The Friend Factor
How being friends with my ex-husband helped me find me
(originally published August 2008 on bettyconfidential.com)
I've always been puzzled by the radical notion that people could be friends with their exes. Plenty of people I know have amiable relationships with exes; some out of respect for the children involved, and others because, well, they're capable of adult maturity. Bully for them.
I, on the other hand, wallow and obsess and allow my wounded self to heal in precisely half the time we were together, just like my magazines dictate. The trouble is my emotions and expectations get all tied up in the person I'm with, so when that part of my life is over, I really do have to start life all over again. Note to my future prospects: I'm totally better at this now, I promise!
So when my husband walked out on me after 13 years, I wanted to be stronger. This was the biggest break-up of my life, and I went from being with someone for that long to being completely and suddenly alone in one unexpected instant. But since he was so nonchalant about it all, wasn't it better not to give him the satisfaction of seeing how destroyed I was? It took me a while, but I did come to realize I was mourning my life more than the relationship itself. No one expects or ever wants love to end or to peter out, as ours did, into a brother-and-sister- like zone, with mind-numbingly boring daily routines. Sometimes you can climb out of those ruts (if you both work on it), but sometimes, sorry to say, you really can't, especially if no one is working on it. So I suppose we really were better off in the long run, in the end after all - just not in the execution of the event.
Anyway, I felt I had no choice but to follow his friendship lead, since there was apparently no going back. And I wanted to be sophisticated, which meant we met for lunch every week where I whined about Internet dating and he told me every detail of every conquest. Fun! I felt positively European. Yeah!!! But I knew I had entered new territory one day when he called and asked me for some free tickets at the theater where I worked. I usually provided comps for friends, and since I was absolutely determined to maybe try out actually kind of being friends with an ex for the first time, I told him sure. After all, what harm could it do? (Don't answer that.).
Then he said he was going on a blind date and wanted to take her to the show, and asked if that would be a problem. Well this was a first. Since we were not (ha-ha, Freudian slip, I meant now) best pals, I left the tickets for him at the box office, the result being that Yours Truly is the one solely responsible for giving the two lovebirds the memory of where they first met and started dating. They've been together for years now (told you). This turned out to be a great story to tell my friends and to garner sympathy from relatives as well as random strangers. We could all chat about my self-respect and relationship issues all at once because no one else had ever suffered a loss like mine, right?
But then I realized that each of us is responsible for our own choices. I did say I wanted to be friends, and if we truly had something before, and we must have, then I had to be happy for him now. And I am. I am happy for myself too. If I were to be brutally honest, neither of us was living to our potential. We married too young and then didn't grow together the way we were supposed to. If I could get over my own ego - and believe me, this takes years - I'd be able to look at the big picture and see that I am being handed a brand-new life, a clean slate, and a way to find my true self. When else would I get this opportunity? I intend to take full advantage of this, to put down that carton of Ben & Jerry's (why is that tired old cliché so tragically true during break-ups?) and go live my life. MY life. One problem with getting into a relationship too soon is that you are in danger of living someone else's life, and then you will lose sight of your own.
So I freely gave my ex and his girl their memories, and the instant I did that, my heart once again became free and open. And I am finally ready for the next big relationship - - the one with myself. Yes, I have baggage, but now it fits neatly under my seat. Bon voyage!
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