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Cool, Bummer, Wow

teenagerDear Chump Lady,

Please help! I do not know how to navigate this entire divorce mess with my two teenage daughters. My youngest sees her father every other weekend. This includes time spent with the OW. This weekend they took a day trip and she took many pictures on her phone from the day. She wanted to tell me all about it. Fine! She wanted to show me her pictures. Fine! With those pictures came selfies of her and OW. Plenty of them. A group selfie….her, her father and OW. One big happy family!!!! No pictures of daughter with just her dad.

I said nothing. Seeing that was like driving a stake between my eyes. I excused myself to the bathroom for a moment to gather myself and to try to decide if I should mention to her how seeing those photos hurt me. I decided to word it in a way that wouldn’t hurt her feelings but would explain my boundaries and to let her know that I wasn’t ready to see pictures like those yet.

My words were (and I held in my tears and emotions), “Can I say something to you briefly…. and please don’t take this the wrong way or be upset? I am not yet at a point where I can see pictures of you and OW. I wanted to hear about your trip and see your pictures, but I am not ready to see you with OW. This is a boundary I need to have in place so I can continue to heal from the hurt.”

She rolled her eyes at me. She said “Whatever Mom” ….. “I can never do anything right”…. “Those pictures were just there.” I am not stupid. She knew those pictures were coming up. She could pull her phone back and pass over them before continuing. She is 16! She isn’t a toddler. She knows how much it hurts to be cheated on. Has happened to her with boyfriends. How does she not see how this would hurt? Did she do it on purpose? Did she want the drama? Why couldn’t she say,”Gee Mom, I am so sorry. I did not do it on purpose. I will be careful next time.”

Why do I feel as though I should be silenced about talking about my feelings?

I don’t know how to handle this. Now she is angry with me and she won’t talk to me and she was verbally abusive this morning to both her older sister and to me. And she said that her sister and I gang up on her. “Everyone sees it”!

This is why I held on for five years (knowing of the cheating) and tried to reconcile my broken marriage. Because I saw what was going to happen to my children and our family. This feels hopeless. I feel so damn defeated. I didn’t want any of this!

How do I fix the mess?

Kimmy

Dear Kimmy,

It’s not your mess to fix. You set a boundary, and when you set a boundary you let go of the consequences. People may not like your boundaries. They might lash out. They might get ugly. It’s your boundary. Stick to it.

I don’t fault you for having the boundary and I think you went about it the kindest way you knew how. That doesn’t mean your daughter is going to like it.

She’s a teenager. If she’s like most young people her age, she resists all boundaries. Given the narcissistic age they’re at, never show your vulnerability to teenagers. You think toddlers are manipulative? (I’ll just bat my eyelashes and look cute here and mom will give me a cookie!) Teenagers have had the last decade to perfect their skills of button pushing. You just handed her your button when you said this hurt you.

You can’t expect your kid to understand your pain, but you can expect her to respect your boundary. I would suggest a simpler boundary for now — what goes on at Dad’s house stays at Dad’s house. You don’t need the particulars. I doubt you wanted to see her pictures, or hear about her fabulous day out, so don’t put yourself in that position. If she goes there, don’t agree to see her phone. Just utter a pleasant banality and change the subject.

A wise person once counseled that all conversations with young people could be reduced to “Cool, Bummer, Wow.”

I spent a terrific day with dad and his mistress!

Cool.

I got fired from my internship, but it’s okay because I got a job as a tattoo artist!

Bummer. Wow.

Look at my sleeve tattoo! It’s the Battle of Gettysburg only with zombies!

Wow.

Teenagers don’t want to share everything with you. Don’t share everything with teenagers. If she pushes you on why you don’t want to see 40 selfies of her and the OW, you say, “I’m glad you had a good day.” If she keeps pushing, you just state your boundary. “It’s better for me now if I don’t hear about the particulars of your time at dad’s. Hey, want tacos for lunch?”

Look, she is 16. Whatever her kerfuffles in her dating life, she has absolutely NO IDEA how you feel. She hasn’t the foggiest notion of what it is to invest decades in a relationship and have kids and a mortgage and entangled family. She has no idea what it is to be gutted by adult infidelity.

From her perspective, she knows her family fell apart, and if she can’t have her intact family, then she’ll go with the next pleasant narrative We’re All Happier Now and Everyone Can Be Friends. The reality of your pain, of your boundary of not feeling friendly toward the cheating ex, doesn’t play well with that narrative. She’s grown up watching you eat shit sandwiches. Why won’t you eat this one too?

Because there are consequences for abandoning your family. Because there are deeply hurt feelings. Because it is a terrible loss and you’re going to grieve it. Eventually, I trust you will get to meh about the ex and the OW and their trips to petting zoos or WTFever they’re up to, but you’re not there yet. Because this pain is fresh and raw. Don’t be inauthentic, but don’t discuss your emotional slop with minors either. They just need to know you are still IN CHARGE. You’re mom, this is your boundary. Respect it. Next subject please.

I know you wish your daughter could respond with compassion, but maybe she’ll get there at some point years from now. But don’t predicate your relationship on it. Your pain isn’t her job. And hearing about it probably makes her feel disloyal to her dad, and guilty about enjoying time with the OW. She’s got to work those relationships out on her own and connect the dots for herself. And that shit takes YEARS. Your job is to focus on your new life and parent your kids.

Part of which includes not taking shit off teenagers. She’s verbally abusive to you or her sister? You shut that down. Not acceptable. Boundary. Consequence. Enforcement.

Chumps have this codependent notion that sharing our pain will compel other people to not do certain things. I can tell you about my pain! And that will (guilt them, make them feel bad, and compel them) to not Do The Upsetting Thing. No. Cut to the chase and be direct with people. Here is my boundary. Do Not Do The Upsetting Thing.

It’s much more effective that way and shields you from further hurt. Then your vulnerable underbelly isn’t being rejected.

If the person persists in Doing the Upsetting Thing? That’s good information to have. That means you have been clear and they are indifferent. So you enforce the consequence, whatever that is.

So, in summary — keep your pain to yourself around your kids best you can, but get that boundary right out there in front.

Did your teenager do it to stir up drama? On purpose? Who knows? We’re talking about teenagers. Their brains aren’t fully formed (as I keep telling mine). Drama is part of the gig. Steady on and keep parenting.

This column ran previously. Working on the new site.

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  • My children are adults. Fully fledged doing their own adulting. But I still dread hearing anything about fw and howorker. It’s still early days for me… 8 months since dd. A year since the strange began and 2 week wreckonciliation with now 6 months NC (tomorrow). Fw has hardly been in touch with the children. One of my daughters decided she couldn’t see him as it was causing her too much pain. We’d been together for 34 years married for 31. We all, like most here, thought the marriage was solid. I certainly did. I do now see there were many red flags over our time together (NC trust they suck) but thought I was happy. There was a time 11 years ago while I was receiving treatment for the big C, that fw got a little friendly with a much younger woman on line once discovered he convinced me it was nothing and even though I was incredibly hurt I chumped on! The house is calmer now even though my daughter her husband and my 2 grandchildren live with me ????. It’s weird how I realise now I had been manipulated and bullied slowly over the course of my marriage. I had reduced my needs til they were almost non existant. It’s been so strange finding myself again. I am so grateful to have found CN. Sorry for the off load. Sending hugs to every broken heart. Mine is slowly repairing ♥️

    • Claire, I could have written your post.

      “It’s weird how I realise now I had been manipulated and bullied slowly over the course of my marriage.”
      I have two good friends in our situation and they say the same thing: how could we NOT realise?!

      CL has all the reasons listed in her book and this blog. I would just add: we are taught how to respect and be good to others, but we are not taught how to make it a two-way road.

      • Claire and ClearWaters,

        Make room in the boat for one more.

        After Dday, it was as if someone surgically removed my rose-colored glasses, and I saw for the first time the shitty, abusive situation I’d been in for 35 years. As for my needs that I’d made really, really small? Well, with my magnifying glass in hand, I’ve identified a few. I’m working on that. It’s a process, as they say.

        Let’s start rowing this boat together.

        • I’m paddling my kayak alongside yours. 35 years married here. Three years since I left. Time and distance=perspective.

          • Is it getting easier Adelante? It’s been three years for me as well and somedays I think i have it all under control and then bam, it hits me and I feel like I have not gained a damn thing. My daughters are adults and my relationship with both is different then it used to be, harder with my youngest daughter who is now a wife and a mom. My ex left for my sil and that makes the family dynamics even harder. Add my kayak to the cruise too, I’m sure there are more to join us!

          • ????‍♀️ Me too. 28 years, 25 married. What gives me some peace is knowing my past is the OW’s future.

        • I am also in that boat. Over the course of 20 years he convinced me that I was the abusive one. After dday I went to a therapist to help me with my abusive behavior. By the end of the first session she explained to me that I was in fact abused and he was the abuser….. Once I wrapped my head around what the reality of my situation was I realized that for all intents and purposes I had made myself and my need so small I basically ceased to exist. The last year or so he no longer even felt it was necessary to throw me crumbs. It’s been a 3 years since the divorce was final and I really started moving on and I finally feel like I have regained much of what made me well me, back. Interestingly, the longer I am single the less interested I am in dating or having a relationship – I guess I fear that I will lose all I have reclaimed…..

          • Claire, ClearWaters, Spinach, Adelante, & Chumperella,

            May I pull my little lifeboat into the flotilla? For me it was 36 years until D-Day, followed by an 18-month wreckonciliation, and now divorce in process. Total of 38 years, shipwrecked.

            I never had a romantic relationship besides my STBX. He was my only boyfriend, ever, and we married right after high school. We were, I thought, best friends. We have adult children. With an empty nest we were starting to dream about retirement. Then, in blue skies and fair winds, the ship ran aground when Captain FW hit the shoals of adultery on the island of Howorker.

            Claire writes: “It’s been so strange finding myself again. I am so grateful to have found CN.”

            I’ve had this experience, too. In my mid-fifties I’m suddenly doing things I now realize I had completely missed out on. Things like living alone. Making decisions without deferring to someone else’s preference. Eating what I want, when I want. Reading in bed.

            I look forward to the buffet of possibilities that will open when the pandemic is over. And, thanks to Chump Lady and Chump Nation, I’m done thinking that my life is over, and not worth living. Thank you all for opening my eyes to the concept of self-respect. It’s been a pleasure meeting you all. And thank you for helping me find myself. I like her.

            • Another boat in the floatilla here. I diminished my needs or met them myself. Sacrificed my stability, friendship, and my own possible career to stay home with the kids and keep our home as stable as possible for the kids during 9 moves in 27 years for HIS career. Then, when all the kids are gone and it is time for us to start living for ourselves again, he ‘falls in love’ with a subordinate co-worker, sneaking around for 9 months before I find out, then leaving abruptly when I do. Then after pledging on the day that he left that he would ‘take care of me’, he barely agrees to slightly more than the crappy laws dictate for our divorce settlement. It is such a shit sandwich. But, I am moving on: moved into my own adorable rental house, going back to school to become a therapist and once COVID is done, maybe to jump back in the dating pool.
              Now it is about me!

              • Had to smile when I read that ‘when the kids were gone’ because I have come to realize that all along the x was just like having another child in a sense because he was right in the line up of them leaving home..He was the 3rd to leave and the 4th followed about a year later. He was the only one in his 60’s though. All the others were young adults.

                I got the ‘I will take care of you forever’ line too. Luckily I knew not to believe that one.

                I feel fortunate to have found CL and to have read Claire’s comment yesterday because it is evidence to the fact that there are a lot of us ‘long timers’ here and we are all showing a lot of resilience while still kicking up a storm. 🙂

              • I also got the ‘you can have it all’ and ‘if you need anything done to the house or car call me’…. Very different once I petition for divorce and he sees the settlement order. First he didn’t think we was at the divorce stage and he said HE wasn’t ready for that (he moved in with ho worker the same day he moved out of my home) then I had to endure nasty voice mails about how I’m not ‘entitled’ to ‘his’ money… At that point I blocked him and decided I’d only communicate through my solicitor. Roll on court day!! Fw can go fuck himself. ????.

        • We need a bigger boat! I’m rowing too. Same story here too, Claire. 30 years married. Almost 3 years out. This new life is amazingly calm…and getting better every day. CL/CN has helped so much!!

    • Thank goodness for the comfort of similar stories.

      A telling incident from my marriage to Mr. Nice Guy is the story of the Garden Shed.

      The garden shed had been a total mess for years. One day I decided to hire my friend, a professional organizer, to help me clean and organize it. We spend the entire day turning it from a dark cobwebby cave of chaos into something Martha Stewart would appreciate.

      His response? “It doesn’t work for me.”

      “What doesn’t work for you?” said Velvet Hammer.

      “It just doesn’t work for me.”

      This is the Nice Guy who had 15000 square feet of building space where our business is located to do with as he pleased, and would not allow me to have any say in it. The garden shed was on the site of an 1100 square foot house.

      He waited until I was away from home one day. He took it all apart and took the wheeled shelving unit up to our business. The garden tools, which I had taken to get cleaned and sharpened, were left out in the yard when he was done using them.

      How on earth I did not really see what was happening is really front and center for me these days. I feel sad that I spent so much time with a jerk, projecting all kinds of qualities onto him that were just not there.

      • Velvet, I enjoy your writing.

        Time has shed light into the red flags I never saw as well.

        Like his side of the garage. I park my vehicle and everything is tidy and clean. His side? Full of garbage, unfinished projects, stuff left behind, neglected lowes bags that have not been opened, saw dust, random pieces of wood that he his de “in case he needs it”. He used to park his car there 7 years ago. When he started dating his howorker, the hoard/neglect started it. As trash accumulated he started to park outside.

        I cleaned and organized the garage several times over these past years. He would complain that “he can’t find anything now”, and that I probably threw away this and that. He never parked the car in the house even on the few days I managed to clean it. He wanted to park outside. I always saw that as his having one foot out and worried me. He never wanted to clean the mess, when I did, he would start new projects that he neglected and abandoned (a metaphor of our marriage) and make a mess and leave it behind. His mess is still there. I am afraid to clean it out now. My kids and I have to walk over the rubble to get into the house.

        He took some tools to start new projects at ow house. I’m sure they have been started and since abandoned and neglected. Her mess and problem now.

        • Mine started parking his car outside about the time he stopped wearing his wedding ring—several years ago. He said the ring was too tight and he had gained weight. He said the ring held onto germs (he is a doctor). He said he didn’t want to wake anyone up by opening the garage door when he left for work so that us why he parked outside. It was because his car reeked of cigarettes (he told us he wasn’t a smoker, ha!) So many lies. I also couldn’t ride, ever, in his car. It was a mess. Now he has a membership at a car wash. I’m surprised his face, with his Pinocchio nose, can even fit in his stupid car with his tacky, hooker approved red interior. People who have seen him with the prostitute have laughed at how ridiculous he looks with her. Not my problem anymore.

          • I’m relieved not to be the only one

            The garage thing was the perfect representation of the neglect of his marriage, his unwillingness to clean his mess, him sabotaging my efforts to fix it, and him not being fully committed, one foot out.

            Yes, I am not allowed in his car either. Too many secrets in it, it makes me sick. Who is garage man? I should ask his ugly mistress or the side side chick

        • Ugh, in exactly the same situation with the garage. I clean it, he starts a bunch of half-assed projects that he never finishes and makes a huge mess. Wash and repeat. How I didn’t see that this behavior and complete stonewalling on other issues was him saying that he didn’t give a fuck about me, our relationship, or house, is a mystery to me????????‍♀️

        • Mine loved tools and always made a big deal of them, but he never put them away. Many nice tools rusted from being left out in the rain.

          This year, I got at my garage and got it organized. I cleaned it out. I powerwashed it. I bought power tools and put up a peg board as well as hangers for rakes and shovels. It’s now organized and I have room for my vehicle on one side, my second-hand riding mower, a small shop area, and a home gym. I also have a small area for my garage wood pile (a place for me to let the wood dry out and also to chop it before burning it in my wood burner).

          My X would never have done as careful a job.

          • kb, I honor you! You have inspired me to do the same to my garage. Awesome. I bet you were so angry/excited to clean it out that you forgot to take before and after pics, but I can just imagine how beautiaus it is. Bravo.

      • Jesus Christ!

        “It just doesn’t work for me.”

        This is so fucked up…and yet, so common.

        I was always doing shit like that and getting at most a passing shrug. Often there was some criticism. For instance, after I cleaned out and painted our basement, he said in an exasperated tone, “You missed a spot. I need to touch it up. Where’s the paint?” Goddammit. This is so triggering. It was always like this. Why did I roll over?

        I was just scrolling through old photos because I was looking for one particular one. I clicked on a video of me that was taken while I was hiking with the FW. That he took a picture of me was extremely rare. Turns out he was taking a video instead. I can hear him blaming ME for putting it on video, AND I APOLOGIZE!!!

        • And even if you hadn’t missed a spot he likely would have manufactured it. My ex would have.

          I had the house cleaned, and he saw two playing cards on the lamp table by his desk and he threw a fit. The cleaning lady had even created a spray of them so they didn’t look messy. She likely didn’t want to throw them away, so she did them like that.

      • Velvet,

        I am outraged by what your X did to you and your garden shed. I don’t even know one specific word to call him–mean, selfish, manipulative, cruel, antagonistic, condescending, abusive. All of these apply.

        I don’t know why you didn’t see what was happening then, but you sure see it now. I think when we are married to someone who is not on your team (so to speak), we still get stuck in the mindset that unless the behavior is egregious enough to spark thoughts of divorce, it’s our job to deal with the spouse’s behavior as best we can. It’s hard to think of divorcing over a garden shed, although we can see in retrospect exactly why that episode reveals the real problem with this guy, the deep unkindness and character issues.

        Years ago, I was married to a guy who invited me to a Sunday brunch at his boss’s house. I was swamped with work and didn’t want to go, but as a chump often does, I went along. The evening culminated in a 4-person hot tub session, once others left, and I came down from changing into my swimsuit to find everyone else naked. Clearly they’d been in this situation before, without me. Once again, reluctantly, I went along and got in the tub–only to be assaulted by his boss. The husband? Silent.

        I should have filed for divorce the next day but it was easy to talk myself into not “over-reacting,” although truth be told, I never felt respect or trust for him after that day. And without those things, there is no marriage.

      • For our entire 20 years, I was the only one who would clean the garage or the basement. I bought an expensive tool bench and cabinet for the garage along with shelving and special racks for his hockey equipment. No matter how well organized and labeled things were in either space he would trash everything within a few weeks. He especially liked to open storage tubs and lay everything out on the basement floor looking for something, find what he needed and then leave the mess never to clean it up. Our garage became an obstacle course. One winter he decided that he needed to store his hockey bag (a huge goal keeper bag no less) in front of my car making it necessary for me to go out of the garage and around his car to get to the door to the house. One day I decided to just walk across it – I had to step on it because of the way he insisted on placing it. I fell and broke my ankle. He continued to store it there for the rest of hockey season. I really hate him for this act of aggression. (Marriage still lasted 5 more years :/ )

        • What a jerk! Super aggressive act on his part. Incredibly inconsiderate!!!

          FYI: Mine played hockey, too, although not as a goalie, which I know ups the ante for equipment needed.

          You didn’t mention the smell of the dirty equipment, which must have made matters worse.

          Mine once used my hairdryer to dry the inside of his skates. When I walked into our bedroom, I wretched.

          • The smell is something I am glad I never have to experience again. Worse than a ripe litter box! Drying skates in the bedroom with your blow dryer – what a jack ass.

      • My EX got really cross with me for saying our shed needed tidying up. Months of just dumping something by the door you could hardly get in and as I don’t have a big kitchen I store things in there I need regularly. This to him was a metaphor for how neglected he was. He said he’d burn the shed down and life wasn’t about the things we owned. I remember at the time thinking wow, who do you think is gonna tidy it though.

        After D-Day I was also told that our having a cleaner was a ‘lifestyle choice’. Two very busy working parents who earn good money, one working in London (him at home but of course didn’t do the cleaning did he) and getting back late and a cleaner we can easily afford so that in the two days off I have I am not spending my whole frigging time cleaning up when there is enough to do with washing, sorting out school stuff, cooking, shopping etc.

        What the hell was all that about, he knew that if he had said anything I would have rightly said, the minute you start lifting a finger without having to be prompted we’ll cancel the cleaner immediately.

        I am pleased to report the shed is REALLY BLOODY TIDY now.

        • I can’t resist.

          From the get-go I was told I had too much ‘stuff’.

          After having and raising 3 children you can imagine that there will be stuff.

          He has been gone 3 years now and when he left there was actually a lot of space left in his wake. Wonder where that came from?

          I will make note that my stuff and the children’s stuff has always been organized, labeled etc.

          I still have stuff and most of it is mine now. It is still organized and I no longer have to hear his complaining about it so I am slowly feeling less shamed about it.

          The shed and garage are now organized too!

    • I’m amazed by today’s topic and all that I am reading since I was floundering around with similar issues just hours ago myself…

      I’m hooking my kayak onto the flotilla

      30+ years with a fw who, I now know, is a covert passive aggressive narcissist. He is also a serial cheater and was at it from the get-go and-I-was-clueless.

      We did not fight. I gladly did it all with kids, house etc. while he ‘worked hard’ to support us all.

      I thought we were the perfect team and, since he was such a nice guy, I naturally felt that if anything was wrong it was me because he was such a perfect husband compared to other husband’s I knew.

      I did everything within my power to please him which meant making myself really, really small.

      I will never forget a friend of mine taking me clothes shopping shortly after he left; I never spent money on clothes for myself. She put me in a changing room and proceeded to bring clothes to me to try on. After awhile I put on something and, wham, I recognized myself – the self I had lost and hadn’t even realized I had lost over the years.

      I cried on our way home for that young trusting woman I had buried one grain of sand at a time over the years.

      I am about 4 years out and 2ish are NC.

      Healing comes in waves of discovery and this morning it was in dealing with an issue with my daughter who is in her 20’s.

      Luckily I had been writing about the issue prior to our conversation so I was clear on how I felt – totally torn because that old me felt it was ALL me and she was perfect but there was a new me in there too who was really feeling pissed off about the situation because I was ignoring my own legitimate needs as well as my own opinion. “Yes, I can have my own opinion and you can have yours too!”

      Anyway, I realized she had grown up watching me do it all so why couldn’t she take advantage too?

      I also realized that when confronted a part of me does get really defensive and that puzzled me until I realized that that part of me is the young woman who had been trampled over so methodically over the year.

      I discovered the older woman in me who can now stand her ground, can speak her mind and not buckle. Whose truth is just her truth in the moment and that is okay and I don’t have to give it up to please anyone.

      I get my hoola-hoop of space and my daughter gets hers and we can both ‘win’.

      A revelatory moment in the middle of an impassioned ‘discussion’. I know it may never happen again but I know it can happen 🙂

      I’m pushing 70 years on this planet and I am miraculously discovering a me I never knew existed.

      Truth be told, I am discovering a lot of me’s all of whom have a story to tell as they emerge onto the scene. At times it feels like I have all of Snow White’s 7 dwarves living in my head – all talking at once.

      Thanks everyone for showing up and sharing.

      • This story really hit me in the heart, especially how you end it thanking “everyone for showing up and sharing.”

        I predict big things for you in this new chapter.

      • “30+ years with a fw who, I now know, is a covert passive aggressive narcissist. He is also a serial cheater and was at it from the get-go and-I-was-clueless.”

        Yep, just recently I have found out that my ex was cheating throughout our marriage. Starting with schmoopie at least 10 years before he discarded me. He was likely cheating before that, but just not with schmoopie. I am glad I have verified what I suspected, but even after all these years you have to deal with it.

        Good part is at least I know what a disgusting POS he always was, bad part is I have to once again re-calculate my life with him. I had previously allowed myself the 18 years before he started with schmoopie, but now I know she was a fruit broad to him even when my son was in about the 5th grade. Now there is no part my marriage that I can convince myself was good, not even the courtship.

      • Elderly chump the buying of clothes resonates. I was always made to feel so guilty if I spent ANY money on myself. Even when I bought anything for the children it was questioned. I too stood in a changing room with my daughter handing me clothes to try on. I looked in the mirror and there I was!!! The real me. I had stepped out only briefly at that time. Its been 8 months now and I see me more and more each day. I too cried on the way home from the shopping trip that day and thought it was because fw had left but now, after reading your story, I realise it was because I saw ME!

        Hugs to you and everyone else here ♥️

  • Wise words from CL.

    Based on my own experience, I see a red flag in your daughter’s speech and actions.

    “…she was verbally abusive this morning to both her older sister and to me. And she said that her sister and I gang up on her. “Everyone sees it”!”

    Someone may be badmouthing you and your older daughter to your younger daughter and this could be signs of parental alienation by your ex and the OW.

    I recommend “Divorce Poison – How to Protect Your Family From Brainwashing and Badmouthing” by Richafrd Warshak

    • I remember this one and Kimmy did respond back. This was some years ago. I asked her about putting her daughter in her place for getting smart with her and this whatever and rolling her eyes. She said the young lady is older now and she did come around and they have a good relationship. I would imagine she is her 20’s by now. I was very happy to hear that had worked it out. Also, the young lady got a little older and wiser.

  • So timely. I’ve set boundaries to protect my health.
    Then I get spooked when someone argues it, I move to back down because it makes me feel uncomfortable being judged, people pleaser that I am.

    I was brought up pleasing a narc mum whose love was only forthcoming dependant on my compliance…. bit like my marriage I now realise.

    People that test your boundaries are the very people that need them…..I’m learning…. XX

  • Not having our older or adult children understand or care about what has happened to you, is so painful. I made my needs so small, by the time they were grown, they felt that was my permanent role. One realized how lopsided everything was, daddy’s needs being paramount to everyone else’s. The other treated their spouse, like his dad treated me. I learned my only job now is to always enforce my boundaries, speak up loudly against cheating and not trying to control the situation. Being codependent means being controlling. Controlling everything to make him happy, how your kids are affected, how people see your family etc. I now know, I only control how others treat me.

    • Me, too. I’m so sorry this happened to you, too. 40 years married here. Both adult children are pretty sure I’m a wife appliance just as their dad has treated me all these years. I expect them to quickly move the OW into my former slot in family events. They have both told me they are okay with FW’s actions because he is now happy and wouldn’t I want for him to be happy? I’m getting better at “trust that they suck” with FW. But, my kids……OMG it rips my heart out every single day. I pass my son nearly every morning on my way into a job I had to take after D-Day (giving up my much loved career because of need for health insurance) and we act like we don’t see each other. Some days I get upside down and feel SI again. UGH!

  • We’re gonna need a bigger boat.
    Ditto, ditto, ditto to so much of the above. Over three decades of marriage, made my needs microscopic (spinach, love your magnifying glass image), and most of the rest. When he left, he ignored child for months, then, when he found another OW to impress, went full-out on the alienation, trying to convince child I didn’t love him or want him, and would get rid of him, too. Really sick stuff. Child wanted to be loved, not rejected, and was used as a tool to convince OW that cheater is a great family man. It all came out, and child said he wants no contact. Cheater went silent again, but the damage he did to child was unbelievable. It’s taken months to begin to heal the hurt and fear.
    Velvet, when you tried to create a tiny little space for yourself, your cheater destroyed the bit of beauty you created. What an awful, petty, tyrannical action, with physical and symbolic destruction. He finally showed his true self because you showed yours– a desire for growth with your garden shed. He wanted you to wither away. I hope you’re thriving without him.
    Like Queen, mine left a garage full of garbage, including actual garbage. Cartons containing a few pieces of his old underwear and empty plastic food containers. Child and I spent months clearing enough space so that I could finally squeeze my car back in. It’s bliss, knowing that when it snows, I won’t have to clean the car, and that he no longer can tell if we’re home or away. By summer the rest of his trash should be out of the house and garage, and I’ll have some real space.
    Manipulating the kids is one of the weapons cheaters and their others can wield. And using the relationship with cheaters may be our kids’ few means of control and power after cheaters have robbed them of their sense of stability and security. Kids do believe they were somehow to blame, and rotten cheaters are expert at twisting the truth, manipulating and gaslighting their kids as well as their partners. These kids desperately need us to stay sane and stable, AND to set examples of behavior they can model. Hcard said it well: “I made my needs so small, by the time they were grown, they felt that was my permanent role.” Thanks for the reminder. We need to let our kids know that we matter, too, not just our kids.

    • “Hcard said it well: “I made my needs so small, by the time they were grown, they felt that was my permanent role.” Thanks for the reminder. We need to let our kids know that we matter, too, not just our kids.”

      This is why staying married for the kids can really hurt the kids and your relation to them in the long run. In a home where one spouse is an emotional, psychological or physical abuser and the other is being abused, kids learn this dynamic as the norm, the baseline. Some people transcend it, but often the kids turn out to be on one side of that horrible dynamic or the other.

      There’s a story somewhere in American literature (whether short story or novel or memoir I can’t recall) in which a mother notices that when her daughter sets the table, she gives her mother the chipped or cracked plate because THAT IS WHAT HER MOTHER ALWAYS DOES. It never occurs to her daughter that the person setting the table would choose to give himself or herself the damaged plate and that’s why mom eats off the damaged plate, not because she deserved it somehow. (I’ll try to remember what book or story this is in; it might even be popular fiction.

  • I was married for 33 years and with my ex 7 years prior to that. A forty year relationship that ended in divorce. With his new wife, he isn’t able to have a civil conversation with me. I don’t want a relationship with him but it would be nice if he could appear to be civil to me when he sees me. He wasn’t civil at our daughter’s wedding, now he won’t come to her to see her newborn – his only grandchild – because she and her spouse live with me. His loss.
    My biggest regret is not leaving earlier in the marriage. In retrospect I see that he became detached once the kids reached about 5 years old; I believe it was because he wasn’t getting all of the attention anymore. However, by staying until both kids were in college my son, who was largely ignored by FW, developed his own coping skills and has become VERY abrasive to people. He also lives with me (moving out in 30 days). I never set boundaries while married – no one recognized them anyway. In the past year, I have laid down the law about responsibilities around the house if all of these adults are going to live there. I attempted to enforce one of those boundaries today and son used his best impression of his father to tell me off and yell at me. It’s been 3 hours and I’m still sick to my stomach. I hate that he acts like that but I hate, even more, that behavior like that still makes me feel that I’ve done something wrong.

    • My adult son is in the midst of a divorce because of his “best impressions of his father.” It’s heartbreaking and he is determined to prove that his father’s life path is the right one and everyone else is just disrespectful. My daughter-in-law is still close to me. I apologize to her over and over that I did not know and I have such deep regret that I let my children be raised in such a toxic home. My FW is covert narc. He kept the mask on for decades and I absorbed more and more of his abuse. Then one day (one year ago) he did the sudden discard they are known for – and moved out of our house of three decades to move in with his new (still married to her spouse) schmoopie. My son is emotionally shallow and so is my daughter. Meh cannot come soon enough. I am dragging myself out of a bombed out scorched earth situation and I am not sure I will ever get out.

  • Hang in there, bepositive. As Goodfriend just said, your kids need desperately for you to be sane and stable. If you have weak moments, fine. You’re allowed to be human. But don’t let that get you down. Keep doing your best. Even if your son is acting like an idiot, he’s only doing it because he’s hurt over his world falling apart. And even though he’ll never admit it, especially as a teenager, I would bet that you setting healthy boundaries and being the sane strong parent is what he’s actually secretly CRAVING right now in all this mess….

  • Going through the same thing with my 16 year old daughter. She thinks her new “family” is just great and repeatedly talks about, brags about, and shows me gifts her mother and the affair partner give her. I’ve had the conversation about how it hurts me, and she says she’s sorry but she continues to do it. She knows what happened, how her mother lied and cheated and betrayed me for over a year and even through wreckoncilliation. She knows her mother is a liar and a drunk. She knows the affair partner has a checkered past as well. She has seen me break down and weep. But she has so much fun over there that all that has happened has been washed away. I feel chumped by her now as well, betrayed because she has so throughly aligned herself with two garbage human beings. The only reason she ever seems concerned for me is when she wants me to buy her stuff, do her laundry, cook her meals, help with homework. I’m an appliance to her just as I was to her shallow, selfish narcissist mother. I don’t know how to heal and move on when my own daughter keeps smearing my face in it. I put up boundaries and she blows right through them.

    • She’s 16, not 6. Your boundaries get to have consequences.

      “DD, I do not want to hear about what happens with your mom or OW because I find it hurtful. If you decide to do it anyways, you’ll need to do your own laundry, etc.”

    • DoubleChumped.
      My heart really goes out to you.I have one adult child and the effect on her with this is upsetting to me. She’s sometimes been a bit short with me and a bit distant. I have no idea what her dad is telling her and I don’t ask. I’ve told her to keep her relationship with him separate from me. She can ask me about my truth if she wants to.
      In your situation I can’t help but think they are trying to buy her love with gifts. That’s not really love to just give gifts to teenagers. I think it makes them feel entitled.
      You do the right thing by enforcing boundaries which are important at that age. She is old enough to understand she needs to abide by your boundaries or she will see consequences. Just my opinion and observation.

    • And she’s 16 so you can’t expect her to care about your adult feelings. You just can’t. She doesn’t have the writing for it.

      What you do is ENFORCE the boundaries. “Cool. Bummer. Wow.” can work if it’s just talk. So it would go like this:

      D16: Mom and AP took me to this awesome place for brunch.
      DoubleChumped: Cool.
      D16: I had the best waffles!!!!!!!!!!
      DC: I’m making eggs for myself. I’m assuming you aren’t hungry. Give me a few minutes to have breakfast and then we’re going to drop Fluff at the groomer and stop at Target to get new sheets for your bed.

      Look–your daughter knows way more about her mother than she can process as a teenager. Way more. It’s got to be horrible for her to know her mother is a “garbage human being.” She may actually be trying to save her mother (which is a huge problem and very destructive for D’s future, as she may be becoming an enabler in that alcoholic system. And she may be angry at YOU for not taking care of her mother. Hey, I’m just an person on the internet. But I had a parent who had a drinking problem and was branded a cheater by the other parent and it’s taken me 50 years to fix the damage of that.

      You’re hurting. I get that. But your child is dealing with the same problems, only from a different perspective and at a very young age. It will help if you never allow her to see the level of rage and disrespect and disgust you feel for her mother. Keep that in your sneakers. Take that to a therapist or a close friend or here. You figure out how not to make your healing dependent on your teenage daughter expressing concern for you. That’s not her job. If you get lucky, she can give that once she’s a mother herself and she gets some adult life perspective.

      I know this is a bit of a 2×4 but you are not seeing this straight yet. Re-read what CL says: “Look, she is 16. Whatever her kerfuffles in her dating life, she has absolutely NO IDEA how you feel. She hasn’t the foggiest notion of what it is to invest decades in a relationship and have kids and a mortgage and entangled family. She has no idea what it is to be gutted by adult infidelity.” She has no idea. And she can’t heal you with her concern for you.

      A therapist can help you in two ways. First, you need someone to guide you in healing. Second, you want to learn how to set boundaries for how Kiddo treats you without expecting her to do the job her mother failed to do–care about your feelings.

    • Dear Double Chumped, I too was the recipient of some very bad teenage/young adult behavior after DDay, so I’m going to be gentle with this 2×4. You will be treated like an appliance as long as you allow it. You have a 16yr old, who is acting very entitled, and (is she driving yet?) has no idea about real life. It’s time for you to show her. Starting next week, lay out a plan for lessons in earning money/privileges, Laundry 101, Cooking 101, and hire a tutor for her. Take yourself out of the equation as an appliance and reintroduce yourself as her ‘parent/consultant’. She can take on these responsibilities and learn with your at-home guidance, or you leave her to the dogs when she’s out on her own and can’t figure out how to ‘life’. You are doing her no favors by covering all this for her.
      After you’ve discussed it with her, just STOP doing her stuff. Just tell her the magic laundry machine, meal machine, is broken 😉 She WILL get it eventually, I promise. Teenagers are hard to love sometimes, like it’s their damn job! This era will pass. BUT lay down some boundaries and DGAF about her reaction. Good luck to you and take good care of yourself!

  • I know exactly how Kimmy feels I have been eating the shit sandwich now for nearly 5 years. My former husband replaced me “IMMEDIATELY” after his first affair and the kids reside in the home with him and the new girlfriend! It’s been hell on Earth I was accused of child abuse charges, had to spend a year on probabtion , I finally got cleared and now it’s very difficult to speak to my two teens at all!????

  • My daughter found a smoking email shortly after I’d been contacted by a whistleblower who worked with the AP. My daughter’s reaction was Vesuvian. She had an operatic meltdown, then fired off a flaming message to dad telling him she hoped his pet pig got hit by a truck and that she wanted nothing from him ever again. Then she told her brothers.

    I’m pretty sure this contributed to the AP getting insta-dumped and staying dumped because, no matter how much the AP tantrumed, wailed and all-capped, no one out-operas my daughter. And the spectacle of a grown-ass shmoopie directly competing with a child for attention had pretty sickening optics that any image-managing FW would have difficulty finding their way around.

    The rub was that, aside from my huge concerns for the kids’ emotional trauma, my daughter’s fanatical loyalty to me and rage at dad presented another problem– the danger that FW might claim “parental alienation” and try to take custody from me. What a thumb trap. This seriously terrified me. The idea of my daughter being depositioned and having to testify that her reaction was not due to my supposed influence or the thought of the kids being forced to see some shitty appointed shrink took the wind out of me.

    A psychologist who I rigorously vetted and consulted for the kids assured that it’s actually pretty typical for teen girls to discover affairs, often before the betrayed parent does, and accurately predicted my daughter would recover pretty smoothly because she wasn’t repressing anything. But an attorney friend warned the risk of PA accusations was still very real.

    Not only did I need to calm things the hell down, I had to be seen to be doing so. I walked on eggshells, never had my own Vesuvian moment (probably a good thing though it made me feel like I was imploding), overcommunicated with FW regarding his access to the kids, etc. All this made me all the more vulnerable to FW BS post D-Day.

    Since finding CL I probably would have just used a coparenting app if I had a time machine. But maybe not– one other fear I had was that if FW offed himself, my daughter would blame herself for having been the one to read him the riot act.

    Basically it all sucks because FWs suck. We each get different flavors of suckage.

  • I really needed this post today.

    I’m a year out from separation and 9 months post divorce. My ex moved in with his AP immediately. They had a love child who was conceived during our marriage. I did the pick me dance and then proceeded to find out about other affairs which is when I knew the marriage was no longer for me.

    My relationship with my ex has been up and down as we figure out our new reality. He comes to see the kids on weekends and leaves. I have never let them go with him. Now he is starting to put me under pressure telling me that he has to infuse our kids into his life with his new family. His gf has 2 other kids from a former marriage apart from their child together. My kids are still young and I just cannot fathom the idea of them being around a woman who disrespected my family for years. And mostly because he still cheats on her (he admitted he cannot be monogamous). They break up every other week yet are making plans to buy a bigger house together and possibly marry.

    Am I being bitter? I don’t know how other people do it? I just don’t want my kids around this particular woman. How does she get to have access to my babies when she was okay to f#ck their father behind my back for so many years? I would not have minded my kids around her had they started dating after our divorce because I really don’t love my ex in that way any longer. The AP did me a favor by showing me what kind of man I was married to, but I feel that sending my kids off with them is almost saying that we condone what they did.

    Guess I’m having a bad day today. I have really been doing so great!! It just upsets me when my ex tells me he wants the kids around his gf. When I say no he says that once I’m in a serious relationship with someone one day he will not tolerate the kids being around him and would fight for custody if I wanted to remarry. I always tell him the difference is that any future relationship of mine would not be rooted in infidelity.

    Ugh… please advise me here CN. How does everyone get through this similar situation?

    • The fact that they are fighting often tells me that they are not in a position to host the children. The children have been upset enough, and don’t need to be in new place full of turmoil.

      As far as your love interest, when you are ready then date. Don’t be chumpy and quickly commit to a new guy believing his bs. And assure your ex that you’d only bring him into their life if it was a harmonious relationship. Better yet, don’t tell him shit. He doesn’t deserve it. Just so.

      • My sentiments exactly. He is unstable and I cant allow my kids around that environment. They went through enough while we were still married. We live in a calmer environment now.

        And yes, when I am ready and emotionally available to meet someone I am not telling him shit!

  • Kimmy,

    I just wanted to chime in with something that may provide a smidgen of relief….

    When I read what CL wrote about boundaries so absolutely clearly, I was reminded once again that the fw undermined me in just about every arena of child discipline I attempted. He wanted children who would be seen but not heard and expected them to do what he said – eg “Please hang up your coat.” Now I agree that that is not an unreasonable expectation but he expected to say it only that one time and then that child was expected to forever afterward hang up his coat.

    Now my children are exceptional children in every respect, IMO, but….I have yet to meet a child who consistently hangs up his/her coat in every situation for the duration of their childhood and adolescence. My children were no exception to this rule.

    He did not want to enforce any request he made to any of them. That was my job so I was considered the ‘bad guy’ and he got to be the preverbial ‘nice guy’….except on those times when he did get mad but his mad was ugly – way over the top mad – out of control mad. The word rage comes to mind and he sure didn’t want that showing and blemishing his self image.

    So, if you can, feel fortunate that you get to choose the rules in your house without the fw undermining you. It is your house, their home. You pay the bills, make the rules and do the decorating. It is yours. Relish that fact too because for years I didn’t feel like my house was my house.

  • I have three children w/my fuckwit XW. Pretty sure they’re all mine, and not worrying about parentage (at least I have that, right?). Two older daughters, and the youngest is my son. My oldest daughter just turned 26 on March 1st. My younger daughter, the middle child, will turn 23 in May. My son is 15, going on 16 in October.

    Their mother abandoned me and our family (she doesn’t agree about the family part, but then she’s a fuckwit, so who cares?) after almost 25 years of marriage, during which I was never unfaithful to her with anyone else. I was in love w/her. Why would I try to mess that up on purpose? How could I ever be cold-hearted enough to do something like that? Why am I asking you guys that? None of us think like that!

    Unless, like her, you consider me getting her pregnant w/our son as being unfaithful or disloyal to her.That’s a whole other story, but suffice to say she was not coerced in any way into having sex w/me to create our beautiful son (Did I mention she is a control-freak?). At least, that was some of her reasoning behind abandoning me and our family. That she was forcing me to experience something that I didn’t want and couldn’t control (my paraphrasing of her words). Also, the kids and me depending on her was getting to be a bit too much.????

    And no, I was far from the perfect husband. Not very helpful around the house, in a deep depression our last four years together after burning out as a pharmacist ((still working and trying to provide for our family, though), which necessitated our downsizing to a house of her choosing so she could maintain her local political seat and allow the two younger children to stay in their school system. A house that none of us except her liked, but which we were all resigned to living in for awhile. The house I decided to buy her out of equity-wise when her infidelity showed, and she exit-affaired me with her rich, older, politically superior (was a former state treasurer and chief of staff for our former governor, don’t ya know?) POS, married boss (he was in a 40 year marriage, but in which he wasn’t faithful multiple times).

    But, I did love her truly in my own stupid, flawed way. Remembered all the special dates, got her flowers unexpectedly, tried to show her in other ways my love (don’t want to go out for something you want for the millionth time? No problem! I can do it!). Watching the kids so she could pursue her political passion, rearranging my work schedule every month to accommodate said passion (and any other desires. No pun intended). So, not a total horrible husband. Oh, did I mention I actually LOVED her? And appreciated all she did for me, the kids, and our family? Just maybe not the way she wanted me to?

    My two girls seem to have taken to their mother. My younger daughter took her mother’s maiden-name as her stage name (she’s a bit of a comic and also does improvisation), which she’s taken to using even off-stage to friends and family. My older daughter is spending more and more time w/her mother. Only my son seems to be split fairly even between us. Probably because he heard me crying the first year and a half to two years after she left me. I just keep coming back to I can’t control them, and I just have to continue to be there for them, no matter how much their distancing themselves from me hurts. I’m not exactly rocking the being the same, stable parent right now (extremely messy house that turns them off, mostly). But I’m working on it.

    Well, I just found out this evening that the fuckwit XW may have lost her selectboard position in our recent town meeting vote by FOUR VOTES! Yes, there will be a recount. But still…Her popularity has taken a hit in the last four years. I wonder why? Well, other than me telling anyone who was willing to listen to what she did to our family and me, I think she may have hung her self w/her own rope. Which is the way it should be, right? People are finally realizing she’s not all that. But, let’s see, that means her soon to be second husband (same AP) lost his job as chancellor of our state’s college system due to his political bungling of said job less than a year ago, and now the fuckwit XW may lose her political position in that same year’s time. But, I thought the asshole AP, her former boss, was going to “mentor and push her” in her political career? She may have to claw her way back after this setback. Karma bus has been active this past year. What did my brother say to her? “You deserve each other?” They sure do.????????????

    Anyway, lots of hugs and love to the rest of CN. I’m really tired and need to get to bed. I hope you’re all doing at least reasonably well, and that the karma bus comes for your fuckwits, too. Best wishes to all.

  • I think we need a cruise ship ….. ^^ all of it! And don’t get me started on my adult kids, my how their tune has changed over the last 5 years since divorce. Married 32 to walk on water dad. It has all made me stronger I must admit. Also realized the kids, spouses etc are out for what they can get pretty much. fw didnt leave me for one hoe hoe but for all of them. He was a player, although there has been someone in the picture the last few years. The kids try to hide it tha the drops by with “her”. I really don’t care, bc there will never be anyone as good as me, Im not jealous. I just despise him!

    Lose a cheater, gain a life. AMEN

  • Oh what a great cruise it would be, full of strong women enjoying good company, food, wine & dancing! ????????????????????????????????????????❣️Add some sunsets and lovely views and time to be alone, join in, sleep undisturbed, as one needs/wants – and do no cooking!!!! LACGAL Cruises…. towards … meh!!! A million thanks to CL & everyone here – this site has meant the world to me during some really difficult years.

  • Great advise as always. As CL says it, your 16 year cannot understand what you’ve been through. It’s not possible. Resist the urge to assume she can and resist the urge to assume she’s trying to make some nefarious point by showing you these photos. I think, mostly, kids caught in between two parents like this are trying to make sense of it all, to make it ok. It’s likely that, in showing you these photos, she’s looking for some sort of permission for her to feel ok about all of this. Like, is it ok for me to enjoy a fun outing with my dad and his girlfriend? Yes kid, it’s ok. You are being forced into this predicament and isn’t it nice that, in the midst of all this pain and chaos, you can have some fun.

    It’s a challenge, but it’s possible to let your kid know that what happened with their cheating parent was NOT COOL and CRUEL but also that its OK to enjoy time with everyone under this new dynamic. It’s OK to like their dad’s new girlfriend. It’s ok to be a carefree kid. Setting boundaries and being honest with your kid is important, but it’s a very very fine line between this and dropping off your emotional baggage at their door. It’s worth trying to end up on the right side of that line, even if it means crying in your bed at night to yourself.

    As a practical matter, my kid does this picture show-and-tell to me all the time. I tend to look at one or two of her photos, then say something like, “looks like you had a good time…so glad you had a fun experience…happy your dad’s girlfriend treats you well…how bout you go fold your laundry now? [OR fill in the blank with redirection].” The more this happens, the less I was bothered and now, it’s just fine. She really just wants to share what is a MAJOR PART of her life with me. She wants to connect the puzzle pieces and include me in her overall life. That’s normal.

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