September 4, 2021

How Dinner with my Partner’s ex Saved our Relationship.


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Despite a plethora of anxieties, I wanted to have dinner with my partner’s ex.

I tend to flake out on plans at the last minute (a lot) and that fateful night was no exception.

You know those parts of you that seem to hate the idea of a better you? Those hardwired self-sabotaging parts? Well, lately, I’ve been trying hard to work through mine.

“I have to stop this. I have to do better,” I argued with myself. That other voice was loud and convincing, “I don’t even have a bra on, I look terrible, what if I’m awkward, I hate humans…” It’s been a tough year, reader, amirite? But I didn’t cancel. I was a little late, and that was sh*tty, but I didn’t cancel. Baby steps.

He was supportive of the idea. He trusted her. They broke up about two years ago and stayed good friends. Actually, having been together for over a decade, they’re more than good friends; they’re family. Their families are family.

Truthfully, I’ve never understood the logistics of breakups. One moment, this person is all up inside your brain and heart and body, and the next, they’re supposed to be a stranger. Out of sight out of mind, I guess.

But sometimes, one type of love just morphs into another. You know that saying, “People are either in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime?” She was definitely the latter. I just wasn’t sure which one I was yet.

Plus, I trusted him. He’s the type of guy who makes it easy to be trusted. And man, that was really a lucky break on my part, because let me tell you, she is bad. Just like the ridiculous type of bad where you want to hate her, but you can’t because she’s that bad—brains, heart, beauty, hair like a friggin’ Pantene commercial, all that facial symmetry sh*t humans love so much, and humble and honest and kind and self-aware—and all the damn things. I mean, he has good taste in women, there’s no doubt about that.

But more importantly, I trusted myself. I trusted not just my judgment, but I trusted that I could live with the mistake if it became one. I knew I could get through it because I’ve gotten through a lot in this life. This is the type of emotional capital you can only acquire the hard way. And it’s worth every f*cking tear. I promise.

In any case, the only twinge of jealousy I felt was in the way his family spoke of her. They adored her. And according to current relationship protocol, I was to be her replacement. She was out, I was in. That’s how it works. What a f*cking brutal system we’ve created here, guys, for everyone involved.

Of course, they’d compare me to her, and in this stage of the game—with me only about a year in and her over a decade of laughs and tears and connection—there was simply no comparison. Was I a bit jealous? Sure. But as I said earlier, I’m trying to work through sh*t. I’m trying to align my beliefs and my actions even when it’s hard. And in this case, I believed I should support their connection.

Anyway, he and I were having problems. Big ones. On the very same day we had moved in together, we called off our engagement. By the time I asked her to dinner, he and I hadn’t had a conversation that didn’t immediately turn into a fight in over a month, and needless to say, we hadn’t touch each other in at least that long.

People asked how the move was going. I would answer vaguely, “I love the neighborhood.” I didn’t know what was going to happen yet and I didn’t want my people formulating opinions before I formulated my own.

I didn’t have to worry about that with her. She was his people, not mine, and he had already told her what was happening. I guess I could’ve sought out a therapist for this conversation instead of my partner’s ex, but I needed not just a nonjudgmental ear; I needed a seasoned eye. Are you seeing what I’m seeing? I needed someone who really knew him and loved him to weigh in.

Our conversation helped me untangle which parts of this mess were his sh*t and which were mine. And in that freshly cleared space, I was finally able to see a path forward.

After dinner, I came home with a softer energy. He dipped a toe in the water with “Hi,” and finding me considerably warmer, he initiated a conversation that lasted the entire night.

We stayed up all night laughing and talking and remembering why we were in this, to begin with. We remembered why we liked each other. It was one of the best nights of my life.

Prior to my dinner with her, the entity of he and I—of “us”—was all but dead. She was able to breathe a few rescue breaths in.

At the time of this writing, I didn’t know whether we would survive. But I am and will always be grateful for that night, even if only for the chance to say “goodbye.”


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