On Friday, I covered some of the biggest mistakes you can makewith your ex-husband and promised four more. Without further ado, and because I'm behind already when it comes to writing Wednesday's post, they are:
Denying the what-if fantasies
I think these are only normal, and yet, they're squirmy for even me to talk about. Despite whatever negativity you might feel towards your ex-, there's always the chance that a strong attachment to him is still lurking somewhere in your energetic field. After all, you had children together! You shared your lives in the most intimate of ways. I remember several years after we'd split up, being occasionally haunted by dreams where my ex- and I were still together, perhaps exploring a new house we were soon to move into or taking a family trip to strange environs. Waking up from those dreams always left me disoriented and slightly embarrassed: now what was THAT all about? Did this mean I still wanted to be with him? Or that we were somehow meant to be? Even now that he was remarried, and I was content with someone else? I would always come back to the same answer: this is the life we have now, and he and I seemed happier….
It took me a while to understand that these types of dreams and even waking mental wanderings were perfectly natural, and not only that, were commonplace. What's the old saying? The more you struggle to be free of something, the more you're reinforcing the fact that there's still a need to struggle? If you've got some hallucinatory misfits bumbling around in your psyche, just know you're not alone. I think a lot of these feeling are biologically-motivated - a part of you wants to put the two halves of a circle back together. Have you ever submerged any what-if's?
Keeping the focus on you and your shit, instead of what's best for the kids
This mistake is easy to do, whether you have an ex-husband or not, since we all get caught up in our own monkey mind chatter and fall prey to myopic tunnel vision. But ex-husband's are such convenient target, especially if you're holding a grudge, competing against him, or getting all freaked out and stressed about money struggles between you two. If you find yourself falling into these behaviors too often, time to snap out of it: you're often annoyed by things your kids are trying to tell you and are only semi-listening; you wish they would just leave you alone most of the time so you can stew in your own thoughts; you're churlish and snappy when going about regular household chores, leaking your irritation and emotional angst all over everyone. We can all periodically get caught up in an inner storm of self-absorption, but just letting yourself coast along for too long is not okay! What's your current state of connection with your kids? Is there anything you need to step back from and put away in a mental drawer for a bit?
Not seeing him for who he is NOW
Part and parcel of fueling conflict between you and another person is keeping them frozen in a story; an unchanging character who's only capable of doing this, this and this and no more, without chances for improvement or room to grow. Haven't your friends, co-workers or family ever surprised you? We're all changing, all of the time! You might think because you once lived with your ex- and knew him well, the mental image still holds. That may be basically true in terms of values and personality, but even then, people are often capable of sweeping transformations, or even incremental ones. This can tie back into grieving too if he's re-partnered, has other children, etc. — perhaps if you let go of who you think you knew, it might mean you are truly getting left in the dust, as far as what you meant to him, the significance of your past together, etc. See if you can step back and look at your ex- from a neutral vantage point. Maybe even a bit of curiosity will arise. Who is this person now? In what ways do you need to update your version?
Letting lost opportunities pass you by
This ties right into the very last, common mistake people make. It's not absolutely necessary that you clear up all the other ones first, though it does help to have an open space inside of from which to work from. Even if you sometimes feel pissy towards your ex-, find yourself occasionally shrieking "argh!" after you get off the phone with him, or wish you could shake him by the shoulders… you might still able to be friends. Yes. I said friends. 'Course, it takes two people to do this and he may not be willing. But there's nothing to keep you from making little exploratory steps, from extending a few teeny olive branches here and there.
Believe it or not, David (my ex-) is one of the first people I turn to sometimes when I need a kind, listening ear. He knows me inside and out, he's seen the worst sides of me and still actually seems to like me (I'm late on his payment this month though. Joke.) and I get his weird sense of humor, which no one else does, so I'm obligated to continue being his friend out of pity. (See, now he would get that, but it's a fine line, isn't it?) Something we were able to do over the years that got us here was apologize. This seemed to happen in stages, over many conversations, but there no longer seems to be anything we hold against each other from the past. Only new stuff from the present (I'm on a roll, what can I say?). Seriously, the slate feels clean between us, but we had to work at it and we both took risks to get here. (Another important point: when someone apologizes, keep your mouth shut and take it in. Don't bring up other grievances you have against them!)
Sure, there are tons of benefits to be had by befriending the stepmom in this scenario too, but think of how much better your life might be if the other person who was responsible for bringing your children into the world was also your bud? Think it's impossible? Never to be? Too weird and harem-like (see last post)? Think again. What else are you going to do with your life, if not dump all that old baggage that holds you back from being happy, clear and in the moment? What are some of the things you still like and love about your ex-husband? In what ways could you serve as a friend to him? How might this benefit the children in your life?
© 2008 Jennifer Newcomb Marine All Rights Reserved