Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dating My Ex-Spouse

Last Thursday Ma'ikwe and I had a date. It was the first time we purposefully spent time together that was not work-related since she ended our marriage July 14.

It started the way most Thursdays evenings do: by ordering a pizza at the Milkweed Mercantile. After picking up our hot pie, we stopped by Moon Lodge (Ma'ikwe's home), collected a jar of Kalamata olives and a bottle of wine (interestingly, it was a pinot noir produced by Irony Wine Cellars in Monteca CA—how perfect was that for a date with your ex-wife?) and walked down to a shaded bridge on the path between DR and Red Earth, the neighboring community to the west.

There we shared stories. Some were things from our childhood that we didn't think the other knew. Some were poignant revelations about the tenderness and uncertainty of what we were doing together. Some were about the impossibility of our situation because we couldn't fully know what we'd create unless we committed to the attempt—and Ma'ikwe is in anguish at the possibility of making the same mistake twice.

Afterwards, it occurred to me how appropriate it was that we our date mostly occurred on a bridge, as that's the metaphor that I'm holding around where Ma'ikwe and I are in our evolving dance of intimacy. After Ma'ikwe sundered the bridge between us that we'd consecrated in our wedding ceremony back in 2007, I was more or less got dropped on my head and my heart cracked open.

Seeing the world differently I was able to behave differently (at least some of the time), and suddenly the prospects of what Ma'ikwe and I could create looked differently. Rather than accepting the inevitability of our separation, I made her an Offer: I would change how I saw our partnership and how I organized major parts of my life, if she would make also make commitments to being with me differently. Essentially I walked halfway out on a new bridge and asked her to meet me there. She's thinking about it.

Our decision to date was a response to my Offer. Understandably, Ma'ikwe isn't sure she can trust that I can do things so differently, and she's not sure that she can meet me in committing to be different. So there's a lot to think about.

On top of which she's angry that I'm making this Offer now, when she went through considerable agony to reach the decision to give up on the marriage because my progress on what wasn't working was too slow. She's angry both because she went through hell to try to get from me what I've now packaged together after she gave up, and because she had finally reached a decision to move on and now she's back in the what-to-do-about-Laird soup. Ugh!

Ironically (would you care for a glass of wine?), it took my losing her to crystallize:

o  What the partnership means to me.
o  What I'm willing to give up to make it work better.
o  My willingness to make my relationship with Ma'ikwe central in my life.
o  The work I need to do to get a grip on self-esteem issues (that my worth is not the same as my productivity) and the ways in which I undercut critical feedback (mainly through the crafty device of beating myself up).
o   The need for both of us to quit finding excuses to not say hard things to each other.

• • •
Today is the final day of the Ecovillage Education training at DR. We'll do an extensive heart-centered circle process involving every student, plus Ma'ikwe and me. In turn each person will offer a self-reflection about what the last 37 days have meant to them, and then receive reflections from everyone else in the room. 

In the afternoon there will be a graduation ceremony that includes brief video clips of student interviews when they first arrived, paired with another interview from the last few days. Then the fledglings leave the nest.

Starting tomorrow, Ma'ikwe and I will no longer have the excuse of teaching the course to spend regular time together. The many other things in our lives—that have been mostly held off the past five weeks—will flood back in to claim our attention. It will be up to us to choose to spend time together, or to let the new bridge languish, unused.

Today, I'm standing on that bridge, observing the chasm beneath me, the gulf that separates our hearts, wondering what my ex-spouse will choose. I am still breathing.

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