Why so mean as he goes out the door?

Dear Carolyn:

My husband left me and our then 12-year-old son last March. As he was walking out the door, he informed me he was not “in love” with me anymore.

Since then I discovered he was five months into a hot and heavy affair by the time he left.

My question to you: Why is he so angry with me? He tells me, “You’re mentally ill,” “I was living in hell being with you,” and, referencing his girlfriend, “I upgraded.” He got everything he wanted. His freedom, his “soul mate.” Why the rage?

— Husband Left Me

Awful, I’m sorry.

I can’t know what’s in his mind and heart, and I’m not sure I’d want to.

I can throw a theory out there, though.

People like to see themselves as the heroes of their own narratives: We get dumped because the other person was a commitment-phobe; we lose out on the promotion because we didn’t suck up to the boss; we get cut off in traffic not by people who simply didn’t see us, but by jerks who don’t know how to drive.

When you’re the person who has an affair and then walks out on your spouse and young son, there’s no way you’re the hero. Even if you had excellent reasons to leave your marriage, you took the low road out.

Some people can manage that moral demotion by admitting their own capacity for bad behavior, accepting responsibility for the damage it caused, and taking significant, long-range steps both to repair that damage and to avoid causing new damage from now on.

Some are too weak, angry or cruel to do that. Instead they rewrite the narrative in their favor by vilifying their victims, even when doing so means piling new bad acts upon prior ones, such as hate-blasting the spouse you just cheated on and dumped and left to raise your child alone.

Again, I can’t say for certain that’s what your husband is doing — but, “I upgraded”?! Wow. The shoe would certainly fit.

Dear Carolyn:

Recently, I met a very nice man. We go out a few times a week to movies, plays and out to dinner. He always wears a baseball cap. Some places I feel it is OK to leave it on. What is the proper etiquette for restaurants? I really enjoy being with him, and don’t want to approach him on this issue.

— Caps On?

Caps off, except when you’re playing a baseball game or watching one. Or, I suppose, at a movie theater or burger joint or some other plainly informal place. In an arts venue or in a restaurant that serves food on non-disposable plates, the baseball cap ought to come off.

Well then. I’ve enjoyed this sort-of conversation, but I’m not sure why we’re having it if you “don’t want to approach him on this issue.”

If it bothers you that he has it on during a restaurant meal, then it is OK just to ask him kindly to take it off or, in case he’s covering an illness or injury, ask if there’s any particular reason he leaves it on.

How you both handle things from there can be chalked up to the joys and jostlings of getting to know someone new. Good luck.

Email Carolyn at [email protected], follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

(c) 2015, Washington Post Writers Group


Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax

Syndicated Advice Columnist
Advice Columnist Carolyn Hax takes your questions and tackles your problems.

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