Hey Chump Lady,
So here’s my deal — my divorce was just finalized a few weeks ago. The past seven months of Hell led to the culmination of a twelve-year relationship that abruptly ended because of the bad behavior of one person. Like a scene out of a movie, I came home early from work one day to find my husband standing in our bedroom, with the look of guilt on his face like he had someone hidden in the bathroom. While I didn’t find the other person that morning, I did find the apartment brochure and application he had stuffed in his coat. Within a few seconds, my beautiful life had ended and a complete alien had invaded my husbands body and mind.
To spare all the disgusting details, I discovered the affair about four days later. My investigative skills were out in full force and with evidence in hand, I confronted him. How awesome for me that he still refused to admit what he had done. Here’s the best part — he was having an affair with a co-worker, and even better yet, we all work for the same company, in the same building.
Fast forward to the present, divorce completed. I picked my children up today after they spent the past three nights with him (gotta love these no fault states, equal rights for all parents no matter how bad you wronged the other person). Anyway, I pick up my kids and they tell me all about meeting their Dad’s friend, the OW. How I was able to control my body, I have no idea, because my mind was erupting like Mt. Vesuvius.
So here’s my question — how do I get through this? The thought of this wretched home-wrecker being in the mere vicinity of my children is revolting. And to be clear, this has nothing to do with my ex dating. But it has everything to do with my children being around the evil witch who helped destroy our family. Thoughts?
Thoughts? You don’t control this. You’re divorced. Your ex can associate with circus clowns, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or pig farmers — it’s not your business. Unfortunately, that also includes associating with the OW. Unless she’s putting your children in immediate and demonstrable harm, the courts don’t care.
Some people are able to get provisions in there for no overnight guests, or no introductions until a certain point. And then guess what? You become the ex police. How exactly are you going to monitor who sleeps when and where, who is introduced to whom? By getting in his business. Or by asking your children. Or by initiating lawsuits when they volunteer information that goes against the order. And that shit is exhausting and expensive, and makes you the bad guy Who Cannot Get Over Him, which is of course kibbles to him and to the OW. Oh, let the triangle continue!
It’s all a total no win. And it’s unjust. I feel your pain. I’m just telling you the truth — there is no way to control your ex’s bad decisions. There was no way to control them when you were married to him, so why would you think this person would behave reasonably and considerably now? Same with the OW. This person displayed no boundaries in going after a married man — do you think she’s going to show some special consideration for your children? No. She isn’t.
You don’t like her (rightfully). With rare exception, the courts don’t care. You’re divorced. If you have some provision in there that he may not make introductions or have overnights, and he violates it — you get to document that. You can get in front of a judge and complain, petition for full custody, and see if it buys you any traction. I tend to doubt it, and especially so soon. If you don’t have those provisions, and he’s just a dickwad — I’m sorry, this is a shit sandwich you must eat.
You only get to control YOU. If your children are distressed by meeting this person, and the whole situation, get them into counseling soonest. Be the stable, sane parent. The OW didn’t win a prize with your ex-husband — and just because she waltzed into his life, doesn’t mean she can steal your children from you. You are their MOTHER. They love YOU. Those bonds are primal. They’ll figure out dad and the OW in their own time, in their own way. Your job right now is to just focus on you and the kids and let go of them.
I know it’s fucking with your head, but the best thing you can do in this situation is practice meh. Remain dignified. Let it play out — because I promise you, it will play out. Martin Luther King, Jr. said “the arc of moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” It’s essential to take the long view. Either this relationship with the OW won’t last (highly likely), or if it does last, it’s two cheaters making each other miserable because they have the life skills of pond scum.
Trust that they suck. You’re going to go on being you — a caring parent, a kickass survivor, a person of integrity. They are going to go on sucking. It is what they do. Your children are not stupid — it make take a few years, but they WILL figure it out.
I know you hunger for justice now, and that begins with her not being able to touch your kids, but she can’t replace you in their hearts. However despicable your ex-husband is, your children probably want a relationship with their dad. They still love him. And the price of admission for his love is putting up with her.
They’ve had a lot thrown at them, so they can’t wear your grief about her too. Best thing you can do is let go on this. You’re free to tell your kids you don’t like her, that you’ll never be “friends.” You’re free to explain the infidelity to them. But you need to give them the space to have that relationship with their dad — which yeah, may suck for them. Just keep being awesome, keep healing, and stay as no contact as you can with the ex and the OW. It won’t be long before one or the other of them I bet, comes home to their own mysterious apartment brochure some day.