Dear Chump Lady,
How do you know if someone is a horrible fucking person or maybe you’re just upset because he’s betrayed you? Where do you draw the line between he’s wronged me and he has no redeeming qualities? What’s the tipping point on the scale to convince you that yes, he’s a waste of space and maybe it’s not just you and your broken heart prejudice?
I struggle daily with how much should I hate my husband. He’s cheated on me, lied to me, filed divorce papers without even telling me, lied to our children and caused them so much pain and confusion. But then I think, well, isn’t this normal for divorce? There always has to be some animosity, this is why you’re getting a divorce, maybe I can let go of some of the hate. But what’s the limit on the bullshit that you’ll tolerate because you might just be crying sour grapes because he’s divorcing you?
He’s had an affair for a year and a half. Does that make him a horrible person or is it just my warped filter?
My husband’s mother has a tumor and he wouldn’t call her to ask about her diagnosis because he ‘knew she would only want to ask about the kids and how they are doing with him moving out’. Does that make him a horrible person or is it just my warped filter?
He refused to answer a text from one of his oldest friends because ‘he didn’t know what to say to him’ about our separation. He couldn’t face telling this friend what the circumstances are. Does that make him a horrible person or is it just my warped filter?
He’s seen his children for one hour in the past twelve days. He’s never called or texted them or asked me how they are doing. Does that make him a horrible person or is it just my warped filter?
Our daughter’s birthday is tomorrow but he stopped answering my texts about what time to meet at the restaurant when I asked him if there was any progress with his lawyer. Does that make him a horrible person or is it just my warped filter?
He had a profile on Adult Friend Finder and exchanged nude photos with countless women. Does that make him a horrible person or is it just my warped filter?
He’s responded to various Craigslists ads soliciting sex with photos of his face and his genitals (from his personal email account which clearly has his name in it). Does that make him a horrible person or is it just my warped filter?
I know I’m always going to think the worst of him now but I’m having a hard time reconciling what’s normal divorce behavior and what’s ‘how can this person even live with himself’ behavior? Can you ever be an impartial jury to the spouse that ripped your heart out?
No. I don’t think you can be impartial. Of course your experience with someone ripping your heart out is always going to cloud your experience of that person. Now, the pain will fade. You will get to “meh” about it — but yeah, you’re always going to remember that litany of shitty deeds and weigh his character accordingly.
It says good things about you that you want to gut check your judgment — do I have this person wrong? Have I unfairly maligned him or jumped to some conclusion? Very decent and chumpy of you. You have an ability that a lot of shitty people do not have — introspection. You can self reflect and question your judgments of others. Unfortunately, it’s those very decent qualities that often get chumps played for… well… chumps.
If you keep giving someone the benefit of the doubt, or seeing good qualities with scant evidence (aka “spackle”), or putting your thumb on the scale when measuring good deeds over toxic acts — a manipulative person is going to take notice of this. They will file you away as useful. Someone they can go back to and, with the right amount of spin, can get something from. Even if that something is just a good opinion of them (but usually they want more than that.)
But here’s the thing Kay, you don’t have to be impartial. You’re not God on judgment day weighing his soul. You only have to know what kind of person YOU are. That’s it. It’s either okay with Kay to stay married with a man who cheated on her for a year and a half or it is not. It’s either okay for Kay to associate with someone who won’t call his mother when she has a tumor or it isn’t. Kay will tolerate neutrality about a man who won’t speak to his children, or she will not.
You get to judge him for YOU. If he were anyone else, you could just avoid him and go totally no contact. That’s a simple judgment — enough bad shit adds up to Someone I Don’t Ever Want to Be Around. But it sounds like you still have children to raise together, so you have to negotiate this relationship still. So understandably, you want to know What Kind of Person you are dealing with.
There is a bunch of crap out there, especially in divorce literature that not “judging” is a virtue. Ooh… I wouldn’t want to be “judgmental.” It’s a harsh word. So unforgiving. Taken to its extreme, you get those people who want to be friends with their cheating exes and the affair partner. But I would posit that we judge people every day — and rightly so for our own survival. You want to stay safe? You JUDGE. You trust your gut.
Does that guy across the street look a little shady? You pick up your pace and walk toward the lighted sidewalk. Was your doctor rude to you and misdiagnosis your illness? You shop for another doctor. Did you go out to eat and get food poisoning? You don’t go back to that restaurant ever again.
Sensible people do not tell you to not be judgmental in those situations. Oh Kay, so you had to have your stomach pumped? Maybe it’s your warped filter about botulism.
So why do we think that infidelity and abandonment are different sorts of injury? What could be more grievous than such an intimate betrayal? Of COURSE you judge him!
It’s natural after someone “guts” you to be hypervigilant around them. Sure, they may have other fine, sparkly qualities, but you have to be on alert to not fall for that. It’s better for your personal sense of safety to judge this man and avoid him as much as possible. You cannot be confused on the matter or you will get hurt.
So many chumps do not listen to their guts. They convince themselves that, gee, they had this person wrong perhaps. They hold out hope. They may even judge them — but not act on that judgment, and stay enmeshed, or doing the “pick me” dance. You have to keep co-parenting with this guy? My advice to you is to have the lowest expectations of him possible. Do not expect him to do the decent thing, and you will not be broadsided when he does not. Expect him to be horrible and be relieved when he is not. Do your best not to malign him to the kids, and let his character reveal itself to them over time. (They’ll figure it out.)
Yes, people are a mix of good and bad. Ariel Castro is supposedly the third-best Latin bass player in Cleveland. You just need to know what ratio is okay for you. If you think he’s horrible? Kay, he’s HORRIBLE.