Carolyn Hax: Is it bad karma to toast your cheating ex’s bad luck?


Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: Is indulging in a little schadenfreude really such a bad thing? Through friends, I just found out that my cheating ex-husband lost his job and the woman he cheated with lost her business, so they will be losing their home soon. My friends say they will be moving in with her parents, who are NOT happy about this.

I had a chuckle at the news, because it’s nice to see jerks get the bad luck they deserve now and then. My boyfriend even bought the table a round of drinks, and we all toasted their bad luck.

My sister didn’t say anything at the time, but later said she’s appalled about my still being so bitter. She suggested that I’m asking for bad karma by laughing at someone else’s misfortune.

Her attitude left me floored. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my ex or his girlfriend (who, before I found out about the cheating, was my best friend and business partner), but when this news came my way, it did make me smile. Do I really have to wish well for people who lied to me and deliberately screwed me over, just to be considered a decent person?

Schadenfreude: It wasn’t your best moment, and there’s no way to argue that it was, but this was also an excellent opportunity for your sister to zip it and let you be flawed for one lousy round of drinks. Assuming it was just this once.

Re: Schadenfreude-ian slip: Oh, sister, I hear ya, and as someone whose ex moved in with his affair partner before the divorce was final, I’m totally on your side. I still communicate with my ex about our kids, and sometimes he’ll share something that tells me he and the honey are living their best lives. It rankles in the moment, but I don’t dwell on it. I don’t wish them ill, because that’s what’s best for my soul and my own mental health, but, even more honestly, I don’t wish them well, either. I don’t think I am required to be that evolved.

From the text and tone of your letter, I trust you’re not bitter, because you’ve moved on with your life, and this was just a one-time indulgence, well-deserved. You’re human. After the karma bus ran over your ex and his girlfriend, the driver honked and waved. You waved back. I would have done the same.

I’m sorry your judgmental sister doesn’t get that.

Anonymous: Does the karma bus take passengers?

Dear Carolyn: In 2020, my now ex-husband cheated on me, gaslighted me about it, then left me. We live outside Minneapolis, and the civil unrest was happening at the same time — in addition to the pandemic. It was a very scary and difficult time.

We have children, and he contacts me very regularly. He wants to be friends. I can’t do it. I have been experiencing more anxiety than usual, and I think it is post-traumatic stress disorder. How do I get to a place where I am indifferent to this man?

Anxious: I am sorry about the stress pileup.

Please get evaluated for PTSD. Talk to your regular doctor if you’re not sure where to start the diagnostic process. The National Alliance on Mental Illness also can help (

Familiarity often leads straight to indifference, but if time isn’t enough to get you there, then therapeutic help makes sense. Give yourself the gift of appropriate care.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button