I really didn’t think I’d need to write a letter, but as most things with chumps go, I am one day full of resolve and a very clear picture, and then the next stuck in the nebulous “does this make me a bad person,” self-questioning that my soon-to-be-ex, gaslighting, cheating, lying husband did nothing but encourage over the last 15 years.
Here’s the deal: I have a beautiful, gorgeous, innocent, and amazing daughter who is 2.5 years old. When she was just 14 months old, her father walked out on the both of us, after 13+ years of marriage, for the infamous OW. This is the most stereotypical situation ever, he cheated with a subordinate at work (a serial cheater herself with 4 divorces under her belt)…the kicker is that all three of us worked there, so I turned around and turned in the evidence of their relationship, and they were both “invited to leave.” This of course is 10x worse than what he did to me (even though this wasn’t the first inappropriate relationship of his over the years, just the one that went the furthest…supposedly), so to say we’ve been at a bit of odds is an understatement.
Flash-forward a year, we’ve had a round of insincere (on his part) attempts at reconciliation, and after I kicked him out (I refuse to be anything but someone’s first choice from now on) and moved back home (150 miles away), life was beginning to be OK, and I started the divorce process. The ex and I were working out a nice schedule as far as him seeing his daughter every other weekend, etc., and we were just going to have an amicable divorce with avoiding courts. Or so I thought…
Until about a month ago, when it came out that the OW is back in the picture. I had one condition with my ex, and that was that when he had his daughter, it needed to be the two of them, no girlfriends or whatever around, at least for the next few years. He readily agreed at the time. Well, when he received the divorce papers citing a morality clause (no females overnight when he has our daughter), his head started spinning and venom flying. He states that I’m trying to control his life from now on, and that I should trust (ha!) his judgement as to who he brings around our daughter.
He can’t afford to take me to court to fight the morality clause, and he keeps approaching me (through texts and calls) trying any and everything — from insults and venom, to trying to appeal to “we can work this out.” When that doesn’t work, he says that if I don’t drop this, then he’ll just marry OW 30 days after the divorce is final. Which, if it was just him and me, I could care less, she can have him and his mental baggage of insanity, but I really don’t want this whore around my kid. I told him I was willing to negotiate an age limit on the clause (say, when she’s 6 or 8 and can better understand what is going on around her), but he will hear none of it. He’s refused to see his daughter since the middle of June, because he doesn’t want to have to do it with “my rules dictating his life.”
I guess what I need/want to know is, am I crazy for expecting Ex to actually hold himself to some sort of moral standard while he has our daughter? Is it not natural to not want my daughter around whatever flavor of the month he’s entertaining? He hasn’t paid a dime of child support yet, and I have tried to be patient and reasonable and take the “high road.” All I’ve asked for is ONE thing — and it’s the one thing he refuses to respect. Everyone says that I am not being unreasonable, but I thought I would double check with a group that has actually been through this. I spent half of my life trying to make this person happy, and when I hold my own against him I feel unsteady, it’s unnatural, and it’s so easy to think that I’m just being the bad guy in all this. I want to be a good co-parent, but I also don’t want to be a doormat any more.
Please hit me with a logic bomb and let me know if I’m insane.
Dear Tired Momma,
Is it crazy to expect your ex to hold himself to some sort of moral standard? Yes it is. The person he was before the divorce — a guy not holding himself to moral standards (he cheated) — is the person he’s going to be after the divorce. Moreover, we don’t control other people. You have zero control over his moral standards. I’m sorry. It sucks.
Oh but the morality clause! It has teeth! It will prevent him from having the OW for sleepovers, at least for a few years!
It’s unenforceable, Tired. You may find the rare judge who gives a shit, but I promise you must judges will not appreciate you bringing your morality clause to court. A grown-up, divorced man has a girlfriend who sleeps over when his daughter is there will probably not rise to the level of “immediate danger” in the eyes of the court. There are certainly exceptions — I’ve had one judge that cared. He put a morality clause — unasked for — in one of my custody hearings with my son’s father. Result? a) He ignored it. And b) I didn’t really care because he’s been dating this woman for over a decade. Surprise! They vacation together with my kid.
Now, it’s apples to oranges because that girlfriend wasn’t an OW. I’m sure if that were the case I’d feel less sanguine and more incensed about the whole thing. Wouldn’t matter. I’d still have zero control over it.
Think about it. For this clause to be enforceable, it would put you in the position of being the divorce police. It’s the same sort of suckitude of being the marriage police, only with more distance and obstacles. You would have to spend a lot of time and mental energy figuring out who he’s sleeping with and when. Is he going to tell you that? Probably not. So you’re going to have to grill your kid for the details. Do you want to depose your kid on daddy’s sleeping arrangements? Do you want the cost and heartache of a custody hearing? Really?
See, I think you’ve already figured that out, because you’re asking me if you think he can do the right thing all on his own. Or will having that legal clause in there make him honor your request to keep the OW out of your daughter’s life? It will not. Your ex is a man who doesn’t abide by his agreements, or consider the best interests of his child.
Let go of the rope and focus on what you do control — being an awesome mommy to your little girl. You control that.
The OW being around your kid is a giant shit sandwich you’re going to have to endure. I’m sorry. You’re in good company on this one. All I can tell you is take the long view — eventually your kid figures out who the sane parent is (you) and who has their back (you again).
Now about Cheater Daddy — he’s a real prick. His reaction to the threat of a morality clause is to just stop seeing his daughter and not pay support. Oh, here is something you control! Child support enforcement. Fuck the morality clause and dock this idiot’s wages for support. Do it immediately. Do not hesitate to make that jerk pay child support. It’s not tied to visitation or the OW, it’s just something he is legally (and morally) obligated to pay. Get on that.
And I’m sorry to tell you, but my best guess is whatever arrangement you come up with, he probably won’t see his kid like he should. And he’ll blame YOU for that — you and your ridiculous “controlling” ways. That’s a mindfuck. Ignore it. The reason he doesn’t see his kid is that he’s a prick.
Oh, and speaking of controlling? The whole threat to marry the OW right after the divorce (HAH! Take THAT morality clause!) is so absurd that I think you should take him up on it. He thinks that’s the worst thing you can imagine — Oh no! Don’t pick HER! Don’t marry HER! — that you won’t do it. He’s trying to control YOU. But there is no worse punishment than two cheaters marrying each other — hell, that’s the best argument for putting the clause in there. Start planning your wedding, sucker. Begin the hypotenuse search immediately!
Look, Tired, start accepting he’s going to do exactly what he wants regardless of how it effects you or your daughter. That’s who he is. Focus on the things you control — being the sane parent, enforcing child support — and let go of the rest. Treat him with the civility you’d give your local tax assessor. No emotion. All business. If he does something that rises to harming your daughter — physical neglect, abuse, sexual abuse, drugs — then absolutely involve the courts immediately. But how he parents and the particulars of his love life are not things you can police. Let them go and focus on your improved, cheater-free life.
((Big HUGS)) because this sucks. But you’ll get to meh about them both in time, I promise.