My ex-husband dropped off the kids a few months ago and we stood in the driveway talking. It’s something we do every month or so to catch up on things, and I’ve always felt it covers more ground than texting or the rushed phone calls we manage to fit into our circus of a life.
After going over the logistics of how we felt the kids were dealing with not seeing their friends as much, not returning to school, and the zillion hours of the day they were on their cell phones, he said he had to go — he was meeting his friends and was running late.
“Don’t drink too much,” I said, half-aware that I sounded like his wife.
“You know I have the two drink rule then I call it a night,” he said as he walked back to his truck.
We both paused a moment and laughed.
It’s been four years since he moved out. He doesn’t need, or want, me to tell him how to spend a night with his dudes. I mean, he didn’t particularly like it when we were married, but it was in the brochure. He knew I did shit like that and married me anyway.
My point is, old habits are hard to break. Especially after you’ve lived with someone for two decades, they’ve watched a human come out of your vagina three times, and you’ve washed their underwear. At least that’s the excuse I make for myself.
There are no secrets and when you are deep in a relationship there are things you start doing automatically without thinking. Like saying, “I love you” before you hang up the phone or one of you leaves the house.
I still call my ex “honey” sometimes. It was something I did a lot when we first divorced, even if I was angry with him. It was like a reflex that had a mind of its own and I had no say in the matter.
I had to concentrate really hard when to call him by his name and it still feels strange.
For almost twenty years, to me, he was “honey.”
My kids are over this mistake I make. But I tell them it’s kind of like when I call them by the wrong name. I know what their names are, but everyone is allowed to have a mind-queef every once in a while, for fuck’s sake, and that’s all that “honey” talk is.
He’d called me “Babe” for almost twenty years — and even though he’s been calling me Katie for the past four, it still sounds funny coming out of his mouth.
There are nights when I’m setting the table for me and my three kids and I’ll look down at the stack of five plates I’ve grabbed instead of four.
Last year, I made his favorite Christmas cookies (again) and my kids pointed out that no one likes those but Dad. Also, his girlfriend makes those for him now, so I can stop.
Just like many of us need to be on our phones in order to take a crap (hey, I’m not throwing shade, I’m right there with you) our ex-partners have instilled behavior in us that takes a while to go away. It’s like Pavlov’s dog, if you will.
You still fold the towels a certain way because it’s how they liked it done.
You still have pizza on Friday because it was a tradition you started together.
You still pull the sheets back for them even though you haven’t shared a bed for years.
You still get irritated at them when you’re reminded of something they did a decade ago because dammit, there are people who have that effect on us, and it’s usually a spouse.
I mean, I still turn the thermostat down to 62 degrees upstairs in the winter because he used to insist on it, until I catch myself and realize I answer to no one because I pay the freaking heat bill myself.
And if you really need to feel better about yourself, I’ve called my ex-husband my husband a few times … in front of my boyfriend that I’ve been with for over a year. So, there’s that.
We all get set in our ways and set in our routines. We all have something that can trigger an emotion or memory in us that causes us to call our ex-husbands by their pet name, or to give them an unnecessary lecture because it’s what we did for so long.
It doesn’t mean you still want them to be your “babe” or “hon.”
It doesn’t mean you have not moved on.
It doesn’t mean there is a hidden message in there somewhere and you need to go to The Googles to figure what the hell is wrong with you (please don’t do this).
It’s a slip up, it happens to a lot of people, and the only thing you can do is laugh it off in between feeling like an idiot and realizing you have a shit ton of stuff floating around in your brain and you are allowed to make mistakes.
It’s awkward, yes. But it’s also pretty damn funny. And if you think about it, having an “I love you” or a “honey” slip out of your mouth is a hell of a lot better than some of the things I know you’d like to say to your ex.
So, bravo to you for keeping those to yourself. If the most you let out is an accidental “honey,” consider that a win.
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