Stay in Touch

Check out CL's Book

We Both Love You

Character assassination is a real thing, as I’m sure many of us here know, as we’ve been at the receiving end of our ex-spouse’s justifications for affairs and their rewrites of marital history. It’s painful, it makes a person feel powerless and full of inchoate rage. It’s not enough to be cheated on, now you have to endure the insult that you were a bad partner, parent, housekeeper, lay…

It puts the chump in an awkward position of wanting very much to defend oneself, but knowing that doing so makes you come across as defensive and the very essence of the batshit crazy person you’ve been cast as. So, you eat the shit sandwich known as the High Road. Just live your life with integrity and know that for the people that really matter, this is enough. And for those who aren’t persuaded? Fuck ’em.

I advise people on Chump Lady to speak their truth — don’t wear the shame of infidelity. It happened to you, you didn’t cause it. Maintain your dignity. It’s a balancing act, of course, of who you tell what, and how much of the sordid history you want to get into.

But nowhere is this balancing act more precarious than with our children. Some people maintain the cheater spouse’s image for the kids, and don’t tell them of the infidelity, for not wanting to damage the relationship. Many quarters advise this. I do not. I think children deserve to know why their family broke up. I think they deserve the truth — in age appropriate ways. And they deserve to hear it without editorializing (i.e., “Mom is a whore.”) Otherwise, children grow up with this nebulous sense that people “fall out of love” — versus the truth that life has deal breakers and consequences, and bad actions equal bad results.

Children still love their cheating parent. And the chump is put in this difficult role of accepting that relationship, and not feeling hurt by a sense of disloyalty. (Don’t you know what they DID to ME?) If the cheating parent is truly narcissistic and disordered, however, you also want quite desperately to protect your children from that hopeless, unrequited painful love of the narcissist. You don’t want your kids to suffer as you’ve suffered. The pick me dance. The mindfuckery. The devaluing.

Maybe, you tell yourself, it will be different with them. And of course, the cheater usually says things to this effect — “I divorced you. I didn’t divorce my children.” But then you watch as this person goes on to manipulate and devalue your kids, just as they manipulated and devalued you. And what do you do?

Well, if you listen to any of the parenting-through-divorce advise out there, you say to your children things like “we both love you” and “just because mommy hurt daddy and lives with the OM now, doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you.” And you get the message that it is of paramount importance that you never speak ill of the other parent and you do everything in your power to facilitate that relationship.

And if you’re like a lot of chumps, you do that even as the other partner is engaging in that very sort of character assassination of you. Which really can be more of an incentive to take the high road. I’m not going to fuck up my kids like the cheater did. I’ll let them figure out their parent in their own way in their own time. And you try, try, try to let go.

I don’t have any answers on this, I just have a lot of hugs for all of you going through it. It’s incredibly painful. But I do believe kids figure it out in time, who the fucked up parent is, and which parent really has their backs. You might endure years of Disney parenting and bribery, and mindfuckery to arrive at that point, but I do think you’ll get there.

But meanwhile, I’m wondering about the statement “We both love you.” I think it might do more harm than good. I don’t think the chump has an obligation to tell their children that the cheating parent loves them. I think we need to back off and let our children draw their own conclusions.

I’m guilty of this. I told my son for years that “we both love you.” I didn’t have infidelity with that marriage, I had mental illness. And while I explained to my son in age appropriate ways about his father’s mental illness and how it limits his father, I always maintained that his father “loved” him. And maybe he does. I don’t know.

What I do know is this — he neglected his son, refused to make him a priority, canceled on him, failed to show up for significant events, harassed his school teachers and administrators, didn’t pay his medical bills, had to have his wages docked to pay child support, fought about that, sued multiple times, didn’t call on birthdays, or Christmas, withheld affection and encouragement — bringing us to this year, when he canceled on a summer visit with less than 24 hours notice with an email that simply stated “It’s not a good time.”

How could it not confuse my son that I said this person “loved” him? This is how love behaves?

How do you reconcile “love” with such unloving acts? Did I raise a chump? Someone who is going to spackle over bad behavior with the notion that it doesn’t really matter because above all he is Loved?

I think it’s better to say — this is bad behavior. This is what it looks like. You deserve better. You didn’t cause your parent to behave this way. This isn’t on you. I’m so sorry you’re hurting. I know you must be disappointed.

I do NOT think you should connect the dots for them “Your parent doesn’t love you.” But I don’t think you should lie either and speak of some mythical love that is rarely demonstrated.

If you’re divorced, it’s time to stop speaking with the royal “we.” You don’t advocate for the other parent any more. Instead of “we both love you” — try “I love you.” And then show it, as word matches deed. I bet your children can tell the difference.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at Read more about submission guidelines.
  • I agree. My kids don’t care if she cheated, shot up heroin or killed sponge bob. They will love her no matter what and do. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t understand what character is. What better way to discuss character than to use an example close to home.

    When my ex left for her ‘perfect life’ she sued me for divorce. That ended up going to trial. We had nothing to go to trial for but she chose to smear me. She wanted everything of mine including such things as my tools. When the judge said what would you want his tools for she said “I can sell them”. She never got the tools. The first thing she wrote on her court papers was that the worse day of her life was the day she met me as I used mind control to convince her that she loved me. I kid you not. It was a story for the books.

    Along the way she falsely had me arrested for supposedly hitting her, filed a restraining order which denied me my children, and she even went as far as to go to my kids school to tell them I was abusing the children which of course got child services after me to find out I wasn’t. She even went to a woman’s abuse group so they could teach her everything she needed to do to get rid of me so she could have the man of her dreams. And during that journey she never cared what she was doing to the children then or for the rest of their lives. Doesn’t get any more selfish than that.

    Four years later, she has destroyed my family. She married the scumbag. And both of them tried to go to the police to make false accusations against me to get me arrested. The police thought they were nuts. They were right.

    She went from a serene stable home with me and two kids to a house with two dogs, three cats, two additional children (his), and now his mother who lost her house so lives with them. I’d say I got the better deal.

    Four years later and my only communication with her is email and an occasional text. Why? Because she doesn’t deserve any communication with me. She fantasizes about what our relationship was and how terrible it was for twelve years. And her constant harassing and inflammatory emails? I ignore anything she says except when it’s related to scheduling of my children. And while the thorn that she is will always be in me, I’ve done my best to get it out and sooth the pain.

    At this point I’ve got a bigger issue, protecting my children from what she is doing to them. I never asked for this but I’ll deal with it. And I’ll grow as a better person along the way. Already have.

    And the beast that is in her? I got a rare glimpse of it and actually was able to record it. This was recorded around the time when she realized she needed to free herself of my “abusive ways”. When she realized the “love of her life” was just a few false accusations later.

    Wait about 15 seconds in for the beast to show itself. Worth the listen.

    • You know Walter, I don’t know if you can protect your children. Unless she is doing something to put them in immediate harm, physically neglecting them or otherwise abusing them, it’s very difficult to get a court to care.

      All you can do is be the best parent you can be, on your time — and get as much of that time as you can. It sounds like you still have visitation with your kids?

      I do think they will figure out their mom in their own way, in their own time. It sucks that those lessons are painful and you can’t protect them. But for them to learn, you do have to let go. It’s so hard.

      • I lost all I had to get joint custody even after she did her best not to let me. So I have teh only thing I wanted. I am the best parent money can buy.

        As for protecting them I’ll give you a scenario. I can’t stop the rain, but I can put a rain jacket on my kids to protect them from getting too wet. Best any parent can do. All I can do against the mother who expresses her anger and self disdain on the children. They are terrified of her.

        Yes they know already about her. My oldest even made the mistake of mentioning around her the possibly living more with his dad in therapy. The therapist said the mother was not happy about that.

    • Wow, Walter, I don’t doubt your story but, I got to tell ya, that could have been me on several occasions – that’s the primal howl of a hurting female. Maybe your wife is an award winning actress? I’m sure glad my husband didn’t record and post the sound of my breaking heart on the internet. Clearly our situations are different, I was faithful and he wasn’t – so I can empathize with your pain too.

  • CL,

    Great post, a good step for those of us just starting the shit storm our cheaters have created.

    I can say that I do not use the royal we when I talk to my children. I only say “I love you” to them. I separate her and myself in every conversation to my children. I would love to show them her true self, but that is something that I don’t know how to do. I cannot put the bad feelings I have for their mother on them and ask them to carry that burden. I do believe in telling them in age appropriate ways. I wish there were more answers out there. Or someone to just tell me “Here, this is what you need to do.” “Angels sing, the heavens open, bright sunlight blinds me”

    My kiddos are great, and I cannot lie that when I say “I love you” and my daughter auto replies and “mommy does too”, it hurts. It hurts because I know xW is already in a new relationship, and says she loves him. Maybe even plans on moving in with him. How are my kids going to react to the fact that now there is a person they are forced to live with and he has two children of his own? WHO THE FUCK DOES THIS SHIT TO THEIR OWN KIDS???????

    • The crazy people that’s who. The kids don’t deserve this crap at all. The crazies dwell on and truly believe the statement Tracy mentioned “I divorced you. I didn’t divorce my children.” (in my case it was “I didn’t betray the kids, I only betrayed you”). Yeah Right!

      As Tracy points out, they will eventually figure it out. You just need to trust that they are smart and they will figure it out. Mine are old enough and have figured out who’s crazy and who’s just goofy/weird.. D18, S15, S12 I’ll take goofy/weird over crazy anytime.

    • People who think only of themselves, RC, people whose entire lives revolve around the only one that matters…themselves.

    • My x said, “I didn’t leave the kids, I left you!” He even found a childless “therapist” who sympathized with his side of the story and reassured him, “You can leave your wife without leaving your children.” (Idiot so badly wanted to believe her….) Well, lying to them, and leaving the family home and spending more time and money on a skank ho than on your kids does not look much like love to me. Maybe he had love in his heart and was putting the kids first when he bowed out of family day trips and vacations to fuck that piece of trash who helped him ruin his life, but that doesn’t sound right to me….

      • Stephanie, sometimes it still just astonishes me how truly sick in the head these people are. My ex did the same, always on the phone, texts, internet with his AP’s, “business” trips with them, expensive gifts for them, took our 2 youngest children’s college funds to use to wine and dine and live that lifestyle; meanwhile he was always “sick” and “too tired,” etc to participate in family outings, discussions or even holiday meals.

        He betrayed and left me, he betrayed and left his children. He is one sick fuck.

      • All I can think to say right now is this,

        For I am the Lord your God who take hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear; I will help you.”

        Isaiah 41:13

        I’m fighting a battle in my head.

        • I’m saving your quote RC, in my archive, it brings tears to my eyes and such comfort. We are all fighting that battle in our heads, and I do believe in the end it is a battle between good and evil.

          • Kelly,

            The feeling of good vs. evil is tangible, at times I feel as though I have it weighing on my shoulders and it shows on my face. A friend told me to shut it off, the feelings I have towards her, Good and bad. I don’t know how. So I come here and talk to you all.

            • RC not sure how long since your dday. but I’m 9 month past dday and I am closer and closer to meh that I can almost taste it.

              • 10 weeks since dday.

                She is with OM, told a mutual friend she was in love with him. I’m guessing that is what spurred her wanting a divorce. I wish I wasn’t such a chump and just filed the moment I found out about EA (I did most everything that your not supposed to do when she told me). I filed in july, I’m hoping that Oct will be our last day in court. We’ve agreed to everything.
                I was angry but not that all surprised seeing as how the first time we split up she did the same exact thing. I don’t want my kids to ever go through this. ever.

      • I agree…mine does the exact same thing and wants so much love from my boys!!! he believes it is expected of that they continue to love him unconditionally!!!!

    • My XWH, that’s who. He married the OW one month after the D was final and moved her and her two kids in. My kids are managing it because I’m the primary physical custodian, and I have them in IC. I am grateful and relieved that they don’t spend any more than one weeknight and EOW with their dad and his new “insta-family” because I think any more time than that would be very stressful for them, and they’d be exposed even more to their father’s careless, trying-to-suck-up-to-the-Owife’s parenting. He’s trying so hard to be the cool parent and is lowering his standards to the Owife’s parenting standards.

      Give them tons of love and be their rock, RCCola. Our kids need our love and stability now more than ever.

      • MovingOn,


        I live in fear that my kids are going to grow up like their mother, who grew up to be like her mother. What can I do other than be their rock? I just want to go home and hug my kids right now.

        • RCCola, your kids don’t have to grow up to be like their mother and grandmother!

          If you’re worried they have a tendency towards narcissism, it’s REALLY important to provide love AND limits, to not allow them to behave or speak in entitled ways, to (lovingly) require them to contribute to family tasks and to caring for others. To show them (if they’re small or clueless) and later ask them to tell you, how others feel, how others might feel under certain conditions, how others might react to things, and especially how their behaviour affects others – for good and ill. To help them understand their own emotional reactions, learn to calm themselves, learn to plan and use judgement. To make sure their behaviour has consequences – good and bad (and the bad consequences should be MILD, very MILD; teaching, not punishing). And to spend lots of time w/them, loving them to bits, so they don’t need to settle for superiority and entitlement over connection and trust.

          As you can tell, I’ve been thinking about this! My daughter (12 ys old) has a temperament very similar to her dad’s (and equally narcissistic/violent/adulterous grandfather as well), and I’ve worked hard to avoid her ending up a narc. And it helps so much to hear, here, that kids can do OK with just one sane parent!

          I’d love to hear what others think about this, what do you try to do with your kids, so they come out with a good balance, neither chump nor narc.

          • Karen,

            I know they don’t have to grow up like their mother, and I know that their education starts and stops with me. I just thought that their mother would have tried harder and concentrated more on us and me rather than herself. I thought she would have wanted to break that cycle her mother, aunts, uncles and grandmother all fell into. This shit just sucks plain and simple. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my kids, and I love them so much. It hurts to know that I only get them half of the time now…..

        • My husband has some pretty strong narc tendancies. (We’re still together but there’s a reason I’m a regular on this site.) His upbringing had a lot to do with it. If you don’t want your kids to grow up like her, you have to teach boundaries. Narcs get their way by overruning boundaries. Children brought up in a healthy manner learn that action = reaction, bad choices = consequences. You lie to someone, they have trouble trusting you. You cheat on your homework, the school is notified and you get an F. DH’s mother never believes anything is his fault. He’s perfect. She lets her children treat her like dirt. At the same time, she’s emotionally distant and verbally abusive. The combination creates a push-me-pull-you effect. Emotional alienation with an inability to survive without someone else to blame/do things for them.
          Raise your children with loving boundaries. Let them make small mistakes and don’t let them blame others for them. Those are the lessons that create an empathetic overcomer instead of a narcissistic blamer.

          You can do this!

          • KT,

            Thank you, Sometimes I just don’t know what to talk to them about. I ask them how things are going and it makes me wonder if their mom is telling them to keep secrets from me. Mainly about OM. I don’t know if I should be prying or just not worry about it, if I do then I’m letting xW actions control how I am talking to my children.
            I’ve been setting my boundaries with the kids, but most of all I am just there spending time with them. Playing games, talking, hanging out with them before their bed time. No TV just chilling out before we say prayers and good night. I want to loose the anger, the hate I have for their mom. I want to be Meh

  • I have told my children (youngest 14) the truth. That I did not break this marriage, he did. That he did it by having an affair and continuing to treat me with disrespect.

    I warned him I was not taking equal blame. I told them I still loved and cared about him (because I do) but that I was no longer going to tolerate being treated badly.

    It named the elephant in the room and really helped us all move along.

    • There are days when you get glimpses that the kids are wise beyond their years…..In a discussion with my middle child, I was attempting to explain why we had split up and he looks at me and says “Momma, we are studying Holy Matrimony, in religion class…..didn’t you and Daddy take Vows? It’s OK Momma, I get it, its OW, I get it……” talk about a tough lesson to learn as a kid……small consolation…but they know more and perceive more than we give them credit for.

      Outta the mouths of Babe’s……

  • My child was very young & along the way I told her the truth so she did not take any internal blame or shame. There was still damage, but I believe it lessoned it. Don’t expect much from Dad, and you will not be so disappointed. In our case, he was a non-participant. What CL & many others have gone through just sounds horrific! The punishment seems like it will never end for being a Chump and trying to believe someone does not intend to destroy you or your children!! Chumps are naïve to the dangers of personality disorders, and project their innocent & understanding bend onto others to our peril.

  • Truth lives – and allows anything it shines on to ultimately grow and thrive. I told both my children the truth – not in gory detail – but no varnishing/spackling to protect my ex’s image. Not that I needed to worry about that – he did a fine job of peeling back the paint on his real self just by his own deeds: told them he was leaving in 2 sentences and walked out the door; refused to pay enough support to allow us to stay in our home (the only home they’d ever known); tried to bring the OW to my one daughter’s basketball games until she told him that she’d ask for him not to be allowed to attend if he did; cut off support for that same child the DAY of her graduation (which must have been his present to her since he brought her neither gift nor card); threatened to call the police on my older child when she got into a shouting match after running into the OW with her father at a community yard sale; told them both that he couldn’t live his life for their happiness – he was responsible only for his own happiness even though he “loved” them – but they weren’t going to tell him what to do….etc., yada, yada ad nauseum.

    It is definitely so much harder if the children are young and visitation comes into play. I thank God every day I didn’t have to face that long term. But even then – I don’t think anything but a “kid friendly” version of the actual facts will do. They are your children and should be respected enough not to lie to them and create a fantasy about a rotten parent. And NO – no chump should ever try and “protect” the image of an ex with a child.

    Am I sorry that my two children (both adult age at this point) want nothing to do with their father? Not one bit. I have had a few well meaning people hint that a child should have a relationship with two parents – to which I ask “why?” If one parent is a narcissistic, destructive a-hole with no real redeeming quality to offer…..why is that a good “parent/role model” for a child? Why should they be subjected to that person? How does that make the child healthier? By example? What – of what NOT to be as a person? They already know that – so I say to hell with the theory that two parents – even if one is a horrible example of one – is important. It’s not. You’d cut a tumor out if it was detrimental to your health. Cutting a bad parent out is just a different – but just as essential – bit of surgery to allow for a healthy life.

    • Absolutely, Char.

      For example – should the child that Ariel Castro fathered be forced to have him in his/her life? That would require that the mother, one of his victims, be forced to have interaction with him for the next how ever many years.

      Some people are just bad people. They need to be removed from the lives of healthy people.

    • Well said, Char! That’s exactly how I feel. How is having a relationship with a self-absorbed man who cares more about being fawned over and getting his junk serviced by his internet-order whorewife than in spending quality time with his kids any good for the kids? If my XWH suddenly became more involved with them (his involvement during our M was minimal) and had spent some time single so that he could put his kids first, then I would think that having him in their lives is right and healthy. But the most important thing to him was making sure that his back-up plan was waiting in the wings, and before we had even been moved out a year, he introduced her to the kids so that he could move their relationship right along.

      All my XWH shows my kids is that he is the most important thing in his own life and that when you leave a long-term relationship, you should immediately rush into the next one. While he’s not beating them or starving them, he sure as hell isn’t a positive role model whom I want my kids to emulate.

      My kids are little, but they know the truth of what their father has done. I kept saying that we had “grown-up problems,” and the mystery inherent in that phrase only created more curiosity and fear– what ARE these mysterious grown-up problems that destroyed my mom and dad’s marriage? When my eldest asked me point blank, “Did Dad basically ditch you for Mrs. X?” I answered truthfully, and it’s been nothing but age-appropriate facts since then. They are relieved to finally know the truth, I think, and they are also disappointed in their dad. I never tell them that he loves them, only that I love them– and I tell them that I am also disappointed in their dad and the OW’s choices and that it is important to be honest and loyal in every relationship. The kids’ IC has been 100% supportive of what I have shared with the kids. Realistically, you’re not bolstering your XWS’s image when you hide the truth or feel compelled to say nice things about them– you’re only showing your kids that you are willing to lie to them as well.

    • I’m also of the mindset of “why?” does a child need to have a relationship with their father. If he doesn’t see them or call them for 7 weeks and then emails me and says can I have them next weekend (not this weekend, because that’s not convenient for him) but next weekend, why is it the healthy thing to keep subjecting your kids to that. It’s basically reinforcing to them that they are not as important as whatever else Dad is doing and they come second. In my opinion it’d be better if he just never saw them then to just periodically drop in and out of their lives.

  • Character assassination is a bloodless form of murder. I think those that participate in it go insane in a “out, out, damn spot” McBeth sort of a way. And you are still around in physical form to remind them of their deed every time they look at you. They eventually HAVE to believe all the vile things they spew because they want justification for “killing” you. They brainwash themselves (with lots of help). They are truly nuts.

    Why couldn’t my ex just fuck that woman and keep his mouth shut? Why spin a totally alternate reality? Isn’t your “love” ENOUGH to keep you busy? What’s with needing to bond over how special you are and how awful I am?

    My ex traveled the country to where former friends of ours lived to break the news of our divorce so that he could tell his lies about me. He made a damn nuisance of himself, it was so important to him to rub me out. If I ever run into anybody from the old life that asks what the hell that was all about, I just tell them to go with what he says, nod their heads and agree with everything so that he’ll get out of their hair and leave them alone. It is just so important to him that people believe that HE is the injured party and everything he did is justified. It’s not his fault. He is driven by it not being his fault.

    He turned the whole affair into a mission to “save the kids” from me. Even today, married to the OW and with the luv child, there are occasional hints dropped that my kids don’t know the “real reason” for the divorce. I am so lucky that my state (Oregon) will not force you to have to joint parent with someone like that. “The court will not award joint custody unless both parents are in agreement” Right there in the statutes. God bless my attorney for making sure that happened, because I was still rather clueless as to how bad it really was. Not having to deal with ex’s screwy input and controlling ways made all the difference in the last 5 years to my kids and me.

    • “I am so lucky that my state (Oregon) will not force you to have to joint parent with someone like that.”

      You are lucky. I’m actually jealous. Here in Wisconsin, thanks to the father’s rights movement, a man basically has to be serving 30 years in prison to *not* get joint custody. (Which I am not opposed to the fathers’ rights movement; just the basic assumption that a particular gamete automatically makes a person a good parent.)

      Radio Flyer Princess and I both made a ton of sacrifices for Andy’s spending; Andy’s cigarettes; Andy’s other women (not that I knew it at the time).

      As for character assassination, according to Andy, we got married because *I* was on the rebound. My only relationship before Andy ended more than a year before I met him. His prior relationship *with a married woman* ended less than 6 months before he started dating me–which would be one month before he met me. And he even lied about that; because he told me it had been eighteen months.

      Then, a marriage was destroyed because he couldn’t cope with my disease–the one he knew about from the very first day we started dating–the one *WHICH HE WAS ALSO DIAGNOSED WITH*; the one which came out of remission because of a pregnancy I NEVER AGREED TO STOP USING PROTECTION–RFP and I both almost died during pregnancy. I spent over a year after delivery getting my illness back under control–and the only reason it came out of control was because I had to stop taking medication during pregnancy. But suddenly this disease was the reason he couldn’t keep it in his pants.

      And yet, when my medical doctor & my psychologist told me Andy sexually abused me for the duration of our marriage, because I told a very, VERY small group of friends –think fingers on one hand with fingers left over–I’m assassinating his character. And I even have the X-rays to go along with that assertion.

      RFP’s therapist even told me any abuse directed at the mother is not factored into decisions by the court–only abuse directed at the child matters in a custody question.

      What the hell? Does it matter which human being they tortured? Why would a court want to hand a kid over to someone who thinks the human mind is a playground? Or that integrity is circumstantial?

      And yet, if you voice this stuff in court, you can actually lose your kid entirely. It is so bogus.

      • Because courts care little about the welfare of children. Family courts are some of the most corrupt groups in the country. Courts actually get paid by the federal government to break up families and lawyers protect each other so that they can make as much money off the poor suckers divorcing as possible.

        I disagree with anyone that says kids don’t deserve two parents. Unless a parent is doing direct physical harm to a child, both parents deserve automatic custody. Is my ex a fuck up? Is she doing terrible mental things to my children? You bet, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve her as mother. Unfortunately like it or not the generational dysfunction of our society continues whether we like it or not.

        Is it fair that my kids mother took her own selfish desires over my children’s best interest and welfare? NO WAY IN HELL. But she tries her best to be a mother and no one should take that away from her regardless of what a selfish cunt she is.

        The research shows on thing clearly, some children brought up in dysfunctional families grow up to be some of the best most well rounded people. Some kids who grow up in some of the most stable families grow up to be some of the biggest fuck ups. I grew up without my biological dad and soon after gained a step dad. It was far from perfect but as I look back he was a great father to me.

        My kids live in a stable home half the month with me and in her house the other half with her scumbag husband, his two kids, his mother, and five animals. A house where they are not allowed to speak at dinner. It’s a house where their punishments (5 and 8 yr/olds) include doing loads of laundry and standing with their nose against the corner of a room. Am I happy about the many stories I hear? No, but my kids have contrast. Will they end up being stable adults? Time will tell how stable they end up but what is important is they have contrast in their lives to make decisions about what is right and what is wrong and from that can hopefully make smart decisions as they get older.

        As for fathers in jail, a mans discretions should not mean he can’t have the ability to be a good father, or the right to. Thanks to the feminist rights group taking a wrong turn some years ago courts very heavily favor women in divorces regardless of the fathers role or past as a father. When a women falsely accuses a husband of domestic abuse (95% of the time according to the research) courts automatically award the children to the mother. Should a father not be allowed to be a father because he may or may not have had issues with his wife, issues that have little bearing on his ability as a father?

        No child should be without two loving parents if both of those parents want to be part of that child’s life. I may have had a fucked up ex who did some horrible things to me and my kids but I’m not dumb enough not to see the importance of parents in any child’s life. Only courts are that stupid.

        • “The research shows on thing clearly, some children brought up in dysfunctional families grow up to be some of the best most well rounded people. Some kids who grow up in some of the most stable families grow up to be some of the biggest fuck ups.”

          Do you think you could find some links to that clear research and post them, Walter?

          In the meantime, are you familiar with the work of Alice Miller?

          • I doubt anyone into self help hasn’t read Alice Millers “Drama of the Gifted Child”. Alice Miller has some good points in all of her books but like many other readers I wonder if she really has worked through her own childhood issues enough to write unbiasedly.

            As for research start with a search at pubmed for “divorce” “children” as a start. Some fascinating older stuff and some new work including some that has yet to be published on the topic.

            • You were the one who made the appeal to authority. You look it up. It would be especially interesting to see the unpublished work.

              • The work I mentioned isn’t unpublished, just hasn’t finished to be published yet. But there is a plethora of stuff out there. Or simply use empirical evidence. I know some people who have had horrible childhoods who have done very well emotionally and some who grew up in “perfect” families who are some of the most screwed up.

                I am well aware of the research out there and the effects on children in what are considered normal families and broken. Like anything publishe dscinece doesn’t give answers only creates more questions. One has to interpret and have many sources to find legitimacy.

                As for Miller it’s clear to many readers and myself that she has a serious ‘mother’ issue that she never addressed so I take much of what she says with a grain of salt.

                One has to remember that as therapy goes, therapists are usually in that line of work because they come from the most fucked up families and live vicariously through their patients. The first question someone should ask a potential therapist is “Have you worked through issues with your family”. You’ll know in about ten seconds whether that is a therapist you want to or should be seeing.

        • Just to clarify,

          I’m not opposed to the assumption of joint custody.

          But there is a really, *really* big gulf between a good parent, and 30 years in prison.

          Andy has now dragged RFP to more specialists than some kids with leukemia see over the course of 2 years. To get 4 *different* major diseases diagnosed. None of which are actually of concern to the doctors.

          From autism, to cerebral palsy, to genetic disorders, to muscular dystrophy, Andy has demanded numerous tests be run on our daughter, all to feed his need for a “sexy, attention grabbing disease” rather than the even more rare hypotonia, which is not noticeable but far more unusual.

          Andy has flat out told me, in writing, that he believes our 7 year old will never hold a regular job, and he is actively hunting for a doctor that will diagnose a disease covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If the school or RFP’s doctors thought there was any reason to be concerned, I would have a drastically different attitude.

          Its hard to believe in 18 months, this many major diseases with drastically different symptoms are actually in a young child’s best interest to drag from doctor to doctor.

          Meanwhile, the school has expressed concerns at how much school RFP has missed to attend all these appointments; and RFP’s therapist has expressed concern at how much of RFP’s *life* she is missing by constantly visiting doctors and seeking various “treatments.” Andy has even got RFP sitting behind a (literal) glass wall at church for the weekly social dinner, because “the activity is too much for her”, even though RFP eats in a crowded school cafeteria 5 days a week without any problems.

          Regardless of gender, when someone injures another person over the course of a decade–I’m speaking of *physical* injuries–why in God’s name would anyone want to hand a child over to that person, simply because like almost 100% of the planet, they are capable of reproducing?

          It boggles the mind that the courts & even the mental health community seems to have bought the idea that a person can torture and terrorize other human beings, and still be a good parent.

          Do I think Andy loves RFP? As much as he’s capable of loving anyone. Do I think he’s capable of putting her needs ahead of his own? Based on watching his choices over the last 7 years (100% of her life), not a chance in hell. Do I think he’s capable of putting her in danger if his needs can only be met through that course of action? HE’S ALREADY DONE SO.

          • And I also want to clarify — in my situation, the ex was allowed all the same visitation time (unsupervised) that he would have had in the non-custodial joint custody situation. What full custody meant to me was not having him turning every little thing into a conflict that could potentially cost me $300/hr to deal with. No more using the kids as pawns to get to me. No more driving the kids crazy trying to get them to accept his life style.

            The ex’s original plan was for the boy to live with him and the girl to live with me, thus a 50-50 parenting split where nobody would owe anybody any child support. The court mediator nixed that in a big hurry — they don’t like to see the children split up. And the mediator’s exact words were: “Sooner or later, they all do the math. And this is fairly transparent to the court.”

            I really hate the term “custody”. Like my kids were prisoners or jail inmates. But that’s the term.

            • Shared parenting has been the term that groups I belong to use and it seems to less make a child a piece of property. Now if only we could get courts to actually do what is in the best interest of a child. It’s slowly happening and the golden uterus effect in courts is slowly starting to change to be more responsive to both parents needs.

          • BEB– it sounds to me like Andy has Munchausen by Proxy syndrome. I have no idea how you’d deal with that since I doubt that Andy will ever get help, but maybe you could float that by your child’s therapist (and CPS)?

            • I’ve looked into it. But since no one believes Andy is actually *dosing* our child with things to make her ill, the court won’t get involved at this time.

              Dragging her from doctor to doctor to feed his own need for attention is fine, so long as he isn’t feeding her poison at the same time.

              Welcome to family court up here.

  • I have said it before on this site but I will say it again. To lie to your children, whether on behalf of the cheater or out of concern for the child, is mindfuckery, it is gaslighting, but this time the victim is a child. We all as chumps sat there while still married and thought “what is wrong with this picture?? what is off?” Our exes claimed they loved us and the kids and that we must be nuts (in one way or another most cake eaters do this). And as chumps, of course our answer was: “It must be me…I am weak, my instincts are off, something is wrong with me…”

    Do we want our children to think like this? To see something is off or wrong, but be unable to understand why, and then assume it must be them that are unbalanced, or worse yet, plain old crazy?

    Our cheater was engaged in a life of deception, and even if we did not “know,” it slowly destroyed our bodies and souls. It lead us to cognitive dissonance, and often turned us into the thing our exes wanted us to be….”unbalanced”, having “mental problems,”…

    And why did we get like that? Because it wasn’t TRUE, it wasn’t HONEST, it wasn’t RIGHT, and we knew it in our gut; we knew it in our soul; yet we were told over and over that we were wrong, and we wanted to believe the opposite.

    That’s a fucked up way to be, it’s a fucked up way to live. It screws with your brain and your heart and your sanity. It’s no different for our kids. CL has said it so well, certainly we have to tell in a sane, age-appropriate way, and not editorialize (i.e. NOT: “your dad is a skanky ‘ho and had unprotected threesomes with family friends since before you were born…”).

    But our children deserve truth, as does anyone, after so many lies, so much deceit, and so much dysfunction. As chumps, with our children, we lived a life of lies up to this point. D-Day was my day of freedom, freedom from lies, freedom from gaslighting, freedom from dishonesty and deceit. I’m not leaving my children behind in all this to become chump children. I will never allow lies in my life or that of my children again.

    • I totally agree. My kids are young, but I said something along the lines of, “Your dad started dating Mrs. X while he and I were still married, and when you get married, you don’t date other people. That breaks one of the most important promises of a marriage.”

      It helped that my kids had just been forced to watch their dad marry the OW (oh yes… had to legitimize the relationship by forcing her kids and mine to watch the circus), and they remembered some of the vows– like forsaking all others. I suppose the silver lining of making them attend that charade is that they had a better understanding of the promises made in marriage that their dad broke.

      I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with the truth. I was drinking the “don’t tell the truth to the children” Kool-Aid until I started speaking with their IC, and when I heard a professional tell me that I needed to be honest when the questions started coming, I was ready with the truth when they did, and I don’t regret it at all. Frankly, it just felt wrong to be evasive, and since my XWH made it very clear that he didn’t want to talk about it with the kids– you know, they just needed to get over it already– I am relieved that I freed myself of the delusion that I was doing my kids some sort of favor by being XWH’s dishonest cheerleader.

      • Nothing makes me sicker than the child abuse that is forcing kids into a position of standing up for adultery by taking part in a farce wedding ceremony. As if that legitimizes everything. I’m ever so glad my kids were old enough to have to be invited to participate, and therefore able to say, “Hell, no”

        • chumpalicous,

          ME TOO!!!! There is something so obscene about a cheater who wants to playact at being “committed” before God and to make vows (again – oh – this time they REALLY mean them) after breaking each and every of those same vows in their marriage! To make children be a part of watching their pathetic cheating parent try and legitimize adultery is one of the most selfish, odious things that they can do.
          But they don’t care – they want that “marriage sparkle” and to just wipe clean their previous history with the ex….except with the children – they want them as props to show everyone that they are still good people and still great parents even though they treated the other parent like dirt under their shoes.

          • I just love how CL phrased this in a post a while back.

            I’m going to flub it a bit, but to paraphrase:

            “What does marriage mean to someone who’s already broken their marriage vows? Its a farce registered at Macy’s.”

            That really stuck with me.

            • That’s a great quote!

              My brother’s second ex-wife (whom he cheated on his first wife with) is now on her THIRD marriage, and she registered at high-end stores for all three of her rather grand weddings (and kept everything from her first wedding to my brother, so she must have quite the pickle dish arsenal). She cheated on my brother (shocker!), which ended that relationship, and then her second marriage didn’t even last a year. She couldn’t make the institution of marriage seem any more farcical. She clearly gets married for the Waterford crystal and not for the actual relationship.

      • yes, d13 had to be a part of the wedding too….she said that she cried the entire ceremony and all of the pics have her eyes swollen and red. when I asked her if anybody comforted her (like exMIL narc mother ship of dysfunction or god forbid, her dad?)….she said no not really. The photographer did though, who has been a good friend of my own for many years. Good to know she could rely on the photographer. teens get hypocrisy of course…and this is the only silver lining to the whole charade.

        • I like to imagine that judgment day is where all the pain they have ever caused others in this world, especially the innocents like children and animals, comes back in one great big lump and they finally “get it” by suffering all that themselves. Wailing and gnashing of teeth indeed.

          • Is there any way would could gain that ability and have them experience it right in front of our eyes?

            Having her experience 8 years of wondering, turmoil, gaslighting, felt lies, being punch and slapped in the face. The sense of worthlessness and hopelessness. All in one moment would be gratifying.

            • There actually is some testimony from after death experience types (see the work of Dannion Brinkley) that that is how it is, but sorry, I don’t know of any way to induce it in this life. Pity. It would solve that main problem — lack of empathy.

  • Soon after my divorce 4+ years ago, I tried to reassure my then-13-year-old son by telling him that his mother and I still both loved him. He responded, “But Dad, Mom told you she loved you, and look what she did to you. How can I be sure that when she says she loves me it’s any different?”

    I thought about trying to answer for about half a second but realized my head would explode if I tried to defend his mother any further, especially when I completely agreed with the boy. So from that moment on I’ve tried instead to teach my son about judging people based on their actions, with some success I think. He headed off to college this week after explaining to me that he’s concluded his mother has real issues with honesty and taking responsibility for her actions. He loves his mother, but he’s no dummy.

  • My daughter 13 has gone from daddy’s little girl he-could-do-no-wrong, to basically carefully ‘managing’ her interactions and visitations with him….most recently followed by his own rage at her that finally showed his genuine self to her too (oh and btw to his new skank wife/OW)….

    His true self came on through during a FOUR hour rage against her while I was traveling on business at the end of May. This, in addition, to all the shit he has done to her since he left our home….introducing her to OW/her kids within WEEKS of his leaving our home….constant lies, half truths, concealing his/ow activities from her so she does not ever question him….marrying skank less than 5 months after her parents divorce….numerous broken promises….not showing up or showing interest…and on and on.

    She gets him now….loud and clear. But, she still loves him and plays the pick me dance with now her younger step sisters (so sad and painful)…he is such a prick.

    I live out OUR life together by being honest and real. IF it, and it has, calls for my answering her questions about him and skank, I do. But, I don’t look for ways to pounce on him. He is so not worth it. But, we do get quite a lot of mileage out of OW/stepmonster. She is just plain dumb…and sometimes, when we are both ornery, yes it is too hard to resist.

    Sadly, they figure it out. Even kids who the parent walked on water. I look at it this way. Had I stayed, and endured more and more and more….she and I would not be nearly as close. He would be feeding her the poison that “I” was the problem and the CD would have been way worse. She probably would have believed him, because she would not have seen it up close and in the open sunshine. Now she does. She still wants to be with him, but it is not as often, and she looks for an escape hatch home each time. This summer she probably spent less than two weeks with him in total…even though we are on a week on week off ‘formal’ schedule.

    Tell the truth, but do so respecting that they do love that parent…and can’t cut them off until they can cut them off all on their own.

    • I am so there too. The day after my STBX moved out – he introduced our now 16 yr old son to his skank (his boss at work, his fuckbuddy everywhere else) and her kids as his new ‘step-mom and step-sisters’ – I kid you not. He then proceeded to take her side and her kids side on everything. Son has since managed his time with his dad – as his dad never spends time with his son alone and on the days he does see him, it’s for dinner and then either shopping or ‘family’ movie.

      I have tried to be honest, tried not to be too snide in my comments – but some days it’s hard because no kid should have to take the back seat to the OWs kids with their own parent or grandparents – yes, his parents are a prize too – they have totally dropped their only bio grand-kid for the two skanks kids.

      I too have tried to ensure that he looks at actions now, ignores the words and makes a judgment based on that. I can support him, I tell him I love him and I have stopped telling him ‘we both love you’ because I truly believe his father does not have that capability.

      Thank god he’s old enough to have a say in where he lives and I have virtual sole custody of him.

  • Honestly, I think people throw the phrase, “I love you,” around way too much. I prefer to show love, anyway. I do say, “I love you,” quite a bit, as well.

    My xMIL says it to my kids, “Your father loves you,” in a pleading way. Ick. They hear it. The words mean nothing, except, “Grandma needs reassurance,” because her son is a prick. When their father says it, it’s an excuse. “I love you,” means, “You should respect me,” or, “I’m not all bad.” It doesn’t mean, “I value you,” nor, “You are incredible,” nor, “I’m here for you.”

    We don’t need to say it so much. We need to show it more. Therein will be the difference.

    Most times, too, children know. Mine certainly do. My kids also don’t need to be told their father is hopeless. They figured it out. I don’t rub it in. I just keep being a good mom, trying to stay positive and supportive so they have, as CL says, one sane parent, and they know who has their interests at heart. Their interests are my interests–they are why I had kids. (Duh.) xH, not so much. And the kids know it.

    • Great comment Stephanie, you are so right. Talk is cheap, words can be empty. We need to concentrate on showing our love, or the words mean very very little.

  • In the beginning, I was always careful to reassure son about how much his dad loved him. I don’t bother with that shit anymore. Son knows his dad is a liar, a cheater, a narcissist and a loser. Son still loves his dad, although he also is ashamed of him and has zero respect for the man. I actually think the ex narc husband DOES love our son, but not nearly as much as he loves himself. Son is a prop the ex uses to show the world he is a normal, family-oriented, heterosexual man. Son is good for lots of kibble and plenty of Facebook posts that get the ex lots of “likes” from people who don’t even really know him.

    Son thinks his dad is crazy, and these days, instead of telling him his dad loves him, I tell him I am sorry he has a mentally ill father, and I know that is very hard.

  • This is a tough one. For a while I simply told the kids their father cares about them.
    Now with daughter (12) I say he loves them as much as he is capable of, though I do not think he understands what real love is….

    Son (10) is still innocent and does not see what his father truly is like at this point.
    Daughter is conflicted. She loves him, but is seeing his real side, and sees his difficulty with honesty. My mantra all year has been, actions speak louder than words. Look at his actions.
    I just found out that the exH told daughter some things and told her NOT TO TELL ME. Poor thing was told to keep secrets from me. No wonder she told me back in June “secrets are bad.” I told her, next time tell him you will not keep secrets. He should not tell her anything she has to keep quiet about.

    ExH keeps thinking he is a good father, but he is not. Good fathers do not lie, cheat, and abandon the family without making a real effort. Good fathers do not get married and start a new family without including his current children. Good fathers do not marry a woman who has only met his children once. Good fathers do not move overseas away from his children.

    Countdown to January when exH moves overseas with the new family. Then I will only have to see him a handful of times a year!

  • I like the idea that when you try to reassure your kids that their walk-away parent “loves” them, this is gaslighting.

    It so totally is! It sets your kids up to learn to ignore their instincts, their own observations, their values and morals. We are teaching them that any treatment, any behavior is ok, as long as it is couched with, “I love you,” as if words alone SHOULD erase or mitigate pain. No, the only thing that does that is either ignoring and tolerating bad behavior/abuse–and do we want to train our kids to do that?–or asking the abuser to leave with the understanding that their behavior is NOT love, no matter how much the abuser protests, “But I love you!” The choice is clear.

    Demonstrate love. Don’t beg the child to “love” the other parent if their instincts are correct. Don’t assail the other parent–it’s not necessary. Actions speak louder than words. Let that be true.

  • This post is SOOOOOO timely. stbx and I are separated and will hopefully will be divorced by next spring. The separation agreement agreed to and will just roll into a divorce decree once the agreed upon time has passed (stbx needs my health insurance for a certain amount of time to address his “alcohol issues”, this is been prescribed via criminal court and via family court). This has been working fine since last November. No issues, kid is happy, I am happy. However… stbx, predictably, does not want to be the villain, so never wanted to tell the kid that we are getting a divorce, until the actual divorce is closer. And honestly… a long term separation is difficult for most people to understand, let alone an 8 year old. BUT… stbx and OW now live together in his loveshack. When kiddo has visitation with stbx he picks her up and takes her out and about. No overnights since March (which is probably when the OW started staying there). Last Friday, while I was out of town, he texts me and says that he wants to take the kiddo overnight, but doesn’t want to have to explain having a “roommate” to her. I responded that I thought we should talk about the situation prior to this “introduction” and he agreed. But, its coming… Honestly, I am okay with it. I’d rather we all live our genuine lives than keep things secret from the kiddo. But the fact that we (probably me, since he’s a big chicken when it comes to conflict) now have to tell kiddo about the OW is causing me some anxiety. What do I tell her? How much do I tell her? Suggestions anyone??? Kiddo knows that her dad moved out because he did something that hurt my feelings very much and that when someone hurts you, you have to get away from them. And that is the extent of what I have told her. I have offered to answer any questions about that, and she tells me that she has none. She just accepts it. She and I have a happy life together, and she is happy to see her dad whenever he feels the need to pop up. She has very little expectation of him, and that works for them for now. I don’t worry too much about it because her dad may soon be going to jail for an extended period of time (3 dui’s will do that to you). I would rather let things flow for now and then get things hammered out once we all know if he is actually going to be around or not – should know by mid-October. In the meantime… what do I tell her about the OW?

    • Dani, this is what I told my then-12 year old (our other two children were young adults):
      “Dad has girlfriends and so we are getting a divorce.” My son understood that and never asked another question. He probably realized more about his father than I did by that point, anyhow.

      Your daughter is a bit younger, but I think something along the lines of: “I told you that dad and I split up because dad hurt my feelings. The reason they were hurt is that when your dad and I were married, he had a girlfriend. That is the reason my feelings were hurt and why he is not living with us anymore. Dad and I are also going to be getting a divorce when we can…. Dad is now living with his girlfriend and wants you to be able to visit and stay over there….”

      I am sorry you and your daughter have to go through this. Good luck and (((hugs)))

      • I like this, Kelly. I don’t have children, but I appreciate that your response is honest yet devoid of editorializing. You don’t have to say “Dad loves you and wants you to stay with him.” You just get to say, “Dad is living with his girlfriend and wants you to visit.”

      • I like that.

        I explained it to my 5 year old as “Your father broke really, *really* important promises to me, and E— helped him do it.”

        It impresses on Radio Flyer Princess the importance of keeping your word, telling the truth, and in general being a person of integrity.

        She seems to get it, as she has actually asked me before how to tell if her (future hypothetical) boyfriend is lying to her.

  • Isn’t withholding the truth about cheaters to your children just another form of cake? Make the fucktard tell the kids about the “special friend”. My father is the chronic cheater, and to tell the kids “your father loves you, he just doesn’t do anything to show it” is confusing, and image control. Plus, I think if you tell the cheaters you are going to tell the kids the truth, watch. It drives them nuts.

    As a child of a crazy marriage with an abused chump mom and narcissist dad, I would say that it is only helpful to confirm your kids reality. I became a really good judge of peoples character as a result of a seriously effed up dad, and when I call someone out on their lies, there are ten people right behind me breathing a sigh of relief.

    • I totally agree, Nancy, and I agree with CL. Be age appropriate. Don’t condemn the other person. But don’t be their savior either! Once you are chumped by a narc partner, you owe them nothing. You don’t have to keep their schedule. You don’t have to explain their feelings to the kids you share. You only have to explain yourself. If you are chumped Mom, don’t say, “Your father loves you.” Let him say/show that! That is now HIS job. (And vice versa for a chumped Dad.) Let him show that through his actions. Don’t do others loving for them!

      And Nancy is right, it confuses the kids. It sure confused Chump Son! (See my post in previous thread.) It teaches kids to accept too much abuse. The don’t realize that there are truly impaired people out there for whom “no contact” is the best response.

      Chump Son

    • I like your approach Matt. I thought I had achieved Meh a while ago, but then felt it slipping recently. This helps!

  • Chump Lady:
    I am starting to think that you have the ability to read the minds of us chumps. You so consistently post things that apply to my life at times when I need to hear them the most. Perhaps it is really that so many of us chumps are going through this difficult process of divorce after finding out about years of infidelity and we happen to be in similar stages of the process. The difficulty is the same for all of us even if our situations vary slightly. Regardless of whether you are a mind-reader or just a very thoughtful and insiteful person, I want you to know that I truly appreciate you, your words, and your support. I know the other chumps on this site to as well.

    If you recall my story, I had my DBH (Dirt Bag Husband) served in July (while he was out of town working on location) at 6:15am at his hotel room door with his mistress in his bed. The infidelity he subjected me to spanned over 10 years of our 21 year marriage. I suspect that the infidelity started much earlier, but that really doesn’t matter now. He has been having an affair for over a year, and he is in love with her now, of course. [Just can’t get enough of those ego kibbles!]
    What I am dealing with now is the after-effects of filing, packing his shit, and having him move out to an apartment. Both of my kids know the truth about the situation because I told them myself. My son is 17, so he knows and understands more of the truth about the fact that his father lied to me and to them for many years while he cheated on me with other women. My daughter is 9, and I have told her a more age appropriate version of the truth. Both of them also know that their father is in love with someone else and he has a girlfriend. They have both told me that they DO NOT want to be forced to be around the girlfriend and I have told them that I have already requested that their father spare them from that until after our divorce is final. Unfortunately, due to my DBH’s lack of discretion, they both know the name of the woman and have seen a picture of her as well.

    The DBH has, of course, not been very honest with either of them. He did tell my son that he cheated on me, but proceeded to tell him reasons why he was so unhappy with me as an excuse to justify his cheating. He has not really explained any of it to my daughter. He just told her that we were unhappy and that we are not going to be married anymore.

    Tonight, I am taking my kids to their first counseling session. It is important to me that they have someone they can talk to openly about their feelings and concerns regarding the fact that their parents are getting divorced. I do not want either of them to hold their feelings in. I believe that they need to be able to communicate without worrying about saying something that could hurt my feelings or upset me. I understand that is something children do, and I understand that it would be natural for them to feel the need to protect me. The control freak DBH has insisted that he be there tonight, so I am going to have to sit with the therapist for a few minutes with him so that we can discuss the situation before she meets with the kids.

    The reason I am writing is to get some advice from you CL and from some of the other chumps. The truth is that I am so angry, resentful and HATE him so much – I would just like to stab him between the eyes! The pain he has caused me and our children is just unforgivable. But, this is where I am, and I have to maintain my dignity and self respect as I deal with the break up of my family and my divorce from a narcissist. How to I get past my rage that boils just beneath the surface when I am around him so that I can present myself as a strong and sane parent for my kids?
    I have been able to keep it together very well for my kids mostly because I have been able to avoid being around the DBH. I have limited my communication with him to email only and he is not allowed to come in the house when I am there.
    Any words of advice you have would be appreciated…
    Thanks so much, Everyone!

    • How do you exist around him when you hate him? Try very hard not to have any reason to be around him, for starters. Once you’re divorced, those interactions can be managed, preferably by text and email only. At school events, sit with friends and sit far away from him. If he shows up like the proverbial turd in the punch bowl, steel yourself and ignore him.

      Your pain is kibbles to him. I’m sorry, if he’s a narcissist, he sees it that way. He’s looking for every indication that You Care. So don’t. Even if you have to fake it at first — don’t give a shit. That’s the cruelest punishment to a narcissist. Take away their kibbles, their centrality.

      The rage is finite. You’ll get to meh eventually, I promise. I know it’s unjust, but eventually you’re going to just accept this is who he is — and that person isn’t worth your precious time and attention.

      Love your children, be the best parent YOU can be. He’s not part of your team. He fired you from that job. And having that job? It sucked. He sucks. No one here to miss. Your kids will figure him out too some day, but let them have their relationship with him (and — ugh, her), and back off. They’ll connect the dots, and you can’t put your pain on them. They’ve got their own to work through.

      Hang in there — you’ve handled this BRILLIANTLY so far. (Love that he was served in the hotel with the mistress.) You’re doing great.

      • LOVE LOVE LOVE you, CL!

        Next time I see xH I am going to have a thought bubble over my head that says, if you look carefully, “Ohp, jeez, there he is, gawd–turd in a punch bowl, turd in a punch bowl…” and I very well might giggle to myself.

        Yes, I can attest that the rage and fear and gonna-pass-out-or-throw-up shaky feeling does dissipate. I think it’s better with time and I think it’s better with limited or no contact. I have no relationship with his family, and no reason to speak to him nor to associate with him EVER. I stay as far away from him as possible at school functions and look right through him if I do spot him. I do not make eye contact, I have nothing to say to him, I will not legitimize him in public just so he can say, “Hey, look, everyone, it’s cool–we get along really well!” Nah.

        Give it time.

        I’m moving through a phase, where I totally get the futility of rage. It helps that I am divorced and self-supporting and do not have to support him. It helps that my kids really limit their time with him. I am realizing he cannot be who he is not. It is my responsibility to see him for who he REALLY is, which is a pathetic coward who cannot handle reality. He has a lot of issues. I am better off without him. I am disappointed that I chose a guy like that to be my kids’ father, but I was young and idealistic and really thought I was choosing well, so I forgive myself. I would not trade places with the OW if you paid me.

        Not to be all Yoda, but hatred really does come from fear. I also think it comes from a disconnect between what is real and what you hoped or thought you had. It might come from feeling inadequate or partially responsible. Figure out where the hatred comes from and deal with it head-on. It will be such a relief.

      • Just want to add my words to CL. Rebecca, you are doing all the right things. Hang in there. Well done!

        Chump Son.

      • Thank you CL and thank you fellow chumps!
        I wanted to give an update… The DBH showed up at the meeting with the therapist. Before we went in there, he asked me to talk with him privately first. I said NO right in front of my kids. (I have nothing to talk to him about. And, his being there was not necessary anyway.) When the door closed and we were in there together his first question for the therapist was whether or not I had met with her previously before tonight. All of you chumps know why he asked that question. He is a narcissist with extreme control issues. He wanted to make sure I had not tainted the therapist by telling her too much before he had the chance to. (Too uch of the truth that is!) THE TRUTH IS ABSOLUTE – NO AMOUNT OF LIES CAN CHANGE THE TRUTH. He is only concerned about his own image and what people think of him. In fact, that is the main thing he is concerned about with the kids as well. He does not want them to think of him as the “Bad Guy”. Well, he is the BAD GUY! He lied, deceived, and manipulated me and my kids to allow him to cheat with strippers, hookers, random women, co-workers, and have affairs for the past 10 years. The guy cheated on me when I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter who is almost 10 years old. That affair lasted several months and she tried to convince him to leave me for her at that time. That same woman is the same woman he has been having a 2 year affair with recently. He is in love with her now. It takes a real special type of narcissist pig to cheat on a pregnant woman. Don’t you think?!
        I am going to try my hardest to do what CL suggests. I am not going to give him any emotional reaction at all. I have been pretty good about it so far. But tonight, I really could not hide my disdain and hatred. It was just impossible! I didn’t say much to him, but it was obvious that I can’t stand him. I certainly do not want to feed him any ego kibbles. This store is closed to him and I have the right to refuse service to anyone I choose! 🙂
        Thank you CL and fellow chumps!
        Best regards,

        • Oh Rebecca, you are so strong, and you will get through this. I adore the story of how you got rid of your DBH, you are a role model! My ex cheated on me for 17 years with 2 co-workers (that I know of), including while I was pregnant with my now 14-year old son. As soon as I kicked my ex out on D-Day, he said he was going to marry one of the AP’s (“he realized he now loves her more than me”). It’s hard and terrible, and I was luckier than you– my ex proceeded to run away and never looked back, and has not seen our 3 children since D-Day 1 1/2 years ago (I tend to think of my ex as more of a sociopath who knows he’s beat, rather than NPD who HAS to try I stick around and “win”). Stay strong girlfriend!!

    • I agree completely with CL, but something just came to me and while we have all said it, as I was reading your post Rebecca, I kept thinking… GOOD RIDDANCE!

      and thank you God that this bimbo has come along to take this lying, cheating dirt bag of a husband off your hands!!! Now, she’s stuck with him. HOORAY!

      so, why don’t we see it that way? Why are we so angry and sad and feeling hopeless? its because we are grieving the man that we fell in love with. But that man doesn’t exist. In fact, he NEVER existed. And it doesn’t matter if he’s conned the rest of the world into believing that he practically walks on water. He doesn’t. He doesn’t for us and he won’t for her. In time.

      We are angry at having to start over again in middle age and feeling lost and alone. But, I for one am so relieved not to have to endure yet another disgusting discovery of my h rubbing my sweet nose in his unsavory shit.

      Its my 25th anniversary today and I’m so surprised. I’m not at all sad. Thank you God for that. I had dinner at a lovely Mexican restaurant… Sat at the bar where our every culinary desire was catered to by two very, very cute young bar tenders.

      Life is good.

    • Maybe a change of perspective would help to move past the rage…in my experience, the rage/pain just kept me stuck because, like you, I focused on how she could do this to me and our kids. This screwed up my perception of my own self-value and that of my kids. Everything got way better when I started thinking about my own self-value…in other words why do I want to be married to a loser who could do this to her husband and children? The answer is that you don’t. Only a loser cheats on their family. Once that line is crossed, you have improved yourself as a person and your have improved your children’s life by moving on. The rage disappears.

  • Rebecca, the anger you are feeling is normal and a necessary part of healing. It will pass, so just accept it as part of the grieving process. try to channel it in positive directions to rebuild your life instead of using it for revenge. Anger is telling you that a deeply held belief of yours has been violated. It can give you the energy you need to change your life and is more productive than depression. I struggled a lot with feeling angry because it’s an emotion I tried to suppress for so many years, but it is actually a positive force when used the right way. For me the anger lasted about a year until the divorce was final and I was moving forward with my own life. I feel pretty peaceful now and you will eventually get to a place of calm acceptance and peace.

    • I agree, anger is a kind of righteous indignation- how dare he treat you like you’re less than some needy ho with no real soul? It tells you what he’s made of, though. Feel the anger if you want to, you’ll eventually let it go. I became a lot more peaceful when I just didn’t care what shenanigans he was up to anymore. Him and her, him with someone else, whatever.
      When you’re pregnant, you are at the height of your goddess power, any man who doesn’t embrace that, doesn’t deserve you! Go find someone who does.

    • Absolutely right, Lyn and PattyToo; anger is a HEALTHY reaction to these situations! Anger galvanizes us to defend ourselves and the people we care about, and to reject situations and people who are unfair, hurtful or deceitful.

      But ya don’t want to show much of that to the narc, bc even our anger is kibbles to them, and since they’re probably telling the AP how horrible you are, you want to look as calm and civilized as the queen of England!

      I found it very helpful to pour my anger out onto the computer screen, then tuck those password-protected docs into a password-protected folder (I have teens!) on my computer. And to rant to my friends, who were AMAZING and said all the right things. And to rant here on CL and take such comfort in seeing that others get through such similar experiences. And when the anger was too strong, I saw a therapist who knew the ex (she had been our couple’s therapist after the 1st affair, for the few sessions the ex condescended to attend) and clearly knew exactly what I was talking about. Despite her ‘therapeutic objectivity’, you should have seen the relief on her face when I told her about the ex’s attempts at reconciliation, and then my complete refusal to even discuss that w/him!

      And it does fade w/time! I really do see the ex now as a pathetic loser, so crippled really. I only get mad now at the NEW stuff he pulls (around the kids and $), and I think that’s healthy too!

  • Rebecca;

    Can’t you meet with the therapist separately? Don’t let yourself get put in a position where your buttons can get pushed. The STBX isn’t interested in working jointly, only getting to know firsthand what you tell the therapist and maybe induce a scene to make you look bad.

    My kids didn’t see a therapist until well into the custody process, when the STBX set some appointments up himself. We saw the therapist separately. She asked me: “Let me ask you this. Do you have any idea on why your STBX set this up now?” I told her I thought that it probably had something to do with custody negotiations, but I wasn’t sure. I was not having ANY attitude or behavior problems from either kid, so that couldn’t be it.

    Turns out the OW was 6 mo. pregnant at the time and the ex was freaked out over telling the kids and me. She knew. After it was all over, the ex went back into her office to try to manipulate things. He got very loud and obnoxious with her. Since he was paying the bill, he wanted things fixed to his specifications.

    I know you’re not to MEH yet, but think of it as getting all passive aggressive on his ass. When the stuff they throw out at you doesn’t get any traction, they really go nuts. It became kind of fun to watch. My small revenge.

    • Rebecca,

      Whew! First of all (((hugs))) x 1,000. I can identify with your feelings of anger and wanting to stab him. I watch those reality shows like Snapped and tell people I look at them as training videos – getting information on what they did wrong so I don’t make the same mistakes. 🙂

      I have moved from depression to disgust and mild hatred. Of course, I haven’t seen nor spoken to my STBX in over two months so that helps. My children are grown and he keeps attempting to double date with them. Yeah, that’s a story for another day.

      Anytime I have to deal with any of his foolishness, I’m going to be honest with you. I go for a walk (some people run) and then I pray. I surrender as many of my feelings as I can because I can’t control what a fucktard does – I can only control me. The exercise and the prayer help me control me. I tell myself I can cry, scream and rend my clothing later, but in his presence I need to be able to be cool and indifferent – no emoting in his presence. It is not easy, but I can tell you that whenever I have prayed and surrendered the feelings to a higher power, I get a sense of peace because I’m not trying to control things outside of myself.

      It is not easy when your children are involved. But one thing I have learned is children sometimes exercise more wisdom than adults because they have not developed adult “filters.” They come from a place of more clarity. You are an excellent mother – give yourself credit – they will eventually see him for who and what he is and make their own decisions about him and whatever relationship they want to have with him.

      Also, even though he wants to talk to the therapist, I don’t see why the two of you have to talk to the therapist together. I don’t see why the therapist would not allow each of you a few minutes to speak separately. It just seems that your STBX is still trying to manipulate you and the entire situation. Fuck That Guy!

      I hate it when cheaters tell children (or anyone) they cheated because they were unhappy in the marriage. It makes me want to slap them repeatedly across the face before breaking a lamp over their empty heads. Do they not think the Chump might have been unhappy in the marriage when they were spending so much time cheating, but we never cheated?

      Peace to you Rebecca and peace to your children. I will send positive energy into the universe for you this evening and keep you in my thoughts.

      • it is impossible to be happy in a marriage when one is cheating.

        I M P O S S I B L E.

        if only he’d have put even half that energy into you and him… kids know this. They see what’s going on and NOT going on. But therapy is very important for them.

        You’re a great mom Rebecca. You and the kids are going to be just fine! no, better than fine! But it takes time. (((hugs)))

        • Rebecca,

          I don’t know if I’m giving good advice here for you, but this really helps me with the anger. Your husband’s activities all sounds so abnormal, classic narcissism. All of our spouses behaviors sound so abnormal. Maybe the spouse was narcissistic from the beginning or maybe the spouse got that way over time. I think if the spouse was a narcissist his/her whole life, that’s a personality disorder that will never change. If the spouse became narcissistic, my take is the spouse’s whole philandering thing is part of a mental illness having something to do with manic episodes. Who cares what it is, I know CL would say stop analyzing and get out, which you are doing a wonderful job of doing. But, for me, seeing the behavior as mental illness somehow helps me let go of the anger around the behavior. He hasn’t changed the behavior, so he is still very mentally ill. Thank goodness you are getting yourself away from this mentally ill guy who refuses to get help.

  • I don’t have children, so I won’t have to eat this particular shit sandwich. I will say that I agree that “we both love you” is damaging, especially when it’s clear that one parent doesn’t.

    I think that “I love you” is fine. You can’t speak for the other person. If they love their child, they’ll tell the child. If they’re jerks, the child will (eventually) pick up on that.

  • are you peeking in my window? I am struggling with this as my youngest(16) now wants contact after she originally said she wanted nothing to do with him. she believes the crap he gives her. its hard to step away but therapist said step away and she will see what he’s really like in no time at all. hope she sees soon because its starting to smell.

  • It’s funny when my youngest…age 6…asked why I left, I told her that Mommy lied to Daddy. I looked her right in the eyes and asked her if she likes it when people lie to her. She said no. So I said neither does Daddy.

    Because at it most basic form, lying is really the core sin of all this shit. If nothing else, I hope I taught my daughter not to lie.

  • Heartfelt and brilliant.

    Especially when children are involved, I wish for the day when “divorce as a result of cheating” is regarded as the “death of a family as a result of cheating,” and not treated as just a dissolution of a partnership. Even civil marriage is not entered into as a business deal. It horrifies me that in the end, a cheater’s actions mean nothing. Instead, divorce boils down to who can pay more for better representation in court.

    I am gobsmacked that the judicial system could give a crap about infidelity and the betrayal, theft, misappropriation of joint funds, loss of consortium, slander, exposure to STDs and stalking (just to name a few) that come with a cheater’s hurtful, intentional behavior.

    Hell, even employees get compensated when a business partnership goes south. But kids just have to deal with the consequences of cheating without insight, and often times, without therapeutic support, withheld truths and/or blatant lies. It is disgusting. There are no federal, 26-week “unfamilyment” supports or compensations for kids. They just have to roll with it and “be happy dad is happy.” Never mind the destruction left in dad’s colossal ego trip’s, rip-tide wake.

    Then with out children in tow, us Chumps have to continue to be subjected to the humiliation, degradation, torture and embarrassment by our ex’s continued relationship with the AP. We are forced to perpetuate a toxic relationship with our ex by having to drop off our children into the middle of the shithead’s new life, knowing the odds are good that our beloved kids will also endure and experience humiliation, degradation, torture and embarrassment — from a parent who supposedly “loves them.”

    To me, this is the definition of insult to injury, for our children and us Chumps.

    I would like to believe that our kids will eventually realize that their cheating parent always put themselves first, every single time. Then again, I also used to believe in the vows of marriage, and that turned out to be a cruel hoax. To me, the whole “karma” thing is just another wish — like the Easter bunny or Santa. Or real justice when it comes to a death of a family as a result of cheating.

    No, wishes don’t just come true just because it might be fair. And sometimes, bad things just happen to nice people, including kids. How we and our children deal with what is dealt is what matters more.

    Hugs right back to you, CL.

    • ” To me, the whole “karma” thing is just another wish — like the Easter bunny or Santa.”

      I kind of feel this way, too…..but I don’t like this feeling. I want to believe that cheaters everywhere will get their comeuppance. But the problem is that they are so self-self-absorbed that they don’t feel bad when they hurt people. They don’t feel bad when people leave them. The narcs just go out and find another chump – shinier! newer! younger! more naive! And are happy as ever. Since there are a never-ending supply of us chumps in the world, the narcs are set for life. Sad, but true. When he (or she) has burned through all their friends, spouses, kids, and are in old age, they will still find someone to care for them and listen to their sob stories about how they are the victim.

      I think this is part of my anger stage…..I’m angry about this. Boy, I hope this stage passes. I do agree with a previous poster who said that this is a necessary stage, and it is also more productive than depression (silver lining). Since I”m typically so polite and well, chumpy, it’s strange for me to feel anger for very long.

      And btw, if anyone needs to tell someone off, but it isn’t socially acceptable to do so, let me have them…..because I have enough anger right now to tell off all the cheaters of the world and then, like Hercules, in the opening fight scene of the movie Troy, say “Is there no-one else?!”

        • 🙂 🙂 That would be soooo totally awesome to punch my STBX in the face, have him collapse at my feet, stand with my arms raised and one foot on his chest yelling, “Is there on one else?!”

          Thank you LUD for allowing me to create that visual.

  • I agree with your comments 100%. If you tell the truth to your children without being mean about it, they will eventually figure it out.
    My ex told our teenagers that he could not afford to pay for certain things because I was taking all of his money. Forget the fact that he had someone living with him who helped pay the bills and I had only myself and the court ordered payments according to our incomes. After he told our children this fantastic story, the house which we all lived in before suddenly had several improvements including him acquiring a motorcycle and new car. Our children figured it out in no time. He spends on what pleases him and his “new family” (complete with new additional children) and makes excuses which no one believes because it is all based on his entitlement and not obligation and compassion towards his own offspring.

  • Thank you, CL, a million times thank you. I discovered your site about a month ago, and finally, I feel vindicated. I thought I was doing it all wrong…

    The trouble is, my girls were old enough to figure out what happened. They understood that I was operating as a faithful wife. Once they discovered the inevitable and we left, they pretty damn well accurately guessed what broke the marriage up. In fact, they confronted me, and I felt it was wrong to lie to them. I didn’t elaborate on the details–indeed, I didn’t ask ex for the gory details–just stated that he cheated.

    I’m one of those chumps you describe. I try so hard not to discuss ex in front of them. But after their visitation, they come to me to vent. Their father actually bitches to them about the amount of child support he pays me–and TELLS them the amount I am given.

    One of my girls is having a horrible time in the charter middle school she’s attended for the last two years–bullying that has made her physically and psychologically ill. Today, after a court order and much wrangling, I finally got him to meet me and my child’s counselor so we could discuss the possibility of homeschooling. He won’t have any of it. So I have two days to decide where my child is going to school. The only school she’ll agree to go to is the Catholic school she once attended before we separated. Will he pay anything? No, not one penny, because he’s “broke” (he earns three times what I do; he’s an attorney). So this evening I wrote the school’s principal to see if financial aid is a possibility.

    My other child is about to go to college. He loudly brags to all his friends (and in front of her) that he will pay nothing. Well, I guess this will teach her independence. What else might it teach her? That trips to Vegas and his girlfriend are more important than college? Kids are not stupid. I can only go so far in controlling their perceptions.

    • Sounds all too familiar. They tell your children how much they are paying in support, cannot afford anything else, and then forget to tell them that they have a “new honey” who is helping them pay the bills. They then proceed to spend on themselves and their new family on things that a person in a “financial jam” could not possibly afford. Once the children see all of the money spent on the “new family”, they figure it out; no matter how painful it is. It hurts to see how someone can have “zero compassion” on their own children’s needs for education and care more about their “newly created family” Of course, the ex still tells them how much he loves them, but without sacrificial concrete actions.

  • Sometimes, I read this blog, and I get a little chuckle or two. Like, hey that’s funny, or gee, that sounds like my situation.

    And then there are posts like these. I’m not religious, its not my thing. But if there is such a feeling as “seeing the light”; as in finding a profound truth that leaves one shaking, crying, choking, heart racing double-time, reading ahead 10 words at a time, holy shit, I-am-reading-the-truth-I-have-always-known.. if there is that strong of a feeling;

    That’s what I experienced like ten minutes ago.

    There is a raw honesty in today’s post that quite literally touched my nerves like a live wire. I can’t even formulate a response to the actual content, except that it’s exactly correct. That’s what happened. That’s what’s happening. It’s fucking frustrating.

    It’s of no comfort to know that I am not alone in this, actually. Knowing others are here, in this same context… dammit. I can say though, there is something about knowing that my side of the story is the truth. That my reality *is* the real reality. That my kids deserve to know the truth and I have NO FUCKING DUTY to assure them of any narrative other than the truth.

    You know what this shit is?? Its a fucking revolution. It used to be a shameful thing to be homosexual. And then that community turned the stigma into “Gay Pride”. And the tide shifted ever so slightly. Except for the fact, the tide shifted, and it’s a tide, and it’s never shifting back, and the world is a better place for taking a matter of truth and accounting for it as such.

    My name is Tim. That’s my real name. And I am a Chump.

      • Tim, I hope you’re right. I hope that CL’s site is the beginning of a revolution. We need to take back our self-respect, our sense of what appropriate boundaries are, and what our guts are telling us. We ignore all that for so long because we want to be nice, see the best in people, and get along. As far as I’m concerned, I have always wanted people to like me as well.

        No more. Living an authentic life is so much better than living one in which I try my hardest to please others.

        • (((Tim))). Nice to meet you Tim. You’re awesome. I have always wanted to participate in a revolution. A Chump revolution in which I get to reclaim myself is a great place to start.

          Thanks CL!!!

          • welcome Tim! Count me in!!!

            Do you hear the people sing?
            Singing the song of angry men?
            It is the music of the [chumps]
            Who will not be slaves again!
            When the beating of your heart
            Echoes the beating of the drums
            There is a life about to start
            When tomorrow comes!

            — from Les Miserables

    • ‘…..any narrative other than the truth. u know what this shit is?? Its a fucking revolution. It used to be a shameful thing to be homosexual. And then that community turned the stigma into “Gay Pride”. And the tide shifted ever so slightly. Except for the fact, the tide shifted, and it’s a tide, and it’s never shifting back, and the world is a better place for taking a matter of truth and accounting for it as such’

      Dear Tim

      Nobody should be ashamed of something they cant help but there are different interpretations regarding righteous positive cultural shifts in social attitudes and the gay community do not necessarily have the monopoly on truth.

      I am a Christian and bringing up my children in the Judeo Christian tradition.
      Myself and my child have experienced an awful lot hostility and discrimination mainly from the homosexual community due to our religion.

      • Seriously? Gays discriminate against you? How exactly? By forcing rainbows down your throat? What exactly?

        I’m a United Methodist ministers’ daughter. So don’t try the Jesus speak on a preacher’s kid here. Jesus wasn’t a hater.

    • I sure as hell hope it’s a chump revolution! Time to take back your power!

      When I created this site, I chose the word “chump” deliberately. Yes, it’s kind of funny, but it’s also a slur. And it’s also totally accurate — being chumped, being played. Being a fool.

      It’s okay to admit to being a chump. Some of the best people out there are chumps. Means you have a good heart. ((((Tim))))

  • Thanks, CL. I am in the beginning phase of parenting young kids with a narc-cheater and I have already been telling them that their father loves them. Well, this Chump Training Camp is shutting down. I’m taking my kids far away, to the No Spackle Zone.

  • Does anyone out there have experience in a cheating / divorce situation with a stepchild? I’m curious to hear any words of wisdom you may have….

    My XH and I were together for six years (married the last three years), and his daughter lived with us for five of those years full time (from ages 8 to 13). Her bio mom moved out of state years ago and has had limited contact with my stepdaughter due to “financial issues” (phone regularly shut off, no money for support, no money for a plane tickets). My stepdaughter is a pretty withdrawn young lady with all people in her life, clearly struggles with emotional issues, and unfortunately, has a dad who is a mess. I divorced him for all the reasons we read about in Chump Lady’s posts….

    My XH and I never had children of our own, so my stepdaughter was my only daughter. I did a lot for her while I was with her dad — planned the birthday parties, started the college fund, paid the private school tuition, made sure she had clothes, shoes, etc. Her dad never made any of the above a priority and was more interested in being “her buddy” than her dad. If an issue arose, he dealt with it by saying she just needed to have more fun and be “a kid”. We definitely had different parenting styles.

    When I separated from her dad, she went with him as I had no legal rights to her. She asked if we would still be able to see each other, but so far that hasn’t happened. I’m pretty sure she now lives in a small two bedroom apartment with her dad and his “new” girlfriend (his co-worker he was having an affair with for some time while we were married, who also left her husband to be with my X). He also struggles with serious alcoholism, which the OW either turns a blind eye to, is one herself, or like me a long time ago, has figured out how to make excuses to deal with it.

    When I left, I called her bio mom and told her exactly what was going on: serious alcoholism, affair, and withdrawal emotionally from both me and her daughter. She said it was a carbon copy of what happened when she was married to my XH and then….did nothing. Left her daughter in that situation. And I learned from my legal journey, proving alcoholism is extraordinarily difficult in a court of law.

    When I got over the shock and awe of separation and divorce, I reached a good “meh” place with the XH. Glad I’m free of him and life is much better. But I struggle with my stepdaughter….she frankly has two lousy parents. I know they brought her into this world and should be responsible for her, but they aren’t. Not in a real kind of way….they gloss over and “have fun” and ignore what she’s dealing with emotionally as a result of all these broken relationships.

    Does this ring true for anyone? What did you do? I know life would certainly be “easier” if I just let it all go, let it be, etc, etc….but I’ve never been one to take the easy road and I worry about my stepdaughter. I was the only responsible adult in her life beyond the teachers and administrators at her school. I haven’t heard from her since dad brought the OW out of the woodwork, and I don’t know what he told her. She’s a pretty sharp kid so I doubt she would believe him if he told her they “just met” (and I suspected she knew about the OW). I’m not sure at this point if she wants a relationship with me….I imagine she’s really confused. And so am I. So, was interested to know if anyone has been in similar shoes and what happened with you and how you dealt with it?

    • I have no words of wisdom, Atticus, but your heart is in the right place. You don’t just drop a child you’ve been raising for five years. Wishing you and your stepdaughter all the best ….

    • I don’t have a similar situation, but i feel for that kid. Does she have a cell phone? Can you just text her and ask how she’s doing? Is your ex deliberately trying to keep you apart? If he’s checked out, maybe he doesn’t care if you keep a relationship with her? In any case, I would let her know she’s in your thoughts. He might’ve spun some narrative that you don’t care. I’d still send birthday and xmas cards, I’d still call and text. If she doesn’t want a relationship — not much you can do 🙁 — but I’d sure as hell try. Poor kid. Poor you!

      • Atticus,

        Is there ANY way to demonstrate that he is an unfit parent and perhaps have the court appoint you her guardian? I would definitely send her a card or a letter or a text or something. If you “mothered” her while she was living with you, she probably misses you but she may be confused.

        That is such a difficult situation. I HATE it when adult fucktard behavior has such a negative impact on innocent children. It just makes me want to cry.

    • Atticus,

      One thing you can do is request police check up on the child occasionally.

      If they are popping in for a safety check, and find something dangerous (adults drunk off their gourd with no responsible person around), by law they must file a report with CPS.

      Also, the school is not permitted to share any information with you, but that does not stop you from sharing your concerns with the school. Ditto for her pediatrician. Both the school and the doctor are also required by law to report things to CPS if they feel a child is in danger.

      You may not be able to watch out for her as actively as you would like, but that doesn’t stop you from being the voice contacting those who will see her on a regular basis and telling them what you observed over the last 5 years.

      Not that this is in anyway a desired outcome, but if your ex loses custody, you might even be able to petition the court as someone who was the primary caregiver for 5 years of her life.

      Alcoholism is hard to prove, until eventually they tip over so far into no-man’s land that people stop wanting to *not* get involved, especially when a peace officer, doctor, caseworker, etc, starts collecting multiple pieces of the puzzle.

      Check the blog One Mom’s Battle for more on this topic.

      • Thanks for the replies….they are good for perspective. Yes, she does have a cell and I do text her to check in and ask how she’s doing, what she’s up to, etc. Sometimes she responds right away and other times she responds a week or so later. It’s a start, and I will keep trying…Her standard response is she’s great, everything is great and from five years of being her primary caregiver I know she is very protective of her both her mom and dad and will say everything is great even if it is not. She’s good at putting on a brave face to the world.

        I’m actually good friends with the headmaster of her school and have informed him what is going on and asked him to keep an eye on her. He did say if he sees anything he has to report it to CPS. I hadn’t thought of her pediatrician, but to be honest, I’m not sure he’ll take her to the same pediatrician she saw when she lived with us. Nevertheless, I can contact her.

        It kills me too to see a child go through so much bullshit at the hands of lousy adults. She didn’t ask for this and she doesn’t deserve it….with consistency on my side, she may start to see she has an ally in me. I’ve definitely made it clear to her she can call me anytime day or night if she needs me. I will check out One Mom’s Battle and continue to look for advice on this situation.

  • This is a very timely post for me as I just had some kid related crap go down with the ex. First, my ex has started bringing his old (current?) AP around my kids on his weekends with them. This has definitely irritated me because he presents her to his family as just his friend/co-worker when really she is a major contributing factor of our divorce. He literally sees no problem with this and that has basically ended any last whisper of a thought that we could ever even be remotely friendly. Ever. He is officially a guy I want nothing to do with in any way who has no morals and has learned nothing from this experience. I wish my children didn’t have to be around him either, even though I know they love him and feeling abandoned by him would be even worse. I think.

    Which brings me to the latest. Yesterday, Mr. Brilliant finally thought to ask (in his passive aggressive way of course) what I’d be doing after I finish up my grad program. After learning that I am considering jobs in a nearby city, he first insinuated he would kill himself… up to his old tricks of course (and only after determining that he wouldn’t get out of alimony, which is always the major concern) and then said he would be “driven out of their lives unless he was made primary custodian”. As if he really wants to be primary custodian. BTW, I’m talking about an hour move. And he gave a bunch of reasons why he wouldn’t be able to be involved in their lives…. he can’t take them away on the weekends when their life is somewhere else, etc., etc. So, the attempted emotional blackmail of me begins again. Even if he eventually wraps his brain around this and more or less accepts it, I’m probably going to hear him whine and complain at any opportunity for the next 9 months. Because he just LOOOOOOVVVVVEEEEEESSSS them so much!

    By the way, I’ve decided his “love” for them just seems so showy, so over the top (our kids are 2 and 4 years old so still into that sort of thing). Like he is trying to impress others by demonstrating his love for them. To appear as the perfect and caring father. And maybe just impress the kids and just make damn sure that they can see just how much he loves them because he repeats it to them constantly, etc., etc. Is that what sparkles are?? Meanwhile, I feel like it looks like I don’t care as much (and my youngest is currently showing a lot of preference to his dad) because I feel like I just act like a normal person that loves their kids. I don’t need to tell them constantly with over the top praise and constant cuddling, etc.

    But he never really cares about the kids, it’s always about him. What benefits him (the ego kibbles they feed him, rather than what they need/want), what is inconvenient to him, not about what is best for the kids. Ugh. He sucks.

    • Yes he does suck aE! Next time he threatens to off himself, I’d say “Please do so at your earliest convenience.” And don’t give him any future plans of yours. Your court order probably says he deserves 60 days notice of relocation. I’d give him that, and nothing else.

      Just don’t talk to him. NC! Who he dates now that he’s divorced is his business, and yes, he’s going to be an idiot about it. And no, they don’t learn. He’s trying to push your buttons — move your buttons!

      • If neither of us my xW and myself have primary residence does this stop her from being able to move away. Or is it the 60 days notice also? I’m curious because her new man lives 40 min north of her right now, I’m moving down to her home town and my kids, so I’m not just a weekend dad. (I live 1.5 hrs north of her) I’m worried I’ll move down there, the divorce will be final and she will move up to his house with his kids and her shiny new life with him. (I’m assuming all this of course, but this is my second go around and she is behaving the exact same way) BLECH, This shit is shit covered in shit.

  • >