It’s the oldest phrase in the unofficial book of life: People come and go. Everyone has had his or her fair share of temporary lovers and friends. These people enter and exit our lives because they were only meant to be in them for specific amounts of time. But what about the ones who come back and stay?
She was the ex-girlfriend who got pregnant just before we started dating. I didn’t know her and I didn’t want to know her. I’m a Taurus she was a Gemini. She was hard to ignore. She was now an inevitable part of his life. He and I were high school classmates that reconnected in the spring after I returned from college. We had very similar interests and his life read well on paper. He took me on adventurous weekend camping trips, introduced me to new people and had a great deal of respect for my family. Our relationship continued to blossom and when I finally discovered I’d fallen in love with the man I wanted to marry, I didn’t anticipate he would come as a package deal until the day she called with the announcement. He was in denial. I was optimistic (and in love). Then, at the age of 24, I went from single, independent woman to instant step-mom. I adjusted to the lifestyle as best as I could. She and dad had a high conflict co-parenting relationship from the onset so it made it difficult to find balance with her and easy for me to jump on the bitterness bandwagon. I was disrespectful and unkind, threatened by the news. Fueled by his lack of respect for her, I had zero tolerance for her as well. He made it complex and emotional. I followed along. At times, it was so easy to get overwhelmed by the drama of their co-parenting that I missed what was really driving the train. It could have been our need to feel in control, or maybe our lack of maturity during that time, but we were incredibly discourteous to the woman who gave birth to this child.
During what should have been our honeymoon period, I persisted in forgoing a relationship with my new stepson because I knew he was part of the package. He may not have had my eyes or my smile but from the very moment I met him, he had my heart. I fell in love with him and embraced him as my own. As our marriage and nontraditional family continued to develop and grow, now with our own child, it did not with my husband. Honesty is the cornerstone of character and integrity. My love and commitment for him came to an abrupt halt when I frequently doubted the truth of his faithfulness and partnership. In early 2005 I became a single mom, as these things sometimes go. Our happy nontraditional family was about to fall apart. I learned a lot about myself that year and I had decided on a new set of goals. I was now a single mother living on my own, picking up the pieces and was looking for a way to both celebrate and work through the challenges of being a single mom, while trying to understand my new estranged relationship with my stepson. My first order of business — call her. If anyone could recognize what I was going through it was her. How awkward was that? The one woman who I had zero tolerance for I would never have imagined would be a support system for me. I poured my heart out to her asking for her forgiveness as well as her approval to continue to be involved in their son’s life. I had no idea when I made the attempt to reconcile how freeing it would be and how much it would change my life!
I never felt like I had to explain my feelings to her; she understood immediately. Often, as women, we automatically get mad at the “other woman.” We blame her and get angry with her, when in actuality; the man is the one at fault. I was so blind by love, it was hard for me to see the real qualities of the person and mother she was. Sometimes, the other woman turns out to be a lot like you I have learned. She unknowingly participates in a love triangle and also gets hurt in the process.
Years later, we still have a beautiful friendship. We talk often and she is endlessly open to the idea of me continuing my relationship with her son – a relationship that will always bond us.
I am forever thankful for her maturity, nonjudgmental idea that we become friends. I admire the devotion to her own family, her sophistication, and her beliefs.
I’m not saying the other woman will always turn out to be one of your really good friends in the end. However, sometimes, that other woman might become someone you can appreciate in your life, so don’t be quick to judge her or see her through someone else’s eyes. You may have more in common than just him.