Stay in Touch

Check out CL's Book

Dear Chump Lady, Do I tell his parents he is a cheater?

Dear Chump Lady,

First, let me just say that I love your blog!  I just discovered it (via Huffington), and it came into my life just at the right time.  My ex and I had been together for 14 years – the last year and a half were after I realized my partner had betrayed me.  He’s a professor.  She’s his Ph.D. student.  (I think the only fling more clichéd would come from a Mad Men episode!)  For 18 months I danced the “Pick Me” jig and dutifully read the reconciliation blogs and books, in search of the sparkly unicorn. His cake wasn’t sex – we didn’t have any after D-day. His cake was probably the comfort of a “dancing” partner cooking, cleaning and creating a Martha Stewart home to win his affection. I woke up.  A month ago I finally moved into a new apartment and I’ve cut all contact, which is final as we have no children.

My question for you is –Do I tell his parents what their son did?

The letter has been written and I’ve reread it a thousand times.  The gist is to thank them for their kindness and generosity over the years, but to tell them the truth about the end of my relationship with their son. I tell them how much I loved their son and wanted to work through things, but that his solution to his unhappiness was to have an affair. In the letter I tell them that I’m not writing the letter as revenge or to gain sympathy, but to simply let them know the truth – that the end of our marriage was not a mutual decision or simply two people drifting apart.  That our long-term relationship was in a natural and temporary lull, and that their son sought a temporary fix in the fantasy and excitement of an affair.

After much thought, I think I basically want to send this letter for two reasons.  1) I can’t stand the idea of my ex getting away with having an affair with none of his family the wiser.  2) I want to identify his affair partner to his parents in hopes that this will, for a variety of reasons, lessen the chance that my ex will end up with that hussy.  (Or at the very least leave an indelible mark in the back of his parents’ minds that this woman is a home-wrecker.) At this point I don’t harbor the desire for reconciliation.  I’ll eventually (in a loooooooong time) be okay when he finds someone else; I just REALLY don’t want it to be HER!!

Should I send it, or just suck it up and be on my merry way?


P.S.  My contribution to “Stupid Shit Cheaters Say”:  “My relationship with her has nothing to do with our relationship.”

Dear M,

Sure, go ahead and send it. But do it for yourself, to thank them for being in your life, to explain your absence — I’m assuming it will be too painful to continue ties with them — and leave it at that. Don’t send the letter expecting that it will affect your in-laws in any way. That they will reject their son, or reject his fuckbuddy. They might at first, but eventually they will probably relent, because they want a relationship with their son. People tend to eat shit sandwiches if it means seeing their children.

Also consider the sad fact that he’s probably gotten there first. He’s probably told them how sexless and awful your relationship was, how you drove him into the arms of the student, blah blah fuckity blah. Cheaters spin, that’s what they do. Don’t expect to win the propaganda war. Have your say for your own peace of mind, but remember that to your in-laws the only thing that really matters is the reality that you are no longer in the picture and he is.

I would keep the letter brief. Be classy, be dignified. Be succinct. Inform them of the break up. Inform them of the affair. Regret their absence in your life. Thank them. Let them know that you are focusing on your healing, and to do that you must remain no contact with their son and with them. One short paragraph. Two, tops. Beyond that, do not tell them gory details about the affair, about your pain, about what a narcissistic asshole your ex is. They will have to draw their own conclusions about their kid. The other woman is probably not the first or the last starry eyed Ph.D. candidate they’ll have to Thanksgiving dinner.

And really, she sucks, but she’s not the problem. The world is full of winsome Ph.D. candidates and most people are immune to their charms (such as dominating the conversation to discuss Gramsci’s critique of materialism). If she isn’t dumped in short order, karma will visit her when she attempts to find a job with her Ph.D., only to discover her only offer is teaching apathetic undergraduates at a third-tier junior college in Battle Creek, Michigan. As an adjunct.

The problem is your cheating ex. Try to practice “meh” — indifference. Pretty soon it won’t matter who he is with, you’ll just feel sorry for her. He’ll be trying that line: “my relationship with you has nothing to do with my relationship with her” on the next one. Or his parents.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Send it, or do what I did. When you bump into your former relatives, if THEY bring it up, tell them you don’t really look at it as a ‘bad thing’ and you’re doing GREAT, which they’ll already know because you’ll be showing it by then. They already know he’s an asshole, as do your friends. Call her, thank her for taking on the burden of your reckless man-boy, tell her he doesn’t like celery, and the tops of his feet are sensitive, he doesn’t like being patted on the back of his neck when he’s driving, and she will need to clean out that old wound on his back periodically. Eventually, if you did have children, he would just tell you how bratty they are, and try to turn you against them. Because, afterall, he’s still 14 and is competing with them. Give thanks to a higher power and pity the fool.

  • What is it with these affairs with students? My STBX is a surgeon who hooked up with one of his residents – real life Grey’s Anatomy, blech.

    I vote for sending the letter and be on your merry way. I wish I could do the same but I have to interact with his parents because we have kids. I don’t feel sorry for the hussy but she will need luck dealing with the MIL, haha.

  • Send it but do as CL says and keep it brief. I didn’t send my inlaws anything, but I did see them quite a bit in the aftermath of throwing him out. They were great. Until I filed for D. Then they cut me off more or less completely. I had never told them that the break was about serial cheating but allowed them to think that it was simply this one affair, something I regretted because I hated to think that they believe I went that nuts and got that upset over some young girl.

    Now I don’t care what they know or what they think because I’ve realised they’re just like him and they created this idiot, in part, by indulging his every whim, so what happened just won’t matter.

    And while you’ll feel better telling the truth don’t drive yourself nuts wondering why they aren’t kicking him to the curb or reaching out to you. He’s their kid and they will stick by him, no matter what.

    Good luck and sorry you’re dealing with a dickhead like this.

  • I know my opinion differs from the rest, but I don’t see why you should send it. I think doing that is the opposite of “meh”. You aren’t going to be maintaining a relationship with these people (have they sought you out, btw?)… they are his family and there aren’t grandkids in the picture. I also don’t think they need your letter to be able to figure it out, especially if he starts bringing his former grad student around as his new girlfriend. And as Nord, CL, etc., have said they will stick by him no matter what. I do think “meh” is you not caring what they think anyway. They are a part of his life now, not yours. But to make it truly about you: If you think sending it will make you feel better, then send it. But if you will feel worse afterward, then don’t.

    I have successfully avoided seeing my in-laws since this all came down (Jan 10 will be 1 year since I kicked him out), and I do have kids with my STBX (the kids are super young, I’m sure I will need to see them at xmas concerts and stuff eventually). They insist on sending me b-day and xmas cards (where they also seem to insist we should be “friends” just because we’ve known each other a lot of years), but are too wimpy to actually try to speak to me. I know my STBX has not told them the reason for our impending divorce. I don’t believe he’s lied to them, just said he doesn’t want to talk about it. So I’m pretty sure they at least know it was something he did, especially with the suddenness of him being kicked out. As far as I’m concerned, his parents are partly to blame (don’t worry STBX is not off the hook!) for raising such a self-centered narcissist. So I am actually kinda pissed at them too (so no reason for me to want to contact them and thank them for all they’ve done :)) and if they want to speak to me, they will have to do it. When I do finally see them I am not going to be all pretend-happy we are all best friends and divorce is no big deal thing either.

    Good luck… it’s a tough one!

    ps. big cliche here too… dentist w/ assistant. Guess they really are cliches for a reason! Dumb-asses can’t even be original!
    pps. “The weird thing is, I did it so that I wouldn’t hurt you!”

    • Yeah, mine try to keep some sort of contact but I’ve recently really blocked them on a lot of things as I have no interest in them or their enabling ways. They’re aware that he cheated, they support it, they have an idea that there was more but don’t want to know (it would probably be harder to buy his ‘marriage was crumbling’ line if they admit he’s a serial cheater) and generally I just feel like if they can more or less pretend I don’t exist after knowing me for 20 years then they can kiss my sweet ass. The onus is on them to treat me respectfully at this point but I don’t see it happening. Which is actually a good thing, as they’re as disordered as him, something my therapist forced me to see.

  • M,

    Welcome. Sorry you had to find your way here. It sucks to marry the sucky.

    Send the letter. It’s no longer your job to protect your ex’s image. As the saying goes, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” And your job right now is to get well.

    I would add: PLEASE also inform this douchebag’s employer of his affair. Having worked in the human resources field for many years, I can tell that what he did is a TERRIBLE breach of his employer’s trust because it could easily land them in a terribly expensive lawsuit. As a former grad student, I can also tell you that his behavior undermines the integrity of the academic system because it makes it unclear whether her degree is based on her thinking and writing, or (pardon my bluntness) her sucking and humping.

    My one caveat: wait until you’ve gotten the divorce decree hammered out before you notify the employer. He very well might lose his job over this, and I wouldn’t want him to use unemployment to bargain you down on alimony or child support.

    Good luck.

  • Hi M:

    I agree with Chump lady’s excellent advice.

    Just want to add a few things from personal experience.

    It is possible the in-laws will see your side. They will still likely accept their son, but they will not malign you Some parents can see their children for who they are and of course still love them and want to be with them.

    Also, I think his parents will disrespect his lover, at least in private. So yes out her.

    Also, IMO, you should go beyond just telling his parents. Tell all your mutual friends as well as doctors, pastors, or anyone else you knew together.

    If you can try to have some mention in the divorce papers that the marriage ended because of infidelity on your spouse’s part. This may help the next person who conisiders marrying him realize he is a cheater.

    People are recently running background checks on people they date and intend to marry.

    Divorce records are public record.

  • I told my Xw’s parents everything and they were pretty good about it. They would not let the affair partner on their property, nor would my XW’s siblings. Soon, the relationship crumbled.
    But, as CL mentions, they do still love their NPd child and their parenting is somewhat responsible for how she turned out.
    Really, I just wanted folks to know what really happened and I informed a lot of people. No harm in sending it. Just do not get too invested in the results. Just get it off your chest and try to live happily.

  • I told my xH’s mother. She took his side, and chastised me that “it takes two” and repeatedly told me not to drag the children into the middle of our disagreements. She advised me to try to get along with my xH, For The Children. All in a letter, when I asked her to stop giving my xH financial advice that makes my children less secure.


    I don’t speak to her any more. I don’t care if she knows the full truth or not. There is no point in wasting my breath. I know that she knows her son is a failure, and that my children prefer to live with me. I know that I don’t hurt my kids to get back at my xH. I know that my xH can lie all he wants to, and his mommy can baby him all she wants to, but that doesn’t change the truth, and the truth has got to be hard for him to wake up to every day. Not my problem. And if my xMIL wants to have a homewrecking whore in her home, one who hurts children, then by all means. They might be birds of a feather. They can drink and be small together.

  • Send the letter if it makes you feel better, but they likely already know. In fact they have probably been enabling him in the affair.

    I didn’t write a letter. I actually took a friend with me, a 70 year old lovely lady from church, to my inlaws because I thought they needed to know that their son was up to his old habits of infidelity. I thought I needed backup because they would be so distraught. They didn’t look too distraught but I just chalked this up to the fact that my MIL was always a bit of a controlling lady and emotionally cold. But we found out soon after that they knew about this affair and this was not a surprise at all. I’m surprised they didn’t break out laughing at me. I felt more foolish than anything after that. My elderly friend couldn’t believe that these people could be so cruel. So be prepared for the worst. Infidelity brings out the worst in your ex and all of the allies of the ex.

  • About a year after the BD, my now ex sent me an email “explaining” his “reasons” for leaving. He claimed I didn’t let him talk, he wanted to “come home to romance & intimacy” (didn’t I?), we had crab cakes for Thanksgiving, I had a job rather than a career, he wanted more time with his family, I was upset that our neighbors burned wood in the nice weather, blah, blah, blah & more blah. I replied with the truth to his twisted take on reality. I told him that we had a wonderful marriage (over 24 years) until twinkle-ho came along & convinced him that the grass was better on her f-upped side of the fence.

    His entire family shunned me almost from the beginning of our separation. See he was the golden child in his parents’ eyes. So when I sent my reply, I copied his entire family. That pretty much shut him up for good.

  • after several affairs and during a separation because of how abusive she was, i caught her red handed . she said that if i stopped talking to her she would stop me from seeing our son. i called relatives(distantly related cousin) of hers and told them she is a “puta” (whore).they hung up on me lol.
    i wished that i had just called her brother and told him , if i could go back in time i would have told everyone that we knew…
    what ever trauma her close family circle might have suffered by knowing the truth shouldn’t have been my concern.
    Because it is very hard to keep my mind wrapped around the fact that a cheating,lying abusive fuck, no matter how attractive ,no matter how charming,no matter how well spoken ,no matter how many languages she speaks,etc.etc. is a cheating lying abusive fuck.
    and always will be..
    p.s. i suspect that my son is not my biological son. 🙁 🙁

  • Don’t tell them. Here’s some advice a friend gave me that I think is true: “Nothing to be gained there. Most mothers go to their graves defending their baby boys. She’ll merely rationalize that it’s sour grapes from someone who was never good enough for her son anyway. Deep down, she already knows he’s a jerk.” Isn’t that priceless?

    My ex’s mom loved to tell me how good my ex was, how kind and sweet he was. She wanted to remind me at every opportunity that he descended off of fucking Olympus to be with me and I should be honored. She would tell stories of how trusting and kind he was. Like that time! That time he let the magazine salesman in and his brother found them sitting in the living room chatting. He was probably a convict or something. Hahahaha. What she was really saying was he is as dumb as a box of rocks and she could see I was somehow manipulating him into being with me. There was no way he would pick me on his own.

    I can see her stupid mouth carefully crafting the words. “He’s so good.” She raised her eyebrows for emphasis. I wanted to tell her right then- he pushed me. He held me down on the bathroom floor and screamed in my face. He told me how he wanted to punch me, but he was too good. He wouldn’t do that. I wanted to ask her… is that what she meant by good?

    Anyway, from time to time his mom and brother would pull him aside and tell him that I was not good enough for him. He would then secretly relay the message to me. That way we both knew where everyone stood. He was awesome, I was a flaming turd. I can see how they might have been just trying to do what they thought was best for him, but they were actually reinforcing abusive behavior. They thought my ex was an idiot and couldn’t figure his own life out so they encouraged him to leave me. They didn’t know that I was his emotional punching bag and he would never give that up. In the end they were only confirming for him that I was deserving of the treatment I’d been getting.

    Even after all of that I still sent his mom a little note, saying goodbye and asking that she encourage John to get the help he needs. She responded, “Good luck on with your career and life.” What a peach.

    Good riddance.

  • My story is a little different. We dated for years before he proposed. I spent lots of time with his parents, going on vacations, holidays, etc. He did not have any children with his first wife (which he also cheated on – with me before I knew he was married). And so, his parents relished the opportunity to be grandparents to my three children. After five years of engagement, we finally agreed to get married this fall. I was so excited and finally felt assured all would be okay. Having greater financial resources than he, I paid for just about everything for the wedding. It was fairy tale. However, he reconnected with his high school best friend at the wedding, and found out that she was having marital problems and needed someone to lean on. It became apparent within one month of the wedding that they were crossing over in to the emotional affair territory. Private, long conversations and lots of text messages, then came the clandestine meetings (actually had PI follow and catch them on our 2 month anniversary). He of course denied it was anything more than friends helping each other because at that point he said he was not certain he loved me anymore, had a hole in his heart and needed to figure some things out. He left right before Christmas. All along I had asked him if there was someone else. Of course he said no. Even the night he left, we hugged, he said he loved me and would be back. I asked him not to cheat on me while he was away. He said he wouldn’t (right!) and was that all I could think of. He came back a few days ago and got another load of stuff, and the dogs. Again, he said he loved me, and hadn’t figured anything out because of all the hustle of the holidays, no time to think. Well I caught them by accident yesterday, was meeting a girlfriend for a drink and looked on my nearby friends/facebook and saw that the OW was a few miles from me so I started looking. I ran in to them and he tried to get away -sporting moves on a crowded two way street that would rival Dale Earnhart. He sent me a text bitching me out – saying he knew I had been tracking him and how that pissed him off. He had an appointment. I asked why she was in the car for his appointment and he said, her lunch hour was right around the time of the appointment so they met for coffee to talk. He didn’t realize at that time, that I knew she was off work this week. Lie after lie, after lie. I pulled over at a rest area and called his mom. I told her that what he had said when he moved back in with them was a lie – he was working through some mental issue – he had began an affair with OW (someone they know well), right after we were married. His mom was devastated and said she didn’t want to lose us and how could he do this to all of us. Especially with everything we had been through the last five years. He got his second DUI, I paid for his attorney to help get his license back, helped him sober up and he hasn’t drank in five years, he has gotten promoted twice since we’ve been together, and bought a new truck with my help, etc….goes on and goes on. At one point she said she was so thankful me and the kids were in his/their lives because she feared if he stayed on the path he was on – he would end up dead or in jail. She was crying, I was crying, we told each other that we loved each other. She said she wasn’t going to tell him I called her. But that she wanted to talk to him about it. Sure enough around 1030 last night I got a text that only said, why did you have to bring my mom in to this? I haven’t answered it. I have 6 possible answers. I am thinking of not answering at all though to see what his follow up is. I wanted to say, because she loves me and I love her and she doesn’t deserve to be lied to or used either (she has been dog sitting so he can fool around). I’m not sure if he was able to convince her I was exaggerating or not. I doubt it. As she and I talked about him going out the previous weekend and I told her that I know he was with her and she said, he never mentioned that. I am regretful to cause her pain, as I truly love her and she has been great to me and my kids. But I didn’t think it was fair to keep them in the dark, using them to cover up his affair, and to only hear his side of the story. I’ve not heard anymore from him. I thought I’d get a “I’m sorry” or something. Today I am researching divorce attorneys. At one point I had told him that I loved him, and wanted him and if he wanted to come back and have a loving committed, honest relationship I would forgive him. I’m not sure that is possible. I don’t think he’ll give her up and he is showing no remorse. I’m numb and sick to my stomach. Stuck in debt because most of the expenses for the wedding happened prior to us getting married. Was calling her the wrong thing to do?

    • No not wrong…good call. Now get yourself out of debt & cheaply divorce the loser. Don’t look back! I don’t care a thing about any good traits he has; he is sad. He will spiral downhill fast, not your problem. You are your problem now. (IMO)….you are too good for him.

      • Thanks for the support. Since catching them on Tuesday and calling his mom, his only communication with me was a brief text “why did you have to bring my mom in to this”. There has been no remorse, no I’m sorry or anything. I really thought I deserved at least an explanation. Oh well. Time to move on.

        • Yep…sounds all too familiar. He will want to come back at some point, they always do…just pray to God each night that you’re getting stronger & stronger to not give in. Let him take his drama somewhere else. It’s not easy at all…and sometimes very lonely. But, from where I’m coming from, it’s keep the faith…the faith that you don’t deserve this BS, the faith that God loves you & you need to love you too.

  • do it in person. Invite them to lunch, dinner, a quiet and inexpensive place, get a secluded booth, table. This gives them the chance to ask questions, really give out the truth and bonus-he will be gagging.

  • >