>> Sunday, October 10, 2010
I asked a friend of mine for an interview on what it is like to be divorced and friends with your ex-spouse. I realize that a blog on family would not want to discuss divorce, but it is important as transitions to family must be made in the mist of divorce, especially with children. We support "Live Ever After" to be happily ever after but what about the few occasions when it is not, when love directs us and challenges us to move on to real love. This is an interview by my friend who I am thankful she is raw and candid and funny and angry and endearing and sweet and strong, all at the same time.
1. How did you become friends with your ex-husband?
I was friends with my ex, but only really by basically going along with his view of the marriage breakup and buying in to his protestations that he loved me and that I left him devastated. In reality, looking back on it now, that was not really real. Only weeks after we broke up he told me that he had been in love with one of my best friends for NINE years -- which explained why he would sometimes be all over her and at other times just VILE and RUDE to and about her. She was not in love with him and was totally shocked when I told her. Then he said he only said that to hurt me and I allowed him to say that because a part of me wanted to believe him. But I know that he was 'in love' with her or SOMETHING because I had always suspected it anyway all along. Not her fault at all. She is a doll!
Looking back, I see I bent over backwards to believe a lot of stuff that I should not have.
After the breakup he gave me a TINY divorce settlement, and THEN made it even tinier by paying it in dribs and drabs over four years, nearly five. He went CRAZY when I once asked him to up the payments so I could actually use them, even though the advantage for him would have been that he paid me more quickly. He once LOANED a friend $30,000, so he certainly had it. By the way, that friend turned out to be a con artist, who absconded with a pile of money borrowed from a group of people they all new. I was desperately broke and trying to establish myself in a new career, to prove that I could do it. There was no alimony of course. Then he delayed my divorce. It took six years to get it. One day i called to plead with him to get ON with it and got his then girlfriend (who became wife 2) and asked her what he was playing at. She said she asked him the same question all the time. He FINALLY divorced me within a matter of weeks, ONLY after i threatened to get my own lawyer and do it myself. He had asked me once not to get on because he would have to pay the bill and we were civilized people, right? "We" didn't need one, right?
Then he sold our house, that had always been called 'the house i made him buy', for over a million bucks. After our divorce and after he had made me sign over my rights to it, which I did, fondly imagining that he was my 'friend' and would treat me fairly when time came. I asked if he would give me $10k after the sale. Again, he went crazy and said he and his then wife 2 were going to 'give' me 3k just out of kindness. how DARE i think he 'should' give me anything just because he made a 600,000 dollar profit in the housing market boom on the 'house i made him buy'. I took the 3k. to be friends. Because we were civilized people, right?
He also REFUSED for many years to let me take my OWN things out of the house. It was disruptive to him emotionally he said. I went along always with everything. Besides i had no money to have anything shipped to me. I think also that I liked the pretense that my ex loved me and cared about me. But truly, when you think about it, where was the love in any of his behavior? So anyway, he LOST my precious rug that I had had since i was 12 -- a gift from my mother. We just found out a few weeks ago that it is worth 57,000 dollars. Can you imagine someone as broke as I am and how helpful that would be to me now? He has a PLANE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He has a swimming pool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I live in a dumpy area and can't afford my rent. But he is now not speaking to me because I dared to be angry and tell him, he lost it and he needs to find it. I didn't even DARE say 'or pay me for it'. Which, by rights, he should have. It was mine for 20 years before we even got married. And he lost it. Plus he sold "cheap" to his friends, all the furniture I couldn't afford to have shipped to me.
During the marriage, in every fight we had, he called me a 'freeloader', even though I WORKED TOO! Except for a six month period. I just didn't earn the same amount of money. Worse than all the above, he told all his friends and mine that he was 'giving me money' after the divorce -- which would be a ref to the so-called settlement paid in dribs and drabs into my overdrawn bank account where it just barely paid off the interest on debts accrued just living day to day.
So the answer to your question, HOW I was his best friend. The long answer is the above. The short answer is 'denial'. I am feeling right now so bitter and angry with him but trying my best to get past it. But it feels good that I don't have to lie to myself anymore.
2.If you are good friends, would you get together again? Why or why not?
This was always an interesting question. He was a control freak during our marriage. He discouraged me from following my dreams -- which in the interests of anonymity I am not putting here, but which I am now living. He did lots of little sabotage things all the time. It was only when I left him that I felt I could really TRY to do these things that I now DO. However, when someone controls and suppresses you all the time, you don't fancy them. So sex was always a bit of an issue. I did not fancy him physically, even though he is nice looking. I think unconsciously it was my last bastion of control. So that is one reason we would never have got back together, even though we were 'friends'. I was repulsed by him on some level. I think it was my unconscious creating a fatal flaw so that we would break up and I could save myself from oblivion. I remember when I left him thinking, if I didn't I would actually die of a broken spirit or something.
Looking back I see that he was mentally abusive. A few years ago his girlfriend of nine years (who he had lived with before me and who, by the way, for some reason he has kept secret from his two subsequent wives) was in town and called to invite me for dinner. Before we had even sat down she said "I have been dying to have this lunch for 20 years!" Although we both were still 'friends' with him, we agreed that he was abusive and a control freak. He did this also with Wife 2, who (not uncoincidentally) left him within two weeks of he and her and I all having lunch together. She wrote me a sweet email later about how i was 'a lovely woman' now that she had met me. Weeks later she had left him! I think she saw for herself who I really was, and recognized why I had left, because she was experiencing the same things. Even though we didn't discuss this -- obviously, because he was right there.
And re love I would say that he FELT love (perhaps) but he did not LOVE -- which is to say nurture and take care of me. encourage -- me. I encouraged his writing all the time. I was super supportive. I even nagged him to get on with it. But the SECOND I tried to do my own thing -- something as simple as drawing in the evenings for example, which would drive him crazy -- he would get all angry. He even once told me to 'F--k off!' when i came up with an idea for a comedy skit for some friends who had asked
3.What advice would you give to other women who are divorced?
Seriously. I would say get your own lawyer. A good one. Be fair. Be in integrity. But be fair to YOURSELF too. His second wife, after only five years together, took him to court and got 160,000 bucks PLUS kept the monthly stipend he had been sending her that she never had to repay from the settlement lump sum. They didn't talk for YEARS. But I applauded her secretly for that -- even though i thought that some of that money should have been MINE since it was MY house that helped fund that settlement and since I married him before he had money and encouraged and helped him. Even now he refers to that time as 'providing' for me, as if I didn't provide for him in so many ways. Too many women get divorced and, because they are the ones leaving, feel as if it is their fault and end up destitute. Most women leave for a reason! Don't let some manipulator persuade you that you are wrong because you were the one that walked through the door. They opened it, and they slammed it behind you.
And you can FORGIVE but you should never FORGET, I realize. There's a difference. You are doing yourself a disservice if you bend yourself into the shape of a pretzel in order to stay friends with someone. Thank goodness for my wonderful kind boyfriend of three years. He is everything that my ex husband wishes he really were. Humble, genuinely talented, deep down kind and a person of real integrity. I think being with him is partly why I now see what a raw deal I had before. My ex was witty, and fun, and a good person for friends to confide in. He was also controlling of me, discouraging of me, competitive with me (even my father pointed that out), stingy with me, demoralizing. In intimate relationships (whether best friend or lover), however sweet a person also is, some behaviors are non negotiable. Abuse, whether verbal or physical or both is ALWAYS NON NEGOTIABLE, although, sometimes, with the best manipulators, it can be hard to recognize. Forgiveness to me means moving on from it. In the end. One hopes. Accepting that they did that but here you still are and YOU know what happened. But not to forget means you don't have to stay friends or lie to cover up THEIR crimes. it doesn't reflect badly on YOU for putting up with it. it reflects badly on them.
*Update: My friend has now moved on to the kindhearted man she spoke about. She is now living the dream career she has always wanted but could never have in her first marriage. I have to tell you, she is good at what she now does. I love her and wish her much Happiness and Success (She deserves it)!