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Dear Chump Lady, Do I tell the kids about the cheating?

Dear Chump Lady,

I have been married for almost 17 years, together for 21 years. The first time I caught him cheating it was all online, but included phone sex, cam sex, and lost of graphic instant messaging back and forth — with a woman we both know! The next time I caught him it was from cell phone records that showed lots of long calls to a number I didn’t know, and when I asked, I got the big old “JUST WHAT ARE YOU ACCUSING ME OF? IT’S JUST A FRIEND!” Big overreaction to one question about the phone calls.

He was talking to a ho-worker, they would meet at the bar after work sometimes, exchanged pics of their naked crotches, BUT he never had sex with her. The third and fourth time were a different ho-worker. Thanks to a keylogger on our home computer, I know they have done everything, but actually have penetrating sex and that’s only because they couldn’t find an available bed to do it in. When I caught him the third time (good Lord, now many times do I catch him and yet he still thinks he’ll get away with it??), he claimed to end the affair and we went to marriage counseling for a year.

I’m sure no one sees this coming, (no pun intended), but the affair “ended” for a whole three months, then he was back chasing her. And now they are just as hot and heavy as ever. He blamed the first time on our marital problems. He blames our work schedules, my lack of sex drive… Oh, did I mention that he has had a several hour a day, every day, online porn habit? Which of course leaves him free of any blame or responsiblity for what he’s done. Isn’t that nice?

He is a huge ol cake eater. I think he’d be happy to live this way forever. I’m not. I’m torn up, exhausted, half batshit crazy and the only reason I know the truth is from the keylogger I put on our home computer. I’m just heartbroken that the one person in the world that I have loved for over half my life and trusted with my heart has treated me with such indifference. He’ll say what he thinks I want to hear, then do whatever makes him happy.

I’m getting my ducks in a row, have consulted a lawyer, and now my main question is this — What do I tell our two kids, 10 and 13 years old. Should they know about the cheating, or just that we are seperating?

It hurts so damn bad, but my choices seem to be to accept having an unfaithful husband or divorce. Both choices suck.

Angie

Dear Angie,

Your choices don’t suck as bad as you think they do. Yes, divorce is painful and expensive — but it’s also the gateway to a MUCH BETTER LIFE without this asshole in it. You’ve been living the nightmare already, divorce is just the passage out of the nightmare. Your choice isn’t between one sucky life and another sucky life — (although yes it feels that way some times) — your choice is really between living the crazy, chaotic, pain-filled life or living in peace.

Start thinking of divorce as passage to a safe harbor, and it will be easier to talk your children.

They WILL adapt, and it will be painful for them too at first. You are the adult though and you must set the vision, the big picture that they cannot see yet — I’m doing this because I love you. Because I cannot let you grow up in a home where dysfunction and disrespect are being modeled. Where your mother’s health and sanity are threatened daily. You send them the message always that you love them and you are going to be there for them.

Kids need is one sane parent — you’re it.

As for how much of the cheating to tell them about? At their ages, they may already know or have suspected. My son was 9 when it happened to me, so he got the rated-G version. I told him: when you get married, you promise not to have any boyfriends or girlfriends that aren’t your spouse. You’re each other’s special person, that’s what being faithful is. (Fuckwit) cheated, and lied, and I’m going to be really sad and upset for awhile, but you’ll be okay. I’ll be okay. We’ll figure this out.

Then as much as I could, I assured him that his life wouldn’t change in the day-to-day (although ultimately it did, we moved, but he still was at the same school). Kids don’t see the big picture so well, they worry about who will take care of them — how will this affect me? Will I lose my friends? Will my mom or dad be sad forever?

People disagree with whether or not to tell children about infidelity. My opinion is that it’s not okay to gaslight children, even with the best of intentions. I believe you should tell them in age-appropriate ways, without editorializing (“Mom cheated” not “Mom is a whore.”)

(I have a whole section on this issue in my book, if you want further reading.)

I think it is important that children realize that there are deal breakers in life, monumental fuck ups that lead to consequences like divorce. And that it is okay to have deal breakers and enforce boundaries, even though it is very painful. These are essential life lessons, and if you can do your best to navigate this shit with grace, you are doing your kids a real service.

I believe that knowledge about what happened (not all the gory details, but the basic why) is better than letting them live with the nebulous sense that “people fall out of love.” Like it’s a scary cloud that just descends upon your life willy nilly. No, people DO things that allow themselves to fall out of love with each other (they cheat). And we don’t get to control other people (I cannot not make him cheat) — we only control our reactions (I can divorce).

Chumps have zero obligation to protect the image of the cheater. There is a difference between disparagement and refusing to lie for someone. Cheaters always want chumps to believe what they’ve done is No Big Deal, and why aren’t you over it yet? So it’s always so curious why then that NO ONE MUST KNOW about this little, minimal thing they may have done, that you shouldn’t feel so upset about?

Of course, you should always talk to your lawyer about disclosure. (Disclosure: I am not a lawyer, I am a chump.) It’s unfair, but being accused of alienation is a real thing. Judges want to see that you have the best interests of the kids at heart, and could see the truth as slopping your grief all over them, or an attempt to turn kids against their other parent. Every situation is different, but I would assert the harm that non-disclosure does. Who is the affair partner suddenly in their life? (Or was there before, and they held on to the secret?)

I’d express that you’re trying to balance being honest, while respecting that they have a relationship of their own with the other parent. Anything that presents you as fair-minded and considerate, versus batshit and vengeful. (I know, having to explain is utterly unfair, because you have every right to be out of your mind with grief.)

If you can afford it too, I’d get the kids some counseling too. I think it’s a hard sell from a cheater to a child that oh, they still love their kids. After all, they broke up their home to get side-dish fucks — not very loving stuff. It’s a lot for a child to wrap their mind around. Hell, it’s a lot for us to wrap our minds around.

In the end, they’ll be okay — they’ve got you — a sane, loving parent. Better days ahead. Sail toward that safe harbor.

This column ran in 2013. I’ve updated a bit, and thought it was time, after yesterday’s epic side thread on disclosure. What’s been your experience telling and not telling? Did you have an age-appropriate script you could share?

Ask Chump Lady

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  • yes yes yes. I said something similar in response to a comment posted yesterday and wholeheartedly agree that it’s OK to say something age appropriate. Otherwise it’s an even more confusing bag of lies on top of the heartache.

    They will really go at you though with the ‘you shouldn’t try to turn them against me/it’s not OK to bring that stuff up the kids’ malarkey though, be warned. Don’t listen, it’s the same old image management. I can see now that mid way during affair with OW I got told he still loved me and this was only because my daughter knew I was upset and overhead and he ‘didn’t want her to be seen at the bad one’. He didn’t give a rats arse. Don’t be as cowardly as they are when it comes to the truth.

    • I have enjoyed pointing out, every single chance I get, that HE brought the trash inside the house, not me. That crap gets shut down immediatamente.

      A long while ago, he was upset at me because “our daughter found out what was going on from all those books you brought home.” (Amazon Chump, check! And I kept the books in the trunk of my car).

      I reminded him that not only had HE was the reason the books were bought, but I bought BOOKS instead of a GUN, and a lot of people
      who were cheated on buy GUNS instead of BOOKS and USE them on the CHEATERS, and that it happens a lot in these situations if you check the news with any regularity.

      Blameshifting unleashes the lion in me. Blameshifter beware. ????

    • I know this isn’t the point of today’s column, but if LW thinks he never actually had sex with any of these women he was exchanging pictures with who are in close proximity…..he must be one helluva convincing man.

      • I never knew that you had to have a bed at your disposal in order to have ‘penetration’ sex……..

      • If you don’t tell children the truth you risk them one day finding out another way, then they might feel you’ve both not been honest. My x was desperate for me not to tell the kids the truth (1 late teens, 1 early 20s) and did everything possible to sabotage my telling them, but I was adamant they’d hear it from us and not from someone else. Or worse still, when sorting out my papers in the future when I’ve gone and am not around to answer questions. I wanted to be sure I could support them through it.
        After I’d told them and answered all their questions (in front of him) he said ‘did you have to paint such a black picture’. Like I’d made it up! I said ‘if you didn’t want me to paint such a black picture you should have given me a different colour paint to work with’. I don’t think I’ll ever truly come to terms with how these strange people think!
        I think children of any age deserve to know (age appropriately). They have a right to know their lives are real too, and have the opportunity to rebuild their relationships based on the truth. I worried that if they found out at a later date, they too would feel like their lives were based on lies and I wasn’t willing to be responsible for that.

  • You have to in a appropriate way explain why you as parents split up, explain if you loved someone you wouldn’t cheat on them, the cheater is probably abusing you in other ways, emotional, financial. Or your health. Your and children’s lives matter and go on. The problem with”forgiving” a cheater, is that your children will see you leading by example, there’s nothing wrong in being a single parent, better than living a lie. Its your choice if you want to live with your partner. Personally I don’t think children ever get over, the parent that cheated, they deal with it, in their own way.
    I never got the truth from my ex, we split up 6 years ago,
    My oldest realised what he’s like,
    My youngest said “you and dad are completely different” there’s a cliche “out of the mouth of babes”, meaning children speak the truth.
    You then have to deal with the ow. That’s another story…

  • This is a great one to use as a Re-run !!!

    I was put under a lot of pressure to go with the “we just grew apart “ narrative, since he is clergy.

    He even got up in the pulpit and did a sermon about it ( talk about image management)! I walked out half way through and never came back.

    My 14 year old daughter knows the whole thing ( I got the speech during her birthday sleepover ), but my little guy was only 9 and I screwed up.

    He blamed himself for a long time. Daddy is a dangerous Narc ( told me that he and MOW decided to pray that I would die of cancer …or maybe just needed to die ). I was afraid for my kids and after many threats just shut up ????

    If I could go back in time I think I would have done things differently.

    • My is clergy as well. As am I. He didn’t preach about it. But he sure tried to get ahead of the truth. And my colleagues wouldn’t touch me with a ten foot pole (even in my liberal denomination they all rush to Switzerland but actually work to protect him and isolate you.) A very hard and lonely time.

      • I’m so sorry. I’m not religious but had pretty much the same experience. I feel like people will give you their sympathies but if you talk about it more than once they’ll flee like you have the plague.

        No one wants to be around the “downer” I guess.

    • I told my kids that their father had a girlfriend. He denied it to them, said I was delusional, and she was just a friend. They chose to believe him. So even if you do tell you can’t predict the fall out. But I agree with CL, it is best to be honest about why the marriage failed. Without the gory details.

      • The kids are really just chumps themselves. They got cheated on too and now they are being lied to by the same person who lied to you. They will either figure it out someday or they won’t. you did what you could. You told them the truth, but you can’t make them believe it just as some chumps refuse to believe it when they are told what their cheaters have been up to. You did the right thing but the rest of it is out of your control.

      • We both sat our kids down to tell them why we were divorcing. I told them mom has a boyfriend. The kids needed to know why dad was being tossed out and her “friend” & his 4 boys were moving in. I mean that shit has to be confusing. I feel like they chose to believe her for the most part, because hey we have 4 new brothers. And I think the mother child bond plays apart even though I was the primary caretaker. I had to be honest with them because I don’t want my kids growing up lying & cheating.

      • I told my daughter and stepdaughter, ‘Dad has a girlfriend at work, and I can’t fix that.’

        It hurt terribly but it sums it up, doesn’t it? They tried it. Tried to lie but a full term baby popped out eight months later and kind of killed that narrative.

        That’s the essence of it, you didn’t cause it, can’t control someone else’s feelings or behavior, and can only move forward as best we can.

        I’ll eat the shit sandwich, but I won’t let the person who made it for me walk away pretending they don’t have shit and blood on their hands.

    • “told me that he and MOW decided to pray that I would die of cancer …or maybe just needed to die ”

      W. T. F? That’s sick. I don’t really believe in karma, but sometimes I really REALLY want to believe!

  • I told my then 10 year old that daddy wants a girlfriend and its not ok for him to have a wife and a girlfriend. Its not ok for him to drag you (my son) along while he goes to stay over at her house and sleep in her bed.
    But, according to a counselor, I alienated the father…even if it was unintentional. That worked against me in a social study BC the conducting social worker said I did it maliciously and was manipulative, and recommended 50/50 (from 4 nights/month). I had to inset tile BC my pos lawyer said he’d win, and I spent 3 years battling the depression from it. It wasn’t worth telling him bc some outside entity put a value judgment on me and created a completely false narrative of intentions. I have a 19 page complaint waiting in to be picked up by the state department so they can investigate her.

    • Oh god, talk about go through that and then use things against you. That is just horrendous and so low. There is one thing actually saying what happened and another talking trash and it just sums up societies view that it’s better if we put up and shut up. I was on the fence about the Talia post yesterday but things like make me think yeah need to say it loud and proud, the only reason it’s so frowned upon is because the truth will out a lot of people who would rather shy away from it.

      Sorry you had that shit sandwich on top of the infidelity. Nasty they are capable of going so low.

    • I am so sorry you have have had this added layer of pain to go through. It’s not fair. It’s not.

      It seems we are living in a time where the truth is penalized and bad behavior is rewarded.

      ALL is image management. I think it is now more of a cultural crime to use words than perform an action. Sure someone can behave horribly and have an affair but he/she can grow amd be a better person. #happiness
      But if you tell the truth of the story, not even maliciously just the facts, you are maligned.

    • While I didn’t go through the hell that you did, I got the same advice not to tell from my lawyer and counselor. Lawyer said it would be alienation for me to tell my kids the truth. He agreed it isn’t fair (to my kids, not just me) but that if our case went to trial it would look bad for me to have told my kids. A few years later I told one of my sons when he asked me point blank why his mom and I got divorced. I didn’t editorialize, kept it pretty simple (he was 15 at the time) and he was still deviated. However, since then I feel that my relationship with both my kids is much better. I think it helped them to know the truth (who knows what she’s told them). Of course more time has passed and they are older so that’s helped too.

      • Maybe that’s the way around the whole alienation thing. Wait until the divorce is final and the separation/custody agreements are all in place and then spill the beans to the kids in a non editorializing and factual way. Some cheaters might still try and go after you out of spite but it is probably more difficult at that point and even that might be seen as disruptive to and not in the best interest of the kids. I know in our state the courts refuse to revisit things like custody and placement until at least two years after the divorce is final. They see it as a settling in period. Only child support can be revisited and only based on changes to income and/or children aging out.

        • This is a good point. I stonewalled my kids for a long time with the “grown-up problems” comment. Our legal agreement was probably in place already, and we didn’t go to court, thankfully. I wouldn’t advise anyone fighting a contentious divorce to say anything that could be perceived as alienation. Once the divorce is over and the dust is settled, though, the kids are owed an age-appropriate truth.

        • Chump-recovery – what state are you in.
          I’ll be sure never to land my ass there.
          That shit is just not fair.

  • CL is absolutely correct that children of any age know more than you think they do. Often it is a relief to find out that the tension they sense isn’t their fault.

    I second the suggestion of therapy for children. Play therapy for young children and talk therapy for older ones. Sometimes it’s helpful for siblings to start therapy together. Going together can make starting therapy less as scary and sometimes hearing a sibling verbalize what another has been feeling is reassuring. Creates a sense of togetherness for them. But only you know what’s best for your kids.

    I’ve said this before so forgive the repetition:
    My children were 17 and above. While we were all shocked to learn about an affair (especially from Mr. Good Guy With Morals), the truth helped to make sense of a lot of what was going on at home. I absolutely told them the whole truth. As I found out the many, many details, they were told. When the depositions were complete, I simply gave them the depositions to read. The facts spoke for themselves. The pain in mine and the arrogance in his came thru loud and clear with no editorializing from me. No risk of defamation or alienation from reading official court documents.

    Everyone has to do what they feel is right for their own situation. I wanted to make sure my kids understood that affairs are unacceptable and so much pain can be avoided with honesty and accountability. I also needed their support. Many years later they fully understand why I chose to share and they support me 100%.

    Don’t be afraid of age-appropriate truth. In my opinion, it prepares them for the real world and helps the healing.

  • When I threw down the gauntlet and said the marriage was over, we had another couples counseling session scheduled for a few nights later. I suggested we work with the counselor to come up with the best way to break the news to our daughters (13 and 12 at the time). Kunty Kibbler agreed.

    The following night, while I was away from the house, KK told them by herself.

    When I got home, I spoke to them privately and said:

    “Your mother has decided that she wants to lead a certain kind of life, and she cannot live that life and still be married to me. This has nothing to do with you girls — it’s about honesty, and when a married person does certain things in secret and then constantly lies about it when they’re found out, that’s called disrespect, and you can’t be married to someone who doesn’t respect you. This means there are going to be changes, and we don’t know yet what those changes are or when they’ll happen. The most important thing to remember is to tell one of us when you need to talk, or cry, or ask questions, or anything you need us to do to help get through this.”

    • Postscript: When KK protested that I didn’t tow her “we just want different things” line, I said: “No fucking way. I’m not going to bullshit my kids. I don’t want them thinking it was a simple matter of ‘I wanted Chinese take-out for dinner, your mother wanted Italian — we wanted different things, so we had to get divorced.”

  • My 4-year old got told (by STBX? by the kindergarten?) that “daddy and mummy are separated because they disagreed”.
    I beg your pardon?? Is someone trying to exonerate MasterCheater? To teach that “disagreements” (read: “devaluating incriminations”) are to be avoided (read: “gaslighted away”) instead of talked about and dealt with?

    My head exploded. I replied camly: “Daddy and mummy separated because daddy wanted to have another sweetheart”. It’s tough, it’s bad, but at least it’s the truth.

  • My exhole went full BDSM DDLG SWINGERS. Since I wouldn’t be submissive to his orders I decided to sit my children down and youngest age 12 and spew the TRUTH. I was not being forced to live a lifestyle that was not for me so so we are outta here!

    • OK I had to Google that. DDLG.In years of reading fanfiction, I have never come across this term, and I thought I had seen them all. I am sufficiently grossed out now.

    • I had to Google ddlg also. Nasty. And I thought my cheating husbands affairs were bad and he also would beg me to find another man that he could watch me have sex with… no way, wasn’t going there. So I guess all cheaters are #@$×%! Up! I literally hate my husband.

      • My young adult daughters were well aware of my stupid limp dick husbands behaviour from early in the piece. They never had to meet Pond scum because she was only around for 3 months. My girls think he is a fool. They have no respect for him. Once this had happened I adopted a policy of disclosure. There are no secrets. If you asked; I explained.

    • Yup. Just googled DD/LG. Feeling ill. Not willing to post the definition.

      • *shyly* Point of order. DDLG is not the same as ageplay (vomit). The scene proper largely imagines a romantic relationship where a male partner is actually nurturing, protecting, and cherishing. What I love best is that a partner truly delights in the buoyant, sweet vivacity that is my core. It delights me too that that person really wasn’t killed under the avalanche of bills and jobs and responsibilities and pain.

        Occasionally I stumble across an ageplay meme. Oh my God. I sit there in horror; not sure whether to throw up or call Chris Hansen. Or both. People who like to ‘play’ at being predators are predators at heart. No bedroom should ever be a place of non-consent, violation, or fear.

        When I was in my twenties, I used to say, “In my experience, “Scene” (DDLG, bondage, Truly consensual stuffs) sex is the act of using intimacy as a tool to celebrate the delight of each other. Vanilla sex has always used Me as a tool to celebrate his delight in his dick. Yay.” It didn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out which one I would prefer.

        • PS- I would be deeply concerned about someone whose kink is to prey on the vulnerable, to routinely bulldoze over boundaries and consent. This shit spills over.

  • I know that the focus of CL’s articles are how to talk to the kids about the cheating ex, but I’d find it helpful to hear about how to talk to the kids about the ex with untreated mental illness.

    • You take them to therapy. Individual therapy, family therapy. You tell them that it’s just as important to take care of your mental health as your physical health.

      NAMI may FINALLY have gotten on board with it. Years ago when FUU was in therapy but not doing any of the WORK, I was on the phone with NAMI weekly looking for a support group for the children of mentally ill parents.

      They couldn’t have given less of a shit. They were interested in mentally ill parents and children, but not the family around them. We were on our own. Well, I was told to support him and that it would all work out – but really – he was the most important person. Me? The kids? Meh.

      So I found a therapist who was seeing kids under the age of 12 (that took over 25 phone calls) plus a different person for myself.

      They may have come around since then.

    • The best thing is to reiterate that this (with you) is the place that is anchored and safe. In the end, Dad didn’t hurt or scare any of you because he was hurting or broken or off his meds. He had choices. (I wouldn’t say the second part to anyone but the oldest of teens).

      Maybe as adults, they may want to reach out in compassion; but for now, they really need to know that none of this is their fault.

  • I just told my child that asshole was “dating” while married. The look of disgust she gave let me know that whatever their age, children know that’s not appropriate.

  • After 21 years a marriage, riddled with cheating and cons the entire way, my ex walked out (had planned for years and had several schmoopies waiting) telling everyone that it was mutual and we just didn’t get along. He actually sat in front of me and told this to my kids (18, 17, 15). He lied and told them that we had tried discussing it, but just couldn’t communicate anymore. But he never talked to me about it until two days before he left. When I got upset at him for lying in front of the kids, he pointed at me and said, “See how she is!” I told him to get out.
    For six weeks I hoped he’d return. I was a good Christian woman and didn’t have the benefit of CL and CN. I prayed and complied with all of the RIC bullsh*t. Then I talked to a counselor who understood narcissistic abuse. A switch flipped and I started becoming a beast for him to deal with. That included slowly tell the kids the truth. Since we often moved and had huge family upheavals due to his bad behavior, they finally understood their lives and I found out that he was absolutely nasty to them behind my back.
    They have at this point heard about all the affairs, prostitutes, and scams. They have shared incidents of abuse and dishonesty that he included them on. Illegal behavior was nothing for my “godly” ex.
    The only things that I have not shared are a couple of incidences of spousal rape and sexual abuse, though I may share that with my daughters later if/when they marry so that they understand that it is not okay and they can speak out about it.
    I know very well that the RIC thinks what I have done is inappropriate. The church would say that I have to teach my kids to honor their dad. F*ck that. Their father has conned family members including weaseling $20,000 out of his mom in part of his deade long plan to leave me. He is currently conning his mistress turned wife’s very wealthy family and even using church and faith to continue to gin up business and support. My kids deserve to know to resist him and view him with truth. If they trust and honor him, then he will use them just like he uses everyone.
    Kids, as they age appropriately, should know the truth. As one counselor told me, “They will have to know the truth some day. What they do with it and how they treat their dad is up to them.”

    • My abusive, adulterous ex-husband, 4.5 years after officially leaving, STILL tells my mother and kids that I instigated the divorce, even though I offered to ‘let’ him keep APs while I stayed faithful to him it only he stayed married to me. I think that I win the Chump Olympics! (Sadly, my mother seems to consider what my ex-husband, the guy who falsely accused my father and me (and others?) of molestation, says in spite of a Mt. Everest load of evidence showing that he routinely lies and breaks the law. Sadly, too, I also begged my post-separation boyfriend, now ex-boyfriend, who routinely emotionally hurt me to stay every time he discarded me or told me that he wanted to discard me, to stay or at least remain friends as I mistakenly thought that we had been for 30 years.) Moral of the story—doing the Pick Me Dance won’t win the Jerk and won’t even win you the accurate narrative! My ex-husband still lies to me, too, even about things that don’t benefit him to lie to me about. Pathological lying cowards, my exes and many of the exes described here. I wish that my bad/sad nightly dreams and daily rumination about my exes would go away! They are impeding my job search, which might help me get out of the crisis caused by unemployment and loss of social security benefits due to some unjust U.S. laws that affect millions of people who worked in both military/public sector and private sector.

      • See here’s where I land on that whole Honor the mother and father. Some times it is impossible to honor both. If one parent is doing things that are abusive and dishonorable to the other, you “owe” your honor to the parent living an honorable life. All you”owe” the other parent is a clear communication of your boundaries.

        • Too smart,
          Seriously. I taught my kids to honor their dad for decades. I lied to them for decades to keep him as a good man in their eyes. Next to marrying him, it was the most stupid thing I’ve ever done.
          Many times I have been thankful that he had so many mistresses to manage and crimes to cover up. It kept him too busy to go after me for any of the parental alienation crap. He didn’t even show up to court to fight for any form of visitation, because he had planned a cruise with a schmoopie and was out of town.
          I’m sure, in his version of his life story that I am the devil I himself. But at least my kids know the truth.
          Dad isn’t honorable and most importantly it is not their fault or mom’s.

      • Sucker punched,
        Yeah. You’re right.
        Honor what? Crime? Embezzlement? Affairs? STDs? Scandal? Mistresses oozing out of everywhere?
        Go to church with that man on Sunday as if nothing is wrong? That is not truth. That is not honor. That’s insane.

    • I have just (like in the last 2 days) been HORRIFIED by someone I thought “got it” who told someone that they shouldnt judge their father for his actions because they didnt know where it came from…..
      The father had had mutiple affairs, and when his wife confronted him he beat her to pulp and then tried to burn the house down with her and the children inside. He went to jail for this, this is not an exaggeration it is a matter of legal fact. He has tried to make contact now, 25+ years later to his children who dont want to know. She said well we dont know where he was coming from, you shouldnt judge him bla bla make contact or you will never forgive yourself….
      I am now being pushed to apologise to her for telling her she is fucking insane!! Why cant he judge the man who tried to SET HIM ON FIRE godamit.

  • Re: Alienation, I suppose that’s only a thing if the chump is the one who breaks the news to the kids. Maybe, in theory, if the chump were to tell, say, his/her friend, and his/her friend told the kids… a sanitized version that includes how dad/mom can’t talk about it until it’s all over…

    It’s manipulative, yes, I know. But if the court is going to manipulate the chump, then maybe the chump has to try to survive in the land of stupid and protect his/her kids from stupid along the way, too.

    Just spinning my wheels because I care more about children than I will ever care about stupid divorce laws like “if you tell the kids their other parent cheated so they’ll know the divorce couldn’t be their fault, you are guilty of alienation”.

    • Ami, I whole heartedly believe kids should always be told. Hiding it from them just continues the lie. It takes away their own choices and ability to make decisions. However I don’t condone alienation at all. I also believe that a child at 6,7,8 is not nearly developed enough to make a decision like that. t’s a slippery slope. I think a child should know who the person they’re saying I LOVE YOU to is. Maybe it’s still our job to foster the relationship they have AS BEST WE CAN. All mainly because completely agree everyone should know and have a chance to understand why their family fell apart and why their lives have changed so much so fast.

      • Totally. I was just meaning to analyze a way around the legal loophole that was mentioned. If the court punishes the chump for telling, that can hurt the kids too.

        I am 100% on board with being forthcomingly honest with children. F’ing hate all the secrets my family kept. I won’t be repeating that cruelty.

  • I still struggle with this. The kids( 30 and 26 now) were not told everything( how could I because he is evil and they are 50% him). They were 26 and 22 at the time. I still eat the shut sandwich every day as they maintain a relationship with him and his AP/slut/sugar momma. I love my kids to bits and they both suffer from anxiety and depression ( gee I wonder why?) Despite my best efforts neither will go to counselling. I just love them the best I can and am close to both of them. It seems counter productive to tell them everything now( 4 years later) but they both know enough to never trust their dad. It saddens me. It it’s imporyant they protect themselves from him.

    • Newlady15
      I know just how hard it is to make decisions as we go through separation and divorce so please know that I’m not trying to contradict you or call your judgement into question, but maybe just help you view it differently.
      My mind was plagued for a long time about my kids being 50% my ex. But they’re not.
      Your kids are not 50% your ex. They are not 50% you. They are 100% themselves. My kids have dealt with depression some as the divorce progressed, but at this point 3 1/2 years in they are empowered. I think that is in part because they were able to truthfully mourn the kind of father they never had and face reality. That mouring sucked and included counseling. Also, b/c we live in a small town they heard rumors, so not telling the truth was impossible. Kids instinctually know more than they let on and understand more than they are willing to express. They harbor shame for what their parents do when they know it is wrong.
      I try to empower my kids to understand that they are not their genetic hertiage (there’s lots of nasty crap there). They are who they chose to be each day and don’t have to carry the weight of their family’s bad choices.

      • Thanks blooming. You are 100% correct. Maybe that’s why it’s no longer important to me to tell all. I just think it would open those wounds. They know he is not a good person, have referenced it a number of times. I bite my tongue. Don’t want to add anything to any pain they feel over it. They are wonderful people. I love them more than I feel any need to tell them all the nasty stuff their dad did.

    • Frankly, I’d say it’s never too late to tell the truth. Better to get it out there and off your chest.

  • My kids were 13, 11, 8 and 6 At the time. Oldest my stepdaughter and he told her he cheated once and so I told my daughter who was 11. Simple. Basic. No details even though I uncovered complete double life wirh many affai partners. The boys were not told. My oldest son developed a habit of sleeping with light on and nightmares. He was terrified that at night the hiuse would burn down or bad people would break in and kill us all. Through counseling we figured out his little mind though his world exploded and safety torn away through divorce with no explanation that he thought any bad thing at any moment would destroy his life again. So I told him at the advice of therapist. He didn’t want to see his dad but he is Golden Chikd and Dad convinced him No Big Deal. A few years later all happy happy in house with new step mother and brother and Dad cheats on her. Son now 13 starts asking questions. Age appropriate answers and he no longer even speaks to his dad. Youngest son didn’t know until this time around Dad cheated on Mom. Almost 8 years after D-Day which is same day I threw him out, None of kids have relationship with Dad as they got tired of his lies. Tell them. Simple. Basic. Age appropriate truth. They would have healed faster and benefitted more from counseling from the start.

  • This is a tough one. Initially we tried to cover it up with a conversation like “Mom has made some decisions that haven’t been in the best interest of the family”. I was still in the RIC mindset. I also thought that she really wanted to change and work things out. We all know how that story goes. I’ve now told the kids that she decided to have an affair with a coworker and in life choices have consequences. On top of the emotional damage and pain she caused me I told them I did not want to set an example of a man who would be okay with that. I did tell them I tried to work it out with their Mom and I wanted so desperately for the family to stay together that I was turning into a spineless shell of a man. I had to look myself in the mirror and realize that I did have boundaries and it’s okay to end a marriage when those boundaries are not respected in the least.

    The kids understand. End of the day, the decisions our NC’s make create a big shit sandwich that everyone has to take a bite of. I think that is the illusion of the RIC for all us chumps. Somehow if we can accept the lies, cheating, stealing, gaslighting, mental abuse and for some of us physical and sexual abuse the shit sandwich will turn into manna from heaven. I have seen the light and I just don’t buy into it anymore. CL is right divorce is a door to a much better life. You just have to be willing to go through the door and deal with your pain in your own way. I heard a good joke. You know why divorce is so expensive? Because it’s worth it!!

  • In spring 2007 the X Asshat started a new job and met OW#1. Stayed at work very late, then went out after work until VERY late, sometimes till 4am. I was immediately suspicious but of course he lied and lied and lied. By summer 2008 he asked our teenage daughters (13 and 15) if he could move out of the house for a while. HE ASKED OUR DAUGHTERS IF HE COULD MOVE OUT FOR A WHILE.

    Finally in the fall of 2008 he confessed. I didn’t know about his request of our daughters until the pieces fell into place and the high drama started. The girls realized his request to move out was so he could go fuck around with that woman and they told me about it. THEY TOLD ME ABOUT IT.

    The girls knew who the OW was because they had babysat her toddler (a kid from another daddy-complex fixation, a 50 YO dude, she was 30, not sure if old dude was married too). Asshat was just turning 40 at the time. My daughters easily put the story together because Asshat was never home for dinner, always came in way after they were to bed, and he was surly and withdrawn as he was trying to discard all of us. He couldn’t quite make the decision to just abandon us all at the time on his own and wanted his teen daughters to make the decision for him. Looking for someone to blame his decision on no doubt. Disordered.

    When the Asshat finally completed his discard in 2017 for a 25YO OW#2 our daughters understood immediately what was up. They tried to see it as just between Mom and Dad and tried to maintain some relationship with him but the fuckwit’s behaviors made that impossible within just a few months. He wanted to parade his new found happynez under their noses and was furious that they were not rooting for him. He wanted to get laid by their college friends, he offered Rx drugs to their friends in front of them, he tried to be Cool Dad and made a fool of himself. All while screaming that they needed to just Get Over It.

    They are now NC with him. He missed both college graduations last summer and they ignore and block his attempts to communicate.

    If the Asshat had not been such a cowardly piece of shit and just ran off with OW#1 I would have told the girls straight up that he was a cheater. I would have pointed out who he was with and I am certain they would never have wanted to treat her with any respect. I think we would be in exactly the same spot we are today in that he certainly would not have been able to contain his twu happynez and would have tried to parade the twat under their noses and demand they be happy for him. 13 and 15 is old enough to know what it what, they knew more than I did the first time.

    • Kids are very observant and often know more than we do. My daughter knew ex was having and affair and knew who it was long before I caught on. She asked me at one point if Dad might be having an affair. When I told her, believing it, that “no he wouldn’t do something like that”, she chose to believe me. As I describe in my post below, she was then devastated later when she found out she was right after all.

  • A bit off topic but certainly related.

    I’m three years post divorce to a covert narc. He was a big “Holy Roller” K of C in our church the last few years. Apparently, K of C life insurance policies are the first things 4th degrees buy! (Not knocking the K of C, they seemed like nice gents, really.)
    XH got his policy, I got a policy and we bought two policies for kids, which basically our payments will be returned to them at a future date. They were fairly reasonable, and an added bonus for the kids.

    Each kid went through a medical exam and registration. They both knew what and why we were doing this.

    OK. At the divorce, I was awarded my policy. Through this disclosure I found out that XH only bought (followed through with) the policy for his favorite, our younger, his “golden” child. Since they were set up through his pay, I had no way or reason to think he would “forget” something like this.

    At the time I found out in mediation, with my incredulous stare, he told the mediator that he “forgot” to buy the first kids policy. HOW can you have two kids do this? One will have $80K savings ( in the future) while the other has nothing?

    At the time, I was advised to not tell girls. I thought that would be on HIM to tell them. I have not spoken to the XH since. He is a coward and a fink, he will never admit what he did.

    So, now. Girls are graduating college – traveling far and wide. I believe they both think the policies are there. Do I just let it ride out? Or do I point out what “dear old da” may have done?

    I know it’s not my problem. Just hate to see my kids get dealt dirt. Now or in the future.

    Do I tell kids?

    • P.S. I think telling the kids either at the time of the divorce, or even years later is a good idea.

      You don’t know the guilt and blame kids have over a divorce. Given the bare truth may give them peace. Even years later.

    • Tell them. They are grown now and they can choose to confront the X or not and possibly choose to share the one’s benefits between them. I don’t understand why anyone would advise you not to tell the truth and become a de-facto conspirator with that dumbass. If you were them, wouldn’t you want to know as soon as possible? Let the dumbass explain why he forgot about his kid, that part is not your responsibility to cover. His spin on events will be a huge learning opportunity for them about how he blames and lies and gaslights.

    • This is why chumps should prepare their children when a narc parent is involved. There are guaranteed disappointments and let downs with a narc parent. If the kids are aware early on there is something not quite right with narc parent the disappointments will be far less severe and pretty much par for the course.

    • Absolutely tell them. Better to hear it now than get blindsided with it later. Tell them now and maybe they’ll have the chance to do something about it.

  • My kids (16 and 21 at the time) told me. DD found the evidence and told DS, who in turn confronted his cheater dad. In that moment, DS demonstrated that he is and will always be more of a man than his dad will ever manage to be.

    The kiddos freed me.

    https://youtu.be/6rjjArvzXuc

  • I mentioned this yesterday but my kids, or at least my daughter found out the wrong way. They were 16, 13.5 and 11.5 on DDay. At first I said nothing because I was hoping to reconcile. By the time ex moved out, however, I was pestering him to tell the kids so that they would understand what was really going on, why he was moving out and why I was so upset. I wanted him to tell them so that there wouldn’t be any editorializing on my part. I didn’t want to slop my grief on the kids or look like I was turning the kids against him but I also wanted them to fully understand my pain. It was painful for me to continue on as if there was no third party. I always felt on the edge of telling, but I didn’t think it was my place and I didn’t want to be accused of betraying ex even though he had already betrayed me. I guess I was afraid that betraying him would somehow validate his excuses for chasing strange. He, of course, didn’t want to look bad in front of the kids and he didn’t want them to think ill of Schmoopie if/when he ever did introduce them to her as his “new” girlfriend (the thought of that also drove me nuts). Also, Schmoopie, of course, had nothing to do with it anyway because “I haven’t felt like your husband in years”. After a couple of months I started to believe that. With him out of the house she wasn’t in my face so much and I thought that maybe things had cooled between them and if he still wasn’t interested in reconciling then his words must be true and maybe the kids didn’t need to know about her. By that time we were divorcing because I didn’t want a marriage that was just on paper. While going through the finances for the divorce (I got to do all of the work on that) I ran across the charges for the flowers he bought Schmoopie for valentine’s day and I completely lost it. All I could think was “she got flowers for valentine’s day, I didn’t, and I paid for half of those flowers and that’s not ok”. There were also charges for an expensive show and dinner. He was still coming and going from the house on a regular basis at that time and he happened to be there. I flew into a rage, confronted him and yelled “I want back every penny you spent on other women”. I also proceeded to yell and cuss and tear him down, and Schmoopie too. In that moment I didn’t care who found out. I was out of control. I very nearly slapped him. Thank god I didn’t. My daughter overheard. She had suspected the affair before I knew and at one point had asked “do you think Dad could be having an affair?” At the time I told her “no, he wouldn’t do that”. She was already devastated by our separation. Finding out that she had been right all along about the affair and that it wasn’t a “clean” break, as she put it, just increased her devastation. She was furious and upset and hurt. She failed her physics test the next day (she still got into a good college and is now doing fine). I blamed myself for having caused her that hurt and making her fail her test. I have since forgiven myself and put the blame squarely on ex. He is the one who cheated and then refused to tell the kids himself in his own way when I gave him the chance and, in fact, implored him to do so. After that he did tell the boys himself. I don’t know what he told them but they know Schmoopie is an OW. They weren’t as traumatized as my daughter and maybe she would have been less traumatized if he had just come clean sooner. Anyway, unless you are someone who has full control over your emotions and you really don’t want the kids to know deep in your heart, I recommend telling the kids in the controlled sterile, age appropriate ways suggested by CL and CN in order to avoid having it come out in an explosive way when the dam bursts like it did for me.

  • I’ve got a question!

    What if you do exactly what CL says and tell your two teens what’s up and they DONT believe you!

    And the cheater stays under cover and tells them the chump is crazy (and believes what he is saying) for a year and counting….

    ?

    • I have no crystal ball and I can’t see the future but it seems to me that eventually the truth will likely come out in ways your children can’t ignore. Right now they don’t want to believe it but at some point they may go looking for evidence hoping to vindicate the cheating parent only to discover the truth instead (as happens with many chumps). Or they might just bury their heads in the sand forever (as many chumps also do). Either way you don’t control that. In a way they are chumps too because they are being lied to and gas lit. You tried to tell them the truth and they chose not to believe it and there really isn’t any more you can do. At this point it is probably best to just let it go and just not discuss cheater with your teens. Focus on other aspects of life. Some day they may know the truth or they may not. It’s terrible but at least you know the truth and can act to protect yourself with a clean conscience.

    • You keep being you and they will eventually see who has credibility and who does not. Love them unconditionally and stay strong. Be the example.

      You got this.

    • I had the same situation. My then 17 year old son refused to believe that his mom would ever do something like cheat on me. And of course ex wife painted herself as the victim in all this to and controlled the narrative with him. No matter what I said, he countered with what she said and I was the bad guy in his eyes. I finally gave up convincing and he went to live with his mom. After about 6 months, he called and asked if he could come see me (I live about 65 miles away) and of course I said yes. He came to visit because he wanted to apologize for blaming me. Apparently, during those 6 months he was getting tidbits of the truth and finally put it all together and realized what was really going on. Guess it didn’t help when one of the ex’s friends daughter met the current boyfriend and asked where the previous boyfriend was! My son said that is when lights started going on for him. All these people knew about her boyfriend except him.

      He moved in with me about 2 weeks after that because he couldn’t stand to look at her anymore. She lied to him and piled more lies on top of that. Sometimes it takes a while but they will put the pieces together at some point. I didn’t say “I told you so” or gloat. I just said “I told you I would never lie to you” and have always kept that promise.

      • I told my stepson we were getting divorced and WHY
        Also told him that this had happed to his Mom 15 years before
        He replied through his tears(been thrust his twice now) and 18 yo now instead of 3 “ he’s a shitty partner”
        That’s my kid!
        Xo

    • “Truth will out” — never argue with Shakespeare

      If you look at my tale of STBXW’s sister (also a cheater) then it can be an uphill battle against an army of professional liars; though my tale does show, just as Khris wrote above, that the kids will and do eventually see the reality and the truth. Then when they do their reaction can be even worse, as not only do they now have the embarrassment of a cheating parent who broke up their family due to infidelity, they now can see that this parent is more than capable of lying to them, their own child, too.

  • I agree that kids should be told in appropriate language. I also think we need to remember that they might be confused and upset and even doubtful because in addition to hearing the truth, they may hear lies from the cheating parent. The cheater may privately tell the kids that “Mom/Dad made that up to get money,” or “Mom/Dad is the real cheater, not me,” or “Mom/Dad is insane–you know she/he says crazy things.” Tell the kids the truth, but do not get sucked into attempts to “prove” the truth.

    The goal when we disclose to the kids is not actually to convince or persuade them–much as we may want them to know and believe the truth. The goal is to set the groundwork of facts that they can revisit and ask questions about when they are ready to hear more, especially when they are older. Especially when they’ve begun to see the cheater’s true colors as they are blown off for stepchildren, not picked up for custodial visits, denied fiscal support, watched new stepparent throw a fit about being cheated on, visited cheater parent in jail, etc. But that kind of insight can be a decade in the making–or more. And it is painful in its own ways.

    Even if the kids are not getting a conflicting story from the cheating parent, many times they will be angry with the truthful parent–overtly, much angrier than they are at the cheater. They often already know which parent is reliable, and they wanted that parent to hold the marriage (i.e. their world) together. They don’t fear rejection or abandonment from the reliable parent nearly as much as they do from the selfish one, so they know they can be horrible to the reliable parent and she/he will still love them.

    Telling the kids the truth is important for their long term understanding of how to manage big problems, but it is likely to feel very upsetting initially–especially if the cheating parent prefers to lie to the kids or wants to be seen by the kids as the victim.

    • “many times they will be angry with the truthful parent–overtly, much angrier than they are at the cheater. They often already know which parent is reliable, and they wanted that parent to hold the marriage (i.e. their world) together. They don’t fear rejection or abandonment from the reliable parent nearly as much as they do from the selfish one, so they know they can be horrible to the reliable parent and she/he will still love them.” Eilowny – thankyou! This is so straightforward. It helps “they wanted that parent to hold the marriage together” This rings true in my case. One of my kids was so angry with me, even though the truth was the same for all of them. It’s also so very sad.

  • I have 2 kids aged 8 and 5. Talk and play therapy for each of them and the STBXH and I have been seperated for about 11 months. My therapist, and the marriage counselor we tried all said not to tell the kids, and that they didn’t need to know. They both got fired that week. Here’s the thing: when you are married to a serial cheater, someone who is comfortable with deceit, lying and the circumstances that follow become a central issue in your moral compass, and where you differ in parenting. I was not interested in protecting his impression management to the children, or anyone for that matter. He is their first hero, and also the person who slept with prostitutes, sex workers, putting their mothers life in danger along the way. When they 8 year old recently asked if we were getting a divorce, specifically “What did daddy do?” I replied “I made you a promise never to lie to you and while you are too young to understand, I promise when you are older I will tell you the truth. For now, I need you to understand that daddy made some bad choices, and there are consequences to that, It doesn’t mean he is a bad man, and if you miss him or want to talk about him we can do that, but mom cannot live with the choices that dad made”. He seemed satisfied with that answer. Of course to me, he is a bad man and a weekend babysitter at best. However it’s become important to model appropriate behavior and not alienate him before the divorce negotiations have begun. Divorcing a covert narc is a game of chess and once the paperwork is done, his actions will speak for themselves.

  • My kids were 12 and 7 when this happened. D-day was followed ten days later by her-leaving-day, so it all went by pretty fast. The 12-year old actually figured it out from all the obvious lies his mother was telling in those last ten days. When he asked me about it, I just confirmed that it was true, without giving any details. I figured that was the best course of action.
    I have a “non-disparagement” clause in my custody decree, so I have to be careful how I say things. My rule is that there is nothing saying I cannot tell the truth to the kids; there have been too many lies already, and as the Chump Lady says, it’s not my duty to protect the reputation of the cheater. She chose to do these things, so she can deal with the consequences.

    Now, I never told the 7-year old little girl (now almost 12) anything. I just felt like she was going through enough, this wouldn’t help. I now think that was *not* a wise decision. She just kept wondering why mommy left, and kept trying to get us to get back together. She assumed we had had some giant disagreement. I have decided that I will tell her by her 13th birthday, without details. Maybe I should just tell her now.

  • Here’s a real world example of what happens when you don’t tell the kids (older ones) the truth about infidelity.

    STBXW’s older sister is also a cheater and got divorced 10 yrs ago when her ex H discovered one of the affairs. He was very traumatised by the whole thing and quite obviously let his cheating W take charge and give the kids the ‘ole “we don’t love each other any more” spiel. Their oldest D was about 14/15 at the time. Her teenage years were hell as she had to deal with a mum who was out partying with her new divorcee ‘friends’ and a dad who wasn’t dealing with the changes. Years later she asked her dad about the divorce and he decided she was old enough to know the truth about her mum’s affairs. D was so angry that she didn’t speak to her mum for 3 years and even though they’re communicating again, she has zero respect for her mum. Maybe it would have been much better for her to know the truth from the beginning rather than nothing as the research shows the kids will blame themselves.

    As a postscript and on a recent CN theme of trusting in-laws, then don’t. Afterwards, the above chump reconnected with an old uni GF, also divorced, and they eventually ended up together and married. So now the (ex) in-laws peddle the story that the chump must have been in contact with his old GF before and so it was him (and not his cheating XW) who caused the divorce due to his ‘affair’! They’ve actually convinced others of this. Liars just can’t stop lying.

    For me, I told my oldest D, who was 9 at the time (last summer), using the advice gained here in CN to give an age appropriate version. I also let her know who OM is as she’s met him several times (doesn’t like him at all) after STBXW has ignored my requests to keep him away from the kids until we’re at least divorced. Youngest D is just 7 so I’ve said nothing yet (maybe older D has?) as we’re still in the same house. I think it will be easier once I am able to move out (hopefully very soon).

  • My children were 7 and 9 when my STBXH left just after Christmas of 2017. In the summer of 2017, he actually took the kids away for a “daddy’s” weekend and allowed the OW to join them for the day. He’s the one that allowed her into their lives.

    When he left, I explained to the kids that Mommy was not making Daddy happy and so Daddy found other ladies that made him happier. Immediately, my daughter asked, “Do I make Daddy happy?” I made it loud and clear, and continue to make it loud and clear, that the kids always make Daddy happy. That is why Daddy loves the time he spends with them. He loves them lots and lots. He just doesn’t want to have the time with Mommy because he doesn’t love Mommy anymore.

    My STBXH has kept his continued relationship with the OW away from the kids since he left. She is not allowed around any of his family members (as they made very clear from the get go), and as far as I know, none of his good friends have met her. He continues his double-life (fine by me).

    Since then, I often try to teach the kids relationship lessons about what makes a great family. They understand what cheating now is – there have been shows that they have watched in which a character starts to like another character when he is supposed to be with someone else (“There’s Johnny now paying lots of attention to Sally in the school cafeteria, but he’s supposed to be with Jackie. Is that the right thing to do?”). I talk to the kids about what’s happened and they now identify it each time as cheating and can explain why it’s wrong to do that.

    This past Christmas my son said to me out of the blue, “Mommy if I ever do what Daddy did when I grow up, you can punch me in the face 50 times.” He then went on to give me the biggest hug ever. He later let me know that he caught Daddy texting a lady named “***” and wanted to know if she’s the same “other lady” that Daddy brought with them a couple of summers ago.

    In learning about the 10 Commandments, my daughter said to me, “Mommy, I think the other lady is the ninth commandment, isn’t she?” My answer was clear, “Yes she is sweetie. She is a lady that was “coveting” someone else’s husband. That breaks up families. It is not a nice thing to do. We will learn how to be better than that.”

    I most especially teach my kids about what real love is about. Real love comes from God. God is all good. So when people have a relationship that started with them telling lies and cheating, then the love they think they are feeling is not real. God would never allow love to come from a bad place like betrayal. Then, I go on to explain the difference between love and infatuation and how real love is about taking care of one another through good times and bad times. But, real love does not treat people badly and real love does not accept when someone treats you badly.

    If I had the time, I would love to fashion a series of children’s books about these topics. I find that there are hardly any books that talk about what mature intimate love between adults should be about in order to be healthy.

    Angie – You absolutely tell your children, in an age appropriate way, the truth of what has had such a traumatic impact on their lives. I hope that some of my examples are useful for you.

    I have the advantage of being a practicing Catholic. We went to Mass every Sunday as a family. I am an educator in the Catholic school system. At no point can my STBXH claim that I am engaging in parental alienation (which I’m not – my kids absolutely love their dad and love seeing him – thank God) because I have never outright named their father or the OW in my teachings, and the teachings are always within the context of our faith. I have the freedom of religion. Considering that he continues to take the kids to Mass himself, I would like to see him try to argue how what I teach the kids is wrong.

    • “ I didn’t make daddy happy and other lady did”
      I’m sorry, but that is a line for a chump in making!
      It was not your job to make ur husband happy, your job was to honor the vows( whatever they were) you agreed on…. his job was to honor the vows.
      He broke the rules.
      They are consequences to breaking rules.

      I’m sorry but “ I wasn’t good enough and didn’t make daddy happy” – is heartbreaking to hear.
      Are your job to blame YOURSELF for HIS actions? Please don’t teach your daughter that her job is to please daddy or any other man ????

      • Or anybody else for that matter. “Friends” who try to use others comes to mind.

      • Same with saying “the kids always make Daddy happy. That is why Daddy loves the time he spends with them. He loves them lots and lots.”

        That’s a strong message that love is conditional – that you have to please people or they will abandon you.

        Dads who love their families and are “happy” with them don’t step out for strange and destroy their lives.

    • “Mommy, if I ever do what Daddy did when I grow up, you can punch me in the face fifty times”

      Wisdom out of your sweet boy babe’s mouth. Laughing and crying here

  • To my 10 year old, I talked about how married people don’t kiss other people and that Dad was doing that. I also emphasized that we should never lie, and Dad was doing a whole lot of that, too.

    My older kids (ages 14-22) got the full story, minus the details. I did not, for example, tell them that their dad and schmoopie go to sex clubs to have sex in front of other people. They still don’t know that or the other icky details. I did not use any of that in the divorce settlement either. They older kids were, however, told about his two long term mistresses and that combined, he’d been cheating for about 10 years. That was bad enough.

    I should also note that two of my daughters guessed it before they were told – because I was absolutely falling apart. They were all told about a month after Dday.

    CL is right. It’s a hard sell for the cheater to convince his (or her) kids that they still love them after they basically exploded a nuclear bomb in their home. My 16 yr old son this week (eight months post divorce) recently said: “Dad never calls or visits. I don’t think he really cares about us kids anymore.”

    When they say those things, I never know how to respond.

    • My daughter has never been verbal about the divorce or reason for the divorce. The other day my 17 yr old asked “is (oldest daughter) sad because how daddy abandoned us”. I didn’t know what to say other than “I guess that’s a way to look at it”. I’m learning that every comment/observation they make don’t require a response. I listen and gauge

    • “I’m sorry this is happening to you.” “That must be painful.” “I’m not sure why he doesn’t call or visit. But I know it has to do with him, not you.”

  • As a developmental psychologist, I am in complete agreement that children should be told the bare-bones truth about infidelity if 10 or above. Below that, an age-appropriate way to express that honesty boundaries have been broken should start a conversation. If a child asks a question, they want/need to know the answer, so take your cues from them.

    However, the parental alienation movement is STRONG, and if you were married to a weasel who accuses parental alienation, the court system can force parental reunification therapy or parental reunification camp, sometimes with horrible effects on kids.

    If your spouse goes after you in court for alienation because you told your children the truth, I have a readily prepared letter that may help. Just email me at tempest.ariel2014@gmail.com

    • After Dday my kids were upset and the younger 2 girls didn’t understand.
      I just said “you girls know about Snow White and she married Prince Charming and moved to their castle and they had a family” ?
      They said “is that part of the living happily ever after and I said yes”.
      So, after many years Snow White decided that she would rather be with Dopey Dwarf than Prince Charming so told him that she loved Dopey now and not him and that he had to leave the castle and could only see his kids away from the castle at certain times.
      My youngest asked “did that make Prince Charming cry ?? I said it sure did and he loves his kids very much”.

      They got the basics and they totally got it years later and a few years ago when they were both in High School I answered all of their questions honestly.

      My Ex was furious with me back then about telling them but I agree 100% that they should not be told details but they have the right to know the basic truth about why their family exploded and who did it and why.

  • I believe that my ex exhibits the characteristics of a narcissist, but this is a condition that is not understood by most and is quickly dismissed as this is unfamiliar territory for many …so I don’t even utter the word to our daughters. I have read up on the condition and remain aware when i do have to communicate with him. If it was a diagnosed condition I would tell my kids if they were old enough to understand.

    My kids keeps suggesting that “he’s on drugs “ because of his behavior…in my mind I think “ no, he just lacks empathy and only cares about his needs and is willing to lie to whom ever to get them to buy in to his story”

    By the way it’s it’s been mental illness awareness month

  • My fourth child was in grade school and the other three were teenagers. I had no trouble telling the older three (after he moved out) because they were old enough to see what was going on, like his long absences, and my blatant pick-me dancing. I never told the smaller child, who was 7 at the time and is now 11. I had not discovered chump lady back then or I would have handled it differently. But she was always really close to her father, and other than blowing up our family (ha!), he’s been a doting dad, on that child. So at the time it just seemed wrong to tell her that her father had been cheating with the person he ran off with. My ex was determined the kids would never know. He didn’t introduce the Ho-worker until a year after he’d moved out. He wanted to imply to the kids that “we” didn’t have what it takes to make the marriage last. I wouldn’t allow that, I made him tell them that I wanted to fix our marriage and that he refused to. I wanted them to know that this all their father’s doing, not mine. I eventually came to regret that I modeled “letting yourself being treated like crap” to our kids, and I eventually told the older ones what really happened (which they already had a good idea), and told them I would never want them to allow themselves to be treated the way I allowed myself to be treated. But I never did tell my youngest. I wouldn’t even know how to bring it up now. “By the way, that woman your daddy is married to? he cheated with her for three years.” But I do feel bad that she’s missing this piece of information, and that divorce decended on her family like a nebulous cloud, as Tracy put it. But I feel like it’s too late to bring it up? Or am I being a chicken? Thoughts, anyone? Divorce is long over, things are cordial enough, I’m pretty much grey rock.

    • “But I feel like it’s too late to bring it up?”

      Just this week I learned some 20-year-old information that I needed 10 years ago.

      • @Struggling, have you considered that the older siblings have already talked with your youngest about their dad and OWife? That’s what happened with my two step children and their cheating mother. Older one guessed and had late-at-night talk with younger. Dad confirmed when kids confronted him. Cheating mom, now ***19*** years later, still denies. The delusion is strong in this one.

  • At age 8 and 10, I gave my x a choice. He could either do what I suggested below or I would speak to the kids on y own and explain it in my own way which would not be so flattering to him. We sat them down togther And he explained that we were getting a divorce because he had made some grown up mistakes that meant we could not stayed married anymore and we’re unfortunately going to have to get a divorce”. We both went on to them explain that we both love them and will always be a family. We assured them it was nothing they had done and they were going to live in the same house with me and Dad would be close by and they could see him whenever they wanted.

  • Get some counseling for you and the kids. Get far away from this man. There is nothing healthy for you or your children with this man. Be done with this!! It’s insane. Sorry for all you have been through.Y ou deserve so much more !! Your kids don’t need to hear everything other than he could not be loyal to you and that you deserve more and that he disrespected you. End of story. They will be fine and you can always seek counseling for them if they are not ok. The most important thing is not to ever accept this man back into your life.

  • My girls were 11 and 9 at the time of discovery and 2 months later divorce. Their lives completely changed in less than 3 months. I made X tell the girls the truth in person in front of me. There was no chance I was letting him sugarcoat or lie. After he told them he had an affair, the girls and I had a private conversation where I allowed them to ask me anything they wanted to. I answered g rated but honest. My youngest daughter told me she thought the divorce had something to do with her, that she wasn’t good enough. I addressed that right away and assured her that it was his fault and not her’s, mine, or her sister’s. I told them they’re amazing and that what happened can’t ever change that. I told them our family(just me and them) is still great, and that I love them just as much as I ever have and nothing or no one can change that. I told them if they ever have any questions about what happened they can ask me anytime and anything.

    My girls want nothing to do with their dad and everyday I’m accused of parental alienation and have been dragged through the court system as well. I do not bad mouth their dad and haven’t previously either. I don’t need to do those things, he does just fine alienating them on his own. I still don’t care, keep dragging because I will not lie to my children for anyone. This narrative of parental alienation is extreme and has allowed X to further abuse me emotionally and financially. I think the court needs a better understanding of parental alienation. If it is true parental alienation the children would act completely different like they were relieved and happy to be reunited with the alienated parent during visitation. The judge ruled the children could only talk to me once during visitation with X, still no change in their behavior towards him. There has to be some sort of bond and connection between a parent and child, X never had that. He isn’t capable of that kind connection, I see that now. I now see that I facilitated and forged our family bond through projection and lots of spackle. Whatever I am here on out, it will be real and honest.

  • my ex left 8 months ago and never admitted to cheating (i found out 2 weeks after he left he moved in with howorker. the pieces fell into place). he left me with a 6 month old baby and 6 year old special needs boy. I didnt tell them at first as he was constantly denying it all anyway, but was still upset that i wouldnt let him take my kids out to have family days out and holidays with her!

    well, i bit the bulet and decided to tell them myself as he refused and even lied to my 6 year old. I told him the truth in a child friendly manner and asked if he was ok spednign time with howorker and daughter (ex made us all spend time together a few months before he left. sadistic prick).

    I hope most of this will have blown over by the time my 1 year old is old enough to realise this isnt ‘normal’ family life but I wont lie to my children. afterall, why lie to them the same way our exes did?

  • Mine were both adults by the time Adolph started cheating. One of his most despicable acts was to put our youngest in the position of having to tell me. He had flaunted his mistress in front of a relative, knowing full well that my daughter was staying that weekend with relatives, including the one he deliberately pointed his whore out to as a “friend”. My relative, not knowing the truth, casually remarked to our daughter that he’d seen Adolph with a female friend. My daughter, who knew right away that was suspicious as hell, was left with the task of telling me. Adolph still denies he was trying to get caught, but he deliberately went where he knew my relative would be when there were other choices which would not have caused him to be caught. Since then he has revealed way too much disgusting infomation in front of our daughter. He made no attempt to shield her from the off-putting aspects of his dalliance with a skank.
    He’s a selfish and cowardly scumbag. and our daughter has been traumatized by this.
    I had to tell our other daughter, who was shockingly cruel to me in order to curry favor with the cheater because she has a history of manipulating him into giving her money. She went so far as trying to arrange a secret visit with him which she implored him not to tell me about. I have no doubt that as usual, the purpose of the visit was to get money out of him. She is a narc like him and has removed herself from my life. She removed him as well, when he wouldn’t keep her machinations secret.
    If they had been younger I most certainly would have told them the truth in an age-appropriate way. There’s no way I would keep quiet to prevent parental alienation. If he was willing to risk that with his appalling behavior, he should be able to live with the results.

  • My children were adults when my ex screwed around with Skankella. I told them the truth. It was up to them to make up their own minds. My daughter told me that she thought that I should have left her dad years ago. Because I was in an abusive relationship. And his cheating just was another way of abusing me. She said she never understood why I stayed married so long. As for my son. He asked his dad why he cheated? And why he had to pick a realitive to cheat with? Dad told him that he never had sex with her. That they only went away with her once in awhile. My son said he knew he was lying. No one goes out for 4 years and doesn’t have sex. My ex til today still denies screwing the pos.
    It was not my job to protect my ex. He chose to cheat. He chose to betray his family. I think that telling the children the truth is for the best.

  • My kids were pulled right into the middle from Day 1 he didn’t try to hide it was right in our faces!

  • Looking back, I would for sure tell my kids at the time of discovery. Back then I thought it was best to not inform them. In a sense, I was still in shock and thought we could work things out. Reality is during her 4 years of screwing around, I was made out to be the villain with my kids. So naturally, when the anger pops out post dday, the kids thought there he goes again! Set the record straight. Give them age appropriate information. The cheater needs to deal with the situation they created. Hiding truths just creates more harm than good!

  • My children 4,7,9,11 were told by mum we didn’t love each other and I was moving out. 3 days later OM moved in. Eldest cried and couldn’t sleep for months.
    So I, Dad looks to be the deserter when she threatened if I didn’t go voluntarily I wouldn’t see the children at all for months until court.
    Now shes pregnant 6 weeks after I’d left yet afraid kids still see her as the sane parent, she is the one feeding, taking to school and putting to bed. (They are excited about baby as they will get a guinea pig when it’s born!). Still have to bite tongue.

    • My ex’s parents were divorced. There was no infidelity involved on either side, but it was his Mom who told his Dad to move out. Even though it wasn’t Dad’s idea, my ex resented his dad for leaving because he felt abandoned. Eventually my ex reached out to his dad and rekindled their relationship and then they were close. He no longer blames his dad for leaving. Hopefully your children will eventually figure out that this wasn’t your idea and will want to have a relationship with you. Most kids do want to have a relationship with both parents, but they don’t always think straight when they are hurt and confused and it doesn’t help when the remaining parent is lying to boot. Hopefully time will improve that situation as well. In the meantime, do everything you can to be the best Dad you can and fight through the courts for whatever legal custody you can get. Claim alienation if you have to. It seems that cheaters do that all of the time so chumps should be allowed to do the same. Document her threats to keep you from seeing the kids if you didn’t leave willingly. Whenever you have the opportunity, let your kids know in no uncertain terms that you love them and miss them and want to be with them and that you didn’t want to leave them (but avoid explicitly telling them it was their mother who forced you to go). Tell them you are doing everything you can to work out an agreement with their mother that allows you to spend more time with them (you don’t have to mention you are working it out through a court fight).

      The one upside from my ex’s situation is that I believe that experience is what motivates him to make the effort to maintain a relationship with his kids. He knows he has to make the effort or they will resent him, especially as it was his choice to move out and they know it. It might be image management but it is still good for the kids to have a Dad who is willing to make some effort on their behalf. He is infinitely lucky, however, that I don’t get in the way of that and facilitate it where I can. It will be tougher if your ex isn’t cooperating but don’t give up.

    • My ex insisted I move out as well. I told my children that was the reason I was moving out and told them they were allowed to come with me if they want. My son did, my step daughter ( his from prior relationship) agonized over it and he told her she was not allowed to, if she did he’s d ship her away from all her friends back to her bio mom. It’s been damaging to my relationship with her but ultimately less so than if I’d allowed her to believe I just walked out. There really was no winning situation for her unfortunately.

  • My x went into a panic when I told him that I had no intention of lying. He insisted it was all my fault for not having enough or any sex with him and for being too aggressive. He claimed, the marriage was over and he did not notice me doing anything to fix our marriage. He felt my requests for marriage counseling from 10 years ago was an attack and not me seeking improvements. And he was deathly afraid of being brainwashed in marriage counseling.

    He accused me of wanting to tell the kids only for revenge purposes.

    I felt strongly that it is more harmful for kids to hear a lie or be gaslighted with the typcial; We just grew apart and want different things – storyline. I wanted to tell the complete truth. I suggested for him to tell the following: he was unhappy in the marriage and because of that found someone else who he fell in love with. Mind you, he and his OW were planning a life together and she had given him an ultimatum after 4 years of “dating”. I felt my suggestion was reasonable and put him in a better light.

    Well, I told my son (12) that his Dad lied to me and did something really hurtful that I could not forgive. I told my daughter (14) that he had a long term affair with a subordinate.
    She asked a few clever questions: whether she knew her, whether she was married, and why he (my x) was not fired for this.
    I answered uneditorialized with a yes, yes, and I do not know, he could have. The OW in my case walked in and out of our house for years. We even once went on a weekend vacation together with her family.

    Kids need to know the truth, because they need to understand that there are real consequences in relationships when you break commitments. And that I, as their mother, did not just walk out of a relatioship, because it was hard and I was too lazy, but that I had really good reasons. And none of the reasons had anything to do with the kids.

  • When I started reading this, I thought I had somehow sent a second letter to you, Chump Lady, because it was my story exactly, down to the 17 years married, 21 together, the online porn habit and the starting out with “everything but” affairs. And the marriage counseling followed by returning to the ho-worker. And most importantly, the quandary over telling the kids. I cannot tell you how much your book and this column helped me through that horrible stage of being accused of bad-mouthing and being handed the “drifted apart” narrative. And what you said, about gaslighting the kids and the nebulous cloud of ‘love doesn’t last’ that this puts on them needs to be shouted out from a mountain. It needs to be in a pamphlet in every f@$king therapist’s office in the world. It needs to be the topic of a thousand Psychology Today articles. People need to listen to that and understand it. Because understanding one person did a mean thing to another and that isn’t ok. That treating someone badly and not apologizing will dissolve what could have been a loving relationship-that is something they can understand. And even if the wrongdoer was one parent and the victim was the other-they can still love both parents. It’s hard, but it’s an isolated narrative of infidelity and lying is ultimately less damaging than the belief that their parents just gave up on their relationship or that love, in general, is so tenuous. Thank you Chump Lady for your daily injections of sanity.

  • “So it’s always so curious why then that NO ONE MUST KNOW about this little, minimal thing they may have done, that you shouldn’t feel so upset about?”

    … in UK, you have to provide examples of “unreasonable behaviour” as grounds to the judge. So, I provided examples.

    He rang me. “You cannot say that”

    “But it is true, that is how you treated me”

    “This is a public document. No one must know”

    No ‘oh my God, that is how I treated Patsy, what a shit I am, I must change for the better’. Just

    “No one must know who I am, or what I am capable of, My Public Persona”

    One of a long line of disillusionment and hurt. Still hurts, he was more concerned about his image than what he really did

    • I did not have to share examples publicly. However, I shared them with my x around DDay, because he gave me all the examples of how my behavior and actions had led to him cheating. I essentially stated that me telling him to put the shoes away is not mental abuse. And that me asking him to do something around the house is not either. I also said that me being angry at him for making cruel jokes, not stopping when I ask him, teasing when I ask him to stop, belittling my accomplishments at work, telling me my feelings are not valid, lying, and gaslighting is indeed abuse. And then he looked at me saying: “OMG, something is terribly wrong with how you perceive me. Now that you see me in this horrible light, I need to leave. I am not an abuser, I am just a dick in arguments. Yes, I use the tactics, but not to control you. Just to get what I want like everyone else does.” I never received an apology for any of his behavior. When I pointed his negative behavior out, I was at fault for pointing it out.

  • My ex cheated with ho-worker for 5 years. Missed most of our 5 year olds formative years because he was too busy dating her. When I said I’m out he didn’t want to tell our son why we were getting divorced. At first I agreed, but about a month later I told my son. I needed to make it clear his world being turned upside down was not his or my fault. It was solely his fathers fault. He was 10, and he knew what marriage is and knows what his dad did was wrong. He has a good relationship with his dad- partly because we do 50/50 custody. I want him to have a good relationship with his dad, but an informed one. He knows when his dad is being a jerk cause he knows the truth. It has helped us my son and I be honest about when we are sad. I don’t hide that from him. Mom cries and has bad days because this is not what I wanted for our lives. It puts things in an honest perspective for everyone. I don’t regret him knowing at all and as for my ex- this is one of the consequences. My son is very aware of morals and that’s the way I hope he stays. He doesn’t let his dad get away with any bullshit regarding me- cause he knows who’s in the wrong. My son tells me all the time- “mom, you’re a good person”. I don’t badmouth his dad- but I also don’t cover things up. If my son notices crappy behavior by his dad and he comments to me my response is “we all choose how to behave”. I choose to behave differently.” And I encourage him having a good relationship with his dad- I tell him love him, he’s your dad always will be. But he goes to therapy and is learning tools to deal with a narcissist and has gotten pretty good at calling bullshit when he sees it!

  • When I was young, my mother would threaten divorce. And what I was afraid of was that my dad would be sad and alone. it’s not a rational thing, but kids often (but not always) prefer the dysfunction they know to the unknown. But here are some big reasons to tell kids:
    1. They often blame themselves for divorce but don’t say anything about that.
    2. They can be more susceptible to gaslighting and manipulation if they don’t know the truth.
    3. Like me, they can feel responsible for the parent being “left.” Cue the music for codependency, which can start when kids see themselves as responsible for their parents’ happiness.
    4. They learn that breaking your major promises leads to consequences.
    5. If they think the divorce is about “growing apart,” they can find some pretty negative ways to try to get their parents to get back together.

    The best way to avoid any claims of alienation is to never, ever tell kids any more than “Dad has a girlfriend and married people can’t do that.” If the Cheater isn’t paying support and money is tight, don’t share that informations with Kiddos. Just say, “We are living on my salary right now and there’s no extra money for X or Y.” Straight facts. If Chater disappoints Kiddos, say “I’m sorry this happened. I know you’re disappointed.” And then big hugs. Save the anger and the details for here or for talking in private with your BFF or your sibling or therapist.

    One thing you know for sure: Cheaters will lie, deny, blameshift and minimize to avoid responsibility. So get the truth out there and inoculate the kids from that BS.

    • And let me add that my mother’s complaints and threats about divorce were directed to her KIDS, not her spouse. We had no idea why she was unhappy. She just was. And had been forever. Their marriage was bad in a 100 different ways, but one thing that damaged both of us was that we were the ones trying to keep a sane environment; we were the ones worried about other people. And we had no real information to work from (at ages 9 and 10). We didn’t have one sane parent. We had a narcissist and a workaholic drinker and no shot at the truth.

  • My boy was 10. I simply told him that “Your father decided that he wanted to be with someone else.” Now that he is almost 15, I’ve told him that he can ask me any questions about why I divorced his dad and moved away. He hasn’t yet, I think he saw exactly what his father did – since she moved in barely 3 months after I moved out….and then fled less than a year later. NX is still trying to find a replacement wife appliance. We have split custody and don’t live in the same city, so its 6 months each with a 10 day visitation in the middle. I’m hoping the kid will ask for a change in custody within the next few years as Son is starting to get tired of his father’s drama and putting emotional burdens on him.

  • I found out about the affair in August ’06 when he left his email open and I realized he was visiting the OW and not on a job interview trip. He came back, apologizing and saying it wasn’t what I thought and that he wanted to stay married. LOL. I picked-me-danced, working full time and trying to keep it all together. He was gone a lot, lying that he was on job interviews.

    In October he texted me at work to say that he was on a flight to meet her and her family to go on a cruise they had prebooked and couldn’t cancel. I promptly shipped all his shit to her house (she lived 1000 miles away where he used to work). He came back after the cruise to tell me no he really really wanted to be with me and my little Catholic self told him he needed to make up his mind and we could go to counseling. He said he had “given himself until the end of the year to decide between us.” (LOL again) He went for individual counseling and shared all his revelations from that: “She’s my soulmate. We love each other.” Still stayed at home unemployed while I drove to and from work crying.

    So, 12/31/06 he tells me he still can’t make up his mind between us and I told him I don’t want to be in a marriage with someone who can’t choose me and keep choosing me.” He responds that I’m probably right and he has a flight booked to her for a big New Years Eve party together. He leaves the house and I sit down my 4 children ages 21, 19, 17 and 14 and tell them “Your dad left me for another woman. We are still a family. I’m sorry he didn’t say goodbye except to tell you that he was going to a party. I love you. I’m sorry he doesn’t want to be married anymore.” Three of the children had actually met “Dad’s friend” when they visited dad at his many jobs in different states. Oh yeah, he had been having his affair for 3 years and they had lived together through job changes. Only when he was unemployed had he come back to be with me/us.

    A wise counselor told me that I had to earn the children’s respect every day. It took many more years to get the divorce as he dodged divorce papers & messed with our finances. 5 years post-divorce, all I can say is it’s over, it was worth it to get divorced, and my kids and I are still a happy family living in 5 different cities but keeping in touch and joining together for family celebrations and holidays. They call me, not him. And the Karma bus has run him over several times.

  • I didn’t get to tell my DD/DS and at the time I wished I did. But after a certain amount of time, that window closed and I trust that one day, they will find out. DD has started to poke around the issue w/ XW. And XW is scared of this happening and is living with that stress.

    I live with the statement, “If I truly love my kids, I wouldn’t wish ill on their mother” And so I focus on building a new life, with them so that one day, when they find out, they see how much better my life is due to divorce.

    I also was reminded that no one can take away the pain I’ve had, no one can belittle that. I no longer have to “protect” that experience. I can move to “meh” without taking that project along with me. Their mother is their mother. I can be a better father without her.

  • Just laughing out loud:

    “Yes, divorce is painful and expensive — but it’s also the gateway to a MUCH BETTER LIFE without this asshole in it. ”

    Smiling, and living my best life, now that my very joy isn’t being sucked out of my soul by Cheaterpants — ahh – the cheater-free life —

  • I did not tell daughter but she saw all my crying and the Chump book so I think she put two and two together. Once the house was sold and divorce decree was in process I told her one day if she ever has any questions she can ask. She’s not the type to ask- maybe one day. XW of course said some sort of bs like “feelings change” or something. Even though it was 2 months post Dday I was still in a kind of daze in some ways and not looking to squabble about- was just disgusting by it all and wanted to be done with it.

  • My daughter and I had to tell the grandkids. We didn’t want to, in fact, we held off for 2 years, thinking he was going to get his act together and come home. No go! But the day came that he barged into my daughters house and proceeded to have a epic postal rant in front of the grandkids about his sorry sick life. We had no choice but to tell them what was going on. They already figured most of it out on their own. But the rant scared them and now none of them want anything to do with their Papa. It was all his doing. My 13 year old grandson calls him Voldermort, “he who must not be named.” It seems the cheaters do enough alienation on their own if you give them enough rope. So far it’s 8 to 0 – 3 adult kids and 5 grandkids will have nothing to do with him. I get them all to myself and I didn’t have to say a word!

  • At the time it was already agreed that we were breaking up, but nothing had been filed yet and we were still living in the same house, DD knew we were splitting up. XH informed me on Mother’s Day last year that he was ready to date and had someone he met online, then the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend he told me he was going to go meet her on Saturday. He told our daughter (16 at the time) that he was going out to the nearest big city (3 hours away) to go to Guitar Center to look at getting himself a new guitar. I was trying very hard to keep my shit together I was not going to say anything to her about it, it was very hard, I was losing it on the inside. I was in shock, I think. She and I drove into town to go to dinner that evening, on the way there she asked me, “He’s moved on, hasn’t he? He’s got someone else?” She’s a very intuitive person, she knows what’s up. I knew right then and there that there was no way I was going to lie to her, I told her the truth. I’ve never had any regret about telling her the truth about anything. I would never want her to feel like I lied to her. I am so glad I didn’t hide anything from her. She’s never been mad at him for getting his girlfriend and moving 3 hours away, she’s pissed at him for never making her a priority and for making her feel like it was better to be shut down like she had been for nearly 5 years. She’s a really smart cookie, she spotted his narcissistic tendencies way before I did. She knew no contact was what she needed before I even knew it was a thing. She asked for no contact for about a month immediately after he moved out, he then punished her by emptying out her bank account and when that month was over, the first text she got from him was all about him, she asked him for more time – she wasn’t ready to communicate with him again. He lost it. He blew up both our phones. He sent me an email with a link to a YouTube video on parental alienation, saying he only watched a few minutes of it, but he thought that that was what he was experiencing. DD sent him a long email explaining where she was coming from, laying down heavy boundaries and shut him down on the parental alienation idea telling him that he alienated himself with his selfishness. I think she’s going to be fine; she can spot it a mile away. Her picker is fine-tuned.

  • I haven’t read any of the previous posts, but I would like to share my experience with being the good Chump. I’ve read that you shouldn’t burden your children with adult problems and never to speak badly of the other parent. I thought by taking the high road and by keeping mine and Cheaters personal life (divorce) between us would be more appropriate. I kept any negative thoughts to myself and even said positive things about the jackass thinking we could co parent as mature adults.
    I was surprised to find out Cheater had been bad mouthing me, portraying himself as the victim and me as a mentally ill alcoholic who wasn’t interested in going to MC. He tried everything he could to save our marriage, with tears, he just couldn’t take it anymore…
    Ex also confided in our son the same lies and more. Our son was made aware of DDay long before I found out. Cheater had little to do with our son until cheater needed to build an alliance.
    I’ll give the short version of the story, Cheater alienated our son from me so he wouldn’t need to pay child support. Gave our son gifts, money, freedom, bad mouthing me. Our son finally received positive attention from his father which our son never had from Cheater.
    My thoughts are the same as in CL”s book, tell the truth in an age appropriate manner. Don’t cover for the Cheater. Trust that they suck.
    I’ve read in books and here on CN, Cheaters begin grooming children months or even years before DDay by suggesting the Chump is to blame for destroying the family.
    Telling the truth isn’t bad-mouthing. Using age appropriate language.

  • My children were told that Dad had another girlfriend, and you cant have a wife and a girlfriend. He chose to break the rules of marriage.
    Dad told them (woman) made him happy and he hoped they could be happy for him and with him. Well not long after that it was the next one, and then the next one and so on.
    One said to me “Dad says (name) makes him happy. But soon he will find a different lady to make him happy. Its funny because he always gets the same ice cream”
    I laughed. And couldnt explain to a child why that was funny.

    • That is so hilarious! Kids are smart and we have to trust them to figure it out by taking the highroad ourselves!

  • Late to the party, but wanted to check in on this topic. It’s crucial to many of our stories here as previous chumps. Our children were often at the forefront of our minds when the bomb was dropped on our former lives. Mine were 20, 15 and 5 at the first wave of blow up in 2017. My first 2 kids were from a previous physically abuse marriage, my cheater husband had been step parent for over 10 years when it hit. He was meant to be the happy ever after and together we had #3.

    I’d always been honest with the elder 2. It was them who made the choice to no longer associate with their bio father, and embrace their step Dad as a figure in their lives. They believed the mirage as much as I did. We thought we were building a happy future away from physical abuse. Oh boy have I struggled with the model I spackled for them, and my broken picker choices.

    The breakdown of my fantasy family has hit the elder 2 hard! Having had an honest and open relationship with them after escaping their abuser father, meant there was no hiding the truth. They knew a lot more than I gave them credit for, all along.

    My eldest son found evidence which blew the bubble right open for him. My daughter (the 15 year old at the time) had been first to experience the discard. She was rejected before me, by her step Dad. We all lost our bearings in the early days.

    Somewhere during the chaos of the first 12 months after Mc Smarmy announced his intention to leave (whilst cake eating & pick me dancing were rampant), my elder two kids signalled their backing for us to get out of the vortex. I don’t regret informing them of why I could no longer stay married to their step father.

    Each of us have since made a new vow. We’ve committed to supporting the youngest. She is now 7. She has 50% access to her father, the elder two have heard almost nothing from him. She, youngest, is exposed to weird shmoopie interactions. She doesn’t quite understand what is going on, and asks very pointed questions of me and her elder siblings. We are honest as we can be with her, without going into detail or crushing her innocence.

    The youngest will get to know the full story eventually. Right now, she needs to know she is supported, and there is a stable place where she is valued as part of a greater whole. She has a place she can seek answers if she needs. We don’t volunteer or initiate the topic, but if she asks we tell facts that are age appropriate. She will piece it together.

    I’m blessed with not only the support of my young adult children – turning 18 and 22 years old this year – but also their friends. Their friends have supported them, and by association, me. We are a team. I do my best to model stability, routine, structure, compassion, care, resilience and fortitude.

    It’s mother’s day tomorrow here in Australia. My 3 kids and I are having dinner together. We are a family. We back each other in tough times. This has been a tough time. Without my kids, I probably would’ve been a crumbled mess for a lot longer.

    My advice – be honest with the kids. They’re your greatest achievement and worthy of the truth. They can be such a profound motivator for the “gaining a life” part of your story. Back them, back their views, their input, their truth. They’re more than worth it. They deserve it!

    Happy Sane Parent Day Chump Nation!

  • First post….
    it takes time but it does get better…thank you Chump lady for your site..
    It hurts so much in the beginning of dealing with the fact you’ve been cheated on…I was with my ex wife for twenty years….always faithful…

    My stepson, that I raised was the one that told me she was cheating…
    I’ll have been alone for almost four years now and still think about it everyday….my friends try to set me up with some really nice ladies…but, I don’t think I’ll ever open my heart again…

    My best friend calls me a girl cause I still cry over it but, he has a heart of stone. I have a heart of glass…I loved that woman…I wouldn’t have married her if I didnt

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