Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: My husband is having an affair and plans to leave me for his affair partner. She is a single mother with a child in the same classroom as our son. The kids are not friends, but they are friendly and bound to be in classes and activities together again. How do I handle this?
Carolyn says: With tremendous self-care to start — since this sounds like slow torture, I'm sorry.
It's possible, though, the seemingly worst element of the situation — that you have to face everyone constantly through your son — will prove to be the most useful. Anger is a natural and healthy response, but only if you don't allow it to linger. And while you might think the constant exposure to these two will keep stirring up the anger, the opposite can also be true if you let it be: That constant exposure will force you to let go of the anger, because intense feelings are just naturally hard to sustain. Familiarity gives you a chance to get bored with anger and dread, bored with yourself feeling angry and stressed, enough to make the changes you need to feel better. You won't be able to avoid your new reality, so take that as a chance to get used to it. Really fast.
Having kids involved, meanwhile, will force you to keep choosing your best behavior when you're tempted to give it your worst. Again, if you let it — but I suspect you will, just given that you're mindful the two kids are friendly and are preparing for them to remain that way.
So that's how I suggest you handle it. Push through the torture of the early days and let the whole thing get familiar, staying civil throughout for the kids. That will allow you to feel good about yourself, which is how you'll find your way to feeling good again in general.
When you need an extra dose of resilience going into a school situation, I suggest this as your mantra: "These two are each other's problem now." A potentially useful part of the truth.
Re: Cheating Spouse
My husband left me for the neighbor down the street when I had three kids under 5, after an affair that included leaving me and the newborn in the hospital to be with her — not that I knew it at the time, of course. He married her, eventually cheated on her, too (surprise!).
The anger and rage lasted a long time and I am sure I was not always my best as a mom. I was so terrified of what would become of us and how I would survive. I got counseling and eventually moved on, much thanks to wonderful, supportive family and friends.
I still hate him for the betrayal and for putting our children through that, but now we have a grandchild in common and I am civil — more than civil, actually — for her sake. My advice would be right along with Carolyn's: They deserve each other. Also: karma. Good luck!
Carolyn says: Oh, man. You win. Thanks for the last word.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.