It’s not your imagination that chumps are portrayed as bitter, controlling and deserve to be cheated on. Anyone catch last Sunday’s Carolyn Hax column pillorying a woman who objected to having her children sleep over at the mistress’s house while the divorce is ongoing? Here are some of the comments:
You continually pushed your husband away, you refused to engage with him, consider his wishes or needs or take him seriously. You blame him and don’t take any responsibility for your part in the demise of your marriage. Your level of self-justification and your sense of martyrdom, along with your total lack of self-awareness is absolutely mind-boggling. And now you are trying to damage your kids’ relationships with their father. STOP IT!
LW seems to be a classic example of the toxic, bitter ex-spouse.
The number of times she talks about not trusting him on basic human issues is appalling. VERY controlling, VERRRRRY self-righteous. He is lucky to be rid of her, and be with a lady who actually appreciates him. The LW seems to be a very miserable person.
Leading the pitchfork brigade? Hax, the Wapo advice columnist who is consistently tone deaf on infidelity, (read the link for some background on her cheater apologist history).
My husband of 20 years announced to me last year that he would start dating other women because I was “neglecting” our marriage. (I take care of kids and have part-time jobs — I’m busy!) I didn’t take him seriously and saw it as yet another attempt of his to get me to reestablish intimacy with him at a level I find unreasonable. He had a problem with sleeping in separate rooms, but it’s an arrangement that was better for my mental well-being.
We were raising several school-aged children together in relative harmony, although I’m in charge of finances and itineraries because I don’t trust him with money or planning; he is the primary earner. He helps the kids with after-school activities and bedtime routine when I’m at work.
Well, he met someone. Apparently a single mom who is fine with dating a married man with children. I sent her a message telling her to back off and that what she was doing was reprehensible, but I was ignored.
I kicked him out and said I wanted a divorce. Now he expects to have the kids stay over at his current home — the mistress’s house! It’s been several months and I’ve accepted that he’s gone, but I don’t think he should get to swoop in wanting shared placement when I’ve been the primary parent all these years, giving up my career to take care of kids. And to have them be around his mistress is simply inappropriate.
He refuses to agree to my proposed placement plan that is consistent and reasonable. I’m being forced to fight in court.
I’ve put the older children in therapy and I’m seeing a therapist myself. Obviously lawyers are involved. But I’m so angry he’s turned into such a walking midlife crisis who left his family to shack up with a morally questionable woman for what I’m sure is sex. He honestly disgusts me, and I’m glad to be free of him.
But his constant demands to uproot the kids out of the home they know and love are creating stress for everyone, including the kids. How can I make him see there are natural consequences to his actions? How do I shield the kids from his dubious choices?
–Refusing to Be a Victim
First off, I suspect this letter was probably written by the cheating husband or Schmoopie — the giveaways being “reestablish intimacy with him at a level I find unreasonable” and “raising several school-aged children together” — which seem at a remove, and robotic. Or Hax could’ve edited this letter. It doesn’t paint this woman in the best light. Think Lilith in Fraser.
Even still — at the root of it is a woman who’s been recently chumped, but found the strength to throw the cheater out, and objects to his shacking up with Schmoopie and expecting custodial visits there.
Also — forgive me, I read a bazillion chump letters — but I’m wondering why the separate bedrooms and distrust of him with money. To me, that could be a tell that he’s cheated before, and his shady behavior precipitated these actions. Instead, it’s set up as she’s a controlling bitch. Anyway, no one’s asking, so let’s everyone assume he’s innocent of all charges.
I would’ve responded to this with the advice that you only control you. Talk to your lawyer about language in the decree about who you introduce and when, and living arrangements, but realize that enforcement is impossible. You can’t be the divorce police. Marriage police sucks, divorce police is worse. Assume he’ll be a FW and you have to be the Sane Parent. And the children have to work out their relationship with dad. Any arguments you have on custody need to be framed as in the Best Interests of the Children and not how much you despise Schmoopie.
Both things can be true — you might hate the affair partner (understandable) and your children would prefer to live in the marital home. But you need to get your head screwed on straight before you go to court, because the dominant narrative is you’re vindictive and scorned. You can’t protect them from his “dubious choices” — that’s a shit sandwich and you’re getting divorced. So step out of the triangle and let his dubious choices speak for themselves, complete with consequences. Focus on the best settlement for you and the kids. Congrats on the new life, etc.
This is where Hax went, followed by my commentary (snark).
Refusing to Be a Victim: So you want everything but the blame.
Actually, she wrote for advice, not blame. But go ahead and blame her for her husband’s wandering dick.
Let’s imagine the story from his side:
Let’s assume she’s a completely untrustworthy narrator and assume that a man who cheats on his wife deserves unquestioned compassion.
When we had kids, my wife made them her mission, even quitting her career. Great for them, lonely for me.
I tried many times to reestablish the intimacy of our marriage, but she told me I was being “unreasonable.”
I also tried to immerse myself in the kids — not only because I love them and I wanted to, but also to stay close to my wife. We could be all-in on our family together. But she boxed me out, saying she didn’t “trust” me on big stuff. I could “help” in her absence after school and at bedtime — and to pay for everyone. I felt like a wallet.
She moved into her own bedroom for her “mental well-being.” Mine was not considered.
In desperation after years of marital neglect, I told my wife I was going to date other women. Not my proudest moment, but I didn’t know how else to get through to her and didn’t want to leave her, the kids or our family. She brushed me off and accused me of trying to blackmail her.
The threat to see other women (“date”) while married is in fact a threat.
Interestingly, the letter writer did not use the term blackmail, but it is emotional blackmail and psychological abuse. Yet Carolyn, you’ve set it up as another chump sin — “She brushed me off.”
Imagine that. She didn’t enjoy being threatened.
Well, I met someone. Again, not my proudest moment, but I feel human and wanted again.
Not my proudest moment BUT… the qualifier. I feel human. It’s worth cheating on you. I don’t have to be ethical because your suckitude drove me to it.
This time, she took me seriously — by divorcing me.
I don’t have agency, I don’t have Bad Guy status — the chump did the dirty work. No one is calling me out for my cowardice or cake eating.
It’s probably for the best, since we had no marriage left. But she’s enraged and refuses to share custody of the kids.
Nowhere in the letter does she refuse to share custody. She wants to retain primary custody AND she objects to his current living arrangement — him shacking up with his affair partner who also has children.
These are legitimate concerns and divorce lawyers handle these kinds of dilemmas every day. But instead of telling this woman that, you make it seem like she’s a terrible person for having these fears and concerns. She’s scorned and “enraged.”
She treats my partner like a tramp and positions herself as my victim, despite my begging her for years to work with me on our marriage.
She has every right to be angry at the person who conspired in her abuse.
We have zero evidence he “begged her for years to work” on the marriage. He accused her of neglecting HIM. This makes it sound like he wanted to go to therapy and she refused.
In any case, NONE of this is an excuse to cheat on someone. Even someone who SUCKS. It does not absolve Neglected Husband from ethical behavior. Is he excused if he hits her? Drains the 401K? He felt neglected!
She IS a victim of his cheating. She didn’t “position herself.” HE positioned her there.
I’m worried she’ll poison the kids against me; I’m their father and I love them,
I just cheat on their mother. All the poison comes from her.
Does he not worry that his CHEATING will poison the kids against him? It’s just her anger, huh? Misogyny much?
but that doesn’t impress her. It’s all about what a saint she is and what scum I am. Tough on me, terrible for the kids.
Wow, Carolyn. Way to punch someone when they’re down. What a saint she is? Terrible for the kids? You’re going to bludgeon her with the Bad Mommy cudgel?
Her refusal to let the kids stay with me and my partner has forced me to take her to court. That is emphatically not how I want this to go, but she won’t budge. Do you see any other options?
Carolyn, you have no idea how he wants this to go down. For all you know he wants 50/50 custody so he doesn’t have to pay child support and he’s got Schmoopie paying his rent. (Forgive my cynicism, I just read a bazillion chump stories.) That’s every bit as likely as His Noble Custody Battle for the love of his children. Your wild speculation shows your bias.
—Me again. Per your letter, the facts support this imagined husband’s perspective. So please be open to its message, that your “refus[al] to be a victim” crusade comes across as the cherry on a decade-plus sundae of erasing your children’s dad.
You have zero “facts” supporting the cheater’s perspective. The only message you’re “open” to is blaming this woman for being cheated on and shaming her for her grief and anger.
Is she being controlling? Yes, people who find their worlds have fallen apart tend to be controlling. There are more compassionate ways to tell someone this sucks and their choices are limited.
You don’t have to like him, or his “mistress,” or what he did. You don’t have to resign as primary parent. You just have to accept he’s their father, as much “the home they know and love” as any structure. At least run it by your therapist, please. And from there, consider that if the “mistress” is kind to or even just responsible with your kids, then cooperating will be less harmful than dragging their dad through the courts.
I guess this is the sop. You don’t have to “like” them or what they did. As for “dragging their dad through the courts” — they’re in the process of divorce. She’d be “dragging” him if they were in fact divorced and she then sued him. (Which is her right. And his. Until the children turn 18.)
The only dragging going on here is YOU Carolyn Hax dragging chumps for crimes of “bitterness.” Fuck that shit, says this bitter blog lady. And the bitter bunny chorus says “Amen.”