I often have thought that I ought to research reddit more thoroughly for ethics stories. Then I stumble onto something like this, have to take a shower, and decide that I’ll be happier if don’t. There is also the persistent reddit problem that one can never be sure when what you are reading isn’t completely made up by some aspiring James Frey wannabe. I have been burned in the past.
One of the reddit sub-site communities is devoted to revenge, and participants send in their alleged experiences. Revenge, as we all know, (I hope), is unethical. It’s also frequently entertaining and fun. Revenge has been a staple of drama since the ancient Greeks, and it’s vibrant still, perhaps because there is nothing unethical about revenge fantasies.
One particularly exhilarating (and disgusting) example is the original “I Spit On Your Grave” (yes, there are sequels), an extremely violent and graphic cult film in which a young writer is gang-raped and left for dead by five locals in “Deliverance” territory. She returns, trained, dead-eyed, determined and remarkably creative in a Marquis de Sade way, to pick them off, one by one.
Women seem to especially enjoy the film. I would not be surprised to learn that Hillary is a fan.
But I digress. The following story recently turned up on the reddit ProRevenge section. The disturbing thing was how few of the many commenters were critical of the writer’s alleged conduct, which is, as you will see, appalling. Here is his account, redacted a bit for length, with periodic comments from your host.
I thought we were happy. We were your usual suburban professional couple. Financially secure, healthy, good sex life, two kids (14f and 9m at the time). I thought we had a healthy social life. We were going through one of your typical married couple rough patches…and tensions in the house were running a little high.
I noticed that she was spending a lot more time on her phone texting with her “girlfriends.” …I started making a much more concerted effort to get out of work when I could, help around the house and be more emotionally available, but over the course of a few weeks the gulf just kept getting wider.
[W]hen I charged up an old IPad for my son to use her FB messenger was still logged in and there were a lot of highly questionable messages with a guy from her hometown whom I will call JBC … I made a mental note to keep an eye on this and went about trying to fix things up. The next day after I took the day off to knock out some projects that I thought would make her happy, and left her some sweet notes reminding her how much I appreciated her she was once again in the corner of the living room “texting her girlfriends”.
I took the boy’s iPad to the office opened up FB messenger and watched in real time as my wife tore me down. Her and JBC were making fun of me. All of my flaws, insecurities and secrets I entrusted to my partner were now fodder for her and JBC. Not only that, but… there was a sexual undertone to the whole conversation, especially when she was bashing my performance in the sack.
I’ll interject here to note the obvious, that so far in the tale the husband is entirely the victim, and without fault. The ethical course would be to confront his wife with the messages, directly and immediately, and that is what he would do if his relationship was as loving and deep as he has represented it. That is not what he does, however. Essentially, he has already made up his mind at this early decision point to blow up his marriage, and to do so as destructively as possible.
I managed to take some screenshots, but missed a good bit of the messages, because as the conversation was unfolding she was deleting them. I wasn’t emotionally capable of confronting her. I stayed in the office until she was asleep and had a couple drinks. I took off the next day and spent some time soul searching, drinking and trying to figure out what to do. The wife came home and wanted to know what was wrong and I just copped out and told her I had a bad day. A couple minutes later I was watching the iPad as the train wreck kept unfolding.
Well, at least he found the right Ethics Alarms term for this: the saga had officially become an ethics trainwreck, and he was an official rider.
So began a couple solid weeks of taking screenshots, drinking and detaching myself from the relationship. I knew there was no going back from this. The messages were now overtly sexual with my wife completely into it, and JBC was sprinkling in “I love you’s”.
There was a way back from this, of course. Many thousands of couples have battled through similar infidelity episodes, or worse. This guy lacked the character and courage to try.
I consulted a lawyer and got my options, and started moving forward…
Watching the messages I found out JBC was coming to town to spend a weekend of quality time with my wife in a pretty nice hotel…the next day the wife is buttering me up and wanting to take a spa weekend with the girls to relax and when she gets back we can really focus on our marriage. I go with it all the way. It’s the greatest idea she’s ever had, and I’ll do anything to get us back on track. I get with the lawyer and have him draft a strong separation agreement stating that she would move out, she would get weekend visitation, [and] no child support in the interim until the divorce is final. Then I sit through the most agonizing two weeks of my life. After all this most of my feelings for her are completely gone, and I’m just seething with anger like I’ve never felt before.
He is now officially starring in a male knock-off of “I Spit on Your Grave.”
D-day arrives. I take the day off work. I withdraw half of any money in our joint accounts…leav[ing] her half alone. I had already redirected my paycheck to a new bank. I close our money market account and get a cashiers check for her half and deposit my half in my new account. I…print out about 75 pages of FB messenger screenshots…
She texts me that she’s taking off and that she loves me. I tell her to have fun.
Actually, he’s the one having fun.
I show up to the hotel at about 8:30 and call the wife’s phone from the lobby. It goes straight to voicemail….I walk up to the front desk and ask if I can use the phone to be connected to JBCs room. It rings three times and he picks up.
Me: “JBC, can you send my wife down to the lobby please?”
JBC: “I don’t know what you’re talking about bro.”
Me: “OK then. I guess I’ll have to call Mrs. JBC and get her down here.” (Totally a bluff. I knew he was married, and I knew her first name but that was it.)
JBC: (Inaudible, shuffling, panic)
Me: “You got five minutes.” [Click]
Not even two minutes later my wife comes walking out of the elevator…I sit her down in the corner of the lobby. [She] starts spewing bullshit, saying it’s not what it seems. etc etc.
Me: “I’m not here to argue. The things that are said in this pile of papers are what’s going on. The only way I’m not giving a copy of this to [our] daughter, your parents and emailing it to everyone we know is if you move out immediately.” […Daughter was going through a rebellious teen phase and her knowing (about the affair) probably would have forever killed their relationship. Wife was also her parents’ golden child and she always worried about what they thought of her. I didn’t have much leverage and shame was my only card to play. Also her professional life is built up around her image, so I knew she would protect that at all costs.] “This is a check for half of the money market account. I’ve withdrawn my half of the money from all the other joint accounts. You should have more than enough to get a place.”
I’m pretty sure that the plan has now crossed into criminal extortion.
She starts to cry a little. I could almost see the different thoughts and waves of emotions going through her, but now was the time to keep pressing.
He’s actually enjoying this!
Me: “Here is a separation agreement that I think is more than fair considering what’s going on. I’m going to need you to look this over, sign it, and leave it at the house when you get your stuff. Do you want to look through these screenshots?”
Me: “OK. Go have fun with JBC. Do not come back to the house or I’m going to send [these screenshots] to everyone.”
I bounce out of the lobby, and I can hear her start to have a breakdown…
I don’t know what she did that night or over the weekend. She texted and called over and over wanting to talk. I just turned the phone off and by the time Monday afternoon rolled around there were movers getting her stuff and she delivered the [signed] agreement. I let her have a talk with the kiddos basically saying mommy and daddy need some time a part, we still love you, etc etc….
After a week, she wants to have a real talk for the first time….She’s so sorry. She wants another chance. She wants her family back. She’ll do anything. She’s on her knees crying into my lap. I have no intention of ever taking her back.
And that’s what an ethical extortionist would tell her at that point. He, however, is out to metaphorically Spit On Her Grave. The Golden Rule, along with such ethical virtues as empathy, forgiveness, kindness and compassion never make an appearance in this story at all. That’s revenge for you. Those values, like Elvis, have left the building. They probably were never there to begin with.
I tell her she needs to set up marriage counseling …at a time that works for me. I tell her that I can’t live with her, but she should be around the children to try to maintain a relationship with them. So starts our new normal of her coming over the house, cooking and having dinner with the kids three nights a week.. her cleaning the house and doing the kids’ laundry then heading back to her place.
We went to counseling. It consisted of her working through her issues with the therapist trying to figure out why she did it, her begging for forgiveness, and me stoically playing the victim. I was never going to give her another chance. All I wanted to do was kill time, establish myself as the primary caregiver to the kids, and establish her as not having residency in the house….
After six months…I told her that I couldn’t forgive her right now and that I wanted an amicable divorce, but she is still the love of my life and maybe someday we could give it another try. She was devastated, but agreed to the divorce if I promised to try again someday.
My guess: The husband is too good at lying for this to be anything but a life pattern. We have passed into signature significance territory. Ethical people literally never behave in this manner. He wants to hurt her.
It gets worse.
Once the divorce was filed, I needed the kids to want to stay with me. I left a Google search for “how to survive your wife’s infidelity” up on the shared PC at home, and I left some printed out infidelity articles..in the kitchen. My daughter found them and came to me crying. I told her she wasn’t supposed to find those, that mom made a mistake, that mom still loves her, and that I would always be here for her. My daughter, who used to hold my wife in such high regard, now wouldn’t talk to her without screaming…It crushed her.
Now he’s using his daughter as a means to an end, and that end is “crushing his wife.” Kant would not be happy with him. I am now officially sympathetic with his wife, and understand why she began cheating on him. At some level, she realized she was living with a sociopath.
Not surprisingly, when the court needed statements from the kids a few months later little brother followed big sister’s lead and they both wanted to stay with Dad in the house they grew up in. When the divorce was finalized, I got the house [and] primary custody of the kids. I [was] awarded generous child support due to the difference in our incomes due to me working part time….for the last two years I’ve gotten to live in the house with my kids, work part time, get the now-ex to subsidize it for me, and when she takes the kids over the weekends I get to have my fun…
I am now hearing “BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” echoing in my head.
In the eyes of my kids I’m the patron saint of fatherhood for taking the high road and always being there. In the eyes of my ex I’m the one that got away that she will always pine for, and I get the bonus of having her come over for sex whenever I want it by dangling that carrot of maybe getting back together. But that is never going to happen.
Time for that shower…