Seeing the Glass-Half Full When your Ex Moves On…
It’s bound to happen.
In my case, it happened much sooner than I expected.
When my ex-husband brought our kids home on Christmas, I had spent the morning arranging their presents, making their favorite Christmas morning food, and taking crumbly bites out of the cookies we had baked earlier that week for Santa. My excited anticipation of seeing my kids’ faces light up when they walked in the door quickly deflated.
The kids and their dad walked in the front door looking like they were about to tell me they had broken something or hit my car. In this well-I-have-good-new-and-bad-news kind of way, my ex husband said, “Well, I have something I have to tell you….” (Insert very long–like way overly long–pause here while we all look from one person to the other waiting on this forthcoming information.) “We are getting married.”
So many things about this made me want to vomit my Christmas Santa cookie right on his shoes. Instead I managed the most sincere smile possible.
“Congratulations. That’s great.”
Blah. blah. blah. small talk. small talk. OK, Merry Christmas! And he was out the door, peeling off down the street while I stood there with the door still open feeling like I’d been punched in the stomach containing said Christmas Santa cookie.
Next the kids were telling me all about this news, how it all went down, rose petals and fancy restaurants and chocolate desserts with rings somehow involved. I honestly didn’t hear the details. I was more focused on what had just gone down in one unforeseen Christmas surprise on my doorstep.
What was I feeling? Anger? Hurt? Disbelief? Shock?
A little mixture of all of those things, but for reasons one might not expect.
The news itself was not surprising. They had moved in together a year earlier, and she attended my kids’ birthday parties. We got along fine. The news itself honestly didn’t bother me one bit. Yes, that’s true.
What bothered me then?
The whole thing could have been handled with a bit more courtesy and respect. That news definitely needed to be shared with me, but I’m not sure Christmas morning served as the greatest timing while Have a Holly Jolly Christmas piped away in the background. Also, I’m not sure my kids needed to serve as the audience for this exchange of information. They were visibly stressed about how this would go over with me. They struggled with feeling happy and excited for their dad–which they should–and feeling sympathetic toward me–which they also should. And they never should have been put in the position to try to work out which feelings were tight and which were wrong, because neither were wrong.
I expected a better example of thoughtfulness for my children. Their dad and I had worked diligently to get along, particularly where our kids were concerned. Firm boundaries with a wide bit of No-Man’s Land in between where no one’s toes were endangered worked well for us. Any discussion to work out an issue here or there never occurred in front of our kids. Never. So I was taken completely off-guard when the engagement bomb dropped.
In the years since, we have all attended birthday parties and other kid events together. We sit together at performances, awards ceremonies, and sports events. I think it shocks people the first time they see me hug my ex-husband’s wife, but she didn’t ever do anything to hurt me or my marriage. Why would I fault her? That doesn’t help anyone and would serve as a terrible example for all of our kids. As more time passes, genuinely working to make her and her kids feel welcome takes no effort and feels increasingly comfortable. I think that’s because it’s the right thing to do.
Divorce is hard. It’s hard on kids. I don’t see any reason to make it harder. While feeling jealous or resentful might seem like a typical or even logical way to feel, this is my opportunity to step out of the dark cloudiness of divorce and find sunnier surroundings by separating my past experience from our present experience.
If you find yourself standing face to face with your ex-spouse and Someone New you weren’t expecting, it’s OK to feel whatever you feel. That’s one of those first’s we just have to experience–there’s no avoiding it in all likelihood. But you can choose how to respond. Take a deep breath, acknowledge the situation, decide who you are in your new life, and respond accordingly. Classiness is always in style.
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