Monday, February 17, 2014
Monday, February 10, 2014
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!