My husband of 36 years was killed by a drunk driver. I discovered he was cheating on me. I plan to confront the affair partner on Thursday, Dec. 1.
My husband portrayed himself as more than perfect. I lived with him and I had a gut feeling several times. I discovered a texting email affair with a coworker several states away. I got mad — he said it was to get his orders in — bull! I made my point, said my say. Drug him to marriage counseling (once) and decided — (I did not tell him) — he’s 60. I’m not checking the phone of a 60 year old man.
Well! Dumbass me! He had a new job and a work phone. He hid her name as a client. He deleted all text and calls. Dumbass saved a screenshot of a text with her email on it. Remember he was killed by a drunk driver. 36 years. The wake, the funeral, was massive. He is a saint in our community. I was heartbroken and devastated!
I’m on my second therapist. My first one told me I would forget about the affair partner once I moved? What? Anyway, I just have to see her — she’s a “friend.”
I read your book. I so want to figure this out — put it on a shelf and rebuilt my life. I’m now 61. He was killed in 2020. I only made the discovery in 2021. It’s such a hot mess! He was killed, he was a saint — he was a cheater.
How the holy hell am I going to heal from this? I have to tell my adult children. I don’t want them to hear it from someone else. I’ll accept all guidance, suggestions or advice.
One good note, the fucktard had great life insurance and I remind him of that all the time! I mean everybody delete your damn Google — it’s one click! Your book helped me and I took what I could from it. He couldn’t have loved me. I can assure you — I would never would have done this to him. He’s not better than me! He painted that picture like a master. Better friend, better Christian, better child, better parent! Looking back so many signs. I seriously believe he was a serial cheater. I had no proof, but I know.
What an ass! I live in a small town. I am glad I’m moving, because the shit is going to hit the fan and I’m the best me left to deal with the aftermath. It goes without saying that the AP is a country cunt.
Wish me luck.
While I generally advise against confronting affair partners (hellOoo pick me dance), your cheater is dead. If you think a Schmoopie smackdown will make you feel better, go for it.
If it were me — and I’m just evil this way — I’d tell your social circle first. Confront Schmoops last. Let the gossip vultures do their work.
If you tell Schmoops first, she’s going to try to control the narrative. Pam’s gone insane! She’s spreading terrible lies about me! She’ll probably try that anyway, but a little evidence shared with the right person in a small town…
Of course, talk to your children before you talk to anyone. As you said, it’s better they hear it from you.
My advice on that front is, remember he’s their dad and that’s their complicated legacy to work out. They may be really upset with you for telling them, as they probably would prefer the unblemished memory. The other possibility is that they already know — many children are pressed into conspiracies with the cheating parent against the chump parent — and may be relieved that you now know and they don’t have to keep secrets.
It’s all fucked up — just remember, you didn’t create this clusterfuck, he did.
I think your instincts are right to couch it as, “I’d rather tell you this before you find it out from someone else.” Stick to the facts, leave out the editorializing. Answer questions if they have any. Leave it alone if they don’t. They might circle back, they might not. You always have to be the Sane Parent, even with adult kids.
Now back to confronting your “friend.” I’m sorry, double betrayals are so hard. Don’t expect ANYTHING from her. Clarity on timelines. Apologies. Regrets.
Need absolutely ZERO from her. Wanting something is a kibble power trip for her. She will not feel your pain. (See goldfish don’t knit sweaters cartoon…) If you confront, do it for yourself.
“Hey, Country Cunt, I know you fucked my husband behind my back for 14 years. And now Bumfuck County knows too.”
Be ice cold.
Remember, the disordered feed on your distress. (Centrality! Kibbles!)
Lake Superior in February COLD.
She will try the three channels of mindfuckery — rage, charm, and self-pity.
I predict charm first. “Pam! How are you!” Bomb drop. Self-pity. “This is hard for me too! Harder really! I couldn’t grieve!” Then rage as she realizes you’re telling people/have told people.
Not your problem.
If she doesn’t like the consequences, she shouldn’t have fucked your husband.
Good luck tomorrow, Pam. Report back.
P.S., Sending out the bat signal to Unicornnomore who can commiserate with the whole dead cheater phenomenon. This situation has come up before on the blog.
Pam, I’m all for whatever helps you heal. You don’t have to keep this secret and you are welcome to tell the truth and vent. I’m glad you switched therapists too. I can only imagine the frustration of finding this out after celebrating that asshole. But you’ll get the last word. Best wishes and I hope you will report back.
I would also anticipate gaslighting attempts, especially if you mention the evidence you have.
You should also prepare to lose people in the process of telling them. Switzerland friends and family tend to not like a change in the status quo. No matter the evidence behind what you say people will gaslight you claiming to be neutral and want you to get over it because the topic makes them uncomfortable. YOU know what happened and Have every right to feel the way you do. Exposing the truth in my experience was the nuclear option and it had just as much radioactive fallout in ways I didn’t anticipate. Please surround yourself with loving and supportive people only during this time and take extra steps towards self care.
Entirely true. Even in situations where it’s far lower-stakes, there is a fairly large cohort who ”don’t want to get involved in drama” and ”don’t want to pick sides”, which is of course picking a side.
So true. If reporting the facts to people, you have to be prepared to let that relationship go for good. When I was stalked by a coworker, only a small percentage of people in the context responded in the right way. It wasn’t just that the stalker had already preemptively campaigned to paint me as a liar who would “frame” an innocent guy but because there’s always a certain number of people in any social context who were raised by abusers and who will automatically go into a “boxer’s clinch” with the most dangerous person in any setting because they were trained to do this since childhood. It’s really sickening to watch this unfold. It’s like watching Manchurian Candidates suddenly change personalities and shift their stated values and swing into action to robotically defend abusers– any abusers– and demonize victims. They can’t seem to help themselves.
In that situation I wasn’t telling people to gain support so much as to simply stop certain people from enthusiastically aiding and abetting the stalker in keeping tabs on me or passing on threats once the criminal proceedings began. That was effective in making a few back away from the stalker’s cheer squad once they realized the whole thing could land them on the six o’clock news. It still took the head of SWAT calling a few of the stalker’s more committed flying monkeys and threatening them with witness tampering charges to get them to quit meddling on the stalker’s behalf.
What a mess. To this day I’m still more shaken by the reaction of bystanders and shitty helping professionals than I was the actual crime. It’s how I learned how deep social prohibitions are against victims who “tell.” It also impressed me at the time that this is what battering victims must experience in trying to escape abuse since the social context is pretty much booby trapped from the beginning. If victims fear that escaping will stir up a world of trouble, that fear isn’t based on nothing. All of us actually do live under a kind of “Omerta”– the rule of silence. It’s part of the trap of any form of intimate abuse and even sexually-themed stranger crimes. It’s why I ended up working as an advocate for survivors of domestic abuse and the experience set off a life-long morbid fascination with the “bystander effect.”
But sometimes you gotta spill the beans. Just make sure you’ve got the fallout shelter handy and a posse of supporters lined up for the inevitable explosion. Know who your real friends are because “telling” will separate wheat from chaff and– if you’re not prepared– the trauma of watching this happen can be worse than the abuse.
“To this day I’m still more shaken by the reaction of bystanders…” Yes! Totally. Me too.
“More shaken by the reaction of bystanders,” same here. What was most disturbing is the reaction of those I thought were my closest friends. Friends who claimed to have high moral standards.
They were in support of Cheater, after all, “you two weren’t getting along,” “he just wants someone different.” It wasn’t their world being shattered.
They were inviting him over for dinner, going out with him on weekends because he’s just so much fun! He’s so funny! They had never seen him so happy…
I felt like I was living an episode of the Twilight Zone.
My stomach still turns at the thought of what I went through.
Those friends didn’t decamp because he was funny or fun. They decamped because their lizard brains detected that he’s dangerous. Who is it safer to side with in a smack down– the limping victim who “lost” the battle or the dangerous perp who was perceived to have “won”? An extreme form of this mentality is called “hybristophilia” or the prison groupie phenomenon– an attraction to known felons, liars, cheats, killers, etc. In any case, it’s the criminality that’s the draw, the thing that makes the perpetrator’s personality traits seem so “alluring.”
I did this very weird thing during my stalking debacle and actually quizzed the people who suddenly started finding fault with me and cuddling up to the stalker, asking about their childhoods. it’s amazing that they let themselves be interrogated but it’s like they were all in a trance. Turns out most grew up with some form of domestic abuse. Only one guy didn’t report this but then he had more pragmatic, sociopathic reasons for siding with the perpetrator– he wanted my job and tried to use the situation to unseat me (he failed and was livid). All I learned about him is that his father was so repressive that his older sister wouldn’t speak with the dad. But I suspect there was more to it. DV expert Donald Dutton reports that many perpetrators lie about childhood abuse, covering up for their former abusers out of fear of fallout even from beyond the grave.
The other curious thing is that my main allies at the time also grew up with childhood trauma but the difference seemed to be some kind of early intervention. In two cases the allies’ mothers escaped and stopped it, in the third case the guy had gotten into alcohol treatment as a teen after dealing with an alcoholic parent. The key thing was that they understood the mentality of perpetrators, the tendency for perps to lie and try to control the narrative, the tendency of bystanders to swing the wrong way, etc. I wouldn’t have survived without their wisdom and the wall they formed around me.
Now that this has happened to you, your social filter will be much finer. Not perfect because predators tend to “mirror” and play the hero role. But once we get a nose for those red flags, we can form protective circles and keep the creeps out. I just wish we could have all learned about these principles from books instead of living through these vicious “lessons.”
It should be part of any high school curriculum.
This is beautifully written & worded, HOAC! As a general rule, people love their crime dramas, but can’t seem to see it when they are complicit. I hope that movements such as ChumpLady’s (& Chump Nation’s) deconstruction of the cheating mythology and better education and understanding of pathology will reduce the pushback people get when they seek to break the abuse chains. We are doing evolutionary work here, with grave consequences and an even greater potential for healing.
My 2 cents. Thanks for spelling this out so well.
These people claimed to be Switzerland but turned out to be that crazy North Korean dictator in a Swiss Miss costume. Tell the chumps in your friend circle only!
I’m sure this has already been noted here, dozens of times even, but in case anybody missed it:
Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2022 is GASLIGHTING
Welcome to my bizarre little corner of Chump Hell, I brought coffee and pastries.
My worst fear during all the years he was meant and threw me crumbs was that the real reason he was such a jerk to me is that he didnt love me. He was talking about moving away for a job 7 years into Wreckonsillyation when he died suddenly. At the time, we had kept his affair a secret from the kids and he was gone for a while before I learned that he had many previous and eventually I found a thing in the house where he had written “I never loved my wife”. Well there, my worst feat staring me in the face.
And the crust of the earth didnt crack open and swallow me whole (as I thought it would).
To me the only real concern here is what you say to the kids. They may be more angry at you for spreading the news of their dads dirty deeds than you expect. Whatever dignity people afford him is all he has left and you tarnishing it may not go over well.
I very much get the urge to flaunt OWs horribleness to everyone (go the fantasied in my head…they are Legion) but Im concerned they may feed into any “Pam was Batshit crazy” narratives that remain. I did contact one asking her what his narrative was sexless marriage? crazy wife? mutual agreement? It was just enough to make her feel like an armpit hair.
The main gal….they had kept their relationship very secret – enough so that I doubt that their former colleagues even told her when he died (she lived far from here). I waited a while after his death then one day I sent a singe text to her referring to his death in a casual way as if I believed she knew…but I dont believe she did. My goal was to twist the knife. I relish the thought that forever he will likely be The Great Lost Love that she wont even be able to tell her friends about.
If I had a chance to, I would say to either of them. “Golly, he told me he had deep feelings for you and I thought he was going to leave me for you…maybe you were the love of his life” as I stroll away with his name, his house, his kids and a big pile of money. I argue that this method of revenge is sweeter that a public flogging that will ever be,
The problem is reconciling your memories. That will be another post as I have an appt. I will be back later today
Thanks for weighing in! And bringing pastries. 🙂
They only love themselves.
This is what makes this community so great. Pam so Glad that you have Unicornnomore to help you. Initally I thought it was a rerun letter that she was the author of. Sucks that same scenario happened to you Pam. Unicorn is a pillar of sound advice here. I always read what she opines. Good Luck
OK, Im back. I work in end of life care and it is not lost to me that Susan of Seattle fucked my then husband knowing I was home tending my kids and seeking peaceful deaths for other peoples kids. I day-dreamed of someday bumping into her (and coworkers) at an airport and telling her work friends that she is the kind of person who would knowingly fuck a dad/husband who was needed and wanted at home.
I now really regret any and all attempts I ever made to approach the subject of what a bad husband he was with my kids. One asked me about it but the other 2 were really bothered (and I really didnt tell them anything, I only tried to approach the subject). Their developmental task is to refine some perception of their dad that thy can live with and put it up on a mental shelf…your plan would knock it off the shelf and make them start over and that is a tough ask.
Once I learned how bad his treachery was, I quit loving him and my grief was relieved even as my anger rose. I became glad that the marriage was over. The same would never be said for my kids. He was their only dad and they likely wouldn’t see sexual betrayal the same way that you or I see it. They may see your public revelation as a bigger betrayal than his because he wasn’t here to defend himself.
You might want to query “If there were something your dad did that would be hard to learn – would want to know?” You have every right to be man and be tempted to blow the top off of OWs already-bad reputation and tarnish your dead-cheaters, but doing this publicly and leaving your kids to live this might cause blow-back with them that is harder to heal from than you are expecting.
Even if you had a perfect-in-the-moment experience giving comeuppance to OW, it wont help you heal or speed up the ordeal of reprocessing 36 years now that you suspect he was a serial cheat. (After 29 years married, I learned he was a serial cheat a few weeks before my wedding to Col Greatguy. Yes, my newlywed time was disturbed by remembering awful things my dead cheater did).
Another thing…as shallow as it might sound, I appreciated the condolences over my widowhood. I accepted the kindness even though I thought to myself. I do deserve condolences, but not quite for the reasons anyone thinks. In a few circumstances, I alluded to problems and I found people are very quick to react something akin to “Ok, if he was a jerk then its good he is dead and I dont need to concern myself over you”. You will NOT get a lot of “that poor dear, he cheated and then died and she was such a good woman – we will stick by her!!”…more likely, they will chalk him up as a loser and you as lucky to be rid of him. That public support you may have appreciated could be gone in a jiffy.
You need some really good girlfriends with whom you can make a bubble and vent- away to them…maybe OW will get wind of it and show that she is a pariah.
In the spot I’m in now…Im glad I shared the truth with some people, but there are a few episodes of emotional vomit I would like to take-back. I sincerely urge that you stop and take a deep breath…once you let this Pandora out of the box, there is no getting it back in. Consider you and your kids and what is best for you.
Thank you for hearing me out. Whatever you choose, I hope you get something helpful from it.
These are excellent points, and you’ve lived it. It’s such a hard call. I think you had an advantage that Susan the OW lived across the country. The OP is in a small town, and it’s likely other people know, or will know, and I think getting to the kids first is a valid concern. I wonder too that if you keep the secret, your kids could be mad at you, or at the very least puzzled, that you don’t share their grief and sainted memories of dad. It’s such a no win for the chump.
True…no real wins and Susan being so far away did help. I seriously sympathize with Pam and I can see why Scorched Earth has its appeal but I have interfaced with my adult kids for the 10 years post death and I think that forcing the revelation when they may not be ready would feel like a crass manipulation to them.
Below, other chumps spoke of truth and time. Im a huge truth-teller so I see reasons to not have this be the Big Secret…they need to know at some point, but adding a tincture of time may help them not be more traumatized than necessary.
I agree. The children will find out at some point. I have a friend who had a similar family situation and the kids didn’t find out until much later. They were furious and felt deceived. You know what that feels like. You will need to tell them in an age-appropriate way. But opening the door to future conversations, when they are ready, is really important. They need to know that they can trust you to tell the truth.
Good luck Pam.
I confronted my ex’s AP partner. She was his co-worker and (I thought) family friend. I’d known her for years.
My purpose in confronting her was to confirm the affair as ex shut down completely. I did what CL suggested; told everyone first but didn’t leave time for them to let her know I was coming. She tried to pretend she wasn’t home but I yelled kid enough for the neighbors to hear that I wasn’t leaving until she came out to talk.
I asked questions that I had carefully crafted to get info out of her. I found out what I needed to know. It was helpful and therapeutic to hear that she had zero regrets and didn’t even think she had done anything wrong to me or my kids, who she had known for 10+ years. That made me realize she was shallow and stupid. Some prize he “won”.
I typically don’t recommend confrontation but, played correctly, it may be beneficial to you going forward.
It sounds like your kids are adults. I share everything with my kids and they have been able to heal and still support me. Honesty rules our relationships now and we are all the better for that.
Just tell the kids first and then the people around you.
Keep us posted!!!
I divorced my ex-h because he was having an affair with a married coworker. About 18 months after the divorce was final/24 months from learning of his affair, he died in his sleep of a heart attack while our young kids were on their weekend at Dad’s house. Given we lived in one state, his funeral was in another state, & yet OW lived in even another state, I thought there was maybe a 5% chance she would show up at the funeral. Sure enough the first time I ever had to lay eyes on her was when she arrived with a work posse at the funeral. When she came up to the receiving line, a few of my friends/relatives got up & formed a human wall to block me from her (funeral director said he never saw anything like it lol). She eventually got to my former MIL and they embraced for 10 minutes even though the ex had never brought her around his family. Given this was his funeral and I had to keep it together for my 2 grieving kids, I only saw her face when she entered the funeral home. My awesome relatives/friends made her feel very uncomfortable and my cousin told her to make herself scarce/out of my path. My ex was a tall/big guy & I was shocked at how petite the OW was like that he wouldn’t crush her. She’s 11 years older than me and looks like a drinker which I’m guessing was there bonding time. For me, I’m glad I didn’t waste time confronting her. My ex was charismatic like any narc so I’m sure he fed her lies about me anyway and she’s a POS for cheating on her husband and 3 kids knowing my then husband was married with 2 young kids. She of course waited to make sure our divorce was final before she filed for divorce & had only been divorced for 6 months to then have a dead affair partner/boyfriend/fuck buddy who know what their status was other than cheaters.
There is so much awfulness here. Your poor kids, waking up to a dead father during a visit. And OW, sailing into the funeral with her “work posse” and the lengthy embrace with ex MIL. I’m glad your friends/family formed that human wall to protect you. When she came up to the receiving line, was she planning to go through it or to join it as the grieving partner? I’m so glad you had friends and family who had your back, and hopefully your kids’ backs, too.
Cheaters love that long embrace, even if it is unwelcome. My brother’s XW cheated on him and I never spoke to her again. She shows up at her son’s wedding and gives me a sneak attack hug. Gave me a taste of what women feel from unwanted physical contact. Yuck!
It was an all around nightmare. The OW just went through the receiving line and I’m sure I rolled my eyes at the never ending embrace she had with my ex-MIL. Most in attendance dressed up for the funeral but a few of his friends & coworkers wore his favorite sports team shirts/jerseys. The OW wore jeans & team logo shirt & she looked like a bar fly. I wore a Talbot’s dress with heels and felt classy/kept it classy even though I wanted to bitch slap her. I sat in the front row while OW sat in the cheap seats – an overflow folding chair near the exit. I did cringe when a country song was played during the service and it dawned on me that ex-MIL & OW selected the song since my ex-H didn’t listen to country music. OW & that particular work posse didn’t stick around long after service completed. I heard OW went up to 2 of his friends in the parking lot that also happened to be her coworkers (all same government agency) and they turned their backs to her so clearly I wasn’t the only one who didn’t care for her appearing at the funeral.
You held your head high. Your kids were watching. What a great role model.
Holy cow, Badmovie, that’s beyond surreal. That OW was a callous psychopath and I think you’re a saint for restraining yourself. I would have been sorely tempted to hire an actress from out of town to play “tacky weeping Schmoopie #2” just in case the actual OW showed her face. If the OW felt no shame at tainting the grief of the children of a married cheater, she might feel a bit when publicly confronted with the possibility that she was merely one in a series. But I can only conceive of the above prank because it’s the kind of thing my near-adult kids and close friends would want to be in on if they didn’t go ahead and plan it themselves.
Yes an actress would have been priceless. That said, you acted in a classy way that everyone (even OW) saw. Her wold is small, dark and shabby, you are now free and in the light. I’ll think of you today 🤗
I hope her ex husband was aware of the reason she filed for divorce. If not he should be made aware.
It sounds like your ex was possibly on a cocktail of prescription drugs that might have caused his heart attack. I can only imagine his life wasn’t so rosy those last few months and his health must have suffered. Three years post D-day, I see how my ex’s life has degraded. Despite what they think when they’re blaming their wives for all their miseries, cheating married men don’t thrive as divorced bachelors. My ex is alone. Things didn’t pan out with the AP. His home is not warm and inviting, and he often looks disheveled. What they put into motion while seeking out “twu wuv” ends up as tragedy for everyone, especially the kids. It seems both your ex and the OW have reaped what they sowed. She did not belong at that funeral. Clearly she is still trying to prove she’s special and exceptional.
This is likely true. My ex killed himself after schmoopie dumped him, but it didn’t take all that much to do him in since he had been self-medicating for awhile. He had an enlarged heart and other health problems from too much alcohol and opoids (which he’d been on for years). In the end, a handful of Unisom (sleeping pills) and a bottle of scotch was enough to kill him. When I went to get my son’s (and a lot of my stuff that he’d taken without permission) from his house, his bathroom looked like a pharmacy, the house was FILTHY and full of garbage, and clearly he had not been doing well on his own.
I flat out told AP that if she showed up to the funeral (really just a memorial reception) I’d have her escorted from the premises. She had been trying to stay in contact with me and with FW’s sister via text (and calling me for things that, frankly, could’ve been an email), wanting desperately to stay relevant. Like we could bond over our shared grief or something. Unfortunately I’d had to open a channel of communication with her to get FW’s landlord’s phone number so the police could get in the house (FW had been missing/unreachable for several days but the cops wouldn’t break down the door since there was no evidence of foul play). She used that as an “in” with me. I finally told her (via text) exactly what I thought of her, and then blocked her. FW’s sister told her not to contact her again, too. Fortunately, AP was smart enough to stay away from the funeral (though I have a suspicion she met up with some of FW’s friends after, and probably cried a river about how mean I was, LOL).
Badmovie19 , you’re a better person than I am. I would have asked the funeral director to escort her out.
Pam: Your feelings and emotions are in overdrive having both your ex die along with the affair discovery happen together. To feel overwhelmed is an understatement. Not to minimize what you’re going through; I’d recommend you make the health and welfare of yourself the priority while inching forward. Perhaps grief support together with a family therapist might help you unravel all that you are feeling. Confronting an AP isn’t going to bring you the relief you are seeking. At best it will complicate your grief with no closure.
She’s only a symptom of the dysfunction he lived in his head. She happened to be there when he chose to step out. She’s not better than you and she didn’t bring value to his life. She was a target of opportunity in his weak powerless place of confusion. Now he’s gone and she deserves no focus of your interest. Leave her where she is…lost.
Of all the saints and sinners in this heartbreaking incident, YOU are the intact survivor without blemish and stain. Go forward with dignity where healing and a future await. Wishing you the best!
Latitude: I very much agree with your take on this. I would only speak to the AP if she reached out to me & then I would make it short & sweet “I know you were screwing my husband, so piss off”. Nothing more. Leave her hanging, with no opportunity to justify herself. I also wouldn’t drag my children into it because this feels like a revenge move trying to tarnish their dad’s “perfect” image. Why hurt them to make yourself feel better?
I have a different take on telling the kids. I think it is essential. In my family, growing up, my dad was a recovering alcoholic and cheated on my mom. No one talked about it, but I’ve put it together over the years, and it was confirmed recently by some comments my now older father made. In our home as a kid, there was so much secrecy. A sense that there were things going on that we just didn’t talk about and weren’t supposed to know. I think that is part of why the alarm bells didn’t go off for me with my ex. To me, it seemed normal that I didn’t talk about certain subjects with the ex and felt vaguely uncomfortable frequently. I think that if Pam is able to share this information with her kids, they will be able to understand that those feelings they had that things weren’t right, were on point. It can help them see that their family wasn’t a model to be emulated in their own relationships, and it can put them on guard against falling for this sort of thing themselves. This is part of why I knew I had to get a divorce. It was the right thing to do to protect my kids from repeating this again.
Sick families keep secrets.
Healthy families tell the truth and deal.
Secrets are damaging, corrosive, and disorienting.
What I was taught in therapy and I agree.
Agreed. If Pam leans toward grief support, family therapy, and even individual therapy, the therapists will offer guidance and direction as to how to best support her and her children with discovery following death.
If Pam goes at it from a place of overwhelm, grief, betrayal trauma, protection of children, confronting an AP, etc. without good therapeutic advice and direction it could very well make matters a whole lot worse.
Secrets and lies are corrosive, and are a terrible family legacy. The foundation of my FOO was secrets, and my FOO–and I, later–foundered on them. The resultant dysfunctional patterns of behavior affected my personality and psyches and that of my siblings, has shaped my relationship to my siblings to this day, and determined the way I conducted myself in my marriage in relation to my spouse.
My father was mentally ill, physically violent, and regularly suicidal, conditions and behavior that was kept from me when I was young; after one suicide attempt when I was a young child, he came so close to dying he spent time in a hospital (regular, not mental). He would often explode in anger and once I woke in the night to hear thumps coming from down the hall. In one delusional period, he sexually abused me; I told no one. By the time I was a teen, I was regularly subjected to the drama–not only his threats, but in my mother’s efforts to convince him not to kill himself. When I was young, and my mother was trying to protect me from this knowledge, I always knew something was dangerously wrong with my family, and I internalized this belief about myself: there was something intrinsically wrong with me. Later, when my father’s suicidal actions and mental illness were no longer hidden from me, I was enjoined to silence: no one outside the family could know. This legacy of secrecy and shame had an isolating effect on me. Despite many years of psychotherapy, beginning when I was in college, the secrecy, shame, and dysfunction I experienced in my FOO would play out later in my own marriage with my now-ex’s secret sexual life.
My father was also was a cheater; when my brother and I were young my mother contemplated leaving him, but didn’t, and did not reveal this to me until he died, and she received a condolence letter from the other woman. For twenty-five years of her thirty-year married life, my mother walked on eggshells and placated my father, and while not an overt “pick-me” dance, her actions were born of her humiliation and his abuse. Silence and secrecy normalized all of these unhealthy behaviors and attitudes.
You make good points here and my normal mode of functioning is truth telling. I can see good reasons to not lie to the adult kids nor keep it a deep secret forever secret but a public revelation by confronting an OW may not be best. I have alluded very subtly at times about cheating to my daughter and she seems to be understanding and integrating it into her understanding but it has taken 10 years for this process to be underway in her. She has healed enough to have a more realistic view of him and consider his flaws
I have to agree completely with Latitude on this one. I can’t even imagine the internal chaos you are going through or the pain you are experiencing, it’s incomprehensible.
You cannot get any closure from a dead man on this, but it’s no different than trying to seek closure when these cheaters are living either. The reality is there is no closure to be had from them, the living or the dead.
As Latitude stated, “She’s only a symptom of the dysfunction he lived in his head……. Leave her where she is…. lost.”
I don’t feel that seeking revenge on her and your dead spouse is going to bring you any closer to healing.
I can’t think of anything that could be harder, absorbing the pain into yourself without spreading it out into the world, but I sense it will over time add a strength to your being beyond what any mortal human can get. Maybe too much to ask of anyone, I do get that too!
Your kids are still grieving, and so are you. I don’t see the ultimate benefit of your kids finding out right now that their father was not who they thought he was, which I’m thinking can cause deeper, maybe unhealable level of wounds that can tilt their universes permanently towards distrust and no safety in the world ever again. That’s a lot to put in their heads!
Confronting the OW? She’s a piece of poop human being no doubt, but her public shaming, although giving you temporary satisfaction, isn’t going to make you heal any better over time is my opinion.
In fact, I would suggest the chaos and drama it will cause in your small town, for you, your children and many others, may be a great amount harder to deal with.
Your husband was able to snow you and countless others, with his perfect image and belief in him, as all these FW’s have done to all the chumps. That’s the talent of a FW.
He did the same to the OW too and manipulated a convincing narrative for her to live within with him. He did the same to us.
I’m certainly not saying she is sweet and innocent in any way. She chose the dark side, she is as guilty as they come.
I just don’t see how you will feel better about it all if you see her life crash and burn and your kids in existential upheaval added to the already burdensome pain they now are experiencing.
It’s sooo much and so complex an issue. I think I would feel intense rage and anger if it were me and you discover all this after his death. Jesus, that’s a lot!!
You want to lash out at the world for the complete injustice of it all!!!
Unfortunately, the world can’t fix it for you and neither can the public shaming of the bitch he screwed do it for you. (She’s more than likely not the only one there was anyway.)
The healing from any of these deeply chumped experiences aren’t going to come from vengeance or revenge.
Those are temporary “ I’ll show them!” fixes that aren’t going to get you much further down your path to recover I believe.
The healing is going to come from a strength so deep within you, you can’t even imagine you own it, but you sure as hell do.
I am torn both ways on this one. I get how shouting from the rooftops this A-hole was not who anyone thought he was might make you feel less alone and somehow get a smidgeon of retaliatory satisfaction.
But it can’t fix the soul sucking heart wrenching pain of the knowledge about who he was and how he used you as he used everyone else.
Nothing ever fully will. It’s a pain that will never go away that we will carry with us forever.
But we live through it and keep walking and refuse to let it consume us. That’s the healing work that never ends for chumps. You walk over his dead body and live a good life, regardless of the deeply hurtful knowledge of how he tried to sabotage your life.
Sorry for the intense agony you are in right now. I wish you peace and healing and I know you will find that.
“She was a target of opportunity in his weak powerless place of confusion.”
I don’t think he was confused or weak at all. I think he was entitled and arrogant.
I have nothing to add to Chump Lady’s sage and delicious wisdom. I especially like the part about telling everybody and anybody else first. A big dose of Everybody Knows But Me would be some very just desserts.
One of my hometowns is the very close small town of Chelsea, Michigan, and you could not keep an SBD secret if you tried. (Jeff Daniels was our neighbor. His dad built our house. Hi Jeff!). You can turn power of small town gossip into a tornado and blow her house down, laughing last and loudest on your way out of town.
I have a feeling the saint got a nice warm toasty Extra Crispy surprise when he departed this life and was redirected to a pimped out hand basket instead of the winged golden chariot he was headed for.
We can only hope.
I am very sorry. The Dead Cheater who was revered by all in life is another level of hell to slog through. Stick close to Chump Nation, and be the best town crier your small town has ever known.
Sending much aloha.
I would also add, being suddenly transported into Restraining Order World because of the GPS tracker my mechanic found on one of my vehicles two weeks ago, that has been verified as belonging to Traitor Ex, from whom I have been divorced for over a year…..
Do not do anything that makes you legally vulnerable, gets you in trouble with law enforcement or could name you as a subject of a restraining order.
I am so glad I stayed on the high road now that Traitor Ex is the subject of a criminal investigation. My evil thoughts did not become actions and if someone calls me crazy they are lying. My Harry Potter spell for expelling any evil thoughts that crop up is “Betty Broderick!”
I am in total support of ANYTHING legal and not harmful that makes you feel better, and whatever that may be is a very subjective individual decision.
That’s terrifying, VH, but I’m so glad your mechanic found the tracker and your ex is under investigation.
Over a long career I have witnessed many similar situations with families of people who are ill or who are dying or even died and those left behind are left to deal with the mess. From men leading double lives and supporting two families to closeted gay / hetrosexual marrieds who know nothing about each other until the cheater becomes deceased to affair partners turning up at the bedside when the wife or husband is not visiting in hospital. The client/patient of course controls what information if any is given to whom and it seems that way even in death . Some don’t care about the aftermath and have made no formal plan or will. Some have. In the case of a sudden unexpected death I think one would be wondering about his plans had he lived. That would bother me most I think. I am glad you and your family got the assets and the home and of course your children. I am sorry you are the one who has to inform your children. It’s totally unfair but few cheaters think of consequences of their actions do they? while they are alive never mind after death.
This is so true. When I finally sat my secretly gay husband down and told him I’d learned the truth, he shocked me by acknowledging he’d entered into the marriage knowing of his own “urges”. I asked him if he really honestly thought through the end-game, did he really believe he would be able to keep this secret from me forever? He responded “I thought it would all come out after I was dead.” I was stunned by the cruelty and insensitivity of that response.
I confronted the AP, a friend of mine for longer than I had known my ex (25+ years) and who sat at my dinner table gushing about my kids every Sunday night for years. When I found out—she ghosted. I was so afraid of seeing her for the first time while out with the kids that I demanded my ex orchestrate a discussion. She refused but I threatened to ambush them when they were out. Eventually we met at a therapist’s office and I read an 8 page letter. My own therapist and family told me not to confront her—that I would get nothing from it. But I think they thought I was looking for an apology. I wasn’t. I knew her. She wasn’t sorry. I did this so that I could finally be heard. And heard AFTER knowing the info. It still burns me up thinking that she was fine being the one with all the details, but NOT once I knew. APs are a cowardly bunch. So my advice is, as it has been previously stated, do not expect any apology. Also, as I did, I recommend planning something post confrontation with your best people—preferably at a bar!
Let us know how it goes!
Confronting the affair partner. Nah….How about sending her a lovely Christmas card. Make sure to print the proof of their messages you’ve read, include a copy in the card. Simply sign the card with “I Know” don’t include a return address. She will for sure know who sent the card and that will make her squirm. Wish you could be a fly on the wall when she receives her holiday greetings. It would be epic. Bonus points is you walk away having confronted in a classy way that doesn’t waste your energy or raise your blood pressure. Every time you think about her recieving that greeting you will be able to smile. It’s the gift that keeps on giving
Miss Karen I did exactly that last year to all the APs and their wives with the respective evidence relevant for each individual. It wreaked havoc but could have backfired on me because I wasn’t divorced yet. Fortunately it worked out fine
I agree with Chump Lady especially on the timing.
First tell kids: “This is very difficult to say but I found this while sorting through your Father’s things. I value you and thought you deserved to hear the truth from me now instead of from someone else down the road. etc etc”
Then Tell your inner circle, let them support you. Then maybe a strategic lunch/coffee with the town gossip and let it slip that you were shocked to find Evidence in FW’s documents. Show them a small but undeniable bit of it. Hint you found more but don’t tell them details. Ask that it stay between the two of you but say they are free to correct any ‘misunderstandings’ they hear.
Then inform the AP that you know. The calmer and more emotionally detached you can be the better! Any emotion or revenge will give them material to make themselves the victim. Avoid making social media posts. Something like “Hello X, I was going through FW’s documents to make arrangements and was shocked and hurt by some things I found. I was not aware and did not consent to my Husband having relationships outside of our marriage. I once considered you a friend, but now I ask that you keep your distance and not contact me again. I don’t need you to respond to this message and I don’t need an apology, just for you to respect my wishes going forward so my family can heal and move on.” etc.
The icier the better. A message or conversation she won’t be able to share or publicly react to without looking like the villain. Then you can move on and move out to better things with a sparkling reputation and she’s stuck in a small town with the rumor always floating around every time she leaves the room.
I would also add that telling the town gossip will get the message out about what kind of person the AP is (not to be trusted).
I feel badly for future victims of cheaters and their knowing accomplices. Make certain you keep your proof, just in case the AP has the poor judgement to try to go after you for slander. It isn’t slander if it is TRUE.
I would add that I have made my children and friends aware of your actions and they request zero contact.
FW’s death is an unusual situation, but nearly all chumps have to make a decision about confronting the OW and are advised not to.
Why is it more tempting/acceptable when FW is dead? Because there won’t be financial blow back? No kibbles for FW? No DARVO from the children’s father? The FW and OW in my situation are (as far as I know) alive and well. The need to confront fades with time and healing.
But it’s certainly an individual decision and a rare opportunity.
Precious Pam…….As always, ChumpNation has stepped up with most excellent advice (….and coffee & pastries! Thanks, uni….Very tasty) Myself, I agree with Latitude…..Move away with NO confrontation. I think that Mr ChumpLady’s advice applies here: “If it feels good, don’t do it” I agree conversations with your children are definitely in order. Also, I feel that revealing this to your most trusted friends is still a necessary step on your journey to ‘Meh’ Please, keep us posted as you ForgeOn! to a peaceful new life. Love to all…..
Tell the gossip line, they are faster then text. They also embellish everything. Confront her, laugh let her know, you got the life insurance. Bet you a million bucks, she feels, she should be his heir.
After 42 years I found out what a dog my husband was. He had a heart attack, two days before I planned to hand him divorce papers and tell him he was a failure. He was put on hospice. I changed my plan. For a year, I did grey rock and the minimal basics. I got the life insurance and everything else.
The hard part was the flip from anger, to the why, to grief. My body seemed confused as to how I felt. I still will have a memory and realize, he was lying, cheating, diverted money etc.
I may be overanalysing this (it wouldn’t be the first time), but I would caution against the confrontation with your late husband’s AP unless you are absolutely clear that the benefits to you of doing so outweigh any future difficulties that it might cause; for you and your children. You mentioned that they were adults and, as CL stated, they may already know …. but I would still be very careful. As CL so often mentions, “if it feels good, then don’t do it” …. and I think that going all “scorched earth” on her – tempting as that might be – could possibly fall into that category.
If you do feel the need to engage with her, I would tend towards “surgical strike” rather than “carpet bombing.”
Remember, the best revenge is living well.
I can’t really see the point in confronting the AP, especially since you’re moving anyway and won’t have to deal with her or with his saintly reputation in your new community. He’s dead, so he’s no longer your problem. You got the life insurance, so you are having the last laugh. To hell with his AP and his admirers. You can start fresh in your new community and never speak to any of the flying monkeys again if you don’t want to.
Your kids are another matter. It’s going to be hard to listen to them talk about how great their dad was. However, I’d be inclined to let them keep their treasured memories of him for their sake. With a live FW, the kids need to know what an asshole FW is in order to better deal with the inevitable bullshit and manipulation, but that is not the case here. So what is gained by telling them? If they ask why you aren’t enthusiastic about talking about him, you could just say there were problems they didn’t know about.
I would, however, tell people who know schmoopie about the affair before you move away. Schmoopie shouldn’t get to skate. She should have consequences.
I am going to play devils advocate. In my community was a man married, with teenage children, so you know he was in his 40s. His wife had her own business and they appeared to be a reasonably happy family. Then he hired a 20-year-old and promptly left his wife and married the Other woman. I’m sad to tell you that she never paid the price for anything. When he died she was left, not the children, with their very exclusive vacation home, in a very very exclusive area. She has married and still enjoys all of it. The problem is, the saddest problem, is that the children did not take the divorce of their mother very well and both of them turned to drugs. As far as I can tell the new wife has paid no price. I don’t think he lost one friend. That is often reality as much as we wish it were different.
I suggest you leave it all alone but if someone should ask how you are doing I would reply that you would be doing much better if you had not discovered, after his death, how much he cheated. You don’t name anyone. That news will make it through town gossip and you never need to say another word.
Lastly, the thing he wrote about not loving you was in your house because he wanted you to find it. He was not a nice man. Enjoy his money.
Ditto on keeping it to editorializing only. Stick to the rule no matter how bad you want to go further. It’s your children’s father, they can’t remove that tie. Also, if you take the ‘high road’ it will look better on you than going off, not that he doesn’t completely deserve it, but you and your children are the important ones here.
Pam, you need to have a conversation with your kids. They may support you confronting the OW or they may want to confront her themselves. Then you control the narrative by telling friends and whoever in your group or town is the Town Crier. We all have a Town Crier in our lives. I would be tempted to tell the OW, with a laugh, that you hope she didn’t think she was the only AP, there were several. That may knock her down a peg or two if she is under the impression she was special.
My first D-day, I had so many names, phone numbers, photos, emails, it was overwhelming. I collapsed to the floor. And then the realization hit. Klootzak was outside in the yard and would come inside soon. I felt like I needed to preserve evidence fast. I grabbed my phone and started taking pics of it all. Inside of a week, I was at the doctor’s office getting a full STD panel run. I walked outside, sat down in my car, and that was some of the hardest crying I ever did. To be brought to that point and so exposed physically to who knows what that I had to go get tested as though I were some tramp. Exposed by my spouse who was supposed to be my safe place and protector. So I crafted an email, sitting in the car. I addressed it to all of those whose email addresses I had. Hello, my husband has been sleeping with almost all of you and now I know so you may as well know. I recommend you all go get tested for STDs, too. Some of them knew he was married but many did not. His main schmoopie didn’t care that I existed. She knew but didn’t care one bit about another human being, apparently. No morals at all. Another one pretended that she didn’t know him and I was mistaken. I guess she didn’t realize I had read her emails. It wasn’t as if he had used a fake name. Yet another was clearly freaked out, saying he refused to wear condoms.
I think I wanted to ruin it for them. I wanted them to know I knew everything. Ruin their fun thinking I was the third side of the triangle. I was icy. I didn’t express any anger or anything. I didn’t expect any apologies which was good because I never got one. I made sure they each knew that they were one if many and truly not special.
I would never again make contact with any if klootzak’s OW. The biggest reason is that I think the APs get kibble off the centrality. I prefer that they be ignored and forgotten.
The kids need to be told the truth. Many have assumed that they hold their father on a high pedestal but if he forced them into secrecy or if they thought he was a jerk or just had a bad feeling in their gut about him, knowing the truth of who he was may clear the air and be validating.
FWs and APs need to be ignored. Meh is most important. Any attention at all feeds them. And they are all a waste of time. Telling the town gossip? Sure. Confronting the AP? Nah. Not worth it.
My 2 cents here. I didn’t read all the comments, so sorry if I’m repeating someone else’s similar story. Married 29 years, he was cheating for at least 17 years of that. Worked for a family business (couple families) that got fairly large and expanded to a couple states-which of course gave him more travel opportunities and cheating opportunities!
Anyway, he died during surgery ~6 weeks after a Solid D Day (had my suspicions a few times before, he always denied). So he had 6 weeks to come clean about ALL HIS CHEATING…which of course he didn’t do. More of his fuck buddies crawled out of their holes and into the light ONLINE before the funeral (funeral was delayed due to weather-he was cremated). So family became aware that something was going on, but thought they were just nice ladies who were probably work affiliated! My brother in law ran blocker for me and told the original howorker (she still worked in that office) that we all knew about them and she was not welcome and the “celebration of life service”. She denied everything initially, then asked who “knew”. I never confronted her. I wanted to, I wanted to write her a letter or post something nasty on her Facebook. BUT I DIDN”T PULL THE TRIGGER ON IT!
I eventually wrote a letter to one of the owners of the company (who hubby grew up with) and basically told him all about him and the ho worker and the fact that him traveling allowed him to screw around out of state. By doing this, I knew that he would talk to his family and everyone else who knew dead spouse. I let him do that dirty work. Let me look not so crazy and spiteful. Same brother in law got ahold of the high school friend who lived in another state that he was screwing. Asked her to take down some Facebook posts. Not that she did, but she was now aware that wow, his family knew he was a cheater! And so was she!
Went back to my maiden name and when asked why, I matter of factly told people that I couldn’t get rid of that name fast enough considering my dead husband had cheated on me for over half our marriage. Eventually my son was told. Just the facts as I knew them, again, no editorializing. That was his dad.
Do what ya gotta do. I always kept in mind a little story I heard about Wayne Gretzky. Asked about what he liked about his friend/team mate Brett Hull, he said “Brett says whatever immediately comes into his mind. I like that, because I always wait like 10 seconds to think about things”. I wanted to be more like Wayne!
First of all, I am happy that you are in a great position financially, and that you no longer have to deal with him. How much worse would it be if he gave AP money or if there were illegitimate kids in the will?
I agree with chumpladys strategy of telling close friends. I have a close friend who spreads gossip. She does it in a classy way and people dont get offended. Gadfly type. If I told her something key people would know. I personally wouldn’t tell the kids. If they found out and asked I would tell them the truth, but its their dad. No reason to burden them. As a parentified child who was my mothers psychotherapist for my dads infidelity I know I would have appreciated not knowing. Now I know this is considered child abuse. I guess if he made you look like you were crazy ie. reactive abuse, and you wanted them to know that you acted crazy due to the situation and your reaction to his affair, then I would. No reason for them to think you had a screw loose. As far as confronting OW, it rarely goes as desired. Its not TV and you may not have to outcome and closure you are looking for. You could also just let it go and live your best life. If the OW tells you about the affair you could say something, but honestly who cares? You got the money, FW is dead. You get to live your best life with your kids and grandkids in PEACE. Thats what we mean by getting to meh. I wish I were in your shoes! Seems like a great case scenario. But Im sure you are still grieving his death, and the person you thought he was. His behavior has no reflection on you as a person. You were an awesome wife. You were loving, supportive and caring. Dont dwell on him, move on.
Personally, I would not engage with the adult children regarding this. If you discover, as you probably will, that they knew all along (just like some of your “friends”), it will damage your relationship with them forever. I agree you should tell everyone else in the county, especially HER adult children. And Chumplady is right: get out ahead of the OW’s narrative. Let her discover you have outflanked her.
People deserve to know the truth about their lives. Family secrets are insidious, in my opinion. If I were you Pam I would tell the adult children first. If they knew and condoned/remained silent about their father’s abuse of you, that’s another layer of grief to process. Do you have a few close friends who have your back ? They’re next for the disclosure, for emotional support. Then sing like a bird that’s been freed from its cage. I’d be tempted to just walk up to the cheating cohort cunt, slap her hard and then walk away, but don’t ! You’d be arrested for assault and labelled “crazy”. It’s okay to indulge in righteous fantasy 😉
Think deeply if it will truly give you peace, and then act accordingly. I’m sorry that you have to work through this.
All along, I chose to be very selective with what I said. The college kids focused on how he abandoned us and took off, so I basically left it there. They saw the economic realities (I had been mostly a SAHM) and asked me about certain details during the divorce. I left it up to them whether they remained in contact with their dad, and they chose to go no contact.
Among most people at church and around town, I said that he had chosen to live elsewhere and that we were separated/divorced. If they asked what happened, I said that I preferred not to talk about it. He lives so far away now that it’s unlikely that I’ll ever run into him. I did lose people over it including his side of the family, but that was not unexpected. I have an aunt who gave me such good advice about that sort of thing.
But yes, I ranted and cried with close friends. My attorney was like a big brother to me and helped me both legally and emotionally. I joined a twelve-step group when I couldn’t afford therapy anymore and am now on the leadership team. For me, that is enough.
I hope you’re moving somewhere that has a glut of good trauma therapists. I can see trauma in syntax and grammar. I’ve been there. And when it happened to me, it helped to know how quickly that state can be turned around with the right social support and the right information. It may be two years out but you were run over by a freight train.
Years before my own chump experience when I worked for an advocacy organization for survivors of domestic violence, the same people who– after a period of time spent in group or online forums– would sound like bemused college professors with double doctorates in psychotraumatology and criminal psych, had often originally arrived at the service wild-haired, wild-eyed and clinging to the walls. Many who had previously gone to bad therapists who didn’t specialize in trauma or relationship violence had diagnosed these survivors with all sorts of things based on survivors’ initial “wild haired” appearance. It’s a common, dumb mistake made by therapists, something called “misapplication of contingency,” where it’s assumed that whatever past relationship dysfunction the survivor reports must have been *caused* by the survivor’s seemingly disorganized and hot mess present state of mind– rather than understanding that the abuse might have been bad enough to cause a completely sane person to become a disorganized hot mess. In any case, once these survivors were in a social setting with others who understood the latter, who respected each survivor as the “experts on their own experience,” and once survivors were provided with tools to process the trauma, the turnaround was very rapid.
A trauma therapist who did pro bono consulting with the service explained the turnaround simply: “There’s so much data in trauma.” And all that data has to be sorted though on the road to recovery. We compared processing that data to chewing on piano wire and whale bone. Survivors would end up with very strong teeth and digestive tracts. The trauma therapist also said that the term “GIGO” might apply– the old computer acronym for “garbage in/garbage out.” People entrapped with abusers aren’t always immediately aware of how relentlessly their abusers had campaigned to program and brainwash victims with garbage and nonsense while simultaneously isolating them to ward off competing influences. To keep the peace, victims often internalize the abusers’ confabulations. For instance, the idea that Pam’s fuckwit was a saint.
Pam, you seem to already know that late cheater’s claims of sainthood were total bs. And one hint that your late cheater was hardly a saint is the description of his campaign to paint himself as holier than thou– indeed, specifically *holier than Pam*. It reminds me of cartoons mocking “competitive zen meditation” (https://www.pinterest.com/pin/meditating-comics–486248090992139846/). Like, er, doesn’t that defeat the purpose? I imagine you’ll start remembering much more of his toxicity and toxic messaging as time goes on, all sorts of daily controlling, demeaning, manipulative and abusive behaviors that contradict his public image of “saint.” It might also help to understand the built-in hostage-taking that your late betrayer was engaging in by doing this. He was saying, essentially, “Don’t try to go to anyone for help in escaping my abuse because no one will believe I’m anything less than perfect. You won’t find help anywhere. In fact, they’ll all condemn you for daring to disparage a saint.”
You were a captive. It was abuse. This is why cheating is increasingly being viewed as a stock form of intimate partner violence: https://www.joplinlawyers.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/FINAL-COPY-Infidelity-as-a-Consideration-in-Domestic-Abuse-and-Coercive-Control.pdf When seeking books and material on recovery, I recommend skipping the more mamby-pamby “dysfunctional relationship” resources and going straight to hardcore material on domestic violence because I think it’s more to the point. The book, “Coercive Control” by forensic psychologist and veteran advocate Evan Stark outlines how paralyzing subviolent forms of abuse can be. Criminologist Donald Dutton’s “The Batterer” can help clarify the demented psychology and MO of abusers which go a long way towards explaining victims’ typical responses. The chapter on domestic violence in founding psychotraumatologist Frank M. Ochberg’s “Post-traumatic Therapy and the Victims of Violence” is worth a library visit because it explains bystanders’ typical negative reactions to victims.
If you do decide to confront the Schmoopie, bear in mind that she may have been not only playing along with late cheater’s image management but may have been encouraging his contempt towards you. She may have collected every little fabricated or exaggerated report on your behavior or “instability” or whatever. Side dishes are really nothing more than abuse enablers. Many either enjoy being “rated” above a victim or assuage their bad consciences by pretending that they’re “rescuing” cheaters from bad marriages. So if you confront her, be prepared to get a baffling earful of things you supposedly did wrong, some of which may be total fabrications and others of which might be half-truths. “He said you did this/that, were crazy, etc.”
If you’re a rigorously honest person, the following suggested comeback to any of the above might not sit right with you at first. But consider it as a strategy in the case Schmoopie begins parroting the supposed things you did wrong or ways in which you were wrong. If that happens, I would recommend sighing in a pitying way and telling her, “Oh honey, he said the same things about you to the other two women he was banging at the same time. Betrayers betray and liars lie. I would have thought you’d figured that out.” If she demands to know who these other two schmoopies were, tell her you don’t want to set off a bunny boiler gang war and walk away.
Why do this? For one, like the director of the DV program I worked with put it, “Truth is not truth in the ears of liars.” Secondly it’s probably true that local schmoopie wasn’t the only schmoopie. The suggestion that the affairs overlapped likely isn’t far off the mark. And most importantly, one thing that speeds trauma recovery is laughter. If you can lace any potentially traumatic encounter with a little prank– something that will, even years later, crack you up whenever you remember it– then you’ve re-engineered a potentially crushing memory into an almost pleasant one.
One thing that abusers do is destroy memories, inserting trauma into life experiences that will forever become triggers, making it hard for victims to, say, even look at baby pictures of their kids or remember special events without experiencing a flood of pain because the abuser likely befouled all those experiences with betrayal. It takes time to reclaim experiences, realizing that your sincerity, decency and general lovable chumpiness is what colored and defined those experiences as beautiful, not the crimes of a crook and a liar. In the meantime, gallows humor may be one of the tools of recovering your own perspective. I hope you find solid support and encouragement as you move forward.
Sorry for typos. Behold, I’m living proof that it takes time to get rid of “trauma syntax.”
hEy Hell of a Chump, those last two paragraphs are gold to me. Copied/Pasted
This was brilliant. I wish I knew you.
What Santiago said 👆🏼
Thanks, lovely people. Same back.
I truly appreciate your comments HoaC. They have done a lot to help me understand my situation and work toward untangling my trauma. Thank you. Also:
“Truth is not truth in the ears of liars.”
And befouled memories!! So true.
I want to quote the good parts here but there are too many to quote. The “holier than Pam” idea sticks with me in that my Cheater was forever in a competition with me (for no good reason – Im the least competitive human alive) but he seemed forever intent on proving me wrong about EVERYTHING. I now think that he wanted to be better than me to prove that I deserved whatever shit he was serving up that day and he thought if he could prove me wrong, then he would be right. One day I reminded him that 2 people could both be wrong.
Yes, trauma ruins memories. All of them. His anger/insults/abuse were never far away…either it had just stopped or was just about to start up again. Like a sweet, optimistic puppy, I stay happy and waited for crumbs here and there.
“It takes time to reclaim experiences, realizing that your sincerity, decency and general lovable chumpiness is what colored and defined those experiences as beautiful, not the crimes of a crook and a liar. ” wow, this is profound. Time is also a theme I mention above with my kids coming to have a deeper understanding of their dad. Like Pam, I wanted to have them get there to be with me in my trauma but it would have caused them extra trauma to enter my space of knowing ugly truth. 2 of them are getting there but were 10 years after his death.
Quotes like what you said here help me so much because I remember that for me, it was who I was that I need to focus on, not him. He was fake, I was real and I can be proud of that.
As I get to better and better places, I can be more circumspect. Lately, one thought I have is that I feel really bad for him that his choices and actions were so bad that my life is better without him. I was his helpmate and partner – fully devoted to. him. There were times I did anything necessary to nurture our brood and he was so toxic and yet my life is better with him gone. It is tragic. He could have been so awesome…he had all the pieces, but chose a shortcut to gratification and ruined everything.
“He could have been so awesome…he had all the pieces, but chose a shortcut to gratification and ruined everything.”
This exactly. Understanding it was their CHOICE which had nothing to do with me, was critical to my healing. Thanks for all your helpful information. I have something I need to tell my kids and this was extremely valuable. Hugs.
In the end it’s hard to know what traits abusers have that are real and which are fabricated for appearance but it certainly sounds like your ex was a full-blown abuser. If you read up on “cubing” and the quasi-split personalities of various perpetrators, these are very fragmented, disordered people. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shadow-boxing/202201/the-serial-killer-btk-and-the-concept-cubing
Very often they will compulsively re-enact childhood trauma but with victim/perp roles reversed. http://www.cirp.org/library/psych/vanderkolk/
It can all be internally or even seasonally driven and has zero to do with the victim except that any move the victim makes towards independence, even if it’s just the victim being happy with a new job or friend, can act as a trigger for the abuser. Happy people tend to feel somewhat in control of their lives but a victim having “some” control threatens the abuser’s need to have *all* the control. What results is that abusers will continuously sabotage the victim’s happiness. Cheating is just one of several potent methods of doing this plus has the bonus of not being technically illegal. It’s a lower effort, lower risk method of battering.
I’ve often considered what I would do if he should die suddenly (he is a prime candidate for a heart attack). I will not be contacting her. She can be left to find out some other way. She will have no part or say in any arrangements. And I will collect the life insurance and the superannuation payout. And she can just bugger off.
Revenge is sweet even if it’s a bit bland by the time you’re in full meh. Before meeting FW, I’d been chumped once before during a college dating relationship with an older, very controlling FW. I broke it off mostly because he was a suffocating heap of dysfunction whose “everyone’s favorite guy” act quickly wore thin. Being chumped at 18 was a much different experience than being chumped after a twenty year marriage. In the former experience, I moved on very quickly and didn’t give much though to the side dishes, a few of whom I’d met. But a while later there was a chance encounter that afforded a bit of casual revenge.
While still in school I was producing a short media project and the director we hired– some TV veteran in his fifties who probably wasn’t doing that well if he was stuck working on budget student projects– showed up with one of my ex’s former schmoopies in tow, a two-faced climber from BU who’d dabbled with my ex as long as she thought he might boost her career with is vast (lol) connections. When she dumped the ex for a married producer from PBS, the ex came crying back to me and I told him to get himself stuffed. Anyway, it seemed Schmoopie Shark’s career ascension pattern was continuing. Her latest target– the director we hired– was obviously smitten and wanted us to find a job for her. This was before #MeToo and typical.
What made the outcome more fun is that I don’t think I was even motivated to nuke the shark’s career strategy. I didn’t think I had that kind of power. I was just weirded out by having a bad penny wash up in my life again. So when one of the tech guys mentioned that the director was talking about taking Schmoopie Shark to Paris and wasn’t it funny watching this old dude make an ass of himself for a bimbo, I shared some of the highlights of the story. I don’t know if it was due to some buddy code or if the tech guy was trying to make himself indispensable to this director by trading in gossip currency but he immediately repeated the story to the director, who apparently felt “betrayed” which was hilarious. SS was suddenly off the project and nowhere to be seen. I got the feeling she’d been working this particular con for some time because she appeared to be socially enmeshed in the director’s entourage. Oh well, best laid plans.
As a side note, what’s the deal with she-schmoopies and cystic acne? Hormone imbalance leading to self esteem or character issues? I remember Ms. Shark always wearing heavy polymer pancake makeup to fill pits and cover scarring just like the AP in my more recent chump experience. Also this thing of spackling over leering aggression with this icky, syrupy-sweet act. I get the feeling it’s a “thing.”
“A two-faced climber from BU…” Why do I get the feeling you went to BC? lol
Lol, I didn’t. I’m from NYC, not Boston, though part of my family settled in Mass. I didn’t mean to step on the toes of any BU grads. The school she went to probably stuck in my head because it was surprising. She wasn’t exactly a classic New Englandy character unless you’re talking wharf rat. The impression she left was sort of, er, failed-country-singer-cum-mega-church-pastor’s-wife complete with crispy pouf of bleached hair, sparkly blue eyeliner and rigor mortis grin.
This I love, especially the ‘crispy pouf’…I’m crying here….🤣😂
Pam, The universe gave you a permanent hall pass — FW passed away and you received a big life insurance pay out. That’s much better than many of us get.
To get it out of your system, buy a blow up doll and k*** the [email protected] out of that. Don’t bother with this loser OW. She’s crying because you got the $$$$$$$$ she wanted in the first place. You don’t really think she was attracted to this scum bucket FW husband of yours?? You don’t want her to sue you for emotional distress or some other gold digger scheme for cussing her out. I bet she’s just waiting for that.
Good point about a potential lawsuit in the litigious US of A.
Fantasy beat down and pummeling instead.
I must be the most horrible person on Earth, but I got that feeling of envy again after reading about another chump’s cheater passing.
I never, ever had the urge to say anything to the AP in my situation. I put zero blame on her; for me, it was all on ex-FW. So I never gave her much thought at all. And if ex-FW had died, either before or after I found out, I would have considered that to close the loop completely for me so she would have been even less important, unless she was a close friend I wanted to confront to end the friendship.
I would probably tell the kids so they don’t hear it elsewhere.
Pam, tell your kids, just the facts. For better or for worse, they should know the truth. It may be a rocky ride for a while as these things are not easy to tell or to hear. But in the end, after some painful processing time, you will have a relationship based on truth. If you want to be done with spackle, lies and rose coloured glasses you have to start somewhere.
Where there is cheating there is always other abuse. Kids who lived through the marriage would have picked up on the abuse dynamic even if they didn’t know about the cheating. Telling your kids the way he behaved was wrong and no way to treat a loved one gives them a new starting point in their own intimate relationships.
It requires courage but truth is always better.
If you suspect he was a serial cheater I wouldn’t say a word or confront the OW. As we know cheating is the tip of the iceberg. You will be opening doors which will harm both your children and yourself. I say this because many cheaters have had children with OW and you live in a small town.
One thing I know is they rarely use protection and you don’t want to open that door. Once the gossip starts there’s nothing you can do to protect your assets.
He didn’t love you. That’s a hard fact to process. Thankfully you had life insurance. The last thing you want is to have an entitled whore going after assets after the fact.
Moving won’t sever your children’s ties to the community they were part of as they have friends there.
I’d say nothing. She doesn’t matter.
Similar situation, but I discovered betrayal in the middle of raising teenagers and caring for my spouse – who was terminally ill. Oh, and he was a well-known person (as was I), so you can guess how much fun that was.
Talk about a mind fuck. Fortunately, my kids were told about it before their father died, so I avoided that disaster. As for the OW? She is likewise dead to me. She can live with the consequences of her conduct while I live my best life.