My exs are among my best friends. Most of them. But those that are, we are the legitimate, “I’ve got your back, call when you can’t tell other people this shit, no judgement here, I love your next partner because you love them, you know you can be honest with your heart in this space, gives the best hugs ever” kind of love.
I am talking about my exs. My lovers, some of which at one point we thought we were going to spend our lives together (because aren’t we always trying to fit into that old trend!) and one of which I birthed his daughter. These are people that, when the relationship ended, it was sometimes messy, and it always took time to come around. And then there was eventual healing. Because love is love. Because when a soul mate is recognized, the value of that person doesn’t change because your relationship does. Because it takes way more effort and a whole heap of unhealthy to hold that person at arm’s length in disdain than it does to just open up your heart.
My son’s father and I were middle school lunch table buddies. We were in relationship for fourteen years, and divorce wasn’t easy. And we are currently co-parenting this boy with more intention than we ever have. Now when we’re on the phone, I’m surprised to hear him open up and tell me about his parents or his job, but I like that he now will. I don’t know that we’ll ever make it to best friend status again, but there is love. We are rebuilding trust.
I don’t want to harbor resentment, because I don’t want to be a woman with resentment of men. I’ve been that. I don’t want to name the ways I’ve been disappointed by men and retell those stories and wallow. I don’t want to see any man fail because I couldn’t get from that person what I thought at one time I had wanted to get.
Within the last few months, as I was in a rough spot, these exs were among the friends that had my back, the ones that I could tell the whole truth to, the ones who help me become a better woman as I learn and make mistakes and grow. They are the ones I check my judgements with and the ones I ask to hold me accountable.
Two of them have recently asked me to hold council for them and their current partners. I have held every one of them in their own struggles since our relationships ended as significant others. I had a hard time finding the last words of that last sentence: since our love relationship ended…. No…. we still have a love relationship. Since our intimate relationship ended…. No… because we still have an intimate friendship. This is not to mean that I have been intimate with them, that we have remained or become lovers again. It actually means the intimacy of the heart. The deepest intimacy of friends. I am not polyamorous, have no interest in that, and neither are these men. No lines are crossed. It’s boundaried and beautiful, because we are clear with our words and intentions.
I go to them for help, love, and friendship, and they come to me. That’s my point here. The trust is sometimes beyond that of other friendships, perhaps because we have this past and we decided to honor one another anyway. In that choice, we have gained some of the best friends of our lives.
I have two exs that left without saying a proper goodbye to me or to my son. And actually, these were the last two partners I had. These were deep loves, these were men who would never have wanted to behave in the way that they ended up behaving, and while I hurt like hell afterward, I am not angry.
My son has been having a difficult time, because the second time this happened was just five months ago. When I told him that this man was not coming back, he said, “Mom, I am seriously never trusting another man that comes into this house again.” I’m sorry, son. It reminded him of the last man he loved, and to attempt to simultaneously explain to a nine year old boy why men we both loved and honored would treat him or I this way, while he sorts out the confusion of what his mother also must of had to do with it, is nearly impossible. Because I can explain it, but it’s incomprehensible. It’s poor behavior. This week, as I was finishing a personal shamanic shadow-work practice of about 5 weeks, and my ex from a year ago showed up at my ex husband’s workplace. They had met only once.
He asked my ex husband if he wanted to be friends. He joked and said that that would really piss me off. He asked my ex husband to apologize on his behalf to our son for never seeing him again.
This man had long hair and a very warrior-eque persona. I realized just last week that my son has been growing his hair long ever since this man left our lives. It affected a place deep within him that I didn’t know had been affected. And I had recently begun to realize it as we worked with his therapists and as his father and I try to figure out his increased lying and sadness.
When I got this information about his visit to Rowan’s father’s workplace, I sent him a text. I had just finished a shadow work practice that left me feeling much more clear headed about what I will and will not continue to allow to fester in my life; in our lives. I said, “No one here will be apologizing on your behalf. You are responsible for your own actions. You did not say goodbye to this boy who loved you, and it hurt him.”
He was upset and uncomfortable. He was quick to remind me why he left, that I had become dangerous in his eyes, that my writings, my truth telling, “hurt people.” He told me I was a snake, like the tattoo on my left arm, and that I “suck as a human.”
When he calls me hurtful, he’s talking about my choice to tell the truth. He’s referring to choices just like this, where I write openly about my life, and where I choose with my words how to advocate that we all do better. That we be better. I use my story to illustrate my point, and believe me, I’ve protected the truths of a handful of men plenty of times and I have still been deeply, emotionally, and financially threatened by scared men as they didn’t want my words out in the world about them, because they themselves are uncomfortable with their own behavior.
If you have to silence a woman, it is your own shame that is behind that. I’ll make it personal, actually. If you have to threaten to silence me, it is your own shame that is behind that, because I am clear that my intentions are not to harm. I texted him to tell him that the reason I scared him is because I represented the parts of himself he’d rather not look at. This is the shadow that we either embrace or run from.
There are quotes out there that say, “If you don’t want anyone to know about it, then you should have behaved better.” I do not write in order to hurt people. I write to claim my story, to advocate, to uphold. If I am inherently a threat, it is because someone is unwilling to own their own behavior and they carry shame. And, honestly, I am also sensitive to that. I have not really written about this man until now. I have kept my mouth shut. I have protected men that have mistreated me. And I don’t care to take revenge, but I also don’t care to be threatened by a behind-the-scenes narrative that I am a snake, or that I should be sued to be silenced, as threatened by three men in the last two years, when the cause behind these threats and insults is their own shame.
I am a woman with a heart, with a body, with a home and a son, and if you want into this life, then by damn, I get to speak on it when it becomes my story.
I think, to the dear few that fear my words, that if you truly look at my work and comb it, asking yourself if I have actually chosen to demonize or threaten you, if I have actually told intimate and threatening truths, you will find that the answer is no. You will actually find, if you have the eyes to see, that I advocate for men, that I love men, that I want everyone, you included, to come forward in vulnerability of what you have done in your flawed humanity. I am not entirely innocent. Of course not.
But we must be willing to risk connection when connection seems impossible, to trust again when we want to flee, because there in that space is liberation. If you can hurt someone else and then that person forgive you - that’s liberation. If you can say you are sorry and press forehead to forehead and each say, “I forgive you,” that’s liberation.
The reason my relationships with all these other men and exs are the deepest friendships of my life is because we both took accountability, over time, for our flawed humanity. It is evidence that two people, with a lot of history and hurt and baggage, can do the work of navigating the spaces between, of healing, and of enjoying a life of love.
When I was talking to a male friend and colleague a few months ago, telling him about a recent journey I’d taken to stay on my daughter’s father’s land, to reacquaint in that space, and of the deeper healing that took place there, he said, “Wow, so you are really genuinely friends with your exs?” I said, “Absolutely, some of them!” He said, “You should put that on your website or your resume. That’s some of the hardest and most genuine healing we can do. That’s the real deal.”
Authentic. That’s the word. To acknowledge, to admit mistakes, to come back to the table and not run, to refrain from blame and slander, to say, “I’m sorry” - that’s authentic living. It’s vulnerable. It’s real. And it’s required.
I have lived my life in deep reflection and I make offerings of the heart through my practices in Embodied Breath. If you are a man who longs for deeper connection, to face your shame in love, to practice vulnerability and accountability in a safe space, and to practice self forgiveness and self love, I have a twelve week men’s online offering beginning June 12. You can see my website home page for more details.