I am 6 months post divorce after discovering my ex-wife’s infidelity in September 2013. This holiday season my children (12, 8) are with my ex-wife abroad with her affair partner on holiday with my ex in-laws. It sucks that my kids spend time with the man that helped break up my family and end my marriage, but that’s another topic.
My question today is what happens to couple friends after divorce? Can anyone remain impartial and be friends with both sides, or do things naturally drift one way or the other over time? Can I remain friends with someone who has seen me crushed, particularly those few that know the whole story of the infidelity, and who stay friends with the ex-wife? Even more challenging, are those, who as a couple, are friendly with ex-wife and her affair partner.
After a year, I’ve decided to start letting the latter category of friends wane, because it’s too hurtful, as I wouldn’t the same to a friend. Or am I wrong or unique in my view? Do you need to have been through infidelity to fully understand the hurt that this causes?
Appreciate your view and advice.
You don’t need to have gone through infidelity to understand that it hurts like a motherfucker. You just need to know that it’s unjust.
And there’s the rub, Carlos. We live in an age where people are loathe to judge injustice. Two sides to every story. No one knows what goes on in a marriage. They grew apart, blah, blah, blame shift, blah.
I can’t explain the fashion for being Above Judgment, because judgement is essential to living and especially to avoiding disaster. Should I invest my retirement savings in Beanie Babies? Should I befriend the neighborhood pedophile? Ride my bike down a flight of stairs?
If we didn’t judge people and situations, we’d be a bunch of jelly-brained imbeciles. Anyone could steal our lunch money. We’d be adrift. Good Samaritans would have to pin our addresses to our sweaters and walk us home.
Fact is, we judge every day. Worthy! Unworthy! Good risk! Bad risk!
The shit sandwich of dealing with the People Above Judgment is that they did judge, they just found you unworthy. But they don’t want to come out and say that. They’d rather pronounce the situation ambiguous and unknowing. We can all be friends, of course. Because that’s easier on them. Then they don’t have to make judgment calls or think of people differently, or rearrange their social calendars and seating charts. Let’s Pretend That Never Happened. Your grief isn’t nearly as important as their discomfort. So let’s make believe you aren’t grieving.
In fact, let’s pretend the problem is you and your bitterness and inability to confer forgiveness and move on. Then we never have to consider the injustice of this situation, the pain of you and your children, or our moral culpability at befriending someone who helped break up a marriage. If the problem is YOU and Something You Did (or did not do, like grant forgiveness), then infidelity isn’t so scary. Infidelity only happens to those who deserve it, who do the Wrong Sorts of Things. Unlike the smug People Above Judgment who are immune from chumpdom.
Cheaters have many narratives, but the favorite is happiness. Hey, we deserve to be happy. Really this is for the best. Carlos, in time, will be happier too! He’ll find someone who is a better fit, and hey, really he owes to all to this life change made possible by infidelity. No harm, no foul!
Dimmer people think… well, who can be against happiness! They don’t ask themselves at what cost? And who is paying that cost? They think… Carlos’s ex seems happy. Happy people are easier and more fun to be around than grief-stricken, angry people. Walking into Carlos’s pain is rather a bummer. So… let’s (judge!) go with the Happy People.
Don’t you like Happy People, Carlos? What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you forgive and be friends?
Well, that all makes a perverse sort of sense if you lack empathy and have no moral compass. (I’m sure stealing my bank card and buying 15 hamburgers confers happiness on someone.)
The fact is, Carlos, you don’t have anything in common with people who would be friends with your cheating ex. You don’t share the same values. You said yourself, you would not do this to a friend. Ergo — these people are not your friends. There is no reciprocity there. They would not behave in the manner you would behave. You don’t share the same moral world view.
One hard blessing of infidelity is that it shows you who your real friends are, and who is a waste of space. Who can stand with vulnerability and grief, and who runs away.
This is an opportunity, Carlos, to fix your picker in all aspects of life and cherish the people close to you, who really have your back, and dump the losers who don’t. And when you do that, you’ll discover that you’re a hell of a lot more “meh” about your ex. You ARE happier. You aren’t pick me dancing with the friendship circle over who gets the “friends.” You really don’t give a shit any more.
Your new life will eclipse your old life Carlos, and into the darkness goes the smug assholes who don’t deserve you.
This column ran previously.