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Dear Chump Lady, My dad is cheating on his girlfriend

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…



Dear Molly,

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))))

Ask Chump Lady

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  • Molly, CL is absolutely right. Your dad is not treating his girlfriend well and frankly it sounds as though she deserves better.

    If you do make it known to him that you know he’s cheating and you think that’s rotten, do so only with the support of your mom. And if he gets ready to blow up at you for not minding your own business you stand up straight, shoulders back and say, “No Sir, You don’t get to blame me for YOUR wrong actions. You brought her into our lives and we like her. You need to straighten up and be a decent human being.”

    But the most important part of CL’s advice is learning from this so that you don’t end up a chump and don’t end up with a guy like your father. Learn about what treating a woman well really looks like and seek that out. You don’t need to compromise with a volatile jerk just because he likes you. You’re worth way more than that.

    I’m glad you wrote to Chump Lady. Please do let us know how it goes.

    • ML, love, love, love, …”you stand up straight, shoulders back and say, “No sir, You don’t get to blame me…” I think what we sell our next generation is crap, as adults we need to recognize crap behavior and we need to call it out. We need to talk about consequences. We need to discuss that what we do, every second, minute, hour, and day defines us. Cheating is not a “normal, little, human, mistake.” It leaves a devastatingly powerful legacy. Good and bad.

      • Unfortunately, these days, its ‘wrong’ or ‘rude’ or ‘none of your business’ to call people out on their crap – and I mean ANY sort of crap, not just cheating or lying.
        Hello age of entitlement!

        • Yes, sort of like how we ignored the geek bullied at school, but-who knew!!!-turns out that was never a great solution to a problem either. My marriage finally blew apart when I no longer tolerated the abuse and I am happier for it.

          • Yes, maybe the tide for accepting bullying and abuse such as cheating is slowly turning. We can hope!

            • ML, here in Australia people are called out daily on their bullying and abuse but not their cheating which I feel is a combination of the 2. In fact before I was cheated on, I was not aware of the world of deceit and pain that existed. People just say “move one”. This comment does not validate my feelings in all of this so I just keep quiet and hope that all will be well. If I open my mouth I am complaining, so what can I do? I find that people do not care one bit. If it isn’t bothering them, well it shouldn’t be bothering me either. From my experience, cheating is as normal as breathing, so I should just accept that it happens End of story.

              • Gosh that’s a shame, Maree. I really hope that mindset changes. Unless you go through it (are on the receiving end) you just can’t imagine the pain. Not to mention it’s a broken contract with serious financial repercussions.

              • Maree, ditto.
                Being cheated on means the death of a lot of things, and the reaction to death and loss is grief.
                I wonder if my heartbreak and grieving will ever end, sometimes.
                But people are very intolerant of other people’s grief. And, come one, he didn’t die!
                People who have lost loved ones through death tell me this is true for them also. They are given about 6 months then they have to move on too.

        • ^^^^ THIS ^^^^

          No one wants to have the hard conversations to resolve things. Denial and spackle instead of dealing with issues. Don’t make waves or cause headaches, etc.

          I am so glad that those of us who have found this site are trying to work through things now. It is hard work but so much better than denial and status quo.

  • CL, depending on who old Molly is, she may not be able to control whether or not she spends time with her dad. She may even have to keep quiet to avoid his anger.

    I agree with the rest of the advice – talk to your mom or some other trusted adult. And don’t date a guy who treats you like this when you grow up.

    • I believe that in many states the age is 12 when kids get a voice in court about which parent they prefer to stay with. By the time they’re teens, I think the say-so is theirs.

      In any case, the dad could force the issue, wind up in court and Molly tells the judge “Dad has dating profiles, is cheating on his GF, and wants me to keep his secrets.” Can’t see that going over well.

      • Hi Chump Lady,

        First, I love your work and what you’re doing for chumps. Thank you! If you are open to some constructive criticism, I’ve noticed that you and some others here are, IMHO, overly optimistic about the family courts. I’d like to recommend the “One Mom’s Battle” Facebook page and website to you if you’re not already familiar with it. I’ve read about and talked to people who think that court will be a fair and reasonable place to work things out and end up in an absolute nightmare. In my opinion, court should be avoided whenever possible. Maybe I’ve become too paranoid, but I’m thinking of a post here as well, where we all bolstered someone up with the logic of her case, and then the unthinkable happened and she lost custody. Anyway, I think we need to tread very carefully when we start to talk, even casually, about custody and legal issues-just my two cents.

        • “Equal justice under the law for those who can afford it.”

          They teach this in “poor folks 101.”

        • DN, I know the courts can be very unfair. You never know which way the judges will go, which is why I advise everyone to DOCUMENT, don’t do anything vengeful that will make you look bad, and get the best kick-ass lawyer you can. I didn’t say “can afford” — because none of them feel affordable. It’s financially painful to go through this, so get the best counsel you can.

          The problem with “avoiding court” is that’s fine if everyone will play nice and agree. (Not likely if your ex is disordered and/or an addict). Courts give court orders, which are enforceable.

          It’s terrible what happened to One Mom’s Battle, but as long as her kid is under 18 she can challenge the ruling (I know, more money). It’s tragic. The courts don’t always get it right.

          I do think, however, most of the time, they do their best. I can point to the unfair in my situation (sued pro se, legally harassed) — the courts kept subjecting me to the crazy because he’s due his right to go to court. I can point to the fair — I won. I can point to the absurd LOSS — $100K lost over something normal, agreeable people could work out.

          I wasn’t married to a normal, agreeable person. I bred with a wing nut. Going to court is more of the Unending Punishment of Breeding with a Fucktard.

          I don’t think I talk casually about custody. It’s fraught and custody trials are motherfucking nightmares. (Ask me, I’ve had several.) BUT I have found that judges listen to kids, and at a certain age, in many courts — their voice is counted. That’s a real thing.

          • CL, Molly may be better off not forcing the issue and saving any money for college. Not to mention it’s possible her dad will pay for her college or other expenses.

            It stinks, but kids have a lot less power than adults.

            Molly needs to be able to talk to someone, but she’s not going to be able to fix her dad or this situation. She may have to figure out how to get along with him for a few years and have a better life when she grows up. (Easy to say now as a grown-up, I know.)

            • Although, if Molly or the other kids are in danger from her dad’s anger, she should start documenting it and get legal counsel.

              I think it can be helpful to have advice from someone other than her mother at times. I think parental alienation laws can be misused in situations like this one.

            • On this note, I’d also advise Molly to ask her mother or a teacher to arrange counseling for her. In all likelihood, the problems with Dad are not going to be one-off. Molly may be comfortable getting help from her mom, but the fact that she is writing CL suggests that she needs a neutral adult to help her draw boundaries. Also, a counseling professional might be better able to gauge whether confronting Dad would be dangerous or not–something that I am worried about guessing about based on a letter to CL.

              To you, Molly–I am so sorry you are going through this. I know all of us chumps with kids (and even a lot of the chumps without them), worry about how our disordered partners are causing turmoil and anxiety for the kids even though we’ve done what we can to separate ourselves (and the kids) from the crazy.

              I can only repeat what CL has said–don’t try to fix your Dad. He knows that cheating is wrong, and he knows that blowing up at people is wrong, but he does it anyway. These are his issues to manage–not yours.

              Figuring out how to stand up for yourself even while you are dependent on a dishonest or abusive person is terribly difficult. Please reach out to the adults in your world who can be your allies.

  • Molly, you are clearly a person of integrity, or you wouldn’t be questioning what to do- my dad was a cheating, angry narcissist, and then I married a guy just like him, who then put our daughter through Hell. Please learn from all our mistakes and experiences.

    Trust your gut, know that you got this, and Chump Nation has your back.

    And hugs. It sucks. But gets better.


  • It never ceases to amaze me how these people always hurt the people that love them AND they never seem to even THINK about what they are doing to their children.

    it really is sad. your dad found someone who loves him, just the way he is, who believes in him and who trusts him. and he doesnt care. instead of treating his girlfriend with respect, with gratitude for all she does for him, with appreciation for her efforts, support and love plus the fact that his girlfriend has opened her heart and house to his children… he goes behind her back to get MORE….more love, more support, more flirty texts, more ego stoking….

    these men never seem to care what they have at home. or how much their girlfriends, wives, children love them and believe in them and trust them and need them. it never seems to be enough.

    it is sad because if he would only put the same time, effort and work into the relationship he has now, it could be something wonderful. but he doesnt. and seems to drag his children into the drama, not even caring what will happen to anyone when this blows up in his face. they never seem to learn that a good relationship takes time, and work and sacrifices for the better of everyone.

    i am sorry that you have to go thru this. it is a real life lesson usually reserved for adults. i hope you find a way to be with your dad, but also to be strong in your morals and values.

  • Molly, I am going to recommend a link to a TED talk given by Sarah Kay (her poetry book is titled B).…/sarah_kay_if_i_should_have_a…
    My youngest gave me this because she recognized that none of us could fix or save her father from making his crap life choices. While he systematically destroyed and betrayed his family we learned to value ourselves, draw boundaries (call him on his shit as needed), and live a more authentic life. For a long time we all spackled and made excuses. Why he was never home. Why he wasn’t attending the kids’ activities. He was just…absent. Just like your father. Even when spending time with you, his girlfriend, and the child you’ve grown to love (FYI my little brother was a “pain” too from about 3 to 11, but I loved him just the same, lol), he is checked out and fishing for kibbles from strangers. That is WHO he chooses to BE. My advice? I would discuss this with your Mom. You do have a choice on whether you want to spend time with someone who chooses cheating over providing others with a trustworthy relationship. Molly, You are well ahead of the game if you can recognize that what your father is doing is wrong.

  • Molly, you are at the beginning of your teenage years. This the when you learn how to be an adult. You can choose to be a person of integrity. That means you live by the Golden rule. You treat others the way you would like to be treated. You are going to be disappointed many times in your life by people you think should know better. Here is a wonderful thing, you can choose to be honest, faithful, true and loyal. You can choose to do the right things in your life. It will often be puzzling to you because you will not understand why some grown-ups act the way they do. CL is right you cannot control these people. One thing you can do is be a good role model for this boy. You can show him that there is someone who cares about him.
    If your father has a bad temper then you need to be careful how you go about doing things. If your mother is the kind who can manage this information then telling her might be the right thing to do. If you feel like it would open a hornets nest then just going about your business might be the wisest thing. It will make you sad that you know a bad secret and cannot do anything about it but that is sometimes what we have to do. Hope that you learn from how all these grown-ups are acting. Then you can choose to behave the right way.
    Last, Molly, thank you for being a good kid.

    • Molly, one of the things you learn from growing up in a situation like this is fear…fear you will make someone mad, like your father, fear that your dad will stop paying for school supplies, fear he will go after his girlfriend and her son. In the end you may learn to fear that you are not a lovable person, who deserves good things and being too fearful to change the situation. That is what I learned growing up with a jerk like this.

      You do deserve good things, a good life and good people around you, people who treat you with dignity, empathy and compassion. You always deserve this. You may find, because of lack of experience, that you one day choose a person who like your dad or someone who is not a good person in other ways. This is where the rubber hits the road and where that fear that you have been taught and lived will rear its ugly head. This is where you need to trust, and take a leap of faith that you deserve better, and in that leap you will either be given wings or find the solid ground of good friends and family around you.

      So sweet pea, know that you have many friends here, that we believe you and deserve wings to soar and wonderful friends and family to bring you back to ground. Trust in your own goodness, trust your gut. Look at your father in a new light, as a damaged person, who is a danger to all he meets. Tough it out and as soon as you can leave him behind, make a new life with your mother, and your family. Fill it with light and laughter and the challenges of doing good for the world and the people around you. Much love

  • Chump Lady..thank you for picking Molly’s post and for all the education that will come through this teachable moment for daughters of cheaters.

    Molly…the inner voice that guided you to pay attention to what didn’t feel right and then to contact Tracy? It’s priceless. Honor and protect that preciousness inside you. Nothing can ever take it away or damage it (not even your father’s rage or lies). Nothing. Though some days it is hard to recognize, hear, or feel, remember it is always there. Because it is your…YOU!

    And your act of courage to speak the truth to yourself first, and then to Chump Nation, is proof that your…YOU is alive and well and helping others while you help yourself. Wow. You keep going, girl!

  • Oh Molly,
    My heart goes out to you! You are so smart to write and try to find a solution to your problem which is none of your doing.

    My dad was is a cheater, too, and we didn’t find out until I was much older. I hope I can spare you some heartache here.

    What I didn’t understand for the longest time is that most of these cheaters get angry easily is because they are not living an honest life. He may be expecting a chance to cheat, but his girlfriend stopped over unexpectedly, so he had to make up some lies, go hide and make some secret texts, and this makes them mad and moody. Honest people never have this problem.
    Your dad is a liar for living this way.

    I also want you to feel sad that your dad isn’t a good guy. My dad is a total jerk, and once I realized that, I had to grieve the loss and move on. CL is right. Nothing you do or don’t do is going to change the way he is. Sadly, you should not be grateful that your father bought your school supplies. A normal father would want to buy your school supplies, because they want you to do well in school and be the best Molly you can be. Your dad isn’t like that, and is never going to be like that. That is very very sad. You need to feel sad about that, and realize that, because your dad is not going to take care of you the way you want to be taken care of. However, this gives you a chance to find people in your life that care about you, and want you to be your best Molly.So, maybe instead of sending a Saturday with your grumpy dad and trying to make him not grumpy, you can spend that time with people that love you trying new things that make YOU smile.

    Your job as a child is to figure out yourself. Your overconcern about your dad and his girlfriends and their kids show me that you are very compassionate. You should use that compassion in relationships that are beneficial to you. Your dad is not going to change, and he just uses people to get what he wants. You will find people in your life that will help you, just realize and accept that he is not one of them.

    One good thing about the whole situation is that you get to see a narcissistic person up close and personal. Now that you know, you can see how he lies to get what he wants. It might be scary to see how cold he really is to his girlfriend. Pay attention, and when you see that behavior in other people, realize they are not good people to have in your life. Your mom sounds great and will probably be sad that now you know the truth about your dad. Your dad is responsible for his behaviour, and how he treats people is all on him. You have a chance to have a wonderful life. My advice would be to just minimize the time you spend with him. If he wants to be a good dad, he will. My bet is he won’t. It’s sad, it’s a loss. But you are smart, kind, and have good intuition about people and you will have a wonderful life. A hat tip to you for accepting the truth!!! Keep us posted. (((hugs))).

    • “What I didn’t understand for the longest time is that most of these cheaters get angry easily because they are not living an honest life.” Brilliant, Nancy, I was so trusting! I never connected the dots because my ex did what many men do. Worked long hours, devoted time to working out, where it differed though is when those lives became totally separate. As the years passed I think he enjoyed many secrets and our family was one of them. I actually felt like we were living two separate lives and was the only one concerned. I would address it, the distancing, etc., but my ex always ignored my concerns. My ex loved his life, as compartmentalized as it was. He was the star and we were the supporting cast, we were never meant to discover he wasn’t real. Then Life happened and he could not choose us.

  • Hi Molly,
    You sound like you’ve learned how to dance on eggshells around your dad, and you understand the importance of your safety in this situation. You’ve gotten some good advice above; I just want to re-visit the issue of his volatility and anger, and ways for you to be safe from that.

    I agree with the `talk to your mom’ advice. If you tell school or church authorities or a counselor, “I don’t feel safe around my dad because of his anger,” they are mandated by law to report that to social services. This may bring in a level of involvement from child-protection services that you may not want in your life, and that likely won’t make your dad an easier person to be around.

    I also want to emphasize the `get out of there’ advice. I realize that there can be obstacles to doing that, but if you can go live with your mom or other relatives, it may be time to do that. Staying in a toxic situation when we know it’s toxic creates changes in us. Leaving doesn’t mean you are not around him ever. It means that you have the option to terminate conversations and situations when they get uncomfortable. It’s about learning that you get to have boundaries, and how to defend them. Sad to have to do that with people we love, but there it sometimes is.

    Having you as his daughter is a gift, not an inherent, unconditional right. Be strong, be smart, be safe. So sorry that you’re having to go through this. It’s not you. It’s him.

    • I agree that Mom should be Molly’s first choice. But if Mom is still afraid of her ex and advises her to butt out, then Molly becomes unwillingly complicit in cheating, which in my humble opinion is a form of abuse. At times like that, an impartial, quality counselor who serves the student can call in social workers to help get Molly out of such an unhealthy environment. Social workers help families in crisis, too.

    • Hi, this is Molly. My father is not a physical abuser. He has a temper. He doesn’t hurt people physically, but mentally it can be a train wreck.

  • This is the kind of letter that actually makes me more uncomfortable than reading from the chumped spouse point of view. I think I can take reading what these a-holes do to us grown adults, no matter how screwed up it is, than what they do to our kids. My kids are just 4 and 5 so they got a lot of raising left to be done… and unfortunately I can’t control what my ex does and what behavior he exposes them to. And I can’t control how my children react to those things either, how it might change them. I’m having flash forwards on how the HELL I’m supposed to be able to talk to my kids about whether my ex is a good person if he pulls shit like this.

    Molly – I do know that if my sons were being exposed to ANYTHING that makes them uncomfortable that I would want them to talk to me about it. Even if I don’t know what the hell I would say in response. I know that my opinion would at least come from someone with a good moral code. I would want them to get the point of view from the, for lack of a better word, sane parent on the situation. The one that is capable of thinking of others and knows how to live a life of integrity. It is very good that your mom (or someone) has already modeled this kind of life to you, because you seem to have a great moral compass already. But you should not have to handle this alone, talk to your mom. We adult chumps don’t even handle these things alone (well, some try to, but they shouldn’t) and you shouldn’t either.

    I’m sorry about what you are being put through due to your father’s selfishness. But if you care about your fathers girlfriend she does deserve better than what he is giving her. And you need some support too.

  • Molly, I am very impressed with your instincts and your detective work. These are priceless life skills that adults sometimes lost because of “spackling,” as we call it her–seeing something wrong and covering it up because we are afraid to talk about it or think about it. Hold onto that! It’s much better to live with your eyes wide open and deal with situations as they really are, so good for you.

    It sounds to me like you’ve known for a long time that something is wrong with your dad. Chump Lady suggests it might be narcissism, and that is a good possibility. You already know he has anger issues. And I can see in your post that you, your mom and your brother probably need the extra financial help he sometimes gives. So this is a tricky situation.

    You should certainly talk to your mother. But I think the focus of your talk and your relationship with the “girlfriend” should be figuring out how you can stay in contact with the people you care about, once the relationship ends. Because it will. I understand how you think your dad’s life will fall apart without a woman to “take care of him” or “keep him sane.” But men like your dad don’t change without a lot of help. The adults her at CL often have the same thoughts and problems about leaving their spouses, but it’s not healthy for your dad’s girlfriend and her son for her to build her life around saving your dad from his bad choices.

    I think there are a lot of tricky issues about confronting your father, so I hope your mom helps you through this. You could meet him with your mom in a public place. Your mom should make the point that when he texts or surfs dating sites in front of others, especially kids, he should not be surprised when they figure out he’s cheating. This of course is not appropriate behavior when you or your brother are around. If you don’t want to do this face to face, you might send a letter. It’s easier to control what you say when you write, and you did a good job on the letter you sent to Chump Lady. Finally, you might want to get in contact with dad’s girlfriend, to tell her she’s “really great and nice” and that you don’t want to lose contact with her or her son, no matter what happens. Chances are she cares about you, too, and leaving your dad means losing you as well. So maybe she can be a part of your life in another way. Let us know how things go. I am so sorry your father is treating everyone in his life, including you, so badly.

  • Molly, I agree wholeheartedly with CL (as usual)! I was in your position years ago. It was before internet and dating sites but my dad always screwed around on my mom and I always found out about it eventually. (when I was 4 the neighbor lady used to come in after my mom went to work and take my daddy coffee in bed to wake him up. He worked shifts)

    I discovered he had a mailbox at the post office so he could receive mail without my mom knowing. When I asked him why he needed a PO box he of course blamed my mom, saying she always read his mail and it was the only way he had any privacy. My dad was a scary guy and we were raised walking on egg shells around him, I was not going to challenge him.

    My brother is nine years younger than me and so was living at home long after I had moved out, he walked in and caught my dad getting a blow job from the neighbor lady (different neighbor). I caught them kissing in the kitchen while my mom sat in the living room. I could not confront him and I didn’t know what to do about my mother.

    My mom was with him for over 30 years and never would have left him if he hadn’t finally ended it. My mom was a chump through and through, just buried her head deeper in the sand. She would go away for a vacation and leave my dad at home. I asked her once if she thought that was a very good idea, but I could never bring myself to tell her straight out he was screwing other women. He would go away on business trips (long before cell phones or internet) and not even give her a contact number in case of emergency. He would be MIA for 5 or more days at a time and would call in every few days to see if the family was still alive. She would wake up in the middle of the night and my dad wouldn’t be in bed, he would be “having coffee” with the neighbor lady and when my mom went over to say maybe he should come home at 4 am, the door was locked and no one answered the doorbell so she went home and back to bed.

    My mother’s motto, “If I don’t see it, it isn’t happening and if I don’t know about it, it can’t hurt me.”

    I tell you all this because CL is right. it is all out of your control. It is a shitty position to be in and one that no child should ever be with a parent but it is not your job to protect your dad’s g/f, or make your dad accountable. You are only in control of your actions. I bet your dad’s g/f suspects he is screwing around if she doesn’t downright know it, but she is a nice person and wouldn’t ever tell you anyway. Because it is not your problem. She is staying for whatever reason and that is sad.
    Like CL said, “No one can save a person from themselves, please do not believe that it is ever your responsibility to keep someone sane, decent, moral, or that “occasional” abuse is ok. Abuse is abuse, disrespect is disrespect, whether it is daily or sporadic. if a person has an occasional blow out the victim lives walking on egg shells afraid of setting the person off, it is just as damaging as if the actual abuse were constant. (does that make sense?) Once the trust is broken, once the fear is instilled, the relationship changes forever and in my mind, can never be fixed. It just takes some victims longer to accept the truth and leave.

    My older brother stopped talking to my dad while my parents were still together and would visit the rest of the family away from my dad. I was in my early 30’s when I went no contact with my dad and I never saw him again but I did keep in touch with my step siblings. My dad recently died and I do not regret that the last 20 years I had no contact with him. I am not saying that is what you should do, I am just saying I stopped talking to my dad because I could not listen to his bullshit any longer and it was the healthiest thing for me. I found a way to stay in touch with the people who were important to me. When you make decisions based on what is best for YOU and your peace of mind, it is always the right thing to do. You are young, you want to do the right thing and that is admirable. Even though you should never have to face this problem and the adults should be dealing with it and not you; things don’t go as they should sometimes in life.
    Your mother might not want to get involved in your dad’s “affairs”, (my mom still prefers to bury her head in the sand and says now, “It’s in the past, I don’ think about it.”) Just be very aware that you have been taught (even if inadvertently) some very dysfunctional beliefs about how relationships work. Always follow your gut reactions, if you sense in your gut that something is not right, it is not right. It is never ok for anyone to lie, blame, disrespect or discredit another person. We are never responsible for someone else’s poor choices, their happiness, their infidelity or the reason they abused us.
    Big hugs to you sweetie.

    • This post is too graphic. I think it should be censored for a younger audience.

  • I’m not sure Molly says exactly how old she is, but I think it is NOT a good idea for her to confront her father AT ALL. I had a father who was fairly similar (40 years ago, so it wasn’t internet…but he was a cheater). I spent a lot of time with him, because it was my “duty” as the youngest child to be the family jester. In other words, I was the only one who could keep him in a good mood. He was violent, entitled, and terrifying at home, despite the fact that in public he was a well respected professional. My mother should have divorced him, but that sort of thing was not generally done in those days.

    I would never have confronted him about his lousy cheating – for one very good reason. He was my bread and butter, he paid for my life, my school, my food. At a young age, I could not afford to lose that. I loathed his behaviour, but decided to patiently await the day that I could be grown up and move away. And, at 17, I did.

    In Molly’s case, although she genuinely feels for her Dad’s girlfriend and family, it is not Molly’s duty, nor is it her business, to solve this issue. She must take care of HERSELF first by staying safe. Confiding in her own mother is the furthest she should go with this. Then stay out of it, Molly. Do not put yourself in danger. Quietly observe and learn why it is so important never to marry someone like your own father.

    I’m afraid anyone who counsels Molly to behave like an adult by confronting this guy — is wrong. Molly is not an adult with her own means or even her independence. She has to cope for now, hopefully with her Mom’s support.

    • Her Dad didn’t even want to chip in for school supplies, so I’m not getting that she, or her mother, are beholding to him financially. I also read nothing in the post that made me thing she was physically afraid of him, just that he could be one of the super nasty raging types.

      I could be wrong, so Molly, talk with your Mom. She knows your situation and your Dad very well, and I would absolutely follow her advice. Should she advise keeping mum about it, I would definitely arrange not to have to see him. Keeping that secret is going to wear on you emotionally, and that is garbage that will bother you the rest of your life.

      There is always the anonymous letter to the girlfriend. He’s a player…..he will have no idea which playmate ratted him out. He won’t ever suspect it was you.

      • so I went to my room and sang, which is what calms me down,
        I am locked in the bathroom writing to you.
        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
        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.
        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…

        Maybe reading too much into it, but it sounds like fear to me. Fear of rage and fear of abuse are just different train stations on the same track.

        • It’s molly. My dad isn’t physical. It’s emotional stuff that hits me harder than anything. My dad wouldn’t dare hit me and my brother or his girlfriend or her son.

      • Molly said: “so I went to my room and sang, which is what calms me down,
        “I am locked in the bathroom writing to you.
        “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
        “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.
        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…

        Maybe reading too much into it, but it sounds like fear to me. Fear of rage and fear of abuse are just different train stations on the same track.
        Heartbreaking . . .

        • I don’t doubt that she’s very afraid of him, he’s undoubtedly toxic and emotionally abusive. She was in the bathroom because she was hiding the fact that she was asking for advice from CL, not because he had threatened her. Her letter was very well written. Had physical abuse been in the picture, she would have mentioned it.

          I was scared to death of, and scared for, my out of control parent, but not physically afraid. I guess our personal histories affect how we perceive a situation.

          • Sorry for the duplicate posts.

            I didn’t think she was hiding in the bathroom because he threatened her. She was hiding in the bathroom because previous history with him suggested that he would react with volatility.
            Also, the fact that she didn’t mention physical abuse does not mean it doesn’t take place; kids can get pretty savvy about what it’s `safe’ to talk about. That’s why mandated reporters are required to report the suspicion of abuse rather than wait for confirmation. Also, the absence of physical abuse doesn’t mean that she’s safe, either.
            Agree that personal histories can shade perception.

      • Hi, this is Molly. Thank you, and you’re right. My dad isn’t the physical abuser type. I know that might seem like the stereotypical abuse, but he would never do anything like that.

  • Hi Molly–

    First, I want to tell you that if we could waive the magic wand, all of this would go away. I’m so sorry that you have had to deal with this.

    Second, I agree that you should tell your mom. I think your mom may already know. After all, she was the one who told you that your brother had seen some odd texts. So I don’t think you will tell her something that she doesn’t already think about.

    You have already said that your mom has always had your back. Your dad–well, it seems that you think he’s okay, but when the chips are down, you rely more on your mom than your dad. Your mom knows what kinds of custody arrangements were worked out for you and your brother, and she’d be able to advise you the best course of action, based on your particular situation. So your mom will give you the best backing you can get.

    One thing that stands out is that your dad has anger issues, even today. Even if he loses it only once in a while, there really is no excuse to lose it at all. My parents were married for 50 years and neither of them EVER lost it with any of us–and I have several brothers and sisters. Really letting loose on a family member isn’t normal–even if it seems normal to you, and even if your dad does it only once in a while.

    You mentioned that your dad gets angry if he thinks you’re snooping. You went out of your way to say that your brother saw the odd texts, but wasn’t snooping, and that you happened to see your dad’s phone but it wasn’t snooping. This tells me that if you let your dad know that you know, he’ll get angry at you for snooping–even if you didn’t. If you are truly worried about his reaction–especially if he has ever hit either you or your brother while he’s angry–then you need to tell this to your mom. Hitting people when you’re angry is not normal.

    It would also be helpful for you to have some kind of counselor or therapist to help you work through all of this. I know that probably you depend on your mom a lot, but also that sometimes you wonder if you should always unload on her. The great thing about a counselor or therapist is that you don’t have to feel guilty unloading on them. That’s what they’re there for, after all.

    One of my colleagues, a grown woman in her 50s, said that she found it very helpful when she was a teen to have a therapist. Her home environment was very toxic, and she skipped school enough to have court-ordered therapy because she was a truant. Her therapist listened to her, and also helped her with ways to cope with the home situation.

    You might find it helpful for someone outside your home to help you figure out ways that you can cope, too.

    Anyway, I suggest first starting with telling your mom, and then seeing where you can go from there.

    All the very best to you, and I hope you update us on what has happened.

  • Hi Molly,
    Lurker here but had to comment today. Not sure how old you are but if you’re still buying your own school supplies I’m guessing you’re still a bit young. I know you told CL you didn’t want to be told this is none of your business, but hon, while he DID make it your business by bringing the new GF into Your life, you still cannot control what he chooses to do with His life. I WITNESSED both my mother AND stepfather cheating on one another and when they realized what I had seen I was told in no uncertain terms that what I saw was “nothing” and “none of my business.” This was their business and they were the parents AND the breadwinners. I had no say so in the matter. End of story. Messed up? Yes. But not a thing I could do about it but wait it out I was old enough to get the heck out (which I did). You’re lucky, sounds like you’re mom is still your advocate. I know you care about his GF, but unfortunately she may be one of many yet to come. If she ends up leaving your dad (which is highly likely) try to stay in touch with her on the side if you should choose to. Otherwise, leave your dad to his misery. Be self-protective and stay as much out of his business as you can. Nothing and I mean NOTHING you say or do is going to change who he is or what he does. You have a good relationship with your mother, but making her confront your father on the choices he makes regarding his personal life is probably futile and will cause a lot of trouble.

    Bottom line: Your father is volatile – do not confront him, confide in your mom, but it’s not your mom’s place to confront him either. Accept this his GF will likely not be in the picture for long and learn what NOT to do from his crappy example. Avoid him when possible if that’s possible depending on your parent’s custody agreement. Most of all view his as an opportunity to learn.

  • Molly,

    Jedi Hugs! I don’t know about all this advice. Has your father ever hurt any of you? And if he has not, are you afraid he will? If you are afraid he will, you should listen to that feeling and be very careful. I am worried about your trying to fix this. I’m not even sure if it’s OK to talk to your Mom because you didn’t say much about her and how you all deal with your Dad. If you are reading the blog and can tell us a bit more, it might help.

    Only thing I think for sure is, can you ask your Mom to get you a therapist? I think you need one.

    Jedi Hugs x 10,000

    • He has never and will never hurt either of us. I am not scared of him hurting me, because I know he won’t.

  • Hi Molly,

    I am very sorry you are going through this. I was in your shoes when I was about 6 years old. My father took me to visit his girlfriend and her family. I actually remember him saying to this woman and her teenage children that I said I wished we could be a family (!) I never said that. A horrible memory. The point is that your father is behaving as if you did not exist. That is extremely painful.

    You exist. Your feelings are valid and true. You deserve a better father. A person who respects you not cheat right in front of your face. It is not much better behind your back, but in your face is a whole other level of acting like you don’t exist. You are real and you deserve respect.

    Like CL and everyone here is saying, confiding in your mother is a good first step.

    You cannot fix your dad or his relationship with his so-called girlfriend. Your dad is disrespectful and untrustworthy. Talk with your mom and discuss your options about how best to support YOU. Is there a good therapist available? Where do you want to live? What kind of relationship you want with your dad? What do YOU need right now and going forward?

    I ended up marrying a cheater. I thought I was marrying a man who was the opposite of my father. My father did not graduate college, my ex was an academic type. My father was crude, my ex seemed sophisticated. They actually had the same character. Angry, mean, disrespectful, ignoring, passive aggressive, self-righteous, liars.

    The message I want to convey is: Look beneath the surface when you invite people into your life. Do you feel respected in their presence? Do they compare you to others? Do they play hot and cold? Do they exclude you? Do they ignore you? Do they make you feel unworthy, ugly and unlovable?

    If you are feeling sick because of what someone is doing…even if it a way of talking to you….make different choices about who to be with. Choose good people to invite into your life…reject the assholes, even if they look super cool and especially if they act better than you.

    Molly, I wish you the very best. You are so wise to seek help. You will find a way to get support that feels right. Please keep us posted.

    • It’s molly. I want a relationship where I’m not constantly worried about my dad going behind my back or my family’s back. I want. Relationship where I can trust him.

  • After reading the comments, I agree that we do not know enough to advise on who to tell. Molly, please feel free to write more here or privately to CL.

  • Molly, CL is not entirely right! You are a kid, and your responsibility is to take care of YOURSELF. Especially considering you have what sounds like a potentially abusive dad.
    If your father will be abusive to you were he to find out what you know, DO NOT tell anyone (your mother, his girlfriend etc.) if you feel like they might confront him against your wishes and violate your confidence. IT IS NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT ANYONE BUT YOURSELF.
    Do what’s best for you, Molly.

    • I agree. I even wish I hadn’t posted earlier. When you’re dealing with a young person the responsibility is so great. I don’t want to give her bad advice. But I would encourage her to ask her mom to help her get individual counseling so that she has a safe adult to talk to about it.

      • yes, I guess we all feel that way, that there is so much more responsibility in advising a young person… I guess I should have said “tell a trusted adult, whoever that is”?? I just know it’s too much for her to handle on her own.

  • Boy this was a hard post to advise on.

    I think you guys are right that it’s not Molly’s responsibility to save the girlfriend with the truth, which is why I said tell your mom. Maybe she can slip a note or something.

    I don’t agree with the thoughts expressed that the girlfriend “must know.” How many of us didn’t know? How many of us had the truth kept from us as people said to themselves, oh we “must know”?

    I want that chump girlfriend to find out because she also has a child who is going to be hurt by this jerk dad/boyfriend’s cheating. I would HATE for the GF to commit to this guy not knowing. I was once that single mother with a young son. I dated that asshole.

    I do stand by my advice to not associate with dad while the GF is around, because Molly shouldn’t have to carry the weight of that secret and be complicit. She controls that — not having to keep his secrets or associate with dad.

    The whole situation sucks and underscores how awful this crap is to kids.

  • Thanks so much for posting this, CL. I can picture my daughter being Molly in several years, and I fear for her. (provided that current OW is still around). Even though OW is a home-wrecker, I believe that she just might be a smidge better than my daughter’s father. From what I understand, she calms things down when my Ex gets into his rages. (Glad to be free!)

  • Molly,

    I don’t have any advice about your current situation. You are between a rock and a hard place in this mix and it’s difficult to know what to do. I do, however, have some advice for your future.

    Did you notice how many of us Chumps had dads just like yours? Then ended up being cheated on and lied to and left with their lives turned upside down by the men they chose to marry? I think a lot of us never resolved our deep emotional issues with our distant, angry, lying fathers. There is a quote that sums this up: “Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”

    Little girls should be cherished by their fathers. Dads are the first men in a girl’s life and, unfortunately, they teach girls how to interact with men. You try to be understanding with your dad’s anger, try to keep things smooth by behaving the way he wants you to, you overlook character flaws in him because you need things from him.

    And you know what happens? You end up marrying a man just like dear old dad. Because that feels comfortable and familiar to you. And you continue to do that dance for the rest of your life. You end up making excuses for a husband who doesn’t treat you well, just like you did for dad. It’s a horrible legacy.

    Parents teach you to tell the truth, treat them with respect, to share, to be kind – then they model the exact opposite. Parents teach a more enduring lesson by their actions, not by their words. Kids are so smart – they know a hypocrite when they see one.

    My advice? Keep knowing how wrong your father’s behavior is. Get counseling if you can to help you understand on a deep level that this is not the way a man should treat the woman in his life.

    And when you start dating? If that boy lies to you once, doesn’t show up for a date once, flirts with other girls too much – WALK. Do not accept crappy treatment from some boy whose last name you won’t remember in ten years. Practice loving yourself enough to show others how you expect to be treated. If someone you are dating makes you feel unsure, worried, etc. that is a sign that it’s time to move on.

    As for your dad’s girlfriend? She knows who he is. I’m sure he’s not the perfect boyfriend for her, even without the cheating. You can’t fix that for her even though you know how wrong it is. Watch and learn how NOT to behave. And most importantly? Don’t grow up to be her.

    Wishing you the best for a happy life. Love yourself above all others.

  • This is Molly. Thank you everyone for your feedback. It was nice to see that a few people had some of the same problems as I and were in the same situation. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. Just to clear the air, my dad is not a physical abuser. He has never hit me or my brother or his girlfriend or her son. He has only spanked me one time and that was when I was three and I bit my brother. I am old enough to pick where I want to stay, meaning with what parent. I have always had a hard time deciding because I love my parents so much. My mom has always told me what my dad has said that was rude or self centered. She is not afraid of him and she will stand up for me. In the divorce, my mom decided to move out of the house I grew up in, so if I left, I would be leaving my childhood home. My mom said my dad took pills to help him control his anger, and that someone told her he wasn’t taking them as often. When I asked him about his medication, he said they were vitamins. They didn’t look like a vitamin container because he picked them up at the grocery store pharmacy. He is not an absent father. He picks us up every other Friday for the weekend. He is, however, always kissing up to my teachers. Thanks again for the support Chump Nation.

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