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The Futility of ‘Affair-Proofing’

Many chumps ask after they’ve been broad-sided by infidelity — What did I do wrong?  And how can I make sure this never, ever happens to me again?

Answer you don’t want to hear? Nothing.

There are a lot of charlatans out there who are more than happy to sell you the snake oil that is “affair proofing” your marriage. Please download their eBook for $10. Attend their life coaching seminar. Hey chumps, if you’d only communicate more, have sex more often (and more adventuresomely!), wear a pretty ribbon in your hair, etc. then you are Safe. A lot of the advice is subtle and not so subtle blame the victim crap. Affairs happen because you were not Meeting Their Needs, so make the marriage a Good Place to Be (cue the “pick me” dance tunes).

Unsaid is that hey, the cheater wasn’t exactly meeting your needs either, but you didn’t go out and cheat. Affairs, of course, are about a lack of character and maturity. They’re about narcissism. You know the Chump Lady drill.

But that’s not the end of the story. So we chumps get out of that mess and think… okay, I’m going to become an expert at sniffing out narcissists! I won’t be fooled again! Or you might despair… shit, my disorder-dar is faulty. I am an epic chump, I’d better batten down the hatches and stay bunkered in. Learn to live alone with cats. What’s the point of ever trusting anyone?

I am a firm believer that you can improve your picker. You can absolutely improve your odds at relationship happiness by looking for reciprocity, common values, kindness, and respect from your next partner. You can shore yourself up. Work on expecting more, communicating, creating healthy boundaries. You can stop being a codependent, spackle freak. (Please, oh please put away the spackle knife.) But if you’re doing this love thing right — you’re making yourself vulnerable. I’m sorry, there is no getting around the risk. If you want intimacy, you’re going to have to reveal your tender underbelly to another and trust they won’t harpoon it.

Anyone who can guarantee you won’t get hurt again by Doing All the Right Things is lying. I think you can mitigate some risk, but you’ll never remove it, because you don’t control other people and you don’t control outcomes.

Now, this is NOT an argument for the unicorn of reconciliation. You see that reasoning a lot — oh, better the Devil you know. Most people cheat, if I date there won’t be anyone, or everyone will suck worse than my present spouse. To which I say — bullshit. Your present spouse has already demonstrated themselves to be unfaithful. You’re investing in a stock you know is bad, hoping for a better return. Chumps — there’s accepting “life is risk,” and then there is idiocy.

My point is, if you were a faithful chump, you didn’t do anything wrong trusting your partner. That’s what love is. You commit. You jump in with both feet and take it on faith. You believe the best in someone. You support them. These qualities are not pathological and you should not chuck them just because some cheater asshole betrayed your trust.

You can no more affair-proof your life than you can calamity-proof your children. You can be the best parent you can be, you can child-proof your home, close up the outlets, seal the aspirin lids, nag your teenagers, and yet some calamity can befall them. They ignore our wisdom every day at their peril, but they usually survive. Their mistakes don’t make you a bad parent. We go forward assuming they’ll outlive us or will endure their calamities. And why do we assume these risks in parenting? Because we love.

Just because you got cheated on doesn’t make you a bad life partner. You’re stronger and wiser now. There is an upside to surviving infidelity — greater self knowledge. Knowing you can reinvent. Knowing that this didn’t kill you, it opened up a new world. So go be fearless. Risk it.

Ask Chump Lady

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  • Good advice Chump Lady!! Reciprocity, kindness, and a similar value system is most important in any relationship/friendship, but absolutely vital in finding a good partner. It is easy to fall into despair after being cheated on. It is like having your heart and your innocence ripped to shreds. Chumps look at things through a skewed lens finding it hard to trust anyone. We might become hyper vigilant in sniffing out narcissists/cheaters. I will admit I am scared to ever put myself out there again.
    Affair proof? Yeah, I bought the books after DDay. “His Needs/Her Needs”, “Not Just Friends”. Bought an ebook for insight to save my marriage. But guess what? I wasn’t the one with the problem!!! I have realized that all the love, trust, support, and loyalty I put into my marriage are positive qualities. The only hitch is I failed to see some signs that were clear indicators that things were off with him in the beginning. I am not perfect by any means. But I value honesty, faithfulness, loyalty, trust, integrity, etc.. I love living life!! When I am ready to venture back onto the dating scene, I will bring a little more smarts, wisdom, and life experience to my next relationship. In the meantime, I will continue to get stronger, reach my goal of Meh!, and be a good mama to my daughter. Life is too precious to waste time with someone that did not reciprocate the gifts I gave. Pfffffffbt to him!! I think with time, effort, and a little patience I will be ready to jump in again with both feet with a good man. Fearless.
    On a side note, never saw “Harold and Maude”, but did anyone recognize tje actress who is Maude is also the creepy old lady from “Rosemary’s Baby”? Ha!!

    • Ruth Gordon. Check out “Harold & Maude” — it’s one of my favorite movies of all time. And the sequence on the dating service (his mother fixes him up on dates, he commits hari-kari) is a classic!

  • Oh, lovely to see Harold and Maude! Such a fabulous film!

    And you’re right about all of this, CL. It’s hard to make ourselves vulnerable again, after being burned so badly, but we must. Why? Because if we don’t, if we let the cheater take all that wonderful trusting love from our souls then they win in a way. Let them wallow in their schmoopie land. We’ll go on and find the real thing.

  • Well, you know I love your advice, Chumplady. Sometimes though your radar does fail and that’s because we miss the cues.

    Problem is here, my ex was all those nice things you mentioned for a looooong time, and many of those nice guy traits still existed while he was secretly in the affair.

    The spackling I initially did was to overlook his overspending. I was the saver, he was the spender. …..I spackled.

    But now I know it was a sign of someone who is self absorbed, somewhat selfish, because he let me save, never said spend more money sweetie, you deserve it.

    The only problem with that is that not all big spenders are cheaters. The two issues can exist independent of each other.

    For example: My favorite brother is a big spender. He can’t keep two bits in his pocket ’cause they would burn a hole in it, so he spends and can’t save.

    He never cheats, though, and says he wouldn’t. It’s wrong to him.

    My ex was also never really good in bed. Everything was too rushed. In the new stage that may be okay, but later it gets old.

    I guess that is why an affair is so stimulating. Both cheaters are so horned out that they rush things and think it’s great and hot and well, you know like the honeymoon phase.

    Still, there are men and women who miss the honeymoon mad hotness, and are not great in bed, but they don’t cheat to resurrect their own flagging libido within the companionate phase of a marriage.

    I have also known women who were cheated on by men, I and all my lady friends, thought were the least likely to ever cheat……but they did.

    So, that’s why I am afraid to trust myself again.

    But I do agree. In the end there is no way to affair proof a marriage or predict that a new lover once hitched will never cheat.

    So, yep, it’s a leap of faith, always.

    • Personally, I put some stock in choosing a fellow chump. I’m sure it’s not fool proof, but I believe more than most people, my husband gets it because he was cheated on too (worse than me, and for much longer). I tend to think there are givers and takers, and that reveals itself over time. But yes, it’s risk. Do your best, but don’t psych yourself out.

      • I think looking for a fellow chump is the best thing to do, too.

        I do agree that someone who has been cheated on and was hurt by it, is far less likely to cheat.

        It’s a probability thing, and I do think a fellow chump is in all probability a better bet than someone who has never experience the pain of the deception of infidelity.

  • Even asbestos will burn with enough heat… Us “vow to never get hurt again” chumps, wear emotional fire suits made of very thin, very dry paper, and everyone looks like a lit match! Once bitten, twice shy has never felt so true, but to live is to love, and great sailing ships in harbor, never feel the filling of their sails by the open sea.

  • Yeah, my STBX got me a book on how to survive infidelity (how thoughtful! HE screwed up and I get a book) which he said he would read too, but never did (too busy still cheating to have time to read about saving a marriage – real winner there!) And I did that stuff and the “how to keep your marriage exciting” stuff and what did it accomplish? NOTHING! Because I wasn’t the one who messed up – HE was. So he should be the one to do the work to improve, which he didn’t do.

    I love the movie clip, by the way. Though I wonder now if my parents should have allowed me to watch Harold and Maude as many times as I did when I was six years old. I haven’t seen the movie in years (decades?) but I remember this part crystal-clear.

    • There’s a twist — the cheater gives you a book on how to improve at the “pick me” dance? You’ll just up the excitement factor while they’re upping their own excitement factor in their affair? Exactly as you said — giving you the book is like saying “Hey, YOU’re the fuck up here, let me show you how you can improve.” [vomit]

      You saw H&M at six? Cool parents! I didn’t see it until college. I was hoping that clip had the scene at the end where he’s playing banjo on the hill…. love that.

      • I danced the pick-me dance for over a year and nearly alienated all my friends and family in the process, not to mention my sanity and well-being. I finally stopped four months ago and since then I’ve had four months of peace and contentment and reconnecting with the people who stood by me (even when I didn’t know it and at the time didn’t deserve it). Things haven’t always been easy (especially financially) but life is BETTER than before – no more stressing out trying to be perfect for someone who’s not worth it. Too bad I wasted that year trying to salvage my marriage by myself.

        • Chump lady,
          Can you please write a warning post to all those in the “reconciliation” phase. While trying to save you marriage for months or years at a time, you do wear down and alienate you family and friends, who want to be supportive but can only take so much and have a hard time watching you beat your head against the wall. You also tend to miss out on your kids lives because while you are physically there your mind is somewhere else. Lets be real, while you are doing the pick me dance, you tend to be an irrational self-centered (unintentionally) nervous wreck. None of the reconciliation webinars, e books or websites ever mention the extreme cost that the pick me dance (not that they call it that) has on your health and your life and the lives of those you love.

          • Thanks for the suggestion Pearl. Do those webinars and ebooks recommend doing the pick me dance? I always assume they assume the affair has ended and it’s more like Make the Marriage a Good Place to Be. (A subtler pick me jig.)

  • Fixing the picker is so essential in my opinion, but really there is no affair proofing a relationship, I completely agree with you. It will happen or it won’t. There is nothing that an individual can do to control the actions of another individual. You can try, you can do things to influence them, but unless that person is on board with shared values (and even if he or she starts out on board, he or she may change his or her mind), that person is going to do what he or she wants in the end, or what he or she feels is best for him or herself.

    One would hope, in a marriage or relationship, that what is best for him or herself is also best for the dyad — so that whole beautiful mind “what is best for the group and the individual…is best” sort of thing. But sometimes people are selfish and their motivations are self interested rather than altruistic. The losing game is to try to figure out how to control that person to get them to do what we should be doing for ourselves (i.e. helping us self define).

    I think you can affair-proof yourself, though. Not the marriage, not the relationship, but yourself. And that is the picker fixer thing. That’s internal, the picker. That’s not some external tool that you pull out and scan a person with. That’s internal and if the picker is skewed in some way, no matter how good we are — giving, loving, compassionate, generous, helpful, kind, loyal, gentle — if we pick badly either because we miss red flags or downright ignore them because there is something in the challenge of false reciprocity that we crave, then we’re throwing all of our good qualities into a situation where the person is not worthy of them.

    I personally had to dig in and figure out why I like those emotional stoics, those wolf-packs of one. That’s not a value I share, abject independence I mean, so why on the god’s earth would I want a man like that? But I did. Repeatedly. It was my pattern. They would tell me who they were in deed if not in word, and I would know better I guess. I would go crashing against those rocks because if it worked I could see the payoff and the payoff would be hugely satisfying to me. I could good them into what I wanted in a relationship and if they did that, gave me the relationship I craved or thought I had or whatever it was I was seeing, then that would validate me and prove to me that I was good. Very bad thinking, obviously.

    But my charge was to figure out what made that pattern make sense to me. And then the hard part: I had to change what I could change, and that was me, so that I didn’t find that pattern comfortable anymore, so that I actually could identify what was bad about it and feel uncomfortable.

    So fixing the picker is fixing myself. Fixing myself is affair proofing myself. That means that regardless of what happens relationally, and even though I may get hurt feelings again in my lifetime, and no doubt I’ll be rejected again — laws of averages fall down on the side of that happening for sure, I still have the confidence to reenter a relationship (and, likewise, I have the confidence to remain unattached for as long as it takes me to find a relationship that I deem worthwhile) without fearing the consequences or trying to worry it into the shape I want it to take. If the worst happens, I know I’ll be okay. If the worst doesn’t happen — all the better. 🙂

    • Well said Kristina!

      Yeah, I had a lack of reciprocity built into my picker as well. Now people who want me to jump through flaming hoops for the smallest kindness? They suck. No point in investing energies here… move on.

      • Oh, I wanted reciprocity. I just didn’t understand what it looked like or that I could and should expect it. So I believed things were reciprocal, when really I was just bending myself into a pretzel trying to live into someone else’s vision of happiness. I didn’t allow myself a real voice — and there was my flaw. It is easy enough to say that the reciprocity wasn’t there after the thing has ended, but it is not easy to identify a lack of reciprocity at the jump. I’m better at identifying that now.

        I’m with Sara8 on something: In the early days, it feels like reciprocity, it feels sometimes like things are clicking. It feels like things are right and good and there are shared values and commonalities. So, in the early days of my marriage, for instance, I would have told you that I was happy and that we had a great relationship. And really right up until the point where the cheating occurred, I would have told you that we had a good thing, he was my best friend (I still do trust his opinion on many things, actually, I just don’t want to be married to him) and that we had an overall good relationship (except for the no sex, but I rationalized that by saying: it is what happens in mature marriages… in the, what did Sara8 call it? the “compassionate” phase of the marriage, people slow down on the desire for honeymoon sex etc.). But what the fuck ever!! That wasn’t a marriage that lived into my values, and my values include (but are not limited to) sex and lots of it. I personally want something other than a companionate marriage. That sounds like death to me, because I lived it.

        But the thing is — because overall things were okay, I thought I had reciprocity, I wasn’t tricked into that. I CREATED that illusion. I wasn’t being true to myself and my needs and I didn’t know how to speak up for them because honestly — I didn’t realize what they really were until after the marriage ended and I dug into who I am and what I want in life. There should have been no cheating, that was stupid and really beyond the pale, but before that there should have been no marriage. Today — I wouldn’t make that same choice, to marry him. I’m glad I did, I have my child and that’s the best thing to me ever. But given the same set of circumstances today I make a different choice.

        See, the thing is: I thought he’d be a good and safe bet, a good father. He absolutely is a great father. He is not a good husband. But safe and good is not reciprocity or shared values. I equated that with reciprocity, but really I was living what he wanted and trying and hoping that at some point I’d be good enough that he would finally deliver to me what made me happy. That would be impossible for anyone, because I didn’t know what would make me happy.

        • Well, I think you’re describing another one of the deadly chump sins — spackle. You created the illusion of reciprocity, contentment, without knowing what those things really meant, or felt like.

          And I also agree in the beginning, when everyone is on their best behavior, you’re seeing compatibility or even actual reciprocity (the wooing stage — which is why when people suck at wooing during dating, I’m like — RUN — it doesn’t get better. As my friend Donna once said — how hard is dating? It’s fucking and dining out.) I think these things reveal themselves over time, which is why it’s important not to rush into things and keep your eyes open (and your spackle knife sheathed).

          When you KNOW who you are, and what you will and will not tolerate, when you know your values and what kind of relationship you want, then it’s more apparent when things don’t fit. When the match is off. If you’re just inclined to go along, or have the hubris to think you can “fix” everything or mold people into better partners, that’s when it gets ugly.

          • Oh yes, that’s absolutely right.

            Talk about not knowing who I was. I absolutely did not. I was so enmeshed with my mother that in most of my relationships I was trying to model for her the life she thought she wanted and also trying to please my romantic partners (who were astonishingly similar in affect to her) and all the while I had NO idea what I liked or wanted or needed. I mean, down to my favorite color. I didn’t know if I liked red because I like it or because she liked it. That’s freakin’ scary, right? But THAT is the result of a massively codependent upbringing.

            And that is what made me very good at morphing into whatever the man in my life seemed to want. Except they were usually codependents too, so they didn’t really know what they wanted. And the cluster grew and grew.

            So… now that I feel okay and know what I like, and am learning about who I am, and am realizing that I’m a pretty cool person with lots of good to offer to the right person, I’m perfectly happy to NOT be with someone. I intend to be someday, but there’s no rush, because I no longer need someone to help me self define. I do that on my own. Now I’m on the lookout for someone who is himself well self defined, and who knows what he wants and shares my values.

            It really has been tremendously empowering. Unfortunately, I still make mistakes. I still tend towards a type that I need to stop finding attractive. haha. So I’m cautious. But not gun shy.

  • So glad you wrote this column, CL. You give advice that is SO spot-on, and expressed SO powerfully and eloquently, that I think we chumps can sometimes get the mis-impression that if we’re diligent we can learn things that will *ensure* we’re never victims in love again.

    Improving the picker improves the odds tremendously, and learning to recognize bad treatment allows us to minimize the damage when bad treatment begins. But we never eliminate the risk that loving with your whole heart entails. I accept that risk every day in my new marriage, gladly, with deep gratitude, and with absolute confidence in my wonderful wife and our marriage. My life is all the sweeter because I take nothing for granted anymore.

    Thanks again for making that clear.

    FWIW, I guess I’m in the minority for finding large portions of “Harold and Maude” creepy and off-putting. Age-inappropriate relationships, 8 suicide attempts (one successful), bad banjo playing? Ick. When are you going to illustrate a point using scenes from “O Brother Where Art Thou?” or beter yet the 2010 version of “True Grit?”

    • Also agreed that dating reformed chumps also increases the odds of not being chumped again, since narcissists and sociopaths and other such users do a good job of screening applicants for loyalty and good intentions.

      • I totally get what you guys are saying about chumps being a good choice. But oh man… be careful with that line of thinking. Because chumps cheat too, Nomar. Just saying. My ex is not a narcissist, he’s a codependent. Raging codependent. He enables and is enabled. It is a very strange thing he has going on.

        He was chumped in other relationships, and he cheated. I see tons of people who have been cheated on who then go on to cheat.

        But see, that’s where the entitlement thinking happens, and the beautiful land of: “this isn’t an affair, not really, this is different. This is soul matery.” Haha.

        It is always soul matery until someone gets caught. Then it is just a red hot mess.

        • Raging co-dependent? Who knew THAT combination was possible? Like a monster that’s half panda bear and half shark–the treacherous Panda Shark. Yikes!

          I know cheaters can go on to cheat, but I think that the ODDS are that a cheater (especially the victim of a serial cheater) will be less likely to travel that path. Just my gut sense. But your point that its always worth living with your eyes open is well taken.

          • Half panda half shark!! HAHAHAHAHA. Nomar, that cracks me up. But honestly, that’s how he is. He is the most passive aggressive human being that I’ve met, wrapped in the cloak of a perfectly nice seeming man, very mild mannered and sweet and seemingly agreeable. He’s agreeable as long as he is in control (or he perceives he is in control) and I am walking the walk that he thinks I should walk — the walk that makes HIM feel safe and comfortable, never mind what my needs are. He couldn’t give a fuck what my needs are. He cares about his needs and he needs me to make sure that they are met.

            You know, we all kind of cop to be a little codependent here. And I get that we definitely feel like we need to understand our own “whys”. But look, I’ve been around codependents all my life, starting with my mother. Hard core codependents. And it is not fun, and, moreover, I don’t think most of the people posting here even come close to being codependents. The ones who chose to reconcile, THOSE are the codependents.

            But just to be clear, when I’m talking about codependents this is the sort of person I mean (from CoDA “Traits of Codependency”

            Denial Patterns:

            I have difficulty identifying what I am feeling.
            I minimize, alter, or deny how I truly feel.
            I perceive myself as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well-being of others.
            I lack empathy for the feelings and needs of others.
            I label others with my negative traits.
            I can take care of myself without any help from others.
            I mask my pain in various ways such as anger, humor, or isolation.
            I express negativity or aggression in indirect and passive ways.
            I do not recognize the unavailability of those people to whom I am attracted.

            Low Self Esteem Patterns:

            I have difficulty making decisions.
            I judge what I think, say, or do harshly, as never good enough.
            I am embarrassed to receive recognition, praise, or gifts.
            I value others’ approval of my thinking, feelings, and behavior over my own.
            I do not perceive myself as a lovable or worthwhile person.
            I constantly seek recognition that I think I deserve.
            I have difficulty admitting that I made a mistake.
            I need to appear to be right in the eyes of others and will even lie to look good.
            I am unable to ask others to meet my needs or desires.
            I perceive myself as superior to others.
            I look to others to provide my sense of safety.
            I have difficulty getting started, meeting deadlines, and completing projects.
            I have trouble setting healthy priorities.

            Compliance Patterns:

            I am extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long.
            I compromise my own values and integrity to avoid rejection or anger.
            I put aside my own interests in order to do what others want.
            I am hypervigilant regarding the feelings of others and take on those feelings.
            I am afraid to express my beliefs, opinions, and feelings when they differ from those of others.
            I accept sexual attention when I want love.
            I make decisions without regard to the consequences.
            I give up my truth to gain the approval of others or to avoid change.

            Control Patterns:

            I believe most people are incapable of taking care of themselves.
            I attempt to convince others what to think, do, or feel.
            I freely offer advice and direction to others without being asked.
            I become resentful when others decline my help or reject my advice.
            I lavish gifts and favors on those I want to influence.
            I use sexual attention to gain approval and acceptance.
            I have to be needed in order to have a relationship with others.
            I demand that my needs be met by others.
            I use charm and charisma to convince others of my capacity to be caring and compassionate.
            I use blame and shame to emotionally exploit others.
            I refuse to cooperate, compromise, or negotiate.
            I adopt an attitude of indifference, helplessness, authority, or rage to manipulate outcomes.
            I use terms of recovery in an attempt to control the behavior of others.
            I pretend to agree with others to get what I want.

            Avoidance Patterns:

            I act in ways that invite others to reject, shame, or express anger toward me.
            I judge harshly what others think, say, or do.
            I avoid emotional, physical, or sexual intimacy as a means of maintaining distance.
            I allow my addictions to people, places, and things to distract me from achieving intimacy in relationships.
            I use indirect and evasive communication to avoid conflict or confrontation.
            I diminish my capacity to have healthy relationships by declining to use all the tools of recovery.
            I suppress my feelings or needs to avoid feeling vulnerable.
            I pull people toward me, but when they get close, I push them away.
            I refuse to give up my self-will to avoid surrendering to a power that is greater than myself.
            I believe displays of emotion are a sign of weakness.
            I withhold expressions of appreciation.

        • I can’t believe cheated go on to cheat. I can’t imagine someone would hurt once they have experienced the pain themselves. It’s a scary thought if you know many cheated that go on to cheat.

          • Baci — loads of people who have been cheated on go on to cheat. It is bad form, and really hard to imagine, I agree. You would think they would know better.

            They don’t. Often they feel entitled. Often they are still married to the people who cheated on them.

            Indeed, even here I’ve read people say that a “revenge affair” is not a great idea but probably the only kind of affair that is excusable.

            I think affairs are a self-betrayal, first and foremost, so I’m anti-affair. It isn’t worth it, no matter what the reasoning.

            • My brother was cheated on first and then years later he cheated. I don’t know the details of my former SIL’s affair other than it was someone she met at work. I know she did not want to divorce my brother. I always had the impression she truly loved him, but then again, how do you cheat on someone you love?

              She was raised a devout catholic and was one of those, “You stay married for the kids” believers. She made it her mission to make it up to him in every way possible. But she never truly succeeded. They stayed together for another 15 years. During that time, he met a woman at work. Both of them where married when they met. From what I understand they became very good friends first. She was married and pregnant when they met. She eventually divorced. My brother insisted they were just friends, but my SIL knew they were becoming romantically involved, The day their oldest graduated college, he left and moved in with OW.

              He and my SIL divorced. It was a pretty quick and painless split down the middle. He married the OW. But he kept THAT a secret from his grown kids and my SIL until a few months after. Because it happened so quickly I guess they knew everyone would know they had been lying about how long their involvement was.

              But you want to talk dysfunction? SIL tells me the day they signed their divorce papers they went back to their house and had the best sex they’ve ever had! Meanwhile his soon to be new bride is waiting for him to come home.

              I often wonder if they are gonna make it considering how their relationship began. To look at them, they are quite the love birds. Always pawing and fawning over each other. Like two teeny boppers. But my brother is definitely one of the most arrogant narcissistic people I’ve ever met.

              My family is nuts!

              • From Lasso of truth’s post: “But you want to talk dysfunction? SIL tells me the day they signed their divorce papers they went back to their house and had the best sex they’ve ever had! Meanwhile his soon to be new bride is waiting for him to come home. ”

                Ugh. That is dysfunctional. His new fiance is waiting for him and he is cheating with his divorced partner.

                That’s not a revenge affair, it’s just creepy.

                Also, If she was really making it up to him and behaving, he should have been more honest about not being able to reconcile, otherwise he is no better than his lying cheating wife was, while cheating.

                That is why I ended my marriage. I could never look at my ex husband the same way I did prior to the affair, and I could never trust him, so why bother.

                I do hear of people who were cheated on going on to cheat. Don’t understand it myself, but as someone else mentioned maybe it’s a cycle, like people whose parents abuse them, abusing their own kids.

                Then, too, maybe certain behaviors are genetically programmed.

          • Yes, Baci, my ex’s Ow was chummed too. Her husband cheated on her and ran off( and eventually married his much younger ow) what’s really sick is she’s always asking my kids how I’m doing, as she knows the pain soooo well! Yeah, not enough to stop her from doing it to someone else! Also tells my teenage daughters ‘that all men cheat, so they better get used to it!” I tell them that NO- all men DO NOT CHEAT and there are very good men out there and that they need to choose wisely!
            To me, this OW did not take the time and do the hard work that we chumps are doing. She went on and will only repeat the pattern and be chummed again by my ex. She did not resolve her issues and IMO is a raging codependent who is now in a relationship with a raging narc. I actually feel sorry for her now. She will only ever be an extension of him and after 23 yrs I know he doesn’t have much to give, only ‘stuff!’ So, the pattern continues and she drinks like a fish to numb out the pain!
            I took the time and am trying to fix myself. I have some codependency traits too, but was totally unaware he was cheating- if I had of known, I would have kicked his sorry ass out immediately and he knew that, but he was very stealthy, very good at it.

            • Chances are, if she’s a raging codependent who hasn’t done the work, she’ll be cheating on him too.

              They are living their karma. Until they clear it they will be doomed to repeat it.

              This is such a common pattern, Moving On. It really is. And her belief that “all men cheat” I think that’s projection. She knows that SHE cheats as a coping mechanism, so she projects that outwardly onto others. And, I would guess, given the psychological issues she seems to have, all of the men she brings into her own orbit DO cheat. Because she’s attracting what fits her pattern. She doesn’t really know any better and can’t imagine any better than what she has always known.

              As you said, she is not doing the hard work. That’s the bottom line.

              And the beauty part of it — no matter what she tells your girls, YOU are the one who is modeling the healthy process for them. Not your cheater husband who hooked up with a cheater himself. Not the cheater he hooked up with telling them that all men cheat. No, you showed them that, if they find themselves embroiled with a cheater, the logical and self-respecting move is to get the fuck out.

              Well done you!!!

            • Moving On:

              If I have learned anything from this infidelity experience, it is that NOT ALL MEN CHEAT.

              I have seen so many faithful, loyal hurt men posting on the infidelity boards, and it is obvious that NOT ALL MEN CHEAT.

              Cheating from women is on the rise though.

              • I think women always cheated too. It just wasn’t as publicized. I would bet that the statistics showing that more women are cheating these days are simply a reflection of more women admitting to cheating (or to men admitting they have been cheated on) that’s why it looks like more women are cheating.

                Look, historically there has always been cheating. Men always assumed their wives would cheat, that’s why elite men locked their wives up in houses to keep them out of the public eye. I mean, they literally locked them up in their homes and the only times they were let out was to go to church. And STILL there were obviously many situations where a wife turned up preggers by someone else, lots of times their priests/confessors. Seriously, read the Decameron. Boccaccio was not making that stuff up. That’s a reflection of real life.

                But historically there was a lot more shaming put on the back of men who were cheated on. And that was WRONG. Men who were cuckolded, in the past, were mocked and publicly shamed by things like the chiarivari. They were thought to have lost control over their households and as if they were less than men. In a milieu in which reputation was so very important, to be publicly shamed in that way as a man was absolutely deadly. It is little wonder that they would try to hide it.

                If you look at manor court records from the middle ages you see lots of times where a hue and cry was raised in a peasant village because a woman was “raped”. But very clearly she wasn’t raped, she was caught out in an affair. So her husband was called in front of the manor court to defend the credibility of the hue, that it was raised properly I mean. And to save face her husband, who was trying to reassert his standing as a man in control of his house, is standing in a court trying to convince them that the hue was raised legitimately. And all of his neighbors KNOW that he’s a cuckold. Sometimes they would say the hue was not raised properly, and that poor man would be a laughing stock for, sometimes, the rest of his life.

                Being in the workplace gives women a wider field of choice, but not necessarily more opportunity. Even if they didn’t work, they cheated with their neighbors they cheated with handymen, or the postman. They cheated. I mean, figure it out. All those married men who were cheating in the past were cheating with someone. They were cheating with, sometimes, single women, but they were also cheating with married women.

                Here’s the difference I see: More women today are leaving marriages (and maybe that’s to do with cheating or whatever). And I think that is a factor of being able to support themselves — and that IS a function of being in the workforce in more dominant ways. That is different.

                But cheating? They’ve always done it. They just kept it secret, the sneaks.

              • Thanks Krintina and Rose8,
                No, I have never believed that all men cheat and don’t want my girls to either. Can you believe telling that to two young girls? Maybe trying to justify her own behaviour! I agree though it could also be a projection. Anyway, I’m out now and will leave them to their own Karma. Yes, it’s frightening trusting another again, but I always knew it wasn’t me with the issues and I refused to let him take that away from me. I’ve been with another man for almost 2 yrs now, going slowly… But the difference is incredible. He has so much to give emotionally and at some point you have to trust again but only more wisely! What’s the ole saying? ” better to have loved and lost , than to have never loved ”
                Chump Lady is right about the reciprocal love- it really fills you up. I feel sorry for the chumps who can never trust again because of some disordered wingnut. You have to believe in your values and stick to them, but fix yourself first!

              • Women cheating is on the rise for sure. I know more betrayed men by a factor of 2 to 1 than betrayed women. And to back it up I live in a part of the U.S. where cheating is higher than the rest of the country. I heard a recent study state that the Boston area has a higher incidence of infidelity than the rest of the US. It’s not the progressive ideology, I think there are more educated selfish people here who are better at convincing themselves that they are wonderful. Despite all those summa cum laude degree’s they are still fucktaahds (pronounced in my NH/Boston accent).

              • Dave February 13, 2013 at 1:00 pm:
                Women cheating is on the rise for sure. I know more betrayed men by a factor of 2 to 1 than betrayed women. And to back it up I live in a part of the U.S. where cheating is higher than the rest of the country.


                I agree. Cheating is up for women and considered trendy. It’s almost like a game. On the cheaters sites, they talk about having an affair to have other men give them attention and buy them gifts and take them on dates.

                I do think that women always cheated because who were the men cheating with. But the women in the past weren’t actually looking to cheat.

                In addition, not only are more women planning to cheat, it’s considered fun and the women who don’t cheat are made to feel as if they are missing out.

                I also think the incidence of people cheating with the best friend of the loyal spouse is up, too.

                It coincides with the celebration of narcissistic traits in our society.

            • @Sara8 – Yes it is VERY creepy. To add another creepy dimension, after the divorce and my brother remarried, my SIL tells me that she got in touch with the guy she had affair with years ago. She told me I now think HE is the love of my life and he’s now facing his 2nd divorce. I said “well now that you’re both free why not try to get with him?” she said, “No that would crush you brother! Anybody but him!” Umm. my brother is now remarried to his OW, so WTF?

              People are soooo strange!

              I think my brother wasn’t honest about reconciling because they both worked full time and they needed every single penny they brought in. They both were very devoted to their kids. I don’t think they wanted to rock the financial boat, either of them. Plus my brother, like most cheaters, can’t be alone. He didn’t have someone else to go to. When he did find someone else, he had a new wife and new house to move right into. If he hadn’t met another who showed interest I think they’d still be married today. Even if miserable.

    • Well said nomar.. O Brother Where Art Thou is classic!!!!!
      Have not seen Harold and Maude. To be honest I agree the grandma-grandson ages relationship is very creepy. Will check it out and give my assessment.
      My all time favorite is “Auntie Mame” starring Rosalind Russell. So awesome!!!
      “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death.”-Mame Dennis

  • Kristina, that’s one of the best posts on cheating I’ve read. My wife was (I thought) a wonderful person when I met her 20 years ago, thing is, she was adopted and raised by a schizophrenic mother with Borderline Personality Disorder. She was thousands in debt, jobless, and living with friends at the age of 25.

    I ignored it all and paid off her debt. The problems started with her being jealous of my 10 & 8 y.o. sons from a prior marriage, and when our daughter was born 11 years ago, I could see the wheels coming off the wagon.

    She left me last May and is living with a 60 y.o. fellow cheater (she’s 44). Divorce is final in 3 weeks and she’s making overtures about a return, she actually invited me over for dinner last week! (OM was at work).

    I picked horribly. Nearly killed me and when I filed in August I said definitely no more marriying for me. But reading your post has really put things in the correct perspective. I have worked on myself these past several months, being happy with who I am, enjoying being single and my autonomy, and not NEEDING a romantic relationship.

    When I’m ready, I’ll be in a far better position to “pick” than I was 20 years ago.

    • Thanks Jeff!

      Your wife, sadly, didn’t stand a chance. A mother like that is deadly to the mental health of the child. That is so sad to me. Of course I do believe that at a certain point, regardless of our upbringing, we have a choice as sentient adult human beings to stand up and really fix the thing we can — which is ourselves.

      h lord! Jealous of your children? Jealousy is such a total waste of time and an absolutely huge indicator of personal insecurity. I bet she had an ego the size of the globe, too. *EYES*

      I think I’m done being married, honestly. I just want to live in passionate sin with someone for the rest of my life. 🙂 But I think I’ll be better at picking that guy too, just like you said. I’m smarter about it now.

      • Kristina,

        I feel the same way about remarriage, at least right now. I’m not sure why I would do it again. But I would like another significant relationship. And I guess who knows, maybe the right guy could convince me.

    • Jeff
      Stay strong bro. Identical situation with ex going to older man. It does nearly kill you but hey look you survived. Some woman out there is going to be a very lucky woman in deed

  • Two years after DDay I felt I was ready to date – the first time in 29 years! By a fluke I ran into I guy I had met sometime ago at a gym. Back then he played racquetball with my ex. He snapped me up as friends said & I felt that he was just what I was looking for: single, good job, college educated, owned his own home, was good to his elderly parents, sense of humor, athletic, good cook, etc.

    After 5 months I realized that my “picker” needed some tuning. He wasn’t there emotionally, was selfish, seeing him was always on his time not mine. His longest relationship was a year & that was with a flight attendant that he saw only on the weekend. It hit me that being a bachelor at age 52 is a sign that he really doesn’t “want” a woman in his life & that he was set in his ways. What I’m saying is that he was excellent on paper but the sign was there & I didn’t see it. It was the first time out of the chute for me & now I hope the picker is fixed.

  • Thanks for the article, CL!

    Yeah, I don’t believe you can “affair-proof” your marriage… and to me, it sounds like trying to do so would be a futile pain in the ass that would rob the relationship of any potential happiness. Even if I’d stayed in my marriage, I would have had to give up the monitoring, etc. at some point.

    But like others have said, I think because I’ve learned more about myself and about what I expect/want/need in a partner, I can at least mitigate some of the chances of cheating. Or of me being in a serious relationship with a cheater I guess I should say. I know now to be more attuned to red flags and to actually take some of these “smaller” things seriously. No more spackling over them!

  • I agree, CL. I don’t think there’s such a thing as affair-proofing a marriage, especially with a serial cheater.

    My STBX cheated on me six months into the relationship and never stopped. At six months, the sex was new and there were still butterflies (at least for me), we lived apart (so he had lots of space and freedom) and I was 26 years old and in good shape. There was really nothing more I could have done. I had friends and a life. He just sucked, as you’d say.

    I’ve come to realize it was him all along. He is the broken one, not me. He made the bad choices and ran this into the ground, not me. And there was nothing I could have done about any of it. He just sucked big time.

  • Love it.

    I am a firm believe God gives some people the gift of singleness.

    I am most assuredly not one of those people.

    You were the first person to suggest my faith in my husband was not somehow an “evil”, not somehow “of the bad”, not somehow responsible for our marriage falling apart.

    Now I understand that we never had a marriage. We had an abuser and a punching bag. (Guess which one I was?)

    In some ways I still feel like he’s holding me hostage. Over the weekend, a friend suggested I explore the possibility of de-programming, or the help of a licensed hypnotherapist. She explained it as the mental health equivalent to surgery. I kinda feel like I’ve made as much of an escape as I can by myself, while we still share a child.

    And I don’t want to take our child away from him–though I’d really like to see him show more maturity than our daughter. Maybe live in a safe house, instead of a place that’s already been robbed once? Ironically, it would mean lower rent somewhere smaller & safer.

    Sorry, going off target again. My brain still feels like oatmeal most days.

    Thank you for suggesting the capacity for trust and integrity is not pathological.

  • This post is regarding the discussion of going from cheated on to cheater:
    So in other words: Unless you do the inner work to move out of chumpville, you will be the sad victim that attracts more of the same.
    Cheated on that become cheaters sound like they take all of their issues, wrap it in bitterness and their baggage into the next relationship. After the horrendous pain and overwhelming grief I went through after getting cheated on, there is NO WAY I would ever do that to someone else. No person, no encounter, no situation is worth emotionally killing your family/spouse/partner and loved ones for. Chumps, do the work. Kristina made good points about working on your inner self. Others about childhood conflicts, and then all of us here at Chump Lady are dealing with being cheated on. How to trust? How to make ourselves vulnerable to love/be loved again? Get healthy first before delving into anything new. We then just might be attracting good things and good/solid people by the positive energy we send out.
    Chump Lady really made a good point: fellow chumps that GET IT are most likely the best match ups. They won’t take the relationship for granted and understand the devestation of what cheating brings upon you. There is a maturity and realness in people that survive then thrive after infidelity.

  • affair proofing is crap.

    a shit load of narcissistic misconceptions .

    one of these that i heard is that if a man is MAN enough that his wife will never cheat.

    if cheater would just be honest they would just say they get a primal thrill out of cheating

    • Agreed. Without the deception and games it’s no fun because then suddenly it’s just another relationship — and we know how much those narcissistic cake eaters hate those!

    • “one of these that i heard is that if a man is MAN enough that his wife will never cheat.”
      Really?????? What moron said this?? Geez, talk about kicking a guy when he is down. What a crock statement!! That makes me furious!!!

      A cheater being honest? Have not seen that one yet.

  • Rose

    ive heard it many sure other men have heard it too.

    if you dont want to be cuckolded you better be a REAL man, a MANLY better take care of bizzness in the bedroom and the better bring home the beacon and wear the pants in the better make sure that everyone respects you and dont let it get around that you have a soft better keep everyone on their toes and dont ever let her see you stopping to consider if sometime discretion is the better part of better be a man of valor well able to handle himself .if you dont want her to be fantasizing about other men you better be a man that other women want and be an Alpha male … much truth is there in this? where would men get these kinds of ideas?who do young highschool and colledge women prefer to date? computer nerds or jocks?and dont get me wrong, what catches mens eyes in women is equally vain. imo the conditions that cause attraction are too often so vain that attraction all too often trump the true value of loyalty and fidelity 🙁

    read what Kristine wrote

    actually these are old notations that i heard long before i was married.

    the kind of attitudes that propagate this kind of thinking might have been useful during paleolithic times.on the african savanna or in primeval europe ,caveman days.

    but i honestly believe this kind of thing spells Doom for a civilized society.

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