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Summer of Graduations

R Updated

Many of us have been attending University graduation ceremonies this Summer. We might have met, as I did, our ex partners for the first time in many years as a result. This can be a challenging at worst or at best just makes us slightly nervous. In my own case I knew I was up to the task as of course my number one priority was and is to support my Daughter. Apart from being overjoyed for her I tried to imagine though how I might feel ho before we met and to my surprise I didn’t know. Would I feel reflective, more happy or sad than normal, would I be anxious?

Might some “feeling” return? By now I was very used to “turning up” to whatever social engagement was in front of me and remaining emotionally detached if I needed to! Attending my daughter’s graduation was not something a needed to find extra effort for in order to rise to the occasion, but seeing, talking to and being in the presence of her mother, a person I once knew from a young woman to a mature woman definitely could not be ignored. I recall hearing from divorcees who described how it took them a very long time indeed before they could stand next to their ex without feeling a raised pulse! Powerful stuff!

Strangely I was also reminded by family members to “be on my best behaviour” and to “not rise to any provocation” before the meeting. The same people were also very curious about all the goings on. They asked me how I was with everything. I think people try to imagine themselves in our shoes. So my ex & I met at a pre-arranged dinner with our daughter the night before the ceremony and for the first time in over 7 years. The last time was our daughter’s sixteenth birthday which had not gone well. By now though we had been divorced almost ten years. Back then, at the last meeting, everything was still too raw. Long enough then now for nothing to be an issue? Well, as it turned out luckily there were no issues apart from yours truly enjoying beer & wine at dinner a bit too much and suffering the consequences the next day!

As we shared a quiet moment sitting next to each other before our daughter received her degree I of course did take a mental check as to how I was feeling. I smiled to myself when I found what it was that I was looking for. I felt nothing you see. There were no feelings left. I had long since wrung them out. There was of course small talk and strangely I was asked how old I was now! I’m 100% sure she knew but was just trying to make small talk and keep things light. Later though there were more probing questions for me after the official photographs: “How was work?” … and “What did I pay for that house in the end?!”. It felt like the more probing she did the more she revealing how in fact she was feeling. Her own curiosity could not hide itself.

In any case we met again as a “family” once so intimate & loving but long since broken that evening. There was a shared dinner, less wine consumption by me and even a return to our daughter’s flat to relax in from of the tv for a while! I then took a further mental check on my “position” and noted how I still felt nothing. I was surprised to note how different my ex appeared and sounded. No doubt she also felt the same. I realised that I did not know this person, Indeed she was a stranger to me. My memory had become clouded I suppose but no, it was more than that. The woman I knew, the person I once fell in love with, married, had a child with, had been on life’s adventures with had left my world, my mind and my heart. She was no longer visible at all to me now. She was gone forever. I was totally & utterly free. It felt so good.

User comments

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Wow, Thank you for writing this. I still have a deep love for my wife who I come to realise that after 6 months of separation following 15 years of marriage no longer loves me in the way I love her. Stopping those feelings I have for her will be painful and difficult is even achievable at all. I hope one day I can also feel an emotional closure towards her and an end of feeling a failure. I have hope now, and a new focus on my children.
Phew, well done Rock Steady. I will never have this type of problem,
My ex. Left, refuses to have anything to do with our grown up daughter and his own mum and sisters.
We only have the one child. He has caused devastation to us all in this regard.
I hope I never have cause to meet him again, my pulse and blood pressure would go through the roof!
It’s only been three years, and I had to fight tooth and nail in the courts to get anything, he couldn’t hurt us enough.
Oh Eliza, goood grief, yes I hope this doesn’t happen for you yet either, you have been through enough, but
What we go through, teaches us to be resilient, and you are certainly that!
Well done RockSteady. Congratulations on achieving that equilibrium and managing therefore to be civil for the sake of your daughter with comparative ease.

I feel glad that I have not yet been tested in this regard. Despite having (literally) written a book about 'Making Peace with Divorce' and having made peace at last with my own, I have not been in the presence of my ex since before our divorce and am dreading the day that I may have to be. Perhaps by then I will be that much further down the line. It's not that I couldn't be civil despite his continued terrible behaviour towards our children (for their sakes and my own) but I think there would be, as you described, the raised pulse!