Dear Chump Lady,
I’m a chump of the highest order. My ex left out of the blue in January. I thought we had a great marriage and his pulling away the last month before he cut and run was just stress at work. He handed me separation papers in front of our two preschool aged kids and packed up and left within ten minutes(after clearing out the savings account. On a holiday weekend. Right before a family birthday party.) He denied having any involvement with anyone else at the time.
Now, ten months later, I’m pretty positive he has but I don’t have any evidence because I haven’t looked for it. It won’t help me legally in my state and I don’t think it’ll help my mental state either. I’ve tried my best to trust he sucks, and generally I’m okay with that being enough. The problem lies with my subconscious.
I have nightmares nearly every night about who he is with. Is it a neighbor? A man? A coworker? I wake up sweaty and shaking. Sometimes in the nightmares he tells me he’s sorry and shows real empathy. Sometimes he’s cold and calculating the way he was during the discard. I’m being haunted every night by the ghosts of the unknown. It’s like my subconscious is SCREAMING to know what in the hell is going on. I feel like my waking self and sleeping self are on totally different planets, and it’s exhausting.
Will finding out the truth (if that’s even possible) help me? Or am I right to trust he sucks? I don’t want him back, I just want to move forward in peace.
Any help would be greatly appreciated!
This Unknown is an untangling the skein no-win. If you find out who it is, if it’s a one of of them, or a bunch of them, if it’s Twu Wuv or if it’s pay-by-the-hour — you will still have nightmares. Only now, your subconscious can riff on all the appalling details. Is that a disembodied walrus on a sex swing? Why does he love her when there’s a tornado coming and a math test we didn’t study for?
You’ve suffered TRAUMA, and your brain is going to chew on it and try to process this nightmare with… well, nightmares.
It takes time. The nightmares will lessen and you’ll get your sanity back eventually. The hard work now is protecting yourself in a divorce and focusing on your power, to counteract the powerless you feel.
So, I wouldn’t blame you if you want to expend energy finding out who the Other Woman or Man or Large Gathering is. Finding out what was hidden from you is one way to take your power back. Knowledge is power, and he withheld that from you.
Beware with fact-finding missions, however, that you don’t confuse Who with Why. Who might be another mother at the preschool. Or his co-worker. Or a second cousin. The Why is still the same — because he’s an asshole. A stone-cold-sociopath abandoner. The affair partners didn’t make him a stone-cold-sociopath abandoner, they’re just of use to him. Dim and available. He has a hole in his soul, and you didn’t put it there. A man who can walk out on two vulnerable preschool children at the holidays, and take all the money, and ruin a birthday party — (my God, he’s like a Hollywood villain! Something should explode in his wake!) — is a TERRIBLE person.
Why? Who? Is giving him more depth than he deserves. TERRIBLE. I wonder what.… TERRIBLE. Whenever your mind wanders, just stamp TERRIBLE there. Nothing to pick apart…. TERRIBLE. But he had this nice quality and bought me a trinket once… TERRIBLE.
What matters here are you and the kids. Mystery Who matters if he was stealing marital resources to conduct his affairs. I’d think a lawyer would want to ask for that recovery. Who matters if it was a workplace affair and he could be canned and you’d lose child support. I could think of tactical reasons for trying to learn of who this person is, but I can’t think of a good emotional reason.
The important thing is rebuilding your life and rewiring your brain. They say when you have a nightmare, you should try to work with your sleepy conscious to introduce a hero. So when things get scary, you can command the dolphins and swim away from the tornado. You slay the sex-swing walrus and use its tusks for toothpicks.
In short, you become the hero.
Do it sleeping and do it waking. With a kick ass lawyer and some support — better dreams ahead.