Dear Miss Manners:
After years of mutual strife and heartache, my spouse and I split up, and he moved to a different state, about 500 miles away. But a funny thing happened in the dissolution process.
I had decided fairly early on to try to be a gentleman about it, and while I didn’t stifle my anger and hurt, I refused to allow his poor behavior to be any excuse for my own. So there were no screaming fights over who got what. I helped him pack and label his boxes, and went with him to his new home over many weekends to help him settle in. I really want him to have a nice life, albeit one without me.
He, in turn, was as gracious as he could be. Although he didn’t seem to care much about the mess he left behind, that was okay with me because he never really did care much about disorder — which is one major reason we are no longer a couple. We have had several truly enjoyable visits in each other’s homes, and I think a friendship can be salvaged at this point.
The problem is those who seem to think that a breakup must also involve a crackup, complete with broken crockery and calls to law enforcement, followed by drunken tears in a roadside bar. Ours just doesn’t. We agreed it wouldn’t.
Yet many of our circle — including his own family — seem to think “he did me wrong” and I should be furious about it.
Well, he surely did, but I surely won’t. I bear some responsibility for the end of our relationship, too. And letting someone else’s bad behavior be a cause for lowering your own standards strikes me as foolish.
I see our family and friends more than he does because of the distance. How can I best explain to the confused among them that I won’t say or hear a bad word about him, but just plan on moving onward and upward? I cannot defend his indefensible behavior, so I just don’t talk about it and change the subject whenever it comes up.
The high road is a long and lonely slog. (I have two friends who never see these people, to whom I can and do vent.) I understand the confusion of our families and friends. I just want to keep everything as civil as it has been between my ex and me so far. Isn’t that what Nice People do? And if so, how?
You are on the right track; all you have to do is to keep repeating, perhaps more firmly than you have been, “He’s my friend, and I don’t want to hear a word against him.”
As encouragement, please allow Miss Manners to point out the rewards that can be found along the high road:
— You will be admired for your magnanimity, rather than pitied.
— People will think that you are relieved to be free, so your ex-spouse must be heartbroken.
— Your behavior will be taken at face value, instead of being examined for signs of fragility or bravado.
— You will be able to have real conversations instead of listening to advice on how to get past this.
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