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Can I Tell His Family He Cheated?

cheater manifestoDear Chump Lady,

My STBX informed me two weeks before Quarantine Thanksgiving that we had to talk. I shut the lid of my laptop and asked, “What do you want to talk about? Do you want to watch something together?” (I was deep into an episode of something that he hated.) He said, “I want a divorce.” Bombshell. Refused therapy, said he was leaving. He was gone the next day.

Turns out the woman he’d been openly having an emotional affair with ALL through quarantine was actually the woman he’d been fucking since pre-quarantine — though to this day he insists they “just made out one time in February.” Sure, OK.

My question, now that I’ve obtained the medical record from our child’s therapist stating that STBX psychologically harmed him by trying to gaslight him about how “Mom and Dad planned the divorce together”… and now that our settlement is going to include an article stating that STBX will be reimbursing me for marital funds used on the affair… and now that everyone in town knows that he cheated and lied… I’m faced with the question of whether to tell his family.

His parents are long dead, but he does have one stepsister whom he sees about once a year and who lives far away from here… and whose blood sister is a cheater. The Good Stepsister HATES cheaters and liars and (correctly) thinks the Evil Stepsister is garbage. Since D-Day I’ve been planning an Oscar-worthy speech, to be delivered over the phone, the day after I file, to the Good Stepsister about STBX having cheated and lied and gaslit and emotionally abused me for years. STBX and both sisters stand to inherit quite a bit of money from STBX’s stepfather, and in my wildest karma fantasies I imagine him being cut out of the will (inherited wealth is considered separate property in my state).

But now I’m wondering whether telling the Good Stepsister would provide Ego Kibbles to STBX, whose staunch position is “I had to leave my crazy wife because she’s emotionally unstable, volatile, etc.” He’ll doubtless give his family some made-up account about me being insane… and might even enjoy the opportunity to do so.

Should I keep mum or deliver my speech to the Good Stepsister?


Gray Rock Novice

Dear Gray Rock Novice,

First get your divorce settlement. You don’t want to do anything that could be perceived as revenge or antagonizing his family. The most important thing right now is getting out of this marriage with the best possible settlement for you and your child. So, as satisfying as a righteous blast of truth-telling might be, you need to resist the urge. Remember the Mr. CL rule about being in litigation: “If it feels good, don’t do it.”

Next — and I know this is hard — in the marrow of your being I want you to accept that your ex is going to malign you. And his family will probably roll with it, even if they don’t entirely believe him. Okay, even if they have mountains of evidence that he’s a shit human being and cockroaches would cross the street to avoid him, he’s still their kin. They still have to deal with him. They won’t have to deal with you. And it’s easier for them to avoid all the messy drama and uncomfortable feelings if they Don’t Take Sides. (See also “Switzerland.”)

Is this fair? No. Go punch a pillow. But they aren’t going to disinherit him. They aren’t going to rush to your side and validate your injustice. Most likely scenario, the Other Woman will be sitting in your chair next Thanksgiving, simpering over the sweet potatoes.

Look, and that’s even if they believe you. Even if they have a set of ethics and a history of avowed statements on the loathsomeness of cheaters. Even if they have empathy for you. Divorce means you lose his side of the family. There are some rare exceptions to this, the chump who keeps the sister-in-law and chucks the cheater. Forgive my jaded perspective, I’ve just read hundreds of thousands of these stories. Your pain isn’t their pain.

Is your soon-to-be-ex-SIL someone you were going to keep in your life? If she cares, she’ll reach out. And then you can tell her the truth. If — after years of connection — this bomb drops and she does NOT reach out to you? There’s your answer. She doesn’t care. Not enough anyway.

If he maligns you (and he will), and she has years of evidence of what sort of person you are, evidence of your character and good deeds, and she doesn’t verify his story? And she doesn’t reach out to you? There’s your answer. She doesn’t care. Not enough.

Now then, if you persist in telling someone the truth who has demonstrably shown you they Do. Not. Care? Now you’re in the very uncomfortable place of trying to convince someone that you matter. That your child’s pain matters. And you’re going to get squeamishness and platitudes in response, or you’re going to get rubbernecking at your pain. Neither of these things feel good. It hurts a lot, in fact.

But, but! It’s the truth!

Yes it is. And it’s your truth and you have a right to tell it. This happened to you, it’s your story and you are absolutely under no obligation to do impression management for your ex. And absolutely, by not saying anything, that leaves his self-serving narrative out there unchallenged.

Choose your moments. Consider what it gains you. You will regret sending a 14-page single-spaced manifesto of emotional word vomit. (Ask me and a million chumps how we know.) You will not regret the dignity of no contact.

If you still want to tell her, I’d wait until you’re divorced. Then, write her a letter (you control the one-way nature of this, and you don’t have to listen to any awkward reply). You regret to inform her about your divorce, you were shocked by the suddenness of this breakup, the presence of Schmoopie and you wish her well, and hope she’ll remain in your child’s life. Be gracious. Be brief.

Remember, the best revenge on a cheater is getting on with your life and denying them centrality. HIs step-sisters (the Good and the Bad) are stuck with him. Rock your new life. That pays dividends. Explaining your pain to people who don’t care? 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 [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Very wise.

    Do this.

    We Chumps are usually great fixers, curators, and outcome-enablers.

    Sometimes the hardest thing in the world is to internalize There’s Your Answer, when there’s silence.

    • “There’s your answer.” Yes. So very cold and factual. I spent 10 months in weekly counseling getting nowhere. But, then I found the CL book and this website. My new screensaver on my phone says, “If your absence doesn’t affect them, your presence never mattered.” I cannot survive and move forward until I accept this ugly truth. But, it also feels like chopping off my arms to float to the surface after being trapped at the bottom of a deep well – as soon as I chopped – I released and floated to the top peacefully and without effort. I became, sort of, right with the world and I could see a way forward. My heart is still in pain but I am no longer ripping it open every day. I could, for the first time post D-Day – breathe!

    • Reminds me of the old country song line- “if the phone still ain’t ringin’ then you know it still ain’t me.”

  • your considering his feelings. Did he consider your feelings? He’s gaslighting you and your child. You should tell people the truth, your x will tell them his version. people do stick up for cheaters don’t forget that. The ow will be acting all nice and all that crap. She has your ex that’s her problem. Your ex relative who cheats should get along with the ow, they probably have a lot in common. The ow will act all caring and nice don’t fall for it.

  • CL give such good advise grounded in the reality of how people actually act and not in the overly-hopium-influences fantasy that Chumps tend to harbor inside them. I spent way too much time in the first 50 or so years of my life hoping that people would react in this way or that but they rarely deviate from established patterns and they are family, so I expect CLs description of their reactions to be spot on.

    Yes, tell the one you interact with something simple and truthful and leave it be. I tend to see truth as something (like to dinosaurs in Jurassic Park) eventually gets out.

    That said, my Cheaters family saw him as the Crown Prince and adored him. I thought he acted shitty emulating the example of his father. He was also a serial cheater. I have stayed close with one of Cheater’s sisters and I shared with her that I spared Cheater’s elderly parents gory details as to not ruin their memories of their dead son.

    She adores her parents, recognized that her brother was an ass and deeply appreciated me showing discretion in not telling her dad (who died a few weeks ago) that his son was a man-whore and that he was a poor example. In our conversation I said “there is nothing to be gained”.

    Sister and I may well stay close ’til were old ladies (her actual sister is a turd and I have no bio sisters). The discretion I showed allowed me to have a sister in a situation where I otherwise would have none.

    • The “he” who was the serial cheater was my former spouse, not his dad. His father was crass and mean to his wife (and in that set a horrible example) but I dont think he cheated.

  • Yet another sucky effect of the affair.

    Vomit out the 14-page manifesto and have a trusted friend read it. But don’t sent it!!

    Let it go. CL is right. You can’t control this, which feels like shit. But months/years from now you’ll thank your younger self for exercising this restraint.

    If the SIL reaches out, then use your courtroom voice to explain what happened. You’ll know her position soon enough. Be patient.

    Mr Cl’s mantra deserves a place on chump fridges everywhere.

    Ps. Your ex is a fuckwit. I’m sorry you’re going through this hell. Good luck.

    • Great advice. My poor sister has had to read so many of my manifestos to my ex…that I then deleted. It’s good to get it out, just not to the cheater.

  • Hopefully this will be illustrative for you GRN . . .

    After “The Troubles” and subsequent divorce, I remained in passive, infrequent virtual “contact” with my ex-brother-in-law. I always genuinely liked him and shared the status of “outlaw” (married into the same family). I was always very careful to keep things light and superficial — Facebook ‘likes’ when he posted a job update of touted the soccer prowess of his daughter, etc.because I didn’t want to risk any information getting back to my ex’s sister.

    One day he let me know that his daughter would be participating in a tournament close to my home, and he invited me out to breakfast with them. I accepted and was surprised 9although I guess I shouldn’t have been) to see ex’s sister also sitting at the table.

    The meal went fine — no talk about ex, her new husband, anything having to do with The Troubles. After breakfast was over, ex’s sister asked if she could walk me to my car. Here’s a condensed version of her words to me . . .

    “Look, (Kunty Kibbler) is my sister and I love her, but I’ve known her for more than 40 years now and for whatever it’s worth, I want you to know that we’ve basically concluded that she’s a habitual liar. it’s always 50/50 that anything she tells us about you, or the breakup, or her situation now, is actually true. We’ve stopped paying very mush attention to it. It probably doesn’t matter to you, and it shouldn’t, but I understand that you’re doing what you need to do to deal with her in the best way you can, for yourself and for (my daughters). We’ve got to deal with her, you don’t. I’m glad you’re able to remain somewhat friends with (ex-brother-in-law) and I hope that doesn’t change. I still consider you my brother.”

    In keeping with good self-care and gray rock practices, I simply said, “I sincerely thank you for those words. I appreciate your understanding.” End of exchange.

    All of which is to say — take CL’s wisdom and advice to heart. Focus on yourself and your child, accept that he’ll be telling all kinds of exaggerations, half-truths and outright lies about you and what happened, and stay true to your story without trying to overtly steer the narrative.

    • That must at least have been somewhat validating for you. Even though it changes little.

      • Not really — she could have been blowing smoke my way for her own purposes. Remember, ex-SIL comes is a product of the same environment as KK. Doesn’t mean she’s the same as KK or even close, but we chumps no longer have the luxury of giving cheaters and those closest to them (historically or otherwise) the benefit of the doubt.

        • UXworld, Your story resonates with me. I’ve had a somewhat similar experience with my SIL.

          My ex’s sister was my friend before I met her brother. She and I met in college, and she introduced me to her older brother. Although my marrying her brother is absolutely NOT her fault, she recently apologized for introducing me to him.

          She’s also a chump. Her husband had an affair and got the AP pregnant. This was 10 years ago.

          Although she’s said some very validating things to me, she’s made clear that she will remain in contact with her brother (the cheater). I get that.

          She does contact me occasionally, and I respond but remain guarded. I haven’t shared my new address with her. I’ve also told her that I don’t want to hear any mention of her brother, a request she honors.

          Bottom line: I’m very wary and keep some scissors at the ready in case I have to cut the fragile cord that connects us. I refuse to be hurt again.

          Rather sad really. The damn ripple effects of the cheater’s actions persist. Perhaps “ripple” doesn’t quite describe these effects. It’s more like an earthquake followed by aftershocks and tsunamis. True far-reaching devastation. One of the biggest losses for me is the inability to trust people. I question motives. I, too, often wonder if some people (with the exception of my truly close friends and family) are simply blowing smoke my way. *sigh*

          • The only time I had words with my ex-SIL in the 8 years since her brother and I divorced was when she ambushed my 18 year old daughter (as if she was lying in wait until she was emancipated) with lies about me and our breakup and made her cry. I sent her a brief text calling her out as a hero worshipping flying monkey of her father and brother (both cheaters), that I had easily disproved her lies with documentation and she should realize that her behavior damaged her relationship with daughter, not mine. She didn’t respond thank heavens but sadly my daughter doesn’t trust her and have much to do with her anymore.

        • I have never commented on this website before, but I am compelled to relay something which happened yesterday, and made my heart mend a little. I have had a horrible 5 years finally ending in divorce from my good looking, Ivy League, high achieving, high earning asshole, who, it turns out was sleeping with his direct report for the last 6 years. He is about to move in with her now. We have the most amazing kids, now in their twenties. They are quietly disgusted with him. Anyway, yesterday, his only blood relative, (kids excepted) a cousin, called me with the sad news of her mother’s passing. We chatted at length, and I reminded her of the conversation the 3 of us had had at Xmas, and how chirpy her mother always was. We talked of what dress she was going to choose for her mother, (who was quite the fashionista)….eventually, I said to her, Do you want me to call (my STBX), to let him know? She surprised me with an emphatic, “No”. I thought she was going to say she should call him herself, but instead she said. He’s not even on my list. He’s never called me or my mother once, nor did he ever call my father (his mother’s brother) when he was alive. He won’t notice that my mother is gone, why would I invite him? My heart repaired a littel bit, that his own family chose to validate me, and in fact had held back on their opinion of him until I opened up to them about mine. I know this is unusual, and we all have to be prepared for people to turn their backs but sometimes, people might surprise you.

  • This is true. He is their kin, and inevitably they will support the cheater because that’s what families are supposed to do.

    I have made peace with that fact, which stinks. No more family reunions, no more Christmas at grandma’s. No more friendly banter or shopping expedition s with SIL. I have to lose them too and that is the only family that I have.

    I told MIL two years ago. She was very helpful, a life saver. This time now that he has done it for a second time and it is over, MiL and FiL are avoiding me. I told them the news and pleaded for them to help their son whom is in trouble. I told them of his depression and anxiety. I told them details about his behavior (which I avoided last time) and how the children are suffering. I asked for support for the children as they cry daily and I don’t know what to tell them.

    They have obliged with video calls and talked over the phone as the children sobbed. They asked them about school and ballet. She has texted me (my kids) a couple of pictures. But for me, nothing , nothing but icy cordial hellos. I expected this but it hurts, this is not my fault.

    It feels like twice the injury. I honestly don’t think the vulgar mistress would take over any time soon with them. FW is not talking to his family either, just like last time, he dissaoeared from their lives as he was ashamed. It was up to me to stage a reunion in which no questions were to be asked.

    At least I told my truth. The first time around it was important to me that they know that I’ve sacrificed for his career and that I am a good wife and mother, they saw me alone raising children for years, they felt sorry for me for spending many holidays and milestones alone while he trot the world and became a success, of my back that is .

    This sucks. At least I’m retaining custody of an aunt whom knew everything from the get go. She came here to get me off the floor and feed my kids. She is an angel. She promised me she will take me in for the family reunion as I am and will forever be family. I’m grateful for her.

    I don’t want or need any revenge. They all know what happened, they all saw me alone crying while he was gone deployed when I was pregnant. Alone raising babies when he was on his second and third deployment. Alone refinancing homes, moving and buying another home. Alone as he because a raising star, alone for Christmas, alone for my birthday, alone for the kind ds birthdays. Where is he they asked, my response as of late, if you know please let me know because I don’t know either.

    They know, and they will take his side because they have to. Why the betrayed has to be triple victimized?? I don’t even want to think about OW wedding or sitting on my chair. Hopefully by then I will be off to the sunset.

  • I can personally guarantee that my ex told his family nothing about keeping his trash ex gf around. Everything about him is phony and his nice guy image is the most important thing in the world to him.

    I doubt he’s done a ton of trash talking about me because he’s extremely conflict avoidant and negative things make him uncomfortable. Really anything beyond sports and the weather makes him uncomfortable and trashing me would eat into his nice guy image.

    I suspect he’s told them that we just didn’t work out, I changed (technically true because 44 year old me wasn’t willing to put up with the sane bullshit as 31 year old me), and I dumped him because he got older (he was 19 years older).

    But I don’t care what he’s told them. If I was still in touch with them I’d tell the truth but since I’m not I don’t care what they think.

    I still get an occasional text from his dad’s wife. They really liked me and his dad is in his 90’s and doesn’t text or do social media but his wife is a younger (around 80) and does. I would bet they know he behaved badly because they’re not bury our heads in the sand and baby does no wrong type people. I dare say that if his father knew how he’d treated me he’d be beyond furious….he’d never treat his wife or let anyone else treat his wife the way ex did me.

    If the wife ever asks i will tell her. She and I got along really well and I do miss them.

  • As a family law attorney, I strongly caution you against this, as everything in your life will under a microscope if there is ever custody litigation in the future. We all know how narcissists can twist things that we have said or done, and how they can charm people on the outside against us. Do not do it.

    Also – as it pertains to the will/inheritance, it might be separate property in your state BUT it could also be considered as part of his income for child support when he receives it. So, you may end up getting a portion of his inheritance through child support. Check with a lawyer in your state.

    Hugs to you, from a fellow chump and divorce lawyer.

  • The one person to whom this truth is concerning is the child, if they have a relationship with the former spouse’s family members, and if the child knows the truth and the family members have been lied to.

    My daughter knows he had an affair. It has come up in co-parenting therapy that if my x has not told the truth to his family about the affair, which my daughter knows, that this is damaging to my daughter and the relationship she has with his family (her grandparents, aunt).

    Family dynamics tricky and insidious enough without the major league catastrophic complications the idiots having the affair inject into it.

    I bring all the crazy broken pieces of the shit show to the expert competent therapist for help establishing protocols and responses.

    In my case, the co-parenting therapist (very kick ass, thirty years of experience, the best one I could retain in our area) told him that lying to his family when our daughter knows the truth is DAMAGING to our daughter. I agree. Whether or not he complies with truth telling is out of anyone’s control, but at the very least he’s been told by the expert he pressured me to go to.

    • As for the legal angle of my situation, we are attending co-parenting therapy at the request of our daughter’s therapist. So I am following the suggestions of the professionals involved in my case (three lawyers and four therapists now. Sweet smoking Jesus Christ. We had one before he dropped the A bomb, which is all any family needs if you show up honestly.

      I did not want to go to co-parenting therapy with someone who lied lied lied in counseling for who knows how long, but it’s turned out to be a very validating experience for me…..

      • TYPO…

        “we had one THERAPIST before he dropped the A bomb”

      • I’d be interested in hearing how that goes. My XW is trying to get me to agree to do this. On the one hand, I don’t like the hostile relationship we have now, but I am deeply concerned that XW’s goal is to get me to be more compliant to her demands: I’m quite sure that she interprets “less hostility = I get my way more often.”

        XW often reacts to my saying “no” with personal attacks (“you don’t care about the kids”, “the only thing you care about is money”, “during the marriage you never …”) so if counseling could get her to accept my right to say “no” without blowback, then I’d be willing to risk it. But I am deeply worried that it will consume time, money and mental energy and just end up with a third party telling me I have to be friends with my XW “for the kids”.

        • We’ve been going since October and so far my experience has been watching her nail him very politely to the wall while I sit back with my tea and speak up when necessary.

          I did NOT want to go and resisted it for a very long time, because of the evidently wasted time and money in therapy with him over the entire course of our relationship, with the intent of learning the How To’s of a successful relationship and avoiding the shit show marriages both of us witnessed growing up. What I got for those efforts was lied to and cheated on. Why he went and what he was actually doing will only ever be known only to him.

          He was pressuring me to go, believing the co-parenting therapy would magically restore his relationship with our daughter, which is not what it is for. It is a place to bring parenting grievances and craft very detailed agreed-upon conduct protocols, which she puts in writing and emails to both of us after every session, which has been a very nice and helpful surprise.

          I found the best and most experienced co-parenting therapist where we live. I have so far heard her tell him everything I’ve been saying for 30 years. Will he do what he agreed? Well, if not there is a place to bring it. And it’s really turning up the heat on him as he is so invested in looking like a great parent and hasn’t been. It’s worth the money just for the validation I am getting. She gets what’s going on and is not co-signing anyone’s games.

          Interestingly, issues he ignored and avoided with me are all coming home to roost in co-parenting therapy, and his only chess move to further avoid is dropping out of therapy, which is fine by me, so either way…..checkmate Velvet Hammer.

          • Yay! Checkmate VH! The Queen’s Gambit. Well played!! Glad you have such a great therapist. Must be satisfying and validating to watch him “pinned and wriggling on the wall.”

            I hope your daughter is doing ok. It must be tough for her (understatement).

            Who knows what fucked-up effects a cheater’s selfish behavior has on our kids? One insight from my adult daughter: “I feel like I’m half skeeve.”

            • VH, you put a smile on my face today. It feels like a win for all of us. Proud of you.

        • ???? I did one round with the Narc. Pointless waste of time and money. If you have a an ex like mine with no empathy who will never budge from his original position and lies when any of his nonsense is exposed don’t bother. This is just another image management ploy.

          • I’m kind of worried about that. My XW doesn’t lie about little things much (she saves it for really important stuff, like whether she is trying to move and take the kids with her), but she has zero empathy. If we ever encountered a situation where my honest explanation would be “well, I can’t do what you’re suggesting because I’m a single parent with a fixed work schedule, and my income is 1/3 yours so I can’t pay someone else to do it for me either”, I’d be afraid she would just file it away as an admission of inferior parenting to take to the lawyers.

            Now, if the counselor could stick to simple, straightforward rules (such as “it is not appropriate to use event titles in the shared kids’ calendar to air grievances”) it might be useful.

            • The x is a liar with no empathy, which is how I ended up on this site, like most of us.

              He lied at the very first session. So when I pointed it out he was put in the hot seat immediately. I then said I would not continue coming if he continues to lie. It has been very gratifying to stand aside and let the co-parenting therapist fry him. The key is getting someone really good and very experienced. They’ve seen it all and know how to handle it.

          • If things ever go to court, it would not help my case if I refused to follow the suggestions of our daughter’s therapist. I am going for her sake and to protect my credibility.

  • I’ve said this before but one of the best things about my separation then divorce was loosing the in-laws . I’ve never heard from them either not a single peep but oh how glad I am of that .

    If you can cut off the entire family I would as if you stay in touch with any of them no matter how close they are , they might go behind your back .

  • My ex told everyone that “there was an indiscretion” — no mention of spending $30,000 on hookers, of course. His family didn’t want to hear the real story and none of “our” friends reached out to me. I’m not in the business of trying to convince people that I’m important to them.

    • “I’m not in the business of trying to convince people that I’m important to them.”

      Love love love this.

    • Oh, yes—the hooker in my x’s case is just a “harmless dalliance”. I want to get the FW to pay for all of the STD testing. His sister-in-law now says he believes the hooker is his girlfriend. Our older son calls his grandmother from time to time. He mentioned the hooker to her. Apparently my x-mil called out my FW. He proceeded to blast my son via email—telling Grandma it’s a hooker is now “elder abuse”. Yeah, he can cheat with a hooker but God forgive it if his mother knows. It’s “unseemly”.

      • The hooker will take him for all she can get and move on. Your ex is among the many halfwits that believe strippers and or prostitutes have actually fallen in love with them because they’re so special.

  • Yup. Let it go.

    After my ex left for the second time and went far away, my elderly aunt told me that the marriage was over and that I’d lose his entire family. I didn’t believe her and said we were still working on things and that his family loved me. She was kind but noted that she had been around a long time and seen it so very many times.

    Well, she was right. His family chose his side on everything after awhile. They gave him “polish up a decent marriage” books versus anything that went deep. They believed his narrative that I was easily influenced by others and mentally ill. They ignored his documented mental health issues. I can only imagine what they were told about the divorce process. Both high-powered attorneys said they had never had anything like it. His wanted to quit on an ongoing basis but stayed in as a favor to mine.

    So I closed that chapter. Certainly I could write a letter, but there was so much misinformation that I chose not to.

  • If (big if) you decide to tell your in-laws, think carefully about why you are doing so and what you hope to achieve … and if you do, stick to the facts and avoid the editorial. I would suggest that just looking to gain revenge or control of the narrative is a poor motivation in this case.

    In my case I did tell my MIL; she is an ex-Chump who stayed with her cheater (now deceased) and she is appalled by her daughter’s behaviour, which closely mirrors her late husband’s. As a consequence, MIL was able to provide a huge amount of support to our children when it came to dealing with the consequences of Ex-Mrs LFTT’s lies and manipulations. It was better for MIL to explain to our youngest that waiting for her mother to admit what she did was wrong and apologise was pointless; like her father, she just doesn’t have the moral strength to do it ….. so better for our youngest to accept that and move on rather than wait for something that will never come.

    If I had explained this I would have sounded bitter and I would have risked accusations of poisoning our daughter against her mother; for MIL to have said it avoided this contamination of the message.


  • Dear Grey Rock Novice, it doesn’t matter what you say to his family, they will believe his narrative. Words won’t sway them from his defense. So don’t bother. Go ahead write that letter and then keep it in your possession. Sign it, date it, and don’t mail it. I use journaling to write these missives.

    They don’t care, dear Grey. If they did they would be on your doorstep with open arms and condemnation for the cheater brother. Let those people go. You will be better off with people who love you even if that is just you.

  • I did tell my BIL’s wife what went down with my cheater, and though she and I were close and she was upset on my behalf, BIL and wife still “have” to interact with my cheater and his wife/mistress. So it almost feels worse that I told her the details and she still sees him at birthdays and holidays.

    Also, if there is a lot of money in the possible inheritance, if you are still in the negotiations of your divorce, maybe talk to your lawyer about a clause in the settlement that if he receives an inheritance of xxx dollars or more, that he has to put yy% in a trust for your kids until they are zz years old. That way, he cannot blow through that money with his cheating partners and instead has to be responsible for your kids.

  • Families of fuckwits are so confusing.. When I first called out my cheating husband, his sister was supportive. His mom just wanted to know what I knew, and his dad instructed him to change all his passwords (maybe he knew this from experience). Then my SIL’s husband cheated on her. Then all of a sudden cheating was a terrible thing! They ended up “working things out” for the children, of course. Insert eye roll. Then my stbx and I both lawyered up, I became the black sheep. Not the cheating husband of mine or the other cheating son-in-law. Then I knew for sure, this was just a toxic boys club. My SIL hasn’t reached out to me nor I to her, I know where her loyalties are. As sad as it is, since I really thought we’d developed a friendship over the years, I know that these toxic family systems won’t allow it. I also cannot risk talking candidly to her about anything for risk of my divorce settlement. It seems weird though now, all the years I diligently mothered my children around these people. Shielding my children from my husband’s tantrums, and drinking. They all know the truth, that he’s an abusive ass. But now that I’m standing up for myself via a good attorney… I’m the problem. The only thing that really scares me is my children spending time in this environment without my protection. They are still little and these people created Satan’s spawn, I don’t want my kids there.

  • My baby, my son picked a gold digging piece trash over his wonderful wife. She helped him become extremely successful. She did all the heavy lifting, while he was in another country or having marathon meetings. People love my son, his good guy image is hard to resist. I can’t turn my back on him completely. I have never spoken to OW, she speaks, I give zero response. Not so much as hello. He is grown, middle aged, he makes his decisions. I am old, I make mine. From the beginning I have supported his wife. It is uncomfortable, that is not an excuse. It breaks my heart he has followed his father’s path.
    My SIL never left me, stood by my side when I needed her. So this last year’s holiday? We zoom with my DIL, SIL, my daughter , her family and my son. The body sitting next to him is just wall paper to me.
    If people don’t support you because it hard, walk away. If they do, hold tight.

    • Your post is so uplifting. Thank you for doing the right thing. You did because you know in your own flesh how it feels.

  • I can relate to your craving to vent and shout it from the rooftops, but don’t actually do it. I found that writing out all those manifestos and Oscar worthy speeches was a tremendous outlet and very healing. However, reading over them 3 years later leaves me cringing and thankful I never shared or showed that to anyone. It’s less Oscar worthy and more just raw emotions, ranting, and pain. Not a pretty look even to your closest friends.

    So skip the speeches and instead keep it simple. Why did you divorce? He cheated. Most people don’t need more info than that and will come to their own conclusions based on their own inner moral compass which you do not control. In fact, based on how they react will help you determine whether they are your people or to be avoided.

  • My child adored his only other relatives under 70, STBX’s sib and her kids, who live plane rides away. STBX withheld a present from them for 6 months and gave it when it suited his purposes. Child left a voice mail with thanks and requested a call-back, which he never got. I don’t know if he should try again, or accept that they’re gone from his life, too. They may have continued to send gifts and letters through STBX, who could be withholding them as he did the first time.
    .Last year, I left voice mails for both SIL and another adult cousin after the separation, requested a call-back, and heard nothing. Local friends told me that STBX fabricated stories that I was mentally ill and violent, so I assume he said the same to his family. Child is relieved that he’s had next to no contact with STBX for over a year, but it hurts to feel rejected by the rest of the family–who may actually think child is ignoring gifts, if they’re sending them to STBX. Any advice?

    • This is terrible. The only thing that I can say is to reach out on behalf on your child and tell them that he is in the middle and that he misses them and that none of this is his fault. Tell them that there are two sides of the story and that while you don’t want anything for yourself, you just want to make sure that your child continues to enjoy being part of the family. I said something of the sorts with moderate success.

    • This actually begs the question…if your STBX left because of your mental illness and violence why are your ex-in-laws not concerned about your child? I sure as hell would be wondering why a mentally ill violent parent had primary custody. But maybe they wrote off the kid because he’s only 50% their brood stock.
      If they have so little concern about your child just write them out of both your lives. It is not your job to cultivate those relationships. You’ve done what you can. They need to forge the familial bond.

    • “Local friends told me that STBX fabricated stories that I was mentally ill and violent, so I assume he said the same to his family.”

      So apparently none of them are concerned for the well being and safety of your child. I mean if they are actually buying that you are violent and unstable, their first question to your stbx should be why did you leave your child with Goodfriend? They’re not buying it but much easier to go along with the crazy narrative and turn their backs on you and child. I wouldn’t be too concerned what these people think, they’ve shown you they are also disordered.

      • My father’s parting shot to my older brother when he moved out and separated from my mother a second time was “Your mother has a lot of problems with men” Let me unpack this. My father’s behavior (emotional, sexual and some physical abuse) wasn’t the problem; she was. And he’s leaving his teenage son to fend for himself with this “sick” woman. That’s how much he valued his son. Not.
        Pops did request my brother to lie and claim that he lives with Pops and wife 3.0 so the happy narcissistic couple could get an extra bedroom in their Queens NY condo. When my brother visited from California, he never stayed with them, choosing to visit with my mum in NJ instead.

  • I told my in laws. They didn’t care. Ex MIL told me “that’s just what men do” and told me to go put on some make up. FW’s siblings never responded to me but told him they’d support him in whatever makes him happy. Going no contact with them was the best decision. FW can arrange contact between them and our children on his own time. It’s no longer my job and I’m at peace with it.

  • There are many valid reasons not to disclose, but owning the truth was cathartic for me and benefited my healing. I was brief, stuck to the facts and left it at that. At that point I was no longer was interested in covering up his cruelty or minimizing the damage that he inflicted upon all of us. Nor did I feel like suffering silently at the expense of my emotional health and reputation.

    The people I notified could, and did, digest the truth as they liked, but it allowed me to focus on those relationships that were supportive and cut ties with those Swiss passport holders and other enablers of abuse.

  • I had no minor children when my marriage ended, and both sets of parents were dead, so none of the entanglements that many commenters mention here.

    I also accepted that I would not see his side of the family again, or mutual friends that he brought into the marriage. Many of these people had been kind to me over the years. It was important to me that I not just disappear from their lives.

    So I called them to tell them goodbye and to thank them for their kindness to me over the years. These phone calls were invariably well received. Of course people asked why we were getting divorced. I told the truth. I did not run down my ex, but I also did not spackle for him. I only called when I was in a peaceful state of mind. The phone call with my ex SIL was very satisfying. My ex had just visited, and had told them about the divorce, but had refused to tell why. When I explained about his affair, everything clicked.

    I have not any further contact with these people over that past two years, except for one former female co-worker. She did call to tell me that my ex had called her out of the blue one day, I suspect to scout her out to see if she were open to an affair herself. She turned him down.

  • Unless these people will be your support system, stay no contact with them as well. This means blocking all of them on social media for now.
    File for the divorce. Get all the paperwork done. Arrange child custody transfers. Get a foot therapist to help you work through the complete bullshit unfairness of having to miss days of your child’s life because your ex is an ass. Figure out your living arrangements, your future employment (if you aren’t working), etc.

    Once the divorce is final feel free to share the wonderful news on Facebook and share chumplady site for anyone who needs it.

    My ex admitted to his affair. It took me a while to figure out how to manage the relationships with the MIL. I have full custody of the kids, but they are teenagers. My ex has a new gf and a new baby..the kids and I will never visit MIL house again….they have never met new baby or gf.

    My SIL is my good friend. My kids love her and she lives in the same city as me. I think she was as distraught about the affair as me. But her brother is still her brother, and the new baby is her nephew too. It is complicated for everyone.

    Never lie. If someone asks, tell them the truth. That has been a huge weight off me. Plus, you will be shocked how many people share their own story.

    Good luck with your new life. I know it is brutal and excruciatingly painful, but there is an end to that and with it is a real freedom and independence.

  • So don’t even worry about them. It will take care of itself. One of my SIL told my oldest daughter what a nice woman the hofriend was (and took the woman out to lunch the day we went to court the first time) and told my son that he would get over it. But she’s a cheater too so there you go. I doubt the other SIL even knows a bit of the truth of what is happening. Nope don’t worry about them.

  • My ex in-laws COULDN’T believe what their daughter did. They actually told me to divorce her. I called them up one last time when I filed for divorce and told them this would be the last time we would talk. I knew who they were, what kind of people they were after spending over 24 years with them. “Blood is thicker then water”.

    She gives very good advise about this. Very few of the in laws don’t side with their family member. Also, DON’T poke the bear. I had to yearn that the hard way. I spoke the truth and my ex went after everyone of my friends in a WW2 size smear campaign. Learn from our mistakes. On a side note, one of my XW’s aunts dislikes her and has kept me in her life. That’s it…

  • So spot on, in every way!

    My ex only was close-ish to his divorced father (as close as two cold-hearted men can be anyway, but bound by a shared love of money) and he was in our lives and gave me lip service, like saying he was going to visit, but then after that never reached out at all. I did at first, but seeing the lukewarm response, I stopped soon after. Now I have been predictably replaced at the holiday table, just like CL describes, so Im guessing it’s out of respect for the present person, whatever.

    Shared friends, too. You may even get to tell your story, they lend a sympathetic ear, then they just don’t care.

    The good news is it leaves a lot of time open for the new people who actually want and deserve being in your life. Im waiting for mine, not holding my breath, but at least now there’s space to hold for them.

  • Regarding my ex’s violence I told anybody and everybody and did NOT keep it a secret. My thought was the shame is his to carry not mine. A few times when he started laying in to me I made sure to call his parents, and then put the phone down so they got to listen to it. Regarding the cheating I kept my mouth shut although his folks knew he had a gf and that we were still married. He was trying to sell it as “after we decided to separate” kinda stuff. It’s been 10 years now that he’s gone and I occasionally keep in touch with his mom (not his sister – yuck – or his crazy brother) and she asks questions because I think she’s suspected all along. So I answer them honestly. She’s in her 80s and I don’t want to hurt her but I think she knows her son (both sons actually) is an AH so I’ve been honest when she’s asked. So hopefully if you’re lucky the truth will come out eventually. If not, well, that’s theirs to live with isn’t it! It is hard though not defending yourself against their lies isn’t it!

  • I really had a hard time with this subject. I had been close to his Dad and Stepmom, it was me that played peace keeper more than once between them.

    I understood when they decided to support him. Though it hurt. They never learned the details from me.

    However, when I found out through my kids’ that his parents thought he had “gotten screwed financially” in the divorce. I really wanted to point out that he had probably already spent his share of my 401k by getting happy ending massages while completely unemployed.

    But it just opens wounds. So I walked away.

  • When FW left me and our son abruptly (and moved right in with his coworker AP and her boys), FW decided to continue the secret keeping. I didn’t realize he didn’t tell ANYONE. FW didn’t tell his parents. He didn’t even tell his 2 brothers (and their wives).

    I was the one that reached out to his parents (thinking they knew — I was still in disbelief and trauma — completely confused and grasping for straws). I was looking for help.

    His narcissist mother put on the tears and said she’d be supportive. Then she and FW talked and both of his parents immediately turned against me and called me a liar. His father called me “sick” and screamed at me on the phone. His mother even sent me a nasty a letter with a long list of bullet points of how I’m the problem (mostly the passive aggressive wacko somehow decided that because I didn’t force FW to go to church, this was all on me. To be clear, FW is 50. I’m not sure how I was responsible to make the man attend church LOL).

    2 months later, I was getting loads of likes and posts on Facebook from one of his brothers (regular posts — I mentioned nothing of what was happening on Facebook). I thought it was odd that his brother was acting like everything was “normal,” so I called him. I asked him if he knew FW left me. He had no idea! FW left him in the dark. 2 months had gone by and FW never even told his own brothers. And the creepy parents kept the secret too. That brother’s wife contacted me and decided she chose me over FW. She even invited me and my son to Christmas. His brother was mostly ok with it…. but he is the type that doesn’t choose sides. It was just super awkward.

    The FW’s other brother (about age 42 at the time — the youngest) is married to a family lawyer. I didn’t reach out to them. Then about 2 years after my divorce, youngest brother’s wife reached out to me for some info on a job for a friend moving to the area. We got on the phone together. I asked her if she was ok with me. If there was anything she wanted to know. She then gave me the low down on all the lies FW’s mom and dad were telling them about “what really happened.” I laughed at the outrageous lies being shared (FW’s mom said that it was all my fault… I was a terrible wife and threw poor FW out. And thank goodness FW had a friend at work. Of course sweet FW didn’t start dating until I tossed him. ** Cue the audience laugh track **.

    I asked SIL if she wanted to hear what really happened… and I filled her in on my truth. And once that curtain was raised, she and the youngest brother have seen it for themselves. They see FW as the monster he is (he’s horrible to our son). And they work through me to keep contact with their nephew. They have both been gracious.

    But I don’t reach out much. I keep in contact. I’m polite. I send the cousins gifts and cards (FW sends his nieces and nephews nothing). And that’s it.

    Both SIL’s want to get together. If they are in town, I’m willing and we’ve met up a couple of times in the last almost 6 years. I’m also open for my son to see his cousins. But I sit back. Mostly I let things go and I find it’s healthier for me. Let FW embarrass himself. I don’t need to bear witness.

  • Gray Rock Novice, here. I’m the letter writer and have a few items to add:

    – Our child’s therapist decided she couldn’t release records until the settlement is completed because she doesn’t want to get in the middle of what might become a custody battle.

    – Our settlement (no-fault state) cannot legally include any mention of the affair.

    As for the “everyone in town” I referred to “knowing” that he cheated and lied… well, after reading Chump Lady’s response and reading all of your responses to her response (for which I cannot ever thank you enough), I now see that there are people who KNEW my STBX was shit-talking me for YEARS and still sat next to me at Thanksgiving as if nothing was wrong… his family very much included.

    And, as so many of you generously remind me: That’s my answer.

    • You’re doing just fine Gray Rock Novice. Follow CL’s advice. We are all on this crazy ride together.

      Hang in there and get through the divorce first. Those that matter will come to you. They will want to know. You are no longer his secret keeper… so feel free to share if you want to. But wait until after the divorce and keep it brief. CL is spot on.

      And I’m sorry. This all sucks.

  • I really struggled with this question as well. I won the in-law lottery–they were better parents to me than my own mom and stepdad for the majority of my 18-year marriage even though they lived across the country: we saw them twice a year for long visits, we had long heart-to-heart talks…. Their hearts were broken when my ex announced out of the blue that he was leaving the marriage. Of course, it was the usual, we’ve grown apart, we argue all the time…. My MIL called me on a fishing expedition: “Do you know what triggered it?” Turns out he had admitted to dating the OW but lied and said he met her after he’d left me. I told MIL the truth, but I asked her not to spread it around the family. I just didn’t see what good it would do b/c, as CL said, his family was going to take his side no matter what, and the truth would only prompt my ex to character-assassinate me in return, which he wasn’t to that point b/c he is definitely the Everything is Awesome brand of narcissist. So, I left it alone. I sent a note to the one sister and one aunt that I had had close-ish relationships with: the other two siblings are as disordered as my ex, so unsurprisingly, I never heard from them again. I keep in birthday/Xmas contact with my in-laws. It breaks my heart that my ex took half my family away from me without my choice. But that is just one of the many, many injustices of infidelity, and I just have to learn to live with it.

    At the beginning we want everyone to hear our story b/c we’ve been so used to having our story silenced or warped, and we’re practically in a panic to get our truth out–as much for ourselves as for other people. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. You learn to trust and live your own truth and reality no matter what other people think or say. And that, honestly, is the silver lining of being a chump.

    • Sorry, when I say I sent a note to the sister and aunt, it had nothing to do with exposing the cheating–it was just telling them I loved them and would always think of them as family. Also, when I say “living our own truth and reality no matter what others think,” I’m just talking to chumps, who are very concerned with actual truth and reality…. I’m not talking about cheaters who make shit up.

  • So many truths resonated for me here, thanks CL!

    I have found, now that I’m out six years, that running around telling folks about the cheater doesn’t serve your healing… it really doesn’t it. Just like to sad love songs doesn’t make you feel better, you holding on to the story of what is now in your past is just going to slow you down from moving forward. Think of your brain like a VHS tape… this is your moment to tape over your past (not to say it didn’t happen, but don’t let it define you… it was one chapter of your life)… start with positive storytelling… “yes, we’re divorced but my son and I have never been happier”… “I didn’t know life could be this peaceful”… “God has a bigger plan for me.”… whatever it is, make it your self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Mark Twain remarked,”Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Choose happiness.

    I would also suggest you start to distance yourself from his family as part of your no contact strategy. If you don’t, you’ll find it to tempting to pain shop or seek validation of your pain, your self righteous anger. Case in point: I raised 5 stepchildren with Mr. Sparkles. They watched their Dad cheat on their moms and break up their homes and yet they are thankful for any chance to bask in his light. As they become adults, I’ve had to establish new boundaries around contact because they are still part of living a lie that I cannot be a part of in any way. I make sure they see their half brother, my son, but I’ve stopped planning “kids dinners” at my house and going out of my way to check in with them. I hadn’t realized I was still engaging in their Dad’s drama by engaging with them, so… boundaries.

    Star in your own movie – no drama needed – he cheated, he broke up your family, his loss… you’re moving on and building a better life.

    • Such wise advice.

      It helps me think of my painful past with my ex as something I paint over–that past is like pentimento in painting, visible (because this experience can’t be fully erased), but nothing to do with the subsequent painting.

      I also appreciate the reminder to “choose happiness” and the idea of positive storytelling. Because it’s true: however much the discard hurt, I really am so much happier now, and my live much more peaceful.

    • Yes, I agree with the less said, the better. Same thing during the divorce process. Only my very closest friends and relatives heard the whole awful story and how awful the divorce was.

      All of our couple friends initially were supportive of me, but one-by-one they drifted away. Some of it may or may not be the pandemic. I decided to just let that drop too.

      So I have my relatives, a handful of long-term friends, and a group of newer friends that I met after he left. Some of my newer friends and I are having an anti-Valentine’s party next week on Zoom so we can bring our favorite snacks and adult beverages in a larger group than the pandemic rules allow in our area. Ah life…

  • Please, please concentrate on your child. I’m not the Chump, my brother was. She was a terrible mother and a rotten wife and he did not realize it until she was gone. She was gone. She abandoned her family. Your hopefully soon to be ex is a seriously rotten human being to inflict this on his child. Use therapy to help your son understand what his father is up to. I don’t mean alienation because the courts hate that but your son needs to be very realistic when his dad tells him crap. I watched this happen in my extended family with a very narcissistic mother and she pretty well wrecked half her children. The rest of them escaped by leaving home and moving far away. Since this horrible man is going to be in your child’s life you have got to give him some tools to deal with it and a therapist is how you do that.
    Money is nothing compared to your child’s safety and your peace of mind. If your ex inherited billions they still would not be worth anything if he damaged your son. That’s what you need to look at, that’s what you need to focus on.

  • Great advice by CL…even when it’s tough to hear. I decided early on that I would answer any direct questions my ex’s family had, but I wouldn’t offer anything unsolicited. I guess I figured there’d be some form of reaching out from them…after all, we’d been together for 20 years. I had been an integral part of the family for decades. I planned holiday celebrations, bought gifts, organized overnight visits with his nieces and nephews, planned vacations with his folks…and on and on. But…crickets. They didn’t care, not enough…just as CL put it.

    And it was a blessing. My life’s been way less chaotic without them. I had no idea how much drama that family brought into my life, until it was gone. And, in any event, they know who he is. His mom used to thank me for putting up with him. But, he belongs to them.

    So, just know that whatever ideas you have about his kin being open to “hearing” you are likely overblown. And they may know exactly who is is, and just not really care. Better to walk away. Besides…you don’t really want him disinherited. That’s possible resources for your kids down the road.

    • I think in many instances, despite the happy pictures they might post to social media, these families know damn well that their cheater relative SUCKS. But, hey, blood relative and all that. They’re stuck with the cheater and have to suffer through a new OW/M. I suspect many a family gathering (pre-and post-pandemic) will be spent complaining amongst themselves that they miss the chump and really can’t stand this new person.

      I’m sure there are cases that disprove my theory, but, damn, I bet many resent the shit out of the new person and deep down are disgusted with their cheater relative.

  • Can you tell her? Yes. As CL said, after the court stuff is complete.

    But I wouldn’t recommend. Maybe if she asks I guess. Serial cheater/serial rapist ex’s friends and family are all flying monkeys of the worst kind. Ex is SO good at manipulation and draws people in and tricks them beyond comprehension. Otherwise deeply ethical people end up supporting ex through the rapes and assaults even though they know about them on at least some level. It’s a madhouse. Ex’s mom knew about and facilitated the cheating and rapes and other abuse, including rapes against minors. Telling family is a fruitless endeavor and will only compound your trauma and pain further.

  • My ex fessed up to his family right away. After all, he thought he deserved sympathy because his only “sin” was falling in love with someone new. What could be wrong with pursuing twu luv?

    I agreed to drive my MIL to her doctor’s appointment shortly after D-day. I know. I know. Super chumpy.

    When I picked her up, I made her read some LAC;GAL quotes that I had printed. I said I wouldn’t start driving her to her appointment until she read them.

    She just mumbled something like, “Ok. Low character. Just drive.” ???? I doubt anything was achieved. It just made me look angry and bitter, at least that’s how she described me as we drove on. She also started reciting bible verses. It was the drive from hell.

    I am blissfully NC with her now. I choose not to have toxic people in my life.

    • Reciting Bible verses? WTF? Was she trying to ward off the devil, the devil being the truth? What a kook and religious hypocrite. She was supporting sin. You are well rid of her.

      My cheater fessed up to his family and even admitted he was wrong. Still he was asked whose fault it was! He was comforted about losing his marriage and I was just ignored. A relative (one who supposedly liked me) even had the nerve to tell fuckwit not to tell me his new address because I might come over there and do something crazy when fuckwit was visiting him. Fuck’em all. Most cheaters come from dysfunctional families and they all just want to cover up that fact. Us telling our stories bursts their bubble of delusion that the family is psychologically healthy, so they shun us.

  • 1000% on EVERYTHING you wrote CL! 1000%!!!!

    I blocked his entire family on FB and received a scathing text from my now ex SIL. When I engaged in a discussion with her, she texted back that my STBX husband and I were “simply a bad match” and “he could never be the kind of husband you needed/wanted.” The response CL speaks about above that hurt like a mother.

    Yes, my desire for a husband who is not an unfaithful, drunk, passive aggressive, lazy, entitled slob is an outlandish, highly uncommon need for a wife to have….Shame on me for setting such unrealistic and high expectations for a husband. (insert eye rolling emoji)

    My response: NO CONTACT….going on 2.5 years for me with all the in-laws, great aunts/uncles, friends, etc. That side of my children’s family as the elderly Rose in Titanic said, “now only exists in my memory.” LOL With family like that, who needs enemies?

    As CL says, with no contact comes a “peace that is divine.” Am I sad and wistful about the loss of an extended family I felt genuine warmth and attachment to for nearly 20 years? Yes. Does it piss me off that they have welcomed the OW and now new wife with open arms? Yes, it infuriates me and it hurts like hell. Am I just trying to move on with my life? Yes, in baby steps with the help of no contact. That’s the only thing I can do.

    It’ll be up to my ex husband now to keep my children engaged with his side of the family. As CL says, that’s one of the responsibilities that I used to carry that he fired me from the day he admitted his affair and I kicked him out.

    • Yes – he can figure out how to keep his family connected to our kids. Our families live in another state. During the holidays, I let him know that we were traveling there and he could tell his divorced parents to contact me if they want to visit/have the kids sleep over. His mom made arrangements and transported the kids to & from where were staying. It was nearing the end of our trip, so I reminded my Ex-H and asked if kids would see his dad & step-mom? Ex forgot then remembered but then his dad didn’t want to travel to pick up the kids. Umm I just transported kids 8 hours, not my job to travel 30 min there and back to get kids to grandparents’ house. The excuse became well dad started drinking at 4 pm and doesn’t want to drive. So you were aware grandkids were around and decided to drink? So happy kids didn’t have to visit. Like father like son.

  • The fuckwit doesn’t fall far from the fuckwit tree it came from.

    They’ve known the fuckwit for a lifetime. They know what happened in every one of the previous relationships. They don’t warn you beforehand. They are on hopium. They don’t sympathize with you after. They are in denial. Just let it go.

  • Eh, I’ll go against the crowd here.

    I informed the majority of stbx’s extended family. I sent very short messages with just the facts. I knew I might get threatened with a defamation lawsuit, so I was careful about what words I used. I did not expect any replies.

    I have no regrets. I cannot control whether people believe me or who they choose to support. But I can choose to put the truth out into the universe. Telling the truth is incredibly important to me, so I acted in accordance to my values.

    I did get asked about it in my deposition. I was able to calmly explain that I thought people would want to know the truth, and that I had the right to tell it. (we had a newborn baby – many of the people had been invited to my baby showers)

    So I think you should tell who you want. Just do not have expectations as to how people will respond. And expect anything that you send to show up in court. Every person has a different legal risk tolerance, and I feel comfortable defending my actions to a judge.

  • There is a big difference between telling the truth ‘he cheated, ‘ vs giving all the gory details.

    CL nailed it, you don’t say anything until after the divorce is final and the ink is dry.

  • My advice: Don’t worry at all about giving him kibbles, or about ex’s family’s feelings. I would make a surprise call (no recording or documentation will exist) to the nice SIL, and very calmly, directly, succinctly, tell her of the long term cheating and AP (name names), the exact unilateral, sane (you), reason for your divorce.
    I wouldn’t assume that all people or relatives are switzerland. They aren’t even blood, may not truly be that close, and she would likely appreciate the truth (from you). In my opinion, you have absolutely nothing to lose in informing her, and much to gain. Waiting until after your divorce for a direct talk is probably smart, but pre-divorce, a subtle dropping of “his girlfriend” into a conversation, even once, will certainly be a large step toward cluing her in.

  • Everyone I’ve talked to said if it was their son and he cheated they would eventually welcome the OW – for all the obvious reasons of wanting to keep their son in their life, seing him happy, blah blah blah.

    It got me wondering, what does Clady think she would do if this ever happened with her son? I’m sure it wouldn’t – but if her son and an OW were still together for years… would they never be invited over for Thanksgiving dinner?

    • I asked my mom this question. I asked, “hypothetically, if your son (my brother) cheated on his wife in a hideous way and left his wife and children with no support, what would you do?” My mom said she’d be mad at her son, be very disappointed and she would keep the relationship with his ex wife because she was the mother of her grandchildren and would still consider her part of the family. She also said that she would be nice to the other woman, but she wouldn’t respect her at all, and would never consider her the replacement for the wife. Go mom!

      • Good for your mom :). But there’s different scenarios. When I asked people, the assumption was that the betrayed spouse is receiving fair support and fair treatment (after the unfair treatment of the affair of course ) and that the children are still very much a part of the cheater’s life and are being treated properly- as properly as they can be treated under the circumstances.
        In these cases, I think a lot of people feel that this stuff happens (cheater just wasn’t happy, he didn’t mean for this to happen, he’s in love with OW )and the jilted spouse needs to just get on with it.
        Even if they still remain friends with their ex daughter-in-law (and from what I see that’s often to have access to the grand- children),
        They are still eventually embracing the OW like the two of them did nothing wrong.

        • Yes, true. There are different scenarios. And although my in laws are being amazing, I suffer no delusions-eventually they will embrace the OW. However, I know that in my heart of hearts that they know I’m a great person and that I’ve always been kind and loving to their son and grandchild. OW will always be the tack on to the family. And, I know this is mean, but true, I had a 25 year relationship with my in laws…the OW won’t, simply because their lives are not that long…strange but true. I travelled with them and went on amazing adventures. They got to hold my baby and we cried together when they finally got to meet her. The OW will get to hang out with them in their retirement village. Not the same, embraced or not! Let’s hope that scenario is true for a lot of us chumps!

          • Formerly, nothing that you said is mean! She sucks. Hopefully he steps on that thumb tack at some point and it gets in his foot.

  • Listen to CL’s advice and let it go. Even as adults, it feels like tattle tailing which despite it being the truth is laden with too much blaming and shaming. You won’t feel avenged, you’ll feel sullied. We don’t really like tattle tales, even when they’re right. We won’t be happy with ourselves.

    People figure it out. They see the cheater moving on with paramours and eventually see what happened, no matter what spin the cheater tries to put on it.

    I chose the high road. It helped that my parents-in-law were dead by the time I discovered OW1. I live on the opposite coast from my former in-laws now. We have remained close. When they come to town, they visit me and vice versa. We chat on FaceTime a lot, sharing stories about our years together. I am still considered their sister. We are working together on a memoir about their mother. My sister-in-law told me once that she used to be very envious of me because my mother-in-law and I did so many things together, but then she realized that her mother loved me and she decided that she would too. They are all very dear to me and have been supportive. They don’t see or spend time with XH and his latest GF, who live near them.

  • I have an interesting experience about this…I realise it’s not the norm.

    At DDay time, I went right ahead and picked up the phone and told his mom, dad and sister EXACTLY what he did without holding back anything (yes, even that he left me to be in an S&M relationship). I was sick to death of being gaslighted, lied to, bullshitted and otherwise being manipulated and betrayed. I had ZERO tolerance left for his image-managing crap. They were shocked, needless to say, and then a funny thing happened…I got some history from them.

    For instance, I got to hear about how manipulative he always was, how shitty he was as a son, how he always blamed his mom for everything bad that happened. How they didn’t think he’d ever amount to anything, and how grateful his mom was that he met me – he would have been an abject failure otherwise, she said. His dad said, “Don’t trust him, don’t be alone in a room with him ever again. He doesn’t care about you now and he’ll just try and manipulate you.” His sister told me how pissed she always was at him for blaming his mother for their childhoods – she claimed it wasn’t that bad…and the list went on…

    Now, my first reaction was something like, “Why didn’t you tell me?” But, of course, I realised that they probably thought, “Oh well, she loves him and that’s great!” They were proud of him and how he became a “normal” married man with a child and a business. Well, once he started cheating on me, he lost all that and has now reverted to the loser kind of guy he was back in his early 20s. They told me they’d always love me and that they wanted the best for me, and even so far as, “You deserve someone to treat you like the lovely woman you are.” My FIL said he’d come to my wedding if I married again, and he vowed to kick the next guy’s ass if he wasn’t good to me.

    So, there you have it. Sometimes the family knows who the real person is – shame it took me 25 years and horrendous abuse and pain to discover it for myself. Shame they thought he’d changed. It just took all that time for the mask to wear off.

  • Tell them if they ask, but keep it brief and forget the carefully rehearsed speech.

    The first person I told in Nitwit’s family was his aunt. Nitwit’s parents live abroad and they used our condo as their mailing address in the US. I do not write in Nitwit’s native language and he of course was too lazy to forward the mail to his parents, so about once a month I would meet up with this aunt and give her the mail. I told her about the divorce, explaining she would need to talk to Nitwit about making alternate arrangements once I was no longer living with him. She asked me why the divorce was happening, so I just told her he cheated on me. I really didn’t feel like going into the gory details. When I got home I told Nitwit what I had done. He was HORRIFIED that I dared to tell his aunt he was cheating. According to him, she’s the biggest gossip in the family. There went his attempt to control the narrative, I guess 😀 I flat out told him that I was done covering up for his lying, cheating ass.

    When Nitwit was a teenager he disgraced himself in some way. I don’t know exactly what he did but apparently it was bad enough that his parents sent him to America to live with their relatives there. His older brother, who was already an adult by then, went with him to keep an eye on him. His relatives then kicked him out of their house as soon as he was 18, again no idea why. After giving up much of his 20’s to raise teenage Nitwit by himself my ex-BIL found himself abruptly cut off by Nitwit. So I’m pretty sure Nitwit’s family knows he is a waste of oxygen, no matter what lies he tells about me.

    Nor am I worried about the OW taking my place. If she thinks Nitwit’s family is going to warm to an overweight 20 year old Middle Eastern community college student as much as they did to a fit white woman his own age who has a master’s degree and supported their lazy son for the entirety of the marriage, she is in for a rude surprise. Yes, I’m aware that none of these differences between us should matter in an ideal world. The fact remains that they do matter to Nitwit’s family.

      • They are not called on it because they are East Asians living in East Asia, where such attitudes are normalized, but yes racism definitely plays a role in the dynamics here.

        Internalized white supremacy and “colorism” are not just for white people any more, if indeed they ever were.

  • In most cases the family will support the cheater even if they know he/she is an asshole.
    My MIL told my cheater he was very wrong to do what he did, but that she supported him. It makes no sense to me. If somebody I know has wronged another person, I do not support that person in any dispute with the person who was wronged, whether family or not. I will support the POV of the person who was harmed, even if the person is a complete stranger. To me, supporting people who harm others, no matter who they are, is morally bankrupt, but most people don’t seem to think that way. Assume your SIL will support the scumbag cheater. If she asks you what happened, go ahead and tell. As CL says, if she doesn’t ask, she doesn’t care about your POV and doesn’t want to hear it. I have never heard from my cheater’s family and neither have our kids. We immediately ceased to exist to them, because they are selfish and it’s uncomfortable to have reminders of how scummy the fuckwit is around. It highlights how dysfunctional their family is. There are two other cheater siblings and personality disorders galore. Fuckwit’s brother was caught cheating (again) not long after fuckwit was. They don’t want to face how fucked up they are. So they jettisoned not just me, but my kids and my grandkids because we matter less than continuing to live in denial, pretending they are a happy, normal family. BIL’s Stepford wife is with the program, pretending it didn’t happen and that everything is fine. They approve of that and would shun her if she exposed the rot at the core of their family. Assume the same attitude is true in your fuckwit’s family unless they give you evidence they feel otherwise.
    It sucks. It’s unfair. But we have to accept a lot of unfair shit and just write people off who are unjust towards you us, not to be punitive, but for the sake of our mental health, especially at a time when we are so fragile. Remember you are not required to make your kids interact with his family if they don’t want to. If SIL expects to play Switzerland and the price of her being in your life is you have to swallow the truth and keep quiet about the trauma and upheaval fuckwit caused, and this is not acceptable to you, tell her no deal. Be upfront and unequivocal about it.

    • I think the parents of the cheater stand to get something out of supporting them. We are no longer of use to them. Their son will look after them in their old age – not the betrayed spouse.
      If we are still of use to them – like to have access to the grandkids – then they might put on a good act of support.
      It also makes them feel better about themselves to think that they didn’t raise a complete Ahole -so they make sad sausage excuses, believe his skewed and absurd portrayal of us and lies about our marriage.
      There may be exceptions… but if you show anger and disgust towards their son because of what he has done… They will have even less to do with you if that’s possible.
      If they can’t stand their cheater kid and have nothing to gain from keeping him on their side, then maybe it’s a different story.

  • The hardest part of my divorce was losing my relationship to my beloved father-in-law. I had moved 1,000 miles across the country — giving up a prestigious job that I loved — to help care for him in his last years. X and I split 6 months before my FIL died because X was having affairs with strippers, picking up 6+ women per month on the internet, and spending hours daily with pornography (and saw nothing wrong with that, BTW). I remember my father-in-law crying as we sat and talked about the split, telling me “I wish it could be different. You’re the only daughter I’ve ever had. But he’s my son and I have to stick with him.”

    As much as you may love his family and share history and memories with them, don’t count on them taking your side on any of this. I still maintain good relationships with many in my X’s extended family (he came from a large, very close Chinese family), but they reached out to me and made it clear they wanted me to continue to be part of their lives. And… I didn’t sugarcoat what X had done IF THEY ASKED, but I also didn’t deliberately smear him publicly. I figured the truth was on my side and would eventually be obvious to all. Truth can’t stay hidden for ever — it will come out. (“Trust that they suck.”)

  • Shortly before giving up the “Pick-Me-Dance” for good, I called my SIL (whom I considered a friend as well as family, for more than 20 years) to tell her I loved her, and I appreciated her in my life, and likely wouldn’t be talking to her again.

    She reassured me that she was closer to me than her brother and that we’d still be close (though even at the time I hadn’t told her the whole story of why we were separating, she knew enough).

    Mere months later, and it was painfully clear we weren’t going to be friends at all. She didn’t reach out, we didn’t talk at all. She picked her brother.

    So much so that when, 3 years later, he rattled off an email to them all about whatever thing he was pissed about, I got the most profanity-ridden, insulting text, from her immediately followed by her blocking me on FB. (We’d remained FB friends but hadn’t engaged with each other on the platform at all). Said text included the phrase, “I don’t even know you now!”

    (Um, you haven’t talked to me in 3 years. The ways you don’t know me are numerous.)

    Don’t do it. You cannot control the narrative of the divorce, you can only control your own behavior.

  • Listen to CL on this matter as protecting your finances is imperative.

    In my case, my ex told everyone we were getting a divorce but didn’t mention he was having a relationship with his former subordinate at work . (He would have got the sack if he didn’t move companies and countries to be with her). The message was we are “consciously uncoupling”. So when I got the messages I told these friends, it’s because he was having an affair with his Ho. Within days she’s plastering her relationship on Facebook. God they looked like fools. He was the nice guy with a young family…

    When the time is right you will know when to release the information.

    I was quite strategic. I didn’t confront him with the affair as he would just deny and get angry. I mentioned it to his parents and they confronted him. I did it on purpose because I knew coming from them he couldn’t deny. (Lots of FOO)

    I kept my dignity. There is nothing on Facebook and I only told people who asked me. But I knew what I was doing. Most of the people asking me were gossips. No option to be mr nice guy. He met his match.

  • I have no clue whether my grandparents and my uncle (Harlow’s younger brother) knew about the sexual abuse/cheating. I think her two sons could do no wrong in her eyes. She was troubled to learn my father didn’t keep in touch with his second wife’s two sons after wife 2.0 died of pancreatic cancer. The four of them lived together for a few years when the boys were teens. Grandmother wore blinders. No surprise to me; he discarded his own flesh and blood (son and daughter) without blinking. Plus she was always competing with my mother, i.e. upgrading her engagement ring to match my mother’s setting, with a slightly larger stone. My grandparents did send a guilt gift check to Mom a decade after the divorce though.

  • Here’s the letter my mother wrote after the divorce.

    Rest assured that I will continue to encourage Son and Daughter to see you both. They need their grandparents and the stability of that relationship.
    As I’ve said before, I am very grateful for all the things you both have done for S. and D. over the years and especially for providing them with the opportunity to receive the best education possible.
    I deeply regret the effect the divorce and the events leading up to it have had on the children. I hope when the tremendous uncertainties and tensions connected with the separation and the divorce are eased a bit, S. and D. will be able to go on with their lives. I will do what I can to see to it that the stability that they need and deserve, especially at this age, is maintained. Their relationship with you will help, in the uncertain future we face.

  • Sorry to post this here. I have not been on this site for years. Have not been able to find the forum that used to be here. I did find the other site on patreon but did not see a forum on there either. Is there a chump nation forum out there somewhere?

    Tell everyone who has ears to listen.
    It’s not our job to keep their dirty secrets. Do tell. It has therapeutic effects, no matter what answers you get.
    You might get compassion from people you did not expect. Or probably you could expect – it’s the very people that didn’t like the cheaters.

  • After D-Day, my brother-in-law told me, “You will always be part of this family.” After 30 years, you think I’d deserve some consideration as a family member. His father had told me before the discard that I was the daughter he never had. But not one family member has talked to me since the divorce. Perhaps this says something about the entire family…the family that compartmentalizes their feelings together, stays together. Thirty years, I knew them as family. Now, I’m nothing to them. Why do we have to pay for everything??? We were loyal and loving – but we have to pay…not the betrayer. Insult to injury.

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