Old Friends 


Last night, for Christmas Eve, my ex husband stayed overnight. I had invited him to stay on the couch so we could share the experience of Christmas morning with the kids. We have had a pretty amicable divorce, going on six years now. We often have dinner together while swapping kids. We go sledding together as a family. He even bought my grandmother an 80th birthday card last week and showed up to her party.

Since we split up in 2010, I have been very proud of the friendship that we have cultivated for the purpose of coparenting. I have not thought of him romantically since we stopped sleeping together shortly after the separation.

 The past several years have been a bit of a roller coaster. There have been times of grace and friendship, and brief moments of bonding over our common experience. There have also been times of screaming at each other and massive amounts of doubt and mistrust. He has held and comforted me while I cried. He has also been the one to make me cry.  He has looked down on me and up at me and every other way to try and assign his opinions to me.  I have done the same to him.  

The friendship that we have is rare. It is born from a mutual love for our kids.  It is one of the most interesting relationships that I have ever experienced, a post-divorce friendship.  I think of him now, as a brotherly type figure. He is my family. This man created children with me and watched them hatch out of my body. We grew up together and then watched our babies grow up together. We went through miscarriages and funerals together. We shared nieces and nephews, holidays, our home. We shared our bodies exclusively for a decade. But that sexual attraction died immediately for me when he gave his heart to my replacement before we had even filed for divorce. Watching this woman swoon over my family, just months after I tore it apart, was really hard to do. The very mention of her name felt like a punch in my guts. I felt so betrayed by him, that I lost all romantic interest. Even after they split up a year later, my feelings for him remained platonic.  He had skipped right over the friend zone and landed directly into the bro zone.  Last night was different.  Last night a peculiar remembrance of the way we used to be came rushing back out of nowhere.  

All of a sudden, I had begun to remember all of the good stuff that I had buried in my grief after we had divorced. I had been so busy villianizing him in an attempt to grieve him, I had forgotten about the parts that kept me holding on for ten years.

When things were bad, they were absolutely horrible. But when things were good, they were fucking beautiful. That’s when it felt like nothing else mattered. Last night kind of felt like nothing else mattered. The heartache, the divorce, the fights, the two hundred miles between us, none of it mattered.  All those harsh memories took a back seat to the good stuff.  Steamy nights making love in front of our fireplace. The excitement of watching our daughter ride a two wheeler for the first time. Rushing through the courthouse in Toledo because we only had fifteen minutes to get married before they closed.  Last night, we were those two beaten up old souls who remembered a comfort in each other. Well, I remembered anyway. Who knows what he was thinking.

Last night I watched him cuddling with our daughter on the couch while we all enjoyed a couple movies and the nostalgia of Christmas Eve together. I couldn’t help but to be attracted to him. I sat there staring at him and having flashbacks of the night we conceived that child in his arms. It could have been the Mercury retrograde. It could have been the urge to rebound after a recent break up from an asexual man. It could have been my hormones raging nine months into a celibacy bender. But I wanted to invite him into my bed for the first time in five years. And I could not get those thoughts out of my head.  

I am certain that after watching my ex boyfriend fall lightyears behind in being a father figure to my children, it was a sight sweeter than sugar to see my children so loved and cared for by their very own dad. It was the sexiest thing to me anyway, watching him fall so naturally into our world. He is so natural at fitting in with us, because he is a part of us. He is our family. This is something I could not see until after I had failed at trying to replace him.

We put the kids to bed and he offered to pour me a drink. Drinks lead to smoking a couple of bowls and some awkward conversation. We hadn’t hung out like this, just the two of us in years. We had a pretty good buzz going on, and our conversations tilted from the kids to the past.  It was a bittersweet moment.  That’s all we really have in common anymore…the kids and our past.   

We had been free to go our separate ways, and we went as separately as we could. He moved south, I moved north. He lives in a very dense suburb of Detroit, I live miles away from civilization. He works out every day, I’ve gained forty pounds. He still listens to that god awful techno music. I still listen to my old acoustic folk jams. But we are deeply connected through our past and the shared experience of growing up together. There’s an unspoken bond that has not gone away.

It felt really good to feel a connection with someone again, after the passionless relationship I had just escaped.  I’ve compared my feelings about love lately to the feelings an atheist has about God.  I walked away from the last guy feeling incapable of forming a connection.  So it felt really amazing to feel something again.  Even if it was just a quick remembrance of a connection that must stay buried in the past.  I am so very thankful for the brief night we spent together as a family. I remember how it felt now, and I remember it was real. I remember that even though it wasn’t perfect, I once loved someone so much that I called him my husband. And that crazy little moment of seeing what could have been if maybe things were different, had given me more hope than I had felt in a very long while. Not hope for a reunion with him, ultimately we had been through irreparable damage.  But hope that one day I could feel connected to another person like that again. I wonder if he felt that too.  I wonder if he has ever felt like that before.

I have so much gratitude for my broken little family and the guy whom I still call, “friend.” I  know that this strange little relationship is one that I sometimes take for granted on the outside.  But deep down on the inside, I treasure it more than gold.

The Dreamer and the Realist


On March 28, 2014, I bought a house. I was really proud of that house, and it was the first time in over two years that I had felt like I was starting to stand on my feet again, after the divorce. Finally, I had provided my daughters with a decent home. Finally, I felt like a good mom again.

That night, I also met a man who for the first time, held my interest for a relationship. March 28th, that day was a game changer.
I had followed my shrinks orders to a tee, taking my time to reach out to romance again. I had absolutely no relations at all the first year, taking lots of time to love myself. Check, check, and check, I did everything I was supposed to.
So when he came along, I was ready. And it really did feel like my ship had come in. This guy was the sweetest. After one of our first dates, I remember walking him out to my front porch and making out with him before he got into his truck to go home. As we were kissing, I looked over to notice all three of my neighbors little kids’ faces pressed into the kitchen bay window glass. They were all giggling at the sight of our good bye kiss. It felt like a movie. I felt like the star in my very own romantic comedy. Like a Bridget Jones meets Carrie Bradshaw. This was the part where the broken hearts begin to heal each other.
I was so happy about this guy. I remember thinking that I would love him for who he was and pay no attention to his hideous wardrobe including the faded black shorts with socks and brown dress shoes. What in the actual fuck was he wearing? I used to have standards. I used to have rules. Owning a pair of Chuck Taylor’s was a prerequisite to get into my bed. That was a legitimate deal breaker for me. If you had no Chuck’s, you had no soul, as far as I was concerned. And there I was, falling for socks and sandals. Falling for ugly ass tee shirts and white briefs. The last guy was cute on the outside. This time I wanted cute on the inside. I was so sure that I was going to experience real and healthy love for the first time….Unconditional love, the term he threw around. He was going to teach me what it felt like to experience unconditional love. And it felt really good to know that someone wanted to love every single piece of me. And I was going to give it right back, and love the shit out of him and his horrible fashion choices.
His personality was worth it to me. He was a good listener, he was intelligent, and we just seemed to click. I watched him like a hawk , jumping at any hint of emotional abuse. But he truly seemed to be a genuinely sweet hearted guy.
Over the next couple years, we had a few issues here and there. And we worked them out, just like a healthy couple would. I’m not sure if it was his idea or mine, but we always blamed our issues on my fear of commitment. And I worked really hard to overcome that fear. I was so proud of this relationship. I really thought it was my first healthy relationship, but compared to my marriage, healthy was an abstract idea. Anyone who didn’t bully me seemed to be a hero.
And this hero was a little broken. The first day I met him, he shared the story of how crushed he had been at the end of his marriage. He told me that he was so devastated, that he couldn’t even function and had to take heavy doses of antidepressants.  I couldn’t resist the urge to love him after that story. The codependent in me was practically salivating. His heart was in pieces and I was going to single-handedly put it back together, one sweet little broken piece at a time.
And I knew that I could take full responsibility for his heart.  It is the connection I share with someone that turns me on, so if I am in love, being faithful is easy for me.  I knew I would never hurt him.
In July of 2015, I made the decision to give up my home and move my girls thirty miles north, so that this man could be a part of our family. It was scary, leaving behind my big beautiful home to live in his tiny little house out in the middle of nowhere. But I knew in my heart, that this was the guy for me. Love had come calling, and I wouldn’t turn it down for something as materialistic as a house.
So off we went, to our new life as a blended family. My girls and I made the best of it. We literally moved to a little house on an actual prairie. We painted, we hung curtains, we planted flowers. The stars were amazing out there. The Milky Way had never been so clear. And we never missed the sight of a full moon rising on the prairie. The openness out there was something to be experienced.
Within weeks of moving in, I noticed that things were different. I shrugged it off as growing pains, knowing and expecting that our relationship would experience some bumps from the change. But a few months after that, things were even worse. He didn’t even resemble the guy that I had moved in for.

I tried to reconnect with him like a starving newborn angrily rooting for her father’s nipple. I couldn’t latch on. It was empty. He had no interest in feeding me, he was incapable of understanding my hunger.
Looking back, I suppose I overcompensated for the last guy. My ex husband was filled to the brim with passion. When he loved me, he loved hard and it felt good. But when he was angry, his passion pooled in his fists. He would explode with anger. He scared me. And in moving on to this next failed relationship, I chose someone with absolutely no passion. He felt safe to me. But the thing about safe sometimes, is that it lacks magic.
And I couldn’t breathe in this world without magic.

We had quit making love. He had stopped being the sweet, kind hearted guy I fell in love with. He had started being critical and cold hearted. He criticized me constantly. He criticized my kids. He criticized the way I raised my kids. He criticized my parents. He criticized the way my parents raised me.
He had managed to douse any flames of happiness that I had managed to muster up. And then he would criticize me for expecting him to contribute to my joy. And I knew what he was saying. I’m the girl who preaches that happiness is an inside job. I am the pied piper of solitude. But when you move your whole life for someone who constantly tries to knock the sunshine out of your face, the blame has to spill over to his side too.
He stopped holding my hand in the car, and started holding his tablet. He took it everywhere. He stopped sitting by me on the couch. He stopped showing any interest in me, sexually. But he always made a point to remind me about the very active sex life he had shared with his ex wife. He stopped caring about my life at all. He dismissed the television shows I wanted to watch. He belittled my thoughts and ideas. He twisted my words. He refused to walk with me. He turned his nose up at all the bonfires I had made. He ignored my cravings for closeness.
It wasn’t easy for me to speak up about my needs. I had never had to ask for sex before. It was humiliating, having to ask him to touch me. And I swear he found joy in my crushing vulnerability.
I couldn’t understand the change in him. I felt like I had gone mad. Was this some sort of codependent neediness flaring up from my fear of commitment? Was this my fault or his? None of his behavior made sense, until his mother had mentioned one day that he had Asperger’s syndrome. I will admit that I knew nothing about this diagnosis. I started to research anything that I could find. And I found it. All there in black and white. All of our problems were directly related to the symptoms of Asperger’s. I was his special interest when we were dating. So he really was genuinely interested in me. I could hold his attention for hours while we shared a cooler of beer on my deck. He listened intently to every word I spoke. And when I moved in, he moved his interest to the tablet, or internet games, which is common for Aspies. He was critical and unempathetic, because his brain was wired for logic and not so much emotion. There was no longer a need to make love, because he had no interest in it and  my needs never crossed his mind. When I moved into his house, I was demoted from lover to household business partner. And I understand that every relationship has that mundane side. But while I was asking, begging, and pleading for a connection; he refused to discuss anything but household chores. It felt like that was all I meant to him. And my depression had begun to swallow me whole. I had just gambled everything I had on someone who couldn’t care less.
We were so different and had such different expectations about the relationship. We were the dreamer and the realist, drawn together in opposition. His low vibration weighed on me like a lead blanket. And my rose colored glasses annoyed him.
I kept searching for balance, but balance wasn’t there.
Still , I wasn’t ready to give up. I had moved mountains in order to be with this guy and I wasn’t going to give up without a fight. After all, there were quite a few Asperger’s traits that I had really admired. Aspie’s are smart, organized, and brutally honest. He was the most intelligent man that I had ever known. I consider myself pretty intelligent. And when I have conversations with people, I am rarely shocked with the other party’s ideas. But my conversations with him were electric and out of this world. He would always make a comment that nobody on my level could have ever thought of. He was interesting to me. His mind was a mystery. His completely foreign ideas were fascinating. He completely revolutionized my grocery shopping experience with detailed shopping lists and an app that could pinpoint every item’s location in the store. He did have a sweet side. And even though I saw it less often, my heart still knew it was there. So I held on. I followed the advice of the experts online. I started communicating through logic rather than emotions. I was very specific in explaining my needs. But you can’t work on an issue that you refuse to acknowledge. He refused to acknowledge his diagnosis. In fact, he blamed it on me, citing that my daughters and I were probably the one’s who had Asperger’s.
No matter how hard I tried to get him to see our situation, to see me, his eyes were focused elsewhere. My grip on the relationship was fading fast. And then he delivered the final blow, the one red flag that really hit me hard. After I had told him my story, over and over, in pieces over the past few years, he knew that the people I loved dearly had hurt me. He watched me choke up and tears roll down my face when I shared the abuse that I had endured. And when he started acting the same way towards me, he explained that my abusive past is exactly why he picked me out. He said he knew I could handle him, because I had handled it all before. And that’s what it all came down to, when I chose him, I did so with the intention to heal his broken heart. And he chose me, because he liked the way mine was broken. And when I question myself, as I have over the past six months, trying to figure out whose fault this was…At least I know that my heart was in it for the right reasons.

There are so many things that I built up to be something romantic or sexy in my mind, but in reality it was just his robot-like quirks. I think that was the worst part, realizing that my entire relationship was built on a fantasy in my own damn head.
I had given up everything for a man who was completely incapable of empathy. The guilt I feel for moving my kids in with this man will haunt me for the rest of my life. And knowing that I fell so hard for someone so heartless has been the most terrifying experience of my life. 

Update:

I have spent the past several months forgiving myself for this big mistake.  I have healed and loved myself for trying to find love in a place where love couldn’t exist.  It has taken some time, but I have diligently traveled down the long and winding road back to me.  
Looking back on this experience, I now understand that I needed this chapter in my life to learn about myself.  I wasn’t as independent as I had thought, but I am now.   I owe it to the guy who broke my heart.  My newest version of independence is the best that I have ever experienced and I consider it one of the greatest gifts I received out of this failure.  This guy didn’t hurt me intentionally.  He loved me the best that he could.  His best just wasn’t enough for me.  I am proud of myself for eventually recognizing that.

He was the guy who held a mirror up, forcing me to see myself from an angle I couldn’t bare to see before.  I can see it now.  I’ve made peace with my reflection.  And I am honestly grateful to him for showing it to me.
He taught me to be selective.  He taught me to pay attention to who I share my story with.   He held my bloodied, broken heart up in front of my eyes.  I couldn’t see it before.  Now I can.  He chipped away at the impenetrable shell that I had built to cover up my unwanted reality.  He stripped away the dress of delusion that I had once refused to take off.  I’m more careful with my heart now.  I feel complete on my own now.  I no longer feel the desperate need for a replacement husband.  His steady insistence on revealing his bare boned opinions of me have helped me to understand and accept my own faults.  I can’t thank him enough for the invaluable insight he gave me.  Now that I have healed from this devastating disappointment, I can honestly say I am more content with my life now than I have ever been.

I believe that Asperger’s syndrome is simply the state of an evolved human being.  His brain is designed for the future, where sloppy emotions won’t interfere with logic and progress.  I’m not there.  I live in my old-school emotional mind.  I have feelings that spill out of my heart and into the world, sometimes bleeding all over the crisp white sheets of my life.  But I wouldn’t want to live any other way.  Emotions are messy.  I’m a mess, and that’s okay.  There is magic in the mess. And I now realize that I am a girl who desperately needs magic.  And thanks to him, I will never again settle for anything less.

~*~