(I’d cue “Western standoff music,” but I still have that blasted song in my head.)
As I said previously, my ex-husband’s friends and social circle closed ranks around him after I “abandoned” him.
It was devastating, but I built my own social network by reconnecting with old friends and fostering new friendships, and I got past it.
But a few months later, people started reaching out.
I remained friends on FB with many of the ex’s friends (I still do, even though I’m starting to weed them out), and when one of his college buddies posted about his mother’s illness, I sent him a note wishing her health and luck. He wrote back filling me in and added that he liked me and we shouldn’t split up the friends without checking with those friends. I was flabbergasted. And flattered.
I went to dinner with him and his girlfriend and although they are still close with the ex, we’ve maintained a nice friendship, albeit a bit distant–they are kid-free and partiers, and it’s hard to coordinate. They like the ex, but they also see him without the rose-colored glasses with which his family sees him.
But even some family members see through him.
The ex and I split one of the holidays last year, and there was a lot of drama beforehand over how the handoff would go. He didn’t want me coming into the house and saying hi, but I refused to hand off our son in the driveway like a delivery person. (I did offer to meet him at a coffee shop.) Eventually I was “allowed” to come inside. I was completely ignored by XBIL, XSIL, and XGIL, although I said hi to each of them in turn. But something strange happened: people were happy to see me and chat with me. I like his family. I miss a lot of the extended family and it was nice to see them.
(Funny aside: One cousin’s wife had no idea we’d split up, even though it had been almost a year, and apparently she kept asking where I was. Oops!)
I was getting ready to leave and realized that one of the uncles hadn’t come over to say hi. I wasn’t surprised. He has a reputation of someone you do not want to cross–and he holds grudges like…umm…a champion grudge-holder.
As I started to leave, he came up to me and pulled me aside. I went cold. He talks very softly (which makes him more intimidating), and he motioned for me to come close. He leaned his head next to mine and said, “If you need anything, you just let us know. We love you and you’re family, no matter what.”
I just about fainted on the spot. I am getting chills right now replaying it. This man whom my ex-husband revered was embracing me. I left the house with a great smile and a warm feeling in my heart (puke, I know).
That uncle’s daughter, DC, has stayed in touch with me. She has come over to visit with me, and we’ve gone out for drinks. In fact, we went out again this week. I worried a little about trusting her, since she is on “his” side, but she is smart and cynical and she knows the score. She saw how he treated me and has seen how he treats his parents for years. (But I’m not insane–she doesn’t know the full story of The Writer and me.)
DC may be cynical and a little bitchy (god, I love her), but she is thoughtful. She sends texts on meaningful days and she sends cards to her family. She pointed out that on Father’s Day, XFIL had two cards: one from her and one from his wife. Ouch. She’s the one who gave me the idea for celebrating Grandparents’ Day for the XILs.
She goes out of her way to help her grandmother (same one mentioned in the previous post), taking a week off work to stay with the grandmother when her husband died, and is rewarded by being accused of trying to kick the grandmother out of the house, but the ex and his brother are lauded as angels when they stop by for an hour. The boys have been the grandmother’s favorites for years while DC and her sister are ignored, so it looks like XMIL comes by her attitude from her own mother.
(In fact, during drinks this week, she said that XGIL “thinks the sun shines out of his ass, and it enrages me!”)
Learning more about the ex’s family history has helped me understand who he is and how he became the man he is. I know he’ll never spend the time to examine himself, but I’m better positioned knowing this.
And knowing that other people–who have known him for a lot longer than I have–see him for who he really is and don’t think he walks on water makes me hopeful. Not that his family will turn against him or anything like that, but that my social circle will expand further to include some of them, and Smiley’s life will be better for it.