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‘I Feel Guilty for Leaving Him’

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Dear Chump Lady,

I discovered in September 2018 that my husband of 3 years (together a total of 13 years) had been having a 2-year affair with his coworker. (The affair started before our 1-year wedding anniversary and spanned our time trying to get pregnant, our time doing IVF, while I was pregnant and while I was home with our newborn.)

After a big show of remorse from him, we tried reconciliation including: marriage counseling, individual counseling for both, a change of jobs for him, “no contact” between him and his affair partner (AP), and a whole lot of detective work and “pick me dancing” from me.

When I discovered in December that he never truly went “no contact” with the AP, and was planning to meet up with her again, I left with our 6-month-old son and filed for divorce. Now 1 year later, our divorce will be finalized in a month. We co-parent our 18 month old son peacefully and my soon to be ex-husband pays a boatload of child support (as he should).

To this day, my ex reaches out to say how much he misses me, how much he has changed and how much he wants to be a family again. He reluctantly signed the divorce papers after saying that isn’t what he wants (but I insisted).

I have resisted him every time, but I feel my resolve weakening. Part of it is just that I miss him and who I thought he was and what I thought we had. And I fall into hoping that maybe this time really would be different, that me leaving for good and filing was the wake up call he actually needed and now he has changed. It’s very hard to let go. But I think a bigger part is the GUILT.

How do I let go of the mom guilt that is suddenly overwhelming me?? Because he has made this divorce MY choice (he doesn’t want it), I feel like I am responsible for breaking up our child’s family. My son will never experience a Christmas with his parents together. Even though I know logically that this is my ex’s fault, it now feels like mine. I look at my son and I think well if I loved him enough, wouldn’t I try again? (I’m sorry if that sounds awful to other divorced parents out there!!!) I come back to this over and over again that somehow I am failing my son by not trying again, especially because his dad is willing. I want what is best for my son and if there is any chance that I can be happy with his dad (maybe there is!), shouldn’t I try? Can you help me overcome this mom guilt or maybe see this in another light? I am terrified of making the wrong choice here.

Guilty Mom

Dear Guilty Mom,

Oh hey, I recognize this flavor of hopium — wanting a hit on the ol’ abusive relationship For The Children. It’s not that you’re faltering and want him back, it’s… it’s… FOR THE FAMILY! A child needs a father! An Intact Family No Matter How Dysfunctional Is Better Than A Single Mother!

Have you been freebasing David Brooks articles? Your sweet boy is 18 months old. He hasn’t grasped the Patriarchy yet. I swear that cute gurgling baby is not judging you for refusing to take back a fuckwit. DROP THE GUILT.

Where is all this judgement coming from? Why do YOU, the chump in this story, think you have something to feel guilty about? Why have you internalized the misogyny that a woman reunited with a cheating fuckwit is better than a strong woman without one?

Oh, because he’s not a cheating fuckwit? HE CHEATED ON YOU FOR TWO WHOLE YEARS. That you KNOW of! Before your wedding! During IVF! During your PREGNANCY! He endangered your child’s life with his fucking around!

Think for one minute of how much deception that requires. How much utter contempt he must have for you and your shared life. Think about him arranging even a single fuckfest while you’re there shooting yourself up with hormones for IVF. Think how much you risked your own health, what you put your body through, to give this man a son. And what he did with that gift.

New life literally hangs in the balance and he’s out getting strange co-worker pussy. Oh hey, don’t mind the STD risk. What’s your health worth? What’s a child? What’s a birth defect or an infection?

Oh, everything’s okay? How about if he dangled you over a balcony? But you clambered back up, are we cool?

HE did this. And worse, he did it for YEARS. That takes a staggering amount of mindfuckery. He’s such a good liar you wouldn’t know if he’s sincere or if it’s Wednesday.

You know why it’s hard to let go? Because you haven’t let go. Somehow this guy’s mindfuck is getting through to you.

To this day, my ex reaches out to say how much he misses me, how much he has changed and how much he wants to be a family again.

Oh HELL no. We are not having relationship autopsies with an ass pimple. (I choose this cartoon deliberately, so that every time you look at this post you’re confronted with a pock-marked butt.) He’s reaching out? DELETE. BLOCK. Route all emails through your lawyer. Parenting software. Neutral drop-off places. Chaperons. Armed guards. SWAT teams. Concertina wire. NATO peacekeeping troops patrolling the border.

You catch my drift? DO NOT LET HIM IN YOUR HEAD. No conversations, just logistics.

He does NOT miss you. He misses cake. He has NOT changed. (And you wouldn’t know if he had, see “Wednesday.”) He wants to be a “family”? What’s that even MEAN to someone so morally bankrupt? Oh, you mean he’d like to be King, with a nice birthing vessel there to do the wife appliance things? And a son to reflect glory on him so long as he’s not sticky or tired or in need of a diaper change or have any needs? Could someone please do the adulting for this guy? He has a very important appointment with his girlfriend(s).

THAT IS NOT FAMILY. He’s not going to give you the life you thought you were investing in. He’s going to give you some sick dystopian hellscape even Margaret Atwood couldn’t dream up. How do I know? BECAUSE YOU WERE LIVING IT FOR TWO YEARS.

He loved it! How do I know? HE KEPT GOING BACK AND DOING IT.

Wouldn’t you like another round of heartbreak? Wouldn’t you like to model that to your son? Gotta get the misogyny started early while they’re young and impressionable.

My son will never experience a Christmas with his parents together.

My son will never experience his mother sobbing on the bathroom floor having discovered dad’s multiple infidelities.

My son will never experience a Christmas in which dad is inexplicably unavailable/on his cellphone texting his mistress/openly contemptuous of his family.

My son will never experience a woman being sexually humiliated.

Fill in as needed. You know, make a whole journal and give me a hundred sentences.

I’m sorry you don’t get the intact, two-parent nuclear family you thought you were getting. I’m not being snarky. You invested a lot in that dream. I invested in that dream. A few bazillion of us here invested in that dream. It’s not a bad dream if you have two ethical, loving people. You didn’t get that. And you don’t CONTROL that. You didn’t make him cheat, he CHOSE that. And you’re not responsible. It’s heartbreaking, but you have ZERO responsibility here for how he shattered this. You DO have a responsibility, however, for how you react. And I’m telling you, do NOT choose more abuse. (And NO, he has NOT changed. Besides, what’s it been, a few months?)

Because he has made this divorce MY choice

He’s pinning this on you? The fucker isn’t one bit sorry, ergo he has not changed. He’s every bit the mindfucker he always was.

my soon to be ex-husband pays a boatload of child support (as he should).

And there we have it.

Cake is delicious and costs less.

Now then, stop these crazy thoughts and pull yourself together. You are ENOUGH. I know you’re a new mom, and exhausted, with baby vomit in your hair. These are sleepless days of wonder. It’s totally understandable to want help. Heck, I would’ve dragooned total strangers to do 2 a.m. feedings (but they kept escaping my nets). Mothering alone can be a slog. But do not ever, EVER mistake that hardship for “missing” a fuckwit. Those people take a hard thing and make it harder. They exact a steep price for “helping” you. (And by “help,” I mean Do The Things They Have a Responsibility to Do.)

I’m now going to hand over the floor to Chump Nation who can tell you about their mightiness single parenting. And I imagine a few dozen of them will tell you what happens next when you take this guy back and what that looks like 25 years later.

Freedom is within sight. KEEP GOING. You can DO this.

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Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • “My son will never experience his mother sobbing on the bathroom floor having discovered dad’s multiple infidelities.”
    Yes to this. I stayed “for the kids”. My kids have witnessed loads of abuse and lies from a messed up man. My son literally pulled me off the bed because I was too depressed to get up after finding out about DDay #3.
    Save yourself from future heartbreak, find someone who truly loves you.

    • So true, I stayed another 12 years after his ‘soulmate debacle’ only for me to get to get a text not meant for me but meant for his ‘beautiful ‘ friend….26 years of walking on eggshells, occasionally being treated ok, 90% of the time total disrespect, I stayed for my boys who now are adults & have no relationship with him whatsoever, do not go back, your son will have much more respect for you, I wasted all those years waiting for him to be the husband & father that I thought he could be..he wasn’t & never could be, I wish I’d found Chump lady so much earlier than I did but I have now, so onwards & upwards away from the kibble & sad sausage to gaining my new life.

      • Joanne-how are your sons handling the no relationship issue? Mine are struggling. We are 2 yrs out. How does this evolve?

    • Thank you, I keep reminding myself of this too, that the future isn’t as rosy as I’m imagining it would be with him. Sometimes it’s hard to shut down those hopeful feelings of “it could be different this time” but reading all your responses I see that so many times it just isn’t. It’s more of the same and then our kids are old enough to witness it. I have a coworker who stayed for her kids and now 10 years later she’s going through a divorce bc he cheated again. All the evidence of other people’s experiences is literally staring me in the face but I still struggle thinking maybe he could be different. I need sense knocked into me repeatedly apparently.

      • Guilty Mom,

        My now XH had an affair when I was pregnant, way back in 1999. I stayed as I truly didn’t know what was going on with him and why the sudden change in his behavior (cold, mean, started going out after work all the time; now I know he was having an affair and was thinking about leaving the family.) 2014 I caught him out on a date with a newly divorced whore. Between 1999 and 2014, many times I found evidence of emotionally cheating — flirtatious emails and Facebook IM’s to many different women. I wish I knew what I know now and ran for my life way back in 1999. These types don’t change. Your XH is a scumbag who cheated on his wife when she was pregnant! Listen to Chump Lady! She speaks the truth. Your child will be okay. I grew up with divorced parents due to my dad being a serial cheater. I have great Christmas memories even though my mom didn’t have a lot of money for presents. And I never spent Christmas with my dad, because he moved far away for his schmoopie(s). My mom, sisters, brother and other relatives made Christmas fun. I never had a two parent Christmas and it was okay! 🙂

      • Don’t forget that you did try again. You tried to reconcile and he took a dump all over it. If that didn’t prove he has no intention of changing his ways, what will? This man has no respect for you and no concern for the welfare of his child. You were of use to him and he just wants to continue using you. He enjoyed conning you and humiliating you, even while you were going through hell to have a child. Probably *especially* then, because having that kind of malignant power over you is delicious to him. What’s not to despise about this creep? You have nothing to feel guilty about. Any child is better off without a “father” like this one.
        You need to cut off communication with him so he can’t manipulate your emotions.

      • My DDay came when my son was three, about to turn four. Had to deal with explaining why daddy wasn’t living there anymore, etc. Dealt with a lot of hard nights.

        Now, 9 years after dday (almost to the day) and I’m remarried to a fantastic man. He’s been in my life for nearly 8 years, and my son told me the other day he doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t a part of his life.

        Things will get easier. They’re hard now, that is for sure. But getting rid of the cheater was the best choice I ever made. I’m happy now, my son has a wonderful life, I coparent with the ex (who is on girlfriend number 4 or 5, lost count) and nothing else. I have a life, it’s a fantastic life doing what I want and not having a fuckwit entertain other women with the money I earn. I can buy my kid stuff for Christmas and not worry if the bills were paid by my (ex) husband. I’m free!

        You can do it. Enjoy the time with your son, these days go fast and you don’t need worrying about a cheater to interfere with that time. Kids who have “two houses, two holidays” are rather common, and it will be normal for him growing up so he won’t likely be too bothered by it. Hang in there! Every year it just gets so much better. Meh is coming.

        • Dear Guilty Mom, please note the financial abuse Formerchumpnowbride referred to in passing. Swindling seems to go w/ cheating. Like chocolate & peanut butter.

    • My husband soon to be ex cheated for 3 years and I took him back 5 times. He cheated during a year of chemo after I was diagnosed with cancer a week after DDay. I finally realize I fell for it – it’s a cycle of abuse! My older children, this last time, along with my parents said no more-I look back and wish I had the guts to not put my kids through this.

  • I allowed mine to come back after the affair and moving out. It was just to get his money in place and step up for a divorce. Run like Hell. They don’t change. My feelings is if they did it once they will do it again. My neighbors husband had an affair and came back and 6 yrs later , he is doing it again. Save yourself the heartache.

    • I keep seeing this over and over where people stay for the kids and then years later they cheat again. It happened to a coworker that I’m close with. I don’t know why it’s so pervasive to feel like my ex is a magical unicorn that will somehow be different. When we were trying to reconcile I think I spent too much time on reconciliation message boards with people talking about their “success” stories and it got into my head.

      • Think of CL and Chump Nation as the counter-narrative and antidote for the poison poured into you on reconciliation boards.

        Also: your hope that your cheater cold be a unicorn might also be motivated by fear: life looking ahead is uncertain and we all wonder whether we can handle it alone. I certainly had that fear. But almost two years out from leaving a 35 year marriage, and just over a year from divorce, I can tell you that every single thing you tackle that you were afraid you couldn’t handle builds your resilience and belief in yourself. Also, you’ll find that you’re not alone–other people are there to connect with, and you can build networks of reciprocity with many, many people.

        It’s easy to fear an uncertain future. But remember, you KNOW what you had with your spouse, and that is not something to long for, nor is it something to try to build a future on.

      • I felt the same way Guilty Mom. My ex did horrendous things, but I took him back, certain that he had a sex addiction and we could work together to overcome it. For three years we worked and worked on it (I now realize *I* mainly worked on it), and because I had become so used to getting so little from him his little moments of being nice or semi-responsible were enough for me to cling to as evidence that I had a unicorn. I was SO certain I had a unicorn that I adopted his mentally ill daughter from his first marriage. Less than a month after that he cheated again. Tried to work it out again (because we OBVIOUSLY didnt work hard enough the first go around and just needed to get back on track) and then four months later got caught AGAIN. I know you want to think you got something special and he’s going to be the one who actually DOES change, but that’s not reality. All those “success” stories, they arent as happy as they seem. I’ve seen those women in SA meetings. 10, 20, sometimes 50 years with a partner who cheated on them, and even all those years later it still hurts them, it still makes them cry, because they can never heal while they’re with the person who hurt them and betrayed them. They may still be legally married to each other, but they don’t have a real marriage as far as I’m concerned. Please listen to the thousands of women telling you to walk away and never look back. It will truly be the best gift you could give yourself or your child.

  • My sons have each, repeatedly, said the best thing that ever happened in our lives – was divorce. They are the most amazing, driven, focused, caring, hard working 15 and almost-19 year olds you’ll ever meet. (The divorce is 5 years in our past, during the most important early teen years to navigate.) Yes, I feel guilt around the holidays and when summer comes and goes with no vacations because I can’t afford them – but SO MANY good things have happened in our single-mom home. I’ve been no-contact with my ex since before the divorce was finalized – and have let the boys choose their own course as the years have gone by. I sit and wonder how weddings, birth of grandchildren and other milestones will look, but I know I have no control and did not cause this so i will continue to simply support my boys the best I can and bring happiness to their lives.

    • This! I am struggling through the prospect of having a Christmas Day without my family for the first time ever. I didn’t do this, but I get to eat the shit sandwich. My only job now is to do whatever makes me happy and brings joy to my adult kids. That’s it. Here’s to a fuckwit-free Christmas!

      • That happened to me last year. It was my first Christmas without my kids, even though I was not the parent who broke up our family for a married man. Fortunately a friend of mine was in the same situation and came over to my house. I bought some steaks, I cooked dinner, we watched some moves, and had a great time!

  • A guy cheats on you for two years (almost whole relationship), doesn’t stop cheating, now doesn’t like consequences (divorce and child support) and YOU feel guilty?? Blimey!

    Please bring attention back to yourself and ask yourself if what he did was acceptable to you. And re-read every day what CL wrote to you as a response.

    • They had a 13 year relationship. There’s more she didn’t find out about, he didn’t just wake up one morning right after getting married and decide to have an affair after being together so long.

      • Persephone you are right, and what he did was not acceptable to me. That has always been my sticking point even I delude myself into thinking that he’s changed or the future will be different, I will get stuck on “but I can’t forgive or accept what he already did” and then I come back to my senses. Even just imagining it still makes me physically sick.

        Kellyp, there was absolutely more. I also found out that when he went to Vegas on a last “guys trip” before our son was born, he blew $5,000 on a credit card at a strip club. When I type that out I feel INSANE for forgiving him at the time. I also feel insane for believing him that he spent that much on legal activities only. I’m sure now that there was more to it than lap dances. I just felt like in comparison to the cheating it was small. Now I look back and wonder how much more I DIDN’T discover.

        • Guilty Mom,

          Just like you’ll see the pimple butt cartoon every single time you look at your letter to Chump Lady. Write out a list of every single horrible thing he did to you and that you know about; like spending $5,000 on strippers!! Read that list every single time you think you want him back in your life. That list represents who he truly is. And yes, there is probably a ton of stuff you don’t know about, but it doesn’t matter anymore. You know enough to know he truly sucks. Most people don’t suck 100% and have good qualities too. It’s easy to get hung up on those good qualities and think that they are good people. But your XH has abusive qualities and that’s not going to change as he doesn’t want to change. He wants cake and the wife appliance. He doesn’t want to pay child support. You got mighty and divorced him. Now let’s keep it that way! 🙂

          • YES, that list helped me so much! I am not good at staying mad, never have held a grudge or been resentful for long. I am an optimist, and tend to focus on the good stuff. All these are QUALITIES – UNTIL there’s a fuckwit trying to take advantage of those good qualities.

            I made the list, and I added to it as the fuckwit continued fuckwitting along. I tried to put down all the big and small crap he did, not just the cheating but the selfishness, the uncaring and unloving behaviours, the childish things, the tense atmosphere he created, how he treated me, the kids, other people …..

            When I missed him or felt sad, I’d read over the list. When I felt weak or started thinking maybe it would be better to try again, I read over the list. That list kept reality IN MY FACE.

            You need reality staring you in the face.

            It also helped me to accept that I WANTED things and FELT things, but that I KNEW those things were not what was best for me, or for my kids. It helped to let go of the assumption that my feeling and wanting meant something about what I should DO. It helped to give up trying to make myself stop wanting or feeling things. I could want and feel, and still let me head make the actual decisions. (And let my head protect me from his mindfuckery – as low contact as possible, Gray Rock and BIFF.)

            I’m another one who reconciled, truly forgave and moved on, stepped up my already-damned-good wife-ing, and invested deeply in the kids’ intact family. Only to have him continue to be super lazy about our relationship, about parenting, and then cheat again, 7 years later.

            His continued selfishiness, moodiness and lazy parenting did my kids a LOT of harm over the years. One kid (less like him) was being crushed by how little his father cared. The other (more like him) was learning to be rude and entitled from him. Both were learning that adult couple relationships consist of a bully and an accomodator, and they were picking their roles. We can talk at our kids till we’re blue in the face, but they learn what they live. Is that the lesson you want your child to learn?

            We shouldn’t stay for the kids. We should leave FOR THE KIDS, as well as for ourselves.

            • So helpful, KarenE, discerning between wanting and feeling and actually doing. A great use of mindfulness and awareness so that we don’t have to act on the feelings.

      • This^^^! My first thought was the she never found out about all the other affairs or the times he would have had an affair if the other woman hadn’t turned him down. I can remember lots of married men seriously hitting on me and turning them down cold. I wouldn’t even want a man that hit on so many women, tossing whatever he thought might stick. She needs to run and quit with the hopium and self guilt. He’s the only fuckwit who should feel bad after he destroyed all the good that he had in his life.
        My only regret was that I didn’t leave sooner. I should have left when he started treating me like shit. I should have had enough self respect and self love to get out. But I thought all those patterns of behavior weren’t singularly enough to walk away. I’m sure he was cheating even then, I just never found out about it. The ridiculous mid life crises affair (don’t really believe in mid life crises though) shouldn’t have been the final straw. Never again will I doubt my gut nor will I put myself last. I will never again stay, even with a faithful man, if he starts acting like I’m not his whole world.

  • Hey Mom,
    ALL of us chumps miss who and what we thought we had. But to the best of our knowledge unicorns DO NOT exist. And hopium is a disaster for one’s health.

    Christmas is coming around and Chump Lady just wrote up some alternatives to your guilt, one of which triggered an old pain of mine: “My son will never experience a Christmas in which dad is inexplicably unavailable/on his cellphone texting his mistress/****openly contemptuous of his family****.”
    ***Contempt*** is what XH had made my family’s holidays become, and for years. And this chump here would spend them wondering what ***she*** was doing wrong. What a life! What a chump I was!

    Mom (I am leaving “Guilty” OUT of your moniker), life is not perfect. And ‘perfect’ is the enemy of ‘good’. For me, good is enough. This is not about being mediocre or resigned to mediocrity and lowering ones values and expectations. This is about not wasting precious time, getting on and doing my job in life the best I can.

    Please do not feel guilty. Your ex loves cake.

    Take care and have a very good Christmas with you child.

    • I agree… I look back and remember times my ex got mad at me for innocent things or seemed really impatient or annoyed with me for no reason and I link it back to times he was with her or trying to be with her. Or times I had suspicious and he had me so convinced I was crazy. It’s nauseating. I have to remind myself that it would be more of the same.

      • Mom, from what I’ve read from people who took their cheaters back, it’s not just more of the same, the abuse actually gets worse.

        Please don’t take your douche bag back. You and your son deserve far better.

        I grew up with single-mom Christmases and they were joyous; filled with family, love, good food, and a beautiful Christmas tree bought from the cheap-because-they-weren’t-perfect section.

        You got this : )

      • Wall-o-text (have put in comments before because it’s so darned good):

        Recovering From the Loss of a Dream
        by LEIGH PRETNAR COUSINS, M.S.

        One’s internal reality is the “realest” thing we have. We do, truly, live inside our own heads, and we experience the external world through the lens of the Self we construct.

        So, when a dream dies, it’s just as painful and “real” to us as when a flesh-and-blood loved one dies.

        And that same mourning process needs to take place. The denial, the bargaining, the anger … all of that … until, finally, acceptance sets in.

        Our dreams exist, for real, in our brain’s circuitry. An important dream is built up through lots of repetitions of a cherished idea, which makes for very strong and sturdy neural connections.

        Those connections don’t then easily disconnect as soon as we realize that our dream won’t come true. The disconnection and rerouting process is long and painful.

        Tim Hardin wrote How Do You Hang on to a Dream? … because, of course, the desire to hang on is so powerful and the letting go is so agonizing.

        We often don’t have sufficient respect for someone who is suffering dream-death. We wonder why they don’t just buck up and move on. After all, it was “all in their head,” right?

        But that’s exactly the point: “In our heads” is where we live. That’s where the pain and suffering come from.

        When someone loses a dream …

        a career aspiration
        a home
        a relationship

        … it doesn’t matter whether that dream was “deluded” or “impractical” or “a mistake.”

        Dream-death is real death, and the sufferer needs sympathy and patience, along with the gentlest, most consistent support towards rebuilding a new reality inside their heads.

        • Nemo,
          So true about those neural connections that believe the dream taking time and work to change.
          Compounded with the Stockholm syndrome which results in (NOT) Guilty Mom believing the ‘it’s my fault we are divorced story’ because my serial cheating husband told me so!
          (NOT) Guilty Mom : the part of the dream that was real and continues to be real is you. You loved, you gave, you forgave, you gave another chance (and some! Repeat,repeat!) You were true and you still are. You are still a kind loving person, and waking up and not taking abuse from people will make you stronger and wiser in the long run.
          I took my serial cheating husband back, (and repeat) 25 years and two kids later: he discarded me.
          My two beautiful sons continue to pay the price in all aspects of their lives.
          (NOT) Guilty Mom: No contact/Grey rock: Do it for your son!

    • Don’t remind me. My X was working overseas the Christmas before Dday. So, I decided to give him Christmas in March. I worked my ass off getting permission from the HOA to put Christmas decorations up in March, bought all new Christmas gifts to put under the tree, wrapped said gifts, bought the Christmas meal food to make, made said food, surprised him with our college-aged son coming home (and his girlfriend), decorated my ass off by myself (oldest was at college until the day after his father got home, and went all out on the bank account with some pretty amazing (read between the lines EXPENSIVE) gifts for Xhole. All of this just to be ignored. He barely thanked me when he was opening his $1200 worth of gifts. He was on his phone so ignored the dinner call. He finally ate dinner after we’d all went to bed. Talk about passive aggressive. What I didn’t know was that he was purposely being an asswhole so I would start a fight so he could leave. I was hurt and I was confused, but I didn’t even think to get angry. We all have these tales to tell. I hope the poster reads every single one of these stories. Oh, and both boys were the ones who got angry at how he was so obviously mistreating me. So his plan backfired. They thought he was a grade a douchebag. No child should see their mother so devalued, discarded, and disrespected. Better to have had that father-free Christmas!

      • Thanks for sharing this. Specific details and examples are sometimes the best advice and reminders. They help us remember our own stories of complete disrespect and can fuel the fire of forging ahead.
        *my new tagline-when negotiating for divorce don’t start at 50/50, think 100/ 0 and go from there.

  • You missing what you should have had. His affair, was over 2 years. Do you think he really was thinking of you. He’s telling you what you want to hear. he’s shown you he can’t be trusted.
    The best revenge is getting on with your life.

  • My Daughter just left for University and is adulting like a Pro.
    In London.
    Like. A. Pro.
    It’s very do-able. It’s an effort. It’s worth it.
    She is outrageously happy and working so hard.
    Carry on, Warrior.

    • Guilty Mom,
      stay the course. Go through with the divorce. Do it even if it’s hard. As I’ve reminded myself a few million times, it’s ONLY hard. (Not impossible.)
      Here’s why it’s better for your son this way: he’s 18 months. He won’t know any different. He won’t know of Christmas spent with his two parents together. He will grow up with two parents who are divorced and living separately, and, in your own words, coparenting peacefully. That will be his normal.
      And you will be the sane parent raising him according to your values.
      You are sparing him the trauma of having to go through his parents’ divorce when he’s older, say a teenager. And you are sparing yourself the risk of his father mindfucking him during that process the way he seems to be doing with you right now.
      Can you see it now? “Son, daddy doesn’t want you and mommy to leave. Daddy wants to still be a family.”
      You are sparing your son and yourself SO MUCH PAIN.
      I divorced my cheating ex when our kids were teens. Like you, we coparented peacefully. I even allowed him to keep the house (he wanted it more, and tbh I couldn’t afford it). He basically threw me under the bus to the kids. It went like this: OW (his secretary) is “just a friend”, mom is crazy/insecure, mom abandoned us.
      Today, 10 years down the road, I have a great relationship with my two younger kids. Oldest son is still firmly “team dad” despite my efforts to set the record straight.
      Cheaters don’t change.
      Go gain a life for yourself and your little boy.

  • “He does NOT miss you. He misses cake.”

    I’ve still got to be reminded of this with my ex-wife. It’s even more sinister mindfuckery than that. She doesn’t even say she misses me, she just acts like she misses cake. I’ve done good being just a logistical robot, but I definitely have bouts of WTF.

    There’s texts about her “concerns” about how I parent when it’s my turn. There’s tasks she tries to assign to me, because “it’s only fair”, “it’s the right thing to do”, or “you said you would” (yeah, before I said I wanted a divorce!). There’s old pictures, memes, and cute video links she sends to me. When I ignore them, she thinks I’m mad at her. Then gets upset when I remind her I don’t want to be friends, saying she simply “can’t stop caring about me like that”. Apparently that makes me the heartless one who can!

    This typically results in complete silent treatment from her. Part of that is blissful, but it also includes logistical stuff required to co-parent. Nothing major, but stuff like the courtesy message of when she is on her way to drop off our child. Unimportant logistical messages also stop being answered in a timely manner; usually several hours to a day later.

    It’s all a twisted game that she thinks I have no choice but to play.

    • I have to say, the whole “He does not miss you. He misses cake” thing is so true. We all need to get out of the Cake Dealer business. Terrible return on investment. Anyone analyzing the cake business would say it’s rife with risk that can only be mitigated by refusing to be a Cake Dealer!

      • So very true, Karen!

        It’s like I’m dealing with an addict that I used to supply. Always hovering and trying different tactics to see if I’ll supply just one more time! I have to guard against slipping up, because it really is like an addict getting a hit and wanting more. As soon as she gets a whiff of cake, she doubles down on her efforts.

    • Parenting software time. You need to able to show that she is unresponsive/uncooperative AND you need to be able to not have her be able to contact you any other way. Block her from texting after telling her what software you are going to be using. STOP PLAYING HER GAME. It is just fine to parallel parent. The software is a blessing. She is using your kid to mess with your head. STOP

      • I know you’re right, but I cringe when I think about it. I might wait it out until after Christmas before dropping that bombshell.

        We’re already using Google Calendar to coordinate. I had to fight to start using this earlier in our marriage. There kept being a “problem” of her swearing she told me about a trip or event. I would supposedly agree to it and somehow forget all about it when it was time. Usually I remembered discussing it briefly several weeks prior, but that nothing definite was ever decided and the topic was never brought up again.

        I thought that it would help since she could send me an invite and I could accept or reject. No longer would it be a question of if I agreed and then forgot. She flipped her shit! Yelled at me how crazy it was. Asked “why can’t we just talk to each other like normal couples”? Uh… because that’s not working?

        Low and behold…I never “forgot” about an event again after implementing it.

        • One, you’re no longer “a couple.” Two, if you had been a “normal couple” she wouldn’t have cheated. Once you ignore her image management “friendly” overtures, and repeat the above to her enough times, she’ll get the message.

        • SPF – she’s a nut. I wonder if she knows KK from UXWorld. These women are unbelievable. Hang in there, it will get better when you are known as a non-kibble source. Takes a while though.
          Holidays can be difficult but it won’t always be so.

          • I had to search for KK from UXWorld just to see. Yep…no doubt about it. They are definitely related somehow.

            Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the way she normally talked to me in person; she would only do so if she realized I had undeniable proof of some sort of bad behavior. I’ve gotten many such smarmy emails full of oily, yet poetic, words that are full of subtle passive-aggressiveness. Most are under the guise of her concerns about me, a desire to be closer, or how emotionally distraught she is about my behavior (i.e. what she wants to change about me). Pretty much any long text message from her is the same way.

            All of them have the same effect. If read with the assumption that the writer is a good person, it looks warm, yet tragic. Filtered through the UBT, it looks like a narcissist given a writing prompt and instructed to make the story as gripping as possible.

    • “Then gets upset when I remind her I don’t want to be friends, saying she simply “can’t stop caring about me like that”. Apparently that makes me the heartless one who can! This typically results in complete silent treatment from her.”

      THE SAME EXACT WORDS were spoken from my former hub of 28 yrs. He cheated with a coworker and abandoned me. After a horribly contentious 3 yr divorce process which I had to initiate because his actions forced me to file since he was insisting I now become “polyamory” or renegotiate our vows to be “monogaMISH”, now he wants to be friends. I said no and he responded with the silent treatment. I don’t play his sick games anymore, but as far as cake goes, he says he misses my cooking and baking. Never ME, just what I could do for him. Sometimes I feel guilty too, but the feeling goes away.

    • Sounds like you need a better court ordered parenting plan. I have all pickups and drop offs at 2 locations within a 20 minute window. All communication is only through a court server. I still get cussed out and nonsense sent but because all the logistics are in orders, I just ignore and move on. He has decided he is ghosting me- “I LOVE IT”! The school can communicate the kids school stuff. He already told me he won’t deal with medical or dental so I don’t tell him anything unless he asked or is going to have to pay for it. He has never asked. Reading the RIC my kids are going to be damaged from the lack of co-parenting. But my kids are doing better now that I don’t engage. Both my girls are making straight A’s and have won awards for kindness, gratitude and art.

    • I feel for you.. my ex will send a funny picture or meme and I’m still in the place where I always respond in a friendly way in an attempt to be “a peaceful coparent.” I will go out of my way to send him pictures of our son out of sympathy for him that he’s not there 24/7 getting to see all the moments I see. I still fear doing things that will hurt his feelings (I know, after he cheated on me for 2 years…. no idea why I care). I have seen him cry openly with “remorse” so many times that it has really resulted in me feeling so guilty for leaving even though I know it’s necessary and not my fault. I know I need to let go. I know that despite me filing for divorce, he’s still in my head in a big way. I just struggle with how to get from where I am currently to where I know I need to be. I’m casually dating but even that is a struggle because I feel like I’m just searching for a replacement (My ex exactly, but a version of him that doesn’t lie and cheat) that obviously doesn’t exist. Having trouble ripping off the bandaid and fully letting go. Maybe the divorce being final will help.

      • Letting go is a process and you will fail and rise again. Work on why you feel responsible for his feelings. Each and every day remind yourself that you’d still be married if he didn’t cheat on you and endangered your and your chil’s physical and mental health. Each and every day read what CL wrote to you today.

        As to his tears and remorse – remind yourself that he was very convincing in pretending to love you while all the time he was f..king around behind your back. That’s how a great actor he is. A man who loves you wouldn’t have cheated for almost entire relationship, sorry to break this sad news to you.

      • Mom…NO CONTACT is the way to the light. He is mindfucking you something awful. He feels bad and cries real tears? Tell him to save it and get a parenting program in place and quit talking to him at all. Where is schmoopie in all of this? Doesn’t he need to go be with her? These people are so disordered it’s pathetic. As long as you allow him to trample on your heart, he will.

      • Sweetheart, you are in love with an illusion. I was too. I missed the illusion of a nice husband who said he was sorry. His actions proved otherwise. I missed the illusion of a happy relationship containing reciprocity, heartfelt care and most of all, true love. It was never real. It takes a long time to accept that.
        What you are hoping for is just an illusion. I’m so sorry for you; it is terrible emotional pain, but you will persevere because you have to. I assure you that one day your life will be much better without the faker you married.

        • Oh yeah, and $5000 spent at a strip club??? What the hell??
          That says it all to me….
          Completely unacceptable behavior. And you forgave that behavior which means he will do it again. Cause he thinks it’s okay. Dude must make a LOT of money.

      • Those are not tears of remorse, they are crocodile tears. He means to manipulate you and you’ve got to somehow start understanding that.

        Also, stop projecting your love and care for your son to your stbx cheater. If he cared so much about his family, he would not have been cheating on you, both of you. While you were busy changing diapers, he was balls deep in another woman having himself a blast. Seriously put this on a sticky note on your bathroom mirror.

        Change his name in your phone to cheater or creep some such – so that when you pick up that phone to send him pics because you keep projecting your humanity to this creep, you will get a cold reminder just who you are dealing with and maybe you’ll put down the phone without texting him.

        I know that worked for me wonders. They are so good at trying to get under your skin, at making you believe that they’ve somehow changed, but they haven’t. I still have to deal with cheater, but every time the phone rings and I see “cheater” on caller ID, I get that slap of reality and you know….it works, like a vaccine against his fake charm and ongoing lies.

      • You go out of your way to send him pictures? Stop! Stop that right now! He did this to himself! He doesn’t get pictures! Je doesn’t deserve pictures! Most important: He doesn’t give a shit about the pictures! Al he cares about is he is succeeding in manipulating you

      • After my divorce I started to realise that a lot of these stories I told myself about feeling responsible for him he had started. So I would encourage you to notice if the guilt is coming from him.

        You can’t really ever be responsible for another person’s happiness. They have to choose happiness. Entitled people tend to have the expectation that other people should make them happy, and one justification they use for cheating is that you haven’t performed that function.

      • Gm, no contact is really the only way to detach. I know it is difficult where a child is concerned but the scheduling software seems like a good solution. Just let ex know you need to do it for your own mental health then stick to it til he is out of your head. You probably aren’t ready to date while he is still in your head. Are you having therapy? That can help as long as the thetapist helps you detach not to reconcile. Then some time, maybe years down the track you may be able to handle some ‘friendly'(non emotional) contact. It does get easier.Best wishes.

      • My X cried all the time and begged me to continue working on the marriage. For two years I tried to figure out if he really was changing or was faking it. He was going to therapy every week and putting on quite a show, but I could tell there was no real remorse – he was constantly rolling his eyes and blameshifting. I felt so sorry for him because I projected MY thoughts and feelings onto him – I imagined how horrible I would feel if I had done those things and thrown my family away. I imagined how grateful I would feel if someone gave me a second chance.
        Ha! What a joke. I was away at a funeral when he moved out. When I got back I found that he had made a little one man porn movie in my bathroom and posted it on one of his perverted websites. Ugh. Seeing the truth was a gift though, it finally woke me up to reality and I was 110% sure that I wanted a divorce.

        Guilty Mom, it’s all an act. Don’t send him pictures of your son. He is NOT your friend. I know that is hard to accept, but he is not your friend and he does not care about things the way you do. Stop projecting thoughts and feelings onto him that he does not have. Don’t feel bad for him. He made his choices, let him have his consequences. Remember this was ALL his choice. A good therapist would work with you about boundaries and about NOT buying into the cultural narrative teaching us that we all have to be friendly. Don’t be friendly to your abuser. (Civil, but not more than that.)

      • Can you move away from him and (still?) have your extended family close by? I’m 2.5 years post divorcing my serial cheater ex and the hoovering, crying remorse by him is endless and has impaired my best judgment on some big life decisions like buying a great family-owned house for me and my girls, for a once in a lifetime deal.
        “No contact” is the answer to letting go of the hope and dream you’re suffering to accept and the further away you are, the easier it may get. Some of these cheaters are so good in so many other ways its hard to get yourself out of their con. I understand the pull he has on you and I still got memes and screenshots of song lyrics and forlorn glances across the bleachers at our kids’ basketball games until two weeks ago when something changed for him and now he’s hostile and even keyed my car at said basketball game. This is from “pillar of community, has 4 cars, 400k earning, mr perfect”! I’m looking to move with my two daughters 12 and 15.

      • It’s a process to get to where you need to be and there’s no easy way to gauge how far you’ve come. I’m occasionally surprised with what I’ve been able to let go of. Yet I still have reminders of things I’m holding on to. I don’t fear hurting her feelings, but I still defiantly fear setting healthy boundaries because of the potential backlash.

        You’ll get there! Cutting off any unnecessary contact really helped me so much and I’m sure it will help you. It gave me time to process my thoughts the way I wanted to and without any external influence from my ex-wife, who was just trying to do damage control & image management.

    • Ahhhh. Mine does the same. Nostalgic pics, olive branches covered in shit. Most recently he said we needed to discuss the children’s college funds. I wanted to respond that he’s a bit late given that they are 12 and 10. I also wanted to say that there are more pressing matters like the money he owes me for current education expenses. But I didn’t. The effort required and… Well just the effort required.
      I just ignore everything. I truly don’t care what he says.

  • If your house had toxic mold that could harm or kill you and your child, but you had hopes and dreams of your child growing up in that beautiful house and you really wanted him to have a stable home and not have to move around during his young childhood, would you keep living in that house anyway?

    No. Of course you wouldn’t. It’s toxic. It could ruin or end your lives.

    Your ex is the toxic mold in your emotional home with your child.

    Would it be your “fault” that your child didn’t grow up there because you “chose” to leave that beautiful home? No. Of course not. It isn’t that you chose to leave only because you had a choice and wanted to leave. You chose to leave because, whether it was what you wished was true or not, leaving was your only *reasonable* choice.

    Leaving your toxic ex was your only *reasonable* choice.

    You’ll build new stability. You’ll make new and wonderful memories. You’ll both be safe and healthy because you’re in a safe new home.

    You didn’t choose to leave your husband. You chose to save your child and his only stable parent — you — from a toxic life.

    It was a responsible, loving, stable parent’s only reasonable choice, and you get to own that with confidence and a peaceful heart, my friend. 💚

    • Wow, I love this metaphor. And it does make me feel better to think of me leaving him as leaving a situation that was toxic and out of my control. And I think of the word “reasonable” a lot because sometimes it’s the only thing that pulls me out of wanting to go back. The REASONABLE choice is leaving the guy who cheated for 2 years. The REASONABLE choice is fleeing as far and as fast as I can. I have always been a black and white thinking type of person and it helps to bring me to my senses sometimes to just focus on what would normally seem like common sense (if it wasn’t happening to me and I wasn’t influenced so much by emotion). I will keep trying to remember this.

      • I am like this too, and recently I have been reading a lot about using emotions as data, and it really speaks to me —

        If I can both feel my emotions (not avoid or invalidate them) AND be curious about them and what they bring to the decision making process (they are an important part of what’s really happening), then I’m not invalidating my own soul, which makes some sense, really.

        Of course, this often takes time, and sometimes you just have to decide something in the moment. Still, I think it’s true more often than not that we don’t need to make immediate decisions just because the other person wants us to do that.

        How we feel matters for sure. It just doesn’t always mean the first thing we think it means when it comes up

        Silly, strange brains. 😊

        • If I could not feel, that would be really freaking awesome. A year and a half out from day and the pain is exactly the same. It’s like I found out yesterday. Thought it was supposed to be finite. When does this shit end?

  • “My son will never experience his mother sobbing on the bathroom floor having discovered dad’s multiple infidelities.”
    “My son will never experience a Christmas in which dad is inexplicably unavailable/on his cellphone texting his mistress/openly contemptuous of his family.”
    “My son will never experience a woman being sexually humiliated.”

    This is why I still come back to this page after being divorced for 2 years. I’m amazed at how my brain forgets these IMPORTANT pieces of information, and starts becoming nostalgic for what “I thought” our marriage was. The fuckwits really do just miss the cake, and don’t change their behavior. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Remembering the looks of contempt, disdain, disregard, and plain disgust he showed me, especially the last year before The END, quickly dispels any positive thoughts that might arise from thinking about XAss.

      I liken these moments to bad acid trip flashbacks, something partaken of once when young and foolish and which every once in a while are reminded how much of a bad idea it was.

      • It usually just takes me imagining them together or remembering specific sentences he emailed to her to snap me back to my senses. It’s painful to keep reliving it over and over but sometimes it’s necessary to remember why I left in the first place. Those details fade over time (thank god or I would still be not eating and an emotional wreck all the time) but sometimes bringing back the details is exactly what I need to re-focus on why we are here.

    • Martha, I have such a list. It is entitled “List of Grievances”. It is a novella. I refer to it every time I think about contacting him. I add to it from time to time when a horrific unwanted memory pops up. I have remained strictly No Contact. I credit the list!

  • The last Christmas my ex spent with us as a family, he showed up in the morning (he had moved out but we hadn’t agreed to divorce) after making the kids wait for him to get there. Watched them open presents he hadn’t bought, smiling like he owned the place. Ate the food is made and watched tv in the afternoon, then left me to clean up after everything.

    I realized that was all he’d ever done, even when we were an intact family. So I said never again and we’ve had divided Christmases ever since.

    But you know what? Our Christmases are really nice. Nobody complains that Mom & Dad aren’t together.

    Also, my youngest was 6 when Mr. Fantastic departed and he can’t remember us together. I asked him if it bothers him and he said no, that’s just the way things are.

    Parenting is a very long road. You will make tons of mistakes. Divorcing an uninvested asshole isn’t one of them. Save the mom guilt for when you actually deserve it. (Better yet, don’t give in to mom guilt — we’re all just doing the best we can with what we’ve got!)

    • OMG this was my life! He would decide to stay in the bathroom way too long on Christmas morning while I and the children waited for His Highness to end the marathon shit session so we could begin opening gifts. Gifts with tags saying “from Mom and Dad” where he had to ask what our daughters got as they opened them.

      He did zero to clean up or prepare for the onslaught of relatives and dinner. He usually added a little garnish of complaints about me, the kids or about the food while he was strumming away on his guitar, watching football, or playing on the computer while I ran around frantically.

      He would not help keep the relatives out of the kitchen while I did the final whirlwind 15 minutes of finishing, dishing, and serving, so I always had mothers and MILs crowding in wanting to chat while I risked burning the gravy. I asked him to help corral the folks but he would not be bothered and saw it as a nice opportunity to watch me squirm and punish me.

      He sat at the head of the dinner table and acted like Henry VIII stuffing his face. He did nothing to clean up and was sacked out on the couch by 7pm.

      I catered to him completely and he treated me with contempt. Every holiday, every year.

      My daughters and I are having a great time with our weird holidays now. We are at peace that every vacation and holiday are no longer hostage to his antics. He will not be involved at all when grand babies come.

      Thank God he finally abandoned me.

  • “my soon to be ex-husband pays a boatload of child support (as he should).”

    He wants to be reunited because he’s about to get a huge bonus, or a big promotion and corresponding bump in pay and he doesn’t want you to know about it. If you’re married, he can hide the information really easily while he dazzles you with his displays of narcissism and how you need to dance better or he’ll cheat.

    He will never ever be someone who didn’t cheat on you for YEARS. Don’t go back for more.

    So, for the holiday season, discuss the possibility of a new financial statement and petitioning for modification of the amount he pays.

    FOLLOW THE MONEY. That will illuminate his motivations. Always.

    • Agreed, I would not be surprised at all that this is motivated by money.

      h/t to the poster who once said:

      “The problem w/someone who behaves better because they are trying to avoid consequences FOR THEM, is that they are constantly re-calculating that equation as conditions change.”

      If you let him back he will be thinking about his options daily, seeing if there is a better deal out there, and will be gone the moment the chips seem like they are falling his way. And he will blame you for it.

    • maybe. I suspect for a narcisstic person convincing someone who you have treated terribly to get back with you is high grade kibbles. they think they are soooo special that the chump will want them regardless.

    • My thought too. He wants to “be a family” again because he’ll be able to stop paying YOU and restart paying for hookers and lap dances. You’ll actually be worse off.

      Guilty mom, please step back and look at this logically. Don’t think for one moment that you’ll be better off with him. You won’t.

  • NICE GUYS DON’T LIE.

    My husband is NOT a nice guy. He is a CON ARTIST. Con artists are also VERY NICE. It’s how they groom their victims.

    Make up a new name for your ex “husband”. One that reminds you WHO HE IS. Using his NAME, with all its “nice” associations, is a mindfuck all on its own.

    Lance Armstrong, Bernie Madoff, etc…..

    If you want a partner, hold out for GENUINE, SINCERE, AUTHENTIC nice. The kind of nice you want your son to be. a

    In the meantime, an authentic sane “YOU” is MORE THAN ENOUGH and superior to You Being Drained and Sucked Dry Energetically Physically Spiritually Emotionally Mentally, Totally Depleted By Trying To Will Into Existence An Intact Family.With A Liar Thief Traitor Posing As A Husband.

    • Make up a name. Great idea. I am going with Lorena Bobbit. It turned out there was more to that story than initially reported. I should have known something was up when the ex expressed admiration for Lorena Bobbit way back when.
      I ignored so many red flags.

      • You might want to pick another… Lorena Bobbit was horribly abused by her husband. Beaten, verbally abused, raped – the man was a monster. Deserved everything he got in my book. They should had never found the damn thing and sewn it back on.

    • So true!!! My cheater was Mr. Nice Guy! Like, Mr. Rogers nice. Opened doors, held my hand, went to church, cried at movies. He never gave me flowers, though, or remembered my birthday. He was a selfish kind of nice, nice when he wanted something ir wanted to look good or wanted to ensnare another girl into his lair. It’s a form of grooming and BOY is it slick.

      Ted Bundy was another really nice guy, everyone said. Like the book “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” the nice facade covers a hideous soul inside.

      • Exactly! That’s what my ex was like, too. People thought he was a “fine, Christian businessman.” He’s probably still mad at me that I didn’t keep his secrets for him when the marriage ended. No contact is your very best friend when the ex is a fake-nice cheater.

  • I don’t care how convincing he is……this was a long term affair and even after discovery he continued on with OW. If you take him back, he will cheat again. Period. It may take a couple of years but you’ll always be waiting for the other shoe to drop. You’ll panic or least be uneasy when he runs late or if he steps out to run “errands”. Why live that way? Next time he tries to pin the divorce on you, state plainly he left you no choice, he is the one that ruined the marriage and you could never in good conscience expose your son to this dysfunctional family dynamic.

  • We all miss what we worked so hard for. You are understandably still wondering if there’s a way to get it back, and are wondering whether there’s a bargain you can make to get it back. So, repeat after me: it’s gone. Accept that. Even if you let that cheating asshat back into your life it’s gone–ESPECIALLY if you let that cheating asshat back into your life.

    Your cheating asshat is working on you where you are most vulnerable: your young child. He’s dangling his fool’s gold promises of “a happy family” and “a father to our son” at you, and you are wavering.

    So, listen up: he has provided ZERO evidence that he can be trusted. You hadn’t been married even a year before he stepped out. He kept the affair going for two years, while he deceived you into believing he was a loving husband who wanted a happy family. He kept contact with his heaping helping of strange while you were in reconciliation. His words are meaningless. His actions say everything.

    I will give dollars to donuts that his “wah-wah” routine is entirely due to that generous child support, and once you make it clear that you’re not budging, his remorse will turn to vitriol and fury.

    In time, you will move from wavering and questioning yourself to be very glad indeed that you did not take him back, and from there to “I wouldn’t take him back even if I could.”

  • I fear that I ruined my kids’ future relationships because I stayed with the cheater for a total of 31 years. My daughters witnessed time and time again my revolving cycles of depression, absolute heartbreak, rage, pick me dancing, and hypervigilance. They saw me totally addicted to hopium while I had two nervous breakdowns and multiple sicknesses from extreme stress and trauma.
    My girls are determined never to marry, never to date, and – sad to say – they have a bias that most men are entitled, deceiving cheaters. It breaks my heart.

    REGRETS! REGRETS! Listen to my voice from your future! How i wish with all my being that I left, with small babies in tow, at the first d-day. I’m 52 and feel like my life is over.

    Save yourself and your baby while you can!

    • I stayed for 25 years. During that time I might as well have been a single parent because cheater pants was rarely around when times were hard. If the kids got sick he was either out of town or he got “sick” too. I have five adult children now. My kids are screwed up. If I had only known I would have gotten out much, much sooner.

      Guilty Mom, part of being a good mom is questioning yourself. Are you doing the very best you can for your sweet innocent child? What IS the very best? Listen to the voice of experience. Divorcing a long-term cheater is the very best thing you can do for a child. He will never know the misery of a horrific marriage between his parents.

  • He is about 8 emotionally. Do you want to be married to an 8 year old? If he was going to grow up he would have done it by now.

    • True words.
      The charming ‘youthful’ attitude becomes a huge burden later on! I’m not talking about partners who enjoy life, and see each day with optimism, I’m talking about partners who expect you to do the bills, taxes, shopping, childcare, etc, while they flirt, go to bars, disappear, buy themselves toys, and treat their kids like an afterthought. And then cheat, because it’s fun to put one over on you!
      Of course, they just show you how they love fun, at first. They have to get you hooked, first!
      I’m the one who gets up happy, and can be grateful for my existence each day. Cheaters are just an unrealistic 8 year old (HUGE apology to all 8 year olds, who are wonderful!) Need a better analogy!

      • Wow, everything you just described. I did EVERYTHING on top of working full time and out-earning him but he “just liked to have fun” and was “just a big kid”. I told him being “just a big kid” stopped being cute when he hit his 50s! Hope Schmoopie’s enjoying the big kid!

      • Yep before d-day, I would jokingly call him Mr. Fun Fun Fun. I had no idea how true this nickname rang. He also seemed to have time to meet up with buddies for a few drinks, professional football & baseball games, and of course going to see his favorite band in concert any time they toured. Yet, I maybe managed 1 or 2 nights per year away from kids to visit friends. I just took our kids on their first plane ride/family vacation without him. I did all the planning and it was a wonderful trip. We never did take a family vacation when he was in the household yet he managed to see fav band last summer 4x and 2 of those concerts were far away requiring airfare/hotel etc. I’m glad he wasn’t there to ruin our beach vacation. He would have complained it was too hot and then would be cooling off with beers inside somewhere. Good riddance loser!

  • I also stayed for the kids. In my case he knew judges, lawyers, politicians and police officers. He threatened to take the kids, lie to put me in jail and I was afraid I would never see them again.
    Turns out he was more afraid of people finding out what a worm he really was.
    So nothing happened when I left……..but before I left, I had years of navigating myself and both of our sons through hell.
    One of them was arrested and sent to rehab. Both of them developed emotional problems from years of psychological abuse and manipulation. Both dropped out of college. They are both putting their lives back together.
    That’s what staying looks like……and I don’t recommend it.

    • Wormfree, we were writing at the same time, but I related to so much of what you wrote about the effect on your sons because my kid is struggling with college as well. He’s just starting to get it back together. It’s painful to watch him, especially feeling like I failed him by staying in a relationship with a sociopath.

      • They really are sociopaths GladHesGone.
        The oldest, the one who went to rehab, is finally starting to get his life on track.
        It was a long depressing road, but he’s actually held a good job for almost a year. He’s paid off all of his traffic fines and is not the erratic mess he was over a year ago.
        There is hope!

  • I stayed for my son and my self-esteem got smaller. At the time, I knew I was unhappy because my husband treated both me and our son like annoying garbage. But I didn’t “know” he was cheating. Nevermind that I did research on how to potentially track his cellphone or the fact that I had a pretty good idea who he was spending an inordinate amount of time with. No, I was being insane and jealous and ridiculous. I told myself I had to stop being so suspicious over nothing but a bad gut feeling. My son, who was a high school freshman at the time, begged me to leave his dad and take him with me. Those weren’t red flags, oh no, that was that my son didn’t realize how much his father really loved us. That his dad was misunderstood.

    Several years later, I come to find out that my ex not only had an affair with the woman I suspected, he bought her a house WITH CASH. Aaaaaaand, he bought a house, in cash, with a second whore he took up with a few years later. This second AP (and this is that I know of, but I am certain there were many more. I just stopped doing the research because it was too painful for me. I also suspect I was unknowingly the other woman when we first got together. He had a long distance girlfriend that I don’t think he had actually broken up with, but he acted like he had. The signs were all there in retrospect), I found out about when my ex accidentally texted me a lovey dovey message meant for her. I couldn’t pretend what was in front of my face anymore. Luckily for me, our son was now in his 20s, so I didn’t have the excuse of “for the family!” anymore. My ex gaslighted me so much starting with when I confronted him with the mis-sent text, having the audacity to get mad at me for questioning him about it.

    Honestly, staying ended up doing so much more damage to my psyche and to my son. His father now ignores his calls and emails, as if his kid doesn’t exist. THIS is what I stayed for?

    My dream of a happy marriage life died before it started. I just didn’t realize I was actually living in a nightmare. These people are liars and don’t have real incentive to stop. They just get better at not being caught.

  • Man! This article is pure synchronicity for me this week! My divorce was finalized last Tuesday. I cried. Fortunately it passed fairly quickly. I feel guilt too for divorcing a mentally ill person sometimes. But BPD/NPD will kill you. They are vampires that know how to feed themselves. Move on. I have to coparent and probably will for life as we have son with autism. I tell myself in a Transylvanian accent, “Don’t feed the vampire” when she goes for kibbles.

  • “…wants to be a family again”

    If that’s how he puts it, doesn’t that tell you everything?

    Again. I don’t want to put too much emphasis on a single word if maybe you’re just paraphrasing what he says. But if he actually does refer to it as something he wants “again”, then he is leaking his true unchanged internal state.

    Don’t dismiss this as much ado about a single word. It matters. But if you need more to go on then reverse roles with him and think how you would interact given you were the cheater. For this thought experiment, you are still totally you in terms of your character and decency and everything else but you woke up one day and it was suddenly a fact that you had been cheating. Suddenly there exists a set of facts, details and memories of how you knowingly conducted the entire betrayal. Because it’s you, and you are good, the entire thing sickens you. The first thing you do is run to the bathroom and vomit. Carry the whole thing forward…you come clean and tell him, you can’t bear to think of even talking to much less being with the AP, you can’t understand how the hell you did this. You’d never ask a single thing from your spouse. When you wanted to be trusted on something you’d simply know that distrust is right and what you deserve. You’d actually want that, and other consequences, because you’d want to show your remorse. You’d want the prodding of consequence to somehow move you toward being square with the world again. Think in detail of how you would really be and what you would really feel. You’ll find that you would be entirely different than he has been. In everything, including a flippant use of “again” to refer back to the fraud and exploitation that was your way of happily living. You’d be so consumed by change that it wouldn’t be in your available vocabulary. Overall you’d ask nothing of your victim for yourself. You’d think “If THEY want me around, they’ll ask, but I won’t push them for anything…I can’t put anything more on them” You’d be sorrowful, and scared about who you even are inside, not advocating for your wants. Until he is like what you would be, he remains what he always was.

  • Married 27 years. I didn’t know he was cheating for at least 13 years. Look in the archives for ” the mother my children deserved”….. the lies, and the devaluing to cover those lies and keep his lifestyle going did not make me a great mom…..they made me a needy, insecure person. Trying to be perfect, when the definition keeps changing….being put down. Death of your soul by a thousand little cuts. This man doesn’t keep his promises, that won’t change.

    • Hope Springs, this is so true! Thank you for bringing up something important! I, too, was far less of a mom to my kids because of the on-going stress w/their father. He had a cycle (I only recognized it late in the game) of being moody, negative, critical and a general pain-in-the-ass, then when I’d get totally fed up, he’d back off and behave better. Add in his CONSTANT selfishness and my over-functioning to compensate for his under-functioning as spouse, parent, adult, homeowner, friend, etc, and I did not have the energy or the serenity to be the parent my kids deserved. When upset w/Cheater Narc, I was much more impatient w/the kids. When exhausted by the over-functioning and the unhappiness, I was less attentive and way less fun. And all that went on for years BEFORE he cheated, and then again more years before he cheated AGAIN and I finally tossed him out.

      So by my staying with him, my kids were deprived of TWO parents they deserved.

      There’s still a lot of guilt and a lot of sadness around that aspect, for sure.

  • “Because he has made this divorce MY choice (he doesn’t want it).”
    Saying this guy didn’t “choose” or “want” a divorce is like saying a bank robber didn’t “choose” prison. No, of course he doesn’t want to spend years behind bars. What he wants is to avoid consequences for his actions. I would say that the bank robber DID in fact “choose” prison, in that he chose actions that he knew would lead to hard time if he or she got caught.
    The same thing goes with your husband. With him, he “chose” divorce when he chose actions that he knew might darn well lead to divorce, and he made that choice over and over. He was taking a chance that he wouldn’t get caught. Well, he got caught, so now he has to face the music.
    So, yes, I say he “chose” divorce.

  • No, your son may not get an idealized family holiday like on TV. He’s not sweating it. He also isnt getting the worst gift in the world—a truly terrible example of a human being to look up to and learn from. It is so hard to teach kids to be kind and respectful anyway. But having a dad around who lies, cheats, and seems to take pleasure in your suffering will make it one million times harder.
    It is difficult to parent alone. But you can be an example of how to be a good person and how to walk away from poison. Best of luck to you.

  • Can we also talk how it took him ten years to finally marry you?! I don’t know your situation, or what you wanted, but anyway- It reminded me of this show on Showtime called “Californiction”. It is about this man who never marries his long term partner and mother of his child. She finally leaves him because he sucks in many ways. Well, the show is just about so many guys wildest fantasies- He is getting all this young ass super easily, but then he can also play the tragic misunderstood man who really has a true love (his long term partner) who also loves him, but is too scared to try again with this selfish man. I only watched a few episodes because it was so obvious to me that this kind of life is totally appealing to certain types of men. This is cake! He loves feeling like he isn’t the guy that gave up on the marriage, and that he has something noble and pure in him. But he also loves fucking young, or strange, or easy, or whatever. Don’t think for one minute that he is actually pining over domestic life with you.

    • I am DYING over this comment because my ex LOVES the show Californication!!!! Wow, that was some crazy insight you just had. In reality that is probably the life my ex always wanted or idealized but never actually had because we started dating at 16. Neither of us ever experienced dating other people or living the single life (except a brief breakup in college). We didn’t get married for 10 years because we started dating at 16, went to college, came back got a house etc first. I am not defending him at all but it wasn’t a case of me wanting to get married any sooner than we did, it was just a case of us being together when we were young and waiting until we were more established in life to get married. A lot of good that did me!!! And then yes; I think once we were married and he started working in the city he got a taste of that Californication life he probably always actually wanted and he just conveniently had amnesia about his wedding vows and entire life he had committed to back home. I guess now that we are getting divorced he can finally have the life he truly wanted.

    • And also what you said about he loves to feel like he didn’t give up and has something noble and pure in him. THIS THIS THIS. I think that is him to a T. I struggle though because I’m still under his spell to some extent where I do believe he genuinely misses me. Maybe that’s my own ego or maybe he is just very convincing or maybe after 13 years together it’s just hard for me to imagine him NOT missing me. It takes a LOT of reading and re reading comments like these and other chump lady stuff for me to not feel that way.

      • Well….he does miss you, just not in the way you are thinking or wish for.

        He misses you in a way you’d miss your dishwasher if it broke down one day. To narcs, people = things and your value is measures by your particular usefulness. Of course, that’s a one way street only where he takes and uses, you give and give. You aren’t supposed to quit, btw. That’s very inconvenient for him.

      • I am sure my ex misses me. I was good to him, why wouldn’t he? Being missed by a liar and cheat is not an honour. They had numerous chances to straighten up. They only cry when they get caught or have to give up something.

      • He misses you because- ownership. He sounds like the kind of guy that wants to build a harem (I was married to one, too). They want the wife, and also many other women. All falling all over him, trying to get his time. It’s so weird. If they’d been honest about this from the beginning, we’d never be with them!
        Also, I’m sure he misses you because you’re a fantastic woman! And a fantastic woman deserves a loyal guy, that should be the baseline for a good partner.

      • Sure he misses you! You are GREAT! He just doesn’t want to give up his side-fucks or his selfishness, in order to keep you. Or perhaps, if FORCED to give up the side-fucks, he would, if it was the only way to keep you. Until he figures out how to hide it so well you’ll never know.

        Wouldn’t you rather not have someone in your life who only appreciates you when you’re GONE? Wouldn’t you rather be free of someone who DOES want you around, but doesn’t care that the other choices they make are incredibly painful to you? Wouldn’t you rather be with someone, some day, who doesn’t have to be forced to choose to be monogamous, someone who actually WANTS that?

    • Yes! My husband loved Californication & Sopranos. Such great examples of manbabies who cheat on their “true loves” with numerous women because they are so misunderstood. This past Halloween I dressed up as Carmella Soprano. F Tony!

  • PLEASE do not be me!

    His first long time affair, which I did not know about, happened in the early days of our marriage. He was to “busy” at work to take me to hospital when I miscarried at 18 weeks.

    I discovered his second long term affair and made the huge mistake of taking him back. My kids didn’t know (that I am aware of) but then my physical and mental health took a nosedive.

    Enter third long term affair. I faltered and agreed to wreckoncilliation. Big mistake-yep he was socking $ away in preparation.

    And thank goodness for my sons. They didn’t see me in a puddle on the bathroom floor as they were young adult men by that time. But my oldest heard it my voice!! He asked and it all came flooding out of my mouth. He got on the phone with his father and told him to get the h**l out of the house or he would come over and remove him.

    31 years of my life with a person that didn’t care enough about my physical, mental and emotional health. His d&@k was more important.

    Christmas at present is the best! It’s like I have a do over with my grandsons. The kids, gkids and I share a stress free, relaxing and fun holiday. If had only known then what I know now. Christmas with then H always seemed tense, and it is the complete opposite now.

    There is so much good removing a fuckwit from your life!

  • And another pop culture reference from Taylor Swift- You love the player, but he loves the game. Since you haven’t shut it totally down, he may still chase you for ego kibbles- but 1, 2, 5 years down the road- you are five more years more entrenched, and he still is a player.

  • Guilty Mom/Original Poster here. I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am for CL’s response and ALL of your comments. Wow. I will read this response and all your comments again and again when I’m feeling my resolve slip. Especially this:

    Think about him arranging even a single fuckfest while you’re there shooting yourself up with hormones for IVF.

    And this:

    He’s such a good liar you wouldn’t know if he’s sincere or if it’s Wednesday.

    And this, which a lot of you reiterated because it rings so true…

    My son will never experience his mother sobbing on the bathroom floor having discovered dad’s multiple infidelities. My son will never experience a Christmas in which dad is inexplicably unavailable/on his cellphone texting his mistress/openly contemptuous of his family. My son will never experience a woman being sexually humiliated.

    I don’t know why it’s so easy to forget these things and miss what I thought we had. I don’t know why I cling so hard to that nuclear family image that I imagined for myself. It’s been a year since we separated for good and sometimes I still feel like it was yesterday and I am thrown right back into that trauma response from DDAY (heart racing, stomach flipping over, everything). I hope that when my divorce finalizes in January I will start to accept my new reality a little better and stop dwelling on the past so much. Sometimes I feel super empowered (like when I read your comments) and sometimes I just feel super depressed and hopeless. I am looking forward to the day when the empowered feelings outweigh the depressed ones.

    Does anyone here have tips on how to handle the day of the divorce itself? It’s in the morning and I took the rest of the day off. I’m worried I’m going to end up in bed crying the rest of the day and I don’t want that. People have made comments like “have a party!” but I don’t feel that way either. What did you do, any good ideas to take my mind off it or make it a self care day or something like that?? There’s no instruction manual for this obviously..

    Thank you again for all your comments I keep reading them over and over.

    • My dear, you need to start calling yourself Good Mom. All good moms feel guilty sometimes. It’s part of the lifestyle.

      As for the day of the divorce itself, I don’t remember what I did. It’s been nearly nine years since my divorce was final. I think I probably took the kids out to dinner? I have five and my youngest was 14 at the time. My divorce took 16 months. All I really remember is feeling a huge sense of relief that it was finally over.

    • It’s okay to cry. Put something in your pocket you can squeeze HARD to remind you why you are doing this. Or have a small photo of your son you can glance at as needed. Bring a friend with you to court if you can. Someone to shoot looks of death at him and prevent him from baring his fangs in a rictus of a smile as he tries to pluck your heartstrings YET AGAIN.

      You are doing it for him and yourself. His father isn’t a worthy role model and he doesn’t deserve 24/7/365 access to him.

      You are too good for him. He wants you back because he realized that you have incredible Appliance Spouse skills and he misses your quiet reliability. I suggest he plug in a toaster and take a bath with it instead.

      Have you looked into parenting software yet? You may not have to deal with it today, but you may have to do so eventually.

      Also get a hardbound journal where you can keep track of the dates/times/length of time he sees his son as per the custody agreement. Include the dates he misses them and what time you are notified. Don’t accept phone calls from him unless he has the child in his custody.

      You got this. It will hurt because you are not an inanimate object – you are a CHUMP and Chumps have character.

      Some of this may be due to the holiday images that are shoved down our psyches this time of year. That’s a marketing scheme – not reality.

      Reality isn’t fake and it has more depth, meaning and magic than anything a marketer can dream up and get filmed.

      Don’t forget to discuss the possibility of him earning MORE money and that leading to a larger child support payment. He’s likely to go for false accusation and vengeance eventually, so keep a logbook of the money paid for child support and how it was spent. Just in case.

      Best wishes to you!

    • Day of divorce: do you have a good friend who can spend the day with you? Family member who is supportive? Someone who can just be there with you quietly for a walk in nature or a maybe help you shop for a new outfit?

    • I had my kids that day (they were in school as the divorce was at 9 am) and weekend. I had to stay strong for them. One of my friends took me out to lunch and beers. My XW called and taunted me and said she screwed me in the divorce. Total bitch. But it was just a sad day. BUT I remember being FREE from the abuse as she is NPD/BPD. That was one of the best feelings EVER!!!

    • With your child still little, you’ll have to find an age appropriate substitute, but this is what I did.

      Went to dollar store and bought several cans of silly string in 3 different colors, one color for each of us (kids were 12 and 17). We made holsters out of duct tape and shields from storage container lids.

      Our rental had an open floor plan around a central staircase and a balcony on the second floor – perfect set up. We ran around tagging each other and shrieking with joy, laughing until we couldn’t breathe.

      I wanted to show my kids that we not only weren’t destroyed by him leaving, but that good times were our future. He would *never* have tolerated our epic battle as silly string had been “banned”.

      And I needed to be the mom I wanted to be for my kids, having been crushed by him for so long.

      Side note, I was you a few years ago. Couldn’t see how horrible my situation was. More recently I’ve been sharing bits of my story, and there is one piece that made 3 different people, on separate occasions, visibly *flinch*. I’m learning to see how much I accepted as normal that was not. You will get there, just keep moving forward in whatever direction he isn’t.

    • My preparations for the day of the divorce: The hearing was at 11am. I arranged for my best friend to come with me, and go to lunch after. I also booked a massage at 2 and a haircut at 4. Dinner was my favorite comfort food (mac and cheese with bacon). My final treat was a pair of new jammies purchased to commemorate my new life, a cup of tea, and a book I’d been dying to read for months that I had saved just for that evening. In other words, I treated myself the way I deserved. Hugs!

      • Also, the one thing I was very careful NOT to indulge in during the weeks before and even way after the divorce the proverbial well deserved glass of wine (which at this point, easily became 4 and 5 glasses). My emotions get really out of control when I drink too much and I could see myself wanting to reach out to my ex – especially the day of the divorce hearing if I indulged. I don’t think I had a glass of my favorite wine for well over a year after the hearing!

    • “I don’t know why it’s so easy to forget these things and miss what I thought we had.”

      I do, its called Codependency. Melodie Beattie has written some excellent books on this self sabotaging behaviour.

    • The day of the divorce was no big event for me. My lawyer did the court work, I had signed for it weeks before that. Our anniversary date has more impact on me. But less and less all the time.

    • Pick a supportive girlfriend to help you through the day–whatever that means–lunch, spa, just girltalk, anything to get through it. Allow yourself a good cry when you go to bed, but put a limit on it. Just say, that is that, and I will mourn when necessary but my life is left to live and my son needs me to be the sane parent.

    • As for divorce day:

      Round up your tribe, your posse, your support network. Have your mom (if she’s supportive), a sibling, a friend or two be there for you. Make plans for the day and the evening. Maybe a potluck dinner, considering you have a baby. Look good. Stay away from alcohol. Turn off your phone. Take a walk if weather permits.

      If you need to cry, go ahead. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. But don’t talk to the XH.

    • The nuclear family image is fed to us from all sides, from religion to mass media to family of origin. So you are certainly not alone in having to give up that idealized notion of man, woman, child as family.

      What I love are all the books and movies that depict “found family,” that show how strong women (and some men) can build a family that works but that is not the vision we are sold. Yes, it’s a wonderful thing that two people (of any sexual preference) can marry and found a family and be faithful, loving and engaged in building a healthy life. The problem is that was the image in your head and it doesn’t match the reality because your XH is a jackass. An abusive one, in my view. Don’t gaslight yourself. He’s a bad guy. Take the child support. Parallel parent instead of co-parent if he can’t let up on manipulating you. Minimal contact. Love your baby. Once the divorce is final, my bet is you’ll fix your picker and find a guy who will be a great husband and father, if you can let go of this fantasy you have.

    • Basic strategy is arrange bookends. That means you get someone to support you before and after, if not in person then at least by telephone. Arrive early, park, call your support person. Get it done. Get back in your car, drive and park a few blocks away if necessary, and call your support person.

      Scout out the location. Where will you park? How will you get in and out of the building? Where are the bathrooms? A bathroom is a good place to evade your ex, if necessary.

  • My XH was “Mr. Super Nice Guy“. He opened every door for me (car or otherwise), always walked on the curb side of the street, sat next to me in church every week, warmed up and cleaned off my car after every snow, wheeled the elderly neighbor’s trash cans back to her garage after garbage pick up, took great care of our vehicles and yard, cried at TV commercials, hosted a weekly Bible study for college students at our home, willingly helped me around the house, and generally, would give anyone the shirt off his back. Unfortunately, it was all about impression management. Turns out he’d had 14 APs (that I know about), starting all the way back during our dating days in college 40+ years before. Sheesh, can you imagine the stamina and planning required to consistently pull off this kind of secret life? Once he’d successfully groomed and convinced the older (and MUCH RICHER) Married Howorker in the office next-door that he was the best thing since sliced bread, he was gone like a fart in the wind. I suspected it was because she could give him bigger, better, prettier, tastier cake than I was capable of doing, and I was not wrong; he is living the high life now, one that is far more bright! shiny! fun! and exciting! than our modest lifestyle could afford. But I am 10,000% positive that he’s still the same duplicitous mongrel that he‘s always been, so I don’t feel as if I’m missing out on anything. And being 100% zero contact keeps my head out of the blender of comparison.

  • Next time you are feeling guilt, think on this:

    1) Cheater didn’t care about you one bit while he was balls deep in the OW
    2) Cheater didn’t care about your health
    3) Cheater didn’t care about his unborn child and his health
    4) Cheater didn’t care if he might transfer diseases, STD’s and potentially kill you both through that
    5) Cheater didn’t care that his child might end up stillborn or sick or disabled as a result of him fck’ing strange and transferring bacteria and diseases to BOTH of you

    As for what if he finally saw the light? He got caught and his only response was to try and hide it better. He did NOT stop cheating on you for one flipping second. That’s the definition of a person who feels no shame, no remorse, no guilt, only 100% entitlement to doing whatever he wants.

    So why is he whispering sweet nothings in your ear? First is that cheaters never like or count on consequences. In narc world, consequences don’t apply and must be avoided. So yes, he’ll do whatever it takes to make you out to be responsible for the divorce, because image management. No doubt he is feeling the effects of having to pay child support and thus curb his lifestyle and that’s also a consequence best avoided. However, the biggest reason is this – fooling a chump into coming back for round two or three or four is the ultimate high and a power trip like no other. You already know who he is and he can still make you believe in a magical good man that doesn’t exist, come back and give your life, your care, your emotions to him again and again while he abuses you and goes off to vacation with OW? There is no great mind fck and no greater high for him than that. He is not a changed man, he has simply raised the stakes in a sick game.

    So please, do yourself a huge favor and stop talking to him. I know, you have a child. Use a parenting app and keep it strictly to logistics. Most importantly, do what you can to protect your child from the monster that his father sadly is. Narcs don’t just destroy their marriages, they destroy their children as well and leave them a dysfunctional mess.

    Your son will grow up with whatever normal you decide is normal. That can be one happy mom and holidays that are warm, filled with friends and people who care about you, who are sane, who model what good and warmth and caring looks like to your son….or you can play the pretend game where narc is busy sneaking off to the bathroom to call his OW …or worse, he is texting her in your face while you can cut the tension in the room with a knife but you all smile through clenched teeth determined to look like a Hallmark family….

    Which normal do you want to create for yourself and your child?

  • Guilty Mom,
    It is so great to to read your response above! As time goes by, things will settle and you will stop ruminating about something that is *untrue*. The untruth is that you are responsible for breaking up your child’s family because he made the divorce your choice. Do not ever tell yourself things that are untrue. It will inhibit your healing. Whenever you think an untruth , say out loud “STOP”, then say “that is not true” and change your sentence to something that is true. For example, “He destroyed our marriage and I will be OK”. And say that new, more truthful sentence over and over until that is your natural inner voice.
    My therapist helped me so much in cutting out untruthful inner comments. She called them wild horses and told me to get them under control.

    Your soon to be X is a known liar; this is what I got from my liar:

    When X left he said to me: “I take full responsibility for what I did and I understand why you would want a divorce. You are a wonderful and good person who did not deserve this. I appreciate you giving me another chance for 2 years to make this work – I’m so glad I had those extra years with the kids.”

    What X told everyone else: “She is a bitter unforgiving woman who has ruined me financially. She was so difficult to be married to and I fell out of love with her years ago.”

    What X told daughter when he left: “I can’t believe your mom did this to our family. I begged her to tear up the divorce papers, but she is so bitter and doesn’t believe people can change. I hope you don’t turn out like that because people CAN change.”

    They are all the same with their manipulation and blame shifting – and it’s all for impression management. Never believe a know liar.

    • Holy — {looks around, children are present} Holy guacamole! That’s some brilliant, cold-blooded image management. How dare that wretch mess with your daughter’s head! Must remind ourselves he dares because he’s a narc.

  • Here is a 2×4 to the noggin, lovingly applied:

    Right now this is 100% your X’s FAULT. Your child will know this if you stay the course.

    If you allow that cheating, lying, cake eating asshole back into your life it will be YOUR FAULT that your child is exposed to that abuse within his home. It won’t be your fault that your X will cheat again, because he will absolutely cheat again, but it will be YOUR FAULT that your child has to witness this destruction. It may take 10 years before this all melts down because cheaters get really clever about hiding affairs, but he absolutely will cheat. At that point your son will have a high likelihood of behavior problems and teenage troubles if he witnesses his father treat you this way and has to live through the break up of his family. It doesn’t feel like it right now but it is a gift that your son is oblivious.

    You can protect him. Do not allow your X to transfer his crimes to you. Taking him back would do exactly that.

    • I will add that it was 9 years between OW#1 and OW#2 for me. He abandoned me completely for the second affair in year 28 of our marriage. He hid the second affair from me completely and moved out while I was on a business trip. I got an e-mail as my only notice from him. The OW#2 is half his age.

      He blamed me for it all and completely wiped away any notion that we had reconciled those years before. Every single day he stayed was a lie.

    • This is SUCH an important point!!

      Right now, ALL the responsibility for this terrible situation is HIS ….which is VERY painful for him and probably a large reason why he wants to reconcile.

      You CAN NOT and WILL NOT let him back up onto the moral high ground that you now occupy ALONE are using to build a better life for you and your child.

      Because if you do let him back in, like NOW I.C. correctly points out, you are basically co-signing for all the damage that is sure to come when he decides he needs the thrill of lying back in his life (which he will)

      Stay strong and the 2035 conversation with your son looks like this:

      “Lying is toxic and unacceptable on every level and you should immediate disconnect with anyone who engages in it”

      “Like you did with Dad?”

      “That’s exactly right. He tried to hide who he was for years, but once I discovered his lies I ejected him immediately for both of our sakes. It was unpleasant, sure, but I would urge you to do the same, in any situation where you discover sustained dishonesty”

      “I get it. Cool.”

      OR, IF YOU GIVE HIM a ANOTHER CHANCE

      “Lying is toxic and unacceptable. But after I discovered who your Dad really was, I realized that I really missed the person I thought he was, even if that someone was a lie. So I thought it would be better FOR YOU if allowed this cancer back into our lives, because I have trouble sometimes understanding reality as it exists. What’s important is that you make sure you don’t really stand up for yourself, just like I never stood up for you”

      …you know which outcome you want:

      it’s the one that is the Massive, Total and Permanent Victory that you have ALREADY BUSTED YOUR ASS FOR

      Rather than the crappy one that allows him to erase all that

      You got this!

      Stay mighty!

  • After I found out my cheating X had a OWhore & me fighting cancer I finally had to stop ignoring the red flags. 35 years married it took a terrible toll on me to divorce him because I loved him so. But my physical & mental state was at stake. He’s with another woman now after the original whore died. Just months after she passed he moved in with this one.
    “Any Port in a Storm “. They don’t want to be alone.
    Lonely but at peace now. 👍🏻

    • Agree 100%. I was married to x for 32 years. Several d-days throughout the years and me keeping silent ( how nice to be him ) started to severally take its toll on my mind, body and soul. We chumps love hard, and how the X lived his double life so good, mostly I DID NOT know the extent to which he hid his life. It was a real show down divorcing him, I caved at the end and just wanted it to be over.

      Peace has not price. Accept the truth that is staring you in the face! RUN fast ….Make YOU the priority!

  • Could not agree more. My fuckwit promised to “rededicate myself to our family” more times than I can count. I always took him back, stupidly thinking that THIS TIME, it would be different. It was just more of the same. It finally ended for good when I asked him to prove his intent by buying a new home with me. He agreed, up until the day we were supposed to go to contract, when he surprise-filed for divorce and took off with his latest cutie, who he swears is his truelove. We’re now involved in a very nasty and ugly divorce, while he whines to OW about how mean his wife is, by forcing him to pay her money. Fuckwits hate consequences. I am actually grateful that he filed, because I was too scared to do it. Now, I wish I had kicked him to the curb years ago.

  • Guilty Mom – Your last paragraph struck me. As women we want to fix situations and people and take responsibility for things we have no control over. How about you turn around the language in your last paragraph and lay the responsibility of what happened to your marriage at the feet of that piece of shit.

    HE made the choice for divorce through his actions.

    HE is responsible for breaking up your child’s family.

    HE will never experience a Christmas with his parents together because he lied, betrayed and cheated on YOU.

    If that cheater loved you and his son enough, he never would have cheated. That’s not a reflection on you. You did nothing wrong. He is selfish. He is a shitty person with shitty character.

    HE is failing his son. HE should want what is best for his son and you.

    YOU are doing what is best for your son. You are getting away from that lying, cheating, abuser. HE should be trying to make amends – he is not. He is still cheating. Look at what he does, not what he says.

    I know this is so, so hard, sweetie. You are doing the right thing. Believe me, you are.

  • One of my reasons for deciding to divorce after ex moved out and then wanted back was the fear of my son experiencing his dad coming back home, being innocently overjoyed, and then the next time dad cheats, REFUSING to leave, therefore making me a monster to have to kick him out. No way.

    If he’s out, be grateful you don’t have to go through THAT hell ever again. It is too much of a risk.

    ALSO, I have a chump friend who’s teen-aged daughter at the time begged her Dad promise to never leave again when he came back after cheating. He came back, then cheated again. Now she’s in college and still will not speak to him. According to Dad, he tells people his daughter has a tough time letting things go and moving forward. Sick.

    • I believe all exits are final. Mine wanted to return. But I refused to put my children through it. They didn’t know why he left the first time and would be uneasy trying to behave in a manner to make him stay. I was not going to be walking on eggshells for a coward who was out on his family creating pain and chaos that in essence he should be protecting his family from.

  • Just my two cents from past experience.

    There is no co-parenting with cheaters. They have already proven that there only concern is their best interest.

    That peaceful co-parenting will be all over once he stops getting what he wants or things dont go his way.

  • If only…. if only I left that fuckwit the moment he rejected our newborn son. If only…. I spent over 25 YEARS trying to get him to love our son, to spend time with him and the rest our our beautiful family. He was too busy doing–god knows what–claiming he was working until 9-10:00 every night. The D-days didn’t come until year 29. I still stayed until he left 4 years later with another AP, taking the entire life savings( he had blown it over the 4 years of reconciliation), some of my jewellry, all of the motorized toys but not until after he soiled every bed I slept in( home, cottage and Florida house) with his slut. You have what many of us didn’t allow ourselves–TIME. Time to built a new beautiful life without a fuckwit, time to find a good man to allow into your life, if that is what you want, time to build a career and watch your son grow up with way less influence from said fuckwit. Please do not look back. Your windshield looks forward for a reason–go forward, don’t look in that rearview mirror that is not where you are going. HUGS AND BLESSINGS.

  • You already went through a reconciliation, with therapists. And he still continued to lie and conspire. He is a weasel. That is who he is. Weasels are good at love bombing. He will promise the moon and stars at this stage. If you take him back then all the hell he put you through will mean ZERO. He will love that.

    Of course he misses the Hallmark family. But when he had it he shit on it. Normal people appreciate what they already have. They don’t need to destroy their mate to appreciate them.

    You won’t get an intact family back. You will get a marriage of doubt, distrust, and looking over your shoulder. The ship of family bliss has sailed. All you will get is a fake version of a ‘family.’ And anxiety.

  • I didn’t read all the above, so this might be a repeated thought:

    But looks like lots of reasons to leave this guy. How about reasons to leave for the better guy.
    Maybe its not literally a guy, how about reasons to leave for stronger, healthier, richer relationships?

    I think most of us on the other side of things look back and think, “why did I settle for that shmuck?”

    The better things are forward.

  • I lived this hell. Even got pregnant after DDay 1 (he carried on while I was stuck at home raising the kids, then got married a year later (still with OW through all of this). Then my mum died and he predated on another woman (attention needed, I was so busy being mum and daughter and he needed it so punishment justified).

    Trust that they don’t stop cheating. Any time you take them and their bullshit back it gives them more license to cheat some more, cos they got away with it and we believe their lies.

  • You said it: You miss what you though he was.

    What he really was, as capsulized by CL:

    “Oh, because he’s not a cheating fuckwit? HE CHEATED ON YOU FOR TWO WHOLE YEARS. That you KNOW of! Before your wedding! During IVF! During your PREGNANCY! He endangered your child’s life with his fucking around!

    Think for one minute of how much deception that requires. How much utter contempt he must have for you and your shared life. Think about him arranging even a single fuckfest while you’re there shooting yourself up with hormones for IVF. Think how much you risked your own health, what you put your body through, to give this man a son. And what he did with that gift.”

    He’s paying a boat load of child support. He doesn’t have as much fun with the mistress or the other wannabe Schmoopies because THERE IS NO TRIANGLE. No one to deceive, to lie to, too manipulate. And here you are, about halfway ready to take him back. He knows you’re a good chump target, ready with those fresh kibbles and good for the outside leg of the triangle. And he gets his whole paycheck back.

    Please—go serious no contact. Stop talking to this guy. He’s manipulating you. Get into therapy with someone who understands these manipulators. My own therapist would call this out in a nanosecond.

  • Young mom…… Let me give you a glimpse like the ghost of Christmas future in that horrible movie… You stay with the cheating fucker, you have several more children with him, you become much older and completely worn out and probably mentally ill from the ongoing emotional abuse, you get cancer it caused by HPV from his continue cheating, which he denies, finally he leaves you for some much younger affair partner and when the kids catch him on Christmas he blames them! He tells them he never wanted them but they are a burden and that he hated being a father all of their lives! You watch as one after another of them gets hooked on drugs drops out of school is it tries to kill themselves and ends up in psych ward. That is crashing pain. The only difference between the scenario I painted for you and my own personal experience is that I did not know 25 years ago that my husband was a serial cheater, psychopath. And by the way In the five years since he left for the young AP, he has cheated on her multiple times. He feels completely entitled and he will never stop. That is who he is and he sees nothing wrong with it. Run like your hair is on fire and your babies life depends upon it because it does!

  • Dear Guilty Mom, please note the financial abuse Formerchumpnowbride referred to in passing. Swindling seems to go w/ cheating. Like chocolate & peanut butter.

  • My dear GM – you are not guilty. You are mighty. Your action so far show that you have totally got this. You gave him a chance to make good, and he kept seeing the GF behind your back. His actions have told you all you need to know. You have looked at the truth of his continued disrespect for you and walked away. This is the right way to handle him and his cheating – unless you are happy to share him with an infinite number of affair partners. Oh, I fully understand your sorrow; you have invested your whole self and your heart in this relationship for 13 years. I stayed for 15 more years after the betrayal of trust (10 years in to the marriage), puffing on hopium, spackling his disrespect to me and his meanness to our children, walking on eggshells, puzzling over not being able to please him, trying to get goals between constantly shifting goalposts. The disrespect and abuse only escalated over time. And he still blamed me for the divorce and minimised to invisibility his own complete responsibility for it. I was a good wife and a devoted mother who finally called time on a physically, sexually, emotionally, psychologically abusive marriage. They are no-goodniks who cannot see themselves as doing anything wrong, and when we see that played out in our lives we need to get out ASAP because they don’t change, they only get worse. Spare your child the damage that has been inflicted on mine by sticking with an abuser. It is hard to single parent, but you will build support networks over time and you will do a mighty job. Lets face it, you may as well be single parenting a lot of the time with an abuser/cheater … they eventually are never around, shirk responsibility, blame you for any problems and belittle your parenting, siphon money away from the family, and make it harder for you in so many ways. You are not their first priority – they are always central to their own world. Keep going it alone and get him out of your life with no contact or as little contact as possible. It can be done, but it takes a bit of time to really learn how. Shared calendars and other coparenting software really helps – as long as you don’t fall into the trap of spackling when he lets your child down by ignoring the calendar or ‘forgetting’ events. If he doesn’t bother to look and take note, then too bad, he misses out. Your child may be sad but they will also gain a realistic picture of what they actually mean to him and the sort of relationship they can expect to have with him. This will make them very resilient as time goes on. They will know who the sane, reliable parent is who always turns up. I can guarantee that the less you see or hear from him, the easier your life will become. It will give you the headspace and emotional space to work on healing for yourself and good sane parenting of your child.

    • Wow New Chump you have put into words my experience! The devaluing, the siphoning money, the blame and inability to take any responsibility is my current reality. I am separated and walking the path of being a single parent towards divorce. I am constantly amazed by who this man I am married to is and his complete disregard for his family. With support I keep putting one foot in front of the other xx

  • Guilty Mom … please, please, please hear those of us who stayed for what ever reason. I also feel guilty. But it is because I stayed 37 years. I should have left when my daughter was 6 months old and got a std from my cheating husband. Now here Iam at 63 trying to figure out how I was so very stupid to believe that he would never do it again. Plus, my daughter will not have anything to do with her father because of his character.
    So, it didn’t turn out to serve her, at the end of the day. And I surely waisted the majority of my life.
    ChumpLady is right …. once a cheater, always a cheater !

  • I am late, but have important information to share. I found out in 2007 (when married 12 years) of an affair. Kids were 9 and 6. Horrified for the broken home, damage to the kids, … you know the drill… We went to counseling, he was going “to spend the rest of his life making it to me” he couldn’t fathom what made him do it, blah, blah.

    What really happened, he drilled me as to how I found out, what and when I suspected, etc. THEN used that info to do a better fucking job deceiving me.

    Fast forward to 2015… I discover another affair, then the string starts unraveling, I start asking tough questions and investigating the past red flags I avoided because of fear. (He grew more abusive and angry over the years.) He lied about EVERYTHING from day 1. He doesn’t have a college degree, wasn’t a college athlete, heck I don’t even know if he lived the places he claimed to have. He had multiple affairs (like hundreds.) THEN we start separation & divorce and the colleagues start coming out of the woodwork telling me he’s slept w/ half the company, his personal subordinates, clients, associates, hookers at trade shows and on and on. He has a massive porn addiction/habit whatever one calls that… I finally chose to not learn more. Then he pathologically freaks out that his precious image and lies are out of the bag, turns crazy, threatens to kills me, screws me over financially and I end up leaving a lot of assets behind because I was so fucking scared I’ll die from the stress or he’ll snap and kill me.

    There are not strong enough words to express how deeply I regret not leaving the first time.

  • I was a child in a household that stayed together for the children. PLEASE do not do this – those five years were stressful, disrupted, full of angry fighting and led to an emotionally dependent parent clinging to me (the now teenager). Please don’t make the mistake my parents made.

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