Dear Carolyn: My college boyfriend found me on Facebook. He lives 600 miles from me. I am a busy single mother who hasn’t had even a date in 15 years.
One thing led to another and we came close to – but did not have – sex, but we were very friendly on the phone and computer. He was professing his love for me, I was happy to hear such sweet things. Within a few weeks his wife found messages on the computer and we were busted. He never contacted me again, which broke my heart, although I guess I deserved it for getting involved in the first place.
A few months after she found out, his wife e-mailed me asking questions, which I answered honestly. Thought that would be the end of it but she now e-mails about once a month to ask me if he and I have had any contact. Politely, that’s all she wants to know.
First time I answered honestly, “No.” But now I am tired of serving to reassure her about her marriage. I have not answered her latest request. Am I being cruel to her by withholding information that would obviously make her happy and relieve her worry? – Detroit Drama Mama
You know how seriously you screwed up, so you don’t need me to harp on it.
But you’ve almost taken your acceptance of your guilt too far. While you did fan her husband’s old flame, your assurances won’t “obviously make her happy and relieve her worry.” You’re not that central to the problems in their marriage.
Since the husband can still cheat without you, the only genuine reassurance available to her is in trusting her husband again. That’s it.
From that perspective, it isn’t cruel to stop reassuring her; in fact, closing off this path to false reassurance is one small way you can nudge her back toward a more productive path.
I would only add that the compassionate exit is one that doesn’t leave her hanging. Write back to her that it’s over, and she doesn’t need to e-mail you again.