Reinventing Romance: Embittered Divorcee Purposely Targets Married Men, Then Dumps Them

Woman dates married men and dumps them because her ex-husband cheated on her. How can she stop?

By Sherry Amatenstein, LMSW

Q. Eighteen months ago, my now-ex-husband cheated on me after 10 years together. The ultimate indignity was that the woman he slept with was my best friend since kindergarten. I find myself angrier at her than at him. How could she do this to me? She was like a sister. They swear it was a one-time thing, done in a moment of craziness, and have repeatedly begged my forgiveness. Naturally, I shun them both. But since it happened, I’ve twice gone after men who were ‘taken.’ Both left their partners for me. I, in turn, dumped the guys. How can I stop this masochistic and sadistic pattern?— AnneA. I am so sorry such a horrific event happened to you. It is unforgivable; yet, ultimately, the only way out of the "masochistic and sadistic pattern" in which you are trapped is to forgive.First you have to figure out toward whom your anger is primarily directed. Which person in this sad entanglement are you most trying to hurt — your ex-husband, former friend, or — behind door three — yourself? David Eigen, PhD, author of Men — The Gods of Love explains, "It’s important to look within. In this kind of situation there is often a lot of self-anger." Are you angry for allowing yourself to be fooled? Do you feel like a failure, as if you should be marked: Return to Sender? David Eigen, PhD It may seem easier to project that anger outward than to face the misery swirling inside, but that solution is like the little Dutch boy sticking his finger in the dike: A patchwork job can only stem the tide for so long. Sheila Sanden, a 43-year-old, divorced Massachusetts attorney recalls sadly, "After my husband’s affair I wound up embarking on a series of hollow flings. One of them was with a married man. I liked him but knew I wasn’t in love," she admits. "After he left his wife and infant daughter for me, I realized that my need to show my ex that other guys still wanted me had rendered me oblivious to the fact that I was ruining a family." Her solution? "I ditched my job, gave my dog to a good friend, and headed to an ashram in India for six months to come to grips with how far off-track I’d drifted."Absent the frequent flyer miles required to make such a trip, an inner journey is nevertheless in order for you. Dr. Eigen says, "Purposely setting out to wreck others’ lives in retaliation for your own wrecked one is like swallowing a poison pill and expecting your enemy to die. Instead, you die slowly while creating tremendous damage around you, which is poison for your soul."The only "antidote" is to release the toxins. Your friend didn’t sleep with your husband to hurt you; she was obviously in a place of desperation and neediness. That doesn’t excuse her actions, but it does make her human. Your husband behaved abhorrently, but does that mean he is utterly soulless? What they did was accidental. Can you say the same of your current cycle of seduce-and-destroy? Some years back, I was struck by a car while trying to cross the street. The most painful aspect was not my injured ankle (which was, as my surgeon later announced, "an inch from amputation") but rather that the girl who hit me, "Melissa," never apologized. How could someone change the course of another’s life and go on as if this was a minor incident? I nursed this grudge through a year of tri-weekly physical therapy. Sometimes my body shook from the force of the venom I felt toward Melissa. She obsessed me. Then Deposition Day arrived. Yippie! She would be forced to see me and to acknowledge that I existed. In the room together, with our opposing lawyers glued to our sides, she… giggled. In a life-changing flash, I realized I’d given my power away to someone who was, well, a twit. After the deposition I took a walk — yes, a walk — looked up at the brilliant sky, and said, "I forgive you, Melissa. You can’t help being who you are." My stomach unclenched for the first time in months. I was on my way. And yes, I’ve forgiven myself for perhaps not crossing the street as carefully as I should have done. Melissa is human and so am I. I’ll leave the last words to Dr. Eigen: "I help my clients get out their negative energy.

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