Dear New Wife,
I remember the first time I met you. It was at my son’s birthday party. I was pleased to see my ex-husband as happy in a new relationship as I was in my new marriage. I was eager to get to know you, the newest member of our big, loving family! When we were introduced, you hardly smiled or acknowledged me. Although it took me aback, I continued to welcome you, smile and talk to you, but again, you scarcely acknowledged me. Something didn’t feel right about that, but I quickly discarded it and went on about the business of being myself. After all, it can be awkward and uncomfortable for the new love to meet the ex-wife.
As months passed, I felt you somewhat warm up to me and life moved forward. We continued with the pre-established status quo of joint holidays and occasional joint vacations with our kids. It was nice. After all, we had been divorced 10 years and had figured out a way to be friends. And man, did our kids benefit from it! So much so that they often told me they never felt the heartache of typical children of divorce. Win!
You see, my own parents had modeled ex-ing beautifully for us and I was so grateful we were able to do the same. It’s the best thing for the children and the circle of family involved. Divorce does not have to equal division, bitterness and hate. It can be the beginning of something new and wonderful!
But something seemed to change after my new husband abandoned our family a year later. It became apparent that my new status of “available” was threatening to you. I tried to ignore it and work around it, but it only gained force like a hurricane slowly making its way toward shore. I was shocked and perplexed.
Couldn’t you see with your eyes and feel with your heart that I was nothing to fear?
My children began to notice their parents’ friendship compromised for the first time in over a decade. They witnessed their father’s kind and respectful behavior toward their mother change to cold and distant. They also noticed how unwilling he was to stand up for or protect them in situations where a father should. It became unwittingly clear he did everything possible to quell your insecurity even if that meant choosing you over them and treating me as if I was a non-person. He put aside his priorities and his personal freedom to appease you.
Perhaps you can trust his devotion to you now.
Sadly though, none of this needed to happen because there’s something I don’t think you understand. Just because people divorce, doesn’t mean they don’t love one another anymore; oftentimes, the love has only changed forms. My ex and I simply morphed from husband and wife to a sibling-type relationship. He became my brother. It was a friendship built on healthy boundaries and respect for each other and their personal lives. We cared about each other’s well-being as family would. We were often told we modeled a new paradigm for what healthy divorce and co-parenting can be. We were proud of our friendship.
Why weren’t you thrilled to have a drama free ex-wife like me?
I tried to ease your mind and calm your fear that Spring morning in Starbucks. For two heartfelt hours I explained my ex and I’s friendship. How he and I would help each other out with tasks from time to time, work together to meet our children’s needs, but not once had we crossed the line of “friends” since our divorce. In fact, we hardly even hugged save an occasional holiday. Our only crime was being nice to one another.
I had compassion for what I was sure was your backstory of pain. I understood. You see, I did not see you as an enemy or someone trying to hurt me. I saw you as a sister. Another woman who did not yet understand her worth or trust in a man’s love. Couldn’t you feel the truth and integrity in my words? But no matter what I said, how gently I said it or how compassionate and transparent I was, it was clear your mind was made up.
My ex and I don’t talk anymore. We no longer share joint holidays with our children. We don’t help each other out with tasks or work together as cohesive co-parents. His relationship with his children has suffered terribly as they’ve watched their father bend and stretch to make you comfortable. They watched the life they knew, enjoyed and felt safe in dramatically change. Where there was once unity and peace now lies the moss covered headstone of a dead friendship.
I’m still perplexed how this situation is better than the amicable situation we had before? Are you really at peace now? I wish I could say you are, but I continue to hear stories of your insecurity aimed toward other people. Perhaps it wasn’t me after all, but you all along.
The good news is my children and I discuss life issues openly and with higher purpose and direction in mind. The years have passed and they have grown and cultivated a new relationship with their father based on forgiveness and compassion for his fear of standing up for those he cares about.
They love him more than anything. Just as you do.
I have chosen to grieve the friendship my ex and I had, keep my distance and settle into this new format of ex-ing. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about him or ever will. Love does not change, but situations do. And when my brother feels the freedom to enter back into my life, I will gladly accept him and you as well.
I pray for you often, sister. I ask God to help you find your worth and self-esteem. I pray you see the gift in peaceful ex-ing and open your eyes to the good woman I was then and still am today.
Until that time comes, I will be over here enjoying a great life.
The Ex Wife