“Live in such a way that if your children are ever asked for the definition of kindness, loyalty and integrity, they’ll answer ‘my parents’.” ~ Ali B. Moe
There was a time I held my hate for my ex-husband close to my heart and used it as an excuse for why I pushed him away and refused his every effort.
I know he isn’t perfect—I also know I didn’t make it easy for him to be who he is.
I thought I was over everything that had transpired in our marriage, but I realize now that being over something and being healed are vastly different resolutions.
When we are over something, we file it away and move on. We may never accept our part in it, or be able to discuss the specifics with the others involved.
But when we heal an old wound, we first open it up—we accept responsibility for our role, and for hurting the other person. We openly and honestly discuss what happened and where we are now. And most importantly, we make the choice to forgive.
We make the choice to love.
If someone had told me even hours before this meeting that I would end up extending love toward the man I had spent years hating, I wouldn’t have believed it. Maybe that’s what happens when we truly leave ourselves open to where life leads us.
It wasn’t easy sitting down and speaking with my ex-husband, and it was far from comfortable to admit that I had broken his heart because in the process of divorcing I made myself feel better by thinking I was the only one who had been wronged, the only one who had been hurt.
Yet, I made the choice to listen to him, not just to those parts I wanted to hear, but to every single word he aid. He wasn’t saying he wanted to get back together, or that it was a mistake we had divorced, instead he was looking for validation and an apology he had never received.
He was looking for closure.
In truth, I had clung to my hate of him like a blanket that made me feel better about my choice to separate from and divorce him, because in my head the more I hated him the more right I was.
But there didn’t really need to be a reason to get divorced, and maybe that was what steered me wrong for so many years. All I had needed to do was decide that being with him wasn’t for me—because the why’s don’t always matter.
There was also a secret I had clung to out of fear and it’s one that tastes bitter with remorse—I had thought that by keeping him out of my and my children’s lives, that I would be making it easier for another man to come in.
I believed that no man could come into my life and accept that my ex-husband and I were friends. That is, until I made the choice to fess up to my issues and call bullsh*t.
Do I always wish that I had chosen the same father for my daughters that I did? No—but at this point it doesn’t matter, because none of us are perfect, but most of us are trying the best we can.
Is my ex-husband’s personal best always what I think it should be? No—but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t honor where he is and extend love and compassion toward him.
The thing is, he has always triggered my inner little girl. I never had a daddy, and more than anything, my inner child wanted my girls to have what I didn’t.
When he let them down, it triggered me and so I froze him out and behaved self-righteously—as if because my mistakes weren’t the same as his that I was somehow better.
I’ve never claimed to be perfect, but one thing I am is someone who owns up to my mistakes, and that’s exactly what I did this time.
It wasn’t an easy-going or casual conversation. Instead, imagine opening up a gaping wound on your skin and pulling off the scab that has been festering there, letting the puss and blood ooze and then spill out, making a mess of everything around it.
He yelled, I yelled—and we both cried.
At one point while he was talking about his difficulties I looked at him—truly looked—and saw the salt and pepper beginning to form in his beard and I wanted to touch it, not out of passion or desire, but because I cared about him and his well-being. Despite everything, I cared about him.
We let ourselves be led by our conversation, and at times we simply just paused, not sure how to go on—but we did.
As the sun dipped low on a mild October afternoon, I moved up alongside my ex-husband, the man I had sworn to hate, and told him I couldn’t do it any longer, that the hate had been eating me up inside and I was going to let it go.
I told him that I thought I needed to start loving him more—that I needed to love him as the father of my children—and he said the same to me as their mother.
I slid myself across the stone wall until I was next to him. I leaned my head on his shoulder and he took my hand and we cried—we cried because we realized that it was okay to love one another. It was okay to care.
It doesn’t mean that romantic love is there, or that I felt any passion toward him—because I didn’t. But it’s a different kind of love; it’s the kind that will forever be shared between two parents who love their children more than life itself.
As I drove away that day, the first thought that came to mind was that I had healed this wound—that everything that had transpired in the past few years suddenly made sense, because all along it was leading to this.
I know we won’t always agree—I don’t expect that even from the man I am in love with—but we are going to do our best and we’re going to be friends while we do it.
And it was then that I knew the best way for me to love my girls was simply to make the choice to love their father.
Author: Kate Rose
Image: Author’s own.
Editor: Nicole Cameron