I spotted my ex-husband in Target a few months ago; he was walking hand in hand with his girlfriend. Since we decided we’d both stay living in the same school district when we divorced, this happens on occasion.
I approached them to say hello since we are friendly and his girlfriend has been amazing with our children. I couldn’t ask for him to be partnered with a better person, and she makes it easy to put all of my animosity, jealously, or hurt aside for the sake of them.
Well, almost all of it.
Because I couldn’t help but notice the patience my ex had that day as they were picking out a lamp for the living room. He actually looked like he was enjoying himself.
And it felt like a punch in the gut. Walking around Target after a lunch date or a movie used to be something I wanted to do with him, but he always put up a fight. In fact, when we were together, he usually waited in the car while I shopped or sulked around the store like he was about to keel over and die in the pillow aisle.
When it came to picking out new curtains or a bath mat, I wanted him to want to help me. I wanted it to be a decision we both made. I wanted to spend time with him; I wanted him to enjoy doing this, but he didn’t. He hated it and wasn’t afraid to tell me as much.
The same way he never wanted to take any time off work to do things like spend the day by the ocean, or meet for lunch — things he does quite often now, with her.
I used to ask if he thought we could plan a trip to Florida during the kids’ spring vacation, but he said he just couldn’t find the time to get away from his business and we shouldn’t spend the money.
I felt like a nag and a pain when I’d tell him I’d love to go to Vermont for the weekend. Then he’d plan a weekend away with his friends — he’d always find the time and money to do that — and we would fight before he left, and fight more when he got home.
But now… well, things are different in his new relationship. In fact, he just took his girlfriend, her daughter, and our three kids to Florida during their last spring vacation. A few months before that, he took his girlfriend to Paris for a week. I couldn’t talk him into a weekend in Vermont, but Paris for a week? That he can manage.
A few months ago, when my kids and I walked into our favorite donut shop, we saw him sitting there with his girlfriend’s daughter as they talked about an upcoming trip to New York City. I couldn’t hide it any longer. I broke down right there and cried in my bagel in front of everyone. I didn’t care anymore. I couldn’t hold it in.
Something was so clear to me in that moment, and I felt like I was going to be sick from the rejection: it wasn’t that my ex-husband didn’t want to do those things, it was that he didn’t want to do them with me.
Maybe it’s because I can be a bit uptight about where we stay and I get grossed out if our hotel room isn’t really clean. Maybe it’s because I get tired faster than he does and don’t mind a night in with room service and watching a movie while he’d rather be at a bar or dancing under the stars. Who knows.
But it’s not just the vacations either. It’s the trips to Target and the time off work that he wasn’t willing to take with me, but he’ll do with her.
I really don’t know, but I’ve thought about it every which way. I’d like to say I don’t care — we both wanted the divorce — but I do care.
I care a lot.
Seeing them, seeing him with her, made me wonder why I wasn’t worth the family vacations, the trips to Target, the random days off, the time, the money.
Seeing your ex live a life with another woman that you wanted with him is beyond painful. And there’s no way around it.
I can’t help but wonder where we’d be right now if he did want to do some of those things with me. But then I remind myself that there are no mistakes in this life — if we didn’t bring out something in each other, no matter how many things he did or didn’t do with me, or for me, we just didn’t fit. We weren’t meant to be.
We both felt it, and that’s not something you can ignore. It’s something that gradually emerges between spins around a department store and arguments about going to Vermont for the weekend.
I asked him about it after the day I cried in the donut shop. It was a hard thing to do, but I had to know, and I’m so glad I did it, because his answer set me straight and I’m over being sad about this.
“I’m 40 now, and I’ve realized it’s time to start living my life,” was his response.
That was the moment I realized something: I’ve been living my life more freely since I let him go too. I’ve been taking more chances, investing in myself more, doing things I’ve always wanted to do, and seeing life in such a different light.
Sometimes there are people we need to let go of in order to live our best life. It makes me sad the father of my kids was one of those people, just as he told me it made him sad he wasn’t able to see the light until he moved on without me.
But you know what would be sadder? If we stayed together and never changed and missed out of some of the experiences we’ve had since we divorced. Yeah, I’m thinking that would be a lot more painful.
But I’m still not sure I want to see their vacation pics.
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