'I'm Divorced, But I'm Best Friends With My Ex-Wife'

Nunziatina and I met in the summer of 2005 in Greece. I was there with a friend and I'd actually been suffering from concussion for two days after hitting my head at a foam party. My friend brought her over because she and her cousin were moving apartments to our side of the hotel and I opened the door, not wearing anything, and saw her standing there.

We instantly clicked and were inseparable for the rest of the holiday. By December of the same year we were engaged and we married in September 2006. We then decided to have two years together before we had kids, so our son Will arrived in June 2009 and we had Samuel in April 2012.

We were building our careers and life together and we were happy. There weren't really any arguments; we were best friends with a similar sense of humor and some similar interests. For the majority of it, it was a good, happy marriage.

We both had some challenges with each other's families, so that became a bone of contention whenever we talked about it. But it didn't lead to blazing rows, just disagreements and cold shoulders for a couple of days.

I worked in London and we lived in Bedford; a town around an hour away. Nunziatina worked locally, but I would get up at 6am, get the train into the city, stay at work until 7pm and often not get home until 9pm. So we didn't have much time together in the evenings, and work was quite demanding. In the last 18 months of our marriage we did have a couple of conversations where we talked about what we were unhappy about and we would both change for a time and then revert back. The marriage was slowly breaking down and the end result was that I met someone else.

Divorced Couple Now Best Friends
Tom Nash and his ex-wife Nunziatina. Tom Nash

Donna had already separated from her husband Dan some months before, but I was still married and living with Nunziatina. Donna and I commuted on the same train to London and worked close to each other, so we became really good friends. We would meet for lunch and talk about what she was going through with her divorce. It was very much a friendship and a personal connection, but it was making me realize that I was very unhappy and that this other person was making me happy. I tried to switch that part of my brain off and stay away from Donna but we always describe it as being like two magnets; we were drawn to each other.

Navigating divorce and custody agreements

Then, in early March 2017, I collapsed at work and was rushed into hospital. It was an anxiety attack because of the situation I was in, and I had a realization then that something had to give. On March 17, Nunziatina and I had a conversation. I explained I had been unhappy for a while and spent a good while trying to figure out why. I had to say that while I still loved her, I wasn't in love with her any longer. She was hurt, angry and upset. It was horrible having to say the things that would hit home enough for it to be real, but not wanting to destroy her world.

I didn't tell her about Donna until a few weeks later, perhaps that was a bit of fear or cowardice. I grew up with divorced parents and lived through the family courts system from the age of 3-years-old. One of my biggest fears was that I would lose my kids if my relationship with my wife broke down. At the same time, I had always said that when I had kids and got married, that was it for life. So, I did feel shame in breaking my own values. I had never wanted to be that person. But here I was; it had happened.

Nunziatina then applied for a divorce on the grounds of adultery, which I didn't contest and we went through the process of splitting finances and assets. Then in late summer 2017 I moved in with Donna. She and her ex-husband Dan had already agreed to 50/50 custody of their two children, Leonie and Zac, and we then introduced all four kids to each other, in August 2017. Luckily, the kids all got on well from the get go.

For Nunziatina and I, the divorce itself wasn't acrimonious. The financial part was a bit difficult, but the part that took the wind out of our sails was agreeing custody arrangements. It did get really horrible.

Ex-wives and ex-husbands start dating

By summer of 2017, Nunziatina had started dating Dan, but it was kept secret. They had bumped into each other on a night out, shared a few drinks together and the rest is history. Donna and I actually thought it was a great they were dating. We both both thought, and even said to each other, that Nunziatina and Dan are better suited. But we knew without having been officially told, and the kids would go between the two houses and they knew, so it was a really horrible period.

Around that time, I had started retraining as a coach. I was going to go into corporate coaching, but Donna suggested I help others get through the journey of divorce, because we were starting to realize how we could use some of the skills I was learning in our own situation.

What it really came down to with myself, Donna, Nunziatina and Dan was that someone had to do something differently. All four of us were creating difficulties. It was impacting our work, we were constantly stressed and we were all worrying about what the next move was. We were treading water, trying to put our kids front and center.

Blended Family From Two Divorced Couples
Tom Nash with his blended family, comprised of his two children with his ex-wife Nunziatina and two children that his girlfriend Donna shares with her ex-husband Dan. Nunziatina and Dan are also now dating. Back row L-R: William, Donna, Nunziatina, Leonie and Dan. Front row L-R: Tom, Samuel and Zac. Tom Nash

There was one day in 2019 when I knew Dan had had a really bad time with something. He pulled up outside to collect his kids, and I asked Donna to go and invite him in for dinner and not take no for an answer. He came inside and had dinner with Donna and I, and the four kids. It was definitely the weirdest dinner we'd ever had.

After that, whenever Nunziatina came to collect the kids, I would invite her in for coffee. There were many times she said no, it was just a process of trying to consistently show that I wanted to be engaged, help and be involved. I might have been the last person she wanted to call on, but I did make her aware that I was constantly there and available. After that first coffee, we started to do small things together. The kids also started to feel more comfortable and happy talking about the other set of parents, so it became more normal to hear about what was going on in the other house and our lives became a bit more intertwined.

Becoming best friends with an ex

Nunziatina and I started spending more time together, but there were also a few more serious, poignant conversations that had to be had. I needed to apologize and show her that I acknowledged what I had put her through and that I recognized I had played a part in that. Some time later she then acknowledged there were also other things that had led up to our divorce. There were a lot of respectful heart-to-hearts. When you go through the thick of it with divorce and it's really horrible, you can think, "How was I ever married to them?" But they are only in that space in that moment in time. When you start to recognize the parts of the person you fell in love with and the amazing friend that they were, you can move past it. I would much rather have Nunziatina in my life as a supportive friend than not.

Tom With His Girlfriend and Ex-Wife
Tom Nash with his girlfriend Donna (center) and his ex-wife Nunziatina. Tom Nash

I think you have to try and get through that first awkwardness, like that dinner we had with Dan, because you're not just missing out on birthdays and parent's evenings, you're also missing out on the opportunity to support your ex. Now, if I'm having coffee with Nunziatina and she asks our boys to put their shoes on and they don't listen, I will go in and back her up. I'll tell them not to disrespect their mom, to do as they are told and say sorry to her. We can do that now.

Nuntziana is my best friend and closer to me than my siblings. It's like going to see my sister or any relative I have never had any romantic relationship with! It's really natural and it's really real. She is my family. We have moved into a different sphere and a different relationship.

Seeing her smile and happy in her relationship with Dan and hearing her really laugh have been really poignant moments. Donna would never feel weird about me describing Nuntziana as one of my best friends, because she sees Nuntziana that way as well. The two of them have a very entwined bond of motherhood and friendship. Donna and Dan are also really close, and Dan and I are great friends too. We are taking Nuntziana and Dan away for Nuntziana's 40th birthday and each experience like that reminds me that if you want to move forward, you can. It just takes effort, consistency, respect and acknowledgement.

The four of us have holidays planned and plenty more we will do all together. We make jokes that when the kids have all moved out and we are older, instead of living in a nursing home we should all live together, because we're all friends anyway. Even the kids have asked why we still live in two houses; they think we should sell both and get one big house.

Everyone else says our situation is weird, but why is it weird? Because society has told us that we should hate each other? It makes me really happy to have Dan and Nuntziana in mine and Donna's life.

Tom Nash is a divorce and separation coach. You can find out more at mrdivorcecoach.co.uk and on LinkedIn at mrdivorcecoach or follow him on Instagram @MrDivorceCoachUK.

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

As told to Jenny Haward.