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Controlling the Narrative

Dear Chump Lady,

My now soon-to-be-ex husband of almost 30 years cheated on me twice — that I know of. The first one and the current one were/are full-blown long-term affairs. I’m heartbroken, but doing my best.

I divorced him after the first affair, took him back, and gladly remarried him upon his request. I fully embraced the reconciliation kool-aid. We had two young boys, I loved him, and desperately wanted my family intact. In round 2, we were the ‘model family,’ taking lovely family vacations and even rebuilding our summer home after a devastating storm.

I was never advised that he was unhappy with our marriage until he dropped the ‘I’m not in love with you anymore’ bomb on me — both times. Blindsided and sucker punched to the ground — twice.

He recently sent a horrible text to our youngest son who is now in college. In it, he explained, “While I should not have cheated, I fell out of love with mother, and I should have left earlier, but I wanted to see you off to college.” Here’s what his text SHOULD have said:

(Editor’s note, what followed was a long essay setting the record straight that Dad is a serial schmuck.)


Dear Patty,

I find it no coincidence that your youngest is now in college and your husband has suddenly “fallen out of love” with you.

By taking him back, he conveniently avoided years of child support. Now your wife appliance services are no longer needed. Exit stage right.

Naturally, you’re furious and heartbroken. He made a “commitment” to you that he had absolutely no intention of abiding by. Your first clue was the first long-term affair — he’s really good at being duplicitous. He devalued you — for YEARS — and lied straight to your face. How could you ever believe a word he says?

All the Reconciliation Industrial Complex Koolaid does is help you justify the mental gymnastics required to stay. But you have to buy it. You can never, ever un-know what he did and what’s he’s capable of. There is no satisfying explanation (he took leave of his senses, for YEARS?), there is only spackle.

I deeply understand the spackle urge. We all do here at Chump Nation. You wanted to control scary outcomes. You wanted to believe you mattered to him. (A fuckwit, BTDT.) You wanted an “intact” family. There were not enough voices in the world saying, HEY, you HAVE an intact family! You and your boys. Losing a fuckwit in no way diminishes YOUR familial bond.

I get it. Which I why I have to call bullshit on:

Blindsided and sucker punched to the ground — twice.

No. Once. The first time. The second time you were not blindsided — you knew he was a cheater and you took him back. Sucker punched? Yes. You didn’t expect him to cheat. You believed a liar. You hoped in personal transformations and put blinders on about his character because you wanted to believe. Because you were deeply invested in an outcome — keeping your family together. Continuing the investment you made, the future you thought you were having. You did not want to integrate this awfulness into your story.

We get so caught up in the narratives our toxics exes are telling, we lose sight of the narratives we tell ourselves.

It might feel like I’m picking on you, (look, Tracy, you were a CHUMP! Don’t shame me!) But I want you to consider your spackle sins when we come to our next point, about the narrative he’s spinning to your youngest son.

Could anyone have convinced you? You had facts and evidence of a long double life. Did it matter, when stacked up against what you Wanted To Believe?

When he left for Schmoopie De Jour, (aka “fell out of love”) he made it impossible to spackle any longer. You would’ve continued the investment, but were denied. (That’s a blessing, by the way.)

We’ll come to sharing our stories and false narratives in a moment, but whatever the outcome of that text, please have sympathy for your son — he probably does not want to be convinced. There were many years YOU didn’t want to be convinced.

Doesn’t make it one bit less maddening and unfair. But children have their own belief systems about their parents, and that relationship is theirs to figure out. The very best thing you can do is remove yourself from the triangle, and trust the suck. His crappy character is obvious. Be the sane parent, go rock your new life, and model mightiness.

Your actions and example speak much louder than a 1200-word Let Me Set the Record Straight screed to your son. Defensiveness is a bad look. And it feels awful too. You know who you are and you know what happened  — a woman who brought her A game to the marriage and tried, despite long-term abuse. Trust that.

I believe in telling children, especially adult children, why you’re divorcing, but do it without editorializing. “You father was having a long-term affair, so we’re ending the marriage. Staying isn’t compatible with the values I have about family and commitment.”

Expect your ex will try to control the narrative. Of course! Impression management IS ALL HE HAS.

Think about that. If you’re a really shitty person, you can’t stand on the truth. You have to have chaos, and flocks of flying monkeys, and razzle-dazzle showmanship. Gaslighting is so much better with flair.

“While I should not have cheated, I fell out of love with mother, and I should have left earlier, but I wanted to see you off to college.”

How noble!

UBT: I suffered the chains of matrimony for you, son. ‘Twas sacrifice. I should’ve left, but was only considering your welfare.

What a head trip to lay on a kid.

While I should not have cheated, I fell out of love with mother

Everything is permissible when you Fall Out of Love. It’s just something that happens. I am not the actor, I am the acted upon. Had Mother been More Lovable, this could’ve been avoided.

Note the blameshifting.

I’m sure it is abundantly clear to your sons that dad cheated. How they integrate that knowledge into their relationship is up to them. Sadly, you don’t control that. But you do have a shot at improving their relationship with you.

Before, you went along with a cheater’s impression management — He Was a Good Person Worthy of Further Investment. This time, you get to utterly reject that narrative.

He is someone you used to know. You don’t share values, just history. He’s not anyone you’re going to have in your life going forward.

So you hear about his stupid texts? Wave it off. Speak with the authority of your lived experience. “Yeah, he cheated on me. That’s why we’re divorcing.” Whatever. Now, change the subject.

Go kick ass in your new life. That pays rewards. Reacting to fuckwit fairytales, not so much.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Going No Contact and living your own better life is the biggest Fuck You to a cheater. Giving his narrative “no-never-mind” is the quickest way forward. Adult children handle their own relationships with cheaters. You are too busy being awesome to referee.

    I know the absolute injustice of his lies are hurtful. Flip that right back on him. What he says about you doesn’t matter because it is a fucking lie.

    I remember my son saying “Dad says he doesn’t want this divorce.” I chuckled and responded “That is odd, he has never mentioned that to me. You would think he would tell me about that.” The look on my son’s face was priceless. My son stated “Dad is lying again.”

    Don’t give his narrative any importance. It is a lie and you know it. He can lie all he wants. If his slanderous narrative costs you a job, then take him to court. Other than that, just ignore this bullshit.

    • The lies are just on an epic scale with these cheaters. My STBXW lies about what was said or what she did yet I have screenshots of the exact things she said and did.

    • My No Contact is broken occasionally for a wedding or funeral. Our oldest son got married 3 weeks ago. It was a very small covid wedding with 11 people. Contact was unavoidable, but it was minimal. She tries to engage me in conversation. “Yes”, “no” or “I need to got some punch for my wife” was the limit of my answers.
      The trick is to treat them like that relative that wants to engage you in a conversation about opportunities in their multi-level marketing small business.

      • My ex did the same thing at my daughters wedding. Introduced himself to my husband and then tried to start a conversation with me. I acted like I didn’t hear him then walked away.
        My husband and I had so much fun at the wedding ignoring his glares while him and his cheating partner wife sat at their table. None of his family attend and several from my side were there. We laughed and danced all evening.
        He sent me an email about 3 weeks later stating he was sorry we were not able to speak. It was very condensing email which I ignored and had my IT department block future emails.

        • ????

          I remember once I walked into my sons house to drop something off he needed. A friend of my sons was getting married, my son asked if I was going, I said no; but I sent them a gift.

          My ex laughed and said Susie knows I hate weddings. I just gave him a quick go to hell asshole look, and said goodbye to son and walked out. This was not long after we were divorced. I had already told him we would never be friends. I assume he was testing the waters.

          If I see him at a family event, I will say hi to him and whore and basically keep walking. At the few family events we were at together, he won’t even look me in the eyes. Whore is usually pleasant enough. But, this has been years now. She might not be as pleasant now because she has been put through the ringer by the turd she poached. He you wanted him whore, you got him.

          • The whores get what they deserve and the biggest thing is that they have to live with these cheaters.
            My ex’s relationship was showing signs of cooling off but they are now married.
            The nice thing is that I no longer care if either of them are happy as long as they stay out of my life.

          • Do you think it is necessary to keep it civil with cheater exes?
            They are not worth even a “Hi”
            I was wondering what others would do or feel about this.

    • This feels harsh CL. I know it’s good to get a little Jesus, but I also know that if Patty was married 30 years she probably was told she had ownership in his behavior. Second chances are real and yada yada. I wish 20 years earlier I had heard the Chump Nation truth. The hardest part is forgiving yourself. After fuckwit left I had a dream that we were standing in our bedroom and he was helping me gut myself with a large knife. I was cooperating because in the dream I was supposed to. Since that dream I’ve worked toward being nice to myself and forgiving myself. I don’t have to forgive him or his whore or the RIC that gave very damaging advice.

      • I also wouldn’t assume she spackled. She did divorce him the first time and presumably he did a convincing job at having changed. I could understand how she would feel deceived twice.

      • I don’t see CL’s comment as harsh.

        I see it as a necessary 2×4. He cheated for a *long* time, (the first affair) which says everything about this evil fuckwit.

        So the fact he has now cheated a second time (or at least the one Patty knows about) plus the vicious mindfuckery of the text to her son underlines the sociopathy of this pos.

        Taking a cheater back, and *remarrying* after the divorce, is truly jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

        Please don’t do it a third time Patty. ????((hugs))

      • I agree. I appreciate Chumplady’s 2×4 attempt to discourage people from making the same mistake twice. However, there are often big complexities involved. For one thing, there is often tremendous social pressure. There are often significant financial considerations. There are often custody issues that make things hard. And cheaters are really, really good liars.

        I look back at my own life with a lot of regret and should-have’s. But at the same time, I’ve had to acknowledge that doing anything different would have required more knowledge and experience than I had.

        There are many of us who have made big mistakes at some point that we would never repeat. In my case, I never cheated, but I was raised in a cult and participated in proselytizing for the cult–which I am terribly embarrassed about now. So chumpy people like us tend to project. We reason, “Okay, I did something profoundly stupid that I regret and would never do again. So I ought to understand that Cheater also did something profoundly stupid that he regrets and would never do again.”

        It’s not until “again” smacks us over the head that we realize that these people are not like us. We learn from our mistakes, take the lesson, and change our ways. Cheaters never learn, never grow, never change. It’s jaw-dropping to chumps, because we genuinely can’t imagine that someone would deliberately harm their own family–until we see it happening in front of us.

        • “It’s not until “again” smacks us over the head that we realize that these people are not like us. We learn from our mistakes, take the lesson, and change our ways. ”

          Yep. I took me a bit to get it through my thick head. I had to let him come back home and shit all over me again to get it. Thankfully, I only let it go on for a week. He was using me once again. Had nothing to do with wanting our marriage back. He had absolutely no regard for me as a human being, much less his wife.

    • Awesome how you handled that with your son. I hope he really got it.

      This “controlling the narrative” crap is a hallmark of abusers. I got roped into a zoom call yesterday to catch up with my mother’s relatives. These people have a long history of manipulation, abuse, and selfish behavior going back many, man years. I keep them at arm’s length and have only been in touch for the sake of my immediate family.

      Anyway, we get on the zoom call and guess who’s there? Two cousins we have been estranged from for years. We explicitly told our relatives this, and why: because the boys have a long history of violence, including stabbing a family member and assaulting another when we were kids. The boys are also white supremacists who hate women. I expect them to shoot up a mall one day.

      I left the room as soon as I saw the boys were on the call and told my family afterward that I will no longer attend calls with Mom’s family, because they can’t be trusted.

      Apparently the boys were saying on the call that they look forward to next Christmas with us and coming to my sister’s wedding next year – the relatives are clearly trying to manipulate us into a reunion. It’ll be a cold day in hell when that happens.

  • I know you don’t see it now but this is a blessing in disguise! You can only control yourself and make yourself happy! He is the one who will always be missing you as you move forward towards your new life. YOU deserve truth, respect, loyalty and love. He was never capable of doing these for you or anyone else. I hope you see your true VALUE and this propels you towards a happy life xo sweet

    • I agree totally! They pretend life is so much better without you and the truth ends up surfacing. Don’t think it won’t! Ex told my daughter same thing I used to love mother and then it just went away. Great faith to instill on love for your young child.
      My ex was in the home until daughter was 13. Same story: oh you liked this girl when you visited my job, I didn’t think you’d mind me leaving for her… fast forward ten years and 17 girlfriends later: “your mother is the only one I’ve ever loved”. Barf:( they’re pretty dumb.
      My current husband is sweeter. More of a family man. Only problem is I’ve just invested over years and realize I’ve been ALSO cheated on twice. I don’t know that there were affairs but sex behind my back nonetheless. It hurts. I know I can’t stay and I’m just struggling pulling the trigger because he doesn’t want it to end. I’m tired
      Bless you ladies. And gentlemen if you’re out there

      • Oh Shann – so sorry to hear this. I can imagine how tired you feel. Hope you get your feeling of power back soon and can do what you need to do…

      • It’s awful that you have to make the decision to leave. One thing I really don’t like is how people cheat and then beg to stay because obviously they love CAKE.

        Pull the trigger. You’re done. It doesn’t matter what he wants. That’s tough during COVID and the holidays, but imagine that 2021 has to be better (it just has to be) and you can have a fresh start in the new year. While you are getting your ducks lined up, take a long look at H#2 to figure out what you missed in his character. I’m twice divorced, too, so I know how that impacts your sense of self, but what I can say is that by the time I was 62, I figured all this out! You can too.

          • Once divorced, once broken engagement here. I TOTALLY thought I had chosen well the next time. He’s sweeter also. I think I chose him because he seemed safe and sturdy compared to my ex husband. Ya… not so much.

      • I lovingly say to you “ is this something you want for the rest of your life?”. I didn’t fix my picker either. I’m still struggling to find what I want and accept. You know that you deserve better Shann, there is no where else to go but UP from now on! You Always have a CHOICE, you don’t have to accept this anymore. CHOSE you for once! Love and hugs to you xo sweet

  • Patty,

    Children (no matter how old) are not nearly as blind to the truth as we often think they are; sometimes they see it before we do and sometimes it takes them longer to assimilate than we might want.

    Your son will have a very clear idea as to how much of a d*ck your Ex is and will see the email (“pity me for my sacrifice for the greater good”) exactly for what it is. He will know that his father was acting in his own interests throughout. Cheaters – particularly serial cheaters – do not ever put others’ needs before their own.

    Your job now is to move forward, work on the things that you can control, be the sane one, give your sons the time and support they need and …… (gently) …… try and avoid making the same mistakes twice if you can.


  • The emotional mess my EX created for me in regard to our relationship was difficult. The emotional angst generated by the lies my EX tells my kids is much more difficult. It took me at least 5 years to come to terms with the fact that my kids will never see their father as a jackass. They love him and sympathize with his lies–even when they know he is lying.

    I hope you can find a good therapist, Patty. One difficulty I had with the triangulation and lies my EX told the kids, was that my friends and family were no help. They were nearly as furious as me at the EX’s manipulations and kept saying things like, “I’ll tell the kids what really happened for you,” or “Don’t worry, the kids will figure out his lies as they get older.” In short, they wanted to step in and fix things. And they couldn’t–no more than I could. My therapist was the one who really helped me be clear and brief with the kids and then detach (as much as possible) from the EX’s manipulations (and, yes, then the EX started telling the kids I was a cold, robot). The need your kids have to believe their other parent loves them and is mostly a good person is going to trump all your truth. It’s hard. It does get a little bit easier over time.

    Show your kids your love, give them a safe place to land, listen if they want to talk. And spend the rest of your time doing other things to make your own life better. (Venting here helps!)

    • My adult kids live with my ex, and now a grandchild is involved. You can imagine the fun that presents. I was told this past week by my ex (VM) that if I want to see the grandchild I should go to their house. I’m not. But this shit just keeps going on.

  • I immediately tried to impress upon my young adult children the magnitude of how deceitful and cruel their father was. It caused significant strife between my daughter and me; the result was a brief, but heartbreaking estrangement.
    You have to let it go. They need to figure it out fir themselves, or not. Release your need to control the narrative and move on with your life. I only wish I had known about CL during that time in my life.

    • Similar situation here. My young adult children asked for, but then were not being ready or able to hear the truth about their father, and instead took their anger out of me as a result, creating much pain and tension. Yet through his own selfish, entitled behavior, their father recently created a COVID-related crisis for them. It was a stressful situation, but also a blessing in disguise, as it opened the door for them to start to see the truth about which parent only cares about himself, and which parent cares about them.

      I’ve decided from now on to say very little about their father, and to let them figure out the painful lessons on their own, in their own time. This does require a leap of faith, as well as a a need to let go of my own vision/timeline of justice. That is part of learning to “trust that they suck,” AND to trust that while we may have our own faults & issues to work through, we have the foundation of good character to build upon, something they lack.

      • MehBeSoon, congrats for figuring out the way to go.
        The less you talk about the cheater, the less energy you spend.
        My son was 2 when I divorced and I never talk about him. When son asked me, I stated briefly that dad left with Schoompie and that was it. My son draw his own conclusions, at 2.

    • I didn’t know not to try to explain the narrative and now my youngest has nothing to do with me. I just pray a lot that someday my relationship with him is reestablished. You cannot fix the lies. Like others, I have to believe that my youngest wants to continue his relationship with his dad (he loves him), and even though he KNOWS without a doubt who was at fault, he has to play ‘nice’ to keep having his dad sanction his own bad behavior. There’s probably more involved, like wanting all the perks that dad provides that I can’t/won’t. Also, dad doesn’t ever say anything negative against my youngest son’s bad behavior (like his own adultery). I went over again and again how I could have changed things, what did I do wrong, what I could say to ask his forgiveness so that he will allow me back into his life, only to realize that I was doing for my youngest son the same things that I did for the dick. That’s when I decided that I needed to back off and say ‘goodbye’. I love him, but like the dick, I decided not to be someone’s fodder anymore. If in his mind he no longer has a mother, then that’s his loss.

      • I am so sorry for you. I , too, have a younger son that cut me off in 2012. Still married at the time, I begged for my ex to “help”. I have learned that this entire situation was CREATED by my ex, so his help was nonexistent. As he started his affair, he knew that he needed someone on his side, and so the narrative began. My ex has used my adult son as a pawn. I have heard of some of the things that I am being accused of and they are downright lies. On the other side, my son knows none of the details of his father’s behavior. Yes, my ex is such a great father, that he does not think that he needs his mother! This all is so painful, but I cannot control what others do nor think. Now, there’s a grandson involved (whom I have never met). He was given the middle name of my “ex”. Yes, my grandson has the name of the adulterer.

  • I think it’s important for our own mental health that we own what is ours to own.

    I don’t own the fact that my ex is a cheating piece of shit, but I do own the fact that I ignored glaring red flags and married him anyway. I don’t think there were cheating red flags but there were a ton of red flags suggesting he had poor boundaries, was phony, was willing to throw me under the to avoid conflict, and was overly concerned with image management as opposed to how I felt about anything. I own that I ignored that.

    So Tracy is right. You knew this guy was a cheating piece of shit and took him back anyway. I too get why you did it but your eyes were open. I know it hurts but to Tracy’s point you weren’t blindsided.

    Remember that even though it hurts there is power in owning what you can because you now have the power to make better decisions for yourself.

    People show us who they are all the time….we just often don’t want to believe it.

    And this guy? All of his future victims will get a cheating piece of shit. Yay for them.

    • Spot on. I ignored red flags early, as well. Not about cheating, but that he had an image problem, and had a very difficult time owning his responsibility in our problems while we were dating. My mother had just died and I felt all alone; he knew this and took advantage of my vulnerability. I own that I wanted him to be what I thought he was (the image he put out there,) not what he really was. I give myself grace, tho, due to my circumstances at the time.

      • Of course. I give myself grace too because I had just come out of a marriage to an abuser, so anyone who wasn’t openly as asshole looked pretty good.

        My scumbag ex was predatory and took advantage of that. Men who look for much younger women often are…..he was 20 years older.

        I had a lot of therapy and now in my 40’s feel like I can make better decisions. I’ve had a lovely bf for a couple of years and while there are a couple of issues neither one is a glaring red flag or deal breaker.

        If red flags start popping up there are plenty of other men out there.

      • Thank God, I did not ignore his past history which was that he cheated on his ex.
        When he did the same to our marriage I was done, no chances
        You think someone would learn from their past actions………..

    • I know exactly I was married to a Narcissist it was awful the last year, triangulation, denial, blameshifting and discard just awful!

    • I ignored red flags, too. Constant flirting, need for attention/adoration, not able to hold down a job with any sort of authority figure over him, the list goes on. Any questionable things he did always had good reasons behind them, even though the reasons didn’t always seem that good to me. His claims that privacy is a “basic human right”. Those are on ME. However, him lying to me, breaking our vows unilaterally, gaslighting me, manipulating me, spending money on whores and schmoopie while ignoring our basic family financial needs, giving me HPV… that is on HIM.

      “A man who lies to himself, and believes his own lies becomes unable to recognize truth, either in himself or in anyone else, and he ends up losing respect for himself and for others. When he has no respect for anyone, he can no longer love, and, in order to divert himself, having no love in him, he yields to his impulses, indulges in the lowest forms of pleasure, and behaves in the end like an animal. And it all comes from lying – lying to others and to yourself.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky

      • What a fantastic quote from Dostoevsky! This sums up my ex´s behavior to a “t”, spot on! I´m thankful to finally be able to feel some compassion for him, as this is an awful way to live. I´m NoContact with him but truly hope he is learning to see the error of his ways.

    • I believe all this tragic spin in our life is meant to open our eyes. We should forgive ourselves for not paying attention to those flags, forgive ourselves for shutting down that inner voice that was telling us “something is not right”.
      Clearly, we were not equipped with detectors for these deceiving people, we were not ready to accept that there are people different than us, with very different moral compasses.
      But when we get that veil off our eyes, it is transforming. We just have to accept this painful experience as a gift. And I know acceptance is the hardest part.

  • Patty,

    I’m so sorry. This truly sucks. He sucks. Mine also wrote to my son essentially what yours wrote, minus the college part: “While I should not have cheated, I fell out of love with mother, and I should have left earlier….” Relegating the cheating to a dependent clause reduces its importance. “While I should not have murdered that woman, I felt very threatened by her that night.” Her fault! She did something to make me feel threatened.

    Anyway, CL is spot on. As she points out, spackling is a common chump sin. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all done it to one degree or another. I consider myself queenlike in my spackling abilities because I was in my marriage for 35 years. “He means well” should be engraved on my tombstone.

    I feel your pain regarding your son. It really does hurt to have your spouse spin his narrative.

    My kids are well into adulthood, and I know I can’t control any of this. So far (over one year out) they have refused any contact with their dad. I know that might change in the future. My therapist recommended that I tell them that they can do what they want but that I’d rather not hear about it. It’s between them and their dad.

    Watching from the wings as your ex manages his image with your son is frustrating af. Stay strong! Trust in your son to see through his dad’s BS. Kids are perceptive. Good luck!

      • Hi Patty

        I dont know how to directly redoing so I’m glad I found your comment here. Please read above- I gave a snippet of my own experience with this and I understand you. I wanted my family. I needed daughter to have her dad. I was fighting for something that was never going to “be”. Yes he loved me in his own way. This is something I’m learning about people. We don’t love the same. We definitely don’t have the same values. And yes he will always be the same guy no matter who’s next to him at the moment. YES it is a blessing. You’ll have happy and sad days. Tears every now and then in the car, beautiful dance it out days in the kitchen with the sun shining in… that’s real life. It’s doable. One day at a time. My now adult daughter knows about her dad. She sees everything and I know I did a pretty decent job with her❤️ Bless you and be well

    • Spinach
      I too after 35 years married found that most of my marriage was a lie. The humiliation and pain was unbearable but now 4 years divorced, I’m better. Not at meh yet but waiting for my heart to catch up with my brain. My adult son has a relationship with his dad which I stay out of.
      The Owhore he left me for died 2 years ago and he quickly moved into another woman’s house where he is today. He recently had cancer surgery then open heart surgery so his life is probably not so happy. My life didn’t turn out as I planned but living an honest life without a cheating spouse is my reward. Good luck to you and stay strong. ????????

      • A reward indeed!! Sometimes I feel relieved that I won’t have to nurse my ex when he gets older. I just have a feeling he’ll run into health problems. So there’s that. But, yeah, the pain of the betrayal cuts to the core. Like you, I’m in a better place now, but it’s been tough.

        Stay ????! And good luck! Here’s to getting to meh!

          • Kathleen and Spinach

            35 years here, too. Hoping for meh to come, but that doesn’t mean there’s no progress.

            Biggest issue of late is that I want to trust my judgement.

            Because I was an RIC guru -and that will always embarass me.

            I hope God forgives me AND helps the people I shoved that spackle onto as well.

  • I want to stress CL’s ‘go kick ass in your new life.’ One of my bucket items was going to the Galápagos Islands. While the Dickhead knew, he never would have helped me financially or emotionally. He didn’t want to go therefore he didn’t care if I did.

    Six month after the divorce, I saw a flyer for a trip to the islands in the hallway of the building where I work, a large university. I contacted the professor and found out it was for Study Abroad. She made a few phone calls and eight month later, I stepped out of the plane onto the Galápagos Islands. I can never repay my gratitude.

    If I had stayed, my dream never would have happened. All my resources would have gone in to trying to keep him happy. With him gone, I can live my best life.

    • This is the truth! They keep us hopping all over trying to make them happy! I almost completely lost my essence when I was with cheater. It’s so freeing to do as you wish.

      • Lol. I remember the day I realized this.

        When he left I would go on walks to just think and fill my time. I was always a walker, but did it even more. It was about three weeks after he left, and I was walking and feeling sorry for myself (hurting). I remember thinking, he gets his freedom and he can do anything he wants. Then I literally stopped in my tracks and thought “wait a minute, if he gets his freedom, I get mine” It was like up to that point, I didn’t realize it was a two way street in terms of freedom.

        Fast forward to post divorce, he married the whore a few weeks after the divorce was final. I went on to live alone, have a wonderful long term romance (lots of fun, love and sweet gestures going both ways) with the man I eventually married (almost five years). He went on to cheat on schmoopie as soon as the ink on their Vegas wedding was dry. So who got their freedom?

  • Hi Patty! I hope you will remember this caveat, when with your sons- Don’t talk about the X!!
    Cheaters have a way of getting all the attention. F that! Show your sons that YOU are the valuable one who understands what loyalty is. Call them, write them, invite them over, and focus on them, because you know cheater won’t be doing any of that! He’s a selfish fool!
    Keep being the loving Mom, and that will show them who you are. Good luck, and keep reading CL!

  • I am attending co-parenting therapy at the request of my daughter’s therapist. I am very aware that going to a therapist with a liar is a complete waste of time, but to not go does not look good for me. She also knows he’s a liar so I defer to her expertise at handling the situation.

    The pay-off, much to my delight, has not been about Magical Character Change and Cooperation and Deception cease-fire. It has been seeing his bullshit called out by the best and most expensive co-parenting therapist in my area. Being validated to the tune of 300.00 an hour. He’s just been digging a deeper hole for himself while I show up, listen, speak when she asks me something, and ask questions when his word salad makes no sense.

    He’s REALLY angry….at ME. Not himself. Not the therapist. He actually accused me of “taking over” the session….”holding hostages”….”repeating myself”…”going on and on”….bringing up “the past marriage issues”….none of which is true but the next time we meet I will have the satisfaction of sitting there quietly listening to her ask him to explain his allegations and then pointing reality out to him. Worth every dime of 300.00.

    • We tried a wreckonciliation. My therapist recommended a colleague he said was a former nurse and did not put up with B.S. Sure enough, while she carefully listened to XW’s version of reality (mine too) she held her accountable for her choices. I just sat back as XW’s excuses for lying, cheating and other abuses were shot down in flames. It was supposed to be ten sessions, but it only lasted five. In the end the therapist admitted being hard on her as a test to see if there was any real hope.
      “Your wife has a lot of problems. Be glad they will not be yours to share going forward.”

    • VH,

      Yay for you!! It’s well worth the money. Your description of these therapy sessions pleases me so much! Oh to be a fly on the wall!

      Keep being ????!!! You’re an inspiration.

  • One hard earned realization I’ve had since the end of my 30 year marriage is that not having children holds some small reward.

    I don’t think I could have survived without the option of going completely no contact. I walked away from my marriage, my house, and his family (who I love), when it became clear that he wasn’t going to stop seeing her. I heard briefly that he now contends the relationship didn’t become intimate until after I left.

    But, even without children or shared community, I still write the letters in my head offering “proof” that he is lying or that I was a good wife. It is part of processing the betrayal and happens even without children. If truth or logic could have saved my marriage, it would have.

    You know what might be worse than living with that realization? Being a cheater who has to continue to lie everyday.

    • I was married 18 years, raising his stepkids too. I went gray rock as soon as I moved out and completely NC after our house was sold.

      He recently sent me an email to sign off on his truck title so he could title in his name only. Wanted to meet in person and hell no to that. I promptly answered him to mail to my address. A week went by, and I got another email that he was really busy prepping for his vacation and would send it off in a couple of weeks. That was 3 months ago and nothing has happened since. He hasn’t changed. As soon as mu car is paid off in 5 months, I’m getting the title in my name only and blocking his ass on email to complete the last and final step.

      • Good job Miss Bailey ????
        My ex also finds any reason to have to see each other or talk to each other… unfortunately I have to wait years and years until my youngest is 18 before I can cut off final contact.
        Only 5 months more to go!

  • While I’m meh about my ex and smoopsie, I still have tremendous worries about the influence of his behavior on our children even though they know the truth and get that their dad is a fuckwit. What’s worse is my partner’s ex is a cheater but his kids don’t know (they haven’t been told-they were very little when this blew up 10 years ago) They’re such good kids and I worry a lot that they’ll behave like their mom when they’re grown because she’s teaching them through actions that this is the way to behave and treat people. Right now she’s been telling them her affair partner who she’s engaged to cheated on her but that they’re moving past that and staying together. How in the world do these kids have a chance to learn that this is all so awful? I’d never say a thing and their dad says he won’t either unless they ask him and then he will tell them the truth and neither of us would say anything about her current behavior and choices but man do I worry.

  • Patty, trust your kids can see the truth but also that you sadly taught them to spackle too. We cannot undo the past… that’s living in more fantasy, which is childish thinking. Instead, we can only take massive action to live our best life now. I choose to be sane and loving and courteous. Staying mostly no contact, that is possible. It’s been 6 years for me, 3.5 divorced. 4 kids. Everyday I have opportunities to support my kids emotionally and financially. I try to use “cool” “bummer” “wow” whenever they tell me of dad’s latest drama. Redirecting the conversation towards them and what they’re up to is easy now. Time heals. I’ll never forget the abuse, 25 years of subtle discard, but it’s in the past.

    Set your intention to build your new life, then get busy with that. Control your thoughts and catch yourself when you find yourself thinking of X. It works!

  • CL–
    When you wrote “Gaslighting is so much better with flair,” all I could think of was Jennifer Anniston’s character from Office Space being berated for not wearing enough cheesy buttons and badges at her restaurant job.

    I don’t know if an analogy could be squeezed out of the scene (chumps are “unlovable” due to lack of cheesy cheatery flair?), but I like the character’s reaction at the end.

    • Good post.

      What I finally came to terms with was that he made his own choices. I was not a perfect wife or person, who is? He also was not perfect, but I loved him, and didn’t turn to another man.

      There is no doubt in my mind that he knows how I felt about him, and that I was loyal; but at some point it just really didn’t matter to him, he was going to get his.

  • @Patty,

    Its painful as hell. Its ALL his to own 100%. CL gave great advice moving forward. It takes alot of time to sort it out. Check in to CL/CN often and you will find you’re not alone. I had to envision my divorce after 3 decades as me taking the trash out (I still think about it walking the cans to my curb each week) He has absolutely NO character and he has now showed his kids Who He Is too. Hang in there sister!!

    To YOU: HUGS

    To. AHSTBX: Be careful what you wish for, you get to have it ALL……

    • I love it—showing his kids Who He Is. My kids see it & while my stbx tries to say I’m poisoning the kids (18 & 20) against him, he has literally shown them exactly the characterless, morality free slimeball he truly is all on his own.

  • Been divorced since 1984 and recently got another image-management story from my daughter. She was 3 when we divorced, so she’s had an entire life of no father in her life, by his choice. Alcoholic etc. He didn’t even want a regular visitation schedule. About 20 years ago, he sobered, found Jesus in a fundamental church where marriage is forever, married the church secretary and got permission to marry her because I broke the marriage bond by adultery with ‘Steve’. (Not sure where this came from — I dated 2 men named Steve after the divorce)

    His latest to his daughter: I would have stopped drinking sooner but the fact your mother was so strong and was caring for you way better than I could enabled my addictions. I couldn’t be the man I should have been with her around.

    • Because “Steve.” It’s as good and honest an answer as we will ever get from them! Now when my husband goes on about his FOO with his therapist and how hurt he was that he didn’t get to play a musical instrument, ergo lies and sexual deception to me, I’ll just think: Because Steve. Makes as much sense as anything else.

    • Just by being a responsible adult, you made him drink?
      Well if that doesn’t take the prize for running, standing or leaping gall.

      (Btw, that’s a line from Mildred Pierce, and it’s about a parasitic cheater.)

      Your ex’s deathless utterance belongs in Stupid Things Cheaters Say. That is staggeringly dumb.
      In reality what would have happened if, for example, you had been incapacitated, he’d have been drunk all the time and would have left the kids to fend for themselves.

    • It would appear being an alcoholic was not your ex’s biggest problem. He was and still is a pathological, lying, narcissistic piece of garbage that used to drink.

  • Where children are involved 75 % of women will try to reconcile with a cheater at least once.

    It is a mistake but it is extremely common.

  • Hi Patty:

    I hate it that your sleazy ex auditioned for the Noblesse Oblige award by telling your son how he sacrificed himself to stay with you until your son was launched. Pure mindfuckery and so wrong to do to anyone, much less your own child. Your son may not understand it now, but when he has children of his own, he’ll see it as clear as a lit candle in a dark room.

  • “I divorced him after the first affair, took him back, and gladly remarried him upon his request.”

    Well, Chump Nation, you see where that often gets Chumps. CL makes the point that often cheaters don’t want the marriage to end, especially while the kids are still in secondary school. Waiting until the youngest is at least a junior in high school often means they end up paying no child support at all. They do some half-assed separation, live with their aging mother or the Schmoopie and just pay the mortgage or part of it on a house they are going to get 1/2 of anyway by the time they drag out the divorce negotiations.

    So if you are a new chump or your Cheating STBX is begging for reconciliation, ask yourself:
    What’s in it for the Cheater?
    What will happen if they cheat again and leave you with kids in college? They aren’t required to pay child support for college kids. Ask how many cheaters worry that the X will contribute nothing.
    What will you do if you the Cheater finally discards you once the kids are in college or close to it?

    The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior.
    What you know is that this person is capable of 1) having an affair; 2) having sex with random people; and or 3) buying sex from prostitutes. This person is capable of lying to your face, gaslighting you, and manipulating your reality in order to gain advantage over you.

    If you think you’ve got a unicorn, make that cheater prove it with a 1-year separation, very low contact, a post-nuptial agreement in your favor, and majority custody of the kids–whether you are male or female, and whether your relationship was traditional marriage or same-sex marriage. Insist on a year when you have time to observe the cheater and see how “remorseful” he or she is and how that cheater responds to not having the playing field tilted in his or her direction. The year or so after D-Day, once the shock is over, should be a time to re-think what you signed up for when you married or made a commitment and whether the other party is capable of living up to that agreement. Past experience would say the answer is “no.” So instead of taking them back and “gladly remarrying them on their request” (to paraphrase Patty), levy some real consequences if saving the marriage is important. Don’t just take a cheater back because they’re sorry. Look for some actual signs of “sorry” in the form of respecting your healing, respecting minimal contact, paying child support, and not pressuring you to give in.

    Remember that narcissistic relationship cycle: Overvaluation or “lovebombing,” followed by devaluation and discard. (And both devaluation and the discard can happen while you are living with someone. My XH the substance abuser had discarded me for the last 3-4 years of our marriage. I was just still hanging on. But, oh, did he squawk when I decided to end the marriage and my paycheck was leaving the building.) When your Cheating STBX starts to lovebomb you, that’s just what we call the “hoover,” pulling you back into the kibble-production, spouse appliance cycle. You’re still of use.

    Of course, you can do what Patty did and remarry. But unless you’ve take the time to fix your picker and work on your own life, chances are you are just getting back into the old, dysfunctional cycle.

    • No one should go back to a cheater but if you must or think that your case is different a strong post nup should be put in place. If the chump is going to take a gamble the cheater should have take a bigger gamble. Like giving up retirement accounts and property equity. Plus the chump should be in charge of all finances.

  • A peek inside the mind of an asshole;

    “So it’s Friday, and the singles bars are hopping. Time to fall out of love with my chump.
    Hey, it couldn’t be helped. The hard….I mean the heart wants what it wants.”

    “So schmoopie turned out to be not quite as sparkly as I had hoped, and paying child support sucks. Time to fall back in love with my chump. Of course I’ll still get some on the side, but I’ll be more careful and stay with the wife appliance until the kids are grown. Can’t be helped. I have my needs.”

    “So there’s no more child support and there is a shiny new chick. Oops! I did it again! I’ll just tell the kids it couldn’t be helped because their mom proved to be unworthy of my misty, ephemeral love. My love, after all, is a tender forest creature which flits through the Schmoopie Rainforest landing on women completely at random with no participation from my conscious mind at all. Funny how that happens.”

    Patty, you did the romantic equivalent of re-investing with Bernie Madoff. I’m sorry to say that your kids probably don’t fully trust you either, since you took them along for the ride when you remarried a rat bastard.
    Tell them the truth. You made the wrong decision, which was to go back to a cheater, and you got cheated on again.
    They deserve to know what really happened. But no long screeds about what a POS ex is. They’ll figure it out for themselves because he’ll use them and lie to them just like he did to you. It’s what users do. This is a guy who never really loved anybody. He plays the fell out of love card as an excuse for being the amoral little shitheel he is. Sadly, they’re eventually going see that if he’s that casual and flippant about love, that attitude applies to them as well. Even sadder, they’ll probably spackle just like you did and assume; “But it’s different with US.” just as you assumed; “But it’s different THIS time.” If they ask questions and want your help sorting it all out, by all means give them the benefit of your newfound wisdom about cheaters. Good luck, and I hope you’re NC with the cheater.

    • This is unecessarily complex.

      Whoever is able for years, days in and days out to lie, plan secrets and deceive, is seriously, deeply disordered. Such person is incapable of empathy, remorse etc.

      NOBODY should continue or restart a relationship with such a disordered person. It’s like expecting a person without legs to win against Usain Bolt at his best. If you can’t leave at the moment, try not to invest or invest as little as possible.

  • CL: “By taking him back, he conveniently avoided years of child support. Now your wife appliance services are no longer needed.”

    Wow! I had never seen things from that angle, but all of a sudden WHAM! it hit me in the head.
    While totally true, it makes me feel extra chumpy today

  • Don’t worry! I’m sure he’ll ask to come back if/when he’s diagnosed with some horrible long-term illness and needs caretaking.

  • This movie was made in 1999. The disturbing thing is how much of it still resonates in the world today. We evidently learn nothing, or if we do learn, we do nothing to correct these gaping holes between reality and spackle land. After you watch this movie, you will never look at staplers in the same way again. I absolutely love some of the characters.

    When we fight to believe what we want to be true, instead of accepting what actually is true, we are sleeping with the enemy. We look in the mirror, and the enemy stares back.

    I heard a news story this morning, talking about our choice to be right OR be happy. It did not sit well with me. Its focus was about getting along with friends and relatives by not arguing about certain topics during the upcoming holidays. There are some people who will not allow a holiday truce and keep certain topics off the table. They expect you to sit there and be polite, while they wax on with their opinions, and it is certainly not a time or place to present evidence to support unsubstantiated claims.

    I tried to keep peace for many years, and I was not HAPPY. Then I made changes in my life, divorced cheaters, avoided family members, and moved away from insincere friends. My circle is smaller now, and my home is more peaceful. I am HAPPY now. Your world is a better place without liars and cheaters, and the RIC can peddle the spackle someplace else. It does not matter what the Ex says are “alternate facts” or “realities.” The truth has a way of floating to the surface, over time. Those who truly love you are still there with you, and the others are gone. You look in the mirror, and YOU smile back.

    • Yes, that’s stupid saying “Would you rather be right or be happy?” really pisses me off. People want you to swallow the truth in order to keep the peace. Nope. Not doing it. My answer, when a relative pulled that one on me was; “I AM right, and that makes me happy.”
      Shut her right up. 😉

  • With adult children Honesty is the best policy.
    My ‘kids’ all thanked me for it.
    It clears the air and we cannot feel Their emotions for them. Only ours. We cannot insert our ‘NOW’ into theirs.

    They can see in real time what ‘it’ is when they are ready.

    Acceptance was the solution to all my problems.

  • My dad left my mom for another woman when I was an adult (as an aside I find it eye roll worthy how judgmental he is of STBX for doing the same thing) so I’ll speak here as someone who is caught in a similar parental situation as your child and someone who has been cheated on.

    My mom often tries to put us kids in the middle and validate her feelings on the end of the marriage. She will ask me if my dad calls for birthdays or holidays or sends cards or gifts and it’s exhausting that there is this constant comparison between what she does and what he does. I would feel so much better if she just didn’t care. That she moved on. That she knows he was awful to her and she didn’t deserve this. And I know she didn’t deserve it. No matter what my dad may tell us, it’s not like I wasn’t a witness to how it went down. So trust that your kids get it or will get it at some point and let them navigate their own relationship with their father. If I had to bet, I would guess you helped facilitate familial bonds between everyone in the past and your ex may not be expecting that all relationships (even between child and parent) require ongoing effort. A couples therapist once said to us that affairs don’t happen in a vacuum. I think he meant that obviously there was some breakdown in the marriage to precipitate this. But I think the reality is that cheaters suck in most of their relationships because of what I mentioned above. They can maintain superficial ones. They can even come across as empathetic. But anything that becomes too much work or costs them too much in emotional energy is going to be abandoned.

    On the flip side, I get it. There are so many times I hope my FW crashes and burns with the kids. That they love me most. And it hurts to know that best case scenario for them is that he is successful. I’m no where near meh to think about that and being fine with it but it’s what we’re all striving for, right?

  • This is the part that truly sucks. We did the best we could and still the children are groomed to be convinced that “People just fall out of love”. I’ve read that on so many sites. And then, joy of joys, the person who did the absolute best they could gets part time with their kids. And the thrill of hearing how GREAT their other parent is because they did *whatever*. This same parent who may or may not have been there for the child growing up. And we get to eat that shit sandwich That no matter who you are or what you do, you are only worth half of your children’s lives because they bought the lies, or don’t want to be abandoned themselves or some reason we cannot possibly know. That everything you taught them about morals is now only half intact, because hey, what Dad did was OK! People just fall out of love and that makes cheating and lying and gaslighting and stealing and verballing abusing OK!! He still gets his kiddie kibbles.

    No, you can’t do a thing about it, but it doesn’t make it suck less. Instead, you get to feel less so it doesn’t hurt. There are some things that will never be truly meh. If it were, I’d really worry about myself.

    • The kids will get it when they get older. When kids are young they want the perfect parent and will spackle just as chumps do…make excuses, try to focus on the good times, etc. However, if they have one sane, loving parent that will equip them to grow into productive adults, they will soon see the dysfunctional parent in their true form.

    • Yes, the unfairness of it stings. And if the ex has some money and is willing to spoil the children, it is even worse. Living with unfairness yet still being happy can be achieved. For the most part.
      Kids don’t always see through the ex, that assurance caused me even more grief. Accepting that the kids love a turd has brought me closer to peace.

  • My STBX tried to paint the narrative to our boys that she fell out of love with me but ought not have cheated. I simply told them that a marriage cannot survive when one spouse allows a meddler into the relationship and cheats, and that there was never an effort to fix what she says was wrong. When she left the house last month I made it clear that cheating, and effectively ending the marriage, was her decision, not mine.

    Those facts are unassailable.

    And that’s all they need and want to know. IMO, they don’t want to be stuck in the middle or even think about for that matter.

    • I told my kids, ‘If your dad said that we just grew apart, well his right especially when there’s another woman in it. The time he should have spent with me he stole by giving it to another.’

  • It’s truly amazing how they all use the same vocabulary.
    I was dumped for the OW by my 2nd H – I also never heard one word of unhappiness.
    On the contrary I was showered with kindness, affection and loving acts (up until a week or two before Dday).
    He blamed his previous wife on his cheating. He said he should have left her sooner! – Also left when his kids went to U.

  • Dear Patty, You are not alone. The only difference between my story and yours is that I didn’t divorce him the first time I found out. I was desperate to save my marriage and by staying married (choosing to believe a liar), I kept an intact family. I spackled too when I told my sister, ‘Dick is remorseful.’ And like you, I found out several years later (four to be exact) that he was just biding his time while carefully being more deceptive while his was still seeing his skank. Forgive yourself for being ‘stupid’ the first time. Get everything that’s coming to you because you need to consider when and how you’ll retire. 30 years means that you gave it your all and you deserve at least half — even if you were ‘just a housewife’. I thank God I had a great lawyer. I’ll be able to retire at 65 years of age and not have to worry about paying the mortgage, house repairs, utilities, food, and gas. And believe me! Life is so, so much better without a fuckwit for a spouse. Be patient with yourself and fix your picker. Figure out why you allowed a fuckwit into your life in the first place. Don’t rush into another relationship. I finally have a relationship and I gave it 4.5 years after divorce before I decided to date.

  • When kids understand the financial rape involved in many affairs, it can put a sudden halt to spackling. My kids found out about that particular detail when one hacked dad’s laptop and told the others.

    My middle child burst out crying the other day remembering how dad blew the money for son’s medical treatment that, though it is increasingly viewed as standard care, will be deemed “experimental” by insurers as long as they can get away with not covering it.

    The treatment, not including the travel involved, costs about $30k out of pocket. FW blew about $40k on an 18 month affair, mostly on whopping bar tabs. AP’s share of that affair debt (she never opened her own wallet once apparently) boosted her after-tax wages and lifestyle by about 40%, savings that afforded her retail splurges at Banana Republic and a drunken summer trip to Europe with her bimbo pals, during which she sent FW smug-looking selfies in front of various sights– photos that one of the kids found. After that the kids called her “Beefy the danger pig,” or “The thing that ate Berlin.”

    Meanwhile, I had been getting the kids second-hand everything (and myself nothing) to save for things that mattered at the time.

    My son said he’s still struggling with certain symptoms that affect his concentration on pursuits he wants to excell in. He understands his own condition (vastly improved from other treatments), that the symptoms are medically based and that the new treatment he wants has the best statistical outcomes. He’s struggling equally with the fact that, in the same time frame that his own FW father was defrauding joint assets to placate an AP, FW indicated– via frequent whinings and wailings about “working so hard and never making ends meet”– that we didn’t have the funds to pay for this treatment. The bastard.

    I had brought this treatment up to FW in 2018 after FW berated me bitterly for not following through on a far cheaper but far less effective and higher risk treatment. This was 11 months before D-Day and I think I recognized on some level that FW was stirring up shit as a distraction and as blame reversal. Right after that convo, I texted that his aggressive, spooky tone of voice when he brought up the subject shocked me so much I felt sure he was going to announce he was having an affair or that one of us had cancer. Then I explained that I didn’t want to risk a less effective treatment for our son and would rather we held out for the safer one when we “could afford it.”

    FW, despite his attempt to frame me as somehow a medically neglectful, bad mother and to cast himself as driven witless from concern for his precious son in that moment, never made mention of that $30k treatment again. Never. I assumed at the time it was because he was tormented by the fact we “couldn’t afford it.” I hesutated ti bring it up again because I was worried for FW’s stress levels due to all his rhapsodies about being dangerously overworked when, as it turns out, he hadn’t actually been working late all the while.

    When it all came out, there was no spackling over the financial abuse for the kids. Their faces said it all. You never want to see that hollow eyed dawning recognition of betrayal in a child, but what was done was done. I didn’t lie to them about the ramifications of it.

    I was in no mood to protect FW. The motherfucker had not-so-subtly barked up the tree of a potential future custody fight when he made those veiled attacks on my parenting, probably because he feared I’d easily win full custody if I knew what he was up to. To me, this was a declaration of war even if he hadn’t contacted a single lawyer nor searched anything about divorce or custody online (in answer to Friday’s question about regrets for sleuthing- zero regrets for that reason alone).

    When the kids found out what he was up to on their own (little smartasses knew exactly what AP’s eggplant and peach emojis meant, lofty poetess that she was–ugh), it removed any tormented decision I’d have to make over what or what not to tell them. I just answered direct questions with direct answers: “Yes, he spent the money on the affair. No, she’s not likely to give the money back. No, there’s no law in our state that can make her do so. Yes, there probably should be a law. Yes, she knew very well that you have a medical condition because she told dad she had a relative with that rare condition. Yes, there were things you needed that you didn’t get because of what your dad did. Yes, I will try to fix all of it.” What they didn’t ask was “Will Dad be coming home?”

    The only thing I fudged during Q&As was whether I might have some deadly disease because the STD test results had not come back at that point, plus I won’t know for up to 15 years whether I contracted some cancer-causing strain of HPV due to FW’s actions. One of the kids became fixated on this and had nightmares I was going to die. I thought it best to downplay somehow without minimizing the seriousness of STD risks.

    Yet another fun chump tightrope walk. Kids this age have trouble wrapping their heads around the gruesome complexity and trauma of sexual betrayal issues and tend to sort of stagger their processing. It’s such a third rail. They go through months of avoidance but then express how their gears are working remotely by, say, talking about the Jeffrey Epstein case or sexual messaging in ads (and Disney films) or sex trafficking. It can come out in jokes and gallows humor. But financial abuse by a parent is cut and dried. After discovering that, the kids became immune to dad’s pity ploys and his narrative about anything. They eventually calmed a bit and reportedly could be more normal and casual around him, but he had to dance like mad to get to that point. When they saw him sniveling about missing them, my daughter snapped at him to cut it out. When he used clown logic to argue once to my daughter that the cost of the affair hadn’t eaten into family finances and robbed resources from the kids, my daughter– the little math whiz– blew up at him in text and told him to save his bullshit for his pet pig. When FW swore that the “pet pig” was history, daughter responded with silence (all in text). When FW tried to pry out evidence that I might be influencing the kids’ opinions of him, my daughter told him only he had influenced their opinions of him.

    Sad for FW that, rather than being proud of how sharp and discerning his kids are, he has set himself against that brilliantly protective part of them. I thank God they were so sharp and have such good boundaries because I was walking around blind and like I had brain damage for a bit. The kids were like my emergency stockpile of rational perspective and it kept everything grounded in reality. I feel like I reaped what I sowed because I’d raised them without gaslighting and bs, even when it came to my own mistakes. Those benefits kicked in in the midst of total chaos.

    One of the reasons the kids were so seasoned is because of an accident of circumstances– that they’d seen me fighting unbelievable shitstorms against two crappy schools that descriminated against my sick son. I have good friends who fought similar battles and all our collective kids had grown up eavesdropping on those parent pow wows and butting in to ask questions. Those friends and I were all hanging out yakking and laughing about past battles with the district before quarantine and it was amazing to see how much the seven kids, all tweens and teens now, retained from years before when they’d been so little. The kids all knew from the time they cut their teeth that some adults lie and twist the truth to put the onus for wrongdoing on their own victims. My kids also knew I’d go to hell and back and crawl through broken glass to protect them.

    FW, in the same period, had stood back letting me do all the fighting and tooth gnashing. At the time, I’d thought it was because his focus had been on making money to pay for legal and medical help. But when I heard that his AP– who never met me– once squawked to FW that I “didn’t know how to get along with people”– the precise words used by FWs atrocious mother.

    FW’s mother said this to other family members because she disappoved of my yanking my kids out of a school where my then-tiny, fragile son had been physically mistreated and injured by staff for being ill (he ended up in ER).

    To my horror, I realized that the charge that I “didn’t know how to get along with people” that the brainless AP had parroted while she was reportedly arguing why FW should get a divorce, could only have come from FW. Those words had been drawn from the time he’d drippily stood back while I fought civil rights violations against our son. He had literally weaponized– with the help of his toxic mommy dearest– the very best thing about me and handed the dagger to Beefy. Later FW claimed he must have been drunk when he said this to the AP and that he didn’t even remember his mother using those words– but I did. I remembered everything except how I responded to his claim of amnesia, probably because my brain exploded. Whether he was drunk or not, the fact remained that he weaponized the best thing about me and the thing that saved our son. I could be high on crack, meth and LSD and never do that to my worst enemy.

    For the record, folks, it’s true. I do not get along with criminally psychopathic adults who abuse sick children in their care and then viciously try to cover it up. What a monster I am.

    Fortunately this is not how my kids saw those past events. I will not go so far as to say that past trial by fire was lucky because my son paid such a high price for it. But consequently I never had to dance for the kids’ loyalty when the fuckwittery came to light, or play overly permissive parent to keep them from decamping. I was never pushed into the awful (and sometimes nearly unavoidable) trap of competing against FW’s false victim posturing by being forced to make a case to the kids that I was, in fact, the victim and was not “persecuting” poor dad. The kids never believed for a minute that FW was a victim of anyone but himself. And they knew, without my having to tell them as much, that when I turn against anyone, that person or people must have done something really, really bad. I had walked the walk already.

    FW never again made another noise questioning my parenting. It sucks to be FW.

    • It would sound so condescending to call you blessed. Blessed like surviving a combo of twister, earthquake, and toxic-dump fire. Your children are indeed sharp and discerning. Your family is made up of fire-forged companions.

        • Forgot the zombies.

          The wind knocks you off your feet, the world falls out from under you, and elephants rise from their sacred burial ground, awakened by your own private Chernobyl. The earth shakes under their tread. Choking on radioactive fumes, you and your mighty children (yes, they are mighty!) prepare for battle. Fortunately you are armed with obsidian, Damascus steel, and Chump Lady’s lasso of truth.

    • Love that the kids named AP “pet pig”. Also glad they are well aware of their father’s dysfunction at a young age. Will save them a lot of heartache, frustration and anger down the road.

      • KB22– The kids had all sorts of names for shmoops. The only time I objected was if this verged too far into fat shaming because you never want that to become ingrained and for your kids to hurt innocent people. But otherwise I wouldn’t impede their use of gallows humor. A therapist agreed.

        As part of his mad pick-me dance, FW immediately conceded to only calling shmoops some derivation of “the pig” during the terrible aftermath when the subject came up a lot because the kids would throw fits if she was referred to any other way.

        I would hate to be either of them– “the pig” or FW. It’s one thing to make enemies in the course of standing up for what’s right, another thing entirely to earn the condemnation of innocent people, moreover innocent children, because you did something really wrong.

  • Dear Patty,
    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad you did, because I’m only 9 months out of a 24 year marriage, and I have to confess that even though I’ve gone as much No Contact as possible with 3 kids 18,16 and 10, I have a fantasy that nags at me -the making up and re-marrying one. I see in your story that I would have done what you did too. I’m sorry for your suffering.

    Thank you Patty and Chump Nation for the bitch slap.

    • Better a friend’s clue-by-4 than an enemy’s kiss, as the Good Book says (paraphrased).

      So glad you learned from Patty. WAG (wild-ass guess) is maybe one-half of one percent of cheaters truly repent with their current chump. Could be they’re less likely to cheat on future partners — if the futures keep them on a tight leash.

      So hard. I’m sorry it’s so hard. Mourning the dream is hard.

  • CL nailed it with this quote. This sums up what I tell people when they ask me about my divorce:

    “You know who you are and you know what happened — a woman who brought her A game to the marriage and tried, despite long-term abuse. Trust that.”

  • In my opinion, when it comes to trial (here might not be the case, the children are over 18) one must never let a liar manufacture documents based on their lies.
    If he lies in writing, it needs to be straighten up. In a cold and professional manner.
    I know this the last thing a chump can do, but it needs to be done.
    Having his lies in writing is even better, as you can serve them right back at him.

    Otherwise, as ChumpLady says: whatever. It is not worth your vital force.
    And, moreover, a liar is a liar and eventually he will get tangled in his own lies. People will get their own chance to see him for what he is.

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