Story From The Heart: Craig & Erin
I really like my boyfriend’s ex-wife. I hesitated to even write this post because I didn’t want people to think I’m writing it just to brag. But it is true: I actually REALLY LIKE my boyfriend’s ex-wife and all three of us get along. From what I know about most divorced couples, the situation I’m about to describe is certainly out of the normal. I met Craig, my boyfriend, about 2 years ago at my gym, and then we talked more through the app Tinder, and I remember immediately noticing that his last name was one I already knew. SPILKER – I kept asking myself, “how do I know that name…?” It didn’t take long for me to put two and two together and realize that he was the ex of Erin Spilker, a police officer I’d encountered a few times during my time at 10/11 News. Erin had always been super nice to me. I remember even having a conversation with her after I went to a police briefing where she lamented about how sometimes it was tough to get her kids on a regular sleeping schedule. Little did I know, those kids she talked about would become a large piece of my life.
But let’s fast forward to when I met Craig, about a year after that conversation. I hadn’t seen Erin in a long time but even on our first date, Craig joked that he’d asked his ex-wife what I was like before we even went out. At first, to be completely frank, those jokes made me slightly uncomfortable, because I wondered, “what the heck are those two talking about.” But, as I started to get to know Craig more, over the next few months I realized that him and Erin, were actually, good friends.
While I won’t go into detail as to why the two divorced, I’ve heard from both of them about how it unfolded and why. And honestly? It ended well and both of them have so much love for each other and for their children, that they’ll always be friends. It took some time for me to understand why Craig and Erin were able to operate on such friendly terms. My own parents divorced when I was three years old and that was a fucking train wreck. I love them both to death but the fighting was constant. And, because their relationship had so much tension, there was very little communication about what their daughter was up to. During my teen years, I definitely got away with a few things because of that.
Craig and Erin are nothing like what I know (and Mom, Dad if you’re reading this, please know I turned out well and I love you). Dating Craig, I’ve seen firsthand just how excellent communication between two divorced parents can be day to day. Erin is always letting Craig know when Hazel or Elsie have events coming up that need to be marked on the calendar. The two constantly send updates to each other about how the girls are doing daily. Erin sends videos of Hazel practicing piano and Craig never forgets to update her when one of them is sick on the weekend. They co-parent efficiently and with very little bull shit.
I realized very quickly that there was nothing between the two of them that I should ever feel threatened by. And, as my relationship with Erin has continued to grow, I can tell you firsthand, she’s a wonderful mom and the girls are lucky to have her. She’s also someone I consider part of my family.
I didn’t start REALLY getting to know Erin until about a year into my relationship with Craig but she has always been great to me. She’s straight up about schedules, conflicts and what’s going on. She frequently texts me dates that I need to know as well, so I don’t double book something for Craig and I. And she’s given me feedback on ideas I share with her for work or the girls. The truth is if I had more time, or we were on the same work schedule, I’d work out with her or go to dinner together more often because she’s also just fun (we grab lunch from time to time).
Craig, Erin and I frequently talk about how people in our lives are always shocked when we say we like each other. Most people ask me about what it’s like to deal with Erin and expect me to shit talk the crap out of her and say she’s crazy and a nightmare to deal with. When they hear me say the opposite, the look on their face is always great to see. I know from conversations with Craig and Erin, that they have similar experiences. Frequently, the three of us go to events where I definitely feel parents or families looking at us thinking, “isn’t it awkward for them?” And the answer is no, it’s not. But since they don’t know that, I get the feeling those families watching us think we’re putting on a show for the kids.
I guess I got lucky that I genuinely like Erin but I think I went into the relationship hoping it would be a good one so maybe that way of thinking, turned it into the relationship I want! Craig and I have been together for a couple of years now and I’d say we couldn’t be as happy as we are now if the relationship with Erin wasn’t a healthy one.
I’m really grateful Craig and Erin decided to put their kids first long before I ever entered into this story. While my willingness to get to know Erin is part of this equation, the truth is, the two of them made a conscious decision to work together and be good at co-parenting.
If you’re in a relationship with someone who’s divorced with kids, I’d say at some point, you have to understand and accept that the person they married before you will always be part of your life. How you treat that person and how you let their actions affect you, is ALL in your control. I don’t have all the answers on how to make it work, but I can say being kind goes a long way.
And, if you’re divorced with kids and in a situation where you’re dating someone and shit is really complicated and you’re thinking, “wow I really have no idea how they do this,” you’re not the only one. That’s pretty much what I hear from everyone I know who is divorced. It’s really hard to juggle all of the relationships you have going on in your family. But I can tell you one thing I’ve learned from watching the way Craig and Erin juggle theirs: put the kids first no matter what.