Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Sympathy, advice for woman ready to lash out about ex
In response to Monday's column, about the woman who "lost almost everything" when her ex-husband left her after cheating on her with a man:
Anonymous: Can she cry if she wants to? Your answer was quite a slam.
How has her life been ruined? Finding out that my entire married life has been a lie would set me back on my pins.
Combine that with enduring countless rounds of friends saying, "Gee, this must have been awful for your husband," without even asking how it's affected her, and who wouldn't want to scream at that situation?
If he had left her for another woman, she would be getting plenty of sympathy and support. Her 2 + 2 does equal 4. She might want to check out the Straight Spouse Network for some ideas on how to address this.
Carolyn: Justified as it is, her anger is hurting her, not him. The Straight Spouse Network is a great suggestion, but it serves the same purpose as the counseling I suggested — taking care of herself in these new circumstances.
Anonymous 2: Her life and future really were not destroyed because they were based on a lie. She would rather her gay husband stay closeted to continue to live her idea of the perfect life?
She now has a chance to have a life that is based on truth, but to do that, she needs to admit and live with the truth and maybe have a little compassion for the man she once loved and who clearly spent a long time living a lie himself.
Carolyn: I think she has about had it with the cries for compassion for him, but the first part makes a lot of sense — the future didn't collapse, the facade of one did.
It's still a pile of wreckage, but looking at it your way demonstrates that the wreckage actually holds more promise than the lie ever did. Thanks.
Anonymous 3: I went through a difficult time in my life when I was confronting intense anger toward a relative who had sexually abused me.
I went to a couple of therapists before I found that one who let me express my anger and work through it.
It's a weird thing — I felt like my anger was going to eat me alive, but I worked through it, and my life is so vibrant now.
It's not a cliche to say that you're only a victim if you let yourself be. You can own your life. I did it, and she can, too.
Carolyn: Thank you, very encouraging — though I'd quibble that it is a cliche, just one spawned by a powerful truth.
It's also very telling that it took you a couple of tries before you found the right therapist. Not only is that a useful reminder in general (that it can take some trial and error), but it also underscores how delicate this process is.
You need to be validated without glorifying the anger, and you need to be pushed without dismissing the anger. The key is still the motivation of the person seeking help, but the chemistry of the help matters, too. Thanks again.