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When Your Kids Believe the Lies

Dear Chump Lady,

What can you say to your adult children to make them understand that the gaslighting, lying, cheating, stealing, abusive break up and divorce is not “People grow in different directions, so all relationships are temporary.”?

Background, my EX, her father, started gaslighting, lying, cheating, stealing and being abusive and I, like most chumps, only saw the surface stuff and thought he was just going through a bad time in his life. When I would ask what was wrong because I thought I was in the relationship by myself, he said No, he was engaged. (Engaged in what is open to interpretation).

Turns out he was ramping up for the big reveal where he would pick fights when the kids were not around, accuse me of things he was doing, up until the great discard. Oddly enough, he was let go from his job for being inappropriate (constantly angry and saying inappropriate things to co-workers- I found this out later) at the same time. Hmmm. Go Figure. The story is long and similar to others.

Whether the kids have actually drank his Kool-Aid and believe his lies that “People just grow in different directions” or they just are trying to keep the peace, I don’t know. What I do know is my D now 24 NOW thinks that marriage is useless since “People just grow apart.” But that maybe she’d like to have someone for a while until they grow apart.

I am not one of those people who insist you should never tell your side of the story, but I also don’t ram it down their throats. I only mention things when something comes up in passing. (Like when my son said I didn’t let dad get his things and I had to say “That is not accurate. Your father refused to come and get his things unless I was out of the house, and since he had already stolen things from me, he didn’t get to come into the house unsupervised. I offered to put them in the garage and leave the door open, but he still did not get his things.”)

I’m sure the kids still believe lots of lies because the mask is firmly in place. It’s always hard because while on the one hand I don’t want my kids abandoned by their father, on the other hand he is an ass and is saying BS and teaching them crappy morals.
So I have told my daughter that marriage may not be for everyone, especially the ones who have no honor or integrity, loyalty or morals, but there are people who show up and stay. They don’t decide that their marriage was a 12-23-35 year inconvenience, or blow up their family. It’s called commitment and something that seems to be lost in the “all about me” folks. It’s where two people care at least as much about each other as they do about themselves, pay attention to each others likes and dislikes and bring grievances to the table instead of letting them fester. It’s hard work, not always happy, but if you put in the effort definitely worth it. Anyone who tells you life is always supposed to be Happy and if you EVER argue something must be wrong with you is selling you something.

I don’t know if what I said sank in or not. What their father did was not normal. Life does not have to be that way. I have no relationship of my own to show her what one could look like (it’s kind of covid out there, and I’m good in my own skin on my own, though I’m open to what the Universe throws at me). When the opportunity arises, how does one convey to their children that what happened to their family was not normal, and that they are not doomed to the same fate if the one who is willing to show up, shows up, and do it without sounding like a “I wuz so wronggggeddd” crazy person? I do NOT want them thinking that “People just grow apart” so you blow up your family by doing insane things is normal.

Thank you,


Dear ChumptheShark,

To your first point, you can’t make anyone understand anything. It’s beyond your control. As the saying goes: “I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.”

to make them understand that the gaslighting, lying, cheating, stealing, abusive break up and divorce is not “People grow in different directions, so all relationships are temporary.”

The two parts of this sentence are not connected. Lying, cheating, stealing — every person since age 2 understands that these things are wrong. You don’t need to explain that. “People grow in different directions…” is the excuse given for lying, cheating, stealing, etc.

And like all good mindfuckery, there is an element of truth here. It’s just the conclusion that is wrong.

People DO grow in difference directions. Mr. CL, for example, is obsessed right now with Viewmaster slides. (The Sault Locks! Big Bend National Park! The concession stand at Fenway Park! circa 1963.) He buys these dusty things off e-Bay and they arrive daily and I excuse it as pandemic eccentricity. I have not grown in the direction of his Viewmaster obsession. Growing in different directions is pretty normal, unless you’re Siamese Twins. It’s not a pretext to end a relationship.

“People grow in different directions” is often the euphemism for “People have an entirely different set of values.” Which became apparent after some catalyst, like if I found Mr. CL had been strangling puppies to feed his Viewmaster obsession.

So, your ex is pointing to a divergent set of interests or “directions”, to hide his divergent set of values. His interest was fucking around. You grew apart. See how that works?

In a sense, he’s right. You did grow in different directions. He just left out the puppy strangling/dating profiles.

Also, all relationships ARE temporary. We’re all going to shuffle off this mortal coil some day. You can also have a temporary relationship and be ethical about it. My local barista isn’t going to poison my latte. The length of the relationship has nothing to do with how you should conduct yourself.

What your ex is really saying is, “I use people.”

Now then, your kids.

Whether the kids have actually drank his Kool-Aid

They’re adults and that’s their business. They have to figure out their relationship with their dad themselves. Let go. You don’t control the Kool-Aid they drink. But if they bring it home? Pass the cup. You have no obligation to drink it too.

That refusal does more to denounce the lie than any lecture you can give about relationship ethics.

Dad says you’re ruled by Lizard overlords. 

Hmm. You want cheese on your taco?

Remember the lessons of Cool, Bummer, Wow. Don’t engage.

when something comes up in passing. (Like when my son said I didn’t let dad get his things and I had to say “That is not accurate. Your father refused to come and get his things unless I was out of the house, and since he had already stolen things from me, he didn’t get to come into the house unsupervised. I offered to put them in the garage and leave the door open, but he still did not get his things.”)

You don’t have to defend yourself to your son about the division of marital property.

You didn’t let Dad get his things.

Your father didn’t collect them. You want cheese on your taco?

No further details are necessary!

And then… this is the important part…. you go live your life.

If your ex going to lie and spin and make you out to be a Crazy Bitter Woman Who Can’t Get Over Him? Sure. That’s what they do. You don’t control it. You just control you. What’s on Netflix tonight?

Quit being broadsided by your ex. Trust that he sucks. And his narrative does too.

What I do know is my D now 24 NOW thinks that marriage is useless since “People just grow apart.” But that maybe she’d like to have someone for a while until they grow apart.

I’m glad you set her straight that good people exist and commitment is possible. Intimacy makes us vulnerable, if you’re doing it right and bond, so you’ve got to work on your picker. Nothing wrong with a casual fling and there’s nothing wrong with wanting more. People are not helium balloons, who just drift away. Ethical people honestly state their desires.

When the opportunity arises, how does one convey to their children that what happened to their family was not normal,

Well, sadly, it might not be “normal” but it’s common. That doesn’t make it okay. Abuse is pretty common. Abandonment too.

The opportunity arises every day to be better than the shit hand you were dealt. You do NOT need your ex’s misdeeds as contrast to your good deeds as the sane parent. Your kids don’t need it. Live YOUR values. Did you dump this cheater? Are you rebuilding? Do you make a mean taco? You’re demonstrating your mightiness. That is your “side of the story” — a fuckwit tried to destroy you and failed.

Resiliency is the only closing argument you need.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Oh I feel for you. My ex regularly beat the shit out of me but pretty much never when the kids were around. Oh he laid into me but the actually beating/kicking was usually reserved for when they were out. But I was covered in bruises – frequently! And still my oldest son kinda “sided” with his dad (who was also living with his gf by the way) because dad was forever bursting into tears. DS told me one time “you’re strong and dad’s not”, so I guess that’s why he always “accommodated” the AH. It hurt like hell but in the end I had to let him get on with it, have just a few too many arguments with his dad when he was an AH and have his eyes opened for him. He still loves his dad, of course, but having just been blind-sided by his wife in May who had “feelings for someone else” (their divorce was final on Friday) guess who my son has just moved in with! I’ll give you a clue – it ain’t his dad! And guess who’s helping out my other son and his wife financially in these covid times. I’ll give you another clue – it ain’t daddyo!

      Not trying to highjack your thread Attie (you rock btw) but wanted Chump Lady to see this-

      Has Mr CL seen the Buchart rock gardens reel? That one has always been one of my favorites. I didn’t know anyone collected those except me (or even knew of their existence- let alone actually likes them)
      I also had the old viewmaster film reels, no batteries, just hand powered film reel until your arm gets a cramp ????.

  • “The opportunity arises every day to be better than the shit hand you were dealt “.

    This is profound and could be applied to many aspects of life. Thanks for the words CL!

  • I think kids want so much to have normal parents that they will go along with the dysfunctional parent’s narrative because the other alternative is facing the reality that the dysfunctional parent truly is dysfunctional. Plus, deep down they know confronting the crazy parent will more than likely lead to a discard.

    • Very good advice to not feel the need to ‘defend’ yourself but then I have often wondered if that doesn’t make me a doormat who puts forward their side of the story but CL is right (of course) it doesn’t. It says I don’t engage in this madness.

      I don’t say anything about him unprompted but I most certainly have felt that I should defend myself (I’ve had Daddy says your controlling, Daddy says you he’s scared of you and many other gems).

      At the time I decided not to acknowledge it much for fear of losing my shit. I think I said something like, ‘Oh well that’s a shame, why do you think he said that?’ but that’s I can see is engaging her into that crazy narrative when it’s unimportant to me what he thinks about tme.

      Next time I will keep it to ‘Oh that’s a shame’ and then talk about the weather (favourite UK subject)

      • There’s a difference though between simply explaining and defending. “Daddy says your controlling” can be simply rebuffed with a “oh, well I disagree and he’s the only one who says that about me.” And then move on to cheese on tacos. “Daddy says your scary.” … “well I’m not a very scary person, so thats an odd thing to say…Anyways, more cheese on tacos?”

        To me, the caveat occurs when they ask deeper more probing questions. Then you answer, as simply and straightforward as possible, and again move on. I find myself saying to my daughter a lot: “well I disagree with your dad on that because XYZ.” If she asks follow up questions, the answer often comes down to “your dad and I have different values, and in our household, we don’t XYZ because ABC.” And done

    • KB22, You are totally right. My sons also worry about their cheating, dimwit father’s fate in his old age

    • I agree. The cognitive dissonance our kids often have to manage is unfathomable to me. My kids want to believe their dad. Their dad says he loves them. Their dad says I am an evil person. If they accept his claims to love them, do they have to believe he is telling the truth about me? If they believe what their own eyes and ears and hearts tell them about me, does that mean their dad does not love them?

      My kids appear to employ different strategies to manage this cognitive dissonance at different times. Recently, one of them has been indulging in a lot of false equivalencies. “You are both bad communicators,” the child tells me. I don’t take the bait, but I have to bite my tongue. I am sure I do have communication flaws, but they are not comparable to those of the person who “communicates” by yelling, swearing, and throwing things. “You both gave up on your marriage,” my kid complains. Sure, but I gave up after my EX found a “soul mate,” started draining funds from our shared account, became verbally and physically abusive, and discovered a form of Christianity that required I be “obedient” to him in all things.

      I know my kid just wants to love us both, and my kid wants to be “fair.” Eventually, my kid will realize that dad never plays fair–not with anyone. And then my kid will look for another way to manage the deep desire to love and trust a parent who doesn’t understand love very well and is routinely untrustworthy. In the meantime, I’ll just keep parenting.

      Some days, I am at peace with all of this. Some days, I am exhausted and furious, and heartsick. But, I’ve grown better able to build long strings of peaceful days and quiet my anxiety about my kids over time and with therapy. And CL–lots and lots of CL.

    • I disagree. I think that kids NEED to have normal parents. I feel that so strongly that I have struggled to hide my situation literally for years and as a result, I am slowly losing my mind. I stayed with my cheater, but finally blew up and told him I knew. I gave him concrete evidence of when I knew and what and why…and he denied it all, LOL, the cheating sack of shit. But my kids, for whom he was the primary caretaker, will never discover his shittiness from me. I can stand a lot; I can stand hating him in silence for the sake of the people I love. Maybe I’ll outlive him…but at this point it isn’t important to me any longer. He lives with a hostile roommate. My kids live with the illusion of perfect parents and the illusion that a good marriage is present. I live in hope that he dies a miserable death. Bitter? You bet, but my kids, my adult kids are happy. There are things more important than me. My life was essentially destroyed and over on DD. My kids live on, happily.

      • Are you sure they can’t see the hostility? They can’t be that blind. Depending on their age, they either already know your marriage is unhappy or they will soon enough. Don’t stay in hell to try to preserve an illusion for the kids, for goodness sake. Sorry for the 2 by 4, but I suspect you are using the kids as an excuse to not make the change. Change is scary. We all get that.

        My ex BIL is a cheater (a family trait, it would seem) and his wife stays for the kids. At least one of the kids has hated her father for years because she sees how horrible he is to her mother. Do you want to teach your kids that it’s okay to mistreat a spouse? That’s what staying says to them. If they are boys, they will grow up incredibly entitled and feel free to abuse women themselves. If they are girls, they will be afraid to stand up for themselves in their own relationships and will stay with abusive partners. Please rethink this. You are modeling the wrong values to them and they will eventually resent you for not being truthful and consider you weak for letting him walk all over you. Your kids need to respect you. How can they if you don’t respect yourself?

        Again, I apologize for having to tell you this because I know it hurts. But it’s the truth.

        • Sorry you have to go through this. But it’s better to get out on your terms rather than having him blindside you with that decision. Please don’t assume that he will carry on with the status quo forever. Seeing as he has already betrayed you, I wouldn’t be surprised if he betrays you in other ways – like suddenly leaving for OW.
          And I know exactly what you mean about not wanting to hurt your children with this information. But live your life, they are adults now.
          Protect yourself, your assets and your heart.

        • OHFFS,

          Clue-by-fours are necessary, they are a part of tough love. But I winced at the part where you guessed NFLAOF’s motivation; that is, using the kids as an excuse to stay.
          That was my case, that may have been your case, but we don’t know what the case is here.

      • The problem tho with this is that either: (1) eventually your kids will find out the truth, and they will, and now you get to be the bad guy for lying and gaslighting them all those years OR (2) they are forced to live in this constant state of feeling uneasy–because they can sense something is wrong (and, at least one of them likely can)–but then are also forced to accept the “normality” that you are tricking them into. It creates a cognitive dissonance that, once the truth is revealed, will ultimately have them questioning their gut instincts…maybe forever…because, they KNEW something was wrong in their heart but their mind was telling them otherwise based on the normal image you portray.

        How do I know this? Because I’ve known people who’s parent(s) attempted to do exactly what you’re doing and these were the ultimate outcomes. One of my friends currently has ZERO relationship wth her chump mother because she felt lied to by someone she considered to be her confidant, but STILL MAINTAINS a relationship with her cheater father. This is a terrible but real outcome.

        Even if you can keep up this charade indefinitely (but why should you, that’s nuts), you cannot control the actions of your husband who likely will do something so outlandish that it cannot be hidden from the kids, and then they will know, and then you get a real shot at being labeled the “bad guy” for lying to them and acting all normal, when shit wasn’t normal.

        • Good point.
          When the children eventually find out – and they will eventually find out – they could possibly buy into the father’s narrative… Because mom seemed to be living the good life all those years.

      • NFLAOF,

        You’re in pain.

        I just want to wrap my arms around your neck for a quick squeeze, an then offer you a comfy chair by the fireplace and a mug of hot cocoa.

        Coming to this blog, writing this post, may be a turning point on your journey. It sounds like you’re finally fed up, ready to talk about it, ready to explore a different direction.

        If so, you’ve come to the right place.
        We’re here for you. We’ve been here, we’ll listen.

        Please look deep into your heart and ask if you genuinely believe your kids think your marriage is healthy. I don’t know them, but I highly doubt it. Especially if they are adults. Perhaps they’ve kept their opinion to themselves for your sake.

        Everyone here has hung on to the illusion of a marriage, until they didn’t anymore. It’s a painful leap to take, but you’ll know when you are ready. And we’ll be here. <3

  • Tell the truth. Just learn how to do it briefly and simply.

    They just grew apart – yes, nothing like cheating to make people grow apart.

    Dad says you were mean – yes, when you get betrayed you won’t be happy about it.

    Dad says you won’t let him take his stuff – his stuff is in the garage, he can get it any time. He refuses.

    Dad says you took him to the cleaners – yes, after he stole $$$$ from our marriage I kept what was left.

    Let your adult children start working out the rest for themselves. Do not bother with lectures on morality and so on. When you lecture, people tune out. When you are confronted with bs, don’t defend yourself but do tell the truth. Facts, just the facts and keep it brief and to the point.

    You have to learn to walk the line between getting defensive and talking too much and staying silent, which is brief truths. If you get defensive and go on long lectures, you will look bitter and crazy. Stay silent and you are condoning fuckwit’s lies as truth. Between the two extremes is your sweet spot. Simple messages of truth and when you repeat it long enough, it does sink in.

    • “Dad says you took him to the cleaners – yes, after he stole $$$$ from our marriage I kept what was left.”

      I had to laugh at this one. My ex told my son that he pays me enough support and he doesn’t need to supply him anything (like clothes or necessities at his house). After our divorce, Ex tried to STEAL from an account and I caught him (the bank didn’t take him off after we had him removed per our legal agreement — bank error. I had to report it and ex had to return the money. The sadder part of his cr*p choice was that the account is my son’s! So when my ex told my son that BS, I told my son that his dad had taken money from his account and the money I get from his dad now goes directly into his account. I let him know that I replenished the lost funds and the rest is for his college savings. And his father is still required by law to provide him with clothes and necessities at his home during his custody. And that’s the truth.

      • After I had (I thought) taken AH off my salary account, it turns out the bank forgot to cancel his secondary card to my account. In just one month he took out 4,000 Swiss francs (that’s about $4,000) from my Swiss account and €2,700 (about $3,000) from my euro account to be spent “on frivolities” (i.e. the skank – I could see where it was spent from my statement)! I went ballistic at the Swiss bank and said it was their error and I wanted the money back. My son’s only comment was “I hope the bank’s insurance has to reimburse it and not dad”?????? I don’t know how I didn’t knock his head off his shoulders right there and then!

  • You seem upset that your daughter doesn’t believe in marriage anymore. That is not your fault or responsibility.

    I’m a young chump (early 30s). My friends and family want me to find a nice guy and eventually remarry. You sound like my mom with the things she says to me. They want to ‘fix’ me and get me to trust men again.

    It might be a generational thing, but I see no value in marriage. I’ve learned that it isn’t a real commitment. Marriage brings a false sense of security. Any financial benefits of marriage can be wiped out by legal fees in the divorce (my state doesn’t have alimony). In the business world, I would never sign a 30+ year contract that could be cancelled by one party at any time with no notice.

    I will date, and live with someone, and possibly even wear a ring. But I can’t think of a scenario where I would sign a marriage license again. The legal risks outweigh the benefits. Maybe I’ll find a unicorn guy to prove me wrong, but until then, I’m planning for a fantastic single mom life.

    Your daughter will find her way and make her choices. She can live an amazing life even if she doesn’t want marriage. She could be a single badass or she could be in a happily monogamous relationship for years. Marriage and love are two entirely different things. Love doesn’t require a sheet of paper and witnesses.

    • I have to say I am in the same place and I am 55. Everyone wants me to run out and find someone else before my looks fade away. Not going to happen. Worse than all the emotional trauma I went through when my husband announced he was having an affair and a new baby and the discovery of 20 years of lying, cheating at gaslighting, was the total obliteration of my financial security. Not only does he walk away with half our assets, he was fired because the pregnant ant AP was the HR manager. This meant hundreds of thousands of unvested stocks evaporated into thin air. I am doomed to poverty in old age unless I bust my ass over the next twelve years to make up for what he lost and took from the relationship. My daughter is at a private performing arts school and he will no longer contribute so I have to find that as well.

      I was unemployed when he dropped this nuke on our family. I was not only a wreck emotionally, I ended up sick and unable to work for a year. I faced sex and age discrimination as I looked for work. I finally accepted a job in a “vice” industry which was a big uplift on my previous salary. I will spend the rest of my working life with a single minded focus on saving myself in old age. I have zero space in my life to cultivate a relationship and no desire whatsoever to place that kind of trust in someone again.

      Am I damaged? Probably but the risk / reward balance of marriage just isn’t attractive to me. I can and will manage on my own.

      • I was 51 when he moved in with the skank, but having already pulled over $100,000 out of my pension fund to pay off HIS debts (which he ran up again later), I ended up again having to pay half of his debts at divorce and give him 50% of the house for which I’d put in about 85% of the money. So nah, getting married again? Think I’d rather have all my teeth out without an anaesthetic!

        • Yep! I cannot imagine agreeing to merge finances with anyone unless they were much wealthier than I am. And then, I would respect that person’s preference not to merge their finances with me!

      • Oh good luck Wombat Mom! You sound like you will be fine.

        I live the same way you do: my goal is to be ok in my old age (almost there) and to not be a burden on my sons and hopefully to leave sons something (to make up for the mess and me$$ they are going to have to deal with from their father’s side). Even though this will trickle indirectly to fuckwit, I want to minimize the costly deadweight he will be for sons. I actually am planning an investment that will come along for sons when their father is almost 90 (and hopefully long gone).

        • My goal, too, is to leave something for my son. My ex father in law left almost nothing for his children, and I fully expect my ex to do the same. They were both selfish in that way, my ex having learned it from his cheater father (his father having abandoned his family when he took up with a grad student; my ex took up with an ex undergrad student-alumna). My mother, meanwhile, a public school teacher, by living carefully, has amassed a million dollars in assets, so I and my siblings will have a boost when we ourselves need one. I am recently retired, and pride myself on my frugality (not stinginess); I don’t stint myself of necessities, but my needs (and desires), unlike my ex’s, are reasonable.
          At the same time that I keep in mind my felt obligation to my son (who is an adult), I also have not given my son the reason for our divorce (serial emotional affairs and a closeted sexuality of masochism and cross-dressing, aided and abetted by his alumna accomplice). My ex still maintains his public persona of ethical professor, and his story to our son is “we grew apart,” a shit sandwich which sticks in my throat.

    • Same. I’m 39, so a bit older than you but no way I will remarry. When I did I was 24, and completely believed in marriage as a lifetime commitment. After this experience and seeing how so many people around me behave I don’t believe this exists anymore, it can for a time, but it will run out one way or another and when it does, the financial repercussions are too great. I gave up my career so that my husband could rise in his, and when he did he cheated on me and discarded me like yesterday’s trash. Now I will try to rebuild a career for myself, but never again I will give someone else so much power over me (especially financial power).

      If I find someone I’m happy to be together, whether each of us in our separate home or at some point living together, it doesn’t matter. But marriage is out of the question.

      • Dear vee, I totally agree. No more marriage for me either. Our stores are so similar, chapter read, test taken, lesson learned. To avoid being the crazy lady I try to stick with using as few words as possible, keep it short but tell your story or someone else will. I’ve had people tell me ” marriage is no longer for a lifetime.” Obviously there’s a shift in the values in the world. Those are not my values so I will chose not to participate. Wishing you peace.

      • Yep, 39 as well & no way would I want a possible second round of being the wife appliance. My next door neighbors are a couple in their late 60s who live together. Both are divorced from others. I can see myself in a serious relationship and cohabitation in the future, but marriage nah. I want to protect assets for my kids and getting divorced is much harder than getting married and prenups can always be challenged.

        • “Prenups can always be challenged“ Exactly. My father’s wife 3.0 (I call her Hell) worked for years as an estates and trusts paralegal . They signed a prenup and she said to me “It’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”

    • “In the business world, I would never sign a 30+ year contract that could be cancelled by one party at any time with no notice.”

      This is good logical thinking. When you consider that one historic reason for marriage was to, basically, get someone to take your daughter off your hands…it starts to seem ludicrous that in this age we still promote it. Women don’t need the financial protection of marriage…so, why?

      With my preteen daughter, I find myself emphasizing the value of a reciprocal and kind/loving relationship rather than the goal of marriage. I could care less if she marries…I’m raising her to be able to be fully independent no matter. And will continue to teach her that, no matter how much you love someone, you never lose that independence. Ever.

      • Very well said. I hope I can raise my daughters in that way as well.

    • I’m 45 and I totally agree with your assessment.

      Marriage as a contract did nothing to protect me, and in fact took away any legal and financial protections I would have had if I had not been bound legally to ex.

      I still believe in monogamy and making commitments, I just see the legal institution of marriage (at least in the U.S.) as something to be avoided.

    • Too many women still see their value reflected in their marital status. Plus, recent research shows that singles may actually have an edge when it comes to ‘happiness’ and fulfillment – because they tend to be more socially active and have wider support networks.

      I’ve been divorced for six years and have no interest in remarrying but a balanced romantic relationship would be nice. Yet one of my guy friends tried to tell me that marriage is the only relationship that means you’re ‘all in.’ Hahaha – good one.

      • lol, tell your friend “all in” is as “all in” does…commitment is an everyday action and has nothing to do with legal obligations. If a marriage contract is what keeps you “all in,” then you’re doing it wrong. However, NOT being bound by that that marriage contract allows you to GET OUT fast if you find yourself being abused. Seems like a win-win.

    • After I amicably divorced my first husband (not a cheater), I decided to never get married again, because I could see how badly it could have gone. I was with my partner for 14 years, not married, he cheated repeatedly and in the end I could just walk away. I didn’t have to give him half my house, no courts, no lawyers, I just focused on my self and my own healing.

      Someone said to me, ‘what if you find the right guy?’ and I replied, ‘the right guy for me won’t make me marry him.’

    • Same situation here, only without kids. Nitwit got to keep the marital residence while I had to move out in the middle of a pandemic because he cheated. I have gotten my job back and am in the process of rebuilding my finances. I’m just praying his enabling mother continues to support him until the divorce is final so he doesn’t get the bright idea of suing me for alimony (I was the breadwinner in our marriage).

      I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or to weep when the Red Pill types go on about how marriage helps women at the expense of men, as if men are the only ones to get screwed over in divorce courts. I would have spent less money if I had simply hired an escort once a month to take care of my needs. And those needs would actually have been taken care of, unlike with a sex-withholding “husband” (yes this happens to women too). Not to mention that escorts at least are honest about the fact that they are seeing other women and don’t expect you to cook and clean for them after a full day’s work.

      I love men but damned if I’m ever giving one access to my bank account again.

      • The actress Fran Drescher has her “maintenance man” to tend to her needs a few times a month ! ????

    • Be very careful when you live with someone. Research the laws in your state because sometimes there are legal issues once you have lived together for a length of time. Also, if it is your house, be sure you have a ‘rental’ agreement in writing, otherwise they may have a legal right to your house if they have paid money to you on a monthly basis. Never co-mingle money or if you do, each of you have your separate accounts and then a joint account that you each deposit money into in a ratio of your income. Also, keep your separate money at a completely different bank. There are too many times when bank employees make mistakes with accounts or fall for a sob story to make transfers or give out information that they shouldn’t. Just because you are not married does not mean that they (or their attorney) cannot find ways to get access to your money or your assets.

  • I struggle with this too. My oldest child (22) sadly does have borderline personality disorder. My STBX alienated the 2 older children with the version of its truth. Finally my oldest confronted my ex and said its interesting mon cried all the time when the marriage was ending but you didn’t shed a tear. She shared this with me after many months of silence as well as other things. I told her she was observant and know that I do love her. (He was saying I never loved them like the youngest who is 9) Now I hear from her. My 17 yo son lives with dad and its crickets.

    What kind of cruel psycho freak says that to a child? I feel more about how the words impact the children. The kids hurt alot with the lies these asshats tell them. My youngest gets it from her dad and an old nanny I had to fire for inappropriate behavior that my ex hired. Fuckwits unite! Next court date is soon and hope I can get a restraining order on her, but doubt it. Crossing fingers custody changes from 50 50 to 75 25 for the youngest.

  • I could have written this. My daughter also sometimes drinks her sperm donor’s koolaid but hey he helps with her house and hey Schmoopie knows how to quilt and she wanted to learn. O bite my tongue a lot. But we are still close except when she is not nice to me( narc fleas). I don’t accept that and sometimes that means she stops talking to me for a few days or she hangs up on me. I go on living my new life. Cool, bummer, wow.
    I would say more but I’m off on a late fall motorcycle ride with my new-ish boyfriend. It’s 19c and sunny here in ???????? ((Hugs)) my friend I get it..

  • CtS,

    Your children (adult or not) will work it out when they are ready. Your job is to be the sane one; if they do raise a direct question, then answer it succinctly and without emotion.

    My son asked me why his mother was telling everyone – our three children included – that I scr*wed her over in Court when our divorce was settled. I simply told him that the judge – who deals with this stuff every day – said that my offer was very generous and told now Ex-Mrs LFFT to accept it rather than causing further delay and expense.

    I left out the stuff about his mother being clearly butthurt about not getting want she believed she was entitled to (she was demanding a settlement way in excess of what she would have been entitled to had the kids gone with her and yet she had left them with me). I left out the bit about where she lied to her legal team, who in turn lied to the judge (that turned out badly for her). I left out the bit about only an idiot denies having had an affair and being in a relationship and then takes her AP along with her for the divorce hearing. I also left out the bit about her stealing from me and also stealing from two of the three kids.

    He did not need to know any of that back then ……. although he worked a fair bit of it out later on for himself.


  • 4 bio and 2 bonus kids- they are young adults. It’s been 6 years since Dday. “Cool” “bummer” “wow” and “yes” “no” “I will think about it” are life saving phrases. I have wonderful relationships with my kids- we talk daily and have a great time when we’re together. I chose to have kids with their narcissist dad— that’s totally on me— I was conned. Not.Their.Fault. It’s the least I can do to stay in my lane, focus on improving myself, and be the sane, stable, ethical, loving mother they need.

    My kids knew right from wrong in elementary school. It’s not my job to tell a grown adult anything to “make them” understand, even if those adults are my children.

    All around us are couples who stay together and act ethically for life. Cheating, abandoning, lying, stealing… acting abhorrently is not the norm. My kids can see that. If they choose to act contrary to my values that is on them. I taught them my values when they were little and I adhere to my values. Best I can do.

    • Motherchumper, this is the approach my mother took after my father had a long-term affair and I have always respected and admired her for it. She never demanded that my siblings and I ‘take sides’ and she never openly waged war against him in front of us. She didn’t need to.

  • The hardest lesson for someone who was raised to be an enabler and fixer, and had this behavior modeled and reinforced by the culture of her FOO, is that you cannot save/fix another person. You may give reasonable assistance to one who is in need. You can only save/fix yourself. It takes time, and work, and discipline to do so.

    I have lived the truth of this lesson with my siblings and my children. I have observed the phenomena in my extended family (grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins). I am the eldest child, I had cognitive dissonance before I knew what that was. My father was a dry drunk/control freak. I figured this out long after I left home. He usually concentrated his fury on one family member at a time, with a continuous side run on my mother, during their entire marriage of 40 years. I think it must take a lot of energy to demoralize someone, and he did the best he could, but he only had so much time and energy to give. The siblings faced his fury at different times, and in different doses. We all came to the same opinion eventually, but handle it differently. I helped my siblings as best I could, but they had to save themselves.

    I was in a 20 year marriage with the father of my sons. Marriage was a cultural expectation for me. My sons have aspects of their father and aspects of me in their personalities, but they are individuals. Early in the divorce process and post divorce, I was the parent who provided safe haven and discipline. My boys were 9 and 12. They didn’t like discipline, and loved to exploit the material benefits of acting Disney Dad, who was cool. I was not cool, but I did provide shelter, food, clean laundry, and a reliable source of transport to school and extracurricular activities. Also medical and dental care. I was dependably there, Disney Dad, not so much. Whatever else he was, he was predictably selfish.

    As my sons grew up they gained perspective. They experienced sorrow, and betrayal. I was there. They adjusted their expectations as they became adults. They needed assistance from time to time. I was there. They still love their Dad, but they do not adulate him at my expense. Turns out, in the long run, they value the sane parent who is there for them. Also the material benefits dwindled with Dad’s mismanagement skills. Funny how character becomes evident when observed over time and different situations.

    I believe you can change over time, and it is theoretically possible to drift apart and change your mind about the suitability of a match. There is also an honorable way to dissolve a union I don’t know if “marriage” is necessary, but I do believe there needs to be some type of legal contract if you are going to link your life with another person. Laws may need to be amended, or changed to enforce this civil contract, but it sets forth expectations and consequences for the relationship.

    Your children will have to come to their own conclusions, Give yourself peace — you cannot change the past, you do not have to give detailed explanations for the present, and you cannot control the future. Just love and care for yourself and your children as best as you can. Trust time to heal many wounds. We all have some battle scars, those are normal. No one is perfect or can believably promise perfection Your children will eventually figure this out.

    • I always love your posts, Portia. There are a lot of parallels between my situation and yours, and I hope I get to the point of compassionate wisdom you occupy. Thanks for posting.

      • Some days I was a hot mess, others, I sailed through. I am now retired and can look back through the filter of time and lessons learned. It is one of the best things about aging. I know I survived and my sons turned out ok. At the beginning, the unknown was scary. The experience and shared wisdom of the survivors who post on Chump Nation is the Balm of Gilead as far as I am concerned. Thanks, and I’m glad my words help!

    • i really value all of these comments, because CN commenters are the best, I’m just randomly responding to this one because it’s full of well-written wisdom, the kind that makes this place not just a life-saver but also a life-guider

      …I guess i just don’t exactly understand where the line is between “being the sane parent” and “telling them the truth”…or if there even is a line, when dealing with extremely dangerous behavior from a psychological perspective.

      in every other phase of my life–including parenting–i tell the truth at all times on all matters, without being rude of course…I don’t say things like “that color doesn’t suit you” obvs, but I am extremely truthful: on the big stuff, i never lied and i never will…

      so where does that leave me with regards to my STBXw and her deteriorating behavior?

      i feel like “they’ll figure it out in their own time” strategy looks a lot like “staying silent about abuse being visited upon your kids…but rationalize that decision with some version of ‘they’ll be fine in the long run…”

      unfortunately my wife is a bigot, so the following analogy is not just theoretical:

      Example 1:

      RANDOM BIGOT IN SUPERMARKET: “Goddamn all these N-WORDS!”

      ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AGE CHILD: “Dad, why is he screaming that word you told us never to say?”

      ME: “Because he’s an aggressive bigot who derives pleasure from abusing others, and is probably mentally ill. That said, he has shown his poor character which is not likely to improve.”

      CHILD: “Should I respect his right to use that word?”

      ME: “You should not. While technically legal, use of that word is a sign that a person is of extremely low quality and you should move away from them as quickly as possible.”

      …and i think we’d all agree that’s the way to handle that situation:

      no lying, no drama, no normalization, simple statement of widely-held societal beliefs that I happen to share

      ….but put that word in my wife’s well-used mouth and I’m supposed to…do this?

      EXAMPLE 2:

      STBXw: “Goddamn all these N-WORDS!”

      ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AGE CHILD: “Dad, why is Mom the screaming that word you told us never to say?”

      ME: “Is she? I am a gray rock.”

      CHILD: “Yeah, she’s calling that woman the N word. You know the N word, right??!?!”

      ME: “I know many words. Yet I can only choose my own. And while I understand that many people think that word is disgusting and unacceptable, I’ll remind you that you only have one mother. Remember, love means never judging someone for what they did. And if their behavior caused you to not love them anymore, you are morally required to never make anyone uncomfortable about that fact. Remember: personal integrity is always less important than not being seen as ‘bitter’

      CHILD: “But dad, aren’t you going to stand up to her like you did with that crazy dude in the store in the previous example?”

      ME: “No, I’m not. I’m the “sane parent” which means I never stand up for anything not verbally, if it means giving your Mom the #sadz. And while I would never allow such an utterance in my workplace or recreational activities, I am unwilling to protect your psychological space with that kind of intensity. When you’re older, after this has gone on for 15 years, maybe you’ll understand why I never bothered expending any effort. There could have been yelling, and nothing is ever worth raising your voice at another person. Never raise yours about anything, and you will look back at a life well lived. ”

      …obvs much comic hyperbole here, but I am puzzled.

      Seems to me like Full Truth is the best antidote for abuse…but here we’re supposed to say “nah” because, ummmm…?

      thx everyone, stay mighty!

      • Mid-Atlantic,

        You are drawing a false dichotomy between explaining in detail and letting it go entirely.

        The example you provided does not require a lengthy, detailed explanation of systemic racism, personal ethics, or etymology of a racial slur. You simply say “We don’t say that word in my house.” Do not mention mom at all.

        If the child presses for an answer, say “That word is very, very bad and here’s why: (proceed with an age- appropriate explanation of systemic racism, personal ethics, and the etymology of the racial slur).

        Always keep your opinion of mom out of your discussion. This is the high road. The child says: “yeah, but why does MOM use that word?” say, “I don’t know. But it’s a hurtful word that we don’t say.” The child will hear the underlying assumption loud and clear, and you will keep your nose clean, so to speak.

        My children have asked about specific incidences in which Wasband has abused me. I don’t want them to think abuse is OK, also I want to give them tools to use themselves when he turns his abuse on them. I stick to non- emotional factual statements about their father. For example: “Sometimes Daddy tells people things that aren’t true in order to get what he wants” or “Sometimes when Daddy gets really mad he says things he doesn’t mean. Those things are not true, and it is NOT your fault that daddy got mad.”

        I hope that answered your question.


        Another person who loves using hyperbole and exaggeration for comic and illustrative purposes


        • Thanks for this wonderful response, Lionheart!

          Thus far, I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping my feelings out of it & just sticking to my values,
          my actions, my choices.

          The issue, which you put your finger on, is how to best to give them tools to manage her abuse when it inevitably turns on them.

          I am very mindful that every Narc is trying to created a “Shared Fantasy” in which they can enjoy unearned adulation while also retaining the capacity abuse without exposure.

          The question—for all of us—is the level to which are comfortable allowing our children to exist in, and believe in, that shared fantasy, even though we know it to be fake.

          Thanks again for this great response!

      • As one comedian said in terms of marital life “The only reason to yell at your spouse is to tell them the house is on fire and they need to grab your stuff.” Full stop

  • I was recently discussing this with my therapist, about the truth. My ex is also a big fan of “we grew apart”, rather than “I cut off the life force from this marriage by having several affairs for 3 years, which took a lot of my time and headspace, lied to the point I made my wife (me) sick because she had guessed something was off but I refused to tell her the truth, and as a consequence of it our marriage died”.

    My therapist was saying that it’s important that I hold on to my truth and my story, and that I shouldn’t hide it from others or my son (he’s 14). My ex’s truth doesn’t matter, it can no longer impact me as long as I don’t let it.

    Children, we give them life but then they go on and follow their paths. I think it’s hard for them to see their parents as flawed human beings, they want us to be the good guys. So it’s probably hard on them as well to reconcile who your ex is, and how they want their dad to be.

    • ‘We grew apart’
      My cheater H said that to me and we were only married one year ????

  • Children are perceptive. They’ll figure things out.

    My three, very-much adult children (including spouses and one grandchild) went NC with their cheater father when he confessed to his multiyear affair. He emotionally abused them as well, and they’ve told him they have no desire to have him in their lives. (The basic message was: “We love you but stay away.”)

    As I’ve written here before, they are angry with me for not leaving him sooner. One daughter told me that she’ll disown me, too, if I ever take him back. We’ve all noticed how family gatherings without his toxic presence have been peaceful and pleasant. It’s really amazing how life can be when you don’t have a critical person stomping around and being generally unpleasant. No eggshells underfoot!

    That said, I think the day will come when they might change their minds, and I’m trying to be at peace with that. My therapist pointed out that sustaining black and white thinking regarding their dad (keeping up the hate) might be psychologically harmful to them. She said that they must still love him on some level. I agreed with her, but, in writing this, I realize I’m not sure that having some fond feelings and choosing NC are mutually exclusive.

    If they do reunite at some point, I don’t need to know about it. That’s between them and him.

    I know that if I find out there’s been a reunion, especially if it includes the OW, I’ll struggle.

    But as they say in psych circles, I need to reframe this. I mean, I’ve always wanted what’s best for my kids, so if meeting him is just that, so be it. I trust that they know how to evaluate a situation.

    If I breathe and embrace radical acceptance I will get through this. As CL puts it in LAC; GAL: “I know my worth. My heart was forged in a blast furnace. I’ve had to rebuild and reinvent myself….I accepted the painful growth that came from my mistakes, and from the crap that was inflicted on me unjustly.” So, I got this (I think).

    Good luck to my fellow chumps in navigating this emotional minefield. And thanks again to CL for her sanity and wisdom.

    • > She said that they must still love him on some level. I agreed with her, but, in writing this, I realize I’m not sure that having some fond feelings and choosing NC are mutually exclusive.

      My maternal parental unit is a narcissistic drunk and serial cheater. We’ve been no contact for nearly ten years. Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I had a close loving relationship with a loving mother, that I don’t mourn what should have been, what could have been. I wonder how a person can carry a baby under her heart for nine months, watch it grow into a respectable and responsible adult, and not value her.

      Not a day goes by that I am not relieved she is out of my life and can’t hurt me any more.

    • Beautiful post – I am in a similar position. My adults kids are NC with their father. In conversation with them I will bring up their dad where we can talk about him fondly but with no emotion attached, as in “oh yes that’s right your dad and you were the ones who went to the festival that year because we were sick and you guys won that raffle prize because he put you on his shoulders. That sounded so fun.” and then we just keep chatting. I want to I guess signal to them that it’s ok that we remember good things as good things; it’s not going to upset me or earn a snarky comment. Their dad was a good husband and father for many years (or modeled himself as one, still mulling that over) before he wasn’t, and he cared/cares for them.

      Having said that, I really struggle with the idea of them reconnecting with him in the future. I have no control over that nor do I want it but I have the irrational feeling of “you didn’t give a shit about them when you were screwing around, literally told me not one thought to them during the early cheating part of all of this, and now that you have the actual **gasp** consequences of losing them, you want to be ‘dad’ again? Stay the eff away from them forever”. I’m so not at meh.

  • Watch The Vow on HBO – Catherine Oxenberg’s battle to try to get her daughter out of the nxivm cult is inspiring and illustrates beautifully how hard it is to go up against a sociopath.

    Your husband’s stories will change over the years to serve him, yours will always be constant. Eventually, the kids will see that you are the sane parent.

  • So my grandson (7) who had a fun time with POPPOP before DDay asks me on occasion why I am no longer with POPPOP-that he misses him (he ghosted them pretty much too). I tell him POPPOP was not nice to me and you don’t have to be with people who treat you badly. My point is to teach them boundaries. How do you deal with these questions from grands?

    • Thrive,

      I like your response. I like the matter-of-fact delivery and the message that you don’t have to be with people who treat you badly.

      My grandchild was only 6 months on D-Day when her mom went NC. That was a year ago, and, obviously, she’s too young to know what’s going on. But I do wonder if, in the future, she might wonder why there’s no grandpa or see him in old pictures and ask questions.

      I’ll try your type of matter-of-fact, emotionally neutral response followed by the equivalent of CL’s “Do you want cheese on your taco?”.

  • A couple years after the divorce my college age sons said something to me to the effect that I took advantage of her in our settlement. I could have to them:
    -Why you you believe anything she says? You have witnessed her lying to you.
    -She tried to cheat me out of our house. I have the documents.
    -You saw her violent temper that resulted in a restraining order and temporary loss of custody.
    -You met the man she cheated on me with, would you like me to name the others?
    Instead I told them that we were both represented by attorneys and the divorce law in CA is pretty cut and dry. How could things be more fair? It never came up again.

  • All I can tell OP is this: the sooner you let go of needing to be in your older kids’ relationship with a Cheater Parent, the quicker you get to the Good Place.

    If you trust that your child is smart and you Trust that They Suck, the equation usually reveals itself to them in good time. As does the One Who Sucks.

    I consider myself lucky beyond words that until last weekend in a burst of Pandemic Angst, my nearly 16 year old never said she hated me. Not even as a toddler tantrum. She did hate me. For about an hour. And said she was going to call her Dad to pick her up.

    After an hour of ruminations about how his other kid and step kid and girlfriend always seem to come first, and how her existence with him is purely supplemental and requires listening to arguments with Bald Sugar Mama about his inappropriate relationships online with other women, she came out of her room and to her senses.

    I told her all teenagers probably hate their moms sometimes but nobody lives for her like I do, and one day she’ll have a family too and maybe understand.

    Even if you want to control how your children see their father, staying enmeshed only delays building the life YOU a want.

    • “I told her all teenagers probably hate their moms sometimes but nobody lives for her like I do, and one day she’ll have a family too and maybe understand.”

      This made me emotional. I had a fraught relationship with my mum as a teenager, but now I can see that while she was not perfect she did the best she could, and she did live for me and my sister.

      Your daughter will definitely see it as well when she grows up, even if she doesn’t have a family of her own.

  • Mine tried the “we had 34 years to grow apart and got sick of each other”. His kids look at his Twitter account; he follows local prostitutes, who have links to their adult profiles, with rates etc. They are so grossed out. When I called him out on it (his former & current work colleagues follow him), he said prostitutes are the only ones who will hang out with him. But I’m poisoning the kids against him… both are young adults, looked up to their physician father and now think he’s complete scum. The prostitutes are barely older than our oldest son and frankly look like young teens in their body build. It’s unreal.

    • Oh, god. I feel bad for these kids. My oldest said, “I feel like I’m half skeeve.”

      Btw, my ex is also a physician, OW is a nurse. We were married for 35 years. I’m not aware of prostitutes, but who knows? One thing I’m realizing now is that he had NO boundaries with nurses and drug reps. Even some patients…I mean, the stories he would tell and the gifts he would receive–personal gifts–gave me pause. He would say that I just didn’t understand the kinds of close relationships formed in the hospital.
      Guess he was right. I don’t understand.

      And what’s weird is that he’s super shy. Or maybe that’s not so weird. This pathologically shy guy who couldn’t get a date in college suddenly found himself fawned over by nurses, staff, and patients. It went to his narc head.

      But even adults kids suffer. It’s sad. I’m sure on some level mine looked up to him. Although he was hard to like (selfish, critical, silent treatment, passive-aggressive responses–all the usual manipulative tactics), they admired his work. And I’m sure they have some fond memories…

      He tried to sell the line that “this is just between me and your mom.” They weren’t buying it. Emotionally clueless, he had no idea how devastating infidelity and abusive behavior is on the entire family. No doubt the AP and maybe even his therapist fed him this crap that the kids will understand, and you won’t lose them. Either she lied or is as emotionally stunted as he. OR, what is most likely, my ex never let on that he had a crappy relationship with them. To this day he says, “I was a great dad.”

      His narrative is that I poisoned them. He is suffering as a result of my actions. DARVO.

      • Omg, mine tells the kids “it’s just between me and your mom” too. He was a completely distant father, also very shy. He put on “ah shucks, of course I’ll help” attitude with everyone but around his family he was a cold, angry presence. Found out he made inappropriate comments towards student nurses, and his knows how long he was seeing hookers.

  • “The length of the relationship has nothing to do with how you should conduct yourself.”


    I had a short relationship with a man who 1) Was the first to say “I love you.” 2) Introduced me to his parents on Easter Sunday for their family dinner together. and 3) Told me he wanted to marry me. Including asking me where I wanted to honeymoon, and looking at a ring.

    In total, I was with this man for around 1 1/2 months. Which was both too short for the level of commitment he was talking about, and too long because…well I’m about to get to that (for the record, the ring happened when we had just gone out for the day, and I wanted to look at the opals a local store had, just because I like opals. He said, and I quote, “Is this the ring you want? If it is, I’ll propose right now.” I did say NO.)

    Anyway, about a week after I met his parents, he started getting really sporadic about answering my texts. The week after that, he did not answer them at all. I was wondering what the fuck was going on, obviously. At the end of the second week, he finally called me and told me he was lying about wanting to marry me, he didn’t mean it when he said he loved me, called me crazy for thinking he was any kind of serious about us as a couple at all, and told me he never wanted to be tied down anyway, so what was my problem? It’s my fault if I’m upset because what kind of crazy person really thinks someone actually loves them after such a short time? STOP CRYING YOU’RE ACTING IRRATIONAL!!

    Another, even shorter, experience I had with someone was just as bad. We’d been talking for a few weeks, met in person, hit it off extremely well, saw each other for another few weeks, and agreed to be official. Even changing facebook status. The weekend after we made that agreement, he cheated. Lied to me about where he was going (canceling plans we had) and going to sleep with his ex. He confessed the next day. I told him I hope both of them die in a fire. He sarcastically said “Wow. Charming.” (I said “Don’t act like it’s me with an honesty problem, asshole.” At this point, I’m actually thankful I found out about it so fast. Less time wasted.)

    Talking with my therapist about these guys, after I finished telling her what had happened, she said one sentence: “You know those guys suck right?”

    For a while I had been beating myself up and feeling stupid about it, telling myself I should have known they weren’t serious, maybe I am crazy for thinking they cared, it’s MY fault, maybe if I was less “irrational” it wouldn’t have happened…

    My therapist stopped me in my tracks and said no, they suck. Lying to someone like that, telling someone you want to marry them when you have no intention of doing that, saying “I love you” when you don’t mean it, not being able to stay loyal for even one damn week and then blameshifting when the lies come out? That’s really shitty and they’re shitty people for doing it. The length of the relationship doesn’t matter. Doing that at literally ANY point in a relationship is cruel. Whether it’s a month and a half or a year and a half. And someone who starts cheating from day 1 is truly a piece of garbage.

    Short-term or long-term, there is no reason to treat the other person like they’re expendable and their feelings don’t matter. You should conduct yourself with good character and integrity. Length of a relationship shouldn’t change the way YOU act.

  • Both of my daughters, who are young adults, are financially taken care of by their father who has lied, defrauded, and cheated me in every possible way. I believe he financially defrauded me to get revenge on me for not wanting to be in a marriage that is a total sham. He also happens to be a high functioning alcoholic.

    Our son, who is our youngest, lives with me and has received no attention, or many financial resources. Not coincidentally he also happens to tell the truth, and does not allow his father to lie to him.

    Dad: Mom exaggerates

    Son: Mom exaggerates about all you have stolen, and about you cheating with your dumb co-worker who is a whore? Huh???

    That was a conversation I heard one day between the two of them on the speaker phone.

    The stakes are high, and you lose a lot when you have integrity as I have seen first hand watching my son. My boy, and I have suffered tremendously. But, I leave my girls alone now. It is on them what they want to do. Letting go is hard. But, I have learned for myself that it is the only way.

    Their father mismanages money, has a young woman who is extremely addicted to shopping, and is emotionally unstable depending on him financially now.

    We will see where it all lands.

  • Thank you all for commenting. Sticking to short, succinct facts seems to be my best option whenever its something that can be factual. I’m not about “Dad says you wouldn’t let him get his things” and just ignoring it. That is factually incorrect. I don’t let my kids believe lizards don’t have teeth because their father says so, either. That isn’t defending, it is stating the facts.

    Where I get stuck is that a lot of things are simply perspective, or people want to jump on exact terminology instead of the spirit of what is being said. Many things that are perspective earn the Cool, Bummer, Wows. But my kids don’t know he cheated, didn’t see him gaslight me, or scream at me for three days straight while I was deer in the headlights not understanding what was happening, and have no idea he hid money. And since I don’t plan on telling them, either they will figure it out or they won’t. If they knew, they they’d know decent people don’t do that.

    Perhaps “Normal” is the wrong word. Maybe this really is all too much the “norm” these days. While I honestly believe that knowing everything the wayward spouse did would be beneficial to my children’s critical thinking skills (Hmm, a person can lie to your face and never flinch, who knew?), I struggle at times to present a sane “Just because your family ended up this way is no reason to think you’ll have the same results” without adding “THOUGH NO FAULT OF MINE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH!”

    Because they don’t know. They have no idea. Dad is AWESOME! Except when he laughs at D for crying, or tells S that he can’t possibly take more than 2 classes each semester (because that is what he did) because S isn’t smart enough (completely false). It’s really hard when being the sane parent just isn’t enough to offset the insanity that is their father, and you watch your once confident and together children begin to doubt themselves. Because maybe they are being gaslighted by their father and don’t know it.

    I know they are adults. I know I don’t get to “make” anyone do anything. It was figure of speech. Facts I can deal with. Perspectives that are based on lies leave me at a loss.

    • I am truthful with my sons. I don’t want them to do what their father did to their wives. I have told them how devastating betrayal is. they watched the pain I went through and also felt betrayed and now replaced. I think the children deserve to know. it is a big deal not just a spat. why hide your pain from them and why protect the asshole. they are adults.

    • Important things require clarification. Society and manipulators in particular like to chide people as being defensive if they protect themselves.

      Recently, I was being lied about to two relevant people and one of those people said “you are being defensive” and I said yes because I am being attacked. I then gave the person an analogy that she would relate to (and pop a vein in anger) if she were in my position. Her demeanor completely changed and by the end she scolded the liar and said to her “Lisa’s being defensive because you are bullying her, do you understand that?”

      Chumptheshark ,you sound like you know what important things merit clarification and what don’t. Distortions can have long term damage, and particularly if your kids are being gaslighted you will teach them how to hack back to reality and give them psychic self -defense skills in a world full of assholes.

  • Dear ChumpTheShark–I understand a lot of what you are saying. Your point that people want to focus on “exact terminology” instead of the spirit of an issue sounds all too familiar. My EX (and sometimes the kids when they are echoing him) will take any discrepancy and use it to derail a conversation. If I say, “you told me you would be on time.” He will respond with, “No, I didn’t. I told you I would be ‘timely.’ You are lying about me again, just like you always do. You are the most dishonest person I have ever met . . . . ” And so goes the rant. All my attempts to return to the discussion of a pick up time will be fruitless. This behavior is typical with cheaters and liars.

    More importantly, though, you are enough. We all wish our kids had two sane parents, but they only really need one. You cannot stop his gaslighting. Directly responding to it (unless your kids ask), may even give it some sort of credence. Just keep being you. Keep praising their strengths, cheering on their ambitions, and reminding them when they falter that everyone makes mistakes and that real character comes from being the sort of person who keeps trying, not from being the sort of person who only attempts easy things.

    I hope your kids flourish. I hope you flourish too. I hope you are proud of the fact that you’ve raised kids who may be too willing to trust rather than ones who are conniving con artists. Your worries all sound like the anxieties of a fantastic parent who holds herself to very high standards. So, I’ll say it again. You are enough!

  • On Dday, when my life exploded, I felt that my whole life was shattered: past, present and future. I thought of myself as a smart, savvy woman with a good intuitive sense, but clearly I was wrong. You think you know your own story, and your own past, but when you find out the man you love is a lying stranger, you have to re-evaluate everything. Or at least, I did. What was true and what was false? How many other people that I thought I knew, did I perhaps not know at all? Everything was in chaos. I needed the truth like a person crawling in a desert needs water.

    I am for telling adult children the truth. The truth is the compass for everything, and young people need it to navigate their life. They were part of the family also, they were lied to and gaslighted as well, and will have to sort through and process what it means to have a deceptive parent so that they can make ethical choices, be trustworthy and have good relationships.

    That being said, I think a simple truth is best. Kids don’t need the details, and in fact the details are often horrifying. In my view it is sufficient tell them that in the marriage their father had a secret life and lied to cover it up, and this hurt you and was against your values. That’s enough…no need to bust out the gory details of porn addiction, compulsive masturbation, multiple affairs, threesomes, cam girls, and strap on parties.

    When I was in my forties, and years after my father died, my mother told me that my father had cheated. This was just before I had to drive across the country, and I cried for 2500 miles. I idolized my father and it hurt me that he wasn’t the man I thought he was, and that my mother had to deal with the pain of infidelity. It also helped me to see both of them more clearly, as human beings with flaws, and allowed me to let go of some bitterness towards my mother for the divorce. The truth was painful and freeing.

    So that’s my two cents. It can only be done in calmness and when the tone fits with your next sentence of “Cheese or no cheese on your taco?” And that can take some time.

  • The son comes home to say this about your not returning daddy’s things…because daddy is spewing it to him. Son tells you to get your side? More likely, It’s becuase he’s actually upset at daddy’s emotional dumping on him. Why is daddy emotionally dumping on adult son? Perhaps becuase it’s daddy’s way to still be the victim. To have victim centrality. And perhaps your reaction is reported back to the father by the son. Perhaps te son is still looking for father approval, especially after the family breakup. And when you ‘defend’ yourself..and son reports it to the father …. the father then tells the son, ‘see mom is bitter.’ Don’t play into your ex’s ‘wouldn’t give my things thing’ bait trap.

    Defend yourself with one sentence, if any. Then move on to taco cheese. Yes yes yes!

    These fuckwits have ocd on what was done to them. But short term memory of what they did.

  • My kids are the ones that told me my ex cheated. My DS sees him once a week. My DD rarely sees him, some texting occasionally. They both understand what he did and what kind of person he is. Im glad I raised my kids to go down the right path on life.

    Marry or live with someone – never. Plus I wouldn’t want to give up my lifetime alimony. The next few years will be tough financially but I will make it through, without a cheater in my life…

  • Adult children have many variables in their relationship with their parents.

    Does one parent give them money or lavish gifts? Does one parent hold them accountable, and the other make excuses for them? Is the child self absorbed and does not want the inconvienence of the truth? Is the adult child depressed/anxious and does not want any additional stress about anything? Do they buy into the ‘you both must have faults’ line of thinking? Many do.

    By all means set the record straight in as few words possible to your adult children. If your ex lies, tell the that isn’t the truth. But they often still will love the Judas parent. Sigh.

  • Oh yeah, the truth every time. In as few and as non-aggressive words as possible. Kids are so sharply observant that they very soon pick up who is more believable – the one who tells it brief and cool, or the hate and spite spewing viper vomiting poison all over everything at the mere mention of your name.

    It is worth every ounce of heroic restraint we have to muster in navigating these sorts of interactions with our adult children, to then see them work out the truth for themselves. Because the truth you work out for yourself is the truth that sticks.

    And I have to say it is quite blissful to let go of the early jealousy and hurt that kids continuing their relationship with your ex causes. Accepting that they are adults and can negotiate their own relationships with anyone they choose without my input is very freeing. They have a loving relationship with me and that is all that matters. I have grown more and more reluctant to judge other people’s lives and relationships since experiencing my own go up in smoke. And that’s a good thing.

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