There are many out there who believe people are capable of change. And then there are those who believe that a leopard can never change his or her spots.
When I decided to meet my ex-husband for a casual breakfast after 5 years of estrangement, I was genuinely curious to know if this leopard had indeed been able to change his spots.
After 5 years and a few brief conversations where my ex-husband expressed his desire to make amends, I decided to accept his invitation to breakfast.
We met at a popular restaurant in the city I was living in. My ex-husband would probably never understand that the reason I wanted to meet with him in such a populated place was that part of me would always fear his temper.
He’d supposedly cleaned up and toned down his anger issues but I still wondered about that leopard and his spots. I had spent 6 years with this person and the cycle of addiction and abuse had never, ever changed.
Now, 5 years later, I was about to see him again in real life.
We found each other in the parking lot of the restaurant. I thought he was going to cry when he saw me. I feel callous to say that I didn’t feel much emotion. Honestly, I wasn’t entirely sure why I was there. Closure? Forgiveness? To see if he felt any remorse for his past actions?
As we walked into the restaurant, he said, “Looking good, kid.”
He had always called me “kid” when we were together because I was 12 years younger than him. At one time, I thought it was charming. In my 30’s, it was just weird.
We sat down and ordered our food. We exchanged information on what we’d been up to over the years and he talked about how much he had missed me. It felt so strange to be sitting there with him.
And that’s when it happened.
The waitress came over with our food and his order was messed up. He instantly got irrationally angry about it. The waitress was visibly blushing from embarrassment.
This had been something that had infuriated me our entire marriage. He had been rude to the waitstaff wherever we went. It didn’t stop there, either. There had been times he had been downright abusive to servers. I had been a waitress myself for years, so this was not cool at all.
I believe you can tell a lot about the character of someone based on how they treat their food server. Seeing how my ex-husband acted in this restaurant on this day, it was obvious nothing had changed in how he treated people.
Had I really been expecting some changed man filled with kindness and empathy for others?
I awkwardly made more small talk just waiting to get out of there. He went on some more about his life and problems. He complained about his food some more and even ended up sending his breakfast back.
I couldn’t remember having a meal out with my ex-husband when we were married that didn’t end with him sending his food back or yelling at someone. It had gotten to the point where I didn’t even want to go to a restaurant with him at all.
And now it was all coming back to me. What the hell was I doing here?
That seemingly small exchange between my ex-husband and the waitress was all I needed to see.
We left the restaurant and I said I had somewhere to be. We said goodbye and he hugged me. I pulled away to leave but he grabbed my hand.
“Hey,” he said, “I’m sorry for the way things ended with us.”
“So am I,” I responded.
And that was it.
There was no big revelation. There was just the simple realization that some people never change.
I was disappointed that my ex-husband hadn’t evolved into someone with more empathy but, in the end, I was relieved. I realized how far removed I was from that chaotic and unhealthy life with him.
I learned that I wasn’t that “kid” anymore who thought she could change an unhappy person into someone who was happy. I realized that sometimes you just have to jump into that freezing cold pool of acceptance whether you’re ready or not. That’s just life.
You try your best, accept what is, and move on.