Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will break my heart and soul. Let’s face it -- if you have an ex that you share children with, you’re going to have to have some sort of contact with them.
And chances are, if you’re no longer with your co-parent -- there’s a reason. No matter what drama went down, no matter who hurt whose feelings, no matter what was said pre-split, you can be sure of one thing: Your ex will say things that hurt.
My ex used to say things that I thought were horrible, but as soon as he said he was only joking, or that I took it the wrong way, I was eager and ready to forgive and forget. After a while, I stopped believing him. How many times can you say, “It hurts me when you say that,” and have them repeat it, or tell you they don’t remember saying that, or whatever, before you start to believe it’s intentional?
I don’t know. Maybe it wasn’t. It doesn’t matter anymore.
Toward the end of my marriage, I got really good at dodging bullets. I tried not to take things personally, but it was exhausting with all the psychological and emotional ducking and maneuvering.
We tried counseling and it was a disaster. Going to our church wasn’t an option -- for me at least.
The things he said that hurt me were reason number 293 why I left. The first six months or so of our separation, I tried to limit my contact with him, to give him less opportunity to wound me. It was better, but sometimes the things he said really stung.
But something’s been happening recently -- I’m me again. I’m comfortable in my skin for the first time in years. I stopped obsessing over whether he meant to deliberately hurt me or not. It just doesn’t matter. So long as he’s a good dad to our daughters, and respects me as their mother, I don’t really care if he loves me, hates me, or is indifferent to me.
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And something amazing happened last weekend. I went to his place, the home we shared together for more than seven years, to pick up some of my stuff that’s still there. Stuff that he has lectured me on owning through the years. Stuff that I feel like I fought tooth and nail to keep. Stuff he has ridiculed. And he was upset that I was taking it.
Like really upset. And then the words came. The words that once upon a time would’ve bled me dry of tears. Words that he would later tell me I took out of context, or that he didn’t remember saying, or that were just his feelings that I was now invalidating.
After years of dodging bullets and trying to pretend they didn’t really exist, I felt like Neo in The Matrix, when he finally “sees” the code the way it is, and doesn’t have to do the fancy shmancy bullet-dodging anymore.
I stopped those word bullets in their path, plucked one out of the air, and thought, “Really? These used to hurt me? Huh.”
Then I packed up my stuff. He even helped! Kudos.
Bottom line -- when things get so bad in a marriage that you call it quits, you wonder if you’ll ever be able to move on from this person that you went from loving so much to being confused by all the time to just really not liking at all. This person that has devastated you and shattered your dreams and just made you feel plain old unlovable.
It may take months or years, but eventually you’ll find yourself in a situation where you realize all the old buttons don’t work anymore. You’ve grown and changed too much. You'll stop metaphorical bullets with your brain.
It’s kinda awesome.
How did you know you were finally over an ex?
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