I too am a Chump Lady.
Last November the man I loved with my heart – the one I was IVF pregnant 7 times with and managed to hold on to one pregnancy (thankful for the amazing daughter we have), the one I had called 911 to save when he had a heart attack a year earlier, then put back together piece by piece after an emergency quadruple bypass, the one I was planning the rest of my life with – packed a bag and left.
He told me he was leaving just before he left. Like an hour before. We were driving to pick up my van from the shop and he said “when we get home I’m packing a bag and leaving.”
He works in an industry where there are frequent out of town trips so I said “Oh, you are working for the next few days? When are you back?”….
Nope. Not working. Leaving.
Of course I burst into tears and started the pick-me what-can-I-do I’m-so-sorry blah blah panic. Nothing changed.
We got the van. Drove home. He told our 11 year old daughter “I really love you and mummy and 80-percent of my life with you guys is great. But 20-percent of it isn’t and I need to go find joy and happiness.”
To which she burst into tears, flew into my arms and said “are you getting a divorce?”
Of course I said no… daddy just needs to figure some stuff out… and he said “no, I just need to see if I can find joy” (let’s bookmark that for the therapist – clearly telling your child she doesn’t bring you enough joy so you have to leave.)
So he left.
I was all the things. Blindsided, shocked, dumbfounded, sad, angry. I begged, pleaded, dressed up and tried to seduce, cajoled, cared. Suggested maybe it was a reaction to heart surgery. A life-changing event. That we would work through it.
All to a wall.
My friends were supportive and kind and a couple of them suggested maybe there was someone else. They may as well have slapped me across the face. Someone Else? No way. No chance. I would know. I was angry with these people I thought were friends. What a thing to say!
He dipped in and out of the house for a few weeks. Worked out. Left his dirty laundry (!!!). During this time I found irrefutable evidence he was having an affair.
An Affair!!!!! WTF? I’m smarter than that. ugh.
So I reached out to the friends and told them they were right. Apologized for being the big cliche. Horrified I was so obtuse I didn’t even notice my husband WAS SLEEPING WITH SOMEONE ELSE. omg. And found out it had started four years before. With a woman I knew. In fact, I helped get her a job 11 years ago. I had seen her only months earlier… she had hugged me. HUGGED ME!!!
Then the ducks started to line up.
Remember that weekend I took the child away for two nights? And when we came home the house was clean and the sheets on the bed were changed? I thought “Aw, he’s such a good guy. cleaning up and doing laundry!”
Remember when some things in the kitchen were in the wrong cupboard or drawer? I thought “Aw, he’s trying to put stuff away and doesn’t remember (after living here for 12 years) where things go!!”
Remember when he was at his dad’s for the weekend for a visit and we tried to face time and he answered and looked like he was in a closet and when we asked to chat with Grandad as well we were told “he’s busy and can’t come to the phone”? I made a note to remember to call Grandad (his father) next week so the grandchild could chat with him.
Remember only a few months ago at that even when that woman showed up “out of the blue, happened to be in town” and was a bit flirty with him? And you mentioned it to him kind of giggling that she was a bit over the top. And he blew up at you “What are you accusing me of?” Erm… nothing? but now I should have been suspicious. But I wasn’t. Because I loved him. And even though he was a hard man to please, he was my hard man to please and the father to my daughter and that was that.
So fast forward nine months. God, NINE MONTHS. An entire pregnancy. We have no separation agreement. I still have to ask him for money every month. We both have lawyers but he seems to have forgotten where all his money is. Not mine. He knows exactly where my money is and how much of it he wants.
There is no fault divorce here. But because I’ve not worked for the past 4 years (our daughter was having anxiety so I stayed home from work) — he owes me and also child support.
Now he’s claiming financial disability.
He left town for six weeks after Xmas and we didn’t hear from him. He came back and moved in with her. He randomly showed up for our daughter until one of his buddies told him it would cost him less if he showed up more. So now he shows up more.
Initially — before I knew about the affair — I hosted “family” dinner with him at our home every week so he could spend time with the child and her anxiety was alleviated because he wasn’t taking her somewhere. She was scared he would take her away and she wouldn’t see me again. That stopped after I found out.
He’s made dumb decisions about telling the child about the girlfriend — and I have been Switzerland for the most part — but even me telling her I’m not 100 percent sure how long they’ve been together left her giving me side eye and saying “Well, he didn’t waste anytime moving in – so much for wanting his freedom.”
So… after all that… my question is why when he texts with vitriol do I jump and respond right away? Why do I feel guilty like if only I HAD tried harder or loved him more or or …??? he wouldn’t have left. I know the answers in my head but my heart is struggling.
He told a mutual friend he’s living his best life. A woman who worships him and no one to tell him what to do. He’s getting his money out of the house and he’s free. No word about our child.
What do I tell our daughter when she asks “How do you know someone really loves you and won’t leave you? I heard you and daddy say I love you thousands of times, and then he left.” Ugh.
Narcissists should come with a big red N on them to warn people. Although I think the woman he’s with now is an equal Narcissist so maybe they will fill each others ego buckets.
One of my brightest moments came when a friend gave me your book. It was like I had written it… at least I had lived it. All the quotes “I love you but I’m not in love with you” … all the actions…. it was crazy. And then I realized I’m not alone on this journey no one wants to take. Thank you for that.
I too am a Chump.
Dear I Too,
Let’s start with your lawyer. Get a new one. I’m not a lawyer, this is not legal advice (my actual lawyer husband makes me give this caveat) but speaking as someone who has used lawyers, I am not impressed with yours. There is absolutely NO WAY you should be going hat in hand to a fuckwit for money. Are you in the U.S.? Go to court and get temporary support orders while the divorce is in progress. That should’ve been done yesterday. You need to be absolutely no contact with this creep. Not inviting him to “family” dinners and not asking him for an allowance.
Voluntary impoverishment is some bullshit. Again, this isn’t legal advice, but back when I was a staff writer for the DC Bar I interviewed a fancy Washington litigator about unpaid child support and she said she found the financial discovery process got settlement talks moving. She would always include the paramours in requests for discovery about THEIR finances. See if anything was being funneled. Any theft of marital resources “gifts” to account for. She said such requests resolved her cases over 90 percent of the time.
This is where I want your lawyer’s brain to go: How do I put the screws on this guy? How do I demonstrate to a judge he is an abandoning FW?
Of course you’ll need to resurrect your career and be financially independent of him. But fight for the best damn settlement you can get, and put the heavy boot of the law on his neck for child support.
I won’t launch into my child support sermon (you can read it here), but do NOT make it easy on this freak to walk away from his obligations. He is a fuckwit. He will. But you need to throw all the obstacles at him you can. Think of it as a retainer for your daughter’s therapy fund.
Okay, now to your question.
So… after all that… my question is why when he texts with vitriol do I jump and respond right away?
Because you learned to. UNLEARN it.
Forge some new neural pathways and only communicate via third-party parenting software. This way all of his vitriol is documented (how handy! you’re going to court). And time-stamped.
Unless it is an emergency — like “Daughter is trapped in a snowbank! Call the EMTs and Saint Bernards!” — you don’t have to give him an immediate response.
If he’s texting just to harass or insult you, you don’t have to give him a response at all. Although I give you permission to scream into the void. You can find places on the web to do this virtually. Flush all your feelings away. Just don’t send them to him.
What do you mean I don’t have to respond to him?
You don’t! You’re free! His angry feelings are not your responsibility. Schmoopie gets all that fun. She can soothe his fevered brow.
As you go through this divorce process, he’s going to have a lot of hard feelings. In his mind, you are a used wife and mother appliance, and why don’t you go to the curb and wait for large trash pick-up? He has to pay for that? And worse, there’s on-going child support?
Sure, he wanted this divorce. But he imagined you’d just keep cooking him dinners after his abandonment and living on whatever loose change he had in his pocket. Then you went and lawyered up!
None of which are your responsibility!
Your lawyer can field all of his requests. (Yes that is expensive. And yes that is worth it.) For everything else there is parenting software. Also, go read about BIFF responses — brief, informative, friendly, and firm.
FWs hate BIFF. They’d prefer the kibbles of your upset. Instead respond to him like Verizon customer service. He is an irate customer. Here’s a nice automated message. Oops! We got disconnected. Here’s a survey! Tell us how we did!
Why do I feel guilty like if only I HAD tried harder or loved him more or or …??? he wouldn’t have left.
Bargaining stage of grief. You’re trying to feel a sense of control about his abandoment and chaos. So if the fault is yours, you could fix it and save it. Which feels less terrifying than powerlessness.
Also, he’s blaming you and out there trumpeting how great his new life is. So it’s natural to wonder about your inadequacies, real or imagined.
Flip the script. You’re too good for a callous fuckwit. How DARE he think he can welch out on support for his child! He isn’t worthy of your spit, let alone your love.
Seriously, get mad. He’s an asshole of the highest order. When he sends you some high and mighty text? Use YOUR power. Make him wait. Ignore him. Respond via a third party (lawyer or software). Get a special fuckwit ringtone just for him.
In short, stop caring what he thinks. He’s a man who abandons his child. No one cares what he thinks. They scrape shit like that off their shoe.
Good luck with the divorce, I Too. And consider shopping for a lawyer with sharper fangs.