I have 2 teenaged girls. They are lovely kids, handling all the mess and changes as well as I could possibly imagine. To be fair, my STBX and I have both worked hard to stay amicable and be fair to the kids. We still share the marital home (I’m there one week and he’s there the next, while the other of us stays elsewhere on our “away” week ). My STBX earns much more money than I do and still pays all the household expenses and the school fees etc. so he has been generous. This arrangement is unusual I know, but so far it has worked to keep things stable for the kids.
He has always been very involved as a father, and apart from a few temper issues, is a good dad to them.
My problem is they seem to think the marriage break up is my fault. They are aware he has been unfaithful, but not the full extent of years or how many women have been involved ( I can only guess at this myself, as, unsurprisingly, he has only ever admitted to things I had proof of. Thanks to you, I am realising in all likelihood I’ve been well chumped.)
I have tried to be open to my girls and talk to them about what they are going through and how they feel. I understand from them that their father doesn’t mention anything about us breaking up, doesn’t want to talk about it, even though he has involved them in his new girlfriend’s life.
When I want to talk about how they are and what they are going through, they tend to get angry. They say that I am so negative about Dad ( for example, I commented once about how surprised I was about the new girlfriend being a smoker as he is an asthmatic and always detested smoking – his father had died of lung cancer. One daughter got very angry with me and said I was always putting him down, he’s got the right to be friends with whomever he likes).
They have said a couple of times that I must have done something to make their dad cheat, that it’s not all his fault. I know I am not perfect, he has said I’m annoying to live with, but I honestly am a reasonable and decent person. I didn’t deserve to be cheated on.
They say I should be grateful to him that HE gave THEM to me (wtf?). Yes he has been generous financially ( up to now anyway) but they seem to think I owe him something.
It is one daughter in particular who tends to blow up at me. I asked the other daughter if she behaves that way with her father and she tells me no, because he is scarier than I am.
I’m a good mother. I try not to lose my temper, to stay calm and rational with them, to be there for them if they need to talk. I’ve kept a lot of what was going on between my husband and me out of their knowledge — they are still young and they don’t need to know all the details. I do cry sometimes, which I think they see as being weak. But I’ve put up with a lot of emotional turmoil to keep things easier for them.
Why do they treat me like this? Why do they seem to take his side? I know they love me, and I know I am the mother of teenaged girls which does have tension, but still.
I know kids are entitled to love both their parents equally, and he has been and still is an involved parent. He’s said countless times that the kids are his priority. And he is more fun and outgoing than I am, has more money to spend too.
Why do I feel this is unfair? Why does he get treated better than me when he has been the one to break the marriage? How do you suggest I handle it? I don’t want to lose my children’s love.
You feel it’s unfair because it is unfair. It’s time to un-chump yourself from more than just this marriage. Don’t take shit off teenagers.
How do I suggest you handle it? Here’s a numbered list.
1) Get the kids in therapy. By themselves, with you, or a combo plate. They need a safe, neutral person to work this out with. When you “talk to them about what they are going through and how they feel” they aren’t going to see you as neutral. They’re probably going to perceive this as you asking them to take sides. And look, you’ve been cheated on, it’s raw, so you’re not exactly safe from dumping your emotional slop on them. Let’s everyone go to the professionals on this.
2) I know you’re doing your best to shield them from the details, but frankly, if they ASK, I would tell them. If they don’t ask, don’t mention it. Find a script and STICK TO IT. “Your dad is a serial cheater, that’s why we broke up.” PERIOD. Don’t defend, don’t justify, don’t say his latest girlfriend smells like an ashtray, just STICK TO THE SCRIPT. “Your dad is a serial cheater, that’s why we broke up.”
They probably aren’t going to ask you for the details. If they ask, as calmly and dispassionately as you can, you answer. No need to go into the gory particulars, but “I found multiple dating profiles,” “he got in trouble at work,” etc. Whatever the bare facts are, state those without editorializing. I know you’ll want to chew your arm off from frustration, but vent here or in a therapist’s chair.
3) When they start to blame you — SHUT THAT SHIT DOWN.
You aren’t putting your narrative out there (see script above) and nature abhors a vacuum. So guess who IS putting their narrative out there? Yes, that’s right — your cheater. Of course they blame you, because that’s the narrative Cool Dad is propaganda bombing. Again, find your script and STICK TO IT.
“No one compels another person to cheat. This is completely on your father’s poor character.”
I’m tempted to add, “If you thought I had superpowers to make people do things, do you think I would choose to be cheated on.” But teenagers aren’t good with rhetorical questions. They’re little angsty brains aren’t fully formed. Don’t give them room to snark at you.
4) Be a role model. Your daughters are watching you, and chances are one of them is going to be cheated on in a relationship. (Let’s hope it’s not a marriage.) Be a good example.
Would you want your daughters to blame themselves? Think they have to be absolutely perfect or they will “drive” someone to cheat on them? Would you want them to put up with abuse?
You tell them cheating is UNACCEPTABLE. We demonstrate this by divorcing people who grievously disrespect us and risk our health. You expect them to do the same with any future partner who disrespects them.
5) Realize that you’re probably dealing with a long-standing family dynamic. You’re the accommodating, resentful chump, and he’s Mr. Sparkles. You’re the no fun parent, he’s the Giver of All Good Things. It’s lopsided and unfair.
Kids who grow up in an abusive dynamic can identify one of two ways — with the chump or the cheater. Well, who looks like more fun? Who has more power? Who wants to be sad and weak? So yeah, of course it’s tempting to go with the cheater. That’s why you have to find your badass and take charge of your life. The results won’t be instant — BUT, they WILL figure out their father in time. You just have to stand back, focus on YOUR life, and let karma work over the years.
6) Finally, I think your arrangement stinks. First off, you’re hostage to his “generosity.” Fuck that. Get a pitbull lawyer and get half of what you’re due, and support if your state allows that. Up your job skills, retrain in your career, start figuring out what next so you can manage independence out of this fucktard’s orbit.
What you’ve got now is CAKE. The marital home stays, the kids aren’t disrupted, and he can play Happy Benefactor. The kids don’t feel the consequences, just you, so of course he can stay the Good Guy.
I can’t see how you can possibly move on in this arrangement. Maybe other people have made it work, and I hope they weigh in. But IMO, this arrangement only feeds your daughters’ entitlement. The parents are dancing to accommodate them, and it sucks for you. Why the hell can’t YOU GET THE HOUSE in the divorce? Or write in the agreement that it’s yours until the kids are grown and he has to stay the fuck out? This back and forth is absurd. Why the hell would you ASSUME he gets 50/50? Oh, I know. Because then he doesn’t have to pay court ordered child support. He can just be “generous.”
Your arrangement keeps you in chump mode. Talk to your lawyer on how to fix that, pronto. Decolonize your mind — fuck what he wants.
And remember Fi, teenagers suck. I’m sorry, even the best of them are just crosses to bear until they reach adulthood. I’d rather live with goats. They’re moody, vicious, hormonal creatures with shit for brains. You just love them the best you can, don’t take their crap, and wait for the blessed day their prefrontal cortexes mature. (About age 25 I hear.) Don’t let them operate heavy machinery or your feelings of self-worth. Good luck.