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“What do I tell my crying children?”

Dear Chump Lady

I have been reading your site for weeks now after discovering (after several years of suspicion) that I am an enormous chump and finally plucked up the courage to ask for help.

I don’t know what to say to my two children when they are crying because they feel that their family is “falling apart and maybe was never even a family”. Their pain breaks my heart all over again every time. I asked my husband to move out a couple of weeks ago. I am trying to muster the courage to file for divorce, but I am wavering because he cries and says it is not what he wants when he comes to see the children. They cry when I ask them if they’re OK.

I feel like I’m the ‘bad guy’ for trying to make this decision and I am constantly second guessing myself. I have tried to write lists of pros and cons for staying married or divorcing. So far they are full of cons and no pros. Here is my embarrassing chump story:

D-Day #1 was in 2006 when our son was 2. A couple of days after his 2nd birthday in fact. Husband came home from work and announced he was leaving. It was so out of the blue and such a shock that I threw up (I thought that was a fake thing on films). He was gone for 4 months while I pleaded and begged and made myself look amazing to try to get him to return.

A few days after he left, his itemised phone bill came through. Hundreds of pounds instead of the usual thirty. I felt sick when I saw it was the same number over and over, so I called it. Surprise. A woman answered, turned out she worked with him. She put the phone down pretty quickly. The whole 4 months he insisted she was helping him by talking about our marriage problems. He came home after 4 months saying he’d made a mistake. After a slow start, things were fabulous and I was expecting our second child. A few weeks into pregnancy I found a letter in his wallet — D-Day #2 — from this same woman — making it quite clear they’d slept together. He said she was crazy. I was pregnant, jobless, and terrified. The whole pregnancy was spent interrogating him. He denied it convincingly every time. I almost threw him out at 7 months pregnant, but he begged me not to make a decision whilst hormonal.

Fast forward to 2011 and D-Day #3. I found a birthday card and Christmas card amongst his clothing along with receipts from Christmas 2010 (things for me). Yes, you guessed it, they were from the same woman. He couldn’t understand how they had got there, admitted they’d been talking and texting, even though he’d sworn in 2007 he’d never speak to her ever again. I made him change his number. I searched everything and found emails and messages between them and the most sickening email written by my husband, that goes on for 3 pages, about how jealous he is she’s got someone else, how they should cease contact, how he has loved her so much for years.

He said he wrote it when drunk one night after a row with me and that none of it was true. So I emailed her asking what was happening and what had happened in 2006. “Nothing! Please don’t torture yourself, nothing ever happened, we were just good friends.” We had marriage counseling, although husband managed to somehow change that to just me having counseling by convincing the counsellor I had some childhood issues that even I didn’t know existed.

Our daughter was very ill in 2012 and this took my mind off the marriage issues, although every so often I would question him, we’d argue, he’d get angry and ask when I was going to get over him ‘talking to someone he shouldn’t have talked to’ so that we could just be happy. Over and over again he looked me in the eyes and swore nothing had every happened. Oh, and I’d really like her if I got to know her.

In 2015 he suddenly announced (after what I thought was our best holiday for years) that he didn’t love me anymore and 6 weeks later left again — D-Day #4. This time for 9 months. Then mysteriously decided yet again he’d made a mistake and we could work it out. I was very unsure this time and took 6 months to tentatively decide to let him back in.

Things haven’t been great, there was so much for me to get my head round, but because I so desperately wanted my children to have an intact family I have plodded along and mostly managed to push it all to the back of my mind. Until this Easter. This Easter I received an email from a man I’d never heard of but the title was OW’s name. It was her husband (she wasn’t married to him in 2006 though). He found a hotel receipt from 2015 and sexting up to 2016 — D-Day #5. He got her to speak to me and admit they had been ‘together’ for 6 months in 2006 (meaning they were still at it when he came back to me).

Husband said she was lying at first, then admitted it. It has taken the rest of these weeks for them to both admit they have continued to sleep with each other on and off ever since the 2006 affair. It has been trickle truth for weeks. One of them admitting something, the other one denying it. It’s pathetic. My world has imploded. My entire history of the last 12 years has been a lie. So now I sit here, wondering how I could have been so stupid as to believe his lies for 12 years. Wondering what I’m going to do and if I can really do this to my children. They are heartbroken and say it’s not the same without Dad. I have told them why this is happening. My son is 13 so understands what an affair means to some extent but my daughter is 10 and is confused because I don’t want to go into too much detail, but she knows dad has done very bad things that you’re not allowed to do when you’re married, and hurt me very much.

I’m just not strong enough when they cry about their family falling apart. I’m not strong enough when husband cries and says he will never do it again. He has said that over and over so I know it would be stupid to believe him again, but I just don’t know if I can go through with it and be the one breaking my children’s hearts. I have her husband messaging me, she’s messaging me, I feel like it’s all on me. Please help me.


Dear Distraught,

Leaving your husband because of his decade-plus long affair does NOT make you a “bad guy” — it makes you lucid. Leaving him is a consequence of HIS continued cheating, lying, emotional abuse, and abandonments. Sounds like we’re fuzzy on the concept of consequences over there, having had so very few of them for eons. I suggest your husband have his lawyer explain it to him. (They bill in six-minute increments.)

Why are you wearing the blame here, Distraught? Put that down this minute. Get angry. How DARE he cry to you! How DARE he try to make you the bad guy! Fuck his fake tears. Be righteously pissed — Oh, now he’s got a sadz? Now that the chump husband busted him? Where was his sniveling, naugahyde remorse when he was clandestinely fucking the OW and lying to you for YEARS? Where were his spasms of regret then? There pressed in his family Bible next to the OW’s birthday and Christmas cards? FUCK HIM, Distraught. FUCK HIM.

You need to get your head in self-protection mode right quick, lawyer up, and implement no contact. This blog is full of practical how-to’s on gray rock, minimal contact parenting, and the other divorce dark arts. Your problem is mental — you need to give yourself permission to protect yourself.

The question is not “What do I tell my crying children?” You don’t tell your crying children anything beyond what you already said — you show them. You find your strength and you start modeling self-respect and badassery. You stop accepting the blame and the shame, and you begin to act with dignity. No apologies. No second guessing. YOU MATTER. You are being abused. You will NOT accept this. You will not allow your children to witness another MINUTE of this shit-show carousel. Mommy and Daddy together again! Until Daddy decides to bail! You are DONE.

He wants to cry? Throw him a box of tissues and tell him to call his mistress. Not. Your. Job. You have a job and it’s a big important job — caring for yourself and shepherding your children through this nightmare with all your strength. There is ZERO bandwidth for him. Don’t let him steal another precious minute.

You’ve been a chump. You’ve been so terrified of his abandonment that you’ve sold your soul to some perverted notion of “intact family.” Family is NOT a grueling 10-year, pick-me dance-athon. Cue “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?”

… 6 weeks later left again — D-Day #4. This time for 9 months. Then mysteriously decided yet again he’d made a mistake and we could work it out.

HE DOESN’T GET TO DECIDE. YOU decide. Is this ACCEPTABLE to YOU? There is no “we” here. That disappeared when he unilaterally walked out that door.

You’re fudging, saying it was him, he wanted back, what could you do? You have agency. It’s not all about what he wants. You are CHOOSING this. Why? You need to untangle that skein, but having been a chump, I can make a pretty good guess — spackle.

Distraught, I used to have a teddy bear named “Pooh Bear.” (Original, I know.) Someone bought it for me from a Methodist craft sale when I was about 4 years old. Pooh was a very crude approximation of a teddy bear.  He was made of mustard-colored terry cloth and stuffed with women’s pantyhose. He had buttons for eyes and a felt nose.

I loved that thing. I dragged Pooh everywhere. For YEARS. I loved his face off. He even went to South Africa with me, and then to England to grad school. Yes, I was a 22-year-old history major with a teddy bear. When Pooh was nearing complete disintegration, I brought him to a dry cleaner and an elderly Greek lady sewed him a new body. She even made him an outfit. (Pooh had cavorted pant-less for years.) Gave him a new lease on life.

At some point in my late twenties, I shoved Pooh in a closet and I felt guilty about it. I imagined his feelings of loneliness and rejection. Tracy! How could you?! 

I projected an entire relationship on to a moldering pile of bear-shaped pantyhose.

I felt REAL FEELINGS about Pooh bear. We had history! How could we part?! Now, what does that tell us about the chump condition? (Other than Tracy is kind of pathetic and weird and I suspect she owns an inflatable boyfriend.) We have the ability to PROJECT feelings and emotions on to just about ANYTHING. And it feels real! And it may bear zero resemblance to an actual healthy relationship!

You are projecting “father” and “husband” on to a fuckwit.

In Pooh’s defense, he never cheated or lied. He just sat there and looked companionable. I filled in the rest. Your husband is being a total shit, and you’ve excused it. You’ve filled in that void and projected decency and potential on a creature that does. not. exist. I’m sure he feels entitled to another reconciliation. All he has to do is turn on a few tears, and you’ll fold.


Projecting what we want to see on to others is a very human impulse. But you MUST STOP. You must begin to operate with total lucidity and see him for who he IS — a person you can never feel safe with.

Dump him today. And if he cries? Tell that limp-dicked baby man he “must be hormonal.”

Good luck. We’re here for you.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
    • I love you and Pooh Bear. Thank you from the bottom of my chunky heart for this blog. Pooh Bear proves that love is about HOW WE BEHAVE TOWARD ANOTHER. Feelings follow actions, even if the receiving end is an inanimate object! So when I put my new glasses on and look at how my husband treated me, I do not see love. He doesn’t love the Lower Companions either. He doesn’t know what the word means. One strike and I am outta here.
      ❤️U lots

    • I’m 66. I still have a stuffed lamb that is, as I write this, on my kitchen counter. That lamb got me through a lonely childhood.

      • At 54, I still have “Kitty Cat”…the only family member who I felt loved me and I could trust….bless you and Lamb-y.

      • I have “Ted” or rather, I did until my daughter claimed him. I’d had him in her crib and she loves him. He’s almost 47 and has been to multiple states, Canada and Europe (3x). I figured I’d be buried with Ted but I’m not sure about that anymore.

  • This is powerful stuff.

    Distraught, after years of emotional abuse, it would be understandable if not everything Tracy has replied to you quite registers or sinks in fully. So, please keep re-reading her response. Share it with your closest, best friend- your best advocate, who cares about you. Read it, discuss it.

    Make no mistake, what’s happened in the past is a form of emotional abuse. That shit stops right now. You don’t have to take any steps that feel too scary too soon, but you need to create distance from the cheater. And block the OW. I would even ask the OWs husband to give you some space.

    You CAN be strong. Everything Tracy says is true. Even if it takes a while to fully understand. Don’t give that man another chance. None of this is on you- you are making the healthy choice for you AND your children by putting down a solid boundary.

    Life gets better when you get rid of cheaters. It’s a rocky road, but the other side is so much better.

    • YES! OTCT has it right – KEEP CL’s ADVICE TO HAND AND KEEP READING AND RE-READING. I know for sure you will not be able to comprehend all at once. It will take you some time to be able to know deep in your bones that the person you thought you knew and loved, the father of your children, never existed.

      And as usual Chump Lady has it completely right. Do not let him steal another precious MINUTE!!

      I am 14 months on from my one and only DDay – which was revelations of 10+ years of paying for sex with hundreds of rando anonymous women AND men, plus porn. Because he was in “authentic self” truth-vomit phase, a week later when we sat down to tell the kids the marriage was over, he ACTUALLY told the then 10 and 12 year-old “I have been lying for ten years, I have been having short relationships with people”. Can you imagine what kind of existential spin that put them into? They do not have a single memory of him where he wasn’t living a double life (and yes I was blindsided. No clue at all).

      I was where you are – all of us on the floor in a bleeding sobbing puddle. The 19 y-o too. All of my children spoke in one way or another about suicide.

      Lately I/we have learned that he is having the passionate romance of the century with a former dear and trusted friend – her husband died 3 years ago. I became very close to her in her grief. For a while last year after D-Day she and I were both sad and lonely, we spent a lot of time together. Turns out he’s been drip-feeding her the Kool-Aid for a long time and, of course, she’s Ever-So-Special and he has just been Tragically Misunderstood. He was in her dead husband’s bed 6 months after begging me to take him back. Not that he’s had the guts to let me or the kids know – I found out through the grapevine and the kids saw texts/photos on his phone (which he gives them access to … go figure).

      So … this is where I get to how this relates to you. Because it has become horrifyingly clear that for this utterly self-absorbed cheater narcissist, all relationships are simply about how they make him FEEL, or how they make him LOOK. As my Former Friend now wife-also-bisexual-anonymous-sex-encounter-replacement ticks both boxes with a score of MAGNIFICENT, (she’s kind of the OW I suppose in a twisted way), she has 100% priority. Oh look, shiny new toy, what fun. Oh dear, I broke my old favourite toy, it’s not my fault, I didn’t meant to, it was a dumb toy anyway.

      The kids barely exist for him. This has been heartbreaking but has made it VERY clear to my sons just what he is. (A freak). And weirdly, they are actually ok, more or less. The initial shock has subsided, suicide talk ended months ago, they are getting on fine at school. They know they have one parent who will ALWAYS put them first, and thankfully my FOO family is rock-solid with constant unconditional love.

      Our house, without the constant chaos and drama and discord and off-balance of my bizarro husband of 22 years/their father, is a MUCH MUCH calmer, happier place. I am heading toward the “better me” and the results of a happier home and mother are evident in the boys. (But am not pretending this has been gaspingly, mind-bendingly painful. Has made losing my 3 y-o daughter in an accident feel like a walk in the park – that’s why the gap in ages. She would have been 18 ten days ago. So, Distraught, know that this is super, super-tough, you have every reason to feel as though you are breaking to pieces. I have just been through the worst year of my life.)

      Please know that while you exist through the filter of HIS “not-quite-good-enough” you will NEVER be your better self. Change the record! And by minimising his presence in your children’s lives, you can help them to grow up into their best selves too. Show them that this shit is NOT acceptable.

      Your life and your children’s lives are WAY more valuable than his rubbish broken moral-compass lying self-gratifying compulsions. Stay strong, he does not define you. His tears are as good as his apologies and they are all complete bullshit. Go into the light!

      • Not pretending this *hasn’t* been painful. Oh my goodness, has it ever.

        • MamaMeh ~ you are SO mighty! I am very moved by your story. Lots of Love Brave Lady X

          • Dear Distraught,

            My story is very similar to yours. I fought for 13 years to keep our family intact. I too acted for the children’s sake. I projected my values onto the fucktard. He knew who I was and he used my values and soft heart against me, over and over again. It was only when my body began to manifest strange illnesses without cause that I knew the marriage and pick-me dancing was slowly killing me.

            Yes, the children cried and my eldest became depressed. I needed to be strong for those kids. I told them their father loved them and that nothing would change except we would not be living together anymore. They could see him or talk to him whenever they wanted. That helped them with the separation process.

            He tried to crush the children and I during the four years it took for the divorce. I didn’t say much to the kids during that time as I felt their lives should continue as normally as possible (with school and friends). They saw their father, but I did not sugar-coat any of his actions or words to them anymore. He was now responsible for maintaining his own relationship with the kids going forward. Needless to say, the narc personality has difficulty forming any meaningful relationship. The kids complained to me about “he said this, he did that”. It’s best you stay out of it and let them work it out with him alone. It’s not your job to help him anymore.

            I am the stable parent and I am there for the kids. They are thriving and the fucktard wants to see them only when it’s convenient for him. Unfortunately, that’s how it goes. You just move on.

            I have learned that families come in all shapes and sizes. You will learn a lot about yourself. You will establish boundaries with others. You will be free from the abuse. You are not alone. Stick with CL and CN as we are here to help you get through this. This is how I survived and thrived 🙂

            • My kids D21, S26 have gone no contact with their dad.
              They have not spoken to him in 3 years. He texts them on holidays or their birthdays but the other night he went so far as to watch my daughter through the window of her work and left a note on her car professing his love and how much he missed her.
              I believed for a long time seeing my pain all those years, my devestation when he left, or maybe hearing me not always speak so kindly about him had something to do with it, that I had in fact “poisoned”them against their father.
              Truth is, they knew who he was long before I did, their relationship with him was never healthy either, and this is how they choose to self protect. Our lives are much calmer since he moved on. I respect their choice to not see him as much as I would respect their choice to see him today if they choose to. They are adults and it’s theirs to manage.
              One thing I do know is that his desire to see them, be with them again,is that his ego is so bruised. They kicked him to the curb, and if they allowed him back in, his fascination with them would be short lived. It’s about looking like a good dad, not actually being one.
              Impression management has a way of masquerading like true sincerity. Sometimes it takes a second to figure it out.

        • I am in awe of your strength and clarity. And moved to tears at how you have been mighty in the face of losing your beloved daughter. Big hugs. Big respect. Big love to you.

        • As in your STBX filing a parental alienation suit against you? There are ways to counter that. I’ll be in touch.

          • Thank you it’s been a living hell im the bad guy 18 months now but I’m the faithful one? I don’t get it?

      • Mamameh, your story moved me. So powerful. You are a very strong woman, and on a difficult day for me, a great comfort and inspiration.

        • Gosh Firstwife, I am moved that my story can do that for you. That’s why we are all here at CN – finding strength from others. We WILL get back on our feet, others have, we are ALL MIGHTY!

      • Wow MamaMeh your story is heart breaking. I’m so sorry for all you’ve been through. I’ve often wondered why I totally fell apart after D day one and a half years ago after a 30 year marriage. I ended up in a psychiatric hospital. But for you to say that the death of your child was ‘a walk in the park in comparison’ to finding out your husband was a cheater. Somehow this has been the most validating comment I’ve read. Thx for your honesty.

      • Wow MamaMeh your story is heart breaking. I’m so sorry for all you’ve been through. I’ve often wondered why I totally fell apart after D day one and a half years ago after a 30 year marriage. I ended up in a psychiatric hospital. But for you to say that the death of your child was ‘a walk in the park in comparison’ to finding out your husband was a cheater. Somehow this has been the most validating comment I’ve read. Thx for your honesty.

  • Like Tracy said: “You’ve been a chump. You’ve been so terrified of his abandonment that you’ve sold your soul to some perverted notion of “intact family.” Family is NOT a grueling 10-year, pick-me dance-athon.”

    This is a lot like what I went through with my ex-wife. These manipulators use the fact that you are committed to saving your family to keep you locked in their creepy world, and make you feel like you’re the bad guy, and you feel like you’re going crazy.

    Get that schmuck out of your life. The single hardest part is recognizing that it is over and deciding to move on. It will get better.

    • 1) Love your screen name @Antoine de Saint-Chumpery

      2) Could not agree more with “manipulators use the fact that you are committed to saving your family to keep you locked in their creepy world…”

      My worldview after 16 years with my narc, manipulative, gas-lighting X was so far away from what was/is normal. I only hope that I can show my son what sanity looks like-it’s a slow re-build, but I am so glad to be out of the toxic mess that was my marriage!

      • I have to ‘third’ the 2nd point too

        “The single hardest part is recognizing that it is over and deciding to move on” — that’s taken me a year since D-Day (not 100% there though) and the more I look back the more I see that it had been going on for so long

    • “The single hardest part is recognizing that it is over and deciding to move on. It will get better.”

      This is so true and what I am struggling with so much right now 🙁

      • No, the first step is realizing,”I can never go back to that.” Acceptance of the end of the marriage comes later. Knowing you can’t go back to an abusive situation in which betrayal has taken place spurs you forward. Act now, mourn later.

    • Yep, that is the single hardest part; Recognizing – and accepting – that it’s over and deciding to move on. I think I recognized it before I was able to accept it!! Denial (on my part) and manipulation (on ex’s part) kept me smokin’ the “hopium” pipe. But once I discovered Affairs #2, #3, and #4 (following discovery of Affair #1 the previous year), it kind of became a foregone conclusion that I could not/would not stay in the marriage. Regardless, while I knew that logically, my heart took a while to “catch up” to my brain!!! I had to accept that what I thought I had and what I thought I knew and what I trusted for over 25 years was nothing more than a gigantic illusion. That’s hard.

      • I agree Mommamarsh…it took me years between the recognizing that I might be married to a monster and accepting that yes, indeed, I am truly married to a monster and need to get out. I smoked much hopium but at some point it didn’t have any effect on me anymore and there was no denying the truth. And then the monster really exposed himself.

  • It may feel painful to divorce the cheating, lying, rusing, using, abusing, accusing loser husband BUT guess what? It’s going to be a lot less painful once he is dismissed by you for good. You have been through so much pain, hope and suffering. Time to use that energy for YOU.

  • Hi Distraught, you know how you can easily fix other people’s problems but can’t see the wood for the trees when they are your own. Your situation SCREAMS get the F out of there. He is more than an asshole, he is a raging narcissist. If this was your daughter in this situation 20 years from now wouldn’t you be going all King Kong (Queen Kong), beating your chest and chasing that fuckwit down with a machete? Good luck.

  • I told the children, ‘Dad has a girlfriend at work, and I can’t fix that.’

    And then I comforted them. Because this was a travesty we didn’t create or deserve, and the shame belonged with two people not in the room.

    Cold Slab O’Meat was so angry that he didn’t get to gaslight my stepdaughter he took her to her biomom’s house that afternoon and she never spent another night in the room she’d had for three years.

    Tell your children the truth in an age appropriate way. And don’t wear shame that doesn’t belong to you.

    • Yup, mine was “dad has girlfriends and we are getting a divorce”. They understood that, and in fact the youngest said; “go ahead mom get a divorce, I want you to”.

      I will never forget that moment, I knew we would be ok

      • 2-1/2 years ago when ex moved in with 22 yo coworker he told our daughter it was because I was so ‘mean’, OW saved him from me, etc. My daughter believed him and for the next year it I was scared she might move in with him. Then I told her the truth one day when she said, “You don’t like dad’s girlfriend!”

        Fast forward to today. She told him she didn’t like what he did to us and she didn’t like his girlfriend and she didn’t like that they had a baby. They were on a camping trip. He brought her home in the middle of the night. She has refused to see him for 7 months now.

        To confront the selfish narc is to be on the receiving end of their sickness since they can’t take responsibility for anything and everything is everyone else’s fault. Our daughter, who once talked about suicide, is now ok. I’m so glad she’s not at his house for visitation in that sick environment. She and my MIL both said how he’s mean to OW and yells at her. He also had gotten bigger camper, bigger desert vehicle, bigger younger newer toys galore. He’s still miserable. In fact, maybe even more miserable than ever.

        I said something to my daughter about how she treated me back then, which wasn’t very nice. She said, “I was 12 mom. I didn’t know.”

        Now she knows. Living with these narcs is a horrible form of abuse. It still bothers me that I gave my precious girl a poor excuse for a father, a poor excuse for a man.

        • My single greatest regret in life was that I chose such a horrible man to be the father of my children. It will always haunt me. I will never be able to forgive myself for that.

          • Don’t go there. Not any more.

            I chose the man that I married – the alcoholic – because I’d had no experience with the downside of his kind, so I thought he was OK. My dad was a very ugly drunk, so I figured a guy who did nothing worse than talk a lot of nonsense when drunk was behaving OK.

            I didn’t understand. I saw the alcoholic’s lapses, but figured that if I did my 75% he’d respond in kind. (Someone else told us that if husband and wife both give 75% or more, instead of stopping at just half, you have the start of a good relationship.)

            He responded a bit at first… enough to keep me interested and to agree to marry him. But then he got bored with the game. I cleaned, he drank. I ironed his clothes so that he’d look decent, he took my clothes out of the dryer – still wet – and left them in a heap to mildew. And drank. I washed the dishes; he thought it was a good idea to put an ash-encrusted ash tray in the dishwasher. Ewww.

            He told the kids they could have a dog… a big dog… but he never once cleaned the dog dirt out of the yard. He did run over it with the riding lawn mower, rationalizing that it was just natural fertilizer. Yeah right. We’ve got little kids and a dog and a big yard, but I can’t let the kids play in the yard because it’s totally covered with dog dirt. Sick.

            I kept a rein on what I put on the credit card so that I could keep it paid off. He figured it was all good so long as he didn’t exceed the credit limit… not too often… and as long as the minimum payment was covered it was OK. Of course, when the bill came due he was always quick to say he didn’t have any money. That much at least was true, because he always spent money as fast as he could get his hands on it. Funny thing was, he never had money to take care of bills, but he always found money for cigarettes and booze.

            The first time he pulled the money stunt was when we were dating. He took me out to a fancy expensive restaurant, we had a fancy expensive meal, and when the check came he announced he’d forgotten to bring his wallet! I was in disbelief. I took the bait and let him off – it was just a mistake. So I thought. He promised to pay me as soon as he could cash a check (ATMs didn’t exist in those days.) I waited. He never paid up, but he did repeat to everyone he know that I was a really nice girlfriend. He told everyone I was a keeper, and he wanted to marry me as soon as possible.

            Flattery from him. And ignorance from me. And disbelief on my part that any guy who would say such things could be that opportunistic, that selfish, that narcissistic.

            I know better now. I’ve tried to teach my kids to know better. I chose him because I didn’t have enough life experience to know better.

            If I ever marry again I won’t make the same mistakes. I can look back now and understand that I was looking at him through foggy rose-colored glasses. And I’ve forgiven myself for not knowing any better.

      • How old was the youngest at the time, Kelly?

        I need to make the announcement this summer to my two D’s 6 & 9. I think a simple statement as you put, e.g. “Mummy has a boyfriend and we have to separate” might be best.

        In our case they have already met the boyfriend as STBXW conned me into bringing him over to spend part of the summer with her & the kids while I was working elsewhere (he’s actually one of her 1st cousins!).

        • My youngest (son) was 12, the middle (daughter) 16, and oldest (son) was 20. The two older children were out of the house in college/law school. As someone said above, they were ALL onto my ex, each in their own way, way before me. The two oldest tried to see him a couple times early on after D-Day (it’s been 6 years now) but decided he would do nothing but hurt them. The youngest has refused to see him ever since.

  • I didn’t understand I had agency for so long..feelings were nothing but confusion or nonexistent for me (I lived unknowingly in an alcoholic marriage). Whatever emotion was projected at me I took as my own to try to get clarity. I’m one month divorced and three separated and I can see so much more clearly now. Someone in a twelve step program once said “I feel like I’m in the middle of a whirlpool…and I was told that it will take as much effort and pain to stay here as it will to swim out and away from it.” What a great visual that was for me. In 6 months or a year, did I want to be away and safe or still struggling to survive?
    My choice is made and I’m here to tell you there’s hope on the other side of all this pain. Good luck.

    • I, too, didn’t realize I had agency, I had the power to make my own choices, and I didn’t have to be a slave to my XH’s abusive games. I was so fearful of losing my marriage and of having my triplet sons grow up in a broken home like I did (my cheating, rageaholic mother divorced my chumpy father when I was 4 years old, and then she went through a second, acrimonious divorce from my equally abusive stepfather when I was 15) that I tacitly agreed to walk on eggshells, to not acknowledge that there were red flags, to not “poke the bear”. Ignorance was bliss (sort of).

      Then one day, 40 YEARS had gone by. When the truth finally came out, it was clear he’d been unfaithful throughout our entire relationship, starting just 4 months after we began dating. He’d had more than a baker’s dozen worth of affair partners… all of whom I knew personally, and (except our trusted 19-year old babysitter) were married and had children. I suppose the reason why none of them ever let the cat out of the bag is because they each wanted to continue taking advantage of their own chumpy husband’s clueless devotion. Sick sick sick!

      Sadly, I didn’t get my sea legs under me until 15 months into our 3-year separation. Looking back, I guess I can blame my paralysis on the continuing grief and shock of being dumped on the cusp of retirement, the overwhelming panic about potentially having to eat cat food in my old age, and the lingering and terribly misguided hope that someday, my XH would have an “Oh shit, what have I done?” moment, dump his latest AP, and return home where he belonged. Of course, all the wishin’ and hopin’ in the world didn’t make that happen.

      It was a rough day indeed when I came to terms with the truth: I was always expendable, I was never truly loved, appreciated or respected, and I was nothing more but a convenient “wife appliance” used to raise children, manage a household, make dental appointments, and generate income which was then spent on others.

      Our first son’s wedding was the turning point for me, and I finally put down the hopium pipe. And once I did, there was no going back. I immediately went Zero Contact, and all communication then went through our attorneys (it was worth every extra penny). Suddenly, I had my power back! I could make my own decisions! I could decide what my future held! Predictably, my XH was completely confused by my 180° about-face; he tried valiantly to gaslight me into going back to the submissive chump I’d been, but I persisted… I ignored, I blocked, I deleted… and what do you know? I started to find peace. It’s actually embarrassing for me to admit that before I came to my senses, I was a cowering, blubbering, terrified mess who took to the nearest corner in the fetal position. Not a good look for a 60-year old professional woman.

      I’m now 3 years post-divorce and am still 100% ZC. XH married Howorker #14 right after her own divorce was finalized, and I don’t give a flying fuck about him, her, or anything having to do with them as a couple. I automatically operate under the assumption that he’s already cheating on her, she’s already cheating on him, and the karma bus will find its way to their doorstep when the time is right. None of that has anything to do with me; they are inconsequential to the new life which has been carefully and deliberately crafted by Yours Truly to deliver maximum peace, gratitude and joy.

      This is not to say that every day is absolute perfection; shit still happens and I still have my tough moments. Sometimes, being alone is just plain hard (what I wouldn’t give for a tender embrace and a deep, passionate kiss). I have a lot of love to give to the right person, but I will never again devalue myself, or blindly throw myself on a proverbial funeral pyre for someone who’s incapable of reciprocating.

      • My Red Sandals, I love your post. I will read and re-read it until I have it memorized! Thank you.

      • Here’s the essence of it all:
        “It was a rough day indeed when I came to terms with the truth: I was always expendable, I was never truly loved, appreciated or respected, and I was nothing more but a convenient “wife appliance” used to raise children, manage a household, make dental appointments, and generate income which was then spent on others.”

        That is some big pain right there, but the quicker that realisation comes, the quicker you can take your power back and start gaining a life. We had a function – to make them feel/look good – we never had a loving reciprocal human relationship.

        Distraught, listen to Red Sandals and put down that hopium pipe.

        • MyRedSandals – Beautiful. I so relate to your post. Yes, the essence of it all: When I came to terms of the truth. I always suspected deep down. But we had a baby and “it wasn’t that bad.” But then it got really bad and divorce is almost final. One good thing – I have control over my finances and have some savings. We could never have savings with ex spending as fast as he could make it. When I told him to get out and I changed the locks he said, “You keep surprising me.” Because I was always so ‘easygoing.’ Then he got ‘surprised’ again when he got served at work. I hope I continue to be full of surprises.

          The panic comes in sometimes worrying about the future. But I remember Chump Lady’s post on Embracing the Chaos, not letting fear rule, etc. And it helps.

          Thanks Chump Lady. 🙂

  • Self protection mode!!!! Yes!!!! These crying,sniveling fuckers carry a tissue in one hand and a knife in the other.
    They are the most cowardly,lowdown creatures imaginable.
    Cut your losses. Protect your children!

    • exactly this!
      tissues in one.. and a knife for your back in the other.
      “wah wah help me” and then whack! every. single. time.
      this guy is an entitled self-serving ruthless dick bag that needs to be put out on the curb for trash pick-up.

    • My ex cried and cried. Cried that he fucked up. Cried and begged me to give him a 6th chance! Cried that I was his best friend and he didn’t realize it till now. Cried that I wouldn’t stand beside him and be a family through this tough time (that he caused).

      Before he fucked up, he literally held my face in his hands and kissed me tenderly, promising (PROMISING!!!!) that there was no one else. Looked me right in the eyes and lied.

      He can take his box of tissues and take a hike.

      Funny enough, his ex wife and I were laughing about this the other day. She asked me if he did the whole crying and begging schtick when we broke up. Yup. He did the same to her. And all the others after us. And the next victim is right in his sights.

      • The crying was so weird, fake ish
        I had to shut the door and lock it, I was so freaked out
        After he left I took the dog and went to my friends house to stay there, it felt Safer
        Ugh, don’t miss him or that

      • Yes the crocodile tears! I got it all to many times, and it worked the first two. But the third time I was truly done because I realized that he would need a lobotomy to truly change and be a decent person.

        Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. And I did feel shame for a while, but when
        I realized that I wasn’t the one who created the mess I let go of that shame.

  • Two questions for you to think about:

    Imagine your life if you hadn’t taken him back the first or second time he’d left. What does that look like?

    What will it be like for you and your kids if you stay and he suddenly leaves again?

  • Of course my advice is to pursue divorce from this person.
    My reason is this, you don’t stay for the children, you leave for the children.

    Your children have been exposed to all this, the whole time, whether you think they understand it or not, this is normal to them.
    Keeping secrets and having an intact family, no not an intact family, having an intact family, no not an intact family…..that’s their normal. Put an end to that, because it is what they know and will perpetuate. One person gets to have all the power, make all the decisions, get all the happiness at the expense of EVERYONE ELSE (not just you, them too) is what the see, hear and experience. That’s not good for them.

    Create a place of stability where your children, their safety, their stability and their future are the focus. Show them the love their need and be the rudder of their boat in this storm that has been created by their father. Around here we call it being the sane parent. After awhile the kids will notice. They won’t call it out in so many words but, once you are no longer living in the same place and you are mentally getting better, they begin to really see how different you and their father are. Show them that. Show them what it’s like to live in a mentally healthy way where things make sense. No one enjoys growing up with the cognitive dissonance and mindfuckery on display in your family. Show your kids what strength, integrity and mightyness are. Exhibit that for them, let them understand that it’s different from what they have seen before and Show them that it’s an option for a way to live life.

  • Modeling the acceptance of abusive behavior usually does far more harm to kids than the benefits that you *imagine* come from remaining an *intact* family.

  • Let’s take the sex out of this for a minute. Let’s look at what else he has done. He has lied to you for years. Huge life altering lies. He has lied to you that he stopped seeing her. He has lied about money. He has lied about what he was doing, when he was doing it, and with whom. Your marriage has been a lie. He could have been out doing things with his family. Instead he has lied every single day, and dumped you whenever he felt like it, and yet you don’t want to hurt your children. They are already hurting. You are passed that. I know divorce is painful. Please pay attention to Bravegirl. You are in a whirlpool. Aren’t you exhausted?

    • Also want to add that the selfish SOB has exposed you to possible STD’s You don’t know who else either one of them have been with.

      • This post and these comments are SO GOOD! Thank you ALL! I am healing with each courageous, vulnerable, compassionate response I read. Thank you CN! ❤️

    • Emotional whiplash from his comings and goings,that’s what you’ve been subjected to. And the blame shifting “just me having counseling by convincing the counselor I had some childhood issues that even I didn’t know existed.”

  • As a cautionary tale: my mom stayed with a Cheater for now 50 years. He has ruined her life. She is so sad, so lonely, and she still sparkles, even though she can hardly walk or sleep.

    He has taken everything away from her: family, health, happiness, the family farm.

    And he gets cake. He rides on her great reputation, her civic duty, her deep faith, her cultural attainments, her manners, her dignity.

    He has taken everything from her.

    I wish she would have given him the boot years and years ago.

    My siblings and I have been through 2 – 3 marriages each. We’re still standing, thanks to the early training and education that Mom gave us, but we have suffered tremendously from this terrible role modeling of keeping the “marriage” together.

    Oh! And this second “marriage” happened after our biodad abandoned Mom for another woman, who covered for his homosexual affairs (they had a quid pro quo relationship: she got to have kids: us — Mom was furious). Yah. They were both alcoholic.

  • This guy has totally abused your desire to have an intact family. Please take the children out of this as it’s your desire for a ‘normal’ family.

    Nothing about this fuckwit makes your family normal.

    What will be normal is what you do when you stand up and don’t tolerate his disrespect. It’s hard but you can do it, as it’s no harder than your current pain due to the mindfuckery of your situation.

    Seek support, then go for complete no contact. Please be strong ????. It’s the best course for you.

  • You NEVER had a family of 4. You only THOUGHT you had a family of 4.

    You only have a family of 3.

    You just didn’t know it.

    Here’s the great news. Your family of 3 is enough!!! You truly understand what love is, you love each other and your committed to each other. Once it is truly just the 3 of you, you will be able to stop their tears and little by little bring laughter and happiness back into your lives. You can model what a real parent looks like – someone who will give them 100% of yourself and be there for them no matter what.

    Tell the youngest what’s going on. She’s old enough to understand that people who are married don’t have a multi year relationship with another woman that mommy doesn’t know about. She’s even old enough to have her own feelings about that; that’s OK. You cannot get thru this with children your age without letting them go thru their own range of emotions.

    While others will give you lots of other advice (please take all of it), I’m just answering your question.

    I can promise you that your real family of 3 will be more fabulous, amazing and happier than you can possibly imagine. Trust us!

    • You NEVER had a family of 4. You only THOUGHT you had a family of 4.
      You only have a family of 3.
      You just didn’t know it….

      OMG! This.

      It is so true and so hard to accept. But accept it you must in order to be WHOLE again.

      He doesn’t deserve your family of 3.

  • You’d be better off having a deep relationship with a Pooh Bear than this guy. At least pooh won’t treat you like shit, even if he never does anything else.

    You’re really NOT the bad guy here. Your kids are reeling because their father has left them TWICE already for extended periods of time. They don’t know which end is up or what the hell is going on in their lives. Make it clear to them what exactly is happening – Mom is not taking this shit any longer, she’s in charge, and they’ll be fine. You’ve got them safe and sound, as you always have.

    My kids are upset about their family falling apart, and wish we could still be together, and I just say no, not going to happen. Sometimes they say they wish we could at least be friends, like other divorced parents, and again, I tell them, nope, not now. Probably not ever, but they don’t need to know that right now. I am focused on me and my children. And you know what? Our lives are calmer, happier, and fuller than they were when I was trying to figure out what the hell he wanted or was doing. It’s a long game, and I’m pretty sure my children are going to be okay as adults.

    Please, meet with a lawyer, talk to some trusted friends – even if they’re here and not in real life, and start examining how your life would work if you left him. I really believe that the hardest part is the DECIDING, not the doing. Decisions paralyze us, but once they’re made, we kind of fly into them. I find that gathering information can help me make a decision, or at least start to crack the paralysis.

    You have to know where your line is – your “price of admission”, as Dan Savage puts it. What’s the price of admission you’re willing to pay for this relationship? Is it being cheated on and left repeatedly and returned to? Or is that price too high for you to pay? It’s your decision, but you need to think about it and figure out what you want. Part of that is figuring out what the consequences of the decision to leave would mean for you, logistically, and are you willing to pay that price of admission?

    You would not be the first divorced mom in the world. It can and has been done, by many different types of women. It’s not a shameful thing to be, nor is it shameful to have been cheated on. HE bears the shame for that. Don’t let that stop you from doing what’s best for you.

    • I was thinking about this today. “Price of admission” when it comes to my relationship with ex narcopath.

      I know the cost of being with him. It cost me my values, my time and energy, my ability to trust, my self esteem, my own mind – thinking I was going crazy, my views of love, and it almost cost me my children.
      So when I think of him with his newest victim I feel sorry that I know what it will cost her as well.

      He was a very bad investment and I just kept pouring more money almost willing it to grow. But it was depleting me more and more each day.

      At some point you cash out. Investing in myself has shown me the greatest reward. Financially, emotionally and spiritually.

    • Thank you, ChumpYou, MoFo for sharing this jewel of a phrase!!! I googled it and read the whole speech, thank you!!!
      The “price of admission” for me included my financial stability, my emotional well-being, my self-value/worth… never again!!!

  • Nothing is harder than giving your child over for “visitation” and watching them sob as they pull away with the cheater spouse (especially when they are getting ready to go on a camping trip with the OW and her kids). Suffice to say, I understand your pain… I do. And it sucks.

    But what sucks even more is being held hostage to a cheater because of your children’s tears.

    They often say that to get through a divorce, you have to treat it as “business”… it’s nothing personal. It helps you see more clearly.

    So, I’m asking you to think of yourself as a parent in this situation… when your child cries that they want a toy in the store, do you negotiate with those tears? when your child is crying because they want to stay up late on a school night, do you cave so they’ll “like” you? when your child cries because they don’t get their own way, do you placate them by giving in? NO – you parent (a verb). You are the grown here… you need to take care of your kids because they are KIDS. You are the grown-up. And the behaviors you model today will directly impact the kind of grown-ups they become… you are imprinting them with your choices.

    Take my word for – and the word of all of us chumps that are single parents. The kids do survive (many thrive) and sadly, the fuckwits do typically dissolve from their lives.

    Please – you are being abused. Don’t ever teach your children that this is OK.

  • Distraught, what keeps you from acting is his and your children’s tears putting the blame on you. As soon as you find your hidden anger, see how his behavior would change from sad and quasi-apologetic to rage. How dare you!!!??

    My STBX’s rage once I found my voice was in fact helpful for me to push forward. It’s amazing to watch how their quasi remorse starts crumbling down once you show your teeth. Hello, remorse?! None of it. Just rage and anger at you because of consequences.

    My son is 10. He was 8 when I told him WHY and I keep giving him examples of how his dad treated me all these years in an effort to show that he should not, like his mom, accept just bare minimum of efforts or outright emotional abuse, in his own partnership. I give it in his age appropriate terms.

    The STBX is mad that I don’t keep my mouth shut. He told son yesterday “mom and I have two different stories”. When son told me this I said “No. It’s not two different stories. I may have been the worst wife. I may have sucked as a partner. He may have not loved me. The right thing to do under those circumstances is to end this relationship first and then start the new one.”

    Mine has cheated our 12 years together with the same woman on and off. But I also found others, plus Tinder. Now his line is that I should just accept that all men cheat and live with it and not destroy the intact family for our child. Blame is on me.

    Fuck mine and fuck yours, Distraught! Find your anger, which will bring up his rage out. This is the chain reaction that will propel you forward. Once he rages, you will clearly see there is nothing to work with. We’ve got your back here.

    • This sounds so familiar. My kids were 9 and 10 when we separated. I refused to lie as to the reason why and yeah, the Ex was furious and told the kids the same thing as yours: “You don’t know the whole story, but I cannot tell you”, “there is more than one side to the story”, etc.

      Fast forward 4 years now and the 14 year old is pressing the Ex for answers and is no longer accepting the gaslighting answers anymore. My 14 year old remembers the “friends” that mommy had over and is now old enough to put 2 and 2 together making for some very uncomfortable discussions for the Ex. Ex usually just ends it by saying “I’m not discussing this with you”. On the other hand, my daughter (and older siblings) have acknowledged that my story never changed even if the Ex’s story has changed numerous times. The 14 year old actually said to me this past weekend that Mommy will never admit she did anything wrong even though everyone else knows what she did and she “nixes” any of her friends who don’t agree with her.

    • It’s amazing how they are all too willing to stand up in a church and profess loyalty and forsaking all others to friends and family and then say that you should accept another person or people in their life! If they don’t want to be married, they shouldn’t get married!

    • Our stories are so similar, child was 8 when I found out, 10 now and living in our own house with the cheating ex. Though it was my wife and I don’t believe all women cheat, or men. God it’s been hard though, I never want to go through this again!

      • without the cheating ex I meant! & yeah those first few months of my daughter crying herself to sleep were awful, but she’s fine now, she amazes me every day, she knows her mum lies and had boyfriends, I’m so glad I never cheated and am the sane parent.

  • Distraught – please choose yourself and your children. Get away from this terrible, abusive man. Get your kids into counseling. YOU DID NOT DO THIS!!!! Taking him back is not an option, as you have already seen way too many times. You and your children deserve so much more than what you are all getting from this pathetic excuse of a husband and father.
    My kids were 6 & 8 when dday hit, and the 8 year old was the one to confirm something inappropriate was going on. He was confused, but kids are not stupid. They sometimes can’t make sense of what they are seeing, but they will in time. The ex fuckwit told the boys the very next day that he & their friends mother were in love. My boys are now 11 & 13, and the oldest despises his father since he understands what an affair is. The youngest (he’s not quite 11 yet) still doesn’t know, and maintains contact with his father periodically, but once he grasps what an affair is he will be done with his father as well.
    I have gone through the same exact thing – but quit after round 1, got a lawyer & filed for divorce. It’s terrifying, but you can do this. You have no choice. Do you want your kids to grow up & end up married to a cheater because they saw the behavior modeled for them & accepted by you?
    My boys have been in counseling since day 1, and they probably will be for a very long time. Their counselor is great, and helps them through the ongoing trauma of dealing with their idiot father. He has only gotten worse as the years go on, and never never ever puts my boys first.
    Get them into counseling, get yourself into counseling, and divorce this moron. You can do it, you are strong enough. We are all here for you & rooting you on.

  • It appears to me that you are so concerned for everyone else’s feelings that you have forgotten about your own!

    Your kids do NOT get to decide for you in this situatuation. Period – stop letting them make you feel guilty.

    You have no marriage to save – it ended a long time ago. Now you have to pull up those big girl panties and be the sane parent those kids need and do the right thing.

    You can give them a loving stable home without the stress of knowing that their Fuckwit Father could blow it all up at any moment. A safe home is more important than having dear old Dad under the same roof.

    Time to remember who you are and what is important to YOU.

    Ps / I hope his dick rots off!

    • 100% this. You matter. You need to model that you matter, or you’ll train your kids to never believe that they matter, and that only appearances and pick-me dances and other delusions are what matters.

  • “but because I so desperately wanted my children to have an intact family”

    I understand Distraught. I get it too. I tried for a year since D-Day #1. But you and many other ladies deserve a medal for what you’ve endured for so long, 10+ years in your situation (my 12 months seems rather pathetic in comparison).

    The lesson here for ones like myself is that no they don’t change. This is who they really are. Trauma bonding I believe they call it. We’ve been emotionally & psychologically abused for so long we just can’t break ourselves away. Even the tiniest bit of Hopium will keep us hanging around and coming back for more (abuse).

    I still have to go through breaking the news to my girls (6 & 9) though I think the eldest has more or less worked it out. That will happen this summer and I’m not looking forward to it. But I won’t lie and we shouldn’t regardless of what certain useless therapists say. Even my STBXW said that we should use her therapist to “transition them through this period”. Bollocks! She means lie to them or just blame daddy for everything. Nope they will get reality and their mum will have to face the consequences of her actions.

    This is not what I signed up for 20 years ago and obviously neither did you Distraught. But there are many posts from fellow Chumps on this site who have made it through this and out the other side into a (largely) narc-free & cheater-free future. We can do that too

  • A side thought — is there anything you truly need to know from OW and/or her husband at this point? If not (and I’d bet a handsome sum that at this point, there’s really nothing else of significant value they have to offer you), maybe consider closing that line of communication somehow (or just ignoring what they send somehow — maybe have a trusted friend read them instead and report only what you really need to know?)

    You have enough on your plate without adding in unnecessary drama from people who aren’t important to your life. The fact that your husband wants to put his penis in that lady doesn’t make her, or her husband, people who have to matter to you.

    I get that they might be around your kids sometimes, but you can’t control that.

    I guess I’m just thinking that your (hopefully soon to be ex-) husband is already a huge problem, and your kids are your clear priority. If you can limit other sources of stress and drama, it will help you maintain the energy you desperately need for your next steps.

    Just a thought.

    My only other thought is that it sounds like he’s feeding your kids a false narrative that you are breaking up the family, maybe. He is, without question, the one who broke up the family. The family is already broken. All you are doing is admitting that and doing what you have to do to build a safe and healthy new life for the part of the family that isn’t broken — you and the kids.

    Peace and strength to you.

    • Yes, she had better watch that he doesn’t convince the kids that SHE ruined the family. That may be his next step. Ally the kids to him. And then the kids turn on her. They are very vulnerable to brainwash from him. And he’s not above it to be certain! His character proves this.

    • A chump from some time ago posted something along the lines of ‘he broke the marriage contract and I’m just formalizing it with divorce’.

  • Distraught-
    He’s had 5 DDs to change… he hasn’t. Are you willing to go through this again? Do you want to live your life being the marriage police? He’s shown you who he is, believe him.

    Surround yourself with your tribe and get pissed. Cry as much as you need to, but don’t let his words cloud what you know you need to do. Get an attorney and create a new life for yourself.

    My cheater lied for months, I wanted to believe him. I kept finding out the truth. He said some pretty terrible things that honestly, you shouldn’t be telling your wife….. “sex with her is fun and energetic but I cannot finish because I’m thinking about you “, “ you are the better choice”…… lots of things that get replayed in my head.

    And now he’s married to her. The wise part of me knew he wouldn’t change so luckily I kept the evidence which helped in a nice settlement.

    Your cheater is scared of consequences, but consequences are what happens when you behave poorly. Even your kids know that. Their dad didn’t follow the rules of marriage and family… and it’s perfectly fine to tell them that.

    Your kids need a sane parent, be that for them. Yes, it hurts like hell. Yes, it’ll be hard, but you will not only survive, you will thrive!

  • WOW. The sense of entitlement of a cheater knows no bounds! To put his kids and his wife thru this so many times, what a total cold hearted shit head. They cry for themselves. That is sure.

  • Distraught, you have suffered enough. The number one regret that most of us on the other side have is that we should have cut the cord weeks, months and years earlier. Laying next to lying cheating narcissistic scum bag robs us of untold number of things. He’s clearly been choosing for years. It’s time for you to make the choice.

    And while I’m here, I will mention that I hate the term “broken family”. My family is not broken because I got rid of the vampire, it’s fixed. You will simply be a single parent family. And trust me, you have been raising those kids alone anyway, so it won’t be as much of a transition as you think.

  • What do you tell your crying kids?

    You tell them that this is a hard time, but they, and you, are going to be fine.

    Then get going on making that true.

    (If they ask about their dad, you tell them that is up to him now, that he’s an adult, he can figure things out.)

  • Hi Distraught,

    So very sorry you suffering, Please take a moment to consider the following ~ What has the last 12 years with this man given you? Many days of agony, confusion, repeated lying with heaps of trickle truth leading you to police the marriage, again and again and again.
    So, that has been your history, now imagine the NEXT 12 years? I guarantee you it will be exactly the same. Ask how I know ~ My cheater continued again and again and again.
    Staying for all the reasons you give? we understand, but Distraught, your husband is SHOWING YOU WHO HE REALLY IS, no matter how many chances you give him. The outcome will be the same.

    Except, you will be older. Except, you and your children will be more beaten down. Except next time ~
    there will be no warning, your Husband dumps you and disappears.

    Take charge, get YOUR life back, do it today. YOU & YOUR children deserve a better life. We are here for you X

  • Luziana has great advice above about what to tell your kids. If you have trouble figuring out exactly how you want to phrase decisions and set boundaries with your kids about this issue while still being supportive and reassuring to them, then take yourself to a therapist and ask for help with this

    Then brace yourself because your kids will still be hard to work with and heart-breaking at times. Their idea of their father is being forced out of fantasy and into reality. This is not a surprise to them–they’ve been worrying about it on some level or other since your spouse started leaving for month long periods. And given the past pattern, they’ve imbued you with the power to fix or not fix their family. Your spouse has almost certainly been reinforcing them in this way of thinking. Every day you refuse to budge about letting your husband return will make it a day sooner that they’ll understand it won’t be happening.

    The kids will also show their pain to you because it is safe to do so. You don’t leave them. They can be sad, whiny, angry, and generically unpleasant to you because they know it does not make you leave or love them an iota less. They fear their father’s abandonment, so they are much less likely to do anything that threatens their relationship with him (i.e. showcase their difficult emotions or make him uncomfortable). This is one of the tough elements of being the stable parent–you get the joy and you get the flack. Don’t misinterpret this situation–they know you are the reliable parent, and while it feels unfair that they don’t target their father, it is a tribute to the love and strength they recognize and rely on in you when they show you their pain. Offer comfort but don’t offer false promises or any hint that you can be shifted by their desires to live in a fantasy.

    Remember, they are moving into their teens. Your kids are going to be sad and difficult and probably make you feel bad (intentionally and unintentionally) quite a bit over the next decade. Sometimes it will be about the changes in your family. Sometimes it won’t. Sometimes your family life and their growing independence will entangle in snarly ways. You can’t ever solve this. All you can do is model healthy independence–especially in personal relationships. Walking out of a relationship filled with deception is good parenting. You’ll want your kids to KNOW that walking out a bad relationship is healthy because they are about to shift into the life stage where people “steal” each other’s boyfriends, begin to physically abuse intimate partners, lie to further sexual activity, etc. You cannot make them have a kind, devoted, honest father, but you can teach them to expect those qualities in the partners they choose–and to refuse to settle for less.

    Forgive yourself for being a chump. Remind yourself that you gave him chances and owe him nothing. And move forward. You are very strong to have held up so long; once you move that energy and power toward creating a life where you are valued instead of using it to protect your spouse, you’ll be fine. You deserve integrity and kindness and respect.

  • Raising my hand as a chump that wreckonciled with a serial cheater only to be abandoned again for a different schmoopie. This is who they are. The theory of sunken costs and doing it for the kids drew me back in after the first time he left for howorker schmoopie and he begged back after 8 months. Twelve more years, two suspicious secretaries, he leaves again for DD14’s 20-something asst sports coach in kids’ Catholic school. I got my mighty on and told him he needed to leave our home, I filed for divorce and followed through. Now he’s sniffing around again. Oh hell to the no.

    Once you start detaching from a cheater and start doing the work, you’ll see that it’s all about him always. He puts his wants and needs above everyone else’s and can justify and rationalize that in his mind. He’s not a good father, but unfortunately he’s the only father your kids know. I have no doubt he’s manipulating them too. A good father wouldn’t put his time, energy, resources, and money into an affair.

    You’ve been looking at life through your own lens and thinking he must be doing the same. He’s not. He really thinks he deserves to have his cake and eat it too. Those tears are for himself only, not for any pain he has caused you or your kids. And once you drama subsides, he and schmoopie will be at it again. Now they can fool her husband long term too! How much more fun and exciting for these 2 losers.

  • Distraught

    You have been conditioned to accept abuse from a coward. It began when you were most vulnerable, pregnant and dependent upon a man who never respected or loved you or your children.

    You’ve modeled tolerance of abuse and applied a stamp of normalcy to dad’s actions to your children by staying. They’ve lived through his absence for long periods of time. They’ve witnessed a distressed mom who feels better once he’s returned.

    What you don’t realize is that they’ve become accustomed to the chaos, dusapearing dad, a distraught mom covering/spackling his image. You’ve set that stage unknowingly to protect a man who could give a shit about any of you.

    Give HIM the consequences, NOW because if you continue those children will go into adulthood having NO respect for you, their mom. Believe me when I say your children deserve an intact MOM who doesn’t have ups and downs, a loss of energy from seeking evidence, that cannot fully be herself. DUMP HIM. Let the three of you have peace. Get off the crazy train of his ABUSE.

  • The cheating piece of shit caused your children to cry. Not you! If they are sick and you have it give them medicine, and they cry because they don’t like it, do you stop giving it to them and let them get sicker? No! Your family is sick and your husband, his lies, and his infidelity is the disease. Your kids will be healthier and happier in the long run with a mom who isn’t sick with worry about who her husband might be fucking.

    As they say, put your own oxygen mask on first.

  • This is a point in their lives that will shape them forever, and while their asswipe of a dad is the one who caused all of this, *you* are the one who gets to set the narrative that they will carry with them forever. Consider sprinkling everything you say and do with the following messaging:

    1. In life we do not allow people to hurt and abuse us, even if we love them.

    2. We do what is right even when it hurts. Your feeling a are normal and we are sad, but we are resilient.

    3. I will not continue to love someone who chooses not to love me back. Love is not just feelingings, it is a set of behaviors. Remember this forever.

    4. I am strong. Someday when you are faced with pain and hurt caused by someone else, I want you to remember that I said “no,” and so should you.

    5. I love you always and am here for you through everything.

    Tape this to the refrigerator if you need to. Your kids are taking their cues from you. It’s tough when you can barely hold yourself together to have to hold up your kids, too, but you can and you must. Use this as a teaching opportunity and it will dramatically improve their ability to ward off fuckwits in their future. Invest in the truth and in boundaries. It will make up for today’s tears in spades.

    • Thanks Vic,
      I am copying this down too.
      ❤️ to you…

    • One for the fridge, one for my wallet, um … next to my desk … BRILLIANT.

      Free Vix you are genius.

      Maybe I will add to number one, hurt, *lie to* and abuse us …

    Write this on Post It notes, repeat out loud often.
    Your “husband” set your house on fire with his family in it. Call your trusted friends for help to get out!!
    ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ to you. I am praying for you now.

  • Distraught – Please allow me to reiterate the words that were told to me that caused me to “wake-up” when I was still stuck in the “pick-me” dance when my STBXH left just after Christmas.

    “Your husband is GONE. The man you knew to be your husband is DEAD. If he ever actually existed as you have believed him to be, then he is most certainly gone. Grieve that loss because it is sad. The death of a marriage is sad. Grieve but protect yourself and your children. There is a man who looks like your husband in your midst, but he is not your husband. He is DANGER. A danger to your well-being and your children’s sense of stability. This man is out for only one thing – himself. His selflish desires are his priority – cut that at the knees.”

    Distraught – Shut this down immediately! No contact or the most limited contact. He will try to get into your good graces. He will sulk. He will blameshift and accuse. He will gaslight you into thinking your are over-reacting or uncaring. Shut it down and shut it out! DO NOT ENGAGE!

    Get a lawyer to advise you of next steps to protect your finances. Gather your family and friends around you. Hug your babies close. Keep communication to email. Send out one very clear email that explains that he is not to contact you by any other means than through email or through your lawyer. Be very clear that you will perceive any contact in any other way as a threat. Create as limited an access schedule between the kids and him as possible. Arrange someone else to be at the door for pick-ups and drop-offs. Ignore all his attempts to try to contact you.

    It is time for you to rain down on this fire NOW. Ten years was enough time to demonstrate your patience, forgiveness and understanding. He doesn’t want it. He’s had enough opportunity to decide. Now you choose. Choose freedom.

    It is difficult now to see the peace you will achieve within when you have started the process of purging the toxicity that is this man. Imagine peace in your home, no more wondering where he is and what he’s doing. No more anxiety over what stunt he is going to pull next. Imagine what your brain power will be capable of achieving when you clear him out of the real estate he occupies in your head.

    There are hundreds (even thousands) of us who check in on this site regularly. You will not find a single one of us who regrets freeing ourselves from a cheater – NOT ONE. However, you will find many who speak with regret over the time and energy spent for little return (sunk costs). Love yourself and love your children. The best thing you will ever do for your kids is to take care of their mother. That is supposed to be the role of the husband, but you don’t have that. So, fire his ass!

    • YES to all this. After years of emotional and mental abuse (because that’s what he’s doing to you and your kids) retake the power and control FOR your children. You are divorcing FOR them. Model what a decent, loving, strong, and righteous parent you are. This is an opportunity to show them that decisions have consequences. Teach them boundaries so they learn what to avoid. About one year ago, I sat my three boys down (they were 8 and 11-year old twins) and explained that due to their father’s decisions we were divorcing. I told them that because I loved them dearly, it was my responsibility to raise them right. No more drama. No more confusion. I also told them that if any of them wished, I would explain in more detail when they were older, (and boy do I have the receipts…) but that for now our family consisted of us four and we would be awesome. We cried and hugged, but then they adjusted faily quickly because they felt the tension rise and began to notice how much happier and relaxed we were without all the craziness. This selfish, entitled freak has intentionally and repeatedly abused you and your children. Rise up and use that anger. You’ve got this. CN is here and saves my life every single day. ❤️

  • My two children are in their earlier twenties now and I’m still cleaning up the mess left by The Worm’s emotional and physical abuse. I stayed because I felt the same way you did, that the intact family was mor important than my pain, that he would get the kids because of his powerful job and political connections.
    Fast forward to now….both of them emotionally stunted and the oldest suffering anxiety and substance abuse problems…….trust me on this, it’s not worth it. One of the worst parts of all of this is the pity I feel for the Worm every once in a while. It sickens me now. Even after all the abuse he has the ability to get inside my head and use my compassion for other human beings as a weapon.
    And his OW, the main one, was the same as yours. She said, “The Worm is quite loyal to you. We are just friends.” Hah!
    Retraining your brain is really really hard. But that’s what I did and still do. You can do it too.
    You are stronger than you know!

    • When they say “we were just friends” they mean friends with benefits. In their minds they are “just friends” because he won’t leave the wife.

      • That’s fucked up in so many ways. But thank you for clarifying. You just blew my mind! Where did you learn to speak Asshole?

        • I knew a guy in college who had a long distance girlfriend but was trying to seduce me suggesting we could be “best friends” who had sex. I turned him down because that didn’t fit my definition of “friends”.

  • I think the worst thing cheaters do is that so many of them make the chump be the one to push through the divorce. I have seen it over and over. Occasionally one leaves and doesn’t look back. But most of the time, even if they leave, they come back around. In the end, it is the chump that has to shoot the marriage. The cheater has all the emotional maturity of a tantruming toddler. They are fine just sitting around wailing about the unfairness of life and the bitterness of the chump whilst someone else does all the paperwork and deals with the children’s tears.

    Fuck them. Fuck those fucking fuckers. I hate them for making the victims–who never wanted to do any of this–be the ones to pull the trigger. They are perfectly happy to swan in and out of the marriage hurting everyone, but not man or woman enough to file paperwork and take responsibility for the demise of the marriage.

    • So true! Among the many things I despised was that his actions FORCED me to file and that went against everything I valued and believed in- family unity, forgiveness, grace, keeping your word, sacred vows, in good times and in bad…so even there be imposed his crap character and lack of ethics. Bastard.

    • Technically ex and I filed jointly, but I am the one who actually had to file the document online and do most of the work putting together the financial statements, etc. At least ex didn’t resist and he gave me everything I asked for. In many ways I think he was the one who was paralyzed and unable to function even though I was the one who was heartbroken.

    • So true!
      You have to do the work, like always
      So that they can say, we wanted out, and they make up a story why
      You are crazy or…blah, blah, blah…they are now the victim
      Who cares, he’s in the reaview mirror and on to the next victim
      It’s a cycle of abuse, mine has done it to two families now
      Get lost loser
      Leave a cheater, gain a life

  • Distraught….

    I suffered 5 ddays over a 5 year period also. I caught my ex, he cried and swore he would end it with her and then just got better at covering the affair up. Same other woman for five years. Each new discovery made it harder and harder for me to continue feeling love for him. After dday #5……I was done. I couldn’t even look at him anymore. And worse than that, I couldn’t even look at myself anymore. I knew I deserved better and so did my two daughters.

    The only thing I regret about kicking him out……………that I didn’t kick him out at dday #1!!!!

    And best of all………… daughters are glad I did it!!!!! (at first it was tough, but boy has it gotten so much better)!

  • Distraught- We get it. The advice here is sound. Don’t be embarrassed about the count of D Days or how you folded one more and let that complete POS back so many times. We have been there.

    I have reflected that when I read other Chumps’ stories it is so clear to me that they need to do this-or-that. It is all so obvious. And yet from the perspective of the Chump we are most often left wondering what we did to cause it. We are usually told we are the root of all the problems by the entitled cheaters and it cuts us deeply. No matter how high they heap the abuse we still wonder how we caused it. I have beat myself over the head about what I must have done wrong and my X asshat is happy to pin it all on me.

    But, when I tell my story, even the quick elevator speech version all boiled down to the facts and lacking emotion, it is so obvious what a complete asshole I was married to. No one stops me and says, “What did you do to cause him to do all that?” Nope, they simply recoil in complete horror at what my X asshat did and then offer me comfort, instantly on my side.

    No one is confused on what you should do to preserve yourself and your children. No one would suggest you have not given it your all. And everyone is wanting to offer comfort through strength. You did not cause this, but you get to determine your future instead of waiting for him, endlessly waiting for him to call the dance.


  • As others have said your cheating husband is the one who broke the family. Cut the cord so that you and your children can heal. Your lives have been in turmoil for far to long waiting for the other shoe to drop with his constant abandonments. Once you cut him loose, you and your children can start to build a stable life that doesn’t revolve around an unstable person. Stop the viscous cycle. Stop talking to your husband, the OW and her husband. Just focus on you and your kids. Hire an attorney and take it one step at a time. Seriously go no contact with this circus so your head can clear.

  • You haven’t had a marriage in yours. He had a marriage AND a series of opportunities to give you any number of STDs and maybe Hep C too because who knows what all he has REALLY been doing?

    Go to a doctor to get the full panel of testing, in addition to scanning and emailing every single piece of financial information you have at the house. Make certain he didn’t use your SSN to open up new lines of credit, or forged your signature to make withdrawals from his 401K, etc.

    He’s a thief. He stole and abused your trust, goodwill, time, effort, love and he’s abusing your kids by setting a SHITTY example of how to treat your spouse.

    Chainsaw divorce attorney. Forensic accountant if recommended.

    But first & foremost no more pretending he’s a good person.

  • I don’t know if anyone has said this yet, but you and your kids are a family! And your brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles and grandmas and grandpas and family friends are all a family.

  • What do you tell your crying children? The truth. They will feel better for it and you will too. I decided no more lies and when I started speaking the truth to my kids it was like a opening the window in a hot stifling room.

  • “I’m just not strong enough when they cry about their family falling apart. I’m not strong enough when husband cries and says he will never do it again.”

    Sure you are. You’re just looking in the wrong direction.

    When Mr. Fantastic left, I knew that even if he really wanted to repair the relationship, there was no way it could happen quickly. Too much damage had been done for him to come back even within six months, even if we both worked at it. He had assured me that he would come back, and that he just wanted space, so for a while, I operated under that assumption. But I knew what MY standards for him to return would be, and for the first time, I decided that if I really wanted the marriage to be better than it had been before DDay, that I would have to be absolutely firm on my conditions for his return.

    It was a bit of a mind trick I played on myself. I knew in my heart that I didn’t want him back, and that I could never live with him again, knowing he was capable of the things that he had already done. And that the “seal had been broken,” if you will, meaning that once he had behaved that way one time, it would be very easy for him to do it again. I am not aware that he has ever done anything actually hard in his life.

    However, playing that trick on myself made it possible for me to plan how to move forward with the kids in a positive way for all of us. I made a plan for EVERYTHING — how I would manage meals, what I would do when emotions ran high with the kids, what my minimum requirements for a good day were (shower, coffee, exercise, and a nice outfit, hair, etc. If I did all that, then I could fall apart after). I set a time limit for how much time I could spend crying, and tried to reduce it a little every week.

    That was absolutely the hardest year of my life, but I paid attention to my needs and came up with as many tricks as I could for meeting them, so I could be available to help my kids through. My focus was on US. Whether or not the marriage could be saved was not something I could determine, because contrary to what the RIC will tell you, a marriage can not be fixed by one person. It has to be fixed by the perp. Fixed does NOT mean he comes back crying that he made a mistake. Fixed means he comes back to be the spouse you want and deserve, the one whose pockets you don’t have to go through, who doesn’t deal with other women, who can be trusted to care for you whether you’re at your best or your worst. THAT’ S the spouse that has to come back. If you have to be play tricks on your mind and say that that’s the spouse that has to come back FOR THE KIDS’ SAKE, so they know what a good marriage looks like, then find your mental toughness from that angle, if you can’t want it for yourself. Find your strength for the sake of their futures, if not for your own present. Once you’ve lived in that strength for a while, you’ll find it comes more naturally to do those things for yourself. For right now, you’re out of practice.

    One last thing, though I could go on for PAGES about this topic. Strength isn’t a thing that you either have or you don’t. Do you remember when your babies were tired, and how your muscles grew as they did, as you were carrying them around, etc.? Getting through this period builds your strength like that. If your kids are crying, think, “How can I get through THIS moment?” And don’t worry about all the rest of them. Just choose the healthiest thing you can do for them in that moment, and the more moments you get through, the easier they’ll be. And if you handle them well (not just caving to what the kids want, but what is good for them), eventually you will find you have to handle those moments less and less and that strength will be available for bigger and scarier things.

    You can totally do this, Distraught. It may be messy and it won’t be fun, but when you have done it, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that no one can take from you.

  • The problem with trying to take responsibility for someone else’s choices is, you perceive you had some control to stop it. If you had control to stop it, yet did nothing, you must be all the things you’re telling yourself, ” a bad parent, hurting your children, responsible for the natural consequences for someone else’s actions, etc.” You are not responsible for your children’s pain and suffering, your husband is!

    Behavioral self-blame makes spouses feel as if they should have done something differently to avoid the betrayal. Trauma survivors have the tendency to believe that they brought the trauma upon themselves, or in this case, upon your children. Behavioral self-blame reduces the perception of vulnerability, and believing that the future can be different, promotes feelings of control and motivation, subduing the helplessness felt. You are bargaining that if you can endure the pain of this marriage, you can prevent your children from suffering. Unfortunately you do not control that. Behavioral self-blame is control related, and involves attributions to a modifiable source (one’s own behavior). It is associated with a belief of future avoid-ability.

    For guilt to occur, it is not necessary to feel personally responsible for an event, only for someone else to have been affected badly. This is a trait of a very empathetic person, but does not make you responsible for the children pain!

    In dysfunctional relationships there is an imbalance in the way that each person is considered
    ​-If I try harder or do more they will love me and stop hurting me/ our children
    -Believing that the success and health of the relationship is yours to shoulder, and totally up to you.
    -Putting others needs above your own to the detriment of yourself.

    In equitable relationships, based on equal value, everyones needs are given the same priority of importance, and matter equally. There is give-and-take, and no one person is always making concession and sacrificing their needs in order to accommodate the other partners desires. Specifically, the onslaught of self-blame only stops once you realize that your own feelings and well being are legitimate enough to be heard and responded to with behaviors (and not just words and crocodile tears).

    Taking responsibility is about what you do now, not about blaming yourself. The truth is you cannot take responsibility for your spouses actions, because responsibility is about the person implementing the action. Your spouse made a choice to cheat and you have no responsibility for that choice, or for the pain it causes your children. The consequences you implement are a direct result of his previous actions, that he had 12 years to change!

    The power of psychological warfare when performed succesfully, is the inability of those being manipulated to defend themselves against its effect. He is counting on your belief that an intact family is what is best for your children. He is manipulating your desire to be loved by begging, pleading and crying. He is using cherished ideas of what family means to you to manipulate you into guilt.

    One of my all time favorites…

    Recovering From the Loss of a Dream.

    One’s internal reality is the “realest” thing we have. We do, truly, live inside our own heads, and we experience the external world through the lens of the Self we construct.

    So, when a dream dies, it’s just as painful and “real” to us as when a flesh-and-blood loved one dies.

    And that same mourning process needs to take place. The denial, the bargaining, the anger…all of that…until, finally, acceptance sets in.

    Our dreams exist, for real, in our brain’s circuitry. An important dream is built up through lots of repetitions of a cherished idea, which makes for very strong and sturdy neural connections.

    Those connections don’t then easily disconnect as soon as we realize that our dream won’t come true. The disconnection and rerouting process is long and painful.

    Tim Hardin wrote How Do You Hang on to a Dream?…because, of course, the desire to hang on is so powerful and the letting go is so agonizing.

    We often don’t have sufficient respect for someone who is suffering dream-death. We wonder why they don’t just buck up and move on. After all, it was “all in their head,” right?

    But that’s exactly the point: “In our heads” is where we live. That’s where the pain and suffering come from.

    When someone loses a dream…

    a career aspiration
    a home
    a relationship
    …it doesn’t matter whether that dream was “deluded” or “impractical” or “a mistake.”

    Dream-death is real death, and the sufferer needs sympathy and patience, along with the gentlest, most consistent support towards rebuilding a new reality inside their heads.

    You and your children deserve so much better!

  • Just contact a good attorney and get it going and then you can begin to really clean up your life. Don’t talk to husband, OW nor her husband. Just take care of yourself and your children.
    Divorce is hard enought without the distractions. One thing that helped me was walking. I’d go walk a mile and my head would clear out.
    Knowing the finical situation will help you also. Just move on and then heal when you start over.

  • Distraught,

    I haven’t even read Chumplady’s response in full yet, or the other comments. I feel compelled to barge ahead with my own advice to you.

    If I understand correctly, your husband has LEFT THE BUILDING for months at a time on numerous occasions throughout the marriage. Yet you believe this is the family structure that you are afraid of ending for your children? You need to reframe your action. You are finally taking a stand that you will refuse to raise your children in a den of dysfunction, where the father lies and cheats and emotionally abuses their mother. Be the example of empowerment. He is no model father or spouse. He is a cad that has kept a side piece for nearly the entirety of your marriage. Time and energy and emotional involvement and resources that should have been exclusively for you and your children have instead been invested in his side fuck.

    As for what you tell the kids, you don’t need to editorialize his behavior (courts can hold that against you). It is enough to say “Mom believes married partners pledge to be committed to each other and no longer date other people. Your dad disagrees. Mom is not willing to be in a marriage that includes outsiders. Your dad will continue to be your dad, but he can no longer be mom’s husband.”

    Children will look to you to determine how to react. Even if you don’t believe it right now, pretend you are strong and that everything will be ok.

    And fuck him and his tears and what he says he wants. How can you possibly believe anything will be different. NINE YEARS? NINE YEARS! He won’t change. Wake up, gather all the self-respect you can muster, get yourself an attorney, get your ducks in a row, and file. Don’t raise your children to think the marriage you’ve had is acceptable. You will do them no favors staying for their behalf.

    • Thank you CalGal…what you said about Mom/Dad disagreeing is what I will be saying when we tell my daughter, who is 11.5, that we will be divorcing. Many thanks and much aloha to you for sharing.

      • This is sooooo important. Tell your kids the TRUTH (in an age appropriate way). Believe me: Liars lie out their filthy lying liar hole. It is what they do. Whatever you do, don’t tell yourself new fantasies like”oh, he’d never disparage me to the girls! He wouldn’t do that.” Yes he would. “Oh he lied and cheated for a decade, but he’d never financially leave me bereft. He wouldn’t clear out the 401 K. He wouldn’t skim money off his paychecks and move them into a separate account. He wouldn’t transfer assets in a shady manner to his parents. He wouldn’t liquidate stocks and put them in his OW’s safe deposit box.” YES HE WOULD. Believe he not only could do these things, but he will if given half a chance! First thing is get documentation of all important financial assets. Run a credit report (for both of you) to find out the truth of debt he may have piled up. Call his work/pension plan/ financial advisor/military retirement office, while you are still married and get all the info on all assets. The day you file move half of all money from the checking and savings out for yourself and the girls. Someone who could do the things he has done already will have no problem doing worse. He already soul-raped you…what’s financial rape compared to that.

        • Liars lie out their filthy lying liar hole. It is what they do.


          Yes they do!

      • VH – In my situation I told the kids by myself and told them the truth using neutral language as suggested above. I didn’t want Mr. Narc trying to control the narrative one more minute. Because he’s an avoider and coward, had we told them together I was worried he’d try to reframe it as “we grew apart” or “fell out of love” further confusing the kids. I told the kids that the Narc (I have to come up with a better nickname) had broken our marriage vows and that his conduct was unacceptable. I told them that I had done everything possible to remain as a family unit but that he preferred to live elsewhere. I encouraged them to ask questions then or at any time in the future. It was as painless as possible and I think least upsetting to the kids.

  • Here’s what I did to help my three crying children through it all: I followed my beautiful therapist’s advice to let my children “metabolize their pain to through me.” What did that mean? It meant me listening to everything they had to say. It meant holding and comforting them when they cried. It meant being extra patient when they acted out. It meant showing up every minute of every day to take care of their physical and emotional needs. All of this reinforced for them that they had a sane parent who would never leave them. It gave them what they needed through an incredibly difficult time period. We are 8 years down the road now, and they are all strong and healthy, and I am so grateful they all have a beautiful relationship with me.

    Now, this is hard work. It takes a lot out of you. It can leave you wrung out like a damp dish towel, with nothing left to give. So you have to remember to take care of yourself in this process too. You cannot comfort your crying children if you don’t have anything to give yourself. How do you do that?

    (1) Cut off that OW bitch. Do it NOW. Block her, do not ever accept or read another text from her.

    (2) Same for her chump husband. He has to walk this road on his own, and you are not his support.

    (3) Go completely gray rock with your children’s father. Do not see him. Do not listen to his voice. Text him and tell him you will ONLY communicate through text or email, ONLY communicate about the children’s schedule/visitation. Let the lawyers communicate about finances and proceedings. There is absolutely no reason for you to have any other contact with him. I made a special ringtone to my fucktard — the Darth Vader theme from Star Wars — so I never had to worry about being surprised by a phone call and mistakenly answering one from him. (All these years later I still have it; he calls maybe 2x/year about kid-related things, the rest is all text and email, and that ringtone still comes in handy).

    (4) Use your supports. A dear, trusted friend. Your family of origin, if they are truly supportive. An excellent therapist. Ditch ANYONE who does not have YOUR back. Read up on Switzerland friends on this site, and back away from them fast.

    (5) Find ONE thing to recharge and refresh you (it could be more than one, but if it feels too daunting then just pick one for now). For me, it was taking long walks while my children were in school. And doing jigsaw puzzles. Anything involving exercise and fresh air can be awesome. Anything that requires you to put your mind into something else can be super helpful. Just one thing for now. One thing for yourself every day.

    Every single day that you do this helps you detox. The more you detox from him, the more strength you have for yourself and for your children. If you are in a place where you feel you cannot do these things for your own sake, do them to answer the question you asked in your letter: to comfort you are crying children.

    You can do this. Your life will be so beautiful and incredible when you do it. So will your children’s lives. I’m on the other side, I promise it’s possible.

  • Distraught,

    What do you tell your crying children? The truth, in an age appropriate fashion.

    What’s more important here is that you model good behavior for them (cause your husband sure isn’t). Do you want your son to grow up thinking that this is how dads behave – walk out when you’re not feeling the love, when you want a bit of strange. Walk back in when you’re lonely or things go poorly with your fling. Or do you want him to understand consequences and responsibility. Do you want your daughter to think that accepting this behavior is the norm, that she should stand quietly by and tolerate it when her future husband decides to sample forbidden women, or do you want her to be kick ass and stand up for herself.

    Imagine that you are the main character of a novel. Your husband has cheated on you repeatedly with the same woman over several years. As the reader, what are you rooting for the main character to do? Tolerate his behavior, or leave him? Imagine your daughter, years from now, looking back at how you navigated this mess. Do you want her to be proud of you for making the tough decisions, or feel that you wimped out and tolerated behavior from your husband that you should not have.

    Leaving him will be hard on the children over the short term. But over the long term, it will make them stronger, better, more responsible adults. As a parent, that’s your job, to prepare them for adulthood. There’s nothing wrong with helping them through this crisis, but not by sacrificing your dignity and self respect, by tolerating a long term, repeated pattern of behavior that is not likely to change – and even if he really breaks it off with her this time, what’s to stop him from finding another love interest? It’s his normal mode of operation. Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” You’ve given him 4 chances, at least. He’s shown you exactly who he is. Believe him.

    It will be a very hard road, over the next few years. You can do it, because the goal, a happy life for you, and raising responsible, functioning kids, is worth it. Now go do what you know you have to do.

    Hugs. Strength. Peace.

  • PS….
    Leaving marriage to abuser = finite pain
    Staying married to abuser = endless pain
    You and those precious children are an intact family. His brain and heart and moral compass are NOT intact. “Intact” is a club that only admits decent, kind, loving people. Revoke
    his membership. He is unworthy, not you.

  • Where’s Esther Perel right now?

    Oh, that’s right; I forgot: In her world, cheaters are all childless, “sophisticated” adults who all simply want an open marriage, even if it takes an affair or two for the chump to realize it.

    She has nothing useful to say about cheaters with children, nor about chumps who don’t want to swing.

    • Such a lot of bullshit from her
      When I found out about my husbands affair, i told him let’s have an open marriage then!
      Oh no, he didn’t want that!
      Because then we would be on equal grounds
      They don’t want equal grounds, they like it when they have the advantage

      • I suggested this as well and the idea was rebuked. He, of course, thought it was a trap. When I read about “open marriages” I learned that even they are based in TRUST with ground rules. So there went that (toxic) idea.

        Letitsnow-precisely! He wanted it open but didn’t want same for me. And I don’t think they get the same level of excitement if they aren’t living on the edge of getting caught. (puke)

  • Children want the familiar, even it it’s toxic. They haven’t the maturity to know that this is a sick, deviant way to live.

  • Get all your financial records in hand; pensions, checking and savings accounts, credit card accounts, insurance. Get a credit report; chances are that he’s already getting his financials separated from yours.

    Get a bulldog family attorney and file.

  • After 35 YEARS.. not 9 I discovered my X cheated
    thru most of my marriage!
    Do you want to end up like that? Your still young enough to start over & find peace in your life. He is a disgusting low life narcissist who knows exactly what he’s doing & Does Not Care.
    Give your children & yourself a life filled with love & respect. Show them how strong their mom is by divorcing this selfish disrespectful piece of trash.
    They will be fine. Time is a great healer.
    Be courageous & know you are not alone. We here at CN have your back! ????????❤️

    • Mine was 37 years. There were signs during the years but I spackled over them. In July 2016 when I had proof on one Saturday night, I kicked him out the next day, changed the locks and threw his clothes in the garage. No way could I ever, ever, ever trust him again. Luckily our only child (our daughter) was 23 but the truth about her father devastated her. He had always acted like she was the center of his life but she soon found out who he really was. She will be getting married this November and though we hardly ever talk about her Dad, she recently told me some of the issues she is having with her relationship because of him. If I could only go back, maybe not 37 years ago or I wouldn’t have the best thing in my life, but 25 years ago. Never, ever, ever accept less than you and your children deserve.

  • Chump Lady references “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?” The mad crush continues. Mr. CL, you’ve got a gem.

  • There is really nothing to add to CL’s post. Husbands don’t come equipped with bungee cords that allow them to wander off with mistresses and then snap back if it looks like child support consequences might come their way. It’s telling that the mistress is married. These two are fine with having other people pick up their responsibilities while they play with each other. They love being in a triangle and having the attention of 2 people. They love snickering about how they are fooling their spouses. And they love triangulated relationships because there is no real intimacy. Think about this: if they divorced and married each other, there would be visitation and child support and they would have to face each other over laundry and car repairs and sick kids. That’s not fun. Don’t let him back into the house. He had many chances and blew them all.

    Here’s what to tell your kids: “Your dad has a girlfriend and married people can’t do that. So we are getting a divorce. But WE will always be a family. And your father will always be your dad. But I don’t want you growing up to think that parents can walk out of the family without consequences. A family is a lifelong commitment. But I promise we will be OK. Now let’s go get ice cream.”

    They may cry. And that’s normal. What’s happening is sad. But it’s better to raise kids who understand that choices and bad behaviors have consequences. It’s better to raise kids who understand the importance of having boundaries and self-worth. Take your powerful letter to CL and find a therapist who will help you get the strength to end this abuse. Show it to your family and friends. Build an extended family of support. Keep reading here. You can save your kids. And yourself. But you have to get in touch with a set of higher values and priorities than “avoiding divorce.”

  • And a dad who wanders in and out of home is NOT part of a “family.” He’s a transient. This is not a foundation for raising kids who are secure. He’s the one breaking the kids’ hearts, not you. You are just the one witnessing the destruction. And for God’s sake, stop talking to this jackass. You’ve got a decade of evidence that he does not have your well-being in mind.

  • at the time I thought my son was upset because he no longer had an intact familyr. later I realised he was upset because I was upset.

  • Distraught, I did not even finish reading your letter to Chump Lady. Not because I don’t respect your pain, but because I couldn’t stand reading more about the way this scumbag has been torturing you for well over a decade. You don’t need a list of pros and cons. How can anyone treat their spouse like this, put them through so much pain, so many lies, gaslight the poor chumped spouse into getting individual counselling for their childhood issues.
    I am so sorry. Your pain is real but it is finite. If you get out he can no longer torture you AND your children like this. Get yourself and your kids away from these people (plural, your cheater husband and his AP are both torturing your family). Only evil people can carry on like this for so long. They know the harm they are causing you and your kids. Evil people.
    You will make it on your own with your kids, you will all recover and breathe easily when you are free of these people. May your cheater and his AP be stuck together forever, away from innocent people.

  • Distraught: Your story brought tears to my eyes. Definitely time to get mad. I would suggest you tell your children, at an appropriate moment and with no judgement, only facts, that a marriage consists of two people. Dad has CHOSEN to see someone else, and that is not a real marriage any longer. It is HIS CHOICE, you are just reacting properly by having to separate from him. No being mean here, just a logical outcome. AND, you are still a family. Please make sure they know that you love them and Dad does also, (Pewky kind of love but you don’t need to add that) You just can’t be married to him any longer because of HIS CHOICE.

    Secondly, I really needed to see this advice today! The part about projecting a relationship where there is none – so spot on! I even did it again on a smaller scale on someone else after Cheater Pants. Geeze—- seeing it spelled out this way is very helpful.

  • Maybe the children are upset and crying because there is uncertainty. They want an intact family and since mum hasn’t taken a stand yet might be trying to sway the outcome. Make a decision and then it will be easier to handle their emotions. Easier to help them adjust to a done deal than to use their emotions as an indication of what needs doing.

  • When you leave a cheater, you are teaching your children a very important lesson:

    You are to be respected. If you’re not being respected, the relationship is over.

    I want my children to see that and live that way. I did not want them to live with our broken marriage, watching as my ex treated me as a lesser life form while I did the pick-me dance. I wanted them to live with an example of a person who was treated with disrespect and said, “We’re done here.” I have always told them it’s better to be single than to be in a relationship where they are being treated like garbage, and I live that example for them every day.

    It’s hard to leave. It’s hard to let go of the vision of the happy, intact family you thought you had. However, that’s exactly what it is– a vision, not reality. You are showing your children how to react in a healthy and self-respecting way when you leave your cheater. Don’t teach them that they should stay and be abused.

  • Tell your children that everything is going to be fine and that you will make sure they have everything they need. Reassure them that you will always be there and they need not worry. Then file for divorce from that idiot cheater. I still say my one and only regret was that I did not kick his ass out immediately and file for divorce. My cheater returned over and over again and I bought into his BS. Just wasted my time. I am so envious of the chumps who are able to cut that shit short and just get on with their lives. You will start healing as soon as you make the decision to divorce.

  • 10 year olds will understand what cheating is,, unless they are kept in a bubble away from popular culture, the radio, magazine covers etc- even if they are doubtful of the mechanics they will comprehend the social contract has been broken. They know that you’re only supposed to be ” exclusive” with one person at a time. And they certainly know about lying, so you could just stick to that. ” Mummy has found out that Daddy told her a lot of lies , for a long time, and people in a marriage have to be honest with each other.” Kids that age also know that there’s no point playing a game with someone who keeps breaking the rules, especially if that someone won’t admit to it.
    My XH was so, so sad when I called it quits after 3 Ddays- so sad that he changed NOTHING about his behaviour and kept juggling 3 OW for the next three years or so. All his moping didn’t actually mean that he intended to make any personal growth or self realisation. It’s an act. They do it to manipulate.They are pod people. They don’t actually feel any emotion deeply and they think that people who do are either lying too or ” hormonal”

    • Actually that was the biggest thing I learned about my XH. His whole family assume that any strong emotion- apart from anger- is fake. they aren’t just cynical- they can’t feel anything to any great degree.

  • You don’t have a loving, intact family. You don’t have a spouse that respects you. You are choosing to model dysfunction and disrespect to your children. What are you trying to save? As hard as it is hear, you can’t make someone love you, you can’t make someone respect you and you can’t make someone share your values and your priorities. The good news is, you CAN control what you will tolerate. You need to go no contact PRONTO. You need to put your children first, and give them a fighting chance to have successful adult relationships someday. Modeling this behavior to them is nothing but a recipe for disaster. This man has been out of this marriage FOR YEARS… don’t waste one more second of your life, and don’t give away one more second of your childrens futures.

  • Staying and sparkling abuse. Intact dysfunction. Pros? NONE. Cons? Well…

    When he was young my son didn’t get along with his father. Being ignorant I spackled and not only allowed but FACILITATED the fact that he was being groomed by his narcissistic father.

    I could have saved him from that had I left when he was young.

    In the end I lost everything I was trying so hard to keep. Marriage, family, home. Staying only made it worse and the losses that much larger.

    You have nothing to gain by staying and everything to gain by leaving.

    Get. Out. Now.

  • Get the hell out of dodge, Distraught. A mother who doesn’t put up with being treated like garbage is much better than an intact family where Dad does whatever he wants with no consequences. Don’t let this be their example

  • Distraught, You are NOT “breaking your children’s hearts”. HE is the one who has done that – over and over – and what you are doing is saving them for more of the same. When the drama is over and you all begin living your cheater-free lives, things will be so much more peaceful for all of you. Best of luck.

  • CL thank you so, so much for answering my email. I have already read your response and advice several times. As many commenters have wisely said, it is taking some getting my head round, but reading yours and all the amazing CN responses and opinions about my situation is making me realise the enormity of the abuse I have been subjected to. I hadn’t really seen it like that before. It is so easy to believe the narrative that my cheater husband has told me over the last twelve years. Over the years he has managed to make me believe it is a) all my fault he ‘had’ to leave, and b) all in my head that he’s had/having an affair. I already feel so much support from you all and I thank you from the bottom of my broken heart.

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