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The Kids Are Killing My Meh

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mehDear Chump Lady,

I swear I would be at meh if not for my adult kids. Please help; I need advice (and I thank you for all your help since D-Day).

A little background: After 20 years of marriage, the weekend of my youngest child’s high school graduation, my husband announced ILYBINILWY. He did this hours before extended family was anticipated to arrive and stay for weekend celebrations. True to form, I smiled, hosted, entertained, and kept everyone happy while attempting to internally navigate my trauma.

His behavior was so unexpected that I had no doubt he was cheating. I kicked him out by the following weekend, and filed for divorce. When evidence of his affair came to light days after the graduation, I told my kids (18m & 20f).

My daughter had been FW’s “golden child” and as long as she made him look good and she tried to be perfect, he publicly celebrated her. My son was the scapegoat. FW constantly found flaws and disappointment in my son. Despite these behaviors, FW generally ignored me and the kids on a day-to-day basis. I was actively involved, and they seemed well-rounded so I didn’t understand the psychological impact he was having on our kids.

During the divorce process, my daughter was angry with me and insisted I get over it within a week of D-Day. She berated me for any display of emotion. Please understand, in my healing process I have realized that I was raised by a narc and I was conditioned to keep myself small and show minimal emotion. Even when I express my feelings, it is largely subdued. I am proud that I am allowing myself to cry openly and calmly state that shit is shitty. My daughter started avoiding me and spending more time with her dad. He love bombed her, which was easy because she lived in a different city. (He just had to text funny memes daily.) She gobbled up the crumbs. She reported how much she liked his AP. AP was FW’s supervisor. They both earn a good income and flaunt their money. To shallow people, they look awesome.

I earn a good income as well, and it has only improved in the four years since my divorce. However, I live a simple, minimalist lifestyle. I am very private. I love being single and I have a fantastic life. I have traveled internationally, learned a second language, and have met and made amazing friends (during a pandemic). I don’t share this information (again, I keep myself small and I don’t brag). I don’t care about FW anymore and feel like he has found his perfect mate. Good for them; they’re great together!

I would be meh, but my kids are killing me. My son had initially been supportive, and continues to be kind, but FW has taken an interest in him since the divorce (crumbs). FW told my son that at the age of 22, he was so young when my son was born that he didn’t know what he was doing and was afraid to make a mistake. (AKA: I am not responsible for how I raised and ignored you) My son, clearly a chump in the making, told me this and wanted me to sympathize with FW. I calmly explained that FW was 7 years older than me, and questioned my son if he recalls ever hearing that I gave birth to him when I was 15, or his sister when I was 13. My son seemed confused and I had to clarify that I WAS 22 and his father was 29 when he was born. His father is a liar. Despite repeated, blatant lies, my son wants badly to believe his father and bond with him. I look like an asshole when I point out obvious lies, and now I try to just remark “Uh-huh” and “Cool.” Also, my son has reported to me that AP has had a lot of life experience and is “so wise.” (Forgive me, I have momentarily lost my eyes somewhere in the back of my head).

My daughter now has nothing to do with me, and declines opportunities to communicate or interact, but reciprocates “Happy Holiday” texts. She spends holidays with FW and AP. This is very painful.

Finally, I am at a loss. I never understood how a mother could abandon her family when her kids are young, but I’m starting to question if it would be bad if I disappeared now. I realize how I modeled denial and spackling. Can I just assume that I suck, I fucked up, and relieve them of the inconvenience of my ineptitude? I could change my name and move overseas. My profession allows me this ability. I could start anew…

Or am I just impatient? Do I need to suck it up, eat this shit sandwich, and hope that my kids eventually (decades from now, if ever) gain life experience, reflect?

Kids Killing My Meh

Dear Kids Killing My Meh,

Here’s my basic philosophy about breeding with a fuckwit and adult children: You’re entitled to your shitty parent, I’m entitled to boundaries.

So, your son may inwardly exult about the wisdom of dad’s girlfriend, but if he tells you about it? — you’re allowed to say nicely, “I don’t want to hear about that.” Set a boundary. What happens at dad’s place stays at dad’s place. You don’t have to explain or defend yourself. It’s a boundary. Now change the subject.

Similarly, your son is entitled to his boundaries — and you don’t have to like them. They’re his. Even if they’re stupid, ill-informed, and patently wrong. Like, he doesn’t want to hear you running down Schmoopie or dad. Or correcting points of fact. (The age his dad became a parent.) He wants his spackle. And he wants a relationship with his father. That’s his right.

Does it make your head want to explode? Come sit over here with all the other incendiary devices in the demilitarized zone.

I frequently fail at my own advice on this topic. A recent example: my son sold his old car with the help of his deadbeat father at an auto auction. It was predictably a shit show. Title issues, follow up that didn’t happen. Deadbeat driving the uninsured vehicle…

But from my son’s perspective, his father was going to HELP him. And my son would get money! (Huge incentive to the econ major.) At one point, I stupidly asked about this saga and expressed skepticism. And my son said, “Mom, dad spent a lot of money fixing up the car to sell it!”

OH REALLY? The guy who owes thousands in back child support? Who didn’t pay a single dime towards college? Who dumped you off his insurance despite a court order? Who goes entire years without speaking to you? THAT GUY BOUGHT YOU AN AUTOPART?!!!

(Yeah, my family just bought the car and the college education, but whatever.)

Trust me, I get the injustice. Why is HIS kibble so valuable and my kibble is a deflated currency?

It’s not fair, but again, my son is entitled to his shitty relationship. This story ends with me shutting up. My son did the logistics. The car sold. How he feels about it is HIS business. He shouldn’t have tried to bolster his dad’s image to me. (I know from fuckwits.) And I shouldn’t have expressed my very-well-known opinion.

But, but you’re about cutting through bullshit and changing narratives!!!

You know what has the best chance of changing the narrative that Fuckwit Parent Is Awesome and Chump Parent is a Drag? Letting go of the rope. Stop involving yourself. They’re adults. They’ll figure it out.

And keep it in perspective — they’re young adults. First, it’s natural that they don’t want to hang out with you or check in so much — they’re launching. Try not to take it as rejection. Keep the lines of communication open, but don’t chase them either. Second, they don’t have the life experience to GET IT. Life hasn’t kicked them around yet, and they haven’t invested deeply in a marriage and children. This is a very long arc.

Honestly, I don’t want my son to ever know the pain of breeding with a fuckwit. But he understands something I don’t — what it is to be abandoned by a fuckwit. He he has the desire for a relationship, however painful. You don’t have your kid’s perspective, that to keep dad in their life they need to navigate Schmoopie.

During the divorce process, my daughter was angry with me and insisted I get over it within a week of D-Day. She berated me for any display of emotion.

I wouldn’t take shit from your daughter. But neither would I slop my D-Day grief on the kids either, if humanly possible to avoid it. I know it’s hard, but chumps need to vent in a therapist’s office and on online forums. Kids are carrying their own grief, they can’t carry ours as well. I’m sorry your daughter was insensitive.

My daughter started avoiding me and spending more time with her dad. He love bombed her, which was easy because she lived in a different city. (He just had to text funny memes daily.) She gobbled up the crumbs. She reported how much she liked his AP. AP was FW’s supervisor. They both earn a good income and flaunt their money. To shallow people, they look awesome.

I think you’re torturing yourself with comparisons here. Just work from the assumption that your daughter is entitled to a relationship with her shitty dad. It’s not disloyalty to you (although it feels like that). Most people want to be around the superficially Happy and Successful versus the mordant Old Testament prophets with twigs in their hair. Would you rather have a beer with Kim Kardashian or Bernie Sanders?

I’m not saying you have twigs in your hair (Bernie, get a comb…) I’m saying meet superficial with superficial. It might be right now that’s the only kind of relationship you can have with your daughter — something not very deep. Either because she isn’t very deep or she can’t go there right now. Or maybe ever. So, send her the greetings, maybe do something low-stakes together — go shopping, see a movie, exchange Wordle scores.

If she’s really cutting you out of your life because you showed emotion? Well, shared DNA is often overrated. It’s okay to put some distance there. But I wouldn’t be inclined to write someone off who’s in her early 20s. Her brain isn’t even fully formed.

Here’s the good news: You’re setting a great example of living your best life — keep at it! THAT is the lesson. More than saying shitty things are shitty, or being emotional, or correct, you’re acting on your values. You left a cheater, you’re thriving. That’s enough. Back to meh.

((Hugs))

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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.
  • Question for CL… it’s rare that you express exactly the issues you’re still dealing with (that are oh so similar/the same as the rest of us anonymous chumps). But is your son aware that you have this site? Does he read it? The rest of Chump nation gets the gift of anonymity but I’m hoping you do too within your family.

    For Kids Killing My Meh… I think all of us have to eat some amount of shit sandwiches regarding the kids. I hope Kids Killing My Meh can get her relationships back with her kids. But sadly, we can’t control everything. Keep on your steady path of living your best life and modeling healthy behavior.

    For me, the divorce opened a can of mental health worms of other issues within my family. I now deal with not having a relationship with my one sibling… because she only liked me broken and in the middle of my divorce. That’s when her real true colors shown brightly. As soon as things started going well for me again, she went sideways and my time with my therapist moved from dealing with FW to recognizing that my sister has undiagnosed mental health problems and I needed boundaries with her too.

    Maintain the family relationships you can. But if they are unhealthy… even if they are your own kids… do as CL says and set boundaries and keep living your best life.

    • He’s aware. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t read it. My parents and co-workers do (ack). But my thoughts there are — I don’t want to know about it. When I write there’s no one in my head except me and the person whose letter I’m answering. You can’t be too self-conscious about these things.

      Nothing in here about my son (when I choose on rare occasion to discuss it) would be a surprise to my son. No secrets.

      • “ignorance is bliss” in a healthy way. Just like walking around my house in a state of undress: I doubt that my far-away neighbors can see, but if they can, I don’t want to know.

      • I came into a lot of criticism, early on, when I realized it would be necessary for me to explain things to my daughter (at the time, she was 22). There was one detail I did hold back, that she didn’t need to know, and in retrospect I’m not sure I made the correct decision. I held back the fact that FW had been diagnosed with HIV. At the time, I wanted to clear the lies away in a manner that wouldn’t burden her with the need to lie to her own support network, and I couldn’t figure out how to disclose that information in a way that wouldn’t burden her.

        The problem for me (us) is that there’s really no such thing as “one lie”. All lies are born pregnant, and a lie like my husband’s had given birth to so many progeny that by the time I was ready to leave, I could hardly be expected to keep track of them all.

        We do come into criticism for telling our kids, but we also come into criticism for lying to them. I’d be lying if I said I’m not hurt when my daughter spends time with the FW. At the same time, as hard as this is, I know I’m playing the very long game here, and I’d rather have an honest and healthy relationship with her five or ten years down the road. I know for a fact FW will self-destruct (see, e.g., rat ingestion story, among many other fuckups).

    • It’s an interesting question whether children know about this site. I actually believe they should. I myself had to discover late in life that this whole world of personality disorder even existed, that like KKMM I had in fact been raised within it, when it eventually exploded my life. I would love to have known the basics of manipulative charm and image management, of the inner toddler brain and it’s needs, etc. The red flags might have resonated more.

      In terms of the kids referenced in today’s post and answer, what if there were any other adult or friend in their lives that were as manipulative and deceptive as we know these FWs to be? Wouldn’t it be necessary, as a parent, to step in and teach them how to balance their emotional reality with reason and interpersonal standards? I wish my dad had given me some basic building blocks as to how to interpret my BPD mom rather than reaching midlife before “discovering” it and having a lifetime of experiences suddenly begin to make sense (including how I could possibly tolerate the signs of this same disorder in the serial cheater I married). I lived that long arch, and I cannot help but think it somewhat could have been prevented.

      I hope the kids DO know about this site and do spend some time reading through it. I think it’s invaluable relationship training, not only for dating and marriages but for understanding family as well. It’s the most interesting and entertaining way to learn the most personally impactful parts of psychology, and the best, most real way as well. What I cannot know is whether I really would have understood it all before facing some real trauma.

      • I have to agree on the “wish I’d been given some basic building blocks.” My father was mentally ill (bipolar), with regular suicide attempts dating back to my childhood. By the time I was an adolescent these were no longer hidden from me (in fact I was once asked by my m other to go up to the haybarn where “Daddy has a gun and is threatening to kill himself’ because “you’re the only one who can stop him”). It would have been useful to me to know that he was mentally ill, rather than have suicide normalized as it was in my family. As a result, I learned it was my role to accommodate.

        • That’s horrifying. I’m so sorry. The burden placed on you was more than anyone should bear, much less a child.

          • Thanks, ChumpNoMore. Although I always realized that going up to the haybarn exposed me to danger, it didn’t really register that my mother shouldn’t have put me in that kind of danger until more than fifty years after it happened.

      • I feel the same. I wish I had known about personality disorders. I only realised how toxic my own mother is after dealing with my ex. It all clicked into place and I met someone exactly like my mother.

        I bought a book for my son ‘How to deal with Toxic People’. He was having some real issues with a ‘friend’ who has been very manipulative and still is, but he stays away from him now. However, I hope it will help him deal with his Dad and other extended family members when he gets older. He’s only 12, but I hope he absorbs the information and doesn’t just relate it to this toxic friend he has.

        I don’t know how old your kids are, but if they’re teens, this book could be really useful.

      • I didn’t mention in my letter, but I didn’t recognize that I was raised by a narcissist until years after I was married. I married a person just like my disordered parent. In hindsight, if I had known about this site, it wouldn’t have helped me identify my errors before I made them. That was a lesson I had to learn myself. If a supportive person had tried to intervene, I probably would’ve thought they had no idea what they were talking about. Rose colored glasses are funny like that. And if that person pushed too much or insisted in making me see something I wasn’t ready/willing to acknowledge, then they’d probably get pushed away. I’m just surmising here, but I think this is accurate.

        • Kids,
          You are writing my story. I am changing my name and moving to a different country! My biggest surprise and challenge — four months into awful contested divorce — is the fall-apart of my adult kids and my family relationships. I think this is because I am learning the lessons, as you say. I am nowhere near the same, but it took me 30 years married to begin to understand. My daughter has reacted the same as yours. It’s excruciating, particularly since she was the one screaming loudest for me to leave FW. I keep my mouth completely shut and wish them well. It would not work for me to share info on personality disorders with them at this point. FW or not, they need/want a Dad. They will figure it out, and I’ll be as healthy as I can to help when the shock sinks in.

          Thank you for your smart letter. I’m sorry for your pain.

          • Meaning I’m nowhere near the same person I was in the batshit crazy narcissistic-abuse marriage. I add that for clarity.

        • Yes-this IS accurate. The rose colored glasses-defense mechanisms-are psychologically implanted in us at a deep level at an early age.
          The kind of emotional maturity that we need to drop the glasses and see the reality of a disordered person, comes after painful experience itself has restored our vision. Sometimes therapy can help people with this in earlier relationships before they move to the marriage and family phase of life. But as we see on the CL site today….many of us marry a person cast in the same mould as the disordered parent.
          Because of our bonds to that parent we are attracted to people with their good qualities -charm-warmth- intelligence-and cannot protect ourselves from engaging with cheaters-to-be who manipulate us into looking past their disordered egos.
          Not only do we pour decades down the drain while hoping they will change, but we have to deal with the messy upset that KKMM is struggling with.
          Here’s the thing- The kids do the same splitting (seeing dad Thru rose colored glasses) that we did when we were buying into the charm spectacle and ignored red flags, and set up a life with a narcissist.

          It’s hard not to want to rip the rose colored glasses off the adult kids..! Even CL struggles with this, after her thousands of replies to other struggling chimps.
          This is the legacy of having a narcissistic parent. We are perhaps addicted to the best qualities in them, and are blinded to seeing under that shiny surface. We are set up to take crumbs, ignore red flags, live on hoping….repeat the old scenario. You can read this here every day. Our best hope is to learn from others and to try to move forward.

      • TKO – I’ve been arguing this point from the start, and I remain in the minority. I don’t think parents should unload on their kids, but I think it’s imperative to point out the truth. Especially when it comes to clearly unethical behavior.

        I am supremely glad that I was honest with my kids. I taught them to detect and deflect their father’s manipulations. I’ve coached them through some thorny situations and downright wrong behavior on their father’s part. I know my 17 year old daughter is much better off for it because she now identifies and avoids it in her peer group.

        Kids need to be taught to judge people by the way they act. We teach our kids to be good people in large part by pointing out bad behavior. This also protects them from becoming victims. What does it matter if the selfish, manipulative lying is coming from their parent? Wrong is wrong. Pretending it’s not is lying by omission and gaslighting.

        When we teach kids to prioritize relationships over behavior, we teach them to be chumps. I was taught to accept the shit my parents dumped on me, to honor and respect them regardless of their behavior. If someone had honored and respected me with the truth, I might have made better relationship choices as an adult.

        My kids’ relationship with their father may be tenuous, but that’s entirely his responsibility. His behavior – not my honesty – is to blame. Keeping those lines straight makes me the sane parent.

        • I agree 100%, I know my kids know the truth but they chose to be around him, do family tome with him and howorker, my daughter actually works with them both at the same workplace they started their affair. Pain doesn’t even begin to deceive my hurt. They act like life is moving forward, perhaps because he is the only father they have. As for me, I’ve moved forward and rarely talk to them about anything other than what they are happy about in life. I was so badly hurt by their dad that they had to look away because they were hurting to. I understand it. I accept it and try to look to the future that they will be resilient and loving adults because I taught them from birth. So thankful this letter came in, I couldn’t quite put my finger on my biggest hurt from the affair….. this is definitely it! Thank you for the love CL &CN

        • Yes-if you have the secret sauce that gets them to go along with it and evaluate dad through his deed…But many kids have loyalty, approval-seeking, father hunger etc.that blind them to judging deeds, and blame the person who besmirches dad.If you have been able to navigate this-that’s a victory. Many times it does not go this way and those who point out the truth get get blamed for trashing dad.

        • ChumpQueen – Really well stated. That is precisely what I believe is best. Without dumping your emotions into it, you teach the same things you would otherwise, regardless who the manipulative person is. And congratulations on what you have achieved with your kids!

  • Great response as always. Thank you CL! However, I’d just like to say that I’d rather have a beer with Bernie Sanders any day.

  • Thank you CL, my experience is they also have watched us , suck it up. They would rather be the narcissist then the victim. My biggest regret is raising mine witnessing this dynamic. I believed I was eating the sandwich for my kids. I wish I would have walked at the first sign of cruel behavior., lack of morals. Mine are middle aged. Not accepting their shit sandwich and having boundaries, will be my goals
    I can only change myself.

  • Very timely piece, thank you CL. Going through a bit of this at the moment. Exh’s flying monkeys (his parents) have been doing a bit of hoovering of the kids lately for some reason.

    It’s so hard to see your kids hurt by these disordered fucks. Some kids get the picture quickly, some take longer to stop trying and some just keep on trying and getting hurt.

    But yes, as adults they get to choose. For the golden child particularly its a really tough tie to break.

  • I am the child of a cheater unicorn AND a full-fledged, card-carrying chump.

    I watched my mom beat the crap out of my father when I was 18. He was selling his business and his partner had him followed by a PI. My father came clean to my mother, allowed her to take out all the rage she had, they both faced the partner who had to eat his blackmail, he retired, they moved and were inseparable and truly happy until he died a few years later.

    At 18, I had no context for what I had witnessed. Why I had to witness it was another matter.

    My relationship with my father was never the same but I loved him. I was repulsed and confused. No one really helped me put anything into context and therapy wasn’t a choice back then.

    Years later when my life imploded upon the discovery that my ex had an affair right under my unsuspecting nose, I could finally acknowledge the rage against my father. To this day I wonder what he would think if he had lived to see his baby girl be cheated on by her husband.

    It is rough to be the child of a cheater. They also have to process what happened and how to survive.

    I agree with Tracy’s suggestion about boundaries with your children. You don’t need to hear or know about what they think of or do with the AP! Ever.

    I have mixed feelings about you never speaking poorly about their father. You’re human and that may be a hard one to manage perfectly. Forgive yourself until you can achieve that.

    Maybe you’re entitled to one serious discussion about self-worth and cheating. Really explain how you feel and what you’ve survived. I chose to have my children read our two depositions. His was a lying mess and mine was just sad and honest. Each of us has to find our own words and way.

    I do believe it would be beneficial to work on self-esteem issues before that talk. I too love a simple, quiet life but everyone knows how proud I am of me. I’ve experienced and achieved so much. There is a difference between bragging and knowing your worth. Those are important issues for your children to learn.

    I’m so sorry this has happened to you. Beyond unfair on top of everything else that’s unfair. Hang in there. It is worth your patience and as much time as they need if you can.

    • It is very hard being the child of a cheater indeed. I chose to not believe the “rumors” when I was a child. My other parent said they were not so. Many years later when I am honest with myself (which is often) I have to accept that my Dad was a cheater. I too wonder what he would have thought about a seemingly great guy cheating on his baby girl. I am one of those chumps who did not reveal their story when they found out they were chumps, stayed and thought things were working. I can not express enough what a big mistake it was to not reveal the situation. My shame was greater than any my Dad may have felt (emphasis on may) and possibly any my spouse may have felt.

  • My kids learned a while back just not to mention ex or his mistress to me. They really wanted us to be friends. I told them we’re both happy never speaking to each other again and that it just works. Once they realized I meant it about not going to the same family events even if it means I’m left out of my grandchild’s event, they know how serious I am about never seeing his ugly face again. In return I keep my death wish for him to myself band now, with the passage of time, it’s pretty much all fine. They know he’s a liar and a cheat. And I know the love him, not because of who he is, but despite who he is. Some day you will realize you’re not Mom Central anymore. And it’s hurts your heart a bit. But it’s also freeing and you can start the next phase of your life. At a certain point in your life, you can’t blame mom and dad for your shitty decisions. Feel free to remind them of that if the need arises. But they are stuck with one dad you’re not. Enjoy the freedom. Hugs

  • The lapses in empathy are probably based on lack of maturity and life experience. In fact, their worst faux pas are a window into their deficits – from simple age/math calculation to not recognizing the unethical behavior of workplace sexual relationships.

    Sounds like the writer, KKMM, is giving the best example of adulting. Setting boundaries does that, as well.

  • God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change,
    the courage to change the things I can,
    the wisdom to know the difference.

    Sometimes “no good deed goes unpunished”
    and/or blatant unfairness exists & continues
    for no good/known reason.

    Kids Killing My Meh, So Sorry & Peace Wishes

  • Thank you so much for writing this letter, Kids Killing My Meh. The details of your situation match mine very closely. My girls are in their 30s. One shut me down right after D-Day and the other about a year later. So many times we made plans together and they would cancel or simply “forget” leaving me with an open schedule, nonrefundable plane tickets and a shattered soul. They happily spend time with FW, who isn’t even their bio dad, and they’ve both met current AP.

    When I asked for reciprocity in our relationship, they balked and now we are NC since I’ve insisted on this. 4 months and counting.

    I know I modeled spackling and stuffing my feelings inside whilst putting everyone else, especially FW and my kids, first. Reciprocity was a bridge too far for my daughters.

    Although I’m well and happily away from FW, traveling and making new friends, I’m ashamed, embarrassed and absolutely bereft at losing my kids. I don’t talk about it to anyone other than my therapist.

    Your letter helped me realize I’m not alone. I wish I had some great wisdom to share with you. I don’t. I’m following CL’s advice and hoping a little life experience will bring them around. For now, it’s just painful.

    • I am so sorry to hear this. I am lucky that I am close to my young adult boys but one of them has trouble respecting my boundaries about hearing about his FW Dad and his AP (rich and childless). I know that my kids know that I will always have their back (Dad not so much).

      Even with this there can be hard moments. I am proud of myself and all of you for surviving and trying to thrive. Our worldview is often shattered by the cheating revelation and many people don’t get it. Hugs to everyone. It’s all about living our best life as much as we can despite the trauma. 🤗

    • This is a really interesting post to me, as my kids are getting older. Is reciprocity something to be expected of children, even when they are older?

      I’ve always seen parenting as a duty, my kids didn’t ask to be born and deserve to have an unconditionally loving parent. I’ve always operated under the thought that they don’t “owe” me anything… but maybe that’s just the chump in me making my needs small. But then again, it sounds messed up for a kid to be responsible for meeting any needs of a parent.

      I’ve also felt like it will be impossible for them to know how much I care until they have kids of their own (if ever.) Until then I kind of expect them to act like the center of their own little universe.

      Love this topic – it’s given me a lot to think about.

      • I have the same viewpoint as you regarding me providing my child with unconditional love. I don’t expect emotional support from him (especially since he’s not and adult yet). What I do deserve and expect is basic respect. Since he’s still a teenager, I’m still teaching him how to do that, but once he’s an adult, if he can’t teach me with basic respect, I am prepared to limit my contact with him.

        • I’m with you on this. My daughters have my unconditional love and I’ve expressed it regularly through words and actions.

          Respect is part of reciprocity in my view. My new mightier self sets a hard boundary at disrespect. And repeated disrespect…nope.

          My daughters have a right to their relationship with FW. They are old enough to navigate that and I don’t interfere.

          My guess is that seeing me so broken in the immediate aftermath of D-Day causes them great cognitive dissonance. They still want to see FW as the great guy he pretends to be. They may need distance from me for this reason, and they don’t have the self awareness to just ask for it.

          Sorry for the t/j although maybe some of this applies in OP’s situation.

      • “I’ve always seen parenting as a duty, my kids didn’t ask to be born and deserve to have an unconditionally loving parent. I’ve always operated under the thought that they don’t “owe” me anything… but maybe that’s just the chump in me making my needs small. But then again, it sounds messed up for a kid to be responsible for meeting any needs of a parent.”

        They are responsible for treating you kindly and respectfully just as they should to anyone else. They don’t have to be your therapist, but having compassion for you is not much to ask. We are responsible for teaching them these important values, and being chumped is certainly a teachable moment.

      • I don’t give unconditional love to any adult, whether they’re my kid or not. Human dignity, one adult to another, requires accountability and the withdrawal of love if that were appropriate based on intentional behavior. I totally agree that when you create another human being, your obligation to them throughout their childhood and adolescence is to love and protect them until they are adults, which means different things when they are kids versus adolescents. (Sometimes the most loving thing you can do to an adolescent is to allow them to experience the natural consequences of their own behavior). But yes, adults should have relationships that are reciprocal, taking into account the fact that an adult younger than you such as your child may have fewer resources and less maturity. Obviously not a rigid tit for tat, but not letting them do whatever they want and you just take it either. That’s not healthy and it’s not fair to either one of you.

    • You are certainly not alone. Keep your resolve. Don’t let anyone treat you that way, not even your kids. I know it hurts to not see your kids, but being treated badly hurts more. You have a right to do what you need to for the sake of your emotional well-being.

      I have been NC with my eldest since not long after Dday. If she wants me back in her life, it’s up to her to stop being so selfish, cold and low in empathy. If she can’t do that, I’m prepared to never see her again, for the sake of my mental health. I can’t be around toxic people anymore. It re-traumatizes me. I have resolved to never put up with mistreatment from anyone, including family.

      • I agree OHFFS, unfortunately after Dday I put up with selfish, cruel behavior from my son, making excuses, blaming immaturity, cheater, the divorce. I put up with it for too long.

        Friends would say he’ll come around. He did come around when he needed something then he’d disappear until the next time he needed something.
        There’s no excuse for disrespect from anyone. Our children are no exception.
        If you don’t set boundaries and enforce them the disrespect will continue and escalate.
        I was so used to shrugging things off and making excuses with cheater, I allowed it to continue into my relationship with my son.
        Treating someone with disrespect is abuse no matter who it is.

        My son is responsible for his behavior. After years of disrespect I finally had to accept that our relationship wasn’t what I thought it was or hoped it would be.

        Similar to realizing Cheater isn’t who I thought he was.
        One of the things I’ve learned is that not all children have a bond with their parent no matter how devoted the parent is.
        My son was my world. Everyday was a new adventure that I looked forward to. I thought we were close until cheater abandoned us.
        Divorce isn’t something families just get over. Children suffer the aftermath and aren’t resilient to having life as they’ve known it imploding It destroys lives for generations.
        My son is disrespectful towards me and has his father’s arrogant attitude, I don’t have high hopes for his future relationships. Sadly if children are involved the fallout will continue..

        • Thank you for your post. I so relate to your situation. My kids are younger but I fear my oldest is already under FuckWit’s hold. The youngest is either stronger/ more independent, or has been less exposed to me modeling submissive behavior.

  • Yeah, there’s not just the dissolution of the marriage that occurs. There’s a great deal of very strong after shocks that keep rumbling through your world for years to come.
    Your kids are probably trying to navigate their own relationships with him.
    Maybe you get the short end of the stick because you are the reliable, dependable parent and they might feel they have to work harder to maintain their father’s love.
    Your love will always be available and they might take that for granted on some levels and treat you less than kindly.
    They are young still, not even with fully functioning frontal lobes yet, so they may need some more time to work out all their frustration and traumas involved with the divorce.
    It has very deep consequences in their lives too, no one escapes the pain.
    I would just stay the course and be kind and loving to yourself. I think your kids will come back around, but it’s not something you get to change.
    Chances are your FW won’t be able to help revealing who he actually is sooner or later and your kids will be able to see the difference between using ppl to make yourself look good and hurt your ex as a side bonus, and real love that is reliable, safe and stable, that dwells firmly in your court, not in his.
    Sorry for your hurt, it is so hard not rage at the countless injustices of the shit storm, soap opera lives we are stuck in, that we never signed up for. It truly does suck!
    I struggle with issues with it too. I don’t interfere with my childrens relationship with their father and the mistress he married, but it always still feels like my kids are in some way betraying me too and it really hurts and makes me feel guilty at the same time, because I feel I have to be strong and let them have a relationship with their dad if that is their choice.
    Why the hell would kids that love me even want to have a relationship with someone that tried to destroy me?! I can’t help but ask myself that, it does feel invalidating to my experience and kind of like a slap in my face honestly.
    But he is their father and they didn’t knowingly suffer the same level of abuse that we did, so they have a completely different perspective from which to view it, and they will choose from their skewed angle.
    It’s so complicated with so many painful emotions and we don’t get to control any of that either. We only get to do us.
    You didn’t do anything wrong and you don’t need to convince anyone at all of that. Hopefully your kids will come around sooner than later and be able to see the truth for themselves.
    It’s yet another of the countless shit sandwiches packed in the rancid picnic basket of divorce.

  • Yes, they get to choose as adults. Sometimes as children, (and later as adults) they want to gobble up the crumbs that the FW is throwing their way because they are starved for attention from FW. They are SURE the sane parent loves them and when FW throws some crumbs or love bombs them, this comes across as something they have not had from that parent (the FW was too busy screwing around, etc. while sane parent was there for them). They are sometimes hungry for the love they have not been shown from FW and grab anything that is thrown their way. Could be too that FW is impressing AP trying to show that FW is a good parent. That impresses some APs and they see it as genuine and think oh, what a good parent (not how could FW be a good parent and not have been there for FWs kids before).

  • My ex chose the “I’m going to live like a single guy near the beach” approach and mostly ignored our existence after he took off. The milestones and holidays passed with little notice on his part for quite a while. I focused on being the parent that stayed and didn’t defend him. Both kids were commuter college students and truly hated me at times. I rolled with it. They both talked about taking off after college graduation. Sure, I said. I left them out of the divorce drama although they asked questions and picked up that it was long and difficult.

    My therapist warned me that one or both might take off at times to be with their father, and I told them that I was fine if they wanted to do that. She said that even in healthy families, sometimes an adult kid will do their own thing and not be close to their parents. Ok, got it.

    I figured it out. They figured it out. They stayed in the area after graduation and like being with me.

    More recently he’s tried to get them to visit and sent them overly generous Christmas gifts that they took as a bribery attempt. I glued my mouth shut on that. They want nothing to do with him.

    Yes, we can’t manage our adult kids.

  • I’ve been watching my young adult kids navigate a relationship with their cheater dad for several years now. One thing I’ve learned: the pendulum swings. Always. One minute they hate him and want to cut him out of their lives forever (he always was a rather shitty parent) … and then suddenly there is a swelling of sympathy for him. And then back again. All three kids have done an excellent job of creating and enforcing boundaries with him, but they never ever lose hope that he will change.
    It’s so hard to keep my mouth shut during the periods of sympathy. But I have learned that saying something almost certainly will work against me. Plus, it ruins that magical moment when the kids figure it all out on their own, yet again. Continue to be the sane parent. Enforce your own boundaries. And don’t take it personally. Kids are wired to try to love both parents. The pendulum swings. Hang in there.

    • Excellent point about the pendulum. My EX just came into some money, is behaving “generously” toward the kids (i.e. is contributing as he ought), and is busily rewriting history. Kids are thrilled with the money. I am glad for them and angry that the gesture gets equated to my commitment. But things will change, as you point out!

      • This is enraging. Same with X. He is dangling the carrot of a recent inheritance payed forward some day, and, from what teeny bits I can glean, is investing now in demonstrating what a minimalist, self-depriving victim he is, and how he is really working hard on his rehabilitation since he was such a victim and so it would be so great if he would be forgiven because HE needs help, timid forest creature victim that he is.
        No apologies to me, I suspect because he knows that I might smell bullshit. And the longer he goes without an apology, a mea culpa, at least a show of clear and specific remorse for what he did to me and to our children…the more I believe he continues to act as an emotional vampire, a parasite to my children.
        Wut. The. Fuck. We don’t talk too much about their father. One kid recently reminded me that I had encouraged them to maintain a relationship with their only father, and that child expressed gratitude. In turn, I expressed surprise (I don’t clearly remember?) but also a little pride that my rational and LOVING brain had overridden the brain that had wanted to go scorched earth at the time. We laughed. He said it hasn’t been easy to overcome the hurt and bitterness, but they’re working through it. With some trepidation, I expressed concern that this means the KIDS are now tasked with emotional work, recipients of gaslighting, engaged in shit-sandwich swallowing, and that I was worried about the effect this might have on them. Son did his best to assuage, but I am not convinced, as the lack of apology from X to me is deafening. He HURT me mostly by hurting my children, and he did this methodically, deliberately, with careful planning. He remains married to his biggest mistake. So, what exactly is he fixing? If it’strue that I didn’t deserve it, but that he was just a helpless broken man, then where’s the acknowledgment? To hear nothing feels like cowardice and therefore a real LACK of transformative growth and insight. I will never again be his friend (I guessI never was), but I would like to be able to trust him around my kids and I actually would like to be able to forgive him one day.
        Ugh. To breed with a fuckwit is to give birth to heartache over and over.

        • Thank you for your post. I so relate to your situation. My kids are younger but I fear my oldest is already under FuckWit’s hold. The youngest is either stronger/ more independent, or has been less exposed to me modeling submissive behavior.

  • Thank you Chumplady, and thanks everyone else. I really appreciated hearing that I’m not the only one trying to navigate this parenting minefield. We already talk about how people often blame us for getting cheated on, but when our kids reject us it gives more ammunition to the ignorant. So, we often feel shame and keep this information private. I think I understand it logically, and I believe I am outwardly acting as best as I can, but I occasionally need to vent. I could probably benefit from therapy, but in the meantime, thank you again. And a BIG thanks to Chump Nation. I couldn’t have done it without you!

    • You know, regarding your “I could change my name and move overseas. My profession allows me this ability. I could start anew…” well, moving doesn’t have to mean cutting everyone out, you know.

      Seriously, why not take a year or so abroad? Be on facebook or some other social media that you can share with your kids, post lots of photos of your new adventures, and invite them to come visit you. It could be fun.

      • I think Traffic_Spiral has a good point about choosing adventure and sharing it virtually with your kids. If you are excited by the idea of living and working abroad and have a career that will fund all those new adventures, go for it!

      • This is great advice. You don’t have to move overseas AT your kids, just take the opportunity to go do what YOU want with your life. The internet is a thing, you can still stay in contact with your kids while you are living elsewhere or traveling or whatever it is you’d like to do.

      • I think this is a great idea! If you have the ability to get away from the situation why not? I don’t mean cut the kids out completely but enjoy life in a totally new environment. Be the parent having big adventures then you having something fun and positive to share. If they don’t respond at least you have a fun exciting new life.

    • In my opinion it is a case of the manipulation wreckage that occurs in a covert narcissists tentacle realm of influence and the effects are not healthy and negatively profound. The scapegoat child and golden child crave the narc father’s love and acceptance. They are puddy in his hands. They just are unaware and in a denial of sorts because they so want to believe this or that about their father that is a flat out lie. Just as you were puddy in his hands until you awakened. Your children are not awakened and they could be but they don’t want to….oh the dream is too good.

      I have a truth teller child. He wants truth. He is awake. I have a golden child daughter who wants very badly to be asleep and insists on it.

      Sadly dad is great and what’s wrong with mom. Lies fly around and he uses it to bolster his false image.

      As adult children, you certainly love them but if they are part of the cult, I would distance myself from it. They eventually will gravitate back to you. Deep in them they know truth.

      • Covert narcissism is so insidious. They are chameleons, masters of manipulation and emotional theft. I worry about my kids.

      • Grandchump- your description is itself profound:
        “Just as you were putty in his hands until you awakenedYour children are not awakened ….the dream is too good.”

        The dream kept us there for so long…it’s got that power. So it can be powerful for them too. Living with this set of truths is hard everyday.
        In my family I held the dream even though the kids were being harmed. . I feared even greater harm if I broke up the family. It’s a conundrum I wasn’t able to resolve and we were all hurt by the manipulation and sorcery of the narcissist.

        Living with trauma and trying to move forward are hard. Some voices are for setting limits with adult kids, some take responsibility for having created life with a narcissist and see the web the kids are caught in. We were caught in it as adults-why should we expect them to see through the manipulation they lived with as kids. They formed the attachment to the manipulative father then, and carry the devotion to the father of their childhood. That doesn’t drop away because they are adults. For some kids it drops away when they see that their father hurt you. For others they blame you for what was wrong. I’m not sure about setting boundaries with adult children who were hurt in childhood. It’s not the same as with children raised by a stable father.

    • Love the plan to live abroad with your work as others have mentioned here. So inspirational and YOLO!
      Would love to hear how you’re doing if you can keep us posted on the support page.

    • KKMM, I’d like to thank you for posting about the ambiguities we all feel when it comes to our adult children. This topic, and all of these responses, has given me a lot to think about.

      I sometimes wonder whether kids feel guilty, at some level, over the idea that we may have stayed too long in a miserable marriage for their benefit. That guilt can turn to resentment; they didn’t ask for our sacrifice.

  • KidsKillingMyMeh, congrats for being MIGHTY! you reacted like a boss in how your handled the end of your mirage (aka marriage to a cheater).

    I’m 7+ years out- mom of 4. My middle daughter (daddy’s girl was part of her identity) was 15 when she discovered Dad cheating – he threatened her and made her keep silent, then when discovered by two eldest kids and house of cards collapsed, Dad devalued and discarded. My daughter became suicidal and almost succeeded. I was there for her 24/7 but she blamed me! (I’m the sane and safe one- it’s normal – misdirected anger/hurt, etc). Fast forward 6 months—My beautiful daughter got angry at safety boundaries I set (no taking/selling illegal drugs for her abusive boyfriend using my car!) and moved into a studio apt with Dad and schmoopie- then started texting me about how great the homewrecking mate poacher was, how much younger and more fun she is (only slightly older than my eldest 🤮🤮🤮). I bit my tongue until it bled- hoped for the future, waited, was kind in the face of my horror and demoralization and fear. I invited my daughter to dinners on Sundays where I made her favorite foods, sometimes she was a no-show, I ate and sent her portion in a Tupperware. I sent cards and gifts on usual occasions. I acted “as if.” When she finally moved out and went to university, I dealt with the humiliation of resident staff having met schmoopie first and saying “ I thought Schmoopie was your Mom?!” Please….. she gave birth at 9?! 🤦‍♀️

    Fast forward 7 years— my daughter thinks of me as her best friend. We are very close. Schmoopie couldn’t help attacking my daughter in jealous rage- my daughter sees her for the disordered trash she is. She sees dad for the disordered freak adductalcoholic/selfish narc he is — I never had to say a word— their actions did all the talking.

    No one can take our “Meh.” That’s just a thought— and it does not serve us. We are responsible for our thoughts and feelings and actions.

    I hope you don’t abandon your daughter. She needs you. You are her one and only mother. Love her, be kind. You’ll likely never regret that.

    • Bravo on playing the long game! This is what my husband (child’s stepdad) and I are doing. We are preparing our son for adulthood. We are offering unconditional love, and he can choose to accept it or not. He gets to have his own relationship with his dad. It often feels like a competition with his dad, but I try to not get caught up in that game. We are the sane parents. He may decide after graduation (or even before) that he wants to live with his dad full time. That will be his choice. But my door will always be open to him.

  • Dear Kids Killing My Meh:

    I may be wildly off here, extrapolating from my own life experiences to apply them to your situation, but your letter rings a lot of bells for me, because a lot of what you say feels very similar to my feelings and situation, and I think I might understand why you are wondering whether you can respond to the situation with your young adult children by disappearing or moving overseas.

    Like you, I grew up in a household in which I was “conditioned to keep [my]self small.” Not only was I not allowed to have a self, keeping myself small at home with my family kept me out of harm’s way. As a teen I did have a life outside of my home, one in which I wasn’t “small,” but I hid it as best I could from my parents, to protect that self and that life. I didn’t set the conditions at home, and was only able to “be myself” away from them.

    I more or less reproduced that pattern with my now-ex: at home, I avoided conflict, spackled over/explained away my now-ex’s hurtful behavior, and kept my hurt feelings to myself. (To realize, post-divorce, the extent to which I deferred to him and elevated him to a position he didn’t deserve has been both a shock and source of shame to me.) At the same time, at work, where I was a professor, I earned respect and affection from colleagues and students, but, like you, I didn’t call attention to it, demand resources, or expect accolades. I just got on with whatever had to be done, including in the months after my father committed suicide, although once, on one of the sidewalks crossing the quad, I had a vision of myself just sitting down, in my black winter coat, under a bare tree, like an abandoned playing piece on a gameboard.

    My point is, is it possible that your impulse to “disappear” and “move,” to “relieve them of the burden of [your] ineptitude” is part of a larger pattern of taking yourself out of the game, so to speak, because it seems to you that while you stay you are not in a situation that allows you to be yourself and enjoy the good life you’ve created for yourself post-divorce? One of the challenges for me post-divorce is to re-fashion a relationship with my adult son (32), one made more difficult because I agreed to keep my closeted ex’s secret life secret, so I often feel as if I am the one enabling by my silence the relationship he continues to enjoy with our son. And while each of our situations is different, I think we all balk at least occasionally at eating the shit sandwiches that in one way or another we choose to eat for the sake of our children. I can fully understand why you would prefer to leave the restaurant, so to speak, and move abroad.

    I think Chump Lady’s advice is good advice; I just wanted to validate the way you feel, and maybe why you feel the way you do.

  • My oldest son was his father’s golden child. He was 18 when I discovered his father’s affair with coworker AP which put the final nail in the coffin of our marriage.
    Right at this juncture, son went off to college in a different state. He was scared and out of his depth, and reached out to me for advice and support. I blew it. I didn’t show up for him. I was keeping a stiff upper lip to the kids, but internally barely holding it together.
    The story I was telling myself when my son began to distance himself from me was that he preferred his dad anyway and didn’t need or care about me.
    We were practically estranged for years, and it was my fault. What I’ve learned, though, is that as a parent you do get second chances (and third, and fifteenth). I did my work, and thankfully my son was still open to talking about our fraught past, accept my apology, and allow me to begin to make amends. He is almost 30 now and a newlywed, and we continue to work on rebuilding our relationship.
    Our kids don’t expect us to be perfect. We screw up, and they get that. We can apologize – and sometimes we have to keep apologizing until they’re in a place to receive it – and commit to doing better going forward.
    My son felt like I abandoned him. That’s his truth. And regardless of my struggles at the time, I did in fact abandon him.
    I have no doubt OP’s kids would feel abandoned too if she chose to drop out of their life. I hope she chooses to stay plugged in, and trusts the process of healing to occur between her and her kids. Like CL says, in early 20s, their brains aren’t even fully formed yet. Play the long game!

  • Sorry KKMM, that’s a tough pill to swallow. My kids are much younger but I work around a lot of kids in their early 20s and they definitely still need a lot of growing up usually. You’re doing your best to live your best life but you still need plenty of patience with your kids and with yourself. Your FW is still getting to you through your kids, so maybe you’re not quite at meh yet, and that’s OK. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Just don’t let him as much as possible. He’s shallow, none of it matters.

    It’s probably obvious but if you attack your FW, your kids will feel that they have to defend him, he is their dad, they don’t have a choice. So don’t attack him. Make the usual noises when they broach the subject, cool, bummer, wow, and let them know your boundaries about not discussing FW and the AP. Repeatedly, without anger, consistently. They’ll get it. You’re the sane parent, it’s a shit sandwich that’ll never stop.

    You got this.

  • this is a timely post for me as i watch my daughter swing with the pendulum of contact/no contact, contact/no contact, and my son grieve limited contact with my X. X also took off to live a “single life” and has little time for uni-aged kids. too busy drinking, working, and ??

    i get that my kids are trying to figure out a way to have a relationship with their dad, i do, but i struggle with the pain of watching them get hurt. it’s the worst feeling.

    i know they’re capable of setting boundaries and i’m available to discuss boundaries, but i do not want to know about my X and his ?? girlfriend. i’m still in the legal trenches trying to nail down a separation agreement with an alcoholic executive. FUN. the manipulations are never ending.

    thank god for therapy. and snot-nosed, getting-a-divorce crying jags as required.

  • I’m of the mind not to be upset with the kids in all of this because I was where they are right now: desperately in love with a FW and unwilling to hear otherwise. My kids’ father is outgoing and charismatic. How can I expect them to navigate that when I couldn’t? Of course they love him; I did too and it took me a looooong time, a lot of evidence, and my then-husband’s move from “Fourleaf means the world to me” to his shark-eyed “Fourleaf is of no use to me anymore” personality change until I finally started to “get it”: he’s… just not that nice a guy.

    If it took *me* mountains of time, evidence, and FW’s overtly cruel behavior to finally realize that “he’s just not that nice a guy,” then how can I expect my children (who love their father; I get it/I loved him too) to just snap into this realization too? I can’t. They’ll have to come to this understanding on their own, in time, if they ever do.

    So, I stay out of their relationship with FW and Wifetress as much as humanly possible. Separation of church and state and all that. I realized that I would have to let them navigate their relationships with Dad and New Mom all on their own (with no input from me) when they were in elementary school. It was, admittedly, pretty painful but they thought their Dad was the bee’s knees and that New Mom was just the nicest person ever.

    I bit my tongue. I stayed out of it. They love FW and Wifetress and I stay out of it. Why step in the way? It would be like stepping between a speeding train and the car it’s about to hit; you aren’t going to stop anything and protect them from the pain you went through with FW; you’re just going to get creamed by a speeding train.

    I personally hope that FW never breaks my children’s hearts like he broke mine. We’ll see what comes of that.

    I’m particularly mindful that I was formerly in the place where my children are now: absolutely bedazzled by and besotted with FW. I had friends and family point out to me (sometimes gently, sometimes not) where FW was unkind or where they had caught him in a lie.

    Did I believe a word of their warnings? Nope! I loved FW and no one could convince me that he wasn’t the awesomest person in the whole world and that he wouldn’t love me forever and ever and ever. Children are in similar bind.

    As CL says, the best thing we can do is to let the rope go. Be boring, be stable, be loving, and don’t get in the way of your kids relationship with FW/AP because it won’t save the kid *from* FW; it’ll just damage the relationship you have with your kid. Ask me how I know. I had a good friend who told me, years before I even married FW, not to trust him because he was a cheater who didn’t think much of women. I didn’t want to hear it and I cut that friend out of my life. A child, who loves their FW parent with the same blindness that I loved with, will be prone to the same behaviors. Will they listen to you? No, they’ll distance themselves from you (just like I distanced myself from anyone who said anything negative about FW).

    So, I’m not all that upset with kids who behavior in this manner. I *was* exactly where they are *now*: in my early 20s and devoted to a FW. So… I get it.

    Happily, my kids (who I’ve had full custody of since D Day #1) mostly honor my boundaries. Dad talk is only brought up in a professional context, like “Mom, Dad says he wants to pick us up at 5pm this time / Okay, tell Dad 5pm is fine” and that sort of thing.

    I’m sorry you are going through this, OP.

    • “I personally hope that FW never breaks my children’s hearts like he broke mine. We’ll see what comes of that.”

      Ain’t that the truth. And there’s really nothing you can do to stop it, and that train’s never late. I took a similar approach as you, and now as a teenager, my daughter has gotten her heart broken by her dad many times–to the point where she’s had to really harden her heart in a lot of ways to just survive the relationship. It breaks my heart to see it, and no amount of loving talks with her and therapy and attempts at intervention with him have stopped it from happening. I’ve thrown countless hours and dollars at this issue. And here we are. Short of a court order denying him custody (as if! it’s tough enough to get those with physical abuse), there’s not much to be done.

      Now she’s at an age where she’s figuring it out and can choose more and more where she spends her time. She chooses with me, and I support that choice [as neutrally as possible]. I have no doubt that one day she’ll choose to have very little relationship with her dad, and that will be his cross to bear. But, sadly, it will also be hers to bear too.

  • I feel for her. I’m basically at the same spot in my recovery. I would have reached “meh” so much earlier…it’s been 3 years since FW shat in the punch bowl after 20 years of putting up with her narcissist self…yet here I remain going about my new, saner life and the daughter comes along and pokes me in the eye over and over.

    If she weren’t an only child and prone to anxiety, I would move out of state and be done. She could come visit whenever she needed money or actually gave a shit about me, which I’m beginning to doubt. I suspect like her mother, she sees me as a utility and not a person.

    But I stay. I smile. I comfort her. I tell her please don’t tell me about your mom. That’s your relationship and I respect it. But my daughter loves to brag about the FW and AP. Many times I just hold up my hand and stop her and give her a hug and say, “Super. Wow. Cool.” Then leave the room. That seems to make her mad and she usually says I’m being sarcastic and oversensative and need to get over myself. To that I reply, “Thanks for sharing. What do you want for dinner?”

    I’m so done with it all. It’s exhausting.

    • That’s terrible. I think you should sit down with her and give her a talk about respecting other people’s rights and feelings. What she’s doing is deliberately provoking you, then saying it’s your reaction that’s the problem, not her disrespecting your boundaries and feelings.
      This is emotional abuse. You may need to go to family therapy to resolve it.

      • On the contrary, Double Chumped is doing exactly the right thing – he’s rejecting his daughter’s attempts to bait him. Sitting her down and giving her a stern talking-to just makes it a power struggle and shows that she is in fact getting his goat.

        One reason people do this is that they’re externalizing their bad feelings so they don’t have to take responsibility for them, in their own minds. DC’s daughter doesn’t want to feel bad about her mom. So she tries to push him into saying negative things about her mom (the negative things that Daughter may be feeling deep down) – now he’s the bad guy being a meanie, she’s not a disloyal daughter.

        Double Chumped, why not move if you’d be happier elsewhere? She’s an adult and not living with you.

    • Sometimes no comment is a comment. Let her rattle on about FW and Cruella and say nothing. Check your phone, put on a pot of coffee, or let your eyes glaze over. She’s looking for a reaction out of you. And you have made it clear that you are not interested. Don’t give her one.

  • I have 3 adult children. 30m, 27f, 25f. Two of them have nothing to do with FW. One (son) has a bare minimum relationship. Although this helps me to heal in the sense that I don’t have to hear anything about him or AP, it also pains me. They don’t have a father to be proud of, or one to turn to in times of need. I should’ve picked better, I spackled too much. He was a master mask wearer. My children are wonderful people. They are empathetic, loving, caring, know their own minds and give me all the credit for this. But, it still hurts that their father is a disorder, entitled, selfish FW. He doesn’t deserve these beautiful souls.

    Rant over. Hugs to you all ❤️

    • Yes, I feel sad for my 20-somethings too. It could have been so different. I made a lot of mistakes, but refusing to get in the middle when it came to their relationship with their father was something I did right.

      Both were in college when he left, but he maintained the weird idea that I was controlling their thoughts and keeping them from him. During the day, they were at work and school. They had their own phones and email accounts. At home, they would disappear into their rooms and barely say hello to me. I had household standards for them as they came and went, but we truly rarely interacted for the first year that he was gone. They didn’t want to talk about him in general. I didn’t share what was going on in my interactions with him, or much about the high conflict divorce that followed. They really didn’t want to hear it anyway.

      I have reason to believe that he still thinks that now that they are working professionals with their own lives in many ways. Yes, it’s all the blame game. In his eyes, he’s the poor misunderstood soul, and I’m the monster.

    • This hits to the heart of a major psychological struggle that these poor kids gotta go through. They understand that they are part of their shitty parent, and have to somehow put the pieces together so that they don’t feel bad about themselves because of it. This is especially profound with kids coming of age.

      As the “sane” parent, you gotta walk a fine line. Like, I always validate [as neutrally as possible] my daughter’s observations and intuitive feelings about her dad (she’s spot on, he’s a manipulative, self-serving, jerk) and try to help her troubleshoot their relationship when I can (although, that’s what her cadre of therapists should be for!), but I also try to point out his positive attributes when I can. She is half him, and I want her to see that he is not all bad…so that maybe she can truly believe in her soul, one day, that she inherited his good traits.

      I’ve known way too many grown adults who have internalized their shitty parents shitty traits and either live in fear that they will turn out that way or live in guilt that they somehow are that way. It’s a tragic knock to self esteem.

  • KKMM, there are cases when you just have to let them go. I had to let go of one of my kids who was an asshole to me, zero sympathy, totally self-centered and cold. Obviously, she learned that from FW.
    I don’t know if that’s the case with your daughter as she is still young and may learn. Mine is in her thirties and probably never will. So as CL says, keep it superficial for now as it is clear she does not want to go deep. But don’t take any shit. Tell both your kids you don’t want to hear about FW and his AP. They need to respect your wishes on that, whether they approve of it or not. You don’t have to take verbal abuse like; “Stop being emotional and just get over it.” That’s unacceptable. Draw a hard boundary about disrespect and cruelty.

  • Hang on – you can get a fabulous job and live overseas? Why are you not packing up and moving immediately?

    Forget the name change as an unnecessary expense & effort. Just go and enjoy the great life you have built for yourself!

    Tell the kids to come get their stuff because you are downsizing then make like smoke.

    Presumably they know your work email if they are interested in your life or whereabouts.

    They value what they don’t have so become the scarce resource. Your job is done and they need to get on with their lives.

  • Ugh, I have such a hard time with this whole narrative about keeping silent about choices children make to have relationships with the cheating parent. When they are young, I understand the truth needs to be hidden in appropriate language that doesn’t traumatize. As adults, I would hope they have enough integrity to recognize the betrayal to not only the chump but to themselves as well. The problem I have is this…because my mother bought into the narrative to be careful about disclosure regarding my father’s cheating, though we knew he had an affair, she was careful about what she said. As a result, I accepted behavior (manipulation, lying, good guy appearances) as, well, normalized because it wasn’t called as such. My brother and I feel that we both we ended up as a chump in marriages because we were modeled that, even though our instincts said what he had done was abusive, no one validated that.

    Just the other day someone asked me about a necklace I was wearing, I said, “yeah, that’s a guilt necklace from my husband’s first affair”. As I was saying that, I had one of those sudden “A-HA!” moments and I remembered when my father had left my mother for the AP; One time he came back from vacation with the AP and gave me a gold heart necklace. Now, we were poor and that was a big deal to me. My father didn’t have time for me after he left, he was too busy with his AP. Although I treasured that necklace, something inside my gut at the time felt queasy about it, but since there was no reaction or conversation from anyone, I put my feelings aside. At age 64 I’m just realizing that his gift was not a substitute for his presence in my life. No wonder I willingly accepted my STBX’s guilt necklace without question.

    Why is it we spend our days instilling good values into our kids — teach them empathy, morals, simple right from wrong, how to pick good friends. But when it comes to cheating spouses, all that goes out the window. Somehow, blood trumps all.

    In so many ways, through what was said and not said, I was cultivated into being the perfect chump.

    I understand the fine line between being truthful and vindictive when dealing with adult children and cheaters, and I’ve probably shared too much with my adult children as the feeling for revenge is strong. However, I’ve told them I will never hold it against them in any way should they choose to be in a relationship with their father, that they wouldn’t be betraying me. But I did tell them to be careful around him because if he doesn’t understand the hurt he has caused you, the question is not whether he will hurt you again but when.

    • Yes, I talked a lot with mine about safe people versus unsafe people, using examples other than their father. I used illustrations from my own life of relationships with people on the outer edges versus people close to you that you truly love and can trust. They know that there are people other than their father that I have nothing to do with post-divorce.

      I talked about choosing what you share and how some people don’t deserve an explanation. They witnessed me shutting down discussions about my separation and divorce many times with a simple, “Thanks for your concern, but I prefer not to talk about it. How are you doing these days?”

      Yes, they got it.

  • There are a lot of no doubt excellent (and long) responses so I didn’t read them all yet and apologize if something like this has already been said. It sounds like you’ve read about narcissism. I wonder if you’ve read about Echoism? I too made myself small though ironically I’m very outgoing and often had jobs that required public speaking. Still I’ve wrapped my needs into the smallest possible package, buried them under a tree and then gone on to carry other people’s burdens like a doofus. It’s been quite a job to declare myself worthy of notice, needs and healing.

    Because of my way (FOO issues too), I have caused some issues in my children to do with entitlement that I’m gently trying to model differently. They would think nothing of just demanding I do things or insisting that their needs are paramount. Normal for a two year old but even then one can teach self regulation, self help and compassion. I was servile to them just as I did not speak my needs to my two timing husband. Now it sounds like at least one of yours is out of the house but my older kids are still around for me to do this gentle recovering of my power and renegotiation of what is reasonable behaviour between us. It’s a tricky learning process. I send you many hugs.

    My kids do recognize that there’s something amiss with their dad. The hard part for me is not going ‘Yay, dude be an entitled prick,’ but rather something softer and validating for them.

    I’ve also experienced sadz burnout in my friends as a teen/young adult when I’ve been depressed so I know that most of the time people want happy fun not morose existentialism. This meant that I again compressed my needs BUT at the same time I have tried to find the right channels for this pain to be expressed.

    Bet of luck.

  • I lived this as the adolescent child of a dad cheater, except my parents never split up. My dad had made a small fortune and didn’t want to part with any assets, how would it look, etc. Being his favorite child, I suddenly had no ally in the home, becoming fair game for scapegoating. Rather than pick sides, I spent as much time out of the house as possible, so in some ways was percieved as aligning with my absentee father. Living rural, any time I was asked on a date it meant someone with a car and I could get out of there, so I was treated as a slut. (I didn’t have sex until I was much older than my peers, did not have sex in high school). I was punished for not circling the wagons with them, which continued into my adulthood. All I can say, is let the children be in these situations, and give them all the love and acceptance you can possibly muster.

    Ex aligned himself with his charismatic cheater father and sepmother, and denigrated his poor mother. I met him as a young adult, his father left his mother when he was about 13. There were 4 kids. When ex left me for another, he treated me like a piece of garbage he couldn’t step over fast enough. He seemed victorious, as if he was now the strong, successful and charismatic man he believed his father to be. He was reenacting the act of his father leaving the family, and the way he did it. It made him feel like the big man. There is a danger when children of divorce align themselves and identify with the cheater. For the sake of his mother, I hope as the years progressed he was able to at least appreciate her struggle.

    • Oh yeah…and ex’s dad was cheating on his stepmother and we both knew it, and his dad did it under our nose when we spent the night when stepmother was on a trip to help an ailing family member. We could hear whoever he brought home that night sqeeling as they got it on. The next morning she was gone and we were expected to keep our mouths shut. His dad, from what I’ve heard, left the stepmother for the noisy sex partner and married her. A serial marriage cheat. These people are disgusting.

    • That’s awful, WATC. It is so damaging for kids to see this kind of behavior. Parents should not do that to their kids.

      My parents decided to have an “open marriage.” I believe this was because my mom cheated first, though I’m not 100% positive.
      As a child I had to deal with her AP every single day. He was our mailman (what a cliché) and she had him over for lunch during his route. I was having mental health problems at the time and so I was not in school, so the guy was always around and he befriended me. I was only 11, but I certainly suspected there was something going on. Who does that to a mentally ill child? Later my mom tried to pass a much younger AP down to me when I was a teenager, plus invited me out with another AP and told me about her love affairs. It was so inappropriate and gross. Why she did that I’ll never understand. Possibly trying to legitimize what she was doing? Who knows. Anyway, it sucked. My father had a long term mistress but at least had the sense to try to hide it. That sucked too when I found out.

      What all this did to me was make me determined not to have that kind of marriage in name only and to never cheat or tolerate cheating. My fuckwit’s dad was a cheater and an alcoholic and because he is stupid, instead of learning an important lesson from that, when he hit midlife he copied him. He tried to relive his dad’s shitty life and make it turn out okay. Of course that was doomed to fail. A lot of people do not learn the right lessons from childhood traumas. Your fw sounds like he’s in that category. I think that’s a big part of what separates good people from crap people- we learn the right lessons and are determined not to do the stupid things our FOO did. Crappy people just learn to be selfish and entitled because why not, their parents were.

      • Any mental problems you had as a child certainly arose from what you had to endure from what was going on in the home. Your mother was probably a narcissist, which does incredible damage. I ran across my father in a public place when I was about 20. The first thing he said to me was that I “looked like a slut.” I was wearing a tailored long sleeved shirt unbuttoned to a point a bit low (no matter that I was pretty flat-chested), as was the fashion in the late 70s. Behind him, trying to go unnoticed, was his secretary (such a cliche, she was his Shmoopie). Who were the real sluts, eh? I wasn’t even having sex yet.

        That your mother had APs in the home while you were there as a child trying to recover from mental problems is horrific, it could only make things worse for you. She was supposed to take care of you. Then trying to shove off an old AP on you is crazy. They want us to be like them to justify their behavior. My dad had a big problem with alcohol and sex. My sibling was an extreme straight arrow, so any deviance from that on my part he would glom on to, as if it showed I was somehow compicit with him. That’s what your mother was trying to do with you. My ex’s dad did the same with his son.

  • First on my mind is that I always bring complicated issues like this to therapy. I have a good therapist and I hope our letter writer does too. I don’t do my own surgery, cut my own hair, do my own dental work, or deal with problems that are over my head without the help of my very good therapist.

    Next, as Napoleon said, “Never interfere with your enemy when he is making a mistake.” This is my go-to reminder for cheaters and all parties cool with the cheaters. It’s a great phrase for inspiring me to stand back with my mouth shut and not do anything. You’ll be in the power position when the integrity breach occurs. You don’t get to say when it happens or or how it happens or what happens, but “I told you so” is a great place to be and you can only arrive there with a lot of patience and restraint of pen and tongue.

    It was hard for me to watch my daughter skip off with Traitor X when he started coming around again and paying some minimal attention to her. But she is smart and he’s a jerk, and it was only a matter of time before those two characteristics collided in the cosmos and she quit speaking to him.

    I decided to support my daughter’s response to Traitor X, whatever it was, whatever it becomes. He was my husband, thankfully no longer, but he’s her dad and if I respect her feelings, she will trust me whether she’s conscious of it or not. When reality inevitably struck and she realized she could not trust him, that she could trust me was what she could fall back on. That she would have one trustworthy parent has been my number one goal.

    I’d be super clear with a steel door boundary not reporting news about Mr. and Ms. Cheating Spouse, and also not telling me how to feel or how long I should feel that way.

    We don’t get to control anything but our words and actions, and accept or replace our thoughts. For me, being the trustworthy parent is the goal, and part of being trustworthy is respecting how my daughter feels. It is an attitude that pays off immediately, and for everyone down the road if the kids change their mind about Cheater Dad. Cheaters are not trustworthy people, and others catching on is sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, but it always materializes if they do not change their ways.

    If you stay on the high road, nobody can criticize you and your credibility rating will be high and intact.

    • Yes, restraint can be incredibly hard, but there are huge payoffs. I like to say “revenge is a dish best served cold.” I do love frozen desserts.

      • I prefer “justice” and “vindication” to “revenge”…..

        For me, revenge has connotations that I am involved with its exaction, which I truly don’t want. Cheaters like to blameshift, as we all know, and it’s supercalifragilisticschadenfreudelicious if Justice and Vindication show up while I am
        way over in left field, filing my nails, minding my own business, living my way better cheater-free life, having zero to do with the consequences, able to say “I told you so” without saying a word.

        Which is exactly what’s happening now, BTW.

        😜

        • ….I don’t want any of the cheaters to be able to blame a breakup on me. I want to be way out of town when the trick cigar blows up in their faces and there is no one around to pin it on but themselves.

          • I like old-timey sayings (because I’m an old-timer!) but yes, justice is a better way to say it and how approach these situations, though I am not loath to admit some schadenfreude on occasion. It’s often best to stay out of problems between people to avoid the crossfire and not become collateral damage. Sometimes it’s cathartic to just stand back and watch it burn to the ground.

    • Thank you. Just like CL’s response, I found multiple pearls of wisdom in your words. I appreciate your perspective and realize I need to play the long game here.

  • I’m going to tell you about a woman I know because we had a conversation about this issue not more than about a week ago. She was raised by a very narcissistic mother who has never been kind to her. This friend has married, had children and had an interesting life, but she spends so much of her time trying to buy, or fix, or help, her narcissistic mother to no avail. That’s what you’re dealing, with children who want their father to be a loving person and he isn’t. Right now they’re hanging onto his words, and thinking he’s great, and liking his new person(gag) and it is giving them enough to keep them hooked. This might be for the rest of their lives. The good thing about us humans is we get to choose what we will put up with and what we won’t. If you don’t want to hear about it anymore don’t. Stop trying to get on your daughter‘s good side she’s been brainwashed. I am of the opinion you need to move overseas and have a great time. You only have this one life you might as well enjoy the hell out of it.

    • I’m all for getting the hell out of Dodge when people can’t be fixed and are unkind. Doesn’t always mean cutting someone off completely, just means staying in the background and living your best life. If they come around and you still want to know them, great. If not, you did your best and then finally had to save yourself.

  • I’m a huge believer in “you reap what you sow” in terms of parent/child relationships…however, as CL said, it’s a long arc. Sometimes the reaping can come many many years after the sowing. Your kids are still in prime self-centric ages…everything is about them right now. That changes, and their perspectives change. I remember being angry and frustrated with my perfectly wonderful and loving mother for like 5 years in my 20s…I lol about it now. I was such a brat!

    One sentence you wrote stands out to me: “My son had initially been supportive…” This is a complicated sentence because–while that’s nice that your son was supportive, actually, it’s not really a teenager’s job to support their parent during a relationship crisis. It’s their job to help out around the house, and generally not be an asshole about things. But emotionally supporting their parent in this way, at this time? That’s a lot to ask or expect or even accept from them.

    My daughter has often times expressed support to me, and concerns for me, during some trying times. I thank her and remark what a good heart she has, but then remind her that it’s my job to captain my ship and her job be a good kid. It’s possible that, without any ill intent from you, your kids have felt overly burdened by the emotional weight of the situation.

    Kids and young people are like wild oceans–creating tsunami-like waves that toss ships around and erode shorelines. My job as a parent is to be a giant boulder in the water that doesn’t move. It doesn’t absorb the waves and it doesn’t stop them, it lets some wash over and slightly redirects others. Eventually, if the waves keep coming, the rock will erode too…but as it were, life usually calms the ocean down before that happens. However, if you’ve ever seen the parent of a grown son or daughter with lifelong problems, you will see an eroded boulder.

    Best of luck.

    • Thanks for your comment. In response to my comment that my son was initially supportive, it was because my son acknowledged that his father had cheated, recognized his father’s attempts to goad me into pick-me dancing, and he encouraged me to stay far away from my then husband. I agree, he did not have the emotional capacity, and I didn’t try to burden him with my complex trauma.

    • WOW, Not a Nice Chump. I love what you wrote here. It is the best of the best parents… those who truly love and have their children’s best interest at heart… that strive to become that bolder on the shore. I’m working on it. Bravo!

    • “I remember being angry and frustrated with my perfectly wonderful and loving mother for like 5 years in my 20s…I lol about it now. I was such a brat!”

      This hit home! I don’t know about anyone else here but I freely admit to being a brat in my 20s; I can’t believe I thought I was grown up enough to get married (to FW) when I was 21. I found an old diary entry that I had written around that time in my early 20s about the thoughts I had on my own mother (who is, hands down, an absolute angel) and… gah….! I wrote such misguided, judgey things about her. I couldn’t believe it. Was that actually me that wrote that? Everything young, 21-year-old me wrote about my mother (I read now as a woman in my 40s) was 100% wrong and snotty to boot. I was very ashamed to see those words in my own, much younger (more bubbly) handwriting.

      I was also in my 20s when *no one* could tell me a bad word about FW. If they did, I scoffed and rejected them and totally knew better.

      Fourleaf in her 20s was an idiot. Fourleaf in her 20s wouldn’t know a FW (whether that be husband or father) if he had it tattooed on his forehead.

      Take care and keep walking the high road. Kids don’t stay in their 20s forever; most of us grow up. Play the long game, keep your dignity and, as those children in their 20s age and mature, they’ll figure out who is stable, sane, and loving, and who is a FW.

  • KKMM you are not alone. You sound like you are doing well. Travel sounds like a fun future option.

    Also dealing with ongoing crap from having bred with a FW as x bribes, love bombs young adult kids despite minimal interest in them as they grew and not supporting them in any way as they study/try to launch. It’s just a case of keeping on reinforcing boundaries and working on gaining a life.

  • Allow your children to love both parents and not personalize it or see it as a betrayal. A hard task.

    They may choose to not view your ex as an enemy. They may seem indifferent to the abuse and hardship your ex caused you. They feel that their is your story, his story, and the truth lays somewhere in the middle. This is not fair, but it is often their take on the situation.

    If the poster’s daughter hasn’t blocked her texts she could send little ‘thinking of you, hope your week is going well’ positive messages periodically

    Decide if having a relationship with your children is worth the angst you will have to go through.

    My son told me that he was sick to death of the drama

  • Dear KKMM,

    Of all the horrors of being discarded by a FW, the damage and shitty influence that happens to our kids has to be the worst pill to swallow.

    Mine were 14&11 when Xhole peeled off down the street in my car like a punk after 21 year mirage. That’s how he ended it rather than the scheduled family meeting we were to have with the kids to see how Dad was coming along with his “quest to get help” for “Internet porn addiction”. All lies. He was fucking prostitution, Craigslist Randos and two mistresses. But back to you…
    I agree with CL that early 20’s are tough to understand the arc of long term marriage betrayal. There’s no way they can comprehend that. Mine are now 19&16 and continue to receive love bomb gifts, resort vacays etc., from dear old dad and Schmoopie. But they have figured out who is the trustworthy parent through TRIAL & ERROR. There have been countless shit shows too, that humiliated them in front of their peers at the hands of FWs.
    My heart goes out to you being raised by a narc parent (I only recently figured this out for myself) and the damage that was done to me also (playing small and dimming my own light my entire life so golden child bro could have the spotlight he insisted on). I now believe that having a Narc parent laid the ground work in myself becoming an empath and attracting narc abusers my entire life. I plan to delve deeper into the mother wound to heal from this horrific abuse. I wonder if you can relate.
    I want to share with you that I recently started a gratitude journal and on line 1 wrote:
    I am grateful for ME!
    Without you being the wonderful person you always were KKMM, you would never have accomplished all the amazing things you have post-fuckwit. Give yourself a massive round of applause because not many people are as awesome as you are. You are an inspiration.
    Keep doing what you do and let the kids navigate the shitty, as CL points out. They will eventually figure it out me thinks.
    Hugs dear one.

    • Thank you for your post. I so relate to your situation. My kids are younger but I fear my oldest is already under FuckWit’s hold. The youngest is either stronger/ more independent, or has been less exposed to me modeling submissive behavior.

  • Your kids are now 22 and 24 years old and you don’t have any obligation to put your life, career and adventures on hold for them or your marriage any longer.

    Go live your best life and let them get on with growing up. Which they may do a bit more quickly and completely if you are not there to cushion their falls or to snicker at as some sort of failure in their eyes.

    Hell, they may want to spend more time with you if you move overseas or elsewhere than if you stay put.

    • Was just thinkin…what kid wouldn’t want to visit their parent in an exciting foreign location?! It’s my ultimate dream to post up in some cool foreign place for a spell once my daughter is grown and fly her out to visit as often as she can stand it. A great way to have adventures and make memories.

  • “I calmly explained that FW was 7 years older than me, and questioned my son if he recalls ever hearing that I gave birth to him when I was 15, or his sister when I was 13. My son seemed confused and I had to clarify that I WAS 22 and his father was 29 when he was born.”

    Wow, just wow, KKMM! What a nasty piece of work your XH is.

    As for the kids, I think one should step between them and the other parent when there is evidence of abuse, specially while they’re children or adolescents. In the case of adult, capable kids (which mine are not yet, so I lack experience here) I think there would be hardly an opportunity for that, though I would not rule it out altogether (afterall, many of us here were already adults when we were abused by our fuckwits). But this doesn’t seem to be what you are describing, except for that excerpt above when your FW XH tried to gaslight your life-long scapegoated son. I think you did right by your son to clarify matters and try to help him understand that what his father says should be taken with a grain of salt. The long term effects of gaslighting are devastating and don’t respect age boundaries. I would have done the same and actually did recently a couple of times when my FW XW tried to gaslight my 10 year old son in front of me during my custody time. I take no more shit from her and definitely won’t let her neither gaslight nor scapegoat our sons. I have seen close enough what her FOO did to an otherwise meek, inteligent and good-natured FW’s youngest brother that today is a shadow of his former self and lacking direction in life.

    But I do think and hope that what your adult kids are going through is just a phase of assholery towards their devoted mom, and that will probably pass once they earn a little more life experience (they will get their own dents; let’s just hope not as deep as yours). I don’t mean that neither of your kids are proned to be chumped (I hope not), but it was only when this happened to me that I could finally realize the depths of my mother’s wounds due to my father’s abuse and cheating. I used to downplay it. I am trying to make up for her now.

    Also, people (kids specially) tend to feel more free to challenge and disappoint the most reliable and loyal person than the known difficult people. Everybody does that. It’s cheaper and way less dangerous than upsetting a bully. It takes guts and integrity to override this hardwired routine and act towards justice. Your kids are building them, give them the benefit of the doubt and time. Take this as a token of their feeling safe enough around you to be assholes, while they instinctively know they have to fawn over their FW father and his whore if they are to have a relationship with him (which they understandably want). They have experienced his abandonment, even if they didn’t realized that as such then. Maybe they’re going lengths to avoid it again and taking out their stress on you, that sure doesn’t deserve any of that shit.

    Well, I talked too much as always, but I wish I could say something meaningful to you, since I too am concerned by how this “fun parent vs. homework parent” dynamics will work out in the long term and if it is going to mess with my relationship with my kids at some point.

    (((Hughs)))

    • That “I married too young” thing is a “thing” and apparently a stock dating site pick-up line. I was reading a feminist site catering to the teens-to-early-thirties singles demographic and found it hilarious and reassuring that these women were lampooning married men who come on to younger women with the “I was too young when I was married” trope. Meanwhile these cheaters married at 28, 29, 32, 38, etc., and generally lie about their ages. That’s another trope: the 52 year old pretending to be 34. If you don’t want to talk about age, leave the slot blank but at least use a photo that was taken after the moon landing for cripe’s sake.

      The point of the posts on this site is to warn that this come-on is an attempt play to competitive hubris, inciting women to aid and abet abusers in abusing other women. The gist was that it’s not “sisterly” nor feminist nor groovy/sexy/cool to be a proxy-abuser and enable cheaters. To me, the same goes for men who abet she-cheaters. Not cool. Not sexy. Just wormy/creepy/shitty.

      Because the porn-invested media generally hypes so-called “sex positive” infidelity tolerance these days, the above perspective isn’t given much air play but it exists.

  • KKMM,

    I have another take on this… you are free! Yes free! I wish I were where you are and could take an awesome job overseas. Hear me out- I’m stuck with a clingy teenager who won’t see her father and he won’t see her unless it’s on his terms. He’s so pissed that she doesn’t love the OW that he’s choosing her. Now I’ve got the emotional fallout and I’m alone. I get my daughter, yes, but I also have the burden of sole responsibility with no freedom. If I were you I’d take that awesome job and live your best life. They’ll come around to seeing what really happened…it will come in time. Meanwhile you can do what you want!! I’d be packing my bags. 😊☀️

  • Marrying a FW is a gift that never stops giving, even if they are dead and gone like mine. We have to take it as it comes. Your kids are young and impressionable. Of course they’re attracted to FW’s crumbs. They look shiny and like a genuine satisfying meal.

    Give it time and patience. The kids will mature and see him as the mixed crumb-filled bag he really is. They’ll probably still love him. Kids usually love both parents no matter what.

    Enjoy your freedom from FW. You are doing well!! 🙂

      • Hah, true, with all the lab-generated flavor boosting and addictive sugar and chemical additives. https://www.npr.org/transcripts/990821079

        Cheaters are kind of like Cinnebon and Panera piping synthetic “eau de food” perfume to lure in suckers to the point that malls would make food companies agree to control scent.

        • Yummy in the moment, but not too filling or sustaining. Nothing like good old fashioned home cooking made with love. (I am looking forward to reading that link).

          • A slice of carcinogenic chemical shitstorm anyone?

            Those metaphors click with me because my kids have multiple food allergies. I had no choice but to go full organic foody and cook most meals. So one of FW’s “rebellions” (as if the crunchy thing were just something I idly foisted on the family rather than something that was thrust on me by necessity) during the affair was that he and the AP gorged on processed food.

            Among the many disquieting things you learn in dealing with medical issues related to diet is that even so-called fine dining in most cities contains way too much sugar and additives. If the secret credit affair card charges didn’t illustrate this enough, you could tell by the bloatational effect on FW and Shmoopie. His face got blurry and his gut cantilevered over his belt and she looked like a yellowish, lumpy uncooked bratwurst.

            Did you ever see the documentary Supersize Me? It’s not funny when you realize that poor people are often prisoners of food ghettos. But whenever I get trauma flashbacks about the tragic waste of family money, I remember there’s been built-in, self-induced karma in terms of liver damage. “Rebel” away, dudes.

            • “So one of FW’s “rebellions” (…) during the affair was that he and the AP gorged on processed food”.

              😂 ridiculous looooooosers

              My XW FW is big on junk food too and our kids get a lot of it during her custody time; I try to counter by cooking all their meals in my time with them. Blood tests don’t lie: kids are healthier than ever. One of the bright sides of the divorce.

              “Did you ever see the documentary Supersize Me? It’s not funny when you realize that poor people are often prisoners of food ghettos”.

              Yes, I did. In fact, we did (FW and me used to go to the movies together a lot). It was weird what that guy did to himself. If I recall correctly, his fiancé was a vegan and he turned to it after his “experiment”. I thought the movie was Michael Moore on steroids (or should I say ester-oids?)

            • My son has food allergies, so all cooking is done at home, with fresh pure ingredients. It’s a lot of work, but the payoff is huge for everyone in the household.

  • Accept what is and live your life. If moving overseas is something you’d like to do then move. Have no expectations of reconciliation. If they do return it will be hopefully a nice surprise. Be aware of ulterior motives and set boundaries. Adult children choose to side with the narcissist parent for a variety of reasons. Narcissists have been manipulating the children since they were young, confiding in them, portraying themselves as the victim while demonizing us. We have a better chance of reconciliation and regaining respect by living our lives and taking care of ourselves. Waiting around for something that might or night not happen isn’t productive. Non has permission to treat us with disrespect. Children don’t get free passes because they’re our children. Sadly the pendulum doesn’t always swing back to the stable parent. I recommend reading “Done With The Crying,” by Sheri McGregor. She has a great perspective on estranged children and living your best life.

  • CL – Thank you for sharing this letter and your reply. Helpful, validating, reassuring. I’ve got two teens and one pre-teen who all know about their dad’s cheating with their mom’s friend (who was also my kids’ friend). My teens don’t want to talk about it (with me anyway). My pre-teen shares openly with me. Even just the reminder that people in their early 20s are still waiting on their brains to fully develop…thanks for the reminder.

  • If you ever doubt that dysfunction runs through generations, and that you cannot change someone else’s core personality, keep reading CL daily chump nation. It becomes so clear, the more you know, the more you see.

    I love my sons, but they are adults now and have to make their own choices and live with them. I did the best job I could parenting them. They have both their father and me in their DNA, and the experience they had while I was married to their dad. I cannot change history. I don’t accept the blame for something I did not cause and cannot change.

    I probably watch too much Netflix, but I learn a lot from the series. I watched The Lost Daughter and got some insight into a personality that probably should not have had children. But she did, and there were some painful consequences. I am watching Inventing Anna now. Have not finished, but the reporter wants to untangle the skein so bad in this story and find someone to blame for who Anna became. Anna’s mother told her — she was born that way and always was that way. Anna’s parents did the healthy thing and let go — but they are judged by others who have not lived with a narcissist/sociopath. It is hard to listen to self-righteous people telling you what you should endure. They do not know your life; they have not experienced what you did. Neither have your children.

    Sometimes, you just have to step away and take a beat and let the chips fall. It may be a hard lesson for your child. You cannot save them from everything.

    CL, there must be a cosmic father/son car connection lesson to be learned. My Ex “gave” our youngest an old car that did not run. It had to be towed to a dealer. The dealer gave my son a trade allowance toward the purchase of another car. Ex asked my son for 1/2 of the trade allowance for the car in cash. What a gift! What a complete ASS! Fortunately, I did not have to say a word. Youngest son figured it out but forgot to deduct the cost of the tow from his father’s “half.”

    My heart aches for my children, and the lessons they had to learn for my marriage and parenting errors. They still love and want both a mother and a father. They have not figured out, yet, how lucky they are that their dad is dead.

    KKMyMeh, take a step and pause a beat. Maybe your kids will figure it out. Don’t write them off just yet but require respect.

    • Portia,

      ‘ It becomes so clear, the more you know, the more you see.’

      This sentence grabbed me today. Mr. X was/is a covert passive aggressive narcissist. I had no idea what that was until 2 or 3 years ago.

      The revelations still unhinge me on a daily basis – jaw dropping moments when I have a new ‘ah-haa’ moment.

      What is most beguiling is how these moments of insight shoot directly to my past with my FOO. I thought I had seen all there was to see there and to give myself credit, I had based upon the lense I previously had. Can’t see what you can’t see. I know that as a fact now. Our brains do create ‘blind spots’ in our psyches as well as in our vision.

      Now I see an entirely different playing field but. prior to dday, I didn’t have the experiences to see what I now see.

      I also see world events through a different lense which is disconcerting to say the least. Trust factor = zero based on all that I have learned here and elsewhere. Oh my.

      In any event, as a result of all of this ‘seeing’ I simply cannot go back to the way I thought it was and what I have now is, I hope, a clearer seeing of what IS vs my fantasy of what I think this should be.

      The red flags were there with Mr. X but I spackled. Thanks to CL and CN – sparkling does not work anymore. Not only in my family relationships but with other relationships as well.

      I have been shaped by events beyond my control. I see this now and because of this I can be more compassionate and tolerant of my grown children’s responses to my/our situation. They have had their whole world blown apart too. They thought we were the perfect family and that their father was a hero.

      How shocking to discover he is and was a slut. A complete phony. I know it has taken me years and years to come to terms with what happened to me in my FOO because of divorce so be it for my grown children.

      My heart aches because the family I thought we had does not exist anymore. Blown to smithereens scattered in a million directions. I know I can’t fix it. Or control it.

      Recovery ; It is work and it all hinges on allowing people to be who they are without me imagining them to be someone I want them to be so I can be comfortable.

      Better to see the snakes in the grass vs stepping on them.

      I encourage owls to keep my yard free of snakes. Their innate wisdom is simple and clear.

      Thanks for your words.

  • What I’m starting to get is that some FWs get their stock to trade artificially high with kids based on the principle of scarcity. Their withholdingness leaves a parent-shaped hole in the souls of their kids, some of whom will forever yearn to fill that hole with crumbs.

    What else could explain why my dear friend’s tween daughter is being swayed by my friend’s STBX despite the fact that my friend is all-around amazing as a human being– warm, devoted to her daughter, insightful, intelligent, drop-dead funny, drop-dead gorgeous, etc.– while her ex is this creepy Ichabod Emptyman? The worst charm-bomber in the world would have trouble out-charming this friend (best of all, it’s all real where she’s concerned). But this guy couldn’t charm-bomb a termite mound. He’s a cipher. Even the little girl’s friends think he’s a weirdo and a dark cloud.

    Lovelessness isn’t just an absence but a kind of vacuum, which has a force all its own (one that nature hates). Some chumps describe their abusers as charismatic and charming while others describe their exes as zilches and grease stains. The common denominator seems to be the lovelessness. Whether the void is slathered over with false sentiment or left bare, there is nothing where something should have been.

    • Yes, the false scarcity describes what my STBX does, pretty accurately. She’s always been much harder on the kids than I am – beyond healthy boundary-setting for kids, like she’s really triggered by them when things are difficult (and she probably is). I see it very clearly in my eldest kid, the people-pleasing tendency, since she was trained to placate Mommy. (I’m Mama.) Eldest is turning 20 next month, and I hope she continues to figure things out. I have never tried to get in the way of the kids’ relationship with STBX, nor taken it personally when they don’t condemn STBX. (Eldest knows the basics of what happened, due to therapy-directed mutual convo with her. I’m not sure how much youngest knows.)

      We can see this scarcity principle in practice, but it doesn’t really change our directive to be the sane (and consistent) parents. At least I know my kids know I’ll always be there for them.

    • Hell of a Chump

      Aptly put – ‘scarcity principle’. That, in a nutshell, sums up my life. The tragedy of living unconsciously, as we all do until we can see differently, set me up for lifelong people pleasing behavior due to father’s abandonment of us when a child.

      Looked normal on the outside because we all people please to a certain extent. The line mine crossed was in shutting down my emotions – primarily rage at what my father had so casually done. (I am no exception by any means to this phenomena. Many of us are walking around clueless until we are not.)

      He created a mess. Blamed others. Walked away. No dues to pay. The victims left gasping on the shore stepped over and ignored by all – too messy…

      As a budding pre-adolescent with natural developmental stuff going on, feeling any anger towards him was anathema to my psyche.

      My mother became the victim of that rage.

      My mother has been dead for over 30 years now. I didn’t realize any of this when she was alive to the extent that I do now.

      Now I KNOW she was the SOLID and TRUE source of love in my/our lives and because of her we all did make it into adulthood.

      I now grieve for the pain she had to endure – all created by the man she truly and totally loved. She never stopped loving him yet had to watch as he married and divorced again and again. A pattern that ended only because he died.

      His death freed her but, by then it was too late. So much life gone. There was no help back then. She suffered in shame for the rest of her life for something that was done TO HER – not by her.

      Yes, he too was a covert narc. Prestigeous job. Knew the right people etc….but now I see those were all fake relationships based on self-image management. Shallow and empty. Vacuous.

      Oh the rage, when it comes, is sweet.

      The weight of people pleasing is immense. Letting it go is nothing short of miraculous in my experience.

      The gift I have gotten through all of this is my freedom – my feelings acknowledged and accepted. The rage. The grief. The full experience of life on life’s terms.

      A budding trust in my core feelings/emotions that express outwards in a clean way – my insides matching how I respond outwards.

      I don’t betray myself as frequently anymore. Wow, and I am almost 70 years old. Old chumps can and do learn new tricks.

      I have the benefit of CL and CN which taught me about NC. I have been able to heal in a way my mother couldn’t. I give that up to her hoping she gets the message somehow…

  • Mkkmm: what’s the harm in moving abroad? You have a unique, low-risk opportunity at your fingertips! Now’s the time! Your kids are at an age where they are self-absorbed and want space. Moving to work abroad doesn’t mean you’re abandoning them; if anything, you’re reframing your role and relationships, which is a good thing from the sounds of it. This could give you space to explore and grow confident in your post-chump self. Plus, how cool. Your kids will WANT to come see you, I’d imagine. If you stop buying into the bids for kibbles (not in a manipulative way, but to protect your own boundaries), they might just give up the game themselves. Keep the door open, suggest visits, and see what happens?

    You may resettle and decide you love it. You may love it, but decide to come back when (if) grandkids arrive. Maybe you’ll miss home and decide to return after a year or two. All of those outcomes sound fine. You get to choose.

    PS: Thoughtful letter. Not a parent, but it has me reflecting on my relationship with my parents, and even their relationships with their parents (both abandoned by their dads at young ages). Both loved their moms, but I wouldn’t use “love” to describe their bonds with their fathers, even though they spackled and danced for them. Likewise, my love for my mom is very different, and much stronger than, my love for my (95% certain) FW dad.

  • Fellow child of and current chump here.
    Parents divorced when I was in high school. Dad was cheating. Sister and I found out two years into their contentious divorce. Had to navigate being furious with Dad while at the same time still being dependent on him. We were a mess for years.
    With Mom, once we knew the floodgates opened, and we were told too much.
    Dad used $$ to try and control us. My reaction was to never ask for help, that way, to my way of thinking he didn’t control me, sister went the opposite direction. Mom had to deal with most of our anger- she was the one we lived with, and Dad had already abandoned us once. We were and are both messed up in our own ways.
    Mom never reached meh. To this day, she will still rehash the whole sordid mess. Whenever I spent time with Dad, she would quiz me and then back to the rehash. The angriest she ever got with me was when I suggested at 28, that maybe 3 adult women had more interesting things to talk about than the decade-old divorce. I split all my holidays, which was logistically very stressful. I had to tell her when I was 30 that loving Dad didn’t mean I loved her less.
    And yes, I loved him in spite of the tremendous amount of crap he put us through. In my 20s, my approach with Both parents was that no matter what they did, I was going to have no regrets about my adult relationships with them when the time came to say goodbye. My karma is a result of my behavior, not theirs. Dad passed away when I was 31, so I am glad I took and continue to take that attitude. He may not have deserved my grace, but grace is a thing no one deserves.
    Fast forward to 50 with an almost teen, and I’m a chump, navigating through cheating, alcoholism, and PTSD, trying to be the sane parent. I wonder what Dad would feel if he knew, or if he saw how traumatic it has been. I have not told Mom, as she has deteriorated in recent years and I can’t cope with her lingering anger spilling over on top of the rest. I have gently tried to tell her how much I respect her for making it through the hell Dad put us all through and how thankful I am she was the same parent. I’m gently trying to shield the child while at the same time answering questions honestly but appropriately. I’m trying my best to accept ahead of time that I will fail at this at times.
    I hope this gives some insight and helps. It’s a shit sandwich any way you slice it and you don’t deserve it. For the record, it sounds like you’re amazing!

  • My adult children also immediately cut their relationships with me as they moved to protect and support “poor, mistreated dad” who was so unhappy after 40 years of marriage that he had to get sex in the closets at work with a married coworker.

    My children moved me out of their lives and gave me a new role as a distant outsider. They took my time we had always spent together and split it in half so dad and Schmoopie wouldn’t feel left out. I refused to accept the new role they assigned to me.

    After two years of intensive counseling, I’m arriving at a place of meh. The long, tearful, angry untangling the skein rants have now come to rest as “I loved them. They didn’t love me.” It still hurts like a mf. But, the monkey brain has quit trying to figure it out. As CL describes in her book, I was happy. I loved all of them with all of my heart. In the end, I learned they did not love me.

    It’s a bit like the Switzerland friends idea. Anyone who isn’t upset about the way I was treated…..I just can’t have them in my life. In my case, sadly, this is my adult children. I sometimes wish I could be a bigger person about it. But, I have tried over and over and I am not strong enough to do it. I am the only one who loves me and I need to stay focused on that.

    • Dear tallgrass,

      I don’t mean to tamper with the breakthroughs you achieved in your counselling, but maybe, just maybe, your kids were gaslighted, brainwashed, blackmailed, coopted by their fuckwit father?

      I find it very hard to believe they don’t love you or that you’re the only one that loves you. Of course I am not walking on your shoes, it’s just a feeling and a hope that maybe you are wrong? (I say this very respectfully of your journey and your experience; it is just so sad to hear from a mother who thinks her kids don’t love her)

      Let me tell you why I think you may be wrong.

      My FW XW made my two sons and me go through hell with all her funny business that wrecked our home. She also has a tumultuous relation with them, that sometimes goes south. They are not very happy when they are with her. Nonetheless, they love her with all their little hearts. I know, I see, I hear and I feel that. But it is not about her that I want to talk.

      My chump mother is a very, very difficult person. I have a hard time dealing with her. She is overly and overtly critic of me (in a loving way, she says), doesn’t respect anyone’s boundaries or privacy (I think these are trust issues due to my fuckwit father life-long cheating), yells, curses, beat the shit out of my autistic brother (he doesn’t get really hurt, she is elderly now and he is in his fifties), mistreats and explores an also elderly former housemaid (now retired), is ashamed of me for having been chumped (and oftentimes uses hurtful words to refer to my predicament). To sum up: she is a trainwreck. My father is even worse: all of the above less being a chump, plus being a cheater, plus being racist, elitist, machist, homophobic and proud of all of that. And the guy likes to rant (I take after him). Most of the time I want to live my life far away from them, but I do love them dearly (just told them so hours ago; I’m visiting them right now). Do I want to spend time with them? Rarely. Do I condone their world views? Hell no. Do I enjoy talking to them? Just when I manage to zoom out and disregard the content of their speech. But I love them both from the bottom of my heart and don’t remember ever not feeling so. Do I say that to them often? No, my bad. Well, you get the gist: they’re insufferable but I can’t help loving them. I am pretty sure it is how they feel about me too, maybe even more so. 😅

      I know personally lots and lots of people who have a relationship like that with their parents and love them nonetheless. It’s not just empty words, we are there when our parents need us; we put our money where our mouths are.

      If our parents have our love the way they are, you sure as hell have your children’s love. Maybe they just are not showing their love, for whatever reason. My guess: to not upset their fuckwit father. I am tempted to say something I wrote to the OP earlier today: it is safer to be nasty to the sane, loyal parent than to disappoint the disordered. We all know the consequences of upsetting a fuckwit: stonewalling in the best case scenario, chaos and living hell being very probable outcomes as well. Maybe they unconsciously felt the abandonment when the fuckwit wrecked their home and are unconsciously trying to prevent it from happening again unconsciously taking at face value the explanation fuckwit gave them for wrecking their home (poor dad was mistreated). Scary people scares people. The insane gets the upper hand because from absurd anything goes. This pattern of behaviour, to fawn over and follow the aggressive, destructive types, is hardwired in our nature and I believe unresolved trauma can make people more staunch true believers. To demean and attack the boss’s enemy (you, in this case) is a way to show loyalty to the leader/opressor and put oneself out of harms way.

      My cheater father was slightly more fun than my chump mother (he played soccer with me and didn’t beat me). I regret to say I sided instinctively with him over my mom for too long. She was boring and stern. She was a buzzkill. Mind you, he was very abusive of me and her. He yelled at us for hours on end for whatever irrelevant reason of his; blew lots of family’s money on whores and gifts for whores, or just plain crazy things from the top of his head; we only got a house thanks to my mother’s resolve and tactics. My mom was in shambles, in pain, humiliated, while holding onto our lives with all her strength. She didn’t process her grief like a champ, but who am I to judge her? It took me being chumped to have a small glimpse of what she has been through and to pay her the due respects. I now (at 38) side staunchly with her (without letting go of my love for my elderly fuckwit dad).

      I want to believe at some point the scales are going to fall from your kids eyes and they will show you the love and respect you deserve.

      Anyway, I wish lots of healing and peace to you. Please forgive me for talking too much.

      (((Hughs)))

  • My son has food allergies, so all cooking is done at home, with fresh pure ingredients. It’s a lot of work, but the payoff is huge for everyone in the household.

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