Cool as a…

I’m back! It’s been a hectic Fall, including a job change and lots of new adventures with my Guy and the Littles. So… where were we? Ah, yes, I have yet to introduce you all to the Ex, aka The Cucumber.

In The Single Girl’s Guide, the author describes 5 archetypal ex-wives. I will admit that when I read the author’s bold declaration that almost everyone can find the Ex that is in their lives in one of these descriptions, I was a bit skeptical – especially after reading through the first 3 descriptions, which sounded nothing like the Ex (for which I was grateful – one of these archetypes is the PEW (Psycho Ex Wife), and I am very thankful not to be dealing with that; I know others aren’t so fortunate). And then there was the Cool Cucumber description:

The cool-as-a-cucumber ex-wife wants nothing to do with you or your guy. If it weren’t for the children she spawned with her ex, she would have no reason to speak to him, or to you for that matter. With her new existence, her life is pretty perfect as long as she keeps the blemish of divorce tucked safely away… 

It’s All Business: She’s not mean; she’s not nice; she’s all business. She rarely looks at you and directs most of her curt phone calls and conversations to her ex-husbands. She has no time for niceties or shared discussions of child-rearing…

Ms. Inflexibility: She is very black-and-white with things such as money, schedules and vacations. She is unlikely to be flexible when it comes to extended holidays, weekend swapping or payment schedules.

Her Family Takes Precedence: …She requires that special arrangements be made when she has family in town or when there is a family celebration. She does not grant you and your guy the same flexibility of priority when it comes to sharing the children with your families.

Dad? What Dad? She does not give much child-rearing credit to you or your guy. She rarely elicits feedback on things such as education, summer camp or extracurricular programs. She is the voice of the family when it comes to teachers, coaches and parents. If you and your guy want to be included in these decisions or relationships, you will need to physically insert yourself into your children’s lives outside of your home… 

This wife is most annoying because she doesn’t respect you. She’s high-and-mighty and actually looks down her nose at you when she decides to look at you at all. She considers herself above your husband, which by association means that you’re somewhere down there below her standards.

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner, folks! Now, to be fair, this description is by necessity a bit extreme. Over time, the Cucumber has become a bit less cool and occasionally borders on friendly – though there were many times early on when she would have lengthy in-person conversations with S while I was there and not so much as glance at me. I didn’t need to insert myself in the conversation, but it was a bit awkward. And I generally don’t like being treated as if I am invisible. On the whole the Ex is generally pretty benign. Sometimes some neuron fires, and she goes on the warpath. It can be hard to predict when that will happen or what will set that off. Fortunately I have not (yet) been on the receiving end of that, but it is hard to watch her go off on S. She knows how to push his buttons and will often pull out something about his involvement with the kids – like the time she said something along the lines of “Well, this is just one of the ways in which you have chosen not to be involved in the kids’ lives.” Yes, the guy who was at swim meets every Saturday this summer, who often picks the kids up or drops them off when the Ex can’t, who has the kids with him at least 50% of the time, who goes to parent-teacher conferences, who knows all of their coaches and teachers for the various activities the Littles are involved in, who packs their lunches and makes dinner for them (from scratch) nearly every night… Yes, clearly there’s a lot that this Dad has chosen not to be part of in his kids’ lives. Grrr…

One of the tricky balancing acts to play in this world is being sure that S knows that I’m on his team in all things – while not cultivating animosity toward the Ex. I don’t have the luxury of hating the Ex (not that I’m prone to hatred, but you know what I mean). She is the Littles’ Mom. And as long as I am in S’s life, I am in the Littles’ lives and therefore I need to be able to get along with the Ex. Now, this is not to say that I have delusions – or desire – for us to be BFFs. I need her to trust me enough to be with her Littles – ideally not viewing me as a glorified babysitter, but that may take some time to get to. And we need to be able to be reasonably pleasant with each other and navigate things like kid exchanges, dropping off of violins and ballet things that got forgotten at S’s house, and seeing each other at important Littles events like swim meets and ballet recitals. I have also come to see that N (Boy Little) is very aware of and sensitive to the dynamics between people. He can sniff out even covert tension like a bloodhound. So it is important to me that he knows that I am a-OK with his Mom and that we can be in the same room together.

Now, this isn’t to say that the Ex never gets under my skin. There are times… She can be incredibly self-absorbed and often makes arrangements for the kids without consulting S that end up affecting all of us. And if S suggests a different course, she can get defensive. Sometimes mean. So, S is very careful about anything that could even hint at pushing back. In many cases, I think this is just good judgment. In all relationships, we have to choose our battles. And I am incredibly grateful that S and the Ex are generally amicable when it comes to things with the kids – and really generally in their interactions with each other. But it can also be frustrating – because there are times to stand your ground. Around the beginning of the school year this year, the Ex had made some request to rearrange schedules with S and he agreed. He was telling me about this change in plans over breakfast and then wondered aloud: “I don’t know why I agreed to that.” Before I could stop the words from spilling out, I said: “Because you don’t want to rock the boat with her and you would rather agree to something than disagree and create tension with her.” I think we were both pretty stunned by that declaration, but then S smiled and nodded. That is their dynamic. They are still negotiating their post-split relationship contract. It will take time for both of them to adjust patterns they have maintained for 15+ years. But that’s the Ex. Now you know a little about her – from my perspective, anyway…

2 thoughts on “Cool as a…

  1. This must be very difficult at times; but you are SO good at being gentle with people while standing up for yourself and those you care about. 🙂

    Like

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