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A Spectrum of Chumps

Just like there is a spectrum of cheaters, there is a spectrum of chumps. Those chumps for whom a shit sandwich is a new and revolting discovery, and those who consider shit sandwiches part of a healthy and well-balanced diet. (Who am I without my daily intake of humiliation?) Pause and consider — what kind of chump are you?

In the beginning, I think many of us react to the discovery of infidelity similarly — we’re in shock, we sob, can’t eat, lose weight, feel numb. Over time, however, our chump persona emerges. Maybe there are stages of chumpdom like there are stages of grief and we try on different chump variants. IMO you cannot be a chump until after discovery, when you realize that you’ve been played. What manner of codependent or oblivious spouse you were before DDay is more technically a proto-chump.

The basic schism of chumpdom I believe comes down to passive acceptance or resistance of the chump state. Here are some flavors on the chump spectrum.

1. Amazon Chump. Some people react to personal crisis the way other people react to differential equations. This is a problem to solve, and if I just do my homework and research this bugger, I’m going to figure it out. Amazon chump spends a lot of time on Amazon.com, naturally, buying every book on infidelity and usually attempting to engage the cheater in study sessions with them. (“You want to SOLVE this, don’t you?”) Amazon chump is often dismayed that the cheater does not share their passion for discovery, self-analysis, and Cosmo relationship questionnaires. Fond of therapy and online support forums, Amazon chump is outward looking, solution-driven, and analytical. Amazon chump, however, can be faulted for not realizing that sometimes the best response to infidelity is to put down the Rubik’s cube and walk away.

2. Limbo Chump. If limbo chump were a Shakespearean character, he’d be Hamlet. To leave or not to leave? Limbo chump is awash in self doubt and recriminations, unable to find the moxie to commit to either path. Why do anything when you can live in a miserable muddle of constant vacillation? Limbo chumps want to keep all their options open, but frankly hate all their options. It’s scary out there, and they may fuck it up and have regrets, so better to just sit tight for awhile. Maybe the options will improve. Or not. Shit… they’re not improving. But maybe I’m not being patient enough… let’s give it some more time.

3. Inert Chump. Some people surrender unconditionally. Often confused with limbo chumps (“I’m still deciding!”), inert chumps aren’t really on the fence. They fell over it, curled up, and moss and lichen are starting to cover them, as rigor mortis sets it. This infidelity shit paralyzed them and they don’t have any fight left. What’s the point? Everyone sucks. I think I’ll take an nap. And another.

4. Closet Chump. Closet chump is in denial about his chump state. Chump? Who are you calling a chump? My marriage is GREAT! Couldn’t be better! This has brought us closer, really. Oh sure I occasionally have mind movies and trigger violently. After puking, I fantasize fervently about divorce court, but I’ve learned to control that. You can pray it away. Closet chumps pass among their married friends, as stronger, healthier, and more Christmas newsletter perfect. But to those with chump-dar, you can see the tell-tale signs of chumpdom. The taut smile, the unblinking Calista Gingrich countenance, the secret life realized on infidelity support boards. Closet chumps are afraid of their true nature, so they’re going to smother that fucker with a pillow and hope you don’t notice.

5. Recovering Chump. Recovering chumps own their chumpdom. Yes, they got played and yes, to some degree chumpdom will define them forever. But they’re okay with that, and even perversely proud that they survived this shit. Recovering chumps often prefer the company of other recovering chumps, as they tend not to smirk or call you “bitter.” Recovering chumps are secure in their chumpdom. They don’t need to flaunt it (“Did I mention that my ex-husband is a serial cheating sociopath with a Q-level security clearance and has a bastard child I didn’t discover until after the divorce?). It’s just a part of them now that they can live with. Like stretchmarks.

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  • I like this a lot CL! I think it hits on many of the variations.

    I think, I may have been a little bit of a Limbo chump. I found out, I immediately called him and told him to pack his bags and get out, which he did, because I didn’t want to be around him at all. Plus, my emotions were running close to the surface, so I was absolutely positive that no kind of logical/productive conversations could come out of it. But it took me a month or so to wade through everything and figure out what it was I could and could not tolerate.

    I just didn’t feel like I could be honestly happy if I chose to stay in that situation. And as far as my post-affair landscape, I guess I would say that it has been about figuring out what was going on with me that I was in that relationship to begin with. He’s not a horrible guy in the sense that he’s got a crazy personality disorder or whatever, but it just never seems to me to be additive to my life to sit around ruminating on him or trying to figure him out. Who I need to focus on is me.

    I’ve found it fascinating, though, to read about how others who have been in this situation manage in their situations. I admire those who move forward and make positive gains, I pity those who remain stuck (either in unhappy marriages or divorced, but still trying desperately to figure out the why of the cheater who betrayed them as if that will somehow make them understand themselves better).

    What I would be interested in knowing is your opinion of where certain of the BSs listed above (or as yet to be classified) fit into the personality disorder framework that has come up here so often in describing the cheaters and their other persons. Because I’ve got to think that some of those people I read over at SI and other BS forums have got some pretty bizarre psychological profiles working. I see a frightening amount of co-dependence, obviously, but is that it? So all the NPDs and Psychopaths of the world only link in with co-dependents and so that’s who we see come filtering out of the wash of infidelity as the ones who wish to reconcile?

  • I was so ridiculously the Amazon Chump!! Your description is almost hilariously spot on! In fact, I bought my first self-help book ever, Not “Just Friends”, on my Kindle the night I discovered the affair! And I have NEVER been so happy to have a Kindle! It should be in their commercials if it weren’t so incredibly depressing. Now I think I am close to being a recovering chump. Who still occasionally indulges in her new-found fondness for the self-help genre. At least the topics of interest have changed 🙂

      • Yep. Amazon Chump turned Revovering Chump here too.

        Likewise, never so glad to have a Kindle than D-Night!

        Funny how all that stuff becomes irrelevant once you get to a certain point. I think I see a pattern here though, those of us who thirst for knowledge seem to skip all the other chumpdom in between. It would have been interesting to experience those other brands of Chumpdom, but I needed to get to the bottom of things, and quickly. You pore through so much material in those books, you start to identify what’s bullshit and what’s not.

        For me, some of it was useful. There was one particular book that made the statement: “You need to understand that even though you may have a conscience and emotions, some people really just don’t. Accept that and move on”

        That one was a turning point for me.

        I have all my self help books archived. Some I will never look back on or will look back and laugh at the poor advice. Others I have passages in reserve waiting for fellow chumps whose time has come!

    • Sheesh. If Amazon Chump wasn’t an exact description of me, then I was definitely Camping-Out-in-the-Self-Help/Relationships-aisle-at-B&N Chump. Ugghhh. That aisle. Just seeing how the books are arranged along that aisle is like a little relationship timeline in itself: The Rules/How to Date like a Man/Why Men Love Bitches/ why you’re still single – turns into- Men Are From Mars / 5 Love Languages / Dr Phil Relationship Rescue – turns into- Infidelity/ Should I stay or Should I Go / Divorce for Dummies – and ends with The Kama Sutra/ 365 Positions to try this year/The Joy of Sex.

      Yes, “Not Just Friends” was my first purchase too. Then came other books on Infidelity, Codependency, Loving an Adult Child of an Alcoholic, more books about ACOAs, family dysfunction, then came books about Narcissism – and somewhere right along in here is where I also discovered Natalie Lue’s blog (Baggage Reclaim) as well as Chump Lady, and that’s also when I started to spend MUCH more of my time on ME and much less time figuring out all that’s wrong with HIM. Definitely moving within range of Recovery Chump these days – and continually moving farther away from the crazy.

      • I’m working on me more too… I got some books on self-esteem but then when they didn’t resonate with me as well as truly applicable self help books do, I realized I don’t have as many self esteem issues as I thought! Yay!

        But I probably need one on boundaries. And my timeline is backwards because I never really “dated” before, so I’ve gotten a bunch of books on that now as well… though no real dating has taken place yet. Because that is what Amazon Chumps do… maybe I can solve some future problems! 🙂 And gotten some books on divorce. Anyone have some good ones to recommend? For divorce and after?

        I wasn’t too interested in learning about him… but did just order my first narcissism book because I am actually worried about him affecting the kids. My STBX’s dad is a complete narcissist (and his mom a total enabler) and I don’t want my kids to get these traits as well. My STBX is generally a very good dad (weirdly) but does kinda treat the kids more as possessions and reflections of him, IMO. And I’ve kinda seen him subtly guilt-trip them when we transfer them back and forth… or I could be over-sensitive but he goes on a bit much about how much he misses them when they’re away. So am also re-upping on my parenting books. Whew! Got a lot of reading ahead of me!

  • I ran the whole gambit of chumps for about 10 days. But now, I am definitely a recovering chump…. STEP AWAY FROM THE CRAZY…. and pretty proud of that even tho it is S.L.O.W. – I still want to do all manner of mischief from my lower nature. But, as CL says (as well as so many of you) it won’t fix MY PAIN. Which is – all things considered – the only thing that matters. Soldier on.

  • Love this post.

    I can name a couple of chumps off the bat at TAM.

    Amazon Chump – falconcrap

    Limbo Chump – Skaterdad

    and a few more.

  • OMG, I was a prime example of Amazon Chump buying/downloading various books including to name a few: “Not Just Friends”, “Private Lies”, “The Script”, even “How to Survive Your Boyfriend’s Divorce: Loving Your Separated Man without Losing Your Mind” to try to get the Other Woman’s perspective. Finally, I found Chump Lady which saved me from myself and I’m proud to say I’m on the road to Recovering Chump.

  • The best example of the Anti-Chump was a guy I heard about who followed his wife to the motel, busted down the door, watched the POSOM scurry naked into the bathroom, looked into his wife’s eyes and turned on his heels and left.

    Filed the next day. Never spoke to her again. He’s my hero.

  • I ran the full gamut of the spectrum.

    In the end, though, I still feel like a chump, recovering or not. I hate being chumped.

    I really thought I was smarter than that. But chumped I was.

    I am, believe it or not, known to be very good a reading people, I guess I just can’t read the people who are closest to me.

  • I found emails from ow on his computer by accident. No suspicions at all. I am still surprised a little bit by my reaction. I said nothing, but filed for divorce and had him served during a lunch date with ow. He came home frantic and begged me not to leave him, but I never wavered. I really loved him, but I knew from the moment of discovery that he did not love me the way I wanted and deserved to loved. I knew deep in my gut that I could never trust him again and that in the end, staying with him would kill me. Even if he were the perfect, remorseful, husband. The SI peeps vacillated between telling me they were envious of my resolve and castigating me for not waiting 6 months.

    My children and I are doing very well. I married a great guy 3 years after the divorce. He was a BH and we have primary custody of his teenager. My ex dumped OW immediately and spent a lot of time moping and begging me to come back. Even after my marriage. He has never remarried and dates occasionally, but still thinks of me as his “one true love.” I actually feel sorry for him, but I have no regrets. And I’m so happy I followed my natural instincts and did not waste years trying to accomplish a reconciliation that never would have happened.

    • Annabelle — you totally ROCK. Please consider sending me your “better on the other side” story at info@chumplady.com — I’m compiling them. I want to create a page with a bunch of inspiring stories like yours for people who feel stuck or afraid there isn’t a better side after infidelity.

      Your ex sounds like a real weenie, btw.

    • Ugh…hate that ‘wait 6 months’ thing. People told me that online and in real life and I listened for a couple of months because I thought maybe, just maybe, there was a chance after all these years. Then I smartened up, although it took awhile for my heart to catch up with my head. I say file right away and that’s that. You’re one smart cookie.

    • Well done, Annabelle. I’m another one who went to D pretty much right away. SI made me feel guilty about that, but I had to follow my instincts. Staying with STBX felt completely wrong; all I could think about was getting out and getting away from him. I’m glad I did it. I wish I had dumped him years ago, but at least I didn’t stick around for false R or to watch him enjoy cake eating.

    • So wish I could have mustered the intestinal fortitude you did. Had I done that, my problems would have been solved.

  • I had ended the marriage because he had been treating me badly and didn’t discover just how badly for seven months. I might have been an Amazon Chump but likely not for long as I know I would press for details and then be enraged. I am a Recovering Chump.

  • Hopefully Recovering here… was an Amazon chump for about five days. I admit, like a previous poster said, that I’m still trying to accept that I’ll never get the “why” of it and should just stop trying to do so. I’m trying not to get too stuck in anger, and I think I’ll be able to make more strides once my D is final and my interaction lessens in the near future.

    I, too, hate that I was “chumped.” I’ve always had a decent gut instinct about things, but I never saw the A coming.

    • I didn’t see the A coming either – guess I’d have to say I didn’t see much of anything… I am so grateful for this site – I least with all the company here, I get to fuck up over and over again in private – probably still not finished yet – but today was a good day. I haven’t been down a self-help aisle for probably a decade – honestly, I have to say it wouldn’t have occurred to me to buy a bunch of books for (us) him/me – which is a good thing because I didn’t need to spend even more money I didn’t have (in the middle of the night) –

      Did I ever mention, Mike is deathly allergic to cats – and I still have my cats. Thank God! I still have my cats. I don’t know why I feel so good about that right at this moment since they are both ignoring me in a go away closer kind of way. I think its time for a dog too…..

      That “why” thing can really wrap me around the center too – god, what a time suck… not done yet I’m sure – shout out to Kristina – hey, I’m listening…..

  • i dont know what kind of chump i was.just an idiot.is that a category?i danced the “pick me dance”.i made her fat on ego kibbles. meanwhile i went from 160 to 120.after i filed for divorce the OM left her but after a while i continued to have an on and off relationship with her.a lot of embarrassing stupid stuff.about 6 months after the divorce she met someone else and remarried.she started being belligerent towards me at times then and i stopped talking to her for periods of time.(proto NC?) one day i got up the nerve to have her trespassed from my place of residence when she came and made a fuss(she would scream and yell and pound on the door) about(she wanted to) changing our mutually agreed to visitation schedule.(she never fought for custody,she thought she could get it anytime) her new husband started to spend months away from her and she started being nicer to me, i fell for it hook, line and sinker for a while. after about 3 yrs after the divorce, the despair i had been feeling evaporated and i filed for a court ordered visitation schedule and child support and it was granted.after that she continued to have financial and other problems and when ever she called for help i always came like a retarded puppy dog(some kinds of idiots need to be slapped really hard).. she called me up one day crying that she couldn’t afford child support.i called child support enforcement and told them to leave her alone,(she owed about $1200 then and they suspended her drivers license .a few months after that her and her husband got back together and they got a really nice apartment.her life really got better.we mostly stayed on civil terms after that.her husband left her a few more times and one day her never came back but meanwhile she got pregnant….2008 came along with the recession and i could not afford to keep a roof over our heads(my son and me) and gave custody of our son to her.stayed with her for a couple of weeks and left the state.now i pay child support. i barely make it week to week.shit sandwiches have not been good for my health.haven’t spoken 10 words to my ex in more than a year.. now i clearly see that she has some kind of cluster “b” disorder and i have some kind of screwed up co dependent idk what the fuck… hind sight IS 20/20 !!

    p.s. went i left my hometown my son was just graduating elementary school.been back 2 yrs and my son in high school.im not the same person i was when i married… 🙁 🙁

    • Dear Mark,
      Your story is heartbreaking. I’m so sorry. I admire you for being so honest in describing the difficulty you had letting go. Sometimes I feel that there’s a bit of judgement from the people on this site that were able to slice the ties and walk away without looking back. I too disengaged in fits and starts. We are all doing the best we can with this thing we were handed. Some people can do it, some will do it when they are able. I think we need to understand that there are reasons why we don’t all react with firm resolve.
      Although I am competent and appear strong to the outside world, I had big issues with abandonment due to horrid childhood issues I had no control over. I’ve been to years of therapy and felt I’d resolved them but deep in my core, there were places that were still wounded. I don’t think I am less of a person because I wasn’t able to turn on my heel and leave him. I accept that deep, deep inside was the remnant of a betrayed child whose extended family disappeared after my mother died. I was left to strangers to raise me who considered me an inconvenience and were happiest when I stayed out of the way. They frequently reminded me that I was really not part of their family.
      I don’t think there is anything wrong with examining and trying to understand his narcissism. It’s helped me intellectualize what he did to me and feel some compassion for him because he’s so fundamentally damaged and unfixable. I want to know why I was vulnerable to his charm and why I allowed myself to be twisted into the one with the problem in the marriage.
      I think there are just different kinds of people and being an Amazon Chump or an Inert Chump is what we need to do to get through to the other side.
      Mark, I hope the very best for you.
      Duped

        • Dear mark and Duped

          I do think that it’s important to take your time to evaluate your entire situation and decide what is best for you.

          I don’t think Chump lady is totally against reconciliation. She is just saying really successful reconciliations are tough road and are likely rare.

          I took my time deciding what to do, and even tried reconciliation for a while. I have seen a handful of really sincere reconcilations after infidelity, but in those cases, the cheater does most of the changing and the majority of the work and does it without holding a grudge for the rest of his/her life.

          I do think there are cheaters who may be willing to do the hard work for the hurt spouse to recover, but I don’t think the majority of cheaters are in touch enough with their inner selves to actually do the work required. Still, there are some who will.

          I do think, occasionally, a person can be so in lust that their frontal lobes go haywire and they lose self control.

          But the proof that it was just lust, and just a one time thing, is in the cheater’s behavior after discovery day.

  • LOVE THIS ONE!
    Ten kinds of brilliant! Tried to get a docterate in Amazon chump (with a tiny bit of Limbo thrown in)? Hey? Anyone want to buy 14 affair self help books for a penny?
    I refuse to put up with this cheating! Either work on our marriage or let’s divorce! He’d “try” and then I’d catch him again. I should have thrown his ASS out the first time I caught him. I had a 10 month old, 2 year old and 4 year old at the time (stay at home mom) and I just COULDN’T believe that he wasn’t who I thought he was!!!
    Working towards recovery chump. Very grateful for your hardwork on this site, Tracy. It has made a difference in my life. A big one.

    • leslie:

      Sorry to hear he was still cheating. Cheaters are such liars and have a lot of highly narcissistic traits. They are never wrong and love the blame game. It’s best to move on.

  • Like most of us here, I was the Amazon Chump, followed by the inert Chump. Funnily, my first book was also “Just Friends.” The difference is that I got all the books from the library, and then when the inert phase came by couldn’t care enough to return them. I think I got charged about $350 in late fees for the 30 or so books I checked out on infidelity, reconciliation, narcissism, self-realization, meditation, trauma, and sundry self-help.

    Since I’ve moved out, my STBX tells me every once in a while that she’s found yet another book stashed somewhere improbable, in the back under the bathroom sink, or among the tools. I was both ashamed to be seen reading them, wary of having the kids see I was reading them, and afraid of her anger when she saw I was reading them. Now I just laugh when I see she gets pissed at finding them; a teeny bit of karma.

    • That’s kind of a funny image — infidelity books stashed about like so much secret contraband. Too bad you couldn’t have stuck her with the overdue library fees.

  • Can’t see the other comments, so if’s been overlooked, may I suggest the category of stealth chump? This is when we rent storage units, move our furniture and household goods out from under the oblivious noses of the spousal unit, purchase houses in our own names, contact lawyers, make copies of pertinent papers, and live a secret life while we move all the chess pieces into place. And then we make the move . . .

    • Wow! EnoughAlready! I am a total stealth chump. I’ve moved out, retained a bulldog lawyer, removed my stuff from the house and stored it. I’ve been stealth for two months. No contact, nothing. When I find out new information about my cheater – last week he had a prostitute in my house – – I just store the evidence. I don’t get mad anymore or say anything to my cheater about it, that would be kibbles… And if I start to get upset, I imagine myself as a shark, swimming unnoticed, until the time is right…

  • I’m a poor version of the Amazon chump. I’m a Google chump. My search history is an encyclopedia of chumpdom.

  • I can top Amazon Chump…I actually attended SAA meetings for over a year just so that my ex would go because he would only go to a meeting if I would admit I was a “sex addict” also (WTF???). Anyway, I did learn in those meetings that most “sex addicts” NEVER abstain permanently–they just get better at hiding their activities, manipulating, or they switch to a different behavior.

    BTW, I don’t go to 12 step meetings at all. Why the heck should I? I’m moving on.

  • I AM a combination of just about all of these. Going on 18 months of separation and 2 years since D day and I’m still on the fence. Unfortunately, I feel bad for mine because he is seriously mentally ill. He was diagnosed bipolar/schizoaffective shortly after D day and has since had a PET scan that may show dementia but that has not been confirmed yet. I am allowing my conscience to dictate my decisions and I can’t leave him in this state although in my heart, I want out. I BELIEVE he used to be a good man. He had a 5 month affair and then continued on behind my back while telling me he had dumped her and it was all about me for another 4 months. So hard to tell now if any of our 15 year relationship was ever real. He has yet to confess to anything – I’ve had to catch him and prove it to make him admit it. Not cool. By the way for any of you still out there wondering, there is a wonderful download called Dr. Fone that undeletes deleted text messages. This is how I got him.

  • I had to add this: Where is the enraged chump?
    That’s how I felt when I found out my husband, partner of 10 years, the father of my child, has been leading a double life. I felt like I wanted to rip his head off! As to the OW, a paid prostitute that he hired to ALSO babysit our child (are you enraged reading this?), I felt that if I caught her near my house, I would strip her naked and …. I don’t know.
    Those feelings subsidised, along with not seeing any of them anymore.
    But oh boy, even the thought of him made me catch fiiiire!

  • It should say – recovering chumps stop reading infidelity books and infidelity reconcilation websites. Recovering chumps finnaly get it and read nothing but chumplady.com. I went through all the phases of chumpdom, shock, I can fix this. I can be a better person, I can change. Then sit in limbo waiting for remorse. After 3 years….You get it. You come out of denial and realize that everything the chump lady says is true. And once you become a recovering chump and develop some selfrespect, that’s when you are reading nothing but chumplady. And It’s all beautifull.

  • I’m ‘limbo chump’. Can’t live with the thought of myself staying married to this dirty epic sociopath level lying cheating wife. Scared to death of being without my daughter. I’ve sacrificed for this family- I’ve given disrespectful wife a second chance and she upped the anty by going full affair on me 6 years later. It’s almost as if me giving her a second chance before made her even more confident.

  • Amazon Chump through and through! Even though I was the only one trying to save the marriage for 6-7 months and she decided to divorce me after my half hearted serving attempt to try and ‘shock’ her out of it … I did learn a lot that can be carried on into future relationships and to mix that with what I learned the hard way to help others.

  • I’m limbo chump, inert chump (man oh man I’ve taken a lot of naps the past two years, it seems like I take one every time I get upset) and closet chump. I’ve been all three and still am. At least I’m aware of it, I guess. But my strongest characteristic is limbo chump, because of what I fear divorce will do to my kids. My wife didn’t think about that apparently, during her three month emotional and physical affair, but it’s all I think about. I think about it so much it gives me panic attacks still to this day. I feel hollow, empty and incapable of much real emotion — unless you count rage, sadness, regret, self-recriminations, emasculation, etc. I don’t trust anyone. I mean ANYONE.

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