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Dear Chump Lady, I don’t have any good memories of him

Dear Chump Lady,

I am having a problem. I was chumped 5 years ago this month. I am in a good place now, remarried, etc. But my issue is — I have two teenagers and I cannot talk to them about their father.

They know what happened and all that, but I cannot talk to them about anything to do with their father, we are zero contact, I mean zero. The issue is, they sometimes want to talk about their childhood, before I was chumped (I am sure he was cheating the whole time but whatever) and I cannot do it. I don’t want to remember anything about being with him. Just nothing, It’s too painful. So am I denying them the reality of their past because I just cannot discuss it? Am I being too petty? I feel like I am. I feel like I am denying them their good memories because they are all now tainted for me.

How do I get past this and, I guess blank him out of the picture? I feel bad that they can’t talk about their dad and their growing up, he left when they were almost 11 and 12. I just have no good memories now. Every kid should be able to remember their younger days with happiness and reminisce. I am just being a bitch? Will this let up or what? Please help.

Melissa

Dear Melissa,

If it’s too painful for you, I imagine it’s pretty painful for them, what with being abandoned at 11 and 12 years old. When you say you have absolutely zero contact with him, I assume that means they do too? It doesn’t sound like you’re coordinating schedules and doing drop offs. So, no dad for them, only memories? Maybe he’s around, but he isn’t doing the day-to-day parenting stuff?

You have the consolation of a new marriage, of being loved and validated. They don’t have that. They’ve got this new guy in their lives, and maybe they like him well enough, but he’s not Their Dad.

One extremely difficult part of breeding with a fuckwit is that while your allegiance changes — you stopped loving him — your children’s does not. This causes a lot of heartache. Let’s list a few ways in which it sucks.

1.) You wish your kids understood the injustice. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t — but it’s not THEIR injustice. Their injustice is very different than your injustice. Your injustice is that you were chumped and abandoned. Their injustice is that they lost their intact family. They lost the parenting “team” raising them. (Even if that teamwork thing was illusory, it was theirs.) It’s hard for them to feel your pain — especially as teenagers — when they’re carrying around bucketloads of their own pain.

I know you also lost your intact family and a parenting partner, but you’re the adult. From their perspective you moved on. They’re the kids. They only get one mom and one dad, and they’re still too young to create their own families or realize that choosing your own tribe is often far more gratifying than shared DNA.

2.) You hate that the fuckwit hurts them, and yet they still love the fuckwit. Dad doesn’t show for the sports banquet? Mom fails to pay support? Any time someone hurts our children, the primal response is to want to rip their throats out. And yet that threat, that person we want to warn them about, is someone they love. We have to sit on the sidelines and eat the shit sandwich of that warm regard they have for fuckwits. STOP! THEY ARE ONLY GOING TO HURT YOU!

Nope, can’t go there. They have to figure it out for themselves.

3.) It feels disloyal. “If you loved me, you’d hate him.” That’s how it feels. How DARE you love this piece of shit AFTER ALL I’VE DONE FOR YOU. And yet you cannot burden your children with this divisiveness. You can’t make it All About You. Just get back to the job of sane parenting — pack the lunches, sign the forms, show up, listen, buy the dental work.

I know how hard this is. You guys are heroes.

4.) They want something from you that you cannot give them — a good opinion of their other parent. Couldn’t they want something simple like a pony? You’re entitled to your opinion. You know the truth of what happened. The disconnect of what they want –and what you can give — is still sad. But do NOT wear the blame — it’s sad because a fuckwit cheated and abandoned his family. You’re not a failure because you can’t think kind thoughts about him — he’s the failure.

So what can you do?

This is what I’ve done — make it about your kid. Do they really want to hear about Dad, or do they want to hear about how cute their Thomas the Tank Engine mania was, or that time they were licked by a cow, or how many times you had to read Zoom City before bed?

It’s okay not to have good memories of their dad, and write him out of your story, but please do indulge them in good memories of them.

Another thing I’ve managed is to have good memories of a departed grandmother. She really was wonderful, and loved my son, and we talk about her. Can you seize on anyone related to the fuckwit who you can speak well of? I think it helps kids to have a general sense of family on all sides that loves them.

Finally, just be kind to yourself. You’re not petty, you’re mighty. You’re raising two teenagers (kudos! salutes! confetti!) and you’ve rebuilt a new life. You’re modeling resiliency to your kids and that’s the best gift you could give them. Once upon a time I loved a fuckwit and we had amazing adventures! not so much.

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    • EXACTLY. Soon after DDay my eldest said ” I don’t care about the bisexuality and all that stuff. What Dad did is put himself first.” And my teenage son knew that signing up for parenthood means you don’t do that. Your kids are first, and if the sacrifice is too great eg staying in the marriage when you want strange cock/cunt, then you be HONEST and brave and have that hard conversation. Whether the marriage survives that conversation or not, the honourable and admirable path has been taken. Kids can still respect.. or …

      Cheat for ten years and then tell them “I have lied for ten years. I have had ‘short relationships’ with people”. So how does that play out for the ten-year-old … Mindfuckery of the highest order. Can we look at photos? No.

  • I also feel like my entire marriage was a lie and have zero good memories. When I think about the past and good times our family had I mentally erase him from the picture. We talk about the event or the memories, the friends and other relatives that were there. His body may have been there but he never participated so it’s actually not that hard.

    • I gave both my adult sons (now 32 and 34) any and all pictures of their father, including those of their father and me. This way, they can remember our lives together and I do not have to look at any picture of him. Yes, they can see mom with that always big smile on her face (because at that time, she did not know what she did not know).

    • This is generally what I do too. We talk about past events all of the time, just not specifically about Dad. If he does come up it is just as part of the background. My kids do still have a relationship with their Dad so maybe they do the opposite when reminiscing when I am not present, but I don’t have to know that. I kind of doubt they do much reminiscing with their Dad though as he said himself that he remembers very little of his past. It is sad that he had to erase so many good things from his memory in order to be able to cheat on me and discard me the way he did. Strange pussy was more important to him than family or good memories.

      • When my kids want to reminisce I keep the focus on them in those moments, not us. “Yes, you actually tried to climb Devils Tower and at 5 years old your determination was really impressive. We kept calling you mountain goat.” I’ve found my kids, all teens now, really just want to re-feel the good feelings that came with a good time. These are their fond memories. It’s not my place to cast a shadow on them but to encourage them to keep remembering and keep enjoying them.

  • The point about validating any of their good pre-DDay memories is key. We should never want to invalidate happinesses of our kids’ childhoods. Those are the foundations of happier lives in the future.

    For whatever it’s worth, whenever my girls say “Remember when Mum…” I always respond with “Yes, I do remember that,” let them have a laugh about whatever it was that made it special (and even join in if it’s about their reaction or take on it, which is the case almost all of the time), them either move on or use it as a springboard to another good memory that does not feature the Kunty Kibbler in the starring role.

    We all get that the years spent with a cheater are tainted. But CL is right — thst’s between us and them. The kids shouldn’t have to carry that burden.

  • Someone here once commented that they shifted the pronouns. I went hiking on that mountain rather than We went hiking…..
    It made a big difference to me both as how to speak to other people about my experiences and how to frame it internally.
    It has been a few years now since I’ve been doing that and it has become second nature. After all, it was your life not just “our” life.

    • This is a very timely comment. I use “we” all the time and need to stop and reframe. Thank you for sharing this advice.

    • Holy reframing Batman! I love this idea. Yes, we were together, but I did still exist as a separate person as well. Huh. Nice.

    • Fern, I have consciously changed to “I” even when referring back to my former married life. It’s good to focus on yourself I think

    • Plus it’s accurate. So often when “we” are doing something, only one of us is present, so while technically two people might have been physically there, only one of the pair was mentally there. And you know which is the fuckwit and which is you.

      This tactic, however, doesn’t work well when referring to group memories with the kids. Perhaps the solution is to re-conceptualize “we” to “me and the kids” rather than “me and the fuckwit and the kids.” Obviously this won’t work when it’s something involving just the fuckwit and the kids, but UXWorld has the right idea on this one. Agree, then shift the focus.

      • This works particularly well when the other parent was absent so much of the time. I have very few memories of XW and kids, because she was always working or traveling. In fact, my eldest once commented about her “Really I only think of mom as someone who brought back cool presents when she came back from trips”.

        • This^^^.

          My ex the DOCTOR was gone so much (by his choice & over my objections) that the kids don’t have a ton of memories with him.

          He wrote a manifesto to them in which he projected & blame shifted massively. In it, he said “although he wasn’t there as much as a normal dad, he always put them first” — as if that sentence makes any G-D- sense.

          Asshole posts on facebook, pics of him with scmoopie new wife and HER daughter, so he looks like a father…and my kids see their replacement getting what they never got, and he sees NO connection between that & his shitty relationships with them. The DOCTOR doesnt get it, he doesn’t know he’s abnormal.

          That is part of the problem. Narcs don’t know they’re narcissists. They don’t know that their selfishness is so extreme and unhealthy, (unhealthy for them too, in the long run.)

          • Narcs also have no clue that normal people don’t discard and replace. They call it Being Positive and Moving On (life’s too short etc) – not Dwelling Bitterly on the Past.

            Um, remembered those babies you fathered in the Past? Happens that (time, huh, it’s a funny thing) has turned them into People who still consider you their Parent. I know, annoying!?!

            • MamaMeh,

              Yes the DOCTOR says he’s “someone who looks at life like a glass half full” and
              I almost choked – (NOTE TO SELF -never sip a drink when you read a pathological manifesto to your kids, from their sperm donor, the same person who wounded them deeply)

              but my thought out response (internal b/c there’s NO contact) is

              1) NO, DOCTOR< you were critical as hell – of me and of our kids and THEY have memory – and

              2 your seething resentment and martyrdom is how you justified leaving me when I was hospitalized for the only time in our marriage,

              AND

              3)when a narc refer to themselves as being "positive, in the moment and moving on" –

              NARCISSIST TRANSLATION – "don't counter my distorted self serving narrative or YOU are bitter & stuck in the past…unlike SO HAPPY me…me…me"

    • Yes that shifting the pronoun thing is real and very helpful for reclaiming your past. I did it consciously for awhile and now it has become my default state. The only time I use “we” is when I’m talking to my adult kids about things that memories from their childhood. When I use “we” with them, in my head I’m referring to me and my kids. If they want to include their dad in that happy memory, that’s up to them.

      • I do the same! I say “when we moved here” or “when we went there”. I mean me & my kids. Occassionally, the “we” scenario would have included Dracula, but either he was useless and/or just a meat suit blob that was there, so he rarely contributed to the memory, anyway.

        But, agree with many others, my ex “traveled for work all the time” (who knows now if that is really what happened), so my kids have very few memories of all of us pre D-Day.

        • Hahahahahahaha “meat suit blob”. I love that! I have my ex listed as “Edgar Suit” in my phone contacts. Same thing. Cockroach in a man suit. My ex also “traveled for work all the time” for most of our marriage. If I cared to guess, I’d guess that he was also boinking strippers for most of our marriage, but I don’t really care to guess. Not my circus anymore.

    • No kids here, but the advice about shifting pronouns is really helpful. (And, come to think of it, I guess it’s only fair–since for years he’d been using “I” in his accounts of our trips and experiences in his emails to charm ex-girlfriends/AP contestants with tales of “his” fun life.)

    • I have making a conscience effort to say “I” or the “kids and I”. It’s hard after 24 years of “we”. I do talk about their mother if they so choose.

    • I have begun doing this too. I don’t have kids, but when I tell friends/work colleagues/acquaintances those little anecdotes about myself, I have consciously reframed. “We” became “I,” and then “Me and my husband’s family” turned into “some friends and I.”

      I think it helps recovery to recognize that it wasn’t just WE/HIM doing those fun things all those years…it was ME too! I am a fun lady, who has lived an interesting life and who continues to do so. HIS presence in the past/absence in the present is not relevant to my life one bit.

      • I think this reframing is very powerful, and suggests an opening for dealing with the kids. When the kids talk about their memories of their father, you are listening to their stories, which are about them. Even if they use “we” in referencing the family unit as it was in the past or “we,” meaning kiddo and the other parent, you are listening to a first person story. That person’s story. The cheater just makes an appearance in the kiddo’s story.

    • I’ve done this as well – shifted the pronouns so that I can freely talk about the memory the kids are interested in talking about.

      The fact is, I know *my* truth, and I do have many fond memories of my life. I did laugh. I did have fun. All of it was real. Because I was real.

      I refuse to give Figment any more power over my reality. He wasn’t genuine. That’s on him. I was. I am. And I always will be.

      Figment will be the one looking back on his life and regretting it because he wasn’t being true to himself – or others – and that is a wasted life in my humble opinion.

    • I had exactly one date with a chump a couple of years ago and all he could talk about was ‘We, We, We’….referring to his XW who ran off with the neighbor. I thought to myself ‘this guys isn’t divorced in his head yet.

      • Exactly.

        It’s a hard habit to break. But it starts with not thinking as a “we.” That also for me serves as a kind of warning bell that I can lose myself inside a “we” if I’m not careful.

    • Hi Fern, this is Melissa. FIRST OF ALL I CANNOT BELIEVE CHUMP LADY FEATURED MY PROBLEM!!! *standing over here fanning myself…!

      I really like the idea of reframing the pronouns. I am going to start there. And of course I am going to print out and re-read CL’s awesome advice, so spot on!

      Just for the record, they did have a relationship with him, we did the 50/50 thing after things settled down (took about a year) but now that they are getting older, my eldest will go now and then (she drives) but my youngest (my son) rarely goes. Thanks to everyone who commented, I am going to keep reading, and thanks so much CL and CN!

  • My kids know what I think of their father and they don’t mention him to me but then I don’t think they have much (if any) contact with him. Maybe two skype conversations a year – I doubt if there are any more. And I don’t have good memories of him but that’s ok. I would rather have no memories at all but hey ho! On the other hand I have, on occasion, mentioned something funny he did – like he once played hide and seek with the kids when they were little and hid in the fire place – came out covered in soot (I should have set it on fire). I don’t want my loathing of him to taint their opinion. He can screw their opinion of him all by himself.

    • “He can screw their opinion of him all by himself.” LOL, so true…why be the “bad guy” who does it? I’m reading on this thread about the battle between being honest–not gas lighting–versus allowing them to indulge in good memories or even indulging with them. Both things can exist–maybe on a wire, but still. Why set yourself up to be the parent who trash talked the other parent? For us in the midst of the pain of betrayal, can we really be sure we’re walking that line well? You can be honest–answer their questions honestly, even express your sad feelings about it, without transferring your bags to them…cause in the end most of these kids will figure it out in due time.

  • Yeah. I hear you. The kids don’t want their memories taken away.

    I have two professional, beautiful daughters in their 20’s who are still very conflicted about their father. Five years post bomb drop, they want me to get over it. They also want to have good memories of the past, I get it.
    I am there for them, always have been. They know that.

    Sometimes this anger toward dad gets misdirected at me. Behind my back they have called me “bitter”, “man hater”, “get over it” and say THEY don’t have a relationship with their dad because of me.
    { Cue sound of Magneto’s jaw hitting the floor}

    I’ve done my best to balance being truthful an not hide my pain. Dad is a malignant skunk. I think they know it. That does not take away the fact they are as confused as you to what part of their childhood was “real”, what was “fake”.

    • Thank you for “malignant skunk”. Stinky!!! So going to use that!

      I read a book lately that described the treatment that one of those skunks gave his ex as “bombastic cruelty”. Another excellent phrase.

  • Melissa, I know EXACTLY how you feel. Fuckwit destroyed 40 years of my references and my eldest is 37. He cried like a baby exactly about this too. His father’s six brothers were cruel to me and also incredibly dishonest. But we get around this by being friends with some of fuckwit’s family: nieces and cousins, coincidently the ones who contacted me to tell me they missed me.

    There is so much going on in my sons’ and my life that there is just no room for the fuckwit topic in our conversations. Hopefully this will happen as your children grow up.

  • Melissa – I fully agree with everything … EVERYTHING… CL says here (but then I always do).

    My son was just turning 9 when Mr. Sparkles left. He’s on the verge of 13 now. What I have noticed when we talk about his childhood is how much his Dad isn’t included in the reminiscing because he wasn’t with us. So much of my child’s childhood didn’t include his Dad because was always choosing to “do something else”. Take our son to his first friend’s birthday party… nope, gotta use that time to see a Craigslist hooker. Come with us on the annual trip to visit friends… not going this year, need to install the new garage door (come home, door not installed but ass imprint firmly established in his gaming chair). Family vacation to the beach… gotta run back home to interview some mechanics (translation: going home to watch porn for hours uninterrupted and go on a date with an Adult Friend Finder buddy).

    My reality (and my son’s) was that Mr. Sparkles wasn’t around for many of the best memories of his childhood.

    Maybe that is true for you?

    I don’t intentionally delete Mr. Sparkles from our walks down memory lane… but I don’t go out of my way to reflect back on those very times versus the hundreds others where he wasn’t there.

    If Mr. Sparkles wants our son to remember him fondly, then he should do things with our son to build that connection. It isn’t my responsibility to manufacture that connection.

    I recently had a birthday and I took my son to Target so he could pick out a card for me. (His Dad does nothing to teach him how to become a respectful and caring man, so I have to.). My son walked the card aisle for a good 15 minutes before picking a card that said: “Remember the time when… there are so many ways I could answer because of all the great times I’ve had with you…” I guess I’m saying, Kids get it. Don’t feel like you have to prove it to them that their Dad is a fuckwit. Be better than that… take the high road… and that is what they will remember.

    • Right there with you on the whole he was busy elsewhere thing. We usually took one trip a year as a family. I took several with just my son. I still plan a lot of activities and adventures for us while he just “hangs out” during his time with his father. Son is still not the center of his father’s world. All that time alone together and it’s still all about Narkles the Clown and what he wants to do. I think it underscores the difference between parents. Maybe son could buy Narkles the Clown a “remember that tv show we sat around and watched” card for his next birthday.

      Thanks for making me feel not so alone on this one

      • My biggest “watch out” isn’t that my son doesn’t experience Mr. Sparkles inclination to watch movies/play video games/generally avoid any emotional intimacy as the way a “normal man” behaves and develop those same traits. Otherwise, I think he prefers the 85% monthly absence of Uncle Dad.

  • Honestly, you were very traumatized and probably don’t have any memories of him to share. So definitely think of cute/funny times where one, the other or both of your kids were the stars.

    They’re 16 & 17 now, so maybe it’s time for them to reach out to him if they really want to feel a connection. If he burns them, they will learn something and that is a win for them even If it doesn’t feel like it at the time. If he manages to focus on them, for a change, they win.

    You go on being mighty!

    • Hi gentle teader. My reactions are negative, mostly always. I just don’t want to hear it. The other issue I have is I will react and they will defend him when I am not even bashing him (I don’t) like they are overprotective or something, I don’t know.

      My eldest daughter will go stay over there a couple times a month, my son maybe once every couple months. I am NC, not even e-mail because of his abuse. They have phones and can tell him whatever.

  • Oh I so get this! The thing about breeding with fuckwits is that shit sandwich aftertaste lingers and lingers and lingers!

    Just yesterday my 17 year old said they were talking about their earliest memories in psychology class. Hers… “her dad used to pick her up off the stairs late at night and carry her back to bed when she’d sneak out of bed.”

    I so wanted to say, “yeah, you mean after he was emerging from the locked office after watching porn for hours and signing up for hook-up sites. Sure, he showed up after I’d fed you, bathed you, read you a book, tucked you in, gave kisses and put you to bed!”

    … even though that IS the truth, I don’t want to taint that memory for her. She felt love, I felt anger. I knew why he was awake and carrying her to bed, she on the other hand has no idea.

      • The shit part is, he was rarely around to help, but when he was around, he got the bitch cookie!

        There’s no accolades for making sure your kid has clean clothes, food in the fridge, a clean bathroom to bath in, wellness check-ups, school registration, dance class, swim lessons, riding lessons, soccer, cheerleading competitions, school supply shopping, etc. But picking up your child in the hall after the chump did all the hard work, well that deserves a special memory. It’s super frustrating.

        When dirtbag was moving out he enlisted the help of our daughters boyfriend and friends. I was enforcing boundaries…like “no you can not take the table we agreed was mine!” after he told them to take it. Of course that put them in an awkward position. My daughter said later, “Mom that was really embarrassing.” When I asked why it was okay for her father to have create the conflict she replied, “because I expect that behavior from him, but not from you.”

        I guess when you have low standards for a parent anything positive they do is award worthy. In contrast to her high expectations of me, anything less than perfection is embarrassing. It really is a shit sandwich no matter how you slice it!

        • If it helps, it’s a backhanded compliment. He gets the special memory because his participation was so rare.

          You being there and being a good sane parent is expected, so you are held to a MUCH higher standard.

          It’s still a shit sandwich, but at least with you she doesn’t mistake crumbs for a feast.

            • You know, you relate stories of your bedtime rituals with her through the years. How you read “Goodnight Moon” 50 bazillion times, or you would wash her hair with the special shampoo while she played with (favorite toy). Mention her favorite stuffed animal.

              Bring the narrative and the rituals back to the participants.

              Yeah, her earliest memory may be him picking her up and RE-TUCKING her into bed, but you can refresh her memory of things you did with and for her.

              You’re not undermining her memory, you’re expanding it.

              • Hugs to you, Got-a-brain. It’s not easy to think of these things when your jaw is hanging on the floor and your brain is flooded with pain.

                Pain and anger both drop our IQ by a significant number. They make us ACT, they don’t help us THINK.

                Sometimes, that’s a damn good thing too. Other times, not so much.

        • “There’s no accolades for…” That is the old adage, but arguably the accolades come when your kids grow up healthy and well adjusted cause of the work you did. I think maybe that’s the best accolade, regardless of one childhood memory.

        • Yup, the low standard thing! He does absolutely nothing for them but pay his measly child support (he is a cop so he has to pay or he would be fired or else I am sure he would not be) NOTHING! I do ALL of the heavy lifting, doctors, forms, school supplies, cheerleading payments, senior package payments, school pictures, teachers appointments, every single thing. It is expected of me, not of him, but somehow he is a hero. Fucking bullshit.

    • Her reaction is also no doubt tinged by her loss. Because from her perspective she lost her father’s presence and affection, she now looks back with regret.
      Sometimes I’m tempted to think it wouldn’t be a bad thing to let them know that–or even the truth about the fuckwit’s behavior. Because otherwise they build a whole personality out of loss.
      I’m not convinced that protecting them from the truth is always the right choice. Age appropriate explanations, yes.

      • I’m struggling with this now, Trying for Mighty. If I remember correctly, your ex was also involved with men? I have only minimal, circumstantial evidence. Mine contracted a serious STD that the kids don’t know about. He asked me not to tell them (before divorce) because he didn’t want them to worry. But also I’m sure because they would be furious he exposed me. Now I struggle with how they will feel towards me (lying by omission) if it comes out. Sigh.

        • Chumpiness, Wow…You know though I think your kids deserve to hear the truth. If he has been exposed to HIV and they do not know, they might blame YOU for the years they didn’t understand he had a serious medical condition. Secondly, your ex is delving in ‘impression and image management, right? He likely did that all through your marriage and now he doesn’t want the kids to know the TRUTH. Huh…how about THAT? Typical, right? It is what cheaters do right down to their last breath. Finally, if he has something like HIV, he could end up exposing them in his dying days when they are flocking around him and trying to help. Think about your KIDS. To hell with your ex…

        • My stbx was not involved with men, but is a fetish crossdresser who gets off sexually on wearing women’s clothes and pretending to be a woman in bed (he was a big “ladyboy” porn fan who also “explored” his sexuality with a former student we both taught). So yes, you and I are in a slightly different situation. I know my stbx is terrified I’ll tell our son the truth, because he doesn’t want to have to deal with the fallout of how this will change their relationship. He prefers the “we grew apart” narrative (of course he does! Easier on him.). I meanwhile, want honesty with my child, after spending three years mostly in his closet (I told a close friend, and then, after two and a half years, my family). So I told him that people don’t get divorced after 35 years and face financial consequences in retirement just because they’re “happier apart.” I also told him it was his father’s issue, and his father’s to tell him, and that he could ask, but his father had already told me his response was going to be “some things are private.” But at least I felt that was a truth I could live with.

          • This is the horrible position cheaters put chumps in! I really want to start an “It’s not my response, it’s your behavior” movement!

    • That is so true!!!
      I was struggling with finding even one (!!!) memory, that would be pure and beautiful…after 15 years together, 3 kids and various trips, moves, vacations- I can’t find even one innocent memory 😔

      I found my way around it.
      I still have my time, time with kids… my involvement was REAL, my feelings were REAL…. my life was REAL.

      What was an illusion- was someone who I thought was my best friend.

    • Got a Brain,

      I am so sorry to hear about your 17yo’s memory about her daddy carrying her up to bed. That is SO FRUSTRATING!!! I’m sitting in the same boat as I watch daddy take her for SO. MUCH. FUN. on the weekends and with me it’s school, work, daycare cooking, cleaning same old. Fuck him. and fuck that. Then my cheater is going to move away and her time with him is going to become oh-so-much more special like a mini-vacation. Shit sandwich. I wish I could hand you a glass of cold milk to wash it down…

      • Unexpected I suspect you are correct in your prediction of the way this is going to play out! I’ll give you a clinking glasses cheers, that shit sandwich is going to linger!

          • Daddy comes for two holidays with the littles each year and always does exactly the same things and goes to exactly the same holiday places. There is little to no imagination. Although we spend so much time just doing the “life” stuff, of home, work, school, etc… we do it with joy, and jokes, and play in the midst of our lives, and we deal with challenges and issues head on together as a family. In the end, that stuff is what will stick, not the fun and games that are a laugh whilst they last, but in the end lack substance and reality.

    • Exactly… my kids actually reframed their own memories because after he left after d day physically from their lives they reflected that he was never really ‘present’ anyway. ..it must have filtered through to them more than me because i was too busy spackling and believing his words. Funny thing was when we went on holiday together by ourselves even in the early days of marriage before kids i got this weird feeling i was alone even when i was in a room with him. Has anyone else experienced this? In fact i remember feeling quite disturbed as if i was with a non person.

    • I am trying to reply to got-a-brain but it is going down here for some reason. This is Melissa from the story. got-a-brain god I do that ALL the time! They will recount some memory and I will self talk to myself-oh yea, when your dad took you to that baseball game with your buddy, remember the blonde that was there (your buddies mom) Dad was fucking her!! YEAH!! Ugh!

  • My 36 year old son still wants a relationship with his father. I cringe when he meets him for dinner or any other occasion but I have to accept it. I’m divorced
    2 1/2 years now & still have the anger hatred inside of me. Cheating narc destroyed our family for a whore.

    I hope someday I can move beyond the betrayal. 🙁

  • I stubbornly refused to accept that the last 30 years of my life were anything less that they were because he was dishonest. I got past the feeling that I had lost my good memories due to his cheating by creating slideshows on my personal computer with songs I loved. I would choose a topic that was dear to me (I made one for each child for example) and I filled it with pictures of how wonderful those times were and none of those pictures included him. I did that deliberately to remind myself that I actually had a pretty good life while he was out screwing around. My oldest autistic daughter loves to watch the slideshows, and she has yet to notice that her father isn’t in any of them. She has her time with him, and I guess he can make his own slideshows if he wants to. But these are mine. My past in fact was mine.

    • I was thinking of doing a scrapbook with each kiddo, but I think I like this even better, plus it’s more likely to get actually done. Thanks for the great idea!

    • This is a great idea! I put together some photo albums of my daughter and I and our adventures and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get photos without the ex in them…cause he was doing his own thing while she and I were out being a family together. I mean, he participated too regularly enough (often solemnly), but her and I were the core of our family. I’m with you, I had good times–great times–even with him over the years. I refuse to erase those. They are mine!

  • Argh the mixed and intense emotions of mating with a shit head.

    These emotions surface at just the slightest of triggers even after 8 yrs post DDay. There’s the: “What. You helped him fix his horse 🐎 fence!” Don’t you kids realise your father had sex with that horsey woman and abandoned our family. Instead, you hold in your anger & pain and say: “That’s nice”.

    When my kids ask me questions about the ex I try hard to give a fair and balanced view. I usually view it as best I can as true to my feelings & memories at the time. (Ie. a view that is not tainted by the knowledge and truth that emerged later). While they know the truth, I think when they talk about their childhood they are in a different headspace.

  • For some reason stupid ex makes it a point to tell the kids he has “beautiful memories” of me as a mother. Which puts me in the position of bad guy if I confess I have shitty memories of him as a father. So I grin and bear it the best I can and it does fade as time goes by and we build new stories and memories.

    I get a double dose of the shit sandwich with my SO’s daughters who always, at every gathering, go down memory lane with their dad. I grit my teeth and bear that too but it does make me dread being with them. That one doesn’t seem to be lessened because there aren’t many opportunities to paint a new picture with them.

    It’s not easy. No one said it would be. Probably the best thing to do is work on your own triggers so it doesn’t have so much of an effect on you. The goal is to be okay with yourself no matter who does what. In other words, meh 🙂

    • I was thinking this, too, that our writer needs support and a place to vent. Counseling can be good for this with the right counselor.

      • I was thinking of this, too.

        I don’t think the Chump needs to create a false image of the loving father/mother for the children. I do think the Chump can walk down memory lane and reaffirm that the kiddos and father went hiking, got tickets to the ball game, etc. This is all a variety of “make it about the kids, not the cheater.” The children know how they felt at that time. It’s fine to let them relive that experience without getting invested in how their Cheater parent was texting the AP, disappeared for two hours to hookup with the AP, etc.

        If it’s too hard to reach back into your memories, then it’s probably worth it to go into therapy. The kids could probably use therapy, too, especially if they have no contact with the cheater parent. Once you learn to deal with your triggers, you can probably talk dispassionately with your children about their early childhood, the fun trip they had to the beach, etc. That doesn’t mean you have to say their dad is a good person, just that they went to the beach and built a bunch of sand castles.

      • Yea I agree guys that counseling would help, but time, money problems have prevented me. I mostly repressed everything from the beginning, it was so traumatic. It was too hard to think about. I would vent to my mom about whatever evil thing he and his whore were doing lately, but I don’t think I have ever felt strong enough to really face my feelings. I have just tried to let time do its thing. 5 years on I am much better, but still…

        Thanks again everyone!

        melissa

    • “For some reason stupid ex makes it a point to tell the kids he has “beautiful memories” of me as a mother. Which puts me in the position of bad guy …” Absolutely. I hear “dad says nice things about you.” Unfortunately, dad has never fessed up to any of the things he did to me to destroy our family. Somehow, ignoring his actions and the sordid details makes him the good guy!

      • As my STBX left nine months ago, and my children are only 8 and 10, there hasn’t been opportunity to have those memory lane conversations. But, I know that he will always uphold me as a great mother with the kids. That is part of the image he maintains of being reasonable: I’m an amazing mother, I just sucked at everything else.

        My plan is to just work really hard at not disparaging him to his children in kind. Let him do that to himself.

        As for the kids’ perspective of their father…I think the kids’ memories reflect how they understood things at that time. I am reminded of how much I loved some day trips that my father took us on when I was 11. It was only that year that he took us on these outings to the zoo, the amusement park, drive-in movies, whole evenings at the arcade. My dad was the best! Well it’s been over 30 years since those memories were created. I have since realized that that was the year my father was fighting my mother for custody in court, not because he loved us so much but because he was punishing my mother for daring to leave him. My father never did those outings again after he lost in court that year. In fact, within four years, my father was gone entirely (did not see him for 16 years after that). Yep, I understand how tainted the context of those memories are. However, I still remember that I had fun with my dad on those trips. That is the truth of those memories and that is what matters to me. Whatever his true intention, we simply had fun, and I’m glad that I got to have some fun with my dad.

        Melissa, and others relating to her challenge, I don’t think the onus is on you to conjure up good memories of the kids’ lousy father. Let the kids reminisce and bank their own memories, just simply acknowledge their truth in those memories. Yes, they had a fun time. Yes, they felt loved by their dad at that moment. Yes, that moment of family time together was meaningful to them. Yes, daddy was funny when he said/did…whatever.

        Unfortunately, the reality is that we don’t often get told about our awesomeness by our kids, until it’s Mother’s Day, or we get old, or we’re dying. But, don’t doubt for a second, that those amazing kids you have raised by being the sane and moral parent absolutely sing your praises to others. We get the burden of all their moods because we are the ones they feel safe with. They know we are the ones who will never leave. My brother and I were not always nice with our mom, even though she sacrificed so much to keep us safe from our abusive father, but as adults we know treat my mother like the queen that she is. There isn’t anything we don’t do to care for her. There isn’t anything that she goes without.

  • Your kids are at the age where they begin to wonder about themselves. So many of the adopted children I have known have begun to wonder about – and search for – their birth parents at this time of life. If your kids have no contact with their father (and/or with his family?) then they may feel that they’ve only got half the picture. Could you try telling them the stories they want to hear as if it were something you read in a book a long time ago? Not something that happened, but a work of fiction (which it mostly was, probably). They’re just looking for information to tell them who they are – and maybe also wanting to know that they were loved and wished for from the beginning. You don’t have to tell them everything, and of course you shouldn’t lie or embellish, but whatever you can give to make them feel whole. I say this as a person who found out at age 50 that the Daddy who loved me with his whole heart wasn’t my biological father. The man my mother had an affair with had been dead 10 years by then, and yes, I wonder about the man who never wanted to know me, but mostly about the genetics. Try to give them whatever you can of their past. Maybe it would be easier if you write down some topics first – then you would have a better idea of the pitfalls to avoid?

  • I am 4 and a half years divorced. Still single, raising a 12 year old and a 16 years old. They were 8 and 12 when my wasband decided I was boring and ran off with the neighborhood party girl meth head.. .. ..

    My youngest will still bring up memories of his childhood and his dad. He will say to me “remember that time dad took us to get bunnies? ” or “remember that time dad played baseball with me” or remember that time dad did this or that.. .. and although it killed me the first year, I would just laugh with him and say yes, I remember.

    Those are HIS memories. He has very few good memories of his dad. He knows what his dad is. He knows his dad abandoned him. He understands that dad would rather be with this troll that beats him then to spend time with his sons. He knows dad is selfish and only cares about himself.. .. .And not coming back home. .. .. but he still has good memories of his dad. I do not need to take those few memories away from him. .. the more i talked about his memories eith my son, the easier it got. My son does still being up something every now and then. My son knows that I can share this with him without getting hurt.

    The way I think is, there were good times. My son has memories of the good times, it doesn’t mean the bad times did not happen. (We talk about those too when my son brings them up) .. .. .besides my don and I are making new memories. He will never make any more memories with his dad.

    Find your peace. Enjoy your kids. Treat their talks like you would any other person who talk about their childhood. Like when your new coworker tells you a story when they were a kid, act like that. Laugh with your kids over the good stuff. Your kids will only love you all the more.. .. good luck

  • This issue of childhood memories is even more complicated when the OW was part of the children’s lives as far back as they can remember (kids are adults now).

    It’s not only about memories of the cheater parent, it’s also memories about the cheater knowing who he was with and all the times they interacted with the OW.

    Double serving of tainted memories for them

    We just talk about the fun times and I have gotten to the point where I can mention him and make a conscious effort to remember my happiness at the time because I WAS happy. I’ve managed to accept that my happiness and their happiness was real back then. I reclaimed the memories.

  • Yes, this.

    I have struggled to find the capacity to be nostalgic about the very few good memories I have about their dad amidst my trauma over learning of chronic betrayal (that my kids dont know about).

    I try to actually LOOK for something decent to say…recently it was “your dad gave me this when we were dating, isnt it cute? would you like to have it?”

    I think Im finally getting to a place of emotional calm where I will be able to do this more and allow my kids the benefit of some pleasant remembrances…it is true that I will do it for them.

  • I make this point as an open question. Is it really best not to correct the story? If the childrens’ memory regarding the fuckwit represents “love” to them, is that really sacrosanct and important for them to have?

    I really want to understand this topic better. Most of the comments are in line with “eating the shit sandwich” of remaining silent on who the fuckwit really is. They sound really sensible and noble to me but still somehow don’t sit quite right. I don’t think it’s bitterness seeking personal justice that motivates me – although that is indeed there. I feel like not explaining the truth at some point feels like more of a mindfuck to the kids than doing so. I hope I’m understanding everyone’s points properly.

    I have always believed that truth is best no matter how difficult it may make the current moment. A lie will always cost more over time. Always. It is from that premise that I proceed to consider this topic. That, and the smaller premise that age appropriateness of the truth certainly matters (don’t burden teens with more than they can process as they have more than enough to do in discovering who they are).

    For many of us, the fuckwit is first and foremost a fake. An incredible fake. Those of us who’s fuckwit was openly an ass, never there, etc. don’t have as much hidden from the kids. The fuckwit basically told the kids the truth about themselves. But many of us have cunning sparkly fuckwits. These are the danger. They campaign before the children and present an image of love that isn’t really there. A cheater isn’t just fake and a threat towards a chump – empty falseness and usage is their only mode of being towards everyone. They may not betray the children through adultery, but they’ll inevitably and subtly mindfuck them nonetheless. As an example, fuckwit parents are why many of us have screwed up pickers. We subtly mis-defined love and decency due to a fuckwits unchallenged image.

    If the truth costs the children some of their memory of being loved, doesn’t it also replace that loss with an even more powerful knowledge of what love really is (and is not), and how they indeed received it in mighty ways from one parent? I think of Got-A-Brain’s comment above. I’d rather know that my mother truly lived her love for me, and who my father really is inside, than hold onto a false sentiment (one that if ever relied upon really, will cave in beneath my feet).

    I’m happy to be corrected. I really am. I make my point so you know where exactly I’m differing from much of the comments today.

    • In my house, how it goes is that the facts are presented (affairs are abuse, lying is abuse, abuse is NOT love). How is it possible that Hitler loved his dogs or that OJ loves his children? I don’t know how to answer that. This is what is so effed up about abuse….kids who have to reconcile how they feel about the abusive parent. This is the thing that makes me so angry angry angry angry angry! But for me, first rule is no sugarcoating facts, no euphemismizing….I do NOT want her to equate abuse with love. He’s always going to be her father but he can’t be my husband because he abused me. Her too….Thanks for complicating the ever-loving-shit out of everything, abusers!

      • How is it possible that Hitler loved his dogs or that O.J. loves his children ? Narcs and sociopaths are pros at compartmentalizing.

    • There is a fine line between keeping to the truth and making the kids pay for the sins of their parents.

      I chose to breed with a fuckwit, that’s my sin. But robbing the kids of memories they felt were happy would be making them pay.

      So there is a certain amount of shit I must eat so as not to pass it down to them…but I don’t eat it all. And they see what’s left on the plate and it’s enough, I think, for the truth to be known.

    • My kids know what ex did and they know I don’t approve. That being said, he does have some good qualities too and he isn’t a danger to my kids so I allow them to love him in spite of his faults. I have modeled commitment, faithfulness and stability for my kids (with just enough anguish for them to understand the pain infidelity causes). At this point I have to trust them to understand how selfish actions can do harm to others (and really to themselves too) and hope that they make better choices in their own lives. They are smart kids so I think they will figure it out without having to hate their Dad. They can love him without wanting to emulate him in all things. If they are really discerning, they may even be able to pick up some good habits from him (work ethic and self sufficiency mostly).

      • “so I allow them to love him in spite of his faults.” I’m not sure you get to decide this for them actually. Love for a parent is natural, even if that parent is a fuckwit. Maybe you can prevent them from seeing him, especially if it’s dangerous, but not from loving him.

    • With you 100% TKO-it is not the act of a bitter bunny to break an abusive cycle, whether through your own childhood, or theirs. It is a balance.What Velevet says below really does resonate, too.

      I owe my Kiddo to not allow her definition of love to be a barrel of fuckuppedness in which abuse is the norm. All I can and do say to her is that it was all real, parts of it were good, but her and my childhoods are disgustingly similar-Narc Alky Misogynist Dads who were never there for the heavy lifting.

      Your questions are good ones!
      X-Meh

  • Every now and then my adult sons will bring up some memory from our past and those memories often include their father. I will always participate in conversations like that because I don’t want to erase their dad from their memory. We didn’t end things until they were grown so they have a lot to remember. What I won’t do is participate in any conversations about their dad in the present. Both of my kids learned early on that those conversations will be completely one sided so they no longer bring him up in that context unless it somehow affects them; e.g. when he was building a house and selling the old one.

    They respect my boundaries with regard to their dad so it makes it easier to take those trips down memory lane. Like it or not, half their genetic material comes from the ex so he will always be part of their lives and I don’t begrudge them that.

    My experience is different than children who have a parent that abandons them and I can’t speak to that but I think even in those situations, kids eventually get to understanding what is lacking in the abandoning parent. That would be painful enough without erasing their memories of when that parent was around. CL’s advice about focusing on your kids in those memories is key. You don’t have to contribute. You just have to be there to listen so they know you will always be their touch stone.

  • I agree with CL, make the memories about your kids, not your ex. Did you not do anything with your kids without your ex around? And even if he was around, does every memory have the ex at center stage? I find that hard to believe. It sounds like you are still carrying around a ton of pain and anger. I know it never goes away completely but if it keeps you from ever visiting memories that may have even a trace of him means you may still be far from Meh…even 5 years later and remarried.

    • Yea GetMeFree, you are right. I am not at meh about him. I am in like, limbo or something, I keep hoping that time, time time, will diminish it, but it is taking a long time! Our break up was dramatic and swift, he cheated on me years ago and we reconciled only to have him do it again. He was cheating for three months (clinging to the edge of the bed, distant, mean, hateful, just opposite of who he was before) and finally told me on the phone in the middle of the night. He did not come home, I packed all of his shit and put it behind my neighbors house and left. Took the kids to a water park on a Monday (couldn’t let them go to school, I clung to them) he wanted to come talk, I said we aren’t home. He went to work that night and never returned home, moved in with her and her 4 kids 9 days later (after she kicked her H out)

      Two days after he left he grabbed my kids before school before I could get them and took them to a store where schmoopie and two of her little kids were waiting, told them that he was leaving because mommy is mean, this is whore and we are going to have sleepovers! Not shitting you guys!

      They came home to tell me this (they did not know anything at the time, my son knew something was up when his dad started “going to the gym” at like 9 every night) and I fucking flipped. From there, it was horrible, the verbal abuse from them both, the torment, just horrible. So he damaged me mentally and emotionally very very bad. It is hard to reconcile the person he really is with who I thought he was. We met at 15yoa, were each other’s first and together for 22 years. I didn’t even know how to leave a grown up life without him.

      That’s more of my crazy story.

      melissa

  • The only antidote I have been able to find for this really awful confusing horrible consequence of cheating is TRUTH about our feelings. My daughter feels confused and hurt and so do I.
    We know this about each other (otherwise known as “intimac”….into-me-see….something her father is incapable of, Mr. Duplicitous. There is a lot of healing in telling the truth and listening to each other tell the truth. I do not share negative OPINIONS about him with her out of respect that he is her father. I am determined to stay planted on the moral high ground no matter what. She and I have different opinions about my “husband”/her father/memories etc. We are both right. My opinion of the memories have changed; the facts of what happened have not. I know for sure all those times we rented the beach house in Hawaii she and I had fun…..what he was really doing or thinking or feeling I will never know for
    sure. If I keep the conversation about me I will be in the truth, and that is where I want to live. I for sure don’t want to add to her already overwhelming burden of confusing crap to reconcile….

    I try to speak the truth to insanity and confusion….I try to stick to facts and leave negative opinions at the door….I am honest about my feelings and keep the comments about me…the memories are mine too….as Chump Lady has said, I was being authentic! The pain of memories has to do with wondering about him
    and his motives….that is best FORGOTTEN now.

    I am struck this morning about how evil cheating is….the layers and layers of damage it causes….

    • FACT: We went to Paris when you were a baby.
      You had just learned to walk. We went to the parks and played with other families there. We stayed at the Ritz for two weeks. It was a bucket list dream come true. We walked around the Louvre at night. It was so beautiful. People in Paris loved your tiny red Converse high tops. Daddy spent lots of time walking up and down the stairs with you at Angelina’s Tea Room. While I was looking around Chanel on Rue Cambon, the security guard took you and Daddy up to Coco Chanel’s apartment. Daddy doesn’t care about fashion and he doesn’t even know who Coco Chanel is! When I asked the guard if I could go too, he said no! Waaaahhhh!!

      FACT: I had a wonderful time I will always remember.

      OPINION: Daddy had a wonderful time.

      I am going to stick with the FACTS.

  • My son was 14 when his dad disappeared 8 years ago. I basically have had 0 contact with him the entire time (except for the divorce) as I had 100% custody. My son and I never talk about the fuckwit. In fact he told me one time that he doesn’t have any memory of his father and that his whole life it’s just been me and him. There’s probably alot of truth to that as I was doing everything anyway.

    He does text his dad now but other than that they have little contact. And he probably sees him only at Christmas. My son has also not seen a member of his father’s family for at least 10 years.

    Bottom line, it’s not my job to foster any memories of his father as long as my son isn’t interested in them. He’s very close to everyone in my family and we both have made happy memories with people who aren’t disordered like fuckwit and his family.

  • I kind of felt I was alone with that feeling. I have zero good memories concerning the ex. Something was ALWAYS off with him, we walked on eggshells, and he would shit on everything that brought us joy. Eventually I realized he could not feel the feels because he’s empty.
    For me, our happy family memories are without him. Usually when one kid mentions a great memory he was absent but honestly he bailed on us years before we left. If my DS mentions something from the past, I ride with it but if he asks for what really happened in a certain event, I tell him the truth. I feel if he’s asking for farther details or clarification that his gut felt something was off as well or he’s trying to see if my version differs from the ex. He chooses to see him at times.

  • A conversation just came up last night during dinner, myself and my two grown daughters where they asked me our their father reacted on 9/11/01. They both expressed their disbelief that their father could or would have expressed grief after that tragedy. That thought in and of itself is sad. My girls were 5 and 3 at the time and do not recall that day. I think the instinct of a chump is (and I hate to generalize here so please don’t take offense) to disparage the cheater. I have a VERY hard time with this! But, at that moment I could see that my daughters wanted to believe that their father had a heart. Obviously, given their lead up to the conversation, they don’t believe he has one. I did tell them that he and I both were filled with grief that day and it showed on his face. I let them have that memory because for them it was important.

    • Good for you, I believe its important to.

      But then I dont believe all cheaters are evil evil people, I guess. I believe they did something evil and vile and despicable but I do think that many are just very weak pathetic people constantly lookng for validation. There are degrees of cheaters IMO.

      I also think if we can be ‘fair’ in what we say it helps US to heal. I am NOT saying we should take responsibility for cheating EVER, but fairness in how the cheater behaved outside of the cheating/betrayal. Things are never all black and white

    • I have shared this in the past and CL has her own 9/11 shit sandwich memory but…

      My nowhusband was still married to his now XW and he was stationed at the Pentagon. He had an off site meeting that day but plans change and people come and go, so when the attack happened, he wanted to reach out to his wife to let her know he was ok. When he reached her, she was completely unconcerned…calm as a cucumber that his workplace was in flames and rubble. Red flag much?

      A few weeks later she told him she wanted to separate…one of her reasons was that he worked a lot. He was doing counter terrorism work for the Joint Chiefs of Staff…after a terror attack…working a lot, YA THINK ?!?

  • I agree with CL too. Completely

    One thing that happened to me was that cheater tried to change the narrative. I became someone who ‘never wanted to do anything’ (to be fair in the end I didnt want to go to functions with HIM because he was such a loudmouth). But he told the kids I never did anything.

    Our photos and memories tell a different story though. The story of a Dad who only ever wanted to do what HE wanted to do at the expense of his families enjoyment. And of a mom who was at all the school events, holiday events, vacation activities etc etc. And what reinforces that now is the Dad who STILL only does what he wants to do (now encouraged by his young ho-worker-wife) doesnt make an effort for the kids at all. Tells them they should be making an effort for him! (Youngest still at high school) He wants to be treated like some sort of God, but doesnt make an ounce of effort for the kids. But Mom is still supporting, showing up, helping out AND doing the fun stuff. They’ll figure it out. In fact they both pretty much have already.

    The kids figure it out.

    So, dont have ‘good memories’ of him. If they bring up that time of vacation dad jumped in the lake.. do the cool/bummer/wow version… Oh yeah I remember that . Then switch to – do you remember how we did ‘this’ that summer? They want to think that the life they remember was real and it WAS real for them. They’ll figure it all out on their own. Just keep being that great Mom you already are

    • Oh yeah, I got that too: that I never wanted to do anything fun. I was too sedentary. I was old before my time. The reality is, I didn’t want to do anything with him because he had turned into such an asshole, and he always found a reason to criticize me and/or pick a fight. And yeah, I showed up for every damn un-fun thing for the kids: the boring band concerts, back-to-school nights, teacher meetings, 7 am track meets, midnight band trip pick-up, 2 hour round trip to spend 4 hours at a go-kart league every effing weekend. Hope someday they realize it’s not all about the one weekend a year he takes them on a boat trip…

      • Oh I never wanted to do anything with him either because he was a loud, obnoxious drunk who would fart in public and start fights! I organized a company team to race in a dragon boat race for charity one time and sneaked out of my home at around 5.30 a.m. in order to get there. I deliberately made sure not to wake the ex because on this of all times I wanted to have peace and not be embarrassed by him! And he wonders why I never wanted to do anything with him!

    • It’s possible we might have been married to the same person! I also got the “you’re boring and don’t want to do anything fun!” No, I’m not boring, I just got tired of going out and being ignored while he ogled any halfway attractive woman. Probably debating if she looked like any of the women on the hundreds of hook-up sites he was signed up for.

  • I have two kids who were young adults when DDay #2 happened and the marriage imploded. My daughter was pretty quick to write her dad out of her life – he made it really easy on her by treating her like shit. My son, on the other hand, still wants to believe that his dad is the hero he thought Dad was when he was young (although he maintains that illusion by having minimal contact with his dad).

    Shortly after the divorce was final my son gave me his email password and asked me to check his email for something. I made the mistake of reading an email from his dad that was sitting in my son’s inbox (yeah, not cool, I know. It was a weak moment.). The email was full of the usual Cheater excuses – Ex was “so miserable for the entire marriage,” he “only stayed for you kids,” blah, blah, blah. Initially I was furious and wanted to defend myself to my son, if not to my ex but fortunately, I didn’t. After reflecting on it I realized that my kids were there. They saw how ex and I were together. To try to rewrite history and say he was miserable for the entire thirty plus years we were together is to make a lie out of all of my kids’ happy memories of their family and their childhood. It’s not surprising really, lying is what my ex does best. The benefit to all of that is that I made a conscious decision that I wasn’t going to lie to my kids. We DID have some wonderful times as a family. There were times ex was a good dad. On the surface at least, he presented the image of a upstanding man who cared about his family and friends and was always willing to help someone in need. Was most of that an illusion? Yes. But my son will forever carry the memories of driving around with his dad in his truck in the winters and helping people who had slid off the road. I’m not going to be the one to take those memories from him.

    When the kids and I reminisce about the past, I don’t make a point of mentioning ex but if he comes up, I acknowledge his part in the memory. MY version of the past will always be colored by what I now know was going on in the background but my kids don’t need to let that cloud their memories. Let ex try to rewrite the past to say he was miserable and that’s why he did what he did. I know better. My kids know better. No one else matters. The important thing to me is being truthful. And the truth is, we were a happy but imperfect family. We still are, we’re just minus one cheating fuckwit. 🙂 I want my kids to remember their childhood as happy. And if they (really just my son) want to remember their dad’s part in that happy childhood, that’s fine. I was there too and am part of those happy memories. The big difference is, I am the one who is still here. I am the one who is still part of the family and still making memories. They will remember that too.

  • Crying in my Cheerios. Thank you Tracy, I so needed this today.

    ExFW told 13yo that he wished we (he and I) had gotten divorced long ago so she (DD) wouldn’t have had to hear us fighting. She asked me last night if I felt the same. I refused to answer and explained that I didn’t want to say negative things about her dad, that she was going to have to figure their relationship separate from what happened between her dad and I.

    Then we had a great discussion about triangulation!

    • Yaaas! It seems to have paid off for Kiddo that I don’t dwell on the fact that it is Mr Fab / Uncle Dad engaging in the shitty behavior, just that that behavior is shitty and ‘how does it work and what can you do about it’. Result is a much better out together 19 year old than I was!
      ❤️

  • The first year was the most difficult for me, it was incredibly painful for me to hear the kids talk about what they did with their dad: water skiing, going to the lake cottage, ski vacations etc. I would often burst into tears because not only was I angry, I was indelibly sad. Sad that I was no longer with them on these trips. Trips that for me were lonely as far as adult, loving company, but were rich in experience and joy with my kids.

    We teach our children how to read, do math, play sports. We expect them to practice and master these skills. Yet, we do not teach with love and understanding, how to moderate emotions. We assume the will learn, we all did. So many of us learned by watching and listening from the sidelines. It’s this “learning” that we carry and often say things like “I’m just like my dad, I have a short patience” or “I’m just like my mom, loving”. We tell ourselves that our behaviors are genetic, not learned.

    My mom divorced my dad over 30 years ago. I was 20. She expected me to help her move out of the house. I refused. She left his unswear in an cardboard box in the middle of an empty bedroom. She stripped the house of furniture. My mom, to this day, “hates men”. She delighted in the drama of my marriage failing. I leaned on her, and she was there and very helpful in many ways. But where she was not helpful, was in carrying her ‘hatred’ forward and then projecting onto me, that I too, was destined, genetically, to hate men as well.

    I’m a therapist. I deal all day long with drugs, alcohol, abuse, poor behavior, incredible trauma. I work with clients to re-learn what they feel are personality traits that are set in stone. They are not. Pick up books on CBT, DBT, emotional regulation. Learn your triggers, choose your reactions.

    Three years out, I can talk, laugh, and even initiate conversations with my kids about their dad. Yes, he was horrible to me, his actions effected our entire family. In the time that has passed, both kids have a relationship with him. It’s not my relationship. He has, in general been better with them after our divorce than while we were married. I am open with my kids about how we can “Love the person and hate the behavior”, that part of life is often holding two ‘incompatible feelings’ simultaneously.

    I do not want to poison my kids against life, against love. I do work very hard to teach them the difference between a behavior that they exhibit and don’t like, and learning to retrain their behaviors and form themselves into people they want to be. I work hard on examining my own behaviors and consciously changing. I feel that it is my duty to teach my kids to be able to step back and analyze behaviors and feelings, to determine their own path.

    I don’t begrudge their time with their dad. They know what he did. They know that I disapprove, that it rocked me to my core. They also see that I have largely recovered. That I am moving on, I have built a small community of friends. I’m also open with them that I’m still lonely sometimes and that loneliness is part of the human experience.

    My role model (in a negative way) is my mother. I refuse to be bitter in this life. Yes, it was shit. I get to choose my path. I don’t get to choose my kids paths, but I can give them tools to determine their own.

    Reading the arc of chumps’ lives on CL for the last three years, you see tremendous growth.

    • “Trips that for me were lonely as far as adult, loving company, but were rich in experience and joy with my kids.”

      This. And thank you for the part about holding 2 incompatible feelings simultaneously. Very helpful for future discussions with kids.

    • Out West, what a wonderful and touching story you just told us. You should be very proud of yourself. You are someone I would like to know.

  • Thank Goodness I had no children with the dragon. I did however help raise her son and daughter throughout their later teens and early adulthood as best I could along with my daughter. Our ‘patchwork quilt family’ (her words).

    Her son and I bonded. He helped me to do things… Working on the cars, caring for the property, etc. He went on and is in the process of duplicating my life story. High School honor student, College to early and dropping out, serving in the military, marriage, children, reentering college, being a good father to his daughter. He and I are very close and I support him in all his endeavors. His memories of his mother are not good as they involved neglect and abandonment. They create a lot of anger for him today. But he was at MEH WAAAAAY before me.

    Her daughter I tried to love as my own. Homework help, talks, cheer leading support, direction about sex and dating. Affection through kisses and hugs. She froze in my arms the first time I hugged her. Like she was afraid of me. She no doubt got this from watching her dad and mom interact. I didn’t press it after that. I backed off and told her I would never try to replace her (dead) father, but I was there if she needed me to talk with.

    She has 3 biological kids of her own now and one from her Fuckwits previous breeding (the oldest). They know me as grandpa but I’ve backed far away from her as she turned into a Switzerland daughter. I don’t visit their grandmothers sins upon them. They’re kids. I explained to the oldest that Mimi promised not to have any boyfriends, broke her promise and hurt pawpaw very much. That she had a new BF. Normally I’d get, Is she crazy or what!? Validation, wisdom from the mouths of babes.

    My daughter wanted to kill the x. Seething with anger for her. Her hate was justified because she loves me so much and cannot believe x would hurt me the way she did. I woe the day the two of them meet again F2F. She harbors anger still. So it’s best I don’t bring it up and focus on our relationship. She is a wonderful daughter, in college, married, faithful, kind, giving and well liked. Her mother (dead) was an alcoholic and I got full custody at 13 after she crashed and burned. She wasn’t a cheater, I can say that much. So she has the dual gut punch of that and mom#2 ‘s betrayal. But she is rising above it all. She makes me proud. Same with my son.

    There was a third child. But not biologically related. My biological daughter’s ‘big sister’, She came into my 1st wife and I’s life when my daughter was just a babe. Lived two doors down and was being abused by her alcoholic dad. My 1st wife took action and got court appointed custody of her. She moved in with us and lived apart from her real parents with her mother’s blessing. She saw it as a better chance in life for her with us. This one was a self starter and could not wait to get out of the nest. She is married, a stepmom herself and in college as well.

    So 3 out of 4 ain’t bad in my book! I told them all- upon the advice of another chump, that at some future date they might want to have a relationship with their “mother”. Switzerland daughter does. I don’t blame her but I’m not going to be in the same room with her mom. NC = No New Hurts.

    So all our kids were adults when the discard and discovery occurred. I forced x to tell them all the WHY of our separation and D. She sugar coated it. I called bullshit afterwards and told them all EVERYTHING. If you have adult kids, DO. NOT. LIE. TO. THEM. The truth is a ‘ONE OFF” as the Aussie’s say. It’s a one time divulge, then you’re free. No hiding facts required. They will process it.

    So the memories.. I can think of a few, …however the hindsight 20/20 information post-discovery, well lets just say it was like adding vinegar to oatmeal. Totally incompatible.

  • The problem with kids is they are the Switzerland friends you can’t give up and you love them anyway. You can’t expect your kids to hate their Dad (or mother) and to some extent I wouldn’t want mine too. What a terrible place to be if you feel that you have to hate one of your parents. It is hard sometimes when the people I love most in the world show affection for the man who hurt me more than anyone else ever has and I have witnessed him hurting them too, but I love them enough to accept it. In my case, the fact that he is still in their lives actually helps. Because they still see him on a regular basis, they don’t feel the need to talk to me about him. They have their relationship with him and they have their relationship with me and they are separate. That’s really for the best.

    To some extent, I have had to apply this same acceptance to other Switzerlands that I still care about. I still love my in laws and I still consider them family. My SIL’s kids are the only niece and nephew I have and I don’t want to give them up. Sometimes that means swallowing a few shit sandwiches, however, as I can’t reasonably expect my in laws to hate their son/brother/nephew. I know they were disappointed in him when he left me for Schmoopie, but they are moving on and accepting a situation that they can’t change and doing their best to adapt because they really have no choice that doesn’t involve losing a family member. I can’t fault them for that. Even so, it was hard to hear my SIL apologizing for having me come early to her birthday party so I wouldn’t overlap with ex and Schmoopie because “I just don’t want their feelings to be hurt”. I couldn’t help but think “Their Feelings? I don’t think they gave other people’s feelings much consideration when they chose to get involved while still married to other people. Why are their feelings so much more important than everybody else’s?” I didn’t say anything though because I do care about my SIL’s feelings. She really is caught in the middle and I am lucky she is making an effort to keep me in her life and the lives of her kids at the risk of offending her brother (who as we all know is easily offended).

    • Hey Chumpinrecovery
      Rather than getting sandwiched at a birthday party and treated like you are radioactive, why don’t you redefine your relationship with your niece and nephew – at your place and on your terms. Have them over for dinner before or after their birthdays, decorate the place, have a cake etc and it can be all about you and them.

  • Oh Melissa, I feel ya. Deeply. I could have written this letter myself. Tracy’s response rings true as well. These things are still difficult for me. Sometimes I have to be careful what I say to people. I feel strongly that marrying him twenty plus years ago was a mistake, and that I wasted the best years of my life. People get offended, like I’m implying that I regret the kids I have with him. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, I have no trouble separating those two things. I love my children deeply and permanently, in a way that is just for them and no one else. Of course I don’t regret them, but I regret who their father is more than I can say. It’s hard to remember their childhood. Those memories just hurt. I’m so mad at that man for ruining my memories of my own children. It sucks Melissa, but it’s the cards we’ve been dealt.

  • This is perfect timing for me. I sent an inappropriate text I regret to my 33 daughter after a conversation we had. She was talking about how she has renewed her relationship with her father after his deceit and blowing up his family, ignoring his kids for over a year with his 2 y affair, his marriage immediately after our divorce (married 27 y) to his coworker because “we just grew apart.” His kids and grands were all invited but left it to my daughter to tell me.

    She was explaining the ways he has come around. She said her brother had, in a text, told his dad what an awful parent he had been and her dad didn’t argue, he agreed he had been selfish and wasn’t there for him. She went on to say the coworkers 19 yo step daughter wanted to change her name to ex’s because he was more of a dad than her own and she and her mom would share the same last name. Ex asked my daughter what she thought and if that was ok with her. The stepdaughter called her too. My daughter thought it was great and was trying to convince her siblings this was a good thing because my 32 yo youngest daughter did not accept it.

    I could see the manipulation and deceit of ex swooping in and being a hero to new family-look no hard work in raising stepkid but I get all the kibbles! Meanwhile he blew up his own family, wasn’t there for them, triangulated, humiliated, grandiosed in front of their friends (look I’m a fireman hero!) and would have discarded them and his grands for new family if not for new appliance wife trying to make it right with his kids and now he is playing the part to rake in more kibbles.

    My 36 yo son just got married and I put on a stellar performance being considerate to ex for my son’s happiness. Ex did nothing, he ignored me unless I interacted with him. He is angry with me because I got half of everything HE owned. I trust that he sucks. My daughter must have felt she could share this happy family news because of my great performance at the wedding.

    I sent her a text stating her experience with her father was different than her siblings because she was the “golden child” and while this still had it’s difficulties, her siblings were dealing with a different experience and denying their pain and feelings would only hurt them. I explained they had a right to their feelings and she shouldn’t try to talk them into denying them. I should have stopped there but I didn’t and told her her father had NPD and it wouldn’t change, that NPD treat people as appliances, they manipulate and put their own needs as important and appliances needs are invisible blah blah blah….

    When our conversation began to go this direction my daughter found an excuse to get off the phone and so I texted all of this to her. She hasn’t spoken about the text and is still talking to me, bless her beautiful soul.

    It is very hard to watch my blown up family head over to the recreated family. All the kids don’t understand what he is purposely doing-creating another illusion of “look blowing up my family for a new one was the right thing to do, see everybody is happy” …. NOT! They just want their father to love them.

    Meanwhile they don’t visit me because they feel bad for me and it hurts to be around me apparently. It just feels so unfair that I took care of them while their father looked after only himself, it was such a difficult life and now he has the big house, big toys and a wife appliance who caters to his every whim, she’s loved him for 10 years in not so secret.

    I have a better life now but my kids don’t share it with me, rarely popping in. I know that he sucks but he is so damn good at hiding behind appliances that make him look good, I don’t trust that my kids will see the reality behind this smoke screen. It is very difficult to adult but it is the right thing to do regardless. I trust that this sucks too.

    • “They just want their father to love them.” Yep, that sums it up. And it’s a natural thing to want this. For their sakes I hope they can maintain healthy boundaries with him, but wanting your parent to love you and seeking out that love is the most natural thing in the world. I understand why you say the things you do to your kids, but their normal and natural desire to have a relationship with their dad is not all about toys, it’s about wanting his love. They want your love too. If you want their company more often maybe you could ask them what you could do differently to get it.

      • Thank you for your response. It is so nice to feel understood.

        I know my daughter just wants her fathers love and a feeling of normality with her family. I have spoken to all of them about what I could do to have them come visit me but nothing specific is ever discussed, just well I am so busy, there is a lot of traffic and it will take a long time to get home or maybe but then it doesn’t happen.

        I usually stay far far away from any “dad” subject when we are together. I have a feeling they just feel their behavior is their “normal” with regard to me and they are living their lives. But because there is a strain between their father and them, they are uncomfortable and talking about it between the three of them and trying to work it out…they take after me…lol!

        Unfortunately, because they know I love them and feel safe about my love for them (is safe the right word?), they sort of ignore me unless our outside family is getting together or we haven’t spoken in awhile.

        I think they avoid being too close to me emotionally because they feel badly for me and it makes them uncomfortable. They are pretty aware of what a jerk their father was to me. Also his coworker wife was someone they all knew for 10 years prior so its probably difficulty figuring out how to have a relationship with these two turds. I think they feel guilt, if I were in their position, I can see where guilt feelings might be involved. I have always said to them “just go love your dad, love your dad” Everytime they have brought up their dad I have always been proactive in encouraging them to have a relationship with him.

        The whole situation just sucks, I am hoping it evolves and gets better and they will feel more comfortable with me as I show them how my life is happy, I am doing well and I am fine. I have learned my lesson though and will definitely back off the mentioning of negativity about their manipulative, deceitful, cruel NPD asshat, inept father and his dearly disordered, fool of a wifetress lol!

    • Your children seem to all be well into adulthood. So IMO it’s perfectly fine for you to speak to them as adults, and included in that is informing them of the true nature of things…who their dad is, what NPD is, his obvious “father-hero” ploy, etc. You have it all very well identified.

      Some day, each of the children will get burned by him (again), and having been told some basic truths, even if they initially reject them or don’t understand them, they will have a context for understanding it. They also may have chosen partners who harbor the very same defects. I firmly believe we subconsciously see and later choose others with the same hidden defects we experienced as children. Think of what advanced footing this might put them on in terms of reading red flags years earlier than otherwise. Dynamics like these are why truth, however messy and counterproductive it appears in the present, is always better than untruth. Reality is always better than unreality.

      None of this is to say you need to be the bitter unhappy one always grumbling about NPD. Deliver it in small direct doses, happily. After all, you are giving them truth. Their father can dole out a lie with a smile on his face. You can give them truth. Not with a false smile pasted on your face, but self assurance and confidence it is something that will help them eventually.

      • Thanks for responding TKO, I appreciate your thoughts so much. So far they seem to have all found very good and kind partners, its them and the effect their father has had on them that I worry about!

        I did make plenty of mistakes when all of this first started about 5-6 years ago spouting off about how horrible ex was but I have tried pretty hard the last 4 years to not talk about the subject at all. My kids don’t want to discuss their father with me so I just never bring it up. The only reason it came up recently is because of my son’s wedding.

        They like the wifetress, we have known her a long time. I thought she was a really nice person too. She dotes and hangs on every word their father speaks. He basically took about 5-6 years looking for the right chump to replace me, thus our arguing, his gaslighting and the kids believing “we just grew apart!” She has run interference for their fathers behavior like a defensive tackle. She has a track record of marrying an NPD, this is not her first rodeo and she definitely knows the drill. I know its going to take a long time for cracks to show if they ever do. My ex is somewhat like the movie “Sleeping with the Enemy” personality. It’s just been really hard for me to accept the loss of my “family” as an aftershock of losing what I thought was a marriage and a best friend. It all just sucks.

  • A pretty relevant topic for me today as I struggled how to handle a situation with my Ex the past few days and started to question how I was affecting the situation.

    My 8 year old daughter is in soccer. She has Tuesday and Saturday games. Ex asked over a week ago if he was allowed to attend games not on his weekend. I replied it was up to him (he and OW stated a while back that his weekend should be separate from me in regards to time infringement and social media posts). He said he thought she would like him there. Then he asked if OW could come. I replied that if she felt comfortable fine.

    First Saturday game he does not show. Daughter messages him asking why he wasn’t at her game. He replies “Did you win? I’ll be at Tuesday’s game.” She messaged him over and over asking why he wasn’t at her game and he always gave some response of he’ll try to be at as many games as possible. Then she said if he didn’t answer she would be angry. He replied “Don’t be angry” and then asked it is was me or her messaging.

    The next day I messaged him asking why he wasn’t at the game because his daughter was upset. He replied that he was unclear if he could go. I referenced the conversation in which he already asked and I said it was up to him. His choice. I also said if he was still unclear he could have sent a message that morning. He didn’t.

    Daughter is in his custody last night. She asks him in person why he wasn’t at her game on Saturday. He replies “I wanted to know if OW could come?”.

    So he STILL didn’t answer her question. Instead he made his presence contingent on if OW could come.
    I’m LIVID. This manipulation set off all sorts of triggers with me and it’s really hard to not say your dad is a liar and manipulator. I did make clear to her that her dad had already asked if he and OW could come and I said it was his choice. I let her know that it was not okay for her to be put into that position. But I could not contain how much all of this affected me. I was clearly upset and I worry that I am influencing her view of her dad. It’s such a difficult position to be in.

    • Your kiddo is pretty young, but if she can message him, put her in charge of letting him know she wants him at the upcoming game. You can tell her that you don’t want to be in the middle, and as far as you are concerned, you are happy for her having lots of people there rooting for her and her team. And then let it go. Don’t ask her what he said or what happened. That’s no contact for the wounded mother brain. And do not text or message him to admonish him for being a shitty person/dad. That just opens the door for him to manipulate you. Let her handle it. Your job is to listen to her when she’s hurting.

      It’s hard not to try to “translate” between a hurting kid and a gaslighting liar of a parent. But the more you get in the middle, the more you get blamed. And the longer it takes for kiddo to figure it out. Then you are free to be “Cool. Bummer. Wow. Huh” if she has trouble with her dad. For example:
      “Dad said he would come to the game but didn’t show”:—“Bummer.”
      “Dad lied to me about X.”—“Huh.”
      “He blamed me for why he didn’t go to the game.”—“Wow.”
      “But he promised to come next week.” —“Cool.”

      I add “Huh” to “Cool. Bummer. Wow” for those moments when the other 3 don’t quite fit…You can add “How do you feel about that?” “What strategies might help you next time?” “I’m proud of you for dealing with this in such a grownup way.”

      But how mighty you were to navigate the “Can OW attend…?” issue with such grace.

      • Thank you for this.
        I have a hard time letting go–to not admonish him for his shitty behavior. I feel like I have to stand up to him for her. But you’re right, all it does is give them fuel to blame me for everything.

        What makes it hard is that she doesn’t recognize that he’s blaming her for not going to the game. She fears losing him so much that she will apologize for anything. She will sacrifice her feelings to spare his. It should be the other way around and it kills me to watch it.

        But I will take your advice to hear and try my best to let her figure it out for herself.

        • I think in your case the Cool Bummer Wow approach leaves her with an asshole Dad and a Mom who seems not to care. I don’t think blame-avoidance should be your goal. Helping your innocent daughter should be. Why not try offering your advice while admitting your “bias” openly? Tell her you have an opinion on her father and it likely influences your take on what he’s doing to her but here is what you think… Speak as much as possible in general terms not personal ones “The decent thing to do is honor your commitments…if you say you’ll attend then be there” Admit up front your take on things may be wrong. But if it is, then he should be able to explain his reasoning properly. If he somehow manages to, then own up to being wrong about your take on it. But more likely he won’t have a legitimate reason and your daughter will then see that. Leave it there. Don’t pile on and badmouth. If he blames you then tell her you accept that he may be right, you don’t think so, but he may. But tell her the real point is not his blame reasoning but his reasoning for his own actions/inactions…do those make sense to her. Then you’ve actually helped your daughter learn how to process this shit in a healthy way and put all your cards on the table in terms of your biases. You’ll have shown her she has a sane adult parent willing to offer her best advice without indoctrinating her. I think the Cool Bummer Wow responses are for responding to innocuous daily details involving the fuckwit, not for when a child is actually reaching out for help in processing pain or confusion.

    • I’ve been down this road. It is long and slow and all up hill. One of my kids learned pretty quickly not to put any faith in Dad’s promises to show up–whether for the weekly soccer games or for custody pick-up. But there were still painful times when my kids would insist on saving a seat for Dad at a sports banquet, etc.

      My other child, who was 8 when the divorce occurred, had a lot harder time coming to terms with things. That child reacted with anxiety. If Dad didn’t turn up as promised, my child would want to call and call and call. The child was afraid Dad was in a car accident or Dad couldn’t find the site for the parent’s day picnic, etc. When Dad didn’t answer his cell phone (because Dad is a jackass), the anxiety would only ratchet up. Lots of events were ruined for this child. And that child accepted every damn excuse the jackass uttered –I had a flat tire; I stopped to help someone who had a flat tire; I lost my car keys; I had to help someone whose dog jumped out of their pick-up on the freeway; I went to the wrong sports center; I locked myself out of the car–all of them came with a long story about how hard he’d tried to overcome insurmountable obstacles to be with the kid, but catastrophe followed upon catastrophe, and he’d pulled into the parking lot “probably just as you were leaving because I couldn’t find you.” It made me sick to watch my child listen so sympathetically and with such awe to Dad’s vapid lies.

      But after a few years, even that child learned that Dad’s promise to “see you there,” meant nothing.

      Now, my kids see Dad’s unreliability as just part of his quirky charm. I have a different opinion of it. But they’ve only got one Dad and forgiving him everything is required if they are to have any relationship with him at all. So they do.

      Neither child invites Dad to anything anymore. It is all polite pretense–they tell him they would have invited him, but didn’t want to inconvenience him. The jackass says he knows how much they wanted him there, and appreciates how thoughtful they are in taking his needs into consideration.

      Give it five years and you’ll probably be in the same spot.

  • Pretend like they are talking about someone you don’t know. Like that time they went to camp and that one camp counselor was really fun to be around and they still keep up with him on Facebook. You don’t know that person, but you can be happy that they had those memories with them.

    As your kids get older there will be lots of things they do with other people whom you will never meet, and you will be happy for them that they had a great time, or the other person was a jerk. Build a wall around that fuckwit, so your kids can have a relationship with you that includes their whole selves. Don’t punish them for having a relationship with their dad. It sucks, but suck this up and be the adult. You can train yourself to think “stranger” when they mention “fuckwit”. I’m sure you do not know that person they are speaking about anyway.

  • Melissa, let me tell you, I get it. The first time I asked for help on the forums, I titled it “I Want My Kids to Hate Him”. So this one hit right in the gut.

    I have tried to systematically wipe out memories of xhole. But the majority of those memories involve my two adult children.

    But I know that their memories are valuable to them. Their dad was a very involved dad and wasn’t always a cheater. Trying to find the balance of preserving their memories and self preservation has been a tough road.

    There is probably very little conversation about the past when they see xhole and Owife. Thoughtful conversation that involves the woman you devastated and the family you destroyed is probably not discussed around the table when they see the kids a couple of times a year at a restaurant.

    Like some others, I have adopted the “we” pronoun when discussing memories that involved their father. It has become easier as the years have passed, but I know it will never be a natural conversation of memories to me or the kids anymore.

    Thanks as always for the great reply, CL. Those 4 points sum it up so well.

    But the most important thing I took from her wonderful reply…

    “It’s okay not to have good memories of their dad, and write him out of your story, but please do indulge them in good memories of them.”

  • This is so difficult….
    My children are still small ( elementary school) but it makes me so mad to even think about and hear about all the “ awesomeness” of their dad….
    I understand…. it took me years to grasp the concept of being in abusive relationship- and I was an adult!
    They are not capable of seeing or being old enough to hear about the reality… I was trying to shelter them( stupid me, thinking that it’s in their best interest) from all the bad and ugly, so here we are:

    Mom is/ was the yelling mess and dad was the cool guy
    Mom was most of the time opting out from family events/ trips, due to her chronic illness caused by stress
    Mom was just a SAHM but dad was traveling, earning money etc.

    The reality?

    Yes, mom was a screaming mess after being exposed to gaslighting, lies and constant cheating
    Yes, mom was SAHM because daddy was too busy “ working hard” on his hooking up and fucking around whoever was willing
    Yes, mom was the one who was there to clean cook and make sure that all the functions at school were taken care of
    Yes, mom was staying at home on the “ fun weekends” daddy was providing, cause she needed a time to back off from the verge of a breakdown every few weeks, while the gaslighting and mindfuckery was delivered to her on a daily basis….

    Yes, mom was the one who was breastfeeding, quitting coffee and all unhealthy food during pregnancies, while daddy was exposing her and the kids to HIV – fucking hookers.

    I started writing in third person…. I think it’s easier…

    But yes, I’m general…. it’s so unfair and fucked up….
    We care, we do, we think ahead, we show what love really means…. while cheating daddies, emerge as a sparkly unicorns often enough to provide some impression management photo opt… and go back to their lying bottom filled with hookers, infidelity and abuse🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮

    • F-unfair, I can relate, I did the same thing when the kids were growing up. I felt like I couldn’t have fun, I was too busy being responsible for everyone!

      My kids are adults now and when things come up I apologize and tell them I am sorry, I was wrong. I wish I could change how I behaved. But, I can only go forward with them in this moment by being the best mom I can be for them, right now, and show them how much they mean to me, how much I love them. My kids have told me they now can understand some of what was going on looking back to then. They have accepted my apology and appreciate my wanting to go forward and have a better relationship.

  • I use “I” a lot, and sometimes “we” with the children. I don’t have good memories of time with him. We’d gone on a lot of holidays before kids and I packed up those photo albums with his shit, since he always complains that his ex-girlfriends had always kept the photos. Well, now he can have them! I don’t want them.

    With the kids, I will talk about our past a lot, but I just kind of erase him from most of it. This is making me wonder how they feel about that. They don’t bring him up ever – about things now or the past – and I don’t want to make it that they can’t talk about him around me. I’m not that triggered by him. I just don’t want to talk about him much, and I won’t bring up memories about him.

    I don’t trash talk him to the kids (although I have made the passing snide comment, I’m only human), and I don’t think he does about me to them. Once his Stupid Girlfriend starts getting around the kids, which I am working hard to prevent, though, I feel like the gloves will be off and SHE will be the one saying things and being inappropriate. She posts on Instagram about me and the kids (whom she has never met), I don’t expect her to be mature or have a boundary in person.

  • For those of us abandoned during pregnancy, I almost think our children have it better?

    Is it better for my son to have had an intact family for awhile, and then lose it when his dad leaves and his whole world falls apart?

    Or is it better that he never experienced an intact family, fake or otherwise? He doesn’t even realize that his parents actually liked each other at one point and single mom is how life is. I’m almost glad he left during pregnancy because that saved our son from the pain of him leaving. He was going to leave eventually for schmoopie. I feel lucky he kicked me to the curb when pregnant, rather than me and a newborn baby scrambling to find a home, it was just me. Is it sad that I feel lucky?

      • Preggychump, I left Cheater #1 when Jr. was six months old for the same reasons. Cheater was never going to change and I decided I didn’t want him to have memories of an intact family that was, in fact, not. Better to make a clean break and have him know two households as our version of normal.

        It’s now been over 15 years and Jr. has made some comments about wishing we were an intact family but that was mostly in grammar school when all the other kids had two parents and traditional families. Once he got to middle school and many families’ circumstances changed, then he got a little more perspective. Jr. has also had an eye opener with seeing his dad as being pretty self-centered and only involving himself with Jr. when it suits him rather than on a regular basis.

  • I can completely relate to how Melissa is feeling especially when Lord Cheater Pants is now re-writing history to suit/justify his new life. But I feel this way about it: my 6 year old daughter and 17 year old son get one childhood. It is up to their parents to make it a happy one. My children are just as deserving of a happy childhood as other children. I will be damned if I let Lord Cheater Pants take this away from them by detonating a nuclear bomb on our family so that he can run around with Narci-slut or whoever the flavor of the day is. That being said, it is soooo hard not to finish off anything I do have to say about him with “and he is a horrible, cheating monster who stole future intact family memories from you-especially when he is playing Dad of the year right now. But I try to remember that they have been hurt enough and there is probably more of that on the horizon. I want them to have the memories they deserve, they are good-no great kids. So I try to leave him out of it, or begrudgingly talk about him in a memory as neutral as possible. But yeah it is super hard🙁😡

    • I agree. Also, they are half him so any disparaging things you say about him can be internalized by them and lead to self loathing, doubt, etc. I mean, honesty matters and age-appropriate truth matters, but there’s difference between truth and trash talk.

      I feel very strongly about this cause, like you said, they get one childhood that will shape them for the rest of their lives. Let it throw them into adulthood feeling positive about themselves.

  • Six years ago, after a perfectly normal Wednesday night dinner, my XH of ~40 years casually told me he was moving out that weekend. There was no dissuading him. I begged him to go with me to marriage counseling, and he agreed, though I realized later it was strictly for purposes of positive impression management. Of course, he had no interest in reconciling (too bad he forgot to tell me), so it was an expensive and mostly fruitless pursuit. But it was in that counselor’s office that I learned XH had been cheating continuously (starting just 3 months after our wedding), and he was now leaving me for his married Howorker (AP #14; she is now a Wife 2.0). Our counselor was frank… whenever you introduce a third person into a marriage, the chance for true reconciliation is almost nil; Princess Diana knew this but I initially missed that royal memo. I finally was able to see XH for the pathetic serial cheater and liar he’d apparently always been, and I went Zero Contact. (Best Decision Ever).

    Anyway, we have triplet sons who turn 35 this year; these boys were rainbow babies after two second-trimester miscarriages. While he may have been a first class louse as a husband, XH was an exemplary father. He was a completely equal partner in parenting, changing diapers, handling feedings, reading books at night, attending parent-teacher conferences, helping with math homework, coming to doctors appointments and caring for the boys during serious illnesses/surgeries, coaching multiple years of soccer (he did screw one of the Team Moms, but that’s a different story for a different day), taking the kids camping, teaching them how to craft a mission statement for their lives, etc. in short, He. Was. Present. And their memories reflect his diligent involvement.

    When my children asked me what happened that led to our divorce, I was honest with them. They were grown men starting families of their own, and I didn’t have to worry about giving a small child an “age appropriate” response. I didn’t come out and bash their father, I just provided the facts; I wanted them to come to their own conclusions as to his effectiveness as a committed Christian husband.

    I also never minimized my XH’s faithful commitment to our sons. I knew that my relationship with him and his relationship with the boys were two completely separate things, and just because he “really done me wrong“ didn’t mean he also threw them on the trash pile. I left it up to each of my sons to figure out what their individual relationship with their dad was going to be going forward; I never gave them any advice, laid out any expectations, or even hinted that they should similarly cut him out of their lives, disrespect him, or take my side; it was truly their choice.

    Flash forward to present day… when my sons and their families come to town, I already know I’m going to have to split those precious few days with my XH and Wife 2.0; this is not what I want, but it’s simply the reality of us being a divorced couple. Despite the fact that nothing would make me happier than for me to never see or speak to XH again, I can’t imagine a time when I would ever encourage my sons to do the same. Not only does XH not deserve to be ignored by them, but I could be opening myself up for significant blow-back in my own relationship with my sons; I have personally seen how poorly that works (with my own parents’ divorce), and it’s not a good place to be.

  • This was really good today and I thank you for you sane response to a situation that totally sucks.

    Honestly CL you are the one voice that really makes sense of this mess.

  • My 2 youngest (24 & 21) Never EVER bring up their sperm donor when we are together. I’m thinking it is because they think (or know) I will have some bashing remark to say about the shit head. My 24-year-old has told me that he will always love his dad regardless. He gave me the “If he were a murderer and in jail, I would still love him” scenario. Oh Puke. And my 21-year-old doesn’t talk to me anyway. I’m pretty sure Judas convinced her that the destruction of our family was my fault.
    The only kid who brings asswipe up is my oldest. My 31-year-old son is not Jackasses child, but because of his brother & sister (and because he was a part of THAT family for practically his whole life), he is still invited to family events and such. Not only that, but I hate to say it, my oldest is an alcoholic. You know what they say…. “Birds of a feather…..” When my oldest does bring up dipshit, I don’t have any problem telling him what I think about the piece of shit.
    This was a great topic today. I printed it out and am going to keep it and maybe someday give it to my 2 younger kids. Maybe then they will ‘get it.’

  • I feel the same way. I know we must have had good times, but it feels like they were erased. I can’t talk about him with my kids. Although, they are older and never have anything nice to say about him, I can’t say anything nice either. I can’t stand to open a family photo album, even two years out. I can’t do the sitcom divorce. I don’t want to share anything with him and I hope he disappears from my mind completely. It is so sad to say that about your own children’s father.

  • Both my children are adults and they know the truth. They know both sides. My son doesn’t talk to his dad much. Because he feels that his dad cheating with a cousin is low. The other day my daughter mentioned to me that she never understood why I stayed married to her dad so long. She said it was sad that it took him cheating to realize that he was abusive and really never cared about his family. Children know more than what we think.

    • Oh boy, CC, isn’t that the truth? My daughter has the same attitude yours does. Since the divorce she has told me things that have made my hair stand on end. No physical or sexual abuse, thank god, but things that went on (like kicking her out when I was out of town) when she was a teenager that she didn’t tell me at the time because I was pick-me dancing so hard to save my marriage, she didn’t think I would take her side. I’m ashamed to admit she is probably right about that. We are better, happier and closer without him, that’s for sure.

  • Its been 5 years foe me as well; thankfully no kids with the pig

    Zero good memories for me too but I love it! I’m finally being self protecting and I’m proud of myself!

    I’ve always laid down the carpet and let people stomp all over me ALL DONE!

  • The memories of my love and my love for my family are real.
    I still have good memories of our family even though fuckwit was the big buzz kill of the party. Fuckwit’s not really in the happy part of the memories.
    Don’t really care about him but care about the family.

  • I lived in an intact family, with 2 parents who had little connection to each other and who fought a lot–one an abandoned kid who was fearful and narcissistic and the other a combat veteran, workaholic, heavy drinker. I had a lot of day-to-day memories of my mother, who for all her many faults, did far better than her own horrible parents. She was also around, if toxic. My father was typical of the WWII fathers in our town. He went to work, went to his civic meetings, went to the bar with his buddies. He was an occasional presence.

    All that said: I cherish the things my abusive mother did for me. I still miss her, although the end of the verbal and emotional abuse (which persisted through dementia and would come from beyond the grave if she could) came as a great relief. I recall 4 or 5 experiences with my father and cherish them all. Neither of them were perfect. And between the two of them. I learned to subside on crumbs (hence many picker issues). But those rare good moments were important to me as a kid and even now. None of those feelings has anything to do with the fighting, the cheating, or the drinking that went on in their marriage.

    If you still have a lot of photos, pull out the ones you want to keep for yourself and then let the kids pick family photos for their own. Or make a super Christmas gift by sorting photos and other mementos you may not be able to keep for yourself into memory boxes for your kids. (Many chumps ask about photos in the forums.

    I just saw the wedding photo from my first wedding when I cleaned the garage. My mother hated that guy but kept the photo and it was with a box of her stuff I put in the garage and never looked at. But at our family reunion this year (all cousins and sibs over 40), we spent hours looking at old photos. No one remembered that Uncle Moe was a son of a bitch. But wished we had known who everyone was in the photos. Someday your kids will have kids and their kids will, too. And someday, all of them may want to know more about their ancestry. Just a thought. All of us took pictures of photos of our own parents that we had never seen. None of that changes the abuse or the heartbreak or the feeling of abandonment I have had in years passed. But the biggest surprise of my own life is that after years of trying to “fix” my mother’s life or get attention from my father, I finally got to a place where I can appreciate what they did right in my life without spackling the abuse. It’s a good place to be.

  • As the only daughter of a father who cheated on my mother with a 23 year old from the Philippines he met on the internet (he was 63, I was 30), I fought so hard to show him all the love I could and tried everything I could to “save” him.
    My mother dragged me into it all, getting me to hack his secret email accounts, and telling me horrific sexual perversion stories about him. She didn’t hold anything back.
    When I found his secret emails after he swore to me he’d ended it “because his relationship with me, his daughter, was far too important” and read his messages to the OW that his daughter was bullying him (I really wasn’t), I had to step back, leave him to it and go no contact.
    I strongly feel that he cheated on me, not just my mother.
    I feel his lies to me were worse than to my mother who he claimed to have always hated.
    I don’t think I ever fully got over it, and although I blame him completely for what he did, I’ve never forgiven my mother for using me to get at him the way she did.
    She was a terrible parent to me in her own right.
    They both tainted my childhood memories and I just can’t remember any of the good things about growing up at all.
    All throughout their marriage they used to have heart to hearts with me (from the age of 7 onwards) about how evil the other one was, yet they stayed together, and this does a lot of damage.
    I no longer have contact with either of them and their disordered lives.
    My mother has now stupidly resumed contact with him and is going round visiting him, his new practically child Philippina bride (a different one than the first AP) and their one year old child (he’s 73!) Since she indirectly found out I had recently been chumped from my aunt, both my parents are now sending me schmaltzy – “your father/mother is always there for you” cards. WTF!
    Him after 10 years of no attempt at contact with me, and her after 1.
    The moral of this story is: don’t triangulate with your child, overshare, or make them an accomplice to your affair detective work or you may lose them forever and cause irreparable damage!
    I wish I’d stayed ignorant/ innocent of it all but I can never unsee those emails or webcam shots.
    I have destroyed all the family photos I had of both my parents.

  • I don’t really have any good memories of my marriage either although I know that there were many. I guess it’s because on Dday I figured it out that I was married to a fake man, living a fake life and in a fake marriage.

    • Yes exactly! Those 22 years? They were faked because if not, he could not have behaved the way he did toward me. He did tell me once, when I asked him about the last card he gave me, right before meeting the whore, where he said that everything that he has in this life that is important is because of me and he loves me with all his heart, he said I lied to you in cards and texts. So now I get to at least live an authentic life for what I have left!

      melissa

  • This hits home, heartbreaking. I sometimes blame myself for breeding with such a vile human being.

    2.) You hate that the fuckwit hurts them, and yet they still love the fuckwit. Dad doesn’t show for the sports banquet? Mom fails to pay support? Any time someone hurts our children, the primal response is to want to rip their throats out. And yet that threat, that person we want to warn them about, is someone they love. We have to sit on the sidelines and eat the shit sandwich of that warm regard they have for fuckwits. STOP! THEY ARE ONLY GOING TO HURT YOU!

    Nope, can’t go there. They have to figure it out for themselves.

  • I sadly needed this. I to question all the good in the marriage. My oldest wants to still do things as a family. All I can say is we are not a family, your decided that when he left me for her.

  • I (not we!) was such a big adjustment for me! I am 2 1/2 years out and finally well enough to be looking forward to the third act of my life. LadyLiar was my daughters’ stepmom and she was a HUGE part of their childhoods. We were good parents (though not in a healthy partnership), and while the lies she told and the actions she engaged in (driving — alone — while drunk, etc.) were potentially dangerous to our whole family, my girls never knew about it, so they still put her on a pedestal. The truth is that she was a great parent to them directly. They were confused as hell and emotionally devastated when she left, and blamed me for everything that happened for over a year. But I was still THERE. I was still feeding and sheltering them, helping them edit college essays, bringing tea when they had colds, etc. I was THERE. I cared ABOUT and FOR them, and LadyLiar was “disappeared.” She slowly came back into their lives with bribes (hey, let’s go out to dinner and a concert!) and (no surprise here!) said she was absent for a while because I was “so sensitive” and she “”didn’t want to upset me.” She has told them they are “all great friends” in contrast to me being their MOM. (Code for the boring one…) I walked the line the best I knew how of telling them what happened to me AS A PERSON (not just their mom) and allowing them to hold on to their happy childhood memories and forge an adult relationship with her on their (her) own terms. One daughter is much more aware than the other of LadyLiar’s narcissism, but they’re young adults now, and I can’t do this for them. I can’t protect them from her anymore. I maintain my healthy boundaries, let them tell their stores (though sometimes they make me seethe inside), and offer my own narrative about ME AND MY GIRLS, who have been together since the beginning, no matter which fuckwits come and go.

  • A work in progress for me. It is painful to talk about it but it has actually become less painful the more I do it. I have a tween and she loves to talk about the past. I do my best to personalize the memory to her and I without completely editing him out–like if he did something exceptionally funny one time I’d note it, or if she brings him up I validate her memory. We all had a life together, and it was real (at least for she and I). I’ve made several photo albums showcasing her and I’s life together, past and present, that really help her bridge the gaps. He’s not in the albums but I’ve left her baby book in tact with his presence.

    Mostly, I always want her to know that she was conceived and born in love (she was, I loved him then, and loves love even if it’s one sided) and that I will always love her dad for helping me make her. Really, I think that’s what kids want to know–that they are loved and that the vanished love between their parents doesn’t mean its disappeared for them.

    So, I agree with CL. Do what you can to help them feel this love (and memories) without causing yourself undue pain. But I think by totally denying them your participation in their memories, you are in some ways denying deeper and meaningful things, and maybe setting them up for some self-thoathing stuff…cause they are part him too. Even it pains you, it’s worth finding the parts of him you can speak positively about and showcasing those during these memory moments.

  • Your whole response, Chump Lady, was it’s usual brilliant self. This part in particular is extremely helpful to me. It’s a new view, something to ponder, a different way of looking at the my childrens’ pain of being abandoned.

    “Their injustice is very different than your injustice. Your injustice is that you were chumped and abandoned. Their injustice is that they lost their intact family. They lost the parenting “team” raising them. (Even if that teamwork thing was illusory, it was theirs.) It’s hard for them to feel your pain — especially as teenagers — when they’re carrying around bucketloads of their own pain.”

    My children have had a huge loss. Their father has very little involvement in their lives. The week school started back, he texted them to see how it went – three days after the startup! And I’m pretty sure it was a duplicate, generic message.

    So my poor babies are left the victims of a selfish, looser parent, who like all other cheaters, felt his happiness was more important than theirs. Couples divorce. Yes they do. And there are ways to end relationships without cheating and lying and destroying the security of innocent children.

    My children have bucket loads of pain. They are all handling it different ways, mostly getting on with their lives and trying to laugh at how ridiculous this all is. I know it will come back to haunt them. They can tell me they are fine, but I see the glimpses of anger, disappointment, worry…and I know it will manifest itself in different when they are older – depression, trust issues, bonding issues, etc.

    In the meantime, I’ll keep on supporting them and doing the best I can do. Because that’s all I can do.

    Loved this post! So important!

  • Our two little adopted granddaughters from China have no recollection of cheater papa at all. He walked out on me and them when they were toddlers and never looked back. None of us meant anything.

  • Have to chime in. (I asked permission to tell this story at a high level). I have a great friend who made the mistake of marrying one of the BIGGEST f-wits ever. I believe he is a sociopath- but that is another story. Imagine the worst husband and then go 50 miles further and you’ll be getting warm. Unfortunately there were several kids. Fortunately she raised them singlehandedly as a single mom — because X wouldn’t pay child support.

    But….

    Anytime a child wanted to go live with dad, she would give an enthusiastic “Sure!” and buy a plane ticket. A week later she would get The Phone Call begging to come home. So she would fly out and get them. She put them all through college. Every one of them is a model citizen. Dad didn’t want to do his job, so she did the job for two. This is a testament to her strength and mightyness. Not everyone can deal with that kind of stress so no blaming here. I don’t know how she did it. I couldn’t have done it.

    Basically her approach was talk about fun things that happened in childhood. Let kids reach out to dad when they wanted. Dad never reached back. My friend never said a single bad word to them about their dad.

    Now as adults they have learned their dad is not worth knowing, but they all came to that conclusion on their own.

    What my friend realized is that someone who was capable of being that selfish and cruel to her would be the same way with others. She allowed her kids to make their own decisions about their dad and she still doesn’t speak badly of him.

    Oh, she WANTS to, but knows to save the rants for her friends like me.

    These days she gets almost daily thank you calls or texts from all her adult children. They thank her for being their rock, their foundation, the person who cheered them on unconditionally, supported their dreams, and the person who was always there. The person who worked two jobs to pay for college.

    I wish there was some kind of award for mom’s and wives. (Good dad’s can get an award too). She gets the gold medal in parenting and her kids are all successful professionals and well-loved by everyone.

    She had to hold her tongue and that was so hard for her. I know she cried herself to sleep many a night. But being the solid parent and letting them know their dad on their own terms paid off.

    If someone is truly a bad person, they are not going to be nice to their own children (unless said children become software moguls one day and have billions to buy affection from Dad). But otherwise, these types of dads will never be available and a child must learn this for himself.

    It’s such a heartbreaking lesson and there are no winners. But in the long term, children will remember the mom who took the high road and go no contact with absentee dad on their own. Mom doesn’t need to do anything except let the kids find out who dad is for themselves.

  • I’ve gotten good at being civil with my kids about their childhood memories about their Dad. I know I’m doing okay at not bad-mouthing their Dad because they’ll ask me things like–“Did Dad have a job when he was in high school?” They aren’t reluctant to talk about their Dad with me. I give brief, factual answers when I have them, but a lot of the time, I’ll say, “I’m not sure, you should ask your Dad about that.” (Part of the problem is that I’ve learned he lied to me about so many things, that I really don’t know what the truth was even with mundane things. If I tell them what my EX told me–he worked in a Mexican restaurant in high school–, he’ll tell them something else entirely and claim to them “that the Mexican restaurant thing is just another lie your mom made up about me.”)

    What I really struggle with is the fact that their father not only bad-mouths me all the time, but he rewrites all of their childhood as a fantastic adventure starring Dad taking care of the kids and having a great time with them while their evil mother attacked him and undermined him and ruined their fun every hour of every day. (Despite the fact that he was often absent and almost always uninvolved). I hope my kids realize the exuberant tales he tells about the wonderful parenting he did in their childhoods is all bullshit, but I have my doubts. They want to love their Dad, so they want to believe him. Will his revisionist history replace the truth? Will they forget what really happened?

    On some level, it’s a control issue. I try to let go of it. And lots of you wrote so many wise and thoughtful things about how you’ve navigated this mess. I will be trying to put them into practice. But it still nags and pains me.

  • Great advice CL – make it all about the kids. They are most likely looking for the sense of ‘family’ memories, being loved and valued and important, and cared for, and being young are probably just wanting to hear about themselves in that context. If he was cheating all the time he probably wasn’t ‘there’ much anyway while you were doing all the work of making a family and there’s nothing wrong with telling them that in a matter-of-fact way. Maybe you could ask them what THEY remember of events they want to hear about. If they ask things specifically about their dad, preface everything you choose to tell them by gently (or humorously if that floats your boat) pointing out that he lied so much (cheating is the biggest lie) that you don’t really know any more if anything he told you was true. If he was cheating on you the whole time, tell them that. That isn’t bad mouthing, that’s true. Easy for me, it WAS all about them for me in the end as he disconnected himself from the whole child rearing process after our last child came along. And they still see him, so I will tell them to ask him about stuff to do with his relationship with them; also I gently and matter-of-factly occasionally suggest that relationships generally work best when they use their past lived experiences with people as a guide to their present and future relationship with people – they KNOW what he is like but whether they choose to admit that to themselves and base their dealings with him on it, or make up some other version of him that suits them better is up to them. They have to work that out for themselves, and I don’t have any part in how they choose to interact with him. Caveat: I didn’t have a cheater (as far as I know) I had a very abusive husband for the last 15 years of our 25 year marriage).

  • Since Mr. Magoo was literally cheating on our wedding day (planning to meet up with a howorker a few days later), neither I nor our children have any untainted memories. And since vacations and holidays required his presence (no access to Schmoopie-of-the-day), most of those memories are of him throwing temper tantrums and just being an all-around jerk. No one can have fun if Mr. Magoo isn’t getting some strange that day. I went through the photo album after the latest DDay to find pictures of him and me together. I found less than a dozen. There were 100’s of him alone. There were less than 30 of me alone. This after more than 40 years together. Way to leave a legacy, Mr. Magoo.

  • Chumplady and Chump Nation, I have never met a more loving, articulate, funny, heartfelt bunch. You are truly my tribe and I adore all of you that have the guts and fortitude to come here every day to share your pain and hope and recovery. I would have never made it without you. 💖💕

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