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Dear Chump Lady, How do I stop being so mad at my ex?

Dear Chump Lady,

How do I stop being so angry at my cheating ex?

I get flashes of it and it makes me tired. He’s off living his single life with affair partner and gets 50/50 shared custody of our child. (I’m happy with that, although I miss my child lots).

He’s just become so rude. I only contact him about child-related things and he ignores or answers in his own sweet time. I’ve had to chase him four times for childcare payments (which he does pay but always blames the bank).

Anyway, I’m so tired of feeling angry. Maybe it’s because he’s shown no remorse and now just treats me like a gnat. My self worth is in shreds. Most of his family has ditched me (after 11 years). I don’t want to see a psych because I’m sick of talking and thinking about it all. I want meh…

Jen

Dear Jen,

It’s very difficult to feel indifferent toward people who deliberately keep trying to piss you off. While I constantly encourage chumps to “gain a life,” it appears that cheating exes did not get the memo. Whatever Schmoopie they’re off with next, so many of them circle back to their chumps for kibbles. And because you no longer love this person, they’ll take their kibbles in the flavor of antagonism. Did they get a reaction? Hey! It’s still centrality and control! Whoopee!

When you breed with a fuckwit, they have you by the curly shorthairs until your child turns 18. You’re vulnerable because you love your child and are deeply invested with your child. So, if a disordered person is so inclined, they can fuck with that vulnerability a thousand different ways. Did you send your child off with new shoes and your kid gets returned barefoot? Is there a very important book report that needs finishing and Uncle Daddy took Junior to the dog track instead? Perhaps your kid didn’t get returned that day at all? Asshole infinitum.

Oh, and the real kicker? They’ll follow it up with a sad sausage narrative of how Mean and Awful you are. So unfair! So uncompromising! So trying to be the BOSS OF THEM. And the real sophisticated mindfuckers will pull out the dagger of “Don’t you care what’s best for the CHILDREN?”

Why don’t you eat the shit sandwich, Jen, and play nice? Why won’t you be his “friend”? Why must you insist on court schedules and child support? Why are you such a fucking hard ass? Oh, he knows why — you’re still hung up on him and Schmoopie, right? You’re just jealous of their awesomeness. He’s very sorry you can’t be awesome (you should work on that!)

My blood pressure spiked just typing that. And yet I know so many of you live with this crazy Every. Single. Day.

And the narrative out there is be Consciously Uncoupled, be friendly for the kids, go take a Carnival cruise together! The cognitive dissonance between what is expected of us and what IS, is enough to make any chump lose their shit. If you’re angry, Jen? You’re paying attention. It’s not fair.

But, as a veteran, I can tell you it is endurable. Here are a few pointers, and then I’ll open the floor to Chump Nation.

1.) DOCUMENT. Whenever a fuckwit fails to consider the Best Interests of the Child — whether that’s not paying support, or screwing up the schedule, or missing a child’s obligation, or demonstrating some kind of neglect — you DOCUMENT it. Is this tedious? Yes. When the violation occurs, you write an email and time stamp that shit. Better yet, get parenting software.

Bob, It was very distressing when you returned Tiffany on Monday instead of the court-appointed time on Sunday at 5 p.m. She missed her school matterhorn concert. Missing concerts is not in Tiffany’s best interest.

The law is based on evidence. If you wind up back in court, be armed to the teeth with documentation — and the case you are building is WHAT IS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF YOUR CHILD. (Yes, I mean that in all shouty caps. Internalize this.) Not what an outrageous asshole your ex is and how he or she personally antagonizes you, but WHAT IS IN THE BEST INTEREST OF YOUR CHILD.

2.) Lower your expectations. No, lower. No, still not low enough. Your expectations should be below sea level, looking skyward at the underbelly of an ant. And even then, maybe down a few more inches.

Essentially, expect NOTHING of fuckwits. Be the sane parent, and as much as you can, foster independence and self-reliance in your children. It will serve them well later in life. The book reports are on them.

Is it unfair that they have a fuckwit for a parent? Yes. But that’s the reality — everyone needs to deal with the reality and not what you think it Should Be or Could Be. But! But! She’s capable of being a decent, functional person for other people! Don’t go there. It is what it is. One way this shit makes you miserable is you keep expecting this person to do the honorable thing. It’s not going to happen. If it does occasionally? Awesome. Let go of the rest.

3.) You don’t control them. Only YOU. So be the sane parent. I say this a LOT here, but don’t fall down on the job and don’t get mired in the injustice. Just get up and do your damn parenting job. Your children will thank you for it later. They’re not dummies. They know who has their back. You just need to take the long view.

4.) Don’t take the bait. They can’t engage you if you’re not there. Be gone or be mentally checked out. He’s rude? Whatever. Deny the beast kibbles.

5.) ALWAYS enforce support with the state. NEVER be the heavy. Let the heavy boot of government do that.

6.) Be mighty! Go out and gain that life. The more you fill in with your new life, the more irrelevant are the Misadventures of Schmoopie and Fuckwit. You’ve got better things to do than stayed tuned into that channel. Hug your kids, go bake some cookies, and happier days ahead. They turn 18 some day.

After yesterday’s letter I thought it’d be good to run a primer on co-parenting with fuckwits. (Which happens to be the working title of the next book I’m writing…) Big hugs to all you sane parents out there! Have I told you lately how awesome you are? Rock on with the book reports.

Ask Chump Lady

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  • Dear Jen

    Did you actually write this letter, or did I write this letter in my sleep and sign it Jen. Oh except in my case his family haven’t ditched me and think he’s behaving appallingly and are worried for me so that’s something right, they are decent enough folk.

    It’s so wearing, it’s you who should be pissy and mean and they would fully deserve it but you just try to get through the day. Hang in there, I’ve only got another 9 years till my daughter is 18 (no god, no1!!!!!)

    • Good grief, I must have written it in my sleep too and signed it Jen and DuddersGetsChumped. I have been sitting at my desk today with my blood boiling over all these same issues. I really needed to read this today. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I am so tired and stressed dealing with the shit getting flung at me on an almost daily basis. I thought I was almost at meh a while ago, but just as I was about to board the meh bus, the driver put his foot down and I was left howling in the middle of the road.

      • Hahaha, OMG the visual of you almost on the meh bus and the driver putting his foot down, oh wow that made me laugh so hard. Thanks for that laugh, needed it!!

        And yes, I too feel like I’m at meh most of the time – but then he does some really fucked up thing to piss me off, and that driver puts his foot down and I miss the bus too! Eg; he forgot his daughter’s birthday recently. Again. Second year in a row. Called her at 8pm on the night of her birthday, not during the day, and was chatting casually to her. Didn’t even mention her birthday. No idea at all. She had to REMIND him over the phone. She’s 10. Then he acted like OF COURSE he remembered and that’s why he was calling. OMG, I hate him. 🤬

        See, I too am perpetually waiting at the meh bus stop, only to be left behind again and again. (When TF can I get on permanently?!)

        Let’s all laugh at their idiocy instead. Hope you’re all having a meh-vellous day, dear chumps. 😘

        • OMG. Jr. turned 16 about a month ago. Present? Card? Acknowledgement? Nope to all three. At least I can make the excuse that he was such a raging alcoholic at the time of Jr.’s birth that he probably doesn’t remember the day. He had a drink on the way to the hospital to meet me, went out all night after Jr. was born. One more proof of trust that they suck

          • OMG is that a Siberian Husky in your foto? I had one (15 years) I consider the best friend I ever had – and I still think (miss) of my friend often!
            I’m really sorry your family is going through this.

        • OMG, he never ceases to disappoint, does he? No words. I hope she goes a lifetime with forgetting his birthday and he can rot in a dementia unit someday, alone with an overflowing bedpan.

          Sorry… not feeling very charitable towards fuckwits this evening.

          • Having suffered for many many years with an awful disease that has rotted his cock off slowly and painfully. And Schmoopie is down the corridor, not demented but immobile and fully aware of the awfulness of everything, and the disease she contracted from Cheaterpants disfigured her horribly and made her smell like a bag of old prawns. And made all her hair and teeth fall out. When she was 50.

          • Yes, he’s pretty consistent as far as disappointments go. I have dropped my expectations so low that I have none of him anymore. But, I feel sorry for my kids (10, 8) that still love him and have expectations of him. But, they are slowly learning, I must admit. From their own experiences with him, not from me. I don’t talk about him. I’m just letting them figure him out on their own. So far they seem to be working him out. How sad for them 😔

          • Lol. With an overflowing bed pan. The visual!

            When my ex left 3 years ago (to move in with girl 10 years older than his daughter and 33 years younger than me), he told me he didn’t want to be changing my diapers. I am 7 years older than him, but I am in good shape for 58 y.o. I even have people say that I look younger than him. What’s funny is when he says things like that, I just smile because it seems that HE ends up suffering the fate. For example, when I met him he was happy I had all my own teeth as that was one of his requirements (yes, I know – he is such a prize). But then he ended up having a bunch of his own teeth pulled and partials made! I laugh when I remember our lab puppy snatching his partial off of the table and using it for a chewy toy one day. Ex was in the garage with the dremel tool trying to fix it as it was a Sunday.

            7 months post divorce he knows I couldn’t care less and tries to bait me once in a while. He just looks so pathetic when he does. I got an old jet boat in the divorce. I went to donate it and needed the pink for the trailer. He refuses to give it to me (it’s in his name). He said I can give HIM the boat. He wants the motor. He’ll give me $500. Nope, I want to donate it. He was so mad. I told him he has boats, motorcycles, camper, Razr, trips galore, and he wants my one and only ‘toy.’ It was worth 3k at divorce time and now he says it’s worthless – because he wants it. I pointed this out and got cussed out. Lol. And I just smile because I am free. I texted him back a smiley face. Indifference is bliss.

            He was so hilarious – he texted me that it’s unbelievable how I think he’s trying to get one over on me all the time.

            Lol. I would be a stupid fool to think he’s not.

            I seen an overflowing bed pan in his future.

    • Just be careful with his family being on your side. My outlaws were on my side… until they weren’t. And when they circled the wagons, holy shit – massive enabling ensued, narratives changed, and suddenly I was on the outside wondering what the fuck happened, a newly-minted pariah.

  • I bought myself some awesome beautiful Everlast boxing gloves and go to the gym across the street.
    I have a poster of Laila Ali on display.

    Get angry in the right way when you feel angry.
    If you are angry, you’re wired properly emotionally. Unlike cheaters.

  • This is a blue print for sooo many chumps.

    After a somewhat silent period, fuckwit is ramping up his outrageous behavior and it is mentally exhausting. I just want it to end.

    It is an extension of the crazy making behavior of the marriage!

    Being mighty is hard as hell!

    • Same here. We had a respite and now..blammo! He’s back at his passive aggressive, whiney, harassing, emotionally abusive, missives about how terrible I am cause I dared to request half our marital stuff. Reading CL’s advice about lowering your expectations is spot on. During the peaceful times it’s easy to get lulled into a false narrative that he’s done, which makes these recurrences more difficult. I need to get better at expecting this shit. Like, I need to set a calendar reminder to go off every two months that says “wake up girl! he ain’t done yet…be ready for the next round!”

      It’s easier to take a beating when you’ve at least had time to cover your face.

  • Jen, it’s not about the fuckwit, it’s about YOU. Don’t let them have the real estate in your head. Move on.

  • Something that has helped me is reading up on emotional peptide addiction. Essentially, we get hooked on the feelings of injustice and rage and helplessness, and continue to ruminate over the wrongs our cheaters have done to us because it gives our body a “hit” of the emotional peptides that our brains produce when we think about them. The more energy we give them, in our thoughts and emotions, the more firmly they become embedded in us. This is counter-intuitive, because we think that if we type out our stories, or read other chumps’ stories on message boards until 2am, we’ll exorcise the demons and get affirmation and feel better. For me, it always made me feel worse, and the peptide addiction is the thing that explains that.

    The goal is to figure out exactly where the internal wound is that they keep triggering (usually from our childhoods), and heal that. Once you can heal the same wounds that attracted the cheater to you and tricked you into spackling, you’ll see the ridiculous lengths your cheater is going to in order to get your attention, and it won’t hook you in in the same way it’s doing now.

    Big hugs and warm thoughts your way. You are powerful and strong, and you will get through this.

      • I think I started out reading everything that Brene Brown wrote about shame, vulnerability and self-worth, but that can be a dangerous road as a chump because it’s so easy to project the (very valuable) lessons from her work onto our cheaters and get hooked back into the idea that we can fix them. I found Daring Greatly to be the most helpful, but your mileage may vary.

        If you can allow yourself to feel vulnerable and suspend to urge to discard anything new-agey (as a scientist, this was my biggest obstacle), google Melanie Tonia Evans. Her website does sell a package of workbook materials and guided meditations, but there is a remarkable amount of free readings and videos on her blog and YouTube channel. If you search “Narcissistic Abuse – How it occurs and how to overcome it,” you’ll get some videos that give you a good idea of what she’s all about. I think her stuff has been the most helpful in me actually getting over my STBX, because it’s the first time I am taking responsibility for validating my own feelings vs. looking for external validation (via counselors, message boards, CN, etc.).

        If you have zero interest in any of that, one of my best exercises is to simply notice when something gets under my skin, and then ask why until you get to the core wound. I know that seems stupidly simple, but it can be really profound if you give it your full attention. Real-life example: STBX schedules a business trip when I’ve already said I’m unavailable to cover childcare for him. Why does that bother me? Because he just assumes that I’ll bend my schedule around his. Why does that bother me? Because it shows he still feels entitled to favors from me. Why does that bother me? Because I do feel an immediate discomfort in not accommodating him. Why do I feel that way? Because I don’t feel comfortable saying no. Why not? Because I tie people’s approval of me to my self-worth. Why? Because when I was little, I was terrified that if I misbehaved, my father would fly into a rage, so asserting my needs and emotions still feels dangerous.

        So, then I imagine myself as a little girl (or look at a photo of myself as a kid) and imagine giving her a hug and telling her that she’s safe, and she can say no to things that hurt her. And after a quick cry, I text STBX that I can’t cover his business trip and that he’ll need to make other arrangements. And, magic of all magic, he does. And I feel better, and stronger, and not hooked in to his crazy-making.

        Ok, that was really long, and I don’t know if it will be helpful for you, but that’s been the process that’s offered me relief for the first time since DDay 2 years ago, and has helped me through the separation process.

        • That is amazingly helpful. It is so easy for people to say “You need to let go!” or whatever but, if we knew *how* to do that, we would! Blueprints are great, and I’ve used a similar process to what you delineate, over the years, to dig down into automatic reactions happening below the surface of my awareness. And that understanding can help me change how I respond. Thank you!

        • NotToday, you are totally all over this. Perfect.

          Get to the bottom of US, not THEM. Then things begin to fall into place. It’s what CL is all about.

        • Great advice! And it can be painful to do and takes emotional energy, which we don’t always have. But, a useful tool to suck the power out of their assholeness. Thanks for that!

        • That is really helpful. I have never known how to deal with things in a productive way.
          Thank you

        • Hi Not Today, I know this thread is a bit older but I had to respond to your wonderful comments. I haven’t been on CL for a while as although it has been amazingly valuable in validating in my experiences, where really nowhere/no one else is – and hence also grounding in such a useful way, I am aware of how stuck in the (still after more than 2 years ongoing new ones too) injustice of it all I so easily get. It is valid, and very seductive with the hit of moral righteousness etc at the time but it also keeps me stuck, and after a while morphs into helplessness and hopelessness – not conducive to gaining a life.
          I am also science (evidence!) based in my work, although probably more open to a bit of an alternative view on things due to my particular work. Funnily enough, it was Brene Brown’s work (who just uses more qualitative research methods!) that prompted me to say enough to my ex’s behaviour – daring greatly. Having said that I went in rather niaevly from this point of view, and, having tried to listen to it again recently, wanting to regain what it gave me in a number of ways, whilst the fundamentals of it still ring true in many ways it is inadequate when considering dealing with frankly disordered people. I wanted to use it for me, but kept coming up against this disparity – hopefully in time, I will be able to leave this part aside. I did actually sign up for Melanie Tonia Evans’ programme, as I liked the depth of her explanations around so many difficult aspects of dealing with a narcissist (covert/passive in my case but very malignant and actively cruel – more recently realising that probably actually a sociopath/psychopath as well), however I did find her ways of dealing with it too new agey for me at times.
          Underneath it all you are right though – I am not victim-blaming (myself included) but I know there is a reason that I invited such a man into my life in the first place, didn’t see or normalised (even somewhat but not totally hidden) his behaviours and tolerated what I did without setting boundaries. I know that those reasons also stem from childhood and patterns that were established then, and that addressing these (even if by just acknowledging and choosing not to buy into them) is really the only way to put this away, and hopefully to heal more broadly. Thank you for reminding me (and us all) of this. Taking responsibility for our own healing – and working on what actually will bring some peace, rather than the temptation to continue to focus on the wounding, even if justified. For me, admitting the wounding from childhood (although reminded of it significantly recently) is possibly harder and more painful. Back to it again! You sound like you are doing an awesome job of this. Xxx
          It certainly seems like you have come a long way.

      • One thing that helped me was my first therapist, who taught me to pay attention when something in the present raised HUGE emotions, way out of line for what happened. Now, even with D-Day stuff, that can apply.

        Jackass and I had been friends (so I thought) for 30 years when he did the discard, but we had been a couple (not married) for about a year. We all know how betrayal and the discard feels, especially when it’s not even clear we’ve been discarded. But I was a wreck–way worse than when my mother died or at the end of my marriage to XH the substance abuser. That was a clue that what I had was a huge pile of unfelt grief. I surely would have been very very hurt by what Jackass did, but what he did brought up all those other unmourned losses.

        Even in a long-term marriage, you can probably trace back the FEELINGS you have to some childhood experience. For me, Jackass brought back many occasions in my childhood when my mother would “discard” me–stop talking to me or ignoring me for weeks, sometimes. I figured that out by looking at the patterns of all my dating relationships (from age 14-60) and then looking at my parents and seeing how things in my childhood mapped onto those patterns. My spiritual advisor suggested this–he called it my “relationship autopsy”–looking for all the wounds I could find and seeing how they fit together. I took what I learned from that work into therapy and it changed my life. 60 is pretty old to get wise about myself but better late than never.

    • NotToday, Good point. I need to stop producing these peptides.

      This weekend was a long holiday where I live and holidays always get my peptide factory going: I remember the 44 years of holidays spent with fuckwit and his family of leeches.

      I am working hard on gaining a life and curing this internal wound. And it is very productive for me.
      Thanks!

    • Exactly this. Only it’s my mother instead of x that I allow to loop me into the peptide trip. She’s rude and aggressive, I voice offense/stand up for myself, she gives no apology but a few weeks of silent treatment then sends a random “gift” to guilt me into responding, cycle continues. I keep allowing it, keep feeding it and replaying it in my head in order to feel some sense of control – but all that does is keep it alive, keeps the peptides flowing.

      Time to change that! Thank you for the reminder!

      • You can stand up for yourself by not engaging. She’s what Dr. Simon calls a “manipulative person,” the silent treatment and the cycle of abuse being a tip off.

        So step out of the cycle. If she is rude and aggressive on the phone, say: “I can hear that you aren’t in the mood to talk today, so I will catch you sometime next week.” Then hang up. Don’t text, don’t email, don’t call. If she calls, let it go to voicemail. If the message is appropriate, you can text or call. If not, don’t.

        If she does this stuff in person, be ready to end the conversation and do something else: wash dishes, leave, check your phone, go to the bathroom. Be prepared to leave or end the visit, so planning ahead is important.

        My mother pulled this shit for years. I took a break for a few months and never had a major issue with her again. She knew that acting up would mean consequences. Don’t feel guilty. You don’t want to enable her bad behavior. The loving thing to do is help her be a better human. You can do it. But (ha ha) my mother complained bitterly that “her daughter” (me) never came to see her in the dementia unit. She complained to me about me because she no longer recognized me. But that taught me that her attitude issues and how she treated me had nothing to do with me.

        • LAJ, thank you! Oh wow about your mother’s comments to you, about you! Glad you’re in a better place with that now. Not easy, I know.
          Yes, she’s always been manipulative. I let myself get looped in b’c if I don’t reply she sends increasingly frantic “are you okaaaay?? I’m a mom & moms worry when kids don’t reply!!” I’ll reply “yes, I need to focus on work, doing great, thx” and then she feels like everything is normal and my resentment builds. If I reply that she’s hurt me by being manipulative or aggressive, she gets mean and sends guilt messages. I have a hard time walking away from her b’c my dad died when I was a teen and my only sibling is textbook narc, although I hate to armchair diagnose. Thank you for your advice and experience, I’ll study more on manipulative mothers and Simon, b’c something needs to change. I find myself upset for days due to her actions sometimes. I can have a superficial relationship with her but then feels like I’m being manipulative/fake myself. Anyway, super thread-jack! Thank you, I may post more in the forums as I try to get a handle on this.

          • huh, actually this part is probably the key:
            “I’ll reply “yes, I need to focus on work, doing great, thx” and then she feels like everything is normal and my resentment builds.”

            Why do I need her to feel wrong is my question to figure out, right? If resentment builds when she thinks everything is fine, then I must be needing her to feel wrong. If I’m truly accepting that she is a manipulative person and am choosing to stay in contact, and going grey rock, I’d have no resentment building. Is this the right train of thought to follow with this?? It’s blurry still, but feels like it may be the key…

            • you need her to be wrong be cause good people acknowledge their bad behaviour and do the right thing. it’s what you would do to alleviate another’s pain. you need her to begin the healing process for the pain she causes you. I was the same. it will never happen. I went for months to my mother’s grave looking for answers, until.i finally knew it was that I was free. if you want i will send tempest what i wrote during that time and have her forward it. to you

        • I need to do this. My mother keeps asking how cheater is, have I seen him, am I being nice to him.
          I told her to stop and she belittles me.

          Then made some comment about how my sister deserves her money, but I can take care of myself.

          I need a break.

      • UnderConstruction, I know how tough it is. Even when I see through STBX’s shenanigans, it’s so easy to get sucked into other people’s toxic patterns, especially with family. I think that a key thing I’ve learned is that people actually respect you more when you put up boundaries, even if they throw a tantrum about it. You have to respect yourself and your needs before other people (especially people with narcissistic tendencies) will respect you, and there’s no amount of “doing” for other people that will make them treat you well.

        I think what LovedAJackass said is right on. You have to accept that your mom is going to treat you as badly as you let her. So, if you want to continue to have a relationship with her, you have to stop letting her treat you in ways that make you feel angry or sad or manipulated. Heal the parts inside you that get triggered by her guilting and shaming and love-bombing you, and accept her where she is. One of my favorite things from Brene Brown is to accept that everyone–every single last one of us, including the narcissists and cheaters–is doing the best they can. Your mother is doing the best she can, and there’s nothing you can do to make her change her behavior. So, you have to decide where to draw the line to protect and respect yourself, and hold it. What she does from there is up to her.

        You are awesome, and you’ve got this.

        • Thank you, NotToday! I’ll work more on building boundaries with her. It’s rough b’c she’s pretty much my only bio-family. I’ve always been more in the coaching/parental role than daughter role with her and b’c I do know that she’s doing her best, I keep going back for her. She’s the type where if you tell her that she’s hurt you with her words or actions, she flips into blameshift and guilt mode. With my x, we still work together at times and I’ve definitely noticed that he respects me more since I’ve been firm with boundaries. I never feel bothered by him anymore. With my textbook narc sister, I placed firm boundaries and she goes for months/years long silent treatments. I’ve currently been cut off for over 6weeks, no reply at all, after I wouldn’t alter my schedule to appease her. I honestly am fine with being NC with my sister. But, my mother is different, I can’t leave her in her older years, so I need to figure out a new way of handling our relationship. Anyway, thank you for your advice, I appreciate it. You are awesome too!

    • Omfg. Reading how you describe this, specifically with fighting injustice and helplessness, actually gave me a flashback from childhood I have buried for over 40 years. I’ve done a lot of work in therapy addressing and healing from internal wounds, your comments here made me find one more, and it’s a critical one. Thank you.

      • Once again, LAJ, I’m convinced we’re twin daughters of different mothers. My mother is the absolute QUEEN of passive-aggressiveness and the dementia has made it much, much worse. I have spent the last 20 years of my adult life (after I grew a pair in my late 30s) calling out her BS. Usually I it is was with seeming innocence and denial: “I was only joking! Can’t you take a joke?” “What, I’m not allowed to comment on your weight/appearance/parenting, etc.? I was just trying to help!” My stock replies are “It’s not a joke nor is it funny” and “No, it’s neither helpful nor kind”. Where CN has been useful is teaching me that grey rock is the way to go with the Queen of PA. Don’t fuel the fire. It is not personal, as you point out. She treats everyone like crap including the staff that care for her. Geez, it’s downright embarassing.

        What was eye-opening, though, was the year or so I worked with a therapist to come up with these tools to deal with her, as I was working through the crap with Cheater #1. It was the therapist, bless her heart, that pointed out that I had married someone very similar to my mother and I was trying to cure the world of self-centered passive aggression one relationship at a time. She pointed out how futile my quest was. If only I had known about fixing pickers back then.

        • Oh, heck, yes, Jackass and my mother —narcissistic to the core. They would have HATED each other. I was always worried about “daddy issues,” but looking at my patterns, I did date and marry drinkers but the alcohol, etc., was their #2 feature, with narcissism on top.

          I’m glad you wised up earlier than I did. But geez–on top of having a narcissistic mother, we get to deal with their dementia. She was looney tunes to begin with…

    • NotToday – could you recommend something to read about this please? It sounds really interesting

  • As always, great post. What’s so hard for me is my ex definitely gets to me through my child, he’s constantly trying to take me back to court to lower his payments. It’s exhausting. And terrifying. My daughter has special needs. Is there any advice out there in CN if your nightmare won’t end at 18? My daughter will not achieve independence and does not speak. The thought of my ex sociopath being in my life forever is overwhelming!

    • MY cheating ex’s whore got taken back to court for lower child payments by HER ex every time my ex gave HER a raise! Regarding his family, after 42 years, not one of them called to see how I was doing…crickets, crickets. Fuck them all. (Yes, I am angry!)

      • Expecting them to call to see how you are doing is like expecting the vultures to inquire about your health.

    • Right there with you and I wish I knew. I’m so busy stressing about what stupid sh*t he will decide it’s appropriate to expose our soon to be teen aged son to (you know “he’s old enough now – without ever thinking of his developmental state) that I have not even spared a thought to what will I do when he turns 18 and still needs support.

    • Me too, the comments that come back to not come from her mouth but they are tied at the hip those two and she literally will go for anything he says. We are not married, he’s keen to remind me the agreement is not legally binding, has changed bits of it twice within the first year and I know what’s coming next.

      It’s the thought of even if I ditched the agreement and ran, I can’t do that as it’s not right for my child. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy and I am lucky as in may ways I have always worked and can retain some financial independence but where that situation is made harder for you it must wear you even more to the bone.

      Such a laugh this cheating business isn’t it, just skip down the road to a new life, daren’t look back at the mess left behind – it’s too messy.

    • Not that this is an easy thing to effectuate, but find a way to make more money so you don’t need his. I know I know easier said then done. But it is possible. I just underwent 3 years of law school and being unemployed, in part, for this very reason. I never want to have to rely on my ex for financial help with our kid every again. I figured law would be a career where that was possible. It sucked but I’m almost done and then the rest of my life is mine. Financial freedom from him.

      Best of luck, there are no easy answers here.

  • I am very, very glad that CL highlighted the importance of having the state/county enforce child support. Ideally, you include garnishing cheater wages in the custody and support order. That way, it’s on Cheater to tell each employer about the order. You have an automatic record of arrears. And the state will enforce the order, including taking the hide off the employer’s HR if they play games. All you need to do is call the enforcement office and the gears grind up. And then the email to Cheater reads: I notified Child Support Office that I didn’t receive the scheduled support payment yesterday.

    You can tell yourself that of course Cheater wants the best for the kiddos and of course he will pay…until he wants a new car or the AP or the new Schmoopie want to go to Fiji.

    • Yes, absolutely! Always go through the state. If these people had the best interests of their children in mind, they wouldn’t pull all the crap. Best decision I made during the divorce was insisting on going through the state for support. I get the payments like clockwork. My ex actually tried to sway me against child support while he was cheating on me and before I had any idea by telling me about an employee whose wages were being garnished. I was surprised at the shocked expression on hos face when instead of taking his employee’s side I told him “Good. She’s his daughter, he should be supporting her.” So many thing click into place long after discovery.

      • Yea, I remember my ex testing the waters with these kind of stories. And boy did he remember my answers and tried to use them against me. Sorry pal, a quick comment I made during a flippant conversation at bedtime years ago is not legally binding. But, it was really disheartening to put these pieces together and see just how long he was plotting his “escape.” It truly was all a lie…from his side anyways.

  • This. You nailed it. This is exactly what the kids’ mother does every step of the way. Thank you for shining light on this.

  • Anyone have advice on what to do when the ex is not only a Fuckwit, but the permissive Party Parent ? That stuff doesn’t fly in my house. You must go to school, you must do your homework…I’m SOOOOO MEAN!!!

    • Remind yourself that your kids will thank you for beung the hardass/Sane Parent. Really.

      EMBRACE the delayed gratification!

      • I don’t know any adult who has respect for their “party” parent. They look back with such disgust that the adult wasn’t behaving like one.

        There’s so much safety in sound, solid boundaries and parameters With kids. That’s what home should be: safe predictable and run by an adult with rules.

        • My stupid aunt brags around what an amazing mother she was/is, going clubbing together with her teenage son and all that. Not only he was embarrassed by her but years later also said that when he was a teenager he thought she was the most stupid person in the world. He literally said that.

    • Document! It may start small, but that shot is sure to snowball over time. Start documenting and when it becomes more severe (alcohol, drugs, etc) take him back to court.

    • This is hard GoneGirl. My kids are almost 17 and they want to live with mom because I’m so controlling. Truth is I find it very hard to say no to them out of my own fear of losing them to her. Being the sane parent (actually being a real parent and not a friend) isn’t for the faint of heart and mind.

      • I couldn’t agree more. I can pretty much count on one of my kids to call me “a control freak” any day of the week (usually at a high volume and with great indignation). But if my refusing to countenance a teenager using pot while the irresponsible (i.e. criminal) parent actually lights up with the teenager, or to drive before they have a license, or to cut school, etc, then I’ll accept the title.

        I don’t know if I’d have had the courage to go it alone if I’d known how hard it would be. At the same time, if I could have a do-over, I’d have left at least 5 years earlier than I did.

      • TwinsDad—do not give into your sons’ blackmail by being lenient. You can be firm and still loving. Especially since you are the same-sex parent, they will take their development cues from you. Yes, it hurts that they want to live with Mom, but play the long game.

        My daughter pulled the same nonsense because I was mean but allowing her to drink at age 16, and re-established contact with her father after 3 years of NC. Within 9 months, she was seeking him for who he was.

    • Ask you kids if doing homework and having curfew is the best for them and their future. Make them reason it out. “What lifestyle will give you the best future?”

    • I mean, it takes two to argue. I just refuse to engage and say “thems the rules kid! happy to talk about compromise in another area of life.” It’s constant–I won’t let her have social media accounts, he doesn’t care. I won’t let her watch certain shows, he doesn’t care. I won’t let her get her ears pierced, he doesn’t care. I make her do ALL of her homework, he doesn’t. I take her devices as punishment, he never does. And on and on. She’s only 11 but the struggle is already real. I like the suggestion to make them reason it out–I do that sometimes, but mostly I say things like “your dad and I parent differently, and I think my way is healthier for you, which is why I do it.” As she ages I hope our bond prevents her from wanting to spend more time at his place, but ultimately even if she demands it, I still won’t let her. Sorry kid, you live here half time. You can take me to court if you want but I ain’t letting you go willingly. Good luck with that.

      My mom was a hard ass. Loving but a hard ass. Like, I didn’t have white bread until I was a teenager. Man we fought, but she was steely eyed and never gave up. I asked her how she did it and she just says “There was no other choice. I just accepted that it was going to be tough and I would be tougher.” I am so grateful for her.

  • Thanks! I needed to see this today. You are spot on about the craziness of the concept of conscious uncoupling and playing nice and going on vacations together! Every time someone spouts some of that nonsense to me I want to punch them in the mouth. Needless to say I am working out at Planet Fitness a few days a week now and am getting back into running!

    • Exactly! Why on earth would we want to be friends with someone who did what they did to us and our children. Hell no

      But many people don’t want to deal with conflict and would much rather pretend everything’s fine. My family is a case in point. 2 members have been through infidelity; one a chump the other a cheater. In both cases other family members often remark how well they now get on with their exes and co-parent the children, and how the young children are happy and love going back’n’fore between different houses (with different half-siblings). If I ever dare to point out that this is most likely just for show and highly unlikely the kids are enjoying their travelling-salesman lifestyle, I’m immediately shot down with a “noo, but they really are all happy”. Heaven forbid I shatter the illusion

      • Given my kids’ own crazy care routine (which isn’t sorted yet), I explain to people that people survive all types of stressful situations – they become a “new normal” – but that doesn’t mean the kids are doing well or adjusted etc.

    • Yes! The worst are those sanctimonious people who did consciously uncouple and they just can’t understand why you can’t be friends with your ex. Umm, we didn’t marry the same guy bitch. Your ass left cause you were unfulfilled…my marriage ended cause: abuse, lying, narcissism, stealing. Your ex still wants to be your running partner, my ex sent me 5 emails and 10 texts in one day telling me what an asshole I am. GTFO

  • True that. Document, document, and even more document. 1st narcwife played all those games starting with a custody battle 2 years after she dumped me and the kids. They really do suck. There was no concern on her part for the welfare of the kids. They were a ticket to money, because where I live, the non-primary parent can still get child support. But the good news is that documentation works. It took a few years of trials and troubles but eventually she backed off visitation and child support. She knew she didn’t stand a chance against the documented truth, if I took her to court over visitation, so she caved. Trust yourself in being the better parent, the kids will know and remember.

    Dirt road: Narcwife was a perfect example of CRAZY. She’s in her 60’s now and working on husband number 5. Chumps litter her path like empty beer cans. The most memorable craziness was her sitting 2 rows below me at my son’s football game, in between her number 2 ex-husband and her then current husband (#3). Wow she must have really felt special to be surrounded by chumps like that.

  • Jen… so many of us could have written this email – so first, thank you for putting it out there and then second, the road to meh (for me) has been to NOT PERSONALIZE his actions against me. When he is late with child support, he is reminding me he is an irresponsible fuckwit… he hasn’t changed with the OW, he is still the same irresponsible person he ever was. I email a reminder to document (literally in the Subject Line: Child Support… and in the email… is Late.). I don’t editorialize, just the facts… a kibble ration if you will.

    He gets the same emails I do from school and his clubs/events, yet he still needs to text me the day of and ask “where do I go”? Again, I chuck it off as a reminder… he isn’t a parent, he is a man-child… I don’t acknowledge his being a fuckwit, I provide the info because it matters to my kid (I consider this the high road.)

    I am truly at the point (4 years since discard, 2 years since divorce) where the ONLY contact I have is when I need to travel for work or support is late. Other than that, I don’t initiate a sound bite. I raise my son my way (I don’t worry about co-parenting…but then I don’t have 50/50… I have 80/20).

    For me, getting past the anger is about remembering who/what I’m dealing with and knowing that he didn’t get a character transplant when he left, he just got a new victim who will believe his lies.

    You’ll will get there, but you have to mentally choose to every time he tries to engage for kibbles.

    Good luck!

    • It’s weird. My ex used to be the one who was always on top of things. He kept track of the events and had it all in one place. It was nice because he helped me to keep track of it all. I am the one who might have missed things otherwise. Towards the end of our marriage it all started to fall apart, however. He couldn’t seem to keep track of or remember anything so I started to pick up the slack. When I found out about his Schmoopies I thought that explained it all but even now, a couple of years later, he still has trouble keeping track of things. It isn’t just appointments and school events and whatnot, he seems to be having some serious memory problems in general. I really do think he was/is having some kind of mental breakdown. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to justify what he did (he did remember that he was married when he started fucking other women), but there is no point in getting angry about his current forgetfulness as he is more affected by it than the kids and I. I do take some satisfaction, however, in the fact that I got the man who had it all together and now Schmoopie gets the wreck. Meanwhile, I make sure he knows when all of the kid’s events are taking place and where to go so he can attend when he is in town. It’s the least I can do for the kids. As for child support, the state takes care of it so no missed payments. That’s definitely the way to go.

    • I have to say I got tired of reminders of the kids schedule. He has the same access to the school webpage, extra curricular as I do plus the kids are now of age – if it was important to them, they would contact their father. They know from experience, even he if he knows, he never shows. And I refuse to initiate visitation – our agreement says reasonable access upon reasonable request. I’m not chasing him. I did it in our marriage and I’m over it. When I suggested weekends or times, he never responded so I was left with “ I don’t know when you are going to your dads”. DD is 19 now – she can negotiate her own relationship with her dad.

      Maybe I’m not at MEH yet – it’s only been 10 years. 🙂

      Him threatening legal action for custody still makes me livid and crasy and nuts only because I’m entering the teen years with my DS and I’m afraid DS will want to go live where there are no rules.

      I want my kids to have the best chance of success – that won’t come from living with fuckwit and his anti seat belt wearing, antivax pink cow.

      I’m counting down the days to DS graduation from HS. Once he’s off to uni, I will be able to relax – maybe.

      • I don’t know the laws where you live, but here the teenage child’s preference is only one factor taken into consideration in living arrangements. So, like, without a showing of abuse or neglect or some other obvious shitty thing, your kid may not be able to spend more time at his dads. I think most kids threaten their sane parent with this at one time or another. Of course they want to be at the “easier home.” It’s not personal, they’re selfish teens. They’re hard wired to be that way. My counter is “well, I don’t want you to leave, I love you and love having you here even when you’re a pain, but if you want out and can get a court to agree with you, more power to you. Let me know the court date and who your attorney is.” It would be a rare kid to call that bluff.

  • My kids are grown but this comes at a good time for me too. With the news that my brothers cancer has spread to his liver and lungs I was mourning the fact that ex is not around to lean on. I need to be grateful he is completely out of my life—no hoovering whatsoever he’s off living his sparkly( not so much) new life with Schmoopie. My sister actually suggested I call him and ask for some emotional support. I said hell no im not feeding the beast. Rock on all you sane parents I support you one million percent!

    • I’m sorry to hear about your brother, Newlady15. That must be a very hard burden to feel like you are carrying alone. Big hugs and keep holding strong! You’re right your ex would find a way to make the experience all about himself, and you’re much better off without him.

    • Good work recognizing that the EX was not the place to go for emotional support. I know the words of strangers aren’t really what you need right now, but please know that a lot of us wish we could be more helpful. Does your brother have friends that are also worried about him that you could talk with?

  • Thank you Chump Lady!

    I look forward to your next book. Currently parallel parenting with a fuckwit and his new “wife” appliance and dragging through the divorce process. I see these manipulative games all the time.

    Recently my son informed me that his father said that I don’t let him talk on the phone to his son. This is a lie. His calls are very random and usually not at the court designated time.

    Ugh 😑

    • Sounds like my story Divine. I have my fuckwit blocked from text/calls bc he uses those platforms for abusive behavior. Currently he only has email access and abuses that too, so now I’m having my lawyer write a letter than I will only coordinate through Talking Parents. My fuckwit blocked my phone number on my child’s device after he communicated to me once. Yup bringing that up as well to my lawyer and if doesn’t unblock (per our current Order) I will file for contempt. These losers are all the same.

    • Have an itemised phone bill and show your son how many times he calls. Keep these bills for future generations.

  • CL – if that’s true you are writing that 2nd book I can’t wait!! Will you do a book signing in Dc? Just sayin that would be awesome. I got 10 years already “co-parenting” with a fuckwit, less than 8 to go. Keep up phenomenal work!

  • I needed this today. I have to get all of this stuff out my head and on paper for documentation. Does anyone have any advice for dealing with a fuckwit whose an mediocre actor? The state can’t trace him because he bounces from set to set and is considered self-employed. The final divorce documents just states he will pay child support but doesn’t specify an amount. He’s supposed to also cover health insurance and half of medical expenses. He’s done nothing but sent expensive gifts.

    • Tired, talk to your lawyer and/or the state about tax returns. Based on past returns, you should be able to get a picture of how much money he makes. Also document all expenses for medical/health for which you have not been reimbursed. Get a lawyer to document and file it. Yes, it will cost you money, but then the state has an amount to go on and enforce. You may never actually see the money, but see if they can garnish his tax refunds.

      • Yes, that’s the way to go. He should get 1099s that list income from each source. Those amounts get added up for income purposes. You may need to go back to court to get a monthly order, based on the last 2 or 3 years of annual income. Then if he doesn’t pay, you report it and you can attach any tax refund. And the arrearages will add up.

        • If he’s not filing taxes and the state can’t find him, they may be able to presume he is at least capable of making minimum wage and calculate the support based on that. Definitely find a lawyer and see if you can get this changed in order to start the arrears building up. They can’t hold him accountable if there is no specific amount stated.

  • This makes me feel regret for the Dickhead’s first wife. They were married young, become pregnant with duaghter, and proceeded with divorce about 2 years later. She was about 2 months with their son when their divorce was final.

    I have absolutely no doubt that the fuckwit was the most fuckwitty dad before I came along. I heard a story that on his weekends, he would take the kids to parents and stay with them so he didn’t have to handle them alone. He was over $2000 behind in child support when we got together. I put it down to being young, and no steady employment. Yeah, I have no idea what I thought was right with this picture.

    We got married and I was the one that handled child stuff with the exwife. I think they both preferred it so they wouldn’t have to deal with each other. Things were OK for awhile. Once the Dickhead pursued physical custody, I told him I was done being the go-between. You want to pursue this – you be responsible for everything. They came to live with us in 2009. In some ways, it was good for kids. The daughter was hanging with the crowd that wanted to pursue drugs and alcohol. She was 14 and loved that group. The son is a quiet guy. The Dickhead got his son involved in wrestling in his freshman year and he was wrestling at the state competition by his senior year. And, the daughter graduated with a 3.7 GPA. However, she just never wanted to go to college.

    But, he was hell for his exwife. He said they tried to reconcile after the birth of their son but it didn’t work out. He had been divorced for over 3 years when we go together. He said they were not together when we met. I knew enough about relationships that I asked very pointed questions – are you involved with anyone?

    The Dickhead accused me, so many times, of being on her side. I had to constantly tell him that I was on the side of his children – what was best for them. That was always my main concern. His exwife has no idea the number of times I tried to stand up for her children only to be accused of being on her side.

    C, I’m sorry that you and I never got the chance to talk. I’m sorry that things went down the way they did. He painted a bad picture of you and as his wife, I tried to support him even when I knew he was wrong. There were times I tried to stop him – sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. Believeme, the best thing you did was divorce him and start a new life. I guarantee – your life is much better now than it ever would have been with him.

  • Jen……as soon as, and I mean the VERY minute, I stopped expecting my ex to do anything that resembled the “right” thing, I reached my happy place. As soon as I believed that he was unwilling/incapable of providing basic parenting to our daughters and common decency to me, I reached a calmer state of being. My daughters are 24 and 21 now and I still have some communication with the turd but how he reacts to me or interacts with my girls doesn’t surprise me anymore and quite honestly I no longer care. You will get there too.

    And I am happy to report that my daughters KNOW who the sane parent is and they figured that out all on their own.

    • I realized that everything he does is of some benefit to him. I stop, reflect and ask myself “what’s in it for him?”. That has helped me a lot. Reframing what he does makes so much more sense now.

      And if I can make sense of it, it’s easier to take.

  • My doctor once asked me “why aren’t you used to his games by now?”. I said to him “if you had a co-worker or neighbour who harassed you, and baited you, every chance they got how would YOU react?”. He said he would not do well with that. Yup.

    It’s drip, drip, drip like a tap. When my kids are with me he texts them non stop. They see nothing wrong with that. They feel sorry for him. He encourages the pity. He allows drug use, dropping out of school, sleeping all day. His plan now is to get the youngest declared disabled so I can continue to pay him support forever.

    • So why not tell kiddos to block XH while they are with you? Talk to them and decide on an hour each day when they can text Dad back and have conversation, so long as you get to talk to them if they are with him for that same amount of time.

    • My gym friend, after another of my rants of “can you believe “insert stupid shit my Ex did?”, replied calmly “yes. The only person who refuses to believe is you.” That literally ended my astonished rants – it was true – nothing surprises me. Be surprised by nothing.

  • I could have written this letter as well. It is just brutal, but 4 years in, my anger has mostly gone away with the occassional flare-up for when he is particularly bad to the kids. Two additional things that help: (1) my mantra whenever he is an ass (often) is “thank god I’m no longer married to him”. It’s just a reminder that whatever is happening now is better than the permanent crazy-land of living with him. (2) For hard issues, try to get outsiders/experts to weigh in. It’s pretty much guaranteed that if I suggest something, he will oppose it, no matter how reasonable. But if the school counselor says “your son really needs to do something this summer other than play video games”, my ex will want to impress and react.

    • Yup……being out of the constant craziness is much better. It’s not a case of it’s great, but it is BETTER. You are right.

  • What perfect timing!!!! I needed this today! I needed to be reminded that it’s him, not me. He tries to gaslight me in writing now (because he’s only allowed to communicate in writing, on an app), my point being that he still won’t stop. It’s easier to see through it now, especially because it’s in writing, and I’m getting better at how I deal with it. But, it’s messes with my head, as to how he believes what he is writing, he’s the poor victim, he’s innocent, I am a liar and manipulator etc. but when I see it written by CL that this behavior is a template for all these fucktards, it makes me relax and focus back on me. Thank you for the letter Jen, and thank you for the post CL.

  • Jen – you should do everything CL says – including recording when he calls – all you have to do is say “this call is being recorded” (for training purposes)! We had a an acronym in the military- ‘KIP’ keep it professional – deal with him like a lawyer –
    1. always put his calls on speaker phone – then he doesn’t know who’s listening – if possible 3-way his calls with your lawyer.
    2. Always talk DOWN to him – professionally – (like he’s a wayward child).
    3. If he isn’t making his payments then just ‘notify’ him if he’s not making his obligations than he can’t expect you to – plus he cannot have the children’s welfare in mind if he doesn’t want to pay!
    4. Remind him you’re talking to HIM – NOT to sugarclit ( they’re always listening in)!
    Remember – KIP- they can’t stand it when they’re NOT in control!

  • I am in the same boat. A boat that has no captain and no direction. It sucks. Knowing I am not alone serves a little bit of comfort. Knowing that I have six more years of this disfunction gives me a little bit more. Document is great, having the money to take him back to court with all this evidence is disheartening. However, bottom line…I don’t have to look at him every day. I don’t have to pretend to love and care for him every day. I don’t care if he drives to fast and endangers his life anymore…I actually encourage it now as long as my kids are not with him! Whore bag with him in his fiery crash all the better!! And no I don’t feel bad for those thoughts going through my head.

    One day, it will be over. I can and will always look in the mirror with my moral compass in tact. Each day there is meh, maybe not all day and every day but meh times gets longer and longer as I get closer to the finish line.

  • My god I need a secretary to keep track of all the emails and text messages I keep on our so called communication. He is constantly violating the agreement to suit his needs and to make his tramp feel worthy at the expense of our children. It’s exhausting to the point that you start thinking really, really bad things if you catch my drift!!!!! I am in year 4 of this shitstorm without any relief in sight. He would love for me to just say, “okay sure your girly can take our children to their activities rather than me, sure I don’t want any extra time with my kids when you can’t watch them yourself”, are you kidding me you narcissistic, psychopath. They are relentless and never tire of fighting. There needs to be judges in the family system and lawyers in the family system that are qualified to deal with narcissist.

  • Jen, I get it… the divorce is over, he’s with Schmoopie, it’s all over and done with so why can’t he do what he legally agreed to and pay child support and be a parent to his kid ??

    But remember that this is the same guy who cheated on you, probably stole family funds to do so and blew your family up for “twu luv”. Logically why would you expect anything different ?

    One of the hardest things to face after the divorce is the realization that your Ex was NEVER the good person that you thought they were and that they are a disordered POS and whatever low down thing they can try to make your life difficult with they will. Why… because they can and they are f****d in the head.

    There is absolutely no excuse to miss child support payments. Almost every employer will let him direct deposit the proper amount from his check into your account every time he gets paid. Any issues with that and he can tell the judge and will pay one way or another.

    Regarding his douchebaggery, there is nothing you can do there but go grey rock. The disordered live on drama and if you refuse to engage, “the eye of Sauron” will point at someone else and he will mostly leave you alone eventually.

    • “why can’t he do what he legally agreed to and pay child support and be a parent to his kid ??”

      Because it’s not all about him, and it’s money that he feels is “wasted” because it’s not catering to him and his needs.

  • So excited about the new book! I know it will be used by professionals throughout the country. Truly, the saddest part of it all is the way these disordered assholes manipulate their children. Some of these kids are so abused that they bond with the abuser. Sound familiar?

    There really is no co-parenting with these disordered folks in the true sense of the word. There is only parallel parenting and the hope that the child will eventually see the truth. Never be fooled by “good” behavior and never let your guard down. I know this statement seems extreme, but it is based on years of observation.

  • I came to a realization within 6-7 months post-separation that I will likely never have a co-parenting relationship with my ex. I realize that all those parenting conversations we had about how our parenting relationship would work after he left was just more of his nodding my head at me while his brain was tuned in elsewhere. He didn’t really care.

    As far as he is concerned, he takes the kids, feeds them, sometimes plays with them, watches lots of tv with them and returns them on time. And that’s enough for him as far as he is concerned. He never understood that parenting is more than that. That’s his base level. Pushing for anything more than that creates antagonism and re-creates the dynamic of the marriage (when I was always trying to get more from him and he accused me of just being controlling). I’m done with that.

    So, I’ve stopped informing him of what’s happening with the kids at school. If he cares, he can ask me or contact the school himself. I stopped letting him know how the ABA therapy for our son with autism is progressing. If he wanted to know, he would ask. I’ve stopped informing him about doctor’s and dentist appointments. I write things down in a calendar that goes between households that I know he never bothers to look at. I got the kids’ family counselling. I set up all their extra-curriculars and summer camps. I plan the birthday parties and get the gifts for the parties they attend. I even am the one who cuts the kids’ nails and arrange their haircuts (the kids once said that they didn’t think daddy had a nail cutter at his house). I take them to church.

    Basically, I continue to do the work that I did before, which he never acknowledged. I am parenting the way that I feel is most effective for our kids. He does what wants. So far my kids (8 and 10) seem to be fine with what goes on at Daddy’s. If they’re happy with things, then I am happy with the status quo. I’m pretty sure that won’t last. They’ll get old enough to realize that Daddy doesn’t really do anything with them and that he isn’t deeply engaged. That will be his issue to deal with.

    The amazing trade-off has been that it allows Grey Rock to go swimmingly. Minimizing the need to communicate provides him no more opportunity to be an ass to me. I’ll send him the occasional text and I know that I likely won’t get a response. If he didn’t weigh in on what I asked about, then I go ahead with what I think should be done. So far, he hasn’t called me out on a single thing, which reflected the level of his investment. I can’t care about that anymore.

    Jen – Listen to CL and start lowering your expectations really low. That will be helpful in writing him out of the rest of your life too. As long as he’s not neglecting or abusing the children, let him give what he wants to give. Document for sure. You be your spectacular self and an amazing mom. That stability will be enough for your kids.

  • The way i eventually learned to deal with fuckwit fueled anger is to tell myself each time he does something fuckwittious, “this is further validation that i did the right thing by leaving him!” Dont feel mad, feel VALIDATED!

    Last summer the fuckwit stood in my yard yelling at me in front of the kids that he would NOT help his children afford summer camp! His fat fuckwit gf stood behind him smirking at me all so superior ya know..and i thought, “you smirk at me? Youre the one feeling honored to sleep with a fucker who argues to NOT help his own kids! You think THAT is awesome? Youre proud of dating a deadbeat????”

    See, his behavior that day VALIDATED i did the right thing by divorcing him, and I, ME, i paid for their camp by myself and the kids knew it.

  • My ex fits the indifferent type. He doesn’t really care enough to fight or make waves. He left us and never looked back. Only thing that upset him was having to pay child support and he does pay.

    I was and am mad at his indifference, but I realize it’s better then the high conflict many of these spouses put chumps through. I also get to have most holidays and more time with my son then most.

    He has been dating a Kindergarten teacher and all of a sudden he is now coming to IEP meetings and teacher conference meetings. He made sure to let the teacher know his ideas on why son has so many problems with his hand writing, this way he looks super involved to them. I had to laugh though when the school psychologist introduced herself to him saying we haven’t met. (She has been heavily involved with my sons progress for a few years now)

    This type of fakery makes me mad. But that’s on me, I guess cause he is not actively trying to antagonize. And it’s actually a blessing in disguise as It means so do get to make decisions about my son with no argument and I do get lots of time with him.

    I can’t wait for meh. I’m starting to feel Like it might be something I have to actively work for instead of passively though?

    • Yeah – the ex has a new twu wuv now (#4 in the 3 years since d day) and she seems a decent sort. She is good to my boy and came along post divorce so I have zero issues with her. But the ex is all about the image management all of the sudden – putting on a father of the year act – showing up for IEP’s and even for a counselling appointment. At first it made me mad but then I was like – meh – what ever. Its not like he will keep it up long. And hey, what’s the worst case scenario if he did manage to change for her? My kid will get a dad that wasn’t such a dick? That’s kind of a win right? Because unfortunately my kid is stuck with him as a dad even if I am no longer stuck with him as a husband. But I’m not counting on that because – well – I trust that he sucks. This is some extra sparkle poured over the turd to attract a new chump.
      What ever – its Tuesday right?

      • I just realized I sound waaaaay to together in this post – I am totally zen on the image management he does – but I feel compelled to point out in the interest of honesty I still 100% lose my ever lovin mind when he does stupid crap like let our kid watch TV-MA rated shows that give him nightmares for months because “he’s almost a teen ager now you cant baby him for ever. ” No – asshat I can’t – that became obvious 3 years ago when you blew up his family and I had to explain why he cant get married and still have girlfriends like daddy when he grows up. However – I can and you SHOULD keep him from watching stuff that makes him so upset he is unable to sleep for months on end – duh. See I only take short day trips to Meh – I have not made it my permanent residence yet no matter how I try.

        • Impression management – it’s too much work. My ex’s threats and demands for more visitation all stem from pink cow 2.0. I think this third marriage will fall apart at some time and he will fade into black again.

      • I recall being puzzled by a letter that Jackass’s XW2 sent him, saying that his sudden interest in their Kiddo must be because he’s in a relationship, “like it was before when [he] was seeing Former Girl Friend.”

        That was a red flag waving. Now it all makes sense. I pushed him and asked questions and so he pretended to give a shit about what Kiddo was doing. But not so far as to actually show up for Wednesday night visitation.

  • When is “Co-Parenting with a Fuckwit” coming out? I’ve learned so much about how to be the sane parent from this site!

    The part that makes me laugh (bitterly) about today’s post, however, is “Lower your expectations.” I thought mine were low. And I’ve repeatedly lowered them. And he still finds ways not to sneak under them but to excavate new depths of depravity below them.

    • I’m pitching it to my agent, and if they don’t shop it, fuck, I’ll publish it myself. But I hope it doesn’t come to that, because LACGAL has done quite well.

  • Last night I had an hourlong texting back-and-forth with OBS about exactly this topic. We’re both a couple years out but have intermittent recurring flashes of anger. As I said to OBS: I am not an angry person. I had never been truly angry in my entire life before all this happened, and now I am only angry at two people in the whole world (XW and AP-cum-husband) – which shows that it’s not ME, it’s THEM.

    I find it frustrating that they want everyone to be friends, but they chose the must hurtful exit strategy from their marriages. An amicable divorce is hard enough to pull off under the best conditions, but surely it’s obvious that layering deceit and adultery on top is going to make it SO MUCH less likely. She chose this particular way to escape our marriage, yet it’s MY fault that I can’t like, respect and trust her afterwards? It’s not a coincidence that their two betrayed spouses have exactly same attitude towards them (basically, why can’t you leave me alone!)

    • THIS, exactly this. You’ve said it all, IG.

      Why do they expect to be friends, or even friendly?! Then are aghast that you want as little to do with them as possible. My cheater keeps telling me how good he was to me, except for the affair. And he looked absolutely shocked when I said “you’re not my friend” in response to his crazy statement that he has always been my friend even when he was having his months long affair.

      My STBX says it’s all on me that I can’t trust him, because he is really a trustworthy person, except for the affair. Whaaaaat???

      Everything is always: “except for the affair.”

      Their thought processes are insane!

      Anger is a healthy response to dealing with these crazed notions of how awesome they the no they are.

    • mine and my adult children pulled that too. I told him he’d never been my friend IN the marriage, I sure wasnt trying to be his friend after a divorce. I told my kids to just forget it. I wasnt being friends with people who deliberately trashed my entire life, lied, cheated, destroyed my relationship with my kids, my reputation, ect thru a smear campaign from hell. that’s no friendship I will ever be interested in.

  • Tracy, if you need any material for your new book I have emails and texts from my ex that are unbelievable. Example, “We’ve decided (him and his live in GF at the time) to not have the boys over anymore because they get pee on the toilet seat.” They were 6 & 7 years old at the time. He didn’t see them for a year after that and he lived down the street.
    And that’s nothing compared to what he did this last Halloween. I love my babies but I will be so glad when I no longer have to co parent with this monster.

    • A book that is a collection of ridiculous emails from cheaters to their AP. I’ve got a binder full of dribble printed off the secret email account.

      Who knew that a normally quiet, logical, mid-40s accountant had such a great belief in the cosmos and our fates being written in the stars, not to mention visits to psychics with the new-agey OW?

      Wonder what the stars have to say about the future of their relationship?

      • Funny – I don’t think my Cheater believes in psychic abilities but sure pretended to when AP went on about how she was psychic. That was one reason Cheater didn’t want to break up with her after telling me: “she thinks we’ll be together for a while”! [eyeroll] I have a text dump from their correspondence, too, but nobody in their right mind would want to read that drivel. Especially chumps. The only reason I read it was that I wanted honest answers, and it was like swimming in poison. There are some gems though, for sure. I hope I can find them funnier when I get to Meh…on Tuesday.

      • Also, cheater hoovering emails and texts to chumps could be included. Mine wrote hilariously fraudulent notes full of crazy promises. That would be a funny book. We could all contribute from our collections and share the cost of self-publishing it.

        Twu Wuv Wetters, by C. H. Ump. It’s worth thinking about.

  • This is just what I needed to read right now. ex (most likely narc) left last sept to move in with howorker who ‘who is just a friend’ (dont even go there!) This blog has been a life saver. Thank you Chump Lady and thank you to all the chumps sharing their experiences to learn from.

    EX has been manipulative, isolated me, threatened me with poscessions and the house, constantly trying to start ‘drama’ as I call it. I start to expect the next drama once its been quiet for a week or two. He must get bored! The worst is trying to control my freetime by refusing to have the kids if I dont bend to his every whim, turn it around on me and claim I wont let him see his kids etc etc.

    I started the grey rock technique around christmas and except for a few slip ups, things are much better and I am much happier. Also no contact unless its about the kids. Imagining ego kibbles has really helpsed me to keep my focus and motivtion not to react to his drivel messages that make no sense, just waffling on a ton of excuse after excuse as to why he cants do this, that or the other. I didnt want his life story, only asked to clarify when and what time next tuesday he was having the kids!!

    Next step is letting him have the kids around howorker, as he keeps asking. I said its ok now, only if he explains the situation (the truth) suitably to our 6 year old who goes to special school. The one year old doesnt undertsand so thats not a problem. I dont want him confusing my autistic boy with lies who has struggled already with enough changes in the last 18 months (grnadmother died, baby brother born and ex left).

    Id like to say I hope he would do what is best for my eldest, but he has shown how selfish and spitefull he can be, even at our chidrens expense so I wount hold my breath

    • Why is it okay that young, impressionable kids be exposed to the manipulations of a homewrecker? She’ll compete with you for their affection just like she did with him, and they are too young to see what she’ll be up to. I’d tell him no way in hell are they seeing her until they are old enough to understand what the word whore means.

      • To be honest, there is no competition to be had. I dont want my ex ever back (and Ive made it clear to them both) and Im not worried about her trying to gain my childrens affection. My boys love me and we have a great relationship, even when their dad tries to overcompensate by showering them in gifts. If her actions did upset my boys though I would stop her contact.

        I have a feeling they wont last long though as Im sure he will start to show was a lazy, manipulative slob he is very soon.

  • This is a good post for me today since my Xhole just texted to ask if he could visit his “family” tonight. Cheater scum use the kids and play the”family” card as a way to get to you. He wants me to participate in his charade that we are still a family. I thank my lucky stars my daughter is an adult and does not have to see him. She won’t give him the time of day. This is the narcopath who said “I cheated to be happy and complete. I did not care if it made you unhappy”. That would be in reference to me becoming suicidally depressed over the way he treated me, my daughter having to be the one to deal with it because he wouldn’t, and he still thinks we’re family? I told him he is not anybody’s family or anybody’s friend. He is a shark in a human suit and we will not play his game. He backed off. I agree to let him come walk the dog because the dog actually still loves him and I could use a break from that duty. Then he will leave after getting nothing but flat, grey rock from me. “Hello. Give her a good, long walk. Goodbye.” I also use the idiot to fix things, which I show no gratitude for. I act entitled, just as he did about all the things I did for him. Turnabout is fair play and all that.

    I feel for chumps who have minor children and are forced to deal with the scum and their games. My question would be; why stop hating them? It’s not natural to feel anything but hate for people who behave this way. You can hate him and still not let him get a rise out of you. In fact, do it ~because~ you hate him and know it drives him crazy that he can’t control your emotions.

    • Yeah I let ex walk the dog sometimes too. I generally don’t like to let him do favors for me anymore, but I figure in this case I am doing him a favor since he misses the dog (and as much as it bothers me the dog misses him too).

      • I hear ya. It sucks that the dog misses him, but I wouldn’t feel right in denying the dog the attention and affection. She is always so happy to see him.

    • You can point out to your ex that Hitler was also an artist, vegetarian and animal lover except for when he and his ilk were out destroying, torturing and committing genocide of millions.

      Of course they want to stay friends! They want kibbles and somebody still circling around them, they need you for the image management and being friends minimises sordidness of their affairs.

      • X-hole is also a vegetarian. Perhaps I’ll call him Adolph from now on. I like it!

        Yeah, they want kibbles. Adolph often says he “misses his family”. My response is always some variation of; “You were planning to leave us for the alcoholic, serial cheating slag you were neglecting us to spend your time and attention on, but now that YOU’RE the one who got dumped, you suddenly miss us? ” Then I laugh derisively.
        I’m pretty sure that doesn’t provide the tasty tidbits he’s looking for.

  • Ughh. The first thing I learned is to NEVER ask for child support. he is not paying you. He is paying a state requirement that ends up going to you. If he is late again, your lawyer can include in his next letter that since there have been late payments already, the next late payment will force him to have to set up payment through the State portal from now on instead of directly to you. If you don’t do this, this is only going to get worse. I have a friend who more than three years out now is constantly asking ex to pay. I have told her what I said here and she just doesn’t listen. But she also has dinner with him and the kids sometimes to be nice so he will keep paying——-

    • In my state it is required to go through the department of family services. There is no choice no matter how well you get along, I think this is a good way to do it.

  • I apologize because I haven’t read all of the comments like I always do before replying, but this subject, in my opinion is one of the best pieces of advice for any chump.

    I came to this site about a year or so after filing for divorce and moving out a year previously with my two sons ages 9 and 11. Chump Lady constantly repeated to be the sane parent, be the sane parent, BE THE SANE PARENT!!!

    As I read what was required I kept thinking how am I going to do this dealing with my ex? He’s bat shit crazy and constantly trying to disrupt everything in both the boys’ lives as well as my own…

    I’m here to tell you that it can be done – that being the SANE PARENT has its own sweet rewards. Rewards for you and your kids. My boys are 20 and 17 now. The older one really has nothing to do with his dad. His dad was not there when he needed him and always fell short on his promises. The younger one will be emancipated this summer at age 18, and he won’t even spend required weekends with his dad anymore.

    The sane parent was here to keep things constant for them. That’s the key. The sane parent was here to help with school projects, CYO sports, job applications and resumes, college apps, college visits, high school dances, the sex talk, “girl” problems, advice, guidance and constant love. HARD as it is, you will be rewarded ten fold.

    The boys have also learned what type of behavior they want emulate. How they want to treat people and how not to be treated. They’re more responsible I believe because of all the things their dad didn’t do.

    Co-parenting with a dickhead is extremely hard, but I speak from experience, the love and respect you get from your children makes it all worth while.

    • Great post, Margo!!!!

      Thank u for repeating the “same parent” mantra.

      My twins are 12 and I’m really hoping it pays off in 6 years!
      XO

  • Co-Parenting just won’t work with these Narcs. Mine wouldn’t agree to a school for Kindergarten and we had to go to Mediation about it. He told the mediator how he is such a victim and Daddy of the Year that he stopped going to our daughters activities because “She (ME) makes it so Damn awkward because She won’t acknowledge me” Oh poor baby.. You don’t like grey Rock. This made me laugh inside. Mediator looked at me though like I was nuts and said to me when we were alone “You don’t talk to him at all ” I replied NOPE! OH and he also whined to her that I didn’t wish him a Merry Christmas.

    After all the things he’s called me, done to me and continues to do why would I want to talk to him. Anyways, its just his excuse to not have to attend our daughters activities. You know he still wants to be Daddy of the Year and by not coming then he’s being a good daddy and keeping the tension away from our daughter.

    Whatever makes him feel good inside. I know I thoroughly enjoy not having to see him at her activities. And she no longer asks me if he’s coming or not. She’s learned.

    • Mine refused to let me register our youngest for kindergarten using the address of our marital home – because she wanted him to go to the school near her rental house (1 mile away) as it would be more convenient for her. She finally agreed that I could register him, but ONLY if she could put a provision in the divorce decree that if she ever had trouble getting him to school that I would have to drive over to her house, pick him up, and take him myself. (For context: I had been taking all kids to school for 15 years. This was the first time she ever expressed any desire to be involved in the process).

  • I still have a lot of anger, but the fact that my ex lives on the other side of the country with schmoopie makes things SO much easier. He flies in every 3 months or so and plays Disneyland Dad for a day and then is gone again. He seldom calls or texts, and I think my youngest (age 12) sees his dad as a nice guy that stops by for the occasional video game and then poof! He once described him as “just a person” that came and then left…

    So…. if you can create physical distance then do
    it! And if that’s not an option, then go grey rock all the way. Out of sight out of mind as much as humanly possible! It’s one way to meh.

  • My favorite is #4-don’t take the bait. I grew up with a bullying narc brother who, as my mother used to said, loved “to get the action going”, provoking family members to get a response. Thanks to this site I learned the idea of gray rock/”cool, bummer, wow”/the power of disengagement. Works in all kinds of situations.

    When my father’s third wife sends out a goading email because she’s his flying monkey and has been working for decades to heal his relationship with his kids ? Crickets on my end. The punks on the subway doing their dance routine after they jumped the turnstile/rode for free while the rest of us pay for crappy service and then have the audacity to verbally abuse me when I choose to ignore them and not give them money ? Ignore, ignore,ignore-it’s not “fucking dissociation” like one of them yelled in my face.

    The news here in the States shows how #5 works. Looks like scumbag R. Kelly is going down for owing a lot of child support and maybe for being a pedophile/coercive controller and abuser.

    • Watching R. Kelly have a massive hissy fit/mantrum during his interview with Gayle King on CBS Morning News was classic DARVO-deny, attack reverse victim and offender.

  • Almost on plantet meh but every so often fuckwit lobs one at me and I feel my blood boil 3 yrs post divorce. I have to be kind and gentle with myself in my own post fucktard recovery. In the middle of it all my therapist got me that he was behaving like the fuckhead I already knew him to be, so why the hell was I surprised ? So I lowered my expectations- in fact I started expecting the shit sandwiches so I eventually just started feeling mighty. And Meh. And SANE. You cant make the shit they do up! The kids were teens and he was “Mr no boundaries party parent” oh it sucked so much. But recently, my daughter now 20 said she has come to realize what a complete dysfunctional narcissist her father is. And my sons also young adults said “we wish we had a father who is a role model and a mentor”. They don’t. But they have a momma who is a ROCK and they know it. We all get there in our own way and time. I am approaching meh but I have to face fuckwit and hobag at my son’s college graduation? Gonna focus on my mightiness and not on their hoeyness!! Oh did I mention I have not even met the ho before! Meh don’t care to now. Who is that idiot she is with I kinda recognize him…? Meh

  • I disagree about the 18 as a cut off age, because in some cases the kids need to stay with a Parent . In my case as with many of you the X was disrespectful in from of the kids, when it is older kids they might follow that pattern or mimic the Narcissistic traits of the cheating ex and their entitlement attitude. believing it is Ok to treat a Parent as the Bad actor Parent is. Sadly it can become a vicious cycle and unless the kids work at it and remove themselves from it …..and the caustic behaviors it can become who they are , or act. Despite whether they agreed or disagreed with the cheating .

  • I really like CL’s second recommendation. Lowering expectations has helped me a great deal. In reading about narcs I kept coming across the idea that they’re emotionally comparable to “toddlers” or “2 year olds.”

    I’m not at meh yet but recognizing this does make a difference: a toddler thinks he’s the center of the universe and believes he deserves all the toys he wants when he wants them. Your rights, needs, and feelings don’t enter into his thought process – he’s too immature to be able to care much about any of that.

    So I don’t expect grown-up behavior. I expect him to act like he’s 2. And wow – he does most of the time!

  • Jen,
    Please get an excellent guardian ad litem if you can. They will reduce contact with your ex and hold him accountable for stalling on child support and also hold him accountable for any other things they see him doing that are not in the best interests of your child. They can be like guardian angels when in these tough situations.

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