Dear Prudence: Help! I’m Glad My Awful Husband Is Dead.
August 19, 2019
Happy: I am a 38-year-old widow. The day my husband died was the happiest day of my life.
He was a miserable, vindictive man whose greatest joy was tearing me down.
He cheated on me constantly and would cheerfully recount all my inadequacies compared with his mistresses.
If I left, he would “pursue me to the ends of the earth.”
He never hit me, for what it is worth. At the end, I was isolated and alone; my only social outlet was my family. They all knew how horrible my marriage was, which is what makes their reaction now more hurtful.
I am going to travel. I am going to visit exotic places, drink wine, and learn a foreign language.
I have enough money to be quite comfortable for the rest of my life.
I would rather shoot myself than ever get married again.
My family acts like I am an idiot—they have all sorts of “concerns” about my emotional state, since I not mourning adequately and pearl-clutching over my plans (I am going to Italy).
They keep telling me I need to take time and get “my head on straight.”
My sisters express discomfort when I say I am happy my husband died when he did or if I joke that I am surprised it was a heart attack since I never thought he’d have one.
They hated him! I have an accountant and a lawyer; I am well-advised about my finances. I lost 15 years to the man.
I don’t want to lose another five months because my family has a skewed sense of decorum. Please help me get through to them.
Don’t worry about getting through to them.
Worry about making sure you’re well-packed for your trip.
If your family feels uncomfortable when you make jokes about your husband’s death, I do think it’s reasonable to limit your more-off-color comments for close friends (or a therapist) who understand why gallows humor is called for in this situation.
It may be one thing for them to acknowledge your marriage was an unhappy one, but they may be unable to join in making jokes about him with you. But beyond that, you don’t need them to agree with you that the time is right in order to get on that plane.
If you think it will help, you can share a little bit more about how painful your marriage was, how free you feel now, and how committed you are to making the most of your life as a widow, without making any jokes or trying to relieve the tension with humor, if you think there’s something that they’re missing from the story.
But you don’t have to lose another five months; you can still get on a plane even if your family thinks your behavior is shocking.
You can tell them you appreciate their concern but have no interest in taking more time, that your head is on as straight as you’d like it to be, and that you’ll send them all a postcard from Milan.