The photo of a couple smiling just after filing for divorce has gone viral this week, setting a positive example for exes and co-parents everywhere.
The selfie, which Sharon Neuman posted to Facebook on Thursday, shows her posing in front of Calgary Courts Centre with her ex-husband, Chris Neuman.
The reason for the happy faces? “Are we smiling because the partner we chose for forever turned out not to be the forever partner we needed? Of course not,” Sharon explains. “We’re smiling because we have done something extraordinary (we think anyway!). We have respectfully, thoughtfully, and honourably ended our marriage in a way that will allow us to go forward as parenting partners for our children, the perfect reason that this always WAS meant to be, so they will never have to choose.” Sharon’s post received more than 27,000 shares (however, it’s no longer on Facebook), according to Global News.
In her post, Sharon wrote that she and Chris had been married for 11 years, have two children, and are determined to put their kids first. “They’ll never have to wonder which side of the auditorium to run to after their Christmas concert or spring play, because we’ll be sitting together. They won’t have to struggle with their own wedding planning because we’ll be sitting on the same side of the aisle — THEIR side,” she wrote. “And now that you know it’s possible — please consider our way if you find yourself on this road, or share our message if we can help remind them that it’s possible to love your kids more than you hate/distrust/dislike your ex (which we have felt at times on the journey, but for the record we do actually like each other).”
Sharon closed her post with two hashtags: #teamneuman and #divorceselfie. She did not respond to Yahoo Parenting’s request for comment.
In an interview with Global News, Sharon explained that the road to this moment hasn’t been easy. “We’ve been separated for nearly four years, and our journey has been long and often painful, but I do feel very confident that we can maintain the positive relationship we have now, because it matters so much to us to do so,” she said.
While many of the commenters on the original Facebook post were supportive, Sharon addressed those who criticised the couple for seemingly celebrating their breakup. “Our goal was to go through the process amicably and respectfully, keeping the well-being of our kids at the forefront of every decision we made,” she said. “We weren’t celebrating when we took the photo, we were commemorating the accomplishment of a goal that we worked really hard to reach.”
Barbara Rothberg, a New divorce coach and custody mediator, says this accomplishment is indeed something the former couple should celebrate. “What happens when parents are warring is that the children don’t know who to hug first at that concert. They don’t know who to run to first, who to talk to first — they feel torn,” Rothberg tells Yahoo Parenting. “There should be no issue of mom vs. dad. You want both parents to celebrate the child, and you don’t want the child worrying that something he does with one parent will make the other one mad. Kids shouldn’t have to think like that, and getting there is something this couple should be proud of.”
Achieving a method of amicable co-parenting is difficult, and Rothberg says that Sharon might have glazed over that a bit in her post. “She doesn’t talk about how hard it is to get there,” she says. “They are doing a great thing, but it’s not an easy process, and even if you are successful at first, it’s not easy to stay there. You have to work together consistently to stay not mad at each other.”
Still, Rothberg says more parents should follow the Neumans’ lead. “More and more people need to do this right so they don’t end up in court, so they can celebrate together and go to Christmas concerts together,” she said. “It’s not optimal to get divorced, but it’s better for kids to have parents who are happily divorced than unhappily married. It’s better for kids to grow up in a home with one parent than with a couple that stayed together for the kids, where the marriage was horrible and they had no model of connection or affection.”
That’s exactly the environment that Shannon and Chris Neuman have created, and Shannon told Global News she was happy to share that with the people closest to her. “This marriage was mourned, I promise you,” she said. “The sadness, disappointment, heartache, confusion, guilt, and shame that we’ve felt along the way has been real, and it felt good to achieve a positive outcome and share that with our friends and family.”
This article originally appeared on Yahoo Parenting