Dad’s a Closeted Cheater and Mom Wants to Reconcile

Hi Chump Lady,

Two years ago, my family of me (30M), my sister (31F), and my mom (59F) discovered that my father (57M) had a Grindr account. After that initial implosion, the discoveries were these:

  • (That I know of) For the last five years, he has been having homosexual hookups with random men
  • Cross-dressing
  • Not sure what else

About a year ago, after going back and forth, my mother decided to make amends with him and try and salvage their marriage. This has caused me to distance myself from her as well, much to her chagrin, because every time we talk, she seems to ask me when I’m going to forgive my dad.

Since the discovery of all this, I have not contacted him that much despite a handful of attempts from him to make contact with me.

I have not asked any questions regarding his past but I gather from my mom that these issues may have been present since I was a kid. He was always emotionally unavailable and I never knew him (despite our family being religious and him being an associate pastor). I even approached him at 15 to tell him I was struggling with watching porn and he didn’t help me. Told me to talk to one of our family friends.

I have not pursued any sort of relationship with him because I don’t respect who he is and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much because of how he chose to raise my sister and me (I also have my own family now, two daughters, 4 and 2).

All this to say, my mother just told me yesterday I need to figure out what I’m going to do and how I’m going to move on with all this (my relationship with my parents). I’m at the point where I don’t want a relationship with either of them. They’re so needy and seemingly toxic. I’m trying to focus on my own life instead of repair what they messed up years ago.
What do I owe them?

Warmly yours,

Tom

****

Dear Tom,

Kids have D-Days too. That shock and trauma of discovery isn’t just reserved for chumped partners — children of cheaters are also unmoored by the discovery of a double life.

You knew your dad was distant. He didn’t show up for you in important ways. He wasn’t a person you respected. Now you know why he was checked out — he was never checked in. He wasn’t the person he presented himself to be — straight, committed, devout.

Once you know this, you cannot un-know it.

That means every time you’re with him, that double life is the elephant in the room with you.

If he were an honest man (he’s not), he would acknowledge the elephant and make amends. He would live openly as a gay or bisexual man. He wouldn’t choose the closet. He wouldn’t string your mother along with false hope. He’d give her a fair and generous divorce settlement — which would be the very LEAST he could do for wasting 30+ years of her life. He wouldn’t blame anyone for his choices — although yes, we live in a homophobic society. He would acknowledge others’ pain that he inflicted with his double life — and the risks he took with your mother’s health.

But he’s chosen not to do that.

Yet your mother demands “forgiveness.” For what? He hasn’t repented. And from what you write, he hasn’t asked for it.

You’re under no obligation to forgive someone who hasn’t admitted fault. You’re under no obligation to forgive someone who has. The conferring of forgiveness — whatever that means to you — is a PERSONAL matter and cannot be demanded. Forgiveness is not even necessary to move on.

Your mom is completely out of line.

About a year ago, after going back and forth, my mother decided to make amends with him and try and salvage their marriage.

I have sympathy for your mother and some understanding of the power of hopium and the forces that compel people to reconcile for Marriage (however toxic). Thirty years of her life blew up. She’s probably terrified. Her religious community and/or her quack RIC therapists are probably encouraging reconciliation or blaming her for her part in her husband’s cheating.

Yet she too is responsible for her choices. And one of the consequences of reconciling with a closeted cheater is that her son wants distance from the fuckupedness.

It’s your right to have boundaries. She doesn’t have to like it.

All this to say, my mother just told me yesterday I need to figure out what I’m going to do and how I’m going to move on with all this (my relationship with my parents).

“Mom, my relationships are MY business. You don’t get to dictate the terms or the timelines. I don’t respect your decision to reconcile with Dad. This is a difficult time for ME. And I need some distance from the drama.”

This woman is probably so used to mediating everyones’ relationships with him, and throwing herself on the grenades of his impression management, that these demands feel right to her. Not intrusive or wrong. She’s trying to enlist you in her rug-sweeping. “Pay no attention to that elephant! He’s a harmless ficus plant! Tip-toe this way!”

That’s really sad, and controlling. And also hard to be around. One thing you could do for her is share the resource OurPath.org with her — formerly the Straight Spouse Network. She can get a lot of online and in-person help from people who’ve lived this.

I’m at the point where I don’t want a relationship with either of them.

You’re allowed to have boundaries. With time, maybe you’ll have a very light superficial relationship, because that’s about all the authentic intimacy they’re capable of. Or maybe no relationship, although as a parent you can understand how sad that is. But the thing is — these are YOUR CALLS to make.

You had a lot of inauthenticity modeled to you. Your dad’s sinister minister double life. Your mom now keeping up appearances. Be authentic. Honor your feelings.

Big ((hugs)).

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Lizza Lee
Lizza Lee
1 month ago

I’m so sorry Tom. I don’t have your experience, but I do have a little to share with you. My ex presented himself as a fine, upstanding Christian businessman. He was anything but. I have five adult children. You and your sister would fall right in the middle of the pack. Four of my kids are no contact with their father. One is no contact with me and I don’t know if she has a relationship with her father.

I would suggest that you tell your mother just what you told Chump Lady–that you can’t respect her decision to stay with your father. Tell her that her denial of who he is is damaging you and damaging her. I suppose there is a chance that he could end the double life and be an authentic person, but it’s more likely that lying and hiding the truth is part of the fun.

It’s very hurtful when a child cuts off contact. But you need to do what’s best for you and your family.

Amazon Chump
Amazon Chump
1 month ago
Reply to  Lizza Lee

I’m not-so-glad to hear that you have one child who has no contact with you. I did not blow up my marriage. The fuckwit did that, but it has been a continuous mind-fuck as I think, “What did I do wrong to cause to shun me?” Just 2 weeks ago I found out that he invited my brother to his wedding reception, here in my home town where I live, and did not invite me. I was visiting my brother when his wife said, “So, can we stay with you when we come in for <son’s> wedding?” That really hurt! That was the first I had heard of it. Later, my other son was talking to me and was extremely pissed. He even said that asked, “Do you think mom’s brothers and sisters won’t come to my reception if I don’t invite mom?” Since then, my brother said that unless things change, he doesn’t plan on attending. All I can do is pray. I pray for that shithead son of mine to pull his head out of his ass before I die, and I pray for me not to have this horrific pain feeling unwanted by my own child that I nursed at my breast and cared for through many of his most difficult health problems. What did I do wrong? Nothing. Everyone says, “Amazon Chump. You did nothing wrong.” “Mom. You did nothing wrong.” But it still hurts.

Chumpolicious
Chumpolicious
1 month ago
Reply to  Amazon Chump

During pandemic, Dday 3. Chaos. FW mental illness became apparent, he always had issues but became abusive. When you stay the kids see you being abused, they are abused. Kids sometimes jump on the bandwagon and start to abuse you too because they can. Its easier to throw their lot in with the abuser and become one than to be a target. Its abuse 101. Thats why if domestic partner start to abuse you and you have kids you really need to leave. Its like the bullies at school. One kids is a bully and they hang with him and be a bully rather than be bullied.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
1 month ago
Reply to  Amazon Chump

That’s incredibly cruel. I don’t know why some kids internalize the most negative role models while others move as far away from that model as they can.

tallgrass
tallgrass
1 month ago
Reply to  Amazon Chump

You did nothing wrong, Amazon mom. I’m so sorry you are here, too. It is soul crushing.

Lizza Lee
Lizza Lee
1 month ago
Reply to  Amazon Chump

I think sometimes kids who have been badly hurt need to hate somebody. It’s easier to hate the one that puts up with all the shit. She knows that I don’t hate her. The bad thing is that she has cut off her siblings, too. They are much less forgiving toward her than I am.

CryMeARiver
CryMeARiver
1 month ago

This is so sad. I wish these FW had a “mark of Cain” to warn us all before investing our best years, hopes and dreams in them. I know the mother knows and could choose to leave, but I agree with CL, she may be finding it hard. Many chumps try wreckonciliation….

LookingForwardsToTuesday
LookingForwardsToTuesday
1 month ago

Tom,

The first principle of First Aid is to not become a casualty yourself. You have your own family now (you mention 2 children); your priority is to protect yourself and and them. You are absolutely entitled to put some distance between your mother and your father while they sort their shit out. Whatever it is that you do owe them and you – rather than them – get to decide what that is, you do not owe them becoming the collateral damage of their own toxicity.

In your shoes I would put boundaries in place to protect myself and my family, but be prepared for your parents (most likely your mother) to challenge them. When that happens, I would simply respond with “This boundary is to protect me and not to punish you and whether you like it or not, you will respect it.”

LFTT

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
1 month ago

I’m ferocious about my kids being brainwashed with shitty principles and misinformation. I know a guy with two sons, a tween and a young teen, who are in family counseling with both parents because the boys are becoming defiant and oppositional. I felt bad for him and his wife. They seem like such affable, brilliant, hard working people that it suggests their sons are being influenced from outside the home. In other words, the “village”– other kids in school, social media, etc.– is raising their kids and maybe that’s not such a great thing.

I didn’t want to overstep with unwanted advice but did ask about screen time, social media use, peer groups at school, etc., and figured that this guy and his wife were possibly a little naive in following a certain style of child-rearing that prioritizes “socialization” and fitting in with peers above firm values. I don’t know if there’s a name for it but I’ve seen it a lot and my ex-MIL pushed that philosophy hard (look how that turned out). Some parents, like my exMIL, use the approach as a cover for neglect. But I think a lot of well-meaning parents take a kind of trusting “hands off” approach to their kids’ process of individuation, relationships, influences and friendships and trust that what they’re learning in school is factual and meaningful on the idea that children will find their own way. Their kids come home expressing all sorts of opinions and ideas and the parents say, “Well, it’s how s/he feels” and lay off if they don’t agree. While that might have worked in the days before Pornhub, Tik-tok, the normalization of gadget addictions and a few dodgy families and corporations controlling all the news (and all the reactionary backlash to this where bizarre theories spread to fill the gaps in facts in MSM). But these days it seems dangerous to send kids out into the world without girding them with the ability to think critically and filter the toxic sludge. Not everything is a matter of “opinion” and there are certain things that boil down to objective truths and falsehoods. There can be a kind of GIGO effect where if people’s minds are programmed with bs, flawed philosophy, incomplete or massaged information, etc., what comes out on the other side will be emotional chaos.

It occurred to me that I’ve been guarding against what’s happening to the children of these acquaintances since mine were tiny. For one, I strictly limited screen time to a few hours a week before age 14 and then I continue to put limits on it. My house, my rules, here’s a book. On top of that, I’ve been “counter-brainwashing” them all this time. I’ve always framed a lot of “life lessons” and principles in the form of political scenarios or discussions of human behavior in the abstract. Maybe some might say it verges on direct brainwashing but fuck it. I know what the kids are up against “out there” and I hate the statistics I’m seeing for their generation. In any case, I’m pretty happy with the result because the kids now think for themselves and see through bs– whether in their news feeds or interpersonal stuff– very quickly. They can analyze people, politics, interactions, films, books, etc., in astute and surprising ways without ever verging on flippant cynicism. So I’m going to say they’ve been “inoculated” against bs, the opposite of brainwashed.

Aspiring Crone
Aspiring Crone
1 month ago

HOAC, your words resonate so with me, and call out some of what I did NOT do during the childrearing years. “I think a lot of well-meaning parents take a kind of trusting “hands off” approach to their kids’ process of individuation, relationships, influences and friendships and trust that what they’re learning in school is factual and meaningful on the idea that children will find their own way. ” I didn’t know how to go about teaching them “the ability to think critically and filter the toxic sludge.” One picked up critical thinking on her own; the other struggles with long-term thinking. I wish I’d heard somebody say what you did when they were little. Probable somebody did, it was my hearing that didn’t work.

Nut Cluster Free Zone
Nut Cluster Free Zone
1 month ago

It seems a lot of parents have thrown in the towel in regards to screen time and access to social media. Or they don’t want to be labeled “helicopter parents.”

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
1 month ago

Getting parents to reduce their involvement with the upbringing of their children goes back to Plato who recommended that children be removed from their families at the age of ten to be raised by the state. Back then it had something to do with snuffing outbreaks of “democratic thinking” which were disempowering the ruling class that Plato was aligned with and argued for. These days, people frantically distance themselves from vague, generalized labels like “helicopter parents” without asking themselves who stands to profit from turning kids into mindless, credulous consumers with no guidance.

I think if parents just follow young children’s cues it’s clear there’s a time to helicopter. There are ages when children want, need and demand a lot of attention but it’s tempting to shove an iPad under their noses to catch a break. I think the latter is like falling for a variable rate mortgage– there can be hell to pay later for not giving the full attention required early on.

NotANiceChump
NotANiceChump
1 month ago

Exactly this. Raising children is really hard in this day and age. Financially, emotionally, and time demanding. This parental drama reduces your bandwidth to raise your own kids correctly. Focus on raising your babies. The rest is just noise to tune out. the response to your mom can be simple: “I’m raising my own kids mom, I don’t have time to deal with this dysfunctional stuff and I don’t want my kids around it. Sorry not sorry. I hope you and dad figure it out. Best of luck.”

LookingForwardsToTuesday
LookingForwardsToTuesday
1 month ago
Reply to  NotANiceChump

NANC,

Absolutely.

And the pressure placed upon people to “forgive” when the requirements for forgiveness are not present, and failing to understand that forgiveness is entirely the prerogative of the forgiver is infuriating. I had to tell my MIL to back off after I found out that she had been giving my youngest daughter a hard time for not forgiving Ex-Mrs LFTT for all of the things that MIL knew that Ex-Mrs LFTT had done but continued to lie about.

LFTT

Amazon Chump
Amazon Chump
1 month ago

As CL says, forgiveness means many things to many people. Forgiveness was important to me, i.e., that I forgive the fuckwit and his skank. But what forgiveness meant for me is to stop seeking vengeance. It did not mean that I ever had to have a relationship with the fuckwit, his skank, or anybody else that hurt me. I never have to see them again. Forgiveness meant that I leave vengeance in God’s hands, to not hold anger and hurt in my heart (especially since I was the only one hurting), to maintain my boundaries, and to be the best person I can be. Some people think forgiveness means that you have to keep allowing a fuckwit in your life risking more and more abuse. Fortunately, that’s not what forgiveness is to me. Some people will never forgive, or maybe they have and their definition of forgiveness is equal to mine. Or not. But I’m glad for you that you set MIL in her place and established boundaries. You show that you’re a protective father and you’re teaching your daughter that she has value, that she can also establish boundaries, and she need never allow anybody (to include grandma) to trounce her boundaries.

lulutoo
lulutoo
1 month ago

You say your mother decided to make amends with him [and wants you to do so, too]. Isn’t the person in the wrong the one who is supposed to ‘make amends’? That’d be your dad. What is your mother making amends with him for?

Unicornomore
Unicornomore
1 month ago
Reply to  lulutoo

I think the chump wife is SO used to being blamed and responsible for everything that she has deluded herself into thinking that making amends for imaginary stuff ( or stuff she was blamed for that she never did) will
put a giant bandaid over her whole family and everything can go back to normal before anyone knew of the Grindr acct.

This poor woman needs reorientation to reality but my guess is that Tom has tried that. If not, before he steps away from the madness, maybe a giant Truth Bomb would be fitting.

This Chumpgal needs to think seriously about her health both physical and emotional. Signing up as a beard is a hell of a shit sandwich and yet she is about to swallow it. So sad

Adelante
Adelante
1 month ago
Reply to  Unicornomore

As the ex-wife of a closeted man, I can tell you that being a beard, even voluntarily, is a sure sentence of ill-health and psychological beatdown. Sad is the right word for it. To me her agreeing to re-enter that role is a sure sign of how ill-used and psychologically damaged she’s been in the marriage. Closeted men have elevated manipulation and blame-shifting to the n-th degree, and she’s surely internalized it.

Motherchumper99
Motherchumper99
1 month ago
Reply to  lulutoo

I noted that also… insanity!

Nut Cluster Free Zone
Nut Cluster Free Zone
1 month ago
Reply to  lulutoo

That was my thought as well. Why the hell does the mother have to make amends ?! She didn’t cheat AND misrepresent who she is really attracted to. A double 💩 🥪 to choke down.

HunnyBadger
HunnyBadger
1 month ago

Tom, your pain is the complication, but the solution is simple:

You can choose to have a relationship with your gaslighting, mostly emotionally absent father, or you can choose not to. You’re a grown up. You know what you know, you’ve experienced what you’ve experienced, and reality is reality. No one else gets to rewrite your past or overwrite your feelings. No one else gets to choose how you respond.
You can (and should!) tell you mother in no uncertain terms that you don’t have to forgive your dad, you don’t have to build a relationship with him, and that it’s wrong of her to keep trying to manipulate things. Assure her that she can follow whatever choices she likes, but you’re an adult. Tell her to stop. And in the future, if she tries it again, shut down the conversation and walk away. Eventually she will catch on.

Too many people think it’s just about the cheating — the “one time” or the “side thing” or the “problem” — without understanding the mountains of lying, manipulation and mindfuckery that have come with it all. It isn’t just that the cheater has stepped outside the agreed upon boundaries, it’s that they have lived a fraudulent life without regard to how it affects those around them.

Walk away from the situation and know that you don’t have to accept anything you don’t like, and you are not under obligation to your mom to forgive. It’s really just as simple as that.

Rebecca
Rebecca
1 month ago
Reply to  HunnyBadger

Tom,

I am the child of a cheater whose mother stayed with him. While it was not homosexual cheating the trauma was the same.

I’m now older than your parents, was a teen when this happened and my parents are long deceased. I remember my mother’s DDay like it was yesterday and still have so many emotions about that experience.

When my mother found out about my father’s cheating, she beat him with a wooden cane. He just sat there and didn’t say a word. I was hysterical; a teenager who had no idea what was going on. I loved my father and no one explained anything to me. It was horrible.

My mother believed that his promises of changing and never left his side. It was very tough to know what to do but my choices were limited by my age.

I became disappointed with both my parents that day and there were so many unresolved issues along with the unanswered questions.

My father died about 10 years after that and I suffered greatly with disgust mixed with sadness and love. Upon his death, my mother turned my father into a god who could do no wrong. If she could have, she would have built a shrine in her home. It was very difficult to live with since we all knew the truth but we’re not allowed to speak it out loud.

Once I learned of my now ex’s cheating, I really felt the full impact of what my father had done. There was no way I could reconcile the father I loved with someone who could treat his partner and his family with such little regard. It permanently destroyed any positive feelings I had for my father. It makes me nauseous to even think about all his partners and then coming home to tuck me into bed.

Here is the good news though. I’m fine without the good memories of perfect parents. I’m fine not having happy memories of a perfect family. I know that my sense of right and wrong are what works best for me and I do not regret never fully embracing the sham marriage that my parents were so insistent on presenting to the world.

From reading your letter, I sense that you are asking permission to separate from people whose values don’t align with yours. You don’t want to pretend that everything and everyone is fine? You don’t have to. No one has the right to judge you for that! If you can sleep at night feeling comfortable with your choice, that’s all that matters.

Be kind to yourself. You didn’t cause any of this! This drama was presented to you and you can participate in the farce or just turn your back.

You father owes YOU an apology! We become parents and have a certain amount of responsibility to raise our kids with intent and honesty. Your father didn’t do that so you get to pick your own truth and live a life that is best for you.

Beachgirl
Beachgirl
1 month ago

Just because you’re “related” to people doesn’t make them “family”. Your mother can choose whoever she wants in her life, and so can you. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied.

Goodfriend
Goodfriend
1 month ago

“my mother just told me yesterday I need to figure out what I’m going to do and how I’m going to move on with all this (my relationship with my parents).” Tom, it seems that you HAVE figured out what you’re going to do, which is to distance yourself from your parents, and you have moved on. Your mom is the one who won’t accepting that you are keeping your distance. She doesn’t like your boundary with him, and she wants at least the appearance of a happy family that perhaps you never had.

I suggest you show her this column in a day or two, after most of the responses are in. Tell her that if she keeps pushing you to forgive him, and bringing that up in conversations, that you will have to distance yourself further from her, too.

You did mention that, “I have not contacted him that much despite a handful of attempts from him to make contact with me.” Since you don’t know what he hopes to gain from the handful of attempts, why not suggest that he puts whatever he has to say in writing, either a letter or text or email? Obviously he could think of that himself, but perhaps if you prod he’ll respond, although that’s doubtful.

It’s hard to learn that our parents aren’t who we thought they were, who they said they were, and who we wanted them to be. That applies to your dad, and now as you are learning, to your mom as well. Invest your time and energy in your wife, kids and perhaps your sister, who may be feeling as you do and may also welcome some support.

Orlando
Orlando
1 month ago

Very compassionate & wise advice here! Kids/adult kids have their lives blown out of the water too on D-days despite the therapy community reassurances that “they are alright & resilient”. As someone who’s Dad followed his wandering dick at age 9, I never completely got over that. My mom tried to throw herself on his & my stepdad’s grenades too & impression manage our relationships with them until I told her “to stop, just stop” & she sighed & threw up her hands & said, “I’m done”. I hope your mom gets there too, but habits can be hard to break. I think some distance is good until your parents decide to open up & conduct a more honest relationship with you.

TheDivineMissChump
TheDivineMissChump
1 month ago

I think it is perfectly understandable to put some distance between you and both your parents, Tom. While your mother’s decision to stay in the marriage is hers alone to make, YOU get to decide how you want to move on going forward.
You know what is and what is not acceptable to you, and any decision or conclusion you cone to based on that premise is the right one to make.

TheDivineMissChump
TheDivineMissChump
1 month ago

Come, not cone. So sorry!

Adelante
Adelante
1 month ago

Ex-wife of a closeted man here. Yes, it’s a homophobic/transphobic society. It’s entirely within one’s rights to stay closeted, and maybe, if you’re honest with your same-sex partners, to conduct clandestine relationships. But only if you’re single. Pulling someone else–your opposite-sex spouse–unwittingly into your closet, withholding the crucial information necessary for your spouse to make informed decisions about her life, is unethical. Homo/transphobia is no excuse for deception and betrayal.

Elsie
Elsie
1 month ago

So messy. I don’t blame Tom for not wanting anything to do with his parents.

My college kids were super standoffish with me after my ex left us. He wanted me to tell them how much he loved them and force them to be in contact with him. As if? He sent them a few pictures and texts of how wonderful it was where he ran off to. That bugged me; our kids didn’t want to discuss it. So his life was better away? That wasn’t right.

That whole first year, they barely spoke to me. They told me later that they wanted nothing to do with him and considered me in league with him. When I told him that I was refusing to reconcile, I related that to our kids, and they shrugged. I learned later that they talked together about how I was finally realizing what a mess their father was.

When the lawyers finally got involved, they began opening up. I welcomed very frank discussions, and we got it worked out. I didn’t share much of the legal mess with them other than the parts that affected them, but they knew that it was long and expensive. I had gone no contact during the divorce and explained that to them, and they joined me in that and have remained so. He seems to feel that he’s entitled to a relationship with them, and I stay out of that.

Post-divorce, I am glad it happened when it did. I’m happily semi-retired, involved with friends, volunteer work, and hobbies. I have solid adult relationships with our kids.

Hopefully, Tom will get this worked out.

Motherchumper99
Motherchumper99
1 month ago

Tom, I have a similar story— my dad traveled abroad half the time and always had a cast of male teens in our lives. When I was 14, my boyfriend told me my dad propositioned him. My dad dropped dead of a heart attack (43) a few months later- I was with him and did CPR. My mom, who is also an alcoholic cheater (likely a sociopath), told me the week he died that she was “relieved” he died 😫. I was 15 and in major trauma because I adored my dad (although he neglected me, he also love bombed me while my mom was physically abusive and cruel). A few years later, after my mom kicked me out and I lived on the streets at ages 16-18, I confronted her about sexual abuse I’d suffered as a 3 year old at the hands of one of those teen males my father and she allowed to live with us. Rather than comfort me or a acknowledge her role, she disclosed my dad’s long history of pedophelia. She said that dozens of young males (we lived as expats in Southeast Asia) complained about him but she couldn’t “do anything” (5 kids, colonial lifestyle with servants, clubs, designer dresses and fancy cocktail parties….a husband gone half the time when she could have her affairs with married men….). She told me intimate details about how he could only have sex if they watched gay porn or she dressed and looked like a boy (before kids she was tiny with a Mia farrow haircut popular in the 60s)…. It goes without saying that all 5 kids grew up extremely disfunctional. 😭😭😭. My mom is 83 and as disordered as ever. She’s been trying to speed her 4th husband’s death to get his pension. She has no integrity at all. A complete grifter. I have what Tracey described as a superficial relationship with her at most. I’m ok with that.

loch
loch
1 month ago

Sorry to hear about this. Glad, so glad, you are recovering. You are a lovely person.

Amazon Chump
Amazon Chump
1 month ago

How horrible for you! I’m so sorry! I hope you have found peace. Yes, your mom is as disordered as ever and I’m sorry that you have a mom like that. Please find peace (if you’re not there yet.)

Spinach@35
Spinach@35
1 month ago

Tom,

I respect your need to protect yourself and your own family by staying away from your toxic dad. My own adult children have made this same choice.

Unlike your mom, I divorced their dad. But I feel guilty that I stayed with him for decades and that it took evidence of an affair for me to leave that relationship. For years, I thought I could manage his emotional abuse, to throw myself on his “grenades” in order to defuse them and that, in doing so, I was adequately protecting my kids. I thought that my “greatness” as a mom could neutralize his “badness” as a dad. I found myself excusing his behavior by saying that “he means well.” Ugh.

I’m sorry my kids have a FW for a dad. I’m sorry that you do, too.

To me, you are perfectly within your rights to choose with whom you want a relationship. The old saw that “blood is thicker than water” is bunk. Still, it’s all so sad.

Unicornomore
Unicornomore
1 month ago
Reply to  Spinach@35

“I thought that my “greatness” as a mom could neutralize his “badness” as a dad.”

Yup, that was me.

Amazon Chump
Amazon Chump
1 month ago
Reply to  Spinach@35

Sometimes I wonder if I had not stayed with the fuckwit so many years, if my relationship with my youngest son would not be what it is. But he’s 36 years old. If he doesn’t want a relationship with me, and continues to have a relationship with his cheater dad and his cheater stepmom, rather than with me – the honest one, then it’s on him. He’s a full-grown man. His faults are his own.

loch
loch
1 month ago
Reply to  Amazon Chump

Your son may not know the facts of the matter.
Mine did not due to liar x. Five years of estrangement.
Our relationship now is very good, thanks to my daughter laying down truth bombs and breaking the illusion of lies.

I wish you well and I wish you peace.

Amazon Chump
Amazon Chump
1 month ago
Reply to  loch

Thank you, Loch. I’m — for the most part — at peace. It really hurt today when I called my sister. She told me that her daughter got a Facebook message from my son inviting her, her sister, and her mom and dad (my sister and brother-in-law) to his wedding reception. He also told her, “Don’t tell my mom. She’s not invited.” After many tears and angry outbursts, my sister consoled me and made me laugh. My sons all know the facts. I got an email from the skank when I found out the first time that the Fuckwit was cheating on me (CL put it through the UBT https://www.chumplady.com/2017/11/ubt-just-wanted-reach-help/). When I finally divorced him 4 years later, I shared that email with all my sons. The email was pretty graphic and there’s no doubt my youngest knows a heck of a lot that occurred between his Fuckwit dad and his now stepmom for 15 years of my 30-year marriage. Maybe he doesn’t respect me for wanting to save my marriage and losing four more years of my life to the fuckwit. I stuck my head in the mindfuck blender for my dick-ex, and I continued to do it for my son. I told myself I would never allow a dick in my life again, and yet, I kissed my son’s ass just for a little attention — just like I kissed his fuckwit dad’s ass. I swore I’d never do it again, and yet I did. It’s time to put up my boundaries against him as well. I pray that my relationship with him will be as good, or better, than I have with my other two sons, but alas, he is his father’s child. It’s up to him. I’m done (or at least I hope so.) (By the way, my siblings and nieces and nephews have no intention of attending my son’s reception.)

tallgrass
tallgrass
1 month ago
Reply to  Amazon Chump

Amazon mom – I read (possibly on CN) the idea that sometimes that’s all the parenting there is to give. And that’s okay.

As in, I was a 100% mom and grandma totally devoted to my children until they were in their 30’s when their dad revealed his affair. I, for one, know many, many people who did not receive 30 years of devoted parenting from anyone. Me included.

I did my job. I did my best. I was willing and planning to go the distance. They are making their own choices now, as the adults I raised.

Then, of course, I go cry for a while. Because I didn’t get parented and I am now shunned as a parent…….. but that is what happens in abusive family systems.

Spinach@35
Spinach@35
1 month ago
Reply to  Amazon Chump

Oh no. I’m sorry about that, Amazon Chump.

Although my kids wish I’d left him when they were young, they have forgiven me and accepted that I was doing my best. I hope your son comes around. That’s heartbreaking.

2xchump🚫again
2xchump🚫again
1 month ago

Speaking from the side of an enabling wife of a my XH who was inappropriate with my own daughter, his step daughter. This is a hard confession in that I downplayed what he did ( both were lying unfortunately)and my daughter left to go live with her own dad, the cheater. She cut me off and caused pain that to this day is unmatched, even by my most recent horrific divorce from this destructive man. I kept a tiny candle of connection between us until after 10 years,she allowed me to slowly enter her life. My divorce has brought us closer but it will never be mended. I deserved all this as now I know the full truth of what my XH was doing with other woman and porn. He was very disturbed. I was blind but now I see. Your parents need your boundaries and sad to say, your girls/ wife need protection from creepy hiding pastor grandpa. I am so sorry to tell you this because hiding a secret life means there are more secrets you do not know. Hold onto your family first. Your mom needs to see your stand for her even if she will not stand for herself. Just like a friend who says…he is abusing you!! But you still CHOOSE to stay and be abused and exposed to deadly diseases day in and day out. You still sounded the alarm, now step back and take care of your family. I
must go also to the story of forgiveness Bible. The well worn story of Joseph…oh he did forgive didnt he??? BUT I will tell you that If Joseph’s brothers had stood before him, not bowed down or show him respect. If they had remained murderous and fighting among themselves,and selfish and unconcerned about their dad back home or their little brother. Joseph would have thrown their asses into a dungeon and had then executed at sunrise. Real Forgiveness comes with true repentance and changes in behavior. Letting go of this sick family dynamic can speak volumes. My daughter’s stand against me taught me a lesson of how enabling my mentally ill XH resounded through out my whole family. I chose…. they left.You can show your parents what healthy boundaries look like. It is so hard but it is truly the most loving choice. Praying for you now you can do this!

2xchump🚫again
2xchump🚫again
1 month ago

PS! Even with living on retirement and the loss of 20G on my divorce process. Even with leaving every thing I loved behind except my hamster,….I still became a PATRON this week and I am so proud. Tracy’s service to millions of us chumps is rare and strong. This light in the dark world of trying to save a marriage of lies and covert life styles marinated in abuse, must live on. Tracy, I love you!! Plus your writing style makes me laugh every single day! How do you do it!!!💔🚫💗😇

Amiisfree
Amiisfree
1 month ago

Sometimes it’s a lot easier to love someone from far away than from close up.

It’s tough to reconcile deeply valuing family with needing to be away from family in order to stay healthy and un-abused. Don’t let anyone get away with arguing that if you won’t allow an abusive family member to be invited into your world anymore, that means you don’t value family. It’s not a 1 to 1 thing. That’s a manipulative argument and it’s inaccurate.

Also, abuse isn’t measured by level of intent. If a person acts in a way that’s harming you — and especially if that behavior continues after the person is aware of the harm — then you’re experiencing abuse, whether others perceive it as such or not.

You don’t owe anyone a detailed explanation about why you’re pulling back, either, no matter how much they insist on it. Manipulative people often ask “why?” just to figure out which thinking they can focus on and shoot down. And they often create false equivalencies to do so.

“Don’t you care about your family?”

“If you really loved me, you’d be here no matter what!”

“I raised you, was always there for you, and this is how you repay me?”

“I’m hurting and in crisis, abandoned first by him, and now by you! How can you be so cruel?”

“Haven’t you ever made a mistake? I remember many times you lied to us over the years, and we didn’t kick you out for lying or stop loving you. You’re being a hypocrite!”

Etc.

It is so hard navigate life as an adult child of manipulative parents. Find your baseline boundaries and lean in hard to them. Once you know for sure what you will and won’t tolerate, it becomes easier to shut down superfluous arguments with statements like “the core issue for me is that you keep talking about Dad and I told you I’ll leave if you do that. So, I’m leaving, and we can try again another time. Goodbye.”

Are you then parenting your parent? Yep. When an adult behaves like a small child, it’s appropriate to use small child reasoning with them.

Spinach@35
Spinach@35
1 month ago
Reply to  Amiisfree

Amiisfree, you nail it once again!! Such words of wisdom! I always learn from your posts. Thanks.

Shadow
Shadow
1 month ago

Oh OP this is horrible for you, I’m so sorry. I totally get why you want to distance yourself from your parents, it’s a poisonous situation and you need to be well for yourself and your own family; they come first now.
I hope and pray that your father’s hypocrisy hasn’t destroyed your own Faith in God? Anyway, if you still have a faith, apparently in situations like this we do have to forgive but NOT reconcile and by forgiveness it’s meant that you have to “let go of the debt the offender owes you” i.e. not take revenge, not to allow justified anger to harden into hatred, not to wish ill on the offender but to hand them over to God, who will deal with them in His own way and trust that God’s justice on the offender will be perfect and yes, you can cut contact with them, in fact sometimes a Christian SHOULD cut contact, as in this case. This also makes room for God to help the victim, to heal them and to bless them, to bring good out of the evil committed by the offender. Now this is really, really difficult, especially whilst your still in the agony of grief and betrayal, so you need to heal a bit first and that means NO CONTACT with unrepentant offenders at the very least.
Also, to reconcile unconditionally, as your mother wants you to do, with an unrepentant offender is the sin of Leniency, meaning giving them message that what they’ve done is OK , when it shouldn’t be. It lets the unrepentant offender off the just penalty they need to pay for their offense and encourages them to keep offending. Obviously this is NOT what you think nor feel at all, quite the opposite and quite right too! On no account should we ever do anything that may be interpreted as approval of evil deeds like adultery. You would also be quite within your rights to rebuke your father and warn him his soul is in grave danger of damnation and you cannot have any contact with him until he has demonstrated genuine repentance and a long term amendment of his ways.
If you’ve lost your faith because of his sinning, that’s yet another sin on him as well; he bears some responsibility for it because he’s your father and is supposed to be setting you a good example!! A son or daughter loosing the Faith because of a parents bad example or neglect is the fault of the parent. You can go No Contact with him for his hypocrisy, deceitfulness and treachery anyway.
I feel sorry for your mum but she’s wrong in trying to make you reconcile with your dad and she’s not doing right by reconciling with him either. God help the poor woman to have the strength and courage to put a stop to your father’s abuse and betrayal of her, but you can’t make her and you can’t help her until she’s ready to let you!
Look after your own wellbeing and that of your own wife and children first and foremost now. All the best OP.

Amazon Chump
Amazon Chump
1 month ago
Reply to  Shadow

Thank you, Shadow. This is what “I” needed to hear. I’m sure Tom can also benefit from your wisdom. I will copy your ‘wisdom’ into a document and re-read it each time I hurt because my youngest son has shunned me. I pray for God’s intervention, but I know in the long run, my son has free choice to do what he does. But… I hear a mother’s prayers are very powerful! I’ll keep praying.

Shadow
Shadow
1 month ago
Reply to  Amazon Chump

Thanks AC, I’m only too glad to be able to help anyone, especially as I’ve such a small life now and can’t really do much for anyone else.
I can’t claim that as my own wisdom though; I was confused about forgiveness for years but I found articles online about Catholic teachings on forgiveness and that’s where I got my perspective. It also applies to forgiving ourselves , as those of us who’ve been or are in abusive relationships tend to be far too hard on ourselves, because we tend to have been trained to be. Then abusers take advantage of that and DARVO and gaslight the life out of us!
God bless and keep you AC, I’ll remember to pray for you and say one for me too, I’m a long way from meh whilst I’m stuck here!

Amazon Chump
Amazon Chump
1 month ago
Reply to  Shadow

Thank you and I just said a prayer for you. May you find peace and joy.

Quetzal
Quetzal
1 month ago

She’s definitely trying to enlist help with rug-sweeping, because it takes a hell of a lot of effort to gaslight yourself (like she’s doing) in order to continue as if nothing happened – after THAT happened.

The more everyone else “forgives” your father, the more she feels validated in her choice to stay.
This is even more compounded if she feels financially or logistically bound to maintain the life she thought she was creating. Coming to terms that you may need to blow that all up in the name of your values is not very palatable at all and many Chumps resist that as long as they can (no blame at all, it’s survival instincts, especially after your world has just imploded!)

At the end of the day, it’s her call to make, but I hope someone did try to drive into this woman’s skull that she actually DOESN’T have to keep up with this. I hope someone is supporting her liberation campaign. Then she might be the kind of mom you do want to be around!

Attie
Attie
1 month ago

I’m so sorry you’re going through this Tom, but I agree with everyone else – your boundaries are yours and your priorities have to be your wife and children! That being said, have you talked to your sister about all this? What does she think? Sometimes it can be helpful (but maybe not always) to talk to someone who hopefully understands completely! Good luck, and stay strong!

ChumpedForANewerModel
ChumpedForANewerModel
1 month ago

Tom, First off you determine when and if you want a relationship with your father. Your mother has no say so inn it. Stick to your boundaries, hopefully your parents can respect them and if not, please stand strong and enforce them. You have a family of your own and you don’t need to get involved with toxicity and modeling unhealthy relationships to your family.
Your mother made her decision to stay in an unhealthy relationship. You made your decision to distance yourself from it. You have every right to make your own decisions.
My son chooses not to contact his FW father. FW is unhappy about that but I am certainly not going to ask a grown up man to speak to his father. I respect my son and his choices and he needs to do what is healthy for him. Your mother probably thinks she still has some control over you or maybe does not respet boundaries. Potentially, you will need to make it clear to her what your wishes and boundaries are and be prepared to enforce them. Ultimately, the decision is yours because it is your health you are dealing with and it is also showing your family how to set and maintain boundaries. You have agency.

IcanseeTuesday
IcanseeTuesday
1 month ago

Chump Lady – Once again you have responded to a complicated story of infidelity – met it with compassion, identified the misguided thinking and outlined a healthy path forward. And all before breakfast !

ICanSeeTheMehComing!
ICanSeeTheMehComing!
1 month ago

Tom – thank you for sharing this topic and CL is right, kids have d-days too… my 17yo actually chose to write his college essay on his (but that’s for another day).

You have a right to your feelings and needs for boundary setting. Your experience of your father’s betrayal is uniquely your own. Your needs are not your mom’s needs or your dad’s needs – their adults, let them do what they will (no matter how toxic it may be).

You. Do. You.

You. Have. Rights.

As my son gets older and his perspective is changing (he was 9 when Dad abandoned the family for the OW… 11 when the OW dumped his Dad and 11 1/2 when Dad introduced a new GF that is now his wife.) And, with the mind of a 17yo, he is making different decisions (he no longer follows a court mandated visitation schedule… he doesn’t go on forced vacations with strangers his Dad is dating… he’s developing his own opinions about his experience from the past).

You are allowed to evolve as well. You sound like a reasonable, thoughtful, introspective person… trust your gut and if you need additional support, find a good therapist. Boundary setting is hard – but so is carrying guilt for actions and choices made by others that were never within your control.

Heal the child within you that was betrayed by your Dad and your Mom and step into the adulthood and life you want.

You’ve got this.

LotusDancer
LotusDancer
1 month ago

“If he were an honest man (he’s not), he would … live openly as a gay or bisexual man. He wouldn’t choose the closet.”

I’m not condoning his choice to betray his family. But I understand it. And if he did what this quote says — in a lot of places in this country (I am US-based), he would be in serious danger of bodily harm, to say the least. Let alone 30 years ago.

He’s been forced to live an inauthentic life, one way or the other. His other choice 30 years ago was a life without marriage or kids – he chose. The harms have exploded on everyone.

My empathy for his wife’s experience and OP’s has no bounds. The foundational deception — the trauma of finding this out. Heartbreaking.

When society forces inauthenticity to avoid danger, we end up here.

(A bit different in the case of bisexuality perhaps — you can half-fit the ‘acceptable” mode? I guess? Or instead you have to shut your true self down and pretend you aren’t. As we all know as we get older… Nothing you deny and hide deep down can stay there over time without its dark and winding tentacles everyday finding their way out.)

Adelante
Adelante
1 month ago
Reply to  LotusDancer

So because he would have had “to live a life without marriage or kids” it’s “understandable’ that he chose to deceive a woman into being his wife, dupe her into believing he’s heterosexual while no doubt choosing from among the myriad ways closeted men suggest to their wives that the reason they aren’t attracted to them is some fault of the wife (too fat, too think, not clean, uptight, too involved with the kids, etc. ad nauseum)?
Sorry. Not buying it. I’m with Principled Life.

And by the way, I lived the inside of this.

LotusDancer
LotusDancer
1 month ago
Reply to  Adelante

Thanks for sharing your perspective. I can imagine that lived experience is a total shitshow and pain factory.

I think it is OK to understand the basis of actions, without condoning or excusing. Do we pretend we don’t know one place where this comes from? I think we are two ships in the night here. Just because I understand it, doesn’t mean I think the behavior it’s OK. I think you are reading my approval or acceptance of it into my comments, which isn’t there.

We don’t have to agree. I am not challenging the depth of deceit or the morality of the choices. I am saying: our society is a mess on this issue, and that has consequences. Consequences the people involved, increases in the frequency of this behavior (let’s all admit fewer people would be in the closet if everyone supported people who aren’t in the closet), the spray of pain. It doesn’t absolve. But man, if we can’t admit that we understand part of a source of a problem?

I wish you the best of everything.

OHFFS
OHFFS
1 month ago
Reply to  LotusDancer

LD, this is somewhat similar to how I feel about my FW. I understand that the fact that he had a unhealthy childhood in a dysfunctional family played into the choices he made. However, his choices were shitty and not excusable. I can understand the context without condoning the choices.

The FW father in today’s case also made shitty choices, and it’s okay to speculate about why he might have done so. Perhaps they belong to a fanatical evangelical church, for example. His choices would be to leave that bigoted church and leave the closet, stay in the closet and accept his lot, or stay in the closet and cheat. He made the worst choice of the three. As bad as bigotry in the US is, it’s still pretty unlikely that anybody was going to do violence to him for coming out. He could also have moved to an area that is more accepting. So he probably chose to stay closeted to save his reputation, not to save his skin. Be that as it may, that untangling is not what the son needs to be doing. He needs to be protecting himself from this familial toxicity. His mom is a rug-sweeping forgiveness pest and his father is disengaged in addition to being dishonest. So the context is not relevant to what the son needs to focus on.

LotusDancer
LotusDancer
1 month ago
Reply to  OHFFS

On board with all of this. It is important to acknowledge the possible sources, to the extent it helps contextualize events. I am sorry your FW passed the misery of his experience on by imposing it on you. My FW didn’t have much of that.

I think you understand my comments — I wasn’t saying the son should focus on it at all. In fact… I think the opposite. I think the son would be better served focusing on the fact that the dad did not choose to make moral choices over many years.

I think the societal causes are important to acknowledge, and to work against, and at the same time NOT to use as an excuse for making terrible choices. Life is hard and it sucks and we can still be moral. I bristle at the idea, however, that being “honest” means living outside the closet. You can be honest and stay in the closet. They aren’t mutually exclusive. Moral people can’t choose the closet AND at the same time lie to potential spouses or cheat or break promises or do any host of things. Honesty and morality are not the same.

Did he know he was gay and marry the mom without disclosing? Immoral. Did he know he was bisexual and marry the mom without disclosing? Grey area, I don’t think immoral if he loved her and had no intent to act on it. Did he act on sexual urges instead of talking through/divorcing/etc? Betrayal, not OK, I don’t condone, I don’t excuse, etc. etc.

Would he have had the opportunity to be more OK with himself and, were society other than it is, could that have led to this disaster show not happening? I don’t know. It’s possible. Maybe probably, I don’t know his personality etc. It’s not OK, and I don’t think figuring it out for this ONE person is the point.

I think what it causing people to react like they are to my thought is that my words are being read (and in this forum that’s not unreasonable) to say that his life circumstances make it more OK. Not at all.

I’m sharing my thought on the meta-issue. To say an honest person wouldn’t stay in the closet… That’s what CL said: “If he were an honest man (he’s not), he would acknowledge the elephant and make amends. He would live openly as a gay or bisexual man. He wouldn’t choose the closet.” I nope this.

We as a society show much hate toward the non-cis non-heterosexual community. That pushes people into tight corners with nowhere to go emotionally and psychologically, and this has long-reaching effects. Out there, there are transmen assigned female at birth, living as women, married to cis-hetero-men. They may not have even known when they married. Does that mean they can freely cheat on their spouses without being immoral? No way. But — Would there be FEWER such circumstances if we accepted everyone and stopped caring about other people’s genitals? Yes there would. Are there consequences? Yes there are. This type of thing is one of them. 100%. We leave people to be who they are, there will be fewer relationships built on straw. We may not need or benefit from untangling skeins of fuckupedness — but there are skeins. Let’s not create extra knots for no reason.

I’m off this chain now. I don’t think I have anything more to say 🙂

PrincipledLife
PrincipledLife
1 month ago
Reply to  LotusDancer

Sorry, but this is just a crappy excuse, society forcing the father to live inauthentically. Nope. Every FW on earth, gay and straight, could and often do make the same argument. Why, in France msitresses are tolerated, so if you in Montana are upset your husband has one, or ten, you are just a parochial prude, living in an unenlightened and hypocritical society.

This is crap, of course. If your husband wanted to live in Euro-hip sexual enlightenment, he had an obligation to tell you, before the marriage, what his true intent and values were. Not let you invest 30 years and then blame society for his deceptions!

This is also so insulting to gay and bisexual people, to insist it is OK for them to be lying creeps because homophobia.

LotusDancer
LotusDancer
1 month ago
Reply to  PrincipledLife

Thanks for responding. This isn’t what I said. I hear what you’re saying. I have seen the inside of this, and I have a different experience that you have (not my own marriage or personal life. but close to.).

Are they better ways? For example, could he have said, “I am realizing that I am actually gay/bisexual and having fantasies, let’s talk/work through/divorce etc etc.”

My comment is that it’s not an easy thing to “live openly” and not “choose the closet.” I don’t condone, but I understand. I most certainly did not excuse. Did not say at all it is OK to be a lying creep. You are reading things into my words that aren’t there.

The ways in which society sucks has consequences. Forcing inauthenticity has consequences. That doesn’t take responsibility away from actors. There are going to be consequences. He chose, or he was not conscious of it then but later he chose to take actions to betray – his choices. The consequences fall where they aren’t deserved.

Let’s not pretend that living free and open in this country (or many other places) about a non-hetero orientation is an obvious choice. It doesn’t excuse. But it is context.

PrincipledLife
PrincipledLife
1 month ago
Reply to  LotusDancer

I lived it too, on both sides. My first relationship, as a teenager, was with another girl. This was more than 30 years ago, BTW. And of course I told my husband this when we were dating in case it was a dealbreaker for him, and because I wanted him to know the real me.

There is no such thing as society forcing inauthenticity or the closet. I know this from my lived experience. Not in America, anyway. If you live in a Muslim country with the death penalty for homosexual men, different story. The problem with the OP’s father isn’t that he is gay or a cross-dresser: the problem is that he is a lying sack of shit who deceived and abused his wife. It is not society—it is him.

LotusDancer
LotusDancer
1 month ago
Reply to  PrincipledLife

“There is no such thing as society forcing inauthenticity or the closet. I know this from my lived experience. Not in America, anyway.”

We have such different lived experiences.

MichelleShocked
MichelleShocked
1 month ago

I just have to re-state these brilliant words from CL:

“You’re under no obligation to forgive someone who hasn’t admitted fault. You’re under no obligation to forgive someone who has. The conferring of forgiveness — whatever that means to you — is a PERSONAL matter and cannot be demanded. Forgiveness is not even necessary to move on.”

Please repeat this until everyone hears it.

I’m not sure why so many people feel otherwise — that we MUST forgive. Forgive what? You can simply let go. If a FW is a parent or spouse… you can let them go. You do not have to stay in any way tied to someone who is toxic and continues to act badly/hurtfully and expects you to put up with it. I say this knowing full well that my only sister (my only sibling) is estranged from me. She is disordered. I tried and tried to fix things but finally realized it can’t be one sided. You can’t “fix” a relationship alone. And in my case, my son saw how she treated me (while he was still a young teen) and even he said I shouldn’t put up with it. And that’s when I really had to let her go — because there was no way I was forcing him to have a relationship with a toxic aunt.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
1 month ago

Dear Tom,

If your mother is willing to lose you, wouldn’t she also risk losing contact with her grandchildren? Would she be willing to take things that far to enforce “forgiveness” of your father’s neglect, toxicity, lies to the whole family and betrayal? That’s extreme in itself but imagine the fallout if you cave. Being that your parents aren’t very “old” grandparents and will likely be around for years, at what point do they start passing down the poisonous tradition of enforcing denial and silence (excuse me, “forgiveness”) to your children? Maybe a child goes through a harsh experience and gets the “shhh, accept it and forgive and don’t defend yourself” message from grandparents. For a minor hardship, that might not be so damaging but what if it’s following a really hard experience?

If you want to understand how potentially dangerous a behavior is, apply logical extremes. The effect could emotionally catastrophic. That’s why I think this is a standoff that you can’t allow yourself to lose whatever the price to your parents or your relationship with them. The offense to you as a child and adult being forced to deal with parental betrayal are bad enough but there’s more at stake now. It makes me think of a quote from Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko who wrote that the young “may not forgive in us what we forgave.”

Your discussion about where “forgiveness” ends and toxic complicity begins stirs up a ton of related issues, things I’m not sure have really been extensively discussed in clinical circles yet so we’re all like pioneers wandering around without a map. Negative bystanderism is a certainly a classic theme, one that director Martin Scorsese seems to be tackling in his new film and one that people like MLK and Einstein addressed– the thing about evil not being the only problem in society but those who remain silent about it (or, I would add, those who actively and aggressively enforce silence). And the world seems to have way more “proxy enforcers” of evil than actually directly evil individuals. Personally speaking, I’m still grappling with the concept of forgiveness itself. Because my parents stopped going to church before I was born and forgiveness is mainly a Christian conception (for other major religions it can be “optional”), I come at it with my head cocked like a confused spaniel. Maybe in times of yore when people killed entire families over a stolen sheep, Jesus’s recommendations to turn the other cheek were needed corrections? Maybe what some mean by it is an equivalent to my tendency to look at the backgrounds of people who commit evil deeds in order to understand what “makes” a person like that. It doesn’t lead to me sparing genuinely dangerous people one ounce of consequences and it’s mostly done to create a list of red flags so I can avoid those types in future, but it does tend to eventually lead to “living down” certain events and letting go of anger to the point that my heart rate doesn’t even go up when I think about those people or events. Is “meh” a type of “forgiveness”? But one thing I know is that, by “forgiveness,” what many people actually mean is “STFU and eat your shit sandwich.” I just can’t get on board with that form of it. I suspect that these types of forgiveness mavens aren’t solely covering up for the ill deeds of others but possibly covering up their own complicity.

By that token, I wonder what “extreme stakes” your mother could have to risk blowing up her entire family with these rigid forgiveness rules. Could it be that your mother is worried that, if you continue to stand firm in your resolve not to “forgive and forget” your father’s conduct, you might start to remember more unpleasant things from childhood, including ways in which your mother may have thrown you under the bus and contributed to negative experiences? Memories of FOO dysfunction seem to operate less like Pandora’s box where all the monsters fly out at once but maybe more like “Pandora’s canister” where lifting things off the top of the long narrow tube can start to reveal a progression of buried or half-forgotten issues and events from the past as one digs deeper. And I think the effect can be contagious. Once one person in a family starts to unpack history, this risks triggering long-buried memories of other family members’ pasts which might be even more horrifying than the first things being unpacked. Those who’d prefer it all remain buried might intuit that lifting the first lid is the first step to the progression and there’s more to come. In that sense, exhorting “forgiveness” can be code for “don’t lift that first lid.” Again, it could also suggest that, aside from trying to tamp down bad memories of their own, the forgiveness mavens might have been complicit in the suffering of others in some ways.

I couldn’t possibly know what that might entail in your family situation but can talk about what I’ve seen personally (and risk being boring) in case any of it applies. In any event, it’s a been my experience that foisting “forgiveness” is frequently just a way of silencing victims. The people who insist on forgiveness for those who commit really severe transgressions may be proxy abusers in their own rights (aka, flying monkeys) and also ironically quite unforgiving and persecuting towards any survivor who unleashes consequences on perpetrators or who “tell.” I saw this unfold in extreme ways several times but I think the principles probably still roughly apply to less extreme cases. For instance, when I was forced to prosecute a violent workplace stalker right out of school, suddenly flying monkey coworkers– some of them in their thirties and supposedly groovy, egalitarian and “woke” (and, weirdly, some who hadn’t even previously liked the perp)– came out of the woodwork demanding I drop charges and “forgive” because “jail wouldn’t help” the psycho. The perp’s fan club became so aggressive that police threw the perpetrator back in jail and had to step in and threaten charges of witness tampering against his supporters. This eventually led to the “forgiveness mavens” getting fired so I could sense that they were behaving compulsively and were blind to the potential consequences to me or even themselves. Because I’d studied sociology, I was so curious about the psychology behind it that, in the middle of the drama, I did this odd thing of playing armchair shrink and polling the monkeys about their childhoods and FOOs. Wow. Everyone single one of them grew up with some form of domestic violence or sexual abuse. God knows why they admitted these things since I clearly wasn’t asking out of the kindness of my heart. Maybe they thought it would make me “understand,” “forgive” and drop charges against the perpetrator (who also, as it happened, had a terrible upbringing). I didn’t but instead concluded they’d all been trained like Manchurian candidates from birth to automatically and mindlessly flip into “victim silencing” antics to protect perpetrators the second they observed similar dynamics as adults regardless of who was involved or the consequences of it. Understanding this helped me prevail in a fraught situation, predict the actions of opponents, keep my job and probably stay alive.

I think it’s no accident that some people are like this. Again, they were trained. It’s now the lens through which I see things like “Swiss friends” in cheating dynamics or apologists or cover up artists for other forms of domestic abuse. I don’t think they’re behaving that way out of naivety but the reverse: damage. I’ve also noticed that people like this are not really benign in general and can do their own damage to others, including to their families. Here’s an extreme example of the latter: After exFW, at age 17, had been sexually assaulted by a family friend, FW’s mother threw one of her famous bully tantrums. If anyone told her anything she didn’t want to know or deal with, she’d go into weeping and wailing fits to cast herself as the “victim” of the teller. That must have had a catastrophic effect on young children. This is how she managed to prevent her kids at very young ages from, say, talking about being bullied or endangered as they walked to and from school in a city with one of the highest murder rates in the world at the time. It enabled exMIL to do nothing about it and to not feel responsible nor worried. She justified it on religious grounds, in her case a new age Yogazilla cult practice which I think amounted to what is now being called “toxic positivity.” She believed that if her kids thought only positive thoughts and shunned negative ones, then providence would protect them. Consequently FW– and probably his sibling (who knows because the sibling internalized mom’s message and doesn’t “tell” regarding anything)– had many harrowing experiences before reaching age 12. But exMIL only remembers that time as “wonderful.”

Though ex-MIL wasn’t reportedly violent herself, she might as well have been because she threw her own kids under the bus to preserve her emotional comfort. I think the outcome was obvious because FW became a FW who, in turn, ended up betraying and traumatizing his own kids. I suspect FW might have married me as an experimental departure from family patterns since I was raised by activist “talk about everything all the time” parents to be a regular Wendy Whistleblower, at least for the really big stuff. No surprise that ex-MIL hated my guts, couldn’t stand that I defended my kids from school bullying or that, eventually, FW returned to factory setting and had an affair with a dead ringer for his toxic mommy (down to the beady eyes and bully tantrums). He was raised with a kind of Omerta and eventually turned into an enforcer of silence himself as his “Manchurian candidate” training kicked in. It was also no surprise that, when he was cheating, FW suddenly turned on me regarding my tendency to “stir up trouble” and “talk about things endlessly”– the very reasons he said he married me to begin with.

Regarding the non-benign general behavior of “enforcers of silence,” right before the affair, FW and his toxic mum became estranged over– get this– the fact that I’d pulled the kids out of school and home schooled for a time after my middle child was physically abused by a teacher and then the school ended up in the headlines for harboring a credibly alleged (12 adult former students came forward, so pretty credible) child molester on staff. Could there have ever been clearer grounds to take small children out of a dangerous and toxic setting? I don’t think so and I wasn’t alone. But exMIL was outraged and went around to everyone in the family circle to demonize me for having done it, flinging around neoFreudian claims that I was suffocatingly overprotective and that my “negative thinking” was causing my middle child’s chronic health problems and learning disability (a criminal accusation). FW, who’d never previously done much to shield me from his mother’s verbal aggression, finally stood up to her and his mother punished him by cutting us all out of the extended family, even the kids who never had contact with that side of the family again.

For me it was like an exorcism to get that awful woman out of my orbit but the excommunication is probably what drove FW into some kind of regressive meltdown. He suddenly started drinking himself to death and ran out to find a mommy replacement. But the point is really that defying family “Omerta” rules will be severely punished, even with excommunication. I sense exMIL also grew up with serious Manchurian candidate training to the point of committing human sacrifice and destroying her own family. I don’t know what happened to her as a child but, at least before he went off the deep end, even FW speculated it must have been really, really bad if she couldn’t stop compulsively protecting the interests of rando abusers she didn’t even know by enforcing silence and inaction on victims in her own family.

Going back to the “trouble” I was accused of “stirring up,” it could only be referring to the prosecution of a violent stalker, filing civil rights claims against and withdrawing kids from an abusive and dangerous school and FW’s estrangement with his mother. Otherwise I tend to avoid conflict. Though I was never directly exhorted to “forgive” in those scenarios, it’s still implied because “forgiveness” had always been code in FW’s family for “STFU and throw yourself and your children under the bus or else.”

In summary, I suspect FW ended up two-faced and leading a double life because splitting himself in half like a quasi schizophrenic would be required to even survive in a family that would sacrifice children’s safety and well-being in service of the laws of silence and denial, to preserve adults’ emotional comfort and keep their own tormenting memories tamped down. At some point he and his family turned to me and demanded that I continue the “tradition” and I refused and cut contact before this damaged my own children.

Because I cut contact with that clan, does my attempt to “understand” what made them that way qualify as “forgiveness”? If I eventually achieve full “meh” about the whole thing, would that count as a kind of “peace” that’s supposed to come from forgiveness? I don’t really care and have no regrets. “Meh” and healthy kids are their own rewards. So, Tom, I commend you on stopping the generational buck in your own family. It says good things about you as a person and as a parent. Take the above as recognition that this is no small or painless feat and also take it as a cautionary tale of what happens when people “forgive” the unforgivable. I think you can move ahead with a clear conscience.

Anyway, forgive the length of this. Very complicated subject.

weedfree
weedfree
1 month ago

Good post – I misread “exhorting” for “extorting” forgiveness” which is actually closer to the truth – sometimes that’s what it feels like anyway

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
1 month ago
Reply to  weedfree

WF– you just coined a buzz term– “forgiveness extortion.”

Magnolia
Magnolia
1 month ago

Today’s and yesterday’s contributions should be part of the edited collection of Chump Nation wisdom, HOAC! Thanks for all this clarity and effort.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
1 month ago
Reply to  Magnolia

{{{{ <3 }}}}

Amazon Chump
Amazon Chump
1 month ago

I really like what you have to say Hell of a Chump. Yesterday you gave a list of red flags — many of which had never occurred to me; and yet I lived at least half of them. Today, you gave insight into others behaviors rather than taking them as advice. I probably would have internalized everything said and experienced self doubt (again.) You must have been hell on wheels to the Fuckwit, his mother, and all other flying monkeys. Good for you! You’re very mighty.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
1 month ago
Reply to  Amazon Chump

Amazon Chump–

Thank you for the kind thoughts, AC. {{{{ <3 }}}}

tallgrass
tallgrass
1 month ago

I so needed this one today. This is me, only I’m the 40 year marriage person with adult children insisting there is no elephant. I still die every single day, a bit at a time, because I am not able to do Switzerland with them.

I refuse to sweep the years and years of his abuse and neglect under the rug. He was living a double life. He’s not just a “nice guy trying his best.” He’s a predator, getting his jollies by hurting people.

My gut tells me the only thing I can do at this point in my life is to model for the grandchildren – there is another choice. It requires that I plant seeds, alone, in hopes that long after I am gone at least one of these children will look up and see there could be another choice.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
1 month ago
Reply to  tallgrass

I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. I would feel so outstripped and ganged up on. But here’s hoping you can can “counter-brainwash” your grandchildren, impart some principles and inoculate them against mind games.

Lynne
Lynne
1 month ago
Reply to  tallgrass

Please accept my hugs Tallgrass. It saddens me that your children cannot see your authenticity and values.
My thoughts are with you. May peace envelop you and your painful load be lightened.

OHFFS
OHFFS
1 month ago

What do you owe them? Not compliance with their rug sweeping campaign, that’s for sure.
It’s okay to disengage from toxic family. Your mental well-being is important. They have made stupid choices and you do not have to support and enable those choices. Our choices have consequences. They’re supposed adults, so they should accept that reality and stop pestering you. If mom won’t quit her forgive the cheater campaign, you may have to stop talking to her. I had to do this with my mom, who pressured me to forgive and stay with a cheater. I asked her not to call me again if she was going to continue to do that, and that I would not be visiting her either. Eventually, she emailed me to apologize and agreed to stop. Stick to your guns. If they do want you in their lives, they’ll come to respect your boundaries.

Helen Reddy
Helen Reddy
1 month ago

Wow! Today’s post hit me powerfully. I kept saying, “OMG, OMG” over the validation in each new CL sentence.

The mother’s position is like the sabotaging voice that dysfunctional FOO’s try to program into our heads, pressuring us to put loved ones’ conditions/wants over ours. Voices whispering that, when push comes to shove, it would be easier for everyone if we’d shove our overly dramatic, trouble-making needs aside.

In my case, I’ve been feeling shoved by a family situation (albeit with in-laws) that echoes the letter’s emotions/questions. Mine’s not about infidelity, but is about lies and sneaking, and whether honoring my boundary consequence is “worth” disrupting outward family harmony. Similar to how Tom put it, “What (else) do I owe them?” In my situation, my husband and I had been generous to family out of good will, and I clearly voiced what boundary I needed honored. One in-law said “that request is more than fair,” then snuck around and did what he wanted anyway, repeatedly. The other in-law said, “your feelings are less important than my need to have him around.” Since I asked for either Healthy Cooperation or Healthy Separation, and got neither, my urge is strong to allow myself to detach from those relationships. Yet I’ve been harangued by the sabotaging voice.

So thank you, CL, for messages that feel like they were straight to me: “You’re allowed to have boundaries. With time, maybe you’ll have a very light superficial relationship, because that’s about all the authentic intimacy they’re capable of. Or maybe no relationship.” And: “They don’t get to dictate My relationship terms.” And: “They don’t have to like it.” Preach it, CL. Your clarity helps many.

KatiePig
KatiePig
1 month ago

You know what, I’m tired of people acting like gay people have to be degenerate slutbags. I know several married gay men and even single gay men who are not disgusting perverts fucking in park bathrooms with random other perverts from the Internet. Would it be any better if he was playing with diseased pussy instead of diseased cock? No. It’s still someone I wouldn’t want anywhere near my family so I’m all for kicking this disgusting perverted father to the curb.

The son will probably be called a bigot for it but the incredibly sad and funny thing is the people who will call him a bigot for it are the people who think being gay and being a disgusting, disease ridden whorebag and degenerate are the same thing. They’re the real bigots.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
1 month ago
Reply to  KatiePig

I agree that anyone assuming that lying, cheating and dogging around are standard LGBT activities are raving bigots. I don’t see much difference between this and, say, the common assumption that women of color are all feverishly “hot to trot.” It’s otherizing and can lead to significantly increased risk of assault.

sleepyhead
sleepyhead
1 month ago

My first husband blindsided me a couple of years into our marriage with the fact that he wanted to cross-dress. Everyone deserves to be happy, so I was OK with that, with the exception of going to professional events (my colleagues at the time were a fairly conservative bunch and I didn’t feel like explaining things at conferences). Around the same time, he started drinking heavily, with the excuse that he “didn’t feel like himself” at times, and that “nobody understood him.” We’re talking blackout drunk several days a week (2 magnum bottles of wine a night) – he ended up falling in the shower and breaking his neck but even that didn’t stop him. He had a head brace on and just started drinking his wine through a straw.

Fast forward a year or so – he started making comments about how he wanted to be a woman full-time. I chalked it up to the alcohol talking but he persisted and I eventually discovered that he was trolling for “dates” with men. When he told me that he was planning gender reassignment surgery, I figured that I’d better get out. The relationship therapist that he insisted we see was a specialist in women who stay in marriages with their MTF spouses. She was an academic who I think needed another data point for a paper she was writing. I kept telling her that I wasn’t interested in saving the marriage because a) he was sneaking around and I don’t like disease, b) I’m not a lesbian, and c) I just plain wanted out and that should be that. She never paid attention to me, just kept “validating” my husband; I stopped going after a few sessions because it was just making me more and more depressed. (Note that I never wished him any harm, nor did I try to get anything financial out of the eventual divorce; I just wanted to be done with him.)

I filed for divorce and that turned out to be a major horror show. He kicked and screamed the entire way, and I got called homophobic, transphobic, and an assortment of other things. [In the midst of that, he changed his official name and gender and I almost wasn’t able to get the divorce because according to one of the judge’s clerks, since same-sex marriage wasn’t yet legal in our state, we weren’t officially married and thus couldn’t get divorced. I never cry, but I cried in my lawyer’s office. She, luckily, got that all straightened out.] He refused to go into the courtroom so my lawyer arranged for us to meet in the judge’s chambers, but that wasn’t good enough and he threw a huge tantrum in front of the judge – she was a no-nonsense type and let him scream himself out and then proceeded with the business at hand. I still had to deal with some accusations from his side of the family and some of his friends but I’m sure you can all imagine the overwhelming sense of lightness and relief I felt when I got the divorce documents in my hands. Call me whatever you want – I’m done with that part of my life and how he chooses to comport himself is entirely up to him.

And no, I’m not misgendering him – he was able to get both top and bottom surgery rather quickly (not sure how; he hadn’t been living as a woman for very long) but quite soon regretted it and is now back to living as a man and feels mutilated. On some level he blames me (how???) – but you know what? It’s Not. My. Problem. And I do blame him for lying to me all that time. Side note: if you’re constantly having to assert “I’m a good person” – you’re not.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
1 month ago
Reply to  sleepyhead

Here’s a quote from a book my son is currently reading, A Thousand Splendid Suns: “Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always.” Except I think this more surgically applies to FWs blaming chumps. Always.

weedfree
weedfree
1 month ago

I think the mother has been so gaslit over the years she doesnt know if she’s Arthur or Martha. She is not a good source of truth as she is too invested in the lie. The only person Tom save here is himself.
Ross Rosenberg has an excellent YT video (there may be more than one) on what he calls “reverse gaslighting” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PV-wnU57-hw

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
1 month ago
Reply to  weedfree

I don’t know about this guy. I feel like he’s trying to fit the old, debunked “psychological deficiency” theory which was traditionally applied to battered women to modern narcissism theory by figuring out why victims “attract” or are drawn to narcissists or why they have difficulty escaping them. Clearly no family is perfect and there’s always some crap to dig up in survivors’ histories. But he seems to be really straining to find partial cause in the victim’s history instead of considering that the explanation for victims’ entrapment may mostly lie in skillful “boiling frog” coercive tactics– ones often honed and polished over several generations in abusive families– that many abusers engage in.

Weedfree
Weedfree
1 month ago

His self love deficit model you mean? Could be. I liked this video as it resonated with my experience of marriage. Overall I don’t feel like I personally have “self love deficit” issues, and those screening tools for depression, anxiety etc I never related to them at all.
The only stupid thing I really did was stay married to an idiot. That’s pretty dumb I guess.
My son has PDA and I definitely relate to some of the criteria and suspect thats why I ended up married to a person that ostensibly made no demands of me. As it turns out he made no demands because he dngaf about other humans.
Your boiling frog theory is also true. There are a lot of forces that keep someone trapped in a shithouse marriage, and it isn’t possible to identify any one thing.

Rebekah
Rebekah
1 month ago

There is so much that goes on when someone decides to reconcile with a lying, cheating piece of garbage. The fear of being financially gutted with no work prospects, the fear of loneliness, the fear of leaving the family home etc etc. Some people can’t acknowledge those fears so they tell themselves they should reconcile and forgive as per their religious or social pressure. If she chooses to let her fears rule her, she is really gas lighting herself. But BOUNDARIES!! Protect your own. Model behaviours for your children and show them how boundaries are set and what type of people and behaviours are not acceptable. Toxins often don’t kill you straight away. They build in the body until saturation point. Then it’s too late. Don’t let your toxic family poison you and detract from the joy in your life. You’ve got this. Be mighty.

Chumpolicious
Chumpolicious
1 month ago

Whats to reconcile with your dad? That he was a crappy dad to you? Its been 31 years of a non relationship. Tell him sure! You would like to get back to that relationship you shared prior to his infidelity. Then focus on your own kids and being a good dad to them. Ignore your parents, they are not relevant to your life. Not sure why they are pushing this issue, they must be bored.

Thiskindofchump
Thiskindofchump
1 month ago

As someone who was in a similar situation married to a closeted cheater for 23 years…i sympathize….this person’s mom is definitely terrified and will need lots of real therapy to figure out who she is, reclaim herself and move forward. It’s definitely not the adult child’s job to fix it.. but he isn’t obligated to deal with the insanity either…but.his mom is terrified…it’s possible she thinks she needs the kids to support their dad to maintain the family unit or he won’t be motivated to stay or pretend any more without the “family” and then she will have to deal with reality when he leaves..he could have said that to her more than once….good luck…I would encourage real therapy and medical testing.

Peregrine
Peregrine
1 month ago

Yes! Children have D-days, too! I get a lot of feedback on my decision to cut my mother and brother out of my life, and it is sad sometimes. I also see now how distant my father was and still don’t love him even after his death. What’s that saying? It’s better to be alone than to feel alone and abandoned in a relationship