When a love affair goes bad a jilted party often wants to reduce his or her feelings to writing as a way of processing the experience. Some people then burn these letters, or file them away. Of course, there are those who drop them in the mail or hit “send” once they are written. Occasionally, the recipient is the unsuspecting spouse of one of the lovers. When that letter finds its mark the whole affair and its dramatic aftermath tend to take on a new level of intensity, as you can imagine.
Plenty of my clients have kept the angry letters from their spouse’s aggrieved paramours. The letters read something along the general lines of, “you would not believe what a terrible person your husband/wife is. After telling me s/he loves me and that we would leave this crummy city for a better life, s/he dumped me to get back together with you (or – for a younger model). I know what a horrible person you are, and all of your personal dirty laundry, which I would use against you if I could think of a way to make it hurt you.”
Most people only need to receive such a letter one time to look for a way out of their marriage. Mostly, my clients save the letter as a reminder of why they need to get out of the marriage; no matter how convincing any apologies may seem at the time. Sometimes, though an apology is earnest enough that a few years may go by before my client receives a second letter from a different love interest. The second letter is almost always sufficient to get people to divorce court.
Except for my client “Elaine.” She has an alphabetical file of the women her husband has fallen for and then dropped. They write to her with complaints about his lack of fidelity, his lack of honesty, his lack of integrity, his selfishness, and his general state of being obtuse. Of course, it begs the question – what do these women think they themselves are, if not all of those things?
Elaine may have ignored 7 distinct affairs, to the best of my accounting. She does not really like to talk about the affairs in too much detail. Her husband has strengths and weaknesses, like all humans, and she was able to compartmentalize his weakness for women as disconnected from their marriage. She wanted to see their children grown and settled and her retirement portfolio filled-out before upsetting the apple cart by filing for divorce. So, she waited, and collected the letters, and turned a blind eye, and went about her business.
And now here we are. She has filed for divorce. Her children have careers. The portfolio is substantial enough for her to buy a small retirement home without a mortgage and still have a little income stream and some money in the bank. Maybe she played her cards right, and it was not a bad trade-off, after all.
Except, understandably, Elaine has completely lost her ability to trust. As we were reviewing a proposed settlement last week, she looked up at me and said, “I think I might have trust issues.” I had to tell her, there would be something wrong with her if she did not, based on how she has lived for the past several years. Every time her husband left the house he was probably lying to her. That is a lot of non-truth per day to mess up one’s ability to trust your own instincts, or anyone else’s.
She does not know when someone is telling her the truth; even when she reads bank account statements, she does not know if they are doctored or legitimate. She doubts the word of professionals when they speak to her, and she finds several hidden motives in almost every conversation.
I am not saying she is wrong. I don’t know if she is or not. I cannot read minds, and I can only investigate financial holdings to the extent allowed by law. It might be that her lack of trust is her greatest strength at this point in her life. Either way, she is working hard to move herself into a position where no one has to lie to her every day, and she is excited for that prospect.
WHAT WE LOVE: Whatever compromises you made within your marriage are free to stay behind once you decide to move forward.
– Sharon Oberst DeFala