Dear Chump Lady,
I didn’t think Valentine’s Day would bother me as much as it did.
I was married for 18 years, with my husband for 25. I supported him through medical school and 7 years of a surgical residency by working full-time and raising 2 kids. He had an affair 3 years ago with a colleague. After I discovered the affair we spent a year in counseling, trying to rebuild the marriage and save the family. In his mind — I took TOO LONG TO HEAL and the therapist made him feel like a horrible person. While we were rebuilding, he had another affair with his surgical nurse. He took our family on an African safari this summer …. while he had a girlfriend on the side. She is also married and has THREE KIDS UNDER the age of 7!!
We separated after he told me he could not end the relationship with her. He refused to move out the house and lived with us for 6 months. We ignored each other, except when fighting and when he would berate and call me “a piece of shit”, “pathetic”, “ridiculous” . His excuse for not leaving was that it didn’t make financial sense (regardless of the fact that he is an orthopedic surgeon and I am a doctor too).
During this time he would leave for work and not come home for days at a time. I had to make up excuses for the kids who are 12 and 15 when they asked me, “Where is dad?”. I reached my breaking point 2 weeks ago and moved out — with the kids. I told the kids he has a girlfriend and neither of them batted an eye. I am not sure if they weren’t surprised or if our living situation is so fucked up that this is normal to them. I didn’t want to disrupt them and take them from their home, but I emotionally could not take it anymore. He continues to tell me that the kids will accept and love his girlfriend because they will see how happy he is in his new life.
On Valentine’s Day, he asked the kids if they wanted to get me flowers. They said, “yes”. He has not acknowledged Valentine’s Day every, except to say it’s a made-up holiday. He proceeded to send me TROPICAL (think orchids and birds of paradise — so un-valentine) flowers. The bouquet cost about $100. He also sent it to my maiden name (which I use professionally only). HE DOES NOT GET TO LOOK LIKE GOOD GUY. People say it’s good for the kids to see him be nice. BUT HE’S NOT!!! He is doing this to look like a GOOD GUY, like a HERO. HE IS A HORRIBLE HUMAN BEING.
I have NEVER felt so much anger and hatred towards someone in my life. I don’t feel like I will EVER, EVER get to meh. It’s not fair that he feels NO consequences, gets his new life and gets to look like he is great guy. He is worse than a sparkly turd.
Dear V-day Chump,
Maybe today’s Fun Friday challenge is a 101 Ways to Dispose of an Orchid Bouquet? Welcome to the wonderful world of impression management. I’m reminded of that John Prine lyric “Beats his old lady with a big rubber hose, takes her out to dinner, buys her new clothes… that’s the way that the world goes round.”
You just got a beating, and then were presented with a lovely new sweater… in front of your children. Yeah, no wonder you’re pissed. He cheats on you, continually disrespects you, refuses to make any of this easier on you or the children by moving out (Can you feel the SORRY?) — and then sends flowers? “Happy Valentine’s Day! Enjoy the Cognitive Dissonance! Love Fuckwit.”
And the absences of roses or lilies or carnations is a further fuck you. (Hey, flowers have a language, you know.) He sends zero romantic wishes to the mother of his children, but would like you to accept the sort of bouquet you send to the head of the steamfitters union for a job well done on that waste water treatment facility. This arrangement says, “Here is a token of our business relationship. My secretary picked it out. I don’t know what a bird-of-paradise is. I expensed it. See you at the sewage plant! — Bob”
Okay, but really it’s WORSE than that, because he enlisted your children. It’s not a gift — it’s triangulation. It’s enlisting their help in the giant Fuck You.
Let’s go back to our wife beater/sweater analogy.
“I bought you this beautiful sweater!”
Chump looks at it glumly.
“Aren’t you going to try it on? You LOVE angora!”
Chump: “I hate angora. It makes me itch. You know that.”
“Just try it on! It’s totally your color!”
Chump: “It’s puce.”
“MANY WOMEN WOULD BE GRATEFUL FOR A FLUFFY PUCE SWEATER! God, I can’t do anything right for you.”
(Cue the sad sausage and rage channels, now that we’ve flipped through “charm.”)
Off camera? The chump has been beaten. On camera? The chump looks glum, sullen, ungrateful for this gift.
For the cheater — this is an impression management win.
No need to dress the local scarecrow in a puce, angora sweater — just return it.
“I’m sorry, I don’t accept sweaters from men who beat me.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t accept floral bouquets from men who cheat on me.”
To your children: “I’m sorry. It’s not acceptable for me to receive gifts from your father. He has a girlfriend. He knows this, and it wasn’t okay of him to enlist you in purchase. However, I very much appreciate the sentiment that you wanted to wish me a happy Valentine’s Day.” And then direct them to glitter glue and construction paper, depending on their ages.
Boundaries! It’s what we’re modeling.
And they look one hell of a lot better on you than an ugly, itchy abuser sweater.
Hang in there, V-day Chump.