Ever wake at 1:30 a.m. with a nagging feeling of loss, abandonment, an overall numbness? I have. But my ex’s behavior in our divorce, though disappointing, isn’t what has left me feeling this way.
Our divorce, while not easy, made sense. We were not getting along. Why should children be in a house where love, compassion, understanding, and support are not present? How can parents be good role models of a behavior for their kids if they themselves aren’t living it?
My ex and I knew for the sake of our children that we had to make the hard decisions so that in the long-term they would be better served. I thought it was amicable. I thought we were truly looking out for each other’s best interest as well as our own. Isn’t that what you do after 20 years together and 14 years married?
Well, what I thought was wrong. But it was something else that completely blind-sided me…a betrayal that left me with an unnerving lack of clarification of who I am and what friendship means to me.
Here’s my story:
I relocated for Jake, my ex-husband, because he had a job here. There was a plan. Move, get engaged, get married, have kids. Live. I didn’t say “happily ever after,” because I am a realist. As in nature, things ebb and flow. The sun sets and moon rises. The waves come in and go back out. The seasons create change.
My moving meant no one was here for me, except Jake. No family, and of course, no friends. So what does one do in this situation? Your significant other’s friends and girlfriends and wives become your friends. Then, as you raise a family, the people you meet at school and church become your friends.
That is the route I chose. Now one caveat: I have lots of acquaintances, but not a lot of people I would call friends.
But in 2006, while pregnant with my second child, I made a friend. My friend. A woman I met while interviewing for a job, and then began working with after my son was born. While I am very slow in opening up and cautious about trusting people, I did share with this person. Not right away, but I did. Let’s call her Candy.
Candy actually shared with me first. Her story. It had life’s messy moments and pain and two children, children she put first. I, at some point, also opened up with my messy story. A husband who really didn’t like me, who may have loved me, but disliked more about me than he liked. A man who, when drunk, was verbally abusive. Now, I’m not saying I was perfect. I have my own issues. Not feeling good enough, suffering my own insecurities.
Candy and I shared, we laughed, we went out to shows and dinners and talked a few times a day. This continued even after I left that job for a new one. It felt, in a way, we were closer then because there was more to share once we were not together every day.
Her marriage was getting worse, and so was mine.
Six years of friendship.
When Jake and I split up, Candy helped me move into an apartment. I asked her to take a trip with me for my birthday to Curaçao. I paid for the hotel. I put all our charges on my card to figure out later. That trip was filled with lots of flirting with men we met, getting our groove back, talking about life after spouses. (I was divorced and she had just filed.)
Well, what happened next ripped my heart out. And it made me value my role as a friend.
Candy and I arrived back home from the trip. I remember I took my kids to get a Christmas tree, and five days later, Candy tells me, “Jake asked me out.”
“What??” I said.
Candy said again. “Jake asked me out, and I said ‘yes.’”
My head started spinning. I felt sick. What? What could she mean. My old Jake?
“He asked me out,” she continued. “We are going out Saturday. It’s not like you two will get back together. It’s not like you both haven’t dated. It’s not like I haven’t always been attracted to him.”
Again, my mind went blank. What does one say? I am numb. I am sickened. I say “ok” and hang up the phone. I am shaking. What just happened? People always say they think they are dreaming in situations like this, and I thought I was dreaming. The past year had been hell with a sick child and a divorce and financial stuff…but this? This is a soap opera. Not my life. This does not happen to me! Not that I am above it, but I am a loyal, trustworthy friend. I have a person’s back.
After crying, being mad, and bad-mouthing the both of them to family and some friends, I calmed down. I get better. A date. What could a date really mean? So what.
Four months after that, here’s what: Just when I am doing ok, again a Mack truck hits me. I learn that Jake and Candy have actually been together for 10 months. A whole six months before our trip to Curaçao. Six months! I planned that trip with her. We planned activities. We shopped for clothes.
Who does this???
These are the questions I ask. When did it actually start? Why did you go on trip with me? What did our friendship mean to you? How would you move on, if you were me?
Don’t you know there is a law, maybe an unwritten one, but you NEVER date a friend’s ex!
As I explored my pain and grief, what I journaled about besides missing the signs Jake and Candy may have given, was why was I not as hurt by Jake. Why didn’t Jake’s betrayal paralyze me like Candy’s did?
After some reflection, what came to me was that I didn’t care. I had moved on from Jake. Given his past treatment of me, this was par for the course. But somehow a friendship meant more to me than my own marriage breaking up. Good grief. How does this happen?
I truly believe that years of disappointment in my marriage, and the slow yet painful realization that we were not going to make it somehow muted the impact of Jake’s actions, but not Candy’s,
I had no warning, no indication, no processing, only a head on collision.
In the end, shame on her. Shame on her for wanting my past. Shame on her for coveting what I had. Shame on her for not thinking of the impact on her kids and mine.
How do I move on?
How do I find peace?
How do I trust women again?