For Better or Worse

By Gina Warner

Oh, God, she’s breaking up with me. That’s what went through my head when Jenn told me that she and Mike, my husband’s cousin, were divorcing. But we’re best friends, I wanted to point out. We go to dinner, movies, bars, concerts and have barbecues with our kids. While our husbands drink beer, burp and talk sports, Jenn and I share a bottle of wine and talk sex, work, kids and life.

We’d grown close only in the past year or two, but I’m lucky to have this amazing friend who I can also call family. She said that nothing will ever change that, but how can that be? Mike and Jenn will never again be Mike and Jenn, and I was having trouble coming to terms with that.

A mere month after that fateful conversation was moving day. Jenn was moving out, moving in and moving on. Her new place was nice, but it didn’t matter. I was sure that the next day she and Mike would wake up in different beds, different houses and realize this was all a mistake. But for today, they skirted around the gloom and each other. They made small talk; Jenn gave instructions, and Mike put together the furniture he’d just taken apart. There wasn’t anger or fighting and it occurred to me that their break-up wasn’t much different from their marriage. Emotionless. Other than normal, healthy disagreements, I’d never seen them fight. I‘d also never seen them kiss or even hold hands. Luckily, I managed not to cry until I’d gotten to my car to leave.

The days following the big move were torturous – for me. Jenn would send texts asking if I was doing okay and, truth be told, I needed the attention. I needed to know that we were friends in spite of being family, not because we were family. As to be expected, my husband, Josh, and I stood on opposite ends of this divorce spectrum.

Though we’d vowed not to take sides, it was only natural that it happened. Not to mention, being a man, he has the unfortunate inability to be open-minded, and he scoffed at my dreams of Mike and Jenn reconciling. My relationship with him was becoming strained, and I stomped away from many conversations wondering if Jenn didn’t have the right idea. It finally came about that, for the sake of our own happiness and stability, we would no longer discuss the divorce with each other.

The physical distance made everything worse. Mike and Jenn live an hour away. An hour drive is easy when you’re piling the family in the car for a get-together. It’s not easy when you’re trying to meet for a drink or a quick lunch. A time or two we’d split up into girls and guys to catch a movie or a concert, but for the most part we did everything together. Now Josh and Mike would grab a drink one night, and I’d try for a breakfast date with Jenn. We’re all juggling time and babysitters and sanity. We probably did that before, too, it just seemed easier juggling things together.

Josh and I hosted a party a few weeks ago. We agonized over the guest list. Of course we’d invite them both. Right? We determined that we’d ask Mike how he feels first. Mike is, after all, family, and his feelings need to be accommodated first.

I’m indecisive. Jenn is my family, too. A piece of paper signed at a courthouse and new living arrangements won’t change that. Mike claims to be fine with Jenn being here, even curious to see how things play out, so I extend the invitation.

I could understand her uneasy hesitation, and I spent the rest of the week waiting it out. Jenn ended up declining, feeling it was too soon to be in a social setting with her future ex-husband. For the most part, I respected her decision; the awkwardness was still so fresh. On the other hand, I wanted to pout and bawl. I wanted to call her and yell that she’d promised nothing would change! Not that I’d fooled myself into believing that it wouldn’t; I was just sad, and I missed my friend.

And perhaps I had mentally created the scenario where they would run into each other in the driveway, Mike would tell Jenn she looked nice, Jenn would tell Mike she missed him, and they would kiss and find a way to live happily ever after. I don’t care what my husband would say to that. I believe in love and miracles.

The irony of it all? I talk with Mike now and have concluded that he’s a stranger. I know and love him as Josh’s cousin and friend, but I know nothing about him. I’ve spent days and hours and years with these two people, and I only know one of them. The times we were together, we were never together. The girls would always migrate to the kitchen to chat and the boys to the garage. I’ve been so distracted over the possibility of losing Jenn that I’ve overlooked another friend waiting to be made. I can’t believe I’ve never met this smart, funny man who has a belly laugh and can eat ten hot dogs through the course of an evening. Who knew that he, too, liked to pick the rye chips out of a container of Pub Mix? Hello, my new friend. It’s so nice to finally meet you.

Mutual friends of ours, also insistent on keeping up relations, are having a family dinner this weekend. Because that’s what we are, we’re family. Hopefully Mike and Jenn will both show because I’m looking forward to seeing my old friend – and my new one. And who knows? There is always a chance that they’ll run into each other in the driveway, and Mike will tell Jenn she looks nice and…well, you know the rest.

About this writer

  • Gina Warner Gina Warner lives in Illinois with her husband and daughter. Writing is her passion, and she has been blessed with amazing family and friends who are a constant source of inspiration.

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One Response to “For Better or Worse”

  1. Minnie Cosentino says:

    I believe the article was well written and shows a great deal of skill and imagination. I am looking forward to reading more of her articles in your publication.

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