What I learned from my ex’s new girlfriend

My ex and I were friends for almost six months before we were together. When we first became friends, both of us were in sort-of-relationships. We learned a lot about each other through the problems we were having in those other relationships—how we dealt with them, and finally how we ended them when we knew they weren’t right. The main thing I learned about my now ex-boyfriend was that he is rarely single for long. He was a serial monogamist.

Before we got together, he even told me how he struggled not to be with someone. He could never separate attraction from commitment, and so for the last five years he had almost constantly been in a relationship. When he and I split up after six months for a bunch of reasons—the main one being that we worked much better as friends—I was almost waiting for him to find someone else straight away. Luckily, we both went traveling for the summer after we ended, avoiding that awkward stint of he-said she-said friend stuff after a break-up, and so I was concentrating on having adventures, rather than thinking about  how much more quickly I thought he would get over this than I would.

When he got back, seeing each other was inevitable. We live in the same small city and attend the same university, and he also lives with most of my closest friends. Before I saw him, his roommates warned me that he had met someone (it had been around four months since we split up by now, and I’d been avoiding the house until I felt prepared to see him again). Naturally, I was torn between wanting to know everything about this girl and also wanting to know nothing. I pictured this beautiful woman who had taken my place. All I knew about her was that she was younger than me, and my friends described her as very quiet and very sweet.

Nobody warned me that she would be there the first time I walked into their house. I waltzed in and there was this tall, girl pretty girl in the kitchen making tea as though it was the most normal thing in the world. She was tall and had short brown hair. She turned and smiled at me, and I smiled back not knowing if she knew who I was. The first thing she said to me was “tea?”

My ex then walked in and looked between the two of us awkwardly, seeing his past and present standing there in his kitchen and having absolutely no idea what to say. He diffused the entire moment by laughing and awkwardly introducing us. And that was it: what could have been a horrible moment was just a strange but sort of normal encounter.

Another thing about my ex was that when he really likes someone, he is all in. His new girlfriend practically lived with him because they spent all of their time together, so every time I went to their house she was there, smiling and making tea. I really wanted to dislike this girl, to find fault in her or even get some kind of reaction from her but I couldn’t. I had expected to be insanely jealous. Jealous that she was with my ex (and was completely beautiful in a drastically different way to me), jealous that she had already won over all of our best friends, and jealous that she made better tea than me. But I wasn’t. I was just relieved that she was so relaxed and friendly.

She was just pleasant to me all the time without ever being overbearing and weird about it. We could have absolutely loathed each other and refused to ever be in the same room, or she could have been completely overly nice in a fake way to hide the fact she hated me being around the two of them. But instead we just fell into civility and calmness. We would talk occasionally if we were left alone about our mutual taste in music. We were polite to each other and realized we shared the same friends now and were stuck together in this weird sitcom scenario. We never felt the need to explain ourselves and I loved that so much—we had a mutual understanding that yes, we had both been with this person, and yes, it’s kind of weird that we’re here together but we’re adults, this is life.

The loveliest part about seeing my ex with somebody new and being around them so often is realizing how much better off we both are, and how much we have grown up since we haven’t been together. I can see how much he has changed for the better since meeting his new girlfriend. He is more focused and grounded than he ever was with me, and he’s acknowledged more of his flaws.

I’ve realized how much I’ve grown up. I used to thrive on drama and conflict because that’s what I thought a situation like this deserved. But the short of it is this: there are some people that you meet for a reason, but just aren’t meant to be with romantically. That’s OK. If anything, my ex meeting somebody else so soon has meant that we can rebuild our friendship. They are doing them, and I’m just doing me. We are all good.

[Image via NBC]

Filed Under