Dear Captain Awkward,
I married my college boyfriend T three years ago, but our marriage became pretty awful. This past summer I went to a month-long program for my job and met M, who is honestly the most amazing person I’ve ever known. He gets me in a way no guy ever has. When we said goodbye he kissed me and it was like fireworks going off. We stayed in touch every day and realized we were in love. I knew I wanted to be with him, so I was upfront and honest with T about everything. T asked me if I would cut off all contact with M and go into counseling with him, but it was too late for that.
I flew to where M lives a few times and everything went to another level. He’s married too and has been unhappy for a long time but it’s more complicated because they have two kids. I moved out from the house T lives in (it’s owned by his company so I was the one who had to leave) and that was really hard. At first T was letting me stay a couple of months, then changed his mind and I had to leave in 2 weeks. Then he refused to keep our cat even though the apartment I found doesn’t allow pets, and gave it away to someone else. M is allergic but said he’ll live with them because that’s how much he loves me.
This summer M and I are moving in together. We’re keeping our current jobs until then for finances, and it gives him time to figure out how to tell his wife and kids. T and I are getting divorced, and I’m starting to feel happy again except T is telling everything to our mutual friends from college, including the girls I lived with, who are more my friends than his. He insists on telling all the details and blames me for breaking up our marriage. He’s prejudicing my own friends against me and against M, who he’s never even met. I’ve asked him to just say that we had irreconcilable differences and we’re moving on with our lives, but he refuses and says it’s his story too and he can tell it however he wants.
How do I talk to my friends without having to defend myself against everything? How do I show them how happy I am? I want them to meet M so they can see how good we are together, but feel like T has poisoned the well. I’m following my heart and it’s been really hard and I need their support, but I feel like T is actively trying to destroy that. I’m scared to lose them. What can I do?
Following My Heart
You get to leave your marriage. Wanting to leave is its own reason, and if you are unhappy and don’t want to be married to T. anymore, leaving was 100% the right thing to do. Be resolute.
However, people in the process of being left are unlikely to congratulate you for your openness, honesty, or for following your heart, especially not when they are still in the middle of the separating of the books and the giving away of the cat. The forthright way you handled things earns you no credit against the immediate aftermath of pain and loss. “I guess it could have been worse, you could have lied and led me on for a while first” isn’t exactly an “attagirl.”
While you are no doubt correct that T. is being vindictive by making sure that people who are primarily *your* friends know the dirty details, outside of the celebrity world announcing a divorce and seeking comfort and support afterwards isn’t handled by the couple releasing a joint press release where they agree that “irreconcilable differences” is the story they will tell all mutual friends. T’s “story”: that you guys were in a rough patch, you went away on a course and met a married guy with kids, fell in love with him after a few visits, and decided to get a divorce rather than go to counseling with him is true, it’s just being presented without all the happyshinyfuturelove stuff that you’re feeling about M. T’s feelings about that, whatever they may be, are real. T is right = you get to leave him, but you don’t get to leave him AND control what story he tells about that AND have everyone feel good that. You say, “He’s prejudicing my own friends against me and against M, who he’s never even met.“
Come on. I want to be on your side here. I want you to have a happy life. To address the elephant in the room, I’m honestly skeptical about the whole “You are getting divorced but M. has yet to tell his family what’s up” thing working out smoothly, but a) that wasn’t your question and b) I think it is brave to break off a relationship that everyone expects you to stay in because you know in your heart that it’s not what you want. When I hear that someone is leaving their spouse, I assume they have good reasons and don’t need the judgment of the world heaped upon something that already has so much friction around it. But do you honestly think that T. meeting M. would make a single bit of difference how he “feels” about him? Do you honestly think that it’s unfair of T. to harbor some resentment and hostility against M., even from afar? Or to answer “Hey, how are you?” with “My wife is leaving me for some married dirtbag*, so, not great, honestly?” Going out of his way to contact your friends is not the most graceful or cool way to handle this, I agree, but T. also doesn’t have a duty to present the situation or you in a positive light to the people he counts on, or to agree to the objective “amazingness” of M. or whatever. He’s not your press secretary, he’s your collateral damage.
There’s so much pressure to be in a relationship, stay in a relationship (even a bad relationship) that it’s not surprising that people sometimes have a hard time at first processing that a breakup can be really good news. But I have to ask, how close are these friends exactly?
I ask because, if Mr. Logic (a friend, and an all around splendid chap) called me and told me some tale about how the good Commander Logic (my friend, and a best friend) was ditching** him for some Tomedict Hiddlesnatch and shouldn’t I hate her forever, my first call would be to her to ask how she is doing and what’s going on. “Your husband told me the strangest story, what’s he on about? That is very odd behavior for him. Also, are you okay?“ And if the story were true and if I thought she was making a terrible mistake I would ask her, “Are you sure about this? Really REALLY sure? Really really really really supercalifragilisticexpialidocially sure?” but if she said “I’m sure” then I’d say “I feel a lot of trepidation about this and I don’t get it at all but I love you, so what do you need from me?” I would go to an awkward brunch with Frumious Hiddlesmarch to be a supportive friend (and out of sick curiosity) but to be honest I wouldn’t be all “I can’t wait to check out your hot new dude! Tell me about the way he leans!” while the bridesmaid’s dress from their wedding was still hanging in my closet. You can question someone’s choice while still loving and supporting them. And you can love and support someone while still thinking they are making a mistake, or while feeling cautious on their behalf.
My point being, if your marriage can break irrevocably upon the occasion of you meeting someone new, then it wasn’t that strong to begin with. So also go your friendships. If your closest friendships can be broken by your husband’s pre-emptive telling of your “good news” in a less than flattering way, what does it say about the strength of those ties? Either they are not so strong, because what kind of friend won’t even listen to your side of the story or call to find out if you are okay before passing judgment? Or, those friendships are very strong indeed and what you are hearing is “Are you really, really, really certain-sure? Like, 100% sure? Like, if this were a situation where you had to go to war and you needed to press the big red button, you’d for sure press it?” instead of what you want to be hearing, which is “He sounds dreamy, tell me all about him!”
My other point being, just as you cannot control the narrative that T. shapes around these events, you cannot control how your friends will feel about your decision or about M. So stop trying to “win” that part of the argument or pre-emptively defend yourself or him (as you point out, they’ve never met him, so have no basis for forming opinions) or get them to validate you or feel any kind of way at all. Spend time with them, talk to them like individual people (not an audience or as arbiters of your decision-making), acknowledge how messy things are, and acknowledge that they might be in an awkward position with regard to you and T.
Here’s a hint for talking about mutual friends who have not yet jumped off the T-rain in favor of the M-etro to your heart: Don’t oversell it. “But M. is so incredibly amazingly amazing, I just had to follow my heart, let me tell you about this anecdote that proves how right he is for me, so you can be happy for me as I follow my heart.”
<is less than
“Listen, this is so sad and hard to admit, but I just married the wrong person. I am sorry to cause T. so much pain, but the truth is that I was very unhappy with T. and was looking for a way out anyway. Meeting M., and seeing what it feels like to click with someone who is right for me, just sped up the timeline on a decision I was already in the process of making. I do hope you get to meet M. once the dust settles, but I understand if that’s too awkward right now. In the meantime, I’m glad to be here with you. Your friendship is important to me.”
Do you see the difference? The first is approval-seeking, and it’s also an appeal to forces greater than yourself and transparent as an attempt to convince yourself. TRUE LOVE, GUYS, HOW CAN IT BE WRONG I COULDN’T HELP IT IT JUST HAPPENED vs. I’m in the middle of some really hard, messy decisions and am grappling with them as honestly as I can, even though they are regretfully causing pain to someone we both care about. Even if these friends did know the marriage was sour and they are cautiously happy for you, they might feel strange saying so openly if T. is still bleeding all over Facebook.
Which leads me to this suggestion: If you need friends who will gush over M. with you and support you through the ups and downs of the next few months while you figure out this transition, a) look to newer friends, and friends who don’t also know T. and b) keep the “True love, yaaaaaaaaaaaaaay” or “I am finally freeeeeeeeeee!” stuff OFF of public social media feeds where people who know both you and T can see it juxtaposed with his posts about being forever alone. You’re allowed to ask for support from your people and generally live your life, and it’s only natural to want people to be excited about the things that you are excited about, but if you are worried about the opinion of your wider circle who overlaps with T., use filters judiciously and try not to rub salt in the wounds while they are fresh.
And like I said, don’t oversell the new thing. A cautionary tale: My college roommate had something like 37 distinct photos of her long distance boyfriend displayed in our 200 sq. foot dorm room. They’d met when he was an exchange student at her high school and done the long-distance thing for more than a year when he went home and she went off to university. They wrote each other letters and sent packages in the mail every single day. I was admonished never to pick up her mail when I got mine, because she liked the feeling of opening the mailbox and finding his packages in it so much and by getting the mail I was “ruining” it. Cool, whatever. They made mix tapes for each other, tapes of themselves talking, a tape that had nothing but various versions of “their” song (“Bridge Over Troubled Water, or, MY NEMESIS IN SONG FORM) over and over again for 90 minutes. Then they both studied in the same city during their junior year and broke up after 1 month of being in the same place for the first time in 3 years. I was super-sorry for her, as it is a sad story when two people who are obviously putting in the effort don’t work out, and she was a very cool and kind person who deserves nothing but happiness. And yet? 20 years later I still remember that dude’s dorky face and ever-rotating collection of polo shirts “decorating” every surface in our room and the crushing irony of their demise.
If this thing with you and M. works out and you are gloriously happy together, your close friends will come to know him. They will come to see that you’re happy without the hard sell, and maybe an “attagirl” in the form of “I didn’t think so at the time, but you made the right decision and I’m glad you’re so happy now” is in your future. However things go down, I don’t think you want “WHY CAN’T YOU JUST BE HAPPY FOR ME?” to be the tone of how things are between you, so take it very slow and acknowledge their skepticism.
*an imagined opinion of T’s, not a fair impartial judgment based on interactions, obviously!
**For the record, this situation is beyond unlikely, and lives firmly in the territory of the absurd, with unlikely Salvador Dali-esque clocks melting unlikely-ly all around it.
166 thoughts on “#553 I’m following my heart, so why won’t my friends root for me?”
Loved it.. And agree to it
i have a very dubious side-eye for the married M who seems in no real hurry to make the magic happen with the LW; sure kids complicate things when a marriage comes to an end, but still.
However, that was not the topic LW wanted advice about, so I will just high-five the Captain’s distinction between trying to MAKE friends understand vs. acknowleding to friends that you have a lot going on and that you are hurting T although that is not your intention. Could make a world of difference.
Yyyyyyeeeeaaaahhh, not trusting M too much, either. Hope it all works out, though.
Agreed, so wholeheartedly. May I just say that until papers are filed or at the very very least, conversations had, M is not actually available. Don’t make any huge life choices based on assuming he is, until he is actually on the road to, or has arrived at, that state. Amazing people don’t leave entire families, nor new partners, dangling in the breeze, but work through the tough times diligently and responsibly. I speak from experience…it can be a long, long long wait, and is what contributed to a relationship ended for me, AND what has confirmed to me that if an interested party has not traveled some way down the divorce proceedings route, I am NOT interested. If they are amazing, they will be amazing in a few months, when they are amazing and divorced or proceeding towards being so.
Agreed to all this. Friend of mine went through the meeting-amazing-guy-who-was-getting-divorced thing … except he wasn’t, and she found out the hard way.
…and sometimes, the amazing-guy-who-was-getting-divorced really does get divorced. But then amazing-guy-who-got-divorced does the same thing to you. And sometimes, amazing-guy-who-got-divorced-then-cheated-on-you, becomes amazing-guy-who-got-divorced-then-cheated-on-you-then-married-woman-he-cheated-with-and-now-cheats-on-her. Whew, that’s a mouthful, but all too true! #BeenThereDoneThatHaveTheTShirt
I think it’s fair game to say that LW wants out, and this guy could be her reason, but I would not mingle finances or purchase real estate or have babies with him for a good long while, and most definitely not before he is fully divorced for a while. No matter how the relationship, ending a marriage takes some adjustment. And yeah…he might just be the type who goes shopping as a habit, but at least LW can be smart at the front of this hopefulness. That’s the optimistic but realistic way, I think.
I think it does depend on how far talks have gotten (which doesn’t seem like much if at all in this case), but I know couples that are separated (live in different houses, already in new stable relationships, and has been for years) who never went to the final step of filing for divorce because of their kids and reasons like one of them has better health insurance, and the other has health problems. So for the sake of their kids they’re remaining legally married to continue to make sure all of them are covered.
I hope for LW sake that M’s wife at least knows that their marriage is not working and that he talks and formally separates from his wife.
Sometimes it is easy to sympathize with the LW’s decision to end a relationship, and sometimes it is difficult. With a letter like this it is easy to get on SS Judging, because the LW didn’t try to save the marriage with T and seems so desperate for confirmation of the true love potential with M. It doesn’t help that T sounds like a normal dude who got hurt, and M is throwing up some red flags.
However I am glad CA didn’t fall into that. This letter reminds me of Dear Sugar. Yes, the LW may not be making the wisest decision, but I know many people who are still stuck in marriages with sugar’s ghost voice whispering in their ear, but are paralyzed like deer in traffic. LW took action, and there is something to be said for that. Yes, M may be a beautiful, sexy motorbike going nowhere, but maybe that’s what the LW needs right now, a mechanism to just go. Maybe M will end up being the ride of her lifetime, and they will cruise off into the sunset in a wake of destruction, or perhaps motorbike M will conk out in some desert and leave the LW with nothing but her own reflection. Other people will be hurt, but if this is Lw’s true feelings then the hurt was bound to happen sooner or later. LW isn’t responsible for the decisions M makes about his own family, those benefits and consequences are on M.
LW, I wish the best for you and it is because of that that I hope you take a deep breath and slow down. Realize that it is a red flag that M has not loosened his own ties. Perhaps take some time to live on your own and own your decisions, don’t pass the buck to fate. Be honest with your friends, and if they are true friends then they will support you even if they question you. If they are truly on team you, listen to them even though you must make your own decisions. You have caused pain, but try to minimize hurt where you can, and let them heal where you can’t.
Either way, it sounds like this something LW will grow from going through. LW still sounds young, and I hope they have friends to help them along the way.
Everything the Captain said is awesome and everything Yotey said is EQUALLY awesome.
LW, I hope you listen to these folks as you go forward.
” M may be a beautiful, sexy motorbike going nowhere, but maybe that’s what the LW needs right now, a mechanism to just go.”
I am going to write that on a piece of paper and tape it to my mirror. I hopped on one of these motorbikes a few months ago and am in the process of clearing through the emotional wreckage it left me in, but in truth, I’m in a better place than I was when I was in the relationship that I hopped on the motorbike to leave. Life can be extraordinarily messy, and some things can hurt you and save you at the same time.
Four years ago I got dumped by my Perfectly Lovely Boyfriend, who I’d just moved in with, because of my involvement with someone who was Darthy in the extreme.
Four years on I really wish that Darth hadn’t happened, on account of the PTSD and all, but maaaaaaaybe just maaaaaaybe I wouldn’t have been vulnerable to him if my Perfectly Lovely Relationship had involved things like “communication” and “matching desires regarding monogamy” and “not being really passive-aggressive with each other all the time.”
I might wish that that breakup had happened ANY OTHER WAY, but at least we broke up.
Chiming in to add my gratitude for this analogy, because it puts an old wreck of a relationship of mine into perspective. So, thanks, Yotey.
@Yotey – I want to just say I ADORE your comment and how you write about relationship’s in terms of a motorbike – I couldn’t relate to a better analogy. TY!!
Another analogy I remember reading in Ann Patchett’s memoir – something like “leaving a relationship via an affair is like leaving a burning house via the third-storey window rather than the front door”. In other words, LW, it wasn’t the best way to go, but it was better than not going at all.
Part of the mess that was disentangling myself from Darth involved me cheating on him. It was an unfortunate necessary stage because part of my ex-Darth’s emotional abuse was convincing me that I would never be able to have satisfying sex with anyone but him (for weird woo-woo reasons that are a LOOOOOOOOONG story). Having actual proof that this was false was a necessary step to clearing my head enough from the Abusive Woo to get out of it.
This was actually very similar to my experience, and I can’t tell you what a relief it is to hear someone else who went through the same thing! I’m not proud of the cheating, but after a lot of soul searching, I’ve accepted that without it, I would have stayed in that relationship for much longer, possibly even to the point of taking extreme financial commitment steps that would have been very hard to get out of.
Being with someone, even for a fling, was enough to open my eyes to things like “this is what it should feel like to be intimate with another person” and “it is not some kind of a trial to see me naked.” Sometimes these things really can’t be learned except through actual experience.
Is this an appropriate time/place to say how much I appreciate your advice column Captain Awkward?
Thank you for all of the time that you give =)
Your kind words are much appreciated, thank you.
Actually, could I briefly join in? A few letters back you replied to my musing about my experiences with online dating. Your preference was to meet up sooner rather than later, and I mentioned that the phrasing had the effect of making me even more nervous about the entire thing.
However, your words kept echoing in my head. I realized that my preference to wait was entirely about anxiety, and there was a very good chance it would result in NEVER actually meeting up. I would just go on ‘waiting’ and making excuses. So long story short, I went out with a real live person last week and it wasn’t a disaster! Having gotten over that initial anxiety speedbump, I’m now more confident in my ability to meet others. Hopefully, I’m on my way to making friends and developing a badly needed Team You.
So, thank you, oh captain, for giving me that push, and I’m sorry if I came across as defensive in the initial post.
Hey, this is good news!
People from the internet are just people at the end of the day. Good for you for getting out there.
I have a friend I’ve known for about six years now who ended her marriage for another man during the couple’s second year in the same department doing different PhD programs. That was about one year before I was admitted to her program and met both of them at departmental events. They had/have lots of mutual friends and professional acquaintances, not all of whom behaved professionally and gossiped aplenty. If said friend is reading this, “hello! I love you and hope you guys are doing great!” (I saw “you guys” because she’s still with the man she left her husband for. Maybe LW and M. will stay together, and maybe not; most important thing, I think, is for LW to find a good support network for her during this time.)
When my friend first told me about the history (6 years ago) I’d heard from others that there was a divorce and she left somebody for somebody else but didn’t know the details. She told me a few of them and honestly it didn’t matter. My conclusion was she left her first husband because that marriage wasn’t working for her. That was reason enough. I think, over time, everyone we know has come to this view if they didn’t start out with it—that that relationship ended for a reason, that everyone is happy now, and that it’s all just history. LW, that will happen, it will just take time, so be as gracious as you can be to T. while he’s hurting. All of this will pass.
If your friends aren’t being as supportive as you’d like, LW, like CA suggests seek out new friends, and maybe change your expectations for what you’d like your old friends to say during this time. I hope you’ll find new people who will understand that you ended your relationship because it wasn’t working, that it was brave to do so, and that you’re still working things out. It will take time for people to realize this but they will. Change is normal and natural, and when people in a relationship don’t change and grow together, it can be horrible without knowing exactly why. This kind of change was better for you and T. than the other option of staying in a marriage that was failing (even if you did not fully know it until you met someone else).
And if you’re curious, my friend is still friends with her first husband, and I think her honesty upfront had something to do with it. As I understand, there was a time when they were not talking much if at all, but after a couple of years, they reconciled. Look forward to that possibility, and be as gracious as you can be to T. as he works through this.
Yes, I think time is an important thing to keep in mind. These things are all still new and raw wounds. When you do something people see as out of character they sometimes need a period of re-adjustment, to fine tune the person they see you as. This is a hard process and not all of your friendships will survive it. But the ones that do will be worth it.
Sometimes all you can do is own your share and let people feel their feelings around you. Cut off contact if they become hurtful and aggressive, use the scripts, and let it all die down.
This has been a rough time for you, so have self care, perhaps travel, visit friends in other areas who don’t know T and are removed from the whole situation. Visit family, volunteer, anything to give you a sense of identity that does not involve the drama.
Right now this is the new newsworthy thing in your social group, but soon something else will happen, life will move on. As my mom says yesterdays news is today’s pet cage liner. Try to have social engagements that do not focus on T or M, but about new movies, shared interests, career things, etc. Soon you won’t be ‘LW that person who hurt T for M blah blah’ but ‘LW who may have done this one thing but also is fun to have for coffee and is an astronaut’ and eventually the events of the past will stop being relevant at all and you can just be ‘LW who is LW the astronaut, best coffee maker who may or may not still be dating M’.
Don’t worry if things don’t work out with M, there are a whole lot of other letters in the alphabet, and divorcing T means you can look for more to make other, beautiful words with.
“And you can love and support someone while still thinking they are making a mistake, or while feeling cautious on their behalf.”
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. And the thing about being that friend who thinks you are making a mistake is that they WANT to be wrong. I have been that friend and I have been proven wrong and HAPPY to have been proven wrong. But in the few instances when I’ve turned out to be right about feeling cautious, well, I wasn’t throwing any parties.
For the most part, we don’t place wagers on our friends regarding whether their choices will end poorly. And really just hope that the results truly are positive/for the best. I have a friend who called off her engagement to her fiancé 4 months before their scheduled wedding. Three months later she was engaged to someone new. Any concern or doubts I had really weren’t how I felt about her or the couple – but just the speed at which it all happened. It was difficult to process sitting with her crying about the end of a serious relationship to then hearing the ‘great news’ a month later about moving in with a new boyfriend. While I’m sure for her that month felt involved and full of meaningful dimensions – as a friend on the sidelines it felt differently.
The fact that this isn’t a story with a happy ending didn’t surprise me, but it was never a point of “Ah ha! I was proved right!”
tl;dr–the Captain is wise, especially with regard to how to approach your friends about this life change.
My oldest sister went through something similar–though with a much longer marriage, and two pre-teens to call her own so it was messy messy messy. And I’ll be honest, she didn’t need my ex-BIL to be going around telling everyone she left him for some married dirtbag* for everyone, including her family, to be judging the hell out of her.
When you up and leave a marriage, especially one that seemed happy-ish (or at the very least, not obviously-doomed) from the outside and flee immediately into the arms of someone else, it’s hard for people to wrap their minds around to be supportive. They might look at you as an oathbreaker, as weak-willed, and assume you’re a cheater. It’s even harder for others if you did cheat. These are the dark things I thought about my sister, and I never even talked to her ex-husband outside of family gatherings, and she wasn’t even necessarily flaunting her newfound love and happiness outside of the mere facts of moving in with him and occasionally noting on Facebook that she was somewhere “with New Boyfriend”.
It took my sister sitting down with her mom and saying “Look. I know you’re disappointed in me. I’m sorry my marriage failed too. But I was unhappy, it wasn’t working for a long time, and I needed out. I regret New Boyfriend happened so close to the end of the marriage, it would have been more appropriate if we found each other a while after, but he makes me happy. I wish you could be happy for me, too” to make us set aside our own confusion and start supporting her.
It’s scary for people to see marriages fall apart. It’s especially scary for young people who haven’t necessarily seen too many marriages among their peers even begin yet. I’d be shocked and shaken to my core if the couple who was THE COUPLE (you know, super in love during high school or college, managed to seem really mature and have their shit together before anyone else, the ones you look at and sigh “ah, true love”, the ones who got married first) split up. If they can’t make it, how can anybody hope to? I’m not saying you need to manage other people’s emotions and reactions to your relationship path, but I do think I’m saying that a large part of it might not specifically be about you, yourself. People have a lot of preconceived notions about how strong your marriage was, what type of people get divorced, what type of people jump from relationship to relationship, etc…
*her new dude does seem kind of like a dirtbag. But he also seems to take good care of her, so I shrug. I’m not the one dating him.
My GRANDMOTHER went through similar, except her husband died.
Nan was widowed perhaps two months (?) when she met W. And it was action stations, all guns blazing, wanting approval from everyone, and angry when people were taken aback and not immediately supportive of her.
I’m happy that she is happy. I dont like W (I think he is a bit of a prat and has caused ructions in the family beyond the timing of their relationship).
I just keep myself to myself and leave her to it. It has soured our relationship though.
A similar thing happened to my sister’s husband. Less than a year after his grandmothter’s death, his grandfather was married to someone else. It took the family a long time to come to terms with their strange new family member. They have rationalized that it seems to be grandfather’s way of dealing with the pain of losing his partner of over fifty years and not necessarily disrespect of his late wife, though it seemed that way at first.
LW, you want to know how to talk to your friends without “defending everything”. Well, what is “everything” in this case? It’s ending a three-year plus relationship, and it’s a plan to quit your job and move to a different city that’s plane-trip distant. Those are two pretty big decisions, and being prepared to defend them isn’t a bad idea.
LW, you worry that your friends won’t like your new love-interest because you ex- has talked to them first. I’m worried that you’re setting up an excuse to dismiss valid concerns by your loving, supportive friends as ‘water from the poisoned well’.
You want your friends to meet this guy, to see how happy you are. Your friends want you to be happy, as a person first, and as a couple second. Don’t confuse their concerns about your happiness as a person first with ‘taking sides’ in your divorce.
1000x yes to this, Rodeo Bob.
^10! Agreed. Ending the relationship, the move, the job change, the new relationship, these are all separate decisions that are all individually big deals.
Friends asking you to slow down on some of them are not necessarily taking his side or trying to discredit your feelings. I hope you give thoughts from good friends appropriate weight and mulling.
Good point. I don’t think it makes them a horrible friend to say, “Whoa, that’s a lot in a very short time period. I’m concerned you’re jumping from the frying pan into the fire, especially with the red flags on M here.”
100% in agreement with the Captain’s advice. Just want to add, good on you, LW! Your friends may not be ready to root for you yet, but we certainly can. Good job on making a tough decision as cleanly and quickly as possible, and ultimately minimizing the pain for T in the long run. Good job on being brave and true to your feelings, and not getting embroiled in a messy affair full of lying and sneaking around. Good job on recognizing that you were not happy and finding your way out. I think you absolutely made the right decision. The Captain is right, your marriage was obviously in rocky territory before you met M and no matter how things go in your new relationship, you are now free of a situation that was making you desperately unhappy.
But also, unfortunately, T is the wounded party in this case. No matter what kind of spin you put on it, from his perspective, his wife dumped him for someone she just met, and then point blank refused to try to make it work. Your marriage sounds like one of those relationships where things are generally shitty, but it’s not really anyone’s fault. It sounds like T was aware of this to a certain extent, which is why he proposed counselling. He was willing to work on it, but he didn’t even get that chance, and while you obviously don’t owe him anymore of your time or emotional energy, it’s must have been awful for him to realise that you don’t think there’s anything left worth fighting for. He is going through all the harrowing heartache of ending a marriage, but unlike you, he does not have the bright prospect of a shiny new wonderful relationship on the horizon. All he has the prospect of being newly, unexpectedly and indefinitely alone while you ride off into the sunset. So exercise as much empathy as you can for him. Right now, he needs to be able to tell his story in his own words more than you do, for the sake of his dignity and sanity and his healing process. Unless he’s actively lying about what happened, you can afford to sit back, seek solace with M, and let things run their course. As the Captain said, if your friends are worth their salt as friends, they will come to you to find out your side of the story and support you regardless of their personal opinions. You won’t have to recruit them to your cause.
Finally, speaking of heartache and reading between the lines a little bit, to me it sounds to me like you are trying to accelerate your own emotional journey. There is a slightly frantic edge in your insistence that it is now time for you to be happy and for everyone else to play along. You have a shitty three years of marriage, followed by all the conflict and pain and guilt and trepidation of ending that marriage, including all the social and practical fallout that entails. It sounds like you really want to just settle down with M and for everything to be happy and normal and easy for a while, which is completely understandable considering what you’ve been through. But unfortunately you can’t rush your friends (and you certainly can’t rush T) through that process with you. Divorces are messy, and you’re about to become embroiled in not one, but two of them. It sounds like you’ve been on a rollercoaster or three, but unfortunately it’s not quite time to leave the fairground yet. Have you given yourself appropriate time and self-care to process all of this? You presumably loved T at some point or you wouldn’t have married him, and those feelings aren’t going evaporate overnight – have you taken time to mourn for the good times you had together? You are the only person who is owed an answer to these questions, but do sit with your own feelings for a while and make sure you have made space to let yourself grieve, preferably apart from M who is too possibly close to the situation to be there for you in the way you need. If you don’t feel like you can ask your friends to support you right now, do you have family who you can turn to? It’s wonderful that you’re starting to feel happy again, but don’t try to smother all those other complicated feelings in the glow of your new relationship, because they will find a way to resurface eventually.
Good luck and I hope everything works out amazingly for you and M!
Seconding everything tinyorc put so well!
You did break up the marriage. And that is OKAY. You’re totally allowed to do that.
It reads to me that LW is very upset at T for… telling his story.
It’s his story. You have your story, your life and your experience. And he has his. You don’t get to dictate to him that he must keep his story inside forever so that everyone gets to hear only yours.
There is also this aspect where LW is, throughout her story, thinking about herself and never seeming to consider the effect of her actions on her husband. Which, on the one hand, is fine: She has the right to make the ultimate decisions about her own life, which belongs to her and no one else. If we all had to stop doing what we wanted or needed because it might have some conceivable effect on someone else, then no one would ever be allowed to leave a relationship ever, and that would be a truly awful world.
That said, she is acting on her own needs and desires with little consideration of the consequences on someone important to her… and then getting upset at that person for, basically, doing the same thing. She is expecting him to carry a load of pain around forever, stunt his growth after this life event, and decline the support of people who care about him in some way or another.
It is unfair to ask someone who has, effectively, been cheated on and then walked out on, who is the one living near all these friends and still interacting with them every day, to also bear all the negative consequences of those decisions while you bear none.
Your decisions may have been right in your circumstances! It is your life, and the only person in the world who truly understands it is you, not this random internet commenter. I’m not trying to criticize the decisions but the way you expect those decisions to be handled by the other people they affected, as if they weren’t also affected by them – as if you are fully human with a range of emotions, but they are not allowed to be.
Take a step back, breathe, acknowledge your right to follow your needs and desires, but then also acknowledge the right of those other people to follow theirs – even when they contradict yours. Try to consider how you could both be allowed the support you both truly need, without denying the other person theirs. It’s really tough to juggle and it’s not always fun. But the way you are acting right now, I can’t blame a friend for being disappointed in.
Talk to those friends and tell them your story – without using your story to deny T’s. Keep in touch with them and let them know how much you value them. Don’t let all your interactions with them be centered around your relationship circumstances, around T or around M – surely you had things in common outside of your life partner before. Just be friends. And let them make their own decisions and have their own opinions. Let your friendship be about that friendship, and not have the legitimacy of your life decisions riding on how those friends react to them.
And some of the people in this whole saga may react quite unfairly. Try to recognize what is acting unfairly and what is acting completely fairly but in a way that doesn’t favor you. And you’re allowed to feel disappointment in both circumstances. You can acknowledge someone else’s right to follow through on what their consciences are telling them about how to react to something in their life – and still feel down and sad about losing someone important to you, and wish it hadn’t had to be that way.
I’d also highly recommend seeking out a therapist, if you are keen to it. Not because Something Is Wrong With You!(tm) but because anyone going through this big of a change in their life, with this much potential for fallout, could use a professional to talk it through with, to keep their own head a bit clearer.
Best of luck to you. You absolutely deserve to pursue the guy who makes you happy, to be treated fairly by the people who surround you, and to have the best possible life you can have. This is a difficult transition, but there is another side at the end of this tunnel, I promise.
“Talk to those friends and tell them your story – without using your story to deny T’s. Keep in touch with them and let them know how much you value them. Don’t let all your interactions with them be centered around your relationship circumstances, around T or around M – surely you had things in common outside of your life partner before. Just be friends. And let them make their own decisions and have their own opinions.”
Yes yes yes! This this this!
Also, playing off this, it’s also worth reiterating that friends are not empty vessels waiting to be filled with LW’s Story or T’s Story. They are going to have their own opinions on this that are nothing to do with what either party tells them. Some of them might have strong opinions on marriage and are going to judgey as hell, which is shitty, but not T’s fault by any means. Some of them might be secretly thinking “attagirl” but will not say it out loud because it’s not a cool thing to say when your friends with both halves of the couple. Some of them might be relieved that LW is no longer trapped in a miserable marriage, but also feel deep and genuine sympathy for T, because it’s perfectly possible to feel those two things at once.
And some of them might not be especially judgey about marriage, but still feel that the point of marriage is that you stand up and make your vows and ask your friends and family to invest in and support your relationship, and that they can’t just switch that off on a moment’s notice.
Like, if all your friends are standing there at your wedding going, “I’m going to smile and be nice, but they’re making a huuuuuuge mistake!”, they’re going to come around to the idea a lot quicker. But I’m guessing that a lot of your friends and family were thinking, “yay T and LW! I’m so pleased for them! I really hope everything works out!” You are totally, completely allowed to decide that you made a mistake when you made your wedding vows, and you totally get a second chance at love and happiness, but you made that commitment publically and asked your friends to support you in it, and part of realising you made a mistake and growing from it is recognising that they helped you make that commitment and they get to spend a bit of time getting their heads around the idea that the marriage they witnessed and supported is over and that you want something different from them now.
You definitely, completely, 100% don’t owe it to your friends to stay in a bad marriage! but equally, they don’t owe it to you to immediately turn around and get on board with the break-up and act like the marriage never happened.
This! As someone who has basically zero interest in getting married, I hadn’t really thought of it like this, but yes, from the friend perspective, this is the difference between a long-term relationship ending and a marriage ending. People come together for you and bring you gifts and act as bridesmaids/groomsmen/witnesses and stand up and say nice things about you and publicly celebrate your love and take a million photos. They have, in their own small way, made an investment in your relationship and they get to mourn that.
I’m glad it makes sense to someone else! I was sort of thinking, AM I being tremendously judgey? But I’m civil-partnered, and when me and my partner originally got together (and when we were growing up) that literally wasn’t a legal option for us, and so we spent a lot of time talking and thinking about what it means to get up in front of people and make that commitment. I don’t think that I owe it to anyone other than myself and my partner (and at some point maybe our kids) to make this work, but we asked our friends to support this relationship and to me, that does mean that if either of us left our friends would say, hey, you totally sure about this?
(Though I also have friends in long-term relationships which are akin to marriage who I feel have asked for that support and recognition in small ways even if they haven’t done the public thing, so I don’t totally think it’s a difference between married and not-married, just that marriage is one very clear way of asking for it.)
“(Though I also have friends in long-term relationships which are akin to marriage who I feel have asked for that support and recognition in small ways even if they haven’t done the public thing, so I don’t totally think it’s a difference between married and not-married, just that marriage is one very clear way of asking for it.)”
Yes. I actually had a fight with one of my siblings about this — she is in a partnership that had some off-and-on in it for a few years, and then once it was back on she threw a really rude fit at all her sibs and yelled at us for not treating her partner like family just because they were not married.
Well, we didn’t know you wanted that, sister! You could have ASKED. We’re not PSYCHIC. Marriage is a form of asking for that support from people! You don’t have to get married to get it, but if you choose not to get married, you should just…ask. (And not be a totally rude yelly rudeface about it.)
…you stand up and make your vows and ask your friends and family to invest in and support your relationship
Yes, yes, yes.
And in many marriage ceremonies, friends and families actually vow during the ceremony to support the married couple.
“By our presence we accept responsibility
for supporting them in the new relationship
they are about to enter.
We are called to rejoice in their happiness,
to be patient when they make mistakes,
and to remember them in our prayers.”
This declaration is in my marriage liturgy book; in which the “I do” declaration of intent by the couple is followed by “We do” promises by family and friends.
“Do you, the family/friends of N. and N.,
Give them your blessing
and promise to support and honour them
in their marriage/partnership?”
I want to add that particular paragraph of advice comes out of experience. I have lost two sets of friends – one very close, and the other a shared set with my partner – because the person I shared those friends with wanted to control the narrative after some precipitating event. And I, wanting to be “respectful and fair”/the “cool girlfriend” thought it was The Right Thing To Do to let them have 100% of the gains and me 100% of the consequences. I was under a ton of trauma and pressure both times and didn’t feel like I had any other options. (Under the circumstances, I may not have.)
In the letter, LW seems to be asking for LW to get 100% of the gains and T to get 100% of the consequences. But it would be just as unfair and unhealthy to flip the ratio, to shutter yourself and deny yourself the support you also deserve from your friends.
If you are able to preserve your friendships with honesty, do try. Especially moving to a new city. It is so, so hard to be in a new place with no support network in place there, and then to lose the only support network you had from your old place.
I also had a spouse make a herculean effort to control the story of our breakup. He called a family meeting with MY family to tell the story to them after enforcing radio silence on the issue from me for four months. My parents were savvy enough to notice that I was monosyllabic as my husband nobly painted the epic tale of our amicable and mutual separation. They called me afterward to find out what was really going on, which was that I was heartbroken, betrayed, and had refused to conform to some pretty petty standards due to a combination of illness and basic humanity (right twit that I was).
It took a while for me to realize that my partner was engaging in some naked silencing techniques to hide his own shabbiness. I didn’t need to poison any well. The story itself was damning enough, even if it came later and from a partner with, at that point, considerably less social capital. He at least didn’t have the gall to call me a liar, so despite his efforts, I found my voice and he lost the lion’s share of his social network.
And let’s be clear. I didn’t do that to him. I didn’t need to be malicious. And I didn’t even need to get there first or be the popular one. Knowing that the truth will out has given me great comfort.
LW, I trust you to make the decision that’s right for you, but I think it wouldn’t hurt to slow down a bit and try to see things from an outsider’s perspective – that is, from the perspective of anyone who isn’t head-over-heels in love with M. Because in your letter you basically said “If only my ex-husband met the guy I left him for, he wouldn’t be so negative about the situation.” Which to me sounds very much like you’re looking at the situation from every angle through the rose-tinted glasses of your love for M.
Agreed. If my friend came to me and told me what you have, which is basically, “I’m leaving my husband for the person I cheated on him with, moving to another city in three months and oh, by the way, New Guy has yet to actually break up with his wife and tell his kids,” well, I don’t think it’s a stretch to see some red flags and be skeptical.
You hit all the highlights, and quite nicely. Bravo!
I just want to say: girrrrl*, don’t tell people at work that you’re leaving yet. I mean, you’re super excited, you’re in the blush of new love, and you’re Making Plans, and that’s great. But…do everyone here a solid and don’t tell people at work. See CA’s recent piece. I mean, this is going to be a wicked stressful life change, even with shiny new love, and it would just be…prudent to protect your livelihood from any future, um, delays in moving? Or general catastrophes?
*Girrrrl is being used in a gender neutral sense, here, not as implication of writer’s gender.
Bah, I may have double commented straight into the spam filter. Sorry, Captain!
Tomedict Hiddlesnatch just made my day. Thank you.
Mine, too. I snorted out loud. Then I started trying to imagine what this creature looked like.
Cheekbones for .
The Captain’s analysis and advice are completely on target. Please note her gentleness.
Some small points I’d like to go over.
From what you’ve written, I get the impression that you haven’t yet lived alone. If that’s the case, it’s great that you’re now in your own place.
Additionally, if things don’t work out with M, living alone is actually quite fun.
While it’s sad that T gave your cat away, doing so tells you something important: you and he aren’t really on the same side any more.
And you know, you don’t have to be.
You don’t have to try to win your friends over to M. If it works out, they’ll come to know and love him.
On that note: good luck to you! Be happy
Why are your friends hearing this from T., and not from you?
Yeah, it really sounds like LW doesn’t have the best friends in the world. I mean, I’m side-eyeing M very very hard in this situation, but it really sounds like LW is in the shitty overlap of the Venn diagram of “potentially horrible future relationship” and “definitely unhealthy current relationships”.
Unfortunately, to me it also sounds as if LW is not being the best friend in the world either. I mean, how come T got to inform everyone of the break-up? Why didn’t LW tell her friends about it herself? And her trying to get T to tell everyone that they broke up due to irreconcilable differences and by mutual consent? Basically she is asking him to lie to their friends to help her save face with them.
I would never judge a friend for breaking up their marriage; it’s their life. I wouldn’t even expect to be told exactly why they did it; if they wanted to keep the details private, I would trust that they were doing what was right for them. But I would seriously question their integrity if I found out that they had deliberately misled me about it.
Oh, I totally agree. LW’s being kind of mean and controlling in how they handle things. I get why, but getting doesn’t mean agreeing.
I’m not seeing why LW’s friends are necessarily being terrible friends here. All we know from LW’s letter is that T is telling them why the marriage ended, and they aren’t providing LW the kind of support she wants from them.
LW, you met a married man, spent a month with him, felt a strong connection and he kissed you the day you left. You spent some amount of time, a month, six months, a year? when you were in contact every day, then you decided you were in love. At this point you were “upfront and honest with T about everything”. It’s good that you did that before you went to the physical level with M. However, I don’t understand why you feel the need to tell your friends you split for “irreconcilable differences”. Issues in your marriage may have contributed to your desire to leave but you didn’t do that until you fell in love with someone else. Is it not more honest to tell them that you met someone you fell in love with and had to leave the marriage? If they are true friends they will understand and accept you. Nor do I see how T is doing anything wrong in telling his truth to mutual friends. Unless he is outright lying about you, is he really being vindictive? He is hurting and he needs support too, probably more than you do right now. After all, you have this amazing M to love and support you. T does not. Is this really about T poisoning the well or is it that you don’t feel entirely OK with how things happened?
This comment is colored by my experience and from my own perspective. What you say reflects similar happenings when my ex had an affair, one that was not physical in the first 6 months. During that non-physical time, my ex withdrew from me, he gave his intimacy to the other woman. He was mentally and emotionally missing. Unlike you, he was never honest, he wanted us both. When I insisted on divorce, like you, he did not want anyone to know why we split up. He wanted to control the narrative, I was supposed to tell people “we grew apart” and he tried to forbid me to talk about him at all because it was “invading his privacy”. When I refused to lie about what happened he called me vindictive and petty and said I was turning everyone against him. Nothing could be further from the truth, I was hurting badly and I was talking about my life. He played a pretty major role in my life, no way to relate my experiences without his presence in it.
There is an old Russian proverb: you cannot build a new life on someone else’s unhappiness. I notice the LW gives her new man’s kiddies a fleeting mention – if she perseveres with this relationship, these children will rate more than a brief aside in her life, especially if he’s as decent as she says he is and wants to keep being a dad to them. Luurrvve and Romance and Amaaaazing then tend to go west under a welter of whether wee Jimmy left his homework at Mummy’s or at Stepmummy’s, vile tit-for-tat arguments involving lawyers and endless childish prattling about how “my real mummy” doesn’t do it that way. Poor wee souls, marooned in the middle of adult mess. 😦
I’m going to let ONE comment like this through moderation so we can talk about it.
Understatement: M’s wife and kids are probably not gonna be happy about M and the LW getting together. The whole thing where he’s still trying to figure out how to tell them about his new relationship? Yeah. Not good.
But I don’t think your comment is particularly helpful or constructive.
The LW has a 450 word limit and is asking about their own situation/feelings/relationships with friends in the aftermath of the breakup of their own marriage, not for advice on the romantic relationship, becoming a stepparent, etc. If the letter had 300 words on the kids and 150 about the friendships, would that be enough? If she split it 50/50?
Parents need to think long and hard about splitting up a marriage when kids are involved, obviously, but not every marriage is a good marriage and not every marriage lends itself to great parenting or a great living situation for the kids. For every wounded product of a “broken home” there are children who are silently begging their parents to split up (and stop yelling at, hitting, or silently seething at each other) or adult children who say their parents should have split looooooooong before they did. Plenty of people I know a) have kids and b) have taken the hard steps to leave terrible, draining, soulsucking, financially devastating relationships. Abusive relationships (where we heap blame on parents if they DON’T leave at the first sign of trouble, btw, but also guilt them for leaving without trying everything to keep the marriage). Relationships where the spouse was basically a third child in the house. Relationships where the co-parent contributes NOTHING to the feeding or care of the people under the roof. Relationships where the other parent fucked around all over the place but wants to stay together “for the children” (but still keep fucking around).
It’s easy to feel bad for these kid we don’t know – either their well-functional world is about to be rocked by upheaval, or they are living in an already dysfunctional world AND heading into a time of upheaval. But “WON’T YOU THINK OF THE CHILDREN” is a too-easy, concern-trolling kind of stone to throw at a stranger, especially when they are the ones who are going to have to live with consequences that you won’t, especially when there is so much that we don’t know here. Maybe let’s leave that stone unturned, unthrown in the rest of the thread.
Thanks for this. I first thought my parents should get divorced when I was a kid, like maybe 6 or 7? And I have thought it ever since then, and still think it 30 years later. The only difference now is that I can articulate much better exactly why, and how horrified I am that they’re coming up on 40 years of marriage.
Loveless, disrespectful, bitter relationships don’t teach kids anything good. I’m still trying to unlearn those lessons.
I so very much wish my parents had divorced when I was a child. Instead I grew up in the role of family counselor. To this day, they come to me to bitch about the other, and I’m constantly running interference between them. Neither are bad people or abusive, they’re just horribly matched and can’t communicate. They flat don’t like each other, and when two people don’t like each other, that bad feeling is going to resonate throughout the entire house.
And when my mother says things like “we stayed together for the children” or “if I hadn’t married your father, I wouldn’t have you”…those things don’t make me good. It’s basically a guilt trip for existing, because now it’s MY fault that she made choices she regrets.
Yeah it’s not healthy to be your parents marriage counselor. My mother has told me way, waaaay too much about her relationship with Dad. I am gutted by the fact that she often tells me “I’ve learned to love your father but I only married him because I was afraid of being left on the shelf” (have fun picking out all the horrors in that sentence). She even used to complain to me about their sex life.
Divorce wouldn’t have fixed the fact that my mother is emotionally abusive, but if my Dad had ever called her on it, left, taken me and my brother with him and protected us from her BS… Yeah. That would have been nice. Instead it took me until I was 30 to really see that the way she behaves is toxic and wrong, and my Dad’s go along to get along non responses are terrible and codependent. And that relationships shouldn’t work that way. That people who love each other should respect each other.
I know that sometimes divorce is bad for children, but sometimes it’s a blessing. Sometimes it’s a lesson in boundaries and healthy relationships.
This forever. My parents split when I was two, and I am SO THANKFUL that they did. As little as I was at the time, I still have memories of them screaming at each other and my dad stomping around in a rage. I can’t even say how fabulous, brave, and hardcore my mom was to end it when she did- for her sake and for mine. And, FWIW, I had a ridiculously happy childhood with my awesome mom and the awesome man she married 10 years post-divorce, and I give massive side-eye at anyone who tries to stick the “broken home” label on me (or anyone who has divorced parents) because, um, no.
The trope of the selfish divorcee who wrecks their kids lives on a whim, like that of the woman who makes up vengeful/frivolous rape accusations is a story that gets told to ease societal fears that fundamental institutions aren’t working as universally or fairly as we pretend they are.
If it’s the person that’s broken, the system is fine.
Badass. That’s an amazing way of framing it.
Not really. There are some shitty people out there who do and will wreck a child or adult’s life on a whim. I’ve known a few of them.
I was raised by two of them.
But most parents really do try to do as much as they can with the resources they have.
I am alive and sane because lots of unrelated adults stepped in to offer the time, love, and effort my own parents did not.
Assholes leave an impression and we remember them more.
Good people often go about their business matter-of-factly and we either don’t notice or forget them quickly.
“If it’s the person that’s broken, the system is fine.”
This. Thank you SO much for putting this so perfectly.
I love this comment. It’s so true.
Seriously. My parents split up when I was sixteen and while indeed a lot of stress resultated from that – we had to move from a house into a flat, our finances are not good because my mum can’t work anymore and thus had to live from first alimony and now benefits, both of which is super stressful, especially if you wound up with horrible neighbours and a lot of crap from officials -, it’s probably the best thing that could happen to our family.
My father wasn’t/isn’t abusive, but he’s always been pretty uninterested in his children (in turn, I’ve also always been uninterested in him). My sister’s relationship with him is somewhat better than mine but I’m super glad we don’t really interact beyond some phonecalls whenever something “important” happened.
Did a lot of shitty stuff happen as a result of my parents’ divorce? Sure thing. But that’s either because of the logistics or because of stuff that could have happened even if they were still together (nightmare neighbours). But looking simply at my family, the divorce brought only good or rather, the good outweighs the bad by far because I’m just glad I don’t have to have contact with my father anymore.
So please. Don’t just assume about these children’s unhappiness when the exact opposite could very well be the case. Doesn’t have to be, of course, but the LW asked a different question so the comments should focus on that one.
Jennifer, I agree that Old Bag’s general tone of ‘what about the chiiiiildren’ probably wasn’t a great way to put it. But there’s also a really important point in that comment that doesn’t really seem to have been dealt with anywhere in this thread: if things last with M, the LW is going to have to deal with the children.
LW, I know that to some degree you’ll have thought about the fact that taking on M long-term is also going to mean taking on the job of being stepmommy to two children (and, to boot, two children who may well see you as a marriage-wrecker). But, because it’s easy for someone who’s not a parent and who is enjoying the flush of the crazy-in-love early bit of a relationship to overlook just how *difficult* the reality of this is going to be, I do have to raise it.
If you haven’t already done so… read and find out as much as you can about what the job of step-parenting is like, and think about what it is actually going to be like to take on instant motherhood to two children who may well be screaming at you that it’s all your fault Daddy left and, no, I don’t have to pick up my room like you say because YOU’RE NOT MY MOMMY AND CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO. And to be stuck with M’s ex in your lives on a long-term basis because you have to share parenting jobs with her. If you stay with M, that’s part of what will come with the territory. Go into that part with your eyes open, and think, really think, about whether you’re up for that, no matter how crazy you are about M.
And if you’ve thought about it and still want to, great! If you’d already spent a lot of time researching and thinking about the issue before I wrote this, even better! But it’s the kind of thing that is easy to overlook and that does need thinking about as part of your decision-making process on this one.
This. It might be the limitations of telling her story in under 450 words, but I get the impression that LW is still riding the high of “I’m free! I’m in love! Life is good again!” and hasn’t thought through the less glamorous parts. If all goes according to plan, she’s going to go through the legal processes of divorce, quit her job, pack up and move to another city, move in with someone she has never lived with before, unpack, find a new job, AND become a stepmom to two kids who might or might not resent her. That’s a lot of stressful life changes she’s not discussing! If I were her friend, I’d be concerned too.
Yes — going back to the original question of unsupportive friends, one problem is that this new relationship sounds like a bad decision on paper. When you hear, “I’m moving to be with him, and then eventually he’s going to tell his wife and kids that it’s over” — almost everyone is going to have a “whoa bad idea” reaction. The conventional wisdom is that it’s a bad idea to commit to a man who hasn’t told his wife (and kids) that they’re done.
We don’t know the details, and it could be that if we knew all of the details, we’d have a different reaction. Maybe his wife is abusive and he’s afraid to tell her before he has an escape plan. I mean, we don’t know. This could be the best thing for everyone.
But the friends are probably concerned that these are terrible decisions — “divorcing this guy we like for this situation that almost everyone would immediately advise against.” And if that’s how they feel about it, even after you’ve told them details, there’s not much you can do about their feelings. You can ask them to withhold judgment, and to support you. But you can’t expect them to be happy for you, and excited to meet your new boyfriend, when that’s just not how they feel at all.
This is a hard path because the world is going to see it differently than LW for a long time. Eventually, the drama of the 2 divorces will be in the past — but for a couple of years (at least) people are going to see LW as the person who broke up two marriages, including one with kids, and most of them are going to have the usual reaction to that. As she moves into the new situation, it’s only going to get worse.
So I think she needs to adjust her expectations and recognize that a lot of people aren’t going to be happy for her, probably not for a while. Sometimes that’s how life is — sometimes nobody gets it but you. I went through a time where I knew I couldn’t share what was going on in my personal life without everyone having the same (disapproving) reaction. In my case it turned out that they were all right, but for a while I was in a place where I just could not make a different choice, and I just had to accept that the path would be a lonely one — my friends weren’t going to encourage me.
LW, if this all works out for the best one day, your friends will come around. But you can’t expect them to feel excited about this when they see it differently, and they’re concerned about you. Ask for support, ask them not to judge you, but don’t ask them to fake “wow M sounds dreamy” because they probably just really don’t see it that way.
This, exactly. The solution to the old ‘what about the chiiiildren’ shaming is not to run in the other direction with ‘whatev, they’ll be fine, maybe even better off”. LW and T don’t have children, it seems, and so LW may not be aware that the sheer logistics of her ending the marriage with T are way different than M’s ending his marriage.
I agree that divorce isn’t always the worst thing for the kids and can sometimes be the best.
When I was 11, my dad left my mom after she attempted suicide. He started dating someone else less than six months later and they were married five months after they started dating.
It wasn’t great for him, it definitely wasn’t good for her, but it was awesome for me. At a time when neither of my parents could even take care of themselves, let alone a child, I actually had a parent who…parented. Took me to the doctor. Cared about my life.
They divorced six years later, but I still keep in very close contact with her and consider her a mother. I feel bad that she was with an emotionally abusive man for so long, but I am so grateful I have her in my life.
Obviously that is not the most common way that stepmother-on-the-heels-of-messy-divorce works, and definitely not the most healthy option. But it’s not always the case of the children getting hurt the most. If anything, I benefited at my stepmom’s expense.
I decided to see what Tomedict Hiddlesnatch would look like … going back and forth between the originals is mesmerizing to me. http://www.morphthing.com/image/77743533-hidds-jpg-bsm-jpg?key=581d9cf1dc88641576cce7bde3940d65
Wow, that doesn’t have take two distinctive-looking people and make them look sort of… bland. The version in my head is definitely hotter.
That’s what averaging does. Alternatively, you could take the hot bits from each of them and mush them together, which, as I understand it, is how Frankenstein did it. (IIRC, his monster was made up of what were, individually, perfect specimens. They just became horrifying when put together.)
Ryan Gosling…? Or maybe a new Hemsworth.
It’s Logan Echolls! (Ish…)
Wow it is, kind of!
THAT’S what I’m seeing!
I can’t really add anything better than the captain, but expecting T to summarise what’s happened as “irreconcilable differences” may not seem like that much to you, but it’s actually *poisonous*. You’ve got to know you hurt him. If it was the right decision for you or even, in the long run, for both of you — that doesn’t make his pain now go away. And when someone has hurt you, being able to say as much, openly, and just get the acknowledgement from your friends that it sucks, is extremely liberating. Having to plaster on a smile and go: “Oh… fine, everything’s fine, this situation is just what it should be, and we have always been at war with Eastasia” is like punching yourself over and over in the place where you already hurt. You simply cannot ask that of him.
Yes, this. LW, you are asking him to lie to make you sound better. You aren’t divorcing because of non-specific, mutual-sounding “irreconcilable differences.” You are divorcing because you fell in love with someone else, cheated on your husband, and decided to leave him.
You are 100% entitled to do those things — you are in no way obligated to stay in a marriage you don’t want to be in, even if getting out of it is messy and upsetting — but you are 0% entitled to have your ex-husband pretend that something else happened so that the truth doesn’t make you sound bad.
This. It is your right to leave the marriage, but you don’t get to decide what he says about about it.
I’ve been involved with someone who hurt me and wanted to control the narrative. He tried to manipulate me into silence, and viewed any support seeking that I did as vindictive or lashing out. It was awful. LW, please allow him to seek the support that he needs as he grieves the end of this marriage.
I love every single word of this answer.
Instead of looking for your friends app. I would be seriously asking myself (or him) WHY M HASNT DIVORCED YET? I mean, if you got a talk, a div., a new place and all that jazz, and he is w/the same old “i have kids, it’s difficult”… that sounds like excuses 101 to me… dont put your hands on the fire for someone that it seems that wouldnt do it for you.
LW, people can be unfairly judgemental about divorces and breakups. Alas you can’t really stop them.
Some people like to think that some kind of effort to save a relationship has to be conducted for a breakup to be legitimate, which is weird and annoying. I mean – you’ve spend 3 years working on this relationship (plus whatever time you dated before marriage), it’s not like everything was wonderful and then suddenly you ran screaming into the night. But, some people will see it this way. When my long term partner (11 years) left me for another woman a friend of mine was all shocked that he left without even trying counceling! But, well, when someone is 100% sure they want to leave the time for counceling is long past. You can’t make someone love you again. Counceling is for when you have issues and you both want to fix it, not for when someone is done and gone but the other person wants them to stay.
Here is something else about my breakup I think is relevant here. There was polyamory involved, and this guy’s shiny new girlfriend decided she didn’t like polyamory after all and gave him an ultimatum. He chose her. But he told all our friends that our breakup was a “mutual decision”. We had recently moved to a new city, and he was much closer to all our new friends than I was. There was no real opportunity to correct this story with most of them without making a bizarre announcement, so the lie stood for most people. It was soul crushing for me. All my pain was erased in the eyes of my social group. When I called him on it he said he was doing it so I wouldn’t look like I was dumped (!!!), but of course we all know it was to shield himself and his new partner from disapproval.
There were many things wrong with that relationship, and on hindsight I’m glad it’s over. He built an escape raft and then sailed off on it for a reason – neither of us were happy. But it was *not* a mutual decision and I’m still hurt that he tried to make that the story.
Don’t do that to T. If he’s not outright lying, he gets to tell people what happened. I don’t think you’ve done a bad or wrong thing, but you *did* leave him partly to be with another man, and he gets to go looking for sympathy from friends.
Finally…I know this wasn’t your question, but think twice about quitting your job and moving long distance to be with M., until such time as he’s told his wife and kids and the divorce proceedings have actually begun. Not because I think he’s a scumbag (I have no reason to), but just because torpedoing your family like that is a big deal and when push comes to shove some people find they can’t go through with it.
“Finally…I know this wasn’t your question, but think twice about quitting your job and moving long distance to be with M., until such time as he’s told his wife and kids and the divorce proceedings have actually begun. Not because I think he’s a scumbag (I have no reason to), but just because torpedoing your family like that is a big deal and when push comes to shove some people find they can’t go through with it. ”
This is sound advice.
Sometimes people who would divorce if they didn’t have kids, find that the problems of custody, separate finances, and single parenting bring them back together.
M could honestly be head over heels for you, have every intention of starting a life with you, and still decide to stay in his marriage six months from now. It’s not disloyal or unromantic to think about how that would affect your life.
I didn’t address this in my earlier response because it wasn’t the question. Since it’s been brought up, it does concern me LW. You recognized the need to be honest and make a clean break with your husband before you visited M and “took it to another level”. M went to that level with you and did not tell his spouse. You might want to think about the difference, he is deceiving her, are you sure you are special? He may be a good man who is having trouble hurting people he loves and can’t bring himself to do it yet, he may be something else all together.
I’m going to add that one of my friends is dating a married dude who still lived with his wife when they met (she’s only recently moved out)–and it was his wife who set them up. Divorce in our state is a complicated, messy thing, even if both parties mutually want it. For one, you have to have lived apart for a year, and given the cost of housing around here, that wasn’t economically feasible for them. For another, it still costs, like, a grand to get everything into place. Also hard to get that much scratch.
So sometimes there are legitimate reasons and not just someone trying to have their cake and eat it too.
Yes, but this guy hasn’t told his wife about the divorce yet. That’s a rather different thing to someone being mid divorce and just experiencing delays due to legal complications. Basically he’s still in a position to just change his mind as if it had never happened. I don’t know the odds of him doing that, but it would seem prudent to wait for him to at least start the divorce ball rolling before any job quitting or long distance moving occurs.
Especially since the reason stated by LW is that M just hasn’t figured out to tell his wife. Wait, what? You say “I’m sorry, I know this is going to be awful, but we are getting divorced.” This isn’t a situation where he can’t tell her.
Being married is not always a deal-breaker.
A good friend just married their partner who took years to get divorced because ex had serious health problems and there were insurance issues. They met after partner and ex had separated, and partner was upfront about it when they started dating.
Setting up house with your mistress (maybe future wife) while still playing happy family with your spouse and kids doesn’t fall under any kind of extenuating circumstances.
I do think that people can and should end relationships for reasons that make sense to them, that feel like the best, most right solution. I also think that people in a relationship have a responsibility to be kind – both to their ex partner – and to themself. (Obviously if the relationship is one with abuse going on that is a different situation). I feel like the person who is leaving needs to be ready and fully prepared to leave, and leave completely. End the relationship with kind communication without secrets and lies, pack up all the stuff, deal with the lease, separation agreement/divorce, property issues and move out and onward. Relationship fully ended.
LW – you ended your marriage on your terms, and left. You feel that you are completely, passionately in love with this guy, and have visited him in HIS city. While he claims to be unhappy in his marriage – he hasn’t left his wife or told his kids YET – while you are making plans to live with him this summer. Has he even told his wife ? Do you think he will actually leave his marriage ? Do you feel that a person who has not dealt with ending his marriage, divorce, etc.etc. is good partner material ?
The uptight part of me thinks that if this was REALLY MEANT TO BE – that you guys had the ultimate connection – that you would have explored this in a very hands and hearts off manner, then returned to your spouses. If you felt that your marriage was not salvageable, then you should have left. And he should have left .Fully, completely, for real. And you both should spend time alone(at least 6 months) processing why that marriage failed, and what you do want and need – and when enough time has passed and your head and heart is together again – then that is the time to explore a relationship with that person. Explore – like go on dates and meet his family and see what he’s like when he’s sick and if his friends are jerks – all the normal getting to know a new person in a new relationship stuff. Put the giant magical connection stuff aside and really look at the person you are loving.
Yes, there are big, exceptional loves that happen that cross many boundaries – gender, age, ideas about monogamy or multiple partners. All kinds of attraction and love is possible – and many people make it work. You never know who you might suddenly, irrationally love ! But many people don’t seem to do the prep work or day to day stuff to keep that BIG NEW LOVE working, so it creaks, sputters and falters and then is outshone by a different BIG NEW LOVE like a salvation beacon. BIG NEW LOVES like this are usually doomed, from my vantage point, and not just because I want them to be out of indignation or spite.
I honestly do not think that your friends have any obligation to be happy for you – unless they really are happy about how you are doing in your life. Your ex can talk to anyone he wants, about anything he wants, including “your” friends. They might have become his friends, too. The people around you might not know what to feel/think/do about this sudden change and they feel concern for you, but also empathy for your ex. The thing about a break-up is that it breaks up a lot more than just a marriage, and friendships are a common casualty.
Second (third?) the recommendation to spend some time alone. Even if you’re still dating M, get yourself somewhat settled in your new city before moving in with him. Making your own new local friends, figuring out the job thing, learning where the best place to get take-out nearby is… these things will make you feel more secure. However much you love someone, feeling like you CAN’T leave them because you don’t know anyone else around/their name’s on the lease? That’s poison to a relationship.
About the friends:
When I was a child, I was M’s child. Coincidentally, a good friend of mine became one of M’s friends a short time later. The only positive thing I can say about our situations was that at least we had each other’s shoulders to cry on.
It was not the ending our respective parents’ marriages that caused us the real harm. The real harm came from knowing how deceitful our parents had been, from the completely unethical behavior of making plans with their new love while lying to their old one, while putting their romance ahead of the best interests of their own children. Neither of us would ever willingly choose to be friends with someone who was not only okay with being a party to that kind of harm but expected us to be happy about it.
I don’t get to dictate how my friends live their lives, but I do get to decide that I don’t want to be their friend if they are engaging in behavior that is completely unacceptable to me. The LW’s friends get to decide this, too.
Yeah, I don’t think it is evil and wrong to end a marriage or a relationship when there are kids involved. But I do feel pretty strongly that if you are ending a relationship with children, you owe it to your children to do it in the way that is as honest and respectful of your former partner as possible. Setting up plans to make a new life with someone whilst your wife still thinks everything is fine and dandy isn’t honest or respectful. And it doesn’t matter how much M talks about how painful this is for him or how much he loves his kids and how much he doesn’t want to hurt them and he wants to do this in the best way possible if the way he’s *acting* is deceitful.
I don’t mean to dump on you, LW, and I believe that this is a hard and confusing situation for you. But do look pretty hard at what M, with your cooperation, is choosing to do to his family. It’s not the break-up that’s wrong, but the fact that he’s making plans all over the place without giving his wife or kids the slightest hint what he’s up to. Think hard about what that says about him, and what assurances you have that this isn’t something he’ll do to you (and maybe your kids) in the future.
I really feel like secretive and deceitful behaviour is both a symptom and foreshadowing.
And also consider how the way these events are playing out is likely to affect the way that you are received. If things go as planned, then you, LW, are very likely to be The Woman Who Broke Up The Family, whether or not that is a fair portrayal. All the angst you’re having with your friends? It is very likely that you will be receiving ever so much more of it from M’s ex, kids, and friends.
It may well be a worthwhile price to pay, so I’m not judging when I say this. But the lack of “I’m happy for you” that you’re receiving from your friends is likely to be amplified by the people in M’s life, who may flat-out hate you. I hope you and M are making plans on how to weather that storm when it comes.
Yeah… I have been a friend in this situation.
My friends weren’t married, but they (henceforth known as Bob and Jane) were engaged and had been dating nearly a decade–a reeeeeaaaaally, reeeeaaally long time for a group of people all in their 20s. I was good friends with both of them for all of college and several years after, although closer to Bob. I heard first from Bob that she was breaking off their engagement. He was a total mess. I was visiting about 5 hours from where he lived, and I drove to get him and took him back to where I lived at the time (halfway across the country) to get him away and give him some space. So I pretty much got 100% his side of the story upfront: they had been consensually non-monogamous (with him seeking a handful of very short-term, very casual flings and her dating her own M). Things started to get a bit rough, but he thought they were working on them. Then, she came home one night from M’s and told Bob that being with M had made her realise that she wasn’t sure she loved Bob anymore and she wasn’t really physically attracted to him anymore, but that she didn’t want to break-up. He went pretty catatonic while she tried to cuddle him, he finally asked a few questions and then asked if they could have sex for intimacy/validation. She said no, that’s when he realised it was really over, he went and slept in another room, and then ended the engagement in the morning and left.
Shitty situation! Really no one’s in the wrong, but still pretty much sucks that Jane broke off their engagement like that! Jane is upset too, but Bob is the injured party and was pretty destroyed. So he stayed with me in another state for a couple of weeks (luckily, his job has long breaks and he was on one), went back, and started trying to put his life back together.
About this time, I started hearing that Jane was really upset that Bob was telling all of their mutual friends that Jane was the one who broke off the engagement and painting her as “the bad guy” and him as “the injured party,” when it was really Bob who broke off the engagement. So I started wondering if maybe I didn’t have the whole story and as Jane was a friend too, so I sought her out to get her side of the story.
And… it was *exactly* the same. Literally, exactly the same story. Almost down to the exact words they used. But Jane insisted that even though she told him that she didn’t love him and wasn’t sexually attracted to him, she had said that she didn’t want to break up so the fact that he was the one who actually physically left the relationship made it was *his* fault they were breaking up, that she was the injured party. That she was just being honest, so no consequences could possibly be attributed to her.
My mind was absolutely blown. I absolutely think that honesty was the best policy in this situation (because what was the alternative? Lying to your partner about loving them and saying yes to sex you don’t want?). I absolutely think she did the right thing, But I also absolutely think that she was responsible for ending the engagement even if he was the one who said the words she wouldn’t. And I absolutely think he was the injured party. And that’s okay! Break ups happens. Engagements end. Marriages end. Better to leave a relationship that’s not working for everyone than stay and be miserable. And it’s upsetting to everyone, even friends outside of the relationship. But you don’t get to absolve yourself of all responsibility and pain caused simply because you were being true to yourself. Sometimes your true self has to hurt people to keep being true, and that sucks but is also a fact. Lying to yourself and others–and especially insisting that others (particularly the injured party) lie on your behalf–only makes it worse for everyone.
I’m pretty much not friends with Jane anymore. But it’s not because Bob poisoned me against her (or her new M) by telling me how the break-up went down. It’s because Jane refused to take responsibility for her part in the break-up and tried to act like she should get a gold star and be free of all consequences for honestly telling someone she didn’t love them, wasn’t attracted to them, but would like to stay engaged anyway. It’s okay to hurt people in order to live an authentic life, but it’s not okay to pretend that our actions don’t hurt people or to blame them for their own pain we caused.
This comment is amazing.
Ah, the classic “forcing the other party to break up with you” gambit:
“I’m desperately unhappy and no longer attracted to you.”
“So you’re breaking up with me?”
“I just needed to get it out in the open.”
“So you’re ending things?”
“I want to be honest with you.”
“So we’re over?”
“I was hoping we could discuss things.”
“What’s there to discuss? If you don’t want to be with me anymore, then we’re over.”
“OK, I guess, if that’s what you want. I just don’t want you to think I’m an asshole.”
Augh, I had one of those in college. He literally said “I don’t want to be the one to do it, because it feels like giving up on this relationship” but this was after I’d heard about how he wasn’t attracted to me anymore and didn’t like some appearance-based changes I’d made recently (that he initially was really into).
So yeah, I was the one who “officially” broke up with him. What else could I do? But he wouldn’t really accept it, and wanted to have another talk the next day before I went to work so I could explain my reasoning AGAIN.
Rrrr. Me too. Polyamory is a dealbreaker for me, and college boyfriend said he couldn’t be monogamous, so I said we had nothing further to talk about, end of relationship. Then he calls to talk it over again, and I’m like, are you monogamous? And he’s like, nope. So why did you effin’ call, says I?
That’s one of those things that’s tough to compromise on, too! If people don’t agree on monogamy, there isn’t much you can do.
I just don’t get that “let’s talk it over again!” business. Maybe I’m just bitter because I’m thinking about this guy again, but… does it ever work out for the people involved, to rehash the issue over and over?
That’s a dealbreaker that’s hard to compromise on, too! If folks have different opinions about monogamy, then… there’s not much else to do.
Maybe I’m just feeling bitter because I’m thinking about this guy now, but I don’t get what the desired outcome of these conversations is. What’s to be gained from rehashing the same issue over and over again? I suppose it’s the nebulous “closure” but… that’s not likely to happen from repeating the conversation.
Sadly I’ve seen people talked out of their deal breakers. And while that’s bad enough in terms of not respecting someone’s boundaries, it also usually backfires when whatever it was stops being theoretical and they remember why they were against it in the first place.
HOLY FUCKING SHIT THIS IS PERFECT AND EXACT
I winced so many times for you, and for Bob. I was friend to all three parties in a weird situation like this, and yeah, it was my friendship with the third party that suffered. Two childhood friends of mine are married, and have been together for something like twelve years now (and we’re not yet 30). A few years back, the husband and I met someone through work, and we all got along great, and then she left her boyfriend because FEELINGSBOMB for my friend. And she should have left her boyfriend, okay, the dude sucked out loud, but…my friend was living with his now-wife and had been for ages. They were Committed. She knew this. But she kept on pining for him, and flirting with him (and, full disclosure, he liked the attention, so he let her; I judged him for this and I don’t feel bad for that), and trying to persuade him to break up with my other friend, and generally carried on about how wonderful he was/how not-good-enough his now-wife was to everyone. Because “Oh, the heart wants what it wants,” and woe betide anyone who suggested she maybe spend some time working through this, because that was “telling her to just turn her feelings off,” and we were all awful killjoy robots to suggest it– why couldn’t we see the OTP here and support her?! She burned through a lot of friendships over this. She hurt my friend (The wife-friend) a lot. She trampled boundaries to the point where I had to leave the room sometimes. And, gee, my friends are now married and he doesn’t talk to our former co-worker anymore, so look at all that. We’re cordial now, she and I, but it’s not the same friendship, and I know I’m not the only one.
LW, this is the peril of painting your friends with the ugly brush. You might think they are being joyless shithead robots right now, but they are…uh, probably not doing that. They are dealing with conflicting loyalties between you and your husband, and they have a lot of completely-legit, not-at-all-personal misgivings they feel obligated to share with you. They are wary of supporting someone who might well be about to really hurt you. They can distinguish a little more clearly between “This situation is bad” and “M is a fresh new delight” because they’re not involved. Doubling down and insisting that your friends act like puppets is a great way to lose them– right when you might want or need a strong Team You.
Uuuuugh. SO BEEN THERE.
“The truth is, I don’t love you and haven’t for over a year.”
“But in the last year you asked me to buy a house with you. Which we did*. That we now live in. With a mortgage.”
“Also, I never desired you physically. Actually, I’ve had to kill my desire for women to even sleep with you for the past three years.”
“But I’m willing to stay, if that’s what you want.”
Cut to moving into the laundry room of my own house while we sold it, major depression and SO MANY ISSUES (now mostly fixed 🙂 ). Hahaha. Yeah. Haha. No.
If you need to go, if you don’t love someone, you should go. Not so much with the getting to be “the good guy” to everyone involved (especially if you want to also make them feel like the worlds biggest dupe in the process, not that LW did here). And that’s ok! You get to be the hero in your OWN story. Not in his.
*I should add, to show JUST HOW MUCH IN LOVE I WAS, we had to buy a house big enough that all of his friends could rent a room from us! And live with us! While I cleaned and cooked for them! Like Wendy! Except real and so not cute at all! Hahaha. I do not miss you, that time in my life. No I do not.
Hi Letter Writer,
Your soon-to-be-ex husband can’t defame you by telling the truth. You left him for a man who is married and hasn’t (yet) told his family about you. He suggested that the pair of you have marriage counselling to try and fix your marriage and you refused. You say he blames you for breaking up the marriage… but that is what happened. You did do that.
You broke up your (pretty awful) marriage (and now you are starting to feel happy again).
I think you need to get used to the reality that other people are going to hear about what happened and not have immediate access to your feelings (either how unhappy you were before or how happy you are now). I’m sorry that that doesn’t feel fair but if everything goes well for you this is going to be a huge drawn out transition with career changes and moves and two divorces. Those facts about what happened are not going to go away and your feelings about them (unhappy before, happy now) are not somehow going to be magically infused into them.
This might not be exactly what you want to hear, but it sort of reiterates what others have said: Leaving T and getting together with M are kind of two separate issues.
I have a friend who was in a very similar situation. Things had not been good between her and “T” for a *while* that had included a major blow-up a year prior to when she met her “M” – I think that a lot of people who wouldn’t have judged my friend for leaving immediately after that blow-up judged her first for NOT leaving and then for leaving because of her “M”, which sucks but people are like that sometimes. And at first she and “T” did try to use the “honestly, this relationship has been over and M was just the catalyst” explanation, but it wasn’t as over for “T” as it was for my friend, and some ugliness ensued all around.
And then just a few months later “M” broke things off with my friend, quite abruptly, even though my friend was doing massive life-changing things to make it possible to be with “M”.
A few months after THAT, my friend met “C” and they are now married and obviously very happy together and talking about starting on the “let’s make small people!” project.
So…things might not work out with your M, is what I’m saying. But even if they don’t, if things were well and truly DONE with T, there may instead be a C out there for you. Or there may be a long period of rocking the single life, and that’s OK, too.
I love all of this advice.
It’s hard when you want your friends to be as excited as you are, but they’re trying to manage the fallout of the left behind party. Personally, in those situations I’ve always tended to give more support to the wounded than to the newly freed. Both are going through scary life-changes, but when Person A is left behind because Person B decided to be with Person C, I’ve just naturally inclined to lend more support to the person left with no partner. That doesn’t mean that I badmouth Person B or dislike their new relationship. I just feel that Person A has nothing but bewilderment and loneliness, so I try harder to be there. Person B is busy having fun new adventures with Person C.
Maybe that’s bad behaviour, but it’s just how I’ve reacted.
I remember reading an article by, if I recall correctly, someone who deals with couples divorcing. I can’t recall if this was a lawyer or a counselor. (Please correct me if I’m wrong and this is from this site.) They were saying that a lot of people make the mistake of assuming their ex wouldn’t fight them on some such thing because they knew it would hurt them in some way. “They won’t ask for the car, they know its the only way I have to get to work,” only to be shocked when they do it.
Being broken up means they don’t have to do the work of being in a relationship with you anymore. They don’t have to worry about hurting you or considering you at all. T doesn’t have to consider how his version of how your breakup may hurt you. T stopped having an obligation to make sure you and your cat had shelter once you broke up with him.
The advice that you can’t control T’s story of how your relationship ended is spot on but you should realize going forward that you can’t expect T to consider you in *any* decision he makes. Even if he’s not actively trying to hurt you he won’t be putting your wants/needs/feelings ahead of his own.
I think this is a really important point. Hopefully it also points to T being a decent enough guy that the divorce will be relatively smooth. Yes, it might be upsetting that he asked you to leave sooner than was convenient, is rallying Team Him and telling the full story of how you guys split up, and that he didn’t want to keep your cat, but maybe it speaks well of him that he is looking after his own needs by doing those things. They sound like an emotionally healthy response and a way of processing and dealing with a divorce that will hopefully be healthy for both of you – in fact, they sound like things the Captain would advise were it T to have written in about how to handle the break up. Would it be better that he prolonged the move out time so you were both feeding off each other’s hurt, maybe with added doses of ‘please don’t leave me’ or confusing end-of-marriage sex? Or if he didn’t say anything to anyone about you leaving for another man because he was still secretly hoping you guys would get back together or he wanted to pressure you into being his sole support network? Or if he kept the cat to prove how much he loves you and so he would have a plausible excuse to contact you or get you to visit him?
I know what you are going through is painful, and obviously you should keep their eyes open for red flags that a divorce is turning nasty/unsafe, but maybe taking a step back and reframing the way you look at T’s responses will help you to see that at the moment, it looks like there are blessings to be counted here.
For me, the cat thing is red flags all the way to the bottom.
If you have a cat, you have taken responsibility for another living being.
If this was the LWs cat, and T had tolerated it, it was the LWs responsibility to move to a cat-friendly appartment, to find someone to foster or take the cat, or to get assurances that T will look after the cat until the LW can take it – _at a pre-arranged date_.
You might have to leave an animal behind when you are escaping from an abusive relationship. When you voluntarily leave, and have time to plan everything, your animals need to be part of the plan.
If this was a joint cat, you still had to discuss who would keep it – never mind the stereo, who gets to keep the cat? Here the default assumption is that both parties will want to keep it and decide what’s best for the cat. And however little you want to spend time with your soon-to-be-ex, you need to discuss arrangements for pets just as you need to discuss arrangements for children; and you need to MAKE arrangements for them.
If no arrangements were made, both parties failed at adulting. T failed at adulting anyway, by not asking the LW to look after the cat if he did not want to keep it (if the LW’s answer was ‘I can’t take it’ then at least she could have approved of the person who took it, and helped find a person to take it). But not only does T fail the ‘I want to get rid of my responsibility because I cannot be bothered’ test in my eye, unless he’s always made it clear that he does not like the cat and does not consider it ‘ours’ but rather the LWs, to _pretend_ you like an animal and to ignore its needs the moment you no longer ‘have to’ look after it speaks absolute utter volumes about someone.
If T used the cat to score a point (‘your penalty for leaving me is that I give away the cat’) or to use emotional blackmail ahead of the time: (‘you cannot leave, we have a cat’) then that, too, speaks volumes.
LW, M has _kids_. Think about everything you should have done in regard to your cat and dial it up to eleven. Any place he moves to needs to be kid-friendly (and if they’re small, kid-proof.). If that isn’t a big part of the discussions, run away.
In fairness to both the LW & T on this one, as far as decisions about the cat’s welfare are concerned it actually sounds pretty reasonable to me a) for the LW to have decided to leave the cat in its home where she believed T would look after it, and b) for T to then find someone else who would look after it.
As someone who’s pretty neutral on the whole subject of having pets, I can quite imagine that if my husband wanted a cat I might well feel willing to go along with cat acquisition/care on the basis that indulging my husband’s cat wishes was part of being in a Team Us, and that I wouldn’t, in that situation, feel the need to make a big point of “I don’t want this cat and am only having it in the house on suffrance” and yet might feel entirely different if my husband then dumped me and yet expected me to go on with the work of looking after it.
Completely agree with your last paragraph, though.
It’s the ‘believed he would look after it’ that’s the problem. A cat is a living being, and it *matters* whether it gets looked after – so you talk about that. Just as you talk about shared posessions, bills, and other responsibilities. (When escaping an abusive relationship, you might not get the chance. Here, that excuse doesn’t count.) If the LW moved without talking this over, they dropped the ball on a responsibility, and T had the right to find someone else (but unless he made it clear earlier that he had no interest in the cat, I’d still worry if someone went from ‘this is our cat’ to ‘I don’t want her cat in my house’. Pretending to like something (or someone) when you don’t is dishonest; and I’d be much happier about ‘I don’t care about cats, but I will look after it if you want want’ than about ‘yes, let’s have a cat together’ morphing into ‘I never wanted a cat’ when the relationship goes sour. (Ok, still feeling bitter about my toxic ex pretending to like my pet as long as it suited them.)
So why is it okay for the LW to feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of the cat but not okay for T to feel the same?
You seem to be assuming that T gave the cat away solely to hurt the LW, and maybe that’s true.
Or maybe T felt so overwhelmed by having his entire life blow up in his face in a painful and humiliating way that he decided that he wasn’t able to care for a pet at this time and found a good home for it.
Maybe T could’ve handled it better, but the LW isn’t the only person with feelings. T is allowed to have them too, and allowed to make decisions that helpful to him.
I am a divorce lawyer, and I can verify that people do this All. The. Time.
I actually have a form letter that I have to send out to a client every few months or so with the gist of “Your ex is no longer your partner. S/he had a legal and ethical duty to watch our for your best interests before. That duty is now totally gone and clearly they are trying to screw you or at least just get the best deal for themselves. Stop trusting them with your emotions and money because it will eff you up financially and legally.” This letter doesn’t help most of them. I often hear that the other spouse is just divorcing them to “make a point” and that they will later reconcile. (That reconciliation has never happened to any of my clients.)
Yeah, you cannot control this story. But the Captain’s greater-than story — that’s what you can do. You can tell yours, and not try to control the reaction, and not try to spin…just tell your truth.
I have left a husband for another man. Now, in our case there were none of the things that are making you feel guilt-crazed (though I had my share of guilt-craziness, no question). There was counseling. The other man was totally unattached. I was being emotionally abused.
But I still lost friends. And what you are being told here? That is the honest-to-God truth: if you can be honest with them — not “Squeal with glee for me girlfriends, this is Real Love!” honest, but “I was bone-tired of the work I had to put into that sinking marriage, and I couldn’t put in a single more day, and I feel guilty about it, but this is my life, and I hope it’s going somewhere great” honest — you’ll get to keep some friends long term.
You won’t get to keep everyone. You will lose friends that aren’t yours. You will lose friends that are bad. And every now and then you will lose a good, real friend of yours because they have a button or a history that has nothing to do with you. And that sucks, it all sucks.
But your life does NOT depend on being an angel in their eyes. It depends on being a good person in yours. Try to treat everyone — including yourself — with honesty, and give them time. And don’t pre-judge your friends any more than yourself. If you distance yourself because you’re afraid they won’t pick you? You’re picking for them.
Whatever happens with M, you’re with you for your whole life. Don’t lie to yourself, or to the friends that matter. Let yourself tell the sad story first. Good luck!
I am a person who left my first marriage. My ex and I had been together for 7 years (3 of those married) and I was very unhappy (for many reasons). I suggested to him that we go to marriage counseling; he agreed, and we went for about six months. While I learned a great deal about myself and how I operated within relationships, he really didn’t put forth much effort. (Read: any effort at all beyond showing up.) I was unhappy, the marriage wasn’t working out for me, and I felt like he was completely unwilling to do anything at all to try and make the marriage work on his own. (Something which the marriage counselor finally called him on, by the way.) He wanted us to stay married, though. He wanted us to stay married and he wanted to stay exactly the way he had always been, and he wanted me to be happy with that. I wasn’t, and so I left him.
He was not gracious about this. At all. He went to mutual friends and cried. He went to my mother and cried. He called me and cried (although I put a stop to that right quick-like). He told everyone how much he loved me, how hard he had tried to work things out, how he was never good enough for me, etc. I don’t mean that I think he was lying – in his mind, these things were true. In his mind, just actually showing up for marriage counseling (even though there were sessions where he would spend an entire hour either grunting or staring out the window sullenly) was proof that he wanted to stay together. He had all the feels, and he made sure that all those feels were broadcast loud and clear to anyone who wanted to listen (and even some who didn’t). He was entitled to those feels, the same way that I was entitled to mine, though, even though I wanted to bop him right on the feels more than a few times.
We had a set of mutual friends who never bothered to get my side of the story – including one woman who called me up and just laid into me about how I had thrown away a good man, etc. And the thing is? My ex was not Satan. He was not a horrible man. He was a good man, and he deserved a person in his life who would be happy with him the way he was, the same way I deserved a person in my life who would be happy with me the way I was. Neither one of us was going to find that together. But because *I* left *him* I became the bad guy in that particular situation. As a few of the other posters have noted, when you are the golden couple – and we were, we’d met at college and dated and everyone loved him and we got married in a wonderful fun funky wedding and lived The Perfect Life (TM) – then people take it very very personally when that fails. If your The Perfect Life (TM) fails, then what is left for them? It stops being about you as a person and becomes more about their own dreams and expectations about marriage. And for people who really really really want the Golden Couple to stay together for their own peace of mind there’s just no way you can explain your way past being the one to break the Golden Couple apart. None at all. It’s a waste of your time to even try.
Some of those people never came around. It hurt! It really really really did. But I just took a deep breath and let them go as part of the collateral of my broken marriage. It was hard, believe me. I wanted them to understand why I had done what I did! I didn’t want to be the bad guy! Nevertheless, I had to accept that for many people – including my ex – that I was always going to be the bad guy. Which is not a pleasant thing, because nobody wants to be the bad guy. But my amazing marriage counselor told me in our last session together that I would be so much better off putting my time and energy into healing myself than in trying to run around proving to the skeptics that I was justified in doing what I did. She was 100% right on that one, too.
As it happens, I met someone entirely by chance a few months after I’d moved out and filed the divorce papers and we clicked and it was amazing. It was so completely different than my first marriage. And my friends – the ones who stuck with me through the divorce – were like, girl, pull back on those reins, have you lost your ever lovin’ mind? But they weren’t being jerks. They LOVED me. They didn’t want me to be hurt. As it turns out, that someone and I have been together for 15 years now and just celebrated our 12 year wedding anniversary yesterday and have two beautiful kids. Which you know, YAY! But I’m not mad at all at my friends for being wary and begging me to put the brakes on. They cared. They knew I was hurt and sad and vulnerable, and they wanted the best for me. They were scared for me! There was no way I could “prove” to them that my new partner was good for me either – they all saw with time that it was a good relationship, a strong and loving one that was going to withstand. These are the same friends who wished the both of us a happy anniversary yesterday. It worked out, but not by me forcing the issue, you know? Man, my partner got some serious side eye and it is to my partner’s credit that the side eye was withstood with grace and humor. My partner finally took one of my best friends – the one who was not having any of this Pikkunen is in luuuuurve business, not for God, love or money – out for drinks where apparently they did some growling and snarling at each other, which weirdly enough seemed to bring my best friend over to our side. I had nothing to do with that one! But that’s my point. It wasn’t about me demanding that my friends support us. It wasn’t about me throwing them at each other and insisting that everyone love each other right now. It was about letting my friends into our lives, letting them get to know my partner on their own terms (and vice versa!) and seeing for themselves that this relationship was a strong one.
There’s nothing you can do about T, dear LW. He has his feels and he gets to have them. He gets to have them on his own terms, and that means that he gets to tell his own truth, and that’s not irreconcilable differences. All you can do is let him have them and just take a step back from them. Yes, you hurt him. He hurt you too, and the friends who are your real friends will understand that, even if they think the way you went about dissolving the marriage was not the best way possible. If M is the guy for you, then let your friends get to know him on their own terms. Understand that your friends love you and are going to be wary of this married guy. Don’t force the issue. If M loves you and is going to do right by you then your friends will see that on their own through his actions. You won’t need to sell him to anyone.
But if there is any advice I can give you, LW, is to selfishly take your time and energy and spend it on yourself. Not on making your friends understand that you are not a bad guy with regards to T or that M is really a great guy they will all love if they only could meet him! It’s okay to put yourself first. With that in mind, what do YOU want? What do YOU need? Not T, and it’s good that you recognize that. My marriage counselor had me do this amazing exercise. She told me to write down my dream life. I was to disregard finances (as in, if I wanted a house on the beach then put that down even if it was a financial impossibility) and to disregard specific people (as in, if I wanted a partner who had a great sense of humor and would support me in my writing to just put that down and not put a specific person in there – as in, do not write down that you want M, you got me?) and even disregard allergies! Just put down what I wanted from my life. When I had done that, she said, now you know. Now you have an end goal. And some of these goals you’ll reach, and some you won’t, but the point is you’ll know what you want. Part of the reason I knew my current partner was the person for me was recognizing so many of the qualities I had put down in my dream life exercise.
Best of luck to you, LW.
Thank you for telling your story. I know all about sullen man who won’t even try and doesn’t want anything to change. I’m happy you found a better dude! But especially thank you for the exercise – I think I’ve done bits of it in my head, but laying out the whole thing would be *so useful*.
First, Captain, your advice is awesome.
LW, I have been in a similar situation to yours, and while it obviously involved totally different people and everyone’s reactions etc are different, I just want to say — marriage breakups where you get together with the guy and the wife is left are almost always messy and people react in unexpected ways. So my advice is make sure you have your life outside of the relationship and that the new relationship is not just a ticket out of your old one.
I agree with those who say that your New Dude’s marriage can’t be that great if he is willing to leave it for someone he just met.
But you have no idea what is wrong with it or whether New Dude is looking for someone else as a way of boosting his own ego or to fill a void in himself. It could be that his marriage is not great and you are the love of his life and I hope that is the case for you! But unless you make sure you have a strong and stable life regardless of New Dude then you could get hurt.
What happened in my situation was this: my New Dude was married, he didn’t tell me at first when we got together (online). I should have seen that as a red flag but he is very charming and I had already fallen in love, and hey, these things happen.
I moved to be near to him and he said he would leave his (second) wife, but he needed some time to tell her because the timing had to be right. In the meantime he said that he would have to keep on as normal with her including having sex with her so that she would not suspect.
Anyway, again that should have been a red flag but shortly after that she found out about it and he admitted he had cheated. He then walked out on her that day and moved in with me.
She was very upset and distraught but he refused to communicate with her except once meeting her in a cafe to “talk about practical issues”.
A month later they met again and she asked him to come back and he said no, and told her he did not love her but only felt “affection” for her (that’s what he told me).
She reluctantly agreed to buy him out of their house and he bought an apartment (nearby) and we moved in together there.
She refused to hear or speak about me with him, refused to see me and insisted that he never mentioned me and that I avoid places where she was (understandable). But she kept on trying to “help” him with little chores, buying him clothes, “looking after him” which he would not discourage, sending SMSs.
Their friends stopped speaking to him but he did not care, or that is what he said. However, they blamed me as the “whore” who broke up his marriage.
Then they started to communicate every day — literally, he would get up on the morning, switch on the computer and chat to her, then periodically chat all day, then send good night messages. He started to go round to her house every day (he has kids from a first marriage and they still saw Ex2). All this would have been OK except (a) she refused to divorce him saying it was too upsetting for her and (b) he was spending so much time talking to her/ seeing her etc that I started to wonder if he still had feelings for her. She admitted she had feelings for him. He would literally message her when we were out on dates, including in the movies and at dinner, things like “sounds like you need a massage”.
After a few months I flew back to my home town to take care of some issues and he told me not to come back. He had planned to do that, I am sure. He told me I no longer had a home with him. He insists he is not back with Ex2 but I think he is lying.
So LW, please don’t put yourself through emotional pain unnecessarily. I am not saying that your New Dude does not love you, but make sure you keep your friends and your own life strong.
If I could turn back the clock I would never have gotten involved even though I was in love and I believe he was too.
What a complete arse, I’m sorry.
A friend of mine is in a situation similar to LW’s, except that there are no marriages or kids involved. She left her boyfriend for someone in another state whom she had met once and after one visit and about a month of dating long-distance, she decided to move to be with him. None of us have met this guy but he is all that she talks about. We do, however, know that her ex, a very sweet person, is hurting a great deal and sees her facebook statuses saying, “I have the best boyfriend in the world!!!!!!!”
I would normally be inclined to shrug and say, “It’s her life,” especially since this new guy sounds like the motorcycle she needs to move to a new place. (She’s lived in the same area her whole life and is terrified to even drive to the next state. This could be a new adventure for her! Attagirl!) But she’s been behaving as though she only values her friends insofar as we can be cheerleaders for her Big Epic Romance. After months of ignoring my calls and messages, she suddenly got back in contact with me to share the good news. She shows no interest in the things going on in my life and doesn’t ask about me or try to catch up. She just tries to show me endless pictures of him and gush about how wonderful he is. When I speak, she stops making eye contact and immediately starts texting him. My breaking point was when I asked, “How was your weekend?” she answers, “Great! [Boyfriend]’s bands played two shows.” I didn’t ask about some guy I’ve never met. I didn’t ask about some band I have never heard of in another city. I asked about her, but apparently she doesn’t have her own identity anymore.
LW, don’t make the same mistakes as my friend. This is all very new and exciting for you, but don’t neglect your friends. Show interest in their lives and the fun stuff you all used to do together, and demonstrate that you’re still you, not just the person who is in love with M. Once you’ve gotten a handle on your feels, talk about something other than M. Your friends will thank you for it.
…I didn’t ask about some guy I’ve never met. I didn’t ask about some band I have never heard of in another city. I asked about her, but apparently she doesn’t have her own identity anymore.
It does read like LW’s identity may be quite wrapped up in M at this point. Just based on the letter, it doesn’t sound like she wrapped her identity up in T so much, so this may be a side-effect of the infatuation stage of any new relationship. But it is a perilous thing (forsaking one’s independent identity and dissolving oneself into the new sexy motorbike of a person), and it seems like it usually precedes some bumpy roads in that new relationship when the high comes down. This is why it is generally good advice not to move straight from one serious relationship into another. Spend some time not seriously-attached to someone (casual dating/flirting/sex is one thing, but serious attachment is something different) so that you can get your feet beneath you first and understand your needs and tendencies better. Then your next serious relationship, should you seek and find one, is much more likely to stay grounded through those initial roller-coaster phases.
I have a friend in a situation similar to LW’s, and part of the reason I am so supportive and we’ve been becoming better friends is that she’s still the person she was. She’s clearly aware of the risks she’s taking, and being quite level-headed about it. Her marriage had been on the rocks for a while and her M was the catalyst, not the reason.
But she didn’t ask for cheerleaders, and this is part of why so many of her friends can be so happy for her. She’s also had plenty of friction from some of her friends, and this is something she’s had to weather with as much grace as she can muster. It’s a hard situation to be in, all the way around.
And if her situation doesn’t work out, she’ll have some strong friendships to fall back on, and a strong sense of self. There will also be a world of pain, but she’ll have the inner and social resources to cope with it, if it comes to that. I hope LW will make sure she has those things as well–they’ll serve her whether or not things with M go as planned.
LW, I’m kind of glad to hear your story, because I have only ever been on the opposite side — i.e. someone ends a relationship with me because [they were unhappy!] [they found Shiny New Person!] [they moved to Antarctica!]
that person tried to control the story about what happened, because it was VITALLY IMPORTANT to them not to look like “the bad guy.”
(WITH the somewhat peculiar result that when I see person P at events [where I want to be and I have no right to ask him not to be], I have this bizarre double experience of being cheerful on a surface level while thinking “If I ever get a chance to secretly push you in front of a bus, I’m going to do it.” Not a speeding bus. A trundling bus that will leave him with several broken bones that take exactly six months to heal.)
I am going to hazard a guess here — I suspect that you are thinking, But if T loves me enough to want to stay with me, why doesn’t he love me enough to wish me well in my new relationship and not try to fuck it up for me? THAT’S NOT FAIR!
If that is the case, I want to say, emphatically, aggressively, even FEROCIOUSLY:
YOU CANNOT ASK ANOTHER PERSON TO LOVE YOU MORE THAN THEY LOVE THEMSELVES. It is not your right to demand that he prioritize YOUR emotional survival and health over HIS emotional survival and health — probably never and in no circumstance, but especially when you are so obviously not wanting to do the same for him!
LW, you seem like a decent person. You’ve been brave. You know you can survive discomfort and sadness, years of it, in fact. Hold on a little longer, be a little braver, and let T have his story.
Yes. As I was reading the letter, I kept thinking that the LW is asking for an *extremely* high level of selflessness from T. There are probably people in this world who are noble and enlightened enough to respond to “I’ve met someone who is better for me than you, so I’m divorcing you for him” with “That’s great, I just want you to be happy, and I’m sure he’s a wonderful guy.” There’s probably another group of people who can get to that point eventually. But immediately after the breakup? Most people are hurt and angry and pissed off and betrayed, even if the relationship wasn’t that great. It doesn’t sound to me like T is a villain, it sounds like he’s human, and he’s the one I really feel for. LW has her big new love and exciting future; T has nothing except his story about how he was dumped. Which he has been, whether the story is told as “LW ditched our marriage for another guy” or “LW met her true love and had to follow her heart.”
I don’t think that would be noble and enlightened so much as radically unattached. I mean, if my partner loved me in such a way that she only wanted the best for me and didn’t actually care whether I wanted to be with her or whether she got to spend time with me on a regular basis, I don’t think I’d find that a particularly enjoyable experience!
I see a lot of comments above that express skepticism about whether things are going to work out with M. I’m skeptical too, but I think maybe the more constructive question is to ask what you’ll do if in fact it doesn’t work out? Maybe M won’t leave his wife. Or maybe he will and it *still* doesn’t work out between the two of you for some reason. That happens. Are you prepared for that possibility? What will you do to take care of yourself? Do you have a support network that can help you if that happens, especially one in the new city? It might be a good idea to start building one.
When you think about the possibility of things not working out with M, what comes to your mind? I’m not saying you have to feel like you’re going to be totally ok and everything will be just fine: I mean, you’ve left marriage and are moving cities, and if things with M fizzle as well, it’s going to be really hard and messy. But if you look at the possibility of M not leaving his wife, or breaking up with you, and you find yourself saying “but that won’t happen!” I think it might be a good idea to step back and think through how you would handle that worst-case scenario, because if nothing else I think knowing that you don’t *need* things to work out with M – knowing that the failure of this relationship will be really painful but not The End of the World – will be a powerful and confidence-building thing.
Years ago John and Jane decided to get married after several years of dating. The relationship had been tumultuous and it was the consensus of our group that this was a terrible idea.
Several of us spoke with them about our feelings, and were told to MYOB. So we shut our mouths and celebrated with them at their wedding.
And afterward as they settled into married life, when they seemed increasingly unhappy, we did our best to try to help at first, or work around it at the end.
When things did end, it was drawn out and involved therapy, opening up the relationship, accusations of cheating from both sides, then mercifully, separation and divorce.
Post-breakup the group dropped Jane (who had a new boyfriend) and after an initial rally around John (very miserably single) we did a slow fade with him.
Jane accused us of judging her, John of abandoning him.
The truth is that when we stood up beside them at the altar, we took on a measure of guilt and responsibility for their marriage, as we talked things through after they separated, we all felt that we should have done more to stop the wedding.
Under the guilt was anger. Anger that after putting us through their shitty courtship, they inflicted their shitty marriage on us, and were then bitching that we weren’t involved enough in their shitty divorce.
After that what we felt was relief. It was over, and we could move on. So we did.
You don’t know what your friends experience of your relationship was.
You remember Marcus’ graduation because you got into an argument with T on the way to his party, and you had to hold in your anger all night. Your friends remember it as the time you two ruined the celebration of Marcus’ hard work by keeping them all on edge with your sniping at each other.
It may be that your friends are not calling to get your version of the breakup and dish about M, not because T has poisoned them, but because your marriage was as bad for them as it was for you, and they are just as glad to be done with it as you are.
I’m going to say, right now, definitely avoid phrases like “Following my heart” or “true love” or anything quite that shiny right now when talking to your friends. They carry a sense of…irresponsibility?
When my Best Friend’s fiance (and our housemate, and a very close friend of mine) Done Him Wrong and left him (only, still awkwardly living in our house) for New Guy…look, it happened months ago, and I’m still pissed off at her. But one of the things that pushed me from mad to infuriated was that during the conversation, she just stared off into the distance and repeated things like, “It just happened.” “I’m following my heart.” “Sometimes it just happens.” etc etc over and over again.
And it was her way of basically saying: “I didn’t want to try. I didn’t want the responsibility of this relationship. And I no longer care about anyone’s feelings but my own.” (There is a LOT of extra in here that I’m not getting into, so I know that’s not what you’re saying, but for us, it was kind of a “veil is lifted oh my gosh how did we not realize this before?” moment).
Anyway, my point is, “Following your heart” is a nice Disney sort of phrase for going for it and screw the consequences, but when those consequences are: “Hurting someone very badly,” then it’s a lousy sort of phrase to use. A break-up will almost always hurt the person on the receiving end; there’s nothing to be done about that. ESPECIALLY if they’re being left FOR someone. But by not using soft and glittery phrases like that, you can at least acknowledge that what you’re doing has some consequences to people other than yourself, and that it’s a big and very adult step you’re taking.
I wish you all the best. It’s a rough position you’re in, and I hope Cap’s advice helps you talk your friends through this confusing time.
“soft and glittery phrases” — thanks for that. From someone who got left a couple of years ago — with an 18 month old daughter — with the phrase “it just didn’t work out”, which hurt more than anything else, just the flipness of it. People have the right to leave relationships in which they are unhappy! But it doesn’t help the person being left to be sort of asked to agree that it’s no biggie when that happens. Yeah, the person being left has to deal with the size of it (whatever it feels to them — snail, whale, lunch pail) on their own. But they don’t have to jointly participate in a final exercise devoted to agreeing that it is small potatoes.
Yes. I’m sorry to hear that happened to you.
thank you. Reading Captain Awkward & all the Awkwardeers has been a balm!
LW, part of the problem you’re having with your friends is likely not what you’re doing so much as how you’re framing what you’re doing. Your letter describes our feelings of happiness for M should be as important and central to everyone else as they are to you, and people who don’t go along with those feels are being selfish and unfair to you. That…isn’t very kind or fair to your friends, much less T. (For one thing: the reason T hates M is not that T hasn’t seen for himself what a cool guy M is.)
You’ve made choices, and they may very well be the best choices for you to make. You have the right to do that. Other people get to make the best choices for them, too. Those might be different than the choices that make you look good, or make things easiest on you.
I have two thoughts on this:
First, T will only be able to “poison the well” as you fear if there is some substance to his claims. After all you’re talking about people who are your friends, too. If they are your friends, you’ll be able to tell your version of the story to them and consequently there’s no way for T to control the narrative entirely. I think you’ll get way more sympathy from your friends if you acknowledge that you hurt T and don’t try to sugarcoat things. You’re probably coming across as a little flippant and egotistic in your focus on M right now. And T is right that he’s allowed to tell his story. One thing you don’t get to control when you break up with someone is how they interpret the events and what they share with others (obviously there are limits to sharing intimate details, but I think you have to expect at the very least that people will hear that you left T for someone else). As long as he’s not making up stories, T is within his rights. Basically, you have to accept that your friends are hearing T’s side of the story and you don’t have a right to interfere with that. What you can do is telling your own story.
Second, in general this is stuff that will blow over if you don’t act totally unreasonably. At a certain point it becomes old news and people will forgive and forget, even if they believe you did wrong. I broke up with my ex about one and a half years ago, it was super messy and I made a lot of mistakes, I also got into a new relationship quickly. It took a while but by now everyone has moved on.
Speaking as a middle aged woman who has a heart that has been much battered, scarred and knocked about, as a result of jumping on the back of a few of those exciting new shiny motorbikes of relationships…I have learned a thing or two…
one of the things I wish I had paid attention to most, when I was hypnotised by the new and shiny relationship, was balance.
LW 13 years ago, I did everything to make the new love happen, threw myself into it body and soul. Gave up everything, I emigrated to a new continent, with my small daughter in tow, left my friends, family, job, home, country for the promise of the wonderful new and shiny relationship..a new ‘happy every after’…
in an analgous fashion to your M not having told his wife yet…my M also hadn’t given (given up) as much as I had for the start of the relationship, he had changed nothing…so it was easy for him to pull the plug and walk away…which he did.
You see, there was no balance, I had changed everything about my life, given everything for this new future— it is a powerful cultural message go for it, let nothing stand in your way, etc etc’ .
he had given very little, changed nothing…and so he wasn’t invested in the way that I was, in terms of location, money, connections etc etc..so he could easily walk away..
and he did..
I was left in a new continent, not knowing a soul, -apart from my daughter-, for thousands of miles..unable to return to my home for a year…I literally had to construct a new life from the ground up. The only thing I had was a visa and a job, I had to find somewhere to life, furnish the house, find a school for my daughter, make a new circle of friends, find a Team me…
it was tough..it was appalling, devastating, exhausting, made me guilty, sad, broken
but in the end it was the making of me and I am glad it happened.
but it broke my heart and there are consequences that echo to this day, (13 years later) in terms of how I relate to my current partner, how much I can trust..it made me and it broke me…and I am scarred as a result…and even though I see the benefits of it, if I could return to that point again, when I first met my M…I would run away..
Maybe your M is different, but LW in your letter, you tell us that you are giving up everything to be with him, he has made not a single change to his life, when you do move to be with him, you will have given up everything of your old life…on the promise that he will be with you..
there are no consequences…to him…in deciding not to be with you..
Too true. And the worst of it is, if he dumps LW, all his friends and family are likely to give him a big attaboy for repelling the outsider and “putting his family first.”
Yeah, no matter how this plays out, a woman he made promises to will be screwed over, and there’s going to be a lot of societal pressure for LW to be the one to win that booby prize.
I’m hoping things work out as best they can for all involved, and that LW can get what she needs from this relationship without too much damage.
‘ And the worst of it is, if he dumps LW, all his friends and family are likely to give him a big attaboy for repelling the outsider and “putting his family first.”’
Uh – you’re saying that like it’s a bad thing. Yes, LW’s first loyalty in this situation *should* be to his children. Of course the marital situation may be so bad that he needs to get out for his own peace of mind, but… if he thinks it over and realises that actually he can manage to stick around in this marriage on a mutually civil basis with his wife for the ultimate benefit of his children, then, yes, that would be a good thing for him to do. (Obviously, an even better thing for him to do if he’s going to make that decision would have been to make it last year before getting the LW involved in his personal crisis, but that doesn’t change the fact that staying with the family is, for many people in this situation, a good decision to make.)
M may have to put *himself* first in this situation, because parents do need to strike that balance when it comes to taking care of their children. But, in terms of his priorities, the well-being of his children should come before LW, and, if he decides that that means staying with his wife… I appreciate that that would be horrible for LW, but that still wouldn’t make it a bad or wrong decision on M’s part.
I think though that the framing of ‘repelling the outsider and “putting his family first”‘ (which I agree is likely to happen if he decides to stay with his wife) ignores the fact that M had an active role in creating the situation in the first place. He cheated on his wife, and he knows LW is leaving her marriage and moving to be with him. The part where putting the well-being of his kids front and center will make him the good guy has passed.
And staying in a marriage because you can still be ‘civil’ to each other as you put it, is not necessarily the best thing for the kids, btw.
“Maybe your M is different, but LW in your letter, you tell us that you are giving up everything to be with him, he has made not a single change to his life, when you do move to be with him, you will have given up everything of your old life…on the promise that he will be with you..
there are no consequences…to him…in deciding not to be with you..”
If M’s first loyalty was to his children this situation would not exist. He would tell his wife their marriage is broken and either work to repair it or end it as gracefully as possible. Instead he has put his time, energy, and resources into an affair, and it’s entirely possible that his wife thinks everything is fine.
It is possible that from his point of view everything IS fine. Maybe he has set up a situation where he has a stable family life with an exciting affair on the side because that’s exactly what he wants,
Maybe he doesn’t care if LW has a cat even though he is allergic, because he knows he’s only going to be with her for a few days a month, and that she’ll be so lonely with him as her only social outlet that she will gladly put the cat in the bathroom and vacuum every square inch of the apartment before he gets there.
LW is the one who wrote in, and LW has a great deal to lose in in the next three months. M sounds like he is looking out for himself just fine.
LW did not leave her marriage in the cleanest way possible, and her level of entitlement about her relationship with M does not put her in the best light, but that doesn’t mean she deserves to be taken advantage of, or that we should pat M on the back for screwing LW over because “the children”.
Hm, I don’t think that being someone who has an affair but who stays with his children’s mother on “a mutually civil basis for the ultimate benefit of his children” is doing a particularly good thing. For me, the most honourable thing to do in this situation would be break up with his wife, focus on doing that in as respectful way as possible, stay single whilst establishing a secure new norm for the kids in which they see both parents regularly, sort out the finances and accommodation and all of that with as little vindictiveness and anger as possible, and only pursue a relationship with a new person when all of that is smooth and harmonious and the kids are relatively well-settled. I understand there may be other points of view on this, but “staying together for the sake of the kids” is not universally agreed to be the best option, especially if it involves staying quiet about the infidelity.
MovingOn, espritdecorps, Mary: True. I hadn’t realised that Linden’s comment was in answer to edelc’s (I was reading the comments via e-mail) and, without that context, had interpreted it as ‘If M made that specific decision it would not be worthy of praise’, whereas in fact the meaning was probably more along the lines of ‘Even if M goes back to his family at this point, his overall actions would still mean he wouldn’t deserve to be praised for putting his family first’, and that, of course, is an excellent point. Whatever M ends up deciding about his family and whatever the reason why he ends up deciding it, he is unquestionably behaving badly *now*.
I agree that staying together for the benefit of the children isn’t always the best option even for the children, but (and I do realise some people will disagree with me on this one, but so be it) in many cases it is. Whether or not M’s case is one of those is something that, really, only he and his family can know. Of course, even in cases where it is the best option for the children that doesn’t necessarily mean that the parent should stay in a deeply unhappy relationship, because parents, while needing to look out for their children’s needs, aren’t obliged to sacrifice their entire wellbeing on the altar of parenthood.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that if M does decide to go back to his family and make a go of it at this point, it’s possible that that might not be “Oh, well, I enjoyed eating my cake and now I’ll enjoy having it too”, but “I know in my heart of hearts that it will be better for my children if I stay, and I need to stop all this and stay”. If so – well, even though he’s already lost his chance to get nominated for Family Man of the Year in my eyes, I can still see how *that particular decision* could be a genuinely good and appropriate one. Meanwhile, though, I completely agree that he does need to get his act together and either make that decision if he’s going to make it, or commit properly to leaving his family for LW if that’s what he’s going to do, and stop messing people around in the process. Hope that makes sense.
Hey LW, sorry that it’s such a messy and emotionally fraught time. I’ve been in a similar place, and as uncomfortable as the Captain’s advice is, she’s also right. After my fiance ended our engagement, I rebounded very quickly. So quickly that he assumed I had been cheating. And though I asked him to be fair in how he shared details of our breakup, he painted me as a cheating whore.
It hurt, god did it hurt. But really, what was I going to do? I couldn’t make him tell his version any differently & I couldn’t make my friends believe me. Even when I did tell them my version, I still got the side-eye. I lost a lot of friends, and learned some valuable lessons. Whether things with M turn out wonderfully or not, T will tell the story how he sees it. Just be you, just be happy and try to make things work out with M. T will either poison your friends against you or they’ll see his tantrum for what it is. Best of luck LW, I hope things turn out good for you!
Wow, I really don’t think it is at all helpful to LW to call T’s reaction a “tantrum” because your ex was a jerk. Your situations are not the same at all, and encouraging LW to act as if they are is not going to make LW look at her situation realistically or help her get support from her friends.
I don’t know if this is the best place to share this with, but I guess why not. I know two people something somewhat similar happened to. They were… my dad and his second wife, whom he left my mother for when I was 13. He had been cheating on her, too. It’s now been over 10 years (maybe 13? 14?) and they are still together. Give it two more years, and they will have been together as long as my parents had been. It was very tough when it first happened. It was hell, really. In my mother’s and our (children ) lifes which we spent mostly with her (even before the divorce). It really sucked. Still – I never rooted against them as a couple. It’s obvious they are happy together and it was obvious my parents weren’t anymore. The only thing I wish they had done differently is – I wish they had waited to re-marry. To invite people who were also my mother’s friends to their wedding, while my mum was still trying to figure it out. I wish they had shown more compassion for my mother, and us. I wish they had understood that, no, it wasn’t them against the rest of the world, but rather that at that moment other people needed their compassion and respect. They had each other, after all, which is more than any other party involved could say.
I didn’t go to their wedding. I really hope they stay together, I like my step-mum as a person and she is a part of my family. But I don’t regret not going to their wedding. I’m glad I was true – not to my mum whom I felt violently ambivalent towards – but to my feeling that they were rushing everyone through something that was NOT the urgent matter. I guess what I’m saying is, if this love is as strong as you describe it, use that strength to act in a compassionate, clever and respectful way. Because if you don’t, who will?
LW, I find myself:
A. Supportive of your decision to leave your marriage. As CA says, you are the one who gets to decide to walk away.
B. Leery of the uprooting your life and M’s not having told his wife, but am open and supportive of the idea that if it doesn’t work out, he may still have been your motorcycle. I am less worried about M not being divorced, as that can be a drawn out process; however, he should at least become legally separated and move out.
C. Incredulous and wary and judgments of your insistence that T tell people you split because of irreconcilable differences. I get that you may feel like this is what’s at the bottom of your desire to leave and your decision to cheat, but that’s not T’s experience of the ending of the relationship.
The fact that you haven’t told your friends and you’re trying to write T’s script suggests to me that you recognize that there will be a social cost to infidelity, and you’re hoping to somehow reap the benefits (shiny new love! end of marriage you really wanted out of but hadn’t found an exit from!) without facing the consequences of your choices.
As you have seen from the comments section, friends of the marriage have their own narratives about that marriage. You have the highest chance of walking away from this situation with good friends if you a) tell your story honestly and with self-awareness, including awareness of the collateral damage caused by your actions, and b) allow T to tell his story, which includes the facts that you cheated on him and you did not make an effort to save the marriage through counseling.
In closing: I am known by my friends to be remarkably unjudgmental as they work through their highs and lows. If you were my friend in this situation, I would be there for you, loving and supportive. But if you insisted on a) denying T his reactions and pressuring him to lie for you and b) selling me on having a specific, bubbly reaction to your newfound love, I think I would lose respect for you and begin distancing myself.
You said everything I want to say clearly and compassionately.
Agreed. T’s heart is broken, he’s entitled to look for support from friends without it being a tantrum. Telling people “My wife has left me for another man and I am unhappy,” doesn’t get to be trivialised like that. If he was going around smashing the house or whatever, that’s a tantrum but people are entitled to be upset that their marriage is over. People aren’t going to say “can you believe T, being upset like that, what an asshole,” unless they themselves are assholes.
LW, do you realize that you are asking T to lie to cover up your bad behavior?
Because for T, it would be a lie to say that you broke up because of “irreconcilable differences.” It seems as though he wanted to work on reconciling those differences. You broke up because YOU wanted to. You broke up because you found someone else. That’s not to say that you would have stayed together forever if you hadn’t met M, but the facts, as they are, is that meeting M was the thing that happened to you that made you leave right now.
While you have every right to decide that your marriage with T isn’t working for you and take steps to change your life, it is a generally accepted concept that cheating on your husband with a married man, and then deciding to leave your husband for that married man, = not good behavior. I’m not saying that to be judgmental here, just to point out what your actions might look like to your friends.
And maybe part of you sees it this way as well, which is why you want them not to know what happened, or at least not have all the “details.” Maybe it makes you feel guilty, maybe a little ashamed? It’s normal to feel guilty and ashamed when you’ve hurt someone, even if you believe that the end result was for the best. However, it isn’t T’s responsibility, or your friends’ for that matter, to arrange the narrative so that you don’t have to deal with those feelings.
“Following your heart” does not come with a magic wand that makes it so no one is hurt as a result of doing so. There’s no get-out-of-jail-free card you get just because the thing you are doing is for Looooove.
I think it might go a long way with your friends if you owned up to your actions a little bit. Take some responsibility for the break-up, admit that you caused T some pain. Maybe even apologize for the ensuing Awkwardness. Your friends still may not take your side. They’re allowed to decide that maybe they don’t approve of the things that you did and maybe don’t want to be your friend anymore. However, trying to keep actual, true facts from them in order for them not to see you in a bad light isn’t going to be a very effective way to continue these friendships. And it certainly won’t help with any guilt YOU may feel about the situation at hand.
This is one of your best ever, Captain Awkward. Bravo.
My relationship with my first boyfriend followed me through two engagements and six other boyfriends before we finally decided to get “serious.” It was a long distance affair, and I knew him well enough to know that something was fishy when he started waffling about me actually GOING THERE FOR REAL.
I was curious one night, so I went crawling through the web. I found what I had thought was his EX-wife’s social media accounts….turns out she wasn’t an ex-wife after all, and they were planning on buying a house and getting a dog. As of the day before. (This is my heartbroken and unimpressed face: 😐 )
When confronted, he said he was miserable and just waiting for the “right moment” to tell her he wanted a divorce, but that I shouldn’t let that put a halt to our relationship, because he knew we had a good thing going. It turned out that was actually Darth Boyfriend-ese for “please don’t stop giving me cam shows while I supposedly work late into the night.” He fed me some crap a few weeks later about telling her, and her getting pissed off and going to her Mother’s.
Six months later, I learned he hadn’t told her ANY SUCH THING when she called me out of the blue and asked me who the hell I was and why her husband had those kinds of pictures of me (if ya know what I mean).
Turned out, in some freak twist of small world fate, that she was my then-best friend’s best friend. I lost my supposedly devoted boyfriend, my social network, and most of my faith in humanity in one fell swoop.
Talk about unpleasant and unexpected surprises…and harsh lessons learned.
I am glad the LW is getting out of an unhappy marriage, but I sincerely hope her M is not the same kind of person mine was.
(For the tangential record: Said guy and I are still friends despite that fiasco, and he’s a FANTASTIC platonic friend. Some people just should not be allowed across the love line, I think. It turns them into aliens.)
All the advice above is top notch.
I would second the cautions about jumping in with two feet towards M.
People who’ve recently broken up lack identity. LW will need one if she is to bring anything solid to the new relationship.
I remember meeting a strong interesting new romantic interest a few months after the end of a very long LTR.
She had *things* she did. A *subculture * of one. People she met with on Sundays. Choir night on Tuesdays. Language night dinners and a whole schedule of activities and engagements with a wide circle from her various communities.
She had a pet, a second degree she was working towards and played in a band. In other words, a life.
She didn’t immediately integrate me into this. And why should she have?
She said things like “I value my independence. I will not lose myself to another and I chose this orbit and wish to stay on this orbit. Each day I chose for myself the day for me and if another planet in the vicinity understands this, they will know that if we stare at each other in sincerity long enough, we will feel our oceans rise like tides towards each other. But otherwise, I give you no guarantee.”
Guess who got over our short-lived trial romance fastest? Poor me. I’d just come off a long term relationship. I didn’t have that *thing* I do on Sundays. I didn’t have that *group* I make cool stuff with on Thursdays. I didn’t have the community I plugged into on Fridays etc… So that when it was over between us I just went back to what? They guy who’d just recently ended a Long Term Relationship Project in need of rebuilding his identity.
That was years ago.
Now I am ready for that same type of woman with that same type of attitude except this time, should it not work out–they won’t have instantly integrated me into their life and I will still have things I now do on Sundays, the group I hang with on Tuesdays, the project I’m involved with on Thursdays etc.
The wholesale integration of your life into the new person is an immediate surrender to the fates. And you want to do this in a completely new city? It is not a good footing to start on at all.
LW, please consider some self-establishment of sorts. You are riding into a storm!
Huh. There is a lot of good advice on this comment thread. I guess I’m just surprised that most of it is aimed at the LW’s actual question – “ohmagawd, my friends will judge me for this decision, how do I make them stop?!” and not at what seems to me to be the real issue – M and her next steps.
LW, I will be more blunt than the others. What you have described in M is the very classic and very cliched married man having an affair. This man will never tell his wife what happened, although his wife might eventually find out through other means. “Our marriage isn’t working, she’s terrible to me, it’s a sham marriage really, we haven’t had sex in a year, I’m going to leave, I SWEAR, it’s just complicated because of ________ (children/ illness/ finances/ job/ friends/ you name it). So I’ll tell her later, just not now.” You told your husband. You left your husband. I bet that was hard for you. Why can’t he do it too? Children make things a bit more complex, yes, but not *that* much more complex. Parents deal with divorce all the time. The fact that M still hasn’t even told his family when you’re already divorcing yours, moving out, and divvying up the cat is a HUGE warning flag. The smart money says he will never leave his wife and you’ll finally figure this out several years down the road after many excuses. Hindsight will be 20/20.
Who knows? Maybe M is *different* (aren’t they always)? Maybe you will be the exception to the rule. But go into this with your eyes wide freaking open, knowing that if M does what he says he will – a big “if” – it will have been the exception.
Your naivete in expecting T to not be bitter and angry says to me that your eyes are not particularly open at the moment. Take a look around you and make sure that any decisions you make are based on you and what will make you happy – not you and M. Because a betting person would bet that when the rubber meets the road, M will still be with his wife inside their house.
I am extraordinarily late to the party but I read all the way through and want to point out one small thing no one else has… it’s very easy to declare your marriage was complete crap all around while in the midst of an affair. It’s literally impossible to repair your marriage while in the midst of an affair. Affairs are literal lies. M is lying to his spouse. You, dear LW, chose to stop lying to your husband, T, but not until you’d emotionally slipped off entirely. You’re both (you and M) currently living in a total fantasy land where everything is hidden and secret. You’re even asking T to continue the secret.
Long, long ago I was there myself. I divorced my husband, and my M did not divorce his spouse. But hey it was still cool because hey, me and T were totally not right for one another anyway. And we weren’t. Maybe. I don’t know tho, because you see, much like you, I never went to counselling, I didn’t care, it was done, all a mistake, I was in love with someone else, we should just wrap this up and move along.
I don’t want to be back with my ex. I’m quite in love with my current husband (who I met several years after dumping my ex for an M). But my cheeks still burn with hot shame now that I realize how casually and flippantly I tossed my marriage. Even tho at the time I did not feel it was flip. I just literally considered absolutely no one’s feelings but my own. There were many reasons for that, but my conduct was reprehensible I feel today. I can never, ever get that back.
When you made vows with T, that was for marriage, theoretically forever. Not just a show for a great weekend. Maybe you think that now. But how would you know since your head is all wrapped up in M? Affair energy is very sexy, very heady, very addictive really. T deserved at the very least an effort to try to fix your marriage before you uprooted your entire life to go be with some guy who hasn’t even told his wife yet he’s leaving (for the record? he’s probably on some cheater website right now freaking out that his OW went nuts and dumped her husband and is moving to be with him RIGHT NOW). You couldn’t even give that. And now you’re mad and acting like T was a weekend fling and really flit flit irrelevant and no big deal but now anyway let’s talk about new sexy man…
If you were my best friend? I’d wonder what on earth was wrong with you. Follow your truth. You go with that. But don’t deny anyone else their truth.
I wish you well. But think hard. Think very hard about how you want to look back at your behaviour in the future.
Comments are closed.