Reader Question: My soulmate and I divorced last year and we have been successful at doing this in a mindful way. We have grown children and have remained friends and business partners. My problem is with the new man I have been seeing. He insists that remaining friends with my ex and running a business with him is not normal and that I am just inviting drama down the road. He says once my ex realizes I have moved on that things will deteriorate. He also says that the fact my ex had not found someone new means he is still in love with me and that is not healthy for our new relationship. I can't tell if he is jealous or has valid points. What should I do?
Huge kudos to your and your ex for successfully navigating what can be a very challenging transition.
As with all life changes, we can choose a very harmonious re-structuring of ourselves and our relationships or we can go to war. You and your ex are to be commended for recognizing that your marriage, at least as you had known it, had run its course even though you still share a lot in common – children, careers, friendship. You have chosen a course of action that respects all that is good between you and releases the parts that are no longer working. In so choosing, you have created a more peaceful and potentially more successful future for yourselves, your children, and your business. You are also setting a strong example of genuine love and forgiveness for your children. My hat is off to you both.
Janet Bray Attwood, best - selling author and one of my favorite people – has accomplished a similar peaceful parting with her own former husband, Chris. They have remained business partners and friends, and Janet is even godmother to Chris’s children with his subsequent wife. They were able to recognize and respect that the marital part of their relationship had run its course though their other connections remained strong and healthy.
There are plenty of examples of happy healthy divorced relationships though they rarely get the attention of the messy ugly dramatic breakups which make juicier headlines, gossip, and movies. That notoriety tricks us into believing the messy ones are the norm or the best we can do.
What’s really insane is for people who once fell in love and loved each other more than anything to become mortal enemies. Messy ugly divorces never make anyone happy. Instead, they wreak further and unnecessary damage. They guarantee future drama and keep you entangled in ongoing battles. Peacefully resolving your differences and co-creating a pleasant, though unmarried, future sets the stage for you both to continue enjoying your family and frees you each to create happy relationships with other people.
Your new beau may have the whole thing backwards. Why is he so attached to your past, a past that was never his and that, in fact, set you free to possibly enjoy a new relationship with him? It sounds like he is having trouble letting go of his fears and preconceived ideas of what “should” happen post divorce. It sounds like he is attached to the way he thinks your past “should” be and how you “should” act now based on his opinion. Why does he “need” for you to act badly towards your ex so he can feel more secure in your present relationship? And what about his own single status? Is he peacefully divorced (If he is divorced. He could be never-married or widowed.) or does he harbor hatred or engage in battles with his own ex? Is he jealous because the two of you have crafted the peaceful divorce he doesn’t have with his own former spouse? Is he afraid that you and your ex might get back together? You have set the standard for forgiving both your former husband and yourself. Why does your new man need you to be unforgiving? What difference does it make if your ex is still in love with you? Those are his feelings to work out, not yours and certainly not your new boyfriend’s. What is your new guy really afraid of? Because if he were not afraid of something, he would simply be happy for you and happy to move on. As my grandmother would say, it sounds like he is borrowing trouble.
You know your former husband far better than this new man presumably does so it’s your gut feelings that really count here. How to you think your ex will respond to your budding relationship? Will he be happy for you? Will he set out to cause trouble? Will he be neutral and simply want what’s best for you allowing you to make your own choices? Since the two of you remain close due to children and business, it would be considerate to let him know you have met someone. You do not need to go into details or flaunt your new relationship, but out of kindness you can help him avoid being blindsided.
If your new beau trusts you and trusts your possibly growing feelings for him, help him see that being happy and grateful for your courteous diplomatic parting can only be good for any future the two of you might have. If he cannot see that having a cordial relationship is just as good for him as it is for you, if he cannot honor your free will in making the best choices for you and your children, then you will have to decide whether you can accommodate his fears.
There’s never a need to be afraid of releasing the other person to pursue their own healing, and your new guy may have more personal growth to do before he can embrace the idea of a tranquil divorce. There’s never a need to be afraid to leave a relationship when its purpose has been served. That applies to your new relationship just as it did to your former marriage. Your encounter with your new guy may have served the purpose of opening his eyes and heart to this possibility. It may have opened your eyes and heart to new ideas as well.
You may engage in several relationships as you evolve through this life change. Stay with your new man or go, your choice, but do what is best for you as kindly as possible. Declining to be held hostage by the fears of another is a potent form of emancipation and divorce by definition takes us through a liberating process. Allow him the space to work through his fears in his own way whether you stay or go. Allow yourself the space to explore what you really want your next life stage to be.
Perhaps this is your time to discover the true meaning of self care. As nice as it is to treat yourself to little luxuries, true self care is a form of surrender, a surrender to being instead of doing, doing, doing. Self care begins with becoming well-acquainted with your own needs, your real needs, your soul needs, then allowing them to be the priority in your life. This isn’t a Me First kind of thing at all. Instead, it is a deep primal nourishing of the Essence of Me, the Energy of Me, the Me behind the scenes that directs your daily footsteps. Self care is your own personal fertile incubator from which your spirit and your life will flourish. Let nothing deter you from that path.