Moving On to New Love & Baggage
Let’s say you fall in love again, as I have. Are you with me so far?
Not long ago, I had occasion to enjoy a wonderful Italian dinner in Tuscany. My sons and I dined at the invitation of an older Italian gentleman. He was full of advice for my teenage sons about life, love and his personal experience with the female race.
“Women”, he declared, “are the superior breed who rule the world and only pretend to be weaker to preserve the male ego”. (Go on…I’m listening)
He then turned his worldly wisdom and sage advice exclusively to yours truly. His face showed a more serious expression as he spoke about “true love”.
Six years prior to this enlightening conversation about the sexes, my 18 year marriage ended abruptly. Yet there was no messy divorce. I’ve always squirmed at the use of the word, but at 38 years old, I became “a widow”. John Carlo had also experienced the untimely passing of his spouse to an unexpected illness. He was a handsome and stylish man with white hair who clearly spent every minute of every day in the sun. He looked right at me and with his thick accent and said, “Close the book. And don’t peek back at those chapters” (he used continual hand gestures typical of Italians to further emphasize his point) “or else you will never leave room for the next love of your life”.
I’m not sure I agree entirely with my well-dressed Roman friend. However, it brings up a very relevant question. How do you leave room for the next love of your life?
I’ve known many of the hazards of love firsthand. A few failed relationships since my husband’s passing have given way to some very meaningful and deep introspection (read: bad boyfriends. Not my fault of course). Then came a new opportunity to love again. I met an amazingly wonderful man who not only loves me, he brings a true peace and contentment to my life. He somehow manages to both support me with his steady supply of wisdom and thrill me endlessly with his dry wit, rugged good looks, and youthful approach to life. He is a loving father to his only son and a daily source of inspiration to me. This man has presented himself to be worthy of the ever growing affection I have for him. As some wise someone once said, “I love, because I am loved”.
With all the joys, pains and the lessons of the past firmly girded at my side, I have willingly submitted my heart to another human being, knowing full well that he could crush it with his bare hands at any given moment.
Oh, did I mention he has a CRAZY ex wife?
From the first moment we connected we both knew we had something special. I seized the opportunity to take a journey into the unknown. Undoubtedly, every participant in a romantic relationship shows up to this trip with some baggage. And I do not mean a ‘free set of matching luggage to every customer’! No, no. At a certain stage of life those bags are mismatched. Torn up. Rode hard and covered in labels from every corner of the world! Let’s be honest. Your first reaction is to pull out that rubber stamp and mark it “return to sender baby!” (the baggage not the beau of course). Ah, but this beautiful set of luggage comes only as a SET. Are you ready to lug it around? Every. where. you . go?
Aren’t adult relationships supposed to be mature, consensual and always compromising? Then tell me why this otherwise level headed man is allowing his ex to get the better of him over an unreturned lunch box? Who started this petty power play and is there ever really a winner? And why is it the same unoriginal fetter get recycled every week, never to be resolved? I can tell you why. Emotional games should stop in adolescence but some people don’t, won’t or can’t play by the rules.
And guess what that perfect man you’ve fallen in love with did before he divorced the Certified Drama Expert (who seems to know just how to make everything more difficult than it must be)? He married her. What is it about taking that vow at the alter and having a child with someone that inextricably links you for life. Or does it? Weather the ties are cut when the ink is dry is on the divorce papers, all depends on a whole new set of rules. Boundaries are useless if only one side acknowledges those tricky suckers.
I have to wonder…does Gwyneth Paltrow hold the answer to “conscious uncoupling”? I’ll bet you five dollars she regularly drowns her sorrows in a fresh bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken while she sends mean texts to her ex, that untalented loser Chris.
I subscribe to the belief that there are no victims, only willing participants. I suppose nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to the D word. Divorce. The union meant to last a lifetime sometimes ends in a big pile of poo (the smell of which seems all to appealing to the lawyers) .
And worse, when co-parenting gives way to a contest of wills, it’s brutal to watch. I mean, do you high five your honey when he comes up with the most clever insult of the day or encourage the moral high ground for the sake of all involved? Admittedly, there are times I’ve bitten my tongue so hard it bleeds and I secretly pray I’m never the one battling this man.
We’ve all met people whose divorce seems to define them decades after the ink is dry. Once the possessions have been divided and the kids hopefully have adjusted, some unfortunate souls don’t seem to enjoy the freedom to move on and everybody involved seems to pay the price. Including the new love who isn’t feeling there is room for her or that those chapters are closed. Remember, no peaking back at those chapter! Said John Carlos
To be fair, my significant other has to deal with my former spouse even though he died. People whose lives are cut short tend to be slightly immortalized or suspended in some unrealistic, super hero status never to re-enter the human realm of fallibility ever again. He might be tempted to think my boys’ father could do no wrong in our eyes. And he may wonder if I pine for what could have been since our marriage wasn’t willingly dissolved.
Life can be messy and awkward. Divorces are no exception. Varying degrees of heartache, headache and some collateral damage are guaranteed. Obviously, some exes do seem well equipped to co-parent. They navigate the post martial waters as easily as when they were married, leaving room for the new, better halves, to take shape. But it seems to be the exception to the rule. And for those of us who love sane men with “crazy exes”, there needs to be a line drawn in the sand.
Dear, sweet boyfriend: I look forward to seeing what blossoms as we grow where were planted. But some one keeps digging up the soil looking for more nuts. And honey, we think your ex is nuttier than a squirrel turd. It’s time to put a little fence around our garden so we can grow. We need you to erect some enforceable boundaries before we she completely turns up the soil looking for nuts.
I’m no politician, nor am I a military stretegistist but it seems to me that truces, boundary agreements or enforcing sanctions all have their place in war and peace. And plans go awry when their is no plan. How about a mission statement to establish some goals and non negotiable rules? If you’re charting new waters, at least no where you’re going and
So, in the best interests of all parties, and on behalf of all the loyal girlfriends of men with crazy exes, I submit the following document. Please use it to start a conversation with the mother of your child(ren). May I suggest some boundaries and a reminder to your former spouse of the “former” part?
A Letter for Peace:
I want to have better communication with you for the sake of the child (children) we share.
I no longer wish to bicker or argue about the past. I’d like for you to forgive me for my part in the failure of our marriage. I do not wish to hurt you or have harm brought upon you for the sake of (name of child we share) well being.
I have seen that when we get along, he (she) flourishes emotionally, physically and in ways that may not be apparent for many, many years.
I share credit with you for the good in him (her) and i know it is your wish that he (she) have every opportunity to be happy and well adjusted in his life and in his future relationships.
Please forgive me for the unemotional approach to this letter, but you see, our emotions have not gotten us to a place that consistently functions well for either one of us or the child we will share for the next several years. You are a loving parent and I thank you for the ways you are daily contributing to his well being.
I ask that we agree to some rules with the above goal in mind.
I agree not to use harsh or judgmental words about you to our child and I am committed to catching myself and apologizing to him if i do.
I agree to be approachable and not defensive or accusatory if there’s an issue with the child(ren) we share.
I agree to take issues directly to one another and not to discuss with the child(ren). I agree to try to see your side before responding.
I agree to communicate via email and to respond within 24 hours. I agree to use text or phone when there is a time sensitive issue for which email may take too long.
I agree to be respectful to each other’s chosen mates.
What else do you need from me to ensure that we are working for the same goal? Please be specific so that we can use this as a guide for future interaction.
Do I have your commitment to honor one another’s wishes when it comes to adhering to this plan?
Is there a reason you can see why either one of us needs to communicate outside of these agreed upon terms?
Until our interaction is consistently healthy, I ask that we please not discuss matters in person or by phone.
It is my wish that over time, we can interact with sanity and mutual respect. I wish to forgive and be forgiven for the past.
Therapeutically, The New Half