Dear First Wife,
When I fell in love him I had no idea that you existed. He was most certainly not wearing a wedding ring, he never slipped it into our endless conversations that he was married and the group of his colleagues that I met never hinted that I was actually becoming the other woman.
When he told me his story, he talked about you as his high school sweetheart. He said that you dated for almost 5 years, he even said that you had lived together. He went into great detail explaining to me how you had cheated on him while he was on a deployment. He told me that he came home and threw all of the furniture off the 3rd floor balcony because you had slept with the other man in his home. He mentioned that the two of you talked to a priest for a while and attempted to save the relationship. He said it didn’t work. I had no reason to not believe him.
In my silly, naive 23-year-old and freshly-in-love brain… this was the start of me hating you. How could you possibly do such horrible things to the man I just fell head over heels in love with? How could you be so terrible as to have an affair while he was deployed in a war zone? How could you do it in the home you shared with him? What kind of horrible person could you possibly be??
I remember the day I finally realized that you existed… as his current wife and not just some ex-girlfriend. I started looking at some of his friends’ profiles on Myspace (yes that was still a thing at that point in time) and there was this one picture of him all dressed in his gear and ready to jump out of an airplane and there was a thick gold band on his wedding finger. He was already overseas on a deployment by that point in time. He had already given me a diamond ring and asked me to wait for his return. I was already committed to this situation in so many crazy ways. I sent him an email as that was the only way I could communicate with him. I thought it must just be some sort of misunderstanding… maybe he was wearing some sort of promise ring?! Maybe it was something else altogether? As the hours passed while I waited for it to be his morning time my mind wandered all over the place… I even decided I would be okay if it was an ex-wife that he was just scared to tell me about.
When his response email came through all of my worst fears were confirmed… he admitted that you were his current wife… but then spent about 15 paragraphs elaborating on the fact that you did cheat on him, you were living two separate lives, that you hadn’t slept together in ages, and that all that was left to do was to sign the paperwork and make the divorce official. He also launched into some crazy reverse psychology manipulation that made me seem like the bad guy for being upset about all of this.
I made a choice at that point in time that I stuck with. I decided that I did not care about you, whatever vows the two of you had made to each other, whatever you might be experiencing through all of this. I decided that I cared about myself and what I wanted… and what I wanted was your husband.
So I stood by his side while you moved out of the home you shared with him, while you were divorced by proxy since he was on deployment, while he blew up your wedding ring in a garbage barrel with a hand grenade on video chat with me, while we moved into the home that you once shared, while we threw away the wedding photos and love letters and other mementos that you left behind. I packed up the things that you forgot in that house and still needed, and I forwarded your mail to your new address. I was stupid enough at the time to absolutely hate you and everything you stood for. I took pride in these ridiculously cruel acts of defiance he showed against you. I mistook these things for signs of loyalty and love for me. I never questioned how strange it was for someone to do all of this…. I never questioned him.
When things started to take a turn for the worse and he started abusing me, I used to think about you a lot. I wondered if he did the same things to you. I wondered if you cheated on him because you were so unhappy. I wondered if you cheated on him at all or if he just made that story up to make himself the victim. I fed into his games of using you as a way to attack my insecurities. I believed him when he told me that you were better than me at X,Y,Z… I believed him when he said he never got violent or angry with you… I believed him when he said that you tried harder than me. I started to focus all of my anger and frustration on you. I made it my purpose to prove to him that I was better than you.
Towards the end of the marriage I realized what had been happening with the mind games. I know that there is no way that you had a 5 year marriage to this man and didn’t experience at least some of the emotional, psychological and physical abuse that I experienced. At that point I really started to envy you. You got out. You escaped… and you escaped at a much younger age than where I currently was. I started to wonder what your life looked like after him. I found you online and saw that you were finishing college and living in a different state and appearing to be happy and healthy and doing just fine without him. In a way you became proof for me that leaving him might not be the worst thing to ever happen to me.
When I first left and started to process everything I had been through and all of the emotions that go along with it, I spent a good deal of energy feeling like a complete asshole for being the other woman to your marriage. This was in part because at that point in time he was already doing the same thing to me with a new woman… so I literally got a taste of my own medicine. It was also because without all of his bullshit and manipulation I could finally see that he was not the victim…. you were.
Now that I am far on the other side of all of this I am going to take an educated guess that his divorcing you was probably one of the best things that ever happened to you. It was probably the catalyst that got you through the emotional wreckage of leaving an abusive marriage and starting the path to a life that brought you happiness. His discarding you because he had already moved onto me probably made the whole thing easier even though it felt like the suckiest thing on the planet. You probably spent some time hating my guts and wanting me to come down with the plague… but once you got through that depressed, ice-cream-eating and ugly-crying period you probably giggled at least once and thought “he’s your problem now.”
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I would like to say to you if I ever had the chance, and what it all boils down to is: “I’m sorry, you’re welcome, and thank you!”
I’m sorry for taking part in something that was extremely painful in your life and doing so without even having the compassion to understand what you were going through. I am sorry for making you the villain, believing everything he said about you, and focusing my negative energy towards you instead of him. I am sorry for any self-doubt, embarrassment, insecurities, depression and any other crappy feelings you experienced as a result of me being with your husband. I am truly and without any reservation sorry for the part I played in all of that.
You’re welcome! I very stupidly stepped in and scooped up a huge mess right out of your life. I helped you get away from a very crazy and very abusive man. I took on 8 years of abuse that you didn’t have to deal with. I helped you find the path to whatever is currently making you happy in life.
And last but not least, THANK YOU! Thank you for being a beacon of hope in a very dark time for me (without even realizing it.) Knowing that you survived a divorce with him, that you found a life after him, that from everything I could gleam on social media you were now sane and safe and happy… made a big difference in my decision to leave.
I hope that you are currently experiencing all of the happiness that life after abuse can bring.