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Dear Chump Lady, How can I help my mom forgive herself for being a chump?

forgivenesstrollDear Chump Lady,

How can I help my mom forgive herself for staying with my narcissistic dad for over twenty years?

Over the past year-in-a-half, my mom has figured out that my dad is a narcissist who has been cheating on her from the day they began dating. With the help of your blog and a few other sites, my mom has found many red flags she should have seen; also, she says she should have left him when she first found him cheating on her.

Now, we are financially “under the water,” and she is pissed that she “had blinders on” because if she didn’t, we — my sisters, my mom, and I — would not be in this mess. My mom is currently still with my dad because of the financial situation, but she has told my dad many times that they are done. He knows that we know what he has done — maybe not the extent, but at least half of everything. He has moments of “kissing ass,” “pity me,” and “how dare you,” which makes my mom continuously and cautiously have to either keep him in check — when he’s angry, it’s explosive, though he’s never raised a hand to my black belt mom — or ignore his ass kissing.

On top of all of that, she’s working over 50 hours a week — at home, with a four year old — to get us back up, financially, so that we can make it without dad. It’s a lot, to put it lightly, that she has to deal with, but with all of that comes her guilt. She can’t believe that she let it get this bad nor how she was unable to see all the signs.

I hate seeing her so angry at herself. She always puts others — my sisters and I — ahead of herself because she’s “the mom,” but it’s hard to see her not be objective with herself. She’s also the victim in this situation; she fell for an almost perfect con by someone who has mastered tears, sweet talk, and deceptive, pseudo love. She says that my older sister and I — my other sister is too young at the moment — are doing great with what is going on; that we’re putting one foot in front of the other and trying to what we can with what we have. However, she doesn’t seem to think the same of herself — she never even mentioned herself when she and I talked about this.

Your blog has helped mom, many times, along with your readers, and I sincerely thank you, and your readers, for that. The fact that you, and your readers, know what my mom is going through — emotionally — is why I am asking if there is any way to help my mom forgive herself. I know it will take time and that it will be better once she and my dad divorce, but is there anything that can help her now? Any way for to to start forgiving herself during the waiting period?

With sincere thanks,


Dear Jess,

What a sweet daughter you are. It’s very kind of you to show such love and concern for your mom, but here’s the first Chump Lesson — we only control ourselves. We can’t love people into doing the things we want them to do. (Hey, if we had those superpowers, we wouldn’t be chumps!)

This is your mom’s journey and forgiving herself for being a chump is a long process. But I can give you some thoughts on un-chumping if you think that would help.

1.) If you want to forgive yourself for being a chump, start by being mighty. There’s a quote by the abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass that I just love:

“I prayed for 20 years and received no answer… until I prayed with my feet.”

Your mom needs to pray with her feet. Douglass prayed and prayed to be liberated from slavery. Praying with his feet — putting those thoughts into actions — is what freed him.

If your mom wants to forgive herself for being a chump, she needs to start acting in un-chumpy ways. Every move she makes towards liberating herself, will change her perception of herself.

No one gets the last 20 years of their life back, but you absolutely control how you’re going to move forward.

2) Forgiveness isn’t the most important thing. IMO, forgiveness is overrated. We think it’s some magic balm that will release us from hate, anger, and grief. I think those are stages of loss. Eventually you get to acceptance (to me, that’s another word for “forgiveness.”) But you can’t put the cart before the horse. The best way for your mom to accept what happened (and forgive herself) is to get some distance from the situation. She can’t do that while she’s living with a man who’s still cheating on and manipulating her.

Finally, per the specifics of your mom’s situation — financial infidelity often goes with sexual infidelity. Your mom can work 50 hours a week, but as long as she’s still legally tethered to your dad (Mr. Sinking Ship), she won’t realize much profit to liberate herself. People in dire straits leave cheaters every day — Chump Nation weigh in on this one and give Jess’s mom some practical advice here. Your mom needs to talk to a lawyer and MAKE A PLAN. And, she needs to stop announcing that plan (“I’m going to leave you!”) to your dad. He’ll probably pull out the stops to thwart her.

And Jess — please don’t grow up to be a chump. You’ve got a big heart, but your mom and dad’s problems aren’t your problems ultimately. Your job is to grow up, study hard, and be awesome in your chosen profession someday. Have good character, know your worth, and don’t spackle for anyone. I’m sorry you’re mixed up in this. I’m guessing you’re a teenager — best thing you can do to help your mom is be mighty yourself and work towards greater independence. Big (((hugs))) to you, kid.

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  • I’m a chump mum, with two littles. Jess, your mum sounds like she’s doing what any good captain would do. She’s building up her team. By ensuring that she gets you guys out of this situation, she will be looking after herself. She’ll feel so much strength by making it work. First lesson she’s teaching you is how to work hard to get what you want. Forgiving herself isn’t going to achieve anything. Getting her life together and making it work without your dad, that is something she’ll be able to pat herself on the back for. If I were you, I’d just focus on telling her how awesome she is and offering a foot rub and cup of tea here or there.

    • In case there was any doubt about how amazing Jess is … she regularly offers to give me foot rubs (and shoulder rubs). “Lucky” is an understatement!

      And, I really like how you explained things from the chump’s perspective. The fact that you and so many others here were willing to give my daughter a third-person perspective warms my heart. Thank you.

      • I too have such a wonderful daughter…aren’t we blessed!

        Go ahead and set yourself free from guilt…we chumps did and do what we must to survive in this time of living hell.
        I believe this is one of our finest traits. We’re not the ones going about life with reckless behavior and must plan carefully when to make each step forward to gain the life we worked so hard to have…for ourselves and our children.

        I’ve been a chump for 32 years…I bare no shame…I knew what was happening all along but stayed just as you have. When we have children our life is not our own any longer. I pulled myself up by the boot straps everyday. To which I am quite proud of. I was a great wife and mother, my guess is you are as well by the letter your daughter posted here.
        For me, I loved my children and wanted them to have a family…so I just stayed true to myself and didn’t allow the SOB to get in my way of what was right and true.

        Don’t get me wrong…I too am still stuck living with the piece of crap.
        He’s cheated for decades without me standing in his way… I’ve now been disabled for 10 years, and Prince Charming announced he wanted a divorce because my “disability intrudes to much in his life” He just turned 54 and has decided he wants to go hiking….the one thing my disability won’t let me do. I find it amusing considering he doesn’t walk to the mailbox LOL

        You,me, and every other person that has lived with a less than “honest” person has done nothing to be ashamed of. We are survivors, we just don’t get the recognition we deserve and that can leave us feeling less than our true selves.

        I spend everyday alone and in bed. In chronic pain. Probably the side effects of decades of emotional abusive treatment from my husband. It’s as if I don’t even exist. Except to my children.
        If I allow myself to think like the basturd I married, I wouldn’t last a day.
        I know I did my best each and everyday. My conscience is clear.

        Don’t get me wrong. I DID MY BEST. I didn’t say I was perfect.
        I just know I had nothing to do with my cheating, lying husbands behavior. That’s his hell to contend with.

        The same goes for all chumps!!

        PS…I just joined this forum…you’re my first post! ?

        • Oops!!
          I was thinking about your mom so much, I forgot to post to you. You darling, wonderful daughter, and woman!
          First let me say, you must take care if yourself first and foremost. Your mom will be fine. It’s just going to take time for her to realize all this pain she’s experiencing, are steps towards a new, healthier life.
          Unfortunately, she has to figure this out on her own. But your support and your sisters support goes a long way.

          My daughter is 26 years old, she has been my alternate strength.
          My favorite thing she does to lift my spirits is, she will talk about all the good times we’ve shared. It reminds me, all was not a failure. What makes it so special is, she does it so naturally. Not like she’s trying to force me into a better mood. Let’s face it…
          None of us can force another to think, feel or do anything they don’t want to do,think or feel. And that’s ok. It’s what makes us,us. ☺️
          All of us on this site are experts of knowing or learning that now.

          You have a good soul. Taking care of yourself will be your only assurance of keeping your soul pure.

          You, your sisters and your mom will all be fine.

          It’s time mom gives you a foot rub! I’m sure she would love to see she is still wanted and makes her daughters happy.
          Keep in mind. She’s feeling like her life’s work has meant little to nothing right now. She needs to know you have enjoyed the life your family has shared.
          That’s the wonderful thing about history…its eternal.
          Much love.

  • Dear Jess
    My daughter now 22 gave me a lot of backbone and the will to leave my ex. She was a rock when all around was utter chaos and desolation. So on behalf of all mums I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being so supportive for your sweet mum.

    The best thing your mum can do is line up all her ducks in secret, stash some money and kick that ass hole to the kerb.

    There are a lot of great articles on this site about how to do this but please see a lawyer.

    I found The website infidelity help group quite useful and divorce minister

    Massive hugs and I am so proud of you for being such a compassionate and supportive daughter

  • Wow CL!!! Fantastic advice! Especially her not owning the parents problems. Just want to weigh in on the financial aspect for some practical advice: I was abandoned with no warning so I didn’t have time to re-group. I did lose my farm and I had to move in with my mother for a while until I found a place. I have one child with severe special needs. I tapped in to as many government services available to me. I’m in Canada. Jess, see if your Mom can tap into social services, anything that’s available. And a lawyer for sure! It takes a while to rebuild but it absolutely CAN be done. Living with less is better than living with a cheater. It’s not permanent. There are also all kinds of tricks to save money and live on a strict budget. Google it. CL is right. You and your Mom are mighty. This will not define you. I’m 2 years post D day and doing well. You will too!

  • Jess, the last paragraph that CL typed is spot on. That’s exactly what I want for my daughters. Please pay attention to that.
    Your mom has to get through this with the best of her abilities. It’s not easy but I can be done.
    I divorced my cheater after being a stay at home mom for over twenty years. I’m working towards building a better life for myself.
    Your mom has a lot of company here and many of us share similarities.
    I wish her all the best as she works through this.

  • I am a chump mom, and I have massive guilt. Guilt for choosing such a crap partner to breed with. Guilt for not leaving sooner. Guilt for for being such a chump. Guilt for not being as strong (even now) as I think I should be. I would love to forgive myself.

    CL is right. You need to have distance from the cheater/narc. And you need to make a better life for yourself. Once you have a better life, it’s easier to forgive yourself. Since your mom is still with cheater, of course it’s hard to forgive, because the chaos is ONGOING.

    Maybe you can encourage her to leave sooner rather than later, and start making that better life now. But just remember that ultimately its her decision and her responsibility, not yours. Once you are 18 you can make your own life, with only kind, caring people.

  • Jess, I grew up with the same situation. Cheating dad, mum working 4 jobs. He finally left once we got my mum strong enough to kick him out (she took him back a few times) For your mum – take all the advice here…lawyer up, in secret, line the ducks, aim fire. Know your own worth. Trust they suck.

    Jess, I’m writing this for you and your sisters though. I was 13 at the time. CL advises you know your own worth, work hard, develop good character. I thought I did those things. And I was as angry as you, swore off men etc. but it took 8 years of dating, 12 years of marriage and getting royally chumped a year ago to realize the damage my parents divorce caused me. I am severely codependent and ended up in a physical and abusive relationship because of it. Finally in therapy.

    Jess, I don’t want to lay shit on your door right now, I know how hard this is, I really do. But you’re an amazing, loving daughter and you are fighting hard for you lovely mum. But please please please remember to fight for yourself. Tell your sisters to fight for their selves. Look after yourself, always always love yourself.

    I didn’t realize but I was modeling dangerous behaviors of over giving and internalizing low expectations of what ‘love’ from a man should look like. Seriously, no clue but my past clearly shows it.

    I know this sounds like a ton of nonsense right now!:-) my advice is support your mum, but get you and your sisters in therapy. You’re amazing -and like CL says – always know your worth.

    Lots of love and sending lots of kick ass xxx

    • MsChump, how sweet and caring of you to share the abuse you went through, Jess. I am so sorry for what you went through. I’m 60 and chumped by both abusive men I was in long term relationships (1 marriage and 1 unmarried). It’s shocking to me how those things that happened so long ago could affect our entire lives. In my case it was a narcissist mother and absent father. Sending you hugs {{}}

  • Jess, hopefully your mom is putting her efforts into leaving your dad and making a life for you and your siblings. This is probably her focus right now. Forgiving herself may or may not come. I haven’t forgiven myself and frankly it’s not where my head is at. Nearly 5 months from D-day my focus is on transitioning my kids to a 2 household life where everything still gets done and they are taken care of.

    I didn’t even begin to feel better about me in any way shape or form until my STBX (Tomorrow I finalize so yeah, really soon) was out of my house. That distance is important. Right now she is mentally fighting to make it through every day and make sure you and your siblings have all they need for this transition. That’s what the sane parents do, they take care of and protect their kids, sometimes at their own expense. I pray your mother finds peace when she is able to disengage from your father. Thanks for looking out for your mom.

  • Ps and for all the mighty chump parents….you are amazing. You are modeling mighty behavior for your kids – and it matters. My lovely mum never moved on, mer a wonderful man for twenty years and was loved for who she was, in a healthy way. But she would never marry him or move in with him. We thought it was her fierce Indeoendance… was severe chumpiness. She had an affair with my father and left the kind, loving, funny man (who was a great ‘dad’ to us too) My parents reconciled after 25 years aged 70. So not a happy ending, but a tale of what happens when a severe codependent meets a true narcissist. They never did the work on themselves. My mum is very tiny again, serving my dad and ignoring her needs. He’s ruling the roost and caring about himself only. Oh and history repeating itself? We think he’s sleeping around again….stay mighty you amazing parents!!!!!

  • I have 2 daughters in the same situation. We have all left my cheater. One daughter still is in contact with him but she lives on her own now. It has been a long haul for us. I take alot of guilt on for staying when I was unhappy and saw the signs. I teach my daughter now about those signs. She has her own issues with her father and what he has done to her personally thru this.
    You are an awesome daughter. You Mom will gain strength from knowing you see the truth for what it is and you see how hard she is working for it. My kids were my lifeline.
    She has done an excellent job already….look how you have turned out at such a young age.
    Keep supporting her efforts. Do what you can to be independent yet supportive of her. As long as she knows YOU and your sisters are ok…she will be ok. Much love and hugs sent your way!!!

  • Yeah…I agree with CL about how grief is often overlooked in lieu of emphasizing forgiveness. Too often, I think people treat grief (and forgiveness) as if it is a one-done task as opposed to what grief is–an emotional process of healing from significant loss. Yes, I agree that forgiveness–self-forgiveness as well–is necessary for the total healing process BUT it is only one piece of the larger process of accepting the losses and reorganizing our lives after such significant blows.

    • I’ve found throughout my life that guilt seems to go along with grief. At least when I’ve lost pets, there was a period of time afterwards when I felt guilty that I didn’t do more, even after I’d done all I could.

      I spent a lot of time as a kid beating myself up to avoid my parent’s criticism. The habit started as a way to deflect shame — if I criticized myself enough then my parents would stop yelling at me. Anyway, I still struggle with the guilt I feel about being codependent and the problems it caused in our marriage. I often focus more on my mistakes than his, which were NUMEROUS. Most of the time I feel I’m making progress in forgiving myself, but occasionally a trigger will cause shame to resurface.

      Anyway, I think Jess is a wonderful daughter and I’d have been so grateful to have support from a child like her. I agree with CL that Jess will need counseling so she doesn’t repeat the same codependent pattern that’s passed down in families.

      Jess, maybe you could tell your mom “You did the best you could with the information you had at the time.” At least I tell myself that whenever I look back on things I could have done differently. Also, I’ve found a lot of comfort in scripture. One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 43:18-20.

      Forget the former things;
      do not dwell on the past.
      See, I am making a new thing!
      It rises up; do you not perceive it?
      I am making a way in the wilderness
      and streams in the wasteland.

      People have been struggling with guilt over past mistakes for thousands of years. Our feelings aren’t unique.

      We can’t change the past. All we can do is work towards changing our future, and we have to choose to focus on that. Sometimes I would tell myself to “press on,” and picture myself taking one small step after another.

      • Great words of wisdom. You are right, whenever we suffer significant loss, we ask ourselves what we could have done differently. Unfortunately, sometimes the only thing to be done is put one foot in front of the other. I lost my young, kind, always smiling, niece yesterday. She was 30 years old. I have spent the last few days trying to convince my sister that we did all we could, we did the best we knew how in what was an horrific situation. My sister is so angry and I don’t blame her, but damnit, it’s not her fault! She has nothing to be forgiven for, but she cannot understand that right now. I think Jess’ mom may be going through exactly this same thought process.

        I have said this before, but I believe the only way out is through. Time does not heal all wounds but, if we are patient, we will find some measure of peace. First though, we must give ourselves permission to grieve, to make mistakes, and to question ourselves and our path in this world. Jess’ mom has been through hell and in fact, is still in it. It is natural and acceptable for her to question just about everything she has held to be true.

        One of my favorite books on loss is “This Is How” by Augusten Burroughs. In it, he talks about how loss is a hole that can never be filled. More than any other book, it got me through some of my darkest times (I am 4and1/2 years post- divorce). I still keep it by my bed. Burrough’s point of view is that loss makes us who we are. Rather than run from grief, we need to accept that it is a part of the human experience.

        The other thing that has helped me is reading this blog every single day, and sometimes, rereading it! I buried my dad in June and will be burying my niece this week. All of the friends I have never met here have helped me more than you will ever know… This site is about far more than recovering from infidelity.

          • Yes, violet I’m so sorry to hear of your niece’s passing. And your outlook is right on point. Pastor Rick Warren always says that when we’re going through hell…keep going. It’s a finite thing; the struggle WILL end at some point. Maybe not exactly as WE have it planned out in our minds, but it will end. And, there are countless blessing happening to each of us, even on what may seem like the worst day of all. (((hugs, girl.)))

        • Violet, I am so sorry for your loss. Jedi hugs to you and your sister. I think I have to read that book Your last line is so true, so much more going on here than recovering from infidelity.

        • I just realized the author you recommended, Augusten Burroughs, is the same person who wrote “Running with Scissors,” a family memoir funny and horrifying by turns. (Anyone who thinks they had a dysfunctional family/childhood should read his book for perspective.) I will definitely pick up his book on loss; thank you for the recommendation.

      • Really just wanted to say that this is a wonderful post.

        I really identify with the guilt from the effects my codependency had on my relationship. In fact, it was when I started figuring out my past trauma that she left me. My therapist has suggested that me actually getting better threw the relationship balance off and my ex was no longer interested. I have a hard time buying that because it frees me from blame.

        • Yes, wwdsg, I think you are absolutely right. When I started to get healthy, I could not buy into ex-narc’s dysfunction. It’s so all about power with them. They need to know they have an affect on others to feel alive (and this is a paraphrase from Melanie Tonie Evans article “Naracissist Supply,” which I found to be one of the best explanations of narcs, tho I did not purchase her program; I just read her educational articles). Anyway, when we get healthy, it scares the narc because we begin to see them for who they really are. CL has said it so perfectly, we stop spackling. It scares them to be found out and then they become even more monster-like.

    • “IMO, forgiveness is overrated. We think it’s some magic balm that will release us from hate, anger, and grief. I think those are stages of loss. Eventually you get to acceptance (to me, that’s another word for “forgiveness.”)”

      Wise words from CL. I will go out on a limb and state that I believe forgiveness is misused and exploited – especially by the cheater who is insisting on it, and the misguided friends who follow suit. In fact, for those of us who paired up with Jesus cheaters, the Bible is clear that forgiveness is only supposed to be granted to those who have true remorse. Here’s a link that helped me when I was dealing with my cheating now-x, and his flying monkey friends:

      When people on the receiving end of an unremorseful cheating person’s destructive behavior is arbitrarily expected, even pressured to grant forgiveness, I believe it cheapens the very act of forgiveness.

      Getting through the stages of hate, fear, anger and grief, and then being able to eventually sit comfortably with acceptance will be the nearest thing we can get to closure when it comes to cheaters.

      • Boudica Reborn – this is a really great read. Although it has taken many months of continual self-talk to stay focused on forgiveness as this article suggests, I am still sometimes pulled in the direction of just offering “blanket forgiveness” to the x-douchebag by well-meaning friends and family who get confused about forgiveness, too. It’s in one’s heart, and God knows each of our hearts. Cheaters think God can be fooled and manipulated as easily as us Chumps and everyone else they talk to. Not the case, and so it is at that point that I have to “let go, and let God.” I have faith that He will even the odds, and will repay those who commit evil and have no guilt, shame or remorse. I’m saving this article to re-read when my mind goes off-course.

        But, by some crazy chance that any of these cheaters actually DO change their lives and seek forgiveness, I am prepared to offer it to the x-douchebag in my situation. That does NOT mean that I would ever in a billion years accept that person back into my life or around me, but I’m not willing to risk my eternity by not forgiving a truly repentant person seeking my forgiveness. I don’t feel this is something I’ll ever have to deal with, so…

      • Boudica, you are awesome! Great post! Love what you said. My narc was first of all NEVER sorry, and then when he was his old behavior simply continued. I never felt good about it, never felt he was ever sorry for anything. In 25 years, he might have said “I’m sorry,” about 5 times. He just couldn’t do it, which is a primary trait of narcissism.

  • One of the things your mom needs to do, Jess, is go to individual therapy to begin working on her self esteem issues. It is one of the steps to becoming “mighty” and will help your mom to realize this isn’t her fault.

    When I was around 22 my own parents split up due to cheating. It was hell. Our lives were split in half because we still loved our father, and for me in particular it was awful because my mom called me every night and cried for hours. It really took it’s toll on me and affected my own marriage.

    Eventually she found a boyfriend (a horrible man) and she dumped me and never acknowledged or thanked me for all my support. That really, really hurt. To this day she has no idea what that did to me.

    I throw that out as a word of caution. Please don’t take this on for your mother. She’ll get through this, and the more of it she does on her own, the stronger she’ll feel in the end. I realize you’re not claiming your mom is leaning too heavily on you, but do be aware of that extra stress in your life. Take care of yourself.

    Taking the time in therapy or other self discovery will help your mom deal with her self blaming and help her to focus her anger where it really belongs. Getting away from your father, along with distance and time will allow her to regain some dignity and pride. She sounds like a really hard worker. It’s time for her to talk to a lawyer, get away from your father, and take steps toward her own new life.

  • Jess: Two things helped me forgive myself:
    -when lamenting that I had not connected the dots about my X’s infidelity sooner, a friend told me, “If a smart person wants to deceive you, of course they will succeed.”

    And the other was the realization that while I should have left him long ago because of emotional abuse, before I found out about his cheating, I stayed *for the right reasons.* (namely, I thought it was best for my children, even though I now realize it was NOT).

    • “If a smart person wants to deceive you, of course they will succeed.”

      And the corollary; “If a person you love and trust wants to deceive you, of course they will succeed.” I’d say that’s true even if your partner is a moron. Ask me how I know.

      if you love a spouse with your whole heart, you are vulnerable. That’s not doing something wrong that needs to be forgiven. It’s doing marriage right. Now what you do AFTER you find out your spouse is cheating? Yes, that’s effed up. It’s a mistake. But it’s a mistake made with good intentions, and intentions matter A LOT in such matters. It is not malicious. It is, at worst, cowardice. So forgiveness isn’t as important finding courage. As the saying goes, “Don’t be sorry, be different.”

      Jess, your mother needs to be different and, as CL advised, pray with her feet. That takes courage. And though you can’t *make* her be courageous, and you can encourage her and reassure her for every step she takes.

      Prayers and thoughts going out your way. . . .

      • Nomar says: “If a smart person wants to deceive you, of course they will succeed.”
        And the corollary; “If a person you love and trust wants to deceive you, of course they will succeed.”

        Another piece of wisdom for under my pillow. Re moron deception: I, too am open to questions! I could not quit laughing, and for that I am SO grateful. My happiness has been surgically removed but CN has been repairing that.

        Jess, I am not a Mom, but I’m in my 60s and I was a kid. The Moms and Dads who are offering their hard learned wisdom here represent the best team of advisors on this planet. Please honour yourself and them by paying close attention. We all stand beside you and your Mom.

      • True, the cheater may be an overall moron, but with high smarts only in deception (intelligence being domain-specific).

        • Tempest, I just wanted to connect with you for a sec. I left too due to the emotional abuse, stayed for the kids far too long, then found out about the cheating. It’s not something I ever wanted to have in common with someone, but knowing this happened similarly to you, does help me to feel not alone. Your posts of wisdom help me every single day. Thank you so much.

          Jess, you are an amazing daughter and your mother is so fortunate to have you. Please be careful not to blur lines in your responsibility towards her, e.g., it is not your job to take care of her or help her find self-forgiveness. Your empathy is wonderful, but please be balanced about it, listen to the wisdom here, learn what you can, commit to your self-growth. I would be honored to have a daughter like you.

          • ChumpB–you were smarter and stronger than me. Aug 9, 2014 my X added one more log to the fire with yet another instance of emotionally abusive behavior, and I said I wanted a divorce. He and my daughter talked me down, but I was waiting for the other shoe to drop (as I knew I couldn’t take any more). Sept, 11, 2014, I found his handwritten notes preparing to see the sexual harassment officer about his affair with a student. So a 40-ton Mack truck dropped (instead of the shoe). And that was the end of the marriage. I wish I had left on the basis of emotional abuse only, like you did, but I guess I needed that final confirmation that he sucked. The good news is that the infidelity has kept me from looking back with any fondness at the marriage, shown me he is completely irredeemable (turns out he was a serial cheater), and kept me from being hoovered back in one last time.

            I’m trying to train my daughters and the students I teach (men and women) to run from emotional abuse alone. It is a real thing, highly hazardous, and unfortunately, something other people rarely see so you don’t get the support as if you leave due to infidelity. But no one can live well, much less thrive, under overt or covert abuse, even if it is psychological abuse (rather than physical).

            • I needed evidence of cheating to leave as well, although the more I look back at the past emotional abuse, the angrier I get. Having dealt with depression for years and realizing it is most likely a result of his treatment of me gets to me. Depression and anxiety destroyed my career…

              But at least I finally got wise and left…

    • Tempest, yes….I struggle mightily with knowing the truth now and being so deceived for so long, but my deadhusband was a smart man and he knew that I was devoted. He had a lot to gain from his deception and he did.

      and I stayed for very noble reasons even if I look at it now and question my decisions

      and I have no intention of rushing the forgiveness thing, nope…Im mad and I intend to stay that way for a while. I had a huge “forgiveness” moment for him after he died but I didnt know the half of what he had done…if forgiveness had been important to him then he could have told me the truth – he didnt value what I thought about anything which includes forgiving him, so Im not going to lose sleep over it.

      • Great moments of non forgiveness: my lateH was VERY easily angered…everything pissed him off and i walked on eggshells trying to keep his temper under wraps. It is freeing now to do stuff that would have pissed the shit out of him. I no longer make my life decisions based on him and I wont do something stupid just to spite what he would have wanted, but I have had some fun…

        I told his best friends widow that he was a serial cheater – he would NEVER have wanted her to know.

        I let his HS friends give me money when he died..I asked them not to but they insisted so I relented – he was such a big shot he would die again if he knew I took their money

        I gave his college memorabilia to someone he didn’t like

        I told his best friend’s wife and his sister (both massive bitches) to F-off. Wrote my will leaving his other siblings money but not her.

        On our last “anniversary” I never mentioned it to anyone..waste of breath…it was a non-day

        I married someone who he would have hated…again I didnt do it for spite, my new H is a wonderful man I love and adore and we have a GREAT life (my new life crowding out the old)

        He had acted shitty about a certain investment so I sold the stocks and took my daughter to London

        Even though Im not putting my new husband on the title of my house, I will change the deed to my new surname just to purge his.

        Except for the annoying life stuff that gets each of us in moments, Im really really happy.

        • Unicornnomore–Excellent all around!! I know we shouldn’t go around seeking revenge and all….but delivering a little karma and comeuppance after cheater’s death when you’re simply trying to live your own life can’t hurt ; ). [You may have a corollary to the “Revenge is a dish best tasted cold,”–“Revenge is a dish best tasted when the body is cold.” Lol]

          Congrats on your new marriage, all your recent travels, your new life and your sassy attitude!

        • I wish there was a like tam – Unicornnomore, you give me so much hope. I am not looking for someone, but to just be in the company of someone who didn’t give me sh* the way I was in the past …. I would find that very healing.

          Sheesh, I fine no contact very healing!

          • Im glad I can offer hope. My path was really long and really hard and I was massively chumped but it got me to an unexpectedly good place. I dont define my success by having a partner (although its wonderful) but by living the best I can.

            Latehusband gave me shit all day, every damn day…there were SO FEW moments when he wasnt giving me shit…preach it sistah.

            Just to amuse myself, I wrote a draft of an email I could sent to the OWs offering them the spot to be buried next to deadH since I don’t want it. Some of his cousins who know of his actions towards me describe it as “treachery” and 2 of them came to my wedding.

    • “The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.” Steven King’s quote comes to mind.

  • I love what CL said about forgiveness! “You can’t put the cart before the horse.” I was so often told that I needed to forgive, like it was something I can just do and all my grief and anger would just magically go away. I don’t think people who were telling me this knew, but to me it sounded like some pseudo self-help crap, like if I kept telling myself something then it will happen. It is absolutely a process! It’s a ride and I’m not driving but I know where it’s going. I think if you let it the ride eventually slows down and comes to a halt, but we can’t just put on the brakes. I f I could I would have. Well, maybe someone can but I couldn’t. I think people who told me this meant well, but just didn’t understand.

    • While I think Jess was mainly interested in her mother forgiving herself for being a chump (haven’t we all struggled with it?), my views on whether the cheater deserves forgiveness can be fitted into a tidy two-word answer: Fuck that. I have vowed to go to my grave not forgiving my cheater because the horrific assault he launched on our marriage, our family, and on me do not deserve forgiveness. Mehbound mentioned a great phrase that I prefer to forgiveness, about “a new life crowding out the old life.” I will move on to a healthy, honest, and happy life where cheater does not occupy my thoughts for more than a split second. But forgiveness for him, no.

  • Jess you are very sweet for reaching out to help your Mom.

    IMO, anger (positive anger that is) is a much better emotion than forgiveness. Positive anger gets you moving forward to make good healthy changes.

    I am guessing that you are younger than I was when my parents got divorced, but here’s what I learned.

    1. You aren’t responsible for solving other people’s problems.
    What if the problem was different like your Mom wanted to lose 50 lbs or quit smoking. You can offer support but you can’t make them do it. They need to do it all by themselves.

    2. You are Switzerland.
    I know, I know…listen, you have a Mom and a Dad. Your Dad might be a rat, but he is your Dad.

    What happens between them is not your business. Do not take sides. Do not get in the middle. The financial mess, for example, is their joint responsibly — not your Mom’s to fix on her own.

    3. You need to talk to a counselor or a therapist.
    There is a whole lot going on in your world right now and you need to find someone that can help guide you through this. Yes, you. A therapist or a counselor can help process what is going on and understand how to set some healthy boundaries. It doesn’t mean you are crazy, it just means you need a bit of help through some very choppy waters. If your Dad really is a narcissist, then you will need some guidance on how to have him in your life as you get older.

    For your Mom
    1. Stop trying to fix the broken plumbing with duct tape.

    2. Listen to CL’s and the Chump Nation’s advice. Get your plan together.

    3. Get some counseling.

    Hugs to you both.

    • Truly awesome advice!

      I also have this advice for Jess’s mom–The journey of a 1000 miles begins with one step. Talking to your STBX about how you’re going to leave him is wasted effort and only gives him kibbles, since he doesn’t take you seriously. Use your energy for something positive, like talking to the family law attorneys in your area.

      Most offer reduced rates for the first consultation. You can discover the divorce process in your state, how much you can expect in child support, whether the courts will allow temporary spousal support and if so under what circumstances, what factors influence custody (and the documentation you need to support anything other than 50/50), etc. Knowledge is power, and talking to a lawyer not only gives you the knowledge, but the power to make an intelligent plan. Once you have the plan, stick with it.

      So, see the lawyer now. That is the first step in “forgiving” yourself for being chumped. As others have said, if a smart person wants to deceive you, they will. If someone you love and trust wants to deceive you, they will. Their deceit is NOT on you! What IS on you is what you DO (i.e. actions) once you know. Talking to the lawyer is the first ACTION in taking back your life.

    • Moving On–I agree with all your advice except for Jess having to play Switzerland. People with strong moral compasses, like Jess, deserve to live according to their moral principles. If she thinks her mother is right, and her father wrong, she should be able to make a decision about how she wants to navigate that. My oldest daughter recognizes what her father is (she was the first to label him a sociopath) but still maintains contact, the youngest daughter has refused contact because she thinks her father is not a good person. I support both of them in their decisions.

      A great moral and ethical wrong has been perpetrated against Jess’s family; Switzerland is not a country for everyone.

      • My oldest son also was the first to tell me his father was a sociopath. And he told me that during the first phone call I made post D-Day to him, to tell him that his father was cheating on me and we were divorcing. Smart kids.

    • Not every chump kid is Switzerland – I sure as hell wasn’t!
      The moment I saw my mother in tears on the phone and hearing part of the conversation that my bastard cheater father was berating down the phone line knew that I would NEVER be Switzerland and that I wanted nothing to do with that shithead again.
      In fact, if anyone had even suggested I need to keep in contact with him ‘because he’s your dad’ I would have responded with “So? He sure as fuck didn’t think of that when he was bonking the whore!”

      • Right there with you Lania, I grew up seeing my mom being treated like shit by the sperm donor I had to call Dad. I treated him with respect when I saw him, but it was pretty much NC with him as soon as I was old enough.

        I am doing everything I can to put my kid in a position so that when time comes for her to get who her dad really is, she can feel strong enough saying “So? He sure as fuck didn’t think of that when he was bonking the whore!” if she wants to.


        • Thank you. ((Chumptitude))
          Its partly the reason why I think that cheater parents should not be in the lives of their children – they just damage what is supposed to be an example to their kids – its better off that they aren’t around to fuck things up or to confuse their kids.
          A child should be fully informed of what is happening – in age-appropriate terms, and THEN make a decision based off that. To do anything less is just gaslighting. Kids aren’t stupid.
          If they decide to still want to speak to their cheater, despite knowing they are a deceitful piece of shit – then thats their business. Either the kid has picked up cheater-traits or will eventually realise that their cheater parent is a terrible excuse of a human being. Forcing them to do so, is a blatant disrespect to the kid.

  • Jess, I would echo the comments here. I have two daughters who have been wonderful to me throughout this hell. With the divorce finalized, I still have the mother concerns: how are my choices continuing to impact my daughters. How will they approach and interact with current and possibly future significant others? I have encouraged them to use a counselor to ensure that this cycle ends. They are not willing to do counseling at this time. Again, it comes back to the only choices we can control are our own. I believe my daughters view counseling as an option only for those whose immediate lives are screwed up, not as a possible preventative measure. In Iowa, divorcing parents are required to attend “Children in the Middle” class so parents are aware of the harm that a divorce can have on their children. Honestly, I think each child coming out of a divorced home should be provided counseling, an “immunization” to attempt to address potential future issues before they surface.

    Jess, at least touch base with a school counselor if available. You and your sisters are worth it. Your mother is so fortunate to have you in her life.


    • I have three kids two boys one girl. One is my natural son other two step children since they were five and eleven months. Raised both as my own very close to both of them dad not close and always emotionally closed to everyone. Since he walked out on me two and a half years ago he has pretty much ignored bothhis kids and his older sister. Now that the whore kicked him to the curb and his new ffamily is lost to him so suddenly he wants to renew with them. He became very close with other whores family, father figure to her two girls, grandpa figure to her grandbabies she and them cut him off at the knees. Wtf! His own kids need him he ignores them, the kids mine both lost their children and can’t see them due to their own youthful bad decisions and it tears at their hearts everyday they have to live with this the rest of their lives. Their father, my ex asswipe resents them and is angry at them for denying him all the teenage stuff that normally would happen and is furious at them for not living up to his expectations and doing what he wanted them to do. Asswipe is a control freak and tells them you do what I say cause I’m your father and what I say goes. Asswipe didn’t do that with his own father. Doesn’t matter what they want or how old they are. Since all of their lives he was emotional my absent and they couldn’t talk to him he listens to no drivel and he ignored them after our breakup they are pretty much ignoring him. He took pictures of himself and our daughter two fucking years ago and only posted recently she’s not buying the bullshit. He is too busy to try and get to see the grand babies no one can see cause they were adopted away that he misses so fucking much he’s trying to bully me into the service of getting control of the grandbabies so he can see them. He misses them all so much but can’t be bothered trying? Over Two years basically ignoring his own kids because the whores family who opened their heart and home to him but not his kids? How fucked up is that? Both my kids stated to me they were not feeling being welcomed by her and her family nor did dad do anything to bring them into the fold except ignore them. They are both extremely upset with their dad and won’t breathe a word to him about what happened cause you can’t talk to him. They love their father and pretend and make the best of it to spend time with their dad. Neither of my boys hold the ability for much comfort but my daughter has been a god send. She helped get my through the early part and now we just talk of everyday stuff and nothing about her long as I’m OK my daughter is good. Bless their hearts!

  • One theory is that there is some comfort or safety or self-righteousness in being a victim. After way too many self-analytical sessions (along with actual therapy), I eventually realized that I was guilty of this. I’m not proud of it, and it takes tremendous courage to accept responsibility for one’s life and to take drastic, on-going action to build a new life where one is no longer a victim. Resolve. The fear can be overwhelming, paralyzing, but you either remain a victim or find the courage to forge a new path. And while being honest with one’s circumstances is part of the equation, honesty can also be used to distract, to numb, to procrastinate and to avoid. It doesn’t matter how honest, analytical, self-aware one is if they don’t take action. So that is where the meat is: take action.

    Whether or not you Mom takes action is well beyond your control, but you can learn from this, and resolve to always choose the path of courage, of action, so that if you recognize a toxic, unhealthy environment in your life, you can with great resolve, take action and remedy such ills.

    • Good point Buddy! All that introspection is meaningless if you don’t take action to improve yourself and your life. It takes A LOT of courage to make a change.

      Jess, you’re a great daughter! Be strong & independent so you’re Mom can concentrate on getting out. Hopefully your Mom will read all the comments and take the advice posted. (((Hugs)))

  • My condolences for having an asshole for a father. I can relate. My mother stayed with my abusive father for 21 years before she finally had enough.

    My mother spend YEARS frozen. When we were little she was afraid to make a move, afraid to be a single mom in 1972. She had two nervous breakdowns, one I can remember when I was about 5. (She told me later that dad patted her on the head, told her they would “get her help” and never spoke of it again.) I know he had at least one affair that she told me about, but my mother never fixated on the details, at least not with us kids.

    Finally, once my dad’s abusiveness started to transfer on to us, now young teens, my mom was motivated to make a change. But she had to plan for this. Dad was the breadwinner then, so she put herself through college while working full-time and taking care of us kids. My father’s contribution to this was degrading her, calling her stupid, a bad mother, fat, and occasionally getting physical. She didn’t tell him she was leaving. I don’t know what he would have done to her if she had.

    But finally it happened. We were out of the house and moved in with my grandmother and honestly, that was the happiest I ever was in my young life. It sucks that we had to go through that, but had my mother not really put a plan into action, who knows what would have happened. My mother had a very happy life after that, and my father is still a miserable prick who I haven’t spoken to in 17 years. (I just couldn’t deal with him anymore, never mind that he’s my dad. Just wasn’t worth it.)

    Keep sticking by mom. My mother really needed us kids rally around her. She loved us and we loved her and that’s how we made it through. Later, she didn’t feel guilty about anything, she almost pitied that bastard.

  • My mom was married to an abusive alcoholic. When I was 6 he tied her to a chair and beat her bloody and she left him and divorced him and never looked back. I’m not going to say it hasn’t hard working at Winn Dixie and living with my grandparents but she was mighty and took night classes and weekend classes and got her AA degree and then went onto pharmacy school and graduated. She was a chump. Here recently and I’m 40 I got contacted by an other woman who said she bore my father’s illegitimate child while my mom was pregnant with my twin sisters. My father died in a car accident when I was 12 and I don’t mourn him because he’s character was deplorable. I can say though that i am a chump and I inherited my mom’s same trusting chumpy nature but she overcame and left a cheater and walked a hard road but found success and your mom can too but step 1 is divorcing him!

    • Oh my, NoWire, what a horrible tale. You and your mother are mighty for putting your chump pasts behind you.

    • Seriously? Why on earth did the whore contact you – so fucking what if you have a half sibling to some skank? Sure as hell wouldn’t have a moral compass like you do.

      • I was 30 when I learned of a half-sister born of infidelity. And she’s actually a great person, and we have a lot in common, and a lot not in common, but it has been very interesting sharing notes over the years as I have gotten to know her.

        She ended up being one of the few people who know my whole situation – others really don’t yet. But I trust her because she unfortunately understands abuse and its consequences…

        Don’t be too quick to judge a person by their birth parents.

    • Your story is heart-wrenching. I’m so sorry you and your mom had to go through that. Kudos to you for maintaining such a kind heart through it all.

  • Wow, what an awesome daughter.

    My two kids were pretty awesome when I did exactly what your Mom is doing to herself. But its relatively simple. She was the one who believed her promises and vows and your dad didn’t. Just like my ex.

    I had a analytical career and I was good at. I kicked myself for being so stewpid. But as a good male friend of mine pointed out ‘you are supposed to be able to trust your spouse, that they are telling you the truth’. He was right. I did nothing wrong by trusting. I wasn’t stewpid by trusting. He was abusive by lying. So put the blame squarely where it belongs – on the cheater.

    So all the lying, gaslighting etc, says alot about your dad, all negative, and nothing negative about your Mom. She did the right things. Unfortunately, the consequences of being with such a douche are hitting hard.

    Continue to help her see this, so she stops beating herself up. Help her get good legal advice and help block your father from harassing her. Best thing she can do is ignore him. Help her protect her finances now. In CA a separation stops the cheater from dumping debts on your mom. You don’t want him burying her with more debt, so if she needs to file a legal separation, help her. Even though physically, you might be in the home with the cheater.

    I had to share the house for 5 months with my lying ex while it sold. It was hell, but I just finally ignored him. He would say things and I would just stare at him. Drove him nuts. No kibble for him.

    Best of luck to you and your mom.

  • What a beautiful reply, and I agree 100%.

    My first thought about mom working 50 hours a week is that she’s rowing a boat with a giant leak in it. And the cheater keeps poking holes in it. Time to put him overboard (he’ll be just fine), patch up those holes, and enjoy the results of her own labor.

    She’s a great mom to have raised such a great kid.

  • I will say one thing, and I’ve seen this a lot. Just because you have never seen your dad “raise a hand” to your mom doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. Black belt or not. These people are experts at covert physical abuse. They know how to hurt you without leaving any visible marks. Just my thoughts. Probably irrelevant, but you never know.

  • I recall at least 40 years ago, my brother and I (as teenagers) imploring my Mom to leave my narcissist father. He had always been violent, but then we witnessed him push her down a long set of stairs, and she broke her leg. He was a doctor and he didn’t even stick around for the ambulance to come. We handled that, and he pretended to have been ‘out’ when the ‘accident’ happened.

    We chose not to confront him, but rather to set up a safe haven for Mom. She was welcomed in my apartment, since I’d left for university already and had a space for her. However, although she left temporarily, he begged her to come back, which she did. They lived ‘daggers drawn’ for another 12 years, when she died of cancer. He had an affair while she was dying and did not try to hide it. They were not on speaking terms when she died, heartbroken in 1988.

    I have missed her every day since then. Him, meh, I just watched him sail through another marriage, to a golddigger who thankfully predeceased him. Now, they are all gone, the narc included, and I am left feeling stunned at the drama of those years. My father was so professionally accomplished; he could have been a model father if he just hadn’t had that personality. I’d love to know who or what made him that way.

    The price my mother paid to keep the family together ‘for the kids’ only served to provide an example of a bad marriage for us. My sister and I both chose narcissists and ended up divorced, and my brother married a huge narcissist who continues to torture him.

    Any woman who can muster the courage to walk out and start again has my utmost respect. But at least that woman and her children will be able to have some happy times free of the narc before it all ends.

    Tracy is right….you as daughter can only do so much, and your emotional support of your Mom is so valuable to her. I know I appreciate my sons’ support more than they know, although I never seem to get enough real chances to tell them that.

    • Marci: I can relate so well to your story. My mother never left my narcissistic, porn-addicted, and cheating father. She died prematurely (at 64), and I have to wonder how many of her health problems were due to the stress of living with a monster. Jump ahead–my sister and I both ended up in marriages to narcissists and/or bullies; the other sister is unmarried and has serious trust & relationship issues. I do wonder if we’d all have taken the marital paths we did if my mother had modeled leaving the abuse.

      • Tempest,
        My Mom would be 95 this week if she had survived (she died at 67). Each day I think of her and imagine how thrilled she would be at all the wonderful experiences I have had since dumping my narc. At least her suffering served to make me learn to have standards, to not “take it” from an sob. I think when one has a narc for a parent, it is so hard to imagine any other behaviour model, since a narc is often sparkly and outwardly successful.

  • Jess, you are a young woman of tremendous courage, compassion and insight. When I, a major-league chump, was cheated on sequentially, I felt so stupid for not seeing it coming, for “having my blinders on”. But, as Tempest and Nomar has stated on this post, “If a smart person wants to deceive you, of course they will succeed.” Nomar even elaborated that the person doesn’t even have to be that smart if we love them and are acting according to how healthy people act when they are in love with someone.

    As with some others from Chump Nation, I have benefitted greatly from the writings of well-respected clinicians who study people like your father. Sandra Brown wrote one of my favorite books on this called Women Who Love Psychopaths. She has a website called Saferelationshipsmagazine. Sandra’s father was killed by a Psychopath, and she has dedicated her life to pathology education awareness for everyone. Robert Hare is another one who is a pioneer in this field. Anything he has written is worth taking a look at. Donna Anderson was duped by a Sociopathic husband, and is now educating people on this topic – you can find her videos on youtube. I first saw her on an episode of “Who the (bleep) Did I Marry?”. (I agree with CL, it doesn’t matter what flavor of messed up your father is, the destructive end result is the same.) There are several excellent authors writing books on this subject, I just mentioned a few. Knowledge really is power. The more I understood who I was dealing with, the more comforted I was that I wasn’t dumb, I was just a loving, faithful wife who was fooled by her husband’s duality. Brown’s motto is a staple for me: “They are sicker than we are smart.” I gave up a huge home in the beautiful, forested country, vacations to sunny destinations, and more to get rid of my ex. I have a modest lifestyle now, but I no longer sleep with one eye open to see if/when he is emailing/sexting/trolling hook-up sites in the middle of the night. I would rather live with less, than live with him. Hugs to you and your Mom.

    • Boudica,

      Like you, I have given up so many comforts, a lifestyle my X was sure I would never leave. I’m glad you are doing well and enjoy your writing and insights. I had a crap day, perhaps week. The old Narc is up to the same tricks and I have cried buckets of tears. I’m given hope by the peace in your words. Thnx. OutWest

  • Jess, my kids had after school activities and still worked and kept up their grades. Find something you can do. Babysit, sweep floors, do anything. Get your own savings account so your father cannot access it. At home wash dishes, plan and make meals, change the beds, do laundry, vacuum, dust, clean bathrooms and hug your mom. In fact hug her several times a day. She is mighty to have had a kid like you.

  • Any Mom would be proud to have you as a daughter!

    If your Mom can stash away even a small amount of money into an account in her name, that will help her build a cushion for herself. It’s still marital property but if your Dad doesn’t know about it, she can spend it on attorney fees or any other costs that will help her lay the groundwork to leave. One suggestion that helped me was to pay for groceries with a debit card and take out whatever amount of cash wouldn’t be noticeable, deposit it in my account, and then throw away the receipt so STBX wouldn’t see it.

    Of course all of the standard advice about getting copies of all accounts, tax returns, and any other financial paperwork applies, which isn’t always easy depending on how controlling and suspicious your Dad might be. When STBX noticed me looking into financial records, I claimed to be applying for a small loan for a building project he always wanted to do with our son. When he noticed that I was also taking out cash from our joint account, I told him that I was working on reducing our credit card debt and trying to use cash for things like our children’s clothes or school supplies. He was eager to buy these excuses because he didn’t want me to leave and liked hearing that I was doing things in support of the family, so he didn’t question me.

    Every situation is different and these would be risky strategies with someone who is likely to get physically violent–in my case, though, STBX was so disordered with money and eager for kibbles that he didn’t investigate any further. These were just a couple of small tips that helped me save enough money to pay for my attorney’s retainer fee and start working on a plan without STBX knowing about it, which allowed me to spend the next six months getting all of my ducks in a row before I filed.

    First, though, I took advantage of the fact that most divorce attorneys in my area don’t charge for a consultation and I interviewed the three top ones so that STBX couldn’t hire any of them after I served him with the paperwork. They all gave me useful advice and helped me feel mighty in moving forward–I may have let him treat me like a doormat in the past but it strengthened my resolve knowing that I would have the upper hand in the future.

    • “Of course all of the standard advice about getting copies of all accounts, tax returns, and any other financial paperwork applies, which isn’t always easy depending on how controlling and suspicious your Dad might be.” As narc realizes I am going to leave, his suspicion is on red alert. Typically during a business trip, I check his desk to take inventory of the cash that is stored in it. I know for a fact he spends some of it on his ho-worker who lives on the other side of the world. Narc is gone again, but this time he left a “love note” in his fun-fund drawer: “Fuck Off!” Hmm, this made me wonder if he left me other tender notes…. yup, he did! “Don’t snoop, Walkingthruhell” in 2 filing cabinets! I really hope my teenage daughter doesn’t need something from his desk and comes across them.

  • To Jess’s Mom: Starbucks Gal and Other Kat have given you some great concrete advice, please take it! You’ve got to get your husband out or you and the kids out — start the separation process. In my individual case, in CA, we didn’t have a legal separation agreement, but my husband moved out on 3/29/12 and we made that our date of separation when we started divorce proceedings 18 months later. That date matters a lot. Debt accumulated after that date can be apportioned completely to the party who used the credit card or signed the loan after separation. Further, all the debt before that date is joint and therefore split between the parties.

    So all that marital debt is NOT yours to pay off on your own. He’s got financial skin in the game, too.

    Get your own checking account which he (ideally) doesn’t know about and has no access to.

    See a divorce lawyer or 10. Utilize the free or low-cost initial consultations to get your questions answered and fears allayed. You’re not the first person to show up in their office in this pickle. Really.

    Make a plan of action, Jess’s mom. Come over to the forums and CN will talk you through specific strategies. You raised a mighty kid and that comes from being a mighty woman. You’re going to be fine.

  • What for me may be the worst part of this whole tangled fn mess!!! I hate on myself for knowing but denying and acting like a pathetic fool!!!!

  • Jess, you are a young woman of fine character and old soul wisdom. I’m sure that your mom will read this seeing as she follows CL, and her heart will beam with pride. I agree with everyone else Mom, if your reading this – get out of the situation fast. Don’t worry about the finances. When my ex took off he left me and my two girls. I had to file bankruptcy in order to keep a roof over our heads, but it gets better quicker than you think. I just recently got a mortgage – 3 years post bankruptcy. You will recover – there is light at the end of the tunnel. I hope you take CLs and Jess’ advice. You are strong, you are mighty and you can do this!

    Sending loving support.

  • I stayed in a similar situation for even longer.

    As others have noted, if you don’t think like a narc cheater, it’s easy to be fooled.

    One thing that makes me feel a little better about having stayed in it so long is understanding the narc cycle of idealization, devaluing and discarding. It makes me feel stronger to realize that he never made it to the discard stage after all those years. I was a challenge. I was hard to break down completely – I came close more than once – but despite the emotional abuse and isolation, I kept clawing my way back. I may have walked on eggshells a lot, but sometimes if I was really hungry, I stomped those mothers and made myself an omelette. Right up to the very end, I would not be completely dominated into ignoring all of my own self-interests.

    Maybe mom can find some solace that she is tough enough not to have been completely broken despite the years of abuse.

    I finally had enough and left. I need to wait a few weeks to file for divorce, but I am finally claiming my life back. And feeling stronger every day because I left.

  • Jess, your mom needs to be kind to herself. Please ask her to treat herself exactly the way she treats all of you girls. Ask her how she would treat you or your sisters if the exact same thing happened to you. Please ask her to explore the works of Chris Germer and Kristin Neff on self-compassion. Their websites are very helpful.

    Your mom needs to get your dad out of her life. That is the ONLY way to start the healing process. While your dad is around your mom, she will not be able to heal because the environment remains toxic. If you have an infected wound on your hand, you can’t just put a band aid and hope it will go away. The infection has to be dealt with. Your dad is the infection – his behavior will only worsen with time, not improve.

    You’re a great daughter, Jess.

  • I don’t have much to add, only your Mom can reach her own forgiveness, I don’t think she’ll be able to get there until she has you all safely away. This is part of how show will make that happen, the anger, not only at your father but at herself. The need to make things right. Sounds to me like you and your Mom are survivors, she may be bent but she is unbroken and unbowed. I listen to this poem sometimes when I need it, Invictus:

    Jedi hugs to you and your family.

    • Thank you for this. That was one of my favorite poems when I was younger, but had forgotten about it over the years. I will print it and keep it nearby.

  • i remember what my then 23 year old daughter said, 6 months after DDay, when i lamented that i had wanted to pass on a legacy of a 50 year marriage to her, like my parents did to me. her response was: you’re a legacy, mom.

    those words buoyed me then. they warm me now.

    Jess, tell your mom you love her. tell her she is awesome. that’s all a good daughter needs to do in any situation. it means more than you could ever know! and like CL says, focus on you and your life – and do that well. your mom will find her way. that’s her job.

    ((mighty hugs to you and your family))

  • Jess,
    First, you are AWESOME! Second, I’m in limbo right now, sort of like your mother. I was married 23 years. My husband was not a serial cheater, so I REALLY blame myself for not working harder to make sure he and I stay connected. I never doubted our commitment. I was a fool. I feel extreme heartache for my children (19 and 21) and feel guilt for my own failings in the marriage. It really did matter to me. Our family meant the world to me. Had I known (and it’s his fault I didn’t) that he was unhappy, I would’ve put heart and soul into working on it, to make things better. He and I, we both let our children down. None of our lives will ever be in the same. But he didn’t communicate. I trusted. He allowed himself to fall in love with someone else. He deceived us all. And our family imploded. He has been gone almost a year, but all his stuff is still here. I am in the midst of divorce proceedings that are very painful. My vision is that once it’s finalized, I’ll have some moments of deep, deep sadness at the true end of it all. But I also envision a steady improvement in our lives once that happens. For now, I do things for myself that I would not do if he was still here. I have a two-car garage. I brought our ping pong table up from the basement and put it on his side of the garage. We played ping pong this summer. I re-arranged the furniture in our bedroom and hung some curtains. It is now “my” bedroom. Little by little, I am putting away the “things” around the house that mattered to him and replacing them with things that matter to me. I fold laundry at night in my bedroom, because I never did that when he was there. He went to sleep too early and I couldn’t disturb him. I have not watched even one freakin’ minute of fox news. I am getting a new job. I support my children every day, in ways he could never do. I will have to sell this house, which we built and where we raised our children, and I already have a lot less money than I did before, but I am fighting with all my might to make sure I’m stable in the future. Are there days I succumb to the pain? Yes. Days I just want to lay around and do nothing? Yeppers. And you know what? I do it. I would’ve felt guilty with him here taking a day to lay in bed, read, piddle around in sweats and get NOTHING accomplished. Once your parents separate, your mom can start doing little things for herself. She WILL feel better on her own. That’s her first step. From there, the steps will keep coming.

    • 2kids,
      We all feel regret at the what-if’s, but please don’t let the guilt overwhelm you. I know it seems like sadness and nostalgia, which it is, but it’s the guilt that makes it painful. It takes two to make a marriage fail, but it only takes one to cheat. You did not cheat. Those kids will be fine, just keep the communication with them open. My divorce happened when mine werr 20 and 22. Six years on, they say that the loss of the family home was a sad event, but that it taught them to find a happy base elsewhere, and that reliance on sentimental things is risky.

      The sooner you are out of that house, the faster you will heal.

      Establish some new traditions with the kids, free of restrictions that Ex might have imposed.

      You must retain the practical, common sense approach for now, and you are right that some phases of sadness will hit. Do not make a huge fuss of getting the divorce papers in the mail. When I got mine, I marched straight to the filing cabinet and filed them. No celebration, just another normal day. Just get busy with some new tasks…a job, a new place to live, new activities. Most important, love and pamper yourself, get some exercise and retain your self discipline. There is a whole new life ahead of you and it might surprise you the good things that are possible.

      • Thanks Marci. You know what really struck me about what you said: reliance on sentimental things is risky. So true. I never, ever thought about it that way. I’m sentimental about EVERYTHING. In fact, that is one of the things he should’ve loved about me. I paid attention to the course of our lives, and I cared. Anyway, you’re right. We need not rely on that. Now you have me thinking what kind of amazing new thing the kids and I can do at the holidays! Hugs!!!

  • Jess, you sound like a very strong – teenager? -Late teens? Oh, hang in there.

    When I was 16 going on 17 my father divorced my mother for another woman (back in the 70’s). It was a mess and so was their marriage for a long time. Divorce was a big Scarlett D back then. –It was all devastating. My mom lost 25 lbs in 3 months, took her a year to get her equilibrium back. One of the best things she did was sought out counseling and even joined a woman’s group. She did not remarry and became an independent woman.

    The gift of my life course is the depth of my relationship with my mother. She taught me so much and never judged me. It’s different with my father because I had to (way later) express how angry I was at feeling so abandoned by him, but I love him, too. I know both my parents have deep regrets. Kids have to chart their own emotional path and I won’t sugar coat it, it was a roller coaster ride from hell, some years better than others, we grew up, we f***ed up, we found success & love & loss, & love again, great friends, and many challenges, and triumphs.

    I believe forgiveness is a verb, something that is practiced, small steps, and a piece of the pie at a time, and you don’t know you are there yet until one day you just know you are there. Like a tuning fork, it is something that is known and felt, body and soul. Study the history and living masters of forgiveness, Dalai Lama and Pope Francis. To love is forgiveness. Self-love is forgiveness. Compassion is forgiveness.

    For you, with your life ahead of you, I am sure it will help your Mom forgive herself if she knows you are going to be ok – it was sure important to my Mom. We lived on a shoestring for a long time, and as I write this I laugh as I remember us women, mom and three girls, doing house repairs MacGyver style! We carved out a brave new life and as difficult as it was there are so many happy memories…

    One thing that helped me a lot was I had a great job three days a week after school in high school. I worked with the tech crew for a theater, building & painting things, learning about lighting. As I look back it was my sanctuary, a place to just be myself, get away from the turmoil for a while, and feel independent. It made me stronger for the road ahead and gave me perspective.

    Your parents have to work this out for themselves. If you are unsure what to do I would seek counseling. –Try to trust and visualize that you and your mom and sibs are going to be ok.

    -Huge kudos to you Jess for a beautifully written letter to Chump Lady –her response bears great wisdom. –And, so many amazing responses from this group that is called Chump Nation! You and your mom sound very special and I know she’s very proud of you.

    Major Hugs to you, lovely child!

  • Your mom sounds like a generous, dedicated, kind, hardworking and giving person, who believes the best of everybody. The very qualities that made her an excellent chump also make her a wonderful human being. She does not need to forgive herself for anything; she needs to take pride in herself. The problem is not that SHE did anything wrong. Her husband did.

  • I was left by my NPD ex after he told me he was having an affair and laughed in my face. I was married for 10 yrs, had no college education, and I hadn’t worked in 10 years. We have 3 kids under 10, and I homeschool them. We also had one car at the time, which he took when I kicked his ass out the night of discovery. Here is the advice I would give your mom:

    1. Leave his cheating ass now!!! She has guilt because she has allowed him to rob her of all those years and she let him!!! He knows this and that is why he is still around, he is sucking her dry and she lets him. She will never be financially free enough to leave him UNTIL she leaves him!!

    2. You will find a way to make it!!! I found this out in my situation. I had 300$ to my name and we were 2 months behind in bills. I got a job working for a friend of mine who owns a cleaning franchise and she pays me well. There may be opportunities like this in your mom’s area, cleaning jobs are flexible and they pay well with little to no training or education. I was able to borrow my dads car for 2 months until I got the car back when douchecanoe dropped it off finally to drive his ho’s extra car. I got my phone on the lowest possible plan, I didn’t buy anything I didn’t need and I was still able to homeschool my kids and work nights and weekends with my parents watching the kids. I ended up buying my first car less than 6 months after I kicked him out. My mom helped co-sign a loan for me. I went back to school and got school loans to help pay for my car payment ( I know this is frowned upon, but I can make a 50$ school loan payment when I’m out of school than 300$ for a car payment now) And you know what I discovered??? I am more financially stable than I ever was in 10 years of marriage. I tapped into programs that are designed to help people get on their feet, I qualified for energy assistance with the electric company for the winter, I put my kids on medicaid to help with co-pays/ emergencies. There are programs to help pay for childcare costs if you qualify as well. I don’t like having to be on these programs, but that is why they are there, to help people in situations that cause financial hardships.

    3. Talk with a lawyer!!! Look for legal assiatance in your area and tap into them if they are available.

    4. Rally some support through friends and family. My parents have been a huge support for me. You do have support in places you never thought you would. My neighbors know what my ex did and how he walked out on us, and they have helped us in so many ways. My friends have also helped.

    5. Take CL’s advice!!! Like she said with that quote by Fredrick Douglas, you have to ACT to get out of this cycle of abuse and being cheated on and used. YOU CAN DO THIS!!! I know you can!! If I can do it starting with nothing, you can do it too!!

    • I will add that this has not been easy. I wasn’t given the chance to prepare or to plan my way out, it just happened. I mourn the loss of what I wanted from my marriage and from my husband that never came to fruition. My heart will always have the scar from the bullet wound he left. Last week was hard, this week is a little better.. I think the best thing that has made me realized I am strong and I can get through this with my head held high was going total no contact with ex. Within a month of kicking him out, he brought his AP to my house to pick up my kids! If that isn’t the mother of shit sandwiches, I don’t know what is. But I ate it and I got through it. I am stable and I have my dignity and my character is in tact, Jess’s mom, your daughter is an amazing young woman and she sees the strength in you that maybe you don’t see. Be that example for her, that is the best thing you can do for her and for yourself to work on forgiving yourself. That strength will bring about a sort of redemption, but only you can choose that for yourself.

      • Taking action requires strength. I’m not sure if your moms situation regarding finances. I am hoping she is collecting all financial documentation and saving her money as an escape plan. Every day with a narcissist is soul sucking. She should be involved with a lawyer and her own therapist. It’s tempting for a child to protect their mother who us a victim of abuse. Live your life Jess. Be supportive but not a caretaker. It’s not your responsibility to take care of a parent. You mom is a hard worker and Independent. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine making it after narcissistic trauma. It’s a struggle but well worth gaining a life. Praying with your feet is freeing.

  • Jess, just want to tell you that you are such an awesome daughter! Your letter is a reminder to us Chumps still in limbo that we need to take action. Some act quickly, some take longer. I’m one year post DDay and am slowly getting closer to the “other side”. Your mom may have her own time frame for her own reasons. Everyone here has given you great advice! I will reiterate what CL told you, “Don’t grow up to be a chump!” Hopefully the cycle will be broken for you. This is my worst fear for my children.

  • Jess, your letter brought tears to my eyes just reading it. What an awesome mother you have and what an incredible daughter you are! My oldest son told me this after D-Day and it is so very true now: “we’re still a family, he’s just not in it anymore.” Whatever role your father ends up playing with you and your sisters is his decision and his problem. Right now your mother needs to continue her mightiness and keep going forward…..and that means getting the person out of the house who is bringing it down, so to speak, your father. That’s a tough job and it sounds like she is extremely strong.

    Chump Nation is made up of very strong people, we trusted our spouses, many of them stone cold liars and manipulators. I have learned to forgive myself for trusting and wanting to trust my ex, that is what a marriage is, but it just does not work with people who are intent on fooling and conning us. The lesson I have learned is that there are people out there like that, and good people like your mom will be fooled. It would be nice to believe we could all be smart enough to realize the con and stop it early, but that would require a different mindset that many of us were not capable of until we went through this process. It’s sort of like “we couldn’t know what we didn’t know before we knew it” kind of thing.

    Keep on loving and supporting each other and you will all be fine…listen to Chump Lady’s advice (and the great advice above!). Self-forgiveness may come in time for your mom when she knows that you and your siblings are protected and taken care of! But to have the strength to single-handedly get her children and herself throught this, your mom needs to love, take care of and protect herself too! (((Big hugs)))

  • The wonderfully compassionate, insightful, and intelligent young woman who wrote the letter is my middle daughter. Thank you all for your kindness and honesty with her (and me). She is such a phenomenal human … the kind I would hang around even if she weren’t my daughter.

    Like many of you, my father was a serial cheater. Between both of my parents, I have had four step-parents (two of whom were abusive). I internalized just about everything that resulted from that toxic mess. Even prior to my marriage, I had decided that when I had kids, I would do it differently–my kids would absolutely know that they were loved. And from the moment I knew I was pregnant with each of them, I really did love them.

    So, I managed to rid my life of the non-loving, selfish parenting example my parents gave to me. But, regretfully, I was never able to figure out how to flip around the bad relationship example. I was naive. I really thought that if you give your all; if you love honestly; if you don’t leave a stone unturned when problems arise … then love would inevitably win the day. And because I fell lockstep into my parents’ cycle of bad relationships, I’ve effectively given my daughters a bad example and allowed the toxicity into their lives. This is unacceptable beyond words. It’s not about guilt, not really. Rather, this is reality and I hold myself accountable to it.

    Since my epiphany (I don’t have all of the information about what my husband’s done–and I don’t care to at this point … the most important thing is that I finally see him for the person he really is–that’s the epiphany) … I have had a lot to think through. Without hesitation, my primary concern is my children. There are other factors at play, though, and I’m doing everything I can to do things right for them and for me. I have a plan and it is in action.

    I genuinely hear and appreciate that getting out sooner rather than later is recommended. However, our financial situation is more complicated than even my daughters know–and I really don’t have a choice but to stay a bit longer. This is the reason for the heavy workload, though. And, as I’ve seen suggested on CL’s site so many times, I am building financial protection for myself and my girls–under the radar.

    In the meantime, I have purposefully put all of my emotions towards my husband in a box and buried it. I think this is what worries my girls–that I’m not dealing with my “emotional stuff” right now. But honestly, I can’t. I have to stay focused on the plan. Partially this is for my emotional survival since I’m still with my husband, but mostly it is because I have to make sure my girls are okay. They need to know (crappy, selfish father aside) that they are loved … that they have enormous value in this world. Thus, now more than ever, I think it is important for my girls that I exhibit strength rather than emotional distress; stability rather than emotional chaos. One foot in front of the other. One catastrophe at a time.

    And, Jess, my sweetheart, thank you. The love I have from you and your sisters gives me more strength than you will ever realize. But, please, try not to worry so much about me. I WILL be okay. I promise. I hope that my words here help to reassure you of that. And as so many people suggested here, it is important that you try to focus on you–find your happiness. Such a kind, compassionate, and wise soul deserves no less.

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