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The Forgiveness Imperative

God, I really can’t stand all the moralistic gobbledygook that you must forgive a cheater. According to one blogger over at HuffPo, Vicki Larson, it is “essential.”

Essential, chumps! Otherwise you are doomed to the fiery pits of bitterness! You shall never move on and heal! Worse, you will never know the joyous satisfaction of friendly co-parenting!

You’re not friendly? Why not? Are you a victim of your victimhood? People like you are such a bummer. You’re destroying your children with your resentments, you know. Can’t you sit nicely next to the other woman at the Christmas concert and make polite chit chat… for the kids? Let them know that, hey, you’re a family and no hard feelings? Because if you cannot do that, well, frankly, I don’t think you’re very evolved.

After reading about the fiftieth such comment, I wanted to puke. Vicki Larson reminds me of one of those whinnying narcissistic playgroup mommies that make parenthood a competitive sport. “Oh, is Kate still drooling at 18 months? Bryson knows 327 vocabulary words and enjoys organ fugues. [sniff] Organ fugues are essential, you know.”

This is Healing From Infidelity as a Competitive Sport. “Oh, you haven’t reached the lofty plane of forgiveness? Well, it’s essential, you know.”

No it is not. Indifference is essential. I trust you’ll get there in time, chumps. Meanwhile, this is not an argument for setting fire to cheaters’ hair. Or alienating the children. Or setting incendiary devices off under the headquarters of We’re all about “meh” here at Chump Lady. You don’t have to forgive them — you have to realize that you’re better than them.

You’re a bad match with your cheater because you have different values. You want different things. You value honesty, commitment, and a healthy reciprocity in your relationships. You’re too cool to hang with someone so slavishly devoted to Adult Friend Finder. It’s embarrassing. Forgive them? No, don’t stand near them. They’ve got cheater cooties.

Thinking that your forgiveness matters to them is its own kind of narcissism — the fantasy that they’ll be so moved by this awesome gesture they will strive to become a Better Person. Nonsense. Forgiving my ex-husband would have no more effect on him than forgiving a septic tank. They’re both still full of shit. My forgiveness is irrelevant. Their essential being is unchanged.

Oh, but forgiveness is for myself. It will release me from all those angry feelings and resentments. Well, here’s the thing — when I think of how I was played, financially defrauded, how my child was hurt by my ex’s fucking around, hey, I have bad feelings! I think that’s pretty normal. They don’t paralyze me. They don’t get in the way of my life. I do draw on them to write Chump Lady each day with the hope that it helps others, but bottom line? They are shitty memories and to think of them causes me some pain.

And as for anger? That goes away when you see your cheater for who they really are — someone you don’t have anything in common with. Okay, bad choice. I’ve got to work on my picker, my issues, whatever. As my husband says “You may as well be angry at cats for killing birds.” This is who they are. They want to be better? Okay, this is who they were, or could be again. They destroyed the relationship with their cheating. I don’t need to forgive them to see their true nature. I need lucidity. If anything, if I allow myself to feel the warm, soft, copacetic blanket of “forgiveness” I may be blind to who the cheater really is, thinking my forgiveness has transformed them into a Better Person Who Respects Me For My Kindness.

I have every confidence that the chumps reading this blog will move on and succeed. You’re classy and above this crap. You aren’t pulling your children aside and whispering in their ear, “Mommy is a whore.”  You’re not bogged down in victimhood or wasting your precious energies on revenge. And I hope you’re not beating yourself up over forgiveness. It’s totally overrated. Success, on the other hand, is where it’s at. Go be awesome. It is essential.


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  • Two things I like: I don’t need to forgive them to see their true nature. So true. It’s funny when you realise who they truly are…suddenly it’s all ‘yuck, cheater cooties’ (which is the second thing I like).

    Yes, STBX has cheater cooties and I truly see his nature…which enrages him. He doesn’t like who he really is so he doesn’t like anyone who sees that real him.

    God, i’m so glad I’m out of the early stages. A year ago I still had my heart in a sling. Now my ovaries are in overdrive while I kick life’s ass. 🙂

    So those of you just dealing with the beginnings of this–it really will get better, even when it’s scary for a very long time.

  • That Vickie Larsen puts my teeth on edge. And you totally have her nailed down regarding the playground mommy type. Yeesh!

    People like that spend so much time defining themselves vis-a-vis everyone else, and usually they feel they compare favorably which allows them to then spend most of their time condescending, that I think they actually don’t get the point that they do not really have a good grasp on who they REALLY are. Not a lot of self awareness going on in their own personal echo chamber.

    I totally think that detachment is the key. I can’t be bothered to be angry at my ex, that’s history. I don’t forgive him for what he did, because he was boneheaded for doing it. But I don’t do silly things to hold it against him either. If I did, that would make me too keyed into him and his actions and he’d have too much power over me.

    But here’s the thing that I think is key: I’m divorcing him. If I was trying to reconcile with him, that would be an entirely different story. Then there kind of has to be forgiveness, and for me that would be im-FUCKING-possible. Those reconcilers natter on and on about triggres and all the rest and trying to find forgiveness. But the biggest freakin’ trigger is the cheater him/herself. How the hell do you forgive??

    Probably it is to do with finding the Lord, or something. Or maybe Vickie Larsen would have some insight. She seems to have the lockdown on forgiveness. Snort.

    • Yup, once you let go the anger starts to subside. I think even when we do decide it’s done we still harbour a secret little part inside of us that maybe, just maybe, they’ll sort themselves out…but that eventually dies and then we reach ‘meh’. I’ve reached it and it’s all kinds of marvelous.

    • Kristina, good point. I think forgiveness (whatever that is) is only possible at a great distance, with time, and a legally binding divorce settlement.

  • I believe in forgiveness, but not for the spouse. I believe in forgiveness for myself for whatever negative feelings I had about myself during the cheating my husband did. I forgive myself for trying to understand why he was cheating (he was not a serial cheater), or trying to hold myself together. For turning off all emotions so I wouldn’t have to feel the bad ones. I forgive myself for not leaving sooner. That’s who needs the forgiveness- me. For the way I mistreated myself for being mistreated.

  • This problem is especially frustrating because so many in the Reconcilliation-Industrial Complex like Ms. Larson throw around words like “forgivenness” and call such things “essential” without every saying what the hell they mean by such terms or the reasoning that leads to such sweeping and condescending commands. Lots of euphamisms. Lots of talking in circles. Lots of word salad.

    F*ck the word salad. I come to Chumplady for word MEAT.

    • To be fair to Ms. Larson, she is divorced from her cheating ex-husband but writes that they are “friendly.” For the kids. Which is a sort of platonic reconciliation.

      • I am “friendly” with STBX on the surface for the kids. We don’t talk about anything except for them and the occasional finance discussion, but I am not outwardly hostile.

        But forgiveness? Really? “Meh” is the best he will ever get from me. We will never be friends. When our kids are adults, I hope to have no contact with him whatsoever. As far as I’m concerned, he grossly misrepresented himself to me and made me think that I was marrying and having children with a totally different person. Yep, “meh” is the best that I can do. His crimes are too egregious for any more than that.

        • I had one of those, one who mis-represented himself so completely that finding out who he really was was like meeting a stranger. A very disconcerting turn of events, to say the least.

          • Yeah, same here. It is such a weird, mind-bending realization to suddenly be hit with the knowledge that who you think you love and know is something completely different. I definately had that “twilight-zone” period of feeling like, who the heck is that?? I draw parallels with Invasion of the Body Snatchers – I married a normal human guy, and over time, he was replaced by an inhuman pod person who looked and acted human, but was anything but inside. Or maybe that miniseries “V” where they look human outside, but inside they are scaly reptilian things that gobble rats and guinea pigs to sustain themselves (kinda like my STBXH gobbled porn and prostitutes)…

          • Yep. When I learned my cheater was cheating, it was like meeting a stranger.

            I know it’s cliche, but it’s so true, it’s like your husband died and was replaced by a reptilian brained, alien.

          • me too! It was sickening to realize I married the type of man I told my GFs to run from. Someone very very very much like MY DAD!!!!! I’m still in shock.

          • Same here. I even told him that I had no idea who he was, because the person standing in front of me wasn’t the man I married. And that’s the moment every ounce of attraction I had for him died. I couldn’t/can’t even look him in the face anymore. And I was always so so attracted to him. Now? I just do not recognize him. (Although, I haven’t seen in since October, and have no desire to.) He is no longer attractive to me, which was a blessing when I think about it. Maybe I am actually seeing him for who he is, instead of who I wanted him to be.

  • I can’t imagine why I’d want to “forgive” him for a long time. I can relate to needing to forgive myself for ignoring/overriding/suffocating better instincts whilst he was acting out his fantasies. I have felt a hell of a lot better since focusing on forgiving myself and trying to enjoy my life. Forgiving him will be incidental if it ever happens.

  • I go to a very progressive Unitarian Church. My STBX and I have been members for 13 years. Everyone there has always known us only together as a couple – a family with our daughter. I spoke with my minister about my situation (STBX left me for another woman about a month before my closest sister died of cancer.) and she has been extremely supportive. We tend to celebrate and/or honor many religious days of note for many different spiritualities. One Sunday this fall, our minister spoke about the Jewish holy day Rosh Hashanah, which is about beginning anew. Starting over. You “spill it all out” to all the important people in your lives the ways in which you feel you failed or disappointed them. They do the same to you. Everyone forgives and gets a fresh new start. It’s really quite a wonderful concept. And our minister further went on to talk about how healing forgiveness can be. You also need to forgive yourself, etc. etc. It was an extremely moving sermon and I was in tears by the end. At the end of the service I went up to her and she gave me a big hug and said. “Honey, you don’t have to forgive.” I really had to laugh through my tears.

    (Apologies to any of the Jewish chumps/friends here if I did not do service to that beautiful holy day in my description.)

  • Thank you for saying this CL!
    I’ve always had issue with the concept of forgiveness in that it always seems compulsory. Like you are required to forgive and forget the moment someone utters the words, “I’m sorry.” And if you don’t forgive them right away, you’re the one being mean and bad, because “look at how sad and sorry they seem!”
    Any jackass can say they’re sorry, and from the looks of it, plenty of them do, and very few mean it in ways that actually matter.

    • Both my ex and her AP, who was in our circle at our congregation tried to “apologize” to me. The “apologies” were of the “I am truly sorry [I got caught]” variety, with no compassion for me or remorse for our children.

      My wife’s “apology” in it’s entirety: “I am sorry I hurt you but I had no choice” [to cheat on me with her friend’s husband, who was also the father of our kids’ friend. And tell people I was a “soul parasite” and stuff.]

      He sent me an e-mail with an unsigned attachment (so I guess I couldn’t sue him or something) that said, “Blah blah I hurt so much blah blah.” Nothing about me or my kids or violating another family.

      I would gladly have shed some of my anger given genuine regret, but I couldn’t feel moved by their self-centered appeals.

      I’ve held onto that anger–and catch myself saying “fucking asshole”–because I really loved her and she took terrible advantage of my trust. And I have no reason to believe she wouldn’t do it again.

      • What tools, Bonkti! I think I should have a separate category, cheaters who cheat at church. (If only for the alliteration.) I guess they just need their hypocrisy to be that much more egregious.

        • It was actually a blessing, to follow the metaphor.

          In addition to having betrayed me, she betrayed a friend who was also a part of the dynamic group of women at the core of the congregation.

          My EW’s (perfect acronym) affair blew a hole in the social dynamic. the community was polarized and badly damaged. The friend reconciled with her husband (the AP) but, like my EW though for different reasons–withdrew from the congregation in embarrassment.

          But there were others who felt betrayed in what should have been a place of trust and, well, faith. I think most chumps suffer on their own. My pain was shared by others in a position to give me deep support and compassion.

          • Bonkti:

            A double betrayal.

            That must really hurt.

            The STBX OW was a serial cheater who in a prior affair had boffed her best friend’s husband and this person was also her husband’s best friend.

            All four adults would often get together at each other’s homes, while the affair was going on, unbeknownst to the respective faithful spouses, and socialized with their kids all playing together.

            How sick, how deceptive, how disrespectful to a spouse or a friend.

            After DDay, the OW had to leave her church because there was so much gossip about her affairs.

    • compulsory… good word. That’s exactly what I did. Not fun having to retract later on and tell him that I hated his guts.

  • Nomar’s comment about the “Reconciliation Industrial Complex” is well taken. If you read the literature on personality disorders (as described in the excellent book, “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing,” which CL recommends), then you realize that narcissists, for example, will likely be indifferent to forgiveness. They are, in fact, as CL’s husband suggests, like cats who kill birds. That’s what they DO. That’s who they ARE. That’s why they rarely seek therapy. So, forgiving them doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    Now, for some religious folks, this idea of forgiveness seems essential. What I’d say is to offer “cold forgiveness,” or CF. Cold forgiveness is a stark recognition of the essential incompleteness/untrustworthiness/the flawed nature of another person. You accept that. You know that they are limited in a moral/behavioral sense. You don’t have to tell then this, but you can just recognize it inside, and it could enable someone to just deal minimally and mechanically (if they have to) with someone who is fundamentally harmful.

    In any case, I agree with CL that ultimately indifference should be the goal. But if your beliefs require forgiveness, you can also offer Cold Forgiveness, and that will work, too. You can recognize that exposure to a toxic type is not good for you, not good for your kids, etc., and without perpetually hating that person, you can then put limits on your exposure. Might be time limits. Might also just be limiting your vulnerability, realizing that the things they say (the verbal “bait” they often put out) simply isn’t worth responding to. Heck, you may get to the point that it’s not even worth trashing them. Some folks are like cigarettes. They just rate for a stern warning label in small letters.

    CL, well done! I do not like this idea of ooey-gooey, emotional “forgiveness,” which allegedly is an example of someone being more enlightened or elevated than the rest of us. Ain’t so. Recognizing the cold reality of a the not-so-nice folks out there is a bitter but necessary part of life. And to those parents who are told that they have to “forgive” (ooey-gooey “enlightened” style) for the kids, I say: No Way! Equip your kids with the defense mechanisms to recognize the narcissists and others who are out there. Do it by example. And then do what CL says: Move on and do well!

    Thanks again, CL. You may swear like a Sergeant, but it’s clear you have a heart of gold.

    • Thanks David. Cold forgiveness sounds like a good idea. Forgiveness in the vein of “I wouldn’t touch you with a barge pole” works for me.

  • Thank goodness for CL and this site. At one point, I tried to force myself to forgive because I thought it would somehow make me feel better and because people on HuffPo said it would. It just made me feel rotten inside and felt like I wasn’t being true to my inner Self. Meh is definitely the way to go. I didn’t start practicing “Meh” until one day I heard it from my son. Me: “Do you want to call your Dad and tell him about your day?” Son: “Meh”. Without my prompting, I swear.

  • My forgiveness is nobody’s fucking business but mine, anyway.

    Why do some people insist that others forgive? It’s none of their business. Seems it’s always a third party who is most insistent. MYOFB, eh?

    Yeah, I think it’s an insecurity thing. Also, people love cliche’s, like this one: You should encourage the children to have a relationship with their (walk-away cheater back-stabbing lying thief skank-poking) father. Children need (dedicated loving nurturing role model) fathers. See what I did there? They like the cliche: Forgiveness is for you.

    People don’t feel comfortable choosing good over evil, right over wrong, because so often they’re unsure of what is right vs what is wrong, and THAT’S JUST SAD. Sometimes even those who were betrayed don’t want to discern good and evil. And so they end up “forgiving.”

  • i agree, however there is a form of forgiveness that does not take into account the back-stabbing–lying-entitled-piece-of-shit-tart [god that felt good] formerly known as my wife.

    If you forgive them, for yourself without any reference to them you can trick your mind in to indifference.
    I forgive you. You have no impact on me. You are unimportant to me. Your actions are meaningless and your words are all lies.

    So.. You get to the point where you can sit next to them at the school thingy because you actually do not give a flying fuck about them. Anything they say, and they keep trying to needle you years after the end, just goes into to the It’s the back-stabbing–lying-entitled-piece-of-shit-tart talking. I can forgive that”

    The best revenge is to live well..

  • I think that we all are hitting on the same thing here. First off I am absolute huge fan of CL. This site has been an absolute lifeline. God bless CL. Fuck to yeah (sorry Lord but a swear is justified). I will openly admit that I was an amazon chump for a while, where I bought a ton of books to try to figure this nightmare/shit out. There was a great book out there called “Can I Forgive You?”. It was real good. Now let me state I can’t stand the Vickis of the world either….there are a lot of “just get over it people”. They don’t understand the depth of the attack on us chumps….I want to take Vicki’s husband out to the bars, get him laid and say…. how do FEEL about THIS SHIT NOW. Trust me.

    Back to the book…..there are different levels and types of forgiveness. I believe the unilateral forgiveness is our only option for a large number of us on this board, since our former spouse narcissists do not engage in true (two party) forgiveness…not a unicorn but kinda like an endangered species. To me performing that unilateral forgiveness is the ultimate “meh” state. Now that means you forgive the piece of shits, but you don’t forget (shields up). You are forgiving yourself in the process as well (ing hit on that). I truly believe it takes a lot of power from the offender, where they stop corroding our asses. For example, my ex-cheating wife is giving me a front row seat to a nightmare with getting serious with the OM dragging my kids along into it and really being out there with her new formulated family. I watch as old neighbors (trust me I hear CL’s voice “they are not your friends”) embrace the new couple. Meh is essential. Meh and prayer is “the force”. This shit is spiking my blood pressure dramatically and its effected my job performance. I am allowing these two pieces of shit to literally take me down and kill me. But the key to that phrase is “I am allowing that”. I am giving them power. They are flawed human beings. That’s not to sugar coat them and get them off the hook for their actions, but getting to a deep state of meh -where I can let go enough to unilaterally forgive is a peaceful goal of mine. Saying whatever (but again not going over to their super bowl party)…and..I forgive them..I give myself a better chance living well. Just my two .02.

    • Hang in there, Steve. That you can see the forest for the trees is, in my opinion, a really, really good thing. I have those blood-boiling moments of rage a lot lately, and I literally say to myself, “Redirect the thought.” It sounds corny, but it does help. I give him too much power when I get so angry, and I don’t want to waste my life (and potentially damage my health) staying caught up in what he has done and how unfair it is. It’s done, it’s unfair, but I have to move on. But I know how you feel, and I’m trying to strive more for living well every day.

      • Four years after d-day, I often, still, have times when I find myself yelling, “fuck you, asshole!” Driving, in the shower, whatever. Then I redirect to “This is going to be a great day” and repeat it a couple of times aloud. It’s not all-powerful, but works pretty well. I usually get a bit of a laugh, or the sun pops out of the clouds.

        • thank you, venerable Bede.

          I was thinking more in terms of neurolinguistic programing. Your link and suggestion seem very interesting. Much appreciated.

    • Steve, Vicki’s husband was a cheater, and she’s a BS, which makes her perspective of forgiveness as “essential” rather bizarre to me. I take it as Healing From Infidelity as a Competitive Sport. I think acceptance and “meh” are essential (and of course being awesome). But forgiveness? Put it waaay down on the to do list.

  • Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. We all know the person who 5 years later is still going over and over again on the bad things their ex did to them. Whiny and annoying. Not forgiving gives your ex the power to ruin your day. You don’t have to tell them you forgive them just say “Wow was he/she a jerk. Glad I am out of there. Too bad they gave up a great person like me. Must have been stupider than I thought!” Forgetting now that is another thing. Never forget what they did to you.

    • I agree you don’t want to be bitter and nattering on about the injustice years later to people who don’t give a shit. (That’s what online forums are for.) I think you can accept and not be bitter and not forgive. How you define forgiveness is a very personal thing.

      • “How you define forgiveness is a very personal thing.” Very, very so true. The first thing I did after joining the champ club was to google it. They can keep it.

    • I think you can move on without forgiving… I know I (mostly) have. I’ll still have a couple flashes randomly where I get pissed about what he did, but they are usually over pretty quickly. And it’s been almost one year since I gave up on the reconciliation and kicked him out. There is a new post on HuffPo that I think is much more plausible about forgiveness than what Vicki Larson is apparently saying:

      I actually told my STBX once that “he has done nothing to even try to earn my forgiveness, and therefore he doesn’t have it and will probably never have it”. Because yes, he would say things like eventually I “have” to forgive him and the OW. Otherwise I’ll just be bitter, and blah blah blah. Puh-leeze. I don’t HAVE to do anything he says. And I truly believe I can be happy and still not forgive him for what he did. I can maintain a good enough relationship with him to co-parent effectively, even sometimes have almost pleasant, superficial conversations with him. Maybe eventually he will even assume I have forgiven him. But I won’t have. It won’t mean I “hate” him (aren’t we all striving for “meh”?) but just that I don’t happen to forgive this insanely horrible thing he did to me that caused the demise of my family and the entire future I had envisioned. Even if it turns out that my new future is way better than the one I had planned 🙂

  • If you want to forgive. So be it. It’s a free country. I say do whatever it takes to move on and away from a cheater. But forgiveness is not required. I work on my anger, I work on my indifference and I work on finding happiness. But I am not forgiving anyone for the pain my children and I have gone through. I am also not going to make myself feel bad about not forgiving. Anyone, who insists that somehow there is something wrong with you because you can’t forgive is just heaping blame on the victim.

  • I am an odd bird here…I reconciled with my cheater once he truly turned away form the OW and recommitted himself to our family.

    I am a fabulous wife (well I was a great wife, until my H died). I was certain, however if he had left with her, I would NOT have been a good ex wife. I would have instituted a scorched earth policy and been a pain in their ass forever…no “playing nice” for me with their shit….never ever. I was never one of those “it was good for us since were stronger now” people – no, it was a fucking suckfest and I wouldnt wish it on anyone (except an OW).

    • I am in complete agreement with you. I would never wish the suckfest I went through on anyone, anyone but the OW.

  • I “forgave” once, and then got to go through the whole knife-through-the-heart all over again sixteen years later.

    When our children were 10 and 5 years old, and I was just about to begin my master’s program, we got a phone call in the middle of the night from my husband’s “best friend” at the time, who was calling to tell my husband to stop screwing his fiancée. It was revealed at that time that he had had a series of three (that I know of) extramarital affairs then, two with former students, one of whom he had driven to a city two hours away to see weekly, on the pretense that he was going there to use the university library for his research, and then the one with his best friend’s fiancée.

    I moved out of our bedroom. Eventually, we saw a marriage counselor, who sat and listened to our he-said-she-said without offering much insight, and recommended a couple of books. I finally resigned myself to a one-sided reconciliation — forgive and forget, as my husband said. The kids were young, and I was trying to establish myself in a new profession as a graphic designer and illustrator, and there was much less information available (these were the early days of the public internet) — or even known, I think — about the personality of a serial cheater. I was working full-time, raising our children, and going to school. And I am the co-dependent enabler in the relationship, so I made myself trust him again. I took the “easy” way out.

    At the end of this past summer, my life blew up again. At the end of the summer I learned that my husband is, in fact, a serial adulterer who has been cheating on me again with multiple women over a period of at least several years (all I have proof of), if not for the past twenty years or so. I know that one of those relationships goes back to when our youngest son was 2. He’s 21 now. We’ve been married for 34 years.

    • Wren, my heart goes out to you.
      I hope that you kicked the bastard out and got a GOOD lawyer. It’s not too late to start over again. After 31 years I started over too. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. The way I saw it, I had no choice. He was only sorry he was caught.
      He said he didn’t think any of it was wrong as long as I didn’t know about it. WTF!!!! – this was my loving, affectionate husband who was devoted to me & our children. Yeah right.
      At least there’s more knowledge out there now about serial cheaters.
      AND thank heavens for this site which has helped me enormously. Thank you CL for this site and all fellow chumps who provide support for each other.
      Wren, after so many years together, I feel for you.

      • Lynn,

        I go to these BAN (beyond affairs network) support group meeting, though I’m thinking of stopping soon. I’m almost the only one that is divorcing my cheater. A lot of the women there tell me I’m “so young” (I’m 34) and if it had happened when their kids were young they’d have left too. Yeah, cause co-parenting with the guy that cheated on you is tons of fun 🙂 I guess 34 is relatively young for this to happen (lucky me! my cheater got tired of me early while our kids were still in diapers!). I know I was ridiculously afraid to start over, so I can imagine the more years into the marriage and the older you are, the more scary it would be. I just know I got to the point where I felt while leaving would be the hardest thing I have ever done, staying would literally kill my soul. I do feel like their age is a major obstacle for keeping a lot of these women from leaving. I’m not trying to push divorce on them, there is even one woman that I believe is having a decent time at reconciliation. But there are a few where I really think it would be best. Obviously it’s not my place or anything to decide these things, but I just hate to hear the same thing month after month of anger, etc., and think they must have another option. Some of them will literally say they are staying only for the healthcare, the retirement, the house. Some haven’t worked in a really long time, or not had a career that could really support them. I don’t know if these are just excuses? And yes, they are serious, real reasons, but I can’t imagine sacrificing your chances for happiness to stay in a horrible situation for the healthcare benefits. Is there anything I can say to these people, about starting over later in the game, or books to point them to? I just feel frustrated which might be why I’m thinking of stopping going. I guess I think they should either really work on reconciliation or work on getting out of the relationship instead of just complaining and being angry and acting helpless, etc. every month and not doing anything about it. I just feel like you only get one life and you gotta try to make the best of it.

        • Send ’em over her AE.

          I’ve never heard of BAN. Do cheaters go too? It would seem they need re-education and support to stay monogamous and do that heavy lifting.

          As for the anger… well, I’d put it back on them. Yes, this sucks terribly, but if you stay, you’re choosing that set of options, which apparently pisses you off and triggers you all the time. IMO, better to start over, yes, as scary as that is.

          FWIW, AE, I divorced my son’s dad when i was 34. You aren’t going to die alone, I promise you. But do get strong and date for character. #2 was the serial cheater (brief marriage). Being a single mom, in retrospect, made me vulnerable in ways I only see now.

          Anywho it gets MUCH better. Don’t be afraid of starting over — at any age.

          • Yes, the Ban network, started by Peggy Vaughn, author of “The Mongamy Myth (’nuff said). It has been taken over by some woman and her husband/cheater who authored the book ” My Husband’s Affair Is the Best Thing that Ever Happened to ME”(again, ’nuff said).
            No need to forgive, especially with no remorse or confession.
            How about this fro restitution, Stepahnie: The betrayed calculates the monetary impact of the affair. quantify the number of fucks and multiply it by the average cost of an encounter with a hooker in your area. Throw in the cost of the free babysitting you did to subsidize the affair, the cost of any expenditures on the affair, the cost of counsleing and meds for you, if needed, the cost of future periodic polygraphs, Private investigators, and past and future STD testing.( I am sure others can add oto this list).
            Come up with a dollar figure for the affair and its cost and then, the cheater gets to take a second job to pay the betrayed and the kids. The betrayed and kids get to spend it as they see fit, Harleys, golf trips, whatever and the cheater is excluded.
            Also, the cheater must lose about 25% of his or her body weight in 2-3 months, and o without sleep for at least a year.
            Once these things are accomplished, we can talk forgiveness.

          • yep, the funny thing about going to those meetings is I didn’t start to go until I had already kicked my husband out. Then I was just feeling really alone and wanted to talk my head off to anyone that would listen to it. Especially to people that had suffered from infidelity and could understand, and lucky for my friends, I don’t personally know anyone else that has experienced this. I do wonder if I’d had the guts to go before I kicked him out if they would have convinced me to do otherwise… but probably not. What I need now is a divorce support group. Sadly, my small town doesn’t have one of those… at least not one that isn’t through a church. And I’m too lazy to start my own. And kinda don’t want the commitment.

            I’m not afraid of dying alone :), and even if that happens I’m pretty sure I’ll at least have some kind of significant relationship in my future. Yes, sometimes I miss having a relationship. With being a SAHM I definitely don’t meet many males, let alone single males. But right now I’m much happier being alone than I was for at least the last few years with my husband. And definitely a thousand times better than the hell-hole limbo we were in after DDay. But I’ll be starting school in 6 months, then working and we’ll see what happens then. I do plan on being very picky with dating… which will be why it’s probably gonna be a while…

          • oh, and I will tell them about your site. Maybe there’s a a chance some sense can be talked into them. I think the angriest one might especially enjoy it, I at least know she has no problem with the f-word 🙂

        • Age IS a big deal. Being financially dependent on someone else for decades then having to enter the workforce with only a high school education IS a huge deal. Leaving a 40 year marriage, I assume is way different than leaving a 5 year marriage. They seem to be aware of how those assholes are hurting them, but they have valid reasons for not living. Valid to them of course.
          I am 37 years old. I had never been age conscious until my divorce, when I realized I was going to have to compete with 20 year old in order to get some. I try to not let it get to me but this culture reveres youth like it’s THE shit!
          On the plus side, I have never felt closer to my mother in law till now that she’s living with me. She has told me about her divorces and her sisters marriages. The stigma, their views on relationships, the pressure applied to them by others and themselves. Her stories have truly made me appreciate how much better our generation has it compared to hers.
          They are trying to make the best out of their lives and find happiness. They just aren’t measuring their happiness by our standards.

          • yeah, I understand age is a big deal. And it’s also relative, like you’re saying. It’s not like I FEEL like I’m young, because hey, technically right now is the oldest I’ve ever been. There is always someone younger I can compare myself to. And there is that annoying age double-standard that you’re talking about.

            I guess I just wish I thought they are working on being happy, even if that does mean staying married. I just don’t believe in feeling trapped by your circumstances, being angry and full of self-pity, etc., forever. I know that being cheated on brings this shit out like probably nothing else. And I went though A LOT of anger myself. But at some point you do need to move on. Now that I think about it… It’s actually probably my co-dependency coming out. I want to control them, fix their situation and problems, and I can’t so that frustrates me.

    • I’ve been through that too. He just learnt to lie better. When the shit hit the fan many years later I was still in shock and did “the thing I thought I could not do” to paraphrase Eleanor R! No sign of karma disappointingly.

      The depressing thing is that my (feminist!) daughter has him on a pedestal due to his charm and effort with her and the other daughter is neglected. Both live far away. I’m there for both but wince at the unfairness of life. He really did leave me in the proverbial and I’m still dealing with it. So NO, I am not forgiving …

      • No need to forgive and don’t worry, your daughters will figure it out. Just talk to them, be there for them, let him dig his own grave. People like this are charm personified until they realise you won’t be charmed by them anymore…then they turn. And karma? Being him is karma enough. I can’t imagine being that empty and cold as to be able to spend years lying to someone whom you know loves and trusts you and is putting their faith in you.

    • Wren, I’m right there with you. There was one affair I knew about and I helpfully rug swept it while believing that it had ‘only happened a couple of times’, thinking it was something that long marriages sometimes face. 8 years later and it all came out: he’s a serial cheater. I don’t know how many, although I did find out about at least 6 others, including one that kicked off mere months after that one dday I had. I’m sure there are quite a few I don’t know about.

      Despite discovering that it was still hard to accept that there was something disordered about this man and I kept looking for reasons and explanations, until I finally had to face that he is just fucked up when it comes to women and fidelity. When I finally accepted that I was able to start moving on….but it’s not been easy, because realising that someone lied to me for years and years while supposedly building a life with me has been hard as hell.

      But one thing has helped: once he realised he had completely fucked it up with me he moved fast to secure the final OW: wanted to introduce her to the kids right away, despite them flipping out, introducing her to his family right away, sleeping in their home with her in the same guest bed we had slept in for years…it was so odd that I had to say ‘who the fuck does this?’. And then, of course, I saw that narcs do this–he needed new supply and the whole time he had been getting secondary supply, always making sure he had a backup or two and when I finally was done being a supply he needed a new primary source. And now he’s cheating on her, at the very least emotionally.

      We’re both well out of our relationships with serial cheaters but it’s awful to realise that we could spend that many years with someone and not see who they truly were.

      • When I was still married, a friend and I had a discussion about whether we would feel secure that our partners would still care about us if we had Alzheimer’s. I remember being amazed that she could feel quite confident that her husband would be there for her. I knew I’d be there for him but reckoned he’d offload me somewhere. I’d also looked after him during issues with heart, back and other operations etc.

        There’s no obvious OW now to trigger responses in my daughters, despite the previous (devious) philandering, but I would not put it past him to hide things for effect – “I’m an old man” pose.

        It’s so obvious to me now what games he was playing. I wish I had seen it more clearly and acted in MY best interests. Isn’t it amazing how you can always see it clearly with other people? Some days I feel like such an idiot.

        • Exactly , SOnnet. I would never trust my XW to stand by me in sickness or if I lost my high paying job. These folks have shown us, absolutely, that, given the right circumstances, they will not stand by us. I would hate the thought of growing older and frailer with my XW in charge of caring for me.
          I have no doubt I would be warehoused somewhere.

      • I really think that is almost the hardest part of it all: ” realise that we could spend that many years with someone and not see who they truly were”. Like, I still almost can’t wrap my brain around that one. It is that fact that makes me afraid that I will have some trust issues if/when I ever have another relationship. And also it makes me feel just really alone because it’s like, if you don’t know them, who can you ever really know?

    • Wren it seems to me you took the easy way out because you had so much on your plate and something had to give. So don’t beat up on yourself. But now it is time to take care of yourself. You sound like a fabolous woman and like Lynn said Hope you got a good lawyer and it is never too late to get some peace of mind. My father (also a serial cheater) dumped my Mother after 25 years of marriage to marry a woman 30 years younger. She was devistated. Then he gave her the house in the divorce but didn’t tell her he hadn’t paid property taxes in 1 1/2 yrs. (this was years ago when I guess divorce laws weren’t as tight as they are now). Anyway she did OK and even better than OK. Never remarried. When I asked her why she said she had been asked several times but the men all really wanted was someone to take care of them, their children or their aging parents. She wanted someone to take care of her.

    • I did my best to forgive this one occurrence (to be honest, I never 100% forgave him until after he died) but part of moving forward with him after it was coming to a firm agreement with myself about the future.

      If he could see the amount of pain this one episode caused me and EVER choose (for WHATEVER) reason to do it again, that would prove beyond all measure that he and I had such different definitions of what the word “marriage” even meant that even attempting marriage with him after that would be pointless.

      I also promised myself that if after a few years it became clear to me that I was forever living the the shadow of the OW, I would leave. If I had done that, I would have waited for the moment of maximum effect, like right after OW got married and was pregnant or something (just to fuck up their lives). That was not the case…at the time of his death, my H saw OW as a huge mistake.

      • Even though it didn’t work for me (husband didn’t give us a chance to even really begin the process because he wouldn’t cut the OW out of his life), I am glad to hear a positive reconciliation story. I think giving yourself a deadline like a year or two to see if it really is working sounds like a good plan. If working on reconciling is still making you miserable after that amount of time then it makes sense to move on.

      • Wife number 1:

        I am not totally against reconciliation.

        I do think there are a handful of cheaters who do end up regretting it and may be able to change.

        I do think it’s rare though, particularly after my false reconciliation with my STBXH.

        I am glad your husband woke up to who he was prior to his death.

    • Wren,

      You made the best decision for you at the time with the information you had at the time. I’m sorry your husband is a complete asshole and hope he is a soon-to-be-ex!

    • I am so truly sorry. No one deserves what he’s done to you. The worse part for me now, having gone through something similar, is to come to a realization that there are people like that. They really don’t care about the pain they cause so long as they get what they want.
      My gosh, I am so rooting for you. From the bottom of my heart I wish you the strength to surpass this.

      • Yes, there are many people like this, unfortunately. Tons of NPDs and it seems to be growing. Caveat emptor.

  • How my husband hates you! I even got an earful about you today.

    I love ya CL! I don’t always agree with you on a point by point basis but I never I never disagree with you in general.

    Awesome is essential. *hugs*

    • Your husband hates me? Give him a kiss on his big, hairy ass from me, okay?

      • I would be he would probably think it was foreplay and I am not going there! 🙂

  • I suggested “cold forgiveness,” way above, as a possibility. Honestly, the more I think about, the folks being described here are like vampire bats. No sense in forgiving. They are the way they are. But when we see them for the miniature busted little toy-things they really are (or maybe hairly little flying rodents?), we will know we are better off having moved on.

    Chump Son

  • I would love just once, to find an article telling a cheater or the AP, that making amends ins essential.

    • seriously! if they don’t try to earn your forgiveness why should you even consider it?? Not sure what they could do to earn it… but it would definitely start with actions not just words. Because talk is cheap and we know cheaters lie their asses off.

      • I think that many of these forgiveness articles and attitudes propose that forgiveness, no matter what you have been handed, as the only way to move on, the only way to prove you are not an angry bitter harpy really. It pisses me off because on top of all the bs you have to deal with, you are supposed to “forgive” someone who has no remorse and has done nothing to make amends. And if you don’t, then it is all on you. Why aren’t there articles that tell the cheater and AP that they need to act like accountable human beings. Has anyone read any such article? I never have.

        • I haven’t seen one. If I had I would send it to my STBX 🙂

          My STBX would talk a big game, he said he was sorry, didn’t do it to hurt me, didn’t want to hurt me. Though I still think he feels like he was justified in doing it. Living with me was just so horrible I guess. Though that doesn’t explain why he still thinks I should have “gotten over it” and we’d still be together. He says lots of women would have. I tell him sorry I have a sense of self-worth. Guess you married and then cheated on the wrong chick.

          But yes, essentially I would have tried to reconcile with him if he had even remotely taken any responsibility for his actions and been willing to suffer any consequences for them (the “consequence” in this case was him firing his assistant which could look suspicious and also would involve the inconvenience of finding and training a new one). If the chance of keeping me, proving that he loved me anywhere near as much as he loved himself, wasn’t even worth doing that, then fuck him. He can say sorry and he loves me all day long. He told the dipshit OW he loved her too. Oh, but with her of course he didn’t mean it.

          • I too am grateful, CL, for this site, and all of my fellow chumps who offer support for each other here, and now for me. It has been amazing to me, and enlightening, to realize how alike all of “our” cheaters are. I too have gotten the “I didn’t want to hurt you” line, and, well, all of the other lines as well…

        • amen. amen. amen.

          That’s really all I can say. (After all, it is Sunday…but speaking as a more or less lapsed and agnostic Unitarian, well…) Your point is so on target!

    • Yes, whatever happened to the concept of restitution? It is very big in Judaism, I understand. Who does this amount of damage without making restitution?(Oh, yeah, personality disordered types).

  • Well, the best thing about him abandoning his family for some alcoholic ex-fuckbuddy of his, is that I am no longer beholden to his needs, his feelings, taking care of his responsibilities, spackling over his bullshit.

    And, similarly, I do not find it necessary to help him relieve himself of guilt and shame by bestowing my forgiveness, which would be insincere. I will not forGIVE him of anything.

    I don’t do anything FOR him any more, and it feels AWESOME.

  • I officially love your blog.

    I’ve been calling those phonies on forgiveness as a competitive contact sport for months now when I run across those ridiculous memes / posts.

    Thank you Thank you Thank you for tackling this subject with clarity, wit and articulation.

    I will be reading (& probably sharing) bits and pieces from your page (with credit, of course) on my FB page.

  • 4 years ago when STBX left the military after 27 years, the red flags started to go up right away. Separating finances so we both paid half the bills (this way he could hide his porn and affairs), sleeping arrangements, going to bars known as pick up places, lots of lunches with the guys at work. His reasoning was quite inventive for everything he did. Always the good loyal military wife I started to prepare for the inevitable. I knew if I let it run its course I would come out of it in good shape, so I planned. Stashed money under my bed, got promotions at work, became secretive as to my finances, established a good credit history, played along with the game. It was like he was reading page by page from the “Affairs for Dummies” book. I read it too, so I could predict exactly what he was going to do. When he told me that he wasn’t in love with me (after 29 years together, 2 kids and a tattoo of our names on his arm) and that he never ever loved me my self-esteem bottomed out. Even though I expected to hear those words at some point it still hurt right threw to my soul. Everything I read here as to what they will say, he said too. Lack of imagination seems to be a common theme. He hooked up with the bitch who lived in Calgary a week before our 27th anniversary and I finally caught him a week after the anniversary. I could for the first time see him as he really was and I was ashamed with myself for having been the butt of his “we’ll be together forever” joke. Ashamed for loving him even when he treated me with disrespect.
    So forgiveness for him. NEVER in fucking million years. Forgiveness for me. Only that I didn’t get more in the settlement. I got more than half, close to $483,000 in property, lump sum cash and half his pension. He is so narcissistic and entitled that he still doesn’t realize he gave away not only the cow but the farm too. Next year when he files his income taxes the government will go after him for about $4000-$5000 in extra income taxes and at the same time I will recalculate my child support and it should double to $1000 a mth. Forgiveness for knowing the bitch won’t stay long because soon he won’t be such a catch. Just a balding old man, who drives city bus, telling the same stupid stories from long ago, who interrupts you talking so he can talk about himself and whose daughters find him disgusting. When she leaves him there won’t be anything to take because I will have got it all. Forgive if you want to but I’d rather get the cash.

  • Ha!!! I love this article! I swear those articles and specially hers, make me want to puke. I’m thinking hell, wait till it’s done to you see how you like it. Then I figure, that’s just mean. 😉 But anyway, it’s been 2 years since I found out about my ex and I haven’t “healed” yet. I swear I thought I had forgiven him, but turns out it was cause he was still hanging around me, showering me with affection and devotion… and unfortunately he still made me weak at the knees. But now that the divorce is final and he hardly ever comes around, I have discovered I am actually almost to the point of being completely consumed by my wrath towards him. He’s lucky he’s my kids dad, that was his lucky ticket. The more I think of it, the more I think I don’t need to forgive him in order to move on and leave a productive life. The way I see it, there is no justice for what he did. There is nothing I can do to erase or change the 20 years I spent with him. Although he’s getting help, I know he’s going to go back to who he is and convince his next wife that that’s who he is. Cause he needs that admiration from everyone. I think this might be the only thing I have left, to not forgive and to never ever see him as who he was to me once upon a time. Hey, maybe there is some justice after all. I feel better, thanks Chump Lady!

  • Just read that HuffPo deal. A couple things keep cropping up in various posts that have me truly amazed.
    The first is this concept that , because humans may not be hardwired for monogamy, that cheating is acceptable.
    First, as far as I can tell, I am , sort of, hardwired to relieve myself on my neighbor’s yard vs the inconvenience of trekking inside to my bathroom, yet, for some strange reason, I feel restrain myself. Guess I did not realize that if somewhere deepp inside of me, I had the urge to do something and others have the same urge, i should not be blamed for doing it.
    Which leads me to the next thing that really amazes me. Some folks actually believe that a decent % of cheaters have been importuning their spouse for years to change , only to be rebuffed, repeatedly. They truly beleive the propoganda that many cheaters spread re their long suffering and many valliant overtures to get help for the marriage.
    Pleeeze, people. Do folks)other than fellow cheaters) really but this garbage? Don’t they consider the source? Have they watched too many movies like “Sleeping with the Enemy”?
    These are people(the cheaters) who have clearly demonstrated a willingness to lie and cheat and hurt others(including their kids) yet fols seem to buy their bullshit.
    Does any of these beleivers ever stop to ask the simple question “The why didn’t you get a divorce?”
    The final thing I noticed was the argument among certain folks that since monogamy was unnatural, viloating a specific, allegedly sacred agreement, was not an offense.
    Yet, when asked why then, if it is natural and nothing to be ashamed of ,did they not proffer the same option to their spouse to go out and get some variety, they offer no explanation.
    It is truly amazing that someone could be so stupid so as not to recoognize that the graviman of the harm is not that they cheated, but that they cuased their spouse to rely on their misrepresentations.
    You ask these folks why it was done clandestinely, why they had all the options, why their lives contained all the fun etc. and they come back with that Monogamy is unnatural.
    Well, duh. Did they ever consider that their spouses where then sacrificing a natural ureg in reliance on a specific agreement to do so?
    What fucktards. They think their sex drives are stronger or that they are more forward thinking evolved types, so their dishonesty is okay. Yeah, dishonesty and being really “evolved” go hand in hand, eh?
    And, when you ask them the simple question : “Why not be honest if it is so natural and expected”, they accuse you of being a prude or unenlightened or living in the middle ages etc.

    • But you can think and that was an awesome post! Love it!!

      I’m really going to think about that one.

      If things were so bad, why didn’t you let your spouse go out and get some? Why didn’t you just agree to call the whole thing off, honorably?

      And, yes, the whole, “But we’re just animals!” is absurd.

  • Thank You so much for all of your comments!! The other websites act like it is just another failure on my part because I can’t forgive him and really have no plans on ever forgiving him. I do plan and am getting closer to indifference.
    I feel that it is up to God to forgive him if he chooses to. Since EX feels that he was justified on breaking one of his commandments since he was “unhappy” it will be interesting.
    Thank you for not making feel guilty.

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