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Sure Doesn’t Look Like Love…

I got a letter this morning from an old college friend who found this site. Sadly, she had her own chump story to share. Her ex is a screwed up narcissist of the most dysfunctional sort, and she’s fortunate that the courts recognize it, and the guy has limited, supervised visitation. Which he doesn’t exercise very often, and when he does it’s just to tell the kids how fabulous his (bankrupt, diseased) life is without them.

But she had a question that I thought I’d throw out to the Chump Collective, because I’m sure you guys struggle with this too. What do you tell the kids? How do you keep them from making the same mistakes you the chump parent made? Do you tell your child, “Oh Mom/Dad loves you” when their behavior is, in fact, very UNloving?

I’m beginning to think there is real damage in doing this. I think about a letter I answered early on in this blog, wondering if the cheater’s claim was true, that the whole time they were cheating on you, no REALLY, they loved you.

I call bullshit. I compare it to throwing you down a flight of stairs while telling you, “Hey! I love you!” and watching you tumble. It’s so obvious when put that way — throwing someone down a flight of stairs is not a loving act (nor is cheating on them). So it’s patently stupid to say “I love you” when doing something so harmful, and conversely, believing someone loves you when they’re capable of such abuse.

So, is that the message we want to give children too? Or is it too much for them? Do we believe that the fucked up parent who abandoned them, blew up their family, and put their welfare aside for a side dish fuck really LOVES them? Or do they just love themselves? Do they “love,” but we’ll give them a pass because they love imperfectly? Because it’s really harmful to let a child grow up thinking mom or dad doesn’t really love them?

Let me tell you what I also think is damaging — and might create future chumps — being on the receiving end of abandonment, mindfuckery, or addiction and being told by a grown up — no really, this person LOVES you. Just because they left you for their affair partner/don’t exercise visitation/are sprawled drunk on the sofa — doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Somewhere. Deep down there. It’s just that don’t express it in the right ways. They’re a bit messed up. But it’s there! Watch and wait! Be patient! And love them, because they love you.

And so the chump kid learns to spackle. To equate shitty treatment with love. Oh, that’s just how love is. People treat you like crap, but you know, deep down, they really care. It’s complicated.

Let’s forgive them, and go back for more. Because if they tell us they love us? It’s a big King’s X. Don’t expect words to match deeds. Don’t expect respect or reciprocity. Learn devotion and tolerance.

By divorcing a cheater, we have demonstrated boundary setting. Self respect. Marriage is certainly a different kettle of fish than parenthood. We imagine that our cheater narcissists love their children even if they don’t love us. But do they? And how do you explain that to a child without being the Bad Parent who alienates? How can you protect them? Or do they have to figure out that sad lesson for themselves?

Curious to hear what you think.

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  • Here is what I told my children, and it was true: He wants to show you how much he loves you, but not everybody knows how to do that. He is trying (and he was), but always fell short. They accepted that fact and have continued to kinda care for him through the years. Won’t work for every situation, but it did for us.

        • I have no children, but I know at least with my own ex, the answer is no, they do not know how. My ex does not know love as I know it and as I think most of us know it. Love to them is someone taking care of them, not them taking care of anyone else. They only believe they are loved if someone does everything for them and gives them all they have and never asks for any thing in return. They don’t love themselves, they don’t understand reciprocity in love, they have no empathy for any pain that is not their own. You know this when you unblind yourself and hear them rather than hear what you want to hear. When they cry, it is for their own pain, not for yours, not for anyone else’s pain, only their own. They are forever frozen as children themselves who haven’t grown past that moment when they recognize other people as real. They are the hero in their own movie, the rest of us are extras, their wives, their children, their affair partners, their bosses. No one else is truly real to them, no one else feels what they do in their minds, it’s a stage and you are a leg or a chair and when you cease to function as they wish they turn on you. Children cease to function for these people when they become self aware and question.

          • Oh yes Datdamwuf, I have often remarked that my ex thinks he is an actor in his own one-man play, and we his ex-family were just bit role-players orbiting around him. He somehow thinks he loved and still koves us, despite the breathtaking double life, and lies, deceit, and betrayals of not just me but also our children. We know that in reality he loves only himself.

  • My personal thought on this is that it is not your job as a parent to manage impressions for somebody else who is an adult and who is also a parent. Period.

    I believe it is a parent’s job to provide for their children emotionally, financially and mentally, and part of that job is to help them in their growth to develop healthier coping strategies, personal integrity, compassion and healthy boundaries.

    With that in mind, it is not the job of a BS to manage the relationship of a dysfunctional former spouse with their children (within reasonable boundaries, of course. I wouldn’t hesitate to advocate court-ordered, supervised visits only if that was really needed to protect the kids). So no ‘spackling’ (as you call it), but I wouldn’t model open hostility either. I would think such a challenging parental relationship could go two different ways: it could be a detriment if the BS doesn’t develop very good people skills and interpersonal relationship skills themself, but if they do develop those skills, then it could provide a great learning opportunity for the kids. There is always the possibility of positive learning even from negative experiences, but part of that depends on how healthy we (as BSes) and our children (if we have them) are, and how we deal with adversity in general.

    • I don’t think chumps tend to model “open hostility,” but I do think they run the risk of doing impression management for the cheater. Just because that’s a role they know so well and have done for so long.

      As I’ve mentioned here before, my son’s father has issues (which the court has recognized) and I’ve had to do this balancing game of supporting his relationship with his dad and helping him cope with his father’s mental illness, and manage his expectations. Mostly, it’s a big job of letting go and letting them figure out their parent on their own.

      In my son’s case his dad is a hoarder (among other issues). It’s got to be hard to untangle the thought that he loves junk more than a relationship with his child. Because his actions sure say that. I would think it’s similar with narcissists. You can tell a child the parent loves them, but their actions are often demonstrably very UNloving. Or maybe you shouldn’t say the parent loves them at all. Just let them have the relationship, be the best parent you can be, and let the kid draw their own conclusions.

      • I would agree that the best thing to do is to tell the truth about the infidelity and allow the other parent to take responsibility for showing the child how much he/she loves the child.

        My kid is only three, but she knows the truth about her father’s infidelity in terms she can understand. I will always be upfront about what happened. Kids deserve to know the truth about their own lives.

        In terms of what to tell her about her dad loving her, why should I say anything? I won’t say anything one way or another. His actions broke up our family, so I no longer have any responsibility for the outcome of his relationship with her. Let him prove the extent that he wants a relationship with her. This is the essence of parallel parenting. The more I take responsibility for his relationship with her, the more chumpy I am. If he wants to try to be a good dad, he’ll prove it and make her a priority– even to the point of gasp! spending less time with his affair partner.

        As she gets older and she asks questions, I’ll let her decide what she thinks. “Your dad chooses to see you 1-2 times per month. I offered him more time. In fact, I offered him to stay with us if ended his affair. He chose not to end his affair.” And then let her decide what is a loving act.

        Most kids will still have a relationship wit the WS, but they understand that it is strained and unreliable. My mom was a WS for years and is still selfish and demanding. My dad has always been more reliable and now that I am older, it’s clear to me who actually, actively loved me more. That is not to say my mom was totally neglectful and she never spent any time with me, but that it was clear that I wasn’t the top priority.

  • What to tell the kids…..that is an excellent question. I am struggling with this, too. But then again…..I have *already* been struggling with this question. When I was married, my narcissist husband was mean to the kids, yelling, screaming, and berating them. What did I tell them then, while we were still living in the same house? I mainly tried to keep them away from my husband and distract them after such episodes. I provided comfort to the kids, after his rages. I didn’t say anything specific to them about it.

    But I should have. I see that now. As a child, they are still learning about the world around them. They don’t know that certain behavoir is unnacceptable. To them, it is their only world, and on top of that, this bad behavoir is coming from someone who they love and is supposed to love them.

    I think the best thing is to be honest, with facts, and let them know when their father rages at them “Your father should not be acting that way. He shouldn’t yell or throw things, or say those things. It’s mean. We deserve better treatment than that.” And then take the kids out of harm’s way (the room, the house, etc.) until he calms down and can act civil. If it were my friend/family/coworker/etc. who he was raging at, I would do the same, at the very least! Kids need this *even more* since they don’t know this is out of line, and also kids tend to blame themselves when yelling happens. And think about it this way: When us chumps were in the thick of our relationships with narcs and/or cheaters, most of us were lonely, sad, and gaslighted to the point we wondered if we were going crazy. I don’t want the same thing to happen to my child! They need to know (from someone who has been there!) that they are not crazy, and that indeed they are right to feel sad about their father’s bad behavoir.

    I will still tell them that their father cares about them. But the bad behavoir? It will get called out, no bones about it.

    • It’s funny… XH had three discipline methods with the kids: either complete permissiveness (ie, he didn’t care what they did), begging (please please stop doing X, if you don’t stop I’ll do Y….but then never ever did Y), and outright yelling blowing his top off.

      Of course, I’d always call him out when he lost his temper and went ballistic on them, and protected them from his anger (usually it was over something petty that could have been easily solved another way). I even had to leave the house with them when he got into a rage, and definitely let them know that his behavior was not okay.

      Later, after I got the sexual deviancy evaluation back from the psychologist, I found a passage in there in which he stated that one of the reasons he cheated was that “I never backed him up as a parent, and negated what he said in front of the kids”. So, yes, my being an effective parent and protecting my children from his anger drove him to prostitutes. Classic.

  • Without a doubt no spackle – be as honest as age appropriate without demonizing but making it clear that not everyone is capable of deep connections and the responsibility that comes with them. Manage expectations accordingly with patience and compassion if possible. Teaching children about different kinds of love is critical so that they are able to develop a strong sense of self and know what they deserve in a healthy loving relationship.

  • Interesting post. I was the daughter of a serial cheater who’s Mother stuck by him until he divorced her (and screwed her in the divorce) Make me wonder if my reluctance to divorce my own cheating spouse isn’t a by product of my mother’s actions. I’m sure at some point in her marriage when we knew he was cheating that she didn’t tell me that in spite of his neglect of his children,his frequent absenses etc that he loved us. Gives me something to think about while I clean out the closet!

    • Its funny as its difficult to find a precise memory of being told that “despite the neglect / abuse etc that he still loves you” but in my inner being I feel a familiarity of this and my reaction is that I don’t want this kind of love. I chose a path of independence and career and am just now getting around to thinking what it means to have a committed, long-term relationship.

  • Coming from a different side……

    My father had “affairs” the whole time I was growing up. he was a semi decent Father, but I grew up seeing that the way he treated my Mom was Ok with her. (I am 51, so this was a while ago, Divorce was not an option for my mom, for whatever her reasons were… I never really knew.) I “learned” that Love goes in one direction, and that colored the way I viewed not only him, but my all my relationships. I wish my Mom had been forthright with me, and flat out said “your Dad is messed up and this is not how love looks.” I often wonder if that had something to do with my poor choice of men, and how long I stayed in a dysfunctional and abusive relationship.

    My cheater was not the father of my children, but I still had to explain that how he treated me was not what love should be. I’m still working on believing it can be any other way, but I sure hope to someday be able to model that for my now grown children.

      • Oh yeah…. we actually had that talk later in life. She had huge regrets that she stayed as long as she did, and subjected us to all that was our life. Ironically, they are still together and still miserable.

        I now tell my kids that the relationship I had with my abusive ex, and their father’s relationship with his crazy (and cheating) GF are not what love is…. but I am still lacking the positive role model. My abusive ex still tries to maintain contact with my kids, but since they are adults, and he is (luckily) not their father, they choose not to remain friends.

        My relationship to my Father is ok, but not great. As I grew, I realized that him calling my Mother “fat woman” as a nick name was abusive (for example). That he was incapable of truly loving her, and probably me. But it would have been helpful to me (not to mention my Mother!) for her to have told me that a bit earlier. But in the end I, as I am sure most kids will, figured it out.

      • My STBX is the product of a cheating marriage. His father was assigned to a different city when STBX was around 14 years old. For a variety of reasons, his mother elected not to move, so they had a commuter marriage until her death about 6 years ago. About 6 years into the new location, STBX’s father had met someone else. Apparently there were fights galore, but the upshot was that STBX and his brother always knew that their father was living with someone else 5 days out of 7, but neither parent would talk about it.

        When his father finally died, the brother found documents that indicated that the parents stayed married with one of the stipulations being that the father had to support the younger son throughout college.

        STBX hated his father for much of his life, resenting that his father was absent when he and his brother really needed to have a father figure. However, his mother spackled over the entire arrangement, urging both sons to listen to their father, to do as their father told them to do, etc. He reconciled with his father during his mother’s terminal illness. His father was at the hospital day and night with his mother.

        I suspect that his mother hated the fact that her cheating husband was there, or that she took a perverse pleasure in the knowledge that he’d feel obligated to be there for her. I certainly think that she would be deeply devastated by her older son’s betrayal of our marriage. At least her younger son waited until he’d divorced his wife when the marriage went south (he was doing volunteer work at a historical reinactment museum and was sleeping in the cabins for months prior to the divorce) and he’d met the woman who was to become his second wife.

        I often think that the failure of both parents to talk about the affair and the long-term mistress helped convey the message that affairs are not that big of a deal, that people can stay married, and that there can be genuine affection between the married partners in spite of the affair. I wish his parents–or at least his mother–had been more honest with the sons about the affair and the cost to the family.

        Being more honest would have helped show that what the parents had was NOT love. Rather, it reflected his father’s belief that everything was fine as long as you “took care of” the people involved. “Taking care of” means financial support. His father took care of his mother, took care of his mistress, and also took care of the woman who looked after his horses. I don’t know, but I suspect he was also cheating on his mistress. He’d borrowed money from his mistress that he’d never repaid, yet he was paying almost 3 times the going rate on horse care, so looking back on it, I figure that something was going on there, as well.

        At any rate, I do wish his mother had been more upfront with her sons. While it might not have prevented STBX from cheating, at least he’d know that this isn’t something that you do to people whom you love, and that if you really are that unhappy in your marriage, and if you are convinced that marriage counseling isn’t going to work, then a divorce is the only ethical recourse–as shitty as divorce is upon everyone.

    • Don’t know how old your Mom was but as a child of the 50’s divorce was just too nasty,scandelous and hard to get. My Mom worked and probably could have supported us but I’m sure the whole thing was to much for her. And she was not forthright with us but we all knew and were not at all comfortable with how my father treated her.

        • Sadly my Mother died 10 yrs ago. I loved her very much and miss her everyday. My Father died about 8 yrs ago. My Mother and I were very close, my Father well as he aged he tried to form a bond with us but it was forced and I never really responded.

  • Since her mother left 11 months ago, I haven’t once told my 12 yo daughter that her mother loves her. I also haven’t spoken negatively about her mother. Their relationship is between the two of them, but I refuse to say anything positive about my ex. What I’ve done is tell my daughter the basics of what her mother and her POSOM have done and the pain they’ve caused two families. I told her that her mothers’ boyfriend has three children that he hurt deeply, along with the mother of those three children, and that they don’t speak to him (they’re 18-20’s).

    As she goes through her teens, she’ll come to realize that her mothers’ actions were selfish, and it will click that she left, not just me, but her too. Maybe she’s starting to realize that now, her mother has 50/50 custody but sees her maybe 10-12 hours a week. She actually got a night job!

    • I think I am doing exactly as Jeff. Though it helps that my son is 12 yr old and can partly understand this bullshit about his father’s cheating, leaving, returning for R and then finally leaving again.

      I think once Arnold had pointed out that my husband was probably never playing the role of a father. And actually, such people never have time for the real things: bringing up a child lovingly is both work and fulfilling. They want to have the fulfilling part. But they shy off from the work part of it.

      As for my son, I’m under a sort of guilt that I am not able to give him all that any child deserves. But, I am a human and I can just do as much. I moved in with my parents so that he enjoys the company of his grandparents, who have always loved him like they were my son’s parents as well (I was a working woman and engaged my parents help often during bringing him up since his birth). Further, he gets another role model of my father. I thank GOD for being there in the form of my parents. I just hope that this bond shall erase whatever psychological effects my kind of BPD husband (Casanova, narcissistic and influenced by mother who was a cheater as well) has inflicted on him.

      But, some days are really hard. Whenever, I see my son getting extremely angry or misbehaving with others, I get affected. Therefore, I had taken him to a person who had greatly benefited me: a Yoga, Reiki and Hypnotherapy expert. She said to me after a few interactions with him (she can’t be told to be a medical psychotherapist etc. which I didn’t think my son needed anyways) that he was absolutely normal and happy kid. He talked happily about everything as his age adolescents should. But, if discussions about his father came up, he tried to gently diverge the discussion towards something else.

      I think that is a good strategy for the kid. I am happy that he copes up well before outsiders. But, all said and done, we have to accept that some scars will be there. We can only try to reduce its impact as far as possible. Recently, I tried to influence him that he should not hate his father. There was a story of a famous person in the newspaper, who said that he grew up hating his father for abandoning his wife and children…and in the end he became like his father himself. I think he understood the point I was trying to make. But said nevertheless: You can’t ask me to do that. I hate him. And that is the truth.

      I was a bit perplexed. Now where to go. Will time heal things? How will it all pan out? I have never given him any sugar coated pills about his father. He knows and has experienced his father’s aloofness. Will he be able to deal with that emotion? I am doing my best. Rest is up to GOD.

  • Cheaters (and their APs) tell the kids lots of things. So it’s up to us to show, besides tell, our kids what’s what. Without forgetting ourselves, we have to step it up even more with our kids – we were (most likely) the more responsible parent (aka workhorse) before the affairs came into play, so we have to do that much better. Cheaters won’t position themselves to put their kids first (and if they do, hey, the kids benefit, and MAYBE the cheater can redeem his/her sorry self) because the cheaters come first.

    This was pointed out to me by my 13 year old daughter. She refuses to stay with STBX and the OW on the weekends. Most days, when he calls to talk to her and her brother, she refuses to speak to him. Now, I may have my beef with him, and I know how he treated me, but I would never prevent him from being with his kids. So what does my daughter tell me? “I know (my dad) loves us, but he loves her (the OW) more.” Why would she say that? He didn’t tell her that, he showed her that – STBX and the OW are living together. During the affair, while the OW was a “family friend”, he put her before his kids (knowing I would take up the slack). When the OW’s upset at the kids for not fully supporting her being with STBX, she lets them know.

    I told her that STBX doesn’t love the OW more. He loves what HE loves more – right now that may be the OW. Next week it could be someone or something (he collects a lot of crap) else. HE comes first in his life. The kids are in there somewhere, and it’s up to him to show them that.

    But does he comfort the kids, when they’re upset (especially because he’s gone)? Maybe. Are their happiness, their well-being, their success in the future the core of his being? Maybe. Does he put his kids’ needs first – is he there to do the hard work of transportation, homework help, etc.? I don’t know. Is he truly present to share in the good times and bad times and silly times? Maybe.

    I know I do the things I mentioned above, and have been doing them since day one (since before day one – good prenatal care!)

    The kids have told me enough (without being prompted AND without using my words, despite what STBX and OW have told me) of what goes on at their father’s place and how they feel about it for me to see that they question whether they come first with him.

    Sure, I tell them I love them and they’re the most important people in my life (I do, and they are). But my life is devoted to SHOWING them how much I love them, that we three are a family and we get through things together. I could NEVER blow them off to be with someone nearly half my age, nor could I put someone I barely knew before them.

    But then again, I’m not a cheater.

    • Agreed. Words are cheap. Actions are what count. Show your kids you love them, everyday, and they will see it.

  • CL… did you write this for me today? I have been trying my hardest to get my kids to understand why OW (soon-to-be wifetress) and I will never be friends. Every time I think I give them a satisfactory answer, my oldest keeps pressing the issue (of course… he’s not a dumb kid and doesn’t understand why I don’t like Daddy’s future wife). So, I finally told my kiddo that the “OW doesn’t make very good choices.” Well, STBX didn’t like that. Check out the email he sent me:

    “Dear MovingOn,

    I am writing this in hopes that we can communicate and be effective parents together to our children. Please let me try to explain:

    OW and I both know that our affair was a horrible, wrong, selfish, and hurtful thing that has unfairly devastated marriages, extended family, and spouses — it is something we discuss on a weekly basis.

    That said, OW and have a solid plan to learn from our past and plan to live a life that each of our children can be proud of. I want to do everything I can to make things go smoothly for them, so that they can be happy in a loving environment with you in your home, as well as with me in my home.

    Over the weekend, DS #1 mentioned being “confused” because, “Mom said that OW didn’t always make the best choices.” I cannot dispute that your statement is the truth. You could have gone on to say worse things. I don’t know the circumstances of the conversation that he heard this, but I wanted to write to you about this. I know you would agree that it is important for the kids to feel safe, comfortable, protected, and secure no matter where they are. While I can understand that you disapprove of OW (and our relationship), I hope that in the interest of the children’s well-being, you can protect them from that kind of statement in the future, even though I realize that it might be very difficult to hide your personal feelings. I know you would not want to negatively influence the children’s opinion about spending time with me, as doing so could potentially cut me out of their lives. I hope that DS #1 overhearing that kind of statement doesn’t create more confusion in what is already a difficult situation. I hope that he and the other children can form their own opinions and not be influenced by any negative feelings either of us may have. We both want to make sure that the kids are unburdened by adult problems, as I am sure you would agree. Again, I am bringing this up in hopes that we can have effective communication with each other about cooperatively raising our children.”

    Talk about words not matching deeds. He’s done nothing but lie, manipulate, try to win the kids over with fun weekends/presents/candy… and after imploding our lives, he takes me to task for not being an effective communicator and for trying to turn the kids against him. This illustrates the point of your blog perfectly– he’s done tons of damage, but yet, none of this is his fault, and we shouldn’t tell the kids the truth because it will make him look bad.

    • ” you can protect them from that kind of statement” and ” you would not want to negatively influence the children’s opinion about spending time with me” — pop out at me. He’s giving you a lot of imaginary power here and passing the buck. YOU MO are responsible for the children’s perception of him! And you wouldn’t want to screw that awesome responsibility up, would you? And “confuse” them.

      I’d go crickets. But if you had to respond I’d say something like “I’m not responsible for the kid’s relationship with you. Your relationship with them is YOURS. I abide by the court order as instructed.”

      You’re not ego kibbles any more. He fired you from the propaganda machine.

      • Oh, believe me, CL. He’s gotten nothing but crickets from me. I’m not going to put anything in writing that he can use against me. Anything I might say would never get through to him in a million years– he’d only see it as the jealous rantings of his bitch ex-wife.

        He’s trying his best to do damage control because up until now, he’s faced very few consequences. Now, the chickens are coming home to roost, and he doesn’t like it. So, he’s blameshifting and trying to put this back on me. Nuh-uh. Not gonna happen. Not only will I not rescue him from the consequences of his behavior, but I’m not going to lie to our kids and spackle him, either (which is what his email basically implies I should do).

      • does crickets mean “ignore?” because that’s what I would do with someone as manipulative as this; you can’t win. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with what you said. It is how you feel and you are entitled to your opinions which I happen to agree with. Your children are also free to form their own opinions. They have a right to be confused. Being confused doesn’t mean that they don’t love their parents. My son (with autism) frequently calls me a “fucking bitch.” But I know that he loves me. He’s just impaired. However, narcissistic freaks think that their children are actually like little appendages of themselves and a confused child might actually be waking up to the truth. oh my. He can’t have that! So, how dare you voicing an opinion that might make his appendages give pause!

        Am I the only person in the world that when someone says, “that said” makes me wanna barf? Its condescending, because we already KNOW you just said that. Just get your point out. Notice how long he takes to basically say nothing?

        • Yes– I found this email to be completely offensive. It was condescending, hypocritical, verbose, and arrogant. As someone said to me, “Oh, good– they have a PLAN.” Now that I know they have a plan, I can rest easy, right? Because they aren’t going to keep screwing up royally, will take responsibility for their poor choices, and will start behaving like real parents instead of Disney parents, right? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

          Laurel, he says nothing because he IS a whole lot of nothing. It’s too bad that it took me so long to figure that out. He’s only “something” because he has family money (if you can call that something– I’m sure the OW thinks it is). If that runs out, he won’t have anything else left.

          • Honey, please don’t be down on yourself for not figuring it out sooner. This guy’s a pro. I reread this piece of crap, because its a prime example of someone with a PHD in mindfuckery. This is actually a not-so-thinly-veiled threat. What he’s actually saying is that if the kids are confused, its YOUR fault. If the kids don’t like their step mother. Its YOUR fault. (I know that CL already said this, but I’m just reiterating because I have ZERO TOLERANCE for bullies!) He goes on to contradict himself by saying that you are allowed to have your personal feelings, but you’re not allowed to express them? You didn’t say that she’s a skanky ho or a fucking bitch. You said that she made poor choices and she did and so did their father. XH wants to make life smooth and blissful. REALLY? Well, guess what? He does not actually have the power to do that! He’s a massive control freak. He wants to “communicate” what exactly? He does not know thing one about being an “effective parent.” If his son was confused, the natural response would be to have a discussion with HIM to reassure him and let son express his feelings, not send you this humiliating email— rubbing your face in his tawdriness. I’m sure your first response was to say.

            FUCK YOU!

            This is all absolutely enraging!

            As for their “plan.” Ha! what a fucking joke that is! Didn’t you and he ALSO have a plan? What happened there? Do you really think that he sits there on a weekly basis with his wifestress and goes… oh my, we fucked over our families so badly… we must make a plan to stop doing that. This guy is just too, too much. He truly can’t be serious, but the sad part is that he is.

            He’s completely full of shit. I know that you know this, but I know what it feels like to have that tiny seed of doubt planted. Your son didn’t “overhear” anything. You told him point blank, WHY you don’t like his soon-to-be-SM. You were honest with him. HONESTY? Oh my… what a concept!

            Maybe son#1 said to his Dad. I’m confused. I see that you love OW and I think she seems like a nice lady, but Mommy said that she made some unfortunate choices and that’s why she doesn’t like her. What unfortunate choices did OW make?” And if Mom doesn’t like her, why do you?

            oh dear (in fucktard’s head)… Son MUST NOT think like that. I have to put a stop to her spouting out her feelings! He’s to think that OW’s absolutely darling and perfect as is his father! How dare BS talk like that. Well… I better sit down and stop that bitch from spewing out such nonsense to thwart my plan to have my son turn out wonderful like ME, graduate in the top 3% of his class and go to an ivy league college and inherit MY throne– if I happen to die one day.

            but the best thing is to ignore. That will drive him insane. He already is, but thank God, its not your concern any longer.

            • I am ignoring. Absolutely. Fortunately, he is also a passive-aggressive, conflict-avoidant coward. He had me served with the divorce papers (ahead of our agreed schedule) while he was safely away on vacation. Since he’s gotten back, he does everything he can to maintain his distance. He hasn’t dared ask me about his pompous cyberspace word salad. Typical. He’s so disordered, it’s a joke. I wish I could divorce him tomorrow, but I need health insurance for a while longer.

              BTW, Laurel– how funny that you mentioned the Ivy League. STBX’s first choice was Ivy League, but they rejected him. We met at his “second choice” school (not an Ivy– the horror!), so he’s always been a poor, struggling sausage who never gets what he wants. I’m sure he’ll attempt to pressure our kids the same way his parents pressured him when it came to schooling and careers. However, I will be the force that pushes against him so that they feel supported in going where they want and following the paths they choose. 🙂

              • Of course it was. He’s a narcissistic freak and they are grandiose and often (unless they also happen to be very brilliant and/or talented) over-estimate their abilities… and by extension, their progeny.

                I have a little story about a man who left his lovely wife, Susan, for another woman, Emily. His name is Bob. Susan and Bob had one child, a lovely lovely, very talented, very bright daughter named Paris who played the trombone as does my first son. They played in school and in many honors ensembles and outside music programs and every time, I would see Susan AND Emily sitting together to watch Paris! And many times there was NO Bob? wtf? My h and I would just look at each other scratching our heads.

                Once, my h and I and Susan went on a long car drive because both of our kids were playing far away and I asked Susan how she did it? She said that she just sucked it up. She hated it. Her husband broke her heart, but she did it for her daughter. She also related what a massive control freak Emily was. Paris and Susan would just laugh it off. I really admired that attitude. Susan had gone back to college to become a nurse.

                A few years later, after both kids graduated high school, I ran into Susan at a shopping center. We exchanged our pleasantries and then, with an extremely grave face, she told me that Bob had come down with a neo blastoma, a fatal form of cancer which I had never heard of. She said that he had surgery already, but he was already a very different man. “MUCH, nicer,” she said. She told me that the prognosis was that he had 12-18 months to live, at the most. Paris was to graduate college in 14 months and she just hoped that he would be able to hang on until she graduated. He did. He died two months later.

                I would never wish anyone any kind of harm like that, but that Karma sure IS a bitch, isn’t it?

    • Your last sentence beautifully distilled the claptrap BS of that very verbose and ever so proper 21st century communication from your STBX into the heart of what he was really trying to get across. Seems to me that YOU are the far better communicator as you did it in 35 words or less! 🙂

    • UGH — this kind of stuff makes my blood boil. My ex uses this with me too. I know crickets is best, but what I really want to say is that I will NOT hide my personal feelings. My job as a parent is to continue to teach my kids right from wrong, and to some degree, that does involve personal feelings. I will teach them that it is never ok to be a cheater, an affair partner or to allow a spouse to cheat. It is never ok to betray someone (spouse, kids, friends, etc) by selfish behavior. Equally, I will teach them not to steal, not to hit others, not to cheat on homework, not to bully other kids, etc. It is just unfortunate for Dad and OW that they chose to be the examples of what we should teach our kids NOT to do.

      I will teach them what real love is and what trust is and how to communicate in all relationships. I will teach them kindness and compassion and fairness and love.

      If my teaching my kids to be good people, be in solid relationships and be healthy citizens of our society interfers with your PLAN, Dad — then so be it. You chose to be the bad example — you get to live with those consequences.

      Boy — his PLAN has me all aggravated today! I may need to take it out on my ex! 🙂

      • LOL. met too! and I’m with you. Its very difficult for me to keep my mouth shut.

        [really, Laurel, we had NO idea!] ;] haha! Yes, I know that I’m an outspoken one!

        but, I am finally realizing that it really does not help anything at all. If anything, it just makes things worse. I’m so steamed about the Huff Pro column too. That woman is DANGEROUS and she’s perpetuating this myth that part of the reason is because of HER! but, he had so, so, SO many other options… if he was unhappy.

        Someone please… hit this poor “judgmental” woman over the head and tell me why it IS the BS who needs to change?

        I mean she does. She needs to realize that she’s married to a fucktard and that she’s on a sinking ship!

    • My oldest is 21 and autistic (think developmentally about 9 or 10). She adores the NextWife and doesn’t really understand the concept of marriage, so she couldn’t understand the concept of cheating. The NextWife was going to be in her life, so I wanted a safe emotional place for my daughter to be.

      When my darling girl wanted me to befriend the NextWife, I told her that NW and I would not be friends ever, but that it was okay if she was friendly with her. I told her that often in life, we are friends with people who are not friends with each other. And when she asked “why” I wasn’t friends with NW, I told her that was between the NW and me ~ and that it didn’t concern my daughter.

      The kids feel divided loyalties and us Mommas have a certain gravitas we bring to the situation. Kids worry about hurting their moms and they worry about how to solve a problem their parents couldn’t solve. I advocate speaking clearly for your own choices, and letting your children see you live a life that is consistent with that (i my case, I don’t do sham friendships).

      If they decide they can tolerate/like someone their parents do not, well that’s a natural part of growing up. If the affair partner turns out to be nothing more than a turd with sprinkles on it, they’ll figure that out on their own. And I suspect they will respect a parent who held her ground with some class.

  • This is a very individual thing. My tentative thoughts would be:

    Don’t attack the NPD parent (unless s/he is doing something harmful with the kids. Then go to court.) Otherwise, don’t attack, since it muddies the waters. Instead, just parallel parent. Show the kids what a normal adult should act like, how a normal parent should be.

    If stuck in the relationship, or if still stuck for some time, I STRONGLY agree with those above who advocate saying something like, “No one should be yelling like that. That was wrong.” Don’t start passing on spackle skills. Even if trapped, if only for a time, with someone’s inappropriate behavior, rather than yell back at them (which only feeds it), make sure the kids know that it’s wrong. But instruct the kids in an adult way.

    And then in divorce, I’d parallel parent. Don’t attack the other. Generally, these NPD types will do themselves in by offering big vacations but then being total jerks, by trying to do expensive and flashy things but never remembering the little things, by expecting the kids to take care of their needs rather than truly being parents and considering the kids’ needs. I think the kids will pick up quickly on the difference between normal and NPD.

    My impression, anyway.

  • I’ve had to deal with this, a lot, recently. I am not talking about revealing the cheating, as I did that a long time ago.
    But, as with most cheaters, one , often, also deals with a lot of other lies the disordered tell the kids. They lie so much about so many things that the kids are confused as hell. The kids’ reality is being messed with and that is abusive.
    For example: XW gets arrested on Bench Warrants in front of the kids. Research shows it was for failing to appear on Driving after Suspension charges and Expired Tabs. Cops come to her house, arrest her and leave the kids with a police woman until my XW’s friend can come to get them.
    So, she tells the kids that she witnessed an accident and the cops needed to talk to her. Kids now beleive that cops come to one’s house and take them away , leaving children behind, if they want to talk to you as a witness.
    Or: Wife fails to pay electric bill (despite 2500 a month in tax free child support from me). Power is shut off on two seperate occassions for 3-5 weeks. Kids ned to do homework by candlelight. I tell Child Protection and am told that it is only neglect if iut happens in the Winter.
    XW tells kids the landlord clipped a power line and that is why power was off for over a month. So, kids now believe that power company takes 3-5 weeks to respond to a downed power line.
    Or, OM is sneaking into the home at night , once she has put the kids to bed and spending the night. He sneaks out in the early morning(this was early on, before she tried to introduce him as her new, post divorce interest).
    Apparently, on a couple of occassions, kids come to her bedroom at night, maybe due to a bad dream or illness etc.
    Her solution : Barricade her bderoom door with chairs, so they cannot enter. Her esplanation : Burglars could come in and she needs to be safe(nice,eh? “you kids are on your own”).
    My middle daughter comes o me and says “dad, mom lies all the time. When I ask her about things like the why the power was really shut off, she just gets mad and will not talk to me. It makes me feel like she does not care enough about me to tell me the truth.”

    So, I just agree with my daughter.Her mom does lie all the time. And , I tell all my kids why the power was off, why the barricade was put up and why their mom got hauled out of the house by the cops.
    I am not going to confuse them with absurd explanations such that they think we live in bizzaro world, like their mom does.

  • I have been separated from my Narc husband for over two years now. When I left my kids were 12 and 9 and were imitating the same tendencies that my stbx and myself had. The older one was domineering, mean, had entitlement issues. but also was anxious around his dad. The younger was afraid and anxious and always trying to please, just like me.

    Their dad turned into the Disney Dad, always behaving like father of the year, but never actually being a good dad. It took me threatening to file court charges to get them beds at his place after a year. And there were plenty of other things he did/didn’t do that he should have. In fact he has lost his custody agreement paperwork for the third time in two years – so does he really care?

    All these things frustrated me so much because he was not fostering a good relationship with the kids. My therapist told me to just let it go. The relationship he creates with the kids is “his relationship”. I can’t force the one I want(loving, nurturing, etc) Whatever that relationship is or isn’t will be his doing not mine.

    So I don’t speak about it unless the kids bring it up. When I ask if they had a good weekend at dad’s sometimes I get positive feedback, sometimes they just shrug their shoulders and frown.Talking negatively about their dad is not going to do any good.

    When my younger child is getting “bullied” by the older one just as his dad to me, I point it out to both of them. Neither behavior is acceptable and although I don’t verbally compare them to stbx and myself, I think they realize it.

    I love them both and want them both to grow up to be better than the examples that were set in the marital home.

    • This is a great comment, and it sounds as if you are handling the situation with great courage and very smart, calculated restraint. The kids will “get it,” I think.

  • I had the benefit of adult aged children, which made comprehension of their father’s character a little easier for them. Simply, I told them the truth when they asked. Not overly graphic, no “spin” to make him seem worse (as if that was necessary)….just the facts, Ma’am. Just like Jack Webb.

    “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” That is a powerful axiom – and very true. I believe we do our children a disservice and in essence set them up to fail in picking relationship partners down the road of their own lives if we spackle the NPD parent just to let kids have the fantasy that “Mommy or Daddy still love you even though they abandoned and mistreated the entire family.” Kids learn by watching us. What does a boy learn if his mother is cheated on, broken and abandoned by his father but then turns around and assures him that “Daddy still loves you – he’s still a good person?” He doesn’t learn what it is to have character or be a man. He learns that Daddy (and someday maybe this boy) can pretty much shit on anyone and be excused and that bad behavior doesn’t equal bad character.

    But it does. So teach your children the truth – that sometimes those we love fall way short and don’t have it in them to be a good husband/wife or parent. Choosing to love a cheater doesn’t make anyone a bad person. A chump – sure. But we owe it to our kids to show them not only can a chump pick themselves up and get through incredible betrayal and pain, but they can also learn to avoid and choose better people down the road. We can teach them to choose more wisely themselves. That is a lesson that our children need for their own futures. Don’t deny that in the name of sustaining the parental fantasy of an ex.

  • The first consideration should be the age of the child. It might be justifiable to partially “cover up” for the irresponsible parent when a child is young, provided the parents conduct isn’t overtly abusive. But once the child reaches the age of reason and develops critical thinking skills, it will only discredit the stable parent to cover for the unstable one. At that point, it is best to teach that it is common sense to judge a parent and anyone else not by their words, but by their actions. And that the concept of “love” has many interpretations, so it is better to judge someone by what they do, rather than what they say. It may be cliche that actions speak louder than words, but it also is an eternal truth.

  • At first I tried to explain away STBX’s behaviour but I quite quickly just came to the conclusion that the kids deserved the truth and had to deal with things their own way. they have an ok relationship with STBX but basically they think he’s pathetic, they can’t stand OW and want her gone and it’s all pretty stressful–too stressful for kids who shouldn’t have to deal with any of this shit.

    They get that he’s got issues, they get that he is selfish and they get that he will always be a fuck up. I stay out of it as much as possible, unless he does something extra stupid–then I take the fight for them.

    Funnily enough, right now he’s emailing me all day long every day. He wants to argue about w

    • Crap…hit submit.

      Anyway, he wants to argue with me about the past and I just laugh at him. This is all due to our rather convoluted situation that means there may be a move in the future and he’d see the kids less. So this leads to him wanting to rehash it all and somehow it ends up with him saying that he didn’t cheat nearly as much as I think. I’m pretty much ‘anything more than never is too much, dude’-

      • He is still justifying it, to himself and to you. I just cheated “a little bit” so it’s okay, right?! Ha. You’re right, “Anything more than never is too much, dude.”

      • He didn’t cheat as much as you think? What a fucktard.
        It’s as bad as my xh telling me he didn’t think it was wrong to cheat as long as I didn’t know about it. All 31 years of it.
        Sounds like you’ve reached the stage of Meh, Nord! It’s probably frustrating him no end when you laugh him off – that is MEH!
        Good luck with the plans to move.

  • As a latecomer and an observer, my X presented his ex-wife as a lazy alcoholic who never really did anything around the house or for the kids. He has systematically re-written history and the way he EXPLAINS that history. The thing is, I was THERE 23 years ago listening to the way he described his wife (with whom he was separated then) – I was THERE – and so when he said this round that he never ever said anything disparaging about her to the kids….. I’m just incredulous. Its so weird, he would look at me straight faced and give a completely false account of how he has always talked about her – I WAS THERE!!! Even back then, I was appalled.

    What I have noticed is basically, people always say the one or the other parent poison their kids’ ability to have a relationship with a parent by making the kids feel disloyal – What I saw is that he just pounded them with his condescending opinion of everybody, including her and then, Daddy was just so much cooler than Mommy in general.

    Honestly, I’m surprised that either of his daughters can have any kind of relationship with their mother at all. That poisoning went on over decades, one drip at a time. And it is a completely solid allied front now, Daddy good, Mommy bad. And to this day, he’ll claim that he NEVER tried to turn his daughters against her. And that he’s so noble that if the girls ever feel like he does, they should call him on it loud and clear…… which is completely ludicrous. I’m sure that the household/family was less than perfect, all of them are, but for him to cast himself in this noble light is simply ludicrous.

    For my part, I was VERY uncomfortable with it…… I couldn’t see that it was my place to say anything to anyone because the bottom line is, I didn’t actually know what/ how things were in their family.

    But, I can tell you for sure, he said snarky condescending things about her, and the tone was always the same. And, of course, nobody knows about the serial cheating he was doing before his kids were even out of diapers….. including those kids. They are now adults with kids of their own….. but, as an outsider coming in who got to see the final result in their daughters, for lack of a better take on the details, all I can say is, the dynamics are way the hell off – no boundaries where I would expect to see boundaries with his daughters and, its just all off somehow.

    Icky, its just icky.

    • Heh…my STBX likes to say I’m a drunk. And i might have been at one point, mainly because I was miserable and was drowning myself in wine. But he hates all his exes and has no relationship with any of them…which is a BIG warning flag as far as I’m concerned. I have exes and while we’re not fast mates I do have some contact, on and off, over the years because they meant something to me at some point. But I broke up with them or they broke up with me becuase it wasn’t right, not due to cheating. All of STBX’s relationships broke up due to his cheating, I now know.

      This is why I feel slightly sorry for young OW. She’s on the cusp of life and has hooked up with a guy who will, no doubt, cheat on her at some point. I just want to shake her and say ‘wake up, bitch!’

      • “But he hates all his exes and has no relationship with any of them…which is a BIG warning flag as far as I’m concerned. ”

        Hating your exes might be a warning flag. Having a relationship with your exes is another warning flag in my book.

      • Nobody can drive you to drink anymore than they can drive you to adultery.

        Alcoholism is a nasty problem and a terrible way to try to cope with whatever it is you are facing.

        Part of stopping the blame-shifting is for everybody to own their own choices.

        • Yes you are right it is we all make choices but I think sometimes situations can drive someone to become out of control. I have been eating and nothing satisfies. I know what it is and why. Trying to reign the desire in. Not easy!

          • Do you? What is it then?

            If you are hungry for sleep, then sleep.
            If you are hungry for compassionate connection, then get a dog and get out there and flash those pearly whites.
            If you are hungry for peace, then calm your thoughts.
            If you are hungry for strength, the practice better physical fitness and nutrition.

            If you are eating when you aren’t hungry or not for nutrition, then why are you eating? For pleasure? Pleasure doesn’t lead to contentment. Not ever.

            What are you hungry for really?

      • I think she had to deal with alot and if she wasn’t going to get out…. she had to do something in the way of coping. Alcohol is a less than perfect solution – but it seemed like both of them drank way way too much – He like’s to see his X’s drinking as alcoholism but personally, I think he drank way too much – as a non-drinker myself, I would certainly classify his consumption of alcohol as problem drinking….. I’m sure it had alot to do with greasing the wheels of his latest round of cheating. I’ve never been a drinker and I’m always interested to see when people, who clearly drink alot, are always keen to remind someone like me that they can consume all they do but it doesn’t affect them….

        Yes, it does. I’m not a teetotaler (sp?) – I just never got into any of it. On occasion, when I do drink a little margherita – I end up doing all kinds of small things that I would never otherwise do – nothing major, but, I definitely see that it alters my behavior.

  • Fortunately or me, my kids were teens (14/17) when I gave up covering my wife’s affair and repeated “failings” at R. I merely used facts, actually I couldn’t make up half the stuff that was going on!

    I asked my 14 yr old one day why his mother had taken his name off his saving account, so he couldn’t access his money. He turned to me and said: “cause she’s bat-shit crazy”.

    I was stupefied, didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t even heard that term before.

    I say when they are old enough, and ask questions, tell them the truth, just facts. They’re a lot smarter than we think they are.

  • Wow. I so very needed this today. More than anything. I left my narcissist, abusive, cheating husband 3 months ago. The kids and I moved out to a little house I rented. The house is smaller and we have less money, but everyone is happier and thriving…except the husband, whom for arguments sake, I will refer to as “Dum Dum”. Well Dum Dum kept wanting ego kibbles. He would be nice about something and then ask for sex. No. I would say, and then he would be mean, nasty, horrible. He is going to lose the house because he doesn’t have my income anymore, so he wanted us to move back. He would be better! A great guy! But no, we all know that isn’t true and I’ve gotten myself untangled, I’ll never go back. So more mean, nasty Dum Dum. Dum Dum finally says today, of ALL DAYS, that he is going to make a geographical change and move 1500 miles away. He’s been on vacation from work all week and hasn’t wanted to see the kids, nor have the kids wanted to see him, BUT I feel like he should WANT to see them. TO TRY! Dum Dum said I was a big meanie for taking his kids away (we moved 5 minutes away). I said you can see them as often as you like. I guess as often as he liked was never. They are too much work now. They don’t worship him. They don’t agree with everything he says. They don’t want to “pick” him over me (not that I want them to “pick” anyone). Dum Dum made our 11 year old son cry because our son wanted to go to his favorite store with daddy. Daddy said I’ll take you, if you come and live with me. My son started to cry, because he doesn’t want to choose, but he is 11 so he really wants to go to his favorite store. Dum Dum says our son is selfish and he wouldn’t want him anyway.
    So today, I get the text he wants to move 1500 miles away and I can’t help but think that he is the WORST POSSIBLE PERSON IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. He is going to hurt my kids and I’m going to lose my mind. So do I tell them their dad is a shit? Do I say, well he’s moving away because he LOVES you so much??? What do I do!!

    • Just tell them he is moving for another job. You need not get elaborate. he sounds like a real winner. And he may just be blowing smoke. Bet he shows up at your door in a few months no job,no money and no place to stay. DON’T LET HIM STAY. of course your kids will think you are mean to their Daddy but you have to protect your self so you can be a strong parent for them. My dad rarely saw me when we were growing up. He did pay for my college education (Thank You Daddy). Hang in there. You are doing fine.

    • This is very sad. You are a good mom for sticking by your kids.

      When my oldest nephew was a baby, his mom abandoned him. She never visited or sent cards. After he graduated high school he looked her up. She agreed to meet, and blamed my brother, my parents and our whole family for why she never acted like a mother. He was at that age where he was mad at his dad anyway, so it resonated with him.

      Not a one of us, including his father, trashtalked her. Not.A.One.

      When he talked to my mom (who helped raise him) about it, she asked him if he thought she had been a good mother to his aunts and uncles. His answer: “of course, Grandma!” She then asked him if he thought his aunts had been good mothers to his cousins. Same answer.

      Then came the Biggie: “Where do you think I would have been, where do you think your aunts would have been if anyone had told us we couldn’t be around our *children*?”

      His eyes filled with tears, and he answered: “Across the street with a pair of high-powered binoculars.”


      When your kids ask where daddy is, or why he’s not there, answer truthfully: I don’t know. Then tell them what they can expect from you.

  • Ok for what’s its worth Here’s our situation.

    I told my oldest son the whole truth once he told me he knew about chainsaw man. I tell my youngest son things in a age appropriate way but really what he doesn’t know isn’t really worth knowing. He has a enough information to make constructive decisions.

    What happened woth my oldest son is this. He was a challenging baby always crying etc and then going to school etc was always unhappy about teachers or other things. Sport was the one consistent thing in his life thatvhe was and s passionate about.
    You would think that he would go off the rails once he discovered mum was having an affair. The opposite happened.
    When he discovered the affair ( playing games on mums phone and receiving messages while playing) he was about 13. He and I often had a hard time because as parents we were trying to get him to accept that sometimes in life you get teachers or coaches that well you just have to accept.
    When he discovered the affair he and I became very close. He hugged me all the time and our relationship was very close. Maybe this was because he had the responsibility of knowing about the affair. Groceries picked up the closeness but of course didn’t know for some time that our son knew about the affair. Only in the last few months did she lie and tell our son that the messages and emails were sham.
    So to help some of you consider how your children are reacting as they may know more than you think and they could be protecting you.

    Do not get angry with them if they tell you they withheld information because it most likely will be they feel a respibiblity to you md any siblings.

    I fully informed the boys after I discovered reconciliation was groceries going to cake eat.

    The boys love their mother. They undertsand she lied to them many times. They had a very happy family life while the affair was on.
    They know I am very hurt by chainsaw mans behaviour. His ACTIONS continue to hurt all three of us.
    He places himself before the boys.
    They are told he’s a good man but simply by his value system they know he is not such a good man. His daughters are in New Zealand so they see he doesn’t spend much time with them. Again his actions define him.
    Groceries and her family are singing from the top of mountains saying what a GOOD MAN he is. WORDS MEAN NOTHING.
    The boys know their mother loves them but they also know the truth through her ACTIONS past and present. They have established their own boundaries.
    I’m not allowed to have Elle McPherson visit the house. Maybe in the future Dad but for now can we just hang loose.
    The parent that lies or tries to devalue the damage caused by the affair is causing more damage to the kids. They are also causing the kids to double guess the lying parent.
    All situations the different.
    I continuously encourage the boys to look after Mum. However they owe chainsaw man nothing. Their relationship with Mum however is very different now. Both boys together and groceries have not spent a night together since New Year.
    That says something that they have a while to go before the relationship is fully repaired.
    Hope chainsaw man is happy every weekend he camps done at groceries house at the end of the road. He of course is happy as he has groceries all to himself. Narcissist!

  • Your wife is unbelievable, Baci. I hope she feels the loss of her sons’ respect. Thye will love her, but will know what a POS she is.

    • She is trying to do the best she can for them while still servicing chainsaw man. You make your bed stuff…..
      Mate you and I just need to be good fathers. Be emotionally available to the kids and by the sounds of things you have your work cut out sorting out the bullshit your ex tells your kids.
      Stay strong.

      • Servicing chainsaw man, eh? Is she lubing up the old crankshaft in his chainsaw, while reading bedtime stories to the boys?

  • I am the college friend mentioned in the intro, and I don’t have words to express how much I admire her for turning her pain into transformation for herself and been brave enough to share it with wit and wisdom to help create transformation and awareness for others. And I am so happy to have found this community and appreciate the collective wisdom you share here.

  • For some, words are cheap.

    I’m sure my kids’ father feels something for his kids, but I don’t call it love.

    I don’t tell the kids that their father loves them. Well, I might have at some point after BD when I was trying to explain his bizarre behavior, in an effort to be compassionate to the kids, but I don’t plead his case for him. That’s up to his mother, and, boy does she get her exercise doing it. ExH, too, I’m sure. He talks about how hard it is for him to not see them enough. (Did you catch that? This is hard for HIM.)

    Abandoning your family for a homewrecker is not love. Hurting your kids and their mother is not love. Whining that you miss your kids is not love. Embarrassing your kids is not love. They know it.

    I don’t want to cheapen the meaning of the word, “love.” It’s not up to me to try to repair the damage he’s done by insisting that what the kids observe and feel and think is incorrect.

    When I tell my kids that I love them, I mean it and they know it. I don’t really have to say it very often. You see, my actions show it.

    • That’s the key. ACTION

      I think the kids hear so many words during this mess that the words end up with no meaning. It’s the actions they feel. The pain they see you in etc. if they see your ex cavorting around the place all happy lovey dovey that does the kids more harm because they see the difference. I’m not saying you stay in bitterness etc but the kids need to understand what’s really happened. No rug sweeping. Keep it real and honest

      • My ex does not act happy, and as far as I am aware he has kept his relationship hidden well. He portrays himself as the suffering yet dutiful father who sails alone. He’s working the victim angle. Learned from the best–his mother.

        • Yes groceries plays the victim very well but there has been a change from keeping relationship hidden to this is it and if you don’t like it then too bad. Everyone needs to move on and get on with it. Sorry about what we did.
          The boys don’t buy it so therefore there is this stand off.
          The cheaters want to legitimatise the cheating ASAP so everyone moves on and forgets the carnage.

          That’s what they want anyway. Getting what they want is another whole deal. Good luck with that.

  • Of course, my kids don’t ask me if their father loves them. They can make up their own minds. I’m sure they love him but are sad and disappointed in who he is. I tell them to have hope that one day he will figure his life out. He might. Or, he might not. Cripes, I would never tell them that their father doesn’t love them. That would be cruel.

    I hope they don’t think that this is how fathers show love. Their friends’ fathers are hopefully good role models. I do remind them from time to time that this is not normal–not ok.

    Breaks my damned heart–of everything, this is the worst part of his character. My kids deserve so much better. He was a good dad for a long time. He did love them.

    • “Abandoning your family for a homewrecker is not love. Hurting your kids and their mother is not love. Whining that you miss your kids is not love. Embarrassing your kids is not love. They know it.

      I don’t want to cheapen the meaning of the word, “love.” It’s not up to me to try to repair the damage he’s done by insisting that what the kids observe and feel and think is incorrect.

      When I tell my kids that I love them, I mean it and they know it. I don’t really have to say it very often. You see, my actions show it.”

      Stephanie, that was beautifully put.

      STBX and OW don’t like statements like this – when I said something very similar, I was, apparently, only telling one side of the story, or only telling my opinion. When my daughter confronted the OW about why she got involved with a married man, she was snapped at. When my son is emotional because his parents aren’t together, he’s told to be strong and stop crying.

      It’s hard being in a “relationship” when facts, or kids who know you’re doing wrong, get in the way. He “misses” his kids? I’m sure he did, too, when he was sneaking away to be with the OW.

      The capper, for me: when he was on vacation with the OW, he texts me to tell the kids he loves them.

      Really? How about not cheating to begin with, and telling the kids in person himself?

      • Only one side of the story? Just your opinion?

        It’s almost as if he would like you to believe that his side of the story or his opinion have any legitimacy.

        There’s the facts, and then there’s what you want people to believe, asshole.

        • ‘One side of the story’ and ‘opinions’ – Yep, I hear that crap as well. It’s not one side of the story: they cheated and it broke up the family. That’s not opinion or a side, it’s simply the truth and damn, these people really don’t like the truth.

  • They miss the kids and are put out that the kids to flock to them. Kids aren’t dump.

    Don’t ever expect the cheaters to tell the truth about the affair. They will say they had no choice and they want to be happy. They want to be happy at the expense of family but particularly the children.
    While its none of my business chainsaw man spends no time with his daughters but instead spends it all with groceries. Wonder how he will be judged. Maybe he has so much guilt. He’s so lucky his now ex wife is such a wonderful woman and does everything with the children placed first. Sorry to be sexist but I have seen it so many times when betrayed mothers simply shine in the their kids eyes while the cheating husband is a train smash. It takes enormous strength of character to achieve this. The husbands just pay lip service to the left behind children. Easy to establish an automatic payment at the beginning of the year and communicate on viber
    OW can be absolute bitches sometimes but in doing so do their reputations uncover able damage. Sad to watch!

  • My daughter is so done with her dad. She is 27. She cannot understand his bad conduct. Yes, his soulmate is not his wife and her mom. She discovered the affair first since he left one of his emails open on the home computer. So, she does not want to interact with him at all. I am letting them work it out. Adult children are also so hurt by the cheater.

  • Yes, I love the “one side of the story” and the 50/50 responsibility for pre A marital problems. Just like some of the other cliches on the importance of forgiveness etc, I think folks just accept these phrases with no real analysis.
    Look if folks want the “full” story on why my XWs cheated, they would get an earful re their sellfishness and abusiveness in a host of area other than just infidelity.
    And, to think that a BS is , automatically, equally responsible for pre_A problems completely ignores the fact that, by virtue of the cheating, alone, the cheater ias showing his or her true character. Think a person that lies, has no empathy, no integrity, poor communication skills, poor problem solving abilities etc was only 50% responsible for the state of the marriage? One person, alone , can be the major destructive force in a marriage.
    The cheating did not just come about in a vacuum. If you look closely at the lives of most cheaters, you will see that the current cheating is not an isolated instance of dishonesty etc. These folks make a career out of acting this way, for the most parft.

    • Great comments from everyone on this, once again, Thank you CL. I haven’t had much to say because we did not (Thank God) have kids together, but like Arnold says, the cheating did not come about in a vacuum.

      I reunited him with his kids, AND his Mom, after 20 years of NC How much of this do I blame myself for, when I only thought he was becoming a better man, I thought he WANTED to be a better man, and now he is only soaking his Mother for money and his son (he’s 14) will probably not be in the picture for long because my X will probably soon be in jail. What a sad wasted life. Luckily his 18 year old daughter didn’t expect much, as he had abandoned her many years ago.

      I didn’t know any of this, he blamed his X wives, and I believed him…OMG. My head becomes clearer everyday and I am beginning to be amazed by what a complete cloud I was in. I was the “Master Spackler”.

  • Arnold, I love your comment about accepting 50% blame. Yeah , either I hold more than 50%blame for driving a saint to do something so despicable, or there is something seriously wrong with a cheater. And, no, they don’t just wake up one day and go from wonderful to hideous.

  • I sit here seething that my husband hasn’t called the kids tonight. He has been out of town on “business” since Monday and won’t return until Saturday afternoon. I know that business includes his AP, his “everything.” I am not angry that he is with her…good riddance to bad rubbish, but I am furious that he has spent more time with her since he moved out in January than he has with the kids, and she lives 1000 miles away (no joke…100 hours with our son and 50 with our daughter). He can’t even slip in a quick 3 minute, “goodnight, I love you call” to the children he loves so much.

    I’m sad that they don’t even seem to notice how little he calls. Or maybe they do but they don’t say anything. Because I am chump, I am sad that he is missing out on them and how great they really are.

    He steals time from them and gives it to her. His words and his actions rarely match up. He lies and betrays them. He chose someone over them. He did all that to me too and our relationship is completely gone. What does that mean for their relationship with him? I am an adult and hurting terribly in spite of knowing deep deep down that I am better off. How can their unseasoned hearts bear this?

    I try to tell them he loves them, but they often counter with “he doesn’t act like it,” or “it doesn’t feel like it.” How do I respond to that? Or do I?

    • Deanna
      I’m going through exactly the same thing except mine are at the end of the street. If she had a stop watch and a Pie graph the boys with her would be 10% of her time and that’s mostly sleeping. 40% with chainsaw man. It’s just wrong. I want to send her an email but I would be wasting my time.
      All you be is the best mother. As others have said the kids often only need one good parent. These cheaters can’t undo their actions. They own the consequences. The kids will see this.
      It’s the hardest thing to cope with this shit and we can only hope the future is better

      Forget trying to reason with the cheaters. They don’t have that ability. Selfish. Thoughtless. Cruel. But they don’t care.
      Good luck

      • Baci,
        As a mom I cannot wrap my head around choosing someone over my kids. Your ex (is it groceries?) must be a real piece of work.

        I was always the best mother. Now I am the best parent.

      • Good night, I love you!

        I’d quit calling, too, if my own hollow words made me feel like a shitty liar.

    • Deanna, your ex is not worrying about it, and you say your children aren’t noticing or commenting about it, so (chumps that we are) you are the only one sad that he is not in contact. I did the same thing and realized a couple key points: first, since the children do not care, neither should I– its easier for me if he is not in contact; second, I am no longer his wife and have no right, duty or even ability to speak for him, and if I do I may be wrong and my kids deserve honesty after all the lies my ex told; third, while my ex was off with his AP after abandoning us I was trying to tell my children he loved and cared for them- they looked at me like I was nuts and had Stockolm Syndrome! You can’t do this for him, we can’t carry them on our backs anymore and force them to do the right thing, he’s already made his choice and taken his stand, so to speak.

  • It is soooo much easier when he’s not around.
    The kids internalize it and wait for the feelings to explode–the 11 year old daughter especially–and then it gets ugly, especially because the anger is directed at me. I am the safe parent who won’t leave, no matter what, so they can let loose on me without fear of pushing me away.
    Sadly, I am still legally his wife. He is a chronic ass dragger and hasn’t filed for the divorce he so wanted. I refuse to do it for him. I have spent so long starting, doing or finishing things for him. I am going to let him handle this one.
    Stockholm Syndrome. I love it!

    • Oh Deanna, that brings tears to my eyes, f@@k these bastards for breaking their children’s hearts. Your kids are so lucky to have you as their mom. My children are older, and have decided not to have a relationships with their father…and I actually did try everything I could to get them to see him. But my ex didn’t make a whole lot of effort, and they saw right through him. Our only daughter, 20 years old, told me “My father is dead. There’s a man out there who looks like my father, but that’s not my father and I want nothing to do with him.” Our oldest son, 24 years and in law school, said from the day my ex walked out: “we’re still a family, he’s just not in it any more, and we’re going to be happier and stronger Mom, you’ll see.” And he was right. (((Hugs)))

  • Why do we have to comment on the relationship with the other parent at all? I just stick to the facts and don’t characterize them. When the Ex does something good, and my kids are happy, I am happy with them.

    When my Ex disappoints them, I listen to my kids’ disappointments and let them feel sad about it.

    It is up to their father to tell them he loves/misses them. I tell them I love them every day. In time, they know the difference.

    I do think we teach children by example: I got out of an unfaithful marriage in a way that was clear to my kids. I did not demonize their father (or his girlfriend) or poison that relationship. I don’t actively support it either. I just acknowlege it exists, like so many other relationships my young adult children have. But my kids know that I took care of my own health in a way that let me take care of them, too. They saw me meet my responsibility to myself and my responsibility to them simultaneously. And life went on.

    And we were all just fine.

    Teach your kids they can survive it. And to do that, you need to survivie it first.

  • Dear C.L.
    Did you see “Dr. Phil” this past week ?
    Twice in one week he has advised two women to work thru cheating.
    One woman was in a very verbal, emotional, and physical abusive marriage. Her alcoholic husband had tried to kill her.
    Dr.P. offered them help, despite all of the abuse and the fact the kids were older teens.
    The other one had been together since high school, married 7 yrs. The “H” had six.. 6 affairs… the “W” also had found someone else too.
    They decided to have an open marriage after marital counseling.
    The “H” wants a divorce .
    Dr.P. offered help to this couple because they “were giving up too soon “.
    Dr.Phil guilted them by asking the couple what would they tell the 2 & 6 yrs old kids .. “Mama & Daddy didn’t love ’em enough to give them a family”.
    WTF ?
    Dr .Phil has said that it is better for children to be FROM a broken home… than be IN one.I am older… is this really what we fought for ?
    We fought for equal rights, equal pay, etc…
    to settle ? to have to try and “save” a marriage? I thought “we” (women) tried so hard to prevent this, so women weren’t “trapped” in a bad marriage, to NOT have to be dependent on a man. So a women had options to leave a bad relationship and be self -reliant. It is so disappointing, and sad to think that after all of the strives women have made.. it sounds like so many women stay in a bad situation , because they fear life with out a “man”?
    As for Dr.Phil ..its ‘ disgraceful to think he is allowed to call himself a “Texan”.
    I grew up with the saying, not No.. but .. “HELL NO !”
    So when you grow tired of Dr.Tammy….. you can take on Dr.Phil…
    “he needs a good ass whippin !”
    Try and get booked as a guest on his show….
    many would love to a “come to Jesus meetin “!

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