Dear Chump Lady,
Let me start this off my saying I am chump.
But I wonder, is it ever a good idea to reach out to the ex-wives?
Three years ago, I met an amazing man through mutual friends. He was very attentive, sweet, handsome, smart, active… all the things a 24-year-old could hope for. He was very upfront about having been previously married and how much he loved his young son. He and his wife had just “grown apart” after 8 years and their unhappiness manifested through cheating on behalf of both parties (although I later found out that he had cheated while she was pregnant and with some of her “friends”).
This seemed completely logical to me as I had never been married and came from “It Takes Two to Cheat” Camp. I moved in shortly after we met and at first everything was great. Soon after moving in, I learned that his wife had only moved out 5 MONTHS before I moved in! Terrified that I had made a huge mistake, he justified our cohabitation by stating that he lived like a roommate with his wife for 2 years and really the relationship ended long before the move out date. So I stayed.
Soon I found sexting, odd Skype calls and received strange looks from women at our shared gym. Still I stayed. Meanwhile, his wife was having us investigated for child abuse (humiliatingly untrue). I offered to converse with her as I believed she had every right to know who her son was spending time with. She declined. She started following me to work, stalking me, and became abusive towards my then boyfriend (throwing coffee at him in front of their son). Yes, she was labeled the “crazy”.
One day, his car was in the shop so I lent him mine to pick up his son from her house. When she saw my car, she punched him in the face (in front of their 4-year-old son) and shouted: “That’s the bitch’s car who ruined our marriage!” The story completely shocked me. How in the world could she think that it was me who ruined their marriage? Divorce papers had already been filed before I even met her husband!
And then I was utterly chumped: I found out he had been fucking a friend of mine. The devastation was truly amazing. And still, I tried “to make it work” for a hot second before I packed up and moved out. After all this, we were on again off again before I found your site. Finally! Cheating explained! For the first time I saw him as the disgusting, sparkle covered turd he is and was able to go NC and stay NC.
When I consider the utter despair I felt when I found out he had been cheating, I know it pales in comparison to how his wife must of felt. Yes, she behaved badly and yes, her own cheating ways may make her a narcissist. I escaped this horrible man in 2 years while she dedicated 10 years, a marriage and a son… I cannot even begin to understand how that feels.
Part of me just wants to direct her to chumplady.com. She once said to the cheater about me,”I’m just worried that she’s a nice girl and that you’re going to do the same thing you did to me.” And she was right. Am I just being selfish? Do the ex-wives ever want to hear from the girlfriends their husbands chumped?
I can’t speak for all ex-wives. Before I get into whether or not you should speak with her, I want you to reflect on what you THINK you know about her. What you “know” is what he’s told you, or perhaps mutual “friends” have told you. But as he sleeps around with his mutual friends, how reliable do you think those people are? Point is — you don’t know ANYTHING about her, except that she was chumped by this asshole.
You don’t know if she ever cheated on him, you don’t know when she really moved out, you don’t know if she ever punched him or threw coffee at him (did you witness this?), you don’t know what she ever told the cheater about you — and you certainly don’t know the real time line of your story — starting with when he got divorced. He SAID he filed before you met him. He’s a proven liar. And his wife seems to have had a very emotional reaction to the fact that you moved in so quickly. What I’m saying is — you were probably the OW here. She’s not batshit crazy, you were probably one of several OW who broke up their marriage. Unfortunately, you’re the one she knows about. You’re the one who moved into her former home and hangs around her kid. So, yes, you’re the one she’s going to be fixated on.
I’m heartened to read you have such sympathy for her. So putting aside everything you need to admit that you do NOT know about her, yes, I’d say reach out to her with an apology.
I know you’d rather probably lead off with a “Oh hello, he screwed me over too” introduction. But make it an apology. “I am so sorry, I didn’t know. He told me he was divorced. Please know that he cheated on me too, and I know that what I’m feeling must be a fraction of what you’ve felt, as you have a child together.”
I believe you when you say you didn’t know. The guy sounds like a total manipulator and a con. But she doesn’t know that, she’s probably sees you as a predator who came on to her husband. (I’m sure your cheater has real crazy stories about you too). She worries for her son. So, come gently in peace. How she will react, I have no idea. But I think it’s worth a chance to reach out and compare notes.
Consider that he may have been goading her into the “pick me” dance throughout your relationship, especially at the beginning. Regardless of when divorce papers were actually filed, he could have been eating cake and promising her reconciliation. You don’t have the context to put her “crazy” in — just know that if he’s a serial cheating, disordered wing nut, he’s probably fingered YOU as the problem. And she probably believed it.
So tread carefully. Your story may come as some relief to her, that it wasn’t something about her that made him cheat. Or she may also have a hard time shaking the idea that you didn’t know. For future reference — it’s a DREADFUL idea to move in with someone you’ve just met. Please, please work on that picker and avoid the sparkly cons.
As for comparing notes with exes — it’s a very personal call, and I wouldn’t want to generalize. On the one hand, it’s not very meh. Best to put as much distance between yourself and the cheater and whoever they associated with. On the other hand, if you’re in the early days of trying to figure out WTF happened and who this person really is, a compassionate ex can help fill the picture in for you so that you (like them) can see it wasn’t you. This is who the cheater IS.
Early on, I tracked down my cheater’s second ex-wife. She was an absolutely lovely person and filled me in on a lot of my ex’s shady history. When I told her that he had said she cheated on HIM, she howled with laughter, and called out to her husband “OMG! YOU WON’T BELIEVE THIS!”
My cheater didn’t find two chumps comparing notes on him at all funny. After I confronted him with what I knew, that’s when he got psycho, flew into a towering rage, threatened to kill me, and wished his ex-wife’s baby dead.
So take that as a warning. If you’re going to reach out to the ex-wife, make sure you’re utterly NC with the cheater. You don’t want blow back. She can’t be NC with the cheater because they have a kid together. So consider how the news may go over and what the reaction might be.
That said, I tend to err on the side of truth. Tell her what you know, answer any questions she has, and then gracefully back out of her life.
I’m sorry you got chumped, Jordan. But the good news is you’re young and you learned a painful lesson without too many sunk costs. Shore up the picker, ditch the “it takes two to cheat” mentality (I’m assuming you did that), and stay the hell away from any “mutual friends” of his. This guy is toxic. Heal up. Better days ahead.