You have just met someone new and a mutual interest seems to be growing. Love bells are ringing. Getting to know each other is in full force so naturally, you are curious about every window that promises a glimpse into who they are. Including and especially their ex's.
It's ok to admit it as it's a rather common curiosity, an understandable fascination to have with former lovers of folks you love. It's tempting to not only know who they are but also to want a piece of their experiences while they embarked on a journey of love with the same person you are only beginning to get to know. What about them attracted your lover to that person in the first place and what does that tell you about their personality? How smooth (or not) was their relationship and who takes the blame, at least most of it, for why and how the pair could no longer exist as such? Oh the landmine of information the ex must me sitting on that you will have to figure out for yourself!? If only you can spend a few hours touring their brain and take notes, the new love affair could be less of a vulnerability risk and more of a carefully controlled experiment. A game of tactically placed bets.
It's an exercise in futility if you ask me. But I must confess I knew no better than this for a long
Somewhere in between stalking an ex boyfriend's ex with my ego salivating to compare the 'dodged a bullet' chapter from my victim identity's playbook, attempting to have a good-at-best-or-workable-at-least relationship with my ex husband and his new wife and falling in love with a divorced father of two who lived an ocean away from me, I grew.
Yeah. It's complicated.
I was curious about my husband's ex ever since I met him. I had many questions about her. Questions I was unable to satisfactorily answer from a distance, ones I had to find out for myself if I were to achieve a meaningful relationship with her for the sake the kids. Who is she? What is she really like? How did she deal with their divorce? How will she take my presence in her kid's lives? What will she tell them about me?
Having gone through a divorce myself, I understood the dynamics of a broken marriage and how adults tend to behave during and after such a challenging turn in their lives. I was familiar with the urge to shift blame to one side ignorant to the fact that the grand dance of the institution of marriage is built and broken in unison. That people find it easier to attach to their chosen rhetoric of victimhood or anger than to grabble with what they were able to learn about themselves through love, growing apart, hurt and healing. When kids are involved, the way parents deal with their divorce is guaranteed to have lasting consequences. Adult's egos become the reason such children grow up soaking negativity and with strained relationships with their parents. Having attempted to create a favorable relationship with my son's stepmom, I knew I had to approach my husband's ex wife with the same intention.
My first real meeting with her happened in London. We had briefly said hello to each other in person and over the phone prior but deciding to have dinner together was huge. I knew exactly how awkward it was for my husband to drive away after dropping me off to have dinner with his ex wife and mother of his kids. I know because I had been in the same boat as he and my ex husband discussed custody disagreements while I sat at home wishing I were a fly on Panera Bread's walls.
I remember having been so present with her every minute of the few hours we spent together. Present to the point I vividly recall the restaurant and everything we ordered even though it's been a few years . The more we talked and sipped on wine, the calmer my nerves got, and hers too I could tell.
My priority was for her to know how much I love the kids my husband and her created and my admiration for the mother she is to them. I needed her to absorb my energy which focused on what's best for them and how best we can all contribute to their well-being. I had no use for the past and wished she didn't either. I laid my intentions bare and received much more than what I expected her to have the will and strength to give.
It was liberating to say the least, to cast away the stiff facade we felt we had to wear. We weren't enemies nor did we have to impress each other, just two human beings chatting about this and that. We talked about everything from our kids to our deeply held insights on religion and told each other silly jokes.
That night would become the beginning of a rewarding journey of friendship that took us far from our comfort zones. Not a stroll in the park by any means as we had to learn how to deal with skeptics within and without, go through a tug-o-war to weave out clear parental roles in the process of putting the kids first and focus more on what makes us alike than how different we may be.
There was so much power in realizing the strength of our commonalities in a culture that taught us to compare, to be suspicious and envious of each other. Our connection, we found out, was profound! We both knew how to sacrifice ourselves to build a family at a young age only to watch it break apart. Had to then learn how to to gather the lessons scattered amongst the wreckage and attempt to heal the wounds of failure. Dared to love yet again. We know just what it takes to explain to our little ones what it means for mom and dad to no longer be together but still love each other through the lives of the beautiful children they were blessed with. Our unspoken experiences bonded us. Our vision for our kid's joyful and healthy futures made us determined to be vulnerable to each other.
The rewards are bountiful.
She's someone I speak to on a daily basis now. Someone I can be myself around, share a laugh with, whose happiness I genuinely care about. One I fully trust with my kids as I am one she fully trusts with hers.
Not only did we achieve a level of teamwork that makes coparenting our kids a breeze, we built a sisterhood that leaves others with wide-open jaws. People warned both of us of the evil that could be lurking behind our intentions but we chose the risk of being vulnerable to each other. Through it, we are able to show our children the power of love and giving those we are expected to keep distant an opportunity to enrich our lives.