My ex cheated on me with multiple women over the course of our relationship. The last one appeared to be the most serious, since their affair went on for several years.
My ex and I were long distance for much of this time due to circumstances beyond either of our control, so I was forced to learn about the affair online. As soon as I confronted him, my ex began scrambling to rearrange things so as to maximize his cake-eating opportunities (i.e., he recommitted himself to me but insisted on maintaining a friendship with the OW, who desperately hoped for something more but took what she could get now that I’d entered the picture).
In my fervent desire to restore normalcy, I pretended that this was okay with me while secretly cultivating an obsession with the OW and her perceived failings. I actually believe that my ex kept things mostly platonic with her after I discovered their affair, but allowing her to retain a central role in his life made for some awkward moments as we both pick-me-danced our hearts out on opposite sides of the globe while pretending we could care less about one another.
In what I think may have been a twisted attempt at brokering peace (read: facilitating the next level of cake eating), my ex revealed that the OW had confessed to being tormented with guilt over her role in my betrayal. I, of course, was glad to hear it and wished her many more years of torment.
After a while, both the OW and I became disillusioned and broke things off in quick succession. It’s been years since I’ve spoken to my ex, and in the meantime (according to Facebook) the OW settled down, had herself a kid and proceeded to improve her decision-making abilities. Looking back, I can see that I wasn’t “real” to her (being thousands of miles away and all), and that she was just a troubled girl who was susceptible to the same types of manipulation that I was. While I still think that any guilt she may have felt was well deserved, these days I find myself wanting to reach out and tell her that there are no longer any hard feelings. It may be crazy to assume that she still feels guilty after all this time, but I can’t seem to shake this strange impulse to absolve her. I guess I feel bonded to her in an odd way, thanks to our shared experience of being royally mindfucked by my ex and then kicking him to the curb.
Am I crazy for harboring friendly feelings towards the main accessory to my relationship’s demise? Is it a terrible idea to extend an olive branch at this stage of the game? Help!
Shifting Loyalties in NY
You know what’s nice about having a sibling? They remember the same things you do, but provide their own spin on events.
“Remember Aunt Mildred’s goiter and how she’d make you kiss her?”
Then your sibling adds, “And that Hammond organ she had in the front room with the cha cha setting?”
“No, that was Aunt Marion.”
“No Aunt Marion had the pool table. Aunt Mildred had the organ. And the bubble lights at X-mas. And the bicentennial wallpaper.”
“Oh, right. I forgot the wallpaper.”
“No one could forget that wallpaper.”
Siblings are our reality checks. Yes, these things really happened. I was THERE. I saw the wallpaper. It existed. You remember it too?
I think you’ve got a trauma bond. You imagine the OW is your sister in mindfuckery. Your ex’s mindfuckery is your bicentennial wallpaper.
Yes, I think it’s nuts to want to contact her and say “no hard feelings.” Because a) she clearly knew she was competing with you in the ‘pick me’ dance and persisted in having a relationship with your ex anyway. So you don’t owe her anything.
And b) Why have feelings for this person in the first place, good or ill? You admit to “cultivating an obsession” with the OW, and that seems to have continued after you broke up with your ex. (You know she moved on, had kids, it’s some years later.) The goal here is “meh.”
Nowhere in your letter do you say you were married to your ex. And you say it was long-distance. I wonder if what’s nagging at your mind is if the OW knew she was an OW at all? After all, you weren’t around. He was probably spinning some crazy bullshit to her that he was keeping it platonic with YOU and that you were “tormented with guilt” over your role in HER betrayal.
All I know from your letter is you were in a long-distance relationship with a man, who had another woman, you were both aware of each other, and you both pick-me danced, and he committed to neither of you. Which makes him a douchebag. And she’s an idiot for pick me dancing, and you were an idiot too. But for a time you both hung in there believing his lies.
I think you want to contact her to find out what her lies were and do they match your lies, and GOSH, it really WAS HIM ALL ALONG!
Look, whether she’s a nefarious OW or a mixed up kid — it doesn’t matter. Trust that he sucks.
Guys who love you, who are truly committed to you, don’t disrespect you this way. They don’t keep you off balance. They maintain boundaries with other people. They don’t goad you into the pick me dance.
I think it’s starting to dawn on you that you were both had. You don’t need to compare notes. You have enough information here to know that he sucks. Unlike the premise of dimwitted upcoming movie plots, chumps and OW don’t become BFF and get their hair highlighted together and plot revenge on the cheater.
No, in real life, you slunk away and rebuild your life best you can. Maybe she learned her lesson. Maybe you’re improving your picker. Maybe he tripped and fell into a vat of acid. I dunno. He’s in the past. She’s in the past. They represent regrettable life choices, like bicentennial wallpaper. Totally out of sync with your life now, and you’re mortified to recall when you EVER found that shit attractive.
Better days ahead SLINY. Don’t look back at the ugly wallpaper.