I am 10 years out from leaving my cheating ex-husband. I found out about his affair on July 4, 2009, and have referred to that day as my “Independence Day.” I had dated him through high school and college and we were married for 16 years when he decided his sales representative had more to offer–including blowjobs and abortions. We had twin boys who were 6 years old when I found out his affair had been going on for 2 years. I was devastated, but I was not going to let his actions write the rest of my story. I filed for divorce, fought him for custody, sought counseling at a domestic violence shelter, went back to work full-time and have earned my doctorate. I am a better woman despite what he did. He married his mistress and so the cruelest part of my story (I think) is that our boys had to meet and spend holidays with the woman who helped change their family life. My boys are 17 now and drive me nuts as a single mom of two driving, mouthy teenagers, but this too shall pass.
I am not writing about my ex-husband, the mistress, or my own heartbreak directly. I am writing because after several years of working on forgiving and trying to put my life back together I am faced with yet another cheater. My younger brother, who had been supportive of my boys and me during my painful divorce, cheated on his wife and left her for another woman. They had been married for 15 years, had 3 children (twins age 5 and another age 7) and had built a construction business together. They were very successful and seemed to have it all. In walked trouble in the form of a customer.
The woman my brother had an affair with was a woman who he was building a house for. She was married, had 4 children, and was building a house a few houses down from my brother and his wife. This woman says she is a lawyer, however, all I can find that she does is rent property to low income people and then take them to court when they don’t pay their rent — I think that is called a slum lord. She is not part of a law practice. She left her 4 children with their father to live in an apartment with my brother. My sister-in-law left my brother and got a nice financial settlement. She is going to be fine and is coping fairly well with the help of her family and friends. I still communicate with her and supported her through their divorce.
My family, which includes my elderly parents, my sister and her husband and children, and my brother has been destroyed by this. We had already been through infidelity with my situation and could collectively snark about my ex, but now it is my brother who is the asshole with a sparkly turd. My sister and I have not had a relationship with my brother for about 1.5 years now because he wants us all to embrace this other woman. He wants to bring her to everything and pretend like nothing is wrong.
He has even convinced my parents to be on his side and the 3 of them have teamed up against my sister and me. My parents even talk smack about my ex-sister-in-law who is the mother of their grandchildren and was part of our life for 21 years. My brother and my parents have also been verbally abusive towards my sister and me, including calling us bitches, on a moral high horse, and unforgiving. My mom went as far to tell us that we were not invited to her funeral if we did not make up with my brother and accept his girlfriend. I laughed and asked her what she was going to do if I showed up……..We were raised Catholic and my mother goes to daily Mass which is an interesting twist to her position. Adultery is one of the reasons the Church will grant an annulment. Adultery is considered a mortal sin. My mother must be looking the other way?
Last week my father had cataract surgery. I took the day off to help my mom and attend his surgery as he has severe COPD and heart failure and I am always afraid of how he will do with even minor procedures. I am also a nurse practitioner so I like to hear what my parents are told by his health providers so when I get a frantic phone call I am aware of what is going on with his health. When I got to the surgery center on the morning of his surgery, my brother and his mistress/girlfriend were also there. Since I had not spoke to my brother in over a year, my mom introduced me formally to my brother. I am not sure if she was just nervous or if she was trying to be funny. I told her “I know who my brother is” and said hello to him. His girlfriend, Ebola, stood up and immediately walked over to me with her hand outstretched for a handshake. I just looked at her and said “Nice to meet you.” I did not shake her hand. I felt like vomiting and had an urge to flee. I have never met my ex-husband’s mistress-wife after 10 years and now I have another one of those women in my own family trying to shake my hand at my dad’s cataract surgery.
Ebola, mistress/girlfriend, was offended and rolled her eyes at me, shook her head, and said, “Well OK” in an annoyed tone. My brother then said, “You are such a bitch. Why don’t you get on your bitch broom and go back to the parking lot. You are not going to disrespect me!” Mind you, he is loudly saying this in a full waiting room of patients and their families waiting to get cataract surgery.
My mother then intervened and told my brother and me to stop. I told my mother I had not done anything and sat down. I had to listen to my mother make small talk with Ebola until my dad got out of surgery while I answered work emails on my phone. I accompanied my parents home and stayed for a bit to help care for my dad. While I was there, Ebola shows up at the door with lemon bundt cakes. My mother invites her in and announces “I want you two girls to make things right.” I am 48 years old and she is 46 years old, we are women, not girls. I remained seated on the couch and said nothing. I think she eventually got the hint that I was not going to make small talk and left.
I told my parents, “I have a right to be at my father’s surgery and in my parent’s home.” I told them that the time for me to make nice with my brother’s mistress was not at my father’s cataract surgery and that I had never shook hands with my other in-laws and therefore I do not know why she was offended. I told my parents that I will stand my ground, hold my head high, and speak my truth. I survived infidelity and it took a lot work to get me back on my feet. I told them I felt that they and my brother should understand that and the disrespecting is not towards my brother, but rather aimed at my sister and me as women. I told them that if my brother wants peace in his family, calling his sisters bitches and verbally abusing us because we are uncomfortable with his mistress is not the way to go about it.
So I am writing to you to ask how do you behave and feel around people who are adulterers when they are in your own family? I was deeply wounded by what my ex-husband did to me and my sons. I worked hard for a long time to heal. And now I have to be involved with my brother’s cheating scandal. I don’t want to hurt my parents. I do want peace in my family. But how do you sit across the table at Christmas with your cheating sibling and his mistress? How is a family supposed to embrace infidelity?
Trying to fake it, but not making it.
Dear Chump Sis,
That’s interesting that your mother doesn’t want you to attend her funeral, but she’s perfectly happy for you to take a day off for cataract surgery. How about backing off with the love and caring for awhile and let mom call an uber? Or Brother Loyjoy and his Sparkletwat?
She can show up with her lemon bundt cake and there will be no one to triangulate with. Sad. #cakefail
Some shitshow observations:
1.) Your parents assume your chumpy goodness. You’re the show-up kid. A nurse. Of COURSE you’re going to help them after surgeries. Your love and kindness are a GIVEN. Very basic penny stock kibble. Your brother’s kibbles are more precious and not a given — the guy walked out on a wife and three kids. Power move! He could walk away from them too. So, if he — the great and powerful Loyjoy — gives a kibble? That’s top grade premium USDA kibble. Yours? Not so much.
2.) Your pain (and your sister’s) is of less concern than offending your brother and his new girlfriend. See item #1. Your family rallied round when you were chumped. Was that because someone did something ethically wrong and harmful? Or did they rally because you’re family? You assumed ethics — “You hate Bob because he cheated!” — when maybe the read was “Bob’s not in our circle now. A pox on Bob.”
There are those inside the family and outside the family. Within the family, there is rank. You are not rated as highly as your brother.
What would be nice is if we could spackle all over this with Family Peace and Unity! and pretend that we rate everyone the same.
(But we don’t. Did you offend Lovejoy? You’re an unforgiving bitch. What did Lovejoy get called for cursing at you in a public waiting room? Was he uninvited to Mom’s funeral? I rest my case.)
3.) Your parents don’t share your values. They want everyone to get along. They’re old. They don’t want to think too deeply about this. You were chumped and that’s tragic, but it’s not their pain. It was in the past. It has no relevance to their life — a life in which they want their children to coordinate their care.
Your moral high ground isn’t driving them to cataract surgery. So suck it up, buttercup.
You’re allowed to have boundaries. When you enforce boundaries, you may be unpopular. That’s the hard part, but the upside is YOU GET A BOUNDARY!
So, how about a new boundary is — I don’t want to be at an event with Sparkletwat the GF. He’s bringing her? You don’t go and now there’s no triangulation, no crazy cake, no hurled insults. It’s just awkward and boring. You took away the drama and now she’s left making small talk about cataracts.
Your parents don’t like it? Hey, you’re very pleasant about expressing your boundary. (No harrumphing allowed. Because you KNOW you’re allowed boundaries.) And now, perhaps, they won’t take your kibbles for granted. And they’re faced with a kibble choice — your take-the-day-off-devotion or a flaky person who isn’t family. With a proven track record of abandoning family.
The lemon bundt cake isn’t that good.
Boundaries. Try them.