How did Gabe and Lisa go from being spouses to divorcees to best friends? Do they hold any residual anger toward each other? Hurt feelings? Secret attraction? How do their current spouses feel about their friendship?
If you’re curious to understand their unique journey, join us as they tell all on today’s podcast.
About The Not Crazy podcast Hosts
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from Gabe Howard. To learn more, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.
Lisa is the producer of the Psych Central podcast, Not Crazy. She is the recipient of The National Alliance on Mental Illness’s “Above and Beyond” award, has worked extensively with the Ohio Peer Supporter Certification program, and is a workplace suicide prevention trainer. Lisa has battled depression her entire life and has worked alongside Gabe in mental health advocacy for over a decade. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband; enjoys international travel; and orders 12 pairs of shoes online, picks the best one, and sends the other 11 back.
Computer Generated Transcript for “Divorce to Besties” Episode
Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Lisa: You’re listening to Not Crazy, a Psych Central podcast hosted by my ex-husband, who has bipolar disorder. Together, we created the mental health podcast for people who hate mental health podcasts.
Gabe: Welcome, everyone, to this week’s episode of the Not Crazy podcast, I’m your host, Gabe Howard, and with me, as always, is Lisa Kiner. Lisa?
Lisa: Hey, everyone, today’s quote comes from the website, Live Happy: When two friends become lovers, that’s ordinary. When two ex lovers become friends, that’s maturity.
Gabe: Lover. That’s all I hear, like in that whole quote, remember that Saturday Night Live sketch?
Lisa: Yes, yes.
Gabe: And then we became lovers. The word lover just has this awful connotation that I’m very uncomfortable with, especially in the context of you, Lisa.
Lisa: It’s making me more uncomfortable the more you say the word, frankly.
Gabe: Right, but that is weird. It is weird that at one point in my life you were my wife and I spoke to you like a wife, you know. Hey, honey. Hey, Pookie. Exactly what you would expect in a romantic relationship.
Gabe: We were married for five years. We dated for three years before that. I mean, two years.
Lisa: Is that right?
Gabe: I don’t know. We were together for a long time. This wasn’t, this wasn’t a cuffing season situation. We were together for years.
Lisa: What’s cuffing season?
Gabe: You’ve never heard of cuffing season?
Gabe: Cuffing season is when it gets cold outside and you don’t want to go out and date because it’s just hard.
Gabe: But you still want to be with somebody. So you cuff them just for like a few months.
Lisa: Cuff them?
Gabe: And then you break up. It’s called cuffing season.
Lisa: Oh, so cuff is a synonym for sex?
Gabe: I think it’s like handcuffs.
Lisa: That doesn’t make sense.
Gabe: Look, I don’t I don’t design millennial words, I don’t know what you want.
Lisa: Ok, all right, it’s a millennial thing, OK. Yes,
Gabe: It’s just.
Lisa: I do not understand their ways, their ways are mysterious to me.
Gabe: Cuffing season is when it’s cold outside, so you don’t want to put on the short skirt and the high heels and go out to the clubs to meet people. So you stay in a relationship for a few months until it warms up outside and then, boom, you’re back. And it’s called cuffing season.
Lisa: I’m going to Google that.
Gabe: It’s UrbanDictionary.com. I highly recommend it. That’s where I learn everything that my nieces and nephews say. Otherwise we’d be having two different conversations,
Gabe: Much like now.
Lisa: That thirsty thing.
Gabe: Yeah, I had no idea.
Lisa: I know, right, it’s so weird and the whole swoll, I don’t get that one at all.
Gabe: Well, I mean, I’m swoll. I’m swoll A.F.
Lisa: Oh, it took me a second,
Gabe: Yeah, yeah.
Lisa: Because I’m not one of them.
Gabe: Yeah. Laugh at me all you want. I just want people to understand that this was not a short relationship, this
Lisa: No, no.
Gabe: Was a long relationship.
Lisa: We were together for years.
Gabe: We owned a home together, we bought a house, we bought cars, we went on vacations. We.
Lisa: We had pets.
Gabe: We had pets, everything. And now I can’t see it. At one point, Lisa, I called you Dear Honey Pookie. We held hands, we cuddled. We did everything that a married couple did and behaved. I mean, we were a married couple. We behaved and acted.
Gabe: Like a married couple. And now all these years later, if somebody says, hey, Gabe, do you miss making out with Lisa? I think, eww, eww.
Lisa: Oh, yeah, eww
Lisa: Wow, I’ve never noticed that before.
Gabe: I get this, like, visceral reaction and that’s perfectly normal. Nobody wants to make out with their best friend.
Lisa: I’ve never noticed
Gabe: Right. It would be like
Gabe: If somebody said, hey, Gabe, you want to make out with your sister? No, that’s disgusting. I don’t want to make out with my friends. That’s it’s a different relationship. But what makes this interesting
Lisa: I’ve never noticed that.
Gabe: Is how did we go from, you know, hey, at one point we made out all the time and now we’re like uck. That’s gross.
Lisa: I never noticed that. That’s interesting.
Gabe: Where did that turn, because we were very stereotypically married, right?
Lisa: Of course, we were a married couple like any other.
Gabe: We are very stereotypically best friends with maybe like a dash of codependency.
Lisa: A dash?
Gabe: A dash.
Lisa: A small dash,
Gabe: A small like like a cup.
Lisa: Maybe several cups, yeah,
Gabe: Like a
Lisa: A pound and a half, maybe.
Gabe: A Sam’s Club bag of codependency,
Lisa: Right. Right.
Gabe: But it’s not romantic in nature, is my point.
Lisa: No, it hasn’t been for a long time.
Gabe: It’s a 180.
Lisa: Is that true, is it a 180?
Gabe: I don’t know? What’s the opposite of marriage?
Lisa: So well see exactly I don’t know that that is the opposite of marriage.
Gabe: It’s interesting, and I think this is where the maturity part of your quote comes in, a lot of people think that the opposite of a romantic relationship is a hate filled one.
Lisa: Exactly, which it is not.
Gabe: It’s certainly not in our case. I think the opposite of a romantic relationship is probably nothing.
Lisa: Well, yeah, exactly the opposite of love is not hate, it’s apathy.
Gabe: Well, I don’t even think it’s apathy, I think it’s non-existent, I think it’s oh, yeah, I remember dating him.
Lisa: Like I said, apathy. That’s what apathy is,
Gabe: Is that apathy?
Lisa: I think so, yeah.
Gabe: It’s just, it’s just nothing.
Lisa: And we’ve talked about this before, the oh, you know, the opposite of love is hate. No, it’s not. You used to love your ex-husband. Now you hate him. No, that’s still that strong emotion. That’s not good.
Gabe: I agree with that, and but whatever the opposite of a marriage or romance or love or romantic love is, it’s not best friends forever.
Lisa: Probably not, no.
Gabe: Do you know anybody else, literally anybody else that is best friends with their spouse?
Gabe: Lisa, obviously, I think everybody is aware of exes who are not enemies. I think that everybody is aware of exes who get along. Co parent, for example, there’s a lot of divorced couples who raise children together. They maintain a semblance of a relationship. But that’s not our relationship.
Lisa: No, and we get comments on that all the time,
Lisa: All the time,
Lisa: It’s interesting.
Lisa: Usually negative, but sometimes positive.
Gabe: Can you believe that, I mean, what? What a crazy world do we live in where somebody’s like, oh, Lisa’s your ex-wife? Yes. And you don’t hate her and want her to die? No, I think very highly of her. Oh, what’s wrong with you?
Lisa: I know it’s a little bit creepy.
Gabe: They’re like angry at me, they think I’ve done something wrong. I don’t know about Viroj, but Kendall, my wife, gets pulled aside all the time. It’s like you can’t tell me there’s not something going on there.
Lisa: Yeah, it doesn’t happen as much for Viroj because it’s a genderized thing,
Lisa: But yeah, it’s a thing.
Gabe: You know what I love about that happening? It’s Kendall’s response.
Lisa: Oh, what is it?
Gabe: Yeah, she says well, if Gabe and Lisa run off together, that’s the punishment they deserve
Gabe: Because I’d kill you
Gabe: Easily. We just we would kill each other within a month of us running away. One of us would try to take out the other. Would be we’d both be in prison, like, could you imagine the fight? It always makes me laugh when she says that because I do think she’s right. We are on the right level. If you and I, for whatever reason, tried to get married again, this I want to be very, very clear. This is very hypothetical. Nobody is discussing this.
Lisa: That’s not happening, yeah.
Gabe: But it would be a train wreck, we would both be miserable and it would cost us the good thing that we have. I think that’s what a lot of people don’t understand. They’re like, why are you friends with your ex? And the answer is because we never should have gotten married. We overshot.
Lisa: More than anything else, we’re usually mistaken for siblings.
Gabe: Yes, which is creepy because, of course, we have this romantic past, right?
Lisa: Right, right.
Gabe: That clearly people can recognize that we have a close relationship. And they don’t want to just say, oh, well, these two are friends or coworkers, et cetera, because they feel that it’s another step. But whenever we correct them and say, yes, you are right, you have picked up. We are very, very close. Lisa used to be my ex-wife. We’re now just best friends. That’s where the questions come in. Now,
Lisa: Yeah, that confuses people.
Gabe: We’ve already discussed the negatives. The negatives are a bummer. I’m sorry that people react that way, but we get a lot of people who are naturally curious. They’re like, well, how did you do it?
Lisa: I also get a lot of people who it’s almost a confessional. Where they’ll go, well, you know, I’m actually friends with my ex, too, but they take you aside and tell you it like it’s a secret. They don’t just say it like, oh, yeah. Oh, that’s interesting. You know, or even. Oh, that’s unusual. You know, my ex-husband and I are very you know, they’re like, well, you know, or the number one thing that happens is people will tell me, well, you know, I guess that makes sense after all. I know so and so. And even after they were divorced, she helped him through cancer. It’s always that way. It’s always she helped him. And it’s always cancer. It’s never a man helping a woman do something. It’s always a woman helping a man through cancer. That is the number one thing people say to me. It’s weird. So just letting you know you’re about to get cancer.
Gabe: I’ve, great. Great.
Lisa: I’m just telling you.
Gabe: I like, I don’t have enough problems, I,
Lisa: Number one thing is. Oh, yes, I knew a couple who cared for him through cancer and number two thing is, oh, I also share this deep secret. Let me share it with you now.
Gabe: It really is reminiscent of when I give a speech, and then when I get off the stage, people pull me aside and they say, you know, I have bipolar too, or I have mental illness as well. And they want to tell me their story.
Lisa: Right, yes, it reminds me of that exactly. Because they feel like only you can understand, because they feel the story is so incredibly unique that they can’t just share it on a regular day to day basis that they found this kindred spirit.
Gabe: Agreed, agreed with all of that, but I still feel like you’re kind of ditching the question, Lisa. How did we get here?
Lisa: You know, I’ve been trying to think about that.
Gabe: How did we go from a married couple to a divorced couple to BFFs? That is a weird journey.
Lisa: I don’t think it is that weird, part of it is on TV, people have been married for years and they get a divorce and then they never speak to each other again. In real life, you don’t just cut off a long term relationship and have no contact forever. Your lives are intertwined with one another. You have the same friend group. Perhaps you work together, you have children, you own property together. You live in the same town. In real life it’s not that easy to just cut it off cold turkey.
Gabe: Ok, but it’s not that hard and look, we don’t have children and we did not have an intertwined friend group.
Lisa: We did live in the same town.
Gabe: Well, sure, a town with 1.2 million people. Did you think we were going to run into each other at the Tastee-Freez or the McDonald’s? You always say the McDonald’s in small towns. Did you think we were going to go get fish? I really feel bad now because all of our listeners in small towns are going to send us hate mail. I apologize.
Lisa: No, because they’ll know that I’m one of you and Gabe is city he doesn’t understand.
Gabe: That’s not true. I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania.
Lisa: No, you didn’t You’re second generation city, anyway.
Gabe: That is, one that’s just offensive.
Lisa: It’s true.
Gabe: My graduating class had 29 kids. How many did your graduating class have? Miss you’re from a small town and I’m not.
Lisa: Gabe grew up in Columbus, but did move to a small town to finish high school.
Lisa: I’m just saying.
Gabe: My mother was raised in that town where she got pregnant after a football game on Valentine’s Day in the backseat of a car. How much more small town country can you get than my conception? It was a Dodge Charger, people. It was so stereotypical back in 1996. I’m pretty sure that Foreigner was on the radio.
Lisa: You mean 1976.
Gabe: What did I say?
Gabe: I’m old, that’s
Gabe: When I graduated high school.
Lisa: I know.
Gabe: In a small town
Gabe: Where I lived.
Lisa: Yeah, yeah. First off, no, you’re city people, you’ve always been city people, we all know you’re city people. You do things like cross the street without looking both ways. It’s ridiculous. Also, you don’t check both ways before railroad tracks. Yes, it’s true. Sometimes Gabe drives directly over railroad tracks. He calls pop soda. There you go, that’s all that needs to be said.
Lisa: If he wants a Diet Coke, he says he’s going to go buy soda, not pop, soda. Yeah, city. City all the way.
Gabe: I understand why you want to change the subject, because you’re uncomfortable to admit that you just have no idea, you’re uncomfortable to admit that this was an accident. Our salvaging the relationship, it was an accident. I think you’re very uncomfortable with that. I don’t think you like the idea,
Lisa: Why would I be uncomfortable with it?
Gabe: Because I’ve asked you now for the third time, how did we go from a married couple to BFFs?
Lisa: Oh, well, I was answering that.
Gabe: No, you weren’t. You said it’s not that unusual, it happens all the time. Really?
Lisa: No, no.
Gabe: Name one other person.
Lisa: What I said is that in real life, you can’t just cut off cold turkey because your lives are intertwined.
Gabe: But just because you can’t cut off cold turkey doesn’t mean that you become BFFs, everybody goes through the same divorce process.
Lisa: I’m getting there,
Gabe: Are you?
Lisa: Everybody does not go through the same divorce process. What makes you think that?
Gabe: Yes, some people have children.
Lisa: Exactly? Every situation is unique. Nobody goes through the same process.
Gabe: Making us even weirder, that binds them and they don’t become BFFs.
Lisa: I think part of it was, like I said, we did have intertwined lives, etc., and then the next thing would be, frankly, it’s because we kind of had to stay together because of the house and because of the health insurance. That gave us a window.
Gabe: On one hand, it gave us a window, but I don’t think that it did. I really don’t. A lot of people have houses to sell. A lot of people in America have health insurance issues with their divorcing spouses and they don’t become friends. I just.
Lisa: It gave us a longer period of time than it would have otherwise, and that gave us time for some of the hurt feelings to recede.
Gabe: That is what I keep trying to explain to you, though, that is not abnormal. This was not something that happened to us that doesn’t happen to other people yet. Our outcome is different. Every single divorcing couple in America has issues with selling the house, with splitting the money, with going through the court process, with health insurance. This is, you haven’t brought up anything that is uncommon or unusual for a divorcing couple in America, but their stories do not turn out with them being best friends. Their stories turn out very stereotypically with them becoming nothing, not enemies, just nothing. They just move on. For example, everything that you just listed happened between my first wife and I. We had health insurance problems. We had to sell our house. We had to go through the court process. How come we’re not best friends forever?
Lisa: Ok, how come? What’s the answer?
Gabe: Because we.
Lisa: You’re asking me how I think this happened, how do you? What do you think the answer is?
Gabe: I really do think that part of it was that we got married for the wrong reasons, yet the reason that we got married was a very compelling reason that is difficult to ignore. You saved my life. You literally saved my life. That really does create a bond.
Lisa: That’s why we got married?
Gabe: I think so, yeah. Don’t you?
Lisa: See, I never really thought of it that way until after we were divorced and then I started listening to your speeches and you started, not started, but you were saying that all the time. I was a little surprised by that. I never particularly saw it that way. And I was surprised at how much emphasis or value you put on that.
Gabe: My theory has always been that the reason that we got married is because we were bonded by this amazing thing. For good or bad, it was a very traumatizing thing. You know, it’s just it’s not every day that you find yourself a suicidal guy and, you know, help them.
Lisa: But that was a different experience for you than for me, though.
Gabe: Right, but it was still an experience that we uniquely shared together, just because we experienced it very differently doesn’t also mean that there wasn’t overlap that we experienced at the same time. I am sure that you felt very protective of me because you set yourself up as my protector.
Lisa: I did. I struggle to this day with that.
Gabe: Yeah, I felt very indebted to you because you protected me and I needed protecting. I didn’t know anything and you knew a lot. It is a different experience on both ends, but it’s still a bonding experience. And I mistook that as, oh, well, you can build a marriage on that. You can’t build a marriage on one singular event. A marriage is built on things like shared values, shared goals, the ability to tolerate each other in the same house. I just, you understand what I’m saying, right? The things that make a marriage successful are actually a lot more mundane.
Lisa: Yeah, one dramatic thing doesn’t do it.
Gabe: Well, right, and that’s all we had. I believe that the reason that we ended up together is because we thought that that one dramatic thing was enough to build a relationship. But more specifically, I believe that if that wouldn’t have happened, we would have dated. I would have thought that you were intelligent. You would have thought that I was funny. We would have had some conversations, but then we would have started to say this is the purpose of dating. We would have started to realize, oh, Gabe doesn’t want to travel the country. Gabe wants to own a house. Gabe spends money different than I do. Gabe really likes sports and I don’t like sports so much. And maybe we even would have gotten to the stage where we lived together, but then we would have realized that we value things. And I like to have a lot of people in my home. And you like to have nobody in your home.
Lisa: Right. That’s what your house is for.
Gabe: Right, these things would have started to butt up against each other and we would have made the very reasonable decision that, hey, we don’t have enough in common.
Lisa: We’re not compatible.
Gabe: Yeah, we’re not compatible and we would have broken up and, hey, maybe if we were in our right minds, you would have been a two, three year relationship and one that I remember fondly around the campfire.
Lisa: You’re going camping now?
Gabe: I don’t know. I go camping now. And I have no idea, it’s.
Lisa: You don’t go camping. I’m willing to bet you have never been camping.
Gabe: My point is, I think that if we wouldn’t have had this big, dramatic thing, we would have realized that we weren’t compatible and we would have broken up.
Lisa: So what you’re saying is that you think it was the drama. That we mistook those feelings for compatibility?
Gabe: Well, I also think that I was incredibly grateful. I mean, Lisa, what you did was amazing. Most people would not do what you did. This is the whole reason we became mental health advocates, because most people, upon meeting a clearly mentally ill man who is extraordinarily suicidal, who has all of these problems and whom they were only casually dating at best, and I say casually dating so that you come off like a lady.
Lisa: Yeah, yeah.
Gabe: You would have just walked away. You would have ghosted me, to keep the theme of millennial words and nobody would have blamed you. If you would have been sitting around your campfire and said, you know, I met this redhead guy like 20 years ago. Oh, well, what happened to him? He was crazy. He was nuts. I had to get away from him. You know, I heard he had bipolar disorder later. People would have been like, oh, thank God you escaped. You don’t want to get mixed up in that. Like, as you know and I’m not trying to call out your family here, but your mother was very disappointed in you. She thought it was a very bad idea. And I’d like to point out she was half right.
Lisa: Not exactly, but.
Gabe: Nothing’s exact. The point is, is your mother, she had serious reservations and in fact, would have preferred that you would have said, hey, you know, that guy that I’ve been dating for a couple of months? It turns out he has untreated bipolar disorder. So we broke up. That would have been a much better outcome for your parents. And again, I’d like to point out they’re not wrong.
Lisa: It was the number one advice that I received at the time, not just from them, from everyone.
Gabe: Don’t help the sick guy was the number one advice that you received at the time?
Lisa: No, no, no, that’s not what they’re saying. No, no one’s saying don’t help sick people. What they’re saying is don’t enmesh yourself with sick people, get out. In fact, I believe we had a whole episode about that. We’ve talked before about how if I said, hey, I met this guy and he has cancer, I’m leaving him people to be like, oh, my God, that’s terrible. What a bitch. But if you say, hey, I met this guy and he has bipolar disorder, I’m staying with him people will go, hmmm, what’s wrong with her? When it’s mental illness, people expect you to leave. And if you don’t, there’s something wrong with you. But if it’s any sort of physical problem, you’re evil if you leave.
Gabe: So tie that back, not only did you not leave, you married the guy and
Lisa: Yeah, yeah.
Gabe: When the marriage didn’t work out, you still didn’t leave. For real.
Lisa: I don’t have an answer for you. And I do not think that that’s the answer, but I don’t have a better one. And like I said, I never even thought that that was a component of it until after we were already divorced and you started talking about it. And we’ve talked about this many times over the years. It never occurred to me that we wouldn’t stay friends. And I don’t know why. I don’t have a good reason. It doesn’t even sound sensible when I say it. You always talk about, hey, I always figured eventually we’ll just lose contact with one another. I honestly never thought that. I never thought there was a future where we wouldn’t have contact and I’m not sure why.
Gabe: I’m going to go with because you’re an idiot, except that you were right.
Lisa: Did you really think that would happen? I mean, when I called, you answered, you called me, you continued to maintain contact. It’s not like you started slipping away and I was running after you. So how did you think this lack of contact was going to happen? Neither one of us was dropping off.
Gabe: There’s generally things that happen that start to diminish contact, right? Somebody starts dating somebody else, that relationship gets more serious. I genuinely thought that I would get a girlfriend and I was not going to tell my girlfriend that I’m still hanging out with my ex-wife because I thought that that was inappropriate to the girlfriend. Now, luckily, apparently, I’m not as good with women as I thought because it took a long time to get a girlfriend. And by the time I got a girlfriend, I had flipped. I had decided, no, Lisa has crossed the Rubicon. Lisa is now a friend, and whomever I date needs to understand that I am, in fact, friends with my ex-wife. But there is a period of time where if I would have gotten involved in a serious relationship, I would have stopped contacting you because of this concept of it’s inappropriate to be hanging out with your ex in your new relationship. I mean.
Lisa: We got that a lot at the time, I did not get that as much because, again, it’s a genderized thing, but the idea that when you start seeing someone else, you definitely need to cut off contact because it’s disrespectful to the other person. And in fact, the other person should be on guard because after all, you’re just waiting for this thing to happen.
Gabe: One of the things that helped this along is after we separated, after we got a divorce and I moved into the apartment, I wasn’t trying to be in a relationship. It was it was debauchery. And then I realized that going back to my old ways wasn’t healthy. But luckily, at this point, you know, I had a therapist, I had a psychiatrist, I had support groups. And I recognized that I was falling back on old patterns. Well, when I was single, before I did the following things and I’d started doing them again. So I worked with my therapist. My therapist said, look, you need to not date anybody. You’re doing it wrong. You’re running out and dating people and then deciding if you want to be with them. Why don’t you decide who you want first? What are your values? What are you looking for? What are you hoping for? What’s a pro and con list? What type of person are you looking for?
Lisa: So you’re saying that previously you’d meet someone and then be like, OK, are they good, yes or no, whereas instead you should get some criteria in advance and go out and find a person who meets them?
Gabe: Yes, and that journey took a long time and it took me the better part of a year to figure out just what kind of person I wanted to be married to.
Lisa: Or date?
Gabe: Anything. This was the first time in my life that I actually really thought about it. And during that time, you and I were running a mental health walk because you continued to volunteer for the charity that I was working for, shrewd, by the way. And that made you one.
Lisa: Oh, yeah, that’s why I did it.
Gabe: That put us in close proximity. And you always showed up at all of the volunteer meetings and all of the events. You took on projects and completed them extraordinarily well, I might add.
Lisa: But you realize that that wasn’t accidental, that was part of the protective thing because and we talked about this, I was pretty sure you were going to crash and burn. I was pretty sure you were not going to make it. What am I saying? Pretty sure I was positive. I was positive you were going to burn when you said, hey, I’m having trouble with this charity. I’m having trouble at my job, I’m having trouble with the walk. I was like, OK, well, clearly he needs me to save that. I clearly need to go protect him on this one.
Gabe: You recognize that it was the normal amount of trouble that all fundraisers and marketing directors and development directors have, which is I need more people, I need more money.
Gabe: I wasn’t I wasn’t having some sort of, like, mental health crisis. I was I needed to hit my numbers and my people and get the word out. And you were an excellent volunteer and your loss was, your loss was felt.
Lisa: Well, but nobody knew that. You did not realize that these were the normal growing pains that anyone in that job would have, and neither did I.
Gabe: It’s really irrelevant, it just it allowed us to do this thing, I look at that fundraiser as the first thing that we did as friends.
Lisa: Yeah, I would agree with that.
Gabe: Look like significant thing, I mean, I recognize that, you know, we went to see Star Wars Symphony as friends, I you know, we had lunch as friends, I recognize that we watched, you know, reality TV and made pasta as friends. I get it. Those are simple, stupid, easy things. The first big thing that we did as Gabe and Lisa friends was run that fundraiser.
Lisa: Well, it was also the first big project we ever took on together, period. We don’t have children. This was it. I mean, I suppose we bought the house, but I did most of the work on that.
Gabe: It’s fascinating to hear you say that, because I think the first big project that we took on together was beating bipolar disorder.
Gabe: You’ve given that nothing. It took four years.
Lisa: Well, I mean, I guess in some ways I saw this as a continuation of this because this was you going out and getting a job and existing in the world and you know what I mean?
Gabe: That’s all fine and well, dear Lisa, the point that I’m making is, is that that gave us something to build off of. I didn’t think that Gabe and Lisa were capable of doing anything positive, like hard stop. We got divorced for a reason.
Lisa: Well, but by your logic, we’d just beaten bipolar disorder, that’s pretty positive.
Gabe: Yeah, it was great, and then since that was no longer around, there was no reason for us to be friends.
Lisa: Because you felt like the big project was over, so now we could just.
Gabe: Yeah, it was amazing.
Lisa: I can’t explain it, I didn’t feel that way. Looking back on it, I do see this as a project we did together, I guess, but I didn’t see it at the time. As we were immersed in it, I didn’t see it that way.
Gabe: The reality is, is I just thought it was over. Gabe and Lisa did something together that was amazing. And then we did something together that was not amazing. And that was our marriage. It had a lot of problems. It had some good parts. I don’t want you to hear that I never had any good memories, but the marriage failed. So now it’s like one and one. So I really saw that fundraiser as the tiebreaker. And the fact that it went so well together showed me that, hey, maybe Gabe and Lisa still have some juice left. Maybe we still have the ability to do good things together. And because it was so successful, I was willing to try something else. And ironically, it was the next year’s fundraiser that we did together. And then then we moved on to, you know, starting my public speaking career.
Lisa: The third year’s fundraiser. Yeah.
Gabe: And, yeah, the third year fundraiser, my public speaking career. And we worked on the podcast together. You’ve been producing them for years now. Now you’re in front of the mic. I just all of those successes built to here. But it really started with that one. And when people say, how did you become friends, I think the answer to that question is we started from scratch. I understand that we had history and it’s not completely possible to start from scratch. But we had a friendship that turned into a marriage that failed. And then we started over and that succeeded.
Lisa: And we’ll be right back after a word from our sponsors.
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Gabe: And we’re back telling the Gabe and Lisa origin story.
Lisa: So you’re saying that you were actually making these conscious decisions of, hey, let’s start this new project together, see what happens, and then when that project was successful, you’re like, oh, that went well, let’s do another project? You were actually thinking of it in that way?
Gabe: In a manner of speaking, when you showed up to volunteer for that fundraiser after our divorce, I was not comfortable with that. And if you recall.
Lisa: You asked me.
Lisa: Yes, I was positive your life was going to fall apart, and then you said to me, hey, my life is, in fact falling apart, I’m going to lose my job because terrible shit is happening with the walk. I’m desperate help. And I said, OK. And I swooped in and helped. That’s how I remember it.
Gabe: That is
Lisa: Is that not what happened?
Gabe: I think that the answer is in the middle. I don’t think that you have completely made this up out of whole cloth.
Lisa: You didn’t say, I need you to do this, you just said, hey, this is in trouble. And I thought to myself, I can help with this trouble.
Gabe: I think we’re both telling the same story, you’re just putting the emphasis on the wrong point, you believe that you came in and saved my ass, whereas I believe that you stuck around and were very helpful.
Lisa: Well, same diff.
Gabe: Well, it’s about I mean, it’s not the same diff, but I can see how you can get there.
Lisa: One, anyone, you just needed a warm body, but you didn’t have one, right? It wasn’t special to me. You just needed somebody to step up and nobody was. It could have been anybody, but it wasn’t. It was me. I don’t know that you asked me to do it, but you specifically said you were having this problem, and I volunteered.
Gabe: Once again, I can see how you can get there from there, but I don’t think that that is accurate.
Lisa: Ok, so what do you think happened?
Gabe: I think that you stayed a volunteer, and even though I was uncomfortable with it because of everything that was going on, I was not in a position to let you leave. Lisa, obviously, things are sort of hindsight is not, in fact, 20/20, because memories fade and you forget different things. But at the time I needed you, I needed high quality, good volunteers. And you and I had volunteered for this organization before I worked there.
Lisa: We had volunteered together for years, and then you got a paying job.
Gabe: Yes, frankly, I was not in a position to let you go because I did, in fact, want and need your help, the organization wanted and needed your help. And plus, remember what you said about, you know, having like friends in common. That organization was probably the only thing we had in common at the time of our separation as far as people were concerned.
Lisa: Yeah, but they very much saw us as a unit there.
Gabe: They really did, and ironically, they saw us as a unit forever. I still think they
Gabe: See us as a unit.
Lisa: Well, because we had always volunteered together. In the past, we had always volunteered together as a unit, then you got a paying job. And so I think people just expected me to still be around, in part because most of them didn’t realize that we had separated or that we were divorcing.
Gabe: You were like the first lady.
Lisa: People did not necessarily know that we were no longer together. We’re not airing all of our business.
Gabe: It really was irrelevant, the point that I’m making is you asked me if I did it on purpose, like if it was some sort of litmus test, like if I was like, well, I’m going to let her stick around. And if it works out, I’ll stay friends with her. And the answer to that is no. I didn’t really consider whether or not you could stick around because I knew how vital you were to the organization. Number one, I knew how much I needed your help because you were an excellent, excellent volunteer. And also I felt like I did not have the authority in the world to tell you that you were not allowed to be involved in an organization that we started out together. It was true that by now I was an employee and you were still a volunteer. But we found this organization together. The same day that I volunteered for this organization was the same day that you volunteered for this organization. And all of that coalesced into we ran that event together. We just did. And that was a very positive thing. I remember the day of the walk. I remember us walking around, tearing down the signs. And I remember probably for the first time since the divorce, unencumbered, positive feelings about you that wasn’t bogged down in well, but. Well, but, you know, she did it was just a purely positive thing. And I thought, well, I wouldn’t mind having more of these. But there was a lot of people in my life who were telling me that this was proof that I wasn’t moving forward or that it wasn’t mentally health or that it wasn’t good for me. I don’t know what made me ignore all of these people, probably because, quite frankly, they all sucked at relationships, too, so.
Lisa: Did you actively think to yourself that you wished that I wasn’t there? Because I never got that vibe?
Gabe: This is hard. There’s a part of me that wants to say, yeah, it would have been easier if you were just gone.
Lisa: It never even occurred to me.
Gabe: That’s because it wasn’t, it wasn’t an option as far as I was concerned. I felt that it was our organization, so I had no right to keep you away from it. So therefore, I never, ever considered it. But if you’re asking me if I thought it would be easier not to see my ex, yeah, I thought that would be easier. And if you would have disappeared, I wouldn’t have been given all the shit from my friends and family about how I wasn’t moving forward and how I was hanging onto the past. And we did sometimes fight about stuff. Never while we were volunteering. But remember, one day I came over, you were living in the house. I had moved to an apartment and we were working on something at the kitchen table. And I was like, Oh, I want to take that back to my apartment. And you said, stop shopping at my house. This is
Gabe: My house. You don’t get to walk around and shop here. All right? This isn’t a Wal-Mart. You don’t pick something that you need at your apartment and pick it up off the shelf and take it home. It’s my house.
Lisa: I do not remember that, but sounds like something I would say, yeah.
Gabe: By way of you still being around, that caused a quote unquote, fight I.
Lisa: It just never occurred to me to stop volunteering there. It was something I had done, we had done for years. We’ve been going there for a long time, and at the time it was a large part of my social outlet. You know, we knew all these people. We were friends with them. It never occurred to me to stop. I never got the impression that you wanted me to stop or that you expected me to stop or that you thought I should.
Gabe: It was more complex than that, and that’s what I’m trying to explain. The reality is, you know, spoiler alert, everybody. The reason that Lisa and I are still friends is because of luck. There was obviously a bond there. We obviously have a lot in common. We think highly of one another. We enjoy each other’s company. All those things are obviously true. But if you’re in the middle of leaving your romantic partner, whether through a divorce or a breakup and you’re trying to figure out how to become BFFs, it’s just all random. What happened for Lisa and I is that we started to build new memories and we started to build a friendship. And basically we just erased the past. And even that’s a lie, because to this very day, 15, 16, 17 years later, Lisa and I will still get in a fight which ends with her accusing me of stealing her youth.
Lisa: Yeah, yeah.
Gabe: So we’re not even over all of the trauma from that. I don’t know how we manage it. The only reason that we’re covering it is to get people to stop emailing us and asking
Lisa: We get that question a lot.
Gabe: I. Lisa, you apparently don’t know the answer any more. Why are we friends?
Lisa: You know, I frequently do not tell people the back story of our relationship, or maybe I tell them that we’re childhood friends or something like that.
Gabe: Oh, that’s a good one. I’ve never used that one.
Lisa: Yeah, well, it works out well because, again, people have the brother sister thing, you know, are you two related? Are you two brother and sister? Oh, we grew up on the same street or some shit. I don’t know. We’re childhood friends, people, accept that because then a woman and a man can be friends if they were childhood friends and never became romantic
Lisa: Because it’s just too exhausting to have to explain. The questions are always the same. It gets boring. It’s just annoying to me. It’s tiresome.
Gabe: I think you just have to be open to the possibility, right? Really, that’s the only real advice that we can pass along, right, Lisa?
Lisa: I’m sorry, I’m still stuck on the whole, did you not want me there, did you want me to stop volunteering? Had you said to yourself, gee, I hope that she stops.
Gabe: I never thought that, but it would have been easier. You represented failure, you were an example of failure in my life. You were my second divorce. You were costing me money. And I would like to point out that you told me in pretty much as many words as you could come up with that I was going to fail and be home any day now.
Lisa: Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Gabe: Well, so why would I want you around?
Lisa: You have had periods where you’re very erratic, right? So for many months after you left, I saw this as more of you being erratic and I thought, well, this is his way. Today he’s a vegetarian. Tomorrow he decides to join. Who knows? Right.
Gabe: Don’t forget, I was a vegan for a day.
Lisa: I know you were a vegan for a day.
Gabe: I really like cheese.
Lisa: You were always taking on these projects that you discarded within hours or days or weeks. I thought, OK, this is one more, and he’s going to basically come to his senses any moment now and we’ll get back to our regular lives. For many months after you left, I just kept expecting you to get over it and just we would go back to normal life.
Gabe: And I think this is problematic and trying to explain to this, because I think what a normal person would hear is, oh, the reason they’re friends is because Gabe left, but Lisa continued to pine after him.
Lisa: Right, and tried to get back together.
Gabe: And that’s not true.
Lisa: It’s hard to explain, it’s not exactly true, but it’s not false either. There was some part of I was expecting you to come home. I still thought of it as you being not at home. And at a certain point, that did change, obviously, and I’m not really sure when.
Gabe: Well, it changed after I came home, you do recognize that, right? Lisa and I had a two month blip where we decided, you know what, we’re going to work it out.
Lisa: Well, like a lot of long term couples who separate, we did go back and forth for a while.
Gabe: That’s what you’re going with, we went back and forth? Like a lot of long term couples who separate, Gabe moved back in for two months and Lisa kicked his ass out, realizing that, oh, my God, life with him is so much better when he lives across town.
Lisa: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,
Gabe: I only bring this up because.
Lisa: Yeah, not before you had to buy a second vacuum cleaner, though.
Gabe: I did have to buy a second vacuum.
Lisa: I’m sorry, I didn’t think we needed two it was weird.
Gabe: You made me give a vacuum cleaner away and then two months later, I had to buy another one that you never paid me. You know what else I gave away? A television. That’s actually what pissed me off more than the vacuum cleaner.
Lisa: I could see that, yeah. Yeah.
Gabe: Yeah, and a mattress I had to buy a new mattress.
Lisa: The really amusing part was the way that your friends who had helped you move back and forth like three times were like, so you’re moving out again, huh?
Gabe: Remember what he told me,
Gabe: This is it. Doesn’t she have friends? Have her friends carry just now? We’re done. I bring that up because it further muddies the waters. Right.
Lisa: Yeah, it does, it does, you’re right.
Gabe: We actually made yet another mistake, we’re like, oh, my God, we’re getting along, we’re doing so well.
Lisa: Yes, actually, yeah, that’s what happened, we weren’t fighting, there wasn’t all the anger anymore, let’s go. You know, we can make this work. Look at how good things are together. There was all this bad stuff that was happening before. It’s not happening now. I still love you. We can make this work. Let’s get back together. Let’s move back in together.
Gabe: Yep, all of it came back.
Lisa: Yes, it sure did. Relatively quickly.
Gabe: Yeah, almost instantly,
Lisa: Yeah, yeah, pretty much, yeah,
Gabe: Yeah, I blame you.
Gabe: You stole my Christmas, that’s what made it even worse, we got back together like in October and we split up in January. So
Lisa: Yeah, yeah.
Gabe: We just totally wrecked a holiday season because, well, frankly, we’re a couple of idiots.
Lisa: But on the one hand, I would say, well, we shouldn’t have done that, we shouldn’t have moved back in together, but or should we have?
Gabe: Now, we know. We do know we always should have been friends, and I point out to people all the time that had Lisa done what she did for me when I was sick, taken me to the hospital, explained mental illness and suicidality to me, helped me get diagnosed. And Lisa was a man. I would describe her as my brother. She’s my family. She’s my best friend, this man. Oh, what he did for me is amazing. But because Lisa was a woman and I had all of these feelings, I mistook them for the types of feelings that you have toward.
Lisa: A romantic partner.
Gabe: A romantic partner, but good life partners, you have a lot of boring shit in common, you both like the same foods, you both like to go to bed at the same time, you like the same kind of mattress. You both want to live in the same neighborhood. You both want to manage money the same way you both celebrate the holidays, the same way you have. You have stereotypical values. And just on and on and on, I just listen, don’t send us an email and say, well, I’m the complete opposite of my husband. We’ve been married for 45 years. Oh, yeah. Me and my wife have never been the same. And we’ve been married for 68 years. Yeah, I get it. But in general, the things that glue a relationship, they’re not the kind of things that they’re ever going to make a movie or write a book about
Lisa: Those are boring.
Gabe: Because they’re boring as hell. Lisa, we were never boring.
Lisa: There was a lot of drama, I did not see how sick that was at the time.
Gabe: I didn’t either. Now I come home and the world is quiet and I do miss some of that, you know, I there’s a reason that Gabe Howard hosts all of his friends and family. It’s Gabe and Kendall that host everything. We love this chaos. Lisa, I don’t believe that you’ve ever hosted a party at your house because you don’t enjoy it. You’d rather come to my house. And so you can see where this would be a problem if we were married because I wanted to host those events
Lisa: Yes, you did.
Gabe: And you did not like it.
Lisa: You realize there’s more to that story. Yes, you wanted to host the events, but you didn’t want to do any of the work, you just wanted it to happen magically.
Gabe: And the fighting continues years after the divorce.
Lisa: Who ended up having to do all the preparation and do all the cleaning and having to make all the food and who had to do all those things, Gabe? You’re right. I’m totally over it now. It’s ridiculous to still be bitter about this so many years later.
Gabe: I have no idea if that is relevant or not, but.
Lisa: It’s totally relevant.
Gabe: So you’re telling me that if I would have done all the work, you would have wanted 20 people in your house?
Lisa: Ok, excellent point, never mind. Point, Gabe.
Gabe: That’s where we never got past I have no idea if Lisa did all of the work for the party or if she’s misremembering or if she did too much work or if the answer is she wanted to do zero. And the fact that she did 10 percent was too much because 20 people were in her house and she didn’t like that. I don’t know. Even Lisa will admit that any of those things are possibilities.
Lisa: That is true. These are good points.
Gabe: But at its core, Lisa doesn’t want 20 people in her house. Lisa has a four bedroom house, zero guest rooms. I have a three bedroom house, two guest rooms.
Lisa: He does it’s weird, and sometimes there’s actually people in both of the rooms. What is that even about?
Gabe: And here’s the thing, neither one of us were wrong. I spent a lot of our marriage thinking that you were wrong for not wanting 20 people in your house.
Lisa: I did too.
Gabe: That’s why we weren’t compatible. And those are the things that we didn’t figure out. We don’t have this problem BFF wise. Lisa loves that I want to host all the parties.
Lisa: They’re good parties.
Gabe: Yeah. Lisa wants to watch the Super Bowl. She wants to watch the ball drop. She wants to bring deviled eggs and cheese dip somewhere. She just doesn’t want it to be at her house. And I want it to be mine, Lisa. And I want to stay up and argue about this mundane nonsense for six hours. And after that esoteric argument, Lisa wants to retreat to her own house. That’s what we were missing.
Lisa: I’m not as sociable as you, I never have been.
Gabe: It’s not the discussion that Lisa didn’t like, it was the inability to get away from it.
Lisa: You’re very high energy and it’s exhausting,
Gabe: Yeah, but.
Lisa: But it’s awesome in small doses.
Gabe: Exactly, and having somebody that thinks that it’s awesome in small doses is awesome in small doses, these are all the things that Lisa built our friendship on. That’s really the only advice that we can offer. Right. If you want to be friends with your romantic, your ex boyfriend, girlfriend, your ex spouse, whatever, you’re going to have to start from scratch. You’re going to have to draw a line in the sand and make all of your data points what happens forward. That’s what Lisa and I did. And again, even that’s not perfect. She’s still mad at me about a party that she had to cook for 15 years ago. What nonsense is that? Get over it. Let it go.
Lisa: I hold a grudge, I nurture my grudges like children.
Gabe: It’s good that you don’t have any children or pets.
Lisa: Well, Viroj is allergic, we’d have pets if it weren’t for that,
Gabe: You have plants.
Lisa: I do have the plants, I do have the plants. You always hated my plants. There you go. There was a fatal flaw.
Gabe: Viroj hates your plants.
Lisa: Well, he doesn’t hate them as much as you
Gabe: Yes, he does, he hates the more
Gabe: I’m willing to carry them, that’s what I don’t get. Your current husband is unwilling to help you with the plants, but me, your ex-husband drives 45 minutes across town to help you with your plants that you just said I hate. Maybe you are misremembering.
Lisa: That is a good point, you did help the last time with the plants, yes, they have to be moved twice a year
Gabe: You’re welcome.
Lisa: And I can’t move them myself anymore. They’ve gotten too big.
Gabe: You know what you stole from me recently? A back that doesn’t hurt. That plant was easily 400 pounds. There’s no doubt in my mind that’s a 400 pound plant.
Lisa: I bought the special lift-y things, I didn’t just ask you to, like, haul it up there, I bought equipment for this purpose.
Gabe: You bought a made for TV moving kit.
Lisa: It works,
Gabe: No, it doesn’t.
Lisa: It worked, the fore arm forklift, people, it works, sort of
Gabe: My back still hurts.
Lisa: Oh, I’m sorry.
Gabe: You stole my youth.
Lisa: I did some sort of permanent damage to my shoulder last time. Next year, we’re hiring movers.
Gabe: These plants are awesome. Lisa, I always enjoy hanging out with you. You feel that our friendship is better than our marriage, right?
Lisa: Oh, yeah, are you kidding? Well, you know, again, I’m always uncomfortable saying that we had a bad marriage, but we were certainly very unhappy.
Gabe: We were unhappy and it ended in divorce, but you’re uncomfortable calling that bad
Lisa: I know I don’t.
Gabe: If that’s not bad. What would you define as good?
Lisa: Oh, good answer, Gabe, good answer, I don’t know, I don’t have good answers for these things. I just it has always made me uncomfortable when someone says specifically you when you say we had a bad marriage and I don’t really have a good reason for why that is because obviously we had a bad marriage or we’d still be married. Those words have always made me uncomfortable. I’m not sure why.
Gabe: Well, Lisa, I don’t know how it happened, but I am absolutely glad that we remain BFFs.
Lisa: Me, too, of course.
Gabe: Thank you for being a friend, you travel down the road and back again in your car because we don’t walk.
Gabe: Listen up, everybody. My name is Gabe Howard and I am the author of Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations, which, of course, you can get on Amazon.com. But if you want to save money, if you want me to sign it, if you want free swag, if you want Not Crazy podcast stickers, please head over to gabehoward.com/merchandise and buy it there.
Lisa: And we’ll be back next Tuesday.
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