Stay in Touch

Check out CL's Book

Don’t Stay For the Children

Oh how I loathe articles about how divorce hurts children! And not only because they frequently use “impact” as a verb. And are full of pseudo science and religious guilt tripping. I hate them because they go right for the emotional jugular with right-thinking parents everywhere (read: chumps and other codependents) — “You selfish, selfish monster. Go ahead and leave your “unhappy” marriage, but you’ll be HURTING THE CHILDREN.”

Of course only monsters willfully hurt children. Jerry Sandusky pedophiles, sadistic British school masters, Josef Mengele. Let’s add you to that list! The argument goes: Divorce is an option, one you willfully make with full knowledge of how devastating and hurtful this will be to your children — your daughters will be promiscious! Your children will have lifelong trust issues! They’ll die young! — and so if you indulge your selfish, selfish desire to get out of your marriage, well, you do so over their innocent little heads.

You know who loves this argument? Cake-eating cheaters.

Cake eaters feel entitled to engage in their crap behavior and hold you hostage to it, because you would never do anything to Hurt The Children and break up their home. That’s on you, of course, not the crap behavior. The people who actually need this message — consider the children! — are the ones who are congenitally tone deaf to it: cheaters, addicts, the mentally ill.

So that leaves you trying to hold the family together while the toxic person in your life goes skipping merrily about doing whatever the fuck they want to. Oh sure, try therapy, parenting classes, church, a threaded pipe upside the head. I hope that works. Because chumps do want the gold standard for their kids — the intact happy family of stability and financial security. And we’ll usually pay a pretty high price of admission to get that, or the illusion of it any way. But if you’re with someone determinedly fucked up (cheaters, addicts, the mentally ill), there is going to come a time when (if you are at all healthy) you just refuse to live in dysfunction any longer.

And that’s a very difficult place to be — that emancipation process. It seems to me that there are far too many messages telling you to reconcile at all costs and sacrifice yourself to your children’s intact home life than there are shouting — SAVE YOURSELF! Save your kids! A just and loving God does not want you shackled to a remorseless cheater! Or a feckless personality disorder! Consider what you are modeling to them by staying!

Do those studies that say divorce-hurts-children-don’t-do-it ever untangle whether it is the divorce itself or the dysfunction that led to the divorce (and the animosity and alienation afterward) that hurt the kids instead? What does living with a raging alcoholic do to children? Emotional abuse? Physical abuse? Mental illness? The flagrant disrespect of infidelity? Do we really want our children modeling these behaviors, growing up thinking abuse and chumpdom are normal and right? These articles usually have these wan, watered down disclaimers. [Sigh] Okay, fine, if it’s really that bad… And then follow up with questions like — but did you try hard enough to save it first?

Maybe I only associate with chumps, but where are these wanton, casual divorcees? Where are these people for whom divorce is easy, breezy, and doesn’t kill your credit rating? I mean, there is a certain logic to cake eating. Enjoy the benefits of marriage and fuck around. The chump in the relationship will do the heavy lifting. Cake eaters love to tell their affair partners, oh hey, I only stay for the children. “Ours is a hollow marriage.”

I am certain that divorce does hurt children, that they feel hurt by it. So do parents going through the divorce. But children are not known for their big picture, longitudinal views of situations. According to one article, if you ask children what they want, they prefer that their parents were still married. But consider, this same demographic when polled will also tell you they would like chocolate cake for breakfast.

I do not want to make light of how hard this is for kids. They more than anyone are the innocent victims of a parent’s fuckupedness. That is why it is so important to be the sane parent. To model self respect. To demonstrate to them how to navigate your way through crisis, how to do so with classiness and humor and optimism, even when you want to curl up and die some days.

I’m on the other side of two divorces, both of which I was loathe to put my son through. If he’s a hopeless fuck up, he’s no worse than I was at 15 and frankly, he’s a pretty great kid. He’s on the honor roll. He does a varsity sport. He walks our widowed neighbor’s dog. He’s generally polite and well-behaved. Kind, empathetic. (Editor’s note: It’s 10 years later. He just graduated grad school with all A’s and is about to start an adult job. In the mean time, he’s volunteering. So take that single mother doomsayers!)

If I hadn’t divorced those losers, my son wouldn’t have my husband in his life, who models every day what it is to be a good man, who treats his mother right. I’m sure my son would’ve been just fine with just me, we were doing pretty well on our own. But THIS is the life I wanted him to have, the intact, loving, respectful relationship I wanted modeled to him. I’m sorry it’s not with his bio dad, but that wasn’t possible (his father is mentally ill). There were years I tried to make that relationship work. Thank God we don’t always get what we want. Thank God for reinvention. Thank God for new beginnings.

We have to hold to the vision of a better future in those painful, early days when our kids are hurting. Don’t falter and fuck the guilt mongers. It’s out there.


It’s a week of Chump Lady classics while I’m on vacation. 

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at Read more about submission guidelines.
  • “(Editor’s note: It’s 10 years later. He just graduated grad school with all A’s and is about to start an adult job. In the mean time, he’s volunteering. So take that single mother doomsayers!)”

    • I was terrified that I was going “to fuck up our son” with my “selfish behavior” by insisting that the agreement we made when we first moved to the small remote community be held; that by the time our child was 10 we would need to move to where we could get the best benefits for our kid. Well, by the time the kid was 10 Mr. Memory Loss decides we never had that conversation and our brilliant boy would be able to get all the schooling and socialization he needed in the remote, dysfunctional, no-healthy-peers, sub-standard school, isolated community we lived in. Fast forward 8 years and 30K+ later. Kid graduated with honors from high school last year from the community I had moved us to in the fall of 2015 (even after switching between school districts every semester up to his Senior year) and he was awarded scholarships to attend college as a computer science and design major where he’s currently making all A’s.

      And yes, the XAss did tell the world, including the judge(s), that our son would be just fine with a tech degree and working in the village. He didn’t need no stinking college (though both his parents college grads, Granddad a professor, and we’d been saving for college since I had been pregnant.) Kid hasn’t been back to that community in over a year now, and as far as I know, has no plans to do so in the near future. But he’s coming home to me for the summer. 🙂

  • “Where are these people for whom divorce is easy, breezy, and doesn’t kill your credit rating?”

    It’s often easy for cheaters, provided they can intimidate chumps enough that we don’t demand what we are owed. Cheaters tell themselves they can get away scott free, and too many of them do. FW justified his failed plan to divorce me with; “People get divorced all the time. It’s no big deal.” Well, it wasn’t as easy as he hoped it would be. I guess he thought I’d just meekly fade away and his lifestyle wouldn’t change. Wrong.

    As for kids, It’s the cheater who destroys their world. There’s no way it’s better for kids to see you stay with an abuser. They’ll internalize that abuse is normal, okay and to be expected.

    • ” ‘People get divorced all the time. It’s no big deal.’ Well, it wasn’t as easy as he hoped it would be. I guess he thought I’d just meekly fade away and his lifestyle wouldn’t change. Wrong.”

      Same. I’m still in awe that FW so grossly miscalculated everything—from what would happen to his finances (and mine! but that wasn’t his concern) to how his family and friends would react.

      Cheaters’ delusional thinking can be next level.

      • Spinach, you are so right. They think everything will be great once they leave. The chump will not ask for anything and they can sail off into the sunset with Schmoopie. FWs bubble was burst when he had to pay me off and his son went no contact with him (he blames me and not anything he did).
        They just don’t seem to understand consequences.

      • My ex also genuinely thought I would just go away quietly and he would keep everything… including half of my inheritance from my father. It was his arrogance and entitlement to everything that made me call a lawyer and ask what I could get and then assert my rights. If he hadn’t announced to me he was taking half of my small inheritance, he would’ve done a lot better in the divorce. But that was just so cruel and entitled to tell me how worthless and unwanted I was and then be all “by the way, I will be taking that money your dad left you.” He made more than four times more than me! And he was going to take the small amount of savings I had from my DEAD FATHER?!

        Now the motherfucker has to pay me alimony for the next 10 years, all because he greedily tried to snatch a measly $20,000 from me. It wasn’t much money to him, it was the difference between being able to afford a place to restart my life and being fucking homeless to me. I’d like to say he thinks about how he fucked up every time he sends me a payment but he’s too hopelessly stupid to ever realize what he did.

      • Yep. My ex and his adultery partner had my demise all planned out as to what I would get, where I would live etc.

        I think it astounded him when he realized, oh Susie won’t work with my lawyer, she has hired her own. He even called me at work and threatened me that if I didn’t do his plan he would sell everything. I just said “knock yourself out big boy, good bye” He called back about a half hour later groveling and apologizing. I imagine his sad sack lawyer made him do it. As bad as his lawyer was, he at least he knew a threat when he heard it. I did tell my lawyer about it if I remember, but I don’t know if he used it. Likely not, fw pretty much did what he was told after that.

  • Chumps will eat a lot of shit sandwiches along the way to ensure we protect our kids as we get to the other side. There is an other side, though, I promise.

    • I pray you’re right. I try so hard to maintain low-no contact but the FW emails his false accusations damn near daily and I am soul-level tired. Why can’t he leave me the F alone? Even so, I give curt, no-emotion responses. It is exhausting. I am planning to call a lawyer to see how frequently do I legally have to respond to his BS. I am sick of sending the same emails , “I respectfully disagree,” or “I disagree with your characterization and assessment of the situation.”

      • If you don’t have minor children together (which avails you of all sorts of parenting apps), is there an app just for financial dealings in divorce? If not, there should be.

        • Hell of a Chump — the parenting apps suck imho. They charge a shit ton for you to send emails in an antiquated setting. They are clunky and inconvenient. But if Our Family Wizard is something you want to it could be strictly for financial emails and places to store attachments. No reason it’s just for minor children. Also you can calendar due dates or other financial requirements.

      • When I was in the throes of divorce, I finally started assessing each email to see if it was something that REALLY needed a response. If it did, then I responded to the issue that had to be addressed in as few words as possible and ignored all name calling and other BS. I eventually made a game of it…how many words does this response really need? Can I cut out some more? If the judge ever sees this will she think it’s rude? I also started waiting at least 24 hours to send a response. And if the email still made me angry at 24 hours, I waited longer. I had it all down to a science. It was fun for me, and had the bonus effect of making the STBX insanely angry.

          • I use “viewed.” It says I’ve seen it, and nothing more than that. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing. Suck on that, you whore of an XW.

            Hopefully, there’s no way to misinterpret that (I know, I know, we’re talking about a FW…🤷‍♂️). And hopefully, I’m not giving the FW XW anything useful to her. Dare I hope it annoys the fuck out of her? I can only dream!🤣

        • I love this game! It kind of reminds me of linguist Noam Chomsky’s “word count” or “column inches” technique of measuring the prioritization of printed news articles. The fewer the words, the less the editors, media owners and sponsors wanted the bit of news to spread. Except what you did was intentional– using as few words as possible to (oh so politely) indicate “You amount to a hill of beans.”

  • Divorcing Ex-Mrs LFTT was the best thing that I could do to protect our 3 children, then 11, 16 and 18. To have stayed married to her “for the sake of the children” would have caused even great damage to them as it would have prolonged their daily exposure to her lies, manipulation and gaslighting.


    PS – on the day that Ex-Mrs LFTT left the kids and I, our eldest daughter told me to never be pressurised to take Ex-Mrs LFTT back for her (daughter’s) sake, or for the sake of her siblings.

    • I only wish I had divorced the ex sooner. I was planning to wait until the youngest graduated from high school, but I finally couldn’t take it and bailed. If I had left him when things originally got bad, my kids would have been in better shape emotionally. They are all adults now, and have the scars from living in an emotionally abusive home. The older ones are worse off than the younger ones because they lived with it longer.

      • LL,

        In hindsight, I stayed too long as well.

        All three of our children were badly affected by Ex-Mrs LFTT’s behaviour – two of them particularly so – but they are in a much better place now. Oddly enough, it is my oldest who was least affected (at least in relative terms). I think that this was because she was that little bit older and more mature when Ex-Mrs LFTT really ramped up the crazy. She was able to see it for what it was in a way that her youngest siblings couldn’t at the time. While all three of them now keep their mother at arm’s length (and it’s their choice, as they are all now adults), it is the oldest who is the most distant.


  • I hate it when I hear trapped chumps say they are staying “for the children.” I’m a chump and so was my mom. My parents didn’t fight but there must have been tension because as soon as they separated and dad was out of the house the whole dynamic changed. My mother was a person I had never known. It was peaceful. I never, ever, wanted them to get back together. So, sometimes a divorce is the best thing for a child.

    • I too have been there, done that. I am so glad my mother divorced my abusive father. Now that I am in the same position as my mother was, my daughter is very pleased with our situation. She has gone no contact with her dad, whom she says she views as my ex-husband. Every time we do something like go on holiday or out to a show, she mentions how much less stressful it is without him. She knew long before I did that something was wrong. She was always asking him if he loved me and he refused to answer “because he didn’t want to lie to her.”

      For the record, four years on, he constantly texts me asking for recipes, sharing holiday photos, sending photos of stuff clearly linked to shared memories. He insists he hated his life. His actions show him trying to reproduce it with schmoopie. His sister says there is nothing between them but the kid they conceived during my marriage.


      • ? “His sister says there is nothing between them but the kid they conceived during my marriage.” ? HUH?

        Is the “them” his sister and him (meaning your ex-FW?)? And who is the kid (that) “they conceived during my marriage”?

        Sorry to sound all googly-eyed here, but when I read that, I found myself wondering: did ex-FW conceive a kid with his sister?

        Other than that (which is the confusion on my part), I think you have done a good job, Wombatmom. (;->)

        • Little Wing, I read it as that ex’s sister told Wombatmom that the ex and schmoopie have a child together but also have nothing in common, which leads me to believe that it’s not a warm, loving relationship.

          • Correct. My post was poorly written but I claim the fact that I have a cold as an excuse. His sister is so pissed off with him. She says I taught him everything in life and now Schmoopie gets all the benefits. He is now cooking her all my recipes, buying her duplicates of all the furniture I bought, taking her on holidays to the places I am going to by myself, buying wombats and sending me photos of them (I’m obsessed with wombats), asking me about the ballets we attended so he can take her to them, etc. His life sucks so he is trying to duplicate it with her. Problem is, I was a high earner so we could afford more. She decided to give up work when she had their love child so he’s a bit cash poor and trying to goad her into working.

            Bear in mind that when he left, he says he hated his life and I was responsible for him impregnating her because I only showed love through cooking and making a great house for us. He supposedly hated it all but he is duplicating it with her now. For the record, he was never under the illusion that he was in love with her. She was just the latest in a long line of mistresses over the course of our 20 year relationship. When I finally kicked him out after discovering the truth, he moved in with her the next day. He’s an idiot.

          • Eirene – thank you!! Now that I re-read that line with your POV, it all made so much sense.

            BTW – I really think that your “handle” is wa-a-a-ay cool.

  • My oldest daughter tells me the happiest years of her childhood were when I was separated from her father. After his arrest for soliciting prostitutes, I kicked him out and filed for divorce. I let him move back in four years later when he threatened he would no longer be a part of his children’s lives if the divorce was finalized.
    Fast forward 20 or so years and I call her to say I’ve left her father and am filing for divorce. I’ve never heard so much relief in her voice as she begged me not to ever go back and to never have contact with him again.
    Interestingly, when she introduces me to people, she refers to me as “the person who singlehandedly raised me”. She’s not wrong.

  • Even though FW was violent pretty much every week and my kids were having to drag him off me, I still worried about the divorce (slightly) because I knew that they still loved their dad. BUT —- one day my hairdresser had just cut my youngest son’s hair and she told me he’d said that “now with dad gone, I get to sleep at night”! Didn’t we all!!!!

  • I’m so glad to hear someone ask whether the harm that came to kids from divorce was from the divorce itself or the dysfunctions or abuse in the marriage. This is such an important distinction. I get mad when people say “stay together for the kids.” No! It should be “have a healthy marriage for the kids”. If you can’t give your kids a home with a healthy marriage you should consider ending the marriage because of the harm to the kids.

    I do get annoyed when people make comments like “it’s too easy to divorce these days.” I don’t know anyone who found divorce to be easy, except maybe FWs.

  • The “for the children” argument lasts long past the end of the marriage, too. It’s a key component in post-divorce power struggles. I’ve gotten a lot of “If you don’t agree to this then THE CHILDREN”.

    XW makes this type of argument every couple of months to try to convince me that I should be friends with her. Last time it was “Sometimes you don’t answer my texts immediately. The only reason I can think of for this behavior is hostility to me. This hostility causes tension between us. This tension is damaging to the kids. Therefore – if you don’t want to scar the kids for life – you need to answer all my texts immediately.”

    • Incredible. The only reason she can think of is hostility towards her? Not that you could be working, busy with your kids, at an event that doesn’t allow cellphone use, in a place that doesn’t allow cellphone use (such as professional appointments), eating a meal, etc.? I hope you have this as a text and have saved it. This is deranged.

      • I didn’t include the other main source of tension, which is that I always agree to take the kids when she travels but don’t offer to give up my custody in return. XW recently said “I can’t think of any reason you would do this, so unless you explain yourself I can only conclude this is parental alienation.” She is so inside her own head that literally the ONLY reason she can come up with for my wanting to spend more time with my kids is to attack her. [Also, you may wonder why I don’t just give her an explanation. I have done so in the past, but XW rejected my explanation saying “I don’t believe that’s the real reason. Unless you tell me what your actual reason is, I will be forced to conclude you’re doing this just to spite me”. I have even explained to her that I don’t explain any more because she doesn’t accept my explanations, and she rejected that explanation as well!]

        • You don’t owe any explanations to someone who is a walking warehouse of secrets and lies, who kept an ocean of information from you, and ripped off your informed consent, no less.

          I despise her as well.

        • Unless your explanation honors her status as Queen Numero Uno Victim of the World and acknowledges your role as Ogre with Nefarious Motives, she’ll never accept it. If there was an app which filtered out all blame-shifting and hyperbole and left only the pertinent, actionable information and pronouns in texts, most texts from FWs would probably read something like:

          I ***** you **** **** me to ** ******** for the **** ** ** ****! I **** ****** *** I ******* *** *** me. It’s **** **** *** ** ** **** ** ME! I **** *** ** **** I **** you ******* ** me. ** pick up the kids at 4Pm Wednesday the 4th. I ****** I *** ****** me.

        • IG,

          I’ll admit to saying, when I faced a similar situation and I was getting frustrated by Ex-Mrs LFTT’s BS, “I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.”

          She did not take it well.


          • “I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.”

            Omg, that is the funniest thing I have read in AGES!

    • “The only reason I can think of for this behavior is hostility to me. This hostility causes tension between us. This tension is damaging to the kids.”

      Pfft! Nonsense. The tension leaves when they do. They only wish we were still agonizing over them. Makes them feel central.
      Of course she couldn’t think of the more obvious reason, which is that you just aren’t interested in talking to her.

    • IG, that just sounds like she wants you to dance for her and has nothing to do with the children. Pure Entitlement. It makes me glad that my son was an adult when D-day hit. Son is no contact and that is something that I got blamed for. Just glad I blocked him and no longer care what he thinks.

    • Involuntary Georgian, I know it’s not funny at all to be in the middle of this, but I admit I burst out laughing when I read that – your ex’s pathetic, weak-ass attempt to manipulate you is so transparent and I bet she thinks she’s playing 4-D chess. What a loser. Your kids, as you know, will be just fine.

    • I read that narcs freak if you dont immediately respond to them because it means you are not under their control. If you respond immediately they are like ok good they are under my control. This reaction is on an unconscious level. They are not thinking haha I brought them to heel, because mist dont realize what they are.

    • Sometimes I do feel bad that I don’t capitulate to being friends with ex-FW, because I know it negatively affects our son that we’re not. (He’s 19 years old. I’ve been divorced for 4 years.). How can it not be better for our son to not have that underlying emotional stress and tension because his Mom hates his Dad? I wonder if I’m being selfish holding on to my boundaries. I know that if I would let them go and become “friends” with ex-FW, our son would be relieved and much happier. But then I think that wouldn’t be fair to me. But then I think, shouldn’t I put my son first? I go round and round on this. Just another one of those many things that cheater caused, but that I’m left to deal with.

    • Klootzak also expects me to respond to texts immediately. Last time he argued that it’s a safety issue because “What if there was an emergency?” I told him in that case to dial 911. And if you needed to reach someone because of an emergency, wouldn’t you more likely call? (Unless you were being held hostage or hiding from a live shooter, I guess.) If he can’t handle an emergency situation with our child on his own then he shouldn’t be a custodian of our child. If I had an emergency, he would be the last person I would try to contact.

  • My adult kids wish I’d left him when they were in elementary school. Instead, I left him when they were in their late 20s/30s.

    I wasn’t aware of any cheating when they were elementary school kids, but I was well aware that he was moody and unpleasant. I begged him to go to therapy. I walked on eggshells. I rationalized and justified. I literally spackled an actual hole in the wall that he made in anger.

    I remember considering divorce from time to time, but then I worried that he’d get joint custody. In that case, the kids would have to spend time at his place, and I wouldn’t be able to intercede if/when he said or did something mean. The thought killed me. I’m also sure I was paralyzed by other fears as well.

    As others have pointed out here, the affair was the 2 x 4 I needed to knock me out of my mirage. The emotional abuse wasn’t enough.

    My kids have no contact with their dad. It’s been almost 4 years. I’m with them frequently. Our walls sing, but, at the same time, deep down I feel this guilt that I didn’t handle things better. I know I did my best. But still…

    So to all the chumps who wonder about leaving for the kids, I would say that it’s probably, on balance, a better choice. Be the sane parent. Model good treatment and healthy boundaries. Leave FOR the kids.

    • wow I couldve written this. ex was a selfish( not saying narcissist although probably) person along with being an alcoholic. Many times I would be telling the kids dad had a hard day at work he really didn’t mean to be so mean. After DD2 I had enough and filed. I told our kids. Son said you shouldve got rid of his ass yrs ago mom… Daughter was like mom you can’t fix him hes a narcissitic asshole always has been. I was like wow they had him pegged yrs before I did. I kept ignoring those red flags and spackling. After 33 yrs of marriage I am now ex wife number 2. I look back and see the things that held me there and in hindsight I shouldve left him yrs ago. I am sure that dd2 wasn’t the only times he cheated just the only times he got caught.

    • Spinach, to worry that you didn’t handle things better is the sign of a decent person. Ergo, you are a decent person.

    • “I literally spackled an actual hole in the wall that he made in anger.”
      Same. I would bet ready money that many on this list have experienced the enraged punch through the wall.

      • I remember cleaning blood off the cabinets in the kitchen after he split his hand punching something and then waving his hands around in anger. I was finding drops of blood for months afterward. I am so glad to be out of that.

    • “As others have pointed out here, the affair was the 2 x 4 I needed to knock me out of my mirage. The emotional abuse wasn’t enough.”

      Same. In the end, I’m glad it happened, or I might have stayed and been miserable for the rest of my life.

    • “I remember considering divorce from time to time, but then I worried that he’d get joint custody. In that case, the kids would have to spend time at his place, and I wouldn’t be able to intercede if/when he said or did something mean. The thought killed me.”

      This is what paralyzed me for a while. I still worry about it but I think I have to roll the dice that it will be OK. Child is 8 and I feel like at least he is old enough to tell me and work with a counselor to deal with whatever happens during his time with klootzak. I’m trying to tell myself it will be OK and I will be glad later to have pulled the trigger now. Klootzak loves his image management so he could very well behave himself as all his hatred seems to be directed toward me. But our son is my doppelgänger so I hope that doesn’t work against him. I think klootzak likely thinks of our child as one more person to manipulate.

  • I am the middle child of 11 children. We grew up in a household where we saw our mother back-handed, pushed, thrown on the ground, and on and on. My older brothers (22 and 21 years old) finally pulled her out of the house when I was 16 and that’s when my ‘family’ fell apart completely. If someone had asked me what I wanted, I would have said that I wanted my family to be together. But what I wanted was a loving family with all of my brothers and sisters together laughing and having a good time. Of course I did not want the physical abuse and the yelling and the profanity. I didn’t have the maturity to understand that in my household, there was no chance of having a ‘normal’ family. Though there was so much abuse in the family, the six oldest children who grew up with a ‘father’ in their lives, are the most stable. We managed to be responsible, have jobs, have ‘normal’ families, and have retirements. The five youngest moved when my mother moved and they are struggling in their late 50s to eat and have a house over their heads. Drugs and alcohol have destroyed their lives. The oldest siblings are ensuring that the younger ones are not out on the street. So not every situation is best for everyone. Yes, by staying with my dad longer than she should have, us older siblings were exposed to a dysfunctional dynamic. Subsequently, I stayed with my own abuser way too long. (“He never hit me, so I guess I wasn’t ‘abused’.”) However, us older siblings knew without a doubt that we did not want the same as what we grew up with. We left the abusive home as soon as we could, got out and got educated, and made sure not to allow such abuse in our own households with our own children. My mother had never worked a day in her life so when she was finally pushed out of the house, she worked as a hotel maid, then a nurse’s assistant in a nursing home, and eventually got a job in a factory. She left the youngest 5 siblings on their own most of the time. Without supervision, 5 young siblings had no one to counsel them and they were exposed to a detrimental lifestyle. In our case, even though there was abuse, it appears that those of us that had two parents did much better than those that grew up under a single parent. I do not know the answer, but I do know that we cannot assume that what works for you is best for everyone. I finally divorced my FW after my children were in their 20s. That’s when he regularly treated me with disdain and cynicism. It took me two DDays before I gave up. I say that I wish that I had left sooner because I possibly modeled that it was okay for my sons’ father to treat his wife as if she didn’t matter. Is that true, though? My two oldest sons treat me wonderfully. The one that is married treats his wife wonderfully. My youngest cheated on his wife, divorced (only because I insisted that he wasn’t welcome to bring his ‘girlfriend’ to the house because he was still married), and treated women as expendable. Did I model that when I stayed married to the FW? My sons had already left the house years prior to when the FW started treating me poorly. (He had his skank on the side for years, but because he didn’t change his behavior to me, I had no idea. I think he’s a sociopath.) In any event, my youngest son did not see bad behavior modeled to him. I think, for the most part, it’s who he is. If a chump decides to leave rather than continue to let one’s children be exposed to dysfunction, then I’m with the chump! However, as CL says, you have to be the sane parent and no matter how difficult it is to be a single, sane parent, you must stick it out. You only have one chance to get it right with your kids. You can’t go back and change it later. My mother was a child, 18, when she married and had 11 children. I cannot fault my mother and I cannot fault others for doing whatever they think that they have to do.

    • Amazon: I also think it’s too simplistic to say “don’t stay for the children”. I wonder if the people saying that have the luxury of an education, a good job or a family that will help them? I know I should have left my ex long before d-day. I plotted it out & realized the financial hit would take my kids away from their school catchments, their friends & their extracurricular enjoyments. They would not have recovered easily from that despite what others say. It might have put them at risk too like your younger siblings. Had my ex been a raging alcoholic, physically abusive or gambling away everything, now that would’ve been a different story. My family would’ve intervened. But not everyone has that either. I’m okay with staying with the cheater as long as I did because it helped my kids all graduate from university & they now have better platforms to start life than I did. As their mom, I did that for them.

    • People leave to avoid abuse, but the left partner often resorts to financial seige behaviour to punish the leaver. The (often female) leaver is then cast into the position of having to physically provide for their children at the expense of actual time and energy being able to be spent guiding and caring for that child emotionally. I think times have changed now somewhat, where women have more resources for education and job promotion open to them, but yeah, the law often allow the cheater/abuser to compound the damage when you’ve been put into a Hobson’s/Sophie’s choice position by going scorched earth financially on the chump which means the economic necessities of life actually obliterate the gains made by leaving the abusive situaiton for some time, often when children’s personalities are at their most vulnerable and impressionable. Having strong family and community ties can mitigate this, but many of us are not so lucky in this department when we take the steps to exit a crappy situation without the benefit of a benign partner who is willing to put the interests of the child first, but not punishing the leaving partner financially.

  • It’s strange how hard it is to become not-married when it’s so easy to become married.

    As a culture, we often get legally married for reasons that don’t require loyalty or longevity — like because someone told us we should (especially if we want to have sex, a topic which is often viewed via a faith-based context of marriage), or because we want better tax and financial options, or because we want to be legally assumed to be family… Etc.

    If we treated the lifelong commitment and contractual realities of legal marriage with the gravity and impact (used as a noun!) it deserves, it would look very different. We would negotiate the terms carefully. It would require its own significant contract to enter into it (not optional). We wouldn’t, as a society, base an entire tax code on it. We WOULD have protective clauses in it surrounding early exit. (In fact, it would probably look more like a lease option agreement, because a contract that lasts one’s whole life is patently absurd.)

    It would be impossible to enter into it just because it’s ‘romantic’.

    We culturally make (overt and implied) promises we can’t possibly keep to children from the beginning (life is a tidy arrangement that will last forever with two people who will never change as the parents, and any other thing that happens means life has failed). So when parents need to stop being together and parent separately, regardless of who wants the change, we treat it like the family has failed.

    Divorce and breakups are hard because human beings make them hard. Because entitlement.

    If a person is expecting an outlandish or unreasonable custodial arrangement (typically a cheater game), that person is at fault for creating difficulty for the children, not the person who proposes something grounded in fact (typically the chump).

    If a person tries to dragon-horde all the money and assets from the relationship, that is the person who is making it hard.

    If a person tries to force the other parent to co-parent with their new relationship partner(s) directly, that is the person who is making it hard.

    If a person keeps dragging you back to court for frivolous reasons, that is the person who is making it hard.

    If a person keeps trying to stay in touch with you when you don’t want to be in touch anymore, that is the person who is making it hard.


    And if a person brought about the end of the marriage via their own shitty, deceptive, abusive behavior within the relationship, then that person is THE reason the end of the marriage/relationship is hard. Period.

    Leaving a cheater isn’t hard on the children by itself. That’s a gaslighter conversation. The process of leaving a cheater is hard for the same reasons NOT leaving a cheater is hard — you’re trying to untie a knot while the other person keeps sneakily re-tangling from the other end. It’s messy and dysfunctional and fraught with BS.

    In cheater-land, the only difference between staying and leaving is that if you leave, you get to stop being in relationship with the person who causes harm. The children get hurt either way, because deception is cruel. If you leave, at least they don’t have to live with cruelty when they are with you at your house. Sounds like an immense kindness to me.

  • I can still remember helping my son into Mr. Sparkles car for weekend visitation after a little league game the Spring after discard. He did NOT want to go, he was sobbing as they drove away. My son was 9 at the time. I felt like the monster. Did he cry all weekend, surely not. He was having pizza and watching movies and playing video games. (I had the task of Sunday night homework.)

    Fast forward 9 years. My son is a HS Junior. His Dad self-elected over the years to go from dinner 2 nights a week and every other weekend visitation to now only one night a week – generally 45 minutes for pizza or Chik Fil A. He sometimes shows up for my son’s extra-curricular activities, but it is hit or miss.

    Guess who did all the parenting? Yup, me. The sane parent. We definitely had our ups and downs (as any child will navigating growing up), but my son knew/knows he can count on me. He wishes he had a “better” Dad, but he doesn’t wish that I had stayed married to his Dad (now seeing his Dad for the crap-character cheater that he is).

    I look back now with such gratitude for the discard because I would have stayed for my son. I would have continued to put my head down and suffer the abuse “for the sake of the children”. I would have modeled to my son that it is ok to cheat and lie to your wife. Small mercies, thank God, I didn’t have to in the end. My son saw me protect him; stabelize our home; be engaged in his life and his childhood; cry and experience loss; move on and build a new life.

    I know we all have different stories and experiences here, but for me – getting to be a single parent to my son was the greatest gift of my life. Mr. Sparkles did one thing right… he left.

    • I also remember having to put my kid in the car to drive him to his dad’s house while my son sobbed and begged me not to make him go. He was 7 or 8. It was heartbreaking. He would be crying outside the front door and clinging to me, and then as soon as his dad opened the door, he was all smiles because even at that age he KNEW that expressing his unhappiness, or that fact that he missed me, was unacceptable to his father.

      It was absolutely awful to watch.

      I too wanted to keep our family together, but it was so unhealthy. I’m grateful for the fact that my ex left. He freed me by doing that.

      I did all the parenting (all the hard, boring, necessary parts – his dad just did fun activities). But I am okay with that. His dad wasn’t really a role model I wanted for my son.

      My ex died in 2021, and so now I have my son full time and am the only parent. The change in my son’s mood was dramatic. He’s so much happier now. Less anxiety and depression. More relaxed. He hated the constant back and forth that never, in his words, let him “feel settled”. He has stability, predictability, routine, safety, and a peaceful and loving home where we emphasize kindness and understanding.

  • 6 years out from divorcing XH of 25 years after Dday. Kids are great. XH continues to be the manipulative abusive unstable narcissist with BPD (diagnosed) he probably always was. Kids (18-35) have tremendous boundaries after years of therapy. They know XH is disordered and keep themselves safe while having superficial relationships with him. Thank goodness for divorce!

    • This is what I’m working on with my daughter. Fw is also diagnosed BPD. Kiddo is stepdaughter to FW but she loves him, so I’m letting her have a couple of afternoons after school or a weekend lunch. As long as he isn’t intoxicated – she is to have her cell charged at all times and I will drop everything and go get her if she thinks he smells funny or is acting strange. (She has a little tolerance for either). But we are talking about the importance of healthy boundaries, communicating concerns rather than stuffing them, etc. She’s in therapy too to help with this.

  • I haven’t heard much out in pop culture world or conventional wisdom world about how cheating hurts children. LOTS about how Kids Are Resilient!

    Our boat partner, Cheater Extraordinaire on Wife No 3 who he was cheating with, who doesn’t even know our daughter, assured Traitor Ex that she would be fine!
    Did Traitor Ex talk to me? Did he talk to the family therapist? No, he talked to the person who had what he wanted and was doing what he was doing. If you are want to know how to commit murder, of course if you know someone who’s gotten away with it you want to know the secrets of their success.

    What really hurts children is pretending everything is fine while the house is burning down instead of leading them to safety. That’s what happened in my house growing up, and it primed me to pick Traitor Ex and stay with him years after should have left.

    I was taught by my longtime beloved trusted therapist that all relationships have problems, and you want to look for someone you can work through problems with. I thought I had done that. I chose a skilled con artist and an expert liar. You cannot have relationships with a liar. You can only play games. So it’s critical that I teach my daughter that how you solve that problem is to walk away and not play, to not tolerate abuse.

    I do not want her to tolerate cheating, to be a cheater, or to be a side piece.

    When THEY nuked our family she was a bright little cheerful brilliant baby bird, confident and outgoing, flying toward the stars. What they did, not just to me but to her, was shoot her out of the sky. Overnight she pulled into a shell and began failing in school. I doubled, tripled down seeing our family therapist, who fired him for lying. She kept us glued together. A year later I am the one who got our daughter into Alateen, and got her a therapist of her own.

    She is back on track, becoming the person she was meant to be. On the honor roll with all A’s. She’s thinking about being a psychotherapist. She’s in a special high school for the arts and is a talented artist. She’s the person kids seek out to talk with. She’s been chosen to be on the school Restorative Justice panel every year. She has her issues, as do I.

    She talks to me and likes to spend time with me. She gets mad at me. Every night before we go to bed, we text each other cute goodnight GIFS. We go to counseling together every two weeks.

    I had her when I was almost in my mid forties, and the almost total lack of extended family means she needs to be as skilled as possible at picking people and problem solving. I cannot in good conscience, and will never, teach or model to her to trust someone untrustworthy, and sadly that includes her own father. And obviously anyone who was part of his secret sexual double

  • I left for the children, ages 6 months and 2 years. I couldn’t imagine me in 5 or 10 years time continuing the evil cycle in front of my daughters — modeling my own toxic doormat behaviors. I left hoping they would never remember a time when we were a ‘complete’ family.

    Without children I would have allowed my family’s opinion of me to be first. I was always the odd one they said would never get a man; then it was I wasn’t maternal enough to give birth; and of course, my man would leave me.

  • Ex assaulted me when I discovered his financial abuse, and also attacked Tween when he tried to intervene. I got him out of the house immediately, and tween told me that it was so much better once he was gone. He then told me he could finally tell me how ex had been physically and emotionally abusive to him. Ex dragged out the divorce and psychologically manipulated Tween in horrific ways, threatening to have us killed if Tween didn’t comply by bringing him valuables from the home, provide security codes, etc. Tween was smart enough to provide fake codes. Ex was so awful that police, Child Protective Services, and eventually the court-ordered Parental Responsibilities Evaluator all recommended no contact. The PRE told me he’d never recommended no contact before because courts frown on it, but felt he could not make another determination. The court awarded me sole decision-making and custody with no contact.

    Tween, now a Teen, is grateful that ex is out of our lives and is still angry with him, and sometimes furious. He’s adamant that he never wants to see Ex again, and is sometimes terrified that Ex will contact us or follow through on threats to kill us. Even so, he recently told me that he misses the good times, and listed them. Ex used to relish the Disney Dad/Image Management activities, like riding bikes around the neighborhood and playing ball or frisbee in the cul-de-sac. He had to be pushed to attend scouting meetings and grudgingly agreed to non-public activities like reading or telling a story at night. Teen had no idea that I had to pressure ex to do these things, and he misses them—and him, “when he was good.” I realized that I pressured ex to do the fun stuff because he didn’t want to do any of the hard work of parenting, scheduling, getting services and disciplining.

    It’s not unlike how we chumps focus on the good times and aspects of cheaters.

    Cheating absolutely damages children of all ages in multiple ways. I highly recommend “Parents Who Cheat: How Children and Adults are Affected When Their Parents Are Unfaithful” by Ana Nogales, PhD. It’s the same kind of eye-opener as LACGAL, and the author gets it in the same way as Chump Lady.

  • My “stay for the children” resulted in one adult child who is an abuser and one who is a perfectly formed victim for her abuser in her marriage. Two for two. How’s that for results? The saddest reality to all of this is that there are now little grandchildren in the training process to carry on the next generation.

    Five generations I can see now – completely immersed in abusive relationships. It is no wonder we can’t get this turned around in our culture.

    By the time we learn what is happening to us, we have already birthed and molded the next generation. Cheaters remind me of cowbirds.

  • Everyone has a different background, different abilities, different support systems, etc. So why do people try to prescribe a one size fits all approach? We have lawmakers who evidently cannot or will not read trying to explain our U S Constitution to us, religious leaders who misquote their own Holy Books, teachers being told how and what to teach by people with no educational experience, and perhaps little education, and get medical advice from those with no medical training.

    This world seems to be a series of crazy sound bites and social media posts. Is it any wonder people in a stressful situation are confused about what to do next? Personally, I took way longer than I wanted to divorce because I had to get my ducks in a row for the benefit of my children. I had to address their father’s crazy accusations that I was going to ruin his career and deny him access to his children. I never intended to do either. I had to be the sane parent, and the voice of reason during the divorce. I did not have time, energy, or resources to indulge my anger.

    I did not pretend I was not angry. I was clear about financial crimes against the family. But getting into a shouting match with my ex was not productive. The boys knew we argued, you can pretend all you want to, they feel tension in the home. They may not be clear on why there is a problem, or exactly what it is, but they know something is wrong. That alone is reason enough to divorce. Children should not have to live with that tension, and it should never be normalized.

    From the time I made the decision that I had done enough, and realized there was never going to be any true, sustained change, and my present life, I have had years to reflect on what I did right or wrong. I also have the benefit now of how it turned out, as opposed to the anxiety about what would happen. It is ridiculously easy to get married. It is ridiculously hard to have a reasonable and fair divorce. As an individual, you have to assess your resources and support, and do what you have to do for you and your children to have a chance at a safe and sane life. Sometimes that will mean that you have to compromise. I don’t know anyone who has gone through the process of divorce who has been entirely happy with the actual outcome. Most of those I know are so happy that the divorce is over. There is plenty of pain to go around in this world, and you cannot change the past. You can look forward to shaping a new and better future. If you are a new chump, concentrate on that. If you see light at the end of the tunnel, it is not always an oncoming train. Sometimes it will be a shiny new day. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. One size does not fit all, but having a realistic and optimistic attitude seems to help those going through tough times.

  • For all of us that have kids with disabilities or who are gifted in non-academic ways, I want to remind everyone that good grades and degrees are only one measure of success (although I applaud everyone here who is proud of their kid’s academic success! Be proud!)

    It was harder for me to leave my marriage because of my kid’s disabilities. Being a single mom seemed doable, but a single mom of kids with extra needs seemed impossible. It was, and is, hard, and is a little harder when most parents use academic success as the main marker of someone is a good parent or not (and whether a kid is a good kid.)

    My kid will never go to college, they may not finish high school. But they are a good person, a creative soul, with a kind heart, who is infinitely better off without an abusive father in their life.

    • Being the parent of children with special needs is daunting but public misperceptions can make it hell on a stick. Even if a child is a walking miracle and defying original prognosis, this may not be considered “doing well” by normal measures and it’s easy for ignorant bystanders to ascribe any lack of perfection to the woes of being from a “broken home.” What’s more, having a child with a disability– especially if that child has expensive medical complications– can make escaping abuse like defusing a bomb. Most people don’t understand the added risks and complications of a contentious divorce when there are special needs children involved but it would help if they did. Personally I felt like I was walking a tightrope with perils on all sides that not many other people could see. All sorts of ducks had to be gotten in rows before I could make my intention to leave known because of the risks to my disabled son. One of the biggest risks is that, if financial difficulties in divorce somehow disrupted my son’s treatment protocol which was largely out of pocket, it might conceivably shorten his life.

      There are also aspects of caring for disabled children that make it harder to plan or even think and make disability parents easier to intimidate. Like a lot of disability parents, I clearly had PTSD from witnessing my son’s awful descent into illness and from wrangling with schools and doctors to get him proper education and treatment. One of the tactics that stonewalling schools and medical systems use to get parent advocates to feck off and back down is to float not-so-subtle hints that the parent could be charged with wrongdoing on whatever feeble grounds. For instance, pushing doctors for expensive testing or medical treatments they don’t personally favor or don’t get kickbacks for and pushing schools to make constitutionally guaranteed allotments for medical conditions can be cast as “Munchausen.” This has happened even when conditions are officially documented and leading medical authorities recommend the tests or treatments.

      There are also pitfalls in the case parents are disabled themselves. Custody can be taken away on the grounds of parental disability or illness alone. I had all sorts of typical carer injuries that I’d never gotten treated because of lack of time and resources but didn’t dare claim temporary disability because of how this could compromise parental rights. I was already chronically sleep deprived from years of middle-of-the-night kid health crises and then, during FW’s affair, I stopped sleeping entirely. If FW so much as raised his voice, I’d have to sit down to keep from fainting. Consequently, I lost so much weight from stress that I was banned from donating blood at one point. The weight loss and fainting spells fueled some of FW’s DARVO charges to get me to stop asking whether he was cheating: he cast me as a “dangerous parent” because, according to him, the fainting and weight loss = eating disorder= crazy unfit parent.

      Dirty politics in special ed and turf wars between medical specialties also made me more susceptible to claims like this. For instance, I’d put my son on a special diet which, though it’s also recommended on an NIH website for my son’s condition and my son was obviously thriving, the diet was deemed “experimental” by insurers and competing branches of medicine which, at the time, preferred drugging affected kids to kingdom come instead. Add to this the pressure from schools to drug the daylights out of disabled kids to make them easier and cheaper to manage and the whole thing was a powder keg. Furthermore, just a year before FW’s affair, the junk food industry began feverishly promoting a dodgy new “eating disorder” in the media dubbed “orthorexia nervosa” or an “obsession with healthy eating” which, if extended to children, could be turned into grounds for criminal “Munchausen by proxy” charges against parents. This triggered buzz in disability legal advocacy circles about losing kids to the state on charges of “gluten free stir fry” or “kombucha.” The school had complained in writing that my son’s home-cooked lunch was too elaborate to be eaten in the twenty minutes allotted for school meals and that being deprived of “fun food” like pizza was causing problems for his socialization. Never mind the modern epidemic of child obesity and cardiometabolic disorders, I sensed I was a sitting duck to be accused of problematic parenting and FW counted on it.

      I thanked God when the “orthorexia” nonsense fizzled after proponents were found to have ties to the junk food industry and pesticide makers and the DSM rejected the entry. I did a hail Mary when the lid came off the opioid crisis because it kiboshed doctors’ and the DOE’s aggressive campaigns to sedate kids for drug maker kickbacks. But before D-Day, I felt like Anne Boleyn about to get my head and parental rights lopped off. Again, because FW knew how vulnerable I felt to any intimation of “unfit parenting,” he played on it. He was so demented and self-absorbed during the affair that I doubt it would even have occurred to him that even floating hints of child endangerment during custody disputes can trigger the involvement of child protective services which may decide to take custody from both parents and that, if this happens, disabled children will likely be institutionalized.

      Another risk factor in having disabled children institutionalized are reportedly APs. A disability lawyer I’d previously done research for warned me that she’d seen several cases where side pieces and OWives incited FWs to get full custody of disabled children in order to avoid child support payments, then campaigned to get the child tossed into an institution on state waiver. I argued that FW would never allow such a thing to happen but my friend said to “never say never’ and basically never to underestimate the blackmailing power of a greedy floozie over a middle aged cheater in the throes of cirrhosis-related mental decline.

      Once I started suspecting an affair and the DARVO assaults began, I kept having a vision of a sink hole opening up in the ground and swallowing me. I was so worn down, overwhelmed and stressed that I didn’t know where to find the strength to fight back. I had a gut sense that I couldn’t stir up the wasp’s nest before I was ready to firebomb it. I started digging up dirt on FW through his work contacts and was surprised to find a couple whistleblowers. On the advice of my lawyer friend, I hired a private investigator to get solid evidence of that dirt and “asset dissipation,” then retained an attorney. In the end, the evidence painted a terrible picture of FW and his AP which pretty much forfeited any potential claim he might make against me. When all the affair expenditures, the lying texts, FW’s texted accusations and the timelines were added up, FW looked like a horrible parent, made worse by the fact that his son is disabled. The AP looked so bad on paper that FW dumped her and sent a cease and desist. I get the sense she probably voluntarily scuttled away for fear of having the whole world find out about her. Without his barfly cheerleader exhorting him to crush me, FW lost steam. He joined AA, got into therapy and started doing a Pickme dance of his own. That bought me time to start figuring out finances since FW had taken control of everything while I was occuped caring for the kids. That brings up another risk in divorce involving special needs children: even more than traditional SAHMs, caretaker parents tend to lose access to and control of finances because they’re too overtaxed to even think about those things.

      FW folded so quickly in the face of the facts that I’ll never know if he really intended to actualize any of his hinted threats. After Day-Day, I had a showdown with FW in which he complained I was treating him like a domestic batterer and I said point blank that he met all the legal qualifications by threatening to take my children away if I didn’t heed his every command. He gasped and said he’d never put our children at risk and he never “intended” to threaten such a thing. I pointed out that he was so skilled and practiced at gaslighting and terrorizing that it had become reflexive and no longer required any thought or conscious intent to do it.

      These assholes think that coercion being “subconscious” or an action being merely a “bluff” somehow exonerates them. But if you wave a gun at a cop, it doesn’t matter whether it’s loaded or not. You’ll get shot. I think what abusers lose sight of is that the very Achilles heel that might make their victims particularly easy to con and intimidate might also be the reason that victim fights like a cornered animal. My kids and my son’s medical vulnerabilities are my Achilles heels. Maybe what I did to protect their interests was overkill but FW should have guessed I’d hit him with everything.

    • Grades are not a perfect marker of how “well” someone is but if a kid with good grades suddenly goes south it is an indicator of things going bad.

      Example of grades not revealing much: klootzak graduated from the US Naval Academy in the top 10% of his class. I would not be surprised if he scored genius rating on an IQ test. He is very smart but also evil. A total cheating, lying FW.

  • “The people who actually need this message — consider the children! — are the ones who are congenitally tone deaf to it: cheaters, addicts, the mentally ill.”

    Mental illness doesn’t cause child abuse. Many of us have mental illness as a result of abuse. And people with mental illness are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators. Thank you for coming to my anti-ableism TED talk.

  • However, I got this thrown back as another piece of the core manipulative gaslighting hell that followed post D-day. Apparently EX couldn’t bear for his only child to be brought up with us together (there has been zero signs of trouble hence why it was such a shock all round) and he wanted her to see a good relationship modelled for her own wellbeing instead of ours. So this one is a bit of a touchy subject. He was also very much of the ‘they are resilient’ camp as well. She took it as well as she could, if you consider an 8 year old lying next to me clinging onto me in the night crying out ‘taking it well’. Fuck them all. It is still one of my greatest sadness of my life that this happened to my beautiful girl. I have some photos taken of her just part D-day and the look in her eyes, is literally breaks open my heart.

  • It is truly awful to divorce and yes the kids still went to see their unstable dad every other weekend and holidays. And yes their dad was a Christmas uncle who showered Disney land on them. Yes yes and yes. But I did not have to be the marriage police, I did not have to stay in a therapist chair for years, I did not have to live like my mom did, playing a horrible game with full time verbal abuse as to how “no good she was”, when it was my dad who was sick. I did find a kind man who did a sweet job of parenting until he also broke down and started seeing other woman and became mentally unstable as those 32 years ticked by. There are no guarantees. Each choice impacts the children, but a mighty mom or dad, strong and courageous, not turning into an abused victim, is far better, even uncoupled,than living in the dark shadows of lies, disease, fear and mental torment. There is no better gift to my children, both happy and stable today, than a woman who protects herself and gathers her chick’s under her wings. God has also led me out of my second marriage,and I am on solid footing again. The gift I gave myself was ME back again.

  • My marriage hurt my son. One example is that my ex husband started a fire at our home, blamed it on me, but also involved our son in it since he was there when the fire started and knew my ex started it. But his dad told him that he would be in trouble too so he had to lie to me about it. He taught our son to lie constantly to cover up his own crap, not caring what it would do to our son. My son learned so many horrible lessons from his father that I didn’t even know were going on. If I had left for myself it would have helped my son too, that is a kick in the teeth.

    And OMG, the credit score drop! I just have to comment on that. I had no idea how bad it would be. My credit score tanked! But three years out and I have it back up to 733! I feel pretty recovered on that front at least.

    • My ex ruined my credit, too (it was perfect when we got married). But I have also managed to recover over the last few years, becoming debt free. I just bought a house and got a really good interest rate. It is really nice to be financially stable again after a decade of teetering on the brink of disaster.

    • I’m a Chump that was left on DDay. FW walked out on me and our son and our house … moved right in with AP and her 2 boys. And yet I was STILL told repeatedly that I needed to someone save our marriage for our son.

      Like SERIOUSLY?? Even if the FW runs off and abandons their kid, somehow the Chump has to save the marriage? HOW? FW was so far ahead of me…. planning everything to be with AP and in loooovvvveee for months… meanwhile I was stranded and traumatized. Drowning. He didn’t even make any plans to tell our son or take care of the house —- I was buried in grief and overwhelm. But if I chose divorce, the ill affects on the child were still blamed on ME?

      Even in the throes of my own trauma and anxiety attacks, I’m glad I had the presence of mind to say “NO. He abandoned us and moved in with another family. My goal here is to survive and make sure my son is safe. That man is not safe. I’ll never trust him again. I’m divorcing him and it’s for my child. He’s keeping me from our finances. He is unwilling to support us. Divorce will fix that quick.”

      Some people couldn’t get it through their thick heads though. So I dumped them too.

      Almost 8 years since DDay and my sad scared 9 year old is a wise funny sweet 17 year old. He goes to lunch or a movie with dad. No more overnights with that abusive creep and his creepy AP. He doesn’t ever see AP or her children anymore — AT ALL. Not for 3 years. 99% of the time he’s with me. And he’s happy and feels safe with me.

    • Yes, they lie and cheat on you. Then they lie to the kids about you until your kids hate you. They teach the kids that it’s ok to use you for money and gifts. They abuse you for years, then tell the kids you refused family counseling so you are responsible for the family breakup. I could go on.

  • I wish my covert narcissist showed his true self, instead of pretending to be the loving husband and family man. There was no intimacy in our relationship once he started cheating. I asked him many times what was going on and he constanted deflected and lied. I was a child of divorce and commited to not being a latchkey kid with a single mom.

    When DD#2 happened, he pronouced “this is rediculous; we have to get a divorce.” He had been planning to wait until our daughter went to college before demanding a divorce — which meant stealing another 5 years of my life, on top of the 15 he had already stolen.

    I blew it big time, letting my daughter see my pain. I vented with anyone who would listen, including parents of her friends — HUGE mistake, but I couldn’t control myself.

    She was estranged from him for 1.5 years and once she reconnected with her father, blamed me for her estrangement. It didn’t help that she saw a therapist with mommy issues. She was absolutely brutal with me, saying I was the toxic one, I had betrayed her with my venting, she couldn’t trust me, etc. She used phrases that she obviously got from her therapist — what 14yo uses the word toxic? All the while, her father is feeding her crap and being the “generous” parent who bought her whatever she wanted, including a BMW X1 for her 16th birthday.

    It’s been 7 years since the split; he’s married the AP, daughter is killing it in college — in fact, right now she is studying abroad. Little by little, I see her starting to trust me again and having a bit better perspective. I just hope she picks to find a man who is NOT like her father. She only knows he cheated with the AP; I’ve managed to keep the rest of the story from her, for her benefit, certainly not to protect him. Someday she may want to know the whole story.

    • Oh, and in hindsight, I wish I had raised her myself. I would have had the opportunity to find a real man; she may have had the opportunity to see a loving relationship. And I would have been able to better protect her from his narcissism.

  • I wish I’d left when my son was an infant, which is when my ex’s abuse escalated (jealous of the attention the baby got from me, angry that I was no longer 120 lb and had post partum depression and a bad birth injury that made life, and sex, difficult). I think my ex would have been less interested in the baby. When FW finally left me our son was 5. FW had discovered he could get lots of kibbles by being World’s #1 Dad, so he was a Disney dad extraordinaire. My son by then had been witness to violence and anger, and continued to witness his father behave like that, both towards me and then towards AP too. I could see my son learning all the wrong things from his dad. Sometimes my son would get angry (as all kids do) and would say hateful things to me that were like a recording of what my ex used to say to me. That was hard. I also heard my son saying things that were disrespectful to women, which I knew he’d heard from my ex.

    I was certainly able to be a better parent once I was separated from FW and ceased all but the most necessary communications with him. He did his best to make my life hell and drag out our divorce, but I learned to mostly deal with it (lawyer, lawyer, lawyer) and not let it affect me so much. I had a great therapist who helped me a lot.

    FW died a year and a half ago. It has been so much easier since. My son (age 10 now) still sometimes shows tendencies to be like his dad (such as hitting or pushing me and breaking my things when he is angry, and saying awful things to me like “you’re stupid” or “I wish you’d died instead of daddy”). I do my best not to take it personally or let it trigger me, but it’s not easy. I admit, it scares me. Especially when I point out that the things he does/says are hurtful and he reaction is “I don’t care” and he doesn’t feel bad about it. (Most of the time he is the sweetest, most loving kid you ever met.) We are working on it, but my son is ADHD and autistic and struggles with impulse control, and once he gets into a certain attitude, it’s very hard to help him out of it. He just digs in his heels. It’s taking time to unlearn the unhealthy reactions and ways of treating other that he witnessed as a small child. Luckily he has a great team of people both in and out of school that all want the best for him. I think there is some latent trauma from all that he has gone through over the last five years, and he isn’t sure how to deal with it or even how to express what he is feeling.

    If you are debating staying for the kids – don’t. The sooner you get out, the better.

  • I wish there were an equal number of voices in the media stating that cheating on your spouse hurts the children, or that lying to your spouse and your children causes lifelong trust issues or that using prostitutes will give your daughters the message that it’s ok to be promiscuous, or that misusing marital funds will contribute to early death!

    I believe that the cheater’s actions, and lack of appropriate actions, lead to the poor outcomes that many studies report are caused by “divorce.”
    I didn’t want to file either, and delayed way too long. The damage was done to me, and all my kids. Over 36 years.

    The divorce merely ended that type of harm, and began a life full of milder discomforts – the youngest was never given an old car & goes without, the youngest two have more student loan debt, the adult kids have to visit 2 homes on their trips to the old hometown.

    But the divorce is not the cause of my 25 year old daughter crying from the pain of having a father who did not care about her.

  • Yes divorce can be hard on kids. But living with parents in a dysfunctional and abusive relationship is HARDER on kids, IMO. The western take on kids and divorce and the like is so myopic and insular and christo-normative. There are myriads of cultures throughout the world where kids are raised primarily by people other than their parents, such as grandparents (as par for the course), or where kids are raised by different family members during different stages of their lives or where kids are raised by one parent because the other is a migrant worker who is gone for years at a time or where young kids are sent off to boarding schools for a decade…and so on. This idea that our society is nailing it with this so-called intact nuclear family is a farce. If anything, the idea that two parents alone (especially two working parents) can raise a kid, better than some expanded village, is poppycock and punitive toward parents and kids. We all need to rethink this concept. In any event, it’s far worse to raise your kids in a house of lies, stress, and abuse.

  • “Breakdowns can create breakthroughs. Things fall apart so things can fall together.” – I love this quote because if we can be brave enough, life has a funny way of showing you the possible.

  • Ugh, you really touched a very, very raw nerve today. My daughter is 27 and she gets furious when she talks about the wasted years I spent with my cheater. The very last thing she wants to hear, is that her existence forced me to remain in that miserable house one hour longer than absolutely necessary.

    I think it feels to her as if she’s burdened with a debt she never asked for, never wanted, and can’t handle. Of course it’s true she would have been upset if all this had happened when she was 10 or 11, but looking back at it as a young adult she wishes it had been done right the first time around.

  • My kids DID suffer, but only because he waged an emotional war of MORE lies about me after the separation and divorce

    • Same. And also because I wasn’t living in the house with my kid and her dad when she was with him, so I was unable to continue to directly shield her from his behavior, or compensate for it, in the moment…like I did when we were all living together. The courts just really aren’t set up to handle narcissistic parents. Covert and subdued emotional abuse on children, and the long-term effects, goes unconsidered by most judges, and when brought to their attention, is blown off.

  • I so wanted my kids to have a loving and intact family, but I married and bred with a FW. That fact didn’t become fully apparent until after both were born. I stayed…way too long…thinking I was doing the right thing for them. I also thought I was doing a really great job of hiding the truth of their horribly dysfunctional father from them. But in their early teen years they both came to me, weeks apart, and in different ways let me know they were just as miserable as I was and wanted out. That was all I needed, and I filed within a couple of weeks, while simultaneously finding out he had been cheating. In the years since, I came to understand that staying for the kids wasn’t best for them. And while sad that the dream of the loving and intact family wasn’t possible for us, I have no regrets about divorcing and so happy that my kids told me how they felt…now we are all free.

  • OK, this hurts. Because not all of us get these things for our kids. Two of mine are learning disabled, and I can’t afford to send them to college (they will need support programs, so no ROTC or community college shortcuts to a cheaper education). It hurts hurts hurts when I see friends proud of their college-attending kids. Because my kiddos, with their fascination with history, engineering, biology and theoretical physics, are unlikely ever to be able to work in fields that they are passionate about. It’s like a stab to the gut every time.
    I couldn’t have stayed. I had a Dateline Special. He wanted me dead, and if I hadn’t gotten out I expect he would have found a way to get that done. I’m not saying don’t leave – I’m saying not everyone gains a great life. Sometimes we’re just lucky to keep living, and hug our kids for one more day.

  • I will never, ever understand why the no-fault state laws are the way they are. Clearly, FWs were not thinking of their children when they gave their time to the AP instead of their families. In my case, FW stole endless amounts of money to pay for his cheating. Money that should have been saved for a rainy day or used to pay off family debt so that we could improve our lives. Instead, he spent well over $100k (that I know of) on wh0res, p0rn, s3x toys to be used with his wh0res, only fans accounts, etc. He stole money from our daughter’s checking account and our joint account. He cashed out investment money and stole equity money from our house to pay off affair debt. How is this thinking of the children?? He never, not once, thought of our daughter when he emotionally disengaged from her, when he refused to spend time with her because he needed to be on his devices every waking moment that he was in the house. He was putting women up in hotels near our home so he could see them while daughter was at school (ahh, there he *was* thinking of her!). He would drop daughter off, spend the day with a wh0re, then pick daughter up and bring her home in the afternoon. GROSS. When I think of just how little consideration he gave to our daughter for those 7 years (obviously apart from the insane disdain and disrespect he showed me) I am furious that he is entitled to a moment’s time with her and that because of his actions I’m going to lose my own time with her. Where my baby was mine 95% of the time, now she’ll be with me 60-70% and it is so unjust.

  • >