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Dear Chump Lady, How long do I wait this out?

Dear Chump Lady,

Okay, here is the situation. After 23 years together he has reconnected with an old girlfriend on Facebook and wants a divorce. After the initial shock, I told him if he wanted a divorce — go see a lawyer and get started. I have already done so. (He doesn’t know this).

However, most of our lives together he has said this is what I want to do, and I have done the leg work to get it done. (This is my gift, and I don’t mind doing it.) But I am not going to help him get a divorce. If he wants one, let him take the first step and I will follow. (I am armed and ready). This has been going on for four months. She is not local and I know he has only seen her a few times. My therapist thinks he has gotten himself in over his head and doesn’t know what to do. How long do I wait this out?  Thanking you in advance.



Dear Janet,

How long do you wait this out? I’d say T minus four months ago. I think you’ve waited it out too long already. It’s terrific that you’ve lawyered up, but now it’s time to shoot those legal guns.

It seems to me that you’ve been waiting for him to get out of that mythical wayward fog and commit to a path. Either reconciling with you, or divorcing you. He’s not going to do that, Janet. He’s a cake eater. He’s enjoying his limbo. The stability of marriage to a woman whose “gift” is attending to all of his needs, and the pleasures of a side dish fuck with Ms. Facebook. He’s not going to mess up his good cakey thing.

Your husband seems to be a pretty consistent sort from what you write. He asks for things and you make them happen. And you seem a consistent sort in that you give him the things that he wants. His actions say “I want cake,” and you are giving him cake. You think you are denying him the divorce he wants by not initiating it for him — but Janet, this isn’t rebellion. He doesn’t want the divorce. But he also does not want to be faithful to you. His idea of marriage is to disrespect you and cheat on you.

You only get to control YOU. You are making the very common chumpy mistake of focusing all your energy on the cheater. What motivates him, what he wants, what he’s going to do next? No! Put the focus back on yourself. What do YOU want? Is the marriage as it stands now acceptable to you? If not, what are YOU going to do about it? Create boundaries and ENFORCE those boundaries. And a pox on your therapist for wasting your precious billable hours trying to get inside your husband’s head and not yours.

Sticking up for yourself and the sort of marriage you deserve is hard at first. It’s scary. You have to let go of the outcome. Forcing his hand by filing may snap out of his affair (but I would argue who wants him if you have to hold a legal gun to his head to make him do the right thing). Filing will probably also have the result of making him finally lawyer up. But either way, you can get on with your life.

I am assuming that you have told him you want to save this marriage, and what he needs to do to save it (i.e., quit fucking around). I’m also assuming that his actions (or inactions) have given you answers you don’t want to hear. (He intends to do nothing — not divorce you, and not quit cheating on you.) Four months is long enough for him to set on the fence — time to push him off. File for divorce! You’re halfway there — keep going.

Let us know how you’re doing. Best of luck!

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • My sense is that the Myth of the Cheater Who Came In Out Of the Fog arises from the fact that many cheaters are narcissists who are easily bored. So, if you tolerate the cheating long enough, the cheater often tires of the affair partner just as they tired of you. And lacking any softer place to land, the Cheater wanders back to the warm, comfy nest maintained by the Chump Who Won’t Take a Hint.

    The appearance of these events to a desperate Chump who very much wants to “believe in the Unicorn” is reconciliation. But to the self-entitled Cheater the appearance is that the betrayed spouse is accepting occasional affairs as part of the marriage. Given this perception on the part of the cheater (sometimes voiced, sometimes kept quiet), it’s usually only a matter of time before another affair starts.

    I agree with the wisdom of Chump Lady. Your husband took a vow and broke it. Then he cheated and refused to stop. He has made his choices clear. Your job now is to focus on what YOU accept in marriage, what YOU want for the rest of your life, and what YOU can do to reach a place that is healthy and sustainable.

    Don’t be scared of saying what you want. It matters.

  • CL is absolutely correct. I had one of these: he ‘needed time’ to ‘figure things out’ and although it took me awhile I finally reached the point where I said ‘you can’t decide if you still want to be married to me after two kids, countless moves, me holding your hand through endless life changes, taking care of your parents, blah blah blah…and you’re still not sure I’m worth it. Piss. Right. Off’.

    Janet, tell that jackass to piss. right. off. Take all that fixer energy you’ve got and put it on yourself. He’s a loser and he’s just bored with the humdrum of every day life. Essentially, he’s not a grownup. You are. So be the grownup and live a grownup life. Let him regress to his heart’s content.

    • Soooooooo true. I wish I had said this long ago. They just want you to “hold their hand” all the way no matter how crap the situation they put you in.

    • This sounds like my husband! He met his lover on Facebook and has been carrying on for a year now. I filed for divorce in August 2013 and we are now in March 2014! He told me he wanted a divorce and I sat down and we hammered out an agreement he promised to sign. He then fired his lawyer, hired another lawyer, has not signed the agreement and is living with his out of state formerly married “piece” not 3 miles from our house! It’s just sick! He ‘s a child! We would have been married 40 years this May! He is 59 years old and almost has a PhD, but he acts 17 and his adulteress is 52 and acts like a mean high schooler! It’s pathetic, just want him gone!

  • Listen to chumplady about your therapist. You need a new one.

    What the heck is he doing telling you the cheater needs time. Eff him.

    I seriously think marriage therapists do a lot of harm to the betrayed spouse. Particularly when they want to claim that the cheater cheated because the marriage was already in trouble.

    So what if it was? Or maybe it wasn’t, given that so many betrayed spouses think the marriage was fine. The reason is that it likely the marriage was just fine until the cheater wanted cake, or met his fuckbuddy.

    Mine was. Oh yeah we had the typcial long term marital problems, but my husband said he loved me and even bragged to his friends about what a low maintenance wife I was. I really sensed no desire on his part to leave me or cheat.

    Than the cheater rewrites marital unhappiness into the mix to justify cheating and the counselors enable this.

    Even if there are problems, counseling would be the adult way to deal with it, not cheating, and shouldn’t the counselor know this?

    She and others experienced in infidelity counseling state that typically the cheater is taking more than he/she is giving in the marriage. They are typically the selfish, self absorbed marital partner.

    Also, these types of counselors insist on focusing on the infidelity first and then maybe addressing other issues.

    IMO, the way counselors are all too eager to blame the betrayed spouse is a form of revictimizing the victim.

    Shouldn’t a psychologist know better?

    Also, like yours, my STBX did not want a divorce in the end. He did however break off the affair.

    The fact that your spouse hasn’t is sick and your counselor needs to validate that.

    • Yes, it’s always amazing to me that people use the ‘there must have been problems in the marriage’ to excuse cheating. REally? Problems in a marriage after many years? Perhaps some boredom? Perhaps a bit too much of the same old, same old? Ya don’t say. Well, obviously it’s time to go get some strange to relieve that pesky boredom.

      God, sick of hearing this shit and therapists who try to help blameshift should be run out of town.

      • You know, it’s worth asking what some THERAPISTS have done to “help create an environement” in which cheaters feel empowered to cheat.

      • Nord:

        You are so right about the blameshifting.

        My STBX had an affair, as he eventually explained it, once he got past the blameshifting, he had an affair because our sex life was becoming routine and some young thing came onto him.

        Also, he claimed it was OPPORTUNITY……she was eager and he was flattered,

        WTF, that’s his way of saying he has malfunctioning frontal lobes and just couldn’t say “no” to some women 20 years his junior who shook her boobs and butt at him and pressed her breasts up against him. (yep the ‘ho actually did do that)

        At that invite from a ‘ho, my STBX was raring to go.

        He forgot about the businesses we started together and the lean times we both put up with, and now that our businesses are doing well, and some little gold digger suddenly finds an attraction to his bulging wallet, and wants to be “treated special,” as she put it in one email….he is all to eager to throw a hand grenade into his marriage.

        That’s the type of stuff the counselors need to address, rather than focusing on the shortcomings of the faithful spouse.

        We all have shortcomings. It still shouldn’t sanction cheating, though.

        Shirley glass focuses on the cheater and the cheating first. All the other stuff is put on the backburner to be addressed only after the cheating is addressed thoroughly.

        • Yes, STBX told me once that sex had become routine. I said ‘well, if you think you’ve been eating crackers instead of filet mignon so have I….but I didn’t cheat.’. They seem to think that the boredom and routine of a long relationship is something only they feel. We all feel it at times, we all look at our partner and think ‘pfft…did I really marry this farting idiot?’ and then we give ourselves and shake and remember why we love this person and why we value them. The cheaters do not remember this. Or they simply do not give a shit.

          • Absolutely, Nord. My STBX clearly thinks that he was some prize pig who was stuck with a real dud. Funny… the fact that we lacked a more exciting/frequent sex life certainly didn’t have anything to do with the fact that he acted like a 13-year-old most of the time (and it got worse over time… like he no longer had to impress me with romantic overtures and just reverted to Neanderthal mode). But no… it was clearly me. I was supposed to find his burping, farting, and lack of foreplay/romance very sexy. Yet he’s the one who cheats. Right.

    • I think that marriage counselors have some kind of concerted interest in helping “heal” marriages, as in: I’ve helped x number of broken marriages heal…” maybe a quota or something similar.

      The thing is, why not actually look at the relational dynamic and determine if the couple are individually healthy enough to heal the marriage? I think sometimes the best advice is: “end this marriage immediately, you’re both too fucked up to be together. You, because you cheated and you because you’re willing to take him/her back after you have been betrayed.” Neither side of that equation is healthy and self-affirming.

      If you’ve been cheated on, leave the cheater. That’s the best and really only self-respecting position to take. It is shocking to me that more people don’t take that position. I don’t understand it.

      • Great point. Also realize that most counselors make more money the longer the agonizing “reconcilliation” continues. When you pay someone by the hour to deal with a problem, don’t be surprised if the problem lasts a long, long time.

      • I agree.

        If more people dumped the cheater immediately, instead of listening to counselors who laughably claim that a marriage can be stronger after an affair, then people might think twice about having an affair.

        As someone else mentioned, I think the counselors with their ludicrous claim that a marriage can be stronger after an intimate betrayal on an emotional, physical financial level, can be better in any way, are enabling the cheaters.

        The counselors should encourage the betrayed to leave the asshat who cheated. That is the only way to be healthy again.

        • Ludicrous, indeed. Bordering on fraudulent.

          Can you imagine. . .

          . . . an auto mechanic who told you your car would be stronger after it was totaled in a crash?
          . . . a carpenter who told you your house would be stronger after half the roof’s supporting timbers were severed?
          . . . a physician who told you your stomach would be stronger after you were force-fed a bowl of glass shards?

        • omg Sara8 YES!!! The: “You’re marriage will not only survive, it will be STRONGER.” claim. Gaaah!!!!

          No it won’t be stronger, unless by stronger they mean that you now have a husband or wife that you must check up on or help them maintain boundaries. I mean, seriously, HOW do you ever trust that person again.

          I belong to an online forum and we always have a quote of the day. Today’s quote by Descartes was particularly salient: “It is only prudent never to place complete confidence in that by which we have even once been deceived.” When I read that I thought: quite right. And then I thought — you know, how can you have a successful relationship with someone you don’t completely trust?

          You can’t. Counselors who suggest otherwise are bonkers.

  • Today, I finally kicked my cheating husband out after 5 months of counciling and trying to make myself a better chump. Thanks for this website chump lady, it came into my life at just the right time. I definitely am a codependent person, and I need your ability to be strong. He and I work together, and I am dreading the next several months of people gossiping, and seeing him. I want to look as though it doesn’t bother me at all. Keep up the good blogs! I need them

    • Congrats getmeout! You’ll look back on this day as your personal day o’ independence! You’re stronger than you think — keep moving forward. 🙂

    • They’ll be gossiping about him. There’s nothing good about a cheater. Develop the supreme aura of “meh” and they’ll admire your absolute classiness in the face of his abject shittyness. He’s the one who’s had to hide the affair. After all, affairs like to be kept secret. You don’t have to trumpet it from the rooftops, but you can be open about it. Yes, you kicked him out because he violated his marital vows.

      You go, woman! Well done!

      • Agree with this 100%. Don’t shout about it but if anyone asks just simply say ‘He cheated and I’m divorcing him’. Simple as. If he’s anything like my STBX he’ll blame you for ruining his reputation. Don’t buy it, just laugh and move on.

    • good for you! I swear these people never actually think we’re really gonna do it! Too bad for them it turns out we actually DO have some sense of self-worth and know we deserve better!

      I do hope you can eventually find another job though… just so you can really cut that guy out of your life and move on!

    • You are the one who was cheated on. My advice. Don’t fuel the gossip by feeding everyone details it will make you look whiny. Tell one or two good friends and let them give the info to others. Get a new hair style, take a short vacation, revamp your work area. Some will side with you some won’t. Go in with a smile on your face,eat well and get enough sleep. This too will pass

  • In defense of my therapist; I was the one who said I wasn’t sure I wanted to end the relationship after 23 years together and maybe there was some hope. She has been a sympathic ear and has been encouraging. I’ve only seen her 1/2 a dozen times. She isn’t trying to save my marriage she is trying to help me sort through alot of conflicting emoitions. However she isn’t the Chump Lady. I shared “How long should I wait this out” with my sister and she said Chump Lady said all the things she wanted to say to me but didn’t want to hurt my feelings but Chump Lady does it with style, humor and doesn’t put you down for being wimpy.

    • Janet, I was the original chump — and I didn’t have 23 years together. It’s an understandable loss, you’ll grieve, but he’s really not giving you much choice in the matter, but to divorce him. I’m so sorry.

      • Read everyones comments this AM. 2013 a new year. Won’t be an easy one. Thank you Chump Lady and others for your advice. I have taken it to heart. Sent both my sister’s Chump Lady’s letter and they both agree with her advice. Amen I guess the next step IS mine. Alittle overwhelmed right now but OK.

        • Stay strong Janet! It’s better on the other side of this. It’s hard to have faith right now, but living in that hellish limbo and with the in-your-face cheating — THAT is where the worst pain is. You’re moving away from that and towards a better life.

    • Janet:

      A therapist who is helping YOU make a choice is a good one.

      I think a handful of marriages are salvageable after a brief one-time affair, and when those counselors try to save a marriage I understand.

      Saving the marriage is not my beef with a counselor, if that is what both want, my beef is that too many counselors fail to first determine if the cheater is a narcissist or has another personality disorder.

      If the cheater is a narcissist the marriage is not salvageable. The betrayed spouse needs to understand this and understand why a narcissist is not going to change or be helped by therapy.

      Also, Shirley glass saves marriages too, but her approach is to FIRST AND FOREMOST FOCUS ON THE CHEATER AND CHEATING.

      Then they get to the cheaters complaints about the faithful spouse, but even then the cheater is not allowed to blame the spouse, only to voice some of the situations that they the cheater used to justify the affair.

      If the cheater uses and reason, like stale sex, it needs to be pointed out that ALL PEOPLE IN LONG term marriages experience the staleness of routine sex, yet as others here have mentioned, the faithful spouse did not cheat, and understood that it is a normal phase in a long term marriage.

  • Janet, I could have written your letter, as my xH and I were together 23 years, and he also found his ex-fuckbuddy on FB and now she is his current fuckbuddy, errr, SOULMATE and the absolute love of his LIFE. We were together for 22 years, married for 17 and the proud parents of 3 teens when he ripped my heart out and threw it on the floor. I had no say, the marriage was over in one confession. Like you, I did a lot for my xH, and when I told him that this last move was grounds for divorce, he knew I meant it. So I divorced him, and I am very glad that I did. You know these guys add injury to insult by running up huge bills, right? Suddenly they find their generosity.

    You know the cliche about the older husband going for the younger assistant/student? Well, you and I are living the other cliche–husband finds his ex on FB. Idiots.

    No, I do not think he is in his right mind, but, I have no desire to wait around to see if he ever gets himself together. You see, I don’t like him. I like not waiting on him, too.

    If you think you still have a marriage, you are delusional. What you have is abuse and neglect, and if you’re getting something out of that, then by all means, stick with it. But I bet you know you are wasting your life with someone who is wearing your soul out. Think about taking your life back, and rebuilding your SELF. You will realize in your reprieve how much of your SELF you have lost, and you will appreciate every bit of it that you earn back.

    In defense of the therapists out there, if a couple goes to therapy in order to save their marriage, then I don’t necessarily believe it’s wrong for the therapist to try to work with the couple to that end. And, I do believe that there are some pretty shitty spouses out there who do shitty things that maybe don’t include cheating, but are shitty nonetheless, and yet still feel entitled to stay married to their mates. That does not excuse cheating, but if the couple wants to work on the marriage, then it’s not unfair to ask both sides to make concessions.

    That said, I’m with you all–there is NOTHING I did or didn’t do to cause my ex to walk out on his family. As far as sex, he even said that was one thing we did right, though not often enough. And, like many of you, if I were him, I would not be bellowing about it, because I will also point to his adolescent and sometimes effeminate behaviors, his lack of initiative around the house, etc., the fucking video game-playing, the spending shit-tons of $$$$$ on his desires–all that were major turn-offs. Still, I did not cheat. Instead I had faith that things would get better one day, and then HE cheated on ME. Well, if that isn’t ironic.

    As for those men who had access and opportunities? Chump Lady has addressed this so well. The problem is that these men felt ENTITLED to cheat. And so they did. They DO NOT FEEL COMMITTED to the marriage nor to you.

    And I say then that it’s time to drop kick ’em. Give them the freedom they so desire, but do not sacrifice your SELF and your energy, time, love, joy, self esteem, money, health to ANYONE who feeds you shit sandwiches in return. The world is full of awesome people who are more deserving of your time and effort. Go find them.

    Work with your therapist to figure out why you put up with your husband’s shit for as long as you did. Why did you pick him, why did you coddle him? What is it that you think you are gaining by staying with him? How can you have what you want without him? At what point will you realize that a lot of what he is to you is only an illusion of your own making? When will you see him for WHO HE IS instead of who you feel you need him to be? That is what your therapist can help you with.

  • Just wanted to say a big thanks CL for this site. Truly fantastic! I’m in this situation right now. Husband of 13 years admitted to ‘feelings’ for woman he met at the gym. We were going through a bad patch so all his admission does is make things twice as bad. He does not cut contact with woman however. I believe this may be an exit affair and the push he needed to go. Opinions please?
    It’s now 2 months since he moved out and left me and our 2 daughters to move in with his mum. He is continuing to text OW as my daughter has seen him and told me.
    Cake eating I don’t believe was his goal, he has made the choice to go, and try and see if in his words “they have a future together”.
    Charming eh? I thought being married meant you committed to your future together!
    I also chumped and waited, and hoped over the Christmas period he would see sense. But no.
    No sense in those who don’t have any.
    I’ve decided to make my mind up for me and also make his up for him as when I asked if he wanted a divorce he said “I don’t know”.
    Like a previous poster we also started a business, endured the tough times as a young couple with no money, the moves and family issues. Everyday life.
    Then they decide its too much and walk. With the added security blanket of someone else of course!
    I still get my moments of doubt ( please hit me CL ) but the paperwork is ready to sign next week and I really have no option but to divorce. This is NOT the sort of marriage I want to be stuck in. Left in limbo for months/years waiting for that Unicorn to appear. A quote my old Dad constantly keeps saying to me is ‘you make your bed, you lay in it’.
    I hope somewhere down the line our x’s have some shitty nights sleep. I’m sure they will!
    Love and thanks from the UK x

    • Let him go. He has feelings for someone he met a couple of months ago? Let him go explore those feelings to his heart’s content. Not your worry any longer. But why are you staying with HIS mum? Get your own place, minimize contact, tell your kids you don’t want to know what their dad is doing with skankbag, find a way to rebuild your own financial house, divorce him and find someone who values and loves you and remember that this will suck beyond words for a while but you WILL get through and in getting through and sorting your life out your life will be infinitely better, you’ll be much more healthy and your future will suddenly be unburdened by the weight of a cheating dickhead who thought his dick was more important than his family.

      • Thanks Nord, Feelings for a twice divorced mother of 4 who he has know a couple of months. Crazy! Up until now I could not fault my husband as he was always a very committed, loving husband. I really believed we had a good marriage that could overcome anything. Shame he didn’t feel we were worth it.
        Part of me really hopes they stay together because to walk a way from a loving family for just a fling makes it even worse.
        Anyway just to clarify he is staying with his mum. I am in marital home with 2 daughters. Trust me , his mothers is the last place I would want to be!
        Just a side note. My husbands father ran off with his Mums best friend. I just wondered if its an example of men following in fathers footsteps. The perpetuation of the cycle or some genetic weakness?

        • My STBX’s father also cheated and ended up with the OW (STBX’s mother) so yes, the apple does not fall far from the tree.

          STBX in my case turned out to be a serial cheating narcissist who found a young girl at the office who hero worships him and after knowing her for a couple of months decided his ‘feelings’ for her were more important than me or the kids or anything else. I stupidly did the dance of pick me for a short time then handed him divorce papers when the rest came to light.

          Look, it sucks. It really, really sucks to have someone you built a life with, whom you felt you could get through anything with turn out to be weak, dumb and very much focused on only themselves. There’s nothing to do but pick up the pieces, take care of our kids and carry on.

          A word of warning: he may well end up really resenting you, as mine does, for telling the truth about what happened. And as far as him and OW working out? God, I hope not. I don’t want to deal with that skunk for the rest of my life. I saw my FIL’s first wife deal with that for 20 years, painfully smiling through family events. Fuck that. I hope they implode and both end up miserable and alone.

          Sorry, I’m in a crappy mood today. But you’ll survive. We all will. And we’ll be fine.

    • Welcome Eve!

      Chiming in with Nord — he’s not giving you much choice here except to divorce him. His “I don’t know” and his lack of initiative on the divorce are classic cake eating moves. It’s really, sadly common that the betrayed person is the one who files for divorce. That is also part of their entitlement — they’re happy to let you be the bad guy. They won’t do jack shit to save the marriage, but you get to do their dirty work and pull the plug. You’re modeling good things to your daughters for not putting up with the disrespect of cheating.

      • So true – I have nowhere the history of any of you guys – but I hated the fact that in the end, I was the one who had to do all the heavy lifting – actually pulling the plug. It really does add insult to injury and it is so confusing. I’m so sorry Eve – it is so unfair – like you have to keep moving forward even when you’ve been gut punched. I so admire all of you – I just can’t believe that people can be so incredibly mean to one another and never miss a beat. Its just incredible.

  • Divorce is the best thing I ever did.
    My first XW, a serail cheater par excellance, was so motherfucking crazy.

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