Q: My ex-husband of almost 25 years cheated on me, filed for divorce, and the divorce was finalized two years ago. I met him soon after his first wife died suddenly leaving him with two small boys. We married a year later; I raised “our” sons, and we have two additional children. They are ages 30, 27, 22, and 18. He is a wealthy physician and I got a decent settlement, but he continues to bully me with condescending emails. Any suggestions? Is there any ex-etiquette that applies?
A: Sure, all 10 rules of good ex-etiquette apply – primarily, don’t badmouth, honor each other’s turf, and don’t hold grudges. All the rules of good ex-etiquette can be founded at www.bonusfamilies.com, if you are looking. (Key word: ten rules.)
That said, the thing that seems the most obvious here is simply don’t open his emails. You are not obligated to in any way, and nothing he could tell you couldn’t be heard from someone else. It’s a control issue here – a pretty classic maneuver from a cheater. When the spouse gets tired of it and finally leaves, the cheater is shocked and often tries to point the blame on the other person. Accepting the “blame” for the demise of the relationship is rarely something even considered from a chronic cheater, so they set their sights on the character assassination of their spouse. Being condescending is pretty typical as well. You said it yourself – you’ve moved on “with a decent settlement.”
If this is what’s happening, the only thing you can do is not respond. Your reaction is just fuel for his fire. If your children were younger and they were going back and forth between homes, my answer would be different – that would be a safety issue, and you would have to be in constant contact with Dad just in case something went wrong when the children were with him. But they are all adults, and I can’t think of anything that he could tell you that you wouldn’t hear from one of your children, or if your children are married, their spouses, or a close friend. Based on that, blocking him until he stops the nonsense is the best answer. That way you won’t even have to make the decision to open the email in the first place.
Not opening those emails can be more difficult than it sounds. You were married to him for 25 years. Prior to your break-up, anything he said was of top priority. Putting something he says into another category labeled “junk” is a difficult transition and takes time. But, you can do it, and you’ll be stronger in the end. I would suggest you tell him you are blocking him – and why – short and sweet – no trying to justify your behavior or blaming him once again for breaking up the family. Give yourself a word count cutoff, say, 50 words or less, and stick to it. Ex-Etiquette Rule No. 6: “Don’t be spiteful.”
Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.