What NOT to do

Very few people navigate this crap gracefully. Accept that you’re going to wobble and fail sometimes. It’s okay. The goal here, upon finding out that you’ve been cheated on, is to take back your power, maintain your dignity, and not do anything homicidal.

1. Do not confront your cheater until you’ve gathered evidence. Most cheaters will lie and gaslight you unless you catch them dead to rights, and even then they usually only cop to what they think you already know. If you confront them before you have the evidence, there’s a good chance they’ll take the affair more underground. Put all your evidence in a safe place (preferably a lawyer’s office in a fault divorce state). Never reveal your sources.

2. Never accept responsibility for their cheating. She didn’t cheat on you because of your penchant for wearing dark socks and sandals in public. He didn’t find fuckbuddies on Craigslist because of your post-baby muffin top. Nor did he cheat because you’re a bipolar, alcoholic shrew who emasculates him with your rages (although you sound pretty lousy as partners go). People cheat because they feel ENTITLED to. Cheaters are 100% responsible for their decision to cheat. If they were unhappy, they could’ve gotten counseling, filed for divorce, taken up scrapbooking… really most anything other than cheating. They cheat because they value the good feelings they get from ego kibbles and affair sex more than their commitment to you and your health and well-being. People cheat because they’re selfish escapists.  Many of them are quite happy to blameshift their crappy decisions on to you. Don’t let that happen. Be very clear on what is yours to own (i.e., dark socks/sandals offenses) and what is NOT yours to own (i.e., fucking people you aren’t married to.)

3. Don’t give them any time to “decide.” Have you heard the expression — don’t make anyone a priority who only makes you an option? You are not an option. You are their spouse. This is not a contest. They made a commitment to YOU. They don’t get to  renegotiate the terms. Stalling for time, acting all vague about how they intend to make this right, talking a good game and never coming through on the particulars — these are all ploys to keep them in the affair. You CANNOT “nice” someone out of an affair. Oh, I’ll just make my needs smaller and smaller, or I’ll be so wonderful I’ll win them back! are tactics doomed to failure. All you do with appeasement is give the cheater the green light to abuse you further. The cheater needs to decide right then and there — or you put their crap in Hefty bags and throw it on the lawn for the raccoons.

4. Do not beg for your marriage. Do not cry or plead or attempt to win them over. Maintain your dignity. When you do the “humiliating dance of ‘pick me’” — all you do is feed their egos and give them YOUR power. Now is the time to practice detachment and take care of yourself (see a lawyer, protect your assets, get IRL support). Set aside your grief and make room for righteous ANGER. Let it fuel you forward. You are not anyone’s consolation prize.

5. Do not waste your time trying to figure them out. Seriously, people, this is a time suck. If you’re like most betrayed spouses, you spend a lot of time in pointless arguments yelling at your cheater “WTF?! How could you DO this?” or “Does her pussy have some gravitational pull that you’re helpless to resist?!” or “That fedora-headed, hipster douchebag? REALLY?” You’ll posit theories. You’ll deconstruct their FOO issues. You’ll order a dozen infidelity books on Amazon. All this does is keep your energy focused on them. Not YOU. You only get to control yourself. So what do YOU want? Is this person someone you want to invest in? What is acceptable and unacceptable to you? And what are YOU going to do about it? If you’re so busy trying to uncode them, or predict what they’ll do next, or prevent them from doing some awful thing — you will just stay stuck. It doesn’t matter why they are how they are. You can’t fix it. You just get to fix you. (See more about this at “Untangling the Skein of Fuckupedness.”)





  1. Jack Chong says

    “1. Do not confront your cheater until you’ve gathered evidence.”

    Indeed, because speaking from experience, you may be the paranoid cynic who sees the infidelity ghost around every corner.

  2. LeanJedi says

    Good stuff. Keep up your good work. My MLC W filed for D and I am working efficiently to give her (D) what she wants.

    will revisit soon.

  3. Denise Wolever says

    Thank you so much for telling your story and helping people with this nasty business of infidelity. It has been 20 years of misery for me. I want to help other people suffering with this pain. It is the worst kind imaginable. I will tell you everything that happened to me if that will help others to not suffer so much.
    I am so thankful I have a strong faith in God and in the truth. I wish you could think of a different name besides “Chump Lady.” It sounds so mean to me. You are a wonderful person that unfortunately got duped—like all of us that have been betrayed by rotten, selfish, cruel, evil people. We all may be sadder, but hopefully wiser. You are definitely helping people to be wiser. God bless you and your courage to ge the truth out there.

  4. anudi says

    Dear Chump Lady,

    One thing I always wonder is – what is the life of a serial cheater? I mean I understand my life, which is about our family (kids, parents, partners, friends, pets and people who need us) and about our own (career, individual dreams like hobbies etc.). What is their life about?

    This question is important for us chumps to see things in proper perspective. One point is that he likes the cake (their partner & family: which gives them a social standing) and likes to eat it (all those EAs, PAs n what not!) too. However, if he loses his cake, he should be unhappy according to this logic (at least half of what the chumps are!). Why does it look like a lost game to chumps but not to the serial cheats in deciding to leave? Why do serial cheats look bold? Why serial cheats do not seem to care for repercussions…are they extremely lucky that come what may, they may get another cake if this one goes? What is it that makes them so confident? Do they have no thoughts of future…without a family?

    This question keeps me disturbed a lot of times. After all, even if I wasted so many years of life, he did invest something into the cake…how does he think about losing it…any remorse or fury for future? We chumps shouldn’t be the only one suffering so much!


    • says

      I think that falls under #5. But I’d say it probably revolves around Narcissism. Trying to unravel that nest is only going to cost you more of your precious time.

    • Karen says

      Definitely falls under narcissism; they have many many years of practice in not considering any consequences of their behaviour, and when those consequences can’t be avoided, of shifting blame on to others. They’re GOOD at this stuff, and THEY DO NOT CARE!!!

      Now, enough ‘untangling’, I’m smelling spring air and working on my ‘meh’. Long ways to go, but I’ll get there!

    • Nord says

      BAsically, my serial cheating ex had been lining up possible replacements for years. Even when he was thick in the affair with final OW he was at various stages of grooming a number of others. The night I found out he had plans to see yet another woman the following day.

      So basically if it all falls apart with the spouse they’ve got backup. My ex is now with final OW and playing happy happy for all to see. And I’m quite sure he still has some grooming going on on the side, just in case.

      • trying2fly says

        This is my husband to a T. Phone, texting, emailing girls in every state (Australia). I have never been able to describe it so well as you just did…

  5. sandy says

    “Never reveal your sources.” Unfortunately, I was a source for a former friend. she purposely revealed that I told her about her cheating husband, had been approached by MY cheating sociopath ex-husband with a deal: he’d help her get out of her marriage if she helped him target me.

    My life is in ruins because I was naive in believing that my ex was “normal”, that he’d never do anything to hurt me purposely. I’ve discovered he’s been stalking me, conducting a successful smear campaign against me for over 30 years, committed parental alienation with our son (who has also been participating in harassing me since he was in his teens and his dad’s nephew was convicted of murdering – beating to death – his ex girlfriend because he saw her talking to a male friend in a bar – psychopaths).

  6. Marie says

    Hi Chump lady,
    What if I feel that the reason my husband cheated was my fault? My husband left me 7 months ago for another woman. He said he got tired of me rejecting him for sex. He said me rejecting him was like a dagger to his heart. I feel so guilty about this. I know that he is telling the truth because he said it before he started his affair over 1.5 years ago. We had piles of bills from a failing business and I was never in the mood for sex because all I could think about is how to pay off our bills and get out of debt and make the business successful again. He took my rejection as if I wasn’t attracted to him anymore. I didn’t look at it that way at all. I love him. I’m a mess. Please help with some advice.

    • Karen says

      Hi Marie;

      HONEST people who are unhappy in their marriages (for whatever reason at all) either seek to resolve the problems in the marriage (serious discussions, honest attempts to change themselves as well as you, couple’s counselling), or HONESTLY tell you it’s over and leave. In worst case scenario, they find themselves getting involved w/someone else, and IMMEDIATELY make a decision to either end their marriage or end their new relationship.

      Liars lie, and cheaters cheat. If your husband lied, it’s because he’s a liar. And you deserve better.

    • Kara says

      He still made the decision to cheat. That’s still his responsibility, not yours. He’s saying that to make you feel bad and to take the heat off him for cheating.

      Like Karen said, liars lie, cheaters cheat. He’s a liar and a cheater. There are numerous, more mature things he could have done. He decided to go the immature, selfish route and cheat. He could have told you how he felt. You could have gone to counseling. Shit, he could have even just ended the relationship anyway, but WITHOUT having cheated.

      There may have been issues in your marriage, but cheating is not, ever, the way to solve them. That is HIS fault, not yours.

  7. RCCola says

    I don’t know if anyone is monitoring this post any more.

    I’m going through D right now and stbx and I have only been split up for 2 months. I have this huge desire to call her and hear her voice. I know she sucks! I know that it wont do me any good but I don’t know what to do to get rid of it. I’m getting anxiety like crazy because I cannot stop thinking about her. If anyone could serve me a dish of reality, or a slap to the face it would be really really nice. I thought I was done with these feelings but they just came back today.

    • says

      Don’t do it. Don’t get sucked back in. One of two things will happen — she’ll hurt you again with her indifference, or she’ll take it as kibbles and license to keep mindfucking you — and she’ll hurt you again.

      There is no good outcome telling her how you feel. She’s demonstrated that she doesn’t care. Tell people who DO care. Post here, lean on a friend, talk to a therapist.

      It’s all still fresh at 2 months. It’s going to hurt like a motherfucker. Just ride it out. ((Hugs))

      • RCCola says

        CL, Thanks for replying and so quickly. I didn’t call her. I’m good now lol. I have no idea why I have been feeling that way but it built up on me.

        • KarenE says

          RCCola, I totally get those moments of longing and weakness. Mine are mostly gone now, but they were HARD to get through. One thing that helped me a lot was re-framing is as WHAT I was longing for, rather than WHO. I was longing to feel safe and loved, I was longing to believe in the person I thought my ex was (but SO totally wasn’t), I was longing for everything to be OK (when it really, really wasn’t, and wasn’t ever going to be, w/him). I was longing for certain feelings and situations, and those were legit longings. I just had to remember that they were MY longings, and didn’t actually have that much to do w/him.

          Then I could use that, to re-focus on what I DO want in my life; the love, the security, the peacefulness and trust …. and good sex! And while my heart struggled, my head knew very well that I was never going to have those again w/my ex.

          It’s been 14 months since DDay, and it’s been such a long time since I felt that urge to reach out to the ex – don’t even remember the last time. Definitely a milestone on the road to ‘meh’.

          • RCCola says


            Thank you.

            I get what you are saying. I do not want to long for her any more. I think I can put into practice what you said and re-frame my way of thinking. It is hard right now. I hope I can be a lot further along in 14 months like you. I have the problem of having to see her because of our kids. Are there any tricks to stop looking at her physical beauty and start seeing her inner self. Because I know she is a lot uglier on the inside.

            • says

              My ex too is super good looking, almost a decade younger than me, and has that baritone voice I find so hard to resist! Being around him was often torture in the beginning, and bc of the kids and house, happened pretty often.

              The things that helped most were;

              – reducing contact to an absolute minimum. I made sure the kids were ready when he arrived to pick them up, didn’t invite him in when he dropped them off, (funny, when I started doing that consistently, he stopped picking them up and dropping them off, sent them on their own!), ignored his phone calls unless the kids were with him, just listened to the msg right after, and addressed anything I needed to tell him or discuss w/him by e-mail, and in e-mails, only addressed the practical issues, ignored anything else. When he wanted to do work around the house (he had agreed to look after the yard, since the house is too big for me and the kids), I made sure I wouldn’t be there. This was hard to implement, it took time and back-sliding, but it helped a TON. Weirdly, the less I saw him, the less I missed him!

              – I made a list of everything I disliked about him and all the major bad experiences I’d had w/him over the previous 14 years. It was quite horrifying to see it all there in black and white. I built the list gradually, as I remembered or thought of stuff, and as he pulled more stupid stuff during the separation. I’d review it when I was feeling sad or missing him. It gave me the ‘big picture’ for the first time, really clarified who he actually is, and that made it much easier to not feel tempted by who he LOOKS like he is!

              (I named the list ‘101 Reasons I Don’t Want to Get Back Together w/the ex’, and the last time I added something, several months ago, it was up to 106 items! NONE of it is ‘normal married issues’, either! It’s selfishness, meanness and entitlement!)

              • RCCola says


                I think i might start doing this. Even thinking of it just hurts, it hurts because even though I was hurt I still loved her. I type that out and I probably sound like an abused spouse. I am I know I am, why cant I stop? Why do I continue to see her and think of the things that made me love her in the first place?

                I don’t want to be with her now I want to be with her before she started to be like this.

  8. Smart Ass Texan says

    DON’T tell them how much you love them & that are everything to you.
    They just don’t care , why humiliate yourself ?

  9. says

    Okay here is my story in a semi-short version. I was (so I thought) happily married for 30years. Three boys, one thru college and on his own. One in college and the third on his way there. Upon leaving my youngest at college that so called loving husband divulges he had been having an affair for 13.5 years w/the same HW. All the while she was fully aware of me, my life, my kids. Needless to say, I was shocked and devastated. He then went thru the I want you, no her, no you. Yes, I did plead as I had no idea how to function after being w/this man since high school. What does one do at 50 years old who was a nurturer, professional mom. Well, yes he used that amo promising to love me and finished w/her. Only for me to find out…he never did. My world flipped, depressed, sad, angry and here I am 2.5 years later divorced and am constatly hearing from those l I love…”GET OVER IT”!! “No shit sherlock”!! But I don’t have a switch, just expect w/time I will??! Gosh I hope as I have thrown myself into work as it is easier then feeling what has happened (but I always do!) My issue now…my kids (all boys) are the biggest yellers, “get over it). But my 4 brothers (2 who were very good friends of his who also were blown away w/his affair revealed) well their traditional snowmobile trip stopped for 2 years. Then this year back on like nothing happened!! (Exactly what this man wants…if we don’t talk about it it never happened, just now allow this women to walk into my life, like I never existed!!) This trip has caused me very hard feelings towards my brothers. How can they go w/him after what he did to me…THEIR SISTER??? Yes, they made a choice, my kids are his kids…my brothers are mine. Why, how can they do that?? How do I handle another betrayal? Could sure use some advise…Thanks, daisy!

      • says

        Yes, my brother knew. I told them someday it might not matter any longer but until then please stay away from him. This man wants this HW to now walk into my life, my brothers are doing exactly what he wants. They said, “they are over it”. They are constantly telling me “to get over it”. I have only loved one man in my life, trusted one devoted to one. He has blown up my life, my self esteem, married for 30 years, with him for 38 years and they all think 2 years is long enough for me to still have grief. They want the fun beer drinking buddy. It’s my problem I can’t get over it after 2 years. Makes me very sad to not feel I am important enough to be the one they can support. Like him…:if we don’t talk about it…it didn’t happen”. Only I feel it daily. Why am I not worth it?!

  10. RendtheVeil says

    OMG! You need to post this at survivinginfidelity.com. The people at that site had me drinking the kool-aid for way too long. I finally came to the realization that sites like that exist because some people find comfort in their own pain, thus they keep going back to rip off the scab. How many DDays (discovery days) does one spouse need before they wake up and see the true person they married? Many people at SI have 3+ DDays and they continue to wait on their cheating spouse to come around. It is sad, and they do it because other people give them false hope. They are led to believe reconciliation with a cheater happens regularly and for many people. It simply does not. People may choose to *not divorce* for a myriad reasons, but painfully few actually reconcile and have a happy, healthy, and intimate marriage again.

    I should not get started on Deeply Scared, a wayward spouse, and founder of the site. Once on her bad side you will be harassed or banned. She plays favorites and does not tolerate viewpoints she does not agree with, i.e., people speaking ill of the wayward spouse trying (lying) to do better. One woman on the site has a wayward spouse that had a 7 year affair, and she has convinced herself that he only cheated because the other woman *preyed* on him. She stated time and again, he would not have cheated if this women was not predatory. He only cheated because the affair fell into his lap land she preyed on him. Call me crazy, but does that not mean he was simply a lazy cheater? He did not want to go out and look for a woman, but when one presented herself he was willing, so willing he let it go on for seven years?!?!?!?!? She has been on SI for years and she tells new betrayed spouses that a long term affair does not mean the cheater has feelings for the other woman, because of course, her cheating husband did not care about his mistress, only his wife. I would like a drink of what she is having!

  11. Rosberry says

    I really like this site.I was married 22 plus years.Hes a relapsed alcoholic and I am pretty sure he is a serial cheater. I do what I can to get over this but its hard as I have PTSD and major depression but my life has improved. My problem…no guts o pull the trigger and push the divorce. I don’t understand why that is and dont see me doing it even though I would be free to date .I want to go on but am too chicken to do it! H the nerve to doow do I get it? I injured my neck in an accident and am afraid of losing my home, etc…as I cannot work since separating because of it…I was a stay at home mom and also do not have enough credits to qualify for disability…whew…

  12. says

    Maintain your dignity. When you do the “humiliating dance of ‘pick me’” — all you do is feed their egos and give them YOUR power.

    You’re right. My ex-wife cheated on me, and she onlystarted to give a shit when I gave up trying to save our marriage and became completely ambivalent about whether it survived or not. Now, if it ever happens again – I won’t fight, I’ll just walk away.

  13. jan says

    I hate that I have done all of those things! This has been going on for a year now and I still make excuses for him. My husband reconnected with and old flame on Facebook about a year ago. She lives about 6 hours away so I didn’t really think it too much a problem until I found evidence of numerous phone calls and text messages to her, always when i was not around. They were just catching up. Now he deletes everything and calls her on his work cell. I only know of once that he met her in person but he denies that also. Said the address of that motel was just there because she wanted him to have unch with her while her daughter was on a college visit And he wanted to see how far away it was. We’ve been married for 23 years and I am having a hard time deciding whether or not sn emotional affair alone is bad enough to file. He insists they are just friends and nothing is going on. Then why hide it? He has no remorse and says he only hides stuff because I was snooping.

    • Michele says

      Have no idea where things are at with Jan, but same thing happened to me. Old flame found my husband on Facebook and I had no clue that they began texting then talking and later sex. The affair went on for two years before I found out and kicked his ass to the curb. We are now trying to reconcile and she is no longer a threat, but it is difficult. I would not even consider the idea if he hadn’t allowed me total access to his phone, email, etc. As far as I am concerned, if you cheat you lose all rights to privacy and if you do not like it then go be with someone else. I was suffering from severe depression when I found out so the trauma was two-fold. Doing what I can to take care of my needs and get back on my feet and feeling stronger with each passing month (5 months out now). Not sure if I will want to stay with my WH, but taking it one day at a time. We had a good marriage before he took the cheater path and he is back to his old loving and attentive self, but I’m not sure I can be with him for the long haul if I can’t trust him. I just do what I need these days to feel good about myself and get past the PTSD symptoms that still haunt me. Cheating involves deception and if your spouse cannot understand the lack of trust and the need to be transparent, open and honest going forward, then there is no forward and they are either still cheating or planning to do it again.


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