My Husband’s Other Women
It was dim – the cat’s light of dusk – and a campfire was between us. I knew my husband was relaxing in a hammock, and I was eking out the last bit of light to continue reading a secondhand David Sedaris book. I gave up, and looked over at my beloved. There was another female in the hammock with him.
After a couple seconds of hurt shock, my terrible eyesight adjusted and I saw it was his eldest daughter, whom I refer to here as Gift 1. She has been cuddling a lot with him lately, while she holds me at arms’ length. We get along great, but she still keeps her distance in certain ways, and that’s OK. She’s pretty close to her mom, which is wonderful. Her younger sister, Gift 2, is a bundle of affection and doesn’t miss a chance to get close for hugs and smooches. Just another way the two are so different from each other.
There’s a certain amount of outsiderness for me in our new family. It has its pain at times, but it’s neither surprising to me nor completely unfamiliar – I’ve spent a good deal of my life as an outsider. I am a new addition to this family, and they have a backstory in which I have no part. At one time, they were a full family before, but for reasons I’ll not ever really know, it broke apart. Their mother is still a significant part of their lives, and this is a good thing. But the girls and their father had to make it as a trio, wade through their heartbreak together, and redefine family a bit.
And then I come along, and here we are, redefining it again.
I’m not here to fix what got broken. I can’t, and nobody can. It’s not supposed to be fixed. The pieces of a once-whole family are all still there, and there will always be some picking up to do. I’ve been through this myself, and as an adult child of divorced parents I know there’s always some hint of pain that sticks around. And that’s OK. It’s a reminder that relationships matter, that despite internal narratives to the contrary, our actions have consequences wider than our individual selves. The people we love get hurt sometimes. That’s not judgement on anyone, it’s just a fact. Sometimes we can’t avoid it, sometimes it’s unintended, but it still happens.
No, I won’t be fixing anything. I’m here to build something new. I’m here to partner with my husband to create a home that nurtures our girls. I’m here to work alongside their mom to teach them what it means to be women of character. I’m here because their dad and I love each other, and we’ve made a commitment to each other and to the girls to become a new family.
There will be those outsider moments from time to time, those little spaces of daddy-daughter togetherness to which I will be as a satellite, orbiting around their special nucleus until there’s comfort, until there’s reassurance of love and that while things are always changing, one thing is always certain: Dad loves them. I do not begrudge these moments; I only wish I had more of them with my own father. And I know things will eventually circle back to me, and we will all move together as we circle around the idea of our new family, our shared love.