It’s me. You. From the future. I know… whoa. Weird, right? I don’t normally interact with my past self (that whole time travel paradox thing), but I’ve been watching you. I just realized, holy shit, you’re about to hit the big turning point in your life! Probably the biggest… other than that whole “having a fivesome in Amsterdam” thing… oh wait, nevermind. What year is this? Forget I said anything.
So, you just found out, eh? Man… That sucks. I’m going to save you the whole “it gets better” horse shit. You’ve already heard it from everyone at the office. It doesn’t really solve anything RIGHT NOW, does it? You feel like your chest is in a vice and you want it to stop NOW and you want your old life back… NOW.
Well buddy, that life ain’t coming back. It’s done. I know… you can’t accept it. You have to. There’s no way around it. The house is on fire, and you have to get out. No amount of closing your eyes, grabbing on to the burning couch and fanning yourself will stop you from slowly burning to death.
[Let’s stick with the house fire analogy for a while. I know you think in analogies a lot. It’s one of our most endearing qualities.]
Yes, your ex-wife (notice I said EX… stop calling her your wife) set the fire. She doused the sofa in gasoline, lit the match, set the couch ablaze and ran out the front door while screaming “Wheeee! New life!”. She didn’t bother to look back and see that you and the kids were busy playing with Legos on the living room floor. She had tunnel vision. There was a shiny new house on the other end of town.
Here’s the thing though, chief. She was the one to set the fire… but YOU’RE the guy who neatly set out the matches and the can of gasoline. Then you pointed at the couch and said “I sure hope nobody sets this here couch on fire! That would be bad!” You then looked the other way while whistling the theme to Quantum Leap (awesome show). What the hell did you expect?
See… about three months from now you’re going to have an epiphany. This was just as much your fault as it was hers. Sure, she made the horrible final decision to cheat… but she gave you EVERY chance in the world to make the right decision about your relationship, and you didn’t. For years she gave you signals. You’ll learn that these are called “Red Flags”. She gave you every hint that this relationship wasn’t meant to be and would end badly. You were so caught up in your own insecurity and the false notion of “that’s just the way marriage is” that you failed to yank your head out of your butt and do what was right for you and her life.
You got comfortable, amigo. Don’t do that again. It’s cowardly.
Over the next few months you’re going to experience some new things.
- You’re going to have sex with some women. I know.. what?! Me?! Yes… you… err, me. These women, though.. they won’t be good quality people. Well, that one chick was ok. That other one had nice boobs. The one chick sure could… never mind. The point is that you’re going to start knocking down targets at a surprisingly fast rate. You’ll soon realize that you’re not just doing the “natural” guy thing, but also trying to prove to yourself that you’re still attractive. You’re trying to heal yourself via strange hoohah. This is totally natural. Thankfully you don’t catch any diseases or knock anyone up. Oh, and you’re going to cry like a woman after having sex the first couple of times. It’s embarrassing, I know. Don’t worry, the chick doesn’t see you. You go into the bathroom to do it. It’s okay, dude. Totally understandable.
- You’re going to have your eyes opened. This whole “cheating” thing? Waaaay too common. You’re going to meet a lot of crazy women who will lie to you. They see a decent looking guy with a job who is good with kids. They will try to sink their teeth into you. This is the real world, my man. You’re outside of your “comfort” zone. Keep dating around and never ever get comfortable. You’ll eventually learn that you’re dating your ex-wife again. Don’t let it bother you. Very common. Move on.
- You’re going to try and learn everything you can about what is going on with your ex. You will check out her social media accounts. She will block you. You’ll ask friends about her. It will get back to her. Soon after you will learn that what you’re doing is very sad. Understandable, but a little nutty.
- You’re going to try and be the best dad in the history of the universe. Partly it’s because you really worry about the well being of the kids. Another reason is that you have this fantasy in your head of the world seeing you for how awesome you are and consequently… how awful SHE is. Which leads me to my next big point:
This was a horrible horrible thing that you’ve experienced. It will be horrible for months. It is horrible for YOU. Not for everyone else around you. They’re not going to be sitting around and talking about how awesome you are. They’re not going to bother talking about how awful SHE is. They know what happened… they don’t care. They have their own lives to worry about. The totality of the brain power people give to your divorce can be summarized as “Better him than me”.
They will all still be friends with her. The current IN thing is to not judge. No shame. Everyone is awesome no matter what. They will give you concerned looks and small talk when you see them on the street, but that’s about the extent of their empathy. All of these seemingly normal and sweet moms will be over at your ex’s house playing Bunco within the first two weeks of her leaving.
The kids will be fine. After a while.
At first they won’t be fine. Your oldest boy will be more reserved. He eventually opens up again and is goofier than ever. Your daughter will be a mess. She’s old enough to get it. She cries every night for several months. You just be there for her and tell her that if she’s mad, sad, angry, happy… whatever… it’s okay. She can let it all out and you won’t hold it against her. You rub her head the way she likes, tuck her in, talk about the times when you were a kid… like you always do with her. She loves that and it puts her at ease. Her grades will drop. It’ll take a couple of years before she’s back to her old self again. You’ll notice her regressing to very child-like behavior at times. You’ll notice that she doesn’t want you out of her sight. One night she’ll call for you and she’ll be crying about how “Mommy has a boyfriend”. You’ll just reply with “I know”… and that’s all that will be said about it. Whether she gets it right now is not important. She will get the full extent of what happened one day and it will break her heart all over again. No need to speed up the process.
The struggle and heartbreak will make them better people in the long run. Really. They will learn that they can lean on you and others for help, but they need to learn how to cope on their own, too. They will learn that life is NOT like on TV. Life throws shit in your face and it’s up to you to figure out how to still look pretty and come out happy in the end.
Thinks the ex is acting crazy now? You ain’t seen nothing yet.
You’re going to witness some real head-scratching nuttiness from your ex. Some of it will be funny. Some of it will be incredibly depressing and sad. You’ll be back and forth between schadenfreude and genuine concern. She never really does anything to hurt the kids directly, but her life is a huge mess for a while… if that gives you any comfort right now. She made her bed, she can lie in it. She’s a big girl. You’ll stop worrying about her pretty quickly. Your indifference will surprise you.
Guess what?! You’re going to find LOVE again.
It’s going to sneak up on you. You will have zero expectations going into the date with her. Whatever happens, happens. You’ve been on a bunch of these dates already, and know how much they can suck. Your first date with her will be ten hours long. It will feel like five minutes. You’ll feel like you’ve known her your whole life. She will be smart. Very smart. She will be beautiful. She will be the sexiest thing you’ve ever seen AND she will ADORE every inch of you. She will give you praise with every breath. She will mail you random but thoughtful gifts. You will feel the most confident and strongest you ever have in your life when you’re with her. She will make you want to be a better man.
She will have her sad moments. She was also a victim of infidelity years ago. You both will speak very clearly and openly about everything. Nothing will be off the table. You will both admit about a year and a half into the relationship that you should not have started dating until much later. You were both hurting way too much early on and still finding your way in life. You just got extremely lucky and found another person going through the same journey.
There will be crying. There will be doubts. There will be minor red flags. Jealousy. You will be openly avoiding a codependent relationship. You’ve both read all the literature and have been to the counseling sessions before ever meeting each other. You both know that things can go south in a hurry. She’s going to lean on you a lot for direction. Be her man and help her out if she asks. Don’t get tied up in her emotion. Let her figure things out on her own.
There will be laughter. Joy. Lots of trips together. Lots and lots of sex. Mind-blowing. You will both talk about the obvious porno honeymoon stage you seem to be in… and you realize it can continue on indefinitely if you both want it bad enough. It’s just going to take work.
The kids…. they adore her. Really. You did the right thing and waited 9 months before introducing them. They were maybe a little cautious at first. Now they literally jump for joy when she pulls into the driveway. She’s a beacon of hope for them. A model for how a woman can be smart, successful, charming, feminine, beautiful… and still have the vulnerability to open her life up to them and you. They see how much she loves you and they love her right back.
She surprises you with just how well she can cook and how motherly she is. She will make things for your house, for the kids, buy them clothes… and none of it feels contrived in any way. She genuinely gets joy from life by making her loved ones smile.
There are going to be many nights where you lie awake and stare at the ceiling and thank the universe for the the gift that she is. For the new life that you have together.
You’re going to want to go back to that burning house. You’re going to gently touch your ex on the shoulder as she strikes the match. “Hold on, sweetie. You don’t have to do that. I understand.” You’ll grab your kids in your strong arms and walk them outside. You’ll turn back one last time to the to the ex-wife and say “Okay… go ahead and burn if you want. It can’t hurt us.”
You’ll all pile into your car together. You new woman will in the passenger seat with a big smile on her face and a pan of brownies in her lap.
Your youngest one in the backseat will yell “Where are we going, daddy?!”
“Not sure, exactly… but we’ll be happy wherever it is.”