I enjoy your blog but sometimes I think you are a little naive. Not everyone can be best friends with their ex.
My daughter is getting married in August and she recently sent me a list of photos she wants taken at her wedding. You know, “bride and groom, bride’s family, etc.”
Several of those on the list included both her father and me. I was very surprised and would like your advice.
My ex-husband and I had an ugly divorce, to put it mildly. We’ve been divorced now for almost six years and I still can’t stand the sight of him.
I can hear you scolding me but hear me out: my ex-husband hired a “DICK,” something I know you would hate. It was awful and took forever and cost much more money than it should have.
The idea of standing next to him in wedding photographs makes me ill. How can I explain this to my daughter without causing her undue pain?
Proud Mom, Angry Ex
Dear Proud Mom, Angry Ex:
Thank you for your letter, for acknowledging how I might react to it, and for the phone conversation in which you filled me in on the divorce shenanigans carried on by your ex-husband’s counsel, otherwise known as DICKs (Divorce Industrial Complex Kingpins), in the 19 months between filing for divorce and the finalization.
I wish I could say I was surprised by what went on, but I’ve learned enough to know by now that just when you think DICKs cannot sink any lower, they find a backhoe and keep on digging.
You are right when you say not everyone can be best friends with their ex. I understand there are some people out there whose former partner makes an amicable relationship absolutely impossible.
I have a good friend who has been divorced for over ten years. Her ex-husband has relentlessly dragged her back to court or otherwise harassed her time and time again.
I have advised this friend numerous times on how to keep the emotional temperature low between the two of them and she is very good at following my excellent advice, but each time she is met with hostility, intransigence, and a hatred that belies his claims not to love her any longer.
Still, I believe the majority of divorced couples have the capacity to get along. I don’t think that’s naive as much as it is giving credit to people for being adults.
Proud Mom, Angry Ex:
Just read the name you signed to your email. Wouldn’t you rather be, “Proud Mom, Indifferent Ex?”
- You were the one who wanted the divorce; your husband did not.
- Yes, he hired a DICK, but in response, so did you. Own it.
- He was remarried within four months of your divorce being finalized and you really don’t like the new wife.
- After the divorce you found out he had lied about a significant amount of money so back to court you went. That’s when you decided he was a dishonest ass of the first order and you would never speak to him again.
During our chat you said over and over again how important it is to you to be STRONG.
You used that word dozens of times as you described years of therapy meant to make you “stronger,” which seems to mean “I give myself permission to harbor anger and ill will towards my ex-husband, also known as ‘the father of my kids.'”
Fingernails: Strong v. Hard
Please bear with me as there is a point about to be made; I promise!
One of the great things about having an unusual mind and an audience that demands constant content is I look at the world much differently than I used to.
Even the most seemingly-mundane everyday experiences can give way to larger insights: insights I can then disseminate on this blog as I make all of you the best version of yourselves!
My Starter Blog, Post-Darwinian Hubris, began this trend. Here’s a bit I wrote about a vacuum cleaner (please excuse the inferior writing as I’ve become much better over the past few years!):
So back to fingernails…
I gave up gel manicures about a year ago. They are too expensive and damage your nails, not to mention all the time it takes to get them.
I have used nail strengthening products and although they seem to work for a while, my nails usually break right at the quick (ouch!) once they get to that nice longer length Mr. Patience and Understanding needs for the ultimate back-scratching session.
After losing two more nails recently I decided to do serious research on the best product out there guaranteed to make my nails strong, long, and healthy.
Here is what I found: Nail Strengtheners?
Get to the Point, Robin!
For those of you not interested enough to click on that link, here’s the gist:
“Strong” does not equal “hard.”
“Strong” equals “flexible.”
Making your fingernails hard makes them vulnerable to breaking, especially at the most painful point of the quick.
Making your heart hard makes it much more vulnerable to not just breaking, because it may already be broken, but can impede its ability to heal.
If your nails are flexible, they are strong.
They can withstand the bumps and snags that come with everyday life and instead of breaking, they will bend, remain intact, and inure any romantic partner who loves back scratching to you forever.
If your heart is flexible, the same is true.
You can withstand those ever-persistent difficult times in life including when you have to see your ex-husband and yes, even be photographed with him.
How Do I Achieve Flexibility?
The article linked above tells us oil is the glue that holds nail layers together as water, soap, and life and constantly trying to tear them apart. So what’s your oil?
To a large degree, I think it’s taking personal responsibility for your choices and feelings and how they will impact your kids.
Your ability to achieve the flexibility you need to improve your relationship with your ex-husband will depend upon:
- Seeing things from your daughter’s point of view and honoring her wish to have photos with all her family members in them;
- Listening to both your kids’ and your ex-husband’s pleas to improve the relationship;
- Your willingness to admit you and your attorney were equally combative during the divorce;
- Understanding your husband’s feelings of pain when you unilaterally announced after 21 years you were done with the marriage and refused marriage counseling;
- Acknowledging your feelings about being so quickly replaced, even though you were the one who initiated the divorce;
- Appreciating the life you have now, which you told me is great!
You admitted you aren’t even sure you ever loved your ex. You married him because the two of you looked good on paper and you both were at an age when it was time to settle down.
Your sex life sucked, you had little in common beyond the children, and worst of all, when I asked you if you fought a lot you said this:
No, we never fought. That would have required actually talking about things, which we did not do.
So that’s the version of marriage you modeled for your kids. Well done!
Look, I’m not trying to be mean. But you have a real opportunity to teach your daughter a lesson here and begin deprogramming her from believing that a marriage like the one she grew up witnessing is OK.
Suck it up, be in the photos, and put your daughter’s feelings first.
Be flexible, not hard.
Practice emotional yoga, not dead-lifting.
You wanted a divorce and you got a divorce. Stop being selfish and intractable and get on with the business of living.
Grandchildren are likely coming. Do you want to be on the outside looking in: strong and hard and tough and out of the grandbaby loop?
If not, heed my advice, or you will find yourself with some very broken fingernails and a lot of time spent alone during the holidays, birthdays, and other family celebrations.
Readers: please share in the comments methods you use to get along with your ex, and be sure to share this on your social media!