We are very Civilized.
That's the word a coworker used when we were chatting about Halloween plans and I listed all the people who will be with us for that Event.
You see, MTL and I have, by blending our families, become the center of this trailing extended family involving Exes and others. And since we are amicable and try to focus on the children, we'll all be joining forces for certain events, such as Trick or Treating. On October 31st, our enormous group will consist of me and MTL, our five children/stepchildren, MTL's Ex and her husband and their daughter (MTL's kids' half-sister), and then The Ex and his girlfriend. The Ex's mother, with whom I am still close, may also join us. A massive group of six children and six or seven adults with a tangled web of connections.
And we are, honestly. To the best of our abilities, we get along and avoid conflict and try to keep the focus on the children. The Ex and I haven't fought about anything in ages and have become far better at communicating and working through occasional issues than we ever did when we were a couple. It's a level of teamwork that was markedly lacking in that marriage. As a close friend (who knew us when we were together and is still friends with us both) said to me yesterday, The Ex and I do much better when we don't have to take care of or worry about each other as individuals and spouses--we're quite decent co-parents instead.
Who would've thunk.
MTL and his Ex do fairly well that way too, though with different areas of trouble and ease than The Ex and I have. Of course. Their dynamic is different because they are different. But still, overall...Civilized. She and I get along quite well too. In fact, I even "rate" enough to get those annoying text forwards that are the new evolution of the email chain letters--you know, the ones about beautiful women and send this to the ten most beautiful women you know blah blah blah? Yeah, those. JOY. It says something that we're at that level of amicability, though. And this weekend MTL and I have her daughter with us so that she and her husband can actually celebrate their anniversary.
It reminds me of the whole Bruce Willis/Demi Moore/Ashton Kutcher situation. With much the same responses from people who hear about it, really. And I'm grateful, because it means there's so much less drama and the kids aren't torn apart by parent conflict.
But here's the catch. As much as we all Get Along and, I'm sure, will get even better at Getting Along as time goes on, there's still an underlying sense of unease about the Exes. One time when MTL and I were chatting online (we were at work) about cooking and laughing a bit about our respective Exes' cooking problems, I wrote that The Ex did actually bake really good pumpkin pies. MTL said something snarky along the lines of There will be no complimenting of exes! Just trash talk. I agreed. I'm not interested in hearing compliments about her, either. Not total bashing--they're not evil, either of them--but certainly not praise.
There's something unsettling about the existence of another person with which the other has spent a significant part of their lives, with whom the other has children, with whom the other did Significant Other things including the intimate stuff. Neither of us likes to dwell on it.
And I'll admit this: when MTL's Ex calls, which she does frequently, to talk about the kids and work out transportation and all that sort of thing, I have to fight back a little surge of jealousy. There was this one day last week when MTL was talking to her and she said something and he laughed and called her a dork. That's an affectionate term in our family, and I hated that he called her that. Last night she called to check how her daughter was doing with us, and she said something funny and he laughed, and I hated that too.
It's silly. It's petty. I fight it and I don't make a fuss about it and I'm sure it will get easier with time. But it's there.
I'm sure there are ways he feels the same with The Ex, too. I know that months ago when The Ex and I met at a restaurant to go over some legal paperwork, MTL struggled with it. He knew it was silly, but the whole idea of my meeting The Ex for dinner, all by ourselves--it triggered the same sort of jealousy. And the other night when I had a long phone conversation with The Ex about the kids and DramaBoy's school and some behavioral things we've been seeing with them both and Halloween and all that sort of Co-Parenting Stuff, I noticed that MTL stayed close and listened in--much as I often do when he has similar phone conversations with his Ex.
I know that it's good that we all get along and cooperate and co-parent. It's healthier for the children. And that's why we do it: for the children. I know perfectly well that if there weren't children involved, neither of us would have much, if any, contact with the Exes at all.
I don't fear that he wants to be back with her. I know better. I don't fear that he doesn't love me. I know better. The whole thing has very little to do with logic.
That's the Ex-Factor, isn't it? And I--we--have to get more comfortable with it, because it's not going away. Not as long as we have children in common. It's just a part of our life.
But I don't have to like it.