‘I Think My Husband Is Trashing My Novel on Goodreads!’

Illustration: Emma Erickson

Welcome to “Going Through It,” the Cut’s new advice column by Emily Gould. Join us every other Wednesday for wisdom on work, parenting, relationships, and mental health from someone who has failed spectacularly (and also succeeded) at all four. Got a question for Emily? Email (And read our submission terms here.)

Dear Emily,

After many years of struggle, I recently published my latest novel. Great news — it’s a hit!

Well, it’s not a massive hit, but it has gotten very good reviews, has won a few awards, and has sold more copies than both of my other books combined. With all these wonderful things happening for my career, I know I shouldn’t dwell on the negativity I have received on the internet. But I can’t help it. There has been so much viciousness toward the book — some of it quite personal — on Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon, and other corners of the internet. All of the hatred has driven me to tears more than once.

Through it all, my husband, who is also a writer, has been so supportive. He was by my side during the long and arduous writing process, happily clinked Champagne glasses with me as the book started to draw attention and accolades he could never dream of for himself, and patiently held the camera while I recorded my promotional TikToks. Most important, he has held my hand and comforted me through all of the online harassment. I couldn’t have done it without him.

Or so I thought. For reasons too complicated to get into, I am starting to strongly suspect that my beloved has been using an array of anonymous accounts to post some of the most negative and cruel comments about the book. In fact, I believe he may be the main source of the hatred that has been directed toward me, likely driven by jealousy that I have achieved something he never could.

Unfortunately, I am only 85 percent certain that I am correct. In the past, our marriage suffered when my husband discovered that I had been snooping on his computer and in his private things, and I know that if I were to confront him about my suspicions, he would accuse me of invading his privacy once again. Although this is not the case, I would have great difficulty explaining myself.

But lately I can’t even look at him without feeling sick to my stomach at the thought of what he might be writing about me and my book. I have even fantasized about hiring a private investigator to discover the truth. I can’t go on like this. What should I do?

Yours Truly,
Sleeping With the Enemy

Dear Sleeping,

Hoo boy. Where do I even start with this mishegoss? If I hadn’t verified that this story is real, I would not believe it.

Before you do anything, you have to definitively know what you’re dealing with here. So the first order of business before you do anything rash is: Snoop away. Invade his privacy! Invade it until you find out whether your 85 percent certainty is 100 percent or 0 percent well-founded. I would normally never suggest doing this, but in this case, you really need to know whether your husband is harassing you online, and poking around his laptop yourself makes way more sense than hiring a private investigator.

If you find out that your husband has created a bunch of anonymous accounts to criticize you and your book, you have to confront him about it. If he denies it and you have incontrovertible proof, your marriage is, to put it bluntly, fucked. There is no coming back from doing something like what he’s done if he doesn’t have any remorse about doing it; that’s sociopath behavior. In fact, I wouldn’t even confront him until you’ve gone ahead and siphoned money from joint accounts and found a safe place to stay for a while until you find something more permanent. This is Game Over–level betrayal, like if he poisoned your dog or had sex with your sister. It’s like he poisoned your dog and had sex with your sister, then lied about it. You will have to immediately get as far away from him as possible. Take out a restraining order! There’s no telling what a man who spends that much time on Goodreads is capable of.

If he admits to his crimes and shows remorse, your path is more complicated. Can you ever forgive him? It’s more like if he accidentally ran over your dog and tongue-kissed your sister, then came clean about it. Only you know how much work you’re willing to put into mending your relationship.

Of course, you might find that your fears are unfounded. That could be where the real work starts. Beyond the reasons you say are too complicated to get into, have you thought deep down about why he would do this? If you’re even suspecting that your husband is capable of this level of treachery, something is really off between you two, and it needs to be addressed, ideally in counseling. You mention that you’ve snooped on him before, and your marriage suffered as a result. Is there some other area of your relationship where you’ve found him to be capable of serious duplicity, like financial stuff, infidelity, or just plain lying to you?

You also need to focus — and I know this is hard — on avoiding the online hate. I know the allure of name-searching yourself on Twitter and reading zero-star Goodreads reviews and the like. I’ve done it all. Right when Twitter was first a thing, in 2009, I could kill a whole day just rolling around in all the nasty shit people said online about me and my first book. Luckily, I’ve grown up a little bit since then and I’m much better able to control my own impulses. Recognizing that self-destructiveness is what drives you to look at Goodreads in the first place might be the first step toward change.

It’s normal to be curious about how your book is being perceived by readers and critics, but at a certain point, the wiser course is to back away from the screen for the sake of self-preservation. Haters, as they say, are going to hate. And what haters do is none of your business. Preoccupying yourself with this is a complex form of procrastination. It’s not going to get you any closer to any of your goals, which I assume include getting started on another book.

In the words of my friend Jami Attenberg, best-selling author of, most recently, 1000 Words: “In terms of dealing with online hate: If you go looking for it, you’ll find it. So I’d stop looking and just enjoy your success for a second.”

Have a question for Emily? Email (and read our submission terms here.)

‘I Think My Husband Is Trashing My Novel on Goodreads!’