An Open “Dear John” Letter (on behalf of jilted ex-spouses everywhere…)

Mikalee in bed...typing...drinking

Yip, looks about right: In bed, wearing jammies, wine in one hand, typing with the other...

You’ve all heard of a “Dear John” letter, right? Well, while doing research for this blog post, I was fascinated alarmed intrigued disgusted to discover that the iconic letter in which a woman unceremoniously dumps a man probably originated in World War II. I can only imagine it went something like this:

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Dear John:

Sorry ’bout your luck and all, but I’ve found a less duty-bound, totally hot boy with a fiercely rockin’ body to distract me from how much I miss you as you’re off eradicating evil and saving the free world.

Bye now.

P.S. Please watch out for that stray bullet, as a broken heart is a much better way to die. Or so I’ve heard.

XOXO,

Your Heartless Future Ex

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So this is a small, itty-bitty, teensy-weensy variation of a Dear John letter, with the following differences:

  1. This isn’t between a wife and her husband. It’s between me and my ex (and all of you. How intimate!).
  2. I’m not leaving him; instead, John left me a few years ago … and sent his message with a brick, not a letter.
  3. I’m not heartless.
  4. He’s not a war hero.
  5. OK, you got me: The only similarity between a typical “Dear John” letter and this letter is that his name is John. Well, kinda — at least for the purposes of this blog, it is. And stop looking that up on Google, people…I see you out there, doing your sly little Google searches for “John Byerman.” Well guess what: Byerman is my maiden name, and his name SO isn’t John!
  6. So really, there aren’t any similarities between this and a “Dear John” letter. Except that it starts with the words “Dear John.” But isn’t that enough?

And now, here it is: My Open Dear John letter, which I’m writing on behalf of all jilted ex-spouses out there…even and perhaps especially for the most recent ex-spouses making headlines, those of the now-infamous John Partilla and Carol Anne Riddell (…and you can check out my most popular blog post to date about this quaint little topic here).

There seems to be a common societal consensus prescribing that we ex-spouses must go away, disappearing into our assumed but frequently absent self-pity and bitterness, repressing all the feelings that we actually have every right to express. So let’s uncork these bottled emotions and find closure that was never given to us. Let’s take it upon ourselves to speed healing, to give voice to the voiceless, to end a chapter in a manner befitting the situation.

Plus, my therapist told me to do this. So there. (And there I go with that silly hyperbole again…)

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Dear John:

I am over you.

I’d like to say it yet again, just in case you didn’t catch that über-
powerful, uncharacteristically succinct, 4-monosyllabic-word sentence:

I’m so clearly, totally, completely, amazingly, thoroughly, whole-heartedly, alarmingly, utterly over you.

There, 13 words (one for each year we were together), lots with multiple syllables — is that better?

I’m so over you, that in fact I am grateful to you. Remember that day when you nobly told me that someday, I’d look back and realize that what you did was the “right thing”? Well, I’m there. Mission accomplished. Thank you for leaving me.

And I mean that.

I am happier now, and I am much more engaged in life. Of course, I was happy and engaged with you — but this is a different level of happiness and engagement… a deeper level. A more fulfilling level. I do the things I want without fear of judgment. I am the person I want to be without fear of judgment.

I have found my voice, my true character, my inherent me-ness that had been obscured by assimilating myself into the person I thought you wanted me to be from the moment we met (at the ripe old age of 20) forward.

In short, my me-ness is thriving without your you-ness in my life. And I have to thank you for that. In my 1.0 version, I was nowhere near as fun, or edgy, or totally awesome, or — and here’s the most important improvement — even close to as good a mom.

But while I thank you for introducing me to Me 2.0, I don’t thank you for the way you chose to do it — I deserved better. I deserved closure, a chance to fully appreciate and understand the nuances of your pain, guilt, remorse, sadness, unhappiness. I deserved a man who would respect me, acknowledge that I never saw this coming, be grateful for the 1/3 of my life that I happily devoted to him and give me an appropriate ending.

Not a brick. And not the poison and disrespect you are spewing, post-brick.

Yes, your betrayal instantly shattered me, but I have largely recovered from that (save a few trust issues that will probably never heal, but that’s my baggage, and I totally own that). But after the initial devastation, I had no idea that the worst was yet to come. In short, I hadn’t seen nuthin’ yet.

When you first left, I kept encountering people who recoiled in disbelief as I told them we were on the path to divorce. I’ve never in my life heard us described so frequently and vehemently and boisterously and urgently as “that couple.”

 

John and Mik

There's "that couple" in John's favorite wedding pic. Clearly, he's miserable here...

Which, loosely translated, meant: “Shut the fuck up…he so did not leave you!”

But leave me you did, and when I’d explain that (and after dismissing rumors of, said in your best Ah-nold impersonation, “the tu-mah” — which many still believe you have, given the 180-degree shift in your personality, likes, priorities, etc.), I found comfort in knowing we’d be “that couple,” post divorce — which loosely translated to “You = good dad. I = good mom. We = good healthy co-parenting uncoupled couple focused on our children, who = AMAZING in every way.”

Guess what? I = way wrong about that.

In our days post-divorce, I have met two different people, which, in the spirit of Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat (a personal favorite of our kids), we’ll hereinafter refer to as “John 1” and “John 2.”

John 1 looks much like the old John, the John I spent 13 years with: funny, witty, focused on the kids, engaged, respectful of me as a parent, etc. He makes frequent appearances during workdays and when out of earshot of certain extraneous influences who shall remain nameless.

John 2, however, is nervous — even suspicious. He avoids me, cuts short conversations about the kids, throws around silly justifications for crazy behaviors (“We are a we?” I mean…really????).

John 1, sadly, seems a victim of a most horrific fate: The watchful, scary, crazy, vengeful gaze of a certain watchful, scary, crazy, vengeful rock-star doppelganger. Clearly in her presence, John 1 repeatedly meets his demise, and John 2 cheerfully, dutifully assumes the role.

Now, please don’t get me wrong: I can only imagine the pressure you are under every day in your new marriage. You destroyed your first marriage for another woman, and she destroyed her first marriage for you, and these are the kinds of actions that leave an indelible question mark in even the most secure of new/old/new/old lovers (did I get that number of transitions right? Even I’ve lost track…).

Really, though, you’re a match made in heaven — if your version of heaven happens to be characterized by suspicion, mistrust, duplicity, treachery and doubt.

Oh, and betrayal. Can’t leave that one out.

And in addition to the swirling question marks in your head, I’m quite sure you’re also now in the midst of a far different kind of relationship. Whereas you and I were fairly equally matched intellectually, well…let’s just say I can appreciate your new “challenge” in that regard. But I can also see where that disparity is attractive to you as a manly man, needing to be worshiped, needing to recapture your glory years with your supposedly once-hot cheerleader girlfriend.

So I get it now: You needed to escape to your past, you needed to assert your superiority over your wife, you needed to have someone bend over — ahem — backwards to accommodate your career, passions and hobbies.

It’s like a classic Goldilocks tale, only instead of porridge, you have wives: I was too hot (metaphorically speaking, of course). She is just right. And I’m happy for your happy ending.

If you needed the luke-warm lover, though, you should have known better that wasn’t who I was. You had enough time — we dated for three years before marriage, after all. You should have known by then — and really, from the beginning — that I was a force, that I had passion and fire, that I dream big and have giant ambitions and won’t settle for a life of playing the dutiful wife who is subservient to her masterful man.

Um. Yeah. That’s SO not me.

But I get it now. So please, enjoy your life. Run back to your old home, run in your same small circles, run for the rest of your life away from the suspicion in her eyes as she runs from the doubt in yours.

But before you get too carried away with all that running, understand something about my character: I was so desperately sad as I drafted my legal documents after you served me with yours, as mine clearly, undeniably illustrated the many questionable parental judgments you have exhibited over the years. But despite the fact that much of this content used your own words to illustrate your cavalier disregard for my concerns, I was still sad to be hurting a man who is the father of my children, and I recognized during the writing of these documents that our relationship would never, ever be the same. I was closing a door forever, and that broke my heart. Again.

Why didn’t your heart ever break out of sadness for what you did to a woman who trusted you implicitly? And why didn’t decency take over before you decided to take me to court to take my children away for longer periods of time, to second-guess my judgments when it comes to our children, to stop me from being able to express myself using the very means I’ve always used as a professional writer (and that are inherently available to every U.S. citizen)?

Where is the man who feared our son was forever broken the day he fell head-first into your office chair in the loft? Where is the man who took turns with me nightly reading Hop on Pop and Green Eggs and Ham to our growing, crazy-smart children? Where is the man who craved our illicit dressing room trysts, told me I had Disneyland Electrical Parade princess eyes, who declared nightly that his heart beat for me?

Where is the man who, moments before he left me forever, wrote these words:

Note from John before he left

John, I forgive you, and I am over you. But you have broken my heart yet again. While I forgive you for leaving me, I will never forgive you for trying to drive a wedge between me and our children.

With(out) love…sincerely, but still respectfully,

Mikalee

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Dear readers: Now it’s your turn. What did you always want to say to your ex that you never had the chance to say? Leave highlights from your own Dear John/Marilyn messages below, if you’re brave enough…

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