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My ex is a fuck up. I don’t want my kids to be fuck ups too.

Here’s a question that comes up a lot. A chump will describe a litany of horrors the cheater wing nut has inflicted on home life, an inevitable split occurs, and then the question is asked — how can I protect my children from the Crazy Parent and ensure that they don’t grow up to be Crazy People?

Boy, don’t we all want to know that!

I’ve gone over this topic at the Unending Punishment of Breeding with a Fucktard, but time for a recap.

We don’t control other people. Just ourselves.

GAH!!!! WRONG ANSWER!!!! Surely there must be an exception for children?! We must mold them and guide them, and if we Do It All Right than there are guaranteed returns on our investment, right?!

Nope. You just do the best you can do, and if you’re religiously inclined, pray a lot.

I’m not saying give up on this fight. Hell, if I wanted you to give up, I’d say stay with your cheater and keep modeling dysfunction because it’s all a big whatever. I’m not saying that, I’m saying — do your best, hope for the best, but let yourself off the hook — you’re not ultimately responsible for their relationship with their fuck up parent or how much they resemble their fuck up parent.

Here’s some tips:

1. Wing nuts are good at impression management. Kids are easily impressed. You know how much your cheater sucks, remember what a long journey that was for you to come to that conclusion? Well, you have a fully developed pre-frontal cortex, kids do not. With all your adult discernment and executive functioning power, you struggled. They’re going to struggle too. And the heart-breaking thing is that you’re probably going to have to watch as daddy breaks their hearts with his unreliability, and mommy boldly tells lies they believe. Then the affair partner buys them sparkly shit and they’re Best Friends Forever!

I know it’s just gutting, but you have to take the long view. Character is revealed over time and they will get it eventually. Kids might be easily impressed or distracted when they’re little, but they’re not dumb. They know who has their back, they can sense creepiness, it’s just that they want to belong. If playing nice with mommy’s new friend is the price of admission, they’ll eat the shit sandwich. A lot of childhood is eating shit sandwiches for adults (I’d rather be playing Barbies than combing my hair). They can’t really discern shit sandwiches that well until adolescence hits. (Then everything is a shit sandwich and you are a Horribly Oppressive Force. Ask me how I know.)

Anyway, my point is — suck it up and take the long view.

2. Set a good example. Be the sane parent. You don’t control the fuck up parent, you just control you. So be the best parent you can be. Have your kid’s back. Be the grown up, the reliable one, and I’m sorry — the not-so-fun one. This isn’t a democracy — raising children is a benevolent dictatorship. So don’t be afraid to be unpopular. Dad lets them blow off homework? Not. In. Your. House.

There are so many ways you can be a great example to your kids — kicking adversity in the ass and raising them on your own, being truthful, being a hard worker, creating your own family traditions, finding love again and modeling what reciprocal healthy love looks like. Frankly, the best example you’ve set to date is not being a CHUMP. Because you asserted yourself and created a new life, you’ve led the way for your kids to do the same in their lives one day.

3. Realize that some of this shit is genetic. I don’t say this to freak you out (but it is scary), but to let you off the hook. Things like addiction and mental illness have a genetic component. Even sociopathy has inherited traits according to the latest science. Do your best but realize that half their DNA is fuck up. And if you’re honest with yourself, aren’t there some scary characters in your blood line? You turned out relatively normal, didn’t you? And your ex, for all their fuckupedness had some good qualities (straight teeth perhaps?) that are also inherited.

On addiction, let your kids know that this shit runs in their family so they’re aware. If you cannot control the nature, be the nurture. That’s all you control, really.

4. Be honest. Don’t lie to kids and protect the image of the fuck up parent. And on the flip side, don’t editorialize and run the parent down. They still love the idiot and that’s their right. Just be truthful — mom cheated and that’s why we divorced. (Not “mom’s a whore.”) As the saying goes, “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” Be real about what happened. Be real when you’re sad. But do reassure them. “Mom’s having a sad day, but it will pass. Don’t worry.” Children take a lot of comfort in knowing that whatever happens, you’ll do your best to make sure their routines and their friendships remain intact. “I will be making grilled cheese for lunch, then soccer at 4 with Caitlin.” Be honest and be predictable. They’ve had enough chaos.

5. Recognize the limitations of family court. Did your ex promise not to let Junior play video games on school nights, but then does, like All The Fucking Time? Did your ex promise not to introduce the affair partner for a year, but the skank is moving next week? Be careful what you take to court. You can’t manage the other parent’s life. You flunked being marriage police, and you’re going to flunk being the parent police too.

It’s exhausting and it’s impossible to control the crazy that goes on in another household. All you can do is document, and if it rises to the level of immediate danger to the children — then the court will act. There’s a pretty high threshold for courts to give a shit. Your results may be different, but I promise you most judges don’t care about most domestic squabbles, including your ex having an affair partner with sleepovers. They see hideous cases of abuse, it takes a lot of fuckupedness to impress them.

That said, if you are dealing with addiction issues, criminal conduct, abuse — get that shit in front of a judge! Don’t hesitate! What I’m saying is avoid anything that looks like “Fuck up promised to do THIS and DIDN’T DO IT.” They’re shitty people, what did you expect?

Look into parallel parenting instead of co-parenting. Your house, your rules. The upside to this (it’s not much of an upside, but I’m trying to be optimistic here) is that exposure to the crazy contrasting with the security and normalcy of your home WILL make an impression on your kiddos. Much more than fronting for your ex trying to create normalcy out of chaos ever did. They’ll draw their conclusions about the fuck up parent much more quickly because they have to live with the crazy, front row seat.

Lastly, (((BIG HUGS)))). It just sucks. Just do your best and know that many chumps have walked this path before you and survived. You will too.

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  • This couldn’t be more timely for me…I have a 50/50 arrangement with my STBXW … she puts on the mother of the year show as that is the only redeeming quality…we send our 5 and 7 year old to a private school (thank goodness for generous tuition reduction for academics), but she edges me out and uses it for her social climbing expeditions…she also just inherited some money so to alleviate guilt and put on a sparkly show she spoils the hell out of them …For example I just got them back from her taking them to Great Wolf Lodge, know full and well due to the $30,000 she ran up in credit card debt I could never afford this type of thing (in my state inherited money cannot be touched in a divorce)… sorry needed to vent…Point is when I get them it takes two or three days to get them back to earth and on a schedule, and then I have to give them back…it is an insane cycle for them, but I know I have to be the one who disciplines and provides stability, as I was always the one who did when we were together…She once told me she did not want to be the disciplinarian because that is what her mom had to do and she resented her…I pray that someday they understand that I am only trying to do the right thing and raise them to be quality citizens and not a completely self-absorbed, externally motivated, social climbing fitness instructor…sorry again, tough morning dealing with her!

    • A socially climbing fitness instructor? Yeah, I’m sure the snobby people at private school won’t hold that against her. (snort)

      (Not saying private school people are all snobby. I sent my kid to Waldorf schools for 7 years.) Just saying the sort of people she wants to impress are probably not impressed with her credentials, membership to the country club is generally not based upon zero percent body fat.

      • Second AP and current boyfriend has country club means, so zero body fat social climbing did actually pay off for her : )

        • Oh but the stink eye, Cletus. It paid off, but I assure you, those people will look at her and think social climber, gold digger. Whoever she’s chumping won’t care, point taken. But don’t kid yourself that she’ll be accepted.

        • I know it seems like your ex got everything, Cletus, but karma will roll in one day.
          Kids do eventually understand which parent was there for them. I saw that with my parents divorce…. And I sure hope my kids see it with my divorce from their father.
          (Yesterday was not a good day with the early teen…. But it was just one day!)

          Just be the best you can be, and take deep breaths.

          • My kids go to an elite private school and there are tons of OW’s that slipped ( oopsy) into marriages with clout and edged the “old” wife out. They are “accepted”. People in private school are snotty….(you all know what I mean).

            The point is I have seen this over and over….. He will dump her dumbass too. And, when the shindig is over ( no more kids in school) then they have zero. Less than zero….

            I’m sorry but NO ONE will truly accept her as a “fitness instructor”. That is way too low brow for these types. I see he has not given her a ring yet? That tells me a lot..

            No worries, just keep your head down and be the Dad that those precious kids need. They will know who loves them. They always know…

            Your story broke my heart. I’m used to hearing all about men being jerks but when a mother does it…. I just don’t understand. Stay strong…

            • Sorry, one more tid bit. My mother is/was a nut. My Father is/was the backbone of the family. My brother and I know this. My parents are together but we both know my Dad was the one with sense.

              I hope that helps some…

              • Thanks Bev…this helps a lot, the kids and i have had a great few days and I know that they love me and that is what drives me through this bullshit!

    • Holy crap, Cletus! Sounds like we were married to the same woman! Mine’s a fitness instructor and needs to put on the perfect mommy show too. I had to battle her legally to get 50/50. She thought it would be better for our children if they stayed with her most of the time, she continued to be the stay-at-home mom, and me support her financially. This way she looks like the good mother and still has the time to fuck whomever she wants while our kids are in school. Now THATS venting! We’re all entitled to vent on this site!

      • It does sound like we were married to the same woman!…Although I am lucky in the sense that she has pushed for 50/50 the whole time…Kids might get in the way if she had them all the time!…Though she of course blamed her affairs on me, I would not take it and called her on her crap, she has always maintained I was a good dad.

  • Never a truer word said CL. You have to play the long-game on this one.

    I’m divorced 9 years now & split up 11. My children are young teens now. Initially, I could barely get ex-H to see the kids, then once he shacked up with the OW, there would be glossy, glamourous weekends where no trip was off limits and every meal was at a restaurant. Ex-H and OW wanted to go to all school performances, parent evenings, open days etc etc. I was horrified at the thought of having to be anywhere near her, massively over-reacted, kicked off and generally blew my cool.

    9 years on, do they ever show at anything? No. The last time she went to a parents’ evening was before their first child was born 6 years ago. ex-H hasn’t been to a parents’ evening for over 4 years. Do they still take the kids on any trip they want? No, they use them as unpaid childcare for their two little children. Do they take them out to restaurants? No. Do they take them on holiday? Not if they can possibly help it.

    Most importantly of all, do our children see ex-H and his current wife for exactly what they are? Yes, indeedy. The children will only go under duress now. I have never bad mouthed either of them. I have expressed frustration sometimes at the endless messing around of dates, but I’ve never called names or given anything other than the barest bones of the truth in an age appropriate way. But like CL says, children aren’t stupid and they can smell shit just the same way the rest of us eventually do.

    I’ve been dull old Mummy throughout all of this. Kept the food on the table, the bills paid, the clothes on their backs, arranged the play dates, driven them from activity to activity, looked after them when they’re poorly, made sure homework is done, the behaviour is appropriate & generally kept the show on the road. Who do they want to be with? Me! 🙂

    • Thank you English Lady for giving me the perspective of being a few years out. My ex is the typical “Disneyland dad”…lots of fun activities, gifts, etc., but no responsibility. It sucks feeling like the “dull” parent with all the rules. It gives me hope though to see how your children have come through that. Everyone has always told me that the kids will figure it out in time (my kids are 10 and 7), but I have no damn patience! Thank you for proving that this path that we’re both on will work out in the end.

  • Cletus, I sympathize and empathize. We need to continue to parent in the way that feels to us the most responsible. I am convinced that our children will comprehend all of this when they are grown up as long as we stick to our truth and act our truth. Our cheaters have not changed – the lack of character, the bad habits, the poor decision-making will eventually catch up with them. And our children will notice some day.

    I divorced a “fun daddy”. He always knows how to have a ripping good time. (Carpe diem! Take now and it will all take care of itself later (meaning, I will clean up after him). Blabbity blabbity blab.) As far as I know, he is still eyeball deep in debt yet my child comes home with an iPod, with new stuffed animals after nearly every visit, excitement about upcoming costly trips. I have already had to tell my child outright that daddy and I were not in a contest with each other for how much we would buy her. Mommy doesn’t roll that way and never will. I could tell she respected it. He can fund all the Disneyland hoo hah he wants. I am going to get her through college.

  • Chump Lady, thank you for this excellent post. In particular, I am going to memorize the following: “There are so many ways you can be a great example to your kids — kicking adversity in the ass and raising them on your own, being truthful, being a hard worker, creating your own family traditions, finding love again and modeling what reciprocal healthy love looks like. Frankly, the best example you’ve set to date is not being a CHUMP. Because you asserted yourself and created a new life, you’ve led the way for your kids to do the same in their lives one day.” The last two sentences in particular sing out at me. Thank you!

  • CL, thank you for this post. You bring up a very important point and one that I wondered about for years now, so would like to ask your thoughts on it. My kids are 10 and 7. Their dad and I separated 3 years ago. At the time he said he wanted to tell them “we didn’t love each other any more”. I told him forget it. At that time he had already cheated on me once, which I forgave him for and we got back together. I saw this as a lesson for my girls…that marriage is important and you do everything in your power to make it work (to a point), which I did. However, you do not let someone (anyone) continue to hurt you. I tried to make my marriage work…he didn’t. I want my girls to know that no boyfriend/husband/partner…whomever…should ever treat them the way their dad treated me. Had we just said that we fell out of love, not only would that be a lie, but I think it also loses the lesson. At the time my girls were only 7 and 4 years old, so we managed to get away with not really telling them anything. My youngest daughter asked me not too long ago though why dad moved out. I didn’t know what to say. So my question is this: at what age do you tell your kids that there was “cheating” involved? My kids wouldn’t even know what that meant. How do you word this to small children? Are you even honest with them at this point, or do you let them figure it out on there own? Please…any advice on this would be appreciated. I don’t want to lie to my girls, but I also don’t want to devastate them or come across as hating their father. I do…but they don’t have to know that. I feel like I walk on eggshells on this topic.

    • I have the same question. My children are also 7 and 4. I just moved out from my borderline, cheating wife. She refused to talk to the children together about this. I don’t know what to tell them?

    • I told mine from as soon as they asked (so younger than yours are now) that Daddy fell in love with someone else & didn’t want to be with Mummy anymore. As they’ve grown older and more curious, I have answered their questions honestly but have been factual and unemotional about it. They drew their own conclusions that he “cheated” on me – they used the word first, not me. When they said it, I didn’t try to deny that this was the case, but I confirmed that he was still married to me, when he “fell in love” with the OW.

      I think you owe it to your kids to be honest but level headed. It is really easy to feel your blood pressure go up & emotions rise but if you can keep calm & factual, I think it helps them because they know they can talk about it, without you losing the plot.

      Not that I’m an expert, but this approach has worked well for me.

      • I told my ex that there was no way in hell I was talking to them initially without him present. He needed to see the faces of his little girls when they found out he was leaving. He showed up…didn’t say a word, but cried like a baby. I had to do all the talking. At that time (when my kids were 7 and 4) we merely told them that daddy was moving out because we thought it would be best. We made sure they both knew that we both loved them very much and it wasn’t their fault. Kept it very simple. I have never been so mad in all my life. 3 years later, along with a few questions from my girls, and I’m trying to figure out where to go with the story now. Thanks for your advice English Lady. I think it’s time to slowly start answering the questions.

        • I sat down with my girls while he was gethering things to take. He ran into the kitchen, didn’t look at anyone, into the bathroom and back out again. Left through the front door and didn’t even say goodbye. Wish I had seen a glimpse of THAT “man” before I married and had kids with him. I would have chosen a better father for them then.

          • Oh yes, all that while I was telling them he loved them and this was about me and him, and he’ll come and tell you how much any minute now. I never lied for him again!

    • I think it is so very important to tell them the truth. My boys were 9 and 6 at the time. How could I not say anything… I was a bawling mess (not my normal self as I rarely cried). They are not stupid and knew something was up. In the beginning, I told them the first week that Mommy was having some really rough days. But then I found out more details and told douchebag piece of shit cop daddy to GTFO. And of course, he started crying. Oh, the cake!!! Anyway, I told dickwad to GTFO and the kids and I were leaving for a bit and he better not be home when we returned. In the car, my oldest asked if we were getting divorced and I said I don’t know. He then asked what was going on. Right then and there, I could have lied but chose not to. I told them both that daddy had a girlfriend behind our backs and that once you are married that is against the rules. Factual – no bashing.
      I have to say though, the kids are a lot sharper than we give them credit for. On that car ride, oldest asked, where did he meet her? I told him his work. Well, Mom, which work? I told him the sheriff’s dept. Well, was it someone he pulled over or someone he worked with? Someone he worked with son. Well, Mom, did he have sex with her? Are you fucking kidding me??? These questions were from a NINE year old kid!! I told him he would have to ask his father on that one. I don’t agree with lying to the children and painting a good image of dear old dad. He is his own PR person now because I don’t say shit about him, good, or bad. The truth will set you free. Good luck to you.

      • The other thing to remember is that kids talk….
        They are trying to come to terms with what happened and need to express themselves as well. We did try R but that was a joke. During false R since kids knew what daddy did, they told plenty of people. From daycare workers to friends, you name it. It eliminated the secrecy. At first it made me even more embarrased because oldest son told the guy in charge of the daycare that his dad had been having sex with another woman and then told more people than that. He is quite a talker. Then it made me proud. Proud of the fact that the kids were not going to eat the shit sandwich and keep his secret and also proud that they seem to know it is not their shame to carry. It is all on their father. So now, when I deal with these people that I was originally so embarrassed with, I can hold my head high because they all know what a piece of shit he is and how incredibly awesome my kids are!!

        • that’s actually pretty awesome! I know my kids would talk… they went through a phase where they told everyone they met what my age was. For that reason, I was weighing myself the other morning and my son asked me how much I weighed and I was like “I’m not telling!”

        • Do you think its harder though if the kids are older? I know my kids have been horribly embarrassed and hurt by their father. I doubt they have been very open about it, not even with their besties. How do you help them over ride that when I’ve told them a million times over it is on him and not them

          • It was pretty awesome!! It showed me that my kids are confident in themselves that they did not cause this and are not to blame. Their father is.
            I am not sure if it is harder with age. Mine were very embarrassed with their father. They have been very open about it, because I have been open about it. I am not going to hide anything from them. If they want to know, I will tell them, age appropriately. Honesty goes a long way. Plus, it instills trust. My kids are very curious about things and ask A LOT of questions about everything. The best thing I can do as a parent is answer openily and honestly. What also helped us, is to be involved together in activities. Right after dday, I pulled the kids towards church and Sunday school, youth groups. They and I have received a tremendous amount of support from our Church which I am so thankful for. I guess I also feel that it is okay for them to be embarrased by the cheater, that is something that we all need to work through. But we all learn that no matter our failings in the marriage/family, it was their active choice to lie and cheat. We only control ourselves. 🙂

    • My advice on this is you always tell the truth whatever the age. But you do it in an age appropriate way. My son was 9 when it happened to me, I explained that when you get married, you promise to be each other’s one and only. But that my (now) ex lied to me and had a girlfriend. That’s not allowed. He broke the rules. It makes mom very sad and upset.

      Kids understand things like not following rules, lying, secrets, best friends, etc. I tried to put it in those terms.

      I think it’s very important to tell because the alternative is MUCH scarier. Children are allowed to believe that people just “fall out of love.” Like it’s a random thing. A scary cloud that just descends on folks. Versus a world in which there are DEAL BREAKERS and consequences. If you do X, Y will result. Children like the comfort and safety of a well-ordered universe and it teaches them that bad, unkind behavior towards others has painful consequences.

      Ergo, a parent had an affair and that means we cannot be married any more. Bad thing = bad consequence. Contrast that to a nebulous sense that terrible things just happen for no reason, families just blow apart.

      Who does THAT narrative favor? Cheaters. The people who did the Bad Thing. The cheaters, the abandoners. It’s impression management for them at the expense of denying a child and a chump’s reality.

      • I knew I should have listened to my gut and said something 🙁 I was just so afraid of hurting my kids. I had many well meaning friends tell me to not say anything and let them figure it out on their own. Their reasoning: if you say something “negative” about the other parent they will internalize that as they are 50% that parent. If that parent is “damaged”, maybe they are too. It hurts me terribly that my kids have no idea what their dad did to us…he’s now married to OW and they don’t know her role in this either. They know I don’t like her, but have no idea why. I feel like I’ve come across as the “bad” guy in all this. I think it’s finally time to start talking. How and when, still to be determined.

      • It struck me though, your comment bad thing= bad consequence. It must be hard for a kid who feels the bad consequence has happened to them, ie no more dad living at home…yet dad seems happy as larry in hos new life. How do kids make sense of that?

      • I read a study that argues that kids fare better when they know the real reason for divorce. When kids experience abuse and addiction, and a divorce ensues, they understand. According to the study, it really affects them negatively when they hear the euphemisms, “I didn’t work out” or “Mommy and Daddy decided to have a break from each other.”. In my case, my 12-year-old-son met AP just days before D-day, and a day before I found long hair (not mine) in my bathroom sink, he was “mysteriously” (I had no clue why) throwing up at home and school. When D-day hit and when I told him the truth as to why I kicked Daddy to the curb, the throwing-up stopped.

    • I told mine that daddy made choices mommy couldn’t live with and that’s why he didn’t live with us anymore. The cheating talk can come later if need be.

    • My kids are 9 1/2, 7, and 5. They have known for over a year that their dad “started dating their [now] stepmother” secretly while he and I were still married. I told them that their dad broke a very important promise of our marriage– that we are the only two people for each other, and we don’t date other people– and that my trust in him was broken, and we could never be together again. Of course, XWH did NOT want me to say anything remotely like this (even though I was fully supported in my honesty by the kids’ counselor), and he was pissed when I finally told them the truth. Frankly, I had been skirting the issue with the kids and speaking in euphemisms, and it made them more upset to not really know what was going on than it was to finally know what the deal was.

      I also wasn’t going to spackle for that arsehole anymore. He lied so much to our kids to make it look like his “new” relationship with his slut was genuine and had nothing to do with the dissolution of our family. Sorry, but he wanted to play, so now he has to pay, and he’s only beginning to reap what he sowed. Despite my positive attitude about their visits, my kids get more and more resistant to visiting him and the Brady Bunch scenario with his slut’s family that he’s created in his mind. He doesn’t care about our kids– he cares about his image and doing whatever damage control he needs to so that he can still look like A Great Dad. Well, except that he sucks at it, so he’s sinking his own sad ship.

      Tell the truth in an age-appropriate way. My kids’ counselor said that it’s vitally important for kids to feel like they have a parent that they can trust. If you lie for your ex-cheater, your kids will eventually learn the truth and see that as your betrayal of them.

      • MovingOn, I agree about telling the kids the truth, calmly and coolly. My kids, 11 and 13 when I kicked their dad out, didn’t ask. It seems they assumed I had kicked the ex out because I couldn’t stand his being such a negative pain-in-the-ass anymore. I had heard all that ‘don’t bad mouth your ex to the kids’ stuff, and decided that I wouldn’t lie, but I wouldn’t push the accurate info either – I’d wait until they asked, or until we had conversations about the divorce when they were older.

        Our daughter eventually figured out about a year after the separation that the ex had a girlfriend (which he then denied, pissing her off royally), and a month or so later that he had cheated on me with her. She was FURIOUSLY angry, not only w/the ex, but also with me.

        She had thought she could at least trust me, and that I was providing the information she needed to feel on solid ground during a difficult time with lots of changes. She still gets upset when she talks about feeling deceived by me about her dad’s behaviour and character. She hates that she continued investing in her relationship with her father as if he were a good person who loved her and cared about her well-bein., The ex was repeatedly and consistently showing in multiple ways that he didn’t actually care about her, or even think about her well-being, and she feels she would have recognized that much earlier if she had known about the cheating, and his previous affair 7 years prior.

        I’ve apologized to her for keeping this info from her and her brother, explained that I was doing what I thought was best in a very confusing and difficult situation, and assured her that she gets 100% of any info that might be relevant to her or her well-being now. But she is still very hurt and upset by that period of my not telling them the truth.

        (And of course when I initially said I hadn’t lied to them, and would have told them if they’d asked, she replies with ‘oh, great, when I’m doing stuff one day that I know you would want to know about, I won’t lie to you, I’ll just not tell unless you ask specifically. I bet you’ll love that.’ And of course she’s right. Little lawyer! :-))

    • I think my kids might not even know I was ever married to their dad. My oldest has asked a very little bit – like why we live in two homes. To which I replied, because we’re divorced. And he just said “oh”. He does have a few memories of when his daddy lived here, but he was just barely 3 when he left, and my youngest was 1. They are now almost 5 and 3. They don’t know anything about boyfriends and girlfriends and don’t even know much about making and keeping promises. So, I really don’t want to introduce the subject of romantic love only to then tell them how their daddy fucked it up. Maybe I could work on the learning about making and keeping promises though, so that later on they will understand about trust, etc.

      The closest I’ve come to being able to tell them was when they were talking about the OW and her child… they called them family (we’d been naming members of our family) at first (knives to the chest) and I said, “no, they’re daddy’s friends”… they said they are all of our friends, and I got to say “no, they are not mommy’s friends”… my oldest said that OW’s daughter was his friend and I didn’t really say anything. Ugh. I look forward to the day where I can tell them why mommy is not friends with OW.

      • I get this all the time too! My kids come home and tell me they went to their “cousins” house. They don’t even have cousins! It frustrates the hell out of me because he’s telling them that OW’s family is their family. And to top it off, ex and OW had a conversation with my kids about how I was no longer in the family anymore. WTF!?!?!? I AM their family!!!

        • WTF, that’s fucked up! And doesn’t even make any sense… so of course a cheating sack of shit would do it.

          So, you’ll correct it, your ex will continue to act like an ass, and your kids will figure it out.

  • I needed this today. Mr. Gone just told me he’s moving in with GF. Guess he just doesn’t have enough free time to spend with her with those twice a month weekend visitations he has to deal with. Kids have told me the GF mostly ignores them. They play video games while watching TV most of the time they’re there, don’t get enough sleep, eat crap, then I get them back and have to wake them up for school Monday morning.
    I can’t even find free time to date because I’m being a mom. And who wants a middle aged slightly flabby single mother of three who has major trust issues anyway?
    This winter sucks. Thanks for letting me rant.

    • Vivianne, focus on being a great mom now. The dating will come later when you are ready. As Chump Lady says over and over again, know your worth. You are worthy. Someday you will actually believe it.

      I am a middle aged slightly flabby single mother of one. I didn’t think well of myself a few years ago but now understand that I am a smoking hot catch for the right man. Keep your chin up and keep the faith, girl.

  • Really helps to have this reminder when your ex is fun Mr. sparkles Disneyland sociopath. I told my 3 young-ish kids that we divorced because dad broke the marriage rules by having a girlfriend, which of course he denied, but how much more do I tell them? Do I say “your dad is an alcoholic, drug addicted, abusive sociopath”? So far I haven’t. At what point does any of that come up? Up till now, kids have been very clear that they don’t want to talk about dad, as they’d prefer to believe the nice bs he feeds them. And I realize that they need this to believe he hasn’t abandoned them… (which of course he has)

    But things are getting worrisome with my 13 yr old. Ex is love bombing her to the point that every min she isn’t in school or doing hw, she is on the phone w/him texting or talking. I know they both want/ need the validation this constant contact provides, but I worry that it is promoting escapism, and it’s hurting her relationship with her family (me and her brothers) as she’s investing all her time in her runaway dad instead of those who are actually here for her, in the flesh and blood. Maybe I should post this on the forum, because I really do need some advice. Am hating watching my ex’s sociopathic tentacles tighten closer and closer around her, isolating her from everyone and everything else…

    • Sunshine, I don’t have any advice for you. Maybe make some times (like mealtime) phone-free. Don’t make it about her dad, just about the phone. I need this kind of advice myself.

      I am trying to figure out how to manage this kind of problem before it happens. I would really like to get my very responsible 10 yo a phone. I trust her, but it’s her dad I worry about. He used my phone to control me in so many ways, having to report in whenever I went anywhere, demanding that I respond to his texts immediately, letting him know who I was with, sending pictures for proof, demanding passwords to check emails… So many effed up things to control me and isolate me. I am so afraid that he will start doing that to her if she has a phone. I wish I could either control it somehow, or else warn her about what he did to me. So far I have just told her she can’t have a phone. Can’t last forever.

      • Thanks, quicksilver, it sounds like having no phone is a good option for you, while it lasts. I also do have some restrictions, like no phone during mealtimes and no phone in the bedroom after bedtime. But it gets real old when we’re all hanging out together playing a game, and she’s texting with her dad. Or the second she gets home from school, she runs to her room, shuts her door, and calls him. Every. Day. And I know some might blame this on teen angst, but I can feel her pulling away ever so slightly, after each one of these convos, and she occasionally admits that dad trash talks me often (though of course I’m the one taking care of the kids solo b/c he moved 3,000 miles away). We were always very close, but this is definitely driving a wedge between us and isolating her from real life… 🙁

        • I feel your pain sunshine. That must be so so hard to feel her pulling away from you. I think you should listen to CL when she says take the long view. Your daughter is falling for his love bombing now, but she will figure out that it is hollow. Just keep being her mom.

          It kind of reminds me of how my H would isolate me. One thing he would do is trash talk my friends, and I would start to question “maybe I am letting my friends take advantage of me” and I would slowly distance myself. It was only one of his techniques, and I didn’t realize what he was doing at the time, and it worked. For a while. Eventually I figured out that he had alienated me from all of my friends, and was working on getting me away from my family. I would like to reconnect with some of those friends once I manage to separate from him, but I am not sure if they will be open to me after I let them go.

          So I think it is important that you stay there for her even when she pushes you away, don’t blame her for her relationship with her father. Just be sure she knows you are there for her. When he lets her down, she will need to know that you are there to catch her.

          (Hugs)

  • Chump Lady another perfect one and I’ll be honest the timing of your posts is uncanny…Cletus….it gets better……EVERYTHING Chump Lady says…it true….I’m watching first hand……and why this is so creepy to me is I just had a conversation with my Middle Bubble last night that drove it home, my kids all get it…….The thing you crave is some sort of sign that they aren’t going to be Chumps like you were, that you have intervened soon enough to help them correct the path that they went down………..I know, at times it seems like a completely thankless job, it is at these times you need to call on your faith, whether that be faith in yourself, faith in your superior being whatever it is…..just have faith and keep the faith……because remember Faith is believing in that which cannot be seen……I say this becaseu there will come a day, where you, like me will be having an innane converation with one of your kids and they will tell you that they “get” it……and when that happens…………it is an absolutely amazing feeling……..because at that point……….they are understanding what it means to be a good person and try your hardest…….but not to be a chump. It is the best gift you can ever give your kids, and to yourself…..so keep your faith………….

    I got an added bump last night becasue not only did my middle Bubble tell me last night that they were tired of all of the crazy lies told by the the EX…..he indicated that all 3 bubbles had banded together to “pay him back and make him crazy” by not providing him the information……….funny thing is they shared all those secrets with me……………

    That is when my little Jellyfish heart nearly exploded becasue I saw them identifying the behavior..and fighting it in a “HEALTHY AGE-APPROPRIATE” manner………..

    It will come………it will come…..I didn’t believe either………..but I saw with my own two eyes….and all I did….was continue to be the safe person that had their back, punishes when needed, sets boundaries, drives them to activities, coaches their soccer team, watches movies with them and makes TIME for them………….when it happens you will realize it was ALL worth it……and while it stinks they have to learn these lessons early, they say the best people are born out of difficult circumstances……so maybe they will be more aware of the world around them.

    Sorry this Mom’s heart is still overflowing (and giggling a bit too I might add) about the goings-on last night…….

    Bubbles

    • That is an awesome story and I am so happy for you…mine are young still, have not told them why mommy left and she has kept OM#2 away from them so far…I dread that day they ask…the toughest part now is that when with her they get instant gratification on everything, and I just simply don’t want them to think that is how life works, so that is my battle…I can’t wait until they get it and thanks for the motivation.

      • Hey Cletus,

        Me and the DD have walked miles in those smelly shoes. She was 13, but the pennies do drop. CL makes a good point-if the realization of how disordered Mr Fab is nearly fried my 45 year old, two Master’s degrees noodle, then how much worse is it for them?

        Not to rain on you, but the scales falling from their eyes isn’t a quick fix. DD still loves the Daddy she THOUGHT she had, but knows deep down he is never going to add up, that his dick is and will always be the driver in his life. Like any Chump, she still hopes and wishes that she could nice him out of it.

        In talking to her about it, I have never shied away from the facts-that is impossible, since the Downgrade was a close family member. Because of her age, she felt obliged to protect me-i.e. didn’t tell me when they shacked up.

        Taking the long view is hard, but important. DD will need to deal with misogynist creeps in her life, and toxic people (the Downgrade). We have finally moved far far away, but this will always be part of her. I try to deal one day at a time, and I think the most important thing I have showed her was that all this bent, but didn’t break me.

        Now, when people ask, she just quips, “We didn’t care much for his girlfriend.” She is learning to trust that he sucks. She doesn’t want to, but she knows. And in this, she is way ahead of where I was at that stage in life. You can’t restore their innocence, but you can model integrity and resilience. That is a process, not a project.

        There will be lousy days, but if they take their anger and frustration out on you, try to view it as a back-handed compliment-it means they trust you. And, if you can, try to organize their lives around school, not the other parent. DD was going to Mr Fab and the Downgrade’s for three day weekends, taking two days to deprogram, so was getting one ‘normal’ day or so per week. A lot of it comes put sideways, and is really, really hard to not take personally. Read up on narcissism, your ex sounds like a classic. And be careful of mutual friends-those who want to be ‘neutral’ have no space in your or the kids’ lives. Being neutral about emotional abuse just perpetuates it.

        Trust your kids, they will vote with their feet when the time is right.

        And hugs-this is a hard, long road, but if you can foster honesty with your kids, that is half the battle.

        love to all Chump Nation,

        M

  • Great article – as always.

    I’m blessed with no contact for the past 5 1/2 years, other than a few random phone calls.

    My daughter was 5 when exH left – and nosy by nature. She heard about the OW by snooping on a phone call – so I wasn’t the one to tell her. She asked about it, and I calmly explained that married people aren’t supposed to have boyfriends/girlfriends, and that daddy left because he wanted to be with his girlfriend. Over time, I think she has understood that it was his choice to leave, and it had NOTHING to do with her. She’s likely discussed it with her brother too (2 then; 8 now), and once when he was about 5, he was on the phone with is dad, and said, “I’m 5, and I know that married daddy’s aren’t supposed to have girlfriends – why did you have one?” His dad hung up on him, and hasn’t talked to him since. Snort.

    Oh, and if your ex is/was abusive – I never thought my kids knew that – they were so little, and most of the fights were after they were sleeping. There was one where my daughter was about 4 and she hid in the closet, but she was only 4, right? Fast forward to this past month, where I had to go to court to extend a protection order. My now 11 year daughter JUST admitted to me that she remembers her daddy grabbing me around the neck and smashing my head into a car window – while I was driving with her in the back seat. It was horrifying to me that she remembered that – she was about 4…but do realize, they know more than you think.

  • As hurtful as theses breakups are, maybe the fact that you provide an honest contrast from the FUed cheater and his latest ego kibble source, is the best you can do. I didn’t have children with my cheater (a hindsight blessing?) but my mother did with my cheater dad. And as one of their by-products, I’d have to say, had you stayed, the outcome could end up worse.
    My father could be a moody, abusive b’tard to us kids, always praising his f’buddies children, never being good enough, etc…. We had no escape as my mother stayed to do the pick me dance and spackle.
    My mother smoked like a chimney and drank to excess during the worse of his infidelities, so she wasn’t always there for us as she was dealing with her own issues.
    So in short, removing yourself from the madness, and providing a sane, safe haven, is more meaningful and heroic to your kids than you will ever know..

  • This is my biggest concern when it comes to my ex. I no longer care much about what he does, but I DO care about the craziness when it comes to our son. And the craziness seems to be ramping up at an alarming rate. Ex now saying things like he is “sent here on a mission to end bullying,” and telling son that having “a regular job just isn’t for him.” His newest video even worse than the previous, if such a thing is possible. Son says ex is acting noticeably weird and talks about nothing but his dancing sasquatch videos. Ex has just been kicked out of the third gay guy’s house in the past few months, no idea where he will live next. There is much, much more, but believe me, none of it is the sort of stuff you want a teenage boy to be around.

    I don’t sugarcoat anything, I don’t have to. Son sees that his father is crazy and knows what a liar and cheater he is. It is very hard, because son wants to be able to love his father, as all children do. At the same time, his father is an embarrassing, crazy, manipulative fuck, who thinks nothing of telling son weird, personal and inappropriate stuff, and once told son the way he can cry on command for the camera is by thinking of son killing himself.

    I know there will come a day when son has to sever the relationship with his dad, but I will not be the one to tell him to do it. He must come to that decision on his own. In the meantime, I try to model sanity, I try to show responsibility and appropriate adult behavior and I am there for my son when he wants to talk about his dad. I admit, though, I hate when son is out with his dad, and I always breath a sigh of relief when son gets home.

    • Glad, I hope your son gets away soon. Ugh what an evil man. If your ex is going to crash and burn, at least he could just gets on with it and leave your son in peace. But these idiots can’t even do that right.

    • Glad, can you provide some links for us to view these freaky videos? I tried to look him up on YouTube, but there are pretty many different ones. Some were just downright creepy with weird dancing and music going on. I can only imagine what he must look like underneath his furry costume. Can you give us any clues? It will just add to the amusement if we can view some of these “pieces of sparkly art” he’s created. I could use some good humor.

  • My daughter’s biological father is a creepy sociopath who abandoned both of us when I was three months pregnant. Unfortunately she turned out with one of the worst cases of NDP I’ve come across. She’s arrogant, mean spirited, cruel and lacks empathy. Last year she walked out on her husband and four little kids for a boy toy 15 years younger than she is. She claims she didn’t ‘cheat’ on her husband. Yeah, right. I put her through college and she chose to be a bar maid for the past 10 years and I’m quite sure she met Boy in bar. To say I’m hugely disappointed in her would be an understatement.

    • This is my fear, Gio. My son, who is 14, is a sweet-natured kid, a little too conflict-avoidant, more likely to be a chump, but learning well how to deal w/his asshole father, so I’m hopeful.

      But our daughter, now 12, has her father’s character. She’s much less messed up than her dad, more loving and lighter-spirited, but her default mode is to criticize others, she can be very selfish (not just a teen-aged thing), and can be horrifically rude, impatient and demanding – and then when her brother or I are angered by it, she gets WORSE. I’m coping as well as possible, trying to be a loving disciplinarian, and she actually reached the conclusion herself a few months ago that she could become a lot like her dad – and is worried about that. We’ve agreed that if she heads too much in that direction she gets a therapist to help her with the negativity and especially the rudeness (which appears to be based in the superiority and entitlement that fuels most of what her dad does and is).

      Baron-Cohen’s book ‘The Science of Evil’ helped me understand the genetics underlying this behaviour (primarily lack of empathy), and of course having the first 11 years of her life around that asshole didn’t help. I’ve promised I’d help her not become like him – I hope so much that I can keep that promise.

      The unending punishment of breeding with a fucktard. I should have left way sooner …

      • Just remember, the fact that she realizes that she might become like him and, even more important, CARES that she might end up like him is a real reason for optimism. Not so very long ago when I was a teenage girl I was a real jerk. I cared how other people felt, but I didn’t want anyone controlling my life. I thought I had it all figured out, and would lie to get what I wanted. Hindsight is 20/20. I had some emotional issues stemming from FOO stuff and I was just doing the standard teen acting out thing. Long story short, that’s not who I am today at the age of 28. Quite the opposite, actually. I was acting out because I didn’t know how to healthily handle my emotional issues from childhood.

        Keep reinforcing the fact that SHE is responsible for how she treats others. Nobody makes her be a jerk and hurt other people. The real defining characteristic of a true narc is that they can’t be held accountable for anything. They blameshift like nobody’s business and you can’t pin them down on anything. It’s always the other person’s fault. Give her space to make mistakes. Call her to task, but let her know that you always love her. Being a soulless jerk might be somewhat genetic, but I also think that the environment can exacerbate something that might otherwise be controllable.

        Good luck!

        • I watch carefully for signs of empathy in my youngest son, who in some ways has always been very like his father.

          I often think of a line from one of the Indiana Jones movies–“you chose poorly” when thinking the in his his father

        • Thanks for the encouragement, KT. I do try to gently call her to task when the rudeness starts, not so gently when it gets worse. And she KNOWS I love her to bits! She always starts out taking no responsibility for her bad behaviour, and when she does apologize later, I can see that she’s sad that I’m upset with her, or that her brother is. But I’m not sure she’s really taking responsibility for her behaviour, or just regretting the results of it.

          It occurs to me that it might be helpful for me to stop telling her what she’s doing wrong, and see if she can identify the problem (often that snarky, superior tone of voice!). Might help her be more aware and take more responsibility. She can be such a joy when things are going well, and really intolerable when she’s in that impatient mood!

          But it’s good to know that even people who behaved badly when they were young can grow up to be much more responsible and caring!

  • When my kids were 5 and 7, my brother’s marriage blew up — no affairs (and neither one ever remarried or dated even), and the age appropriate reason I gave the kids was that Auntie G. didn’t want to be family anymore. They got that. I think it’s important not to use the word “love” as in “fell out of love” or “loves someone else” because kids easily begin to have fears about not being loved themselves. Love is an overbroad word in our culture, but it has a very very specific meaning to little kids.

    So, ten years later, when H moves out, he doesn’t say a word to the kids. Just leaves me a letter saying he took an apartment in town. I told the kids he moved in there to be closer to his work. (gas was getting close to 5 bucks a gallon) Once the girlfriend got discovered however, that was what I told them. Dad has a girlfriend. At 13 and 15, I didn’t have to say anything more and let Dad’s actions speak for themselves.

  • ” Do your best but realize that half their DNA is fuck up.”

    This is a reductionist generalization.

    You can do better than this, Tracy.

    • It’s flippant, but there is truth in this. I don’t believe everything is nurture over nature. People have inherited traits. Call me reductionist. Let’s say addiction runs in your family, or bipolar, or in the case of my ex, OCD hoarding. You can be the best parent you can be, you can knock your socks off, and your kid can still be afflicted by addiction and mental illness.

      My brother and I have the same set of parents. My brother has struggled with addiction for over 30 years. That addiction is no reflection on my parents or the job they did. They did the best they could.

      Not taking away free will and choice — that’s also part of it, of COURSE. (I’m not letting my brother’s character off the hook for addiction issues.) We aren’t the sum of our DNA. It doesn’t determine us, but it’s certainly an influence. I think it’s helpful to let go of the idea that we can control all outcomes by how we parent.

      • Agree 100% CL, my two kids are chalk and cheese, and while I believe that I, and others in their lives and the children’s experiences and choices, have a big impact and influence, what I see is two people who have been themselves since before they were born, and are growing more and more into themselves.

        We’re not surprised to see reflections of our children’s genetics in their physical appearance, so why would we expect there to be none in their personalities?

      • Thank you. Tracy I knew you could articulate this better, and you did.

        ” We aren’t the sum of our DNA. It doesn’t determine us, but it’s certainly an influence…” sounds so much more positive than, “… half their DNA is fuck up.”

        Yanno…the outcome of any process depends upon the number and weight of the variables present. In personality development genetics is a variable, and parenting is a variable; BUT there are many other variables (some identified and some not) that factor in each unique individual’s situation.

        In a civilized society any kind of psychological or neuro-psych experiments designed to control for variables in order to “produce” a psychopath (so as to identify causation) would be ethically unthinkable…. for obvious reasons.

        So, it looks like (short of actual human beings becoming sacrificial victims to researchers of “Third Reich” ilk) that we will be taking the slow road to discovery.

        ***
        So where does that leave those who find themselves blessed with a temperamentally strong-willed child who APPEARS to lack empathy and who exhibits various anti-social behaviors?

        Hopefully, parents will be trying to find out how to intervene and to teach their children pro-social behaviors based on what we DO know about shaping behavior.

        Educators have access to and are now required by LAW to utilize research based, empirically validated, positive behavioral supports and interventions in the school setting.

        These practices can be highly useful to frustrated parents.

        Think I’m bullshitting? Read up…

        http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/discipl.fba.jordan.pdf

        http://www.nasponline.org/resources/factsheets/pbs_fs.aspx

  • Thank you Chump Lady.
    I did the very best with what I had. I struggled financially for years as a single mother and worked two jobs to give my daughter the very best I could. I loved her with all my heart. I was generous and loving. All my friends and family can attest to that.

    What did I get? A narcissist. The only time I’m invited anywhere is if I have my checkbook, debit card or cash out. The only time she calls me if she needs me to babysit. I don’t get birthday cards, mother’s day cards, Christmas presents, etc. If I buy her kids clothes she takes them back and gets what she wants them to have. If I offer to get them school shoes she takes out first and ‘previews’ then instructs them which ones to buy. I’m just a checkbook.

    She went insane on me because I couldn’t afford to give her a princess fairy tale wedding. She’s still mad that I could only afford to get her a used car instead of a new one when she graduated from high school. I didn’t name her right. I put her through college instead of beauty school and at age 42 she’s still whining on Facebook about how I robbed her of her ‘dream.’ The list is freakin’ endless of my many transgressions. We barely speak. I finally got so fed up with her nonstop put downs and insults I had to extricate myself. I tip toe on egg shells around her just like everyone else does. My entire family is half afraid of her. She calls us white trash and we’re about the nicest family you could ask for. She’s estranged from nearly everyone but it’s all THEIR fault.

    I refuse to take all the blame on this one. DNA has got to be in the mix. Her biological father is a sociopath. Of course back then we didn’t even know about those things. At least I didn’t.

    • Oh, Gio,

      So sorry to hear that….but hopefully it will skip a generation, and you grandkids will be decent folk.

      It was funny, when the penny dropped. Funny peculiar, not funny haha. Mr Fab’s family are all screaming narcs, but ip to that point, I saw them as fairly benign. Not so much any more.

      Maybe put away the checkbook, and do fun, doesn’t cost anything stuff with them. My best memories of my granny was doing simple stuff, like picking up seashells, or making cookies.

      As to your daughter, sounds like you did all you could. It HER fault she couldn’t have her dram job or dream wedding. And why should you pay for either-what century is she in?!

      hugs,
      M

  • My MIL seems to be nice but she is *very* critical of all the little things I do. She wasn’t like this before the divorce. It hurts me very badly and I worry that my kids will think less of me when she is constantly criticizing every little thing I do.

    • Ooops, submitted too early…..So, how do I protect them from their MIL’s negative comments? I read some things in the book “Divorce Poison” that say you need to address it with your children sooner rather than later….in other words, don’t just ignore it. Tell your kids that it’s not nice when other family members say mean things. The problem in my case is that my MIL is passive-aggressive about it. She doesn’t come right out and say mean things to the kids about me….instead, she just undermines how I live my life and what I do, one nit-picky thing at a time. Anyone have any experience with this?

      • One thing you can do is cut the time you and your kids spend with your MIL down as much as possible. Then STOP collaborating with the passive-aggressive behaviour. Every time she says something that nit-picks or cuts, you can and should say, in the most pleasant voice you can manage; ‘that was a mean comment’, or ‘I’d appreciate your not criticizing what I do’. She will DENY AND DENY. Don’t get dragged into that argument, change the subject, get on with your day. And when she does it again, do the same thing.

        Your MIL may get quite annoyed and start avoiding you. GOOD. She may also blame you to others – ACCEPT that. Just say ‘I find her critical and demeaning’ in the nicest voice you can, and change the subject!

        Talking to your kids about this kind of behaviour will help, but not being a chump about it will help even more.
        (Not easy to do, I know, but SO healthy!)

      • Yep, and at 11 my oldest sees right through it at this point. He asks me why she says not- nice and gossipy things about me. I just tell him that sadly , some people in life do not- nice things, no matter how wrong it may be. Just keep telling them that it’s wrong and they aren’t living by the golden rule. They’ll start to recognize it. Kids are very good at recognizing that kind of stuff, and in time they will lose respect for her because of it.

        • KarenE and JulieP30 – Thank you, I will try that. Addressing from both sides (in the moment, and later, with my kids) is a good approach. She will deny it, as you said, especially since she has the “I was just joking!” kind of attitude. But best to address it right away. My struggle is that when MIL says things I get flustered in the moment. I’ll have to work on that. I bet I’ll get better with practice. And I bet it will relieve my stress, too, to just call her out on it.

          • I now consider “I was just joking” or “can’t you take a joke?” or “you’re too sensitive” as HUGE WAVING FLAGS that someone is being aggressive, and because they take no responsibility for their aggressive behaviour, that’s abusive.

            The best answer to the ‘joke’ comments is to calmly say “a mean joke is still mean” and then change the subject or walk away.

  • Chump Lady Guru
    Thank you for your advice. It has been saved to my phone’s homepage…along with all your other key posts that are getting me through.
    I’ve got a lot of praying to do! But ok I’m gonna do the parallel parenting and just be the sane one. I feel more confident about raising the issues of addiction too as he’s so far steered away from mentioning his deeds but when he tried to tell me he was considering taking custody of the kids last week I was paralysed with disgust. I guess I should not still be hiding his dirty secrets. The judge and the lawyers will hear what he’s been up to.

    One last thing that I can’t shake. I know he has a tight bond with his dad always used to cry that he missed him growing up and when he left to work overseas when we were 22. And I know that there was some Catholic priest type abuse that his dad went through and I know my ex had a troubled childhood. I worry everytime the boys go to their dad that he might have abusive tendencies. But this is I guess all part of untangling his fuckedupness which I gave no desire to do. But my kids??? I ignored so many red flags that I don’t want to risk my boys safety. But at the same time don’t want to blow up things with a nuclear bomb just because I am scared they are not with me.

    Any advice Chump Lady? Fellow chumps?

    • Anything specific you suspect him of? Or just worried because his father has issues? Or might? I’m kind of unclear. This is a problem when we trust that they suck. We realize, or fear, OMG they could be capable of ANYTHING. I don’t know this person AT ALL. And it’s hard to trust our own judgment, after all, we just copped to the fact that we’re chumps.

      Again, I think all you can do is be the sane parent and tell your kids you are always there for them, and the lines of communication are open. And if anyone hurts them, you will tear that monster limb from limb.

      This link might help. http://www.rainn.org/get-information/sexual-assault-prevention/protecting-a-child-from-sexual-assault

      • That’s it!! That’s it!! I’m unclear! I’ve no evidence just some facts and some Murder She Wrote armchair detective type conclusions. And it’s all part of that OMG this dude could be capable of anything and I do not know this man at all realisation! He sure is not the man I thought he was, he’s not even the man I thought was trapped under all his foo issues, he’s just a bad man. He is basically a walking zombie to me now and it freaks me out that I am sending my kids off every other weekend to be with a crazy stranger. You know, there are acquaintances I’d trust more with my sons than this guy. But alas as you put it breeding with a fucktard brings unending punishment.

        As well as your post, the link was very very useful and so at least I feel more equipped to navigate this crap.

        Thanks Chump Lady
        You totally rock.

      • Culturogenic propensities? The thing is–even though there is a lot of truth to this–it invariably raises hairs on the back of peoples’ necks: some folks have a reactionary propensity to associate it with stereotyping, ethnocentrism, and eugenics even though that’s not what is implied.

        The best way to explain it, I think, is to borrow examples from Edward O. Wilson. It’s easy for most humans to learn to fear snakes. It’s almost instinctual, but it’s not instinctual, and some people like snakes. It’s much harder, though, for people to learn to like snakes. Just because it is more difficult, though, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Your genes have not doomed you to fear/hate snakes.

        PS. I don’t like snakes. Not even interested in learning “good snakes” from vipers and such. They give me the heebee geebies.

  • You know what is weird? I thought my ex would spoil them more than he does. He really doesn’t. Probably because hes “so poor” right now because I take all his money! I feel so bad for him… yeah right! Not only that, but I don’t believe him and know that he’d be crying poor no matter what his situation. He does let his parents try to buy their affections so maybe he feels like he doesn’t need to spoil them because his parents do and the kids see them when they are with him.

    What bothers me about this is I think he tells them little comments “like daddy doesn’t have all the cool toys mommy does” like he’s playing all “woe is me” with them already. It’s annoying because I know he could buy them stuff if he wanted. By the way, they are super young, they would love a $5 toy… it’s not like they have expensive wants yet.

    He may spoil them later on when they get older and it might work better… and he might get use out of the stuff he buys for “them” as well. Oh, even now… the little bit he gets for them he tries to make it so it’s something he might enjoy as well. For example, for xmas he got them sleeping bags and a tent… but the tent was really an adult tent that I’m sure he’s planning to use for himself. He sucks.

  • and talking about genetics…

    sometimes I worry that analyzing the crap out of what exactly is wrong with my ex has made me nitpicky about my own kids.

    My eldest especially because I think he has passive aggressive tendencies. Don’t get me wrong, he’s actually super sweet and empathetic as well but when he gets pissy it’s usually in a passive aggressive way with these little comments rather than a direct way that I don’t really like. I kinda prefer my youngest’s way of just making ridiculous faces at me and throwing tantrums. But my eldest has never been like that.

    Another thing, and I’m sure I’m probably overreacting since they are still technically toddlers (you know the age where it’s still developmentally okay to think the world revolves around you)… but whenever they make a whiney complaint/comment like “I’m thirsty” or “I can’t see” (like its getting dark and they want the light on), I get all like “is there something you would like to ask me to do for you that would solve this problem?” I’ll even tell them that I don’t like them just complaining about whatever their problem is, I’d rather they think of a solution to their problem and ask me nicely to do it, or in some cases they can even solve the problem themselves”. Sometimes I think I’m making a big deal about nothing and I should just silently fill up their cup or flip on the light.

    But I think I get flashbacks to how I was supposed to just wait on my ex hand and foot and how he would never actually directly ask me for something but just say things in a way so that it was MY idea to help. Like I would know what he wanted and either do it or feel guilty if I didn’t do it. Anyway, I’ll be damned if my kids grow up and expect me or any other future woman to do that for them! Not only that, in general, my ex was just all about complaining but not ever about thinking about solutions to his problems.

    Though it may technically be too early to worry about such things with the kids, but better safe than sorry. And either way, anything that makes me feel less like their servant can’t hurt 🙂

    • anotherErica,
      I agree with you – better safe than sorry. I don’t think it’s ever too early to think about these issues. My daughters (15 and 13) have grown up watching me chump myself out to Mr. Man Child. Not only do I regret letting my “self” be squished to serve his needs, but he encouraged them to do it, too. More times than I can count, he (passive-aggressively) made me the wet blanket and enlisted their support in the fun times while poo-pooing the boring stuff (chores!?!). His flight to the OW left a power vacuum that is allowing me to gradually assert myself with them, but it’s hard to know how much to push. They’re teenagers now, so I have to balance “I’m still the (only) adult and what I say goes” with “You are capable of making your own good decisions”. It feels scary to recognize some of his less appealing qualities and want to shut them down – there’s only so much I can do while still letting them be the people they are. I’m just trying to remember to enforce my boundaries and be respectful in the process. IMHO there’s nothing wrong with asking small children to attempt to emulate good grown-up behaviors like solving problems on their own and asking respectfully for their needs to be met. If I don’t teach them, I’ll be making the same mistake that my asshat’s mother made – letting him get away with being a selfish, entitled child. Let’s nip that shit in the bud…
      Here’s to good parenting (that leads to good partners)! 🙂

      • I think the two of you are on the right track. It’s more about good parenting in general. When we run into trouble is when we try to “parent” our exes out of our kids. In other words address the behavior because it would be non positive in all children, not because it’s part of our exes’ personalities. But there’s nothing wrong with having a head’s up about what kind of traits may be more present. Hey, all parents should be raising their kids to be polite and non entitled and to have a sense of self responsibility. If they did this world would be a lot better place. 🙂

        I always planned on having two kids and instead it looks like my son is going to be an only child. I worry because my ex is an only child who was spoiled and clearly that didn’t turn out well. Never mind the fact that he’s a sex addict and when I found out I was having a boy I panicked at how likely the genetics of that was. I look at my niece though (my sister’s oldest) and she is SOOOOOOOOOOO much like I was as a kid in really really strange ways. She’s fascinated by anything supernatural. She hates anything popular just because it IS popular and she can’t stand girly colors or makeup or purses. I mean she has a lot of my exact quirks that I had as a kid. There is no way this stuff isn’t genetic because none of this behavior is modeled to her. I think regardless of where these personality traits originate from the trick is to balance them. For the supernatural stuff it’s important to balance that with how amazing the regular world can be, respond to any fear based questions about ghosts and stuff as matter of fact and teach her that you can’t believe everything on the internet. On the other hand I don’t tell her that her interests and beliefs are stupid. And as for the anti-girly stuff, I know she’ll grow out of that and I just make sure to tell her she does look nice when she does…even if it’s girly. Of course it’s not my job to parent her but you get my point.

        • Ditto on the similarities that shouldn’t be… My youngest has spent almost no time with her uncle (my little brother), but they share body types and looks (not surprising) as well as mannerisms and facial expressions (very weird!). 🙂

          • As I said before my ex is a Sex Addict who also has other addictive behaviors. Apparently his dad was a cheating alcoholic who died (he committed suicide) with a lot of people angry at him because he’d screwed them over business wise and owed money. Without actually ever having met the man I can surmise he probably wasn’t the greatest role model for my ex and that addiction runs in the family. His mom isn’t normal either and even though she’s not mean I’ve rarely seen her be able to step outside of her own shit and empathize with anyone else. Plus she hates delayed gratification and loves spoiling. What’s my point? I make absolutely no excuses for my ex. But I’m hoping that my kid has a better chance to be a decent human being since I’m aware of certain predispositions AND I will be a much better parent and role model. Hey, I came from a shitty foo background with some seriously messed up inherited stuff but I managed to avoid screwing over (or screwing) everyone around me.

        • yeah, I can’t just parent the annoying parts of my ex out. I’ll also try to parent out my annoying parts 😉

          Alas, everyone has annoying parts… and no one is perfect… though I can see my ex expecting perfection out of them… oh well, cross that bridge when I come to it.

  • Tough subject for me.

    I finally, finally split from XH after 17 years when my sons were 9 and 4 years old. Six years later, I married again and husby and I have had a blended family for almost 9 years now. My sons are now 24 and 18, and husby has treated my sons as his own.

    My oldest son has some mental health issues, which surfaced when he was 9. He is also a now one year sober alcoholic that isn’t working the program and risks relapse. My HX has been hospitalized for psychiatric problems several times and has been an alcoholic since he was 16. I’m certain my son inherited tough genes, but in hindsight it was easy to attribute emerging adolescent issues to tension with his father. And, after divorce – I may have been a bit too self-absorbed enjoying my new-found life to pick up on my son’s problems. Despite my undying love for him and his innate goodness, I acknowledge that it has not always been easy or enjoyable being his mom. I strive to assist but not enable him, while recognizing that the why of things don’t matter. They just are.

    My 18 year old son conversely – is a mature, social, happy, high achiever kid – but I do worry about addiction potential given his inherited genetics.

    • I’m sorry, but it sounds like you are doing the best that you can and that you always have. Some things can’t be controlled… but it sounds like things are going better for your eldest. Even acknowledging he has a problem and getting sober

      • sorry, hit the button early…

        I was starting to say he’s come further than A LOT of people, and at a relatively young age.

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