to make things work. I actually went to my ex-husband's wedding, which even I found a bit strange at the time. But I'm so glad I went, because it was such an important day in our children's lives. For a while my ex and his new wife even moved into the same street as us. That was great; the kids could run across the street to theirs.

When it came to Christmas in 2006 there was a suggestion that my ex and his new wife wanted us all to spend Christmas morning with the kids together. At that point, I certainly did think: "wow, this is quite weird." But I said we should give it a go.

It wasn't easy arriving for the night on Christmas Eve. The hardest part was the sense of "this is not normal" but we manage the relationship well and we were polite.

Christmas, kids, family, parenting

My ex-husband's new wife was, and is, amazing. If she had been a less open and lovely person it would have been very difficult. Also, by that point I had done an awful lot of work on myself. Even now when I see my ex-husband I often want to give him a hug and thank him, because there's no way I would have left that relationship. I would have hung on and done everything to make it work.

So we had a nice Christmas Eve meal and my ex husband and I were very civil—the great thing about having three children is that they talk a lot. I was then able to go out to the pub and spend the evening with my friends as my ex and his wife were babysitting. As a single mom with three kids, that was amazing. It had been years since I'd been able to do that.

I wouldn't necessarily tell people to go and have Christmas with their ex, but to be able to have a meal and wake up in the morning and share the experience of the children waking up was great. Since 2003 they had spent each Christmas morning with me, but by 2006 that seemed a bit unfair of me; my ex and his new wife had the right to wake up in the morning and see the kids' excited faces, too. Everybody wanted it to work and that was the key.

I haven't stayed over and shared Christmas morning since, but there has always been an open invitation for my children's father and his wife to join us. He will often come over on Christmas Day for a bit and do the present opening or join us on Boxing Day.

Divorce, Love, Marriage, Relationships,
Suzy Miller spent Christmas Day with her ex-husband and his new wife in 2006. Courtesy of Suzy Miller

We keep that invite open because he's the other half of my children. It hasn't always been peaceful and we have had issues, but in the past few years I think we have re-earned each other's respect.

Every family does have to work out their own way of doing the holidays. But I think it's important to be realistic about where you are and what you can cope with emotionally and to get help with that. There's a brilliant book called Happiness Is The Best Revenge which had a huge influence on me. If you're happy and grounded you may manage a Christmas like the one I had with my ex, but if you're in emotional turmoil it will be hard. By the time I went for that Christmas, my ex husband had already remarried. I knew that relationship was working well and I knew the kids were happy—that's all that mattered really.

I also think it's important to keep looking at your children and being grateful in this type of situation. However horrible things were between you and your ex-partner, they gave you your kids. By the time of that Christmas in 2006, I had done a lot of work on myself and actively disassociated from the trauma. I know we are going to be family for years and years and we are always going to be working together as parents.

Of course, each parenting unit needs to find the way that works for them, but I would say that it can be healthy to keep the door open. When you do, it's almost a miracle how the situation can change.

I remember thinking that I would never trust my ex-husband again, and then a few years later I was spending Christmas morning with him and his new wife and was the happiest I'd been for many years.

Suzy Miller is a divorce strategist and TEDx speaker and works internationally helping divorcing families to evolve from "broken families" into "extended families." Via her "Best Way To Divorce" app, Suzy provides free resources here and also "Divorce Financial Workshops" online.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Jenny Haward.

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts