'My best friend is dating my ex-husband'
In the aftermath of my divorce, I'd spend at least two hours a weekend with my friend Amber.
Our kids went to school together and two of our daughters played in the same netball team. She was my closest 'mum friend,' and the first person I turned to when things went haywire.
I really leaned on Amber in many ways. She was always kind, always willing to help me and, because we both went through a divorce around the same time, we had a lot to say to each other - particularly when it came to talking about our ex-husbands.
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Few topics were off limits, from our sex lives to everything that revolved around the complexities of a family breakup.
Amber had given me valuable advice about child support and she was a shoulder to cry on when I realised I'd lose my house in the divorce settlement. She knows a lot of intimate details about my marriage and subsequent breakdown. She knows that I was a victim of emotional and financial abuse. Amber was horrified at some of the stories I'd tell her, the same way I was a friendly ear when she wanted to talk about the dreadful state of her former marriage. There are not many things she doesn't know about what went on in my marriage.
But, four years down the track, she rarely speaks to me. Our friendship has completely dissolved and, in my eyes, is irreparable. Why? She is now dating my ex-husband.
This is how it unfolded. One morning at netball, I told her that I'd heard from my kids that their dad had broken up with his girlfriend. I also told her that he was upset and left the girls with me so he could go to a friend's holiday house and spend time alone.
Amber managed to find out where he was staying and turned up, unannounced, to surprise him. According to my daughters, who found out through their father - she was wearing a T-shirt with the name of his favourite TV character on it (Dr Spock from Star Trek). Clearly, that tactic worked!
At first, I didn't believe my kids. Surely, they were mistaken? Amber would be the last person to chase my ex-husband, given that she knows how badly he treated me. What would make her think that he would treat her differently?
I called her and left a message, but she didn't reply. Weeks went by and I didn't hear from her, although I'd heard from my girls that she was travelling with my ex; he'd taken her with him on a work trip to LA. I knew why she was silent; she clearly felt embarrassed or awkward about telling me. Surely, she must know that I already know?!
Several times I picked up the phone to call her but stopped myself. Shouldn't she be calling me? If I were in her shoes, I'd at least send a text to say, "I know this is awkward but I'm dating your kids' father." Instead, there was silence.
You can imagine how mortified I was. I'd confided in her so many times, which meant she had so much information to repeat to my husband if she chose to. Was she about to start WWIII between my ex and myself, when we'd been so amicable up until now?
My daughter's 12th birthday fell on my ex husband's custody day. I was able to see her at night, but I was upset to learn that, during the day, Amber had been with my kids and their dad at Luna Park.
It probably wouldn't have bothered me if my ex was dating a nameless, faceless person. But the fact it was Amber enjoying my precious girl's birthday, felt like a slap in the face.
When Amber finally got around to telling me that she was dating my ex, I replied, "Yep, I've known about this for six months." She seemed surprised. "Do you think my children don't talk to me?" I asked. Then, Amber promised me one thing. "I promise that everything you told me about your marriage and all that, I won't ever repeat to him."
I really hope she keeps her word. I really hope that she makes my ex happy because, clearly, I couldn't. I think it's a case of 'better the devil you know' and, at least, I know that Amber is a good person who will treat my girls with kindness and great care.
But I am dreading the day that I will see them together, perhaps hand-in-hand, perhaps looking happy, just as we looked happy in those early years. It's a day I'm not looking forward to.
- Liz McNicol is a freelance writer
This story originally appeared on kidspot.com.au and is reproduced with permission