By Diana Weiss-Wisdom, Ph.D.Dear Dr. Diana,
I have been divorced for a year and I don’t want my ex-wife back. Just to be clear.
Turns out that she cheated on me repeatedly over the years and took advantage of my generosity and trust. She is not a good person. I recently found out that she is getting re-married. Ever since, I’ve been preoccupied with thoughts about our marriage and everything that happened. I’m thinking about warning the man that she is marrying (even though I don’t know him personally) about who she really is.
In some ways, I almost feel a moral obligation. Do you agree?
— Still Recovering from DivorceDear Recovering,
When we feel wronged and mistreated, it can be hard to let it go — especially if the person who committed the hurtful deeds is not remorseful. Whether your purpose in telling your ex-wife’s fiancé is to protect and warn him or to hurt your ex-wife, I do not think that it is your moral obligation to do so.
As you describe it, you’ve been recovering from your divorce until this news pulled you back into the painful vortex of your past experience. It’s understandable that her re-marriage plans have stirred up any issues that remain regarding your relationship with her. But inserting yourself into her new life will only hurt you. When people go through divorce, it’s normal to have all sorts of different feelings ranging from anger, hurt, resentment, disappointment, hopelessness, and sometimes relief or a sense of freedom.
When somebody learns that their spouse has been cheating on them, it’s common to feel victimized. And that’s OK for a time. But eventually, to have a healthy recovery, it’s important to recognize what it was that you contributed to your marriage going wrong (in some way or other it always take two to tango). Once you have some clarity on that, it’s time to focus your mind and your energy on this next chapter of your life and making it what you want it to be.
Memories are selective. We sometimes have a tendency to recall the “good old days” of a relationship, without putting adequate emphasis on those times that were not so good or were just plain bad. You’ve stated that you don’t want to get back with your ex-wife, but just in case all of this stirs up any old, ‘’warm’’ feelings, try to focus your thoughts on the aspects of the marriage that were not good. Keep in mind those things about her that bothered you, or were negative, unflattering, or just plain hurtful. When your mind goes to the past, be sure to include all of that and to thank your lucky stars that you are not married to that person anymore. You’re free to find true love with someone you can respect and admire. This should help you release any old longing for things to be different so you can focus on the present and creating a better reality in your life. Your heart may be in the right place in wanting to warn someone else so they aren’t hurt like you were; but informing your ex-wife’s fiancé about her character could be going backward for you. I recommend that you continue on with your progress of moving forward, looking towards the future, not the past. Wishing you healing and happiness.
Diana Weiss-Wisdom, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist (psy#12476) in private practice in Rancho Santa Fe. You can reach her at (858) 259-0146 or www.drdianaweiss-wisdom.com