Stay in Touch

Check out CL's Book

I’m a Civil Co-Parent. Isn’t That Enough?

bitchDear Chump Lady,

I was married for 7 years and turns out had a sham marriage and was chumped throughout and left for younger OW. I divorced him a year ago and I’ve been rebuilding a life with my 8-year-old son ever since. The road has not been easy, but it was addition by subtraction and my life is peaceful for the most part.

We have a custody agreement in place and he pays child support on time. He also picks up our son for parenting time when it’s his weekend. I’ve taken your advice and many others from CN to gray rock, use a coparenting app, treat this situation as me being a silent business partner, using BIFF communication, and not chasing/organizing time as that is his responsibility and documenting it appropriately.

I have told my son the age appropriate truth about why I divorced his father — facts with no editorializations. When my son has asked me if I would love his father again, I would tell him I don’t love him anymore because he lied and broke the rules about being married. I also had to deal with the fallout from my son of telling him by myself that we were divorcing (lots of tears — it was heartbreaking).

As it’s a process, I am working through with the resentment of having to take on the full parenting role while he gets to play Disneyland dad every other weekend and live a carefree life and pretend to be a great dad to the public while he destroyed a family. But I am also trying to reframe this knowing that I am there with my son for the big moments and the little moments and being the sane parent for him.

Whenever my son talks about his father to me or the weekend he spent with his dad — I use the “cool, wow, bummer” response and move on to a different topic or sometimes I will “sigh” or roll my eyes or make a face from what my son has pointed out to me and he will get frustrated or ask me why I do that when he talks to me about his father. When I do this, I try to do this out of sight. It’s no dig against my son at all, but I get a visceral reaction which I am trying work on — I think I may need to work on my poker face. I will try to play it off and change the subject, but I don’t have anything nice to say or have a conversation about his father, so I say nothing or change the subject. Quite honestly every time he brings up his father — I want to sing “The Vermin Man” song about him (it starts at 00:50 mark).

I also have family members (who know firsthand the situation) who tell me I need to bite the bullet and be the one present for custody exchanges and talk with FW when he comes for our son to “keep the peace.” If I do answer the door, my son is already ready to go right out the door and I open it up just enough for my son to go through after saying my goodbyes beforehand. I also have had people ask me if there would be any point in the future that we would be civil enough to get to the point of possibly being at an event together if our son wants it.

Am am I being petty or bitter because I don’t want to discuss the FW or be in his presence? Does it make me seem like I still am not over what he did to us? The gaslighting, cheating, abandonment, stalking, harassment and the lies don’t exactly whip me into a positive verbal frenzy.

I know I need to play the long game on this one, but I already feel like I am being civil by saying what I need to say to FW when necessary, and not being in his presence or talking about him in front of our child (I was called a coward for choosing not to engage).

Thank you for all of your help CL!

FreefromFW

****

Dear FreefromFW,

These people who are sniping from the sidelines about your parenting need to STFU.

You just divorced him a year ago, after eight straight years of “gaslighting, cheating, abandonment, stalking, harassment and lies.”

It’s like being run over by a bus and being asked, “Why aren’t you a triathlete? Surely your bones must’ve set by now.”

You’re doing all the sane parent things. First off, you’re the show-up parent to his every-other-weekend Disney Dad schtick. That’s HUGE. Second, you’re doing your very best to deflect, not editorialize, or slop your enormous grief on to your son. Also HUGE. Third, you’re abiding by the court order. You give him his time, you aren’t triangulating your kid, being unavailable, or otherwise screwing with your FW ex. That makes you a solid citizen. Gold star.

The grace with which you do hostage drop-offs? None of the Peanut Gallery’s fucking concern.

I also have family members (who know firsthand the situation) who tell me I need to bite the bullet and be the one present for custody exchanges and talk with FW when he comes for our son to “keep the peace.”

Why?

Does the court order insist that you personally hand off your child and not Aunt Linda? Can a third grader not walk to a car unassisted? Is there some bylaw that says you need to make chitchat?

No? Then you are keeping the peace. You’re following the court order. That’s ENOUGH. You know what’s keeping the peace? Not gouging his eyeballs out with a hot poker. You should be commended for your restraint.

There may come a day when you can run the Fuckwit Triathlon, and withstand his presence. But you aren’t there yet. You may never be there. And that’s okay. It says nothing about your future Meh either.

I don’t care if my cheating ex lives or dies or has tuna casserole for dinner. Meh. But I wouldn’t want to be trapped in an elevator with him either. Any conversation would begin and end with “You’re a terrible person.”

Oh that’s so churlish of you, Tracy. 

Really? Because is he is — point of fact — a terrible person. And the people who insist that you be friendly with your abusers (your ex was a serial cheater who abandoned you with a child, and then forced you to divorce HIM) don’t seem to believe terrible people exist.

I mean, bully for them. If they’ve gone through life unscarred. If they’ve never been terrified by someone, or stalked, or bullied, or betrayed. If that’s the case, then they have zero business telling you how to navigate contact with a Terrible Person.

But if they ever have crossed paths with a Terrible Person — let’s say Ivan in the 5th grade used to stick their head in the toilet every day for a year — would THEY want to spend time with Ivan?

He’s changed a lot. He sells cryptocurrency now. A family man.

NO. It would probably give them chills to think about seeing Ivan.

Now imagine breeding with Ivan, and investing years of your life with Ivan. Only to learn he is an Ivan.

Try this mental empathy exercise on them.

I also have had people ask me if there would be any point in the future that we would be civil enough to get to the point of possibly being at an event together if our son wants it.

YOU ARE BEING CIVIL. 

WTF is “civil enough”? The whole set up of this question implies you’re failing at civility.

There is no way to co-parent with a fuckwit and not have to be at events together. There are sports banquets, choral concerts, games — and later in life, weddings. But you don’t have to go as a couple with your ex, okay? Because you ARE NOT A COUPLE. You can politely sit across the room. You can endure his presence because you’re there for your son. Because that’s who you are — the SHOW UP PARENT. And Uncle Daddy is a tourist.

if our son wants it.

When my son was 8, he wanted to climb a tree into his bedroom and not use the front door. He wanted potato chips for dinner, and to liberate the worms in our garden by letting them live in the bathtub.

He was not someone I trusted with major decisions.

YOU are the parent. You matter. Whoever is asking this question is trying to bludgeon you into some slap-happy narrative of Conscious Uncoupling For The Children.

That’s not possible. As painful as it is, that your son or your extended family, want a happy family narrative, that everyone still loves one another and wishes each other the best — that’s not possible. NOT because you’re Uncivil, but because he is an abuser.

Period. Full stop.

Because he’s a person who defrauded you, risked your health, betrayed you and terrorized you. Your reaction to that abuse, is to avoid him, because that’s a natural, normal, healthy reaction.

It’s heartbreaking for everyone — especially YOU — that this is the situation you find yourself in. But it’s the reality. And grown-ups deal in reality.

No potato chips for dinner. No small talk with fuckwits.

Keep rocking your new life.

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.
  • You need to Gray rock these people. My first thought is how dare they pass judgement on you. It is YOUR life. If you have to be in their presence give them a stoney silence. If they keep it up ask them why they have the right to tell you how to live your life. If they use the age old only trying to help shit tell you will ask if you need help. Then turn away, leave, hang up. Your option are to continue the conversation or shut it down.

    • I don’t know that she needs to gray rock them.

      I didn’t with people in my circle – but that’s because of the link I see between being chumped and cultural competency. Most of what I teach falls under “environmental science” but that includes a lot of work around environmental racism. I find that people, in general, do not like to feel uncomfortable. When I teach about systemic racism, a lot of students, feel discomfort. I am understanding, but firm, that it is not my job to make sure you’re comfortable.

      This gave me a lot of perspective post-d-day in dealing with people that “didn’t want to choose” or couldn’t understand why we couldn’t just keep up our work and relationships in the same way in the community. I came at them with – after all the abuse and humiliation I suffered – it’s not my job to make sure they ALSO feel comfortable with everything.

      Most of that “make peace” is so that others do not have to feel uncomfortable.

      It’s definitely putting even more guilt, grief, and duty on the chump.

      Certainly, going grey rock with people is an option. But most people, if they can avoid thinking about abuse, and humiliation, whether it’s historical or the experience of a friend, will go out of their way to not feel uncomfortable. This can feel like gas lighting. But I personally gave people around me the option of staying in my life while also being clear I was not going to make sure they felt “ok” about everything and I was not going to educate them about why cheating is abuse.

      • Are you a guy and, if so, are you very tall or just generally imposing? I ask because a lot of chumps– maybe especially women but also men who seem open, approachable, especially warm– are forced to go gray rock with extended family or formerly close contacts who attack our choices because the boundary-crossing and judgy-ness from the peanut gallery literally never stops and often carries severe consequences.

        Not to imply you’re not a warm person but some people, maybe men in particular, just give off that enviable don’t “mess with me” vibe so that would-be boundary-crossers, being the big stinking cowards they are, heed. Meanwhile others of us– maybe due to no fault of our own but just due to perceptions of others (we’re short or soft spoken or just effusive and Mediterranean?)– appear “breachable.” If you’re among the breachable-seeming types, the more time you let the boundary-breachers breach, the more personal intel they gather which which to destroy your social life, reputation or even threaten custody of your children or professional standing.

        I would suggest that even for people who seem to be generally inviolate to others that they consider people’s intentions rather than the actual harm they do. I can remember times when I was so on top of the world that my detractors seemed like gnats or little yapping dogs nipping my ankles. I let them hang around because they weren’t actually hurting me. But then I experienced moments of misfortune and suddenly I wasn’t so invulnerable. The gnats turned to vipers and the yappy dogs turned into pit bulls and did what they’d always secretly sought to do: draw blood. Since then I consider people’s intentions not just their effect because shit happens.

        • I do love Chump Nation for the insight and intelligent reflection. Thank you Dr D and Hell of a Chump for your really valuable perspectives.

          As someone from a number of crappy clubs (Dead Kid Club, Cheating Weirdo Ex Club, Kid with Disabling Mental Health Issues Club), I 1000% agree with that assessment of the general population’s incapacity to feel uncomfortable.

          BUT. Many of these people are actually good people. I have siblings in this category. They’re just not particularly brave, or able to grasp situations/experiences outside their own. That’s ok.

          While I do agree though with you Hell of a Chump that it’s not straightforward – sorting out those that will stay benign, and those that will lunge when given the opportunity – I have come to know that you don’t exactly need to divide people into grey rock vs totally real. It’s a matter of depth.

          I know that sounds awful because I am a totally a proponent of *real* relationships meaning honesty, authenticity, vulnerability etc. But I also think that it’s possible, and in fact reduces discomfort for ME, to maintain a number of friendships/relationships that Just Aren’t That Deep. They’re ok too, in their way. I can’t live on a tiny island with very few people on it. In can’t cut off All of people who really do think they are “caring”, or “being supportive”.

  • Everything CL said.

    This past weekend was M the Younger’s high school graduation. I sat together with my other daughter, my mother, and three of M’s friends in the stands. Kunty Kibbler and Chlorine Special sat somewhere else, I have no idea where. After the ceremony, everyone gathered at a corner of the field for pics. We did the dreaded Dad-Mom-kids pics, as well as every other variation — CS even took the ‘family only’ pics for me using my phone. Everyone had big smiles and congratulations, good vibes all around, but KK and I didn’t even look at each other (much less speak to each other) and if it was at all awkward for anybody, it wasn’t obvious.

    We’re 5+ years out from the divorce being finalized. My daughters know the score and as far as I know, the whole thing is pretty much business as usual. You and your son are still in the early stages — he and you and everyone else will get to this BAU stage and not think twice about it. As with everything else relating to breeding with fuckwits, it’s a slow stead course. Remain firm in what you’re doing now, it will pay off later.

    • At my grandsons HS graduation, my husband and I sat together on one side of the room and my son and his dad sat on the other side. My son came over and of course invited us over to sit with him, but I used the excuse that I needed to sit further down in the bleachers. (which I did, because being to high up made me dizzy).

      Anyway my husband had a fancy new camera, which had a really powerful zoom lens, and he was setting it up to take some good pictures. I saw my ex and his whore sitting a couple rows down from my son. I told my H to look over at my son. I said do you see that old fat guy with the long mountain man beard? He said yes. I said that is my ex. He looked at me weird, and said he looks way older than you.

      When my grand daughter graduated from HS four years later, we actually sat a row down from FW and whore, and they acted like ignorant teenagers. My grandson had to actually change seats with them because they were pissing of the lady who sat in front of them.

      As far as mingling with them, we just did the cursory nod thing. Actually fw had difficulty looking me in the eyes. Whore tried to chat a bit, but I smiled and did the “uh huh, uh huh” thing a couple times and moved on.

      • Not only is she a whore, she is a stupid whore to ever think you will ever chitchat with her.

        • But they get to imagine they are “ the bigger person” for trying to engage you, that’s what his mistress is attempting on you. They want you to appear bitter and sour after all those years and just not letting it go and moving on to the ‘new reality.’
          Well, YOUR reality does not include a cheating con artist and his slithering accomplice and doesn’t need to.
          Like the Emperors New Clothes, only you know he’s bare ass naked and everyone else is imagining what they would like him to be.
          It’s all in the image management plan.
          My ex does the same with celebrations sending me “ Happy Birthday!” messages or “ Happy Mother’s Day!”, for the last 5 years, which he now just writes the whole message in the subject line because I think he’s beginning to realize I do not respond and barely even read emails unless absolutely necessary and it’s been driving him totally bonkers. He just despises the loss of control over me. Feels powerful for me to just ignore the fricker.
          My kids are 31,30 and 29, so they already know their dad is an A-hole from their own experiences of dealing with him. They hold nothing against me whatsoever for choosing close to zero communication with the man.
          I think they are actually are somewhat relieved I chose that stance and celebrate my mighty for doing it. They feel he doesn’t deserve to be in my life and that’s exactly the way I feel about it too.
          Don’t listen to those flying monkeys trying to guilt trip you. You don’t have to make nice with your abuser for the sake of your son when it’s not healthy for you. You owe him nothing and you matter a great deal. The hurt caused to your son is on his loser dad and his lame ass choices in life, you didn’t create his dysfunction and hold no responsibility for trying to band aid it all together.He just sucks, that’s not on you.
          Stick with what you know is healthy to your head and heart and if you have to lose some ppl that want you to ‘make peace for your son’s sake’, they can leave too.
          Your plan is solid and you don’t need to feel any guilt for not wanting him near your life. He doesn’t deserve ypu. There are consequences to abusing people that just can never be fixed.

    • This is a world I never wanted to be a part of and can’t stomach the FW dropping off S15 every other week.He is well aware of what did. She walks around pretending to be the victim at these events. It makes me want to scream but i just ignore her.
      A switzerland friend churchlady said ‘you need to be friends for your son’s sake, there are 2 sides to every story” I replied that it is “tough to justify cheating, especially when your spouse is sick. It is tough to justify her being with 3 different married men (that we know about) but if you can, good for you. I am sure she would never do anything with your husband……. but that is what the other 3 women thought.”

      • Spot on response Dr Chump, well said! That ‘two sides to every story’ shit infuriates me. Victim blaming

      • I absolutely hate the “two sides to every story” crap. Yep, my side is that I worked full time, paid all the bills, did all the work around the house, took care of our four kids, and was criticized. His side is that he was too depressed to work or contribute, and was a serial cheater and blames me because I didn’t make him feel good about himself.

  • If any of these people giving you this “advice” are Switzerland friends, or are HIS family, cut them off immediately. If they are your family, put them on an information diet. I assume they know what custody exchanges are like because you are telling them. Unfortunately, you need to stop giving them this level of detail. How did the custody exchange go? It went just fine. If the people saying these things to you are your chosen friends, think about whether or not they are the type of friends you want to have in your life. I had to cut off more then one person who I thought was a friend in the wake of my divorce. It’s painful, but it was necessary for my safety.

    • Truer words have not been spoken. And if they want to believe the FW’s story then so be it. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

  • CL speaks the whole truth. Her response is complete and covers everything you need to hear.

    Everyone else? NO!

    Your doing amazingly well and are a great example of being mighty and being a sane parent. I’m sure all the comments will agree.
    Just keep doing the great job you’re doing!

    Will it get easier over the years? Im talking 10 years and on.
    Probably.
    But that’s not your goal.

    You goal is to keep on doing what’s best for you and your son. And it sounds like you’re doing just that.
    Good for you 👏🏼

  • Agree 100% with CL.

    I think this is a form of gaslighting–people telling us that we should be over it implies that they think that “it” couldn’t have been so bad.

    And people really are uncomfortable with unpleasantness. They want everything to be ok again.

    One friend even suggested that if he invited me and the FW to a wedding, we might “hug it out.”😳 People don’t get it.

      • One of the few things that I deeply regret is that I offered a goodbye hug, not long after he filed for D. He was putting the laundry room back together after it had been ripped out due to termites. I think I was still in the trying to touch his heart phase of my own fog.

        So he deigned to hug me, and hung there like a limp dishrag. Humiliated me again with my help. I mean down the line I got to tell him to go to hell when he wanted to be friends, and another time when he wanted to “try again”, still pisses me off though. He should have never had the pleasure of touching me again.

        I would advise all new chumps, don’t let him/her touch you ever again.

        • Yes to this! I turned down his offered goodbye hug, thank goodness, but did offer a hug at his mother’s funeral (she died v suddenly while me and the kids were staying with her) and he totally did the limp dishrag you described! Ew, will never touch him again.

        • “I would advise all new chumps, don’t let him/her touch you ever again.”

          Excellent advice, Susie Lee. Made me want to throw up then, and it’s still nauseating to think back on.

    • That’s so gross, Spinach. How do you keep up a relationship with blithering idiot “friends” like that? You must have a lot of patience.

      • Eh. I used the word “friend” loosely. I rarely see that guy, but I *am* friends with his wife. She, too, was appalled by the hug-it-out comment. She said she set him straight.🤷🏻‍♀️

    • Spinach, to be a fair person requires inteligence, which covers having a minimum amount of imagination.

  • Yeah, 1 year post divorce and they are like ‘play nice.’ I agree that civility in this case is just physically and verbally restraining yourself. Good job. Commentators can go and find some other issue to chatter on about.

  • I absolutely agree with CL about “no small talk with f*ckwits.”

    In the early days after the now Ex-Mrs LFTT left the kids and I to be with her AP, she started complaining to our 3 children (then 11, 16 and 18) that “Daddy doesn’t talk to me about anything when I come to pick you up, he only asks if you 3 have got everything that you need and what time I’ll be bringing you back.”

    Our youngest (who was and is a feisty young lady) shut this down with “If one of my friends did to me what you did to Daddy I wouldn’t speak to him at all,” which got the message across. It also earned youngest a telling off from now Ex-Mrs LFTT because – apparently – she shouldn’t be judging her mother.

    As for what CL refers to as the “Peanut Gallery,” they can f*ck right off. I had a distant “sort of Uncle” try to lecture me last month when he realised how little the children have to d with their mother. He gave me the full on “children need their mother and it’s your job to fix their relationship with her” schtick, complete with bells and whistles. I was pretty terse with him … I simply pointed out that, the children were now all adults (they are now 18, 23 and 26) and that if they chose not to have her in their lives then that is their choice and I have no right nor need to second guess them. I also pointed out that my mother does a fantastic job of cover any of the “mother roles” that I can’t address and to the point that my MIL has said that she couldn’t have asked for a better mother figure for her grandchildren.

    In sum, I would add “f*ck the Peanut Gallery” to “no small talk with f*ckwits.”

    LFTT

    • “Our youngest (who was and is a feisty young lady) shut this down with “If one of my friends did to me what you did to Daddy I wouldn’t speak to him at all,” which got the message across. It also earned youngest a telling off from now Ex-Mrs LFTT because – apparently – she shouldn’t be judging her mother.”

      Love the insight of your youngest.
      Also, isn’t it fun when the FWs lecture others on how to behave?

      • S@35,

        Ex-Mrs LFTT’s is (and always was) very quick to criticise others and yet she is also very thin skinned; she sees any form of criticism (even constructive criticism) as a full-frontal personal attack and will react accordingly. I think that her issue is a lack of self awareness combined with an absence of empathy; she has never appeared able (or willing?) to pause to think “do I occupy the moral high ground here?” or “how would I feel if the roles were reversed?” before letting rip. Sadly, I can’t remember the last time that she lived up to the standards that she expects of others.

        Thankfully her lecturing me or the kids happens much less frequently now than it used to. She is becoming less and less relevant to the kids as each day passes, and she is only relevant to me as my childrens’ egg-donor; the fact that I was married to her for 26 years counts for f*ck all in my book.

        LFTT

        • LFTT, I think we may have had this conversation before, but you just perfectly described Borderline Personality Disorder. My mother had it for sure and it is maddening to suffer a person who judges everyone with exacting standards then never themselves meet the standards the demand from others. You can also argue with these people until you are blue in the face and they won’t budge from their delusional perceptions.

          • UNM,

            I do think that we have had this conversation before.

            I’m not a Doctor and I’m reluctant to try and put a label on Ex-Mrs LFTT ….. but let’s just say that she has some really challenging behaviours that have alienated a lot of people; not just me and our kids, but most of her family too. I also think that it is no coincidence that she tends to change jobs every 18 months or so, as by then her colleagues tend to have had enough of her sh*t.

            “Maddening” is one of the nicer adjectives that one might use …. but I refuse to argue with her; I can explain sh*t to her, but I can’t understand it for her.

            LFTT

    • My oldest son at 15 wrote a letter to his mother pointing out the unjustified verbal abuse she would heap on me in front him and his younger brother. He asked her stop.
      Her response was to tell me I needed to punish him for his bad attitude.
      HA!

      • Bruno,

        Well done to your son; firstly for knowing what is right, and secondly, for having the moral courage to call out bad behaviour when he sees it.

        ….. and I’d observe that FWs really don’t like it when their children see them for what they are.

        LFTT

        • LFTT they hate it – my xh no longer speaks to 3 of our 5 kids because they refused to agree with him about my evilness and his innocent victimhood. The other 2 keep contact light, uncontroversial – and infrequent.

  • Everything Chump Lady said.

    And I’ll add that I’m not secretive about FWs bad behavior. But no one really seems to care if a FW lied, cheated and gaslighted (gaslit?) YOU…. Even if you add that they stole from you, raped you or even hit you. You know what HAS shut them up? When FW was abusive to our son.

    When someone said I should be nicer to him for “son’s benefit”, I’d respond matter of factly: “I’ve tried but he’s unwilling. And after he was physically abusive to son — locking him outside their home, hitting him, shoving him, calling the police on his own 12 year old… all bets were off. I want nothing to do with FW.” And no one has questioned me since.

    It took some of these things to happen while I was with friends… where they could hear the crazy coming out from FW through my phone for them to see the shit we deal with.

    You owe no one anything. Do what’s best for your own mental health and what you feel works best for you and your son.

    • Michelle shocked-While I understand that most of society would have little tolerance for abuse toward a child it saddens me that abuse towards that child’s mother is just rickety boo.. I’m sorry and that isn’t right at all.

      • Thank you Newlady15. Early on, too many can’t believe that the “family man” they knew for so many years… that “quiet nice man who did everything with you and your son”… they can’t believe what you’re telling them. They didn’t witness the Jekyll and Hyde first hand. They didn’t get the trauma. So many just think you’re exaggerating. And early on I was a total head case and probably looked like the crazy one. It took them either getting to see the mask come off for themselves… or hearing how the kid was being mis-treated too. It was a process with my friends. It was even a process with his attorneys! I’m ok with it now. I gave grace that all of it was confusing to everyone. That’s because what FW did was so bizarre and unbelievable. And for those that STILL don’t understand or refuse to, I no longer need them in my life.

        • thanks for this. Most dont believe that sweet, tiny FW would ever cheat. Also one of her coconspirators spread rumors that I made everything up. It is very frustrating to have to deal with, but I am finally at the piont where I just dont care. We are now divorced and I got a grreat deal. That I am almost one month divorced and almost a year from DDay It will still take some time to get past the pain

  • Those relatives suck. It’s painful to come to that realization, but being chumped is one of those experiences that gives you insight into who people really are. Are they compassionate and understanding? If not, they aren’t in your corner.

    Sadly, I had to come to that conclusion about some very close relatives as well. They cared more about staying in their own little fantasy world where everybody is nicey nice than they did about my feelings. Me being chumped by an abusive POS was a dose of reality they did not want. There is evil in the world, often right under our noses, but some people want to pretend it’s not there, and they want you to help maintain the illusion for them. So if you’re friendly with FW, they can reassure themselves there isn’t any evil in the periphery if their lives and your marriage just “didn’t work out.” As opposed to the truth- he’s vile, he abused you and therefore he doesn’t deserve one more minute of your lovely self. I would talk to them about this and say if they keep it up, they’ll be out of your life. Let them make that decision. They have to choose- a relationship with you or mouthing off with their unsolicited advice.
    Don’t explain and don’t defend yourself. Let them know that this is how it is, and it’s firm and final.
    Then you’ll see if they value you enough to stop interfering.

    This approach worked with most of my relatives, though they took a while to get a clue. I actually didn’t see any of them for a year and there’s one I have never seen or spoken to since. Sometimes you do need to cut people off for the sake of your peace of mind.

    • I suspect many people wanting their version of “civility” may have their own dirty laundry.

  • civil enough. FFS.

    it’s never fucking ending.

    thin enough, thick enough, feminine enough, independent enough, dependent enough, interdependent enough, appropriate enough, inappropriate enough, funny enough–but not too bawdy. that’s crass. attractive enough to industry standards. sexy enough, demur enough, focused enough–but not too much. that’s self-absorbed. ambitious enough but don’t forget to defer. quiet enough, forward enough, loyal enough but don’t be boring. stay passionate at all times. positive enough, encouraging enough, honest enough but don’t tell the absolute truth. that’s blunt and unattractive.

    it’s never enough, as a woman.

    • Nope. You do not have to be friendly to anyone who hurts you. I told LTC Fuckface that I would never speak to him again if he cheated again. I meant that. He is dead, cold and in the ground as far as I am concerned. All that is left is to have a funeral in Elderly Chump Style.

      The very safest place for me is where ever he isn’t. He risked my life with multiple sexual partners and in an act of escalating abuse pulled a gun on me. He poses a threat that keeps me hyper vigilant. His actions left me with PTSD. That fucker doesn’t even earn civility from me.

      Those people who tell you to be friends with your abuser are complicit in the abuse. Block them. They aren’t friend material. I have one friend left. She is a chump too.

      Don’t even feel badly for eliminating them from your life. They can fuck right off to Fuckganistan.

  • This has to be one of my favorite articles written and so wish it was splattered all over other magazines who gladly talk about that “be friendly for the kids” mantra.
    My own parents did this the first couple of years and really upset me and made my anxiety and PTSD worse. I had a therapist help me. It has been seven years now and my family and relatives are JUST getting the hint I think LOL.

  • People want quick and easy solutions and don’t want to deeply understand what’s happened to you. Add to that: words matter, and “cheating” is so benign.

    “Abuse” is too broad (in my opinion – kind of like “cancer”, there’s cancer and then there’s CANCER) and most people won’t understand anyway.

    “He murdered our marriage”? I believe this is the most accurate and succinct. And it would certainly get a reaction, perhaps make people think about it in a new light.

    Apologies for rambling. I’m really sorry for the peanut gallery comments you’re getting from your non-empathetic friends, Free.

  • I so appreciate CL beginning her answer to the LW by emphasizing the time frame. One doesn’t get over eight years of abuse in a year, especially while attempting to cope with the fallout, put life back together, and begin to build a new life. I needed to hear that this morning. I was married for thirty five years (thirty-two at d-day), and moved out and divorced four years ago. Members of my family seem to think–or at least they convey the impression–that I should be conducting my life now as if neither the marriage nor the betrayal and trauma ever happened, or, worse, as if I am in the position I am in now because I made a poor choice in marrying my ex in the first place. Because I am caring for my aging mother and must maintain civil contact with others in my family in order to coordinate that care (plus I will be the executor of my mom’s estate) it’s helpful for me to think not about what my life isn’t, or to internalize the opprobrium of those in my family who would judge me deficient, but about what I have done, and am doing, to heal.

    • I was just speaking to my father about this same thing this morning. I was in a 17 year relationship, I have been divorced for 5 1/2 years and I am only recently starting to feel like the person I was before I met It (we call him It because he doesn’t qualify as a human being as far as we’re concerned). I was confident, had lots of friends, had a good job and my own place, I was a catch! It slowly chipped away at that (starting at the 6 week mark in the relationship) and made me doubt that I should exist at all because I was such a terrible person and partner. The expectation that we should “get over” abuse quickly is total bullshit. Years of psychological torture don’t disappear overnight. Anyone who says that shit to me now, I tell them we’re done. I don’t tap dance for likes anymore and cutting off a relationship over comments like that doesn’t make me lose a wink of sleep.

      • I should add, my dad is totally supportive, this was just a conversation about how I am feeling more like myself these days. My dad wasn’t suggesting I patch things up, he would push It off a cliff in a second if he got the chance.

  • LOVE the song FFFW — I just (selfishly) wish it was gender neutral.

    “Got a hole for a soul and a heart like a knife
    He let down his child and wife
    Never, ever marry him, he’ll ruin your life
    The Vermin Man!”

    • Thank you! This is a show my son and I like to watch together and it perfectly captures my sentiments about the FW ex.

  • The reason I stay grey rock, and in my lane as far as the court order goes is because dealing with the fuckwit is NOT SAFE….I will not be going down the rabbit hole that the fuckwit loves to drag me down ever again.

    Early on I learnt that verbal communication with this head blender ended up with me losing, no matter how calm I would start out.

    If someone burgled your house….you wouldn’t invite them round for tea because they are not safe….

    And there’s no coparenting with disordered fuckwits either (ask me how I know). You parallel parent to stay safe.

    My main purpose in life is to be a great mum and staying safe allows me to do that. Boundaries are there for a reason..

  • I am years out. One of the things I wish I had done better is not react when the kids would talk about their mother. My ex wife tried to justify her behavior to the kids. I told them too much. Caused a lot of pain for my kids. Let your son talk about my his father. My ex punishes my kids if they show me attention or talk positive about me. My ex refuses to be civil at life events and doesn’t put the kids first. It’s sad. But I have 1 year left before the youngest is 18.

    • Cool, Bummer, Wow saved me from a lot of intemperate animadversions on my xh to my kids. Like No Contact it goes against the natural Chump grain … but it works. So well.

    • I will try to keep this in mind. I appreciate your perspective and hopefully will get to a point where I don’t even react but it’s definitely a discipline. My mantra in my head is “I nothing you, I nothing you” about FW ex. The path to indifference.

  • FreeFromFW: You are going great. You are taking appropriate action shutting down FW, now take appropriate action shutting down the hypocrites (peanut gallery).

    • Thank you! I feel better knowing that I am indeed being civil. I don’t want a ticket for a guilt trip because i choose to keep it business and not make small talk with the FW.

  • Thankfully when I was going through the divorce my parents were of the opinion that if I didn’t follow through with the divorce that I was crazy. My father actually drew me aside and said “you ARE going to divorce him, right?” Ex was a bad egg. Is it really bad that I’m grateful that ex died shortly after the divorce? I have not had to deal with these issues of what to do if meeting up and visitation and custody. Social Security pays death benefits to the kids until they turn 18 which is far more than I would ever have gotten in child support from him, it’s regular and it’s on time.

    The only thing I have to navigate from the past is dealing with the ex’s mother. She gave comfort and support to the “happy couple” throughout. Ex was her only child and my two kids are her only grandchildren. They have fond memories of her from earlier in their childhood. She’s attending my youngest’s 8th grade graduation ceremony this Thursday and is staying overnight the night before. I had to consult with my tribe of supporters about that but we came to the conclusion that it wasn’t a big deal, it was one night, and she’ll be gone the next day. Otherwise, we haven’t seen or heard much from her at all since Christmas. And if she says anything to me, I’ll shut her down.

    I’ve reached meh. Chumplady and chump nation are hugely important in helping me get there.

  • I am fed up with people who do not understand legal, or family connection does not equate to obligation to interact with someone. “But he was your husband, father of your children, . . . your father . . .your mother, . . . your sister. . . ad infinitum. There are toxic people everywhere, and chances are you are related to some of them in some way. Chumps try to be “nice” and “do the right thing” but there is a terrible emotional price to pay for that. Even if the toxic one has an illness of some type, that does not make them less toxic for you.

    Our social world would benefit from a big dose of STFU and Mind Your Own Business. We get no extra points for going out of our way to be the sane one in a situation. Everyone has an opinion. Great, keep it to yourself when it comes to my business. Thanks.

    I am also sick of social niceties, including lies. One of my long-term friends had two horrible husbands. The most recent one just died. His obituary makes me want to hurl. I wonder who it was written for, or about. It was not him. Don’t speak ill of the dead? Ok. I won’t say anything. But I’m not attending his funeral, either, because IMHO he was an ass.

    It does get easier with time but try to develop a thick skin and convenient hearing. Maybe you could try saying “I’m so happy you have your own opinion, but I have my own, and do not need you to share right now.” Maybe they will understand that?

    • “I am fed up with people who do not understand legal, or family connection does not equate to obligation to interact with someone.”

      Agree!!!

    • Totally agree! Especially at this age of 71. It seems people expect us at this age to be “tolerant” of a..holes because they may have dementia or frustrations or illnesses or just made a horrible mistake (my FW). I understand that life can get sucky at this age but it doesn’t mean I have to be someone’s battering ram. My FW is now in pity mode cuz he made a horrible mistake. Mind you he has never apologized to me but cries the blues to our sons. F$&k him!

  • My X showed up for his son’s HS graduation last month. Which I expected him to do (its the least he can do). He sat a few rows in front of me (with his fancy new camera) and his girlfriend – who coincidentally isn’t quite done divorcing her own husband….. gee I don’t know how that picture of the two of them EVER got to separated-but-not-divorced-yet husband….

    That said, me and my family completely ignored XAss and his side piece. I was having a blast with my family and friends and couldn’t be bothered to think much about what XAss was doing. I allowed him to say congrats to his son first. I assume they took a few pictures together, but then my son found me in the crowd to give me a big hug and pose for pics with me. We both know who was responsible for my son graduating with honors and for the friends he was surrounded by, and for the college prospects he will now soon explore, and it ain’t XAss.

    I have no idea if X spotted me or not in the crowd. I kinda hope he did, so the image of me healthy, happy and attractive a person I am is burned in his brain and he can chew on exactly what he threw away with so little concern.

  • Thank you for this. I needed to read this today (and will likely need to re-read this periodically). This is my life too. It’s as peaceful and civil as it gets without compromising yourself as a human being. Those who know, know. If you feel so compelled to explain it to the questioning, try it once, then grey rock them too if they don’t get it. We are parenting alongside life rapists. If people don’t understand it because they haven’t lived it, I will give them some benefit of the doubt, but all in all I do not feel like it takes that much compassion to understand. I wish I were never “educated” on this side of life and interpersonal relationships. More so, I wish my child was never put through it, for this to be her childhood. Gold stars for all.

    • Hugs to you. In this, I am learning that trying to explain it to people becomes an exercise in futility as I see it go over their heads. I’m sure they’d be seeing it differently if it happened to them.

  • I SO MUCH needed this today. Thank you, Tracy. I swear you are the only sane one in my world many days.

    He’s an abuser. Covert narc who tortured and treated me like dogshit for over 40 years. No, I don’t have to wish him well. I won’t play nice so we can believe we all still are a family. I see clearly that we never were a family. We were a sham. And the only thing holding up the sham was my long years of hard work, self-sacrifice and chumpiness. I can be angry I was abused.

  • Ignore the crowd and go with what you know. Something like this:

    He’s a manipulator.
    He has a dark side to him that is fake.
    He’s a Disney dad.

    Once I was relating a false belief that there would be mutual respect afterward, my divorce attorney gave me this saying. Forty-plus years in divorce law and the son of a judge, he had seen it all. He was kind about it but gave me little nuggets like this that I wrote down.

    Only a fool would be friends with the person who burned down their house.

    Yes, by the end I knew. It was far too long and messy to think that I would want my ex within striking distance. Thankfully our offspring were out of high school, and he lives elsewhere. He hasn’t seen or talked to them in almost five years. They didn’t want him at the graduations and awards ceremonies, and I honored their wishes. Three of them were online pandemic ceremonies anyway. I took everything out of the agreement requiring ongoing contact even though that was tough financially for a time.

    His family apparently thinks “time heals all wounds” in relation to my ex and how they enabled the chaos. Yes, I’m certainly healed, but not in a place of trust. That’s different.

    Having watched friends go through how to manage the events of their offspring, I know folks who did indeed get to the point of being able to sit separately in external peace. Not easy, but doable. One of my tribe went to her daughter’s master’s graduation two weekends ago and carefully set the parameters. Her ex is local, and both of their kids have an ongoing relationship with both of their parents. She sent out an email that the two sides would sit separately, and all pictures would be separate. She organized a dinner and an afternoon harbor cruise that he was invited to along with various other relatives and her daughter’s friends. My friend was polite to her ex but didn’t engage. He tried, and she said, “It’s all about our daughter today, let’s not go there.”

  • Listen to Tracy. I’ve been divorced for over 10 years. The children are all adults. When the fuckwit came to my door recently, I opened it a crack and told him to get off my property or I would call the cops. That’s as civil as I need to be. You’re doing the hostage exchange, and Uncle Daddy is showing up on time. Great.

    Also, don’t be surprised if he stops showing up after your son gets older. It’s fun to be a weekend daddy when the kid still adores you. After they get old enough to realize daddy is a bad person, it stops being fun. You’ve been through hell and are doing the bulk of parenting. You’re doing enough. Just keep going. When your son is an adult he will know who had his back.

    • Our offspring were in college when we separated. I tried to be the bridge to their father, and they flat out refused. It got to the point that they’d walk out of the room if I mentioned him. He decided to make a new life at the beach and went AWOL from their lives, and that was that in their minds. Their childhoods had been chaotic because of his disordered thinking as it was.

      At the first graduation, about a year after we had been apart, my oldest said his dad wasn’t invited. It was military graduation, so my son was in charge of the paperwork and did it only for me. He told me that was his choice, period. My ex of course thinks that I alienated them as if that is something you do with college kids who have their own phones and are tied up with work and college all day.

      He’s still trying to guilt and break through to them, unsuccessfully I’ll add.

      • Elsie how proud you must be of your son. Another bustingly proud mama here. My youngest son didn’t invite his dad to his high school graduation. Me and his siblings cheered him on as he received 2 awards and played an improv jazz piece on his tenor sax that brought the house down. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

    • Thank you so much. I have been to therapy and my therapist even told me it’s better if FW isn’t in sons life because of this reason. I think he’s only there because our son is a source of supply for him – I’m biding my time when eventually he stops showing up for custodial time and I will make sure to get child support adjusted and have my documentation ready when it does happen. I’m playing the long game and hopefully my son will realize who was there for him throughout it all.

    • “When the fuckwit came to my door recently, I opened it a crack and told him to get off my property or I would call the cops. That’s as civil as I need to be.”

      Amen to that.

  • It gets easier, FreeFrom.

    XH was at my place to pick up the kids on Memorial Day weekend. He seems to have taken up sculpture painting (like, little DnD figurines) recently and wanted to tell me his “good news,” that a local art shop is sponsoring him.

    It took everything in my power not to reply, “Don’t care.” Which is the truth. I give zero craps that another one of his non-paying hobbies is going well for him.

    Instead I said a very gracious, “Congratulations. I hope you’re successful at everything you try to do.” Which is true; if he ever makes more money, I get more CS, so I have no reason not to wish him success. Then I shooed him and the kids out the door.

    I had some recent good news myself; I had a paper accepted to present at a big conference that only accepts 1:4-1:5 proposals they get. There will be acquisitions editors and journal editors at this conference. If I do a good job, more doors could open up.

    I didn’t tell him. I have zero interest in one-upping him. My successes are between me, my loved ones, and God.

    One-year post-divorce me would have blurted out “I don’t care.” One-year post-divorce me would have flung my own good news in his face.

    Gray rock is a muscle you build up over time. Hang in there, FreeFrom.

  • This is exactly the message I needed to hear today after my own mother became a flying monkey for the FW. I am horrified that she thinks I should reconcile with the voyeuristic child porn creator, “for the children, because he’s so remorseful, he’s a good dad when he comes for supervised visitation” etc etc etc. I dressed down these terrible, ridiculous ideas, then proceeded to feel so guilty for not agreeing with her that I couldn’t sleep all night.

    I would love to get space from her but I am living with my parents while I rebuild financial stability. Chump nation, how can I gray rock with my own mother that I live with? This situation feels unbearable.

    • Not a grey rock suggestion, but I think I might ask her point blank if she understands what child porn is. I’d ask if she’s seen any. Does she understand exactly and in graphic terms what it is your stbx (?) “created”? If not, and you have the evidence, I would share it with her. I would follow all that up by asking her how on earth she thinks your children (and her grandchildren!) should be living with a man who was capable of seeing children that way. And then I would say, “Mom, I hope you will respect the decision I’ve made to keep my children safe and my wish to dissociate permanently from a man who is capable of such depravity.

    • I recommend reading “Parents Who Cheat” by Ana Nogales with your mother and maybe your dad too, since you mention you’re living with your parents . You can come up with a phrase, use it and congratulate yourself on being a broken record with the same phrase, maybe something like, “Yes, he’s required to be on his best behavior for supervised visits,” or, “Yes, he put on a good show for years, and is doing it for supervised visits.”
      Obviously, the court required supervised visits for a reason, presumably creating child porn. I suggest you document EVERYTHING he does or the kids say that seems a bit unusual. Preferably on a computer, so you can search it. Over a period of several years, I wrote myself a note for any injuries and the reason given for why they occurred. Before one of the court battles, I search “eye” and “injury” and came up with almost two dozen I had documented; none occurred while he was in my care, but i had recorded his parents giving me excuses for each one during drop off, such as “he ran into a post.” And, of course, I took photos of each one.
      My neighborhood school provided a wonderful program called “Safe Touch” that gave all school age kids lessons brought in by an outside facilitator, starting with basic safety, then gradually introducing lessons that address abuse and sexual abuse with age appropriate content for each elementary grade, and make it easy for children to speak up to their teachers, school counselor and the program leader in private. You can look here for some similar lessons on-line: https://ocrcc.org/safetouch/
      It can take kids a LONG time to feel safe enough to disclose abuse, particularly sexual abuse. Try to keep a cell phone on you at all times, and if they start disclosing, use it to surreptitiously to record what they say. Don’t let them know you’re recoding, and don’t ask leading questions, just reassure them that it was brave of them to tell, and ask if there’s more they remember. You can share those with therapists and attorneys.
      It took a long time for my grandson to disclose abuse, and at first he didn’t even have the words for some things that happened to him. You should probably clear it with your attorney first, but it might be helpful to get them into a therapy practice that serves children and families that have been abused.
      I strongly urge you to find an agency that serves people who have been abused or sexually abused, and get some sessions, perhaps first by yourself, and then with your parents. You can request information-based sessions where the therapist gives you direct advice on understanding the dangers posed by the “voyueristic child porn creator” to your children, and how to handle any disclosures. It’s heartbreaking to hear children tell you, and difficult to stay calm so you can get the information while being a support, especially since you don’t want your behavior to be dismissed as encouraging or coaching them to lie or exaggerate.
      It took years and two sets of court battles, but I now have sole decision making and parenting time. Any visits are contingent on child’s agreement, which he refuses; they will have to be therapeutic supervised visits (meaning a professional therapist is present at all times).
      Has you ex been convicted for the child porn? Is it documented? If so, ask your atty if your state has therapuetic supervised visits. The quality varies, but they should provide nearly minute-by-minute documentation (or recordings) that will show anything inappropriate, also useful for court.
      I wish you and your kids the best.

    • She wants you reconcile with with an abusive ex-partner who not only views, but creates child porn???? Please don’t waste another second feeling guilty for sticking to your guns. You are not being crazy/difficult/bitter/etc for doing so.

      Reach out to your therapist, and if you don’t have one, get one.

    • Maybe you can tell her thank you for your love and support. the situation is painful for you and you just can’t discuss him right now. You will talk to her about it when you can.until then you prefer to not talk about him. Good luck!

    • Mighty Sheep, perhaps set a clear boundary with your mom, that you will talk about anything and everything with her EXCEPT your ex. No explanation for why you want that, no argument about whether you are entitled to it, no efforts to persuade her or try to get her to agree that you are entitled to that boundary. It’s yours to set and yours to enforce.

      She wants to talk to you about your Ex? “As I told you mom, I’m not going to talk with you about Ex. How ’bout this beautiful weather we’re having?” If she won’t accept the change of subject, stand up and calmly walk away. Repeat as necessary, and she’ll start to get it. Or she won’t, and you’ll keep calmly walking away and get lots of practice with enforcing your boundaries. You got this!

    • Pretend your mother is your AirBnB host and you just have to get through your time there as politely as possible. You can expand on “cool, bummer, wow” whenever she brings up the subject. (Don’t bring it up yourself, ever. Clearly she is not a good person for you to talk with about it right now.) Mom: “Blah blah blah be nice for the kiddies!” You: “That’s an idea.” (Which it is. Not a good one.) “I’ll think about it.” (Which you will, in annoyance, and then let it go.) “Bless your heart.” Then shut up, walk away, or change the subject. There are tons of ways to say “Hell no” and still sound polite. Here are 99 of them. https://outofthefog.website/other-articles/99no Check Captain Awkward; she has lots of scripts on her blog for dealing with intrusive friends and relatives giving unwanted advice. Deep breaths and good luck!

    • I’m so sorry. It’s absolutely horrifying how many people are totally cool with the sexual abuse of children. I never would have believed it before going through it myself.

      I understand she’s your mother but it may be good to have a come to Jesus moment with her and tell her, “If you truly are pro pedophile, I can’t have you in my life and I absolutely cannot have you around my children.” She’s being pro pedophile and pro child porn. She needs to be beat over the head with that reality.

    • Thanks everyone for the ideas and resources, I’ll look into them after work/bedtime. To clarify some questions raised below:
      1) He is my ex. No way in hell I’d EVER be with him again. Why can’t my mom see that??
      2) He was convicted of voyeurism and child exploitation (porn) and has served his sentence (ludicrous plea deal). He is on the registry. To my knowledge he did not victimize my kids, but I’m not about to trust him because he’s been on good behavior!!
      3) He has only supervised visitation with the kids and I will fight like hell to make sure it stays that way. My parents are the main ones acting as supervisors, but after this… Having a counselor manage it sure would be a lot more peace of mind. I’m sure the ex would fight that though since it would be expensive.
      4) I am required to consult with him but have final decision making on everything. Yay!
      5) I didn’t let my mom get away with saying he just “did wrong.” I told her, “and by that you mean making porn of other people’s children?” And I also dressed down the other ridiculous ideas like that he can be trusted based on the tiny amount of time that he is there for supervised visitation and on his best behavior, or that the other problems in our marriage were “normal” (they weren’t, he was a covert emotional abuser). Hopefully all these things thoroughly shut her down but I’d be surprised if she changes her opinion. It all just makes me want to vomit. But for the time being, it still seems I have to stay out to rebuild career. Yuck.

  • One of your best, CL. I love the “Disneyland Dad” comment – and totally stealing the Wednesday Addams meme!

  • Civil??? Is there a law on the books that says you have to be civil to him? Does the legal paperwork in regard to the kids state that you must be civil? Don’t think so. This is an exchange of the your child to the other parent nothing more and nothing less. You don’t have to play nice, you just have to let him have the kid in accordance with the agreement. I honestly do not understand why people think you need to engage with a FW or even be civil. This is the same person who betrayed you and risked your health. Last time in court, I said nothing to the FW and he asked me why I could not at least be civil to him. He got no answer. Nope, I don’t engage with people who abuse me. Just don’t and never will.
    You owe this person nothing except to live up to the legal and binding agreement beyond that you have no responsibility.

    • Thank you. I completely agree. In my quest to gray rock and BIFF – he would flip the stations between charm, rage and self pity and I would receive messages in the coparenting app accusing me of not coparenting/working with him because I answered his question directly and didn’t let the conversation go off the rail about anything that didn’t have to do with our son.

  • Somewhere in the mix has to be appreciation for how much it hurts a child to see how much their mother despises their father. She has plenty of reasons to. But we have to ackwnowledge the negativity and pain this causes children.

  • My 5 yo daughter has some big questions about divorce, why her dad has a child with someone else, why he moved out, etc. I grey rock, I never say anything negative – I trust she will figure out their relationship on her own and see her dad for who he is. When she asks why we divorced, I tell her the truth in an age appropriate manner – I tell her that love as an adult is a choice, involves commitment and promise through good and bad, and sometimes people choose to stop loving one another when those things don’t happen. She has come back, clearly asking her dad why a promise was broken and he repeatedly tells her “I still love your mom a little”. This is so manipulative, confusing for her, and frustrating. Co Parenting with narcs is exhausting.

  • 5 yrs out and still gray rock, BIFF, and civil in front of family. Otherwise no contact and I am good with that. My son asked me why I don’t talk more to him at family events. I just said I have nothing to say to a man who lied, cheated on me and threw the family under the bus. He was abusive. But I support him in developing his relationship with his dad. It has been hard for my grown sons and my heart breaks for them as they try to figure this out. There is just nothing I can do to help them. Anything I do is bound to hit me in the but. So I show up and shut up and enjoy my family. They are wonderful people and I am very proud of them in how they are managing their lives. My sons have actually thrived since FW left. In some ways I think his leaving moved them forward with their lives. Neither of them want to be like him and have grown stronger and more independent since they see their Dad for who he is. They were as hurt as I was. God works in mysterious ways.

  • I had the best mediator when I went to court for my child custody reccomendation counseling/ hearing. We went to court 3 months after I discovered FW’s secret double life and filed for divorce. When we got there he was already trying the “Mowmowwface is being uncivil by not even entertaining the idea of doing brunches and activities out with me as a family anymore…” line with the mediator. The mediator slammed back at him with, “And how do you think mom throwing herself head first into a situation she 100% needs to be healing from is at all good for your daughter? You’re expecting way too much of her way too soon and you are incredibly lucky that she’s even begrudgingly done outings with you, because let’s face it, all of that is for your benefit at this juncture. Your 1 year-old will not remember any of it.” Her words have echoed in my head every time he tries to make me feel bad for not wanting to act buddy buddy with him after only a year of being separated. Not even the courts expect that of me as a parent.

  • I have gone through multiple graduations, weddings and new buisness openings with my daughters. They do not speak to thier father, so I have skated on the “big events”. Though I was willing to distance if I HAD to, I was very relieved that I did not.

    My daughters, at first, did not understand my absolute black curtain of my XH. They wanted us to get along. They do not know all the details of the divorce, just the main points. Even so, I’m shocked how people expect me to “play nice” – with him, even after he behaved so abhorently.
    I explained it to them this way. “I have earned my right to be DONE”.
    *I spent almost 2 complete years being expensively tethered to that jackass through the divorce. His attorney was an insulting bitch who (for whatever reason) was nasty about our daughers. Literally told me to tell the 18 year old to “get a job” if she wanted any money….

    I put up with emotional, financial and legal abuse with the system. I picked up pieces of myself and my kids – and moved on.

    I have every right do be DONE with him and his hot, ignorant and nasty mess.
    *I told my gals to “visit away” with him as much as they want – but I do not need to know aaaaaany details about it. Seriously. Last christmas, my eldest said she had not spoken to her father in over 2 years. (I just thought they were being really good as following my wish to leave me out of it.)

    Do I feel bad about my black out curtain? Not a bit.

  • Ah yes, the peanut gallery, with their very specific views on Being Friends For the Children (because it makes them feel uncomfortable otherwise), on the precise level of being acommodating and pleasant (again, so that they don’t have to feel a bit awkward or like maybe they *SHOULD* be picking a side rather than being Switzerland).

    Each one of these people will have a different level of respect and trust in your life, so obviously deal with them accordingly, but the bottom line is: you were lied to, you had your child’s heart broken at the same time by someone who promised to love and cherish you both forever, and this all blew up in your face a year ago. By those metrics, behaving in a civil, distant manner, having your son ready for his time with his dad – who he obviously loves and which gives you a bit of time to yourself, which is no bad thing, especially going forward – communicating about pertinent info and keeping hand-offs quiet and quick is gold medal as far as I’m concerned. You get bonus points for trying not to make faces or betray your upset to your son, and from the sounds of things, you’re not doing a bad job at that either. You’re not slopping all over him, you’re just picking your way through the Awful to get to the Awesome. NB. The awesome is 100% out there for you. Carry on. You’re doing very well indeed, and need be not one iota ”nicer” to the Lying Liar who Lied Disney Dad Cheating Cheaterpants.

    That is all.

  • This is going to sound so extreme but I’d cut all those people judging you off. I remember thinking oh no, I couldn’t do that. But you actually can. I remember going to dinner with my sister and her saying she could see where my ex is coming from. That horrible sinking feeling. I remember referring to one of his fuck partners as “he” and being lectured by her about being transphobic and how dare I because “SHE” did nothing to me! NOTHING! Well, “he” is a female to male transgender so I actually was being polite by using his preferred pronouns. But what it comes down to is it was more important to my sister to criticize me over possibly hurting the feelings of someone she’d never met (and I’d never met) and was not in the room to hear my horrible insult of using his preferred pronouns than it was to support me.

    Sit with that. Let that sink in. There are A LOT of people who would rather kick you than support you because kicking is more fun. I’m starting to think it may be the majority of people who think like this. It’s at least half.

    It’s so hard to maintain relationships, we’re all so busy. Why waste precious time on people like that? Even if it’s your own sister, even if it’s your mom. What is the point? So they can be around to kick you at your low moments? I had one person tell me I just needed to build really strong boundaries to keep these people in my life but prevent them from hurting me.

    Fucking why?! I’m not going to go buy a dog that wants to kill me and then construct a series of fences and cages to prevent it from doing so. I’m just going to pass on that dog.

    It sounds extreme but I’ve found peace. And I’m a person who all I ever wanted in life was a family. I did not have a good childhood. It was brutally hard for me to cut all these people off and give up on family (some blood family, like my sister) but I had to face reality. And life is a lot better. Nobody snipes at me. Nobody kicks me. I don’t have a lot of people in my life but when something good happens to me, the people here now are happy for me. They don’t sneer at me and say, “It must be nice.” It was a rough road but it was totally worth it. And my son is an adult, and he’s troubled in life but we have a pretty good relationship. I’m at the point where I love him but I won’t enable him and he still loves me and we still talk. So your son will be ok if you don’t chat with his dad at some event. It’s really not that big of a deal. The people judging you are the ones overreacting.

    • KatiePig, you are so mighty for cutting out ALL abusers from your life. I waited too long to do it, (about 5 yrs post-chumping when my picker was fixed at last regarding all relationships) but I finally did, and it has been the healthiest decision ever. Less is more, and getting rid of the covert ones is a really powerful act of self-care. Well done!

  • Thank you chump lady. For challenging the notion that you have to show the kids how everyone all gets along.

    I am so sick of therapists and parent coordinators and magazine articles saying – “Throw birthday parties together. Share in graduation celebrations. This is about the kids. Not you. You have to show them a United front”

    BULLSHIT

    By agreeing to do things like that with the kids you are gaslighting them. You are telling them that abuse is acceptable and ok. You are helping the abusive parent to manage their image. That they are not that bad if their ex partner is throwing parties together. Abusive partners are usually abusive parents too. By doing things together you normalize abuse to the kids.

    No one would demand a victim of rape to go out and have a family dinner with their rapist would they?

    And abusers use that sentiment to continue to control through their kids.

    Thank you chump lady. Hopefully the rest of the world will catch on to how ridiculous it is to throw parties or have coffee with your ex. Very few couples with kids break up a marriage unless there is some serious abuse going on.

  • You wouldn’t be friendly to a random someone who ran up to you and punched you in the face. Why would you be “friendly” to someone who KNEW you intimately and ran up and punched you in the face? Affairs are insidiously abusive and as unprovoked as a random attack.
    If he had physically assaulted you they wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) expect you to ever set eyes on him again. And I should add that many of us HAVE been assaulted by these fuckers, not to mention the sexual abuse of being intimate with someone who is lying about their sexual history! But, because he covertlty abused you it makes it okay and you have to be the “bigger person”? FUCK THAT. If I could delete the FW from my life I would, but “we” have young children. I am not his friend. I owe him nothing. Not civility, not “kindness” and certainly not “peace” for his sake or the children’s. Children should know that there are consequences to amoral behavior and treating people like shit.
    He can go choke on a barrelfull of silicone tits for all I care. And that’s as much deference as he’ll get from me, and people who don’t like MY CHOICE TO NOT ENGAGE WITH A PERSON WHO OVERTLY AND COVERTLY ABUSED ME FOR 2 DECADES can join him. I shouldn’t have to pull out the DV documenation and charges, restraining order, medical history and CPS documentation in order to prove that this person is not safe for me to be around.

  • IvyLeagueChump made a good point earlier when she wrote;
    ” I suspect many people wanting their version of “civility” may have their own dirty laundry”
    That or maybe they fall into the scared shitless catagory of friends.
    ” the scared ones preform all sorts of vodoo that the bad thing never happens to them” LACGAL page186
    My experience has been the switzerland friends are the ones pushing civility.

    • “My experience has been the switzerland friends are the ones pushing civility.”

      That’s my experience, too. One of those pushing civility onto me is a woman who stayed with her cheating spouse.

  • “Any conversation would begin and end with ‘You’re a terrible person.’”

    CL, did you really just condone this?! Thank you! My plan is to confidently avoid FW — oxymoron? — and keep my mouth shut at all costs. But if I crack and say something, that is verbatim what I’ve settled on.

  • There is so much I could say about this.
    But what comes to mind immediately is
    “I have a therapist. It’s not you. Good day.”

    Or “good bye.” Forever. Depending on the offender and the offense.

    He or she who dares to tell me how I should feel or act, unless I have asked, is out of line and out of bounds. I will set a boundary. I might need to use the launch codes to eject them into the stratosphere with all the other space junk orbiting the planet. Especially the imperious admonishing types who try to “should” me about “being friends” with a fraudulent spouse who betrayed me.

    “Civil”, defined:

    Not rude; marked by satisfactory (or especially minimal) adherence to social usages and sufficient but not noteworthy consideration for others • even if he didn’t like them he should have been civil
    = polite

    Friends with an abuser = no no no. Besides my own emotional well-being, I have a child who copies me to consider. It’s a daily practice to be someone worthy of copying. No trust + no safety = no friendship. My daughter won’t trust me if my own conduct is untrustworthy!

    If he was ever my friend, I would not be here on this site. Being fake helps no one and perpetuates passing the torch of dysfunction to the next generation.

    AND….

    I myself try to be aware of keeping my opinions to myself unless asked. I have made amends when I have spoken up with my unsolicited advice. Just the other day I had to backtrack with my daughter and apologize after I jumped in with advice when she just wanted me to listen.

    Set a boundary whenever necessary. Don’t stand down and stay silent when the opportunity to educate someone arises. Everyone benefits when we act in accordance with reality and truth.

    If he wanted me to act like his friend, he should have acted like a friend to me.

    • I like this. One thing my therapist is working with me on in this- how to ensure my girl doesn’t succumb to the same fantasy thinking that I did? Answer- too late, see below. She has decided to take the stance of not seeing who he is and what he did and instead just have nice weekends once a month where they stay up late watching movies, she watches him play video games with his friends (yes it’s true) and they eat out. Yay! Meanwhile back at the same parenting camp… it’s me struggling to keep it together

  • I agree with Tracy’s take except for one part. The sighing and rolling eyes and faces. Kids don’t understand that it isn’t them that you are reacting to. That kind of thing from a parent hurts so much. Poker face. Mona Lisa smile until you are in another room.

  • You’re doing better than I am. I can’t help but burst into tears over many of the battles I have with my daughter’s father. She’s 16 and she’s always defending him now. I don’t say mean things about him, but I do say things like, “Your dad might need to pay half of that because I can’t pay for it” and that’s all it takes for her to think I’m slamming him. I took a small, lump sum child support payment in my final separation. This was the price of my freedom from his constantly saying he wasn’t going to/able to pay it. He makes over $300k per year, and his OW makes at least $175. They are loaded. Nevertheless, the constant struggle with the tax dept to try and get my money left me abused and drained. Therefore, I’m broke compared to him. But…..I mention any hint to my daughter and she comes unglued. It’s so hard. I don’t manage it well all the time. Being the sane parent is punishing, unrelenting and thankless.

      • Yep! Working on that one. She’s gonna have to fend for herself. I bought the family home so I could give us security in this crazy housing market (I live in a city that has some of the highest housing costs in the world). I clothe, feed and entertain her while FW plays BDSM fantasy with schmoops. It makes me fucking sick and I hate him for so many things, but abandoning his post as father and paying no child support whilst pretending to be a good dad and victim of me is more than I can take. Help! How does one get passed that?

    • I was a self-absorbed idiot at 16. Getting a job and moving out for college (with my own bills) blew a hole in my childish fantasies faster than anything else. I know it seems cheap to tell you “don’t take it personally” but seriously, don’t take it personally. This frustration has an end date.

  • Your son’s old enough to answer the door- I say be on a phone call or in a meeting or listening to a podcast, or working out in the basement or garden etc… to keep away from sounds and view of FW.

    You’ve rocked it by saying goodbye beforehand.

    FW is bad energy and not part of your life so the less of him the better.
    People don’t get it so don’t waist your breath. There’s a general lack of empathy these days, and even more so with all things cheating related.
    Set boundaries – my ex insisted on coming in the house being loud and playful with the kids while kids loaded up – I hated hearing his voice. I wish I had set firm boundaries- he kind of laughed when I told him I didn’t want him in my house. It took years.
    He also insisted on sitting together at events etc. It took years to stop that.
    Have a few pat answers when your son talks ‘I’m so glad you had fun, and so happy you’re back etc etc’- focus on him and change the subject.
    What’s good for mom will be good for your son.

    • Yes, thank you! I try to wear headphones with music to hype me so I don’t have to even deal with listening to his voice when he comes to get my little guy. I will definitely do these – thanks for the tips.

      • On events, try to either come with/sit with friends so that he can’t sit next to you or, if possible, sit with you. Or arrive late so that he is already seated and you sit somewhere else where there is no room for him. You don’t have to arrive late – that wouldn’t work with my issues of arriving late – but you can sit down late, waiting for him to sit down. Try to sit at the end of the row where there is only one seat or sit in the middle of people where there is no room for him. It’s doable if you are strategic. Keep your front door locked and you opening it up just enough for your child to get through is the way to do it. He has no reason to be in your home. Good luck and you are definitely doing the right thing!

  • Free, you are a textbook example of how to manage a FW. I salute you. Especially in the face of idiots who want you to play nice so they will feel comfortable.

    FWs are such encroaching boundary crossers and bullies that there is no other way of civilly handling them. I had to be like you with my FW. The price of freedom is indeed eternal vigilance with FWs.

    At 5 years out I could be in the same room for a limited period without undue stress. But I’d probably provide myself with a wingman and some pre-prepared zingers in case he had the temerity to approach me.

    Keep on going what you are doing. Its perfect.

  • Yup. As my 21-year-old would put it, this is not that deep. He treated you like shit or worse, being mildly civil is being generous.

  • I want to thank CL for changing the narrative on this point. Society pushes rather hard on the “be nice for the children” front and it always benefits the abuser at cost to the abused. There should be no shame in refusing that whole concept.

    My situation unfolded differently (he died) so I never faced this but I could see it coming my direction (Cheater told me what great friends we would be if/when we divorced).

    I have said it here before “I was a great wife, but I would have been a very bad Ex-wife” but even me describing myself as “bad” feeds into the narrative that its wrong to believe that had we divorced, I would have held firm boundaries and refused to engage an abuser.

  • Free from. The only thing I would add is your kiddo is a little older. Dad can stay in the car or get out of the car and wait at the curb. He doesn’t need to come to your door. Your child isn’t three years old. You can see him to the car.

  • I’m way late to comment on this post, but I want to advocate for chumps not choosing to discuss the divorce, the custody arrangements, the way custody transfer happens, and theoretical future encounters with their X. It’s one thing to let extended family and close friends what’s going on after D-day and during those painful early days. If said family and friends turn out to be stalwart allies and supporters, that’s great. When they start critiquing from the sidelines, it’s time for chumps to stop talking with them about how they organize post-divorce life.

    Our lives are not spectators events. Our lives are not an action movie or a football game. We shouldn’t have spectators gorging on hot dogs and popcorn and pointing out how we could do things better. Setting boundaries with extended family is part of gaining a life.

  • >