Friends, Lovers, or Nothing?
I survived my first year’s separation. I divvied up and shared my possessions, worked out joint custody of the kids with my ex, and have finally come to a place where my husband and I can have friendly conversations without sarcasm or anger dripping from our mouths. We are getting along, and it feels good.
One last task to work out.
Who gets custody of our friends?
I started with an invitation. My best friend recently moved into a new home, and now that she’s settled in, she’s throwing a party to celebrate. Of course, I planned to attend. All our close friends will be going, and knowing them, it’s sure to be a good time. Everything was fine until my bestie mentioned that she was inviting my ex.
“No problem,” I said. “We’re getting along well these days.”
“But he might bring his new girlfriend,” she said.
Once upon a time, we were close, the four of us. Two couples sharing date nights and barbeques and evenings on the town with our kids.
Since the separation, the dynamic has changed. My girlfriend still comes over on occasion, but instead of foursomes we have one-on-one time and the occasional GNO.
“I want you to come,” she says. “You’re my best friend, but he (my ex,) did a lot to help us with the new house. I have to invite him.”
I understand. This isn’t her fault. This is my own personal problem, something I have to deal with on my own.
It isn’t fair to make your friends pick and choose. This is her party, her home, and she shouldn’t feel bad about wanting to have two people she cares about share her happy moment.
But this new gal…
Truth be told, I don’t want my ex back. He’s a wonderful man, a stand-up father, and a kind and generous person. I’m happy he found a girlfriend. Someone who took away his pain and gave him his confidence back. I’m grateful he met a person who loves him dearly and cares for my kids.
But this new gal…
Imagine this. You’re at a party and your ex walks in. The person you shared almost a quarter century with enters with your children and his new girlfriend. They say hello to your friends—YOUR friends—then mingle. They listen to the music, pour themselves drinks, and pause to shake hands with people you know. You wonder how he introduces her. As his lover? A special friend? The woman he bares his naked soul to?
Now they’re standing a stone’s throw away. This woman, a stranger to you, is stroking his cheek—once YOUR cheek, or holding his hand—once YOUR hand, the one he wore your ring on. She’s tracing circles on the small of his back. Your children run up to her. She makes them platters of food, watches them with motherly concern, talks to them as if they were hers.
They’re not yours.
Tonight you have everything of mine.
It’s your duty to say hello, but your feet seem to be frozen in place, and even if you were able to unlock them, you wonder what on earth you will say. How can you look this woman in the eye, the woman who has what was once yours, and fake pleasantries.
Here are some options:
“Great weather, right?”
God, that’s lame.
“How ‘bout those (insert sports team here.)”
You despise sports.
“I hear you’re Vegan.”
Thanks for screwing up my life by brainwashing my kids and making me have to find meatless, eggless, dairy-free recipes my children will enjoy and not get sick of, and what the heck am I supposed to serve them for Thanksgiving now, thank you very much.
That last one might be too harsh.
“Thank you for taking care of them.”
“Thank you for giving them love.”
Can I say that? Can I look this lean, blond creature in the eye, shake her bony hand, and wish her luck with my family?
A strong person would do this. A mature person would do this. A woman who’s grateful that her ex found someone nice, would do this. A woman who’s heart is full and is blessed with friends and lovers of her own, would do this.
Am I that person?
Only time will tell.