Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members. R. Eric Thomas is filling in as Prudie for Jenée Desmond-Harris while she’s on parental leave. Submit questions here. (It’s anonymous!)
Q. Pandemonium: My idiot husband had an affair, and I feel like I’m going crazy with his and other people’s reactions to how he’s decided to move on.
He cheated on me with “Elise,” eventually getting her pregnant—all of which he successfully hid from me until Elise slapped him with a lawsuit for money covering pregnancy costs. His lawyer says she doesn’t have much of a case to get money until the baby’s born, but you’d better believe I’m going to do everything in my power to get him to pay up every cent she’s asking for, before and after the baby comes. He thinks he can help create a whole new person and it’s not his problem because the baby’s not inside his wife? I’m so angry he was going to abandon this kid with no remorse that I haven’t even started processing how I feel about the affair yet.
The really bizarre thing is that he’s a fantastic, loving, involved dad to our two kids, and I never would have expected him to be able to leave behind a child of his like this. I am disgusted with him, and keep fantasizing about leaving him, squeezing every last penny out of him I can in a divorce, and legally marrying Elise so that she and her kid are guaranteed to have the same access to his funds that I and my kids do. I don’t know if it’s fair to my kids to blow up our family like that, but when I tried to talk to friends about it, they were shocked that I’m angry at him for abandoning Elise and the child. I get their point that she’s “the other woman,” but she’s not the one who cheated on me, and most importantly, the baby is innocent in everything and is his child as much as our children are! He thinks ghosting her is a commitment to making our family and marriage work, and he says he regrets the affair and knows now that he wants to be with me. But that’s not the point.
I realize this is kind of a stream of consciousness, but I’m hoping for some outside perspective on why I’m apparently the crazy one in this scenario.
A: You’re being very empathetic to Elise and I don’t think that makes you crazy. If anything, your empathy is likely grounding you in a chaotic situation. You’re right to be shocked and appalled by your husband’s actions. Ghosting Elise and their child is a cruel choice that has, rightfully, made you think differently about the person you’re married to. You’re reacting to Elise with compassion, human-to-human; it may be surprising to your friends but there’s no rule that says you have to resent “the other woman.”
I’d be cautious about getting too involved in her plight, though. (Like, definitely don’t marry Elise.) It’s healthy that she’s not your enemy in all of this, but she doesn’t need to be your best friend. Try figuring out how you want to proceed with your marriage, if you want to proceed at all; make it clear to your husband that ghosting Elise is not an option in your mind; then let the two of them work out what happens next, financially.
Read another take on this letter in Care and Feeding.
My marriage broke up three years ago when I discovered my husband had been cheating on me and the woman he was seeing was pregnant. We divorced, they married, and I moved on. I’m now dating a wonderful man and share custody of my 6-year-old son with my ex-husband, “Joe.” Since I consider them both to be dishonorable and immoral people, I have as little to do with them as possible, but I am cordial for my son’s sake. Joe and his wife recently had a second child who apparently has some serious health problems. They’re spending a lot of time at the hospital, and Joe asked me if I could watch their daughter since I live close by and she would be with her brother. I categorically refused since I cannot believe they had the nerve to even ask me. Still, Joe has repeated the request several times.