Dear Chump Lady,
My DDay was May 19th, 2013 after 22 years of marriage. I went through the humiliating dance…the gaslighting…all of it. I discovered you about a month ago, and have become 100% stronger because of it. When I read the comments, I am so thankful that it didn’t take me years like it did some people. I filed for divorce in July, and am just surviving until the final day.
In the meantime, my future ex has not yet said anything to his family about our impending divorce.
Despite our differences, over time I have developed affection and respect for them. I have just come to realize, however, that he will entirely control the narrative about why we are splitting. I imagine him saying things like “we don’t want the same things”, “she wanted more out of life than I could give her”, “we just drifted apart”. Some truth to that, but mostly bullshit. Bottom line, we are splitting up because he had an affair. He “loves” her, he “loves me but he doesn’t “love” me”, “she is sweet and goofy and you are bitter and controlling”, blah blah blah.
The kicker is, at 50 years old, he is having a near-end-of-life crisis, rather than a mid-life crisis. He has a health condition that will prevent him from living a normal lifespan, and is likely to become terminally ill within the next 5-10 years. When I married him at 22, I knew this, I accepted it, and was prepared to help him through to the end. How will his family see this? Here’s how: he did all that work over the years to make her a beautiful home. Now that the going is about to get rough, she decides she “needs more out of life” and is going to bail. She was a left-leaning vegetarian and we overlooked that because she did seem very nice and devoted to him. But see, those types can’t be trusted after all!” That will mainly be the thought process of his very conservative parents. A couple of his younger and less conservative siblings, who I’ve become very fond of, will simply be thinking “WTF?!”
Now, they all certainly will have the opportunity to reach out to me and get my side of the story. However, I will not be able to disclose much. Until this is all over, I have to walk a very fine line. I make more money, I have the big 401K and the pension, he does not. This is a marital property, no fault state, and he could get half of everything even though he has been very capable and working all through our marriage, and has had little to nothing to do with my success. He admits this, and is willing to leave my income, 401K, and pension alone, for now. If I were to blow the lid off his bullshit narrative, he could change his mind on that, get his own lawyer, and let the fun begin. Out of self-preservation, I have to keep my mouth shut, but is extremely difficult. I suppose I could start talking after everything is final, but should I? Or should I just suck it up, keep my mouth shut, and let them believe what they’re going to believe? At the end of the day, does it really matter what they think? Will I really get any satisfaction of letting them know the truth?
Any insight would be appreciated.
Newly Betrayed Spouse
Well, I hope you’re one of those cases where he settles quickly out of guilt, so he can go have his fantasy life with the affair partner. Fingers crossed for you.
Really it just all depends on exactly how dumb he is. Apparently, he’s quite dumb as he’s already chucked a devoted, high-earning wife who would stick with him through a life-threatening illness. But can he go the dumb distance? Will he be so staggeringly stupid as to not lawyer up?
If you filed in July, how long until you have a signed settlement? That shouldn’t take long to draw up — it is just a matter of him signing it? What exactly is the delay here? You can have a signed property settlement before the divorce is final.
Don’t trust that he won’t act in his best interest — to go after that half. Cheaters lie. He may tell you he’s willing to settle for what you’re offering, but the truth is in his actions. It doesn’t sound like you have a signed settlement. He may very well be playing dumb and has already seen a lawyer.
In which case, you need to change your tactics. The fact that you haven’t disclosed anything right now is good. Perhaps he fears you will. If that’s the case, and he gets stroppy, you threaten to expose. You ask your lawyer to depose the affair partner. That might light a fire under him. I’m not a lawyer, of course (I’m a chump) — just passing along what has worked for others. Consult with your attorney on this. Your divorce might become a battle you were not expecting — so prepare for all contingencies.
Now, on the in-law issue? That’s simple. Get your divorce settlement and THEN tell. Take out a front page ad in the New York Times if it pleases you. The job of protecting his image isn’t yours any longer.
It may be that the cheating will not matter to your in-laws. Yes, even conservative old people — imagine that. It may also be that his family already knows about the affair to some extent, and he’s already spun that narrative you fear. It could be they’re completely in the dark and will be crushed by the news and take your side — this is unlikely, I’m sorry to say, as blood is usually thicker than water.
The point is, once it’s safe to do so, speak your truth and let go of the consequences. You can’t control how people will react to the news and you can’t control what your ex will say about you. All you can do is live your life with integrity and let them connect the dots, if they choose to. (Many choose not to.)
NBS — you’re ahead of a lot of chumps in that your ex’s sad trajectory is immediately apparent. He’s going to make his Devil’s trade for the affair partner and then she is going to get saddled with Mr. Terminal Illness. Or she’ll be the person his family feared you would be — she’s going to dump him because he’s sick and vulnerable.
Hope he signs that thing. Report back and let us know!