My question is about whether I’m supposed to be friendly to my cheating ex-husband when around the children (14-year-old twin girls). We are divorced now, it’s been 2 years since D-Day and after a bit of spackling and pick me dancing (around 5 months) I decided enough was enough and I wanted me back and my self-esteem. I asked him to leave, consulted a solicitor, got a full time job to pay my way, retained my home, negotiated a settlement I was happy with, have started studying towards a possible new career and have a wonderful new man in my life.
I’ve practised serious no contact with him and it has helped no end. We email when necessary regarding arrangements for the children, holidays and the like, but I won’t even say hello to him when he comes to collect the children — I just stay out of the way, having said my goodbyes prior to him arriving at the door.
I’ve had to attend school events with him. At one, a careers fair, again, I found that I just didn’t even want to acknowledge him, we walked around as a “family” but I didn’t say goodbye to him, we didn’t discuss anything and each focused on the children. On another occasion, an awards ceremony, I attended with my children and my new partner (him at one end, the children at the other next to the empty seat we had saved for him) — but he refused to sit with us and his children, preferring a seat far away.
I don’t ever think about him anymore, I don’t really feel anything for him anymore — not angry, bitter or sad. I’m happy with my life and where it has the potential to go with me at the helm. He’s just someone I used to know. However, am I really at Meh if I can’t bring myself to exchange pleasantries with this man?
He was after all totally responsible for breaking up my family, trampling all over me and my hopes and dreams, lying to me and the children for God knows how long and putting us all in financial trouble, not to mention the emotional trauma and dodgy PAP smear test results as so many of those in Chump Nation are all to well aware. I don’t like him, there’s something fundamental wrong with him and I don’t want to be friends or even pleasant to him. I will not bad mouth him to my children, I respect their love for him and they see him regularly, he pays regularly and collects and returns them on time, I ask how their weekend was and ask after him and his family to them. But, should I force myself to say Hi, how are you, or chat about the weather for the sake of my children at events we all have to be at together and when he comes to collect them? Am I taking no contact too far?
This is a very chumpy, “Am I beyond reproach?” sort of question. It’s admirable you want to examine your behavior and wonder if you’re doing this co-parenting thing right, but absolutely nothing in the bylaws says you have to make inane chitchat with your cheating ex.
The bar for pleasantries is set pretty low — you can discuss the weather with strangers you meet in an elevator. The Bar set for not bad-mouthing the person who intimately betrayed you, broke up your family, and risked your health, however, is set high. It takes a LOT not stay forever pissed. Are you backing over him with a truck? No? Give yourself a break.
It’s okay to be nothing toward your ex. It’s okay to not get up off the sofa when he arrives. It’s okay to skip phony pleasantry exchanges. That doesn’t make you BITTER. (An adjective I noticed you were quick to denounce.) That makes you a person with something better to do. Excuse me, I have a very important appointment with a hairball my cat just barfed up. Ta-ta.
It’s not like I’m pro-bitter here, but chumps are so twitchy about being judged as lacking in magnanimity. It’s not your job to smooth this shit over. It’s OKAY to be DONE with his shit. You’re no contact for a REASON. Probably a thousand of reasons, really. All very good ones.
Save the difficult displays of superficial pleasantness for the occasions that really matter — like your daughters’ weddings. You can nod to each other across the punchbowl. Everything else? Why? Who are you trying to impress here? Let’s make a list.
People who would judge you who haven’t lived this? Fuck them. Him? Double fuck him. (And it doesn’t sound like he’s longing for further impression management anyway. Some do. Be glad he doesn’t want to Be Friends.) Your daughters? You’re already being mighty by not bad mouthing your ex, not standing in the way of their relationship, and modeling to those girls that a person can move on to a better life after infidelity. That’s ENOUGH.
What would faux friendliness do? It would feel like an endorsement. Like what he did wasn’t That Bad. And it would sap you of precious energy you could be giving to hairballs.
Oh, but can’t you put all that aside and be the Bigger Person?
Sure, if you WANT to. And if you DON’T want to, that’s FINE. I suggest you have a very short list in life of those people whose toxicity and harm merits social shunning. A cheating ex, a drug-addicted sibling, a brutal dictator who annexed your country. It’s a short list. I’m sure you’re a very pleasant person in the other facets of your life. This guy is an EXCEPTION not the rule.
He EARNED your no contact. There’s the entire rest of the planet to talk with about sport scores. I think the Nats might have a shot at the World Series. Have a lovely morning. Bye!