After his marriage, Waythorn becomes less of an idealist. Prior to his marriage to Alice, Waythorn had always believed that one could transcend one's past by unequivocally embracing one's present. Waythorn finds his beliefs challenged, however, when he is forced to confront the presence of Alice's two ex-husbands in his life.
Until his marriage, Waythorn had always imagined that a woman could "shed her past like a man." However, as time progresses, he changes his views. Waythorn begins to understand that Alice isn't like him. Her easy manners were acquired from her past experiences with Hackett and Varick, her two ex-husbands. Alice is "easy as an old shoe" because she has mastered the art of sanguine detachment. She takes each day as it unfolds, expecting nothing but giving everything to the experience before her.
Alice neither ignores her ex-husbands nor seeks them out. She is inclined to preserve peace in her life through a stoic acceptance of reality. For example, Alice remains cordial with Hackett, who periodically stops by to see their daughter, Lily. She also chats with Varick when the latter comes to see Waythorn about business.
Prior to his marriage, Waythorn would have shrunk from harboring anything close to his current dispassionate view about ex-husbands and visitation rights. Essentially, instead of cherishing his prior sensibilities, he now adopts a satirical view about marriage. This allows him to fully accept his new reality.