When the “Current” Meets the Ex

It’s not like I thought there would be fisticuffs, or a public scene, or even more than a sideways glaring look. It’s not like I don’t know the men I’m dealing with, both of them, intimately.

Two Men in Threatening StanceBut I never wanted to expose a “Current” to my Ex.

This is a matter of knowing my Ex for who he is, and equally, a matter of protecting myself and the person I love. I cordon off as much of my private life as possible to keep negativity and interference at bay.

But it’s hard to nurture a new relationship when the old never relinquishes its hold.

When the adversarial stance persists for years after divorce, when animosity is kept alive through the withholding of monies due, when commitments to children are made and then ignored or changed at the last minute, when the custodial parent is left to dry the tears, pick up the pieces, reshuffle the schedules yet again – circumstances lead you down a tiresome and potentially tumultuous path.

Bring a new man into such a murky mix? It ain’t easy.

New Relationships When the Old Interferes

I’m grateful for a few lovely relationships, though they have been intermittent. There have been many lonely years of seemingly pointless coffee dates, no dates at all, a silent bed, flesh gone dormant, and tasks. Always tasks, accompanied by fatigue and money worries.

It’s nearly impossible to imagine a new relationship much less begin one when there are skirmishes playing out in the background, ripple effects on the emotions and expectations of children, and disruption to work life and therefore, income.

Yet I have remained resolute when it comes to goals: staying true to the best interests of my sons, living by the integrity I hold so dear, and using my ability with words to inform, to question, to discover – and to some extent, to comfort myself through hard times. I also remember that we all experience life differently. I have no exclusive interpretation of “truth;” we each carry our own versions of who we are and how we lead our lives.

But allow someone I love to meet an ex-spouse who has caused such turmoil? To potentially judge me as a result? To expose him to any possible discomfort?

That was something I never wanted to risk.

The High-Conflict Divorce Aftermath

For those who haven’t experienced a high-conflict divorce, for those who haven’t spent years hunkering down in defensive mode in a strange and unending set of twists and turns, for those who are not tied to an ex through their offspring, for those who have civil dealings with a former spouse and his or her family – my life these past dozen years would sound odd, unreal, exaggerated.

For those who haven’t lived the high-conflict aftermath, meeting up at the occasional family event is no big deal, or at most, mildly awkward.

If you’re a woman and your ex has remarried, at the very least, you want to feel confident and look your best. Frankly, you want all elements of the presented self to gloriously offer a pointed “fuck you” to the man who walked away. That’s stating it as succinctly as I can.

If the event that brings you together is a time of celebration for a child, most of all, you want the experience to be smooth and pleasurable for him or her – no matter what has happened before, or may again.

Current Love Meets Ex-Spouse. News at 11?

I fretted for some time over this meeting, appreciative that the man in my life would stand by me hundreds of miles away, putting me much more at ease – and also, sharing in the joy of the weekend events in which we were participating. With my guy at my side, the Ex would be less likely to dabble in the mind games he so enjoys, like many.

Wondering how it would all go down, I assumed both would be polite. As for the introductions, one friend suggested that I simply let my man present himself with something like “I’m John. I have the good fortune to love to your ex-wife.”

That recommendation made me smile. But as it turns out, I wasn’t there for the initial face-to-face and have yet to hear many of the details.

Apparently, the Ex mistook my Current for a college professor – one of my son’s – and there ensued a few minutes of exchange with the former on his best behavior before he realized he was talking to the man in my life. At that point, the tone and topics switched to global business and, briefly, yours truly. By the time I returned, each had moved on to other conversations.

My Focus: Fully Me, Fully Embracing, Out from the Shadows

The father of my children has been less than scrupulous with his parenting responsibilities over these past years. I’ll leave it at that. I don’t believe in airing one’s dirty laundry on the internet, I have no desire to hurt anyone and certainly not my sons, and telling our stories always involves judgment as to what we share and what we don’t. It’s a fine line to walk, even as we recognize the value in exploring our lessons, offering community in mutual understanding, and if possible – helping others who may be living through something similar.

My children love their father. I would not want it otherwise. And I have spent years softening the blows of his benign neglect, though I’m uncertain if I should have done so.

For now, one son is newly graduated from college and making his way in the world. My younger has several more years of schooling ahead of him. It’s time for me to make myself a priority, and that continues to be an uphill battle. I’m good at loving, I’m good at working, I’m better at caring for others than myself.

I still struggle with trust. I may always struggle with trust.

Yet judging by the compassionate, honorable, funny, and apparently “professorial” man who loves me and handled himself so wondrously over several challenging days, I may learn from him to embrace my strengths, and the possibility of reclaiming beliefs once shattered.

Perhaps this meeting was all for the better. It may be time for a new chapter.


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  1. says

    And what a chapter that could be! Glad everyone survived unscathed. I’m sure Current is confident that he knows the “real” you and would not be swayed by anything said otherwise. And congrats on your son’s graduation! What an exciting time in his life.
    lisa recently posted…Breathing roomMy Profile

  2. says

    Ah, sounds like the “meeting” was at the graduation event. Congrats to your son. I always get (mis)taken for a professor (maybe it was that I was wearing my gown and trimmings for graduation).

    Anyway, my experience. I try to appreciate the good in the past and to remember the good things in my former marriage as well as the good reasons for the divorce. Otherwise, one gets caught in the “Why did you marry her in the first place” and then the “Well, if you loved her, then why did you get divorced?” Anyway, I have found it better not to speak of some of the severe problems of my former wife because it sounded unbelievable and thus only reflected back on me. In any case, when I introduced Fran to my former wife at a wedding event seven year after our divorce, it went like this:
    Paul, as cheerily as possible: “Hi Diane, I’d like you to meet my wife Fran” (Diane was well aware of my remarriage and that I had met Fran some time after the divorce). Diane, loudly and hostilely: “WHO are you? Who ARE you? Who are YOU!” all the time walking around me and staring maniacally (ok, this is how Fran described it all later). Paul (with surprise/confusion): “I’m Paul, your former husband.” Diane, loudly: “Paul? Paul? Paul who? I don’t know any Paul.” Paul: “We were married.” Diane, after staring intently at me for a while: “Oh, THAT Paul,” and went back to stuffing her face with the reception food although the reception had not begun and she was not talking to anyone but only eating and counting the types of foods.

    Fran, rather in shock, speaking to me: “She is totally crazy. How could you ever have married her?”

    And so I guess there’s no way for a guy to win at that. I was rather hoping she would act somewhat normal – she can simulate wonderfully when to her advantage. She avoided us the rest of the evening. Actually, it is all rather sad. She had many problems and died suddenly two years ago. Perhaps someone can learn something from this story, or perhaps indeed I should never speak of it.

  3. batticus says

    Great post today, glad to hear it went well! I’m halfway through a renovation in Chez Batticus, I’m still a loyal reader even though my laptop occasionally gets a layer of drywall dust on it :)

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Thanks, batticus! Good luck with your renovations. (Tomorrow, maybe some pics of where I was ‘stranded’ a few days back. They may inspire you!)

  4. Curtis says

    DA I think you hit it perfectly when you clearly stated that the focus and day should be for the children. I found it funny the ex assumed and adjusted his behaviour based on the belief that your current was a professor and then your current.

    I think it is difficult to understand unless you have been in a high conflict divorce. People can intellectually understand and emphasize, but not comprehend entirely. Simple but a useful approach is as you suggest: focus on the children. It never hurts to act like Jesus, think like Sun Tzu, have a demeanor of Buddha, and be prepared to act like Von Clausewitz and Von Meinke. Okay, perhaps that is a little over the top but the message is clear.

    Paul that is sad, scary and funny all at the same time. I do not know what to say.

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