Carolyn Hax: Resentment over cheaters

Carolyn Hax
Columnist September 21, 2012

Dear Carolyn:

Is it normal, understandable, forgivable to have conflicting feelings toward your father and his (second, current) wife, when their relationship started while your father was still married to your mother? And your mother kind of fell apart after the separation to the point where she is no longer the same person? (She went from being young, hip, beautiful and socially active to depressed, obese, disabled and isolated.) My dad has now been married to his current wife for 25 years.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

And can they expect me to celebrate their anniversary, and when I don’t — by not signing an anniversary card — tell me I’m no longer welcome in their home if I don’t apologize?

S.

They “can” do what they want, even if it’s needlessly punitive. And while your conflicted feelings are understandable, I don’t see why you’d want to embrace so fully your family’s emotional signature, which apparently is to build your lives around every affront, be it trivial or life-altering.


Your mom did it with such gusto over your dad that she lost herself to it; your dad is doing it now over the anniversary card; and you’re into your second quarter-century of doing it over the bad (and unchangeable) timing of the second wife.

It is within your power to decide you’ve been angry long enough. I suggest you do just that.

Speaking of:

Dear Carolyn:

My boyfriend left me for someone he met while we were together. They had socialized frequently in a group setting while we were a couple, and I had no idea. (The kicker: He says it wasn’t cheating!)

I don’t think the new girl has any idea that she helped to break up our relationship because she never knew I existed.

Should I contact the new girlfriend to tell her what happened? If I don’t tell her, she’ll never know. It’s (mostly) not about revenge; I hate seeing someone get away with something like this when I know the truth. Why should I be quiet about it when I’m the one who was wronged?

Fair to Blow the Whistle?

How did someone who didn’t know you existed help “break up our relationship”? Existence does not culpability make, except of breathing.

And how did he cheat, exactly — by emotionally auditioning your replacement while still acting as if he loved you? I can see both sides of that one — either defining that as cheating or denying it is — since he certainly could have developed feelings for the new girl the old-fashioned way, merely hanging with friends and falling for her slowly while still caring for you.

What I can’t see is how not contacting New Girl equates in any way to suppressing a truth. Maybe he did cheat on you. But since he was a boyfriend, not a spouse, and your sole fact is their “group setting” interaction, here’s your smoking gun: “He was still with me when he fell for you.”

You want to “blow the whistle” on a guy for losing interest in you.

And while it’s painful to be on the receiving end of that, it’s also neither malicious nor wrong. It just is. I think your time and energy would be better spent accepting your boyfriend’s departure and, in any voids it created, rebuilding what you like best about you.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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