November 25, 2022

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Carolyn Hax: Soon-to-be ex-husband talks trash about their divorce

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Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My soon-to-be ex-husband is a lying coward, telling everyone and making social media posts claiming our divorce is “devastating” and “gut-wrenching” when none of that is true. He is the one who does not love me anymore. After 27 years together, he sat me down and told me he wanted an open marriage, because he is not attracted to women my age, meaning his own age, even though I have stayed in shape and he has not.

I have more self-respect than that, so I filed for divorce. I do not need his money, and I am buying him out of our house. I made him move into the guest room, and I cannot wait until he moves out entirely. In the meantime, I have tried to maintain my dignity and protect our grown children by refusing to discuss the details of our divorce.

But now I have to hear him lying to our sons about being miserable. I wish I could say this is not affecting me, but I feel unwanted and undesirable, and I notice every sag and gray hair like I never did before. I am being made to be the bad guy when I am actually the wounded party. Should I shut his [sheet] down by telling everyone the true story of our breakup? I want to but am worried I might regret airing the dirty laundry later.

— The Wounded Party

The Wounded Party: He is not lying, necessarily. He is lying in the bed he made (I can use “literally” here, correctly!), but that does not mean he is not genuinely miserable, devastated, gut-wrenched. The misery of the bed-maker is kind of the whole point of the adage. He wanted his happy stable marital home and freedom to bag younger babes. Oopsie…

You, splendidly and rightfully, handed him his [butt cheeks], gift-wrapped. This not only absolves you of having to explain anything to anyone, because either the world will see through him just fine on its own or enough time will pass for it not to matter, but also makes every sag and gray hair about you drop-dead gorgeous. Agency is beautiful. Congratulations.

Reader thoughts:

· You can defend yourself without being explicit. “He made it clear he wants something different, and I did not want to be married on those terms.” And if they press you for the details, say, “That is between the two of us.” There is a lot of power in speaking your truth, regardless of whether they believe you.

· You can say something thought-provoking, such as, “I hope any child of mine would withhold judgment if they were not certain they knew all the details.”

· There is no airing required to say truthfully and simply that, yes, you were shocked when he wanted out of the type of marriage you had promised to each other. Presumably your vows were understood to be an endorsement of monogamy at the time, yes?

· It seems entirely appropriate to say: “He wanted an open marriage, and I did not. So I filed for divorce.” True and short and does not really invite questions.

· Just because you have decided not to tell your children does not mean you cannot talk to a good therapist or a trusted friend and properly air out what is going on.

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