It has to happen at some point, maybe a birthday party or school event for your child. For us, it was during a dance recital. My son has taken hip hop classes for a few years, and, of course, each spring, there is a recital. I had gotten used to sitting alone in the audience or volunteering at the concession stand. This year though, Mr. Nice Guy volunteered to come with me. He had been spending time with my son and was excited about the possibility of seeing his legendary dance moves on stage.
I was excited to have someone to sit next to but also worried that my ex would show up (sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t). I thought it only fair to warn both parties. Of course, Mr. Nice Guy was fine with it – as he should be – things were great, and we both knew if this continued, he’d meet The Ex eventually. The Ex was a different story. As with most things, it turned into a power struggle. He assured me he’d show up to this recital with his mom because they wanted to meet Mr. Nice Guy. He then demanded I make time for us all to talk, to get to know him, and approve (or disapprove) of him spending time with our son.
This led to a whole host of emotions. I wanted to know why The Ex didn’t just trust me to make a good decision. I make almost all of the daily decisions for our son by myself, so why would it all of a sudden be his job to decide who my boyfriend was. Obviously, if I introduced a man to our son, he was a good man. The Ex argued back, “Well, the last guy didn’t turn out great.” He was right. I was divorced and didn’t always choose the best partners (read: him). Then again, Mr. Nice Guy was different. I felt so strongly about him, and I didn’t want The Ex to scare him off.
As always, I turned to my girlfriends, and they assured me that this had to happen at some point and better to get it out of the way and know where things sit than to let the eventual meeting linger over us. “Rip it off like a Band-Aid,” was the advice I decided to take. My son, my ex, and I were – for better or worse – a packaged deal.
So, I sat in the audience with my boyfriend, waiting for my ex-boyfriend to show up.
The Ex was late, as always, so we didn’t sit together (what a relief). At intermission, after over an hour of precious, small people dancing, we walked toward the back to have the meeting. I held my breath, they shook hands vigorously, then started talking about sports. Mr. Nice Guy likes sports, but The Ex brought the subject up as a litmus test of sorts. He asked about favorite teams and who he thought would have a good season this year, trying to sort out what “type” of guy my boyfriend was. Loyal? Has he stuck by a team for life? Knowledgeable? Was he a man’s man who could bring some much-needed testosterone into our home? Agreeable? Would he get baited into a passionate argument about teams?
Mr. Nice Guy passed all the tests. Mine and The Ex’s. He was cool under pressure, loyal, knowledgeable, and agreeable. So much so that The Ex then asked him for advice about his wireless service provider. Most importantly, however, he stood by my side, holding my hand through it all. Maybe for the first time, I felt that I had a partner in this crazy life, which felt amazing. Almost like ripping off a Band-Aid and seeing fresh, healed skin underneath.