Why Can't We Be Friends? or, With Friends Like You, Who Needs Enemies?

So the funeral yesterday was just as you'd think it would be: sad. Sad beyond belief. That kid had so many people there, the church was as packed as it is on Christmas Eve. I'll be delighted if I get 1/4 that amount at my farewell.

As expected, it was difficult to see so many people hurting. My heart still aches as I think about the faces of his parents, his sister, his cousins. But at the same time, I feel joy in my heart for how lovingly this child will be remembered, for how much love and happiness he left his family with. What an impact he made on this planet in just 13 short years.

At one point, the people whom I assumed were his parents got up and spoke. I was in awe, in disbelief..how could you even form a sentence when wracked with so much grief? They spoke lovingly of their son, shared sweet memories, funny stories...gave us just a taste of what life with this boy must have been like. Although they were divorced, they presented the church and the mourners in it with a united front. "We are all one family" they declared.

After the funeral I discovered that those weren't his parents...those were his step-parents. Of course. Even though they surely loved this boy, perhaps their grief was just a tidge less deep than that of the boy's "real" parents. They let their spouses speak for them, and when I heard that, I had even more admiration for this child's family.

And it got me thinking.

Could Big Daddy and I have done that? God forbid, I know. But, really? Could we?

I don't know.

I have come across some divorced couples who have what is most commonly called an "amicable" relationship. I don't know why this word is paired with divorce and its aftermath so often, but it does pop up with great frequency when one starts delving into the topic.

When I meet people who are divorced, and who have this amicable thing going on, I'm always impressed. Always. I wish more than anything that my kids had parents who could stand around at events and games, stand within touching distance and be civil to each other. I wish they had parents who could call each other up to discuss something kid-related, just to keep each other in the loop. I wish they had parents who could sit in the same bleachers or pews or row of seats in an auditorium and present that "united front".

But my kids don't have that. And I'm partly to blame.

When Big Daddy first left, we did have an amicable relationship. We'd talk on the phone, when he began picking the kids up for visitation he'd come to the door or I'd walk out to chat for a minute. I even called him when I felt a freak-out coming on, he actually dropped what he was doing and came over to talk to me.

Then, I found out about the lies. The cheating. The indiscretions, the hidden stuff, the sneaking around behind my back. The other woman. I didn't find out about it all at once, like someone dumping a giant wheelbarrow of woe over my head. That would have been easier, I think. But no. These bits of information came at me one at a time, like a slow-motion shower of tiny, poison-tipped arrows piercing my flesh, my heart, my soul... one by one.

By the time I knew pretty much everything, I wanted nothing more to do with him. I wanted to wash my hands of him, bleach my memories and pretend as though my children had just shown up on my doorstep one day, anonymous donations from an unknown source.

But of course, that wasn't possible. In most cases with kids, at some point it's inevitable. You will cross paths with your ex. You will need to communicate with each other, whether it be via phone or text or email or carrier pigeon. And if you live in the same small city? Hooo boy. You will see each other, you will run into people who know your kids but don't know you, you will see the other person's car parked in a spot only a few cars away from yours and you will have to use every bit of sense you have left in your head to not key the word "ASSHOLE" or "PRICK" on it (totally kidding. Okay, mostly kidding. I preach non-vandalizing means of coping, bitches).

You will run into the new person in their life. Your friends will run into them. I remember a call I received one day not long after Big Daddy and Skankenstein tied the knot: "OMG, guess who I just ran into at Byerly's?" she said. After I guessed correctly, she went on, "Wow. She's not what I expected. I didn't know whether to offer them congratulations or condolences." You simply can't avoid it.

There will be contact.

So after I realized how long I'd been played for a fool, and how deeply he'd been undercover with the Secretary, I simply decided to keep our contact and communication as sparse as it could be. Emails are usually short and to the point (unless I am suffering from wine flu or PMS, both of which have been known to cause long, vitriolic rampages) . Phone calls have fallen by the wayside. I kind of miss those, to be honest. His ringtone is "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and I like that song. He waits in his car, in the driveway, when picking up the kids. When we have to be at the same event, we sit as far away from each other as possible. Whoever has to leave the event empty-handed is allowed to bid adieu to the child/children at hand, and then does that awkward, solo walk out to the parking lot. The singleton in a sea of families.

Could we be friends? I don't think so. I think too much damage has been done. Certainly, if one of my girlfriends had shit all over me like he did, we would not be friends. In fact, if one of my friends did to their spouse what Big Daddy did to me? I don't know if I could continue to be part of that friendship.

Because I don't think what he did was right. What he did was cruel. It was destructive. It was like a natural disaster hit me and the kids and the jury is still out with their verdict on whether or not we'll ever be 100% again.

Let's play pretend, though. Just for a bit, let's pretend that he manned up before cheating. Before renting his apartment while "out getting coffee" one Saturday afternoon. Let's pretend that Big Daddy chose to be an adult, a husband, a responsible human being and instead of doing all that crap behind my back, came to me and discussed it. Put it out there. Would our marriage have survived? Doubtful.

But we would have had better odds of becoming one of those Amicable Divorced Couples. Because I'm almost certain that those divorced people who do get along, who will sit on the same set of bleachers or row of folding chairs...those people weren't involved in any marital espionage. They had problems in their marriage. They talked about it, they mutually agreed that it wasn't going to work.

They both had a say in it.

I also think that most of the people who do deal well with each other are not engaged in any financial fisticuffs. If Big Daddy would pay what he owes, if he'd throw me a bone every now and then, the wall of bitterness and animosity that has built up between us would maybe erode a little. There is something so dehumanizing, so utterly humiliating about having to beg the father of your children to help out with their upbringing. It doesn't exactly inspire warm, "hey buddy!" thoughts.

I'm hopeful that with all the things in the near and not-so-near future that will require us to be in the same zip code (graduations, celebrations, weddings, but please oh please God no funerals), we will somehow be able to get to the point of civility. I'm hopeful that someday I can see him and not feel that white-hot stab of pain in my chest like I do now, that eerie phantom pain of a knife in my back.

Of course, I'm also hopeful that some night I'll hear a knock on my bedroom door and it will be a liquored up, half naked Alec Baldwin. I'm optimistic like that.

And Secretary? Ha. Men who are unfaithful to their wives can be classified as sadistic, the women who knowingly pursue a married man? They're in a whole 'nother league of awfulness. I can see trying to have some semblance of a public relationship with Big Daddy, but with her, there is no obligation. No requirement. No desire.

People in the divorce world like to throw around little platitudes and sage sayings. One of them is this:

"You have to love your children more than you dislike your ex."

I'm trying. Honest to God, I'm trying.

But he isn't making it easy.


  1. Aww Jenny, you know how much I love and support you. Nobody deserves to be treated the way he treated you. But I need to say this. As a child of divorce. It's impossible for children to completely separate themselves from their parents. So when parents don't get along or don't like each other, as a child, it feels like theys don't like a part of you. And it hurts. I remember dreading school and church events (the only time my parents were in the same room until I was an adult). Would they talk? Would they fight? Whom should I talk to first? Am I spending equal time with each? And my heart broke for whichever of them was all alone. It was hard. And it physically made me sick. As a single parent, I am far from perfect. I have freaked out at Grace's Dad and have shared things with her that I shouldn't have. But at her events, we always sit together and we always get along. I make small talk with him and his wife. For Grace. I can't say I enjoy it, but I can say that when I leave I feel better about myself than I would otherwise. So it's not completely selfless.

  2. See, you are stronger than I am Faith. Small talk? What would I talk to them about? My bankruptcy? The fact that I am terrified about the future? How sad it is when my kids come home from their house and talk about how ignored they feel? These two people, and their actions, are the reason I am struggling every single day. To be kind to either of them would be like me saying, "It's ok". It's not. And I can't do it. Not yet.

  3. I'm sorry Jenny. It hurts. I know.

  4. I know it's the right thing to do, Faith, and that it would make a world of difference for my kids. But there's something in me that needs to heal, or grow up, or get tougher before I can do it. I still feel so freaking damaged by all of it. If the playing fields were more even it would be easier, too, I'll go ahead and admit it. If I had my own house again, and didn't have so much anxiety over financial issues, it would be easier to move on or get over it. It's just that every day there is some reminder of "Oh yeah, don't forget, you've lost everything...have a nice day!".

    He claims that he feels like a pedophile when he's immersed in "my" territory (ie; school stuff, baseball games, etc., where the majority of people are my friends) so he keeps his distance from everyone. And although I do feel a twinge of sympathy for him, because I cannot imagine how it would feel to walk down a hallway or aisle of a grocery store and know that people "know" about me, I don't feel much.

    That makes me sound like a bitch, and I don't say this in front of the kids, but it's what I feel. Maybe that's his cross to bear for what he did, God knows I've been bearing my own crosses.

    And now I sound like the martyr! Good grief.

  5. "You have to love your children more than you dislike your ex."

    My life would have been better if my parents had subscribed to this sentiment.

  6. "...So when parents don't get along or don't like each other, as a child, it feels like theys don't like a part of you. And it hurts..."

    Amen, Faith. Even when the parents divorce when you are married and 33. It. sucks. so. so. so. bad.

  7. G-d Jenny...
    I think you should be allowed all the time you need to heal before you can take that high road. I'm sure it will happen some day but it still smarts too much.
    Stupid people make stupid choices.

  8. I think you are allowed all the time you need to heal before you take the high road with these people.
    You have been through a horrific, traumatic, drawn-out experience. It's better to feel it and get over with it now than stuff it until later.
    It is fascinating to follow your life. Thank you for being brave enough to share it so eloquently, honestly, etc. I'm rooting for you.

  9. I will choose to be anon for this one for a few reasons. Interesting topic. I would guess that couples who are also "friends" are not the majority.

    With my ex, even after 12 years, I am polite but not friendly. We can be at the same events together but we avoid each other. I had primary custody of my daughter and he never paid a dime of child support. My current husband has supported my daughter unconditionally for the last 5 years.

    One thing I will never forget: Most divorced parents work hard at "sharing the kids" for the kids' sakes -- we try to make sure that the kids get to spend time with each parent (alternate weekends, etc.). My daughter, who was always a very easygoing child, literally broke down one day and said she felt like she had no roots and that she was living out of a suitcase. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. She cared about seeing her dad, but she did NOT care to spend every other weekend with him. It was too disruptive in a time when she needed stability above all things. And she felt like she was being disloyal to him by not wanting to go there.

    When I took her to counseling it was determined that he had been using her as a sounding board for all of his "adult" problems -- who would dump that on a child? He told her, along with numerous other untruths, that I had stolen all his money. I asked her if she believed that was true and she said she didn't know what to believe. She did not want to think that one of her parents was lying to her!

    I will never, ever forgive him for any of that -- but I mostly kept it hidden from her and I was always very careful to filter what I said about him. She's now old enough to draw her own conclusions and just the other day, she said "How could you have ever married him?" I did a happy dance, but only after she left the room.

  10. I struggle with the same thing Jenny. I believe those amicable divorces were certainly brought about under different circumstances than your husband having a secret double life. How the hell can you be amicable with someone who would do something so horrible? I won't bad mouth my husband in front of the kids but I'm not going to be calling him to chat about what a great day one of the kids had. He'd know that if he still lived here. At first I envisioned having him over for the kids' birthdays but the more I discover what he did and the web of lies he told I don't want to spend more than a minute in his company.

  11. Finding out your hubby of 31 years is gay and having hookups with strangers he meets on Craigslist makes it a little hard to be amicable. I totally understand and sympathize with everything you've said. I wanted to be friends, tried to be friends, but kept getting sucker punched every time I turned around. I tried to mend his relationship with our adult daughter so he could see his grandkids, but his relationship with the guy who was pretty much a pedophile (how did we know ~ well, one of the 17year old boys the other guy had screwed before he met the ex was one of my daughter's friends. Not hard to understand why my daughter wanted nothing to do with her dad) was more important to him than his kids and grandkids. And when he left that guy because he finally found out what the guy was really into (very young guys), my daughter took her dad in and forgave him because he had no where to go and was facing serious surgery. And I was so happy and there was a chance for us to be amicable. But a month after his surgery, he took up with a guy 20 years younger who, wait for it…….worked with me! He once again turned his back on the daughter who had forgiven him so he could devote himself to working on this new relationship. I had to see his new lover every day at work ~ I was told to get over it. So yeah, the amicable thing is not really going to work with us. I'm not even sad for myself. I'm just sad that my daughter doesn't have her dad in her life anymore and my grandsons have been abandoned for yet another dick (literally, lol).
    What I finally realized is something you've said before ~ would I want to be friends with this person if we had not been married for a lifetime? Would I want to be friends with someone I don't respect, who treats his family like this? Nope, and so there are now only terse e-mails and texts as there is still a house to sell and assets to divide. And just in case anyone is wondering, this has nothing to do with him being gay. I suspected for a little bit and was actually supportive of him, telling him he should be who he is and I would help him come out. I was told I was crazy and imagining things. And my daughter told him the same for that brief time in April ~ dad, we love you. We don't care that you're gay. We just want you in our lives. But I guess that's not exciting as a new shiny man. And the desperate desire to not be alone. Well, I'm alone and it's better than being with someone who hates themselves so much, they live their whole life as a lie.
    So yeah, amicable isn't always possible. And that's ok.


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