“Loving” Your Ex

Blog post Julie friends with your ex

I’m still on vacation, dear readers, and have another guest blog post by *Julie Weinberg.

My ex-husband is one of my best friends. He’s remarried with two little boys and with our two kids we consider ourselves a family of seven: three adults raising four kids. We regularly have dinner together, go to our beloved Ravens games together, celebrate Thanksgiving together, and even occasionally vacation together. We’re that close.

It wasn’t always that way I promise. I often say that I married my best friend, lost him somewhere in a 20-year marriage, divorced an ass, and then found my best friend all over again.

How we navigated this tricky transition of divorce-to-friendship is something I’ve been asked about many, many times, including by Nadia, so here’s my story.

At the time of our divorce, I truly hated my ex and would have gladly signed the papers and walked away forever. Divorce comes packaged in feelings of disillusion, disappointment, and anger. I often and loudly opened that package with my friends–or anyone else that would listen. So becoming friends with him again someday wasn’t a goal or even a slight desire.

But we had kids, so I knew I had years ahead of me to deal with him at soccer games, school events, weekend drop offs and pick ups.

Our first step was to come to an agreement about things that were best for the kids’ sake. We made a pact to never fight in front of them, never put them in the middle or make them choose sides, and to always be polite to one another when in their presence.

The always be polite agreement turned into the most important one for our evolving relationship. Whether you have kids or not, it can be the cornerstone of a new, happier affiliation for you and your ex, too.

At first, even fake politeness was a challenge. My trick was to treat him like a work colleague that I did not respect or like but was stuck working with on some project. When a topic arose that started making me angry, I would just look at him, smile and say “not now” and he knew the discussion would have to wait.

The funny thing is, though, the expression “fake it till you make it” is true. My faking politeness became real politeness fairly quickly and once I turned that corner our relationship started to evolve.

Besides hoping the “fake it till you make it” technique would work, I also realized that I needed to let go of all the hurt, anger, and disappointment. It was eating me up inside and bringing me down. As a tightly wound, Type A personality, “just letting go” was enormously difficult for me. He did X, Y, Z to me, didn’t do A, B, C and I dwelled repeatedly on the wrongness of it all.

Visualization techniques proved extremely helpful with letting the negative feelings go. I imagined each remembered hurt as a soccer ball and one by one I’d kick them away in my mind. Or every time I started to think of something that made me angry, I’d visualize placing it on a leaf and watching the leaf float peacefully down a river and away from my mind. Try it! I swear it worked, even if just for a few moments. Then the more I did it, the better I felt and the more capable I was of letting my relationship with my ex organically grow into something really special.

The passing of time, of course, helps too. As the post-divorce weeks turned into months, then turned into a year, we both got on with our lives and all of the new, exciting experiences allowed me to be open to new friendships. I was making all kinds of new friends, my ex and his wife just turned into two of those.

Now, 7 years later, having my ex as a close friend is a topic I usually raise on a first date. I actually use it as a sort of screener: if a man feels challenged by it or is negative toward it, I know he’s not for me so I easily move on. If a man can’t respect the melded family I’ve worked to develop, he probably won’t like other aspects of my life. Given that there are so many fish in the sea, it’s good to find that out on our first coffee date rather than weeks into a relationship. I wish him well and send him on his way.

This relationship has also caused me to be far less understanding of a date who wants to rag on his ex. I understand the need to vent; but I don’t want to hear about how awful a guy’s ex is in detail, especially not on a first date. I always ask myself if he’s relating inappropriate, damaging or highly private details of his previously most valued relationship, what might he say to his friends about me down the road. Again, I prefer to wish him well and send him on his way, too.

These are some of the techniques I’ve used to get past the hurt and anger to develop a warm, close, and happy new relationship with my ex. The calmness to my spirit and added joy he and his new family have brought to my life made the effort well worth it.

*To learn more about Julie, visit her website julieweinbergbooks.com or purchase her book, I Wish There Were Baby Factories.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

 

 

Newbies Times Two

blog chick pix

Last weekend I had a double newbie experience. In one case, I was reminded of when I was a newbie. In the second experience, I had a drink with a new old newbie. Confused? I’ll explain while we enjoy some grilled tofu and heirloom tomato salad. This pairs nicely with watermelon mimosas.

Newbie #1 (me)

It was a normal online morning. I was deleting catfishers and young would-be studs four decades younger than me. I logged onto Match, the first dating site I joined a year after my separation. At the time, I thought Match worked fairly well for me – presenting me with daily reasonable partner selections and I heard from a number of them.

Back to present day: someone from those early Match days, Mr. H,  “viewed” me. In fact, this man was my first date in almost 40 years.

Back to the past. I remember flirting online with Mr. H, a tall, athletic divorced man with a solid profile that revealed a romantic and a philosophical side. I pushed the flirt envelope to advance the concept of meeting. He knew I was separated and wanted to be sure I was ready to enter fully into a relationship. I remember thinking he didn’t want to risk getting involved with someone who wasn’t over their ex. “I’m definitely ready for the next chapter,” I wrote. Mr. H lived about an hour away so we decided to meet halfway between our houses at an outdoor restaurant next to a lake. It was summertime.

What a flurry of nerves getting ready for that date! With my daughter advising me on wardrobe, I tried on several outfits – finally settling for a blue jean skirt, heels, and a trendy, sexy but tasteful blouse. Ladies, you can imagine my butterflies.

On the drive to the restaurant, I tried to relax and enjoy the music on the radio.

I arrived on time and walking toward the outdoor tables, I saw him. He looked exactly like his pictures – only better. I felt fluttery with nerves and anticipation. He walked toward me. Surprise — he kissed me hello. Remember, this was date #1 post separation. It was all so strange.

We made our way to a table and began a comfortable conversation. Mr. H had interesting and unusual experiences to share. I don’t remember thinking he was a conversational narcissist but I believe he talked more than me. Given my nerves, that was probably a good thing. Dating rating: A. As he walked to me car, he gave me a hug and said, “Let’s do this again.” I can’t remember what I said given my still nervous state but it was probably something like, “Sure, give me a call.” Today, assuming I liked the guy, I would be more direct.

I think I wrote Mr. H that I enjoyed our lunch. Even if he responded (sorry, dear readers, my memory fails here), we never went out again. In time, I totally forgot about him. Until last week. When I realized Mr. H had viewed me, I felt compelled to write to him. I briefly wondered whether I should see if he would write first. But then I remembered my “newbieness.” I felt I should acknowledge how awkward I must have been on our date. My goal was to say, “hey, I’m not a newbie anymore,” so that he would want to see me again. So, I sent Mr. H a short message: 

Hi,

I had to say hello. I believe we had a lunch date 6 or 7 years ago. Yes, I have a photographic memory 🙂 

I was such a newbie! I’m sure you recognized that (if you remember me). I think our “meeting” was my first date while separated – so of course I remember you.  

I’m sure you would agree that this whole divorce experience is quite a journey – and an opportunity for growth! 

I hope life is good.

Cheers,

Nadia

A week has gone by and he hasn’t responded.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have written to him. Perhaps he didn’t feel a connection when we met because I was a nervous mess. As I’ve said before, you never know what the other person is thinking or not thinking about you.

Newbie #2: Him

Newbie #2 was my first in-person, real life meeting with a Tinder Match. A notch on my dating belt. It’s not what you think. In fact, Mr. F is the antithesis of the so-called Tinder experience. Divorced for 18 years, Mr. F explained to me via text that he hadn’t dated at all in that time. Did I believe him? I wasn’t sure. He said his sons convinced him to finally move on with his life and added that he’ll want to go slow (again, throw out or back-burner your Tinder expectations). I responded, “That’s fine. I’ll be gentle with you .”

Unfortunately, I ignored my “rule” to ask for more pictures when a man only has a headshot. In Mr. F’s case, his headshot included sunglasses and a cap so it was hard to tell what he looked like. But I thought his bone structure indicated a good-looking man.

After 24 hours of messaging last Saturday and Sunday morning, we decided to meet for a drink Sunday afternoon. Mr. F had loaned his car to his son for the weekend so we arranged to meet in Georgetown – about halfway between our houses.

You know in the first few seconds of meeting someone whether there’s any attraction and in this case, Mr. F, did not live up to my expectations. He was thoughtful, had me sit at the only empty stool across from the crowded bar, ordered a drink etc. but when we sat down, he monopolized the conversation and it was clear we were not a match. And although that bone structure was in fact quite good, the former athlete and titled boxing champ was woefully out of shape. He had a hard time walking me to my car, a short distance away.

I think he was nervous (this may explain why he monopolized the conversation in person but not on our pre-meeting phone call). And that would go along with his newbieness. After 18 years of divorce, he truly was an old newbie.

There you have it. To paraphrase the closing lines of Naked City, there are eight million dating stories in this naked city. Today’s post has been two of them.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating.

XXXOOO

Nadia

 

Bittersweet: Revisiting a Place from your Marital History

Bittersweet – a good term to describe not only excellent chocolate but also some of the experiences one has after divorce. Case in point: revisiting a place (city, point of interest, etc.) you frequented with your ex- or your ex- and your kids.

When I revisit a place I love, my goal is to create new memories so that I can return with fewer pangs of loss (less bitter, more sweet). Brief pause while I close my eyes and swoon to One Republic’s Burning Bridges accompanied by romantic fantasizing. And let’s take another brief pause to eat some Thai style grain salad with crunchy seeds.

Back to the case in point: the first time I revisited a key place from my marital vacation history was a few years ago when I took my daughter to Italy. Although we road-tripped across the North (a new place for me), we also visited Venice. Standing on a small bridge near Piazza San Marco, the same bridge I had stood on while Mr. Ex took a photo of me, was truly bittersweet. But then I swallowed and went off to explore the rest of the city and a new gelato place. So, yes, it was painful to see couples enjoying this romantic city but how could I never return to this place of dreams? That would give too much power to the loss. Better to overlay those memories with new ones.

Seeking out new parts of Venice, or any new aspect of a place you are returning to, can help add to the sweetness of the experience.

There have been smaller, local experience revisits as well. By now I have accumulated quite a list of bittersweet revisits – from formerly frequented restaurants and music venues to far flung vacation places.

What I can’t do yet: go by the house we lived in for over 25 years. So I avoid that neighborhood and even the neighbors. There’s no upside in this case – no new sweetness to gather.

I write this sitting on a beautiful beach, part of a southern barrier island – a place we vacationed in often as a young family. This time, with my siblings, I look past the past to the present moment of sun, clear water, and soft wind. Healing.

I wonder about the many other young families on the beach. Will they remain intact well into the future? If not, they are still creating memories. And they’ll always have the ability to revisit the memories – to experience the bittersweet and transform it into something new.

Until next week, happy dating or not dating,

XXXOOO

Nadia