Skip to main content

Her husband is a cheater. Should you tell her?

My mother was twenty-five-years-old when she learned her husband Carlos was an adulterer.

Everyone in her small town of Fosston, Minnesota knew - but she didn't have a clue.

Later in life she told me how she misread the quiet signs.

"Everyone tried to tell me," she said.  "But I didn't want to know."

Everywhere she went, she said, picking strawberries, Ladies' Aid meetings, shopping for produce at the fruit market, the other married women treated her with a strange respect.

They stopped speaking when she approached.  They whispered as she departed. The ones who knew her best huddled around her, asking again and again if she had any "news."

Sometimes, my mother thought she saw pity in their eyes, worry.

But hindsight, she said, is always 20/20..

Then, one steamy August afternoon, Carlos came home early from the butcher shop and confessed.

He was sleeping with a seventeen-year-old girl named Phyllis.  Phyllis, he told my mother, was pregnant.

"And I don't believe her," Carlos pleaded. "I don't believe a word she says.  Give me six months, Bernice.  Six months alone, at the cabin with her.  I'll prove her wrong and come back to you."

And so it came to pass that  my mother moved her two children back to her father's house in St. Paul and became a "divorcee".

The year was 1938, and it was not easy rebuilding a shame-ridden life among  judgmental,  irritated Swedes.  Even so, my mother worked hard to remove the taint and scandal of abandonment.

Nothing was righted until nine years later when she married Hans, my father.

The power of lies.

Flash forward eighty-something years.

Carlos is dead.  So is his childless widow, Phyllis.  My mother and father are dead too.

But the lessons of all their intertwined lives continue to educate. 

Living in a family devastated by lies,  I learned the importance of always speaking the truth, no matter how difficult.

But sometimes,  the truth is wrapped in bad news.  And bad news is hard to deliver.

Still - if my mother were still alive, she would say what she always said.

The truth never hurt anyone.  And if it does, the pain is always worth the knowledge gained.

So, at midsummer, when I'm certain several of my women friends are unaware of the antics of their ne'er do well spouses, I offer . . . .

Five simple rules for sharing the worst news possible.

  1. Be certain your facts are correct.  Verify, verify, verify. 
  2. Before you contact her, contact him.   Warn the cheater.  Tell him you're about to blow the lid off his lies - unless he tells his wife the truth.  Give him a deadline - but be careful.  A trapped animal strikes out at anyone - so make certain you deliver this message in a bright, sunny place, surrounded by strangers.  And then - leave town for a few days.  Better safe than sorry.
  3. You're wondering what to say and how to say it?  Phone her - and say this.   "I have information about your marriage.  I want to share it with you, but I won't do so if you do not want to hear it." 
  4. She'll beg you to tell her - but never, never drop the bomb over the phone.   Offer to meet. 
  5. Bring flowers.  Bring a bottle of wine.  Bring a box of Kleenex and all your support. 
You will be surprised how easily the words come, once you see her.

Another thing that grows in the sunshine;  friendship. 


Popular posts from this blog

Why I no longer trust the St. Paul Police

My dogs awoke me,  barking,  at 3:00 AM -  and I knew something was wrong. I grabbed my under-the-bed baseball bat and stormed into my backyard. The car next door had been burglarized; a neighbor's garage broken into. And the woman who lives in the house behind mine was robbed in the middle of the night. And so as the flood lights slapped across my empty back yard and my dogs growled, I determined to apprehend the culprit. I searched the yard for the wretched, evil doer who would dare take advantage of the decent folks who live in Como Park. Behind me, in my living room, someone walked out the front door with my MacBook and other electronics. Because I didn't check inside the house - I didn't discover the crime until the next morning. "This ain't CSI, lady."  I phoned the police at 7:30 A.M. It took him almost an hour to get to my home - and when he finally knocked -  I opened my door to an overweigh, winded officer. By then I was frant

Here's to you, Mister Hoffman

Dustin Hoffman is eighty-years-old.  Dustin - say it isn't so. Baby Boomers around the globe worship your legacy - your brave, outrageous career where you stepped out - risked much - and led us into our maturity. As Michael Dorsey in  Tootsie  - you exposed an artist brave enough to lampoon his feminine side. As Ted Kramer, in Kramer vs. Kramer  - you challenged other men to reexamine their ability to nurture, to settle for the glories of domesticity. And no one else could have exposed the complexities  of Raymond Babbitt as did you in  Rain Man.   The world honors your excessive and grand talent - but if these allegations are true, none of that will matter.  History will forget your artistry and remember you as a dirty old man. That's what I do not understand.  You're not a B list guy - - not a "made for TV" Hollywood guy. You're Hoffman, for god's sake.  And I cannot fathom you jeopardizing your lionized legacy around someone's seve

Overheard at a coffee shop; An old woman's wisdom.

When she was a small child, she posed in front of her nursery mirror - fascinated with her reflection.  Sometimes she emulated Betty Davis.  Sometimes Shirley Temple.  When she was old enough, her mother enrolled her in tap dance classes, hoping to channel some of that ham-bone energy into something constructive. It worked.   Twice each year, the tap school dressed her in frilly, fluff-flounced costumes, put her on stage with a dozen other little show-offs,  and together they tapped their way to elementary school stardom. When she turned 13-years-old, her tap-dance gang joined the downtown YWCA where they spent their Saturdays doing something called "creative dramatics." Swimming, archery, bowling and hula absorbed their weekends, and she made new friends who introduced her to neighborhoods and families she might never have met and enjoyed. In high school, she auditioned and was cast in every onstage opportunity. In college, where the competition stiffened, she turn