The Facebook post was one of those I see so often but still caught me off guard, “Is in a relationship.” I knew my ex-wife was seeing someone, she told me so the last time we communicated. Still, I was not prepared for the officialness of it. She and I have remained friendly after ending our 32-year marriage, although we have both given the other reason not to.
I told my wife the news and she asked, “How does that make you feel?”
“I don’t know, I just read it.”
It’s strange how many different thoughts and feeling pass through your mind with news like this. I knew right away there would be no pretending I didn’t see the post. I’d have to confront my feelings, sort through a bunch of crap I’d prefer to bury, and know only time will tell how I feel. Right now, it’s been a mere 12 hours which to younger people seems like a lifetime, but to me is nothing.
Initially, I was very happy about the news. My ex has been through a rough haul but is not one to burden others with it. Her mom suffered a massive stroke a few years back and eventually passed away as a result. The timing of such an event is never good, but in our case it came at a time when we were working hard to recommit to our marriage after a brief separation a year earlier. I saw her struggle as she lost her best friend and confidant. I worried she was not dealing with her feelings, choosing to bury herself in the care of her ailing father rather than ask for the help of her siblings. She was determined to do it all it seemed while not letting up at her job or with her friends. Unfortunately, as was often the case in our marriage, we took a back seat.
We did what we always did in the past, drifted from each other, unable to effectively communicate to one another our feelings to the point where one day, about a year after her mother died, we both realized there was no amount of paddling we could do to get back to each other. This is not to say her mom’s death killed our marriage, it didn’t. It just brought to a final reality the two of us were not right for one another.
Being the social and out-going person she is, my ex was the one everyone thought would eventually find someone to share her life with. I was supposed to quietly slip away into my own world and live alone. It seemed by all, this was what I wanted in life. It wasn’t. It’s just what I did when things are not working out. Things had not been working out for the two of us for much longer than we cared to own up to until that day when my ex told me she felt she always wondered if she married the right man.
Despite our efforts and differences, both of us managed to always see the good in the other and wanted nothing but the best for each other. I think, on some level, my wife saw us having the perfect divorce where we remained close friends, got together with the kids for holidays, and made others wonder why we ever divorced. I knew this would never be the case. This is life, not the movies.
When you spend more than three decades with someone, you have to want what is best for that person. Divorce is simple if you look at it from a business perspective and remove personal feelings. Ours took six months to become official and by the time it had, oddly enough, I was the person already engaged, something that had shocked my family.
I pretty much broke every rule experts say not to break after ending a marriage and knew it as it was unfolding. Still, falling in love again was the most natural and normal thing to happen to me primarily because I was now open to the idea after years of reminding myself of my responsibilities of marriage. Somehow, I forgot to remind myself the importance of allowing myself to be happy and to make my wife happy, but then when you suffer from depression, happiness is often a day without feeling blue.
My depression was a horrible burden to more than me and unfortunately, my ex bore the brunt of that burden. She soldiered on during some very difficult times, also being guilty of her responsibility more than her happiness. However, even though I was finally free of the grip of depression, we were too far apart to “stick it out.”
So I was happy for her to find another person to open herself up to and who knows, maybe even grow old with. After all, losing your mom, seeing your dad’s health deteriorating and becoming your responsibility, having a full time job, and seeing your now retired ex fall swiftly in love is a lot of shit for any person to deal with. Her finding someone else meant to me she has made a lot of progress and for that, I was tremendously happy for her.
“I let you slip away
There was nothing I could do
That was so long ago, yeah
Still I often think of you.”
These are the lyrics sung by Lindsey Buckingham in Say Goodbye. It is a bittersweet look back at a relationship that ended on the terms of someone else and how over the course of time he grew to eventually say goodbye to someone who did so to him many years earlier.
I was the one who let my ex slip away while having no clue I was doing so at the time it was happening. It’s hard to love back when you do not feel and for too many years, I could not feel love, not because I was not loved or valued, but because depression simply does not allow it in for fear of being booted out of your brain.
My current wife and I share an odd family connection and she knows and remembers my ex from when we first got married in 1984. She has nothing negative to say about her, has sometimes expressed having huge shoes to fill, and has trusted me to maintain a friendly relationship with her. I am lucky to have such an amazing woman who sees the best in me. My wife has no contact with her ex and has no reason to and yet she knows it is important to me to remain friends with mine.
I fall down, I get up
And I’ve always had to fight
Everything that was wrong
For the things that were right
I have fallen down plenty of times in life. Besides a failed marriage, the last third of my career did not go as I had planned or expected, I struggled with my learning early on, life-long depression, and like anyone else, my share of disappointments. Still, I pride myself on picking myself up and moving forward in life which is exactly what I have done since my divorce. It was also something I worried about with my ex. Was the weight of the world becoming too much while at the same time knowing I had to step back and remove myself from it rather than try to fix it.
Recently, my wife and I were discussing what it is I am attracted to in women. I realize now, more than anything, it is a combination of strength and kindness that shows instantly when I see someone. Life will chew you up if you are weak and it will crap all over you if you are not kind. However, when you mix strength with kindness, it will keep lifting you up, even in the darkest of hours. This is the one quality both my wife and my ex-wife share. Otherwise, they are very different people.
Making a marriage work can also be about timing and I have no doubt that this second time for me is going to work. I also am happy for whoever this person is my ex has let into her world because I still remember what life with her was like before I let her slip away. She is, among other things, kind and strong.
And now I’ve finally found my way
Now I know just what to do
Once you said goodbye to me, yeah
Now I say goodbye to you
I am proud I found my way to where I am in life. There were times I could have just packed it in, but somewhere, in the back of my mind, I always knew if I just kept picking myself up, I would find exactly what it is I desire to thrive on all levels. At 26, I thought I found that person only to take a long time before I could admit it is not the end of the world to fail at marriage.
So how do I feel about all of this? I really don’t know. What I do know is I have a wonderful woman to share my life with and who makes me feel loved. She has the strength to allow me to remain friends with my ex-wife and the kindness and compassion to care enough about me to ask me how this makes me feel.
I will sort through all of this and rejoice knowing I can share with my wife my inner most feelings knowing that she will provide me with perspective, support, and love. I can only hope for my ex-wife, she has found the same as she continues to soar.
Now I’d best be on my way
Before the night turns blue
Once you said goodbye to me, yeah
Now I say goodbye to you.
Top photo is a YouTube
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.