Dear Carolyn: My wife and I are divorcing after many years of marriage, and I am having a difficult time understanding her desire to remain friends. The reason for the divorce is her cheating on me multiple times. All of her affairs were with married men so her actions destroyed multiple families, and I do not want to associate with a person who has so little respect for others’ feelings.
I realize we will have to interact at upcoming family events, but I would like to keep our communication to a minimum, which is causing resentment on her part and a great deal of confusion for our families. How do I stay true to my convictions without coming off as the bad guy? – No-Win Situation
If she thinks you’re mean for declining her overtures of friendship, then tough biscuits for her. If your families are confused, then mark a path for them toward understanding without stomping on your ex: “Please trust me, I have my reasons for keeping my distance.”
As long as you remain civil, cooperative in handling the divorce and its ripple effects, and discreet about what unraveled your marriage, you ensure that any detractors will be drawing the wrong conclusions about you.
Yes, that’s hardly at the same point on the satisfaction scale as, say, everyone learning what your wife did without your having to tell them – but it’s enough to build the rest of your life on. People of integrity will see that.
You can also say to your ex that you won’t be the one to break the silence on what happened, but you will correct any misinformation – not for the sake of it, but when it’s harming relationships with people you love.
But you might want to add forgiveness to your list of convictions – not for her sake, but for yours, because you’re the one who stands to suffer if your anger puts down roots.
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