Just a few days ago I thought that it was entirely possible to be best friends with your ex-husband. After all, my ex and I have been best friends ever since our separation a year and a half ago. Despite the impending divorce, we’ve been each other’s go-to person -- movie buddies, you-wanna-grab-something-to-eat pals, listening and offering dating and relationship notes.
That was then. Today, I feel differently.
So, what changed? These words:
“I think I’m going to marry her.”
Everyone told me, “You can’t be friends with your ex,” but I refused to believe them. “Look at Bruce and Demi!” I insisted. We could beat the odds! We could be that special once-couple who was still there for each other, in sickness and in health, only now as life-long friends instead of husband and wife.
For a year and a half, we’ve prided ourselves on not on our mere civility, but our emotional maturity dealing with the divorce, or as we preferred to call it, the “change in our relationship.”
We’ve pleased ourselves and astounded our friends with the unique evolution of relationship from married couple to BFFs. “We still love each other, just differently!” we explained, meaning it.
We’re not like normal divorcing couples. My friends were stunned we drove to the mediation appointments together. Of course we’d drive together, that way we could have lunch at our favorite barbeque place afterward. Duh.
Sure, it’s been difficult at times to hear about his new relationship. (After the shock of learning she was moving in with him only four months after I moved out. A fitness instructor from our gym. Ouch/Ew/Gawd.) But, I rallied, wanting to still be there for him as his friend. Divorce forces you to let go of so much. I couldn’t let go of that.
But, since his new relationship has been rocky the past few months, it’s all he wants to talk about. And I really can’t listen. And I shouldn’t have to. And I just shouldn’t (tells me everyone, everywhere).
“Boundaries! Boundaries!” my therapist prompts. This has been her battle cry since the beginning of the divorce. I’m starting to see her point.
But how am I to say a hard and fast “no” to listening to his relationship woes? It’s hard to start censoring your best friend. Part of what makes them you best friend is your mutual ability to tell each other anything. When that goes out the window, the dynamics shift, the friendship changes. You know, kind of like what starts to happen when a marriage goes downhill.
But something inside me changed when I heard that “M” word. Before, it was all advice and listening, guiding and comparing. This is different -- this is “forever” (or so one might hope) – and also would mean there would have to be a major change in our relationship to sustain a friendship through a new marriage on his part.
Even if we were both on board about sustaining the same kind of candid and open relationship we do have now, you’ve got to wonder how any would-be new wife (or husband) is going to accept such a relationship between and him or her and their ex.
That’s assuming she knows how much time we actually spend together. And, if she doesn’t know how much time we actually spend together, they’re doomed. That’s beginning a marriage with a lie (at least a lie of omission). Not a great start.
Here’s one could-be deal breaker: as his best friend, it’s my duty to tell him the ugly truth -- that he’s not ready to get married and she isn’t the one.
But, nooooo. Here is where my best friend status stops, and the typical “ex” designation takes over. Because, how could I be saying these things out of anything but “bitterness” (serious accusation).
No, I clarify, I’m not bitter, I’m real, and I’m honest. You’ll never know how she would react to your continued relationship with me because she doesn’t know!
God only knows whom she thinks he is meeting for Saturday breakfast, or a night out at the movies. That’s right. He keeps it from her. So, I say the fact that she doesn’t know just how much we’ve been seeing each other lets me know he’s not ready to get married. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you are LYING to your girlfriend about how much time you are spending with your soon-to-be-ex-wife, um, you’re really not ready to get married again.
Now, with these new feelings firmly in place, it makes me question how much a true friendship we’ve been cultivating, and how much is simply an extended break-up, a phase, a delusion, or some co-dependent thing.
What about Bruce and Demi?
They went out the window when I stopped to consider this: it’s possible that he really is going to marry someone else. Someone else will be his wife. He will be some other woman’s husband.
No. How can that be? I am his wife. He is my husband.
And those kinds of thoughts let me know that, regardless of his actions, I haven’t truly moved on. It’s probably not a great idea for me to be his BFF until I do. Him announcing he may marry this girl was like going through the first stages of divorce all over again. Feelings of betrayal, competition, bitterness.
The thought -- the reality of that -- makes me sick. What about our status as best friends? Has it simply been part of the grieving process rather than a real friendship?
Not all of my friends have been on board with our friendship. “Girl, he’s slowing you down, trust me," and, “You can’t heal or move on until you close the door on him.” Other friends worried that it was all very convenient for him that we remained close during the mediation process.
Now, the floodgates are open. Since we’ve declared ourselves best friends, we’ve never argued. But when I said sarcastically, “I’m really happy for you that you’re jumping into another marriage before the ink is dry on your divorce decree,” I was met with accusations of bitterness (yeah, no shit) along with the word “Goodbye,” texted to me.
Goodbye? But, we’re, aren’t we? Goodbye?!
That one word was enough to challenge the validity of our rock-solid friendship. Did we really have the special relationship we thought we did? Were we fooling ourselves, to keep from feeling the pain? Was he just holding onto a convenient I’ll-be-there-for-you-no-matter-what person in me, until he found someone else to fill the role? I don't know that answer for sure anymore.