I love watching home improvement shows, especially the ones where a dilapidated, outdated, shack of a house is transformed into a stunning, modern home that anyone would love to call their own. It was in the midst of binge watching a series about flipping homes that I realized that I had unwittingly performed a flip! No, I didn’t remodel a 1950’s 2-bedroom ranch into a swanky 4-bedroom home with an open floor plan, I successfully flipped my ex-husband!
Similar to the contractors and designers on TV, I discovered my ex just shy of 30-years-old. He was built in 1970, and although he wasn’t the most stylish or contemporary, he had what a builder might refer to as “good bones.” To the amateur flipper, he appeared to have potential. He was employed, no criminal record, tall, strong, and interested in having a family.
I detected no major flaws to the exterior, but I was not properly trained to detect the ones in the interior, namely the skeletons in the closet. I didn’t discover the fatal flaws in the man before me until it was time to put all of the functions to use and get into all of the nooks and crannies for renovation. Call it a rookie mistake, but I thought I could “fix” all of his problems.
What does it say about me that I would seek another person as a DIY project? To be fair, I didn’t go husband shopping with the intent of hitching myself up to a fixer-upper, I think it’s just an innate trait of mine to want to help others and see the potential in them. So, he wasn’t the builder’s show model, but I could squint my eyes, cock my head to the side, and just imagine what he could be.
First time flipper mistake #1 is thinking you can (or should) try to change who another person is! If who they are is not who you need in your life, then you can’t expect them to change for you! Either look inside yourself to see what it is that you may need to do differently or seek the one who is just right for you! In his case, I think he desired the changes, and I climbed aboard and agreed to help him. Sometimes in life you realize that you can’t care more about fixing another’s problems than they do!
If I look at my ex like a house in need of a lot of reimagining, I can say that he has transformed as a result of our marriage and divorce. Like any person or house, he is not perfect in every way. He is not the right partner for me or my needs, but he would work just fine for someone else. Our divorce wasn’t a positive experience for either of us, but we were both handed an opportunity for a second chance, as a result.
Like me, he struggled with the demise of our marriage and walked through the healing process that includes healing, self-reflection, and hopefully growth, which can all lead to becoming a better person. It’s taken him awhile, but I can see some improvements coming about in him. He seems to be more confident and focused on finding his purpose. He spent three years unemployed after we divorced, but has been working consistently the last few months. He finished his degree after our divorce, and is just now putting his education to work in a “real,” professional job!
He deserves a lot of the credit for who he is becoming, but I won’t be shy in saying that I am responsible for a lot of who he is today. During our marriage, I believe I was a good influence on him. I inspired him to go to college. He saw me do it, and I think realized that it could help him achieve more satisfaction with his life, as well. He was frustrated with his job options, and decided to take his future by the horns.
One issue of his that I didn’t fully recognize before we married was his co-dependent family relationship and “mommy issues.” As any real estate agent is prone to do, I spun “man still attached to his mother’s umbilical cord” around to a more palatable “man is family-oriented” While it is still the case that he and his family are rather tight-knit, I see that my example during our marriage has equipped him to do a better job of setting boundaries and standing up for himself.
The next woman in his life should be prepared for continuous inter-generational interaction (doesn’t that sound better than “every free moment is expected to be spent together and in one another’s business”?); but, I think she will find more maturity, sense of self, and the ability to occasionally say “no” than prior to my involvement.
I think some living and learning and being required to be responsible for children has also forced him to grow up and take charge. I will go so far as to say that our break-up also forced him to have to do things he previously refused to do. The man would have nothing to do with any form of housework while we were married, even though we both worked full time; but, now he has to complete these tasks.
I will cross my fingers in hopes that he won’t expect a future partner to take all of the chores on by herself, as he did with me, and instead hope that he’s more aware of the effort involved and willing to share the load.
A lazy streak also took a toll on his physical appearance and manners. Mid-way through our marriage he gained a lot of weight, had a sloppy and unkempt appearance, freely shared his bodily functions with anyone lucky enough to be in his proximity, and generally let himself go. He had gastric by-pass a year ago, he now maintains a neat appearance, and could certainly catch the eye of a single lady. I can’t speak for whether he now closes the bathroom door, but he has definitely polished up his act!
The potential existed in my ex to be a good partner and successful person. He had limited motivation or focus before we met. Nearly 20 years has passed since we first met, allowing for ample time to mature and find direction. Neither of us are the same people we were back in 1999. In some ways we are both better, while in others we may be worse. I can’t take all the credit for who he is now; but, I have no doubt that our time together married and the experience of divorce shaped who he is now.
If my ex was a house going to auction, his value has increased and he would be more desirable to the market because of my contribution to his life. I won’t be the one to profit from his future endeavors, though my children will. I can feel good about knowing that my kids will have a better example from their father, and that to me is more priceless than the profit I could make from flipping a house!