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Dear Chump Lady, I’m still having sex with my STBX. What gives?

Dear Chump Lady,

I am currently going through a separation/divorce. I honestly don’t know what the hell it is because he keeps saying he can’t let go, but he also says he is not leading me on in any way and that my feelings are irrational. 

Once, I finally seem to get over him, something will trigger a memory and then I’m back at missing him so much.  

He moved out five months ago, when I found on his facebook, messages between him and a classmate trying to hook up. He is 32 mind you, and she is only 21. I found it repulsive. But that’s not even the worst part, because she obviously had no interest in him, plus she knew he was married, so maybe she had a conscience, he on the other hand does not… The worst part was finding nude pictures of all his exs in his emal and he even contacted one of them that he told me didn’t satisfy him in anyway, but now he’s interested?
To this day he tells me he hasn’t slept with anyone, but I don’t know if I can believe that.
We’ve been together for almost 5 years and got married last year in December. Him being flirty with girls has always been a problem in our relationship, but we broke up last year for a few months and then he realized he did want to be with just me. So I forgave him, he made that commitment and asked me to marry him. But I feel like once we were married things went sour again. The lies started again. So 6 months later, were already getting divorced…
I just want to understand why the hell it’s so hard for me to let go? I know he’s a cheater, I know he’s a liar, I know he was never someone I could depend on, so what gives? I am a very honest person and a loving person. I gave him my heart but I guess other women was what he really needed? And that was another thing too, our sex life was amazing, and we have been together a couple times since the separation, but now he’s like, he wants to be seen for more than just sex, but he never calls or says he wants to do this, so I don’t understand.

Dear Alicia,

Okay, I’m going to cut to the chase — why is so hard to let go? BECAUSE YOU KEEP HAVING SEX WITH HIM.

As I was reading your letter, I was thinking: smart girl, she’s divorcing him at six months in, before it gets any worse and there are children involved. I was going to give you the standard, dump the cake eating bastard advice (which I will get to in a moment). But then I stumbled over the last tidbit, mentioned as an aside, that you’ve hooked up a couple times since separating.

Look, it’s a really typical, human, idiotic thing to do. I did it myself. But you MUST stop having sex with him. Must, must, MUST!

Every time you succumb to his stupid cake eating noises (I can’t let you go! But I’m not leading you on…I love you! I cannot be bothered to call you…) and then you have sex with him, a couple things happen:

1. He learns that what he did (cheating, lying, disrespecting you) wasn’t That Bad, because he still gets laid. He still gets to enjoy cake. He learns that all it takes is some bullshit attention from him, and you’ll crumble and shovel ego kibbles at his piggy little pig snout. You must not feed the beast. When you sleep with him, or take his calls, or listen to his stupid cake talk, you are sending the message to him that he is CENTRAL in your life. That he matters. And he will use that. He needs to feed… gotta keep them kibbles coming — so he will do this crap for as long as you let him. Stop letting him.

2. The other thing that happens when you have sex with him is — you take another hit on the crack pipe that is hope. Hope that somehow this sad situation is going to right itself, that he’s not in fact who he actually is — a cake eating bastard. You are in the bargaining stage of grief. Google it. You’re doing deals with yourself. Okay, he cannot be my husband. I must divorce him… but maaaaybe I can sleep with him. Maaaybe I can use him for the sex and just compartmentalize what he did. Maaaybe we can be friends.

Slap yourself. No. No you cannot sleep with him and be friends or lovers or some cake-y weird amorphous non-married, undefined thing — NO, not if you have any self esteem. And I KNOW you do, because you’re a smart, strong woman who made the hard decision to divorce a man after 6 months of marriage. That took guts. It’s extremely painful to go through what you are going through, and I should know. My DDay was 6 months into my marriage. It’s supposed to be the honeymoon stage. You are NOT supposed to be dealing with infidelity at the same time you’re still writing thank you notes for toast oven wedding gifts.

But honey, you are NOT going to heal if you keep talking and sleeping with this guy. Every time you have sex, your brain releases endorphins and happy sex chemicals and that shit is addicting. Read the story here in last week’s New York Times about how unpredictable love is actually addictive to our brains. You need to quit him like you quit a drug. That means cold turkey, with lots of support.

Do NOT for one minute second guess your decision to divorce this idiot. The days of courtship and early marriage are supposed to be the pinnacle, the best of the best times. Your STBX was cheating — and I don’t believe he didn’t sleep with those other women. Of course he did. This isn’t a one off — this is lots of “flirty” issues over years and multiple contacts with multiple women. The man is a cheater and cheaters are liars.

The part of you that runs away from this man, and breaks up with him? Cherish her. She’s got your back. Listen to her voice.

You’re going to grieve, and that’s okay. But every time you take a hit of attention from this jerk, you set yourself back. Time to work on yourself, shore yourself up, and look forward to a happier future. Because it really is out there, and he’s taking up valuable space that you need for your new life.

Ask Chump Lady

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  • Chump Lady, I wish I had heard this 6 months in! It would have saved me so much time, money, trouble and heartache! I needed someone to slap some sense into me, I sure wasn’t ready to do it myself. Not then. I spent 16 long years with ‘captain wow’ and I wish I could take them back.
    Alicia, run fast, and run hard. And don’t give him an inch!!


  • Really, Roxie? I know I kicked him out after what I found out, but I did want our marriage to work, but now he blames me for getting it to this point. I can’t believe our marriage would only last 6 months 🙁
    If you don’t mind me asking, and you don’t have to go into detail, but what went wrong in your marriage?

    • He blames YOU? Really, the problem isn’t him sending pix of his naked bits to various women — the problem is YOU having a problem with it?

      He’s a jack ass. It’s not you, Alicia. It’s him.

      • Eh, my STBX blames me as well. Says my reaction to finding out he’s a serial cheater ruined everything. These people are not well in the head.

        • Nord & CL – So true! Mine was always furious at me for discovering the lie, but not exactly remorseful for the acts that necessitated the lie in the first place. A choice comment from my STBX just came to mind:
          “You keep saying you want me to be honest with you, but I don’t think you really want that. Besides, the truth would have just hurt you, and I was trying to keep from hurting YOU.”
          Yep, clearly I’m the one engaging in self-sabotage by expecting honesty from my husband. How silly of me to discredit this chivalrous act of protection, indeed. If I’d just shove my basic expectations of honesty, accountability, and fidelity aside, well, there would be nothing wrong at all!

          • My STBX remains absolutely furious with me. So furious, in fact, that he recently accused me of ‘ruining his reputation’ and ‘smearing him’. By this he means that I’m telling the truth about why we’re divorcing: he’s a serial cheat. I don’t go into big details but I refuse to go along with the stories he throws out there, such as ‘the marriage was crumbling’ or ‘I didn’t get enough attention from Nord’.

            Nope, dude, I found out that you’d been cheating for years and that was that. The truth is like kryptonite to him.

          • And I should add that he ruined his own reputation. I had nothing to do with it as I wasn’t there helping him get it up when he cheated.

  • I don’t know if I have enough words to share what went wrong with my ex. Believe me, I understand the instinct to try and make it work. I tried for a very long time. I minimized what I needed, until I no longer asked for anything from him, just because it bothered him when I needed anything. Even after the revelation of several affairs, I played the ‘humiliating dance of pick me’ by continuing to cater to his every whim, in the bedroom and out.
    I’m still ashamed at the ridiculous efforts I went to in order to please him, just because I was afraid of losing him. I swallowed a lot of shit, I ignored a lot of red flags, I defended him to my friends all out of a fear of being alone.
    I actually used to tell myself things like “would you rather be right and alone, or wrong and with someone?” And for too long a time, I chose wrong. I undervalued myself so much that I lost all sense of what I want.
    If your stbx really valued you, there would be no doubt. He’s given you proof positive that you are not his priority. He’s deceived you and betrayed you. Please don’t make the same mistake I did. You deserve someone that loves you fully, not just when they need their ego (or other things) stroked.

    • Roxie,
      You summed up my experience almost perfectly. I too did anything to get him to stay or come back. I learned not to feel when he walked out or slept in the other room because I disagreed with his opinion. I would apologize for every tiny thing I could think of to inspire him to apologize to me–without success. After finding a condom in his bag, I was the one who came up with a new system to make everything all better so he would stay. I didn’t even ask for details or tell him never again!! I would tell him to “be good” when we hugged goodbye before he left for business trips and he would give me a tight lipped smile. Stupidly and naively, I thought that meant he would “be good” because he knew how much he hurt me. Now I can see that he was not responding because he was going to do exactly as he pleased.

      Gawd. I was so dumb.

      Even after the discovery and divorce, I continued to see him. I would convince myself that what he did wasn’t that bad, or we could live separately but be committed. He would tell me he had second thoughts, had times when he rethought the divorce, wondered if we could make it. I would get my hopes up and then I’d realize something when we were talking (We were making over $450,000 a year that year? I didn’t realize that! Where’d all that money go?… )Then he’d tell me he couldn’t trust me to not continue to drag things up and he never wanted to see me again. Ha! A week later, I’d hear from him again. He wanted to see each other and hoped we could have a friendship. I’d go over to his house and either that day or soon after, it would blow up again.

      Today another email arrived after no contact for two weeks. He started with news about our elderly dog that he has custody of so of course I am going to read it. He wants to somehow be friends but doesn’t want me to rage at him. Oh, and he has reason to rage too. I just want to take a nap and wake up happy.

      So Alicia, everyone is right here on the site. They are wise. Everything they have said has turned out to be true for me. I’m not far enough away from the discovery, but I’ve made progress. It’s hard, hard, hard but it does get better.

      Best wishes, dear.

      If a friend groveled and rushed to his side like I have, I’d feel such concern for her.

      • Duped,
        That’s exactly it, isn’t it? If you saw anyone going to the lengths that we went through to keep our relationships, we’d want to help them snap out of it! You watch out for your friends that way. It’s a wonder we couldn’t have been better friends to ourselves a lot sooner!
        So Alicia, this is us being your friend! And good on you for figuring it out so much sooner!

        • Yep, he is on the spectrum–a NPD. Even so, it doesn’t make it easier to understand, accept and move on. There was enough loving and good in him and I loved him well. It makes it even hard to wrap my head around it. I know, I know…there’s no understanding. But everyone gets there when they are ready to get there.

  • Alicia,

    Do not make the mistake I have, I loved and cherished my husband for years, years! I thought he felt the same about me, I forgave discovery of his cheating during courtship with the understanding it would never happen again. Then after over 20 years of marriage I discovered his cheating–it has been devasting and damaging to me on so many levels (worse because we have a child). Those years are lost, the years of my youth –living in an illusory reality. These years will never be regained–I missed out so much due to my blind love and continual faith that he would recognize what he had in me–and what I thought we had in our love. Cheaters do not think logically, they rationalize, lie and compartmentalize– he will find excuses to justify his cheating. Get out and do not look back. Do not succumb to having sex with him! He has not valued you enough to stay faithful and not flirt and engage in inappropriate behavior–he is obviously cheating. Think of where his ding dong may have been and what you may be exposing yourself both emotionally and in terms of STD’s. Do not let your bonds with him grow any stronger. Sexual intimacy for you does not have the same does not have the same meaning to him and it will not….ever. He is manipulating and playing you and your emotions like a fiddle.

    Recognize this and realize what kind of donkey dung he really is. This will only bring you continual pain and diminishing feelings of your self worth and pride. We do not want you to go through the hellish experiences that we have gone through, and we can see clearly what is going on–you can too–you said it yourself, you need to be strong!

  • Thank you so much guys. I guess I just wanted to believe that love could overcome anything, but I think the love is pretty much only one sided. I’ve already wasted 5 years with this, I can’t afford to waste anymore.

    • You deserve two-sided love (otherwise known as reciprocity). You can’t save a marriage by yourself. He’s not the guy you’d hoped he’d be. I’m so sorry.

      But don’t waste any more of your precious time. There’s a good life on the other side of this crap.

  • The stuff you guys describe is classic behavior between disordered spouse and his or her victim. I strongly urge you to look inot the Cluster b disorders.

  • Okay, obviously a mispost! Sorry about that. This was meant to be in the Petraeus thread. Must not respond whilst at work!!

  • For me, I was so beaten down by all the verbal and emotional abuse, that , at first, I wanted to try to keep the relationship. Then, my siblings reminded me that I had been unhappy for years. I was sleeping in the basement. I was censoring my thoughts to avoid all the conflict. I was working three jobs to keep up with her spending. I was shielding my kids from my first marriage from my second wife’s abuse, but they interpreted it as rejection. It was a nightmare.
    When I took a 4th job on, and mentioned how exhausted i was, she railed at me. When I mentioned my double hernias were painful and needed to be fixed, she remarked that lasering her stretch marks came first.
    Looking back, I realize that I was being abused(letting myself be abused) for a long, long time. It is my greatest source of shame that I allowed this.
    Now, I am out, happy, with a really nice girlfriend who treats me well. It is like night and day. My kids are happier. I am happier.
    There is a reflexive urge to make it work, and this was especially true for me,as it was my second marriage. But, things wr ere never going to change. I’d never be able tosave for retirement(try keeping up with the spending of someone who, for example , “needs” 50 bikinis, 35 pairs of boots, hundreds of shoes etc.
    On a side not, do women, typically go overboard on shoes? I seem tosee this a lot.

  • Alicia – run as fast as you can away from him. CL is right – there is a better life out there for you. In my case, we had some flirting issues before we got married, he promised it would stop and I believed him. We were together for 31 years when I found out he was cheating on me ALL those years – was I stupid you may ask – no, he was just very good at lying. Now and then something would alert me or wouldn’t seem right and he would turn it right back at me, blaming me of being suspicious and jealous and besides, he loved me so much he would never jeopardize our marriage as he was so happy. I learnt to ignore that gut feeling or sixth sense because he said I ‘could be jealous sometimes’. I am not jealous by nature and with hindsight it was my inner voice that I just as quickly suffocated. That embarrasses me greatly and fills me with shame. All the while he was the pillar of decency – a fabulous father, a loving and affectionate husband, coach to my kids various sports team, a good job as a civilian member of the police force- all in all a great guy. He had no trouble moving on after I found out and left – the week-end I moved out he met someone and she slept in our house the next night – and yes, he did beg me not to leave, made all kinds of promises, and I kept on finding out more and more. It took me two years to leave. Now it’s 6 years later, I find myself in my 50’s, just moved to a city with a ratio of 7 women to 1 man and I am reluctantly realizing that the chances of me meeting someone is not good. And you know what? I am the nicest, sweetest woman. I should have run when it first happened and should not have married him. Run Alicia, run. Before you spend the best years of your life with a bastard like that. You’ve got time on your side.

    • Thank you Lynn. I still feel in denial about this whole situation. But the stories you guys have shared have made me see that even if we did work through the relationship, he would always be capable of lying and just like you said with your ex being a really good liar and turning it back on you when you’d confront him, is exactly what he has done to me since the start of our relationship.
      I’m only 32, but I feel like my time is too late. I fear the dating scene… I fear starting over.

  • Tell me that hysterical bonding is a myth. I could not conceive of having sex with someone who was betraying me or who had in the past.
    I know folks lay claim to this. But, it seems the ultimate form of self degradation.

  • Dear Chump Lady,

    I have been in the same boat as others with 14 years of marriage, 12 years old kid, a dignified job but from a nation, where divorce and single women are not seen in positive light. I have stood my ground after the serial cheating discovery 2.5 years ago, and taken on one by one took everything, finance, son’s responsibilities and running the household all by myself in addition to volunteering for social work, creating a support system etc. All this while my kind of ex wanted reconciliation (on cake eating terms) and stayed in jointly owned home (in different rooms) while continuing to sleep around with multiple woman. He has now left for greener pastures. He also tried me to agree to mutual divorce, so that, he could easily remarry one of his victims/ other girls which is easy to get in a country like ours, where women condition is pathetic. I told him I wouldn’t allow him to ruin other woman’s life, which is kind of true. Being a social worker, I have pains for that unknown woman who would be next victim in a bonded labourhood(marriage is security for him on his terms) with him.
    But, after therapy and 2.5 years of revelation…I am yet upset many times in the day. During sleep I dream a lot about talking, friendship etc. with him…kind of remembering good old days, when I was unknowing of all! I haven’t had sex with anyone other than my husband and never loved any other. Is this the reason that even after sustained efforts at no contacts, I am unable to totally throw him out from my mind. Is the replacement of this man with another, an absolute necessity for me to forget and move on. I shall be very happy, if I can forget everything…the friendship, love, devotion I had for him once, the shame, guilt and anguish he caused, the fight for survival that I did…all n have a happy life here on. Is it possible?

    • Anudi, you’ve been so brave so far! I can’t imagine the obstacles to divorce in a culture like you describe in your country — so to face that and come out so strong — and do social work? You’re inspiring.

      I don’t think you have to replace your ex with another man if you don’t want to. If you DO want to, that’s fine too. The point is to fill your life with good people and productivity — a new relationship can be part of that. It’s hard to feel as down when you’re busy. And constructing a new life, make no mistake, is WORK.

      It’s easy to romanticize what you thought it was — a life with “friendship, love, and devotion.” But you have to remember that it was one sided. Don’t love people or things who can’t love you back. You can have RECIPROCITY in your new, improved life. With friends, with a new partner some day. There are so many places that need you, that need your gifts, that will welcome you. Don’t look back at him. Focus on moving forward.

      Hope this pep talk helps. 🙂

  • Hi Chump Lady,

    You’ve cleared a lot of clutter in my mind by your pep talk 🙂 Thank you so much!

    However, I am expressing my thoughts here for the benefit of all readers, who are somewhere stuck up. CL, kindly find ways to address the issues that I am raising here on your forum.

    The thing that keeps one from resurrecting one’s life during middle ages (35-45) (typically 10 years into marriage and a kid) are:

    1. Breaking an established life (all energies invested in) and constructing a new life is WORK (thanks CL). It affects all stakeholders of the betrayed spouse and most importantly the kids, who typically the serial cheaters leave behind. It is immense responsibility. A lot of courage to tread the unknown is required. So, brace up…n don’t look behind! The discovery of the affair/s (whether it was accidental or intentional) has broken the known paths…those who need time to absorb the loss, cry over and let go…please do! But falling back into it again; the known path will never be the same again! U can’t forget what you’ve learned about your spouse’s infidelity. People often forgive one-time cheater. Rightly so, since marriage is a commitment and a lot is invested in it. Still it takes years to forgive and move forward for any normal person even with a one-time cheater. Here, we are dealing with a serial cheater. We are considering this difficult because we were (and probably yet are) not in for open marriage. Under such a case, how many times heart breaks will occur along the way, with each discovery is just unimaginable. So, get out (or a sinister advice: be like them without any guilt attached and forget whining and complaining…for one they won’t change…and two the “cracked pipe or broken path” can never be repaired!)

    2.The fear that we may be alone forever! Well, this is a very important dimension. However, how do you know whether there are no options for you? Statistics! yes! Unfortunately, a person like me is stuck up in a country of origin, which have dismal hopes for a single let alone divorcee with a son. But, CL is right. Question is not about that one bad person…rather question is about filling your life with a lot of good people. From my experience in social work, I may say…they do exist!

    Two things are true for sure, if one wishes to find another partner:
    a) we (betrayed spouse) were the giver kinds. Now, who shouldn’t want any giver? The world has larger percentage of takers. Our quest should be to find another giver. We should be the people more sought after…but off course after making some changes in ourselves. So, there is hope for those who absolutely can’t live without a partner!
    b) while our betrayer spouse love dating over and over, we despise it…are hurt enough to give it another try…may not have loved dating in the first place (Is this not our weakness? Is this not the reason, we were treated like doormats in the first place? And when we know our weakness, we must learn to accept it with grace, and work upon ourselves to improve upon it…if we absolutely need someone as our next life-partner. But, with the hindsight, we should have grown smarter around this time. At least we should give any next relationship ample time and be not blindfolded during the process to not notice some red flags to identify the taker kinds)

    I hope this helps someone! At least writing it down has cleared things for me 🙂

    Thank you CL

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