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Dear Chump Lady, What do I tell the kids?

Dear Chump Lady,

I have been married for almost 17 years, together for 21 years.  The first time I caught him cheating it was all online, but included phone sex, cam sex, and lost of graphic instant messaging back and forth — with a woman we both know! She and her husband were casual friends of ours before they moved out of state.  The next time I caught him it was from cell phone records that showed lots of long calls to a number I didn’t know, and when I asked I got the big old “JUST WHAT ARE YOU ACCUSING ME OF?  IT’S JUST A FRIEND!” Big overreaction to one question about the phone calls.

He was talking to a ho-worker, they would meet at the bar after work sometimes, exchanged pics of their naked crotches BUT he never had sex with her.  The third and fourth time were a different ho-worker.  Thanks to a keylogger on our home computer, I know they have done everything but actually have penetrating sex and thats only because they couldn’t find an available bed to do it in.  When I caught him the third time (good Lord, now many times do I catch him and yet he still thinks he’ll get away with it??), he claimed to end the affair and we went to marriage counseling for a year.

I’m sure no one sees this coming, (no pun intended) but the affair “ended” for a whole three months then he was back chashing her. And now they are just as hot and heavy as ever.  He blamed the first time on our marital problems.  He blames the marital problems on his having to change to 2nd shift at work (Im on first) and my lack of sex drive. Oh, did I mention that he has had a several hour a day, everyday, online porn habbit?  Which of course leaves him free of any blame or responsiblity for what he’s done. Isn’t that nice?

He is a huge ol cake eater.  I think he’d be happy to live this way forever. I’m not. I’m torn up, exhausted, half batshit crazy and the only reason I know the truth is from the keylogger I put on our home computer. I’m just heart broken that the one person in the world that I have loved for over half my life and trusted with my heart has treated me with such indifference. He’ll say what he thinks I want to hear, then do whatever makes him happy. I’m getting my ducks in a row, have consulted a laywer, and now my main question is this –What do I tell our two kids, 10 and 13 years old.  Should they know about the cheating, or just that we are seperating?

It hurts so damn bad, but my choices seem to be to accept having an unfaithful husband or divorce. Both choices suck.

Angie 

Dear Angie,

Your choices don’t suck as bad as you think they do. Yes, divorce is painful and expensive — but it’s also the gateway to a MUCH BETTER LIFE without this asshole in it. You’ve been living the nightmare already, divorce is just the passage out of the nightmare. Your choice isn’t between one sucky life and another sucky life — (although yes it feels that way some times) — your choice is really between living the crazy, chaotic, pain-filled life or living in peace.

Start thinking of divorce that way — passage to a safe harbor, and it will be easier to think of your children. They WILL adapt, but yes it will be painful for them too at first. You are the adult though and you must set the vision, the big picture that they cannot see yet — I’m doing this because I love you. Because I cannot let you grow up in a home where dysfunction and disrespect are being modeled. Where your mother’s health and sanity are threatened daily. You send them the message always that you love them and you are going to be there for them. All kids need is one sane parent — you’re it.

As for how much of the cheating to tell them about? At their ages, they may already know or have suspected. My son was 9 when it happened to me, so he got the rated-G version. I just said, when you get married, you promise not to have any boyfriends or girlfriends that aren’t your spouse. You’re each other’s special person, that’s what being faithful is. Fucktard (I used his other name) cheated, and he lied a lot to me, and I’m going to be really sad and upset for awhile, but you’ll be okay. I’ll be okay. We’ll figure this out.

Then as much as I could I assured him that his life wouldn’t change in the day to day (although ultimately it did, we moved, but he still was at the same school). Kids don’t see the big picture so well, they worry about who will take care of them — how will this affect me? Will I lose my friends? Will my mom or dad be sad forever?

People disagree with whether or not to tell children about infidelity. My opinion is yes you should tell them in age appropriate ways, and without editorializing (“Mom cheated” not “Mom is a whore.”) I think it is important that children realize that there are deal breakers in life, monumental fuck ups that lead to consequences like divorce. And that it is okay to have deal breakers and enforce consequences, even though that is very painful to do. These are important life lessons, and if you can do your best to navigate this shit with grace, you are doing your kids a real service.

I think knowledge about what happened (not all the gory details, but the basic why) is better than letting them live with the nebulous sense that sometimes “people fall out of love.” Like it’s a scary cloud that just descends upon your life willy nilly. No, people DO things that allow themselves to fall out of love with each other (they cheat). And we don’t get to control other people (I cannot not make him cheat), we only control our reactions (I can divorce).

I don’t think the betrayed spouse has any obligation to protect the image of the cheater. Cheaters always want chumps to believe what they’ve done is No Big Deal, and why aren’t you over it yet? So it’s always so curious to me then that NO ONE MUST KNOW about this little, minimal thing they may have done, that you shouldn’t feel so upset about.

If you can afford it too, I’d get the kids some counseling at first. I think it’s a hard sell from a cheater to a child that oh, they still love their kids. After all, they broke up their home to get side dish fucks — not very loving stuff. It’s a lot for a child to wrap their mind around. Hell, it’s a lot for us to wrap our minds around.

In the end, they’ll be okay — they’ve got you. Hang in there, Angie. Better days ahead!

Ask Chump Lady

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  • I agree that it’s ok to tell the kids. I told mine about the current affair and when they ask if it’s happened before I simply say they should talk to their dad and that I’m unclear what dad got up to. I’m not going to lie but I’m not going to play dirty either.

    They’ll know eventually, not details, but that this wasn’t just ‘mum freaked out over a little flirtation’ thing. The truth is always better. I know some people who didn’t find out their mother or father cheated until years later and they said it felt like dday all over again when they found out the real reason for their parent’s divorce. The pain was still that fresh.

    • I agree. Tell the kids without editorializing.

      As was mentioned by CL, say dad cheated or dad was dating other women while married and that behavior broke our wedding vows.

      Don’t say daddy is a whore and sleazebag and a pervert. Even though he is.

      Then further explain that in our society, if someone is very unhappy in a marriage and they truly believe that marriage counseling will not solve things, then the person can ask for a divorce.

      Cheating is wrong. It involves, lying, stealing marital assets, sneaking around, and taking energy from the entire family to give to another woman or to a prostitute or to an online fantasy relationship.

      I don’t see anything wrong with telling the kids the truth and apprising them of the fact that daddy did something dishonorable and immoral.

      I also agree that it has to be much better than thinking that mommy just fell out of love with daddy for absolutely no reason. That would be awfully scary to think.

  • My sense is that the mistake of hiding the cheater’s cheating is often compounded by the cheater spinning their side of the story HARD to the kids. You know, Dad/Mom was just horrible to live with. Mean to everyone. Hints at Dad/Mom having mental problems. Even hints that the betrayed spouse was unfaithful, too. A gas-lighting of the children, if you will. Truly dispicable.

    Age appropriate truth is necessary to at least give the kids the tools they need to find out whatever truth they need at whatever age they need it. I was an accessory to a horrible marriage; I will not be an accessory to a cover up.

    • You’re exactly right. STBX has told the kids that the marriage was crumbling, I was hard to live with because I didn’t likehim leaving his clothes all over the house (for me to pick up and I asked him to not do it TEN ZILLION TIMES) blah blah blah.

      In the end the kids don’t know that I was kind of angry at times because I knew, deep down, something was wrong. What I didn’t know that what was wrong was that he was banging other women on a relatively regular basis and not paying any attention to his family.

      That’s why the kids know at least the partial truth. They’ll know the rest one day. Not details but enough that they will understand why I had to end things with their father.

      • The marriage was crumbling because you asked him to pick up his cloths or do chores?

        Nord, how shallow. I am sure eventually the kids will realize that, if they don’t already.

        • Yes, he actually says things like that, but can’t quite get to that part about ‘I was banging cheap broads, including your mother’s friends’. Whatever. They’ll figure it out.

  • That is some great advice, and it does help me to feel better about this. Its stupid, but I feel like IM the one thats breaking up our family because I am asking for a divorce. It was only a few days ago that I confronted my WH about this latest round on the affair merry-go-round and at the time I hadnt really really (for sure I mean it this time) decided that I was done and wanted out. I have thought of little else since then, Im not sure he’s given it much thought beyond what he can do to smooth things over with me. Thats one of the biggest problems, he just likes to throw the blame as far from himself as he can and heaven forbid he do some introspection or own his own shit. *sigh*

    But I do agree that althought the kids dont need every sorid detail, just saying the “we drifted apart” crap is not right. Its not that I want them to hate their father, or side with me. Its not that I want to protect my WH’s image, but my daughter especially is daddy’s girl and I dont want the kids to be hurt any more than I know is unavoidable.

    From everything Ive managed to find out on my own (apparently confessions aren’t my husband’s cup o tea) he hasnt ever had sex with any of the OW. Groping, make out sessions in his car after work, etc but the only reason he didnt was cause they didnt have a place to do it. Maybe he thinks its not cheating if he’s not “having sex” with them. Im pretty sure he’d object it I was doing those things with another man. Ugh!

    • Yes, it’s cheating. Yes, it’s physical. Yes, I’m sure there is a lot more you don’t know about. And he’s not one bit sorry. And he KEEPS DOING IT.

      Either you divorce him or you live with DDay after DDay after DDay.

      As for daddy’s little girl? She needs self respect modeled to her. Because her father is doing a real number on her head about what “good” men are like.

      I’m sorry Angie, it’s tough stuff. But the question isn’t “how long is he going to keep doing this” — the question is “how long are you going to keep tolerating it?” It’s so much better when you stop tolerating it.

    • Angie, you know why you feel like it’s your fault for breaking up the marriage? If he’s anything like my husband it’s because he’s guilt tripped you and told you it is! Fuck that. He’s the one that destroyed the trust. And of course THEY want to stay married, that’s how they can have their cake!

      I’m surprised they didn’t have sex… unless it’s like some weird Bill Clinton plausible deniability thing. My STBX conducted the entire physical part of his affair in the back of his truck on some side street near their work. And there was definitely sex. I’m sure that uncomfortable sex was worth destroying his family!

      • Yes, I got blamed for breaking up the marriage. He screamed at me at one point, when we were arguing in the phone ‘and you had nothing to do with any of this, right?’

        Um, no, actually, I didn’t have anything to do with you repeatedly cheating on me. But to him, because he wasn’t ‘getting enough attention’ it was my fault that he ‘had’ to cheat. Crazy times.

  • Angie,

    I’m of the feeling that it is still cheating, even if they didn’t physically penetrate. He is taking time and effort away from you and your children, and putting your mental well-being at risk. That is not love. That is not commitment. Spending upteen hours purusing porn is just time spent in selfish fantasy land, not strengthing (or even being present in) his own real-life marriage. Mine also is a serial hooker-humper and porn addict. Do not feel one shred of guilt about filing for divorce. My STBX also throws the “you broke up the marriage because you’re the one who filed for divorce” card at me, and I just laugh. What deluded idiot would think that after 10 years of hookers, *I*, the one who was faithfully at home taking care of the kids and everything else, was the one who destroyed the marriage.

    I do waver about what to tell the kids. In my area, we are required to take a parenting class dealing with divorce before we are granted one. I specifically asked the teachers this question, because my son asks weekly, even a year later, why we are split. Their response? That “it takes two to tango”, and when he asks, I should just shoot another question right back at him: “Why do you want to know?” and keep dancing around the question until he gives up! I was flabbergasted. How can flummoxing your child, who has a legitimate right to know why his life imploded, be the recommended advice? How does that help him cope or begin to heal? I think it does more harm than good. Yet, still, I have not gone farther than to tell him that his father made “mistakes” and “bad choices” that put me at risk.

    STBX is pretending nothing ever happened – he whitewashes like mad. I have a horrible urge to out him to the world, and I don’t know whether this stems from a feeling of revenge and vindictiveness, or from a desire to warn others to watch out. Maybe a little of both. I discovered he is back to texting young women again like mad, fairly certain they are hookers, but on the off chance he actually has an actual “friend” (he’s never had irl friends), should I warn her? You can be sure he’s not airing his dirty laundry.

    But, gotta say, it sure burns to see him walk away like nothing happened, and to not have any censure from society.

    • I’ll agree with Dawn. It’s cheating even if they don’t have sex, but I’m agreeing more with CL. They’ve gone physical. You just haven’t been able to find evidence of it because it’s hard to get that kind of evidence short of a PI with a camera or an actual confession. Unless the OW was on the other side of the country and they’d never met in person, you can bet that physical sex took place. Sheesh! If they’ve had 30 minutes together in a largely-unsupervised area, yes, they’ve had sex.

      But Dawn, I think I’d tell your son the truth. The “it takes two to tango” crap is confusing him. Your son wants to know if he’s the reason for the split. This is a huge deal to children of divorced parents. They hear their parents fight, and sometimes the subject of the fight is the kids. If your son is still very young, then telling him that you and his dad are divorcing because when you married, mommy promised not to have any boyfriends except daddy, and daddy promised not to have any girlfriends except mommy. Daddy now wants a girlfriend, so that’s why there’s a divorce. You’re not putting a spin your STBX’s character, just stating that he broke an important promise. Stress that both parents love the child, and that the child will get to see both regularly.

      Unless the parenting class has some sort of fucked-up regulation about what you can actually tell your kids, telling them the age-appropriate truth will do everyone more good than harm in the long run. The divorce isn’t about the kids, and that’s what they want to hear.

    • IT TAKES TWO TO TANGO? Fucking SERIOUSLY? That shit is sanctioned by the state and you are FORCED to listen to that crap to get a DIVORCE?

      To me, that’s right up there with the transvaginal ultrasound as a violation of your dignity and human rights. No, you do NOT have to accept responsibility for his whoring around. You do NOT deserve to be victimized all over again by some idiot agent of the state doing their “no fault divorce” job.

      Your horrible crime of “equivalence”? You were a CHUMP. You trusted him. You bred with him.

      Stop keeping his secret. I would tell your son your father cheated. It’s the TRUTH. The state can still spackle “it takes two to tango” — can’t control what idiots say. But YOU can tell YOUR truth. You shouldn’t have to tolerate people blaming you, or insinuating you “drove” that man to hookers.

      Forget warning his OW. You just take care of you and your son. I’m very pissed off about whatever state you’re divorcing in. That’s appalling. Would they say “It takes two to tango” if your husband threw you down a flight of stairs? You were asking for it? But endangering your health with STDs is perfectly acceptable? Betraying you for a jolly fuck is equivalent to… WHAT exactly?

      What happens if you speak truth to stupid? Do they not grant you your divorce?

      Co-parent with the idiot, but you don’t have to eat his no fault shit sandwich.

      • Oh, yes. FOUR HOURS of that crap. I’m happy to hear that you agree with me, because I was so shocked, I couldn’t even speak after that, and was in near tears. She said the “takes two to tango” crap at least three times during her little schpiel! WTF??!! Way to alienate your audience. I doodled the rest of the three hours. Just give me the damn paper, and get me out of there.

        Oh, yes, and in our divorce papers, it says we “cannot disparage” the other party to the children. I can’t think of a real legal consequence to that, however, and besides, its the TRUTH, not vindictive fabrications. I’m not going to cover up for him. What sucks, though, is that if his actions DID see the light of day, he would 100% lose his job, and the money the kids and I need while I go back to school will go *poof*. Still stuck in his pervy grip, even after divorce. 🙁

        • Dawn:

          I fail to see how “mindfucking” the child about why you two divorce or passive aggressively dancing around his questions will help a child in any way.

          What terrible advice.

          No wonder people cheat and divorce so easily. It’s advice like you received that simply gives cheaters or immature spouses and parents a slap on the wrist, that makes people believe they did nothing wrong.

    • Oh the parenting class… I had to attend one as well. What a freaking joke. The advice I watched them dish out to the poor schmucks who raised their hands was unbelievable. I really felt like it was 3 hours of guilt; of them telling me… “what your kids really want is for their parents to be together”. I came away from my parenting class feeling like a big pile of shit because I was breaking up my family. It wasn’t until I saw ChumpLady say something to the effect of “yes, what your kids really want is for their parents to be together, but this is the same group of humans who want cake for dinner every night. Just because they want it doesn’t make it the best thing for them”. That put me right back on track. Whew… ChumpLady to the rescue again!!!!

      I struggle with this idea of what to tell my 7 year old daughter too, and am still very guilty of wanting to protect her relationship with her father. It’s murky territory.

      Best wishes to you, and keep us posted.

  • The laywer I had a consult with said that I’ll have to do that parenting class as well. Boy am I looking forward to that now. (computers really need a sarcasm font)

    Dawn – I agree with the general consesus here that your son needs to know more. If he’s asking questions, just answer him. Dont go into details, but he must know there is more to the story and thats why he keeps asking. Im going to try and look at it like having that first talk with my kids about sex/where babies come from. Give them the basics, then wait and see what they ask.

    CL – You’ve nailed exactly. After 4 times, I see no hope that another attempt at R will have any different ending. Frankly, I just dont have the strength to try again. As for how much he has done physically with the current OW, I do see their chats online and they havent “done it” but thats because this OW doesnt seem to mind all the other things they do, the intimate discussions about me and my marriage, the groping and slobbering sessions etc but apparently she has held back on having sex because she feels guilty that he’s married. Umm, twatever lady. Im pretty sure he screwed OW #2, or at least got BJ’s but on that one I dont know for sure and probably never will. AT this point it really doesnt matter exactly what he did with whom. I know for a fact that he’s really tried to push the current ho-worker into sex with him. I think I’ll just let her have him. They seem to deserve each other. She hates porn and even thinks that the kissing on soap operas is trashy. I have screen caps of him talking all sweet with her, and me (at the same time) with porn running in the back ground. I did consider sending those pics to her, but why spoil her suprise.

    I will be telling my family (he doesnt have much to do with his family) and friends why we are spliting. We have managed to keep all of this drama and crap under wraps in the past, but I’ll be damned if Im going to let him just ride off into the sunset on his Harley with his new gf and let him tell everyone that it was because I have issues. He has 2 Harleys actually, and I ride the smaller one to work. He might just have to let me keep that one, lol.

    I was watching 2 and a half men the other day, and Charlie was in therapy. His therapist said something that I think apply quite well to my husband:

    You have trouble conecting with your feelings because your penis keeps getting in the way.

  • My ex and I weren’t married (no gay marriage here) and didn’t have kids, but I know what a dastardly effect an infidelity-charged divorce can have on children.

    My father was King Cheater. This was back in the 60s-70s when the Italian wives were expected to turn a blind eye to the *comares* that their husbands had on the side.

    He left his wife of 18 years for an 18-year-old girl. Not only was the girl born the same year that my father married his first wife, but my father’s children at the time were not much younger than her.

    He left his wife for a girl who was the same age as his children.

    A couple of years later, that girl gave birth to me. You’re all talking to the product of an extra-marital affair.

    This all happened a long, long time ago. But all these years later I can honestly tell you that my half-siblings (who are now all in their 40s and 50s) have NEVER gotten over my father’s betrayal.

    My parents split mutually when I was 4 so I barely remember them being together. But my siblings were old enough to remember EVERYTHING with our father and their mother: Christmas morning, family dinners, family parties, family outings.

    When my father met MY mother it vanished overnight and I know that fucked with them. I of course didn’t cause that situation. I’m just a product of it.

    My father’s been dead for a few years now, but I don’t know that my siblings ever forgave him. It was a wound that cut deeply into my siblings and I don’t know that they’ve ever made peace with it. A few years before my father’s death, my half-brother, who was now in his early 40s, wondered aloud why our Dad didn’t just fess up and apologize for all the shit he pulled back in the 1970s.

    For all the Moms writing on here that are still on the fence and who are afraid of being the “bad cop” by leaving their cheating husbands, all I can tell you is that my siblings ADORE their mother. She’s a saint as far as they’re concerned and they’ve NEVER blamed her for the destruction of her marriage with our father.

    Perhaps one (or more) of you had to deal with a confused 10-year-old whose father got in his ear saying: “Mommy fucked up our family!” Perhaps one of your kids repeated it back to you. Trust me. That won’t last. My siblings know EXACTLY what happened in that marriage and don’t blame their mother one bit.

    I only questioned why their mother stayed in the marriage for so long, since my mother was NOT my father’s first cheat partner by a long shot. Their response: “It was a different time back then.”

    ….Thank God I wasn’t alive…

    • Chris, it’s interesting that you had a cheating father. My STBX is the product of his father cheating in the first marriage, so STBX’s mother is the mistress, the OW. She is, to this day, insecure about her marriage and STBX has been taught his whole life that he is the product of a great love affair, despite the fact that it’s fairly well known that his father has cheated on his mother over the years.

      My MIL even said to me at one point ‘do you really want to be a divorced woman? You should never have kicked him out and humiliated him. He would have ended it and stayed with you’.

      I feel sorry for kids who have these kinds of fathers. How was your relationship with him? STBX thinks his father shits gold bricks.

      • MIL have no right to say” you should never have kicked him/her out and humiliated him/her. He/ she would have ended it and stayed with you.
        This is simply MIL wish so she doesn’t lose face and no doubt she realises the destruction about to happen with her relationship with you and her grand children.
        That speak from MIL’s goes together with “takes to to tango”. Straight in the bin!

      • There’s about 15-20 years between me and the siblings so I had a TOTALLY different childhood than they did.

        They grew up with the young, handsome lethario who’d tell them to tell their mother that he was going out for cigarettes and then wouldn’t come home until Tuesday.

        I grew up with the old man on the couch watching golf and taking naps. I couldn’t believe the cheating stories my siblings told me were about the same guy.

        So he DID grow up finally…but the damage was done and my siblings never got over it.

        You know it’s interesting. I’m the product of an extra-marital affair and I abhor cheating. My ex’s parents have clung together in an incredibly toxic and dysfunctional marriage for decades…yet HE was the one who cheated.

        I think just like if you grow up exposed to addiction, cheating or abuse…you either learn from it or repeat it.

        Your MIL sounds pretty old-school. I guess that was the attitude back then. Nobody batted an eye when my father divorced his first wife in the early 80s (because EVERYBODY was doing it by then) or when I was born out of wedlock around the same time. Those two things were unthinkable way back when.

        • Wow Chris, what a story. You clearly grew up with your head screwed on straight, though.

          I read once about abusive relationships (and as you know, I think infidelity is abuse) — that kids grow up thinking there’s only two ways to be — abuser or abused. Cheater or chump. And so if you stick around and let this shit get modeled to them, you’ve got a greater chance of the kid growing up to be an abuser (or cheater). Because from where they sit, the abuser has all the power and the chump eats the shit sandwiches. Who would YOU rather be?

          That’s one of many reasons why i think it’s so important to get the hell out of toxic relationships if you’ve got kids — THERE ARE OTHER WAYS TO BE. Including ALONE and living in peace. And if you’re lucky (I’m super lucky these days), you get a good, healthy relationship and reciprocal love is modeled to your kid.

          Chris, I wonder about your mom as the OW. How does she feel about cheating? Sounds like your dad did marry your mom, but then divorced pretty quickly. Does she regret her marriage to him? Is the relationship between her and your half siblings weird? Or do they feel like she was young and dumb and suffered from his philandering too?

          Just curious. Thanks for sharing your story!

          • Oh wow…talk about an A-Ha Moment!! You said: “Cheater or Chump.” I’m the son of a cheater and his mistress who grew up to be the Chump!

            That’s insane! I never thought of it that way. I’m sure a therapist would say my chumpness with my ex was a reaction to my father’s cheating (“Peace by any means necessary”).

            But I did go crazy with the drugs and booze during my rebellious years, whereas I don’t think my father was ever drunk or high once in his life. So who knows..??

            My parents actually never made it down the aisle. By the time I was born, they had already broken up about 50 times. She eventually left him because he was “too old” for her. She was just a naive, teenaged city girl when she met my father. Now that she’s in her 50s herself, she can’t believe she was THAT woman.

            But my siblings were always friendly to her. As far as I know, they never blamed her for anything that happened. Probably because my mother was just one of many, many women that Dad ran around with when he was married to their Mom.

            Strangely enough, I don’t think she’s made peace with everything either, from being the other woman to an unwed mother to a single mother, etc. I was born into absolute chaos but the smoke cleared a long time ago.

            I’m her only child so I think when she looks back she chalks a lot up to ignorance and naivete and cherishes the fact that she got me out of the whole deal.

          • All questions I*m curious about as well, actually. I know that STBX’s half siblings still harbour resentment, but that might be because MIL has always been resentful of them and very passive aggressive in her dealings with them. She still plays split families, even with the grandkids, giving the grandkids from her kids all the attention and more or less ignoring the grandkids from the first marriage. It’s pretty fucked up, to be honest.

        • Chris, my MIl is batshit insane. She no longer speaks to me since I saw a lawyer, filed and started telling the truth. My FIL, on the other hand, desperately misses me and sends me emails all the time…in secret.

      • From Nord’s post [My MIL even said to me at one point ‘do you really want to be a divorced woman? You should never have kicked him out and humiliated him. He would have ended it and stayed with you’. ]

        Oh brother, Nord, is this MIL living in the dark ages? What’s wrong with being a divorced women in 2013…. uhm it’s the 21st century.

        It’s far better in my opinion than being a married doormat to a cheater. Geez. This MIL needs a brain transplant, or actually a brain implant, ’cause she doesn’t sound like she actually has a functional brain cell, at this point.

      • Oh, the cheating genealogies! My PESTBX (probably-eventualy-soon-to-be-ex…hows that for decisive?) come from a family where his father & mother had a bargain: he could be whatever kind of philanderer he wanted, and he had to support her for life. They were both bitter and miserable (he is still alive.) Despite it being an “agreement” it was a secret, and poisoned the entire family and all the relationships.

        My FIL apparently screwed everything he could get ahold of, including people in really dodgy power relationships–his grad students, for example. While my MIL lay dying, he imported a lover about 40 years his junior to go to one grandchild’s college graduation. My MIL covered for him, lest the “secret” get out. sick, sick sick. (They lived overseas for nearly 45 years).

        (NB: I’m told by childhood friend of husband that cheating is rife in ex-pat communities, NGO postings, State Dept, USAID and the like. Gross. My PESTBX had his PA with a skanky whore who went to his overseas high school. She Facebook-hit on him, and the rest is gross-me-out history. As Hannah Arendt says evil is banal? They fucked at a high school reunion. It doesn’t get much more banal than that.)

        Anyway, back to the cheater genealogy, my former brother in law met his current wife on Adult Friend Finder–he’s her #4: good luck with that, guys!!; and great-grandfathers on both sides abandoned families, and one I just documented was a bigamist (when the 1940 USCensus came out.)

        Who the hell knows how many generations back it goes, but clearly, these people learn from one another that this constitutes “normal” behavior.

        You get unhappy–you go fuck somebody you’re not married to. Simple, right? Yecchh.

      • @Nord: “My MIL even said to me at one point ‘do you really want to be a divorced woman? You should never have kicked him out and humiliated him. He would have ended it and stayed with you’. ”

        Interestingly enough, while my mother, a woman married 50 years before my father’s untimely death from an accident, doesn’t know that my STBX is having an affair, and she doesn’t know that I’m going to divorce his sorry ass, she does know that he’s way too infatuated with this other woman. When she heard that he wants to start an evening Masters program, she immediately asked if this meant that he’d want to carpool with the OW. I told him that I am going to tell him that he is not to carpool with her or study with her at all, as I believe that she is enamored of him and it’s not a good idea to encourage her.

        My mom said that from all accounts, he seems really insecure with himself, but if he does anything stupid, he needs to realize that, unlike his mother, I’m not about to put up with a cheater. My mother believes in the sanctity of marriage, which is why she thinks divorce is absolutely appropriate when the marriage bonds are broken. Cheating is a breach of trust, and where there’s no trust, there’s no marriage.

        • Also, my mom would say that absolutely you need to tell the children the reason why mom and dad don’t live together anymore. It gives them closure and helps them move on. You don’t need to get into the nitty-gritty, just as you don’t need to give a 4-year-old all the details of where babies come from. “Mommy’s tummy” works great at young ages because that’s all they really understand. The question will come up later, and gets answered differently. “Married people aren’t allowed to have girlfriends, and daddy has a girlfriend” will work well for young kids, while “your father promised to be faithful to me when we married, but now he has a girlfriend” works well for the 10-13 year-olds. Kids are really worldly when they get to be older, so they know that “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” in this context means “fuckbuddy.” For an older teenager, just saying, “I found your father is having an affair” is the unvarnished truth, but it doesn’t say, “I found out that your father is a lying, cheating bastard.”

  • From Nord’s post [My MIL even said to me at one point ‘do you really want to be a divorced woman? You should never have kicked him out and humiliated him. He would have ended it and stayed with you’. ]

    Shit. Who WANTS to be divorced???

    Someone who is being abused. Even with all that I still struggled SO MUCH with this concept. I’m old school, as many of you are who still believe in those crazy ideals of true values and integrity. We are a crazy lot, us chumps.

  • imo telling the kids nothing just leaves them in the dark and isnt fair to them.telling them something thats age appropriate that lets them know that you are hurt but dosent dump on them your pain is a better solution .
    yes here in florida we too have that pre-divorce (parenting) class. the government can kiss my ass.if the government had any REAL parenting advice our prisons and jails wouldent be as full as they are…….

  • My kids are very young – one is about to turn 4, the other is 2. If they ask me before they understand about boyfriends and girlfriends and how those relationships are different than friends, etc., what do I say? We haven’t even really discussed what marriage is yet (my fault, cause I have avoided the topic over this past year of crap). And what about that they will probably tell all their friends, teachers, etc.? You know, in that completely innocent, no filter way that children have? I know, trust me, I’m not into “protecting” my STBX, but I don’t tell everyone I encounter that he cheated on me either.

    I was thinking of saying something like that he broke a very important promise to me? I’m not sure… though I guess that would just lead them to then ask what the promise was?? Or I could say something about how I learned that we have very different values and so we could no longer live together anymore… and then when they get older I can be more specific about those values??

    I do find myself wanting to be a little vague without lying just until they are at least somewhat older… 8 and 10? I just don’t want to take away their naivete yet. I don’t know, I feel that giving them too much info at too young of an age could cause a bit of damage…

    • Can you say that when two people get married they promise to love each other and never have any more boyfriends/girlfriends, just have a special relationship with each other as mommy and daddy (or daddy and daddy or mommy and mommy, one to one) and help each other and spend time together having fun and doing the work of being married together. It’s a really wonderful and special relationship between two people who are special partners. Well, daddy broke his promise and he got a girlfriend and was spending time with her, instead, and he lied about it and it made me really sad, and he broke our marriage. But we (you and the kids) have each other and I will always love you and we will be ok! And you and daddy will visit each other. Everything is going to be ok! I will be sad for a little while, but I am going to be strong and always always love you no matter what. I know that I keep my promises. And give them hugs.

      • Very well put, Stephanie. Easy to understand, light on the dirty details, but enough that they get the gist of the situation, and hopeful and reassuring at the end.

      • This is really very good Stephanie. I’d say it’s model advice for explaining it to young kids-honest, simple, conveying healthy values about the promises and duties of what should be required of two adults in a healthy marriage. Most importantly your message lets the kids know after a traumatic Dday that they can count on one parent and that he/she is going to be rock solid for them all the way! Really Teriific!

      • Thank you, Stephanie, for the advice. I think a combo of what you said and Leslie below (maybe use the term “keep in their heart” instead of boyfriend and girlfriend) will work pretty well. I’m still not sure I’m going to bring it up right away, but over the next few months I do want to start to educate them about marriage. And I do want to have something “prepared” in case they do ask me.

        I still do worry a bit about them oversharing with everyone. And also that once other kids know they will use it against them. I have an upsetting story about a playdate that took place a few months after my husband moved out where the first thing this kid did was come running up to me (mistakenly instead of my son) and pointed at me and yelled that “you daddy doesn’t live here anymore!”. I’m so happy he said it to me and not my boy. I’m pissed that the other mom felt the need to go out of her way and tell her child something, who knows what, (a 3 year old, and dads in general are not usually present at all at these playdates) and then this kid was literally trying to insult me or my son with this information. That’s the main reason I soon after made sure to kinda nonchalantly tell my son that “some mommies and daddies live together and some don’t” so if something like that did happen he wouldn’t be completely ignorant that his home situation might be “different” from other kids. I have a book called “Two Homes” that is really good and talks about how he has a home with mommy and one with daddy… but it never mentions that some other kids just have one home with both mommy and daddy.

        And I have literally treated the words “husband” and “wife” like they aren’t even part of my vocabulary, which I realize has to change.

  • You have to tell the kids so that they don’t think you ended the marriage and broke up your family on a WHIM. They need to know there are rules and morals and that it is imperative to set your own boundaries. They need to not one day be totally shocked by their wayward parent’s behavior. Children HATE being lied to, don’t like having the horrible truth given to them later in life–it feels like another betrayal.

    My MIL gave me the it-takes-two speech in a letter, then lectured me not to take my anger out by “putting the children in the middle.” I think she should save the lectures for her idiot son. I’m a very good mother and don’t damage my children by nagging and haranguing and whining about their father. I don’t bad-mouth him in front of them, because I want their home to be safe and peaceful. So far this is paying off in spades. I don’t speak to my MIL. No need to. I treated her better than her own children did, but I was cast off.

    C’est la vie.

    I made my teens’ FATHER tell the truth, actually. He did the weak, “You mother and I are splitting up” bullshit. I called him on that crap immediately and said, “Oh, you tell them why we are ‘splitting up.'” And he did. When my youngest, the one in the house most betrayed, began to cry, my ex stood over him, with a blank look on his face and said, “I deserve to be happy.”

    Later I told the kids that I think their father is having an emotional and identity crisis, that he is very depressed. I think they are skeptical, and I think they really don’t care. They have their own lives to navigate. And I help them with that.

    Weird thing is that unlike many wayward parents, my ex has gone to great lengths to continue to hide his relationship with OW. He lives with her but rents a room in a house with roommates (he’s almost 50) to be close to work and also to pretend he’s just a kicked-out poor sausage who only made one mistake. I did inform the children that their father lives with the OW when one of my sons asked me if he thinks his dad is ashamed. I replied that I feel his father IS ashamed, but not enough to stop what he’s doing, living with the biggest regret of his life.

    Kids need age-appropriate truth, but they should be spared horrible hurtful details. It is abusive in my opinion to use the children as confidants and to force-feed them the sordid details of the betrayal. They don’t need that stuff and it will traumatize them and damage the relationship between the stayed-parent and the children.

  • I really hate it when other BSs castigate those of us who elected to tell our kids the truth. My sister in law was cheated on by her XH. She has kept it secret from their son for 15 years.
    She says weird things about her XH, Like ” I would trust him with anything except my heart”. WTF? The guy is a serial chaeter, yet she clings to the notion that he is honorable in all other areas.
    She has been critical of my approach, telling without editorializing, and I cannot begin to reason with her about this.

    • Arnold, your sister is lacking courage. What she says is irrelevant, except for the fact that she is hurting her child by being secretive. This causes him to wonder all sorts of nonsense. What a burden.

  • You really do have to tell the kids something careful and age appropriate. The point of my earlier post was to illustrate what can happend when genration after generation “keeps secrets”–i.e., protects the cheaters, for whatever reason. (In earlier generations, it was shame, and ‘what would people thing, for example, here.)

    I believe that kids observe a great deal about their parents’ behavior,and that patterns may be repeated,especially under times of great psychological stress. And if they don’t understand what they were exposed to because it was officially a ‘secret’, well, it’s trouble all around for the next generation.

    So, IMHO, not telling does not do the next generation any favors in any way.

    They already know their parents are estranged–far better to have an age-appropriate sense of why, than leave them wondering.

    Although my daughter was 20–nearly 21-when her dad dropped the D-bomb (dirty bomb? I call it his dirty business), I told her what she need to know so that (1) she wouldn’t blame herself for his emotional distance over the previous few years; (2) she would be aware (as possible for a 20-something) when selecting partners so she wouldn’t repeat the chumping cycle; and (3) basically so she would understand why all of a sudden her previously more or less stable and happy mother became a emotional basket case. Since she was going overseas to live, I surely did not want her to think it was her departure that was cause me to fall apart. That kind of guilt would have been crushing. She needed the truth, although I filtered it.

    Also, as an adult child, she is old enough to tell me how much she wants to know–as a sexually active person herself, she doesn’t want to know details for example (that would be WAY inappropriate). She’s pretty good at boundaries, thank FSM.

    With younger kids, I’m guessing it is both simpler– you can generalize more–and more complicated–they tend to be more questioning.

  • I did a version for my 4 year old (at the time) of what Stephanie said. ” When a man and woman marry, a woman promises to keep only her husband in her heart and a man promises to keep only his wife in his heart. Daddy let another woman (the OW that he lives with now) in his heart and that broke a promise to Mommy. So…mommy and and daddy aren’t going to be married anymore. We don’t make promises to each other that we don’t keep, so our family is changing. Daddy made a mistake and it hurt Mommy, but we are all going to be OK. It is important to keep your promises and when you don’t there will be consequences.” Later, when it became clear that the OW was going to be a part of my children’s lives (they aren’t married yet, but living together) I told her that “The OW was mean to Mommy so we aren’t going to be friends. BUT…I’m glad that she is nice to you and it is OK if you like her. I want you to be friends with her, but Mommy can’t ever be friends with her, OK?”

    My 4 year old (who was 2 at the time we split up) just asked me,” why don’t you like the (OW)? Is it because she broke up our family?” I asked him, “Who told you that?” He said “Daddy”. I said “I don’t think so….”
    I’m sure it was my 6 (almost 7 year old) I was originally honest with. She knows more than I think she does, but I am SURE that I never have disparaged her Dad in front of her. She knows he lies to her sometimes and it upsets her. Kids are SO smart.

    • Leslie – I like the “keep in your heart” phrasing. And how you handled the OW.

      It kinds sickens me that I have to teach my child about divorce at the same time as teaching them about marriage.

      any incidents of them telling inappropriate people? or teasing from other kids?

      • No teasing…yet.
        But absolutely inappropriate talk. My daughter was on a playdate and told her friend that Mommy didn’t want to be married to Daddy anymore (HE filed for divorce).
        Luckily, I had already filled the Mom in that we recently got divorced and she was cool with it.
        You are right…teaching your kids about marriage and divorce at the same time is so strange. I just want my kids to understand that marriage isn’t something that you just throw away…

  • Oh…lots of times my oldest will push for more details. I tell her that when she is older I can share more with her if she still wants to know, but that the rest of the information is really adult appropriate. She really wants to know and understand. I REFUSE to lie to her, but I don’t want to hurt her either. No matter what, he is still her father, and she loves him.

  • Wow. I really need to focus on my blessings.

    My MIL is wonderful and fully supports me. Never would I hear such things from her. Thank goodness she married a real man who tried to do right by her children. My husband, unfortunately, worships his father who is a piece of crap like him.

    My FIL cheated on my MIL and nearly destroyed her. When I told her about her son’s affair she sobbed like a baby. It broke my heart. I will forever hate my FIL. My FIL has never been honest with my husband and never will be. He alludes to swinging and that “she didn’t do anything I didn’t do” I don’t know if it is genetics or choice but my husband and his father are two peas in a pod….a rotten cheating stench filled pod.

    My children will not be lied to. They will not hear lies about me. They will know the age appropriate truth because as CL mentions, it is the truth! When appropriate, they will know the years of abuse I suffered from their father. They will also know he took them to the park to meet up with his affair partner and tried to force me to allow her to be their babysitter. They will also know he blamed it all on me. They will know I gave him chance after chance and he chose not to save their family. I will not allow anything but the truth to be told.

    Why? Because they need to know that love doesn’t just fly out of the window. That a commitment is never to be taken lightly and that there are often grave consequences for our actions. They need to know what character and integrity is. They need to be able to spot who lacks it so they do not make the horrible mistakes I have made.

    Thank you, yet again everyone, for the truth of the matter. Though it breaks my heart, the only person who could have saved my marriage was the man that chose to destroy it. I hope that we all get what we deserve. I have been waiting so long for that. Peace. Happiness. Calm. They will be mine one way or another!

  • Ha, my X gave our kids that crap about “growing apart, you know how you can be best friends with someone, and then a few years later you may not be. Well, that is what happened, we grew apart etc etc”. I just sat there, still reeling from the bomb.
    The eldest however didn’t buy the crap. Days later he kept asking me if we grew apart, why don’t we work towards growing back together:). I didn’t want to do the X dirty work of telling the truth about our situation, but I truly felt the kids deserved the truth. I plainly explained that that is not possible if one of the partners has another person they are involved with. Because then they don’t want to do the work – they just want out and be with the other person. Even worse, the other kids found out through the daughters of his AP…….They KNEW how long the relationship had been going on, and my kids were old and smart enough to count back and realise that their father was at that time wtill at home and no one was aware……
    Kids don’t need sordid details or bad-mouthing – but they do deserve the truth at a level that is age appropriate.
    These cheaters are usually also cowards – my X never spoke about his affair with the kids. He even was as inconsiderate as to tell the kids – when they asked to spend some time alone with him after the divorce when he moved in with the AP – that no, he needed to spend time with his NEW family. Talk about stupid……How is that supposed to make your kids feel……..

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