Because my ex moved abroad, across the Atlantic, I never experienced what it would have been like to have a relationship with his new girlfriend — or spouse. But I know that so many of you are in the thick of this. And from what I see, the holidays often bring up any underlying tensions.
That’s why I’ve asked Hyla Molander — an incredibly brave and beautiful woman whom I first met via Twitter and then in real life — to chime in this week. Widowed at 29, during her second pregnancy, Hyla grieved deeply and tried make meaning out of her tragedy. She met her new husband, Evan, on Match.com, and they got married in 2007. Evan adopted the daughters she had conceived with Erik, she embraced his son from his previous marriage, and they now have another wonderful baby boy together.
I’m honored to run Hyla’s post on how she learned to “play well” with her ex’s wife:
Dana and I clink our tequila-filled shot glasses, as our combined six children—2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 12—all sprint across the hardwood floors of her home.
Tatiana, 8, shouts, “Get em!” and then, like a vulture in flight, she swoops her locks of matted medusa hair down upon a squirming pile of elbows and stinky feet.
Voices squeal: “Get off . . . Mommy . . . Stoooppp . . . You farted on me!”
Finally, the kids tumble aside, one by one, and Jason, 12, reveals his sweaty, red face. “You wanna help me here?”
Dana says, “Looks like you’ve got it handled, bud.”
I laugh, raising my glass. “Here’s to being together.”
Dana tilts her head back, swigs the Patron, and then eagerly sucks the juice from her lime wedge. “Wish we could do it more often.”
Dana is Jason’s mom. I am Jason’s step-mom.
And, yes, I really am drinking tequila with my husband’s ex-wife.
On a good night, Dana and I might even grab the guitar and microphone from Jason’s Rock Band game. We belt out “Eye of the Tiger” while the wee-ones bang on the drums, jump on the bed, and dance in front of the TV.
Tatiana often says, “We have four kids, but really six if you count them all.”
The family dynamics are very confusing to her teachers at the beginning of the school year, but Tatiana loves Dana’s other children as if they were her siblings.
Having grown up with divorced parents, the idea of former spouses having jam sessions with current spouses seemed insane. Why would anyone ever want to subject themselves to that?
My rule had been to veer on the other side of the road, far away from men who’d been married before. I was widowed. Entirely different situation. There was no chance that my late husband would call in the middle of the night to scream at me about child support.
I did, however, want to end up with a man who would be a loving daddy to my two and three-year old daughters. But how would I know about his parenting skills if he didn’t have children?
Eventually, I opened up to dating men with kids. Men with kids meant men with wicked ex-wives.
A week after I met Evan, he invited me to the baseball field to watch Jason’s game. Wanting to make a good impression, I spent extra time pulling my daughters’ hair in pigtails, and putting their olive-toned bodies in matching hot-pink sundresses.
I held the girls’ hands and walked towards the concession stand. Then, out of nowhere, something came towards me.
It was her. It was the ex-wife.
I wanted to flee.
But she came at me, with certainty, her arms open wide. “Hyla, right?”
What do I do? She’s hugging me.
Dana’s one-year-old daughter began climbing on the bleachers with my girls. They were instant friends.
Later that evening, my mom and I spoke on the phone. “You’re going to have a play-date with Evan’s ex-wife?” she asked. “Don’t you think this is a bit strange?”
At first, it was strange to go to the park with Dana and her kids.
And it took a couple of years of soccer games, school plays, birthday parties, and swim meets before I could trust that the “wicked ex-wife” wasn’t wicked at all. Dana was loving and supportive, always willing to help out with my daughters. She wanted Evan to be happy, so that Jason could be happy.
Dana says, “What more could we ask for? Jason has four nurturing parents.”
Divorce is tough. I’m certainly not claiming that it’s easy to get to the place where you’re doing tequila shots with your spouse’s ex, nor am I suggesting that it’s necessary to get as close as I have with Dana.
What I do know, though, is that all of our children benefit when they see that their parents play well with others.
How have YOU learned to play well with your ex’s spouse?
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