There are those times when we have to go out to a meal, usually at a restaurant, or sometimes in the context of a party, when we know that we will have to spend substantial time with people that we would never choose to have as our personal friends. Examples: evenings out with the spouse’s boss or coworkers (not in my case, of course), or dining with our own boss (again, not in my case!), or it might be dining with potential clients, who you have to work to impress (something I could never do, so thank goodness I don’t work in a field that requires such schmoozing).
The events in my life that have involved dining with someone that I wouldn’t choose to dine with in ordinary circumstances include a recent event, which included a few dinners during the week – my daughter’s wedding. And the person who made me anxious about the prospect was my ex-husband. Those of you who are divorced may have had this same experience.
Our daughter was eight when we split, and so we had a few big events that we knew we would share in the future: high school graduation, college graduation, and marriage.
High school graduation passed without a hitch, and as I remember it, we had a lovely get together, all focused appropriately on our daughter’s achievements. College graduation ended up with just my husband and me joining her in Blacksburg to witness her crossing the stage and receiving her degree – ex-husband didn’t make it out for that one. So, I knew that now, we only had to wait for the wedding.
And, as my daughter and her boyfriend of the past two years pronounced emphatically that they had no interest in having children, I figured there might be no wedding to worry about, when they surprised us about a year ago, and announced their plans to wed this past August! And, after more than a decade had passed since the high-school graduation get-together with the ex, I began to imagine what this encounter might be like.
The funny thing about having an ex-spouse is that each of you keeps moving forward on his/her path, and, at least if the cause of the divide in the first place was a clear disagreement on life values, those values tend to get further and further apart. And, the other funny thing is that, as a couple originally, you were so intimate – and, now, so distant.
The wedding week involved three dinners that involved the ex and me. First, a small gathering at a pub, to meet with the groom’s mother, whom neither of us had met before, so we could get comfortable with one another. That dinner was at a pub, where we sat at a rectangular table, with the groom’s mother, and her long-time friends along the wall, and the bride-to-be and groom on our side, with me on one end, and the ex on the other – so, we didn’t actually have any face-time.
The second was the reception, in the context of the whole wedding party, so all encounters were brief, and there were plenty of interruptions.
The final dinner was just before we left – we took the now-wedded couple out for dinner in London, and it was just my family (me, my husband, and two rambunctious boys), and the ex with his son, in addition to the new husband and bride. And, while the dining experience was more intimate, and threw us all together more closely than the previous evenings had, it was surprisingly lovely, and a nice way to wrap up an emotionally packed trip.
And, now, I don’t see more forced gatherings in the future – sure, they may come up, but I don’t feel like they will be as laden with expectation, and as potentially loaded with potential pitfalls, as the previous gatherings have been. In some ways, it feels like the divorce is at last finalized.
And, I’m thankful that we have all thrived, and lived to witness such a beautiful celebration of love and respect which was our daughter’s union to her beloved.
This post was inspired by The Dinner, a novel by Herman Koch. Two brothers and their wives sit down for a tension filled dinner to discuss a tragedy that can change both families’ lives forever. Join From Left to Write on October 29 as we discuss The Dinner.
As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.