He cheated and lied about it. Not fixable.

Carolyn Hax
Columnist May 18, 2011

Dear Carolyn:

Caught him cheating with his good friend and co-worker, after he had denied it for over a year and repeatedly called me crazy for “seeing something that wasn’t there.” I feel hurt, betrayed and, above all else, gaslighted (gaslit?). I alternate between wanting nothing more to do with him and feeling desperate to fix this. But if he was able to lie to my face for months, and suggest I was the crazy one for suspecting him, is there any chance this can be fixed?

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

Anonymous

Zero. But your impulse to “fix” it? That can be fixed.

When you’ve been hurt, lied to, humiliated and gaslighted/
looted/lit in such spectacular fashion, it’s an understandable impulse to want to rewrite the ending. Common, too — there’s a reason that crawling back to naughty exes has become a cliche. People crave that new ending: “He really loves ME” . . . “losing me finally woke her up” . . . “I make him want to be a better person.”


(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

On (very) rare occasions the rewrite is true, which makes it even more tempting; who doesn’t want to be special?

Problem is, what you had, Anonymous, was someone who used your love as an opportunity to get double the romantic attention — the risk of discovery adding a dash of ad­ven­ture — and who exploited your preference for a happy ending to buy him extra duplicitous months. Absolutely not your fault — unless you go back for seconds.

There’s nothing here to fix but your peace of mind, and only distance from him will do that.

Dear Carolyn:

Recently I was in a restaurant booth by myself reading. There was a child (under 2) in a highchair behind me. At some point he let out — and this is correct — a bloodcurdling scream. I turned around to see what horrible accident had occurred.

I found out this was just the decibel level this child was allowed to communicate in. The fourth or fifth time I turned I was checking to see how close the bill was to being paid.

As the family was leaving, the grandmother approached me to say I had “ruined their evening with my ugly face.” She said it was a “children’s restaurant” because there was a children’s menu. I was looking down at a $30 prime rib wondering where my Happy Meal was.

In my opinion, children who can’t behave in a public place should be removed. A less expensive piece of chicken is not a sign that all social norms have been thrown out the window. What do you consider to be the happy medium?

J.

Of course ill-behaved children should be removed — something guardians should know. But “should” leaves room for clueless or self-absorbed guardians to shirk their responsibilities, right? (Sometimes, too, glaring bystanders have too low a threshold for annoyance, though “bloodcurdling scream” suggests that wasn’t the case here.)

So when the “should” system breaks down, bystanders have a choice: Protect the moral victory, and sit there while our anger mounts and daggers shoot from our eyes — or concede defeat and enlist the wait staff to find us a new seat/pack our meal to go. The loud and self-righteous family ruined your dinner, not the other way around, yes — but your choice to hold your righteous ground guaranteed it.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com.

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