Dear Chump Lady,
My parents have been divorced for about 6 years now, and my parents have moved on to see new people. My dad has a girlfriend who is somewhat younger than he is. She has a son who can be a pain, but we love him. Anyway, recently I was having just a girls night with my mom and we were eating dinner. I forget what we were talking about but she brought up my younger brother seeing some odd texts, not disturbing, my dad is way too old for that, but strange texts from people that didn’t seem fitting. Now I understand that seems like he’s a snoop, but he is nothing of the sort.
After dinner, I was a bit sick to my stomach so I went to my room and sang, which is what calms me down, while I thought. It suddenly made me really angry, so I got on my computer and looked on all of the dating sites that I could to see if i could find my dad, but he was nowhere to be found. I felt like I should have stopped there because I thought I was being a skeptic. I was totally wrong.
Today we were watching football, as the whole nation seemed to be. I was sitting on the recliner and he was looking at his phone. I turn over and glance at his phone and I see (dating website). It was a senior dating website! I looked at all of the young people websites and I never thought to look at the other websites. This broke my heart and now I am locked in the bathroom writing to you. In the beginning, I was hoping that maybe he used the dating website before and he stopped using it, but he was just online 15 minutes ago checking his messages from this lady who is not even as close to as pretty as my dad’s so-called “girlfriend.”
I knew that the reason my mom left my dad was because of his anger issues, so I’m afraid to tell him because I know he’ll get mad at me and accuse me of being a snoop and he’ll deny everything like he always does. My mom has always been there to support us, and this year, my dad didn’t even want to buy us school supplies, but he did. I’m so lost and scared about what’s going to happen to him and his girlfriend if she finds out because, honestly, I think she is what’s keeping him sane. He treats her well, exploding every now and then. I know it may seem like I’m a snoop and please don’t say it’s none of my business because it is sort of. My dad’s girlfriend is super great and nice. I was really surprised that she stayed with him this long.
Please help me because I’m not really sure what to do…
Don’t worry, I’m not going to say you’re a snoop and it’s none of your business. Your father made his love life your business when he introduced his girlfriend and her son to you. You bonded with this woman and her son (the pain) whom you love. He is cheating on people you care about. People HE brought into your life and encouraged you to care about.
Damn straight you get to be upset about this.
Your father acts like these people are expendable and can be disrespected to suit his whims. He’s a cake eater. He’s enjoying the attentions and one-sided commitment of his girlfriend, while he gives himself permission to unilaterally explore other options. This is cruel to his girlfriend, her son, and to you. If he wanted to date other people, he could’ve had an honest conversation with her and broken up with her first. As painful as that would be for everyone, it would be honest. But he’s not doing that, he’s two-timing her, letting her (and you) continue to invest in the relationship.
Your dad is behaving very narcissistically.
Molly, I’m going to try and pass along a painful grown-up lesson that took me AGES to learn, so I want you to be a much quicker study, okay?
We don’t control shit. We only control ourselves.
Now, that is not to say be an apathetic, do nothing person. On the contrary, be a kick-ass brave person. Know who you are, what your values are, and what you’re deal breakers are. Just because your dad has lousy morals and treats people like crap, doesn’t mean you have to be okay with it.
That’s different than having any CONTROL over it. Because (and this sucks) you don’t have any control over this. You can’t stop your dad from treating his girlfriend like crap. Or the next one. Or the one after that. At a certain point you’re going to accept that is just who he is and what he does. He’s a guy who doesn’t respect people and who blows up a lot.
You’re a kid, and I can understand how you wouldn’t want to confront a volatile parent. You’ve been put in a very unfair position. If you see his girlfriend, you’ll be keeping his ugly secret and will feel complicit. If you confront your dad, you’ll worry that he’ll blow up at you or say it’s not your business, or lie. You’ve pretty much predicted what he’ll do based on his previous behavior. He’ll deny everything like he always does.
So don’t try to speak truth to stupid. If I were you, this is what I’d do — first, I’d confide in your mom and let her know this awful position you’re in. Something tells me she may have broken up with your dad for more than anger issues. Chances are your dad treated her the same way he’s treating his girlfriend now. Get an adult to support you with this (assuming they will. Adults can sometimes be spineless.)
I would hope your mom reaches out to the girlfriend and tells her what you saw. However, she may not want to be involved or feels she won’t be believed.
Next, I would tell your dad that you won’t be hanging out with him and his girlfriend anymore, because you feel uncomfortable getting close to her knowing that he’s cheating on her. That won’t go over well, I’m sure, but you CONTROL you. You control that boundary — you cheat and hurt someone I love? I don’t have to keep your secrets and stay in that position.
See how that works? You can’t control your dad’s cheating but you DO control who you hang out with and if you’ll be party to a secret.
You could, of course, also tell the girlfriend what you saw. That would be super brave of you, and risk your father’s wrath. I wouldn’t do that without your mom’s support on this. I really don’t know how volatile your dad is. It’s a tough position — who is more vulnerable? — her being chumped or you being a young person mixed up in this? UGH.
Molly, I don’t know how this is going to shake out for you and your dad and his girlfriend, but I do have some other advice for you – – Don’t date a guy like your Dad.
I’m so lost and scared about what’s going to happen to him and his girlfriend if she finds out because, honestly, I think she is what’s keeping him sane.
Molly, imagine I am grabbing you by the shoulders and my face is two inches from your face. Do I have your attention? HIS SANITY IS NOT HER JOB.
Just the fact that you crafted that sentence makes me fear he is modeling really abusive shit to you.
We don’t keep scary men sane by what we do and do not do. Our goodness doesn’t keep them on the straight and narrow. That chump thinking leads to believing that when he DOES do something insane, or cruel, or unfair — that we brought it on ourselves because we weren’t good enough. If only I’d have been better… he wouldn’t have done that. It’s my fault.
He treats her well, exploding every now and then.
He cheats on her and explodes at her? HE IS NOT TREATING HER WELL. People who love and respect us don’t do those things. Making excuses for cheating and raging is what we call “spackle.” You’re trying to justify the unjustifiable. Don’t do that.
Know your worth, Molly. Know who you are and what you stand for. What your dad is doing is WRONG. You can’t control him, but you can control YOU. What kind of relationship you continue to have with your dad is YOUR choice. Being party to his secrets or outing him, is YOUR choice. Whatever you do, doesn’t “make” him do ANYTHING. He is responsible for HIMSELF. His shitty behavior is on him ALONE. You, or your mom, or little brother, or his girlfriend, didn’t compel him to do ANY of this. Do not take one blame-shifting lie off your dad, okay?
Don’t be a chump, Molly. Don’t be a woman like dad’s girlfriend someday, nice and sweet to the guy who rages at her and cheats on her. Be the woman who dumps the cheater and knows her worth. ((((BIG HUGS))))