Dear Chump Lady,
Long-timer lurker, first-time writer. Post-abandonment three main issues keep reverberating around my head:
1. My ex’s (geographically distant) family didn’t say goodbye. He told them that “‘We decided’ to end our marriage.” (Um, no. He tossed me aside like a bag of garbage two days after I learned that he had had a sequence of affairs with colleagues.) Reeling from the two-day whirlwind of discovery and his divorce pronouncement, I sent his family a nonspecific goodbye email. (My thinking was that my ex’s family didn’t deserve to be hurt by being told what a lousy person my ex was/is, and–deluded–I likely didn’t want to endanger a possibility of reconciliation.) Frankly, given the circumstances, I thought my goodbye was charming. None of them responded. We were never particularly close, but his parents were always very kind to me and I thought I successfully demonstrated my affection for them. Unfortunately, the separation/to-be divorce coincided with my ex moving overseas for an impressive new job, an event that I’m sure suggested that I refused to move and support his new work opportunity. (Not the case.) Being tossed aside by them as well as him hurts like a motherf$*&%#. I’m seven months out from D-day, but unhealthy imaginary conversations still loop through my head in which I imagine clarifying the end of my marriage with his family. No matter which way I slice it, there’s no way that providing accurate information with them would work out in my favour. How do I get past wanting them to know he’s a cheating von cheatinheimer who has wronged me horrendously? (I don’t see how this information would ever naturally trickle down to them; plus, my thinking that they shouldn’t have to deal with knowing their family member is a jerk hasn’t really changed.)
2. My ex’s stated reason for leaving is that I am “incapable of being happy.” (So how could he do anything but ditch me? I was going to constantly ruin his chance at a happy life!) What a doozy of a head game. It causes me to endlessly question my daily living in the 13 years of our relationship (11 years of marriage). (With the exception of his work life, where my ex was all responsibility, all the time, I was the responsible one who cleaned, repaired, and worried about finances. I am certainly pragmatic and reasonable but I’ve never thought of myself as incapable of happiness.) This criticism also makes me second-guess myself post-abandonment. Now when I’m grumpy on a Monday morning before a new work week, I experience “Oh my, he was right; I’m incapable of being happy” seepage. When I stress about a broken appliance, I feel obliged to put a positive spin on my concerns, because otherwise he is right and I somehow deserve to have been left. Can you help me see this reason as a gem of narcissism rather than an indicator that I’m a miserable person?
3. He’s ghosted me. There were two days between discovery day and my ex telling me that he wanted a divorce (this was the first I had heard that he was reconsidering our marriage and had been reconsidering it for a year); the next day he moved in with his girlfriend (cuz I wanted him out); three weeks later he had moved overseas for his new job). Colour me a blindsided, abandoned chump.
Unlike many of my fellow CN members, my ex doesn’t goad me into regular-contact ego pacification. Despite his desire to “be friends,” we communicate only about our separation agreement (we don’t have kids). So then I sometimes weirdly feel like he is a better brand of cheater because he is not continually messing with my head: “Hurray! He ‘just’ abandoned me and walked away from our marriage without looking back or caring how I’m doing! I’m so fortunate!” But really “better brand of cheater,” in my weak moments, means that I somehow deserved to be left more than chumps with cheaters who can’t leave them alone and/or that my ex is more deserving of being missed than the average serial cheater because he has risen above suckling at the triangulation kibble teat.
… Hmmm, I’m realizing that I don’t have a question with point 3. I’m just lost in skein untangling. Perhaps what I’m looking for is some Chump Lady snark that will somehow soften my pain. Yes, it’s come to this. I need the man to whom I devoted 13 years of my life to be mocked so I don’t feel like I’m missing out. Sigh.
Stella (like I’m trying to get my groove back)
Yep, you just have an ordinary Trust That They Suck problem. You keep untangling and going, “Wow, he sucks… but can I be sure?” Untangle… tangle…. tangle… Gordian knot… “I think this requires further research!” Untangle… tangle… tangle…
Let’s draw a conclusion here, shall we? Call it “closure” — he sucks. And his family sucks too.
Not convinced? I’ll take your fears one by one.
1. My ex’s (geographically distant) family didn’t say goodbye. You’re perfectly within your rights to challenge his self-serving narrative “Stella refused to move with me, ergo we’re divorcing.” If that would give you peace of mind, say, “It’s taken me 7 months to find my nerve to tell you this, but Fuckwit has been cheating on me for years with his co-workers.” (Betty, Sally, Slutface… whatever, name names.) “I didn’t want you to think this divorce was my idea.”
It’s okay to do this to make YOURSELF feel better, but please let go of any expectations that it will sway his family in any way. When they got your first party line goodbye, they may have been rightly confused. “Why is Stella breaking up with us so suddenly (albeit charmingly)?”
However, someone who actually gave a shit, would’ve reached out to you and asked “STELLA! OMG, What is going ON?! We were so alarmed to receive your letter!”
Perhaps they were stung. Perhaps they’re shallow and don’t care. Perhaps your cheating husband has been at the Stella Sucks narrative longer than you know.
Doesn’t matter. They’ll probably continue to stay completely out of your life. The only person who will be upset by this revelation is your cheater. And you’re working out a separation agreement with him. So consider your timing. Why not get that out of the way, and then drop the bomb?
Don’t worry that his family will think he’s a jerk. He’s a jerk. If you want to tell them the truth, do it for you, but expect no results. In divorce, families break up. Cheaters get their families. These people (with rare exceptions) are NOT on your team.
2. My ex’s stated reason for leaving is that I am “incapable of being happy.” That’s classic projection. He’s the one fucking his co-workers. He’s the one who, never sated, gorged at the pussy buffet. His behavior says everything about HIM — he’s incapable of appreciating what he had.
He doesn’t know your internal life. If your heart swells at the sight of puppies or whatever. He doesn’t know what brings you joy. He can only speak for himself — NOT you. The responsible thing to have done is say: “I am unhappy. I want to break up.” He didn’t do that — ergo he’s blameshifting — YOU’re not happy.
You don’t need to put a “positive spin” on being abandoned. It sucks. You’ll grieve for awhile, and then you’ll get this fuckwit out your head and you’ll stop internalizing his rejection.
It’s okay to be unhappy sometimes. People who are being chumped and gaslighted tend to be less than their optimal selves. You know what solves this problem? Getting rid of the cheater.
3. He’s ghosted me. That says everything about him and nothing about you. He cheated on you for years and bailed when you discovered. Time to move on to greener chump pastures. You’re sullied, because you know. Abandonment is the elegant, simple solution if you’ve got no depth of character or empathy synapses.
That is ZERO reflection on you. NONE.
Look, he might still circle back if he senses you could be of use. So quit pining for a fuckwit! Put this in perspective ASAP. The faster you go no contact, the faster you heal.
The more you’re gooey for him, the more he can take advantage. Heck, he doesn’t have to work that hard! So, please tell me you’ve got an ace divorce lawyer on top of this, as you “work out” that settlement.
Hang in there, Stella. This crap is finite. Joy is out there waiting for you.
The cartoon “Rejection Man” is copyrighted and appears in “Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life” (Hachette, 2016).