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The “B” Word


You thought I was going to say “bitch”? Oh, I’m sure that’s out there too. One thing that’s been a constant since Chump Lady has gotten a wider circulation on Huffington Post is that I’m called “bitter” a lot. And not just the obvious wing nuts, a fellow blogger I follow patronizingly used the “B” world on me recently too.

Bitter is a one-size-fits-all pejorative that says: shut the fuck up.

Did you call bullshit on that non-apology apology? You must be bitter!

Are you not going to eat this magnificent shit sandwich I have laid before you? You must be bitter!

Do you not want to stay friends for the children? You must be bitter!

Because Jesus, you don’t want to be a bummer, do you? One of those people who just Can’t Let Go, who drapes themselves over the furniture at social gatherings and wails and renders garments? That person is such a buzz kill. And the trail of snotty tissues and self-help books… it’s just embarrassing.

Uh no. I’m not like that person at all.

Really? It’s just that when you write about infidelity, gosh, you seem so… angry.

I’m flummoxed by this. Is cheating not supposed to make you angry? When confronted with gas lighting, and blameshifting, and betrayal — are you supposed to hug the cheater like a warm puppy? (Pat, pat, pat… ooh, hey, I have tasty kibble in my pocket here for you!)

Or is the point that when writing about infidelity, you must maintain the myth that everyone is at fault here? Mistakes were made. We each have flaws and it is unfortunate that one party sought comfort for the needs that weren’t being met in the marriage, but let’s not cast blame. We’ve learned from this. Cheaters cheat, but they’re not Bad People, they just did a Bad Thing. It’s nothing to get huffy and puritanical about. Let’s invite them over for our next Superbowl party and sit on the sofa together! You, your OW, me, my boyfriend and let’s impress everyone with our progressive, forgiving nature and five-layer bean dip!

Okay, I’m not that person. But I’m not a bitter person. The very last thing I want for the chumps who read Chump Lady to come away with is that they should be bitter about what happened to them. You can be pissed, of course. You don’t have to forgive. But the whole point of this blog is to point people towards a chump-free existence — a happier life with healthier relationships. And you cannot do that if you give your ex a lot of mental real estate. You want to feel “meh!” about the ex.

Bitter people exist. I’m not doubting it. In fact, my first ex-husband is probably the walking embodiment of the bitter, ex-spouse who cannot let go. (He’s a hoarder, so apparently he cannot let go of a lot of things, including moldy tennis balls, so I don’t consider myself special or anything.) Bitter is representing yourself in pro se lawsuits against your ex. Bitter is being oppositional and defiant about every last thing because you can. Bitter is obsessiveness and stalking.

So — for the record — don’t be bitter!

But don’t be delusional either. The only way I found to get to the blissful state of “meh” was to realize exactly what sort of  disordered freak my cheating ex is. Limbo, being unclear on who he truly was, kept me in a painful state. But once I could look at him and situation objectively and say — “toxic” — I was able to break away from it. There was nothing to miss.

People often mistake this avoidance of the toxic person  as”bitterness.” No — bitterness is wanting to get all up in their business. However, recognizing them as toxic means getting the fuck away from them and going no contact. People also mistake the righteous anger at acts of injustice as bitterness. No — it’s normal to be angry at people who do hurtful things. Calling people out on manipulation and bullshit does not make you bitter — it means you’re not a chump any more.

Now, I make a hobby out of calling cheaters out on manipulation and bullshit, so there is an occupational hazard of being called “bitter” once in awhile. I can live with it. But don’t you fall for it, okay?

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  • Chump Lady appropriately said: “People often mistake this avoidance of the toxic person as”bitterness.” No — bitterness is wanting to get all up in their business. However, recognizing them as toxic means getting the fuck away from them and going no contact. People also mistake the righteous anger at acts of injustice as bitterness. No — it’s normal to be angry at people who do hurtful things. Calling people out on manipulation and bullshit does not make you bitter — it means you’re not a chump any more.”

    Good point. At TAM I was told I was bitter and vindictive because I refused to reconcile even though my STBX wants to, still.

    I was told I MUST forgive. WTF.

    I mean seriously, I did a LOT of forgiving during the marriage, like when he forgot my birthday or failed to bring home a Valentine’s gift.

    I forgave him after we fought because I was angry that he was going out with the boys or {ahem) Late night meetings or whatever, three nights a week. I am homebody. I never felt the need to go out with the girls. I like to stay home and read or watch a good movie. I hate bars. I typically met my girlfriends at Starbucks for chats during the day.

    I forgave him when he refused to fix things that desperately needed fixing around the house, but would get angry if I hired a contractor who charged a higher rate than he thought was fair. (well he could have looked online your self and find a contractor that makes him happy)

    I forgave him when I accidentally found out about his first hidden bank account ten years ago, and he somehow convinced me that he only used it to rent a motorcycle now and then, ’cause he knew I felt motorcycles were dangerous, and he didn’t want me to worry.

    I forgave him when he CLAIMED to have spent four hours at Home Depot, finding things he needed to do work around the house but conveniently they were out of those things.

    I forgave him when one day he came home without his wedding ring and told me he took it off to wash his hands and likely left it in a bathroom. Well maybe he did leave it in a bathroom, but I doubt he took it off to wash his hads, when he never did that at home.

    I was finally fresh out of forgiveness.

    Oh well, flog me with a wet noodle.

  • I have to say, and you know this but I’ll tell you again, your site, CL, the things you’ve written, all the comments and participants, strangers writing kind things, have been like the clouds opening and the angels singing – to have navigated this alone would have been almost impossible for me – how does one navigate pain without someone who’s not in pain mapping out a path? We would hardly expect that from somone with two broken legs….. You must get your share of the “b” word….. that’s the tyranny of denial. The net is a sewer and even tho all sides should get represented, just because they are doesn’t mean they aren’t crazy. What’s wrong with telling people over and over “step away from the crazy”.

    I know I’m not a bitter person….. but, I am super super hurt and hurt is hurt until it isn’t. A number of friends say I “should” be angry and I’m sure I’ll get to that and I’ve moved on in the past when bad things happened and I’m sure I’ll move on with this too. But, I’m still not angry yet and I have to say I kinda hate it when people tell me how I should be feeling…… it feels kinda like bullying. I’ll get to it – I’ll get to it.

  • send them my way CL and ill tell them to go strait to hell.i was the kind of chump they want you to be and i invite all the cheaters, abusers and all their proponents,enablers and defenders to all go take a march of the lemmings.they can all go take a long hike on a short plank.WE would be better off without them.and i dont care if they are generals,pastors,politicians or house maids .i dont give a damn.they can all go fuck themselves and die.
    im not just not going to be a codependent emotional tampon anymore.and i invite anyone whos gone thru the fog of being cheated on,used and abused to do the same.
    Cheaters and abusers arent just toxic.they are TOXIC.capitol everything TOXIC…TOXIC like snake venom!!!!. guaranteed to make you sick if not kill you… thats 1 thing that i had a really had time getting my mind around…TOXIC means TOXIC.having them around is like having sewage splashed around in your living space.we need them around like we need a refrigerator full of rotten food.AND THEY DONT CHANGE.NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY.expecting them to change is like expecting to win the lottery .you have a better chance of being hit by lightning.good luck on that one.
    i dont care what anyone says CHEATING IS A FORM OF ABUSE.a dirty, filthy me cheating is like stabbing your best friend in the back.and then stabbing him or her in the gut for good some cultures its associated with treason.wouldn’t bother me a bit if it were made illegal everywhere like other forms of abuse. for members of the US military it is punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.and let me be clear, man or woman a cheating piece of shit is a cheating piece of shit.i dont give a damn. whats good for the goose is good for the gander.
    a lot of people feel that their entitlement is such that they feel entitled to cheat and or abuse ,well i feel entitled to dislike cheaters and abusers.and if anyone dosent like it well they can just go fuck themselves…

    • Go Mark!
      I told my STBX that I hoped he was shooting sunshine rays of happiness out of his ass since me, our two daughters, etc had all paid such a high price for his “happiness”. Anytime somebody thinks they can cheat because they DESERVE to be whatever…I just want to vomit. What did I do to DESERVE to be shit on…what do my kids DESERVE? Oh and the in-laws that say, well we know that he did wrong, but he is our son… Yep he’s an embarrassing ass-hole.

  • CL. love, getting anger is UNHEALTHY and merely shows that you aren’t grown up enough or sophisticated enough to understand that these things happen and if we all just accept that the cheaters were swept away by a love so pure that we shouldn’t do anything but cheer for their happiness. Sheesh! Didn’t you get the memo?

    • Yep, that’s what he said…… soulmate schmoopies all love and hearts and flowers and banging the neighbor down the street.

  • Lemons are bitter but they can be used to make lemonade! Why shouldn’t we be bitter if we need to be? The X used to say I was so “nice” and “aren’t we lucky?” After toxic shock wears off you see that you’ve been conned big time. How? Why? I’m in a “better” place after two years but what a price. Did he really have to be so corrupt?

    • Some people say dark chocolate is bitter. Well, I love dark chocolate. It’s rich, complex, interesting.

      So maybe a bitter Chump isn’t such a bad thing to be. I certainly prefer it to being a “sweet” betrayed spouse!

  • To anyone who tells me I am being bitteer or vindictive I just ask them one thing…if a terrorist barges into your house under the guise of being a friend, you have been the best host eveer,opened your house and your heart to him and then suddenly he appears with a machine gun in one hand and a grenade in another fires a couple of shots at the naive and innocent you and you throw a bowl or a vase or whatever is available to you in self defense and knock him down what do you tell people who sprout up talking about human right violations you have done??????? tell them to shut the fuck up and say a silent prayer wishing a terrorist into their lives .Then let’s hear them talk about human rights.

    I have understood one thing very very well..people who call my blunt talk bitter are either the betrayed ones who are too scared to face the truth and leave the relationship or they are the betrayers themselves.

  • Hmmm… Could it be that to the cheaters and those that defend them, that we BS/recovering chumps are of more use to them “bitter” than “meh”…? What’s in it for them if we are happier, healthier and demonstrably better off without them?

    Meh is so much easier to say than “go to hell…”

  • Anger isn’t bitterness. Anger is part of the healing process. When you’ve been betrayed by the one person you trusted above all others, the one person who swore publicly, in many cases swearing in the name of his/her God, to honor, cherish, uphold, and forsake all others for you–something dies in you. We experience some denial (and some are trapped in denial), but we also experience anger. Sometimes we try to bargain, engaging in the humiliating dance of “pick me.” Our goal, though, is “meh.”

    What makes cheating unique from other types of loss is that so often the betrayed spouse should not immediately confront the situation. If you’re financially dependent upon your cheating spouse, you need to get your finances in order. If you have children, you need to spend time gathering what you need in order to negotiate custody effectively. If you suspect financial malfeasance, that your cheating spouse is giving money to the AP, you need to find out how to track that. This means you have to bottle up everything in front of the STBX. There’s an emotional cost to that.

    What’s worse is that the cheater doesn’t care that s/he is putting you through emotional hell. That’s something else to be angry about. Unfortunately, you can’t do a damn thing about how your STBX feels. They’re in the land of cake eating and ego kibbles. They get upset when you tell them they can’t eat cake. They don’t get upset when you’re forced to eat a shit sandwich. Normal people, people with a sense of honor, trust, commitment, and above all love and empathy–we can’t wrap our minds around the cheater’s thought process. All we can do is say “yes, this is how they are.” And that’s something that makes you angry because, dammit! We want closure, a reason, something that we can put our fingers on that helps us understand just how it is that this person whom we trusted could betray us so fundamentally.

    We won’t get it.

    That makes us angry, but it doesn’t make us bitter. What makes us bitter is if we’re not allowed to work through the anger to see that we deserve better, and dumping their cheating ass gives us our lives back so that we get the opportunity for a better future and open ourselves to relationships where there’s real love and trust.

    • “What makes us bitter is if we’re not allowed to work through the anger to see that we deserve better, and dumping their cheating ass gives us our lives back so that we get the opportunity for a better future and open ourselves to relationships where there’s real love and trust.”
      I think I’m in danger of becoming bitter. I’m scared of being angry and I run the risk of the anger turning inwards. I was so terrified through the separation process whilst I was being manipulated. I’m not interested in being “obsessive and stalking” the X but I do feel a bit like the walking wounded. Friends who haven’t been exposed to this just don’t get it. Opening yourself to “real love and trust” sounds like a fairytale. Bit low today.

      • I’m not there yet, myself. I’m trusting that this will happen. Right now, I’m angry and looking for a job so that I can make the break. Until then, I won’t be able to heal since I’ll still be dealing with the cheating.

        In my case, we have no children. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to go through this with kids. Even so, I’m looking into therapy. My family practice lawyer gave me referrals.

        • kb – I can’t imagine doing this with family pets let alone with children. All of you guys are amazing – just amazing.

      • Dear Sonnet – you are SO not alone – its a painful time for sure. I feel like the walking wounded too but certainly less than I did say, a month ago. I wince when people say I will love again – kinda like having two broken legs and having someone tell me I’ll skydive again….. it passes…. slowly but surely.

        • Yeah, the last thing on my mind is ‘falling in love again’. Maybe one day but right now? No way. Maybe a fuck buddy who is one board with just having some fun but a relationship? Nope. Maybe in a bit.

        • yeah, I found it annoying how people would tell me I’ll find someone else, blah blah blah. Some will even tell you they are envious you get to date and do all that. Meanwhile, I’m angry and scared shitless. The thought of going through that dating BS sounds horrible. The first time I was alone with a single guy as a single (well, for all intents and purposes) chick I was completely freaked out and nervous. And that was with a guy I worked with a few years ago and we were just going to study for the GMAT! Actually that eventually did end up turning into a brief “friends with benefits” situation. And I have to say it was incredibly healing and it probably helped me get over the last bit of my anger. Just realizing that yes, in fact I was still desirable, and maybe a future relationship WAS a possibility. Maybe it’s bad that it took a brief fling to help me heal, but it did. It happened at the perfectly right time and with the perfectly right person. Don’t get me wrong, the thought of “dating” and all the awkwardness that seems to entail still doesn’t sound fun. And I do wonder if I will be able to love/trust again. But at least I got one under my belt 🙂

          I would say not to worry about it. I believe something will come along when we are ready for it.

          • I went on a date, quite early on: it wasn’t great nor was it bad. At the end he tried to kiss me and I RAN. Literally. Could not deal at all. So that was my post-cheating scandal dating experience and now I’m just dealing with me, with the kids, with life. It will happen when I’m ready. But the fuck buddy? Yes, I can get on board with that. 🙂

        • Thanks. It just seems to take a bonkers long time. Also dealing with the domino affect on my daughters makes me feel helpless. It’s over two years since the divorce and, obviously, many many gaslighting years. I want to feel stronger than I do. It seems to have wiped out anything I thought I could rely on about myself. Where was my bullshit detector?

          Bit dated but my anthem before I go to work:

          • Your bullshit detector was probably there, you just buried it in the midst of the gaslighting, along with your trust and love. Don’t doubt who you are–know that your spouse is messed up and was lucky to have someone like you.

  • Oh, well, then, too, if you’re not bitter or hurt and disheveled enough, you’re judged for acting a little too glad about being abandoned by a depressed philanderer with a homewrecker alcoholic girlfriend.


    Bitter? No. Judgemental? Yes.

    Well, maybe a little bitter. Mostly disgusted.

    I mean, ew. He’s humping some chick who uses mothering to manipulate him (what she would know about being a mother is beyond me, though).

    I’m bitter? What’s it to you? I don’t bore people with my angst, I just stay the hell away from my ex. I find that there is nothing I need nor want from him. And the less contact I have with a man who abused me, the happier I am. I’m like a happy bitter. I suppose some are curious about the fact that I have nothing to do with him and have no plans ever to have anything to do with him in my future, but that’s none of their business. Either they’ve been cheated on and are chumps for feeding their ex’s ego kibbles, or they have no effing idea what it’s like. Bitch, please. Spare me the lecture about bitterness, about what I need to do.

  • I can’t thank you enough for your website, CL. It is awesome.

    It is so nice to have a place to share with people what I know is true: cheating and abandonment is abuse, and I don’t have to forgive it.

  • I guess I might say I’m a little more jaded… a little less naive. It’s possible I’m less trusting. I don’t think you could have something like this happen to you and not come out the other side changed in some way. But I don’t think that makes you “bitter”. To me, bitter is when all the joy is sucked out of your existence and you can find little if anything that makes you happy. And you infect those around you. That seems much more likely to happen if you stay with the cheater. Only then you have to pretend you’re happy. In fact, the pretending might be what makes you bitter.

    But talking honestly about what happened to you and how you feel is not bitter. Holding someone responsible for THEIR actions is not bitter. Refusing to say that what they did is okay is not bitter. It is truthful. It shows that you have specific morals and values and that you expect the person that you share your life with to have the same morals and values and to treat you with respect.

    Fuck the haters, CL 🙂

  • I do like the come-back, with the knit surprised/perplexed brows, “Bitter? What do you mean?” Put it back on them. “Cause you seem awfully presumptuous.”

    Shit, my friend JUST texted me that a mother at her school just gave her the “Tch!? You and your ex aren’t cordial? What a shame.”

    Bitch, please! I want to drive to where she is and stick my finger in that ignorant woman’s face myself.

    “No, I’m NOT CORDIAL WITH AN ABUSIVE, NARCISSISTIC JERK who walked out on his family for some whore (or a few) and who cries poor when it comes time to settle up. You’re right, that IS a shame. Can you even imagine? We might be cordial if he hadn’t exposed me to God knows what, if he didn’t lie to me constantly, if he hadn’t abandoned his kids and me–you know. The good news is that I’m doing really well, thanks for your concern, and I’m a kick-ass mom even though my children’s father is actively sabotaging me at every step. Yeah, not cordial. Yeah, it’s a shame.”

    BITTER. And he’s not even my ex.

    • I had someone say to me the other day ‘well, more than half of all marriages end in divorce’. I loöked at them and said ‘how many do you know end because one spouse finds out the other spouse has been cheating FOR YEARS, lying to me for years and sleeping with people I know?’ She kind of shrugged and said ‘yes, well, I suppose’. So there’s another person I don’t think I can be around. People really don’t get it.

      And I’m not even bitter! I laugh at his shit because it’s such a soap opera that I can’t even take it seriously anymore. My story would make the most amazing plotline on All MyChildren or the like.

      • I don’t understand how to love with such a c’est la vie view towards marriage/relationships and divorce/kicked to the curb. What are they saying? How do they love, then? Do they hold huge pars of themselves in reserve? Do they think it’s all good when their partner gives them the gift of an std?

        Shallow people! I wish they would hook up with each other.m

  • I wil tell you point blank that I hate my XWs, serial cheaters, and, if I ever get the chance to pay them back, legally and without going out of my way, I will. They hurt me and had no remorse. I am not big on turning the other cheek.

    • Arnold:

      I’m with you. My STBX is making y my life difficult. He cheated, he lied, he stole from me, and now he is holding up our divorce.

      I don’t know if bitter is the right word but I am definitely angry.

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