How to Leave a Cheater

How to Leave a CheaterLeaving a cheater is an intimidating process. It’s not like you want to blurt out to everyone in your life, “Hey, Bob won’t quit cheating on me. Do you know a good divorce attorney?” And anyone close to you who knows, like your father, probably will not give the best advice. Mine would have preferred to steer me away from the legal system entirely and straight toward the shotgun he keeps in the front hall closet.

So how do you do it? Here is your step-by-step guide.

1. Do NOT tip your hand. This is the first rule. It’s so tempting to flounce off to a lawyer and announce it to your cheater, expecting, boy they see that I really mean it this time! And half expecting them to do some Hail Mary maneuver to win you back. Bad move. When you tell your cheater that you’re seeing a lawyer, all this does is kick them into high gear to hide the evidence, fuck you over financially, and get to the biggest pit bull attorney in town first before you do. They’re probably doing that at the VERY SAME TIME they are trying to throw you off the trail with “remorse” and “needing time” and booking trips to the marriage counselor. Hide the payment to the attorney as well, by whatever means necessary.

2. Do not think “Oh they would never…” Oh, they would never ask for full custody. Oh, they would never hide money. Oh, they would never throw me out of the house. Yes they would. Anyone who would fuck around on you and expose you to STDs and gamble with the well-being of their children is certainly capable of all sorts of things. Your cheating spouse is not your friend. These are acts of aggression and you need to protect yourself accordingly. The best approach is to treat this like you are severing a business relationship. Detach. But do not ever for one second think that this person will treat you fairly because you shared a life together.

3. Gather your evidence. Whether you live in a fault state or not, evidence is important and your lawyer will know what to do with it. Back up copies of everything, put on a flash drive, email stuff to yourself at another account — store it away safely.

4. Find a good family law attorney. Make sure they specialize in family law. is one resource. is another good place to look, these are the top professionals in their field recommended by other attorneys. Hiring a lawyer is expensive, but you can do a lot of the work yourself, such as copying and research. Do ask them how you can help make this affordable. A good experienced lawyer will usually get you a much better settlement and will push the process along faster. Remember, your lawyer is not your therapist. Save your emotions for people who don’t bill in six minute increments.

5. Move the money. Move half of all cash and liquid assets into your own account that only you can access. Cut off all credit cards you have in common. Check your credit report to look for weird charges. Any money spent on an affair is marital money you can ask for back in a divorce. Also, run a credit report on your spouse at — you will have to answer some identifying questions (like the amount of your last car payment), but this can unearth a wealth of information, like credit cards you don’t know about or post office boxes. Usually cheaters have slush funds to hide the evidence of their cheating. If you don’t want to be an amateur sleuth, hire a forensic accountant.

6. Go No Contact. How you announce you’re divorcing is a very personal decision. You might just want your cheater served at work. Or do it in the therapist’s office. Or if your cheater is volatile, be VERY careful and just get out safely. Don’t be afraid to seek the services of a domestic abuse hotline. Whether you remain separated but living together (pure hell, don’t do this unless you absolutely must), or one of you moves out, don’t talk with your cheater unless it is about kids or finances. Preferably do ALL this communication by email so it is documented. It’s easier to be less emotional this way as well. No contact means no new hurts. Don’t get sucked back into their drama. Don’t tell them how you hurt (they don’t care, and if they act like they care, it’s to further manipulate you). Now is the time for crickets.

7. Stay strong. You’re going to get wobbly. It’s entirely human. You will doubt that you’re doing the right thing sometimes. You’ll fear for your children. Stay the course. If your cheater is sorry, they will do the hard work and be sorry regardless of what you do. If a cheater tries to derail the divorce, it’s because they don’t want the consequences for themselves. That isn’t remorse. It’s self interest. When you feel weak, it’s good to look at that evidence again and let the anger fuel you forward. Focus on yourself. What kind of person do you want to share your life with? What are your values? Divorce from a cheater is terribly painful, but it’s also birthing pains to a new beginning. The pain is finite. Push past it. There’s a good life here waiting for you.


  1. Jennifer says

    It just became 2013 and I found this website. Love it! I was not married to my cheater but we were together for 10 years. He did the I hope we can be friends. I said I was your friend. Even with low self esteem I was at least clear enough to know that I was not going to eat that sh-t sandwich. I did not call him or try to see him or ask him to come back. The damage was done. I bump into him from time to time and he trys doing his snake oil act but it does not matter how much perfume and lipstick you put on a pig, it’s still a pig. And I already know I can’t trust him so what would be the point. I sure would have loved to find this site at that time. I am just now looking at dating again, it’s been about 3 years, however I am in much better shape and a lot wiser. He is a control freak so he thought I was going to pursue him. He would call me and ask why he had not heard from me. I just let the machine pick it up. I thought, well the OW got her karma, cause this jackass can’t be alone for 5 minutes. Strange thing, he’s ex wife cheated on him and he bitched about it forever. Then he turned around and did the same thing.

    • Elizabeth says

      Jennifer…going through almost the EXACT same scenario only my cheater was using escorts, massage paroles etc along with standard infidelity bull. The getting my ducks In a row so I can get gone is killing me. My horses are being moved next week and I will be a lot more free to speak my ind and put an end to this. I did we’ll not answering for 2 days after the last major lie, then caved. It is hard to stay angry and resolute when anxiety creeps in and screws you all up. I feel super alone and confused, sociopath narcissists really do a number on you after so many years….nice to find a place where people are going through the same thing….

      • jennifer says

        Elizabeth… The thing I did that was helpful to me was noticing how I felt after any contact with him and I always noticed I felt worse. When someone is a liar, you have to decide if you can live with that because, it is NOT going to change and if you put up
        with it, you are just giving them permission to behave that way with you. I cannot be with someone that I cannot trust. What’s the point?
        My father was a liar, a charmer and a pedophile. My saving grace was doing some inner child work. It helped me see that sometimes the upset came from the child part of me and at other times it was the teenage part of me. The child will always love them no matter what so of course it is hard to stay angry. I had to learn how to re parent myself. That is how I learned to stand my ground and be straight with myself.
        It is an ongoing process but as time goes on it does get better. Now I look back and go WTF was I thinking? I would never choose him now, I have a very good life and I don’t have to put up with his crap. I actually wake up happy!
        Things get better sweetie but not without some work. Get some help and some new information so you can reinvent yourself. It changes things when you start to love yourself.

  2. moda says

    CL – Great site! I’d just like to add one thing. IF your cheater is also someone who has been physically abusive or who has frightened you enough that you think he potentially could become abusive, take every precaution in the first few months. Someone with this potential who loses control of you is apt to do something particularly violent in the weeks or months following a separation. This is the most dangerous time for a woman.

  3. Wantogetout says

    A very long story. I met my wife when I was 19. She was my first sexual encounter. Moved in after about 3 weeks, we were having sex after 1 week. We didnt date as such, it was very sexual. My wife had been sexually assaulted numerous times before I met her. When she was 14 she was raped by a teenager aquaintance.

    She then was also raped by a boyfriend quite a few times during a abusive relationship, through their time together of about 3 years. Another time she was raped by an older man, when she stayed at his and his wifes house. The wife left for work in the morning and he raped her. She claims she was too afraid to stop him.

    Another time she says she went home with a couple of guys after her 18th birthday, and you guessed it the guy raped her. Another time she was physically touched and this is the only time she laid charges, and the man was sent to jail. So a lot happenned to her before we got together. She never got much support from her family etc. or counselling to help with this.

    We got together and it was all fun and such. She told me about her past problems, and i was fine with it. She was always extremely touchy, and edgy. One little disagreement and she would go off, many times punching and hitting me etc. Getting on with this we got together in 1995.

    Around 1998, i went away for a weekend to my parents, and she didnt come because we had one of those little disagreements before. So she stayed home, we had a male flatmate. I went away and came home. She was so happy to see me. But very insistent in going to new years where this flatmate was. We got there, and that night, she said she wanted to break up. So we kinda did, but not really, and we had new years together with the flatmate at a few nightclubs. We came home, for a few days before the flatmate came back. Over the next few weeks we got back together. About a few weeks later the flatmate moved out.

    Fast forward to 2000, and my wife became pregnant with our first child. She suffered a lot of depression, i was working long hours, and no support from her family. We had our second child in 2003, depression really bad after this as well.In 2004 we had our first (really second problem). My wife went with friends and their 15 year old nephew away for the day, as I couldnt get babysistting for our child. She came home and over the next few days behaved weird and got many text messages on our mobile, but wouldnt show me.

    At the third day I came home. And she told me to sit down. She had been caught out by the 15 years old sisters who read his phone and told their mum. The mum told our friend that if my wife didnt stop what she was doing she would tell me. They had basically been sexting each other to the point where she was organising for him to leave school at lunchtime and meet at our house, whilst i was at work and the child was in babysitting. I was shocked and heartbroken. Didnt know at the time but I was too weak,and she really didnt get any consequences for it. A bit later we were having a fight, and she blurted out, no wonder i didnt tell you about me and the flatmate sleeping in his bed that night you went to your parents. She claims she was upset, and needed someone in the bed. She claims nothing happenned. Her version of events is he tried to get her drunk, so guess what she slept in his bed, but they didnt touch each other. She didnt even like him apparently. I rang this guy, and he said nothing happenned that night, but they did have sex later. When I said to him, he better not be lying, he said he has nothing to gain from telling me lies. She has continually denied this. Okay another thing to give me nightmares over. How the hell can you do that, again i really didnt give her consequences. I do know they never communicated again after he moved out.

    We never really got going properly again. I always mulled over everything, occasionally just bluring out stuff about this to hurt her at times. She was still very depressed, on and off medication etc. Still physically abusive etc to me.

    2009 she begins a emotional affair on facebook with another guy(45 year old) from overseas. Goes on for about 3 months before i had enough of her spending all her time on facebook, and i installed a spy program, and got copies of all her conversations. I hit her with it and she went off her head even to the point of saying she would hurt the kids. I rang the police and they took her to hospital for an assessment. They said she was fine and wouldnt hurt the kids. I sent her packing to her parents and she stayed there for about 3 days before she came home, and we sorta swept it under the carpet. She has over all this time quite a few times threatening suicide, been admitted to hospital a few times. We did have marriage counselling for about 6 months after this. Dont know if it helped, but I felt better for it.

    Late last year she needs to go to here aunties place to help her female 14 year old cousin who has been sexually assaulted. Her cousin was going to court. I began to feel funny when she acted weird on her text messages etc. She rings me on the day before she was coming home, and says she was bringing her 17 year old male cousin home for a few weeks. i say no, i just lost my father, i dont want anyone here. She in the end says ok, i wont bring him. Next morning she rings, and says he’s coming i dont care what you say.

    Well they get here and over the next few days , not much, just feeling uncomfortable as they seem to be way too touch feely for cousins. On the wednesday night, she tells me she wants him to move in, as it would be much better for him here as he doesnt like it at his mothers. We fight, and i say no way. Next night i go into the computer room , and find him on the seat perched behind my wife. I go off, but she just says i am being silly. He stays for another week, i dont know why or how i let him stay, but nothing major, but small stuff that cousins dont do . REMEMBER i was at work during the day but who knows.

    Also whilst he was here i kept saying to her , that what looked to be going on wasnt right, and she kept saying you are being silly. You need help maybe you need to see a shrink, you are going crazy. Long story short, she does tell me whilst she was at her aunties, the cousin (who has autism, and is a drug user etc, dropkick) told her he wanted to sleep with her. She said she was feeling attracted to him (apparently they have an emotional connection) but told him she couldnt because she was married and she was her cousin. During this time they were still talking on phone and texting. Also i told her mother about this and his mother, but they dismissed it. My wife even made me apoligize to him and his mother for suggesting this stuff was going onBeen a year now, we have done some counselling etc, but nothing really going there. She hasnt had any contact with him since. Says she doesnt even think about him. She says how silly she was, and doesnt know why i stay with her.We are just going through the motions. I always ponder over whether she has had sex with the cousin, or the flatmate. She has always denied this, even at points where she is so broken down emotionally she is going to kill herself.

    I dont really know what to do. I do love her, but always in the back of my mind is all this crap.

    I need help to leave and get out of this

    • TennisHack625 says


      My STBXW didn’t have a history of this but it came later. It sounds like she has BPD, borderline personality disorder. You need to get away from her. If you don’t have a pre-nup then see if she’ll sign a post-nup. Then divorce her. It’s just that simple.

      Psychologically and spirituality it’s the best thing you can do. Financially it’s the worst. Take over the finances as well. She’s not the person you thought she was. Unfortunately in America the constitution protects infidelity but doesn’t protect marriage. That’s why the divorce rate is so high.

      Be strong and get away from her.

  4. 2ndTimeFool says

    Thank you, am grateful to have found your website. 2nd time for me. Was involved with a socio-path, lying, cheating porn addict for almost 4 years. Finally divorced and moved on. Found out a year ago that the guy I currently am involved with loved the porn and craig*lst bull as well. Found it all on his phone. He apologized, said it would never happen again, blah blah blah, you know how the story goes. Two weeks ago, 900 number calls his phone. Now, you must be a pretty good customer for them to be calling you? Regardless, I demanded full discovery out of him (after reading your blog, know this was a waste of time). Found out he never gave up the online casual encounter link and has called 900 numbers for the past year and long before we ever were together. It hurts. This is the second go around for me with a cheating liar. Thank God I didn’t marry this one. My heart is breaking, and have pretty much come to the conclusion that I must attract whack jobs. I knew a year ago what he was doing, looked the other way I guess or just wanted to believe he had stopped it all. I am a fool for sure.

    • KarenE says

      2ndTime, there’s a useful book out there, called ‘How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk’ that gave me lots of food for thought about what to look for as a relationship progresses, in order to not keep making the same types of mistakes. I sure wish I had read it before meeting my ex!

  5. Nena says

    That sounds like my good friend. He grew up in a very happy, trustworthy family, so he was like “My ex would never do X,Y,Z,P” I told him what you said here about assuming that the person will destroy you without blinking an eye to save their asses. She wound up stabbing him when she found out that he started to withdraw assets. Her ass was in jail for assault, but my friend has a nasty case of PTSD.

    He still underestimates her evilness and it frightens me. Their divorce is final in a month. He has a protective order out on her. :( I fear for his life more than he seems to fear for his own.

    And yes, I was a victim of attempted murder from my serial cheater ex. When I announced I was leaving, he beat and strangled me. We weren’t married. He is still wanted by cops.

    Please, please please trust your gut. Always assume you are in grave danger when dealing with people like this. It is better to be over cautious than injured or killed. :(

  6. RNE says

    Thank you so much for everything you do on this site. I’m sitting in the dark bawling my eyes out because my husband of 10 years told me about another woman today and that he wants to have a relationship with her. We’ve been together since I was 14 (so 16 years total 10 years married) and I’ve supported him through his career in the military, stuck by him through three year long deployments to Iraq, and stayed home with the kids, giving up my chance at a career as I moved all over the world where ever he was stationed. Im devastated. I felt so alone all day and didn’t know what to do, but your blog has helped me to see that this isn’t my fault. I hope I can get over this, it seems like a long road ahead, but you’ve given me the fuel to keep driving on. Thank you.

  7. solander says

    how do you move half the money, cancel credit cards, check past purchases etc if you were at home for 25ish years with the kids while he worked and you traveled to countries with him while he followed his career and you kept the family together thus preventing you from getting a full time job. how do you move money when he gives you 3 days notice AFTER he gets back from climbing Mt Everest. then moves into his new downtown apartment and buys a new car and new furniture with “his” money.

  8. Esthellar says

    Hi! I need your advice. I found out one week ago my husband was cheating on me sexually and emotionally (the worst)
    I have evidence, I filed for divorce, I threw him out if the house. But I don’t know what happened, he cried apologized, promised things, I didn’t give in but I don’t know when I failed. We are going to couples therapy, he said he was willing to go (but I found the therapist), he’s back in the house, acting like everything is awesome. And telling me “everything is going to be ok, we will get through this”.
    All the evidence and actions from the past tell me to leave him. I think is HOPE and FEAR (I read your 5 things make you stay with a cheater) but where do I get the strenght ???? I am miserable I know I can’t trust this person again, every time is see him I see lies… I wake up with pain. But I don’t know how to say enough is enough. I keep trying to find more evidence, as if what I know and found wasn’t enough. Please help!!!!

    • Regan says

      I can’t tell you how much this site is helping me. But I am still struggling to decide what to do. My BF of 2 1/2 years has been regularly texting and possibly seeing at least 4 or 5 people. He denies everything. The only thing he will cop to is that he went to the fair with one of them.But that was only becuase I found a text on his phone from her saying that she had a dream that they got caught in bed together. He says it was just conversation, along with all the rest of the text messages where he was saying and getting very intimate and suggestive texts, even about hooking up with these people. So he denies, denies, denies. After the Fair Lady thing, now he is saying that he “knew all these people BEFORE we started talking and that they are JUST CONVERSATIONS.” Says that he never meets them, has not been with anyone but me. But I am pretty sure he is lying, and has been lying. But now he is crying, saying he loves me, that we belong together, and calling me, trying to convince me to stay. I almost feel like this is making him feel so good to have me so weak and confused and crazy feeling. Bringing me flowers, buying me groceries, telling me things he NEVER did until I caught him red-handed. He says now that we can make it through this if we just keep trying…but I keep going back to the fact that if I had not found out about the fair lady, then he would have kept doing all that he has been doing. And really, only dating for 2 1/2 years, and already this is what I get???? None of these were one night stands, they have been ongoing since BEFORE we met. HELP!!!! WHY can’t I leave his lying, cheating ass? Oh, I actually think part of it is the sex, which is the most amazing I have ever experienced. I think I have become addicted to him….and I hate myself for it. If I were my friend, I would tell me to dump his sorry ass……AAARRRGGHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. trying2fly says

    I feel your pain Esthellar. How much more do I need to see before enough is enough? I don’t have any physical proof of the cheating, the ones I had years ago I destroyed thinking it would only depressed me more to keep it around.

  10. ThrewHimOut2 says

    Nato Air Strike for sure! I was in limbo for 5 months (couple of those playing pick me ugh) and I’m so not the “pick me” type. I was just devastated at what was about to happen. I got all my duckies in a row and waited until April (tax time) to get some extra money. I filed and served him while he was on business. I’m sure he was shocked as hell. I gave him a kiss goodbye before he left on that trip and I said, “I will miss you.” I was a stay at home mom for 20 years so luckily this smart girl stashed away thousands for this rainy day. I always thought if I never get divorced we will go on a great vacation…well…he did.

  11. EnoughAlready says

    Just found this website a few days ago, but feel like I’ve been introduced to a branch of my family I didn’t know was there, family that gets all the punch lines.
    Find myself reading and thinking, “Wow! I did that! I rented a storage unit and moved most of my stuff out! I bought a house and moved into it!”
    My situation was different–this man is verbally and emotionally abusive, and physically abusive with the kids. Spent years trying to fix things, protect kids, mollify, walk on eggshells. But the whole `you are crazy, I’m a good person, you’re not’ stuff sounds just the same as with the cheaters.
    Lacking a similar site for my STBX’s kind of crazy (and mine), so I hope you don’t mind if I hang around for awhile.

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