Splitting Up Together is a new show on ABC, about a couple (Martin and Lena) who gets divorced but decides to continue living together in a sense. They have three children and the children stay in the house and the parents alternate a week in the house with the kids and a week staying in the converted garage. This is commonly referred to as “nesting” and allows the children to stay where they are and the parents are the ones that go back and forth. Most of the time parents don’t feel that they can or don’t want to try out nesting, but it can be a good option to allow the kids to remain in their home and not have to go back and forth. While of course, this is a show it really does talk about important issues that we see come up with our clients.
On the most recent episode, their oldest daughter, Mae, feels uncomfortable with how “not divorced” her parents seem. She feels that they’re getting along better than ever and basically live in the same house so doesn’t understand why they need to be divorced. Her mom tells her that she doesn’t want to be married to someone who can live with her, she wants to be married to someone who can’t live without her. This is a pretty good answer for her daughter who’s old enough to want to know what’s going on, but still, a kid who doesn’t need to know the details of why her parents aren’t together anymore.
As a mediator watching the show I had been thinking how it’s great that her parents can co-parent so well and don’t hate each other, without really thinking about how the dynamic can be difficult even if they do get along well. She finds it confusing that they get along so well now but couldn’t stay married and sometimes we see that couples actually manage to have a better relationship as co-parents then they could have married. The school psychologist tells them to “stop acting like a couple and start focusing on where you’re each going individually.” While I think that he made them feel a bit bad about getting along so well, it’s a good piece of advice for them to have to think about where their own lives are going not just being married to each other anymore.
Lena has a hard time accepting that her identity has to change because she’s not a wife anymore and as she puts it she only gets to act as a mother half of the time. Grappling with a changing identity can be really hard for someone going through the divorce and her experience isn’t unique. While we only see what they show in the short half-hour episode, the steps she takes are a good start, she realizes that she needs to do something for her. She used to love going to see art so she goes to an art show by herself and seems to actually enjoy herself.
If you haven’t checked it out yet I would definitely recommend it and if you have questions about nesting or any other co-parenting issues one of our mediators would be happy to talk with you.