My ex and I have been amicable since our separation in February. In fact, I regard him as one of my best friends. He knows me better than most people, and as a result, I still involve him in my decision-making processes when I’m faced with tough life stuff. He’s been very vocal in our ongoing conversation about my career change, and I appreciate him for that.
Life has been kind of hectic since he started working downtown. His commute eats up his day and his job eats up most of his energy, and we have been talking less and less over the last week weeks. Last night, realizing I’d be able to close the shop up on-time, I asked him if he’d like to meet up for dinner. He agreed. It had been too long between visits.
I picked him up at his place, the place we once shared, and took in the scene. The apartment was different; there was less stuff. It wasn’t necessarily cleaner, just more empty space. It was obvious that he didn’t spend very much time there anymore.
“Where’s your TV?” I asked, as its disappearance was the first I noticed.
“Oh, it’s at a friend’s house. I’m storing stuff at their place to make moving easier.”
The friend. The friend outside of the city who remained to be unnamed. I had suspected for some time that he had been seeing someone new, but I hadn’t been able to confirm this, as he evaded questioning every time. I wanted him to tell me verbatim, because I wanted to celebrate the news. I wanted him to tell me he had moved on, that he was hurting less, that life was falling into place.
When he finally confirmed the news over dinner, he explained that he hadn’t told me because he didn’t want to hurt me. I asked him to elaborate; he said it was because I seemed increasingly unhappy since the breakup and he didn’t want to further and negative feelings with news of his good fortune.
I’d become that ex, the ex that you didn’t want to upset, the ex that would fall to pieces. As he spoke, I thought quietly to myself about when that change occurred. Had I been that terribly unhappy? And if I in fact had been, when did that change occur? I mean, I had my ups and downs in the dating world, but I wasn’t miserable. I didn’t think I had become someone you couldn’t share your positive news with.
But that was the image I was portraying.
I welled up at the table, trying desperately to choke back the tears that had been building, trying to be as discreet as possible when dabbing my eyes, knowing full well that my ex could see my sadness. I expressed happiness for his situation and meant it; The break up was my fault and we both knew it, and I wanted him to know that I could be a better friend than partner if given the opportunity to be one.
We changed the subject quickly. We talked about work, computers, commutes, and career changes. We talked about everything else beyond “us.” The evening rebounded and ended on a positive note.
I’ve never been able to maintain a friendship with an ex, so the past seven months have been a crash-course in what life can be like after the termination of a relationship. We’ve survived thus far. Let’s see what happens new.