Gaslighting

12 Feb

Dear LetterBalm: My husband had a long affair with a colleague that began six years ago when I was pregnant with our second daughter. He was with her when I went into labor. He denied the relationship. We went to marital counseling, and he continued to deny the affair. He accused me of being obsessed and mistrustful until I thought I was crazy. It made me depressed – I was smart, I ran my own business, and here I was with a cheating husband I couldn’t prove. Finally, I inadvertently found actual evidence and confronted him with his lies. I hired an attorney, ordered my husband out of the house and filed for divorce last November. He’s hysterical, begging my forgiveness, wants to come back. My concern is for my kids, who adore him because he is a great dad. I feel selfish breaking up the family, but I can’t stand being in his presence. Our marriage is over. How can I make him understand that?

–Relieved

If you haven’t already, do see the movie “Gaslight.” Ingrid Bergman won the 1944 best actress Oscar for her role as a new wife driven nearly crazy by her malevolent, creepy husband, played by Charles Boyer. Your husband was perfectly willing to cruelly persist in a lie that caused you depression and psychological pain, even in front of a counselor. The only reason why he’s apologetic is that his lies were found out. He’s not good husband material – you can pretty much count on his infidelity in the future if you get back together. Ms. L.B. wants you to have no qualms about your divorce; you’re absolutely right to continue to foster the good rapport your children have with their father. You have no obligation to make your husband understand your marriage is over. Change your locks, get a new phone number and use the old one only for his calls – you can filter them, and you need a joint number because of your kids. Every time he calls to beg and plead for reconciliation, don’t engage him. Tell him a version of this:

Simon, no more discussion. Our marriage is over. You’re a better father than you are a husband, so you’ll always have shared custody of the kids. I’ll never badmouth you to them. I hope you’ve learned from your mistakes. Go and live a good life.

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