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Dear Chump Lady, What if my cheating wife comes back?

Dear Chump Lady,

You had tried reconciliation with your ex, and up until recently I too had hoped for that. In fact, three or so weeks ago she called me in tears asking to come back home. This was five days before her scheduled move-in date with her affair partner (AP), and she tells me that up until then, moving in with him seemed like an abstract thing. But since the AP’s wife kicked him out, AP thought the smart thing to do was get a place together.

The apartment was beyond their means, in fact she was the one who had to get the cash advance on her credit card to move in. She told me that she wasn’t sure she was in love with him, but she and I had something “deep.”

Well, at first I’m thinking this is just what I’ve been waiting for, but then the next morning she backtracks, and the next day a little more…. so she ends up moving in with him.

Since then I’ve cut off all non-essential contact with her and am proceeding with divorce . My gut tells me that sometime soon she may try to come crawling back. Why? They are in heavy debt, no health insurance, and he’s on four prescriptions plus a sleep apnea machine (it’s like a nursing home over there), his Cialis is out of pocket, he pays $800.00/month child support, and lots towards his medical expenses. Neither of them make much money (she doesn’t even make $10K a year).  My wife is a gym rat, in great shape. I just can’t wrap my mind around it. It’s unsustainable.

Thing is, having my daughter pulls at me. I think about her having her family back. What was it that made you decide to give your husband another try? And how should I respond to my wife if and when she asks to return? In my heart I know I need to move on without her, and I want to be strong, not show any weakness and say the right things to her.


Dear Jeff,

She thought moving in with him was an ABSTRACT thing? How is she enjoying the theoretical debt she is incurring? (Are they imaginary numbers?) Or her soulmate’s erectile dysfunction? And sleep apnea machine? Seriously?

Wow, and she’s thinking about leaving that Dreamboat and coming home?

Here’s how I read your situation. She leaves you, then says she wants back. That is YOUR cue to do the Humiliating Dance  of Pick Me! Try harder to win back the wonderfulness that is her. <snort> Here is where you lose me — she doesn’t come home because…… you said go fuck yourself?  (Please tell me you told her to go fuck herself, which apparently she must make a habit of, as he can’t get it up). No, she moves in with him for the stated reason…. The AP “THOUGHT IT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.”

That howler had to come from her, right? Along with the something “deep” she feels for you? You realize this is a play for CAKE, don’t you? The deep thing she feels for you is in your back pocket, right where you keep your wallet. She wants to keep you as the Mr. Fall Back Plan and the personal financier of her fuck ups.

I hope you’ve got a kickass lawyer, Jeff, because my first fear for you is that somehow you’re on the line for all this debt she’s running up. My next thought is, it sounds like she moved out, so I hope you have her for abandonment of the home and your daughter. Please solidify your position. Keep her out the home. Her problems with the AP (financial, penile, and otherwise) are not your concern. They are her karma.

You asked: What was it that made you decide to give your husband another try? Stupidity, Jeff. I have a long post about it, which sums it up. Five things that keep you stuck with a cheater. That was me. He did a lot of what I thought at the time were convincing dramatics about How Sorry He Was, but his actions said otherwise.

And look, even if I believed in reconciliation (and I do not), you have NOTHING to reconcile with. Her actions are screaming loud and clear that she’s a cake eating wing nut — she lives with her affair partner. She walked out on her daughter. She wanted to come home so badly (and eat cake) that she… went to go live with him. But hey, it’s not like a FOR REAL thing — she just meant it in the “abstract” sense. She’s not truly fucking you over, Jeff. It’s ABSTRACT. Does it FEEL abstract, Jeff? Or does it feel REAL?

I understand that you want a family for your daughter. Grieve that. Grieve your marriage with this woman and what you thought it would be. Then take a very hard look at what it is. It’s toxic. Your little girl should not grow up having this kind of dysfunction modeled to her. You CAN have a family — either create one yourself with the family you have and dear friends, or hold out for the real possibility that you will love again, and reinvent. You’ll have an authentic relationship with someone worthy of your love and loyalty. Which will be a blessing for your daughter and you.

As to how should you respond to your wife if she asks to return?

Direct her to your attorney. Don’t listen to her nonsense, her Hail Mary plays for forgiveness. Don’t put your head in the blender, by which I mean don’t talk about your relationship or the deep bullshit she feels for you. NC. NC. NC!

It’s hard stuff. Get some support from an online forum, here, a therapist, and read Dr. Simon’s books and others. But stay STRONG, Jeff. Do NOT take her back. There is a GOOD life waiting for you here on the other side of divorcing her broke, gym-rat toned ass.


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  • Thanks for the great advice. My lawyer says I am not responsible for any of her debt post separation, and of course since they don’t have money for a lawyer, she’s going to miss out on grabbing part of my 401k since anything involving money other than spending it is too mundane and boring.

    This all started six years ago with a guy she fooled around with who she met at my daughters’ kindergarten. Physical but not sexual (she said). She confessed to me, I fell apart, but knowing nothing about cheating I figured it was a one time thing, and well, we have a five year old, I love my family life, we’ll work on it.

    She went through severe withdrawal when she broke contact with him and ended up in a mental hospital for a week. I knew I was in deep trouble. She got out of there and was changed, from time to time mentioning that marriage might just not be what she wants.

    A year goes by and she has another couple of make out sessions with a different guy. Confesses again. I wonder why? So these are the two times I know of. I understand now that we’re on track for disaster.

    Fast forward to April of this year, she leaves her email up, I look and discover she’s been on Ashley Madison and has met at least three guys, one of whom I know she screwed in my bed. That’s it, I tell her I’m going to divorce her. Then a week goes by and she tells me she’s in love with grandpa from work.

    Weird thing, now all I want to do is keep her. She moves into an apartment, I spend three months trying to win her back, then she moves in with him… You know the story. I honestly think the only thing worse than your spouse cheating is the death of a child. It is most definitely abuse, how about being able to have cheaters arrested and prosecuted for abuse? Unfortunately, we would need more prisons than there are McDonald’s.

    Fast forward to

    • Jeff, she’s a serial cheater. Move forward and never, ever look back. Also (and I had to do this), get some therapy and have a good unvarnished look at yourself and your own issues for why you would “want to keep her.” It’s very human, and I think it is a stage of grief — bargaining (okay! I can save this!) But she showed you who she really was several OM in. It’s time to believe this is the REAL her. You have great worth as a loyal partner, as a good dad. Don’t cast your pearls to swine. She’s not your problem now. And get your daughter some therapy. Mom has modeled terrible things to her, and abandoned her, sounds like. She’ll need some shoring up. But — ultimately, it’s all good. Your life is going to get better and better for not having this chaos and pain in it. Same is true for your child. Make a new life, and don’t feel one bit bad or responsible for your wife’s dreadful life choices.

      • Thank you so much for your encouraging words. I’m in therapy and will soon be getting some for my daughter. I need some time to heal, but I am still hopeful about the future and meeting a normal, loving, trustworth woman. Keep up the good work, you are helping many people.

  • What it took me a log time to realize(and this is very politically incorrect on the infidelity support websites) is that cheaters are , definitely, wired differently than non-cheaters.

    I know it is popular on some sites(notably marriagebuilders) to allege that we are all wired to cheat. Peggy Vaughn says this , too, in her book, “The Monogamy Myth”.
    But, i just do not buy it> I know my mom could have never done this. I know many people who are just not capable of it.

    Vaughn needs to put forth this theory about all of us being wired to cheat, because her own husband was a really egregious example of a serial cheater( I suppose that is redundant) , and she stayed with him , despite his recent proclamations that he aspired to cheat in the future. Strikes me that she has low self esteem.

    Jeff, this is who you wife is. And, she is many standard deviations away from where your morals and values are located. Sometimes, I am surprised that we are able to breed with these folks, as I have difficulty imagining that our chromosome configuration is compatible with theirs.

    • Arnold, I totally agree that serial cheaters are a different breed of cat. I do think they lack empathy and are probably disordered. That’s why I’m such a fan of the writing of Dr. George Simon, because he speaks of it as “character disturbance” and makes a HUGE distinction between people who operate by the normal playbook, and those who manipulate and try and gain advantage over others. We cannot think that they WANT to play by the same rules or that they share the same moral framework we do.

    • “I have difficulty imagining that our chromosome configuration is compatible with theirs.”…bahahaahaahaahaahahaa !!

  • Yes, I agree. The hardest part for me to wrap my brain around was the fact that their entire thought process is different.
    My ex-wife , for example. She graduated at the ttop of our law school class, so she is bright enough. But, her entire value system is just so different.
    I was left alone caring for our two young sons(one severely disabled) for 122 nights out of 180 for the six months I tracked it in 1994. Most nights, my XW was out until after 2 in the morning.
    Yet, when expressed my concern that our sone and I never saw her and that i was exhausted . I was told ” of course I am going to take more free time than you. You have fewer friends than I do.”
    See, she did not dispute the facts of my tracking. She was merely quite astounded that I, a mere peasant put her to serve her, had a problem with it.
    It was my WTF moment. I knew the sky in her world was a different color.

    The thing about many serial cheaters(NPDs and ASPDs, for the most part) is that they see nothing wrong with their actions. They view others as inferior, servants for them etc.
    It is all about entitlement and narcissism with these folks. Jeff is dealing with one. I hope he can see it.

  • My opinion is probably histrionic personality disorder. It’s basically untreatable, and being married to this type of person in next to impossible. My sense of reason is starting to win out over my emotional attachment to her. I realize she is a very shallow person, and emotionally detached from me and my daughter. I was living in a fantasy world for 18 years, there were great times, but so many hellish episodes. I’m adapting to single life better than I thought, not feeling lonely, enjoying the lack of drama and there’s no waiting for someone to cheat on me. This might be good for the foreseeable future, I can heal and then maybe find a normal, faithful woman.

  • Atta boy, Jeff. Go get yourself some good counseling so you end up strong–believe in yourself. Go be with a good woman who will put your mind and soul at ease. Go experience TRUE LOVE.

  • Eventually, to your great relief, your emotional attachment to her will fade, and you will form a healthy attachment to your life, your daughter, and hopefully a good woman, if that’s what you want.

  • One really good site for men dealing with disordered women(wives or girlfriends) is http://www.shrink4men. Also read Marc Rudov and Paul Elams stuff. Shari Schreiber is good, too.
    There are many more sites for women dealing with abusive men, but a dearth of support sites for men dealing with disordered women. So, these are the ones I recommend.

    • Thanks Arnold. I really tried to make this site gender and orientation neutral. I was at a blog conference this summer and in a critique session, some successful young guy bloggers told me CL was a “women’s site.”

      I said, no it’s not. Unless men are cheating with other men, or goats, WOMEN cheat too. I’m writing for everybody who’s been cheated on. He laughed at me and told me “not to be afraid of my audience.”

      Well, the first person who wrote to me was a guy, and most of my letters seem to be from men. I’m glad other folks on the internet too are realizing infidelity isn’t just a “woman” problem.

      • I think you appeal to both sexes because of your non-namby-pamby approach. You just spell it out clearly: a cheater will cheat again and why in fuck would you want that toxicity in your life?

      • I really enjoy and have found great solace here. So thank you!! I do not find that this site nor you are bias to either gender. Your level of candid is very refreshing and welcome. I’ve been on many Web searches trying to come to terms after a 20 year relationship and 17 yeararriage came to its end due to infidelity. Your patented UBT is the most awesome human relation invention ever conceived. Lol. So many of the reconciliation industry sites and articles out there. Every single one I read left me thinking “WHAT THE FUCK?” Those pages and articles made me hate myself more than what the exwife did. Lol. I agree with a poster on here that mentioned Not quite the same as your blog as its written by a female psychiatrist with your same directness. She has this amazing article she wrote call e d “Crazy Bitch The Musical” that if you haven’t read or heard of? You will enjoy and I’m almost sure you’d appreciate. Thanks again.

  • I agree , your site is gehder neutral. I hate it on sites when the topic becomes who cheats more or who cheats for the more noble reason(barf: emotional attachment vs sex). Sometimes, the betrayeds are at each other throats defending their own gender and attacking the other.
    I think we betrayed folks need to stick together and support each other. We are a special group that has experienced a unique trauma.
    Jeff, you are in the beginning stages of realizing who/what you were dealing with in your wife. If she has HPD or one of the other cluster B disorders, you may be in a state of confusion and doubt about yourself. There are some pretty good support sites out there for folks dealing withthe disordered and many of the folkswere led to these sites because of the discovery of infidelity.

    • Thanks Arnold, I’m finding that out. I realize that I simply put up with it for so long, it became normal for me. Being able to look back after being away from it has enabled me to see how abnormal and difficult our life was. There were definitely some great stretches, but overall, wow, what a struggle.

  • Yes, Jeff . It is the old boiling a frog in what starts out as tepid water deal. The abuse ramps up, gradually, after you are enmeshed securely via kids, mortgage, vows etc. And, even though you are suffering and undergoing significant damage, you fail to notice. It becomes the norm.
    When you look back, you are amazed at what you tolerated. And, at least for me, that is my greatest source of regret and shame-that I allowed this to happen.
    One thing many that tolerate this have to do to heal is to look within to try to fix what allowed them to toelrate the abuse for much longer than a healthy person would.
    Tolerating this is not , neccessarily , a sign of something as cliche as co-dependence. As one of my favorite authors , Richard Skerritt, points out, it is a lot more complicated than mere co-dependence and , in some cases, a healthy , non-dependent person holds on too long because of kids, finances and the seriousness with which they took their vows.
    In my case, however, I did have some issues which made me both a prime target , initially(NPDs target “nice” folks) and which made me take it far too long.
    Fortunately, as my therapsit pointed out, my issues are fixable andf, generally, only resulted in self harm vs the intractible, self harming behaivors of a disordered person.
    But, youmight want to take a look at what drew you to this HPD woman and what kept you with her so long. It helps in avoiding making the same mistake again.

  • What do you think , typically happens, to posters on SI, marriagebuilders, and TAM, who consistently advoocate divorce, in a respectful manner?
    I was banned from these sites, although I was never in violation of any rule, as far as I can tell.
    On SI, I Think I mentioned Hillary Clinton’s predicamant relative to her husband’s infidleity. Instantly, I was banned for making a “political comment”. There were no politics, I simply mentioned a candidate’s name as a victom of infidelity.
    These sites seem to claim tolerance for an opposing view, but they ban you in short order if you advocate leaving a cheater. I wonder why.

  • This was a helpful thread for me to read through. The comments of “emotional attachment will fade” struck a chord with me. I kept wondering what was wrong with me that I wanted to reconcile with this person who had put me through a horrific nightmare. I knew I was vulnerable-a nice person, caring, persistent, a fixer–with an added childhood issue of fearing abandonment. I guess that made me the perfect partner for him. Hearing that the emotional attachment will fade is reassuring as well as bittersweet. There were many good times and many horrible ones of him turning on his heel in a foreign city and walking away from me or getting up and leaving the house for hours if I didn’t agree with him or wanted to work through his stonewalling to the heart of the matter. The song “Someone that I Used to Know” is ironically playing on Songza right now.
    Thanks, people for something to ponder today.

    • Years from now, I swear, you won’t care if a bus runs over him. I say this a lot, but your new life is going to eclipse your old life. It’s hard to believe that someone you were once intimate with and with whom you invested so much time will be a stranger to you, but it will happen sooner than you think. The creepy feeling you’re left with is maybe they were a stranger to you all along.

  • Very true: These folks were never who we thought they were. One good way to confirm this is to look into their pasts, if you can and have access.
    You will , usually, find a path of destruction and lying.

  • HELLO to my friends out there i am testifying about the good work of a man who help me it has been hell from the day my husband left me i am a woman with two kids my problem stated when the father of my kids travel i never help he was living but as at two weeks i did not set my eye on my husband i try calling but he was not taken my call some week he call me telling me that he has found love some where easy at first i never take to be serous but day after he came to the house to pick his things that was the time i notice that things is going bad i help he will come back but things was going bad day by day i needed to talk to someone about it so i went to his friend but there was no help so i give it up on him month later i met on the the internet a spell caster i never believe on this but i needed my men back so i gave the spell caster my problem at first i never trusted him so i was just doing it for doing sake but after three day my husband called me telling me that he his coming home i still do not believe but as at the six day the father to my kids came to the house asking me to for give him the spell work to said to my self from that day i was happy with my family thanks to the DR OLOKUN. (email addisess he his a great man you need to try him you can as well to tell him your problem so that he can be of help to you his content email is this drolokuntemple@gmail.come indeed you are a priest thank you for making my home a happy home again. remember his email is

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