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Untangling the Skein

Untangling the skein of fuckupedness

Veronica Sawyer: Heather, why can’t you just be a friend? Why do you have to be such a mega-bitch?
Heather Duke: Because I can be.

From the movie “Heathers” (1988) 

Why do cheaters cheat? Because they CAN. It’s that simple. Do you need more of an answer? Okay. Because of greediness. Because of narcissism. Because of a lack of empathy for others affected by their shit decisions. Because they value ego kibbles more than they value your well-being. But the reasons simply boil down to — greed, opportunity, and not caring.

One very common mistake the Cheated Upon make is believing it is all way more complicated than that. They will invest all their energy in a pointless exercise trying to figure out the cheater — their FOO issues, their astrological sign, their addiction issues, their birth order, their purportedly low self esteem. (Newsflash — they don’t have low self esteem. They actually DO think they are better than you and more important than you.)

Figuring out the cheater is energy directed at THEM, which is energy deflected away from YOURSELF. You’re asking why they are this way, instead of asking yourself the harder question of  — why am I hanging around this megabitch who’s not my friend?

I call this stage “Untangling the Skein of Fuckupedness.”

The skein is impossible, but by GOD, you’re going to unknot it, piece by piece, make it linear and you WILL understand it.

Untangling the skein of fuckupedness is a coping mechanism. You want to figure out what makes your cheater tick so you can ensure that they never do anything so devastatingly hurtful again. If it’s their FOO issues with their mom, well, you’ll call and make that counseling appointment for them. Untangling the skein is codependent behavior. Not only will you make the counseling appointments, next you’ll get your magic marker and highlight all the relevant chapters in the affair books you bought for them on Amazon.

Stop it! Stop it right now! It’s not your job to figure them out! You only get to figure out YOU. What your values are, what you will tolerate, and what is acceptable and unacceptable to YOU. That’s it.

Most cheaters are very invested in you getting lost in the skein of their fuckupedness. Hell, they don’t have to invent an excuse for their behavior, you’re doing all the work for them. There is nothing they can say by way of explanation that is not self serving and self pitying. The only thing a cheater can do is DEMONSTRATE they have remorse through their ACTIONS. Preferably a very generous divorce settlement. Failing that, a very generous postnup.

An explanation is not a balm. Getting lost in the skein prolongs your pain. Better to move towards acceptance. They did it because they COULD. So… now what? That’s on you.

Ask Chump Lady

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  • You are absolutely right. If only i had realized this 5 years ago… Would have saved me a lot of heartache.  My husband tried to tell me “The ‘why’ is because I just didn’t care” and “just because I could”.  I should have “just accepted” what he was telling me and worked on myself!  Getting lost in the skein just prolonged my pain.

  • Your views on this stuff ring very true to me. Many of us, left by our cheaters, are made to feel as if we are failures because we did not get the opportunity to reconcile(which seems to be the gold standard goal at most support sites).
    I have researched this long and hard and agree with you that reconciliation is a longshot after infidelity and a “happier, stronger marriage” is such an anomaly, that it makes no sesne to pursue it.
    Yet, the support sites are full of “reconciled” couples, proclaiming the benefits of having an affair on their marriages.
    Less than 30% stay together, long term. one study found that of those, about 7% report having a happy marriage. So, we are talking a 3% success rate, in reality.
    My XW has made it a point to tell me her cheating was due to her “emotional needs” not being met. Yet, if anything, she was more neglectful of any of my needs, physical, emotional etc.
    These folks focus on themselves and have virtually no empathy or insight into how they treat others.
    If you really stop to examine how they conduct their lives, you may see that it is not only in the sexual fidelity area that they lack integrity. Thye lie about all tyoes of things.
    I am better now, away from the cheater. She can no longer affect me.
    Your site is much closer to the truth about these folks and the prospects after cheating, in my opinion. Thanks.

    • Thanks Arnold. I created this site to be the sort of place I wish existed when I was cheated on. There was a lot of conflicting advice, and a lot of encouragement to attempt reconciliation in the face of damning circumstances. And a lot of R Against the Odds! propaganda. I thank God every day my “R” failed and that I left. Frankly, with years distance, I’m amazed that relationship ever had any hold over me. There is a good world out there with good people in it. I’m so glad you’re on the other side now. 🙂

    • Arnold… I appreciated your comments here. I was cheated on by my wife of seven years and she left me for a married man nonetheless! I knew she had a troubled past: her dad was a long-term cheater, she was raped at 17… ugliness! Still… after having two children, I thought we could withstand the craziness of life. Four months ago she told me she had been having an affair with a married man for four months. I was devastated. I still struggle with my emotions but seeing comments like yours and reading this site helps me greatly. I gave away my personal power and let her walk all over me. I let her blame me for the affair, blame our past arguments on me… she laid it all at my feet. I’m now seeing how manipulative she was and how many lies she told that hurt our family. Now as a single dad of two young kids I’m looking forward to a more peaceful future without her. Thanks again.

    • Dear Arnold,
      I couldn’t agree with you more. Your story sounds just like mine. Wish I had found you CL 8 months ago! Particularly this skein of fuckioedness piece! Alas, I am a serious chump and I am
      completely guilty of much of the codependent behavior you describe. Your site has really propelled me the final steps to let go and no longer give a
      rats ass about my ex dog turd. Reading other people’s stories that they have been willing to share has also been a tremendous help. Nothing like a congregation of chumps to help lead me out of the wilderness.

    • Arnold this rings so true for me. The whole “emotional needs” not being met, but yet he was the one who was so much more neglectful of any of my needs, physical, emotional and was completely detached from our son.

      “These folks focus on themselves and have virtually no empathy or insight into how they treat others.
      If you really stop to examine how they conduct their lives, you may see that it is not only in the sexual fidelity area that they lack integrity. They lie about all types of things.”

      That is right on the money for my husband. I began to have so many problems with his integrity and victim’s mentality even before I found out about his affairs. Even though it still shocked me he would do something so terrible, in many ways I wasn’t surprised at all. He slowly surrounded himself with people who led gross lives with no integrity and pushed out all those family and friends who would actually call him out on his selfish, destructive behavior. It’s just so sad to me that some people let the bad and weak parts of their personality just run rampant over the good parts of them until you can’t even recognize them anymore. We might all have the physical ability to be cheating pieces of crap, but the majority of us don’t give the selfish bad side of us permission and let ourselves turn into trash.

      • This is what happened in my marriage as well. We had a “normal” relationship for twelve years until he started drinking about eight years ago and found a whole group of new friends which led to all kinds of new behaviors and interests, none of which included me.

        Many secrets and lies later, he has turned into someone I do not recognize. He’s a disgusting sexual freak – it’s like the alcohol loosened any restraints and his freak flag is flying high.

        Further, it’s my fault because of our “sexless” marriage and my coldness.

        He also had to spend all of our savings on webcam sex and “extra” money sent directly to his teenage webcam girlfriend in the Philippines. And strangers in hotels on business trips. And prostitutes at home. And Craigslist hookups.

        All necessary ‘cuz of my ‘sexlessness’ and ‘coldness.’

        And now he doesn’t love me anymore, doesn’t know if he ever loved me. His new version of our last twenty years overlooks the fact that I was there. My daughter was there. Our families were there.

        He’s living in an angry, drunken, fucked-up reality. Why would someone choose this?

        I wish I felt more “meh” about it all. We head to mediation next week.

    • It’s too bad I didn’t start on chump lady 5 years ago when my husband of 34 years cheated for a year with a friend of ours.all that happened when I let him stay after he begged was that the financial abuse escalated to the point of half of our life savings being blown by him on himself and the mental verbal emotional physical and sexual abuse escalated. I still stayed until he discarded me for new supply he us now on a full blown campaign to smear and destroy me. I regret not kicking him to the curb 5 years ago I would be healed or well on my way by now and would have some financial security. He even wouldn’t work for money last year to avoid paying spousal support. What a dick.

  • Oh, and it looks like you use some of the same icons by our posts as Tara Palmatier over at Shrink4men.
    For the guys dealing with an NPD wife or a Borderline, that is a very good site. Infidelity and personality disorders go hand in hand.

    • Arnold, you poor dear. My mom has BPD and I wish my poor dad had unburdened himself from her years ago…now its way too late and her alcoholism has pickled her and she is a freaking mess. They renewed their vows for their 50th wedding anniversary…he is better human than me, I would have run like hell from craziness like hers.

      I am guilty of spending a great deal of my life untangling my husbands fuckedupness and even though we did reconcile for the few years before he died (and I dont regret those years) I had a chronic sorrow from the whole thing that hung on me like a yoke.

      Never ever again would I tolerate from a man what I put up with from my husband. I now have a list of dealbreakers that is iron clad and I will have a prenup in the unlikely event that any guy ever makes it through the gauntlet of my dealbreakers.

      Move on and be happy, Im sure you have suffered enough.

  • I think you will like her stuff. There are scant sites for men dealing with abusive women vs vice versa.
    This whole study of infidelity led me to other areas applicable to my situation, in particular, the world of the disordered personality. Things started to make sense once I began reading about these disorders. I had no idea they existed.
    Of course, in the past, we simply referred to hese foks as selfish assholes vs personality disordered. The prevelance, just like infidelity, is quite astonsihing.
    Shari Schreiber has some good stuff for guys dealing with this and there is another site which offers support, too.
    I know this may be a tangential to infidelity, but there is a strong connection between cheating and disorders, just as there is with substance abuse and disorders.

    • Hey Arnold, I have an interview on this site you should check out with Dr. George Simon (on the bar to the right, under Brain Trust) and also check out his books (linked in the Amazon box) and his blog

      I also spent a lot of time researching personality disorders when this happened to me. It helped put a lot of into perspective. It’s not you. They’d be shitty to anyone.

      Also another great resource is

      • Thanks. I did read the interview and it was very good. I will check out his book and the other website you mentioned.
        May I recommend an author, Richard Skerritt. He has a number of e-books on personality disorders, and “Meaning From Madness” was particularly helpful to me, as it was written for the layperson.
        Skerritt is an engineer, I believe, who was married to a disordered, high functioning abuser. He has an interesting theory on the dynamics of BPD and NPD.
        I think men are left behind, somewhat, in the support for abused realm. The reading I have done has led me to see that women are abusive with about the same frequency. Also, women seem to be categorized as BPD more frequently and men with NPD or ASPD. But, there is some evidence that , due to the way we have been taught to view women, they are given the BPD diagnosis vs one of the others, when, in fact, they are NPD or ASPD. Apparently, BPD is thought to be less ominous.
        Anyway, keep up the good work.

        • Thanks. FWIW, I totally believe women can be just as disordered and abusive as men. My husband was married to a sociopath (22 years, serial cheater, total double life). You don’t really want to believe it, but then you read the literature and you’re ticking off every box. You can’t do that with ordinary people. The tendency to arm chair shrink is certainly fallible, but these folks are so… for lack of a better word — deviant. And of course, they don’t go in for counseling — if they do, it’s only to manipulate further. So it’s not like many are going to get an official diagnosis. I think what is telling about disordered people is — it’s not personal. They’re screwy with everyone. My husband’s ex also defrauded her business partners. My ex-husband cheated on his former wives and went on to cheat on other women after me. It’s What They DO. You just happened to cross their path and you were a good mark.

  • This is why, when possible, I recommend folks who have been cheated on research their victimizer’s past. This is often done in retrospect, after onehas been abused, vs prospectively in the courtship phase. So, the damage is already done.

    But, at least if you can access info on their past, it may help you in dealing with the doubt they implant, where one feels that he or she is responsible for having caused most of the problems in the marriage(one study found that the 50/50 pre affair problem cliche is , most of the time, not true when it comes to infidelity situations and the cheater, almost invariably, was the main source of the pre-affair problems).
    In my case, my XW’s own family came forward with info on her past(unforunately, due to the fact that they misguidedly hoped she had changed, they did not offer this info to me going into the marriage). Mutual friends, ones who had known her before i was around, also came forward.
    My XW, for the 8 years we were married, represented to me that she had obtained her bachelor’s degree from a good college here in Minnesota. Her brother and dad informed me, as I was going through the divorce, that this was untrue and that she had quit school her senior year and shacked up with a married factory worker in her college town.
    Her dad went on to inform me thshe had falsified transcripts, sending them home, to convince her parents she was still in school.
    I learned she had been involved with two other married men in the past.
    I learned she had slept with her high school soccer coach while a student and that , ironically, one of the guy’s she was cheating with some 18 years later, was her boyfriend at the time and had gone ballistic(one has to wonder how dumb this guy was to subject himself to her, again, and she soon jettisoned him to start a relationship with yet another married man.)
    I could go on and on, but my point is that , in some way, finding all this and lther stuff out about her helped me heal. It made me happy that I was no longer associated with such a monster and it confirmed that her problems predated me.

    So , look at your cheater’s past. Odds are the current cheating is not isolated and they are messed up in all types of other ways. That is why they are cheaters.

  • This is so enlightening. when my wife spent a week in a mental institution several years ago, they thought she had traits of Histrionic Personality Disorder. She agreed with that diagnosis and would often email me articles saying how amazed she was at how she fit the description. It’s helped me to see why being married to her was so difficult, and that I can’t take the blame for her cheating.

  • Yes, the personality disordered are wll represented in the infidelity realm. Same with substance abuse and personality disorders. The incidence of personality disorders in cheaters and in the chemically dependant is ten fold higher than in the normal population.

  • (This is the first time I have had a conversation with him on skype IM while the other woman was sitting right there. I really did get immense satisfaction for giving her the disrespect she deserves. Read below.)

    Me: I am not a settler, i will not go out and find someone just cuz, so that leaves your kids without a dad.

    Him: Can the kid’s come for the summer?
    Me: I wouldn’t leave them with her.

    Him: that last statement wasn’t necessary
    [Me: thou dost ask too much me thinks
    Him: It’s just that I asked her and she said she would then that last statement didn’t fly too well with her.
    Me: tell her to take an enema
    HIm:She is a part of my life and therefore the kids will meet her.
    Me: anyways will you be around at 8:30pm?
    Him: yes , even if you weren’t keen on leaving the kids with her you didn’t have to say it
    Me: why not, she didn’t have to knock the kids legs out from beneath them, remember by comparison her feelings really don’t matter.
    Me, I’m gone, talk to your children later please.
    Him: fine later

  • BINGO! We have a Winner!

    Thanks, CL. This is so exactly right. The longer you dilly-dally around with trying to unravel HIM, the more time you’re wasting getting to YOU. Piss on him. He did you wrong, and who really gives a gnat’s ass why? There isn’t a logical, reasonable, or tolerable reason under the sun – so it isn’t worth agonizing. The only person left who is worth any further investment of time and energy is you. Make it worthwhile.

  • Two months after break-up, as I struggled to figure out why he had cheated relentlessly, he looked at me, spread his arms wide, and said “Hey! I take a lot of attention!” by way of explanation. In my codependence I had made his well-being the focus of my life so he had as much attention as I had to give, and then some. He seemed damn near proud of himself.

  • CL,

    I knew what this meant intuitively, but I only know just got around to reading your three essays. This is really good. Untangling the skein is a delaying mechanism, sort of like saying, “I’d better clean the apartment first before working on my dissertation.” It’s a self-soothing strategy for kicking the can down the road.. I also just noticed that you had Lundy Bancroft’s book on your recommended list. I agree with what you say above (and what Bancroft says). The narcs are not all that complicated. They do what they do because they can, because they do see themselves as superior, deserving or tragically denied/deprived. It’s really — and sadly — just all that simple. And the Chumps invest a huge amount of fantasy-spackle to keep the whole thing going…..

    Anyway, just got to this section. As always, you take your scalpel to the topic and lay it bare in all its banality. Let the Chumps Learn and Move On!

  • By the way, the banal is the soul of the narc, one of the most camouflaged and most obvious secrets of all time. Narc-spotting is a bit like those optical illusions (two women’s faces or a vase? a young woman’s face or an old woman’s face?) where you can’t see the other image at all and, and then suddenly you CAN see the other image. Narc-spotting is an art, and you are teaching it!

    Chump Son

  • Hi Chump Lady,
    Can you explain this to me? I was married to my husband almost 19 years and he was my boyfriend 3 years before we got married. He was soooo good to me. He loved to cook and cooked me dinners all the time. He did half the house chores, worked in the yard, always held down a job and worked his butt off. I worked too. He always made Christmas very special for us too and loved shopping for gifts and wrapping them. He also made my birthday special as well. We started a business together and he worked hard and I took care of the financial side of it and I held down a full-time job.

    He never changed how he acted concerning the things he did for me. However, he cheated on me with someone he worked with in 1999 (before we started our business). We separated and I forgave him and then after about a year we started living together again. Well, 7 months ago I finally got him to admit that he had been cheating on me again and he told me the affair had been going on for over a year before he left. Well, of course I went off and found the other woman on FB and sent her a nasty e-mail. She told him that she wasn’t the first and that he cheated on me before. Well, I knew about the woman in 1999, but now he tells me about another time he slept with someone 5 years ago. WTF??? How can someone be so good to me with such consistency for so many years, but ends up being a serial cheater throughout a marriage? I really need your advice and some help figuring all this out. Thanks.

      • Even though he treated me good every other way? He never abused me or anything. I just don’t understand it. It’s so upsetting.

        • Anyone that lies that well, for that long about something like this , must be a sociopath, IMO.
          They treat you well,so long as you are of use to them.
          Research his past. I bet there are signs of sociopathy.

          • Then does that mean anyone who cheats multiple times and keeps it concealed is a sociopath? I don’t know. I guess it’s just a strong word. Reminds me of serial killers. lol

            • Serial killers are at the far end of the sociopath continuum. There are many that have a differnet outlet for their sociopathy, like serial cheaters, con men/women, just overall cheats.
              Think about it. Your H is a serial cheater and showed no signs. He must be without a conscience to do that.

            • Marie, you need to read ‘The Sociopath Next Door’ by Martha Stout. Sociopaths on the whole are clever enough to work out that they don’t want to go to jail. Most sociopaths are alive and well, and living near you.
              Stout says: how do you get to see a sociopath? – By the trail of hurt and destruction they leave behind them.

          • Also, he is feeling guilty now because he still trying to do things for me even though he left me for another woman. Of course he never confessed to the affairs. I had to keep asking until he admitted it. What a mess.

    • Marie, my ex did this as well. He never talked much so I looked to his actions for confirmation of his caring. He did things like get up early to scrape my car of ice and have it warmed up for me. Even the day he announced he’d filed for divorce he opened the garage doors for me. Helped around the house, did dishes, laundry, left flowers for me in the car when he was traveling. It was very confusing to me too, I’d looked at those small gestures as his way of saying he cared even though he wasn’t very verbal. When I asked him about this after he left he said “I always enjoyed doing things for you.” It was so confusing.

      • Sounds like my soon to be ex. He is still telling me he loves me, cares for and worries about me. I really believe its all about him and the fact that he cant be seen as the bad guy. It is still all about his ego and hiding things from me.

        It is very confusing but when I put it into perspective it became more clear. Therapy has helped as well. Good luck….

      • Lyn, bingo!

        Theat is dead-on my husband.

        I am in Australia, waiting to move back to the US, and have nowhere else to go until I do. He keeps on doing things for me… Cooked us pasta for dinner the other night. Saw my hair bleach was on sale and bought some for me. Heck, he even gave me some of his frequent flyer points so I can fly back to the US to start getting my life together there… I still wonder what he’s going to try to pull while I’m away, because none of these do-good things come without some sort of price, trust me.

        Marie, keep in mind that these are also narcissistic behaviors. They are not being done to GIVE you something, they are being done to GET him something.

        Ask yourself how guilty you feel, and how much more it feels like the problems in your marriage are your fault when he does these things. He is doing it primarily to get his ego kibble. Seriously.

        (And wow, it cements it well in my mind to say it, too, so thanks!)

        Until I can get the hell out of here, I have taken to trying to view these gestures simply as, “Well, thanks. Great. One less thing I’ve got to do for myself during this troubling time.” Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I fail and find myself back in that place of guilt and blame. When that happens, I come back to chumplady for a literary slap across the face.

        Your feelings that are generated by his very insincere “do-gooding” are designed to have this effect on you. They are most likely pre-meditated, and are therefore passively aggressive, rather than kind or caring. Don’t be fooled!

        • Sounds like the asshole I’m married to. I’m baffled by the acts of “goodwill” after years of manipulation and gas lighting. It remains to be seen whether he lives up to his promises to see me and our son “whole”. WTF does that mean anyway? In the meantime, I’m taking what I can get from the cheater. He wants to do something nice for my sons and me just to make himself look better? Fine – as long as it helps me and them, too. I figure karma is a bitch and he will get what he deserves soon enough. I do wonder though if I’m handling it right, but this shit is so messed up I can’t imagine what right would be.

        • Mine is trying to pull this same shit. Acting all lovey dovey and nice and “take all the time and space you need” but “I really miss you” but also, oh, turns out I’m still seeing the OW behind your back, but here’s this nice huge helping of GUILT while you try to get away.

    • We were married to the same guy. We dated for 3 yrs before marriage and married almost 20. He was a pretty good guy to me but I never really trusted him 100%. I was right not to.

  • Arnold, I also sent this to Chump Lady…What are your thoughts too?

    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.

    • Marie,
      First, I am so sorry. Being betrayed is by your spouse is unbearable pain.
      Second, your spouse cheating IS NOT YOUR FAULT. He CHOSE to do so. Whether or not you rejected him, your business failing (debt), kids, stress, whatever is not really the issue. These problems are def problems in the marriage. And if he was so unhappy, he could have spoken up then to say he needed these things resolved and work on them, or he wanted out (honorably). He chose instead to lie to, cheat on, and steal from his wife and family. Time, attention, honesty, integrity, love, etc.. All a farce.
      He most likely was so “giving” because he tried to over compensate at home for what he was doing away from home (cheating) AND to also keep you from suspecting anything. But you pulled his mask off his face, Marie. And his real face is unsightly and disfigured. His character? None.
      Marie, he is blame shifting now to put the accountability of his cheating on you. This is NOT your shame. Not your guilt. not your responsibilty. It is on him only.
      Reciprocal marriages and relationships are hard work. They take effort. Communication. Give and take. Sacrifice. Selfless at times. Cheaters don’t deal with these problems. They cake eat. A healthy, reciprocal relationship is impossible to have with a person who cheats. Period. While you were busy figuring out how to pay the bills and keep your business afloat, he is off to races with some side dish(es). Vile and disgusting.
      Good luck Marie. Stay strong. And remember, do NOT EVER let his guilt and shame become yours.
      PS He might not have given you any signs he was cheating. This is not your fault either. He was really good at covering his tracks for awhile. But eventually, the truth comes to light.

  • Here’s a skein I’m “trying” to untangle. I had an aunt (married to my deceased father’s brother) that I adored. After dday she was supportive but sort of icy. We had a serious falling out almost 2 years ago (topic not important to this comment). Three years ago she asked for my then stbx’s address so she could send a birthday card – I gave it to her, what did I care? Long story short I received a letter a few weeks ago from my uncle stating that my aunt had died – she had a number of health issues.
    A week after that letter I received a sympathy card from my now ex!?! I went NC early on to save my sanity & we have never had a real conversation since he left. He wrote that he was sorry to hear the news about my aunt (my uncle must have sent a letter to him as well). Sorry that my aunt died, you bastard! You weren’t & probably still aren’t sorry about what you did to my beautiful life! I shredded the card.
    Next day I get a card from his parents – I have had no contact with them since ex filed for divorce and they are sorry too!?!
    WTF is wrong with them? It even creeps me out to think that I was a topic of their conversation with their son. But they have no clue about what my life has been like since they shut me out. They have no clue either that I hadn’t had any contact with my aunt in some time. That card was shredded too.
    Why did they do this? I’m healing & have moved on so why haven’t they?

  • Thes folks have no insight into themselves or their actions. I have seen this before in my XW’s. They can do something as monstrously abusive as cheating, and then try to discuss the weather with you, make small talk, even reach out to your family.
    My first XW would always ask me to greet my family for her. WTF? Thye hated the bitch after what she had done to me and our kids.
    Never try to figure these folks out. Thye are wored very differently than normal folks. They have really fucked up defense mechanisms in place. They are a different species. The sky in their world is a vastly different color.

  • I have decided to no longer work on this skein. My stbx is the tangled up mess, not I. As soon as I told him he could have his divorce, he went back to his “emotional affair partner.” Yep, two pastors having an affair and handing out marriage advice left and right. It boggles the mind.

  • Please forgive me for being off topbut I haven’t been able to figure out how to post a question or the proper place to post a question could someone any one point me in the right direction please. thank u

  • Ref: About Chump Lady, Septerber 17, 2013, Ken Tuck (my tangle).
    My Mom in 1956 would take me to play with cousins having all the childhood illnesses (so I’d build up immunity) and gave me also every vaccine available (what a great Mom). She wanted to protect “her” most important “work of art…her only son”.

    But these Great Depression Era parents forgot to give me the most important gift of life…”good/loving/parents”. By 8 yrs, they asked me, “which parent did I want to live with…we’re getting a DIVORCE”. In 1957, no one got divorced and there was so much Shame on everyone…we were all “white trash.” Note: they had both been cheating on each other for years (and would continue to do so thought my life). My Mom even dropped hints that “maybe Dad wasn’t my ‘real’ dad.”

    So at 8 yrs, I REFUSED to chose and demanded to live with relatives/friends rather than them! The upside: I was now completely “inoculated” against cheaters, failed spouses, and shitty families. Good on me!

    …but I wasn’t “inoculated” against strangers in the world that could pull me in, mind fuck me, take my money, take my peace of mind, pull me away from my family, and finally, leave me suicidal. I am now! This young man of 22 at first, looked like a lost sheep of God, and he told me that he believed God had sent me to him to “help him”…and I “swallowed it hook, line, & sinker!” He was always will be, damaged beyond repair…return to manufacturer…sorry!

    I now know God wants me to take care of myself, my wonderful wife, and tell every MF’ing “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” out there…You’re going directly to Dante’s Second Level of Hell…it was made just for folks like you! Sorry I met ya…wouldn’t want to be ya!

    Meeting a Narcissist has been the worst thing in my long life (much worse than cancer), but surviving him has been my second greatest accomplishment (great wife and family as number one gift to myself ever).

  • What if they don’t respond to “please leave…. LEAVE.” and they stay around, they make one appointment with a counselor by themselves, keep staying up until 2am every night working on the big project that will bring in money to them, finally, when you have been the sole bread winner for the last few years? With children in the mix, and a stubborn unemployed serial cheating spouse who cannot really sit down to feel remorse except a handful of times, who has one AP who knows now he is married and a father, and other ‘little’ side affairs (aka emails, Skype messages, Craigs List history) and then doesn’t do anything to really change his ways; who doesn’t bring income, no support of any kind that a marriage should provide, and keeps you hostage. And gets angry that you yell at him all the time. I feel sad for the kids, caught in between, with the future of a single parent. But the serial spouse stays around, passive aggressive, feeling sorry for himself, oh working SO hard trying to make the next big thing that will earn some income but doesn’t bother with looking for a real job in the mean time to pay any of the bills, and you are scared that he may go jump off a bridge when you yell one more time “Enough. I can’t do this any more. Leave”, because he is Silent, sad looking, concerned looking, trapped looking, but he stays around?

    • You see a lawyer. Like yesterday. This is intolerable and you do not have to tolerate it.

      No one can force you to stay married to this person. There are legal consequences if you have kids and a mortgage and you move out, (it can be construed as abandonment, and might affect custody) so make your escape plan with an attorney. But MAKE A PLAN.

      Stop expecting consensus! I told you to leave, so of course, you’ll leave! If he’s passive aggressive, he will DELIGHT in denying you.

      Just act in YOUR best interest and stop putting energy into what he may or may do and if he likes it.

      Oh, and the suicide threats are classic. You don’t control his mental state. And he’s manipulating you. It’s emotional blackmail. Call his bluff.

    • This is very familiar to me, you have my sympathy. One thing that saved my sanity was finding out from a girlfriend that I could go to counseling for free. I’ve been seeing my therapist for months, and she has helped me regain my spirit. I kept telling her my ‘poor baby husband with depression, no job, and suicidal stories’ , and she would help me see how HE HAS TO CARE ENOUGH TO GET HELP. It’s not our job, we’re already doing enough! They like to keep us exhausted.
      Call a women’s shelter, or the state abuse line (it’s at least emotional abuse), or look for Volunteers of America- that’s who I go to, and they’re great! Anyone who says they will kill themself if you leave is actually threatening you, but you may be to beaten down and tired to see it.

    • Same story here. My husband thought he was entitled to not work for money because he ran a business(into the ground losing half of our retirement money and denying it the whole time). We have 3 properties and I had to struggle to cover all of the bills them when I had the gall to insist on a paycheque for the last 5 weeks I got discarded. He already had his new supply and no spousal support for me because he had no income for the previous year. POS! !!!

  • My “skein” is not the usual-my husband came out after 20 + years. He swore, swore he never acted upon it. I believe it-he is very uptight about the whole thing. He said he still loved me we wanted to try to stay together, kids, family. We tried for a while to make it work. We couldn’t and I have been trying to untangle that skein for a long time. This article actually helped me-understanding that the untangling/trying to understand was a coping mechanism, and in the end there is no understanding. It is what it is-fuckedupness. It’s not about me-it’s about him. There is nothing he can say or do that is going to make me feel better. I know it’s on me to get it together and move on, still sometimes I can’t help but reaching for that skein… still trying to untangle it.

  • Wish I had found this site during my first marriage. I think I did every idiot thing going. What a massive waste of time and energy that was.

    Once I was finally out (and it took another 6 months to clear my head), I caught on. Never again.

    Better late than never.

    • We have ALL made a ton of mistakes….you don’t expect to get fucked over so you really don’t have a plan of action. But I’ve been cheated on twice (and once caught a BF on a dating site…ok so three times) so I’m getting pretty good at it.

  • I’m at this stage right now : Untangling the Skein of Fuckupedness
    That’s why I am here reading and commenting on your awesome site 🙂

  • I live this website, my StBX, is still blaming me for his affair. And now he wanted to leave our kids with me (on his weekend) so he could go to the ow sons birthday party!!! How sick is that. Oh that apparently is my fault as well, because I thought it was too early for them to meet her. What’s worse is he had not seen his kids for 2 weeks, we were away, so I stupidly assumed he would want to spend the whole weekend with them. It breaks my heart that he is not putting them first.

    How do I deal with that??

    • If you figure that out, Gail – let me know. It breaks my heart that I have to watch my kids having their heart broken.

      This past weekend, my kids, without my insistence or assistance, phoned their dad to wish him a happy birthday. This finally released me from my policing their relationship.

      They are clearly capable of attaining and maintaining a relationship if they want. I can bow out, knowing they have the skills.

      Doesn’t make my heart break any less that they get so little from him.

  • My cheater did give me a VERY generous divorce settlement. Way more than any court or judge would have decreed. I guess that’s one of the reasons I stayed hooked in his skein as long as I did. Also he would do anything for me.

    • What is a generous divorce settlement? I am looking into a post nuptual agreement after finding out he had been cheating with a 20 year old girl from his lab… so-called-love, gifts, “difficult to disengage with her”, making out like a teenager, texting all the time until he got caught one month into his first physical encounter with her. I’m wanting to know what are the things I should expect in a post nuptual.

      • When mine cheated 5 years ago, I thew him out. 4 months later, he came back crying and begging to return. All I heard was how hard it was on HIM. His apologies seemed thin. However, he agreed to a post nup giving me the house, any monies in my name or the kids names, the timeshare and much n of our personal belongings. You must give them sometime (in legal terms it’s called “consideration”, or it will never hold up in court). It was such a huge and earnest demonstration…. and I bought into the idea that it represented remorse. GET that post-nup, but don’t be fooled into thinking it means they will change. The narcissist, feels entitled. I found out this year that his on line and off line debauchery went on all throughout the marriage. So yes, I got the assets in the divorce along w a decent settlement for child support
        But it still fucks you up emotionally. His freedom was more important than the money. He is now romancing his next unfortunate conquest while I lick wounds and wrestle with my embarrassment. I was always able to smell a rat, except for the narcissist I married. Having kids and becoming isolated didn’t help. I just got turned on to this site. I like it!

  • I found this site a few days ago, and have been reading posts everyday. Thanks to our fabulous CL and all those who have posted. It surely is validating to know that serial cheaters are monsters (I would not consider them humans) that do exist in our world, and unfortunately, in our life. I had been in a 25-year marriage (during those years, I had to suffer the unbearable pain of discovering my exH’s dealings with other women every couple of years) before I finally divorced him a year and half ago. It was a very confusing and soul-tormenting relationship, with him being exquisitely caring to me after the discovery and then once the crises was over he would go back to his cheating behaviour again. He had written letters of promises to me in which he vowed not to cheat again and swore that he loved me, not any of those women he had slept with or had internet affairs with. He had admitted that he had a problem, and begged me to help him. He volunteered to see a counselor, etc., etc. In the end, however, I was devastated to learn that nothing had really changed in him. All he had done was to entrap me in the marriage because I was useful to him. We are immigrants in Canada. I worked very hard to get education in this country and got myself established professionally. He didn’t have a stable job, but was busy entertaining himself with other women all those years, although he did do work around the house. To this day, I’m still upset with myself that I let him abuse me for so long. I thought we loved each other, and we shared a wonderful son, and we could eventually work things out, and life would be rewarding in the end…. His last affair was so atrocious that I knew right away, as soon as I discovered it, that our marriage was over….

    What a journey, this last year and half! I’m so glad that I survived. There were so many times during those initial months when I felt so broken that I thought I wouldn’t be able to make it…. Yet, I was strong enough to reach the phone to call crises line, because I wanted to live for my son, for myself.

    I still think about what he did to me everyday, but I can definitely feel more and more relief as the days go by. I wonder how long it would take for me to fully recover. It does feel that the marriage was a toxic addiction that I’ve been trying so hard to break free from….

    Anyone who’s further along in your recovery process? And what are your experiences/insights on a healthy, real relationship? Is it possible?

  • Alene keep going. Read CL’s blogs, read all the amazing posts from many resilient chumps from all over the world. You may feel alone but you are not! Be brave. Time is our most amazing friend. (Although it does not feel like it sometimes)
    I especially like Tracy’s quote “know your worth” it’s my mantra. You are worthy and deserve to be treated with respect. Cheaters do not respect anybody.
    Know your worth.

  • Arlene keep going. Read CL’s blogs, read all the amazing posts from many resilient chumps from all over the world. You may feel alone but you are not! Be brave. Time is our most amazing friend. (Although it does not feel like it sometimes)
    I especially like Tracy’s quote “know your worth” it’s my mantra. You are worthy and deserve to be treated with respect. Cheaters do not respect anybody.
    Know your worth.

  • I have been searching for answers that make sense. My husband is a serial cheater and liar. After reading many articles/blogs I found your website. Thank you so much CL for writing the truth in clear terms! You help me be sure that I am sane. The craziness is his and I can’t solve his problems. I see now that I never could. That is a job for God alone. I am regaining my life now. My kids and I can move forward and enjoy our lives without his drama. Thanks again for the clarity you have given me.

    • I’m amazed by the stories here of people that have had bad experiences, similar to mine. My now ex, mother of my 3 and 5 year old was having an affair (and I believe still is) with a man she works with for four months before she told me. I tried to get her to come back to the relationship but now, four months out I’m glad she didn’t! I now see how much drama she brought into my life and the lives of my kids with her insanity. I too am regaining my life at 40 and believe there are far better things to come in my future that what I’ve left behind.

  • I’m so glad I found this site. I tried for months to get my ex to come back, all the while she blamed me for her having an affair with a married man while I was home watching our two kids. My therapist had met her and told me, “it’s not you… it’s all her!” But even still, your partner blames you, yells at you and you feel somewhat responsible. I now see how much better off I am without my ex’s drama in my life and my kid’s lives.

    Thanks again for the post.

  • what about the spousse who cheated 2 years straight is that different then serial cheating? I mean really keeping up such a double life either way

  • thank you so much for your site. and for your bluntness. my divorce was final in march 20 2014. we separated for the 3rd time in january and i was STILL trying to make it work. i did not believe in divorce. i thought that everything i was doing was to save the marriage, now i am not sure of anything anymore. EXCEPT THAT THIS IS HIS FAULT not mine. yes, he cheated on me before but “only when we were separated”. *shrugs* idk if i believe that anymore. the last time i knew he was with OW. He was in the process of moving in with her. we were separated for 2 years, and he would tell me he wanted me back when he was drunk (and he drinks alot…alcoholic) i wanted him to tell me when he was sober but he never did. so i thought it was my fault that i let it go on for so long. i wanted him back, i did not want a divorce and for my children to have a broken home. so i begged him to come back and he did. 5 months after he came back, my 25 year old daughter past away. 2012 was a blur for me. i was completely “out of it” and in a fog. i cant tell you what happened that year at all. Jan 2013 the fog was lifting and i started wondering why i paying all the bills and him not contributing anything. his excuse was he only made 200 a week. found out in june that he was making 500 to 600 A WEEK!.

    anyhow, 2013 was a train wreck. he was hiding money, what he was spending it on, hiding other things i still dont know, drinking more, started staying out all night, not answering my calls or texts, looking at dating sites, and of course blaming me for everything. gaslighting to the extreme. i was (am) really messed up in the head. i knew he was struggling with something. i believe the death of our daughter triggered something. i used to “take care of him”, i was the perfect supply. and i really didnt mind it because that is just what you do when you love someone. he was actually a good man, a fair husband and dad. but before he did give back up until last year.

    i still dont know what happened. but i just couldnt deal with it anymore. i was still struggling with my grief. he told me i got boring because i didnt want to go out, go to friend, and drink. i wanted to stay home, fix the house, garden and spend time with my family.

    so he didnt come home on new years eve, i packed his stuff. nicely, folded and in boxes. the next day he picked it up and we went to the notary down the street to sign the divorce papers i filled out at 3am. he never said a word. so in january, we talked about marriage counseling, he agreed. i asked him to go to aa, he refused. feb 9, i took him another box of stuff, he brought his girlfriend to the pickup place. it was not pretty.

    the next day i filed for divorce. somedays i regret it. but i am not going to fight another woman for his love. i could put up with the drinking, the not coming home, even the lying and hiding (i thought it was all tied in with the alcoholism) i still believe he is struggling and lost. i now think he has a personality disorder (signs of narcissistic, borderline and sociopath) i also believe the alcohol abuse, and probably substance abuse (i think he is on meth) is a symptom and not the cause as i previous thought. i hurt for him. i wanted to save him. he needs help. but i know it is not my job to do it.

    this post was great, because i find myself trying to unravel what happened last year. where did it first start, where did i mess up. should have, would have, could have. i dont know. part of me still thinks he loves me and just going thru something. part of me would still take him back. but honestly, i cant. i dont want a man that can leave his wife and kids. i think she was an exit cheat. because he wasnt man enough to just tell me. he actually told me before the divorce was final that he still loves me, but he loves me enough to let me go because he cant stop hurting me. awwwww…..blech!

    so i am trying to STOP unraveling, STOP trying to figure why and How could he do this to me. and STOP worrying about when he will come back (cuz i know he will eventually) i was the best thing that ever happened to him. and i am the only person who truely cared for him and tried to make his life “better”.

    now, i am struggling with my 2 boys (age 8 and 12). if he sees them, it is because i call him to come get them. if he talks to them it is because i call him and hand the phone to the kids. right now he is not paying child support because i refused to give him some truck in my yard. so i am looking into garnishing his paycheck. it didnt have to be this way but this is how he wants it. my hands are tied. he gave me no other option. yes, i still feel guilty. it feels wrong to me. not the right thing to do. your site is helping me see that i did everything i could and he should have handled it differently.

    • What your describing here isn’t love, it’s a train wreck in slow motion with toxic chemicals spewing everywhere!

      I’m sorry you lost your daughter that is awful! But you have to start believing in yourself, start loving yourself, and start seeing yourself as a person that has value!

      And for God sakes, stay the hell away from that loser you now call an ex husband!!! He’s a sinking ship, you’re not and stop trying to “figure it out”, your job isn’t to fix other people! Your job is to take care of you first and your kids second, that’s it! Unless you like being a doormat for deadbeats, take your dignity and get on with your life.

      • Thank you Joe Casey. my life is a train wreck. today i am a crybaby because idk… i guess i miss him, or i miss having someone, or i hate being alone. or shrugs, everything.

        i am trying to stay away from him, but like the true chump i am i still love him. for me it is not a job to love someone, to want better for them, to help the person you love out. but ya, ya, i get it. he doesnt care. and doesnt reciprocate.

        ironically, you are not the first to say i was being a doormat. it makes me laugh because i actually do not see that i am door mat. i sit here and cry, what did i do wrong, what could i have done better. and i fail to see all these horrible things he did to me. i guess my short term memory is crap. i easily forgive and FORGET the bad. i was the perfect supply and didnt even care i was a supply. i would have kept giving and giving and giving……. so why did he leave me? or was it that i finally did get fed up with it. (i did kick him out more times just last year then i would panic and ask him to come back. last time i kicked him out was on news years day, and he wouldnt come back)

        funny thing is i am actually really strong. independent, self reliant. i dont even know when i got so turned around. and ya, i am working on myself. getting better. today is just a bad bad day. i cant stop crying. my heart is hurting and breaking all over again.

        but i appreciate your reply. this site brings me back to reality on days like this when i am full of chumpness that i make myself sick.

        • No one likes being alone except maybe the unibomber! We all need people in our lives but live yourself enough to be single until the RIGHT person comes along to fit into your life. There are good men out there, don’t give up hope and don’t settle for someone that makes you feel like less than who you are!

          • thank you again Joe. i still have my days. but i think i am FINALLY getting that last part. when i think about all that he didnt do, and ya, i deserve better. i was just a strong believer that marriage was forever and you dont divorce…YOU FIX IT…. but i couldnt fix it by myself and i was alone long before he left. i dont know about good men out there. but at least i am not a doormat

        • Mo, I’ve been where you are. Try melanie tonia evans website. I had great help using her NARP program. Do all you can to turn your loving energy towards yourself.

        • MrsM, I can relate to you so much. I my crying reading your post because you are so much like me. I have been treated so bad all my life. I turn the other cheek and say hit harder. I am working on my issues and I know I have a long way to go. I know if I remain strong knowing that the path I am taking to better myself will eventually free me form this hell I am in. “funny thing is i am actually really strong. independent, self reliant.” You are this person and so am I. Lets both live up to who we truly are.

          • mrsvain is mo and MrsM

            i still hurt. but reading CL has opened my eyes on a lot of things. sad thing is i still love this asshat that loved to hurt me. i just cant understand why he left me when i was basically doing everything right. and i didnt even care that he was an asshat. oh well.

            i think the thing that bothers me the most (at least today) is that i wasnt worth fighting for. everything i done for him in the past means nothing. even thou i loved him thru thick and thin, meant nothing. it is really a blow to me, knowing that i could do everything right and still get left like i wasnt anything more then a piece of trash. 14 years. and nothing.

            i need to work on me, yes. i am still pretty (something i get told often when i tell people i recently divorced and something i been told all my life really except from XH only one a few occasions hence the screen name mrsvain(had it since high school)), i am a little bit overwieght but working on that. i feel old and tired. i feel like nobody wants me. i feel like i am no good to anyone. but then my upbringing kicks in and i know i am a good woman. i was a good wife and a good mother.

            it just sucks that nobody seems to care.

            • Trust me, it will get better. So much better. I cried every day, several times a day, for nearly 2 full years. Went for therapy twice a week for 2 years. Finally the cloud lifted. Meanwhile the ex has been married two more times. So glad I am out of that craziness.

              You are a good person, this was not your fault. Some people are just wired wrong, and it isn’t for us to try to fix them. That is way above our pay grade.
              Take care of yourself and your children, hold your head up high, and know that this too shall pass. Better days are coming. They did for me, and they will for you, too.

              • thank you Val. i believe thing are getting better. i still have my down days. but when i go there now, i tell myself 2 things. not my monkey, not my circus and it doesnt matter anyway. because all his (and her) craziness doesnt have anything to do with me (even if they try to make it so) and whatever i thought i needed to tell him, explain or whatever really doesnt matter.

                i hate being alone but i was alone for a long time already. i DO NOT WANT A MAN WHO CAN WALK OUT ON HIS WIFE AND KIDS. i will just do one day at a time.

  • CL, after over 10 books on why he is the way he is, I came across your blog. I am so grateful because now I am purchasing books on how to overcome my codependency issues. And now of course your wonderful book. I finished it in two days. Thank you for all that you do. And Thank you for helping me wake up from my FOG.

  • “Not only will you make the counseling appointments, next you’ll get your magic marker and highlight all the relevant chapters in the affair books you bought for them on Amazon.”

    I feel naked! Haha, I actually laughed out loud at 1am because I still HAVE the highlighted copies of The Five Love Languages, Driven to Distraction etc etc that I pored over while he was out boning God knows what. Two years later and I’m still cursing his parents for HIS shitty decisions! Fuck him!! Thanks for the wake-up call, CL.

    • Hi every one. A cheater here. Recent one. After 18yrs of marriage I found a “friend” who understands me. I am so glad I’ve found this blog. It helps me see me for what I am. Selfish, deceiving, and basically a traitor. From this blog I see my wife is co-dependent. I’ve tried to leave and she begs me crying to stay. She uses all the trick here, new clothes, cooking more, no more yelling, trying to encourage me to therapy. I’m truly trying to help her see, I am just a bastard. I met somebody, liked it, went after it, and after coming home to “reconcile” I kept seeing her. From this blog I’ve made up my mind to leave. I’m gonna use some of this wording to describe myself to her and stop using these dumb excuses. I want her to move on from me and I’ll do do everything I can to support her financial, and emotional health. I also love my children dearly so we will have to work with one another in that respects. I want to see her do better than me. Thank u everyone for your candid remarks. I am going to use all of this pain to become a better person.

      • If you’re going to continue the affair, leaving is the more responsible option. On the other hand, if you want to become a better person, you could start by doing what’s best for your family. If you’re not going to end the affair, that means leaving, so that your children don’t have to watch you abuse their mother. If you want to get on the fast-track to becoming a better person, you can end the affair and make it up to your family by offering your wife a post-nuptial agreement and seeking out counseling for the issues you have that led you to think cheating was okay.

        You’ve mentioned that your wife is co-dependent, and that you want to help her. Be careful of twisting this into a justification of your own behavior. Remember: She is acting out in reaction to how you hurt her. Your leaving her will make her feel worse in the short-term, and will take a toll on your children. That will still be better than them leaving with an abusive cheater, but let’s not kid ourselves: You couldn’t stay faithful to your wife, what makes you think you will be there for your children down the line? These aren’t things you get to fix at a future date; the choices you make now will impact the people close to you for the rest of their lives.

        Don’t read this as me saying “Stay together for the children,” because it’s not. I’m only saying that, if you want to become a better person, you can start right now, and that means ending the most egregious of your selfish and abusive behaviors immediately.

  • It took me much longer than it should have to figure out the answer to “why was he doing this to me?”

    I was letting him.

    • I appreciate your reply. We have “counseling” at my workplace that is done in confidentiality. I have an appt tomorrow at 1pm. You are correct, I do not want to justify my actions by saying, I’m “helping” my wife by walking away this ending her co-dependency. I apologize if it came across that way. I know it’s gonna suck. Big time. For her and the kids and for me as well. I do know I’m going to be responsible for my children because its the person I am. I’m willing to keep them 6 months and let her have them 6 months. I’m not your typical father or daddy dummy. I cook and clean as much as and as well as my wife. I am a real father who educates, instructs, and molds his children. I do drop off to school, pick ups, homework, and discipline. I pay the bills. None of this is being said with the narcissistic viewpoint, this is reality. And none of this is being said to reduce my wife’s beauty physically and spiritually. Because I feel she’s an outstanding woman. I confessed to my wife. I didn’t get caught. But I have to admit that I didn’t leave because I felt guilt and fear of changing everyone’s circumstances drastically. It was “for the kids”, not because I was so in love with my wife and regretted my actions and was determined to never see the OW again. Honestly, when i was with the OW it felt right. I didn’t change my cell number at my wife’s request and as soon as she contacted me I made myself available. I continued to see her and hide it even after “reconciliation”, x2. I’m not the kind of person who can just live like this though. And i hate the torture im putting her thru. Im not the guy who resolves to cheat and stay with their wives indefinitely. I have acted in a cowardly manner by not being honest in recent months, but I’m no punk in general. I would rather live in my reality, even if it sucks, than a fantasy world. I guess at this point, since I’m not committed to saving the marriage, I feel I should move on. I can’t sleep at night like this. Not being said to justify my behavior, just stating a fact.

      • It sounds like you’re in for a bit of a ride, but it’s good that you can start being honest with yourself. I just hope you can stay committed to a fair divorce settlement with your wife, even when it gets hard. You should also make sure that you take responsibility for your actions, and don’t let yourself or anyone else place blame on her for your affair.

      • Kelly, are you sure you are not my STBXH? You sound exactly like him. He cooks and cleans much better than me. He wants to take care of the children half the time. He educates, picks up, disciplines, etc. He pays the bills on time. He wants to give me a fair divorce. He says I am strong, outstanding and tells the children he loves me still (but not enough to want to be with me, or in that way…). He thinks we can still be “friends” because he is not like the other cheaters. I probably am (was) as co-dependant as your wife …the point is, you can never make it right, no matter what a good person you think you are or how hard you try to make it up. You deceived the person who loved and trusted you the most for an extended period of time. You decided her emotional, financial, social, health, future for her without her participation. And the devastation is just beginning. My husband doesn´t know yet that his daughters know about his cheating because he is abroad, but when he comes back they will view him in a completely different light. I told them in an age appropriate way but it is still devastating for them to think that their father (who is so ethical and can´t stand his children lying) told the biggest lie of all and devastated their mother and them. And if your OW has children and you live with her in the future, your kids are going to feel further betrayed. In the end, we are adults and have to deal with this, but you didn´t realize that the ones you hurt the most and were completely innocent of your deception, are your kids. You should have told your wife at the beginning, when you were getting feelings for the OW…then there would have been a chance for a reconciliation or for a decent divorce if things didn´t work out because you couldn´t deal with the problems of your marriage and preferred to exit. It is too late now: so sorry for your kids and wife.

        • I agree, so sorry for my kids and my wife. I dont feel I said I cook and clean much better than her. I am pretty domesticated though. I am going to see my children daily because I love them and will not be a weekend Dad. I just made those statements to say I am prepared to have my children live with me for extended periods of time and be “in the routine.” By that I mean, not the Dad who shows up on the weekend with new shoes and takes the kids to candyland, but the Dad who can drop off to school, pick up, cook dinner, and just overall be in the grind. Not leaving the raising the kids to the woman in the situation and skipping town type of Dad. I mean being resolved to be best father I can be under the shitty circumstances. I am sure I do sound like your STBXH. Despite racial and economic differences, people are people. Those with deficits of my nature that come to light probably present the same much like people with symptoms of the flu. I understand I will never be able to make it right and things will always be “broken.” Its like glueing together a precious glass vase after being shattered. It will never have it’s original beauty. But thats all done now. I told my children myself what I did in an age-appropriate way and will do it again. I probably will not end up with the OW because I want to fix myself and concentrate on helping the children through this. I also will not have my children visiting me living with AW. Its bad enough as it is without seeing Daddy with Mom one day and then not, much less seeing me with somebody else along with her child. I will live on my own, absorb the pain I caused, and move forward in the future stronger. I also know what Ive done is not fair to her. Not in the least. But there is cheat and leave your wife and abandon your kids only to see them on holidays and provide no financial support and malign her good name and qualities vs cheat and leave your wife and take care of her and the children financially and support your childrens emotional growth by daily conversation, and physical presence and acknowledge you f…..d up and left a good woman because of selfishness. There are criminals, and there are criminals. Some steal bikes, others murder and rape. Obviously I’m the criminal. Im not avoiding that fact. I may have handled emotional issues between my wife and I like a child, but that is not the whole of who I am. I also will not allow it to categorize who I am and become from this point forward.

          • Thanks for your honesty—you might even be a unicorn. What angered me most is that my husband did not know how to do the right thing at any moment. It was as if I had to tell him what to do, because he had no clue and thought it would be easy for me because I am “strong.” No one is strong in such a situation, but at the same time we are forced to make the hardest decisions of our lives and to “move on.” If you can do anything to alleviate the decision making and the moving on part, you will be better than other cheaters. Also, if she wants to know details about your affair please tell the truth. For some reason, having that information, however painful, helps to bring back some of the power that was taken when in ignorance. It is also much, much worse to find out later, from another source.

      • Kelly, sorry…I imagine, if you are sincere, that you are trying to look for ways to make it better for your wife and here are some tips that would have helped me:

        1) Confess (I caught my cheater, so you have points there)
        2) NEVER blame your wife for the affair or say anything that might imply that you cheated because….
        3) Do anything she asks you to do, honestly (I asked my STBXH to not see his OW until we finalized the divorce, he agreed but I discovered he was lying and only stopped seeing her for a week – their passion probably grew more, so it wasn´t smart thing to ask, but I did it to have a sense of dignity while I was going through the most humiliating process of my life).
        4) Even if you don´t care, act like you do care (in her favor and the kids) about every detail of the divorce process. Take care of the paper work, the lawyers all the dirty work but by informing your wife 100% of every detail. (I ended up having to do all that, and it makes me even angrier that I had to help divorce him, pack his boxes of stuff, make all the arrangements at school, etc)
        5) If she asks for No Contact, please respect this. Do NOT to talk to her, be nice to her, send her flowers, congratulate her on her birthday, bring up nice memories of the past etc. Realize that all those actions are more humiliating than anything else because you no longer share those memories with her, and they are now all in question. You not only screwed up her future, but also her past. Even if you never cheated before, there will always be that doubt that maybe you did more than once. Maybe during that family trip three years ago, you were sexting with your “special friend” or maybe on those days you came home late from work ten years ago, you were also with someone, or on trips that you did not go with her. Everything in your past relationship becomes a big question mark. I have learned that No Contact is the only way to begin healing. Any contact that is verbal, triggers the trauma all over again.
        6) By no means try to become her friend or lover after divorce, even if you think you want to be with her again. This often happens because you will see her in a new light and you will miss your family and she will become stronger and more attractive to you at some point as soon as you have to deal with the reality of real life with your AP. But entering her intimate space of feelings when you already abandoned her is even more devastating a second time. So please don´t her again.

      • What made you seek a “friend” after 18 years of marriage, and why, if “it felt right with OW”, did you do 2 false reconciliations?

        • My wife has a temper. That is all I will say without seeming like I’m maligning her character because I am not. I dealt with it in the wrong way. I say wrong, but I was trained to never argue with a woman, never make her feel bad and of course never abuse her physically or emotionally. When I felt like I would explode, I said nothing. This was so I didn’t break those rules. Problem was, I never said nothing, and nothing, and nothing for years. I allowed resentment to build up instead of addressing the problem like I should have. I started this habit as a boy and it grew in the husband I became. Years of resentment and I plain disliked her, but stayed out of scriptural obligations and for the kids when they came. But my lack of interest in her as a person declined. I more wanted to take care of her, not be with her. Like all the cheater cliches I read on this site, the friendship “just happened”, although I guess subconsciously I may have been looking. In either case, yes we happened to just meet, but I have deliberately pursued it to my and my family’s downfall. I did 2 reconciliations because I dis want to do the right thing. Each time though, I failed to realize how strong my attraction for the OW had become. My selfishness overrode my desire to re-establish my relationship wih my wife. Of course I could talk for hours. She also has a whole nother side of this. But I guess for now, that’s my brief synopsis. I will also say, earlier I mentioned my wife’s temper. As a result of this she has made a 180 deg change. I am the one who became so hardened under her nose even when she didn’t realize it. So like I said, my selfishness and hard-heartedness has overpowered my desire to soften. So like I’ve admitted, it’s all very sad.

          • So Kelly, how did you meet this Other Woman? Do you work with her? It seems you left out a lot of details about how this affair just “happened.”

              • Sorry, I didn’t read your whole story at first. So it sounds like you plan to break things off with this OW which is probably wise considering the fact that at some point your kids are going to learn of this OW and you’re right, you don’t want to make it harder on them by shacking up with someone you are leaving their mother for. I’ve seen it happen and it can cause severe anxiety and depression in children. A good friend of mine went through something similar with her ex-husband and her daughter had to be hospitalized multiple times for cutting herself as the result. Please don’t do that to your kids. Plus you mentioned she has a child which even compounds the matter… what a mess!

                You should also ask yourself why you became so obsessed with this OW. Often times what people in affairs think is “love” is really just infatuation confused as real love, because there is a void in one’s life and the affair fills that emotional void. Consider the void is within you and to truly become the better person you now claim you wish to be, you have to give yourself the chance to heal without simply using sex as a coping mechanism.

          • Kelly there’s something else you didn’t mention, are you still seeing this Other Woman or are you going to break things off with her and get yourself together?

  • My first XW, Kelly, has been abiding by no contact, as our kids are now grown.
    Best thing you can do for your wife is to try to have as little contact as possible, IMO.
    I do much better when I have no contact.

  • Kelly,

    IM humble O, sometimes legal-separation for a couple of years or until you want to marry again is a good thing. During this time, you both can try on other relationships, seek counseling, figure yourselves out.

    Cheating is when the other partner is not aware of the sexual transgressions. Being separated helps both parties explore other possibilities.

    Going outside your marriage for gratification because YOU were unable to address your spouse’s outbursts sounds like “sexualized anger” and is a passive aggressive tendency. The old, “I’ll show her.” You may not love your wife anymore at this time and even blame her for your affair but everyone needs to slow down.

    You sound like you have remorse. The OW is into married men, so she’s no prize. I think you know this. You are relying on the dick to find the love and connection that were missing in your relationship. That will go away.

    Just keep everything on the table. Your wife gets to make a decision,too. Living on her own will empower her. She may find someone who is fiery like her and doesn’t become more quiet then has an affair or not.

    Just my two cents.

  • Oh Chumplady keep talking to me and make me see the light. I have just recently discovered your website and so wish I had found it long ago.

  • Where have you been I needed this in 1987, his first affair, and 1999 his second affair (that I knew of), and 2013 after 37yrs of marriage divorce due to yet another affair.. Then 5 yrs of beating myself up for the what did I do wrong, not skinny enough,not tan enough, not fun enough (I can drink beer with the bestt of them), he just wasn’t HAPPY…Really, and my three daughters have ditched me because everyone else moved..Yeah he moved on way before I ever knew it….

  • The reason it is not worth trying to untangle the skein of fuckupedness is because one word explains everything and every situation and action – TODDLER

    When every query was perfectly explained by the fact that he was a toddler, no more time was wasted trying to find an “answer”.

  • Delightful! Permission to stop trying to figure out what causes a gaslighting bullshit artist to do the things he does. I’m just at the cusp of letting it go. Nothing covert about his narcissism.

  • I’m reading all the posts…
    The moment we drop the “ fuck- and-pick-me-dance” there is nothing there…. suddenly I see that I was the partner( proposing sex, fun activities, planning dates, asking for more time, sticking to values) who actually WAS looking inward the relationship, trying to understand, fix, explain all the craziness done to our marriage.
    It was me- the biggest chump of all- who was also blamed for everything…

    I sit and think: I was neglected, often left alone with 3 small children, my emotional needs were not met, my sexual needs were not met, I was gaslighted from the start- yet it was me trying to fix “ the problem”( myself)

    Now… all the horrible things didn’t push me to start hooking up, spending money with male prostitutes, getting oral from strangers or having unprotected sex with others…
    Yet, it seems that for my H- house not being clean enough, or laundry not being folded on time- were legitimate reasons for cheating.

    Couldn’t understand that for a long time.

    When I look at it now: I had a role to play in his life; being a faithful wife, loved and appreciated by his family, mother of his children , taking care of the
    “ family unit” … while he was doing whatever he wanted .

    THAT IS WHY : when I stopped the pick-me-dance ( fixing ,proposing solutions) I started living in a grey zone of big nothingness…

    No need for any fix, my feelings- who cares?
    He can ask for affection… or not.

    Ugh… I’m such a stupid chump

  • Yes, I have wasted countless hours even though it was crystal clear. She was cheating on me with her best friend’s husband while I was tending to my dying parents (both with cancer) in front of my 7 year old daughter after 25 years of marriage. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it… And still trying to understand why, and how and maybe only if….

    I am in a much better place now but struggling with having my child next to the scum bag she cheated with…

    Thanks for the articles, very inspiring.

  • Out of everything on this immensely helpful site, this is my favorite. When my mind wanders instead of embarking on the never ending trail for the thousandth time I just recognize what i’m doing and think “You’re untangling the skein of fuckeduppedness again.”.

  • This article has been helping women for ten years now. Today it helped me. Sometimes i forget but Chump Lady makes me SEE. Thank you for that, refocus back on ME !

  • “There is nothing they can say by way of explanation that is not self serving and self pitying. The only thing a cheater can do is DEMONSTRATE they have remorse through their ACTIONS.”

    This applies to every single type of person who will fuck you over, ever. I’ve had some heinously bad experiences with “activists” who were “advocating” on behalf of “people like me,” while routinely stepping on, laughing off, profiting at the expense of, and just generally harming me. At this point, I have only ONE response to ANY type of person who attempts to weasel their way into my good graces as an “apology” or a “gesture of goodwill.”

    So you wanna fix it? You wanna help? Make the environment better. Do something useful for society as a whole. Donate to something direct, kinetic, and honest. Keep doing it. And finally, most importantly, never attempt to directly win ME over again.

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