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Sometimes, What Is Broken Is Meant to be Left Behind

You can try remaining friends with ex-lovers. And in distant years, when the emotions have unraveled, perhaps it is possible to be amicable. I have tried to stay as close as possible to my ex-wife and mother of my children. She does not want a relationship with me. I don’t understand it, but again, I don’t have to understand it. That’s her part of the relationship, and for whatever reason, she’d rather do her parenting on her own, without input or opinion from me. That’s not how our “parenting plan” is written, but that’s how Mama wants it, so that’s how it is. What am I to do, fight?

Relationships without kids, however, are a different story. And I have two of those, in the LTR (long-term relationship) category that falls into this more “optional” area. Remaining friends after breaking up with someone you do not have kids with is optional. Without kids, the escape from the former enmeshment is easier and more concrete. You simply stop communicating. And often this is enough. Sometimes, silence is not enough.

At various points over the last 20 years since my first marriage (no kids) ended in divorce, my ex-wife has reached out to me to regain some form of contact. Often it was just an object of mine she’d found in her boxes that she felt compelled to return. Sometimes, she claimed a dream had worried her about me, and she was just checking in. The last time I saw my ex-wife she played peekaboo by sneaking up behind me and covering my eyes. As we said hellos, it was an odd moment because I was meeting with my 2nd ex-wife’s new husband, she seemed genuinely happy to see me and catch me off guard. I asked her why she had not returned my phone calls, as I had been doing an outreach of my own for some unknown reason of my heart. She said she had never gotten any messages from me. We have not spoken since.

There was really nothing to say between us that wasn’t exchanged in that few awkward minutes, with my ex’s husband sitting nearby. I introduced the two of them and we all chuckled about the odd juxtaposition of life and how we had ended up in this exact odd moment. And it was over. I had nothing else to say. “I hope you are well,” I said, in parting.

That’s really all we can hope for those we leave behind. “I hope you are well.” You see, we’ve lost our ability or desire to have an effect on their apogee of life. They will go on to do bigger and better things without us. And, from my point of view, it is better if I stay out of their orbit and leave them untethered in their new lives.

Over the last 45 days, an odd struggle has been playing out in my last LTR. An odd reaching out, connecting, and immediate withdrawal, it seemed to be a pattern that we repeated. Sure, she had broken things off, but we both agreed we were no longer in a healthy relationship. I went through an immediate period of shutdown from all comms between us. I was reading a book on recovering from a breakup, and it suggested ZERO CONTACT as the only healthy way to recover yourself from a lost love relationship.

Perhaps the book was right. But as the months passed and I began to feel healthier and more alone, I gave in and rejoined the communications with my former lover on Facebook and texts and emails. We rekindled a friendship, where we had begun before becoming lovers, and we enjoyed each other’s company. She is kind, witty, and one of the funniest people I knew. We became close again.

Perhaps it was a mistake. Perhaps I too still had something to heal by returning to a comms-on mode with her. But we had so many mutual friends on Facebook, so many circles we still participated in that would continue to overlap. So we kept things open between us. The love relationship, however, remained closed. I was dating. I was actively seeking a new life partner. She was not.

Something broke the day I said I was driving out to have a second date with a woman I’d met online. It wasn’t as if this moment wasn’t something we both knew would come. But, perhaps we were not prepared with the emotional impact such a departure, such a final release, would bring. Some tenderness snapped on her end and she began to write on Facebook about “escaping narcissistic abuse” and how lucky she was to be on the other side of some hideously mean relationship. It was like a head-slap. Though we were unfriended on Facebook at this point, a close friend was alarmed at what she was posting, obviously about me.

I asked her to stop venting her anger and relationship hurts on Facebook, amongst our 50+ mutual friends. She upped her posts and got more creative with her put-downs. I asked a group of mutual girlfriends to intervene. She posted soon after about my lame request to her friends (I suppose they exposed my email message to her) to try and control her. I was just asking her to deal with her anger and hurt in a less destructive way. Our relationship will be one-year dissolved on the first of July, yet she was just now boasting about selling the “rings” for a new kayak. The marriage had been off, the rings had been reboxed for a year and a half.

I supposed I should’ve merely allowed her to thrash about as she was and paint me as the abusive and stupid narcissist. Perhaps Facebook posts didn’t matter. But still, I hung on to some idea that we would remain, if not friends, then at least civil, in these next years of our post-relationship. I wrote a letter to her yesterday, an email, saying I appreciated her breaking off from the hurtful posts and wishing her well in her active lifestyle and future relationships and happiness.

I got back a “you are dead to me” email, in response.

It makes me a little sad, how far we can go to jettison a former loved one from our lives. But, perhaps this is what she needs for healing herself. Perhaps, in her recovery, identifying and denying the abuser is part of her release. I hope for her, and for our mutual friends, that she continues to find relief and release in her future life, without me. And I suppose, I’ll allow the burning bridge between us to flare brightly into the night, without alarm or rescue efforts. It is enough to have said my goodbye with love.

May you be safe. Be happy. Be healthy. Live with ease.

See: Point of No Return – wikipedia – phrase “burn the bridges” and “burn the boats.”

Always Love,

John McElhenney

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image: breakup, creative commons usage


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