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Carolyn Hax: 10 years after the divorce, it’s time to find the antidote to your venom

(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)

Carolyn Hax is away. The following first appeared Jan. 14, 2005.

Dear Carolyn: My husband and I divorced bitterly 10 years ago. Last year he made remarks and did things that let me (and others) know he still has feelings for me. This was done even though he remarried and has a baby on the way. It was common knowledge that he married out of financial necessity.

When I told him I'd tell his wife, his only comment was, "Don't tell her like that." It sounded like he was looking for a way out of his marriage. Soon after, his wife and I had an argument and I told her how I felt.

Now this "churchgoing, Christian" man has convinced his wife I'm crazy and made everything up. I'm ashamed I ever listened to him and now I hate him more than ever. I've tried several times to tell his wife the whole truth, but she doesn't want to listen.

The problem is he and I have kids together and I have to deal with their hatred and hostility. How do I handle this situation?

— Wanting the Whole Truth to Be Told

Wanting the Whole Truth to Be Told: No, the problem is that you’re an ongoing source of the hatred and hostility.

The following are absolutely none of your hmm-hmm business: 1. Your ex-husband’s current marriage. 2. Why your ex-husband entered his current marriage. 3. How your ex-husband currently feels about his current wife. 4. What your ex-husband tells his current wife. 5. I’m too angry to think of it right now.

You aren’t telling a “truth,” whole or otherwise. You have hunches, speculation, wishful thinking. Here’s the truth: Your marriage ended 10 years ago.

The best way to handle this situation — best for your children — was to keep the divorce civil, but, oops, you blew your chance there. Now, 10 years later, the best way to handle this situation is to keep your relations with your ex and his new wife civil. You don’t have to like them, or what they say, or what they do. You don’t even have to be happy your marriage ended. You just need to keep your mind open, your mouth shut, your kids’ feelings a priority and to leave the past in the past.

If you want to be ashamed of yourself, then keep blowing your chances to do this.

Dear Carolyn: Several months ago I discovered my wife had an affair with her boss, lasting a few years. She has since moved out and found another job. Now she wants to reconcile. I'm not sure I can ever trust her again after such an extensive affair, let alone have a loving relationship with her. She says we owe it to ourselves* to at least try counseling to see if we could resolve the issues that led to the affair and regain trust. I can't seem to decide whether I want to try to make things work out with her or not. Any advice?

— M.

M.: You can’t decide, so don’t. Decide to decide later — after you hear, in counseling, whether there’s anything your wife can say that can make you want to reconcile. Just because you go to counseling doesn’t mean you agree to, or owe “ourselves,”* a thing.

*2019 afterthought: Some chutzpah, that.

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