The other woman

A wife leaves for another woman, and the gossip gets ugly

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My wife left me for a woman. I don’t know how to face people who pretend to be concerned but who are actually digging for gossip. I don’t know how to deal with the people who act as if her choice is an appraisal of my masculinity. If I can accept what happened to my marriage, why can’t everyone else just mind their own effing business?

People around you are avoiding their own disappointments, lack of control and brokenness by focusing on the changes in your life. Their egos rely on a hierarchy of suffering to feel better. That’s why they’re so invested in a “he’s got it worse than me” attitude. By turning you into a pariah, they’re using you. It’s ugly. I’m sorry it’s happening.

The good news is that these gossips only control the story they tell themselves. They don’t have power over your narrative until you ask for an opinion or choose to believe their version of your life. So when you have an inkling that someone is fishing for a salacious tidbit, engage in self-care. Say: “If you have questions for (your former partner’s name here), please ask her directly. I also want you to know I’m not interested in casual conversation about my personal life. It’s so easy for people to gossip and turn simple situations into ridiculous spectacles. Don’t you agree?”

You’re not responsible for sating anyone’s curiosity. You are responsible for being kind to yourself as you move through this transition. The people who behave as though your wife’s exit offers insight into your virility or lack thereof are naive about sex and sexuality. They are operating from limiting beliefs of what it means to be a man or a woman. It’s “all or nothing” thinking: Either you’re all man or you’re not a real man. Again, you don’t owe them answers. If someone asks a question that feels invasive and disrespectful, call them on it. Say: “It sounds like you’re struggling with boundaries. Have you seen a therapist?”

And remember, what they think of you really is none of your business. How you care for yourself, is.

My 44-year-old brother has been seeing a woman for four months. She convinced him to go to counseling with her. I told him that if a relationship isn’t working out after just four months, it’s better to move on. I’m worried for him because he falls hard and recovers more slowly from each breakup. What should I do?

Nothing. Your brother is an adult. If you’re trying to protect him from heartbreak, ask yourself why. Most likely it’s a habit of co-dependency. By making him the center of your attention, you restrict your ability to see yourself. Without clarity, it’s hard to evolve into your best self.

When you learn to step back from his life and into your own, your brother can develop the skill of rescuing himself. As he does, the two of you will be able to relate as equals. Are you ready for that? My book, When Your Heart Breaks, It’s Opening to Love: Healing and finding love after an affair, heartbreak or divorce, can help.

Meditation of the Week

“Most people have to talk so they won’t hear,” said May Sarton. Who are you listening to when the person in front of you is talking?