Did your ex just get engaged? Here's some divorce advice on handling the news, based on my personal experience. I'll never forget where I was when I found out my ex-husband was engaged. I was sitting in the bleachers watching my son's basketball game, happily cheering him on, when I happened to glance over at his girlfriend, who was sitting next to my ex-mother-in-law, the two seeming as chummy as ever. Her left ring finger caught my eye (or maybe subconsciously I was looking) and I saw a huge diamond.
For the first couple seconds I was having trouble comprehending it. Keep in mind, I had been divorced for over five years at the time, but still, to say it was surreal is an understatement.
I turned to a mom sitting next to me and said, "See that girl's left ring finger? Does that look like an engagement ring to you?" The mom (who is also a dear friend) looked at the ring and in an attempt to make me feel better replied, "Well, maybe it's her grandmother's."
My mind started racing. When did this happen? How long had the ring been on her finger? Did my kids know their dad was engaged? Were they trying to hide it from me? When was the wedding? When were they moving in together?
My myriad of questions would turn into days of trying to absorb something I already knew, but now had concrete evidence of: my ex had moved on. Big time. Not that I ever thought he still had hopes for us, and not that I did, either, but this just seemed very permanent, and took the finality of the divorce to a new level.
I bet if someone did a measurable study, the conclusions would reveal that more men get remarried than women. I think that men who have been married before (and therefore enjoy commitment and monogamy) really want to be married again, which is why so many of them get engaged three seconds after they are divorced. Women, on the other hand don't mind waiting. (Most of them, that is. Some fall into that three second category themselves.)
But aside from realizing my ex actually must have liked marriage (just not with me) there were so many emotions that I would experience in the days following.
First off, I felt angry. Where was the justice in all of this? Was he going to end up living happily ever after with someone else, bringing to his new marriage all the lessons he learned from the mistakes we made in our marriage? Would she reap the benefits of the improved divorced guy? If so, that wasn't fair. I went to counseling for this and here's what I was told. A. if he ends up happily ever after that's great for my kids. And B. I was still harboring anger from the marriage that I hadn't really dealt with yet, so I was pissed off that he was experiencing any happiness. In other words, I felt he didn't deserve it.
I also felt very alone. He was now going to expose my kids to the Brady Bunch type atmosphere, while I was still the single, working mom who got take out with my kids at least 4 times a week. He was going to give our kids a sense of family, while I was Ann Romano. I felt left out, sorry for myself, and insecure.
All that said, here is what started to happen in the weeks following my absorbing this monumental change. Here's how I started to feel.
1. Get over it, Jackie! What he was doing was perfectly acceptable and normal, and we are on entirely separate life roads. While the marriage would affect my children and therefore affect me indirectly, for the most part, his new life was for him to experience, and not for me to even think about.
2. At least I liked the girl he was marrying, and my kids liked her. That's huge. That could have been a big disaster.
3. If my ex was happy in his own life, maybe our relationship would improve.
The most important thing I realized:
4. Why did I feel so alone, when I'm not?? I not only have a close knit family who is always there for me, lots of truly good friends, and kids who I adore most in this world, but I'm in a relationship, too. We aren't married yet, but he feels like family. He is family. About a month ago, I had a tooth pulled. My boyfriend called from work to say hi, and I started crying, and telling him how much pain I was in. An hour later, he showed up with a big bag of groceries that were soft foods that I could eat, and then just sat there with me. That's the kind of love and loyalty and dedication that really means something. It goes so far beyond that night, and there have been countless kind gestures like that which contribute to me falling deeper and deeper in love with him every day. I wish this kind of love for everyone.
In closing, here's what I want to say about finding out your ex is getting hitched again. It's gut-wrenching to a lot of people, (not all people, some really don't care) but for those who do care, I get you. I know it's hard to see, and that there are so many mixed emotions that go with finding out.
It's okay to be angry or feel sorry for yourself. For about a week. That's all you get! Then it's time to take the high road, wish him or her the best and continue focusing on your kids, and on your own life and happiness.
One last thing. If you loved someone enough at one time to marry him or her, you should be happy when that person finds happiness. It takes time, of course, but if find yourself there, you probably have a life that makes you really happy, and isn't that what we all want?
Jackie Pilossoph is the author of the blog, Divorced Girl Smiling. She is also the author of the comedic novel, FREE GIFT WITH PURCHASE about life after divorce. Ms. Pilossoph is a weekly business features reporter and columnist for Sun-Times Media. She lives in Chicago with her two kids. And she's divorced (obviously.)