I know this question requires you to imagine you had the Men in Black memory eraser applied to you. Then you could forget all his lying, cheating, hurtfulness, selfishness, and/or slovenliness.
So imagine that you just met your now-ex — at a party, work, school, gym, with friends, in the hot tub — whatever would be plausible now at your current ages and location. You see him. Would you be drawn to talk to him?
Imagine you did talk to him, whether drawn to his physical look now or not. You start chatting and end up spending some time together. Would you want to get to know him better, even without romantic intentions or not? Would you like the man you’re getting to know?
This is a stretch, I know, to put aside all the reams of information you know about him now. But if you didn’t know the negative side, would you be drawn to get to know the man he now presents to the world?
I’ve had little contact with my ex in the past 9 years. We occasionally correspond, mostly by email and birthday cards, and have only seen each other 2 or 3 times in that span. I saw a picture of him recently and he’s not a bad looking 71-year-old. I’m guessing he’d still make me laugh as I would him. I think we’d enjoy talking about philosophy, life and spirituality.
If I were to meet him today, I’d think he was a nice and interesting man. Even if he wasn’t remarried, I doubt I’d think of him romantically. But I would welcome the opportunity to spend more time together and I could see myself becoming fond of him, but just as a friend.
Why wouldn’t I be drawn to him romantically? Mostly, because I’d see that we wanted different things from life. I’d think that he was a nice guy, but he definitely didn’t have the confidence or drive that I now want in a mate.
Why didn’t I see this nearly 30 years ago when we first met? He had some drive then and I thought he’d be able to execute his dreams, especially with me by his side helping and encouraging. I believe he did accomplish more and quicker with me as his wife than without me. But he just didn’t have what it took to be a self-starter and now I see that’s important to me. I am willing to emotionally support my mate, but not to continually prop him up.
When we were breaking up, my ex said, “If I met you now, I wouldn’t fall in love with you.” Cruel, I know. But he believed in being honest. It broke my heart, but yet, after recovering from the hurt, I realized I wouldn’t fall in love with him if we were to meet at that time, either.
My guess is that now in midlife you’re looking for something different in a man than you were when you met your ex. You’ve grown and matured and have a much better sense of what you want and need to make you happy. You may have mellowed on some criteria and become a sticker on others.