I found out that my ex, the father of my child, was dating a new woman on Facebook.
In the picture he shared, they are smiling brightly, and he is holding our dog. He and the woman are wearing matching T-shirts. My stomach seized, and I quickly closed the Facebook app with shaking hands.
Now, we have been broken up for a year now, so I know that he has every right to pursue new relationships. But when you share a child with a person, they are not just a regular ex. Even though we never married, we shared a life for six and a half years. We had a child together. I thought I deserved more than finding out via social media, especially since he’s someone who claims that I’m still a close friend.
It’s easy to plant a smile on your face and tell people (and yourself) that you’re happy for your ex, even if you’re dying on the inside. That’s what you’re expected to do, after all. Societal convention states that once the relationship ends you have a finite amount of time to have those unpleasant feelings, and then you must move on.
That’s way easier said than done.
If it was a regular ex whom you never had to see or interact with again, then of course you can just move on after a while. But when you share a child with this person, chances are you’re going to be interacting with them on a regular basis. Indefinitely. You can look into that person’s eyes and see those good memories, and that makes it so much harder to see them smiling at someone else the way they used to smile at you.
I found out about the new woman two months ago. In that time, I have gone through every emotion under the sun. I have experienced anger, not only at him for not telling me sooner, but at him for being the first one to move on. I have mourned the loss of the relationship all over again. I’ve been scared that I will be alone forever. I’ve also tried to be happy that he’s happy, but sometimes the happiness is hard to muster. And when I finally feel okay, there will be a new picture, and it will bring back the hurt all over again.
As much as I may feel like I’m not entitled to those feelings, I’ve come to realize that I’m allowed to have them. I own them, and I push through them. Sometimes it’s just impossible to get a grip on what I’m experiencing. My ex and our son are super-close, which means I see him at least once a week, sometimes several times per week. Usually it’s just handing over our son and going to do whatever I have planned, but then there are times when my ex comes over and hangs out and it’s just the three of us, and I’m reminded that this is what our life would be like if we were a family.
And then I’m thrown into a spiral of confusion and hurt all over again. Feelings suck sometimes.
And of course, It’s normal to be curious about the other person. I was and remain curious. Maybe you try to look them up on Facebook, or you ask your ex questions about them and their relationship. (I plead the fifth here.)
There are certain things you have a right to know, and you’re allowed to have a say in when, and how, and if this person gets introduced to your child. You may sit and agonize about how you’re going to explain this new person to your kid(s) when they ask. If you’d rather wait a certain amount of time to ensure the relationship is going to last long-term, then make sure you say so. Your ex does not owe you the intimate details of their relationship, but he does owe you an explanation about the points where your relationship intersects.
And no matter what your feelings are about the other person, never share them with your child. You still have to be impartial, no matter how sad or angry you may be.
There’s no one way to feel at the end of a relationship. Every day can bring a new set of feelings to the surface. You’re allowed to have your feelings, and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about them. The person your ex is dating may go, and another person may come. Or maybe they’ll decide to settle down with them. Either way, you will eventually get to a point where it doesn’t even matter to you anymore. You will get to your very own happy place, and it will feel so good. So cry into your pint of ice cream, scream into a pillow, or do whatever you need to do to cope.
It’s all going to be okay.