Brave Or Stupid? Befriending The Ex’s
“There’s one more thing.”
I was tugging gingerly at a piece of loose thread on my sweater, knowing that at any second the whole thing could unravel and I’d be literally as naked as I was feeling in that moment.
He turned to face me, looking at me intently, actively listening for what was coming next.
We were at that stage of dating where you start to lay the groundwork for the impending relationship. In your forties, this terrain can be peppered with land mines. I was hoping this mine would not blow my face off.
“I have a guy… he’s really an ex boyfriend” I saw something flash across his face, fear? confusion? I continued.
“He’s very special to me, and not like your thinking – well, anyway…we still talk and it would seem weird not to; he’s important in my life. We’re just friends now and…”
“You want me to meet him?”
It was like a brick to the forehead, I felt a little dizzy – I wasn’t expecting that response.
“Um, yeah, sure, that could be nice, sure…you can meet him.” The sweater was unraveling.
That actually sounded like it would be up there with the most awkward night of my life, but I didn’t want to sound deceptive or crazy: ‘Oh hey, there’s this guy who’s very important to me, but I want you to immediately forget I’ve mentioned him and NO, the two of you will NEVER be in the same room together with me, because – well, just because. (Because I would spontaneously combust from the yuck of it all.)
“I also have a woman from my past that I still see occasionally – as a friend” he said, “like you and your friend.” Did I hear sarcasm?
Nope, he went on to explain that he truly did have a “special someone” from his past.
“I think it would be great if you two met, I think you’d like her.” I sensed some relief on his part, and as he got up to refill our wine glasses; I did, I saw relief wash over his face.
Our respective cats were now suddenly out of their bags.
Well, weren’t we something?
In a land somewhere beyond enlightened; trotting out our old flames like that, a couple of weeks into a new relationship.
The thing is, by the time you reach your late thirties, early forties, hopefully, you have a few ex’s that you can still stand the sight of. Where things have become…civil. Not horrible ex spouses who violate restraining orders – people you can actually stomach.
Sometimes break ups go well.
They are loving and mutual and…bullshit – sometimes after a couple of years, you can talk to the person without going to your dark place. Without circling the drain.
They’ve managed to make the huge leap from significant other, to sex buddy, to pal.
You did used to be in love, after all.
He explained her to me, this “special” woman who was now out in the open, virtually standing in my living room.
They’d known each other for years. It had been significant. They had been lovers, lived together, broken up, tried again, failed, not spoken, gone on to other relationships, and then recently reconnected – as friends.
“She’s a part of me; like family. You’ll love her.” And I did.
She is like family, and I learned volumes about him by meeting her.
She is smart and funny and I see why he still holds her in such high regard. I do too.
I may even have a bit of a girl crush – she’s THAT good.
My “special” guy was substantially younger than me. I had shoes that were older.
He was new to the horrors of dating in LA and had never been hurt in a relationship, so he had the MOST open heart of any human being I’d ever met. It used to scare the shit out of me. But I adapted.
He taught me how to love. Really.
Not open and free like him; my heart was a dried up raisin from dating more years than he’d been alive; but better than I had up until that point.
I now had a reconstituted raisin/heart with which to love my new man, and I gave the young one ALL the credit. I suppose that’s why I wanted to tell my new love about him; the fact that we would have never stood a chance, had he not come first.
When they met, they embraced. Then all three of us did. We had a lot in common.
I loved both of them, and they loved me. I burst into sentimental tears; not into flames as I had feared.
Our relationship went on to get serious. We’ve now been married thirteen years, and although we’ve spent time together with our “special” people, as life would have it, everyone moves on, and we see them less and less.
They were never a threat, as some of our friends had feared; they’d had their time and it had passed, but we gave them the credit they deserved.
In the court of popular opinion it is either incredibly brave or ridiculously stupid of us to include these people inside our new relationships. What do you think?