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Ex Thinks They Must Have a ‘Relationship’ for Their Daughter

Hi Chump Lady,

Stress chump here. So for anyone who doesn’t know my story – I’m in the Armed Forces and my wife of 6 years decided to run off with another man from the base (original I know) who had 3 kids and basically moved to a foreign country.

Anyway my question is — if I don’t want to talk to her / go for coffee / pizza when I fly to pick up my daughter (14 hours) and I know that sounds weird, she actually said to me ‘why are you so cold — I thought we could go for coffee when you come to pick your daughter up’. She’ll say ‘everyone needs to move past this.’

Now I OBVIOUSLY don’t want to engage with her let alone go for coffee, I’d rather as CL puts it ‘put my head in a blender’ but as many times as I tell her ‘we’re not friends, just co-parents’ she still tries it. I mean it’s ridiculous, she’ll message me randomly with some useless bit of information as if what she did doesn’t matter — perhaps we’ll all be friends and all go to the cinema together?!!! One big f*cked up family.

This last Christmas I said I’d like to pick my daughter up directly from school after I fly to the country that way we don’t have to see each other — which I said would be better for us all, but of course she says, ‘when L has a school play you will be there and it would be great if we (her and her OM and her mother, who is horrible to me) could ‘get on’.

Anyway, there are some people out there who are like — ‘Well, you obviously still care’ or you are ‘bitter’ if you say you dislike her … or if I talk about how difficult it is, etc

Fast forward to now I can barely look at my ex wife now — (she now has a kid and just about to pop out the second by the OM) so for me — I’d rather not see someone who was basically the love of my life, heavily pregnant with another man’s child — in less than 3 years whilst he has sacked off his own 3 kids in another country etc. Call me old fashioned!

You could say that I hate her and him — or at least intense dislike, but as long as they don’t screw with me then whatever….. if I voice that to her she acts all confused and that we need to have a ‘relationship’ for our daughter — I mean that word makes me uncomfortable. Maybe a business deal?

If I voice that to her and others — I’M the one that can’t get over it
I’M the one who is unreasonable
I’M bitter and my it’s about my ‘ego’ as a man

CL Can you help me navigate this ? Seems like a shit sandwich being chumped then being told how to act? Or that I should just be good mates with my ex and her boyfriend …. For the children.

P.S. there are now altogether 6 children caught up in this madness now

Can’t I be pissed in my own way — I don’t care about her anymore or the OM — he can have her, I just want to see my daughter — why all this other stuff on top ?

Thanks again!

Stress Chump

Dear Stress Chump,

Hostage situations are not good places to forge friendships. She’s using the power of geography and custody to essentially threaten you into a “relationship.”

Friendship is about mutuality, affection and respect — this is about impression management.

She doesn’t want to be disapproved of. She wants the warm glow of your kibbles.

To just co-parent as a silent business partner would deny her the centrality that she craves. And she’ll take her centrality any way you want to dish it up — as amnesiac ex-husband who thrills to chit chat, or as embittered ex who cannot Get Over It.

Either way, she’s star of the show. So super special that people she fucks over still want to be her friend. Or so super special that people she fucks over cannot get over her.

You rightly wish to pick up your daughter and skip the charades.

So, let’s recap.

she actually said to me ‘why are you so cold — I thought we could go for coffee when you come to pick your daughter up’.

You say: “No thanks, I have other plans.”

No further explanation required! You don’t have to defend yourself, or discuss the inner working of your heart with someone who broke it. Just “No thanks.” Pick up your kid and beat a quick retreat.

She’ll say ‘everyone needs to move past this.

Uh, uh. Nod as you move past her, toward the car rental.

I mean it’s ridiculous, she’ll message me randomly with some useless bit of information as if what she did doesn’t matter — perhaps we’ll all be friends and all go to the cinema together?!!! One big f*cked up family.

Yeah, she’s gaslighting you. It’s the I Fail to Understand Your Hostility mindfuck. Gosh, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to be friends with a woman who cheated on you and moved your child to another country.

In this game, you are the Meanie. The person who insists on being disagreeable, when gosh! she only want to be friends.

(Yeah, look at how well spouse worked out.)

This last Christmas I said I’d like to pick my daughter up directly from school after I fly to the country that way we don’t have to see each other — which I said would be better for us all, but of course she says, ‘when L has a school play you will be there and it would be great if we (her and her OM and her mother, who is horrible to me) could ‘get on’.

Why are you playing Mother May I? with her. Do you have a custodial agreement? It’s your time. You don’t have to sit anywhere near her, at the school play or elsewhere.

You’re trying to achieve consensus with someone who’s not an honest broker. “It’s REASONABLE that I should pick my daughter up directly after school.” Now you put her in the power seat of decider. She’s going to argue it isn’t.

Try “I’ll be picking my daughter up from school, per the court order.”

Then do that.

If she fucks this up and is at the school play instead of delivering said child, you wait in your car and document that for your attorney. If she mentions the school play, you should say, “I’ll be there at 8 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.” if you’re feeling generous.

Anyway, there are some people out there who are like — ‘Well, you obviously still care’ or you are ‘bitter’ if you say you dislike her … or if I talk about how difficult it is, etc

There are some people out there who think there’s a pedophilic cabal in a DC pizza joint. I don’t take life advice from them. Let those people stay “out there” and away from the intimate circle of people you discuss difficulties with.

If I voice that to her and others — I’M the one that can’t get over it

Don’t discuss, just do. Don’t have a relationship with her. She’ll eventually clue in.

I’M the one who is unreasonable

It’s your boundary. They don’t have to like it.

I’M bitter and my it’s about my ‘ego’ as a man

Okay, you’re a bitter, egotistical man. I’m a raging harridan with twigs in my hair. Whatevz. Care for a twig?

Just live your life, SC. The peanut gallery doesn’t get a vote, unless you give them a vote.

What matters is that you travel 14 hours to see your daughter. Because you value THAT relationship, and you’ll face any obstacle to be in her life.

I judge you by what you DO — you show up for your child. You’re an admirable person. The people who can’t see that aren’t worth spit, so please ignore them.

 

Ask Chump Lady

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  • I think it’s healthier for the kid to keep all face-to-face to a minimum. They can sense the tension and are holding their breath until the encounter is over and done. So much easier on the kid to go gray rock.
    I can’t help but think what the adults are modeling for those silent witnesses.

    It’s okay to cheat and then be in the chump’s face so there’s hardly any consequences? Life is a Jerry Springer episode?

    Or after a massive trauma to the gut, you can pick up yourself and prevent yourself from being kicked in the gut for 15 more years? You do what you can to protect the child?

    • My kids know what their mother did and they know the name of the guy she did it with. I have no friendly contact with her and make it known how she has compromised the kids. The kids caught her with the OG the other day when we dropped by to pick something up. Now when we drop by to pick things up she has the blinds closed.

      Nice way to live: keeping secrets from your kids.

  • SC – It feels to me that your journey to Meh is young; you give your X a lot of power she doesn’t deserve. I’ve been there.

    I’d suggest to think about how far YOU’ve come, what power YOU have, and the parent YOU are and start to set the fear of meeting your x face-to-face in its place.

    I would almost suggest you consider going to events if thats what your daughter wants. I think you’ll be surprised by the reality of the situation rather than what its built up to be in your head. But only when you are ready.

    I had to attend HS graduation and we all sat in a row, fake smiles on our faces soon after D-day. FW wasn’t there, so that helped, but I was pretty stressed about it. I got through it and actually came out better for it in the end. (most) Ever event since has been easier.

    Aim for YOUR power, not her’s.

    • In my state, during the separation period, you are not supposed to sit with your STBX at school events or anything because it appears you are there “together” and not separated. I was told that STBX could selfie us sitting together and use that as evidence we were not separated yet and start the separation time clock running all over again to slow things down. So it boggles the mind that some FW who is already divorced and with their AP and having a second spawn with the AP thinks they should sit together at an event. It’s as though they conveniently forget that they are divorced and have fucked over the chump. “Oh let’s all sit together!” 🙄

      I agree it would be good for SC to attend his child’s events because the child probably wants him there. But indeed… one step at a time.

  • “Don’t discuss, just do. Don’t have a relationship with her. She’ll eventually clue in.”

    This. My FW “failed to see why we couldn’t all just be friends and have everyone approve of him and his multiple girlfriends that he left me for.” After he left me for his first AP (eventually married the third AP) he petitioned *really* hard for us all to just be friends and hang out together and move on with our lives (etc etc).

    He said this to my face shortly after D-Day #1. I was still sobbing. Why couldn’t he see that I was sobbing?

    These people have absolutely no empathy. “Let’s be friends” from my adulterous FW really meant “I want selfies of you, me, my new GF, and our kids for Instagram.” He was getting a lot of flack from his friends and family when he left me and the kids for GF#1 (it was pretty heartless and shocking to everyone who knew us at the time) and he wanted to control his image. And if the chump, well… “approves” of his new GF… well now! That would be great, wouldn’t it?

    I never let him play that game. No, we can’t be friends. I learned how to No Contact unless it was civil and for professional reasons (money or kid stuff). No personal talk ever! And I learned not to engage with him to try to explain my point of view or my feelings because it never, ever, ever worked.

    If I explained, for example, *why* we couldn’t be friends (because of how he hurt me), I could reasonably expect a tirade in return from him that attacked me as a person and a parent while he championed himself as the superior person and parent. If it didn’t support his agenda, he fought back.

    I learned. I stopped explaining how I felt about things. It was, literally, the definition of banging my head against a brick wall. If FW said “Would you like to have a coffee with me and GF#1 so we can all get to know each other better (I just know you’re going to love her!)” I simply responded with “No thank you. The kids will be ready at 4:30.”

    Keep it short, civil, and always about the business at hand. Like you are stuck in a contract with a business partner you really don’t want to be doing business with but need to.

    A FW who craves control over their image will figure this out, eventually, and fight back trying to get you to engage personally with them (either as a friend or an enemy… doesn’t matter to them). They’ll push you to be their pal. They’ll push you to argue. Don’t take the bait for either. No personal talk. Just be a grey rock. It took years for my FW to “get the picture” but he eventually got it.

    Good luck! You can do this. CL’s advice is all gold here.

    • Stuck in a business contract… this! SC, a custody agreement is contractual. It is separate and distinct from the relationship you have with your child and there is no obligation on your part to the other party in the contract as long as you are holding up your end of the deal.
      So, she wants it to be all rainbows and glitter? That would certainly absolve her of any responsibility and guilt over her abuse.
      Just don’t. You owe her nothing.

    • Fourleaf,

      I love your description of the futility of engaging with these people.

      If you express any emotion, they’ll exploit the opportunity, and you’ll suffer the negative blowback every damn time. I, too, learned that the hard way.

      This takes discipline on our part. It can be tough not to take the bait. X actually told me that he liked even our negative interactions and was sad that those might come to an end. I think this is probably true for most FWs. They feed off of neg and pos kibbles.

      Our power is in our silence. Our power is in NC, which also stands for NOT CARING.

      • Yep, I learned on the night of the dumping not to engage him. Everything I said he threw back in my face. Didn’t matter if it made any sense.

        One thing I remember is I said “but I scrimped and saved, and supported what you wanted” His answer, I did for you too. He absolutely did not, he knows he did not; and the fact that he had just told me he had cheated for half our marriage and never loved me didn’t matter. He said I supported you too.

        As Tim Conway’s portrayal of the Baptist Preacher said, “folks it just don’t matter”

      • My ex just pulled this last week. I see him around at local music events, and if he arrives later, he’ll make a beeline to me and sit in the open chair beside me if there’s one there. I’d either have to make a small scene by getting up and moving or by asking him not to join me. I have managed this many times by keeping all the talk about music. I can keep up interaction for however long and still be talking about something that interests me, without giving away any more personal information than my enthusiasm for a particular artist.

        The other night the venue was packed; ex came over and sat down. I said hi and did not stop working at my computer. He pulled out his and mirrored me. Later a male friend came in when it was standing room only, friend offers me a beer, eventually my ex offers to find friend a chair. Fine. These two get talking across me; ex learns friend is a doctor. All fine. Friend goes home.

        Immediately tells me about his very accomplished female friend, that he had invited to live with him because she had nowhere else to go, and all her recent successes and how she’s coming back from time at an Oxbridge school and from her boyfriend to live with him for a while. I’ve met this woman; there are clear sexual tension vibes, at least from her batting eyes and giggles etc. I could have predicted him telling me this. To me this is just the usual confirmation that his boundaries suck.

        I pack up to go and he follows me out on to the street.

        Cue his long description of my seeming to not want to see him and that when I agree to music business stuff involving him it seems like I don’t really want to. So? I say. So I want to address that, he says. I want to *resolve* it. I admit I got caught up for a second, because I’m thinking, surely he knows that he cannot just pursue me to change my bad feelings about him. I feel like I already give him everything he needs for image management, and I do so because it makes my life easier.

        But yes, that’s exactly what he wants. He wants to change how I feel about him, but not with resolving the original conflict. It took a couple of back and forths before he said, no, “resolve” doesn’t mean he wants to talk about or address any of the reasons that mean I now don’t particularly light up when I see him. He said, “I’m not saying I want to fix myself or anything. I just want us to be friends. Like work together on music and stuff.” I said we already jam at events. He said, no, like one-on-one.

        So I had to explicitly say, no thanks, I talk to you at music events and am happy to jam with you. But I don’t want to hang out one on one.

        “Oh, that makes me really sad,” he says.

        It blows my mind that he, knowing we broke up BECAUSE of his shitty boundaries, would make an effort to tell me all about another man’s girlfriend that will fly across the continent to live with him, and THEN try to get me to come to his house.

        CN, I do realize that if I maintained a boundary about sitting next to him at these events, I could avoid even these conversations. Who knows, maybe now I’ll have it.

    • Four leaf – this is so true – I really like your description here – it’s eerily similar.

      At first I used to get really stressed about any kind of contact – it used to make me so anxious but now I’m caring less…. I’m not completely at meh but I am trying to enforce boundaries.

      The worst thing though – I never miss anytime with my daughter, whether I fly there or call her but as soon as I disagree with her or won’t engage with her, I’m immediately branded a ‘terrible father’

      Of course though the AP who abandoned his 3 kids to live in another country is an ‘amazing father!’

      Mad

      • Stay mad but don’t give those emotions to the FW. They crave the engagement. Your businesslike but polite aloofness will enrage her though, so expect some pushback until she finally accepts that she can’t bait you (either positively or negatively) to help her look like the better person/parent. She will, in time, give up if you stay steadfast. (They are almost cartoonishly arrogant. It’s truly bizarre. My own mother used to muse about FW, on the way he was acting after D-Day #1, that “it was a wonder he could get that giant head of his through the door.” He thought he was right about everything.)

        Never play the better person/parent with a FW. They already think they’re the best so engagement on that front is absolute futility. Just be the best person/parent you can be and never talk to the FW about anything except the business at hand ever again.

        • My ex cheater used to know exactly how to push my buttons. I was an open book. He mirrored my values and weaponized them to his advantage.

          It’s like he has no personal access to human code, and needs a target-human from which to draw.

          Now that I don’t give him anything to work with, his manipulation tactics are laughable. It’s like a non-human trying to guess what he thinks a real human might feel or do in a given situation.

          It took a long time for me to get there, but grey rock works!!!

    • A very good description.

      I would just add: another reason they want to be “friends” is because your friends can casually ask you for favors and you will most likely say yes. They believe (correctly!) that if you mimic friendship, you’ll likely feel obliged to give them the benefit of the doubt, and grant exceptions, variances, allowances, etc. to the terms of the divorce.

      • You are so right IG, there are always reasons for their behavior….usually setting you up for future favors, leniency and rule bending. (In their favor of course) Then they can use it to show/tell others how you are “friendly” with them because you are showing compliance to their wishes. Very good point! Needless to say, usury and manipulation ahead if you try to comply!

    • “I stopped explaining how I felt about things.” Yes. THIS. It’s a hard practice to learn after years of explaining. But I’m learning.

  • Whatevs…want a twig?

    I’m dead.

    I’ve almost mastered the – yep, this is how I deal with this shit show and you don’t approve and…….? Do I look like I care?

    Whatevs ….want a twig is my new response.

  • She’s a piece of work. So far she’s made it 14 hours difficult to see your own child. You might be her plan b when she dumps this guy-or he dumps her-won’t be his first time. She’s chosen a hard, slutty road to climb and you’re stable. So you’re choosing avoiding getting sucked back into her vortex of crazy. Tell her no. You’re just a person I used to know.

    • “You’re just a person I used to know.”

      Or even “You’re just a person I thought I knew”

    • Trudy…I thought this too. I think she’s lining up her ducks (which means keeping Stress Chump on the hook and available and maybe even sympathetic) in case she gets dumped. If I read the post right, she has a kid and one on the way with the other man….who is still just her boyfriend. Doesn’t look good for her….just saying.

  • Excellent advice. Stress Chump, don’t respond to her baiting you with chatty texts. Don’t respond to her pleas to be friends “for the sake of our daughter.” Bullshit- what was good for her daughter was an intact family, but she didn’t care enough to give her that. She wants you to be friends because she thinks it wipes the slate clean and then she’s no longer a cheating POS. She’s giving you the power to redeem her socially and in her own mind.
    She’s desperate for your stamp of approval because deep down she knows what she did proves she’s trash. Plus she would love to triangulate you with OM and keep him dancing. If you withhold approval then you’re the ogre ex she and OM can trash talk about. It’s all just worthless noise rattling around in their in the empty heads.

    I don’t get this whole; “But why are you so bitter?” thing people whine about. You have good reason to be bitter. You have good reason to not like her and to never be okay with creepily selfish people like her and OM. If you have explained this and people still try to lay guilt on you, tell them the subject is closed, end the conversation and avoid them if at all possible. If not possible, cut them off as soon as they bring it up. You’re not interested in discussing it. Be clear and consistent on that and eventuallly they’ll give up. Let people think whatever they want to think and just keep being the sane parent. You’re doing great.

    • I don’t get the “bitter” accusations either. Imagine asking that of someone who survived a stabbing. “Why are you so bitter about that?” So stupid.

  • My XH always invites me to “come along” when it is time to celebrate something- you know, like a family. For example- my daughter’s 16th birthday is tomorrow and he is celebrating with her tonight- asked me to join. “Thanks, I have other plans.”She knows everything about why we split because she was reading my pathetic begging texts to him for two years while I was pick me dancing (we finally divorced almost a year ago, and I am very gray rock since then). The old me would argue “but we are not a family anymore/ you blew that up with your 3 year affair” and he would call me bitter and tell me to take my share of that blame. I used to think he missed me. Now I understand he just wants my blessing- to make his shitty choices all okey dokey for the world. Fuck him. The kids have a relationship with him – I don’t need to.

  • Mine was the undisputed, undefeated, heavyweight champion of the “I Fail To Understand Your Hostility” mindfuck . . .

    – berating me for not sitting with her at E The Elder’s gymnastics meets (and insisting that E The Elder wanted us to)
    – lobbing veiled threats of “This will be remembered” when, after dropping off personal items of my daughters’, I wouldn’t drive her to the garage to pick up her car
    – name-calling and insults when I refused to go to dinner at the condo she and the Chlorine Special share to discuss the college application process “as a family”
    – being shocked — SHOCKED — that I would not attend her mother’s wake, then telling her family that in fact she had told me in no uncertain terms that I was not welcome there

    The last incident was just about a year ago, when I told her again that I was not coming to their home to discuss college plans, and she responded with “It’s been 5 years — you really need to take the stick out of your ass.” It’s been a year of complete silence on on the IFTUYH front.

    All of which is to reiterate what CL says: Don’t discuss, just do. Don’t have a relationship with her. it may take time, but she’ll eventually clue in.

    • …and don’t feel the need to give any kind of rationale for what we do or don’t do (or say). Abusers don’t deserve it.

      This has been a tough habit for me to break. Doing so, however, has been incredibly freeing and empowering. I spent decades anticipating his angry reactions and adjusting my behavior accordingly. No more. 💪

      I’m not at total indifference yet, but I’m getting there.

    • Yeah, I’ve gotten all of those too.

      It’s often difficult, in the moment you’re being attacked, not to try to defend yourself and point out either the untruth, or the hypocrisy, or the missing context… In general, though, I do find that it helps to take a step back and remind myself that this behavior is a tactic. It’s designed to put you on the defensive, or to set the terms of the debate (for instance, not “who will pay for college” but “why are you so bitter that you won’t come to my house to discuss college”). Now that I’ve seen it so many times (and it sounds like you have too), it’s easier to recognize it as tactic, not truth. In practical terms, I (1) move the conversation to email, (2) let my response sit overnight before sending it, and (3) address only the actual issue at hand, and ignore the lies, innuendo or personal insults that XW packages along with it.

      Every example of yours is a case where *she* wants *you* to do something. She doesn’t actually have the the power to make you do anything that’s not in the divorce decree, so she (logically, predictably) falls back on other tactics like this. If her position had more merit she wouldn’t need to resort to insults and lies; but it doesn’t, so she does the best she can from her poor strategic position.

      • That’s a great explanation of what’s going on there and why it’s so difficult, yet so critical, not to go on the defensive and get sucked in. I allowed myself to be dragged into so many of those “conversations” over the years that even after a year of NC, the pattern continues to resurface and play out in FW nightmares. I guess I have internalized the futility of responding, because now in those dreams, I recognize it and walk away. I used to wake up in a panic, but now, I almost find it comical. This – again?! The tactical lesson is unnecessary with FW ex because he’s long gone, but it has already helped me immeasurably with other manipulative folks I come in contact with. I can spot manipulators, and I know how to handle them: set boundaries and focus on my own interests, carry no guilt for enforcing boundaries, give no unnecessary explanations, and engage as little as possible.

    • Totally agree KKK seems to be the master of this. Hopefully she doesn’t teach an online class to other FWs, because it’s totally annoying.

      The only thing I can hang my hat on is that it’s kibbles. Both positive & negative that is their addiction. Which is why they want to engage.

  • Thanks everyone for your support – it is honestly one weird shit sandwich after the other,

    I’m having to navigate my daughters birthday in April now – I’m expecting her to come out with ‘let’s all go together – for the children!’

    It’s so true – it’s like ‘be friends me!’ with me to almost justify what she did.

    EmmaC absolutely correct – the pickups are massively full of tension and I know my daughter can see that, I mean she turned up to the last pickup heavily pregnant it’s just embarrassing. How little shame she has – we have it in the court order that she can nominate someone else (except the AP) of course but she just ignores – I mean it’s borderline taunting !

    • I really don’t get the “be friends” schtick.

      My fw pounded me into the ground, emotionally, verbally, and financially aside from cheating by his own admission for half our marriage.

      Then, when I called him after he left and told him he needed to go ahead and file, first he tried to get me to use his lawyer. I said no. Then he said “well I hope we can be friends”. I just said “I am particular about who my friends are”.

      I was lucky our son was fully emancipated. I did go to a couple joint celebrations over the years when my son invited me; but it was just a cursory hello, how about that weather and I kept on walking. He sickened me to look at him. I actually talked to whore more than I ever did to him.

      The last time I saw him was in 2016 (he died a year ago) when my granddaughter graduated from HS. I nodded as I came in and my husband and I sat in front of them. FW started a fight with a woman sitting in front of him, because he kept hitting her in the back with his knees. Instead of just saying oh sorry, it is so crowded in here, he had to make it a thing.

      I was embarrassed to have ever been married to the idiot. Bitter, nope just embarrassed, there are plenty of folks who I am embarrassed to be around, so I cut the time short. He is just someone from the past, I thought I knew. My sweet husband is hearing impaired, and he whispered to me; “what is going on”. I just signaled I would tell him later.

      Thank God, my son is so different than his dad. He loved his dad as best he could; given his dad put him through the wringer, I am sure it was not always easy.

    • Just a little tip, if you smile or laugh in their presence it makes them nuts. Just laugh and say ‘I’m double parked, or I have to hit a restroom buh bye’

      They want to feel we are living in torment, and if you appear happy they SPIN

      • Agreed. They want to see evidence your life is absolutely destroyed since fabulous them vacated the premises.

        Keep smiling is a good habit. Maybe have a cup of coffee in your hand so you seem fabulously chill and can take a sip in response to their inane chatter at pick up/drop off and don’t respond?

    • SC, you sound like a great person, and I thank you for your service.

      Your XW is acting just like all the other cheaters. Narcissistic/selfish to the core. Maybe sociopathic. She’s shown you exactly who she is and you were mighty and got away. 3 years are still early days. I’m at 7 and my XH Hoovers weekly (uses 4 kids to try it) and I have almost no emotional reaction. Meh. It’s peaceful here no matter what he says or does. It took a lot of time. No contact or grey rock (respond with the minimal words you can and only when necessary). Im a fan of the “yes, no, maybe”. I also like the 👍 emoji. I’ve learned to catch myself when I start thinking that what anyone else says or does matters. It doesn’t. I like my choices- that’s what matters.

      Why does XW do or say xyz? Because they can. Trust they suck. You don’t. You’ll be ok. Keep going on your righteous path. We get it.

    • Stress Chump, it’s going to be a little tough on your daughter, but you can reassure her that you and her mom are having grown-up disagreements, it’s not her fault, and you love her very much. Kids tend to think they are the center of the world and, the flip side, that if their parents aren’t getting along they are somehow to blame. Showing her support and love regardless of how you feel about her mom (or her half-sister) is being the sane parent.

      I love CL’s “No thanks”, especially if you deliver it in a polite and regretful tone, like somebody offered you dessert but you’re just too full to take another bite.

    • I think about what I’d want my kids to do if they were ever in this situation, and I try to model that. It helps me to think – what advice would I give my daughter if she (heaven forbid) had to deal with an ex like this?

      I want my kids to live with authenticity and honesty. I sure wouldn’t want my kids pretending to be friends with someone who was abusive to them. I would want them to stand up for themselves in an assertive way – not passive nor aggressive.

      Definitely not friends w the ex. I don’t talk to him except through parenting software (which he invariably gets angry about, that I don’t talk to him). Try to disengage as much as possible.

      Sounds like you’re being a great parent – just keep rocking that.

    • Stress Chump this IS taunting.
      YES she is CENTRAL and
      YES she is GETTING OFF IN THIS!
      It’s also all about her Image Management and “look everyone! We consciously un-coupled!”
      She is delusional. No matter how many kids she pops out she’s still going to be a pop tart.
      Do YOUR thing with YOUR daughter and let Pop Tart flake off into the sunset holding hands with whoever she is with.

  • Even better than “no”, which I agree is a complete sentence, is “where there is deception there is no relationship.”

    That means with ANYONE, not just with me. That means children, other romantic partners, friends, associates, employees, therapists, lawyers, et al. Especially with cheating accomplices, which we all know for a fact are associations marinating in an ocean of lies and deception.

    They lie to everyone and anyone. And therefore have a relationship with no one. Gee, maybe that’s where the loneliness comes from? Being a liar and a fraud and truly known by no one? And I enjoy pointing it out, mainly for my own sanity.

    The quote above came from a lecture on character disorders by a psychologist attended by Dr. Henry Cloud, which he shared in one of his books on
    boundaries, in the chapter entitled “Require and Embody Truth”.

    I don’t act like a friend with anyone who clearly isn’t a friend.

    But I do appreciate that with her request and attitude, she clearly demonstrates the lack of boundaries, relationship skills and
    psychological astuteness that is behind her decision to cheat. Good luck to her in her new romantic venture with all the necessary and essential elements for a successful, healthy relationship glaringly absent.

    • And when it comes to What They Say and What They Think? It’s time to play the extreme edition of Consider the Source.

      I like adding “…..said the Liar Cheater Thief Traitor” mentally at the end of every sentence he utters, or visualize it at the end of every email he sends.

      Just because someone says you’re a zebra doesn’t mean you’re a zebra, and that goes double for liars.

      Words are worthless currency for a liar, and they are speaking to you using Confederate dollars every time they open their mouths.

      • Haha VH I’m dead – ‘and they are speaking to you using confederate dollars’

        It’s so true – I don’t know why it affects me so much, when she throws a tantrum she starts calling me every name under the sun. Or deliberately tries to make calls harder etc

        • It affects you because YOU were acting married, and it affects you until it doesn’t. It takes time and practice. You sound normal to me. She sounds (and acts) like a character-disordered jerk.

        • Stress Chump-

          You are doing awesome!! She is a disordered dipshit. The trash took itself out.

          Remember, no is a complete sentence. And lack of a response is always a response, so if you don’t have to respond legally to her messages, don’t!

        • If she throws tantrums and calls names to your face, feel free to give her the I Fail to Understand Your Hostility routine right back. You act like you’re baffled by her behavior, but not particularly interested.
          If she does it by text don’t respond and be sure to document everything.

        • Her relationship with OM will end and be rocky, now she has to keep him entertained outside of “lust” with two kids to raise. She will eventually become the “boring housewife” she so desperately tried to pretend she wasn’t for OM. She’s probably already shit scared her OM is losing interest and is trying to keep you “as a friend” to keep the door open, so when she’s kicked to the kerb and left a single parent, you’ll hopefully be a good chump and feel sorry for her/take her back. Yes, they genuinely in their minds believe they’re that clever. They’re schemers. There’s always an ulterior motive when they want something… that’s my take on her motive.

        • No Contact.

          Other than information about her daughter, you ignore anything she says. You ignore texts. You shift custody exchange info to email. And you build in wait time so that your responses are all BIFF. Brief, Informative, Firm and Friendly (as in not hostile, customer service friendly, courteous).

          Don’t put yourself in situation where you have to say more than “Thanks for dropping Kiddo off.” Greet your daughter, wave goodbye and go.

      • You don’t know why it affects you? Of course it does! Tantrums, on top of everything else… I can only begin to imagine how upsetting that must be.
        After a 14 hour flight, no less. It’s a shit sandwich, no question. Hope all this advice from CL/CN helps.

    • I like the ‘where there is deception there can be no relationship’ for my own understanding. I think it is a mistake to say that to the FW because that opens things up for an argument/discussion/mind fuck/gaslighting. Do not engage. I repeat DO NOT ENGAGE. This is hard early days because the trauma bond wants you to engage even if it’s harmful and toxic. They lost the privilege of access to everything that is you, including your thoughts, reasons and justification with their betrayal. Say no, do not elaborate or justify, mean it and walk away. Walk that walk —eventually you will own it.

      My marriage was one of endless ‘if I can just explain it right he will finally understand (fill in the blank)—and of course behave better. That did not happen. Now I say what my boundaries are and I say it once. FW can refer back to his texts for reference if he missed it but I will not endlessly try to convince him Of my POV. I do not leave room for argument. The FW would tell me whatever I wanted to hear and go right on doing whatever he wanted. The disregard and disrespect was off the charts. Post divorce, nothing has changed. If anything he is much worse, because he tries to figure out what we want/need from him and make sure he doesn’t do/give it to generate any drama/ cake he can. He has to balance that with impression management but really there’s no one left who really cares since we both moved far away. I may not be at meh yet (close!) but I can say no and *not repeat myself* no matter how much he tries to create drama, twists and turns or revisits on a different day. What he thinks or wants is no longer my concern; my only concern is what is best for the children, which simplifies matters greatly for me.

      • I say it, I’ve been saying it, and I will continue to say it.

        Speaking the truth is where I get a lot of healing. That’s who it’s for; me, not him.

        It works for me.

        • ….and at over four years into this, I find that the truthier I am, the better I feel.

          Staying silent flies in the face of what I have been taught in therapy and in recovery, which is to say that I say what I mean, mean what I say, and don’t say it mean. He’s been ignoring what I say since 1990; I have no illusions that he is listening now.
          It’s been my experience that when you speak the truth, the people either change or stay away from me. Mission accomplished either way.

          To each his own.

  • Stress Chump, realising that I have the right to own my power has been a recent revelation for me. The cheater seemed to hold all the power during our 26 years together. I gave my power away to him at the same time as I made my needs teeny tiny to keep him happy (which was a full time job on top of my full time job). I gave away power in every area of my life. That’s why I worked ridiculous hours and jumped when my FOO called. Really understanding that I have the personal power that CL describes above is exhilarating. Take back your power and make your needs paramount (you can’t support your daughter as the sane parent and be Stress Chump at the same time). Own your space on this planet.

  • CL’s right….you are giving her and the peanut gallery to much of a vote. It’s time you stop engaging in “her” nuances and stick to the boundaries of the custody agreement. It helped me get out of that rut with my ex. He and next door neighbor sidepiece expected me to play “nice and sweet” even getting the peanut gallery on their side. It was a lonely road for a while but as soon as I stopped engaging with anyone and everyone who sided with my ex (including my family), my life was much better. It’s time to do the same. Fuck your ex, the OM, your MIL and anyone who expects you to play chummy with them. Instead, be Gray Rock and set your boundaries.

  • Stress Chump, when someone tells you are bitter just reframe that to experienced. You are not bitter. You are experienced. So they say Bitter and you hear Experienced. Put a new spin on it!!!

    I think you have this firmly in hand. You do not have to be friendly. Hell, you can be surly and dismissive. You are experienced and you know know she isn’t your friend.

  • When my ex asked why we couldn’t be friends I started explaining the usual points- you are a liar, a cheater, abuser etc. And then I added “plus you really are just so boring and life is too short to be friends with people who bore me”. Apparently, that last comment cut deep. He hasn’t mentioned it again!

      • OMG! So true. This has always been the worst insult for my x (bc he knows it’s true). If only I weren’t NC….

        I’ll put it in my back pocket in case I see him at a wedding or whatever, and he urges me to be friendly or otherwise engage. “Nah. I find you boring” will hurt him so much more than any other descriptor.

    • Yes! Good answer! Don’t go into the “liar, Cheater, dishonest” reasons. If you feel compelled to answer, answer something like “boring, ugly”, etc

    • Ha! That’s almost verbatim what I told my ex once, near the end. I think it was actually “boring fucking weirdo.”

  • Oh Stress Chump…you have very closely described what my husband went through when he and his XW divorced. One exception is that his XW gets points for moving out before she started dating, but her fantasies that she would have all the benefits of being with her X (option to me a stay at home mom) with all the benefits of some exciting new love proved to be delusional (which she them blamed on her X).

    He was also military, had one daughter, and needed to travel many hours to pick up daughter for visits.

    One mistake that he made early on was absorbing ALL of the cost, work, inconvenience and difficulty of visitation. His XW declared that she would not permit their daughter to travel alone (even when she was old enough) and XW threatened his with withholding visitation (illegal) if he didnt do exactly as she told him to. She did not “permit” some of his rights allowed in the divorce decree but stonewalled that he conform to any limitations in it. Once these pathologic patterns were established, they were nearly impossible to change.

    PLEASE, please…for your good and the good of your daughter and your future spouse and children…establish and hold a firm boundary of XW following through with ALL required responsibilities with regard to making your visitation possible (her choosing to have more kids is not your problem). If she cannot follow through, pressure her to make some other allowance like flexibility in schedule or other needed concession.

    You will end up with a few Shit Sandwiches but please know that doing the right thing by your daughter is still the way to go. My husband has a great relationship with his daughter to this day (she is an adult and lives with us for the time being but will soon get her own place). Our daughters stood up for us at our wedding and we all travelled Europe together.

    Life has its annoyances and we deal with thorns like everyone else does, but my husbands actions being a Stand-Up Father were pivotal in me being able to discern that he was truly as good of a human as I hoped he would be as I sought to find a partner in Round 2.

    CLs advise is spot on. Good luck

  • My amazing attorney had many sayings. He was the son of a judge and had 40+ years in divorce law. An acquaintance who used him called him “grandpa with an iron rod.” He gave me so much more than the legal side. He was like a big brother to me in many ways.

    Anyway, one of my favorites that he used many times: “Only a fool would be friends with the person who burned down their house.”

    I was no contact during the divorce process but chose email-only during closeout. I kept it all business there, and he still tried to get at me, even trying to make side deals. Nope, all business. I was boring as I could possibly be. He was reactive at times, and I let it go. I didn’t argue or defend, I just got things done. Thankfully both kids were in college, so there were no custody issues.

    Yes, he burned the house down, so I have nothing to do with him.

  • I usually respond with, “I am not friends with my abusers.” Then wait while I hear crickets.

    Usually I then hear an awkward “Ok” and then the subject is changed.

    Short, truthful and to the point. I usually don’t have the time nor the energy to say much else. I have more important things to do.

    No, I’m not bitter, I just don’t want to exert time or energy arguing or explaining to people who don’t understand.

  • There are many ways to respond. I know I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I would probably say, “ I don’t know why you keep making these suggestions or asking these questions. I don’t want to be around you. I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t like you. You are a selfish person and you’ve damaged a child. What makes you think that you are so special that I would want to spend time with you. I have to communicate about our child. That’s it.”
    I think gray rock is a wonderful way to be but you have to actually feel it and right now it does not seem like you do. She’s probably very good at reading body language and she always knows when she’s got you.
    In the case of school sports if there’s a place you can stand by yourself do that. My daughter was in a very competitive sport in high school and I always made sure I stood where she could see me. She told me one time that was the best part of the day that I was there watching her. There are lots of little ways you and your daughter can spend time together but be prepared for puberty. That’s when their friends become a lot more important than their parents. You might have to do a lot of maneuvering when meeting parents of other children to get to know who your child is staying with even when you are visiting with her. It takes a lot of diplomacy and real grit to get through a kids teenage years.

  • You know, if you MUST make a 14 hour trip to visit your child and your FW insists you should socialize, you might just use the flight time to make a list of creative and subtle/not so subtle insults and digs to launch at FW (after all, child is going to be onstage and won’t hear, right?) Example: I wish you could meet my new live-in partner! he/she is a 20 something college athlete with a D cup/ leaves three tracks in the sand at the nude beach penis. Or: “You really need to stop smoking. You’re getting all those little wrinkles around your mouth (doesn’t matter if she smokes, eventually we all get wrinkles, just let her think hers have arrived early.) Or you could go for the big hug and then say, “Eeyyyew! You must have left your top in the washer too long. Smells sour!” Buddy, you’ve got 14 hours to work on this. Take a legal pad and teach FW how to play the big leagues. No contact and grey rock work well, but scorched earth is sometimes weirdly fulfilling.

      • Wait until FW takes a bite of pizza or a sip of coffee and exclaim: “I can’t believe I used to kiss those lips and now your mouth looks like a cat’s ass! You need to get some fillers darling!”

  • This really resonates with me. Fortunately my exH did not get to move to another country with our children, but I did move to another country from the US when I married him and I am now stuck here because of the kids – with only his family and, at the time of discard, his friends. *I* was the difficult one for being devastated. *I* was the difficult one for not wanting to attend social events with exH (still H at the time!) and his mistress/intern. There was something wrong with *ME* because I requested the church give us two separate family pews at my child’s confirmation. What was wrong with *me* that I didn’t want to be friends “for the sake of the children” — but really for his comfort and our conflict-averse friends’ comfort. He even took me to court once and went on and on about how I was damaging the kids because I wouldn’t sit with him or speak with him at a school holiday show. (The judge was appalled – at my childishness, apparently. None of it is fair.) Anyway, I don’t mean to make this about me, I just get how Stress Chump is feeling — even the ex having two small kids with AP. Fortunately, I have new friends now and, as time passes, exH has seemed to lose interest in trying to control me in this way because I just won’t respond. Things tend to get better.

    • That’s right! Extinguishing a behavior is classic operant conditioning but consistency is key. You have to convince the FW that you truly do not care. Works on people— see the short book, Don’t Shoot the Dog.

      I think you can make up all the zingers you like, even think them HARD at the FW, but the taking back of the real power and control is in refraining. Meh is in not caring enough to engage and I fully believe that you have to fake it sometimes till you make it. Like Mr. CL says, if it feels good, don’t do it. Short term pleasure, long term repercussions. Rock the grey rock until you can go NC.

      I DO believe in speaking your truth. Shout it from the rooftops, tell a friend, rehash ad Nauseum with a therapist —just don’t waste your breath on the FW.

      I was one who was bound and gagged by my abusive relationship-couldn’t tell my family that didn’t live close—I’d permanently damage how they looked at my husband and me. I was active in the community—friends and neighbors would judge. We worked in the same field—if I talked, his reputation and his career would suffer. So I stayed silent and suffering for literally decades until dd#3.
      Finally I stopped keeping his secrets. I got a kick ass therapist who literally held my hand every week for three years until I could gather the courage to do what needed to be done. ExFW even tried to force a gag order on me during divorce to protect himself—my lawyer was not having it.

      So, speak your truth to those who ask. Do not perpetuate the lies that they were a good person and you just drifted apart. Try not to emotionally vomit over people when they do ask. I have found that over time I do not feel the need to mention my ex FW at all, even in situations that might warrant it. I am so proud of myself when I realize the thought didn’t even cross my mind and Im standing tall on my own two feet. Im still here and he didn’t break me or the kids though he tried. Nothing I do has any relation to him any longer. People I encounter deal with just me— not one half of a couple. Achieving things that have nothing to do with him on my own. ExFw has lost centrality in my life. This is what grey rock, thousands of hours of therapy and spending time with Cl and CN and lot and lots of TIME have achieved. My life is now about me, my kids, setting and achieving my dreams and goals, living my best life. I no longer even couch that by saying ‘living my best life FW-free’, because it’s no longer about him any more at all.

      Stay strong!

  • For a long time, once the divorce got underway, I/stbx would drop my son at the door and then wait in the car, so we didn’t have to interact. It worked great. But then he cried to the custody evaluator that I was being “difficult” and “hostile” and so on her advice we started having “civil” interactions when doing drop off/pickup. Honestly, it made my kid so uncomfortable. My son would ask why I was talking to daddy. I think it confused him to see us getting along (why aren’t they together if they get along?). After a couple of months of that, my stbx started driving away before I could even open the door for my son.

    After his AP left him, he started inviting me to do things with him and our son (“you’re welcome to join us for bowling”, “we’re grilling burgers, do you want to stay for dinner?”). I always refused by simply saying “I have other plans”, even if those plans were to go home and do nothing. I realized later that this was likely a hoover, as my ex was in a really bad place, both emotionally and financially, and may have been trying to play the reconciliation card just so he had someone to take care of him for awhile, and to stop the financial drain of a divorce (not that he had a lawyer anymore at that point, so he was probably also worried about showing up to a trial pro se).

    Don’t explain anything to your ex. They don’t need to know the “why”. No matter what you say, they will turn it against you somehow. Just stick to your boundaries. Eventually they get bored with getting no reaction from you and the annoying texts and requests stop coming as frequently. Once I stopped reacting to attempts to goad me into communicating with him (good or bad), the goading happened a lot less. At that point I truly was meh and just didn’t care what he did. He tried to paint me as bitter, jealous, angry, crazy. But he was the one who was acting that way, not me.

  • When people used to ask why I won’t “get over it” and be friendly with my ex for the children, I would ask them: Would you be friendly with someone who robbed you at gunpoint? Burned down your house? Kidnapped your child?

    “But this was your husband, father of your child, not a random criminal”

    Exactly. That’s why it’s so much worse. I trusted that person above all others, and he destroyed my life. I built a new life, and it doesn’t include him. I’m not interested, and I would never model for my children to be friendly with someone who abused me.

    For what it’s worth, as the years pass, people stop asking that. Eventually everyone internalizes the message that you don’t GAF

    • Yes, I’m hoping that someday people will stop asking why we’re not friends. There are still a few even though it’s been years since he’s lived in this area and several years since the divorce was final. Those are unsafe people in my book. I’ve gotten to the point that I just say, “It’s my choice, and I chose not to be in contact with him. Hey, how are you doing these days?”

      One of the positives of three years in a 12-step group is that I’ve stopped justifying myself in the vast majority of cases. Of course with a friend who truly cares, I might explain myself, but not everyone deserves an explanation.

      • Sometimes I wish this forum had a like button lol. I like your Standard response to the why arent you friends question, and you’re right some people don’t deserve an explanation

  • I’m surprised the ex was able to take their child to live in another country when I needed a legal document notarized from my then husband just to take our kids over the border to visit their older brother. Huh.

    Anywho, ex-wifey is a control freak. Sounds like she got away with lots in the past dictating what’s what & thinks she can continue to do so. Know your rights, keep your emotions in check & know your purpose (getting your daughter & not mixing it up with her mother). Oh and you might want to switch to a parenting app instead of a phone (ex-wifey still thinks she has access to you like when you were married) and if you can’t do that: never respond to a non-daughter text, never answer her calls & let her leave a message instead. Again, if non-daughter call, don’t call back. It will take a while but eventually she’ll get the message.

    I can’t help think ex-wifey is also bossing OM around too. I’m sure he’s not thrilled about having ex-husband around at plays & across the table at holiday dinners & I’m sure he’s not too thrilled supporting 5 kids either. I can almost feel sorry for the poor bastard.Almost.
    Nah, not at all. Consequences!

    It may sting that she’s pregnant with OM but it doesn’t sound like she’s living the dream to me. It sounds more like an upcoming reality check with so many kid bills & custody issues. The romance ship quickly sailed out of their relationship!

    I hope you have found or are looking for your own romance ship. With someone that isn’t dictating your course, but will happily sail with you together as a team. You deserve that now.

    • Hey Navigator, basically we were stationed abroad (her home country) and she just decided to lie her ass off about coming back – by the time I realised what was going on, I filed under The Hague convention (child abduction)

      But I didn’t have enough money to pursue, my lawyer thinks if I could have pursued she would have lost.

      So in the end I had to settle for joint legal custody and parenting time in Christmas, Easter and summer

      • Ah she pulled another sneaky. Unfortunately $$ is the difference between winning & losing. So sorry! 🙁

    • Amen to that. That’s exactly what happens to me. Every small interaction such as, “what time are you coming on Monday?” turns into this: “We previously discussed me coming on Friday.” Um, no, we didn’t and it even says that in the email that the day was Monday. And furthermore, we don’t discuss anything because we don’t talk.

      This is what happens to me aaaaalllll the time! My therapist read the latest email and said this- Narcissistic people will look for any opportunity to try and abuse you again via any means necessary. So there you go- that’s why no contact is vital and sticking to the plans and no more.

      • that must be infuriating, FKA! No amount of me being accommodating influenced by FW ex to be more accommodating in return… so… no more.

      • Lol on the rare occasions I have to communicate with ex FW i think to myself: small words, short sentences. No opinions, attitude or editorial commentary. Don’t even use adjectives! I try to write in the third person which I find de-personalizes things. Give nothing of myself away, no fuel for argument. (I learnt the hard way) in fact, I make it a point to never ever engage or argue regardless of how much he provokes it. The kids are taught to govern their tongue by asking questions such as: is it truthful? It’s it helpful? Is it kind? I have similar self-regulation tools for my responses: does he NEED to know this? will it make a difference? Usually the answer is no and I am able to let go. If I can’t, journaling is the answer. I say what I need to say in the sparest way I can conceive of, and otherwise do not engage in discussion. I once spent seven hours composing an email: I quickly spewed all my reasons and feelings out, then spent hours to rewrite the whole thing with no emotion in it whatsoever. In fact, I was able to achieve the desired outcome for my children with an openly hostile exFW because I did this.

        Moreover, I give myself permission, nay, the POWER of silence. I do not have to reply to every comment! My kibbles are rare! My cake is exclusive! My standards are 1000x higher than what I lowered them to with FW. As I said previously, what he wants and thinks is no longer relevant to my decision making process. He lost that privilege with his betrayal and lies. The kids’ well-being and abiding by the legal agreement is my only concern. I never ever reach out—he does occasionally to make demands.

        I don’t do phone conversations because I want it all documented. In fact, if FW would question the time/day of visitation I would just screen shot the pertinent email and forward THAT without comment. FW likes to say lots of things that aren’t true and will actually deny things even in the face of definitive proof. I literally have screen shot quoted him and he will refuse to acknowledge being wrong. Or even better, he was in charm channel one time saying how he just wants to co-parent and how much he loves the kids he rarely makes time for—all I did was send a screen shot him spewing on the rage channel. It’s ridiculous really. I used to excuse it —thinking it was rude to point out other peoples mistakes. Really, that just feeds the beast— that is letting them snow you or maybe letting them get away with learned helplessness. The FW are adults and should be held accountable and be treated as such in spite of the fact that they rarely act like adults.

  • Sorry SC, NC/grey rock is your only friend right now. It takes practice and consistency.

    “No”
    “no thank you”
    “I have other plans”
    “I’m OK”
    “…”

    That’s it. No explanation or justification necessary. You have your reasons but she doesn’t need to know them. And guess what? Calm and consistency is also great for kids.

    If you get endless texts from ex, don’t answer.

    If you must communicate, use one liners or official sounding all/business emails.

    That’s it.

    Your ex will get it eventually, and you won’t get as stressed out.

    Your ex is definitely not who you should vent your anger to, she’ll get her kibbles either way. Get a therapist, call your best friend/brother, come here.

  • This “We must have a relationship…” thing falls under the category of, “Stupid Shit Cheaters Believe”. You know, this is the first cousin to “Stupid Shit Cheaters Say”.

    Serial cheater XH of 40 years believed the same stupid thing… “With our long history, we’ll be BFFs”. Oh, are you referring to the “history” that apparently was nothing but a sham? A “history” that you later chose to rewrite? While I was working full time, birthing and raising your triplets, keeping the house clean, cooking every meal from scratch, washing your dirty clothes, hosting your guests, and doing everything else a Good Wife Appliance should do, you were creating “histories” with a baker’s dozen of OW. Yawn, how predictable and unimaginative; couldn’t you be any more textbook than that? You know what they say… “You Can’t Fix Stupid”.

    • Exactly. There’s a few things that ex FW said after separation that were straight up deranged:

      “I’m not leaving you” really!? Is that why you have your packed up bag and one foot out the door?

      “We’ll always be best friends” Er… no.

      And from my exMIL: “you were such a great team” WTF was she on all these years that I was struggling to raise two kids on my own as well as her all grown man-baby?

      So when any of these people ask me to hang out together for any event I just say “no thank you” (I’d rather take a twig out of my hair to poke my eyes out)

      • The ‘let’s still be besties’ thing. WTF is that all about??

        After 34 years together and upon discovery of FWs ‘distraction’ he looked mortified when I said that I would never be his friend ever again. Honestly they are so fricken stoopid!

        Im finding that I’m laughing more and more at the pathetic things he tried…. Does this mean I’m railroading to ‘Meh’?? I sure hope so.

        Thanks CN and CL. Hugs to everyone

        • I don’t know if it’s meh either, but I feel like I finally get the joke. I don’t have to take part in their insanity.

          Like VH said, they’re the ones walking around with no clothes, I just stand on the sidelines chuckling. And I laugh all the way to the bank to cash in my support and settlement checks…

        • I got ‘we will be the closest of close friends’. I laughed and said ‘what do you think exgfOW will think about that?’ Silence. He knew exactly what she would think. And I didn’t want to be friends or even an acquaintance with someone I despised and who caused feelings of nausea every time I saw his ugly face. I am fortunate in that no contact has been easy to establish. He got the message quickly and we don’t have kids. Several people without skin in the game have described him as ‘dull’ and ‘not very interesting’. And he did bore me for several reasons while we were married. I blamed myself for not being interesting enough!

  • I am going to play devil’s advocate for a minute. Not all partners are dependable and responsible to follow a parenting agreement. In addition, accidents and other random things can happen. I would not trust my Ex to pick up our children after school, or an event, ever. I do not want my children standing there wondering where Mom or Dad is. Flying 14 hours and renting a car are two activities where many things can go wrong and timing can be affected.

    No one wants to see the Ex, but when you co-parent you almost always have to have some limited contact. You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it, for the children. You can control conversations with the Cool, Bummer, Wow answers. You can delete nonsense, and not respond. But you have to look in case there is something important regarding the children.

    Sorry to be so practical. I raised two sons, most of the time by myself, and I never could depend on Dad, even when we were married. It was just the way it was. You find a way to deal with things that are out of your control.

    • Hi Portia – sounds like you had a hard one with your ex!

      I think in some ways you are correct – there has to be some level of interaction but I draw the line at ‘going for coffee’

      But in my case all my ex has to do is follow a very specific court order ( it had to be that way because she has tried to exploit it several times )

      All she has to do is drop her off at the airport which is 30 mins away, in an effort to make things easier I said why don’t I pick her up from school

      But it’s not the timing or the organisation – she will just not like the fact that I don’t want to see her and that I’d rather pick my daughter up on my own.

      She’ll think I’m exposing her to the school etc …. ‘Bet you had a nice chat with her teacher….’

      She created this mess – and now I have to organise everything to see it daughter – I can’t just move over there.

      I think building strong communication where times are involved is good – anything else is a way for them to get under your skin.

      But I am a committed dad – always was and always will be from day 1 if my ex had not decided to move away I would be there every other week.

  • And to quote my beloved therapists, one from earlier in life and the present one, both of whom I love and trust and admire, who have both told me

    “If they cared about your daughter they wouldn’t have had an affair.”

    I do take every opportunity to say that. I will always be the little boy in the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes.

    • …..because I won’t promote or perpetuate bullshit, especially the bullshit that people who have affairs care about the children who get caught in the crossfire of the shit show they created.

      • Exactly !

        Constantly I am literally floored when she says stuff like ‘all these flights are hard on our daughter’

        Yeah no shit! You placed us in this mess …. Honestly it’s enough to make someone scream

        • I don’t know what the laws are where she is, or how that works, but if legalities permit it, maybe by the time she is 12 or so she can choose where she wants to live.

  • SC, I am not sure why these people think that you can be friends or even happily act like a family after they blew things up. I have been lucky to not have to co-parent with a FW. Our son is independent and in the Navy. Just trying to deal with a FW and the lies they tell their attorneys is stressful enough. I am in the middle of the process but thanks to a great legal team and a PI, the FW wants to settle. I have been NC with FW for over six months. Anything he send gets a response of “run it through the attorneys”. He hates it and I enjoy saying it. Your option is to become the grey rock master. No is an acceptable answer. Just be as boring as possible. Your FW just wants to triangulate and get the kibble production in overdrive. Don’t give her the joys of kibble. She thrives on whether it is positive or negative. It is a skill as is no contact but you can master it quickly. Please always feel free to vent here, CL and the CN fully understand what you are dealing with. The advice I have found here has really helped me as I go through this process to gaining a life. Stay strong!

  • Stress Chump, I don’t have time this morning to read the comments, but I just came to say- I love the kind of father you are! Your daughter is so lucky to have you in her life, jumping over obstacles to see her, dodging all the dumb requests of the X, and focusing on your kid. I really admire what you’re doing, and I’ll bet it makes her feel so special. I wish I’d had a Dad like you. Stay strong, and bat away your X, she sounds selfish, like all cheaters, and your daughter will need you to be her rock.

    • Thank you so much FreeWoman – that means a lot,

      She’s getting older now and is gets really excited when I visit, she starts packing her bag on FaceTime haha much to the exes dissatisfaction!

      She gets so upset at handovers and I just can’t help but think,

      A – obviously I would never ever separate a child from its father

      B – Wouldn’t you just feel some level of shame?

      Like I wouldn’t be able to live with myself knowing I’d separated someone from thier parent !

      • ❤️❤️ You just carry on, you’re doing the right things. Try not to focus on the X’s custody of your daughter, they grow up quick, and soon enough she can decide who to be around, when she’s older. I know it’s hard, to ignore negative thoughts of how unfair it all is! It’s a struggle for most of us! But I hope you can be happy around her, and enjoy the time you get.

  • All of these comments highlight for me another cheater commonality–they may not believe in consequences, but they sure are invested in a statute of limitations. Some of them might think the statute kicks in after two week, others two months, and some are willing to give it two years, but all of them think they are entitled to a clean slate sooner or later.

    • They sure do. So do other people whose business it is not. They expect that time is going to make you forgive and forget and declare fuckwit redeemed. They give you the; “But it’s been (insert number of months/years), why haven’t you gotten over it.” “What would I do that for?” is my standard response.
      I find that denying accusations that you are bitter, not over it, unforgiving, etc. only makes them double their efforts. “Could be. I’m okay with the way I am, but thanks for your concern.” is what I give them.

      People in general tend to think forgiveness is important. That idea came from religion, but also it’s for the sake of their own comfort. We make them uncomfortable because we judge shitty people. That tells me they have skeletons in their own closet.

        • I think the opposite. I want to *remember* as in *never forget* that FW is not my friend and he has given me a million reasons not to trust him about anything. He figuratively burnt down the house with the kids and me in it. As my marriage and divorce recedes farther into my past, and I recover and get healthier and happier, it is easier to forget all the reasons why. And I don’t want to live with that constantly in my headspace because it hinders me from living in the now. Some people have a list of the worst sins so they don’t forget. Mine has a family rap sheet miles long and keeps adding to it with the kids. My mantra is ‘not your friend’. Recently he reminded me quite by accident—I have full custody/he has visitation. He was making a list by text of demands and assertions. I said no. He tried to convince me and I said nothing, since I already said what I said. He usually keeps it polite. However, He then proceeded to text me a paragraph of vile swear words to describe me —a text meant for his significant other. He then did impression management to which I did not respond. It was a wake up call about how he talks about me to others. No matter how polite they are—remember that they are not your friend. Look to their actions especially and not the words.

          • Document that shit, O&U. It’s always good to have ammo in your back pocket and you have proof he is verbally abusive.

          • Yikes.

            Also, I love the concept of using a mantra as a substitution for the unending scroll of FW offenses. Works just as well (better, in fact) to remind/validate that s/he sucks. Sometimes, even a word/phrase will do it: word salad, TFC, FW, barbed wire monkey. Interrupt the painful memory, acknowledge it with the word/mantra, and let it go.

      • Some people seem to conflate “moving on” with “forgiving.”

        X and associates assume I haven’t “moved on” because I haven’t forgiven. And by “forgiven” they really mean “resumed contact” and “pretended that nothing bad happened.”

        Their attitude lacks empathy. It’s all about them, not me or my well-being. I’m not doing something that they NEED to feel better about the entire, sordid affair.

        They don’t appreciate the abuse and the lasting pain. Instead, they further the abuse by accusing me of being vindictive and somehow (sadly) lacking in the eyes of God.

        • I wrote “sadly” because x-MIL gives the message that it’s sad that I am so lacking in grace, unlike her. Apparently, she God’s chosen one.🙄

          So glad I don’t have to deal with that woman anymore. #divorceperk

          • It is a fantastic perk. My ex-MIL is a holy roller too. She also could talk the ears off a donkey, and the same with his sister. Bla bla bla, and mostly narcissistic noise about how awesome they are with references to Jesus sprinkled in. Apparently, Jesus values them so highly that their prayers about incredibly trivial things are answered. Yet their lives suck. They live together in a filthy apartment in a bad neighborhood and they refuse to even get badly needed medical help. MIL’S condo was foreclosed on because she doesn’t pay her bills. Then she lost most of her belongings by not paying a storage bill. She won’t even answer the phone because of all the calls from collection agencies. Gee, I wonder why Jesus won’t fix all that. She’s delusional and I feel sorry for her, but I’m so glad I never have to listen to that nattering again. Yay!

            By any chance is your MIL an evangelical Christian? Those are usually the ones who never shut up about religion.

            • Hmm. Not sure about evangelical. I think she belongs to a sect called: United Self-Righteous Invalidating Methodists (Narc chapter)

              (apologies to Methodists)

  • Something that has worked for me when busy bodies are on a forgiveness trolling jag (family, friends, even a total stranger on one occasion) and have lectured me that I should be friends with the fuckwit. I say; “Whatever for?” That puts the brakes on with most of them but you’ll get the occasional “for the sake of the chiiiiildren” whine in response. I just answer that the kids wouldn’t get any tangible benefit from us being friends. Or if they say not to be bitter; “Whatever for?” works for that as well. If they say I should stop being bitter and forgive for the sake of my own mental health/soul/happiness (a forgiveness troll classic) I respond that I get to decide what is best for me, not them. Then I tell them the subject is permanently closed.

    I suppose they think I’m a meany-headed harpy and tell themselves no wonder he cheated with a wife like that. Oh well. When you get chumped, you really need to stop caring what people think of you. I had a head start on that one, but not making some sarcastic response to their nervy comments is still difficult. I have learned to let opportunities to insult the fuckwit and to list his flaws and misdeeds go by. They don’t care what fuckwit did and why I won’t be friends, they are the kind of people who just want everybody to make nice and pretend nothing happened so they can feel better. I don’t understand that point of view, but it is what it is. You’ll get there, SC.

  • In a nutshell: As long as you, SC, keep behaving like you’re in a “relationship” with Cheater, then you are. STOP all the “voicing” and asking.

  • My Ex (now official) also commented:
    “I thought we would retain something”
    What is there to retain after so much lying, cheating, secrets, sneakiness?
    We did not have children together, so it was easier to go completely NC.
    As for bitter? I’m troubled by that accusation from people. In all honesty? I am still VERY bitter, but I also feel I have moved on.
    If anyone dare accuse me of being bitter, I think I would answer: yes, I am.
    Is it possible to be both? Moved on and bitter?
    Is that fact that I feel I will be bitter for the rest of my life make me delusional about feeling I’m over him?
    Can’t help it. I’m happy now, but damn, I am bitter about what he did! Hmmm.

    • I think one can move on have a happy fulfilled life and still suffer some pain over the trauma they endured. I wouldn’t really call it bitter, just human.

      I know one can move on have a fulfilled joyful life and really never think much about the trauma for years, then boom one day they treat your child and his family like shit, actually attempt to steal from them, and it bubbles up again, only now in the form of an angry mama bear.

    • TooManyTears, you are voicing exactly what I was thinking about this morning. These thoughts were triggered by upcoming spring break visit from adult son, my DIL, and the grandchildren. They live out of state & this will be the first visit back “home” since the divorce last year, 36 year marriage. They both said it will be different coming back, with parents who don’t live together. Time will be precious, and limited, due to my making it clear last summer that I will not “play happy family” after working so hard to get away from from him. They are honoring my decision. I have told them simple facts about XH secret life.
      I thought about retirement, “I thought we’d be planning out vacations together to see all the kids. Now I have to work hard at saving money to have a few nice days.”

      I thought about decisions for my adult son who has a disability. “How much longer can I keep up with all his appointments, his medications, & reapplying for disability?”

      I thought about my neighborhood. “Will they be ashamed of my mother living here?” It’s safe, but it may not look safe to someone who doesn’t know the area.

      I don’t have a bad life. I am not bitter. I am thrilled to be away from the abuser. It’s a hugely different life than I had thought I had, then learned I didn’t. The abuser is the one I loved even when it was difficult, the one I trusted, the one I planned on being with forever. It’s all changed.
      Im still trying to wrap my head around it.
      Thank you for CL & CN who can give all kinds of advice/experience about how to respond to the situations we find ourselves in.

      Stress chump, you are an awesome dad! Your daughter is growing up with an involved father. That means everything.

      • UpAndOut,

        It’s so tough. I, too, was married for more than 3 decades when D-day hit. Those 30+years together followed by the discard hurt like hell.

        I hope your visit with the kids goes well and that every day gets a little bit better. I love your insistence that you won’t play happy family. A boundary!

        These FWs take so much from us, but they can’t take away our integrity and hopes for the future. Wherever we find ourselves living, whatever the circumstances, we need to hold our heads high. We didn’t cheat. We didn’t cause the FW to cheat.

        ((hugs))

    • Congrats for making it official! 🙌

      And as far as “retaining something” much like STDs after thorough treatment and getting the all clear, I’d rather not risk further exposure, thank you very much!

    • Would people say we were bitter for shunning physical abusers? I would call it “repulsed.” Criminals, embezzlers, liars and back-stabbers revolt me. It’s wise to heed that churning gut reaction.

  • IMO it certainly is possible. If you don’t think about fuckwit that much anymore and no longer care for him, that means you’ve moved on. At the same time you can dislike and not want to be around fuckwit because fuckwit hurt you and is a craptacular person. That’s totally normal and okay in my book. It’s also normal to never really be over getting hurt that badly. It doesn’t mean you’re not over the fuckwit himself. Your pain belongs to you and nobody gets to dictate how you should handle it.

        • Do what feels best for YOU.Sometimes this is trial and error. The truth is, the liars and cheaters NEVER win. Living with themselves is their punishment. Simple as that. Honestly and integrity will always reign supreme, even if it feels like we have lost everything important to us. No one can ever take that away. Ever.

    • “It’s also normal to never really be over getting hurt that badly. It doesn’t mean you’re not over the fuckwit himself. Your pain belongs to you and nobody gets to dictate how you should handle it.”

      Love this. Thank you, OHFFS!

    • I’ve thought about this, too. My ex hurt me, and I am still hurting from what he did and what I’ve lost, but I don’t think he could hurt my *feelings* now, even if he tried. I don’t love, respect or talk to him; I trust he sucks; and I don’t give a shit what he thinks about me (with his alleged mind). At this point, he couldn’t do much more to hurt me more than he already has. I no longer rely on him in any way. I already left my home and started over. He can’t hurt me financially worse than he did, and I’m already recovering. He already lied about me and I’m over it. I’ll never let him near me again physically. If I engaged with or outed him, I’m sure he could find a way to hurt me, but I’m not going there.

      And still, there were some heavy consequences and I’ll be dealing with some for years, some maybe forever. I guess that’s where the GAL/forgiveness for ME piece comes in. I don’t want to keep hurting forever.

  • She is just playing power trip mind fucking games. My ex’s way of fucking with me is to include this phrase in emails: “I’m sure our communication will improve over time and our ability to co parent will become easier.”
    Unpacking that – he means that my communication needs improving and that one day I’ll be back under his control.
    I’ve stood my ground and not set eyes on him during the child drop offs. I literally hid when he came to the door. At school events he would maybe show up and we wouldn’t sit together. But now he’s moved away and we don’t hear from him much. But, in the rare times we have to interact, he tries to sabotage plans and get control of the situation. They never change. The best thing to do is not to dish out kibbles and don’t expect any kindness or decency from them at all.

    • “ – he means that my communication needs improving and that one day I’ll be back under his control.”

      Bingo. What a delusional FW.

  • I think all the drivel and BS the ex is spouting at the OP deserves the textual or verbal equivalent of a grunt in response– a certain kind of grunt.

    Since my close friend’s stalwart husband of 20 years isn’t famous and doesn’t have an internet footprint, I can only point to his dead-ringer double as a kind of behavioral i-ching for the purpose of dealing with FWS: the actor Tom Hardy in his more reticent roles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMMyvL0KR5s

    My close friend is a close friend because she and I have stirred the pot together several times in the community we both used to live in, always for good cause. For instance, for the sake of children’s safety in school, she turned herself into a controversial lighting rod just by asking questions and then eventually organizing a community meeting. Because a lot of people in that district are uncivilized but sneaky brutes, some (who seem to like having credibly and repeatedly alleged child molesters working in the local school system?) attempted to bring her to heel by approaching her husband, possibly in the hopes he was an abuser and had her on a short leash, which was far from the case. I saw him put these types off with a maximum of about three words or sometimes just a grunt and a look askance. They would just blanch and back slowly away. There was absolutely no violence in his demeanor or voice, just the ultimate dismissal.

    That grunt is so loaded with “Meh” it seems like it must have taken fourteen generations of lumbering, reticent Finns to hone and polish. Anyway, Tom Hardy to a “t.” My friend’s husband doesn’t have a hillbilly accent so the accent is optional, though it would be fun. An imaginary Howard wielding a gas nozzle is also optional.

  • OK, you’re doing ok except for one thing. Please stop torturing yourself with the concept that she was the love of your life.

    That ride has left the station–as it has for many of us.

    We were misinformed by our belief systems that how we felt was shared by the object of our desire.

    When you accept that she is not and never was the love of your life, just your hope that she was (which she encouraged I am sure), then you can move past this with less pain.

    Hang in there.

  • Stress Chump,

    Have a professional, business relationship of co-parenting. That means be brief and informative with communication about co-parenting. Everything else is radio silence. Her bad actions should have consequences. That’s a very important lesson for your daughter to know so she grows into a responsible adult.

  • I’m never not blown away by the scary similarities of these stories. Wth?!
    It’s seriously like they are all made in the same misfit toy factory with the exact same specs, it’s hard to digest it’s a real thing at all, and that’s after years of dealing with it myself.
    FWs are so driven for you to comply with their warped plans coming to fruition ( control) and frustrated as all hell that you won’t buy into it. ( For the sake of the kids, of course. If they even gave a damn about the kids, there would be no need for chump nation to rely on for support. )
    They are sooo desperate to be acknowledged as good, decent people, even though, I do believe, they know they really aren’t.
    They do know it in the nanosecond they introspect every 10 years or so, which they try very hard to avoid.
    They can’t produce anything internally to fill themselves up, so they search externally for that daily refill to literally survive the day.
    Their tank has hundreds of holes in the bottom and drains out constantly, they are on that unending search for kibble refills from dawn to dusk. It’s got to be completely exhausting, really nothing there to envy at all about their lives. Pretty sick and sad.
    They like to turn the table around ( DARVO) and convince everyone that they just want to move on and “let bygones be bygones” so that YOU become the obstacle to everyone just being happy and getting along so nice.
    Why can’t we have lunch with them, take a family trip, texts them on the regular, share info about the kids together, etc and so on. I am destroying the bond of my family, not him, he wants to maintain a connection. How selfish of me. ( so he can hurt me forever more is the true goal in mind)
    We completely screwed up their plan.
    They didn’t in fact become this magnanimous, all giving model of humanity overnight, they are still and will remain sub par beings on this planet.
    But the narrative must be controlled to maintain face, the frantic need for image management that obsesses their entire lives and the reason they do anything.
    It’s pretty dark, but it’s truly who they are.
    So, as long as you are willing to eat those shit sandwiches she’s been serving up cold, she gets to remain a bright shining star of light in the world, the better person in the sad story.
    They alone have risen above all the little people’s problems of cheating and destroying families, that’s so yesterday in their minds, they’ve moved on to the next diorama to dwell in for awhile, until they blow that one up and move on once more. I guess until they are dead is the plan.
    They HATE that they can’t get you on board. Why can’t you just invest in the plan?!?
    Solid Cl advice as always. Stay the course, focus in on your daughter as you are, on the love you share with her, that’s the gold in life, your cheater ex will never see it.
    Be the parental model of sane ness in a deeply fucked up life drama. It’s a pretty hard gig, but none more worth it.
    You don’t need a relationship with a toxic person to achieve that.
    Your ex has not earned the right to be in your life, shut her out.
    She gets to be the annoying static in the background from time to time, nothing more.
    She will gradually grow to realize that her perceived greatness doesn’t have any value in a genuine truthful world and she’ll just hang with the other misfit toys of society. ( sounds like she found herself a real package, dumping his three kids to start over again, a real quality individual!)
    The worst thing you can do to a cheating narcissist, is move them out of the center of the universe. She’s just Pluto now, unworthy and cast off, light years away.
    But none of this comes without pain to those who trusted and gave all they had.
    It does suck! 👎
    I’m glad your daughter has you as her rock solid foundation, she will not get that from her mother, who can see no one else’s needs as significant but her own.
    Your influence in your daughter’s life has and will continue to have immeasurable value and there will be many adventures and cherished memories for the two of you. My bond with my three adult kids is stronger than ever, and it’s never been weak. I honestly would repeat the 38 years married to get the same kids again, and that’s saying something cause it was pretty awful the last 10 years!
    We just have to be stronger than we ever imagined we would ever have to be. And we will be.

  • Five years since Dday and three since divorce and he is STILL trying to get me to be friends with the OW/ now wife.

    It’s beyond annoying.

  • Manipulating you into drinking their Kool-Aid and “playing nice” would give them an appearance of having integrity. It is 100% image management.

  • Hello OP.
    I would say if you really love your daughter then you will do whatever it takes to be with her. She will be a full-grown woman one day and you will walk her down the aisle.
    You will be a grandpa. And life will go on.

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