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.)
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.”
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.