Dear Chump Lady,
I only discovered your site a few days ago and you have made me feel SO MUCH BETTER about what I’m going through.
By way of background — I am a Chump Daughter. My parents are currently going through a divorce. The marriage was for 25 years and has always been dysfunctional. Without going into too much detail, my Mum is the Chumpiest of Chumps and despite indisputable evidence before the marriage that my Dad was willing to a) physically harm her; b) emotionally manipulate/gaslight her; and c) spend money they didn’t have indulging his gambling addiction she went ahead and did it anyway. As a child I had to endure years of secrecy and knowing that my family wasn’t “normal”. I couldn’t have friends over, I was told that his abuse was “my fault” if I would just stop “provoking” him all the while knowing that my Mum would never, ever leave him.
In September 2012, my sister discovered evidence my father was having an affair with a co-worker (including emails detailing overnight hotel stays etc). We had suspected something was going on long before then as we were getting a large number of prank calls and my Dad became bizarrely aggressive if anyone so much as approached his phone.
My sister and I held an ‘intervention’ in November and we confronted my Dad about the affair and a number of other things, including that our family home was about to be re-possessed due to his gambling habits. He lied, and when presented with proof, confessed it had only been “a few weeks” and “the marriage had been long over, anyway”.
Since then, he has moved in with the AP, mentioned off-handedly that we may have a step brother/sister on the way(??) and that by the by, he thinks the AP is repulsive but he “can’t be on his own”.
This is a very, very modest catalogue of my Dad’s offences (he is an addict and, arguably, has a NPD) but these alone are certainly sufficient for me to think my Mum should kick his ass to the curb, but she is stalling. She really struggles with NC despite the fact it upsets her more, my Dad is a pathological liar but bizarrely, she still believes him when he says things like ‘I’ve moved out of the AP’s house!’ only to find actually, he was hedging his bets and was waiting to see if my Mum would come a runnin’ before he made any hasty decisions. I have tried to reason with her, using variations of your explanation of the ‘pick me’ dance, pointing out his various shitty behaviours (of which there are many, I’m spoilt for choice) yet she is terrified of being alone. She has so much support (which she acknowledges) but she still seems to be running to this asshole. She now contacts my Dad in secret as she knows it upsets my sister and I.
Anyway, this was a long way of saying your last few articles on kids being resilient really resounded with me. What I wouldn’t have given for my Mum to have been strong enough to leave my Dad before the situation became dire – my siblings and I always felt like we were doing our own version of the “pick me” dance as picking us would have meant leaving him, but she always picked him despite his obvious shortcomings.
I actually do have a question for you — how, as a Chump Daughter, can I support my Mum and give her advice without pushing her too hard? I know that divorce is difficult, but I feel like she is not helping herself and I’m beginning to resent her. I know that sounds awfully unsympathetic, but as I say, this has been going on for years and I am now offering to support her financially by purchasing her a house to live in with me (we lost the family home early this year, and most of the equity had been spent by my Dad, so she has none of her own money) but my condition is that she must go through with the divorce. I am unwilling to be linked to my Dad’s financial irresponsibility but, more pressingly, I have made it clear he is not welcome in my life and therefore not in my home. My Mum says I am being “unfair” by asking her to make this decision. Is she right?
Thank you again for such a fantastic resource.