DEAR CAROLYN: My daughter is doing very well post-divorce. I can’t seem to shake the anger I have for her ex, though. He left the marriage for a co-worker. He never owned up to her being a part of his decision. One month after the divorce was final, out he comes dating her. One year out, engaged. Bought a house with her eight months after that, and in four months they are getting married. It’s her third or fourth marriage.
I realize these events are bound to unfold. My granddaughters, 4 and 9, are happy Daddy’s getting married. Now they’ll have a big sister. I just can’t act like we are all so happy happy.
Everyone keeps telling me to move on, get over it. None of these people has ever had a daughter go through what I saw her go through. Thoughts?
Stuck In Time
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DEAR STUCK IN TIME: What do you want here? Have you said to yourself, openly, “When X happens, I will no longer be angry”?
I feel near-certain how you will define X: that you just want the ex-husband to apologize or admit he had your daughter’s replacement lined up before he left. You want him to pay somehow because you can say, with certainty near to mine, that he (1) hasn’t paid, and (2) should.
If I’m right about this, then welcome to the dark and angry tar pit that will hold you until archaeologists clean you off and mark you with acid-free tags.
To get out, you have to want out), so I offer these possible motivators:
▪ Sometimes the way to be “happy happy” is to act like it till it sticks. Exhibit A: Your daughter.
▪ When you suspend contentment until someone does something you think you are owed, you let another person – whom you can’t control – decide how good you feel. Few happy endings start there.
▪ If he is in fact as bad as you suggest, then I can argue he didn’t wreck your daughter’s happy marriage so much as he liberated her from a doomed one.
▪ Maybe the ex isn’t guilty of everything you think he’s guilty of. Maybe there were irreconcilable differences lurking a few layers down.
▪ Doesn’t your soul deserve better than this? Think about it. You resent that it was “all so easy for him” – yet the alternative is that he suffers. Is that really who you want to be?
▪ The peaceful circumstances your daughter worked so hard for might shift. She’ll need reassurance that her approach has been good and brave.
▪ The most persuasive, I hope? You can see the divorce as destroying this little family, or compromising its future, or putting it on an unexpected new path. You have enough information to justify whichever of these conclusions you want to embrace.