Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The Hardness of Happy Families

There they are, walking along the beach together. Mom and Dad strolling happily and watching the little ones frolic in the waves. Dad breaks away to go and chase one of the kids into the water, the others stop what they're doing to laugh at the action. Mom claps her hands and laughs delightedly at the game. Dad and son run up the beach and grab mom's hands and drag her into the water. The others join in the fun and make sure Mom gets a hearty dumping in the waves. Dad and Mom embrace happily and carry on with the walk as the kids bounce playfully around them.

Bring the magnifying glass closer though, and you see they are not actually Mom and Dad. This is actually Dad and his new girlfriend, on their first holiday away with the kids. Mom is not there. She has been replaced by girlfriend in that happy picture and is probably somewhere, alone, sobbing into her pillow with the grief and loss of that happy family picture that she so cherished and now no longer has. She wants this happy time for her children, and yet is devastated that it's all working so easily. She wants them to be able to feel safe and happy with girlfriend and Dad, because they're her children. But she can't escape the dagger in her heart that it was so easy for everyone to cut her out of the picture and paste new woman in. It looks like the story just carries on without her. Regardless.

Of course it isn't as it looks. The children are still reeling from the split in their family. Secretly they hope that one day Mommy and Daddy will find each other again. But for now, because they're good kids, and because Mom is a good Mom, they're so happy to be on holiday with Dad. And Mom hasn't let them know that this is breaking her heart, so they have no 'loyalty' issues about enjoying Dad's happiness, and new girlfriend's attention. And new girlfriend is doing her best to fit in with kids because she loves their father with all her heart and wants him to feel like she's the perfect Stepmom for his kids.

So for now we all believe the picture.

This is the reality that my friend Nikki is facing for Christmas this year. I know she needs to make it work for her children, so she'll manage their going with grace and maturity. But watching them go and play happy families with her Ex is just heartbreaking. I wish I could make it easier for her.

I'm not having to face that painful moment yet. I'm in an Open Marriage with my husband, and he is in a serious relationship with an old friend of mine, and has, on a couple of occasions, asked me if I would be OK with him taking her with him and our boys on weekend jaunts. Well, strictly speaking he only asked the second time. The first time he just set it up and I only found out by chance that it was planned. That was only a week or two after I came out of hospital and the minute I heard about it my heart just broke. I was nowhere NEAR ready to cope emotionally with my husband and girlfriend taking the boys away like happy families. I so seldom put my own emotional needs ahead of others, but I knew in that moment that I needed to stand my ground. I just said "no." He was completely surprised, thinking all would be hunky dory. I told him I just wasn't ready. So he cancelled.

But 2 weeks later he was asking me again if he could arrange a trip with girlfriend and boys. I said "no" again. He wanted to know if this was a permanent "no" or just until I was a bit healthier. I said of course it's not permanent. It's just a 'Not Yet'. I don't really even have a good reason for not being able to do this yet. I just feel like I've been dealing too much emotionally, and having girlfriend with my kids is a bridge too far for now. I want to say it's because their relationship is too fledgling still and that I don't want to upset and confuse the kids with it - I didn't tell them at all about my relationship with John-the-Narc - but that's not the truth. I'm saying no for now because I can't handle it yet. Luckily for me, being in this open marriage means we're having to negotiate the rules as we go along. I don't have to be forced into accepting girlfriend's presence until I'm ready. My precious friend, Nikki, is not so lucky - she has to simply suck it up because it's here, in her face, whether she's ready or not!

Our Christmas beach holiday will be with the REAL parents. Probably not walking together on the beach at all - either I'll be there, or he will, but family fun together like that may not actually happen at all. I'm sad about that. But it is what it is. Maybe by next Christmas I'll be ready to have girlfriend along with us. Maybe by then I'll even have my own special person to bring along. Would that kind of weird holiday family situation even be possible for our tribe?

I wonder.

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