I don’t speak much ill about the various Ex’s in my life, ranging from some long term girlfriends, one (sort of unwanted – long story, like many things in my life) fiance, one ex-wife, and one soon to be ex-wife. In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to defend them in conversations. And, I get a bit mystified when people expect otherwise.
I’m not much of a believer in hate. It’s not that there’s no one or nothing that I truly hate – that would be a lie – but, there’s very few people I’ll invest the effort in hating. Somehow, some people seem to think this makes me an uncommon person when it comes to ex’s – I don’t refer to my ex-wife as “that bitch” or anything like that. I use her name if it’s in a face to face conversation, or “My Ex” if it’s online (since I don’t want to tag her on posts, and it’s really not necessary that people know who my ex is.) OK, and I suppose that it’s going to require a further qualifier of Ex Wife #1 & Ex Wife #2 or just “one of my Ex’s” to make it more generic.
So, my “Soon To Be Ex Wife” (as good of a qualifier as any for the moment) posted an image on Facebook that gathered a bit of flack, including some conversations I had with people outside of the thread. What was it that was such a big deal? She shot a picture of our divorce papers.
I saw it, and shrugged, and moved on at first. Sitting on my desk at the moment is an exact copy of those papers. To me, it’s the legal equivalent changing your Facebook status from “Married” to “Single”. And, well, people do that on Facebook from time to time. So, seeing a picture of the date from the paperwork on a picture on Facebook didn’t really bug me – about the only thing that really had any effect was the court case number on the bottom, but that’s public record. I moved on to other things, until it showed up on my feed again, with someone felt it was in appropriate and disrespectful to me.
Kat, not one to try start crap between us – especially online – texted me to make sure the whole thing was cool (and it was.) And, I commented on her post so that people who knew both of us knew I was cool with it. And, well, I figured that was the end of that. I mean, if I’m OK with it, and it was something between her and I, there’s not a lot more to be said about it.
Then, someone else decided to taker her to task over the picture, the divorce, our vows (which weren’t the standard Christian vows you hear anyways), etc. I also got a few personal messages on Facebook about it, too.
I responded again, but that was as far as I’d go: I couldn’t continue to have the conversation without becoming belligerent, and I knew it.
See, neither of the negative posts that happened, in my opinion, needed to happen in public. Posting the picture? About the same thing as a Facebook relationship status change (I suppose I could change it to “Separated” now, but I feel it’s safer for me to leave it as is until the divorce is final.)
Here’s the thing – not only do I try not to speak ill of my ex’s, I will stand up and defend them. And, I did defend Kat, as far as I could without becoming a jerk on Facebook.
I’m not going to say I never, ever say anything bad about those people. In a personal conversation with someone I truly trust, I’ll say things about them – the truth. Not that they were bitches, but the things that happened between us. One Ex of mine had anger issues, for instance, so that does factor into any other relationships I have, and has come up in conversation. She probably wouldn’t appreciate that much, but knowing that along with parts of my history makes the next person understand why I’m flinchy about being yelled at (plus, I hate yelling. It’s a breakdown in communication – the person being yelled at doesn’t listen to it.)
And it goes farther than that. I’ve been known to stand up to people over those women I’ve had relationships with. I won’t lie about them, but I also won’t tolerate others telling lies, or attacking them. I won’t allow others to say bad things about them based on rumors. (Not that I really appreciate such behavior about other people either – though, I’ll be honest and say there’s been times where I’ve found myself taking part in speaking gossip about others. No one is perfect.)
Why don’t I call those women in my life names? Why do I defend them?
These were all people, who at one time or another, were a deep and meaningful part of my life. They were someone I was in love with. And, they are still people I love (in my mind, there’s a difference between “in love with” and “love”. A fuzzy notion for some people, but there are those who understand it.) I carry part of them with me in my heart, no matter if it was yesterday or decades ago. They have all made profound differences in my life, both good and bad. I count (almost) all of them as friends.
Now, I’ll mention this, just so it’s completely understood, “love” does not mean slept with. I can count the number of women I’ve loved on two hands with room to spare. Slept with requires me to borrow other people’s hands. English is a rather imprecise language, and we distill many concepts down to one single word. Other cultures and languages have had better ways of dealing with the word love, ranging from ancient Greek’s having four separate words that describe it more precisely (agape, eros, philia, and storge), to the Buddhist concepts (Kama, Karuna, Advesa, and metta). In English, we just end up with one word that is supposed to describe it all, based on contextual clues. Let’s face it, if I say I love the noodles I’m eating, no one thinks I’m planning on marrying my noodles (well… the world has gotten pretty strange.)
Look at it this way: I’m not an abusive person. I don’t call them names to their face when we’re together. I do no berate and belittle them. I try my best to treat them with true love and kindness (I can, however be thoughtless at times, focusing way too much on my work rather than time with them, things like that. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.) So what if it didn’t work out? I wish them happiness, and I’m quite sincere in that. And just because it didn’t work out doesn’t mean I’m suddenly going to become abusive (or, like many people, just talk behind their back.)
Of course, it helps that they are all fairly reasonable people. I fell in love with them for a reason. Yes, they were flawed people (who isn’t). Yes, the changed over time (people evolve), usually for the better, in my opinion. And while we went our separate ways, that person I fell in love with is still there.
I think part of it is I’m not particularly possessive or jealous about people. I don’t need to own someone. If they go elsewhere and are more happy, so be it. Why should the stay with me and not be happy? We’re not talking about a gerbil – they remain owned by the same person no matter how happy they are.
And there’s always the things people tell me; “Well, she should have done that differently.” “She was obviously planning it.” “She obviously didn’t think it through.” “She should have warned you.” “She should have…” Well, you get the idea. There’s not great way to break off a relationship. Every way to do it ends up hurting both people at least a little (some ways more than others, obviously). Not doing it could end up hurting more.
They remain important people to me, no matter what. When it came out that I was getting a divorce, my ex-wife (er, Ex-Wife #1. Need to get practice on that phrase 😉 ) texted me to find out if I was OK. Why would I spend time saying bad things about someone who still, years later, treats me as a friend? Sure, I don’t see my ex-significant other’s very often, but more than one reminded me they were still out there, and still concerned about my welfare. And it goes both ways. I’ve reached out and said “Hey, you doin’ OK?” after seeing some bad Facebook posts.
They also are people I’d still help out in a pinch, and it’s happened more than once. Heck, I haven’t talked to Jess in, I dunno, maybe 12 years, yet if I got a message saying “Hey, I really need your help…” I’d do whatever I could.
I say all this for three reasons. First, people seem to think it’s OK to trash talk about my Ex’s to me (or, trash talk about them publicly with me around). In reality, it’s an insult to me – these were people I shared a chunk of my life with. Hey, it didn’t work out, but that doesn’t make them bad people, and it doesn’t make that time we spent together less important. If someone says “She was a cunt”, then what you’re really saying is I had a relationship who was completely unworthy of a relationship with me. In other words, I’m obviously a bad person if I chose to spend my time with a bad person.
That’s not to say people can’t express an opinion. Saying “I disagree with what she did” is completely different than saying “She was a cunt.” Seriously, it’s not the same thing. An honest discussion is something I always (well, almost always) welcome. Being an ass about someone I was with? Not so much.
Second, people seem to want to be angry over my relationship. Hey, I appreciate the fact that you’re watching out for me, that’s great. But, it was a relationship between me and whoever. It was not a relationship between me, the person talking with me, and whoever. It was between two people (three if you want to go the “me, her, and God” route with the discussion. But, that’s a completely different discussion, and one you probably don’t want to have.) Remember that it’s a relationship you weren’t involved in. I’m not saying you can’t feel it – but, respect the fact you weren’t involved.
And, third, people seem to WANT me to be angry. Only some people get to know how I really feel about the situation in the first place – if I haven’t sat down and had a long talk with you about it, and told you exactly how I feel, then you’re not in my “circle of trust” for the situation. Don’t feel insulted by that, either – it’s pretty damned small for things like this, and often I’d much rather talk with someone who’s not friends with both parties (so that I’m not trying to sway someone away from being friends with the other person.) But, for all the reasons I’ve written down, why should I be angry? Because you feel that I’ve been treated unfairly? Hell, I was a part of the relationship, which means I too am guilty of something. Rarely is it just one person that makes mistakes. Trying to encourage me to be angry is counter productive to me healing, and walking away from the situation a happier, healthier person.