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Dear Chump Lady, My teenagers blame me

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eteenDear Chump Lady,

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.

Many thanks,

Fi

Dear Fi,

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.

 

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Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • I have raised three teenagers. The most important thing you need to remember is that they are the most manipulative people on the planet! It does not mean they were poorly parented it just means they are teenagers. They will, with luck, outgrow this. Also, they are terrified. Their world is breaking apart and they have no idea what is in store, but more than anything they want their family to stay together. Since that is not going to happen, I agree with Tracy, you need to be very clear that he cheated over the years and it is unacceptable to you. You also need to sit down with your husband and calmly and gently explain to him how concerned you are about your children being around secondhand smoke. Please believe me this is not to be tolerated. Every member of my family who smoked died of one form of cancer or the other but three of them died of lung cancer. One family member died of secondhand smoke. Your girls do not need to be in a house with someone who is smoking. Has he addressed this with you at all? Can you talk to him without either of you losing your tempers? You are trying so hard to help your girls get through this that you are missing something very important. You are their mother. You are not their friend. That bears repeating. You are not their friend. You need to set clear boundaries and the next time one of them accuses you of something is when you need to tell them you were badly hurt that their father cheated on you for years. You need to tell them that you respect yourself too much to live with that because it is demeaning. If they don’t know what that word means get the dictionary out. You can sympathize with them but you certainly should not cave when you are talked to disrespectfully.

    • // ,

      “You also need to sit down with your husband and calmly and gently explain to him how concerned you are about your children being around secondhand smoke.”

      Do you really think this will result in anything more than a power struggle in microcosm?

      Premiss A: Smoking around kids is a bad thing for them.
      Premiss B: A bad thing for them is something not to do.
      ∴ Smoking around kids is something not to do.

      First of all, I suspect that cheatards aren’t the greatest with the dialectic, intuitively or otherwise.

      First of all, Premiss A is obvious. If he hasn’t heeded it on a thousand PSAs, doctor’s warnings, and his own goddamn common sense, he’s not going to heed it from little Mrs. spineless here.
      As to Premiss B, cheatard already shown how many shits he has left to give about the kids, and whether something is a bad thing for them.

      Judges don’t care about much, and aren’t much for broken promises or sob stories. However, they do listen to issues affecting the kids health. I’d say document it, get them on record saying that the bitch smokes around your kids, and leave it to Mr. Pitbull.

      Full custody? If you get enough cards about Premiss B, and play them right, you betcha.

      There’s a rational intercourse, and there’s a time to put on a German WWII helmet (http://v.gd/OnynQh) and fuck ’em up! Relationship endlösung.

    • I am a chump who remembers how hard it was to be a teenager. To be honest my mother and I can not get along even today. There is something about being a woman that puts you at odds with other women.

      I agree that you should take some steps to make sure you are protected, but you want to protect them too. Luckily, in a few years they will be on their own. Do what works for you in terms of being comfortable. Sometimes that does mean sacrificing for our kids who don’t even know we are doing that. I think they probably mean more to us than we do to ourselves.

      Money has never meant a whole lot to me, but it can buy security. If you are capable of getting it without him, I would say do that. The less we need them, the better. If not, there is no shame in taking it. I’m sure you did things that were equivalent to what he earned.

      Your daughters will align themselves with who they feel they have the most in common with. That might not be you. I definately have more in common with my father than I do with my mother. It hurts so much that we could not be close, but she took sides and my sister was more like her than I am. Even though he has been dead for more than 20 years, the alliances stick. Just do the best you can. Hugs.
      Jen

  • Fi……..I have two teenage daughters as well. The oldest does not like her father and the other one likes him, or rather just his money. The oldest daughter overheard us fighting several times after dday and unfortunately she was then aware of her father’s bad behavior. The youngest was totally unaware of what was happening in our home.

    Long story short…the youngest daughter figured out what her father had been doing once we told the children that we were divorcing. She was very angry at ME that I had not told her and that her sister knew what was going on. I do not go into details but I do answer questions when they ask. His secret is not mine to keep. I believe that teenagers are old enough and certainly understand these things.

    I teach my children about respect and we talk about how to treat others. My youngest hated me when all of this happened. She blamed me as well. It took almost one year but she finally understands what I had gone thru and she looks up to me now. She has spent enough time with her dad and his OW to realize that he made poor choices and he is all about himself.

    Bottom line……..your girls are smart and they will figure things out for themselves. It just takes time. And honestly, they may have already figured it out but kids are selfish and they don’t want anything to change for them. They likely keep up their end of the relationship so they can continue to reap the benefits of his wallet. And if you’re anything like me, your daughters know that you love them and that you will always be there for them. They may doubt their father’s ability to do the same so they work harder at it. JMHO.

  • Fi, follow CL’s advice. When your daughters try to start shit with you, shut it down and shut it down fast. Say exactly what CL said to say. I have daughters, too. And I have shut them down when they attempted to say what we will call “unfair statements”. My kids have not gone as far as your kids have, but that may be because I didn’t and do not let their “unfair statements” stand. They know what’s going on. They know it’s wrong. This has hurt them also but I do not let them place blame on me for their father’s actions. No way.
    As far as your living arrangements go–I don’t think your h is feeling any consequences. It seems like you’re the only one feeling any pain here. Your daughters are nice to him, shitty to you. You know what helps cheaters feel consequences? Divorce and all of its financial repercussions. Decrees and orders that are enforceable by our court system make cheaters feel consequences. Your husband won’t be so much fun to be around then. He’ll turn like the weather. Once cheaters are faced with losing at least half their net worth, they get nasty. They get nasty to everyone. You’ll see. And so will your daughters.
    Give him consequences. And don’t take any shit from your daughters. Been there done that.

    • Yes! Narcissists only change when they feel the consequences of their behavior. Fi, you need to change this arrangement. His life hasn’t changed one bit, except that he is “free” every other week to be even more self indulgent. You are the one that set up the house and made it a home, and now he just takes over and if it keeps the girls happy, well, hey. What if he had to get his own house and the OW had ashtrays all around? Do you think the girls would be as happy being with him as they are after you did all the work.

      I do have a big concern for you and your girls. Did you agree to this arrangement because you thought it would be easiest on the girls? Would you want your girls to end up like you, where you sacrifice yourself and do not create a new life so no one gets upset? You are not moving forward as CL says, you are getting the cake of not having teenagers give you shit. It worked until it didn’t work.

      Your girls are also learning entitlement… hey, as long as it works for me, I can turn a blind eye to how other’s feel. Your ex-husband isn’t generous. He is actually CHEAP. He figured that by throwing around short cash, he wouldn’t have to extend any effort into building new relationships based on his true lifestyle with his girls. Everyone is denying reality at your house…

      I hope you take inspiration here and model your new life after what you want for your girls. No sugar daddy that cheats and disposes of people…best of luck to you. You reached out for help and you will raise stronger girls if you take care of yourself first.

      • This is so smart: “Your ex-husband isn’t generous. He is actually CHEAP. He figured that by throwing around short cash, he wouldn’t have to extend any effort into building new relationships based on his true lifestyle with his girls. Everyone is denying reality at your house…”

        • Leave a cheater, gain a life! Truer words were never spoken, and I thank God every day for Chump Lady and Chump Nation for that.

          You deserve NOTHING less.

  • CL, I laughed when I saw the headline… Of course teenagers blame the Chump!
    Fi, I do not envy you, and I have been in your shoes (somewhat). CL as always is spot in with her advice.
    My kids do not blame me, but I do get to hear how I would like OWife, she is a lot like me, etc. It has taken 2 years to not freak out over those comments. I just say, I guess that is why he is with her. All of his girlfriends have been like that, etc.

    My kids know cheating is wrong, and I always emphasize that it is a CHOICE. When you get married you make promises (no one. Has to get married), and their father broke those promises,
    My youngest is still young , only 11, and the few times I try to mention it this way, he says I am making him feel bad about his father.

    Finally, I agree with CL- get your own place, house switching is good for younger kids, but not needed for teenagers.

    My ex is also the fun, joking parent. Even if you do not have a ton of money, you can still do fun things with them. Hiking, bowling, my kids and I like some of the same shows (dr who, firefly) so we joke around and make references to the show, and quote it, at different times.
    I will never be as easy going as my ex (thanks goodness, I never want to be such a shallow person!) but I can still laugh with them,
    Good luck!

  • Children (including teens, especially teens) need two things in equal order–love, and structure. Your current arrangement does not permit structure or predictability. the only structure they have is the physical house. The 50/50 arrangement needs to go.

    Teens are also pack animals. They see dear old cheater pops paying for things, and forcing you out every other week. They are primed for the kill–of you.

    As Chumplady says, time to lawyer up, take your half, get child support, give these kids some emotional stability and STOP taking disrespect from them.

    In my view (as a developmental psychologist), some details of dad’s escapades ARE warranted. You deserve to be angry, the daughters can see your pain and anger without them having to heal you. Children do not need to see adults as automatons. You do not have to say, “I was upset with Dad’s Craigslist hookups,” or “Dad had multiple extracurricular affairs,” in a monotone. The kids know you’re angry and hurt, show it. Immoral cheater dad does not get to control this narrative.

    Those teens SHOULD see indignation and moral outrage on your part–how else are they going to learn that negative actions have REAL emotional consequence, and that some things are WRONG. That will also help put you above the teens in the pack; sorry, but the one teen sees you as a doormat (perhaps rightly). Lawyer up, show your indignation, and get back in the driver’s seat (in YOUR house).

    • P.S. And do not be timid about saying, “I will NOT be victimized twice–first by your father, and then by you saying I caused him to cheat. He did that because of poor character.” These girls are looking to YOU, as their same-sex parent, to make sense of this. If you permit blaming the victim in this circumstance, they will adopt that as their mode of coping in the future. Do you want daughters who are willing to play the victim, too? No. You need to model the righteous anger and moral outrage that they should show in the same situation.

      I have two daughters (19 and 14), so I know what you’re going through. Raise them mighty.

      • I do like this advice. It’s just that being a teenage girl is so hard, and I can’t even imagine how it is now that social media rules. I do think you need to draw a line in the sand. It is fine for them to love your husband, but they are not allowed to blame you for the demise of the family.

        If you want your own home, do that. I had a two bedroom condo/apartment that was heaven for me and my son. I really do not see any need for a huge house. We had a fireplace, a pool, a gym, and we were walking distance to a plaza with a grocery store, chinese takeout, Starbucks, pizza, and an ice cream store. My dog loved it. The maintenance people shoveled us out when it snowed. I lived across the street from the elementary school I worked at.. It was heaven on so many levels.

        My son’s father actually lived only a couple blocks away from us, and took my son about three days a week. His girlfriend lived with him. Enough time had passed that I really liked the girlfriend, much to exes dismay.

        The key to the whole thing is just moving on, and I don’t see how that is possible if you are occupying the same house. A lot of the time my son’s father would have a girlfriend and that was really fine with me. My son learned that it didn’t bother me, so it didn’t play into the button pushing teens do. Just don’t let it bother you. Don’t give them that power.

    • P.P.S. Sorry–your case is making me angry. Help your difficult daughter develop empathy by saying, “Why should I like the OW, who contributed to the demise of my marriage. Would you like someone if that had happened to you?”

      And do NOT let Dad put out false info (my cheater tried this with my oldest daughter)–if he claims it was just the one affair, and you have evidence of 3, tell your daughters that. They want to know that they can get the truth from you, and will perceive your silence as either disrespect of them, or evidence that you are willing to be walked over.

      • Also, do not fall into the trap of wanting to be “friends” with your daughters. I see a lot of moms make that mistake. Your kids are not your friends – they are your kids. Doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy stuff they like – but – YOU are their parent and need to stop taking their snotty mouths.

        I like watching YouTube with my son. He knows I have a potty mouth. BUT – I will whip around and take him out if he gets snotty with me, or, does something stupid. so he knows the boundaries.

        • Completely agree. Why do her kids treat her that way? Because she lets them. I have a friend you has always put her kids first, to the point she is about to lose her house. Who do her adult kids blame? Her, and not their out of control spending. She pays for everything for her 30 year old daughter and husband; while they cook gourmet meals, she dines on scrambled eggs. Her kids do not have an ounce of appreciation because she has raised them to believe they are entitled to everything she owns. The LW is in danger of raising some very entitled kids because she doesn’t want their lives to change. Well guess what, it already has! Shielding them from this reality is going to come back to haunt her (and them) in the future.

          • My stepdaughter’s mother is one of those who live vicariously through their children. Always the best friend and enabler. When the child was living with her Dad for some years, she expected him to fetch and carry and clean up after her messes. She was in high school at the time and he just said no; you are capable of cleaning your own bathroom or getting your own drink of water or washing your own dish or doing your own laundry. She didn’t like that and lived like a pig. Now her mother has moved across country to do that for the now 25 year old entitled child, who lives with her boyfriend and still lacks basic life skills.

            It’s entirely possible to have an adult relationship with your child when they are an adult, but the goal of parenting should be to raise a self-sufficient competent considerate person, not to be their friend or servant.

  • There’s another way to look at the anger that comes out and that is your kids feel comfortable enough with you to express their feelings, both good and bad. This is necessary for a relationship. I’m not talking about being disrespectful. If your kids are afraid to express themselves to their father because he is scary there’s a big problem there. Narcissists are scary if they are not kept comfortable. That’s their main way of controlling people. Read up on parenting, get a therpist you like, educate yourself on Narcissism.

    • Yes, I agree. Son’s father is a narcissist, even son with autism knows it. I have told him, “dad is not a nice person. He does the best he can, but he just isn’t.” My son understands this.

      And yet, I believe my son is a gift from God to his father, because my son is the one person in the world his father actually loves. Autistic people do not respond to narcissism like the rest of us. There have been times my ex was forced to be genuine because nothing else would have made sense.

      But my son is scared, and really doesn’t want to be with his dad if there is no one to protect him. Sometimes I have to let him act out, because I know how hard his lot is.

  • Fi, stop relying on his generosity; go see a lawyer and demand what you are owed! You are his wife and the mother of his children. You’re ENTITLED to a fair settlement. He MUST support his children to the best of his ability; he’s their father.

    When you start defending and respecting yourself, your children might follow. By protecting his reputation and continuing to rely on his “generosity”, you’re allowing the cheater to sparkle and making his actions seem like they weren’t so bad.

    Instead of making passive-aggressive comments about the OW, start being honest with your kids about what their father has done and put together an exit plan. Once you draw clear boundaries– both with your husband and your kids– maybe you will earn their respect and your own self-respect in the future.

    • Fi, stop relying on his generosity; go see a lawyer and demand what you are owed! You are his wife and the mother of his children. You’re ENTITLED to a fair settlement. He MUST support his children to the best of his ability; he’s their father.

      AMEN ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

      You are not the volunteer carer who comes to stay so daddy dear can have time out from the strain of parenting.
      Get legal advise.
      Set your girls boundaries, teens normally challenge their same sex parent and need to see fairness, integrity and consistency. But we as parents IMO need to constantly remind ourselves they are teenagers, and although look fully grown are not so cognitively. I have a 16yr old who was intergril in my finding out about my serial cheater. They are not stupid just under developed. Hang in there.

  • Fi, teenagers can be difficult and separation/divorce in the midst of teenage years certainly adds to the complexity, particularly when there’s a sparkly cheater involved. I’m in the midst of this situation too, so I empathize (something your cheater won’t do!). CL is right on as usual – therapy, script, shut the blaming down and be a role model. You have to stick to all of these things and it’s not easy at all. Teenagers side with whoever they think will give them what they want in that moment….one time, and only one time, my daughter said ‘mom, I’m glad you kicked him out’ and I have held on to that comment in my mind forever because she’s never said it or anything close to it again. She’s also said ‘well, this is your fault too, not just his’.

    He triangulated us before DDay by putting all the parenting on me and acting like he was her friend. I became the bad guy, the one who was always on her about her grades, where she was, who she was with, and what they were doing. I caught her several times in lies and he just glossed them over (good parent) which meant I had to punish her (bad parent). He would pull her off to the side and tell her how crazy I was, just ignore me, etc. Since DDay, I have full custody because he didn’t want the responsibility which is something she probably doesn’t know. I still have all the responsibility I did when he was living with us except he’s not there to frustrate me.

    Fi, my daughter doesn’t spend nearly the time yours do with her dad (busy teenager) but when she is with him, I always wonder what lie or blame shifting he’s spinning on her this time. I hope that someday, as Tracy said, that maturity will kick in and she’ll wake up and see things for what they really are. In the meantime, I’m fiercely loyal to her, willing to help her with anything she needs as long as she is putting in equal effort (this is a whole other topic), and trying to display proper values to her.

    BTW CL, I LOVED the comment – I’d rather live with goats. So true!

  • We were advised that split house approach to accommodate our children (now 2 and 4) during marriage counselling, all 2 months of it for his blameshifting stage. I’m really glad we didn’t go that route.

    The few times that ex has been to my rented house since we split, he spent time finding things wrong with the place, so he could point it out to me. Not clean it up himself mind you. CL is right. Shut that down. My young ones are happy to go and visit their father in his studio apartment. My home has become a place of refuge again. If they can handle it, yours can too.

    • JJ, stop letting him into YOUR house. Your children are old enough to walk into the house, so let them. Don’t engage with him and shut the door. All he wants to do is pick on you and find things wrong. He is the problem not your new house.

      I made it very clear to my ex that he would never be allowed to step foot into my house (by NEVER allowing it) after he single handedly destroyed our former home.

  • Lordy, Lordy!
    Cheaters and teenagers love to triangulate. They live for that shit. It takes a “significant emotional event” to effect character change in anyone, especially teens. Which by the way, you are protecting them from with your fucked up “arrangement” with your Cheater Prize. Change the arrangement and set back and watch your Cheater Prize self destruct. Your teens need to see real life consequences before they can recover and find out the hard way who the stable parent is.
    Now go dish out some real “significant emotional events” before your teens are lost to the dark side.

  • Thanks, CL, for the laugh this morning as I have been dealing with teenage drama myself and yep, living with goats would definitely be easier! As the mother of 2 teenage daughters, I worry all of the time that they will see me as a victim. Luckily, stbxh left the house days after d-day and hasn’t returned.

    Fi, I agree with CL – you need to get a lawyer and get him out of that house! If that’s not possible, you need to LEAVE. By going along with the current arrangement, you are sending your girls the message that what dad did wasn’t so bad and, gosh – isn’t he a good guy for continuing to support you… Take control of the situation and show those girls what it means to be mighty – and angry! And remember, while you suffer in silence, he is reminding those girls every day what a good guy he is; don’t think for a minute that he isn’t giving the kids HIS side of the story. My stbxh was like that – he always made darn sure that the kids knew what he had done for them (which was hardly anything) and wouldn’t let them forget it. After he moved out, I said very little about what their dad had done but he had NO PROBLEM telling the kids his side of the story even though they didn’t want to hear it. Your stbx sounds like a dangerous man – very manipulative. I know this sounds harsh, but you are doing your kids no favor by putting up with the current living arrangement. As others have said already, set an example so they don’t grow up to be a cheater or a chump – break the cycle. Good luck to you!

  • I’m writing this as an educator with 35+ years experience with teenagers and college-age kids. You have the cart driving the horse. I have no idea who thought up the bright idea that kids need a particular house to live in. Kids need a minimum of one adequate, stable parent. It is disruptive to move? Sure. Will kids be angry and upset about all of the changes? Sure. But like all humans, they will look to someone one blame–evidently you, in this case. Next thing you know, once things change again when the divorce is final, they will be blaming you for the inevitable changes that come with final divorce. Or maybe they will expect you to stay married while Daddy cheats. Your running an incubator for teenage narcissists, since the current situation teachers them that they and their needs are central–that other people will literally orbit around their entitled little selves.

    The goal of child rearing is for kids to reach adulthood with strong life skills, good character, and a moral compass to guide them. I’m having a hard time seeing how your and STBX moving in and out of the house teaches them anything but entitlement. They can easily conclude that only sparkly adults get lives of their own (as I speculate that good old Dad has a nice place to land when it’s his off week, since he has an AP.)

    What do you want for your own life? What would you need to do to be the strong and loving female role model they need? To show them the importance of resilience, independence, and self-respect? To show them how we are in charge of our own happiness? CL has charted a great course for you. Get your kids and yourself into therapy. There is a happy life out there after DDay–go get it.

    • Love everything you say here LAJ! As a fellow educator, I think we’ve seen what happens to so many kids who are entitled and spoiled and it’s not pretty.

    • I am pretty sure this is what happened to my ex and her evil sisters.

      The dad did pretty much whatever he wanted, was a grouch, none of his stuff could be touched when he was not around, their mom made dinner and he still loudly complained about it, made his wife sleep on an uncomfortable couch instead of in their bed and one time my ex told me that he got physical with his wife.

      The ex-FIL was also incredibly glib. He is a postman but is a cranky conservative who bitches about the government and how much the government pays government employees. I only saw him as a grouch in his house, but one time he got stuck delivering mail, and we went out to help him. We came upon him soon after a trucker stopped to pull him out, and he was so disarmingly nice to the trucker that I actually stopped in my tracks from the shock of seeing him as a completely different person.

      Even now as I write this I realize now that he unfortunately corrupted all three of his daughters, and I think the key reason is what you had described, in that on a very primal level, they learned who was getting what and how. They learned they could have their mother clean up all their messes like she did for their dad and the rest of the family.

      My ex knew that his treatment of her mom was wrong, but she still had little more than sneering contempt for her, particularly when they would talk on the phone and her mom could not see the expression on her face.

      Oh well, at least they paid for the wedding

  • Fi,

    I have heard of people using an arrangement like this. It may even be a good idea for small children, particularly if the parents have a nanny who comes into the home to do childcare. In my opinion, it SUCKS for teenagers. They need to know that it’s not all about them. It’s time to shut this mess down.

  • There comes a time when you are going thru the dissolution of a relationship that you have to have a very hard talk with yourself. Your hopes and dreams for this relationship are over. All plans made with the wandering spouse are over. Your children will not understand, any better than the rest of your family and friends will understand why you had to dissolve the relationship, because they are culturally conditioned that this “should” not happen unless “someone” is at fault. You also have to decide how much information you really want to share with friends, family and your children — because some of the friends and family are just nosy and love lurid details that are none of their business, and your children probably will not be emotionally able to handle the lurid details. The only thing which makes this easier now than it was when I was a child is that it happens so much more frequently now — Divorce is not taboo, the children have lots of friends whose parents are divorced.

    Even when we were married, my H was “Fun Dad”. I was always the one who had to handle transgressions, set up schedules, and I was also the one who saw to it they were fed, clothed, attended school on time and did their work, and got to all their music and athletic practices and events. Fun Dad could barely show up on time — even for FUN! My children tried to play us against each other, from the time they were very small. I had to accept that I was NOT their friend, but their Mother, and that was going to be the role I needed to play. I feel the children deserve to have at least one responsible parent. I had to trust that as they grew up and bad things happened to them, they would learn that Life is not always Fun, and that someone has to keep the budget, pay the bills, make sure there is food in the house and the laundry was done. It was not an easy time, but it was educational for me. At the end of the time, I realized I had raised two young men who were pretty smart. They are adults now, and they graduated from college, and they have worked since they were 15, and they have had heartbreaks. When they had girlfriends that cheated on them — they understood what that pain was like, and how much harder it must have been on me. They figured out that their dad was a serial cheater. I answered questions honestly, with age appropriate answers.

    Their father could not hide his true nature, and once we were divorced, he started introducing the boys to a series of “girlfriends”. My son’s were better able to identify why the girlfriends were inappropriate that their father was. I learned I didn’t have to say anything, because the relationships did not last long, and the boys always spotted problems and would come home and talk to me about it. They realized their father had the emotional maturity of a 2 year old, and no sense of what “appropriate” meant when it came to women. They did not want him to marry the woman he is married to now — but after the marriage, they have accepted that they will have a relationship with her as their step-mother — and I think they now feel sorry for her for having to put up with their Dad. They still love him — even though they know his faults and flaws. They love me in spite of my faults and flaws, too.

    You cannot expect your children to blame their father to the extent you do. You can only live your life showing what character is and what boundaries are. Chances are your X will live his life and show that he has bad character and cannot be depended on. Let him spend his money on “FUN” — it is transient. You want your children to enjoy the “things” he can provide, they will figure out that they cannot depend on him to provide the things that you provide. Trust that they will eventually figure out what is important, and do the best they can. At some point, your children will come of age to make their own choices and bear the consequences of those choices. You cannot force your children to make the right choices. You can try to bring them up with the best influences you can muster, but their character will belong to them, and be determined by their choices. At some point you will sigh and say, “and so it goes.”

    • Thank you Portia, Mine was the timid forest creature fun dad… never really taking responsiblity for the fun part, just making sure that he was easier to be with than Mom, who did all of the heavy lifting. Sly little booger he is. So not only is he nicer, he is pathetically nicer, if that is fathomable. Anyway, I have an almost 30 year old daughter who is mean and now my 18 year old has just gone flouncing off to live with her dad. My son however, gets it. Parenting is not for sissies.

  • And it is mind boggling that anyone considers a man supporting his family as “generous.” Hey, I wonder if my cats think I’m generous to pay the mortgage, the utilities, and buy them their cat food? Your STBX has legal responsibilities. As the primary wage earner, he doesn’t get to take all his money and decide, FOR HIMSELF, whether he feels generous enough to pay the household bills for his family. I think you know that once you go to court, the “generosity” is over and the current situation is just a way to string the “generosity” out for a little bit. You and your girls are, right now, clinging to the old order, but all of you are in for a shock once the divorce is final. You most definitely need a pit bull lawyer to make sure that you have the resources to support and finish educating your children. And you need a home that you live in every day and an order of support you can count on until the kids are grown.

  • Hi Fi- you state that your STBX is a good dad. I disagree. The top two requirements of a good dad are treating the children’s mother with kindness and respect and working hard to keep the children’s family together. He has done the opposite of these two things. He may be a fun and sparkly dad but he’s not a good one. I have two boys who are 12 and 15 and I talk to them often about how men of integrity behave. They are smart and have figured out that they love their dad but that he doesn’t do the real things that count. We are still working on custody arrangement and I am fighting for more time than 50/50. Narcissists are emotional abusers and my kids deserve better than that and they don’t want to be with him much despite all the sparkle. I say it’s time to get real with kids about these abusers that are in their lives so when these crappy parents eventually treat them like crap and abandon them, they are emotionally prepared for it.

  • Nicole-
    I had to giggle…. “The top two requirements of a good dad are treating the children’s mother with kindness and respect.” I AGREE! Just wanted to share the ‘kindness and respect from my stbx back on Mother’s Day, 2013. He said “Why should I wish you a happy fucking mothers day? You aren’t my fucking mom.” You’re right dick head – I’m not your fucking mom (thank god), but I am the mother of OUR children.

    • Crap! Mine said the exact same thing on my first Mothers Day. Don’t ever expect anything for MD you are not my mother! The second MD he had a gun and said “I’d rather blow my brains out than spend another minute with y’all.” It took me 20 more years to get it and I have thought I should have told him to go the hell on and do it. Mommy issues!!!! He threatened several more times through those years of cheating hell.

      • I thought I was the only person special enough to hear that statement! I’m sorry you had to live with an asshole with a mindset similar to the mother fucker I finally left!

    • Wow! He sounds like a real loser. Yuck! So sorry you had to listen to that. (I would be mortified to be his mother.)

      • She loves him and is very proud of his accomplishments! She keeps all of his records and checking. He actually never changed his address from his parents home and hes 51. I haven’t spoken to them since i left but for some strange reason they are sending the support payments. Cry me a poor river!

    • LadyStrange, add me to the list of chumps whose H said ‘you’re not my mother so why would I do anything for you for mother’s day’. So very hurtful.

    • Heard Same statement here too. The kids once asked why cheater never made arrangements, gifts or whatever with the kids on MD. He told them that I wasn’t HIS mother, and that they, my four young kids at the time, had to do it.

      Way to model kindness and respect.

      • There was no kindness or respect. I will never forget that statement! Now I know he was modeling his true self.

    • Wow, that brought back memories of the time my XH told me that statement about Mother’s Day. Cut like a knife (huge red flag), but the Chump that was me just let it go like way too many other things.

    • My Ex wasn’t my children’s father but he gave me the same crap every year on Mother’s Day, “you’re not my mother blah blah blah” and every MD reveled in gloating over how late in the day it would be before my grown kids called me to wish me HMD. Imagine my surprise then to find 6 mos after DDAy, emails he wrote to a prior OW to Schmoopie in which he said and I quote:

      “[Her Name],
      I want to thank you for our conversation yesterday.
      I truly appreciate you as a friend and a wonderful human being.
      I think the world would be a better place if more people could listen and understand like you do.
      I know it doesn’t apply, but I hope you have a deeply nice and rewarding Mother’s Day.
      Thanks.
      [His Name]

      Isn’t that sweet????? then he turned to me, the woman who loved him, kept house for him, paid for all his food, housing and cell phone, and said he wasn’t going to wish me a HMD because you’re NOT my mother!!! Au contraire, asshole, that’s exactly what I am. Yeah. Mommy issues indeed.

      And I think back to how I was a struggling single Mom when he met me, my kids were little, they already had a rough time with the divorce they’d been through btwn me and their dad, and my Cheaterpants Ex spent the next 16 years JEALOUS of those little kids, and begrudged them my love, and sneered at my motherhood.

      • Wow–but doesn’t that show that his behavior towards you was deliberately abusive, that he had an intent to cause you pain and leave you feeling unloved? That seems intentional. My first thought as I read your story was “you aren’t the boss of me.”

        • Yes, it seems obvious now, looking back, that he deliberately tried to cause me pain. He was so jealous of my kids. More and more these memories are pouring out of me and I can’t escape the thought that he HATED me. How he must have resented me for his dependence on me. Nothing stopped him from leaving other than wanting the free ride I provided. So he just cheated and gaslighted, and emotionally abused me.

          • Muse, my H was the same. I am a good attentive mom and he was jealous. He didn’t get that as a kid and Instead of looking at the increase in love, he felt he lost his kibbles. You have to give to receive. Both my kids at different times said that he hates me. Sorry ass role model.

            • Just once I wish he could have actually admired me for loving my kids and getting them through the storm of their abandonment by their father; and hey, there was also an opportunity for Ex to step-parent and give and receive love himself.

          • Mine had such a well of deep resentment built up in her towards me that she married me and then had an affair.

            To me it does not (and still does not despite knowing these things exist now) make any sense why they would WASTE their time with us if they hated and resented us so much.

            I know that I wasted years of my life with her – about which I am still grumpy – but I believed in our relationship. She on the other hand spent time with me she could have been doing something else, when she was angry at me anyway!

            If I truly felt that way towards someone, I would not be in a relationship with them because ultimately it would be a waste of my finite time.

            I guess the only thing that makes sense is that they are so unbelievably petty they will marry someone they envy, resent and hate, have kids with them and then run around on them.

            If someone is this petty and is willing to fight this dirty, we never had a chance because we cannot comprehend this behavior.

    • Geez.. sorry you had to hear that awfulness. Narcissists are really quite a trip, huh?!! My narc mother gets pissy every year when her husband takes his mother to dinner for mother’s day instead of just her. She (my narc mom) gets jealous to the point of calling me in tears that her husband’s widowed mom wants to spend that evening with her only son. BTW, my mother married this husband after they were passed child-rearing ages. They have no kids together.. but my narc mom still feels that he should be focused on her that day instead of his own mother. Mind boggling logic with these self-centered people, isn’t it?!

      • Oh and it’s not like he leaves my mom sitting at home – the guy always takes both of them and buys both of them a card and flowers. My mom is just silly and selfish.

  • Loved-a-J : that’s a really good point to remember! Narc/cheater types have a way of making us feel like we should be grateful for the things we share that are our due. Not to mention the care of our kids, when we have them.

    Mine whines about being “financially insecure” for the rest of his life. I don’t even bother to engage, like saying, well, why didn’t you take better care of yourself financially earlier on, like every time I brought home a consulting check and said, “here, this is for retirement”, and it somehow never got into a retirement account… ay ay ay. They can be such dopes.

    As far as teen-ager-hood. I concur with everyone who has suggested finding a therapist–especially, finding someone who specializes in adolescence, if you can. My kid had an amazingly good shirk, finally, in her last year of college–she finally wanted to go and that made all the difference, too. It really, really helped.

    I was honest with my daughter, but didn’t push her face into it. If she didn’t want to talk about “things”….and she rarely did, well then we didn’t. But certainly she saw me dry and go through a slow motion complete nervous breakdown. And, she knew why.

    OTOH, mine was late teens, off to college, so she didn’t live at home–I thank God for that. She had issues that played out there of course, but at least she wasn’t in the thick of it. Actually, crapweasel made his big flourishing announcement (DDay) 1 week before she left for her Junior year abroad. (Nice timing, jerk–how about waiting until your kid is gone so you don’t weigh her down with worry???) No it’s always about them.

    Anyway, I wish you the very best, Stay strong, and know that you will come out of this house of horrors OK, and your kids have heart and smarts, and they will get the picture with a little more maturity. hang in there.

  • My ex is being extra-generous, financially, as well, contributing more to supporting our teenagers and the house than the law would require. This has allowed the kids and I to stay in the family home, and the kids to continue at their private school. Turns out that initially this was because he thought he was going to come back and have everything go on as usual (that one gave me several good laughs along the way). But at every moment, it has been clear in my mind that I would NOT bend on anything important because of the $. I found out how much child support he would be required to pay, added that to my income, figured out what would be left if we sold the house, calculated my budgets and considered all my housing options, considered what the school might be able to do to permit my kids to stay there on reduced income, etc etc. I KNOW I can manage on what I make plus what he’d be required to pay, and frankly, I think a sane and healthy mother is WAY more important to my kids’ well-being than their house or their school. So any time he’s pushed on something, the money is never an issue in my mind. I set boundaries where I choose, and am flexible where I choose. No fear of him closing that tap.

    It might be helpful to young kids to do the ‘shared house’ option for a WHILE after a separation, but not even that for very long unless both parents can afford their own good housing and LIFE options when out of the ‘family home’. Teenagers certainly do NOT need this. Their lives actually HAVE changed, because of their father’s choices, and they need to adapt to that, not the other way around.

    And I agree, shut down their blaming you. At this age, you are totally allowed, nay, required, to say things like ‘you may not blame me for XXXX, this is a result of your father’s choices’. Just as we are required to say things like ‘you may not blame me for XXXX, this is a result of YOUR choices’.

    Get into a more ‘normal’ living and custody arrangement, then see how good a father your ex is. If he really is quite good, your kids will see that. If he’s as selfish and entitled as many cheaters, they’ll see that too. Teenagers can be HARSH when they see hypocrisy and unreliability. Good! More of us should be like that.

    • KarenE, you really went about it in such a smart way. You know where you are financially so you aren’t vulnerable to his emotional blackmail or his changes of mind. And you’ve rebuilt your life around the resources you have. When Jackass left, the first thing I did was do a financial projection out to retirement, figuring how fast I could pay off the house and still keep up with maintenance. I know if I had to, I could cut a lot of non-essential expenses out, but for now, I think I can maintain as I have been until I am ready to fully retire (maybe 75, but hey, I am not digging ditches.) I wish more chumps would be tough-minded about money and not so afraid to look at it. One of the worst prisons people construct for themselves is the notion that a marriage or other relationship is financially “necessary.”

      • Loved, I figure on retirement from one job at 68 (partial pension there, I started late), and being able to do the other one part-time until I’m ready to keel over. I have been blessed with good health so far (now 56 ys old), come from a long-lived family and my part-time job is not physically demanding, so I figure this will work! Crapweasel works in a field where there are no company pensions, and he spent his ALL retirement savings on keeping up the lifestyle w/Schmoopie while being generous with the kids and I, and created debt as well! I don’t know how he’s going to retire ever … but I guess that’s one more thing he screwed up by screwing around. He SO didn’t want to think about any potential consequences to any of his crap choices … narc!

  • Oh you guys, I spent half of yesterday, sobbing because my little goat, got mad two days after her 18th birthday and went huffing off to her dad’s because I expressed concern that her therapist and shrink had decided to put her on two anti depressants, prozac and welbutrin, and I hadn’t heard of a plan to get her off them. She tells me that I am not very understanding and that she has a mental illness and off she storms. So I asked her to write me a letter telling me all the things I had done as a mom… and she did and none of what I thought were going to be my biggest mistakes were in there. (Naturally, we mothers, make them daily if not hourly basis.) I would post it here, but I wouldn’t want to abuse the UBT. I think we need Tempest to start a side blog. Chumpy kids and the Chumpy Chumps who love them. I would post love to post this letter in the forum section and see what wise and sage advice my fellow chumps have to offer. Thank you for this post today. Thank you so very much.

    • I will pass on a line to you that my own mother pulled on me. I was spouting off one day about a perceived “mistake” she had made as a mother, and she looked me dead in the eye and said, “When you have raised your own children, and have NOT made a mistake, then you can lecture me about my mistakes.”

      Humbling, yes? I feel the same way about parenting mistakes as I do mistakes in general — you never achieve anything if you do not try. You cannot expect perfection, you can only do your best. Sometimes you learn more from your mistakes than if you get it right the first time. Parenting is not easy, and we all wish we could have do overs. Forgive yourself, and don’t forget to apologize to your children if you do something especially egregious. They will remember that apology — and it will make them know how to give an apology themselves when they make a mistake. If you are paralyzed by fear, and do not make a decision, you are letting other people make your choices for you. Dare to be wrong. If you are making choices based on the right values and if you are basically a moral person of character, you probably won’t make mistakes so big they cannot be corrected. Choose your battles wisely, you are likely to lose some of them, and your goal is to win the war. Good luck.

    • ring, I feel for you! My daughter turned 18 a month ago and the emotional waves are so rough. She triangulates her dad and I too and I’m trying to get off that ride too. It’s not easy to stay strong with our goats (I love that you called her that!!) but hang in there – I’ll be thinking about you as I deal with mine.

      Portia, I LOVE your mom’s response and will use the next time I can! Thanks for sharing her words of wisdom.

    • Ringin–go ahead and post your daughter’s letter in the forums, if you’re comfortable doing so. (and thanks for the kind words!)

  • Whatever happens it is unsettling for your teens. While my cheater continued to support me after he went off to live with his schmoopie, I wish that I had filed for divorce sooner. But as it blindsided me, I did feel that I needed a bit of time to get myself into a fit state for being proactive, you do need to be strong to keep going with a divorce, so that when he berated me for having the nerve to divorce his high and mighty wonderfulness, sooner than he wanted, I stayed strong and kept going. Yes he pulled the plug on me financially, and it was months before I managed to get any financial support. But I had started getting my ducks in a row for a period of hard fighting and pulling of support. I don’t know what row your ducks need to be in, but think about what you need to do. Ask around for recommendations for a smart lawyer or 2 go and see them , and find out your options.
    Some of my ducks were purchases,warm boots for example, things the children would be needing in the coming months, making sure that all bills were paid, changing email addresses on the online payments so that I could make sure that I controlled them, ensuring that the pantry was full, there was gas in the tank; holiday presents bought; another duck was seeing a lawyer to make my will and changing the way that the house was owned, so that we owned it in common rather than jointly. While not planning to die, accidents happen and I wanted to be able to leave my half of the house to my children should the worst happen. A lawyer made sure that he could not challenge it if the worst did happen. I did it in cash so it did not show up on the statements, so as not to arouse suspicion, and as I did locally, I made sure that I made the appointments when I knew that they would not be around town. I got counseling, I had prayer ministry. I read up on divorce and got recommendations for divorce lawyers. Nothing illegal or immoral in all of this, not like his spending on holidays with his new ladylove, just making sure the children and I could weather a storm. This really helped get me where I needed to be.
    YMMV
    Even then I still sat on the fence, but when he behaved appallingly to me several times in a week I just picked up the phone after he had shouted at me over the phone and made appointments to meet with the lawyers. I met 2 the next week and engaged the second. I did tell cheater what I was going to do, but when the letter arrived it took him by surprise and he blew up and took half the money out of the account. I managed to persuade him to put it back, by threatening exposure to his mom [!] but he just started paying his wages into another account. By being a tightwad, I was able to weather this until I got a legal arrangement
    As soon as you are able to, for your teens sake as well as your own, get a better arrangement. He will soon show them what he is made of.

    • You thought of a lot of things that many chumps might overlook. I’d say that “better arrangement” might mean that once a working spouse is out of the house, it’s time to file for support. It always takes time to go through the process and for the government to award child and/or spousal support. In many jurisdictions, though, the clock starts running once the spouse files. That’s more really important information to gather–how does support work in your community, how long does it take, and will it be retroactive to the filing date?

  • i completely agree with all the good advice given here, so I really can’t add much more but I will say this: teenagers have a tendency to see things in black and white. They think what they think and no one is going to make them see differently. Teenagers are awful (I know, I was one once upon a time! and I gave my parents hell and a heart attack multiple times). Just take care of you and get that divorce underway tout de suite! I dont know how old your kids are, but if they don’t want to live with you, then you can tell them they can just jolly well go live with your ex and the OW.

  • Fi,
    You really, REALLY need to follow Chump Lady’s advice here. From what you wrote, you have willingly – in the name of family harmony and status quo – put yourself in the position of weakling. In front of your daughters, in front of your STBX and in front of yourself.

    Have you ever seen when wolves get into a squabble over something? The Alpha asserts their dominance and the Beta rolls over and shows it’s belly, licks at the Alpha’s legs and hopes that the pack goes back to normal. And the rest of the pack sees this, and the Beta become the Omega in the pack order as more members challenge their position. In your misplaced effort to keep the peace, benefit from cash flow uninterrupted and these strange bi-monthly house arrangements, you’ve made yourself the Omega Woman in your own family structure. You are at the bottom of the pack.

    It’s too late for hindsight – but you should have gotten the communication out ahead of your husband at the start. You had all the power of truth on your side. You probably should have had him move out immediately and then gotten on script. My husband is a serial cheater – he has a current girlfriend – I deserve better. YOU DESERVE BETTER!

    Teenagers are like wolves in a lot of ways. They admire power and an “in charge” attitude. They will turn on and attack someone they see as weak just like members of a wolf pack. That’s why bullying is so horrific and has such bad consequences. Teenagers are callous, materialistic and immature. They are dazzled by powerful people and want to have someone they can admire and respect as “in charge for them.” They want a hero in a bad situation, not a goat. Right now – you husband is fitting the role perfectly. You? Not so much – and it’s your own doing.

    So follow CL’s advice – start speaking the truth and get him out of the house – period. Get a GOOD lawyer and ask for more than you think you deserve, because negotiations always start at unrealistic ends and meet in the middle. So pad your expectations. You can be courteous to him if you have to interact, but for God’s sake stop being so needy of his largess. You are actually helping him sell his reality to your children – you are a willing supporting player in his make believe story. Stop it. He’s an asshole – and more to the point he is NOT a good parent. Because he attacked you in every way he could through his actions short of physical violence – you – those girls’ mother. He viciously abused their MOTHER – someone they love. How is that being a good parent??

    He cheated on you copious times, he exposed you to everything each of their vaginas ever touched and he lied and abandoned your relationship with no dignity or decency. He’s a bad parent and a rotten husband who is breaking up the family. Keep that reality in your head, get off your back and stand up on your own two feet and for your own self worth and respect. Because if you don’t stand on your own and respect yourself – your daughters won’t either.

    And don’t worry – at about 25 they come back to reality and believe me – they’ll see who was the villain in all this. But be STRONG and TRUTHFUL. You can be truthful without being manipulative. I know he can’t manage that, can he? So why would you ever protect him?

    Get up and get your pack back. You can do it – you can be an Alpha. Let him roll on his back in the dirt where he belongs.

    • Gol dang it there is some awesome advice in this string, but your post just made me want to stand up and throw a victory fist in the air!!

      This is what I was thinking but in no way would have been able to articulate as well as you have done.

      BRAVA!!

  • For what it’s worth, if you follow the great advice here, you’ll see the results later on in the respect that you will earn from your kids when they are older. Mine were 10, 6 and 3 when I divorced their Dad in 1993. They are now 31, 27 and 24 and they have most assuredly formed an opinion about who was the strong parent who was there for them.

  • CL! That whole column today resonated with me. I have 5 children, 4 still at home one deployed to Afghanistan. I have 13yo son, 11 yo D, 9yoD, and 7 yoD. My 13 yo is all those things you said about teens. I laughed so hard when I read that, the kids thought something was wrong with me LOL. “Moody, vicious, hormonal shit for brains creatures. Never seen it put into words better. Truth. My 13yo is driving me crazy. Mercurial moods, mean to his sisters, rude to me. But I do shut that shit down. I have made it abundantly clear that I am NOT their friend. When they are grown, then we can be friends. Till then, I am the boss, and mama. Not friends. And I would rather live with goats. Any day LOL.

    Tempest, thanks for such great posts!! You are such a help for those of us trying to muddle through with As whole xes and miss. Thank you!!! 🙂

    • Same thing here, Irish. My three sons are 19, 18 and 14. It’s a given I love them and get that their actions can be due in part to the abandonment of their father for a piece of trash. But right now, it seems they’re working overtime at being selfish, slovenly assholes, mostly to each other. Living in a teenage war zone while battling their deadbeat dad to pay his share to help me support the little darlings is a juxtaposition I could have never dreamed up if I tried.

      In the sage words of LA Law’s Leland McKensie, “When will things cease to suck around here?”

      Today was a glimmer of hope that it might. The judge ruled that X has to pay my attorney fees from his latest, half-assed attempt to get out of paying child support. AND, he also owes close to $5K in back support. He’s got 45 days and the clock is ticking.

      Sooooooo, just how much do you think the mail carrier would charge me to tape tomorrow’s delivery of the Contempt Orders at X’s love shack in Clusterfuckdale?

      • Chutes, my contempt hearing is next week. He owes me about 5k. He is on his 3rd attorney and keeps stalling. Won’t turn in financials etc. I hope the judge throws the book at him. Also same day is Final divorce hearing. This should be interesting, if I wasn’t so freaked out about it.

  • Fi,
    I think some shit needs to get real over at your house. Sounds like you are pussy footing around the issues because its easier than being real…real sucks…real hurts. At this point you have an advantage in that your spouse thinks you are ok with the arrangement….I would go with that and all the shit sandwhiches you have been choking down. Do it for a little while longer. You have browsed this site…so you are aware of what you need to get together. Do it. Be one step ahead of him. Right now he is content to let you play mom …cause its easy…keep playing that role. Do not discuss yr motives with your girls. Make sure you leave noooooo trail. Erase your history and if possible do not use a home computer. Keep your phone on lock down…teenage girls are hyenas. Retarded hyenas. You may find that they take sides ….and start their own snooping. Do give them a reason to snoop.

    • Hahahaha Clip!!! Retarded hyenas!! So so true!!!

      I agree Fi. Listen to these ladies. They really know their stuff and it’s true, you can’t roll over. They sense weakness and lookout!!! It gets ugly fast. And file on that mfpos. ASAP. He is scarfing up cake. Put a stop to that right now. Get tough. You will get through this. And your kids will too. Snarky daughters are awful, but as CL said, shut that shit DOWN. You are their mother and do not allow this sort of disrespect. You can do it! As we say here, you can be MIGHTY!

      Good luck!

  • The sole reason I have not walked out that door is my kids. I sit and watch them get manipulated by my H and it scares me. I cannot go behind him telling the kids ( nearly adult now) what an awful liar and manipulator he is. I suspect my daughter sees more than she lets on though. She came up to me and asked if I knew what gas lighting is. Blew me away. She then suggested I read some women empowering type books. I nearly cried. I do have her in therapy now which is helping her. My son just does not want to hear anything. Head in the sand type. He is oldest and is more aware of what’s going on. Neither want to be in the middle so a strive to not involve them. It just makes me sick to watch the Asshat suddenly be the best dad he’s been in years. All of a sudden there for everything and every need. Makes my head spin. I guess I am one of those that could sooo trash talk my H. I want my kids to know they were betrayed too. They were stolen from, time money etc. they were lied to repeatedly. Some other family took priority over them. Some hookers are the reason he was gone half the time. Even a few holidays. At what age can I unload all this.? I love it when I hear the stories on CN that their kids won’t talk to the cheater. That’s what I hope for my kids. For all of us to drop him and change our names.

    • Willow, I don’t know when you can ever tell the details to your kids. Mine were in their early 20’s when my ex decided to fly the coop. For the longest time I was just too full of grief and shock to even feel anger, which seemed to become the job of my older child. He was furiously angry with his dad for a couple of years. He told me later he suspected his dad had been having an affair for years, but just couldn’t believe it of his dad. I told him I couldn’t believe it of my husband either.

      I ended up telling my youngest too much, and he was always close to his dad. This didn’t turn out too well. I don’t regret telling him the truth, but wish I hadn’t told him about some incriminating evidence I found after his dad left. It was just TMI. I apologized for it later but it’s hard to untell someone something they didn’t want to hear. According to my youngest, my ex “never said a bad word about me.” Of course my ex never talked anyway. He didn’t even tell his family members that he’d left and I ended up having to do it. It really pissed me off that he wasn’t man enough to tell his own family members and it ended up falling to me.

      Anyway, when I was growing up there was a big rift between my mother and my grandmother. I don’t exactly know what it was about, but my mother complained and badmouthed my grandmother bitterly for years. My grandmother, on the other hand, didn’t say much about my mom. All that negative energy from my mom was very hard to deal with, I really didn’t care whose fault it was. All I wanted was for everyone to get along because I loved both of them.

      I think that’s why it’s best not to say too much unless your kids ask you, then just give them the facts without a lot of elaboration.

    • Now. Tell them now. If they were young, I would say age appropriate info, but your kids sound like teenagers. They do not have all the pieces of the puzzle yet. Give them the whole picture. Then they can decide how they feel about it. It sounds as though your daughter is aware of what’s been going on. And, if she knows what gaslighting is, she has a pretty good idea of what has happened. Tell them. His hooker problem is just that. His problem. He cheated, he owns it. You had no part of that. It was done to you behind your back. Don’t cover for him. Let er’ rip.

      You are worth having an authentic life. Not a life of lying for an assclown cheater. Not for anybody, not even your kids. As CL says, you have agency! Use it. 🙂

    • Willowchump–I think it is very important that you buy one or two of the books your daughter recommended. It is her way of taking care of you, and she needs you to model that you will NOT be taken advantage of again. It may be the difference between her standing up for herself vs. being taken advantage of in the future. She identifies with your helplessness in the situation, but she doesn’t like it and wants a way for you both to climb out of it.

      Leave the book/s lying around, too. Chances are your daughter wants to read them (and she may want to do it in a hidden way, or to discuss them with you).

      “The Gaslight Effect” is a great place to start, esp. since your daughter raised the term.

      • And to be sure if Willowchump’s daughter thinks her mom is being gaslighted, she is being gaslighted.

  • Totally agree with everything everyone above has said. I think they call that arrangement “bird nesting”, where one bird flies in and takes care of the nest and the other bird flies away. There is no way I could have done that arrangement, either. I didn’t trust EH in my home to not steal or destroy things that he knew were important to me.

    I will give you advice to make sure you find the last 3 tax returns and put those in a safety deposit box or give to a friend. Those will be key when you talk to a lawyer. Things seem dark now, but in one year once you’ve taken your life back, you’ll be amazed at the difference.

    Good luck and keep posting here!

  • You have a lot going on right now…and you are concerned about “being fun.” Your kids need guidance consistency and stability. Fun?You might be surprised how fun you can be…once you drop your 180 pound sack of shit. You don’t need money and you don’t need presents to have your kids hearts. Unless they have been raised to associate love with gifts. If so then it would make sense that they would gravitate to him….just put in in that frame. Nothing else. Don’t compare yourself…and don’t say “HOW MUCH I HAVE TO PUT UP WITH FOR YOUR GIRLS TO HAVE AN UNINTERRUPTED LIFE” Teenagers don’t get martyrs…and they don’t get the sacrifices that parents do for their children…cause as CL pointed out…that prefrontal cortex is not completely developed…they are somewhat retarded.
    Learn to develop mightiness and be an example to the young women in your life. Learn to be the bad ass mom you need to be. Put your cape on Fi…time to fly.

  • Let this be a wake up call to all chumps with young children. So many of us “chumps” try to stick things out in a marriage until “the kids are older” and can handle it better. That is a lie that we tell ourselves because we are scared to move on. It is a lie society shoves down our throat. We think we are protecting our children. But nothing is further from the truth. As a general rule, the younger the children, the more resilient they are in recovering from a divorce. But more importantly, the less time they spend immersed in a dysfunctional family dynamic that is being passed off as “normal,” the better chance they have of learning healthier ways of being in relationship. The children are watching us and the way we live our lives comes off as normal. It is so much easier to live the lessons we want our children to learn than to try to help them “unlearn” shit later, or in my case, as a teen child of divorce, I had to “unlearn” it on my own in my 40’s with no help from my parents. My best friend was determined to stay in her emotionally abusive marriage until her youngest child turned 18. But she realized her migraine headaches, fatigue, etc. were due to the progressively worse abuse. She finally left. Now, one and a half years later, her 13 year old daughter still blames her. She has bought the father’s narrative, and even thinks the abuse is okay and that his victims (including herself) “deserve it” and “bring it on themselves.” She insists on staying with her father at least half the time and tries to manipulate her mother into sending baby brother with her, even though he is scared of dad and hates to go. The daughter wants the son there so as to have a scapegoat or someone else to share the abuse, which occasionally dips into the physical side such as shoving against a wall. Sick sick sick. If my friend had left when she originally considered it, she would have had a lot more influence over a younger, more impressionable daughter. She would have given her children a basis of comparison between the two parenting styles and the two households. By staying as long as she did, it made things much worse. Having a teenager is bad enough in the best circumstances (I have a 13 year old too), but going through a divorce with one (or more) teens is a nightmare. I’m very fortunate that my ex left (and wanted no part in reconciliation) when my children were very young (3 years and 1 week). It gave them a chance to recover and also compare the two ways their parents live their lives. Of course, I am the responsible parent and ex is the “fun” parent. I tell my kids, you don’t have to love me. You don’t even have to respect me. But you DO have to TREAT me with respect. And there will be consequences when you don’t. P.S. Love the previous suggestion that Tempest start a sister blog on chump parenting.

    • Oh how I wish I had had that knowledge… I would have off loaded that disordered loser after child #2 and would have kept a sperm sample for child #3 who came 9 years later.

      • I’m with you Ringinonmyownbell–I would have gotten pregnant with #1, taken another sperm sample for #2 down the road, and never married the a**hole at all.

    • P.P.S. I’d like to add that I only tell my kids that “you don’t have to love me” stuff above when they are on a rant about what a mean parent I am for giving them chores and how the stepmom does everything for them, or how none of their friends have to do chores and how I must not love them because I expect them to participate in our household operations. Whaaaa whaaaa whaaa. Believe me, I have fun with them too. I just balance the fun stuff with the responsible stuff. I agree with Friend who posts a comment a few spaces down that we don’t need to bash teens, that we need to be there for them, etc. But this post is focusing on making sure teens aren’t running the household. I — the adult — run the household.

    • Me too with you on this, MissDelta! Not only are my kids and I much happier now (2 and 1/2 ys post DDay #2/my kicking him out), but I’m a way better mother. I’m not constantly upset and exhausted by dealing with that jerk, or tippy toeing around in order to try to keep things good in better moments. I SO wish I had left years earlier, when I first started to understand that he was not what I had thought he was, and that he was not going to change. I was scared at the time, because default custody arrangement here is 50% time w/each parent, and I didn’t want to be without my kids that much, or to have them dealing with him that much either. Turns out the jerkface never even ASKED for the 50% he was entitled to, when we did separate, and ended up neglecting the kids so badly they stopped seeing him.

      If I had known then what I know now …. And when I was kicking him to the curb, I kept clear in my mind that I needed to raise my kids in a healthy, caring, respectful, loving home. And that meant one without him in it.

    • Mouthful of truth here —> “That is a lie that we tell ourselves because we are scared to move on.”

  • Fi,

    Just how does all this swapping parents every week play out? Do you wash the sheets between visits? Does the OW sleep over? Is he staying with the OW (and thereby not paying for his other place while you occupy the house)? Do you share living expenses? Where are you keeping your “stuff” ? Is some of this stuff of his being kept at the house permanently (like his tools in the garage) while you cart your junk to your secondary place (ie. sewing machine, hobby stuff etc.) ?
    I don’t see how you can have any peace of mind after he’s blown up your life having to face evidence of him every other week while sleeping in the same room he just left; finding his sundries in the bathroom; his coats and shoes in the closet. And please don’t be doing his gded laundry, dishes or god knows what else housework for him in the entitled little girls’ home.
    Looks like you are your teens’ chump as well. They can survive trekking between two homes. Nobody has to put up with this bullshit existence and disrespectful behaviour (from both the cheater and his teenagers).
    Run don’t walk to the lawyer. Either only one of you parents stays in the house or you all move out into two separate homes. Split those marital assets and if you are in a fault state go for what you rightly deserve as the mother of his currently ungrateful children. Hold your head up. You did NOTHING wrong. He did. Be graphic if you have to. I did not sign your father up for Ashley Madison; I did not buy his condoms; I did not buy the secret cell phone; I did not break promises made before God and our families….he did.
    Mr. wonderful is supposed to pay child support (you have the lower income remember). You are entitled to half the marital assets and depending where you are divorcing and how long you were married you might be entitled to alimony or spousal support as well.
    Fight for your rights and assert yourself to your children. Get them therapy or insist that Daddy pay for it as well as he blew up the family not you. They are teenagers and will be pushing boundaries. Accept they will be disrespectful and testing you but do not back down from your due respect as both their mother and a human being.
    Again, how can you face your former marital home every other week knowing that he was just there. Ewwww!

  • Wow,
    All this teenager bashing! Goodness. Perhaps Fi’s children are little Punks, but why waste time Taking them down a notch?
    Reality will do this soon enough.
    If they were gone tomorrow, I would feel terrible. They do not have shit for brains! They are at a point of max absorption. They will grasp and hold whatever you tell them.
    Yes, create a life independent of cheater, but why not nourish the inate alpha in the little ones? Push them out of the house and watch them become good leaders.
    They will come home to their mother!
    The only conversation that I wish my Mom had drilled into my head is the one I give my children:
    “Daughter, this world is hard. Where ever you are, what ever the time, call me up if you need me and I will come get you.”
    I wish my mother had said that to me. I would’ve left Shithead years ago.

    • I get the feeling teenage daughters are more difficult than teenage sons. My teen and pre-teen boys are pretty fun and I’d rather be with them than anyone else. Sometimes they are too cool for mom but ultimately we have a good time together. I will count my blessings today!

      • I have 2 of each and both sets are great in their own way. On DDay they ranged in age from 12 to 23 years old. I was lucky because they really rallied aound me, but also maintained a close relationship with their dad (who is very ill). Some of my friends have not been so fortunate, in part because respectful behavior was never required of their offspring. I believe it is important to set clear expectations and make mutual respect an expected component of family life. My kids are far from perfect, but the have never blamed me for the divorce, nor do they believe they are entitled to live a certain lifestyle at my expense…

    • Friend, you make a really great point of encouraging and being there for our children, especially teens. My mom stayed with her abusive, cheating husband for 21 years in part because her mother would not support her leaving during the first year of the marriage when my father pulled a gun on my mom and pointed it at her pregnant belly (with me inside) and held her at gunpoint all the while laughing wildly and hysterically. My grandmother said, “You have made your bed, now you must like in it.” My 19-year-old mother never went to her mother again, and instead continued to try to “make it work.” I think that it is important to balance holding our kids/teens accountable with the encouragement/”being there for our kids/teens.” Right now my daughter feels like she can tell me ANYTHING about her body, her friends, her boyfriends, etc. She knows I won’t overreact. She also knows that I will most definitely hold her accountable for her responsibilities and that I expect her to treat me with respect. She does not always speak to me respectfully and she sometimes develops outlandish expectations about what I should be doing (or providing) for her. It is my job to bring her back to reality at those times. I think one thing that makes it extra hard on chumps divorcing with teens in the house is that going through a divorce is so emotionally and mentally (not to mention physically and financially) draining, that the Chump is struggling during that time just from the divorce and can be emotionally fragile during that time. That makes it even harder to manage the parenting of a teen much less a teen who is shaken up by the divorce. can see how it would be just infinitely harder than it was for someone like me with very young children.

        • Miss Delta,
          You are a wonderful mother. I decided early on never to complain about parenthood. People who have children already know it’s hardships, and those without children may never attempt it if we act like it is a horrible chore. It has rewards!
          ~MotherOfFive

    • I agree, Friend. Teenagers can be fab (thought perhaps not ALL the time). How to make them most fab? Treat them with respect (which means telling them the TRUTH, even about cheater), give them structure & predictability, give them the right combination of support and consequences (or seeing consequences–such as Mom/Dad is distressed by the other parent’s cheating).

      I know my teen’s behavior improved once cheater was out of the house, and she did not have to deal with daily moodiness, sarcasm or his general dysfunction.

      • Great formula Tempest. I think giving children a religious, spiritual and/or moral code is vital too. But you have to live by the code too so they see your example. I know my kids have received a ton of support from our church and they are continually taught empathy, kindness and compassion by “cool” young adults at church. None of them say one bad word about their dad, they just show them the right way to treat others.

        • Friend,
          My child is a gift… A treasure that reinforces to me that I must have done something in my life right to be given her. I would on broken glass … And molten lava for her. Is she as “‘easy ” child……nooooooooooooo. Do I love her less because of it? Noooooo. Do I want to feed her to a pack of hyenas… There are days. Do I complain about parenthood…. U bet your sweet ass I do. Its the hardest fucking thing I have ever had to do… Like… Ever. And add a sack of shit partner in there …. A divorce… Half an income… And the fact that you will have to interact with the fucking Idiot for the remainder of yr childrens lives… I deserve a fucking medal. Damn right I complain… Its the hardest job I have ever loved… With no garantee that all of my efforts and love will produce a wonderful human being. If it was a job job… No one would do it cause you couldnt possibly pay them enough for the work. Its a labor of love with no down time. Like I said if this was a job description… People would be asking for a lot of money to do this job…
          I complain and poke fun… Cause its an outlet … Blow off steam and regrouping. I love being a Mom…. But its a shit job sometimes. It reallly is. I dont do it cause I have to… I do it cause she was given to me and I owe it to her to be the best Mom I can. I owe the universe for trusting me with one of its heavenly bodies…she is a gift. Did the whole enchilada get 100 times more challenging the day her dad bailed… You bet…I will falter… I will question… I will want to quit… Will I ? No. I will not fail her. I will not fail myself. We will learn and grow and be better for our challenges.
          Dont know who said it??? Toni Morrison? ” when you know better … You do better” thats my parenting plan. Along the way I may feel like feeding her to hyenas…

    • Friend, I speak in hyperbole. Look, I’m all for treating your kids with respect which is why I advise chumps not to gaslight their children out of love (i.e., they don’t need to know Why — yes they do, respect them with the truth.)

      Also, I am all for compassionately supporting your children but NOT to the degree that you’re their chump. Which seems to be Fi’s problem.

      Finally, teenagers are not your equals. I’m being bold for humorous effect, but yes, they DO have shit for brains at this age. My teenager is a GREAT kid. Seriously, I’m very lucky. (Knock on wood…) Good grades, on track for college, walks the widowed neighbor’s dog, work ethic. BUT he’s also a complete and utter airhead. He’s moody. He can act staggeringly entitled (YOU GOT THE WRONG CHIPS!), and he’s ridiculous unpleasant if he isn’t eating 24/7. He would mow you down for a sandwich.

      In other words, he’s normal. He also thinks He Knows Everything. Like every other teenager.

      So when I say “shit for brains” I’m trying to level the playing field here. For God’s sake don’t be intimidated by your teenagers. They may act like Lords of the Manor, but they’re deep down without a clue and FACT, they’re brains aren’t fully formed. They’re going to do stupid shit because they’re exploring and rebelling and it’s in their nature to be rather ridiculous at this age.

      I keep telling my son Karma is going to bite him in the ass and give him three daughters some day. (That’s my hope. Three mouthy, uppity, sarcastic, expensive daughters. And. I. Will. LAUGH.) Or sons who break their arms with the frequency he has.

      Anyway, I mean no disrespect to teens. You couldn’t pay me to be a teenager again. Ugh.

      • CL,
        I mean no disrespect. I have never disagreed with you before, but I am looking at Fi’s letter from a different angle. I have not seen my children in a few years. If I could go back in time, I would never bully them. I would shelter them more.
        I did not take your words literally. I understand exaggeration. I just have a very gentle approach to parenting.
        I am a middle child who barely survived my teenage years in a foreign country with a part time job. If Fi’s children are entitled, then perhaps she should try your approach.
        I say, ‘Send them out into the world’. It will humble them. If Dad is making their lives too cushy, then tackle his antics.
        I was harsh to my children if they were about to wander into traffic, or do something dangerous, but for the most part, all I had to do was give them a look of disappointment, and they behaved very well.
        I rarely had to prove dominance to my children.
        I worked as a nanny for many families. I was never chumped by teenagers or children. Moms have mojo jack hammers that can devastate and derail little budding alphas. Wouldn’t it be better to give them confidence and to smile at their puny attempts to conquer the world, than to put them in their place?
        I am sure that any teenager will benefit from your approach. I do not have anything to prove, I believe in many parenting styles.

  • Once again Chump Lady is spot on. Read her reply and then read it again…

    I don’t know how long this has been going on but please do your best to drum up the gumption to get strong and start getting mad. Then when you are good and mad, Lawyer up. Hire one to do the divorce work for you. While they are doing that you can concentrate on Fi and do what Fi does to survive. All the while doing the best you can to work on earning your kids respect. Someone told me once that you don’t automatically get respect and you certainly can’t demand it from anyone, especially teenage kids. You will need to earn it. I know it’s hard and may be the hardest thing you will ever do. But start earning it. The arrangement you are using now is not healthy for anyone. You are still dishing out cake to your cheater. Your cheating spouse is not your friend so don’t treat him like one. He disrespected you and your kids and does not deserve your respect or cake anymore. I know my kids are disappointed that I don’t want anything to do with my cheater. I know someday they will understand. Don’t feel sorry for him he created this mess. Remind yourself that shitty choices get you shitty consequences.

  • My three daughters where teenagers when the most abusive aspects of discovery were playing out and when I kicked H out for cheating and for being a sexually deviant creep. H behaved like an entitled arrogant jerk off during the entire discovery process and I think he was certain that his daughters would never think poorly of him.. Well he was wrong about that. He failed to consider that while he showed up for the things he was obsessive about like soccer games where he enjoyed having daughters that excelled athletically I was the person that was parenting them and honoring them as individuals in the day in and day out aspects of daily life.

    My daughters know me and they know that I have consistently seen them as the individual human beings that they are, not as my daughter the soccer star or my daughter the beauty queen but I have honored their individual selves and I cared enough about them as individuals to get to know them for who they are.

    H was also a master at appearing to outsiders to be a super great guy, a dependable trustworthy man, a great dad and to top it all off he was constantly told that he looks like Ben Affleck. So his arrogance was annoying and diabolical in nature and was continually feed partly via living a narcissistic-ally driven life and by consistently deceiving others about who he really was. The problem for him as it turns out is he was NOT able to deceive our daughters. In the long run I think this is often true for many children of narcissistic or character disturbed parents no matter how well hidden or subtle the personality and character issues are, the truth has a way of surfacing.

    I have to say that my daughters were not ever confused about who was at fault and when I kicked H out my youngest daughter ask me “what took you so long’. I was direct and factual regarding what was going on with out giving too many details and without dumping my shattered-ness onto them. I am grateful that I handled this this way.

    I think my daughter’s clarity regarding all of this is partially due to the fact that I have faithfully been very honest and truthful with them always. They know they can count on me to be honest with them even if the truth is inconvenient, difficult or uncomfortable. I have found the truth rarely requires any defense and if stated factually and respectfully the truth is not offensive and is very easy to integrate into ones personal reality. I have always found it impossible to lie to them even about small things like if they ask me if I like what they are wearing and other small things like that.They know they can count on me to be genuinely and constructively honest and kind while still respecting them as individuals with their own opinions and ideas. I also was fine with them being upset about what was happening and made sure they got the support they required. I saw that they were frightened by my brokenness around all of this and let them know I was human and I had to just be broken for a while but that I was diligently working towards not being broken. And when things would come up with their father where they would have compassion for him or be drawn in by their his deceptions on the rare instances where this came up or when they would allow themselves to be bought by him, I did not take this personally because it was not personal, it is human.

    It seems that some of the anger seen in teens may also be due to feeling that they have no power in crazy situations that directly affect their lives, sensing that they are not seen as sovereign individual persons that their parents find worth really knowing, that the adults are wishy washy, manipulative,aloof or directly deceitful regarding the factual reality of what is going on and they may also be frustrated by adults not trusting that they can handle the truth when it is presented in appropriate and factual ways. Being direct honest and real with my daughters is one of the best choices I have ever made in parenting and in life.

    .

  • Am I alone in thinking that the ‘amicable divorce’ is as much of a rarity as the ‘lesser-spotted reconciliation unicorn’?. It’s great to hear that such marvellous displays of adult behaviour are possible, but I keep thinking it would require that two people reach the same emotional place at the same time and with the same amount of emotional maturity – and if that was the case, what the devil are you divorcing for – you guys are obviously sympatico – and that’s a bloody miracle! I strongly suspect that wherever there is an ‘amicable divorce’ there is some poor sod gulping down shit sandwiches and doing their level best to pretend it’s all good! Of course, there are marriages that breakdown to a point where both partners feel it’s a dead duck, but I suspect (9 times out of 10) at least one of those partners feels had the other partner tried harder to make the marriage work then the divorce would not be necessary. So then, how do you go with ‘OK, you’ve destroyed the life and dreams I’ve ever had and you’ve destroyed the family unit we were trying to create – but I’ll still think of you as my friend’. I’m standing on the threshold of my second divorce, my first divorce didn’t have anything to do with cheating, and I ended it. I also think well of my first husband, but still – had he been more capable of working on our marriage and less dedicated to being passive-aggressive – then that marriage might not have failed. Had me and my first husband been truly sympatico then we would still be together.

    Anyway, just wanted to know – is it just me who thinks ‘being amicable’ is yet another impossible and cruel expectation that ignores the fact that we are all actually human beings with messy emotions?

    • We had an amicable divorce… as that spotted unicorn goes. His cheating that I know of was 25 years ago… we divorced over abuse 32 years of abuse. The kids sort of knew about the abuse but because I always tried to spackle over it, it didn’t seem like enough to divorce over…but it was to me… and I was motivated to keep it amicable… not just for the kids. When you are a doormat for 32 years… if you rise up and scream bloody murder over just the last offense, then you look crazy and if XH has been gaslighting you and blame shifting you for all of their life and you took it because you didn’t want a nuclear war in front of your kids, then you have sort of screwed yourself. Any shift in your behavior to the ‘crabby’ makes you look like a sore loser. Lastly, I had a reason to keep it amicable, he hates attorneys and through mediation, I got more than I ever had the right to expect. So what do I have today… my little goat has gone running off to live with her dad… who understands her. We need schmoopie videos for kids who think their father is the perfect father. Their dad understands them, mean old mom does not. This is her father, who left and said he didn’t want custody… he told me the truth, having her would interfere with his life as a famous scientist. To the world and to her, he said that the worst thing for a kid was to have to be on a schedule, the mom this day and dad this way, so every bought that as the magnanimous dad. He just showed up on Sundays and for the first three years I could have counted on one hand how many nights she had spent at his house. Then over summer when went on a long backpack with her dad, and older sister and her hubs and she comes home wanting to spend time with him… ok good… and now she goes running off to live with him 2 days after she turns 18… little goat.

      • Thanks ringin 🙂 I suppose what I understand as ‘amicable’ is where both parties give the gallic shrug, shake each other’s hands, say ‘c’est la vie and nice to have known you’. It sounds to me like you weren’t so much being sanguine about the demise of your marriage to your abusive ex, as being wise about how to escape with your life and worldly possessions from the towering inferno. I don’t believe you came away genuinely able to call him your friend, and I think you were gulping down the shit sandwiches in order to be free. So, if an ‘amicable divorce’ means one or the other partner is necessarily having to ‘play nice’ but simultaneously having to bottle up resentments then it’s only a ‘faux amicable divorce’ surely?

        Sorry your daughter has hurt you by running off to be with sparkly dad. That’s only the story as is for the moment. Sounds like she’s got caught up in the ‘pick me dance’ and thinks she’s won it – but we know how that works out, don’t we? I hope you and she get through that without much more pain x

    • I know several couples who had truly amicable divorces. But they weren’t divorces where cheating was involved, or any other kind of abuse. They were people who had truly both tried to make things work, and it hadn’t worked ….

  • Dear fi

    It is a heartbreaking situation having betrayal and dealing with divorce on the horizon. However, it is beyond heartwarming to read how this Calvary of a chump nation is aligning with CL’s advice and cheering you into action. I was married for 27 yrs to a cheater unbeknownst to me. I did get through a divorce and one daughter was 20 and our youngest goat daughter was 19. The road is bumpy but doable especially with awesome direction by ChumpLady. At some point in the storm of divorce and figuring which is end is up…..a daughter said to me (I had not gone into major detail but stayed truthful to why we were divorcing) “mom it would be hard to respect you , if you had chosen to stay married”. I didn’t realize it then but they were watching me like a hawk. As I’ve gotten a glimpse of meh, they too have settled.

    Fi you too as mighty as you need to be will gain respect!

    There is an abundance of wisdom on this blog! I admire and have quite afew chump favorites that I enjoy reading what they have to say. In case one of them does not chime in there could be a battle call of forge on! You can turn this around. My prayers are with you.

  • Jayne, I agree that communication often breaks down when a couple is divorcing because they are at such different places. My ex had long ago detached from me and had actually envisioning life without me while I had no clue. There I was sitting at home waiting for him to come home from his business trips week after week. I still loved him and was trying to connect with him, although I was very frustrated. Once I found out he’d fallen in love with his married coworker who traveled with him on all these trips it started to make sense. Sure didn’t arrive at the same conclusion at the same time, though. I was forced into developing the conclusion that our marriage was over because he gave me no choice. He’d long ago made the decision for the both of us.

    • Thanks Lyn. Yes, I think that is probably the way it goes with most people – one partner deciding to end the marriage (and the cheaters and the passive-aggressives are cowards because they make their decision to detach then spend the rest of your precious time on this planet making life with them so unpleasant that you will make the decision to end it). How you are supposed to be ‘amicable’ with someone who does this, I really don’t know – but there is a huge expectation that this is ‘the grown up’ way to divorce. I know my post could seem off-topic but it was actually Fi’s comment that they are being ‘amicable’ that inspired it. A bit like saying ‘I was violently mugged and my daughter’s were seriously injured but me and the mugger are trying our best to be cordial before we go to court’.

      I’m sorry your ex wasn’t honest enough to talk with you. That’s the thing about cheaters though, they are selfish dyed in the wool cowards.

      x

  • I think one reason I read the infidelity blogs is to see if ANY cheater ever does or says ANYTHING original. Haven’t seen it if they do.

    My cheater announced he wanted a divorce, then that he wanted joint custody. The custody thing really shocked me at first, because he’d spent the last five years of our child’s life basically ignoring her. Then I saw they all do that. No concern for her, just making his own life easy as possible. I imagine if I had agreed, I would have also seen a lot of attempts to Rearrange the schedule, so as not to interfere with his social life with the whore.

    • When you are discussing custody, the cheater often wants 50/50 because of child support. If your income is close, 50/50 custody may keep him/her from paying child support. Also, he/she can agree to a joint custody in the court docs when they are determining the child support, and then informally leave the children with you more and more while he/she goes wandering about “for work”, his OW, little vacations etc etc.

      Of course he/she may also not want to “look bad”, and he/she has to act like he/she wants to spend time with the children, even though he/she has never shown that interest while you were married. He/she can also say, to the children, “Your mother/father wants to take you away from me, to punish me.” There are many types of manipulative BS ploys that they can play with to try and get a favorable settlement and to pay less child support.

      If there is a large difference in salary/income, the children will also experience a big difference in material lifestyle when they are with the parent who makes less. Mind Games and Money Games.

  • I also imagine if he’d seen the Shared House thing he’d have been all over that too. No reminders of Kid Life cluttering up his Real Life. I also think it would make it easier to shift responsibility back to the abandoned ex when you didn’t want it.

  • Fi – I’ve got a similar situation. My ex is the fun parent, I’m the parent who “parents” them (make them do chores, help around the house, accept what’s on the dinner table, and horror of horrors I actually say “no” to them — all things their mother doesn’t do and she uses that to sparkle and make me look comparatively bad).

    Anyway, I finally told my older daughter. “You know what an affair is? Well mommy had an affair. That’s why we got divorced. And it was with the man who was coach of your sister’s hockey team.”

    I didn’t call her mother a whore (although all we chumps know what the truth is) or denigrate her character. I just stated the facts for her. And guess what? She gets it now. I said, “I know sometimes I’m angry and have a short temper. Well, now you know why.”

    It’s made a big difference. My older daughter agrees more often to help out around the house without a battle, she’s nicer to her little sister. She even said, “Mom doesn’t tell us anything. At least you’re honest with us.”

    And it’s that honesty that will mean more to them in the long run, after their mother’s sparkles have worn off, after we’ve rebounded and gotten settled emotionally.

    So tell your daughters the facts. You don’t have to slam your STBX (as much as he deserves it). It will make life easier for you and the girls.

    NB

  • I never told my teen D that her dad ever had an affair nor that his “job” in California for 18 months was her father actually choosing to live somewhere without us….and then he died and I now fear that she thinks Im a compete tool for not grieving the way she does. Now I cant tell her because it would seem foul to bring up a dark secret about someone not here to defend himself.

    I did tell her “I fear that you think Im a jerk, but you father hurt me deeply, I dont want to give you details because they would hurt you and I don’t want to hurt you”. If she asked point blank, I would tell her the truth.

    Add me to the crowd of people who stayed “for the kids” then lived to regret it. My oldest son (26) apparently found an email between H & OW and knew there was an affair…he later chose to abandon his baby momma and son and one of the reasons he gave was “I might end up having an affair like my dad did” …as you can see that apple didnt fall far from the tree…I shouldnt have stayed so close to the tree.

    • unicornnormore, I can tell you from experiences in my extended family that kids are better off knowing the truth. They don’t need to know the dirty details, but they will sense there’s something wrong and wonder about it all their lives. Definitely tell her if she asks.

  • Well, my kids aren’t teens yet. My oldest has been very distant with her dad since in-house separation began. My youngest blissfully ignores it all. I hate being stuck with him, but I’m not sure there is much choice in my case. What if getting your ducks in a row takes years? I’ve been a SAHM for so long and have no career. I tried to get all the outside help I could, but there is none for me because he hasn’t physically abandoned us. Lawyers have told me that if I take the kids to a shelter, they would be sent back to H. He hasn’t been abusive.
    So what am I to do? Get my half of our already low income and neither of us can provide a good home? Or do I stay and get my ducks in a row. I just got accepted into nursing school for the fall. If I can stay for 2 years, I’ll be set with a new career, and a way to provide for my kids on my own.
    So that’s what I have decided to do. Do I worry about it and wonder if it’s the right move? Constantly! I wish I had my freedom today. But I’m in such a deep hole. I’m just putting one foot in front of the other for now. It’s going to suck being in the same home, but I’m excited about growing a new career, just for me! We’re being honest with the kids. He tells them he broke my heart…takes all the blame. I’m hoping they at least take away the fact that I’m doing everything I can to become independent for them and for me.

      • Thank you Tracy! I wish he could feel consequences instantly, but it’s not in the cards. He says he ‘owes’ me and will help me out for however long I need it. I’m not naive (anymore). I know he’s not doing it out of the goodness of his heart. He’s trying to save his own ass from poverty too. Soon I’ll be too busy with my studies to care much about what he thinks. Eyes on the prize indeed!

        • It sounds as if you have done the emotional separation. As long as you are clear about your boundaries and are working on your own new life, you are on the road to Meh! I work out with a guy who started a nursing program, and we talked about the classes he was taking, how far along he was, week by week. And then suddenly, he was inviting the gym group to his graduation, followed by announcing that he got his dream job! So CL is right that before you know it, your new life will be launched.

          • Yeah, I feel like I’ve detached emotionally. It’s been 2 years since DDay, so it’s about time. I only started feeling better when I decided to separate.
            I hope my plan works out! I can’t afford to go to University for 4 years, so I’m starting with becoming a RPN. Hopefully I’ll find work, move out and eventually continue my education to become a RN.

    • SuperChump, I think you just put one foot in front of the other and take baby steps until you get there. You’re smart not to do anything drastic.

      • Thanks Lyn! If we didn’t have kids, I know I would have been gone that first night when I found out. It’s difficult to not have days where I feel stuck and pity myself. But finally having a plan to move forward has really helped.

  • I am very suspicious of what the writer quickly brushes aside as “aside from a few temper issues….he is a good father.” What does that mean, “a few temper issues…”?

  • My daughter has a friend whose parents had been divorced for 10 years before they learned about it. I kid you not. Douchy dad, was in the house as much as he ever had. Mostly the girls seem ok. My daughters friend went to college, have nice boyfriend, the other daughter still got through college but a bit more of a mess. Don’t get me wrong… I fully support everyone who says lawyer up and get the hell out of there. “Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where you backbone ought to be.” – Clementine Paddleford

  • As others have already mentioned, your husband is feeding the girls a line.

    I agree with CL about being honest with them, and about not taking their shit. Sort out a lawyer and get out of there.

    Also, I suspect you are minimising your husband’s behaviour. You’ve got a lot of nice things to say about a guy who didn’t give a second thought to fucking up your life. He cheated on you, multiple times. He’s lying to your kids about what happened. He’s controlling you financially to keep you peaceful and quiet. And I’ll bet his “few temper issues” really border on severe anger management issues. Make a plan and get out safely.

    You are allowing yourself to be walked all over like an old doormat – your girls are watching this and they are joining in on the walking. Show them that you won’t take that shit anymore. Maybe they won’t talk to you for a while – don’t worry about it. Maintain a calm, honest disposition and stand up for yourself. You will be a great example to them.

    It is scary to move on but, nearly three years down the line, I can tell you that it is well worth it.

    Take care and all the best.

  • Super_Chump, Just be careful here with choices. I would pursue the divorce before your nursing degree. Definitely consult with a lawyer soon. Living w/your cheater longer may grant him a larger share of your new wages. You may be paying Child and spousal, especially if you become the higher wage earner. IMHO, get away from him now. Divorce now. Then check out financial aid at your local community college. Your circumstances are ideal for returning to school and there are many programs/scholarships available (even childcare). You have little combined income so allow that to be your way out and let your community’s resources pay it forward. Disconnecting now means you won’t be tied to a marital settlement agreement that may not be in your best interest. My daughter is a new nurse and she makes a great living, even working part time. Best of luck!

  • To Fi, also too he may be paying expenses now but if you don’t have an agreement in writing (who pays what etc) it could get very sticky. In CA it is not unusual for POS spouses to abandon the family home and all the misc financial responsibilities like the community’s bills. And then expect spouse to pay rent for living in the house. See Watts charges and Eipstein fees. IMHO the faster you can get away from a Cheater the better off you will be (your girls too). Character is a good thing and hard times make us resilient. Always a good skill to have 😉

  • Fi, I know that the shared house or “nesting” model of custody has received a lot of good press (probably from people who haven’t had to live with it), but it is not working well for you. I think you need to look further down the road, which is hard when you have so many immediate drains on your time and emotions. You need to build a new life for yourself. Your daughters will be a piece of that life, but if they are teenagers now, it is clear that in a very short time they will be moving on and out and away. You’ll be left with . . . . what? Nowhere nice to live? No kids to put your time and emotion into? In your dedication to raise your daughters as well as you can, you’ve lost sight of rebuilding your life. And you can be damn certain your EX has not. He was building it for years behind your back.

    The likelihood that your girls will come around quickly in a hugely gratifying way is very slim. After 3 years, my kids are a little less likely to blame me than they were, but my EX can still unbalance them with just a few lies or a glittery promise. I’m playing the long game. I’m the one who shows up, who supports, who parents. This does not endear me to them when I’m making them take out the trash before turning on the TV or do their homework before playing basketball.

    The plane is still going down and you are still trying to tighten the air masks on your daughters–without putting one on yourself. Where do you want to be living in 2 years? What kind of custody do you want then? Go to a lawyer and work on a strategy to get to your goals. Go to a therapist and get help being honest with your daughters about your own needs (i.e. to be respected). Your EX is disrespecting you at every turn–just because he is living up to his financial responsibilities doesn’t mean he’s a gem or that you owe him anything.

    I made choices that allowed me to keep the house when I split from my EX. I did it because I thought disrupting my children’s lives via divorce was bad enough–I didn’t want their friendships and schools messed up too. I know this was good for them, but I never liked the house or its local (the EX insisted on it, and I agreed to it when we moved here–another chumpy decision). Now, that he’s been gone 3 years I can see myself saddled with this inappropriate piece of real estate all on my own after the kids are gone. I’ll move then, I expect (and the kids will be angry and act like I’m selling their arms and legs). I rather wish I had made all the hard decisions at once.

    Build a life for yourself that has plenty of room for for your daughers, but don’t build it around them.

    • “Build a life for yourself that has plenty of room for for your daughers, but don’t build it around them.” Wonderful advice @Eilonwy, and right in time. This is what I am working on implementing.

  • Fi,

    Our situations are very similar! Same type of Ex!
    I can share with you what worked for me. First, 10 days after I found out, I kicked him out of the house! Granted I had my sister’s support and my daughters! Then I change my therapist. Yea, I had to. You see for months he was convincing everybody that I was crazy and I was destroying the marriage. Oh, and the mind game he played with everybody in the end served me well. See, I and my close family, believed I suddenly developed mental issues, so here I was already in therapy, fixing ME. But this therapist met my former husband, he put a great act in front of her he even cried and proclaimed “I am not my father” (a serial cheater).

    Anyway, despite the fact that my daughters were direct witness of what he did, they still got hurt. And guess who they were taking this on?! On the safer parent! Yes, you are the safer parent! They know that! So I found a wonderful therapist, and I started to go, and slowly they start coming as well. We end up going sometimes 2 of us or all 3 of us and discuss issues that were too painful to address without somebody that new the situation. I just want to let you know, though, that getting them in therapy was not easy. Basically they pretty much went kicking and screaming! It takes time, it took us 2 years, but it works! By going to the therapy, I show them that when you need help you better go and look for it.

    The arrangement that you have, in my opinion, is detrimental for all 3 of you. They are afraid as much as you are of living in poverty. Their father knows that; my Ex told his daughters “ get used to live in poverty” ! And him like your Ex, was proclaiming his love and care for them. This arrangement makes them very vulnerable to abuse. Words and attitude are as damaging as physical abuse. And they are harder to prove! Please read the book that Tracey recommended on her site “Why does he do that?”, specially chapter 10 –Abusive men as parents. It was eye opening for me.
    Hope this helps! I wish you the best! You are stronger that you know! Let me know if you have questions

  • Peeking my head out . . . Howdy Chumplings! I have been very busy enjoying my cheater free life. 🙂

    After reading this post, the first thing I thought was . . . “OH MY STARS! THE CHILDREN! THE POOR CHILDREN!”

    Let me tell you something . . . what you’re going through is bad enough without your offspring sticking red-hot pokers in your wounds. I highly endorse everything CL stated here, especially about the narrative – YOUR narrative. You don’t have to “defend” yourself, but there is nothing wrong with telling them the truth. Just the facts Ma’am.

    Just because they are your kids and you love them doesn’t mean they get to beat you up. If they actually have the nerve to say they think you “must have done something to make their dad cheat”, clearly respect is lacking for mom, and you don’t deserve that.

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