Dear Worried: The other woman “saved” your husband all right! And boy did the two of them ride off into the sunset…..all the way to your soon-to-be-ex mother-in-law’s fucking couch! The stars sure aligned for him, didn’t they? He pissed away a hard-working wife/devoted Mom/multi-tasking machine, and traded in his formerly functioning adult life for unemployment and living at Mommy’s! Let’s hear it for men who’ve got their shit together!
How in the world can any woman resist a man of such promise and ambition? There’s not a whole lot of excess detail for me to glean from your succinct letter, but I can tell you that your husband’s next great decision in his life will probably be his first. Any grown man who decides to run off with a Pretty Young Thing, losing literally everything in the process, and runs to Mommy’s house when life gets too damn real (“Poor Me! I can’t work!”), and best of all, thinks the PYT is actually going to stick by his now income-deficient side for much longer….that’s a whole lot of motherfucking crazy from which you were mercifully spared.
You just can’t see it because you’re still neck-deep in the Heartbreak Foxhole. And you’ve got four children depending on you throughout this mind-fuck?! I tip my hat to you, Worried. I wanted to rip my skin off once my ex’s cheating drove our childless relationship into the ditch. I can’t imagine the pain you’re feeling and the pressure you’re under. I wish “Meh!” was as easy as reciting a Harry Potter spell. But as you can see and feel first-hand, even after all of the pieces of the Cheater Puzzle come together, the pain cuts deep and lingers for much longer than we’d like. You’re not in denial, you’re not making excuses for his sorry ass, and you’re not pick-me dancing. Maybe he didn’t even give you the chance to Pick-Me dance and you feel like you were cheated out of that too.
What you’re doing right now is sitting in your heartbreak. And that’s perfectly fine. What I can offer you is a list of things that you probably already know. All the Yeah, I Know stuff. The following list may seem needless—your letter shows that you “get it”—but there’s a few key points worth repeating. Perhaps you can refer to this list on those dark and lonely nights of self-doubt:
a) Your husband’s cheating was absolutely, positively NOT your fault. Continuing to cast yourself as the villain who drove him into the arms of another woman is a recipe for a complete and utter emotional breakdown; a misery far more wretched than anything you’re feeling now. The first step to any kind of healing is acknowledging that your husband’s shitty choices were entirely of his own doing.
b) The irony of your husband ending up on Mommy’s couch, unemployed and useless to society, is quite exquisite. But it’s also a rather deserving comeuppance. Doesn’t look that way to you because you think he’s off the hook, kicking back and not worrying about shit while Mommy prepares tea for him and the Pretty Young Thing. Meanwhile, you have to get four kids up tomorrow morning and drag your ass to work. But tell me something: Is that mindset working for you? Are you willing to try something different? Try look at your husband objectively. Is that the kind of man you wish you were still married to? A self-pitying, 12-year-old Momma’s Boy trapped in an adult’s body? Doesn’t sound like any kind of husband or father to me!
c) Tell the truth: You can’t take the “final step” because you’re still madly in love with him. It’s okay. We all went through it. But I’m curious as to how someone as hard-working and intelligent as you can fashion a logical scenario where the marriage he flat-out destroyed can in any way be salvaged? How would that even work exactly? He ditches the PYT, packs up the duffel bag, leaves Mommy’s couch and comes home to you? Then what? He gets his job back and becomes not only a productive member of society but also a devoted husband/father all over again like nothing ever happened? Do you really think there’s any chance of that happening? He’s already shown you who he truly is. Why are you imagining different?
d) Because like most Chumps, you think you can fix what you didn’t break. And you’ve fallen into the Chump Trap whereby you decide that since the whole breakdown of the marriage was your fault (read: problem), you’ll gladly and tirelessly attack what you think caused him to cheat (read: solution) so that you’re the one who rides off into the sunset with him, right? That’s the least that the Universe can reward you with in exchange for all of the tears and all of this effort. Right?
WRONG. It doesn’t work like that in ChumpLand, Worried. The Chump lunch menu is complete with an afternoon tea that’s always served cold no matter how much you heat the kettle. It’s hard to see from the Heartbreak Foxhole you’re currently dug into. All you taste right now is dirt, so I can imagine that even a cold cup of tea would sound wonderful right about now!
Fuck the tea. I need you to climb out of that foxhole and look out at the trainwreck that your husband made of your lives. All you can think about is how effortlessly he threw you off the train, ignoring the fact that the train careened off the tracks the moment you hit the ground! He’s left nothing but carnage in his wake, and not only does he have Mommy and PYT shielding his eyes from the disaster, but you’re right there ready for Clean-Up Duty! And don’t forget to make his tea, look after the kids, be the breadwinner and social life organizer, and pretend that his shitty choices were all your fault! And you’re not expecting him to, like, start working again, are you? He’s in pain right now! How’s all of that sound? Is that something you really want?
I gotta level with you, Worried. I’ll take loneliness, an empty social life, and a horde of cats over that kind of married life any day of the week. And I fucking HATE cats. But hey, at least I know what I’m getting: They eat, sleep all fucking day, shit in litter boxes, shed fur all over my carpet, scratch up my furniture, and occasionally cough up hairballs. But check this out: If any mouse even tries to scamper onto my property, Mr. Whiskers is gonna fucking regulate. Because he’s got my back. That’s more than your husband can say!
He didn’t have your back when he decided to cheat, doesn’t have your back now that you’re juggling work, heartbreak and single motherhood, and probably wouldn’t have your back should he return. What are you missing out on, exactly? Nobody could’ve saved your husband from his choices, Worried. This is your time to rise to the occasion and be the best and hardest-working mother you can be with the shitty cards you’ve been dealt. And this is your time to get the fuck away from him. Sure, you’re still allowed to be upset. Set aside some time for yourself to sit in your heartbreak and cry it out, write it out, vent to your girlfriends…whatever you gotta do. But your outright refusal to take the “final step” shows a stubborn unwillingness to accept the fact that not only have you been thrown off the train, but the train’s already crashed! To even try to reconcile with a man of such shitty character is just asking for a second trainwreck that’s going to be twice as devastating. You don’t deserve that.
You may feel abandoned and worthless, but you’ve got the two greatest gifts a Chump could ever get post-affair: Time and space. And look how much perspective you already have—the time and space are working for you and you don’t even realize it! So many chumps get stuck babying their cheating spouses, dragging them to marriage counseling, highlighting passages in infidelity books that never get read, and serving up delicious helpings of cake that cheating spouses see fit to eat with their fingers. Your husband, as much of a fuckhead as he is, at least had the good sense to fire you as Chief Chump and replace you with Mommy and PYT, thus sparing you from even more agony. You don’t realize it, but he actually gave you your life back. Once you take that final step and wake up from this nightmare, with time and space on your side, you’re going to be grateful for every single lonely night you’ve had since your marriage was detonated. No matter how alone you felt, at least you weren’t stuck cleaning up yet another mess that he created.