Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When Your Ex Gets Engaged

This Valentine's Day, my former spouse got engaged to his long-time girlfriend.   I'd said for a long time that I would really like it if he married her - they've been together for more than four years, my children love her and her family, and all is reciprocated.  Despite my early, very angry reaction to their relationship (we've been divorced for three years) I think she is a tremendously nice, intelligent and responsible person, and from what I've seen from afar, she's good for him. 

I found out via my daughter's Facebook post, saying she was baking with her "new stepmom."  Actually, I found out through a text from a friend who wondered what was going on.  It's not like I knew, although it shouldn't have surprised me.  I sort of wish he'd called me first, but to be fair it's none of my business and they've lived together for long enough that it's not a surprise to my children, which is what matters. 

My reaction surprised me.  As I am apt to do, I recalled a movie scene (when I have an emotional reaction, I intellectualize via scenes from books or film).  Remember in When Harry Met Sally, when Billy Crystal acts like a jerk when friends are having a playful argument about what to keep in their apartment once they get married?  He says that before they know it, they'll be fighting over what is in the boxes they've brought to their union, that eventually it will all degenerate from happy love into familiarity breeding contempt.  Soon we learn what's preciptated the outburst: his ex-wife is getting married again. 

I'd always attributed his words to continued love for his former wife, but suddenly I understood it in a way I didn't before.  Maybe Nora Ephron, the screenwriter, had been through it or was just aware of what friends had experienced, but I realized the feelings are a renewed sense of rejection.  Marrying again says, not only do I not want to be married to you, but I know I can be happy with another person.  Ouch.

Today I am fine, but it was curious.  It's rather competitive (which, not to dodge it, is one reason I am no longer married) but it bugs me that he reached this milestone before me.  It's not like a classmate getting into Harvard grad school, but a bit like your best friend's toddler walking before yours did. 

But really what bothers me is that it's an expression of hope.  When people argue against gay marriage, I say this:  if two people, against what the world throws at them, can summon up enough hope to believe they can happily grow old together, how can we begrudge them that?  By deciding to marry another person, we say that we believe in the possibility that we can walk through life together and make each other's time on earth better rather than worse.  I wish them all the best, though I envy them that more than I can say.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for writing this, Sue. I often wonder what it will feel like to see my ex fall in love. And I never really hear anyone talking about the feelings. I'm glad you did. Helps me to sort out my own.

    Penelope

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