My friend was angry and agitated. She paced my kitchen with the grace of a cheetah eyeing its prey- head down, muttering to herself. She was planning. Her ex-husband had proposed to his new girlfriend and she was beside herself with resentment- he had not warned her. Hours before, she had texted me saying she wanted to read me the email she had drafted to send him. I lovingly replied: Come over for tea first, honey.
“My boys aren’t ready for this, Danielle. What the hell is he doing? He’s rushed this and they’re the ones who will pay the price,” she muttered, biting her nails as she wore down the hardwood of my kitchen floor.
I grabbed the Jasmine tea from the cupboard and invited her to sit at the table. Adding a tea bag to each of our steaming mugs, I sat down beside her. “It is fast I suppose, eh? Do the boys like her?”
She dunked her tea bag quickly and looked up at me. “Yes, but what does that matter if she’ll be gone in six months?”
I raised my eyebrow at her, giving her a look that said: ‘You can’t know that.’
“Danielle, she’s the fourth one since we split and it’s been a whopping fourteen months they’ve been together!”
I chuckled, “Not that you’re counting.”
Her face darkened. I had struck a nerve. “You have no idea what this is like. Your marriage didn’t end over another woman. In fact, you never have to deal with another woman at all! Or another mother for that matter!”
A-ha. Here it was. Perhaps my flippant comment was unkind considering her suffering, but it did get us to the point quickly: she was feeling inadequate as a woman and maybe more so as a mother. <Sigh> Don’t we all have those days?
“No, I don’t. You’re right,” I replied. “Our marriages ended in different ways. But honey, you already know she can’t replace you as a mother.”
“But she can question me, talk about me to them behind my back, undermine me?” my friend countered.
I stopped for a moment and observed her. “Yes, she can,” I agreed. “Has she?”
My friend looked away. “I don’t know,” she said. “I guess that’s what I hate- not knowing. I am aching to know what gets said about me.”
Bringing my tea to my lips, I let out a breath to cool it. “I understand. And you can’t control that.”
She squeezed her eyes closed in pain and let out a sob. “Danielle, I feel so lost sometimes. I don’t want him back; I rarely miss him or the marriage, but I hate this situation. I hate sharing my boys with her. I hate that they learn things from her, that she makes them laugh or buys them things. I hate it! I didn’t ask for any of this!”
I reached out and hugged her tight, letting her just cry for a moment. She sobbed a bit more into my shoulder and said, “I don’t tell their dad any of this. I don’t even acknowledge her existence with him, partly because I don’t believe they will last as a couple and partly because I know she’s none of my business and I do not want to hear any flack from him.”
Releasing her, I sat back and sipped my tea, allowing the silence to stretch and settle. “She is your business in the sense that she is a parental figure to your kids. But I promise you, you won’t feel like this forever. You will grow into this. Whether or not your ex and his fiancée last, he will most likely end up with someone. You will too. Just be gentle with yourself. Allow these feelings and don’t try to be something you’re not. You’re safe with me and I know that your honesty today will help you heal beyond what you even know to be possible.”
She rubbed her arm and looked down at her feet. “I’m sorry for what I said about your marriage.”
I smiled. “No need to apologize.” And there wasn’t. Me getting defensive about my own pain and how it compared to hers would solve nothing. I don’t expect anyone to be able to peacefully co-parent just because I can. I simply know it’s possible, but we all have to be where we are.
“What is it like for you? Are you jealous of your ex’s new partner?”
Now this was something I never got asked. It’s also something that didn’t really occur to me. I looked her square in the eye. “No, honey. My marriage ended at the exact moment it was supposed to. There were times when I didn’t want to see him or say, resented that he was in the car waiting while my kids were being picked up. But that had more to do with my own happiness in the moment, my own willingness to be loving. It had nothing to do with him.”
She nodded and sat back in her chair. “I’m not going to send the email. I suppose I never was.”
“Right,” I said. “That’s probably why you reached out to me first. And hey, it’s OK! People walk around pretending they’re alright with everything, completely in denial of their true feelings. It’s a way to cope. But you are honest. Honesty is the only way to surrendering.”
She put her head in her hands. “Danielle, I want to let this go more than anything. I don’t want to care about anything but me and my boys. Somewhere, deep inside, I even want to wish their dad and this woman well.”
I smiled wide and grasped her hand lightly. “You, my love, are a miracle worker. It will happen. I feel it in my bones. Your willingness is everything.”