To His Wife

You have never met me. You do not even know I exist.

I am the secret we keep for the sake of your emotional balance. The truth that is hidden to shield your children from your pain.

I am curious about you. Everything I know about you is second-hand knowledge. I am curious to know the real you and your perspective.

Already, you and your husband’s stories about your marriage are so different.

He says you married for the wrong reasons, knowing far too little about love and about yourselves. He says he wishes he had listened when his family warned him not to marry you, told him you are not for him. Looking back, he cannot believe how long he tolerated being so profoundly unhappy.

To you, the end of your marriage came as a total shock. You insisted everything was fine, your own behaviour always above reproach. When your husband told you he no longer loved you, you explained that to yourself as him suddenly loosing his mind.

Were you really happy in that marriage?

What were your thoughts when your husband told you you made him unhappy and you just dismissed it? Did you truly not see that was him trying to save your marriage?

How did you end up with him shouldering the main responsibility for both work and the children? What happened so that the man you had promised to love felt exploited and resentful?

Do you truly believe the only duty of a wife is to be good-looking? Why are all these cosmetic treatments, the botox, the hairstyles, the manicures, the enhancements so important to you? Did you ever realize how little your husband cared about that?

Your husband gave you his trust and unrestricted access to all his assets. How did you come to depend so totally on the status and beauty you could buy with them? Did you never feel uneasy about spending money that you have not earned? Why was the need to lead a lifestyle you could not afford so strong that you left your family in debt?

Did you truly not realize something was wrong when you started referring to your husband with insults when talking to other people? What made you ridicule him when he tried to be open with you? What made you so afraid of true intimacy?

I have never met a man who is more worthy of respect and appreciation than your husband. Why was it so hard for you to cherish him?

I see your struggle and your hurt. I cannot apologize to you for falling in love with your husband. But I accept responsibility for my part in your family’s pain. I ask your forgiveness for the lies you are told so you will not hurt your families’ future in your anger.

I try not to judge you.

When you got drunk and physically attacked him after the separation, I tried to remember that you were hurting and in shock.

When you told your children their father had left them in the lurch and they would never see him again, when you tolerated their distress at your mother telling them their father would burn in hell, I tried to remember that you were overwhelmed with pain.

When you went on the pull shortly after the separation, I tried to remember that you needed reassurance that you are still attractive to men.

When you left the house dirty, mouldy and neglected, I tried to remember that it must be hard for you to do everything on your own.

When your children mentioned that you never cook and that they scavenges the house for food in the mornings because you sleep in, I tried to remember that you love your children in your own way.

When you moved the kids out of their home and made them change their school while they were still reeling from loosing their family, I tried to remember that it is difficult to see beyond your own emotional turmoil during divorce.

When you insult your husband, call him unfit to be around his own children and a bad father, I try to remember that you feel guilty because your marriage did not work out.

When you visit your husband to gloat because you have a new house and a new relationship while he cannot afford petrol to drive to work (and you believe him single), I try to remember that feeling superior helps you deal with the rejection.

When you do not respect the privacy of your husband’s home I try to remember that it takes time to change old habits.

When you expect your husband to still be responsible for your finances and domestic chores, I try to remember it is not easy to let go of the support you once enjoyed.

In a few months, I will be introduced to you as the new partner of your ex-husband.

Will we find a way to be a family?

~ by Stepfamily Letter Project on June 5, 2011.

10 Responses to “To His Wife”

  1. “I have never met a man who is more worthy of respect and appreciation than your husband.”

    If this were true…there would be no mistress.

  2. not a good way to start out being a stepmother and what a disservice to the role who fights against that stigma.

    Good luck to you; you’re going to need every ounce of it.

  3. If FallingfromGrace, Erin and I are correct, you are the other woman in this scenario, still referring to your boyfriend as a married man.

    I highly doubt you will find a way to be a family, for to begin in lies and secrecy only begets more lies and secrecy.

  4. FallingfromGrace, Erin, Bing, I respect your perspective.

    Erin, would you rather we did not speak the truth every time the stepmother is in a position that evokes moral judgement, so we can portray the role in a good light? Life is often not black and white. What about the ex-wives who have to come to terms with the women they have been left for being a presence in their children’s lives? Should we be silent about their experience? Are those women not stepmothers?

    I am also not sure I would call having a relationship when you are separated from a wife who herself has a new partner “having a mistress”.

  5. A,

    Perhaps instead of silence women shouldn’t date married men in the first place. I think it’s a very poor way to start out an already difficult role in and of itself without deliberately adding to it, and the role stigma, justified drama.

    If you think it wise to borrow otherwise avoidable trouble and justify doing it under “he’s physically separated from her” then accept the obvious consequences that will come of it.

    I think any mother who has to deal with a mistress now gaining access to her children a very cruel experience. Perhaps it’s easier to look at and dissect the mother’s faults when you don’t have a log in your own eye in the equation.

    In the OP, it was obvious the mistress’ presence has been in the equation a long time, and my perception is well before there was even a physical separation.

    How can a mistress expect, or even demand, respect when she hasn’t given it respecting any sort of universal boundaries with another woman’s husband?

    • “Perhaps instead of silence women shouldn’t date married men in the first place.”

      If that means “men who have an understanding regarding an exclusive, intimate relationship with another woman” then I agree 100%, whether those men are married or not.

      If that means “men who are still legally tied to someone they separated from but where divorce proceedings have not been finalized” then not becoming involved might still be the ideal solution, but I would be less inclined to judge when people decide not to put their lives on hold.

      Regarding the OP: Believe me, I can very well understand where your perception comes from. It is the same perception most people get who don’t know the full story. Which is precisely why we choose to keep me totally out of the picture until the divorce is legal.

  6. That’s where you logic fails re: choose to keep me totally out of the picture until the divorce is legal. You are in the picture, perhaps not overtly but don’t fool yourselves and say you aren’t any kind of presence.

    Totally out of the picture means you aren’t dating a legally married man and offering him some kind of support through it.

    We all have our lines in the sand and moral compass that guides us but I still think it very unwise to have intimate relations with a married person. If, for no other reason, than they typically have some work to do on themselves before being and ready, healthy individual in a partnership with someone new.

  7. The Karma Bus is coming for you. You have no idea the level of hypocrisy in your post. You honestly believe all the bs your married bf is feeding you? You’ve never met his wife, yet you claim to know what she thinks? There is a world of truth coming your way, not hers. You’ll realize it soon enough. Cheaters cheat because they put their own wants first. When you are no longer what your bf wants, you’ll see.

  8. Erin, I have never claimed not to be a presence in this situation. Quite the contrary, I definitely hope I have a strong influence in giving loving support to my partner and providing a place where he can express the stress and emotions associated with a difficult situation. Which in turn supports him to interact with his wife in a spirit of respect, kindness and compassion, to be there for his children and avoids further acrimony for the whole family.

    I am only “out of the picture” insofar as we consciously avoid making my existence known to his wife, whose emotional pain and confrontational approach would understandably be exacerbated by this knowledge. Expecting her not to jump to conclusions and welcome the chance to wrongly blame a third party for the end of her marriage and label her husband an adulterer is certainly too fastidious. It is this assessment of her likely reaction that your posts have amply confirmed.

    I agree with you Erin that it is important to allow yourself time to heal and find yourself again after a marriage breakdown, instead of moving into the next relationship without reflecting on the first and accepting your responsibility for how it developed.
    The spouse who finally leaves after a long time of unhappiness and efforts to make positive changes in the marriage is understandably a lot further down this road at the point of separation than the spouse who was not yet ready to acknowledge the failure of the marriage. If I had serious doubts that my partner fully understands how he contributed to the dynamics that destroyed his family, I would not be with him now.

    Read and Learn, I have no reason to assume that my partner’s accounts are not a true reflection of how he experienced his marriage and divorce. Yet, I do not claim they represent the truth as experienced by his wife. I am keenly aware that the information I have of her is highly biased.

    The letter was an attempt to express my own conflicted feelings regarding my partner’s wife. At the moment, she seems like a riddle that I cannot solve. I experience my partner as loving, considerate and supportive. It is a true joy just to be around him. So I find it difficult to understand why his wife’s experience was so different.
    His wife’s actions and the information I receive about her could lead me to blame and judge. But I also know she is the woman my partner once loved enough to want to share his life with her(no matter what he says now). She also deserves respect, support and consideration as the mother of his children and will in that position be a member of my family for the rest of our lives.

    The letter was not written to paint my partner’s wife as a bad person but from a genuine desire to understand her position (which I do not claim to know, as the abundance of question marks might have told you).

    If the tone of my letter is not always entirely neutral towards my partner’s wife, it is because I sometimes struggle to be. I am sure many living in step-families know the pain of seeing someone you love hurt by other family members whose actions you cannot control. It is not easy to see beyond that. I am trying, but I will readily admit I still have a long way to go.

    I wish you compassion and empathy for those who do not live up to your moral standards.

    If you will forgive me a gentle jibe, given that you feel entitled to call my partner a liar and a cheater and me a hypocrite: maybe you ought to change your nickname to “Learning to read”.

  9. I thought this was a WONDERFUL letter. I could have written much of the same thing. There are so many men who don’t leave until they have a reason to, no matter how bad it is. And even though we might do everything technically right, we “other women” still end up with the blame for a man getting emotionally attached, and then once he is free and single, accepting that attachment. I know it doesn’t matter that I refused all of his emotional and physical advances while he was married. I know from his friends that he intended to ask for a divorce even before I came into his life, but that he was still trying to find the words, and the energy to fight the battle that followed. I know he would have been a fool to initiate divorce only two weeks after our first interaction if it had had anything to do with me. I know that I spent hours advising him against divorce, trying to help him rekindle his marriage … and yet I also realize that it’s my empathy for his wife (yes, wife, two and a half years after he asked for the divorce, it still drags on through the courts) that is partly the reason why he fell in love with me. But the fear from those who think they might “lose” their own husbands to someone else because they know they leave a void that can be filled, even if it is friendship and kindness without anything lurid happening, stings horribly and taints permanently. There are probably millions of people like us, the only difference is, when the divorce happens, we change our roles and agree to brave public opinion, rather than quietly move out of the picture as the caring friend (which I have also done in the past with other male and female friends going through divorce). I deal with this garbage every day. Every day. Legally, adultery requires only to prove opportunity and motive – opportunity: did you have access to somewhere private? – motive: are you now romantically involved? Only I know that this is not a man who would leave his wife for another woman. Only I know that I should listen the first, second, third, fourth times he tells me he’s not happy and wonders if we should split up. And only I know that karma will smile, not frown, upon me. Your loving heart and open mind will take you far. Keep your head high and your eyes and ears open, and your unique opportunity to learn from this experience will carry you far if you let it.

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