My four year-old daughter still calls me "Daddy's wife."
I haven't figured out the right response to that, really. Would a four year-old even understand what it means to be an ex-wife? I think she wouldn't. What does being an "ex" mean to a child that young? What do the words, "We are good friends" mean to a child? To my daughter, boys and girls (she doesn't term it as men and women) are together and married... friendships between "boys and girls" don't quite exist. Such are the issues when you divorce with young children.
So, who am I to my ex, now, other than his ex-wife? Am I anything other, or just the ex-wife? The connotations behind the words "ex-wife" are enough to make you NEVER want to be one in this or the next lifetime. Defining who he is or is not to me in my life, and who I am or who I am not in his life, has been a process. I hear the catch-all phrase uttered by many divorced people: "He's my ex. He's my friend." Or "She's the mother of my children." Simple and clean phrases to describe someone you once shared dreams, finances and body fluids with.
"I love you, but not like I used to love you. I'm not in love with you," my ex clarifies as if I didn't realize that the man didn't love me anymore.
We are not lovers or partners. Not wife or husband. We are co-parents, yes... but are we friends? Like, true "friends" in the dictionary definition of "friend?" We are friends -- sometimes. Sometimes it feels more like hurtful siblings: We get upset with each other, let it all out and then apologize in an emotional or reluctant fashion. Then in the next day or two, it seems to pass as if it never even happened, and indeed, we are back to being friends -- friendly? -- again.
There are times when, instinctively, I go to call him or text him. Sometimes, instinct wins, and I reach out, only to realize that perhaps I shouldn't have. Perhaps my ex does not need to be my friend or answer my random questions. It's been fourteen months since our last and final separation, (we had a trial separation just before we parted for the last time) yet to me, he is still a part of my family. For the most part, he reciprocates, but occasionally he's MIA and shuts me out. This is when I remember, "Oh yeah... we are getting a divorce."
Call me stupid, or suggest that I haven't moved on, but I think it's just a true testament of how much this man was a part of my life. A true testament that I am not a woman who can cut someone out that was once important to me. Even if this ended dreadfully wrong, he is still the person I married. He is still the father of my child. Am I supposed to banish him? Because as a person, I rarely cut people out for good. For the most part, if I have acquired you in some fashion as a friend, lover, etc., I keep you around no matter how life changes or how busy we both get.
The time will come when a woman he is dating becomes more than a woman that he is simply dating, and then our "friendship" will be tested. I tell him that once he decides to settle down with someone, he will stop telling me how I am his family and he's here for me. Suddenly, I will become THE EX-WIFE all in capital letters, and this makes me sad. Sad to know that when we have really truly moved forward and allowed new people into our hearts, that I may end up as the default EX-WIFE who stays in her corner, and he in his corner.
Why can't it end up that we become actual friends? Why can't we reach out and be people in our lives for actuality and not as cordial mates? Perhaps we can. Perhaps another woman or man won't thwart my genuine hopes to be a family, albeit a different kind of family, forever. Yet to think this will happen may be naïve of me. It is possible that I will lose my "friend" as I have lost my husband.
I can't predict how I will feel when I meet a woman of his for the very first time. Can't predict how my emotions will run. I can say for certainty, though, that while I am not "Daddy's wife" anymore, I don't want to just be the ex-wife cliché and perform the role of the lonely and angry ex-lover.
I just hope that one day we can be actual friends and that maybe we will both get to move forward while still looking back to say hello from time to time.