I’m happily divorcing my cheater. It took me awhile to get to this place, but am now finally working my way to meh from the man who cheated on me for the better part of our 30-year marriage. My issue is with our kids.
My oldest, 21, is living out of state at college and has a cordial, almost normal, relationship with his dad. My youngest, 17, no longer speaks to him after learning what STBX did. I admit that I am very torn about this.
I grew up with an asshole for a father. A true alcoholic narcissist who made life around him torturous. When he died in 2020 I felt nothing but relief.
But my STBX is a good dad. (I know, I know. How can he be a good dad when he lied to, cheated on and gaslit their mother for decades?) STBX desperately wants to be part of 17’s life. He misses him terribly and is extremely torn up about the estrangement. And I feel like I need to help facilitate their rift. I guess it’s because I had such a shitty father who couldn’t be bothered to know anything about me even when we existed in the same house.
I see 17’s dad desperate to be with him and I don’t want 17 to miss out. 17 is in therapy over this and seems to be just fine without my STBX who he hasn’t seen or talked to in six months even though he lives just on the other side of town. My relationship with 17 is great. I just feel like I need to nudge 17 toward reconciling with his dad. Am I crazy? Wrong? Right? I honestly don’t know. I’d love your advice and the advice of CN.
Thanks so much,
You’re not responsible for your STBX’s relationship with his son. He is. You’re just responsible for your relationship with your son. Sounds like you’ve got that covered. Gold star on the sane parenting. You’ve got him in therapy. Now stay out of it.
Look, it speaks well of you after 30 years of chumpdom that you don’t want your kids to hate their father. The more common chump issue is that we want kids to take our part, feel our injustice, hold it against the offending parent. And it hurts that the kids still love their shitty parent. It feels disloyal. That’s a shit sandwich, yet the same advice still applies — it’s the kids’ relationship to work out.
You’ve got a slightly different chump issue, IMO, in that you still feel responsible for managing his relationships. Being the chaos janitor. Throwing yourself on all the grenades with the hope that your kids don’t get hurt.
Welcome to the other shit sandwich — we can’t control the hurtfulness of the other parent. He cheated on you for 30 years, behavior that led to the family breaking up. That hurts them.
Just like you had to untangle what was real, what was a lie, who is this person really? they have to untangle it too. Or ignore the skein and go be 17. (That’s enough drama.) We can’t do this work for them. The best we can do is set a good example.
Being stable, being the sane parent, modeling resilience — that’s ENOUGH. Lay down the burden of your STBX’s fuckupedness. His kids may need distance. It’s a consequence of his behavior. Keep doing you.
But my STBX is a good dad. (I know, I know. How can he be a good dad when he lied to, cheated on and gaslit their mother for decades?)
He’s not your dad. He’s their dad. They get to decide if he’s good or not. You can’t project that on to him for them.
And, try as you might, you don’t control their values. (However, they are kids, their values aren’t set in stone.) They may weigh “bought me a pony” much more than “cheated on my mother for decades.” Conversely, they may look at years of hands-on parenting and investment and cancel it because of his transgressions.
Your pronouncements on his “goodness” are beside the point. I know there’s a LOT of pressure out there to be the magnanimous chump. For The Children. To be the fuckwit’s PR agency. To polish his legacy. But every teenager can sniff out a phony, and why do that to your soul?
STBX desperately wants to be part of 17’s life. He misses him terribly and is extremely torn up about the estrangement.
Where’s your no contact?! STBX shouldn’t be crying on your shoulder — the woman he fucked over for 30 years! He wants YOU to feel sorry for HIM?
He fired you from that job.
He’s either telling you this (he has a sadz… the self-pity channel) or you’re projecting feelings on your STBX that you wish were there. Or maybe it’s a bit of both.
You had a shitty dad, so I’m sure a big part of you longs to hear that despite STBX’s cheating, he cares for his kids. Don’t underestimate your ex’s ability to manipulate you with this vulnerability. The illusion that he values his family is your hopium.
We don’t endanger the things we care about. Sounds like he spent decades checked out of family life for Schmoopies. What he can salvage going forward is between him and the kids.
And I feel like I need to help facilitate their rift.
That’s a feeling. They pass. I feel like I should eat another Christmas cookie. I shouldn’t.
I see 17’s dad desperate to be with him and I don’t want 17 to miss out.
Whoa. Please examine where you start and where your son ends. You missed out on a relationship with your dad. Your projection assumes your son feels like HE is going to miss out.
He’s 17. Most teenagers would rather be with their friends. Or really most anywhere their exceedingly uncool, mortifying parents are not.
STBX feels “desperate”?
He can sit with those difficult feelings. You’ve got 30 years of his secret life to sit with. He can fuck right off.
My relationship with 17 is great. I just feel like I need to nudge 17 toward reconciling with his dad.
You want to make your relationship un-great? Nudge him toward reconciliation with his dad.
You want to respect his feelings and be a sane parent? Stay out of it.