girlfriend, aarp, husband, relationships

Shannon Wright

Why I’ve Started Ducking My Ex-Husband

He may be the father of my children. But for the first time, I don't want to see him.

“Gotta stop texting,” I wrote to my BFF. “I’m ducking my ex!”

“OMG! NO!” my BFF replied.

“It’s not auto-fill. I really meant DUCKING! I don’t want to see him!”

“LOLOLOL”

I’ve been divorced for almost a year and I still see my ex-husband almost every day. We live practically across the street from each other. It made sense to us when we were first dissolving our marriage of 20 years. “Easier to coparent and share dog walking if we live close to each other,” we thought. After 20 years of seeing him every day, raising kids together and happily or unhappily sharing a life, the thought of completely severing ties seemed terrifying. But for some reason, when I  saw him on my way home from the drugstore yesterday, I ducked behind a truck, turned a corner and snuck into my apartment building without letting him see me.

I’m not 100 percent sure that he didn’t notice.

And this morning, much to my annoyance, my ex-husband asked if he could use my washing machine to do his laundry. In the interest of maintaining peace, I told him a good time to come, when I wouldn’t be home. But I was running late and when I heard him come in the kitchen door, I tiptoed out the front and gently closed the door behind me to avoid an interaction.

As I stood outside my apartment waiting for the elevator, I heard him approaching the front door to exit into my hallway. So I stealthily swept over to the stairs and down 12 flights while the elevator doors closed behind him.

I’m sure he thought it was weird that the button already had been pushed.

I really wasn’t sure at the time why I so desperately wanted to avoid him. I’ve spent the day trying to figure it out. After putting in all this effort to keep things as consistent as possible — living across the street from each other, sharing the washing machine — why did I suddenly feel the need to go to such ridiculous lengths to avoid my ex?

My husband and I started separating before we actually separated. He spent the last six months of our marriage on the couch. We commandeered separate televisions, only shared meals when sitting down with the kids, and stopped making social plans that included each other. Yet in many ways, after 20 years, neither one of us was truly ready to disconnect from our partnership. He was worried about not seeing his kids every day, and I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to manage motherhood on my own. We were just so young when we got married. Neither one of us had ever been a real adult without the other one, let alone a parent. We both imagined that our divorced lives would intertwine because we couldn’t imagine life alone.

For the first few weeks of our official separation, my ex would walk right into my apartment any time he wanted to see the kids. He came over every evening to say goodnight to them and walk the dog. He even had packages delivered to my building because I have a doorman and he doesn’t. Every time he showed up, it took me a few minutes to realize, “he doesn’t live here … I’m divorced now.”

But after the initial sting of separating had worn off, I started to resent these unannounced intrusions. So, I asked him to please let me know before coming over. I asked him to knock. Soon, he stopped asking if he could come “right over” and started asking what time would work for him to come see the kids. Eventually, he stopped coming upstairs and would just text me to send them down to the lobby to meet him.

I didn’t think I could manage on my own. The house, the kids, work, the dog …  but I am managing. I’m doing it with less and less of his involvement in my daily life. When I first accepted the fact that I was not going to be married until death do us part, I pictured my divorced life exactly like my married life but with the husband erased. I clung to the life I’d known for 20 years for just a little bit longer, until I was finally ready to let go and be single.

And now, all that clinging to what was has been replaced by an intense need to move on. I’m not saying the single mom thing is easy. The constant grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, scheduling … never having time for myself if I don’t expressly put it on the calendar and plan in advance to have a babysitter or my ex step in to take care of my younger child … it can be overwhelming. But now that I’m doing it, I realize it’s not impossible. In fact, every day is a victory. I’m feeling strength in my independence, and while I have plenty of fond memories of the past 20 years, I really don’t want to spend my time looking back. I want to move forward. And yesterday, for the first time, I really didn’t want to see my ex.

I really ducking didn’t.