Monday, April 30, 2012

In (ex) laws

I married into a really nice family, and deciding to get a divorce was wrenching for many reasons, but one of those reasons was that I knew I could lose all of my inlaws.  I was leaving their son/uncle/brother, after all, and I didn't expect them to embrace that.

This photo from the internet bears a shocking resemblance to actual
back yard family photos with the ex.  Wow!

But they did.

As soon as I knew that Bryan had told them that we were getting a divorce, I emailed each one of them with a similar message telling them how important they were to me, that I would try to honor Bryan even in divorce, that they were always welcome in my life, that I would encourage Katherine's relationship with each of them, that I was sorry it had come to this.  I got back beautiful responses from each of them; responses that made me sob with relief and joy.  They still love me, and I love them.

I have stayed in touch with them over the past year, but have only seen a small handful of them.  Bryan doesn't stay in close touch with them either, so that means that Katherine has limited contact with them, too, and I don't think that's good for her.  She's losing her nuclear family in one home, she doesn't need any more loss.  I promised myself that I would encourage her relationships with extended family, and I meant it.

So, I planned a girls' weekend with the exlaws.  (What to call this group?!  Though technically they're still my inlaws, they must have another name for post divorce.  Exlaws will do for now.)  A group of us got together this weekend in a town a couple hundred miles from where Katherine and I live, and she and I road tripped.

Since there were several of us from out of town meeting, Katherine and I stayed with her oldest cousin, who is married and pregnant with her first child; Katherine had been her flower girl.  I slept on the sofa, Katherine got an air mattress, and it wasn't deluxe but it was fun and frankly reminded me of college days.  (I will not complain about my back or the loud neighbors who came in at 1am and talked in the hallway, because then I will sound like an old lady.  So I'll just be quiet.)

We ladies went to a tea house together, and then we shopped in the cute little local stores.

We went out to a Mexican meal with the men of the family who were in town.  We hung out in one of their living rooms and talked.  Katherine got to play with a cousin's American Girl doll.

It was lovely, and it makes me choke up a little just thinking about it, because there are no rulebooks for this, and I very easily could have lost all of these people from my life.  I don't think it's typical that ex-wives seek out ex-laws to get together for tea.  I could be wrong, but I don't think so.

The Dixie Chicks have a song, "I never seem to do it like anybody else...." and that's become a theme for me lately.  I definitely have been taking the long way around.

I had a good candid talk with two of the women in the family.  I told them a bit about my marriage and why it didn't work, and they both wept and said, "We're sorry."  I asked them to try to connect with Bryan because I worry (more than I can say) about his depression.  I told them that I wanted real love in my life, the kind each of them has with their husbands, and that one day I hoped they'd come to my wedding when I found it.  (They both hugged me and said they wanted that for me, too.)

I'm pretty sure that this isn't typical stuff.  I never seem to do it like anybody else....

And Katherine played, and snuggled with aunts, and chatted with cousins, and got spoiled by Grandma, and ate more sweets in a weekend than she usually gets in a week.

I admit it, I'm a little smug about it all, because it's so good.  It could be very different, and yet here it is.

On the way home, Katherine and I stopped at a state park and did a little nature walk, just the two of us.  I listened to the birds singing, we surprised a (harmless) garter snake sunning itself and then giggled at our own reactions to it, we admired the beauty we were in, and we got a little exercise.  Road tripping, we sang to music in the car, we listened to "Vinyl Cafe" on podcasts, we talked.

On days like that, I think, "I can do this.  And we can have a beautiful life.  There is nothing broken about this home!"


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