Dear Ellie: I was 23 and the mother of an 18-month-old baby when my husband and I were invited to attend his cousin’s 35th birthday party, organized by the cousin’s wife at their home.
My mom babysat, and it was fun to dress up a bit for the first time since giving birth.
The guests were all around 10 years older than me, but my husband was then 30, and he knew many of his cousin’s friends.
A couple of the women present knew and asked about my baby, so I chatted with them, but they moved on. I was standing alone looking at photographs on the wall when a man introduced himself.
He complimented me on my ability to look interested in the family portraits, and we both laughed. He stayed near me making small talk but I said that I was thinking about my baby, and he moved on.
The next morning, he called me and repeated his name twice… till I realized it was him. He asked, “When can we get together?”
I was so shocked that I answered very plainly, that I was feeding my baby, cleaning my apartment, going grocery shopping and I had no time for “getting together.”
He never called again, but I never forgot him as the man who shattered my then-naïve illusions about married love and commitment.
I’m 40 now, and recently met a woman some 10 years older than me, who I found interesting, dynamic, and very smart. Her husband was equally interesting, had quick humour and they were obviously in love. When she mentioned her children’s family name, I realized this woman had previously been married to the man who tried to cheat on her, with me.
Should I have mentioned that brief incident to the woman? Could it have helped her, if she felt badly about how divorce may have negatively affected her children?
I wanted to bond with her, because I’m now divorced and it was hard on my son, my only child, when it happened.
Shocked By Cheater
You could’ve sparked a very negative reaction if you’d mentioned this very brief encounter. She may have resented your reminder of an unhappy past marriage, because she’s found happiness in her current life.
Hopefully, you now have or will have similar happiness in your life.
It’s sad that her ex introduced you so early in your life as a young wife and mother, to the harsh realities many people face through the years, including cheaters — and also users and abusers - from every background and gender.
Live your own best life now and through your future. Your son will adjust to his realities, if you show your caring and understanding, without treating divorce as a terrible event that was inflicted on him. If he has a good, ongoing relationship with his father, be supportive of it. He may still need reassurance that the divorce was not in any way his fault.
Also, he doesn’t need to know all the details of why the divorce happened, which inevitably would lay blame on one of his parents. Likely, each of you and your ex had a part in the marital breakup, even if it was neglect and avoidance, rather than deliberate cheating.
It’s long past time to wipe that first “cheater” from your history. It was only a moment, not an event.
Dear Ellie: My husband of 42 years and I lived in our home together until this spring. Being unwell, I moved into a senior residence, but he chose not to move there.
He was very abusive/controlling. There were many “partner-violence” calls to police. When he tried to break my hand, he was arrested. We’ve had a “no-contact” order for three months.
I miss him, but he’s given me a broken nose twice, black eyes, all-over bruising. I’m obese, lacking self-esteem to leave the relationship.
I’m very lonely now. How can I pick up the pieces of my life?
Your senior residence can be your salvation. Leave the past behind you. If you make even one friend by being helpful, showing interest, loneliness will ease. Then make another friend.
Nothing will change the past nor a criminal abuser. Maintain the “no-contact” order.
It’s your own will to live a better life that can change your present and future.
Ellie’s tip of the day
Unexpected glimpses of others’ cheating behaviour are like an early warning system: Among the many choices presented to people new to relationship pitfalls, choose your own important values.
Send relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.