Here’s an etiquette dilemma Emily Post completely skipped over — what do you say to the homewrecker who fucked your spouse?
Must you say anything at all? What about compulsory occasions like a child’s wedding? Or what if you stumble across them at your local hardware store (there in the screw department, I imagine) or worse, some “friend’s” party? Do you play it off with icy indifference? Flounce out of the room in tears? Slap the miscreant with your glove and challenge him to a duel?
How on earth do chumps share social space with these people? One chump Mandi writes:
I really, really need some good lines handy in case I get gobsmacked by an unexpected face-to-face with one of these people. I don’t know why I doubt myself so in this imagined instance, because I actually think I’ve handled [things] pretty effing well [so far].
Ideally, if any words are spoken to me at all, I’d like to think I’d say, “Oh, sorry, it’s my practice to treat my marriage as a private subject. I only discuss private subjects with friends.” And then make my smooth exit with no tripping or tears or stalling my car in reverse or something spazzy like that. This all assumes a balanced person hearing my words, which is already out of the question.
Of course I fantasize about saying things like, “Let me know if you need me to detail the lies he told YOU too, because they were at least every other line in the emails I found.” (Shit like he was sleeping on the couch 6 months, that he’d filed for divorce already, that he’d already told me everything, etc.)
I’m not sure why this encounter (which will likely never happen) is so scary to me. Or why I don’t think I could behave. I think on some level it is still very unreal to me. The thought of having one of the affair partners in living color, there in front of me, COMPLETELY paralyzes me.
Well, Mandi, don’t let it paralyze you. Take your power back and quit giving this person mental real estate. I know that’s easy for me to say, I’m years out from my infidelity nightmare, have no kids with the guy, and last I heard the major bat shit crazy OW was still living her drab existence in suburban DC. Not much chance of running into her.
But there was a time when she was a big boogeyman in my head, sure. The ex liked to tell me she was prone to violent rages! alcoholism! drama! (Projection much, dude?) Very convenient — if the cheater tells the AP and the spouse that the other one is CRAZY, well, hey, they might not compare notes. Unified Theory of Cake and all. Don’t talk to each other! You don’t know what she’ll do!
The person who called me on the phone just sounded small and sad, really. Occasionally haughty. But then she asked me when I got married, and she started to cry. Honestly, in that moment I felt sorry for her. Later she followed that performance with cyberstalking and harassment, but here’s my point (I was coming to it, really) — affair partners are PATHETIC. They are damaged, sad, fucked up people. Amoral. At best they are lost and deluded, at the worst they are predatory creeps. There isn’t a single affair partner in this world you should feel intimidated by.
But! But! That person fucked my spouse! They laughed at me! Shared intimacies! Wished me gone! Conspired against me! Tried to take my life and turn my children against me! They humiliated me!
Yes. Exactly. They’re scum.
Chumps, you didn’t do anything wrong. Not. One. Thing. You’re not the person with the dirty secret or the shame to carry. You brought your A game. You tried. You were committed to your marriage. There is no crime in being a chump. You have absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about or afraid of. The person who should feel mortified is the affair partner. Why should you retreat? Why should you skulk off upset? Hold your head high.
When you internalize that this person is pathetic — and you are not — the power balance will shift. You don’t have to be afraid to run into one of them. What are they going to do? Taunt you? Say nannernanner boo boo I fucked your spouse? Your response to that should be — you’re welcome to that sparkly dog turd. Best of luck to you.
There is no competition when you realize that this pitiful person is fighting for the attentions of a wing nut. Someone who most likely will betray them too, just like they betrayed you. You might look at them with an air of pity or mild disinterest. Like one of those news broadcasts about refugee camps in far away places. Oh. That’s sad. And remote. Huh. These things don’t end well…
Does that not seem satisfying? But what of the injustice! Those affair partners — why they just need a good talking to!
Save your breath. You might as well lecture a door post. You can’t shame these people. Let karma find them. They’ll learn soon enough what it is to be played by Mr. or Ms. Sparkles.
Still need a good line? My sister-in-law has a terrific one that goes: “Surely you must know what I think of you.”
Which I think is brilliant, because it is all purpose AND it leaves whatever insulting thing to their imaginations. If you have the misfortune to run into one of these people, say that, and then just walk away. Nothing else is required.