I have been married for over 30 years (two now-grown children) and lived in blissfully unaware chumpdom for most of that time. I, champion chump that I was, did not realize I was a chump until much, much more recently.
Two and a half years ago, my husband suddenly left me, claiming to be unhappy in the marriage. We’d had our ups and downs over the decades, but I was blindsided. It took me five months of total heartbreak, confusion, and attempting to save the marriage after the walkout to discover he’d had a mistress for the last year that we were together. (He slept with her for the first time four days before the two of us left on a romantic trip to the south of France that we referred to as The Vacation of a Lifetime). Then five months after THAT discovery I found evidence that he’d conceived a child with another woman he’d met on a long-ago business trip, to whom he’d been secretly paying child support secretly for 14 years.
After these astonishing revelations, I had to face the painful probability that he’d been cheating throughout our marriage. But until he finally cracked and dropped the mask, I had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA about what he was doing or who he really was. Truly, a champion among chumps.
Before all this, I regularly congratulated myself on what a great guy I had married. I would have said that my husband was the most faithful guy on the planet, with the highest personal integrity and an unshakeable commitment to me and our family.
After the split, he gave me the revisionist history of our relationship: “I never really loved you,” “I only got married because you wanted to,” “I just stuck it out because of the kids,” “I was miserable for 25 years,” etc., etc. Not knowing anything about his infidelity at first, I absolutely could not understand where all this was coming from. He assured me there was no other woman involved. Life is short and he just couldn’t stand living with his devoted wife a minute longer. I believed it all.
When I later confronted him with the whole uncovered truth about his current mistress and his illegitimate child, he weirdly did an immediate 180 and expressed a sudden desire to reconcile with me even though he appeared to despise me. I, in my then-despondent state of mind, agreed. Even through my acute emotional turmoil, however, I recognized that he was just trying to keep me quiet. He desperately wanted to preserve his carefully cultivated image as a faithful husband (until I, a crazy bitch, made his life so miserable he just couldn’t take it any more), devoted father, successful businessman and generally upstanding member of the community.
Of course the fake reconciliation attempt did not work and within a couple of weeks I gave up, filed for divorce, discovered Chump Nation, and recognized myself and my situation for what it was — cheated on and chumped.
In the intervening year and a half, I have made great progress in putting this human pustule behind me. I no longer have any contact with him. I figure if I don’t talk to him, he can’t lie to me. We have a complicated divorce because we own a business together, but I am slowly but surely nudging the whole process in the right direction. I look forward to the day when all ties are severed, I can take half of everything, and never have to think about him again.
My question for you is — how do I cope with the desire to let everyone and anyone know what a fraud and a cheater and a liar this person really is?
We have lived in our smallish town for 31 years and have made many friends and acquaintances over the years. The few who really care about me know about the situation and have nothing to do with my husband any more. A few others know about the situation but still consider him a friend— I have severed ties with those people. But there are many, many others I see now and then socially who have no idea of the true situation and who still think he is the upstanding guy he pretends to be.
It’s difficult to run into old friends who talk about this spawn of the devil as if he’s a normal good guy. I want to set them straight so badly, but I don’t. My gut tells me that although these are not my secrets, taking the high road means not trashing my husband to anyone and everyone who will listen. Also, I don’t want to come across as the discarded, embittered first wife (although that’s exactly what I am).
What do I do? Will it make me feel better if our mutual connections know just how bad he really is? How do I acknowledge my truth without descending into vitriol and spite? Should I tell my extended circle the details of our split or should I remain silent? Neither seems right…
Everyone’s got some impression management going on here — you don’t want to “come across as the discarded, embittered first wife” and he wants to come across as “faithful husband, devoted father, successful businessman and generally upstanding member of the community.”
Only one of these people is true — you were discarded, you’re naturally angry about that, who WOULDN’T BE?, and you’re the first wife.
Your ex-husband is, in fact, a fraud.
So consider, telling people the truth, however much or as little as you care to share, is just the TRUTH. It’s not poison, it’s not being bitter (we’ll get to that in a minute), it’s just the facts.
Now, polite society discourages us from truth telling because it can be awkward and hurt other people’s feelings. We scold children who point and say “Look at that fat man!” or “Why do you have a peg-leg?” Maybe the fat man is ashamed of his peg leg.
Civility is generally a good thing. But when injustice happens, it’s harder to keep your mouth zipped. You aren’t pointing out another person’s afflictions, (“Look! Everyone point at the piebald cheater!”), you’re sharing your story. You have nothing to be ashamed of here. The story is what he did to you, how you were crushed to discover his double life, how you were discarded.
The real challenge is your vulnerability. Right now you’ve wisely shared your story with close friends you trust. Good move. And some other Switzerland sorts know. And YOU know they aren’t bothered by his double life, so you can cut them out of your life as the shallow wastes that they are. But telling other people who don’t know you very well, or him, will make them wonder why you’re slopping your drama into their lives. And they probably will not react with compassion. (Although some might and surprise you.)
All to say — you don’t know what kind of reaction you’ll get. If you’re looking for validation from strangers — I’m not crazy! He really did these things! — it’s unsettling and puts you in this defensive crouch of trying to convince a non-believer.
The better tactic is your dignity. You know the truth. You’re not afraid of how people see you. And you don’t wear the shame of his discard. You told the people who matter, and that’s enough. I promise you, those people told people. And word has spread. So now you’re left to the culling — the people who know and feign neutrality, versus the people who know and are horrified for you, and pull you closer.
If anyone asks you why you’re divorced, you can use any of the handy chump phrases like “There were three people in my marriage” or “I didn’t like his girlfriend.” “He hid his love-child from me for 14 years” should pretty much suffice.
You’re not the keeper of his image any longer. Tell or don’t tell if it suits YOU. And stop giving a flip if people don’t get it. YOU get it. And the people who matter get it. Everyone else can go blow. That doesn’t make you bitter. That makes you a person living in truth, who knows her worth.