Devil’s Advocate: Just Because I Divorced Him Doesn’t Mean He’s Not My Best Friend

If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friend, my AKA ex-husband

On March 31, 2015, the judge’s gravel came down declaring my ex-husband and I officially divorced. The papers would not be signed by the judge until the following day, April 1, something we agreed is hilarious and ironic at the same time. Except it wasn’t a joke.

A few weeks later, I flew out to visit him in his new condo.

But that is now, let start at the beginning.

My ex-husband and I met nearly twenty years ago (the length of time I often choose to ignore. Who wants to be reminded they are getting old?) online in a chat room. When you are very young, you think you know everything about anything. When you are not so young, you know now what you knew then was nothing about everything. Youth looks good only on the young.

That was me: a know-it all who didn’t know a damned thing with a hidden goofy side. Him: younger than me by a few years, who actually did know things, supplemented by a similarly hidden goofy side. We would spend hours upon hours in private messages gossiping about mutual friends on things such as who was doing who in person, who was cheating on who (in person or otherwise), and other topics you would discuss with your best friend. Despite our closeness we decided that friends—and friends only—was what we’d be. (This sounds very rom-com and you know where this is going to lead, so grab your popcorn and get ready for the trial and tribulations of our relationship.)

In the spring of 1998, he flew out to meet a mutual friend of ours who lived in the area, one he had a massive crush on and vice versa. Because of our platonic closeness, it was agreed he would stay with me during his trip. When I went to pick him up at the airport, he was tall, lanky, and had hair down to his ass—literally. He looked like a modern day Jesus, except with an affinity for basketball and dead Russian writers. We were physically meeting for the first time, yet we hugged like we had just seen each other yesterday.

A day or two later, we met up with his crush and her boyfriend (they had an open relationship) and everything about my ex-husband’s body language spoke what I feared would happen: He didn’t care for her as a romantic partner. He thought she was a wet blanket. I can only assume she thought he was too young (she had the penchant for older men) and not terribly interesting. While the get together was fun and entertaining, it was pretty clear both parties were only placating the other. We left the party and headed back to my house.

Our relationship took a romantic turn several days later, after an evening of snuggling on the couch. We began to make out, which lead to a romp in my bedroom, which turned into him delaying his ticket, and finally the joint decision to move in with me immediately. No dating, just straight to living together.

It was the Bay area in the late ’90s. Tech was booming, prices of everything were getting steeper, and anything seemed possible. It did not feel weird or strange to just shack up without the vetting dating gave you. We knew people who had done similar things, meeting and dating online was starting to become normalized and common. Naysayers were becoming less nayers and more sayers.

As time went on, the cracks in our relationship began to show. While we could communicate in a variety of wavelengths neither of us have been able to with others, I felt like I couldn’t talk to him about casual, everyday topics. We had disparate tastes in music, movies, and books. What hadn’t bothered me in the beginning began to bother me now. We should have been learning from each other, but instead I found we were being torn apart by our differences. More so, it was difficult to go out as he was underage and could not go club or bar hopping. Which slowly didn’t matter as he wasn’t interested in the same twenty-something shenanigans as me. I wanted to eat the world while he wanted stability and normalcy.

So, eighteen months later, I left.

Saying goodbye, knowing I was breaking his heart, was much harder than I anticipated. I was leaving, driving solo across the US, for a job in Washington, DC. I was making something of my career and I knew even if I wanted it to, long distance relationships were not going to work with me or with us. I wanted to be free and so I was.

Fast-forward nine years later, 2008, and I receive a message from him via a social network I rarely used anymore. From there went to long email diatribes about each other’s life, and from there went to Gmail chat. He was still living in the Bay Area with a roommate and the roommate’s fiancé. I was living in Michigan, my home state, working on my second Master’s degree and working full time at a local bookstore. Recently out of a bad relationship, the last thing I wanted was to jump into a new one. So we became friends. Again.

For nearly a year we wrote or chatted every day. We formed a book club for the two of us, we talked about future plans and dreams. I helped him search for condos in Chicago. We did everything two friends would do, except we had been in love once before. It was only a matter of time before we met up for a romantic interlude. We were now older, stabilized, normalcy had entered our lives. We could do this with no strings attached. (Ahahahahaha.) That one night began a wild, wonderful trip that lasted almost seven years.

We got married in May 2010. We did everything together and it seemed like we had never been apart. I knew being in love with him in the beginning was a childish infatuation I had used and thrown away. The second time was deeper, with a slower pace. We didn’t have anything to prove to the other; we didn’t have anyone else to take care of but the other. We are both fiercely independent but supportive of the other. He was still my very best friend, except now we were married.

The beginning of our marriage was wonderful, just like the first relationship go round, except we were in our thirties. What used to drive me crazy during our first go-round was no longer the case. We had grown up. We were learning from the other as I once had hoped, our dreams and future were the same paths. It was everything one could have wanted from the love of their life.

The breakdown of our marriage is hard to quantify. What drove us apart the first time around were childish impulsiveness (mine) and his youth. What drove us apart this time were our and our own mental demons and our inability to really communicate, as couples should. When we would fight, the push to make the other understand was fraught with lots of mistakes and misunderstandings. What I loved about us was beginning to make me hate us. He refused to seek couples counseling and I refused to compromise.

It ended on sultry night in August. Now, with our own demons no longer at bay, we were both breaking down. We both sought separate help and spoke several times during our separation about getting back together. But twice burned—automatically shy—I would back out each time. Neither of us contested the divorce, my attorney was upset I did not request a discovery to get some of my ex-husband’s assets. I didn’t want to; I didn’t need to. I came into the relationship with very little and I wanted to leave with very little. I loved him still but with us not working out romantically, I didn’t want to destroy our platonic relationship because of money or material goods. We remained close during our separation, and eventually our divorce. Every month I was flying to spend time with him at his new place. We talk online everyday and still get each other after all of these years.

People think our separation and eventual divorce is weird. A girlfriend described the relationship with her husband as, “He’s my people.” They belong together. My ex-husband is my people. He gets and knows me on levels no one has ever begun to know me. Past the quirks and obvious superficialities, he gets me. He knows how to take care of me when I’m down and how to bring me to heel when I’m being impulsive. I know how to make him laugh and listen to his rumblings about his work.

He is my people.

And when I get married or get into a serious relationship again, along with me comes my ex-husband. No questions asked. He’s part of the deal of dating me. For he’s my very best friend, and I won’t let him go.

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