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Poised for a Fight
Ana Lu and I walked up the stone pathway to the house. Charles greeted us at the door and invited both of us inside, knowing I needed to pick up a box that was in the garage. The first thing I noticed upon entering was that Ana Lu’s little desk had moved again.
I made a bee-line for it. Picked it up and moved it back to its original place in the corner.
“I like it where it was!” He shouted.
Charles marched across the room to the wooden table, his hand crashing down on the top of the chair, “She sits HERE now!”
“She colors here while I work on my laptop so we can sit together… tooo-gether,” he grunted, “so now the desk is a side table…so please stop moving my stuff!”
Charles stormed out of the living room, mumbling, “I’m sick of it.”
Fuming, my heartbeat doubled. My eyes squinted and began firing imaginary darts at his back while he left the room… Son of a bitch. Poised for a fight, my mind spun through a litany of comebacks.
Then, unexpectedly, the very moment I opened my mouth to screech in retaliation, no words came out. Mouth open, mid-air, a thought crossed my mind … Huh…
He’s totally right.
Oops, I acted like an idiot.
He Lives Here, Not Me
I moved the same child-sized table into the same corner for five months after our separation. I had been living in my own my apartment yet every time I walked into Charles’ living space I moved his things around.
I would occasionally ask to go into the house to sort through Ana Lu’s seasonal clothes or pick up a few of my things. And the first thing I did every time was pick up Ana Lu’s little desk and move it back into the corner. You think I would’ve caught on by then that the corner was not where Charles wanted it. But oblivious to new living spaces and boundaries, I was sure the desk had to return to the place I intentionally chose for it years ago; the partial corner between the living and dining rooms, situated such that she is not facing a wall but can easily see into the living room. Clearly Ana Lu and Charles will continue to enjoy her little desk in the same place that I originally chose for it, right?
The house, once OUR living space, is now HIS living space.
Oops, I acted like an idiot.
I quickly realized that there I stood, patting my back for not biting off Charles’ head after he screamed at me. Yet Charles was the one who had been patient with me for five months. Five months of me coming into his space and changing things.
Self-realization is a bitch.
Acknowledging it is even harder.
Worth it. But harder.
We exes must rewire our instincts. I’ve found the only way I’m mildly successful at doing this is by consciously opening my eyes to see the new venue…albeit in the old place.
No Surprise Visits
I have to make myself (well, try to make myself) aware of new boundaries, in general, but particularly in terms of his living space. Since then, I’ve made a mental list of “rules” for when I am in his space:
Knock first. Wait for Charles to open the door or say “Come in.”
Remind myself, before I walk in, not to move things around.
Don’t pick up Ana Lu’s room. (I rarely follow this rule. Drives me nuts to see so many toys on the floor that I can’t see the rug. I’m a work in progress.)
Don’t sort mail.
Don’t tidy things up.
Don’t answer the phone.
NO SURPRISE VISITS.
Let’s say that one together… NO SURPRISE VISITS. If you add anything to your mental list of rules, this is the one.
For the first seven or eight months, sticking to my mental list was unbelievably challenging. As with everything, it got easier with time.
I was constantly fighting the perfect storm — three things stacked against me: I had to go to the house more often those first months to get some of my things; I used to live there; and, quite frankly, I’m anal.
I walk into my friends’ houses and shuffle papers into neat piles on the counter, sit on the floor while talking to them and load their kids’ toys into nearby bins, move dirty dishes from a room, or even just the other end of the counter, closer to the sink. I don’t even realize I’m doing it. It’s just how I am, how I’ve always been. So to NOT tidy, organize, clean Charles’ house is incredibly difficult for me because it’s a reflexive behavior of mine. Particularly in a house that used to be mine too.
This list of improving respect for boundaries is invaluable for respecting our exes’ needs, and rights, to healthy boundaries in their living space.
Respect is defined, “to show consideration for; treat courteously or kindly.”
It’s not a big secret that likely an exorbitant amount of respect was lost at the end of our marriages and during the divorce process itself. And although spouses in marriages occasionally struggle to maintain respect for one another, once divorced, we move into an entirely new group; as divorcees we don’t have as many opportunities to communicate respect to our exes, verbally or non-verbally.
The less we see someone, the less opportunity to show kindness in the small, subtle ways the way that spouses are able to do in their marriages because they see one another daily. So we divorcees have to seize every chance we can to be as respectful as possible.
Hit and Run
A divorce is like a hit and run accident.
During the divorce process, we fight, we beat one another up and we hurt one other. By the end of it, both parties feel furious, discouraged, resentful and betrayed. So we flee the scene of the crime, leaving our old friend, deeply hurt, behind us.
The ultimate form of disrespect is continuing to flee.
Our responsibility to our children, our exes, ourselves—our family unit—is to turn the car around, go back and start to bandage some of the wounds we caused in the hit and run. Otherwise we risk carrying around darkness in our hearts that will poison us for a lifetime.
With every act of respect and kindness we offer our exes, whether boundaries in their living spaces or looking for thoughtful ways to help our children connect with them, we bandage another wound we shamelessly inflicted.
Unless your divorce was one of the rare exceptions—a result of abuse, severe mental illness, etc. —no one deserves to be left bleeding on the side of the road. Everyone deserves respect. Enough respect that after anger fades, we go back to the scene of the crime and start to undo some of the inevitable damage divorce has done. Not to do so only shows our children it’s okay to act selfishly, hurt someone and then run away. If we do not do our part to make amends our children can easily become secondary casualties.
Healthy boundaries help lay the foundation of respect in a co-parenting relationship. Occasionally, we’ll step over the line. And occasionally, they’ll step over the line.
But the beauty in stepping over the line is we can always take one step back.
We acknowledge…Oops, I acted like an idiot.
Then we apologize for our misstep. Respect restored. Co-parenting back on track.
Cheers to an idiot-free week between you and your ex.
Originally Posted in Single Sassy Mom (dot) Com | Dec 10, 2012 |
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