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UBT: ‘My Dad Sucks’

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How children feel about their cheating parents is a topic the Universal Bullshit Translator has rightly shied away from. My standard advice to chumps here is let the kids figure out that relationship for themselves. Tell the truth (“Dad has a girlfriend, that’s why we’re divorcing”) and don’t editorialize (i.e., “Dad’s a slut”). Recognize that kids love their screwed up parent. That is their right. It’s also your right to ex-communicate a cheating fuckwit from your life. There can be a demilitarized zone about everyone’s feelings. Your job is to sane parent and model mightiness. Let them draw their own conclusions.

That’s the CL “Kids and Fuckwits” ethos in one snappy paragraph.

Then an alert chump sent the UBT Jezebel’s advice column “Dear Fuck-Up: Surprise! My Dad Sucks“. A letter from a distressed child of a fuckwit, daughter of a chump.

I am a reasonably successful adult who, up until a couple of weeks ago, thought my parents were in a committed, strong marriage and had been since the ’80s. While I had suspected my parents might divorce, I always imagined it would be because my mother (as many adult children maybe feel) can be challenging to love sometimes.

A couple of weeks ago my mom called me to tell me that my dad had been cheating on her for certainly years if not a decade and that she was leaving him, which I supported.

On one hand, my dad was an incredible father to me. On the other hand, the more I think about it, the angrier I become that despite his pampering of my mom (making her dinner and morning coffee, doing the laundry, etc), he repeatedly and flagrantly violated their marriage faithfulness. I’m struggling to reconcile my loving father with the idea that he could be sneaking off to cheat.

I used to have regular phone calls with my dad and I find myself dreading them. I am no longer interested in sharing all the things in my life I used to; I wonder before and after the phone call if he is meeting one of his Adult Friends. At the same time, I’m worried that cutting him off will cause him to sink into alcoholism (genetic predisposition) or otherwise do something isolating or self-harming.

Dear Person Writing to the Wrong Advice Columnist: His slipping into alcoholism or self-harm is NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. You’re allowed to have boundaries. Did you grow up thinking you couldn’t? That managing other people’s mental states was your job? That this was within your control? Welcome to the toxic cheater/chump dynamic! Wonder why mom is so “unlovable”? She’s been doing the chump shuffle her whole marriage. Trying to please the un-pleasable, control the uncontrollable and not having a clue what was really going on. It’s abuse. Reassess what you thought you knew.

Yeah. That wasn’t the advice given. Chump Kid instead got scolded for her lack of sophistication. The Universal Bullshit Translator shall now stuff the whole mess down the chipper-shredder chute.

Dear Sucks,

I don’t often write about my relationship with my father, because when you’re a woman who has had many sexual partners and a fraught relationship with her father, you learn not to bring it up lest you be met with that look someone gives when they realize where to put all those parts of you they didn’t quite know what to do with.

Dear Sucks,

Let’s make this about me and my daddy issues.

Suffice it to say, I’m an edgy Fuck-Up with many sexual partners and I think you should know this in the lede. Do not look at me askance. You do not know where to put all these parts of me.

(The UBT would like to suggest some spare orifice in your multiple boyfriends?)

Bad dads have a way of making everything suddenly seem quite boring.

Oh the ennui of paying child support!

#exciteme

My dad isn’t a bad person, though—he just made some very stupid decisions that hurt those around him.

As opposed to a bad person who makes sage decisions and refrains from harming others.

Dad just made some very stupid decisions. Okay, he threw a sack of kitten in the canal and watched them drown. Okay, a few sacks. Decades-long kitten tosses. So a few kids are missing Snowball and Fluffy and Mr. Pibbs. Blub, blub… The important thing is protecting dad’s legacy as Not A Bad Person.

The kind of decisions you simply cannot fold into whatever shape your previous relationship took; the kind that demands a new way of seeing each other.

Dad is a casual kitten murderer. This knowledge demands a new way of seeing each other. I, a child bereft of a kitten. He, a man who tosses kittens in canals. Hey, at least he’s not boring.

That too is rather boring, or at least quite common. Most people reach a point where it becomes clear that your parents are people capable of deception or betrayal or disappointment. For some, this is very apparent from a young age, and that comes with its own kind of legacy. But in a way I feel especially bad for those who still hold on to an idealized version of their parents well into adulthood—it’s a sort of embarrassing anachronism, like getting braces at 35.

I feel bad for you, Sucks. Your assumption of monogamy in your parent’s marriage is an embarrassing anachronism, like wearing braces. Parents are capable of deception. Newsflash: that dollar left under your pillow was NOT the tooth fairy!

I, Fuck-Up, am a sophisticated creature since a young age. I knew better than to expect my parents to do what they say they’d do. Show up my choral concerts. Get the car registered. Not fuck the babysitter.

You Pollyannas and your idealized version of parents not crafting Adult Friend Finder profiles and fucking strange in parking lots. I pity you.

It also tends to provoke a childish reaction, and I would urge you to consider there are options here besides “carry on exactly as things were” or “cut him out of your life completely.”

I urge you to consider this straw man argument. You want help integrating this knowledge into your life that Dad spent decades lying to your mother and endangering her health and mental well-being. Instead I shall shame you for judging your father and considering boundaries. #childishreactions

Have you considered telling your dad how disorienting this has been for you?

I’m sure this would be an improving conversation with a man who has been disregarding everyone for his dick for 20 years.

Having a conversation about what this might mean for your relationship?

Comparing dating strategies? Inquire after any half siblings? We’ve already ruled out boundaries and judgement as childish reactions…

Yelling at him for a bit about what a loathsome shit he’s been to your mom?

Warmer…

These are all on the table, now that you’ve realized he is no more and no less than a flawed man you love very much.

He’s not a fraud — he’s flawed.

That’s not embezzlement — it’s a wire transfer.

That’s not rape — it’s unilateral cuddles.

Spackle! The bond that holds dysfunctional families together.

After that, maybe you can think a bit more about why you assume most adults struggle to love their mothers.

Go on judging Mom. As you were.

Love,

A Fuck-Up

Love,

I Get Paid for This. Really.

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Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
    • My adult children saw thru the DOCTOR faster than I did. They each privately asked me to divorce him and at the time, Chump that I am, I balked and thought they were over reacting. “He’s stressed/having a mid life crisis/ ETC ETC”

      They saw the belittling and apparently got to hear a lot of it behind my back.

      My biggest regret (of many) is helping him to gaslight our own children – b/c I was so invested in our family and marriage and building “our” (HIS) career…”He’s checking out a job in Alaska”, “he’s returning in 6 months but will visit monthly” –

      OH MY GOD…and btw, I’m educated and intelligent and I put up with his abuse and shit and neglect for DECADES…

      And yet the total discard after 35 years of marriage (NC with me by HIS CHOICE– he or Schmoopie new wife blocked my phone so that the SINGLE time I texted him about our daughter being hospitalized, was not deliverable…wtf??)

      AND his group email when he remarried (but did not invite them) gaslighted them again, blame shifted onto ME and implied they were ungrateful children. He also listed HIS “terms going forward” if they were to have a relationship with HIM.

      Including: “not bringing up the past”

      (My own UBT says that = “don’t counter the narrative I have here with my new fan club, with things like truth…)

      And “show respect to OW/New Wife (the “Love of his life”) and HER daughter (our kids’ replacement) because “they’ve been through a lot”.

      (UBT says that’s^^^ so lacking in self awareness, it doubts the DOCTOR wrote it, but he did!) The DOCTOR also wrote that “unless it’s life and death, don’t ask for money as 1st wife has it all”.

      I’d laugh about his financial comment (he never once paid the court amount in full, ever, not once).

      But the problem is, the email hurt my kids deeply. Another rejection AND this one is in writing.

      Our son wrote back to his dad to say –

      “Dear Name, thanks for clarifying things. Rather than discuss things openly and honestly, you’ve chosen to double down and blame shift.

      But I now realize my happiness cannot hinge on you seeing the light.

      And instead of grappling with you about what fatherhood means, I hereby release you from it.”

      If I’d gotten that letter^^^ I’d have gotten on a plane to see my son, that day. That’s a fact.

      But the DOCTOR considers this^^^ to be a “vicious betrayal.”

      DOCTOR also cut off college tuition to our youngest just before her 3rd year of college. And he never asked her how she/we paid for it. There’s more to his blaming them and me (mostly me but he is sure to criticize them b/c I suppose there’s no other way to explain to his heroes and fans that all 3 of his ADULT children were “poisoned against” him???

      I mean, wtf does he tell normal people who ask??

      I have moved on. But I don’t think I’ll be able to forgive him for wounding them so deeply AND so often and EVEN NOW….

      My therapist read his “terms” and other comments of his to the kids and she spoke to my son.

      She has diagnosed the DOCTOR as having a NPD and I used to reject that. Because I guess it embarassed me.

      But she’s right. And so, I want to know how to help my kids heal.

      Part of that has to be ME healing so I model that for them.

      Any other thoughts??

      • So awful Doc.

        I found out after he was outed that my son knew he was running around when he was a jr. in high school. He didn’t want to hurt me, so he kept quiet. He and his dad were like to caged male lions during that time. He acted like he hated his dad. Others told me it was a natural part of growing up.

        When my daughter in law told me, it broke my heart. I didn’t say anything to him for a while. But, I eventually talked to him and said, you know you did the best you could, and you should have never been in that situation.

        My son was my rock during that time of D-day. Oh I didn’t trash his dad, though god knows I wanted to, but there was no doubt my son knew where the issue was. He only told me a couple things he said to his dad. One was when his dad started the, we grew apart shit, he said “stop it right there dad, I lived with you two for 18 years; I know how good mom treated you”

        The other was when his dad started the excuse making excuses he said “well dad, I guess it is like you always said, a stiff dick has no conscience”. He even blushed when he told me that. But, it gave me a laugh.

        Things went on, as life does and down the road a few years his dad blew up their relationship. Long story, but as of now, he calls his dad every once in a while; and when he and his wife went to the state his dad and schmoopie escaped to see his dad; my sons wife stayed at the motel. She hasn’t spoken to his dad or schmoopie for over two years. They treated her awful, so I don’t know if she will ever get over it.

        That incident also brought up a lot of the former pain. It is how I found CN. Wish I had CN when I found out about the adultery.

        As far as what they tell normal people who ask, they spin/like/avoid. My ex has had to leave two different churches because he has been outed as a liar in both of them. Not that he was kicked out, but he had to leave and find another place to live his lie.

  • Thanks for sticking up for us chump parents. I don’t know how long it takes a kid to realize mom/dad is less lovable or less fun or less exciting because we are doing laundry and earning a living and getting the septic tank pumped while the other parent is out drinking, spending, and making new “friends.” I do know it takes a lot of kids a very long time. And it is a bitter truth that my kids may always consider me the boring parent even when they reach the stage that they can feel confident criticizing their dad (right now, to criticize him is still to risk losing his love).

    • I can tell you that my mom was always the do-er and my dad was the “fun” parent. Of course I grew up hyper-vigilant because he was a (mostly) functional alcoholic. I don’t trust him and rely on mom.

    • This is 100% going on in OBS’s house. (OBS is the now-ex-wife of my ex-wife’s affair partner).

      OBS’s eldest daughter is going through a pretty serious (and dangerous) mental health crisis, but wouldn’t tell her father (the AP, who’s now married to my ex-wife) because she didn’t want to ruin her image as the perfect daughter in her father’s eyes. Meanwhile, her mother (the chump in that marriage, as I was the chump in mine) is getting tears and anger and backtalk. It’s crystal clear that the daughter has (correctly, IMO) assessed that she can’t safely talk to her father, because he is shifting his affection and loyalty away from her and her sister and gradually replacing them by my ex-wife and my children, so she is on her best behavior around her father but really lets her true emotions come out around her mother.

      It’s completely unfair, but a pretty common dynamic.

    • It doesn’t help the chump parent at all when the dick tells them, “I have a right to be happy” as justification for “Your mother and I aren’t happy” and it’s okay to screw up lives because you have a God-given right to happiness. That comment even screwed with me…, more mindfuck.

  • “Wonder why mom is so “unlovable”? She’s been doing the chump shuffle her whole marriage. Trying to please the un-pleasable, control the uncontrollable and not having a clue what was really going on. It’s abuse. Reassess what you thought you knew.”

    Wow. The essence of my marriage/family distilled to its powerful essence. Part of me wishes I could show this to my (young adult & nearly adult) children but I suppose they will have to figure out this painful truth on their own?

    • This is my third try at an answer, page keeps crashing, sorry, I’ll keep it short.

      This is my home life growing up. I went on to replicate the pick-me dance.

      A reason is not an excuse. My Mom was under just these kind of pressutes, but knowing that does not undo the hurt caused by her behavior at the time. A perpetual sour face, preditably annoyed response to children’s needs, and anger misdirected at them, for example, can do long-term damage.

      Maybe try and discuss with them from their point of view first — apologize if apology might be in order. Could break down barriers. It took me decades to understand better and the barriers still seem unbreachable because of Mother’s defensiveness. May be too late now. Good luck.

      • Dear Cake Eater’s Daughter,
        I’m so sorry you had to grow up in a household like that. Sadly, it makes so much sense: we chumps are not saints. We may have the moral high ground as chumps, but a lot of us still have to work through our own issues so as not to take them out (even passive-aggressively!) on our kids.

        This is part of why I love CL’s message that we should stop fixating on what might be wrong with our cheaters, and put that attention on ourselves. Part of fixing our pickers is healing ourselves, for our own sakes and also so that we can be better parents. Of course, divorce is a big part of that – even though it can be hard for kids, at least they are no longer being actively gaslit on a daily basis about the healthy marriage/happy family narrative. Kids’ experiences need to be validated, too, and an emotionally healthy chump parent should be able to have that conversation (at least with an adult child). I’m sorry that you fear you’ll never be able to have that conversation with your own mom, CED.

        • WORD!

          Cake Eater, you spoke to me. After a fearless, searching moral inventory I faced that I was that sour mother, resenting the triangulated daughter and taking it out on her and being short and impatient with the other kids. That I was utterly on my own and nobody was supporting me is no excuse. Regret this so much.

          I have apologised and am going to do my hardest to make amends.

          Mean time, now the kids have worked out Dad is utterly selfish and not a very good guy.

          There is hope for us to heal.

      • I’m sorry you had a tough relationship with your mom, but that’s not why the quote resonated with me. I’m certainly not perfect, and make my mistakes as a mom, but I always try to work things out with my kids with honesty and accountability. I certainly did not/do not walk around with a “perpetual sour face.” Rather, I hid a lot of my pain from them and pulled all of the emotional weight to keep our family strong & give them plenty of positive experiences. But all that came at a cost to me, including my physical & mental health. This quote resonated with me because I am the one dealing with the fallout and trauma from my ex’s emotional abuse and infidelity while he is the one riding off into the sunset without a care in the world. I hope my children come to see the painful truths about their father instead of expecting him to be capable of true love & concern, because I don’t want them to feel like there is something wrong with THEM.

        • I could not have described my situation better. The costs to my own wellbeing, in trying to make things better for all, in caring and pulling the emotional weight, all while my own heart is breaking, is becoming immense. And sometimes just to much to carry.

          • When it’s too much to carry, do not forget to get down on your knees and pray. God was the only being that got me through the most difficult time of my life. I was completely bereft. And now I’m ashamed that I waited so long to reach out to Him.

        • Yes, clearly chumps have different amounts of discernment and self-awareness and ability to be there for others, even when going through the worst.

          In our particular family there was zero recognition that verbal and emotional unkindnesses might have any lasting effect on people at all. Both kids suffered collateral damage.

          It must also be recognized that much less information was available back then about the way human minds and emotions work; and it was assumed that divorce was inherently bad for kids. “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” was a regular feature of a leading women’s magazine. So Mom hung in for 30 years and tried her best, feeding and clothing us, taking us on doctors’ appointments, signing us up for piano lessons, stage-managing family occasions, etc., was accompanied by such an atmosphere of depression/irritation and punctuated by so many “irrational” explosions of temper (really about the marital relationhip), as was in fact the case.

          That was us. As Tolstoy famously wrote, “Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I hope my suggestion was not taken as implying the same about anyone else.

    • Meh…

      You should show your kids this when next you’re speaking about relationships and share what others are / have gone through. 👍

  • What a great article… and I really do hope CL that you come out with a book for Chump Kids…

    My son was in 3rd grade when Mr. Sparkles discarded me. I was and am the sane parent while he skipped off with the OW for two years and when she dumped him (for cheating on her) my son (then in 5th grade) watch his Dad on visitation nights at the gym (son – you go sit on the floor over there while I do burpees and try to woo this woman over here… ssshhh)… and Dad came home from the gym with GF.

    I cannot unring those bells… any of them. My son has seen it all, but because of his age, I’m not completely clear on how it has/may impact him and his future relationships in the long run.

    This line from CL got me today: “Go on judging Mom. As you were.”

    My son is now almost 15… starting high school next week. Since the discard, I’ve spent the majority of my time filing and getting the divorce, securing my job so I can pay the mortgage, being the sane parent and getting to all of my son’s activities/award/ceremonies/doctor appts/teacher conference/fun vacations… and found little time (if any) for dating. I think my picker is securely fixed and I’m starting to dabble in testing it out… but I’m now dealing with the “teen” who thinks Dad left (on some level) because of something I did… otherwise, why would Mom still be single all these years and Dad moved from Mom to OW to GF.

    To all the kids of chumps out there… and as a parent of one… please know… I have never taken my eyes of you… I had to work through some of my own FOO stuff to see how I even put myself in the position to become a chump and I hope I’m teaching you things like look out for red flags: watch a person’s actions/not just their words; lie to me once shame on you, lie to me twice shame on me and there’s the door; multiple failures in life that were always someone elses fault…. I could go on and on. But here is the thing kiddo…. I’m still here… I stayed… I put you first and did my best to stablize your life while both of ours was falling apart. I made mistakes, I’ll make more… but never ever doubt my love for you. I will never leave you.

    SO, as CL’ UBT said: Go on judging Mom. As you were…. go ahead, I can handle it. I’m your Mom (or Chump Dad). I get it.

    • You’re 100% right. But sit your kiddo down, at age 15 and tell him what you wrote above. And add:

      *I decided I wouldn’t bring a new man into your life until I had our life, including finances, stabilizes; until I knew you were on a strong foundation and ready for yet another new person in your life; and until I healed. You’re old enough to know by now that it’s very painful to find out that your spouse has cheated and is leaving the family for someone else. Getting into a rebound relationship makes that worse.
      *I’ve had my hands full with raising you and keeping a roof over our heads. I have the rest of my life to see if I can find a kind and faithful partner. But I have only a few years to raise you to adulthood and see you launched into your own life.

      At 15, he’s going to be in a position to learn the hard way that it sucks to be discarded because that’s how HS relationships often work. Break up with Mary in 3rd period. Ask Jenny out in 5th period. All of these painful teenage experiences are opportunities to teach him that going from relationship to relationship is not a sign of mental health or success.

    • Ugh–part of this resonates with me. Recently, one of my kids suggested that maybe I was bad at relationships (as Dad says) since he dates as much as he can, and I never do. I pointed out both that I’d been doing other things with my time (like driving the child and siblings to sports practices for hours each week and earning all the income that supports them) and that I don’t tell them when I have a date (not that there have been many) because I don’t want to introduce them to people I might never see again. Both ideas were shocking to my teenager. I could practically see the gears turning as the child suddenly understood that some of those times I “met a friends for coffee,” I might have been wearing make-up for a reason.

  • Ugh, this is my life with my children in a nutshell. I’m 10 years divorced and their Dad is still singing the “I didn’t cheat on your Mother” song, even though he married his secretary. I mention his lies and they get defensive. I see why women walk away, it’s so frustrating.

    My daughter finally wrote her Dad a letter saying to him what this daughter is saying here and surprise, surprise! He’s going to change his ways! Just like that! He didn’t mean to make her feel bad by holding money over her head – he didn’t know what he was doing!!! The standard fake apology. Now she’s off to vacation with him and is singing his praises while I sit here continuing to be the “sane” parent. When does biting my tongue stop drawing blood?

    • I’m in the same boat. My kids were furious with their dad at first, but with time are falling for his lies, charm and the many carrots he dangles. I can’t say anything about how character/ethics matter so I just hold onto the knowledge ‘the truth will set you free’ and hope that they will see the truth. One of my favorite quotes is from Tobias’ Wolff, “This Boy’s Life”: ‘He had the advantage always enjoyed by the inconstant parent, of not being there to be found imperfect.’

      • Dude-ette,
        You characterized it perfectly for my situation too. Kids were angry and outraged in the beginning, but cheater dad has bought them off so they feel obligated to have a relationship with him now. So sad to see it happening. I’m glad to know I am not alone. And I also wish that I could keep my kids and switch out their dad (or had used a legit sperm donor instead).

        • Dude-ette and wildcat,
          This is where I am. My kids know that their Dad cheated because I told them so when we separated 3 years ago. They were initially very angry with him. However, over time, they seem to have forgiven him somewhat. They spend time with him, and he charms them and undoubtedly spins his false narrative about how he hadn’t been happy with me for years, etc.

          What my kids don’t know is that their Dad is a serial cheater who cheated on me with multiple women for 12+ years of our marriage. My kids think that he cheated with his current GF. Period. They have no idea about all of the other mistresses, the hotel rooms, the lies, etc. They have no idea how despicably he behaved during our divorce. My Ex is a truly horrible person, and my kids have no idea just how horrible he is.

          So, how much of the truth is enough? Is it enough that my kids know that their Dad cheated? Or should I tell them about his 12+ years of affairs? Would that knowledge serve them in any way? Or should I just let them figure out their relationship with their Dad and wash my hands of it all?

          These are the questions that sometimes keep me up at night.

          • Have both of you been spying on me? Your situations are so similar to mine. My kids don’t know that their dad didn’t end his affair (he insists that he did – I have proof that he didn’t), no one realizes he was still cheating when he met his new GF (now wife), and none of them have figured out that the reason he ended up with cancer (HPV positive – hello?!?) is because his mouth was a Petri dish after being with numerous women (another hello: multiple partners means chances of HPV cancer go up). I am so frustrated that karma seems to be nonexistent or slow. I just want the truth out there. It’s like Brock Turner going on with life but without a victim statement. If she hadn’t written what she did, most people wouldn’t have understood the truth.

            • Dudette,

              I take NO joy in saying this- but if he’s got cancer from HPV & cheating- that seems like some payback to him, doesn’t it?

      • The best response to this awful injustice is the “gain a life” portion of the program. Let the kids figure this out. Don’t try to control them or how they see their other parent. As CL said above: ” Recognize that kids love their screwed up parent. That is their right. It’s also your right to ex-communicate a cheating fuckwit from your life. There can be a demilitarized zone about everyone’s feelings. Your job is to sane parent and model mightiness. Let them draw their own conclusions.”

        My first therapist told me that often kids cling to the more dysfunctional parent because they can’t count on him or her, and because they feel responsible for making that parent “happy.” Your kids may SEEM to believe the cheater narrative, but really, what else can they tell you? The only solution is not to talk about this stuff, not listen to them talk about it and not turn your relationship with the kids into a pick-me dance.

        Model what a healthy life looks like. Have friends, as much as possible enjoy your work, develop interests outside of the kids. Show them what it means to be a healthy individual who does not need to be in a series of romantic relationships. I’ve often told the story of my mother’s father, who married 3 women and abandoned all of them and the 7 bio children and 2 step children he had with them. My mother was the product of the 1st marriage. Her father had gone out of contact with her and she spent years, back in the pre-internet days, trying to find him. He was in marriage 3 by that time and had small children with Wife 3, who was younger than my mother. I was almost 15 years older than my ‘uncle.” They stayed in touch for a decade until he left wife 3, their 2 young kids and her kids who lived with them. He had the nerve to badmouth Wife 3 to my mother—-who finally, after being abandoned and more or less forgotten for years, saw what he was. She was is her late 50s. This is the Iron Man triathlon, not a sprint.

        • Excellent points all around, LaJ. Thank you! I love your triathlon metaphor.

          I also got to thinking that Covid-19 is another fitting metaphor for “things we can’t control in our own or our childrens’ lives.” We can badmouth the coronavirus all we want, but it doesn’t care. We can either tell our kids to blame a virus for all the bad stuff happening to them, even though that won’t change anything – or we can model acceptance, “this is how it needs to be for the time being,” boundaries (including appropriate responses), and resilience. Instead of focusing on fear and blame, we can get a life and make it as good as it can be under the circumstances.

          My STBX (we are both women) started dating one month after I moved out of the house in March, even though I had asked her not to date until our divorce is finalized, and despite the fact that our Covid contact group includes me and my parents, all with risky conditions, with our kids going between our houses. I was hugely triggered when I learned after the fact (in June) about STBX’s dating, and it was like pulling teeth to get her to agree at least to get tested routinely. (Not surprisingly, that relationship has already ended. I suspect that the GF saw through STBX fairly quickly – good for her!) This whole episode really drove home to me the fact that STBX will likely be in and out of relationships for the rest of my DD9’s minor years. Heaven only knows what step-siblings DD9 might be introduced to.

          But, STBX’s love life is like coronavirus. I can’t control it, and even if I expressed my feelings about it to STBX, she wouldn’t care. (Well, she would profess to care, but she won’t be able to change her behavior anytime soon.) It wouldn’t be healthy for me to express my fears and concerns to DD9 – better to just get on with it, and try to be the sane parent. This will be no small feat (just as it’s no small feat to deal with coronavirus), because I’m mentally and physically exhausted, with medical conditions and job instability. But I’m determined to do the best I can for DD9. I can be honest that life isn’t always easy – I don’t want to sweep all difficult things under the rug, or gaslight anybody (including myself!) – but I can also try to focus on the “growth mindset” that DD9 learned about in school last year.

        • I wholeheartedly disagree with this conventional advice. It actually seems very dysfunctional to me. If my children’s father was an alcoholic, for instance, every therapist and recovery group would be telling me that, by not telling the kids the truth, I was enabling the alcoholic and the consequential dysfunction of our family.

          But when it comes to cheaters, we are told the complete opposite. How is it better to let your child figure things like this out on their own? Since they were born, I’ve talked to my children honestly about every crazy, hurtful, horrible, unconscionable human behavior they’ve had the misfortune to run into. From kindergarten bullies to presidential pussy grabbers to their father being personality disordered.

          What else am I supposed to say when my 13 year old daughter is sobbing because she thinks she’s not good enough to warrant her father’s interest, let alone his unconditional love? Am I supposed to just let her figure it out?

          IMHO, choosing to avoid the truth with your children, lest the fuckwit be revealed or the child become estranged from said fuckwit, is like taking advice from the RIC. It lets the fuckwit off the hook and places the burden of the damage squarely on the victim’s shoulders. Only this time, the victim is a child.

          I’m not suggesting that we chumps ought to constantly badmouth the fuckwits. I’m simply saying that children deserve the truth as much as we do. They also need guidance in understanding fuckwit behavior, especially when it directly affects them. Otherwise, all we’re doing is enabling, and becoming a party to, the gaslighting.

          I have told both of my children as much of the truth as I know (sans unnecessary details). I’ve talked to them openly about the character disordered. Told them to watch what their father does rather than listening to what he says. I’ve explained that his behavior is bad, that it’s a reflection of his character not theirs. That he has a dysfunctional concept of love and marriage. That I married him because I was raised by a narcissistic father and thought his behavior was normal. That I’m sorry for my bad choices (spackle, hopium) in all this, and that they should be wary of certain behaviors in the people they choose to have relationships with.

          These are ongoing conversations in our family, and they’re always initiated by my kids – whether the topic is their father, a friend, or a love interest. My kids are now 15 and 19 respectively, it’s been almost 4 years since D-day, and they’re grateful that I guided them through this shit storm with compassionate honesty. They still have a relationship with their father, but they know he’s dysfunctional (self absorbed, dishonest and unreliable) and they respond accordingly.

          • I’m As a daughter of an alcohol abuser, I agree with the accepted advice that a family is as toxic as its secrets. So I do not in any way advocate hiding the infidelity from the kids. They need to know what blew their family up.

            That’s not the same thing as discussing the cheater’s pathology over the dinner table. If kids raise a subject, then adults can address the question in age-appropriate ways (9 year-olds are not 19 year olds). I think it is NOT helpful for kids to hear about the chump parent’s pain, rage or anxiety or to let emotions slop over on the kids (although in the beginning, that is probably somewhat unavoidable and also worth being honest about.)

            Teaching kids about dysfunctional people, predators, and manipulators is part of raising them. Teaching them about the difference between a sparkling personality and character is part of raising kids. Nobody here is suggesting to “just let a sobbing 13-year-old figure out” why a parent has abandoned her.

            I think we are largely in agreement:
            1. Tell kids the truth.
            2. Teach them what they need to know as they grow and come up with new questions so that they can recognize bad people and situations.
            3. Be the sane parent who shows up for school, activities, birthdays, and those terrible times when kids feel abandoned and heart-broken, whether by a fuckwit parent or their first BF/GF.
            4. Keep your own emotional slop at the adult level & take it to the therapist or your BFF.

            • I agree with LaJ and CL that nobody is suggesting we withhold all basic info from our kids. One of the hardest things for me post-D-Day #2 has been thinking through the very thorny issues of what to tell my kids (ages 18 and 9), and how/when.

              But, it’s worth noting that there are big differences (at least in my case) between infidelity and a classic substance abuse situation. My cheating STBX has not been diagnosed with anything in particular by a professional. Even if she were, there would likely be no clear treatment for whatever is going on with her, the way there is for alcoholism, etc. So there is no obvious narrative STBX and I can agree upon (and backed up by institutional systems), to share with the kids. Beyond revealing the main reason for our divorce to DD18, which STBX very reluctantly agreed to do herself (in a joint conversation involving me) only after much mediation, I would have to detail specific behaviors that I have found unacceptable in order to discuss the situation in any greater depth with my kids. I am unwilling to do that.

              There are also legal issues: in the absence of a professional diagnosis, we chumps could be accused of parental alienation if we say too much about what we *think* might be going on with our co-parent.

              The best I can do is to listen to my kids over time, and to validate their experiences with STBX (and her family), maybe give them some language for what they might be experiencing, and to talk about healthy boundaries and relationships in general. As my kids grow older, I hope to be able to help them make healthy choices about how to interact with STBX, though my kids will have to take the lead there. (I don’t plan to pry, both for my kids’ sakes and for my own mental health.) And, eventually I could give them some things to read, so that they could draw their own conclusions. I would have to be careful about even that, though, since most resources come with a pretty obvious slant.

              I agree with CL that the paramount thing here is to remember that we can’t control other people. In the case of our kids, we also can’t force our interpretation of the world and the people in it on them, either. They have to experience/learn certain things for themselves – and because of their individuation impulse, we’re more likely to shoot ourselves in the foot if we try too hard to get them to realize certain things. Just as we try to model basic values and hope that our kids can take those values and learn to apply them in their own lives, so too we can have general conversations about boundaries etc. and hope that kids will start to apply them with a fuckwit parent. And then when they’re young adults, we hopefully can help pay for the therapy that will let them excavate all that crap with professional help, so it’s not one parent’s word against another’s. (I just wish I’d had better experiences recently with therapists…)

              • Yes. When I would mention some of the horrible things my ex had done, my kids would say it only proves he is nuts, and therefor not responsible for his behavior. It does not work to over share with children, even adult ones. Or at least I learned that. Stick to basic facts and explanations.

    • Mel– like I said in comment below about the dad mentioned in the post, your ex sounds emotionally incestuous.

      Lying is manipulating for a purpose= using. I think lying to children about an affair is defaming the betrayed parent at the very least. It’s like taking a video of a bear mauling incident and editing out the bear with CGI, leaving the impression that the victim was just running around screaming and rolling on the ground shredding their own clothes because they’re a lunatic. Worse, I think lying for the purpose of image managing to a child is a form of seduction.

      There were several studies which found that using a child for adult gratification (say, pushing a child to be a prodigy to appease adult need for attention/admiration) even if the gratification is not directly sexual, damages the child in ways similar to sexual abuse.

      I don’t know if your daughter is still technically a child but it seems likely this erratic behavior on ex fuckwit’s part to make kids like him when there’s a danger of losing
      them — and obviously the lying– has gone on since your kids were very young.

      Come to think of it, I’ve never seen a normal, healthy tween or teen or young adult child “gush” over a parent. This might happen after a long separation (kid joins Peace Corp, etc) or when the parent is very elderly or infirm. But normal kids don’t dote. They may be casually affectionate but the young are into their own lives. The doting raises flags.

      Years ago a neighbor separated from her slick douchebag “poet” husband after he suddenly announced he was polyamorous. The tween daughter was furious at her long suffering mother who described the daughter as “doting” on cheater dad and extremely defensive at any hint of criticism against her father. Furthermore, dad allowed the daughter to believe a false narrative about the mother’s role in the breakup for years, finally admitting to the fabrication ages later, leading to a rather cool truce between mother and daughter. Long suffering mom lost years of normal closeness to her own child, damaging both.

      That doesn’t just happen. I sensed that was a result of erratic, narc fathering. I would see that asshole stalking around the neighborhood like he was on a hunger strike for an important cause but it was evident his gloom did not have any kind of humanitarian basis– not considering how he treated his family. He had the woeful, wistful sadz because he was kibble deprived and having a status crisis. I honesty could never figure out why he thought he was too sexy for his shirt. Gloomy, gangly jerk with a beard that looked like it had things nesting in it. Never saw his poetry in print either. After playing the field, he eventually became a partner prop for some equally glum, aging actress with waning fame. The actress never mentions him in her rare interviews.

  • I’m rolling with laughter! I love your humor and sarcasm. It helps me to laugh at the unlaughable and keep me reality…..Boundaries, focus on ourselves, let the shit you can’t control go, and get on with your life. Thank you CL!

  • May the letter writer and Mom find CL and CN soon. Very soon.

    This is so very sad.

    Speaking of which: DNA testing has uncovered a hitherto unknown cousin. Things may be getting still livelier later this year. I extended an invitation to this cousin and I hope it is received well, despite the circumstances.

    • Oh, boy, widespread DNA testing sure is turning over a lot of rocks! One of my friends just learned through one of those DNA services that her father, who died many years ago, is not related to her genetically. He went to his grave not knowing the truth. My friend’s mother also didn’t know the truth – it happens that she had not been dating my friend’s father exclusively (it was the 70’s), but then they had a shotgun wedding after the mom became pregnant. Even though nobody actively cheated in that situation, it still has been difficult for all the surviving parties to digest the truth. My friend has gotten in touch with her bio father, but sadly he’s not doing well, and there’s no chance of meeting in-person during Covid.

      Now, I have a slightly different conception of family, since I’m not biologically related to either of my kids – my ex carried them both (we’re both women), and we worked with sperm donors. We don’t use the word “father” for anyone in my kids’ lives. So to me, my friend’s biological dad is more like a donor than a dad, and I find it sad that mainstream American society doesn’t use that language more often. Because it’s a mindfuck to think “I didn’t know who my dad was!” – but I would hope that things might feel different if people realize that donors are different from dads.

      I guess I can understand wanting to know your biological parent, but in my experience with rainbow families, it doesn’t seem to matter much to kids who grew up with secure attachments to whichever parents they had in the home. Fortunately, neither of my kids seems to have any real interest in knowing their donors. We worked with a known donor for my older daughter, so she saw him once a year or so for a while, but has not expressed any interest in reaching out to him for some time now. I’m happy to let my daughter call the shots on that relationship now that she’s a young adult.

    • My mom and her sister have found 4 siblings, courtesy of DNA testing, because their father was a cheating, disgusting, vile human. We have welcomed my new aunties into the family with open arms! One new aunt is my age. Just think of all the people who have not had their DNA tested. Four siblings, so far! There are probably a lot more out there. Time will tell.

  • I never thought I’d say this but I’m actually glad that my kids caught dad red handed. There was never any question regarding what happened and why I had no choice but to tell him to leave (he refused to stop cheating and screamed at me and kids that he was miserable and “hated every minute of the past 10 years!”). Evil, pure evil.

    In the ensuing 6 years I’ve stayed mostly no contact with XH (4 kids) and sane. I have full custody. My grown kids visit or call several times a week. We love each other deeply and they respect me. We haven’t had a harsh word between us in years.

    Their relationship with their dad is abysmal: he manipulates and dominates and blameshifts and gaslights them. He has extreme contempt for their boundaries. He uses drugs with our son. He is drunk every day and ruined my daughter’s birthday last year— this year she chose not to see him at all on her birthday. The oldest (32) has spoken to him once in 6 years— she despises him for blaming HER! He made his choices and reaps his consequences. Sickening.

    I wish I had never met him— wish I would never have picked him to father children with.

    • “I wish I had never met him— wish I would never have picked him to father children with.”

      I get that. It is so painful to admit. I feel the same way. If there was a button I could push, where my son would be the same son he is, but the father switched out, I would do it in a heart beat.

      It still bothers me to this day that the cheater will likely never ever suffer the pain he has caused not only me, but his son. He hurt both his son and me during the break up, then went on to set a bomb and blow up his relationship with his son years down the line. Do some cheaters change? sure; do most? Likely not. Or at least I have not seen a lot of evidence of it.

      I think most women who stay with their cheater “reconcile” just spend the rest of their married life dancing around and monitoring a cheater, living with pain. Or they finally give it up and walk away a few years later. Still with pain, but a lot less of it.

        • Oh it has several times over. Which is why I doubt that cheaters ever change. If they did, (or if he had) he likely wouldn’t have gone on to do the things he did after our divorce. He is a mess, but he will muddle through, and the fault now is his schmoopies and our sons, or anyone else he can pin it on. Won’t ever be his fault.

      • I also wish I had a better picker back then. But my reason is because I think NPD can be inherited and my youngest has patterned his life after his dad, i.e., cheating on his (now divorced) wife and alienating me from his life because I dared to call him out on his bad behavior. In fact, one of my other sons told him to go do something with his life, go finish his college degree, etc. Then, he didn’t hear from the youngest for three weeks. When he did, it was a text that said, “That’s why I stopped talking to mom and if you don’t quit trying to tell me what to do, I’ll have to cut you out of my life too.” At first, my second son thought, “Geez! Now I have to be careful what I say to him else he’ll stop talking to me.” But after a while, he figured it out and said, “Fuck him! If we all have to just say nice things to him to just be in his life…, then fuck him!” I don’t know the answer for fuckwits. But I do know that I raised all of my sons the same and taught them to be responsible, credible, and to be honest. I didn’t raise my sons to be fuckwits. I’ve seen my youngest admire and emulate his dick dad for years…, since 5 years old. I’ve counseled him lovingly for years trying to instill in him a good, healthy self esteem. He has always taken his value from what his dad and friends thinks of him. My other sons are healthy loving adults and very caring. My youngest is very self-centered. They were all raised the same because they are within 21 months apart. I had three in diapers at once. For that reason I think NPD is inherited. My heart hurts as my youngest wrote me out of his life nearly three years ago. He recently even deployed to Afghanistan without calling me or talking to me. All I can do is pray for him and send him emails that go unanswered, tell him that I love him and that I hope he is doing well and is staying healthy and safe. One thing I learned after having a dick in my life is that you can’t make anybody do what is right. I will continue to love and pray for my son, but I only have control of me, not anybody else. I example good behavior. It’s up to others if they want me to be in their lives. And if they don’t, then so be it. I won’t (and obviously don’t) have a relationship with anyone who I have to pussyfoot around just so I can be their friend.

  • Harold pinter, said, they fuck you up your mum and dad, I can’t remember if hes a playwright or poet, he cheated on his wife, I’m sure he hated actually detested his mother.
    There’s always fallback from cheating, money spent on ow could are should have been spent on chump and kids.
    Interesting point my neighbour always liked my alcoholic drug taking ex, always made excuses for him.
    Daughter did excellent in exams, told neighbour she said my daughter was LUCKY I said she worked hard.
    Months ago I said daughter should do well in exams she gave me a dirty look.
    HOW SAD IS YOUR LIFE TO PUT DOWN A TEENAGER.
    This is the person who always sticks up for my ex.

    • It was Philip Larkin “They fuck you up your Mum and Dad, they don’t mean to but they do”

      This Be The Verse
      BY PHILIP LARKIN
      They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
      They may not mean to, but they do.
      They fill you with the faults they had
      And add some extra, just for you.

      But they were fucked up in their turn
      By fools in old-style hats and coats,
      Who half the time were soppy-stern
      And half at one another’s throats.

      Man hands on misery to man.
      It deepens like a coastal shelf.
      Get out as early as you can,
      And don’t have any kids yourself.

  • Pure GOLD. I’ve followed Chump Lady since her beginning. She saved my life. Nine years out, I’m whole. I’m healthy. Daily living is as good as it can be. But the devastation rained down on my life, flooding out my adult childrens’ relationships with their parents, their own spouses and my grandchildren can’t be calculated. It’s like chalk painting with water. Nothing is concise or clear. Everything can be misconstrued, looks hazy, watery, smeared.

    Adultery changed my world view forever. Trauma from the deceit and dishonesty happens-it’s real. How we deal with such a supreme disappointment going forward speaks to our character. But the initial wound and scars remain – they just get covered over with all the events of the moving ahead that we must do.

  • Mom’s difficult to love and adult daughter regularly talked to dada prior to D-Day?

    I have a friend who realized in the past few years that she was emotionally “incested” by her father and uncle who both made her a buddy and confidant as a child. Then as an adult she caught both committing financial fraud and was discarded because she disapproved. Her siblings sided with the fraudsters and my friend has no contact with family at this point.

    Emotional incest isn’t always about sex. Sometimes it’s about an adult using a child’s love, appreciation and trust like a washing machine to launder the adult’s dirty conscience. “See, the kid likes me, ergo I’m not an embezzler/tax dodger/cheat/fake/axe murderer.”

    • Hell of a Chump, I am going to save your post – it describes what my ex did to our son. Sadly son is having the hardest time processing what his dad did to him and the family – major problem for “golden children”. When the time is right I will share this bit of wisdom with him.

    • Dr. Patricia Love wrote a great book called “The Emotional Incest Syndrome.” It also takes on the problem of the “golden child” who becomes the preferred partner of a spouse (even when they aren’t divorced.” And it includes an excellent chart about what a marital partnership should look like.

      • LaJ – Thanks for sharing that resource! It sounds great.

        I agree that emotional incest is a very important thing to look out for. It was a huge problem for my STBX with her narc mom – and while SBTX is therefore pretty clear about not spilling to DD18 about her relationship with me, I fear she’s still too buddy-buddy with DD18. Since she’s emotionally adolescent, STBX loves to hear about all of DD18’s teen friend and relationship drama, and clearly doesn’t hold appropriate boundaries. And now that STBX has been dating again, I would imagine that DD18 has already heard too much about that. I have already had several conversations (in the abstract!) with DD18 about appropriate boundaries, though I think it unlikely that DD18 would ever share specifics with me, out of loyalty to STBX. I am grateful that DD18 has a great relationship with her current therapist, and hopefully will be able to figure these things out for herself.

      • I’ve been meaning to read Emotional Incest Syndrome for ages.

        I learned about this in college from my experimental women’s lit professor. It’s very interesting to start out your adult life with that lens. Certain things start coming into starker relief and you can’t ignore associations when you see them.

        Cheater was definitely emotionally incested and parentized by both parents. His mother wasn’t sexual with him per se but she was certainly competitive with any woman he brought home. She’d cry and blubber or be coldly withholding if confronted about her aggressive or neglectful behavior, putting cheater in the parent role from a young age. His father went back and forth between authoritarian behavior or relying on his son to be his supporter, fan and confidant and responsible for dad’s emotions.

        When cheater was thrown out of the house after D-Day, I had to screen and delete voice messages he’d send the kids because he was prone to sniveling and crying. I’d message him curtly to try it again without the pity ploys since, as he well knew, doing that to children is psychologically disastrous. I called it what it was.

        It’s funny how cheater tried to jujitsu the claim of bad parenting. Reason #1 to go NC– give them nothing because they jujitsu and weaponize everything. But before I wised up, he’d call me out on anything that I let slip about the affair even if the kids were in another room or even if I texted a reference to these events on the idea that the kids would read my messages. He wanted to blame me for the fact they knew. But they knew because our oldest figured it out and hacked his laptop– thus his fear the kids would see texts. But in the end they knew what he did because he did it.

        I knew the kids were going to be okay when my daughter said on the phone to dad, “Why are you talking to me in a baby voice? Don’t try to charm me.” She’d been okay up to that point in the conversation telling him about her classes but went cold over his ploys. He must have been so confused. His ploys worked on office bimbos and the flying monkeys whose bar tabs he’d pay on the family dime. But fortunately, unlike his bimbos and flying monkeys, his kids weren’t raised by boundary impaired freaks and wolves. They were raised by someone who majored in this shit in college.

  • My daughter hates her father. She discovered the affair (sexting) and told me. He tried to threaten her not to. Bad move. She was 13. Unacceptable.
    18 months later we are long divorced and she has no relationship with him. I tried to fix it for him for a while, what a nice chump, and she finally laid it on the line…I was not respecting her by trying to make her see him as a flawed person.

    Good for my very astute 13 year old. It helped me and her and we are so much closer. His loss is huge. She is now 15 and amazing.

    My older child has developed a very superficial relationship with his dad. They met for lunch once in this last year. I tried a little there too. Silly me. My son is not easy to manipulate. He’s amazing too. 17. We watch nba every night together.

    Both kids know everything and both kids do not respect their father…who moved away to give us all space ( and to live with girlfriend #3 or 4, who had a baby in February). They don’t consider the baby their sibling and have no plans to meet him.

    I really hated all this drama. It has passed, however, and in its wake we are a happy family of 3. I am truly content. The kids are as good as I could hope. My ex is the biggest loser.

    • Marge,

      I’m so glad you are truly content.

      I think these kids (teen on up) sometimes see things more clearly than we do. Perhaps this applies to the younger ones as well; I just can’t speak to that. Mine are in their lates 20s and 30s.

      When my ex first fessed up to the affair, my son immediately wrote to him that he never wants any contact again. Ever! My son said to me, “He abused you. He emotionally abused all of us. I’m protecting my own family.” One of my daughters told me that if I ever take him back, she’ll disown me too. Yikes! Another told me she wishes I’d left him when she was in elementary school. (Take note chumps with young kids.)

      So there you have it. I did tell them that I don’t want to be an obstacle to their having a relationship with their father. It’s been 10 months since D-Day. He’s made a couple of weak attempts to contact them by email. They never respond. I think he’s given up. He sent one thing to one of the kids (proof of insurance, insurance he’s since canceled!) but didn’t include his return address on the envelope. She took that to mean he really doesn’t want her to write back or visit. God he’s such a jerk!

      Anyway, I can’t imagine how any sane parent could stand such a loss. Oh wait, the key word is “sane.”

      Bottom line: I got the real prize–my kids!

      I know I sound as if I’m delighting in this situation. Honestly, it’s true. I am happy he’s suffering (still not at meh). But, when I pull back the lens, I just feel sad. The entire situation sucks. And I wish I’d better protected my kids as they were growing up. I’m a good spackler. *sigh*

      • I’m a good spackler too.
        And my kids have both said they would find any reconciliation offensive, although when ex had the baby that put the nail in that coffin. Which was a god shot for me. It ended my own, unconscious hopium.
        For a while I really couldn’t understand why he would chose another family when he already had a great one. The truth is HE DIDN’T choose anything. He’s just coasting along and the consequences of that have piled up.

        I managed everyone for years. Kids completely see it and they call me out on it now. They are so smart. You can’t protect them from the world. Parents are parents. I hope this makes them more aware partners.

  • Thank you CL for today’s post!

    I’ve been struggling with this for awhile, 2+ years divorced, young adult kids in college. It kind of came to a head during the pandemic lockdown when they were home with me 100% of the time, high stress levels, school and plans cancelled, etc etc. We had a few dinner conversations about family issues, life before the divorce, etc and they would leave me speechless. Cheater dad is literally re-writing our history for them and the older of my two daughters believe it. They are convinced it was all my fault and I know it is because they are afraid to really see who he is. They don’t see how they are being manipulated by him either.

    Right now, the older daughter and I have a very strained relationship (she struggles with no boundaries, nothing is ever good enough) and blames me for all of it. She unfortunately is a lot like him. Younger daughter is ok, but needs him to continue to help pay for college, so has to interact with him. It breaks my heart that they don’t really see him for what a total POS he is. Maybe they will someday, but they don’t now. It took me a long time to figure it out and thankfully I did.

    • Hi wildcat,

      I am in the same situation. 8 years out and my older daughter has blamed me the entire time. She has no respect no boundaries for me. Believes all the gas lighting ex tells her. He has the upper hand because he has cancer. She has fear of losing him. She drags her younger sister to believe all the lies too. Daughters are in their middle to late 20. Trying to be sane parent and waiting for my emotional return. Just trying to find my peace and happiness in life. Prayers for you and your daughters

  • My adult daughter–now in her very late 20s–has cut off all communication with her cheating, lying dad, my ex. She did this just after college. Her reasons are complicated, and they are her own. I did my level best not to (a) slobber all over her, and (b) tell her endlessly what a shitheel her dad is. However, she’s a smart cookie, and she watched me go through a rapid, and then long drawn out breakdown due to trauma and then c-PTSD. I respect her choices. But, I know it’s been hard for her. I had a terrific dad, and I grieve for her that she can’t have that. She holds on to the idea that she had a really good young childhood, and I never do anything to change that belief. There is no doubt that having a narc/borderline sociopathic father has made her emotional development challenging in some ways–but who among us doesn’t have challenges? we don’t all cheat. End of! She is stable, honest, hard working, kind, smart–all the things. Her dad threw away the best thing he ever had, and for what?

    ps I hope this posts–I know the mods are overworked, but my last post didn’t make it live. thank you.

  • Will share with adult sons.
    Coincidentally, I just got a message from one son about forgiving one’s enemies …. I gave him the standard CN response I learned here: if fuckwit is alive, consider him forgiven.

    And about Dear-Person-Writing-to-the-Wrong-Advice-Columnist father’s “pampering” of mom: since when is helping with the laundery ‘pampering’?

    To the best of my efforts to be fair, 98% of every nicer gift I ever got from spakledick was purchased to satisfy his need to be coddled by young salesgirls and/or look rich. The other gifts were to help me pamper him…

    Our poor children!

    • OMG Clearwaters, I thought I was the only one whose nice gifts were to impress some other woman. For me it was the women he worked with – he was always actively grooming them into either OWs or flying monkeys. I got gifts of jewelry picked out by these women that were never to my liking or my taste, I even got a Kitchen Aid stand mixer because one of them mentioned that she could not live without hers. When I asked him for a specific attachment for said mixer as a gift (a pasta roller set) he deliberately bought the wrong one (a meat grinder attachment) that for some reason could not be returned. I was visibly disappointed when I ripped off the paper and it was a meat grinder that I had no use for and when he asked what was wrong I told him – it was in front of the kids- he then berated me for upsetting our son since it was “from” him – dad set him up to pick the “special gift” for mom out the three that he purchased – one from each kid. I was mortified and must have apologized to my then 6 year old son a dozen times. After that I , knew I had to fuss over gifts like hampers and blankets, a card that promised me a cleaning service that never materialized and a host of gifts approved by his flying monkey harem. I have to say, my all-time favorite a bunch of dead grocery store flowers. When I asked him to please quit buying me grocery store flowers for every occasion (not in front of the kids) and having one of the kids give them to me his response was that my son insisted on it and in fact had picked out the dead bouquet and instead of gently directing him to get a fresher bunch ex felt it was important that I always fuss over any and all gifts I receive no matter what so that I do not hurt the kids who at the time were to young to do their own thing. He on the other hand would punish the whole family if he did not receive exactly what he would demand on every birthday and holiday to the most minor of details. What a bastard – he still cannot understand why I refuse to have anything to do with him.

    • ClearWaters –
      You’re totally right, and I thought the same thing right from the start. The idea that one’s father is “pampering” one’s mother by sharing in housework goes right to the heart of many western capitalist evils. And of course the columnist is way too self-absorbed even to notice that telling detail.

  • I have no idea whatsoever what Jezebel was trying to say. It didn’t even make the usual horse-puck kind of sense. Was it hard to use words that aren’t “me me me me me”?

  • I was raised by a narcissist. She convinced me that it was wrong to judge anyone for any reason. I had a hard time reconciling that with the actions of my ex, narcissistic husband. He was just a flawed human, like all of us. Who was I to judge? I was at the ripe age of 53 before I realized that it is okay to judge the action. I can judge the actions of others now and I don’t feel like I have to apologize or that I am a bad person for judging. Are you driving drunk? I think that is wrong. Are you in a relationship with someone outside of your marriage and your marriage partner is left in the dark on that decision? I think that is wrong.

  • Well that was some really shit non-advise…

    Since the writer is an adult child of a chump, in terms of who she needs to talk to, that would be her mother.

    So her mom was “hard to love,” she’d been dealing with the stress of being cheated on for a decade. Since we only have what the letter writer said to go on, we don’t know if this poor woman had one D-Day or many. Since it’s been that long, I’m going to wager a guess that she, like many chumps, has had more than one D-Day and failed attempt at Wreckonciliation. Considering how common that is among chumps, and the sheer level of pressure from the RIC, I’d say that’s likely.

    So this woman has probably been playing Pick Me Dance and Marriage Police for the better part of ten years. No SHIT she’s high strung.

    Or maybe she’s been gaslit for a decade and she finally got the evidence she needed and is dealing with both the validation of knowing she was right this whole time…and y’know…dealing with the fact that she was right the whole time…

    She doesn’t need to talk to her dad about how disorienting this is for her, or about his potential to slip into alcoholism (if she’s concerned about that, I bet he’s already there) or managing his feewings in this process. She’s worried about the wrong parent.

    She needs to help her mom get through this. If dad was all that concerned about being a good man, they wouldn’t be in this situation right now. If he needs support he can get it from one of his schmoopies. Fuck him.

    • I realized I should add the letter writer never really mentioned if they are a “she” or “he.” I sort of assumed that. Either way, if the letter writer is a man or woman I don’t know, but the fact they need to side with mom and not dad still stands.

  • My father began cheating and drinking when I was a teen, and continued to do so until his death. I was his favorite child. My sister was mother’s favorite. Once he checked out to this other lifestyle I was left alone with my mother and sister, so became fair game and the scapegoat. I was dating and my sister wasn’t. It was as if I was a stand-in for the OW. My mother tried to get his attention by placing me in the “bad teenager” role, but I was too hurt and confused to respond. After awhile I realized what was going on and wouldn’t take the bait, which only caused things to escalate. Mother would tell dad how bad I was, even though it wasn’t true. Since he was never home anymore he either believed her or blew her off. I have very little respect for any of them. I was collateral damage, and through the decades of my life there was nothing I could do to alter my scapegoat status in the family or my “reputation.” As an adult I got blowback for cutting off my sister and keeping my parents at arm’s length. It has taken me a lifetime to overcome, and not at all completely (I am old). Good things can come of bad, though. It was my ticket to ride–I became a world traveler, sometimes precariously, bit life was always an adventure. I am stronger than most people I know, and not by accident. My first two serious relationshios were with self-absorbed narcissists–not too hard to figure out why. Cheating and drinking ripples outward for eons.

  • I don’t know if either my father or mother ever cheated, because there was no indication to me that they did, but my dad always accused my mother of cheating. As an adult, and knowing what I know now about alcoholism and his FOO issues, my guess is he was terribly insecure, socially awkward, and learned during his childhood that accusing others and withholding affection were the best weapons available for him to use on his family. He still uses these weapons on his (now) ex-wife and children. He still attempts to buy affection, from time to time, but there are always strings on his “gifts.”

    My ex’s definitely were cheaters ( I found overwhelming evidence), and my sons know their dad cheated. They also can see now that he played Disney Dad with them to manipulate them, and to try to manipulate me. We divorced when they were 9 and 12 , They did not see clearly then. I suppose I was mean mom, and he was fun dad, because I was the stable working parent who was always there and had rules of behavior. I was also at all events at school, and extra-curricular activities, and the queen of clean laundry and something to eat for meals, and doctor and dentist appointments. Children do not always appreciate stability when they are young, but they do eventually grow up and become (somewhat) independent.

    I had a lot of anger with their father, and I probably said some inappropriate things sometimes in front of the children. Over the course of years, things mellowed, and I no longer felt abandoned by my children’s need to love their dad. They know who he is, because they figured it out, but he is still their dad. I am sure they love me, and realize now that mean mom took care of them. It takes awhile to develop perspective.

    Here is the other thing I know about dads, I always wanted a better dad than I had. I still do. I wish I could feel the way a child feels when looking for a father’s day card for a great dad. I never wanted my father to be the one to attend father/daughter events, but I wanted a father. There is a yearning to bond with and feel safe with and feel loved by your parents. Mom and Dad both are important figures in your life. The truth is we don’t get to pick our parents, and they don’t come with a warranty. We get the parent we get, good or bad. It is our job to come to terms with that, and to try to be the parent we wanted. Hopefully, that will be the parent our children want, but no promises there either.

    If you love your children you can provide facts and some guidance, but hopefully when they grow up they will be independent thinkers. They will make their own choices. They will change their minds about some things, because they are now viewing the world as an adult. You may not like every thing about your children, but you can love them even when you are not liking some of their choices. That is the best thing I can offer to my children, and I hope it is enough.

  • For children in these situations, they reconcile their feelings for mom or dad by loving them in spite of who they are. Instead of loving them for who they are. To me, that’s karma. Losing respect and sacrificing your integrity by cheating those who loved you is truly the saddest outcome.

  • This post hits close to home. I haven’t spoken to my dad in over 2 years and I’m expecting a baby of my own soon. Sometimes I feel guilt for cutting him out of my life- mainly because I’ve spent most of it worried about him and his feelings. I’m starting to accept that the pain he has inflicted is not my shame or responsibility to carry. While I sometimes wish we could have a relationship again, his years of lying, manipulating and gas lighting, makes me want to protect myself from him, and now, protect my daughter from having a grandpa who lies, cheats and steals. Sometimes I feel ashamed for holding on to my daddy issues and not accepting him back in my life, but at the same time relieved that I don’t have to take care of him anymore. Life with him has always been chaos and it’s nice not be on the ride anymore.

    • Sable, you are not doing anything shameful and you are certainly not punishing your dad by holding on to daddy issues and not accepting him back into your life. The shame and the responsibility belong solely to him. What you are doing is some very serious adulting, you are protecting yourself and your child and family from a predator. You do not owe him your love and loyalty when he has done nothing to earn it and has in fact done everything to undermine it. I hope my children can be as strong as you are being right now when they experience major milestones were our society dictates parents have to be involved. Take it from someone who learned the hard way – is a relationship with your dad even worth the chaos and the ruined times that were meant to be special events – do you want your children to have the type of memories that your dad has left you with? Of course the answer is no. Hold your head high and know that you are doing the right thing.

  • I’ve decided to refer to my ex as the Dino: Dad In Name Only. He has used quarantine as an excuse to discard all of our kids. His cheater wife hates our children, so this has been the perfect opportunity to end visitation. He has had almost no contact with them in six months, and any time my kids attempt contact, he manages to avoid them because “he’s busy,” or the contact is brief and awkward.

    He pays me what he owes our kids, so I just support my kids, listen, and don’t lash out at him. It would only make things worse. Still, it’s frustrating to watch my kids discover that their father loves himself more than he loves them.

    This is the stuff that they don’t show in the sexy movies about cheating- the hurt and abandoned children who are forced to realize that the parent who is supposed to love them and be there for them cares more about his/her sex life and desire to live apart in a fantasy world.

    • “This is the stuff that they don’t show in the sexy movies about cheating- the hurt and abandoned children who are forced to realize that the parent who is supposed to love them and be there for them cares more about his/her sex life and desire to live apart in a fantasy world.”

      Agree completely! Cheating is romanticized in films and books. No one pays attention to the collateral damge to the chump and the kids! Even adult children suffer.

  • My Dad sucks, too. To the chumps with children — if you’re thinking about reconciling with a cheater “for the children” — don’t. Instead, model good boundaries, consequences for shitty/selfish/entitled behavior and being the sane parent.

    My mother was “hard to love” when I was a child — I honestly don’t have any GOOD memories involving my mother until I was 25. When I was a child, she was always angry — enraged even — and she took it out on me. She’d hit me until she couldn’t lift her arm anymore. Consequently, when I caught my father cheating when I was 16, he convinced me that it was my mother’s fault. She was “jealous” and “irrational” and “crazy” and he “needed someone to love him.” (I don’t suppose that it occurred to either him or me that he was forgoing the love of his child (me) for failing to protect me from my mother’s abuse or that *I* needed someone to love me, too.) Together, my parents convinced me that my thoughts and my feelings didn’t matter, that *I* didn’t matter. I was worthless, especially compared to my sister who was the Golden Child. I didn’t have a sane parent.

    I’ve since figured out that my mother was so angry all of the time because my father was such a piece of shit, and her holy-roller mother would NOT have her daughter leaving the marriage. I was primed for life with a narcissist, and when I got involved with my first narcissist, my parents couldn’t stand him. That seemed like a pretty good indicator to me, so I married him. He was selfish, entitled and a cheater. The first time I caught him cheating, I called my parents, crying. Dad said “All men cheat, it’s no big deal,” and my mother said I’d made my bed, I needed to lie in it. It was nearly two more years before I kicked him out of the house and changed the locks. During that time, he’d slept with co-workers, bosses (his and mine), neighbors, my sister and the nun who led our pre-Cana classes. Strangely, it was at that point that my mother decided I wasn’t completely worthless after all.

    I wish I could say I fixed my picker, but I didn’t. I went on to marry another cheater (this time with the priest) who was also physically abusive. After 11 years on my own, but clearly not sufficiently working on my own issues, I married a guy I’d dated for five years and been friends with for four years before that. I completely bought the shiny public image. He was also an abusive cheater, only I somehow managed not to notice the cheating for 17 years. Hopefully now I am finally fixing my picker, but it’s probably of no matter since I’m 65.

    I’m not saying it was my parents fault I have such a checkered romantic history, but I certainly had no role models or healthy parents or grandparents. Leave a cheater so you can be a good, healthy role model for your children.

    • Sucks to live in the golden child’s shadow and have to figure out these people who you’ve loved with all your heart and would do anything for don’t care about your safety, well-being and happiness very much, and probably don’t love you except in a very superficual way. Been there. Our first big relationships are with the same sort because that’s all we think we’re worth. Then we have to love and encourage ourselves because no one else will. We become stronger BECAUSE of it. We are the chumpions!

  • OK. So I visited this jezebel site, read that article and I’m still in the dark about WTF that site represents. Somebody help me out. Is this another RIC mutated Perel mind Fuck blog?

    I’m so glad that I informed Everyone in my family of what x-concubine faux-wife did. I told her that She Had To tell her two adult children and my adult daughter Why she blew up our family. That took her a month to accomplish and she of course tried softening the blow with bs.

    Her son experienced first hand her adultery when she left his father for another man. He hasn’t spoken to her in years.

    X cheated on her 2nd husband (3rd cousins with XH #1) and her daughter from that marriage saw her behavior as well. She followed in her mother’s footsteps. I went NC with her daughter post dday.

    I was x’s 3rd victim. My daughter from My 1st marriage was raised with x’s 2 kids and all three saw what a genuine ‘dad’ looked like in me.

    My daughter wants to slap the taste out of x’s mouth If she ever sees her again.

    X’s Son and my daughter are truly brother and sister. Both sided with me and are very close.

    Adult children grow up. They develop their own boundaries. I gave them all CL guidance that they were free to have or not have a relationship with X. That’s their call and I didn’t interfere.

    All the kids called me after she phoned them. Except x’s daughter. I told them the entire story and they were disgusted with x’s behavior.

    The Apple didn’t fall far from the tree with her daughter who cheated on her 1st husband. Divorced him and married her AP. An alcoholic asshole of epic proportions. She’s got her karma of low living and with 4 kids. I feel sorry for these kids and NC was the only way to go for me.
    Fuckwit multiplication!!! Differential equations are easier.

    I know from balls to bones that two salvaged from three is 67% and they have my back till the day I die. My 67% are kicking ass Too.

  • A mother who is “hard to love” or “difficult” might be that way because she’s reacting to her husband’s cheating and not telling her children. It might also be the case that the cheater has gaslit the whole family with this fiction. Mine certainly did. In his eyes, I was “hard to live with,” and that, along with “Mom doesn’t like other people” was the family story. Even I bought it, which is exactly what my ex wanted, which was for me to believe I was hard to live with, so I’d blame myself for what was wrong in our marriage.
    Thing is, it wasn’t true. I was not “hard to live with.” In examining my behavior, I’m now wondering just what my ex found hard to live with. Was it the salary I brought in (equal to his)? Was it that I planned, shopped for, and made healthy meals every night, leaving work early enough every day so I could do this? Was it spending my inheritance on having our house remodeled? Was it my raking the leaves, shoveling the snow, monitoring the house for repairs and arranging for workmen? Was it my urging him to go on numerous international trips with his father and/or sister, to France, Iceland, Quebec, Ireland, Finland, although he never wanted to take a vacation with me? Was it my frugality? Was it never complaining about his spending? If I was ever unhappy, he weaponized it against me as “proof” of how hard I was to live with.
    As for “Mom doesn’t like other people”? I wasn’t the one who had no friends and didn’t ever want to entertain. But because I like to spend time alone in the woods, and am sensitive to noise (always on high alert, I finally figured out), that was the mantra: “Mom doesn’t like other people.” It was said in a joking manner, but we all understood it was a dig at me.
    After I moved out and started divorce proceedings, to combat my grief and keep my life full so I wouldn’t brood, I made sure to fill up my calendar with social events. I had coffee or drinks or dinner with friends, out or at my place; I went walking and birdwatching with them, or shared plants with them, or fed their cats and took in their mail if they were out of town–all the things people do with and for each other. One night my adult son was over for dinner, and he saw my calendar, all filled in. When I saw him looking at it, I said, “I guess I do like other people,” and he said, “Mom, I always knew you weren’t the one who didn’t like other people.”
    It’s been an education, understanding the ways I was brought to accept the lies he told himself about me, and to resemble the person he claimed I was-all for his own self-exculpatory purposes.

    Maybe the letter writer might want to consider that, too.

    • Adelante,

      Interesting post! It’s amazing what mind games these cheaters play and how we come to believe their damaging narratives and barbs. “Mom doesn’t like other people” is an especially cruel and abusive thing to say. And talk about projection!!

      I’m glad you’re away from this guy, that you’re enjoying your new life, and that your son always knew the truth. These kids are more perceptive than we think.

      Along these lines, I got the following:
      *”Your mother hates plants” (which he liked to say after I weeded and trimmed some bushes)
      and
      *”Your mother likes to waste money” (which he said after I cleaned out the fridge and threw out old food).

      Here’s the messed up part: Eventually, I started to do these activities in private so that I wouldn’t have to endure his criticisms. I decided that the most prudent course of action was to sneak my illicit weeding and fridge cleaning activities, to drive them underground. 🙄

  • This is timely because I have been doing research on the impact of infidelity on children. My STBX acts like his affair happened in a bubble and no one should be upset or feel any negative effect. In fact, he acts like we should be proud of him for scoring an affair partner closer in age to our 17 year old son than to me.

    From what I am seeing online, the cheating can be even harder on the kids than on us chumps. So much so that after learning about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child, both of his sons legally changed their last name to Shriver. (Which is funny because my son had already planned to change his last name the day he turns 18 before we read about them!)

    We at least picked our loser cheaters, the kids didn’t ask for any of this. My STBX is currently being financially abusive, yet is stupid enough to wonder why the kids hate him.

    • The Schwarzenegger kids may have had that ‘change my name’ reaction initially – but if you look at their social media accounts, they all use their dad’s name. They profess their love for him loudly and are no longer ashamed of his name. Same with the Trump kids. They were initially furious with their dad after Marla Maples, but a few years later and they’re all supporting daddy, the one with the power. And this happens with a lot of kids. Are they power and money hungry? Are they trying to gain the love of, and are they victims of, their narcissistic parent? Are they walking away from their morals, again, for power and money? At least, could they refrain from social media in acknowledgement of their injured parent?

      The analogy that hits home for me is prostitutes. It used to be that the prostitutes were arrested – they were the criminals. Our society now knows better so we are doing better. I hope and pray that will be the case for a turnaround in how we view cheaters and their victims.

    • “My STBX acts like his affair happened in a bubble and no one should be upset or feel any negative effect. In fact, he acts like we should be proud of him for scoring an affair partner closer in age to our 17 year old son than to me”

      My God! So effed up! Mine is the same way! He wanted to tell our 30-year-old son how he fell in love with this much-younger woman. “Someday I’d like to have a beer with you and tell you the story of how we fell in love.” WTF! Instead my son went NC. My ex was so clueless/delusional!

      Oh, and he also said, “This is just between your mom and me.”

      • “Someday I’d like to have a beer with you and tell you the story of how we fell in love.” – good grief – just when you think you heard it all. Theses old geezers score a much younger woman and loose their minds and start acting like love struck teenagers. Bad enough when they try to lay these stories of true love on us chumps but on a child, that just leaves me speechless.

      • These guys are crazy. If they werent crazy before they went crazy.

        I think I mentioned before, my ex when he asked for the divorce because they were in love and wanted to get married, then started to tell me about their first time in the back of the squad car.

        I stopped him and said, I am your wife not your mother. I wish I had said, “I am your wife you sadistic bastard”. It is what I was thinking.

        I don’t think he ever considered that he committed adultery, he was acting like a hormone crazed teenager, and he had evidently made me into a parent. No others commit adultery, he was following his pecker to twe luv.

  • Oh my gosh, it is such a painful subject, isn’t it, how much/when/how to tell the kids? I’m blessed, my 4 older kids were all adults and my youngest 14 when we split. All the kids have all twigged to the deficiencies of character in their dad, my exh. The vanity, the selfishness, the shallowness, the meanness … they have experienced enough of that to work out he is not a good bet if you actually want or need anything from him. I stepped right away from brokering their relationships with him (where I had been spackling for years). My only advice has been to look at what he does not what he says. If you want a relationship with him, take him as he is, not as you want him to be, and guard yourself – be aware of who he is. My youngest, who is very wide awake to his dad’s ways and has decided to have no contact for the present, said recently “he didn’t teach us anything.” Oh, my son, yes he did. He taught you who not to be. I haven’t told them of the physical/sexual abuse that happened out of their sight. That is what my psychologist is for.

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