“Ex” – An Ugly Little Word?

Posted by Delaine - October 6, 2010 - Dealing with the ex, Parenting, Single Dads, Single Moms, Social Barriers & Change, Surviving - No Comments

“EX-husband,”  “EX-wife,”  “The EX.”   The term “ex” is one we all use after divorce, in both our written and oral communications.  It’s something we don’t  give much thought to either – it’s just part of the English language, right? 

But have you ever noticed how you feel when say it?   What about when someone ELSE uses it in conversation?  Cause I’ve been tuning into it lately.  And I really don’t like what I feel.

I first started using the words “ex-husband” shortly after our separation, even though we weren’t officially divorced.  I stumbled over them at first – my brain wanted to say “husband.”  But with time and practice,  the “ex” part became automatic.  No stumbling.  No searching.  The title was right there to grab.  By this point I actually felt divorced.  He was separate from me.  And I said the ‘ex’ part with confidence.

But now, as I continue to move forward, I notice I’m fumbling with those words again.  Not because of unfamiliarity, but because of a gross feeling it awakens in my body: TENSION.

We all know that the words we chose to use, both out loud and in our thoughts, carry emotions. And as someone who is very sensitive to language, I’ve always been careful of how I speak: I try to choose words that are polite, kind and most importantly, optimistic.  And somehow the word  “ex” just doesn’t jive with that.  No matter how nicely I try to say it, to me it still sounds like I’m spitting; like I’m denigrating him to an ‘it’; like there’s a big X tattooed across his face that deserves to stay there forever.

Take the following sentence as an example:

“My ex is taking the kids this weekend.”  Is it just me or does this sentence carry all sorts of icky feelings in its wake? 

Alternatively, consider the following:

“The kids’ dad is taking them this weekend.”  To me that sounds warm, gracious, and much less offensive.  I think ”my former husband is” sounds softer and more peaceful too.   What do you think?

Hey – maybe right now you’re calling your former husband way worse titles than “ex” (smile).  And my friend,  that’s yours to choose – I’ve been there too (sometimes still am). 

But as I continue to move forward after divorce, I feel another layer of ‘letting go’  is upon me.  I don’t want to think of him or ‘feel of him’ as being The Enemy – even if our relationship is a far cry from being smooth.   Why?  Cause every time I feel the negativity, it holds ME back.  Every time I feel the tension, it’s MY body that suffers.  And if I want to optimize what this next stage of my life might offer me, I need to think and speak in ways that make ME feel good.  Cause that’s what moving on is all about, right?  Choosing to feel happy?