When my ex comes to pick up our son for a weekend, we keep the exchange at arm’s length. It used to really push my stress meter into the red zone to have a face-to-face encounter with him. We agreed, for the sake of us all, it would be best if our teenage son waited for his father’s car to arrive and then met him in the driveway.
One of the unsettling things about seeing my ex at the doorstep was that I barely recognized him. It wasn’t only that he had updated his glasses and was growing out his hair – mere aesthetics really – but his whole appearance had changed. In a short period of time, the person with whom I’d shared half of my life was virtually a stranger to me.
When I brought this up to my counsellor, she had a simple explanation for the shift. It was a sign of personal growth that my ex didn’t look familiar.
As she described it, my psyche was telling me that we were no longer functioning as “us,” but had detached as two separate individuals. In light of all that had transpired at the end of our marriage, I didn’t know who he really was. In my mind, a line had been drawn between the person I thought I’d married and the person standing in the driveway waiting for our son.
While he is the father of my children, he is not someone I know. His life is now his and mine belongs to me. We no longer talk about how our respective days went, what we are struggling with or what we are looking forward to; I don’t know what he worries about or the last thing that made him laugh out loud. One of the kids may mention him in passing as they recollect something that happened on a recent visit, but they are only blurred details of a life that I am not part of and I do not belong in. It’s like not getting a joke that everyone else is in on; all I can do is smile and nod.
I know that the stranger I was once married to has no place in my life either. I have moved on and created a new life for myself. Yes, we share children and we always will, but we no longer know each other. There will be graduations and weddings and other future family events that we will both attend, but these occasions will only intersect our lives momentarily before we disconnect and resume being strangers once again.
If my ex and I were to meet today, I’m certain that I wouldn’t like nor be attracted to him. He’s just not my type. This, too, is a good thing, because it’s further proof that I’m evolving.
When I take a closer look at myself, I can see how much I’ve grown and changed for the better. I’m proud of that. I have come so far from the person I used to be, that I’m not sure I’d even recognize her anymore.