The question I have is not about me (although I have been chumped by my last boyfriend as well), but about my chump mom and my cheater dad. They got divorced 8 months ago (everything is final) and living in separate places, but my mom is having a very, very hard time adjusting to the situation. She’s been suffering from depression and isolating herself from everyone: all she does is go to work, come home, cry and repeat that she’s not gonna make it, over and over again. Deep down she still “doesn’t believe what happened” and “how he can be such a horrible person?”
He is a horrible person and I mean it, even though he is my father. They had been married almost 30 years (high school sweethearts). He cheated on her with at least three women, it started when my brother and I were kids. I got the text messages that were supposed to go to his last OW and that’s how I learned about her. The time before that, it was also me who found out the OW’s name and connection to him. My father constantly undermined my mom, using all the techniques you talked about, in the most cruel way possible. Last year she had a nervous breakdown and ended up in the hospital because of him. She is suicidal 24/7. He doesn’t care. I witnessed him come back from vacation with the OW, collect the rest of his stuff from the house and leave it for good without a flinch. He’s like a robot and still tries to make HER sound crazy.
My question is: how can I help my mom recover? I’m doing everything I can possibly think of, I try to be with her as much as I can, but I see it’s not enough. The divorce was her idea — he was fine with having a wife and a mistress. They are not in touch anymore, but she’s not getting better. She reads your site a lot, even though she doesn’t speak perfect English (we live in Europe). Maybe you could share some special words of chump wisdom with us?
Thank you for all your hard work. Your site puts everything into perspective…for the second generation of chumps too 🙂
Direct your mom to a doctor, please. If she’s been suicidal and has been hospitalized for a breakdown, it sounds like she needs continued medical help for her depression. Perhaps she needs to go on some anti-depressants? There’s no shame in it.
Look, I wish it was as easy as dump the cheater, then the sky parts and rainbows appear, and our sanity returns — but 30 years with a mind-fucking cheater creates deep scars. Resiliency is a complicated thing and healing isn’t a contest. We all slog through this shit at our own pace. But I do believe we all eventually arrive at the land of Meh.
Intellectually, you’d think ridding yourself of an awful person would make you happy, not suicidal. But your mom is grieving. It’s not just 30 years of mindfuck, it’s 30 years of identity — as a wife, as part of a larger family, the perception of being partnered, of status, of having someone to weather life’s crises and grow old with. She’s losing one identity and being thrust into a new, scary world of financial insecurity (most likely, unless she secured a good settlement), single parenting, starting the lawn mower alone, and a thousand other slings and arrows of being unpartnered.
After betrayal, it’s very easy to see life in terms of loss, not gain. Getting through a divorce is exhausting, and then somehow you have to find the strength to build a whole new life? Are you fucking kidding me? It’s enough to make the most stalwart of souls collapse on the sofa and Netflix their way through existence for a few years, punctuated only by occasional crying jags in the shower.
Boy, Tracy, you make divorce sound absolutely awesome. And here you are recommending it?
Yes — Leave a cheater, GAIN A LIFE.
The good news is somewhere in that depressed, isolated, “not gonna make it” mother of yours is a fighter. She left HIM. She took away his goddamn cake. She stood up for herself. She fomented revolution. So she can’t give up now! She might say she can’t make it — but there she is, getting her ass up out of bed every day and going to work, and coming home and MAKING IT.
If she’s reading this and wants encouragement? Hey, Amanda’s mom — Keep living your life. Going forward anyway, no matter how miserable, IS success. You’ve got grit!
Don’t let the motherfucker win. Don’t let him be the last person you invest in. Now that he’s gone, evict him from your head as well. You need all that mental real estate for rebuilding your life, not pondering the mysteries of fuckwits.
Direct your energies away from the fuckwit towards the people who really love you. They deserve the best of you, not him. The worst thing you can do now is isolate yourself. Join a divorce support group, an online forum like Chump Nation, join a meet-up. I don’t care if you feel like the most awkward person there — DO IT ANYWAY. Every day do something difficult or even terrifying. That might be seeking help, calling a doctor, getting on Zoloft, going back to church, going back to school, getting a new hair cut, keeping a journal, learning to weld, volunteering at the Salvation Army, calling an old friend with whom you lost touch, weeding the garden — ENGAGE with life.
You probably won’t feel like it. But it’s not about feelings — it’s about ACTIONS. Act like you have a new life, and lo and behold, the new life will appear. Eventually the new life eclipses the old life, and I swear to God, one day (it’s a Tuesday) the pain goes away.
Now, back to you Amanda. You’re a good kid. Your assignment is to get a new life too. You’re very sweet to be concerned about your mom, but her healing isn’t YOUR responsibility. (And getting that shit confused is what makes us chumps. Don’t be a chump.) Your mom shouldn’t dump her emotional slop on you and expect you to bolster her. That’s HER job to wage this battle. Encourage from the sidelines, but have boundaries. It’s OKAY to have boundaries. And remember, we don’t control other people, just ourselves. You can’t make your mom get better. All the good advice, and even medical help cannot help someone who doesn’t want help.
I hope your mom’s grief is situational and is overcome in time. After 30 years, she’ll have some scars. She probably feels like they aren’t scars yet, they’re gaping wounds. Tell her they heal. Tell her she’s mighty.