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I Don’t Want to Spend Holidays with My Ex

cakemanDear Chump Lady,

The holidays are coming and I was just wondering how to deal with the soon-to-be-ex (STBX) and holiday get-togethers. I actually thought we could stay on friendly terms since we have kids together and we will be seeing each other time to time. I really wanted it to be less painful for the kids and I just need some peace and healing.

Today, we were supposed to go to court and end the marriage. I have spent months and over a thousand dollars trying to draft up a decree with a lawyer that would just split our assets, since we both have a house, retirement etc, I thought we could just call it even and go on. When my STBX got the decree he called and was angry. I still don’t know why. Now he has hired a lawyer and they have asked that the trial be delayed, for 75 days!

So, Thanksgiving and Christmas is coming up and I had planned on having him over for dinner, but I am really hurting and angry right now. He is trying to still control me, after abusing me, my kids and having multiple affairs for over 20 years. He wants to get his fair share of my savings and retirement, but what will happen now is that we will give the lawyers and court most of our savings. What a great guy!

I want nothing to do with him. After he called me two weeks ago, angry because I blocked him on facebook and ranted on me, I had an anxiety attack and suffered heart palpitations for two days. How do I break it to my family and kids that this guy is trying to destroy me and I want nothing to do with him for the holidays?

signed,

ChumpedtotheMax

****

Dear Chumped,

How do you break it to your family that you do NOT want to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with a serial cheater? It’s called a divorce decree. They’re these really amazing documents that free you from abusive fuckwits. Everyone (including you) has to accept the fact that divorce means that you’re no longer family with the creep you’re divorcing.

He is your EX. Ex-turkey carver. Ex-stocking stuffer. Ex-Aunt-Mildred-sweater-gift-recepient.

Let’s say that 10 times together, shall we? EX! EX! EX! EX! EX! EX! EX! EX! EX! EX!

He doesn’t deserve the honor of a place in your life, or at your holiday table, any longer. He lost that privilege when he fucked around on you for TWENTY YEARS.

It’s called a consequence.

Cheaters don’t care for consequences. They prefer cake to consequences. Cake, that lovely, fluffy, moist state where you remain of use to cheaters and project to the world that they’re Splendid People. Do we UNfriend Splendid People on Facebook? No we do not! Of course he’s in an uproar — you took away a tiny bite of cake! Do we object to Splendid People grabbing more than their fair share of allotted resources? How dare you! They’re SPLENDID and more deserving than you are!

See how that works? It’s called narcissism. It’s the same impulse that drove him to cheat for 20 years — entitlement.

Which is why the cheap-o mediated, draft-it-ourselves divorce settlement was never going to work. Your situation is EXACTLY why I tell people to get pit bull divorce lawyers. Cheaters are not honest brokers. The fact that he demands cake shows you how skewed his world view is — me, me, ME… nothing for you.

Equity? Reasonable division of assets? A fair settlement because you grievously fucked up my life and abused me for two decades?

No! You’re the meanie who took cake away!

I’m sorry it’s painful and expensive to get rid of one of these freaks, but think of it as the Christmas present that keeps on giving — you no longer have to tolerate this jerk in your life.

I promise you, you can have a really lovely holiday season in time that doesn’t include a buffet of shit sandwiches. Part of the issue is that there is this myth of the Friendly Divorce (probably propagated by some subsidiary of the Reconciliation Industrial Complex), where even though you’re no longer together (you drifted apart, it was all for the best) — you still put the brave, happy face on For The Children and spend holidays and Thanksgiving dinners together. Just like the Old Times. Only Daddy has a girlfriend now (well he did back then as well).

Hell NO. Children need to understand consequences too. There is a REASON you are divorcing — his 20 years of infidelities. When people abuse us, we remove them from our lives — especially the special times in our lives.

That isn’t to say your children have to remove him from THEIR lives. No, you absolutely ensure that they get their visitation or whatever custody arrangements you’ve worked out.

Is it sad? I’m sure it will seem that way for them at first. Change is hard. But one advantage to removing a cheater from your life is gaining a NEW life. One that is full of your traditions and your values. You invite to your table those people who love you and have your back as you have theirs. They may not share your DNA. Maybe it’s a dear friend, a widow, a neighbor. But you surround yourself with people who give joy, who reciprocate, who honor you.

How do you explain it to the people who were expecting Mr. Cheaterpants? Very matter-of-factly. He’s making other arrangements this holiday season. We’re divorcing. And then you deflect — hey, I wonder how much chocolate Santa brought? Let’s go watch Elf for the gazillionth time! Let’s stay in our pajamas and watch football!

It’s your day, Chumped. YOUR day. This day and the day after. Don’t let him steal your joy.

****

It’s time again for this holiday reminder.

Ask Chump Lady

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  • In the last two or so years, ex’s family (his parents) have started to invite my mother to their holidays (during my ex’s custodial holidays). So now it has evolved into blended holidays again after all of these years. I’m not that upset by this, because the kids get to see their cousins, and my mother, who doesn’t have any family here aside from myself and my children, has somewhere to go on holidays when I may otherwise be working…

    ***Now that I got that part out of the way:

    I absolutely, 100% did not have to work this year on Thanksgiving but you bet I volunteered to work so that other coworkers could be off AND to avoid going over there. Whether or not I actually have to work on these occasions, you better believe that I’m going to say I have to work.

    I get along mostly without issues with the ex in-laws, and the rest of his family, and they aren’t happy with him at all but his mother still coddles him. It is what it is.

    • Your mom went to your ex’s family? Yeezus. Was the AP there too? If my mom went to my ex-in-laws, it would be only to commit murder on my behalf lol

      • Yes. She does favors for them and “feels bad” for his fiancé. He told his now fiancé that I cheated, broke up our family, kicked him out, etc. So apparently my mother thinks his fiancé was lied to and she has no blame either — mind you, she willingly moved in with a married man who had 3 kids and had no custody, living in his parent’s home. Sooooo?!

        (I hope it’s evident that I was never unfaithful to my spouse.)

        He had multiple affair partners before the one he is currently engaged to, has gone on to cheat on the fiancé as well, etc. They have a young child together now.

        I have no idea how many other affairs there may have been while we were married beyond the 7.

          • I don’t know that they’ve ever explicitly invited me, and once made a comment like the invitation is implied. The in-laws love me, and I do love them, so I’m just grateful that they’re good to my kids and my mom — despite the fact that they coddle my ex.

        • GPP – This is so triggering for me. In hindsight, I think I may have been where the new fiancé is now. I wish I could have known and cut my losses back then. It would have been very hard to convince me without proof though – he was such a smooth liar, telling me it was his ex who cheated. I’ll never know the real truth.

          • Klootzak was never married before me but is such a serial cheater, I heard so many stories over the years that his ex-fiancée was a gold digger and all his other girlfriends were “crazy.” I don’t think he had one ex who he ever said, “She was really nice but we just didn’t work out.” I was dumb to not see he was the common denominator. Some of the behavior he described about them sounds in hindsight like women driven crazy by him stringing them along. But I disgress….

            Because of his history and inability to be faithful, I sometimes wonder if I wasn’t someone else’s OW. Was there a serious GF before me and there was overlap by him? Did he monkeybranch to me? I have no idea. It makes me sick to think about. It makes me hate him more. All I know is that if he had ever EVER been honest at all, I would have made much different choices. I would never take up with someone else’s person, even if they were “just” dating. You were also a moral person who would not have intended to be in that position. Be kind to yourself. These jerks put chumps through the wringer.

    • Goodbye Peter Pan, I’m in a similar situation. I still take the kids to FW family’s holidays if he’s not in the country to do so, because they’re lovely mostly, and I’m happy for everyone to be together. But if FW is around to take the kids, nope! Got other plans.

      And he’s never invited to anything in my home or anything I plan, including kids’ birthday parties. He can plan his own holidays. He’s wasted enough of mine already.

    • I agree with others that working is probably preferable to playing happy families around a toxic ex on the holidays. But I hope one day that you’re in a position to host your own holidays with the “replacement family” you build among lovely, healthy-boundary’ed, honest people and then leave all the traitors out.

    • I am glad they can do that. The parents didn’t do the actual cheating and the elders deserve to be together if they choose- the fact that they coddle him(mine do the SAME) that could be why he was able to cheat and think there won’t be consequences

  • Chumped To the Max: my aunt bought into the reconciliation industry’s “be kind & accommodating to your ex because he’s the father of your children & you’ll always be family blah blah blah” & what did my former uncle do? He verbally, mentally & emotionally abused my aunt until he died last week. Now, my aunt, his ex (and NOT his own family) is arranging his funeral. Oh & just for the kicker? He didn’t leave my aunt one cent in his will. How many times did we try & talk my aunt out of this supporting role in her abusive ex’s life? Too many! But she said “the experts knew more than us”. Yup, those are the reconciliation & the church “experts” on how to continue the chumpery. Please don’t be my aunt. It’s been painful for HER family to watch!

    • My aunt did this with her abusive ex as well, and he tortured her for the next 15 years to the day she died. He repeatedly dragged her back to court, never paid a dime in child support, and shit talked her to their children.

      She insisted on “taking the high road”, but in reality she gaslit her kids by never addressing their father’s abuse. The kids are now in their 20s, super fucked up, and still close with their dad even though he let them grow up in poverty and cancelled my cousin’s health insurance while she was in the ER after a car accident.

      • I made a lot of mistakes, but one of the few things I did right was to believe him when his actions repeatedly were screaming “don’t trust me” and “I don’t care.” He promised his undying love even as the attorneys got involved, I didn’t believe that either. He behaved very badly during the divorce, especially with his attorney who wanted to quit but hung in there out of respect for mine. I couldn’t ignore how “easy” became a legal mess that cost way more than it should have and took far too long.

        Our kids were in college at the time and thankfully got it on their own. I confirmed their suspicions that what their dad did was wrong in so many ways, but left the interpretation up to them. I always gave them the lead when they wanted to talk about their dad and didn’t elaborate at all. Thankfully, they know that you always-always-always have a choice as to who is close to you. It’s OK to keep some people on the outskirts if at all.

      • I’m freaked out by adults who remain super bonded with toxic parents. I actually fired a nanny because, at close to thirty years old, she still accepted favors and a sort of infantilizing support from the father who’d repeatedly assaulted her in childhood. She said her dad had never even admitted his past abuse so I couldn’t understand why she would remain so dependent on him. It went beyond keeping the peace into enmeshment. This wasn’t the only reason I fired her but the main theme that shed light on other attitudes and behaviors that were beginning to scare me. The last straw was a bizarre conversation in which the nanny– who’d participated in the anti-rape women’s march the month before– said she thought the sex offender registry was cruel and unusual punishment for pedophiles. WTF? Putting that together with how she’d often call on her dad to rescue her from various situations as if she was a tween, it bothered me that she facilitated and argued cases for dangerous people even if she never turned out to be dangerous herself. I could envision tons of situations where this could turn out tragically and I didn’t feel safe leaving children with her. If abusers had a team, she seemed to be on the cheer squad.

        In retrospect, it’s brilliant that I got rid of her when I did because, little did I know, FW was about to launch into an affair and I would have been screwed if that idiot– a friend of FW’s family– had been around during that period and after D-Day. Having proven herself to be someone who knee-jerkedly cuddles up to abusers, I feel 100% sure she would have been informing on me right and left to FW while I was trying to separate.

        It would have been like having an enemy spy in the house. As it was she went and whined to FW about being fired and he later used the firing to bolster his gaslighting argument that I “don’t know how to get along with other people.” The really curious thing about FW’s resistance to my firing that nanny may have been that the grounds by which I did it were probably taken as a direct condemnation of his secret AP who– tada– turned out to have always cuddled up to drunken, cheating, emotionally abusive daddy and drunken batterer-grandpa for bailouts and financial support.

        It now strikes me as funny how FW must have internally cringed when I explained my reasons for thinking the nanny was a freak and a psycho. FW also probably didn’t appreciate the fact that I replaced a potential traitor with an ally. Like the Taoist saying recommends, I had to clean out my “rice bowl” before the universe would fill it again. I replaced the nanny with a tutor, a gifted graduate student in the midst of getting his third degree. So normal and that rare combination of someone who’s ethical and decent but takes no shit. He turned out to be a Godsend during lockdowns with the bonus of being a walking billboard for “not all adult men are creeps” who could role model positive behavior for the kids in a moment they really needed it.

      • Cam, that makes me furious! I’m sick of seeing these pigs get away with their abuses and I’m sick of chumps covering for them with the kids. Too many chumps seem to feel it’s wrong to get angry, but there’s nothing wrong with anger that’s righteous. There’s nothing wrong with telling the truth about what an abuser did.

        This story validates my philosophy about dealing with abusers of all stripes. I am not Michelle Obama, so if the FW goes low, I’m going sub-basement. I owe him no consideration, no respect, no consultation, not even a civil word if I don’t want to utter one. If he wants to be a bastard, I can out-bastard him all day long. He knows that, so he doesn’t try any of the shit your aunt’s husband did. If he behaves himself, so do I.

        Nobody owes a cheater a holiday dinner and a happy family charade, either.

        • 100% to everything you said.

          My cousin has recently made comments that indicate her parents started their relationship as an affair. They were pregnant when they hurriedly married, which our family knew about. What we did NOT know was that he was still married (“but separated”, lol yeah right) to someone else!!

          I knew my aunt was an enabler, but I had no idea she was the other woman until a few months ago. In hindsight, it makes sense. She was desperate, lonely, and spent her life making terrible decisions. She married her ex thinking she’d won something, but he tortured her into an early grave, and my cousins have paid the price. They’re now dysfunctional young adults in horrible relationships with abusers themselves, because they don’t think they deserve better.

  • Agree agree agree with CL.

    This one brought up that old phrase “I don’t know where you’re going but you can’t stay here” in my mind. As in, “I don’t know how this holiday season will work, but whatever event does happen, what I do know is, it’s not happening here at my house.”

    I’m not required to let anyone who wants to enter my house enter it. My house is for people I enjoy. People I don’t enjoy spending time with don’t get to enter (with one’s own children as an obvious exception, LOL.) If you want to be here, step one is to be nice to me.

    Kindergarten rules apply in my home and sanctuary. No name calling, no hitting, no throwing things, say please and thank you, wash your hands after using the bathroom, etc. That includes, don’t yell vitriolic judgments at me or tell me I should run my household differently. My house, my atmospheric rules.

    If the STBX wants a group gathering, he’s a grownup and he can host it. If he doesn’t have room where he’s living, he can rent a space, or buddy up with someone who has room. If he thinks everyone should be there, he can invite you. Whether you attend or not is your choice, not his.

    You aren’t his mommy. You don’t have to throw him a party with a superman cake. He’s a big boy now and can buy all the cakes he wants on his own. Or, if he can’t, then he needs to do the work to get a better job. Not beg his pseudomommy for more money.

    He’s acting like a spoiled child, a tool to gain centrality. It’s ok to give him two options that are both ok with you and refuse to negotiate. If he wants to act like a toddler, then it’s reasonable to negotiate with him like you would with a toddler. (With any luck he’ll throw a tantrum in court, toss out some wild accusations you can easily refute and demands that are obviously unfair, and irritate the judge. It can be helpful when the mask slides off in a courtroom.)

  • An acquaintance of mine went through several rough years, they separated, got back, moved, bought house because he was certain this time, divorced. She remarried. He eventually remarried-not AP.
    He gets Parkinson’s. His wife goes to spend holidays with aging parents. Acquaintance invites ex for Thanksgiving dinner with their adult children and her husband. I guess she built a life and was in a good place. She is a nurse and knows how rough Parkinson’s and the medication‘s to treat it can be on the body.

  • Never speak to him again, and never voluntarily see him. It is that easy. The pressure of ‘getting along for the kids’ with an abuser is toxic and gaslighting. And it teaches kids they can abuse without consequences. Don’t contribute to generational cheating.

    For the holidays of D-Day year, I sent a custom photo Christmas card of me and the kids to 200+ friends/family/clients. And I included a note that Fuckwit wasn’t on the card because we were getting a divorce due to him having a relationship with another woman while I was pregnant. I named the whore in it. Now that’s a fun way to handle holidays! (yes, I was threatened with a defamation lawsuit for it, and they used it in court to prove I was angry and ‘hurting’ the kids by not keeping his secret – still worth it)

    • The defamation accusations coming from cheaters, the masters of actual defamation and hurting children, part and parcel of infidelity, REALLY make me angry.

      Noun: defamation
      |ˌde‑fu’mey‑shun|
      A false accusation of an offense or a malicious misrepresentation of someone’s words or actions
      = calumniation, calumny, hatchet job, obloquy, traducement
      An abusive attack on a person’s character or good name
      = aspersion, calumny, denigration, slander

      Cases like yours make me wish I was a lawyer representing chumps.

      • I always wish I had had unlimited funds to go to trial instead of Marriage Settlement Agreement. Would’ve been nice to present the Howorker as a witness plus all the financial evidence, and pictures of drugs accompanied by texts saying he was attending NA and going to addiction counseling. Divorce dragged on with, no surprise, an uncooperative FW. It needed to be over. My lawyer handled MSA well. Still I would’ve liked to have done it on principle.

        • Additionally, my adult children were concerned for my safety after my tire were slashed.
          I’m sure VH you would’ve kicked butt.

    • It must have been hilarious when your lawyer explained to FW that it’s not defamation when you’re telling the truth!

    • while divorce was dragging on, I sent a Christmas card with me and our kids saying “from the (my maiden name) Family”. I got in trouble with the Judge. Ex’s lawyer said I was trying to brianwash our kids into using my maiden name. No such thing. Kids know I am going back to my maiden as soon as my youngest hits 18. Now I just send picture of me and the kids with the man I have been dating for 2 years!

    • With 2, bravo! I would have done same. It isn’t defamation if it’s true. And I did send the OW and her entire family the results of my std tests and copies of their nauseating fuck notes. That put a nice spin on the holidays.

    • “Don’t contribute to generational cheating”. I agree with this, “With2Toddlers”! I keep reading the same excuses over and over on this site. So sad.

    • I love that you sent the Christmas card with the truth about the fuckwit.

      When cheater x tried to renege on our verbal agreement about splitting assets, I mocked up a very festive Christmas greeting using a photo of him I found on one of the many DDays.

      In the photo, he was outdoors, naked and smiling for the man who took it. I added some TRUTHFUL statements about his time spent with that man, other men he had sex with and all his other extracurricular activities.

      I sent him the card via text, just the mock-up no additional comments. I never threatened to send it to anyone else.

      He quickly decided that he would adhere to our previous agreements. Though not without a LOT of rage-filled texts and threats. Thanks, dumbass, I think I have enough evidence of abuse already but it’s okay that you gave me more.

      I know that technically he might have been able to claim extortion or blackmail, but I also knew that he did not want ANYONE to know about what he did.

      For what it’s worth, I would never have sent it to anyone other than him. I don’t do stuff like that, and after more than 40 years together he should have known that.

      But it worked out for me that he thought I would.

      Guess he never really knew me.

    • Wow W2T, that is a strong move. Last Christmas during the divorce I sent out generic Christmas cards to all of FW’s APs and their wives. I included evidence. It caused plenty of problems for her APs, plenty!
      When Dday occurred, 8/2021, FW had our 70 year-old female neighbor helping her. Neighbor swore she would destroy me and I could not understand why. She dirtied my name at the church. Neighbor even attacked me 9/2021 in my house and was arrested. She attacked me and then called police. She didn’t know I had filmed her. When police came to house I showed them and she was arrested and ultimately had to do community service. In gathering evidence I found out neighbor was also cheating on her husband and my FW was helping her. I sent Christmas cards to Neighbor’s AP’s wife with evidence. It hasn’t worked out well for her. She was also asked to leave the church because her and FW were using funds for personal things

  • Holidays are not mandatory events, as much as we my think they are. It was so hard to celebrate initially with only me and little FuckWitFree (she was 18 and had no interest in him.) it was lonely. She spent some holidays with boyfriends family. Me alone. But gradually, you cultivate chosen family, and in my case, opened old friendships again that fuckwit tried to destroy. After multiple cheating partners, coupled with his entitled behavior and over drinking, no one invites him anymore. The “we are still family!” was also crammed down my throat. No, we are not; just as I once chose you, I now unchoose you and you can go seek cake elsewhere, idiot.

  • My very first Christmas after Dday I was still pretending that I “wouldn’t divorce him” (aka applying to graduate school and opening a new bank account, looking for a new job). It was awful. He was still living here so we celebrated Christmas together- (I hosted my family at our house). We hadn’t told any family about the divorce. His family gets together the day after Christmas (I had zero intention of going with him). He got the kids ready and was unbelievably shocked and angry that I wasn’t going with him to his family celebration. I’m so glad I didn’t chump myself over to his asshole father’s house that day- I haven’t seen or talked to anyone in his family since before that Christmas back in 2018. The following Christmas (2019) I found out that my Ex and my kids were invited to my brother’s house for Christmas Eve (but I was NOT). That’s the last time I ever spoke to my brother or his wife (hated her anyway lol). Christmas 2020 was awesome. The kids spent a few hours on Christmas Eve with their father’s family and I had them the rest of the time. We had our usual Christmas dinner but it was just my two kids and me- and it’s been that way ever since. This Black Friday I got a new fake Christmas Tree which we will decorate while watching Elf and eating cookies with hot chocolate. This has become our tradition and one that I hope we can continue as my oldest goes off to college next year, and my youngest is not far behind. Holidays are SO MUCH BETTER without FWs!!!

  • I opted for missing holidays with my kids and their families early on to avoid seeing him and the skank. She stopped attending his fam functions a few years in but I cannot stand looking at his ugly lying face. I’m pretty much meh but I still refuse to share holidays. He was the shit at one family party because skanky pants wasn’t invited because I was and he was a total shithead. My kid got real mad since he acted like a complete jerk face. So we’ve settled with my plan. He blew up MY life and family life and I miss a lot of holidays and milestones with my own children because he will be there. And some holidays alone have been pretty lonely. In ways, it has made me harder and more callous. But I’d rather be alone than allow myself to be treated poorly by pond scum. And the kicker is I pretty much raised them alone since he sat in a bar drinking and watching football their whole childhood. Now he acts like he was there every breathing moment. I’m 90% meh but I pray for his painful death every time I sage my house…

  • Here was my eye opening moment… when I realized FW expected me to include him in my plans for son’s birthdays, Chanukah, Halloween, etc… but wanted to just show up and NEVER reciprocate. He wasn’t inviting ME to anything or including me.

    He EXPECTED and thought he DESERVED to be part of all of my holiday plans and parties that I did. And of course not pay a dime for it. FUCK THAT.

    I invited him just a few months after DDay to walk son around for Halloween… but he then expected to come inside the house. NOPE. Then he planned to come over for Chanukah and I quickly realized that would be a bad idea — NOPE. I didn’t want him in the house anymore.

    Then son asked that dad go to his 10th birthday party at a Japanese steakhouse with AP his friends. FW showed up and threatened that he’d bring AP (he didn’t) and was an ass to my mom and sister. And left without paying a dime. And that was that. Fuck him. I’m no longer his secretary or party planner. And frankly I don’t want him anywhere near me because he ensures that everything goes to shit.

    You’re divorcing. He’s a Cheater. It’s ok to enjoy your holidays and everything else without him. No more holidays or anything with that turd of a human. 4 stars. Highly recommend.

  • This weekend I binge-watched Mammals with James Corden on Amazon Prime….it’s about infidelity and fascinatingly accurate. I’m very disappointed there is no Season 2 yet.

    Traitor Ex came over very early Christmas morning the first post DDay Christmas to see Little Hammer open presents.

    Never again.

    I’m not a mental gymnast and have no desire to become one. In my world,
    divorce when infidelity is involved means
    I cannot act like we are family or friends.

    Being civil and staying on the high road when I absolutely have to engage is the only possibility.

  • Holiday celebrations are highly overrated and we have a tendency to put way too much emphasis on their importance. How many of us here have written about the sheer hell scape our FWs created and we endured during a holiday, birthday, wedding, funeral, etc?

    Going NC completely eliminates any possibility of that chaos and drama reentering our lives. I’ve gladly traded working my ass off in the kitchen, spending untold hours (with zero help) decorating my former home into the illusion of cozy, loving space, and spending way too much money on gifts he would never appreciate… for PEACE!
    Was the first year hard? Turns out only my anxiety over it was. When the holidays arrived, they turned out to be splendid! The people I wanted in my new home were present and his absence made every one of us so much happier and that includes our adult children and their partners! We had cut out what was toxic and made those days a chore instead of a pleasure. We played games, toasted my new life, and celebrated one another. I knew then it would not only be okay going forward, it would be better.

    This year, my girls and I have been “adopted” by the family of my youngest daughter’s fiancée and will attend their large and boisterous annual Xmas eve celebration, which is legendary from the stories I’ve heard over the years. I can’t wait to celebrate another fuckwit free year …

    • Wonderful!! This has been my experience as well. I didn’t realize how much FW hurt the holidays with his moodiness and tantrums until he was out of the picture.

      On the first holiday, someone (was it me? Can’t remember) forgot the corn bread, or the potatoes took longer to cook than expected, and NO ONE CARED because it didn’t matter. It never mattered when x had his fits over…nothing. It was as if he had to invent a crisis to reflect his own internal turmoil.

      He’s the AP-wife’s problem now.

      To the OP: For those of us who were married for decades, it’s even harder to get it through our heads that it’s over and that we don’t owe these cheaters anything.

      It takes some major cheater balls to get upset about the natural consequences of their own actions. If he’s like other cheaters, he may even reject the term “consequences” and opt instead for “punishment,” which makes cheaters seem like poor victims and chumps like bitter, vindictive people.

      One of x’s parting lies was to tell me that he “always knew I could be vindictive.” It was as if he felt his cheating was justified because I reacted badly once it was revealed.
      #myfault #cheaterlogicconfounds

      • “NO ONE CARED because it didn’t matter. It never mattered when x had his fits over…nothing. It was as if he had to invent a crisis to reflect his own internal turmoil.”

        This! And it is SO NICE not to deal with that anymore.

      • Spinach@35, ain’t that a very illustrative case of the DARVO he “always knew I could be vindictive.” ? George W. Bush would call it a preemptive strike. Unfortunately, it is very efficient. That’s a perfect catch-22 situation: now any un-nice behavior from the chump can be neutralized with an “I told you so” 😳 I am glad yours is an old story, but still, it is infuriating 🤬🤬🤬

  • My ex-husband was a Whore Fucker. He was afraid to fly, I didn’t really like long drives with him that would usually end up in a fight anyway, so we arranged it where he would drive the six hours to his mom‘s house, and I would fly and meet him there. We did that for a few years. I thought the problem was solved.

    Upon D day, I found an email between him and a prostitute halfway between our house and mom’s house. He had made plans to stop there for some early holiday festivities. However, that was the year I last minute decided to drive him with him and I inadvertently cock blocked him. No wonder he picked more fights in the car that year.

    I have since divorced his sorry, Whore – fucking ass, and I gotta tell ya… Any Christmas when you don’t have to worry about your husband fucking a prostitute while driving over the River and through the woods to grandmothers house is a winning holiday season in my opinion.

    • “Any Christmas when you don’t have to worry about your husband fucking a prostitute while driving over the River and through the woods to grandmothers house is a winning holiday season in my opinion.”

      Absolutely. If I had a do over, that is exactly what I would have said to whore. Only I would say “fucking whores” then I would add, that is your worry now, but it will be easier for you because you know where all the whores hang out”.

      I actually did say that last part to my daughter in law when she told me whore caught him cheating. I said “well she had and advantage, because she knew where the whores hung out”. Daughter in law laughed and laughed.

  • This. All of this. Our holidays are completely separate. When we exchange the kids on holidays, I’m cordial and wish FW a Merry Christmas / Happy Thanksgiving whatever and then get in my car and happily drive my kids to our own celebration. The kids never ask to have daddy over for holidays or bdays etc. I never speak ill of him or discourage them when they give details about whatever “miraculous” thing he did on his weekend – and they know he crossed a huge boundary for me and is no longer a welcome part of my life.

  • A holiday without a FW to spoil it is the best holiday! ChumpedtotheMax, you control you. That means you can do what you want in regard to holidays.FW can throw temper tantrums all he wants but you do not have to care. He can have his holidays with Schmoopie.
    Doing it for the kids is crazy, kids get a sense of what is going in and they are not stupid. You need to show your kids that you have values and integrity and that means cheaters deal with CONSEQUENCES. You do not have to play pretend happy family. Be honest with your kids, yourself, family and friends. You call the shots in YOUR life.
    As to your other issues, please engage a lawyer and just as he wants his share of your assets, you have a right to have your share of his assets. GET a lawyer who will make sure you get what you are entitled to (especially if you are in a fault state but most have equitable distribution so get your equitable share). You have tried to be nice and fair but you discovered that you cannot do that with a FW. He is the enemy now. You don’t speak to the enemy and you can block the enemy and the enemy can get angry but you do not have to care. In your new life you call the shots and don’t give in to FW because you don’t have to.
    Please also see your doctor about the anxiety. There are many things that can be done to get you through this period. Most of us had to get some extra help and it is okay. You are going through a major life event so you need something to help you get through these days. I went on meds to and now that we are settled (and paper get finalized next week) I am going off the meds with my doctor’s help.
    The holidays last year were not that great (it was still new and raw). This year I have all kinds of plans (with my son (an adult and no contact with FW)), friends and my parents. We are creating some new traditions and I am looking forward to it (my son is even bringing a couple of his friends from the Navy who cannot go home for the holidays or don’t have family or anyone nearby). I plan to have a wonderfully full house and all the chaos that goes with it!
    Create yourself some new traditions. Even if your ex (not sure if your kids are young or not) has the kids, do something you want to do, make food that you have wanted to try but your kids would hate. You can sort out what the holidays should look like after you are finally divorced. Right now, you need to do what feels good for you. Treat yourself gently and give yourself grace. You can pull through this.

    • If any Chumps live in a town with a military base, you can invite soldiers to dinner who can’t go home for the holidays.

      It’s fun to meet young people from different places and backgrounds. And you’ll probably become a second “mom” or “dad” while they’re stationed in your area.

      I still keep in touch with the ones I’ve met.

  • There’s a myth out there that everyone should “play nice” over the holidays. Don’t buy into it. Certainly, be civil and maintain your own dignity but don’t think that you need to invite him into a space that only is for trustworthy, safe people.

    A friend of mine in a similar place (multiple court delays) decided that they would do dinner out and holiday lights together the day after Thanksgiving but that he was not invited for a homestyle dinner like the “old days.” Her space is her space period, and yes, she’s following the temporary custody order.

    Keep it civil for dignity’s sake and the sake of your children, but don’t let him in. Briefly, explain that you aren’t having him there for the holiday meals and that they will get to see their dad (fill in the blank). If they ask why say that you believe that’s best and leave it there. Focus on new memories.

  • @CTTM…. I’m sure you’re long divorced by now, but I want to address one statement in your letter for the benefit of newbies beginning divorce proceedings: in the US, other than small administrative fees (initial filing fee in the low hundreds and sometimes a motion reservation fee—$100s— all subject to waiver for those who show they are below certain income levels) the Court does not “take” litigants’ money. The vast majority of cases settle long before trial. A protracted trial with expert witnesses and higher-rate attorneys, which can cost six-figures in attorneys’ fees and expert witness costs, generally occurs when the amount in controversy is high and/or issues are sufficiently complex to justify spending the money to get a court’s determination (e.g. successful business valuation) or in the case of a child abuser trying to get unsupervised visitation. Absent those unusual situations, it’s highly unlikely that attorneys’ fees to get a divorce would exceed the value of two retirements or significant equity in two homes. My case was complex and warranted a week-long trial with multiple experts to value XH’s business for the Judge to make a fair and equitable division of property. We are in a high cost of living area where legal fees are higher than other parts of the country. I ended up spending 6.5% of what I was awarded at trial in attorneys’ fees and I paid the initial fees over two years and then refinanced my house after the divorce, paid the attorney in full, and it raised my house payment by $50 a month. Worth every penny to protect my minor child from further abuse, get my share of what we built over 25 year marriage, and get free of a serial cheater.

  • Your Cheater soon-to-be-ex is still operating in full-on manipulation mode to maximize his gains and minimize yours in this divorce. You are still operating in the delusion that, for the sake of the kids, you can all remain “friends” forward.

    A man can choose what causes he will set in operation, but he cannot change the nature of effects. He can decide what thoughts he will think, and what deeds he will do, but he has no power over the results of those thoughts and deeds. This applies to all of humanity.

    He’s chosen his actions. You’re the target. Don’t stand still while he aims for the bullseye. Move your target to muzzle the weapon. Don’t go back to the firing range now, later, or in time to come.

    You dodged a bullet. You’ll thank yourself someday.

    • Yep, time to stop giving the benefit of the doubt to someone that has shown to be horrible, abusive, and selfish. Stop expecting him to have the same values of what’s best for both of you, and what’s best for the children. I know it took me awhile (and some extra rounds in court) to really understand that myself. And it’s a really hard concept to embrace, because their values and motivations are so, so far from yours! And it’s hard to believe that the person you spent a decade (or two or three or four) with could, in fact, be so different from you.

    • When my grandparents were alive, we always celebrated Ukrainian Christmas and Easter with them (January 7 and sometimes the week after “regular” Easter) as well as getting together on the usual dates. What a boon: two holiday meals, two sets of small presents, two celebrations! My family has always considered holidays to be a week-long period, so it doesn’t matter if the card/present arrives in time, and we even refer to the long November weekend as “Ukrainian Thanksgiving.” That allows for an entire four days of festivities, with the emphasis on getting together at some point during the long period. It’s a win-win, with lots of opportunities for leftovers!

  • Sorry just need some support RN: I feel like I’m never going to find another loving partner again. My insecurities and jealousies tire people out even though I’ve worked on them and got better than I was. Just got dumped and left to go on the festive period trip I planned with my partner alone, or rebook it. It was to go to his state, so I have all the inconvenience and upset and he just stays put and sees family instead, whereas I don’t have any and he knows it.

    I feel like I keep attracting ambivalent men and I just feel so alone and hopeless. The one man that does really like and pursue me is too young and not right for me.

    Sorry pretty jumbled, just need some help or advice or I don’t even know.

    • Going on your own is no problem. Take a phone or a book if you don’t want to people watch. There will probably be other singles you spot in the cinema/theatre/hotel/restaurant.

      Just do it. You will either speak to no-one or have a random conversation with a few strangers.

      PS: Went to the theatre on my own on Saturday so I do put my money where my mouth is!!!

      • Thank you. I am quite good at doing stuff alone, I’ve traveled and moved alone abroad before. It’s just the older I get the more I want to just have a best friend and partner to go with. I waited 8 months or so to date after getting cheated on but I’ve not been happy romantically since. I feel like I never will be but trying to keep hope.

        • GT, I doubt 8 months was enough. It usually takes a lot longer than that to heal. You will know you are ready for love again when you don’t need it so badly. It sounds like you’re trying to fill a void and un-break your heart with a new relationship. That never works, and needing love too much tends to attract people who want to take advantage of you.
          So what if you never find another partner? People can be happy single.

        • Getting there:

          If you really think back on the messages that your ex-abuser was giving you all along (whether in subtle or not so subtle ways) I think you’ll discover that the way you feel now– the sense of hopelessness and that you’ll never be able to move on– was how you’ve been “trained” and brainwashed to feel about yourself and your future.

          It’s a long process to emerge from abuse and it can’t be oversimplified. But one step towards this might be to consider that many of your more disheartening thoughts and feelings in the present moment may not be *your own* thoughts and feelings at all but things you were traumatically forced to internalize. Think about how those feelings would serve an abuser. Abusers absolutely hate it when their victims– any past victims– move on and find happiness and a lot of psychological abuse is geared to kill victims’ hope for the future and agency to build that future. Every abuser is like Louis XV declaring “After me, the flood!” I’m convinced that even the Houdinis who disappear in a puff of smoke are secretly terrified that, if they do look back, they’ll see their victim bouncing back and moving on. That’s why, while in a relationship, abusers can’t bear to see their victims happy or at peace with the world. They’ll always “spoil” and sabotage. Happy people are happy because they feel like they have some control of their lives. But to an abuser who wants ALL the control, that very appearance of happiness in a partner is a threat and is seen as “punishable.” If terrorized or psychologically abused enough, victims may develop a kind of “allergy” to their own happiness because any sign of it had always been punished by the abuser. It’s a bit how lab animals are conditioned in shock boxes. The state is called “learned helplessness.” “Learned” is a euphemism because it actually takes terror and pain to induce this state in living creatures.

          No basically innocent person ends up feeling like that on their own. Personally I think that, for some sensitive people, even just physical and emotional proximity to someone who harbors secret murderous thoughts or other kinds of destructive MOs– even if those sick thoughts are never expressed openly– can be enough to instill a sense of unspoken terror and paralysis. That kind of uncertain dread is like knowing there’s a giant spider in the room but not being able to see it to identify what breed or how deadly it might be. The victim ends up psychologically perched on a chair in a sleepless vigil to the point of complete exhaustion. Sometimes depression is actually a gap between what the conscious mind has been led to believe is true (i.e., “That Whosit wasn’t really such a terrible person”) and what their instincts suspect might be true (that Whosit have been thinking serial killerish thoughts).

          Anyway, my guess is that your ex may have been a rage-monkey or emanated other kinds of eerie, unspoken “danger vibes” in some way because the feelings you’re describing are typical of PTSD, particularly the belief that you’ll never be happy and will always be alone. I would recommend bypassing generic “relationship healing” resources and go straight to hardcore resources for post-traumatic stress and even those geared to battering and abuse survivors. Stay far away from any resource of therapist who depends on the “split blame” view of abuse or relegates a certain amount of responsibility to victims– aka, the “codependency” view.

          Abusers are internally driven destructo machines. The only way way to understand abuse is by studying abusers– their tactics and MOs. For example, abusers tend to tailor their abuse to the resistance of the victim. The worst abusers may never have to take their hands out of their pockets or raise a fist to completely terrorize and flatten their prey. The worst can do this just by figuring out their victims’ greatest fears and playing on them. I’d recommend the book “Coercive Control” by forensic psychologist Evan Stark and see if your library can get you a copy of psychotraumatology expert Frank M. Ochberg’s Post-traumatic Therapy and the Victims of Violence. For the overlaps between cheating and battering, read criminologist Donald Dutton’s “The Batterer.” All are very readable and packed with mind-blowing insights and observations that might help get some perspective on the frog-boiling process involved in abuse.

          From my time working in advocacy, I cobbled together my own theories about why abusers abuse. I think abuse is partly a case of displacement of the emotions the abusers themselves deny. If the abuser seeks to leave the victim feeling suicidal, I think it’s a reflection of the abuser’s own, unacknowledged death wish and self loathing. If the abuser seeks to make the victim isolated and feeling rejected from society, this reflects the abuser’s own terror of abandonment and betrayal. If the abuser seeks to foster dependency in the victim, it’s a reflection of the abuser’s own feelings of infantile dependency (and a reason many cheat: forming another relationship helps to “dilute” their feelings of shameful, “weak” dependency on a primary partner). What makes an abuser an abuser is the belief that by forcing others to feel the abuser’s secret feelings, the abuser will be “free” of those feelings. Of course it doesn’t work but that doesn’t stop an abuser from continuously repeating the cycle in every relationship.

          Finding a therapist who understands these dynamics could be really energizing and enlightening. Another thing abusers do is called “perspecticide”– they seek to destroy the perspective of the victim and replace it with the abuser’s own sick perspectives. One of those sick perspectives is that the world is a cold and scary place filled with evil and untrustworthy ghouls. Simply by meeting people who are trustworthy and “get it” can go a long way towards “disproving” the abuser’s twisted views and rebuilding your own. It can be reassuring to learn that cutting edge researchers are increasingly starting to view cheating as a form of intimate partner violence. It would explain why many survivors feel so battered after betrayal. https://www.joplinlawyers.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/FINAL-COPY-Infidelity-as-a-Consideration-in-Domestic-Abuse-and-Coercive-Control.pdf

    • Getting there – I feel your pain! It’s hard when you really want to find a loving partner and you start to feel hopeless.

      I wish I had some answers for you – I don’t. But for me, I took the last 6 months off from dating and focused on me. I joined an organization that I was interested in and started on a path to learning some new things, I joined some meetup groups with interests similar to mine, I did a little volunteer work, I took a vacation by myself (for the first time!). It was with a tour group and it was so much fun! I didn’t find a partner… but I have some hope now. I met some new people and there’s always hope that I might meet someone that shares my interests – but that’s not the goal. The real goal is finding a way to be happy with the life that I have – even if it means I’ll always be single. I’m not quite there yet – hopefully soon. And I might put up a new dating profile. I’m going to be brutally selective this time about who I invest my time with.

    • New Beginnings commented that she took some time off from dating and I suggest you do the same. Just take “me” time. People not in a good place tend to attract or be attracted to jerks. Rebook the trip if possible to somewhere other than your ex boyfriend’s home state. If you have to go to his state , stay out of his neighborhood or town. Also volunteer…I know people may get tired of hearing about that suggestion but working at an animal shelter will definitely be a distraction from dwelling on failed relationships.

    • Getting There, I feel for you. I hope this story might give you hope to go it alone. I’m 62 and, having had two failed marriages (one to a man who discovered he was gay, and the long marriage to the cheater), I’m doing some work in therapy to consider how I find myself attracted to men who, on the whole, are weak and abusive. My discard started 26 years in. I was very confused and then my Dad died, to add grief to the mix. The ex’s birthday is in autumn. He knew that I was planning to take him away for a long weekend, as normal. He identified a gorgeous European city as a destination (we are UK based). He took the days off work knowing that I was buying a trip. Two weeks before his birthday, he dumped me after a week away ‘alone’ (I much later discovered that he was with his exgf from school, his long-distance, long-standing affair partner). He moved back into the marital home after leaving because he ‘did not want to spend my birthday alone’. I cooked him a dinner and gave him tickets for the lovely trip. He refused to come. He did not expect that I would go on that trip on my own. He drove me to the station, saying ‘that’s the least I can do’ (yes, he is a smug creep). I made that journey on Eurostar alone. I sat with the empty seat next to me amongst happy, laughing couples and families. I found my way to the beautiful hotel. I told the hotel team that ‘my husband had had to work so couldn’t come’. I don’t think they believed me! For two days I toured the city, snacked and drank in trendy bars, enjoyed the gorgeous weather, relaxed , and gained strength. He texted me several times, I’ve no doubt because he did not believe that I had actually gone on the trip (exgf had returned to Canada by then)! Each evening I asked the hotel to book me a restaurant table, making it clear that I would be on my own. They booked the most lovely places for me and I was treated like a princess. I talked to other diners, looked around, drank very fine wine, and ate extremely well. I felt like a beautiful mysterious woman for those evenings, confident, assured, and happy.

      Did I cry in the room afterwards? I certainly did. But I look back at that trip, which was full of pain, joy, life experience and overwhelming kindness, with such pride. There was more horror to come, and life in the UK is difficult right now. That trip showed me who I was and what I am capable of. You are that woman. Go on the trip, feel the pain, and look for the joy.

  • Hello,
    I think we put too much attention and focus on being friendly and doing things together for the sake of the children. Doing things as a “family” even though we are no longer a family. From my past experience of two, my children didn’t like or desire any “family time”. They stated everything was awkward and fake. They didn’t know how to respond to the both of us and felt the tension between myself and my ex. They stated they would prefer either activities with their mom or myself separately but not together.

    We have done so for years and neither my ex and I have seen each other for years. Makes me happy and content as well.

  • Well this is timely. I’m starting my first holiday season without X in my home. We would have been married 25 years next week. He texted me this past weekend asking what I was thinking about Thanksgiving (being the first we’ll be apart, but with three kids still in the home). My parents will be staying with me. My kids will be spending the night with their dad on Thanksgiving evening, so I ultimately decided to allow him to join us for lunch. So, we’re giving it a go. If things feel shitty on Thanksgiving, I’ll rethink Christmas. If things feel okay, I’ll be…thankful. Giving myself grace during a hugely transitional year for all of us (my kids, my parents, but mostly me).

    • Kids are spending Txgvg night w their dad, but have plans to be back home for Thanksgiving Day…so I’m allowing him to tag along.

      • Juniper – Just a word of caution. You may be setting a precedent for future child/holiday sharing. I remember when every holiday and weekend became a confusing negotiation in real time instead of a schedule children could plan on.

    • Juniper, I highly recommend giving yourself permission to change your
      mind at any time and have an exit strategy. You can certainly say you need to play it totally by ear and see how you feel and reserve the right to bail. The first cycle of holidays and special occasions are apt to be learning experiences and possibly painful in unforseeable ways. Including an escape hatch to abort the mission is a great insurance policy that’s always prudent in such emotionally charged new territory.

      • VH – I’ve been thinking about this. My therapist said the exact same at my last appt: “You’re allowed to change your mind at anytime.” Do you have any suggestions on possible exit strategies?

  • I had a few holiday events, when my son’s dad was between girlfriends du jour, that he came to my home for a meal or event with the boys. It was never comfortable. I was navigating on my own back then, no CN support group, and my priority was to stay civil so the boys would receive child support and not have to witness any more parental discord than they had already seen. I think he wanted to be sure he would see his sons, and he wanted to APPEAR to be a good dad. The times were never a party, or “fun” just family, and convenience (he was picking them up for his time with them, or something like that).

    At any rate, once he knew he would not be prohibited from seeing his kids, and that his Good Dad routine was not getting him much accolade, his desire to have family events withered away. Whenever we were in public, like a school event or ballgame, he made a point of sitting “with” me. He always was more concerned with how things appeared than I was. I was always more considerate of how my sons felt. It was a difficult time of transition, but as the divorce papers grew cold, and the boys got older, things got into more of a routine. The raw emotions of first times without the marriage facade are the worst.

    As far as marital asset division, my experience has been when they have nothing to lose, they always want at least half of what you have. If they have assets, they don’t want you to receive any of them. Settlement is not a fair, or considerate process. In the case of cheaters, usually they want to keep their dirty little secrets quiet, so they may tend to be a little more “generous.” Just remember the person you are divorcing is not the person you thought you married. If you are dealing with someone who must always win, don’t expect a fair process.

    My dad tried to starve my mother, after 40 years and 5 children. He thought it would force her to come back and admit defeat. He may have won in court, because by that time she just wanted to escape. However, he almost lost contact with all his children. I told him, bluntly, as long as he was unfair with our mother, we did not welcome him to family events or choose to communicate. He immediately tried to threaten each of the children. After some lonely time to consider the consequences of his actions, he relented, and voluntarily gave mother a more generous alimony check. He could still have withdrawn it at any time, but he knew what would happen.

    As far as I know my dad was not a cheater. He was verbally abusive, and a power/control freak. Our entire family was damaged by my parent’s FOO dynamic, and it took years to overcome some of the issues. Nothing about that is fair, but IMHO it is as real as it gets for more people than I ever imagined. Just know you are not alone in your sorrow, or fear, or anxiety. Time and distance do work miracles.

  • Kiddo has adjusted to split holidays. The smaller crowd at the dining table doesn’t bother her the way adults notice it. She gets excited about extra presents from Santa visiting at two houses. I’m also free to plan all the fun holiday stuff I wanted to do, and skip the excessive get-togethers that stressed me out. We’ve done Xmas train, the Nutcracker ballet, Santa pancake breakfast! Reindeer petting zoo! (Not all in the same year, lol).

  • Dear ChumpedToTheMax, Listen to CL and get a shrewd divorce lawyer (pitbull is it) to protect your assets. My attorney told me to get off or delete all social media until the divorce was final. Anything you post can be used against you. Also, do not look at his social media. It’s tempting to look but it’s not hard to for stbx to track who’s looking. That’ll give him cake and all sorts of cheap thrills. It keeps you tied to him too. Blecch!

    It may be best to go with professional and businesslike with stbx from now on. Never, ever trust people who cross the line. That’s what I learned from this whole nightmare.

  • My boundary is that I will attend a wedding or a graduation at which the ex is present. We sit far apart. But,
    I will never break bread on any birthday or holiday with cheating lying scum. My kids deal with this just fine.
    Divorce causes changes and one of them is separate holidays. Thank God. Kids adjust well if you don’t waffle.

  • Cheaters are always convinced that they deserve a place at the table no matter what. My ex told me that he would get an apartment, and I could keep the house with the kids as long as he had a key and could come and go as he liked for family dinners and such. (That was actually his second suggestion, after I turned down getting a divorce to allow him his freedom to pursue other women, but remain living in the same home.) Even after the divorce, he suggested that we get together for Thanksgiving or go on a cruise together with the kids. I told him that, if I wanted to spend time with him, I would have stayed married to him.

    • Reminds me of when I was prosecuting a workplace stalker and the stalker’s pals were crying that it was unjust that he’d been fired and couldn’t come to work events anymore. They made an argument that should be a little familiar to domestic abuse survivors– that just because the guy psychotically stalked and violently attacked female coworkers didn’t mean he wasn’t competent at his job. Thankfully the judge in the case didn’t agree and delivered a bench order of protection.

      Abusers and their flying monkeys seem to be full of mind-melting paramoralisms whether they’re campaigning for “family unity” or “professionalism.”

  • My final DDay was Christmas Eve, 2020. Yep. That was a fun year for “holiday magic.” I held it together, by the skin of my teeth, for that day and Christmas day. 12/26 is the anniversary of my mom’s death, so… navigated that in the context of my marriage blowing up. The Monday following Christmas I started calling divorce lawyers, and I was divorced in early Sept. of 2021. The 2021 holidays were very difficult, but my kid and I decided to do really different things that year; for U.S. Thanksgiving we went to the Coast for two nights, with a spread from Trader Joes, and watched movies and walked on the beach in the rain. For Christmas we went to CA for some time with my family. This year, 2022, I want to be more at home; I just bought a house, so I want to be able to really decorate the way I want to, and re-learn what kinds of things I want to bake, cook, and eat, and let my kid do the same, no pressure. My ex was abusing us with pressure about his cooking, to the point where every dinner was a nightmare. Thankful to not have that crap any more.

    • I love how you scuttled the transition period by doing nontraditional things– shaking off toxic associations and memories like a dog shaking off bath water and dead fleas– and are now rebuilding (flea-free) traditions.

      • flea-free traditions! YES! And my kid is coming home from college for the the whole week of Thanksgiving! I’m thrilled, even though I still have to work!

        • My girl is a freshman in college and I miss her so, so much! I do see her every couple of weeks but it’s not the same 🙄

        • Yay, make the most of it. I’m thinking about upgraded traditions. My kids all have allergies so doing anything with food traditions are a bit tricky, but there are these gorgeous sterling silver snowflake tree decorations that a devoted friend of my mother’s used to gift every Christmas to the point our Christmas tree looked like it belonged in a palace. I’ve started adding to the collection since these are a wonderful thing to pass down to kids. They’re safe for when kids have kids since the ornaments don’t shatter when toddlers try to eat them. 😉

  • My mother and I decided to live together after my divorce 5 years ago. My children are grown but live nearby. Holidays have been great with my family events. Last year my youngest son called my mother and asked if his dad could come for our holiday gathering. His dad must have asked him to do it as he said ‘My dad is sad that he doesn’t get to attend any family events.’ I had to call my son and tell him that I wouldn’t have his dad in my home. I hate that he’s manipulating my son with his sad sack narrative!

    His dad can plan his own family events – I’m sure the kids would come if he invited them….

  • Today’s post reminds me of how chumps are brainwashed into lowering defenses and playing “nice.” Anyone who was subjected to ranting or raging DARVO (“Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim/Offender) attacks by FWs during affairs might relate to this: I think the reason many of us are initially conned into playing nicer than we should during separation and divorce isn’t solely because we’re culturally trained to be nice or just because we’re naturally such nice people but also because getting us to lower our defenses is woven right into abusers’ attack strategies from the beginning.

    I learned about “preemptive pacification” from my time working as an advocate for DV survivors. Abusers are always hedging their bets that their double lives could blow up, their abuse could be exposed and things might get contentious and, when that day comes, they want victims as pliant, passive, pleaserish and defenseless as possible. Probably over a period of years or decades, many abusers manage to communicate– right in the midst of rants or rages– that if the victim does any of the normal things someone would do to defend themselves while under attack, those defenses themselves are preemptively held up as further grounds to abuse the victim and, moreover, convince bystanders and the courts that victims are “really, really bad people.”

    Preemptive pacification is basically the equivalent of “If you lift your hand to ward off a blow, it proves how aggressive and evil you are!” That’s probably why so many of the DARVO accusations are mind-boggling and make no sense: because the charges aren’t about anything the victim has already done but about what they *might* do if they knew the truth or if they start to rebel from coercion and control. And part of the threat is the degree to which abusers invest in their accusations and seem to believe the nonsense themselves. The victim can then imagine how “credible” the abuser will appear to bystanders and can become terrified about what they may lose as a result.

    I also learned from research on DV that, much like how abusers operate on a “beat-by-need” basis and reserve the worst abuse for victims who resist, abusers will tailor their psychological terror tactics to whatever is most terrifying to the individual victim as a means of preventing the victim from doing things the abuser fears. If the abuser fears the victim might fight for fair split of assets in divorce, the abuser might preemptively accuse the victim of being “greedy” or “materialistic” or campaign to paint the victim as “irresponsible with money”– *particularly* if the victim values their own integrity and honesty. If the abuser fears the victim might move on to a far happier relationship following divorce, the abuser will try to convince the victim that the victim is a social misfit and a terrible partner who no one will ever love– particularly if the victim is social engaging and has a normal need for intimacy. If the abuser fears the social context might side with their victim, they’ll triangulate with everyone they can from the beginning and whittle away at the victim’s important relationships– particularly if the victim is a credible person. If the abuser fears their crappy behavior might lead dependency court to grant sole custody of children to the victim, they’ll weave attacks against the victim’s “unhealthy” parenting into their DARVO rages from the get-go– particularly if the victim is a responsible parent and measures themselves by their parenting.

    I sense that the latter happened to a college-era friend. She thought her then-12 year old daughter was too young to know about dad’s hooker habit during the separation and divorce. This came after years of the ex accusing this friend that she was “modeling negativity” in front of the daughter. For instance, every time my friend would share political views with her daughter– say, how textile workers are exploited by big clothing brands– her ex would hiss that she was impinging her negative world view on the daughter. And the like. Over time, I think this made my friend try to overcompensate by shielding her daughter from negative realities to avoid being constantly accused of “toxic parenting.” So when the hooker habit, web cam girl expenditures and the affair with a nanny came to light, that gave the friend’s ex enough time and wiggle room to groom their daughter towards his own narrative and the daughter now informs on my friend to the ex. I hear her on the phone whispering things that have nothing to do with divorce or her ex because she’s afraid her daughter will overhear and narc on her. There’s nothing this friend can do about the shared custody arrangement because, in her state, an abusive parent would basically have to commit cannibalism to lose custody. The court didn’t care that her ex was a pill-popping chronic alcoholic who hid assets and blew the rest on prostitutes. But I sensed that her initial choice to “protect” her daughter from the facts played right into her ex’s scheme and ended up being destructive, most of all to her daughter who is currently having her picker trained in the wrong direction. The daughter has also been trained to take anything mom says with a grain of salt which means the voice of the only sane parent in the mix has been effectively silenced.

    The whole thing gave me chills, as if my friend was living in East Germany under the Stasi. I got the feeling that my friend’s ex– a lawyer no less– must have been systematically brainwashing her for a long time about what the daughter should or should not know and there must have been some oblique threats against my friend’s custody and attacks against the quality of her parenting all along. I sensed this because FW in my case had attempted to do something similar. For instance, though there’s nothing good about the fact that my daughter hacked dad’s email, found out about the affair in excruciating detail and told her brothers except for one thing– it took the choice of how much to tell the kids out of my hands in those early days before my lawyer made me understand that there were no grounds for FW to levy “parental alienation” accusations and, if anyone would look like a shit parent in the eyes of the court, it was FW. FW knew it too. When my daughter wrote dad a flaming text about blowing money on his “pet pig,” it’s as if FW’s entire game crumbled. He couldn’t even blame me for the fact his kids knew everything he’d done. It took a major weapon to control me out of his hands. Even if he couldn’t terrorize me into thinking that attempting to leave might lose me custody of my children, now he couldn’t even play victim by telling bystanders what an evil witch I was for alienating his kids from him because the kids were old enough to contradict any bs narrative like this. Foiled. I was finally able to take the gloves off because all his hinty-hinty charges of toxic parenting crashed and burned.

    There’s one skein that’s worth untangling– the fact that part of the agenda behind abusers’/cheaters’ DARVO tactics is preemptive pacification to brainwash victims into seeing their own defenses as demonstrably “evil” and “bad” and “just more proof” the victim deserved to be abused to begin with. For someone in the midst of being gaslighted, endangered and abused, coercive messaging is potent and tends to sink in. I think it’s worth writing down memories of things abusers did and said during various confrontations to identify any past brainwashing tactics and wash it back out again.

    • HOAC, your words above are enlightening! Paras. 3 and 4 resonate in particular. I’m a lawyer as is the ex. I am a more successful lawyer than the ex. I was told that I had contributed nothing financially to the marriage. No kids, I had always worked and had supported the ex, including giving him somewhere to live when we were in the first year of our relationship. I had always paid all the bills and overpaid the mortgage. He knew that his comment would hit home and it did. I soft pedalled on the finances until March 2020 when the scales fell in a tumble from my eyes. I work in regulatory law, and my integrity and ethics are very strong. Honesty matters to me. I was more outraged by his lies than the fact that he had sex with his exgf.

      The ex also described me as a person who made other people feel ‘very, very uncomfortable’. I’m sociable and good company, people tell me. The ex’s comment hurt so much because I imagined our friends and family enduring rather than enjoying my presence. I can now see that he wanted to tie me up socially so that I lost all confidence in myself and did not move on. The ex could function in social situations only when drunk. He has been described by someone who knows him as an acquaintance as ‘the dullest person on the planet’. He actively wanted me to be miserable.

      Reading what you’ve written above, and through therapy, I’ve accepted that the ex was abusive throughout our long relationship and marriage. It’s taken me three years to get to this point. I resisted the suggestion that the ex might be abusive because I felt that this somehow reflected on me. It was my fault! And that in itself has been a life lesson.

    • “Probably over a period of years or decades, many abusers manage to communicate– right in the midst of rants or rages– that if the victim does any of the normal things someone would do to defend themselves while under attack, those defenses themselves are preemptively held up as further grounds to abuse the victim and, moreover, convince bystanders and the courts that victims are “really, really bad people.” Preemptive pacification is basically the equivalent of “If you lift your hand to ward off a blow, it proves how aggressive and evil you are!”

      -This is completely accurate. FW used to corner me (literally), get up in my face, and scream. The one time I put my hands on his shoulders to push him back so I could escape, he screamed that I was assaulting him and said “how DARE you put your hands on me!”

      “I also learned from research on DV that, much like how abusers operate on a “beat-by-need” basis and reserve the worst abuse for victims who resist, abusers will tailor their psychological terror tactics to whatever is most terrifying to the individual victim as a means of preventing the victim from doing things the abuser fears. If the abuser fears the victim might fight for fair split of assets in divorce, the abuser might preemptively accuse the victim of being “greedy” or “materialistic” or campaign to paint the victim as “irresponsible with money”– *particularly* if the victim values their own integrity and honesty. If the abuser fears the victim might move on to a far happier relationship following divorce, the abuser will try to convince the victim that the victim is a social misfit and a terrible partner who no one will ever love– particularly if the victim is social engaging and has a normal need for intimacy. If the abuser fears the social context might side with their victim, they’ll triangulate with everyone they can from the beginning and whittle away at the victim’s important relationships– particularly if the victim is a credible person. If the abuser fears their crappy behavior might lead dependency court to grant sole custody of children to the victim, they’ll weave attacks against the victim’s “unhealthy” parenting into their DARVO rages from the get-go– particularly if the victim is a responsible parent and measures themselves by their parenting.”

      -Oh, you just described my ex’s behavior during our divorce like you were a fly on the wall. He did every last one of these things. According to him I only cared about money and was trying to “ruin” him financially (he did that just fine on his own). He was so angry when I refused to pay for repairs on the house (our marital home) that he’d been living in for several years and denied me access to. He told me I’d never find someone to love me because I was so awful, and that none of my friends liked me and everyone thought I was weird. He badmouthed me to our social circle, probalby for years, so when he finally dumped me, they were all so happy for him that he’d found a person who truly appreciated him. Everyone welcomed OW with open arms, and completely ignored, or even deliberately excluded me. Most of them knew about the relationship, and not one thought to tell me, or even ask if I was okay, let alone ask my side of the story. And once it looked like custody might be swinging in my favor, he tried to paint me as an unfit mother, accusing me of abuse, of emotional instability, of mental illness, of neglect. He had no evidence to support his claims, but the court still ordered BOTH of us to undergo psychological testing. Except he couldn’t afford it, so it never happened. The magistrate ended up granting primary custody to me.

      He never hit me. He never had to. He broke me bit by bloody bit until I was a shell of who I’d been before. In many ways I’m grateful that the affair happened. He kicked me out, and I got the kick in the pants I needed to stay away. I put up with the abuse, but infidelity was a hard line for me. Thankfully, with time, therapy, and hard work, I’ve managed to put myself back together, and like to think I am stronger than I ever was, and more “me” than I’ve ever been. (And jokes on him for saying I’d never find someone to love me – because I love myself now, and frankly am happy as a clam being single and free. Unlike him, I don’t need someone to take care of me and regulate my moods, and keep me from going over the brink, because I can do those things for myself. He never had those inner resources. And when OW left him and he was truly alone, he took his own life because he had no idea how to manage on his own.)

  • My ex cheater (hb #2) was extremely conflict avoidant and excelled at nasty passive aggressive behavior followed by playing dumb. Nobody buried his head in the sand like him…..he didn’t even tell his family I’d left him for a couple of months after the divorce. I wasn’t close to them as he kept me separate from other parts of his life and we didn’t have kids together.

    So when Thanksgiving 2018 rolled around and our signed divorce papers were sitting on the judge’s desk, Mr image conscious phony was still going on about how we were still married and should have dinner “as a family”.

    Puke. He was an asshole to my kids and they couldn’t stand him…..they’re now grown and it’s like he never existed.

    So I sent the kids to their dad’s (hb #1) for dinner and they must have told him what was going on because he called and invited me over for Thanksgiving dinner. I’d barely started dating my bf and he was spending it with his family whom I hadn’t met, so I happily accepted. I made my well liked stuffing, went over and mostly talked with ex’s gf and his sister, left right after dinner, and went to a friend’s.

    It was great. Didn’t have to see stbx’s phony smile at all.

    • Ever since then I spend holiday dinners with bf and his family and my kids go to their dad. He has a much bigger crowd and I don’t have to cook. I help bf’s elderly mother cooking and everyone’s happy.

    • We feel like we do because we’re good, loving and compassionate people who just didn’t love ourselves just as much. It’s very difficult to let go of our comfortable “norm”. I often think of the holidays and I have for the past TWO. What will it be like when we’re separate? How will the conversation go? Will there be one? How will I possible devastate my step child? Him? Why do I care if he ruined this bond? He broke the deal

  • These are highly manipulative controlling ppl we are dealing with and they want what they want. They didn’t plan on losing their families fully with divorce I don’t believe. They saw themselves getting plenty of cake, a win win for them.
    Consequences for their actions?! Hell no, that was NOT in their plan!
    My ex, who cheated on me for decades and married his newest mistress, thinks I am being completely unreasonable that I won’t let him text me( emails, strictly business, don’t even discuss our adult children’s lives with him) and that we can’t get together for holidays and have a nice working friendship. He is NOT a friend of mine!! Friends don’t burn my house down.
    It’s because of my stubbornness and bitterness,don’t you know, that our family suffers more with this divorce thing. I’m the one that makes it difficult for everyone. Why can’t we just accept and move on? It’s just live after all and so common.
    He still thinks we are family and that’s what family would do. A narrative he’d love to sell me, but I ain’t buying that bull.
    His sister is divorced and remarried ( she wanted out because she “wasn’t happy”- another narcissist that I only see now) and her devastated ex also remarried after many years, so all four of them were at our beach house with many other family members a couple years back before my life imploded.
    The elephant in the room was so big I’m surprised anyone could find a place to sit down! The house is two separate buildings, but they are connected, so activities flow throughout. During that visit, one couple was on one side and one on the other and the kids of his sister kept running back and forth reporting to their mom what the problem was with her replacement ( ex’s new wife) on the other side of the house and bad mouthing her. We could have made our own soap opera that w/e with all the drama undercurrents. The friction in the house was so uncomfortable, no way I’m the only one who felt that.
    That will not be me! I told him that before the divorce too, but I think he believed he’d be able to convince me to see the light and stay the unhealed ex in the shadow of his new glorious life wishing it were me. No thank you.
    I’m not going to be fake social and all nice for the children with ppl who have abused me and my children. That’s is not healthy for anyone and not what I will pass on to my kids.
    I speak very bluntly with my kids and very truthfully and they are fully accepting and very much in approval of my no contact stance and that means no holidays and vacations together, for God’s sake. Is he kidding?! Delusional. The abuse never ends that way and they win. Why would we ever want to accept that?
    He is not my family and not a friend of any sort. And never will be and it doesn’t make me bitter and unforgiving, it makes me wise and aware.
    We have had some really awesome holidays, just me and the kids, these past five years without all the made up chaos and drama that erupts. It’s loving, it’s happy, it’s great fun and it’s real. A way better way to live.

    • Exactly!!!! I already told my adult son in college that if he ever gets married, I will attend if ex-FW is there, but I will not speak to or acknowledge his father in any way, which of course includes no pictures together with my son. My son says he totally understands. I hope so because I’m not planning on changing my mind.

    • “They didn’t plan on losing their families fully with divorce I don’t believe. They saw themselves getting plenty of cake, a win win for them.”

      You know I agree with this. I don’t think for a second that fw thought when he was sailing high fucking strange with me working to advance his career opportunities that he thought for a second he was going to lose that game. He was after all in control. He had two women doing his bidding. Then he got whore hired on as his direct report, not disclosing their relationship. Then the office auger started slowly pulling him under. Kaboom.

    • Chumpasaurus45, your approach is sound. What follows is a little off topic.

      The word ‘consequences’ always triggers a memory in me. The ex, early March 2020. We met (for the last time in real life) to discuss the financial arrangements. The ex offered no solutions. He merely said, with a smirk, ‘I know what I’m in for’. The disgust for him that I felt in that moment crackled round the room of the neutral pub at which I had insisted the meeting took place. I despised this person I’d slept with for almost 30 years. His gracelessness and lack of empathy were ugly and vulgar. I looked him straight in the eye with my best Paddington stare, and said: ‘X, there are consequences for your actions’. His smirking expression changed to one of panic instantly. It was extraordinary. ‘Consequences, what consequences?’ It had not crossed his mind that I had power, that I could force and enforce outcomes. He was so full of his own majesty that he had neglected to remember that I was a force to be reckoned with. I continued the stare and said ‘consequences’. I did impose consequences on him. One consequence is that he lost my friendship and my respect. That may not matter to him but it does matter to me. He is a much poorer man now, whatever his circumstances. I’m fully no contact and know nothing about his life. That power in me, to know that I saw who he really is in that moment, makes all the difference. ‘Consequences’ is a strong word. Cheaters and Schmoopies may think that they hold all the cards. Let them be fools. Consequences are inevitable.

    • They never anticipate anything bad, as they are deluded and superficial. You’re sad and don’t wanna be besties? Aww you must be holding a grudge…

      They are idiots who don’t see cause and effect and expect you to keep circling their orbit.

  • “ One consequence is that he lost my friendship and my respect. That may not matter to him but it does matter to me. He is a much poorer man now, whatever his circumstances.”
    1000% agree with this, MW!!! Their entitlement leads them very falsely to believe that consequences are for the weak and unimportant ppl of the world, they are much larger than consequences being able to touch them.
    No, they have miscalculated on a very massive level.
    Consequences for actions taken are for everyone, as dependable a consequence as taxes and death.

  • FW left right before the holidays that year… our 3 grown children and their SOs were all scheduled to come home for Christmas, something that was becoming more rare as the boys juggled careers, relationships, in-laws, etc. FW said he wanted to participate but would stay at a hotel around the corner from the house (a necessity since every bed — except the other half of mine would he occupied and I certainly wasn’t going to share). Because we were in the middle of wreckconciliation counseling, still on speaking terms, and I had gifts for him that been bought months before, I agreed. It was an enormous mistake; he came late and left early, barely spoke to anybody, ate with his head down and was generally sullen the entire time he was present… as if this circumstance was everybody’s fault but his own. He ruined the holiday for all of us.

  • No contact is your best friend. You are only a chump if you allow it.
    Where is it written you have to be around cheating scum?
    Answer: Nowhere.
    He only has control if you give it to him.

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