BY SEAN PATRICK SMITH
Mine is not a new tale. Everyone my age probably knows someone in a similar situation. And sometimes, that is where salvation lies.
After years of marriage, starting from scratch in middle age is foreboding, if not daunting. I was successful, and then I lost it, and it was because of an ex that would not let me live.
What do you do about this? What do you do about an ex who doesn't want you but doesn't want you to go forward? Well, first, don't advertise your new relationship. The irony here is my ex has paraded her new relationships on social media like a flag. Of course, I don't meddle with her after all this time, but I don't suggest the "look at me" approach if you are in my situation. Go dark and focus on real life. You've got baggage to address emotionally; focus on being a functional human again rather than updating your Instagram.
Like an addict in recovery, your instinct may be to move on with someone who has a similar problem and who has been through the wringer themselves. It's a good strategy if you can keep the relationship from being all about contending with your respective exes. It's great when your significant other has skin as thick as yours and is primarily unfazed by the antics of your former spouse. My girlfriend once wrote my responses to my ex, and I wrote her responses to her equally abusive ex-spouse. It worked. We could read each other's emotions and intervene on behalf of one another in a level-headed way. We talked each other down as a team, and we were impenetrable for almost four years.
That was until our exes colluded.
I realize I write the occasional mystery novel, but even I can't make this stuff up. Neither my ex-spouse nor my girlfriend's ex-spouse has what you would deem traditional relationships with their kids. And my daughter fell for my girlfriend, and my girlfriend's kids took a great liking to me.
This development was the last straw for our combative ex-spouses. Suddenly they were sharing court documents, phone calls, and engineering litigation with little-to-no purpose.
There were warning signs. Mine was in the form of a Facebook message from the ex-husband. In the hands of a better writer, it would have been less of a transparently false congratulations on my book and my relationship with his kids.
Everything was different after that.
My only advice is to keep the kids sacred and urge them to keep their zeal for your new significant other to themselves. That's hard to do, especially if they are young.
If your ex-spouse manages to end your new relationship, keep it quiet and do not give them satisfaction. Smile and stick to a script. I kept my breakup hidden for months. At a recent sporting event, I sat with a friend. Immediately my former spouse asked my little one about the new relationship she thought she was witnessing across the field. Minutes after the event concluded, my ex-spouse contacted my ex-girlfriend.
Again, even I cannot make this stuff up.
My ex-girlfriend then contacted me to show me how effectively she shut down the situation. Even broken up, we are still on the same team. And so, we'll always wonder what could have been.