"Our Happy Divorce" -A couple shares parenting and friendship in a divorce with their book
When Nikki DeBartolo and Ben Heldfond knew their marriage was ending, they didn’t know their new relationship would bring them closer together.
In their book, “Our Happy Divorce,” DeBartolo and Heldfond discuss how they – now each remarried – have created a new family. Communication and a desire to put their son Asher’s needs before their own have been the keys to turning their hurt into friendship.
“I think the communication during our divorce and after our divorce was 300 times better than the communication during our marriage,” DeBartolo said. “Our relationship now far surpasses the relationship we had when we first got married.”
Heldfond said one of the things that makes their communication easier is a singleness of purpose.
“We have a primary purpose and it’s not Nikki’s ego and it’s not Ben’s ego,” he said. “It’s our son. It’s not perfect. It’s not unicorns and rainbow waterfalls.”
The couple admits that they disagree and argue at times, but they have found a way to communicate beyond those rifts, something that they detail in their book and that can in many ways serve as a model for other blended families. The needs of their families in COVID-19 have been a prime example of that.
“When it first happened, we sat down, we had a family meeting, which now includes my wife and Nikki’s husband,” Heldfond said. “We talked about how we were going to parent Asher. We weren’t going to have different standards at two homes.”
The most important part of coparenting is the “co” prefix, Heldfond said.
“Communication is the key to our success but also to our happiness,” he said. “We do things together. Because we eventually handled things so well, we were able to find the love we have for each other – just not in love.”
For parents who are facing the end of their marriage, DeBartolo and Heldfond said the development of a new type of relationship doesn’t happen overnight, but it is worth the effort.
“Give it time,” DeBartolo said. “That was one of the best things we did for each other.”
The couple didn’t rush to divorce, even when it was inevitable. Heldfond said there is no award for seeing an attorney first. He said it was important for them to take a break and deal with their own hurt and fear first.
“Take a break, take a breath,” he said. “See a coach, see a therapist. At least be open to the fact that it takes two to make a relationship and two to ruin a relationship. In our relationship, there’s no bad guy. That was the process of finding our part in the relationship.”
Though both say they would do anything for their child, they contend that they are not unique.
“If the two of us can do it – we’re two alphas, two type A personalities – especially with the resources out there, you don’t have to go to war,” Heldfond said. “I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, but it doesn’t have to follow you around like a black cloud.”
“Or your kids,” DeBartolo said.
“Or your kids,” Heldfond said.
Learn more at ourhappydivorce.com.