Dear Chump Lady,
I was amazed to find out that my ex (before D-Day) would attend holiday dinners at the affair partner’s (AP) house with all of her family there. Now the story that the AP fed her adult daughter was that my ex was in a bad marriage, and although he still lived at home with me, we lived completely separate lives (news to me of course).
So the rest of the AP’s family was fed this crap too, but still they must have suspected. And yet they seemed to accept and welcome my ex into their intimate family celebrations.
I don’t really know what they thought (except for AP’s daughter – I had the fortuitous opportunity to talk with her when I drove by AP’s house and saw my ex’s truck parked out front. AP’s daughter was very interested in talking to me when I told her I was the wife. She thought he was creepy and knew something just wasn’t right.) Now four years later the daughter seems to have accepted ex and embraced him into the family. I have to say this pisses me off that these assholes are forgiven like that.
It seems that many of us accept cheating in our midst without standing up and doing anything about it. In my work place, one of my employees was actively having an affair. I didn’t know what the hell to do about it. Fire her? Call her on it? Phone up her husband (who she had just married months before)?. In the end I did nothing. Time took care of it and everything blew up and she is now divorced and living with the AP. But I feel like I should have done something. Probably because so many people knew about my ex and the AP for YEARS and nobody said anything until one day when my best friend noticed that he drove down a certain road in my area all the time and wondered out loud to me as to where he was going? (Hence my drive by of AP’s house and seeing his truck….the beginning of discovery).
I feel that cheating is quite accepted in our society and in fact glamourized to a certain degree. When I have discussions with people who have not experienced cheating or cheated themselves, cheating to them is “whatever”. But it sure is a different story when I talk to people who have been cheated on…..whoa, that shit sandwich never goes away.
What do you think? Should we stand up and yell “cheater, cheater” when we become aware of a cheating fuckhead or just stand by and let it take its course? Should I fire my cheating employee?
I fielded this one out to my employment lawyer husband on the question of can you fire an employee for being a cheater. (Disclaimer — I’m not a lawyer, I’m a chump, so get proper legal counsel. And my husband works in Texas, not wherever you are, so keep that in mind.) He writes:
It depends on several factors (standard lawyer response, right?). They need
to seek the advice of an employment lawyer in the state where they live.
If they are a union employee, their collective bargaining agreement likely
gives them rights above and beyond the typical “employment at will” employee
(i.e., can only be fired “for cause”). If they’re not a union employee, in
TEXAS, it would NOT be illegal per se to fire someone for infidelity. but
you have to be careful to be consistent to avoid creating the appearance of
discrimination based on a protected factor. For instance, you can’t just
fire the cheating men but not the cheating women, which might draw a lawsuit
for gender discrimination. FWIW, I’ve heard stories (unconfirmed) that it
was the policy of Ross Perot’s company, EDS, to fire employees whom it
learned were cheating under the rationale that any person who would betray
their spouse would betray their employer.
Also, it’s not unusual when the affair is between two employees to just fire
them both for creating a personally unsustainable situation at work (e.g.,
Marsha won’t talk to John, because he dumped her, and John is perceived as
playing favorites with Jill because they’re known to be dating). But to fire
one and not the other (e.g., the man but not woman, or visa versa) would be
My advice? Judge people at work based on how they perform at work. PERIOD.
Anything else is asking for trouble. Once again the rules applies: If it
feels good, don’t do it.
So, sorry. It sounds like you have to keep working with Miss Cheaterpants. But you have my permission to dislike her and give her as many status report assignments as you want. Maybe insist that she write all her business correspondence in Comic Sans 24 pt. type. Or declare that the dress code now include clown shoes… But only for her job.
Oops. But that would feel good, so on the advice of my lawyer — don’t do it.
On the larger issue of calling cheaters out in your personal life? Sure. Go for it. It might make you unpopular, but hopefully not with the chump that’s finding out. (Although there are the sorts that want to kill the messenger, which is a risk you have to consider.) I think it’s perfectly okay to not be “neutral” when a friend divorces over infidelity. I think it’s fine to not buy the narrative that the cheater is spinning, and if they try it on you, to say “Oh really? I heard you were fucking strangers you met on Craigslist. Huh. Funny how folks grow apart…”
As for the OW’s family? You don’t control that, so let it go. Either the apple doesn’t fall from the tree, in which case they’re all a bunch of moral midgets. Or, they love this woman and have to hold their nose about her personal life — which is VERY common, and something I think most of us are guilty of. Keeping the peace for family harmony. Even if that peace is brokered over your crushed soul. They don’t know you. They know her. Most people will choose awkwardness over confrontation. Now, they may gossip behind her back. They may secretly despise your ex-husband. But they’re not going there over Thanksgiving dinner, KWIM?
When it’s your own in-laws selling you down the river? Same deal. No one is “winning” here. They’re stuck with the Cheaterpants couple and it’s probably not the Norman Rockwell scene of family bonhomie that you imagine. It’s like imagining that the cheaters are going to be So Much Happier Without You. No, Uncle Chester is still an alcoholic. Aunt Doris still dominates the conversation about her scrapbooking adventures, and your father-in-law is watching Fox News. Nothing to miss here. Move on.
You only control YOU. That’s it. You want to call out cheaters? Go for it. Bring a megaphone if you want. But you can’t expect other people to join you in your outrage. If they haven’t lived it, they probably don’t get it. And if they don’t have the empathy to imagine it? There isn’t a megaphone loud enough for them to hear it. I’m sorry.