Dear Chump Lady,
My ex got involved with my daughter’s hockey coach. It lasted a year. I discovered months of “I love you more and more every day, if that’s possible” emails. Fortunately I didn’t do the pick-me dance, and we are now divorced.
But I now coach my daughter’s hockey team, and the asshole has moved his kid to another town (for the record, he was such a shitty coach, he was almost removed by the association, but that’s another story). Because we are in neighboring towns, once in a while my team has to play the idiot’s team. We played last week and, in hockey tradition, there was a hand-shake line after the game.
I couldn’t stop myself. Instead of shaking his hand, I handed him a note that read: “Think of what you did to this 11-year old girl. You destroyed her family. You ruined her financial security. You made it harder for her to pay for college. That’s what you did asshole.”
I flashed him the finger when I handed him the note. The kids didn’t see, they were heading off the ice by the time it transpired.
I wish I had had better self-control. I wish I were beyond that. So my question is: Did I do a bad thing? Any advice for how I get beyond the bitterness, the rage I still feel?
Did you do a bad thing? No. You did an un-meh thing. Totally human and completely understandable. Keep it in perspective. You didn’t hunt him down with a cross-bow, or tar and feather him, or make him a Phoenix Coyote’s fan. (Forgive the tangent, but people shouldn’t play hockey in southern climates. It’s ridiculous. Hockey players live in places like Detroit or Winnipeg. Not Arizona. If it’s 85 degrees in February and you can retire there? — you don’t deserve a hockey team. Chump Lady has spoken.)
The reason we don’t want to be un-meh around affair partners is NOT that they are not pieces of shit. And it’s not that we don’t want them to internalize our judgement that they are pieces of shit. It’s that paradoxically they enjoy the attention. It means we still care. They interpret our upset as indication that their soul mate schmoopie is really special, and don’t you want her? Nanner nanner boo boo! She chose me!
You intended to shame the guy with your note. He sees the note as you doing the “pick me” dance that he thinks was already danced, and he won. So what if the note was about your daughter’s pain? He doesn’t care. Propriety didn’t stop him from having a year-long affair with one of his players’ moms. Insomuch as he thinks of your daughter, he probably tells himself, “Oh, kids are resilient.” Or “Well, she’ll understand we did it for True Love.”
He does not think — this was her world and I destroyed her family with my selfish affair.
No, Neal, it’s way more complicated and sophisticated than that. She is but a mere child, and you are a chump, and neither of you can understand the forces that compel fabulous people. You see, you sucked, and he had to rescue your ex from you. Your daughter is collateral damage, but hey, if you hadn’t have sucked so much, and if he wasn’t just so gosh darned irresistible (you know, like, BETTER than you), this wouldn’t have happened. Really you should blame yourself. This note is just further validation of what a batshit crazy brute you are.
Neal, this is his narrative and it will take more than a piece of paper from you to change it.
Really, if we could persuade people with little notes, just imagine all the idiocy we could save the world from! — government shut downs, wars, bad table manners. But, alas, none of us possess magic post-it notes.
Guys like him are impervious to shame. It’s not that he needs insight into who he’s hurt — he doesn’t CARE.
You know what’s effective at shaking these idiots up? Letting them know that people perceive them as fuck ups. They HATE that. Home wrecker? So what? But tell him he sucks as a hockey coach and everyone knows he was nearly removed by the association and has concluded he’s a loser — oh that would hurt. You gotta know where to aim those poison arrows, Neal.
But never mind. The guy is a TOOL. Please stop giving him mental real estate. You could shame my Australian shepherd easier than that guy. (She’d pee on the floor and forget what it was all about 5 minutes later.) Time to put the focus back on YOU.
I get that you’re angry. I’m sorry your daughter’s family broke up. You’re a good dad, so of course it just kills you to see her in pain. But here’s the thing — kids really are resilient. (Cheaters are not allowed to say that, because they use it as an excuse. Hey! I can fuck everything up because Kids Are Resilient! It’s like saying, I can light fires in movie theaters, because management has fire extinguishers.)
She really IS going to be okay, and college will happen, because she has an awesome dad like you. As I say a lot here — it only takes one sane parent. So focus on being that great parent. You get to control that. You don’t control the conscience of the OM.
I know it’s hard to bounce back from this injustice, but you need to start reframing this. Yes, it is unjust, and that’s a hard shit sandwich to swallow. You are going to grieve, and a big part of grieving is righteous anger. But bitterness and anger sometimes hang around too long because some part of you believes the bullshit — that this is your fault, that he “won” something of value, that he’s somehow better than you.
Those things aren’t true. You lost an unfaithful wife, someone who put you and your daughter into a world of pain and humiliation. If you lost a moldy box of tennis balls, would you feel bad? You lost a person who did not love you and your daughter the way you deserve to be loved. Whoever she once was, or whoever you thought she was, isn’t who she is now. Your ex-wife is the person who deserves this note: “Think of what you did to this 11-year old girl. You destroyed her family. You ruined her financial security. You made it harder for her to pay for college. That’s what you did asshole.”
Neal, I know you don’t see it this way now — but as your new life dawns and better people come into it — people who value you, and maybe some day a new partner who loves you right — you’re going to see the OM was just a catalyst to that new life. An asshole, yes. But he took away a faithless woman who was hurting you.
Slip yourself a note. Neal, you are an awesome father to an 11 year old girl. You are her family. You will raise her in financial security. You will help her with college. You’re a good man and hockey coach, that’s who you are.