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The Dead Cheater Dilemma

Dear Chump Lady:

My story is similar but somewhat different from the many I have read on your site. My husband and I were high school sweethearts, together for 40 years, married for 33. He suddenly became ill and died within a week of (non-smoking) lung cancer. It was a shock and I was devastated…. for about two weeks, during which time I planned and executed a glorious memorial celebration for him and wrote a glowing obituary.

After two weeks, I found he had committed financial infidelity (because I could now see his bank account) by gambling away thousands of dollars a month (he made a very good salary) for 2-3 years. I had no idea. He gambled at casinos near his place of business, which was about an hour from our home. He gambled on weekends. I matched up the dates and realized he was even gambling at the casino when I was nursing my dying mother!! He frequently would just leave our home on weekends with no mention of where he was going. When I questioned him, he said he “just didn’t like being cooped up and liked driving around.” And so I bought it. He had never, in 40 years, given me reason to mistrust him.

D-Day #2 came a week later when I found on his computer (which I searched because now I didn’t trust him!) that he had gone to an “erotic massage” place years ago while he was working out of town. I was hoping it was a one-time thing, but still, I was horrified and felt betrayed, disgusted and gut-punched. Who was this man I was mourning??? I didn’t recognize him.

D-Day #3 came a week after THAT when I fired up his phone and looked at his texts. The only texts he had received since he had passed away were from an Asian lady, his “massage therapist” but the texts were not professional and seemed creepy: “Hi Tom. I’m thinking about you Tom (not his real name) and I miss you. Time for a massage?”

That, coupled with the fact that I had found the older email for the erotic massage previously, the fact he paid this woman in cash (approximately $150-200 that he removed from an ATM near to her place of business), texts from him to her that said he was “in the parking lot.. okay to come up now?” and the fact that he barely ever mentioned he was getting a massage and would “forget” to tell me he had one or just mumble things about going to get his massage on the way out the door, made me realize he had been continuing this practice (of erotic massage), now nearer to our home, on a once-monthly basis for years and lying to me about it.

I was inconsolable and felt like I had been run over by a train. This well-respected, generous guy whom everyone loved was actually this secret-keeping, deceitful and betraying stranger. I have even wondered whether keeping these secrets for years may have led to his increasingly poor health and early death. He had trouble with alcohol use/abuse. He frequently seemed stressed, preoccupied and angry. And now I know why: keeping two very big secrets from your wife for years can really do some damage emotionally and probably even physically.

My question is: I have two children. My daughter is 30 and she does know about this because I uncharacteristically blurted it out to her in a moment of near-total emotional breakdown. My son is younger (28) and does not know anything…yet. At first I thought I would never tell my son, because I wanted him to love, respect and grieve his father in the normal way. It helped me keep the good part of my husband still alive in my son. I didn’t feel that these things reflected on my son’s relationship with my husband, and I did not want to hurt my son by telling him. I certainly didn’t want to hurt him simply in order to relieve my burden of the secrets I was now keeping.

Now I’m wondering if I should tell him, and how much I should tell him.

I have told everything to some very close friends and a therapist, but I find it excruciating to be around friends who knew me and my husband but with whom I’m not as close, because they frequently say how much they miss him, how much I must miss him and what a great guy he was, what a great marriage we had, etc. They have no idea of the pain and anguish I’m feeling which has even surpassed the grief at this point (he died 2 months ago).

This happens also with my late husband’s family (whom I adore, as did he). I can barely be around them without needing to excuse myself to vomit, I have so much anxiety about it all.

I guess I’m wondering how to deal with this. It’s not like he had a regular “affair” so I can’t just say to people briefly: “my husband had an affair.” It seems to require more explanation, but the explanation is seedy and cringe-inducing and awful. I have gotten a good and loving response from those I have told, and I’ve realized it has been a huge burden taken off of me, but I’m wondering how far do I go with this telling people? Who exactly should I tell and from whom should I keep the secret? My son? My late husband’s family?

Help!!!

Midwest Chump

Dear Midwest Chump,

This problem isn’t nearly as uncommon as you think. We have several chumps of dead cheaters on this blog (unicornnomore, HeatDeath), where discovery came while cleaning out the estate. You aren’t alone.

Please tell. As you yourself wrote, keeping big secrets can really do some damage emotionally and physically. You already told your daughter. If you don’t tell your son, you’re enlisting your daughter to conspire against your son with a Great Big Secret. Why?

To perserve his sainted memory? As I tell all chumps — you aren’t the cheater’s PR agency. You got fired from that job when they cheated. If it’s not so bad to do it, it’s not so bad to talk about it. Apparently your dead husband felt perfectly entitled to cheat and steal marital resources for YEARS at your expense. Do you think talking about this is an equivalent sin? Worse?

How about framing this as you’ve been dealt a trauma. HE left his affairs (I pun) in this order, because he was a liar and a cheat. He defrauded you, and you have no way of processing what was real and what wasn’t real about a 40 year relationship. Why should you be denied not only support, but REALITY? That is what happened to you. Period. It isn’t your fault.

I wanted him to love, respect and grieve his father in the normal way.

He didn’t have a normal father, and there’s no “normal” way to grieve. We all process death differently — who this person was, and what they meant to us, good and bad.

It helped me keep the good part of my husband still alive in my son.

Here’s the mindfuck of being betrayed — you don’t know what were the good parts, and what was fake. It’s all suspect after such a discovery. Everything is tainted with What Else Don’t I Know, and Who Else Was In On It?

Your son is absolutely entitled to his own memories of his father. But YOU are the living person he’ll be having a relationship with. Does Phantom Good Dad outweigh Chumped Real Mom? He may well wonder why you don’t want to reminisce about Dad, or are angry at him. He has zero context to fit those thoughts into.

I didn’t feel that these things reflected on my son’s relationship with my husband, and I did not want to hurt my son by telling him. I certainly didn’t want to hurt him simply in order to relieve my burden of the secrets I was now keeping.

I’m sure it will hurt him, but I think there’s a way to share this discovery without editorializing. (i.e., “He’s a bastard and may he burn in hell!”) Here’s a suggested script, and I bet others at CN can help you with things to say too.

“Son, I just wanted to be honest with you, because your sister already knows this and I don’t want there to be secrets between us. While going through your father’s estate, I recently made some really alarming discoveries of financial and physical infidelity. I’m grieving your father, who I thought he was, and I’m also grieving learning of these betrayals. So, if you’re wondering why I may be acting differently than I was earlier since Dad died, that’s why.”

If he wonders what any of this has to do with him (maybe he’s not super empathetic), I’d say:

“I respect your relationship with your dad, and your memories of him. How you think of him is your business. But please understand that I’m feeling quite confused and upset now. I wanted you to know why I’m not grieving in expected ways and have a context. I respect you and I didn’t want to lie to you, even with lies of omission.”

And then leave it there. If he has questions, answer them. You aren’t vomiting your grief and despair on him, you’re making factual statements. Financial and physical infidelity are TRUTHS of what happened, and you’re leaving out the ugly details. (“Happy endings” in massage parlors, Asian prostitutes, etc.)

As for his family, I’d use the same script.

If you don’t want to tell, that’s also your business. I take from your letter, however, that you do. That telling the few people you have, has relieved you of a terrible burden and given you a source of support and comfort. I would add that it’s NOT your kids’ job to comfort you from the knowledge that dad was a predatory creep. Leave that to the professionals and support forums. But I do think you’re within your rights to say what happened. That’s YOUR story and you’re alive to tell it. He’s not alive to keep you from the truth of your life anymore.

Big hugs to you. And I hope he was well-insured.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Midwest,

    Sorry to hear that you both lost your husband and found that he was keeping disgusting secrets. That is a double whammy for emotional processing. As you read CL you will find many of us lived very strange realities and CN will be that ‘unconditional’ support because there is probably nothing that people discover that will surprise the members here.
    Your writing started me thinking. My kids know, in mostly age appropriate manner that there father had an affair ‘with that nice lady from work’. What they don’t know is about the cheating of business partners, his mother, and his sister of thousands of dollars. Nor did I tell them about his prostitute or porn habits. Awesome. We are four years out and everyone is doing great. Your letter made me realize that there is a high probability that upon his death, these secrets will come to light. Perhaps I’ll be old and dead when it happens? But I imagine there will be a reckoning for my children at the end of his life, since we all know that even divorced they ‘don’t get character transplants’.
    I wish you the best Midwest, it’s a strange and tricky road to navigate. CN will be here. If you live near Detroit, there are a couple of us here

  • Midwest,

    I’m so sorry you discovered this after his death because yes, it’s a double-whammy. The loss of the person you thought you knew and his death. Please continue to discuss the situation with counselors and definitely consider using CL’s speech in some way with others. They may have “aha!” moments of their own regarding your husband, or their own spouse.

    “I have even wondered whether keeping these secrets for years may have led to his increasingly poor health and early death. He had trouble with alcohol use/abuse. He frequently seemed stressed, preoccupied and angry. And now I know why: keeping two very big secrets from your wife for years can really do some damage emotionally and probably even physically.”

    The same is true of you! You don’t have to keep his secrets. You don’t have to blare them on the radio either, but there is no reason why you can’t discuss them if it makes YOU feel better. He’s dead. He certainly took advantage of opportunities to ‘feel good’ on your dime and at the expense of your heart.

    I wish you well and I hope you can meet some CN members in person. I suspect it will make you feel better to discuss it with people who have been through it firsthand.

    • My X1 killed himself during his marriage to OWife after they had a blow out fight on Valentines Day. The shocking manner of his disappearance and then death was beyond horrible.
      Our young adult kids were subjected to the most terrible worries and treatment by OWife. Mutual cheating, swinging and financial shenanigans fueled their marriage.

      While there was no “shielding” the kids from the facts. I quietly stayed close to my kids to be the sane and stable person for them. I was the keeper of their fears, anger and disgust about what they discovered about their father.

      Abusing drugs, alcohol & people is a certain mentality of the disordered. My kids took the events and facts about their father and have created awesome and ethical lives. They are more mature than their dad ever was.

      Knowing the “truth” about their father has set my kids free to be better people than their dad. May he RIP.

      • BTW- X1’s death leant itself to a “teachable moment” for my son who gravitated to drama queen girlfriends.

        “..and this, DS is why you don’t date crazy girls…”

        And he never did again. Lesson painfully learned. DS is now engaged to a lovely, grounded girl.

  • Dear Midwest,
    I am so sorry about that double whammy! Grieving is hard enough. I’ve read somewhere that it’s better to be hurt by the truth than coddled by lies and secret. I strongly believe that. Family secrets are the worst. My family has recently learned that my mother, adopted at the age of 6, was the product of an incestual rape. She is 74 and has been looking for the truth her whole life. That is no way to live.
    Children deserve to know about their background and at a minimum to not be lied to. I consider myself ‘lucky’ that my kids found out about the cheating before I did. I like to think I would have told them just like I subsequently told them about the financial cheating and other secrets. But it is a hard conversation to have in the midst of immense grief.
    Lean on us here. I’m sending you healing thoughts.

  • Yes, this IS a suckfest.

    I had experienced some world class abuse (rage, toxic blame), abandonment (he moved 3000 miles away leaving me to raise kids alone because he wanted to) and admissions of “emotional infidelity” (relationship with Susan of Seattle from work) but at the time of his death, we were wreckonciled.

    I found a CD of photos of Susan as well as gifts from a place he had sworn that they had never been to together…then hotel reciepts (which showed his earlier “coming clean” conversation was all lies) then the big bomb…his confidante telling me that
    “the ‘first affairs’ were just about sex, it was the one with Susan that really derailed him”

    I didn’t know there were any “first affairs”…gulp

    Like you I had given him a Hero’s send off…2 full funerals (one east coast one in the west) with Catholic Priests and 21 gun salute.

    and now I had to reprocess my whole marriage and looking back on it with different lenses, I realize he was likely a cheater from the get-go.

    In my case, it has been so long since the physical cheating, I (oddly) don’t dwell on that, I am, however, quite traumatized to realize that all the times he was ass-bastard mean was likely in response to deep guilt. It is the memory of his cruelty that will be the weight I carry in my soul.

    You may have already learned that you feel terribly out of place in widow support situations (IRL or online)…yea that is why Im here…we have more in common with these people than anyone else.

    As for who to tell…that is tricky….Im a huge extrovert and Im very integrated (very rarely do I compartmentalize) so this is tricky for me. I told my kids that their dad betrayed me in ways that he didnt betray them and I am reeling from it so my feelings may not be in line with theirs. I have tried (perhaps wrongly) to lure my kids into letting me make a huge info dump on them but they made it clear they dont want it. CL was right that its not their job to get you through this part of grief.

    I chose to not tell his family for the most part (even his 85 year old dad who exampled horrible behaviors which likely caused a lot of my eventual problems) with the exception of a few whispered comments to a SIL here or there. There is nothing to be gained from causing them pain.

    I also didnt tell my parents because they are personality disordered and would go off about it and I dont want to hear it.

    So I dont openly discuss his abuse with either set of parents or my kids, but with my girlfriends, I let loose. I have been friends with Patsy (a gal here) for a long time and we recently met up and had a great time freely expressing our disgust over our former husbands actions.

    It has taken me about 2 years since learning the worst of things to reprocess my memories in a way that now is beginning to make sense. I am remarried to Colonel Greatguy and I am careful to not dump too much on him.

    One way that I work out my angst is to intentionally live the best possible life I can…I have meaningful work, Im in school, I travel and overall have a fabulous time…everytime I really live it up, it feels like Im giving the double “fuck you” salute to the sucky way he coerced me to live.

    Im sorry this happened to you, but I urge you to be more mad than sad…mad feels better. Regroup and figure out what you really want to do with life untethered to a liar/cheater.

    • This might sound awful, but one reason I limit who I tell is that I do appreciate the decent kids responses to the “my first husband died” thing…

      if I said “never mind though, he was a bastard” any kindness I might receive from whoever quickly disappears into acting like his death must be a great thing and looking at me like I am a jerk for saying this and a sideways look that says “so did you kill him?” (which is horrifying and a remnant of this experience which I really hate.

      so for the most part…unless I have time and energy with a person to “go deep” with a full and thorough telling of the story, I let the surface story remain as-is

      Also, I also believe that his living of a nasty double life did contribute to his early death…he painted himself into a nasty, lonely little corner that he could not escape without risking everything and that was likely a ghastly way to live. He did not value his life and seemed to will himself dead (he didnt feel well for a long time but refused to see a MD). I take no responsibility for any of that, it was all on him.

        • Beautiful post by unicornomore. My own father married his AP, having left my mother truly screwed with three kids under 6. He is now in a federal prison nursing home, dying of dementia after a life of both white collar and sex crimes – a doctor who, in his oblivious narcissism, believed until this end that what he did wasn’t criminal. This is where my mother rose up like a phoenix goddess, and divulged just enough information over time to contextualize her responses, but not so much that I felt I was born of defective genetics when I was unprepared to see this rationally. Walk that line. There is a role here for class and grace. P.S. the AP is now 70, the sugar daddy she thought she was getting has been in jail for more than a decade, my stepbrother just got arrested for a pot farm in her attic, and my two bio siblings and I have elite degrees, great jobs and healthy grandchildren. Who won? Karma is the ultimate fixer. 😉

      • Thanks for your comments. I agree. I can only “go deep” with good friends.

        I also agree about your reasons for some of their behavior. My husband was not overtly cruel but he often didn’t treat me as kindly as he could (others noticed this, including my kids) and now I realize that is because he was caught up in his lies and probably didn’t love himself, certainly felt a certain amount of guilt and shame (he was not a sociopathic personality) and he would lash out in anger or impatience at me. it sucks to realize that’s what he was doing, but I can see it now.

        • This is a fantastic way to frame it. Mine was pretty darn cruel, basically chipping away at my self-esteem almost daily for 7 years, but I think he did it because he has guilt and/or shame about things that he has done or his family has done. Cutting me down made him feel better about himself.
          I don’t forgive him for that behavior, but I guess I can understand why he did it and maybe that will help me move on.

        • Lisa thanks for this. Was a huge cognitive dissonance thing trying to reconcile why he, apparently a kind man, did what he did. I knew him for a quarter of a century and just couldn’t get why he was doing what he did, cue involuntary gaslighting. He wasn’t cruel or systematically deceptive, he was weak and troubled and self-serving. I decided that either way, weak or cruel, it didn’t really matter, the end result is the same- he can’t be in my life.

      • ” I told my kids that their dad betrayed me in ways that he didnt betray them and I am reeling from it so my feelings may not be in line with theirs. ”

        … is pretty much a perfect response. It makes them aware of why you did not grieve quite as much as is socially expected, without burdening them with details.

        Well done xxx

    • I always learn something from your posts. It’s interesting that you think he was so mean because of “deep guilt.” What if he was just…mean? What if he lacked whatever it is that keeps us from hurting other people–kindness, empathy, respect? I’m not even sure of what that lack would be. But the more I read Chump stories, the more I wonder if psychopathy or anti-social personality or some inability to be truly attached to others explains the meanness, callousness, and cruelty of some Cheaters. Maybe they don’t feel guilty about that–maybe they feel superior, maybe they feel pleasure at being cruel. I don’t know. And it would take a team of shrinks to figure them out.

      • I agree, LAJ. George Simon says these people are motivated by power and impression management. To live their secret lives, they learn to feign empathy and guilt (and get better and better at it). With Hannibal Lecher, the “pity” channel was in full force many times as he feigned guilt or remorse to me and others. But scratch the surface, and there is no guilt or remorse at all. Ergo, that cannot underlie the meanness.

        The meanness, I believe, comes from further and further devalue. Study any historical instance of genocide (e.g., the Holocaust) and there is a slippery slope of de-humanizing the people who will be ultimately victimized. It starts with an in-group/out-group mentality, then involves stripping away some of the about-to-be-victimized group’s dignity, then inflicting another indignity, until eventually they are seen as subhuman.

        That is what cheaters do to us–they tiptoe into the devalue by first triangulating us with the AP (now we are the out-group), then view us as “less” because they’ve been able to dupe us, and the slippery slope toward meanness because they’ve dehumanized us is well on its way.

        • I agree, Tempest. Once you can dehumanize a person (or group of people) to the point where you view them as less than human, you can justify doing anything to them and not feel bad for them or about yourself. After all, they’re a couch. You don’t have to look far back in history for repeated examples.

        • All of this is spot-on.
          My cheater first aligned herself with (self-described “leader”) OW (as well as shoring up/ grooming allies among all our mutual friends*) and then started the maligning of me. In-group, stripping of dignity, victim-blaming, controlling the narrative, pure neglect, rage when exposed.

          *I recently went to a IRL forum on domestic violence, and this is a highly common tactic of abusers. No wonder DV victims/ survivors can struggle with being believed by those they they finally turn to for external support.
          My ex even said to me, “everyone else says I’m a great friend to them”, i.e. how dare I challenge how our friends perceive her. Also, they didn’t/ still don’t know how much she lies to/ deceives/ gaslights/ manipulates them. Some “friend”.

      • I agree, LAJ. George Simon says these people are motivated by power and impression management. To live their secret lives, they learn to feign empathy and guilt (and get better and better at it). With Hannibal Lecher, the “pity” channel was in full force many times as he feigned guilt or remorse to me and others. But scratch the surface, and there is no guilt or remorse at all. Ergo, that cannot underlie the meanness.

        The meanness, I believe, comes from further and further devalue. Study any historical instance of genocide (e.g., the Holocaust) and there is a slippery slope of de-humanizing the people who will be ultimately victimized. It starts with an in-group/out-group mentality, then involves stripping away some of the about-to-be-victimized group’s dignity, then inflicting another indignity, until eventually they are seen as subhuman.

        That is what cheaters do to us–they tiptoe into the devalue by triangulating us with the AP (putting us into the “out-group”), then continue the slippery slope toward dehumanizing us. That way, we become the enemy, worthy of contempt and awful treatment (especially when we are also the impediment to unadulterated sexual freedom with the AP or masseurs or others).

        • You two could be right…all of his behavior could have been caused by sociopathy … I will never know. In reality, I can’t get my mind around that because that level of disfunction and depravity is so foreign to me… maybe all the better.

          • It’s a testament to your goodness, UNM, that you are willing to grant him a modicum of humanity by interpreting his bad behavior as being due to guilt.

            I, also, attributed guilt to Hannibal throughout the marriage and post D-day, because he was sooooooo good at the sad sausage/faux remorse. But his mask slipped twice–fleetingly but cruelly–and I realized then that his remorse was merely a facade to avoid consequences. That, and my daughter saying, “He’s a sociopath, mom.”

            • Good for her ! … mine said something similar
              But it was my ex commenting on the scourge of psychopaths in society that really sticks in my head . He was an avid reader of snakes in suits and all the rest. He even suggested psychopaths should be identified and branded. No shit…even his own counsellor diagnosed him. And i sat there and disagreed saying it was a slippery slope and that they were still human….. OMG he was laughing at me. What a mind fuck. They just live by different rules. I think normal life gets boring for them and this is kicks. By the time midlife hits the laughs run iut and they get mean and nasty.
              Who knows
              Maybe i had a bad day.
              Or just saw the light.

        • yes TEMPEST ,GOOD observation , my POS exactly , the way he “gave away” his true self was that while he was giving out his ,”ham handed” statements he always had a smile (micro expression) on his face . so confusing , but i did figure out that he was enjoying my anguish and pain , with his lies ,and being disrespectful and dishonest…HE NEVER FELT GUILT ! when i read midwest post , my feeling was “lucky” , my POS is not dead yet . i have this day dream that when he does die ,i am going to call the funeral home , have his body picked up and cremated ,and call it a day , NO wake ,or visitation ,NO memorial service ,nothing . that is how i will repay his disrespect to me .if anyone questions me , my answer will be ; “if you care so much you do it,i’m done”. yeh

    • Unicornomore,

      I love your 2nd to last paragraph in your original post, where turning your angst into living fabulously, thus giving the double bird salute to the old way of living with him.

      So profound.

      • When I was on Safari last week, I was hanging my head out the window looking for elephants and remembering that 8 weeks earlier, I was in a palace in Prague. In between I dined with my daughter in Georgetown (DC). All things he will never experience.

        His stuff is out of the closet and has been replaced by my new husbands stuff.

        Picture me flipping the bird with both hands.

        • Haha my closet comment sounds like a metaphor, but I mean his actual closet with vertical walls and clothes hangers … his shit is gone and my new husbands clothes hang in it… all in much larger sizes since new hub is a tall white Colonel (cheater loathed tall white Colonels).

        • Unicornnomore
          I’m so happy for you that you moved on and found a real love in your life with your new husband. I hope I will see the day when I can feel real love and that there is actually someone out there that exists. I sure don’t want to be alone after the fact that I spent 17 years in a fake marriage that he enjoyed with his howorker and Making her happy and giving her an enjoyable time while I was in limbo wasting my life Being deceived and lied to and backstabbed all for
          Fun and games and the mindfuckery in the beginning of the marriage. When I look at it now I don’t know what he has done behind my back. The list is probably endless. It’s so sad and tragic for me. I’m still trying to get out from the rubble

    • I don’t know where you saw this, but it’s brilliant: “I recently saw a quote that said pain travels through families until someone is willing to feel it.” Years ago, an astrologer reading my chart told me that one of my life projects was to resolve the broken aspects of my maternal line. Going back 3 generations–abandonment, multiple divorces, alcoholism, living with alcoholics, chasing happiness with me. I’ve never thought all that through until right now–that is, I’ve never connected it back through great-grandmother. But they all had secrets. My mother didn’t known who her grandfather was. My mother claimed a previous marriage that I know nothing about.

      Tell your kids the truth. Don’t keep secrets. That is the most powerful thing you can do. An old AA line is “a family is as sick as its secrets.” That does both for the survivors of dead cheaters and those who are dealing with living cheaters. Tell you kids that basic truth. You can even tell your own basic emotions by name: “I’m angry, sad, confused, hurt but I’m aware of that and working through those feelings.” Your goal is to give kids information without exposing those emotions to them as something they need to deal with. That way if they see evidence of your emotional struggle, they know YOU know that you aren’t 100%. So they don’t have to try to “fix” your emotional state. The other big plus there, beyond living in the truth, is that you can show kids that emotions should be experiences and resolved by the person feeling them. It’s not up to your kids to “make you happy” or fix what you are unhappy about.

      You can also admit there are things you don’t know: “I don’t know why your dad or mom did/does those things.”

      What you shouldn’t do is give your kids your own pain, confusion, or anger to carry. CL is right about that. Take that stuff to your friends, your therapist, a support group. I think group therapy can be terrific for people dealing with confused but powerful emotions and experiences. It’s cathartic to tell a roomful of people a truly fucked up story because they will all say, “That’s truly fucked up.”

      • Thank you, LAJ. Great post and that was really helpful. So many responses seem to indicate I should tell my son (but not get my emotional crap all over him, which I get).

        I will take these responses to heart. You guys have been great. This website is so much more helpful than all the “widow sites” I went to. I just love everyone’s strength and guts. It’s really refreshing and so helpful.

      • College-age daughter figured out that there was a Schmooplanta and who she was during fake-conciliation. Meanwhile, our college-age son was still in the dark. I thought it was Cheatlanta’s place to tell our son. But of course, Cheatlanta was way, way, way too chicken to confess, so after a few months I gave Cheatlanta a deadline. If you don’t tell him by the end of the week, I’m telling him. At the last minute Cheatlanta made a semi-confession to our son.

        Here’s the thing – my son was very pissed with his father for having the affair and lying about it.

        But he was WAY more pissed at his sister and me for those months when he was the only one who did not know the truth.

      • LAJ and Tempest,

        I was thinking back on cheating men in my family and this post about secrets in the family shouts to me. Every woman in my family is wonderful and ALL of the women who came before me were cheated on by the men in the family. My great-grandfather, my grandfather, my bio-father, my stepdad, my husband, all of my three aunts’ husbands, all were cheaters. That is quite a list. They were beasts but the women, they were honest, loyal, true and suffered this with a quiet dignity. Most of them outlived their cheating bastards. Some of this is due to the times, my great-grandmother had so little power but some of this I think comes from the facts that we grew up with cheating bastards as fathers whom we were taught to idealized, because the image of a ‘good’ family was far more important than the fact that your father was keeping ‘a bit of fluff up country.’ None of us had any idea of what a good man looked like, how he behaved etc. All we knew was the disorder. My goal in all of this is to teach my kids what this looks like, and how to keep these degenerate creeps out of their lives.

        This brings me to the other part of my comment. I can’t say this enough. These people are disordered. They are disordered when they eat, when they sleep, when they say hello, when they buy you dinner, as they speak to the kids. We are so inured to their disorder we don’t see it but it is there. It is only with NO CONTACT and making a concerted effort to get rid of the flying monkeys and work on finding and creating a group of friends who are regular, normal, loyal etc that we really start to be able to process the kind of craziness we lived.

        So tell your son, give him a chance to see that what you thought of as ‘model’ dad, was a disordered cheater. Model being the sane parent and give him a chance to model his life and his values from someone who actually has good values and not his disordered cheater father. My son knows the truth, and as Dr. Demento gets farther and farther from their lives, they are coming to see that dear old mum is the solid citizen in their lives and has always been. Tell…tell all of it.

  • Midwest Chump,

    One event of shock and trauma is quite enough for anyone to bear, but you had a chain of horrible stuff there that is hard to fathom. You lose your spouse, and then a chain of discoveries makes you lose what you thought your history and memories were. You were lied to, and a lot of this terribleness you are dealing with is due to his bad behavior, not yours.

    This is your story now and your life. You owe him absolutely nothing but telling your own truth. Ask yourself what kind of person can sustain that jaw dropping amount of lies for years. This is a person who does not deserve you suffering any longer in silence.

    Strength to you!

  • I hope you find your peace Midwest. The only thing I can think to add; there may be people (family perhaps) who will not believe you, it’s good you have proof of what he did. Be prepared for that possibility, don’t let it hurt you further.

    Jedi Hugs

    • I keep a pile of stuff as proof. I have had friends tell me (in a “Dont be a bitter bunny” sort of way) to free myself from it all by burning the pile of proof. No…hell no. This was all very fucking real and I will NOT release my pile of stuff in a way that will allow anyone to deny my reality. I was gaslighted for years and this would feel like more of the same.

    • I wonder if there aren’t some folks who DO know. That tends to be the way with these things. The chump is conspired against by more than one person. Who knows? Maybe subtly or not so subtly letting it be known you know relieves someone else of a burden?

      • Yes! I think the reveal won’t be a surprise to all. Telling them may lift a burden they’ve been carrying around too.

      • Interesting point. I am also coming to realize that there are plenty of people who prefer to keep a view of life through rose-colored glasses (“she/he didn’t do that! You are simply justifying your anger.”) or to maintain their belief in the just-world-hypothesis at any cost (“if something bad happened to you, you must have done something to deserve it” = “you must have been deficient if your spouse cheated on you”).

        This was puzzling to me, because I try to think in a very evidence-based way. But some people prefer the blue pill.

        • Yup. X asshat told his brother and wife that it was a mutual decision for us to divorce. My youngest daughter and asshat’s sister (sibling to the brother here) told the truth, that I was abandoned while away on a work trip and sent an e-mail as my notice that the 28 year marriage was over. That asshat had moved to Europe permanently to be with the 25 YO ho-worker. Their response? “People grow apart and fall out of love….things happen.”

          Those dumbshits are not going to burn a single calorie thinking it through or picking sides or even recognizing that they were lied to as well. It is just easier to play nice and not decide right from wrong. I didn’t expect anything else from them, they are losers.

        • Yah Tempest, here are rose-colored beliefs: All people want the same thing. Deep down, we are all the same. Love conquers all.

  • I like the suggested scripts. We don’t have a right to vomit our feelings on the kids but to frame it as “I found out things aren’t perfect and your understanding while I get my head round this is appreciated” works. It impacted them on the available funds and also their mothers health too, he is not a saint but what is broken between the kids can’t be repaired thereafter. Tread, but tread gently at first.

  • i keep the proof too, to remind me in moments of weakness.
    two things to consider here :
    1. Son might already know and is struggling with the big secret he’s keeping from his mom.
    2. these things (addictive gambling; need for instant gratification and lack of impulse) can sometimes be at least partially driven by genetics. I’ve experienced first hand two such examples of like father like son. If the son is going down that path and not really sure how he got there I wonder if it would be helpful at all to know his father did it?. I’m not saying assume he has a problem but it could be a starting point for a conversation if he is struggling with something. I find my depression easier to cope with knowing that my sisters, mother and grandmother all suffer depression too.

  • Such a dilemma, and so unfair to be unable to confront your cheater unless you have a Ouija board.

    But the difficult question of whether to tell the kids, family, etc, is kind of universal.
    We’re encouraged by many to keep the secrets, and if you’re giving reconciliation a shot or have young kids it’s semi-understandable.
    But when it gets to the point of taking care of YOU, the answer is clear; TELL.

    You can dish the deepest darkest details to your bff’s. Have a Ouija & Wine party & let it Fly!
    The rest – kids, family, acquaintances? Keep it simple. “Tom was not an honorable man”. Or “he had a secret life”. “I’m still struggling with these Revelations and need your support”.

    I tried reconciliation for almost 2 yrs & protected my H until I finally blew a gasket & chose to Divorce. I still made my difficult 17 yr old son treat his dad respectfully right up until the day the ex ripped into me & sided with my son over an argument he hadn’t even been present for. Right in front of my son.

    That was the final straw. I returned fire in all its Glory (also massages, strippers & hookers). His “terrible awfuls” finally exposed.
    It was shocking & tough & should’ve been handled differently, but it was a huge weight lifted. My kids were so supportive afterward & said I should’ve told them before.
    Don’t let it get to that point of a meltdown for you. Break it to your loved ones gently & let them help you heal.

  • If your daughter knows the odds are that your son will know, too, at some point, because she will tell him or in an unguarded moment it out. In the interests of honesty and honest relationships with your children, I’d tell him, using Chump Lady’s script.

  • I too am in the Dead Cheaters Club. While I knew Cheaterturd had many affairs while we were married it wasn’t until he was dead that I came across the whole ugly truth of his life. Sooooo many more affairs than I knew about before, he belonged to a multitude of depraved sex hook up sites, he disparaged me to anyone who would listen making up more lies about my character than I can list. He basically lived a complete double life and I found my entire marriage with him was an illusion. Prior to this I thought there were a few years that were real. Nope. I haven’t shared these discoveries with anyone but my therapist. No point really, when he died he had no real friends, we had no children and I didn’t see any reason to pummel his parents with the reality of the monster that was their son. My therapist says he was a true sociopath. Quite an accomplishment for a guy that was only 40. I am still dealing with the aftermath of my discoveries and the fact that he will never have to answer for his actions can make you crazy. One day at a time and CN keeps me going.

    • Beachgirl, I know that feeling well, the one where the teflon jerkoff has managed to avoid being held acountable for their misdeeds yet again. It’s rage inducing because it is so frickin unfair.

      In my case cheater ex literally got away with murder by offing himself.

      I finally had to decide to look at it from the viewpoint of he took his case to a higher court, one he couldn’t con. I got a little bit of comfort from that actually…..the image of him standing before Spirit and trying to explain away his crappy character and worse behavior.

      • Tessie, my deadcheater dealt with very few consequences here and took many lies and secrets to the grave. I am Catholic and I believe in Purgatory (its a fascinating theological concept) and Im sure they are held to accountability there.

  • Though my cheater is still alive, the thing that was the hardest in realizing the truth of who I was married to was… the societal pressure to protect the kids by protecting their image of him (ie lying to them).

    There is this broad misunderstanding that telling the truth of someone’s bad behavior is equal to bad mouthing them. You have the added burden of the social expectation that we don’t speak Ill of the dead.

    Facts don’t have to be synonymous with feelings; disclosing a truthful fact is not bad mouthing. I’m sure almost all chumps struggle with this when it comes to their children.

    I was married (well technically still am) to a dirtbag serial cheater that frequented strip clubs, escort pages and hook-up sites. I’d bet my left arm that I could likely add happy endings massage parlors to that list. My children don’t know the details of his activity, but they do know their dad was chronically unfaithful.

    I found setting rules for myself helped

    1) I do not have to protect my children FROM the truth, but I do have to respect my feelings are not their feelings

    2) It is not my job to protect his image, but it is my job to protect the self-directed relationship they want to have with their father.

    3) His lies are his own business, until they affect my children’s evaluation of who I am, now as a parent, or who I was in the marriage. I promptly correct lies with facts, and try to keep the associated emotions out of it. Like when my daughter said he told her I would have aborted her if it wasn’t for him.
    This is a burden you are exempt from. There’s no one telling them how awful you were/are.

    4) It is my job to comfort my children, not the other way around. If they want to tell me how awful they think their dad is, I listen, I empathize, but I do not jump on the “he’s an awful person” train. I focus on their feelings, not mine.

    I have noticed 3 years out that I am getting to a point where I don’t care if people know the truth. In the beginning I would get so upset when I heard what a great guy he is and how horrible it was that “his wife wouldn’t work on the marriage.” … Or that I am a gold digger, lazy, crazy, (insert lie here). I know the truth, and that is all that matters. I don’t need anyone to validate that he’s a scumbag and treated me like dirt.

    I think once you grieve the loss of who you thought he was, stop trying to untangle the skein, process your feelings of gullibility / naivety, and put the responsibility for his behavior where it belongs – squarely on his shoulders; you come out of grief cracked… but stronger.

    Cheaters suck! No matter how they justified it, the fact remains that their behavior wounds someone else deeply. If they can justify denying and destroying another persons reality, they are not a “good person who makes bad decisions.” They are a selfish and self-centered person who has no sense of what it means to love anyone other than themselves.

    • Oh dear God. He really told your daughter that you would have aborted her if not for him?? That has got to be one of the sickest things I’ve ever heard on this blog and that’s saying something. Holy shit. I’m dumbfounded by that level of evil. I can’t wait until you are completely free of that monster, G-A-B. I admire you so much for the level headed way you deal with all of this shit.

      Big hugs to you.

      • As sick as this seems, my EX told a neighbor the same thing about my youngest son (the one that I am now estranged from.) Quite possibly said the same thing to my son, but, as the son does not speak to me, I’ll never know. Sociopaths slander at it’s best.

        • I’m so sorry NMF. It’s just unimaginable to me that a husband and father would say something so incredibly cruel. Something so harmful not just to their spouse they are clearly intending to hurt, but to their own child as well! I don’t know why I continue to be surprised at the depth of evil and hatred in these disordered people but somehow I still am.

          • Beth …my ex POS told his 12 year old daughter who he had not seen in a year that he wished she was NOT his child – then told her to fuck off via text later …..#prince

            This was the same “man” who had played at “loving ” father for the first 11 years of her life ….

            I only WISH he was dead

          • It’s incredible. It really is. My cheater told the courts via response to my divorce petition that both of our children were “announced” to him only after I was far enough along that there was no legal way that I could abort. Essentially stating that I had trapped him into parenthood, that he was not given the opportunity to have demanded that I abort the pregnancies that he (evidently) had not desired. I guess he conveniently forgot that we had been married 7 years, suffered two miscarriages when our first child was conceived and then 4 years later we welcomed our second child. Oh and these “details” were shared completely out of context of any meaning-we had been married 25 years when I filed. There was simply no reason to #1 lie about the births of our children #2 write it into the court documents. These discorded people simply re write history to fit their narrative. There’s no sense to be made of any of it other than they suck.

            Cheaters just seriously suck.

            • Was his goal to avoid child support by saying that you tricked him into not giving him the chance to insist on aborting them? Wow, that is massively fucked up. What kind of a selfish POS does that? Will you ever tell your kids that he did that?

    • Got a brain how truly horrible it is that he told his own child that you would have aborted her.
      I am to the point that i know he is going to lie. I know he is going to be hurtful to his own children.
      Even though he is mia he still manages to hurt us via his mom.
      Whatever she thinks is her own problem but when she involves my kids i have to shut it down.
      These people live to hurt others.
      They are truly sick.

    • @Got-a-Brain, those are excellent and clear-eyed perspectives. I’m copying them for myself! Thank you!

  • It is never correct to say, “You should just feel lucky that….. blah blah blah….” because the pain experienced is so personal and so awful that it simply must never be wiped away. This happens a lot when the betrayed spouse had no children with the fuckwit, or “it was ONLY prostitutes” instead of some long term emotional entanglement. Everyone’s journey is personal and as CL often says, it is not the Pain Olympics here. So don’t take the next statement as any sort of diminishing of the pain, it is just another perspective and honestly, my wistful wishing.

    It did occur to me that “at least” you didn’t have to hear about how it is all your fault and how your inadequacies caused him to cheat– so many of us on these boards were given the screaming, raging download of full blame from the fuckwits as they turned on their heels into the arms of the complete POS affair partners. It is PTSD inducing and so horrifying. Honestly, having been given that treatment I have wished my X asshat dead so many times. I am not at meh and am really hating him and keep bouncing back to that sense of wondering how I must be so awful that I caused this. All part of the cycle of grief, and my chumpy nature keeps pulling me back to blaming myself because he told me I was horrible, therefore I must be.

    None of that makes the journey you are on now any less painful since looking for a phony silver lining in this pile of turds is folly.

    Midwest, I hope you do not spend one nanosecond trying to figure out how you must have failed your deadcheater, this was his choice; all of it. It is not your fault! I keep working on that myself, every day.

    ((hugs))

    • Now IC, folks like me & Roberta got both… the toxic irrational blame then all the death stuff. I got all the blame and rage but he died before I learned the full extent of his deeds, so I never got the satisfaction of looking him in the face when he knew that I knew. I would give $10,000 to have him in a room for 5 minutes to tell him that he had been discovered.

      • I hope you both are much smarter than me and know it was not your fault. I expect you are from your wise entries here.

        They never admit it even when you do confront, do they? Trickle truth and then more blame on you. The hope for a satisfying blowout and confrontation so often ends up being more mindfuck, abuse, gaslighting. It is never their fault.

        There is no silver lining or better-than. It all sucks.

        • I know you are right, his capacity to deny and ignore reality to keep himself comfortable was delusional to the point of deep pathology. I think most of them are as bad as he was in this regard.

      • Unicorn, don’t regret missing out on being unable to confront your dead cheater about what you knew!

        I got to do that, and it was like talking to a brick wall. All in all, I’d rather have had 100% of the assets, the life insurance payout, and the social security death benefits.

  • Midwest:

    While I did not experience the same betrayal as you, I did experience financial and physical infidelity at the hands of my husband. My oldest daughter was unfortunate enough to overhear her dad and I fighting at one point which ultimately disclosed his betrayals. She carried that with her secretly until our eventual divorce and it physically destroyed her to do so. I kept these betrayals from my youngest daughter in the attempt to protect her from having bad feelings about her father. My wise therapist advised me against this. My therapist told me that eventually the truth would come out and my youngest would be angry at me for not disclosing the facts with her. This is exactly what happened and worse. My youngest was upset that her sister knew and she did not. She felt as though she wasn’t important enough to know the truth and felt outside of the family. We all knew the events that destroyed our family except for her. BIG MISTAKE! It took her a good year before she trusted me that I was no longer keeping secrets.

    Tell your son. It is not your responsibility to protect your late husband. He deceived you.

  • I just wanted to say I’m sorry this happened to you. It is so horrible, and no person should have to go through it.

    Even though yelling and ranting and raving at my ex, on D Day, was like yelling at an oblivious brick wall, at least I got the chance to do it. Even though he never validated my feelings (and continued to deeply hurt me, through his subsequent actions), at least I got to yell. There was at least partial catharsis there.

    I am so glad you are in therapy. Remember, no matter whether your son takes the information in stride or whether he lashes out at you, it is not your fault. There is no perfect way to deliver news like this, and it is extremely unfair that it has fallen on you at all.

    Be well, dear friend.

    • I meant to add in there, it isn’t fair that you didn’t get the chance to confront him, alive. For all the chumps that find out after death, jeez. Talk about more than your share of misery. That REALLY sucks!

  • Hi Midwest,

    I’m a Midwest chump too (Ohio). After DDay #2 when I made my ex leave the house, I kept our separation a secret from everyone but my kids for two years. I was so sure in the beginning that we would work things out, and I didn’t want to tarnish his reputation with our family and friends. Even with my kids I wasn’t honest about the reason for the separation – I told them we “had issues we needed to work out”. That was a big mistake. The kids knew more than I thought they did. My son heard us arguing when DDay #1 happened 4 years earlier so he already had an idea that his dad was cheating but my lying to them and covering up what had happened allowed my ex to make himself look like the sad sausage victim rather than the emotionally abusive asshole that he really is. The secrecy took a terrible toll on my health, my mental state and my relationships with my kids, my family and my friends many of whom were hurt that I didn’t tell them what was going on. They felt I didn’t trust them enough to let them into my life. Six years later, my kids and I have worked through it for the most part, but I will always regret that I wasn’t honest with them from the start. By all means, frame your truth in a way that makes it more bearable for the kids but take it from me, telling your truth is better for them and for you.

  • I am part of the dead cheater group too. And like Unicornnomore, I gave him a beautiful send off with Mass and military honors. My family and his knew what he had done to me though. They were shocked that I had given him such a beautiful funeral. I feel certain that if I had died first he wouldn’t have bothered to do the same. We tend to elevate the dead to saints when they die and not speak ill of them. I think this is wrong. They CHOSE to behave badly while living and unfortunately that is part of their legacy. I say tell the truth as best you can without trashing them. They trashed themselves in life. We were not consulted while they were running around behind our backs doing who knows what! If they didn’t want people to know then they should have known better than to do these awful things!

  • Short version of the post is

    Does not matter if they are dead or not, the day they cheated is the day they decided you no longer have to be their PR person. Just tell the truth but don’t manipulate their opinion. Let the kids (and friends) make their own opinion.

    I do that now with my daughter in regards to her mom. I don’t have to PR what she did and I don’t even try to.

  • Cheaters have secrets. Cheaters are liars. They ALWAYS assume anyone who knows the truth about them will keep the secret, or it will go with him/her to the grave. In a certain way this is karma. My late non-cheating husband said, “You always find out what you need to know”. Would you have preferred to remain ignorant or are you better off for knowing, as painful as it is? Tell anyone you choose, including your son. Is your late husband’s memory tainted by cover up or truth? It is who he was that should be the memory? I think CL’s words are the perfect way to start. This is deep wound.
    Expect it to be a long time before you can incorporate this all, the death and the deception makes it a “complicated grief” which takes an even greater toll than just a simple grief. You have that along with fury you feel at being deceived without having the cheater/deceiver there to express at/to. Death of a loved one changes us. We are not and cannot ever be the same. This is a very hard road for you. Only time, not any of our words or that of the therapist can shorten that time, the best healer. I understand and you have my sympathy and empathy.

  • I recently saw a quote that said pain travels through families until someone is willing to feel it. I think the script laid out by CL is preternaturally wise. State the facts, both what you discovered and how YOU are feeling about it, without editorializing but making it known that you are there for your son, however he chooses to process it. My cheater isn’t dead but as others have stated, the dilemma of what to tell the children is a tricky one for many of us. However, my husband’s infidelity has brought up family issues with my grandfathers and I can’t help but wonder if I I might have ended up in a healthier relationship if someone had been willing to do the work of confronting the crap years ago.

    • I wonder this myself. My X’s dad left his mom with a huge financial burden when he died. Which no one addressed. They all still refer to him as a great guy and my X idolizes him. maybe if my X had had better role model we would have had a better relationship or maybe if the family would have processed their dad’s faults properly, they could have learned from them. I guess it doesn’t really matter any more. What happened, happened and there is no way to change it now.

  • I , like Unicornnomore, also have the pile of proof that I keep so if I happen to get push back from anyone then let them look over the “evidence” I have. I simply cannot bring myself to burn or dispose of it. I suppose it’s my validation.

    • Mine was so careful his rapid fire emails to the ho worker were of a professional nature. However I could see the hidden meanings that if you read between the lines it was clear that they were praising each other and he was thanking her for her support and also she was telling him she was vomiting which lead me to see clearly that she had morning sickness. But I digress. He had the emails but he had erased all his phone messages and texts. The one that came through while in the hospital was from her but he had her hidden as a mans contact name but the content was clearly from a woman. The way she wrote the text you can plainly see it was from her. So my point is he was very careful to keep it deeply hidden so that his image would be incredibly pristine after he died
      I know a lot. I have many many other clues to
      An ongoing affair with this howorker. Imagine my shock when I found out that she had the same address near my house as a previous co worker that I suspected was with him too. They did not live there together. No the two women lived there at separate times but at the same rental property proving to me that he link was my husband and he had rented this flop house with the intention of screwing them Then the second one that was the main supply (the first one was now out of the pic) then was able to buy a beachhouse mansion when she allegedly was a woman with no husband and two
      Underage children. I suspect my husband bought her the beachhouse because he kept his accounts secreted and separate.

  • I did my big comment above but I wanted to add: When we hide secrets, our own or those of other people, we are denying others the possibility of knowing us. That doesn’t mean blabbing things to all and sundry. but how can kids ever “know” their dad if they don’t know these major factors about him? Then they grow up idealizing him and thus spackling over negative behaviors or characteristics they did know. It’s possible for kids to love a very flawed parent. In fact, it’s a far more powerful kind of love to know someone with all their failings and love them anyway. I’ve come to that point with my deceased mother. And it’s glorious and freeing. I don’t feel ripped apart, both loving her and hating the damage she did. Now I feel I know her as a person, so far as I can given her secrets, and can love who she was, the good with the bad. Putting parents on a pedestal is a very bad idea.

    • Boy, I can relate to this. I’ve forgiven my Mom, and my Dad, for the horrible things they did to me. They were human. And they both loved me, too. It’s very freeing.

  • I understand the effort to protect your children (who are adults now) but protecting his extended family, your extended family, the mailman, his former coworkers and anyone else you’d like to add to this list is unreasonable and unfair: to You. After that many years of marriage, even if you hadn’t discovered anything about your husband, you are still a widow. In my book you get a free pass on what you say to ANYONE for at least 1-2 years after his passing.
    Seriously, take care of you right now. Other’s have said to get counseling, which would be a great idea. A nice trip or cruise to get away would also be helpful. Hang in there.

  • There is much good advice about not keeping secrets here. My ex tested positive for hiv 2 years ago, we decided to divorce a year later. Now divorced for 10 months. He asked me not to tell kids (teenager, tween) his status because he didn’t want to burden them with worry for him. In my shock I agreed. I’m still struggling to process that his diagnosis was a dday.

    The kids already knew divorce was likely because of how he was – each had already approached me to say “leave” before the diagnosis. I’ve struggled about telling them since the divorce as both have a rocky relationship, and The youngest years of court ordered visitation. I don’t want loyalty to me clouding their decisions. Oldest has asked me to be honest about her dad because she is trying to decide if he’s a good person. Spoiler alert – he’s not. Today’s discussion is food for thought, sigh.

    • If she’s trying to decide if he’s a good person, she already knows the answer.

      Ask her what she wants to know and answer it as plainly as you can and without judgment if that’s possible. That way, you’re being responsive to her needs without necessarily giving her more than what she wanted. You’re also staying out of the process of morally judging him. Instead of having to break down his actions on a +/- scale in order to present a balanced perspective, you ask her for what she needs to make her decision.

      • I appreciate the insights, kB. That’s an excellent approach. I was caught up in trying to decide if he was a good person for years, I think because then I should forgive him? But that’s not really how it works. “ ls this behavior acceptable to me” is what I need to teach my kids. Giving them the unemotional facts, as they ask for them, allows this decision to unfold without bias – or at least as little as possible!

  • When ever people try to discourage me from telling the truth about xh, they use a buckshot of reasons.
    “You appear bitter.”
    “You need to protect the kids.”
    “What does it matter, now?”
    “Well, there IS his side of things.”

    Bottom line, we as a society are very invested in hiding and keeping secrets. It is a control thing.
    What these people are really saying is
    “I don’t want to be made uncomfortable”

    I have replied many times, when talking about exposure
    “A simple tiny truth is powerful. More powerful than the 500 lies told to conceal it.”

    The more direct you state the truth adds to the power of it.

    Meeting my XH family introduced me to a new form of liar. Compulsive liars. From eldest to youngest. Bold faced liars. I never really knew this personality type existed. Man, was I wrong.

  • My cheater is unfortunately very much alive, but do you know what this post made me realize? I thought I had one D-day, but I really had 3.

    D-Day #1 – The first few months after our daughter was born. I discovered that my X’s mom and dad had taken credit cards out in his name and were now defaulting on $30,000 worth of debt. The only was to get that debt off our responsibility was to press charges against his family. Something he was not going to do until his dad died of a heart attack and he then did it posthumously. His dad died leaving tremendous amount of hidden debt to the mom (surprise, surprise) and my X gave his mom $2000 without telling me. Money we did not have to give and as a result he did not pay the gas bill for 5 months, which I discovered upon receiving a disconnection notice.

    D-Day #2 – about a year later when I discovered porn on his phone. He was refusing to have sex with me for over a year (that would continue for 7 years until he finally discarded me) so at the time I thought he was having issues with seeing the birth of our child (madonna/whore complex), but now that I think back on it, this should have been a huge red flag.

    D-Day #3 – The final dday when I discovered sexting images on his ipad and discovered that he cheated on me on a work trip.

    Up until this point I had a suspicion that there had been other times he had cheated, but I never really considered the first 2 d-days I listed. Clearly there were many issues from the start of our marriage that I spackled right over.

  • To everyone extolling the virtues of full truth telling in the midst of betrayal… I agree with you – for all the reasons you give and more. One reason for the truth telling is that there is a reasonableness to doing so when they are alive and you know they can defend themselves (even if they are lying asses in doing so).

    I guess my unique POV is that if you either don’t know or don’t tell before they die, there are challenges to revealing ugly truths after they die which wouldn’t have even occurred to me had I not lived it.

    There is something particularly tragic about someone dying in a state of acute fuckedupness and all hope is lost for any hope of redemption or growth. The fact that my life is better with him dead reveals a horrible tragedy in itself. If we blurt out a revelation of their failure to everyone, we risk the profoundness of the whole thing being quickly dismissed as earned comeuppance. It’s all bigger than that and giving people a good reason to withhold compassion doesn’t do me any good in how i interface with the world.

    Really, it’s terribly complicated.

    • Every time you explain why you don’t tell people the full truth about Dead Sociopath, I find myself nodding because it makes sense (and was hoping the “full truth” line wouldn’t be seen as an indictment of your valid reasons for keeping mum to some people).

      This intrigued me, “If we blurt out a revelation of their failure to everyone, we risk the profoundness of the whole thing being quickly dismissed as earned comeuppance. It’s all bigger than that…”

      Interesting point–that telling the sordid truth about Dead Sociopath’s life would encourage people to compartmentalize him as “evil person who deserved to die suddenly.” And that compartmentalization would gloss over the tens of thousands of minor psychological deaths you endured while living with him. Healing comes from telling & processing the details; having others merely compartmentalize your X would prevent full disclosure, leaving you with the weight of those memories.

    • There is something particularly tragic about someone dying in a state of acute fuckedupness and all hope is lost for any hope of redemption or growth.

      My cheater is still alive, but even so there is no hope for redemption or growth for him. He WILL die in a state of acute fuckedupness. He will stay disordered until he dies. The timing of his death will be completely irrelevant.

      As for telling people the truth, I think that concern also applies whether the cheater is dead or alive. Our experiences are part of who we are, which we have every right to share with the people in our lives. I don’t blurt my story out to everyone I run across in my daily life, but my story is mine to share, which I do—judiciously as to whom and when. Whether the profundity of my story is dismissed, whether my ex is compartmentalized as evil, whether the details of the abuse are glossed over are all out of my control. I don’t control the thoughts and attitudes of those who hear my story, nor do I wish to. I only control the choices of with whom and when I share it.

      The original poster should definitely tell her son the truth. What is the point of keeping it from him? Let him know and grieve and process appropriately.

      I personally would have preferred my ex to die before we were divorced. Logistically it would have been MUCH easier. I wouldn’t have had to share our assets, go through a three-year divorce process, pay tens of thousands to lawyers, or worry about running into him and the OW around town, and I would have gotten his SS benefits.

      • Yes. Having endured the difficult divorce process, the lies and the enormous legal bills, I agree with you and wish that I was a part of the “Dead Cheater’s Club”. Even though he is still alive, I HAVE NEVER been able to confront him with all that I have learned. Although, I did provide him with a six page letter of all my discoveries. His written response: “it contains SOME truth”.

      • You may still be able to get his SS benefits, please check. There are benefits for divorced spouses and benefits for widows, and you may qualify for both which would allow you to choose depending on your circumstances. Look into what fits for your particular situation.

    • Unicornomore, so profound, so sadly true. This times one million. I still fight with the guilt that my life is better with him not in it, that it took his death for the situation to improve is a tragedy when all he had to do while still alive was be a better person.

    • Unicorn, I kind of get your point. There is a sadness to an initially promising life wasted. You are a lot kinder and nicer than me.

      With cheater ex in my case, telling the truth was a moot point. He kind of outed himself in an undeniable way to the whole world. I think he was beyond fucked up, I think he was sociopathic and just plain evil. I don’t feel the least bit of guilt in saying the world is a better place without him. Like I said you and Beach girl are nicer folks that me.

      Hugs Midwest Chump.

  • Midwest Chump, so sorry for the loss of your life partner. Whether he was real, or a phantom, he was with you for so long. I didn’t have time yet to read CN’s comments, but this jumped out at me- you put him on a pedestal and thought highly of him. Maybe, when you feel more settled, you might consider this: put yourself on that pedestal! How fantastic were you all these years? Keeping it all together, while he vanished on the weekends? Raising great young people while he drove away to god knows where? You are a hero.
    Love yourself now! I think sometimes Chumps give too much importance to the ‘trouble child’ in the family, and not enough to ourselves. Take your power back, you earned it!! You authentically cared for all your family members, under tough circumstances. I wish you’d think about that, not about him. Please find a therapist you can talk openly to, so you can keep your friends from getting overwhelmed.
    Sending you love, and power <3

  • I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I wished my cheater dead. At least I would have gotten the life insurance.

    I can’t imagine however, being married for 40 years to your high school sweetheart to find out it was all fake. That’s how I would feel anyway. I was married ten years to a fake husband and I had a fake life and a fake marriage. I hate cheaters. How terrible for you.

    • omg To add to the tragedy. I had no life ins ! What kind of a chump am I. ? Tragic ! Triple tragic ! Won’t soon get over that one !

      • That really IS tragic.

        My cheater XH was scheduled for a very serious surgery a couple of years back and I told a close friend that I wouldn’t want him to die. Her answer? ‘As soon as the first checks come rolling in, you’ll be FINE.’ Lol I’m sure I would be.

  • The possibility of getting caught is part of the arousal for some cheaters. The risk of consequences creates excitement and a rush-filled a sense of superiority.

    Seems fitting, then, for the risk to play all the way out into the full consequences. It wouldn’t be a risk unless the negative outcome actually occurred. So, based on that premise, I figure I am just helping him out by discussing his secrets openly. ☺️

  • One of the things that stuns me about cheaters is the absolute lack of thought as to what people who love them might find when they (the cheater) dies. I confronted mine about this, particularly upon learning he kept “mementos” from his AP(s). What if he were to die and our daughter were to discover his little trove?

    Blank stare. He cannot think beyond the tip of his dick.

    Midwest, I am so sorry for you. I believe most of us here truly thought we were married to better people than the self-serving asshats we actually married.

    • I am remarried, and I am the sort of person people might call “jaded” in that I will never really trust any person again after the things I have seen. This is my fear, that I will spend a bunch more life energy giving my heart light to another person only to learn that I was again the victim of a betraying deceiver, to be bereaved and deceived all in one mighty blow.

      I wish humans were a lot more like happy, gentle dogs and cats.

      • I hear you, Amiisfree. Sadly, this experience leaves us with the unsavory knowledge that our worlds can be upended in a nanosecond, that people are not always what they appear, and that abnormal behavior is much more common than we previously suspected.

        • Plus, in our heart of hearts we realize that we never really know our partners — that if they do not want to be known we are at their mercy. The best we can do is hope the reciprocity criteria protects us somewhat from getting mixed up with these bastards.

    • One imagines a dying cheater thinking “I got away with it, No harm, no foul.” – a perverse last laugh at others’ expense. How shallow to believe that if they’re not present, there are no moral repercussions. The. same mindset of a Jimmy Saville, exposed and disgraced after death.

  • I’m still with my cheater and having a bad night. She would do Skype sex with her online man whores and I think she did meet one because she secretly waxed her private area before the trip and she has never done that before over the 20 yrs together. Well she is on a business trip having dinner at a expensive restaurant in her hotel with contractors and my gut is screaming that may not be the truth. This is the problem with trying to work it out after infidelity. It’s just my son and I and I’m triggering hard, I swear there is a rat in the woodpile. Ugh this sucks I hate feeling this way.

    • I’m sorry, TxDude. It is a horrible feeling to realize that your spouse may be with someone else. Marriage policing is a sordid job.

      You will not feel better until you make the decision to stop playing marriage police. to stop playing married. to stop thinking of the slutty roommate as your wife.

      There are chump meetup groups in all 3 major cities in TX (Dallas, Houston, Austin). If you want me to put you in contact with some people near you, let me know by responding to this post.

    • You’re at home wrecked right now regardless of what she’s doing at the moment. There’s no going back. You deserve better. Trust your instincts.

    • That screaming gut of yours, TxDude? Please, please listen to it.

      My body told me something was “off” loooong before my mind would take heed (and my heart still can’t even) – and the resulting stress (insomnia, stopped eating, heart palpitations etc) very nearly killed me.

      My ex also secretly removed her private hair before one of her many sudden trips/ trysts away. Also bought (and hid) new swimming wear. Healthy people DON’T do that kind of shit to people they claim to love. Or as Chump Lady would say, is your cheater’s behaviour acceptable to you?

    • Learning of past events is awful enough but knowing that they are most likely doing something in reat-time, that is a special sort of Hell.

      There was a time soon after Dday when my nowdeadcheater was supposed to be travelling alone and I could monitor the charges on our credit card…especially meals way to expensive for it to be for one person.

      If they talk the chump into staying after Dday, a real reconciliation would include them doing what ever is needed to make sure you felt comfortable when they were in high-risk situations..if they dont do that then its a wreckoncilation and they dont care…they are just playing us at that point.

      Im sorry, this REALLY hurts

    • TxDude, trust your gut, for your sake and your son’s. Hugs to you today, it hurts so hard, but how long can you put up with this? If this isn’t acceptable to you, then don’t accept it. It feels like the hardest thing in the world but Chump Nation is bursting with magnificent people who have refused to accept the life you and your son are living. You deserve total transparency and she owes it to you.

      Much love

  • Midwest,
    I feel much of your pain: my husband, currently alive, used some of the money that was supposed to go into our young children’s college savings account for sex with prostitutes. I have not yet told the kids what happened. Not sure exactly what, how, and when I will tell them why they aren’t getting as much money for college as they were supposed to.

  • I don’t know if it would help to know this, but my now dead grandfather was a cheater and while he had the money, he wouldn’t pay the rent. He bailed on my then 9 year old mother and my grandmother. They were evicted and eventually moved back in with family. He then permanently disappeared when my mom was 16 before she knew about how awful he was. She did some sleuthing and found out much much later that not only was he dead, but that he’d been a total fuckwit.

    What is amazing is that she was able to integrate her positive memories of him (he used to write her lovely letters and send exotic gifts) with the other reality of who he was: a man that cheated on his wife and often belittled and yelled at his wife and then bailed on her completely.

    To this day, my mom sees and loves him as her father. I wouldn’t know how your son will react, but children, including adult children, seem to have a tremendous capacity to see and accept the whole of who their parents are. I’m watching my own kids do this with their dad, who is currently living with his (very slimey met her on Craig’s list likes to do acid) mistress though we’re not divorced yet.

    For example, my 19 year old daughter, who went months without speaking to him initially, was on the phone tonight with him. She will not say “I love you” to him anymore, but she has found a way to integrate his sliminess and selfishness with what’s good about him and still accept him as her father. Maybe your son can do the same.

    Hugs!! We’re all in this together and you have all of us for support.

  • I really disagree and don’t think you should tell your son about your discoveries. You shouldn’t have told your daughter, but what’s done is done, and she, herself, will likely tell him in due time. Just like for you, it’s the kind of thing people cannot hold onto. Anyone and everyone you have told will now feel compelled to tell him in some way at some point in the future.

    At any rate, that your daughter knows is bad enough. She will now frame her entire life and relationships based on that knowledge. And so will your son, but this isn’t about him keeping the good parts of his father. This is about him shaping himself into the man he is yet to become. That man will be formed by the model of a man that his father presented. That man has his father’s character as example. I truly believe every man has, in the back of his mind, a need, a driving force, by which they compare themselves to their dad because dad set the framework and set the example. If a man thinks highly of his father because dad lived an exemplary life as a good husband and family man, then the son feels a sense of himself and an obligation to live up to that image. If a man had a father who lived a life of low moral character, then the son has no sense of his own identity because there was no example and no foundation on which to form his manhood. He also lives his life capriciously with low moral character.

    So, I really don’t think you should destroy his image of his father and send his mind into a tailspin no longer having any idea of who he is or where he came from because his father was not who he always thought he was. You will destroy his sense of self. Life can be very difficult as it is. Your son, being of the human male persuasion, will have the same desires and temptations that your husband had. Knowing his father gave in to those desires and temptations will be a green light for your son to do the same. He will give himself permission to do things he was taught never to do and wouldn’t even consider were it not for becoming privy to this information. And, I really don’t think you want the woman in his life to endure the same that you have recently discovered and have to endure.

    Instead of talking to your son about the things his father did to you, talk to him to remind him to be and always remain a good, honest, and loyal person.

    • I do understand your point here, StarChump. However, the daughter knows and that’s a dirty secret in the family that will cause tension. Also what if the son finds out, and he may? Won’t he feel deceived? And what about the truth – that the son has a false image of his father? I’d say it’s better to tell an adult child, having worked hard to model all the good things for them, and trust that they will be able to recognize a good male role model when they see it and follow that example.
      You say ‘talking to your son about the things his father did to you’. What about the things the father did to the son by being a bad role model? Children have intuition and gut reactions just as adults do. They see a lot more than we realize. Hasn’t the son’s image of a good father already been skewed, in this relationship?
      I haven’t told all to my 15 and 17 year olds, but if the cognitive dissonance between what they believe of their father and what he actually did becomes too stressful, I will. And if my relationship with them becomes difficult because they blame me for the breakup, I will tell them. It was not of my choosing and not my fault so I won’t bear the fallout alone.

    • or the son could get a unique insight into the harm that cheating causes and vow never to cheat. the truth could inoculate him.

      bottom line is it’s having a massive impact on his mum and he will know something is up. the choice is between telling him the truth or gas lighting him.

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