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Double-Decker Holiday Shit Sandwiches

holly_petraeusDear Chump Lady,

You know that radio show hosted by Delilah, where folks call in and request a special song for someone in a particularly heart rendering circumstance? I was wondering if you could be a Chump Delilah and let me request a special column for all the Chump Parents who are struggling with double-decker shit sandwiches now that the holidays are here?

Please write one for the Chumps whose kids are excitedly anticipating events with the cheater. Or extolling the virtues of the cheater’s tree/presents/cooking. Or can’t be reached while visiting the now missing half of their former family. Who feel replaced, out-classed, or silenced in their rage and fear. Write a column that reframes that narrative, and gives them an extra slice of super-mighty with a cherry on top. 

Deepest regards to you and all Chumpdom,


Dear NoMoreNarcs,

Oh dear, that’s a tall order, but I’ll try. This one goes out to YOU! And all you newly minted chumps trying to navigate the holiday season.

You know how I say over and over again here that the pain is FINITE? Well, the holidays are finite too. All this crappola ends in a couple of weeks, so hang in there.

Kids excitedly anticipate Christmas, NMN. That’s a given. You don’t have to always read it as the kids are excitedly anticipating events with the cheater. They’re anticipating going to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap, or going to Grandma’s and getting stuffed with cookies, or seeing their cousin who has the latest Xbox. Sure they love their parent, but the cheater parent is simply the gateway to Fun Stuff.

From the chump’s perspective, I get that there is a feeling of How Dare THEY! How DARE they get to make precious memories with our children After They Broke Up Their Family! Well they do. They get that right. I’m sorry. It sucks.

Try not to feel excluded because you get to make your own traditions with your kids too. Those are every bit as meaningful (or more) than a trip to Toys R Us with Uncle Daddy and his Guilt. This is your chance to bust out of the holiday rut and do the things that please you without dragging around the miserable carcass of a remorseless cheater. Just think how much jollier your holiday is without wondering where their cellphones are, or if they’ll be disappearing inconveniently for a few days/hours/weeks on a fuckfest somewhere.

You watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” too many times and it’s easy to romanticize family togetherness and bonhomie. You long for what you don’t have or thought you had. Oh, my ex is somewhere with my children having a Fabulous Holiday. They’re all wearing matching snowflake sweaters, and sipping eggnog, and breaking into choruses of “Silent Night” in perfect four-part harmonies. While (sob!) I sit alone. Unloved. Unmourned.

It’s just human nature to romanticize what we miss. I live in Texas. I absolutely abhor 70 degree December. I loathe a holiday season in which I have to wear short sleeves. (I’m over 40. It’s never a good look.) Every day I want to yell at the entire state “YOU’RE DOING CHRISTMAS ALL WRONG!” “In a Bleak Midwinter” comes on the Musak rotation in the department store and I think “You have NO FUCKING CLUE what BLEAK MIDWINTER IS.”

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,

NO Texas! YOU DO NOT DESERVE THIS HYMN. You don’t know from snow on snow! You SUCK. Stop singing things you know NOTHING ABOUT!

Because I miss snow. I look at all my friends Facebook pages of their snowy winters and their Christmases that look like Christmas is supposed to look and I’m jealous. I romanticize snow.

Fact is, my cousin in Petoskey is probably pouring boiling water on her car locks now. After she shoveled her driveway for 45 minutes in the face of a gale-force wind whipping off Lake Michigan. Everyone is probably dreading driving on the holidays and drearily watching the weather reports. Ever spent 6 hours on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in freezing rain? I have.

Okay… there is a certain suckitude to snow.

But it’s what I know. Wah!

There is a certain suckitude to spending the holidays with your cheater and their family. But it’s what you know. So, of course you’re going to miss it, and any new tradition (or climate) isn’t going to feel quite right for awhile. (Okay, let’s face it. 70 degree Christmas is NEVER going to feel right. It’s an abomination.)

You’re adjusting.

Stop worrying that the kids won’t see how much the cheater sucks. That’s their relationship to work out. If they have a good holiday with the cheater and their family, well, good for them. Doesn’t mean you have to hear about it. Deflect when the conversation goes there.

But they’ll think the OW/OM is a good person!

Children are gullible, NMN. I remember when I was about 5 years old, I used to collect frogs that I scooped up out of window wells. I’d keep them in a cardboard box for a day or so. But an older boy once told me that if I kept those frogs, they would grow and grow and get so big they’d step on my house and crush it…. And I BELIEVED HIM.

Small children are dim-witted. They’ll believe most any fool thing anyone tells them. Sweeten the deal with some toys and sugar? Okay!

But eventually you grow up and realize… hey! I’ve never seen one of these two-story frogs! That was… a LIE.

Your kids will figure out the lies too.

But meanwhile, you’re there doing your job being the sane parent. So keep on keeping on. Make your holidays bright for YOU and forget what the Cheaterpants clan is up to. If they fail to inform you of their whereabouts? That’s enforceable shit with a court order. You document that. Give your kids cellphones, and insist that the cheater let you know where the kids are over the holidays. They don’t do that? Then you don’t agree to visitation. If he won’t abide by the order (document it) by being reasonable, he can see you in court, asshole. You don’t have to accommodate cheaters Just Because. You have to abide by your custody agreement. Period.

No one replaces you, no one outclasses you. You’re the Mighty Parent! Go start a new holiday tradition of mightiness!

(As for me, I’m wearing long-sleeves and humming “In the Bleak Midwinter.”)

Ask Chump Lady

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  • For the record, I do miss the snow sometimes (not driving in it) and have spent many hours on the Penn, Mass, and NJ turnpikes driving on ice in near zero visibility, plus the NY Thruway, and the Taconic State Parkway (and that last one back when it was two lanes overlooking a cliff on one side and granite mountain on the other, which is sheer terror on ice or packed snow)

    Don’t miss the cheater though. Not even a tiny bit. I’d rather drive the Taconic on packed snow with zero visibility and hope I don’t slide off the mountain.

    See? I am proof you really won’t care much (which is why I don’t go into any detail much) beyond a mild revulsion at the entire idea.

    Happy Holidays, celebrate them or don’t. Do what you do, and little-by-little you’ll rediscover yourself and wind up in a brand new life that doesn’t involve orbiting somebody who–in the end–just didn’t care that much about you or even respect you.


    • I have blocked off 10 days for my time off from work, but I’ll be watching weather reports because I get to drive the Pennsylvanian Turnpike in winter. Protip: look at the weather reports for different major cities, since the weather is often very different once you go through The Tunnel. 😛

      Still, I’d rather spend time idling on the turnpike with me and my dogs than with my cheater.


      I wish I was at that stage where I don’t give a shit anymore, It would be so nice, but unfortunately I do and I wish I didn’t, Can’t wait ti be in the place you are at right now. All I know is that I am heartbroken “still” two months doen the line, and just wan to be over this

  • CL, if it is okay coming from a non-chump I would like to pass some information along that I learned from my work. When your spouse, husband or wife, has an affair and your family breaks up it is okay to tell your child, even as young as three, the truth. When I was that age I recognized a lie told to me and when I was five it happened again. Fortunately neither time was it my parent but it was someone I was close enough to to recognize that it was a lie. You can tell the child that daddy or mommy has a boyfriend or girlfriend and has hurt your feelings so badly that you do not live together anymore. Your child may ask if daddy or mommy said they were sorry could they come back home. That is when you say no they do not want to come home and you do not want them home. Do not use the word “affair” as it is too vague for a small child. You can just use “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” or “hurt feelings”. As they get older they may ask questions or they make make up something to describe it in their own mind. Just remember to stay age-appropriate but never lie. Also, make sure you tell the children that what they see and hear at daddy or mommy’s house needs to stay there and you do not want hear anything about it. If they ask why tell them because it hurts your feelings. You can also tell the children that when they’re at daddy or mommy’s house they do not need to talk about what goes on at your house. I can tell you that children feel much better with the truth. It is when they don’t have the truth they begin to put things in there that make it somehow their fault. That is why you need to be honest enough to tell him that your feelings were hurt. Kids get that. They hear that at school so they understand that people can be mean to each other. Do not engage in long involved conversations because it pulls children in the middle. Unless your ex is a horrible parent you’re going to have to share them with the children until the kids themselves are old enough to make decisions. I know of a family where the wife was the cheater and as soon as each child became old enough legally bailed and went to live with chump dad and his new wife. Cheater mom has bemoaned how horrible everyone has been to her. Uh, yeah!?!? Kids get the picture. Just maintain your dignity. The chump dad did and reaped the benefits.

    • Great advice. One clarification: kids should tell you about anything that is dangerous or uncomfortable at the cheaters’ house. Someone could probably clarify my advice.

      • With my experience, cheater’s don’t have personal boundaries. If I told my 4 & 5 year old not to tell me what happens at their dad’s house, I wouldn’t have found out he doesn’t put them in car seats and he leaves them home alone.

        My policy is honesty and listening. I want my kids to feel they can come to me with anything. On a personal note, I have to have that open communication with them because their dad has had online under age profiles – it’s not against the law. Scary, huh?!?

        • Oh, Myexisanutjob!! That is horrible, that you have to send children to a man who stalks underage children. I would, however, alert the FBI to that–the profile might not be illegal but meeting any underage child as a result of that activity IS. And if you know that he has kiddie porn downloaded anywhere, his ass is toast.

          And once that happens, so joint custody, no unsupervised visitation. At least alert the FBI, and provide his usernames for the underage pages.

          • Oh, I did. Because the FBI didn’t find child pornography on this computers (at work and at home), they couldn’t do anything. Believe me – I have spent over $15,000 on this.

  • Thankfully, I have the kids for Christmas this year, so I don’t have a lot of [poop] sandwich eating to do.

    He did cancel his New Year’s Eve visitation because he’s going to one of his ex-mistress’s concerts that night (they’re “just friends” now). Spun me a marvelous load of nonsense about how they made these plans while the affair was going on, then he forgot about them when he agreed to the holiday visitation schedule in court, and now wants to still go to the concert “because I have tickets.”

    She isn’t Taylor Swift. Her band’s Facebook page has less than 200 “likes.” They don’t sell tickets to her shows months and months in advance.

    Anyhow, if he wants to spend his time trying to get back in her pants rather than with his adoring children, that’s his call. I won’t tell them that they were supposed to be with daddy that night and they’ll be none the wiser.

    • that is what i do or did also. because i was never sure if he would actually keep his promise. even when we were married. i never tell the kids we are going anywhere until we are actually packing to go.

  • I love this post. This is my first time managing the holidays and while Thanksgiving brought no drama, it hurts that my family life has been turned upside down. I keep thinking I won’t have presents under my own tree for me. My STBXH always bought presents for me and now I will have to buy my own I guess. I don’t know.

    And in the midst of all this, I have to attend our custody mediation meeting on Tuesday. Pray for me. I was a basketcase at the mediation orientation. It just made this whole situation so so real. I don’t expect any drama but we have to “cooperate” for our child. I don’t trust him, I have maintained NC except for emails about our son. Sitting across from him to discuss anything will be hard. He looks like the man I married.

    • Conniered, he is NOT the man you married though. Keep reminding yourself that during your mediation and you will make it through it.

      Also, even if it is you slipping something under the tree for you to open for Christmas, what is wrong with that? You have the opportunity to give yourself something you’ve always wanted that your cheater would never have thought to give you. Remember too that you’re giving yourself another “present” this Christmas – your self-respect.


      • I would say “He is not the man you THOUGHT you married,” as I think most of us can now see the seeds of infidelity Satan in our spouses well before they started cheating–the entitlement, blaming us for everything, the criticism, the emotional taking. We just spackled; most of these cheaters were a**holes before the wedding ring was even on.

          • Yup, the lack of moral fibre and display of poor character doesn’t happen all of a sudden in a person’s life – the seeds were planted long ago. They come to bear fruit in our cheaters with their appalling acts of entitlement and betrayal. The “beast” was always there, just waiting to get out. It was just too well hidden for us to see.

            Us chumps, are more discerning people now. We understand that evil people exist, especially in those that portend to love us. That’s why Christmas is so hard. It’s a time of naivete, and joy to the world and goodwill towards men. We don’t feel those sentiments anymore – our innocence has been taken away.

        • CN, I am so sorry you have to do this… I came from my final mediation last night… there were moments when he seemed like the person I knew and I was a bit wistful. BUT I trust he SUCKs… I know he can’t maintain a pleasant demeanor for very long… I know he cheats… I had to put all of that in the back of my mind and put my game face on. I am playing for keeps here, playing for me, playing for my kids… and that meant that I had to be pleasant and choose my words very carefully. But it worked. I have a very sweet settlement… I will sign the decree tomorrow and be free of him on Dec 19. He will be off with his dumb bunny of an OW and both of them getting the life they deserve and shoveling snow too (Sorry CL)

          • Awesome!! I’m so glad you got a sweet settlement! It must have been tough to play nice with him, but it was worth it in the end (and it inspires the rest of us–my temper often gets the better of me).

      • I’m liking this “buying gifts for myself” stuff. His gifts to me always sucked.

        Just ordered myself a gorgeous dress to wear to my birthday party in January. Going to lovingly wrap it up and stick it under the tree for myself.

        I’m tempted to give him a box containing some of the crappy junk he got me over the years. And a lump of coal.

        • I don’t know, Bridget–a better gift for him might be one of those bags of dog turd set alight that delinquent kids leave on the doorstep.

          And good for you buying yourself a gorgeous new dress! Add some shoes under the tree to go with it!

        • the only gifts my ex gave me for Christmas was the last one where he insisted on a present exchange, cos you know, he had OW to pick them out…meanwhile I bought him a drugstore magic kit and a candle. He didn’t get it…

      • I started buying myself a few holiday gifts each year after Dday, which was five years ago this coming Monday. I think it’s a great tradition, and intend to keep it up for the rest of my life, even though I have a serious boyfriend now. I don’t go so far as to wrap my gifts, although there’s no reason not to, but I give them quite a bit of thought, and although they are not expensive things, they are meaningful to me. I highly recommend all chumps, especially new chumps, do the same. Treat yourself to the same love you once wasted on a cheater. You deserve it, the cheater did not.

        • I have given myself a few meaningful gifts since dday, like a necklace with a symbol that is important to me and makes me feel like I can keep going when I put it on. It reminds me that I am strong and that all this is making me stronger. I also got myself a ring that I started wearing instead of the wedding ring when I got divorced. (On my left middle finger which gives me a little pleasure because it’s the middle finger, ha.) And I got some earrings for myself to mark the 5 year anniversary of when I moved here. All of them give me a boost when I wear them and help me remember that I am working to take care of myself and rebuild my life.

          • NL, I did the same thing – I bought an inexpensive ring with a small black stone and I wear it on my left middle finger!

            • My ring came from a little vintage store and when I told the clerk why I was there looking for a new ring, I started crying. She took it in complete stride, pulled out a box of Kleenexes, and helped me look. She knew the style I liked already since I had bought a few things there before over the years, and she was the one that brought out the ring I ultimately chose because she thought it would be my style. And it was. I had been looking for a ring-finger ring, but it turns out the middle-finger was an even better choice. 🙂

          • I bought a middle finger ring for my left hand also. After watching the GPS I placed on his car for 10 days staying at HER house every night. I was completely done. I sold my wedding ring and went to Swarovski store and found the most awesomest ring! It’s sparkly and makes me happy.

        • Last year, I repierced my ears. I haven’t decided what I’m giving myself this year. I do know that I’ll like whatever I give myself. 🙂

    • Conniered, this will be my 2nd Christmas without my STBX. Early in our marriage, he would put thought into gifts for me but at some point, he started giving me meaningless crap that I believe was the first thing he saw when he walked into the store the day before Christmas. For instance, one time he gave me a shirt with a logo for a local college – not sure why cause I didn’t go to school there. So, last year, I started buying a few things for myself for my 17yo daughter to give to me. Little things I need – nothing big. It helps her out and I get what I need.

      Good luck with custody mediation. Go in prepared with what you want versus what you will accept. I’ve found that it helps not to really look at them. He’s not the person you thought he was. I might look in his direction but I don’t really focus on him. Hugs to you!

    • conniered (and others), last year I was a month past D-Day when Christmas came and couldn’t face the thought of “nothing under the tree.” So I saved all the little things that friends and colleagues brought to open on Christmas morning. I also bought myself some things I needed (and wanted) and put them in nice gift bags. Along with the things I bought for others, and the “Charlie Brown tree in a box,” it made a Christmas that was very “me.”

      This is a time to learn to love yourself as well as others. Even if you are dead broke, or feel that way, buy a nice candle or a book to read or new socks. Even a $25 limit can produce a nice candle from TJ Maxx, a guilty pleasures paperback or a $10 Amazon card, and a pack of inexpensive frames from IKEA that you can use to refresh your bedroom, filled with pictures you love. I’ve got a fluffy blue sweater with sequins sprinkled on it (outlet mall bargain) and a new necklace(splurge) and I’ll add a pair of new shoes I need for work (because none of them fit) and if the budget goes there, new boots. I’m definitely going to frame the great picture of my wren on top of the birdhouse I put up in the spring–$10 bucks tops. I try for things I need and have to buy anyway things that fill out the wardrobe now that I’ve lost weight, and at least one beautiful thing that makes my heart sing. That’s all taking care of myself. And after years of trying to delight everyone around me at Christmas (and spending a lot to do it), I’ve added myself to my list AND cut the budget! And if I ever get a new man in my life, I swear I am not going to put the weight of Christmas on what he buys to put under the tree. I want to keep it simple. Love, kindness, comfort, loyalty and a bit of goofiness feeds the soul 365 days a year

      And find some person who may not get a gift from anyone and do a random act of kindness. That’s the best gift of all.

      I don’t have kids, sad to say, and my parents have been dead a good while. I miss big Christmases with my folks, with various male partners and their kids, with my own good friends who have moved away or are preoccupied with grandchildren. But D-Day last year was an opportunity to make Christmas about love. About creativity. About going deeper spiritually. Baking the Holiday Hearth loaves I let slip out of my tradition and revived last year. Midnight mass. Waking up to my Christmas playlist and a clean house. Eating breakfast in front of the fire. Weather permitting, a long walk. Dinner with my sibs. Call my best friend. Live in the moment and be grateful.

      While the kids are with the cheater, put on YOUR favorite Christmas movie–the one that they hate or is too adult for them. Have a Bailey’s on the rocks. Drink to your mightiness and your courage.

      • Beautiful, LAJ. The best gifts I’ve ever received were not the expensive ones but the ones that showed me love and thought went into them. My family and I now just choose to spend time together, doing new things, things we want to do. One of the best gifts I ever received though was from my Mom, who was young single and supporting two kids at the time, and working two jobs. We were so poor that she gathered up scraps of fabric, a few buttons, and pantyhose, and fashioned two cloth dolls out of it, one for my sister, and one for me. My ex never purchased gifts, wait!-make that never chose-gifts. (Unless they were for himself.) I did all the shopping for our children, our families, and myself! Not surprising that a Narc can’t focus on others…. My kids look forward to the holidays and visiting family but last year they had enough of old Cheater Dad and his unwelcoming family. Spackle all you want, my kids are still hurting. He is fighting a losing battle though thinking our children will ever “get” what he did and jump through hoops to welcome Schmoopie. They have a family. You know I tell them that worse than his cheating was the fact that he LIED to us…Every Day he Lied. I will never understand the person who can walk away from and destroy a family that has always loved and supported him. And then act like it’s no big deal! My kids and I have learned a great lesson though. We do what we want now and are learning to draw firm healthy boundaries. Actions tell us all we need to know, and intentionality is spending holidays with those we love. Those who love and make time for us. Life is too short and we’ve wasted enough of it on crap people and crap drama.

      • Thanks for that LovedAJackass. I have been buying things for myself since he left. I have had to slow down a bit but for Christmas, I will buy some things that make me happy. Yankee candles- the Sugared Apple is incredible. Pretty clothes to wear out…in the hopes I will be going out soon, not just work clothes. Maybe a gift card to Amazon for more Kindle books. And candy, My son believes Santa fills my stocking. 🙂

    • Why be across the table from him? Me and every person I know who has gone through mediation have been in separate rooms.

      • Great idea! I wish everybody did this! How can anybody sit across the table from someone who betrayed them (and worse!)?

  • I am doomed to spend every winter until the universe collapses on itself in Boston. It would be charming if it only snowed on and around Christmas, but boy does it lose its charm when the plows build 4-foot grey walls of heavy, wet snow for you to dismantle. Then, when you’ve made some headway on the wall, they come back around again.

    All I’m saying is that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Or, in my case — the grass is actually visible from January-March. 😉

    In any case, I hope each chump does something nice for themselves this holiday season. Boy, do you deserve some peace and joy.

    • LilyBart I live near you so boy can I relate. My biggest problem alone with the house is snow removal. I just don’t have the strength to dismantle those walls alone. I’ve tried to hire help but no one wants the job. They only want the commercial jobs where they can sit in their truck and plow. I used to love winter but it’s just a constant worry now.

    • I grew up in Michigan. So Easter blizzards are not uncommon. The trees don’t bud out until May. Yeah, shoveling sucks. Before I moved here from Pennsylvania, I endured Snowmaggadeon and had to shovel my roof and my gutters fell off. Good times. I’ll still take it over relentless sunshine and 100 degree days.

      I’m a freak.

      • Ah, CL–we have taken similar paths! I grew up in Michigan, moved to PA for 16 years, and ended up in central Texas.

        I do see the allure of snow at Christmas, with the glittering lights of Frankenmuth ornaments hanging from the tree. But…I think you are spackling about those Michigan winters–the wind creating drifts immediately after the roads were plowed, our spines frozen into flagpoles after 20 minutes in the cold, the 40 combined minutes to dress & undress winter layers, the consecutive days of no-electricity in January, my father lighting a gas space heater indoors and turning all the ceilings black with soot (but I digress)….

        I’m okay with December margaritas on the porch at the Oasis, looking at a postcard of snow-covered scenery for nostalgia.

        • No snow spackle for me! I’ll concede Michigan is some hardcore winter (I spent most of my adult life in the mid-Atlantic region… much milder).

          I just like cold. Recently my husband and I did one of those DNA ancestry tests and it turns out I’m Scandinavian. Velda tribe (less than 7% of all Europeans), from the farthest reaches of Lapland, above the arctic circle.

          I feel vindicated that this is in my DNA. As well as my love of smoked fish.

          • oops. 4%. “The clan of Velda
            (Scandinavian for ruler)
            is the smallest of the seven clans containing only about 4% of native Europeans. Velda lived 17,000 years ago in the limestone hills of Cantabria in northwest Spain. Her descendants are found nowadays mainly in western and northern Europe and are surprisingly frequent among the Saami people of Finland and Northern Norway.”

            • CL, they say everyone has a landscape preference that’s passed down in their DNA, so it makes sense that you would like snow with those ancestors. Long before I was old enough to know my ancestors were from Scotland/Ireland I always liked rolling hills. That type of landscape just feels like home to me. Now the beach? No thanks.

              • Well, good grief. No wonder I have no urge to leave Pittsburgh. Scots-Irish and rolling hills are home to me, too.

  • The hardest part was the first couple of Christmases until I got my land legs and established my single parent traditions.

    I was stone cold broke, had my car repossessed while he was taking them on ski vacations (I taught cheater pants how to ski). My babies weren’t around me and the new GF played nice the first two years until my kids were in her way. They lived in a big beautiful house.

    My girls would come back after Christmas visits with beautiful new clothes bought by the GF and experiences. My hell should not be their hell. I complimented the new dresses and had them tell me about their experiences all the while crying my head off inside. I would falter sometimes, I wasn’t perfect, but I would literally chew the insides of my cheeks to keep me from saying anything negative.

    You have to muscle through it. You will become stronger.

    It looks greener, but I promise it is not. People who have affairs with married people are losers and have the same missing parts as our cheaters.

    I was glad my kids went skiing. I wanted them to learn the sport even if I wasn’t there. It would never be the same no matter what. I was glad they got new clothes, I couldn’t afford it and they loved them. My previous life was over. I had to mourn it and bury it.

    Each year DOES GET BETTER IF YOU WORK ON IT. You can’t obsess on the cheaters lifestyle or you are fucked.

    My little Christmases got a little bigger each year.

    Fast forward 30 years. I am successful in my business. My children are grateful to me that I sucked it up. They know their dad is a loser and have known the whole time. They are old enough to talk about it as AN ADULT.

    H#1 now lives with his mother and is broke. I worked and worked and live in a big beautiful home making damn good money.

    More importantly, I have my children’s respect and that my dear friends, money cannot buy.

        • It’s nice for me to hear this holiday as we are so struggling financially. XH got fired almost a month ago and took some other commission-based position. He was vague about the hours and how much he’d be making. Yesterday he finally got what should have been a full 2-week paycheck . . . for $357.02 (so my CS check is only 28% + $36.88). He would have made more for his kids flipping burgers at McDonald’s full time, or putting in for unemployment (which would have paid $300-$500 a week). But damned if he ever listens to me.

          I’m trying to get myself to the point where we won’t be going under without CS, but it’s hard. Here’s hoping someday I can be like Calamity Jane and look back on all this and say, “It was hard, I fought, I won.”

    • Same thing happened to my mom. She was a broke preschool teacher when my dad left her for someone else. By the time she retired she owned 3 rental properties, had a good pension and savings, and benefits for life. She owns free and clear a big live-work space, travels, and does her beloved art full time, which she exhibits in a big gallery downtown. My dad, once a big-time lawyer, imploded his career and lives in a tiny rental and works a night-time shift in a bakery. He is in his 70s in poor health. My mom works out at the YMCA 5 times a week and has a very joyful life. Her life didn’t happen over night, but evolved gradually from the choices she made. You could say the same thing for my dad.

      • I remember when my daughter started school she announced one day that her friends dad “had run off with a woman called Sue from Banbury”. A five year old talking like that…the friends mum was a shy and very overweight woman who came over as not very bright. They were poor.
        Years later she worked as a barmaid to fund her studies…she looked different, still fat but better dressed, nice hair, confident.
        She married again and had another baby. She got a degree and followed it up with a MA. She became a social worker, got promoted and ended up in a high powered job.
        Her ex was a carpet salesman and probably still is. Lucky Sue!

  • CL, you might laugh to hear that I have only seen snow falling out of the sky three times in my entire life, and I’m 50! I’ve walked on snowy ground maybe ten times, probably less. My ex, however, is from the midwest, and used to have a similar lament about how wrong it was to wear short sleeves on Christmas.

    Anyway, for new chumps at the holidays — yes, it might suck right now but things change and you do not know what the future holds. My first couple of holidays after separation, my ex took our son for scheduled Christmas visitation, but decided to go on bizarre road trips, and managed to leave right on the first day of Hanukkah, MY holiday. I could have protested, but son was excited about these trips (they were weird) and so I let it go.

    When ex and I were married, we did the holidays up big. Lights all over the house, tree covered with ornaments, loads of gifts to be opened for both Hanukkah and Christmas. I felt so depressed at holiday time those first couple years. Son was with ex, there was no house anymore, no lights, no tree, no pile of gifts for me to open. I spent Christmas with my mom, the ultimate downer.

    But I bought myself a few presents. The second year, I put lights on my apartment balcony. I started a snowman collection, which is proudly on display in December. I spent time with friends. I was very depressed, but I made it through.

    Then last year, ex was out of state at the holidays, and son was with me. This year, ex is out of the country for the next few months. Son is now NC with him, and looking forward to holidays without the craziness. We will spend Christmas with my boyfriend. There will be gifts to exchange, there are lights on my balcony, I’ll make my overnight French toast casserole that tastes so good.

    I’m rambling as usual, but what I’m trying to say from my vantage point a few years out — it gets better. As CL says, this shit is finite. Yes, it sucks when your kids are spending the holidays with a cheater. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make new traditions of your own, do the holidays up right, have a great time. Whatever holiday you celebrate, I wish all the joys of the season to all the chumps here. And I hope you find “meh” wrapped under the tree.

  • Christmas is the time people look into the picture perfect windows of other people’s lives and mourn what they do not have. The fact of the matter is that those images just aren’t real, they are scenes in a snow globe. One of my family members was tragically killed on Christmas Day some years ago and my extended family never celebrated Christmas again. At first, my now almost grown children complained about the lack of presents, companionship, etc., but I chose to use that day to give one another modest gifts, then spend the rest of the day cooking, playing board games, and talking about what we wanted to achieve in the coming year. Now, my kids love that there is no pressure to buy the perfect gift, no need to spend money to buy unneeded stuff, no need to worry about who got what. It is now such a wonderful, peaceful day…and if someone can’t be here on “the” day, we just change the date when we enjoy one another’s company! I would not trade our quiet day for all the ski chalets in Tahoe, because what we have is real, is genuine, is true. What cheater X does is his business, but I know it can’t be near as much fun as our early morning kitchen chaos. So, my unsolicited advice is make your own modest traditions and ignore the rest. Your kids will remember those inexpensive, homemade pancakes way more than the present de jour under the tree.

  • My ex left right as our adult kids got married and moved away so I went from having everyone for Christmas to having none of them here on the 25th. Neither of my kids will be here for Christmas this year, but I had one of my kids and his wife open presents on T’giving, and will be opening presents with other son and his wife next weekend. Those will be my two Christmases. On actual Christmas day I’m going to visit my sister’s family. The first couple of years of this were been brutal, but I’m getting more used to just being happy whenever I see them. I also try not to look at Facebook much during the holidays.

    One thing that really helped me was coming across an old picture of Christmas dinner when I was a kid. I sat and looked at it for awhile, and realized that I considered those people “my family,” but most of them are now gone. That’s when it hit me that family changes as time goes by no matter what. For some reason it made me feel better. I started thinking of this period of my life being like when I graduated from high school and couldn’t always go home for the holidays. It felt weird and strange then too.

    This year I’m trying to focus on sending out beautiful Christmas cards to friends and family, and handing out home made ornaments to the waiters and waitresses at our small town’s restaurants. Heck, I’m even going to hand them out to the servers at the drive through at McDonald’s because they greet me with such cheerfulness.

    It’s getting a little easier. I try not to think about what could have been, but what is, and how I can make the best of it.

    • “I try not to think about what could have been, but what is, and how I can make the best of it.”

      This is something I need to remember (I am too good at seeing the possible…and mourning the loss of what was possible).

  • This year I was sad that STBX and I wouldn’t be taking our son to the holiday zoo lights together, a fun tradition that we’ve had for many years (well before our toddler came along). I thought about skipping it. I thought about seeing if friends or family wanted to go with us. Instead I decided to take my son by myself for some quality mommy-son time. And you know what? It was awesome! He wanted to ride the train over and over? OK!! There was no one else to worry about annoying with repeated train rides. He wanted to look at the empty habitat instead of the one with the animals? OK!! Mommy got to indulge him and let him be 100% toddler without having to accomodate another human being. That was far more fulfilling than I ever would have imagined, and it couldn’t have happened any other way.

  • LOL! shovelling snow at Christamas. It’s making me feel like I’m from another planet. I’ve spent every Christmas of my 50 years in tropical Queensland Australia. Apart from the tradition of exchanging presents and too much food, the day is usually enjoyed cooling down in the pool or at the beach. And try not to burn your lips on the top of your favourite “cool” beverage.

    But to us chumps around the world, and our kids, the fallout at this time of year is universal. Sharing part of the day with them is the best I hope for, with an uneventful contact with our cheating ex. Civilized exchange, nothing more, nothing less. And enjoy our time with the ones who do care about us.

    Wishing everyone the best possible Christmas break!

  • I was thinking about the Christmas gift under the tree and the chump buying them himself/herself. Well heck, yea! The greatest gift I am giving myself this Christmas is peace. The ink will be dry on one legal document that protects my kids financially. What a freaking expense, but it’s the best gift I am giving myself as this yr ends and the new yr begins!

  • I spent Christmas in East Africa once, and they had Christmas cards of Santa and the reindeer being chased up an acacia tree by a lion.

  • CL, having grown up with it, we become used to it I suppose. I was raised a catholic and Christmas carols were a big part of Christmas. You don’t think about it after a while. I’ve known lots of British people over the years, working on visas. The contrast in weather really has an effect on them.

    Growing up in the 70’s as a kid, we were given a high exposure of Northern hemisphere culture, particularly American TV. Watching hollywood christmas movies with lots of snow, then going to the beach on a scorching hot day is “just life” down under. I had a wonderful childhood, wonderful family and memories of Christmas. I couldn’t ask for more.

    So while you guys are building a snowman on Christmas day, we’ll be chilling in the pool 🙂 It’s all good!

    • I’d join you in the pool if I could Kraft. Snow, bah! I’d much prefer looking at a Christmas tree lit up at night while I lounge in a pool, that would be heavenly. If only there were a job for me in the Caribbean, I’d sell this house in VA in a heartbeat and move to the beach. Alas, I can’t find a thing on any of the islands lest likely to be hit by hurricanes :O

  • This year my daughter and I have what I keep calling our Charlie Brown tree. It’s a 5 ft tree so it’s not small but it’s not the big 8 ft that we used to get. It’s adorable and we had fun decorating it. The best part? STBX stopped by to pick up some of his stuff while we were decorating so he got to see what he’s missing out on! I had his crap waiting at the door for him and locked the door behind him as he took the last box out to his truck.

  • I think it takes a couple of years to begin to find new traditions. First, there is the tendency to want to recreate what’s been lost or to have what you think you are “supposed” to have–whether that’s a 9 course dinner on Christmas Eve or a an annual photo with the whole family in matching sweaters. Eventually, some of that drops off and it is easier to enjoy what you really do have–microwave popcorn while you watch a favorite tacky holiday movie and goofy pictures wearing elf hats. Also, I think it helps to try things (that might become traditions) that can be done flexibly each year–maybe that means one kid helps you put lights on the house and the other does the lights on the tree. Maybe that means you make a new style of gingerbread house each year–things that you and your kids enjoy but that are great to do each year regardless of how custody works out on the 24th or 25th, etc.

  • My POS gave my 12 year old his christmas list…. Can u fuckng believe it? What am I saying… Of course u guys can. He actually took pictures out of flyers… Including coupons… Bless his pointed fucking head.
    I had to tell my child that I would help her chose something meaningful for him. The flaming bag of dog shit came to mind Tempest!
    What i elected to do this first split holiday was … ‘ do the fuck outa Christmas’ and i mean that in the nicest way… We sent donations for charity, put up the lights and a tree the day after Turkey day… Xmas music on 24/7….Busted out the advent calender… Planned the 12 days of Christmas to surprise our neighbors.. Watched Elf, Fred, and the Grinch. Made batches of cookies to give away. We are doing so much that when it finally comes its going to be a release. We are doing the fuck outa Xmas… And its mostly free..and my kid loves it!
    And i am taking what i usually spend on the sack of shit… And buying myself some really nice things for under the tree… When my kid asks… Gonna say ‘ I have been good this year’

    • The Clip–get your poo bags & matches early; there could be a run on them this year (though there always seems to be plenty of sh*t to fill the bags with). Your X (STBX?) is a dumbass–imagine giving your Christmas list to a 12-year old. Does she look like Santa? Is her $5 allowance going to cover his top 2 items?

      I’m with you on the Mega-Christmas (though you are MUCH better organized than me–my tree will go up this weekend). I used to have to limit the number of decorations I put up because mr. haughty didn’t like clutter. Not this year–I am amping up the decorations and Christmas specials. In the Christmas spirit, I even offered cheater the 4″ tree for his lonely apartment, but he declined saying “I don’t want any of that stuff!” Okay, Ebenezer, but step aside for the rest of us to barrel into the holidays (this time, with no one to look all huffy at the boxes piled in the hallway until decorating is done).

      And you deserve to splurge on yourself [even if you turn out to have been a little naughty ; 0 ]

  • I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with lots of mountains and snow…just not this year. One year I spent the winter in Arizona with my parents and was tickled to see giant saguaro cactus’s dressed up in Santa suits.

    I spent several Christmas’s after my divorce so terribly sad because we always had so much fun at the holidays. I don’t even put up a tree anymore but I do put up lights on my porch and fix a fabulous prime rib dinner for my friends and family. It’s been several years since Dday but I still get misty around the holidays.

    It’s funny how things turn out. Although my XH is still with the OW I know that he misses me terribly. Maybe he figured out that the grass wasn’t really greener after all. I was a fine wife to him and treated him with love and respect. But he killed our marriage and that love and respect I had for him. There’s no going back.

    Merry Christmas Chump Lady and Chump Nation!!

  • For everyone who is feeling wistful about something they lost. Your X was a fake person and Xmas, the happy family around the tree and the eggnog, chestnuts roasting on the fire… all of that other bs is just a facade… remember who was in the kitchen making it happen. Remember who is in the back bedroom wrapping presents making it happen… remember who put up the tree and took the needle dropping, dry brown bear of a thing down… remember that your X was generally a lazy SOB, so what seems to you like this nostalgic Xmas is really a box of Kraft Macncheese, and a can of cheese wiz (that would be all my X could muster). Remember that your kids are not stupid, they know who does the work and who loves them. Trust they KNOW just as you trust that he SUCKS. And for those of you feeling wistful about snow… I send this to you from sunny San Diego… this was taken in April last year in one of those snowy places.
    Well maybe April, could have been May in Colorado. 🙂

  • I *love* In the Bleak Midwinter! (And come from New England, yeah, I know what it means.. 🙂

    First Xmas/Thanksgiving/whatever with Ex, we were in negotiations over the divorce, so no boats were rocked. And daughter was 21 anyway. Ex dad (yah, he kind of is an Ex dad come to that…) asked for some time, of course it required inconvenient (but not dangerous) driving on her part, then she got to come back to my place for Christmas dinner with two favorite aunties and mom. It was fine.

    What she really learned those holidays was that Ex seeing her was about HIM, not about her, or her happiness, or anything else. Kind of an eye-opener. He prioritized time with Mr$.Narcissa Parkinsons (who neither D not I knew about) over making it convenient for his own daughter….can I have a chorus of fa la la la la, la la la?

    So this year when he wrote to me to ask if she was still seeing her BF. (wtf?) ..see how close they are? …I said I really didn’t think it was appropriate for me to comment on that part of my daughter’s life. He wanted to send a present to somebody he’s never even met, because? ? narcs like to make themselves look good, I guess? Anyway, she said she didn’t bother answering his email about it.

    All of this is a roundabout way of saying: the truth comes out. It may not be this year. It may not even be next year! But, have faith that it will happen. Meantime, get a good book, some fuzzy slipper and make some cocoa. Sleep in. Light some candles..I’m going bananas with the Christmas candles this year–they are really cheery since the sun seems to start setting around 4pm. Rent a movie. Go to a candlelight carol service. Please yourself.

    Give yourself the Christmas you want! Warm Holiday wishes to you and all chumps, peace to all.

  • Dear Chumps,
    Great timing on this article. This will be my 10th Xmas since separating so I’m long past those early, teary holiday years. But seeing this column reminded me of how painful this time of year can be. iT DOES GET BETTTER, PEOPLE!!!!!!! We just have to slog through those early years. I am just going to throw out a few things that worked well for me and for our family in the event that there is something helpful for new chumps facing the holiday.
    We had a “split” xmas holiday, where one parent had the children for the first week of xmas break and the other for the second week. We would make the switch midday on Xmas day. Rather than attempt to compete with “santa” on the years X had the kids for Xmas morning, I chose on those years to celebrate “the 12 days of Xmas” instead. I would have the bare tree lighted and waiting for the kids when they returned to my home Xmas evening. We would drink hot cocoa and decorate it. There would be a special gift for each child under the tree from me. And one fun thing in their stocking. Plus I bought a special (but inexpensive) set of ornaments each depicting one of the “12 days of Xmas. My children alternated each of the 12 days getting to add the ornament for that day to the tree. Also, each day we would have “stocking time” where the kids would check their stockings and find one item (they each got the same thing or comparable things). It might be tickets to an event. Or cookie cutters (which we would then use to bake cookies together that day. Or little trinkets like a yoyo or a puppet. Maybe a packet of microwave popcorn and a “movie ticket” to hang out and watch a movie with mom that night. A book. A cheap wall calendar for the coming year. Some days might be an actual “gift.” or trinket. Other days would be an experience. The “12 days” continued for a couple of days even after school started back. On the 12th day – Epiphany – we would celebrate the wise men arriving at the manger after a long journey day by day drawing them closer (with the kids’ help) from the East side of the house to the manger in the front room. The kids LOVED our new tradition – even though the gifts came nowhere near approaching the “orgie” of toys/gifts/etc. that Santa brought to X’s on Xmas morning. It got to where even on the years I had them for Xmas morning (only 3 gifts from Santa plus a few fun stocking stuffers) they would come back from X’s after the New Year wanting to finish celebrating the rest of the Twelve Days.” And we did. It gave them something to look forward to with me. Most of all, it gave us all something to look forward to and enjoy together as a family — our NEW family. And beautiful memories together that no one can ever take away. Wishing y’all Chumps peace this season.

  • This is the first holiday season of my new life after 37 years with my narc cheater. Divorce was final this past summer (thank you Chump Nation! I came to CL every day for strength).

    My mantra from the beginning of trying to re-build my life and re-discover myself has been “Begin as you mean to go on.” I told my two adult children and their partners that it is time for new traditions.

    I was struggling before Thanksgiving; I think because I was mourning “what was supposed to be.” Then I remembered, he isn’t who I spackled him to be and my life is SO much better without the constant lies and betrayal. I actually had one of the most enjoyable, stress-free turkey days I can remember. I do feel badly that from now on the kids have to figure out how to coordinate seeing their Dad for holidays, but that is not my problem – Begin as you mean to go on.

    I will be alone for Christmas Eve. The kids will be with Ex and his family and I don’t have family of my own. I have been considering hosting a get together at my house for some folks from work that I know will also be alone – Begin as you mean to go on.

    I know I am very fortunate to be navigating these new waters with my children as adults. I doubt I could be so equable if my children were younger. My heart goes out to all chumps with young families – Begin as you mean to go on.

    I already got myself the best present I can think of for this year – my divorce! Looking forward to a HAPPY New Year – Begin as you mean to go on.

    Warmest wishes to all of Chump Nation.

    • I like that mantra very much. Begin as you mean to go on.

      I have a young son and we have our custody mediation on Tuesday. I plan to insist that Santa visits him at HOME. With me. Once the magic of Santa is gone, we can re-negotiate or whatever if necessary. But his leaving is not going to ruin my son’s wonderment at Christmas. I will not allow him to make my son accommodate him. Never.

  • This was a good day to read this article. I have been feeling rather sad and been walking around with a perpetual lump in my throat for the past couple of weeks. I was very happy to read CL’s reminder that the holidays are finite. I looked at the calendar and saw that she is right. Only 14 days until Christmas and another 20 until New Years and it’s all over. Welcome 2015 and my second year of a cheater free life.

  • Sadly, it looks as if a finalized divorce will not be under my Christmas tree this year. That said, I will leave STBX to enjoy the holidays with Schmoopie and her dysfunctional family while I travel to spend about 10 days of food and fun with my side of the family. Unlike Thanksgiving, the whole crew will be there. I fully expect to be in a food coma most of the time.

    However, I did something very different this year. I do game, and one of my gaming forums did a Secret Santa. For the first time, I put my hat in the ring. I had fun picking out the presents for my Santee. I am interested in seeing what some random person thinks I’d like, based on a handful of posts on a forum.

    I expect to relax and have fun with people I’m happy to see and who are happy to see me. 🙂

  • First Christmas with out STBX also. I am going to do my best to power through this, and hopefully each year will be easier and better. I am months away from a good settlement for me, and I am putting on the face until the ink is dry. Afterwards, new phone, new email and no contact what so ever. It will no longer be necessary.
    No matter how much he says he wants to be friends, or cry about what WE lost… asswipe.

  • Another amazing entry, CL. You help so many people and change so many people’s lives. Thanks once again.

  • Thank you – needed this post after having a giant holiday induced panic attack two nights ago.
    It was so horrific that my teenager called the police – who responded and sat with me for an hour until I could calm down.

    Our police force is the best – but I wish that I didn’t have to go through the emotional turmoil of Christmas on top of everything else this year.

    I am 2.5 years seperated – almost 3. Divorce is done, but needs to be processed. Stbx is being audited, so I am in limbo land – again.

    This is the one time of year that I used to love ( was married to a Minister ) and now it turns me into a quivering mass of emotional jello.

    Cannot wait to take. Christmas back on my terms. Working on it, but it’s a slow process.

  • I used to spend every Christmas pissed off at my ex. I used to buy and decorate the tree myself, bought and wrapped gifts for our three kids and his entire large extended family while he complained about the cost or everything (regardless of the fact that we could well afford the purchases), and also bought him extremely thoughtful and expensive presents (usually spending over $1000 on him alone) . His only job was to get me a gift and year after year, he would run out on Christmas eve and get me some relatively inexpensive trinkets that i was supposed to gush over. His favorite trick was going to a jewelry e store and picking the most inexpensive thing he could find (never more than $75.00) but then boast that he had bought me jewelry. I know it the thought that counts but I would get upset because he would put absolutely no thought or effort into the gift and could well afford to spend a little more for a more thoughtful gift. Another year he had his sister shop fora present for me “because he was tired of me not liking his gifts” and then refused of reimburse her. I know this because they had knock down drag out fights about his refusal to pay her back for the money she spent buying my gift from him. This year I won’t get anything for Christmas. And quite frankly there is nothing i need or want. But i am much happier since i am not going to be slapped in the fact with the disappointment of a gift that says i don’t give a fuck about you.

    • Pearl,

      This year you will get the priceless gift of Peace of Mind. Instead of under your tree, it will be all around you.

      You will see it in your children’s eyes and everyone who loves you. It’s always been there.

  • Today my ex picked up our daughter to take off on a 3 week holiday to the UK. She showed up early to chew me out about how unhappy she thinks our daughter is at my place. How she gets complaining, upset calls all the time. She ended the conversation with a veiled threat to increase her level of custody in six month’s time if things don’t improve.

    The real situation is this: I am living with my current partner, who has two little girls of her own. They’re lovely kids. My daughter is the eldest and is experiencing the normal level of hero worship little kids reserve for the big kids. Sometimes it annoys her; sometimes the three of them have fun together; sometimes everyone needs a bit of space and we all work on making that happen. All three kids are very well loved and looked after. My daughter has an excellent relationship with my partner. There are the occasional, normal, boundary-related problems you’d expect to arise when a pre-teen girl spends half her life with a couple of kids in early primary school. We try to teach the kids strategies for dealing with each other and, when necessary, we intervene.

    I have evidence that my daughter has lied to her mother about things here. I’ve presented this to both her and her mother at the same time. My ex responds by twisting the story and inventing new possibilities that keep me in the wrong. I also have evidence that my ex lies to me about the situation at her place.

    I am sad because this was what I was left with to think about over Christmas. The sword hanging over my head is the loss of my daughter. Some days I just feel like giving up and releasing her to her mother’s full custody. I never wanted to be a “weekend” Dad, but I think this is where things are headed.

    I gave up my career to be the primary carer for our daughter because it was what I really wanted to do. I still worked part-time, to keep my hand in and to bring in money for the mortgage. My wife’s careers (she has two) are both going very well. She continues to travel the world for work and pleasure, and she continues to dump all her fucking shame onto me.

    I know a lot of Dad’s out there would kill to have 50% custody. I insisted on it when we split and have felt lucky that there was no resistance. Until I met someone else, after spending 18 months alone working intensely on myself. Today it feels again like I will lose my daughter to her narcissistic mother, whose mother is also narcissistic, and the cycle will continue. I am buying myself a punching bag for Christmas.

    • Forgot to add: my ex has had two relationships (that I know of) since we split. The first was with a married guy (the affair partner); the second was with a 21 year old (she’s 41). They’ve both gone to shit, surprisingly.

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