Stay in Touch

Check out CL's Book

Dear Chump Lady, My mom is a serial cheater

badmomDear Chump Lady,

My mother is a serial cheater. Being the oldest, I had to watch her bring strange men home, hear her have sex with them and stand as a mediator between her and my dad. Mine could have been the trusted parent, but in his rampage of revenge on my mother for having hurt him so badly, he took us down with her. He kept our things from us and would do anything to hurt her back, even if it meant using my two siblings and I to do it.

Fast forward about six or seven years to the present. She had two more kids with a new man, who is a pretty great guy. She is now doing the same thing to him. History is repeating and I just don’t know how to deal with it.

I’m still living at home even though I’m 20 and, being a full-time student, it’s making it impossible to leave right now. I’ve been watching her and calling her out to my step-dad regarding her infidelity, but it is tiring and doing so much damage in my own relationship. I don’t know how to cope and I really do worry about my siblings’ well-being.

Do you have any advice at all? Or even any happy stories of how others triumphed over the emotional trauma that comes with a cheating parent?

Thank you!



Dear C.C.

You’re not alone on this cheating parent dilemma. Just last week I got a letter from a chump who discovered that her husband asked her teenage daughter to shave his back for him — so he could go out on a date with his mistress. It was disgusting enough to be privy to her father’s back hair regimen (I can’t even…), but when she figured out that she’d been used, she was furious. And so was her mother.

All to say, infidelity isn’t a victimless crime. Nor is it a “private matter” between the cheater and the affair partner. Cheater freaks collude with those nearest and dearest in their chump conspiracies. I don’t know why. I guess batter-ramming other people’s personal boundaries gives cheaters a warm fuzzy glow or something. It’s extra kibbles.

I’m really sorry you’ve been put in this position of knowing your step-dad is being cheated on by your mom. It sounds like you don’t have a single sane parent, except perhaps that chumpy step-dad. You said you’ve called your mom out to your step-dad — did he believe you? That was really brave of you, and it asserted a boundary — that you will NOT be party to her cheating. Problem is, you live there. Problem is, you’re still dependent on her. This is where we can attack your problem.

IMO, you need to get far away from this clusterfuck ASAP. Whatever you’re saving on rent is not worth the price of this drama. Save yourself. Talk to your college’s financial aid office, check Craigslist for roommates in a house share, but get the hell OUT of that house and focus on your independence. I promise, it’s much easier to study when you don’t share a wall with Mr. and Mrs. Psychodrama.

I worry that you’re doing the codependent chumpy thing of peacemaker. You played “mediator” between cheating mom and your dad. You’re caught in the middle with cheating mom and step-dad, and you worry about your younger siblings.

You’ve got a big heart, but kid, they aren’t your problem. In fact, the best thing you could do for the younger kids is model sanity to them — enforce your own boundaries, stop being enmeshed in drama, and get independent. You can be their safe haven later — but first you have to start gaining that new life, okay?

Here’s the good news, C.C. You recognize that what’s going on is wrong. You’ve got a moral compass. You’ve got empathy. Now then, take all that mightiness and invest it in yourself instead of trying to manage mom and Prevent Her From Doing Awful Things. Not your job, and not possible. We don’t control other people, just ourselves.

I’m going to open the floor up to Chump Nation. A lot of people have been in your shoes and can offer advice on how to get to the other side. Lots of mightiness here to share. Welcome!

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • I believe Chump Lady gave some good advice on this one. Your father instead of stepping it up went down the revenge path no matter what and your mom just has a problem that unfortunately spills over to you. It is obvious she does not care about how are actions effect the people around her (even her kids).

    Best thing you can do is move out, look through Craiglist or other adds. There are plenty of people who rent basements out or rooms for a fraction of the price an apartment would cost. You could even try getting a roommate. If you have kids (at 20 that is pretty young) then they must have a father. Is he paying child support? If not then you need to get that part taken care of as well so you can get the kids out of the environment you are stuck in. Your child is your #1 priority and you need to get them out of that mess!

      • Wow, ok. Well it sucks to leave the kids behind but she needs to move out. She can’t solve the problem in anyway that I can think of.

  • CL is right, you can’t save everyone, but you can save yourself. We can’t control other people and the disordered don’t typically change. I’d suggest getting yourself into some therapy, get some help navigating your way out of that shit show. You are already MIGHTY, in this case it is healthy to be selfish and do what is best for you first. Love, hope and blessings to you C.C.

    • Thank you, NCStevie. Having your support, even if I don’t know your personally, means the world to me.

      (This is C.C. by the way)

      • Stay strong, find the help that is available to you so you can heal emotionally and mentally while you are young. It will help you make better choices before you subject yourself to more unhealthy people and relationships (unlike a lot of us chumps, we learned the hard way). The disordered are poison and they inflict it on the innocent and unsuspecting.

        I am impressed with your ability to stand up and enforce boundaries and try to protect the people you love. Like I previously said….you are already MIGHTY.

        😉 xoxo

  • College is super expensive and it is imperative that you are free from distractions as you finish your degree.

    I agree that you should be able to find a room, basement, garage apartment, or studio to rent for fairly cheap, usually including some utilities.

    Make sure you have the financial resources you need and reach out for help. There are good people in various academic units who are happy to help– financial aid, advisors, academic support, and counseling.

    FYI, I divorced during my doctoral coursework. I rented a studio apartment.

    Sorry if there are any typos.

    • I would say I agree with getting counseling, that is some serious trauma and sometimes we become co dependent on people who are toxic to us. I would even argue what your mom did by exposing you to her sexual activity borders on child sex abuse. If your mom carelessly allowed her children to hear her sexually activity over and over with no concern of her daughter that is NOT okay. I’m sorry all this is happening to you but don’t allow money to stop you. I left my cheating husband and my crazy mom and moved into a mother in law unit over a garage. I’m in full time grad school, you can do it. Best of luck.

    • Dr. I Can’t Believe I’m a Chump and BrittneyK,

      You are amazing! Did/do you have young kids while in graduate (doctoral) program? I quit my doctoral program, in which I spent many years, while my marriage exploded over a year ago. Even though I am old and my children are young, I want to figure out a way to get back in and finish a doctorate. I feel as though all my dreams (and those of my children) of marriage/family, professional academic career, hobbies, health, and quality of life have died. I’d like to salvage something from the wreckage of my divorce.


      I am guessing that you have a couple more years to go to finish your bachelor’s. If you cannot move out of your mother/step-father’s home now, I recommend that you schedule ‘time-outs’ for yourself. I know some mothers who do this, not to their kids, but to themselves, consistently giving themselves short breaks from their kids. Do you have any healthy friends, relatives to occasionally stay with? Is there a hostel or economical motel you can stay at on occasion? You deserve an emotional break, and a vacation, even a short one from the stressful environment, would likely restore at least some of your well-being. I don’t know whether you meditate or use guided imagery. I recommend giving yourself short ‘breaks’ by engaging in meditation or guided imagery. You can get information on these activities on-line and probably in your college mental health center.

      Good luck!

      • Thank you. I did not have any children so it was easier for me than most. If you have a dream you should go for it, I wish you all the best!!!

      • RockStarWife – Great to see you back online!

        I finished grad school before I became a mom, but I found Madeleine Albright’s autobiography super helpful in rebuilding my life. She finished her doctorate while being a mom to twins and dealing with a serial cheater as a husband/ex.

        Happy to connect in the forums to brainstorm other ideas to finish your doctorate.

        • Madeleine Albright was my spirit animal during the divorce for the same reasons!

      • I do not have children, but frankly, sometimes the moms with young children are more efficient because a dissertation has a lot to do with time management.

        If finishing your doctorate will help you in a specific career and better financial opportunities, by all means do it. It is just, as you know, an extremely stressful process. My advice: Seek financial assistance, do not rely on student loans, develop a close relationship with key mentors, execute a strict plan for completion, and cultivate a strong network for a job/position upon graduation (to avoid having to adjunct or not find a job in your field)

        But as far as kids. . . I know several single (divorced) moms and they were some of the most distinctive graduates.

    • Thank you all so much. Ultimately that is what I really want to do. Get out of here and create a place my siblings can go where they know there won’t be an emotional abuse whatsoever – just love.

      I have a boyfriend and we have been together for little over a year, but he’s moving into his old house with his mom and is helping her pay rent. He offered the option of renting out the basement of the house with him (he even said he’d pay all the rent, which I definitely wouldn’t let him do, but it was nice of him). I just don’t know if that is a great option. What do you think?

      I really do worry that, with me gone, no one will be there to stop her from doing all the things she did with my dad. She even gets into fights (with my dad in the past and now my step-dad) which I am luckily usually there to break up. It scares me what will happen when I’m gone. I just don’t want my sister, at 14 years old, have to take my place and act as their referee and take her abuse. I also don’t want the little ones seeing/hearing anything similar to what I have.

      • I would recommend you live on your own, independent and self sufficient unto yourself before you live with a boyfriend. Even if you live with roommates you are more autonomous. I say this as someone who moved in with BF at 18 and regret doing so. You want to learn who you are, what you care about, how to just be you.

        If you are talking about physical fights then please stop stepping in and breaking those up. I think you should go to a Women’s shelter and ask about therapy too. Most have a free program. You can explore with a therapist what is going on and what to do about it since you cannot take your siblings with you. Jedi Hugs!!!!!

  • This is a tricky one because you are still dependent on her. My parents were unfaithful to each other as well and it was painful going through it. They are still married, and act like nothing happened. It’s bizarre. The point is i made the mistake involved when i was about your age and i suffered the most. My advice to myself then would be stay the hell out of it.

    Work towards independence and moving out, but make sure when renting a space it is a safe place. There is little you can do at this point without your mother turning on you. Which is what my mother did and it was not pretty. As chump lady says the good thing is you have a moral compass and that is a good start. Good luck!

  • My household was dysfunctional (not because of cheating) so I left home when I went to college at 18. You can, too.

    Did I rack up some student loan debt? Yes. But it was worth the cost of my sanity. I studied hard and did very well in college. Would have finished with a 3.8 GPA, but dealing with cheating husband my senior year drove it down to 3.5. Boohoo.

    I’m still not ashamed of my undergraduate transcript, and none of it would have been possible had I not left home. Get out ASAP.

    • The second day of my freshman year, I moved in with my aunt (closer to school; I also paid rent.) It was a stepping stone, as she is the most dysfunctional one in the family by far but I knew she’d be an ally for me for a short time, so I could get my footing and on my own, for real. Her house was near school.I just needed to get out of there before she turned on me too… and I did. Just barely.

      Just be very careful that you don’t enter a relationship to do achieve Not Living With Mom… that simply resets the clock to the start of your very own array of dysfunction. Trust me on that. It’s not worth it. Don’t trap yourself. Even when/if you do move in with someone, keep your finances separate and to the point where you don’t NEED them to contribute but REQUIRE them to contribute. Don’t lose the ability to call them on their shit because you need them to pay their half of the rent/bills.

      • This is what I was going to say. Find a friend or relative, even live like a renter in your mother’s house if you have to. But please don’t look for a boyfriend to stay with right now. And please don’t be in a hurry to gain independence through tying yourself to someone else while you’re young. It’s something to look out for when you have a selfish parent. Many of us here went straight from disfunctional families to disfunctional boyfriends and marriage. At your age, you can find yourself with someone your so convinced is different from your family, and normal and healthy, and find out years later that you weren’t seeing things quite clearly. Give yourself time to grow up and lots of therapy before getting into a serious relationship, IMHO. Good luck to you. I’m sorry that you have to deal with this.

        • Yup. Don’t “jailbreak” relationship/marriage to get away from your FOO. My parents cheated on each other and forced me to keep silent about my own sex abuse while I was dependent. I went from relationship to relationship trying to find what I didn’t get at home. Found a guy way more fucked up than I was with a mask of charm and sanity, with a narc mother who made my family look like the Cleavers. It so clear how I was set up for this. Find a therapist now who can help you figure out who you are and what you want. You’ve already been groomed for chumpdom and codependent care taking. You can’t save those sibs from mommy dearest right now and it’s not your job to, fasten your oxygen mask first and get the hell out of there v

  • I agree. Get your own (small, affordable) place, even if it’s just renting out a room. Eventually, you can invite your younger siblings over, so they have a peaceful place to hang, and to see what sanity looks like.

  • C.C.- Kudos to you for recognizing the problem. Besides Chump Nation, try to find a wise counselor or confidante who has your back and can coach you one on one on a regular basis. You are paying a higher price than you know dealing with these selfish, disordered freaks and it WILL NOT pay dividends in your future endeavors. At twenty, having been the mediator-buffer-boxing ring referee you will find you are wise beyond your years in some aspects compared to many of your peers. However being the perpetual caregiver-custodian-fixer, has skewed your understanding of reciprocity in a truly loving relationship. Protect and heal yourself and demonstrate to your siblings a saner path.

    • In terms of finding a counselor to help you through this, colleges generally provide free counseling for students, even really small ones. Take advantage of that!

  • I have nothing to add to what has already been said. I just want to tell a story, that the chump I am dating at the moment told me. A few years ago, he managed to get a rendez-vous through a singles dating site, and met a woman at her premises. She had set up a candlelight dinner in her dining room, and she told him… that her husband was on a business trip and her children were already sleeping in their rooms and there was nothing to worry about. He got upset, told her “do you realize that you are putting me at risk, and that your children may witness what is going on here ?” and promptly left the place.
    It is hard to believe that people who have it all could be willing to risk everything to spice up their lives.

  • C.C.–Sending you a big hug and acknowledging your caring heart. Went through similar stuff at 18. If you are a full-time student, you might be able to get your portion of child support from your father until you are 21. I didn’t know this, and my mother was forging my signature each month and spending my support check on clothes and other frivolous things. I was taking a full load of classes, while serving in the role of sane caregiver to younger siblings, since there was no sane parent in the home. I really could have used that money. Do connect with your school’s financial advisor, I think you will be surprised of the help that is possible. Best wishes to you. Please take care of your needs, hopes, and dreams first. Your younger siblings will be best helped if you are healthy and strong. Take it from someone who’s been there–get yourself away from your mother’s stress, drama, and toxic life choices.

    • Thank you. My dad is supposed to pay child support, but I usually never get anything until it is forcibly taken out of his tax return. Still, it is nice to have.

      I’m so glad I’m not alone in dealing with this. It seems like no one has been impacted by a parent cheating that I know. It sort of alienates you, since there isn’t a way to talk about the fights and infidelity normally.

      • Be very careful about your boyfriend….sorry to say this, he may seem the nicest guy in the world (and I really hope he is) but all of us who have experienced disfunctionality as our models of family and love, tend to pick partners who act in similar ways to what we saw at home. So, I would not live with anyone at your age, or get into a more serious relationship until I have done lots of self care work and therapy to make sure you have a good picker and are not choosing badly (unconsciously).

  • It’s a shame the father went down that path of revenge. Some people think about the big picture for their children, but many people don’t. I get that he was mad at his wife, but you still have to keep the best interests of your children in mind — even if your spouse does not.

    I’ve thought about going down that path when I’ve been angry at my wife, but my children’s faces keep popping up in my head. And frankly, the thought of going outside of my marriage to get back at her disgusts me and seems like it would add way too much stress to an already mega-stressful situation. I just don’t have the energy or desire for it.

    When I do get my energy back, I plan on using it to find a way to end my marriage and to navigate my kids through it. And even then, I can’t see myself pursuing a relationship with someone else for quite a while after all of that is taken care of. That just seems so far off in the horizon to me.

    • Lost 2015, I agree with you here. Those first few years were awful, even though I knew I was better off, but there were so many challenges. Health issues, divorcing a Narc, losing a home, community, job, and scrambling to keep all my kids focused on school after my ex walked. Too busy taking care of myself and my young adult children to think of jumping into a relationship with someone new. Hell, I want to know how anyone trusts after what we went through!

  • Seeing how selfish and entitled your mom is, she will very likely turn on you no matter what you do, so if you’re trying to preserve that relationship in any way you’re probably wasting your time. She doesn’t care about anyone but herself and you can see that by what she does, though she might say differently. Exposing you and your siblings to her having sex with strange men just turns my stomach. It’s vile she would do that like you guys are not even there.

    I can understand if you don’t want to leave behind your siblings. You seem like you’re trying to make your dysfunctional family functional. Not only is that not your job, it’s impossible because your mother has no interest in participating in that endeavor. She’s already checked out as a parent. Or she has never checked in.

    I’m not sure how old your siblings are but may be you can get a place with them? If they are under age then may be you can apply for guardianship.

    • I’m not entirely sure either of my parents possess the communication skills or maturity to be parents.
      Thank you for the advice. I now know that I’ve done my time trying to fix her relationships. I’m going to try and let go of the anxiety of leaving my siblings for a short time.

  • This is clearly a case of “put the air mask on yourself first” and then try to save your siblings afterwards. And the best you can do is provide your younger siblings with a sense of security and stability. I’m sad for your stepfather, but he is an adult and your independence may be just what he needs to stop relying on you, and step up to the plate himself.

    Definitely use your university counseling services; the emotional damage from parents goes farther and deeper than we would like, and it helps to navigate this nonsense with a professional. Big hugs to you.

    • Great points CL, and I completely agree with the advice CN is giving. Can’t agree more with Tempest!

      CC, “put the air mask on yourself first,” take advantage of your tuition dollars, and schedule as many counseling sessions with your university health center as you can.

      A good therapist will help you stay focused on succeeding put academically as well as move past your FOO issues and develop a healthy picker for future relationships.


    • I like the air mask idea. It doesn’t sound so selfish when you put it that way. I just don’t want my siblings to get caught in the mix and suffer just as much as I do with this, but I guess staying here and only breaking up fights and calling my mom out when she is being sneaky won’t help them as much as if I was gone and provided a stable place to be…

      Thank you both!

  • This is a really difficult situation for you. Especially as until you are 26 you will need your parents to reveal their financial information in order to be eligible for student aid. I have a friend who had to wait until 26 to start college, because her parents refused to fill out the forms, and she couldnt get grants without it. Is your mother open to you living on your own or in a dorm? Also, often people will trade housing for childcare, and you clearly have a lot of experience with that!
    How much longer do you have until graduation? Depending on how resistant your mother is, you may jave to stick it out at home until then. Use all the career resources at your college, to line up full time work after graduation, and get as many internships as you can now. Try to be very, very busy. Come home to sleep only. Try to remove yourself from the drama at home. Encourage your other siblings to plan their exit as well. Are they getting good grades? Doing test prep? Helping them do tis will help all of you focus on the important point of getting the heck out of there, physically and emotionally.
    Best of luck! At the most it will be a year or so more, and then you will be free to create your own, more healthy and honest life.

  • I’m sorry I don’t have personal experience with this C.C. but I can see that it’s like the oxygen mask on a plane, put yours on first then everyone else’s. You can’t help anyone else if you’re all in the same mess. Save yourself and find solid ground to stand on. Then you can work on helping your siblings find their way.

  • I don’t know the total situation, obviously, but the cheater mom is probably going Duggar style with the kids. Older ones take care of the younger ones, and do the work. Which means cheaters have more time to cheat.

    The letter writer probably the glue holding the ckusterfuck together. She’s trying to do what’s best, but just enabling her mother.

    My mother was a cheating whore herself, and they are usually glad to desert their children to a better caregiver when the opportunity comes along. That’s what happened with me and my siblings. It works out best if they are left with one decent parent/caregiver.

  • CC! hon, that is terrible. My Dada was the cheater in this case. And the only so.ution was to GTF out. Your life will be absorbed otherwise.

    Strength to you! Love to Chump Nation.


  • What a mess! Are either if your parents paying for your education? If so I would let them know you need to live on campus. Go to your advisor/counselor at school and make a plan based on your finances.

    • No, neither of my parents are paying for my schooling. I actually receive a grant that covers all my tuition at the community college for now. I wish I only had a year left, but I have about 2 1/2, but I plan on going full-time at work at and taking around 9 credit hours at the University when I transfer. That is when I’ll need some extra financial assistance.

  • My mom and dad were both serial cheaters, alcoholics, and verbally and physically abusive. They were also rich, successful, beautiful and charismatic. Dad died suddenly when I was a teen. My mom really went off the deep end then. I also had to endure the rotating cast of her lovers. In Hawaii once she bought “us” porno and brought her boyfriend into our single room and had drunken sex on the bed next to me. She got me drunk. After passing out I woke to the door wide open, naked 50 year old man with his old parts hanging out on the double bed next to mine, my mom had stomped off in a tiff, and I was only 15! Just one example. I have 4 younger siblings and she made me take care of them as if I was the mother. My dad brought his 18 year old boy lover into our home and he sexually abused me and my sister from the time we were 3. No surprise, I was in abusive relationship from the time I was 13. Mom discarded me at 16– threw me out on the streets when I was 16. I couch surfed and went from guy to guy. Thought about prostitution but I’m a good student and stayed in school. Hitchhiked there. Got a retail job. Got into university after high school.

    Here’s the advice part: try not to do what I did. I was desperate for love and stability and financial support. At 19, an older, gorgeous, successful (alcoholic) asked me out, immediately asked me to move in, bought me a big diamond engagement ring. Said I was everything he had always wanted – he wanted a family. I was swept up. Finally someone who wanted me, cared for me. Wrong! He cheated constantly, physically abused me, emotionally abused me. Abandoned me and our daughter who was born when I was 20. So, please be careful. You don’t know this, but you are very vulnerable to a type of person who will seem to be everything you never had. Chances are, that is all a mask for who they really are: a male version of your mother. I had a few years of counseling starting at 21 years old and Al-Anon, but I didn’t realize the extent of how harmed and vulnerable I was.

    Know you are not alone. Stick with girlfriends rather than romantic partners. Get your degree no matter what you do. I went on the graduate top of my class in law school as a single mom with a preschooler. Having an education and a career will give you precious power.

    Huge hugs to you!

    • You’re amazing. This whole topic and the replies break my heart. And amen to looking in the wrong places for that missing connection with adult substitutes. Mine ended in sexual assault too.

      Your story is very inspirational, and shows what some balls and badass can do.

    • MotherChumper99….no one should have to go what you went through. You are a survivor and winner. Your child is so lucky to have such an awesome mom!

        • I third it…you are truly an inspiration. If you could survive all that horror and be as awesome as you are now, those of us who have “normal” infidelities (if their is such a thing) can too!

    • YOU are strong. Thank you for your encouragement. I cannot believe so many selfish people have kids and basically leave them on their own to raise themselves. Why are new relationships and sex worth so much more than the safety and well-being of your own flesh and blood for some people?

      I’ve never actually been in a rush to be in a relationship. I’ve just naturally always been cautious about that. I’m staying very aware of situations with my current boyfriend to make sure nothing abusive is happening. We’re taking everything pretty slow so far.

  • Omggggg I have never heard of such white trash behavior!!!! As if her mother had no shame and could be heard fucking!!! Poor kids! And random men to boot , openly cheating on the children ‘s father??? This is an obscene lack of respect! I really don’t get how any mother could behave like such a crack whore!!! I have kids and have worked my whole life to be a someone they can be proud of, I can’t imagine degrading the whole family like that! The question I have is what leads someone to behave without any regard for others like a savage motivated only by their urges? Are they so sex deprived or in such need or narcissistic supply that fornicating one night with some random twit is fulfilling? Wowww, for me today’s post really was a step beyond cheating…I feel really bad for the kids

  • This really breaks my heart. No cheating in my family growing up, but my mother is bpd, which made for a very emotionally unstable house, basically she was constantly overwhelmed, anxious and depressed, and rather than seek help, blamed it on her shitty daughter (older brother was much older, I’m sure she would have blamed us both). I resorted to confiding in other adults, which was sometimes a really bad idea. I was 37 before I figured out why I couldn’t fix my relationship with her. It’s now manageable knowing I can’t change a damn thing. But I wish I’d learned earlier. All my I mourned not having the mother I needed. Still makes me cry. Maybe you’re that unconditional relationship for you siblings.

    My focus switched from mourning her to cultivating friendships that were rewarding, a career, a marriage and then kids. I will not repeat my mother’s mistakes and I’m very open with the kids about telling me when they think I’ve ventured into that territory. I have a daughter, and she at the very least deserves a mom who she can meet for coffee, just for shits and giggles and a hug. I’ve never, in almost 50 yrs, been able to grab a fire with my mother. So sad. Needless to say, I’ve not told her about the infidelity, because I can’t bear knowing she will blame me and re open the childhood wounds.

    Therapy is wonderful, I wish I’d started at 20. You are so aware and caring, and focusing on how you will reap happiness from those traits is so much more effective and rewarding than trying to get your mother to understand how you feel or how she’s hurt you. You know who she is, that’s enough, now tap every resource to propel forward. You’re going to have a very rich life.

    • Thank you so much. I’ve always had a suspicion that my mother has a mental disorder as well. Her mother passed away when she was young and I don’t think she ever recovered. I feel bad for her and I love her, no matter what she does, but I wish she would get some help.

      I love that you have the kind of relationship with your kids that they can tell you when you might not be your best self. I hope one day when I have kids it will be the same.

  • I was close to your age when my parents separated and it was darn messy. (It was not due to infidelity.) My parents were in their own personal crisis and clueless that they still needed to be parents.

    Right now you are living in a war zone. It is not your job to negotiate peace.

    Listen, your Mom is your Mom regardless of where you live. What I am getting at here is that you can move out: live alone, with your Dad, OR live with your step-Dad and your step-siblings. It doesn’t mean you are choosing sides. It does mean that you are choosing a place to live that is outside of the war zone as much as possible. If you need to stay because of finances, then follow the good advice here.

    Please, please, please – get some counseling. This will help you get through this very rough patch and into the future. Think of it as someone who can be impartial and that can provide you coaching. There is a lot of drama in your house and there is likely to be more drama in the future. Counseling will really help you understand why and also help you deal with it. It really is the key to triumphing from this mess.

  • CC,
    I can only go by my past experience so, here’s my advice: Unless you are in a dangerous situation, I’d stay put and concentrate on finishing your degree. Then get the fuck out of there.

    I grew up with an ass-hat for a father. CPS should have been called for the emotionally and physically abusive things he did to not only me, but my siblings and my mother. My mother married him young and was pretty much trapped with him for 20+ years. She had to endure a lot of shit working full-time with 3 kids, while going back to college to get her degree. She didn’t have a choice. She knew she would have a chance in hell of being able to support herself and us without an education. Finally she did it, got a great job, and dumped his ass. Point is . . . had she had her degree first, she could have saved herself and us years of misery.

    Your degree is the most important thing you can get out of the way now. You have to worry about YOUR future. You want to get your education because it’s the base for absolutely everything else. Besides, you’ve already told your step-father what’s up, so it’s up to him how he’s going to handle it. All this shit really isn’t your problem. It’s crap your mother created and will probably continue with the next one.

    Focus on you. Once you get your degree, you’ll be in a better situation to support yourself. If you can get a job and go to school, fine. But rent ain’t cheap . . .

    You can’t save your step-dad and you can’t fix mom. You can only control you.

    • Thank you. I know my degree is my ticket to a better life. Ironically, I plan on majoring in Psychology when I transfer to the university so I can better understand the “why’s” and “how’s” of my family’s behavior and use my experiences to counsel others.

      Thank you for your encouragement and advice. I appreciate it so much!

  • my mother was divorced with 3 kids, because of her cheating, then proceeded to get pregnant with a child from a very married man. My sister upon reaching the age of 16 and driving, moved out she was so outraged. We could do nothing us younger ones. But suffice it to say we were so disgusted with her behavior, her borderline personality disorder, that as soon as I could I left too.

    I vowed I would never do the same.

    Fast forward to my own experience with my cheater. His OW had the same birthdate as my mother. Karma? Freaky if you ask me. She also has alot of the same tendancies. Her family goes from one marriage to another, always trying to marry up, via affairs with other peoples’ spouses. You can’t make this stuff up.

    Some people are so f*ed up.

    CL, is spot out. GET OUT. Do you have extended family or parent of close friends who might help you? My sister had parents of her friends who helped her get out and arranged for her to have live in type jobs, housekeeper with car, so she had a place to live and a car to drive in exchange for some chores. It worked for her.

    • Those similar birth dates are pretty creepy. I’m sorry you had to go through that as well. How did things play out after your older sister left? My fear is, once I leave, the burden will fall on my 14 year old sister’s shoulders to grow up faster than she should and become my mom’s referee.

      My boyfriend offered to let me live in the basement with him. This would be with his mom living upstairs, however, as she needs help paying rent.

  • C.C. You are so mighty at such a young age. Reading your post just breaks my heart.

    I’m going to suggest (just suggest) something drastic. But first, CL is right. Get. Yourself. Out. You can’t control someone else’s behavior. Not your disordered mm, not your stepfather (who knows about your mom’s cheating, and appears to have pitched his tent in Camp Chump Paralysis for now. I was a camper there myself for awhile).

    Now, regarding the love and concern you have for your younger siblings.

    I’m wondering, just wondering: is your Mom bringing these strange men home for sex as she did in her first marriage? You and your siblings, if they were of an age to see this, were/are exposed to behavior indicative of an unfit parent IMO.

    Strange men your mom is having these encounters with could also bring other issues: drugs, inappropriate behavior toward minors, etc. That could fall into the realm of child endangerment. Here’s some information on child endangerment:

    “Child endangerment laws are designed to punish behavior that might lead to a child becoming harmed, but they do not require that children actually suffer an injury or physical harm. State laws often categorize child endangerment as placing a child in a situation that might endanger the child’s life, health, welfare, morals, or emotional well-being.

    To obtain a conviction for child endangerment crime, a prosecutor does not have to show that a parent or caregiver intentionally meant to expose the child to a dangerous situation. The courts apply a “reasonable person” standard in child endangerment cases. This means that even if the accused didn’t realize the situation was dangerous, reasonable people in that situation would have understood their actions endangered the child’s well-being. The circumstances of each case will determine whether the accused either knew or should have known that the child was endangered.”

    Please consider that state laws can vary.

    The reason I’m going this direction is it has happened in my own family, but for a different reason. A family member (diagnosed BPD), was in a heated argument with her boyfriend in their apartment. Her two-year-old son was sleeping in the bedroom. Law enforcement was called by the neighbors due to the noise. When the authorities arrived, they saw drug use evidence (weed and a bong) on the coffee table. Marijuana was not legalized at that time for recreational use – which this was. That was all it took for the authorities to take the child and charge the adults with child endangerment. Good news: the little boy is now with other mature, very healthy, competent and loving family members. He’s safe, well loved and cared for, and still in our family.

    I may be totally off-base with this, and I suspect the idea is upsetting to you CC. Please forgive me if this does upset you, I just want you and your siblings in a safe environment. However, perhaps a visit to Child Services for a consultation may be considered? If you have no other recourse, they may also have ties to resources that offer housing arrangements for you.

    Big hugs to you!

    • That is something that has been on my mind for a while, which is something that makes me even more afraid of leaving. I don’t know what she does when I’m not here. When my step-dad and sister are gone and it is just her and the little ones, it scares the crap out of me what could be going on. Not that before there was a problem with drugs or anything physically harmful to us kids, but that’s not to say she won’t bring home the wrong guy.

      Thank you for posing that idea as well. I don’t know if I could go through with a child endangerment case. I’ve been trying to formulate a plan to get everyone away from her. My dad actually just moved across the street, and though my sister hates the idea, she could live with him and her twin brother. My step-dad could move out and (hopefully) gain custody of the 4 and 5 year old and I could testify as a character witness. Does that sound reasonable?

      I just want them safe from the emotional abuse and I think that’s where my anxieties regarding this whole situation are stemming from.

      • You are already a mighty kid. Sweatheart this aint your fight. and your folks have you in a caretaker/ peacemaker far too long. You arent a kid but in so many ways you need to be . You have been robbed of so many years of your childhood.
        I came from a cluster fuck of a family. I left at 18 and never turned back. I kept in touch. Put myself through college with 3 jobs. It wasnt easy and it took me 10 years to pay off the loan. I have one sibling who resents thefact that I left. She felt abandoned. We have talked about it as adults and understand eachothers pains. To her I was the one who left. Didnt matter that my mother was an abusive drunk and the 3 rdstep dad an enabler. As an adult my sister has chosen to financially support them and is so entangled with their disorders that she lost her marriage to it.
        Family bonds either support you or suffocate you. You need a moment of clarity to see if you are being enmeshed in the tangle of weeds or are you able to use them to crawl out. Sometimes you need to rebuild those bonds… A sturdier frame …Whole other set of scaffold. … But not now. You need to distance yourself. Make some plans.

        • Thank you TheClip. I see the potential in every single one of my siblings. I see their strengths and their unique personality traits and I get so worried that something similar to your situation will happen down the road, or even worse, my parents will stomp on their uniqueness and destroy all the wonderful potential they have.

          It’s awful looking at them objectively and seeing them for what they are, but it might be worse seeing my siblings for everything they are and how much they could be stifled in this environment.

      • That plan sounds reasonable, would your mother contest your sister moving to your Dad’s house, something to consider. You can’t control your step-dad, he may not come to his senses. I’m sorry you all are going through this. Jedi Hugs.

        • Hopefully my step-dad would leave and get far, far away from her. He is a great person and 14 year old me was very savage towards the new men my mom brought home. It took me a bit to warm up to my step-dad, but no one else made the cut and I doubt anyone else will.

          My mom would hate to have any of her kids go (at least the ones she can control anyway). I know she would hate my sister moving in with my dad and hate my step-dad if he took my two youngest siblings with him.

  • My oldest D (16 at the time) realized, after she found out that her father was sleeping with his married boss-lady that this asshole had given her a “job” of babysitting OW’s son for an entire day (about 14 hours) while EX and OW went to a “meeting”.

    Yup, my EX used my D16 to babysit the Ho-worker’s kid so they could go off and bang each other all day.

    It’s two years later and my EX turned into the worst kind of monster during our divorce, playing every dirty game in the book. My D15 lives with him 40% of the time and knows how to play the game – be nice to dad and OW and you will get stuff. She has learned to shut off her emotions, whether it be with EX or with me – sort of a protection mechanism, I suppose. That and she is a bratty teenager!!

    D19 refuses to have anything to do with OW and therefore her father refuses to have anything to do with her (this included paying for ANY of her expenses, left it all up to me). Only now, almost three years later, is my EX starting to (begrudgingly) help D19 with some of her expenses (well, he’s promised, no sign of it yet). D19 also refuses to speak with EX’s family after the way they treated me (dropped me 100% like a ton of bricks after being a part of their family for 25 years – they are NO loss to me, though, evil people).

    My EX wonders why D19 has pulled away from him – truly, he doesn’t get it. How can they be so blinded by the OW?

  • Just a thought-even if bioDad was awful, how long has it been? Maybe he’s come to his senses or matured? Maybe a letter, where you control the narrative and can get clear on paper, and ask for his help?

    I’d work out an expense budget, a timeline, with benchmarks. Make it a business proposal for Dad to invest in, separate from Mom and all that’s gone before. Have a beginning and an end, so he doesn’t fear being on the hook forever.

    (Heck, crowd source it. Be creative.)

    They’re right-you have to save yourself first to help your sibs. Blessings…life can be tough, but so can you.

  • This question is for Chump Lady, I am curious as it relates somewhat to the letter.

    You have a son who is already of an age to have opinions and thoughts. As I am sure CN and CL are a big thing in your home and he knows what has happened to you.

    What are his thoughts on cheating? And do you think he gets it?

  • When I was 13-14 yrs old my father was having affairs on my mother. I found out in Junior High School when you around a lot more young people from all over town. I told my mother. My father went on a campaign of hate on me. Cut off all my hair. If I itched a mosquito bite or picked a pimple he drew circles around them with magic markers. Made me go out like that. It got so bad I started running away from home. The State took over and I went into foster care. My mom stayed with my dad through all the yrs and affairs. My sister and I rarely visited them. My dad made life miserable for everyone. Now my dad in his end yrs. He barely knows his grand children. He is so nasty we have to medicate him for weddings and big family events. (My brother a doctor) My mom and dad celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary this weekend. I really feel for my mother because she is kind and has had to deal with this all her life. My dad has a son by one of his mistresses. He brags he is only leaving the boy 10 cents in his will. He has never paid child support or seen the boy. My father a narcissist. Only his needs and wants. Thank God I blocked all feelings for him out along time ago. On his anniversary he called me and said he hated my kids. They never visit or call him. So they mean nothing to him. He hung up and my mom called me back to apologize. I just told her what he says means nothing to me. I’ve lived my life well. Went to college. Held a Supervisor position in a prison all my life. Raised 2 kids who also went to college. All with no help or support from my parents. I haven’t been home since I was 13. I can’t even say I respect my mother. She is the one who stayed and watched the abuse. She did nothing because she was scared of him. She continues to make excuses for his bad behavior. She did attempt suicide about 15 yrs ago. She got sleeping pills, took handfuls of them got a sleeping bag and cut a hole in one end. She shut the garage doors turned the car on. Hooked the tail pipe through the hole in the bag. Zipped herself in. Doctor said the only reason she lived was the garage was a 4 car. To much area. My dad found her at lunch time.I would guess his first words were, “where’s my lunch?’

    My mother probably would of had relationships with her grand kids. But my father said he didn’t want noise and have to deal with little kids. He worked all wk and deserved his time off with no distractions.Well my mom worked all wk also. Now my father complains he has no relationship with his kids or grand kids. It’s all what you put into a relationship what you reap from it. He put in nothing. Thank God I learned from his mistakes. I have a good relationship with my kids. I have 1 granddaughter that I babysat most wks that I spent loads of time and love on. All you can do is learn from your mother’s mistakes. You see the damage that occurred by her actions. I would find my own place. Being in the same house as her is probably very stressful. Your young and life is just beginning for you. Make the best of it. I have a feeling after you make your way in life your mother might be knocking on your door for a place to stay after messing up another relationship. Some people are never happy with what they have. Always looking for a new thrill. I know from working in a prison I had 1500 of them walking around on any given day.

    • Yooper01, your story was so well put together. I’m so sorry that it was this way for you. Thank you for sharing –

      • Thank you for the compliment on my writing. I kind of write prison style. Use to writing reports on fights and incidents inside the prison.Spent yrs writing that way. Kind of like that cop show from the 1970’s. Adam 12? “ONly the facts mam.” I do write comedy on another site under “I Love Life’s funny moments.” I have a bucket load of those from working inside.

  • First, I’ll echo what others say: save yourself first. Once you do that, you can become the surrogate sane parent to your younger siblings. More on that later.

    Move out. Financial aid is there, and also check out whatever they call the Dean of Students at your place. My school has discovered that there’s a real problem with homeless students, and is doing a job at reaching out to this population and getting them safe places to live.I’ll also throw out the nugget of information that my niece and her boyfriend are both college students, and while both come from families able to afford the tuition, the boyfriend’s family believes in cultivating independence, so the young man writes web content (freelance job, anyone can apply, takes discipline to do the work). My niece got involved. She was able to write on a schedule and have fun, AND she paid for her college tuition, which is doable if you’re at a 4-year state school.

    At age 20, you probably have about another year of undergraduate work. Move out, finish up, do the networking, make sure you have your internship lined up, and start applying for jobs the fall of your senior year. This way, you can graduate and look forward to gainful employment.

    Then invite your siblings to come live with you.

    Now for the story. My parents were friends with another couple they met while in grad school. That couple had children the same ages, more or less, as my siblings. Unfortunately, “Uncle Bill” and “Aunt Mary” were also alcoholics. This got worse over time. Eventually the oldest daughter just left home once she finished high school. She got a job, and her two youngest siblings went to live with her. You would think the parents would have something to say about all of that, but no, they were too busy living life in the bottom of a bottle.

    Your mom is too busy being a NPD serial cheater to pay attention to her kids. Cheaters don’t do empathy real well, so once you leave and get your own home in order, you can open it up to your siblings. Your mom will probably be surprisingly okay with this.

    I’ll also echo Tempest. Take advantage of those student fees by getting counseling at the university. At least at my school, the counselors are experienced in dealing with abuse cases, and that, of course, is what you’re bringing to the table.

    All the best of luck.

  • C. C. I would have to fully agree with Chump Lady (and I always do) and other. Get the hell out of that place. See if you can stay some friends, or campus housing any place so you can have a stable living environment. Go no contact as much as you can and if you have to “see” your mother go “Gray Rock” when you are around her. Sadly there is nothing you can do about your mother. Just like others wrote above the only person you can control is yourself. My heart goes out to you so much. If I could I would tell you to come to my house and stay as long as you want. Time to move on and get the hell out away from your very disordered mother. I did the same with my disordered mother and family. I don’t have any contact with them at all and my life is so much better now. Wishing you the best of luck and please keep us posted. Sending much love and many many hugs. I would be very proud to call you my daughter if I was your mother and your father. Very stupid what they both have done.

  • Here’s my bit of almost 60 years old wisdom

    I agree with CL — Save yourself. My Dad cheated, my Mom is/was classic NPD and wreaked havoc on all of her 5 children due to her need for revenge. Dad was also an alcoholic. He married his AP (the one we knew of) and she was also NPD to say the least. At 53, my dad killed himself.

    I and every single one of my siblings have been on both sides of infidelity. We have almost all been suicidal at some point. It is only at my ripe old age that I am beginning to understand the toll my father’s actions and my mother’s quest for revenge have taken on me.

    I wish I had detached years ago. I wish I had realized that I was not either of them. I wish you peace.

  • Today´s posts have made me very sad that there are so many parents out there who have emotionally (and sometimes physically) abused their children. I wish I could hug all you inner -child chumps and tell you that everything will be OK. I am very, very lucky that I have loving parents who are still together after more than 50 years of marriage. My mom is a bit of a talker and my dad is maybe too passive, but I will take that anyday…they have always been there for me . I am working on my picker, but that is really the worst of my ordeal at this moment. I have lots to give thanks for, so thank you for making me even more aware of how lucky I am but one thing is true, however bad your past was, its past and you are here as a survivor. That is true for a reason and something to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving everyone (even though we don`t celebrate it where i am)..

  • >
    %d bloggers like this: