Dear Chump Lady,
I have a great deal of anger toward people who knew about my wasband’s cheating, but didn’t do anything to help me.
Like telling him that I was a good person who didn’t deserve this, and if he didn’t tell me, they would. I feel betrayed by them too. I realize that in this day and age, people feel it isn’t their business and stay out of it. But there were several circumstances that I realized in retrospect were perfect opportunities for these people to help me, and they didn’t. People who provided alibis. The other woman’s housemate who I had been friends with for 30 years.
Of course, most of my anger is at my wasband. But I am really angry at these people too. They could have saved me from a lot of pain and torture. I guess what I really am is hurt that these people watched me twisting in turmoil, knowing that things were not going well with my wasband, but not understanding why. When I found out he was cheating, all of his behavior made sense. And I realized I wasn’t crazy. I knew what to do, and I got a divorce. I could have gotten out almost two years earlier if these people had chosen to help me. Is it unreasonable of me to refer to “helping” me? I don’t remember reading discussion about this before in your blog.
Well, it’s an issue that has comes up sideways. Someone will write who is in an affair (an unwitting OW), and wonders if she should tell the poor chump about to marry this cheater the truth. YES! I shriek from the sidelines, TELL! But they worry that it’s stirring up drama with someone they want to go no contact with, and I never hear from them again. They’re more focused on their own relationship with the cheater, and the chump is sort of theoretical, or an embarrassing problem they’d just as soon forget about.
You are that embarrassing problem. And those “friends” are usually more concerned with the fallout with the cheater. I get it. Really I do. I had one of the OW at my WEDDING. How’s that for fucked up? Didn’t know that until much later, but as the divorce was going on, she tried to befriend me. Us against that Rotten Cheater. (She did admit to being an OW in his last marriage, and then stayed his “friend.”) She knew he was cheating on me with the other long-term OW (getting a sense of how fucked up that marriage was?) and neglected to mention it. But was quite happy to enjoy the canapes and open bar at my wedding.
So, I get it. These people suck. So that’s one category of people who won’t tell you — because they’re boinking the cheater themselves (that may be the OW’s roommate in your story, for example). Then there are the people who know about the cheating, but don’t know you very well. They either don’t want to jeopardize their relationship with the cheater, or they worry that if they told you, you would freak out on them and blame them. So their choice is don’t tell = No drama. Tell = Drama. They choose no drama. The Golden Rule doesn’t occur to them, they THAT would want to know.
Which takes us to our next category — they don’t tell you because they assume you already know. You either forgave him or you worked out an “arrangement” — that’s probably what your cheater told them. (You look miserable? I guess you’re not so happy with that arrangement.) It’s a lie those friends want to believe, because it alleviates their anxiety that they should tell you. (Oh Bob said they have an open marriage. Bob said Mary forgave him for his little indiscretion. Phew! Off the hook! ) If they know you, they may think that it’s pretty preposterous, but they WANT to believe it.
Then there are the people who think it is a virtue to Not Meddle. I guess if there were an arsonist dumping gasoline around the foundations of their 100-year old clapboard house, they wouldn’t want to know. With the reasoning that “arsonist” is an ugly word and maybe he has a good reason to be spilling gasoline. Let’s not connect those dots. The only thing we have to lose is… everything.
My point is, Angry, people usually don’t tell you for selfish reasons all their own, that have everything to do with them, and nothing to do with you. These people are NOT your friends. It may make you feel better to confront them now that you know and tell them “Thanks for NOTHING, you asshole!” — and why not? You’re not going to see them again and shouldn’t want to. Why maintain civility?
All you can do, going forward, is be one of the people who tells. Be brave. Meddle. Tell the truth if you know. Ask if everything is okay if you suspect. Be a good friend. That’s the beauty of a new beginning, Angry. You get to fill your life with the worthwhile folks and jettison the rest.