I admit it. I’ve wanted my ex-husband to fail and fail BIG. I’m not proud of it, but it’s there, simmering, waiting to erupt it into a full boil. Did his girlfriend break up with him? Did he get dissed by an old (shared) friend out of loyalty to me? Did he make a bad investment?
For thirty years, since we were young, naive, college graduates, I gave up on some of my own life goals to help him succeed. I did benefit from him big salaries, big titles, big honors, but I’d like to think he’s lost, miserable, and unable to thrive without me.
He still excels openly, living across town, playing house in his luxury apartment with his much younger, never-married girlfriend, and going to glamorous events that I once attended, them surrounded by my friends I cultivated over the decades. I don’t have any interest in that apartment nor going to those parties, but that doesn’t mean I want him to.
My therapist says, “You don’t know what’s going on behind his closed doors.”
This reminds me that, not so long ago, he and I looked like the perfect couple — great kids, nice house, interesting lives. No one could hear how little he engaged in meaningful conversation with me. No one would see the pillow wall he built in our huge, king-sized bed.
Thank God, I’m not with him anymore.
I’ve figured out that I’m less anxious seeing him at occasions if I think of him as an acquaintance, like that song from 2011 by Gotye, “Someone I Used to Know.” I may reminisce with him, “remember that time…?” Or I’ll share something about a mutual friend, “I saw Lesley last week.” After exchanging a few words, like he and I are old schoolmates catching up at a class reunion rather than former husband and wife, I move on to someone else. While I’m on the dance floor surrounded by family and friends, gyrating, sweating, and singing along, and I see him standing against the wall, I’m reminded, thank God, I’m not with him anymore.
The sacrifices I made to build his success weren’t wasted. They benefit me now, just not in the way I expected. Today, I love my extraordinary independence in one of the most extraordinary cities in the world. Now I can pursue some of those life goals I had imagined for myself without compromise. Random thoughts of him have gone from pain to thank God, I’m not with him anymore.
The triggers are still there, but I know how to evade them, like when a friend who follows him on social media brings him up. “Don’t tell me,” I blurt. Six years after separation and divorce, my heart rate still rises, my throat still constricts with any news about him. I quickly change the subject, “how’s your daughter doing?” while sipping my tequila on the rocks, extinguishing the jealous thoughts in the dark corners of my imagination.
With some emotional work, thankfully, my reflections of our past have become easier, focusing on the me, not the we — not like a scissor to a photograph trimming away his silhouette, but more like a filter, blurring his image in the edges of my memory. I lean into the past, joyful moments, cherishing them just for myself, smiling at the thoughts, with less scrutiny of having once shared them with him.
These days, I am using far less energy hoping for his failure. I’m sure the envy will ignite again, but for now, I’ve moved that fuming, hot pan from the flame, and placed it in the shadows of a cool back burner.