Dear Chump Lady,
While I am all for remaining gracious in the face of a cheater spouse, at what point is it acceptable to inform adult children of their parent’s infidelity?
I am twice chumped, and am dating a fellow chump.
He is a man of integrity, at least so far, but he has this thing about never criticizing the mother to the kids. His wife cheated 13 years ago when their youngest child was six. He divorced her, but has had frequent but not friendly contact over the years because of shared custody. Now the youngest, a girl, is nearly 20 and finishing university. The sale of the marital home, as dictated in the divorce agreement is about to happen. The Ex has enjoyed 13 years in a million dollar home without paying rent, and now has to face reality. She is no doubt pretty fearful of her impending downgrade and this, I believe, has triggered some venom. Daughter lives with her own boyfriend, so housing children is no longer an issue.
The 20-year-old daughter recently tore into her father, saying he was a bad father for having left her mother way back when. She called him selfish. This is after years of paying her generous support, funding elite sports training for her, travelling all over the world with her to attend sports competitions, and generally being as good a father as possible. He is extremely passive and rarely gets into discussions about anything controversial.
The ex wife moved her tennis coach lover into the marital home, despite it being contrary to the terms of the divorce. The daughter lived with that guy in the house as a child — how could she not realise the truth?
My opinion is that father should go on the offensive and simply tell the daughter the whole truth. There was evidence collected by a PI, and the tennis coach was named as correspondant in the divorce. I think this is a classic case of a cheater lying out of spite or whatever, but it has poisoned the daughter’s attitude and Dad is devastated. He loves his daughter so much and it breaks his heart to be losing her respect.
I know I should keep my opinion to myself, but I am losing respect for this guy because he won’t stand up for himself. He needs some major chump support. I’d like to be his partner some day, but until he gets some balls and deals with the crazies, I feel stuck.
Thanks, any opinion appreciated.
Unfortunately your boyfriend didn’t write to me, you did. I’d love to give you the magic spell that makes people find their balls, but I don’t have it. We don’t control other people. So my question to you is — do you want to continue to date a guy who is “extremely passive” and whom you are losing respect for?
You could tell him his passivity and unwillingness to defend himself is a turn off, and you’re losing respect for him. That’s one approach. (Being the unsubtle, bucket-of-cold-water that I am, it’s probably where I would go.) Or you could untangle his skein a bit because you care for him.
“Sweetheart, what is preventing you from telling your daughter the truth about why the marriage ended?”
I suspect you’ll get one of several answers.
1) I don’t want to bad mouth her mother. Some chumps are so mindfucked they think telling the truth is “bad mouthing.” No, what the cheater did was bad. Speaking of it, is just telling the truth. Chumps like this are still carrying the shame. They’re still buying into their role of being the narcissist’s PR agent, you know, “we’re good people who grew apart.” They allow this shit sandwich, because they’re ashamed of being chumps. Rather that shit sandwich than people know he was cheated on, and what kind of Terrible Husband Must He Have Been for her to do that?
Chumps who feel that way often also have the idiotic idea that They Will Be Above It, and nobly face the slings and arrows of the cheater’s bad opinion for the sake of the children. There is some merit to this idea AFTER YOU TOLD THE TRUTH. What makes it idiotic is taking the high road, when no one has any idea what the road is. It’s one thing to take the high road after you’ve been chumped and everyone knows the cheater cheated. It’s another to wage some silent campaign and let the cheater’s narrative go unchallenged. “I won’t dignify that with a response” will be taken as “you’re guilty” of whatever the cheater’s allege.
Chumps — RESPOND.
As I advise over and over and over again here — tell children the truth as soon as possible. (Okay this guy is 13 years too late, but better late than never.) Do not editorialize. “Mom is a slut.” But simply state the facts. “We divorced because your mom was having an affair with Mr. Tennis Coach. She refused to end the affair, so I left.”
Stating the FACTS is not bad mouthing. “Mom is a slut” is bad mouthing. If your kids want to infer “mom is a slut” from “mom cheated with the tennis coach” that is their call. Because cheaters know that is the natural inference, they are desperate to control the narrative and shut the chump up.
Worked for her. This guy is still a chump.
2) He thinks deep down he was selfish for leaving. The Achilles heel of every father of divorce. The daughter played it nicely. It doesn’t matter how horrible the situation, the faithful dad is going to wonder if he couldn’t have kept his family together and toughed it out for the sake of the kids. It will kill him that he put his sanity and well-being ahead and saved himself — so he cops to “selfish.” He believes he was selfish to leave a cheater. He thinks at some level he could’ve prevented this outcome, or been a better husband so she did not cheat. He feels responsible for the cheater’s fuckupedness. So he’ll “make up” for his inadequacies by being financially generous.
He doesn’t realize that leaving an abusive situation was a healthy choice not a selfish one. That her cheating had NOTHING to do with him.
Someone should’ve told him 13 years ago to focus on being the best dad he can be, and let his kids know the divorce had nothing to do with them. He didn’t want to leave them, he just could not stay in a marriage where he was being abused and cuckolded.
3) He doesn’t see the point in defending himself, the mother controls the narrative, why fight it? He’s given up before he’s ever begun. He may feel 13 years later, it’s too late. He may feel that the mother “won” the kids and all his financing of the elite sporting events was for naught — they still don’t respect him.
They don’t respect him, and that’s not just because the mother is a Queen Cheater Bitch. It’s because he doesn’t respect himself. He allowed this narrative to stand and he was too passive in the face of it all to muster up the emotional wherewithal to challenge it — and this is what he gets. A spoiled, angry daughter who thinks it is All His Fault.
Marci — time to figure out where his chumpiness is coming from, so you can make an informed decision about the relationship. It’s one thing to date a former chump — but they have to be REFORMED. You don’t want to take all that spackle, hopium, and denial into your future relationships. It seems like this guy got stuck at chump and he’s made a temporary condition a permanent one.
Ask him what kind of chump he wants to be — a former chump? Or a chump in perpetuity? It’s long past time for him to stick up for himself.