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Deconstructing Frumpiness

Poor Holly Petraeus. It’s not enough that she’s publicly humiliated by her husband General Petraeus’ infidelity scandal, the world has to snark about her matronly pant suits and gray hair. Oh sure, she’s a class act who does a world of good for military charities and families of deployed soldiers, but have you noticed that she looks like a 63 year old woman?! Menopausal, squidgy around the middle, not exactly fashion forward. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Just saying she’s not winning any West Point fitness awards. (Oh hey, come to mention it, neither is Paula Broadwell.)

When people talk about Holly Petraeus, they use the “f” word —  frumpy.

You know everyone is comparing her to Paula Broadwell and thinking: can you blame the man? Broadwell is 20 years younger than Petraeus. Okay, so Broadwell appears to possess all the moral sense God gave mold spores — but you can bounce quarters off her abdomen! She’s taut and firm! And when it comes to getting a bit on the side, some men can overlook a flaming case of narcissistic personality disorder (especially if they may be similarly afflicted).

After reading all the digs at Holly Petraeus’ appearance, I’m wondering — is it a crime to be frumpy? Is there some causal relationship between frumpiness and cheating? One holiday appliqué sweater and your man is cruising Ashley Madison? Is that how it works?

I, like many women, was raised to think that beauty was an insurance policy in life. Maintain an ideal body weight, style your hair, and put on some lipstick or Terrible Things Will Happen. My grandmother used to spend an hour dressing for dinner each night and was prone to utterances like “that maternity outfit is not very slimming,” or “if you stood up straight, you’d lose 10 pounds.” As you can imagine, she was a joy to be around. But what she lacked in subtlety and compassion, she made up for in good looks. The woman had an enviable complexion into her nineties and a designer wardrobe to die for. For a woman of her generation who couldn’t go to college, being beautiful worked for her. She married a successful man who was devoted to her.

But I don’t think pretty people should get smug that infidelity can’t happen to them. Halle Berry, Christie Brinkley and Eva Longoria were all cheated on, to name just a few supernaturally attractive people. You wonder if beauty insulates them from at least some of the hurt of betrayal. I imagine people saying to their utterly forgettable partners — dude, WTF were you thinking?! Whereas the Holly Petraeus’s of the world hear, “Dear God, she’s let herself go. What can you expect?”

Age conspires to make frumps of us all. Some of us succumb to frumpiness and some don’t go gently into that good night. Of course, there is the danger of tipping into the “mutton dressed as lamb” demographic, but the world generally gives you an A for effort. We much prefer our public figures to be botoxed, dieted, and tucked into some approximation of eternal youth. Woe to the frumpy.

We deconstruct frumpiness in women, especially in cases of infidelity. What do her looks say about the state of her marriage? Here is my arm chair shrink analysis, FWIW.

After infidelity is discovered, the cheating spouse often wants the betrayed spouse to compete for attention with the affair partner. I call this the “Humiliating Dance of ‘Pick Me’!” And I think a lot of betrayed spouses fall for it. I will up my game! I will use my gym membership! I will dress sexier! My feeling is that the game is rigged and there is no winner. The goal for the cheater is just to stay central in the dramatic contest for their affections.

I think there is a corollary to the humiliating dance of pick me for those who won’t play, but continue to stay married. Let’s call it the “Passive Aggressive Dance of Fuck You I Don’t Give a Shit.”  Do you want a youthful looking spouse? Fuck you, I’m going to age conspicuously. Do you want me to dress sexy? Fuck you, I’m wearing turtlenecks. Do you want me to lose weight? Fuck you and pass the gravy.

This dance says — I can’t win this game, so I’m not even going to try.

Are Holly Petraeus’s dowdy pant suits saying that? Do you wonder if maybe this isn’t Petraeus’s first rodeo and she gave up trying to compete long ago?

Or maybe she’s just a woman who was secure in her marriage, who thought she was loved, and thought it was safe to age in the manner that 99.9% of us do — imperfectly.

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    • Okay, not the ribbed Diana Rigg kind of turtlenecks, but the LL Bean ones with little whales on them and shit.

      Very few people look good in turtlenecks, men or women, IMO. But they are comfy!

    • I did! We could make a long list of super attractive people who are betrayed spouses. Our patron saint could be George Clooney in the Descendants.

      • Actually, George Clooney claims to have been cheated on in real life, actually. Furthermore he said the worst mistake he made in all of that was to keep trying to fix it. Go figure.

        Probably explains a lot about how he operates romantically. That and the pesky rumors about how he likes to get his freak on.

        I digress.

        When will people ever learn that the cheating is not about the betrayed spouse, especially not about how they look? Really. When will people learn and internalize that it is not about the freakin betrayed spouse at all? I mean, it may be that the cheater is no longer attracted or feels stifled or is unhappy or the BS is a controlling, passive aggressive co-dependent wacko, whatEVER. But that does not give anyone a license to cheat. And it doesn’t excuse someone’s choice to cheat either. Which is really what you’re getting at here, CL. The perception that: “well, of course he’d do it. He’s a man, after all, and it isn’t fair to a guy if his wife lets herself go…”

        Cheaters cheat because, on one end of the spectrum, they are malignant narcissists who want all the cake in the world and are just plain evil incarnate (that seems to be the majority of cheaters, according to the BSs I read on SI and elsewhere) or, they could be like mine: avoidant and not good at conflict and in search of an easy fix to a bigger issue which was — we didn’t have a happy and fulfilling marriage.

        It goes back to the bottom line, which is: the right thing to do is to say: “Hey, I want a divorce because I really need some strange.” But that is a hard thing to do, because honestly — look how hard people hold on even when they know they’ve been cheated on. Imagine the struggle that would ensue if there is no other reason that: “I’m just that into this marriage (read “you”) anymore” That’s not a one-off conversation, especially if the BS does tend to be a little controlling or a lot co-dependent. Or the finances are fucked up. Or the kids. Or the visitation. Or the…etc. etc. That’s a bunch of back and forth and it requires, in some cases, sustained interaction in conflict at a very high level.

        Very secure people could probably manage it; secure people who feel they have viable options in terms of employment and self-support and all the rest. But since probably a lot of people don’t feel that way, and then factor in guilt over breaking a family in two, and that’s a person who is going to avoid the right way to behave and instead do the wrong thing. But Jesus, it is not about the way the spouse looks. It is about the way the cheater avoids.

        • Look, I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU. It’s not about how the betrayed spouse looks at all. I’m reporting the remarks that people make and what I’m reading.

          I do think, however, in cases of infidelity — and just in life — how we presents ourselves says something about our internal state and how we want to project ourselves to the world.

          I don’t think Holly Petraeus did anything wrong. She just aged. She looks like most 63 year old women, probably better. There is no way she could “compete” with a woman 20 years her junior and the whole notion that there is a competition at all is sick. But it EXISTS.

          I would point out that when someone commits to you, you’re not supposed to compete at all. You should of course try and be your best self, but I’d hope that’s a given for everyone, men and women.

          • I think there’s something in the idea that when someone is unhappy in a relationship it shows, sometimes, in how they look. I know the last year of my marriage I put on weight, didn’t take care of how I looked the way I once did. Turns out I had fallen into a depression, for a variety of reasons, few of which had to do with my husband.

            Naturally, because the world revolves around him, he didn’t notice that I had been sitting on the sofa for en entire year; instead he felt he wasn’t getting enough love or attention so sought it out elsewhere. And I can see that at the other times I found out he cheated were times when I was either preoccupied or was dealing with things that had nothing to do with him.

            Should he have noticed that I needed attention for a change? That it was a two way street? Of course. But he doesn’t operate that way because if he isn’t a true N he sure is teetering on the edge.

            It’s not about how someone looks, it’s about how the cheater percieves their partner and their relationship.

            • Nord, (sorry I don’t know why this won’t attach to your comment… mysteries of wordpress) Do you think you were depressed in part because you were carrying the weight of the relationship? I’m not saying you knew he was cheating, but cheaters check out. All that energy they’re putting in their eternal quest for ego kibbles, means they’re shorting their families and their spouses. It’s a vicious circle — you’re depressed dealing with their NPD ass, your depression is then justification for them to cheat and be more egocentric.

              I wouldn’t blame yourself for being pre-occupied at times. If you had a magic, crystal ball into his cheating, you’d probably see that it doesn’t correlate to you at all, and has everything to do with him. What he wants, what opportunities exist, what he can cultivate. Isn’t he grooming new OW while he’s got the young OW now? What exactly is she pre-occupied with? Nothing is ever enough for these idiots.

              I think more than how the cheater perceives their partner and the relationship, it’s how they perceived themselves. *I* deserve kibbles. *I* deserve a younger person to fuck. *I* am the great and powerful Oz!

              You’re of use to them as kibble supply. That’s gotta stay a constant. It’s just a quest for MORE.

              • Absolutely I was carrying the weight of the relationship for most of our marriage. When things went wrong I took care of business. Not to give too much info but even when things went wrong in his life that had nothing to do with me I stepped up and did the heavy lifting to sort things out.

                Yes, I’m a fixer so that’s on me, I suppose, but I saw it as what a spouse does: helps solve problems in life with my partner but in the end he was always looking for extra kibbles, no matter how great things were with us, so in retrospect it’s no surprise that I was feeling the weight of something I didn’t understand and was reacting to it (yes, loads of therapy has helped me see this).

                Even when the BS doesn’t know what is going on they sometimes sense that things are off but can’t put their finger on it. Because we tend to trust the person we’re married to it doesn’t occur to us that our spouse is stepping out on us, so we try to focus on whatever little problems there are and deal with them. When that doesn’t work confusion reigns and, in my case, I got depressed. Now I know why: he was cheating, on and off, for years, and every time he cheated he checked out.

                The final affair/s were rampant: he was chasing after current OW but also had a bunch of others on the go, some further along than others. So he was very busy and I was sitting there confused as fuck as to why I was feeling so rotten and down, asking him if everything was ok with him, getting the ‘everything is fine’ and knowing that it wasn’t.

                Strangely, since I found out and kicked him out I have snapped out of it and while I have my moments of feeling down specifically about what’s happened I no longer have the general malaise that had engulfed me. And even more strange: I look great.

  • Just to be clear: I’m not taking issue with anything you’ve said, and I didn’t think you were saying she did anything wrong. I’m taking issue with the things you’re reading and reporting on, because I’m reading the same damned things and they are making me furious on Holly’s behalf. She’s going to have that kind of thought probably going through her head anyway — “did he find her more physically appealing…” etc. And then to have it reinforced by random strangers world wide, that maybe if she’d put on a little lipstick and had her hair done he wouldn’t have done what he did, well, that’s absolute CRAP.

    Should she make an effort to be her best self? Well, of course. But what does that even mean? Because what is someone’s best self? Her best self in her mind may be one thing vs what all of the rest of us who are gazing into her fishbowl life are thinking should be her best self? I mean, that’s all subjective, at the end of the day.

    I’m just as guilty of this, actually. I mean, ridiculously I saw Hillary Clinton on the news yesterday visiting Thailand or whevever she was with Obama, and I thought: “oh, Hillary, the severe hair-in-a-bun/ill-fitting pantsuit combo is really not the the way to go here…” And then I caught myself up and scolded myself and thought: “What the hell are you thinking? What a really stupid thing to say. Her ability to do her job has nothing to do with her freakin’ hairstyle.” But there is that impulse to look at the way someone looks and take it to mean something about who they are.

    Again I think it is the misapprehension that if we do enough to keep ourselves however we would keep ourselves, our best version of ourself, that will be enough to stave off the chaos. Meh. Won’t happen. We cannot control the actions of those around us. We can influence them, we can bend them to our will perhaps temporarirly, but if a person wants to cheat, he or she is going to cheat, no matter how well his or her spouse is keeping him or herself.

    • Weird, because I think Hillary (sans the pants suits) looks the best she’s looked in years. And I think it’s because she’s come out of Bill’s shadow completely and she’s come into her own fully.

      • Yeah, just wait until she runs for president in 2016.

        Okay, but if I may be permitted some snark, I do not care for her hair long.

        • I like her long hair, although I like it better when it’s shorter. Then again, she is running around the world putting out fires so I suppose shoving it into a messy bun is more practical than a haircut every six weeks.

    • Absolutely. Sandra Bullock, Halle Berry, etc. case in point. We cannot control other people, and being “pretty” is no guarantee of fidelity.

      I think blaming the dowdy pantsuit is just another way to blame the victim. Which, sadly, is a lot of what happens in infidelity scandals.

  • Thanks for giving the “Passive Aggressive Dance of Fuck You I Don’t Give a Shit” a name (hereby known as the PADOFYIDAGS).

    I wasn’t quite sure of how to explain it to my STBX some time ago: “Oh, my socks don’t go with my shirt? Padofyidags.” “Why did I change to a buzz cut on head and beard? Padofyidags.”

    Quite versatile, that word. And somewhat liberating, at least for now. I’ll go back to giving a shit once I take care of some other shit (namely you, STBX). Meanwhile, I’ll take care of looking good enough for company, secure in the knowledge that I’ll look and feel sexy once I’m ready for it.

    • I am totally digging that new acronym, or better word (which looks vaguely Scandinavian).

      Padofyidags and Proud?

  • This is an issue that has always bothered me. Long before I was ever serially cheated on. My lens is as a woman, so men that have been the BS, please stay with me. Why, Why, Why, is the spotlight immediately put on what the wife/partner looks like? Those of us who do that are vultures, eating off the pain of someone who is in, already, terrible pain. Let’s use Tiger Woods’ wife as an example. Was she ripped apart because of his affairs. Was she deemed “responsible… Well what did you expect? Did you get a gander of her?” No. She’s a beauty. So, that makes him a sex addict. Let’s shift genders. Is Broadwell’s husband being looked at for his physical/sexual/dress/hair/lack of beard/boxers or briefs/or any other inane shit? No! But wasn’t he “lacking” something essential that she had every right to pursue?

    I’ve never seen a pic of Betrayus’ wife. I don’t intend to look her up (no tv). What I do know, is that as a culture we need to stop our cruelty that gets heaped on top of the personal cruelty. Oops! I forgot it’s about the almighty $$$$$$ and not about human dignity.

    Thank you, CL for bringing this topic up for discussion.

    • The funny thing about Tiger’s wife is that because she’s good looking people instead jumped on the ‘well, she only married him for his money’ bandwagon. It seems that everyone wants to find a reason/excuse for why the cheater cheats….and they usually end up finding some kind of fault in the betrayed spouse.

    • I remember innuendo re her, thought, that she was less than passionate. So, they did attack her on her willingness to “meet his needs”.
      Marc Rudov, a guy I read a bit had an interesting take on a dynamic that may bear looking into by women who like being pursued. He pointed to Tiger Woods as an example of the type of man who “pursued” his wife, relentlessly to get her to agree to a relationship.
      Rudov’s theory goes like this:
      There is a certain type of man whose main source of satisfaction is in the pursuit of a woman vs actually having a relationship. It is sort of like a dog chasing cars. Once he catches it, he does not know what to do and, really, has no desire for it. It is all about the thrill of the chase.
      Wood’s wife, initially, wanted nothing to do with him. She was jasper Parnevik’s family nanny and he introduced her to Woods. She , repeatedly , rebuffed Woods(proabably on some level sesnsing the guy’s narcissism). He went all out, and put on a full court press, until she gave in. Once he had her, the thril was gone.( I see this in women pursuer’s too. But, our society seems to promote that men pursuing is natural, so it is more often seen with men).
      In any case Rudov points out that if you are the type of person who requires pursuit vs a mutual attraction and mutual pursuing (for lack of a better word), then it is likely you may wind up with this type of person in your relationship.
      Watch out for people who do not share expenses of dating , too. This applies to men or women who refuse to accept contribution or those who expect you to always pay. The first type is the “pursuer” type, essentially trying to buy you. The second is the goldigger type, who will expect you to keep paying for everything in the relationship.Woods was , undoubtedly, paying for all the dates. Big red flag there.

  • This analysis reminds me of the Houston woman who ran over her husband after getting plastic surgery and working to become more attractive – she lost him to the other woman in the end and her revenge was to run him over outside the hotel where he was having his affair. Its not all men who are so shallow but there certainly are a lot who are only interested in women for their appearance and as you commented even the beautiful women get involved with these men and find out appearance only goes so far – these men also want variety.

  • The fixer deal seems common to a lot of us, Nord. I was working three jobs to keep up with my XW’s spending. In my first marriage, I virtually raised my boys by meyself for years, while my XW went out to “Journal about FOO issues”( in reality hooking up with strangers). Yet, I kept trying to make things work.
    Two things about this “fixer” deal. One is our “picker”. Many of us were drawn to NPDs , despite having seen some signs.
    Second, how the hell long were we willing to tolerate this, even after their true selves were revealed.
    This is where we have work to do, on our “pickers” and on our willingness to tolerate way too much crap.
    Its a weird dynamic, being willing to settle for scraps and it says something about us. We can fix this, and need to stop it in the future.

    • Oh yeah, the picker. Mine seems to have been off but I’ll excuse it to youth. Now, more than 20 years later, I know exactly what I don’t want: someone who wants me to save him. I*m not even joking when I say that the day I threw STBX out his first reaction was to text the very young OW and tell her he ‘need her, you have to save me, you’re my lifeboat’. Seriously. A grownassed middle aged father of two was texting this crap to a twenty-something year old girl. And she must be a fixer as well because she fell for it, just as she seems to have fallen for all the excuses he made about why he ‘had’ to cheat on me all the time. Dumb girl. She’s in for a whole boatload of heartache at some point.

      • Always we look at the affair partner as so different from us, as in: they always affair down and all that jazz. This article by CL in itself highlights the fact that we look at spouse and affair partner and all we see are the differences and very often those differences are physical. As in, she’s older, younger, thinner, fatter, more plastic, crunchier, more conservative, more liberal etc. etc.

        But Nord, you’ve hit on something that I’ve long seen to be quite true, and that is: they affair with the same sort of personality type — that is, a type who is willing to pick the sort of person they are. So your husband looks for someone to look after him, to mother him or whatever it is that he’s looking for. And that’s what makes his OW similar to the you you were when you “picked” him all those years ago. You’ve outgrown his crap, but she hasn’t yet. She will, hopefully. But by then he’ll be still looking someone else to save him again. Until he actually sits still and learns to save himself, he is living his karma.

        So if you would look at the neuroses that drive the current BS, the same ones that hooked in with the cheater to begin with, you’ll probably see many of those same neuroses at work in the OP.

        Difference is, of course, the affair partner is willing to cheat, which does put that person down on the moral compass totem pole. So I’m not equating the BS and AP morally. I’m just saying they both probably have similarly broken pickers.

        My friend, a BS herself, sent a message to the other woman in her case which, in part, said something about: “I can’t imagine why you would want a man who is a lying cheater.” And when she read it to me after she sent it I said: “Really? You can’t imagine why she wants a lying cheater? Because you seem to also want a lying cheater.” And she said, “well, he’s my husband.” and I said, “I do understand that, and I get what you’re saying and I understand that you want to feel back to normal and as though things are not out of your control. But the fact remains: He’s a lying cheater. And you still want him. The other woman in your case feels probably very similiarly.”

        Of course I got what she was saying. But still. The fact remains that the way SHE got involved with him in the first place, all those years ago, was when he was involved with a girlfriend back home and when the two of them met at college he hooked up emotionally with my friend and then ditched the prior girlfriend to pursue a more serious relationship. He also cheated on my friend in college, but she took him back then as well. The irony in this situation abounds. But she is living her karma with this man. And he is living his with her. Until one of them (or both of them) fix whatever it is that’s going on with them they will lather, rinse, repeat.

        And it has nothing to do with looks.

        • Indeed, I can see that he says the same stuff to her and does the same things with her…he has his act down pat and it’s a good one: it makes you feel like you’re the most special person in the world.

          And you’re right: as the years passed I was able to see through it and started to make noises about not being well pleased about certain things. And thus he started cheating because I was no longer hanging on his every word and action. This is a man who thinks couples shouldn’t argue. Seriously. He also thinks that people should be nice to him, including me, now, after finding out he’s a serial cheat. It’s kind of astounding but when I look back over the years I realise that he was always like this, to varying degrees, but I was wearing blinders.

          Now, even today as I write this, anything that I say that is perceived as even a slight criticism (we had to email about the kids) triggers his rage and complaints of me ‘spewing poison’.

          OH well, not my problem anymore. He’s all kinds of jacked up and while I hate to see someone else go through it with him I do kind of relish the thought of her wasting the rest of her 20’s on him. 🙂

          Me, I’ve learned my lessons and I’ve learned them well. When I*m ready to date again actions will speak louder than words and my boundaries are not drawn in the sand, they are embedded in concrete.

        • I should add that I saw quite early on that this girl was a lot like me in many ways. STBX actually told the kids that it was one of the reasons he liked her: ‘she’s like your mother, but younger and less angry and she’s nice to me’. Yes, well, I wonder how nice she’ll be after she catches him screwing around.

          • Yes, well the most important thing is that everyone is “nice” to him. Apparently the nice requirement is one-sided. Typical narcissist.

          • Oh my head!!! She is like your mother but younger??? And she is nice to me???? Oh. My. God.

            Really he should have said: she still reflects a positive image of myself back to me, so that I can go through life without having to accept and then change the things about myself that are weak and that make me the jerk that I am.

            It is my opinion that the fastest way to end an affair is if the affair partner suddenly catches on to the cheater’s crap and starts holding him or her accountable for the promises he or she is making. Hahah. Nothing like havimg one’s soul mate start showing a less than favorable response to send a person right back to the loving arms of his or her unsuspecting spouse!! Until the next time.

            Accountability is a real wet blanket for these avoidant misanthropes.

  • *From Chump Lady’s article: [b]”Or maybe she’s just a woman who was secure in her marriage, who thought she was loved, and thought it was safe to age in the manner that 99.9% of us do — imperfectly.”[/b]*
    I actually think Holly Petraues is better looking than Broadwell, she shows her 63 years without pretense or apology, but she is still cute, IMO. So, I agree that she was likely a women who thought she was loved and just wanted to look her normal age.

    Also, Broadwell’s husband is a lot better looking than Petreaus. Obviously like a lot of married women who cheat, Broadwell’s affair was about power and conquest and nothing more. Both likely give her a sexual thrill. I mean come on Peteaus is one Butt ugly man, If he were a laundry clerk, Broadwell would not have been interested.

    With that said, I don’t let myself look frumpy and have stayed in shape because I like too get dressed up and I like to work out, it makes me feel good mentally and has the side benefit of keeping me slim. I feel better slim. I stay attractive naturally though, no plastic surgery or butt fat in my face injections.

    My STBX’s affair partner was plump and had lip implants and boob implants and was only 30 yet she regularly had her unsuspecting husband paying for botox injections and transfers her excess butt fat to her face regularly. She was exactly the plastic, plump, princess my STBX claimed to hate.

    Anyways, I am rambling, but I guess my point is, and yes I really do have a point, that I don’t think affairs are really about physical attraction. IMO, it’s about the ego kibbles, cheating out of entitlement or just because they can and the thrill of the forbidden and shameful or the conquest of taking someone away from their spouse.

    I don’t know if Holly Petraues thought her husband had prior affairs, but somehow I don’t think this was his first Rodeo, either.

    Petreaus, supposedly, by all reports, had a disdainful attitude toward cheaters and that is why so many were blindsided by his affair. Likely his wife was blindsided too. Such disdain, often mentioned out of the blue, IMO, is typical of “reaction formation” a psychological defense mechanism in which a person does exactly the thing they claim to hate.

    I really never talked about cheaters with disdain prior to finding out my spouse was one. I never really thought about it much. I guess it’s because like so many people who have never been cheated on by a long term spouse, I didn’t understand the pain of such a betrayal. It’s the lying and deceit and sneaking around that causes the pain, IMO. It’s like no other emotional pain. It’s a pain that is worse than a death of a loved one.

    Cheaters are an odd bunch. I never thought to cheat because I could always foresee the pain it would cause my spouse. Despite our tiffs, and differences, I still would never have hurt him that way. I think everyone has the opportunity to cheat, but the empathetic, loyal, realisitic spouse puts their lust aside and… just says “NO”.

    Like Nord, I was a fixer. Like Nord, I felt something was not quite right but could not put my finger on it. I thought it was his stress or mid life crisis or whatever. Like Nord I too got mildly depressed at those times, and that emotional unavailability likely fueled my STBX excuses for cheating.

    Like Nord, I have reflected on the times in our Long term marriage when my STBX acted in a similar detached way, a way that said something was wrong, but nothing concrete I could place my finger on.

    I suspect those were times he had other affairs.

    I am still angry and hurt but no longer depressed after filing for divorce.

    • Funny about the looks thing as STBX’s current sidepiece looks like a 12 year old boy. Or a ferret. Or a 12 year old boy ferret. She’s not attractive, that’s for sure. But she does look up to him, tells him he’s the most wonderful, handsome, fantastic male of the species to ever walk the earth and she’s so lucky to have him to love. So it works for him, until it won’t work for him and then he’ll be off.

      To be honest, having seen pictures or in person a number of the other affairs I can honestly say that one of them is attractive and the rest are middling to nothing. No one can believe that this is the one he ran after and it’s difficult to explain that it isn’t about looks, it’s about mirrors. I make him feel like shit because I don’t take his shit. She makes him feel great because she takes his shit.

      Good luck to them both.

  • Nord, I too share your unexpected sense of relief, and feel better alone now than I did with my cheater. Carrying their burdens, and trying to fix everything is depressing as hell, but while we’re in the throes of it, we don’t realize that such a one-sided relationship exists in the first place, let alone that it’s ultimately impossible and unsustainable. Let’s give thanks tomorrow for our FREEDOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is a gift, indeed! Happy Thanksgiving to all you fellow Chumps here, and thank you so much for your comraderie!

    • All so very true. I didn’t even realise I was depressed and completely losing my shit when in the middle of things. Now that I’m out of it I am so much more relaxed and calm. I’m a better mother, a better friend, just generally a kinder, more balanced person. And why? Because I’m not focused on him, on his needs, on his problems, on fixing him or whatever it is that is supposedly standing in the way of him achieving the awesomeness that he is but not everyone was able to see. Ha!

      So now I see OW getting dragged into his drama, dealing with all the crap and messes he makes and trying to fix things and make it all ok because then their love will be strong. Poor dumb cow, she really is going to be fucked six ways to Tuesday because the second she starts to make any noises about things not being perfect he will be looking for kibbles elsewhere, if he isn’t already. And she is going to believe his lies when her gut is screaming something else until she just can’t believe him anymore. I really do feel sorry for her, just as I feel sorry for my younger self.

  • Nord, your story sounds so much like mine in many ways, thanks for sharing. It helps. Happy Thanksgiving! And remember, you are capable of being a good partner, and did what a good partner does. It is not your fault or failure that your spouse could not and did not reciprocate by being a good partner to you, as well. That’s his cross to bear. Holidays can be hard, and it helps to remember and celebrate our freedom and our new possibilities.

  • I’m curious how others may have dealt with some repercussions of discovery. I look in the mirror and I feel so lacking. He often told me I was beautiful although I could never see it–which bothered him. When I would make apologetic comments about my body, he would reassure me that he liked tall, thin women with a small chest.

    But this must have all been a lie. When I discovered what he was doing, I found photos on his flickr account he had made “favorites” and the comments he wrote devastating. All the women were 2-3 times younger than he was and were self-portraits with skin that must have been photoshopped and in provocatively revealing clothing. (There’s a lot of female narcissism or young women who have an unhealthy need to reveal their bodies and get comments from creepy old men. So you can mess up your hair, lay on your bed and stare into the camera. Big fucking deal! Is that really what you’re doing to make the world a better place? )

    He NEVER looked at women when we were together! If I would even point at a pretty woman or speculate on whether there was medical enhancement, he hadn’t noticed. (Therapist said those were the ones you had to worry about–the ones who DIDN’T look.) All the things he said about me over the years must have been a lie. I just don’t know what to do with the anger I feel about his disgusting, dirty old man behavior, his betrayal of his supposed belief in feminism and his whole nauseating double life. He made comments about the lingerie these girls were wearing and yet he told me that men didn’t care about lingerie and he never really looked at me in that way.
    Obviously, I have work to do with my therapist but between sessions I rage about this and ignore my self-soothing work.
    Did anyone ever deal with something like this?! I feel like no man would ever really be interested in me and I feel a revulsion about the whole idea. He took that all away from me and now I must fight and struggle to not let it ruin me permanently.
    I know it’s all him and not me but it’s not rational for me yet.

    • Duped.

      I was similarly duped by my STBX. He was a man with similar characteristics to your spouse.

      I read that the more surprised you are by the cheaters behaviors and the more it seems out of character the more difficult it is to accept and deal with.

      I do think my spouse and your spouse were telling the truth when they said we were pretty. Like you I never take compliments well. But, I also think they were different people while cheating and their tastes were different in that state. I also wonder about madonna/whore complex.

      I also think our spouses behavior is disasociative behavior. That’s scary, too because diasasociative disordere can be severe like the movie Sybil in which the women had multiple personalities, or it can be mild. I was told that some cheaters who disassociate lie so well because they actually believe they did not cheat. They are/were supposedly disassociating during the time with the affair partner.

      That means they CAN literally be another personality while cheating.

      My STBX also claimed to hate lingerie, too much make up, fake boobs and butt fat injected into a women’s face and lips, nail polish, etc. Nevertheless his OW did all those things. She was a whiny, spoiled, indulged, self absorbed, selfish brat, exactly the type of women my STBX claimed to abhor.

      He also was going to men’s bars where the 20 something women wears sexy lingerie and all have fake boobs, lip implants and get their nails done.

      It is so disorienting, even if we understand the psychology of it.

      • Sara, from what I’ve read people like your ex are not disassociating. They don’t believe their lies. They absolutely know that they are lying to you and know what they hope to accomplish. This is one of the reasons I recommend reading Dr. George Simon over at or his books up there in the corner. He explains the whole “character disordered” thing and lying. They lie to gain advantage, not because they morph into some amoral being once in awhile. They ARE that amoral being. That’s the real them.

      • I think many of us struggle, post discovery, with our self image and doubt our attractiveness. One of the things about infidelity that I see a lot , is the effect it has on a betrayed’s objectivity.
        This manifests it self in a number of areas. It really plays into the betrayed’s willingness to accept blame and responsibility for problems in the relationship, where, in most cases, the cheater has been the deficient one in many areas.
        But, it also plays itself out in doubting one’s physical attractiveness.
        There ias another effect, also, that I have seen. Many times the betrayed has an inflated view of the cheater’s attractiveness, as well.
        I read a book by a woman private investigator from Austrailia. She specialized in infidelity investigation. She claimed that , as part of her initial preparation, she would ask the betrayed for a description of the cheater. In most cases, the cheater was described as beig very attractive, good looking etc.
        Then she would ask for a photo or have the opportunity to see the cheater in person. She would be shocked at what the betrayed considered so attractive.
        See, a betrayed person is seriously traumatized, often suffering from PTSD. We are not able to really look objectively at a lot of things and have a tenedency, in some cases, to put ourselves down and to elevate the cheater. I see this allthe time.

  • Saw a picture of Holly in her younger days, together with that ferret faced(sorry ferrets) power droid/drone of a husband. She is way better looking than the guy, not even close. He outkicked his coverage.

  • This was interesting to me. Love this website! In my case, about a year ago I lost 80 pounds, which basically took years off. I had really been fat and probably kind of frumpy before, but the worst of it was that I was unhealthy. As a cancer suvivor, I wanted to lose weight and get healthy, so looking looking good was, for me, a secondary though welcome benefit.

    After I had reached my goal weight, I discovered that my hubby was having an ’emotional affair’ with his business partner, a frumpy handicapped lady in a wheelchair. Of course, my natural response was, ‘WTF? Her??’ He then informed me that it was because ‘we were disconnected.’ We were? How come we were having sex fairly often. Stupid me – I thought that meant we had a connection. It simply meant…. well, what the hell! I have no clue what it meant to tell you the truth.

    My favorite, though, was when he tearfully told me what a wonderful person, giving person she was and she had never had sex and he just want to do that for her so she could experience it…..but he stopped himself. I guess he just kissed her and felt her up; there was so much word salad going on I could never tell what really happened.

    Fast foward nine months and, chump that I am, I am still in the marriage. He played a card I never thought he would play – mental illness. That’s why he claimed that for the second time he got into an ’emotional affair’ and actually considered leaving me but realized he couldn’t do it. He is even taking lithium for a supposed mood disorder. And now, I need to be nice to him because if I confront anything he grabs his head like I am driving a stake through it (okay, so I confess. The thought has crossed my mind a couple of times!).

    Anyway, I love this site and feel stronger just for reading it. I really can’t say what I will do as far as my marriage. In my heart of hearts, I know I have not seen the last of his cheating because I let him get away with blaming me both times. I had not read this or Dr. Simon’s blog at that point.

    For now I am focusing on making my life better. I’ve kept the weight off for me and only for me, and do bootcamp every day. I keep up with campers half my age so that’s a good feeling. I am grieving what I thought we had and who I thought he was. I am sure when I get over it, I’ll muster up the courage to finally let go and move on.

    Until then, thanks so much for the straightforward and comedic way in which you speak the truth. I find myself laughing in spite of myself.


    • Welcome Cindy! And congrats on the weight loss — wow, that’s truly impressive. Your husband… man, he sounds like a piece of work. I guess medicating to him is preferable to doing the hard work of taking personal responsibility for his shit actions. We’re here for you! Welcome to CL.

      • Funny you say that. Our adult daughter said to me, “Mom, dad would just rather take a pill than deal with anything.”

        I’ve only just now start to realize how much I feel held hostage by his claim of mental illness. Reading Dr. Simon’s work has really opened my eyes and actually that is how I found this blog. It is so refreshing to realize that I actually have options rather than stay. I think I have stayed because of guilt and the misguided hope that he will change.

        I’m considering telling him that after 30 years of marriage I simply don’t buy the mental illness schstick and if he can live with me confronting his sorry ass when he is being a selfish prick, we might have a chance. If he’s not good with that then we probably should say ‘adios and thanks for the memories.’ I am pretty sure what his response will be. Almost there – not quite.

        BTW, the funniest reason I heard for having an affair with a married man came from the OW – “I didn’t think of him as married.”


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