9 Secrets to a Happy Divorce You Might Not Know

Look, we all know divorce isn’t easy. It can be one of the most challenging experiences people will go through. But we know from experience that families can navigate the muddy waters of divorce and come out stronger on the other side. Nikki DeBartolo and Ben Heldfond have been working on creating a healthy blended family for fourteen years now. They’ve learned a lot of little secrets to a happy divorce along the way.


The Little Secrets that Make Our Divorce Happy

We know not everyone’s experience is the same. And we all come to the table with our own egos and hurt feelings. The sooner you can work through those feelings, the quicker you can put your ego aside and be the parents your kids need, regardless of whether you’re no longer married.

Here are the little things that work for Our Happy Divorce.

1. Simple Gestures Go a Long Way


When it came time to work out the details of their divorce, Ben and Nikki started with a simple meeting at a coffee shop. Starbucks was a neutral playing field that allowed them to talk honestly about their individual parts in the ending of their marriage, apologize to each other for the roles they played in their divorce, and genuinely forgive each other. They both agreed that they had to put their son Asher first and every decision they made had to be what was best for him. After that first meeting, everything from custody, to financial arrangements, to who they brought into Asher’s life, was made a little easier.

It wasn’t easy for Ben to reach out and ask for the meeting. And it wasn’t easy for Nikki to say yes. But this simple gesture laid the foundation for the happy family they share today to be built on.

2. We Never Forget a Family Dinner

Once a week, the entire family comes together for a family dinner. This includes Nikki’s husband Chad, as well as Ben’s wife Nadia and their two kids. This tradition stems from Nikki’s upbringing in a close-knit, large, boisterous Italian family. It started as celebrating special occasions together, regardless of who had custody that day. Eventually, it evolved into weekly family dinners. These dinners allow the family to develop bonds and share time with one another on all kinds of days, from happy to sad to stressful. 

3. We Have the Same Set of Rules in Both Homes

It’s not uncommon among divorced families for the rules to be different between the two houses. But this approach can fail to provide kids with the structure and consistency they need. Eventually, Asher’s four parents realized that co-parenting between would only be effective if each household had similar rules.

“We might do things a little differently from house to house, but the standards are the same.” ~ Nikki DeBartolo

4. We Participate in Group Conversations 

Thanks to a group text that includes Ben, Nadia, Nikki, and Chad, Asher can communicate with all his parents at once. This thread is helpful in keeping plans straight and making sure everyone is on the same page. Asher has grown up knowing he needs to loop in all his parents. Communication is key.


5. We Embrace Our Similarities and Honor Our Differences

As a family, we know each other quite well, and a lot of our insight comes from Nadia’s work as a therapist. We know which personalities match and we embrace those similarities. We also know what personality matches sometimes clash, and we plan accordingly. Nikki, Izzy, and Jackson are rowdy and high energy. Asher, Chad, and Nadia share a calmer, more grounded energy. Ben can easily jump into either crowd. We use these similarities to know which parent is better equipped to handle any given situation. It works with a large, busy family like ours. 


“We all joke that Nadia and Asher share a brain; he’s been finishing her sentences since he was four.” – Nikki DeBartolo 


6. We Travel Together After The Divorce

In the beginning, traveling together as a blended family took effort. As we all grew closer, family travel has become an important part of life, especially during the summer. Asher is quite the world traveler, moving easily between vacations with each parent and then with the entire blended family on joint trips. 


“Our blended family is at our best all together, when our love and patience and interest and passion for each other and this life come out in the most beautiful ways.” ~ Nikki DeBartolo


7. We Gave Each Other Dating Advice 

It was important that when Ben and Nikki remarried, their new spouses were on board with their approach to divorce. If they weren’t, it wouldn’t have worked. Ben and Nikki each played a role in the other remarrying. They provide advice, opened up second chances and gave blessings. After all, creating a successful blended family takes a team that’s all-in. 


8. We Believe in the Bond Between Women

Nikki and Nadia jokingly call each other “wife” because it seems to sum up their co-parenting relationship that’s so much deeper than a friendship. Both women admit they have different parenting styles and don’t always see eye-to-eye. But their commitment to Asher and their blended family unites them. In this society, we are proud of how Nadia and Nikki support each other and truly see each other as best friends. 


9. We Keep a Co-Parenting Calendar

Nikki is responsible for maintaining joint calendars to keep all four parents on the same page. This involves staggering family vacations and balancing the schedule. She communicates constantly with everyone regarding these schedules. She is the captain of a sometimes very hectic ship. 


So those are just a few of our secrets. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that. Do you have any tips that help keep your co-parenting relationship happy? 

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