Who She Used to Be

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our perspective, our view of a situation, is so much different than someone else’s, even when they are very close to us. I’ve read before on so many stepmom blogs, either jokingly or simply incredulously, the question, “What on earth did he ever see in her?” about the ex.

Walking in after the hostility has erupted, after the rotten behavior has blistered and exploded, it becomes damn near impossible to view this individual as anything but selfish, hateful, and completely lacking in any redeeming qualities. Witnessing the flurry of excessive legal nonsense, hearing the same repugnant false allegations over and over again, watching the kids bleeding as poison is rammed into their skulls, we are disgusted and aghast that any human being chooses such behavior, let alone a parent.

One day I realized that as painful and unbelievable as this is for stepmoms to watch, it must be a hundred times worse for someone who once loved this woman.

Once upon a time, before the lawyers and insults and accusations and daggers, it is likely these two people loved each other and genuinely believed they were partners, lovers. Or, at least, one person of the two believed this. How does it feel now to see that same face cast in anger and hate, that same voice biting off insults, the same handwriting that once scrawled “I love you” now signing legal documents full of accusations and venom and spite?

The closest comparison I have is my dear friend Jim, with whom I no longer speak and haven’t seen in years. At one time he was fun, giving, lively, a good friend. People change. It is painful to watch a person shift to someone you don’t recognize. It was heartbreaking to hear the same voice I used to smile at the sound of, become a sound that caused me to tense up and feel sick to the gut. It was unbearable to look into those same eyes and see ice instead of the warmth that once was there. His face was a mask, something familiar and loved stretched over something I couldn’t stand to be near. The sharp contrast and the ugly changes became something I could not tolerate, and I finally realized that sometimes, people change for the worst and there is simply nothing left for me. I walked away.

But what if you can’t? What if the person you once loved is someone you must have frequent contact with, and you face ongoing reminders that this once-loved person is not coming back, was maybe always someone other than who you knew? What if that person is someone you shared your heart, life, dreams, and children with, believing them to be someone who would always be at your side?

I wonder sometimes how it would feel to try to talk with Jim now. I feel hollow and sad about how he changed, how his choices and behaviors shifted him into someone I couldn’t recognize. It’s deeper than pain, more visceral than hurt; it’s a betrayal and an experience that left me feeling haunted by what once was, what was supposed to be, a surefire path that suddenly and inexplicably collapsed into nothing.

People who only know him now say he is a jerk, an asshole, a loser. I become defensive, though I know these words describe his behavior well now; but for a fleeting moment, the Jim I used to know stands in my heart, and I remember what he used to be. I am uncomfortable with hearing people call him “druggie” or put him down or call him names. I know he is no longer my friend, but once someone is imbedded in your heart, tearing them out piece by piece seems to never end.

So I wonder if this is how it feels for those with hostile, combative exes who wager endless war and bear only a dim resemblance now to the person they fell in love with. I wonder if too much has been said and done for any gentle feelings to remain, or if it still hurts to be attacked, still leaves them wondering what happened, still makes them search for the person they thought they knew.

And, even worse, I wonder how all of this will take shape in the kids’ minds, their perceptions and feelings as they get older and tighten their grasp on what has happened, what keeps happening. It’s not fair the kids are forced to shoulder a running tab for this ordeal.

Twisting and turning this mess from any angle, examining it from any perspective, it remains a bleeding, sickening mess, and maybe the ultimate question is not how it feels for those being chewed up, but rather, why the hell is it even worth it to anyone?
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About TheSmirkingCat

I am endlessly trying to make sense of a world that has completely and unapologetically lost its mind.
This entry was posted in change, compassion, exes, love, people. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Who She Used to Be

  1. I have thought about this time and time again. Michael and I discussed what changed his exwife when he was once married to her. He remembers a time when she was loving and fun to be married to. And then when their daughter was born Michael was suddenly “incapable” of taking care of Taylor if she cried, if she whined, etc. Only his ex had the Midas Touch of a parent…And then her father died. When this happened Michael saw changes in his wife that scared him to death and he was torn as to whether or not he should stay for the children and be miserable or break away from the marriage and focus on how to give his children a future outside of their mother’s madness. Obviously he made a break for it. But before he did so he watched the woman he once loved turn into a dishonest, corrupt, confused person. Deep down I want to believe she is still good…but once a person allows themselves to become liars, and become deceitful individuals…it’s hard to find a way back to the goodness and light that once had a place in their soul. Sadly he and I believe she is more corrupt than good…we are yet to see goodness and honesty from her in 4 1/2 years of trial after trial. It eats Michael up inside that she is this way…especially knowing that she is the one who cares for and looks after our children….

  2. Smirking Cat says:

    I believe fear for the kids is no doubt the most stressful part of stepparenting. There are certain actions and behaviors that leave no room for benefit of the doubt, and I can’t believe there is good left in someone who deliberately hurts kids.

  3. Syn says:

    I’ve thought it a thousand times. Seeing how hostile, ego-centered, and cold she is, my only “consolation” was that he didn’t choose her for any type of long-term relationsihp or marriage in the beginning. She was a short-term “relationship” of a couple weeks (originally a pick up in a bar after a night of drinking) before the relationship ended. She came back shortly thereafter to tell him she was pregnant. Trying to make it work with her after that resulted in a couple years of misery and one more child. (Condoms anyone?)Sometimes I wonder though…if he picked “her”, even for the short time he did, what does that say about me? Do I look as bad as she does or did he trade up, lol? Am I as lacking in compassion or personality (brain matter, sympathy, love) as she is?

  4. early in our relationship (before marriage) i used to moan and complain (almost obsessivly) about his ex. after a while… he would say small things such as “she wasn’t always THIS bad, she didn’t always lie like this, she didn’t ALWAYS put herself in bad positions”…. and after a while i too realized how hard it must be for my hubby. i wasnt ever married to her, i didnt have kids with her….. he DID, and how horrible it must be to see her like this as she is now. i get it totally now (my moaning had almost completly stopped.. ALMOST, sometimes though you know) and your post totally solidified what my mind tells me. wonderful post and point.

  5. Smirking Cat says:

    I actually enjoy hearing stories about their happier times…I don’t know how to explain it, except that it is nice to see Gary talk about his family and how things once were. I feel privileged to be included in private memories.

  6. Just Me :) says:

    For me I can’t imagine saying I enjoy hearing stories of the past. For one the past was not all that pleasant and was only drug out as long as it was because of the second child. (it was another ‘haven’t they heard of condoms’ situation) My SS is old enough to remember the good and the bad from before. We had to deal with “why can’t we ALL live together” type of stuff only typical in a young child. And even when reminiscing of the ‘good ol times’ it seems the bad greatly outnumber and come up as well. I would much prefer to focus on the future and how we can foster our current relationships under the new terms. Now by no means would disregard the past but not focus on either.

  7. phairhead says:

    it’s difficult to watch people slip away from you.

  8. Crys says:

    I think I’m one of the few that tries to give the ex any benefit of the doubt and even that is really dwindling. All I hear are horrible stories about her from before…not only from my fiance but from her own sister. I think I’ve mentioned in one of my posts how I can’t even stand to hear anymore horrid things about her. The kids don’t even really talk about any good times. It makes me sad whenever I find out that something that we’re doing now is something completely new to all of them. I’ve just learned to not think about it I guess, as hard as it is.

  9. cassee01 says:

    Great post! Gary is lucky to have someone as thoughtful as you.

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