A good friend of mine called me tonight to lament the fact that his ex-wife was hardly recognizable to him anymore. It seemed to him that all the ways he had wanted her to change–to relax, to be less up-tight, to be more adventurous–these were all traits she was now exhibiting with her New Love. She was changing, and he was taking it personally. She had used the pain of their divorce to evolve and grow for the better. But he couldn’t be proud of her because he was too pissed off that she hadn’t evolved on his timeline, rather than hers.
The majority of us take the lessons from lovers we lost and apply them in future relationships. It’s how we spiritually mature. The pisser is that humans are hard-headed and most of don’t make changes the first time we’re asked to, so we are all leaving behind us a wake of disgruntled ex’s. It’s the Dating Circle of Life.
I have witnessed both of my ex-husbands “grow up” into men I barely recognize from the men I married. Fortunately, my first husband had the grace to call me one day and acknowledge that the success he was having in his new relationship was in large part due to the grueling hours of therapy that we went through to try to save our marriage. With his new wife he was implementing the lessons that he had failed at it with me. (As I have done in my subsequent relationships.) Am I to resent him for that? Or am I to celebrate it?
Why wouldn’t I be tremendously happy that a man I loved so dearly has grown and is finding peace as a result of his relationship skills? Is it not true that I have also become a better person as a result of the errors of past? For some incredibly dedicated and loving couples it is possible to make large improvements in interpersonal skills within the same relationship, but it takes a vast amount devotion and maturity. Each partner has to allow the other person space to change, without bringing up their past mistakes. Sadly, many of us are still to childish to do this. We keep a record of past hurts like a rolodex in the forefront of our memory. It’s similar to the way our mothers will forever see us as children, even when we’re grown adults with children of our own.
Many of us judge ourselves as undervalued when we see our ex’s changing for new Loves. Why didn’t they change for us? Why didn’t they value our marriage more? What is so fantastic about this new person that she/he deserves the New and Improved version?
Sometimes, the Next Love is legitimately more compatible, and other times it’s just the simple fact that it’s easier to be a better version of yourself with someone who doesn’t carry a Rolodex of your mistakes in their pocket.
Next time you learn that your ex is evolving with someone who isn’t you, send them your blessing. Acknowledge your contribution to their growth, and admit that you’re probably doing the same thing—evolving with someone new.