There’s a subset of chumps — those whose D-Days come after their cheaters’ deaths. The bastards take it to the grave… and the grave gives it back.
Who is there to guard the cellphone now? Or the financial accounts? Chumps going about the terrible work of informing loved ones of a death, unwittingly discover horrors on their departed spouses’ computers. Or in their sock drawer. Or in missing college funds.
We average chumps might think, “Hey, at least you have the satisfaction of perfect no contact,” but think about it. There’s no one to rage at, no one to serve divorce papers, no one fill in a larger picture of how long and who with (even if you have to depose it out of them). There’s just absence.
And in that void are Expectations. That you will honor the sainted memory of your cheater. Arrange his or her funeral. That you will grieve appropriately — weepy, sad, brave — NOT homicidal, enraged, bereft.
D-Day with a dead cheater must feel like a cosmic joke. THAT was my life? AND I NEVER KNEW? And THIS is how I FIND OUT?
So, the chump has the burden. Who do you tell? Can you share this with anyone? Or is it Speaking Ill of the Dead?
I recently got a letter from “GM” who had this exact dilemma, with a twist — her dead cheater was a beloved academic, and his department wanted to honor him with a named chair. And assumed she would spearhead this memorial. She nursed him through a long illness, only to discover upon his death, that he’d been in the midst of a 13-year-long affair.
When he was closer to dying, I asked him for my birthday gift that defined me — wind-chimes at a particular small business. He gave them to me. They’re beautiful. I told him that whenever I heard them, I would think of us. We decided to give a set of these beautiful wind-chimes to each of our children, and eventually, to his sister. I told him that when he was gone, I would slowly save up and give them to everyone who mattered to him. Turns out he bought the same wind-chimes, went to his girlfriend, and gave her the same story. No conscience.
I grieved the loss of my beloved for a week, before I discovered he was NOT my beloved at all. He had been making things up for 13 years. He went from kids’ birthdays and holidays to texting his girlfriend. And it wasn’t a sex addiction either, because I see from the emails and the texts that they got together at hardware stores and went off to restaurants and had days together. To me, if I was really into the sex, it would just be a whole lot of visiting Motel 6.
Now my children really want their privacy. And they are concerned that I will regret it seriously if I tell anyone. And yet, my family and his family and a whole academic department all think he’s a saint.
After we found out there were actually seven Other Women, I stopped planning the magnificent memorial I had been working on. I stopped planning on working on a scholarship fund his department had created in his name and honor. I figured when I got back his ashes, I would throw them in the shed on top of the stupid wind chimes, until all of this settled.
Even when I talk to the hospice counselor or my therapist, they are so shocked and mortified they can’t speak. They can hardly breathe.
Now his department at a university wants to honor him by creating and lounge in his memory. A beautiful room. They all think he’s the angel he pretended to be. My life is just filled to the brim with his lies.
So — does GM tell?
Sometimes I feel like if I confided in one or two people at his department, the hole he really was, then my kids and I could stomach going and smiling while they dedicate this poor big deal to him. It seems like that would help, that a couple of people knew the truth.
But I have this lingering sense that if you burst someone’s bubble, they don’t necessarily end up on your side. They might resent it. They might project onto things onto you. I don’t know. I’m so lost in shock.
But the bottom line is that I don’t want to take away from his workplace, their desire to create this monument and canonize him. That’s their business, and he was very good at his job. It’s just who they think he was is absolutely a lie. And I just can’t imagine stomaching that.
I just don’t know what to do. What will be best for me or the kids. I can’t imagine saying to the university department that I’m not gonna be involved. And the problem is, all of the people there know me for who I truly am. I’m honest and straightforward and devoted. I can’t figure out how to be myself in the situation and honor myself, without any more betrayal happening on top of what he’s already done.
It sounds like you made your needs really, really small when he was alive. Now that he is dead, you know what? YOU MATTER. Forget honoring a man who abused you and deceived you — honor yourself and refuse to live his lie.
Your kids already know, that’s the hard part. If it were me, I would simply tell the academic department that since Mr. Phony died, you discovered his double life and his many betrayals. And you will not be participating in any memorial. Please take you off the mailing list, or whatever. If your grown children want to go to some ribbon cutting, that’s their business.
You do NOT have to burnish his image and be his PR agent in death. Not. Your. Job.
Frankly, I bet a bunch of them KNEW. So fuck them very much. Let go of how he is perceived.
And the problem is, all of the people there know me for who I truly am. I’m honest and straightforward and devoted.
A 13-year affair? I bet a large number of those people were complicit in their silence. A guy who takes his mistress to the hardware store is likely a person who takes his mistress to his workplace. Don’t assume you know what his colleagues think of you. Don’t project your values on them. What you see as “devoted” — they may see as “chump.” You don’t know what he told them about you — that you deserved to be cheated on, or you knew, or you were sexless. Or worse, they KNEW you didn’t know, and smiled at you at those faculty dinners, loving satellite to his rockstar.
Fuck them. Are you REALLY going to put their needs (to not be uncomfortable with the truth of his character) above your own?
This doesn’t have to be a showdown at the OK Corral — simply don’t go. And tell them why. Let them live with the cognitive dissonance. Not. Your. Problem.
Your cheater is dead. You outlived him. What a gift! What a glorious absence! Who wants to fill that remaining life with lounge dedications to fuckwits?
Please go forth and make your needs central (not HIS!)
Oh, and throw those wind-chimes in the crematorium while you’re at it.