A ‘not a date’ date with my ex husband was a powerful reminder of kindness and respect. It was a world away from an outing with the abusive specimens that I fell in love with after our divorce.
Last night, I went out for a friendly dinner with my ex-husband. Fraser* (not his real name) picked me up from home. He opened the car door for me and when we reached our destination held it open as I got out. He held open the restaurant door too. Small things, which screamed loud reminders that most men actually do respect women. Both of my abusive exes would have sailed ahead without a second thought, and laughed in the face of a man who thought a woman incapable of opening a door.
At dinner, Fraser was thoughtful, considerate, and engaging. We chatted, laughed, had fun. We slipped into that comfortable place full of shared memories, ‘in’ jokes, and were able to discuss old hurts without creating new ones. Having escaped an abusive relationship just months ago, it was refreshing to enjoy a hassle-free ‘date’.
Abuser #1, the Über Narcissist, would have brought at least two worshippers along for the ride, and closely monitored me to make sure I wasn’t showing him up in some way.
He’d have made sure everyone in the restaurant knew how exacting and important he was, complaining loudly that the garlic bread was late, the pasta wasn’t sufficiently tomatoey, and why did the f***ing dinner have to take so long anyway.
In a final flourish, he’d have made a meal itself out of paying for everyone (to make us feel sufficiently indebted) and charged out to the car as soon as humanly possible.
Abuser #2, the father of my child, would have refused to order his meal (why have a dog and bark yourself?). He’d have wanted something embarrassingly complicated, that I’d have to patiently explain to the perplexed waiter.
Likely, I’d have spent most of my time listening to him yelling on his phone to some unfortunate friend about his latest problem /scheme, whilst carefully avoiding looking in the vague direction of any male under the age of 70. And, he would definitely have left his wallet at home.
Food for thought
Sitting there with Fraser, the contrast couldn’t be plainer. One of life’s ‘nice guys’, he wasn’t just on his best behaviour for the evening. All those years ago, he did this when we were dating and throughout our marriage. (Though no doubt he felt less inclined after I asked for a divorce). My childhood sweetheart, I married him too young – though I didn’t know it at the time.
As I got older, I felt I needed to live my life. I wanted excitement. I got that in spades and then some, with the two men that followed. So, when newly-single Fraser asked me if he was just ‘too nice’ to keep a woman happy, my answer – as a survivor of domestic abuse – was “Absolutely not. Don’t ever change.”
Has an old flame fuelled your appetite for a life free of abuse? Are we doomed to be forever attracted to ‘bad’ guys, or can that change?
ALSO SEE: Tactics abusive men use to keep you stuck, in What your abuser doesn’t want you to know
© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14