There it was at the end of the sentence, right as she was about to hang up — “sweetie.” Like I hadn’t almost said it to her before, but I guess I have the wits to stop myself and she doesn’t. It’s there, hanging in the air between us — ex-man-and-wife — this rapprochement, and the feeling of falling back into the kind of easy comfort where “sweetie” comes rolling off your lips before you know it.
This was not supposed to happen. In fact, no one observing the wreckage of this divorce could have predicted it — certainly not me. On some theoretical level, I thought we could be friends, but after what went down, it seemed clear that we’d be doing well if I could pick up the kids without a major blowup.
A therapist said that there are three phases — before the divorce, the divorce, and after the divorce. We’re now moving into the last phase and I don’t have a map. Sure, I knew we’d have to be connected in some way for years to come because of the kids, but I just thought it would be pretty perfunctory and businesslike. You know — the logistics. The business of operating a family. And, for the most part, that’s pretty much what it is. Is that how it always was?
I see how people end up back in their marriages. For me, that won’t happen. This distance must be permanent, which is the only way she looks even remotely good right now. I know what happens up close. I also know what real love is. But now I have a lifetime of navigating a relationship that’s probably going to be as complicated as any primary relationship I’ll ever have.