Dear Chump Lady,
So I’ve been chasing the unicorn of reconciliation for over a year now, but we’ve finally separated. I’ll be filing for divorce within the next month and here’s my question. We hadn’t been telling people (mutual friends) in case we got back together and so they wouldn’t have this stigma around her. Since we are really pretty done, my question is this: Should I tell everyone what she’s done and the reason the marriage ended?
A vengeful part of me wants to shout it from the rooftops, but another part of me just knows that it’s that small-minded part of me that is looking to hurt her like she hurt me.
Thoughts? Sage advice? A firm kick to my ass?
Congratulations on your resignation as Propaganda Minister. Welcome to your new vocation — Authentic Person! In your new life, your reality is your OWN! Isn’t that wonderful? No longer will you have to couch your language so as not to upset your cheater. No longer are you responsible for maintaining her image and polishing her legacy. Nope! The only narrative in your life now is yours and yours alone.
You don’t have to speak in the royal “we.” You don’t have to present a united front. And you don’t have to keep her secrets. That means, Ron, that the decision to tell or not tell is yours. IMO, it is not vengeful to tell people the truth about what happened — it’s just the truth.
This is the peculiar thing about cheaters. On the one hand, they don’t think they did anything to be that ashamed of. I mean, get over it already, right? They tend to go on thinking that they are perfectly splendid people and utter profundities like: “I am not defined by my relationships.”
On the other hand, most cheaters go absolutely ballistic when exposed. Even after you divorce them, they feel entitled to your propaganda services. That might be keeping their sordid secrets, or using the banality “we grew apart” as your public reason for divorcing. If you tell what they DID? Oh my God, you are a wretched person for speaking of it!
But they are not wretched people for doing it. The crime is exposure. Not crime.
If your wife is truly sorry for cheating on you and feels bad? She would LEAD with her humility. “I fucked up. I cheated on Ron. We’re divorcing.” That’s not the narrative? She wants your silence? Then Ron, she ain’t one bit sorry.
I say sing like a bird. Tell whoever you want to tell. I’m sure the chumps can share how they told people. And trust me, if you don’t tell, she’ll get there first and paint you as a Terrible Person Who Drove Her to It. Someone has to fill in as Propaganda Minister and it’s going to be her, most likely.
When you speak your truth, a couple things happen. Callow people listen and may think “Oh, well, people cheat. I wonder what Ron did to make her do that.” Useful information — expunge these people from your life. The other thing that happens is good people come out of the woodwork and say “I’m sorry Ron, you totally do not deserve this. How can I be there for you?” Useful information — hold these people close.
If you are never authentic with people, you will never be close. You’ll have a world of acquaintances.
Now, I’m not saying be emotionally sloppy. Although, face it, most of us chumps, including myself went through a very sloppy phase. You don’t want to drape yourself over your nearest coworker and bend his ear about the sordid shit your wife was up to. TMI. So, have some boundaries. If you feel the need to talk — DO IT. Post on this forum, lean on close friends and family, get a good shrink. Personally, I had to blab my way to the other side. I needed 6 million reality checks. You may need that too.
But when people ask why you are divorcing, I think it’s totally legitimate to just say “she cheated on me” and leave it at that. It’s not your shame to wear — it’s hers.