Dear Chump Lady, Got close to meh, and then… boom.

by Chump Lady on August 29, 2014


I’m a soon to be divorced dad with primary custody of my two adorable kids, 8 year old boy and 4 year old girl. It’s been about 10 months since D-Day, although I was naïve enough not to notice the affair with a married co-worked that was probably going on under my nose for at least a year. My wife started to seriously abuse alcohol last summer, to the point where she was falling down and injuring herself. We entered marriage counseling under two conditions – no contact with the OM and a serious attempt to cut down on drinking. In the ensuing months, while we were in therapy, she promised at the beginning of each session that she would stick to the plan.

She didn’t and it got worse. She was drinking by 4:00 PM and passing out by 9:00 on nights where she was home. Or she was out at all hours with OM while I babysat our own children. When she wasn’t out with him, she was locked in the bathroom talking to him on the phone (including Christmas Day) or texting him openly while I sat next to her on the couch. She eventually took to drinking for breakfast on weekends to the point where she was legitimately unfit to be alone with the kids.

In March, she was removed by the police from our home, while drunk, after persistent neglect (bordering on abuse) of our kids and a complete disregard for me, her husband and “best friend” of 12 years. It’s been a long slog of court appearances and custody hearings since then, and she has had her ass handed to her every time by probate or (if we made that far) the judge. I’ve been working very hard to let go and get to meh and thought I was making progress.

However, when going out with family friends, drips and drabs of information keep finding their way (innocently) into our conversations. Last night, a stream of particularly disturbing – check that, infuriating – new details fell into my lap and I find myself back at the beginning, hating her, her boyfriend, and what they’ve done to my family with the power of 100 suns. Except for once a week, court supervised visits, I’ve been pretty good about going NC. But after a night without sleep, I feel an overwhelming desire to lash out, confront, and wreak as much havoc as I can. She is without question a pathological liar, and I could pull a few cards to make things very uncomfortable at work and with her family.

I’m sure a lot of chumps out there have been in the same position. How do you step back from the edge when I’m continually reminded of what a terrible person she has become and what I complete and utter rube I was to let all of this happen?


Opposite Spouse

Dear Opposite Spouse,

Yeah, you’re still in the throes of trusting that she sucks. How much more can she suck? Well, apparently more and more! as you have found out from friends and family.

But before I get into the particulars of how you can get your meh back – huge kudos to you for gaining custody of your kids, going through the meat grinder of court, getting supervised visits, and managing no contact. What you’ve accomplished is MIGHTY. So please take a moment to bask in the admiration and bro hugs from Chump Nation. You get the Sane Parent award. You are modeling incredible strength and resiliency to your children, and you are protecting them from abuse and neglect. You’re a hero.

As for your ex — if all of her crazy is due to addiction, you’re also doing right by her as well. (Not that you expressed any guilty feelings about that, but you’re a chump, so I’m just checking.) As they say, “never get between an addict and their bottom.” By imposing consequences — calling the cops, leaving the marriage, receiving custody of the kids — you’re allowing hitting bottom to happen, IF it’s going to happen. (Of course, for some epic fuck-ups it never happens.) But it wasn’t going to happen if you stayed in that mess, trying to manage chaos. So, more kudos.

Now, about that meh. Part of no contact means you need to cut friends and family members off at the knees the minute they mention her or what she’s up to. You don’t need to know. It’s only going to upset you and ruin your precious meh.

As you have custody and the time she gets with the kids is “court supervised” — you’ve done everything in your power to protect your children from her fuckupedness. Excellent. So you don’t need to know particulars to spare them from harm, you’ve done that.

So, the only horrors left to learn are either a) what fresh hell she’s up to now, or b) shit she did behind your back before that you didn’t know about.

On “a” — you don’t need to know. If you truly trust that she sucks, you can only expect more tales of chaos, drama, and self destruction. That is who she IS. That’s the path she has chosen. And if she gets off that path, toward sobriety and responsible living, I’m sure she will inform the court and you’ll hear about it.

On “b” — there’s a point at which you don’t need any more information. You’re past that point, my friend. You can do the calculations and arrive at “she sucks” right now. You don’t need more evidence. If someone were to tell you something new along the lines of she once saved Haitian orphans from earthquakes, okay, you might have to recalculate. But you’re not learning those things, you’re probably learning she slept with more people, or fucked you over in some other fresh, imaginative way. You don’t need this, because it just underscores what you already know — SHE SUCKS. Trust that. Stick with NC.

Explain points “a” and “b” to your friends and family. You’ve got enough on your plate trying to maintain your precious equilibrium and raise two kids, you don’t need to know about the ex’s life. Put it out there and then enforce that boundary.

Next, on the revenge and telling people at work how horrible she is? Bad idea. First off, if she’s as drunk and crazy as you say, they know it. Her having a job helps you, gives her incomes, keeps her occupied. Don’t mess with that. Second, revenge is poking a tiger and you don’t need the blow back. And third, it messes with your precious meh. Protect your hard won tranquility.

As for feeling like a rube? Oh, join the club, Opposite. We’ve ALL been there. You’re in the company of chumps here. Here’s something you can work on — exploring who you were in that relationship. Were you codependent? Did you ever enable? Did you make your needs small? Did you accept continual disrespect and violations of your boundaries? Did you grow up doing that? Go explore this stuff in therapy, or online, or with a host of self-help books. But do take a hard, unvarnished look at yourself and say  NEVER AGAIN will I stay in a relationship that chumps me. Fix the picker, as we say here. You do get to control you and your vetting process for the people you allow in your life. You don’t control the ex’s crazy, but you do get to control your own shields and forcefields.

And remember too, Opposite, when you’re feeling like a rube — you are an AWESOME person. I’ll say it again — you’re a HERO. You saved your kids. You saved yourself. Think of how hard you worked to stay in that marriage and hold it all together. You’re Atlas. You take all that strength and love with you forward. And now, instead of wasting it on this dreadful woman, you have it to give to the people who are deserving of you — your kids, the loved ones who’ve had your back, and some day (when that picker is recalibrated) to a good person who can love you right.

Better days ahead, OS. You’ve been through the worst of it already. Don’t look back at the crazy you left behind. Just keep moving forward in mightiness. (((Hugs)))


Dear Chump Lady, I’m meeting his bitch-ass lawyer

by Chump Lady on August 28, 2014

Dear Chump Lady,

I’m going tomorrow to meet with my ex, his bitch-ass lawyer (seriously, she’s evil), my lawyer (who might be too nice), and the guardian at litem. He’s trying to take primary custody because I moved an hour away. And also trying to stop paying spousal support. (Agreement said I needed to live within an hour while receiving support… my new place is literally 1 hour 1 minute because I needed to actually get to a decent neighborhood where my kids would be safe and have a good school). My ex seems to have slightly won her (the GAL) over, which is upsetting to me. I guess a guy that goes to a school performance twice a year, hugs his kids, and pays his support is like gold. And I’m the mean one trying to take the kids away from him. I’m trying to not be defensive about my choices… but it’s hard because I feel like none of them understand or agree. I was just supposed to stay in that small town and get whatever job I could manage to land while my ex continues to make the big bucks and I shuttle kids back and forth for him. Instead I went back to school, investing a significant amount of money, and dared to try to build a career for myself. They’ve been bullying me since the move and yet somehow are righteous about it… that I deserve the hell they are putting me through.

Anyway, I know you’ve been through all this horrible legal stuff before. How do I get through it? How do I act during these conversations/in court? Any tips at all?? I’m feeling alternately defensive and angry, and that’s probably not the best way to go in. But at least I’m past my woe-is-me stage…


Dear AnotherErica,

First ((((HUGE HUGS)))). This shit sucks donkey balls.

Next, let’s get right down to strategy. Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT act defensive and angry in court or around his bitch-ass lawyer. I know this goes against every natural impulse (which would be to gouge your ex’s eyes out with a red-hot poker for trying to take your children from you) — but you need to project an air of calm competency.

Because these assholes are trying to throw you off balance and get you to appear to be a crazy bitch. See? We can’t reason with a crazy bitch! She’s making this all personal, when really it should be All About the Children.


Yes, the colossal fucking NERVE of some cheater asshole part-time idiot parent trying to play Parent of the Year is enough to make anyone insane. But tune him out, because YOU have the evidence. YOU have the better argument. You just have to present it in language the court understands.

Caveat — I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. This is what worked for me. 

Everything you did, you did for your children. The neighborhood, the degree to advance yourself, the 24/7 day-to-day parenting you do to care for them. You do it all for them.

Now, as a mother, you think this shit is assumed. But you need to make your case. YOU are the one taking care of them, were a stay at home mother until his infidelities, and have ALWAYS been the primary caregiver. You DOCUMENT this. All the hours spent. All the decisions made. And when you explain yourself, you do it with that air of calm competence.

Yes, even though you feel like your world is falling apart.

The next thing you do is you say (even though your tongue will feel like lead) is that you recognize and support your children’s right to have a relationship with their father, and you will accommodate that any way you can — short of moving back to that town. (For the It’s Best for the Children arguments you’ve already made.) And expect that is where the court might split the baby (Solomon, Biblical reference there) — you get to keep primary custody but you’ll have to do the schlepping to him.

Next, when making your arguments, about What Is Best for the Children (never get off message) — do bring up his infidelities. If they say, well you created this mess for divorcing him and moving away, point out that you didn’t move THAT far away. And also put the responsibility for the divorce on Mr. Cheaterpants. “My then-husband refused to quit cheating on me, and I could not let my children grow up in that environment.”

CHILDREN. Not how disrespectful and gutting this was to you — or they’re going to go with Bitch Has a Personal Vendetta Against Me — but the KIDS. You’re a wholesome person with good morals and he was a dreadful influence and was creating dysfunction in your home. You sensibly removed yourself from the situation.

THAT is your TRUE narrative so OWN IT.

He will try and spin this that you moved away to spite him. Do NOT give credence to that crap. Do not act in any way vindictive. Just STAY ON MESSAGE.

The truth of the matter is he’s a person who clearly doesn’t give a shit about his kids, because if he did he wouldn’t be a guy with affairs and he wouldn’t balk at paying spousal support for destroying your family. (Sorry is as sorry does.) No, HE is the spiteful asshole.

When you’re classy and calm and the bullying doesn’t work — it underscores his crazy.

Look, Erica, I know this is so very hard to do. Really. My prayers go out to you today. As a loving parent, nothing strikes more terror into your heart than someone trying to take your babies from you. And a good lawyer can’t tell you which way a judge will rule. Anything can happen with judges (not what you want to hear, I’m sorry). BUT my experience was that judges are not inclined to take children away from their primary caregiver (do emphasize your years as SAHM!). You just need to not let this asshole get to you.

The last time I went to court, my son’s father (who is mental — truly, found as such by the courts) brought my cheating ex to testify for him. Oh yeah, that was delightful. Bitch-ass lawyer? The lawyer he chose (usually he represents himself, but he got this guy last minute) had TOURETTES. Seriously, he twitched and stuttered through the entire trial. Said I was “peripatetic” and had MINIONS.

The cheating ex had to take the stand and grin like a fool while he discussed his infidelities. The judge dismissed his testimony when he didn’t disavow that he’d threatened me.

Okay, we can laugh about this now (maybe… I’m still pissed off), but at the time it was awful. How can these people who have been such total shits to me and my kid try to fuck with me in court?!

Anyway, my point is — disordered people must save face. They want to punish. They get secondary gain even if they lose. They want a forum to say terrible shit to you because they cannot face themselves. If I make Erica out to be a Terrible Mother then I’m not the cheating asshole who fucked up his family.

You can’t understand it because you’re not crazy.

All you can do is bring your A game and fight. Endure it. When you go into that room imagine you’re charging head first into a buffalo herd. Bring your MIGHTY.

And please report back. We’re all here for you today. Chump Nation (((HUGS)))




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