I have the best thing you can ever get from marriage: a divorce. My ex lives a good two hours plane journey away which means that the child sharing is done by going on holidays together or the kids going to stay with him during the summer, leaving me with a few weeks of having the opportunity to live the way I think I’d like to live but actually wouldn’t. He comes here sometimes and stays in my house where we organise various family days out and in. We reminisce about old times. I bring up things like ‘wasn’t it a trip of a lifetime when we travelled overland to
?’ But I never say things like ‘wasn’t it a hoot when you had the affair with the lap dancer and got beaten up by that pimp guy?’ He says things like ‘I’ll always remember how you awakened my interest in the arts.’ But he won’t say ‘I wish you hadn’t sold the family car that time to buy a polytunnel.’ China
We pussyfoot around all the issues and find a space where we can still be a family in our own right, a weird kind of family but c’mon, we were always going to be that anyway. True, it has not been easy to get to this place where we can all be friends, but lots of happy endings begin with a fight. Giving birth, for example, was way worse, and I’m still not sure if that was a happy ending.
This year we went on a skiing holiday together and I realised why it’s so easy to get on brilliantly with your ex-husband. First of all, he was in charge of the budget, so there weren’t any arguments about ‘no, that’s too expensive’ or ‘let’s go to the supermarket and buy cheap stuff and make dinner’. And because he probably feels guilty about not having paid maintenance until I chased him across
Europe with some commission or other for the recovery of unpaid child maintenance (we wouldn’t really have chats about that over dinner either), he likes to be generous and demonstrate what a nice person he is.
Then there are all the annoying things that I remember from being married. Things like hearing the same story over and over. Because I no longer live with this man, I only have to hear the same stories for the duration of the holiday, which makes it bearable.
If I think he looks like a total nerd wearing his jeans too high up his waist, if he still makes that loud chewy noise when he eats, if he arranges to do something for a day trip but then changes it to another and then back to the original arrangement all within an hour. Whatever he does, it’s not going to faze me; he’s my ex. I’ve already escaped. Of course it does make other people uncomfortable. They probably think that one or the other of us would secretly like a reunion, but mostly I’d say they’re just jealous. There were some days on that ski holiday when I looked around at the other families and thought ‘jeez, it looks like we’re the only grown ups here who are actually on speaking terms.’
But there is that one drawback when you’re on holiday with your ex-husband. You’re not going to get much sex. People assume that we are a couple, not that it ever stopped various advances in the married years. But a family hotel full of Dutch ski enthusiasts who wear slippers in the hotel foyer, is not really the place for adventure.
Recently, things have been going so well with my ex and so bad with romance that I’ve had a great idea: we could meet up now and then for sex. We did do it for years when we were married, so we could just go for it, we wouldn’t need to drag things out with foreplay or promise on things that we can’t deliver, like happy ever after and all that.
Thing is though, it would never work, because I already know I’d end up geting turned off by the chewy noise when he eats, and the repeated stories, and the changing arrangements back and forth, and the reason for the divorce in the first place, the horrible nerdy trousers…