Stay in Touch

Check out CL's Book

‘I Can’t Talk to My Kids About Their Father’

Dear Chump Lady,

I am having a problem. I was chumped 5 years ago this month. I am in a good place now, remarried, etc. But my issue is — I have two teenagers and I cannot talk to them about their father.

They know what happened and all that, but I cannot talk to them about anything to do with their father, we are zero contact, I mean zero. The issue is, they sometimes want to talk about their childhood, before I was chumped (I am sure he was cheating the whole time but whatever) and I cannot do it. I don’t want to remember anything about being with him. Just nothing, It’s too painful. So am I denying them the reality of their past because I just cannot discuss it? Am I being too petty? I feel like I am. I feel like I am denying them their good memories because they are all now tainted for me.

How do I get past this and, I guess blank him out of the picture? I feel bad that they can’t talk about their dad and their growing up, he left when they were almost 11 and 12. I just have no good memories now. Every kid should be able to remember their younger days with happiness and reminisce. I am just being a bitch? Will this let up or what? Please help.

Melissa

Dear Melissa,

If it’s too painful for you, I imagine it’s pretty painful for them, what with being abandoned at 11 and 12 years old. When you say you have absolutely zero contact with him, I assume that means they do too? It doesn’t sound like you’re coordinating schedules and doing drop offs. So, no dad for them, only memories? Maybe he’s around, but he isn’t doing the day-to-day parenting stuff?

You have the consolation of a new marriage, of being loved and validated. They don’t have that. They’ve got this new guy in their lives, and maybe they like him well enough, but he’s not Their Dad.

One extremely difficult part of breeding with a fuckwit is that while your allegiance changes — you stopped loving him — your children’s does not. This causes a lot of heartache. Let’s list a few ways in which it sucks.

1.) You wish your kids understood the injustice. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t — but it’s not THEIR injustice. Their injustice is very different than your injustice. Your injustice is that you were chumped and abandoned. Their injustice is that they lost their intact family. They lost the parenting “team” raising them. (Even if that teamwork thing was illusory, it was theirs.) It’s hard for them to feel your pain — especially as teenagers — when they’re carrying around bucketloads of their own pain.

I know you also lost your intact family and a parenting partner, but you’re the adult. From their perspective you moved on. They’re the kids. They only get one mom and one dad, and they’re still too young to create their own families or realize that choosing your own tribe is often far more gratifying than shared DNA.

2.) You hate that the fuckwit hurts them, and yet they still love the fuckwit. Dad doesn’t show for the sports banquet? Mom fails to pay support? Any time someone hurts our children, the primal response is to want to rip their throats out. And yet that threat, that person we want to warn them about, is someone they love. We have to sit on the sidelines and eat the shit sandwich of that warm regard they have for fuckwits. STOP! THEY ARE ONLY GOING TO HURT YOU!

Nope, can’t go there. They have to figure it out for themselves.

3.) It feels disloyal. “If you loved me, you’d hate him.” That’s how it feels. How DARE you love this piece of shit AFTER ALL I’VE DONE FOR YOU. And yet you cannot burden your children with this divisiveness. You can’t make it All About You. Just get back to the job of sane parenting — pack the lunches, sign the forms, show up, listen, buy the dental work.

I know how hard this is. You guys are heroes.

4.) They want something from you that you cannot give them — a good opinion of their other parent. Couldn’t they want something simple like a pony? You’re entitled to your opinion. You know the truth of what happened. The disconnect of what they want –and what you can give — is still sad. But do NOT wear the blame — it’s sad because a fuckwit cheated and abandoned his family. You’re not a failure because you can’t think kind thoughts about him — he’s the failure.

So what can you do?

This is what I’ve done — make it about your kid. Do they really want to hear about Dad, or do they want to hear about how cute their Thomas the Tank Engine mania was, or that time they were licked by a cow, or how many times you had to read Zoom City before bed?

It’s okay not to have good memories of their dad, and write him out of your story, but please do indulge them in good memories of them.

Another thing I’ve managed is to have good memories of a departed grandmother. She really was wonderful, and loved my son, and we talk about her. Can you seize on anyone related to the fuckwit who you can speak well of? I think it helps kids to have a general sense of family on all sides that loves them.

Finally, just be kind to yourself. You’re not petty, you’re mighty. You’re raising two teenagers (kudos! salutes! confetti!) and you’ve rebuilt a new life. You’re modeling resiliency to your kids and that’s the best gift you could give them.

This one ran previously.

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.
  • I can’t really relate to this, because thank God I didn’t have children with the fuckwit.

    But everything CL says is *spot on*.

    To pretend good memories for your kids about the fuckwit would be a lie, and not good for them in the long run, but you can, as CL says, *make it about them*. Good/funny memories of *you* and them, and any other family you have. 💕

    • chumpnomore6,

      Yes, that’s a good thing, not having children w/the fuckwits. It’s the shit sandwich that’s continually shoved down your throat post D-day. And I love my kids. Wouldn’t trade them for anything.

      That doesn’t mean I can’t grasp how much easier my life would be if I hadn’t had kids w/the FW XW. She continues to play the “good mommy” and the sane parent role (except when she occasionally lets it slip. But to a large degree, she’s very good at portraying those roles). And I think our kids are buying it. Right now, she and her original AP are still together, and provide a much more acceptable version of family to my kids, than their all alone dad, me, does. Granted, the kids aren’t crazy about the AP, but their mom is back to acting normal I’m guessing (normal to them), because she’s acting like everything’s hunky-dory in their fucked-up version of a family.

      Meanwhile me, the dad, is stuck in the old house they never really liked to begin w/, and liked even less w/the bad memories, this being the site most associated w/the awful dissolution of their parents’ 24+ years of marriage (we had to downsize into it both because I was no longer making the big bucks after leaving my high paying, high stress job, due both to my burnout and to keep me sane, and because their mother, my FW XW, insisted on us staying in our village to maintain her political career and status of being a Village Trustee, which greatly reduced what we could pick from and afford. Also, to keep our two younger children in their school system, and minimize upheaval for them).

      This was a marriage which had seemed, I’m sure, pretty happy and stable to them until their dad left his high paying job and profession, and went into a deep depression for four years because he couldn’t quickly figure out a way to provide for the family like he had been for over 20 years (but still found work to try and contribute to helping the family survive). A dad who was fighting diabetes as well, but hadn’t fully realized/accepted that.

      So now their dad, me, is alone, and in serious grey rock w/their mother, the FW. I look like the crazy one, I’m sure, to them. They’ve all been seeing social workers/psychologists/psychiatrists, and I wouldn’t be surprised if these professionals have all told my kids that my acting this way (serious grey rock) is not healthy for the family dynamic, as I don’t think most of them believe the RIC is wrong. Why would they? They believe in it/are part of it!

      And I’m not perfect. I’m trying to be the sane, stable parent, but I’ve been on furlough since March 18th, and I need to do a serious cleaning of the house. I took a job from May to June that didn’t pan out, and as an added bonus, by taking that job, I lost the unemployment benefit which was paying me more than my old job or my temporary new job (luckily, I have good retirement savings I could draw on to keep paying the bills, but the kids only seem to notice that their dad is out of work, not that fact that their dad has been exercising every day this summer and is fairly happy mentally because of that).

      And as the only minor I share 50/50 w/the FW XW, my son recently told me his mother is hot on that topic as well, though thankfully he’s gotten to the point where he tells her to stop asking him about it, and to contact me through text/email directly (the only way I’ve communicated w/her since she got the rest of her shit out of what was our and is now my house, shortly after the divorce stipulations were signed in May/June of 2018). She hasn’t really gone that route yet, but I’m ready w/an “as long as I’m paying my bills, feeding and supporting our son and occasionally our daughters, and keeping a roof over our son’s head, it’s none of your fucking business. I’ll let you know when I have a new work number. Until then, fuck off!” Or something similarly sweet (alliteration!).😂

      I will say that I have gotten good at answering my kids comments on their mother’s current antics pretty well w/the requisite “uh huh, yup, really?, and okay.” Those simple replies let me tell the kids I hear them, but that I’m not going to react to their tales about their mother’s current life (like my son letting it drop that the FW XW had a high blood pressure problem last winter, and looking to see what my reaction to this news was. Which was a simple, “Uh huh.”). And mentally and emotionally, I’ve gotten pretty good at talking about the past w/my children and can talk about their mother and her family in that sense (although it’s mostly my son, as he’s the only one I see much of right now out of the kids, even though my daughters live close by).

      But our two daughters have rarely talked to or seen me these last few months. That may stem from the corona virus lockdown and their desire to be socially distant because of it (although by all accounts they talk to and see a lot of their mother, in-person), from my willingness to agree to disagree w/them on their current views regarding how I should interact w/their mother (i.e., grey rock), as well as what to do about racial inequality, but it still hurts (I’m more of a moderate liberal view, whereas my daughters, both in their early to mid twenties, are a bit more on the radical end, which is also probably where their mother is). Meanwhile, they’re constantly over at their mother’s and AP’s place (which is a much newer and shinier condo that the FW XW’s rich, older AP probably pays for, as opposed to the old, in need of repair and renovation 1932 house that their dad lives in around the corner from their mother, which has bad memories for them, but that I paid/pay for by myself).

      I keep coming back to all I can control is myself. I’m going to work on cleaning up the house, and I’ve been looking for work since I left the bad fitting job in June, but have rejected a few jobs because they wouldn’t meet my base pay requirement. I’m simply looking for something to match the pay at my old job, which was under 50K, even after working the norm of slightly over 50 hours each week (retail). I’m realizing I may have to figure out how to live on less. Or the jobs I was investigating had unacceptable hours, as I’m trying to get a Mon-Fri type job w/a day shift and weekends off, ideally for no more than 40 hours a week, so I have time to be there for my son, and maybe even my daughters if they need me. I have an in-person interview on Wednesday that may be promising, so we’ll see.

      Anyway, I hope everybody else in CN is doing well, especially those of you that do have children w/the fuckwits. Just keep doing the best you can to be the sane, stable parent. What else can we do? And if the kids don’t see the fuckwits as we see them, well, who can blame them? As CL said, they have a totally different relationship w/them. It may not feel great, but I’m learning to deal w/it. I want my kids to be happy. Even if I’m not their go-to parent, and the fuckwit is. I can’t force them to see the act she puts on to fool everybody and her sly manipulations to get things the way she wants. It’s up to them.

      Be well, CN. May you and your families be safe, happy, and healthy. And may we all get the peace of meh and Tuesday sooner rather than later.

      • It sounds like you’re doing the absolute best that you can do, which is good. You’re modeling good behavior and a good work ethic. You’re doing the right thing with your non-committal comments about the ex when they bring her up. (I’m still working on that…) And you’re happy. That’s what your kids need to see most of all. You may live in a very old house, but you’re happy and you’re showing them that the glamour of life is not what’s important in life. What’s important is peace and treating people right. Your daughters are young (and women) and so it’s natural that they gravitate to their mom especially if she’s sparkly. They’re young and they want to be sparkly too. But it’s you, their dad, that gives them the self esteem that they need to know that they’re loved just the way they are. And by letting them know that they have value, they’re less likely to have jerks in their lives. Continue on your path. You picked an apt name… thelongrun. You’re showing them by example what’s important in life. They may have to wait till they marry and have a child or two before they realize just how important you are and have been, but they just didn’t see it in their youth. Stay the course, and blessings to you!

          • I forgot to mention I’m sorry it took so long to reply. I’ve been busy preparing for an in-person interview, general job hunting, and an 85 year old mother who’s having spinal injury problems.

      • May I suggest a reframe? You write, “I was no longer making the big bucks after leaving my high paying, high stress job, due both to my burnout and to keep me sane…” This runs like a sort of theme through your post, as if your earning capacity (‘big bucks’ in the old job) said something then or says now about your worth.

        Well, of course it doesn’t. I’m sitting here admiring you for taking a new job in the middle of a pandemic, thereby walking away from those UC benefits. Lots of people just wanted to ride that out until the old job came back. And this is to say I hope the new job you’re interviewing you works out. (And by that I mean if it’s a good fit for you, I hope the employer sees that, hires you and happiness ensues.)

        What I mean by “reframe” is that your post sort of looks at you as you THINK your XW and your kids see you. First, in order to betray you, your XW had to devalue you first, even during your marriage, and as chumps we all know that those devaluations are about where the cheater is on the “disposable relationship cycle” favored by narcissists and other disordered types. You leave your “big bucks” job? You moved where she wanted to live so the kids would be where she wanted to be? She was already out of the door looking for another Big Bucks Guy. That might make you feel “less-than,” but that’s only through the frame of income = worth. No doubt your subsequent depression was hard on the whole family. But looking at the COVID situation should show that there are millions of families right now struggling with these same issues: unemployment or underemployment; stress, depression, anxiety; economic uncertainly, including inability to pay rent or fear of losing the family home; loss of identity because of layoff or job loss, etc. And even in good times, parents can get sick (diabetes or worse), suffer depression or anxiety, or end marriages. Nobody gets out of childhood without a bird’s eye view of life struggles. What matters is what the parents make of those struggles and whether kids have grown out of “my problems are all my parents’ fault.”

        Second, let’s consider what a loving spouse might think: leaving a high-stress, burnout job is a much better choice for the family. You could have more time at home, you could rethink your career, you can model for the kids values that don’t center life on money. And even years down the road, YOUR ATTITUDE toward your past struggles and family experiences can still provide a powerful model for your kids. Whether they are mature and healthy enough to take advantage of what you have to teach is another matter. It may take them a long time to learn that their view of their parents’ marriage is skewed because they were children during most of it.

        Do that serious cleaning of the house. My astrologer friend always reminds me that cleaning the house is a metaphor for cleaning up various areas of our lives. I’m a great fan of Unfuck Your Habiti (https://www.unfuckyourhabitat.com/). It gives a great perspective on how to make your home reflect (and help you shape) the life you want to make. Last year I re-organized all the closets and sent a lot of stuff to various charities. They are still in good shape now. And I suggest three easy and not expensive ways to renew an old house: fresh paint, re-arranging furniture, and new throw pillows. I just painted my kitchen. Bathroom is up next. And I’m “unfucking” the basement an hour at a time. If you are off work, this is the time to do this kind of work. I guarantee you that it will lift your spirits. My house is small with lots of windows so I’m all about white walls and light. But in a large house, color is fun. Get your place in shape for the holidays, for you and your son.

        I’m going to suggest only two responses to any personal inquiry launched by the XW: 1) “I’m fine.” and 2) . Any snark or sharp retort, however satisfying, only feeds her narrative. So don’t bite on that bait. Be the guy at Meh who doesn’t care what she thinks.

              • LovedaJackass,

                Thank you for the very kind words as well. Sorry for the lateness of this reply (see my late reply to Amazon Chump above for my explanation, please). As for reframing? Yes, I wrote what I think the ex and kids think of me. I can’t know for sure. I can say I’m pretty sure you’re right about the devaluing by the ex. Definitely felt like I was being left emotionally and psychologically at times, especially the last two years (i.e., I knew something wasn’t right, and very much felt alone as time went on).

                She was pulling away from me and my extended family this point, which she had started to disparage, as (funny as it sounds), they’re not perfect! But don’t tell her that her family isn’t either. And the kids think her family can do no wrong. Ugh.

                Out of seven children in her familiy, only one of them has not had an affair, or left their former spouse by a unilateral decision on their part, and ruined either their marriage/family or put another’s in serious jeopardy (and the only one who didn’t was the favorite aunt, the sister who never had kids! So, less stress to deal w/in the marriage). It took having the FW XW leaving me to see that. Because to a large extent, they’re all somewhat sparkly (3 of these, I can’t think of a nicer way to describe them right now, except as fellow fuckwits, were her sisters, and 2 were her brothers).

                All I can say is that I know that had I continued to make the big money, this whole thing might not have occurred for a few more years. But you’re right; she was devaluing me, according to her, for 10-15 years before she left me, because of all my flaws (I’m paraphrasing what she said to the marriage counselor post D-day). Basically, while I did have many flaws, and still do, and was not the stereotypical good husband or anywhere close to a perfect one (as in not handy, didn’t like working around the house), I did earn on average from 2-4 times as much as she did over the years. So that was my main attribute to her, I think. At least I did the job as a husband appliance well, salary-wise. Until I didn’t. Then all bets were off.

                I’m working on getting up the energy to clean the house. It’s not something I enjoy doing (less than most people, I think). But I will. As for fixing up the house? That’s going to take a lot more effort. Right now, I’m focusing on getting the job that will give me more free time for my kids, especially my son, instead.

                I think I’ve gotten pretty good at the business-like reply to the FW XW. It’s only occasionally I want to tear her a new asshole verbally. Then I vent here, and usually go back to her w/a business-like reply. Sigh.

                I hope you’re doing well, LovedaJackass. Take care of yourself and your family. Be well, be safe, work towards meh, and thanks again.

      • Longrun: your XW sounds very selfish, tricky and vain. You sound generous, honest and realistic. Don’t give up. Always keep room for your children.

      • The Longrun,..

        I can’t even begin to imagine the horror of what you went through, what you are going through, and what you will have to go through. I am so sorry hun. Xx

      • Dear long run

        Sounds like you undervalue yourself and what you are accomplishing dealing with the disordered X.

        This is the thought that occurred to me when I was reading what you wrote:
        You aren’t getting your base pay for your job because you are under valuing yourself – maybe you need to ask for a higher base pay. Why don’t you try that? It couldn’t hurt and it may pleasantly surprise you.

        Don’t worry about 20 somethings girls they still want and need their dad.

        Keep going.

      • LR-
        First, high five on moving forward. Second, high five from this dad to you.

        From my perspective:
        I told myself; “if I love my kids the way I think I do, I’d want them to have a good relationship with their mom” I have to lean on that on occasion, but it’s a value I work towards.

        The other week, I saw my XW at a kid event. I even invited her to stand near me for a good sight line to watch. I surprised myself.
        Work toward getting over her. It takes a long time, but that is the goal: no/little baggage. Why? Cause why carry her any further than you have to.

    • I tell my son funny stories about when he was a baby and often say ‘Mummy and Daddy’. Sure, Daddy only participated 1 in a 100 times (he was off with the affair partner mostly), but the stories are about my son and how cute he was and he laps them up. Honestly, the look of delight in his face is reward enough.
      I also think that if I can give my son gifts like this, I don’t have to be so accommodating when dealing with schmoopie/ my ex in a co-parenting role (fml). Plus, denying myself and my son memories of his childhood feels like another injustice, this twat has already hurt you and your kids enough. You sound so resilient, I’m sure you can find a way to help you and your children enjoy past memories without him taking that from you too. 🙂
      Sending lots of hugs

  • “So am I denying them the reality of their past because I just cannot discuss it?” Unfortunately, yes.

    Everything CL says here is spot on. And I’ll go one shit-sandwich-eating step further . . . suppose your children did have knowledge of every dishonest and abusive act that disrupted their intact family, and despised your ex as much as you do. Do you think they’re be better off for having that attitude toward their father? Deep down, you know that while it might satisfy the part of you that craves karma and justice, it would only set them up for (possibly worse) emotional and psychological issues down the road.

    Do not deny them that to which they are entitled. This doesn’t mean you need to suddenly be the fuckwit’s PR resource or cheerleader — you have every right to disassociate yourself from the ex in whatever ways you need to keep you healthy.

    Practice ‘meh,’ deftly deflect conversations toward more positive topics and memories, be the sane parent. It may never be easy, but it does get easier.

    • I would say there are some caviats to this.

      First would be the ages of the children. Next would be how healed or fresh the wounds are in the Chump.

      If grown or nearly grown, it is not the Chumps responsibility to partake in reminiscing if it is too painful. Adult children can reminisce positive memories via their other siblings, other family relatives or with their own little families to their children.

      If grown children know it’s a sore wounded spot for Mom then they should be considerate and utilize these other ways until she is ready or healed enough to reminisce.

      Small children though aren’t mature enough to know the gravity and mom then does need to provide and participate in reminiscing with them.

  • Its crap but he’s their dad. Kids know deep down, who cares. Nobody even adults want to think their own parent doesn’t care about them.
    My parents were a walking disaster, that doesn’t give me the right to be a addict, cheater, etc. People who don’t care, probably are missing something mentally.
    My ex asked me to feel sorry for ow, no.
    She asked me to feel sorry for her. No.
    If that isn’t entitlement I don’t know what is.

  • I been a member of CN since 2017 and I am pretty sure I have read every post, but for some reason I missed this previous column. AND I needed so much to read it!

    A ton has just been lifted from my soul. CL’s advice is what I have been following. Since my sons are grown men I have to tie my tongue about their father’s crap, but they are figuring it out. One thing that they do not copy is their father’s spending habits, a relief for me and them!

      • you bet! and the $ he does spend on them, I sadly figured out, is a mechanism that he uses to look rich and powerful (hah!) and get fawned upon by salespeople, specially women…. My boys have figured that one out…

  • My daughter doesn’t ask about her dad. She hates him (read: HURT) and doesn’t talk to him. This was not instant. He left her in the dust for the illegitimate lower companion when she was ten. I’ve never said anything negative about him to her
    (A habit he has that I’ve since learned about). She’s been in therapy since she was in utero but has her own therapist now.

    And when I speak about past events, I include the part about him if he was part of it. And boy does it hurt.

    But it hurts less every time it happens.

    My experience is that facing it and heading straight into it truthfully is the path out of it. It’s painful and traumatic and maybe like mold, it grows when kept in darkness and dies when brought into the light?

    Who knows how real he was being in those memories. But I know I was being real and that’s what I focus on when I think about my tainted memories.

    • Yes my daughter was also discarded by ex for his new “companion.” What is worse is said companion blasts all over ex’s Facebook, so my kids know when be lies/makes excuses not to see them (because he is with her). So I blocked her from their Facebook. They get to see their dad’s posts, but not hers.

      • I think this the FB block is wise for a lot of reasons. I’m not a fan of kids being able to creep on adult FB pages anyway because the creeping can go both ways. And of course, the Companion apparently lacks the good sense to be discreet. Kids don’t need to see the details of their CheaterDad’s romantic life.

    • My kids also hate their father. I told them everything because they have the right to know why they had been discarded. That it was about him and his selfishness, not them. Their EMDR therapist agreed because at 15 and 17, they are at an age to process the dysfunction and not take it into future relationships. The narcissist STBX was so abusive that my son has no memories of his childhood. Two events when he was about 6 years old, that were in NO WAY, our son’s fault, and the STBX blame shifted them onto our innocent son. It took me years to figure out that our son had no memories of his childhood and even more years of work to start to recover them.

      It makes me so mad when people say that my kids have to have a relationship with him. Would they say the same thing if he had physically beat them? He did threaten to beat our son on more than one occasion. So glad that we aren’t walking on those eggshells any more.

      • Let me add that they hated him BEFORE learning about the affair. He was negligent and absentee. He doesn’t know the first thing about either of them. He didn’t even remember our daughter’s middle name! So, them knowing everything was more about variation of their feelings. Trust that they suck.

        • The Cheater Who Didn’t Know His Daughter’s Middle Name: if we ever do Cheater Hall of Fame Awards, this guy deserves one for “Most Detached from His Family.”

          • Thanks for the laugh, LAJ! I have been in suspense all day waiting to hear if the Stupid One has been served. It’s nerve racking. If we did do a Cheater Hall of Fame, boy do I have some winners!

            • It gets even worse, HE came up with our daughter’s middle name. It was HIS idea.

              He literally got into an argument with her that her middle name is Anna. She kept telling him, “No, my first name is ____anna, and my middle name is Tay. He insisted that she was wrong, even though she was 14 years old at the time.

              Thus, he is the Stupid One.

          • My sisters ex couldn’t remember his daughter’s birthday and how old she would be when the judge asked him they are unreal

            • My ex has wished our daughter “Happy Birthday” on the wrong day, two years in a row. The correct date is on the calendar on his iPhone. She is in her twenties. We have only one child. Sigh.

    • I love this, I think it also demonstrates to your child that YOU were a committed, loving partner- even if he wasn’t

  • This is the hardest part. After all the pain of the cheating and the divorce, the impact it had on our kids. Because prior to his “midlife crisis” things were good. He can say now that he was just acting, that being Dad/husband was never really him, but damn did he do a good job pretending for a while.

    I know think of it that the man I knew, married and had kids with died. It allows me to think of the past with a tinge of grief, as I would over a deceased love one.

    I even have a few favorite family photos displayed, and I will sometimes catch a glimpse and think, man I miss THAT guy. That guy is not the same one moved a 1000 miles away with his 20 something girlfriend.

    He may have been pretending, but I wasn’t. So I have a right to those memories as do my kids.

    • Bonnie: I love this line: “He may have been pretending, but I wasn’t. So I have a right to those memories as do my kids.”

      • I agree. I want my kids to see and remember how much I loved their father and how happy we we were as a family. They also know he cheated and destroyed it all. I want them to have a good relationship with their father, as much as he’s willing and able. I find it hard to believe he is a good father, but I hope I’m wrong. I’m here for them and strong, whenever they need me.

        Don’t get me wrong, I hate his fucking guts and think they’re probably better off without him. I continue to pay his $1 million life insurance premium just in case karma hits him with a real bus. I feel like it’s no different than playing the lottery.

    • Bonnie,

      My youngest daughter (now 16 but aged 11 when the sh*t hit the fan and the kids discovered that Mum had a boyfriend) has a similar strategy.

      She talks about having two mothers: the one that she remembers fondly and misses very much, but that she knows is for all intents and purposes dead and; the one that she has now, who she doesn’t like at all.

      Looking back, it really was – at least for the youngest – a grieving process, even if the person that she was mourning was being remembered through rose tinted spectacles. I have done all that I can to help all 3 of our children deal with what has been a very difficult transition. Thank f*ck they live with me and not my Ex-Wife.

    • Bonnie,

      You just reminded me. My FW XW is fond of saying that I was the one who had the mid-life crisis. I, on the other hand, think it’s closer to say she did (although, it’s really more that she was always this way, and that my high income and love for her allowed her and I to spackle over her problems). I think I had a mid-work crisis. My profession radically changed over a 5 year period, and in addition, I simply came to realize there was a reason I didn’t want to work full-time in the position I was stuck in at 49 yo, as opposed to the positions I went after immediately after college, but which were no longer viable for me in the area we decided to raise our kids in.

      The one job that was available in what I wanted to do quickly went away after I took that job w/the company offering it many years ago in the mid 90’s, in the midst of many company mergers. They moved us from several states away to where we now both live. Then literally on my first day of work at the new company, I got told by a senior coworker not to get too comfortable, as the company might be sending us all back to near where I/we originally came from. Sure enough, that’s what ended up happening, as they had merged w/another company and decided to move their R&D facilities down from the new area we’d moved to in New England to the NYC area, close to where I/we had grown up and just moved from.

      So, I took several different jobs w/in my profession over a roughly twenty year period in our new area to support the family, and I supported the family very well, but at the expense of my health and mental well-being. At the end of that period, I just couldn’t take it anymore (and things were going from bad to worse at work, no less, at that point). I was burnt out. I was toast.

      But, I never cheated on the FW XW, because I loved and respected her too much to do that (no, I don’t need a bitch cookie. I’m only saying I tried to do right by her and our marriage). I could have shown respect better in other ways in our marriage, but I know I’m not close to perfect. She, on the other hand, showed that as soon as I stopped being Mr. Money Bags, and had a depression and health problem directly resulting from my years of trying to support her and the kids w/a good lifestyle at my personal expense, I was persona non grata. I wasn’t fulfilling her need for the lifestyle she wanted, and I had mental and physical health issues to boot.

      So, time to dump me, instead of working w/me to get through this rough spot in my life/our life and marriage, like a caring and supportive spouse/partner might. And look! There’s her new boss, who’s sort of a political celebrity in our state (at least, to people like the grasping, newbie, local politician w/greater aspirations that the FW XW is), and he’s rich, and 15 years older (a new Daddy, who will mentor and push her to greater political heights! Basically her words at D-day! Except for the daddy part. That’s my two bits). So what if he’s married 40 years, w/two grown daughters of his own? So what, if by all accounts, he’d been a cheating spouse for many years (can you say at least 20)? He’s a catch! So what if you claim you’re a modern feminist, but are willing to play the OW to his long-suffering wife, using her/their house as a meeting place to fuck her husband, when you’re telling your husband that you’re doing extra work (for him, no less) on the weekends? All that matters is YOU GET WHAT YOU WANT, WHEN YOU WANT IT! It’s the new credo of our times! Long live Esther Perel! [Gagging noises]

      Bonnie, I’m so sorry you too had a fake spouse, who pretended to be loving, when really he wasn’t. I get it about your feeling that the spouse you knew had died, and you mourn him. I was at that point too, awhile ago. Now, I’ve embraced the idea that my FW XW was always the same person. I was simply blinded by love, and couldn’t see it. Which is my problem going forward. I can’t be that blind again. I’m no longer the naive, trusting 24 yo I was when I got married. I’m trying to see things clearer, and listen to my instincts/gut better. I don’t know that I will ever trust another woman like that again. And I hate the FW XW for that. But, I think I will be better off down the road, should I venture into relationships w/women again (and people in general, too).

      I hope you’re finding your way forward, too. And you’re right. Your ex was pretending, but you weren’t. I wasn’t either. I never thought of discarding the FW XW the way she actually did to me. We’re not those kind of people. We’re not perfect, but we’re not fucked up like they are, either. That’s their own personal hell. They don’t know how to love someone that deeply, like we do. Too bad for them, but we’re moving on. Fuck ‘em. They never really deserved us anyway.

      Bonnie, I’m wishing you and your family peace, happiness and health in this new, post-fuckwit life. You certainly deserve it. Your family deserves it, too. We all do, here at CN. Lots of hugs and love going out to you. You know you’re mighty.

      • You don’t have to trust anyone, or trust anyone like your trusted your XW. You have to trust yourself–your newly-honed judgment about people, your resilience, your commitment to relationships with reciprocity (and so on).

        Learn to trust you. And then you can decide if you like living alone (my favorite arrangement by far) or you want to try living with someone who isn’t a narcissistic, exploitive, lying cheater. That would be something new, right? Having 2 people working as a team? New idea….

    • This is perfect. I have good memories of times with my child and my ex. Those are MY memories during a time where I was being an honest and faithful wife, as I always was, in a life that I helped build. I refuse to give those up. I earned them.

  • This really is a hard thing to deal with. Two of my adult children will not speak to me. One thinks that by asking to split assets with her father. That I financially bankrupted him. That is not true. He’s doing just fine. The other one sadly drank some of the Kool- Aid my X was serving. Going on vacations/ dinners with Howorker before we even divorced. It’s been 4 years. I can’t change this and hope some day they’ll remember they have a mother that Loves and misses them very much.Cheating hurts a lot of people.

    • When I was divorcing my XW, my XW was telling them how horrible I was to be taking their mother to the cleaners. It was destroying them. So I back off. In some ways I am glad. No money can be put on my relationship with my kids. I went strictly 50/50 with assets and they haven’t complained about that since.

      • I’m in the same situation anuthatch. My kids were 11 & 9 when we divorced because of Howorker. The are now 21 & 19 and they barely speak to me or see me, not from My lack of trying. They only got his side of the story, which was a complete fabrication.

        Leaving for the howorker is bad enough but they basically took my kids also. That is the ultimate shit sandwich.

        • On the hopeful side, they are still young. When I was young, I blamed my father for my mother’s unhappiness and every problem that my mother ranted about. I did this in spite of my mother’s obvious emotional and psychological problems. As I got older, it was easier to see that I had an incomplete view of my parents’ marriage and that my mother’s disorders were at the root of the problem (but not the whole thing). So I’d say your kids may still come around as they mature.

    • Oh anuthatch, I can relate. My ex told the kids I took all the cash and they couldn’t buy groceries. The fact that their father had just paid 42K for a new sports car, that was sitting in their garage, did not enter into the equation for them. He convinced them that his cheating for 3 years was a symptom of depression, and I was not understanding of that. He told them that I was going to bleed him dry. The reality was he got our house that was mortage free. And his shiny new sports car. But I am portrayed still as the greedy one who took advantage.

      A woman lawyer told me that if your ex is willing to damage his own children to spite you he will succeed.

    • Anuthach, I think about you a lot. I had a breach with my mom when I was 16. Totally different situation but I longed to have her reach out, tell me how much she missed me, how much she wanted to spend time with me, offer to help me. She’s a narc and was mad and involved with her new men.

      Reach out.. a lot. Apologize for anything that you might have said or done — then keep reaching out over and over in an appropriate and loving way.

      After Dday my middle daughter was particularly devastated. She ended up in the psych ward and then in a rehab for months. She came home and within days was back to the dangerous behavior. I took her car and imposed consequences. She ran to dad’s and AP’s, despite her hatred of AP, and then used my pain to further punish me for years: told me how much happier dad was because I’m a c*nt…. AP is young and fun and I’m an old shrew, etc. I kept my mouth shut despite how hurt I was. I kept inviting her over and over.

      It took 5 years but we have a wonderful loving relationship now. She calls and texts me daily and chooses to spend her time off work on vacation with me.

      Sending you all the strength. It’s so painful— excruciating….

      • Oh you give me hope!!!! I send cards, presents, and emails to my youngest son hoping that he reads them. I want him to know that though he has written me off, that I haven’t written him off. It has been nearly three years since I’ve seen him. He even lived 15 minutes away from me and before he deployed to Afghanistan, he still didn’t come and see me. I’ll continue to reach out to him and maybe I’ll have good news to post someday too. I know you were dying inside. I’m so happy for you that you have a wonderful relationship with your daughter now.

        • This. Bless you and your efforts. Sometimes we just have to keep loving…and loving…and loving…and trust that, as Alice Hoffman wrote, “love is never wasted.”

    • Anuthatch: the wackjob pulled the same shit on our adult kids. I informed my son( it was a shock to me that he was the one that “called” me on it, since the sperm donor rejected my son as soon as he was born) that he was waaaay off base and I would be happy to tell him everything when he was ready but Christmas Day was not the day for it. We are very close and he has never taken me up on the offer or questioned it again.

  • My kids are on their 30s and 40s. My ex couldn’t get to me bc I went no contact, so he tried using the kids, flying monkeys. We now have rules We don’t talk about their father, if they persist, then all conversation stops. The younger one has caught on, but the older one has not. He still wants me to accept that the ho “is a real nice person.”

  • I think children have the right to there own memories of their dad. I think you have to be careful that they don’t wind up doing the pick me dance. We al know how much that sucks.

    • Yep, and they know more than we think they do. I found that out later.

      But, early on I was careful. He knew what his dad did, as I made his dad call him when he left me for OW. He was fully grown, so a little different. But, I didn’t bad mouth him. I would answer questions honestly, but without the added “sadistic bastard” descriptions.

      He really never needed to ask a lot of questions, he knew his dad, he knew me.

  • I needed to read this today. I’m newly Chumped, not officially divorced yet, and took the required Parenting Class yesterday. I want to try my best, for my kids’ sakes, to present a united front, but dang it’s gonna be hard.

  • If you are still carrying that much pain around, please consider counseling or therapy to work through it. You could do it for your children, but also do it for yourself as well as your relationship moving forward. You deserve to live life while not caring around that much pain.

  • It has been 7 years since the separation. I will bring up old memories with the kids on occassion, such as “remember when we went to the lake lodge and you caught that big fish’? Or I remember how happy you were with your first bike. Or we all enjoyed that trampoline when we first got it. Having to include the f-wit as part of a ‘we’ softens the blow to me. But I don’t bring up memories of him directly, only as the we.

    I think we do a kindness to our kids when we sometimes make it about them, and not our past hurts. They are entitled to childhood memories. And I think he helps them re-work things so they are not as cataclysmic.

  • If someone had told me in my late teens or early twenties a few basics about personality disorder, it may have made all the difference for me. If someone had told me that my mother was BPD and just a few good truths about what that really means, regardless how it may appear, it would have saved me so much frustration, and perhaps much more. Instead I had redefined good around disorder, and struggled to make sense of the rest. I of course married a BPD/NPD. Even if I hadn’t managed to “fix my picker”, I know I would have applied the knowledge in lessor but beneficial ways. But if someone had given me the basics, including the tendency to spackle around these people’s defects, including our tendency to project good, I really do think I would have applied it to the red flags I saw but explained away when I still could have avoided everything. Each of our circumstances are different. I think in cases where the teen/adult child might misinterpret the essential truth of a disordered parent, the sane parent owes them some truth. What mamma bear would hide from their cub the lesson that a porcupine isn’t just the amiable little creature it appears to be. Otherwise they almost can’t help but apply their incorrect conclusions to others who come into their own lives.

    • Spot on! Thanks so much TKO. This society has normalized cheating and other deviant behavior. This mamma bear wants her kids yo learn how to think critically and discern. Not easy, not guaranteed, but I think well worth it.

    • Me too, TKO, bipolar mother, thought I would naturally pick someone like the opposite sex parent, turns out I’ve married my mother. Have always had in the back of my mind to create “nita’s seminar” to discuss non-religious reasons for chastity, thought I had the basics of it in mind but recently have decided I need to add a section about abuse and “abnormal” psychology/red flags and what social sciences know about living life with these kinds of people. Me too!

    • So true. Children need to know (age appropriately) how defective the dysfunctional parent is and in no way is it their fault and in no way can they change that parent. I understand how the loving parent will make excuses or ignore the dysfunctional parent’s behavior because they really want everything to be normal. Like, maybe the kids won’t notice and think everything is fine. However, pretending everything is AOK is really a form of child abuse. The kids never feel safe, loved or good enough.

    • I teach health education to inner city kids, 100% below poverty level. I am doin a unit in communication and what makes a healthy relationships and include unhealthy traits – all do them traits of a narc that I never nothing about until I was living in hell. So many of these kids said, me ex boyfriend is like that, my mom is like that, I wish I knew about this a year ago. In hoping to give them the skills before they have to deal with People like my ex. Paying it forward.

  • I was thinking about this yesterday and I needed the reminder that my hurt is different than the hurt my two children suffered when my ex walked off. DDay was very public and the kids found out at the same time I did. That was last year in June. The kids were hurt. I was hurt and humiliated. At the time we found out, husband and I were already separated because he was an addict who refused to get clean. He didn’t come around much during that time, and once I filed for divorce, he only came around if he needed something. Never to just spend time with the kids. He died of an overdose in May and we have a whole ball of other junk to mourn. Not only the family unit, but him as a person. I’m trying not to shade the kids opinions or views. Our daughter is 12 now and talks about her dad. Last night she said “Dad really was a garbage human being. I love him, but he was awful.” She’s right, but I can’t jump on the bandwagon of name calling. I can just let her vent. Our son is far less vocal about his dad but I know he misses him sometimes. I have to remember that half their genes are his. I wouldn’t have them had I not married him. He was greatly flawed and hurt me deeply, but he was still their father. We’re all in therapy at this point. It helps, but it is slow healing.

    • Serenity, your story breaks my heart. My XH is also an addict alcoholic. I’m sober 30+ years. When XH relapsed after years of sobriety his narcissist-BPD traits became glaring. AP uses drugs with him and allows him to get wasted in their home daily. I didn’t.

      One of my fears is that he’ll die without getting sober and making amends to us all.

      That’s what happened to my dad, who died at 42 when I was 15.

  • I’ve been divorced 4 years and have son 21 and daughter 23. They have no contact with their dad. He is a charming manipulative man who minimizes everything that happened and emails them every 4 months to tell them what he is up to and how much he loves them. They don’t respond. He believes whatever happened happened in the past and it’s time for everyone to move on. He tells them he hopes they will be the the type of people who believe that people can change. He is a different person now, he says, and hopes they are big enough people to forgive.
    Nice blame shift. They are both in therapy but don’t go that often anymore. They understand NPD and know he has no empathy so can’t really get what the big deal is. Is there a part of me that is happy/relieved that they “know” and they back me 100%? Yes. I’m not proud of it but it’s the truth. The bigger part of me worries about the fallout from the destruction of this primary relationship. My son has become a worrier, particularly about his health. He was getting headaches and was sure it was a brain tumor. My daughter says she will never trust a man. The changes in them are horrific to me and it is so unfair that they bear the brunt of the demise of our intact family. We are here still suffering and trying to move forward and he is remarried and happy as can be. I still can’t wrap my head around it.

    • KathleenK I could have written this,, my sons 21 and 23 have no contact with my EX. They have been mad at me because every once in a while I remind them that I am OK if they talk to him, I just ask that they not bring him around me (he hurt me physically in the end) and that they respect me enough to not let him rehash the past about me and him. I try not to talk too much about him and I expect the same from him after 5 years. I had to realize that they felt I was not validating their feelings by insisting they can talk to him. I thought I was doing the right thing. I realized that when you are going thru the discard from a NPD there is no logic and justice, just trying to do the best you can.

      Mine also is married and living the life and I am left here without the license plate of the truck who hit me and my children. But I KNOW who was driving it.

      • To be fair to my sons, I just want to mention that my EX actually was more abusive to them than me during the marriage. I was unaware at the time but he told them for 15 of the 20 year marriage that he HATED me and was going to divorce me when they were alone. They never had security in their childhood. He also told them he would kill me if they told me.

        I know it sounds crazy and I am working hard to forgive myself for it, but more and more comes out thru the years. I will probably never know everything he said to them because they are very protective but I hurt for them.

  • Boy is this timely. I’m heading in to the teen years with my son (15). He was nine when is Dad left us for the public-facing OW. He was 11 when the OW dumped his Dad for cheating on her (after playing “family” for two years with her kids and our son). And he was 11 1/2 when Dad introduced the current GF (no kids).

    I’m pretty proactive in offering up stories about his childhood since the reality is that Mr. Sparkles was pretty checked out throughout it. But, I have put one or two photos of his Dad on bulletin boards in his room from his childhood. It wasn’t all bad – and as CL suggests, he needs to figure out the abandonment and subsequent mindfucks for himself (as best he can). Maybe that is something for you to think about?

    Where I struggle today (where I’m 99% Meh) is that my son is now dating. And, he knows his Dad’s history, and he is now asking the questions of: why don’t I date… why haven’t I met someone yet… and I worry that the fact that I’m single may on some level reinforce his Dad’s decision to cheat on me and leave me when in fact, I’ve been working really hard on fixing my picker; being the sane parent; working full-time; and, frankly, it is hard to meet good men (I’ve tried online, church, friends, and the well has been dry…. and then a pandemic!)

    But back to you Melissa… I think if you can’t find a way to talk about your X specific to your child’s need, maybe some family counseling could help you both better understand each others needs and how to navigate this in a way that works for you and your child. It’s okay to ask for help… we don’t always have the answers.

  • I fortunately developed the ability early on to be able to compartmentalize my son’s dad and my former friend and the memories and feelings that go with them, from the cheating ex in my emotional world. It makes life much more pleasant. Of course he wasn’t Mr. Nasty to me over the top like so many are so that made it much easier. I still love my happy memories of the three of us, I figure I get to keep them and share them with my son.

  • I divorced my lying, cheating, irresponsible husband when our children were turning 9 and 12. When we sat the children down to tell them, they guessed that we were getting divorced, and only wanted to know where they would live and go to school. I had primary custody, so their lives stayed pretty much the same, because their father had traveled for work most of their lives, anyway.

    This sets up the situation where Mom (continues) the adulting, and Dad gets to be Weekend Disney Fun Dad. No doing homework, no doctor or dental appointments, eating out, and sometimes vacations. He only showed up for school events that were fun, like sporting events or concerts. No PTA for Dad.

    So Mom is a mean drudge, who has rules, and insists on the boys being responsible. They have to do chores. They have to do well in school. They get to have straight teeth, but they have to have braces, which Mom gets to pay for. Mom also gets to balance full time work with scheduled sports practice and orchestra practice. Mom gets to say “No” to social activities with friends that sound shaky to her.

    Meantime, Dad takes them to the video store and lets them get whatever they want, allows friends to sleep over, without checking what they are doing, buys pizza, and sometimes leaves them alone for “awhile” when he has to step out for “business.” Dad also introduces them to a series of girlfriends.

    No one ever told me life was fair. How can I reasonably expect my young children to understand what infidelity does to a marriage? Since Dad has girlfriends after the divorce, what was the problem with him having them before the divorce? In short, I had to accept my role, I was not going to be fun, but I was going to be THERE.

    Eventually, they grow up. They have absorbed values and accepted responsibilities as a part of their norm. They fall in love, and they are betrayed in love. Then, a light starts to dawn in their brains. They FEEL betrayal. Also along the way, Dad lets hem down, and cancels time with them for activities that are more “FUN” for him. Dad is late with child support, which causes Mom to do some financial juggling. Their lives are impacted by Dad’s selfish behavior. Perhaps Mom had reasons to divorce Dad??? They see their friends getting into bad situations because they did not have a responsible parent. They see their friends do not understand how to live on a budget. They see their friends struggling to pay for college, while that mean ole drudge of a mom had managed to find financial aid and academic advice to make their college careers much easier than their friends. Maybe Mom had some great notions about parenting?

    Your children are not able to understand your life, and they are not your friends. They depend on you to do your job, and parent them. If you do that, they will eventually get it. If they don’t, I don’t know of any remedy, you just have to continue to love them even if it is from afar.

    Today my sons are 30 and 33. They stay in touch. They call me with bad news and good news. If they need something, they call me. They have learned not to depend on their Dad. He is still their Dad, but they say, “You know how Dad is.” Yes, I know. Now they know. Now they look back and thank me for decisions I made during their growing years. They appreciate having a parent who was always THERE, and who continues to be THERE.

    It is hard in the moment. Raising children is like the labor you endure to give birth. Not a trip to Disneyland. Do the right thing, and if you are not appreciated for it, at least you know you did your best. That is all that can be expected of you, because it is your best. Disney Dad never gave his best to anyone, because he didn’t have a best to give, and he was and always will be selfish. The girlfriends will come and go, some will act nicer than others, but they will not be YOU. You are the Mom. That is a powerful role to play. You will have pain, and you will bleed, and you will wonder if you can survive this role, but endure. I believe you will also feel love and hopefully you will see the results of all your efforts when your children come of age. You hope they will never have to feel the pain you felt, and they may never fully understand what you went through, but that is not their job. Their job is to grow up and live their own life. That is the best they can do.

    • This lifted me up, thank you Portia. I’m saving it because I know I’ll want to revisit it and remind myself. My kids are little, and right now it feels like a long road.

      I also wanted to add that this resonated today
      4.) They want something from you that you cannot give them — a good opinion of their SON. Couldn’t they want something simple like a pony? You’re entitled to your opinion. You know the truth of what happened. The disconnect of what they want –and what you can give — is still sad. But do NOT wear the blame — it’s sad because a fuckwit cheated and abandoned his family. You’re not a failure because you can’t think kind thoughts about him — he’s the failure.

      I’m dealing with in-laws that also just want to believe the narrative my ex is spinning, and I’m finding that so painful.
      My exH abandoned for 3 years, and then came back and said all the right things to his parents. Of course nothing has changed, but they bought his “I never experienced my 20s,” “I needed to find myself,” and “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.” hook, line, and sinker. It feels like a betrayal. Another one. It was honestly easier when he was the disappearing bad guy, and I didn’t have to feel like I was on the defensive. Suddenly he’s the “good-guy-who-is-fixing-his-mistakes” and I’m the one who “can’t-forgive-and-let-the-past-be-the-past”
      Except that I know he’s exactly the same guy. He’s just wearing a new costume right now, one that for the moment is pretty effective at hiding his shark fin.

    • What an effing awesome post! Beautifully written and expressed. What an unselfish view of stepping up and doing your part, letting all the unimportant fuckwits fall by the wayside. Way to keep your eye on the real prize!!

    • Amazing post that brought tears to my eyes. I already coparent with my 9 year olds father and now I’m facing (mediation Thursday) this whole journey with my 14 month olds father. I dread the long road ahead and it feels like a 17 year prison sentence to be honest. I appreciate your perspective so much.

  • Wow, this is so hard especially since the Ex like to rewrite history AND after almost 8 years, he still drags me back to court. Two full custody trials that he lost, two appeals that he lost, and just started the process to start the third custody trial. Kids are finally old enough (10 and 11) that they can feed themselves, call me when they need something, and are pretty independent that I have decided to save myself thousands of dollars, agree to 50/50 but take out every stupid fucking holiday he wants to split. Waiting to see if he agrees to terms. Had the nerve to tell me in front of our son who was not doing what his father wanted (to get into his car) that if I had beat his ass this wouldn’t be happening and it is my fault. Clearly I would win a third custody trial but I am 12 years from retiring and 4284 days from when I don’t have to deal with him and just want it done!

    • RaffNoMore, not sure if you’re in the US, but when Cheater #2’s exwife pulled these kind of custody suits, they were thrown out of court. Last one nearly got her attorney censured by the court. No more suits after that, since I guess the attorney wanted to keep her license to practice. But I do agree, it is expensive to lawyer up.

      • Only 3 states in the US have laws on the books about filing frivolous law suits. I had one trial in Maryland. He files over 75 motions. We had one trial in Pennsylvania and I haven’t bothered to count how many motions he filed. My kids are young but at what expense do I keep fighting. They are learning. My son told his dad he was sleeping at a friends house and stayed with me because if he asked his dad to stay with me he would have said no (he lives 2.5 miles from me). If I counter sue I still pay a lawyer. It will be a never ending cycle

    • Can’t you countersue? Your ex is not accepting judgments or court rulings so I don’t understand how he can keep filing for custody. He’s not sane and your kids are still young.

  • Great advice from CL, as usual!!

    In my case, it’s my adult children (20s and 30s) who get upset when I bring up their dad. So we just don’t talk about him and enjoy the peace and lack of drama when we get together. When he *was* around when they were kids, he was a moody jerk so, honestly, he doesn’t loom too large in happy memories. We reminisce about happy times and funny moments. Those were real!!

    To his credit, my ex told each separately about the affair after he told me and gave some details. So they know what’s up.

    They’ve gone NC with him since D-Day (Oct 2019) not only because he betrayed me (and lied to them, too) but because he was emotionally abusive to them for years. Ugh. I’m trying to forgive myself for not protecting them. I did my best.

    I have told my kids that I don’t want to be an obstacle to their contacting their dad but added that I really would prefer not to know if they do. That’s their business. I realize that they are entitled to do what they think is best for themselves and their families. But I needed to create my own boundary.

    It’s shocking how many people (extended family, friends, and colleagues) are negatively affected by a betrayal. Surely cheaters don’t even consider this before hopping into bed (backseats, closets, wherever) with someone else.

    My ex wrote to my son that “this is between your mom and me” and that he “just fell in love.” My son responded that such thinking is “effed up.” He told his dad that he loves him and wishes him well but doesn’t want anything to do with him going forward. “Expect crickets,” he wrote. (Note: I feel the need to explain here that my son is a really loving person who doesn’t make a habit of disowning people.)

    When my sad-sausage ex asked me if the kids would even come to his funeral, my son said, “Tell him that I wouldn’t.” My youngest daughter said that she would disown me, too, if I ever take him back.

    I worry about the psychogical effects of all this on them and am happy that they all have therapists.

    To state the obvious, I believe my ex didn’t seriously appreciate the potential consequences of his behavior. His OW had divorced in 2018 (months after they started the affair) and supposedly *her* kids remain close to both her and her former husband, although, as I write this, I realize that I have to consider the source of this info (my lying, cheating ex and his lying, cheating OW).

    Anyway, I’m sure my ex thought this kids would stick with him just as her kids (allegedly) have stuck by their mom. (Her two sons are much younger—in their late teens—so that must make a difference.)

    Too bad for my ex that he always poo pooed my advice that you “need to work on your relationship with your kids.” His response, always was: “I have a great relationship with them.”

    You reap what you sow.

    • In my case the fuckwit was a decent dad for a long time. Spent time with him, joked around etc. So I just tried to focus on memories where we had fun, but I didn’t try to glorify dad. Of course son was grown before the exit adultery. (he was 20 and in the AF) Now, since he had his big blow up with his dad; I don’t bring up the past, unless he does. We have talked a lot about the blow up though, because he needed someone to talk to. My stance is always the same now. Your dad loves you, but he will always put himself first; so be careful.

      With younger kids I can see where it would be tricker.

      • “Your dad loves you, but he will always put himself first.”

        This is what I tell my kids, I like the way you phrased it better, though. I do feel compelled to warn them. For 30 years I believed what he said, not what he did. I wish someone had taught me to believe the actions not the words. So that is what I gently teach my kids.

        Recently I pointed out a positive action of her dad’s to my daughter and she thanked me. She knows who he is, and his limits, so the few good things he offers are important to her.

        So I’ll continue to stifle my desire to yell “RUUUNNN!!” to my kids, sigh.

        • Unfortunately for my son, he had real experience with the concept. He is doing ok, and has handled it, but now he knows for sure.

          I didn’t take pleasure in the situation at all. In fact it caused me quite a bit of pain, which is how I found CL many years later. But, it is what it is.

          Had my son been still a minor when we divorced, I likely would have handled it differently, but since he was grown, I had to be totally honesty, so he could protect himself.

  • My daughter caught her dad cheating in November 2018. She calls him the asshole. She has pretty much zero contact with him. She is now 15. If I bring him up she gets very angry. I respect her boundaries.
    My son is 17. He has very minimal contact with his dad. Occasionally I tell him stories about him, as we were together for 25 years and Sometimes the stories make sense to tell. I actually like reminiscing about when things were good. Ex and I did have some fun times. In the past. I even miss him occasionally….but mostly I revel in my freedom that I never even knew I wanted.

    My own contact with ex is mainly work related, or infrequent kid issues. He lives 800 km away and has a new baby. His life is a bit of a disaster and I stay far away. He pays his child support regularly and does not try to interfere with our lives in any way. He thinks he is respecting our space. Lol

    We all know he is a weak and selfish person. Normal people don’t run away from every conflict,

  • My kids were older when he left (17 and 21) and for quite a few years I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold the venom in so I never spoke about him. I did, however, finally refuse to stop chauffering him about (he finally had his licence CANCELLED after the 4th DUI) and leave it to the kids. Son no. 2 eventually had enough of his dad starting an argument every time they saw him so he told son no. 1 to have at it – you deal with him since you’re the one who defends him all the time. And finally son no. 1 got to see his dad for who/what he really is. He still loves him but he began to see him (and me) for who we really were. Things improved 2,000% when dad moved back to the States and nobody had to see him ever again except for 2 weddings or a trip to the States for the boys to see grandma. But, my kids love stories about their childhoods, they love the photo albums and so I started writing a blog nearly 6 years ago just to put down on paper as many daft stories as I could remember. They haven’t read it yet but it’s there if they want it. And I now tell stories from “before” and am ok mentioning their dad. It took a long time for me to get there but I did in the end, and I think it’s better for my sons that way!

  • Ah, the hidden blessing of FW workaholism– when they aren’t around enough, either physically or emotionally, to make indelible, warm memories with their kids. It also helps that I started engineering new, good, technicolor memories for the kids to outshine old, not so great ones, and stuffing their lives with positive adult role models to outshine memories of the iffy ones.

    The latter is especially critical for kids the same gender as a FW. This actually began before the FW catastrophe because my middle child was traumatized by mistreatment by school staff and I intuited that, aside from yanking him out of that school stat, he’d need positive adults around him, particularly male, to prevent any possibility of violentization or entrenched cynicism. His siblings were traumatized as bystanders to the school disaster and could benefit as well. As if the universe was answering my plea, suddenly I started stumbling across brilliant tutors in various specialties willing to teach on a budget for grad school credits and a little gem of an art school run by a cartoonist who looks like a prize fighter and had the best manner with kids I’ve ever seen. Positive masculinity up the wazoo.

    At the time I didn’t think about the optics at all. All these strapping men around. I’m not like that so it didn’t occur to me then, plus my utter lack of cupidity ensured stronger trust and friendships with the teachers who are all solid people. I had no clue cheater was having a secret ho-down but he did indicate– via several tearful attacks of self pity of how hard he worked (read: yes, he once worked long hours but then merely used this as cover while carousing in bars and hotels ) and how he was missing the kids’ childhoods– that he was feeling gradually unseated in the role of dad. I think he would have liked to sabotage this except he was feeling too guilty. He was also paranoically contemplating the fallout if I discovered the truth and preemptively angry at me for taking the kids away, which he figured any court would arrange if the facts were revealed, never mind that I’m not that extreme.

    Unintended FW torture. In any case, the kids memories are now filled with things and people that compete with memories and impressions of dad during the worst times and act as a social net when the worst came to pass. I’m amazed at how that worked out. I couldn’t have planned it better had I known what was going on.

  • I left the marriage when my son was 10. XAss and I ended up splitting custody 50/50 – 6 months on /off. My X destroyed me emotionally. He betrayed me in every way a man could betray his wife. As best as I could without letting my rage and bitterness choke me, I told my son: “Your father decided that he wasn’t in love with me any more. He wants to be with his girl friend.” And that fact was born out by the X moving the girl friend into the house 3 months after I left. I know that XAss told his son a different story, not sure what that story is, but I’m sure its one in which XAss is the victim.

    Out 5 years now. Kid is 16. We don’t directly discuss Dad much at all. We have had some laughs about things in the past. I try to keep it casual. I have told the kid that he can ask my anything he wants about why I left his Dad and I will try to answer as best I can. So far, no questions. Maybe by the time he’s 30….What is more important to me than the kid understanding why the marriage failed, is that he sees his Mom thriving now that she’s ended that marriage.

  • Cheating XW can be just as bad a cheating husbands in this respect. My XW left me a note on the dresser saying she was leaving because I was abusive, and stating in the note that is was not for another man. This from the same woman that was obviously pursuing this other man for a year before she left myself and the children. I was around to see this relationship develop. She was stating to me that he was “just a friend” and that I should be ok with her having him as a friend because, as she said “I have never done anything to make you think I would cheat”. The “friendship” and the hiding in dark corners to be on her phone got worse and worse as that year went on.

    When the day came that she left, after several confrontations about this OM, she packed up her last belongings into her vehicle while she had my daughter stand in the driveway watching for me in case I came home early from work. When she was finished packing she went to the school, picked up my 14 year old son and left town. My daughter was 23 at the time and her mental state does not allow her to comprehend these situations as most of us can. When in their hotel room the night that she left me my son heard her talking about the $45,000 that she took out of a joint account that morning.. He immediately asked her why she stole money from his dad. I think right then he formed his opinion of what was going on. Within one week of leaving she was in photos with the OM and within a month of leaving he had a rental and they were living together. It didn’t take my son long to figure out what had happened and what she did. The OM even came up to me about 6 months before she left, telling me what a good kid my son was and how much he liked him. I’m not sure what could be more fucked up than that. To this day, since she left, my son has never spoken a word to this man, who is now his mothers husband. Married 9 months after the divorce was final.

    My contention is that if you believe your husband to be an abusive prick, would you let your children live with him or would you fight to keep them away. As it turns out, my daughter was living with me within a week of my XW leaving and never with her mother during the past 3/12 years since she left. She also only wanted 50/50 custody of our son, so again…..abusive? This because she was never around because she was too busy nurturing her new relationship at the bar.

    The day she moved into her rental she had my son. She put him in the new home, he had never before seen, empty with no furniture and went out to a festival for hours with her new man. My son told the lawyer that she came home from that day drunk, while he sat in a strange place alone.

    After finding this site I now understand that accusations of abuse are just a typical part of the cheaters playbook. She even went so far as to try to get a restraining order on me thinking that would help her case. When she went in front of the judge for the order, he asked what I had done. She couldn’t come up with an answer and so no order was granted. Thank God she was scared to lie in front of a judge, because its pretty much compulsive in front of anyone else.

    Over the years she as been caught in so many lies about my son and her relationship with him that he understands. I always tell both of my children that they should love their mother and I no longer have to tell them to be careful around her. My son understands her treachery but it is more difficult for my daughter even tho she sees that her mother chose this OM over our entire family. She even went as far as to put in the divorce decree, after I paid her a very large sum as a settlement, that she was not responsibility for anything for my son when money is concerned. I have shown this to my son. Its in writing and she wanted it there, I think he should know. All of this from a woman who, until this all happened, I thought was the most amazing person I had ever known.

    I could write for hours about the horror of my divorce, but I know most all of you guys could too. I know that I need to to a better job of letting go of my bitterness and let my children figure it out, on their own, and I believe they have as much a child ever can. It is difficult to support their relationship with their mother because I agree with Melissa, I don’t even want to hear her name………..

  • Expressive writing therapy is so good for dealing with topics like this. You write out everything you feel on the topic at hand, then take a moment to reflect, then rewrite each line of the story trying to see the positive aspects.

    It’s not easy or comfortable, but it does help us challenge stories like this where we are stuck in rage.

    So something like, “My husband lies ruined my life and took all of my good memories, I can’t even stand to think about the past,” can start to look more mighty: “I was so smart to realize my husband’s affairs and leave him. I can treasure my memories of my kids, they are mine to cherish, not his.”

    Whenever I do my expressive writing it’s like CL starts talking through my pencil. This technique helps us take what we learn here and apply it to our specific situation.

  • Luckily, my daughters (1 blood,1 adopted), xw’s son and daughter were adults @abandonement.

    I demanded that x explain the “Why?” To them all and placed a deadline for same. I knew that x would spin a narrative counter to the truth and had told them All my truth beforehand. They were glad because her talking points would be immediately recognized as lies since they had the truth beforehand. With no editorializing.

    During the 10 month divorce window timetable we all pulled together to get me through this anathema. All except her blood daughter “K” who pretended to support me while in her flying monkey mode to gather intelligence about what I was doing. I went No Contact with x and “K” very early into the process (about month 3).

    All in all I had the support of 3 of the 4 adult children. All 3 have went on to get degrees and have promising futures. All three have sound marriages.

    #4 (“K”) followed x’s footsteps. Cheating on her 1st husband (a mommy’s boy looser) then married her AP ( an even bigger looser). Now she lives check to check with her alcoholic-addict husband with 4 young minds to pollute. I’m glad I stepped away because I didn’t need their drama.

    My kids love me and saw what a great Dad looks like. So modeling a sane adult pays IMMENSE rewards. They’ll all have memories of me as being a great, hard working Dad. Any man can be a father but not all can claim the title of Dad.

    That was 3 years ago this month. September I have reframed as Freedom month. I’m still working on my picker having survived an alcoholic 1st marriage and a closet NPD second.

    Once you put 2 and 2 together and realize the capacity of lying these miscreants are capable of, the “what was real?” question gets replaced by “it was abuse and mirage”. I know enough. My ‘kids’ do too.

    • I also asked that we talk to the children, together, about the divorce. She wouldn’t do it, because just like to the judge, she knew she had nothing truthful to say to them.

      • Cbpe

        By your CN handle I can ascertain that you and I have stared the devil eye to eye and seen the pure evil behind a purely Black Soul. I will remember that moment when her mask fell away for the rest of my days.

        It’s frightening to experience this form of demonic possession face to face ;however, the Love in our hearts drives it back into the wilderness to seek another to devour. This is our super power. We are the force of Good.

        So Good Brother, know that you are not alone and raise up your kids in the way they should go and they will not depart from it.

        Here’s a big hug for ya!! ML

  • I made it a rule from Day 1 to not say shitty things about their father. They know. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that they know, but he IS their dad, and I’m grateful that they’re not without an otherwise ok-ish (decent-ish) uncle-dad type. And we DO have some good memories. I’ve gotten pretty ok-ish myself with reminiscing the good memories. Not in a sad way, but in a way that acknowledges that we really were a pretty good family, and it’s really a good template (minus the victimy cheating) for my kids when they raise their kids. I mean, while ex is a complete piece of shit, he’s not a total piece of shit. He is a good artist and photographer, took us on some good hikes and a few other vacations, worked hard at his job, etc. I think when I remember a good story or something profound that he was fond of saying, it’s really clear that it’s a memory, that it’s in the past in it’s own place, tucked away in a memory box, and NOT an endorsement of shitty behavior. They know. But being able to have some good memories AND good boundaries, I think, makes me look like a decent person who is not a victim, either. People can be this AND that. People can be complicated. People can be good at one thing and really shitty at other things. I can like that he takes the kids on a trip, and also like that I am not married to him and don’t speak to him because he never really asked for forgiveness. I do think the kids cringe a little when I mention their father, because they’re probably afraid it’s painful or they might worry that THIS is the day Mom pops off and loses her shit about Dad, but, no. I don’t. I just tell the tale and laugh, and we move on. It really feels good.

  • Thank you for this. I have adult children with families and a**hole is a delinquent dad and grandfather. Shows up Once or twice a year expecting fawning. I’ve mistakenly called him derogatory names when my sons are hurt by his lack of attention and apologized for it. He hurts them and it makes me crazy angry-all over again. But I suck it up Now and talk to them as a sane adult who understands disappointment in a parent.

  • My children are 4 and 6 year old and DDay was only 5 weeks ago. They are asking where there dad is. How do explain that there dad does not care? That he found a new life without then. He just disappeared. When they call they get his voicemail. They leave a message . He never returns there calls. I see there hurt and it’s kill me.

    • Don’t explain it. You can’t and it’s not your job. Just be the sane parent. Love your kids. Hold them close. And realize he’s a loser and he’s missing out. Showing up is what matters.

    • Find a nice therapist to help you. That pain for my kids almost crushed me. And, it turns out, they actually did not have as much pain as I imagined. Even at 14 and 16 they moved on.
      Yours are young. Distract and refocus works well. It is very very hard to do when you are also caught in the pain of abandonment and loss.

      Help is vital. And a good lawyer who will demand everything you are entitled to. Do that IMMEDIATELY.

      hug. You will be ok. It is shitty and hard, but one day you will look around and suddenly realize you are happy ex is gone. I promise.

      Support. You need it.

    • i will offer a different opinion and say that i think it’s important that kids are told the truth, but only the truth as it relates to the concern they’re bringing up at the time. painting pictures made up of only positive memories might work if the kids don’t have any negative memories or experiences, but if they do then acknowledging the truth validates their feelings. telling them all is good, when they can see quite clearly that it isn’t, is gaslighting.

  • I feel kids mourn the loss of what they (we all) thought they had even more than us Chumps. At least in my case. In the eyes of my 12 and 13 year old, 18 months ago their dad was only struggling with alcohol issues, but they felt loved, he was present, he ate with them, he was home, they ran to him with their concerns, he picked them up after school, he was part of Christmas, birthdays, they had a family! Now, they see him once a week for a few hours… a stranger.

    We watch home videos together here and there and they cry, but they understand their dad is incapable of genuinely bonding with others. I tell them he loves them as much as he is capable of loving and that there is nothing wrong with them. That they should cherish their childhood memories because they really had great ones, untill he started drinking heavily a year prior Dday.

    They went NC for 1 year, he did too because he felt rejected by them and was still drinking. However, due to the abandonment, my youngest had suicidal thoughts. So I encourage them to make new memories with their father (he is sober now).

    The reality is that I removed myself from their narrative (father and child relationship) the day I found out he had been cheating on me since day one. I went to therapy to overcome the trauma, but I knew that their (the kids) trauma is different from mine and needed their own therapy too.

    After 1 year of NC and a few therapy sessions , they have rekindled their relationship, although still not what they had, but it is his presence what they missed.

    However they have learned about having boundaries and they implement these boundaries in their relationship with him. They even told me they hope I never take him back. Which I will not!

  • After reading this and then all the comments.
    My mind went someplace else. But not too far off considering the situations every one faces.

    I came up with a question I myself have been asked.

    What does the custodial parent think child support is for?

    Keep in mind. I’m a long time supporter. Also this is not gender based. The custodial parent!!! Not mom!!

  • My cousin has an amazing tradition. (She’s a stepparent as is her stepson, so with the various levels of “kids,” there are lots of their memories that fall outside her experience. And nobody talks about the “other parent.” The front of her refrigerator is gallery, in which the exhibits change with seasons, holidays, birthdays, weddings, family events. She has always taken a lot of photograph, so with an upcoming wedding, she has photos of the bride and her sister, from when we first met them to today, sprinkled in with photos of other weddings, some of which the bride is too young to remember. There might even be a photo of the 2 of us 60+ years ago, playing bride. So it’s a mash-up of years, events, people, funny stuff, serious stuff, etc. Same with Christmas or Halloween or birthdays.

    Maybe let photos or other artifacts do the talking. The fridge is one place to do it, but you could also make use of a wall or a place where the kitchen backsplash doesn’t contend with grease. You can even put up really old report cards or kiddo papers, etc. You don’t have to have a lot of old photos. Start with what you have. My cuz is really good about making prints of the photos she takes with either camera or phone, but the other way to do it is take pictures of pictures! That way you can get old photos that grandparents or yr siblings might have or even photos in the newspaper. You can even get photos from the kids’ FB or Instagram. If you don’t want to print photos, get one of those frames that puts on a digital show. You don’t have to include photos of your X for sure. But this is a way to honor the history and perhaps prompt some non-jackass-related discussion of that history.

  • Not sure if I’m too late to the party. It’s been such a long shit show that I wasn’t even sure I had the stones to type this up.

    When my shitty ex stabbed me in the back after 25 years, I then found out she had spent the last year trying to turn my kids against me. The shock of that while I was still reeling from the infidelity actually caused my beard to fall out in clumps.

    I’m ashamed to say that during the next year I was so grief stricken that I barely had the strength to lift my kids up (at the time 13 and 17). I’m ashamed that they often lifted me up. In that time my oldest got into drug abuse to cope with a whore mother who walked out on us 4 days before Christmas to be with her twu wuv (who then dumped her soonafter because he wouldn’t leave his wife).

    In that time I got my son clean, but he resented me for it and our therapist for it.. I kept his mother up to date on everything and a few months after I woke up to find he had packed and told me he hated me and was moving in with his mother. She then proceeded to immediately buy him drugs, and vaping stuff (I sincerely cannot make this stuff up). I haven’t seen my son in a year.

    My daughter began to self harm. Fortunately I picked up on it relatively quickly and with the help of our therapist and doctor she has stopped. My daughter hasn’t talked to her mother in almost 3 years. It breaks my heart because my closest relationship is with my mom. Unfortunately my ex is not only a terrible human, but also a terrible parent. To the point that after years of trying to convince my daughter to talk to her mom, the THERAPIST outright told her not to at this time because her mother was so destructive.

    In spite of all that, I still encourage her to talk to her. She, the therapist and I have discussed ways to keep her “safe” from her manipulative mom but as her father I’m terrified at how much more damage she can do to my kids.

    Sorry if this is a ramble, but there are times where it’s really fucking hard to stay neutral with your kids. I’ve done it but it’s eating a shit sandwhich every.single.time.

  • Never bad mouth your ex or his family to your kids. It will backfire on you. Only tell them about positive memories. I’m sure the letter writer could have remembered nice things to say about her ex. She just did not want to as she was hurting. We all get that.
    When my daughter was 4.5 yrs old, her cheating father died. She remembers visiting him and his AP sporadically. As she got older, I told her about good memories of him and she formed a mind picture that is healthy. She knows he cheated but that’s all a kid should ever know. After his death, I never denied his family visiting rights with our child. They all proved unreliable and my daughter established her own opinions of his family.

  • the ideal is to not say anything unsavoury about the ex, but this is very difficult to do when their asshole behaviour is inflicted on the kids you share. i put up with many tears from my daughter brought about by the abuse inflicted on her by her mother. in the end, i chose to validate her whenever she told me something that rang true. ie. “mum lies all the time”. yep, i’m afraid she does. i don’t know why.

  • >