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Infidelity, Divorce, Kids — How Did You Navigate It?

Hi Chump Lady,

I wish I would have found your site a decade ago.. alas spilled milk… I’m in a 19 year marriage to a selfish/self centered woman who I chumpily still love. 13 years ago she found an affair partner online that I found out about. We went to counseling and “reconciled”… Since then she has “hooked up” with him 3 times and I’ve now found has been “in love” with him this entire time.

All of this occurred while she went to marriage counseling, showed remorse, and of course denied any lingering/ongoing connections. The other 2 times this happened I worked to “re-build stronger” and “affair proof” my marriage but it seems I’ve been working alone while being played for a tool. I’ve finally found this community and realize where i’m at and what is going on. I’m no longer searching for reconciliation and of course the water works are out in full force. She’s getting counseling for her “child hood issues” and all of the other BS things I’ve seen and heard a million times. In hindsight I feel like a fool. I’m truly the CHUMPION of “forgive, forget, and move on”.

I have 3 children under the age of 8 who are my world…. I’m terrified for them and when i think of leaving it is my worry, fear, and shame for them that makes me pause. I realize that staying for them is worse than leaving but i’m lost on how to help them, be there for them, or even know what they need. I need help with resources on how to navigate these waters with my children. I don’t want to fall prey to the same type of crappy advice (only trying to sell me a book or program) that I’ve gotten for the past 13 years when “working” on my marriage.

Do you or anyone in the community have resources you can recommend or thoughts on what I can do to help my kids during this time? I feel like i’m barely able to breath most days and i would be grateful for any trusted resources you could point me to.


Easily stumped Chumpion

Dear Chumpion,

I don’t have a guide (but I’m working on a second book on this very topic… sorry, not much help to you now…). When I left, I didn’t read a book, or consult a life coach, or anything. I just blundered through it.

You mention the RIC and crappy advice industry, and I think the same problem exists with navigating children through infidelity divorce that existed when I wrote LACGAL — all the professional advice assumes Good Intent and Warm Fuzzies.

With cheating, the set up is, of course you have a remorseful partner fully invested in saving the marriage! That balkiness you see is just a result of You Failing To Meet Their Needs. Work on that!

The literature failed to address what to do in the 99.9 percent of cases where you had nothing to work with, the person was demonstrably not invested in saving anything (other than their finances and self-serving narratives).

With children and divorce, the set-up is, of course you’re going to co-parent graciously! And be friends! And everyone is onboard with the Best Interests of the Children! And you will never besmirch the name of the Mommy or Daddy or their affair partners. Because it takes a village! Of nice people!

The life coach/social media influencer corollary to this is: Look at How Magnificently I Get Along With My Ex. What is wrong with you? Bitter much?


I’d love to hear from CN about what resources helped you and deal with this topic compassionately and authentically.

Chumpion, to your question — here’s my abridged advice.

1.) Don’t mindfuck your children. I believe in telling children age-appropriately, in rated G language why their parents are divorcing, and do it without editorializing. I.e., “When you get married, you promise to be each other’s special person. Mommy has a boyfriend and that’s why we divorcing.” Not “Mommy is a slut.”

It’s not okay to gaslight children IMO even with the best of intentions. Then they go around wondering why people just “fall out of love.” Is someone going to fall out of love with them? Reassure them about THEIR world. YOUR love of them. Children are not stupid. They understand from the earliest age that actions have consequences. The divorce is a consequence.

2.) Don’t slop your grief on them. Some of this is unavoidable, because D-Day is an emotional tsunami. But remember that children are shouldering their own grief, and those little shoulders cannot take yours. Your job is to be a field marshal and lead them through this. Live by example. Model mightiness. (Even when you’re not feeling it.) Respect their right to love their fuckwit parent. They have to figure that relationship out for themselves (even when it’s heartbreaking). It’s okay to tell them you’re sad and upset, (again, no gaslighting, they aren’t stupid), but reassure them you’ll get through it together.

3.) Do your job. Are the book reports due? Nag. Does someone need a ride to band practice? Do it. Be the Sane Parent. It’s the most important job there is. One parent is a demonstrable fuckwit. Your job is to be the rock of stability. Do NOT fall down on the job. Do not pick me dance for children’s favor. Sane parents don’t play at that shit. Parenting is a very long arc. You will not be popular a lot of the times, but love and boundaries pay dividends later. Hug your monsters. And don’t shirk the book reports.

That’s all I have for this Friday — but CN, help Chumpion out. What helped you? Book? Wise friend? Youtube videos? Box wine?


Ask Chump Lady

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  • The first thing this gentleman needs to do is get a lawyer. He needs goid advice and he better follow it. When he lets her know he is done she will get real ugly. With kids that young she might try to keep them from him. He needs to make sure he is never alone with her after that. He needs to talk with his support system if has family and good friends.

    • True, the same character disorder that makes people scheme and cheat makes them horrible co-parents. A whole new side of spite and revenge comes out when they don’t get their way and we end the toxic marriage.

      • So true. My XW has no boundaries with kids. Manipulates them. Have messed with their heads. Very true about things getting ugly. My XW is so nasty!

        True about never being alone with them. Have a witness all the time with you. My XW would get into my face screaming trying to pick a fight. It got so bad that my lawyer, elders in my church, and mom told me to get out. When I moved out, I had friends with me all the time.

        It is OK for them to cheat or leave you, but man, if you leave them….

      • Dear chump ion
        Your story made me cry, you are one of the good guys stay strong my friend. My wife cheated on me I have my kids 50/50, but it still breaks my heart when they go back to there mum, your kids do suffer in a divorce the only one telling them they don’t is the person who cheated, but they do and so will and your lovely kids will get through this because they have you, they will look back and thank you, move on from this horrible woman and find someone who loves you, your Tuesday will come good luck and stay strong

    • Yep. After she knows divorce is inevitable she will suddenly become mommy of the year and claim to have always been there for the kids (mine never was). I raised my kid as if I was a single parent because my ex fuckwit always seemed to have more important things to do.

      And most importantly do not allow her an opportunity to be with you alone. If you find yourself in such a situation turn on your iPhone’s voice recorder in case she tries to instigate a fight and allege that you’re verbally abusive. If you’re not comfortable recording surreptitiously, then just carry your phone in plain sight with the video function recording so she knows she can’t act out. But the best thing to do is limit your contact with her. Talk to an attorney about when and if it’s in your best interest to move out. Obviously it would be better to find a place for your wife to move to instead of you, if she’s agreeable.

      Those are just the basics. The process sucks. But the end result is far preferable to staying with a fuckwit who will slowly rob you of your soul and will model for your kids how to be a fuckwit adult.

      Get out!

      • Be careful with recording without their knowledge. Some states have what is called “Two party consent” laws. Which means both parties have to consent to being recorded. So if you’re in one of those states and you record someone without their knowledge, you can be in some hot water legally.

        • In my state you need someone’s permission to record them. Sometimes I did it anyway, just for my own reality check. No plans to show it in court.

          After he refused to meet in a public place to do child exchanges, I started recoding them. Two reasons: it kept me safe because I knew he wouldn’t do anything violent on tape. And if he did, that would be very good for me!

          But also to cover my own ass. A few weeks previous he falsely accused me of an altercation. Funny thing was, I asked to see the video and he wouldn’t show it. Uh, yeah that’s because the video would prove he’s lying.

          On and on with the mind games. He used to prop up his phone on the porch railing. Then he got a home security system but instead of the camera facing the door it faced the front yard so he could record dropoffs.

          Frankly I found this very creepy. Instead of saying “This property is protected by ABC security” the window sticker said “ ABC security: you may not see us, but we can see you.”
          WTF is that for a company slogan? Sick.

          Also I hate to think what he does in private with the videos of me. *shudder* x 1,000! What a creep. I did not know people were capable of that level of creepy, let alone the man I pledged my life to.

        • @Kara
          You’re correct that there are various state laws regarding recording. I’m fully aware of that and I don’t take the consequences lightly. But if there’s a danger to me that my ex-wife is going falsely accuse me of harming her, which she all but attempted when she turned desperate about custody, you bet your ass I’m going to have my phone on record if I ever suddenly find myself in a situation where I’m alone with her.

          I view it as kind of a police body cam. Without the camera evidence, if she ever (falsely) accused me of assault I would very likely end up being arrested first, and then having to clear my name after the fact. But there would always be a record that I was arrested for domestic violence or assault, and I would have to explain that arrest to future employers and others for the rest of my life.

          In the heat of the situation, when we were still living in the same home in different rooms, it got to the point that I felt I had to record every trip to the kitchen from my bedroom because she was looking for ways to “take me out”. I would keep my phone in plain sight and if she suddenly appeared I would remind her that my phone was recording. Now years later, things have calmed significantly. But I still reach for my phone on those rare occasions if I know she’s in my vicinity and I sense there’s a chance I might find myself alone and she might approach me. I feel safe at school events because there are security cameras everywhere.

          This is what I had to do, and still have to do, to keep myself safe from a sociopath. If there’s a chance of being arrested for having my phone’s camera on record while I carry it in plain sight, I’ll take those chances over the risk of being falsely accused of assault.

  • Dear Chumpion,

    Get outside help STAT. And make sure it’s not with someone bonkers who says you had a part in the infidelity.

    child/children =


    This is exactly why Mother Nature requires two
    humans to reproduce.

    I have a big Costco shopping cart full of childhood baggage that I have been unloading for 35 years. I’ve been a WIP (work in progress) since I was 22.
    I am now 56 and get to learn and grow until I die.


    Let her work her crap out on some other sucker.
    YOU get to dive into your outside help and keep her from inflicting her issues on you and your children.


    • Pit Crew =

      Financial professionals
      Mental health professionals
      Friends you trust
      Friends you trust who have been in the infidelity
      Chump Lady
      Chump Nation (a few phone buddies here have saved my life!)

      My pit crew also includes my 12 step groups (Al Anon, ACA, CoDA, AA, CA)…..Al Anon in particular for me has been a sanity saver with the infidelity…all the principles for that program are applicable to infidelity….and the longer I am here the more linkage I see with cheating and addiction….

      • I survived a 23 year marriage with a raging narcissist! Rage, remorse, gas lighting, his addictions, the whole bucket of whack! I finally had enough when I caught him cheating. I look back now and can’t believe how blind and broken I had become. I am certain it was not his first affair but he had me convinced he was loyal. My kids were 14 and 16 and I had been a stay home mom since they were born. I hadn’t found Chump Lady…so I caved on many legal things for the sake of just needing peace and “for the kids.” My advise…listen to Chump Lady. Get a lawyer and be mighty! It will go bad either way so why not at least have half! But, I will say this, no one can prepare you for the damage a true narcissist will do his children. I have been divorced for a little over two years. He has a new fiancé and family but just can’t stop hurting them. It is heartbreaking to witness the punishment he inflicts on them for not worshiping him. He takes no responsibility for his actions and just cannot respect their boundaries. That said, I wish I would have left years sooner. I stayed for the kids, because marriage is forever, because I wanted my family. But…it wasn’t a “family” and he wasn’t a “father.” Leave now, give them one sane parent, one peaceful home, therapy, and love.

        • The chumpion
          I could write your comment word for word. Not married as long. My youngest was starting kindergarten when I left. Basically I have specific orders and an outsider meet him for visitation swap. Anything that helped your kids or you get through it?

      • Great Pit Crew list, Velvet Hammer. I would add: Tell people. Tell them the truth. But don’t spew the pain on anyone who doesn’t have your back. I had 2 friends who heard EVERYTHING. That allowed me to keep my extended family clear of the worst of my crazy period. My family knew what happened and they were supportive, but I didn’t lean on them for support. I leaned on my therapist, my 2 BFFs, and Chump Nation. Think carefully about who should be in your innermost circle during this really hard time. Consider carefully how you tell people and what you tell them. But don’t let STBX get out in front withe her version of things.

        • Sadly I have a large group of women friends who are recovering Chumps. They all heard from me daily for over a year easy. They saved my life. Now it’s down to three daily at 2.8 years out. The operant word is TRUST.
          And telling is essential and what I do with only people who get it…I just didn’t spell that out above. Only one person got launched…a close friend who was cheated on blamed me…I had no idea anyone cheated on would go there and I ended that friendship immediately.

      • I just want to chime in about AA. I’m also in recovery and have only just found out days ago that my husbands side piece of 5 years is my next door neighbor who I went to meetings with. The betrayal is mind numbing. My friend the “recovering alcoholic”. We also have a 7 year old son and it’s going to get very ugly I just don’t even know how to come up for air

        • Remember it’s not Well People Anonymous. Sobriety and recovery are two different things. And then there are dry drunks and people who are lying about being sober, like my X-AH. If you’re in recovery and cheating, you’re still sick.

          I am sorry. ????

        • Sending hugs your way. If you don’t have a therapist, it might be time to find one who is skilled in recovery issues and understand betrayal and abuse. I don’t know how 12-step groups handle this stuff, but it might be time to assess the health of your meeting overall and perhaps it’s time for a change.

          Wishing you strength in sobriety and a strong circle of support. Keep reading here. It will help.

      • So glad I am not the only one who has discovered the Incredible Free Spiritual Gift that is Al Anon and the other 12 Step programmes. How to live with integrity and connection.

        “Drug use and narcissism are closely correlated. It is easy to have a relationship with a bottle. Bottles don’t have needs” [kickass Dr Therapist] Cheating and narcissism are also closely correlated!

        A psychiatrist also observed that the family dynamics in a narcissistic home are very similar to those in an alcoholic home (will try and find the reference)

        I just mentally substituted ‘narcissist’ for the word ‘alcoholic’. The behaviours are the same! The coping strategies are the same as well.

        The 12 steps programme is FREE teaching on: self soothing, letting go of manipulation and control, stepping away from drama, learning non-reactivity.

        Anyone who cannot afford counselling but really needs some support – find your local Al Anon group.

      • So glad I am not the only one who has discovered the Incredible Free Spiritual Gift that is Al Anon and the other 12 Step programmes. How to live with integrity and connection.

        A psychiatrist also observed that the family dynamics in a narcissistic home are very similar to those in an alcoholic home (will try and find the reference)

        I just mentally substituted ‘narcissist’ for the word ‘alcoholic’. The behaviours are the same! The coping strategies are the same as well.

        The 12 steps programme is FREE teaching on: self soothing, letting go of manipulation and control, stepping away from drama, learning non-reactivity.

        Anyone who cannot afford counselling but really needs some support – find your local Al Anon or other 12 step group.

      • Velvet Hammer thank you so much for pointing me in the direction of the book ‘Cheating in a Nutshell’. I took a look and ordered the kindle version within minutes. Reading it feels like coming up for air. I already love (and own) LACGAL and this book I think will take place right beside LACGAL. And I will definitely recommend to others – especially those who haven’t endured betrayal directly. And I’m happy to hear you found that it offered helpful info about having children in the midst of this whole mess as this has been my greatest agony and has kept me stuck. My cheater has been in a long term affair since before I was pregnant, through my pregnancy….through early postpartum….and has re-engaged with his co-cheater full on in the present to lead a double life yet again. I am closer to accepting the unacceptable (which is possibly losing time with my child and being forced to watch my child spend time with the OW) insofar as it brings freedom from being married to this horror show of a human. But I need all the solid help I can get to get me through what divorcing will mean for my still very young child (2 y.o.) and my mothering relationship with my child, which has been threatened by the 2 most selfish humans on the planet since before he was born. You always have amazing insights Velvet Hammer. Thank you and thank you CL and CN.

        • apollonia, make sure you are documenting EVERYTHING. Document every hour he leaves you alone to raise this child. I’m not sure you are married, based on your letter, but if you are, find a pitfall lawyer who will get you custody and him “visitation” with rules. It’s not always possible, but it’s something to try for. 50/50 seems the norm in many places, but he can’t be pulling his weight.

          • LovedaJackass – Thanks, yes I’ve been doing my best to document as much as I can since last summer after an incident that almost caused me to file for an order for protection from him. The only reason I didn’t is because the attorney I was working with said while she felt certain a judge would approve it for me, she wasn’t 100% sure it would cover my tiny child. And that felt worse – to possibly pass my 18 month old back and forth through a 3rd party and have less ability to make sure my child was okay. I’ve hunkered in while my child is so small. I’m fully cognizant of how abusive he has been and continues to be. And I’m at a breaking point now and am working on an action plan.

            I know I’m in the company of people who have experienced mind-bending and soul crushing realities around being chumped, but my one day exH (ODXH) really is in the top tiers of disordered people. I’ve tried to divorce him twice and he claimed he received only half the papers the first time and did the whole “wait, wait I’m not sure what I want but it very possibly is you.’ That was 5 weeks post dday so I pumped the brakes because I was still drowning in trauma shock and was full of hopium. The 2nd time he literally evaded service. The events that have transpired in the past 2 years still cause me to feel stunned when I type them out. What I’ve described here is the tip of the iceberg. He also lied his way back to living in our house where he’s been for the past year. I’ve asked him to move out and he won’t. He is here to image manage and to have cake. He gets nothing from me (no physical interaction, no emotional support, nada), but living at home allows him to be with our son as he chooses and he realizes with divorce he will lose time with his kid. He also knows he can control this way and has threatened around custody even once scream snarling at me “she will be a part of his life and there’s nothing legally you can do about it!” (Meaning the OW will be around my son and there’s nothing I can do about it).

            I actually don’t want to stand in the way of his relationship with our son if he can be safe and present with him, but I wanted to prevent early attachment trauma for my sweet boy (and I’ve been his primary caregiver since he was born…his dad has been inconsistent at best) and I do have major concerns (for obvious reasons) about the mental stability and ability of my ODXH to be a consistent parent.

            You are right he is absolutely not pulling his weight. He has contributed so much chaos and instability for both me and my son. He is a misery maker. I’ve been paralyzed by fear. And beaten down over time (classic abuser tactics). My son is happy and healthy and so well adjusted (for real) – all because of me and despite his dad. Thanks for listening. I never wanted to be a part of this club but I’m glad CL has provided this place to be validated and supported by others who get it.

      • Velvet Hammer I have to thank you for your book recommendations.I have gotten several and they are great! Thanks. (I’m still working on untangleing the skein 50 yrs on – it’s like a hobby).

        • The right words make all the difference. I am a perpetual student. I love this blog!

  • I didn’t have children when I left, but I do recommend finding a support group for people going through divorce… most of the people at mine had kids and were able to offer good advice to fellow parents. It also provides you a forum where you can vent about your grief without feeling like you’re annoying your close friends/loved ones and not project your feelings on to your kids.

    Also, as a child of divorce, I’ll give you this piece of advice: Don’t ask your kids “how are you?” Or “are you OK?” 9/10 you will get one-word answers like “fine.” Ask them questions that will get them talking like, “What are your worries about changing schools?” Or “How would you like to decorate your room for when you visit me?” Anything but yes or no questions.

    Lastly, don’t be hostile or speaking cruelly of your wife… she’s still their mom and they love her. But you also don’t have to be her PR agent either. If they’re upset because she skipped a weekend to fuck schmoopie, don’t say “Don’t worry Mommy love you!” because all you’re doing is teaching that love = unreliability. Instead say something like, “I understand that you’re disappointed. What can I do to help?”

    • Lulu, that is one thing I wish I hadn’t done. My XW had multiple affairs. So had choice words for her in front of the kids. Explained to much details. Now I only talk about myself. I mostly don’t even try to correct her lies. Just stick to the truth. It damaged the kids.

      Focus on being the sane parent.

      • How old were your kids when you felt like you over shared?

        I am struggling because I have 10 & 8 year olds who want answers…and mind you, I have those answers, but they are not pretty

        Like, how young is too young for them to know she stole from all of us by setting up a secret bank account with one of her boyfriends? And how old does one have to be to really picture $375k?

        They know what stealing is, they know that stealing is wrong…but they picture “robbers” with burglar masks on. When is the appropriate time to explain their mother is one of those people?

        When do I explain the spy cameras she installed? Or her attempts at credit card fraud?

        Because while letting them discover her true nature on their own is AN option…it really doesn’t seem like a good one.

        I think sometimes about how

        if anyone were to suggest that a child “find out for themselves”

        about a relative who is a serial child molester because it would be

        inappropriate to “poison” the relationship with proven facts, eg

        “Uncle Dave has a history of touching kids’ privates, that’s why he wears an ankle bracelet”

        They might get looked at like they were a bit nuts…surely the safety of the child takes priority

        over Uncle Dave’s wish to not be known as a child molester

        Yet when we are faced with similarly grim outcomes in the divorce space… we hesitate to tell the whole truth about the Failed Parent

        Instead choosing the easy path of “it would hurt them too much”

        Thus re-enrolling ourselves in the role of covering up for the Failed Parent’s behavior

        Put another way:

        How dare we keep the full, complete truth from those most affected by it?

        But I am looking for answers…would really love to hear from anyone who has drive this part of the road and has wisdom to impart

        Stay mighty everyone!

        • $375K?!

          That one is relatively easy to illustrate. Find a house for sale, or even your own, and tell them that same amount of money was embezzled from you. Which is a form of theft but it is PERSONAL. Someone you trusted took it away from you when you weren’t looking.

          “Embezzlement is the act of withholding assets for the purpose of conversion of such assets, by one or more persons to whom the assets were entrusted, either to be held or to be used for specific purposes. Embezzlement is a type of financial fraud. For example, a lawyer might embezzle funds from the trust accounts of their clients; a financial advisor might embezzle the funds of investors; and a husband or a wife might embezzle funds from a bank account jointly held with the spouse.”

          Wikipedia doesn’t get everything right, but I liked that the example included spouses.

          I hope you have frozen your kids’ credit. After you have made certain she didn’t use their SSN to open up lines of credit using them first. Sounds like she may already have done it using your SSN. Honestly, if she did commit identity theft, please file a police report. That crap can seriously fuck up your kids’ futures.

          “We are getting a divorce because many lies were uncovered, including having a boyfriend behind my back. There was theft/embezzlement – enough to buy a nice house. I won’t be married to someone who does these things.”

        • If your kids want answers, give them answers but in age appropriate ways, as NSCupcakes says. I like her script, above. Here’s mine:

          “Married people promise not to have other boyfriends or girlfriends. Married people promise to be honest about money and to protect the family’s money. Your mother broke those two important promises. She has a boyfriend. She stole a lot of our family’s money, enough to buy a big house or for all of us to fly to Disney World every single month for 5 years. When someone breaks big promises, I can’t trust them any more. So we are getting a divorce.”

          • Thanks…these are some really great and helpful answers…

            …and fret not for the $$$, Fellow Chumps:

            because she and Non Genius AP

            did it all via (now documented) fraudulent conveyance, it just gets “charged back” to her side of the community property aggregate

            And the REASON she suffered this skull-rattling and purse-lightening blow

            at the hands of my Excellent Lawyer

            Is because of all the pillars of ChumpNation,

            from CL on down through

            the amazing, beautiful, hilarious and defiantly alive contributors

            in this comments section

            Telling me to lawyer up first

            and if there are wild promises to be made About whose $$$ is really whose

            surely they can be made via an experienced professional

            Stay mighty everyone!

            • I hope you’re also asking for a full custody? Because such a person can’t be around children. What she’s going to do next when she runs out of money, send them up the chimney to get a few coins??

        • I told my just-turned 11 yo daughter that stbxh committed crimes and was convicted in court. I didn’t tell her what it was (he bought drugs on the dark net and had them delivered to our house. And of course used those drugs.) I told her she can always ask me anything she wants to know and I will do my best to answer. She hasn’t asked yet. Oh and I also told he was unfaithful to me by being with another woman and lued repeatedly. No slandering, and we pray for him. It breaks my heart to see her suffer and it makes me angry like I could never be just for myself.

        • Mine was 14 & 12 years old.

          I only went into the details once, answered every question. My youngest wants to know more details. What we argued about after DDay, why I didn’t believe she was sorry, why I didn’t give her more, why “I” broke the marriage up etc.

          I probably editorialized to much. It damaged the kids. I do not regret telling the truth though.

          • Mine was in another state with AP when I found out on Facebook. Sadly my ex had been telling our daughter (younger than yours he had a girlfriend.) He had no shame in the truth.
            The truth wasn’t the damage-it was what happened to them by the cheater.

  • Easily stumped Chumpion – I got a pit in my stomach when I read your post, I’ve been in your shoes, reading what you wrote was like a punch in the gut of the fake reconciliation perpetrators out there. After finding out my wife strung me along after DDay #1, I finally had the courage to stand up for myself when she texted me a confession following DDay #2. It was a blow I could not mentally or emotionally handle and I asked her to leave. After DDay #1, I become a professional pick-me dancer, addressed all the “reasons why she cheated on me the first time” and it was all for nothing other than more heartbreak and destruction. I have 3 children myself and all I can share with you is that it’s OK to show your emotions, it’s OK that they know Dad is heartbroken from what occurred and for them to know that you are struggling just as much as they are through this difficult and emotional time. They don’t need details about what happened, or to know anything other than both Dad and Mom love them, you will continue to be there with and for them and together, you will all make it through it OK. It took me a long time to get there, there were times we would sit for dinner at our dining room table and I’d have to go outside from the pain of seeing an empty spot at the table where she would sit, or feel like I was going to pass out at the store trying to navigate through it on my own with them in tow.
    Clearly your wife wants you to let go so she can have a life that she finds more fulfilling than the one she has. It’s horrible, heartbreaking and tremendously painful to realize that instead of finding the courage to say that and do it while allowing you to have dignity, she’d rather rip apart you and her family in the process.
    Have courage, find resilience and over time, you will return to a happy place where you and your children can make memories and new traditions without the person who worked so hard covertly to destroy what you did have. I’m a year out and still have my days where I cry from pure shock this is my new life, but I’ve gotten to the point where the kids no longer see me like that and I can be the parent that has courage to move ahead.

  • Self belief
    A lot of so called friends told me to dye my hair, get a fake tan, loose weight to get him back, I didn’t tell them I didn’t want him back.
    He put everyone else before his children and me, I brought every present, uniform. He spent his money on ow, drugs and alcohol.
    I wish I had found chump lady years ago.
    a neighbour said yesterday, you have to make men happy, she quizzed my facial expression, I had a sneaking feeling something went on between her and my ex. She always stuck up for him.
    She was disappointed months ago when I told her he had a girlfriend.

    • Better to trust your gut and let that neighbor slip into your past. Once my long-suppressed instincts were reawakened I gradually figured out a slew of shady relationships my ex had. The concept behind the book, The Gift of Fear, is real. Suppress your instincts to your own demise.

  • I have a suggestion that has been tried and been successful. It’s called bird nesting. The children stay right where they are and the parents take turns spending a week in the house. Divorce is not discussed at this point. The children can say dad’s coming home this week or moms coming home this week so they don’t have to choose which house they’re going to stay in for the week. It takes the complete burden off them. You and your hope to be ex should communicate through text and emails (so there are some sort of trail) about school dental and medical issues. Children need basics in life. They need continuity. They need safety. They need dependable caretakers, they need unconditional love and they don’t need strife. At some point as they get used to this life you and their mother might sit down and talk about divorce but only with the idea that the children stay right where they are.
    This isn’t forever. It’s a stopgap to allow the children time to accept that their parents don’t live together without disturbing the kids. You only get one childhood and that should be when self esteem, trust in others form. They can’t if the chidren are focused on surviving emotionally.

    • That doesn’t work if your XW is a narcissist/BPD. She has NO problem destroying the kids to destroy me.

    • Have you done this? Because it sounds to me like one of those solutions from the “can’t we all just get along” school of divorce parenting. I don’t see how just living in the same house while the parents come and go is going to provide continuity in more than a surface way. I wouldn’t trust my cheating partner, who has already shown that the continuity and safety of the family was not important (or he wouldn’t have cheated), nor would I want to be reminded of his presence in the house–it would be like a repetition of trauma. I also wouldn’t want to stoke any hopium in the children that Mommy and Daddy might get back together again and live in the same house together again.

      • It’s not to be permanent. Maybe six months to a year. It eases children into things without beating them over the head. Yes it can be done if both parents accept the boundaries. If both parents can focus on what’s the best for their children. If one parent is off the rails then no.
        A relative of mine does a version of this. The divorce happened, the wife kept the house, he got an apartment. They are so good at parenting together that when she travels he moves into the house. It’s been a simple straightahead agreement between two parents who put their children first. The children generally choose where they want to be and it has evened out with nobody getting their feelings hurt. That’s the bottom line. You want their one and only childhoods to be forming good memories they want to keep.

        • “Yes it can be done if both parents accept the boundaries. If both parents can focus on what’s the best for their children.”

          The cheater already proved incapable of or unwilling to do this. Cheater is supposed to accept boundaries?!?!

        • Have you lived this way? Was this relative’s divorce over infidelity? I think this is a highly unrealistic idea in cases of abuse, which is my opinion about infidelity and double lives. You don’t have an honest broker to “accept boundaries” with. They just demonstrated in the most devastating fashion what they think about boundaries and “what’s best for the children.” Their ego, their fantasy, won.

          • He cheated. Short term. She decided they separate. They NEVER put the children in the middle. That’s what I am getting at. Words hurt. Badmouthing the other parent has weight. They both have their own homes but he spends a lot of time in the family home while she travels. He gets kids to school. My point being that both parents have to be mature enough. If one is narcissistic, using drugs, playing mind games then all bets are off. Does he regret the cheating? Hell yeah. It’s done but he admires his ex for never making the kids see him as a monster. I realize this is rare but it can be done.

            • This is so unrealistic for so many (as in the majority) victims of infidelity. My ex never laid a hand on me in 23 years…until he did. Know when he did? Right after I found out about the affair and was packing my stuff. He grabbed me by my hair, neck, and clothes, dragged me through our bedroom, the hallway, the front foyer and slammed my whole front, face included, into the wall by the door. He opened the door, called me a f’ing B. Then he threw me out. He’s 6’2″. He weighed a very very muscular 245. I’m 5’4″. THAT shit never happened again. But after that, he would sneak into the home and destroy things from time to time. He threatened to have me murdered. Since he made almost $300G a year, that was a very possible threat. Hmm maybe we should all nest. Not. Even if he’d never laid a hand on me, the sheer amount of emotional abuse I sustained for almost 2 years after I helped him pack up his shit, that I was able to keep from the kids BECAUSE WE WEREN’T nesting, was traumatic. Shall we talk about boundaries again. And I had an abuse free marriage. But cheaters change when you stop letting them eat cake. A very rare few don’t. But not worth risking it, especially when it comes to kids seeing Mommy (or Daddy) being physically, and/or emotionally abused.

              • Happened to me too. 15 years and never a hint of being capable of getting physical. Then on my move-out day, my then soon-to-be-ex punched me and screamed GTFO with our kid in the adjacent room and two moving company employees nearby. I just stood there stunned that she was capable of that.

                Thankfully my hands were full and all I could think about was quickly getting all my things out the door. I later figured out that she was once again trying to provoke me to do something or say something that she could try to use against me. I would eventually learn all that she was capable of as her secret life became known.

                Now it’s years later and I’m so thankful for having escaped those years of tirelessly working on a relationship that unbeknownst to me was over from almost the beginning, since her secret life of cheating began shortly after we married. I cringe at how chumpy I was and how much I tried to make her happy in return for scraps. Ugh.

              • @sugarplum HUGE hugs and high five for escaping this mindfuck. ❤️❤️❤️ I could write the same script. Nesting with a selfish, gambling, alcohol binging, financial and mental abusive fuck hole was never my cup of soup or tea or kool aid.
                Exclusive possession protection order and $230,000 legal fees … priceless ????????

                Stay safe ❤️

            • It’s not sustainable once one or both of the parents begin new relationships. “Bird nesting” and moving into the X’s home would be terrible unfair to a new partner. Once adults divorce and establish a home, when one parent goes out of town, the kids can stay at the other parent’s home. It’s not rocket science.

            • Let go, this story seems like the exact opposite of what CL is trying to teach. When you don’t tell the truth to your kids because “words hurt”, you are lying to your children. (age appropriate of course and no editorializing).
              The wife sounds like she is happy to win approval by keeping his secrets from their children and playing the whole RIC game of Let’s Be Friends for the Children. That is so inauthentic. And the ex admires her for keeping his image burnished (it’s either burnished or a “monster” – ugh how about somewhere in-between.)
              The whole things seems creepy and inauthentic.

            • I think this is a delusional made for TV idea.
              This idea sets up abusers to continue abuse. Cheater = Abuser. Get out (Divorce)! Prove to your kids what a tough parent you are because life is hard-show them how to be a survivor!

          • Distance. Distance. Distancing.
            I needed it to even begin healing from the mind Fuck.
            Not to mention my physical reaction to xw’s pheromones when I did have to be in a room with her. I noticed a palpable reaction that jolted me into a hyper vigilance state during those times which in turn triggered emotional turmoil that lasted for days.

          • I had a friend that tried this just for a little while. The STBX left her messages in her diary responding to what she had written. Boundaries indeed.
            Like the rare unicorn, I’m sure it works for some, but I doubt anyone on this site has a situation that is enhanced by this arrangement.

          • No person who truly cares for a chump would serve up this kind of poop sandwich and expect the chump to eat it for ‘just 6 months.’

            I smell a troll…

          • I did it for about 4 months with my ex almost immediately after d-day whilst I got my head around what was going on. It was good for getting space for working out the best way forward without sudden disruption for the kids. It gave me time to research the best ways to tell my kids and the best custody patterns before launching them into their new life. It also helps you empathise with the kids for how hard it is moving between two homes if you didn’t do it yourself as a child. It was very very hard. I underestimated how unsettling not having a proper home would be whilst going through something so tough and I couldn’t have done it without the support of very good friends.

        • I maintained the marital home, so I was able to sustain relatively similar structure for my kids. They just dealt with the separation of their parents. They didn’t also have to face losing the home they had always known, changing schools, losing their friends. I think that went a really long way in helping them cope.

          My kids were actually excited at the prospect of having another bedroom at “daddy’s house”. After more than two years, they really consider my house their home. It’s because this is their home. Their father hasn’t really made his place or neighbourhood a home, so the kids don’t know anyone there to call on to play with and he doesn’t have much for them at his house (my son just got a bike now after two years, but my daughter doesn’t have one, so where is he going to go by himself in a neighbourhood where he knows no one?).

          But when I think about the idea of having tried nesting, I physically wretch at the thought. So much of my own healing came from feeling like my home was my safe space of peace. I wouldn’t have been able to bear leaving to some apartment somewhere for a week at a time, packing so that I remember everything I need. I would be wondering who slept in the bed while I was at home for the week. I would be seeing whatever his things are that he left there. I would be wondering if he was going through my things at home or if he was bringing the OW in.

          Nope, I have the kids almost 2/3 of the time. My son is Autistic and so predictability and structure is imperative. He’s been able to manage.

          Bird nesting with a cheater? I don’t think so.

          • My ex suggested the bird nesting shit. I was so fucking angry at the idea that someone who deceived me for over a decade would think I would do that. It’s only possible for people who care about you and have respect. My ex thinks he’s done absolutely nothing wrong and the marital breakup was my fault. Cheaters are so fucking deluded.

          • He doesn’t have much for them in the house … So you just continue to enable his laziness, lack if care and who cares about the children attitude.

        • If both parents could “accept boundaries”, there would be no cheating occurring in the marriage in the first place!

    • I think it takes two special parents to be able to successfully manage ‘bird nesting’. It means that the parent that is leaving for the week must scrupulously make sure the house is hospitable and ready for the other parent to move in. Examples – erase phone messages if there’s a landline, remove all intimate personal effects, deep clean the shared bedroom and the kitchen, perhaps buy a few groceries, drag a vacuum cleaner around the rest of the house. I can’t imagine anything worse that moving back into a pigsty, twice a month.

      Having said that, I’m a tidy person, and so is my ex-husband, so that arrangement would work from a cleanliness perspective, but quasi-sharing a house for the sake of the kids’ sanity would never be up my alley. I need my own space and independence, for MY sanity.

      • One of our fellow Chumps did bird nesting with his Cheater. I can’t remember who it was, but his posts showed that it was sheer hell. His wife worked very hard to alienate the children.\

        I can see nesting working if the parents are divorcing, but cheating is an act of entitlement. It also thrives in secrecy. Once the cheater has been outed, the cheater needs to manage their image, and this starts by mindfucking the children. Should it be this way? No. Is it often this way? Absolutely.

        Tell the kids that the parents are divorcing. Tell an age-appropriate truth so the children realize that this isn’t the children’s fault–a common child perception–and then reassure the children that even though everyone might be sad for a little while, things will be be okay.

    • This has been tried by whom? I mean, wouldn’t this be gaslighting the kids? Divorce is not discussed, but their parents are trading weeks?

      “At some point as they get used to this life you and their mother might sit down and talk about divorce but only with the idea that the children stay right where they are.” For the kids to stay right where they are, the chump would never be able to move away from the cheater. I can’t imagine that most chumps on this board would want to continue to share a home with the cheater. “Ah, here’s her toothbrush! And now I get to sleep in the same bed she’s been sleeping in. Oh, hey, here’s her schmoopie’s laundry, ’cause she certainly isn’t going to stay away from him for a whole week.” No.

      This whole nesting thing depends on someone with a demonstrable lack of integrity behaving differently.

    • Bird nesting with a cheater is a rough gig. Been there, done that. As others have said it takes two people with boundaries and honesty- something absent in relationship with a cheater. My attempt to do this lasted about a month until guess what? She was lying about where she was supposed to be when at home and when I was at home. When I called her on it she blew up so bad I got a restraining order that kicked her out.
      Bird nesting could work in a non contentious divorce, but cheating? Not likely.

    • Infidelity is murder with special circumstances.
      I would never consider it for a second.

      I think hefty doses of denial are being ingested when people say they are friends after this. I know I have to drink a hefty dose to attend business meetings at the company own (for now) with the X-AH.

      I agree with what others say, especially Chump Lady’s two cents, whose words are actually priceless.

    • Infidelity is murder with special circumstances.
      I would never consider it for a second.

      I think hefty doses of denial are being ingested when people say they are friends after this. I know I have to drink a hefty dose to attend business meetings at the company own (for now) with the X-AH.

      I agree with what others say, especially Chump Lady’s two cents, whose words are actually priceless.

      I don’t see maturity as having anything to do with this. Besides clear evidence of a stunning lack of boundaries, cheating also is evidence of emotional immaturity.

      • ….and I have never said anything negative about him to our daughter, in my life. I am sad to report that I found out he was in the habit of talking about me to her, still is, and still has to be told to stop……


        • TYPO….

          I would never consider NESTING for a second. Although my original commment reads true as well; I would never consider infidelity for a split second.

          (Even when I was young and definitely needed help I was always completely repulsed by the thought of it)

    • The problems with “bird nesting”:

      1. You don’t have a home. It’s the sane parent who builds the safe “nest.” It’s not great for kids to go back and forth between homes, but it’s the situation that best represents the reality of the situation. Two adults separate and divorce. The kids spend time with each parent or end up spending most time with the sane parent. It’s super important for the chump’s healing to have stability too. You can’t provide for your kids what you don’t have yourself.
      2. It’s one thing to make kids your focus. But making them central in a way that diminishes the adult life? That’s not preparation for the world in which the rest of the world won’t revolve around the kids. And it teaches kids that their parents have no human needs.
      3. It’s not sustainable. What happens after the divorce? Does “bird nesting” go on forever? Begin as you mean to go on. Give his ONE situation to adjust to. Then when the cheater moves a schmoopie in, the sane parent is well established in a stable home.

      • **Give kids one situation to adjust to, in the beginning. (Sorry for the typo).

        And I second the observation that if you can’t be safely married to an abusive cheater, you can’t
        bird nest, either, because that requires boundaries, respect, and honesty.

    • I don’t have enough Clorox to disinfect the house. He wanted to stay living at the house for our children but be divorced. NOPE! So I get to see you fuck strange? No hell no! There’s a reason why we’re divorced. You can’t be trusted. Why would I volunteer to share a nest with you and schmoopie? ????

    • My stbxh and I agreed if he cheated again he would walk away. Needless to say I forced him to follow on this one. But we both agreed at that time if we divorced our kids stay in the house. I put my first three children through a horrific divorce with my first narcissistic abusive exh. I refuse to watch them shuffle homes again. Children always pay the biggest price for unhealthy marriages and divorces.
      Once he has went through treatment then we will make a co parenting plan that will try the week on an week off. Thank you for sharing. It makes me fwel better for my decision to do this.

    • I can’t see this working in any situation save for the mutual divorce folks. The practicalities of making it work would be expensive and invasive. Would you share 2 homes going back and forth between them? Or would you each have a place plus the kids place? Would you share bedrooms? beds? Would they invite their APS and how would you know if they did? Way too difficult imo.

  • Yes! I am here to attest that this works. My son is four years into this and is not only a hard working A student, but he is a wonderful, stable human being. I made it a point to never bad mouth his dad as tempting as it was. I stuck to no contact from the day I found out about it and continue to this day.

    Another suggestion after time has passed and you are ready to date, I personally think introducing new partners needs to wait until you have been dating at least 6 to 9 months or longer. The reason for this rule is you may be tempted earlier because the odds are you will meet one or two pretty cool women you think may have long term potential that you discover don’t over time. It is tough on little kids to attach to a new adult, and then have them disappear because you no longer are dating. It puts unnatural pressure on you to end a dating relationship knowing it will also disappoint the children. I have seen friends kids go through this and it is an unnecessary emotional burden on them (and you when it’s time to end the relationship).

    Chump Lady has great advice here and it is worth studying, practicing and internalizing.

    • My yes it works is for Chump Lady’s response, not the bird nesting thing. I remember thinking that is such a good idea before I was married to a cheater. Personally there is no way I would have felt safe doing this and there is no way I would have left my house alone with cheater in it.

    • Yes. My kids never met the first two women I dated after my divorce. My wife wasn’t introduced to my kids until we were unofficially engaged. Although they talked on the phone once.

  • As a chump husband having recently gone through this let me offer some advice based on what I did wrong, and some i did correctly. Firstly, you’re not a fool or a tool. You’re a man who f’ing did was was necessary to keep a family together. Unfortunately you were alone in the endeavor but you’re a STRONG MF’er, no question.

    1. Separate. Mentally, physically and emotionally. No contact will seem cruel(to you and the kids) but’s it’s really the only way.

    2. Get yourself counseling. I did(am doing) EMDR therapy. Look it up. Huge help.

    3. Get the kids counseling. It’s going to take a long time before they open up, stick with it but don’t “force” it on them.

    4. Don’t gaslight the kids. That shit ends now. None of this “mom and dad grew apart” bullshit. Age appropriate truth from the day you tell them you’re separating. It’s the only way their sweet little brains will be able to make sense of this. Trust me on that.

    5. If you don’t, or haven’t, start working out. The benefits are so great and the boost you get will be one of the only things that get you through a day.

    6. Fight like hell for whatever you legally can. I’m not talking getting nasty, let your lawyer do their thing. All of it.

    7. Fight for the kids. They deserve it. If that means full custody for you, do it.

    8. Stop beating yourself up. The things that you’re feeling make you “weak” actually make you super strong. It took me a long time to realize that.

    9. Go out a kill your new life. After some of the immense pain goes away you’re going to find some of your anxiety actually goes away because you’re not wondering where she’s at or who she’s talking to.

    This isn’t the pain olympics but the emasculation that is men feel keeps us from talking about it. You got this man. From one male chump to another, Godspeed to you brother.

    • I have a very close friend of mine who didn’t tell me his wife was cheating on him for 3 months! He knows what I went through. He told me it is humiliating. Men feel a special pain from it. Be kind to yourself.

      • The key for me was realizing that the cheating wasn’t about me. It was all about her. I mean, I wasn’t a perfect husband because no one is, but I was pretty damn good. By any objective measure we were a good match, but no 17-year marriage can match the thrill of an illicit affair. She didn’t choose him over you in a “fair fight” – what she chose was a fantasy (an affair has no childcare, laundry, illness, in-laws, bills, etc).

        For me, “trust that they suck” is more or less “trust that after 17 years she’ll be just as disenchanted with AP as she was with you”. (Now, XW is rapidly aging out of the adultery bracket (for women, anyway) so maybe they won’t get divorced, but that doesn’t mean they have a good marriage).

        Also, I now know that the image AP projected to my wife does not accurately reflect his actual performance as a husband. For instance, AP sent my wife more clothes, perfume and flowers in 6 months than he sent his actual wife in 14 years. XW fell for a fake persona, and in time he’ll revert to form and she’ll discover that he’s not so great. Your wife didn’t choose a real person and a real relationship over you and your marriage. She chose a fantasy over reality. This is her fault, not yours.

        • IG,

          Wow. That first paragraph is something I swear I’ve said a thousand times over. Verbatim. Down to the 17 year marriage part. It’s still a mind f’ though. While I can admit my faults I can’t see how people can live a double life. It’s beyond my comprehension and something I’ll never get over.

        • So true. The spouse appliance deals with bills, shuffling kids to & from, grocery shopping, house repairs, car repairs,etc. Meanwhile the affair partner has the tough job of showing up for dinners, drinks, & hotel stays. Plus the time consuming tasks of texting, Facebook messaging, Snap chatting and general ego stroking of the cheating spouse. ????

  • ! Get a therapist who knows how to support someone who is dealing with a narc. Ask questions, be specific. Don’t get someone who will only pat you n the back. You need advice because you are going to face some critical challenges in the future.
    2. Get a lawyer who knows how to counteract the craziness of a crazy person. Ask specific questions about dealing with lies. Don’t fall short on this, you will need it now and probably in the future.
    3. Get yourself grounded in who you are and build some strong boundaries. You will need them. Know when to fight and when to walk away. As a parent you are going to have to put up with lots of totally crazy things that if you tell others, they will think you are crazy. Hence the therapist.
    4. Get ready for a different reality. Raising children with a manipulator is challenging to put it nicely. None of us chumps can describe what it’s going to be like. If someone had told me, I would have laughed. I’m not laughing now.
    I’m 10 years out and my children are finally adults and are beginning to understand the covert manipulation they lived with. You might be lucky and she will find another chump and leave you be for a while – but not likely. You’re the cake, chumps like cake.
    I had to tell myself over and over that I wasn’t dealing with a sane person, often wondering if I too was insane. It’s that crazy. But eventually, if your children have one consistent parent, in time they will see reality. It may be a long time but fight for that. I’ve gone more than a year without talking to one of my kids because I stood up for what was right. I was consistent. This website helped a lot.
    So be you, be consistent and with that truth, you may also be able to find a new person who deserves the sanity and love you are offering (if that’s what you want!)

  • Here’s my advice for what its worth.

    1. Go gray rock. Recognise their disordered behaviour patterns which include denial, anger, poor me, silent treatment, gas lighting. Get educated about narcissism.
    2. Communication in writing with no emotion in it, remove anything inflammatory, be business like, don’t get drawn into anything. Don’t reply straight away, leave sit with it and then think about what you should say. (STADA – stop, think, analyse, decide, act) they will looking to press your buttons, learn the art of walking away.
    3. Learn about parallel parenting. A great forum on face book is parallel parenting with a narcissist. It literally does what it says on the tin.
    4. Buy a recording device for handovers, it will save your life at some point.
    5. Do not tell the kids the cheating loser loves them, you can only speak for yoursel, you don’t have to spackle for the cheater anymore.
    6. If the child tries to draw you into saying something negative about the other parent, because they will, just say ‘no comment’ – that’s the default setting. They will try and play you off against each other – do not get drawn into it.
    6. Always tell the children the truth, child friendly of course but be the one person that will give them the truth, god knows there’s probably been enough lies.
    7. Be mighty yes, but have concrete boundaries with the ex fuckwit. You are the children’s role model, you need to show them the difference between right and wrong, and how to disengage with manipulation which these personality disordered people will try and do.
    8. Realise these people have no bottom line but keep to your truth and ride it out. Chin up and be mighty.

    • I tried coparenting. It didn’t work: XW used communication/coordination as an excuse to try to get concessions from me. Every time she wanted something, she trotted out “why can’t you think of the kids” (as in “if you don’t trade custody time with me so I can go on a two-week trip to India with my AP, the kids won’t see me at all in January. Don’t you care about the kids?”).

      Kids are perfectly able to understand that different houses have different rules. There’s no need to synchronize bedtimes, morning routines, chore lists, etc. It’s helpful to have a shared list of passwords to accounts for the kids, a shared list of kids’ friends’ contact info, and a shared calendar (including after school, doctors’ visits and custody stuff), but that’s about it. You can and should structure your life the way you think is best for the kids. If you need to justify this to your STBX, I have found that “you and I have different attitudes about ZZZ, so we are not going to agree on how to do ZZZ” is a pretty useful line.

  • I’m going to have to disagree with the “Bird nesting ” suggestion. Most of the time, the relationship between mom and dad is not good enough anymore for this to be emotionally stable or even healthy for the children. These cheaters are abusive to the chump. That does not create a good atmosphere for anyone.
    If it worked for you. You are in the minority. Especially after 4 years?
    No… better to cut these toxic ties. Children DO need a stable environment. You’re expecting most of these fuckwits to be responsible enough to even want to spend time in the family home anymore?
    The only thing on their minds is that new piece of strange. That and getting rid of you as cheaply as possible.

    • 100% this. The bird nesting idea with my ex cheating wife would’ve been impossible. The lies upon lies I was experiencing by the time she left was too painful to keep experiencing. NC was the only way to the other side. My kids were pretty much grown by that point anyways so it was possible to cut her off and move on

  • Read the book, “One Mom’s Battle” by Tina Swithin. It is a great, but sobering look at what co-parenting is going to be like. I love her ‘canned responses’ list too.

    Get your kids in counseling. Play Therapy starts as early as age 3. A counselor can recommend books and such for you. Once someone files, you two will have to agree to counseling, so start them now to set a precedent. Make sure your temporary orders or divorce decree says that the children’s primary doctor can be the tiebreaker if the two parents don’t agree on whether the kids need to go to counseling.

    In your temporary orders or decree, have it clearly written that you need to use a court app to communicate. You’re going to have a shit ton of conflict, but using a court app keeps the conflict out of view of the children. I’m in a super high conflict divorce, but the children have never seen me yell or scream or a curse at their Dad once.

    You will have to learn how to stay calm in front of the kids. It sucks. But do whatever you need to do to make sure you are healthy with strong mental fortitude.

    Research everything you can on Parallel parenting. I literally will not speak to my children’s father. And if the kids ever asked me about it, I will just tell them that “Daddy tells Mommy things that aren’t true, so Mommy can’t talk to him anymore”. And the kids know that he’s not allowed in my house.

    I think a big part of your plan should be finding out a way that you two will not have to live together once someone files. The week before my stbx left was horrendous. I was terrified and there was an aura of fear and hatred all over the house. I think that could screw your kids up the most. So yall should try to be physically separated in two households during the divorce.

    It isn’t about divorces, but I love the book “how to talk so little kids will listen”. It has loads of communication tips and advice about how to validate their feelings. My kid’s counselor said the most important thing I could do was to always validate their feelings. Correct behavior, but validate feelings. Don’t ever tell them that they should not be sad or angry or upset or worried. Since I have toddlers, we talk about feelings all the time. I bought books about feelings, I bought flashcards about feelings. So we talk about all of them. I want the kids to have the language they need to communicate how they feel, and I also want them to know it is common and normal to have feelings, and they are all okay.

    Good luck.

    • Yes to all this,

      And validate the children’s feelings is a total must because you can bet your bottom dollar the exfuckwit won’t want that. We spent a lot of time both of us in therapy and learning about vocalising feelings. And if they see you crying (happens at the start, not much you can do to control it) just explain mummy is sad.

      Living with these people can actually do a lot of damage to a child. You think you are hiding the conflict but even if you aren’t raising your voice children hear and see it all.

    • “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen” is a great communication “textbook” for anyone of any age!
      I love that book!

  • Chumpion, I would recommend you read Dr. Robert Emery’s books “The Truth About Children and Divorce,” as well as “Two Homes, One Childhood.” In the first book, he explains that children are resilient, as long as parents minimize the conflict they witness, they should be ok. The second book, has sample time-sharing schedules based on the ages of the children. Getting your own professional help (1) an attorney to explain your rights, 2) a divorce coach to help you with the emotions, and 3) a certified divorce financial planner) will also be key to understanding and developing the best exit plan.

    • Another book is “Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce” By Elizabeth Marquardt. It is the summary of a national study on the children of divorce, written by a child of divorce herself. She delves deep into “divided selves” and pokes a hole in the notion that minimizing conflict, though admirable, is not the balm it is purported to be. The book also addresses some of the increased risks children of divorce face.
      I also like this blog post as it postulates the attachment outcomes of introducing your children to numerous future partners:

        • I think that’s why CN emphasizes being the sane, stable parent. Children’s lives are thrown into turmoil – why add more revolving door partners? My children were introduced to more women than I care to count. It really sucked.

  • Exactly. I don’t have children with the rat fuck, so perhaps my opinion doesn’t count, but I can only think, how confusing and hopium making it would be for children to be told, “mummy/daddy is coming *home* this week to be with you.” ????

    And as you say, how could one possibly trust what the cheater would do in one’s home, unsupervised? A smorgasbord oh potential horrors there, methinks.

    *Much* more sensible to divorce, have proper custody arrangements, and take it from there. Strong boundaries are a damn sight less confusing and hurtful for children.

  • Married 30 years, two adult kids. Once my kids told me he was cheating, I confirmed it and I was done. Live with cheater for two without letting him know so I could line up my ducks. Spent a lot of time with my kids, got CL book, got support from CN, started exercising, got a separate bank account, got short term counseling for coping techniques, got all the documentation I could get, talked to a few lawyers, read books about disordered cheaters, attended a divorce Saturday class, detached from cheater, etc. Almost divorced and cheater moved out over a year ago. Went through a roller coaster of emotions but once I walked through the pain I felt much better. Had a friend I could trust to talk to.

    As a man chump, I’ve heard its good not to be alone with them because the female cheat may try to set you up as an abuser. I did grey rock communications with my cheater, it helped alot…

  • Let her slobber those tears as she finds her very own apartment. Do not leave your home if you can afford to buy her out. The biggest shit sandwich is cowering to her guilt infested entitlement. Serve up those consequences and protect yourself financially. Expect the worst and tell her you’re negotiations will be handled by your attorney. Do a credit check on both your names immediately. File.

  • Be the sane parent.
    Do not lie to your children. If you wish you can defer certain painful truths but tell them that.
    Keep the children engaged and active. Keeping active helps to ventilate the psychological wound and help healing.
    Accept that there will always be a scar. For you and them but life brings many challenges that we don’t want.
    Be the sane parent.
    Create one on one time with each child and when they ask for it drop everything ASAP.
    Give yourself a break in you slip up and apologise to them. Let them know that it is a time of stress for all but that you will fight together.
    Support them and ask that they support you. Why? It gets them to think of the other. I’m not saying over burden them, but when you slip up, and you will, ask them to be patient with you.
    Keep putting yourself in their little shoes.
    Note if your ex is telling their versión of the truth and you are telling the truth which conflicts your child will become confused and potentially distrustful of both of you. Encourage them to look at actions and give them tools to objectively assess. Allow them to know that they are free to call you on any BS.
    My children are still jumping along. They will have moments where they want to unload and I just listen. I ask if they want me to comment or not because they will criticise their father then after a good rant be itching to see him!
    We do counselling from time to time but they prefer to vent with me.
    Affirm them. Build their confidence how you can. Build your confidence how you can.
    If you have a good older male or female role model let the children engage with them. I found my parents to be very therapeutic for my two.
    Just be patient with them and yourself.
    Be the sane parent.

  • Sigh… I am dealing with a complete narcissistic ex and his more narcissistic family with young adult men. Got no help as far kid advice other than…

    Be the parent. I am still the one they call when they are sick, or need extra love and support. That is my small cool refreshing cup of water.

    Counseling. Get it for you and them. Worth every penny. Luckily I have a counseling friend who my kids knew and they thought they were hanging out with him weekly. It was great for them. Of course I paid him.

    On your time away from the kids do the unfun stuff such as cleaning, errands, laundry, etc. That way, when they are with you, they have your focus.

    I am in the very tough years, I wish I could go back to the school age/toddler years. Many parents who have kids my age say the same thing.

    Good luck man! You have a bunch of people supporting you in Chump Nation!

  • Lock and load and buy more ammo NOW!

    Get yourself the following:
    A. A good therapist for you and each child. They may not talk about much now but eventually they might. They need someone else in their corner just for them. It will be expensive unless covered by your insurance company, brace for the cost impact. I know it from experience.

    B. A good lawyer and turn them loose. Start the divorce process yesterday. I mean it. What are you waiting for here? No restrictions, no matter what the subject. No nice guy tactics, it’s war. You are fighting against the unscrupulous person who repeatedly abused you and your family. Is that okay with you? Ask me how hostile they can get.

    C. Be prepared for the smear campaign. Yes, she will mindfuck your children. They play dirty. Don’t get in the mud! Yes, I know it’s tempting but stay out of the mud! Yes she will probably get 50/50 custody unless you have some leverage. Refer to B. Let the lawyer loose! It will suck your soul dry. I know this to be true.

    D. Read up on Parental Alienation. Be prepared for it. Document document document. She may slowly start the process but claims she isn’t. Paper trails don’t lie. It may be extremely difficult to prove and fight against. I know this. Be prepared for an uphill campaign. You are fighting for your children and their futures.

    Keep that picture in focus and keep moving forward over the next hill! Keep your powder dry and don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes! Good luck soldier.

  • My children recently told me (5 years out from divorce) that they believed our family (myself and them) was much closer and happier than we’d been before the divorce. I believe this is true. There is something about our weathering a great storm together that glued us together.
    I didn’t hide the mess of my emotions, either. I didn’t put it on their shoulders but when I grieved, I didn’t pretend otherwise. They needed to know it was a very important loss and that it was okay to feel very sad and hurt. I reassured them that I’d be happy again and so would they, but this was a time to feel bad. I felt like they needed to know that it was safe to feel that way from me.
    I made sure they were around my family a lot because I’m fortunate to have one that is supportive. I also gave them something to look forward to and started a new family tradition called “the surprise adventure.” Each year I planned (on a tight shoestring budget) an adventure that was a secret destination and I wouldn’t give a clue where we were headed. We’d pack up the car and I’d drive them away for a few nights to a city fairly close by or a national park and we’d enjoy an adventure together for a few days. It’s been an amazing experience and we have so many happy memories of our surprise family vacations. It’s very important to try to create something to look forward to as a family if you can. This year will be incredibly challenging though.
    Be encouraged. Don’t loose hope. You will be a happy family again.

  • Fight for as much custody as you can get. In the end, cheaters are selfish people and parenting takes sacrifice, which is too much effort for them. My kids are older, so they handled the truth well. My kids knew because they have seen what a terrible person their father has been all of their lives. My STBX didn’t even fight for custody or even contact with his 17 year old son and 15 year old daughter. He said it was their choice, “because he had tried so hard to reach out to them over the years and got nothing back.” Translation: you taught our kids boundaries and it is hard to get kibble feed off of them.” All that is to say, you might end up with the kid more than you expect, which is great since you are the sane parent. Teach the kids boundaries! There will always be boundary-jumpers in life, so don’t be a people pleaser. You are strong and you are going to raise strong children that won’t fall for the lie that “cheating happens.”

  • Everything everyone has written above and a hardbound journal. Keep a log of what YOU did with the kids and FOR the kids. Lawyer! Accountant! Medical records! COPIES OF EVERYTHING FINANCIAL PARTICULARLY THE TAX RETURNS!

    Date. Dental appointment for (name). I took kid and paid

    Later it will be things like:

    Date. XW picked up children at (time). If late, note how late.
    Date. XW returned children (time). Late? Early?

    WHEN the children return from XW (I’m putting you on a speedboat and pointing it at the Kingdom of Meh), do NOT ask them if they had fun. DO tell them you’re glad they’re home. Hugs. Then inquire about homework status, putting their dirty clothes in the laundry and/or start their laundry (remember: you are not raising children, you are raising future adults!), set the table for dinner, wash their hands, etc.

    Sane Parent parenting stuff.

    I’m sorry your STBXW is a Fuckwit and you share young children together. It will be a long time of dealing with her but remember that she removed herself from the job of wife so she gets none of the perks either.

    Get tested for STDs. The cynical side of me also says now would be the perfect time to buy DNA kits for the whole family (sans wife). Not because you would love your children any less, but just in case you’ve been even further misled it may change your divorce tactics. Almost anyone with viable sperm can sire a child. It takes someone special to be a good father to them. But I hope that isn’t an additional challenge you need to face.

    • Echoing @ChickenChump and @NoShitCupcake.
      Document EVERYTHING in writing! Keep those documents secure and in one location. Echoing the advice to stay in the home with your kids if you can and have the cheater move out.

  • – Any books/articles by BILL EDDY of the High Conflict Institute. Straight forward, knowledgeable guidance from a social worker/attorney who clearly gets the realities of the “difficult personalities.” His book “Splitting,” learning BIFF responses, and directly consulting with him provided a road map after years of not having one.
    – TINA SWITHIN’s from One Mom’s (and dad’s) Battle. She has an understanding of the family court system and the realities of parenting with a personality disorder ex many licensed therapists do not. She is also available for direct consultations.
    – You Tube videos by DR. RAMANI everything you ever (didn’t) want to know or understand about personality disorders and application to numerous topics therein
    – your own instincts. Get to know them again, trust them, and listen to them. This is a journey worth taking.

    • Dr. Ramani is great but so is Rebecca Zung, a divorce lawyer with plenty of experience with divorces and narcissists.

  • Always remember this: you can’t teach your kids self-respect, boundaries, or how to have healthy relationships in a toxic marriage.

    As a child of, former perpetrator of, and now victim of infidelity, I firmly believe that the only way to break the cycle is to put your foot down and leave the marriage. I think that if you don’t, your kids will internalize toxicity as normal and go on to be cheaters/chumps themselves.

    Ask yourself what advice you would give your child if their spouse did to them what your wife did to you. Now, go do that.

    Never love anyone who treats you like you’re ordinary. You are extraordinary and deserve love and respect from your partner. Don’t settle for less.

  • With 3 kids under 8, you will need a shared calendaring system, if you don’t already have one. We use, and love it.
    I’ve been divorced for 4 years, my kids were 5 and 7, when we divorced. We still use this calendar and will continue to do so for as long as necessary. I’m the one who loads up the calendar with all events, because I’m the SANE parent who runs my kids lives: school, medical appts, extracurricular activities, bday parties etc…but all of this will overlap into the time they spend with the other parent. Divorce is hard enough without having to constantly play the role of personal assistant to your kids lives and attempt to co-manage it with a total fuckwit. Did I mention I’m the sane parent? The calendar also serves as documentation of how much work you’re actually doing to manage the kids lives, if this comes up regarding custody and other issues.
    Also, get the kids and yourself into therapy. And lawyer up like it was yesterday.

  • Hi Chumpion,

    My Dday was 3 years ago, divorce final 2 years ago. My daughter was 14 when everything blew up. I’m still a work-in-progress, not an expert, but I can share some things I’ve observed. First of all, the chumps here are a great resource. People have already pointed out the essential first steps above: get a good lawyer (one skilled in custody battles), read/learn about NPD, only communicate by email if and when necessary (because, documentation), and record everything. For me, video/audio was essential because XH always denies he ever said things. My phone or iPad set on record and placed on a nearby table or in my pocket became critical evidence.

    With regard to my daughter, one of my well-intentioned friends advised I stick to this mantra: “Your dad is a good person, a good father, but a terrible husband.” At first, that’s what I did. Then, I realized that this was a lie. And, I had promised my daughter the day she was born that I would never lie to her. So, I stopped saying that.

    That presented a difficulty. How was I going to deal with talking/reacting about her dad in a way that didn’t completely screw her up and/or make her feel caught in the middle? TBH, that’s a balancing act that I have not mastered. I have days where I completely blow it. On those days, I apologize to DD for letting my emotions get the best of me, and re-double my effort to “Cool. Bummer. Wow.”

    In my moments of sanity, I realize(d) that this is/was an unbelievable teaching opportunity for her: women are strong – they can survive whatever life throws at them; women don’t need to have a man in their lives to be happy and fulfilled. So I try my best to model that, and save my weaker moments for my friends. My daughter isn’t my friend. She’s an amazing young woman and my one and only job is to teach her how to be a strong, independent adult. This leads me to the lessons I’ve learned.

    1. Keep your expectations of your children high, no matter what is going on. With DD, I never stopped expecting her to do her chores, to study hard and make good grades, to be on time, to do what she says she’s going to do, to own her responsibility, accountability, and her feelings despite the shit hitting the fan. As weird as this may sound, it is my observation that, on some level, she knows this is what a parent is supposed to do and she responds to it. Her father’s house lacks rules and structure. Guess who she comes to when she is upset? (she’s a 17-year old girl – there’s a lot of drama, lol) She turns to me, not to the chaos.

    2. Ensure that in the separation paperwork there is a codicil that specifically addresses how to handle the inevitable battles over parenting. In my case, my lawyer specified that in the event of disagreements over situations involving DD, we were to see a specifically named therapist who would then make the best decision for DD. This has saved me on more than one occasion. In disagreements with XH, I only have to say “Okay, I’m going to make an appt. with Dr. John Doe, what’s your schedule this week?” XH doesn’t really want to go out of his way to parent so that generally ends the discussion. Bonus: it’s documented (email) so that if he ever tries to drag me to court, I can show that I repeatedly tried to get him to act in DD’s best interest and he refused to.

    3. The most important thing of all. I must teach my daughter to judge people by their actions, not their words. This is a life lesson I wish I’d gotten as I was growing up – perhaps I wouldn’t be here if I had. WRT her father, I don’t scramble to cover up for him anymore. If he says something that doesn’t come to fruition or proves to be untrue, I don’t let that slide. I also don’t try and “fix” it. If DD is disappointed by him then *he* needs to fix it. And, he disappoints her all the time. It’s not easy as a mom to see your child hurt/sad but it’s critical to their adulthood to learn how to handle disappointment and deception. I *think* this is how children learn to judge actions over words – ask me again in a few years, my data will be better, lol.

    I don’t know if these things are right or helpful. But, this is what I’ve done. I can share two things that have happened over the last week. The other night, DD came home from dinner with XH. She said, “Dad doesn’t really have his own personality – he just absorbs other people’s.” That remark was completely unprompted and I thought incredibly wise for a 17-year old. I think she’s “getting it” and she’s “getting it” on her own, not from me, which is critical. Secondly, DD has had some girl-drama going on. During one of her friend group video chats she looped me in. She wanted me to “sit down” and talk with her and her friends about this issue. To me, that’s extraordinary. And it’s the only reward I need for trying to be the sane parent.

    Stay here and absorb the wisdom of Chump Nation. It is invaluable. And, remember that things will get better. I promise you, it’s SO MUCH BETTER on the other side, even if it feels like hell getting there.

    • READ THIS FROM MEHNY RIVERS: I’m putting this out here because this is a brilliant suggestion I’ve never seen before. It’s buried in your post so I want people to skim to see it and pay attention:
      “Ensure that in the separation paperwork there is a codicil that specifically addresses how to handle the inevitable battles over parenting. In my case, my lawyer specified that in the event of disagreements over situations involving DD, we were to see a specifically named therapist who would then make the best decision for DD. This has saved me on more than one occasion. In disagreements with XH, I only have to say “Okay, I’m going to make an appt. with Dr. John Doe, what’s your schedule this week?” XH doesn’t really want to go out of his way to parent so that generally ends the discussion. Bonus: it’s documented (email) so that if he ever tries to drag me to court, I can show that I repeatedly tried to get him to act in DD’s best interest and he refused to.”

      • I’m not a lawyer but I believe this is a form of appointing an Ad Litem representative for the minor child – someone to represent their best interest. I don’t know if a judge would order this, but it was a paragraph included in my separation agreement during mediation. My XH is an angry, nasty bully. Having this as part of our contract has allowed me to cut him off at the knees when he starts to ramp up his self-righteousness. I did not appreciate my lawyer’s subtleties at the time I went through the negotiation. I do now.

  • I don’t believe there is a one size fits all method of parenting during a divorce. What I have observed is many parents trying to set up child care as it suits THEIR schedules, with no regard to what the children actually need. I have seen some really wacky stuff where parents trade off to equal time spent with the children, often to avoid child support. Personally, I believe children need stability and sane scheduling, especially during the school year.

    In my case, their father had always travelled with his job, and kept irregular hours. Great for working in time for an affair, not so great for getting the children to school with homework done. It made no sense to have trade-offs during the week, he never knew where he would be. So we had to work out weekend time, and in the beginning he wanted almost every weekend. That did not last long. We went to alternating weekends. That did not last long, either. Planning was not his strong suit, neither was being responsible, or dependable. I ended up being full time mom, with dad having some weekends when it was convenient for him. He would never have agreed to this in the divorce, but I could count on his selfish behavior to drive his actual parenting. I developed a good support system of friends and babysitters so that I could plan my life and work schedule. It was not perfect, but my children adjusted to it. It was not so different from their life with traveling dad. Mine were 9 and 12 when we divorced, so they were able to do many life skills for themselves by then. I would have been much harder if they had been younger.

    My children wondered why we had not divorced sooner. Many of their friends had divorced parents. There was no cultural stigma for them. I didn’t have to tell them why we divorced, they had already figured it out. They observed their father’s behavior, and learned to shrug off his last minute cancellation of plans. They still love their dad, but they know who he is. They have gotten over me being the parent who said no, and now understand I was the parent providing stability and care. Teen age years are hard enough under most situations, my children certainly tested my boundaries during their teen age years. It was never easy, but it was worth it. We all survived, and they are now grown men. If they choose to become fathers, I hope they will not model their father’s behavior.

    We all have to decide who we will be. We may change our minds a few times during the process of growing up, but character develops as we grow. At some point, you become responsible for yourself, and if you have had bad parenting, or poor cultural norms, you have to figure that out and make decisions to change, yourself. Children are surprisingly resilient. My advise is to do the best you can, and be prepared to adapt. You cannot make the other parent be a better parent. If they are selfish by nature, they will probably continue to be. Plan accordingly.

  • Easily stumped
    You sound hurt…but Done.
    First, try to forget everything that RIC taught you.
    You’re not alone. You have Brothers and Sisters here. Welcome to our club.

    Make a checklist of All this Advice. Get it on paper and in front of you. Organize it so you can see your path forward. Get on antidepressants if needed. I did. It helped me.

    A bit of sage AA advice…”if you keep on doing what you’re doing , you’ll keep getting what you’re getting”. Time for action Bro.

    This too shall pass.

  • Work on this idea that you still “love” her.

    The person you “loved” is not the person you are married to. We never recommend “untangling the skein or her fuckedupedness,” which is trying to figure out 1) what she was/is thinking; 2) why she’s thinking it; 3) where things went wrong; 4) what you could have done differently.

    With a long-term abuser, one of your major jobs is to sort out 1) the difference between the person you thought she was (the person she pretended to be, with you) from 2) the ABUSER who lied to you and gaslighted you for more than 13 years. Because that’s one hell of a boat-load of evidence that you are married to a lying, cheating, gas-lighting manipulative and narcissistic person.

    I’m going to assume that had she demonstrated in word and deed she is a lying, cheating, gas-lighting manipulative and narcissistic person, you would not have fallen in love with her. But the mask has fallen off and she’s showed you what she is. You do not want to stay “chumpily in love with her.” It’s fine to still feel love for that person you thought she was. That’s a way to honor your ability to love and commit. But it’s not fine to look at the monster you are married to and see that sweet girl you thought you married.

    So here are my suggestions.
    1. Read Dr. George Simon’s book, “In Sheep’s Clothing.” He also has a website full of wisdom about “manipulative people,” including how they lie and cheat. This is mandatory reading!
    2. CL links to another great website,, which dives deep into the impact of living with someone who is narcissistic.
    3. Google “cycle of narcissistic abuse” so you can start to learn and to internalize how these manipulative people “do relationships.” They follow a predictable pattern. And while these patterns are associated with narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder, it is my view that they apply to people who are entitled with shallow emotions and difficulty feeling attachment to others, even though they can fake it. You may find that you are “in love” with this person because this cycle involves the victim, too. We get hooked by love-bombing and future faking and the mask being worn by the very person proclaiming we are their soul mate. Thirteen years of infidelity suggests to me that you are married to one of these monsters and you may have a trauma bond to her. So learning about these people and the patterns of their relationships will help you separated the person you thought she was from the abuser she actually is.

    It’s been 6 years since I was betrayed by a long-time friend and wannabe partner. I was gobsmacked by his behavior. It made no sense to me. I took for granted he was first and foremost my friend, that he was a good person, and that his sudden discard of me had to be some colossal mistake. Then I found out about the MOW he was seeing. He has since discarded her, too. I was in therapy. I was a mess. I cried all the time, although I managed to hold the tears back at work. Sometimes I cried all the way home. Sometimes I made it to the driveway. Therapy was a huge help–the therapist told me “You can never go back.” And I believed her. I hope someone is saying that to you. You can hold onto that in those moments when you just want to turn the clock back.

    But what saved me was this website and the many people hear who (at that point) wrote a lot about narcissism and the narcissistic cycle in relationships. I can vividly remember the moment when I said, “This explains what happened to me. This explains what Jackass really is.” That allowed me to work on ending that trauma bond and put me on the road to reclaiming and rebuilding my life. After 13 years, it’s time for you to let go of the idea you had of her when you met and married. Doing so will protect you in divorce and allow you to heal. Good luck.

    • PS. Go back and read the CL blog archives. Start at the beginning. There is a lot of great stuff early on, not just CL posts but what chumps on the blog shared of their own experiences. And remember, there are thousands of people like me from those early days who went through this pain (literally worked on and through the pain) and came out the other side to “gain a life.”

      • Finally, getting your mind right about who you married is also getting your mind right about who the mother of your children is. One reason for you to work on your chumpiness is that your kids need one sane parent. That’s not a parent who is “still in love” with an abuser. And that would apply if your STBX was a drunk or a drug abuser or a sociopathic criminal. You have to learn how to deal with this woman using appropriate boundaries and emotionally healthy distance if you want to help your kids.

  • One additional thought for you as you raise your kids. Even kids can learn the value of keeping a commitment.

    “You accepted the invitation to go to your friend’s party weeks ago. No, you do not get to ditch your friend because something ‘better’ came along with a ‘cool’ kid.”

    “No, I am NOT going to lie and cover for you so you can ditch Friend A for Friend B. That is a terrible thing to do to someone.”

    I sometimes wonder if Fuckwits never learned that particular life lesson when they were small, so they grow up and are shocked to learn that when the stakes are higher, so are the consequences. Well, they should be anyway. So many of us are told otherwise but CN is getting the word out.

    If emotional abuse is abuse (and it IS) – so is infidelity. Soul-slabbing, gut-wrenching acts of abuse.

    • I have every book Miss Manners has ever written, front and center. Textbooks for How To Be A Decent Gracious Kind Human Being.

      What you say is so key. My XH/AH learned to
      lie and all the other stuff that should be thrown out from his parents.

      I didn’t go to all the trouble to have a child to slack off on teaching her how to act! And that starts with ME making sure I am worth copying.

  • Chumpion, all of CN and CL’s advice is helpful and to the point.
    But looking at your situation objectively, and through my own not-so-rose-colored glasses: You have been married 19 years, and your wife has been cheating on you for over 13 years. She has hooked up with the same cheater (that you know of) 3 times! Coincidentally, you have 3 children under the age of 8?! The most important thing I know about cheaters is THEY LIE! I hope against all hope that those are your three children, and that the moment you lawyer up and file for full custody, she won’t turn nasty and start telling you those kids aren’t yours. If you have been with them since their birth, you have been their father no matter what the DNA says.
    But cheaters never stop cheating. They just don’t. I hope you don’t get broadsided by lies about their parentage because whether you are their biological father or not, you are the only sane parent in sight and they need you!!! As others have warned you, no one does nasty like a cheater because that is their real self! I used to be a Child Protective Services investigator and I’m sorry to say, alleging that you have abused your child in an effort to wrestle custody is an old and far too common story. It is very very hard to investigate abuse of any kind, especially sexual abuse, in young children. Sadly, the parent who fights for custody solely in order to get higher child support payments is not acting in the best interests of the children, they are acting in their own best interests. I knew someone who took her XH back to court repeatedly to increase child support payments and then she’d lease more and more expensive luxury cars with the increases. No, the kids did not need to ride around in a Ferrari!
    Good luck, Chumpion. Talk to a tough lawyer and a good therapist and keep your eyes on your kids. Cheaters don’t really want to parent, it’s too much responsibility. They just don’t like how it looks if they don’t have custody. Take the high road. Be the parent who earns your children’s respect.

  • Have an attorney help you get a comprehensive custody agreement, complete with details on who the kids can be around (is there a weird uncle you don’t want around? ban him), how long either of you needs to wait until introducing them to a new romantic partner (typically 6 months is the number…but what about moving in a partner? make them wait a year at least), what types of activities they can engage in (can they race motorcycles with one parents permission? Sky diving?…address it all), safety measures that must be maintained in their homes (can they live in a home with a gun? does it need to be locked up? what about drugs and alcohol? how many drinks can your cheater ex be allowed to have around them? put it in there)…basically, take all of your worst-case fears for their lives in the home with their cheater parent and do your best to contract against it.

    This contract will restrict you too, but hey, you’re the responsible parent so adhering to sensible rules shouldn’t be a problem.

    Some of what you put in that agreement will not be legally enforceable, but it at least it gives you something to show a judge if you need to go to court for custody or to get your cheater ex to stop doing some stupid shit…like, hey judge, they AGREED to all of this stuff because it is reasonable and makes sense and keeps the kids safe, and now they want to have weird Uncle Diddles come around even though they AGREED at one point he was unsafe for our kids.

    More so though, if your cheater ex doesn’t fully grasp the law (most don’t), then they won’t know that this shit isn’t enforceable so you can just point to it whenever they fuck up and say “you’re breaking our custody agreement and I reserve the right to take you to court where every single thing you have said or done to me and the kids will become a part of the public record and where I will ask a judge for you to pay my legal bills cause you’re the one who fucked up.” This threat of court, public exposure, and legal expenses doesn’t deter every cheater, but it has mine and has gotten him to jump into line pretty quickly with kid issues. It’s one of the more important levers that I’ve been able to pull to ensure my kid’s safety.

    There’s my two cents.

  • 3 yrs. out from dday, 30 yr marriage, 2 adult sons, 3 grandkids, no knowledge of prior APs. I was cold cocked and did not handle that well. Sons equally devastated as we had a “close” family. Shared too much with my sons, finally got to point we agreed to not discuss HIM when we were together. Except for couple business issues-no contact for 2yrs. He occasionally shows up at family events. Biggest learning was letting go my involvement in sons relationship with their Dad. I always organized family vacations and events. Sons are choosing how to interact and what that relationship is with their Dad. Both have stayed close to me. It makes me sad for them and I hate this is where we landed as a family….broken. It seems however, both sons have grown stronger and become more mature in their life. It seems his relationship with them was inhibiting them. He was and is unsuccessful in work and life. I wonder if they felt they didn’t want to be more successful than him-show him up. The divorce and the three of us barreling forward being successful and adapting to a new life, has changed them. So in that regard, being free from his influence has been good for my sons. Silver linings. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger-nietsche Hugs!

  • In the earliest days post DDay I went to the school counselor by myself which was amazing. She told me all the age appropriate advice at 13. She agreed that I should tell the truth. I said the reason daddy needed to leave was because he has a new relationship with a girlfriend. He won’t stop seeing her so he can’t be married to me now. At 13 it was important for her to hear that I had a boundary. Your kids are much younger so the advice will be much different. I totally agree never to gaslight children. I’m practicing this as much as possible. When my daughter gets whiny and teenagery, I never say stop it. I say, trust your gut. What are you feeling right now? It might even be over the top but I never want her to undergo the years of manipulation that I suffered. Good luck, you’re mighty. Loving your kids and not fucking around makes you the hero.

  • For help with Men, I found an amazing coach who put me into touch with amazing men who have mostly all been thru the same divorce and cheating shit. Steve Horsmon.

    Best money I ever spent…he literally saved me.

    Check out his videos and blog and his ebook. Amazing stuff for Men

    Other life altering books:

    No More Mr. Nice Guy – Robert Glover
    Dating Essentials for Men- Robert Glover
    The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck – Mark Manson
    Super Coach

    You sound like you might have nice guy traits.

    Good luck!

    I am still in the process of ridding my life of my cheating, lying STBXW. We have 3 kids and I had to investigate to find out about all of my wife’s lies. I did not gaslight… first we told them we were getting a divorce….no real reasons given. Then I found out the truth. I took the high road and let her tell the kids the truth before I did.

    My kids know who the rock is and who did not lie. They know the one with loyalty and integrity.

    I have already found an amazing woman and I doubt I’d be where I am without Steve and all of the resources.

  • I agonised over telling my kids, 3 and 5 at the time. I said, mum and dad aren’t boyfriend and girlfriend anymore. But we’re still your parents. I haven’t told them about the cheating. I told them we would be moving to a new place and they’d live with me half the time and dad half the time. They were excited and their questions were about whether Santa would be able to find them in their new home. I was relieved but a bit sad that this tragedy in my life caused so few ripples in theirs. My wonderful, resilient children have adjusted beautifully to their new circumstances. They came up with their own language to describe what happened. ” Mum and dad live apart”. I guess my point is, be prepared for it to be ok. Children don’t always fully comprehend the nature of an adult relationships and what it means to separate. They care about being parented and practical things like school, routine, who is picking them up etc. So have all of that sorted if possible before you tell them. I will tell my children one day about the cheating if they ask, but that can wait. Right now, I’m focusing on meeting their needs and helping them adjust to having two homes. If my kids were older, I agree with chump lady that it’s not ok to gaslight. They need answers.

  • Dear Easily Stumped Chumpion,

    Many other community members have provided you with very good advice here about how to properly arm yourself and prepare for battle…

    (1) Lawyer up.
    (2) Never ever be in a room alone with your STBXW lest she accuse you of verbal or physical abuse.
    (3) In age-appropriate language, tell your children the absolute truth about what is happening, because if you sugarcoat it and they find out later that you weren’t honest, they will never trust you again.
    (4) Get yourself tested for STDs.
    (5) Find a good therapist for you and your children.

    So, what I’d like to do instead is speak to you as an adult survivor of divorce. My mother was a narcissistic, cheating rageaholic who was a miserable, bitter person; she was a Holocaust survivor and could never get beyond her past. I honestly don’t know why my Dad married her; he was the kindest, most devoted and loyal person you could ever hope to meet, and they could not have been more incompatible. I guess my mother quickly grew tired of him, and when I was 4 years old, she wanted out. First, she chose to financially rape him, and then she filed for divorce, kicked him out of the house with a single suitcase (I remember him walking out the front door like it was yesterday), and because it was all he could afford, he ended up living in a termite-infested windowless basement apartment several miles away from where we lived just so he could be close to me. The worst of it was, she legally beat my Dad’s character to a pulp so the judge ended up awarding my mother sole physical and legal custody (little did the judge know he was delivering me to the lion’s den where I endured years of physical, verbal and emotional abuse at my mother’s hands). Of course, I never knew any of their divorce details until I was in my 40s, because my Dad, a high integrity man with principles, never once spoke ill of my mother, even after she treated him like a dog, and then, did her best to alienate me from him.

    But what I did know is that every Wednesday night and every other weekend, my Dad would pull into our driveway to pick me up for his weekly visitation; he never missed one single visit. Even when I had the German measles and was quarantined to the house, my Dad came over with my favorite ice cream and talked to me through the living room window until it was time for bed. With his actions, he consistently demonstrated that his children were his #1 priority. Despite incredible obstacles, HE SHOWED UP.

    So, Chumpion, that would be my best advice to you… Always show up. Act like the sane parent. Don’t overshare. Be a tower of strength. That is what will carry your kids through the confusing transition that’s coming. ❤️

  • The best book I have ever read of this (before you get to the Action Manual that is LAC,GAL) is Linda J MacDonald “How to help your Spout Heal From Your Affair”

    – THEY should read it, right?!! Sadly cheaters are selfish, immature and with poor coping skills so don’t expect that one.

    But for VALIDATION that your world has been utterly destroyed and you are justified in feeling as broken in self worth, confused, filled with doubt, pain and shame as you are??

    – there is no better book out there.

    It is a fabulous book, should be mandatory reading for every counsellor and therapist on ‘how to call a cheater to account’. I wish cheaters did read it, mind. But you know what 12 Steps groups say: an expectation is a pre-manufactured resentment. Lower your exceptions, to about, the height of nothing.

  • Definitely assume the stance of the worst case scenario.

    Lawyer up, assume that your dishonest partner will continue to treat you with contempt and undermine your relationship with your children.

    Read ‘Divorce Poison’ by Richard Warshak – it explains how to give your kids the critical thinking skills they will need to survive and refuse to align with an alienating parent.

    I was cut out of systematically erased of my children’s lives. It’s a thing, especially with Cheaters when they realise that you’re not going to ‘feed’ them anymore.

  • This is a heart breaking story with no winners. I would recommend petitioning for full custody. I am aware that many states favor the mom just because she is the mom. But, someone’s gender does not correlate to their parenting skills. People can be equally broken, whether they are men or women. Fight hard for your children. If you have to share custody, develop a rock solid parenting plan that spells out what is acceptable and unacceptable. When your ex breaks the plan, you call the attorney and have the attorney deal with your toxic ex. One thing that I have observed but that is also in psychology literature is that children take it personally. Children are extremely smart and perceptive. But, most children don’t understand the machinations of adult relationships and they will engage in “magical thinking” and sometimes believe that they did something to cause the rift. It’s NOT logical, but smaller children often secretly wonder if they played a role in divorce. That’s the most tragic part: when a child internalizes the divorce as their fault. Find an excellent therapist.

    I absolutely agree with what CL advises.

    The only thing I would add is getting your children an excellent psychologist and developing a water tight parenting plan.

    For example: When kids are with mom, she needs to be sober, drug free, and needs to keep her boyfriends OUT of the house. The kids cannot be at her house while her boyfriend is there. I don’t say this because I am a prude. I am not a prude. People who are prone to cheating often have a revolving door of lovers. This is very confusing to small children. Last week mom had “John” in her bed and this week mom has “Harry” in her bed. But wait, it looks like the week after next, “Tom” will be in mom’s bed. This is extremely confusing to children. But it also threatens their security. When a stranger is in mom’s bed and mom and the stranger are drunk, a child will feel unsafe. Why? Because they are unsafe. A drunk mom sleeping with drunk strangers is not a secure or healthy environment. So make that iron clad parenting plan with your attorney and when your ex doesn’t follow it, take her to court. The courts care about the welfare of children, as they should. So make your ex behave by talking about the welfare children until you are blue in the face. They need to be protected from their own mother. Just because a woman is a mom does not make her a good mother. This is about the welfare of your children. Still, I am extremely sorry about what you are going through. It’s terrible to find out that the person you married and had children with us acting like your worst enemy. May peace be with you.

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