When women talk about the current romantic lives of their ex-husbands, it's common to hear refrains along the lines of "I couldn't care less who he's with. What a nightmare, she can have him, good riddance." And they usually add "As long as she's nice to my kids, that's all I care about."
Really? You don't care at all? You're not
curious? No twinges of jealousy? What if she's younger? Successful? Skinnier? None of this stings at all???
don't believe you.
My ex introduced my children to his
new girlfriend and her children this weekend. I've known that he's been seeing someone since before the ink on our settlement dried,
despite his proclamations that he'd never be able to date again and
would spend years alone mourning our marriage. I wasn't particularly
surprised that he'd partnered up. This is a man
who moved one of his parents in with him the day after I moved out. Of course
he would be eager to move on, to find someone else to accompany him to office parties and tell him how
intelligent and successful and wildly attractive he is. Of course he
would immediately search for a replacement.
So why do I feel
uncomfortable now that he's made his relationship public? Why does my knowledge of his girlfriend's existence give me pause? I want my ex-husband to be
happy, I do. He deserves to have a life. I have one, after all. It's healthier for the kids to see him
settled and partnered than sitting home with his dad at night, watching
ESPN like a zombie. Do I want my ex anymore?
No, most definitely not.
Do I miss him sexually? Hell no. Do I suspect his new girlfriend is
something I want or need? No, I know for sure, surer than I know anything, that
he is incapable of giving me what I want. I knew that for years preceding our
But there's something about the idea of my ex
and his girlfriend being with my children and hers, acting like a
family, that stings. In these moments I have to remind myself what
it's like when my kids are with my boyfriend. (My children haven't met
his kids yet. Though he and I are crazy about each other, we're in no rush.) Is
it threatening to my ex's role as their dad in any way? Of course not. Would anything about them being with my boyfriend be objectively
unacceptable to my ex? No, not even remotely. It's just a part of us all moving forward, separately, building a new life.
I'm not the only one whose having difficulty with this new development. I spoke with my daughter on Saturday night, and she was very, very upset. What she was told would be a brief introduction
to my ex's girlfriend and her kids over frozen yogurt had
turned into an all-day event. (Why he felt the need to include her
children during this first meeting is beyond me.) They spent the afternoon at his house, had dinner together, and went to see a
professional soccer game. My daughter did mention that his girlfriend was nice, and that her children were friendly. Of
course, I didn't expect my ex to date a hag. I'm sure she's a nice woman, nonthreatening and uncomplicated. A
simple girl. The opposite of me, with my churning brain and intellect and tattoos and
"issues" regarding my long struggle and recovery over anorexia.
all too much, mom," my daughter told me. "It's just too much." She never wanted to go to the soccer game. She didn't feel as if she had any say in what was happening. I was infuriated. Absolutely infuriated.
I wanted to pick up the phone and roar at my ex and ask him why, for a
relatively smart man, he was so God dammed clueless. I wanted to
defend my child, who was in obvious emotional turmoil. I wanted to cry
and scream and throw things and curse the heavens for marrying him in
the first place.
was up all of last night thinking about what had happened. Sure, I was infuriated that my daughter was so upset. But why was I really angry? Why had I spent a night awake, wondering about this new woman, if she was pretty, smart, successful? It wasn't really about my daughter. She'll be fine.
I suspect she was more annoyed about giving up a night playing her new
Pokemon download than going to the soccer game. Here's what it is, what it
boils down to: this guy was my friend, my husband, my father figure
(sorry, it's true), for awhile, the bulk of my adult life. Since we split, he hadn't yet
officially "replaced" me. I'd still been the only woman, aside from his
mother, who really loomed large in his life, for better or worse. And
now that's changed. So it pulls at the wound. It's a reminder of the
That's the thrust of it: even though we've been estranged for over a year,
and we've both moved on, the process of disentangling continues. My
complicated feelings about the new girlfriend are about us all taking yet another
step apart. It's not about her in particular; she could be anyone. Who knows if she'll even stick around. It's
about the sadness of divorce, of one family unit ending and morphing
into something else.
I believe it is genuinely possible for people to move on. Some marriages, like mine, were mistakes. Jealousy can often be confused for regret, and I suspect that's what I'm feeling - regret for wasting so much of my time with someone who didn't value, notice, or appreciate me. I have nothing against the girlfriend. Her presence doesn't affect me personally. As long as she isn't cruel or abusive to my kids, it'll be fine. These complicated feelings won't kill me, not by a long shot.