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Don’t Get Chumped Again, Part One

Since starting this blog, I’ve been asked several times in various different ways how I transformed into a happily married person after infidelity. Hey, you were such an epic chump — how did you ever trust anyone again? Did you fix your picker? Are you just stupid lucky? Where did you meet your husband? How did you know he was a good one? Are there any left?

I’ll start with the last question first — are there any good people left? HELL YES! We chumps are legion! For every freaky narcissist out there is some good, able-bodied person who’s been propping the egomaniac up without reward… until that shit fails (as it must). So the chump is back on the market. And then there are the ordinary, decent people who fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of toxic taker and codependent giver. The world is full of millions of potential partners — not all of them personality disorders — take heart!

I’ve never understood why people chase the elusive reconciliation unicorn, thinking the odds of THAT working out are far greater than the odds of finding a new partner. Seriously? You could swing a cat in a bar and hit a stranger better than your cheater — just by virtue of the fact that person has not already cheated on you. Not that I recommend cat swinging as a selection method (more on refining your picker in a minute), but it’s totally likely you will find love again IMO, and far less likely that you can transform a hard-core cheater into a good life partner.

It should go without saying, you don’t have to remarry to be happy. But if you so want to partner up again, don’t settle. There are so many ways to be happy — just escaping the orbit of a toxic relationship will improve your life dramatically.

But back to how did Chump Lady arrive in the Promised Land O’ Healthy Relationships?

Stupid dumb luck, really — but also the wisdom to recognize an opportunity and be open to it.

How did I meet my husband? If I told you I met him on an elevator, I would not recommend to you standing on elevators in pursuit of a good, life partner. Elevator populations are random things. I don’t know specifically where to tell you to meet good people — they’re everywhere, but check places you especially like to be. If you like polkas, hang out in polka halls. If you like hiking, join a group. If you’re helpful, volunteer somewhere. You’re bound to stumble over someone like-minded eventually. While you cannot improve your luck in these matters, you can improve your wisdom, so that when you find a good person you recognize them as such.

What does a good person look like? I feel very chumpy telling you this, but after you’ve been with a really crappy partner, the differences are glaringly obvious. How did I not see that the cheater was ATROCIOUS? OMG… it’s mortifying.

So, here are a few things I’ve learned about choosing better and what good relationships look like. This will be in several parts, more tomorrow, as there are  more than a few lessons here, but let’s start with the biggie, RECIPROCITY.

1. Good people want to reciprocate. Takers, over time, are very transparent in their selfishness. Sure, they often love bomb you in the beginning, but it’s always quid pro quo — they’re looking for the payoff. They want something in return for their efforts — and it’s never a fair trade. They get petulant if the kibbles are not immediately forthcoming. With crappy people, the entitlement is often pretty out there, but we’re so dazzled by their sparkle, we want to be of service to them. Bad dynamic! Good partners delight in pleasing you. They get honest pleasure from doing for you. And while they can receive graciously, however, taking too much does not sit well with them.

I’ve found this in other parts of my life too, in friendships and good neighbors. Good folks want to return the favor. You lent me your casserole dish? I’m going to return it with cookies. You invited me to dinner? I’m going to invite you to a concert. If you make a generous overture to a good person, and the equation becomes temporarily lopsided? They’re vocally appreciative and they look for an opportunity to give back. Bad people don’t do this. Bad people are VERY comfortable with things being lopsided. (Really they prefer that, but they’re artful about not letting on, or diminishing your gifts as Not All That Valuable, so what’s the big deal?)

I paid off thousands of dollars of my ex-husband’s debts when we married to get a better mortgage rate. I paid for all sorts of things I should not have. (The chump title is mine, do not challenge me.) And in retrospect, it appalls me now how comfortable that fat, six-figure salaried patent attorney was at letting single mother me finance things. I’m appalled at myself mostly. But I told myself, well, of course he’d do the same for me. But that was spackle. He didn’t. He wouldn’t.

When I met my husband, I was totally struck at not only how generous he was, but how mutual everything was. If he wrote to me, I would write back, and then he wrote me back something more, something funnier. I never had to guess about his level of interest, there was always more conversation to be had. I was on the lookout for character — and the smallest gestures made a big impression on me.

Once we were in New Orleans and I lost my voice. Just got a chest cold thing and he leapt into action — are you okay? And took the initiative to order an over priced cup of tea via room service. It’s the kind of motherly thing I would do, but a guy? I knew then that he was a Good Person. I was paying attention and the good things just started adding up. We joke about that cup of tea — he says, boy, that cup of tea was sure worth it, for the impression it made!

When you’re with a narcissist, they aren’t noticing you in any care taking sort of way. They aren’t checking in. They aren’t looking for opportunities to do for you in small ways. It’s all about them. If they make a gesture, it’s a grand gesture that reflects well on them some way. Other people must notice it and remark, but a cup of tea would not be on their radar. The balance is always off with a narcissist. Good people want to DO. That was my first clue that this relationship was different.

Tomorrow — I’ll get into not falling into the “Well, they look good on paper…” trap. Good people ARE good. They’re more than a bundle of attributes you should like, or others would find enviable.

But suffice it to say — if you learn nothing else about relationships — hold out for reciprocity. Good people give AND take in pretty equal measure, but they always want to give more, because it genuinely pleases them to please you, and look after you.



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  • Thanks for the uplifting post. Dating likely won’t be on my radar for some time, but it’s true– it seems like the possibility of finding someone decent and available is extremely slim. It’s nice to read something hopeful. 🙂

    • Forget dating for now. Just focus on filling your life up with decent people. You’d be surprised at how habit forming it is…. and then suddenly you only want decent people and can’t tolerate the half-wits.

      I think there’s all sorts of reasons to be hopeful. 🙂

      • Once again, great advice, Chump Lady. Thank you. I am so terrified to put myself back out there down the road. Hopefully, with a little luck and definitely more wisdom, I will pick him right this time. No more chumpniness for me. Thanks for all the wisdom and insight. It helps so much!

  • I’m glad to see this topic come up. I go into court this afternoon to finalize my divorce. And yes, its a Tuesday. 🙂

    I’ve been scared, frankly, about looking for a new partner. I guess you get burned so bad, and your picker was so off, that I don’t want to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.

    But, I’ve been challenging myself to little things – really looking up when I’m walking around and smiling at people, talking to strangers. Being more open. It really feels great. I even had some young college-age kid come up to me unexpectedly one day and tell me that he just had to mention how pretty I looked! I was totally flattered, and it really bolstered my bruised almost-divorced ego.

    But, I do miss being partnered, and the cuddles and feeling of getting through things together. I hope I will recognize a good person when I meet him. I’m looking forward to more installments.

  • Funny thing today–had lunch with an old work colleague and she of course wanted to know what had happened. I gave her the short version and we talked more about life, etc. The funny thing is I never liked her all that much years ago so almost didn’t accept the lunch invite. But I had a great time with her, a lot of laughs, and something struck me as I walked back to my car: after dday I slowly let people drift from my life that I felt weren’t there for me or who were toxic. And oddly, new people (both old friends and new ones I made in the last 13 months) have come into my life and my life is a zillion times more full of fun, interesting, positive people who really care about me and are here for me.

    As far as dating…someday in the future. But right now, just being more choosy about the people I surrounds myself with. This, I think, as CL says (who certainly has NOT proven she is Queen of Chumps–I challenge the title), sort of naturally improves your picker, because suddenly you’re getting positive influence from all around you and the toxic shit is seeping away.

    AFter I kicked STBX out it really made not only re-evauate my relationships with other people but also re-evaluate my role in those friendships…and to set my boundaries more firmly.

    It really is all win at the end of the day, no matter how much we lost. And I SHALL be the ultimate winner of the Chump title–I’ve gotta shoot for something, right?

    • I think it’s the reevaluation of relationships that’s key too. I stayed at a place, where I used to live, and met up with a person who is a distant friend. It was lovely, entertaining and fun. There has always been a sense of reciprocity.
      Unexpectedly, I met up with my “best” friend of that time (fifteen years ago). I was able to see her differently although we parted politely enough. I could see her use of flattery about me and what jaunts and parties I used to organise. I remember how susceptible I was (perhaps am if it ever happens!) to flattery. I remember silently swallowing the lack of reciprocity. Talk is always cheap.

      • Yes, the whole reevaluation of relationships is an important step in healing, because if we were putting up with crap in our marriages we’ve probably been putting up with crap with other people as well. Maybe not to the same extent but certainly somewhat. I’ve also found that while I have a rep as an outspoken person I actually had weak boundaries in a strange way and since this all happened I’ve set much firmer ones. It’s been interesting to see how that has played out.

        • Agreed. The surprising difference for me is that I’m more willing to accept myself, warts ‘n’ all. I can like my own company. Whilst I gave everyone else the “benefit of the doubt”, I was very exacting of myself. I don’t know whether it was early religious brainwashing better to be the sacrificial lamb or give and don’t count the cost! I don’t feel that way so much now. There’s life in the old girl yet!

          • Weird. I was always tough on me yet easy on others. Now I’m a bit easier on myself and a bit tougher in my expectations for others.

      • Good relationships are ones you don’t need to keep score in. If I go out to dinner with a friend I’m fine with her paying, because next time we go out I’ll take the bill. If someone has more money, well maybe the person unable to pay can plan a hiking trip or a trip to the beach.

        When someone gets the bill and begins calculating down to the last penny what they owe so they don’t have to pay any more than that, or makes such a show of doing so that the companion just pays out of embarrassment and exasperation, then there may be something off.

    • I’ve been silently stalking (or simply reading the posts) for too long and finally feel the need to get in on the conversation. This one really resonated. To Nord’s point, I am amazed at how quickly I reconnected with friends after realizing I was a chump! Also feel zero urge to date or get myself out there (is it ok to actually feel devoid of everything)? Wonder how long it takes for all of that to come back????

      • Welcome Shelly! Hey, I think it’s totally okay to not want to date. Like I said to MovingOn, IMO it’s enough just to fill your life with good people and cut out the half-wits. Sounds like you’re not “devoid” because you’re attracting those good people and reconnecting. Good for you!

  • Great post! I needed to hear those things today.

    I haven’t felt that kind of joy from being with other people in years. I look forward to regaining that spark and filling my life with good people. I’ve been so dragged down and preoccupied with the drama (still am, sadly) that I haven’t been alive since I was 26 and I’m almost 35. It’s time to get that back.

    • SIS – I can relate entirely. It’s been so great reconnecting with friends and simply spending time with people that enjoy being with me as much as I enjoy being with them. Still in the middle of this godforsaken process and trying to bounce back from over 20 years of chumpdom with the same man (or should I say boy?)

      Take heart – I’m 56. Ah…to be 35 again and know what I know.

  • Thanks CL! This is exactly the kind of info I need going forward. My one fear is that reciprocity sounds awesome in theory but I worry about my ability to accept it. Like I worry I’ll feel guilty accepting something for myself… I must be a worse co-dependent than I thought. For example, with the tea would I have insisted, “no, no, that’s too expensive, it’s just a sore throat!”??

    I guess I will just have to practice! Even if it feels “unnatural” to me – as sad as that is. I’m sure I’ll be able to get used to being treated nicely. Sounds like a nice problem to have 🙂

    • aE — I had to work on taking as well. I read an article that really helped me — it said don’t run off the good people. If you always turn down the cup of tea as “oh, too much bother!” good people will do what you ask of them, and leave you alone. Guess what? That leaves room in your life for all the takers who are quite happy to not have to do for you (but you probably imagine they would… if you really, really needed them). And what happens is — suddenly you have a crisis, and gosh, you do need them — and they’re so used to the dynamic of never doing for you (remember, you have no needs, right?) — that they’re not there.

      You didn’t cultivate the right people.

      It’s OKAY to take! Because you’re a good person and it’s not going to just sit with you — you’re going to want to reciprocate and give back — to even the score AND because it probably pleases you to do for others.

      Well, let them do for you too.

    • Sheesh – isn’t that the truth? If I should happen to meet a guy who can actually hold down a job for more than a few months, pay his bills on time, who doesn’t lie to friends and family about when he graduated from grad school, or who would never pretend to have passed a professional exam in one state only to excuse his non-performance by saying he’s just not “interested” in practicing in that state … I think I might pass out from shock at the sight of BASIC. HUMAN. DECENCY.

      I’m with you, another Erica – this sounds like a lovely problem to have.
      I’ve put the spackle down! Walking away from the spackle! ixnay on the acklespay!

      • Well barrister Belle:

        Here is the other side of the coin, the really really scary part as I read this.

        By all accounts my husband was and to some who are unaware of his affair, he is a good guy. Honest to a fault, generous and giving…….at least on the surface.

        That is why I was so blind sided by his affair and strip bar behaviors and porn habit.

        He was so darned good at hiding that side of him.

        He did while we dated show concern and caring.

        So, I like what CL says, but I am not so sure it is just so easy to look for the signs of a giver.

        While in our false reconciliation he made me believe he was trying so hard, all the while still going to strip clubs and oops accidentally running into the OW to talk.

        If some anonymous person hadn’t clued me in, I would still not know about his ongoing misbehaviors. He seemed so sincere.

        Some narcissist come off as very giving.

        There were other signs though, his hunger for the trappings of wealth even though we fought over the cost of these things.

        His need to have people believe his was wealthier than he was.

        The need for people to perceive him as good, honest, caring guy.

        It’s all so confusing.

        At least if someone acts like a jerk, you know, but my spouse acted like one of the good guys.

        • Absolutely Sara – Give me an overt N over a covert N any day of the week.

          I think many of these types work extra hard at creating a “good guy” or “girl” front – similar to Lance Armstrong with his creation of Livestrong.

          It’s a magical trick of sorts to create this illusion. It’s all that others see, so they’re distracted from noticing red flag behaviors and if they’re accused it puzzles people because of all they “good” they see, they easily can choose to believe it’s a false accusation. It has to be. Plus people will often make the choice to believe the good over the bad don’t ya think?

          Nobody likes to be duped or admit that they have been.

          • Good Points, Lasso of truth:

            I do think most people want to believe that someone like Lance Armstrong was really the good guy he pretended to be, rather than the sleazy, deceptive, bully, he truly is.

        • Yes, STBX had the good guy veneer going strong and he wasn’t a total taker overall. He bought me things, he was generous, he just had this other life he lived that no one knew about. Of course, now that I’ve opened my big gob his nice guy image has taken quite the blow but he’s busy painting me as dellussional and crazy and I’m quite sure there are any number of people who buy it.

          You know what, though? There were signs, jsut harder to spot. This time around I plan on keeping an eye out. Not paranoid but just addressing anything that strikes me as wrong or rings a bell with me.

          • I agree. My ex had a nice guy veneer as well, but the crazy slipped pretty often over time, but I would spackle.

            Some of them are amazing frauds, really good at it, but I do think the crazy is there if you look for it. Thing is, Sara, you’re a nice, trusting person so you’re not going to be looking for it. But as Nord says, if something doesn’t strike you right, or you find yourself reaching for spackle — stop and question yourself.

            • CL:

              You’re right, in retrospect, I didn’t snoop and I spackled.

              One of my brothers was starting to question me about my exe’s too frequent nights out for business meetings, insisting that few people had more than one or two evening meeting per month not two to three per week.

              But, I spackle really well. I even argued with my brother, insisting my ex wouldn’t cheat. I was definitely chumped.

        • Sara8: mine is eerily similar to yours, actually. Kept the real stories about his past hidden from me, friends and family — MANY of these issues did not even come to light until after we were married. And then when a crack would appear, contradicting the version of the story he’d been trying to uphold, he’d provide a sanitized explanation/excuse that had some facts to it, but I would come to find out later it wasn’t *truthful*. For example, I can honestly admit with 100% accuracy that I have never lost a death penalty case. Fact. This sounds impressive and great, until you consider the context… I’ve also never handled a death penalty case. I’m not even a criminal defense lawyer.

          Now that the truth is out among his hometown friends and family, he’s simply cut them off entirely. Hasn’t spoken to his closest friends in over a year. He knows he’s ruined that image he’d tried to maintain with them, so he’s moved on to an entirely new group of friends, in a new town, who know little to NOTHING about him, his family, his wife, etc. except the sparkly version of events he chooses to tell. I’ve since learned this is Classic Narcissist behavior. He’s even admitted to me lately that he’s thinking about moving somewhere new, joining the Peace Corps perhaps, he just needs to hit the reset button on his life, etc. So even now, the sparkles w/ OW are losing their luster, and he’s ready to run away and find a new pond of unsuspecting little fishes to play with.

          Most honest thing STBX ever said about me: “She makes me look good.”

          • Barrister Belle.

            Oh yes, the lies by ommission. I love them.

            “Where are you,” I say, on the phone, it’s 2 a.m. on a weeknight, the meeting ended hours ago, I am worried.

            “oh don’t worry hon, I am fine, he says, I just went out for a drink with a friend. I am on my way home.

            Well, it was a friend alright, however my ex conveniently neglected to mention that it was a GIRLfriend and he was dating her and sleeping with her.

            • Amazing that we fell for teh oldest line in the book ‘I’m working late’. STBX worked late all the time. Now he can’t use that excuse with OW because they work together. I wonder how long before he cracks. 🙂

              • Nord:

                You are right. The “i am working late dear” is the oldest lie in the cheater’s handbook. Chumped again.

                But, you know, I like being a trusting person. I like people who are trusting and I like that about me and you.

  • Sorry but had a a bad day.
    I am so lucky to have amazing friends around me and they have have been really supportive.
    One friend who was a ton of strength immediately after d day had a crack at me blaming the marriage etc and I need to stop focusing on chainsaw man and ex and just move on. There must have been something wrong in the marriage to cause the cheating. We no longer talk and just put up a boundary.
    Then last night two really could friends laid into me. Just move on. Just accept he’s fucking your wife. Stop looking at blogs. Just get on with life. Be happy. Yep I’ll just gone and turn on the happy switch.
    Shit I thought I was going well but got knocked to the canvas. I’m off the canvas but feel shaken ( but not stirred)
    I am moving on. I’ve been so calm and just busy with everything. Enjoying the boys being around with their friends during the holidays.
    I didn’t get in to a heated discussion because you can’t win and what’s the point. If you haven’t been cheated on I just don’t think people get it.
    I’ve made progress and you guys have been a great help.
    I’ll get there but shit I took a big hit last night and didn’t see it coming. Mayb I am sad to others. I only want o talk with a select few now. It’s the only way to survive this nightmare.
    BTW I made my ex a cup of tea every morning. I’m proud of that and don’t regret one millisecond of it. Giving is the greatest gift you and give yourself. Practice it veryday chumps

    • Baci, spend as much time on blogs and forums as you need. It’s really important to know you’re not alone in this. And yeah, people who haven’t lived it don’t get it.

      Time for some better friends!

      And hey, you’ll GET THERE. You will move on — just in your own time!

      • I won’t burn bridges. Just go to neutral. Just because they don’t understand doesn’t make them bad friends and we don’t care about each other.

        That’s very true about accepting gifts. So important.

        I can smell a book CL

    • Baci, if I hadn’t had internet support with infidelity, I would have lost my mind a long time ago. Sometimes I wonder if I spend too much time on the sites, but I think they’ve allowed me to function in my everyday life and to feel validated about getting a divorce and not accepting the crumbs my STBX was throwing at me. His version of reconciliation was that I’d work on my issues, pretend he never did anything wrong, and we’d carry on! He would probably take his A underground, and I’d spend the rest of our marriage being the Cheater Police.

      These sites taught me (especially CL) to Just Say No. They helped me to find that reserve of inner strength that I wasn’t sure I had so that I could pick myself up off of the floor and rebuild my life. I’m grateful for that. I agree with CL– read as much as you need to. I go through cycles where I read a great deal and where I pull back. I’m sure that the times when I pull back will become greater in number as time and healing go on, and the same will be true for you.

    • Baci, I know the feeling that you think you’re doing ok and then suddenly you hit a bad patch. I’m kind of going through that right now, although maybe not quite to the extent that you are. It’s tough and you’re right when you say that people don’t get it if they haven’t experienced it, particularly when it’s a long marriage and there are children involved. It’s just such a blow and such a complete and utter disrespect of us as people who deserve to be treated with at least a modicum of respect and good taste.

      You’ll move on when you’re ready to move on. And you are moving on, just not at the pace people think you should be doing because they don’t get what a blow this is to your soul. It’s baby steps and it’s hard and I think it takes a lot longer than most people think.

      I was just reading something about Brandi Glanville, whose husband apparently was a serial cheat and ended up marrying teh final OW, Leann Rimes (google it, it’s a crazy story). It’s been maybe 3 or 4 years and Glanville’s now come out with a book about the whole mess, after years of being stalked by teh OW and generally treated like shit and being totally disrespected. Glanville has finally found her voice and she’s singing like a bird about what she’s been put through. She’s brutally and sometimes crudely honest about the whole thing and I read comments like ‘get over it, move on, bitter scorned woman’ etc. And I think to myself, if experts say it takes 2-5 to recover from an affair if there is reconciliation, how long does it take to recover if there is divorce and the affair partner is in the picture, a constant source of salt in the wound?

      Don’t get too pissed at people for not understanding. YOu probably wouldn’t have understood if it hadn’t happened to you. Just be patient, take care of you and your boys and remember that that cup of tea is going to make someone very happy one day…and that new person will probably do lovely things for you because you’ll value each other and you’ll know what it takes to make something work longterm.

      Big hugs, Baci, I’m right there with you.

  • The magical cup of tea moment! I had a similar experience and it had a similar effect.
    I had been reorganizing the house all day. My kid was moving in with me permanently and for hours the house was turned upside to allow her some space. It gets to 8pm and the house is almost there, just the washing up and the kitchen to get back into shape. I was exhausted and the task looked insurmountable.
    Knock Knock.
    I open the door and she walks in. pushes me into a chair [it wasn’t hard] and pours me a beer, walks into the kitchen and cleans it up. I offer to make her food. She refuses. . This was not a grand gesture. It did not come with any strings. I, like you, gushed about how amazing it was.
    As she left she smiled and said. ” Ing.. it’s just normal, see you tomorrow. xx”

  • I really needed to see this now.

    Since I have launched master plan, Leave Sociopath User Husband, I have been mentally beating the crap out of myself. How oh how could I let this happen, and for so damn long?

    How the fuck did I end up footing the bill for everything when he makes more than me? How did I end up getting grocery store flowers for my birthday and he got a trip? How did I allow this to become so damn lopsided, and when exactly did I end up on the wrong side of the see-saw?

    I need to see that there is hope that this won’t happen again, that I can actually learn something from this ordeal besides how to be a supersleuth.

    Can’t wait for part two. That “looks good on paper” thing? Yeah, I fell for that one too.

    • I love the launch plan “Leave Sociopath User Husband.” LOL. Don’t beat yourself up too bad TG, remember, I own the chump crown (although Nord wants to take it from me — fat chance!)

      I think you need a trip for your birthday. And he needs divorce papers… just a suggestion. 🙂

  • CL, this is very important.

    I know a very attractive woman who, along with her kids, was dumped by her husband. A very cliche situation. She was way too depressed about her attractiveness when she first started on the path to chump-to-champ-freedom. Yes, she got some dates from a player or two — which her post-narcissist radar (sharpened by experience) — picked up on right away. Then, next thing you know, she hits a rich vein of decent guys. Now, she’s doing terrifically.

    My point is that many of these former partners convince their partner-victims that somehow they are less attractive than they really are. The trick, too, to finding someone is not to look too, too hard. Just get your own act together, and life will likely take care of itself. Finally, and this is a big subject to get into, but sometimes I think that the romantic ideals that we carry around in our heads lead us to narcissists. The N-people are often perfectionists, might be good looking, can be successful (in a professional sense). To cut back on the plague of narcissism, we have to try to teach folks how to look at others, how to recognize when a person is accomplished and when they are the human version of a roadside bomb (IED). Don Juan was probably an N-person. This is deeper than we can delve into now, but I’d say folks need to refine their radar. Sometimes what looks to perfect is not perfect at all. It can be the other person loving themselves through you loving them. (Aren’t I terrific? She loves me so much.) So, we probably ought to develop some kind of warning-signs literature. They say love is blind, but I think we could teach more people to see……

    • Totally agree with the ‘the other person loving themselves through you loving them’. My STBX thought I was fantastic–so great, smart, funny, witty, everybody thought I was this strong, amazing woman who was always there for him and such a great person. Then I hit a patch where I was very down, life was not going well for me (too long a story for here) and I couldn’t be that amazing, fantastic great woman for him.

      You know what happened? Instead of having side pieces that meant nothing more than a quick bang he ‘fell in love’ with the one who was sitting there waiting for him, the most available, the one who was willing to rip her life apart for him and replace me as the one that allows him to love himself more through her eyes. She’s in her 20s, she’s insecure, she thinks she’s hit the jackpot with him because he’s successful, handsome and very charming. But she’s just the one who fed his narcissism when I couldn’t any longer. So despite me being the one to throw him out, essentially I got put out to pasture because I couldn’t fulfill his self-love anymore.

      It seems to never have occurred to him that after all these years of me being his pillar of strength that I needed him to be mine. I don’t think it ever crossed his mind. I think that he truly felt–and still feels–that I didn’t live up to my end of the bargain: be there for him and prop him and his ego up and if I couldn’t do that then he’d find someone who could.

      And I truly believe that he never considered any of his other sidepieces as having any impact on our marriage. I didn’t know about them and in his mind they meant nothing more than a bit of fun.

      Realising this doesn’t make it hurt less but it helps me understand that the relationship was destined to fail at some point, mainly because I’m human and I do fall apart sometimes and can’t always be this person who keeps it together. I kept it together through illness, the death of a parent, and a bunch of other stuff because I am basically a strong person–but I did hit a very rough patch in my life where I fell apart and was, it turns out, depressed as hell. That just wasn’t good enough for him because he didn’t see where he should have been there helping me for a change.

      Next go-round will be with someone who gets that it’s a back and forth in a relationship, not a one sided thing.

      • Nord, that is the most true synopsis of what happened to my marriage also. My STBX said, “he gave his good side all to the OW, and that’s why he couldn’t leave her.” It was so painful to think how much love and all of my heart I gave to him, but when I needed his loving strength, he had none, because he really doesn’t know how to love anyone but himself.

      • Nord and Getmeout:

        So true. My ex began his affair right after my father died and while my mother was in the hospital having major surgery and came home on crutches.

        Ex later claimed I was ignoring him and OW was giving him lots of attention.

        I was preoccupied with serious life issues, and the ex considered that as me ignoring him.

        Is he two?

  • My H brought me a cup of coffee every single morning while I was still in bed. He is a great guy. We never had problems with reciprocity. We both were pretty equal with the give and take.

    The only time during our 16 years together when I became completely selfish and self absorbed was during my EA. I felt like I had been the one doing for everyone and my H didn’t appreciate it. Which is why I felt entitled to escape and have a little fun by reconnecting with my ex. I had completely checked out. I now realize this is complete BS.

    The reality is I wasn’t fulfilled with being a SAHM. It was great for the first 5 years. But I knew my D would start going to school and being more independent. We didn’t want to have any more children. What would I do then? I never finished college, never had a job I liked or felt good about, never had any kind of hobbies or interests.

    Like in the other post someone was talking about a sense of self. I didn’t have one. I didn’t believe in myself or have the confidence to go back to school or try anything else new for that matter. So I had an EA. Clearly not the right road to take! My self esteem went from low to practically non existent! It was my responsibility to figure this stuff out and that’s why I went into therapy.

    4 years ago I did go back to school. Unlike the EA this was a GREAT decision! H has supported me every step of the way and I’ve done very well.

    I’ve had reciprocity trouble with other relationships in my life – friendships, family and past romantic. Obviously Dr. Douche who actually came right out and said to me, “I’m very selfish” seriously, it was like “Hi how are you today, by the way did I tell you I’m very selfish?” Chumpy me – “No you’re not! You’re a great father and a great principal who cares so much about kids!” I just vomited in my mouth a lil. Notice I wasn’t able to say what a great husband he was.

    I’ve always been naive and took people at their word – except of course Dr. Douche when he told me he was selfish. I think that was the only thing he said that wasn’t a lie. LOL

    Now I pay attention to what others do not what they say. I also try to be more aware of my own follow through to others and myself.

    • Funnily enough STBX said shortly after dday that he felt like he was always doing for everyone else and he couldn’t do it anymore, he needed someone to do for him.

      What it really meant is that when I hit a bad patch personally he was required to step up to the plate and he simply didn’t have it in him.

      It’s good to see that you have recognised the baloney that that kind of thinking is.

  • I believe that chumps make good partners. Assuming they’ve had enough time to sort out the issues from their trip through the meat-grinder of infidelity, that is. More likely than not, Chumps are givers. NPDs and the like work hard at pre-screening folks and picking out those who are most generous, affectionate, loyal, forgiving, and good kibble dispensers. Serial cheats rarely tolerate anything less than a gross imbalance in their favor.

    I speak from experience. After I divorced my serial cheating Troll Princess (she met her last few boyfriends obsessivly playing World of Warcraft online), I ended up marrying someone who was also formerly married to (chumped by) a hard-core serial cheater. We both marvel at the difference. We have our stresses and strains like any blended family, but I never knew before that you could have an argument with your spouse about how they are being too giving and not taking enough. At times, it’s almost comical.

  • A book would be awesome. CL I think you have cheaters up in arms at HP. You have an answer for every single BS reason they come up with. There wouldn’t be so many haters if you didn’t have them riled up. I’d love nothing more than to see a book published with the info on this site and CL going onto every talk show!

    BS’s need to be validated and empowered in their decision of “Enough!” Whether 1 time or 20.

    There’s plenty on forgiveness, recovery, repair, etc. It seems like it’s to the point where it’s basically “sweep it under the rug and move forward”

    But very little support/advice on the decision to call your partner out on their shit, cut your losses and walk away. It wasn’t your fault or your failure and you can’t fix a person that’s broken.

    At least that’s how it seems from all I see about infidelity.

  • First….I love this site.
    Second… There’s alot of stories about serial cheaters and just getting out of the toxic marriage. My question is this…do you consider a one nightstand the same deal breaker as a serial cheater ? Would you leave a 12 year marriage with 2 kids ?

    • Aren’t affairs kind of like potato chips? You can never stop at just one…

      I’d be looking a bit deeper at what spouse has been up to.

      • Yes, a one night stand might be all there is but then again there may well be more.

        No one can tell you what your deal breakers are but after going through what I’ve been through I will never, ever forgive even a one night stand in the future. You cheat? Goodbye. Go play with someone else’s heart.

    • It doesn’t matter what we think, if it’s a deal breaker for you, it’s a deal breaker. It’s okay to have deal breakers. You don’t OWE anyone R.

      IMO, a one night stand is still a physical and emotional betrayal. (Emotional? Well, they’ll say they don’t care for the person, except enough to get naked with them, but it sure as hell is emotional to you. And they must’ve know that to screw someone else would upset you greatly — so yeah, it’s still all kinds of betrayal.)

      Ruff, I don’t know how much time (if any) you’ve spent in the R trenches, but if you feel done, or like you can’t get past it — LISTEN to yourself and act accordingly.

    • Was it confessed? Or did they lie to try and cover up but were caught? Have they lied about anything else before. Even un affair related.

      To me the most damaging part is the lying. Which is why I made for a really crappy AP. During the beginning of my EA, the first several email exchanges were just basically catching up and small talk. I think he asked me something like, “I wonder what your H would say if he knew we were emailing” and I responded with, “Well I’ll probably tell him, we’re just two people from HS catching up, what’s the big deal?” I mean I’ve never been one to hide anything from my H or anyone else for that matter. Not until this.
      He said, “That’s a bad idea, it will only cause confusion and lead to hurt feelings, you can’t tell him” – When I agreed to that I think that’s what gave him the green light to start the love bombing. But of course I didn’t keep the agreement and I ended up telling.

      H has lied to me way more than I have to him. Before we were married he had a drinking problem and lying goes a long with any addiction. He got help and got better. But he relapsed and was charged with a DUI. I had no idea and he didn’t drop this bomb on me until the day we got back from our honeymoon! It’s something I believe I deserved to know before the “I do” but whatever.

      As far as lying goes, if you go by the Sociopath Next Door book, it’s one, two, three lies your out!

    • I’d be on high alert, that’s for sure. A person who has a one-night stand feels a sense of entitlement, for sure.
      And, they may be lying about the extent of their betrayal.

    • I wouldn’t consider a ONS as trivial. Sure the grander scheme of things it seems rather small. Especially with what some people have managed to put up with, but even to have an ONS planning is required. No one goes from perfectly loyal and trustworthy spouse to cheater in a day. It just doesn’t happen.

      From what I have seen, the cheater first puts themselves in a position to make it happen. We all hear the stories of how they weren’t really looking.. or it just happened. Bull shit. A cheater will test the boundaries of inappropriate activity on a regular basis. They know exactly what they are looking for and will escalate. Some faster than others.

      The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

    • Ruff:

      I think a one nighter is probably a lot easier to get past, if YOU are willing to get past it.

      I also agree with CL, it is still a serious breech of the implied marital contract and it is still a thoughtless cruel act, but it lacks the depth of lying, and deception that takes place in a longer emotional/physical affair.

      I do think he needs to address the underlying issue of why he thought it was okay to do that. Was it drugs, alcohol, just stupidity and callousness?

      He needs to face himself with some in depth brutally honest counseling

  • Thank you so much for that – it resognated with me so much. Helped me see myself and my almost ex in so many ways!

  • “When you’re with a narcissist, they aren’t noticing you in any care taking sort of way. They aren’t checking in. They aren’t looking for opportunities to do for you in small ways. It’s all about them. ”

    When we moved to our new home, I was coming down with a pretty bad strep throat. I lay in bed for 4 or 5 days, unnoticed and ignored, until I realised that I was pretty sick and needed to go to hospital. By this stage I was pretty shaky and had no voice, and had to smash a cup on the floor to get his attention.

    He was furious at the smashed cup and removed during the whole hospital thing. This was about 4 months before his affair.

  • I have a sweet tooth, every 6months or so X will buy me a packet of biscuit or something sweet. Then go on about how thoughtful he was to do it, how caring his action was then joke to me he better put a stop to his nice action before I get too used to it. I use to think WTH! I do so many little things for you EVERYDAY and you harp on about a pack of biscuit every 6months. Everything is starting to make sense, he was a narc

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