Dear Chump Lady,
I should be one of your success stories… Before I even knew about you and the good, mind cleansing stuff you push out there, I was being a fairly good, semi-adept chumpling. I had quit drinking well before D Day. I got the fuck away from my exit cheater almost immediately, and began rebuilding my life. I secured a good, prompt divorce and protected my son. I did a minimum of pick me dancing, spackle slinging and never once went to Amazon, although I did borrow “For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered” by E. Mavis Hetherington, from the library, and I made absolutely no trips to the NPD supply store for kibbles or cake.
When I lost my graphics job during the height of the divorce, I found better ones that I continue to love far more than the old one. I kept all the parts about me that were good and that made me the decent person I felt I was before, during and after the failed marriage. I stopped being all the other stupid shit that I was being to try to please an ex who as it turned out — never really existed except in my mind. I got quality counseling and learned a lot about myself. I began living consciously in the “now,” whereas before, I had lived it — but did not know it, and thought it was unprofessional and wrong for me to be that way. I’m still gratefully sober. I have 50% custody of my amazing son and our relationship is the coolest. I work with school kids during the school year — helping to mold beings of lasting beauty as I push them to learn to love, and love to learn, and I continue to passionately perform music I love in the summers, surrounding myself with kind, decent people who love me.
I have my family’s respect and love. I have wonderful friends both old and new who care about me. I have my own modest, but beautiful home with no reminders of the old life except my son when he is here; and he is more about a fun, new life than anything else. He is my whole world. I kick my shoes off wherever I like. I have food in my fridge that pleases me. I wear a soul-patch. Man! that marks a guy as single more than any lack of a wedding band… My bank account belongs to me. I answer the phone when I feel like it, and say what I believe in to the people who call me. I go to bed at 9PM if I’m tired and I re-read “The Once and Future King” when ever I fucking want. I don’t have a mother-in-law living in my basement. I wash darks and colors together. I hang inspiring stuff on my walls where ever I want. I wear wool ragg socks with my Birkenstocks.
I should be one of your success stories… So why — when this evening as I looked at [our] shared Google calendar that we keep for tracking shared parenting duties — do I feel so lousy and gut-punched sick when I see her and the AP’s “wedding weekend” highlighted out in August of this summer?
I mean I knew they were getting married. Even had she not told me, I would have known they would get married. One thing that seems come from reading at Chump Lady and practicing the tenets thereof — You find you know your ex much better than you ever did when your marriage was “strong.” They become pretty predictable. I always figured that two people with what — IMCO — must be guilty consciences; would marry. Either that or there’s no guilt. Just that pervasive sense of entitlement. They have to show the world — no, the world needs to see — that it was meant to be and that all the hearts they broke, the minds they fucked and the decent people they left writhing in their dust? See? It was all worth it. Look how happy we are!
It’s been more than three years of good, solid, forward motion for me. Why does it still feel like I suck? Why is it still so hard to trust that they suck?
Take consolation in the fact that you have excellent taste in literature. Thanks to you, Bede, I get to trot out one of my favorite quotes from T.H. White’s The Once and Future King.
“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
So Bede, what wags this wedding — and what can we learn from it?
I think you’re pretty clear on their motivations — to show the world, with hand-engraved invitations and pastel sugared almonds — that they aren’t fuck ups. No, their treachery had PURPOSE! This is what soul mates DO — they marry. You were just an obstacle to their happiness and so now they can be together for an eternity!
Bede, what does marriage mean to two people who have already shat all over monogamy? What does commitment mean to people who don’t honor commitments? What does honor mean to dishonorable people? — It’s a farce registered at Macy’s.
People who cheat have crappy life skills (i.e., I’m not “happy,” I think I’ll cast about…). They tend to be narcissists (i.e., I feel entitled to cheat!) Narcissism and crappy life skills are not good qualities in a partner. Perhaps you suffer from the common chump delusion that with the affair partner they will be Different! Well yeah, their surroundings are different. Their wedding china is different. But they are still the same crappy people they were before, only now with more baggage and life complications. His dick doesn’t have magic transformative properties that turn her into a good woman.
She’s got her shiny new thing. For now. Ever seen a turkey with a mirror? Oh, hang on, youtube’s got everything. Look! It’s a video of your wife!
Turkeys just love sparkles and reflections. They get really stupid for them — I can tell you this as someone who has driven on to a turkey farm with a chrome bumper. This wedding is her chrome bumper. She’ll look like an idiot playing kissy face with her reflection, and either peck herself to death or get run over. These things don’t end well.
If you’re feeling particularly vengeful, the best you can hope for is that they stay stuck with each other for many years to come, as the shiny quickly wears off. Someone is bound to cheat and check out. Gaslight. Blameshift. Do less and expect the other to pull more weight. A long, miserable life together trying to prove everyone wrong — hey, it was so worth fucking up everyone else’s life to have this… banal, shitty existence together.
Don’t take their wedded bliss too personally, Bede. It doesn’t mean that you were an obstacle, or that you suck, or that you were holding her back and you’re somehow fundamentally unloveable. You ARE an awesome success story. It’s just up to you to feel that way — for your inner dialogue to reflect your actual life circumstances — that your life is better now.
Maybe seeing your ex get married stirs up ideas about your own future. Maybe you want to be partnered again some day? Or maybe not? I don’t know. But if so, no harm admitting it to yourself. Because that’s totally possible. Guys like you are a stock that trades very high. (Although, personally, I’d lose the soul patch. No good woman is attracted to a soul patch. If you’re going to commit to facial hair, commit. A beard, a goatee, mutton chops. Anything but a soul patch. Next you’ll be wearing some hipster fedora and droning on about your singer/songwriter influences. You’ll be a 50 year old with a sleeve tattoo. You’ll live in Austin. In a gated community. But you’ll care very deeply about rain water preservation and authentic breakfast tacos. This is what soul patches lead to Bede — douchebaggery. Don’t be a man with a soul patch. I have spoken.)
Anyway, my point is — I think it’s a lot less likely you’ll care about Mr. and Mrs. Cheaterpants nuptials if you’re happy with your life choices. No one is happy to get divorced, but if you KNOW your worth (high stock trade) and you KNOW your boundaries (divorced the cake eater) and you KNOW she didn’t cheat because you suck (she’s the idiot here) — Meh is much easier.
I think being single is fine and dandy — I did it for a lot of years myself. But I won’t lie — it is a lot easier to be meh when you’re with someone who is a bazillion times better than your ex. Until then, you’re taking it on faith that it’s out there. Maybe mixing the darks with the whites isn’t as satisfying as it once was. Maybe this wedding underscores a certain loneliness? A benchmark of where you hoped you’d be versus where you are? Feeling a bit left behind? If so, learn from that. Face it! Address it! Dust off your dating profile. Your future happiness has everything to do with you, and nothing to do with your ex.
She’s moving on. Disastrously, most likely. But she’s making a very public pronouncement of her moving-on-ish-ness. It’s normal to feel a bit weird or sad about that. The remarriage of a former spouse is a finality different than divorce. It takes some getting used to. But you’ve moved on too, so try not to compare your life to hers. Be secure in your choices. You navigated this crap brilliantly — and you’ve filled your life with good people and good deeds. You didn’t give up. You aren’t dissolved in a puddle of drink in some bar. You’re a great father with an enviable custody arrangement. Whether you think you are or not — you’re a success story, Bede. Now lose the soul patch. Better days ahead!