Dear Chump Lady,
My ex is getting married on April 21. That in itself is not a huge surprise. There is a part of me that thinks “haha suffer!” But I guess there is a part of me that thinks something different. Maybe I am jealous, not that I want him back, but I am really conscious of the fact that I don’t think I’ll ever trust anyone ever again. He used to tell me my trust issues were a big part of our problem, but of course the trust issues he caused will be with me forever.
What really gets me though is how my children have been discarded. They have never met OW. When she and the ex met, she was 22 — only 6 years older than my oldest. He told my then 16 year old that her age wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for my daughter!!!! He has told my 15 year old (when he was talking to her) that she could come and visit them but she would have to accept that OW was a big part of his life and she would just have to get used to that. Well, consequently OW hasn’t had to get used to my kids being a part of their dad’s life, has she? They have a 10 month old son who my kids have never seen, let alone met, and their father has pretty much disassociated himself from their lives but on his Facebook and Twitter he promotes himself as a “parent.”
His parents don’t seem to care about my kids! OW’s parents are excited about the wedding and none of them seem to be hearing alarm bells that he is either too embarrassed or too ashamed to introduce their daughter to his kids.
So, is this normal? Common? Is there shame involved? Is it just cause he sucks? I hear of other stories of kids going to the wedding, of seeing their father and having a relationship with his new family and yet this guy, the guy who always seemed like a good dad if nothing else, has given them nothing.
I guess if truth be told, that if he did have a good relationship with the kids I woudn’t cope with that either, but I feel bad for my kids and I don’t really know what to tell them.
Personally, I’m not a fan of dragging kids to cheater/affair partner weddings (otherwise known as the Farce Registered at Macys). I realize it happens, but hey, if the invitation got lost in the mail, I wouldn’t grieve. Of course, it’s a no win. If the cheater invites the kids, they’re just props in the public relations campaign that We’re All Happier Thanks to My Cheating. And the kids have to put on the starchy Sunday clothes and endure the awkwardness.
If the kids aren’t invited to the soulmate schmoopapalooza, then you wonder if your kids feel snubbed. Why wasn’t I invited to this significant event in my parent’s life? (Does it ever occur to cheaters to elope? Quietly unite at a justice of the peace? Why are cheaters such wedding industry freakazoids? Kibbles and the seductive powers of Pinterest I suppose.)
But you’re dealing with more than a snubbed party invite. Your kids are dealing with total abandonment. They’ve been excommunicated, rubbed out of the story line by their father and grandparents no less! Those poor things! It’s one thing for adults to wrap their minds around the staggering shallowness of cheaters and how they just swap out people for shiny new ones — it’s quite another thing for children to understand that and not take it personally. After all, we take it very personally. How could they not see this as Dad got a new baby and doesn’t want us any more? He got a new wife too and doesn’t need you anymore. And his parents are apparently equally without feeling.
Teenagers aren’t the most delightful company. They’re snarky, their shirts are untucked, their faces look like gravel pits. And they’re contrary, very much their own people. But babies not so much. Babies are cute, full of potential, they haven’t let you down yet. Babies are needy, it’s true. But they reflect well on your glory, and if you have a sucker to attend to all of their needs, well, babies are preferable to teenagers. Babies grow up into awesome kibble producers eventually — small children who will just adore you unquestioningly. And that’s great until they reach the age of questioning you — puberty.
So, that’s my guess as to how your ex and his parents are viewing your kids — they’re old news. Kind of played out. Interest might uptick if they accomplish something noteworthy — that reflects well on the narcissist. But otherwise, not so interesting. And rather risky to be around — teenagers love to call out hypocrisy and they’re moody monsters at times. If you’re a narcissist, you can’t have that loose cannon factor. You need reliable props. Babies are better.
Now that’s what I think is going on. That’s not what I think the narrative is, however. My guess there is that your ex has told his parents and his new wife and in-laws that you’re a monster who is alienating the children from him. He would love to be a Great Father to his children, but (sniff!) you’ve thwarted that ambition in your evil way.
The OW/wife isn’t going to question that narrative because she’s highly insecure and Mr. Cheaterpants keeps her off balance. You’re a threat, to her, to her new family. Narcissists don’t give much kibble, so she can’t spare any of the precious kibble he gives her. What are children if not stealers of kibbles? Her baby needs kibbles! There’s none to spare! So, best that you all just stay away. Besides, at some level it’s got to weird her out that she’s not much older than your children. She can imagine being wonderful buddies with them, a terrific influence! and yet she’d really rather not try out that theory.
Kids aren’t stupid. Your children know they’ve been rejected and it’s terrible to have to witness that. But one upside of his no contact is he’s not goading them into the pick me dance. The longer he stays away, the longer the reality settles in that he’s not there and he doesn’t give a shit. It’s a bitter pill, but sadly, a lot of kids have swallowed it. I’ve seen my own son swallow it. And you know what? They bounce back anyway. They will feel the love of you the One Sane Parent and it will be okay. Your ex is missing out, his loss. But hey, even if he was there, he was never the sort of person to appreciate them in the first place. He’s just not that deep.
What do you tell the kids, Nat1? I think you just mirror whatever they’re feeling — if they’re sad, say you can understand how they would feel that way. Give them the space to figure out their relationship with their dad and connect those painful dots. And fill their lives up with other distractions and activities, that’s easy to do, kids are always busy.
I think the other thing you do is buoy them, lift them up and celebrate their accomplishments, and compliment them when they show good judgement and character. Let them know you SEE them, you care for them, they have worth in your eyes. Do for them exactly what you’ve done for yourself in this situation — surround them with people who love them and value their company. Finally, live by example — I will not internalize one idiot’s judgement of my worthiness.