Tuesday, December 25, 2012

No Spouse Like an Ex-Spouse

The holiday season is a time to dust off our memories. Christmas cards bring messages from those we haven't seen in some time. Some day soon certain of the efforts to keep in touch will cease entirely. Friendships take work and require effort.

I received a pre-Christmas card from my ex-husband. It was a formal card with an address label, a printed signature and enclosing the inevitable, impersonal "form" letter to bring the readers up to date on events of his life.

I did not send him a card this year. Over the decades since our divorce, we have experienced periods of non-contact alternating with phone calls and actual conversation. We shared no children and were married and divorced at a very young age. So there were no issues requiring us to keep in touch. It has come down to this: if he was in a funk, unhappy or experiencing a break-up with one of his many female friends, he would initiate communication, despite the fact that we have lived on opposite coast for decades. He knows I am a phone call away and -- if he wants sympathy -- he will call.

We spoke last on Christmas 2011 and during that call, his other phone was ringing. After a several rings and a long pause, he said, "I've got to take that call. I'll call you in a week or so and we can catch up." He didn't call back.

Early in 2012, I heard that a mutual friend had committed suicide under extremely distressing circumstances. I sent my ex an email to see if he had heard the news or knew any more details. That awful event occurred in the city where my ex lives. He emailed me back, "I'll call you in a week or so and we can catch up." He didn’t call.

When eleven months had passed without contact. I decided to write off any attempts we had made to keep in touch. I also knew from his pattern that there must be a new woman in his life and predictably when that relationship ended, he would contact me again.

When his card arrived, I sent a brief email saying in essence that there is no point in our keeping in touch.

This exchange brought to mind the strangeness of having an ex-spouse somewhere out there in the universe. He is my only ex-spouse. I never saw too many benefits to the marriage tradition. However, my ex has had three failed marriages (including ours), plus several near-misses, involving a few women lucky enough to escape with nice chunks of diamond as the result.

After my email telling him that we should just "forget it," he phoned me to apologize. Since my experience in the world of exes is rather limited, I don't know if we are supposed to share some type of communication "bond." I have friends with ex-spouses but their breaks were clean and final.

My ex is talking about getting married again. His prospective bride has also had three failed marriages. They are both nearing 70. What on earth would make someone with that type of track record want to try another lap around the course? He said, "Isn't that romantic?" I said, "No. It's seems a little foolish."

I have to add here that I have always talked to him like that which exemplifies why we were so mismatched. In the late 1960s, few couples had the nerve to live together openly without being married. Had we gone that route, we would never have made it down the aisle. Perhaps the more modern approach is a step in the right direction.

No doubt there are people out there who benefit from being married, although probably not as many people as existed 40 or so years ago. Single people today are independent, able to live alone, pay their bills and find happiness, also a step in the right direction.

But women seem to still get thrilled about planning a wedding, getting a big diamond ring and new dishes. A marriage means a fresh start, a blank slate, a shining future.

That sounds nice in theory. But people need to remember that reality comes into play.

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