He left me for a 17-year-old

I'm nursing our baby and minding our toddler while he's showing off his new girlfriend -- who was his student!

Published June 14, 2012 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

My life has become somewhat of a joke. I am 32 years old, have two children, and am about to get a divorce. I have always strived to accomplish something in life, have a career, a marriage. It was all going along fine (or so I thought), when I received an accidental voice mail from my husband five months ago today, discussing the fact that he was going to leave me. I was breast-feeding my 4-week-old daughter at the time, and I just shook and froze. The whole world stopped. I confronted my love partner of seven years, and he left. He told me he wasn't happy and had suicidal thoughts and he is not who I want him to be. He also told me I have never understood him or supported him as a musician. I have paid for both of us the whole time we were together. He never worked full-time. The focus was always on him.

About a month later I discovered, thanks to all the networking websites available these days, that he has left me for a 17-year-old guitar student of his, who just graduated high school. Upon further research it came to light that he was cheating on me with her while I was pregnant. Her online chronicles paint a fairly obvious picture. She threw herself at him, but don't get me wrong, Cary, I realize fully that it was my ex's fault for egging her on.

I am so bitter and resentful right now. My life is a joke. A "Jerry Springer" episode, if you will. The betrayal and humiliation I am feeling is beyond anything I can describe. I am taking care of a baby and a toddler all by myself. He sees his kids twice a week and we are meant to have joint custody, but he ignores all my phone calls and texts. They are about the kids, and I am at my wits' end.

I believe the most painful aspect of my joke of a life at the moment, however, is the fact that he brings her around my kids. They come home smelling of teenage deodorant. We agreed to keep the kids away from any significant others unless it's serious, and of course he ignores that, just as he ignores me. He has completely rewritten our history and told me he doesn't know why he married me. What? He cried on our wedding day ... happy tears. He was so sure that's what he wanted.

So here I am, all alone, with all the responsibilities, all the hurt and sadness while he is as happy as can be, taking her out everywhere. He even introduced her to his family a month after leaving me. I'm reeling. I quit all the social networking websites, in order to avoid further pain. I just don't know what to do. I don't understand. I don't want to share my babies with her. I didn't have them so she could play house! They are not dolls, and they are so young! Any advice or encouragement would be really appreciated.

Unwilling Participant

Dear Unwilling Participant,

You need to hear one thing first: You will get through this.

It won't be easy and there is no way to make it different from what it is and certainly if you can refrain from punching the next person who suggests that it is a blessing in disguise or a learning opportunity you are on the path to enlightenment.

Let's not pretend. This is going to be a tough period for you.

But know this: You will find you have more strength than you realized. You will find you can give up things you thought you needed but you don't.

Hurt pride and humiliation are not superficial. If it irks you that she is playing house with your babies then maybe you do not have to share your babies with her. Maybe there is a way to draw some lines. Maybe. Talk to your lawyer. Be clear about what you want. Maybe there is a way to influence the proceedings in ways favorable to you. After all, he is the one who left. His behavior has not been exemplary. I do not know the courts where you are and am not a lawyer but I cheer you on. I say, please, fight for what you feel is right.  You have taken enough slaps. If you don't want his new girlfriend playing house with your kids, say so. Make some noise.

You will need all your strength. So be careful not to undercut yourself. When things are fine you might say "my life is a joke" and laugh because things are actually fine. When things are not fine saying "my life is a joke" is not funny or helpful. It's just sad. So don't say it. Your life is not a joke. Your life is dead-serious. You need every advantage you can get. You have been deceived and treated badly; you have been betrayed and hurt. A rotten thing was done to you. It is not a laughing matter.

You deserve better. The courts may agree. But you will have to fight for what you deserve. So fight.

By Cary Tennis

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