Q. My divorce is almost final but I’m still haunted. In the process of the divorce, I found out that my husband of over 20 years cheated incessantly — mostly online affairs, but some one-night stands, and finally a lengthy affair. He’s with the woman with whom he had the affair, and they constantly talk about how evil I was. I heard from a woman he’d been dangling since 1995 that he told her that I was a hoarder and that I had mental problems. I don’t understand this because at no point did he intimate that there was anything wrong.
I responded badly when I found out about the last woman, when she sent me an e-mail that chronicled their affair and announced their engagement.
He then continued to jerk my chain for several months, but then I found out that he’d been seeing Ms. Last-one all along, and I responded again, badly.
So here I am with the question: How could I not know? How was I supposed to know he hated me? Why do these women blame me? Should I blame myself?
I am confused. I keep thinking of the man who said my “smile stopped his heart” and “I love you so very much,” even on the night before I caught him with Ms. Last-one the last time. I’m trying to figure out how that person can be the same man who brought women into our home and told them I withheld sex as punishment (he never touched me unless he wanted sex and I was tired of being the initiator).
But . . . he’s immediately in a relationship and I’m alone. I’m afraid of men — I get this — but why is it that everyone sees him as the “good guy” and me as the Evil Ex?
We’re done, and the only reason it lingers is because I’m afraid of myself, of my bad reactions, and that all the negative things I’ve heard about myself from his lovers are true.
Evil Ex, Medford
A. The only people who see you as the evil ex are his mistresses. That’s who we’re talking about, right? It does not matter what these women think of you. They’re just trying to justify their horrible behavior.
You could benefit from therapy (it’s a must after this mess) and from staying close to people who are on your side or new to your life. Please block these mistresses from e-mail, Facebook, etc., and focus on communicating with people who make you feel strong. Talk to your therapist about how you processed the news and develop a plan for moving forward.
You asked why you didn’t know this was happening. The truth is, some people are just good at lying. Some people can lead a double life without thinking twice about it. But not everybody does, and eventually, you will be ready to try to trust someone again. For now, give yourself time to let go, and begin creating a life for yourself that keeps you too busy to dwell.
Meredith got it in her first sentence. To rephrase, consider the source.
Yes, therapy to help with moving on and strengthening your sense of worth. I’ve been amazed at how well some people can lie, and it sounds like your ex was that way. These women, as Meredith stated, believe him and view you as the bad person to feel OK with breaking up a marriage. I’ve learned that when a guy talks about a “crazy ex,” [the guy] tends to actually be the “crazy” one. But these women will soon learn their lesson; it all comes back around.
Lady, who wouldn’t “react badly’’ when learning a spouse is a rat? Too bad the brain doesn’t have a delete button — but that’s your goal here. Start over.
Why would she send you an e-mail announcing their engagement? Did she expect you to be happy for them? It’s very strange. This guy seems like a habitual liar and it’s probably a good thing he’s going to be out of your life. Be glad that he won’t be lying to you any more, because I bet this isn’t the last time he’ll cheat on someone.
There is probably some responsibility on your end such as putting off your intuition or not recognizing the signs and signals, like you mentioned that he wouldn’t touch you unless it was for sex. But this guy also sounds like a very good con man and people get stunned all the time when they think they know a person, but have no idea what [the person’s] up to behind the scenes.
Oh man, you just somehow have to make peace with the fact that you married a sociopath. It’s hard to see those people coming. You just get on with your life.
I wouldn’t blame yourself too much. You didn’t reveal what exactly you did . . . but I’m guessing it was bad. You know what? Most of us would act pretty gracelessly in the same situation. Sometimes bad relationships bring out the devil, but that doesn’t mean you’re broken or incapable of behaving differently in a healthy relationship.
I agree with Mer to start with a therapist, find a friend who loves you and makes you feel good, make new friends who choose to be your friend because of you. Also, I’m not usually spiteful, but get everything you can in the divorce.
Get some therapy to get over your marriage, his cheating, and whatever issues made you behave so badly that you can’t even say it out loud. Do this before you date again, because your anger will ruin the chance of anything working. I’m sorry he cheated, but not all men are evil.
CHICKZILLAColumn and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.