Dear Prudence

Help! My Late Husband’s Mistress Wants Our Kids to Be Friends.

Dear Prudence answers more of your questions—only for Slate Plus members.

Two women, each with a baby, are shown on opposite sides of a tombstone illustration.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus and omgimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Dear Prudence,
While I was pregnant, my husband had an affair with a co-worker, “Missy.” There was a child. I found out the truth when our son was 2 after serious money went missing out of our accounts. My husband begged to me forgive him, and I struggled to, but the reality was I was a stay-at-home mom and would be in poverty if I left. Missy figured out very quickly that the secret was out and mistook my civility for sincere friendship. She would drop off her son on a moment’s notice so the boys could “bond.” I just weathered it. Once my son was in preschool, I got a job and was taking steps to position myself in a better place, when my husband died.

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At the time, I was numb and shamefully relieved. Missy’s son inherited an equal share of my husband’s life insurance policy, but the bulk of the estate came to me. I also sold our house and moved two hours away to be closer to friends. My son and I needed a clean break.

But Missy wouldn’t let go. She hounded me on social media and texted me and called me and demanded to know why I had “abandoned” them. She couldn’t find other child care and had money troubles since she lost her job. I finally told Missy to stop or I would get a restraining order. I didn’t want her in my life. If the boys wanted a relationship when they were older, they could seek each other out, but until then, no. Missy cried and said she thought we were friends. I snapped that she fucked my husband and fucked over my life, we were never and could never be friends—it was a lie Missy told herself so she would feel better about being a lying, scheming bitch. If she got in contact again, I would go to the police.

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I have gotten serious grief from friends and family for cutting off Missy and her son. I spent years biting my tongue and playing nice. I am tired of it. How do I make them understand?

—Widow Wanting to Move On

I can’t believe what your husband asked of you, how he and Missy took advantage of your trapped situation, and the degree to which the dynamic has continued after his death. It sounds like a living nightmare. Your anger is justified, and it sounds like it may be amplified by grief. Even though, by the time he died, you had been shamefully treated by your husband, you married him and at one point must have had feelings for him; he’s your young son’s father. His death must have provoked an incredible storm of long-delayed emotions—including this anger, which you, a new mom, repressed out of self-preservation, and can now let out completely.

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It sounds like things are at a fever pitch right now. I would recommend finding a therapist for yourself, if you don’t have one, and using those sessions to vent completely, while keeping interactions with Missy, and with your friends and family when they bring up the Missy issue, cold as ice. You know what you are going to do: cut her out of your life completely, which is your right. Just say that, as many times as is necessary, without much embellishment or heat. That’s not “playing nice,” but you’re also not giving them anything to work with. You made the decision. You’re moving on.

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