Cheating Ex Wants to Tell 6-Year-Old ‘We Were Unhappy’

broken heart

His cheating ex had a long-term affair but wants to tell their 6-year old they’re divorcing because they were both unhappy. Does he have to accept this narrative?

***

Dear Chump Lady,

This summer, I confronted my wife of 9 years about a single friend (and coworker) that she was spending a lot of time with.

She confessed that their relationship has escalated into an affair.

In the first revelation, she said she had slept with him 3 times. This is someone who knew me. Who I spoke with at her work events.

My wife complained years ago that I had a night out with my friends every week and she wanted the same. Of course I encouraged this. There were a lot of reasons why this made sense. I would go to my friends’ place to play board games because she didn’t like that activity. Also, I don’t drink, so if she wanted to go out and drink with a friend once a week, who was I to put a stop to it? I trusted her.

At two or three points I had expressed some concern that she was going out with a single male friend and she emphatically said: “You have nothing to worry about,” or “He’s not my type.”

Adding complexity, my ex had a medical condition that apparently made sex painful with me (this is documented, not a lie), so we were not having sex at all (like maybe 1-2 times per year). She told me that she had resigned herself to living without it. As the person who made vows that included “in sickness and in health”, I stayed. So the revelation that she had sex multiple times with her Schmoopie was blindsiding.

I sat there, waiting for an apology that wasn’t coming.

To “what now?” she answered “Well, can we have an open relationship?” To “you told me I didn’t have anything to worry about?” she said “well, obviously I lied.” To “why?” she said “I thought this would be good dynamite for the relationship.” I said I was getting a divorce, to which she said: “Don’t you feel relieved?”

A few days later, like many chumps before me, I thought maybe we could reconcile. My rule was no contact with Schmoopie and she booked counseling. She agreed, but it felt half-hearted (of course). I then discovered that she had in fact been sexting with this guy for four years (since my daughter was two). So she wasn’t sexless. She exploited my vows to maintain her lifestyle and the career advice and the support while she got her sexual needs fulfilled outside the marriage all the while totally content to have me living a lie.

I’ve moved out, limited to no contact other than around my daughter, cut off all her friends and family (one of whom said I need to take my responsibility for the state of our marriage), split all the assets, I’m working out, seeing friends, and doing hobbies. I will not take her back.

That said, I feel like I’ve had an encounter with evil.

There were so many little and big lies that made this possible. The callousness that went into it. The indifference to the suffering caused. This is a wound that cuts across time. And now I need to parent with this remorseless fuckwit. I have a separation agreement in place that is definitely in my favour (which she says is her idea of remorse), but I have so much I feel like I need to tell her.

Also, because I moved out, my 6 year old blames me for breaking up the family. I get she doesn’t know and she’s just trying to make sense of everything but I hate being blamed for this. My ex wants to tell her that “we were unhappy.” I want her to tell her that “marriages have rules and mommy broke a really important rule.”

Help me out here. Please.

Treading Water

***

Dear Treading Water,

Let’s tackle your last dilemma first. You’re divorcing. You have zero control over what she tells your daughter about why. You didn’t control her narrative when you were married to her, and you don’t control it now.

I know, I know, this runs contrary to all that co-parenting For The Best of the Children attitude of bonhomie we’re all supposed to aspire to. But consensus isn’t possible with a FW and there’s no way to police what she says. She can tell your daughter all manner of nonsense. Fairies live in toothpaste. Rhode Island is constructed of cheese. Mommy and Daddy divorced because of mutual unspecified unhappiness. Nebulous clouds that just descend on families and break them apart.

In my experience, and in thousands of stories on this blog, what happens is they tell YOU (or maybe court guardians) they’re going with the No One Is to Blame divorce narrative with the kids. But what actually happens is character assassination. You’re a terrible ogre who won’t let anyone be happy. You’re unstable. You didn’t appreciate her exquisite Bohemian soul and you pinned her spirit in a box like a dead Victorian butterfly.

Meanwhile, she’ll be bludgeoning you with the FOR THE CHILDREN cudgel. Don’t you dare speak the truth about the cheating! Don’t you dare deviate from the script! (The script that holds her blameless. Or you both equally accountable.)

And chumps go along with this shit.

Either in a misplaced attempt at consensus, or with a fear of hurting children with ugly adult truths, or because there is some real-life threat of parental alienation from the courts.

My advice to you is, talk to your lawyer about this. Focus first on getting the best divorce and custody settlement you can get. Leave the age-appropriate explanation for later. The most important thing is your actions. Be the sane, show-up parent. How you conduct yourself says far more about your character than anything your ex can say.

Of course your daughter may be upset now. Blaming the chump parent for the divorce is really common. Maybe even universal. You ate all the shit sandwiches before, why won’t you eat this one? Divorce is destabilizing and kids are rightly anxious. Just keep showing up. Keep telling her you love her, in word and in deed.

If it’s any consolation, I divorced a mentally ill FW when my son was 4 years old. For years he’d ask me why. Or say “My daddy loves you. Why don’t you love him?” (A narrative planted by a FW.) My answer was he had untreated mental illness and it wasn’t (son’s) fault. Then I redirected the conversation.

I spent the next 22 years being me. The show up parent. While his father was himself — the no show parent. The cheap creep. A guy who’d go years without seeing his son. Dropped his health insurance. Didn’t pay support. I quit untangling the skein of — is this mental illness, or is this being an asshole? Probably both.

Over time, it’s been abundantly clear why I have no relationship with his father. The narrative “You don’t love Daddy” was overcome by Daddy’s actions.

Here’s where it gets complicated — my son still loves his FW dad. In a primal kind of way. But he doesn’t rely on him for anything. And he considers Mr. CL and myself his parents. He wholly expresses his love for us as family. And his father is a weird uncle who shows up in his life on occasion.

I share this to show you that even if you do ALL THE WRONG THINGS (and you shouldn’t, and you won’t, because you’re not a FW), your child has a primal bond of love for you.

Your ex can tell all the stupid stories she wants to, and it’s damaging, but your love is bigger than her lies.

Sadly, the reverse is also true. Your child has a primal bond of love for the FW parent. And that’s your child’s right. That relationship is hers to figure out. Your job is to be the Sane Parent.

Now let’s unpack the rest of the letter.

she answered “well, can we have an open relationship?”

You already had an open relationship. You just didn’t get the memo.

To “you told me I didn’t have anything to worry about?” she said “well, obviously I lied.”

Expect more of the same in co-parenting. You’re dealing with a liar. So document everything, and use third party parenting software.

To “why?” she said “I thought this would be good dynamite for the relationship.”

I blame Esther Perel for that sentence. Blowing up relationships invigorates them! Let’s try some other form of abuse — I thought smashing your face through a window would be good for the relationship! Insanity. Yet a whole bunch of RIC therapist peddle the nonsense that marriages are stronger for cheating.

Your ex might’ve been saying this bullshit for cake. We’ll blow up the relationship and have a new, open one!

Or she’s said she purposely sabotaged your marriage because she enjoys destruction.

I said I was getting a divorce, to which she said: “Don’t you feel relieved?”

How nice of you to file. Dynamite is fun. Clean up, not so much.

I feel like I’ve had an encounter with evil.

You did.

That’s probably not a popular opinion outside this blog. But what else do you call this level of deception and abuse? I think the strongest cultural terms permitted are “narcissist” or FW. But at the core of it, your ex has a spiritual, moral problem.

She’s transactional. She gets a power high from abuse. It’s nihilism — no one matters.

Remember when you’re dealing with one of these freaks, you’re the winner. You’ve got a heart to break. You have authentic feelings and you conduct yourself with integrity. You’ve navigated this nightmare admirably. What she says to your six year old doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change the reality of who you are or what happened.

Get through this divorce and when you’re able, speak your truth to your daughter. Mom broke the marriage rules. I feel sad, but I’m still your dad and I love you. Then, just show up. That says everything.

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Fran
Fran
8 months ago

Don’t you dare let her take THE TRUTH. No matter what she wants, YOU TELL YOUR DAUGHTER WHY. I told my daughters that we don’t break up a marriage because we aren’t happy. We break up a marriage when one person is making the unbiblical choice to be with someone else and then it’s validated.

Mehitable
Mehitable
8 months ago
Reply to  Fran

I absolutely agree. It is SO IMPORTANT – critical actually – to tell a child the truth of what happened, in an age appropriate way that can change as the child ages and understands. My father was a victim of this – when he went to WW2, his wife took the opportunity to take up with another man and totally turn his daughter (my half sister) entirely against him while he was overseas fighting for this country. When he came back, he found his father dead, his belongings gone, his wife divorced him & married another man, and his daughter, who was maybe just 6 when he left…..now HATED HIM and refused to see him. (BTW, he had never been informed overseas of ANY of these events so it was all a surprise to him. WELCOME HOME SOLDIER!) He never had a relationship with her and when I connected with her decades later…..SHE STILL HATED HIM. All because of what her mother said and she never heard his side of the story (and there was one). And she wouldn’t. We as sisters never even met because of it. She’s dead now. Her mother’s lies affected so many lives starting with my sister and my father. Don’t let the lies stand, Treading Water….you can’t get those years back and if she starts to distrust or hate you because of her mother’s lies (and her mother is an EXCELLENT liar) you may never get that relationship back. TELL HER THE TRUTH NOW, in an age appropriate way….I say….Mom decided she didn’t want to be with me anymore and she wants to be with another man, that’s her preference and her choice. I don’t understand or know why, if you have questions you would have to ask her, but always feel free to talk to me about this or anything. Something like that. You can’t let STBX set the narrative – you WILL be the villain and it may last. Do not be the “nice guy” with this…in divorce and family relationships nice guys usually do finish last.

P&S
P&S
8 months ago
Reply to  Mehitable

Ohhhh, they pray for the “Don’t tell the kids I cheated. We were unhappy. Let’s be friends” narrative. My story is similar except I gave my ex the option of telling the kids in a “family” meeting. She tried very hard to avoid that meeting but told the kids when I threatened to tell them myself.
And it really hurts them when the kids recount a happy home before the divorce. A counselor reported that my oldest said it was a happy home. You literally saw my ex reach for her computer mouse and turn off the video on her Zoom feed.
Their narrative is based on an unhappy home where divorce was better for the kids. When that narrative blows up, it hits home. What they did was selfish. Plain and simple.

Mehitable
Mehitable
8 months ago
Reply to  P&S

Wow, your comment is so powerful for me. Your X knew very well how much she was hurting the kids with her behavior and she did it anyway. How can you do that to your kids. They should be the number 1 priority in your life. She KNEW what she was doing was hurtful and she did it anyway and tried to avoid it. A knave and a coward.

HunnyBadger
HunnyBadger
8 months ago
Reply to  Fran

And that, right there, is the reality. Amen.

portia
portia
8 months ago

It is hard to remember at the time, and hard to do, but “just show up” is the way to parent. You won’t get everything right, and if FW decides to be Disney Parent, just think about how much fun the kids will have at Disney, and you cannot afford that, because you pay for food and housing. So, which is more important in the long run?

Kids are smarter than you think, they know more than you really want them to. They will eventually figure out security and safety are the most important things parents provide for their children. You cannot control who another person loves. My sons loved their Dad, too. But they had no delusions about who he was, and the choices he made. They lived with the consequences of his actions every day.

One day, what the FW says and thinks and does won’t be important at all. Really. Just show up. It will be worth it.

Formerchumpnowbride
Formerchumpnowbride
8 months ago
Reply to  portia

My ex’s poor decisions over time has included a woman who let them move in, was engaged to, and she ended up, after four years of being in my young son’s life as a concerned, caring stepparent, kicked Ex out for very valid reasons. The sad part was my son’s life was uprooted yet again, and his dad refused to take responsibility for his actions, again. Just be the parent who is stable and shows up. I was disappointed that it ended (though not surprised) because she was a great person in my son’s life and his dad actually tried to perform as a decent parent while she was around, but he was destined to F that up of course.

This is a pattern that repeats, and shows up as my son not taking any interest in whatever partner my ex introduces to him. It also spoke to my son as to how much stock he takes in what FW says about me. No trust whatsoever.

Amiisfree
Amiisfree
8 months ago

It’s so tempting to express our feelings to cheaters. It has two likely outcomes. One, they know better how to hurt us (and they do so love to hurt us.) Two, they use it against us in court.

Therapists, dogs and cats, the ocean, CN with a nontrackable online nom de plume, and smash rooms are all great recipients to hold space for you while express your feelings. Cheaters not so much.

It won’t provide the closure we seek. It will make us easier to harm. Nothing good comes from it. Rage fantasies are fine, but channel the actions into more functional choices, says me.

Formerchumpnowbride
Formerchumpnowbride
8 months ago
Reply to  Amiisfree

Yup. Like CL says, it isn’t that they don’t understand, they just don’t agree. They know exactly what they are doing, and how much it hurts you. They just don’t care. Not worth the time to try to even ask them to explain, they don’t have anything constructive to say. Why do they do what they do? Might as well ask why water is wet. It is who they are, full stop. Therapy, now that is where we get answers. Not necessarily as to why the FW does FWittery, but answers to how we can heal, move on, and become better for ourselves. It is no longer about them, and never should have been.

Amiisfree
Amiisfree
8 months ago

Exactly, Former Chump — YES! — and with a carefully selected therapist. If the one I’m seeing isn’t anti-cheating and isn’t delivering the help I need, I am the customer, and I go find another therapist with no apologies. Yes indeed. 😊😊😊

Ginger_Superpowers
Ginger_Superpowers
8 months ago

“But consensus isn’t possible with a FW” GOLD

This took me awhile to understand this and I kept believing Asshat’s lies…….until I didn’t. And that has made all the difference.

PregnantChump
PregnantChump
8 months ago

Kids are smart. A 3 year old can understand, “When two people are married, they promise to only kiss each other and no one else. Your Dad/Mom made the decision to kiss other women/men while we were married and lied to me about it, so we stopped being married.”

Never put this in writing, admit to the discussion, or say it in front of witnesses. The legal system wants us to gaslight our kids.
Practice your shocked ‘I would never!’ face if asked about it. Anything your young kid says you told them is hearsay and inadmissible in court.

Apidae
Apidae
8 months ago
Reply to  PregnantChump

“Anything your young kid says you told them is hearsay and inadmissible in court”
– That’s not true.
– Don’t model lying and oathbreaking to your child. Your FW has that covered.
– If your child says “mom/dad said _____” and you deny you ever said any such thing, THAT is gaslighting.

Magnolia
Magnolia
8 months ago
Reply to  Apidae

I second what Apidae said.

❤️ Velvet Hammer ❤️
❤️ Velvet Hammer ❤️
8 months ago
Reply to  Apidae

I agree agree agree with Apidae.

I followed the advice of our family therapist, who advised me to tell if my daughter asked about it. When he left, Little Hammer had just turned eleven. Later that year she was using his phone to watch a movie when he got a drop down message from someone on Tinder. That night she asked me if he had an affair. All I said was yes. Base covered.

I later learned she had asked him directly, more than once, if we were getting divorced. He told her we were working things out, which was never true.

Do everything you can to be the TRUSTWORTHY parent. That’s gold for a child of a cheater. They already have one parent who is not safe or trustworthy who has an accomplice.

I act as if everything I say or do or write will be heard in court, unlike Traitor Ex the Pimp Faux Dad, whose guiding principle is Act As If No One Will Find Out.

❤️ Velvet Hammer ❤️
❤️ Velvet Hammer ❤️
8 months ago

That being said….

When you’ve been leveled by a cheating partner, the involved children can sense something terrible has happened to you and you need to say something. There was no way to conceal what was going on with me emotionally, and I had to walk a tightrope between being honest and not saying something that would be harmful to her or detrimental to me in the divorce process. She knew that I was leveled by his departure, but I waited for her to ask for more information before giving it to her in order to respect her pace and process. I do know I was not willing to lie to her. The last thing I want to happen from all this is for her to be in ignorance and denial and therefore set her up to play out the trauma in her own life. She needs to know what happened ASAP in the developmentally appropriate way for the best chance of avoiding that. God forbid she picks a partner like Traitor Ex, tolerates cheating, or thinks being a side piece is okay.

I think acting like nothing happened is a terrible strategy; I know families where this has been implemented and it just f*cks everybody up.

What I also think is true is that you don’t always have to tell your story. Time will.

❤️ Velvet Hammer ❤️
❤️ Velvet Hammer ❤️
8 months ago

….and of course something terrible happened to her too.

The belief that the involved children are not affected by cheating speaks to the total lack of healthy relationship skills of cheaters and side pieces, as well as their faulty emotional wiring. They all want to skip over the inconvenient reality that cheating puts the children into the Lord God King Bind of All Time, one parent and their accomplice(s) conspiring to hurt the other parent.

Their failure to grasp the emotional interconnections and resulting ramifications is the ultimate invalidating insult to children, treating them as if they are robots with no feelings or feelings that don’t count.

Little Hammer said the other day, “He doesn’t know how to love.” I agree, and I’m glad she knows that word is a verb.

I got barely any sleep last night so my thoughts have had some catching up to do with my written words today.

😩

Nut Cluster Free Zone
Nut Cluster Free Zone
7 months ago

Thanks for the link. You often hit it out of the park with book recommendations, links on the internet and choice words VH. Happy birthday my fellow Virgo !

Leedy
Leedy
7 months ago

This video gives PERFECT, subtle advice. Every co-parenting with a narcissist should see it.

Spinach@35
Spinach@35
8 months ago

Agree with you and Apidae.

Also, I love this: “What I also think is true is that you don’t always have to tell your story. Time will.”
Indeed it will!

OHFFS
OHFFS
8 months ago
Reply to  PregnantChump

“Never put this in writing, admit to the discussion, or say it in front of witnesses. The legal system wants us to gaslight our kids.”

This ia all too true, sadly. Good advice.

Motherchumper99
Motherchumper99
8 months ago

Great advice! Dad, seek as much custody as you can and right of first refusal (if FW is planning to leave your daughter – you get first right to have her). Start new traditions and keep your focus on your child. I think 6 is old enough for “mom and I have very different thoughts about marriage. I’m also very sad that our family changed. Do you want a hug? …. Let’s go do xyz together…”. If you stay very engaged with her, kind and loving, she’ll be ok. FW will continue to devolve (ask me how I know) and you may end up having near full custody. I’m so sorry that you’re a member of this club but glad you’re here.

Ladybug Chump
Ladybug Chump
7 months ago

“I have very different thoughts…” is really “we made a promise…” It’s way more than a difference of opinion.

Skewers the Hare
Skewers the Hare
8 months ago

This is really good, in my admittedly uniformed opinion (sadly no kids due to health issues), because it is simultaneously truthful and general. It doesn’t acknowledge the evil, it doesn’t clarify the nature of the injury, but it does tell the truth. And it does so without involving accusations and blame, which, however richly deserved they are, will likely make the road ahead harder.

It may feel like the sort of disingenuous “culpability on both sides” card that manipulators in all realms so often use to their advantage. After all, “different ideas” could imply equal validity instead of the reality that one idea is faithful and generous, while the other is faithless and selfish. But it doesn’t have to imply any such thing. And since we cannot control the message any infers from anything we say (and we can be sure FWs will always infer whatever serves their purpose), knowing what we mean by what we say is the best we can do.

Narcissistsupply
Narcissistsupply
8 months ago

While it’s very tempting to out your wife and put the blame where it belongs, CLs advice about this possibly affecting custody is smart.

And you don’t really need to out her, time will do the trick. Kids often understand more than we think. When my FW was doing the I don’t love you anymore horseshit, I was washing the floor one day and became tearful. Nothing had been said to the kids yet. My five year old son said “Don’t worry Mommy. If Daddy divorces you, I’ll marry you.”

Your ex sounds very mean with a total lack of empathy and caring. I wish you the best.

Her behavior reminds me of The Narcissistic Prayer:

That didn’t happen.
And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.
And if it was, that’s not a big deal.
And if it is, that’s not my fault.
And if it was, I didn’t mean it.
And if I did, you deserved it.

chumpedchange
chumpedchange
8 months ago

“Mom broke the marriage rules. I feel sad, but I’m still your dad and I love you.” This is perfect and age-appropriate.
Also, I feel for you having a brush with evil. That ruthless cold evil can feel debilitating even over a long time (and I’ve been out ten years now). But you stood up to it. And that’s legendary

Formerchumpnowbride
Formerchumpnowbride
8 months ago
Reply to  chumpedchange

When my ex decided he no longer wanted to uphold the mask of caring husband, the physical change in his face when he spoke to me after that was frightening. It was like he was a totally other person. His face is kind, caring, soft when he thinks you admire him. When he thinks you have seen through his sham, he looks straight up menacing. I still see the change when he tries to manipulate me. When he gets nothing from me (either reaction or what he is trying to get from me) it immediately changes to a cold, harsh demeanor. I hope my son hasn’t seen that, but I doubt it. He is no longer the “daddy’s little buddy”, and has opinions of his own. But my boy can be himself with me. My house is “home”, FW’s is “dad’s house”.

Adelante
Adelante
8 months ago

Maybe you don’t tell your daughter the truth until after the divorce, if the lawyer counsels you to wait. But once the divorce is done, you tell her, in age apprropriate terms. “Marriage has rules and Mommy broke the biggest rule there is. She had a boyfriend while she was married.” I suggest that alteration to “Mommy broke the rules,” because your daughter may otherwise fear that if she breaks a rule, or is otherwise imperfect (which everyone is), that you might “divorce” her, too.

Also: tell her as soon as you get the lawyer’s ok. In my experience, waiting a long time makes telling the truth more difficult, rather than less. Our son was an adult when we divorced, and I wanted to tell him the truth because after being blindsided by my ex’s secret sexual life I wanted an honest relationship with my son. When I told my ex this, he browbeat me until I gave in to a lie: “We’re happier apart” (after 35 years of marriage!). After initially going along with my ex’s false narrative I told my son a half-truth: “People don’t divorce after 35 years because ‘they’re happier apart.’ We divorced because of your father’s secret life. You can ask him about it, but I already know he’s not going to tell you, because he told me so.

I will tell you if you want to know.” My son chose not to know, and I honored that. Even living under the “partial truth” regime was painful, and I felt the lack of honesty every time I interacted with my son, but I honored his request not to know. As time past I realized that telling the truth, and those events, were being overtaken by the present, and although I still felt my son needed to know the truth, and I still felt the lack of transparency and honesty, it seemed more and more as if insisting on the truth of a past event would not sit well with my son.

Recently, however, my ex, for his own purposes, finally came partially clean (he minimized like the dishonest man he is). It’s been a huge relief to me. This is why I counsel telling the truth asap.

NotAnymore
NotAnymore
8 months ago
Reply to  Adelante

““Mommy broke the rules,” because your daughter may otherwise fear that if she breaks a rule, or is otherwise imperfect (which everyone is), that you might “divorce” her, too.”

Came to say this as well. I am a fan of simple truths: “Mommy had a boyfriend, which isn’t okay when you are married”

Skunkcabbage
Skunkcabbage
8 months ago
Reply to  Adelante

I divorced XAss and told our 10 year old at the time that Daddy had a girlfriend and wanted to be with her. This truth was evident when XAss moved the girl friend and her 11 yr old daughter into our house 3 months after I left.

My son has a (good?) relationship with his father, but I think after witnessing his fathers actions (and I’m sure I only know the barest fraction of it) for the past 8 years and the struggles I have had to provide us a safe, peaceful place and obtain what my son needed to be successful, as well as rebuild my career and life, he clearly sees who is a dedicated parent and emotionally available.

Adelante
Adelante
8 months ago
Reply to  Adelante

Whoops. Sorry about that paragraph break after paragraph 2. Poor proofreading.

Formerchumpnowbride
Formerchumpnowbride
8 months ago

My son was 3 when my marriage blew up and FW left. It was very traumatic for both my son and myself. He is now upper teens, and we’ve navigated this quagmire with me attempting to be the sane parent. Yes, he loves his dad, for the fact that he is his dad. However, he knows he cannot rely on him, and frankly doesn’t enjoy spending lots of time with him. His dad has been catching on and has had more and more excuses for not taking his custody time despite being checks notes 8 blocks away. Too bad so sad.

I think I realized that my son understood it all when I was taking him home from an activity (his dad skips his stuff all the time now since he no longer plays the perfect parent) and he asked if I could take him to where some friends were hanging out. I reminded him that it was his dad’s night so he had to clear it with his dad first. For the first time ever, my son cussed, said the F word, out loud. He immediately apologized and I laughed and said “Well, it’s ok, it was only in front of me, and frankly, you used it in context. Just be careful who you say those words around in the future, ok?” and he laughed. But yeah. At this point, his reaction to his dad is pretty close to my own, so he gets it. It is kind of sad, I never wanted him to not be able to depend on his father, but it is what it is.

You can only control what you do and say, and show your child what sane and safe parenting looks like. Be the stable one that gives her comfort. Parenting isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. You will have times where you feel like the bad parent, or the strict parent, etc. Don’t worry about FW’s parenting beyond child safety. That is no longer something under your control. CL has so many good ideas on how to deal with this shit sandwich you’ve been given. Get a lawyer and get all the parenting time etc. you can RIGHT NOW while she’s still floating around in dumbass land with her schmoopie daze. The sooner you make things final the better your odds are that she will not care what you get in the divorce including custody. Luck favors the prepared.

You’re doing great, keep it up. Model what you want your child to see in a parent and it will usually come out in the wash. But don’t lie to your daughter, they pick up on that pretty quickly when the FW parent stops being able to hold up their fairy tales. She will need you to be her rock when her world crashes as mom’s stories stop making sense.

Apidae
Apidae
8 months ago

But did you actually file for divorce? You moved out and “split the assets” but you don’t mention filing for divorce. Is that separation agreement something that your lawyer helped you prepare as part of the divorce process where you live? If not that needs to be your #1 priority. Her ‘remorse’ and willingness to work out a separation agreement mean zero unless there is a divorce behind it.

OHFFS
OHFFS
8 months ago

“You didn’t appreciate her exquisite gypsy soul and you pinned her spirit in a box like a dead Victorian butterfly.”

😄 Priceless.

Treading water, there is nothing wrong with telling your daughter that mommy broke a promise and hurt your feelings. A 6 year old should be able to understand that, and it’s the truth. If FW doesn’t like it she can go scratch. Just wait until the divorce is finalized in case she decides to make it more difficult to get back at you for telling the truth. Actually, you can pretty much guarantee that she will.

I have to question your belief that she didn’t lie about the pain. It sounds like she told her doctor she was having pain during intercourse in order to get out of having sex with you, so she could save it all for other guys. That way, she could provide documentation from the doc that you would believe, and obviously it worked. That’s a mind-boggling level of machiavellian calculation, and yes, it is evil. She is evil. That knowledge will probably haunt you for some time. It did for me.
The truth is that unless there is an actual visible injury, a doctor wouldn’t be able to tell if she was really having pain or not. It’s an easy medical problem to fake. Since she was fucking at least one other man, it probably wasn’t real.
Just remember that if her mouth is open, she’s either lying or blowing some dude. Don’t trust a word she ever says and don’t trust her to be a good parent, either.
Do not take orders from that serpent of sluttery on what you can and can’t say to your daughter.

Mehitable
Mehitable
8 months ago
Reply to  OHFFS

Yeah, of course she lied about the pain. I’ve read of this kind of thing before. They just don’t want to have sex with their husbands….maybe they’re no longer attracted, but I think, as you say, they’re saving it for other guys. This OM TW’s wife has been seeing is probably not the first and maybe far from it. We’ve all had the occasional gyno problem – urinary tract right up to deliveries and you don’t always want or are able to have sex, but if she’s having sex with this OM…..she can have sex, period. Sometimes cheaters don’t want to cheat on their affair partners, as bizarre as that sounds.

Erin
Erin
8 months ago
Reply to  OHFFS

“Serpent of sluttery” – priceless!

Chumped Mom Getting to Meh
Chumped Mom Getting to Meh
8 months ago

I really like CL’s advice here. I’m struggling a bit too, in what I tell my just turned 4 year old. I think actions speak much louder than words and one day, probably years from now, your daughter will know the truth without you having to spell it out for her. I know my daughters will. Keep doing what you are doing; spending time on yourself, spending time with friends and family, and put the focus on you and your daughters as best as you can.

LookingForwardsToTuesday
LookingForwardsToTuesday
8 months ago

Treading Water,

As a fellow recipient of a Cheater’s “Open Marriage after the fact” gambit you have my commiserations, and well done for holding the line.

As regards what you tell your daughter, CL is bang on the money when she says to take legal advice and – when the time is right – keep it age appropriate. I’d also add that when it comes to “doing the right thing for the children,” this includes not lying to them; all too often Cheaters use this as a cloak behind which to hide and avoid responsibility for their actions and decisions.

LFTT

DrChump
DrChump
8 months ago

“Just show up”!!! yes the best advice. It is like compounding interest. You feel like you aren’t doing much and then a year later you see what you have accomplished.
FW had done a hardy job of destroying my character and ostracizing me. She had won the narrative. It is 50/50 custody and now I had to get involved in doing the things she was supposed to have been doing. I took a close look at what was going on in his life.
He had acne that wasn’t getting better. When I called the dermatologist I found out she had not been taking him nor getting his meds. Within 1 month I got his face cleared up.
He was way overweight and didn’t exercise. I got him a gym membership and he started working out with me. In the last year he shed 30 pounds and has become fit. He is an inspiration to many of his classmates who now work out at same gym.
I don’t think I would have been this close with my son if I was still married to his mom. My son and I have an incredible relationship.
Not as important now but the narrative has changed as well. People see us together and comment how well he has done. They can do the math.

HunnyBadger
HunnyBadger
8 months ago

What your daughter knows is very, very, very important. Not just fr the situation of now, but for everything in her future.

Children don’t get to make choices in these things. They don’t even get a vote. They get to be caught in the undertow, sucked out to sea by the riptide. Lying to them about something as ridiculous as “mommy and daddy were just unhappy” tells the child this: “We don’t care that you’re probably going to drown, because we were unhappy.”

It will tell her that adults get to skip out on responsibilities and their own children if they get unhappy. It’s setting her up to believe deep down that she cannot depend on either of you because one day you might get in a mood and simply abandon her. She will know in her gut that there is no one to protect and guide her because both her parents are subject to their own whims.

Please don’t do that to her.

Tell your FW that lying is useless because eventually your daughter will find out the truth. Tell your FW you’re not going to be complicit in her continuing mind games and gaslighting. Tell your FW that if she’s really super duper cool with her choices and morality, it shouldn’t be a problem to tell your daughter the truth of what really screwed up her entire existence.

Or simply tell your FW to shut up. (And remind her that she forfeited the right to stage manage your family when she forfeited the family itself)

Then tell your daughter the truth, in age appropriate language. Kids can handle truth. What they can’t handle is a constantly changing story that doesn’t make sense, and the fear that adults can’t really be trusted.

Mehitable
Mehitable
8 months ago
Reply to  HunnyBadger

Yeah, I think saying “we split up because we’re unhapppppppy” is a terrible thing to tell a child because….being unhappy esp for a kid, just comes and goes. All emotions come and go. I think it might create the kind of fear that if you’re ever unhappy….you could lose a parent or your home or some other dire consequences. It’s a general message designed to cover up for an adult’s bad behavior and it needs to be a more specific explanation, adjusted for a child’s understanding.

Squeaks
Squeaks
8 months ago

They really seem to operate from a script. My FW was the same — he wanted to buy a duplex and have me in one unit and schmoopie in the other. Schmoopie wanted to be a stay-at-home parent, so FW and I could work to support her, and she could raise all of our children!

I told him I’d give him time to figure out what he wanted — schmoopie likely thought I’d go thermonuclear when the affair was revealed, and had positioned herself as cool-girl sister wife material. Turns out she wasn’t as cool with it all as she let on, because she issued the ultimatum and he moved out immediately. She’s now a stay at home parent to their baby (and the financial fallout has been huge — which is my fault, for unreasonably expecting him to contribute financially to the lives of the kids he abandoned).

But yeah. For the first while it was “I still love mommy!” and my kids couldn’t understand why we’d split up (ages 4 and 6 at the time). I told them the “daddy broke his promise” version… he countered with “WELL MOMMY BROKE HER PROMISE TO ME” (still not clear on which one that was).

Anyway. Just… they’re all the same uncreative shitstain on the inside. Congratulations on your promotion, Treading Water. It sucks now but you’ll be so much better off in the long run.

Mr. Chump
Mr. Chump
7 months ago
Reply to  Squeaks

My FW suddenly wanted to move to a town 250 miles away where her mother lives and where we had spent a lot of time. She went as far as sending me reality listings and wanting to go look at the houses. Keep in mind, we both had jobs where we currently lived and it’s a small town with no jobs in either of our fields there. We also had three kids, with two in high school, and a good neighborhood.

A few months later the cheating came to light, and you guessed it, the AP lived in that town. I wonder what would have happened had we actually moved?

I filed for divorce a week after D-Day. She stayed in that town and moved in with the AP two weeks later. She some how talked her work into letting her work remote, but they caught on to her antics of lying about working when she wasn’t. Six months after D-day, she had to move back into an apartment about 5 miles from my house because her boss wanted her back in the office in person. Nine months later, she broke her lease and got a town house 3 miles from my house with the AP moving in shortly after.

She ended up quitting that job shortly after because her boss was “unreasonable” and it wasn’t mentally healthy for her. She’s now stuck with a job she hates and requires long hours at the office 45 minutes away.

Fast forward a year and half, she caught the AP sending inappropriate texts to her friends and they broke up.

So, her dream of living in the small town with the AP, while still being able to have a job 250 miles away lasted all of six months. The dream relationship with the guy that “would do anything for her” ended up with him basically cheating on her and draining her bank accounts including all the divorce settlement money.

Karma, maybe. I think it’s more that broken people make bad decisions. I’ve been told by many people, and realize now, I was the one carrying the stability and security for two people all those years.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
7 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Chump

Is your ex Olivia Wilde? I think the affair that broke up her marriage lasted about that long. Humiliation mixed with poetic justice.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
8 months ago
Reply to  Squeaks

Lol, I got the same nutty offer. After I threw FW out, he wrote a blathering email about wanting to stay together for the “sake of the kids” and, barring that, he would buy a place next door so he could “always be there.” My lawyer read the email and said that the whole “for sake of the kids” and “live next door” nonsense sounded like nothing more than old fashioned cock-blocking (call it “twat-blocking” in the case of he-chumps) to make sure I never moved on to a future romantic relationship.

The more I thought about it, the more I sensed my lawyer was right. FWs seem to have an intrinsic understanding that chumps could never really form relationships with the types of sketchy, creepy people who would openly accept some bizarre arrangement where the chump’s ex was still totally enmeshed in the chump’s life and always hanging around like some malevolent fungus. That’s because FWs understand that chumps prefer to be in relationships with healthy, sane, normal people (thus all the FW mirroring, gaslighting, future faking and general pretense of being healthy, sane and normal).

Mehitable
Mehitable
8 months ago
Reply to  Squeaks

That’s why I think it’s good to be specific – Mommy (in this case) wants to be with another man instead of Daddy. That’s what it comes down to. I like to use the friend analogy – imagine if your best friend decided they didn’t want to be friends with YOU anymore but wanted to be best friends with someone else. I think kids can relate to that idea. I don’t know how well little kids understand breaking promises….a promise is like…we’ll go to the zoo this weekend….not, I’m leaving you forever for some piece of crap. Also, I like to put the onus for further explanation, if needed, on the offending party – Mommy in this case. Let her explain her own shit to the world – she will anyway but at least there will be a counter weight.

susie lee
susie lee
8 months ago
Reply to  Squeaks

Good grief Squeaks. I was surprised when I read your first paragraph, but then the more I thought of it, I suspect that many many fw’s including my fw would have loved a situation like that. And in fact in many ways we were living like that, only I was unaware of the other family I was helping support. Based on some solid evidence I firmly believe that would have continued for at least another year or so, but someone filed an ethics complaint against him and all hell broke loose.

Chumpasaurus45
Chumpasaurus45
8 months ago
Reply to  susie lee

Yes, they actually are that level of delusional. My ex FW wanted to add an apartment onto our retirement beach house for his mistress. 😳
They operate on a very distant planet to earth, countless light years away.

Spinach@35
Spinach@35
8 months ago

This is an issue for grandparents, too. My 4 yo grandchild recently asked, “Are you married?” I think she’s wondering why there’s no grandfather in the picture. I mean, she’s starting to put two and two together. So, I expect the next question to be: “Why aren’t you married to my mom’s dad (a dad, btw, she hasn’t seen since she was 6 mo old bc my daughter went NC on D-day*).

Anyway, I guess I could say that we had different ideas about marriage and that he broke the rules by dating someone else. I could quickly pivot to “I will always love you” and “Let’s get ice cream.” IDK.

The issue of why her mom doesn’t have anything to do with him is something her mom will have to handle. But if my granddaughter goes further and presses me on that issue when it’s just the two of us, I think I’ll have two options:
1. turf it to her mom, or 2. maybe say something brilliant/workable that I can’t think of right now. Any suggestions?

*Important to note: He was emotionally abusive to his kids. They ended contact not just bc of the affair. They say they view him as toxic and are protecting their own families.

No Shit Cupcakes
No Shit Cupcakes
7 months ago
Reply to  Spinach@35

“Are you married?”

“Not anymore.”

“Why?”

“S/he hurt (me/us) very badly and we were not safe.”

Mehitable
Mehitable
8 months ago
Reply to  Spinach@35

Where I come from “Daddy is crazy” was good enough, LOL. I think we’ve all become too refined now.

Involuntary Georgian
Involuntary Georgian
8 months ago

Anecdotally, I’ve seen many children of divorce report feeling betrayed (generally by the chump parent) when they discover years later that they’d been lied to about the core circumstances of their family’s destruction. You don’t want to dump your feelings on your child, but you also don’t want your child (eventually, presumably when she’s entering near-adulthood and is starting to develop her own opinions about familial and romantic relationships) to feel that you lied to her.
I remember being flabbergasted when, in the wake of D-Day, my then-wife just didn’t care that she’d committed adultery. I never suspected her or worried about her faithfulness because I trusted her, but if you’d asked me beforehand I would have acknowledge that it was something that could, and did, happen in life (like a lot of shitty things). I’m not stupid enough to think it was impossible. But it never occurred to me that, if it happened, she would just. not. care. Not regret it, not apologize for it, not stop it and try to save the marriage. I understood the concept of a casual, thoughtless cheater and of an apologetic, remorseful cheater, but I didn’t even realize that a proud, defiant cheater was a thing. That was hard to wrap my head around.

Sorry you find yourself here. My recommendation would be continue to separate yourself from XW as much as possible (personally, financially, spatially) and don’t say anything to your kid that is untrue. In the end, you will have a relationship with your daughter for the rest of your life so that should be your priority. Your daughter is allowed to love her mother, no matter how you feel about her, so you need to be careful about being too negative about her. Something like “mommy broke a very important promise to me, so we couldn’t be together any more” strikes a good balance: it doesn’t demonize her mother as a person but makes clear whose actions caused the end of the marriage.

Daughterofachump
Daughterofachump
7 months ago

Involuntary Georgian, on a related note, my casual Internet research shows that adultery is a misdemeanor in Georgia. Although apparently no one has been prosecuted for more than 100 years.

Involuntary Georgian
Involuntary Georgian
7 months ago

It’s still on the books so technically illegal, but it’s never prosecuted as a standalone crime.

Its existence as a crime is why you can file for at-fault divorce in GA citing adultery, though (I think). I didn’t because I was advised it might shift asset division from 50/50 to 55/45 but would almost certainly trigger a trial which would probably (a) cost more in legal fees than I stood to potentially gain and (b) require my daughter to testify about her mother’s adultery (as the only witness I know of, at the time). It wasn’t worth it.

Chumpasaurus45
Chumpasaurus45
8 months ago

I also experienced the “ proud deviant” cheater. While I was on my long hike during the impending divorce, FW wanted to come clean to two of my three kids that lived close to him. ( 25 and 26 at the time)
He had just suffered a stroke a couple of months before ( due to his massive anger eruptions over not getting me to cooperate with his laid out plan for me and the divorce) and was in a strange, rambling, truth serum telling mood and went to see two of the kids.
Sounds like he greatly overshared with them ( they know way more than me, but we don’t discuss it) and talked about his many many women when he was living in apartment building “Sodom and Gomorrah” while on last work assignment pre- retirement in another state. Jumping from apartment to apartment in the middle of the night, sleeping with this one,that one, jumping in tubs with another after screwing the third for the day, etc and so on, you get the picture.
The thing that really freaked my kids out was the expression on his face while he was telling them all this. A very satisfied little boy in trouble smirk, like he was very pleased with himself.
That haunts them till this day. He called that time to them his “ ho days”. Unbelievably cruel to do to you kids! In the years they are working on relationship navigation themselves, what a fine example set by a dad that had been so very high on a pedestal of respect, they never felt their lives could come close to matching up with his.
He kept checking his blood pressure every 5 mins while purging his shit all over them. They said they felt scared, like they couldn’t even show any emotion, anger or extreme disappointment, because they thought any reaction from them could possibly kill him. That’s so unreal to me.
Afterwards he told them he needed to take a nap and they should go into town ( Austin) and just have a good time. They drove from the house, found a park bench to sit on and didn’t say a word to each other for two solid hours, just in shock over what they had to process.
I guess it made FW feel amazing, getting all that crap off his chest in confessional fashion. With absolutely not the slightest inkling of empathy for the dump on his kids.
They tried imagining it was because of his stroke, but after five years have past, they’ve had enough proof that that is their real father and it’s been crushing and sad, a hard journey out for us all.
He will never understand that reaction though. He “just wanted to live an honest life” is what he tried to tell me leaving. How’s that working out for you, FW?!
From my angle, not so well at all.

Shadow
Shadow
7 months ago
Reply to  Chumpasaurus45

Oh bloody hell that is horrible! Your poor kids, I’m appalled that he inflicted that on them! What an evil thing to do to your own flesh and blood! What a sick and twisted creature he is!

Mehitable
Mehitable
8 months ago
Reply to  Chumpasaurus45

Just plain evil. Again, he’s a bad person. There are a lot of them out there. And they enjoy being bad. We just can’t understand that but they’re part of the world just like sharks and alligators. Actually….I prefer sharks and alligators. Also……confession really DOES NOT change anything….it doesn’t take anything off your soul or make you a better person. You’re NOT forgiven….by anyone. Me or Jesus or King Charles or Nikki Minaj or Rev. Hardass or ANYONE. If you have no genuine remorse, if you do not repent, if you don’t feel shame for what you did or try to do restitution…..those sins sit there like stones and they’re gonna stay there. People hide behind these religious or quasi-religious ideas (sounds like your ex was unburdening himself in this confessional mode because he thought he was doing to die….Hell looms….but it’s a dry heat)….it doesn’t make one damn bit of difference if you don’t mean it and you don’t change your ways. He still rejoices in his sin and remembers it fondly.

Conchobara
Conchobara
8 months ago

“But it never occurred to me that, if it happened, she would just. not. care. Not regret it, not apologize for it, not stop it and try to save the marriage. I understood the concept of a casual, thoughtless cheater and of an apologetic, remorseful cheater, but I didn’t even realize that a proud, defiant cheater was a thing. That was hard to wrap my head around.”

This was my FW too. Unapologetic, even boastful about what he’d done. I had literally told my mom once that he would absolutely never cheat (fool me once, I guess). His confession on DDay was cold and emotionless and his behavior since has proven that he really doesn’t think he did anything wrong. Oh, he’ll use the words, ” I did a bad thing” or “I know you’ll never forgive what I’ve done,” etc., but truthfully he’s made it clear through his actions that he’s gotten everything he wants out of life at this point: no adulting, limited interaction with our daughter, living with two 26yo skanks (he’s almost 50) that he says are his “friends”, and the child mistress occasionally.

It still kind of blows my mind despite everything I now know that he could feel zero guilt and in fact feel that he was entitled to cheat, steal so.much.money to fund his affairs and lie about things, big and small.

Mehitable
Mehitable
8 months ago
Reply to  Conchobara

He’s evil. A lot of people really are just evil. We make too many excuses for people now, some people are just bad and they like being bad.

ChumpedForANewerModel
ChumpedForANewerModel
8 months ago

So sorry this happened to you. I was very lucky that my son was an adult and on his own when I divorced his father. My son knew though from finding his father’s homemade porn with Schmoopie on his shared photo site (FW accidently saved his crap there).
Be sure you talk to you attorney before telling your daughter the truth. I think children should be told the truth in an age appropriate way. They should know that marriage has rules and mommy broke those.
I also hate the way the FWs all seem to suggest an open marriage once the chump finds out what they have been doing. EXFW tried that with me and I told him that we already had one but I did not know about it! Trust that they suck. No worries, your FW will show her true character to your daughter soon enough. FWs tend not to show up when they are chasing sparkles.

Mehitable
Mehitable
8 months ago

Never really understand the point of the open marriage baloney but I guess it’s to make it seem like you go along with it, you get something out of it TOO (although I don’t think they believe their spouses will ever score – they DO get surprised!) and it’s not so bad because hey, if you’re screwing other people too, then that makes it okay….up until they finally leave you because not even cheats can pretend that’s a marriage.

Shadow
Shadow
7 months ago
Reply to  Mehitable

I’ve only ever known of one open marriage! The wife left the husband in the end, for his best mate no less! I liked him but never connected with her. The fella she ran off with had seemed a nice lad, and I was shocked that he could betray his mate like that but nice doesn’t always mean good!

SortOfOverIt
SortOfOverIt
7 months ago
Reply to  Mehitable

Mine told me that they wished we could have an open marriage, but he wouldn’t be ok with me seeing other men. I think when he told me this he was hoping I would bite and gibe him permission to openly carry on his affair, while not having to deal with the same from me. And yes, of course this was suggested post DDay.

An open marriage is not for me and I am no expert, but I know that the idea is to make that choice together and set ground rules before anything happens. FWs offering this after being caught cheating are just looking for permission after the fact.

Daughterofachump
Daughterofachump
7 months ago
Reply to  Mehitable

Mehitable, well, I suppose if you live in a US state that still has “fault” divorce laws, if the FW can get the chump to agree to an open marriage, that might constitute condoning adultery. I doubt most FWs are thinking that strategically though. Idk because I’m not a lawyer.

Viktoria
Viktoria
8 months ago
Reply to  Mehitable

I never even heard of “open marriage” until I started reading this blog. Now I know more about that and domestic (DV) sexual abuse and the (absolutely disgusting) sex industry and covert abuse and coercive control… than I ever thought I would.

Elsie
Elsie
8 months ago

Parenting during separation/divorce is indeed painful. I didn’t have much guidance because I was in religious groups where separation and divorce was rare. Most of the people I knew in my circle of friends who divorced left the area entirely because it’s so very expensive here. I got frustrated with my therapist after my ex made the separation long-distance because she became more blaming than I felt was helpful. So I dropped her. I began seeing a coach, but we really didn’t get into parenting. I had so many of my own issues.

But in my heart, I knew I had to focus on my relationship with our abandoned college kids. I decided that it wasn’t my job to defend their father or manage his relationship with them (or lack thereof). They both had phones and email accounts so he could contact them anytime. Or they could contact him. So, I went hands-off. They were older, but it took years for them to work through what happened and trust me, the parent who showed up.

Later, of course, my approach was confirmed by multiple sources. It’s always an evolving thing with our kids, but being careful and thoughtful can lead to better days with them. Don’t bad-mouth the other parent in detail. Be plain and honest, but don’t dwell there.

The Ex Mrs. FW
The Ex Mrs. FW
8 months ago

My son was 2 when I filed after a year of pick me dancing during Ex’s affair with his married direct report. I started getting questions from my son when he was about 4/5 as to why his parents were living together. Ex told our son that “mommy decided to get divorced and that’s why we aren’t married anymore.” He left out that mommy gave daddy 10 D-Day chances to quit seeing his affair partner before she filed. Sighhhhhh. Anyway, I started telling my son age appropriately around that age that daddy broke important marriage rules. A few years later, that progressed to daddy had a special girlfriend when he was married to mommy and you can’t have boyfriends or girlfriends when you are married to someone else. My son is almost 12 now and has an understanding that his dad cheated in the marriage and wouldn’t stop seeing his girlfriend. He’s also seen for himself his dad is a selfish, manipulative lying liar who twists the truth like a pretzel. Of course, yes, he still loves his dad but their relationship now is very surface and if it wasn’t for sports, they probably wouldn’t have much interaction at all now. Who knows what the teen years hold for me, but right now, my son sees me as the sane, show up parent who is always there for him and his dad is someone who can’t be trusted to be there, unless there is a soccer or football field involved and an audience of youth sports parents around. Bottom line, if the OP here keeps showing up as the sane, stable, loving parent his kid needs, the child will eventually figure it all out.

Mehitable
Mehitable
8 months ago
Reply to  The Ex Mrs. FW

You handled that SO well!

The Ex Mrs. FW
The Ex Mrs. FW
8 months ago
Reply to  The Ex Mrs. FW

That should be “weren’t living together.”

DuddersGetsChumped
DuddersGetsChumped
8 months ago

Do NOT do what I did, which was to go along with what my ex wanted and I thought was the right thing to do to concoct some ‘mummy and daddy haven’t been getting along’ story. I honestly get PTSD and want to be sick just at the thought of when we sat her down and had that conversation and it was 5 years ago. But……. I felt it was right and I’m not sure at that time if I was clear on schmoopie being in the picture, maybe I had suspicions I have no idea but I wanted to do the right thing. Move on even two months later I SO WISH I HAD MADE HIM TELL HER ON HIS OWN. And had been upfront that I thought daddy had a new girlfriend. In the appropriate way Chump Lady suggests. They played the ‘family that deeply cared for her’ while mummy was a wreck and it caused the most horrible mess. Tell your truth. You will only regret it if you don’t.

CurlyChump
CurlyChump
8 months ago

I think the first thing my ex asked for in mediation was a “non disparagement clause” in our divorce decree, shocking! That said, when his parents split because of his dad’s cheating, his mom really put the kids (and everyone else) in the middle of it. Used them as her therapists and mediators, and made them feel bad if they didn’t choose to go scorched earth. It really did a lot of damage, and I think made them more sympathetic to their dad than if she had found more appropriate places to vent her feelings of betrayal.
My daughter was young when my ex and I split. For a long time, she asked a lot of questions. At first, I would say, that’s “grown up stuff,” that wasn’t her job to worry about, but I understand she’s sad and frustrated about mommy and daddy getting a divorce. I have since settled on, “It turns out mommy & daddy had very different values.”
He’s already remarried, and her step-mom is a wife appliance that does the domestic heavy lifting over there.
I just focus on being the sane parent. She’s a smart kid. If she’s older and asks questions about timelines and things like that, I imagine she’ll figure it out (or she will no longer be a minor, and I can relay the facts that my ex may not like). I’d like to think my actions and my choices to live differently will speak for themselves as well.

ICanSeeTheMehComing!
ICanSeeTheMehComing!
8 months ago

You did survive an encounter with evil. And, now you have to model humanity in the face of evil to your daughter. Fight with everything you have for custody or equal/joint custody. Be there… never miss your time with your daughter and be present at every event. ACTIONS speak louder than words to kids (and adult kids). Don’t be the parent that writes birthday cards with missives like “you’re always in our thoughts” when you only live 20 minutes away #facepalm.

My son was in 3rd grade when Mr. Sparkles walked out. I told him in an age appropriate way that Daddy got a girlfriend while he was married to me and married people shouldn’t do that. As he got older, he got more age appropriate information. At one point my son remarked about his Dad’s leaving… “It’s just what he does, Mom.” Mic drop.

My son has witnessed Dad pursue the OW… watching the OW dump his Dad after learning he was cheating on her… watching Dad pick up a new girl at the Crossfit gym (Dad called that visitation)… and now Dad has remarried while he is still active on Adult Friend Finder.

My son is 17. He loves his Dad, but he also sees his Dad for who he is… I didn’t have to do anything but be the sane parent and let crazy be crazy.

Get a good lawyer. Get the best custody arrangement. Show up.

As for you ex… now you can finally find someone who enjoys sex WITH YOU and who will turn “evil” in to “LIVE”… like in live a cheater free life!

Mehitable
Mehitable
8 months ago

This story is so common and it breaks my heart. Treading Water….so many things to unpack here but….spouses should never have close oppo sex friends. It almost always turns out like this esp if they spend a lot of time together. That is the whole point of the relationship usually. NEVER trust anyone that much….it’s too much temptation even for a good person. Which your wife isn’t. Your wife is a bad person. She set this up because she didn’t want to be married or married to you so as she told you bluntly: “I thought this would be good dynamite for the relationship.” She meant to blow up your relationship instead of just telling you she was unhappy and wanted out…..which would be the respectful and respectable thing to do.

If this were me, I would tell Little Girl the basic truth – that “Mommy wanted to be with another man, whom you may or may not meet, instead of Daddy. I can’t explain this, Little Girl, and you probably can’t understand it, but it’s like when two kids are best friends and at some point one of the kids decides they just want to be best friends with someone else and stops seeing their original best friend. It was Mommy’s choice and if you have questions, ask her to explain it. It’s not what I wanted.” I always, always advocate honesty and openness with kids, at the level they can understand, even if it makes the other parent “look bad” because it’s the truth and one should ALWAYS tell the truth especially to kids. It is your wife’s fault and her responsibility – your child should not have fantasies about what Mom is like any more than YOU did because that will end up hurting the kid ultimately and your relationship with her. ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH. This is the kind of statement I would make because it is simple and true and it puts the onus right on Mom, where it should be, to give any additional info. And if Mom lies, as she probably will, you stick to this story. Eventually the kid will grow to see it for herself – they do most of the time – because Mom is not a good person and that will come out. My other concern is how promiscuous might this woman be when she ends this relationship with OM or cheats on him, so you have to keep your eye on who your daughter might be encountering with Mom. A variety of “uncles” is a bad thing and I have seen this in my own family. Bottom line….ALWAYS be truthful with your child and talk at a level she can understand. Don’t call Mom bad names etc, that can rebound on your anyway, but the basic storyline should be what happened.

Mehitable
Mehitable
8 months ago
Reply to  Mehitable

TW, ALWAYS tell the truth to your child and be consistent with what you say and your actions. Honesty, consistency and discipline are things kids desperately need and somehow I don’t think Evil Mom (and she is) will be able to provide these things. You need to be the Sane Parent and that starts with HONESTY. Your kids have to know you will tell them at least the basic truth as you understand it, and that they can always be honest with you about how they feel or things they have done. It’s the building block of a human being, which was somehow omitted from Evil Mom.

MightyWarrior
MightyWarrior
8 months ago

Treading Water, my comment is on feeling that you’ve had an encounter with evil. Rationally, I know that the ex’s method of discarding me (without telling me about his 26 year affair with exgfOW during which he married me and she married and had children with her unwitting chump) was evil. Emotionally, it’s much harder to process that thought because, for me, it’s terrifying. I shared a bed with someone who could lie, cheat, use, and rip me off financially for well over two decades! And who then told everyone I was crazy which was why he was leaving me. He did not even have the guts to own what he had done. I had to divorce him, do all the work, and give him a huge lump sum to get rid of him. I was 59 and my dad had died only a few weeks earlier. When he left, he assassinated my character, my personality, my appearance, my intelligence. He drove me to the edge. 4 years later, and after much therapy, I am recovering, but I still have terrible days (like today) when I am full of rage at the unfairness. The ex does not care about what he did. He never will care. ‘Evil’ is an appropriate word for these types. They should come with a huge red flag embedded in their heads, from birth! There is something deeply wrong and disordered about them. It isn’t the having sex so much as the lies. The blatant lies to the chump’s face. It is disgusting, not romantic! You have encountered evil. Pretending otherwise, making allowances, giving the benefit of the doubt, leaves you at risk of not recognising evil when it steps in your path in future. Most people are not evil. Those that are need to be identified as such and dealt with as minimally as practically possible.

Leedy
Leedy
8 months ago
Reply to  MightyWarrior

MightyWarrior, well said! And I’m so sorry your ex was so ruthless and destructive. What a story. Both my marriages ended in infidelity, and I share your experience of how hard it is to absorb the fact that one “shared a bed” with someone who had this ice-cold other-self at his core. Evil indeed.

MightyWarrior
MightyWarrior
7 months ago
Reply to  Leedy

Thank you, Leedy. It was an eye opener!

Chumpolicious
Chumpolicious
8 months ago

Yes I agree with CL. You will take the high road not speaking bad about the egg donor. She will do character assassination on you. Your daughter will want love from mommy so believe it and turn against you. There is no reason for you to lie for her and to cover for her. Always tell the truth. Tell your daughter the truth about who her mom is. Chances are her mom will be a crappy mom to her. It is better for a child to understand her mom sucks and it is not her fault that their relationship is bad. Or she will become like her mom. As an adult she will be better off facing reality about her mom and living her life as a good person. Model good behavior. And you dont have to bash the mom, all you have to do is be honest. Truth.

Layne Myer
Layne Myer
8 months ago

My ex-wife spent all 10 years we were together cheating — there are 6 affairs that I know about, including one with her male boss, another with a male co-worker and another with a lifelong female friend that lasted the entire length of our relationship. I was the one who moved out cause FW demanded that she keep the house even though it would have been better for both of us financially to sell (she did buy me out of my equity) and now I know why.

We have a 6 year old daughter together. I have been moved out for 2.5 years now. My daughter said to me just a few days ago… “Daddy, you cheated on mommy, right?” I said, “No, absolutely not, why would you think that?” She goes, “Well, Mommy said that when people get a divorce and someone has to move out, the person who moved out was cheating, so that must mean you cheated on Mommy.”

So not only did my ex-wife not tell our daughter the truth, she actually took what she did herself and told me daughter that I did it. The crazy never ceases.

Shadow
Shadow
7 months ago
Reply to  Layne Myer

The thundering cheek of her! It’s bad enough when they DARVO us to us, but to DARVO you to your own child is indeed evil!

Mehitable
Mehitable
8 months ago
Reply to  Layne Myer

Evil people do that a lot, and we have to be prepared for it. They project their own behavior onto others. That is a very very common tactic. As for your ex, I don’t even know why she bothered getting married – if you’re going to cheat constantly, why even bother? Just stay single and date. They are like another species.

Daughterofachump
Daughterofachump
7 months ago
Reply to  Mehitable

Mehitable, the only thing I’ve been able to figure out is, they want the respectable, conventional facade of marriage and family. And of course the useful spouse appliance.

KatiePig
KatiePig
8 months ago

What a gaslighting bitch. Yes, she’s evil. Once you have the divorce and custody all ironed out you can tell your daughter, “mommy had a boyfriend and that’s not an ok thing to do when you’re married.”

Fuck her for wanting you to share the blame of her being a frigid wife and letting you live in a sexless marriage while she’s out fucking the whole neighborhood like a bitch in heat.

Mehitable
Mehitable
8 months ago
Reply to  KatiePig

LOLOLOL!!!! I think Treading Water should hire you as his spokesperson.

Leedy
Leedy
8 months ago

I know I’m in the minority on this within CN, but I think it’s too much to tell a very young child–of, say, six years old, my own child’s age when FW and I separated–that their other parent has a “girlfriend” or “boyfriend.” Instead, I REALLY LIKE Mehitable’s suggested wording, above: “Mommy wanted to be with another man, whom you may or may not meet, instead of Daddy. I can’t explain this, Little Girl, and you probably can’t understand it, but it’s like when two kids are best friends and at some point one of the kids decides they just want to be best friends with someone else and stops seeing their original best friend.” That said, I don’t think it’s necessarily the wrong decision, if your child is that young, just to say “[other parent] and I don’t love each other any more. It’s hard to explain, and you’ll understand more as you get older, but this sometimes happens when people are married.”

hush
hush
7 months ago
Reply to  Leedy

Agreed, Leedy. We typically need to cultivate more “Fuckwit who??” energy. Emotional regulation (such a tall order after being chumped!) in front of the kids is key, and the truth is, outside of CN, pretty much nobody really cares about what the cheaters did to us. Kids don’t wanna know! Just be an awesome, sane, stable, show up parent who is emotionally Cool, Bummer, Wow-ed enough to have de-centered the FW. I waited until my son straight up :::asked me::: WTF was his dad’s problem. My kid had to practically pull it out of me. Man, I hate that cheaters fuck us up so much that we gotta edit ourselves, but that’s the reality when you’re a protective parent facing a jackass in family court.

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
8 months ago

Can’t say I regret beating FW to the punch in terms of creating the narrative. This was helped quite a bit by my teen daughter’s uncanny intuition and hacking skills, otherwise I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have immediately shared a lot of the things I did for fear of FW trying to spin some “parental alienation” bs.

I guess my daughter smelled a rat because right after D-Day she started poking around on dad’s devices, found an email exchange between FW and I about the affair, dug further and found emails where the AP plied for expensive meals and trips, etc. My daughter blew a gasket, flamed her dad by text, told her brothers and then left me to clarify the things the kids already knew which was quite a lot. I confess that I might have “clarified” a bit beyond bare minimum but it was because the experience of a close friend put the fear of God in me. My friend went through a separation with a genuinely sociopathic attorney FW a year before I did. Because her daughter was 12 at the time, my friend told her daughter nothing other than the RIC approved spiel. Meanwhile sociopathic attorney FW got way ahead of the narrative, managed to play victim and even paint my friend in a poor light to her own daughter. The effect has been terrifying. Now my friend has to hide from her own daughter while on the phone because the daughter has gone full blown East German informant and tells the FW everything. I find it hard being around this friend when she’s with her own child because my friend has to be deferential to the girl in a way that feels over-the-top and eerie. I also find the girl herself a bit lurky and unsettling– probably because dad has already brainwashed the kid into thinking my friend’s friends are all “bad, sneaky people.” Now it’s too late for my friend to fill her daughter in on the facts because the girl will just run back to psycho dad and it could jeopardize custody.

A therapist later told me that it’s often teenage girls who figure out parental cheating even before chumps do. Maybe it’s budding maternal instincts coupled with the fact that kids don’t love their parents in the same blind way that spouses do so there’s less risk of hopium denial. Not sure. Whatever the case, thank God the tortured decision of what to say and when was taken out of my hands. If FW ever intended to gaslight the kids, that option was taken away right off the bat. All I know is that the kids are doing surprisingly well at this point and seem to have drawn whatever philosophical and ethical wisdom they could from trauma without veering into cynicism.

Shadow
Shadow
7 months ago

Your poor friend, that’s horrible for her!Please God once the daughter grows up your friend might be able to get her to hear and accept the truth and exonerate herself but she shouldn’t have to be in this position in the first place! No one should!
Her X truly is evil! Some of the stories on here make my blood run cold and your friend’s is one of them, God love her!

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
7 months ago
Reply to  Shadow

Her ex also worked for one of the most evil law firms on the the planet. He may just be a paper pushing schnauzer but I figure he has to be pretty sociopathic to serve the arbiters of war and untold ecological destruction. So far I don’t see any of my friend in her daughter. It’s unsettling but I hope your prayer comes true.

Involuntary Georgian
Involuntary Georgian
8 months ago

On a totally separate note, nice to see ChumpLady name-checked in the comments on today’s NYT Ethicist column.

CurlyChump
CurlyChump
8 months ago

I wanted to read it after your shout-out, but was hit with the paywall.

susie lee
susie lee
8 months ago

Dang wish I could read that. I can’t get in unless I allow ads.

But glad it was positive.

Stepbystep
Stepbystep
8 months ago

woo hoo – can you provide link?

Involuntary Georgian
Involuntary Georgian
8 months ago
Reply to  Stepbystep

Here’s the link but it might be behind a paywall: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/20/magazine/ex-husband-cheating-truth-ethics.html

Treading Water
Treading Water
8 months ago

Thanks for the response CL. I’m taking it to heart. This community has been amazing: a legion of cheerleaders cheering each other on through the shit show. Bless you all.

Oncetwicethreetimesachump
Oncetwicethreetimesachump
8 months ago

The fuckwit I had said the same thing, that we were unhappy. Hmmm, I’m pretty sure it was the cheating and the lies and the continued bullshit with that shitheel during “reconciliation” that did it, but ok, hurry up and leave.
I’m waiting for the questions, I know when my parents split when I was about 11 it took me a while to ask anything. All we can do is tell them the truth in an age appropriate way. Being the sane parent is bloody hard, but we can put others first because we’re not shitheads.

Mehitable
Mehitable
8 months ago

I saw this YT vid last night “Don’t Get Fooled: 5 Signs You’re Dealing With An Evil Person”. I think it’s excellent & want to share. I think many FWs, including Treading Waters STBX, are evil. Literally evil. Like CL, I know this is not a popular view in a day when we try to excuse everything because it’s so much easier to tolerate than to oppose and possibly confront lies and abuse….but we have to recognize real evil when we see it in people….and how to handle it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4kYAbO-RUM

Viktoria
Viktoria
8 months ago

Years before my D-day (this was a financial d-day?) when I found out that my now eX was gambling after I had asked him not to gamble, and he agreed, then gambled in the presence of the children (little then) and he told them, “Don’t tell mom.” He told them, “You know how mom is.”

Years before my D-day(another financial d-day) I found out that my eX and a relative of mine were conspiring to make major financial plans and arrangements together, without my knowledge or consent. Relative agreed to keep it a secret from me. He said to relative, “Don’t tell Viktoria.”

After I left him on my sexual infidelity (porn, prostitutes, cam girls, sex massages, co-workers, and more) D-day, my eX told me that my professionally authenticated evidence of his activities, is not real. He told me he never did that. (“Why would I want to do that?”) He told me he’s never had sex with anyone but me. He told me I created it (my evidence) in order to frame him and have an excuse to leave the marriage. He told me that I am probably guilty of infidelity. He told me I have probably been lying to him for years. He told our now adult children, our friends, our relatives (mine and his), his therapist, and me, that I’m mentally ill and need help.

Adelante
Adelante
7 months ago
Reply to  Viktoria

Gaslighting can be so destabilizing. Their lack of conscience, their deliberate manipulations, are, to take a page from today’s letter, truly evil.

Foghorn
Foghorn
8 months ago

Anyone else get pissed off when a cheater thinks the perfect solution is “open marriage”? I read it all the time these days on pro adultery sites, convince the chumps to just become non monogamous like it’s no big deal. Sure FWs, may as well go all out and change everything else I indentify as if being born a certain way is so confusing to you and “not such a big deal” to change eye roll

2XChump
2XChump
7 months ago
Reply to  Foghorn

Shoot!! They don’t want open relationships! They get off on the secrets and lies, and living the double life!! If they were true, mature adults interested in consensual, open relationships, they wouldn’t be cheaters!! And my cheaters–FW’S (I’ve had 2) were so freaking jealous–

Nut Cluster Free Zone
Nut Cluster Free Zone
7 months ago

Sing like a bird as to why you and your spouse are divorcing, in age appropriate terms of course. No editorializing or name calling of the fuckwit parent.

When my father left, his parting shot to my older brother was “Your mother has a lot of problems with men.” The unstated message to his son ? “I think so little of you that I’m leaving you with this SICK woman.” As VH has quoted from Frank Pittman’s book, the cheater is the problem in the marriage. Not the chump.

I learned years later that my father whinged to anybody that would listen that my mother, the big meanie, alienated me from my father. Wrong. Guess what happens when one parent dumps their children, lives a couple of miles from said children and doesn’t phone them every day or even once a week to see how the kids are doing after their family has been blown apart ? And sees them only a couple of times a year ? Maybe one of them tells the abandoning parent “You’re not invited to my high school graduation or uni commencement either.”

My brother witnessed my father abusing our mother and he piled on with his own disrespectful behavior towards her as well as me. I’m waiting to hear that he’s going to discard his wife of many years who is sick with an autoimmune disease;they just sold their house so my brother can live closer to their daughter who started college this fall. I found my niece’s social media account and she’s been self-medicating with pot and shrooms for the last few years. I tried to warn my sister-in-law years ago but she didn’t listen and she has her own history of trauma, including growing up under Pinochet. (Thanks Hell of a Chump for the movie recommendations).

Years,

Hell of a Chump
Hell of a Chump
7 months ago

NCFZ– Chilling line from Yevtushenko’s poem, “Lying to the young is wrong”:

Forgive no error
you recognize,
it will repeat itself,
a hundredfold
and afterward
our pupils
will not forgive in us
what we forgave.

That last line is burned into my brain. It’s so true. When I was studying sociology I started noticing myself getting depressed and started tracing the effect to course work. When I talked about some of the theories I was studying with my mother, she threw her hands up and started laughing, then gave me some books. One was by Gloria Steinem (can’t remember the title) in which Steinem writes about how women and minorities who start college immediately after high school have a high risk of depression, apparently because so much of what they’re studying is written from a perspective– namely doddering white male– that negates them. Consequently women and minorities who go to school after a bit of life experience are less prone to depression because they can weigh the bs against their own realities and reject the bits that negate their existences.

At the time I started to realize that a lot of depression might be a matter of falling into the jagged pit between the bs we’re brainwashed into believing and the truth. I suspect that realization has made me far more immune to depression and nothing I’ve seen since has really changed my view on it (except now I think the general chemical shitstorm we live in probably contributes to some percentage of clinical depression as well). I even suspect that depression following trauma is largely caused by bullshit, either the crap spewed by abusers or the victim-blaming crap spewed by bystanders. To my mind, there’s little more dangerous or worse for mental health than teething kids on lies. That and family abuse but the lies are part of it.

Speaking of Chile, something else Gloria Steinem wrote was about how entire countries and cultures can have collective low self esteem due to being colonized or otherwise raped and pillaged for centuries, an effect which is apparently reflected in crime rates and how people treat each other. It seems Chile is finally starting to see a bit of justice regarding the dictatorship but Pinochet was in power for so long it may take generations for the country to recover. One thing you always hear from people who lived under dictatorships is the very common sight of men beating their wives on suburban streets. A friend from Chile described this and a friend whose mother escaped with him from Franco’s Spain described exactly the same thing. It sort of explains why some are so attracted to authoritarian rule. It’s like Six Flags or Disneyland for abusers.

SortOfOverIt
SortOfOverIt
7 months ago

This thread has me very nervous because I feel like I didn’t handle this correctly. I did allow the narrative of “we aren’t getting along” to be the road we took with our child. And well, it is not a lie, we weren’t getting along because I didn’t like that he had a GF for years while we were married. They didn’t work out, so AP is not in the picture currently. Divorce is a long way away, but we live separately. My child is a tween that is generally really curious and they haven’t asked any questions which I found a little surprising. But he isn’t just a cheater, he is generally unpleasant to be around and has anger issues. I think the kid doesn’t ask for details because they see his behavior and it makes sense to them that I would leave. I suppose after things are finalized, I can tell them more. And the base info they have is not a lie, so hopefully it will be ok.

SeasonedChump
SeasonedChump
7 months ago
Reply to  SortOfOverIt

You handled it correctly for you all. It’s a process!! Sounds like you are handling it exactly as you’re supposed to. And your child will figure out the truth when they’re supposed to.

CurlyChump
CurlyChump
7 months ago
Reply to  SortOfOverIt

SortOfOverIt, there’s nothing wrong with your approach. Your tween will ask for more details if and when they are ready to hear them. They’re processing a lot right now.

Quetzal
Quetzal
7 months ago

“I feel like I’ve had an encounter with evil”

That’s because you have.
Nothing like a cheater to turn you into a Christian. That’s what it did to me, at least.
After much skein-untangling, the ultimate reasons as to “why” came from theology.
Hey, once you see…