Monday, February 10, 2014

Another Divorce First: Meeting the Ex’s Girlfriend

 

Nothing about divorce is easy. I wrote that two months ago as I dealt with my first holiday season as a divorced woman. I predicted that that statement would pop up often as I continued to stumble upon the endless “firsts” all divorced people are forced to live through.

I’ve passed through a lot of firsts already, and I’m proud to say I continue to come out on the other side feeling empowered and more prepared to face the next one (because I can tell you, the next one is never far away).

I got through my first Thanksgiving, my first Christmas, and my first New Year’s. I got through the move that brought me to my first home as a single woman, the first document I signed after legally changing back to my maiden name, and the first experiences of online dating. All of these firsts, regardless of how minor they may seem, helped me as I recently faced down one of the major ones: meeting my ex-husband’s live-in girlfriend.

Just as few people enter marriage thinking it will end in divorce, a wife rarely thinks to herself, “I wonder what it will be like to meet the girlfriend of the man I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with.” There’s just no way to prepare yourself for the introduction to your replacement.

For me, that introduction was not only necessary but long overdue. This was the woman my ex moved into our marital home two weeks after our divorce was final. The woman who, on the weekends, does my daughter’s hair and removes the nail polish I applied. The woman who eats breakfast with my children and washes their laundry. The woman who watches movies and goes bowling with them. The woman my children come home talking about and asking me questions about, questions I’m not able to answer because I don’t have any answers myself. The woman who I had to learn about from my 6-year-old daughter when she came home after one weekend and blurted out: “Daddy’s getting a roommate. She’s really nice. Her name is Miss _____. We met her yesterday.”

After a while I realized I had to meet this woman. It was my duty as a mother to meet the person who was spending so much time with and closely interacting with my kids. I had to shake the hand of the woman my ex-husband had chosen to bring into the kids’ lives. And I had to be okay with the fact that I was putting a large amount of trust into him that, for the sake of our kids, he had chosen that person wisely.

I had to do it for my own peace of mind, but for my children’s as well. I know they found it odd I had never met Daddy’s “roommate” (he has not told them that she is his girlfriend), and I didn’t want them to think there was tension between their mother and the maternal figure at their father’s house to the point that they couldn’t talk about and/or communicate their curiosity about the differences between my home and his.

Of course I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I wanted to appease my own curiosity as well. After nearly 15 years with me, what kind of woman sparked my ex’s interest? Who was this woman sleeping in the room I used to sleep in? Could I actually be friends with her? Could I feel comfortable calling her up to discuss issues with the kids? How would she react to meeting her boyfriend’s ex-wife?

Because of all these things, I told my ex I wanted to meet his girlfriend. And last weekend, I did. I drove to my old house, I rang my old doorbell, and after she opened my old front door, I shook hands with The Girlfriend and with a smile I said, “Hi, I’m Heather. It’s so nice to finally meet you. I’ve heard so much about you from the kids.”

The meeting wasn’t at all as I had envisioned in the days leading up to it. I wasn’t very surprised that, based on first impressions, The Girlfriend couldn’t be more different than me. I was more surprised that she didn’t exert too much effort to be friendly to me (you would think she’d invite me into the house BEFORE I announced I was going to leave, instead of forcing a conversation in the doorway). I was even more surprised by my own apathy toward seeing my ex with another woman. But what totally surprised me was how I felt afterward.

In the days that followed the meeting, I felt like a weight had been lifted. This mystery woman was no longer a mystery. Now, when the kids come home and talk about Miss ___, I can imagine the scene, I can hear the sound of her voice as she spoke to them. It was almost as if I had just hired a nanny after the initial interview.

In the end, it didn’t really matter that The Girlfriend never looked me in the eye or that she dropped more than one snide comment that caused me to bite my tongue to keep from inserting my own snide comments. (I’d like to attribute both to the possibility that she was nervous.) No, at the end of the day, this was about my children and how she treated them. And because of this meeting, I am now at peace with the other woman in my children’s lives.

Will I ever be friends with The Girlfriend? No. And I don’t have to be. But am I glad I met her? Absolutely.

Another divorce first bites the dust!

11 comments:

  1. I had an easier divorce in that we didn't have kids to tie us together for all eternity (which would have been SO hard) and that we realized fairly quickly that the marriage was a mistake. I met him when I was 11, started dating him when I was 23, married when I was 26, and was divorced by 28.

    Kids or not, divorce isn't easy. Because not only do you split households and possessions, you also split friends. And it wasn't too much of a surprise to find out he'd been hitting on every female he came across...he brought his girlfriend to my birthday party which was the introduction that started the divorce proceedings. I mean, what did he think would happen? I'd suggest a time share plan? Puh-leese!

    But now I'm married with kids and a military wife, so I can only imagine having to go through a divorce now. It would rip me into shreds, especially with what the kids would have to go through. Both my husband and I were kids of divorce, so we remember all that. I think you handled everything beautifully. Cheers to you!

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Brooke. No divorce is easy, regardless of the circumstances. But I've learned a lot from both my marriage and my divorce, and I know those lessons will help me as I move forward with my new life. Thanks for sharing your story with me.

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  2. The author has written about a personal and sensitive subject with grace and dignity. She has handled many 'firsts' already and will continue to deal with any future ones with the same positive outlook she has already demonstrated. She has experienced rough seas as a military wife of over ten years, but I hope that the future holds calm seas and following winds.

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment. I'm looking forward to seeing what my future brings!

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  3. You handled that wonderfully. While we were separated but before the divorce was final, my ex was trying to win me back, while also dating other women. He couldn't see how this wasn't going to work. He used to tell me about the discussions they had about me and how they thought I had post partum depression (I didn't). I have no issues with his wife now, but the way he handled the girlfriends then, drove me crazy! Kudos to you for being a civil adult!

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    1. Kara, it sounds like you went through some very difficult times during your separation. I'm glad your ex ended up with a woman you don't have issues with. I'm sure that makes life a whole lot easier. Thanks for the comment!

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  4. As a second wife I'm glad you gave her the benefit of the doubt! While I wasn't living in my husband's old house, and we were in fact in a new town all together, the first time I met his ex-wife was CRAZY. It was at a Cracker Barrel, she had no control over my soon to be step son, my husband never gets to see the kid so he felt awkward saying anything, and Lord knows I'd NEVER say anything about the kid's behavior but I KNOW I made faces and comments, and the entire situation was as awkward for me as it was for her... maybe worse for me since I just felt bad for the woman having to meet her replacement. She walked out on my husband, but her eyes cut me like a knife as if I was "the other woman" or something. Divorce is horrible for all parties involved, but trying to get to know this woman for your kids is such a great step in the right direction for you, and you were clearly the better woman.

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    1. It's so interesting to hear the story of a meeting like this from your perspective, Elizabeth. These kinds of events aren't easy on anyone involved. I think it's just a matter of doing it and getting it over with, hopefully as painlessly as possible. Thanks for the comment!

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  5. Wow, I'm sorry you had to go through all this. I found your site through a news article about ex military wives (and I have visited your blog a while ago). I'm glad the weight has been lifted. My husband is retired military (20 years) and we still miss the life, although it was difficult. We have adjusted well to civilian life, but continue to acknowledge and respect what we had, as you do. Thanks for writing.

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    1. It's definitely difficult to transition from military to civilian life, regardless of what led your family to leave the military. I have nothing but respect for the military, and I know I will miss the military life. Thank you for your comment! And may I ask what news article you found me in?

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  6. You are by far the most amazing woman I know of. I'm a really nice person. And very mature. But I think even I wouldn't have been able to keep some criticism from leaking out. In fact, I'm sure I couldn't have even initiated this meeting to begin with. Your children are lucky to have a mom like you. Rock on.

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