Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I Had Lunch with My Ex-Husband's Family. It Made Me Happy.

When you get divorced, it’s not just wedding gifts that divided into His and Hers piles. Relationships also end up in piles. No matter how much you liked your ex’s parents or best friend or personal trainer, when the marriage is over, his people go with him and her people go with her.

Unless, of course, we’re talking about my ex-husband’s parents.

Driving to My Ex-Husband's Parents' House 

After seeing Journey and Steve Miller Band with my college friend Colette on Friday night, I awoke Saturday morning with a mix of anticipation and anxiety. You see, Colette lives less than an hour from Max’s parents, so I had arranged to visit them. (Max’s mom, Sara, and I email here and there, and she enthusiastically invited me for lunch.)

I couldn’t show up empty handed, but I knew better than to ask Sara what I could bring. Like my late grandma, Sara loves you by feeding you. So, I stopped for flowers because one can never go wrong with flowers. Well, this is kind of embarrassing, but I agonized over what to buy. What kind of flowers do you bring to your ex-husband’s parents when they’re hosting you for lunch and you haven’t seen them in almost two years? I didn’t want to look cheap or like I tried too hard. After about half an hour, I selected a yellow and purple mixed bouquet. OK, I told myself, no more stalling. Get going!

As I drove to their house, I couldn’t believe that it had been nearly two years since I last saw them, and that was to say goodbye. That day, they found out from me – not their son – that our divorce was imminent. It was one of the saddest, most heart wrenching moments of my life. As I got closer to their house, I felt more and more nervous.

What would it be like to see them?
Would it be too sad to be in their house?
Would we be able to hold a conversation?

My Ex Mother-In-Law Feeds Me 

I pulled into the driveway and saw Max’s sister. I was never close to either of his sisters and I very much doubt that his sisters know why we got divorced. But, as if no time had passed, we hugged and said hello.

And just like I used to, I walked in to the kitchen through the side door, the door that family uses. The kitchen smelled warmly of roast chicken and tomato sauce. First John, my former father-in-law, came into the kitchen with a grin and embraced me. Sara came in right behind him with a huge smile on her face with her arms spread wide. She held me extra long, the kind of hug you reserve for certain moments with certain people.

“Oh honey, it’s so good to see you,” she said in my ear.

I handed her the flowers, and she gratefully accepted them, chattering away that it was very nice of me but not necessary.

“Sara, I knew better than to offer to bring food!” I said, and she shrugged and laughed.

As she fussed with getting a vase for the flowers, John and I stood around the kitchen as the chicken and stuffed shells (vegetarian for me!) finished cooking. They asked me about the usual stuff – work, my parents, my niece and nephews. It felt a touch awkward, but not too bad. We were off to a good start for being ex family members.

Lunch was ready and the four of us sat down in the dining room. I sat in my usual chair, except my husband wasn’t sitting beside me. Remarkably, conversation flowed quite naturally. As we finished eating, I heard a car in the driveway.


My Ex-Husband Shows Up

I hadn’t seen Max since we had lunch four months ago. He knew I would be at his parents’ house today, and I knew it was possible we could be there at the same time, but I hoped our paths wouldn’t cross. I mean, how weird is that to be in HIS parents’ house with his ex-wife?! But, there he was, walking towards the house. I guess he didn’t think it would be weird.

I did a gut check. Was I going to cry? Lose my lunch? Be cool, Kat, be cool.

He entered the house and smiled at me.

Oh, that smile.

I got up and went right to him and we embraced.

This felt wonderful.
Totally strange too, but wonderful.

With the familiarity of an eight-year relationship and without the bitterness of divorce, Max and I started chatting away about this and that. He proudly showed me his new road bike that he bought with his work bonus. I told him that I was condo hunting. It all felt friendly and warm and… normal. Totally weird in theory, but normal.

Next, Matt’s other sister and her young daughter came over. She too greeted me just as she would have two years ago. The three of us did the small talk thing, then she told Max and me that she was pregnant, just as she would have two years ago.

(Whoah, Sara never took down photos from Max's and my wedding day. That was very surprising.)

Finally, it was time for Father’s Day cake. No meal is complete with Sara’s homemade cake. I sat at the dining room table savoring a huge slice of chocolate cake with a cup of coffee. It could just as easily have been five years earlier, except, to me, without the heaviness of the secret of my dysfunctional relationship with Sara’s son.

Saying Goodbye to His Family (Again)

I glanced at the clock. I had been there for almost two and a half hours! It felt so good being back with my former family, but I didn’t want to overstay my welcome. One by one, I hugged them goodbye: my ex sisters-in-law, my ex niece, my ex father-in-law, then my ex mother-in-law.

Again, Sara held me extra close and extra long and
whispered in my ear, “I miss you.”

“I miss you too,” I whispered back.

Max and I walked out of the kitchen door. He walked me to my car (well, his former car), and we discussed when we’d have him come visit me in Ford for a lunch date. He hugged me goodbye.

As I drove out of town, I marveled at the lovely afternoon I had. How was I this blessed to still be able to be friendly with my ex-husband and his family? It’s like I’m getting the best of Max without the heaviness and sadness of trying to make our marriage work. I realized that because Max and I never betrayed a trust or disrespected each other, we are able to be our unique version of friends/family that we are today.

I am so very grateful.

(Cliffhangers: That night, I had an impromptu date with an adorable 27-year-old. I’m in the process of buying my beloved apartment! Details to come…)

Are you friendly with your ex’s family?


  1. Kat - Haven't commented here in a while. Hope you're doing well - it certainly seems like you are. You tugged at my heartstrings with this one. No, I'm not close with my ex's family. I never even got to say goodbye. I know your goodbye was heartbreaking, but imagine if you didn't even get that chance. I loved my ex's family very much. But they took his side with gusto, and to them, I'm the woman who ran out on him and nearly ruined his life. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, but that's how they see it. They even said bad things about me around town, which I got wind of because I'm also from there. I don't have any plans to move back, so I don't mind that much, but, it still hurts. I've also made sure that my family doesn't say anything negative about him. It's just not how things should be.

    I'm really envious of your situation. It makes me really sad that I'll never get to see my former niece get bigger and play with the American Girl doll I lovingly picked out for her when she was a toddler. I'll never get to know her siblings, or see their family thrive. It breaks my heart still. I've made peace with it, but I wish things were different. I've tried repeatedly to have a cordial relationship with my ex, but he's just not interested. He's also got a new girl, and I am sure they will get engaged soon. The most upsetting thing about his refusal to try and be cordial with me is the fact that when we were together, he forced me to accept his friendships with ex girlfriends. One of them was even at our wedding. But now, that I'm the ex, it's somehow different. I don't get the same kind of respect and friendship.

    I say all of this so that you know how lucky you are to have the relationships you have. Enjoy them, especially for those of us that can't.

    Mustang Sally

  2. I'm a little jealous too. His family, with the exception of his sister, treated me reasonably well when we were together. (His sister has issues with other women in general). After the divorce, the lines were drawn. I don't miss any of them - except my nieces. I wonder how they're growing up.

    But I have a fantastic new family now. So I can't complain.

  3. I'm sorry both of you lost your former in-law families. That just compounds the loss of the marriage.
    I know, I'm very fortunate. I'm not in touch with Max or his family often, but just enough to maintain the relationship. So, I feel it's healthy because there is plenty of space.

  4. Friendly? It's possible; we don't NOT talk but I don't necessarily pursue conversation with his parents or brother. Had my ex-husband not cheated on me and if he wasn't already engaged to the other woman then things might be different.

  5. I'm very lucky that my ex-in-laws made it clear when my ex left that they would always love me and be in my life - they are also still upset that their son ended our marriage. I don't see them often because they live a long way away, but I did see them once a couple of months ago which was lovely, but very bitter sweet.
    They had removed all photos of us together from shelves, and even of their other happily married son and his wife - it was just too painful for them to look at.

  6. That's awesome that you still get along with them!

  7. I agree, Amber!

  8. Yes, if my situation had involved cheating or dishonesty, things would look quite different today.

  9. Sounds similar to me. While I miss my in-laws, it's just as well that they are 3+ hour drive away from me so visits will have to be infrequent.

  10. Karen, I give you so much credit. Two years, I felt like I was broken. It was the worst pain I have ever felt. And I often thought, "My god, I feel this horrible after only eight years with Max. How the hell do people married for decades go on?!" But we do what we have to, right? All the best to you!

  11. Just the sheer amount of time I was married simply adds more layers. But in the end, it's really about connection and the loss of that. Truth be told, it was a good marriage for the first 11 years. After that, it just wasn't. So, it's not about number of years, it's about connection and about the loss of a love and all it's branches that have taken root into your own life. My best to you, too!