A good friend moved back to town after a painful divorce that she initiated. She grew up here, so she wanted to move back to find the support she needs as a single mom. The father of her children fought her in court, but she won and was able to make the move anyway.
Now that she’s here, she’s getting acquainted and reacquainted with people, and misrepresenting the truth about her former husband. She tells people the reason for her divorce is that her husband had an affair, which is NOT TRUE (she confided in my husband and me the reasons for their divorce, and her husband used to call begging us to persuade her not to divorce him…we told him we were not going to get involved). When I confronted her about it, she said that the woman he is now dating (years after the divorce) is from his work, so she has deduced that they must have been having an affair! She admits she has no evidence, just “a feeling…” (Huh?)
Anyway, I have always liked this guy, and I feel like he should know that his name and reputation are being pilloried around town. My husband thinks we should avoid anything that will create any drama in our lives, and I get that. Still, the ex-husband has no one to defend him, and I hate that the children (there are two) have a father who all the locals think is a bum. The guy was not perfect, but a cheater he was not.
What is the best approach?
Sticking Up for Friend’s Ex
The main question is really why she would bruit the infidelity falsehood and what it says about her character. You don’t say how long you have known this person or whether you had any contact with her when she was away from the area. Whatever the circumstances are, some other relevant questions need to be considered: Was she a childhood friend, or did you first encounter her when you and she were older? Whether you knew her in elementary school or college, did you ever notice a tendency to misrepresent conflict with other people, such as parents, teachers, administrators, close friends, or boyfriends, to avoid taking responsibility for a situation that might have proven embarrassing or painful for her?
For some reason, she now wants to punish her ex-husband. Perhaps she feels that the divorce somehow makes her look foolish for having married him in the first place. You say that she has moved back to the area where she grew up; could it be for monetary reasons? If her social or financial position has taken a nosedive, she might want to get back at him for the plunge in her standard of living.
Although you say that the divorce was “painful,” you don’t say why it was painful, only that she initiated it (the divorce). However, she might have also initiated the pain. You say that she confided the reasons to you, so consider how they relate to her blaming/shaming strategy aimed at him. If the actual reason for the break-up puts her in an unflattering light, she can duck exposure by concocting a story of a cheating husband. Maybe what caused the split was so complicated or amorphous that she feels the need to make it simple and focused with this philandering fabrication. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t justify the smear campaign.
In most cases I would agree with your husband and say to mind your own business; however, this situation is different: One, she confided the personal details to you and involved you, and, two, with her lie she is doing an injustice to a person whom you consider a friend. To your husband’s objection, point out that she created the drama, not you, and remind him of the oft-quoted aphorism of Edmund Burke about how evil triumphs when good people do nothing.
From what you say about confronting her, I doubt that you are going to get her to admit that she has done wrong, but you can let her know that you are not going to compound the wrong by colluding with her in this slanderous deception.
Although you don’t say it explicitly, I think that airing her ex’s dirty boxers when they were clean has made you lose respect for her. Tell her so, and say that if the subject comes up with other “locals,” you are going be honest about what you know. Maybe being painfully honest will help her do the same with others and, even more imperatively, with herself.
Got questions about life? Love? Parenting? Work? Write to Whit’s End, an advice column by local husband, father, teacher, coach, former executive and former Marine Corps officer Al Whitaker. Send your questions to [email protected]
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