Edited To Add: If you wrote one of the many (now deleted) treatises on The Darkest Evils of The Other Woman And How They Deserve Our Collective Scorn and Hatred, and how they must accept the possibility of violence at the hands of those they’ve wronged as the forseeable fruits of their sins, thanks for the shortest window between posting a thread and closing comments in Captain Awkward history!
I have three things to say to you:
1) Sometimes married (or committed-ly coupled) people who are looking to get laid LIE not just to their partners. “We’re separated!” “The marriage is all but over, we’re just working out the details.” “We have an arrangement where this is all okay as long as she never finds out.” “We no longer even sleep in the same bed anymore.” “S/he’s cheating on me.”
2) This Letter Writer is not responsible for your pain. She stopped behavior that didn’t feel right to her and changed how she approaches relationships several years ago. She apologized to the wife. She read the hurtful, vitriolic email. She doesn’t have to absorb your vitriolic-emails-by-proxy that you couldn’t send to the people who your partner cheated with so now you dump it all on her. Her actual question was “I’m very aware of how I screwed up here and feel really guilty, but also she said stuff that makes me feel scared for my safety.”
3) Not cool, guys. Not cool.
I don’t know if you can, or even want, to help me.
A few years ago, when I was younger and definitely more stupid, I slept with a few married guys. I was recently out of a toxic marriage and went a bit nuts with online dating. It was a revelation that guys found me attractive after the mindfuck my ex did on me. My rationale for being ok with sleeping with married guys was that their personal lives were their own business and I didn’t owe a duty of care to their wives or families.
I came to change my mind on that and stopped sleeping with married guys about three years ago. Since then I’ve developed two separate ethical non-monogamous relationships with great guys who know about each other and are cool with the situation. Both guys know that I slept with married guys in my past.
My problem is that one of the married guys I slept with has been busted by his wife. She’s also found his list of fuckbuddies, complete with the notes he made of all details he had on them. In my case, that included my full name, where I worked and my email address. She’s kicked him out and is understandably white-hot with rage. To ice that particular shit cake, he’s given her several STDs, one of which has developed into cervical cancer which she’s now battling.
I know this because she phoned me (I hung up on her because I was caught unawares and she didn’t give her husband’s name) and then sent me an email. She wanted confirmation of what he told her about how often we met and when we stopped seeing each other. I confirmed those facts. She then started getting nasty, and descended into vitriol, to which I didn’t respond. It’s been a few days and no more emails but I’m wary about my windows being smashed or car tires slashed. I don’t know how unhinged she is. I’m hoping she’s moved on to his other conquests and will leave me alone now.
I have two pre-teen children and a good job. I don’t want to endanger either of those things. I know that her husband is responsible for her situation, not me. But I was a contributing factor.
I feel very guilty about her situation and wonder what the right thing to do is. Any suggestions?
20/20 Hindsight Regrets
If it makes you feel better, I have no stones to cast in your direction, only a “Yup, I wish I hadn’t done that either” wince when I look back at my 25th year upon the earth.
Thankfully my Mr. Bad Idea Jeans wasn’t a total dumbass who keeps detailed notes of his extracurricular activities and then leaves them for other people to find. WHO DOES THAT? “Sorry, baby, I didn’t mean to sleep around so much, I was just gathering material for my memoir!”
The damage — a LOT of damage– has been done. However, as shitty as her circumstances are, as terribly and righteously angry as she must be feeling right now, as regretful as you must feel right now, if you said “I’m really sorry” to her somewhere in that email exchange then there is literally nothing you can do that will make her feel better or make her life better. There is nothing either of you will gain from further engagement with one another. So you were smart not to respond to her emails, and you should keep doing that.
My prediction is that she will leave you & the other stars of Mr. Unfathomable Shitbeards’s Big Book of Ladies alone once she a) gets it out of her system and comes back to herself a little bit b) as long as people do not engage with her. Lashing out this way takes a lot of energy, and without a response to keep the conflict alive it will very soon seem pointless and not worth it. Anyone who does write back to one of her emails (or a public social media post) has just bought themselves 6 more weeks of unwanted contact.
There are a few things you can do to give yourself a little bit of control back while this spins out:
1) Filter her email address to a special folder that bypasses your inbox. Check it no more than once a month with a trusted friend and a glass of wine at hand –you need to keep anything that comes in to document in case things escalate, but it will be better if you control how and when you engage. If she calls, don’t answer. If she emails, don’t write back.
2) Lock down your social media accounts so they are friends-only. If she has accounts that you can easily find, preemptively block them without interacting — if she hasn’t found yours before now, to her it will look like you’ve never existed. Especially make sure your workplace information and your picture aren’t widely visible to people who aren’t already your friends.
Did I say block her? I meant block THEM. Both of them.
3) Vary up your routines a little. Take a different way to work, park in a different place so your car is less of a target for slashed tires and awkward run-ins.
4) Think through scenarios. How could you respond to someone you know who also knows Mrs. Bad Idea and who is uncool enough to bring it up with you?
- “Wow” or “Did you really just ask me that?”
- “I prefer not to discuss this at work” or “I prefer not to discuss it.”
- “If you know the story, then you’ll know why I’m not keen to discuss it.”
Disclosure of something like this isn’t something you actually owe to anyone, but if you feel the need to elaborate, howabout this:
- “I made some real mistakes with dating after right after my divorce, and Mr. Bad Idea was one of them. I apologized to Mrs. Bad Idea when she reached out to me, beyond that, I don’t see any good that can come from engaging with her.”
5) Get yourself tested for STIs if you haven’t in a while, since she might not be the only one nursing a nasty surprise from a guy who had so many things going on he had to keep a roster. I will cross my fingers that all is well there.
6) Forgive yourself and move on as best you can. This was more than three years ago, your involvement is long past, you ended the relationship because you realized it was wrong and have made major changes to how you do things that are more in line with your ethics. The dude put his wife at risk, kept NOTES (I’m really never letting that one go – journals are one thing, making your exploits identifiable and findable to others is quite another) and he is really the one who put all of you in this crappy situation. Once you feel safer and more sure that she’s not going to ambush you in the school pickup line, see if you can stop casting her in your mind as “unhinged.” What she is is really fucking angry. It’s easier to be angry at strangers than it is to be angry at the person you share your life and bank accounts with, but sooner or later the anger will all come home to roost in its proper place. Put your anger there too and move on.