Getting along with an ex is a tough thing to do, I get that. Maybe they fell out of love with you – that hurts to hear. Maybe they cheated on you – that communicates some pretty hurtful vibes. Maybe they just quit because they were tired of the relationship – apathy can be one of the worst forms of insult. Regardless of what happened in the past, it does not have to control your future.
First off, I’m only using the title “ex” to make a point. It is kind of derogatory to reduce someone to an abbreviation, or two letters when they have a perfectly good name. Like saying X-mas instead of Christmas. Whether or not you believe in it, it is still Christmas.
I used to refer to my ex-wife as just “my ex”, until I had a realization. She is the same person I fell in love with at one time, and although the definition of my love for her has changed – significantly I might add – it doesn’t change the fact that she is still mostly that same person. If we didn’t have kids together I might just be able to say goodbye for good. But, in the 13 years we spent together, there was a hell of a lot of good times. There is a large part of me that will always consider her as a friend. Also, because we DO have kids together, and this point is so important, even if it is just for the kids, play nice for their sake.
She/He’s got a name
So I’m going to stop calling her my ex. Instead I’ll use her name. For this post, I’ll make up some random name like Betsy. Or Gertrude. No, I’ve had pet cows with those names so that might be worse than ex. How about Sally? That’s harmless enough.
I’m a firm believer that there are three sides to every story, mine, hers and what really happened. While, in some respects Sally’s story is far from mine, that doesn’t mean her point of view is wrong. It doesn’t make her right either. I used to get a kick out of telling the story of when we met. She’d tell her version, and then I’d tell mine. Let me tell you, we should have charged admission, it was that good. People would laugh, and in the end we’d both insist ours was the true account, but which one was accurate didn’t matter. I believe that we were both right even though they were miles apart in some respects.
When we remember things, we have certain filters. When it comes to the details, like whether it was cloudy or not, what colour of shirt they were wearing, their temperament when they were speaking – we each remember the same situation differently. Maybe how we were feeling changed the way we heard things, maybe we just won the lottery so nothing could offend us, or maybe – just maybe – we don’t always see things completely clearly. If you think you remember things perfectly, then you might be a narcissist. That isn’t a redneck joke by the way.
So back to the main topic. I could be a jerk to Sally, I likely have some pretty damn good reasons to be. She’s earned it. On the flip side, she probably has some very convincing reasons to be a prick to me. I’ve not been perfect by any stretch of the imagination (and my imagination can REALLY stretch). But thankfully we realized something at the very beginning.
Divorce is going to suck, and you’re both going to leave with less than you started.
Divorce is tough. Nothing about it is easy. I’ve never seen a situation where both people were left in a better situation than they started. In the case of abuse, I agree they are far better off removed from the abusive partner, but when you look at their post relationship life, it will still have gaping holes. We all leave divorce with scars of some sort. Regardless the depth of your hurt and loss, resist the urge to sink an axe in their back, in an attempt to even the score. The temperature of our relationship changed the moment we both accepted that no matter how this divorce played out, we were both going to lose more than we wanted to. Often, someone will look at what they are left with and blame the other – possibly with good reason – causing them to dig in their heels, call them nasty names (sometimes in front of their kids), and generally push to get everything out of the dying marriage they can. Thankfully, we didn’t do that. Sally and I decided that when we felt that way, that we would think of the other and accept that they were losing just as much. Rulers didn’t matter anymore. Plus, being a guy, I’d win a dick measuring contest by default (hell, I’m so awesome I can even write my name in the snow – lets see her do that).
If anything has made this divorce bearable, tolerable or dare I say – a delight – it was that specific day when we accepted that there were three sides to every story. Hers, mine, and what really happened. She had the right to her feelings, and I had the right to mine – but in the end we were still the same people who had a great 13 years together. We decided that it was better to control our future than it was to be controlled by the past. For the kids sake, I’m glad we did. Otherwise it would have been a Mexican stand-off and the ones hurt the most would have been the kids.
So maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there is some sick sort of satisfaction I’m missing out on – watching my ex suffer a life of depravity and woe. Getting her just deserts, living in her well deserved hell, right here on earth. Maybe I’ve missed out on the benefits of getting further in life by treading on top of her head. I think you can see the ridiculousness in those statements as clearly as I can while I write them. There is not going to be sunshine and lollipops spraying from Sally’s rear end if you make an effort to get along, but trust me, this is a better road.
Ha, I want some of the drugs you are on, my ex is confrontational/hostile!
If this is you, then you’ve got a tougher road ahead of you than I do. I don’t know what advice to give you. Maybe you offended them and they ended it, maybe they are mad at you for taking your leave. I’m not sure what to tell you. Maybe tell them to read this post. I doubt I’m the silver-tongued magician needed to change their view, but you never do know. Some people respond to the olive branch, and others take it as an opportunity to lash out. All I can say is fight for what is fair and do your best to be the kind of person you wish they were.
But they DESERVE to suffer, do you want to know what they did to me?
No, actually I don’t. If I was your friend, then yes, spill it all out. For the purpose of this post, what they did in the past doesn’t hold any power anymore unless you give it that power. If you are ok with the unhappiness the conflict brings, then I’m not sure what brought you this far down this post. I’m assuming something resonated with you. Maybe it was just the simple memories you recall of the good times. Realize this – things are only as weird, or as difficult as you make them. If you can let go of the hurt and pain, YOUR life will be better for it. Holding a grudge hurts no one except you. You may think it affects them, and maybe they let it, but in the end, you lose your precious future. It becomes a negative past as time moves on.
If there is one thing you can do going forward, use your ex’s name when you talk about them. I think it makes a big difference in how I view Sally, and that translates to a happier me and a dad that has more energy to give to my kids. In the end, it’s all about them anyway.