Stay in Touch

Check out CL's Book

Dear Chump Lady, Do I have to co-parent with a man-child?

Dear Chump Lady,

I’m having a hard time with the concept of co-parenting and “what’s best for the children”. My STBX (would have been 21 years this month) left via an exit affair ten months ago. We have two teenaged daughters who have always thought the world of him. He is a good dad, just not (IMO) a great parent. He was always the fun dad and I was always Chief No-Fun of the Idonwanna Tribe – I let myself be chumped into being a parent to all three of them for entirely too long.

My question is this: How much shit sandwich do I have to eat now that he has chosen to rip our family apart? He chose to leave for good three weeks before Christmas and then was dismayed when I informed him that he would not be welcome at the family home for Christmas morning. I just didn’t feel like I could keep a happy face plastered on and pretend that everything was okay. If my girls were tiny, I could justify swallowing my bile and excusing myself to cry, but they know all about his betrayal. I know he’ll continue to push for “family” activities (birthdays and such) and will probably kvetch to the girls about how Mom “won’t let go of being angry long enough to just enjoy an occasion together”.

I feel like I spent years being portrayed as the wet blanket during my marriage, and now that the marriage is over, I’m somehow expected to continue playing the supporting role to his Peter Pan Neverland Divagasm. Do I really need to grit my teeth through a restaurant dinner watching him be a buddy to our children for their sake? Or do I get to be a real parent and model what I feel: being a healthy grown-up woman means not sacrificing yourself to provide ego kibbles to a narcissistic man-child.


Dear mzmama,

The cakes stops when you say it stops. No (nonononononononoNOOOOoooooo HELL to the NO!) does he get to play happy Family Man to your shit sandwich. Who in God’s name told you letting him enjoy family dinners and fucking Christmas day was “good” for your children? Because it’s not. You know what’s good for children? REALITY.

See, when they grow up, they’ll live in this place called Reality where they have to clean up their messes, and wash dishes, and keep their promises, pay their bills, and do all matter of Responsible Things. Oh, and in the realm of Reality, we have this concept called Consequences. That when people do really shitty things to you, you choose not to associate with them. Bad Things that sadly lead to divorce, for example.

Peter Pan lives in Never Never Land. He traffics in fairy dust and wants children to believe they can jump off their roofs and fly to enchanted places.

Here’s what happens when you jump off your roof in Reality — you go splat.

It’s much better to model Reality to your children than Never Never Land. Otherwise they grow up thinking they can do shitty things and people should still be “friends” with them. Or they grow up thinking when other people do shitty things to them, they have to eat that shit sandwich and smile (i.e., they become chumps.) Children must exist in Reality, as much as they like Never Never Land. It’s the job of a good parent to introduce the ways of Reality to them, so they don’t grow up confused, or living in your basement writing screenplays.

Mzmama — now is your chance to cast off the shackles of the No Fun Parent role. You know why you were a buzz kill? You were eating shit sandwiches. You’re going to be a much happier person and mom not putting up with his bullshit. This is what you do — if you haven’t already — you get a lawyer. You get a visitation schedule. And you stick to it. You give him the kids on his holidays and weekends to see the kids, and during that time you do Fun Things You Enjoy. Even if that is Netflix and a glass of wine. You go fill your life with nice people, maybe do a little dating, and experience life without compulsory shit sandwiches.

You’ll glow! You’ll relax! You’ll enjoy reality so much more! Your happiness will be infectious. Your children will see you navigate this difficult time and will respect you (eventually, they are after all, teenagers).

Oh, and here’s the other wonderful thing about being divorced from a fucktard — you get to parent YOUR way! Your house, your rules! Yes, they can go visit dad in Never Never Land, but I promise you that shit gets old pretty quick. Dad won’t be so fun without his cake. Without responsible you to make his home life pretty for him and manage his relationships with his kids.

Co-parenting is stuff like “Make sure Molly gets to her orthodonist appointment at 11 a.m. today.” It’s not sharing Christmas day together after he’s had a three week fuck fest with his whore.

You only have to text or email him (document all communication). And then, blissfully, go no contact with him. His relationship with his daughters is HIS responsibility NOT YOURS. Nope. You got fired from that job when he cheated and left. You go enjoy your life mzmama and leave him to his.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Since your daughters are teens, they are old enough to handle all visitation arrangements with the ex. No fucking way should you do some family christmas, or anything else, so the lying cheater can pretend to be a wonderful, good guy who really CARES about his family. Because that’s all it is. Him trying to maintain his dad of the year image. If he gave a shit about his girls, he wouldn’t have followed his dick out of their lives.

    My son is 17, and handles all arrangements with the ex. Which isn’t much these days, since ex went to a family wedding across the country a month ago, and never came back. He’s now living with his father, telling our son how since he pays no rent, it’s great and now he can afford to pay child support. Except, of course, he still has no job and still isn’t paying the support. But he sure is having a nice time with all his old friends!

    sorry, started ranting. This newest development has been tough to deal with.

    • yeah same here…that is what it’s all about with them…how they look to everyone else…I have a “mom of the year”….the most involved dis-interested parent on the planet…of course only when their light shines on her

      • The nice thing is that, if we stop spackling and bending over backwards to make parenting easier for the narc, and are honest w/our kids (as appropriate to their ages), and let the ex carry their own relationship w/their children, the kids DO figure out who their parents really are.

        The mantra that keeps me sane these days is ‘one sane parent, kids need one sane parent’. And I know that mine know they’ve got that.

      • “….the most involved dis-interested parent on the planet…”

        PERFECT PHRASE- fits my ex to a tee– 🙂

  • MZ, I was in the same queasy-making boat, the parent constantly booed for enforcing boundaries and (admittely lax) boundaries by two kids and a wife who wanted desperately to the be “cool mom.” I accepted it–as my role, and even worse, as my identity (WRONG).

    Some of the best advice I got from my psychologist after the final D-day was to forego trying to parent your kids at the same time. It’s impossible. The same horrible judgment that caused my ex to cheat and lie and live a double life invariably infects the rest of her decision making, and you can’t build cooperation with that. It’s like trying to slow dance with a monkey holding a gun. Rather, think of co-parenting it as taking turns. Her house, her (stupid) rules–VERY difficult sometimes. But a my house? My rules. Damn it.

    I wouldn’t let your ex in the house for holidays or any other time. Having physical boundaries makes it easier to have emotional boundaries. So draw them tight, and guard them closely.

    • yep same deal…”fun mom”…and the mood swings they go thru when they come to you the first day or so…it’s tough on them and you…they do realize it. Mines famous for ditching them for something better then parenting all the time

      • Yep, there’s definitely a decompression period when they go from house to house. 12-24 hours of moping is common (sometimes purely from the lack of sleep at the slacker parent’s house). But my shrink also said, and I found it to be true, that kids are very good at understanding that different rules apply at Mom’s house versus Dad’s. They may not like it all the time, but they’re not confused.

        Sorry about the ditching thing you’re having to deal with. I’m remarried, and we have the same problem with my step-son’s father. Even more galling because the crash-pad of choice is with a family that took the “we don’t want to take sides” in my wife’s divorce from a cheater. I think you have to almost develop an ability to push your sense of parenthood into a dark closet of your mind and shut the door for that time when your kids are with the other parent.

  • The thing that drives me crazy about this is that everything I read (and everything the lawyer told us during mediation) supports the whole “Let’s pretend we’re still a happy family together– we’re just living in separate homes!” idea. In my legal separation, it states that he can come and share Christmas and Easter mornings with us (though it also includes the kids’ birthdays, and he skipped the last one since he celebrated it with the OW and her kids, so I’m thinking that those days will no longer happen). I get that it doesn’t do my kids any good for me and my XWH to be at each other’s throats, which we aren’t, but I highly resent how there seems to be this societal expectation that I’m supposed to rise above it and look past everything he’s done “for the kids.”

    I mean, seriously– how much shit do we have to take “for the kids”? He gets to continue screwing up but putting up a good facade as their father (as in gifts, outings, etc.), and I’m supposed to pretend that everything is awesome “for the kids”? That makes NO sense to me. Shouldn’t my kids see that negative actions have consequences and that when people do terrible things to you, you are under no obligation to play nice with them? Why is it okay for my children to spend their time with a man who models emotional unavailability with them and shows his “love” through material goods?

    I don’t think that all kids “need” both parents. If both parents have their heads out of their asses and the divorce is fairly amicable, then yes, of course the parents can put on more of a united front. My ex has consistently put his penis and his insecurity before everything else in his life, and I don’t think that I should have to appear to be friendly and supportive of that. I also don’t think that my kids “need” that in their lives. Obviously, I would never try blocking visitation or alienating the kids from their dad, but this whole notion of how important it is for them to be with their dad when their dad is a total wanker is hard for me to deal with. Kids needs their moms/dads when those parents actually care about them. I didn’t marry a man who has the ability to care about more than his own needs. The kids are a projection of what he thinks of himself– look at what a good dad I am and how great our little blended family is!– but again, it’s all about HIM.

    Sorry… having a bad day. They’re getting married tomorrow, and I got to hear all about how awesome the 4th of July was with them. I’m sick of swallowing my anger and putting on a happy front.

    • Any way to get that section OUT of your custody arrangements? ‘Cause that is one major shit sandwich! Might be appropriate for two adults who separate in a civilized way because their marriage has died a sad death and they’re both fine with that, treat each other honestly, and truly can co-parent. NOT appropriate under the circumstances, or necessary.

      There’s a large space between ‘being at each other’s throats’ and ‘pretending we’re all friends now’. I hope you manage to shift the arrangements to get into that space. Or that your stupid ex shows yet again how little he cares by just not showing up for those occasions. Hard on the kids, but as CL often emphasizes, reality is good for all of us!

      • I’m going to wait and see how it goes. Like I said, he was all about showing up to everything this past year, but now that the OW is permanently on the scene, I have the sneaking suspicion that she is NOT going to like it if he leaves for Christmas/Easter morning at my house. Considering that he didn’t come to DS #1’s birthday and instead celebrated it with the OW on his own time, I’m thinking that this is the way things will probably go in the future. Plus, the OW and XWH have made sure that we haven’t crossed paths so far, so I have the feeling that she’s not going to want him to spend any time with me whatsoever. You know– because when your relationship is built on lies, you probably don’t trust each other!?!?

        • Ugh…MovingOn. I’m sorry you are going through this. It must be heartbreaking. I can so relate to this:
          “Kids needs their moms/dads when those parents actually care about them. I didn’t marry a man who has the ability to care about more than his own needs.”

          I just have to hope that, someday, my son sees his Dad for the narc he is and uses that knowledge to determine how he *doesn’t* want to be. Shitty lesson for a kid, but maybe it will have a silver lining.

          • That is your separation agreement, you make sure there is no suck BS clause in your final one, that is wrong on many levels. Major boundary violation, not good for your kids, no way.

          • I was just about to quote the same phrase–“Kids need their moms/dads when those parents actually care about them…..” My ex is beyond Narc, I think he is a sociopath, so he is completely out of our kids’ lives, hasn’t seen them in 15 months since D-Day. So I don’t need to deal with these pesky little details like sharing them. The abandonment and horror my children feel, however, although trying to claim they are “just fine” with everything and don’t want to see them, keeps me up at night.

          • We can only hope an entire generation learns this way or else we are doomed.

    • moving on- sorry you are going through this. I know i hate being the responsible one.
      My ExH is marrying his AP in a month. Kids meet her for the first time in a week, and are not invited to the wedding (since older child refuses to go). Worst in my book, the custody arrangement is being altered, less time with their father, so they can stay with me while they meet her. Divorce agreement limits their time with her for the first year, short 3-4 hour visits for the first few months), and AP and kids cannot be together overnight until exH marries her. Now, this arrangement was created in JANUARY, so exH has no right to complain how it affects things… “you claim you want them to have a decent relationship, blah blah blah.”
      I hate being made to feel like the bad guy, when it is all on him.
      Chin up!
      I will be the one dropping a note in a month or so.

  • It has to be said, mzmama. “Peter Pan Neverland Divagasm” is a freaking hilarious use of wordplay. Divagasm alone made me laugh out loud. And I can so relate!

  • CL said: “Here’s what happens when you jump off your roof in Reality — you go splat.”
    Gravity – always on, always sucks.

    “You know why you were a buzz kill? You were eating shit sandwiches. You’re going to be a much happier person and mom not putting up with his bullshit.”
    Completely! I was so stressed out being the full-time parent while “uncle-daddy” waltzed in at his convenience to do random fun with the kids, but then rage-yell at them for spilling milk (literally) the next moment. I was physically & emotionally exhausted from working, child care, household duties, walking on eggshells, and spackling 24/7. I am looking forward to building my own life free from this. Being able to look at myself in the mirror at someone who isn’t stressed out most of the time, but instead someone who can live a relatively peaceful life. My kids will see this, too.

    BTW, although I do have a soft spot in my heart for the movie “Peter Pan”, and it has some great sing-along songs (plus, who doesn’t want want to fly, and battle pirates?), I kind of want to throw my DVD out the window. My STBX has a Peter Pan mentality and it was a huge contribution to his cheating and general shittyness as a father/husband. Not to mention that the plot has Peter leading on several females at once, and them fighting over him. Replace the genders either way, but Peter Pan syndrome *sucks* in real life. Very sad. All I wanted to do was fly far, far away from Neverland and back to the real word.

    • What is scary to me is that I thought my ex, an emotionally abusive tyrant, was unique in this, but apparently it’s an entire generation. I thank God he’s an ex, but now I’m terrified of what the future has in store.

  • Mzmama – I struggled with the same issue for WAY too long, a continuation of the “pick me” dance. I did stupid stuff like invite him to holiday and birthday dinners, and allow him to take credit for the kids’ good grades.

    What changed my mind?

    I was supposed to have the kids Christmas morning and he was supposed to come pick them up at noon. But the kids wanted to spend Christmas morning AND Christmas dinner with me, so being a good chump and trying to please everyone, I invited him for Christmas dinner (4 pm) and told him he could take them afterward. He agreed…as long as I served what HE wanted. He was “capitulating,” because he didn’t “have” to “let” the kids stay, according to the court order, so I needed serve what HE wanted. Who cares what the kids wanted? Who cares about tradition? Who cares that we were even divorced? HE had spoken, and that was that.

    I never invited him to another holiday.

    And, since our daughters refused to abide by the court order after that, that Christmas was the last dinner he ever had with all three of his children.

    He wanted out? He’s out…

    • Good for your girls! Glad they made the call and it didn’t fall to you to kick him out of their lives.

  • I love your writing so much. Your words are so funny and helpful. That is the best type of reading – the type that makes me laugh while reminding me to keep on pushing on.

    It’s been 4 years for me. Luckily I am past the divorce process and custody scheduling and I co-parent in a schedule that is routine with any requests for changes going through a mediated discussion with a parenting coordinator.

    I was married to a Peter Pan boy who thinks we can happily exist post divorce in Neverland. He cheated while I was pregnant, pretending to be a happy father-to-be, all the while discussing every aspect of our life and my pregnancy with his affair partner soul mate. She already had three children of her own (two different dads). So, of course she was a great source of support and advice regarding pregnancy! Little did I know that all of my husband’s knowledge about my pregnancy wasn’t coming from reading What To Expect…

    Fast forward to 4 years later and recently he was baffled as to why I did not want to “co-host” our son’s 4th birthday party. Share all the fun stuff? Why not? Let’s invite all the daycare kids and their parents and rent a bounce house! No? Why not? What is your problem?

    Throughout his baffled text messages, I continued saying – “No, sorry, I do not want to co-host a party with you.” What I wanted to say – but didn’t – was “Fuck you, no. I will not serve cake with you and smile around all the other parents who have no idea how you treated me, being reminded while seeing your stupid face that on this day four years ago right after I had given birth to our first child, you were texting pictures of our baby to someone else! You fucktard assface.”

    (That feels good to be safe enough to say that here)

    I plan to live I reality with our son, a place where I am respectful to his father and share custody by being flexible as his needs change and respecting that we are both his parents. I plan to create a reality that falls in line with exactly what you write about. Thank you so much for putting it into words. It is so helpful to hear the validation. I do not have to eat a shit sandwich every year so that he can exist in a happy consequence-free Neverland!

    • Carrie,

      It sounds like you’ve got a good head on your shoulders.

      You give me hope that a court will also see that respectful, cooperative scheduling to be the full extent of reasonable interaction with an abusive asshat who has only finally left me alone, a year after the divorce, when he discovered the blog & that his friends were reading it.

      Thanks for the dose of hopium (in the best possible sense!) 🙂

      • Oh so cool, he discovered the blog and along with his friends! That is sweet 🙂

    • Coming in late here, but welcome to the blog Carrie! Lots o’ validation here at CL. 🙂

  • My heart is aching over this very issue…But different scenario.

    I just got a new (better) job, which will require me to travel a bit. The new company knows I’m a single mom and I can only travel on days I don’t have my 9 year-old son. Ex already travels extensively, so I devised plans for backup care (first, son’s classmates’ families, then a nanny agency) should our travel overlap.

    Now the ex is suggesting his new GF (who I don’t know) will be willing and able to watch our son, if needed. My son has told me that he “doesn’t like that family,” probably because he spends all of his Daddy time with the new family – it’s too much just three months post-divorce. I’ve made it clear that anyone who watches our son should either be someone we both know or an agency that thoroughly checks out their care providers. But “I’m not the boss of him,” right?

    Whenever I remind my ex of the parenting plan and my wishes for our son’s backup care, my ex tells me **I’m** putting our son in the middle, that I need to get over it, we weren’t good for each other, etc. (he conveniently leaves out the serial cheating that ultimately ended our marriage). I know ex is pissed I told our son that I left because Daddy had girlfriends, and that his Daddy is not welcome in my home – he says that’s putting our son in the middle. I just see it as being honest. Anyway, his language just re-traumatizes me, as it’s the same blameshifting and gas-lighting I lived with as he cheated on me for years. Thanks to my own issues, I have a tendency to doubt myself and think “maybe it IS me?”

    My questions to all of you are: how have you seen this play out before? Do the exes get tired of playing games with co-parenting? Will my son wind up hating his dad since it’s obvious his dad doesn’t have his best interest at heart (forcing new GF on him)? Will I have to deal with this co-parenting shit sandwich for the rest of my life? How do I deal with him using my son to get at me? I desperately need for someone to (truthfully) tell me it will all be alright.

    Thanks for reading this long post and for any support you can offer.

    • Nine years old is such a wonderful age. Of course GF wants to help out! Bonding time plus makes her indispensable to the jerk, who is not totally on the hook yet. Things will change if they get married and have a baby, and then your son will be really put out.

      The good thing is, she’s not related yet, and your ex has no standing to expect you to roll over and use your son to help cement his relationship. I’d go ahead and make your plans and let him rage. If he’s out of town lots anyway, what can he do?

      • Thanks Chumpalicious!

        I actually just started reading a whole bunch on how long one should wait before introducing the kids to the new GF/BF. It helped to reinforce not only how wrong it is to leave my son alone in her care, but also how wrong he is to push “his new life” (his gag-inducing words) onto our son so quickly. Yes, the ex is over the moon with his new kibble supply,, but his son is still hurting.

        Such a small, small man.

        • Moving_on- Those are the same words I use to refer to my XH, he is a small, small, tiny-bit of a man. Hang in there…

          • No. The kid doesn’t need to put up with the GF if he is uncomfortable. Do whatever it takes to enforce this strict discipline. You might not need to be a straight-jacketed simple mom. Let your ex know the price of not enforcing a strict co-parenthood. Every context has its own strengths and weakness. Use the strengths to your advantage.

            • Thanks Anudi,
              I’ve cc’d my attorney on our last couple of email exchanges, in which the ex continues to flout the first right of refusal and one weeks notice on travel. I’ll see what I can do about the caregiver/new GF situation, but am not hopeful there is much I can do about that. Atty is on vaca, but we will talk this week.

              My ex tells me my son is just hunky dory with Dad’s new life, but son tells me different. And dad thinks he’s father of the year for talking to our son about it at all. Ex’s inability to see my son’s heartache beneath his words is just further evidence that he is without empathy or emotional connection of any kind. As I saw early on, the guy is a robot, programmed for his own pleasure, everyone else be damned.

              • I also get two different stories regarding custody of our 10 year old son. XH says everything’s great, but son says he’s often LEFT HOME ALONE to play on the computer and watch TV. XH has his own life, you see, and if son doesn’t fit into his plans, well then he’s just left behind….like a pet.

                Like you, Movin_on, I just don’t get these guys. Raising a child means being there 24/7 – not just when the mood strikes. Why can’t they see the heartache they cause? XH would be furious if he knew how often his son tells me, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a dad just like Dr. V (XH’s friend and colleague and awesome dad). When even a 10 year old can see there are better dads out there, you know your ex is a lost cause…

          • Thanks FLB. I guess it means we have to be big, big folks to get the balance right for our kids. Getting support from people here certainly helps! I’m just flummoxed that he’d be so careless with our son’s feelings, but it’s really just more of the same carelessness he’s always exhibited when it comes to the feelings of others. I guess I need to keep working on how to deal with the hits because they’re going to keep coming.

            • I guess Movin_on that you pursue for “hearing the kid out” in your case and discuss with your attorney how and which rule you can enforce here. You’ll have to find the laws and loopholes in the law applicable for child custody to get advantage. Like in India, we have laws, where a Child Welfare Officer (every district has one) can have authority over and above that of the parents’.

              This is rather an off example but I am giving it so that it is easy for you to take up the issue of “hearing the child out” with your attorney. For example, there are minor children sent out to work for households in towns to earn and support their extremely poor parents at village. NGOs like ours get in touch with police and Child-line (govt. organization). We get the parents to appear before the Child welfare officer’s court. In most cases, depending upon what child says and what are the evidences thereof, the child gets to live with our orphanage and continue his studies and better grooming for a better tomorrow. Parents are not the only custodians and they are not always right!

    • Moving on..
      “My questions to all of you are: how have you seen this play out before? Do the exes get tired of playing games with co-parenting?”

      My experience has been really never stops and the best you can do it try and have firm boundaries and accept that nothing you do can really “change them” or “get them to see it”. You are after all dealing with someone who really only thinks of themselves. Do the best you can, accept that you cannot change it. Others may say that you can use the court system to try and address it and I believe in some cases you can, but not at great cost. Proving “parental alienation” is very very hard (especially for Dad’s – since as a society we do not want to even think how could a mother do that).

      FTR, my response is based on my experience….
      My ex wife is still a manipulative, angry and “entitled person”. She has done a number on my two boys (19 and 17 now); which took a ton of work to try and undo. She is now working on our daughter (12). Every communication is difficult and written in a matter that puts her as the victim and tries to paint me as the “bad” dad.

  • CL,

    Great advice. As always.

    One thing I have observed, and this is a case where dad was a dysfunctional narc. The leaving dad constantly tried to get his chump ex to continue as his scheduler/bookkeeper for the kids and their activities. I think these departing narcs want to preserve as much of the dysfunctionality of the old relationship (well, dsyfunctional for chumps, nice for them!) as they can. That’s why I’d avoid co-parenting as in co-parenting at the same time. Parallel parenting where each parent has their time/space. Otherwise, the wily narc will wind up turning the relationship exploitative again. (Narc:”What! You didn’t tell me Johnny was getting a C!” Ex-Chump:”Well, check with the school and find out for yourself.”) Let the narcs throw the sparkles on their own. Narcs often find it hard to keep up the sparkle output without some Chump there to do the work (make sure the kids are dressed, make sure they have something to eat, etc.) If the Narc wanted their freedom, then give it to them — and all the responsibility for planning and doing the logistics for the visitation days that they own!

    Anyway, CL, you have given more great advice!

  • I really like this quote:

    “Otherwise they grow up thinking they can do shitty things and people should still be ‘friends’ with them. Or they grow up thinking when other people do shitty things to them, they have to eat that shit sandwich and smile (i.e., they become chumps.)”

    • This is EXACTLY what made me 100% sure that my relationship with the ex was completely over, as soon as I found out about second affair. That is NOT what I want my kids growing up to believe, that people can treat you consistently disrespectfully and you continue to have them in your life. That there are only two possible roles in life, asshole or chump.

      At first I felt like I wouldn’t become involved in a serious relationship until after my kids were grown, but my therapist said that it might actually do the kids a lot of good to see me in a caring, respectful relationship, to see how that actually works. Food for thought.

      • OMgosh, that’s exactly what the ex told my daughter when she told him he could have a relationship with her or with the OW, but not both. “You need to see your father in a HEALTHY relationship”. How fucking twisted is that! Yes honey, you’re going to be a screwed up chump just like your mother unless you come with me and watch OW show you just how to treat a man.

        Fuck that you cradle robbing perv.

        I’m with Dr. Laura on this one. The kids get all my attention until they’re grown and gone. I don’t have time to psych out another relationship, and I don’t want to put the kids through getting to know a stranger after what their dad did.

        And I’m not particularly interested anyway. I’m planning on taking 6 months off for every year I was married, and I was married 28 years.

  • It never ceases to amaze me – the lengths a cheater goes to to perpetuate the fantasy that they are not a lying, cheating, sack of shit. Wow. I have experienced this: “departing narcs want to preserve as much of the dysfunctionality of the old relationship…as they can” and this: “the wily narc will wind up turning the relationship exploitative again” after I started being “nicer” to him within the context of what is better for the kids. I was amazed at how quickly he tried to give me a list of “jobby-jobs” to do while I am working and he is on holiday this week?! Today, when I refused to take the blame for something that was clearly not my fault, he has gone ballistic – I could almost smell the smoke coming out of his ears through the phone. I was the chump who did the work but refuse to do it any longer. Thank goodness for Chump Lady – I needed a tune-up today.

    • Good on you, Karen!!!!! My ex, too, keeps trying stuff to get me to do as I always did, bend over backwards to make his life easier. Doesn’t happen any more!! And he acts as if I’m being completely unreasonable. Now it just makes me laugh!

      • This, I kept my ex on my insurance until the divorce was final, with him paying me in advance each month cos he was not working. A month after divorce he asked me to reimburse him for the last month cos COBRA was charging him. I told him that’s your problem, I paid it, I can’t get the money back, go talk to COBRA, I’m not responsible for you any more. His response? “I don’t have time for petty people anymore, you keep my money”. WTF? Yeah, anything that happens to him is something that I Did To Him, even if reality is it is the consequences of his own actions and no way should he have to take care of his own shit…it’ just so hard…

        • Datdamwuf, that so much reminds me of my ex! He once gave me a child support check, but apparently didn’t have enough money in his account to cover it. I cashed it, and his bank charged him a $35 overdraft fee. He was ENRAGED at me, and sent all sorts of blistering texts that it was my fault he had the fee and he was going to take it out of the next child support check. I reminded him that he was $25,000 in arrears on support money already, and that was the last I heard about that. So typical that he blamed ME for his having no money in his account and wanted to punish me.

  • Mzmama –

    Excellent and TRUE advice from CL – you don’t have to spend another moment with this guy you don’t want to – you have been freed from the shackles of Chumpdom!

    Let me give you some life advice from my own almost identical scenario (right down to him wanting to come to the house Christmas day – but also instructing me to hide in a bedroom upstairs so as not to “bring the festive mood down”) …….if your kids are over the age of 13 – and better yet – 15 – HE CANNOT FORCE ANY VISITATION ON THEM THAT THEY DO NOT WANT. Don’t listen to him if he threatens otherwise. He can petition the court (he won’t because it’s expensive) but the first thing any family court officer does is interview the children. CL is totally correct – it’s their call as to how much if any contact they have with him. If they say they want nothing to do with him because he’s a cheating lying scumbag with a mistress he is trying to force on them (and believe me – if he is still attached to her – he will try to slide her into a meeting with them given the opportunity) – NO COURT will force a child of that age to submit to forced meetings. They’ll suggest, they’ll talk about his rights as their father and the need for that good relationship (sorry – should have thought about that before he cheated and abandoned the family) but I guarantee – bottom line is they cannot be forced to see him if they do not want to – period.

    So consider that – talk to your kids about the facts of just what a court can and cannot do in a visitation issue – and let them decide what – if any – contact they want. When I realized the truth of this – it allowed me to quit being terrified of his threats to ask for full custody, etc and also gave my late teen kids choices. Since then – they have chosen to cut ties as long as he continues down this path with the OW. If he changes course (not back to me – but has some sort of revelation and cuts ties with the whore) they said they would open the door back up a crack and see. But for now – they are unencumbered, unfettered and unconcerned with this man who broke our family and hearts. And blissfully – so am I!

    Remember – don’t let him threaten you – he has no standing in court if they say ‘no’ to seeing him. None. Good luck.

  • arrrgghh…. . It never really ends, just ebbs in flows in reliability.

    I’ve been divorced 15 yrs from the ExH and the finale of his participating in family activities just occurred. I hadn’t seen or spoken to XH for several years and he had moved 600 miles away 3 years ago after giving his kids about 3 day notice that he was moving. Since that time, the only communication I’ve had with him is to threaten to get legal order as he was harassing me via text for a spate of several weeks a couple years ago.

    Fast forward to last month. Our youngest son graduated from high school. Dad is coming 600 miles (they don’t see him more than every 12 to 18 months) for his graduation and I graciously send him a graduation party invitation. He attends with his current GF and things seem ok. I don’t say much to him but fine.

    The next night I’m taking my son to his commencement ceremony. Where’s dad? No one has heard from him. My son gets a text on the way, “A bit under the weather and I won’t be at your graduation tonight. Let’s do breakfast before we leave tomorrow.” I dropped my kid off at his graduation ceremony with tears running down his face. Yep. That’s great. Par for the course. My son just said, ” he’s probably drinking or fighting with GF – typical.” Silly me actually thinking that if you didn’t see your kid more than every year or so and drove 10 hours, you’d actually make his graduation.

    I told my sons (17 and 22) the next day that they need to establish their own ground rules with their father and I’m officially out of it given their ages; but told them that they may be well served to have no expectations, and that this was the very last time ever, that he was ever going to be invited to a family event that I had for them. What a POS.

    • I had the opposite just happen. Our tiny town has limited space and graduation is by invitation only. When daughter graduated two years ago, only the ex was invited. So, the ex scored another admission ticket from one of his siblings who wasn’t going to come and brought the OW and year old kid. Bad move. Truly the end of the beginning of the end for their relationship. The texting and emailing was scorching.

      This year, OW is wifey. Son does not want any trouble or reminders of the issue at his graduation and writes a long letter explaining that and there is only one ticket to spare anyway. The ex pretends not to have gotten that letter, goes to the high school office and gets another admission ticket and brings bimbo. Everybody is just beside themselves at the gall. Except me. I bloody well expected it. Whores absolutely want their respect once they’ve slept to the top.

      More scorching texting ending with the idiot calling his own kids immature.

      • Chumpalicious: I’m speechless…not one modicum of shame between these two narcs-centers-of-the-universe. It boggles my mind how people can turn out so…so…just wrong. And to lash out at the kids when clearly it is they who are in the wrong? Narcissism’s never ending gift of delusion. Would that be fit for a comedy or a tragedy in the theater? I vote tragedy 🙂 (muahahahaha)

        • My father did this at my first wedding. H and I decided on a very small ceremony only very immediate family ( my Mom & sister, His brother). Father got wind of it. Next thing I knew it was him, wife #3 and my grandparents at a very plushy resturant. He did not invite my Aunt & Uncle who I would have wanted there ( because they didn’t get along and why should he pay for their meals according to him). No regards for my wishes. My mother had to make nice to wife #3 who harped at my Dad all evening. Forgot it until just this moment.

          • Yeah, I’m afraid of that. He’s already disinvited from daughter’s wedding (no date yet – she just told him so)

            I guess I’ll have to hire some private security. Real bull necked bouncers.

            Just in case.

            • When one of my friends got married 30 years ago, she was SO disgusted by her cheating father’s antics that she never told him she was getting married, even though she was his only child. The wedding was in early December; for Christmas, she sent him wedding pictures. He was speechless.

              Oh, karma….

          • Janet, your father took advantage of your family’s politeness! We’re all too damned nice to just say ‘fuck no’ when the narcs start pushing for something that is not what we planned or wanted – even at your own wedding!!!

            The hard part is remaining nice and polite most of the time, but being ready to recognize and react to the narcissistic crap. Hard to do, and I’d still rather err on the side of being too nice, sometimes.

      • “I want what I want, and you’re not the boss of me!”

        THEY have to be the center of attention, it is all about THEM.

        It just makes you want to bash their heads together and say, “Snap out of it, you morons!”

        OW’s gall is ridiculous. I hope you all gave her the “cut direct!”

      • I’m with Moving_on – the gall is beyond belief! Putting themselves first, always. Makes you want to bash their heads together.

        I hope you gave OW the “cut direct.” She doesn’t deserve anything but your family’s contempt…

    • Oh gosh marcie, your heart must have been breaking for your son! We would protect our kids from that kind of meanness if we could, but at least they can see clearly who their father is.

      How can any human being do that kind of heartless thing? The narcs really are in another category entirely.

  • mzmama – if I had to do it over, I’d set the ground rules on visitation early. Also, at teenagers, it may be ok to just tell the kids that you recognize their pain and feelings and desires but that you have to be true to yourself as well. They’re old enough to know that you have needs too.

  • Reality: Refusing to make yourself vulnerable to someone who has spent years hurting you does not make you a bad parent.

    Modeling that a person is allowed to protect themselves, even if they have produced a child, is actually a good thing.

    RFP and I had an interesting conversation about this the other night. She seemed to think I was mean for refusing to be bullied. I asked her, if some boys at school were teasing her or hurting her, would she be a bad person for going to a teacher and asking for help to make it stop.

    Being a logical and intelligent child, she didn’t think this would make her a mean person.

    Its the same concept. People who don’t matter can hold whatever the hell opinion they want–because their opinions don’t matter.

    But when she grows up, RFP will know that she can stand up for herself, and protect herself, and it doesn’t matter how many insults someone throws at her for taking care of herself. She’s still making the healthy choice.

    Those who mind don’t matter; and those who matter don’t mind.

  • Ex is a fun dad…or used to be. But now that it’s clear that OW will always come first (and she makes sure she does by playing little,hurt girl when the kids don’t want to do things with her) the kids are more and more giving up on him. This ‘hurts’ him because why can’t they understand that OW had nothing to do with the divorce, right? Or any of the other OW? According to him (as he told one of the kids last week) OW has done nothing wrong and we divorced because of issues between us. Well, yes, issues between us being that he was fucking other people for years and I found out. I suppose in a way he’s right: OW doesn’t have a lot to do with it because he was fucking other people while involved with her but in the end she was the one who stuck around so my kids get invited to play happy families with her and Ex and pretend that I don’t exist…and they get to hear how he thinks I’m a crazy, insane asshole who is trying to take all his money, etc. etc etc.

    A few months ago one of the kids had a birthday. It was my day with the kids but, being a nice person, I suggested he take birthday kid for a few hours in the afternoon so they could spend time together on the actual day. He saw this as me being manipulative somehow but suggested he ‘stop by’ to see his kid at my place. I flat out said no, you are not welcome in my home. This is me being a big meanie and not wanting to do what’s best for the kids.

    This past week we’re still banging out some things and he suddenly pulls out the ‘let’s be friends’ bullshit. I made it clear that I have certain standards for my friends, such as honestly, character, being nice to me, not fucking me over…you know the drill. So no, no chance of a friendship between us. This is me, again, being a big meanie and not doing what is ‘best’ for the kids.

    I don’t even listen to this shit without laughing anymore – I am such a meanie for being honest with my kids and for not putting up with bullshit.

    There is no co-parenting with some of these people. There is just dealing with things and minimizing the impact on the kids.

    • ” I have certain standards for my friends, such as honestly, character, being nice to me, not fucking me over”; Nord, I LOVE that!

      • Thanks. This whole ‘having standards’ thing seems to perplex Mr. Ex.

    • nope ..none…the oblivious mind they have to all they have done fucks me up still…it’s truly bizarre how they think

  • Oh, I SO needed this today. Getting so tired of the “lets be friends” crap. And the bad thing is I find myself sliding into “friendly” mode at events like graduations. Chump me, still doing my damn pick me dance. I need to just go totally no contact except for text/email.

    • It’s so easy to be yourself – a NICE person – even around the narcs and the people who have fucked you over. It’s be simpler if they had horns and a tail, or a big ‘cheating asshole’ tattoo on their foreheads.

      I just try to keep a lot of physical distance between myself and the ex. See him as rarely as possible, and if we have to be in the same place, walk out of a room when he walks into it, or keep myself on the other side of the room.

      Doesn’t always work, still find myself treating him like a normal human being sometimes, briefly.

  • Things are not OK at the co-parenting corral. As usual, ex-husband pulled another of his passive-aggressive moves by not updating me on a doctor visit he took our daughter to last week. She had a slight complication from her wisdom teeth extraction of the previous week, and I only heard about it because I asked my daughter directly how everything was going. (She’s been at his place all week.)

    He’s taken her to maybe three doctor appointments without me since we separated a year ago, and every single time, he neglects to let me know the results of the visit. Meanwhile, I’ve taken her to the eye doctor, the dentist, the oral surgeon and a therapist, and every time, I email him an update the same day.

    Because that’s what responsible co-parents do, right? Back me up on this, peeps — am I asking for something unreasonable from him? I’ve been mindfucked so thoroughly that I often second guess whether I’m the irrational one.

    This is the same man who regularly neglects to let me know when a change in his travel schedule affects when he picks up our daughter for his time with her. It’s just more evidence of how incapable he is of 1) taking responsibility for himself and his actions, 2) considering me in his plans, 3) communicating well. Boy, did I see all three of these, big-time, when I discovered his last affair.

    I emailed him yesterday morning, calling him out on his pattern of “forgetting” to keep me informed of what happens when he takes our daughter to medical appointments, and also telling him that I would like to know within two days of an appointment what was said and done during that visit. And that I would do the same.

    Do you think he bothered to respond to the email all day? Ha! And would it surprise you to learn that he dropped our daughter off 20 minutes late yesterday evening and didn’t bother to call or email to let me know he was running late? Double ha! I had to call him to see if he was even going to show up. I was PISSED. And he knew it. He wouldn’t even come into the house, like he usually does, to say goodbye to our daughter. He said goodbye on the deck and scurried off like the cowardly man-child that he is.

    Two more years of this and my child will be 18. For all the aggravation, I actually appreciate the clarity these little incidents bring for me. I see him for the manipulative ass that he is. I know that these incidents are minor compared with some of the things y’all have to deal with. But they’re part of the same basic personality disorder that led all these so-called partners to an affair.

    • You’re not married. I’d let go almost all expectations other than “I expect you not to intentionally hurt the children or have them watch porn with you” if I were you. It’s not easy, but it’s easier than doing anything else.

      I was thinking about Nora Ephron’s final advice on divorce this morning” Get over it (because otherwise you will spend a lot of your life being defined by it):

      People always say that once it goes away, you forget the pain. It’s a cliché of childbirth: you forget the pain. I don’t happen to agree.

      I remember the pain. What you really forget is love.

      Divorce seems as if it will last ­forever, and then suddenly, one day, your ­children grow up, move out, and make lives for themselves and except for an occasional flare, you have no contact at all with your ex-husband. The divorce has lasted way longer than the ­marriage, but finally it’s over.

      Enough about that. The point is that for a long time, the fact that I was divorced was the most important thing about me. And now it’s not. Now the most important thing about me is that I’m old.”-Nora Ephron

    • Oh, one follow-up question: Why is your ex-husband coming into YOUR house?

    • Sounds like your daughter is 16 – at that age, ALL arrangements w/her dad can be made by her. Unless it’s something incredibly important, you can have almost no contact w/your ex. If he’s not going to pick her up when he said, he needs to let HER know, if she’s not home when you expect her, SHE should let you know of the delay, and you can call or text her to find out what’s up, and she can fill you in on what the doctor says. And it’s entirely up to her whether she sees him at all, how often, and under what circumstances, at that age.

      You are SO dead-on right about this; ‘But they’re part of the same basic personality disorder that led all these so-called partners to an affair.’ Every time the ex pulls this bullshit, it just reminds me that he truly does suck, always did.

      My kids are in their early teens, so I do have to be more involved, and the stupid narc ex has several times done what you describe, changing plans involving when he’ll have the kids without checking w/me first. I’ve started simply not accommodating, when I can. So the last time he e-mailed 2 day before to say he had travel plans for the Thursday (when he would normally have the kids over for supper and I would be working), so could they come Wednesday instead (meaning I would miss having them for an evening when I’m at home), I just said no. I do accommodate sudden changes due to his work, but stuff he plans and could check with me first, not anymore.

      And there is no way in hell I would let that man even on my deck to say goodbye to our daughter.

      • Yep, my son just turned 17, and for the past couple years, he’s dealt with everything involving seeing his dad. Son chose not to spend any nights with his dad, just dinner twice per week. They worked out their schedule, ex picks up son from the parking lot and returns him to parking lot. Son informs me of any changes in plans. Since my ex doesn’t take son to appointments or anything beyond dinner and occasional movies, it’s worked very well. Older teens can definitely make their own arrangements with the noncustodial parent.

        Of course, my ex went to a niece’s wedding back in the beginning of June, and never came back, so it seems even the dinners won’t be an issue anymore. Now he’s 2,000 miles away, and it seems unlikely he is ever coming back. He’s living with his dad, paying no rent and getting paid for doing odd jobs around his dad’s house. Can’t beat that for a freeloader.

    • Stop calling him out on that stuff — it’s negative kibbles, but it’s a form of kibbles nonetheless.

      Teens are sort of health care emancipated anyway (she can probably get birthcontrol pills without having to tell either one of you) so quit notifying him when you take her somewhere. He really doesn’t care anyway, and probably snickers everytime you prove yourself a good chump by living up to the agreement.

      Just get the info from your daughter and go straight to the healthcare provider if you have questions.

    • RS, your daughter is 16 years old. You can distance yourself from that manipulative ass right now. Your daughter is old enough to set her own timetable with her father. She is also old enough to give you any info that you need with regards to her care that is spearheaded by her father. It might be time for you to NC with him as much as you possibly can. For your own sanity. You do not have to explain your decisions to anyone. My daughters were 16 when I told the ex to get the fuck out and never come back. I have been pleasant with my girls regarding their father’s actions, or inactions and have avoided any contact with their dad as much as possible. I smile and don’t email, don’t text anymore. I stopped communication 4 months after the last DDay. I let my lawyer do the talking for me pre- divorce. We do not and have not coparented. I refuse to give him ANY power over me and my life. My life and so far, the lives of our now adult children are better that I don’t react to anything nonlife threatening regarding their Uncle Daddy. We have set the ground rules that if I need to know something, I will ask them. Otherwise what happens with their father stays with their father. I am happy, and they do not feel that they are betraying him or me because I do not allow him to upset me in any way shape or form.
      meh is on its way. I wish the same for you. It’s glorious! good luck with a pre adult girl. I had two and it was interesting to say the least!

    • Hi Rally Squirrel,

      I am with the others — WHY are you letting him in your house to say goodbye? 🙂 He should do that in the car.

      But, as far as appointments, I think he should be emailing you a status. In my state, visitation is required until age 18 — kids cannot choose earlier. My ex hardly ever takes my kids (11, 12, and just turned 18 yesterday!) to appointments. He really does not have them for extended times, so it is easy for me to schedule their stuff on “my” time. However, we do have to inform each other of all appointments and outcomes per our court order. In fact, if I do not give him a heads up of appointments (except for emergencies or mandatory stuff like school physicals), he has the right to decline sharing in the cost of the care. So I tell him ahead of time for all visits to doc, eye doc, dentist, etc. and then email or text him the outcome (or sometimes even have the kid call him from kid’s cell phone in the car as we leave the appointment).

      So., I would check with your divorce agreement and see if he is violating anything with his omission to you. Maybe that will encourage him to be more forthcoming with info.

      Good luck!

      • Two reasons I’ve been letting him in the house to say goodbye to our daughter. First, he carries her bags in. I know she could do this herself, but I’m thinking that it feels good to her that her father does that gentlemanly thing for her. If I forbid it, it feels petty of me. I know. Chumpville. But that’s how it feels.

        Second, he has asked to be able to come into the house during drop-offs so he can see the cat. He misses the cat. Can’t have her at his place because he can’t have any dependent creature permanently at his place when he routinely goes out of town for 12 straight days on business. Again, if I deny him 5 minutes to pet the cat, I feel like a petty person.

        When I lose some of the chumpiness, I tell myself it’s too damn bad he misses the cat. He should have thought of that when he fired up his last affair.

        The dynamic I have with him now is loads better than when we were married, but it’s still fucked up. I sit here with all this anger over his immense betrayal — from his affair, his shitty behavior following my discovery of it, and the subsequent breakup of our family. Yet he has moved on in what appears to be his happy new life. He comes off as the one who has all his major shit together. When I protest the ways he falls down on the job of co-parenting, his response to those protests often is so calm, smooth and bigger-personish that I start to feel shameful. Like I’m making too big a deal of things.

        The implication is, “Can’t we just move on and play nice, for the sake of our daughter? Why do you have to keep overreacting? It’s just more evidence that you have something wrong with you, Rally Squirrel. Hence, the divorce.” He doesn’t actually say this, of course, although he did recently accuse me of overreacting. But it’s as if he’s patiently explaining to a child having a temper tantrum why she’s off base.

        It feels like the mindfuck is continuing. I’m trying to do what’s right for my daughter. Sometimes, it seems like in doing so, I’m not doing right by myself.

        I do see that my ex’s coming into my house and doing his Broadway-caliber song and dance of hellos and goodbyes with my daughter is upsetting to me. And I shouldn’t have to eat that shit sandwich in my own house.

        So I think I have some new boundaries to set. He will continue to try to shame me when I set them. And he can only do that if I let him get to me. The good news is that once our daughter decides she wants to get her driver’s license and has her own car, she can take herself from house to house and there will be no more drop-offs and pickups.

        As for the updates on medical visits we each take our daughter to, there’s nothing in the divorce settlement about it. Sending an update to each other after doctor appointments seems like common courtesy and good co-parenting to me, which is why I was doing it. But after an email exchange with my ex about this, he has made it clear he doesn’t see it that way. He sees these exchanges as unnecessary, because he assumed I would get the information directly from our daughter. So you know what? That’s what I will do from now on. And he can do the same. The less contact I have with him, the more at peace I feel.

        Thanks for your comments on my previous posts, everyone. I greatly appreciate your opinions (and am so thankful for this site) as I try to sort out this ongoing crapfest.

        • Ralley Squirrel,
          Read David’s July 7 comment, it so rings true for me:
          “So, the narcs get good at working the system. Once you realize how little they actually saw you as a person (since the only person they really recognize is themselves), ..”

          My thought, if you will allow, is that your husband who had no problem destroying the family can have no feelings for a cat! Seriously, the cat is his ally in screwing you over. He is the ony person in this drama, as far as he is concerned.

          I’m thinking your best bet is to get your kid licensed to drive and she can take the cat with her on weekends. The guy should not cross your threshold.

          Kind regards and good luck to you.

          • The cat used to follow him from room to room and then sit purring at his feet. With blind adoration like that, it’s no wonder he misses her. 😉

  • Dear Chump Lady,
    There is this whole “Both parents are necessary for the development of child Industrial Complex” on the very lines of “Reconciliation Industrial Complex”, which enforces itself on chumps from legal to societal maneuvers.
    I often wonder, why? Why should a serial cheater (most probably personality disordered) parent, who puts his/ her needs above the welfare of his children in the first place, be so important, realistically, in the child’s development? Why should he have a “say” in the matters of the child (equate this to the feeling of a chump, when he/she is not in control for his/her future but the betrayer is)? By cheating (gory acts committed) they have ensured what they thought about the kids, anyway.
    Then, what about children having to live in two different worlds? How do such differences impact his/her values and character development?
    These are questions that this “Both parent industrial complex” need to answer!

    • Divorce is unfair to children in most cases (except when there is terrible abuse):

      Kids–especially young kids–are not equipped to deal with things like why don’t these two people love each other anymore, and did they ever really love each other? Every time they leave one parent’s house for the other’s, they are abandoning one of their parents. It’s a crap sandwich with extra crap for kids.

      Which is why parents shouldn’t cheat or be shallow and narcisstic. It’s not fair to the kids.

      That being said, if one parent is really disordered, then it might be better for the kids to not be around that parent. I would think it is way more common, though, that one parent decides being married and being a parent are suddenly less important than pursuing some naiive adolescent ideal: the thrill of a new affair, etc.

      In short, I think poor ego-integrity is more common than most of us arm-chair psychologists want to admit, and in the rush to slap a label on narcissistic behavior, we’re often too quick to slap the ‘personality disordered’ label on somebody when maybe they’ve had an internal dialog going on between their more selfish self and their ideal self (hey, sounds a lot like a narcissistic ‘false self’ eh?), and they decided being selfish was the way to go…because responsibilities like jobs, raising kids, and mature partnerships like marriage… just aren’t all about fun all the time; they’ve come to view these things as burdens, and they resent them.

      The reason “maturity” comes into play, IMO, is because sooner or later, you would expect most people to figure out that those adolescent ideals of fun lead you down a path that isn’t fun at all.

      • Hmmm, where the line between immaturity and narcissism? I think cheating in your early twenties, no kids involved, may often be about that, and I’ve seen people learn from their own or others’ bad behaviour at that age.

        Many of the people described on this site have consistently shown the entitlement and self-centeredness for years, while managing to act reasonably and responsibly fairly consistently in other settings. My general theory is that in a long-term monogamous committed living-together relationship, whether marriage or not, ONE affair, fairly brief, can be immaturity and stupidity, or even an immature and messy way to get out of an unhappy marriage. But multiple affairs or long ones are probably about entitlement.

        But it doesn’t help that our culture encourages people, especially men, to be adolescents as long as they can possibly manage, and to see social constraints as being about control and hypocrisy, rather than about managing relationships so that people can be trusted and don’t get too hurt too often.

        It KILLS me to see that my kids have to turn away from one parent to have time with their other one, loving both, missing both. It KILLS me to see that their pleasure and joy in good times is reduced by always having at least one of the people they love the most absent.

        I know they’ll be OK in the end, they’ll adapt, they have one sane parent whose absolute over-arching priority is their well-being at ALL times. But I will never, ever forgive my ex for putting my kids through this, when we had so much going for us, it would have taken so little to make our relationship work.

        • In case it wasn’t clear: cheating is a dealbreaker in my book. Period. I think there may be rare instances where it is a one-time thing, a temporary crisis of sorts, but more often, reconciling sets a pretty low bar for future behavior and leads to a cycle of one person checking on the other and going through repeat humiliation until they can’t stand it anymore. Most of the time, it’s probably better to walk away from that, and I think you’d be setting a bad example for your kids if you didn’t walk away from somebody who doesn’t value your partnership with them.

          That being said, the kids do have to eat a crap sandwich too. And that sucks.

          It would be much better if they, though, if they had two parents who dealt with adulthood and life changes by adapting to their changing roles. Unfortunately, those of us here didn’t have that choice for one reason or another.

          And for some of us, there is some degree of personality disorder at work, I am sure.

          Heck, I am pretty sure my ex was having some kind of delussional disorder for months (she quit her job and was pretty paranoid to the point that when somebody spayed some letters in a neighbor’s yard with Roundup, she imagined it was possibly her ex-boss trying to send some kind of message–I kid you not). It was frightening both times she went off the rails, and both times she eventually (months into it) responded by trying to initiate affairs and divorce.

          I am kind of slow, but the second it hit me that this isn’t getting any better.

          But… there’s a lot more cheating and self-indulgent narcissism going on, IMO, than can be explained by personality disorders and such. I kind of think the Erikson model of ego-integrity might play a role for a larger number of people, even if that wasn’t my personal experience.

          • What you said about your wife is very interesting. Both my ExH and I had issues with mercury stemming from some very bad dentistry done by our very old, cheap and mad as a hatter family dentist. Verified, corrected, but the Ex was unable to chelate the stuff out. Everytime he took a dose he looked like a portrait of Dorian Grey.

            I remember what it was like mentally, and sometimes I’m can’t believe I pulled out of it. The world you perceive comes in SO DISTORTED. Paranoia is a big part of it. As is inappropriate anger from the frustration of being that way. BUT, I still knew the difference between right and wrong.

            My divorce lawyer had something similar happen to his wife of 22 years. She left him for a fling and it later turned out she had a pituitary tumor.

            Nonetheless, we have a society that seems to breed selfish, sexualized people. They just don’t develop the part of the brain that would allow you to feel anything for another member of the human race. How ultimately lonely.

        • Karen, your last paragraph sums it up perfectly for me. I’ll be fine but what my kids have gone through – and what they continue to go through as a result – is something I have a hard time letting go of.

      • Well TimeHeals, may be you are right! Maybe chumps like us are quick to assume that the cheater spouse is personality disordered etc. However, this fact is undeniable that by cheating (esp. serial cheating), and manipulating they have put their self ahead of welfare of children, anyways. Period.
        There are kids, who are loved by some of these cheaters (somehow…I never experienced it…and in cases I have seen closely, I see it just as a spackle). Quite often the chumps have been the single parent anyways as they were already doing most of the stuff anyways (cheaters rarely have time for all the difficult tasks associated with child-rearing. Even Fun-dad etc. are just ways to get past the more difficult job of creating a value-system in the kid).
        Then there are terrific widows/ widowers, who bring their kids up in admirable ways. One parenthood was a difficult route, but they traversed it for the benefit of their kids.
        Then why should “Both parent Industrial Complex” still insist upon their underlying assumption that forcing their will on the kids (many times as can be seen in the comments above) is right?

        • Also, TimeHeals…the last paragraph about “cheaters figuring themselves out, sooner or later”…is the common refrain of the Reconciliation Industrial Complex (how do I know…ughh..). Who knows when? and why should they?

          • I think you want to have an argument with me that I would never make 🙂 I am all about healthy boundaries and enforcing them.

            I would never tell somebody that they should wait 6 months, 12 months, or a life-time putting up with somebody who doesn’t value them and cheats and lies to them and while that somebody else tries to figure out how to accept the reality of their own life,how to be happy with it, and the value of integrity.

            Heck no.

            • I am sorry TimeHeals, if that was what it appeared to you. I was rather trying to get to the basic question:

              Are both parents (howsoever they have behaved by keeping their interests above everybody else’s) absolutely needed to bring up a kid in a good way?

              Your assumption about “they figuring themselves out in due course” or “that they might not be personality disordered, just less on integrity” are the two lines of arguments commonly assumed by Reconciliation Industrial Complex. Therefore, I argued what I did.

      • TimeHeals, I always have assumed that ‘sooner or later, you would expect most people to figure out that those adolescent ideals of fun lead you down a path that isn’t fun at all.’ But I’ve seen repeated examples of people who never do figure that out.

        And actually, if you don’t care about your kids, and you don’t care about hurting people, and if you don’t care about all that good stuff that comes w/long-term loving relationships, like trust, a shared history and a shared future, being w/someone who knows you well and loves you anyway, all that stuff, maybe it’s not so bad to be a cheating narc!

        My ex’s father is a perfect example; married to 3 chumps, one after another, and while it sounds like he became less physically abusive with time, the self-centeredness, entitlement and cheating never stopped, never even slowed down. Actually wife #2 was an OW, as was wife #3, and neither knew that until after they’d finally found out about his further affairs.

        But he seems fine! He seems to have figured out a system that works for him. You find a chump, sparkle at her, marry her, get her hard to work doing most of the house-and-family stuff AND earning a good living (he did always work hard, but life was a lot easier w/a wife who also had a good salary, often even better than his). Then you eat lots of cake. Keep doing this until chump gets worn out, then start again. He’s 70 now, but still a good looking old guy, w/some property and a decent pension, so he should be able to carry on pretty much indefinitely!

        Now of course, there were three children in total from the 1st two marriages, they got completely screwed over. But that was alright, no big deal for him, right? Well, two of them haven’t spoken to him for years, which I think he doesn’t like, but hey, there’s still one, his clone, who is following closely in his father’s footsteps.

        • That’s one way you can tell the difference between those who are just immature and those who are personality disordered. An immature person will wake up when that life of hedonistic fun with no responsibility goes splat. A person who is disordered will never wake up, no matter how bad their situation becomes. Their ability to blame others, shift perception, distort reality and reinvent themselves knows no bounds and has no end.

        • Hey, I said “Most people should eventually figure [it] out”. LOL.

          My parents had a childhood friend, and he’d be about 70 now if he was still alive. He never figured it out. It–whatever it was (and it usually involved him cheating)– was always everybody else’s fault. He was also a moocher, so my parents had to have some firm boundaries (as in, “No you can’t come over, and no you can’t borrow anything”) with him.

          A few things happen as you get older: chumps stop being chumps without healthy boundaries mostly (of course, not everybody… sad to say), and most people figure out life isn’t like something you’d imagine in High School.

          That being said, sure there are people who never figure this out. Some of them are probably candidates for a PD diagnosis, some of them may even be sociopaths, and some of them are just never going to come to terms and adapt to their changing roles as father/mother, grandfather/grandmother, or whatever, and that would be fine if they didn’t keep getting themselves into situations where that’s what is required. It’s like consistently applying for jobs you are not qualified to perform, lying on the applications about your qualifications, and then blaming the people who hired you for not training you.

          • Timeheels: I LOVE that work analogy. Man, that just nails it. When I told mine I was pregnant, he said “I told you I never wanted to be a father.” Now I know why he phrased it that way – he knew he’d ruin his family someday.

            Spot on!!

    • This issue is one of the reasons so many pediatricians, psychologists and lawyers fought for the diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder to stay in the DSM, the mental health diagnostic guide.

      Clinically it may make more sense to describe people on dimensions (a change that was planned for DSM V), but once you’re in court on parenting issues, that NPD (or Borderline, or Anti-Social) diagnosis is VERY important! And if there’s a good custody evaluation done, that will often come through.

      The problem is that the Both Parents Complex blindly assumes that all parents are reasonable people. But in about 10% of custody cases, there’s a personality disorder on at least one side. If at least the Complex recognized and consistently point that out, it would be a lot more helpful!

  • Certainly, single parents can do a good job of raising children. Yes, it’s nice if the kids can have two parents, but it’s not good if the marriage is bad or if one of them is disordered.

    I think that most narcs figure the system out and become good at chump-searching, chump-finding, and chump-maintaining. I don’t think the true narcs are terribly conflicted about their behavior, since they don’t have very deep feelings. They can fake feelings well to get what they want, but inside there’s more dead space than chumps can imagine. (In contrast, chumps have a lot of feelings and tend to assume that others also have the same. A mistake!)

    So, the narcs get good at working the system. Once you realize how little they actually saw you as a person (since the only person they really recognize is themselves), then, at least in my experience, anger goes away and you get closer to “Meh.” Which is sort of a shoulder-shrugging indifference.

    • I totally agree, David. We may assume that narcs will eventually learn because of the consequences of their actions, but in fact those consequences, which would upset us chumps terribly and for a long time, don’t bother the narcs much. A new source of kibbles and shazam! All is well!

      I had a long relationship w/ a guy who was clearly very smart, but didn’t talk much. Gave him the air of being ‘deep’, and lots of people spent lots of time trying to get his thoughts and feelings out of him, and when they managed, treated each one like a rare gem, no matter how banal it was.

      Eventually I figured out that he didn’t talk much, because he really really really didn’t have much to say. And he didn’t share his feelings, because he didn’t have many.

  • Slight clarification in first paragraph:

    It’s not good if one of the parents is disordered……

  • CL,

    Please help! I have been reading your column for over a year now and I hope you understand HOW MUCH you have helped so many of us. It has been a life saver finding this site.

    Here is my story:
    My ex is mostly passive aggressive and of course throw some narc in there as well. I have the typical story of being married for 25 years. Things were not going great but I thought we were hanging on. Let me put it that I thought we were hanging on. He was out starting another life with the OM under my nose.
    Like so many I found out close to Christmas. I was the fool and just assumed that he wanted to work things out. He said he would give up OW and try on our marriage. I even made an appointment with a therapist. He asked to go alone. I of course can not confirm but I know that he asked the therapist how to leave me and not work things out. He knew that I planned to continue seeing that therapist and then he would not have to do any of the dirty work. This went on for about 2 weeks and I discovered that he had not ended things. When I asked him if he had any plans to he stated “not at this time”.
    I then chose to tell our 2 kids ages 18 and 22 at the time. Kicked him out, changed the locks and put his clothes in garbage bags on the drive way. (Not on fire nor damaged) I was angry of course and wrote him many emails the first 6-8 months. Then I stopped and went NC. At first he blamed me for the divorce ( which he filed for 2 weeks after moving out ) because of how “badly I had handled things” now he blames me on the issues because I refused to communicate with him like an adult. When I did take his calls early on he would start ranting I would tell him I don’t have to take him being ignorant and I wasn’t going to, then I would hang up on him.

    This is the weird part. He has been out of the house for more than 2 years and to the best of my knowledge he lives with OW. He has never had either of our children to his home, NEVER mentions OW. Tells people that his private life is just that, private. His relationship with his children have NOTHING to do with this private life. He meets them a few times a year at restaurants. I know that the is protecting this relationship. He is afraid of his lies being exposed by the kids. I think that this is having an effect on the kids. They too can live in Never Never land and act like we just got a divorce because we couldn’t work things out and not because the lies and cheats. He is doing his best to get their respect. He is acting like the victim here, continuing to live the lie. If I were to say a word then I am just bitter so I keep my mouth shut.
    Now that I have started to date my daughter refuses to meet the man I am with, first one that I have asked them to meet. She says she wants nothing to do with him, just like she wants nothing to do with Dad’s whore. I have never blamed the OW and NEVER called her such names. I don’t feel that my dating is anything like what he has done as we are now divorced. I am just moving on.

    He is giving money to our son, which I have very little of and saying how he can’t help him out more because of the money he has to give me and the divorce. BTW the judge did make him pay more of our debt due to me being unemployed at the time. He was a joke in court all 4 times that he took me. Each time it turned out worse for him.

    Being the true passive aggressive narc that he is, he is doing all he can to not only play the victim but to not provide for our children blaming me, putting them in the middle. I tried early on to educate our children but they refused again stating it was because I was angry. I see what his mind fuckery is doing to them and it kills me. They won’t let me unwind his total bull shit.
    I am not to MEH but getting closer everyday. I am not so much angry at the past but more that he continues and is now focused on our children. I don’t want them to become chumps in the future, not with him nor whom ever that they may be with.
    I know that they will do what they will do but lets face it as a mother bear I want to protect my cubs. I also so how they are starting to think like him and justify how he was not happy so it was okay. I think him keeping her at bay is working as again they too can live in the world that we just got a divorce. As I heal they are starting to say how this was all for the better because I am happier. WTF Really?!??! I went thru HELL to get here.

    Question: Is it normal for these guys to pretend this didn’t happen? Do I sit back and watch the long term damage his mind fuckery is/will cause our kids and say nothing?

    Have to tell you I also loved your forgiveness piece! Truly believe that it is not my job to forgive and it no longer bothers me that I won’t. No anger just not on my radar. LOL

    Again please know that I am sure it was not just my life you saved because of this site. Please always remember how important you are to all of us!!!

  • >
    %d bloggers like this: