The most amazing case of cake-eating appeared in the Washington Post last week, “Daddy’s home — Why I let my ex live with us on the weekends.”
Here’s an abridged version of the fuckupedness — a cheating man impregnates his girlfriend and walks out on his wife and two children, to another state. Instead of filing for a divorce, the chump wife stays married to the cheater, and lets him live with them all on the weekends — For The Children.
Rather than stage an intervention and demand that this woman have her head examined (FOR THE CHILDREN!), the commentators at the Post are praising her sacrifice and “forgiveness.”
It’s a smile-and-eat-the-shit-sandwich narrative that’s just begging to be put through the Universal Bullshit Translator. So…
The other night, after a particularly jovial dinner with our two teenage children, my husband retreated from the kitchen — and walked down the street to call his mistress.
And I let him walk down that street. Instead of clubbing his kneecaps with a threaded pipe. And laughing as his cell phone skids out of his hand and spins on to the pavement. And thwacking his grasping hand as he lunges for the phone, still doubled over in agony. His eyes would implore me to give it to him…
SMASH! goes the cellphone with the pipe!
“I’m sorry, Trixie can’t come to the phone right now,” I purr…
But no. I let him walk down that street instead.
I stuff those revenge fantasies down deep into my psyche where they will metastasize into sugar-coated passive-aggression. #familytogetherness #jovial!
Ours is an unusual arrangement, one I have chosen so that my children can spend time with their father — who left me nearly four years ago for his pregnant 30-year-old girlfriend — in their own home. During the week he lives in another state with the woman and their daughter. On the weekends he drives nearly five hours each way to spend time with our children.
Because the only way my children can spend time with their father is in my home. I’ll be goddamned if I let them set foot around the Other Woman and her spawn. He can drive 5-hours for cake. I’d rather we all pick me dance in pink tutus than Let Her Win.
In the months after the breakup I was consumed with pain, confusion and rage, and I refused to let my husband in our home. I’d make him stand in the doorway waiting for our children so he could take them out to lunch. After overindulging them at the local toy store, he’d drop them back at our house and go to a hotel for the night. The next morning he’d pick them up for brunch, after which they’d go rock climbing or swimming, or simply walk around town. Weekends with dad were like being on vacation, except no child would choose such a vacation.
No, children would much prefer to be around their seething, separated parents and their sham marriage than receive toys or go for swims. #forthechildren
One day I brought the children to the city where he lives and we arranged to meet at a museum. The four of us stood uncomfortably in the foyer for a few minutes before I started to walk away. My son begged me to stay, and when I said no, he asked why. Looking into my son’s eyes, the only truthful answer would have been because it was too painful for me, and that didn’t seem to me a good enough reason, so I stayed.
Looking into my son’s eyes, I projected what I wanted to see — the only teenage boy in the world with separation anxiety.
Drop-offs are a zero sum solution — it’s either total family togetherness or nothing. Don’t suggest that teenagers can wait in lobbies alone, or that a friend drops them off, or that if Fuck Face can drive 5 hours, he can drive an additional 5 minutes to a museum — MY CHILDREN NEED ME.
That is when I began learning how to put my anger and hurt aside and focus on what was best for my children.
Modeling dysfunction. #best4thechildren
Things didn’t change overnight. That museum trip was only the first step, but in time I allowed my husband back into the house when he picked up the children, and sometimes I would join them for lunch or a movie.
Take THAT, Trixie! I bet you wonder where he is now! Ha! HE’S
WITH ME! THE CHILDREN!
They were dealing with their own disappointment, grief and anger, and in the early days they often refused to go with their father unless I joined. Our life had been blown to bits in an instant, and my children needed me to show them how to move forward.
I have to do what my children tell me to do. They insisted I be a doormat, so of course, I complied. My children need me to show them how to be doormats.
There were meals at which I sat with a forced smile and nodded politely, while seething or feeling nauseous, but said nothing.
There were days it took all of my strength to hold back tears watching my children interacting with their father, and remembering the happier days we had as a family. But I had one overriding goal: to support my son and daughter in their relationships with their father.
By inserting myself into their every interaction.
[Instead of denying our sadness to our kids, we should use it to teach them how to cope]
Yes, don’t deny sadness. Set the manipulation channel firmly to self-pity. Do, however, deny anger and agency.
That’s not to say I was or am perfect. Like most parents, divorced or not, I’ve said and done things I regret. I’ve had to navigate a road I never dreamed I’d be walking, and I have taken many missteps.
There were moments of complete lucidity. I stuffed them down.
In the months following those first tense family lunches, the four of us settled into a routine where daddy would stay over on the weekends in the guest room and make pancakes the next day. During that first summer he and my son pitched a tent in the back yard and spent nearly every weekend night huddled in sleeping bags, watching a movie on a laptop and gorging on junk food. Very slowly, my husband and I became friendly again. We had 20 years of history together, and we still enjoyed each other’s company.
WHO’S CRYING NOW, TRIXIE?
Our situation would be comical if not for the underlying heartache, and there have been ironic moments over the years; such as when I was getting ready for a date and my husband found the perfect shoes for my outfit. Or when the man I am seeing arrived at my house on a recent Friday night at precisely the same time as my husband, leading to an awkward handshake and my teenagers wondering if punches would be thrown. (They were not.) When later I asked my husband what he thought of my beau, he replied that he was well dressed.
Make Daddy do the pick me dance too, Mommy!
Mommy found a nice chump hypotenuse. Mommy can play triangulation too!
From the beginning, some people in my life thought this was an extremely odd arrangement.
Odd was the nice word for it.
Many friends have said I am too nice, and perhaps I am, but after such a long period of sorrow, I would have done anything to see the joy on my son’s face as he lugged pillows out to the tent.
Of course, he could lug pillows to a tent with his father without me, but then I wouldn’t be there to see his joy. And it’s only by forcing Family Togetherness that joy is maintained.
It is too terrible to contemplate my children’s joy without me. They must NEVER feel joy around those who betrayed me.
I felt confident in my decision, until one day my daughter said that it wasn’t normal to live that way, and she wanted us to behave like other divorced families. This gave me pause, and led to a number of discussions with friends about the kind of message I was sending to my children.
My daughter has self-respect. She said it’s not normal to live without self-respect. This led to a number of discussions with my friends about self-respect. I decided against self-respect. #4thechildren
Perhaps, in trying to give my children a semblance of a normal family life I was creating a false and confusing world for them.
Perhaps I was enabling the cheater to avoid consequences and stuff his fat gob with cake, at the expense of everyone’s mental health. Perhaps.
Perhaps in trying to teach them the power of forgiveness, I was instead sending them the message that what their father did was all right, thus setting them up for relationship issues as adults. I took all of this into consideration, and about two years ago announced that daddy would no longer be staying over, or even hanging out. We were going to live like other divorced families (albeit we are still only legally separated).
WE ARE STILL MARRIED.
I left that in parentheses, so my extreme condescension to you divorced people who actually weathered difficult life challenges (like co-parenting with an affair partner) are not apparent. I’m not divorced. I’m completely avoidance and inauthentic — but HEY, let me tell you how you’re not parenting right! FORGIVE, you bitter bunnies! FORGIVE!
Thus began a phase where my children would ask if daddy could come over for certain periods of time. It soon became apparent that my children enjoyed having their father around to simply be. They didn’t want to go to a sterile hotel room; they wanted him in the place they felt safe, playing games, watching TV, or throwing a ball outside.
My teenage children don’t feel safe in sterile hotel rooms or outside the confines of their own backyard. They need to feel safe, with ME, here in my home, near their mother. Always. #dontleaveme
Before long the tent was up again in the back yard, and the fire pit was lit to make s’mores. One night I sat outside on my deck and watched through the windows as my daughter and her father cooked together, set the table with candles and sat down to dinner. Observing them through the glass I knew that that simple meal would do more to heal my daughter than any words I could offer.
I miss the family I thought I had. On weekends I can pretend he doesn’t have a mistress and another child elsewhere. I eat the s’more. It tastes faintly of shit sandwich.
Knowing that I am doing the right thing for my children doesn’t make it easy. Every time my husband leaves to “make a call” I feel another cut to my heart.
ANGER! Must suppress the anger! Eat another s’more, damn it! FORGIVE! FORGIVE! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!
A few weekends ago we were cleaning out the garage and found my daughter’s unused scooter still in its box. I unthinkingly asked if we knew anyone with a toddler we could give it to, and in the next second the thought of his new daughter flashed across my mind, and I burst into tears. There are days when I want him out of my house and out of my life for good. It’s difficult to move forward emotionally when the cause of my pain is in my kitchen every weekend.
But then those moments of lucidity pass. I’ll be god-damned if I’m going to move forward.
We once had a conventional family, and now we don’t. I had no control over what my husband did. But he left me. To his credit he never left our children.
Yes he did. He moved to another state and had a child with another woman. But I’m going to buy the bullshit that he never left them, and I’ll enable his delusion by letting him play Family Guy here on the weekends, and not divorce him, or have legal protections, and court orders, because that is what’s Best For The Children — complete vulnerability to the narcissist.
During the darkest days, when neither my children nor I wanted to speak to him, he still drove five hours, often only to be left standing on the front stoop or turned away. Though there is no excuse for what he did, his fortitude and love for our children does not go unnoticed by me, particularly as I hear horror stories from women in similar situations, whose husbands simply walked away.
The UBT would like you to consider the calculus — 5 hour drive versus ZERO CONSEQUENCES. Marriage AND a girlfriend! Centrality to two women and three children! #whatsalittlerain
We all carry scars from our childhoods, and my son and daughter have been dealt a bad hand. I can’t change that, but choosing to live this way will change one thing. When they are grown and look back, they will remember late nights watching clips on YouTube and running through the neighborhood, doing homework at the kitchen table and hanging a Bob Dylan poster, cleaning the hamster cage and bringing home a new goldfish — all with their father.
Who left them for his girlfriend. Cleaning up hamster shit is one metaphor.
Being a parent often means putting your children’s needs ahead of your own, and that’s the choice I’ve made. It may not be the right choice for others, and it may not be a perfect solution, but I know in my heart that my children need their father in their lives, and their lives are in their home.
You other divorced people don’t put your children’s needs above your own. That’s the choice you make, to selfishly divorce. Court ordered visitation and support might be your choice. Building a new life for yourself free from abusive fuckwits might seem like a perfect solution. But I know in my heart that children need dysfunction and fuzzy boundaries, so I let their father eat cake at our expense.
In our home. Together. Fuck you, Trixie.