Reconciling and starting over
February 21, 2005 5:35 PM   Subscribe

Have you reconciled with your ex-spouse? If you did or if you tried and it didn't work, what was it like?

My ex-wife and I divorced six years ago. We have stayed close, mainly because our kids are so important, and we wouldn't change being actively-involved father and mother. Two years ago we spent more time together (dates, my helping around the house), but it never got to anything really serious. I wanted it to.
What was it that brought you back togther, or kept you from being able to do so?
posted by nj_subgenius to Human Relations (18 answers total)
My wife and I split up for about a year. We both saw other people (her somewhat seriously), and then I realized that I wanted her back, it took her a bit longer to come around (seeing as it was me who ended it in the first place).

Eventually, after months of talking, talking, talking, we saw a marriage counseling, and got back together. It took another year after that before we both worked out our trust issues, and a lot of "this isn't going to work" from both of us, until it just started to click. I mean really click - click like it hadn't ever before. This was aver a year ago now, and things have been great (for the most part).

I think the key is that both of us have been equally invested in making it work. In the times that it is one of us wanted it more or less than the other, that is when things get volatile.

We have a son, and that is another factor in wanting it to work for both of us.
posted by Quartermass at 5:57 PM on February 21, 2005

About fifteen years ago my spouse and I split after fifteen years of being married. We got together again two years later, and are still together now.

The parting was chosen by my wife rather than me, bitter and painful, a breakdown in trust and communication, though we didn't actually divorce.

Two years apart was long enough to feel completely separate, and to have got over each other, so when we came back together it wasn't really a renewal of what went before, but a more careful assessment of each other. We knew what hurt and what we did and did not like, and what we would and would not put up with.

Kids were part of the reason for getting back together. Our last child was born just before we parted, our four others were spread in age from six to sixteen. But also, we found that there were/are aspects of each other that we enjoyed and wanted in our lives.

One thing that made it easier was that while we were separate we saw each other quite a lot. I moved out to live about four blocks away, so was within walking distance for kids to visit me. My wife kept the apartment, I had a room in a meditation center (where kids could stay too when they wanted). And some weekends we traded places.

Over the years apart I'd had a couple of loose (not sure that's the right word here) relationships, but my wife had not. After two years I was ready for a more committed relationship, and in a way it was coincidence that the person I got together with was the same as I'd split with.
posted by anadem at 6:04 PM on February 21, 2005

My dad and his wife separated after five years of marriage and got back together a year later. However, they had parted ways because he'd had a fling and so when they got back together, it only lasted about six months because the element of trust wasn't there. She didn't trust him and he didn't trust himself. They tried marriage counselling and he went to therapy but it didn't help them. They're now going through the divorce process, but expect to remain friends, if nothing else.
posted by tracicle at 6:43 PM on February 21, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks all.
posted by nj_subgenius at 6:43 PM on February 21, 2005

Oh, that kind of reconciled.


But we split on good terms, and though we don't see each other often, we keep in touch.
posted by mwhybark at 7:23 PM on February 21, 2005

What kept our two attempts at reconciliation from working? Not only could we not come to terms with what split us up, I discovered both times that there was totally unopened baggage.

For instance, that she was depositing our infant son on her friends for days at a time (meth binges) while I was on business trips, a weekend party (when I visited my parents) at which a 15 year old girl passed out drunk in the front yard and was molested (said girl being the daughter of the union steward where I worked), and that the police once found our son (then 3) walking in the street a quarter mile from the house.

Strike 2: my ex's participation in a gang-bang involving a 14 year old girl, that she allowed a babysitter to dose our son's formula with cocaine to get him to sleep (cocaine? to sleep?), and her suicide attempt.

The last nail in the coffin however was her finally realizing that she really is a lesbian.

In spite of all this and with the biggest snake of a lawyer I could afford, she still got custody in the divorce merely because at the time, she wasn't working and I was.

Whew! That was cathartic!

posted by mischief at 8:24 PM on February 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yikes mischief.
posted by nj_subgenius at 8:36 PM on February 21, 2005

oh my god mischief.
posted by xmutex at 9:15 PM on February 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

nj, xm: I'm just too damn stubborn to let go. Or, maybe too damn stupid. heheh
posted by mischief at 9:29 PM on February 21, 2005

Only once did I resume a serious relationship after breaking up for a while and seeing other people. It didn't work out well. We spent most of our time either lollygagging in relief from all the badness our breakup generated, or prepping for a "rematch," a second breakup, where we would each change the things we didn't like about the first one. Bad juju.

But this wasn't a long-term marriage or anything. We were pretty young. Still, unless you had a pretty phenomenal breakup, no harm done & everybody happy, it's hard to picture divorce as the foundation for a marriage. And that's the way you would have to think about it, not in terms of "rekindling" or going back to the past. Making something new. Is that possible, given your history? Can you trust each other like that again?

I wanted it to.

This I can certainly relate to. After six years of separation, and what sounds like an opportunity to make reconciliation happen... perhaps it's time to let go. If it was going to happen, I think it either 1) would have happened by now, or 2) would have happened during that period when you were spending lots of time together. Obviously there's a lot more to it. I have no idea why you split in the first place.

But consider that such feelings are perfectly natural. You did, after all, once get along with this person well enough to marry her and make children. There's little doubt that, once all the dust settles on your major problems, some attraction will linger, and you have srong bonds of love and parenthood that will always tug at you. The feelings are natural. That doesn't mean they're smart, or that you have to obey them.
posted by scarabic at 10:24 PM on February 21, 2005

All that said: if you want it to happen, make a play, man.
posted by scarabic at 10:27 PM on February 21, 2005

My parents seperated after 27 years of marriage because they weren't communicating and they were interested in other people. My mom dated a few guys casually, my dad lived with another woman for a year then moved to Eastern Europe for another two years.

Through it all, they stayed in pretty frequent communication -- probably daily phone calls while my dad was in the states, daily e-mails while he was overseas.

After three years apart, they got back together. It wasn't easy, though it was abrupt. My dad moved back from Albania and my mom agreed that he could stay with her while they figured things out.

It's been four years since then, and they're still together, and they seem the happiest they've been together since the '80s.

My theory is that they had both changed quite a bit since they got married, and they hadn't learned to see each other as the new, evolved, adult people they had become.

They also had personal issues that they were using each other to avoid dealing with. While seperated, they were forced to adapt differently to the world.

I know they continued to love each other throughout, even when the fighting was so bad they couldn't stand to be around each other. During the worst of it, I don't think either of them thought there was hope for reconcilation, though.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 11:02 PM on February 21, 2005

I, too, thought you meant "reconciliation" to mean "friends again," to which I was going to say, "Sure, it's possible over time!"

To be honest, I'm only slightly on-topic because I just wanted to add to the chorus of "Holy shit, Mischief."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:22 AM on February 22, 2005

"Oh, that kind of reconciled."

Also my reaction. I'm sorta amazed that there are as many stories of that kind of reconciliation here as there are. I would have thought it very improbable.

I was divorced eleven years ago after being married for about five years. In a relative sense, my ex-wife and I divorced on good terms. Much better than many horror stories I hear about. However, she left me and her decision was (relatively) abrupt—she told me on Thanksgiving day that she had fallen out of love with me sometime in the summer; and by the end of Janurary she had moved out. That would have been difficult enough for me, but I'm very, very much in the "lover as best friend" camp. I've never had a long-term lover eventual ex-, before or since, that I did not remain on friendly, even caring terms with. It never once occured to me that when she I and divorced that we wouldn't stay friends. However, for a variety of reasons that I've only guessed at and which she never disclosed, she pretty much utterly walked away and severed all ties. Not spitefully. Just, suddenly, there was nothing there. A story I tell is how one day when she came by the apartment to get something and our cat (the one who just died last month) rushed up to greet her...and my ex ignored her. She had cut emotional ties with our cat, who she had dearly loved. This really freaked me out, actually.

I went through a very bad phase but got better and moved on with my life. But, basically, we've almost never had anything more than the most formal of courteous conversations (and few of those) since the day she moved out. This is so not how I am—I'm still sort of haunted by it. I couldn't bring myself to hate her, but I had a lot of anger I didn't know what to do with.

She's got an Internet presence, so when Simone died last month I decided to email her. Simone was a difficult cat and she loved and was greatly comforted by me (most of the time) but was wary of all other animals and people. My ex was the only other creature that she really trusted and loved. So, I wanted to tell my ex about Simone's death. Much to my surprise, she wrote me a very kind email back. Which, oddly, makes me feel better about the world.

The last long-term relationship I was in foundered initially in 2000 after being together (living together) for a couple of years. We had serious problems in our romantic/sexual relationship, but we were frighteninly compatible as friends. We could spend days and days in each other's uninterrupted presence without being annoyed with each other. This is how we sort of got back together about nine months after we broke up. She moved back in, with the money I had we were going to travel. About a year and a half went by, and we were stuck. Too many unresolved issues to "officially" get back together, too many comforts and joys to be totally apart, and a sort of unwritten agreement to hold on to the shaky status-quo. That finally broke down, however, we went our seperate ways; but we remain friends and in contact to this day.

I recall being sure in both of these estrangements that we would get back together. It seems foolish to me today.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:27 AM on February 22, 2005

"as many stories of that kind of reconciliation here as there are"

The basis for reconciliation is Time heals all wounds. The problem is determining whether the damage is merely a flesh wound, something lethal, or somewhere in between.
posted by mischief at 7:38 AM on February 22, 2005

I too wanted to add to the chorus of "Holy shit, Mischief" myself, and perhaps add a little "unbelievable!" But then I realized you live in Vegas. I have friends in Vegas.
posted by crazy finger at 11:17 AM on February 22, 2005

That all occurred in Atlanta when we lived near Little 5 Points.
posted by mischief at 11:36 AM on February 22, 2005

Yeah, mischief. Sorry.

EB, please try not to take your ex's severing of all ties personally. Everyone is different, and it doesn't necessarily have to do with you. I haven't been too successful at staying friends with exes. If it's over, I wish the best for them, but generally I just want to move on.
posted by onlyconnect at 8:51 PM on February 22, 2005

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