My STBX informed me two weeks before Quarantine Thanksgiving that we had to talk. I shut the lid of my laptop and asked, “What do you want to talk about? Do you want to watch something together?” (I was deep into an episode of something that he hated.) He said, “I want a divorce.” Bombshell. Refused therapy, said he was leaving. He was gone the next day.
Turns out the woman he’d been openly having an emotional affair with ALL through quarantine was actually the woman he’d been fucking since pre-quarantine — though to this day he insists they “just made out one time in February.” Sure, OK.
My question, now that I’ve obtained the medical record from our child’s therapist stating that STBX psychologically harmed him by trying to gaslight him about how “Mom and Dad planned the divorce together”… and now that our settlement is going to include an article stating that STBX will be reimbursing me for marital funds used on the affair… and now that everyone in town knows that he cheated and lied… I’m faced with the question of whether to tell his family.
His parents are long dead, but he does have one stepsister whom he sees about once a year and who lives far away from here… and whose blood sister is a cheater. The Good Stepsister HATES cheaters and liars and (correctly) thinks the Evil Stepsister is garbage. Since D-Day I’ve been planning an Oscar-worthy speech, to be delivered over the phone, the day after I file, to the Good Stepsister about STBX having cheated and lied and gaslit and emotionally abused me for years. STBX and both sisters stand to inherit quite a bit of money from STBX’s stepfather, and in my wildest karma fantasies I imagine him being cut out of the will (inherited wealth is considered separate property in my state).
But now I’m wondering whether telling the Good Stepsister would provide Ego Kibbles to STBX, whose staunch position is “I had to leave my crazy wife because she’s emotionally unstable, volatile, etc.” He’ll doubtless give his family some made-up account about me being insane… and might even enjoy the opportunity to do so.
Should I keep mum or deliver my speech to the Good Stepsister?
Gray Rock Novice
Dear Gray Rock Novice,
First get your divorce settlement. You don’t want to do anything that could be perceived as revenge or antagonizing his family. The most important thing right now is getting out of this marriage with the best possible settlement for you and your child. So, as satisfying as a righteous blast of truth-telling might be, you need to resist the urge. Remember the Mr. CL rule about being in litigation: “If it feels good, don’t do it.”
Next — and I know this is hard — in the marrow of your being I want you to accept that your ex is going to malign you. And his family will probably roll with it, even if they don’t entirely believe him. Okay, even if they have mountains of evidence that he’s a shit human being and cockroaches would cross the street to avoid him, he’s still their kin. They still have to deal with him. They won’t have to deal with you. And it’s easier for them to avoid all the messy drama and uncomfortable feelings if they Don’t Take Sides. (See also “Switzerland.”)
Is this fair? No. Go punch a pillow. But they aren’t going to disinherit him. They aren’t going to rush to your side and validate your injustice. Most likely scenario, the Other Woman will be sitting in your chair next Thanksgiving, simpering over the sweet potatoes.
Look, and that’s even if they believe you. Even if they have a set of ethics and a history of avowed statements on the loathsomeness of cheaters. Even if they have empathy for you. Divorce means you lose his side of the family. There are some rare exceptions to this, the chump who keeps the sister-in-law and chucks the cheater. Forgive my jaded perspective, I’ve just read hundreds of thousands of these stories. Your pain isn’t their pain.
Is your soon-to-be-ex-SIL someone you were going to keep in your life? If she cares, she’ll reach out. And then you can tell her the truth. If — after years of connection — this bomb drops and she does NOT reach out to you? There’s your answer. She doesn’t care. Not enough anyway.
If he maligns you (and he will), and she has years of evidence of what sort of person you are, evidence of your character and good deeds, and she doesn’t verify his story? And she doesn’t reach out to you? There’s your answer. She doesn’t care. Not enough.
Now then, if you persist in telling someone the truth who has demonstrably shown you they Do. Not. Care? Now you’re in the very uncomfortable place of trying to convince someone that you matter. That your child’s pain matters. And you’re going to get squeamishness and platitudes in response, or you’re going to get rubbernecking at your pain. Neither of these things feel good. It hurts a lot, in fact.
But, but! It’s the truth!
Yes it is. And it’s your truth and you have a right to tell it. This happened to you, it’s your story and you are absolutely under no obligation to do impression management for your ex. And absolutely, by not saying anything, that leaves his self-serving narrative out there unchallenged.
Choose your moments. Consider what it gains you. You will regret sending a 14-page single-spaced manifesto of emotional word vomit. (Ask me and a million chumps how we know.) You will not regret the dignity of no contact.
If you still want to tell her, I’d wait until you’re divorced. Then, write her a letter (you control the one-way nature of this, and you don’t have to listen to any awkward reply). You regret to inform her about your divorce, you were shocked by the suddenness of this breakup, the presence of Schmoopie and you wish her well, and hope she’ll remain in your child’s life. Be gracious. Be brief.
Remember, the best revenge on a cheater is getting on with your life and denying them centrality. HIs step-sisters (the Good and the Bad) are stuck with him. Rock your new life. That pays dividends. Explaining your pain to people who don’t care? Not so much.