Dear Chump Lady,
After faithfully reading this blog and thinking about all that we have been through I still have questions.
1. How did all of these cheaters from all over the world basically learn the same script? I read everyone’s posts and I keep hearing the same dialogue that I had with my ex. In some cases, word for word. “I don’t believe you and I are over yet, I just need to do this”, “She is good for me”, “The kids want me to be happy”, “You just aren’t fun anymore”, “I love you, but it’s in a different way now.”
I don’t believe these words are something any parent teaches their child, so how did they all learn their script? Is there a “Narcissist for Dummies” handbook that chumps don’t know about in a secret room at Barnes and Noble?
2. What broke in them as children to cause them to be this way? The best that I can figure with mine was both parents were alcoholics (only one admitted and stopped drinking, forever). The father was not a believer in “time out’s” and used spankings, spankings with belts and groundings for punishment. My SIL told me that my ex was always a liar (probably so that he wouldn’t get hit or grounded). Is this the similar scenario in lives of other cheaters or am I just trying to find an excuse?
3. How as parents can we keep from raising a new crop of narcissistic children? Perhaps it is my newfound perspective, but there seems to be a rise in entitled, non-empathic, self serving, self-promoting, lazy humans. What are we as parents doing wrong and how do we stop it? I don’t want either of my children to end up like my ex-husband or marry someone like him. Perhaps the damage is done, but if there is some magic mommy wand out there I want to use it.
So yes, after almost 30 years of studying this specimen I am still confused. I want to strengthen my picker and not repeat this crap again. And I want to make sure my kids work on theirs so they don’t end up with the same type of person or worse, become that person.
Dear Staying Strong,
1.) At first dalliance, every cheater is issued a Stupid Shit manual. It’s delivered by turkey vulture, which alights on their bedpost and drops it gently on their pillow. Other Stupid Shit manuals are found under rotten cabbage leaves, and still others can be bought at circuses if you know the right sideshow freak.
This is how lies are born! Cheaters are generally delighted to discover these manuals, because they were wondering how they were going to explain their treachery, but it’s all laid out right there for them. Now, I’m sure you’re wondering — who writes the manual? How do they know who’s cheating?
Hobgoblins. They have headquarters in Waco, Texas, with large printing presses, and an international security apparatus that keeps tabs on the empathy challenged. (Who do you think started Ashley Madison?)
You have a better answer? How else to explain the eerie similarities between every cheater?
Seriously, there’s only so many ways to manipulate someone. (For a catalog of manipulation, check out Dr. Simon’s site.) Convince them to doubt their senses (gaslighting), punish them for truth-telling (rage, abuse), divert them with chaos, insist they take responsibility for their own oppression (blame-shifting).
These dynamics are universal to humankind. And it’s not just cheaters — it’s anyone in any system trying to gain unfair advantage over another. “You don’t deserve voting rights, you’re not ready yet.” The entitled will always seek excuses as to why their entitlement is Right and Proper.
Once you understand cheating as a toxic power dynamic, you understand why all the Stupid Shit Cheaters Say is so universal.
2). No answer. That’s untangling the skein of fuckupedness. Stop!
3). If anyone is handing out “Magic Mommy Wands” I want one to wave over my teenager so he stops using all the towels.
Staying Strong, we can only speculate on what makes people cheaters. If it’s personality disorder, well, there is some evidence that’s genetic. (If you want to read more on that, google “callous unemotional traits hereditary”.) If it’s basic entitlement, yes, I think as parents we can do a lot to not raise a spoiled brat. But consider your own family — don’t you know people raised by the same parents (good or toxic) who raised very different children? If only life came with guarantees!
One of my favorite parenting phrases, along with “Wherever you left it” and “Because I said so”, is “It’s not all about you.” Children constantly need to be reminded of other people’s needs and feelings. It’s Sally’s turn for a ride on the slide! No, the cookies are for SHARING! No, you CANNOT USE EVERY TOWEL IN THE HOUSE AND TAKE HOUR-LONG SHOWERS!
It’s Not All About YOU.
I do think that many cheaters have huge senses of entitlement that were fed as children. You’re a very special child, better than all the other children. They weren’t called out on their selfishness, instead their “superiority” was celebrated and encouraged.
We do children a disservice when we don’t force them to take responsibility for their actions. Every parent knows how hard it is to not rescue or spackle for our kid. “Well, you failed that class because the teacher was a terrible teacher who couldn’t teach!” Instead of letting them learn from consequences — kid takes the failing grade and the humiliation that goes with it.
Will our children grow up to be cheaters? I sure hope not! But of course, part of that answer is US. It’s not just what we say to children, it’s what we DO, what we model, what we tolerate in our lives that teaches them how the world works. If children grow up in a cheater/chump household, who do you think they’re going to want to be? The powerful, “happy” person who gets all the kibbles and advantages, or the sad, put upon chump, resentfully eating shit sandwiches to keep the peace?
You want to teach your kids to be mighty? Push the mean kid off the slide if he won’t take turns. Stand up for yourself. Don’t take crap — and your kids won’t either.
That’s my hope anyway.
This column ran previously. And we’re still untangling that skein….