10 Real-Life Divorce Lessons

Creating a happy divorce didn’t happen overnight. It took several very intentional steps on Ben and Nikki’s parts to forgive each other and focus on their common goal: what’s best for their son, Asher. Here are a few of the good, bad and ugly real-life lessons the couple learned during their divorce:

  • Clean up the wreckage from the past. Nikki and Ben believe that everyone has the capacity and ability to be happy, but the only way to accomplish this is to live in the present moment and not in the past. The way they both accomplished this is they both admitted their part in the marriage, made amends to each other and ACCEPTED the other’s apology. These steps enabled them to move forward and not get stuck holding onto resentments. 
  • We are perfect because of our imperfection. Nikki and Ben will be the first to tell you they don’t have it all figured out, but they’ve made a lot of progress. Over time, they’ve gotten better and better at building a happy divorce. Early on they decided to set aside striving for perfection and instead, focus on their common goal: raising their son. There’s no such thing as a perfect divorce, but Ben and Nikki have created one they’re proud of.
“We make mistakes all the time—we just don’t double down on those mistakes by holding grudges. We forgive each other and try harder.” ~ Nikki DeBartolo
  • Life goes on. The divorce actually helped both Ben and Nikki put their hopes and goals for a future relationship into perspective. Because they shared a common focus on Asher, both knew that any romantic partner would have to fit seamlessly into the modern family they were building. The reason Chad and Nadia fit so seamlessly is because they were as committed to what Ben and Nikki were just as committed to the amicable divorce Ben and Nikki were trying to build. 
  • Positivity is key. Nikki and Ben realized early on that negativity wouldn’t help them achieve their goal of helping Asher. Instead of letting unforgiveness and bitterness influence their divorce and ultimately their relationship afterward, the couple chose positivity.
“We definitely had our moments of shock and disbelief, and it’s not like we were thrilled. We had all the appropriate emotions, but we never let in vengeance, hate, negativity, or spite.” – Nikki DeBartolo
  • Stick to the plan. A happy divorce doesn’t happen in a flash. Even with a lot of collaboration upfront, there will be new challenges as time goes on. There will be a lot of firsts – first romantic partners, first introductions to the kids, first “all” family meetings or social situations. Stick to the plan: doing what’s best for the kids.
  • Family is everything. Nikki says it best in the introduction to her book, Our Happy Divorce:
“If we were forced to boil down what we’ve learned in the process of building our post-divorce relationship to one bullet point, it would be that nothing was more important than our son.”
  • Differences can bring out the best in us. The differences Ben and Nikki identified between themselves helped them set healthy boundaries in future relationships. Similarly, the differences between them and their new partners have made everyone in this blended family a better person.

“Our differences work because we share a strong foundation in the importance we place on family. We bring out the best in each other.” ~Chad, Nikki’s husband

  • We can make our own families. Ben and Nikki both come from very different family backgrounds. They both wanted to create something different than they had seen in the divorces around them. By setting aside the typical divorce drama and focusing exclusively on their son, they were able to redefine what family looks like for them.

“Sitting down to dinner with the people we cared about, I learned that we can make our own families—a lesson I eventually turned into a lifestyle.” ~ Nikki DeBartolo 

  • We both played a role in the divorce. Everyone’s divorce is especially unique and personal to them. Sometimes it’s amicable, sometimes it’s unexpected. Nikki and Ben learned that forgiving each other was easier when they both accepted responsibility for what had become of their marriage. 

“Realizing I was accountable for who I was in every way and that I still needed to examine some gaping holes in myself was a tough process.” ~ Ben Heldfond

  • Personal accountability is critical for growth. To function well as a partnership after a divorce, personal accountability is critical. Without this level of accountability, some of the same mistakes are likely to show up in future relationships.

“The work I had been doing on myself after my divorce wasn’t enough; I had learned to take accountability for the part I’d played in my divorce, but I hadn’t applied any of it to how I needed to act in relationships afterwards.” ~Ben Heldfond

  • Skip the ego. To really work together for their son, Nikki and Ben both made an effort to set aside the attitudes and feelings that could get in the way of their relationship. 

“I learned that relinquishing your ego and putting your children first is also what lays the groundwork for a smoother road and a happy divorce.” ~ Ben Heldfond

Most people who knew Ben and Nikki assumed this divorce would be the end of their story. Instead, they surprised everyone – including themselves – when they were able to put their personal feelings aside and focus completely on what was best for their son, Asher. By doing so, they have rewritten the book on divorce and are offering hope to many other families that a happy divorce is quite possible.

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