Back in the days of MySpace I got tracked down by an ex boyfriend. It had been at least 7 years since we broke up, and before we’d started dating in our senior year of high school we’d been friends for several years. So when I got the myspace message from him I wasn’t displeased. It turned out he was married and local to our area. I didn’t have many friends here and was excited to get together with something of a known quantity. We met him and his wife for drinks, and then later a dinner. She was awesome, and we got along really well. He hadn’t changed much since high school, still making borderline inappropriate comments and jokes which I found annoying but harmlessly so. In fact that was the word I used to describe him in my head. Harmless.
We lost touch a year or so later, their lifestyle and ours were quite different what with the consistent partying on their end and the hermit like tendencies on ours. By the time I surfaced on the internet again I had a three month old, and and his wife’s FaceBook profile listed her as single and living in another state. Obviously I had missed something.
I asked, but he dodged the question and suggested meeting to discuss. I mentioned coffee and he mentioned cocktails. I mentioned getting a babysitter so we could meet up one evening and he mentioned meeting up without Topher. Then he mentioned cocktails again. I mentioned being busy. That was a while ago.
A few weeks ago Topher and I were watching that episode of Parenthood where the hunky stay at home dad confesses to his uptight workaholic lawyer wife that the super hot stay at home mom bossy playgroup yoga chick made a pass at him. Lawyer mom is livid, and demands they cut all ties. Stay at home dad sighs, their 5 year old daughters are best friends, but he agrees. Later in the show lawyer mom sees the little girls snuggling together while watching a puppet show. She relents so that her 5 year old won’t lose her best friend.
Bad call, lawyer mom. Bad. Frickin. Call.
I would like to state at this point in an effort to avoid any misunderstandings/hate mail that in advocating that couples protect their marriages I am in no way advocating remaining in or tolerating a relationship that is abusive in any way. Get the hell out of that kind of mess immediately.
A few weeks ago I got a text from the ex who was so keen about having husband-less cocktails, asking if this was still my number. I ignored it. Then I got a phone call but no voicemail. Then I got a FaceBook message talking about drinks again and telling me he’d moved, to which I responded with my good wishes and not much else. Later in the week I got another text inviting me to a party at his new place which I also ignored.
The night of the party I got yet another text, asking where I was, calling me “baby”.
I’m not your baby, you disrespectful jackass. Enjoy your party. Lose my number.
There was some back and forth after that wherein he professed his disbelief that I no longer had any interest in being “friends”. I could practically feel him trying to work his way back to “harmless” through the phone. But the truth is that he isn’t, no matter how much of an idiot I think he is, no matter how little of a “chance” he may ever dream of having.
I don’t need friends who threaten my marriage. My daughter does not need me to have friends who threaten the marriage which is the framework of the family life we are building for her every day. It is my job to protect that framework, to protect not only MY marriage but HER FAMILY.
I’m not saying that I think I can guarantee a happy and successful marriage by eliminating my ex boyfriends as FaceBook friends (pretty sure he was the only one, but whatever) or that I have all the answers for how to never get divorced. I know that I do not.
What I’m saying is that marriage is work, but it’s not just working ON the marriage in my opinion. I think we also need to take stock of what’s happening around the marriage and the contributions being made to it by people who aren’t in it. Because the people you surround your family with have influence on your relationships. It’s that simple. If what’s happening around my marriage isn’t going to help it thrive, isn’t going to help make this family strong for myself, my spouse and my children, then I need to seriously consider if that thing really needs to be a part of our lives or if it needs to be eliminated.
At the end of the day the accountability for the relationship between two married people rests on their shoulders and no one else’s. But that accountability isn’t just about reacting to situations that come up, it’s about the relationship as a whole and how it’s developed, cared for, protected and regarded by the partners who build it every day. And I can tell you that to protect my marriage I’d go a hell of a lot further than a text message, or disrupting the social life of a 5 year old.
How far would I go? Exactly as far as I need to.
How far would you go?