How my ex-wife hav­ing a baby with an­other man healed the pain of di­vorce

Daily Mail - - Inspire - by Henry Deedes

WHAT is my worst mem­ory from get­ting di­vorced? hmm, tricky. Plenty of run­ners and rid­ers in that con­test.

I re­mem­ber when I told my mother that my wife was mov­ing out. that wasn’t much fun. an­other time I was at a party not long af­ter we sep­a­rated and it was as if ev­ery­one was view­ing me like a men­tally ill pa­tient, look­ing for any signs of an im­pend­ing break­down.

I re­mem­ber pack­ing the last of my things into boxes from our home, a home we’d spent an ag­o­nis­ing year ren­o­vat­ing, and re­al­is­ing how it now looked the same as the day we moved in.

But while then it was full of hope, that day it was just a soon-to-be va­cant shell, a de­serted ves­sel of un­ful­filled prom­ise. Yeah, that was prob­a­bly the worst.

Di­vorce is a mis­er­able busi­ness, no two ways about it. When a mar­riage ends, peo­ple like to say ‘there are no win­ners’, and they’re right.

For us, there was no great drama. No third par­ties in­volved. No chil­dren to squab­ble over.

Our mar­riage had sim­ply crunched to a halt. If those early years in our 20s could be com­pared to skip­ping along on a neatly laid path, then by the time we reached our late 30s, it felt as though we were wheez­ing through the Gobi wilder­ness, parched and hope­lessly lost with no clue how we got there.

We made a pledge to do things dif­fer­ently from the hor­ror divorces you read about ev­ery day.

We split the house and pos­ses­sions ac­cord­ingly, and found our own places to live. No need for me­di­a­tors and cer­tainly no God aw­ful lawyers poi­son­ing the well.

We man­aged to do all the le­gal stuff on­line. af­ter 13 years to­gether, I think the fi­nal bill came to £400 (split be­tween two). It felt weirdly in­sult­ing.

AF­TER that, the bar­ri­ers came up. When you sep­a­rate from some­one you’ve been in daily con­tact with for nearly a third of your life, you have to cut the um­bil­i­cal cord. Pho­tos wiped. texts deleted. So­cial me­dia ac­counts un­fol­lowed.

Some­where in my mind’s eye, a lit­tle Face­book icon flashed up: ‘You and your wife are no longer friends.’

We weren’t to­tally out of touch. We have a dog, a ter­rier called Lily, which I take off her hands at week­ends, but our con­ver­sa­tions were lim­ited to when I’d pick Lily up and what food she needed.

One of the things I found most dif­fi­cult was dis­cov­er­ing a new TV se­ries and resisting the urge to tell my ex, know­ing how much she’d en­joy it. I sup­pose that’s what peo­ple mean about hav­ing some­one to share things with in life.

as the months passed, the ties be­gan to loosen. Our friends nat­u­rally fell on one side or the other. So I knew noth­ing of what she was up to ex­cept through scant de­tails we ex­changed when drop­ping off the dog.

It felt cold not to ask how her fam­ily were, or how she en­joyed a re­cent trip. But it seemed the less we knew about each other’s lives the bet­ter. these weren’t par­tic­u­larly easy times, but they were cor­dial, po­lite.

We never once rowed or tried to de­mean one an­other. In a way I felt proud of how well we were both get­ting along. ‘Gosh you’re so lucky,’ peo­ple would say when I con­veyed this to them, much to my ir­ri­ta­tion. Luck had noth­ing to do with it. We had made a de­lib­er­ate choice not to be bit­ter.

then one day, two years af­ter we sep­a­rated, came the moment I’d been dread­ing: af­ter pick­ing Lily up, I found a note she’d slipped on to the pas­sen­ger seat un­der the dog’s paws.

Ner­vously open­ing the note when I got home, it an­nounced that my for­mer wife was three months preg­nant.

the news came al­most out of nowhere. Deep down I prob­a­bly knew my ex wouldn’t be sin­gle long, but be­cause of the dis­tance I’d cho­sen to put be­tween us, I had no idea that she was even see­ing any­one.

For the past two years, I’d been car­ry­ing around a nig­gling sense of anx­i­ety over how I’d di­gest this kind of news. But af­ter a few deep breaths, I felt some­thing else: a huge sense of re­lief.

It was as though all the awk­ward­ness from the past cou­ple of years could now be put be­hind us. I told her how pleased I was, and how much I looked for­ward to see­ing her as a mother.

as for the lo­gis­tics of how to deal with the dog now there’d be a real baby in her life, we’d find a way of work­ing it out. ‘ We al­ways do,’ I said. and so we have.

a few months later I popped into her flat for the first time and met the fa­ther- to- be, some­thing I could never have en­vis­aged do­ing two years pre­vi­ously.

he couldn’t have been more charm­ing, some­thing I should have ex­pected re­ally. My ego could have done with him be­ing more of an ugly sod, but no mat­ter.

Fast for­ward 18 months, and my ex and I chat al­most ev­ery day. It’s no longer just about the dog and hardly ever about our past.

She fills me in with what old friends are up to, or her lat­est fam­ily drama and how her beau­ti­ful baby boy is do­ing.

She’s even gone back to nag­ging me about my wardrobe. Drop­ping Lily off the other day, she whis­pered out of the cor­ner of her mouth: ‘ Maybe don’t wear that shirt again.’ She was right, of course.

Old nick­names which died a sad death af­ter we sep­a­rated now crop up again. and we can laugh again to­gether, some­thing we hadn’t done in yonks, not even when we were still mar­ried.

My ex has a deep, throaty snicker, what I used to call the tart’s cackle as it would have ev­ery man in the pub look­ing round in ter­ror. I’d for­got­ten how much I’d missed hear­ing it.

Sim­i­larly, she al­ways knows when I am down and in need of a lift. I was hav­ing woman trou­ble the other day, and she could see some­thing was on my mind.

Later, she texted: ‘Love your­self a lit­tle.’ It’s amaz­ing how com­fort­ing a small thing like that can be.

If that all sounds a lit­tle syrupy and nos­tal­gic for the past, then it isn’t meant to. Life has moved on for the bet­ter for both of us.

I’m just glad to have an old friend back; the one who, de­spite some of the un­pleas­ant­ness we’ve been through, I still trust more than any other per­son in the world.

LOOK­ING back, I sup­pose what that fate­ful note ap­peared to pro­vide is what our friends across the pond re­fer to as ‘clo­sure’.

hav­ing been to­gether since we were barely out of uni­ver­sity, the whole pe­riod of sep­a­rat­ing felt sur­real.

right up un­til I clicked the door shut on our old home for the last time, I still won­dered if it was a stub­born stand-off we were both hav­ing with each other.

So when my ex told me that she was preg­nant, it felt like the sec­ond act of our lives could fi­nally be­gin.

She plans to marry soon and with the baby even­tu­ally need­ing more room she plans to move in a year or so. I’m hop­ing not too far, but no bother ei­ther way. We’ll deal with all that when we come to it.

Some­how we al­ways do.

Pla­tonic part­ing: Henry with Lily the dog, who is shared with Henry’s for­mer wife, So­phie

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