In Attendance: the first function where your ex brings his new love

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Jessica Chastain as Celia Foote in the film version of THE HELP

Jessica Chastain as Celia Foote in the film version of
THE HELP

I am about to experience one of the most challenging situations a single, divorced woman can face:

Attending the first event where the ex brings their new significant other.

When I fist got *H2’s email informing me that “Girlfriend” would be attending an event I would also be attending, (Yes, he delivered the information by email rather than in person or over the phone because that is the sort of person he is -which explains a lot.) I was astonished.  Firstly, because the last time we talked about Girlfriend they had broken up so I was broadsided by the mere mention of her presence in his life.  Although his relationship status is really none of my business, it does affect our daughter and how relationships are interpreted particularly if she will be associating with any significant others.  In other words, it is helpful for me to know what is going on so I can be the best support for out daughter I can be.  She may have questions that need answering and it is ideal to be prepared.

Secondly, this will be the first time Girlfriend and I have attended the same social function.

Following astonishment, I experienced anger, dismay, amusement and maybe, just maybe, a pinch of jealousy culminating in one giant, “Are you kidding me?” sort of reaction.  Naturally, I did some research to determine which of these feelings were normal in this situation and which were unique to me.  According to Cathy Meyer for About.com in an article titled, Tips to Help You Process Negative Emotions When Your Ex-Spouse Starts Dating, I learned that most of what I felt was normal. Jealousy and feelings of betrayal are described by Meyer as par for the course.  People with a long history of being together sort of get it stuck somewhere that this person belongs to them in a way.  Seeing them with someone else triggers those old perceptions which then need to be dealt with properly.  Dealing with them includes recognizing that the relationship you had cannot be duplicated because each couple is special because people bring different characteristics. Once you can remember what was special then you can remember why it didn’t work, focus on being your best self and living your life to its fullest potential.  Let it go.

I was able to process all of that fairly quickly (a matter of a few hours) then came the part that was a tad more challenging.  The event Girlfriend has chosen to attend is a charity function I am organizing for our daughter’s school (to clarify, the child of H2). H2, who lives in another city about 110 miles away is playing a key role in the production of this huge event and will be working long hours before, during and following the event.  Girlfriend will be coming from at least the same distance and a different city, I assume is expecting to spend time with H2.  H2 and I will be working many hours together in a manner in which we are accustomed which does not include Girlfriend.  We will be relating to each other in a way that might, on the surface, be threatening to Girlfriend who has let loose her insecurity of her status with H2 more than once in the form of verbal abuse towards me.

Personally, if I were going to be at a function with my date’s ex present for the first time, I would choose a different sort of occasion. Walking into a room full of strangers, far away from my support group, on the other woman’s turf when she is a focal point of attention and my date will be distracted by his job throughout the evening seems like the recipe for a rough emotional ride. Something smaller and more intimate representing more neutral turf would be a better choice in my opinion. Of course, if I were driving over 100 miles to visit with my sweetie after not seeing him for weeks I would want to know that we were spending the whole time together rather than a few short hours -but hey, that’s me.

Post astonishment and brief personal processing, my concern went to the quality of the event and H2’s commitment to supporting the school.  I responded to his email with my concern asking if he felt he could be focused and committed to the task at hand while Girlfriend, was chomping at the bit to spend time with him.  He failed to comment.

It then occurred to me (and here is where the amusement came in) that Girlfriend likes to drink (At least that is my impression after a string of FB messages she sent to me full of slanderous pot shots followed by a half- assed apology claiming she was drunk at the time which was then followed by another string of crazy rantings when I failed to immediately respond. I have since blocked her.) and H2 likes to spend money.  This is a charity event and the success of it hinges on people who like to spend money.  People are more likely to spend money when they are drunk so they are likely to be great contributors to the bottom line.

I emailed him again something to this effect:

Of course,Girlfriend is welcomed to come. Please make sure she has lots of cash for drinks and raffle tickets and access to your bidder number for the Silent and Live auctions.

I feel really good now.  Confident and easeful. I am moving on, making the best of my life by helping to make this fundraiser I am chairing a success, happy that he will be happy enjoying this event the way he likes without me bitching about how much he spent the next day because as long as he is paying support and his life insurance it is non of my business how he spends his money any longer.

Plus someone drinking under the kind of pressure that Girlfriend will be under at such a function may offer some priceless moments like the scene in The Help where Celia Foote gets trashed at the society event and barfs at a key moment.

I give myself permission to step back and enjoy the show without expectation or attachment.  It feels liberating.

Another hurdle overcome.

One more step in the direction of my own happiness.

 

 

*H2 = Ex-husband #2

 

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7 responses »

  1. Having gone thru this myself, I suspect it will be a whole lot less dramatic than you imagine. Somehow the anticipation of possible emotional congestion is always greater than what actually occurs. When I met my ex’s soon-to-be hubby (not at a charity event, but at our son’s graduation party), I gained some great insight into how I was never built to be the emotional support that she really needed. I actually felt great relief that she had managed to find someone who could so easily tolerate all the things that had so irritated me!
    Tom

  2. Well said, Mister8tch! Thanks for the support. I think I understand your sense of relief a little. Girlfriend is so very different from me, different standards, taste and expectations. I can totally see how she is better suited to handle many of his needs which makes me quite happy. I feel as if I understand for the first time the parts of the puzzle that were missing in our relationship.

    • Don’t we put such trust that the “parts of the puzzle” will resolve peacefully, joyfully, easily, when we hook our hopes on another human being who we truly don’t know enough about? We get glimpses in the infatuation dance…the sex is so good, the connection seems so REAL, the day to day floats along with nary a wave in sight….and then the rest begins to settle. Those of us who seek that ultimate connection begin to doubt, he forgets to lower the toilet seat, throws his socks on the floor, watches too much football, drinks too much beer, farts loudly before falling asleep….you, no doubt, know the routine. The question becomes…where do I park my affection? what will I put up with? what is at the heart of what I really need?

      I haven’t figured out that last question yet. Maybe when I do, there will be someone? Will I ever be able to find that person who knows “thyself” as well as I think I knows “myself”?

      Let’s just talk sex toys…so much easier..

      • Actually, I think talking about sex toys is a backwards way of finding the answer to your question. Hear me out… The sex toy conversation is about how to satisfy an important need (a physical one) without relying on another human to do so. This is a parallel concept to finding similar fulfillment in your mental, emotional and spiritual selves without depending on someone else to do it for you (or better yet, clinging to the concept that someone else can do that for you). Of course self- fulfillment is a journey not a destination. Perhaps what we need to find is someone who can help us on that journey rather than looking for someone to be the answer. Then perhaps the fartingsockstoiletseat (or the more feminine: shoe shopping habit, gain a few pounds, costume drama) sorts of issues are less important.

        But what do I know? My tolerance for what I will put up with has diminished greatly in the last two years – but perhaps that was needed.

      • Yes, tolerance is an important ingredient. Actually, I am beginning to challenge the “new” psychology that insists we are all independent beings, who can only give up so much of ourselves if it does not intrude upon the others “space.” (How is it that separate, but equal, has become the new paradigm?) What is wrong with finding someone who shores up a weakness? What is wrong with saying, hey, I can’t handle this, and if you would be so kind as to help, I would greatly appreciate it? Why is self-fulfillment only one person’s journey? Why can’t someone be “the answer?’ I think that we have been sold this bill of goods (to a certain extent–I get the enabler) that says we have to be perfectly in sync with ourselves in order to properly engage in a romantic relationship?

        We are all crippled, to some extent. Yet “to bond” properly (and doesn’t everything have to be “proper”?), we can’t trust too much, can’t show too much weakness, can’t really give it all up (cause it could all go south, so you need to PROTECT yourself)…..Love is just too fickle …I stopped with my our therapeutic journey because it was always about me. It was rarely a conversation about an US…. my question continues to be…how is the US created?

        btw, I think your take on sex toys is cool..didn’t mean to sound like I was belittling it.

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