Dear Chump Lady,
My husband told me 4 weeks before our 50th wedding anniversary that he had been having an affair with a woman who he saw at an out-of-town work conference for 11 years.
He told me in the most vile descriptive language imaginable, which is something he never ever used before. It took two months for him to reveal the truth (of course I don’t know this really, since he’s been a pathological liar for years).
I will divorce him, can’t stand to be disrespected anymore. I had extreme gut feelings at the beginning of his affair that something was wrong, so I asked him. He said, “ work-related stress.”
I asked him directly if he was having an affair, because this is what my gut told me. He said, “ No, I have never been with anyone but you since we’ve been married, I would never do that.” After much begging, crying, doing the pick me dance… he finally revealed that he did indeed have an 11-year affair.
Now after telling our grown children, ages 47 and 48 that he had an affair, my daughter who is also in the process of divorcing her husband of 22 years due to his chronic infidelity, is siding with my husband. She is saying she and her children need to have contact with “Grandpa.” This would be more understandable to me if he would have put forth any effort to be “Grandpa” in his life, but that never happened. He remained arrogant and separate from us, his family, only wanting to be connected to his job.
When telling me about the ongoing affair, he said he did it because “I wanted my dick sucked and I wanted it sucked by anybody but you and I had a RIGHT to, because I wanted to.“ Now after my daughter continues to invite him into her life, I was upset with her for doing so, also for lying to me saying she wanted to be transparent dealing with him, but she was not. She invited him to go shopping with her and her daughter, saying she would only do so if it was agreeable with me, that she would never ever want to hurt me.
I later found out she had already asked him to go along on the shopping trip four days prior and he told her she better let me know first. Only then did she pretend that this was her idea to reveal this to me. I am so hurt, I later called her and told her I thought this was a wrong way to treat me. She will no longer speak to me. I am devastated. What can I do?
Dear Sad Mom,
Your son and daughter’s relationship with their father is their business. You don’t get to manage that relationship for them.
I know that feels super, super unjust. Like they’re choosing a fuckwit over you. (Because they are. Because they still want Grandpa Fuckwit in their life.) After All He Did!
Your soon-to-be-ex husband sucks, and he sucks epically. But think of how long it took YOU to figure out that your husband is a cheater and pathological liar? Nearly 50 years apparently. They’ve got a different learning curve. And a different set of priorities — child/parent bonds are pretty primal. You don’t control it.
We say here, “Trust That They Suck.” Meaning, accept that the cheater is not what you hoped and dreamed they’d be, you made a lousy investment, and the turd can’t be polished. Let go and focus on you. It’s a really tough concept. Most of us struggle with it for years. But! But! He has a lovely singing voice! All can’t be lost!
There’s a corollary to Trust That They Suck — Trust That Other People Don’t Think So. The cheater may have been utterly toxic to you, but not to them. (Personally, I believe that a parent who cheats on the other parent is being terrible to their children as well, but not everyone shares that opinion.) The cheater may be of use to the Non-Believers of Suck. Or these people might believe that this person sorta sucks, but hey, it’s a temporary condition and with their unwavering love, financing, and soft sofa to crash on, they Could Be Magnificent Again, and will waste their whole lives high on hopium.
You. Don’t. Control. It.
We have to let kids figure out their crappy parents for themselves and give them the space to do that.
The only exception I have for trying to control the uncontrollable is — is someone being endangered? Is there a criminal element? My opinion would be entirely different if Grandpa was a sex offender. Or if someone was stealing opiates, or your ID, or harming vulnerable people. If Grandpa Fuckwit was a clear and present DANGER to others? Then yes, you sound alarm bells.
Then accept the consequences of your immense unpopularity for doing so. (Pro tip — people even love addicts and sex offenders, and criminals.)
God, this is all very depressing, Tracy.
Hey, well, here’s what you DO control and what you CAN do:
1.) Stop Competing. Stop the pick me dance with your daughter for her relationship with dad. CHOOSE ME! is not a good look on anyone. Your daughter doesn’t need to tell you her comings and goings with Grandpa Fuckwit. He’s Not. Your. Problem anymore. If your daughter wants a relationship with her fuckwit father, that is her sad problem to figure out. It’s painful to watch. So while it’s all still raw, just deflect. Distract. Move your energy elsewhere.
Here’s a script. “Daughter, for my own sanity, I need to not know what’s going on in your dad’s life, or what you’re doing together. That could change. But now, while we’re divorcing, I don’t want to know. I’m sorry I tried to control it. This is your relationship to figure out. You know my feelings about what happened and why this divorce was necessary.”
2.) Invest in Your Awesomeness. All that energy you wasted pick me dancing for a fuckwit? While he was Busy At Work? All that exhausting begging? That energy is all yours now. Go invest it in yourself. Go be awesome WITHOUT ANY OF THEM. Move a thousand miles away. Study for a new degree. Buy a puppy. I don’t know what your bliss looks like, but go find out. Maybe Sad Mom is Happy Mom in a different context outside of Chump Wife and Mother.
3.) Believe in the Laws of Natural Consequences. People who suck tend to keep sucking. That chaos isn’t going anywhere. People who choose a relationship with sucky people, may get sparkles for awhile, but they also get all the shit that goes with Sucky People.
Betrayal, lies, drained accounts, no shows are just some of the featured benefits!
And if you act now, we’ll also throw in verbal abuse, rage, and STDs!
4.) Choose your own level of investment in your relationships. You don’t control your daughter’s level of investment in her dad, but you do control your level of investment in your relationship with your daughter. I’m not saying be punitive or withholding. I’m saying recognize that your shared values may be out of alignment, and you need some space. Take some time for self-care and doing what the fuck YOU want for a change.
If you bust your ass for your daughter to be a Great Mom, and get zero appreciation, and Grandpa Fuckwit smiles sideways and gets hailed with Hosannas? Yeah, re-evaluate your investment. It’s lopsided. Grandpa can cook the Thanksgiving dinner this year. Is that inconvenient and a lot of work for Grandpa and the turkey will be dry or nonexistent?
Excellent. Back away. Maybe you might get some appreciation with the absence of your awesomeness.
5.) Trust that you do NOT suck. You know what happened. You know what went down. You know why you have to divorce this fuckwit, what lies he told, what shit he exposed you to. Trust that your STBX’s fuckupedness is NOT your fault. This whole situation is unfair to everyone but the Fuckwit. (Fuckwits tend to be oblivious to injustice, except their own sense of aggrievedness.)
Be confident in the truth. Live it. And ENJOY your children Fuckwit-free. Once you’re on the other side of this mess, you’ll appreciate the benefit of that.
Hang in there.