man and his dragon

The Optimistic Lover Lets Go of The Mother of His Dragons

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“I can allow the silence to heal the loss between us.”

It’s odd to admit, but even after these 11 years of tormented efforts to co-parent and be friendly with my ex-wife, I am still longing to be friends. She was my best friend for 12 years. And she has been the source of so much of my misery in the years since the divorce turned from cooperative to fk-ative. Even after the coup d grace was delivered I offered the hope of reconciliation. For her, that ship had sailed and she had launched towards the next horizon. She would seek love and fulfillment in single parenting and a new prince.

Love Can Turn Vicious

There is a thin veneer between strained love and hatred. At some point during the process of divorcing me, my ex-wife’s anger turned to vindictive hate. There’s no other way to explain her rage and destructive actions to hurt me. She must not have known that explosive rockets sent at me were also going to damage everyone around me, including our kids. I don’t think she gave much thought to inserting the Attorney General’s Enforcement Division up my ass. I can only imagine, in some dark gloating moment, she cackled knowing the pain and misery her betrayal was going to cause me. (SEE: Fall of the House of Dad)

But what is it that makes some of us continue to long for a connection with our significant others? Yes, I’ve moved on. And, I’d also like to be friends with my ex-wife. That’s obviously not going to happen, but there’s some fundamental difference between me and her, for example, that seems almost binary in its finality. Once the battle lines had been drawn, we became mortal enemies in her eyes. Not only did she overreach in the divorce to justify her custodial parent role, but she also continued to strike blows against me for the next 10 years. The anger appears to have transmuted to hate. Or is it guilt? Underneath her pain and anger, she knows she has treated me unfairly. Divorce is not about fairness. But, I thought divorce would at least be about loving our kids and continuing to celebrate their successes and growth as we moved on with our separate lives

What Changes, What Hurts

There are still times when I want to reach out to a former partner who turned towards the dark side as she reached out, post-breakup, not only to torture me but to contact my partners to tell them how lying and deceitful I was. In the 2+ years we spent together (my first long-term relationship attempt post-divorce) I learned so much from this woman. I learned to cook and then immediately clean the kitchen. I learned to discipline myself with exercise every single day. And I learned, at some point, that her devotion to wines from many countries was more essential than I was.

Still, I think of this person often. When I’m cooking with a new partner, and we get up from dinner and join together to clean the kitchen, I have her to thank. I still say it out loud in my mind, “Thank you.” Why then, do I occasionally want to call her and tell her, “I made the shrimp scampi you taught me, last night, it was great. How are you doing?”

I’m sort of a check-in kind of friend. Even if we haven’t spoken for a while, I am genuinely interested and attentive when we finally reconnect. “What’s going on in your life? What’s hard? What’s good? Tell me about your kids.”

What is Lost and What Hurts

Where does the love go when our anger veers off towards hate? For me, the love never really goes away. I learn to let go. But I still hold a bit of the love and happiness in my soul. We were good together. And then we weren’t. I still love the moments we joined together in our attempts to find and cultivate a loving partnership. Sure, we failed, but the “best friend” we enjoyed over the months or years of our lives together is not dead or gone. It is something inside us, inside these more resentful people, that holds resentments long after the anger should’ve burned away.

My ex-wife, and mother of my two adult children, should not still be rageful and bitter towards me with every interaction. It doesn’t make sense. It’s not good for her either. And our kids, well, they would benefit from seeing us at least be friendly. But we’re not. Or, she’s not. Somewhere she didn’t just lose the magic, she turned it into a poison fairy dust that she continues to exhale in my direction. The problem is, the blowback is hell. She’s dying of her hate and resentment. It’s visible.

There Is No Time to Slay the Dragon

When we have a dragon to fight we learn to defend ourselves from sharp teeth, strong wings, and the ultimate blast of fire. But, what we learn after fighting the dragon for a long time, is that our anger and rage are part of us. We learn that the dragon is our friend. The fire can hate can be tamed. Our rage can be harnessed and aimed towards the pursuit of more positive and productive objectives. We cannot actually slay the dragon.

“There is no time to slay the dragon, the dragon is our friend.”

– Reshad Feild

In taming and loving my dragon, I can recognize my own anger and frustration with my ex-wife. Our current DMZ prevents us from communicating at all. Okay, so that’s part of the equation I don’t have control over. I can, even without her participation, love the dragon, tame the dragon, befriend the dragon.

I love deeply and fully. Even when things fall apart, I am willing to love and be loved (non-sexually, but spiritually) by my former partners. I remember a woman several years ago telling me, “Once I love someone that’s forever. You can always reach out when things are hard. i will always love you. I am available when you need help.”

Yes, that’s me. I’m your friend first. If we’ve parted as lovers, there’s no reason we can’t maintain a fraction of our former friendship. How can you go from best friends to dead? It doesn’t have to be this way. I understand my own need to go dark when things initially break down. I have learned that I am too tempted to go for the repair and reconciliation, even when that is not the best course of action. So, I’m that partner that always comes back. Yes… I was that partner. I’m evolving.

Putting Your Dragon Out to Sea

There is a point where these longings for contact and reconnection with a former lover become muted. For me, it requires some time and distance before my addiction to their touch, the sound of their voice, and the influence of their smile becomes less of an obsession. I still long to be friends with my former wife and mother of my children, but I’ve let go of the outcome. In Buddhism, the concept of “No attachment” is the way forward with this particular dragon.

  • Okay, we are not going to be friends
  • I understand you will not share the joys of our children with me
  • Yes, I can see how my desire to celebrate with you is about me, I can let that go
  • While I think our kids would benefit from our cooperation, I can accept that you would rather not connect with me for any reason
  • I can still be kind
  • My reward is my own release, my own detachment from any relationship with you
  • Our children will continue to be our thread of connection
  • We will celebrate their joys, loves, and heartbreaks without a collaborative team
  • I still love you, and in loving you I must respect your move to isolate from me
  • I am taming my own dragon
  • I can leave the care of you and yours to your higher power

Saying Goodbye to This Love

A few days ago, I read an article about why we miss our former best friends so much. In the end, the conclusion was this.

I celebrate our lives together. Though I want to reach out when something good happens, I can celebrate my own success without sharing them with you. I can still wish the best for you. I can still love you and what we had together, while letting you drift peacefully out of my life. I can allow the silence to heal the loss between us. I still wish you well. I will no longer be part of your story. Peace, old friend.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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Image: man who wanted to become a dragon – creative commons usage allowed

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