December 25, 2016 — Erin is out of town. Jake and I decide that he’ll come to my house for the morning. While we are great friends, there is nothing quite like spending several hours with your ex-husband on your sofa to remind you of why things didn’t work out. He makes fun of my hair. He makes fun of my breakfast (though admittedly I burnt it to a crisp). The kids have a great time and make a huge mess. Jake takes our boys to the playground and my daughter spends the afternoon with her dad. I’m alone.
Mario is also alone. His kids are with their mom for the weekend. He’s trying to work. We commiserate. We didn’t get any presents for each other because the cost in airfare over the last few months has been enough. There’s nothing I want more than to see him. We map out dates for future visits.
Jake brings his landlord, an 80-something-year-old Greek man, along with my kids back for dinner. I guess I’m not the only one who is lonely at Christmas. His landlord makes fun of my hair. Delightful.
The holiday school break is here and Jake and I juggle our schedules so each of us can get in some work-time. Meanwhile, Mario tells me that something is brewing with his ex-wife. She’s not happy about his move to New York with their three youngest kids. But, apart from that, he tells me something seemed off at Christmas and he’s nervous. This is the longest period they have gone with a healthy co-parenting effort.
We hear that she told their oldest son that I “walked out of church services.” This sets off a fury of communication among his family about my “walk out” to use the bathroom. Drama. He says maybe it was all a misunderstanding. Yeah right. Just like my ex-boyfriend leaving a vagina in my oven was a joke. “Some people are just good at pushing buttons,” I tell Mario. “What are your buttons?” he asks, “so I can try and avoid them.”
I tell him that I hate picking up clothing from the living room floor. He’s confused. “Have you ever come home, taken off all your clothing and left it in a pile by the sofa?” I ask him. “No. I’ve always had a house full of kids,” he responds. We joke about having his teenagers barge in on him naked in the living room.
We talk seriously about financial infidelity. I tell him about the time I received a letter thanking me for “my Harley Davidson purchase,” when Jake decided to buy a new $30,000 hog and not tell me about it. We talk about transparency and trust and how to establish open communications about finances.
The next day, Mario’s ex-wife moves out of her fiance’s house. She stays with a close family friend. We are both surprised and confused — she’s six months pregnant with her fiance and just had a big family Christmas at his house. She has no job and I’m not sure who will hire her. Her fiance sends Mario an angry text calling him a “son of a demon” and blaming him for the situation. Ironically, Mario paid over $10,000 back in November to expedite his divorce so that they could get married — which may or may not happen now.
Then, she gets arrested. Mario’s daughter sees her mug-shot online in a crazy coincidence. The kids are upset. She says it’s a mistake. Mario is distraught. She tells him that the ex-fiance has contacted children’s services to investigate. Her access to the kids must be limited until the situation gets cleared up.
I worry that Mario’s ex-wife wants to reconcile with him. I wonder if we should break up — if it wouldn’t be easier for everyone if they try to make it work. We talk about it. He says he’s been through this pattern with her so many times — her leaving and coming back. He thought he had to sacrifice himself for love, that he alone could suffer and save the marriage. That he could rescue her from her behavior. It didn’t work. “I kept trying to save her and thinking it was best for the kids,” he says. “But in the end, they were the ones to be hurt the most. I wasn’t there when they needed me. And she hasn’t ever had to take responsibility for her actions before.”
We’ve both learned that love doesn’t work that way.