At the time I was going through my divorce, I started getting to know a guy who I met a few years earlier. Truth be told, he met my (then) husband and me at the same event. Over Prosecco, this guy was giving us advice about the dog we were considering. He was a dog behaviorist who knew our anticipated breed, the Italian Spinone, very well.
Right from the beginning, the three of us were friends. I merely changed who I was with over the course of the years, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Like anything in life worth a darn, the process of all of it was slow and continually evolving. Three years into my marriage, I realized we were not as compatible as most married couples — but very compatible as friends. My ex made the same realization; and over the course of our final two years together, the bond we once shared began to erode.
The sadness for me came not when I was contemplating divorce, but when it occurred to me that my ex would no longer be in my life. I had adjusted to the idea that I would no longer be married, but was unwilling to lose my friend.
A therapist I knew asked me, “Why do you have to stop being friends just because you stop being spouses?” The way she said it was so simple. I was determined to keep my friend and just exorcise out the discordant paramour.
I asked what he and my new man had in common.
He said, “The one thing we have in common, other than our fear of you, is our love of The Simpsons, so for this article, can you refer to me as, ‘Max Power’?” I told him, “no” and asked that he explain, from his perspective, how we three became so close.
“We are all decent human beings to begin with — and the dog helps.” He continued, “I also had zero negative feelings about your boyfriend. My one concern was always the dog, but I knew that he would be in good hands with a dog behaviorist around and the rest was none of my damn business.”
He reflected for a moment and added, “He’s someone I’d be friends with even outside of this situation.”
My ex thought honestly about our marriage and our divorce.
“We were friends who should have probably never been married. When it ended, while there was some bitterness and some anger, we chose not to hire divorce lawyers and go after each other.”
It’s true that much of what goes on in divorce court is about revenge, and my ex just wasn’t feeling vengeful. “There was nothing to gain by doing that, and I didn’t want to spend the money and go through all that. There was no reason to add more sadness to life. The cost benefit analysis of it wasn’t worth it.”
It also helps that we didn’t split up impulsively. There was no infidelity and no breaking moment. It was a progression out of a marriage and into a friendship.
I asked my ex why he chose to make our divorce an easy one. He told me that initially, it was for his own sanity. “If you look deep inside and ask yourself what’s the best thing for me in this situation, there was no value in beating myself up over bad decisions, like choosing the wrong person to marry. Suing someone and getting the beach house is not going to make you feel any better.”
While we didn’t actually have a beach house, he knew that the sentiment felt wrong. “You can stay angry, destroy yourself and drink constantly, or you can suck it up, do a moral inventory and choose to have a better life. That’s what I did.”
People say that being from a divorced home is a bad thing, but it isn’t if you learn from the mistakes your parents made. For my ex, it was his father. “I watched my father spend his entire life angry and it destroyed him.”
My ex concluded by telling me that, “In another world, I would have been friends with you both anyway. It just happens to be a very odd way that we met. We have all supported each other these last few years; and when you find decent people to be around, you don’t just throw that away.”
“Cooper, don’t you remember when your ex left? You were suddenly raising a puppy on your own and didn’t know what to do. I was helping you, and we became friends with no thought of anything else. I even asked your advice about girls I was dating.”
Actually, what I remembered was that during my divorce, my boyfriend — before he was my boyfriend — advised me to be fair and not emotional. He was always very sensitive to my ex’s needs and said he wasn’t going to take sides, even though he was my friend. Funny thing is, I remember that he did seem to take my ex’s side quite a bit.
“No, I recognized that your ex was more sensitive and that you were more impulsive and I didn’t want to see you be unnecessarily hurtful.”
The fact that they had met prior to our relationship helped, as did the fact that most of the interactions they had were outside familiar environments. This means that there were no awkward moments where my ex stopped by and my new man was there. Instead, they saw each other out in non-emotionally charged situations like book parties and public events. One time, they even bumped into each other on the street and had a long discussion about dogs and politics since they shared the same views on both.
“It was slow and the way people become good friends — slowly over time. There was never any jealously on either part. We allowed things to progress organically.” But then he added something that I think is a key element if you aspire to this type of friendship.
“Neither of us were petty. It just wasn’t in our nature. We are two non-confrontational men who disliked drama and are not prone to jealousy. We both know that jealousy is an immature and unnecessary emotion. And let me add that we both really liked The Simpsons.”
The other thing that we did once we became a couple was a smart move, in retrospect. We never crammed our relationship down my ex’s throat. We didn’t put it on Facebook, or any social media and we weren’t very public about it. To this day, you would be hard pressed to find photos of the two of us together anywhere on social media.
We are aware that it’s rare. My ex always says that you have to put the work in with whatever you do in life.
He also reminded me of the moment when the three of us were at an event. The two of them wanted to leave, but I was busy socializing. My ex turned to my new man and said, “She’s your problem now.”
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