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‘I Want Him to Stay with the Other Woman’

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bitter bunnyDear Chump Lady,

I’m new to reading your column (just found it).  I’ve been divorced 10-years after 14 years of being married. I found out from my then 2-year-old that her daddy was “naughty” because he kissed “girl.” We also had a 10-month old baby at the time.I knew from the look on his face, it was true and immediately asked him to leave. Although I was devastated and wanted to be nasty, I knew it was important for my girls to have their dad in their life on a regular basis. (I never had mine).

It took everything I had to decide to do what would be best for my girls. I told him if would just be a good dad — the kind our daughters could be proud of — I’d make his life easy. Although I lost all respect for him, I told him he might be able to earn a bit of it back if he did right by the girls.

He has been an excellent dad and co-parent. We have coached T-ball together, gone to dance competitions together, and can easily celebrate milestones for our girls together. He continued seeing the “girl” he had the affair with, and they have been married over 6 years now. She is 17 years younger than me, but I really do love her. She is an amazing person with an honest and pure soul. She is GREAT to my girls, and she is a good partner for their dad. He is a better person for having her in his life.

Now the problem. Sadly, he recently cheated on her! It was a short affair with a weird set of circumstances, but I am FURIOUS. I’m trying to be understanding because I don’t want his life to blow up because it would affect my girls even more than when he and I separated. They are now 11 and 13 and really don’t remember their dad not being with his current wife.

Of course, he is ashamed and remorseful and thought he would NEVER do this again. I really let him have it for being so selfish and arrogant and told him to get professional help, but I truly just want them to reconcile.

I’ve reached out to her and tried to advocate on his behalf, but I think she now knows that she was most likely the “other” woman all those years ago. I just want them back together. Why in the hell am I even thinking that? I should be thinking well, once a cheater; always a cheater. He doesn’t deserve to have two amazing women in his life. BUT I decided many years ago to show grace to them both, even though it was brutal, and I am so thankful I did.

I feel guilty for wanting her to stay with him after what he did to her, but I know he is a better man than he has shown lately.

Terri

Dear Terri,

I get some weird mail, but your letter takes the biscuit. I think you’ve been eating shit sandwiches for so long and pronouncing them delicious that you’ve lost sight of who you are. Like, where you end and other people start.

I have sympathy — believe me, I know where all those cultural messages to forgive and Be The Bigger Person and Be Friends with Your Ex come from. And… you’re Exhibit A why that’s all a bunch of toxic positivity bullshit (A new buzz word I swear was lifted from CN…)

It’s like you were goddamned you were going to be a chump — a person who was, through no fault of her own, victimized by two selfish fuckwits — so instead you went with the positive narrative. I’m going to kill these people with my Goodness and Understanding, and (sorry) moral superiority. That will cover up the stench of vulnerability and grief and anger.

I get why that’s a powerfully seductive choice (societal acceptance PLUS you stay in your ex’s orbit as his emotional helpmate and confessor). Now I’m going to tell you to cut the crap.

How about you stop projecting all this love, peace and treacle on everyone and take a hard look at everyone’s actions? Current wife was a mistress — she was happy to have an affair (your term) with your then-husband when you had a toddler and infant at home. She wasn’t “pure and good” — she was a young woman quite happy to break up your family if it meant she was Special. At your expense. And (bonus!) she got you to agree with her specialness. Now he’s cheated on her? I got nothing but ha-fucking-ha over here.

I am sorry for your children who have to go through yet another divorce, but you never controlled that.

Let’s break this down.

Although I was devastated and wanted to be nasty, I knew it was important for my girls to have their dad in their life on a regular basis.

I would never advise you to be nasty. We’re all about civility and following court orders here — but your niceness or nastiness has NEVER controlled the degree to which your ex is involved is his children’s life. You’re buying into a toxic myth that we control others through our behavior — and the flip side — that our missteps (was I nasty?) compel people to abuse us.

You were going to be civil to him — because THAT IS WHO YOU ARE. And he was going to fuck up every good thing and not give a shit about the consequences or anyone’s feelings — because THAT IS WHO HE IS.

He has been an excellent dad and co-parent.

Bitch cookie. He parents and goes to events. Like… a parent. Set aside his whole penchant for blowing up home lives with his wandering dick. Aside from that, he’s great at T-ball practice.

She is an amazing person with an honest and pure soul. She is GREAT to my girls, and she is a good partner for their dad. He is a better person for having her in his life. 

Nice narrative you’ve got there. Crazy how her goodness and purity didn’t stop him from cheating either. You bought into the story that gosh, she was just a better fit for your ex. That’s why he had to Do the Bad Cheater Thing. And now turns out… he was just a cheater. And she’s not special.

I’m sorry of the two, your daughters are losing the more invested parent. (Someone had time for fucking around and it wasn’t her.) But your kids still have you — and that’s all you control — YOU. Please be the sane parent, because Dad and Miss Thing have a lot of self-inflicted drama.

I am FURIOUS. I’m trying to be understanding because I don’t want his life to blow up because it would affect my girls even more than when he and I separated.

You don’t control that. Just like you didn’t control it when it happened to you. We don’t control fuckwits. I’m sorry your girls will be hurt. That’s what selfish fuckwits do — they hurt kids because they did the cost-benefit analysis and fucking around won out over everyone else’s well-being. That’s his CHARACTER. He didn’t give a fuck when they were two. He doesn’t give a fuck when they’re 11. Dance recital attendance cannot make up for this.

Of course, he is ashamed and remorseful and thought he would NEVER do this again. I really let him have it for being so selfish and arrogant and told him to get professional help, but I truly just want them to reconcile. 

Dear God woman, why are you in his head? How can you presume to know what he feels? You’re projecting shame and remorse where it doesn’t exist. How do I know? HE DID IT AGAIN. Yeah, he felt so bad about cheating, he went out and had another affair.

Anyway, NONE OF THIS IS ANY OF YOUR BUSINESS. And you making it your business is you being emotionally enmeshed with your ex. Which is a really nice triangle/pick me dance you’ve got going there with the OWifetress. Who gets all the cake and kibbles? Your ex. Stop it!

I’ve reached out to her and tried to advocate on his behalf,

OMG no.

but I think she now knows that she was most likely the “other” woman all those years ago. I just want them back together.

Look, if you knew they were having an affair — she was fucking him. She knew. And if she didn’t know, she’s had the last decade to buy a clue from you.

Anyway, your wishes about their relationship are UTTERLY IRRELEVANT. You weren’t invited to their fucked up love rhombus, okay? LET IT GO. Step away!

I feel guilty for wanting her to stay with him after what he did to her,

Examine that. Staying with a cheater was too good for you (awesome choice), but totally acceptable for her? This person you purportedly admire and esteem? Superiority much? You don’t see a bit of frenemy bitchy dynamic going on?

She chose a cheater. Who cheated on her. It’s a natural consequence. Consequences happen regardless of our feelings about them.

but I know he is a better man than he has shown lately. <

No. He’s a serial cheater who does shitty things. You’re just now perhaps clueing in to who he is. And maybe who she is.

The real question is — why are you so invested in them?

Terri — go do you. You’re enough. You’re parent enough. You’re mom enough. You never, ever needed to buy into your ex’s impression management to be whole. (IF I’M AN AWESOME CO-PARENT AND NEVER BITTER HE WON’T FUCK OVER ANYONE ELSE!) That’s voodoo. Stop believing in superstition and start believing in you.

Grey rock with the Fuckuperstons.

***
This one ran before.

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Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • 💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥💥
    Preach, Chump Lady!

    I can’t believe the knots some people tie themselves into trying to be Nice.

    • It’s powerful what a mom can and will do for her cubs. If I hadn’t lived it, I might feel the same: I have never regretted my choices, and my girls comment often about how thankful they are their dad and I don’t fight and they are NEVER IN THE middle.

      • I have never regretted standing up for myself to my toxic ex, and in fact, wish I had done it a lot more. That naturally has led to some fights (and a lot more no contact) because he’s controlling and selfish. That’s on him, not me. He’s the one whose demands have been consistently unreasonable. I have been a great parent to my son, regardless, and my son has a relationship with his father, too, which I would never interfere with. My son knows his father and I don’t get along (a.k.a. he is aware of and faces reality), but since we’re mostly no-contact it’s a non-issue for him 99% of the time.

        I don’t want my son to grow up thinking a woman’s place is to be a narcissist’s doormat.

        • “I don’t want my son to grow up thinking a woman’s place is to be a narcissist’s doormat.”

          Jennifer, thank you!
          I’m being shamed into the “be nice FOR THE CHILDREN” act.
          Guess what… Fuckwit ACTS nice when other people are watching but HE IS NOT NICE. Why should I pretend?

          He can’t treat me like an enemy and then walk up to me at a kid’s sports event all cheerful. And then act confused when I don’t want to chat. Like I’m the crazy one? No sir. He is the two faced Jekyll and Hyde monster. I won’t try to keep him from the kids but I won’t pretend this back-stabber is my friend either.

          • Absolutely right, Jennifer and Dont Feel like dancing.

            As Chump Lady says, it’s not okay to gaslight your children.

            Being civil as a co-parent is one thing. But faking that it’s a mystery why parents went their separate ways is mindfuckery to your kids. Chances are they will ask why you split as they mature and want to know why their family is not in tact. I am a firm believer in letting kids know that infidelity is a deal breaker. I would not want my kids to marry and do that to their spouse or allow their spouse to do that to them.

        • I don’t know your situation and I admire you standing up for yourself but as someone who grew up in a home where parents fought constantly and hit below the belt in every fight I have to say I respect parents who spare their kids their conflicts. One of the many things that made me fall in love with The Simpsons is that Marge and Homer went out to the car to argue. My parents never once considered the effect their battles had on their kids.

          • Actually parents can respectfully disagree and model conflict resolution in front of any children, in an ideal marriage.

    • Yeah, I don’t get that at all.

      When my fw said “I hope we can be friends” my answer was “no, I am particular about who my friends are”

      For the next couple decades all he got was a cursory nod and how’s the weather; as I was passing by. Funny thing was, he always avoided looking into my eyes. Just a big rat, same as whore.

      Luckily I had moved to a different state for my job.

  • I hope Terry has had enough therapy to completely separate from this “excellent Dad” and the “honest and pure soul”. Cheaters are never excellent parents, ever. Cheaters are involved with their genitals and deceit, not their children. That “honest and pure soul” is a home wrecking whore, nothing more. Terry, how can you love someone who destroyed your home? If Terry still thinks that is love she needs more therapy.

    Terry was mad because her cheater ex-husband cheated. Terry, he is a cheater. That is what he does. He will not, can not be a faithful husband. He will only continue to lie and cheat. You can’t control him. He won’t change. But you can.

    How I hope Terry is finally free of this fuckwit. I hope she is completely separated from her involvement in her ex cheater’s life. I hope she has allowed her ex to experience the wrath of teen daughters disgusted by his cheating. Those girls don’t need a cheater Dad in their lives, they need one sane parent. I hope Terry is finally free of the notion she can control a cheater.

  • Terri
    Read CL’s last paragraph over and over.

    You are enough.

    Let go of your terror that unless you are Nice, and unless Mom#2 is Nice, (so your Cheaterx2 ex can perform Great Dad), your daughters will be ruined for life.

    Your girls will be fine – they have you to model mature and self-respecting and awesome.

    • I failed to notice this was a historical post. For all we know, Terri has BFF Mom#3 in a bid to MakeNice and keep Cheaterpants on the Great Dad pedestal. Geez I hope she woke up!

      • Yeah.
        The great dad pedestal.
        I did that too and now for the adult kids it’s a cluster fukk of trying to reconcile the truth with the spackle.

        These disordered parasites and their entitlement and their false narrative are frauds liars abusers and they move onto the next host with no compunction.

        As it turns out, there’s quite a few of them in the world.

  • This is a safe place for people who have been cheated on.
    Chump lady is correct – this person needed a very clear wake up call.
    Apart from that – we have all been chumps , some more than others.

  • THIS CHUMP was/is me. I couldn’t sleep and was happy when I got the email that CL had posted early today. I cringed when I recognized the letter as mine from about four years ago. I wanted to update as well as provide additional information before I got it handed to me again like I did the first time the letter ran. When I say I was new to CL when I wrote the original letter, I had read my first article a few minutes before submitting my question. To say I received a quick education is an understatement. I had truly hoped my letter would never run again but since it did, I will give you an update. At the time I wrote I was dating a man that I’m currently engaged to for a couple years. I add that now because many people thought I still had a thing for my ex which is very far from accurate. I have never hated him, but I definitely don’t love him.
    I’m sure people might be wondering what is happening in our lives now. Shortly after I wrote the letter, the step mom and I went to brunch where she asked me if the ex and I had still been in a relationship when she entered the picture. I felt I had nothing to gain by saying yes, and I told her that our relationship had been on the rocks well before she came around. In hindsight I don’t feel like I was lying, I just wasn’t informed that our relationship wasn’t as strong as I thought it was. After struggling with infertility for 11 years, I was just trying to do the best I could with a two-year-old and a baby. I also recognize we are all much much happier than we would’ve been had their dad and I stayed together. The stepmom with my encouragement divorced their dad, and she now owns her own home and has a successful career. I hesitate to write this next part but it’s the truth and sometimes the truth makes less sense than a lie would. They are actually together and have been for a couple years albeit loving separately. He tried dating and was telling me how hard it was, and I had to get a dig in and said that it is probably a whole new ballgame when you are actually dating not being married. I laughed so hard. It was kind of my I told you so moment. The man I am engaged to and I had never lived together but owned houses 2 miles apart. After we got engaged in April, we decided to finally move in together: Now instead of having two houses 2 miles apart, we have two houses 2000 miles apart. We purchased a beach house in May, and my ex and his ex-wife were some of our first guests. I know it doesn’t make sense to a lot of people, but it has worked for me. I am with the person I should be with right now, but I have two beautiful girls with help from their dad. They are my greatest gift, and I will eat a few shit sandwiches if it provides security for them. I grew up in a very dysfunctional household, and I will do anything to ensure my daughters don’t have the same experience. To get a short background of my childhood, my dad was married five times before he died in 1996. My mom who is now deceased was married eight times with her last marriage ending in 1990. To put that in perspective, by the time I was 24 my parents had 13 marriages between them. None of them were good relationships and I still have nightmares about one of my stepmoms who was mean and abusive. I am so thankful that my girls stepmom loves them unconditionally. Thanks to everyone who took time to write the first time I posted. I read each and every comment, and I learned so much.

    • I’m so glad you gave us an update, and hey, you did what’s right for you and your girls – I’m so glad you’re happy!

    • ” … she asked me if the ex and I had still been in a relationship when she entered the picture. I felt I had nothing to gain by saying yes, and I told her that our relationship had been on the rocks well before she came around. In hindsight I don’t feel like I was lying … ”

      This breaks my heart and my brain. That IS lying. Sorry, but it is. She has a right to the truth about her own life. How would you feel if your daughter had been lied to? — because the other party had “nothing to gain” by stating the truth?

      I don’t know if I can read the site today. Too upsetting to see someone congratulating themselves on deception and chumphood. And thinking that others are mean if they don’t agree.

      • ITA. This is all kinds of fucked up. I feel bad for the daughters who are being modelled dysfunction and taught it’s normal to eat shit sandwiches. She’s aiding and abetting a cheater who cheated on her, then cheated on the person he cheated on her with? WTF? This feels like something from the Jerry Springer show.

        • Yes, agreed. OP – you did as well as could be expected, under very tough circumstances.

          However, your girls are probably late teens & 20s now, right? If I were you, I would get them into therapy. Otherwise, you’re teaching your girls to be abused, eat shit sandwiches, and shut the fuck up in front of their abusers.

          It’s never too late for therapy. You can even identify to them “the path I did (being accommodating and nice to the Cheater) doesn’t mean it’s got to be a path you go forward on. You have a right to cut Abusers out of your life (whether that’s Dad or people they’re dating) if they Abuse you”.

      • FYI…I cringed at this part too. The woman was asking a straightforward question…Were you two still together (married) when my relationship with him began? The truth is YES. Full stop. But she got a story about how the relationship had been on the rocks, blah, blah. He was cheating!!! That’s it.

        My marriage had issues, but I didn’t think it was over. My ex claiming that we were on the rocks so that he can minimize his affair does not make what he did acceptable. I didn’t know my marriage was over at all. I was still working on it, washing his laundry, paying our joint bills from our joint account, attending functions with him as a family. He had me believing that he was still willing to work things out. He was certainly benefitting from what I was doing for him. A marriage being on the rocks does not make cheating okay.

        I don’t think this woman gets it. There is a moral superiority at play here where she appears to want to maneuver the relationships of others with her “good graces” and “heightened understanding.” Then, claiming that it’s all for their daughter’s well-being. Not sure if this is some kind of co-deoendency at play or even a communal narcissism. At the very least, this is busy-body behavior.

        What has been in the best interest of my kids has been me modeling a simple, peaceful and high value life, free from their father’s drama. Not getting up in their father’s business as if I have some claim at control over his destiny. When their dad does stupid, what my kids need is my hugs, a listening ear and validation that they have a right to their feelings and opinions about something that has occurred. They don’t need me swooping in to try to make it go away by fixing their dad’s life, minimizing what he’s done and spreading icing on top so it looks better. That’s just another form of gaslighting by not allowing kids to see things as they really are and seeing all the parts of the people they know. Good parenting is not about hiding bad things under the rug in their “best interests.” That’s a life if smoke and mirrors. Not healthy.

    • OP: Thanks for updating us; sorry that seeing this today is upsetting. Glad things are going well for you and your girls. Remember that no one else has walked in your shoes. I would not be as generous as you in my thoughts but I am not you. I did not come from a home that had that many step-parents. So our outlooks would be different. What struck me about your post is the thought that we can not fix everyone–A lot of people never learn that. Best of luck to you and your family.

      • lee chump – thank you for your thoughtful response and recognizing that until you’ve walked in someone’s shoes, it’s hard to know what you would do in their place. I appreciate your kindness and hope this dialogue might help someone else. I feel at times that if you aren’t bitter and angry then people think you are a wimp. I am ANYTHING but that, but I pick my battles. The one fight I WILL always put first is the well being of my two girls.

        • I hear that, but you have to realize that the bill on your half-truths and painful compromises comes due eventually. One day your girls will know the truth and in all likelihood at least one of them will resent you for your choices…even if they were made with their best intentions in mind. Likely one or both of them will pick up the unfortunate art of spackling that you’ve modeled for them and grow up to also centralize and compensate for a man’s toxicity. They may learn to regularly eat shit sandwiches, unless you can start the process of deprogramming their beliefs and assumptions about appropriate boundaries. I am currently watching a young coworker of mine go through this. Her dad played your role, trying to keep it all together for her “benefit.” Sadly he was the one cut from her life, and she struggles with serious mental health problems and trust issues and is currently in a dysfunctional relationship where she plays the mommy to her boyfriend.

          At a minimum, I encourage you to challenge your belief that all of this was necessary to ensure the well being of your daughters. Indeed, it’s possible that all of this will result in a far worse consequence down the road than if they had witnessed boundaries and autonomy and consequences.

        • OP – you said “ I feel at times that if you aren’t bitter and angry then people think you are a wimp.”

          It implies that everyone else here that went grey rock and freed themselves from a Cheater is “bitter and angry.” You are confusing what “boundaries” are.

          Most of us here found out our spouses cheated and were gaslighting us, lying to us and abusive… and we had to get free of a Cheater and model healthy boundaries for our children. That’s not bitter or angry. In fact, I’m not sure anyone but the Cheater themselves would use those terms. I was traumatized and scared. FW was terrorizing me and mocking me and I was confused by this inexplicable behavior. But it became abundantly clear to me that I needed to protect myself and my son and teach my son about boundaries. My son was only 9 at the time but he was already seeing that his dad was lying to him and gaslighting him. He was questioning his own ears and eyes. I helped him learn to trust himself. And that he could still love his dad, but he could still have boundaries when his dad was treating him poorly. He also got the support through a therapist.

          It scares me to think how confused my son would have been if I became “friends” with the FW who abandoned us both for his coworker and her 2 boys. If I had mashed everyone together and pretended everything was happy and good.

          I recognize that both of your parents did a shitty job of providing you the safety and security you deserved in a family. And this was the best way you could think to make the best of a shitty situation. But there are still consequences. Your children will likely play this out in their relationships later in life. I sincerely hope they learn on their own or have therapy so that they can choose healthy paths. I worry about this for my son as well.

          • “Most of us here found out our spouses cheated and were gaslighting us, lying to us and abusive…”

            For many of us for years, in fact I would say for most of us on this site.

        • People have the right to be angry about being abused. You describe people who do not butter up to their abusers the way you did as “bitter and angry”, and not as good parents as yourself (because they won’t model the cheerful acceptance of betrayal and abuse to their children). You clearly do not support the self-empowering outlook of this forum, and should post on one of the pro-reconciliation sites, instead.

    • I’m really glad to see that you are not in this situation now- I didn’t realize it was from 4 years ago.
      I understand that your past has influenced your decisions, and you want the best for your girls. That being said: you shouldn’t have to eat endless shit sandwiches for them- that is not modeling mighty behavior for your young ladies either. It’s very confusing for kids to see one parent making clearly bad decisions, and the other parent accepting/covering for them. You don’t have to let your principles go for the sake of your kids- I’m not advocating putting them in the middle or anything, but you don’t need to accept his behavior.
      I’m in awe of your kindness and acceptance of the OW. I know the betrayal was a long time ago, and also that time heals- but I think you accepted what she did to you because she was nice to your girls. She harmed your family (not single handedly, of course) but she didn’t care about you AT ALL when she did that. You were a young mom and she took advantage of your situation and hooked up with your husband. I don’t think I personally could ever consider her a friend. I’m glad you are in a good place now. Good luck to you.

    • Wait, let me get this straight. The OW didn’t know she was the OW, and then when she got chumped you lied to her about the fact that your ex was a lying cheater, and gaslit her into staying with your cheating shit of an ex because you wanted her to stay in your kids’ lives?

      I’m sorry, but that’s fucked up. Like, I get that you wanted the kids to keep their awesome stepmom and not have to deal with a possible parade of new women who could very well be awful, but… you totally screwed this very nice and kind woman over. Your ex may be a good father (sorta) but he’s a shit husband, and you know that. If this woman really is the good person you claim, you owed her the truth. She deserves the chance to be free of a cheater.

      • I call bullshit on the OW not knowing he was married. OP found out because her little girl said “Daddy was naughty”. Where did OW think the toddler had come from? That she was a stray? So either OP’s explanation for how she found out is full of prunes, or the OW is lying when she says she didn’t know

      • It is not possible for a shit husband to be a good father.
        They can play the role of good father and people may even believe it – but they can never actually be a good father. They’ve already crossed that rubicon.

    • He’s back with the woman he cheated on because he realized dating was too hard??? And you thought that was FUNNY?
      You invited them to your beach house and seem happy that they’re back together?
      You told her she WASN’T the other woman?
      Ooo ooo aaa aa flap flap- what’s that sound?
      You’ve learned nothing, Terry.
      You seem pleased that she’s still in the picture. You didn’t encourage her to divorce at all, OP. You told her a lie- and you absolutely DID have something to gain. You trade gaslighting stepmom into thinking “oh it was a one time thing” in exchange you get to keep your fairy tale illusion of stability and control being in your hands.
      You’re projecting your childhood here, big time.
      Instead of trying to glue iron with Elmer’s glue, you need to LET GO OF CONTROL. You cannot control other people. This is a SERIOUS ISSUE and you should seek therapy YESTERDAY. This isn’t even for your children at this point. I feel horrible for your children. They’re gonna end up in abusive situations and constantly gaslight themselves into staying because that’s what they learned.. from you!!!
      I know you’re probably not gonna read this but hopefully literally anyone else that does will learn something from it.

  • I do get where she’s coming from. She wanted her girls to have a good and present dad in their lives, so she put her feelings aside and rewrote the narrative to make it work. I could never go as far as she did (bonding with OW, doing stuff with her ex), but letting go of anger is so freeing, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I hope one day I can do that too.

    I suspect what she felt after he cheated again on OW was that she worked so hard to forgive and build normality, only for FW to go on and wreak havoc in her balance again. Of course she’s infuriated, because he’s a major asshole who deserves no second chances. She probably told herself he would change with someone else, he was only a bitch to her etc, but that wasn’t the case. He’s just a toxic person who eventually will shit on everything good he has. That must hurt. So idk what the moral of this story is tbh. Probably as CL says that you can’t control other people, rely on you because that’s all you have.

    • Thank you for understanding where my head was…. I feel I was MIGHTY! On D-day, I immediately told him to leave. There was NEVER a chance of reconciliation in my mind. Cheating is a deal breaker, and he knew it. Our divorce was final in less than a year. I am the best mom I can be, but I also am grateful they have their dad. He provides a different perspective at times which only benefits our girls. They know he was unfaithful TWICE. We have never kept it from them.

      • It’s nice to get an update from you. I get exactly where you come from, because what I desire the most is also for my ex to be be a good dad for my son (although I’m very aware I can’t make that happen, only he can). I don’t want to argue with him all the time, and I don’t want to end up in protracted legal battles either, so I’m trying to avoid all those things.

        Your ex’s situation is all over the place, so the best he can do is to leave the girls out of it, they don’t need all this drama in their lives and neither do you. It’s good that they know about it and you’re not keeping it from them, they deserve the truth and once they’re older they’ll make up their mind about it anyway.

        I wish you all the best with your new partner, you did well in taking your time before he moved in with you and the girls, not all parents are capable of thinking of their children first.

      • You WERE mighty for divorcing him. I’ll give you that.

        After that, however, you made some choices that are mystifying to me. Making your own choices is wholly your right, or course, and not mine to second-guess, and I understand fully why you might have made them. It’s natural to want the best outcome for your children. But you explain those choices to yourself as healthy ones with benefits for your girls, and there I beg to offer another perspective.

        How does it benefit your girls to see their serial cheater father given a free pass for his behavior? Not once, but twice. You divorced him but “forgave” him to the extent you became friends with him and the woman he cheated on you with. And then when he cheated on his second wife, whom you lied to about the circumstances of their getting together in the first place so she would be more likely to reconcile–under the false pretense that he was not “so bad” as a cheater–she divorced him anyway, but then re-started the relationship. And now you and the man you plan to marry socialize with the two of them.

        And you think what this says to your girls is beneficial to them? What this models to your girls is not “conscious uncoupling” or “we can all be friends” but that men who cheat on their wives knowing this will blow up the lives of their children are not to be held to account, but that the cheated on wife will accept this behavior and devote herself to picking up the pieces. And believe me, as the daughter of another dysfunctional family, with a mother who ate thirty years of shit sandwiches of her cheating husband’s (my father’s) making, this is a lesson your girls are learning by your model and your example.

        Perhaps my reading is harsh and judgmental, not just in your estimation but in that of other citizens of Chump Nation, and perhaps the type of dysfunction (“toxic positivity”) you have modeled and continue to model but call enlightened won’t manifest itself in the relationships your girls develop; for their sake, I sure hope not.

        • Thank you for this comment. I completely concur. I could respectfully see where OP is coming from with FOO reasons however I wouldn’t want to model a shit sandwich or dysfunction for someone who unilaterally made a decision to endanger my health, finances, and sanity and broke up their family for their selfish wandering community penis/vagina along with the person/people who conspired in my abuse. I would not want to model that to my child, respectfully. They deserve to be in a safe and reciprocal relationships and doing this is blurring/silencing the warning bells and distorting what is healthy.

          This letter however did confirm that “once a cheater, always a cheater”. 🤷🏽

        • I KNOW that I couldn’t have said it as well as you did, Adelante. Terri/OP has now exampled to her daughters that it’s okay to be abused by a fuckwit. So instead of her daughters getting downright angry at their dad for being a fuckwit, they can just put more lipstick on the pig and carry on… and when they get married to fuckwits, they can be mighty like their mom. When Terri/OP states that she came from an extremely dysfunctional family, i.e., 13 divorces between her parents, I understand that she just wanted her daughters to have a ‘normal’, Brady Bunch life. And when that blew up, she got mad that her Brady Bunch life came to an end. But they still get that Brady Bunch life because she’s hosting the fuckwit and the wifetress at her beach house! What a shit show for her girls. Now she has exampled to her girls that their self respect doesn’t matter. It’s more important to live in a Brady Bunch world.
          Wow.

        • Adelante, I agree with you. For the sake of a happy home, OP has forgotten to model healthy boundaries for her girls. Her ex still gets to have cake. She’s modeling for her daughter’s the unhealthy narrative that playing nice and eating shit sandwiches is better than setting boundaries and consequences. Boundaries are so important to healthy relationships. They weren’t modeled in my parent/child relationship growing up, which I think made me especially vulnerable to my covert narc ex. I am civil to my ex and his new wife (the OW) at sports practices & extra-curriculars, but I will not be vacationing with them. OP also spewed the narrative that “our marriage was in a rough place, not as good as I thought.” You know what really messes up a marriage? Cheating. All marriages go through rough patches, you can work through them, decide the challenges are such that the marriage doesn’t work and you need to split, with dignity, or you can blow it all up with some strange on the side. I think OP is still toking on some hopium that her ex isn’t who he is, and unfortunately deceived his other wife by failing to tell the truth about the timing of that relationship.

      • Terri/OP,
        I commend you for leaving right away. That’s rarely the first inclination. Also, just having discovered CL and getting your letter published right away, that had to be a tough response to hear.

        It’s probably best you haven’t jumped into marriage and living with your fiance, because holy crap – you had a very complicated family. I can see why you want to protect your daughters from living that tangled mess. (I don’t understand why people think they have to get married).

        No matter your herculean efforts, your girls are living a complicated family life. I hope they feel loved, because the teen years are rough. Be prepared that they may not appreciate all the shit sandwiches you ate to provide stability when the FW has done everything to fuck it up. It’s like he has his harem of women holding his life together despite his moral character.

        • Re: the harem. Agree. This line — “He is a better person for having her in his life.” — says it. The women are supposed to prop him up.

          • The harem-two ex-wives, dates and two daughters, who have this circus as a relationship template. I’m very concerned for the daughters.

              • That’s the problem. You should give it more thought. Please get some therapy to help you untangle the FOO issues that have you trapped in this dysfunctional pattern of enabling this toxic, entitled man.
                I’m sorry if it hurts your feelings. The truth can do that. It can also set you free.

              • It’s not my circus or monkeys, as the saying goes.

                Your foo (family of origin) story with multiple marriages for both your parents reminds me of the singer Pink and her husband. They come from similar backgrounds and when their marriage hit some rocky patches, they both decided to work hard on it rather than cutting and running, like all their parents did. I have no idea if either Pink or Cory cheated.

                Hugs to you and your daughters.

          • Yes, this concept of a “harem,” is overlooked, and I think crucial.

            During my divorce, in front of a judge, I told Dracula “my days of stepping in front of your messes are OVER”. I am a fixer, by nature. It’s actually a large part of my professional job, too, so I’m very good at it. Dracula married the last OW, in my case. She is also nice to my boys, but Dracula is thankfully 2,000 miles away, so I don’t have to deal with him much.

            I will say, I saw him this summer for the first time in 2 years, and his life is a MESS. Even though he married the OW (who again, is nice to my kids). And I think a large reason why his life is a mess is that I don’t play harem to him. I’m not only a better “fixer” than most people, but he doesn’t have me as a sounding board, give him tips or ideas, etc.

            It sounds like from Terri’s post “I really let him have it”, that she’s in the Cheaters life WAY more than most of us, who’ve instituted No Contact,
            Low Contact, Grey Rock. By being that friend, sounding board, giving life lessons, etc. In essence, part of the harem.

            Just for my own situation, I really don’t think I’d have been able to heal or move on, constantly talking to Dracula – even if it just about the Weather. No Contact absolutely healed me, but it also blocked Dracula from benefiting from my “fixer” powers. Or even just feeding off my positive nature & energy – Cheaters are parasites, remember. No Contact had the unique effect of not only healing me, but at the same time, being a factor that’s led to his downfall.

        • Yes- the harem! Exhole couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t want us all to be friends- he thought this was mature. hahaha and he loved the centrality of being Him. Why can’t we all just love him and get along…Nope. I am not that kind of “mature.” OP may think she knows him and that he screwed around twice. I’m betting it was more than she knows. Also, does the fiance like being a supportive player in this circus? I see why OP did what she did, but kids will be kids, and people are people and they see things that we don’t see. Controlling all the outcomes is impossible, that’s why being straight up helps in navigating the shit storms that life throws our way.

      • OP,

        Dont be too sure he was unfaithful only twice. That is blind naitivity. He has been caught and outed twice. Not great friend material to decide to have in your life. Given the repeating cyclic nature of his cheating, Id say there is far more skeletons in his closet that you dont know about nor his AF/X wife #2

        I see you come from an exceptionally dysfunctional and disruptive home. So your current life probably seems normal. E.g. inviting your ex and his former affair partner/ex wife as one of your first guests to your beach house.

        You say you do this for your daughters benefit. But many thousands upon thousands of divorced parents can and do parent exceptionally well for their children’s sakes because they love them without being friends or part of their ex’s new lives or inviting them to their beach houses for friendly visits.

        What are you teaching your daughters who will have partners of their own one day? They have been watching you. They have been watching him. Are they being taught that one should smile and make nice and roll out the welcome mat if their partner cheats? Take the affair partner under your wing and be friends who decided it was okay to blow up the marriage even bypassing plenty of single eligible men out there. Then lie to her about aspects of the affair so she wont feel bad. Then take a long term back seat for what exH can do for you? That its normal to pretend everything is happy happy happy?

        It takes inward reflection to understand yourself and the real reasons you do things. If there is no catalyst to do so, cycles repeat.

      • They must feel very betrayed by him.
        I’m sorry they have a father with such poor character.
        I hope they have a good therapist to work through this.

        • OP

          You sound strong in some says and hey, not my circus. But I don’t get it. You pretzeled yourself and ate a huge shit sandwich to avoid replaying your own childhood.

          But that means you prop up this cheater EX, after he betrayed you and skated off to play the “all worked out for the best so I did nothing wrong, LA LA LA” narrative.

          I have to ask – and please don’t be offended — but if he’d hit you without your daughters witnessing it, promised never to do it again, etc,

          would you be this way? What would he have to do for you to say “enough, you are NOT my friend.”?

          Because I think cheating is abuse.

          I stayed years too long (due to “kid’s sake + hopium”). Ironically, my kids have said more than once, they wish I’d divorced their dad much sooner.

          They knew I was in an abusive marriage before I did.

      • How can the kids know he was unfaithful twice if their stepmother doesn’t know she was the affair partner who caused his first divorce?

  • My aunt acted like this when my uncle cheated & moved in with the other woman. My aunt had a running commentary on their relationship as if she was in a new relationship by proxy. If she couldn’t be in a relationship with her husband, by god, she was going to be in one with him & his girlfriend! It was weird. And we (her family) secretly thought she was weird & we wanted to punch his lights out, but instead she insisted we accept this new scenario. My mom called it when she called her sister not so much nice, as controlling. That’s the whole sense I get here too. If I can’t control this narrative one way, I’ll go left/right & control it another way. Freedom & Peace can only happen when you let go of the reins & let the chips fall where they may. But this generally happens by living your own life & not other’s. Btw, my former uncle also cheated on the OW too & the one after that. ‘Cuz that’s who he is.

  • Terry, how do you know he only cheated TWICE? He is a cheater, they cheat, lie, defraud and manipulate. I am just baffled that you want to put a positive spin on his cheating. I’m baffled that you didn’t tell the homewrecker now Ex-stepmom the truth, why didn’t you tell the truth? You deserved the truth and so did she. That seventeen years younger pure and honest soul deserves the truth. You were married when cheater started his affair with her. It doesn’t matter that you were “on the rocks”, he lied to her and he lied to you. Why are you still protecting him?

    I don’t think it makes you the better person to associate with these people who devastated your life. Terry, you don’t have to make nice with anyone who betrayed you. Create a cheater free zone in your new home. Don’t tolerate that dysfunction. You and your family are enough without the toxicity that is a cheater. Let that cheater experience the natural and logical consequences of his choices. He chose to blow up the family and now he loses the opportunity to further abuse you.

    Adultery is abuse. Teach your daughters that. Not to eat a shit sandwich and call it delicious.

    • Maybe trying to spare the OW’s feelings made her say that her marriage was on the rocks before the stepmom and cheater started dating. It would have been better to just say NOPE, no marital discord, he lied, and he cheated on me with you. And if stepmom could not do the basic arithmetic (the children’s ages should be the biggest clue) she is simply trying to hide the facts from herself to hide her own culpability and the fact her husband/now ex-husband is a lying cheating ass.
      Kudos on op’s part for leaving but she must stop thinking that either of these two people are good people. They can be good for some things that are not directly linked to op but they are not and should never be her friends.

    • I’m with you Thirtythree. The OP did not tell the stepmother the truth when asked the question directly by the stepmother. The ‘on the rocks’ narrative seems to be a hindsight perspective rather than a ‘at the time’ perspective. Adults are entitled to hear the truth when they ask for it. They are entitled not to like what they hear. They are entitled to be angry with the messenger. Those rights are removed from them without their consent when they are not spoken to, adult to adult, with honesty. It’s insulting to them not to honour them by telling them the truth. This does not involve being cruel because truth can be told with kindness. An example is: ‘I am unhappy in the marriage and I want to leave and, ultimately, divorce’. How I wish the ex had had the integrity and kindness to do that rather than have at least one affair that I found out about after he had left me and which he has always denied, making me look like a bitter, twisted liar when I tell the truth. The world would be a much healthier place with less image management and more kind honesty to ourselves as much as to others.

      Doing otherwise than telling the truth when a situation cries out for the truth speaks to me as extreme people pleasing. As a people pleaser myself, working hard in therapy to adjust that behaviour, I’m going to stop looking at this thread. It is too much for me.

  • He never thought he would do this again?!!? The guy is a cheater who had two very young children WATCHING him kiss his lover and she wanted this oh so very good father to continue on. I don’t get it. What was good about him?
    I had to do some math. This Chump had to have been an older mom for her husband to have cheated with someone 17 years younger. He is such a hero. Why does she want their marriage to work? Boy, talk about being enmeshed in other people’s lives. She says the second wife realized she was probably the other woman. No shit, Sherlock.

    • While I was writing, and sending this, the original poster explained how she can to feel the way she did. It makes sense from her perspective with the kind of childhood she had. I’m so glad she’s found happiness

  • It’s not often a chump gets to make lemonade so I admire Terri for being able to make a shitty situation work for her. My ex didn’t cheat on the regular. He’d have long stretches of stable then blow it up. Most cheater exes are petty and hateful too (like mine) and aren’t attentive to their left behind children. But there isn’t much you can do with his other relationships except distance them from your life. If he moves on to someone else, make it a point to keep them and their dynamics out of your life. But I think if you look deep enough, he isn’t a better person because of her but because of you. You’ve kept him propped up. That was a lot of work and he derived a lot of benefit from you. And it’s ok to stop now.

  • I think this story reiterates why the cycle of abuse must be broken. Terri refers to her own parents having had 13 marriages between them. If that isn’t normalizing dysfunction – what is? Now the cycle repeats once again in Terri’s generation, which has normalized this dynamic for her own children going forward.

    Somewhere, somehow in a succeeding generation, this cycle has to be broken. Children have to be taught both in word and actions that abusers are not viable partners that coexist in our lives. Otherwise, children have no frame of reference with which to navigate healthy relationships of their own.

    • I don’t think that’s fair to say. OP waited years before moving her now fiance in, that’s huge and most parents won’t wait as long as she did. She was making sure her guy was there to stay. The girls can look at what his dad does and learn never to do what he did. They saw their mum immediately end a marriage where she was being cheated on hence they know that’s a deal breaker.

      • Thank you Vee. Everyone’s FOO and experiences are different. My girls are well adjusted, happy, highly achieving young ladies. Half their DNA came from their dad. Me giving him the opportunity to be a good dad ONLY helps them. They know cheating is wrong, and my oldest is a notorious rule follower. They can disagree with the behavior and still love their dad. Now that they are older, they manage their own relationship with their dad. Had I not had him in their lives after we divorced, they would most likely have no relationship with him. They were a toddler and an infant. Like it or not, I procreated with him. If I felt he was good enough to marry, they can see the good side of him being a parent.

        • But listen to what you are saying …

          “Me giving him the opportunity to be a good dad ONLY helps them.”

          He always had that opportunity. ALWAYS. You did not confer it upon him. It didn’t require facilitating on your part. He never needed your efforts to make him a good father. “Had I not had him in their lives after we divorced, they would most likely have no relationship with him.” What does that tell you?! He would have abandoned them unless you stepped in?
          Divorce does not mean that one of the parents walks away from the children. You could’ve easily divorced and arranged for shared custody. You are still thinking of him as some sort of child that needs hand-holding.

        • “Had I not had him in their lives after we divorced, they would most likely have no relationship with him. They were a toddler and an infant.”
          I wrote a post below saying you have done all the hard work to make him a wonderful father. Wonderful fathers would fight to be in their kids lives, divorced or not. The wonderful father image is a figment. I’m glad you are finally stepping back to let your daughters deal with their relationship with their father. It sounds like you need a much needed break from propping this low life cheater up. It must have been exhausting. I do understand the reasons you did it for your daughters, I don’t agree, but completely understand. I wish you all the best.

          • KB22 – thanks for responding and agreeing to disagree with me. When I say he is a great dad, it’s because he is. He’s is not a good partner, but he is a good dad. I know many parents that are horrible parents but turn it around when they become grandparents so I’m glad he had it in him to be a good dad. When we first divorced, he went to the salon and was shown how to do hair so he could do it when they stayed with him. He pays well beyond what was required in Child Support, and he does half the carpooling, doctor’s visits, homework help, etc. I have a career that requires traveling and at times long hours so it’s invaluable to me to know my kids are being taken care of by someone who loves them as much as I do.

            • OP…I think a critical point here is how you define ‘being a GOOD DAD.” I think your definition isextremely skewed. What about his VALUES and CHARACTER??? So he chose to go to a salon to learn how to do hair…..chooses to write out a check or deposit money in an account? Car pooling? Homework help?? Big Deal. He is their FATHER and CHOSE to ABUSE and DISRESPECT their MOTHER and IMPLODE HIS FAMILY. These are NOT the actions, behaviors, mindset of a “GOOD DAD.”

            • Aha, there it is.

              Sorry but this is starting to look a lot plainer, Ex husband is a very good use to OP in many ways from what she says.
              More money. Did I say more money? Very nice for her to get above and beyond the normal amount of child support he owes. Convenient babysitter, etc and icing on the cake OP get to look like such a great kind person. Looks like OP is running her own sort of con game. He probably deserves it though. Whatever works OP.

              Sorry I cant be more supportive. Im out.

              • As a male Argentinian acquaintance says in English (his second language) “It’s not babysitting, it’s called being a father.”

              • Homework, child support, doctor’s visits, carpooling, taking kids when I have to travel for work – these are all in our court agreements. So while it’s helpful when the ex does them, I don’t consider it a bonus. It’s just parenting.

              • She attributes all these externals as evidence of him being a “good” father. If he were a good father he wouldnt of imploded his daughters lives twice. He would of cared a little more. He also wouldnt of risked their health via STDs that could have affected his unborn daughters by past cheating according to OP who says AP wasnt his first affair.

                In some cases its hard getting child support owed or one gets just court allowed amount. All Im saying is by being friends with ex does help OP help her daughters. Maybe not a bad thing.

        • OP could’ve sat back and let him step up in his relationship with is girls. They could be enjoying their own natural relationship instead of the one she orchestrated for everyone. I’m sorry but all I can see is OP’s need to control her children’s lives under the guise of her FOO and wanting them to be happy. She’ll even lie to protect it all.

  • I now realize that my in-laws “forgave” two incidents of cheating against family members. By “forgave” I mean they were cordial to the cheaters and did not confront them about the pain they had caused.

    Their acceptance may have led my ex to correctly believe they would not hold him accountable, either.

    Image management is such a key component in cheating – no need to participate in generational entitlement.

  • Dear Terri and CL,
    I am relatively new to CN and hadn’t seen this— OMG it is pure gold.
    A common theme I hear from my fellow women chumps is “ I (the woman) gave up my youth for this man and he traded me in …”.
    I feel for Terri because she is the model for that sentiment and the reason the RIC is faulted and poisonous.
    Women please DO NOT give up your youth for a fuckwit. No contact. Remember he sucks.
    CL you are so awesome.
    Xioba Xioba

  • Very interesting (and, yes, bizarre) post! Both the historical one and the OP update. It did what all good CL posts do: got me thinking about my own situation. I too really wanted my kids, who were in diapers when the first D Day hit me, to have a good relationship with their Dad. I knew it would be better for them psychologically and, if I tried to stand between my kids and their father, it would only come back to bite me in the ass years later–they would, potentially, resent me. My husband may have resented me but I couldn’t bear the thought of my kids resenting me. As much as I never wanted him in my life again, I also wanted him there to build a relationship with our kids so they could decide for themselves how they felt about him.

    Like CL says, it’s all about deciding what’s acceptable for you. So, my babies went to spend each weekend with two people who I couldn’t stand to look at without wanting to cry or throw up. My babies happily call the Wifetress “Mom” because they love her and have known her since they were tots. Truth be told, even though I never want to be in the same room as her, I suspect that she’s the better parent. And–bizarrely!–I’m grateful that she has taken such good care of my children for many, many years of weekends. She treats them well and that takes a load off my shoulders.

    I balanced the shit sandwiches I was prepared to eat: my babies would spend every weekend with FW and his mistresses, my babies would think of her as their mom, and my babies–from a heartbreakingly young age–would have to learn to navigate their relationship with their father and stepmother without me interfering (for good or evil) at all. It forced emotional maturity, reasoning skills, and tact on them so much earlier than I ever wanted for them but I did not interfere at all. Those were some shitty sandwiches (still are!) but they were all made out of things that I had no control over.

    However, along with the sandwiches, I had my boundaries. I wasn’t going to interfere with FW/Wifetress/the kids relationship at all (they are free to build or burn their own bridges with no input from me) but I also knew that I wanted no part of it because any communication from FW (never from Wifetress; she has never ever reached out to me and that’s okay; I don’t want her to) PTSDs me back down into depression. So, grey rock/no contact boundaries for me and they have saved my life and my sanity.

    I don’t stand in the way of my kids’ relationship with their Dad and Stepmother. I don’t even say anything bad about them. I even help out to the tune of driving them over and arrangement of pick up times and whatnot. You know, the administrative stuff. What I am never prepared to do is go any further than that. FW is a part of my kids’ life but he’s not a part of mine. I don’t say that angrily, more matter of factly because every time he’s in the room, I feel diminished.

    Good post, all. This really got me thinking about shit sandwiches, boundaries, and the balance between them that we determine is acceptable.

    • Thank you for your perspective. It helps to understand. But like you, I wouldn’t have any relationship with the FW or the wifetress. I can see being grateful that your children are not abused while with them, but socializing with them? That’s just too bizarre!

    • It is interesting to read about everyone’s experiences. I also have to eat the coparenting shit sandwich with my ex. I too chose NOT to socialize with him and wifetress. I did go to a couple dinners with exFW and in-law holiday events very early on in the separation and decided not to going forward. My decision was based on my experience, my own pain before, during and after, the fact that they never respect my boundaries, and what I witnessed from my young children. They were very confused afterwards, acting out sadness and anger. So obviously it wasn’t good for my children and I so I put a stop to it. It’s been all business from then on and the kids have been all better for it as far as I can see. Ex and wifetress have tried to invite me on several occasions but I always turn it down. I don’t make excuses, a simple no thank you. I am much happier that way.

      Again, everyone has their own story, but that’s what’s working for me.

    • I am with Fourleaf. Despite being pretty much NC, just necessary parenting arrangements. Even getting a response to those being something of a challenge. The thought of just sitting with them with all the unsaid things, and lies and making small talk. I mean awkward.

      I don’t like how much he lied but also how vile he was to me upon parting, not even thinking to take into consideration I had just buried my dad. I can’t forget this. As for her, stupid shit she posted on the socials that was just so crass. Crying out to all about her amazing life when he was still in the process of moving out and congratulating him when it was all done. Frankly they just don’t have any right to my time, my company, my compassion. It would be a total waste.

      She has 50/50 with her dad and I think a good relationship but that’s for them to manage. I am sick of being the one that held it all together. I am only doing that on my watch now.

      Maybe in about 20 years I will tolerate being in the same room as her but what happened was so devastating and they handled it so badly I could jot swallow that down for anyone.

    • Just wanted to correct and update: When I said “Truth be told, even though I never want to be in the same room as her, I suspect that she’s the better parent” I meant between her and FW, not her and me. Apologies, my phrasing was unclear.

      I believe in giving credit where credit is due. GF#3/Wifetress is a good parent to my children. I don’t ever have to worry that they are getting mistreated on the weekends and I feel good about that.

      GF#3/Wifetress also slept with my husband and encouraged him to sneak out of the house he shared with his wife and children. I don’t feel good about that and I will never feel comfortable around her. She will never be my friend. Again, I don’t say that with rage or anger; I’m just stating a fact.

      My children have a different relationship with her than I do. Their relationship with her is comfortable and warm and, while I’ll never have much respect for her, I do count myself lucky that my children have a good relationship with her.

      It’s a mixture of shit sandwiches and firm boundaries.

  • If we zoom out from this single scenario and view the topic more generally, what I get from CL’s reply (and I agree with it) is that it’s one thing to be a solid co-parent, yet another thing altogether to interweave deeply with your ex. It’s the interweaving that’s so dysfunctional. My ex is my ex for important reasons. Boundaries matter even if we get along OK.

    Here’s the thing. It’s really easy, and tempting, to frame a thing up as being an important sacrifice to make for the well being of others. We all want to do the best we can for those we care about most deeply, *especially* our children.

    The problem occurs when we become so fixated on a single point — in this case, it was trying to force one form of stability that doesn’t actually exist on its own to govern things, however tentatively — that we become willing to breach ethics and/or harm ourselves and/or others, determined to press the identified goal forward at all costs.

    In this example, our writer was willing to be deceptive (read it carefully, it happens several times, always with justifications), pressure another person to stay with an unsafe partner, ask her own partner to tolerate significant interpersonal interweaving with her ex and his new wife (far beyond visit planning), and completely ignore the fact that the ex is repeating behaviors that could literally have killed her and his current wife and lord knows who else (HPV/cervical cancer, and more.)

    And while none of these acts was the point or the purpose, they were all happening, they were all dysfunctional, and they were all being justified based on hyperfocus on a single premise — a stability that clearly did not actually exist, with the hope that somehow the kids could balance their entire well being on this very, very shaky pinpoint of a foundation.

    I’m not blaming our writer or others who bend a lot for those they care about, because the positive intent is crystal clear. That matters, even when it turns out to be less effective than intended. I am (as CL is) revealing the rest of the iceberg under the water, though.

    Here’s a non-cheating example. Once, when my current husband had a medical procedure, he had to be on Coumadin after developing a pulmonary embolism. He came very close to leaving this world and was sent home with strict treatment instructions while still pretty short of breath. I sent his daughter a copy of everything.

    His daughter wanted to help care for him, but she was also very invested in her views of what dietary choices would be healthiest for him, and she really wanted him to change his approach to his health in general. Specifically, she wanted to cook for him. She even shopped on the way to our house and brought bags of groceries. However, many of her food choices would have imbalanced his coagulation, which could have resulted in his death at the time.

    We ended up having a pretty serious argument about kale. It seems stupid now, but at the time, she felt like I was stopping her from healing her dad, and I felt like I was stopping her from poisoning him. We both had positive intent. Our choices had very different likely impacts. I won the round, but I don’t think she ever completely forgave me.

    Point is, she was focused on her single goal, so she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, zoom out to see other ways to achieve that goal that would have the added benefit of not killing her dad. In other scenarios, her actions would have been great, just not in this one.

    Sometimes we are so captivated by our good intent that we can’t (or won’t) see how our impact is causing harm. Often, it’s a way of creating a sense of control in what feels like a helpless situation. That pesky impact is still there, though, affecting those we believe we’re helping. Therefore, while it seems selfless, it’s really selfish at its root. We want to direct the play, but the players extend well beyond out spotlight.

    When we find ourselves justifying dysfunction based on what we think is best for somebody else, it’s time to zoom out. Are there other more functional paths to the same purpose or goal? Are there unseen, or unacknowledged, impacts that are harmful among the good impacts? Are we violating our ethics or causing harm to doggedly apply tunnelvision in relentless pursuit of highly specific goals or thought patterns or antiquated values?

    Zoom out. It might save a heart, or even a life.

    • This reply is Gold.

      “We ended up having a pretty serious argument about kale”

      Not only is this a terrific sentence, it is now a phrase that’s going to live in my brain as a reminder to zoom out, as you say. Absolutely taking this story with me in future situations of conflict to reframe perspectives.

      Thanks for the share!

    • Excellent!
      I didn’t have children with my FW. If I had, I know I would have moved to a foreign country without USA extradition to keep my babe(s) away from him and his Schmoopie. He was a lousy husband, and based on what I knew of him (which is why I refused to have kids with him), he would have been a lousy father. If my children resented me for it, so be it. When they were of age they could decide on their own if they wanted anything to do with them. I just can’t imagine having to parent with people like this!
      I know there is such things as parental alienation, but children ought not be around disordered people. I wonder really how much damage is done to our kids by them? Maybe because I don’t have babies I don’t have an understanding of this. But stories like these just break my heart.

      • My children are broken from how their father has behaved during and after our divorce. I spent thousands of dollars I didn’t have last year, trying to get primary custody due to multiple issues that had been taking place for years. My attorney felt for us and our situation but his hands were tied. Unless I came up with anywhere from $6K-$12K for an outside psychologist there was nothing we could do to prove emotional and psychological abuse. There was no way for me to pay that kind of money and I’m still paying off my attorney.
        I WAS able to get an order saying he can’t change their schools but that was as far as we could go.

        That was last summer. Flash forward to this past February.
        Their step mother was arrested for domestic violence against their father, as well as child abuse against 2 of our children and his and her toddler that they have together, after a very serious altercation that took place between him, her, and the kids. He’s the one that called the police, which surprised me. I guess it was her pulling that knife on him.

        THAT is literally what it takes. Truckloads of money or abuse taking place.
        My children are highly damaged from everything that went on. The good news is that they’re with me 100% of the time now as he chose his psychotic wife over them (and BLAMES our kids for HER abuse to all of them). They’ll never live in his home again.

        When I see anyone in a bad situation that say they stay because they’re afraid of their kids being alone with their ex – I completely, 100000000% understand why. It’s part of why I stayed with him so long. Interestingly enough- he was diagnosed with BPD not long after I had filed for divorce and he had the lease and locks changed while I was at work one day (with the kids home to see it).

        My current STBX has lamented for years because my tubes are tied and we couldn’t have children together. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I had that procedure done long before I met him. I can’t imagine doing all of this again with another child and another narcissistic piece of shit.

    • Thank you. I needed a zoom out moment. Astute and irritatingly accurate.

      *Are we violating our ethics or causing harm to doggedly apply tunnelvision in relentless pursuit of highly specific goals or thought patterns or antiquated values?*

      Guilty as charged. I have been working so, so hard on Limited NC, GR, boundaries, kindness/compassion and stepping out where I don’t belong (kid/dad relationship). Every day it is easier than the one before, but we are working with a parenting coordinator per court order. I hate these sessions, but as CL says…we’re all about civility and following court orders around here. After this most recent session, I had the horrible “you’re at fault” nightmare–you know the one where he gets me amped up by telling me how much I suck (and that AP#2 should be my personality template) and I lose my cool and forget GR and boundaries and lose my shit and then he calls the police to get me a DV charge while laughing with AP#2 and #3 sitting on my couch? Oh, well maybe you haven’t seen it (lol), but THIS time, I called the 5-0 on myself. It was a new variation on this “dream” and I woke up so angry that I bit into the fucking sandwich! Now I’m just mad–at myself for listening to his bullshit, at this situation I didn’t put myself in, at the stupid weather, that I’ve lost all motivation to do anything….blah! While I don’t wish death on him (….), I just want this part to end so I can move on; stupid 90 days of waiting for Judge to sign orders while we “negotiate”. Fuck. I’m tired of negotiating. But then I think about who I am and what I want for myself and I return to compassion for me and my kids, GR and status quo.

      So, thank you for the reminder, CL, of the following parable that I printed out and taped to my desk…

      You were going to be civil to him — because THAT IS WHO YOU ARE. And he was going to fuck up every good thing and not give a shit about the consequences or anyone’s feelings — because THAT IS WHO HE IS.

      #amen

      • Indeed, I’ve had plenty of moments where I needed reminding of exactly what I wrote here (I’m basically parroting a synopsis of 20 years of therapy all the time), and I’m sure I will again. None of us is a zen robot. We can only do our best, and sometimes out best has mis-steps in it. Human.

        Here with you, mis-stepping and growing and getting better, all the way.

        • Like that old saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” Phew! Thanks for your insights Amiisfree. At first the truth hurts, and THEN it sets you free. Yup

  • OP, I sympathize with you so much, and I am so sorry about your upbringing. I am sure you are a great mom.

    But, please, reread this one line you just wrote: “In hindsight, I don’t feel like I was lying. I just wasn’t informed that our relationship wasn’t as strong as I thought it was.”

    Please reread every word in those lines again and again until something clicks. Please.

    You’re saying basically this: “I don’t think I was technically lying when she asked me if my husband hit me. It is true that his arm made an arc, sending his hand to the area near my face, and then contact was made, but at the time, even though my husband knew the meaning of this motion, technically I didn’t realize what the word ‘hit’ actually meant, so I was not aware that I had made him want to hurt me. So technically, we were not friends when he hit me, but at the time I misunderstood our friendship, so he didn’t actually hit me.”

    I am so sorry your upbringing made you into someone who thinks this way. I truly am. I had a crappy childhood too, and I get it. I have been defending abusers my whole life too.

    • Thanks Mia. I did reread that sentence, and I have my reasons (although flawed). The step mom is from Costa Rica and English wasn’t her first language so I had a tough time at first totally communicating with her. My adult niece kidnapped her one time shortly after DD (long story), and she recognized that as unreal as it sounds she truly did not realize the deception my ex told her. Everyone seems to think I’m protecting him and her, it’s not that at all. I am choosing to do what I feel is best for my kids. I do defend more than I should, but I think the payoff has been well worth it. It might not be for everyone, but it worked well for us.

      • So he cheated while his wife was at home with an infant — with a 17-years-younger woman who couldn’t speak English very well. Cheater likes ’em vulnerable. And the TWO-year-old told her mom about the cheating. And we’re supposed to think this guy isn’t a narc?

        When OW outright asked — 10 years later, with presumably better English — whether cheater had been deceptive, LW lied to her.

        I’m sorry, but I am physically sick from the fumes of so much spackle. Saying “I did what I had to do” and “try walking in my shoes” doesn’t change the fact that it is spackle. (Pro tip — Every single person on this site has walked in those shoes. That’s the point of the site.)

  • “Shortly after I wrote the letter, the step mom and I went to brunch where she asked me if the ex and I had still been in a relationship when she entered the picture. I felt I had nothing to gain by saying yes, and I told her that our relationship had been on the rocks well before she came around. In hindsight I don’t feel like I was lying, I just wasn’t informed that our relationship wasn’t as strong as I thought it was.”

    I see lying.

    It’s not cheating if your relationship has “been on the rocks” for a few years?

    It’s not actually cheating…you were “just not informed” that your relationship wasn’t as strong as you thought it was?

    I heard that from the man I married who cheated. Lots of people who cheat say this same thing. It’s called “justification and rationalization.

    “I had nothing to GAIN by saying yes” ?

    This is the language of games and manipulation.

    One of the first things I of MANY Issues As A Result of Growing Up In a Seriously Dysfunctional Family learned in the counseling I have been in, untangling and peeling those onion layers since 1985, is that whenever I do or say anything other than what is really going on, or how I really think or feel, it is a game and I am being manipulative.

    Is it possible the source of the fury is from the demise of your marriage?

    As they say, “If I’m hysterical it’s historical”…..

    I’m no master of anything or saint. I am far from perfect and definitely not issue-free, nor will I ever be, but this feels like a situation for a really good therapist to assist with.

    Truth is the antidote for all dysfunction.

    ❤️

    • The Velvet Hammer strikes again! Thank you for the wisdom of your post!
      I see a lot of lying and manipulation. The Stepmother had hte right to know when she asked for the truth…
      Terri also cheated on her by cheating her out of this vital information

    • Great comment as always VH.

      My choice of staying no-contactir minimal contact with my ex and wifetress even while I have to co-parent with him also had to do with what you mentioned.

      I realized once we separated that he will never stop playing games and lying. Staying in contact would mean that I would still participate in the lies and false narrative, willingly or accidentally. It would have been unavoidable. The only way to avoid it and try and set a healthier example for my kids was to go NC and be as truthful as possible in my own life.

  • Or…I’m wondering….

    Furious = They owe me for what I did for them and they are ruining my plans and not living up to my expectations

    Being civil and being authentic with my feelings is not mutually exclusive.

    It’s been my experience that when I set aside my feelings, it comes out sideways and comes back to bite me. And others around me. I don’t really get away with it and there is a very steep price paid. I also rope others into paying as well…..

    Feeling furious is a signal for me to look and see where I have not kept my own boundaries…

    ❤️

    • Really? I was furious when I learned about the cheating. Not sure that was my boundary issue. And really think being furious is a normal response to betrayal. Not sure I get what you are trying to say here. Be well.

      • Feeling furious can definitely can be a signal, among other things, that I have not kept my own boundaries.

        Melody Beattie writes about how people who feel guilty saying “no” flip the guilt of saying “no” into anger at other people. (I think that one came from The Language of Letting Go.) That happens all the time. Anger also accompanies blameshifting….blameshifters are usually angry. Not the same as being furious as the victim of infidelity of other harm done to you.

        Of course I felt furious when I got cheated on and that is not the situation I am talking about. The “furious” that I has me curious today is that the letter writer is angry at her X for cheating on the OW (did I read that right?)

        There is such a thing as sublimated
        (misdirected misplaced) anger. I’m on the receiving end of plenty of it from Benedict OJ Madoff right now.

        Be well.

        • ….and because of that, yes, one of the things I do when I feel angry is to review and see if there was something I needed to say, do, differently, and didn’t….. which would not include controlling or preventing the actions of other people, for which I am not responsible.

          You have a nice left hook, by the way.

          ❤️

  • I guess I never saw this letter when it was first posted, but CL hit the nail on the head. She definitely exhibited moral superiority. Wasn’t the author so magnanimous as to be a great and supportive ‘chump’ and chastise the fuckwit so he would go back to the wifetress? The author lost touch with reality in order to put lipstick on a pig. It was easier to do that than to self reflect and get downright angry at the injustice of her own betrayal. This reminded my of my ‘Southern Belle’ former Mother-in-Law whose own husband cheated on her. Save face and never show you’re hurt! Oh well…, I hope she has become a person who her daughters REALLY admire and should emulate instead of the dysfunction she exampled.

    • I think it depends on whether the new wife knew the XH was married (in which case OP has no obligation to her) or whether she was unaware (in which case, OP has a moral obligation not to enable XH to get away with cheating).

      This is all complicated by the kids, though. OP has a legitimate worry that XH’s next wife would be worse for the kids than the current one. I loath my XW’s husband as much as the next guy because of what he did to my marriage, but realistically if XW divorced him whom would she end up with? AP doesn’t treat my kids badly, he helps XW manage her household (she’s never lived alone), plus he’s gone about 1/3 of the time, so all in all the odds are good that her next husband would be worse for my kids than the current one. So, as much as I’d like to see XW reap what she’s sown, I’m not telling her about the recently divorced pediatric oncologist who spends nights with her husband while he’s out of town.

      • IG: Very good point about if…..what would the next step-parent be like. I have known kids who had 4 or 5 step-dads before they were out of their teens. What an embarrassment to kids that a parent has been married half a dozen times. Plus it is not a healthy model. To me this would be much worse than OP being too polite to her X and his wife.

        One thing I like about this site is we learn things every day we read it. I am so grateful that so many people get help here when needed. Thanks CL and CN.

      • This makes a big assumption that Terry/OP really knows what goes on behind the closed doors of Wife #2 and her Ex. No one knows why the woman asked this question and how she would use the information to make her own choices. If Terry/OP truly thought so highly of this woman she would’ve told her the truth and not robbed her of her agency.

        “I had nothing to gain by saying yes” screams that it all comes down to what Terry/OP wants for everyone in this circus. And the kids provide a convenient excuse for her lying behavior. I can’t think this is the only time she’s been manipulative with these folks.

  • PS…

    My life dream was to spare my child the dysfunction I grew up with. To have an intact, healthy (read: being real) family. A Feel, Deal, Heal family.

    And then I found out he was the antithesis kid that. Totally fucked up my life dream of NOT having a fucked up family like we both grew up with. Ouch to the Nth degree. Still. Four years later.

    The most painful lesson of this whole infidelity thing was that I could not control that, I could not make Intact Healthy Family happen because I could not control what her father did and boy does this hurt.

    But thankfully I remembered what John Bradshaw told me when I was in the audience when he taped the Homecoming program (Berkeley 1990)

    “It’s not what happens in a family; it’s how it is handled” that determines the health of the family. Sick families keep secrets, lie, don’t talk about, avoid conflict, are inauthentic, pretend everything is fine, great, OK, etc……

    I can’t control what happens. I can only control my response to what happens.
    And that requires being honest honest honest. How I feel, what happened. All of it.

    Half measures availed us nothing…

    • PS…

      I also learned that Intact Healthy Family is also me + child + truth + healthy response to truth/what happened…

      😊

      • YES!!! This is exactly the problem with OP’s approach. A healthy family is whatever group of healthy people you surround yourself with. It doesn’t have to be chumped parent + cheater parent + cheating partner + children. We chumps create can create a healthy, nurturing, supportive family for our kids AND help the kids to have as much of a healthy relationship with the cheater as they possibly can with someone who is by definition not a healthy person, all the while giving them an example of what good boundaries look like.

      • That’s right. I also had to learn that me + my kids + my people were a family. I am also teaching my kids that and they get it.

        In my family, truth is important too. And respect, self- and mutual.

    • Great write-up! “It’s not what happens in a family; it’s how it is handled” that determines the health of the family. Sick families keep secrets, lie, don’t talk about, avoid conflict, are inauthentic, pretend everything is fine, great, OK, etc…… My own immediate family, i.e., my siblings and I, may be quite colorful, but we’re pretty authentic. And I’d rather authenticity than the lies and glossing over that my ex-fuckwit’s family put on. The fuckwit had two brothers and two sisters. Their mom put up with their cheater dad until he got diabetes and couldn’t get it up anymore. (She was a ‘Southern Belle’.) Each brother was married twice, the fuckwit is on his third marriage, and both of his sisters have been married twice. The fuckwit’s family is a great example of what lying and glossing over does to the kids.

    • I appreciate you taking the time to express your thoughts, Velvet. You are one of the regulars that I really feel tries to help others. I don’t know how to explain it without it seeming like I’m making excuses for him which I am NOT. What he did was unforgiveable as a partner, but it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t get the opportunity to be a father. Because I immediately asked him to leave and got a divorce, I didn’t experience being hurt over and over so once the bitterness and betrayal subsided, I made the conscious decision to co-parent with him the best I could. At the time, I had no idea what the outcome would be, and I am so grateful I chose the road I did back then when I was hurt, afraid, and sad. I actually am in therapy and have been for several years. My therapist and I went through this many years ago and knowing my history, she feels I made the best decision for my family. We seldom talk about it now.

      • Not just your original letter but your responses today are what catch my attention and make me hope you will keep talking and keep digging with a therapist.

        In my own experience, it has shocked me to realize how many years, decades, in therapy it can take for things to surface or be resolved.

        It took me three years after DDay to realize I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. This after 27 years together. And we had a therapist with us the entire time. And I’ve had a therapist in the room as part of my life on a monthly basis since OCT 1985….

        It’s impossible to impart all the nuances of any situation writing here, but as they say, if more than three people call me an ass, maybe I should consider shopping for a saddle….

        😊

        • ….and, like you probably know, a good therapist facilitates realizing on your own, provided you keep going and talking. Around here, unbound by the constraints a therapist has, people just tell you straight up what they see.

          I have found tremendous value in both therapist and lay person.

          • And, with all due respect, I am very troubled by making a decision to answer the OWife honestly based on what you will gain….

            ❤️

            • It’s pretty clear to me that this woman gained quite a bit by lying to the OW. It was a “FU bitch, you ain’t gettin’ the truth from me.” Imagine the satisfaction of twisting the knife like that after so many years of nursing a grievance.

              OP’s smarmy self-congratulatory tone told me all I needed to know, but her lies put her completely over the top. Lie to anyone you like, lady, but at least tell yourself the truth.

  • Choices have consequences, good and bad, for ALL of the adults in this situation/scenario. The children, however, did NOT have a choice. In the writer’s estimation he was, has been, a “good dad.” Why?? Because he “co-parents” and goes to Parent Teacher Conferences?? Soccer games?? He offers a “different perspective”?? GOOD DADS teach their children integrity and how to behave with thoughtfulness, kindness, and respect………especially for their MOTHER. As an earlier poster said, my brain hurts after reading this post, the follow-up, and some of the commentary. Yikes. I need more coffee….I may throw some Baileys in it at 10 a.m.

    • Exactly! Integrity is what would have made him a ‘Good Dad’, not that he was there for the PTA meetings or the baseball practices. Integrity is doing what’s right even when nobody is around to see it.

      • “Integrity is doing what’s right even when nobody is around to see it.” That was the “good dad” fallacy I struggled with when it came to my ex. He was sooooo good at the big, public gestures towards me and our kids it took me a long time to notice that he only made them when other people could see them. It was all a façade (one I helped to maintain with spackle), there was nothing behind the curtain at all.

  • When the letter was written the cheaters had been together a total of 16 years. Cheater ex got caught having an affair behind OWife’s back. I’ll bet the farm this was not cheater’s first affair, it was just the affair where he was caught. Cheater ex and ex OWife divorced and are now dating…only because no one else is giving either one of them the time of day. Oh and I’m not sure I buy OWife’s tale of not knowing cheater ex was married when they got together…it just made her look good to pretend she didn’t know he was married. Here is what gets me…cheater is described as a wonderful, engaged father. This is because he has his ex Chump and even ex OWife busting their behinds, doing all the work to make him look like a wonderful father. All he has to do is show up to events, pay child support and voila he is father of the fucking year. Wonderful fathers don’t have affairs when they have infants at home. Period.

    • KB22 – I’m sure it wasn’t the first affair; just the first I found out about. I’m thankful I found out when I did so I could move on. I don’t think I always made perfect decisions, but I also never thought I’d be in this situation.

      • None of us make perfect decisions and you decided not to let your girls be without a father due to what you went through during childhood. I think you fought for stability in your daughter’s lives and did what you thought best. I know there are many posts and opinions here today but just to add another thought…maybe it was easier for you to be gracious and helpful to your ex due to lack of feelings? Or relief the marriage ended? Just curious.

  • I think Terry has a few things going on than are different from many chumps here:
    1) FW was not a narc. He wasn’t necessarily devaluing her, gaslighting her, etc. She said in her follow up that she told the AP/OW that their marriage had been on the rocks, which was fudging the truth a bit. She didn’t feel victimized or abused beyond the cheating itself.
    2) Because he is not a narc, she has felt no need to go no contact or minimal contact.
    3) Terry has no problem being friends with inauthentic people who cheat and lie. That doesn’t bother her at all. So whatever the FWs have done to her is bygones.

    I think the “I’m doing this For the Children” explanation is not accurate for the level to which she has enmeshed herself with her ex and the AP. You can be civil and supportive of the children without going to brunch with the AP and getting involved in their relationship. That’s not For the Children. It might be wanting to control the uncontrollable. Who knows. She had dysfunction growing up and is acting out what she wishes was done for her. FW gets the gift of few consequences. He keeps the harem of women he has wronged and they bask in his sparkles, I guess.

    I want my own child to understand that immoral behavior is to be rejected and that he should surround himself with good people. He should strive to be like them and make good choices. His father is who he is but kiddo can choose better and be his own person. Klootzak can choose to be a supportive father or not on his time, but I don’t care who he dates and not being in dance competitions with him is not going to ruin kiddo’s childhood. Us having separate lives is not inherently harmful to our child.

    • I’d say that he 100% devalued her. Cheating while there are an infant and toddler at home? Kissing the OW in front of their toddler?? That’s victimization and abuse.

      And she says she “wasn’t informed that our relationship wasn’t as strong as I thought it was.” In other words, she had no idea they were “on the rocks.” She thought she was happily married and when the OW directly asked, she said the opposite. That’s not fudging, in my book.

      • He did devalue her but she got out of the marriage IMMEDIATELY. At least her kids do not have to worry about whether they are being disloyal to their mom when they see their dad and step-mom. I think it is better for the kids to know their dad than not. Kids sometimes resent the sane parent if sane parent tries to keep their dad away from them. Kids get tired of people making unkind remarks about a parent. Terri is not doing this. They have good memories of both parents. Of course, they know what he did and he will live the rest of his life knowing that his kids know he cheated. I am not defending him re the cheating but a person’s kids knowing this is a consequence. I would hate to go the rest of my life knowing that my kids will forever know if I cheated. These kids are not going to want to model the dad in this reqard.

      • You’re right about the fudging. I was trying to be generous and not beat up on her. I think she was saying the marriage was bad because she had two young children occupying her time and attention so it was bad for him but not her. But I think if she is honest with herself, she lied to AP/OW. You’re right.

  • This story sounds like it could have been written by my mom. The difference is that my mom lives in the only country in the world where divorce is illegal aside from the Vatican. She had no choice.

    She spent her whole life trying to make a cohesive narrative about my dad, cheating and all. My sisters and I grew up with a good relationship with our dad.

    We grew up knowing adultery is wrong. We hated our dad for it. We forgave him. We hated him when he did it again. We forgave him again. Repeat a few more times.

    The thing is, my sisters and I all grew up to be chumps. We were all cheated on heavily and we never ever saw it even when giant red flags with neon lights, water sprinklers, and fire alarms were planted on our faces.

    This is the generational cycle of abuse. We didn’t recognize abuse because we grew up in a heavily, lovingly spackled home. It was like lead poisoning that entered our system simply because we lived there. We thought pick-me dancing was what wives do 24/7. We did not learn to expect reciprocity. We did not learn to exert consequences. We learned to skip on meadows of broken glass and spread forgiveness through the land.

    Now my mom is elderly. My dad died recently and without him in the picture, I can see how small she has pretzeled herself into through the years. Without my dad standing on her, I now see she is shaped like a pedestal. She had no choice. Divorce is illegal where she lives. For those of us who have a choice, this should never be the path to take.

    • I am so sorry you and your sisters were the fallout. This is what I believe could very well happen to Terri’s daughters as well. Bummer.

    • “A generational cycle of abuse”. This strikes a chord in me. My father cheated, and though my parents eventually divorced, my mother bought into the narrative that “children need their father no matter what”. It was more than just co-parenting, she allowed him free access to our home, we waited for him on Christmas morning to arrive before we opened presents, when he remarried, (not the AP), we all spent holidays tougher. No one…not my mother, relatives or friends, validated our instincts…which was that all the lies, cheating and betrayal were bad. So we learned to ignore our instincts and we learned what was modeled to us — to overlook abuse in favor of having a relationship with someone because they are blood, after all. So of course, my siblings and I each took our turn being chump in our own lives. I forgave my cheating husband and he eventually cheated again and left. I, too, didn’t know my marriage was rocky after the first time he cheated, I thought he would never do that again. It is a cycle of abuse.

  • Terry,

    it seems to me that you’ve got a couple avenues to explore in therapy.

    1. being enmeshed with your X; and, more importantly,
    2. the underlying damage from being repeatedly abandoned in childhood by both parents and stepparents

    this is hard, vulnerable work and i know it’s easier to avoid the pain of abandonment. therapy takes time, too, but it’s well worth it. so, i wish you well on your therapeautic journey.

    have you ever considered Al-anon?

  • OP is trying to renovate her traumatic childhood by creating a useful reality out of the stack of shit sandwiches her marriage handed to her.
    I feel sorry for the little girl inside her that can’t find home.

      • Thanks Bruno and Damnit – you hit the nail on the head. My dad cheated on my mom, and she tried to kill herself by slitting her wrists in front of us when I was four. There were two sets of twins home at the time (me being one of the older sets), and we were all taken to foster care. I still have nightmares at times, but my girls have NO idea just how bad life can be which is what I want for them. If it means eating some shit, heck bring it on. In all other aspects, I have a very fulfilling life. I am financially secure, have many loving relationships in my life, have worked for the same company for almost 20 years, and I always try to help others that might be going through what I did when I was younger. I’ve taught my kids to be inclusive and not leave people out. The person they might ostracize could have been me.

        • OP, while there might be better paths than you have chosen dealing with your kid’s father and AP, you are a survivor. Do what you gotta do to get through it.
          I hope that you have gotten professional help to process your childhood and adult trauma.

        • OP, that is absolutely horrific. You’ve had a youth that most of us cannot ever imagine. As Bruno says, you’re a survivor. Keep going forward and continue with therapy. Someone who has gone through what you have, probably still has a lot to deal with. I hope that you have reached the point in your life where you love yourself and the only person that you need to hear tell you that you have value is YOU. Not your kids, not your significant other, only you.

    • “OP is trying to renovate her traumatic childhood by creating a useful reality out of the stack of shit sandwiches her marriage handed to her.
      I feel sorry for the little girl inside her that can’t find home”.

      This made me tear up. My thoughts exactly. So many of us have tried to do the same thing.

  • My divorce happened after my sons were grown and on their way so I can’t say what I would have done had they been young when this all happened. given how resentful I still am after 4 yrs, I doubt I could be friends with FW and OW. Showing up as the burned Mom being all life is wonderful and FW and OW are fantastic to coparent with seems disingenuous. But staying with a FW is also which many here chose to do. As for me, I blindly lived with a man who clearly didn’t love me and wasn’t happy with himself or us. All of these situations impact us and our children. I’m glad my sons had both of us while they were young but I’m sorry I modeled codependency and really being a doormat. I can honestly say I worked my ass off to give my sons a great childhood. That’s what we do however dysfunctional that is. maybe it’s better to sprinkle fairy dust and be all sugar and nice. Who knows. We are all here having eaten an elephant of shit sandwiches, trying to figure out how to not do that anymore and live a more sane life. Hugs to us all.

    • All that you say is very true, Thrive. It’s easy to sit back with hindsight and state what OP is doing, e.g., exampling spackling, is not a wise choice. As with you, my sons were all much older (mine were in their late twenties) and we didn’t have to co-parent with fuckwits. Who’s to say what I would have done had my children were babies? But I think I wouldn’t have had the fuckwit or the wifetress in my life at all. Why do I say that? Because of who I am. I had 6 brothers while growing up and I learned to be one tough gal dishing out as much I took. I learned to stand up for myself at a very young age. And yet I still went 30 years with my fuckwit before I threw in the towel. What does that say about me? It says that I tried everything I could to save my marriage, even choosing to believe that the liar would never cheat on my again. I even knew that when I made the choice to keep him (the first time), that I was choosing to believe a liar. The hopium was really strong. Who knows what I would have done had I had Terri’s/OP’s upbringing? We all come from different backgrounds and we all have unique personalities. Some people are stronger than others. I thank God that He made me one of the strong ones and I pray for the ones that aren’t so strong. Does that mean that God favored me and not others? No. God made me to be the person that He wanted me to be. And truly, I have a whole lot of faults!! Being strong has oftentimes made me less compassionate than I should be. OP did what she thought was the right thing to do at the time that she did it.

    • “maybe it’s better to sprinkle fairy dust and be all sugar and nice”

      That’s what CL advises us against doing, and she’s right. We model dysfunction to our kids when we spackle and eat shit for the sake of being “nice”. This type of dishonesty might seem “nice”, but ultimately it is not kind. Everyone has a right to the truth. We need it in order to make informed decisions.

  • My boys were 9 and 12 when I divorced their dad. We, truly, had not been happy for years. I had been preparing for divorce strategically because I did know their dad so well. I had to figure out how to minimize the effect for my sons, even if I could have, and some might say should have, done better for myself.

    My Ex worried that I would try to “poison” the children against him. I told him I would be truthful with my sons, when they asked, with age appropriate information — I would not lie for him. I did not have to worry. My sons already knew more than I thought they did, and they were smart and observant. They figured out their dad’s vices by themselves, and when they did ask questions, I told the truth. If they ask, they are ready to hear the truth.

    Years later, one son is married, and the other son would like to be if he can find “the right one.” He feels he has limited choice because so many girls of his generation have made decisions about the way they conduct their life that he finds unacceptable. He worries he may never be able to marry and have children. Both sons want children. Both know how hard it is to raise children, and both realize some of the sacrifices I made to keep them safe, and how hard I tried to be the sane parent. Both say they will not cheat on their wives.

    We’ll see what happens, but I know I cannot control it, or protect my sons from their own choices now that they are adults. They do not want to end up like their dad, and they see where his poor choices led him in his life. However, he is still their dad, and they love him, even seeing him clearly, they love him. He was not the worst father, but his selfish behavior kept him from being a good father.

    From my dysfunctional FOO background, I see him as a better father than I had. I know all the circumstances, and I know my father was not a good person, but my knowledge does not mean that I didn’t still desire a good father. That particular wish was never answered, for me. So I did my best to break the cycle of dysfunction I grew up with, and my boys had to forge their own relationship with the man who gave them half of their DNA.

    No matter what, we are not going to live up to “The Perfect Family” myth that media promotes. All that glitters is not gold. When we do the best we can with the circumstances we have, then we live in the real world. The truth is not necessarily pretty, but it is healthier than trying to believe, or live, a lie.

    • Ditto this. Being honest about the situation and being true to ourselves means the sons can at least believe us even though the truth is not what they hoped for. I do not sugar coat what happened nor play marter..I hope. I just keep showing up and that is what I can do.

  • Hello everyone – it me again. I have tried to reply to many of the comments but think a blanket post might be best. I am NOT trying to convince anyone what I have done is right. It has felt right to me but as someone else posted, you don’t know until you’ve been in someone else’s place how you would respond. As soon as I knew there was cheating, I filed for divorce. Of course, he tried to make excuses, pleading, crying, etc. I saw through it all and made it very clear that as a husband, I thought he was lower than low!! BUT I already had two children with him. I could have made it so hard for him to see them that their relationship would have dissolved, but I didn’t want that. I didn’t have good parents. What I didn’t write was how I knew first hand what cheating can do to a family. My dad cheated on my mom, and she tried to kill herself by slitting her wrists in front of us when I was four. There were two sets of twins home at the time (me being one of the older sets), and we were all taken to foster care. I still have nightmares at times, but my girls have NO idea just how bad life can be which is what I want for them. If it means eating some shit, heck bring it on. Compared to some of what I’ve been through, shit is a treat. I also don’t want anyone to think I’m a sucker or push over. I didn’t date at ALL for 8 years after DD. I concentrated on my daughters and my career. When I finally did meet someone, he didn’t meet my daughters for two years and NEVER spent the night when they were home. I was so very careful, and it was just this summer that we moved in together. My girls well being will always come first. I’m trying to stop the cycle of neglect and raise them so the biggest cares in their world at this age is passing a class or figuring out what to wear to school. I walked on eggshells for so long that I still plug my ears when anything goes wrong out of habit. Growing up in alcoholic homes, you never knew what to expect. I’m also very fortunate in that I have a GREAT life. I have always been financially independent which is such a blessing. I wouldn’t consider myself rich, but I always seem to have a bit more than I need. I also try to help people who have been in situations similar to mine. I’ve paid the mortgage for a few women who were TRUE single moms. The dad not only wasn’t paying support, but he abandoned his kids. I also pay for scholarships so kids who might not have as much financially can attend field trips and camps. I do this anonymously because I know what it was like to be the only kid in study hall because I didn’t have the quarter to go to a assembly. Well I wasn’t the only kid because my twin and younger twin siblings were there too. The school wouldn’t take checks for our lunches because they bounced so often. I didn’t know childhood any differently so I don’t feel sorry for myself as much as want something better for my kids, for my nieces and nephews, for all children.
    Anyway, I am glad to have this forum for us all to learn from. Just try to lead with kindness – we are all fighting our own battles.

    • Thanks OP. I’m sorry for your shitty childhood and what you’ve been through. Big hugs to you. Thanks for updating us and sharing your story. That takes courage. In this site anonymity allows us to be open about our story which is healing. It also open us up to everyone else’s opinion which can be hurtful. But we also know that comments come from our attitude which reflects our experience-good and bad. As In Everything, we all take what we want and leave the rest-otherwise we are like a soap bubble floating about waiting to pop. You only have yourself to serve and lord knows you deserve kindness after what youve been through. Be well, stay mighty!

    • “ Just try to lead with kindness, we are all fighting our own battles”. 100% this!! I know the responses are coming out of places of many personal hurts, but forgetting to be kind or understanding to others who are asking for and deserve our support, will only increase our own pains.
      I’m very sorry for what you’ve been through, with this present situation and your convoluted familial history, it’s WAY more than anyone should have to deal with in their lives, especially children. You are pretty damn amazing if you ask me, and yeah, I personally don’t think this loser ex or his replacement wife deserve to hold a place in your very valuable life, but I do understand you wanting so badly to give your gals a better look than you have gotten on relationships. Just don’t do it at your own expense, because you have already paid too heavily for other ppls shitty choices in life. Your bar has been set too low for what’s acceptable. You matter!!! Even though you couldn’t have gotten to feel that way as much as you deserved to feel it in your early years, don’t ever believe it’s not true.
      All the best wishes to you for healing and self discovery, we are all walking that road and no one has all the answers figured out, but there’s a great deal of wisdom being shared around a great deal of pain, just has to get weeded out a bit sometimes.
      Just try to remember to put your oxygen mask on first and your daughters will breathe a whole lot easier too.

      • Thank you, Chumpasaurus. I appreciate your response. It seems like many feel that because he cheated, he could not possibly be a good dad. I have colleagues who were not only cheated on but receive no support, and the fathers aren’t in the kids lives. I am so very grateful I’m not in that position.

        • He knowingly upended your daughters’ lives — not once, but twice — at a time when they most needed stability. For sex.
          Call that “great dad” if you want to. I call it spackle.
          And that doesn’t make me unkind or unsupportive.

          • I totally get the letter writer’s point; he could’ve been a lot worse! He didn’t shirk all his parenting responsibilities. Unfortunately there are a lot of examples of “worse” out there.
            Having said that, we’ve all spackled. Calling him a “great” dad is truly a disservice to the truly great dads out there.
            The ones who model honesty, valuing other people, integrity etc.

  • That is awful about sitting in study hall. Shame on your school system.

    I can’t imagine a school system doing that. I worked in a grade school for several years, 1975 to 1986.years and we were not allowed to exclude any child from activities due to lack of money.

    I was the lunch cashier and I turned in a list of monies owed every year; but there was never a lunch withheld.

    I think sharing children with a fuckwit is the most awful of experiences for most folks. I can understand munching some shi8t sandwiches to ease the situation. My fw and I shared a son, but we didn’t split until he was fully emancipated; and I didn’t know for many years he was leading a double life.

    My son remembered fw taking him over to whores trailer when he was about 12 ish. FW left him outside with a raccoon, while he went inside the trailer. Son didn’t put it all together until he was in late high school; then he was between a rock and a hard place. So he kept quiet, but in hindsight I realize his anger at his dad came out in their relationship. I spackled and told myself that it was normal for son and dads to have issues at that age. Which to some extent it is.

    My guess is fw had planned on discarding me as soon as my son graduated HS; but that fall, we were working together on getting a new mayor elected and fw needed me to help him politically. So he used me for another 2 years. I was the front woman for town hall meetings, round table events, political dinners and such. Couldn’t very well send his whore in.

    I suspect that he had planned on keeping quiet for a while longer until his promotion was solid and the mayor was re elected; but someone dropped a dime to the city counsel.

    (she was his direct report, and in fact he had gotten her hired, he had also just petitioned for a raise for her) My daughter in law thinks that likely some other woman who worked for the city called in a complaint. She said another woman had likely thought, hey where is my raise; do I have to fuck my boss. (my daughter in law used the words “sleep with”.

    He was able to hang on to his job, though he got busted and put back out on patrol. He was also excluded from the mayors inner circle. He not only lied to me, he conned the mayor into believing he was something he was not.

    • Aaah-the sweet smell of consequences. I love these stories. Mine was that when the OW realized I made all the money and FW relied on me for financing his lifestyle, she moved on to the next mark and “cheated” on him. He was so broken hearted. Hate to admit that I sent him a text saying how happy I was the karma bus hit him in the butt. He didn’t respond. 😂

  • This one has hit a nerve with me. 8 months since he left to be with his soul mate he was horrid at first and now he’s all nice and lovely. I can’t stand to hear from him or see his face so my parents have help me out because I am incapable of co parenting with him at the moment. Our son loves his Dad’s new woman and that makes me feel happy and I listen to him and smile and encourage in all the right places. I am so scared of rocking the boat and falling off all the emotional work I’ve achieved over the past 8 months that I’ve allowed him to take all the deposit money from our old property without argument because I’m so worried that I will prove him right that I’m crazy and the ex wife from hell. We are not divorced yet and I am bending over backwards to make his relationship with our son work. I don’t leave the house at all because they live locally and I don’t want to tread on their toes. I have become a prisoner in my home. I have sorted out finding a new home and moved because me and the children were asked to leave once my ex moved out. I’ve sorted all the bills and everything out. I have tried so hard not to fail my kids. My son asked me this morning if there was anything I could of done to stop his Daddy from leaving. I know my message seems confusing and muddled up. But that’s where my head is at. I feel like I’ve taken 10 steps back today and I’m back to self blame and all the work on forgiving myself for my terrible wife status has gone down the toilet. I’m not searching for sympathy. Maybe I am searching for someone to tell me its OK to cut my ex out my life for the time being while I’m still trying to get myself together. I’m sorry.

    • OMG girl. You absolutely are OK with cutting him out right now. You are very early in this process and still in shock. I am glad you have your parents to help you. I hope you have read the book. Stand up for yourself and demand equality about finances and all things for yourself and children. You are the victim here. Stepping on their toes is the last thing to worry about. You don’t have to be the nice person. Grab a friend or family member and get out of the house. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Hold your head high-he is the one who lied and cheated -not you. You are mighty for hanging in there and being the same parent. Please keep reading here and posting. CN has your back.

    • I’m with Thrive. You’re only 8 months out and not divorced yet. You are truly in the thick of this misery. Please try to be gentle with yourself and you slog through these next weeks/months. Come here often.

      You will get your balance and find your mighty.

    • Sorry for your pain Santa. That’s the worst of it and it is crazy making. The fear is natural but that’s why you have to lawyer up and get told what your rights are. It really helps untangling a complicated situation. I am glad you have parents to help. Other than that you absolutely do not have to bend over backwards to accommodate your soon-to-be ex. You can allow him to have a relationship with his son but in no way you should participate. I know this is painful, but you also can and should let your son know that you cannot “make” his dad do anything. Nobody can. Just assure him that you love him and , if you’re comfortable with that, that his dad loves him too, and that whatever happens he will be OK. Good luck and ((hugs))

      • Oh, and cut all contact with your ex, or keep it to a minimum for co-parenting. NC is the cure and the path to clarity.

    • Write your story to CL. She’ll give you the lowdown. Stand up for you and your kid. You’ve done nothing wrong and seriously I am finding this post triggering as hell too.

    • It’s absolutely normal to want to be the ex-wife from hell — especially only 8 months since DDay and you’re not even divorced yet! I can understand not wanting to appear that way to your son, but really, who gives a fuck if you yell at the fuckwit! It is NOT your job to make the relationship with your son work. If your husband is a fuckwit, then you really don’t want your son to admire him and want to be like him. I kind of wonder if that didn’t happen with my youngest. He turned out to be a cheater on his wife too. I wonder if I stayed too long… I’ll never know. Being civil does not mean that you sanction what the fuckwit did. Be civil and example to your son that when someone betrays you (in an age-appropriate way), it’s okay to not want anything to do with that person. This is what you’re telling your son about yourself in regards to the fuckwit. Your showing your son that you will not have the fuckwit as your inner circle. However, your son still has to see the fuckwit. CL has already posted much info on what to say to your son and how to deal with the new ‘woman’ and dad’s new life. (I thank God I didn’t have to deal with that!) You did nothing wrong. It’s normal to put your trust in your spouse. The fact that your spouse betrayed you has nothing to do with what you did or didn’t do in this life. You just married a fuckwit. Be kind to yourself right now, read CL’s book, get counseling (and not the RIC-type counseling), and take it one day at a time. ((Hugs))

    • It is more than okay. It’s essential for your healing. You do NOT have to bend over backwards and eat shit so as to avoid being labeled as the crazy ex and to make him look like a good father. You are being manipulated into serving his selfish agenda through a guilt that is not yours to own. It is his. Let him do his own work and just concentrate on your healing. He has the responsibility for making his relationship with his son work, not you.

      I’m so sorry you are being treated this way. You’re obviously a sweet person and I have no doubt you were an amazing wife. He was the problem, so pleased don’t beat yourself up anymore.

    • NO CONTACT girl! It is the gift that keeps on giving. Parallel parent with as little contact as possible. I’ve been doing this for many years. It can be a pain sometimes logistically, but it is the best path forward. Listen, parenting after divorce is a difficult task even if you’re on great terms with your ex. It’s truly not that much more difficult to do no-contact parenting. In fact, it’s freeing. So…consider this me supporting you in cutting that dirtbag out of your life. Keep your side of the street clean, never trash talk your ex to your kids, keep supporting any healthy and positive relationship they may have with their dad and his many lady friends, learn the amazing art of “cool…bummer…wow”… and do it from an arm’s length. Best of luck.

  • I get wanting to co-parent well, but no. This crosses the line. He’s a mess and has created yet another mess. Be the rock in the storm for the kids if it starts affecting them, and let go of the rest.

  • I have to read the comments after my workday, but OP, when I read:

    “Shortly after I wrote the letter, the step mom and I went to brunch where she asked me if the ex and I had still been in a relationship when she entered the picture. I felt I had nothing to gain by saying yes, and I told her that our relationship had been on the rocks well before she came around. In hindsight I don’t feel like I was lying, I just wasn’t informed that our relationship wasn’t as strong as I thought it was.”

    I was like, WTF? “I don’t feel like I was lying” and “I had nothing to gain by saying [the truth]” when deflecting about direct questions are the exact ways that cheaters work. Gaslighting someone is like giving them a mental punch upside the head while you tell yourself you’re “protecting” the person lied to.

    I come here for the antidote to people telling stories to justify lies and gaslighting. I come here to remind myself to pay attention to actions.

    • “Gaslighting someone is like giving them a mental punch upside the head while you tell yourself you’re “protecting” the person lied to”

      Exactly. She even admits the lie was for self-serving reasons- she wants to keep that particular stepmother in her children’s lives because she likes her, and the next one the fuckwit hooks up with could be an asshole. Her kids are grown, FFS, so it’s not like the stepmother is helping to raise them at this point. Yet she lies so stepmother will stay with fuckwit? It’s irrational, it’s exploitative, and the hypocrisy of the “I’m trying to protect her” and “it wasn’t really a lie” rhetoric is astounding.

      I also can’t believe so many people are staying silent about this selfish, immoral behavior on the basis that they “haven’t walked in her shoes” and “we should be supportive of other chumps”. You’re right; this place is supposed to be an antidote to enabling cheaters and participating in gaslighting.

      • Agree, OHFFS. Many, many chumps have kids they want to protect. Many, many chumps want to preserve their definition of family. And they make the hard choices without lying and without spackling.
        Upthread someone said that they realized their cheater would never stop deceiving everyone, and — when that was proven in LW’s case — what happened? He gets invited to the beach house! And people are co-signing this?
        He blew up his kids’ lives not once, but twice — when they were tiny and when they were pre-teens. Yet he’s called a good father. LW says she never thinks about him, but she’s defending him left and right. The cognitive dissonance is very triggering.

        • Triggering to say the least. Lying and gaslighting for the sake of the children. Sounds like my ex’s rationalization.

          • Yes, the lying, the gaslighting, the manipulation — what a mindfuck to the children. How will they ever trust their own perceptions when the narrative of their reality has been so distorted. Today’s letter was disturbing. I felt sick upon reading it.

        • Yes, my kids are grown, so I didn’t even have to co-parent with my fuckwit, and I still find it a bit triggery.

  • Terri / OP I am sorry you had such a horrific childhood. I get wanting to protect your girls. Going forward if they were cheated on (picked a cheater like their Dad was) would you want them to put up with ongoing contact ‘for the kids’ for decades? Cheating is often associated with other forms of abuse and risk. I think modelling good boundaries, and good values such as ethical actions (telling the truth to a direct question from second wife) is a better legacy for your daughters future well being.

    PS If your daughter was in second wife’s shoes wouldn’t you want her to know the truth so she could take informed action?

  • Wow. That man must feel like he really is the hot shit that all narcs think they are! His ex-wife spending time with him at the beach house of his first ex-wife. Huh. And I guess that means his first ex-wife’s husband is okay with this, or is at least playing along. One big happy family.

    Talk about having your cake and eating it, too! I wonder at what point he’ll decide he must be God and start himself a cult.

  • OP,
    Just as I stayed way past my marriage’s expiration date due to my childhood trauma, thinking I was protecting my children. I suspect you are so happy your girls don’t have an abusive stepmom, like you did that you’ll eat a few shit sandwiches. It seems like this is scratching a childhood wound of your own and you’re doing you best to control it for your children, in a way it wasn’t controlled for you.

    You’re not wrong, and I’m not judging I hear life stories all the time that are weirder. I’m also not qualified to psychoanalyze your choices.

  • I’m just kind of blown away by this whole letter. Not only was I shocked at how kind she was toward the OW (I mean, shit- she broke up your young family, girl!) but I think the thing that really blew me away was her involvement in her ex’s marriage. WTH why is she Inserting herself in their fucked up situation? This ex is a weasel and doesn’t deserve anyone advocating for him?! Good lord.

  • ‘but I think she now knows that she was most likely the “other” woman all those years ago.’
    This letter is really weird.
    So the other woman has a pure soul? 🤣Is that because she didn’t know she was the other woman? How can you not know you’re cheating with a married man when he still married and has kids and then quickly makes a new family?
    Who becomes best friends with the person who helped destroyed their family?
    I get rising above, I get being Zen, I get being detached, I get wanting what is best for your kids… but in my opinion this letter is off.

  • — ‘she was a young woman quite happy to break up your family if it meant she was Special. At your expense’ and I’ll add at the expense of the children.
    The perfect definition of the OW so often portrayed as the victim.

    CL’s — response was brilliant. There is an entire consciousness movement or call it what you want – that seems to be all about accepting your part of things etc.
    It can really do damage to people who are already chumps by nature.
    And bravo CL for being the owner of ‘toxic positivity’

  • ‘That’s what selfish fuckwits do — they hurt kids because they did the cost-benefit analysis and fucking around won out over everyone else’s well-being. That’s his CHARACTER.’
    Cheaters in a nutshell.

  • OMG. Right after reading this, all I wanted to ask was “Who the fuck are you?”

    That’s all I’m going to comment. Anything else admittedly would not be helpful.

  • Why the surprise when the leopard shows his spots again ?

    It appears that the writer spends quite a bit of time talking with her ex

    Mr Cheater has had fun playing 3 women !

    Nice guys don’t fuck aound. This man may be good at image management, but he is just another lying bum

  • “Look, if you knew they were having an affair — she was fucking him.”

    Can the OW do basic math? Surely she knows how old the kids were when the affair started. Surely she knows the kids saw her kissing their father.

    I hope this woman got her head out of her butt and did the second half of the program–gaining a life without a cheater front and center in it.

  • This letter and all of the subsequent responses by Terri/OP just made me very sad for her daughters. They have spent their whole life being fed lies in order to keep them from looking behind the curtain and seeing who their dad and stepmom really are and the person perpetrating this myth is none other than their chumped mom. The daughters have spent their lives eating shit sandwiches not OP she knows what she is doing and continues to serve up the lies, as if dad’s issue with cheating is just a minor transgression akin to nail biting and not an indicator of a major personality disorder. I lived that reality as a child – mom spackled for highly functioning alcoholic dad. Yes he was a good dad by the letter writer’s definition (good provider, drove the carpools, went to all of the extracurricular functions etc.) but denying the alcoholism and the problems it created not only robbed me of the truth it robbed me of the ability to trust what I was experiencing first hand around me. Instead of understanding my dad and my mom for who they were I was expected to buy into the Hallmark Movie version and I did just that out of loyalty to both of my parents. This made me more vulnerable to the manipulation of my Narc Ex, not less. In addition, it made me a world class spackler before I had graduated high school.

    Even with the best intentions gaslighting is still gaslighting, it still alters a the target’s perception of reality and makes them question their own ability to judge a situation and trust their own feelings. I feel sorry for those girls – believing what they are seeing, hearing and experiencing in relationships will be an uphill battle and trusting their gut will be nearly impossible.

    That said, I was guilty of spackling and basically gaslighting my own kids in order to preserve my “happy” and intact family and create a childhood for them that I thought was much better than my own. I have owned up to that and apologized. One thing that amazed me in the conversations I had with them after their dad left (they were all young adults) was that they were aware of my covering for him and painting my own Hallmark picture of him, they just went along to make things easier for me and to make me feel better about things. In the end, they started the NC process before I was ready to – they were sick of the charade. Hopefully Terri’s daughters are seeing the reality around them and doing this as well.

    • Great post. One thing I would add is that the notion that you can “nice” a fuckwit into behaving decently is a fallacy, and the situation in this letter is another example of it. Ex wife and Owife were both nice to the cheater, and the cheater continued to cheat.
      Change certainly does not come when there are no consequences, and even when there are consequences, it’s highly unlikely a cheater will change

      My fuckwit tried to sell me on the idea that he would treat me better if I was “nice”, forgave him for his awful behavior and just pretended everything was fine. I know this is untrue because I was good and kind to him for decades, gave him way too much benefit of the doubt, empathy and understanding, yet he still treated me like crap and wanted to dump me for a disgusting whore who isn’t a good or kind person in the least. How you treat a fuckwit is not what causes them to cheat and be abusive, so how you treat them won’t stop them from doing it either.

      New chumps; do not believe them if they say their behavior will change if you are nice to them. It won’t and they are just manipulating you into sticking around for more abuse.
      Don’t lie to your kids for the sake of preserving the myth of a happy family or to avoid antagonizing a fuckwit, either. That is only providing a dysfunctional model for relationships which can cause your kids to accept it as normal.

  • I just could-would not EVER consider this scenario due to the ex’s abuse. I would also lump the never in with my kids future relationships because I would never want them to experience that or think it’s acceptable but that’s just me and my thoughts.

  • Terry/OP, this has been pretty horrendous for you today. Thank you for sharing with us how things have changed slowly for you over time.

    And they really have; there’s genuine signs of change there, and you’ve learned a lot about how dysfunctional your past was.

    I think everyone here knows that you were trying to do what you thought was best. But don’t underestimate the experiences of Chump Nation.

    We’ve had worse scenarios than yours, and greater levels of denial. There ARE people here who have walked miles in worse shoes than yours.

    Please continue to see your therapist. Please continue to come here and read Chump stories and learn. (I like a book called ‘Stop Caretaking the Borderline or Narcissist’; you might find it useful – https://www.amazon.com.au/Stop-Caretaking-Borderline-Narcissist-Drama-ebook/dp/B00B60DRKI).

    Like Chumperella just above, I’m concerned about your daughters and the effect your choices have had on their lives. There’s still a lot of spackle in your story, but the reality will be felt in how your adult daughters choose to live their lives, and who they choose to get involved with.

    The real measure of the success of your long-term strategy will be if:

    – they make better relationship and life choices than you did,
    – and can identify red flags early,
    – and can get the hell out when it happens,
    – and not feel like they have to enmesh themselves in the subsequent chaos in order to feel loved or wanted or needed.

    You might well disagree with me. People in your situation usually only see the short-term gains, so they just do the best they can, and try to see the bright side.

    Here’s hoping you get your head above water one day and can see to a bigger horizon.

  • OP – I’m hesitant to chime in on what you should have done in the past. It seems as though you were thoughtful in your decisions at the time and your children have reportedly thrived.

    May I ask what you think would happen if you sat down with your children and their father and briefly corrected the narrative of their life? At this point, would there really be fallout?

  • The “I didn’t know I was the mistress” mistress had an infant, toddler, and public divorce records to say otherwise. Willful ignorance on mistress’ and Terri’s parts is not a valid excuse.

    • Says someone who seems to have been a Chump three times over…. Willful ignorance on your part perhaps? Come on, quit judging me. If you can’t say anything helpful or constructive, keep it to yourself. Seriously.

      • If all you want is validation, praise and kisses for what is, in my opinion, a truly fucked up, sick, dysfunctional situation created by you, then why weigh in on the comments, when they don’t tell you what you want to hear?

        And sneering at threetimesachump because she points out a few things that flick you on the raw is vicious, not nice.

        You keep throwing a blizzard of bitch cookies at your ex for doing what a decent father, decent human being, would do naturally, without you facilitating/orchestrating/manipulating every step of the way.

        As for your socialising etc with your fuckwit and his whore; well, that’s your deal, but I think, as others have said, what you are doing is teaching and *training* your children to accept abuse as aok so long as everyone is ‘nice’ and doesn’t rock the boat you’re rowing. Yuck.

      • OP,

        i have great compassion for the hell you went through a child and your resilience.

        I would like to point out that there was and is no statistical way that your kids would suffer the nightmare you did, in the various ways you did. Not ten years ago, and not going forward.

        You are not your mother, and your ex is not your father regarding partnerships. And that is a liberating fact . Your therapist has obviously not focused on that because the dynamic here is unhealthy and highly controlling. With “niceness”.

        You and your husband are using a third party as a security blanket for your own needs. If you truly have respect and regard for this woman you would have told her the truth about your husband’s cheating/ unilateral ending of the marriage by betrayal.

        She was asking for the truth so she could make decisions for her future and you gave her the answer you know that would make her stay in your lives.

        Despite your overt teachings and wishes for your girls to conduct themselves with integrity and have great experiences, this triangle is modelling stuckness and dependence.

        Repetition compulsion is the psychological term for what will likely happen. An unconscious reenactment of family dynamics. They will likely be future chumps as long as their partners are so damn kind that they can’t leave. It’s the opposite of what you want for them.

        You have essentially come to an AA meeting with a white wine spritzer in your hand and are mad that people are pointing it out. They are actually concerned. People have blind spots, most people here aren’t condemning but are trying to get through to you. Especially CL herself.

        Have a little faith in life that all of you amd your kids can handle the truth and move on gracefully. That is the only foundation for a successful life for any of us, To be able to adapt and handle reality as it is.

  • I fully agree with CN on this. OP is demonstrating some unhealthy (and sexist) behavior. Message to daughters: Cheating and lying is acceptable, and it’s the woman’s job to manage men’s relationships because they’re not capable (see recent post on weaponized incompetence). List out the things OP’s ex does for his children, and then compare it to an average mom. It’s not exceptional. No special gratitude is necessary.

    Unfortunately, my children’s scenario is similar to OP’s current situation, as well as OP’s FOO. Here it is:

    My ex and OW currently live together. OW was also married when they started screwing around. In fact, she and her husband were frequent guests at our home and vice versa. Our children grew up together. The man she was married to while she was screwing my husband had been married previously as well. He had spawned two children with that previous wife but then cheated on her with the OW (the one my ex is now with). He then divorced the first wife, married OW, and they had two children together before she cheated on him with my husband. The OW’s ex is now engaged to another woman, who is slated to be his 3rd wife and is also friends with OW, his 2nd wife. The four of them currently socialize together according to my kids.

    Apparently, they all have quite high opinions of each other. Personally, I can’t imagine how they manage a simple dinner together without needing to scrub off in a hot bath. They, I’m told, write me off as judgmental and bitter, and the overt message they give my children is that their behavior is normal and healthy, while mine is unstable because I’m obviously disgusted by their grotesque behavior.

    I do wear that disgust like a badge, and I counter their message by telling my kids that these four are, in fact, a group of highly disordered and entitled middle-aged adolescents living in a sinkhole of musical sex partners. These are people of bad character, and while I cannot control the fact that one of them is their biological father, I can at least teach them to discern right from wrong. They know what kind of person their father is, and they still love him. They just don’t respect or admire him.

    I’m generally a relativist and I give a lot of latitude for mitigating circumstances. (I am, after all, a Chump.) But these are people who have no regard for the pain and suffering they cause others. They have no sense of honor or decency. The only thing that matters is their own pleasure and satisfaction. To let them role model adulthood to my kids would be abjectly neglectful.

    OP, at least consider that children need to be taught what sociopathy looks like when it walks into their lives – no matter what form it takes. Otherwise, how will they ever learn to protect themselves from it or even understand why they shouldn’t emulate it?

    • Oh, spot on, Chump Queen. Well said. I have to say OP’s responses to any negative points of view coming her way makes *me* feel like I need a long hot shower.

  • OP, i’m late to this party. But absolutely no judgement from me. I was feeling a bit judgey as I read the comments and I started writing a couple of judgey comments – until I realised that I was doing exactly the same as you and probably still would be despite verbal, emotional and physical abuse (and I am ashamed to admit, a shocking incident of vindictive cruelty perpetrated on my oldest son), because I believed my mother’s advice that it was right and better to do whatever it took to stay together no matter what, for the kids. You divorced, I stayed married, but we were still engaged in the same activity – trying to control outcomes “for the children” the best way we knew how.

    The only difference is I stopped at the divorce and you started at the divorce and kept going.

    OP, I also hated confrontation and fighting because of my family history, was spackling like a boss, lying to myself and my kids and pretty well everyone else about the solid and rosy nature of my marriage, totally enmeshed with toxic inlaws, doing all the work for a bad father and a worse man, so that he looked like father of the year to outside observers (heck it doesn’t matter what wife and kids think does it, just how it looks to outsiders), justifying his absence from the kids significant events to the kids and lauding his occasional presence, almost going mad trying to control things so gxh wouldn’t lose his shit and we presented an acceptable happy family face to the world. Similar to what you have been doing in your ex and OW’s relationship. Happy and Nice is everything.

    Three of my five kids voted with their feet and left home as soon as they could while we were still married (so much for my spackling and lying – they saw the truth).

    It took trying to fix my marriage and seeing it get worse, and then reading Lundy Bancroft’s “Why Does He Do That?” followed by an emotional breakdown in my (very surprised) sister’s car after Mass one night, followed by sister’s unwavering support and recommendation to read Chump Lady immediately, to start getting me out of that toxic, enmeshed, dishonest, awful marriage. The hours I spent word-vomiting over my long-suffering sisters and reading Chump Nation’s stories and recognising my own in there over and over and over again, gave me more strength than anything I think, to stop lying to myself. That I didn’t have a basically nice but tired and misguided man with FOO issues for a husband – I had an abusive, resentful, dishonest, manipulative, angry, mean, cruel, ruthless, selfish, (and it came out – pun intended – later, a closeted gay man) for a husband.

    Even during the separation and divorce I didn’t want to believe all that I read but gxh proved Chump Nation right far more than he ever proved them wrong (that would be never, CN, for the record).

    So OP, I know where you are coming from. Again, absolutely no judgement here. I fought the evidence tooth and nail, telling myself be nice to him and it will be ok, and stay for the children, for the children. But when the evidence was incontrovertible, I stopped. It was a sharp and shocking move from that spackling, lying, whatever it takes mind-set to therapy, planned exit a couple of months later, divorce and no contact. But it was a healthy move – he was not a good person to have in my life. My children have also decided the same over the last couple of years also – 3 no contact, 2 minimal contact. So no matter how many years I spent spackling, the kids make up their own minds in the end.

    I’m five years post-separation, and have come a long way, but still travelling. There was a lot of shit to undo with my kids – starting to be honest and tell my (now adult) kids the truth about our marriage, reforging my relationships with them on a truer, firmer basis, apologising to them for the mistakes I made and for any hurt I caused them while I stayed and when I left (that was an extremely healing thing to do, and showed me just how much those guys love me, awww).

    My kids learned more about truthful, honest, respectful relationships from our break up than they did from our marriage, somewhat ironically.

    I’m still learning how to have firm boundaries, mending my relationship with two sisters who steadfastly supported me in every way when they knew I was in trouble, dealing with FOO issues (finally seeing my mother for who she is, acknowledging the harm she has done me and her reaction to me telling her this has been particularly challenging – “I’ll think about that” was not what I was looking for but probably all I get!), struggling with honesty and unpalatable truth telling and being OK saying no or ending unhelpful or toxic relationships without guilt.

    OP, it’s a learning journey for us all, we all want to protect our children the best we can, and we all make decisions that seem best to us at the time. I am doing a lot of often painful work on myself and have changed so much of my thinking about just about everything important to me over the last five years.

    I wish you the very best in your own journey – it was very cool of you to come on board and give updates – and I certainly wish you and your children all the happiness in the world.

  • I so wanted my ex to stay with the other woman. She was a needy, difficult, horrible person and no one in his family liked her. I think they deserved to stay together.

    It was a joke with my kids that whenever they were going round to Dad’s, they would call him when they were just around the corner. OW would come running out of the house, and jump in her car to leave. A fifty plus woman, running away to hide from his teenagers. Little did she know he also had her running and hiding from the OTHER other woman, who he openly flaunted to the kids, and who regularly stayed over when my kids were there. Neither girlfriend knew about the other, but everyone we knew was aware he had 2 concurrent girlfriends.

    Mostly I wanted them to stay together for my own entirely selfish reasons – whilstever he had 2 girlfriends he would leave me alone.

  • Yes, what a skein of rationalizations.

    What the letter writer did was twist the situation to her benefit (in her mind.)

    Lying to the other woman was justified as being good for the girls so they would have a good stepmother in their life.

    Even though daddy is/was a cheater and a liar and a fraud to both of his wives, letter writer keeps the ploy going in order to benefit herself and her children (in her mind) to maintain the illusion of a healthy functional family. Understandable.

    It’s a deceit that is the product of a person who has been involved with parents who were unhealthy and/ or disordered. Been there.

    How many years was I in denial about the reality of my life and my family life with x? Many.

    I have to face the lies I told myself and my children in order to progress in my self recovery. Toxic thinking is no longer a coping mechanism I wish to use in my relationship with myself. Knowing my values and supporting those values in my everyday grounds me.

    Wishing all of us peace and an authentic healthy happy prosperous life.

    Thank you to ChumpLady for straight talk.

  • I feel sorry for the stepmom who had no idea that she’d been with a married man or that he was now cheating on her. You really should have told her, in the beginning and when this happened. You were just helping someone cheat, and doing the same to someone else as was done to you. I don’t think chumplady realized that the stepmom was never told about the marriage and was a chump too.

    • It occured to me that in OP’s reply, she had said that the relationship was already on the rocks when the stepmom asked. I’m not sure what that means exactly – that they were separated? That they were married but arguing? – but if the stepmom knew that they were married and not separated after all, then I rescind what I said above.

  • OP’s original letter reminds me of me. My twelve-year fuckwit went awol with his new missus and secret ‘love child’. Finding out about the kid four years into my new life caused enough pain for me to spend 2k of money I didn’t have on a fiercely compassionate therapist and a year of EDMR – best decision ever.

    Thing is, when I started the EDMR to fix the pain caused by my cheater, I had an awful lot of other ‘forgiven people’ in my life too – to name just a couple, the s/D sex guru who took massive advantage of my vulnerability to make me feel even crapper, and the person I tried to date for a couple of years and remained close friends with despite his lies and verbal abuse. My narrative was, ‘these people enrich my life. They were vile to me when we dated, but they are part of my journey. As *friends*, they are stellar and, therefore, I forgive them, confide in them and embrace them’.

    My therapist prompted me to get absolutely, bottom-of-the-barrel real with myself. And, oh Jesus, the anger, ‘sunk cost’ and pride issues that were buried within those benevolent friendships. Turned out I was FURIOUS, I was FUMING, but was so busy trying to turn my narrative into something prettier, I just couldn’t see it until I let myself.

    I have less friends and possibly less trust now, but I am so glad I gave my anger some healthy space.

    Big, big hugs to OP. Everybody’s story is different, but we’ve all been chumped. This is a safe space to explore the complexities. x

  • I just have to say I think your actions were above reproach and this is the first time in all my many years at CN that I find myself disagreeing with CL and most of the comments. You did what was best for your kids and I do not understand how anyone thinks you should have behaved differently. Your wounds do not supersede your children’s mental health. I am a bit astonished by the negative reactions to your story. I think you absolutely did what was best for your kids, regardless of your own heartbreak and feelings of betrayal. Anyone who criticizes you for that needs to re-examine their perspective as far as I’m concerned. You did the right thing even though it was the difficult thing.

    • Paula,

      OP has acknowledged herself that her fear of a screwed up revolving door of step moms is the primary driver of her behaviour.

      If you have to lie and lovebomb somebody to keep them as the plug in that revolving door fear, then that is COLLUSION on the part of the original marital couple NOT SOCIAL COHESION.

      What once may have started off inncocently and with the best of intentions is now an unhealthy system of false stability.

      When the kids are in their 20’s in the complicated web of friendships and romantic relationships, they will slide into and repeat one of their parental roles here.

      This is not true social cohesion, it is a disorienting manipulation of destinies.

      OP wrote in for advice regarding her own decisions. She got what she needed twice form the universe (with the rerunning if this letter) It is a gift to reorient the ship.

      Most of the responses were critical of the core functionality of the choices not the OP’s fundamental goodness.

    • Hi Paula. I’m not clear how it was okay to lie to the OW about the truth that they were still married when his affair started. I’m not clear how it’s in the best interest of the children that she gets involved in their father’s business when he cheats a second time with the affair partner years later. I’m not clear how the girls benefit from the belief that the father needs to keep this relationship intact so that he can be a good father because this woman makes him a better person. I understand that we all make decisions that we feel are for the sake of our kids. The intentions may be good, but that doesn’t mean it actually IS good. And that’s where the critique comes in, which gets construed as negative criticisms. Just because you think you are doing something good for the sake of your kids doesn’t mean it is actually good.

      There are so many things I would like to “guide” in my ex’s life towards what I deem to be a better outcome for my kids. But, in my own counselling regarding my own dysfunctional upbringing, I have learned that I make trauma-informed decisions that drive me to try to control my environment and everyone in it to fit my ideal. My attempt to control the actions and circumstances of my ex’s life (all in the name of my kid’s well-being) is inappropriate. It is not my place. I think this woman may be doing the same. She has ingratitude herself as a friend in order to always be up in the business of her ex’s life in order to have a hand in maneuvering things as she sees fit. That’s not good. It’s well-intentioed, but unhealthy. And, that us what I am calling out.

    • Thank you, Paula. So much of what people posted trying to be ‘helpful’ was mean. I just hug my girls and know they are having a childhood free of fighting, bitterness, hate…. It’s a bigger lesson in my opinion than if I took the other path. They love me, love their dad, even love their stepmom. They know all behavior wasn’t perfect, but they are happy with their not so perfect family. I appreciate your support.

      • OP,

        Your husband ran 2 doubles while living in the same house as his wives.

        How many people do you think he is sleeping with living apart from the AP you profess to love so much?

        Your ex isn’t just a bad partner- his promiscuity is biologically dangerous.

        I assume you wear masks and carry disinfectant to prevent Covid transmission,

        Maybe when OW gets HPV cancer you all can drive her to her radiation appointments.

        Your lack of human regard and justification are astounding.

        And P.S.

        Paula changed her opinion after reading OptionNoMore and another comment.

        Too much adversity can be crippling to kids, but denying them any adversity makes them crippled too.

        ?

  • I understand where Terri/OP is coming from in her original post. Those of us with dysfunctional, chaotic and/or abusive childhoods can err on the side of protecting our children too much. We want to give them everything we didn’t get and will sometimes do anything to accomplish that – I know I did. And now that my kids are adults I sometimes think I went too far. Kids need to experience and process pain, grief, rejection, disappointment in those they love and loss – hopefully not in excess, but they need to grow those muscles to prepare them for navigating all of the hardships life brings.

    I understand at the time the kids were way too young to know their parents split because of cheating. I understand wanting to raise the kids with the man you made them with, and to all get along. I think it’s kind of amazing that you found enough forgiveness to embrace the other woman and your ex to the extent you have. Hats off.

    You strike me as very thoughtful, so it’s hard to understand how after all these years no one knows the whole truth. It’s like a secret only you and your ex husband share. The other thing I don’t understand is lying to his now ex wife about the status of your marriage when they had their affair. That seems unethical. They are divorced over his affair. They are dating again. Don’t you think she has the right to know he’s a serial cheater? Why do you need to protect a grown woman from the truth? She asked you post blank. She obviously felt she needed the truth. I know you had nothing to gain from telling her the truth, but she had a lot to gain, and came to you but you chose to deny her that.

    Maybe what you’re trying to preserve is the family you’ve cobbled together with your ex and his affair partner and your kids. I get how these connections are incredibly dear to you – you’ve all raised your kids together, and it’s a family unit – perhaps better than the one you grew up in. So, you will hold it together at all costs. I get that completely.

  • I think we have all missed something we could not have known without the follow ups from OP.

    She likely never let on to the AP non-verbally from the start that she was an AP from the start.

    That was likely part of OP’s deal with her cheating husband to make things easier for him, get him to co-operate and not drive away a stable person to be in her kids life. Grace for this OP means never letting this person know she was conned.

    The truly ensnared person in this situation is the AP. !!! 17 years younger, not from this country and too decent sounding to be a predatory AP.

    All the husband had to do was say he was in the middle of a divorce to explain away the young family part and OP played that role for her own reasons. Hence AP’s sincere need to ask 10 years later IF she was an affair partner. The husband never told the truth in all that time and OP likely maintained the plausible deniability from the start.

    How many people here who met the AP did not communicate revulsion and anger. I’d say zero. How many of the AP’s in your life would not be crystal clear as to their role?

    Hope I’m wrong.

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