Dear Chump Lady,
I am five months out from the last D-day. I did not do the pick me dance, I drew boundaries and protected myself by kicking his ass to the curb. The OW was older than me (11 years older than me and X) and had actually helped me with the relationship, until she was single and exploited her minimal knowledge of the relationship instead. It really was a double betrayal. But I didn’t try to compete with her for him.
Now however, I compare myself to her. She is successful, teaches CPR classes, leads her daughter’s girl scout troop, volunteers all over the place, is a coupon queen, etc. I feel like a fat homebody loser who just volunteers at the food bank sometimes. She knows how to make herself valuable to people. I’m nice enough, people like me, but I’m not really valuable to anyone but my son.
I keep feeling like I should do things like she does and then I would be more impressive. She sparkles, I don’t. How do I stop comparing myself to her?
Well, you can begin by realizing you’re not exploiting anyone’s relationship troubles to make a move on their husband. You’re not playing Auntie Cougar. Oh, and you’re not screwing up small children’s home lives. I think this makes you the classy person here.
The OW? Coupon clipping, cookie sales, and no soul. Why compare yourself with someone who has nothing in common with you? And I’m not talking about extracurricular activities — I’m talking about values. You could no more be the OW than Kermit the Frog (not to malign muppets or anything). You’re a different species.
Yeah, because she’s one of the sparkly people and you’re a dorky “homebody.” I know you see it that way, but you need to reframe this. It isn’t that she knows how to make herself valuable to people. No. She knows how to manipulate people. She’s artful at presenting a front — community organizer, do-gooder, friend. Her actions tell a very different story. She’s not a friend, or a force for good. There’s no THERE there. No core. The image is a useful construct to get the things she wants — kibbles, other people’s partners, accolades. The mask throws people off her trail, it disarms them into believing this is someone they can trust.
Sadly, these sorts of fraudulent people aren’t uncommon. The priest who’s really a pedophile. The crusading politician who’s taking bribes. The Wall Street investor with a pyramid scheme. They all act with a sense of authority — your OW was giving you relationship advice. They present as competent and all giving — but if you scratch the impression management, you’ll find these people either react with a sparkle offensive (charm! charm! charm!) or when that fails — rage (HOW DARE YOU CHALLENGE THE GREAT AND POWERFUL OZ!)
They don’t react with substance or self-reflection. They don’t react with humility or acts of contrition. At the core of all aberrant behavior, IMO, is entitlement. Your former “friend” felt entitled to exploit you and conduct an affair with your husband. (Your ex-husband, of course, also felt entitled.)
Wishing to be more sparkly, by way of comparison, is another way of blaming yourself for your ex’s affair. If I was of More Value, if I was Impressive — This Would Not Have Happened to Me.
No. This wasn’t your fault. Your husband’s failure to value you has nothing to do with your worthiness as a person. It has everything to do with his lack of character. And for what it’s worth “impressive” people get cheated on every day. Super models, Hollywood stars, successful business people, those with zero body fat, genius IQs. We chumps are legion. Being “impressive” does not control your spouse’s character, or lack thereof.
The only reason to strive to be impressive, to be a better you, is for YOU. Not because you’re in some stupid contest with a sparkly dog turd. If you think Rumorhasit could use some more kickass — get out there and go for it. Take a class, join the gym, volunteer, adopt a rescue pet. Also consider that there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. Not everyone wants dazzling hyperactivity. Many people prefer the company of a fellow homebody. Find your tribe.
Every time you compare, you’re giving these idiots your energy. Save it for yourself, save it for the people who deserve you, like your son. Congratulate yourself for navigating this shit so well. You didn’t do the pick me dance and you threw the bum out. That’s VERY impressive.
Leave the OW to the Girl Scouts and sewing badges. Maybe there’s one for home wrecking.
This column ran previously.