I actually asked my ex-husband’s mistress that question. (Although technically she’s not his mistress anymore, just his girlfriend, because now we’re divorced.)
“Is this weird?” I asked. She responded, “It would be the weirdest for you, but if you’re ok with it then that’s good.” I asked the question after she, my ex, my fiancée, and I all had dinner together. This is not a common practice and I normally wouldn’t choose to barbecue and spend the evening with my ex and his girlfriend. But it was the night of our 7-year-old’s birthday party and we were trapped together watching them in the pool… And, hey, we had to eat.
The dinner conversation was surprisingly interesting and not that weird. That’s because I chose not to make it weird. I am constantly amazed at how much control we truly have over our lives if we make certain choices. When I was going through my divorce, it was awful. I was sad, confused, broke, heartsick, and betrayed. I was also the mother of three small kids. I was faced with the choice of whether or not to let them suffer along with me. I chose not to.
I don’t mean to sound flippant about controlling your responses to those emotions—it’s hard, really hard, but it’s also a choice. Make no mistake, there were nights of sleepless crying fits, days of paralysis when I felt I didn’t know how to move forward, and times I was overcome with sadness about the death of the dream I had for my family. And of course I wasn’t perfect: There were times my children witnessed my pain. I let myself feel it all, but after my pity parties, I made the choice to release those feelings and get on with my next phase. The night of the birthday party, I was faced with another choice. (It was also a personal test for me to see if I truly forgave them, forgave myself, and moved on.) I could have been mean, treated her badly, and made her and my ex uncomfortable while feeling superior on my high moral ground… And that might have felt delicious for a while. But would that choice have been the right one for my kids, or the person I want to be?
The truth is, it wasn’t easy. I had a pit in my stomach all day thinking of spending four hours and sharing a meal with them. But it wasn’t as hard as it could have been because I really tried to make the right choice. For me, forgiveness, like almost everything, is a choice. I chose to give myself the gift of forgiveness. That’s what helped make the dinner “not weird.”
The night of the party, my kids watched both of their parents have a great time. And that’s not weird at all.