My ex-husband is the writer in the family and has always written his most visceral, emotional and heartrending stories about me, my sons or himself. We were his usual suspects, which I guess makes sense as I've always heard that writers typically write about what they know best.
So when I was asked by a girlfriend to write something for her new web site on the subject of my choice, I was stumped. She made a few helpful suggestions like, what is it like to live with a roommate at my age? Or, how does it feel to be dating after 50? Or, how do you deal with a parent struggling with assisted living? Those all seemed perfectly fine topics to address, but just didn't feel like they warranted my particular point of view.
What I kept finding myself coming back to was that "writing what you know" premise and one single idea: my relationship with my ex-husband. In one of our most recent phone conservations, he told me that he was having lunch with a friend and happened to mention me. He said, "How can you live with someone for 30 years and then one day just never speak to them again?" "I know," I answered. "It's absurd!"
Trust me when I tell you there were a few times after we split when I hated him more than I knew I was even capable of. For example, while sitting together in the attorney's office, negotiating maintenance and child support, a slow and painful death for him didn't seem unreasonable. Or when I heard that his awesome new apartment in the chicest of neighborhoods cost twice the rent I was paying, while I had to share my creepy rental with my 22-year-old cousin.
And yet, when I had a falling out with my eldest son, it was my ex that I called crying — not my mother, nor my girlfriends, but him. Because, when all is said and done, he's the only person that could understand, and the only person that could possibly care as much as I did. He surprised me and said such a sweet thing: "I'm so sorry for the pain you're feeling. I wish I knew how to make it better." What more could anyone ask for from another human being? And an ex, no less.
Then there was my new boyfriend. Why was it that any time I mentioned that I had spoken to my ex-husband and we had a perfectly nice conversation, he would get so bent out of shape? He would immediately remind me of all the things my ex wasn't doing for me, and that he would be just fine if he never spoke to his ex-wife again!
Well, that never sat well with me, and for many reasons, we've since broken up. I subsequently got extremely lucky and met a man that was much more evolved than I am. When I shared the mistakes I made in my marriage (I don't want to get into them here, but just imagine that old movie with Diane Lane), and how I justified my behavior with conviction all these years later, my new friend said to me, "Do you have any idea how much you must have hurt that man? How much pain he had to take? He was just doing the best that he could in a difficult situation."
And that got me to thinking, and then to feeling, and I took a deep breath and wrote my ex an apology. An apology as real and sincere and as genuine as anything I have ever done in my life.
Here's an excerpt:
I wish I could take back the pain I caused all of us, but especially you. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. If you never do, I understand. You did the best you could and that should have been enough. I hope you're happy with your new life. I love you. Me
And you know what he said? He said, "I don't know what to say except I love you and always will."
Why would anyone with half a heart ever want to end a relationship like that?