DEAR AMY: I recently helped one of my neighbors to leave her emotionally abusive/narcissist husband. He still lives nearby and sometimes joins a "social-distancing happy hour" on the block. The others don't know about his horrible mistreatment of his wife. My secret desire is to "out" him as an abuser. I want to enjoy the social hour, but hate being around him, so what's the best way to handle this?
Hate Keeping This Secret
DEAR HATE: I believe that the best way to react to this person is to show up and claim your own space in the social sphere — and completely ignore him.
Actual diagnosed narcissism seems to be quite rare, but narcissistic traits are more common and recognizable.
A true narcissist will want to provoke a response from you, and then will blame and bully you into being on the defensive — and you won't even realize it while it's happening. The encounter will only start to make sense to you later, when you deconstruct the dynamic.
By confronting him or reacting emotionally if he confronts you, you will have made his day. He might walk back to his house after a confrontation, believing he'd just had a triumphant experience.
You've already done your job, which was to help a friend. Your privilege now is to continue to behave with integrity, and simply not play this game by the rules he knows, but by the rules you set. You may think to yourself: "I despise you. I'm onto you. But you don't 'run' me. Therefore, I have decided that you are of absolutely no consequence."
The decision to "out" this person to others who know him should be made by his former wife. If you did this too soon in her process, you might unwittingly invite him back into her circle, giving him an excuse or a rationale for contacting and trying to manipulate her, because you — her friend — had been "mean," "unfair," or had "embarrassed" him in front of others.
DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been married for 22 years. We are getting a divorce. My husband was not a constant provider. I was the main provider for the entire marriage. Because we didn't have children, he justified that for his lack of income. I am retired now. We live separately. I have left him. He has asked for $500 a month for spousal support, as he had to find a job, and that is not conducive to the life he was used to. I am going to relocate to Florida because I have an illness, and a warmer climate will help. Not knowing my living expenses, should I have to support him and not live the life I'm use to?
Baffled in New York
DEAR BAFFLED: This is a question you must take to an attorney. You should look for one who is skilled in collaborative law or mediation, in order to arrive at a fair settlement.
My understanding is that the court would take financial information from both of you, will take into account other factors, such as his job prospects and earning capacity, as well as yours. The idea behind spousal support is that the main breadwinner throughout the marriage should provide for the other party to attain or maintain a semblance of the standard of living they had during the marriage. Your joint assets and the length of the marriage would all be factors in deciding the amount of spousal support.
A lawyer would lead you through this process, but a negotiated agreement of $500/month for a specified period of time might ultimately be the less-expensive route for you to take.
DEAR AMY: "Upset Friends" reported that they disapproved of their married friend's choice to engage in a relationship with a woman not his wife, when his wife was suffering from dementia. Thank you so much for urging these Upset Friends not to judge this man unless they had walked in his shoes!
DEAR BEEN THERE: I highly recommend my friend journalist Barry Petersen's memoir: "Jan's Story: Love Lost to the Long Goodbye of Alzheimer's," (2010, Behler Publications).
Witnessing the devastation of dementia and the multiple ethical and relationship choices brought up by this disease challenged and changed my own opinion.
Jan Petersen's early-onset Alzheimer's eventually took her entire identity. After years of caregiving, her husband, Barry, eventually developed a relationship with another woman, who joined him in his loving caregiving for his wife. They called themselves, "a family of three."