update: I had a fling with my new boss’s then-husband

Remember the letter-writer who’d had a one-night fling with her new boss’s then-husband? Here’s the update.

I ended up quitting rather than working for her. I appreciated your response and all of the kind responses in the comments, but there was no way I could work for her when the company had clearly sided with right her off the bat and when she still had it out for me after all this time. Before she started her management position, she was here for a meeting. She saw me by the elevators and said the universe must be on her side since she was offered a chance to manage one of the people who had “shattered” her life before. There were no witnesses to this conversation and I knew then I had to get out before she took over.

I wish I could say I have found another job and everything is great, but that is unfortunately not the case. I had to move in with my mom and dad. I’m working as a temp until I can find a permanent full time job. I did have an interview but the hiring manager “saw red flags” when I was unable to provide a current reference from either job I have had in the past (the one where I worked with the father of my child and the one I just quit) and only had a single reference for 12 years of work in the form of my now retired former manager. They ultimately decided to go with another candidate. Another company I applied at “decided not to move forward with my candidacy” after they called both of the companies I had worked at in the past even though I didn’t have any references from either one. I don’t know what they were told but I imagine it cannot be good as I have no friends at either place and did not leave on good terms.

The father of my child is also working temp jobs. He has had a tough time finding work since his divorce. He is also living with his mom and dad. Neither of us has a car, I cannot afford it and his ex-wife got his in the divorce, so we rely on public transportation or our parents. Things have always been amicable between us, we have always shared custody with no child support because of the equal time, but for now our child stays with whichever one of us or our parents/other relatives are available for child care and we try to help each other financially as much as possible so our child isn’t affected (he is still dealing with the fallout from his bankruptcy and his ex-wife having his wages garnished instead of accepting a payment plan). Both of us are focused on getting back on our feet and giving our child a stable life. I’m thankful we both have family who helps whenever they can.

Even though things aren’t going great at the moment, I still want to thank you for your response and the perspective you provided and all of the people in the comments who were kind and supportive. I go back and re-read them whenever I am having a really bad day.

{ 731 comments… read them below }

  1. Anna*

    Oh gosh, OP, I’m so sorry. You were really placed in an untenable position and it seems like you’ve taken on more than your fair share of the fallout. You sound very positive, though, and I wish you the best in the coming months.

    You might want to see what kind of reference the two companies are giving, just to make sure you’re not being sabotaged.

    1. Gadfly*

      It may be possible that this is a case where the lawyer letter could help negotiate a neutral response.

      1. Rachel the LW*

        I appreciate all this but she hasn’t done anything illegal – believe me both me and the father of my child have tried and the companies are both being truthful because there was fallout at my first job and I left the second with almost no notice. I really wish it were different and I tried contacting people I worked with about references but that didn’t work. I wish it was different but even my mom says I can’t dwell on what I can’t change. I got some good advice from a poster named CatCat about building references through temping.

        1. esra*

          I think the temping to build references is a great idea. I really hope this all works out for you!

          Even though nothing illegal was done, a lawyer is a neutral party that might at least be able to sway them to give a more neutral reference.

          1. Rachel the LW*

            I cannot afford a lawyer esra and in the past both the lawyers I had or consulted during their divorce as well as the employment lawyer I had when I left my first job and the different one I consulted before the merger at this one have all stated she has not broken the law or done anything to warrant going to court for.

            1. esra*

              Hmm, I was thinking more of sending a letter, but if you’ve been down that path before, that’s understandable.

            2. Anonymoose*

              But….that comment at the elevator was an implied threat. There was no way for you to stay employed there under that sort of duress. I would call the EEOC or whatever state board you have and at least get their perspective. No, they’re not a lawyer, but they also are the ones that ping companies for shady practices. You might be surprised by their consultation.

              1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                Implied threat to treat her unfairly. It’s not actually illegal to treat someone unfairly, unless you are doing so *because* of their status in a protected class, which is not the case here. EEOC doesn’t go after companies for “shady practices” in general. Most shady practices have nothing to do with the EEOC and the EEOC cannot help even a tiny bit in those situations. Its role is specifically confined to anti-discrimination (*based on protected class*) work.

                Just… lawyers and the EEOC and courts and all that are not going to be helpful or relevant here, I am 99% certain, and there are far more productive uses of the OP’s time and energy. Seriously.

              2. Case of the Mondays*

                She could have stayed there through her notice period though or at least until she found another job. I doubt the new manager, no matter how vindictive, would have fired her within two weeks. If she had, she would have been eligible for unemployment.

                I’m not trying to put down your decision, OP, just explain why a lawyer isn’t going to see this as constructive discharge in the imminent sense.

              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Just echoing Jessie—an implied threat based on a protected characteristic, absent an actual impact that results in an adverse employment action, is not legally actionable. And it would be fairly difficult to bring in an EEOC claim when the fundamental underlying relationship relates to a personal, family law issue (I’m not saying those claims never come up—but it’s much harder to prove sex/gender discrimination in a circumstance like this).

          2. MegaMoose, Esq*

            That’s not really how it works – anything a lawyer signs, even a letter, needs to be supported by something or else it’s considered an abuse of your license. Certainly you hear about plenty of unscrupulous attorneys making dubious claims, but that’s (ideally) not the norm. This sounds like a really awful situation, but I really can’t imagine any legal recourse.

            1. esra*

              Can a lawyer not help negotiate? Not saying, my client was wronged, but saying, can we negotiate a better outcome?

              1. INeedANap*

                I don’t really think so – a lawyer isn’t really a mediator and if there isn’t a legal aspect here for a lawyer to deal with, I can’t really imagine what they would be able to negotiate?

              2. Jessie the First (or second)*

                Lawyers negotiate when there is a legal issue at play. When there is no legal issue involved, there is nothing I can do.

                1. ADR specialist*

                  I would respectfully disagree. There is generally nothing in the rules of professional responsibility that bars a lawyer from giving advice on non-legal matters, including negotiations. And plenty of lawyers are mediators.

        2. CA Admin*

          This is the thing to do–temping, part time jobs, and volunteer work can all help you build good references. Also networking, so that the people doing the hiring already know you and are more willing to overlook the reference situation. I’m not a religious person, but this is where belonging to organizations like a church (or any other community-based org that gives people a chance to get to know you, your situation, and your hard work ethic) might help. When I was still in school, I got a couple of jobs from people who went to my mom’s church and knew the family, even though I didn’t have a work history or any real references. They’ve been the foundation I’ve built my entire work history on, even though I no longer put them on my resume.

        3. Tiffin*

          I have to say, I’m not sure why you didn’t try to tough it out for a standard 2 weeks. Nothing to be done about it now, but if you find yourself having to leave your next job (for any reason, personal or professional), I encourage you to do absolutely everything possible to give a proper notice period.

          1. Havarti*

            “She saw me by the elevators and said the universe must be on her side since she was offered a chance to manage one of the people who had “shattered” her life before.”

            I’d probably run screaming for the hills myself if someone said that to me so I can’t blame OP for not sticking around. Two weeks could feel like two centuries if you’re reporting to someone with a major axe to grind against you.

            1. Lil Lamb*

              This is what struck me most about this update. I know being cheated on really sucks, but that sort of vindictiveness strikes me as especially vile considering there is a child involved in all this. OP isn’t the only who is hurt by being unable to find a job.

              I’m so sorry OP. I hope things work out for you.

              1. Barney Stinson*

                It’s also dumb to be that open about your intent, if you’re the ex-wife. If I found myself in her shoes and wanted to be a jerk, I wouldn’t advertise it, even with no witnesses. Dumb.

                Of course, if I found myself in her shoes I’d get myself recused from managing the LW, by supporting the LW’s transfer, etc. There’s no way I’d want that kind of potential liability hanging over my head. But that’s just me.

                1. Zombii*

                  It’s not that dumb. If the company trusted Ex-Wife’s professionalism so much that they refused to transfer LW out of a clearly terrible situation, they’re probably more likely to believe “LW is making up stories to force the transfer we denied” over believing an otherwise professional employee is making veiled threats against her new subordinate with no witnesses around. The Ex wanted her gone though. If you want to mindfuck someone, you keep quiet about your intent; if you want them to leave, you threaten them outright.

                  Some (really messed-up) people do occasional, intense, unbelievable things that are completely out of character because those things sound so unbelievable.

              2. (another) b*

                If I were the ex-wife, I would ask to NOT have to manage OP, not go looking to do it to cause trouble. Why would you want that drama?? Also, it really sucks that the company wasn’t on the side of the CURRENT employee. Terrible situation all around.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            In this scenario I don’t think the length of notice is what’s giving her the negative reference.

          3. This Daydreamer*

            When I worked retail, I saw more than one person break their two week notice because one or more managers made their work lives that miserable, and those managers were just upset because they had to hire and train someone new.

            A manager who openly delights in the prospect of revenge? I can’t even imagine how much of a nightmare those two weeks would be.

          4. HumbleOnion*

            I totally agree. Because she gave no notice, the company has the high road – “Rachel quit without notice”. They don’t have to mention anything about office strife or tensions with the manager.

            If she had approached HR & given two weeks notice, she may have been able to negotiate a positive reference, or at least a neutral reference (Rachel worked here for X dates…).

            1. Steve*

              The company was not being especially accommodating to the OP. Or reasonable. Or sane. I doubt OP could have negotiated much in that situation.

            2. Annonymouse*

              OP tried to negotiate with the company to not be under this manager and they said “Nope! Deal with it.”

              She brought forward concerns that her new boss would not treat her professionally and it would cause strain between them and make everyone’s jobs harder.

              “Don’t care, she’s awesome.” Was essentially the response.

              The company pretty much said “we love your new boss and don’t care how she treats you. Suck it up or f*** off. (We prefer if you f*** off.)”

              There is really no way OP was going to get a good or even neutral reference in these circumstances.

            3. tigerStripes*

              I think Rachel did the smart thing. The manager might have fired her, and the manager practically told Rachel that she was going to make Rachel’s life miserable at work.

        4. Earthgirl*

          Do you have any friends that you used to work with, even if they are no longer at hat given company? They can still be your reference as long as they worked with you.

        5. Ted Mosby*

          Is there anyone at either company whos info you can give, who would at least give you neutral references? What about your old boss from before Ms crazy came along? One who retired? There must be peoplea t your old company who didn’t care about other people’s drama/sex lives? Even a coworker from your old company who could say good things and end with “but Rachel wound up leaving without notice due to a person issue, which seemed unlike her.”

          BTW, it sounds like you two are doing a great job with coparenting! He/she is lucky to be so loved and cared for by two families!

        6. BarkusOrlyus*

          I’m reading this due to the most recent update and just want to say that I really admire your attitude here. It is so refreshing to see someone be honest and forthright with themselves and others. Your mom is right, and often the healthiest thing you can do is to just move on and keep looking up, which you’re doing. You have a good attitude and great people in your life—you’ll bounce back =)

  2. anonamy*

    No person’s life should be defined by a mistake, no matter how large. Admiring your resiliency in this really difficult time. I hope things get better for you. You are lucky you have family support through this, and I hope his wife’s heart softens eventually.

    1. Gordon Greene*

      Its not just one mistake. Aside from the infidelity, she left two employers under bad conditions. At least with the most recent one, she could have provided notice; failing to do so ensured that it would be hard for her to get a good reference from her most recent employer. Let’s hope its a lesson learned.

      1. Anna*

        Yes, hopefully she learned her lesson. *finger wag*

        Her most recent employer left her very few options since they were unwilling to at least get her moved out of this terrible situation. If I were the OP, I would have weighed my options after the encounter and probably felt like I needed to get out, too. Basically, the employer is punishing her twice. Once by not heeding her warnings that this would be a bad situation and second by giving her a shitty referral when her warning proved true.

        1. Ted Mosby*

          I feel for her but you can stick almost anything out for two weeks. Crazy Lady made that comment before she even started work. I’m curious if OP works in a field with really long standard notice, because I would have given my notice that day and stuck around until at least a few days into CLs tenure. I’m assuming something like, Day 1, Unpack, Day 2, Meet People, Day 3 Begin Plan to Ruin Life.

          1. Honeybee*

            Quite frankly, we don’t know what the manager had planned for her or whether the OP could’ve survived it for two weeks. It’s really easy to opine about what we would’ve done when we’re not in the situation. I don’t really blame OP for not wanting to live under 2 weeks of management from a woman who openly threatened her.

            1. nofelix*

              Ideally the threat could be brought up when giving notice, i.e.

              “I don’t believe it’s tenable for me to work under Jane due to her hostility towards me. I’m giving two weeks notice today and I hope she can remain civil during that time. If not though, I might have to leave earlier”

              It would depend on what the OP thinks Jane is capable of. It’s not worth giving 2 weeks notice if there’s a credible risk of being assaulted, false police report filed or other serious revenge tactics.

      2. atexit8*

        Providing the 2 weeks notice was not going to make one bit of difference.
        I would bet the reference being given is much stronger than “she didn’t give us 2 weeks notice”.

        1. Iris*

          Most companies that employ more than 10 people have policies not to give out any sort of reference; good or bad. If someone calls for a reference where I work, we are instructed to give them HR’s contact info and they will only verify dates of employment and salary ranges. This is because they don’t want to be held liable.

          Upon leaving, a direct supervisor will often be asked by the departing employee if they can use him or her as a reference. If they say yes, they’ll give them their cell phone number or extension at work and provide the reference outside of HR. The employee might also ask other supervisors they had contact with but didn’t report to directly to use them as a reference in the future.

          I find it hard to believe that the company she left said anything bad for liability reasons; however if you can’t provide any sort of reference from a former employer that usually sends the red flag up the pole.

          1. Chris*

            Policies are one thing, managers are another. I’ll tell you flat-out any hiring manager worth their pay has an unofficial network of industry contacts to call for reference checks that completely bypass HR or any policies they may have.

            OP would be far better off to find someone at both companies who she worked closely with, even if they weren’t the direct supervisor, who can write a short one-paragraph reference letter for her, and to explain that she left company A to avoid bringing personal issues to work as their ex was employed there, and company B due to a team restructuring that altered their work conditions significantly.

            This lets the issues be brought out into the open and left there, if desired, or discussed further in a suitably professional manner if the company she’s applying for wants to, and gives them a way to align bad reports about her they may hear from other sources with the picture she presents in resume / interview.

            Tough position. Similar to the one faced by people in my industry, who, faced with a downturn, were passed over due to fears that they would return to the industry when things picked up and deprive their new employer of a key team member. Many of them chose to delete the previous experience from their resume, and take on an entry level role to avoid the stigma, and actually get an interview (even for a janitor at Mcdonald’s).

            This may be the only choice here also, but hopefully not.

          2. Honeybee*

            Most companies? I don’t think most companies have that policy. Besides, Alison has addressed this one here before; companies can’t be held liable for giving a bad reference if the reference is TRUE.

              1. A Jane*

                It definitely is most larger companies that do this in the UK, maybe not in the US.

                1. Discordia Angel Jones*

                  It’s definitely a UK thing.

                  All of the companies I’ve worked for except for the current one (which is tiny) would only do the HR verify dates and salary thing.

        2. Ted Mosby*

          I’m just confused as to why. It’s not like they’d ask someone who was never her manager but would have been had she stayed for a reference.

      3. Bleu*

        I’d like to see this changed, given so many “at-will” employment states. It’s supposed to be a two-way street: The employer certainly can fire you at any time with no notice; you should be able to leave with no notice in such states without it destroying any chance at a reference when that’s the law and the employer can freely terminate at any time, nevermind a future job.

        1. Zombii*

          It’s deeper than that. There needs to be more of an awareness overall that if companies expect employees to give a notice period, they need to give similar consideration in return for that.

          I’ve had too many jobs where people are fired (or are taken off the schedule) without any formal warning, but managers are shocked—shocked!—when people quit without notice and gleefully tell reference checkers that this happened.

          I’d almost like to see a law prohibiting anyone from asking about how much/whether notice was given, since penalizing people for breaking no law seems to go against the spirit of that law.

          1. GermanGirl*

            Perspective from a country where we have laws about notice periods. (I am not a lawyer).

            Law 1: The employer has to give at least x weeks notice to the employee when they let them go. x depends on length of employment, it starts at 2 weeks and caps at 3 month.
            (There is an exception. When the employee has done something illegal that affects the employer, they can be fired without notice).

            Law 2: Employment contracts may include a notice period that the employee has to give, but it always has to be shorter or equal to the notice period the employer has to give. Some employers offer their senior specialists a raise on the condition that they accept an altered contract with a mutual longer notice period (I know examples of up to 6 month notice). Some companies do this in order to get a longer transition period where they can train a replacement, others do it in lieu of a non compete – you want to leave and work for our competition, fine but we still pay you for the next six month so we forbid you from working for them during that time (yes its legal to forbid full-time employees to work for anyone else).

            The upside of such laws is that it gives the employees a planning horizon and some security. The employers also can assume that their key employees will be around for a few month if they haven’t heard anything to the contrary.

            A downside for both sides is that the job market is really slow here.

            As a job seeker, be prepared that the job add you are looking at today has a start date in 3-6 month. Some companies will gladly take you on earlier, some won’t.

            As a hiring manager, remember to ask candidates about their notice period, start looking early enough, and if you really need someone soon, you’ll have to make do with temp agencies or freelancers.

            And as someone who wants to get out of a bad situation ASAP, tough luck, if the company wants you to serve your notice till the end you have to do it or risk that they sue you for damages (your salary plus the profit they’d have made had you done your work).

            Personally, I think the benefits outweigh the downsides, but then I’ve never been in a situation where I wanted out as badly as our OP here.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This is extraordinarily unkind and honestly sounds a lot like kicking someone when they’re down. OP was in a completely untenable position. I was in the “maybe your new manager [the ex-wife] will be professional” camp, but after that comment in the elevator, I would not have been able to stick out two weeks waiting for the other shoe to drop. Her company had put her in that awful position and had basically told her that they had no intention of protecting her when the ex-wife became her manager. And as OP noted in depth in the original thread, the ex-wife went out of her way to manage OP, seemingly for the primary purpose of terrorizing OP and generally making her life hell. I don’t care what happened to you or how wronged you feel—taking a job so you can terrorize someone means that you’re not really in your right mind and aren’t capable of behaving professionally with respect to that person.

        So chastising OP, when she’s already noted the limitations of what happened, seems particularly cruel. I truly hope that if commenters are ever in this kind of high-stakes, emotionally distressing situation that has really upended their lives, they won’t have people tell them that they hope they learned a lesson.

        I’ll also note that OP didn’t commit infidelity—the father of her child did.

        1. Sas*

          Thank you. + +

          Also, good comment to anonamy. I suppose some people don’t make mistakes. That must be why they can’t empathize at all.

  3. Aphrodite*

    I am sending you lots of [[[[[HUGS]]]]], OP. I am so sorry but I am also hopeful that this is the bottom for both you and the father of your child. You can only go up–and my wish is that the upswing begins very soon.

    I don’t know if this will help, but in my city one temp agency has contracts with both the local University of California (a massive employer) and the city. If someone wants to get in those places, this is the best way to do it since they often hire their temps on a permanent basis.

    You were right to get out. What a nasty, bitter and as Alison pointed out in her original comment, unhappy person. Even if she wasn’t out to “get” you it would be hellish working with someone like that.

    Please consider coming back in a few months and letting us know how you are doing.

    All my best.

    1. Managed Chaos*

      “Nasty” “bitter” and “hellish” because she’s not a fan of the woman who had sex with her then-husband? Okay.

        1. mupruhan*

          Agreed. Alison has posted here about managing someone you don’t like. Not liking someone you work with is fine, but acting on it not.

          Taking a job with the intention to not be professional and fair to someone you have a history with is unconscionable.

          1. Caro in the UK*

            Indeed. And bad things happen to bad people too. Something bad happening to you doesn’t mean that you’re a saint. And it doesn’t mean that you get a free pass to behave this way.

      1. A Teacher*

        Well yeah, the lady is being nasty and bitter and it would create a hellish work environment. I’m not saying the lady isn’t entitled to her feelings but destroying the OP isn’t really helping her situation either.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Well , the thing is, the average person gets over a nasty divorce within a couple of years, but she had to see the Op at work everyone day and then chose to take that job so she could push the Op out as some sort of final victory. It’s probably best Op left because the old out of site out of mind rule. I think Op will be able to find a new job after temping for a bit and maybe there’s someone at the old company like a peer or manager of another dept that could act as reference?

          1. BF50*

            She didn’t have to see the OP at work every day. They were only working for the same company after the two companies merged. The OP worked with the husband, not the wife, and left the job after fallout of the affair.

      2. k*

        Her actions seem to go much further than “not a fan”. Based on that comment by the elevator, she made it sound like she was going to delight in making OP’s life miserable.

        1. DecorativeCacti*

          Yeah, that made it sound like this woman was planning on going out of her way to specifically target OP. So much for professional…

      3. Mike C.*

        No, because this manager couldn’t keep her personal feelings outside of the workplace.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Yeah, she should have declined to manage OP, not seen it as a chance for revenge.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq*

            Just because it’s known doesn’t mean it’s at all an appropriate way to behave in the workplace, though.

      4. PizzaDog*

        I mean if that’s the takeaway you got from the OP’s original letter and her update, that’s fine. But, y’know.

      5. DrAtos*

        I kind of agree with this. I wonder why people here are sympathetic for this OP when only a few weeks ago most were tearing down the woman who didn’t get a job because the person she “bullied” or rather alienated in high school did not want to work with her? Having an affair with someone’s spouse would make most people in the cheated party’s shoes to at the very least not want to work with that person or at the worst get revenge for having that person destroy his or her marriage. This seems like a natural response to an act that many would consider unforgivable. I do feel bad that these OPs were unlucky enough to cross paths with people that have it out for them. We all have people in our past we’d rather never see again, but that’s life. Things like this do happen, and when they do, it is often best to move on rather than hope for the best with a person who basically hates you.

          1. DrAtos*

            Does that really change how the scorned party feels? Not by much in my opinion. An apology doesn’t erase years of therapy from bullying or a destroyed marriage. The point I guess I want to make is that little can be done to change the past and people need to fully understand the possible consequences of their actions when they decide to sleep with a married co-worker or bully a person who might end up being your boss in the future. It is nice when victims of bullying or infidelity can forgive, but they aren’t obligated to, and I don’t think most people would blame them. This is a horrible situation for OP, but I can’t say that I would have it in me to forgive my husband’s mistress. Fortunately, I never have and hopefully never will be faced with that choice.

            1. Natalie*

              In the bullying letter, the person who had been bullied said they would not work with the LW, so the LW didn’t get the job.

              In this case, the ex-wife wanted to manage her ex-husband’s affair partner and, based on the comments reported, seemed intent on using her authority for ill.

              1. Turtle Candle*

                Yes. I can totally understand “I cannot work with this person” and “I cannot manage this person.” There are people in my life that I just couldn’t look at every day. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true.

                “I actively want to manage this person so I can punish them,” on the other hand, feels well beyond the pale.

              2. DrAtos*

                I did not read the part where the ex-wife took the job only to get revenge on OP. If that is the case, I would have stayed at the job for as long as possible until I could a new job. If the ex-wife’s intent was to act unprofessionally and make OP’s life hell, I would have documented everything until I had enough evidence to make a complaint with HR. Yes, it would be hell, but it is better than being unemployed indefinitely with a child to feed. I was in a bad situation at work (not this bad) where I had to work daily with some nasty people. I dealt with it, used someone I could trust at work as a reference, and eventually found a new job. My advice to my friends has always been no matter how bad it gets stay for as long as possible, collect your paycheck, and make your job search your second full-time job in order to leave ASAP.

                1. Natalie*

                  I mean, I think it’s fine that you would have handled it that way, but not everyone is going to be willing to do that. I, for one, would not have stayed in this situation unless I was literally going to starve to death without a job.

                  But really, I’m just elucidating one of the *key* differences between the bullying LW letter and this letter.

                2. Honeybee*

                  People are actually very bad at predicting how they would feel or behave emotionally in a future situation they haven’t experienced. From the relative safety of never having experienced this woman before it is easy for us to say “I would have stuck it out and documented!” But when you’re in a real situation where someone is making your life miserable intentionally, especially with how vindictive this woman has proven to be? And who knows how long a job search would take when the OP can’t get a good reference.

            2. Jessie the First (or second)*

              “It is nice when victims of bullying or infidelity can forgive, but they aren’t obligated to, and I don’t think most people would blame them”

              Of course! The ex-wife does not have to forgive the OP. The ex-wife is free to dislike the OP – I probably would in her shoes as well.

              BUT. That does not give the ex-wife license to behave unprofessionally now. She doesn’t have free reign to abuse her position as manager to exact revenge. And so yes, people are sympathizing with the OP, because the ex-wife is justified in her FEELINGS but she is absolutely not justifed in her BEHAVIOR.

              If you cannot separate your feelings from your behavior enough to act professionally at work, you really don’t have any business being a manager.

              1. Lissa*

                Yes, I’m not getting the defense of the ex here, it seems like people are throwing up phrases like “she’s not a fan” and “she doesn’t have to forgive” but literally nobody has said that she has to forgive or be a fan. The actions here go way way beyond that and I think it’s a bit disingenuous to phrase it as “we expect forgiveness.” I actually was one who had a lot of sympathy for the OP in the bullying letter but there’s really no equivalent behaviour. That letter would only be equivalent if the former schoolmate had agreed to hire on the OP just to torment her after she got hired.

            3. Elle*

              If I remember correctly, she took the job for the sole purpose of making the OP’s life hell. That’s over the top IMO.

              1. atexit8*

                You remember correctly.
                The manager was given a choice of 2 positions. She chose the department with the OP.

                1. Student*

                  That does not mean she took the job specifically to torment the OP.

                  It’s possible there were substantive differences between them – maybe one is managing the IT help-desk and one is managing the IT senior professionals, as an example where a manager’s job expectations are similar but one department is more prestigious and impactful than the other.

                  This woman is not obligated to make significant career choices to avoid interacting with the OP. The woman’s comment to the OP in the hallway is unprofessional and a poor decision. It’s a leap we have no evidence for to decide that’s why she took the job in that specific department, though.

                2. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  The OP clarified in the comments of her first post that the positions were equal.

                3. Zombii*

                  @Student | “This woman is not obligated to make significant career choices to avoid interacting with the OP.”

                  Except that she kind of is. If you’re going to manage a department but you know that you absolutely cannot behave professionally with some in that department (for whatever reason), you are obligated to make that known and attempt to find a solution—“manage the person anyway and ignore all semblance of professionalism” is not a valid solution.

                  She didn’t need to turn down the better job, but she should have made the conflict known, like the OP did (and maybe the company would have acted reasonably to move the OP if someone else was also saying it was an issue).

                4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  It’s pretty clear from the original post, OP’s clarifications to that post, and this update that the ex-wife took the job for the primary purpose of exacting revenge on OP. She also noted that the jobs were literally identical in prestige, job function, and compensation—the only difference was whether OP was a member of the department. That’s pretty unhinged behavior.

            4. Michelle*

              Trying to ruin the OP’s work life is not going to erase the hurt, the affair or the child that resulted from it. All that is going to do is decrease the OP’s chances of securing employment so that she can support her child. Remember, the child bears no blame in the situation, yet the child is facing consequences as well.

            5. Blue*

              To the OP, I just want to say the comments at the elevator go so far beyond what a professional would ever say or act on. It also shows profoundly poor judgment both personally and professionally. I understand from the first letter that she has people above who support and even were involved in paying for her divorce court case — so her actions here might never bite her, with this employer. But so much of this is hugely outside sound judgment generally.

            6. Honeybee*

              You don’t have to forgive. You can hate that person with the fire of a thousand suns for the rest of your natural life, if you want.

              What you can’t do is use a future position of power to bully the person right back and launch a vindictive course of action aimed at ruining their career/life. There’s a difference between really disliking someone and actively trying to harm someone.

              1. Sas*

                ” There’s a difference between really disliking someone and actively trying to harm someone.” Yes.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          For me, it’s because OP is just trying to survive. She’s not out to get anyone, she just wanted to do her job and raise her child. I do have sympathy for the ex-wife, I really do. But the thing is that you need to money to survive in this world. If you don’t have money, you don’t survive. The ex can be as angry as she likes, but she and her company are interfering with a woman’s ability to live and provide for her child. So I do have a lot of sympathy for the OP and feel if the company didn’t want her there, at least don’t make it hard for her to find work.

          1. Gordon Greene*

            I see no fault in her prior employer’s actions. They did not fire her and they did not even have an opportunity to intervene if the ex was managing in a way that was inappropriate or detrimental to the OP. The woman left her most recent job with no notice because she feared what would happen when the other woman started. She could have at the very least given two weeks notice. Then, at most, she would have to deal with the ex for two weeks, but still potentially preserve her reputation and references.

            1. Insert name here*

              I agree, I think two weeks notice would have been best. I’m confused as to how the new manager controls the reference but maybe it’s a smaller company? I was recently laid off and my former employer uses a separate service to verify employment. Managers don’t normally handle the reference checks (unless you list a manager there as a reference).

              1. I used to be Murphy*

                Sure we do. I work for a 30,000 person organization and I do all my own reference checks whe hiring and give reference checks for past employees.

            2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

              Actually, they did have the opportunity. OP explains more in the original post.

            3. Steve*

              The prior employer was being completely ridiculous to say that it would be fine when clearly it would not.

            4. atexit8*

              The you honestly believe the 2 weeks notice was going to make a bit of difference?
              I don’t. When a person in this case the ex-wife is on a vendetta that bit of technicality is the least of her concern.

              1. Home Teapot*

                Also, the way it stands now, OP might be able to explain leaving without notice. She can say she had an emergency and had to move/sell her transport, or frame it around the chaos of the merger. Leaving without notice isn’t the absolute worst thing you can do.

                Right now, if the ex-wife is giving OP a bad reference, she is lying because she never worked with OP. If OP has a friend call and finds out the ex is lying, that’s the kind of thing that might give her some leverage for a neutral reference. “Hey, you told me there was nothing to worry about and now this woman is sabotaging me when she never worked with me.”

                If OP *had* stayed, the ex could say a whole bunch of stuff and it wouldn’t be as clear that she was lying. It’s harder to prove “We worked together but she’s making things up that didn’t happen” than “We never worked together but she’s claiming we did and that I was a bad employee.”

                1. Yep, me again*

                  But couldn’t OP use a colleague or a former manager (she had one before this one, right?)? I get the ‘red flags’ bit. It sucks when you can’t use a former manager as a reference.

                  Hope it works out. Sucks that it happened but at least you don’t have to report to her because she would make your life hell.

            5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Are you seriously arguing that two weeks’ notice is the defining factor, here? OP’s company put her in a position in which her future manager signaled she took the job to abuse OP, made veiled and direct threats, and gloated when OP’s employer refuse to intervene or address the issue. But she should have borne out two weeks of who-knows-how-hellacious-the-ex-would-be for appearances?

        2. Zahra*

          “at the very least not want to work with that person”

          That’s the point. She didn’t go for the position where she wouldn’t work with the OP. She purposefully took the position where she could act on her revenge fantasies. And that is not professional. Also, see what everyone says about who should shoulder the blame: the husband. Because, I promise you, if it hadn’t been OP, it would have been someone else at some point.

          1. Michelle*

            I agree Zahra. There were problems in the marriage before the incident with the OP or the husband would not have been willing to have a one-night stand.

            1. Gayle*

              If he had problems with his marriage he should have filed for divorce, not impregnated an employee.

              1. Honeybee*

                What does that have to do with anything? The point is the husband is the one who is to shoulder the blame in the marriage, not the OP.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                And so OP should pay for the bad decisions of this woman’s ex-husband, years later?

                I get that people are upset about the ex-husband’s infidelity, but the idea that that somehow makes what the ex-wife did and was trying to do to OP ok is really ugly and not at all ok.

                1. Michelle*

                  No I don’t think the OP should pay for the bad decisions of the husband. I am 100% on the
                  OP’s side. I was just pointing out that if the husband was willing to have a one night with a coworker, there were likely other problems in the marriage before OP was ever involved. Maybe the ex-wife should examine what happened prior to that and see if there red flags that signaled there were issues , instead of spending her life trying to get “revenge” on OP and her ex-husband.

                2. Michelle*

                  I don’t think OP should pay for the ex-husband’s bad decisions. I am 100% on OP’s side. Maybe instead of spending her life trying to get “revenge” on OP, the ex-wife should examine if there were red flags that there could have been trouble in her marriage before OP even entered the picture. Like @Zahra said, if it wasn’t the OP it would have been someone else. If it were someone else the ex-wife had no leverage over, ex-wife *might* have gotten over it by now because she would be unable to torpedo their professional/work life. While I do understand the ew-wife’s anger, really I do, what she is doing/did to the OP now is unreasonable.

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Thanks so much for clarifying, Michelle. I agree with you 100%.

        3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Forgot to add: I do have sympathy for the OP in the other post you mentioned, and do hope things are going well for her. The difference for me would be that at least she has the opportunity to find other work. She didn’t start working at that particular company only to be forced out.

          I agree it’s best to move on – I’ve burned my bridges with certain people and others have burned theirs with me. If we were to cross paths…well, honestly, I’m not sure what I would do! But I would hope I wouldn’t stop someone from being able to support themselves and their child.

      6. Lily in NYC*

        How about going and reading the comments in the first post before coming here with your holier-than-thou judgment?

      7. Anonymoose*

        ‘Not a fan’ = behaving professional but distant. That’s not what the New Manager did.

      8. Ted Mosby*

        I think what OP did was honestly bad (more so his fault, yes, but I still think she did a pretty bad thing). It sucks but I feel like loosing a job when this woman was hired is a pretty natural consequence. I still think what this woman is doing is way over the top. Hating her for life privately and glaring at her on the subway if they ran into each other would be pretty normal. Taking a position for the purpose or ruining her life, or even just taking the job for other reasons then reveling in the possibility and making creepy threats is way beyond normal. It also shows how miserable she still is. It’s really sad she clearly hasn’t let go of any of her anger or resentment.

        1. nonegiven*

          She already paid by losing the job she had when she had the affair. Now she had to give up this one to protect herself.

      9. Dot Warner*

        It’s OK for her to hate the OP. It’s not OK for her to ruin OP’s life, and by extension, the life OP’s kid (who didn’t ask to be brought into this situation).

    2. LVeen*

      Who wouldn’t be bitter and unhappy if their husband cheated on them and fathered a child with the other woman?

        1. Fact & Fiction*

          Or the innocent child’s life. It’s one thing to try to turn all your personal circle against the ex and “other woman” (not saying that’s completely right either) but trying to ruin them financially forever is beyond the pale. It also just feeds into a cycle of bitterness that makes your own life worse.

        2. Someone*

          I’ve never been in that situation, but I’m positive that would do everything in my power (without doing anything illegal, that is) to destroy both lives- the husband and the woman he cheated with. Because cheating would destroy my life.

          1. anonamy*

            Life is not that black and white. Holding that sort of moral high ground does no one any favors.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              I’d argue that working to do everything in one’s power to destroy the lives of others is not any sort of “moral high ground” anyway. Moral high ground = that whole “living well is the best revenge” approach, not “destroy the people who wronged you, at any cost.”

              1. Anna*

                Yeah. I believe that’s called Gladiator and any movie about revenge. Most people don’t look to live like that. For good reason.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Absolutely agreed. There is no moral high ground in going out of your way to destroy someone else’s life, and trying to convince yourself that you “deserve” the opportunity to exact that revenge is both sick and morally/ethically bankrupt.

          2. Aphrodite*

            So will bitter long-term hate and vengeance. You can be as angry as you want over cheating–certainly it is terrible–but to continue to destroy your own life because hate has become more important than healing yourself is … perhaps not the best decision for yourself.

          3. Fake Eleanor*

            Are you saying the child — the definition of an innocent party — is acceptable collateral damage? Or that you can somehow destroy the lives of both its parents without damaging the child in the process?

              1. OhNo*

                That’s like saying it’s not my job to slow down and pay attention when I see a “children at play” sign because it’s their parents’ job to watch them. But it costs me nothing to slow down in a school zone, and not doing so just because it’s “not my job” is petty.

                Being kind – in this case, even just being not actively hostile – costs nothing.

                1. Questioning*

                  I’m seeing a lot of its not OPs responsibility if she slept with a married man – it’s his responsibility to not cheat actions

                  But it is the cheated on person’s responsibility to think about those who her actions are affecting.

                  While this managers actions are way over the line for pretty much any standard and I can’t get on board with the extremes. If she took her half and left the OP and her baby’s father in a bad financial situation I don’t think she would be out of line.

                  We either get to say that those affected by our actions matter or they don’t.

                2. Anon today...and tomorrow*

                  I have a friend who has been divorced for nearly 20 years. Her ex was a serial cheater who finally left her and married a woman totally removed from his cheating on her. My friend and her ex have a child together. Her ex has children with the new wife. My friend actively hates the wife and children. She says nasty things about the kids (“ugly”, “stupid”, “dumber than a bag of rocks”, etc) and most of the time her daughter – the half sibling of these children she’s disparaging! – is in the room.

                  FWIW, bitterness is not a good look on anyone. It makes people small, petty, and mean. My friend ends up leaving parties early because we enforce the “if you can’t say something nice, stay silent” rule. Bitterness has a way of taking away that ability. It moves you to automatic negativity.

              2. Fact & Fiction*

                Actually as a grown adult who can consider the consequences of her actions, it is. People can’t claim oh the cheating parties have to face the consequences of their choices and actions and somehow claim the other party is magically absolved of doing the same. Being a victim of cheating doesn’t mean you get a free pass to do whatever you want to destroy others around you.

              3. Jessie the First (or second)*

                It’s not her job to exhibit basic human decency? I disagree. I mean, anyone is free to allow resentment eat them up, and to make choices based on what would cause the most harm to people who have wronged them, and anyone is free to ignore that innocent people get damaged and hurt in the process – but that doesn’t make you a good person. Go for it. But don’t expect an admiring audience when you decide innocent children aren’t as important as your own personal vendetta.

                1. Browser*

                  Who said they were a good person or that they want admiration? Exwife obviously doesn’t give a flying flip about the child, and it’s not her responsibility to. She’s not looking to be lauded for her opinion, she probably knows the consequences to her choice and has made it anyway.

                2. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  I am not sympathetic to the “it’s not my job to care about a kid” is my point. I find that attitude generally reprehensible.

                3. Browser*

                  But no one is asking you to be sympathetic or approve. The facts of life are that people have different priorities and considerations and they aren’t going to always make decisions that you agree with or approve of.

                  You don’t have to like it, but you do need to acknowledge that it happens.

                4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  No, the problem is that the argument being advanced is that it’s morally defensible to use the “eye for an eye” approach and not only take out the eye of the person who harmed you, but to try to blind a person one step removed and another person who did not in any way contribute to the situation.

                  People can defend this woman’s actions as much as they want, but there is no ethical system and no moral philosophy that supports the idea that if someone hurts you, you get to hurt three times that many people. There is no moral superiority in making a life-long commitment to bitterness and revenge.

                5. Lehigh*

                  Honestly, I don’t see how the child is relevant. The ex-wife’s behavior is unprofessional, obviously. But the child doesn’t make it more or less bad. We don’t consider people’s children in their employment in any other situation (apart from family leave). For example, if a manager decides to fire an employee for a real infraction, it’s not on the manager to figure out how that employee’s children are going to eat.

                  I get that it feels different to some commenters because this kid is in some way “related” to the ex-wife, but…they’re really not family, and the child is really not relevant to workplace decisions.

                  The workplace decisions are bad, to be clear.

                  (Although, like other commenters, I don’t see this level of fall-out as completely out of left field. Adultery is a very dangerous business and yes, the consequences sometimes do go on and on and on. And yes, this level of resentment, bitterness, etc. could be reasonably assumed to be also destroying the ex-wife’s life as well and it would be much better for her and everyone if she could move on.)

              4. Insert name here*

                I do notice an awful lot of people saying it wasn’t the OP’s job to worry about the now ex wife and OP owed her nothing, which is something I see often when cheating occurs. Like, yes, I would be more upset with my husband if he cheated on me, but I do think the “other man or woman” has an obligation to not be a terrible person and knowingly sleep with someone who is married and in a closed relationship.
                If you (general you) are going to argue that OP owed the ex nothing then I don’t see how you can turn around and say ex owes OP or her child anything. Personally if I were the ex I wouldn’t ever want to see the OP again, I can be vindictive and I’d probably talk up a good game to my friends but I wouldn’t trash her professional reputation…but the IDEA of doing so would be tempting. I said in her other thread I would be more likely to move and that’s still true.

                1. Kate*

                  Agreed! I noticed that a lot in the previous post. So many people were saying that it wasn’t OP’s fault that the manager’s husband cheated, and that she owed the manager nothing and that she wasn’t hurting the manager, the husband was, since OP hadn’t promised to be faithful to the manager. And I was like, “Whaaaaat????”.

                  If a husband stole his wife’s jewelry and sold it to me, unscrupulous store owner, and I, knowing it was stolen, kept it and didn’t report the crime, I am hurting his wife and behaving immorally and I know it.

                  Like you it stuns me that people are now saying that even though LW didn’t behave decently towards the manager, manager is expected to do so for LW. Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways.

                2. Natalie*

                  @ Kate, but that’s generally what we expect of people as part of professionalism.

                  I don’t think anyone is saying the Ex has to be friends with the LW, or even be cordial to her at the grocery store. But it’s completely inappropriate to use one’s professional position to enact revenge. If the Ex truly cannot work with the LW, the professional (and I think perfectly understandable) thing to do would be to either transfer LW to a different department or at least let her go in a way that allows her to collect unemployment.

                3. JGray*

                  I don’t disagree with you on your point about anyone owing anyone anything but we don’t know what the husband said to the OP. I also think that there were probably other things going on in their marriage that has caused the woman’s reaction. She also hasn’t said (or if she did I missed it) if the new boss & husband have kids or not. I think it’s probably worse for their kids if there are kids but I’m guessing their isn’t because of the resentment that she is holding again the OP. As someone who has been cheated on I can tell you that the hurt is beyond imaginable especially when you are married & have kids together. I think that the new boss should probably get some professional help to deal with her hurt which is coming out as anger- it’s not healthy for her.

                4. Susie*

                  OP mentioned in a reply in her first letter that they did not have kids together and the only contact the ex-wife and him have is done through lawyers.

          4. Hibiscus*

            No, you would destroy your own life. Because a life spent in pursuit of vengeance is ultimately hollow and empty.

            1. Kbo*

              The thing is, sometimes people don’t realise that until too late.

              I’m a child of divorce because of cheating, so I’m really not a fan of the OP’s actions. But she acknowledged and continues to acknowledge her responsibility and just wants to try to live her life. The ex might be thinking now “check! another one down”, but she can’t live there mentally forever. It’ll destroy her.

          5. Salamander*

            I’ve always assumed that if I exercise my power of choice to behave poorly, then I can sure expect that others will exercise their power of choice behave poorly toward me.

          6. nonegiven*

            OK, now she has destroyed both their lives. Neither one is doing anything besides temping and trying to support the kid with the help of the grandparents.


          7. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            In the 1950s, my mother was cheated on by her abusive second husband, who impregnated his affair partner. My mom wanted a family more than anything, but could not conceive. She…begged them to let her have the child and raise it as her own rather than give it up for adoption.
            (It didn’t happen, I don’t remember why, sorry.)
            She also became very good friends with his next abused wife, after they also divorced (my brother and I played with her grandkids, growing up.)
            Not everyone is vindictive.

        3. sunny-dee*

          Yeah, I have observed many relationships to the contrary here. When one person is badly wronged, it’s really common for that to turn vindictive. And this was a really big wrong. The child (in her eyes) isn’t an innocent bystander, it’s salt in the wound.

          1. Fact & Fiction*

            Yes but she’s a grown adult who is responsible to heal from her own emotional wounds and consider the consequences of her own actions after her initial hurt fades. Years later, she can certainly stop viewing the child as “salt in the wound” and consider the impact she’s having on an actual human being.

            1. sunny-dee*

              Not necessarily. The OP mentions alimony, but not child support. Assuming that her baby daddy isn’t decades older with grown children, that means that he and his ex didn’t have kids.

              What is the ex *couldn’t* have kids or if her husband kept avoiding having kids? That is a huge blow, especially if after years of wanting, all of a sudden Mistress has a bundle of joy and ex has nothing.

              I’m not saying that’s the case, but if it were something like that … yeah, child would always remain salt in the wound, because there are a lot of wounds there.

              (The woman still needs to heal for her own mental health hugely, but I’m not entirely sympathetic to the OP basically saying “get over these terrible things I did to you already.”)

              1. TootsNYC*

                I don’t think that’s an accurate representation of our OP’s point of view.

                I had the impression our OP understands the hurt and anger and would like to not interact with her for both their sakes.

                And of course our OP sees the wounds inflicted up close, so she sees that side too.

              2. Amy the Rev*

                I don’t think anyone is asking the ex-wife to ‘get over’ it, but to ‘act in a professional manner and keep your private vendettas out of the workplace’ which is a very reasonable thing to expect anyone in the workforce to do.

              3. Fact & Fiction*

                I mean…I’m devastated that my husband has reneged on my deep and abiding desire to have more than one child, a dream of mine since I was a child, and i often struggle with bitterness that many others have what I do desperately want. I’m still responsible for how I treat others with relation to my own inner pain.

                I am not excusing the mistakes the cheating parties made. But the wronged party in no way gets s free pass to do whatever whenever so long as it punishes the other two.

                Note I’m only referring to her ongoing vindictive actions, not whatever actions she took during her divorce to obtain what she felt fair.

                1. sunny-dee*

                  Except the “whatever” is one single comment to the OP. Everything else either is totally normal for a legal proceeding or speculation.

                  The kid’s home environment is the result of bad choices by her parents. That really sucks, but it’s not on the ex wife to fix the bad outcomes of her husband and his mistress.

                2. Amy the Rev*

                  I don’t think anyone is saying that the ex-wife wasn’t legally entitled to whatever she won in the divorce proceedings, but that tanking someone’s references and expressing, in the workplace, a glee at having the opportunity to make someone’s life difficult, are absolutely over-the-top, no matter how much we may empathize with why she wants to do that.

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  sunny-dee, that’s an inaccurate and really minimizing synopsis of what OP has told us with respect to the ex-wife’s actions and spoken intentions.

                4. sunny-dee*

                  @Princess Consuela, it’s not minimizing the WORK-RELATED portions of the OP’s story. There are three things (in my read) in play RELATED TO THE OP’S ACTUAL WORK SITUATION, WHICH FEW PEOPLE ARE COMMENTING ON:

                  1. The OP lost job #1 because of the scandal and fallout from the affair / divorce. The OP never said that the Ex told clients about th affair; she does say clients found out and gossip across both clients and coworkers included a lot of false crap which contributed to her firing.

                  2. The Ex made a comment where she strongly implied she would make the OP’s working life hell and the OP (not entirely unreasonably) quit more or less on the spot rather than giving two weeks’.

                  3. No one — aside from one manager who retired — is willing to give the OP a reference. Out of 12 years, not one single coworker, team lead, manager from another department, vendor, client, no one. This is the thing that is costing her jobs now and is the single biggest red flag in the entire thing.

                  What I am saying is that the Ex’s direct influence (and vindictiveness) TO THE OP is basically limited to that one comment and the subsequent quitting and job hunt. Everything related to the affair and divorce is salacious and it’s why that’s where all the attention goes. (For all of us, for her past coworkers, for pretty much everyone.) But it’s largely irrelevant.

                  The work-related questions here are:

                  1. I had a toxic boss (sort of) at a previous job and it’s hurting my reference checking.
                  2. I have no references despite my work history; how do I get a new job.

                  And people have given some advice for 1 and 2. It’s just buried in discussions of whether the ex wife was unfair in her divorce settlement.

                5. Tempest*

                  Sunny-dee you are really minimizing the actions against the OP here. (And the ex as the same was done to him.)

                  Someone spread it around that the affair happened on company time repeatedly. The truth according to OP is she slept with him one time, on their own time. The first company then lost a lot of business, had to let a bunch of people go, took away a bunch of perks from the remaining staff and started managing them really closely compared to before. Therefore all the remaining staff and certainly those who ‘lost their job because of OP and Ex Husband’ are anti-OP and unlikely to function as a reference. I’m not sure if I read the Rachel say she knows the rumour about sex on work’s time came from the ex wife, so I won’t state that, but if she was served the subpoena while having the child, the divorce must have been underway fairly quickly after the cheating so the OP should be able to determine the source of the rumour pretty easily as I’m guessing her and ex husband didn’t run around saying they’d done it. Thus the job she spent the most time in – 8.5 years – is the one from which she has no reference because someone spread false rumours she’d been having a long running affair with her colleague on work time and now everyone from that job blames her for the fall out with clients and management. Again, as that wasn’t true and didn’t happen on work’s time, the sleeping with a married man part isn’t great, but it’s also none of her work’s business. My understanding is that ex wife worked somewhere else, so it’s not like she’d be crying about her situation around the water cooler at OP’s job. So if the situation wasn’t made into something it wasn’t – ie everyone thinking she’d been running off on company time to participate in Duck Club she might have a reference out of that job. But she doesn’t because everyone was lead to believe they should hate her for something that didn’t happen the way those people were told it did.

        4. Intimidation wins*

          I actually think everyone takes this woman too seriously.

          I am sure that she is just seeking to intimidate OP into quitting. Job well done, ex-wife.
          Obviously if she wanted active revenge, she would have done so already. And if she did anything of merit, HR would investigate or the police would be called.

          I am not making light of the circumstance but I have seen this workplace intimidation stuff before, and it usually ends with someone quitting and the boss being pleased.

          1. Honeybee*

            …this woman has already engaged in active revenge. Did you read the comments on the other post?

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It sounds like she’s pretty actively interfering with OP’s job search, and I think it’s naive to think that HR would investigate or the police would be called.

        5. Student*

          So far, the woman made a mean comment once in the hallway to the OP.

          It’s more boast than threat, though I can fully understand why the OP decided to leave promptly because of it.

          That’s pretty far from trying to destroy the OP’s life.

          1. Honeybee*

            Did you read the comments on the other thread? The woman has already done more than that to the OP when they weren’t working together.

        6. Ted Mosby*

          Or truly view her as having “shattered” mine.

          When you go through a bad breakup/divorce and the other person treats you really terribly, you generally come to realize they weren’t the great partner you thought. I wouldn’t like OP if I were that woman, but I wouldn’t think she had ruined my marriage or my life. I would think my husband had ruined our marriage and try to remind myself daily I deserved someone 1000x better than him. Even if OP didn’t exist, cheaters gonna cheat. No one can steal someone who doesn’t want to be stolen.

      1. Rainy, PI*

        …at their husband. Who had agreed to be sexually exclusive, and broke that promise.

        Like, it’s fine to be angry, but maybe be angry at the right person.

        1. Mike C.*

          This is what I keep coming to. I’ve been cheated on before, and I never felt angry at the other guy. He didn’t agree to be monogamous, my ex did.

          Also, I’m really disheartened at all the stories about people cheating on each other than then successfully getting revenge. Human beings make mistakes and it hurts but it doesn’t give you an excuse to go Kaiser Soze on everyone else involved.

          1. Cat*

            It sounds like most of what the ex-wife did was assert her financial rights. That can be ruinous but isn’t necessarily “revenge.”

            1. Mike C.*

              The ex-wife is the manager mentioned in the elevator. It’s one thing to claim assets or alimony, it’s another thing entirely to try and ruin the OP’s career.

              1. Cat*

                Sure, but one comment doesn’t equal trying to ruin someone’s career either, no matter how ill-advised. So far all we know that she’s actually done is to play financial hard ball in the divorce.

                1. Cat*

                  And to be clear, I’m not necessarily defending the ex either. I just think we don’t have much information to start declaring a total stranger to be a nasty, vindictive person, especially a total stranger who has gone through as much as this woman has.

                2. Mike C.*

                  Given all the other facts mentioned in the previous two letters, what would you consider sufficient evidence?

                3. Cat*

                  Normally I’d at least want to hear the other side of the story. We can support and advise OP without assuming we know everything about the ex-wife’s motives and actions.

                4. LSP*

                  I feel like the manager would have probably held more sway with the company and could have requested that OP be moved to a difference position. Instead, the comment in the elevator makes her sound like she was looking forward to either making OP miserable or making OP so uncomfortable that she quit a job she desperately needed.

                  It’s an awful situation for everyone involved, and everyone has been hurt in some way here. The ex-wife has every right to be angry, but I’m thinking there are much more mature and professional ways to deal with it.

                5. JB (not in Houston)*

                  Cat, the OP mentioned in a comment in the previous post that this woman specifically took this job over another when she heard she would be managing the OP. Did you read the comment that NK linked to above? This woman definitely seems to be out to ruin the OP’s life, and as a consequence, that of her child.

                6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Cat, we give OPs the benefit of the doubt. You can be skeptical, but OP gave us a lot of information of what this woman did during the divorce, after the divorce, and prior to taking this job post-merger. And one of the many things she did was go out of her way to humiliate OP, which had nothing to do with the ex-wife asserting her legal or financial rights during the divorce.

                  We’ve been given a lot of direct and circumstantial evidence that the ex-wife holds a toxic grudge, and when the opportunity became available, went out of her way to place herself in a position to destroy OP’s work life… and then, after all of that evidence, she flat out told OP she intended to crush her. What more evidence do you want?

            2. KellyK*

              While asserting financial rights isn’t revenge, some of what the ex-wife did definitely falls into that category This bit is particularly spiteful:
              When I was subpoenaed to testify in the divorce, she sent someone to serve me at the hospital just after I had given birth, in front of my family, friends, colleagues and the staff while paying the guy extra to loudly and publicly announce I was being served because I knowingly had a baby with a married man. At that point I had not told anyone yet that he was the father (my colleagues) or that he was married (everyone else).

              1. KellyK*

                Blockquoting didn’t work, but the second paragraph is a quote from the comment NK linked above. If it was worth extra money to her to embarrass the OP as much as possible in the course of serving her a subpoena, it seems silly to expect her *not* to do similar things at work, where it costs her nothing. Especially when she all but stated her intention to do so. It’s awfully charitable to read that elevator conversation as anything but, “I’m going to make you pay.”

              2. Managed Chaos*

                That has to be an exaggeration. How would the server have known she was at the hospital then? Even the hospital wouldn’t have been able to release that information? Unless she or the baby’s father were dumb enough to give the information to his now-ex wife.

                1. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  It’s what the OP said happened, and the commenting rules are to take the OP at her word. She added a number of details in the comments that really support the narrative that this woman has gone way beyond reasonable here.

                2. Nephron*

                  A non-private Facebook page and a scheduled birth? It is surprisingly easy to find out about people in the modern age and while I believe in high privacy settings many do not fully understand how they work. Honestly, the LW could have been in the hospital and a family member of friend posted about the delivery going well and this was seen by the now ex-wife.

                3. Cafe au Lait*

                  You can allow the hospital to give your room number to anyone who asks. My cousins did, and I was able to see them and new baby without needing a passcode or anything. When my husband was in the ER, he was asked if anyone called could the hospital release that he was there.

                  Hospitals aren’t some locked down, need-a-retinal-scan-for-information places we like to them of them. At my local hospital, I’m not asked who I’m seeing or where my appointment is located. I’m just asked if I’ve been out of the country, or do I have a cold or flu. Sometimes they’ll ask if I need directions to my appointment. But it’s never an interrogation.

                4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  It’s pretty easy for a process server to find you in the hospital, and it wouldn’t take much for the ex-wife to figure this out (even if no one told anyone or put it on Facebook). I’ve seen people served in the hospital by people who have no reason to know they were in the hospital—if you’re in a moderately-sized city and are willing to pay enough, there are process servers who can do exactly what OP described.

                  I get that people may not feel sympathetic toward OP, but minimizing what she’s experienced and otherwise suggesting she’s exaggerating or lying is really not ok.

              3. John B Public*

                The phrase “Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress” comes to mind. I wonder if OP can pursue this legally?

                1. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  IIED is one of the most difficult torts to prove. This situation is awful, but I don’t think it’s within the realm of legal recourse, and apparently the OP’s had a couple of lawyers tell her the same.

              4. MyFakeNameIsLaura*

                I missed this in the original comments and omg that might deserve an award for Ultimate Petty. DANG

            3. Ann O.*

              She also used the legal system to harass the OP in the hospital after labor. IMHO, that’s pretty low. Like, I might cheer it on in a move or TV show if things were set up the right way, but I don’t think there’s any call for that in real life.

          2. Rainy, PI*

            Mike, same. I’ve been cheated on, and I had no feels one way or the other about the other person, but I sure was angry with my partner. :)

            1. Night Cheese*

              You all are a much bigger people than I am.

              I have never been cheated on and can’t imagine what that kind of betrayal feels like, but I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t be angry at the other person. I’d be the angriest at my partner, sure, but if the other person were like LW and had the affair knowing that my partner was married? There’s responsibility in that too.

              Granted, I wouldn’t be angry enough that after years had gone by I’d go out of my way to put my career on the line to continue to go after the other person. Would I like her? Absolutely not, but if I got what I wanted out of the divorce and came out on top (which sounds like what’s happened for the Ex) I might walk a little taller instead.

              1. Rainy, PI*

                It’s not hard, in my opinion, to be a bigger person when you know that your partner made a decision to have sex with someone else in full knowledge that you had an explicit agreement of exclusivity (or whatever agreement you had that your partner broke) and the other person was, at worst, guilty of not caring about someone they’d never met (me).

                Like, do I think that the woman that my guy slept with has terrible taste in men? Yes, and I should know, because I made the same mistake. :D Do I think that she had *some* idea it wasn’t on the level? Yes. But in the end, since my boyfriend didn’t suffer a massive pants failure and then trip and fall dick-first into some random woman’s vagina on the sidewalk in front of a Couche-Tard or something, he’s the one who’s at fault. :)

                1. Mike C.*

                  since my boyfriend didn’t suffer a massive pants failure and then trip and fall …

                  It’s so inconvenient when that happens.

              2. Anon for This.*

                Agreed. I have been, in a very similar situation to the OP (we all worked at same place, it was with a coworker after a work event), about 3 years ago. Yes, I was/am furious with my partner, but I also harbor secret dreams of seeing her on the street and pushing her into traffic (maybe I’ll get lucky and have a “bird” defense?). She knew me, ffs, and while we weren’t close friends, you just don’t DO that. If she applied for a job here? I’d go full freaking nuclear to keep her out, and if I arrived somewhere to learn that I managed her? I can’t say I’d be a kind enough person to be civilly cold. And why should I have to turn down a new opportunity for a new job because she was there? I shouldn’t – I am the fully innocent party here. I hope I wouldn’t make threats by the elevator, but frankly, I can’t promise I wouldn’t. I’d just want her gone.

                So OP, I’m truly not trying to pile on. I obviously have Opinions. It sounds like you understand it’s the bed you’ve made, and want to move on – and in the abstract, I truly applaud that. Others on this thread have given you some solid advice on how to handle the job searching/reference issue. I certainly don’t want you to starve, and I wouldn’t want you to pay forever for past behavior. I just hate that everyone is saying terrible things about the Ex; I just know I wouldn’t have it in me to be professional in this particular situation, and I’m not a terrible person who is only blaming the “other woman” for the issue: I’m blaming them all and don’t want to be around any of them.

          3. Amy the Rev*

            Agreed. My dad had a sortof-affair when I was 14 and my parents separated for several years (they’re actually back together now!), but I still saw my dad every day and had a great relationship with him. I think one of the ways I coped with my feelings at the time was to put all my anger and feelings of betrayal and hurt onto the woman my dad had his sortof-affair with, instead of my dad, because I loved him and was so sad that he was moving out, and I don’t think my 14 year old brain knew how to reconcile loving and being so so angry at the same time….

            And then when I was in grad school, a classmate of mine (who had a girlfriend) and I became very close, and the situation was very reminiscent of the sortof-affair my dad had. Cue heaps and heaps of self-loathing, which only years later I realized came from the fact that in order to emotionally survive my teenage years, I had internalized the idea that affairs are always the fault of the ‘other woman,’ in whom resides 100% of the blame, and who are then by default horrible people Whose Names We Do Not Speak.

            If I had been able to go back and tell my young self to recognize that that lady wasn’t the one who broke my dad’s wedding vows, I would’ve saved myself a lot of heartache and therapy hours 10 years later.

          4. Tomato Frog*

            All else being equal, I’d rather be married to someone who had a one-night stand than someone whose idea of a treat is a chance to use their professional position to threaten and punish someone who slept with their spouse. *shudder*

          5. Lora*

            Now I’m trying to think of occasions when going all Kaiser Soze would be 100% appropriate.

            I was mad and absolutely devastated that my ex cheated on me, but if he had hurt or killed my pets, I would have ended him. Or if he’d been a child molester, then yeah, I’d have made sure he was worm food. At the very least I’d have made sure his crimes followed him to the grave.

            As it was he was merely a cheater and a loser, so good riddance to bad rubbish. Plus, the woman he cheated with dumped him 6 months later, so in the event that I ever meet her I’ll probably give her a high five and buy her a beer. Well done whatshername for breaking his heart after he broke mine!

        2. Stellaaaaa*

          I’m personally of the opinion that the blame for an affair lies with the married person, but if the single person knows about the marriage, he or she maybe needs to think about the kind of person they want to be.

            1. Nonprofit manager*

              OP met the father of her child at work, so this situation was introduced in a professional setting.
              I’m not saying OP deserves this treatment – I also agree with some comments that we only know one side of the story – but this is perhaps an extreme example of why one night stands with people you work with (particularly if you know they are married) are not great ideas.

              1. Mike C.*

                They weren’t having sex at work, and it speaks nothing to the things one would normally associate with a professional reference. Things like attendance, work product and so on.

          1. Yogi Josephina*

            Agreed entirely. I find it really disheartening how many people are trying to absolve the other woman of all wrongdoing.

            Knowingly having an affair with a partnered person (who doesn’t have an understanding of open-ness or agreement with their partner) is wrong. Period. And people who do it are wrong. And not very nice people.

            It’s less their fault than the spouse, fine, I’ll grant you that, but they are not blameless and it is ABSOLUTELY appropriate to be angry at them. You should be able to expect that someone would find out your partner is committed to you and go, “no thank you.” It’s the bare minimum of human decency.

            Come on now.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t think many (any?) people are absolving the letter writer of all wrongdoing. But she doesn’t need to be berated about it; she’s stated that she knows she’s made a mistake. There’s no point in beating her over the head with it when she already gets it.

              And I don’t think anyone takes issue with a cheated-upon spouse being angry. The issue here is the gleeeful vindictiveness of the ex, not that she’s angry.

              1. Kate*

                A lot of people seem to be though. They keep saying that the ex-wife has no right to be angry at LW and that the only person ex-wife can be mad at is her ex-husband.

                One person seems to be saying it is fine not to care about other human beings if they are strangers.

                Others seem to be making the argument that there is no such thing as a social moral contract, or that we shouldn’t expect people to behave decently (not cheat, lie, steal, etc) unless they have made explicit promises to do so.

                I mean, I don’t explicitly promise friends or family members that I won’t steal when I visit their houses, or that I won’t intentionally break their things when I am angry with them, but I doubt that commenters would say it is okay to do so since I haven’t explicitly promised in a binding legal ceremony that I wouldn’t.

                1. Natalie*

                  I can’t believe I actually get to use this cliche, but I think you’re taking those comments out of context. They’re each statements in a discussion of what an appropriate reaction might be, not standalone judgments on what the Ex Wife should feel.

                2. Lissa*

                  I haven’t seen anyone say she has no right to be angry at the LW at all, just that her actions are way disproportionate. A lot of people have philosophies about who is more to blame in a cheating situation and I don’t really think they are relevant here tbh, I mean honestly even if the LW had cheated on her that would still not be OK behaviour IMO.

                  And there’s arguments about not caring on either side, like people saying it’s not the ex’s job to care about the child, so that goes both ways…

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Literally no one has said the ex-wife has no right to be angry at OP. And I have yet to read anyone say there’s “no such thing as a social moral contract” or that people shouldn’t be expected to “behave decently.” In fact, several people have said that the ex-wife is entitled to her feelings, but she’s not entitled to go out of her way to exact her version of vengeance/retribution on OP by using the workplace as her weapon.

                  I think the desire to judge whether the ex or OP is the most “blameworthy” is crowding out how people are reading other comments and whether they’re willing to entertain the idea that something bad can happen, and it still doesn’t make it ok for you to behave abusively to someone. This is a horrible situation, and it’s ok to say “this really really sucks” without also trying to absolve anyone from their role in the horribleness.

                4. nonegiven*

                  > They keep saying that the ex-wife has no right to be angry at LW

                  OK, the ex had her revenge at the hospital, she also ran OP out of her previous job.

                  Now she runs her out of another job and leaves both parents of an innocent child barefoot. There needs to be a limit. How much revenge is she entitled to? Where does it stop?

              2. Anon today...and tomorrow*

                Exactly. The LW knows that she did something wrong. She isn’t trying to spin it any other way. The ex-wife is justifiably angry but that doesn’t give her the right to actively destroy the lives of the spouse, the LW, or the child. LW and Spouse made a bad decision but there didn’t seem to be any spitefulness in the one night stand. The ex-wife seems to be operating only on being spiteful.

              3. Yep, me again*

                I think, in some very small way, the OP foiled the ex-wife’s plans. This woman can’t make her life the hell she wanted too, and probably will not know-unless the ex-husband tell hers-the trouble she’s having now.
                LW-take the win where you can get it.

            2. Ann O.*

              I agree that it’s wrong to knowingly have an affair with someone married, but I don’t think it defines a person as not very nice. Almost all humans put our own interests over those of someone who is imaginary to us, and desire is very powerful. IMHO, it’s not a personal betrayal the way a partner cheating is, and I can’t imagine wanting to ruin the life of a partner’s one-night stand (and I’ve been cheated on, so it’s not like I don’t know what it feels like!)

              1. Lissa*

                Yeah. It’s a crappy thing to do, but if everyone who did a crappy thing was a crappy person, there’d be like 5 good people ever (and I sure wouldn’t be one of them).

                Thank you for your last bit as well! I keep seeing this assumption that if someone doesn’t feel as strongly, they must not have experienced (cheating, bullying, etc.) and that just isn’t true. Sure, everyone comes to something through one’s own lens but none of those are more valid than another.

                1. Lizzy*

                  I’m not even sure there would be 5 good people ever. Like, that may be stretching it lol.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                YES. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again—we are more than the worst thing we’ve done.

                It’s really easy to moralize about things “we’d never do,” but good people do bad things and it doesn’t mean that they’re no longer capable of good, are suddenly bad-hearted, or are “not very nice.” It means they’re human.

                1. Anonamy*

                  I love seeing how empathetic some readers are. I’ve made some pretty terrible mistakes in life and know I’m still learning from them.

        3. many bells down*

          Yes, my ex-husband cheated on me multiple times. Some of the women knew he was married, and I was annoyed with them, but I also knew that my ex was a fast-talking con artist who could make the most outlandish premise seem reasonable. I’m sure he gave them some perfectly plausible story about how our marriage was open, or I was bisexual so maybe I’d like her too, or something.

      2. Bea*

        I’d be hurt and angry but I wouldn’t destroy a life in return. I don’t get done with “an eye for an eye.”

        A child was brought into the picture and that kid deserves a stable home. Not watching their parents struggle to take care of them and being forced to live with their grandparents because adults fooled around.

        Cheating is wrong, it’s still not murder or anything that deserves a life sentence.

      3. FiveWheels*

        The “other woman” didn’t cheat. The husband is the one who cheated. I can understand having a very strong emotional reaction against “the other woman” but being vindictive towards her, when she had no relationship of trust with you in the first place, is wrong.

        1. Yogi Josephina*

          I agree being vindictive against her is unproductive, but being angry at her is totally justified.

          The fact that the other woman had no relationship of trust with you isn’t really true. It’s baseline human decency to expect that someone won’t try to sleep with your committed partner. There IS just a general trust there that people shouldn’t attempt that or agree to that.

          Let’s not make excuses for the “other woman” just because “she wasn’t the one who made vows.” Just because you didn’t overtly promise something doesn’t mean you’re not doing something wrong. I’m not promising outright to not murder someone, but that sure as hell means I don’t get to say, “hey, I never PROMISED I wouldn’t, so I didn’t do anything wrong!” if I do.

          I agree with Rachel that getting out was the right thing to do, and I don’t think she’s a bad person, as she’s clearly learned from this mistake. But “the other woman is blameless!” generally speaking, is just false.

          1. Yogi Josephina*

            Bleh, I wrote that wrong. “That sure as hell doesn’t mean I get to say,” is what I meant.

          2. Insert name here*

            Yes, I absolutely agree with that. Like I have a general trust I won’t get shot when I walk to my car after work, or that I won’t get shot when I walk out to my car from my house, or that I won’t get robbed when I’m walking down the street (I mean sure, sometimes that happens, but then we can agree the perp is a scumbag). If we are going down the slope of “OP owed ex nothing and had no obligations towards her” you can keep on going in all kinds of directions, and I don’t think that’s particularly useful in a at least semi-polite society.

            If someone’s s/o comes onto me, I’m definitely going to rebuff them (and I would do so even if I were single) rather than thinking “Sure, why not, I don’t owe their s/o a thing!” I just thought that was the decent thing to do, but apparently I actually have no obligation to do so. That’s an interesting perspective I’d say.

            1. Statler von Waldorf*

              There’s a mighty big line between sleeping with a willing partner and shooting a random person. I don’t think this slope is as slippery as you are making it sound.

              1. Insert name here*

                I still think sleeping with a willing partner that you KNOW is married because “hey I don’t owe him/her anything so whatever!” is a crappy thing to do and in my experience people who do that tend to be selfish in other aspects of life too.

          3. Amy the Rev*

            I mean, in a way, by electing your representatives/senators who make laws, your executives who nominate judges and your reps/sens who confirm them, you do somewhat enter into an agreement that you’ll follow the laws they write/pass/interpret, including not to murder. Granted it’s not a perfect system because your preferred candidate might not get elected or they might one day enact a law you dont agree with, but I think the argument still stands that in the social contract sense, by participating in a democracy you are agreeing to not break the laws that come out of it.

          4. Statler von Waldorf*

            I disagree strongly with this. You are comparing someone not keeping a promise that they never made with murder. One is a capital crime, the other is simply not. Murder is wrong whether you promised to do it or not. We don’t put people in jail for murder because they promised to not kill someone and broke their word. We put them in jail because they KILLED SOMEONE. The broken promise has absolutely nothing to do with it.

            Comparatively, you are blaming the “other woman” strictly on your own moral codes. There is no law against sleeping with a married person. All you have is an appeal to baseline human decency, which I disagree with. Furthermore, you are assuming the other woman is omniscient. In every case of adultery I’ve seen, the cheating partner lies in some way, shape or form. I’ve never once heard of a case where a cheating husband told his potential partner about how happy he and his wife were, and how faithful they were to eachother. It usually is a pack of lies designed to make him as sympathetic as possible.

            So yeah, I’ll make all the excuses for the “other woman.” I’ll even point out that this is a personal matter to me, as my 12 year marriage ended due to infidelity. I don’t blame the other guy, because he didn’t make me any promises. I 100% blame my ex-wife, who actually betrayed the promise she made to me.

            1. YogiJosephina*

              I disagree strongly with all of this. The idea that “I didn’t promise you anything and dont know you therefore I don’t owe you baseline respect” is frankly absurd, and a little frightening to me, to be honest.

              It was VERY CLEAR I was referring to those who knowingly sleep with committed people when they know that’s not the arrangement they have with their partner. Hence my actual use of the word, “knowingly.”

              And while we’re talking moral codes, you don’t get to apply yours as blanket either. You don’t think the guy with your ex did anything wrong? Fine. But you certainly don’t get to claim that is the blanket truth just because you personally aren’t bugged by it.

              There is a social contract. The fact that something isn’t illegal doesn’t mean you’re not wrong for doing it. The analogies we’ve put forth make perfect sense. Just because they’re not PERFECT doesn’t mean the general idea doesn’t hold water.

              But we’ll agree to disagree.

              1. Insert name here*

                Thank you. I’m not perfect but I would not sleep with someone if I knew they were married no matter what the circumstances were, which I don’t think puts me on a moral high horse. Okay so the cheater lied. And? So if you don’t “make a promise” to never sleep with someone who you know is in a monogamous relationship, you can just do whatever you want and oh well no one should be upset with you? You can easily flip that around, the ex wife didn’t promise to be a decent person to the ex husband or OP, so why should she?

            2. Ted Mosby*

              Murder isn’t wrong because there’s a law against it. It’s wrong because it’s a terrible thing to do. When you sleep with a married person, you do so knowing that you’re going to deeply hurt someone and you’re going to potentially play an active role in their marriage breaking up. Saying “I never took a vow not to be horribly mean to you” isn’t a great reason for being horribly mean. Just because you’re not as bad as their partner doesn’t mean you didn’t do something nasty to another person. It just makes more sense to let go of a stranger doing something shitty to you than your spouse.

              I don’t see your logic as internally consistent. If you’re saying you don’t have to keep any promises you didn’t make, regardless of whether the thing you do is really, really shitty, then that can easily be applied to any crime. The point isn’t that the severity of them all is the same. It’s that that’s an extremely silly, cruel way of justifying your actions.

              1. Chinook*

                Maybe comparing it to shooting someone is not the right metaphor. Instead, think of the “other woman” as the getaway driver in an robbery. Technically, they never robbed the bank but they were aiding the robber in getting away with it. As well, they are probably benefitting from the action that is taking something from others.

                The bigger crime is definitely the robber, the driving the getaway vehicle is still a crime because, if you weren’t there, then odds are the robbery wouldn’t have taken place.

            3. Otra*

              Laws don’t define morality and define whether something is wrong right. They shouldn’t define our ethics and we shouldn’t base whether something is wrong or right because it is illegal. For example, gay marriage or interracial marriage have both been illegal but doesn’t necessarily make it wrong.

              I personally think we do have a responsibility to do right by others and try not to hurt other people with our actions or choices. Of course mistakes happen and we aren’t defined by our worst mistake like others have mentioned, but I do think we have an obligation to be the best person we can without hurting others.

        2. Student*

          This single comment in a hallway is not good, but it’s a far cry from actually doing harm to the OP.

          If your manager said he didn’t like you, for no obvious reason whatsoever, you wouldn’t consider that to be ruining your life, or being vindictive. You wouldn’t be happy about it. You might rightfully quit your job because of it, either very quickly or after a job search. But your manager isn’t obligated to like you. It’s arguably bad practice of him to just say so, but if my manager disliked me and was unlikely to reconsider, I’d honestly rather he say so than figure it out after years of trying to work in good faith with him. I wouldn’t be happy to hear it, but I’d rather know and be able ot act on it than not know.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            You have to ignore literally everything else OP told us to characterize what happened to her in this way.

      4. Risha*

        My ex-husband (I think) cheated on me with the acquaintance he later married, and while I don’t have particularly happy feelings towards her, I’ve never once behaved vindictively towards either of them. Even during the divorce negotiations when I would have had the opportunity to and my lawyer was actively urging me to ask for alimony. I’ve never even felt any real desire to do so. Frankly, the thing that pisses me off is that, several years on, I’m still mildly concerned about him, because I’m pretty sure their marriage won’t last and he’s not going to cope well with being single.

      5. paul*

        There’s levels of anger. Particularly after time has passed. You can be angry-and even refuse to work with someone–without being hostile tot he point of wanting to destroy them.

        I’m not at all a fan of what the OP did and wouldn’t fault the manager at all for something like asking to transfer her to a different department (or having chosen the other assignment rather than work with her). But actively trying to destroy someone for years over this is beyond the pale. What the OP did was wrong, but that doesn’t mean the manager’s in the right here.

        1. BF50*

          Exactly. If the manager had refused to work with the OP, even if she’d requested that the OP be let go, I wouldn’t really have a problem with that. That’s not what she did.

          She actively tried to cause harm to another person (people, really). That’s not an ok thing to do, ever.

          Her anger is absolutely justified, but it doesn’t absolve her of normal moral behavior.

      6. Temperance*

        I would be very bitter and very unhappy if my husband did that. However, this woman has gone beyond being bitter and unhappy, and frankly, it’s going to keep eating at her. She might feel vindicated, but her entire purpose in life is bringing drama and discord to her ex’s mistress … and that’s pretty pathetic and sad.

        1. Anonymoose*

          Exactly. I actually feel bad for her. Not because of the cheating, but the fact that it’s still impacting her so hard that she feels ‘vengeance’ is somehow necessary.

      7. krysb*

        Yeah, but you can’t blame the other woman for your significant other breaking his promises. The other woman does promise to love, honor, and cherish the wife or promise fidelity. If a relationship has two people, those two people can be blamed for the breakdown. You can’t blame the person not in that relationship.

      8. Anonymoose*

        But wasn’t keeping his pants on HIS responsibility? OP had absolutely no responsibility to his wife. Sure, ‘good’ people don’t sleep with married men, but sometimes they do, for so many reasons it’s crazy. We weren’t in the bedroom. We have no idea of the context. But I do believe OP has paid her penance and doesn’t owe New Manager anything at this point, especially after what New Manager has put her through in the past.

        1. Insert name here*

          I just find this baffling. OP has no responsibility technically to strangers at all then so why not just do whatever she wants to whoever she wants and oh well too bad for them? And how is there justifiable context for sleeping with someone you know is married?

          1. Insert name here*

            For the record though I do agree keeping his pants on was his responsibility and he is equally in the wrong.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It’s not that OP has no wrong, but it’s not “equal responsibility” to the ex-husband. He had a greater responsibility because it was his marriage, his social contract, his agreement. If the marriage failed, it was entirely because of his actions.

            Completely independently, I think most folks believe that OP had a responsibility not to be a bad person, and for many of us, having a fling with a married person—if you know they’re married—is not a thing a good person does. But doing it doesn’t make you irredeemably “bad.” And OP has expressed contrition, taken responsibility for her role in what came from the fling, and tried to maintain some semblance of grace toward the ex-wife, including by staying far away from her. That sounds as close as a person can get to trying to “redeem” themselves from engaging in a bad act.

            So no, the ex-wife doesn’t get to keep coming for OP simply because OP did one (serious) bad thing, and she doesn’t get to transfer her anger towards her ex-husband and his responsibilities to their marriage to OP.

        2. Ted Mosby*

          I don’t think anyone is really suggesting she owes her anything. What would she even owe her?

          “I made this with your husband so… here…” *hands over baby*

          1. Chinook*

            Ironically, if the genders had been reversed, that is exactly what would have happened. I believe that, if you are married, and the wife gives birth, the husband is legally considered the father unless explicitly stated. Which is why some men are stuck with financially caring for children of other men even after they divorce their cheating wife.

            And those who willingly treat these children as their own have my upmost respect because they have to get over seeing living proof of infidelity and, instead, see an innocent child in need of love and protection.

  4. Dan*

    Sometimes AAM puts out a call for “things we wish we knew when we were younger.” One of those things is, “prospective employers will call past employers, no matter who is listed as a reference.”

    May I ask, why is it that you actually left this job on bad terms? You should have been able to put in a two-week notice, work it, and leave on decent standing.

    1. DecorativeCacti*

      It sounds like the ex-wife was her manager. The prospective employer may have spoken with her directly. Even if they didn’t, if their HR department sees this as the OP being unprofessional, they probably wouldn’t have given a positive reference.

    2. Tempest*

      I would guess that the ex wife would have some say in the reference given even though she only managed OP for a few weeks and has a completely work unrelated opinion of her she will be her manager of record. She has her retired manager as the one reference she has. Even leaving on ‘good terms’ having worked a 2 week notice wasn’t going to get the OP a reference here as long as ex wife is involved and would have given the ex wife two weeks to spread rumours and further damage OPs reputation. Quitting was really her only option, which sucks and is really unfair. I hope her positive attitude helps her sort a job out as quickly as poss.

    3. Rachel the LW*

      I had to leave with only a few days of notice because the transition to our new jobs with her as the manager was about to happen. After what happened by the elevator there is no way I could work for her. So I don’t have a good reference from there because I left when they had an open job at the same pay (and closer to home) for me and because she controls my reference as well. I don’t have a reference from my first job because of the fallout from what happened with her husband. My only reference is the boss I had before the merger who is now retired.

      1. Nancy*

        I know you have a child and transportation challenges, but any chance you can do some volunteer work? That could also provide you with references or even some networking.

      2. H.C.*

        Are there others whom you can get a reference for? Direct supervisors are ideal, but in your case, it might make sense to get it from project leads, project collaborators, longtime co-workers, clients, etc. so you don’t have just one reference for your 12 year record.

      3. NJ Anon*

        Could you get a reference from your previous manager before her? I left a job of 11 years and use my supervisor who was there but left a year before I did as a reference. The new boss was awful and I refuse to use him as a reference.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          This is what I was going to suggest. Your previous manager could be an excellent resource. Or any colleagues that worked closely with you.

          I would also suggest doing some volunteer work with a well regarded organization and using the volunteer coordinator as a reference, because frankly, it is going to be a roadblock for you if you cannot provide any references.

          1. Creag an Tuire*

            AAM, this would go against your usual advice, but given the circumstances should OP be upfront about why her “last two” references are lousy? Something like “unfortunately I made some poor personal choices that crossed over into to my work at OldJob. I refocused on my professionalism and did well at LastJob, which RetiredBoss will attest to, but when someone involved with the situation at OldJob was hired to replace her it was clear that our professional relationship remained too strained to function and I chose to leave.” Something like that that “takes ownership” while emphasizing that, FFS, this was something from years ago that’s following her around?

            1. Elizabeth H.*

              In the last post, one of the early comments from JessaB comments about framing the issue in a way that would qualify for unemployment: https://www.askamanager.org/2017/04/i-had-a-fling-with-my-new-bosss-then-husband-my-team-isnt-using-the-gift-cards-i-gave-them-and-more.html#comment-1448948

              The gist of it is explaining something like that she was in the position where her new manager would be somebody she had been involved in a major divorce case with on the other side, and that the manager made it clear that she was unable to treat OP/Rachel professionally after this experience even though it had taken place many years previously. I can sort of imagine a scenario where you could communicate that professionally enough to explain it as a reason for lack of references. I disagree that it could be ever helpful to mention having made bad personal choices. That’s something nobody wants to hear and seems TMI also.

      4. MissDisplaced*

        Does this company not have an HR department? Why would she control your reference if she was just starting the job? Direct your references to the HR person.
        Or IS this woman the HR person now?

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      OP, this line in your update stuck out to me: I have no friends at either place and did not leave on good terms.

      Was there stuff going on at work beyond your being cited in a divorce suit? I realize that some offices can be crazy and all you can do is bail to save yourself, but two out of your two workplaces deciding to side against you en masse, for something that wasn’t even work, seems like it’s worth re-examining. Because the affair is such a flashing neon reason, are you maybe stopping at that explanation when the hostility goes beyond this one colleague scorned?

      (CatCat’s advice about using the temp work to build up references is solid.)

      1. penny*

        I wondered about that too. It seems odd not to have maintained any even professional relationships at either office. Even peer references would be better than none.

      2. Salamander*

        Yeah. I’m wondering about this, too. Are there no co-workers, no one in another department with whom you worked on a project, anyone who can vouch for your work? I can understand that you can’t get a good reference from your manager at the last place or the current manager. But surely you didn’t work in a vacuum with the father of your child alone? Between the two places of employment, there has to be someone who will say something nice about you that you can offer up.

        I, too, wonder if there’s something else going on. I’m having a hard time visualizing this happening if someone resigns quietly and heads outta Dodge in a bad situation.

      3. Not a Cat Lady*

        I wonder about that too — although… I left a job where I was harassed almost daily. It wasn’t by everyone, but I’m sure after I left my boss called a meeting to slander my name because I got emails from my coworkers calling me names and telling me how stupid I was. It’s possible she did the same kind of slander if she’s the boss.

        1. Chalupa Batman*

          Who does that? I’m so sorry that happened to you. I can’t think of an infraction at the level that would make it seem ok to e-mail a former coworker to call them names. I’m with you-I definitely wouldn’t put it past a boss with that kind of track record to deliberately poison the well.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            My old employer did/does it. It’s a really sad, dark, twisted way of dealing with “rejection” (i.e., I treat you like crap and when you reject me by moving on, I’m going to continue to find a way to destroy you).

      4. paul*

        I have to wonder about that too; if the OP’s doing something else, or is misreading how other people feel about her or *something* because that’s odd.

      5. Rachel the LW*

        Because of the fallout from what happened I didn’t leave on good terms. His wife outed us and clients thought we were getting together on paid time. We couldn’t prove we were not, clients left, people lost work and the management locked things down and enforced stricter rules. That was my first job. His wife poisoned things for me at my second job. There was more fallout also but I don’t want to get into it here because it won’t change anything.

        1. Nephron*

          You mention clients. Not sure what you do, but could you possibly get a client to be a reference for you? If the well was completely poisoned then obviously not, but potentially workable from the last job if not from your first job. If you have a college degree you might see if you could reach back to a long-term job you had at school?

        2. Gov Worker*

          Sometimes becoming involved with a person at work can lead to problems even if the person is unencumbered. There’s an old saying “don’t shi@ where you eat”. I know you will be very circumspect in the future about romantic entanglements in the office.

          Good luck to you, and may your child not be harmed by any of this. Too bad the ex wife doesn’t know that her angry bitterness will consume her and age her prematurely.

          1. Belinda W.*

            “Too bad the ex wife doesn’t know that her angry bitterness will consume her and age her prematurely.”

            I’m sorry, but what? “Age her prematurely”? There is all sorts of wrong in that comment. Also, I’m going to say it: if it were a man being vindictive, would we be talking about how old he looks?

          2. Not clairvoyant*

            “Too bad the ex wife doesn’t know that her angry bitterness will consume her and age her prematurely.”

            ^Um, you know this how? Children of toxic parents often receive well-meaning, but misguided, advice that they need to “forgive their parents.” As psychologists such as Susan Forward have written, this is hogwash, and the real first step towards recovery is to acknowledge that bitterness is real and legitimate.

            Here, OP terribly wronged the ex-wife, and the ex-wife’s bitterness is legitimate. Who are you to say she should forgive and move on?

            (To be sure, this is all aside from the question of what happens when personal bitterness seeps into work.)

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Gov Worker didn’t say the ex-wife should forgive OP and move on.

              I certainly don’t agree with the “age prematurely” part of the comment, and the ex-wife is entitled to revel in her angry bitterness, but she doesn’t get to continue to try to exact revenge on OP because of that anger/bitterness.

            2. Tempest*

              She should totally be angry at her ex husband who did the dirty on her. And I certainly wouldn’t question her questioning the OP’s morals and not wanting anything to do with her but this wasn’t a years long love affair. They made a mistake in judgement to sleep together once. Neither of them was planning on it being any more than that and unfortunately they got outed. Ex wife has ruined her ex husband, and more power to her as he’s the one who made vows and broke them. OP shouldn’t have slept with a married man but at the end of the day if she wasn’t so candid with us we wouldn’t know what he said to her and it could have been anything from my wife doesn’t care we’ve got an open arrangement to we’re only together for convenience and she won’t mind right up to I hate her and I don’t care what she thinks. So executing this level of retaliation against someone you don’t know is weird.

              I’ve been there. My ex introduced me to a girl as his friend from work. We had dinner together. I don’t think he was sleeping with her then, but he certainly was thinking he wanted to and he introduced us. He did start sleeping with her before we parted. He was the one who’d stayed with me for 14 years not her. I certainly wouldn’t sign up to befriend her now. I did take a perverse pleasure in the fact they got together and rented some really posh flat together and the relationship broke down within months. But would I go out and actively try to ruin either of their lives? No. Be a decent person. Your husband was a dirt bag. You caught him. You took him to the cleaners. The ex wife needs to seek help for her issues. She’s like some bad Taylor Swift from her country phase song here.

        3. Sunshine*

          You know what this is saying to me? Manager took advantage of a very young hire for a drunken one night stand and she has had to eat most of the blame.

          If it was LW’s first job, how old was she? 18? 22?

          1. Rachel the LW*

            He wasn’t my manager, he was my coworker and we were both 26 when it happened.

  5. Venus Supreme*

    This is terrible, OP. I’m so sorry that your life crossed paths with a woman holding such a strong vengeance. I hope things turn around quickly for you and your child.

    Having poor references from jobs is one of my worst fears. Alison/AAM hive, what would you recommend someone like OP do to build a new list of stronger references? Volunteer? I feel like that’d only work for someone like me who’s under 25 years old and doesn’t have a lengthy work history.

      1. k*

        Agreed. Even if you’re only working short jobs at a bunch of different places, their should be someone at the temp agency that you report to. They should be able to speak about you.

        I also don’t think volunteer references are bad. They may not hold as much weight as one from an employer, but it’s better than nothing.

        1. Venus Supreme*

          Good to know about the volunteer references. I’m heavily involved in a small nonprofit outside of work. While the nonprofit is in-line with my career field, I don’t know what would be better: a strong reference from a no-name group or a lukewarm reference from an established organization (just in case the situation arises!)

            1. ArtsNerd*

              Agreed! The “where” of the reference isn’t nearly as important as the content of it!

      2. penny*

        Yes, really go above & beyond as though it’s your real full time job while temping. I always eye temps to see if I’d want to consider them for FT jobs that come up, but if they’re doing the bare minimum I’m not impressed. I want to see someone who cares about excelling even knowing its a temp gig.

        1. Corky's wife Bonnie*

          That’s absolutely true, and it happened to me! I did a great job coming in that within two weeks they asked if I would be willing to be hired full time. I’ve been here for 11 years now. It does happen OP, hang in there!

        2. Whats In A Name*

          Yes! Very true. This happened to my step mom. she temped for YEARS – then finally her last temp job turned into a very good FT gig when an opening came up. They offered to her based on good record of attendance and performance as a temp – she acted as though she was an employee. It ended up being a great opportunity for our whole family – yay benefits!

          1. Venus Supreme*

            That’s a wonderful story! So glad for you and your stepmom. I hope OP has a similar outcome :)

    1. Tuxedo Cat*

      Volunteer work. It doesn’t pay, but there could be some good references found that way. Depending on what the organization is, she might be able to do volunteer work from home.

      Depending on the OP’s skills and location, she might be able to find some small administrative side jobs on Craigslist too. I used to do that when I was broke. The pay wasn’t great, but it was something. Most of them could be done from home.

  6. Jaguar*

    I’m so sorry, OP. While I can sympathize with the woman doing this to some extent, the just awfulness of trying to destroy the lives of both parents of a child is a shocking level of cruelty that I can’t wrap my mind around. I wish there was something I could suggest that you might be able to use to help your situation.

    1. caryatis*

      There’s no reason to think the ex-wife did anything wrong to her cheating husband. OP says he’s not doing well financially, but, well, that’s one of the common results of a divorce. I don’t think we can blame the ex-wife for divorcing her cheating husband and taking her share of the marital assets–nor can we blame prospective employers who don’t want to hire the man who had an affair with his employee or the woman who had an affair with her boss.

      1. caryatis*

        Correction: from the previous post I see the LW didn’t have an affair with her boss, just her coworker. Slightly better. Still, we can see why neither of them has a good reference from that job. People, don’t commit adultery. Or if you must, at least use birth control.

        1. Mike C.*

          But none of that had anything to do with the OP’s performance as an employee. Who the OP has sex with is none of her former manager’s concern, even if she happens to be married to that person. The manager’s anger should be directed to her ex-husband, not the OP.

          1. Shadow*

            thats true but as you can see from the recent post about cheating lots of people think this type of behavior speaks to integrity issues

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I think it’s reasonable for the ex to be angry at the woman who knowingly slept with a married man.

            It is not reasonable to completely destroy her life/ability to make a living.

          3. Nonprofit manager*

            Deciding to have a one night stand with a married co-worker speaks to a person’s judgement and professional maturity. Both of these have a lot to do with someone’s performance as an employee.

            1. TL -*

              Yeah, I wouldn’t care if someone told me a potential hire had slept with a married man (why are you telling me this?) but “she slept with a married coworker and it turned into this big THING,” would make me question her professional judgement, unfortunately.

              Though perhaps the ex-wife is just very good at influencing people’s judgment? Some people are really good at the art of the sly word.

            2. Mike C.*

              This sort of construction strikes me as an arbitrary standard. It’s not like there’s been scientific research that somehow shows a casual link between a one night stand and concrete measurements of “good judgement” or “professional maturity”.

          4. sunny-dee*

            It is still really noticeable that out of (at least) two managers and 12 years’ working experience, the OP wasn’t considered valuable enough at her most recent job to accommodate a perfectly reasonable transfer request and that she can’t find any references or professional networking.

            I had a horrible, toxic relationship (um, nonsexual, for clarity) with one of my previous managers, a guy who tried to slander me when I attempted to transfer to a different department. I was still able to pull together a dozen people within the company IN A DAY who were able to give me glowing references, including three previous managers.

            I’m with the other posters — the adultery and scandal may be the most visible thing that is affecting the OP’s career, but it is really worth considering that there are a lot of other issues in her professional history that meant she didn’t have a network in place to help her through something like this.

            (Another possibility is that the industry or the location is so small and closed knit that there simply isn’t a way to move outside the scandal, and she may need to look at a totally different industry / location to move past this.)

            1. HumbleOnion*

              Agreed – this is one where I’d love to hear another perspective on the situation. I don’t even mean the Ex-Wife. I’d love to hear from the former coworkers.

          5. Tempest*

            So much this. Can’t agree enough. I can really understand why she’d want nothing to do with OP which makes it crazy she took this new job just to be a vindictive *fill in the blank*.

      2. Jaguar*

        The letter writer responded quite a bit in the comments on the original letter. I can’t remember the specifics, but it sounded like she used every resource she had at her disposal to ruin the guy. Which, sure, the law allows for that, but I don’t equate that with it being ethical.

        1. Temperance*

          She apparently went turbo nuclear. LW posted upthread a bit that the woman put the affair on blast to CLIENTS and levied accusations that they were using paid time to hook up.

          1. TL -*

            But…honestly, if I got a random email from a woman saying, “My husband was using your money to fund his shinangins,” I think I would be much more inclined to think the woman is crazy, rather than investigate use of funds. And I don’t think I’m alone in this call?

            1. Jaguar*

              Yeah, I would think the person is cuckoo for coca-puffs and ignore it (maybe show the person in question, like, “did you know this person is this crazy? If not, wow.”). But it did have the effect of destroying OP’s credibility at her previous job, so it’s either we don’t have the full story or our conception is incorrect.

            2. Temperance*

              I would definitely find the emailer to be wacked out, but the whole thing with the process server showing up while she was giving birth would add teeth to the story, you know?

            3. Biff*

              You aren’t, but someone who has good sales skills or has a fairly good command of manipulation wouldn’t handle it that way. What would happen would me more like this: the client calls about the project and the boss explains that due to a staffing change, it’s running a bit behind. Client, understandably will want to know what happened. The boss demurs. The client pushes. “We unfortunately had a conduct issue, that happened on work time.” Over time, the story gets bigger and bigger. It never FEELS like someone is telling you a sob story.

            4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I know it sounds crazy, but some people are remarkably sly in how they orchestrate their reputation-destroying whisper campaigns. I fully believe OP that the ex-wife could have sewn drama throughout the clientele without saying something as blunt as “he’s using your money to finance his adultery.”

    2. Stellaaaaa*

      A divorce attorney (username Divorce Attorney) make some insightful comments in the previous comment section. Very few of the things that OP is casting as vindictive actions are actually unreasonable. The ex-wife is legally entitled to have her former husband’s wages garnished. The idea that the ex-wife is to blame or somehow schemed to get the car in the divorce settlement is…no. The OP wasn’t victimized by these actions.

      We all like to talk about the power and meaning of personal choices, but if we’re going to intellectualize our righto to choose, we have to be smart enough to deal with the logical consequences of those choices. It does seem like circumstances have overlapped in a particularly overwhelming way for OP and I 100% do not believe in taking resources away from any child in any scenario, but these are all the natural and predictable consequences of sleeping with a married coworker and choosing to keep the baby. Did she think the ex-wife wouldn’t file for divorce? Did she think that the ex-wife wouldn’t be entitled to assets and alimony? Did she think people in her office/industry would look at her choices involving her coworker and say YOLO? OP is in an extreme version of lousy circumstances and I hope she can get back on her feet but IMO she’s not a victim. I mean, you do you, but when you knowingly sleep with someone else’s husband you can’t turn around and wonder why some people don’t like you anymore.

      1. paul*

        Mostly agreed….until the part about the person seeking to be her manager just to mess with her. *That* is pure spite and misery.

        When couples divorce, assets get split and most times neither party is as well off financially as they were pre divorce.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          That elevator comment was out of line, but in the context of this story it’s just words. That still doesn’t hold a candle to someone else sleeping with her husband with the knowledge that he was married, and somehow expecting to gain access to her car via the divorce settlement. Ex-wife never got the opportunity to manage OP so we can’t say for sure that she actually would have mistreated OP. I’m not going to hold this woman accountable for something she never did.

          Like I keep saying, I’m not condemning the OP. I don’t like what she did but I’d rather be positive and root for her to take certain lessons to heart and gain the resources that will allow her to be her best self and to raise her child in the way she sees fit. But dude, I don’t feel bad at all that a cheating husband had his wages garnished. That’s not something the ex-wife is doing to OP and it’s skewing the conversation that OP is presenting this fact in this manner. The car issue also isn’t about OP…but does she look at the ex-wife’s car and think “This isn’t fair, I should be driving that car right now”? That’s not reasonable at all and pushes this just a tad into the “sob story” category. OP never made a payment on that car or contributed to car insurance. She shouldn’t be talking about how she doesn’t own her own car but Ex-wife conspired to deprive her of a free car.

          I’m going to agree with Divorce Attorney (in the other post) and gently suggest that OP rethink how she’s presenting these facts to other people. Her story is already sympathetic enough without demonizing a woman who committed no ill actions.

          1. Rachel the LW*

            Umm I never wanted their car. I had my own car that I had to sell when I quit because I needed the cash. She had her husband’s car taken from him in the divorce but that is between them. When I said I couldn’t afford a car I meant buying a new one after I sold mine. Never wanted a free car from someone else

            1. Anon Anon*

              The ex didn’t take her husband’s car. She got a car that they owned together while married as part of their divorce.

              The situation sucks. And I’m sorry that you are going through it. I think the suggestions of temping to build up more reference is excellent. I would encourage you, if you haven’t already, to come up with a phrase for interviews that explain your departure from both places of employment that is benign and perhaps even positive. I get that may be challenging, but given the other challenges you face with references, etc., the best thing you can do is impress a potential employer during the interview that you are bright competent and easy to work with. And not all employers check references. The last job I was offered, they did a criminal background check, but they never bothered to check my references.

              1. Stellaaaaa*

                Yes, your first statement is the point I was trying to make. The ex-wife isn’t going around TAKING things away from OP/the ex-husband/the child and a subtle linguistic thing (that OP might not realize she’s putting out there) does a lot to sway the direction of discourse.

                If the man risked divorce by consensually cheating on his wife, he should have made sure his finances were in a better state.

                1. Mookie*

                  The ex-wife isn’t going around TAKING things away from OP/the ex-husband/the child

                  No one, including Rachel, said or implied this. You need to read more closely.

                  and a subtle linguistic thing (that OP might not realize she’s putting out there) does a lot to sway the direction of discourse.

                  Those are your impressions, not facts in evidence here.

                2. pandop*

                  Although IIRC from the previous comments, garnishing the ex’s wages, and then keeping the car he used to get to the job from which the wages came, doesn’t seem to be so much sound financial logic, as shooting yourself in the foot. If he loses his job (which he did, as he couldn’t get there anymore), you get no alimony from garnished wages.

                  I can see how in the OPs case, who also needs child support from this man, can see it as the ‘ex-wife took the car’

          2. BananaPants*

            Stellaaaa, you’re being pretty hostile toward the OP throughout these comments – are you actually reading what she’s saying when questions are being asked?

            1. Stellaaaaa*

              I don’t feel I’m being hostile. I’ve said multiple times that I feel for her situation. But I’m also not going to sit back and nod my head when my spidey sense is telling me that the story is being presented in a way that’s a bit manipulative when one of the aims is to make everyone feel a little better about villainizing another woman. For one thing, the way OP describes wage garnishment just isn’t how that particular legal process works. You don’t choose garnishment to punish your ex-husband in lieu of payments. You go to court and get an order for wage garnishment if your ex hasn’t been paying for X number of weeks. The man in this triangle is to blame for bringing garnishment into play.

              1. MegaMoose, Esq*

                Even people involved in legal proceedings are often unable to describe them entirely accurately – if the law was easy to understand or easy to explain to laypeople, it wouldn’t cost three boatloads of cash to become a lawyer. I agree with BananaPants that your comments are coming across on the hostile side. I think a lot of people disagree with the idea that the (now ex-)manager is acting reasonably. You can’t single-handedly tip that balance.

                1. Stellaaaaa*

                  I’m not trying to tip the balance. I’m just bored at work like the rest of us and I admit to sometimes losing patience with the notion that we can’t ever call someone out for misrepresenting something in order to make the other person look like the bad guy. I’m not out to judge the ex-wife’s overall attitude, nor have I judged the OP for choosing her choices. I’m just not on board with pretending like I don’t think someone’s feeding me a line of half-truths. If OP has been lied to by the man about how the garnishment came about, okay. That’s another issue entirely. But if she’s saying stuff like that and expecting informed people to roll with it, I feel the need to push back on that a little. I know we’re supposed to always take OP’s at their word and I promise I’m doing that for the things that don’t fall into this category. However, it’s not often we get letters where it can be proven that some of the information isn’t correct.

                2. Cat*

                  Yeah, I’m with you Stellaaaa. I think we can take the letter writer at her word while still leaving room to acknowledge that we’re getting a certain point of view. I don’t think it affects the advice we give to the letter writer or the support we offer, but I do think it should lead us to think twice before making harsh judgments about the ex-wife.

                3. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  I hear you fellow bored-at-workizan. But it seems like you’re really ascribing malice to the OP (“feeding me a line of half-truths”?) that’s neither proven by the information given nor an especially good way to encourage people to write in, let alone participate in comments.

                4. Hills to Die on (formerly AMG)*

                  I hope I’m not adding fuel to the fire, but I do agree with Stellaaaaa. OP isn’t a victim in this, even if the ex-wife is being vindictive. She’s a grown adult and went into this eyes open.

                  I agree also that some rephrasing is in order. People will get what happened. speaking as someone who has learned the hard way to be accountable for my actions, the more responsibility you take and the less you paint yourself as the victim, the MORE inclined people will be to help you.

                  OP, I’m not beating you up for this and I wish you well—truly. I believe there’s a lot of benefit in what Stellaaaaa has to say for you. It can help put this behind you.

          3. steal my thunder*

            I agree with Stellaaaaa and Divorce Attorney from the Other Post. This comment keeps flashing through my mind while I read OP’s comments: “I think AAM is bending so far over backwards to not judge the LW that she’s missing a few things that are huge red flags that LW is not seeing things objectively herself. ”

            I don’t think OP gave the Ex Wife a chance to behave professionally. Furthermore, I’m really bothered by the OP’s unprofessional behavior! I understand she interpreted the elevator comment a certain way and “had to get out before she took over,” but… did she? She could have given her 2 weeks notice after the “Elevator Incident,” worked with the Ex-Wife for what, maaaaaybe 1.5 weeks while being the epitome of professionalism, and left with a reference from the company. Instead, she threw up her hands and quit with little to no notice. I get that this situation is fraught with drama and misery, but the Ex Wife isn’t the only person exhibiting bad behavior. The OP has shown (in both letters and comments) that when things don’t go her way, she leaves. When people have tried to point out options to her, she buries her head in the sand and insists that no no no, her situation is unfair, it’s always going to be this way, woe is her. Consequently, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she has no co-workers who will speak on her behalf at any of her 3(!) previous jobs. I’m not in hiring and I see “red flags” that only one person will vouch for her during her 12+ years-long career.

            1. Zillah*

              It seems very unlikely to me that staying the extra two weeks would have preserved a reference from the company, given the situation. Rather than, “She quit without notice,” it would’ve been, “She gave notice and was lazy, sullen, and uncommunicative throughout her last two weeks because she held a grudge against me for unrelated drama.” (Or something.)

              At the end of the day, it’s reasonable to interpret ill intentions from someone who’s explicitly behaved in a personally and professionally vindictive way toward you in the past and who, upon seeing that she’ll be managing you, says, “The universe must be on my side since I was offered the chance to manage one of the people who shattered my life.” I certainly wouldn’t encounter that situation and say “Hmm, I wonder what she means! No way to know!”

              This entire comment is coming off as pretty harsh and judgmental. Not wanting to work with someone you have that much bad blood with is not the same thing as leaving when things don’t go her way.

              1. HumbleOnion*

                Quitting without notice is an objectively Bad Thing. There’s no way to explain that away by saying there was a personal conflict with the manager. She could have sucked it up for two weeks, and negotiated a reference when she quit. Yeah, it wouldn’t have been pleasant, but it would have given the OP some cover. She made a bad decision.

                1. Zillah*

                  That wasn’t really the core of what I was responding to.

                  More importantly, I don’t see how this is a productive line of questioning.

                2. Mike C.*

                  No, it’s not. There are plenty of good reasons to quit without notice and I can personally say that when I did it, it was one of the best days of my professional career.

            2. Sunshine*

              There’s a scene in Dexter where the protagonist headbuts a guy then walks out nonchalantly. The guy’s ensuing outburst is taken as evidence of his craziness. I’m willing to bet that the 2 weeks would have been the psychological equivalent of that scene.

          4. Blaine*

            I totally agree with this.

            I’m remembering a friend from back in college that kept going through housemates. Each time she had to look for a new one, or found herself in horrible circumstances she acted like there was this great injustice being perpetrated against her. After about the seventh roommate over a period of two years, being in a pit of debt, and losing friends I finally had to ask her if she thought it was her behavior that kept landing her in these situations. She did not, continued to whirl through flatmates ending up in financial ruin, and moving back in with her parents. I get the same sense here.

            I think its telling that she left two jobs and couldn’t have anyone be reference. Or that HR was so willing to hire someone to manage her that was a clear conflict of interest.

            While her circumstances are rough, its her choices that landed her there. The behavior of the ex-wife was a unknown variable that she felt was worth the risk. Time to eat crow and move on.

            1. Insert name here*

              I knew someone like this too!! I don’t think she ever moved back in with her parents though. But yeah nothing was ever her fault and she was always the victim and the other person had horribly wronged her. People like that don’t change.

            2. Zillah*

              The OP does acknowledge that she made a mistake, and she is trying to move on – making a mistake doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t reach out for advice. This comment feels really uncharitable and presumptuous to me.

          5. Tempest*

            Committed no ill actions?! Are you serious? I completely agree ex wife has every right to ruin her ex and not be called crazy but what she did…?

            Having the subpoena served in the labour and delivery suite at the hospital while OP was having her baby? Paying extra apparently to make sure that happened! Spreading rumours this all happened on company time when that isn’t true at all, just to make sure her ex and OP are unemployable? Purposefully taking a choice of new jobs which will further allow her to bully, humiliate and ruin another human being for something that happened YEARS ago and got settled in court?

            The ex wife is bat crap. She needs help. She isn’t going to find happiness or peace by further harming a woman who’s only connection to her is a one time fling with her ex husband. Defending her actions beyond taking her ex husband for all she could get speaks to a personal defensiveness to me and not an actual reasonableness on the part of ex wife. I was the woman who was cheated on once in a 14 year plus relationship. I wished him well with a middle finger and wrote her off as a waste of time who’d sleep with a taken man. I certainly didn’t follow her around our community screaming that she’d slept with my partner. What benefit would that have gotten me? I believe in Karma and ex wife is building up a lot of the bad kind when if she’d stopped before achieving bat crap status she’d have been neutral or better here. She has, let’s remember and be honest, gotten a small child into the situation of being homeless if not for grandparents being willing and able to house them. That’s just… I have no words. It’s like a human with no soul.

        2. Browser*

          It was just one comment. For all we know the new manager wasn’t intending to take any actions, but wanted OP to think she would.

          OP didn’t wait to see what would actually happen, or wait long enough to give proper notice. Those decisions are on her.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Given the history (there are more details in the comments on the first post), the OP was really justified in taking her at her word. The new boss/ex-wife would have been in a position to do even more damage to the OP professionally if she had stayed.

            1. sunny-dee*

              Except we only have the OP’s word that she took this role solely to punish the OP. That’s possible but … really? Even if the woman was successful and tortured the OP for 6 months until she quit in misery, what then? The ex seems to have a really strong professional reputation (since her company gave her the choice of two different management roles and control over that part of a merger). It’s also entirely possible that they asked the ex to take that role over the natural merger or that the other role offers more room for advancement or has more visibility with the company.

              I have no idea how big either company is, but we’ve had acquisitions where were weren’t even certain how many people were in a given department, much less who they were. I just find it a little unbelievable that a respected professional woman would choose a bad position just to torture someone temporarily. It’s possible but it just doesn’t ring true. (Although having found out that the OP was in her new department, I can TOTALLY see her saying something like the elevator comment. I’m just saying I don’t think that’s the driving force.)

                1. Cat*

                  I’m not sure that extends to the internal motives of other people though? Maybe it does, in which case I apologize, but I’m not sure why trashing the ex-wife, whose side of the story we don’t have, needs to be a part of this conversation. It’s an emotionally charged situation and I bet it comes across very differently depending on who you’re talking to.

                2. sunny-dee*

                  I get that and I generally respect that, but in this case, the OP is guessing the motive. I am sure that the Ex didn’t announce her reasoning to the company, and even with the elevator comment, that doesn’t mean that the Ex CHOSE the role because of the OP, only that she considered it a bonus.

                3. Natalie*

                  I’m not reading these comments insanely closely, so perhaps I’m missing it, but I have not seen a ton of random trashing of the Ex-Wife. People are certainly describing her actions (as they’ve been reported to us) as vindictive, petty, etc, but I don’t really consider that to rise to the level of trashing someone.

                  I also think there’s a difference worth respecting when one party is literally here discussing this. The Ex-Wife isn’t here. The letter writer is, and stuck through two letters with multiple “well, what did you expect?” and “you’re getting what you deserve” comments scattered throughout.

                4. Natalie*

                  @ sunny-dee, I’m not really sure how that’s an important distinction – we have had other OP’s here that are guessing at someone’s motive and provide similar types of evidence, and trying to pick apart their story hasn’t been acceptable then either.

                5. sunny-dee*

                  @Natalie, I think Cat is saying that the OP is trashing the ex wife, implicitly. A lot of the characterizations of the wife as petty and vindictive come from actions not directed at the OP in any way (divorce settlement), things which have been mischaracterized (paying a process server to be vocal in serving a subpoena and read out what it’s for), and things where the OP is guessing at the motivation (why she took the new role, the clients believing that she charged them bill-able hours during the dalliance).

                6. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  @Natalie: I don’t see a lot of egregious trashing of the ex-wife either, unless “I understand being upset but this is way over the top” constitutes trashing. I do, however, see a lot of questioning of not just the OP’s understanding of the ex-wife’s motives, but her presentation of the facts as well, which is pretty discouraging. I really try and approach all comments here as “how would I put this if a good friend was the one asking the question?” If one’s impulse on reading a letter is “the OP is lying or presenting this in a misleading way and I need to prove her wrong” maybe it’s best not to comment at all.

                7. Natalie*

                  @ sunny-dee, based on other comments I disagree on your interpretation, but perhaps Cat will pop back to clarify.

                  @ MegaMoose, I think it is humanly possible to gently challenge someone’s characterization of a situation, as you might to a friend, or at least remind them that they may well not know someone’s motivations. My spouse and I have this conversation a lot because he has a bad habit of personalization and black & white thinking, which nearly always doesn’t actually help resolve the situation and can indeed hurt it. For example, when a friend has hurt his feelings its probably harmful to start thinking they did it on purpose because they don’t care about him. And it’s not helpful to dealing with the issue at hand, which is his hurt feelings.

                  (Which isn’t to say that’s what’s been happening in this particular conversation.)

                8. thefyd*

                  sunny-dee wrote: “in this case, the OP is guessing the motive.” I really don’t think that the OP has had to do much guessing at Ex’s motive.

              1. HumbleOnion*

                I looked side-eyed at that point as well. The OP didn’t have first hand evidence of that, only something she heard.

              2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

                Yeah, veering off-topic – I’ve seen a person fired for cause – REAL cause – from company A. Then company A acquires company B – and VOILA! Bad person is at company B – is, once again, an employee at company A — and to make matters challenging – has been a superstar at company B.

                Interesting AAM question – what do you do about this?

            2. Browser*

              I can’t see how her career could be more hurt by serving out a 2-week notice. Quitting with short notice didn’t help her at all.

              1. Kbo*

                Agreed. I feel for the OP, but I’d have tried to survive the two week if, for nothing else, to get the “Rachel worked here between x and y time” reference.

      2. blackcat*

        “Did she think that the ex-wife wouldn’t be entitled to assets and alimony? ”

        Assets, child support, sure, but alimony? If both partners have been consistently working, and the wife is out-earning the husband? No, I wouldn’t think that that would be likely or even possible. So I don’t fault her if she made that particular assumption.

        There is one, very clear victim here: the OPs child. Taking actions to destabilize the lives of both parents of an innocent child is just vindictive.

        1. sunny-dee*

          Um, actually, the PARENTS of that child took steps to create an unstable home environment for the child. Again … the ex just got what was due her legally.

          1. Stellaaaaa*


            I think part of what’s getting my hackles up (and I promise I’ll be better!) is the way OP seems so emotionally destroyed by something that was untenable in the best of circumstances. Let’s say this all stayed a secret and the couple didn’t divorce. How on earth would OP’s child be adequately provided for without the wife finding out? How could he have helped to raise this child? OP would still have her job but due to this merger all three would be working together. OP is reacting as if she thinks that some better arrangement was taken away from her and I’m just wondering how she thinks this all should have played out. It’s not reasonable to assume that the ex-wife would have chosen to stay married and also would have been cool with part of her joint assets being spent on another woman’s child, to say nothing of her husband spending time with a second family/the woman he had an affair with. This is a messy perfect storm of “divorce sucks” plus “yeah, don’t date at work” plus “wrap it up if you’re making the informed choice to sleep with a married man.”

            1. petpet*

              I couldn’t agree with you more, and for what it’s worth, I don’t think your tone has been overly hostile.

            2. SystemsLady*

              Wow. This is pretty uncalled for, as OP seems perfectly aware of all of this.

          2. Zillah*

            Sure. But things like outing the affair to clients in a way that made them think that the OP was having sex with a married coworker while at work, serving the OP in while she was in the hospital giving birth, and threatening the OP because they “shattered” her life aren’t simply what’s due to the ex legally. And, while some things the OP is describing certainly fall under that characterization, I think it’s understandable that the OP would view all of this through a slightly less charitable lens.

      3. Jaguar*

        You’re arguing abstractly for a situation in which we have specifics. I don’t disagree with the protections afforded by the law, but it’s still possible to act unnecessarily cruel within those protections and the manager’s actions to OP don’t inspire me to give her the benefit of the doubt.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          What actions toward the OP? A few salty comments and an inconveniently timed serving of legal papers? Everything else Ex did was done to her former husband.

          1. Jaguar*

            I mean, having read through Rachel’s comments in both threads as well as the two letters, if you can’t see how someone would see her actions as vindictive, I’m not sure how much common ground we have to come to a consensus. I’ve never cheated on anyone but have been cheated on, so my sympathies don’t run immediately to the letter writer in this situation.

          2. JB (not in Houston)*

            Inconveniently timed service? Come on, there was more to it than that. And you’re misreading what the OP said about the car.

            1. Stellaaaaa*

              OP has clarified her statements about the car in response to me, but based on the way it was stated in the email, “Neither of us has a car, I cannot afford it and his ex-wife got his in the divorce” it just strikes me as like, okay, not every unfortunate thing that has happened after the affair is the fault of the ex-wife. I could not know the (implicitly different) actual truth before I had it explained to me after finding some holes in the more sympathetic initial version of the story.

              1. 42*

                If OP didn’t add that information in (and I believe it was strictly as a means to provide information), the comments would very conceivably have gone in the direction of “Doesn’t HE have a car?”

                How else could she have said it, without raising your hackles?

                1. Anna*

                  How about “he doesn’t have a car”? Answers the question you posed perfectly, without implying that it’s somehow the ex-wife’s fault.

                  “I don’t have a car, and he doesn’t either” is a perfect way to phrase it, without any potentially loaded or biased comment.

            2. KellyK*

              Yes, very much this. This is not a case of just happening to be served while in the hospital, but of the ex *paying extra* to make sure as many people heard the sordid details as possible. That’s vindictive.

              1. Browser*

                It’s not a vindictive you can prove. Being served is being served, it’s not on anyone to make sure it’s at a convenient time.

                1. Stellaaaaa*

                  Yeah, and I believe a lawyer in the last post pointed out that you actually can’t pay someone to serve the papers at a specific time. You get served when you get served, at a place that you’re easy to find. People get served at work, at funerals, at their kids’ t-ball games. If the person filing the charges knows you’re at the hospital, that’s where the papers are sent. Considering that OP was giving birth to the results of the affair when she was served, I don’t even see how this action managed to stir the pot further.

                  If OP meant that she would have preferred to receive the papers a few days later after the baby was born and she was back home, that’s not a luxury anyone ever has.

                2. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  I understand your objections to the OP’s position, but it really feels like you’re trying to support that position by tearing into every detail of the OP’s statements, which is pretty unfair.

                3. Browser*

                  MegaMoose, I can see why you think that.

                  My issue is that the OP seems to be throwing her hands up in the air and giving up on improving things for herself, without even trying. She’s blaming everything on the ex-wife, but she’s not taking any steps to work on her own situation. She isn’t trying to find other references, she didn’t look for temp work (even though she knew her child’s father was doing so) and it’s frustrating seeing someone go “I’ve tried nothing and I’m all out of ideas.”

                  Divorces are ugly even under the best circumstances. But OP has let the divorce define her life and doesn’t seem to be trying to move past it.

                4. Susan M.*

                  Yeah, I’m friends with a guy who owns a business that serves people. They serve you as soon as they can because it costs much more in labor/time for them to wait for whenever the client deems the best time. Plus, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to access said person to serve them at that time anyways, which then ends up costing the courier service more in labor/time to try to track down the person again.

                5. Rachel the LW*

                  I did look for other references and that’s how I know the bridges are burned and I am looking for temp work while also hunting for a full time job.

                6. Tiffin*

                  There’s a difference between not making sure it’s a convenient time and specifically making sure it’s an INconvenient time. There’s also a difference between having someone be served and having someone be served by a person paid extra to loudly announce the circumstances of the baby’s conception in order to inflict maximum embarrassment.

                7. MegaMoose, Esq*

                  @Browser: But can’t you make that point in a way that doesn’t include trying to disprove the OP’s statements about the particular events that led up to this?

                8. sunny-dee*

                  @Tiffin, except that you can’t tell a process server when or how to serve a subpoena. There is no “pay extra” option. That’s the OP’s opinion, and I’m sure she believes it, but it’s not true and it’s unfair to color the ex as “extra vindictive” for something false.

                  (And the Ex may have had a prenup that was affected by adultery so she would essentially HAVE to call the OP into the divorce proceedings or it may be a state that requires some kind of cause.)

                9. Stellaaaaa*

                  How exactly does she know that she was served more loudly or more conspicuously than anyone else in her situation? If everyone in a regular-sized hospital room heard him, that’s not louder than normal. How on earth does she know how much the ex-wife paid to file and serve the papers? I think there’s something to the fact that this is starting to not add up.

                  OP is half-off on enough of this stuff that I’m wondering if the man is saying things like, “It’s totally like my ex to TAKE the car and to garnish my wages when she doesn’t have to. Also, I bet she paid extra to make the serving of papers extra embarrassing.” In fact, knowledge of the circumstances leading up to garnishing wages would only come from the man, and he doesn’t seem to have told her that the garnishment only occurred after he failed to make payments for a long stretch of time (which is how garnishments work. The ex-wife wouldn’t be given a starting choice of payments or garnishments). This whole conversation is skewed in a way that blames a woman (the ex-wife) for having a basically reasonable reaction to something terrible that a man did.

                  I won’t go further down this road, but OP might need to start thinking about where she’s getting her info about who ex-wife is telling what to, and how much she supposedly paid for add-ons to common legal proceedings. I really doubt the ex-wife is texting OP about how much she paid to serve the papers. Someone else who is part of the legal proceedings told her that, and might not be telling the truth.

                10. Jaguar*

                  Honestly, Stellaaaaa, if you want to know how the OP knows something, just ask her. She’s responding to comments. There’s no need to attack the credibility of her story on the basis that you don’t feel you have enough information.

                11. Browser*

                  MegaMoose, I don’t think the OP has the facts on everything. Unless the exwife told her directly she paid extra to have the papers served in the hospital and the reason broadcast, she is assuming that’s what happened. I’ve had someone served with papers – it doesn’t work like that. A person is served when and where the server knows they can be found, and they don’t give a damn about the circumstances.

                  I question the OP’s source of information on the exwife’s actions, because she seems to think it’s the worst case in every scenario. Maybe the exwife is really that bad, but unless she’s best friends with the process server things didn’t go down for the reasons OP said.

                12. KellyK*

                  We’re supposed to take the OPs at their word. The OP specifically stated that the server was *paid extra* to loudly announce the specifics of what they were serving.

                  For that matter, serving someone while they’re in the hospital, by definition, takes more effort than serving them at their house. Home addresses are usually easily google-able. Hospitals, on the other hand, don’t announce patient information publicly. You can probably find the information if you know family members or someone makes a public Facebook post, but it’s pretty likely to require more sleuthing than serving her at home before or after the baby is born.

                  I understand not wanting to be overly critical of a woman who was a victim of an affair, whose side of the story we aren’t getting. But you really do have to assume the OP is flat-out lying to conclude that she wasn’t behaving vindictively, both with the subpoena and with the comments to the OP when she started.

                13. Natalie*

                  I don’t think the OP has the facts on everything.

                  Maybe they don’t. I don’t really know that it matters.

                  They’ve already quit the job with the Possibly-Vindictive-Possibly-Not ExWife, so that’s over and done with. They’re struggling to get a job for what seems to be reference related problems. That one is the only potentially solvable problem in this update.

                14. Stellaaaaa*

                  Jaguar, I’m not going to comment further because Alison has asked me to cool it, but I’m actually on OP’s side on this issue: I think someone’s giving her bad information about how certain steps in the legal proceedings went down in an effort to make the ex-wife look bad. It would only benefit her and her child if she did a tally of where she got this information to figure out if it all came from the same person.

                15. KellyK*

                  Out of reply nesting, but is there any requirement on the server to announce the reasons (loudly or otherwise)? From a quick Google, it sounds like a subpoena can be read aloud, hand-delivered, or sent by mail. So, announcing that the baby was the product of an affair seems totally uncalled for.

                  It also looks like, depending on the state, a subpoena doesn’t have to be served by a professional process server. So, while those services would probably not be down for “here’s extra $$$ to serve this in the most humiliating way you can manage,” that’s not to say a friend or family member of the ex-wife wouldn’t.

                  I’d like to see more clarification from the OP on how she knows this was deliberately vindictive or where the info about paying extra came from.

                16. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  You can absolutely pay extra to have someone served at an inconvenient location. It’s certainly not common, and many legitimate process servers will not do it that way, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or doesn’t happen or isn’t a service that can be paid for. I’m not sure why other attorneys or people who have process-server-friends are suggesting otherwise.

                  And it’s not common for a process server to announce the subpoena or its content. There is literally no reason for a process server to announce that OP had a child with a married man (and name that man) unless they were paid or otherwise convinced to do so.

                17. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @KellyK, a lot of states require personal service of a subpoena for certain kinds of subpoenas in certain kinds of cases. So personal service, itself, might not be designed to humiliate (even if the location in which process was served and the announcement was).

          3. Temperance*

            Ex-wife also felt the need to out the affair to clients (!) and levied accusations that they were committing fraud by hooking up on company time. I would be very very angry in her shoes, and I would do some not-nice things, but accusing someone of financial mismanagement and tanking their career is not likely one of them.

            1. sunny-dee*

              I’d have to reread, but it’s not necessarily the ex who outed it to clients. A process server served the OP in a hospital in front of coworkers, announcing that her new child was the product of a fling with a married coworker.

              That’s a story with LEGS.

              I mean, seriously, people in that office were going to be gossiping about that pretty much nonstop. It could balloon out into bizarre directions and get out to clients pretty easy. It’s like the norovirus of gossip stories.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                OP made a comment specifically stating that the ex outed the issue to clients and to OP’s coworkers.

                1. sunny-dee*

                  She said she outed it to the coworkers (and family) when the process server announced it in her hospital room, where the coworkers are. She didn’t say the wife told clients — she said that clients heard about it and assumed malfeasance, for some reason.

      4. Ann O.*

        Personally, I feel the OP provided enough details to support her assertion that the ex-wife went turbonuclear instead of simply going after what she was entitled to. (and not that we can know these details, but why would the ex-wife be entitled to alimony anyway? it didn’t sound like they had kids, and she’s in a managerial position so clearly didn’t sacrifice her career to be a housewife)

        1. sunny-dee*

          Well, that’s not necessarily all that goes into alimony, though. My mom worked and paid for my dad’s way through grad school and supported him through a couple of business ventures. That kind of partnership could entitle her to X amount. Or they could have other joint things (mortgage, credit cards, loans) that she is assuming responsibility for but he is required to pay Y to cover his share of the previous debt. Or they could have had joint retirement accounts that he is compensating her for. There are millions of details that go into a divorce decree and dividing joint finances, apart from “she has a job so she doesn’t deserve alimony.”

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s ok for the wife to go “turbonuclear” during the divorce proceedings if that means she’s playing hardball or otherwise taking her ex-husband for all he’s worth. But what’s not ok was going out of her way to humiliate the OP, to harass her when she was in the hospital, etc. That said, even if we gave the ex-wife a pass on all the bad conduct (that accompanied harsh but defensible conduct in the context of legal proceedings), there’s nothing that excuses going after OP at her first job or her most recent job.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think this is a full-on misreading and misrepresentation of what OP has written, and it unjustifiably ascribes a great deal of malice and judgment toward OP (while simultaneously absolving the ex-wife of any malice, when we have a great deal of information that suggests her intentions toward OP are harmful). I also find the constant minimizing of what OP has gone through, combined with aggressively questioning her about things as objectively horrid as having a process server loudly serve you during your labor and with the specific announcement (which btw, has no legal import) that you slept with a married man, astounding in the worst possible sense of that word.

        It’s also really cruel, as are all the sub-threads in this conversation browbeating OP and suggesting she “deserves” to be treated in an unprofessional or abusive way by someone who has so deeply internalized their hurt and spite that it’s still an overriding factor in how they make their day-to-day life choices.

      6. Lizzy*

        Just because something is legal doesn’t make it reasonable.
        My husband’s ex was a witch with a capital B. Everything she did was legal, but it was 100% vindictive and unreasonable.
        The homecoming king at my high school committed a hit-and-run while drunk a few years later, and the guy he hit died. He (homecoming king) literally was one of the most caring and well-liked people at our school. He admitted his mistake (as did OP here), accepted his punishment, and has tried his utmost – and succeeded – to overcome it and be a productive member of society.
        One bad deed (no matter how bad) does not a bad person make. I mean, really – even Darth Vader still had some good in him.
        OP did something bad. It sucked for everyone involved. It’s been years since the affair happened. OP has admitted her role in it, and has/is trying to move on. She’s entitled to be able to live her life as best she can without other people actively trying to make her life hell, which it sounds like is all she’s asking. No one’s saying she’s Jesus, but she’s not Hitler either, y’all.

  7. Elizabeth*

    “She saw me by the elevators and said the universe must be on her side since she was offered a chance to manage one of the people who had “shattered” her life before. ”


    1. Rainy, PI*

      Yeah. I’m not surprised that this is her attitude, as it sounded very much like this woman was actually going out of her way to be cruel, but I’m glad for LW that she got the heck out of there, and that she has a supportive family who is able and willing to help her.

      LW, I hope things look up for you soon.

    2. DrPeteLoomis*

      I yikes’d that one too. She seems over-the-top vindictive. Also, who really wants to manage someone who “shattered their life”? Who wants to be reminded of that everyday? I think OP did the right thing because wife/manager was clearly just going to use the power dynamic to make OP’s life miserable.

    3. Amy*

      Yikes is right! She clearly was planning on making you as miserable as possible, OP, so it’s probably a good thing you got out of there.

      This is why I hate the ‘homewrecker’ narrative people like to apply to cheating. The person who cheated is the person who was married. The person they did a thing with may not have known the whole story (maybe they didn’t know their partner was married, maybe they were told it was an open relationship, etc.)…and even if they did, they’re not the one who made promises, it’s not on them to make sure someone else’s promises are kept. Making it somehow ‘their fault’ just makes the cheated-on person feel like they have license to mistreat them, which isn’t reasonable. And it seems like this narrative is always applied to ‘my husband cheated on me with another woman, she’s a homewrecker’–I don’t think I’ve ever seen a man described that way. It’s gross.

      1. Paxton*

        While I agree with your summary on ‘homewrecker’ – I have to say that if someone knew the other person was married and that their spouse wasn’t agreeing to an open relationship they are also wrong.

        Not in any way to the degree of the person in the relationship but if they make a conscious decision to insert themselves into another’s relationship they should accept that they may have some fallout most likely to their reputation.

        Note: I still think the fallout the OPs new boss has created is way, way too much and not professional.

        1. Amy*

          I would definitely hope that they would respect the existing relationship! And I don’t think I’d want to be friends with someone who made a habit of hitting on people who they knew were in monogamous relationships, for sure.

          But I don’t think it’s an ‘obligation’ the same way keeping your own wedding vows is. They didn’t make any promises, they aren’t breaking their word, they’re just going against a social norm. It’s rude, but on their side at least, I don’t think it’s cheating.

      2. FiveWheels*

        100% agree. Having sex with someone when you know they’re in a monogamous relationship might be wrong, but it’s still nothing to do with the other partner. It’s the CHEATER who cheats. He’s the one who swore and then broke vows.

        Sometimes I just do not get people at all.

        1. Cuckold?*

          I disagree. Part of the reason marriage exists is to broadcast to the world, “hey, I’m off the market.” The “homewrecker” can be held morally culpable for failing to abide by this social norm. (Obviously, if the “homewrecker” didn’t know about the marriage, or was falsely told it was an open marriage, that’s a different story.)

          1. Tempest*

            OP didn’t put a gun to his head, make him get aroused and then have sex with her without protection when he’s the one knowing he might be going home to have unprotected sex with his wife as well. So she slept with a married man but he was happy to be in bed with her knowing he had a wife at home that he’d made vows to. I don’t think we were ever told who chased who here, just that they got a wild hare and had a one time fling. It’s not like the OP was a rabid sex crazed monster chasing this poor married man until he caved and had sex with her outside his marriage.

            Your marriage is supposed to make you say I have made a commitment to this other person and I won’t break it because I promised to commit certain parts of myself only to them. It’s not going to hold the same amount of personal investment to some outside third party who barely knows you or your partner. Mr Married should have kept it in his trousers first and foremost. If she knew he was married OP likely should have said no thank you to the sex given the marriage and the fact that sex with even unattached coworkers has the potential to go sideways in a seriously messy way. But don’t put his marriage vows on her.

      3. Anon this time*

        Very true. Have gone on dates with too many guys who turned out to be very much married and I only found out the hard way from their wives calling me. It’s mortifying to say the least.

      4. sunny-dee*

        Here’s the thing though — NOT ONE of the vindictive actions that the OP listed were taking against the OP, until that one comment at the elevator.

        Everything else was either directed at the husband (which I think we all agree is also an appropriate object of her anger) or was fallout from the scandal itself.

        1. Tiffin*

          Having her served with a subpoena when she was in the hospital after giving birth and paying the person doing the serving to loudly proclaim the circumstances of the conception was absolutely vindictive.

          1. sunny-dee*

            Except that’s not possible and that OP made that assumption falsely, as other people have pointed out. (Not saying she’s lying, just saying she’s wrong.)

            1. Gandalf the Nude*

              I know folks are saying that’s not typically how it’s done, but I also don’t have any problem believing there are some shady process-servers out there who would take that bribe. And if this woman is as vindictive as she’s been portrayed, I also don’t have any problem believing she shopped around for them. And this is someone who responds to reasonable requests by taking the nuclear legal option, so I don’t have any problem believing that she is that vindictive.

              And above all, I don’t have any problem believing we should take OP’s at their word and do our best to help them rather than poo-poo at them for their mistakes and aggressively comb through their accounts for inconsistencies because they come to AaM and community for advice and help and sympathy and not for more of the same judgment that they’re already receiving in their home life.

              1. sunny-dee*

                Isn’t the whole thing “as she’s been portrayed” though? Honestly, part of the reason I’m focusing on that with the ex wife is because the actual situation comes down to two things: the ex wife’s cruel comment at the elevator and the OP being unable to get any references despite a dozen years working in an industry.

                Everything else is throwing shade on the ex wife. The entire divorce settlement is really normal; the garnishment is being blamed on her when it was the husband’s failure to pay; the process server is being pitched as an intentional attempt to humiliate her when let’s just say that would be atypical; and the OP is making assumptions about the ex wife’s reasons for taking a given management position. That all makes the vindictive ex wife look like this huge issue — but it’s really not the central issue.

                1. Gandalf the Nude*

                  sunny-dee, that’s the entire point. We always only have OP’s word to go by. This isn’t court, and we don’t have to needle LWs for perfect accounts to offer them advice. If their words are false or their perceptions off, they’re the only ones who will be affected. It costs us absolutely nothing to believe what we’re told and comment accordingly or, if we’re convinced they’re full of bull honky, to walk away and comment on a different letter.

                2. Tempest*

                  I’m personally blaming the ex wife for going after the OP as hard as her ex husband. She wants to ruin him that’s fine. The ex husband is not the OPs partner now. Beyond co-parenting their child she has nothing to do with him though clearly doesn’t wish him any ill will. Making this woman unemployable because she slept with your husband once is vindictive. The ex wife’s conduct toward the OP absolutely is the central issue. The OP has never said the ex shouldn’t have gone after the husband. She’s said her child’s dad can’t help her very much because he was bankrupted by his divorce and also can’t get a job because of the way his ex wife made sure this story spread through their industry in a sensationalized fashion – ie that the affair happened on company time etc. She can’t tell us the story without telling us the facts. Ex wife bankrupted husband which means he can’t pay a lot toward the child’s needs. He has no car so transport for the child isn’t something he can help her with. She had to sell hers so she’s struggling. Would you like her to say ‘oh it’s great I’ve had to sell my car and move home to my parents because I made a mistake’? I don’t think anyone would feel that way if the shoe was on the other foot.

                3. SystemsLady*

                  But if the ex-wife (who OP has admitted she wronged) is singlehandedly responsible for destroying 12 years of good work, which seems very likely from OP’s comments, we shouldn’t feel bad for OP for that part?

            2. No, please*

              How is this not possible? Serious question. I’ve known people who do lots of terrible things for extra money. It happpens. Even with rules and company policies.

            3. Jessie the First (or second)*

              “Except that’s not possible and that OP made that assumption falsely, as other people have pointed out. ”

              It is possible, especially in a state that allows private process services (as opposed to requiring that it be a sheriff or constable). And for the record, the first place a process server would look would not generally be the hospital; they’d go to her house. It would take a little doing to find out that she is in the hospital, and *which specific* hospital, in order to serve her there. It is no great leap from there (the fact that some places allow private service, which may be more amenable to extra fee for embarrassing service; that they did the work to discover not only was she in the hospital when they got the service but the exact hospital) to decide that the OP may be right about what happened.

            4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I’m not sure which comments you’re reading, sunny-dee. OP has detailed a lot of concrete, spiteful, unnecessary actions that the ex-wife took against her leading up to this elevator comment.

              And it’s entirely possible to serve process the way OP described. I don’t know why you’re insisting that it’s “not possible” and that OP asserted a false assumption in light of countervailing comments that have contradicted or challenged your (and others’) assertion regarding service of process.

    4. Shadow*

      I so wish she would have clapped back with “eff with me and I’ll eff you like I effed your husband.”

      1. BeautifulVoid*

        Or “Gee, is it any wonder that he cheated on someone like you?” Not that I’m saying it was the ex-wife’s fault, because it wasn’t; just that if you’re certain the bridge is 100% burned, might as well go out in a blaze of glory and get in one zinger on this woman who’s being unreasonably vindictive. (As others have said, I support her right to be angry and to pursue what she’s legally entitled to. I don’t support her efforts to try to tank the OP’s life and career until the end of time.)

        1. Relly*

          Wow, can we not go down this road? He decided to stray. His ex wife is not in any way responsible for his decision to cheat. Even with you saying “well, it wasn’t her fault,” you’re saying that you’re willing to fall back on the ridiculous notion that our society has, that a man cheats because his wife isn’t fulfilling his needs, not because he’s a grown man and made a choice. I’m not comfortable reinforcing horrible sexist stereotypes just to sink to someone’s level.

          1. BeautifulVoid*

            As has been said about many other people in many other situations written about on this site, sometimes people start off with the moral high ground and then destroy it for themselves. And I didn’t say anything about her not fulfilling his needs, more that she’s coming across as a nasty piece of work (which is a trait that is not gender-specific). To paraphrase someone else from further upthread, if I had to choose which one of them to be married to, or even be friends with, at this point, I’d pick the spouse who had cheated and had a one-night stand for whatever reason over the spouse whose cruel, vindictive streak has lasted years.

            1. Relly*

              And I didn’t say once that anyone here has the moral high ground, and moreover, I’m not even talking about the ex wife in this case.

              I’m saying that you can insult someone without resorting to sexist stereotypes to do it. “He cheated because you were a crappy wife,” even if you don’t believe that’s a Thing, even if you don’t mean it, is feeding into all that garbage about how a woman needs to satisfy a man or he’ll stray.

              It’s not okay to be against sexism most of the time and then use sexist language to hurt someone, even if you don’t like them. I’m reminded of people who would insult Ann Coulter’s looks and justify it with “I mean, she’s anti feminist, anyway.” She is, and so is everyone using her appearance to belittle her.

              I wouldn’t want to be married to any of these people.

  8. Kalamet*

    The elevator comment disgusts me – I understand that a cheating spouse is a hard situation, but this woman is clearly consumed by vengeance. That’s a terrible, shoddy way to treat other people. There be so many bees, OP, and you were right to get out of there. I can’t imagine she would have made working for her anything other than a misery.

    Best wishes, and I hope things work out for you!

    1. Myrin*

      For real. I could understand her saying “I don’t ever want to have anything to do with ex-spouse or OP ever again!” but this woman seems to gleefully bask in a viciously cruel mindset.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Yes. I’d have sympathy if it was “I cannot manage this person because of our history; I couldn’t trust myself to be fair,” even if the end result was the same (no job for LW). It’s not ideal, but it’s human–there are people in my past that I could not trust myself to be fair to either. But “I can’t wait to manage this person who I hate because the universe is giving me a chance for revenge!” is worlds different.

        1. Mints*

          Yeah, if the manager had been reasonable with HR and HR couldn’t figure anything out, and OP ended up laid off with a tiny severance – functionally OP would be in the same situation but I’d feel differently about it all. The ex wife sounds vindictive in a way I have a hard time understanding (12 years later is the kicker for me)

          1. Natalie*

            Even zero severance would be preferable, since the LW would qualify for unemployment.

        2. Erin*

          I wonder what the hiring boss of the ex thinks about this. I would be pissed if I thought someone I hired would say things like that to a potentional employee or coworker. I wouldn’t be able to trust her to not be vindictive around other employees, especially after she picked to work on OP’s team. What the ex said will get around in an office.

  9. WhichSister*

    Some people just carry a lot of anger. I am sorry but if her husband had a one night stand with you, there were problems long before you were in the picture. I am sorry it led to this and these circumstances for you. I hope things do look up sooner and you see a light at the end of the tunnel. Can the father of your child be a reference and vice versa?

    My ex husband still has a lot of anger toward me. After spending way too much time, energy and money on couples counseling for us, and individual counseling for me (he refused to go solo), I finally invited him to leave. This was also after I put him through nursing school (BSRN) and he lasted less than 90 days in his first job then decided it was “too hard”. He has since remarried but my thing is if he is SOOOOOOOO happy with his life, why is he still so nasty and angry with me. There was no cheating or anything. He just quit working on marriage and thought I would carry the load. He blames me for everything. EVERYTHING.

    My point is the anger that woman carries will catch up with her and eventually she will be forced to look at her own actions.

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      My SO’s ex is exactly like this. She’s had the gall to recently ask if they can try dating again after we’ve been in a committed relationship for years. I believe their ship has sailed.

      1. I Like Pie*

        My SOs ex blames me for them being apart. Even though he admits his faults – drug addiction, depression. Not the fact that she moved to a new state when they were struggling to fix their crumbling marriage. Not on her manic episodes or drug use or already dating someone within months of moving away. Nope, just me. My fault they’re not together now.

        Of course, it doesn’t help that the man she decided to partner with apparently is constantly on her nerves and she doesn’t really like him. And instead she knows her ex (my SO) has cleaned up his act, got a great job and put his life into a good position. I took all that from her apparently. *sighs* Some people have real nerve.

  10. k*

    That’s a tough situation to be in, but your positive attitude is inspiring.

    As for the reference situation. Can you get in touch with the manager you had before this lady came in? Or a former coworker that might say nice things about you? If you don’t list anyone from your last job and they call on their own, they may get sent to Her since she is the manager for that position now. Giving them anyone else from that company would help to avoid that.

    1. Rachel the LW*

      Thanks k. My one reference is the manager who I had before the merger. He is now retired but he agreed to still be a reference for me. I don’t have anyone from the other job I had before this one, or anyone from the job I just left to be reference.

      1. Jennifer M.*

        I think you need to frame it a bit differently. Your most recent manager is your reference. He’s just no longer with the company that you both worked at.

      2. Anne*

        My former manager is my reference even though he’s long gone from the place we both worked! It’s totally ok to use him.

  11. Tiffin*

    I still can’t believe HR reacted like that. I mean, I can; I just don’t want it to be true. That really, really sucks. Yes, the OP made a mistake; however, the repercussions have far outstripped the mistake. I hope things turn around soon.

    1. Anon Anon*

      I can. Some employees are more valued than others.

      And if the choice is between a rising star who the company see’s as potential C-Suite material in the future who they know very well, and someone who they perceive to be a decent worker, but easily replaceable, then I get why they’d go with the rising star. Assuming that both parties are perceived in such a way.

      1. Tiffin*

        I’m not sure I believe this. I mean, the ex had another option and purposefully took the job to manage the OP. That should have set off someone’s hinky meter. At the very least, HR should have listened to her concerns and created some sort of action plan. Even if in the end, they decided that what the ex did to the OP (assuming the OP had continued to work there) wasn’t a big deal or worth upsetting the ex, it is strange and unprofessional of them to blow her off given that any reasonable person could see this situation has the potential to blow up in a big way.

        1. Questioning*

          While she may have taken that specific management job to get back at OP – she may also have taken it because it was most closely aligned to her career goals. I’ve had the option of multiple positions before but that doesn’t make them equal or that they would progress my career in the same way.

          However, I think HR should have absolutely moved OP to a different department, if at all possible and the elevator comment is flat out gross and should have been reported immediately.

          1. Tempest*

            OP said in the previous letter that the two jobs were equal in every way. The deciding factor was managing the OP. She took the job to make OP’s life hell for as long as possible. The OP also said in the previous letter that management said that the ex would be professional and they expected OP to be as well, and that was the end of it. Clearly the ex wasn’t capable of this, hence the elevator comment.

      2. MissDisplaced*

        This is true, but it’s no reason to give the worker a bad reference. “Rising Star” never even managed the employee.

  12. Managed Chaos*

    I know hindsight is 20-20, but your current situation is why I would have strongly suggested attempting to work with her (no matter how difficult) until you found another job. It’s almost always easier to get a job while you have one, especially if you’re not able to provide a solid reason for leaving.

    1. Rainy, PI*

      Given the comment by the elevator…uh, no. In this situation I think she was right to do what she did.

      1. K.*

        The comment by the elevator AND the fact that HR was basically like “Not my problem,” so she had no allies. She was in a completely untenable position. I’d have left too.

        1. Managed Chaos*

          What was HR to do? It wasn’t their problem that LW decided to sleep with not only a co-worker, but a married one? She clearly wasn’t a high level employee where they were desperate to retain her.
          Even with the elevator comment, she could have sucked it up and done the best she could to remain professional while job searching.

          It’s not the manager’s fault that the poor child has two non-working parents. Those things are results of their own choices, nor is it wrong of her to garnish wages to get what is legally hers. She may need that money to provide for her own children.

          1. fposte*

            HR could tell employees that they’re expected to be professional regardless of their personal history.

            I don’t hold anything in the divorce settlement stuff against the ex-wife. But if you can’t manage one of your employees fairly, which she clearly has no interest in doing, you need to find a professional way to deal with that situation, and the company should do the best it can to ensure that it happens. Being wronged isn’t carte blanche to behave how you like for the rest of your life, and the ex-wife is way out of line in her behavior toward her employee here.

            1. Browser*

              The exwife told HR she’d be professional. As far as HR was concerned, problem solved.

              1. fposte*

                Apparently that was their approach. I’m just saying they (and whoever manages the OP’s soon-to-be manager) could have been active here rather than passive.

                1. Browser*

                  What for? They were told there would be no issue, and they didn’t consider OP valuable enough to bother taking “just in case” steps.

                2. SystemsLady*

                  So what she actually said to OP in the elevator doesn’t count as evidence OP’s gut feeling might be justified?

                3. DArcy*

                  What she said to OP in the elevator came off as ominous from OP’s point of view, but if looked at neutrally is not actually a clear-cut threat. Moreover, it was never actually reported to HR; as far as we’ve been told, she only went to HR once, and at that point it was based on nothing but her fear.

              2. EM*

                Most companies object if a manager has a relationship with an employee they are supervising, because it creates a perception of bias (if not actual bias) for other employees. If your boss was sleeping with or related to your peer wouldn’t you wonder? I think it’s reasonable expect that standard to work both ways – even without factual bias the risk of perception by the LW should have been enough for HR to intervene. (Incidentally, in my jurisdiction, HR would likely be dismissed for gross incompetence if such a failure to mitigate the risk to the company was discovered by management. Where I am, this would be lawsuit material on the history alone)

          2. Natalie*

            Two options that immediately spring to mind – not give the Ex-Wife/Manager her choice of position* but rather promote her into the position that wasn’t directly managing her ex’s affair partner. Or, terminate the LW’s employment and agree not to challenge unemployment, so she could at least leave with a little bit of a safety net.

            1. Natalie*

              Eep, forgot to add my footnote.

              * From the original post, the Ex/Manager was given her choice of two equivalent positions and chose the one managing the LW over another position with some perks. From the context provided it seems like being the LW’s manager was the attraction of that position.

          3. Bess*

            This is not a situation anyone in HR with their head on straight wants to maintain. Their response to this is either utterly disingenuous (and a mark of their lack of value of the LW) or so totally obtuse that they’re not functioning in the role HR is supposed to perform. It’s HRs responsibility to ensure management relationships remain appropriate and ethical, and having someone basically promise to make their report’s work life miserable is about as unethical as you can possibly get, and a completely unjust use of power (however justified/natural her anger is, and whatever mistakes LW made).

            I’m not sure how the elevator comment can be perceived in any other way than an explicit threat, particularly given their bitter history. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone saying something like that and not meaning it. I’m pretty paranoid about leaving a job without anything lined up but this is a circumstance where I’d at least seriously consider it.

        2. Intimidation wins*

          Disagree. She basically did the ex-wife’s work for her (ruining her own professional reputation) by leaving twice. What more could her boss/ex-wife have done to her? If it got so bad, wouldn’t OP have a case against her? At least OP would be employed.

          There are MANY bad decisions being made here. You can vilify the ex-wife but I think OP let her own guilt get to the best of her.

    2. Amy*

      Without the elevator comment I might have suggested this. With the elevator comment…that’s a clear-cut “I’m out to get you” sentiment! I would’ve gotten the hell out of there too, if my manager talked to me like that and HR wouldn’t back me up or let me switch.

  13. Britt*

    Just remember OP that you might think the ex is on top here with her fancy management job at your old company but you are the one who is really thriving here. You have your head on straight and are doing the best you can to coparent and keep your child’s life as normal as possible. The ex may have that job but if she is so consumed by bitterness and anger that she has still been unable to move past this, she is the one with a serious problem here, not you. Keep your head up, things will turn around for the better soon enough.

  14. Caro in the UK*

    I have been cheated on. I’m also a person who can REALLY hold a grudge and has to work very hard on forgiveness. But the level of vengeance that this woman has for you, OP, is not normal, and is not your fault, I just want you to know that. I’m really impressed by how you seem to be staying positive and I hope you manage to find something, even if it’s temp work, really soon.

  15. CatCat*

    Hopefully, everyone can move on with building up their own lives. If OP does well on the temp assignments, those assignments may lead to a permanent opportunity and it will definitely help OP with finding recent work references.

    I’d like to say I’d be above vengeance if I’d been in ex-wife’s shoes… but I am not sure I could honestly say that I would be. HR definitely handled the whole situation terribly.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I wouldn’t be above vengeance by wanting them out of the company. But to continually trash their chances by bad references is crossing the line. OP left. That should be end of story.

      And WTF is that HR team doing!!!! They in no way should allowing this woman to control a reference of someone she didn’t even manage.

  16. Knitty*

    I am so sorry OP. Do you have any friends who could call and ask for a reference so you can see exactly what your last jobs are saying? If they’re being dishonest you may be able to get that to stop. At the very least if your quality of work was good they should just be speaking to that. Especially since you left your last job before you worked with your baby’s dad’s ex took over so it would be hard to say you caused drama there.
    Alison, if she does find out that her last job is actively trying to keep her from getting a job what are her options as far as letting interviewers know what’s happening?

    1. Rachel the LW*

      The aren’t being dishonest because I did leave both jobs on bad terms and my most current one with only a few days of notice. I wish it were different but I am realistic enough to know the bridges are burned.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Yes, you gave little notice. But how did they feel about your work *before* that point? Were your reviews good, did you get good feedback? If you know anyone at HR who handles references, are you comfortable calling that person to talk about it, see if in light of your good work product they’d be willing to at least be neutral as a reference? Sure, the company might be so mad at you because of the notice that they are intent on telling that story, and only that story, to any potential employer – but if your work product before that point was good and if before that point you had decent relationships with people, that you could spend some time calling a few people at work to see if they would be willing to discuss the reference issue with you.

        1. Lizzy*

          OP, with 12 years of experience, if nothing else, I’m sure you can indicate on your resume/cover letter your accomplishments. The fact that you left the last 2 jobs (that sound like the only 2 jobs you’ve had) under bad circumstances doesn’t also erase 12 years of experience. I’d also recommend that you wait to provide references until after/during the interview (if possible).
          Would also be a great way to indicate your willingness to work with others:
          Question: Can you tell me about why you left your prior jobs? / Can you tell me why you don’t have more references?
          Answer: You know, I’m glad you mentioned that. In my first position, I worked on X and Y, and improved Z procedures blah blah (focus on the good!!!), and was employed for 8 years (or whatever it was). During that time I had excellent performance reviews, and was generally considered a good employee. Towards the end of my time there, albeit 3 years ago (or however long), I made a serious error and allowed my work life and my personal life to overlap. Unfortunately this meant I was forced to leave in a less-than-ideal manner. I have absolutely learned my lesson, and in the 3 years since I have taken steps to ensure such a situation will not occur again. Given the situation, this meant I was unable to retain any valuable references from this company. Regardless of how I left company A, I trust they would be professional and concur that I was otherwise an exemplary employee.
          With my most recent employment, I was there for X years, and accomplished Q, R, and S. I also had fantastic performance reviews, and my prior manager, RetiredGuy, would be happy to attest to my abilities. The company recently underwent a merger, and it just so happened that my proposed new manager would have been someone who was deeply affected by The Situation. Wishing to be diplomatic, and hoping to avoid any potential discomfort or problems for either party, I approached HR to see if an alternate solution could be found. Unfortunately hands were tied, and my options were limited. I absolutely recognize how my actions have impacted this particular individual, and completely aside from my own feelings and need for a job, I did NOT want to be a constant reminder to this person of a sad and difficult part of this person’s life. I continued to try and see if an alternative resolution could be implemented, but once it became clear this was not an option, I made the very difficult decision to resign with little notice.

          Hopefully something like that will help you out!!!! good luck!!!!

  17. Mustache Cat*

    Oh my god.

    I sincerely wish I could help you in some way. There’s no way you deserve to be haunted like this because of one (admittedly pretty major) mistake that you made years ago.

    I know you’ve said in previous comments that you don’t want to contact your old workplace again because of what bad terms you left on, but I truly encourage you to try again. It might be helpful to have a friend call to see what they’re saying about you. Call and see if you can negotiate for a better reference. Do the same with the HR at your most recent company. I know that they’re pretty obviously on the ex-wife’s side, but maybe there’s someone in HR who sees the obvious immorality of allowing her to poison your references like this.

    Good luck, OP.

  18. MuseumChick*

    OP, I’m curious about your job where you meet the father of your child. Why has been getting a good reference from them been impossible? Yeah, you had a fling with a co-worker, which, yes, isn’t great judgment but if it was a one-time thing it’s not something that I would think would overshadow years of good work.

    1. Rachel the LW*

      There was huge fallout from what happened and the bridge was burned for both of us. It didn’t go well when his wife outed us and even though she didn’t work there we both ended up being the bad guys. Some clients thought we were using the time they were paying us to be together while on their dime and that management couldn’t control the work environment. There was more but it was pretty bad even though the on the clients dime couldn’t be proven one way or the other. Him and I were on our own time but could not prove that.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        So you had a one-night stand with a coworker. Nine months passed and you had a baby. When his wife got you served with alienation of affection papers coworkers realized that the heretofore unnamed father was Brad. Multiple clients then decided that you and Brad had been having sex and billing them for your time. That last seems a massive leap without a whole lot of extra vindictiveness from someone in the office creating that scenario and convincing everyone both inside the office and beyond that it was true. (And his then-wife didn’t work in the office.)

        You have said several times that those bridges are burned, and that’s likely true. But you should probably reexamine what all the matches were. What you describe (in office A having an affair with a married coworker, in office B quitting with only a few days notice) doesn’t seem like it should set off a massive conflagration that destroys all bridges. Twice.

        1. Amtelope*

          Yeah, that’s odd. If I found out that two of my coworkers were having an affair, I wouldn’t conclude it was during work hours. Nor would I expect people in the company to share that information with clients — I’m 100% certain that management would shut down any attempts to gossip with clients about an affair between members of our staff. How strange.

        2. Hibiscus*

          Yeah, even in a small city where lots of people know the OP and her child’s father, it sounds like someone was starting additional fires for so many to know this story and clients to all have the idea they were cheating left, right and center while on the clock.

        3. MuseumChick*

          “But you should probably reexamine what all the matches were.”

          I think this is a really good idea. OP, I take you are your word about what has happened at your two jobs. Yet I cannot help but feel there is some piece of this story we are missing. Maybe it’s because (rightfully so!) so you don’t want to provide too much detail for your own privacy.

          Consider this, you were at your previous job for several years, yet no one believed you when you said you had not been having an affair on client’s time. No co-workers, after years, were willing to believe you and be a reference for you. Your last job, you’ve been there for years and only your retired manager is willing to be a reference for you, but no co-workers. This does say “red flag” to a hiring manager. Generally, unless some other things were at play, you should have had enough “credit” with people at both jobs to get even a neutral reference.

          Obviously, I do not know all the details about what happened. Only you do. It would be worth it to think long and hard about “where all the matches were”

          1. Rachel the LW*

            My colleagues there didn’t care or believed us about it not being on our time. What burned the bridge with them was management changing the rules, being stricter and taking away perks and things to stop more clients from leaving.

        4. Stellaaaaa*

          “Couldn’t control the work environment” is a satellite statement…it’s bringing up a preemptive defense of something no one was accusing anyone of. I’d say the source of the trouble might lie in that statement.

        5. Turtle Candle*

          It does seem really strange. If I found out that a pair of coworkers had had a one night stand–or even a lengthy affair–it would not even occur to me to go “they must have been doing it on company time, and I will firmly believe that until they can somehow prove they weren’t!” Not even if I was their client and financially invested in their use of time. I might have an opinion about it, I am human that way, but that is not at all where my mind would go. It’s odd to me.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Oh, I’m sorry; I missed that it was the ex wife who told them that. Still seems strange to me (if I sent my partner’s workplace and their clients a “they must have been messing around on YOUR time!” email I think they’d put it in the Letters from Unhinged People round file) but it’s considerably less baffling to me now how they got that idea.

          2. Browser*

            Depends how conservative an area you live in and (perhaps) how religious your clients are.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Oh, sure. I am sorry to say that I grew up in a small town where an affair could make someone functionally unemployable for that very reason. It’s just that in that context the focus was on it having happened at all, and not whether it was on the client’s time.

          3. Temperance*

            My assumption is that ex-wife somehow put this little bug in the ear of management and/or the clients, which is where the idea came from. There have been many people in my offices over the years who have had affairs, and I literally never once jumped to “stealing funds” as part of the issue.

            1. mreasy*

              Just texted “I love you” to a former coworker while we were both on the clock. I mean, we’re married (to each other), but is it stealing funds for us to communicate? Obviously a different situation but if you reduce the “stealing funds” argument to its bare bones, don’t you end up in the same place?

        6. siobhan*

          I agree with reexamining the matches. OP, personal history aside, it’s not normal for one person to control your reference prospects for the entire company; colleagues who can speak highly of your work don’t need the company’s permission to do so. I also find it hard to believe that rumors of hooking up would cause a number of clients to leave, if the work was otherwise good. For more than one client to hold you to the impossible standard of “we can’t prove we didn’t,” without a history of unsatisfactory work, sort of beggars belief.

          I suggest you seriously consider whether anyone had reason to sever professional ties that was unrelated to the ex-wife, and if so, whether any of that was within your control. Your focus is rightly on moving forward and building new professional relationships, but if there’s anything at all that could have happened differently, you should be armed with that knowledge for the future.

          1. SystemsLady*

            Agreed OP should check for this, only that I can see how this could’ve happened without there being issues with her work.

        7. SystemsLady*

          I’m sadly not surprised. The way this thread has gone is a great illustration of the way being guilty of one instance of this particular kind of thing automatically paints you as an awful person who probably will cheat you in other ways. It’s not right (and this isn’t to say cheating is OK!), but it happens.

  19. DrPeteLoomis*

    Since the OP is now having some trouble with references, I’m wondering what other’s advice would be on that front. My inclination is to maybe be upfront about this (but in a really bland sort of way, not all the sordid details) the next time this comes up with a new potential job. Maybe something like, “Due to some overlap in our personal lives, the management at ex-company has some deep-seated personal resentment against me, which is why I have not included them as a reference.” I mean, you still run the risk of any potential employer thinking you are too much drama, but at least you get a little more control over the narrative.

    Personal anecdote: I know someone who was fired after being wrongly accused of stealing from the employer. A police investigation was started and then promptly abandoned because there was 0 evidence of stealing. Even though this person was completely innocent, they were afraid this would rear its ugly head when they went to get a new job, and they couldn’t use the previous employer as a reference. So, when they went to interview at a new job, they just laid it all out in the interview and ended up getting the job.

    What do other commenters think about this approach?

    1. NK*

      I was thinking about something similar. However, I think the risk you run is that for employers who may not be as into checking references, now you’ve biased them before that step. I also think that this approach probably works better for smaller employers who have more discretion.

      Rachel, I also wonder if it’s worth going back to your previous employer, explaining the current situation, and seeing if with a few years’ passage they’re willing to reconsider how they frame your reference. Or simply do the “we’ll verify dates of employment only” reference, which some people do as policy. I know you think that bridge is entirely burned, but you also have nothing to lose (unless I’m missing something and you think this could somehow cause further damage).

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      A false accusation from which you’ve been exonerated is somewhat different than what OP got herself into.

      If OP were to lay all the cards on the table about this – a management/hiring team might have some reservations about her candidacy. It’s much more difficult to explain – it can’t be rationalized easily.

  20. Rachel the LW*

    This was my letter. I would like to says thanks for the support from you all. Truly. I’m going to work but I will try to reply as much as I can.

    I wish it were different especially the reference situation but I know that the bridges were burned at my first job because the fallout of what happened with her husband and from this one because I left with only a few days of notice and she controls my reference now. I was given some good advice about about building references through temping.

    Thanks again all.

    1. Gadfly*

      Given the everything, this might be where a lawyer might be able to negotiate an agreement for them to give a neutral reference in exchange for you not testing if this (including the threatening comment) qualifies as anything problematic. Especially as almost new boss seems happy to gloat.

    2. Mustache Cat*

      I hope I don’t come off as if I’m not taking you at your word, but giving a shorter notice period than standard is usually not enough for a company to torpedo the rest of the reference. I would never give a BAD reference for someone who did good work and just didn’t give the standard two weeks. Yes, it might add a bitter note, but if the rest of your performance has been fair, then they should be honest about that. It’s also not like you no-called no-showed. You sound very, very resigned to your bad references, but I honestly don’t think it necessarily has to be that way for the rest of time. I think it’s at least worth seeing if you can salvage anything in the way of references from your previous companies, perhaps (as suggested above) with the help of a lawyer. (Not the one you consulted in the earlier post. I’m sorry, but some commenters in that post raised very valid concerns about his general competence.)

      1. Mike C.*

        I think you’re presuming a normal workplace when this is a workplace where the personal easily mixes with the professional.

    3. Rachel the LW*

      It’s not just me leaving, It’s the fact that she now controls my reference on behalf of the company because that is what they decided.

      I wish the reference situation waa different Gadfly and Mustache the Cat but I can’t dwell on what I can’t change. I had an employment lawyer when I left my last job and consulted one before I left this one. They said the same thing that neither she or the companies have done anything that would be actionable in court. I can’t afford to fight what multiple lawyers have told me I will lose. I’m going to move on and follow some good advice from CatCat above.

      Thanks for the support everyone

      1. Lee*

        You could have a friend call in for a “reference” and, not only see exactly what she’s saying but if she lies or exaggerates in anyway (record the phone conversation). This is slander (if she does lie), and she would be in hot water for misrepresenting her company and herself professionally, and it’s illegal.

        1. NoMoreMrFixit*

          In most jurisdictions recording a conversation without permission of the other party is a felony offense. As Rachel has stated the bridge is burned and there’s no recovering there. Building new references from temping or volunteering is a much better idea.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              Just as a side note (feel free to collapse!), even those lucky individuals without crushing law school debt should consider a quick google to see if their understanding of the law is correct before posting comments that may be incorrect or misleading. Many times you can find state, federal, or (as in this case) non-profit websites with quite reputable and easy to understand information without much effort.

            2. nonegiven*

              I just really wish she’d been on speakerphone with someone right before the elevator and said “OMG, here she comes, be quiet!”

        2. No, please*

          I think this a good idea. If recording isn’t possible, or is illegal, then they could at least get the name of the person giving the reference. Then note the time and write down what’s said. It may not help much but I’d want to know who was saying what.

        3. MegaMoose, Esq*

          Although it might be a good idea to see what the references are saying, I think the OP is being very reasonable for not trying to chase down a legal remedy here.

        4. Darren*

          I have to agree you should get a friend to call in to not just this one but both your previous workplaces asking for references for you. But I wouldn’t bother with the recording part.

          Also have them do it properly. It’s more about getting the details of what they are saying so you can ensure when you are communicating with potential new employers (who even if you don’t give these companies as references may decide to call them anyway as they make up 12 years of your working career something you aren’t going to get anything close to anytime soon elsewhere and raise the question why don’t you have a reference from one of them) you can ensure they are briefed on the situation (as much as you need to).

          It sounds like they can probably get away with just telling the truth and it paints a fairly damning (although not complete) picture on you.

          Some keys things to be aware of those are the woman providing the reference at your last job has actually never worked with you in any capacity (it would actually be a lie for her to indicate that she has). If I were employing you and checking references and knew this I wouldn’t really want to talk to her anyway (so perhaps might be worth mentioning that you left before she started and she can’t speak to your work, although again have your friend check what happens if they call her and indicate they’ve heard this it’s key to find out exactly what is being said here), at the very least you should be able to guide them to someone at your old work that can speak to your work (although they will still no doubt indicate you left with less than the usual notice but you can prep them for that with a reason).

          I might be being a bit naive here but I just can’t see how she can have managed to torpedo your reference completely at the old work particularly as she can’t speak to your work itself, only the fact you left before she started with short notice, and those that CAN speak to your work presumably aren’t lying (although this is the entire reason why you check these things).

          If you do find they are lying then you do actually have a potential leg to stand on (as that is illegal although expensive to do anything about), and might be able to do something about that. My first shot would be have a friend call pretending to be from the company you are interviewing with now to get the deceptive reference, call up HR and complain about the deceptive reference and that you will be pursuing legal action if it continues and then let the real company call, there is a chance they will assume it is one of your friends again this time recording the conversation when they hear the company name and will be honest (and give a neutral reference) or even better act in a paranoid fashion that will get them to disregard any negative content anyway.

      2. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

        Just wanted to second CatCat’s advice regarding building references from temp jobs. I was in a loosely similar position (limited/weak references due to circumstances beyond my control) and building up references from temp positions really worked! I temped at a role before they offered me a permanent role, but by that point I had already proven myself to them and I believe they only asked for references as a formality (I suspect that they were not even checked). My situation was nowhere near as heartbreaking is yours, and I’m so sorry that you’re going through it, but I hope it helps to hear that this has worked for someone else.

        One thing that I think did help me: I was very upfront with the external recruiters/employment agencies about the circumstances of my departures (and subsequent lack of references). I tried to explain things calmly and as briefly as possible, but I was much more upfront with them than I was in interviews with actual employers. I figured they might be able to help avoid the reference issue or push for a temp period where I could prove myself rather than relying on the limited/shaky references I had. It seemed to help.

      3. This Daydreamer*

        Who decided that she controls your reference? Is there any chance you can go back to HR, point out that she has a reason to be hostile, and get a neutral reference from them? You can also point out that, since you never worked with her, there’s no way she could give you a fair reference even if she wanted to?

      4. ArtsNerd*

        OP, I’m so sorry you had to go through this. As an aside, I know you’re answering the same questions multiple times throughout these threads, and I hope you’ll understand it’s due to the sheer volume of them that people are asking the questions you’ve already answered.

        Your employers were awful about this, and I really admire your perspective on moving forward. Please keep us updated.

      5. Kathlynn*

        So, you left before or as she became your manager. Are you listing your job(s) as one, or separate. If I were you I’d make sure that they were separate. And probably leave the second job off, and put “left due to merger” on my resume (Like one would “Seasonal job”.
        So, rather then Global-International Construction, you might only need to list Global Construction as your employer. Or list them both separately as Global Construction and Global-International Construction (merger).

        But I might be wrong.
        I also second checking your references. You might be able to get your former employer (where you had the affair) to change their reference from a negative one to a more positive one. (from “she cost us a lot of clients” to “she made a bad decision, which caused us to part, but before that we were satisfied with her work” or “There were allegations made against her that we were unable to prove or disprove. But our clients found out and we were forced to let her go to prevent loosing them”)

      6. LessaW*

        You never worked with this woman, there is no reason for her to have anything to do with your reference. What potential employer is going to want a reference from someone who had never worked with you?

        The companies may not have done anything actionable, but if she is lying and giving you a bad reference (and from everything she has done I would find it very hard to believe that she is restraining herself here), she is. And she is doing it while a representative of the company.

        Just the threat of legal action may be enough to resolve this for you. Have a friend call for the reference (record it if legal), and if she is slandering you, call HR and tell them you will sue. You don’t have to fight it, the threat should be enough to at least negotiate a neutral reference, if not one that ignores your sudden departure completely. If she is giving you a bad reference, she has just handed you the means to fix this.

        Yes, up until this point, it does not sound like they did anything illegal (generally crappy, but not illegal), but slander is illegal. They have now crossed the line to something where you do have grounds to fight back.

        Also, you keep on saying you know the bridges were burned at the previous job, but have you actually reached out? You don’t know what may have changed there. There may be new HR people who would be willing to switch to a neutral reference for you, things may had died down to the point where they can negotiate. It costs you nothing to ask, the worst they can do is say no, and you may find yourself in a better situation for asking.

        Same with LastJob, there is no harm in calling and saying you are not comfortable with someone who never worked with you, and who you had a personal connection to, and could references be done through the instead. At least then the worst of it will be the lack of notice, an not whatever embellishments she is adding, which combined with a good reference from your manager might not be so bad.

        Please don’t write off those references without at least trying to change them.

    4. Ann O.*

      You never worked for her. How and why does she control your reference?

      I feel like there are some missing pieces, which perhaps you can’t explain without further outing yourself.

      I’m also not there and not involved, but given that you went to HR before and laid out the issues, I don’t feel you really left with only a few days notice. Maybe there were only a few days formal notice, but there was plenty of notice that they’d made a decision with a high probability of leading to you leaving. I’m wondering if you may have internalized some judgement throughout all of this that is causing you to view yourself as more wrongdoing and guiltier than you both are and than other people may view you.

      1. Ived*

        This is what stuck with me throughout OP’s 2 letters and comments. OP, I cannot even imagine the stress you must have gone through after the ONS, then the child birth while still going through a difficult time at work, and then the court case while caring for a small child. You built a home and career out of nothing, only to see it all being destroyed again. You have remarkable courage, and I encourage you to rethink the story you tell yourself.

        For me, anger works. I don’t get angry easily, but I worked myself up quite quickly when my boss put me in an untenable position. I refused to quit, and let my anger drive an extraordinary level and quality of work that got me the visibility I needed in my job. Every time I felt like crying, or felt anxious, I forced myself to be angry at the situation, instead. It kept me from breaking down completely.

        Finally- please consider blogging or writing guest articles in your area of expertise. Building a positive reputation online will help mitigate some of the mean social media comments from the ex. I wish I could do more, but sending best wishes and hugs your way.

      1. pope suburban*

        Workplace dating or hooking up, for sure. Sometimes, that kind of thing can go fine and dandy, and no one in the office knows or has reason to care. But sometimes- most times, maybe, at least in my experience- it can end in drama, lost opportunities, dismissals, ruined relationships, and joblessness. This is a pretty extreme example featuring a couple of workplaces that *also* had poor work/life boundaries, but the basic lesson to tread carefully when it comes to workplace romance is a good one.

        1. ArtsNerd*

          I don’t see how this thread of discussion is helpful to the OP. I’m reading a lot more finger-wagging than I would like from this group. OP knows she messed up, and the consequences here are not proportional to the error.

    1. Still haven't created I name I like myself here yet*

      I’m neutral on the matter due because I have strong feelings that I don’t get into on here. I think it’s a huge learning experience but hopefully something works out for the op in the future.

  21. Yet Another Alison*

    Having a fling with someone who is married is not wise for so many reasons. I have never understood, however, the vengeance against people in the position of OP. Clearly this manager’s marriage was in trouble for her husband to step out of the marriage. What OP did was wrong obviously – but for the manager to state to OP that she “shattered” her life was clearly over the top. Her ex- husband shattered her life. Her ex- husband betrayed her trust.

    1. Browser*

      “Clearly this manager’s marriage was in trouble for her husband to step out of the marriage.”

      Be careful when saying things like this, because there is zero evidence to back this up. Many a marriage has been in good shape right up until one of them cheated.

      1. Yet Another Alison*

        I can see your point. Clearly there was an issue with the person doing the cheating. Something caused him to ignore the marriage vows.

      2. Turtle Candle*

        Yes, sometimes people cheat because of problems in their marriage, but sometimes people cheat because of poor impulse control, say, or selfishness, or because they don’t see their partner as someone who deserves respect, or just bad decision making (temporary or permanent).

        1. Natalie*

          selfishness, or because they don’t see their partner as someone who deserves respect

          I mean, these kind of sound like problems in a marriage to me. YMMV

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Hm, maybe. When I’ve heard “he cheated because there were problems in the marriage” the implication was always of both parties being at least partially at fault. If the “problem” could be “he’s a jerk,” then sure.

    2. You're Not My Supervisor*

      As someone who has been cheated on and felt this way in the past? It’s just easier to point your hatred someone you don’t know than someone you love(d). Doesn’t make it right, but that has been my experience.

        1. K.*

          I haven’t been cheated on (that I know of), but at the end of the day, people cheat because they want to. WHY they want to may take some more unpacking, but you simply cannot convince someone to stray if s/he doesn’t want to. And no one wants to think “My SO cheated on me because s/he wanted to,” so the impulse is to turn the ire toward the person they cheated with and make it their fault. It’s far more painful to think that the SO just didn’t care enough to be faithful to you at that time.

        2. Lissa*

          Yeah, I think this is a lot of it. I often see it especially when the person decides to stay. I talked with a friend of mine whose GF behaved inappropriately (not cheating but serious flirting) with a mutual friend, and *all* the guy’s anger was at the friend, not the GF. I once asked him about it (I promise it was appropriate, we were having an intense conversation) and he said basically exactly that – he chose (he framed it as a choice) to blame the other person instead of somebody he lives with and loves.

          Not the choice that I made when in cheating/similar situations, but I can at least understand a bit better now than I did before.

  22. Imaginary Number*

    After the last letter I was of the opinion “yeah, it’s understandable that she would have a hard time treating you fairly.” However, proclaiming excitement at getting revenge is a completely different matter. It’s one thing to say “I’m going to have a hard time treating this person amicably” and another saying “I’m going to make every effort to make this person miserable.”

  23. JustaLurker*

    So am I out of turn here to wonder what exactly the previous companies said when the prospective job called? I think this would be one situation to either hire a place that checks references or a talented friend to call them. If what they
    say is neutral or work related then there may be nothing to do. But if they are bringing in the personal situation, either HR or the new manager, then I would think the letter writer could at could at least take action to have them stop doing that (cease and desist letter?). If this lady is as vindictive as it sounds, I would want to at least confirm the personal circumstances are being omitted from any reference given.

    1. Browser*

      The OP quit with little notice – that’s enough to turn off future employers.

      1. LessaW*

        But do you really think the ex-wife is managing to restrain herself from saying more? With everything else she did? The woman expressed glee at the chance to manage one of the people who ‘shattered’ her life, you think she wouldn’t take the chance to cause more damage?

    2. Stellaaaaa*

      Sometimes being perceived as a drama magnet is enough to earn you a bad reference. If you know that you’re working in a small industry with lots of crossover, I’d argue that you might be a bad fit for that line of work if you’re not interested in drawing distinct lines between your personal and work lives. It’s just part of the deal when you know you have no chance of avoiding people you might be on bad terms with.

      1. Rachel the LW*

        Um I never wanted their car. I had my own car that I had to sell when I quit because I needed the cash. She had her husband’s car taken from him in the divorce but that is between them. When I said I couldn’t afford a car I meant buying a new one after I sold mine. Never wanted a free car from someone else

        1. naaaa*

          Didn’t you say they shared a car? So she didn’t take his car, she gained full ownership through the court system of their car.

          1. Susie*

            I think OP mentioned it to explain why the father of her child doesn’t have a car and why they are both relying on public transit. So saying she took it was to explain why he didn’t have a car and not trying to frame it as the ex-wife taking something that wasn’t hers.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        If this is what’s going on, using the temp work to shift into a different industry would be a good long-term plan.

        1. Stellaaaaa*

          Yep. These really small industries are minefields for young people in much less polarizing situations. I’m a huge believer in reinvention, and I personally feel that the “dust” of most people’s personalities doesn’t settle until we’re closer to 30. It sucks to be 40 and have dumb stories from your early 20s still following you around, especially at work. This might be an issue of industry culture as much as it’s about the nuts and bolts of finding a new job.

    3. SystemsLady*

      OP said upthread the ex-wife was given responsibility for references per HR’s (IMO ridiculous) judgment.

  24. Bea*

    Please stay strong. Your temp work will help you network and create solid references. You will not be destroyed, she will not win in the long run.

    You made a mistake and you’re dealing with the massive fallout but you’re a mom, you have support and that child that will get you through this ugly patch.

    1. CBH*

      +1 well said Bea… she will not win in the long run. You are doing great. You have an amazing son and your family unit will thrive. You are over the bumps in the road; things can only get better.

      I think your son’s father’s marriage was probably already on the rocks before your encounter. I think his former wife is taking everything all out on you.

      Also while using this time to network at your temp job, have you considered starting your own company or side business to help with income and additional networking. I’m not sure what your area of expertise is but whether it’s something in your field or even low key and unrelated (I’m thinking a data entry company, helping offices on the weekends, do grocery shopping/ errands for people in your neighborhood, cleaning houses, babysit). Something you could do from home while temping. They would be great and unique ways to create a new network unrelated to your past. If it’s not awkward maybe even team up with your son’s father on a few freelancing assignments as you both have a variety of experiences in the same field.

      I am only thinking of this idea because something hat happened to an acquaintance of mine that was laid off. He started walking dogs for extra money and to break up the boredom that came with being home all day. My friend was in his late 30s. One of his dog walking clients he was hired by the wife (in other words he had no idea who the husband was at the time). He met the husband one day when picking up the dogs and found out he was a manager at a company that had a few job openings. Off the beat networking opportunites to exist.

      1. Browser*

        “I think his former wife is taking everything all out on you.”

        I’d say she’s taken a fair bit out on her ex-husband as well – and deservedly so.

        1. CBH*

          I meant more that OP is currently in her line of vision, hence her target. The remark by the elevator makes me think that the former wife will take revenge with whoever she comes in contact with and as a manager she can disguise revenge as OP having work issues. If the husband were there instead of OP, I think the wife would act the same way. She can “legally” make this person’s life a living hell.

  25. Celeste*

    I like the temp job idea, and having the retired manager on your side is a plus. I think you were right to leave your job, before things escalated. I believe that was a real risk, and I’m glad you didn’t take it. I wonder if there is a way you can talk about it and say that you received a personal threat on the job, and while you would have liked to give the standard notice period, you felt you should just leave and go forward with your life. I feel like you have an idea that you have to take all the blame here, and I don’t think it’s appropriate. Maybe someone better than her could have found a way to work with you or get you a transfer, but she handled it badly.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I was also thinking the OP should address this proactively on interviews. I’m not sure a “personal threat” is the right thing, since that would sound very different from what the office would tell any reference requesters. She needs to figure out a way to say that both jobs were left because of the same personal issue, without sounding like she’s a problem employee.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I have to admit, it seems fairly unusual that not only does she get bad references from the official company references, but she doesn’t have any former coworkers who she can offer up to speak positively about her. I’ve been at the same company for a long time, and even though I’ve had different managers, they are all here still. I would have to use other people I work with who are discreet or coworkers who left. I would find it strange if no peers, former peers, or indirect managers would vouch for her.

        1. Celeste*

          Maybe they are aware that manager is vindictive and they don’t want to get on her bad side by helping the LW in any way.

          1. Stellaaaaa*

            It seems like a very small industry. It’s fairly likely that OP either has no other former superiors in her job history (like if you only ever have one manager at each of your two professional jobs) and/or the other people in her office don’t have positive things to say about OP because of the affair. It sucks because it’s not about work performance but it also wouldn’t be surprising.

        2. Tempest*

          She said up thread that as a result of the ex wife making clients think the affair happened on work’s time the management took a bunch of perks off the rest of the staff and started managing them much closer so they are all resentful toward her and ex husband as the ‘reason’ why they got a rougher deal at work. Given the on work time part of the affair was a lie that might not be fair but it’s unlikely she’s going to find someone willing to change their mind about her on that basis 12 years later.

      2. Celeste*

        Fair point. I think “interpersonal issue that could not be resolved” might be a way to go. She did try to resolve it, and there was no going forward there. I think her tone and bearing will count for a lot. There is no need for an interview to become a confessional.

  26. Arduino*

    Here is my advice:

    1. Get a professional sounding friend to call both previous employers. This way you are dealing with facts about who is being referred and what they are saying.
    2. If there are any lies here get employment lawyer to do a cease and desist or similar.
    3. Reach out to managers (maybe elicit your retired manager for this) at the last company who you worked with for references. Think about projects reporting etc you helped with. In my current company I have reported to only 2 managers but can think of 8+ who can speak to my work quality.
    4. Address lack of references if 3 doesn’t turn out in your cover letter but spin it. “I have been fortunate to work under one manager for 8 years … type thing.

    1. Rachel the LW*

      The bridge is burned from the first company. She controls my one at the second. They aren’t lying about anything because the bridges are burned and they haven’t done anything that is actionable in court. I appreciate you offering advice and trying to help though.

      1. Arduino*

        She doesn’t have to control the reference at your second company though if you do number 3….

        I got this sense from your first letter but am getting it more strongly now.

        This woman does not control your life. You do not have to selfflaggelate and give up a good career because the chips fell where they did. I can tell you feel defeated right now but don’t let that stop you from focusing on facts and turning over every stone.

        1. Rachel the LW*

          I appreciate what you are trying to do but my former manager is retired and has no standing or want to interfere considering he is retired, left before the merger and has no standing with the company.

          1. Amtelope*

            He doesn’t have to have any standing with the company to be helpful. The point is to find someone who can be a positive reference for you. She can “control the reference” for the company, but you never actually worked for her, so providing the contact information of your actual previous manager would be perfectly appropriate.

            If your former manager says he can’t provide a reference for you, that’s another matter, but that seems odd if you were working for him on good terms when he retired.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes. It’s very normal for people to still give references after they’ve left a job and even after they’ve retired. In fact, a reference from the ex-wife wouldn’t generally be something a good reference-checker would prioritize, since she never managed you, Rachel. Most reference checkers would prefer to talk to your now-retired boss. If he’s not willing, that’s a different issue — but if he is, that’s who you should be using.

            2. Rachel the LW*

              He has agreed to give me a good reference even though he is retired. He can’t make anyone else give me one but he said he will always give me a great reference.

                1. Rachel the LW*

                  That’s correct Alison.

                  I had both previous companies listed on my resume but when I gave his information I didn’t have the company information.

                  The company I interviewed with wanted more than one reference which I could not give.

                  The second company called both of the companies on my resume after a phone screen but before the interview. They had no asked for references at this point.

                2. SpotTheDog*

                  So much this. The retired manager is your reference for that job. You just say that your reference retired about the same time that you left, and that you had not worked under the new manager if asked. You don;t need to provide an additional reference for that jon since you are providing them with the person who actually managed you.

                  I have references that have changed positions and shifted companies, but they are still my reference because I worked for or with them in a role. Right now one of my references is retired, one left management for a new front line role in another team, and one oversees a totally different area of the company I worked for. I have a back-up reference who has changed companies twice since we worked together. But, they can all speak to my work in the roles I held, just like this retired manager can do for you.

                3. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  Rachel – make it clear when you talk to potential employers that your manager no longer works at the company (that he retired at the same time you left, and he is your reference), that there was a merger and the people there now were not there when you worked there. That should drastically reduce the chance that a potential employer would call over to the employer – because they (should) know they can’t get useful information from the employer.

              1. Arduino*

                There is no making – I am a bit lost though. Are you saying there is not a single other manager at tHe company who you have worked with on a project report or anything?

                Those are potentially references. If you list a healthy volume of references they likely will never call the ex wife.

              2. SystemsLady*

                You should answer “no” if asked if it’s OK to contact your employer. Assuming there’s a place to explain why, there say that your manager is retired and you have provided contact information for him in the references section.

                I’d also build up temp jobs, put them on your resume, and ask for a reference every single time so you’ll have more than one reference and they’ll be less tempted to even try contacting that employer.

            3. Tuxedo Cat*

              This. All he needs to do is speak to the quality of the OP as an employee. Some of my references no longer work at the place where they were my manager.

            4. Turtle Candle*

              Yes, and this came up in the earlier post I think. If he’s said he won’t provide a reference that’s one thing. But unless he has, it’s worth reaching out–being retired won’t matter IME (unless he retired fifteen years ago or something and so the reference is ‘stale’ but that really doesn’t sound like the case?)

              1. fposte*

                I think there’s some confusion here. From what it sounds like in the OP’s followup post, this former manager *has* provided a reference for her–that’s the single reference being referred to. It’s just that the people looking to hire her wanted more than that. (Though I think CA Admin has some really good ideas for finding other people to add to the list.)

                1. Turtle Candle*

                  Ah, yes, I was confused! I misunderstood the reiteration of “he’s retired” as “so I can’t list him,” not “so he’s not sufficient.” Thank you.

                2. SpotTheDog*

                  Okay, that explains more. It wounded like LW was saying she couldn’t use him for that position because he was retired. Did you have any co-workers or other managers that know your work there and could provide further references? I know you said you didn’t have friends from the first job, but maybe there are some from this one?

          2. CA Admin*

            Except that references aren’t typically given by or controlled by the company as a whole–they’re given by whoever was your manager at the time. Your manager leaves for a new job or retires? They’re still your reference, you still put their contact information down.

            None of my references are still with the company that we both worked for together. I don’t even provide the current manager’s info because they never managed me or HR’s info because they can’t give any meaningful commentary on my work quality. I give my old manager’s new/personal contact info and that’s who they talk to.

            You can also use former coworkers who were peers as references. About 1/3 of my references are actual managers/supervisors, 1/3 are coworkers I supported, and 1/3 are other EAs that I worked with. None of which are still with the companies where we worked together, so I give out their personal contact info, along with a description of our professional relationship (aka “former Associate Director of the Annual Fund, part of the team I supported and managed my day-to-day work functions and training” or “former Executive Assistant, we worked closely together because our teams worked on the same deals and traveled a lot together” or “former Senior Associate, part of the team I supported, we worked closely together on travel/calendaring for the senior executives”).

            There’s no reason for them to contact the ex-wife. She never managed you. In fact, nobody currently employed by the company ever managed you or worked with you for any length of time. Talk to the people you used to work with and go outside official channels. If you give enough names, even if they’re “former” employees, then the companies you’re interviewing with often won’t dig deeper and contact the companies through official channels.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Yes! I’m tangentially involved in hiring and it’s very very common for your references to no longer be at the same company or even to be retired. Maybe even more common than not, given that we don’t check references at the current place of employment. People move on, we know that, and that’s totally normal and fine. And we don’t ask “the company” about someone’s work quality–we ask the actual person who managed them, whoever that might be. “The company” generally has no clue; Bob Boss or Melissa Manager does.

              1. TeacherNerd*

                Very slight derail (SORRY) but I read that as “Bob Ross” and I was really bummed out that Bob Ross wouldn’t give a reference. You could be the worst employee with the worst job history at that place of employment and you’d still feel good after talking to Bob Ross.

                Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

                1. Turtle Candle*

                  I am so starting a “if Bob Ross was your manager…” thread on this week’s Friday open thread! (And will hold it till then, of course. :D )

            2. paul*

              Thats probably a huge part of why she’s struggling to get a job and I have to say I can’t blame hiring managers over being sketched out; one reference for 12 years of work history *has* to be concerning.

            3. Steph B*

              I was coming here to comment in the vein of coworker peers for references, too. This can be important when you might be interviewing for a new job while not wanting to alert your manager at a current job, too. Project Managers or team leads (so folks that might have been your line manager but have some experience working with and managing you on a task/project) can be great for this!

              While interviewing for my current job, I had been at the same company in a niche industry for 5 years; my job prior to that was in a different industry altogether. I didn’t want to alert my then-current manager that I was interviewing elsewhere. So I got two coworkers (a project manager and a team lead) to act as references to my relevant work experience in the niche industry, and my former former manager was never actually contacted.

              1. Steph B*

                *Ooops! I meant to write ‘folks that might NOT have been your line manager’.

      2. sam*

        Rachel: There are a lot of things a lawyer can do for you short of ‘going to court’. Often, simply having a lawyer write a properly drafted letter to your former employer is enough to pressure them to change their ways in a situation like this – to at least have your reference become some sort of “neutral” confirmation of employment dates, that you resigned from your position (aka, you weren’t fired), to have it go through HR rather than a person you have never actually worked for and who you have a contentious (to say the least) personal relationship with (!)

        It’s really the last part that is just so completely unprofessional on your former employer’s part that it boggles my mind.

        1. Rachel the LW*

          The employment lawyer I consulted said the same as the one I had when I left my first job that there is nothing they can do though and I don’t have money to pay for a lawyer especially if I am going to lose because they aren’t lying or doing anything illegal. I appreciate what you are are trying to do but I have been there already.

          1. Electric Hedgehog*

            Try to find someone pro bono, because the circumstances that applied at your first job are different from what you’re going through here.

            I admit, reading through the original post and this follow up I am a bit frustrated that you’re just taking this lying down. You wrote in presumably for advice to deal with this incredibly sticky situation. Instead of stonewalling yourself with all of these reasons that the advice presented won’t work, take a risk and try some of it. This is your life, and the life of your child. You can’t be defeatist about this.

            1. Rachel the LW*

              I have already tried and I had an employment lawyer the first time and consulted one for the second job. I am doing my best but the lawyers said there was nothing I could do because they didn’t do anything illegal so I have no cause to ask them to stop or do anything.

          2. LA LA Land Law*

            A lawyer may have told you that you are going to “lose” if you framed the question as to whether you should litigate. As someone noted above, there are options other than litigating, and these options don’t necessarily involve the binary outcome of “winning” or “losing.”

            1. Rachel the LW*

              More than one lawyer has told me I have no cause for action to do anything or ask her to stop in any way or fight with my company about having to work with her because none of it met the test for being illegal or harassment in any way and in the eyes of the law she has not done anything wrong.

              1. LA LA Land Law*

                And speaking as a lawyer (albeit not an employment lawyer), you need to frame the question differently. You’re asking your lawyer whether you have any cause of action against the company for what’s happened UP TO NOW (“having to work with her”). You have an answer to that (which sounds like the right one to my ear, but again, I’m not in labor law).

                You need to ascertain whether the company is giving false information to reference-checkers, and find out if there is “action” to be taken FOR THAT SPECIFIC QUESTION. It doesn’t sound like you did that. And again, “action” doesn’t necessarily mean suing. It could be as simple as sending a cease-and-desist letter. *If* the company is giving out a negative reference, that might pressure them into simply confirming dates of employment and salary, rather than having the specter of nuisance litigation hanging over the company. There’s a reason why many companies have such a policy.

            2. Rachel the LW*

              More then one lawyer said I have no cause to do anything because they were not doing anything illegal and nothing met the legal test for anything actionable in any way or asking them to stop. Not even telling them to stop or sending a letter, nevermind going to court.

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I don’t understand why you keep saying that she controls your reference. You never even worked for her.

        1. LBK*

          Right – there should be no reason for any interviewer to be contacting her. Even if they’re going outside of the list of references you provided, they should still only be speaking to people you actually worked for. I guess if they’re just calling the company and asking for the manager of the X department they could end up talking to her but that’s not how normal reference checks would be conducted.

          If for some reason you’re giving out her contact info as a person to be reached at your former company, stop doing that immediately. Give them the contact info of the person you actually worked for, period – the current manager of the department is irrelevant. Consider this: if there weren’t this existing personal history between you, what info could they possibly get from a manager you never worked for? What would be the point in speaking to her?

        2. fposte*

          I assumed she meant that the company was considering the reference issue to be up to the ex’s ex, since that’s the person in the relevant role at the company.

        3. sunny-dee*

          My guess is that that is who they would contact to verify dates of employment and whether she’s eligible for rehire. The ex would never even have to whisper a word against the OP — just saying that she would never be hired again ever never is enough.

      4. Confused*

        So I have a question. If you were close enough to your coworkers to have them in the delivery room with you when you got served, why can’t one of them serve as a reference?

      5. Case of the Mondays*

        I get that you say the bridge is burned but I don’t understand why you won’t have someone just call up pretending to be your reference just to hear what they will say. You might find out it is not as bad as you thought and you can use them. You might find out it is way worse than you thought, full of lies, and that might change the advice you get from a lawyer. You need to be proactive.

        Also, in future situations, I second the advice to try to tough it out for two weeks. It would be uncomfortable but there would be a light at the end of the tunnel. If she fired you, you would at least get unemployment.

        1. Rachel the LW*

          Because I know.
          I get what you are trying to say and thanks for the support and trying to help but I had or consulted with lawyers both times and both companies are telling the truth. I have already been through all this.

          1. LessaW*

            So what are they actually saying when called for a reference? It may not be as bad as you think it is, and I’m sure some people can give suggestions about how to preemptively address it.

            If multiple employment lawyers don’t think the reference the ex-wife is giving you is bad enough to even warrant a letter, then it may not be the deal breaker you think it is, and it may be something you can work around.

            Given everything else you have said about her, i am very surprised to hear she is giving you an accurate reference.

    2. AJaya*

      This is really good advice Arduino.

      Rachel, there is really no reason why the new manager should control your reference because she actually never managed you and can’t speak to your work. If you ask a fried to call your employers and find out that she is lying, you can then reach out to your former company and negotiate a fair or neutral reference – i.e ‘she’s worked for the company for 10 years, her perfomance reviews were consistently above average, but she left with no notice’. Then you will have the opportunity to explain why you left with such short notice on future interviews.

      1. Rachel the LW*

        She controls it because I was supposed to work in her department. The company will say they had a job opening for me at the same pay and title that was actually closer to my home but that I quit with almost no notice after accepting the job and left them scrambling and caused them problems because I was down a person. They will also say they had to remind I was to be professional at my new job before I even worked in it. It’s the truth but they are leaving out the backstory but the employment lawyer says since I they are not lying its not illegal. My manager before her that is retired will give me a reference from before the merger but he can’t control what the company does.

  27. Not a Cat Lady*

    From the boss’s comment I wonder if OP working there is the reason she took the job at all!

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      The OP’s comments on the last post made it pretty clear that the manager had a couple of equally good options and deliberately took this one in order to make the OP’s life miserable. A really sad situation, that.

      1. Browser*

        I do wonder about the source of that information though – it might be being filtered through someone who thinks making exwife look the worst is to his advantage.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          Certainly that’s possible. It’s also possible that it all played out just the way the OP says it did. She’s in the best position to know, or at least, far better than us.

        2. SystemsLady*

          Commenting that “the universe loves me” because she was given the opportunity and OP not having other references is pretty good evidence that’s probably not the case

  28. Hills to Die on (formerly AMG)*

    I have no advice other than to do an excellent job temping, and volunteering however little might really help.
    I’ve made mistakes, too. We all have and you are human. I wish you, your family, and your child’s father all the best.

    1. No Name Poster*

      Yes to this response!

      Volunteering and taking temp jobs are the first steps to rebuilding your career, OP. Baby steps.

      I wish you the best.

  29. Susan M.*

    In our attempts to help/comfort the LW, can we not bash the ex-wife for things we don’t know? We don’t know if her marriage was on the rocks prior to her husband cheating on her, so let’s not speculate on that (it reeks of victim blaming and it’s not helpful for the LW anyways). By all means though, call out the ex-wife for the toxic behaviour she’s currently exhibiting. There’s plenty there to fault.

  30. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    One thing at this saga – if the company put OP under the ex-wife – HR and management should have either

    a) headed it off before it became a problem, and NOT place OP in the ex’s chain of command – because it could interfere with the smooth operation of the office

    – OR –

    b) if the upper management was aware of this situation – sorry, OP, but given the drama here, they probably should have terminated your employment. In fact — that is apparently what they’re trying to do. But they’re leaving it up to OP, she got the hint, and has departed.

    I might add, what you do today – can come back to haunt you tomorrow. It’s a tough thing to teach someone in the early stages of their careers – but – it can and will.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, I don’t like the staff Darwinism approach that was taken here at all. The OP may still have had to leave, but it’s a departure that could have been consciously handled rather than just seeing if she could survive being tossed to the wolves.

    2. Aphrodite*

      The ex-wife/new manager was given the choice of the same position in two different departments. Once she found out the OP was in one department she chose that one. Also, the ex-wife’s/new manager’s boss was involved in the original situation by lending the ex-wife/new manager money for the divorce and related proceedings and by being a sympathetic ear/friend.

      If you haven’t read the original letter and all the comments it’s worth reading to see exactly how far the ex-wife/new manager has gone (including choosing garnisheeing her ex-husband’s wages rather than taking a higher settlement. There’s enough vindictiveness here to fuel 100 lifetimes’ worth of anger.

      1. Browser*

        “(including choosing garnisheeing her ex-husband’s wages rather than taking a higher settlement. ”

        The law doesn’t work like that. Wages are garnished when someone has a history or missing payments, and it’s up to the court to take that action. You can’t demand someone’s wages be garnished of your own volition.

        1. Natalie*

          In my neck of the woods, at least, the court system is not keeping tabs on payments on anyone’s behalf. If a person isn’t getting paid, they have to actively file for garnishment.

          1. sunny-dee*

            Um, okay? So … it’s the ex wife’s fault for filing a claim for payments that the husband was legally required to make and wasn’t? That is all his fault!

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Okay, I”m going to ask that you move on from this debate now (not jus this particular thread but in the ones above as well) as it’s taking over the comments and isn’t constructive or actionable for the letter-writer. Thanks.

        2. paul*

          Yeah, I know.

          I know we’re supposed to take the OP at their word, but that doesn’t mean the OP can’t be mistaken/misinformed/misunderstand something. That just…isn’t how it works. At all. I’m trying to come up with an analogy to explain how much it doesn’t work like that and failing. We have a *ton* of clients at work that have to deal with garnishment and regularly talk to our local legal aid society about this stuff…

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Absolutely letter-writers can be mistaken or misinformed. And it’s fine to say “have you considered that it could be X instead of Y?” But flat-out telling her that she’s wrong about the facts of her situation when none of us are in a position to do that isn’t okay here.

            There’s also a point where there are so many comments insisting she can’t be right that it starts to feel like a cross-examination or worse, and that’s not what people are signing up for here when they write in.

            1. Sylvia*

              Thank you, Alison.

              This sort of thing happened to a question I wrote in a very long time ago – except there were maybe two dozen comments and it wasn’t a sensitive subject. Frustrating. I’m glad you’re keeping this useful to the OP and the facts of her situation.

      2. sunny-dee*

        As so many people have said — you can’t garnish wages unless someone wasn’t making agreed to payments for a long period of time. The wife wasn’t vindictive — the husband wasn’t paying her what the court ordered him to.

        The husband (probably) is feeding the OP bad info or the OP isn’t entirely understanding of the proceedings, but a lot of what the OP is ascribing to bad intent is not that at all.

        Literally, the entire thing comes down to one single comment made by the ex wife. Everything else is not 100% accurate.

        1. Managed Chaos*

          Even if it were a choice, if I had to choose between a court providing me with money through a garnishment and relying on someone who had already betrayed me in a major way, I would choose the court.

          1. TL -*

            Yes, this, indeed. She also has to provide for her child(ren), she is also suffering the financial fallout of the divorce and the loss of a 2 income family. If she’s the primary parent and ex is not reliable, taking the car like that is extreme but understandable, and the wage garnishment makes sense (especially because I don’t trust deals that will “eventually” end up being more money if I don’t take the sure thing.)

            That being said, she absolutely should be recusing herself from any professional interactions and, as she doesn’t know your work, she can’t be your reference. I’d be a coworker reference for someone who left super fast, if they had a good reason and were a good employee. Look for that, OP.

      3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Unless the ex-wife/manager checks in here, we do not know the motivation behind her acceptance of her current job. Revenge? Maybe? Better long-term opportunity? I would think so, because any work relationship with ex-wife and OP would be short-lived. But we are hearing one side here.

        And there are two sides to every story.

        That being said – yes, I feel for OP – but – she has to recover and rehabilitate her career situation. She can’t negotiate a “good reference” from her former employer; I don’t know if she still has friends there, or friends who WERE there and have moved on to other situations. Perhaps they will vouch for her.

        She has to start from the beginning. Such is life, and yes, by all observations – she is almost entirely responsible for the predicament she is in, and thus will be entirely responsible for recovering the rest of her career.

        Hell, I made mistakes in my career; not of this magnitude, but it was difficult and painstaking to recover from them. We all have made mistakes along the way – it’s our ability to recover from them that’s critical to future success.

  31. Some anon thoughts*

    Hugs to you, OP. I don’t have work-related advice, but I have been on the other side of this situation. My father had several affairs when I was growing up, and he did end up having a child with another woman. My mother and I lay the blame squarely at my father’s feet, as he was the one who had made a commitment to us. The level of vindictiveness you’re experiencing is not normal.

    My father got everything in the divorce, an agreement my mother was okay with in exchange for custody of me (which my father, sadly, was happy with). We started completely over. We had nothing, and times were REALLY tough for awhile, but my mother persevered and built a beautiful life for both of us. I see her as a pillar of strength, and love and respect her more than words can ever express for what she did for us. From everything you’ve shared with us, I believe your child will have the same love and respect for you for working to create the best life possible in difficult circumstances. I know it’s hard now starting over, but things will get better.

    For what it’s worth, both my mother and I have a good relationship with my half-sibling and my half-sibling’s mother. The child was completely innocent, and I don’t think either of us could ever imagine doing anything to hurt my half-sibling emotionally or financially. And it only takes about 2 seconds to realize that it’s very hard to hurt the mother without also hurting the child. Not a path that you can go down and still look at yourself in the mirror. I can understand the wife’s initial feelings of anger and hurt, but I truly cannot understand the lingering vindictiveness and the joy she feels at the potential of ruining someone’s life. I hope she gets the help she needs, and I really hope that you don’t internalize what’s being directed against you.

    I know I’ve strayed from work-related advice, but I wanted to let you know I’m rooting for you and your child, OP, and I hope you’ll continue to check in with Alison to let us know how you’re doing.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      You and your mum are amazing! This is a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it, it made me smile.

    2. Anon55*

      This has to be one of the best comments ever written on this site. You and your mom both sound like lovely people :)

  32. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Let me give a similar situation, which I have seen in professional sports several times over the years. I will not name names.

    A guy plays on a team – let’s call it the Sandcrabs. He’s there. Practices, games, locker room talks, road trips. Now, what does a team do with him, if he hits on the wife or girlfriend of a teammate and has an affair with her?

    They usually ship the guy’s a$$ out of town in a trade. Quickly. And he is NEVER viewed as a “victim”.

    Same thing here.

    1. Thlayli*

      If you read the previous post you would know that OP slept with her coworker, not her coworkers husband. So in your analogy it’s like two team members sleeping together and both getting dropped from the team. Even though only one of them was married.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Well, similar. I get the impression that all three worked together at the Acme Chocolate Teapot Company. I take it ex-husband is no longer on the staff, OP has had the skids greased for her departure.

        In my sports team analogy – yes, the player’s wife is not on the team payroll but such activity can cause extreme turmoil, and management often handles it. QUICKLY.

        1. Rachel the LW*

          I worked with the father of my child at company A. When I left that job I went to company B. He did not come to work at company B.

          Company B, my company, merged with Company C, where his ex worked.

          The three of us never worked together and I never said we did so I have no idea where you got that ?

        2. Astor*

          Sure, but we also make fun of the player on the Sandcrabs who can’t let it go years later.

          Plus, after the teammate is traded to the Butterflies, we don’t expect that the ex-spouse from the Sandcrabs will also be traded to the Butterflies, made captain, and be put in a position where they’re allowed to block any further trades for their teammate.

          So, no, I don’t see it as the same thing here. I think this is an example of the management NOT handling it.

  33. EmmaUK*

    Hi LW,

    You and your child’s father sound like really nice and level headed people. It might not be possible but I was thinking that perhaps volunteering might be a good way of getting some new references?

  34. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Let me give a similar situation, which I have seen in professional sports several times over the years. I will not name names.

    A guy plays on a team – let’s call it the Sandcrabs. He’s there. Practices, games, locker room talks, road trips. Now, what does a team do with him, if he hits on the wife or girlfriend of a teammate and has an affair with her?

    They usually ship the guy’s a$$ out of town in a trade. Quickly. And he is NEVER viewed as a “victim”.

    Same thing here. OP can’t expect to keep her job or get a good reference, given the circumstances.

  35. Thoughts*

    If in this situation, I probably would have clung on to my job by the fingernails since there’s a child to provide for, and then gotten a nanny cam for my cubicle and documented, documented, documented what the new manager was doing.
    Because I’m petty like that.
    It probably would have ended up in the same place: Having to work somewhere else. But, there would have been more time to find a position, they wouldn’t have questioned the lack of reference from the current job, and the documentation would have helped with severance leverage on the way out.
    But, as long as everyone is safe, fed, and content, I declare this letter was a happy ending. She got out before her mental health could take a blow, her kid’s ok, she’s found work, she didn’t do anything duplicitous to the ex wife, and she’s building up better job prospects. Good for you and it will get better.

    1. fposte*

      Just in case you’re serious–it would be legal and likely to fire somebody for a nanny cam and it would very likely preclude getting UI; it would also be straight out illegal to use it to record audio in many states.

    2. Temperance*

      I think that the personal and professional risk of having this woman as her boss was too great, TBH. She’s clearly unhinged and would do anything possible to make LW’s life miserable. While yes, it would be personally very satisfying to take her down, and I hope LW does, eventually … the cost here is too great.

  36. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    Thank you for the update. It’s good to hear from you. You probably did the best thing, safety-wise. If times are lean for you, Leanne Brown’s ‘Good and Cheap’ cookbook has solid recipes especially created for people on a low income or food stamps. Budget Bytes is another great site for quality recipes on a budget.

    Another thing for work you can try is if you know anyone who’s working from home and who can give you some office duties (filing, organising emails etc) once a week or so. They could also be a reference. Or if you can help out at your child’s school for a period of time, and get a reference that way.

    I’ve had my share of dark days and know what’s it like when people say encouraging words but you can’t see a way out (not meaning you see things that way, only if you do, I get it). This has been a very unpleasant experience and you got through it. On to the next less-than-pleasant step… But you’re resourceful and determined, and I’m pretty sure a new door will open for you soon. Wishing you and your child all the best!

    1. Sparky*

      Dear Rachel, I hope things turn around for you and your child’s father soon. I had a couple long stretches of un/under employment and it was tough. Someday things will be better, I can’t tell you when, or how to find your next good job, but things won’t always be this tough.

      My state, Colorado, has some useless unemployment offices, but we also have one really good one. You don’t have to be on unemployment to benefit from one of these offices, you don’t have to live in the county with the best unemployment office to use it. If you and your child’s father haven’t checked the unemployment offices near you out, go ahead and see what they offer. The really good one here is a result of two wealthy counties combining efforts, and they have several resume classes, as well as job fairs.

      Best of luck to all of you, I’ll be keeping you in my thoughts.

  37. Critter*

    You’re both awesome for being able to be kind and civil to each other, and working on parenting your child together. I wish you all the best in the future.

  38. Buu*

    We’re heading into Summer now OP start looking for casual seasonal work e/g in tourist attractions, sometimes when agencies mass hire for events or Summer attractions they are sometimes far less diligent at reference checking than office type employer. It’s not a long term solution but it’d be money and a potential good reference at the end of it.

  39. Rachel the LW*

    I know I was wrong to sleep with a married man and I know the fallout is on me. I accept my actions had consequences. I know that. I shared that stuff about his wife to show how things would be bad between us because in my first letter people had thought maybe she moved on. I didn’t share to get sympathy or pity or to look perfect while she looked bad. I didn’t mean it to come across like that’s what I was trying to do.

    1. Aphrodite*

      I know you didn’t, OP. I do want to point out that the “fallout” is not entirely on your shoulders–and please don’t do that to yourself. Your obviously responsible and kind responses indicate that you are a fabulous person. And that will get your farther than vindictiveness ever will. I know that because of that your life will get better. You will be happy again. You will raise a beautiful child.

      Hug yourself and your child. Take heart. You have a lot of support here and have gotten a lot of good suggestions. I wish you all the best!

    2. atexit8*


      I am glad to read that both sets of grandparents are supportive of their grandchild.
      I truly wish the best for you and your child.

      The ex-wife is responsible for her actions too.
      And what she did makes her “look bad”.
      It just does.

      She wanted her pound of flesh, so she got it. I hope that makes her “happy”.
      But it won’t.

    3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Your straightforward and direct posts and responses are a big part of why many people are sympathetic, in my opinion. I always read your comments as being honest about your situation, not asking for pity. You’ve taken responsibility and are understanding of the ex-wife’s anger. You now need help with your work situation, and that’s why you’re here.

      (To be honest, I’ve seen so many people who do horrific things and get away with them, or even be rewarded for them, that this situation doesn’t even compare. You made a mistake, yes, but how long are you supposed to be punished for it? Why should you not be allowed to earn a living and provide for your child? What good will it do anyone for you and your child to fall into poverty? )

    4. Amy*

      I don’t think the fallout IS entirely on your shoulders. You chose to have sex with someone who wanted to have sex with you. You didn’t break any promises you made in the process, and you were never in a position to know whether their marriage would be able to handle it or how his wife would react–those things were his job to manage, not yours. What you chose to do was rude, not some kind of evil plot to ruin his wife’s life. People don’t deserve to have these kinds of consequences just because they did something rude 12 years ago.

      1. Amy*

        What I mean to say is: The broken marriage is on the guy’s shoulders, for breaking his vows and for doing a thing that he had to have at least suspected would seriously hurt his wife/marriage. The way his ex-wife has reacted (specifically, her choice to attack you professionally) is on her own shoulders, and if sharing the details of her behavior makes her look bad, well, that’s a thing we all risk when we choose to behave badly. Give them the responsibility they deserve for their own behavior.

    5. lawyerkate*

      It is true that actions have consequences, but I do not want you to let this permanently derail whatever professional goals you have. You’ve obviously taken responsibility for the initial mistake; but at this point it was years ago. You are allowed to move on – you do not have to permit the bad parts of what happened to overshadow the joy that comes from having a kiddo.

      This woman may or may not ever be able to be honest with herself about her behavior and where the matches were in her life and marriage to your child’s father that led to present day circumstances. Do not let her vitriol consume you as it has clearly consumed her.

      Please be kind to yourself. I am rooting for you.

    6. Robin Sparkles*

      The fact that you are aware of what you did and understand the consequences is important. However – it does not define you and she does not control you. I am so sorry you have to struggle to get work – I think the best advice is for you to start over temping or volunteering and build new references – with the second best step of providing references that can speak to your work at the two companies you believe you burned bridges with- if you can get anyone who can bat for you that will take the focus away from companies attempting to call those jobs and getting whomever they get.

      People have done far worse than you – it sucks that you have to pay this badly for a mistake that others may get away with. Everyone screws up -that’s life. But you actually went and learned from it instead of making excuses. You have a child now and that child is a priority -I think you are doing the right thing with your outlook on life and doing the best you can. Good luck!

    7. This Daydreamer*

      You couldn’t have adequately described your situation without her comment.

      Good luck to you. If you keep temping and do some volunteer work you’re bound to get some new references, so focus on making them good ones.

      Are you in Virginia? If so, I can tell you from personal experience that it’s easy to volunteer in a political campaign, the others will love you for showing up and doing good work, and you’ll be able to network like crazy and get some good references. You don’t have to apply for a volunteer position – just find the office and sign up. And it’s all over in November. If you have political leanings it’s worth considering.

    8. Bea*

      We are all flawed in some way and that’s what makes us human. Nothing you’ve said comes across as attention seeking or validation for your previous behavior in my opinion and I know many of the comments here agree with me there.

      Some people will always live to shame someone else. That’s their way and that’s fine for them to continue down that path. You are not their stepping stone, you will come out of this a stronger, happier woman in the end.

    9. Katie the Fed*

      Rachel, be gentle with yourself. You’ve been through a lot too. You made a mistake. Mistakes happen, and you’re taking responsibility for yours. I’m sorry so many people feel the need to dump on you and rub your nose in your mistake. You are a fallible human. We all are. You WILL get through this – I promise. Take some of the great advice that’s been giving and look forward, not back.

    10. Tempest*

      I think a few people are projecting left over feelings of their own onto you and I’m sorry for the way that expresses here as those people ganging up on you. You always came across factual to me rather than accusatory and I really hope that things turn around for you soon. No one deserves to still be paying such a high cost for a mistake in the heat of the moment 12 years later.

      1. Gayle*

        I’m confused about the 12 years. I’ve searched the comments and while OP says she has 12 years of work history, I don’t see where she says the one night stand took place 12 years ago. OP / LW, can you clarify this? How recently did the affair happen? I think that will lend context to understanding your situation.

        1. Rachel the LW*

          It happened 4 years ago Gayle. My work experience is 12 years (8.5 years at my first job and 3.5 at my second).

          1. Tempest*

            Ah, I read one of the comments above referencing 12 years and took it as correct! My mistake. Even four years ago doesn’t change it that much for me.

      2. Rachel the LW*

        It has only been a few years and not 12 but thanks for the support Tempest.

    11. SystemsLady*

      For what it’s worth you have my support and I wish you the best of luck putting this mistake behind you.

  40. Michelle*

    No matter whose side you are on, the simple fact is the really innocent victim in all this is Rachel’s child. The child didn’t encourage the one-night stand. The child did not ask to be conceived during the one-night stand.

    Rachel has accepted that she was wrong and she is dealing with the fallout. So is the ex-husband. I completely understand the ex-wife being upset and trying to get as much as possible during the divorce. No amount of money, cars, houses, alimony or assets is going to erase what happened. Giving Rachel a bad reference in order to prevent her from securing employment to support her child and give her child a decent quality of life is not going to erase what happened. Saying the universe is on her side and giving her a chance to manage someone who shattered her life, not so subtly hinting that she is not going to act professionally despite what HR said, is not going to erase what happened.

    If the ex-wife had said “I cannot work with her” and requested Rachel get transferred or accepting a transfer or the other equivalent position, I would be more charitable toward her. I get that she was devastated by this. I don’t see how continuing to hold on to this rage can be healthy for her. What if at the end of it all Rachel & the dad/ex-husband were somehow pushed together by the ex-wife’s actions?

    I think considering how this has shook out that Rachel is doing the best she can. I also want to emphasize what Aphrodite said “The ‘fallout’ is not entirely on your shoulders”. Yes, she participated in the act and she knew he was married. She has stated that many times. She isn’t making excuses for what she did. All she wants to do know is secure employment so that she can support herself and her child.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      Paragraph 2! all of paragraph 2! my thoughts much more eloquently than I could have ever said them.

    2. thefyd*

      Michelle wrote: “Rachel has accepted that she was wrong and she is dealing with the fallout.” Exactly. She is living with the major consequence of her actions: she is now raising a child essentially by herself. And yet some commenters seem to feel that she hasn’t been punished enough, and that it is disingenuous of her to push back at consequences (the anticipated retribution from Ex) that are NOT acceptable outcomes of participating in adultery. There is a prosecutorial attitude towards Rachel among some here that chills me. Would they like to see her publicly shamed? In the stocks? Bearing the Scarlet Letter?

      Just because a person once had the bad judgment to have a one-night stand with a married co-worker (and no one knows what he might have told her or how this developed) does not give others the right to judge them, much less license to gaslight their perception of their own situation. Best of luck to you Rachel, and I’m sorry things are going harder for you than they should be.

      1. Susie*

        The father has the child 50% of the time, they share custody and work with each other and around each other’s schedule to insure there is always childcare and there are 2 sets of grandparents who also pitch in with childcare. I don’t disagree with your post but she is not raising her child by herself. She says it herself in her update. Not even close.

        1. Susie*

          Also she admitted to knowing that he was married and that he did not try to hide it.

    3. Temperance*

      The general convention here is that we’re on the side of the LW. My own personal feeling about infidelity etc. has no bearing on the letter. I’m appalled by everything the ex-wife is doing, TBH, and it’s making her look like an unstable witch. You don’t have to like, or even be nice to, the Rachel in any given situation, but ex’s behavior is egregious and I think it’s going to end up derailing her own life.

  41. Sue Wilson*

    Rachel, I still urge you to get a friend to find out what the references actually are. Here’s the thing: You need to know what they are saying in order to proactively address the problem. They could be talking about the affair, they could be talking about your performance, they could be talking about the lack of notice, or all of it, but you need to know exactly what that is so that you can address those issues proactively in an interview (which usually dos occur before references are called, but maybe it’s different in your field) or cover letter. I know you think that since it’s bad and also true there’s nothing you can do, but having the information about what kind of bad can give you more ways of countering that, even if only by behaving certain ways in your temp positions, so that references there can be both be more recent and counter the past perception.

    1. Statler von Waldorf*

      Agree with this. I did this for a friend of mine once, as apparently I have a very official sounding telephone voice. Apparently, his “best reference” had lied through his teeth and agreed only to slam him to potential employers. (I’ll be honest and state that this friend probably deserved it, as he could be a total ****.) He got a new job a lot faster once that reference disappeared of his resume.

    2. Amy*

      This is a really good point. If you can get some temp work to get some good references, and understand what these guys will say when asked so you can try and counteract it in an interview before they talk to them, that could go a really long way. A candidate with two bad references looks bad. A candidate with two bad references and three more recent good ones, who has already said “I got into a bad situation with that past job, but I learned XYZ from it, and now that I’ve learned better it’s not going to happen again” looks a lot better.

    3. The Supreme Troll*

      Exactly. It is critical for Rachel to find out if any of her references are mentioning the affair if they are being contacted by potential employers, so that she does not list those people as references in the future. And really, those people should not be talking about Rachel’s personal life to begin with. They should have the good sense to only talk about her previous work performance and the skills & achievements that she earned as an employee; that’s it.

      I know that it is difficult to find out what your references are really saying about you, but if it can be done, it is so much worth it.

  42. Thlayli*

    This too shall pass. Hugs to you and your baby.

    I hope you get some good references from your temping work.

  43. Carolyn*

    Rachel the LW, I wish you the absolute best. It sounds like you have done a lot of soul searching and that you are doing your level best to go forward with your life in a positive way. What resonates with me most is your tone of acceptance – you aren’t trying to get revenge on the ex for screwing with you, you are trying to accept today’s realities and plan for a better tomorrow.

    Your mistakes do not define you … what you do in the aftermath does. And if you can manage to stay on the high road and remain true to the type of person you want to be, the type of person you want your child to have as a role model, you will come out the other side of this stronger, happier and healthier than you believe possible.

    I learned this with my divorce – I had every reason to hate my ex and to bury him in the divorce (and a whole cheering squad urging me to destroy him … and getting mad at me for not being angry and vengeful enough for their taste), but I did not like being angry – I wanted peace, I wanted a better life, and revenge would keep me rooted in all that pain and awfulness. So I stayed on the high road – it was hard sometimes (I used to joke that at least if I stayed on the high road I would have a nice high cliff to toss my ex off of! ;) ), but I came out the other side of this mess the best version of myself and I am left with the knowledge that when my life was completely upside down, I still behaved in a way I could be very proud of. Many people would like to believe that when life throws its worst at them that they can remain true to themself and be proud of the person they are … but I KNOW that I can … because I did.

    I wouldn’t wish my nightmare or yours on my worst enemy, but I would not wish it away for myself – it made me stronger and taught me so much about myself (…and the people in my life …) I wish for you the same – that you come out the other side of this wiser and stronger and knowing that when life got ugly, you did not.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      This is such an amazing comment. Thank you for posting it because in between your comment and Rachel’s update, I’ve come to realise that I’ve been allowing anger/bitterness about a particular situation in my life to consume me, without me realising it.

      I used to joke that at least if I stayed on the high road I would have a nice high cliff to toss my ex off of! ;)

      Ha ha!

      What you’ve done is something to be proud of. You can look yourself in the mirror and say you remained true to who you are. That’s really beautiful. I’m very glad to hear that your life is going so well now!

      (Also, your comment about others getting angry with you because you didn’t do what they wanted has resonated with me. It’s given me a lot to think about.)

  44. MamaSarah*

    Hugs, dear Rachel! If we lived close by, I invite you to coffee or to Zumba. I believe Bob Marley was right – when one door closes, another opens. May you emerge the brightest, happiest, and most gainfully employed ever. Good things are happening.

  45. linzava*

    Hi Rachel,
    I’m so sorry you’re going through this, and I really admire the emotional strength you’re showing.
    If I remember correctly, in the last post, you mentioned that the career you were in had a small number of options where you live. Another possible option is to become certified in another field from a local community college. If you already have you’re AA or BA, it would be easier. While you’re temping to build your references, you could take a class or two at a time. That way, you can move into a different field with little chance of running into her again. You wouldn’t need to have those jobs on your resume anymore if the field is different enough.
    Changing careers wouldn’t raise red flags because it’s become somewhat common these days. I’m currently in the process of changing careers and have worked with many “late in life graduates” who found success.
    I really hope this stops following you. I find the idea of public shaming disgraceful. Also, for inspiration, I highly recommend looking up Monica Lewinsky’s Ted Talk, she is my hero.

    1. Rachel the LW*

      Thanks! College or any kind of training that is not free is completely out of reach for me for financial reasons. Thanks for the support.

      1. Anonymous Poster*

        Do you have a bachelors? You could always go for a masters and apply for a Graduate Assistantship. It’ll allow you to break into a new industry, pay your tuition, and have some, though a rather small, income. In my evening MBA program we had quite a few GAs who had their tuition covered and received, I think, 1.5k/month. And they had class in the evenings because of of the nature of the program, so their days were free for other things if they needed to do them. One had a kid and worked around that.

        Many MBAs come in from who-knows-what-bachelors and can land jobs wildly outside of their original field. I’d suggest looking into it, since it’ll help you get out of this niche industry where it sounds like professionally you’re dead, give you new contacts, and a new industry. If you land a GA position, you’ll also be able to avoid debt to transition.

        Good luck.

        1. Anonymous Poster*

          As a note on the income, this is in the DC metro area. My brother in northern Ohio received, I think, $800/month or so. The incomes from what I understand can really vary wildly.

          I think it may be a viable transition option for you, though, that many others have followed and have seen some success with.

          1. Anonymous Poster*

            Hm ok, yes this is a harder situation.

            You might be able to cobble together a full-ride of sorts still, and there are scholarships out there geared at adult learners. Unfortunately the Teaching Assistantship route would be closed to you though until you’re at the graduate level, in many places I’m aware of…

            If you decide to go down this path there are loan options that are available, but I understand why you wouldn’t want to go down that path since it would be a lot of debt to be taking out later in life when you don’t have as much time to pay it back.

            The reference thing right now really hurts, and I can see the college route building new references and making your first job’s relevance as a reference fade into the background.

            Best of luck in your situation, it’s tough. I have no idea of the personal struggles you’re going through right now, and can’t imagine how all of this is affecting you. I hope someone’s advice around here will be more helpful than mine.

    2. Rachel the LW*

      I will look up that Ted Talk. Thanks. I didn’t go to college or anything before so I think that is part of what is hurting me and limiting my options. I might try to see if there are any free classes I could take.

      1. linzava*

        It’s limited me too. Depending on your income, you very likely would qualify for financial aid, and the community college I attend has scholarships. One of my professors is on the scholarship board and said they often have extra scholarship money because they don’t have enough applicants.
        One thing I’ve loved about going back to school, I’ve made some wonderful friends. My school also has free daycare, I don’t have children, but some of my friends do. Good luck.

      2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        If you want to learn Excel or improve your skills, Chandoo [dot] org has a huge, free training course online. He explains everything very clearly and is so easy to follow. He’s also really positive and sweet, you get a boost just listening to him or reading his blog.

        The Khan Academy also has many free classes in all sorts of subjects. It’s a lot of fun. I’m following a couple right now.

        DuoLingo is a great way to learn another language or brush up on your skills. The great thing about all of these sites is that you don’t have to commit a huge amount of time, just a small amount each day.

        One tip: watch out for anyone offering to teach you how to have your own business and if you follow their course, your small business will be amazing and you will be a rock star etc. These are often targetted at women. The information isn’t necessarily wrong or bad, but they do tend to focus on your ~mindset~ and ~thinking positively~ rather than giving you practical advice. The advice they do give can be found elsewhere.

        If I find anything else that can be useful, I’ll post here. Good luck <3

      3. Aphrodite*

        Rachel, depending on what state you are in you may have access not just to student loans but to grants (money given for education that does not need to be paid back). There are some federal grants, likely some state grants and a lot of private grants. Many of the latter are geared to specific parties or interests. A single mother like you with limited financial resources would be eligible. I think you might be able to talk to financial aid at your local college, but also, if I remember correctly, the library may have a large book listings many private loans. Adult education if it is available is also good. Don’t discount the possibility of further education; you may have many more options than you think now.

  46. The Supreme Troll*

    Rachel, you had every right reason not to want to stay even for 2 weeks with your former boss’s ex-wife. She had made it explicitly clear that she has going to bully, harass (maybe not in the legal sense, but still), and defame you to try and get her revenge. You absolutely did not deserve to have to bear that, not even for a day. I hope there are other ways that you can build references. If you somehow find out that you are getting bad references related specifically to your personal situation only, but then those bad marks are being turned to make it look like poor performance, well…those references could be lying about you, and you should consider talking with a lawyer, because the people at those companies are acting maliciously.

  47. anita*

    Hi Allison,
    HR’s response to the LW when she reported the potential issue had me thinking, what can one do to protect themselves in this case? For example, what documentation could the LW have obtained from HR that they were refusing to assist the LW in transferring? Let’s say she would have tried to stick it out, documented every instance something went wrong and then was fired; would HR’s response (or lack of response to assist the employee) be used against the company for harassment? Or in a more general scope, if HR seems less that supportive regarding a legitimate issue, what recommendations do you have to to us that we have in place to protect ourselves?

  48. Chriama*

    Wow, brutal. OP I just want to let you know that my sympathy is with you. A lot of comments have rehashed how you could, or should have, behaved. But it’s clear that you’re just trying to rebuild your life. It’s tough, but I hope things will get better for you. I’m glad you have a family support system to fall back on.

  49. Anne (with an "e")*

    Dear Rachel LW, I just want to say that I completely understand why you quit. It sounds like you have a good support system in place. So, knowing that, you made your decision. You knew that to continue working for that employer would be untenable. One of the things I like about your update is that you denied the ex-wife the opportunity to do actually do anything to you. There is absolutely no telling what a woman this vengeful and unprofessional had in store for you. She didn’t even get to manage you for one day and I love that you took that away from her. To me, it is also impressive that you are working. I know it’s temp work, but that shows a strong work ethic. You are working, applying for jobs, moving on. As other commenters have said, I bet the temp work could lead to something great. You are rebuilding your resume, establishing a new reference base, creating a new network. I just want you to know that I am rooting for you. Best wishes for a successful future. Please update sometime and tell us how great everything turns out for you.

  50. Old Admin*

    This is really sad.

    What saddened me the most was that Rachel and her child’s dad are the only ones behaving responsibly and maturely, by amicably working tohether on child care etc.

    Sigh… if this only were a romantic comedy instead of sordid Real Life.
    Then Rachel and ChildDad by sharing the burden of real responsibility would gradually draw closer, start a fresh new business, wallop their old compnay, and get together at the end! I wish!

  51. Happy Temp*

    I just want to reinforce CatCat’s (and others’!) suggestion to temp! In the short term, you can start using the temp agency as a job position and reference. In the longer term, you can start soliciting references from your assignments. Both of the temp agencies I worked with also doubled as placement agencies, so they are a great resource. In my last office job, close to 100% of the admins we hired started as temps.

    I know you are probably extremely busy, but volunteering is also a great way to build your resume/references, especially if you do ANYTHING you can list as quantifiable achievements and/or offices or titles held as a volunteer.

    I would DEFINIELY look at how you’re framing or offering your references–I forget who gave an example of giving a name and the relationship, but their wording is awesome! If you are just handing over the name and generic contact number for the two companies, I would do as others suggested and recraft your references as direct (personal) contact information, as it seems you have been doing with your now-retired manager.

    Along those lines…I know you don’t owe any of us any explanation, but I want to second the person who wondered why you were close enough with some coworkers that they were literally in your delivery room with you, but you don’t feel like you can reach out to them and ask them to be even neutral (“Yes, she worked here”) references..?

    Finally, I wonder if there’s a way to rewrite your resume more by achievements/positions and less by company or chronology, so you’re directing attention to what you’ve done and not where you did it? Hmm.

    Good luck with everything!

  52. Grabapple McGee*

    I can’t go back and read all 700+ responses, so I may be covering old ground. But just in case….

    I read the update, and I went back and RE-read the orginal letter. You had a fling with a married coworker, which resulted in your child. You didn’t have a fling with your then boss, or with someone you supervised. Just a coworker.

    Now ex-wife is still pissed and as luck would have it, became your NEW boss. So you left. Don’t blame you. You really had no choice considering she announced she was going to make your life hell.

    How can you explain this in interviews? How about something like this:

    “My reason for leaving my previous job, and for not having a reference, really, has to do with a personal matter. Without going into all the gory details, as luck would have it my previous company hired the ex-wife of my child’s father to be my new supervisor. She made it very well known to me that she would not treat me professionally. I felt I had no choice but to leave.”

    You’ve glossed over the whole “he was married at the time” etc. etc., which is really none of their business anyway. You’ve given JUST enough info to explain why you left as you did. Now if they call her and she fills them in on everything, then SHE’s in the wrong, comes off as bitter and vengeful. AND depending on how far she goes, you might have a case for defamation against her.


  53. Former Employee*

    I feel so sorry for this poor woman. Yes, she made a mistake sleeping with a married guy, but she never took vows to be faithful to his wife.

    While I completely understand why she left, I think it could have been interesting if she had stayed and tried to psych out the new boss aka: her child’s father’s ex. For starters, she plasters her cubicle with pictures of her child (Little Frederick the Great). She makes a point of slipping comments into conversations about what an involved father her boss’ ex (Reginald) is with every aspect of their child’s life. She manages to drop the names of his parents (George and Cecily) and says how thankful she is that in addition to her own parents, his are equally doting grandparents.

    Of course this is all speculation, but I wonder how long it would have been before her new boss decided that Rachel really needed to work for someone else after all.

    I’m not saying that I could have done this; in fact, I think someone would have to have nerves of steel to carry it off plus gotten themselves into an “I don’t give a bleep” mindset. I’m just wondering if following a game plan such as that could have worked in this situation.

    I guess I’m just channeling my inner feline.

  54. Meh4Two*

    Honestly, sometimes poor decisions destroy one’s life. Rachel and her child’s father are living the consequences of their actions.

  55. Candace*

    I totally do NOT blame Rachel for not giving notice, and 2 weeks can be hell. I also agree with building refs through temping, networking through an association or group if you can, perhapd a tiny bit of volunteer work in an area that interests you if it is at all feasible with your schedule. I do want to mention something I did which I know was immature and I wouldn’t recommend it – but it worked, and oh was it satisfying. I wanted to get out of 2 weeks notice at Workplace Hell, and I knew I would be leaving them off my resume as I had been there just a few months and already had another, much better job lined up. It was a very conservative workplace with a nasty, incompetent boss (it only survived because of a competent assistant director). They planned to make me work the 2 weeks – they did it to everyone. (Lots of turnover.) The day I quit, I sent a blunt resignation letter (but absolutely true, and not unprofessional) stating that I was leaving because I strongly disagreed with and could not support the organizational leadership. I copied it to the senior leadership team. Then I came in – instead of in a suit – in jeans and a rock band t-shirt, saying I would be happy to stick out the 2 weeks, but was no longer abiding by their dress code – I wasn’t in a client facing role, and was not going to wear pantyhose for the last 2 weeks of a job no one would ever know I had briefly had. I sat down to work, but also put on (forbidden) headphones and listened to music while writing (which was my job). The buzz was audible. (She’s wearing jeans and listening to music!) In less than an hour, they changed their mind, cut a check for 2 weeks pay, and told me I could leave immediately. I was out in seconds. I know it was immature, but boy, was it fun. (And if anyone had known I’d worked there, I had several good references lined up from people who hated it there as much as I did.) Sometimes, there is a way out – though this is not Rachel’s situation. I’m sorry for her. Yes, she made a mistake, but her company is awful, and the ex-wife is being excessive and unprofessional. It’s her former husband who betrayed their vows.

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