Stay in Touch

Check out CL's Book

Boundaries. Does anyone have them?

A comment from yesterday’s post by another Erica:

I do worry about having trust issues in the future… because you can’t prevent them from ever interacting with someone of the opposite sex. But I definitely will have a discussion about boundaries and make sure we’re on the same page. And I won’t be made to feel crazy/mean again. If I have a problem like that and he won’t alter his relationship and understand where I’m coming from then I’m outta there. I don’t need to become paranoid jealous or go through this shit again.

Question: what do you do if you know another woman/man is crossing boundaries and your SO isn’t responding (yet)? Like would you actually ask your SO to make a significant change (like change jobs or something) just to get out of that persons presence?

Good question.

The problem isn’t with the situation — the work environment, the inappropriate co-worker who flings themselves at your SO — the issue is your SO’s boundaries, or lack thereof. What signals they’re sending out. Are they receptive to the attention? Seek it out? Or are they solidly oblivious? Indifferent? Amused but unmoved?

If you pick the right person, IMO, this is a non-issue in future relationships. Just like you wouldn’t want to be the marriage police in reconciliation with a cheater, you don’t want to have to be the boundary police in your future relationships. While, of course, there are no guarantees in life — I cannot tell you with absolutely certainty that a future SO won’t cross that line — I can tell you it’s not an inevitability either (as in, isn’t responding… “yet”) A person of good character isn’t going to go there.

We all like ego kibbles. Problems arise when you’d sell your soul (or your spouse) to get them. After you’ve been with a narcissist, you have to readjust to normal people, who don’t have gaping chasms of neediness. Who don’t require endless admiration and ego bolstering. Heck, there are folks (I hear Minnesota is full of them) who squirm at flattery (what do you want from me?) and rebuff compliments. Although you don’t want to tip over the edge towards Amish (i.e., buttons are “prideful”), some reticence and suspicion of the sparkly is a good thing.

Some tips on finding someone you can trust? Err on the side of the clueless. When I was dating my husband, a female client he had won a settlement for, used the money to take a cruise with her girlfriends — and then sent him a framed picture of them all — in bikinis — holding a banner that said “Thank you.” A bold, attention-getting stratagem for sure. And hey, he was a cute, single lawyer then, who can blame her? But he had to ask his friend — a Franciscan — if this woman was flirting with him. When the friend said “DUH” and “yes” — he threw the picture out. And that was the end of it.

If my husband had been a jerk, he could’ve played this in a lot of shitty ways. a) Cake eating. Chatted up Miss Bikini, see where it goes while dating me. b) Passive aggressive. Kept the picture and not mentioned it to me, until one day I stumbled upon the thing in his office and go “who the hell is THAT?” c) Goaded me into the “pick me” dance. He could’ve mentioned the incident, talked on about it, how attractive the bikini was, and oh, gosh, it’s such a problem having all these adoring clients. Tried to get me to dissolve into a puddle of insecurity, and work harder to “win” him.

But he’s a good guy. He didn’t do any of that. If you’re dating someone who plays any of those games? Dump them. People who feed on ego kibbles couldn’t resist any of those mindfucks. They’re so deliciously manipulative, and often amp up the kibble manufacturing. A solid person doesn’t need any of that nonsense. So, date for character, always.

Also, I would say, I think it helps to be a chump. I’m a chump, my husband is a chump — and so we get what it’s like to be disrespected. Before this devolves into a discussion that chumps can be jerks too, IMO infidelity leaves you wiser about boundaries. I know before I was cheated on, I was okay with things that I would never be okay with now — friendships with ex-boyfriends, drinks alone with a male co-worker, etc. While I didn’t cheat, I didn’t have the firmest boundaries either, in that youthful desire to be “cool” with everything. I also know what the red flags are about someone I’m dating, whereas again, before infidelity, I was either naive and clueless, or I swallowed my feelings of discomfort because I didn’t want to come off as insecure.

Secure people have boundaries. They know who they are and what their values are. When you have boundaries and know who you are, you’ll be better at spotting folks who are similar to you, and rejecting yahoos who aren’t worthy of your time and attention.

In short, aE, relax. Don’t borrow trouble. Good people exist. If they aren’t good, that will become apparent, and you’ll know what to do. You’ll dump them and move forward.


Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Interesting, CL.

    I always thought my boundaries were well placed, and to an extent, still do. I knew that it wasn’t the “client in a bikini” that made promises to me, took vows, and if my ex truly had good boundaries the bikini clad would not turn his head. So I trusted. And we all know the rest…..

    The interesting part is, for a while, he tried to blame my lack of jealousy for his cheating. As in; if I had shown more concern about where he was and who he was with he somehow wouldn’t have felt the need to cheat.

    A load of crap, I know… but maybe your comment about setting firmer boundaries rather than trying to be “cool” is correct. I still don’t think that a truly good person would succumb, or at least I hope not. But you have given me food for thought.

    aErica……. I, too, have all sorts of misgivings about how to move forward. It seems almost impossible to ever trust, not only someone else, but my own judgment, again. It’s been just over a year since I left, and I am getting a little better, but usually, just when I think I might want to get close to someone else again, I shut down. I do have hope that it will get better.

    • Oh, that’s a special mindfuck — you didn’t keep me on a short enough leash, and so THAT’s why I cheated. Like, you’re supposed to keep his boundaries for him. Another twist on the “I didn’t think you’d care!” (because you’re so neglectful, etc.) or “You’re just so independent, I didn’t think you needed me.”

      Making trust, or self-sufficiency, the problem. Not their behavior.

    • tamara,

      yeah, I’m that way too… with going back and forth between being ready and pulling back. Sometimes I think it is cause I’m an amazon chump kind of chump, over-analyzing everything. Instead of just giving stuff a try. Like this question I asked where I am imagining future trouble with a significant other before I even have a blip of another relationship on the horizon 🙂

      • Another excellent blog from CL that raises many issues.

        My ex also did the mindfuck thing about claiming he thought I wouldn’t care or wouldn’t be jealous because I was never a snooper and gave him lots of freedom to do things with the boys or without me.

        That freedom and non-snooping will change going forward, if I ever bother to seek out another relationship and that is a big if because I don’t think anyone can ever guarantee that they will pick the right person……or a non cheater type.

        I have read on support forums where so many people who have been cheated on remarry and than cheat on their new marriage partner.

        It surprises me, but then I wonder if they need ego strokes now after being so damaged by their former cheating spouse. IMO, it still wrong and a tad sick to go through the pain of being cheated on and then turn around and cheat on a new spouse.

        But it happens……..a lot, too.

        My ex was cheated on, by his first serious girlfriend, and he also seemed to have excellent boundaries and was always suspiscious of someone who gave him too many compliments. But then he met his ‘ho who was sparkly and all to hot and horny an all too blatant about looking for an affair and all that went right out the window.

        That’s one reason, why I may never bother to marry again.

        Personally, I think there is a very very very ( did I say very) small percentage of people, particularly men, who are immune to a ‘ho who is shoving seemingly no strings extra curricular sex in their face.

        And there are a lot of women out there looking for affairs, these days. It’s considered cool and edgy. To me it’s demeaning, but I am not the average women.

        I think believing we can actually pick a guy who will never cheat is a little naive and somewhat head in the sandish.

        I really thought I picked a guy who would never cheat based on all he said and did, and based on the fact that he had been hurt by his first serious girlfriend cheating on him, but I was oh so sadly wrong.

        My ex really does have good character too. Just ask anyone. ….our clients, his friend, the guy he sold his car to, and pointed out every single possible defect so the guy would have no surprises.

        He cares deeply about everyone’s feelings, too. ….except mine, I guess.

        When, I mentioned to my friend that I must have been wrong in thinking that my ex seemed liked the last husband who would ever cheat or be going to strip clubs behind my back, She just looked at me sadly and said, you weren’t wrong, I thought the same thing about him, and so did all our mutual friends.

        She went on to detail a discussion some of them had about what a scary thing that was because if Sara’s ex could cheat, and we all thought he wasn’t that type, how can any of them trust their own husbands.

        So, I think thinking we can actually pick a guy who won’t cheat is a false sense of security.

        I think going forward we all need to play a bit of the detective and warden with our spouses.

        As I mentioned prior there are studies about a little suspicion and jealousy being a good thing for a marriage.

        It’s called mate guarding and it DOES prevent cheating. Just something to think about lest we all get too complacent.

        • Mate guarding sounds like a dreadful idea, and I don’t believe what we do as chumps “prevents” cheating. We ONLY get to control ourselves. Enforce our own boundaries. Maybe enforcing a boundary like “it’s not cool with me for you to go for drinks with single women” is what you call “mate guarding.” I just hate the idea of policing another person. It’s OKAY to trust people! Trust is essential for intimacy! There are no relationships without vulnerability and risk.

          Also, while I know some chumps turn cheater, I have to say I’ve read on boards for 7 years, and I think this is very rare, especially outside the context of a revenge affair. I certainly don’t see it as a common thing, and to me it sounds like the slippery slope towards “oh, everyone is a cheater.” I think we’re too casual about cheating, yes. (I see cheating as bullying and abusive and wish people would see it in the same repugnant terms). But I do NOT think most people are cheaters. Lots of good people out there. You can only shore up yourself.

          • Agree with you on the mate guarding, CL. I can’t imagine either guarding a mate or being involved with someone who would feel it necessary for their own sanity to guard me. I can maintain my own boundaries, thank you, I do not require help from someone who is meant to be my partner.


            With respect to the cheated turned cheater — you have to read the infidelity support boards to find them. They typically go there. And they are some of the most unrepentent of all. Because they REALLY feel entitled. But usually they are people who have chosen to “reconcile” for “the kids” or to maintain a certain lifestyle or whatever it is that they are doing, but then are miserable and use the affair to make their marriages palatable.

            I belong to a support forum that is for women only and that encourages moving through toxic relational situations (not just romantic, but also work related and friendships that are toxic) and we have a few women on that board who are really struggling to get back on track and are in a similar situation.

            I think you would be really surprised at the number of former BSs who end up cheating. It really is quite tragic.

            • It does sound tragic. And I think it is the only way I could have stayed in after how my husband responded (ie. made no real attempt to make amends or reconcile in any real way)… but I would have had to be a different kind of woman to do it… one who could start just fucking around as well and let my husband fuck around and live some kind of trashy drama-filled soap opera life. The thought of that is pretty disgusting. But I’d have more money! Whoopee! And the kids would have both parents together. Parents that are miserable together and are essentially abusing each other. So, instead I left.

              • AE, that’s precisely right. And it is the tack I (and other members of my support forum) have taken a number of times with people in toxic relationships of all sorts.

                It is like they get stuck in this trap of thinking: “okay, well, at least both parents are here together…” but they aren’t. They aren’t “here” and they aren’t “together”. But definitely the finances are better, that is just the truth in those situations.

                And to me, that’s pathetic. Because then you are putting a price on your dignity. And cheating is so self disrespectful. Take the spouse out of the equation for a minute, it is SO self destructive to behave that way, that as soon as there is cheating it is a huge red flag for self examination.

          • Hi Cl

            Yes. I consider enforcing a boundary as mate guarding as well as insisting on transparency.

            I never stopped my ex from chatting with other women.

            I didn’t even care if he went to lunch with an attractive prospective client, when he could have met her at the office. I thought it was a somewhat normal way to do business.

            I also never demanded to know where he was going when he claimed to be going out with his friends. He had his cell phone, and I could call, but that really doesn’t tell anyone anything other than the guy answered his phone.

            At doccool’s original site, before it change to being non-supportive of cheaters, there were many posts where cheaters eventually revealed that they had been cheated on in a prior marriage. They didn’t advertise it, but if you followed certain threads, it was mentioned.

            I used to haunt DocCool’s site, trying to figure out the mindset of a cheater.

            The same on Talk about marriage. There were quite a few. Enough of them for me to be shocked by it. It seems weird.

            • Sara8, your ex sounds exactly like mine. I realized he is a covert narcissist. Google it. Took my 25 years to figure him out. Coverts are the worst kind. They don’t present like run of the mill narcissists.

  • I hate to say this, but…my husband before and after we were married never responded to the kibbles, never gawked or carried on about or with other women. Never responded to flirting etc.
    BUT….I found out that he probably acts differently when I am not around.
    Little things started to come out. Like he and I are walking through a store, I am in front. A woman is coming towards us and she smiles at me with an odd look on her face. Or she smiles past me. (I figured out he was smiling at them behind my back). Then one time in the car, we were stopped at a light and I saw him use his side view mirror to give the female driver behind us the “approval wink and nod”. The types of things that happen so fast and you’re out of the situation right away that I start to think I was imaging it.
    No use in asking him, because he is the type to look at you and lie about stealing cookies with his hand still lodged in the jar.

    Anyway, once I get out of this situation, I am staying single. Thankfully I’m old enough my hormones won’t trick me!!


    • My X used to do this to me while walking RIGHT next to me, in the store, on the street, he thought he was slick too, but it was just a feeling that came over me, even that or I would see her make eye contact back. Sick bastard, made me feel crazy, suspicious too… I’m doing all the things that I should, and not crying nearly so much but I feel like a puppy that keeps getting hit on the nose with a newspaper everytime I have memories of stuff like this….=(

      • well, I was clueless about this. But just the other day my old boss I got together with after I told him about the cheating said he used to see my STBX checking out other women a lot. Great. Where was this information 5 years ago? Of course, if people won’t even rat out a cheater, they’re hardly going to rat out a guy for LOOKING.

        • I really like this post and have been reflecting on the ‘odd look’ thing. And you know what? I remember early in our relationship, before we married, I would sometimes get weird looks from women and when I asked STBX about it he would always come up with these crazy explanations that made no sense. I figure now that it was just more lies and he thought the nuttier the explanation the less likely I would be to quesiton it.

    • Jane:

      I agree. Your best defense against being stuck married to a cheater is to just not bother to marry.

      I don’t think I will, either. Just like you.

      Cheaters can be so deceptive, you will have to be psychic to pin one.

      • IMO, you’re missing out. Don’t marry if you don’t want to. But I find it very sad when people are so cynical about marriage and good people still existing. There are MANY ways to be happy post-infidelity, but why rule out another relationship?

        Also, I find it prideful to think “hey, everyone is a cheater” which ergo means “I am one of the ONLY good people that exist.” Nonsense. Plenty of chumps and good folk out there.

        • I am not ruling out another relationship.

          I just think that someone who doesn’t cheat given the societal mores of the day, is a very rare find, indeed.

          I also think people change, because they may be influenced by society or the way friends or coworkers behave or the way a woman or man may come on to them a tad too aggressively.

          There are good people out there. I agree. You are one. I am one. There are lots of people here that are good. But the people posting here are are few and they are just a blip on the radar.

          If there were a million people posting against cheating, I might be encouraged, but it seems the cheater’s sites have the biggest crowd, these days.

          • yeah, I’m not ruling out another relationship, but I am very unsure if I would marry again.

            As far as marriage is concerned in general I am now no longer sure I do believe many people can live happily together for an entire lifetime now that our lives are so much longer and we no longer need to be REALLY dependent on a someone else for survival. I am actually reading a fascinating book called “Marriage, a history: how love conquered marriage” (I’m not too far along though yet). Marriage was invented for survival and for expanding social networks (making peace with other tribes, etc.), eventually for passing down wealth and on and on. Apparently the concept of marriage really has evolved over thousands of years and our current ideal has really only been in existence for maybe the last couple hundred years. Before that the husband-wife relationship was not the end all be all (and generally marriage was barely about feelings at all). I think that current married couples (myself included) tend to isolate themselves and depend on their spouse for too much. They expect the spouse to fulfill them in ways that no one person can.

            I just doubt that somebody in their early twenties has a clue (myself included) about how to pick a spouse and what is involved in marriage. In fact, it took going through this crap to realize that I had lost myself in my marriage. I would be tempted to say later marriages have a much better chance of being happy, just due to added maturity on both sides and the fact that you have grown as an individual before the marriage and are less likely to sacrifice it within the marriage. But for having kids you really should marry younger. So it’s a catch-22.

            If I do marry again, I will have a much much different relationship than my first marriage. First, I will really maintain my individuality more. I will be happier if I’m still pursuing what makes me happy as an individual. And if I’m not constantly with my husband we can’t suffocate each other either. Second, hopefully no cheating 🙂

            • Another Erica:

              Good points.

              I was not one of those women that was ALWAYS with there husband. We did have our own interests and even a few separate friends that were not couples’ friends.

              To my mind that is was led to the cheating. He had too much freedom, and was the selfish type.

              I had freedom, but chose to remain faithful.

              I don’t know what the answer is. It’s all so confusing.

              The most confusing is that I don’t think it matters what the loyal spouse does. I don’t know why the counselors keep beating this drum.

              IMO, if someone is going to cheat, they will.

              I don’t think that outside of the personality disordered who will almost definitely cheat, that a person can predict who will cheat or what type of marriage is vulnerable to infidelity.

              • Sarah you said this: “The most confusing is that I don’t think it matters what the loyal spouse does. I don’t know why the counselors keep beating this drum.

                IMO, if someone is going to cheat, they will.”

                You are spot on about what you just said there. Do you believe it though?

                Sara, I have to ask this, because based on some of the stuff you’ve posted I have a sad suspicion that someone in your life, maybe your counselor or your husband (obviously diregard that), or some family member or something, tried to pin this on you in some way — or that you feel that they were saying it was somehow your fault. Or that at some level you’ve in some way internalized that you had something to do with the fact that he cheated.

                I mean, I know you *say that you know* that you couldn’t have prevented him cheating, but do you really know that you couldn’t have done anything to prevent this and, moreover, that his choice to cheat was his choice alone and had nothing to do with you and what you did or didn’t do?

                I think that many BSs say up and down: “I know it is not my fault…” but somewhere in our heads we think: “well, if I had only….” or “If only I hadn’t…” But that’s not right. We could not stop them doing what they did. Only they could have stopped themselves and they did not want to. We do not figure into their thinking at all when they are having an affair. That’s sad and really disheartening, but that is the truth. They are thinking only of themselves.

                I think the risk is that if we carry over the idea that we had some fault in them making the choice to cheat, then going forward we can actively do something that will prevent us getting hurt again in that same way. But we can’t do that. We can only protect ourselves from a boundary perspective, seek out others who share our values, insofar as it is apparent, and when it becomes apparent that we don’t share values then we get ourselves out of relationships that are not to our best interests instead of hang in there and redraw our boundaries again and again.

                Can we improve our ways of communicating our needs? Can we change the things about us that allowed us to get involved with people who, instead of having the balls (or ovaries) to say: “Hey, I’m unhappy, I want a divorce” decided that the best way to get attention was to cheat? Yes, we can do that by shoring up our boundaries. That’s the path to safety.

                But Sara, if you are taking on some of this blame, please don’t do that my friend. You don’t deserve that kind of treatment from yourself.

              • I was only married once, he passed away. I was with this horrible, horrible person that has done this to me for 12 years. Legally married?…NO. If for one second I thought he would repeatedly damage me with cheating, financial ruin, hurting my children, turning people/ talking trash against me?, I would have to say a resounding NO NO NO.

                I think no matter what I upheld the “common law” marriage mindset that he would not try and strip me of everything I hold dear and bet on my being destroyed by this.

                Confused? More than I can ever say…sooo…I would love to read that book some day Ae if I ever feel up to it, I have a feeling I thought we had some sort of common level of agreement on support (gag). Let me know how it is….

              • Hi Kristina:

                No psychologists directly blamed me. They simply pulled the worn out stuff about affairs don’t happen in a vacuum, we need to look at the marriage holistically.

                I don’t think that is unusual. I hear that a lot.

                That to me implies blame to the loyal spouse. When, I heard that, I picked another shrink post haste.

                I don’t think you need to worry about me. IMO, you need to worry about the people who actually think that they can pick a better person. A person who won’t cheat.

                I have been told by friends that I am excellent at reading people. Likely due to my past careers. Some even joked that I was psychic because I was so spot on about some people.

                I am not psychic, though, just good at picking up cues, thin slicing, and I am also extremely observant, as I had to be in past careers.

                With my ex, though, I missed all the cues. I felt weird about that for awhile, until, I started talking to my friends. They missed the cues, too.

                So, my point is, even some who is not NPD or a psychopath can lead a double life.

                I think it is unhealthy to think we PICKED WRONG. Or our pickers were broken. That is self blame.

                The truth is that people change over time. The person you married may have been the person you thought he/she was, but over time they are influenced by society or the media, or friends, and they change.

                Still, you trusted them, and continue to blindly trust. I mean seriously, you are suppose to be able to trust your spouse, right?

                So it’s not so much that we picked wrong, It’s just that we didn’t put the boundaries in place in the beginning. We were to trusting. It’s somewhat naive to trust anyone, really, IMO, at this point.

                I don’t think that is cynical, just realistic.

                Are we to blame for being too trusting with a mate? No. But the fact is we were, and I think we all need to face that.

                Marrying another chump may work for awhile, until he/she is influenced by friends, or the media or an affair partner that is just too pushy.

                One psychologist was quoted as saying that he worries more about the person who was cheated on as being the person more prone to future infidelity than the person who did the cheating. So marrying someone whose spouse cheated is not a guarantee that the person, understanding the pain of infidelity, will never cheat.

                Based on some of what I read at Talk about marriage and Doccool, I think that psychologist’s observation may be accurate. That is why if I bother to date, I will be reluctant to date someone who was cheated on.

                Also, personally, when I meet some man who has been cheated on, they seem too risky to date, they are very wounded and very vulnerable to ego kibbles, IMO.

                These men also seem somewhat withholding. Having been taken financially by a cheating ‘ho wife, I find some of them to appear to be rather cheap when they talk about dating or a future wife.

                I am not a gold digger, but I am not interested in someone who is so damaged by being taken by his ex ‘ho wife, that he is going to be too cheap, if we date.

                Just my two cents.

              • Oh sheesh! Sarah, I was just talking about this in another posting:

                You said: “I am not psychic, though, just good at picking up cues, thin slicing, and I am also extremely observant, as I had to be in past careers. ”

                Eeek! Okay, this borders on narcissistic thinking. Not saying YOU are a narcissist, obviously. But this idea that we have a special ability to parse others and really read others like books and all the rest, it is a set up. Yes of course, some people CAN do this. People are usually creatures of habit and they are who they are. Until they are not. And I abosolutely agree with you that people can and do change things up. Humans are the variable.

                I think that counselors who blame spouses are wrong. I think counselors who try to point out an unhealthy existing dynamic are spot on. That does not mean anyone should cheat, it just means that in order for things to be healthy going forward, there has to be pretty big changes all the way around. But it is sometimes hard for BSs to see that, especially when they thought their marriage was awesome ahead of that.

                I was not one of those BSs. My marriage flat out sucked ahead of cheating. It was unhealthy. That doesn’t mean it was my fault he cheated. It means that we had a codependent relationship that was unhealthy and he acted out in one way while I acted out in others. No point in trying to fix that, though. I could never trust him again.

                Anyway, not about me. I’m glad you don’t take on undue responsibility. I wish for your happiness in the future and you sound like you have things well under control. Good for you!!

              • From Kristina’s post: Kristina March 5, 2013 at 10:31 am

                [Oh sheesh! Sarah, I was just talking about this in another posting:

                You said: “I am not psychic, though, just good at picking up cues, thin slicing, and I am also extremely observant, as I had to be in past careers. ”

                Eeek! Okay, this borders on narcissistic thinking. Not saying YOU are a narcissist, obviously. But this idea that we have a special ability to parse others and really read others like books and all the rest, it is a set up. Yes of course, some people CAN do this. ]


                do you realize you totally misinterpreted what I said. (I.e I didn’t say I was psychic which I agree is magical thinking and NPd. I said in due to prior careers (and said training ) I have been labeled by others as good at reading people. ) And, then you totally contradicted your own statement by saying some people can do this.

                So, my question is huh!

                I don’t have the answers, that what confused means. Being confused is afar and away from the black and white thinking that most NPDs own.

                As for pyschology, it’s a soft science. It is in flux continually, based on opinions of the likely psych pros who think that they alone brilliantly have all the answers at the moment they are on the board that revises the Diagonsotic statistical manual of mental disorders.

              • Kristina said in her posting: {I think that counselors who blame spouses are wrong. I think counselors who try to point out an unhealthy existing dynamic are spot on. That does not mean anyone should cheat, it just means that in order for things to be healthy going forward, there has to be pretty big changes all the way around. But it is sometimes hard for BSs to see that, especially when they thought their marriage was awesome ahead of that.}

                I was not one of those BSs. My marriage flat out sucked ahead of cheating. It was unhealthy. That doesn’t mean it was my fault he cheated. It means that we had a codependent relationship that was unhealthy and he acted out in one way while I acted out in others. No point in trying to fix that, though. I could never trust him again.

                I have no argument with your observation that your marriage sucked.

                Maybe you are spot on. I don’t know. Maybe you’re just too willing to take blame. Maybe your expectations of the perfectness of any marriage is unrealistic. I haven’t a clue about your marriage. I wasn’t there. I never saw you two interact.

                But you do realize that no marriage is perfect? right?

                And yes, as has often been noted in books about infidelity, even good marriages or more precisely “good enough marriages” are prone to infidelity.

                Not all cheating takes places in a marriage that sucks. They do sometimes take place in a marriage where one partner has unrealistic expectations of a marriage or what a good one is. That marriage often does not suck.

                Sorry yours did. But if so, I imagine you were not blindsided by the cheating.

  • This has gotten me thinking: I think my boundaries (or lack thereof) were a bit like yours, CL: I would stay in tough with old flames and although I was open about it I don’t think it helped keep things stable. I knew I would never go anywhere with it but not everyone sees that. As far as drinks with work colleagues, I work in a rather social field, where people would be on trips and having drinks after a hard day’s work. The thing is, I brought all those people (and their SO’s) to our home so STBX knew them. He never brought those people home as time went on, I now realise. He kept his work life totally separate from his home life…and therein lies the trouble. He knew everyone in my life. As the years passed I think I knew less and less people, now that I think about it.

      • WEirdly, I was always telling friends who were dating that if they hadn’t met at least one or two friends after a few dates then it would be a red flag. But this happened so slowly in our relationship. At first we knew everyone in each other’s lives and then, over time, that changed. Just like everything else. So weird that I didn’t notice it.

        • Man…. I tried to explain this to someone just the other day. He was spouting the usual rhetoric about abuse (and, as we all know, cheating is abuse) and wonderment at how an abused spouse could ever find themselves in that situation. I tried to explain how insidious it is… how methodical an abuser is. It’s never just…. OK, everything is ok, then out of the blue I’m going to hit you (cheat on you). There’s a pathology involved that if you’ve never seen, you have no idea how it works. There’s specific grooming of the chump. Isolation. These people are masters at their craft… at least mine was, and from what I read here, most of them are.

          • Or as my therapist described it: he kept pushing my bottom line lower and lower, until it reached the point where I think he would have been quite happy to stay in the marriage while openly having side pieces, if I had been willing to go along with it.

            The boiling frog analogy works as well. It doesn’t start out all crazy, it happens in increments and so slowly that you don’t notice it happening.

            Here’s the funny thing about boundaries, though. I’m back to where I was before STBX broke them down nearly completely. I was asked out, the guy suggested meeting quite late in the evening. I said no, too late for me. He asked why and I said I’m not a booty call. End of.

          • You are so right, tamara. The disordered turn up the abuse gradually. Thye isolate you and wear you down over time. You do not recognize yourself by the end.

            • At the end… after many bouts of depression, I finally realized I had to get out. This was actually before d-day. Then when all hell broke lose, I started to find myself again, find my strength. And the cool thing is, I now know myself better than I did before. And, like Nord, my boundaries are cemented in place. I was not the one that was in an amoral abyss….. I was the victim.

              That’s our power.

              • I had depression as well, although I didn’t realise it. All I knew was that something was wrong but assumed it had something to do with me so a couple of months before dday I had started seriously thinking about finding a therapist for the first time in my life. Post dday I was so happy I had already done the research because I had one picked out who turned out to be fantastic.

                And I’m like you, Tamara. It was one hell of a ride for the last year but today I can honestly say I’m happier than I’ve been in years, I’m calm, at peace, have better and stronger relationships with not just my kids but also with friends, old and new, my own family and just generally people everywhere.

                My depression stemmed directly from being with him and from dealing with something I didn’t understand. Now I understand: he’s a serial cheater and whenever he had a new woman lined up he pulled away from me, acted distant and then blamed me for not giving him enough attention. He was creating a self-perpetuating situation that I could not understand at the time. Well, no more Nord the Victim.

                Mindfuck: over.

              • Yes, in retrospect, the cheating was a blessing, my get out of jail free card. I knew that, finally, she had done something that folks would understand as justifying divorce.
                Try explaining to people that you are divorceing because your wife is abusive, especially if it is emotional or verbal abuse vs physical abuse. Folks just do not buy it from a guy. But, most everyone understands that cheating should be a dealbreaker.
                And, coming out a relationship with one of these disordered monsters, one needs support/ Disclosing the cheating will get you that support, in many cases.

      • Chump lady:

        I agree. Never allow a spouse to have a separate life. Insist on transparency. A new spouse must be an open book.

        But then we are still playing cop and warden. But ya’ know, IMO, it’s foolish to think we don’t have too do that. We do, and mainly because there are so many woman and men who think that having an affair is cool and edgy.

        IMO, the rise in cheating a deterioration in societal boundaries.

        There really is no consequence for cheating in a marriage in most states.

        Hollywood romanticizes it, and society encourages it.

  • The dog turd I was married to flirted (signals availability) at every job he has ever had. He has never advanced higher than middle manager at any company stupid enough to employ him and he left his last job in disgrace after a female employee accused him of harassment. Important to note the “management” every where had it out for him. He was probably fucking his accuser and she found out about another whore on the job he was seeing and claimed harassment. He kept all this hidden so I wouldn’t leave him. I was an idiot.

    This fool did not have boundaries then and does not have them now. I don’t understand sub-humans like him. You are free now to screw everything that moves. But they beg and plead trying to convince you they have boundaries now and would never repeat past offenses. Um, no! I wasted half my life with an underachieving, immoral, lying, sneaky, scumbag loser. I have had enough.

    I am not ready for a new relationship yet but when I am, I will be out like a light at the first sign of “shade”.

    • Yes, it would appear that STBX lost one contract due to his fucking around. The top management figured out two things: he liked the screw the help and he was only comfortable hanging out with those below him on the career ladder. Guess who he hangs out with now….those just kicking off their careers, including current OW.

      • Yeah, my ex did that too. He ONLY hung out with people below him on the food chain at work. He was always sniffing around for the new associate, the office intern, the secretary. They all thought he was the “cool” one.

        It’s arguably cool to be friendly with everyone you work with, whatever their job level. But when you only socialize, befriend, seek out lower work-status individuals? I think there is an icky power dynamic there of kibble seeking. Just like professors who want to be buds with their students. (I dated a guy like that…. strikes me as creepy now.)

        • Yes, STBX is the ‘cool’ one…or was. Although when we were moving around for his career he kept screwing up because he was going up the chain and the higher ups noticed that he was not comfortable with those on his level or higher. His insecurity was astounding. I would say ‘hey, bring big boss home for dinner’. Nope, he actually would freak at the thought of it.

          But yes, those under him? He’s into it. Just like the few friends he’s had for ages. He loves that they haven’t done much with their lives so he’s top dog in their world. I really should have noticed this much earlier.

        • Funny I was thinking about this earlier CL…all the girls (and there are lots) I know about are alcoholics or substance abusers. He hung out at places where they would cruise looking for men like him. And he would ride them around, have sex, etc. all with me chipping in $. His “friends” were not the greatest either and he bad mouthed pretty much everyone. I was poisoned I tell you, that’s all I can figure, under a nasty poisonous spell…I lost my mind, but it’s coming back…

          • Here’s the weird thing: his family always would talk about being positive, don’t focus on negativity, put out this perfect ‘nice’ image. Now that I’m out of that holy mind fuck he calls his family, I realise that they actually sat around a put everyone down, judged everyone, ‘raised’ themselves up by pointing out the shortcomings of others…and they NEVER took responsibility for any mistakes. It was ALWAYS someone else’s fault. Just as our marriage breaking down is my fault, not the fault of STBX being a serial cheater.

            And yup, I’m coming back, the old me, the one who didn’t get sucked into big bitch sessions about whomever isn’t in the room. I cannot believe I got sucked into that…it’s so not who I am. This is why I’m happier now: my boundaries with the whole family were shit and now that they’re back in place I just laugh at his family and the weird way they deal with the world.

            • This is a really good example of how people have the “right” talk but actually do the opposite. When I see people do this, I distance as they are more aware of their destructive behavior, yet really get enjoyment about feeling superior with their judgments and nasty comments.

              • LJ:

                You are so right about being wary of people who have the right talk.

                I read an email from the OW to my ex in which the serial cheating OW was talking about how some other woman was so slutty.

                It was so hilarious.

                Here this OW goes to strip clubs for lap dances, leaves her four children with a nanny during the day or her unsuspecting dupe husband at night to neglect them so she can go out and get laid by strange men, and she has the audacity to call anyone slutty.

      • That’s interesting that others had ex-SO who had trouble getting along with the higher ups. I didn’t put that together about mine until I read this. Now I get it! No wonder he became an independent consultant. He would complain frequently that those higher up “just didn’t get it” and he didn’t socialize with others in his educational/income level here in town. He’d make male friends in bars who were marginally successful and have drinks with them but there weren’t the type I’d want to socialize with–men who drank too much or who planned to write a play and have it produced on Broadway (yes, possible, but unlikely if you’ve never written one before and you live in a small city on the west coast.) Now I get that they gave him kibble-he could be the successful one who could give them advice on setting up websites, advertising etc and feel like a big shot. I’m close enough to “meh” that it makes me feel sorry for him.

        • Funny, but I feel sorry for STBX as well in some ways. He’s a smart and talented guy but he’ll always fall down in his career because he simply can’t hack being around people who are ‘above’ him and will tell him when he screws up or that he’s not perfect. Right now he’s in a position where he makes quite a bit of money but it’s not a terribly status job. It drives him nuts but he screwed up a couple of positions before this and is semi-stuck. This is my fault, of course, not the fault of his own shortcomings.

          Meanwhile, having been at SAHM for years I’m making connections all over the place, networking like mad, meeting people from all stations of life and slowly putting back together some semblance of a career. The funny thing is I have no insecurities about my own abilities and enjoy being around people who are successful. I learn from them and I like that.

  • You’re right, I should be able to trust. And even if my husband wasn’t totally crossing boundaries to start with, he obviously didn’t discourage them enough. I assume even the most ardent flirt would give up if completely rebuffed. And yes, you would think if it got so bad he would even outright say “Hey, I’m happily married I don’t think we should talk about this” or something.

    If I had a any boundary issues myself it stemmed from being clueless myself. But I don’t think I ever really did push it… I had some male coworkers I’ve been possibly a bit too friendly with over the years, but no lines were ever crossed between the two of us at all. If anything maybe casual outside observers might have thought flirting was going on, but that’s it.

    I guess part of me still believes a bit of what my husband has told me about being too “uptight”. So yeah, I guess I’ve sorta bought into the belief that I am more uptight, loyal, moral (whatever you want to call it) so that my expectations of getting the same are almost too high or something. And possibly a tiny bit of male stereotyping (sorry to the awesome guys that read here) combined with a history with a cheating ex that tells me men can’t resist a woman throwing themselves at them. Also, the fact that taken guys have openly flirted with me since my separation (which maybe was happening a little before but I was in “clueless” mode back then) does not encourage me either.

    I’m glad there are some good ones out there. I just hope they are not as elusive as the unicorn.

  • CL,
    “In short, aE, relax. Don’t borrow trouble. ”

    You’re right, it’s like I’m already planning on what to do when trouble arises. And specifically the same type of situations I’ve already encountered. Hopefully history won’t repeat itself.

    “Good people exist. If they aren’t good, that will become apparent, and you’ll know what to do. You’ll dump them and move forward”

    What you said is pretty much my plan right now. Not to worry about it too much. I’m going to try to be super casual about the dating thing… Going on a date or two with a self-absorbed potential cheater isn’t going to kill me. I will just move on. I won’t even care if some nice guy is seeing me and other people if we aren’t exclusive. Maybe I’ll be doing the same 🙂 I only care when actual commitments are being broken (I’m “uptight” like that). Somebody good will come along.

    Maybe I will even be fooled again… but future heartbreak can’t be 100% prevented. Unless I really never get back out there. And I’m not ready to give up on love yet. (See, when I’m not doubting the existence of ANY good men out there, I am actually still a cheesy idealist about love… you think we chumps have that in common?)

  • “But he had to ask his friend — a Franciscan — if this woman was flirting with him. When the friend said “DUH” and “yes” — he threw the picture out. And that was the end of it.”

    Flirting blindness; my STBXWW threw that at me post D-day, saying:

    “There were women who flirted with you, and you didn’t even notice”…

    I guess, so exactly why do you say this in such a nasty, condescending tone? Geez, even somehow this gets blameshifted back at me as a reason for her affair? I do look back on my marriage, and boundaries to me were simply there, black and white, on auto pilot, unobtrusive and solid as steel. Maybe because I had a pretty shitty upbringing, and subconsciously the idea to “cheat”, to hurt someone so profoundly simply was not within me?

    I know, it seems my wings and halo get in the way of my typing, but I’d lie if I wrote otherwise… To me, everything is about dignity, honesty, honor, and having boundaries in many things, not just marriage is how I roll. I don’t lie about eating the last thin mint, and can’t even begin to wrap my head around carrying on an affair; I simply can not, and I think this really adds to the pain I/we experience especially with my sub-human acting STBX… We simply can not relate in any way, so it hurts even more at this lack of any understanding. Now, this does not mean I am a boring, sad, stoic for stoic sake doofus. For me, and what I realized long ago is I have very, very strong traits of self actualization, this goes part and parcel with who I am, so establishing boundaries and keeping them is easy, cause they require no effort or feeling as if I’m missing out.

    Maybe I am the freak; I never have liked pornography, never bought a playboy, don’t whistle at women, never undress them with my eyes, and never have, even when single and VERY forward sexually. Like many of you here, I could have taken advantage of certain instances, but for whatever reason did not while single or married. I don’t write any of this in some way to feign, and glean some sorta “atta boys”; just thinking out loud to an audience that may be of a similar nature who understands… I/we never lament that we “missed out on something”, where cheaters will use “life is too short/only live once” to break/ignore/not realize boundaries, and will never understand the depth of love they will never know… They can’t, as this takes selfless giving, not selfish taking.

    Boundaries are the huge issue I dread in any future relationship, and sad I almost feel as if I need to actually write them out, have them signed by any potential love interest, and even then hope for the best. Sure, I think I will be a better picker, not take BS, and there are no guarantees; just the same I feel low as a Rattlesnakes belly about now concerning women, and perhaps it’s not as gray, sad, and seemingly impossible as I make it out to be. Peace and speedy healing to us all!

    • Funny what you say about flirting. My kids are always pointing out when men flirt with me and I’m sort of ‘huh?’. I just don’t notice, although I am a bit more now. I’m a friendly person and chat easily with people. STBX used to think this was flirting as well. It’s not. It’s being friendly. I would never screw around on someone. It’s simply not in my makeup. Maybe that’s why I felt comfortable and still feel comfortable chatting easily with people. It’s not me looking for anything, it’s just me being friendly.

      • I agree, and I think it goes back to the self actualization thing. I truly am fascinated and interested by people, especially people who give off an ordinary vibe. I love striking up a conversation if they seem amenable to it, and enjoying the experience. A few weeks ago I gave some $ to a Salvation Army bell ringer, and started chatting. Found out he was in a halfway house for drugs, what goes on there, talked about military service we both had, the world in general, etc… It was nothing more than sharing the human experience.

        Saw a lady sitting outside a Giant Eagle supermarket on a bench crying as I was entering, and simply asked if I could help her. She said no, and I left it at that. I did not think “here is some easy meat, play on her to see where it gets you”… Again, not looking to one up an alter boy, It’s just our nature, and cheaters have a nature we can not get , ever.

        • Jay, your comment on “self actualization” is really spot on.

          It really does us no good to worry about other people’s boundaries (or lack thereof). It is really the best course of action to worry about our own and whether we have those in order.

          Someone above mentioned the insidious grooming process that takes place in abusive relationships whereby our boundaries are managed lower and lower over time by another.

          I don’t know about you guys, but that’s not on my list of things to do again. So the best way to keep myself safe is to make sure that my boundaries are in order and remain in order, and that just because I love someone and love the relationship and see the potential does not mean that I’m willing to make any compromises to my bottom line ever again.

          So…instead of worrying about the boundaries of those around me, all I need to do, and this is a very self actualization thing, is focus on mine. The rest will take care of itself, because people who rely on being with someone who is “manageable” or who has collapsible boundaries, will be naturally repelled by me because my boundaries are in order.

          And that, you guys, is the reason that we’re not reconcilers. Because the people who cheated on us were shown, in no uncertain terms, that they cannot manage our boundaries lower. We stood up for ourselves and they NEED to be with people who will not stand up for themselves. Doesn’t matter if we stood up for ourselves right away, as in “this is a deal breaker, you’re gone” or if we stood up for ourselves at last, as in: “I gave this reconciliation a try but you’re clearly full of shit so you’re gone.” Ultimately, the thing we all have in common is that we took a stand for ourselves.

          That’s a good thing.

          • I love your posts, Kristina. I was the one who talked about the lower and lower boundaries…and yup, this whole experience has taught me to go back to my original boundaries, which were firmly in place at the beginning. When I look back now I see how he pushed them down so carefully that I barely noticed, but it was a steady pressure that never really let up.

            Never again. Just tonight some guy asked me out. I said sure, gave him a day I was free, he said he was in town late so maybe we could ‘meet around 11’. I simply said ‘sorry, not a booty call’ and shut him down. Can’t be bothered to go any further with it. Next, please.

            • Thanks Nord, I love reading what you say too. There is something real and realistic about what you say. I gravitate towards people who speak truth and and speak healthfully.

              See, here is the thing: you were married, you know? I mean, we don’t think of it as being “managed” by our spouses. We go into marriage with assumptions about what marriage is and should be, and they are NOT unrealistic expectations, either. We don’t usually go into it thinking: well, this is a guy that is eventually going to be whittling away at my self esteem and, moreover, I’m going to be complicit in it. We give our spouses extra benefit of the doubt. We are invested. Emotionally, financially, we coparent. There is a LOT to lose so there is no shame in wishing things were different. But at some point someone has to say: Hold on, now. This is not what it is meant to be, and I won’t stand for this.

              I think we also make the mistaken assumption that we can relax our boundaries when we marry someone, in the sense that we can trust them to take care of us. But we can’t. I know that sounds unromantic, but we can only, as adults, take care of ourselves and trust that they will take care of themselves. And then come together as partners who care for the relationship (and in so doing, we will be caring for one another). It has to be a balanced relationship where both partners are carrying thier own weight.

              And well done on your boundary with the guy who wants the late-night date. What the fuck ever, dude! He needs to learn to come at you from a position of respect or not come at all. Next.

              • Agreed about taking care of ourselves, but it’s sad that after going through this mindfuck we will never be able to truly trust in a way that ‘normal’ married people trust. I really never saw it coming and though we were on the same page, had the same goals, the same ideas about the future. Generally we did…except for that tiny little part about not fucking other people.

                Lessons learnt and yes, booty call git can kiss my ass. Respect me and treat me well or piss off.

              • Nord, I think about it this way:

                I’m not afraid at all to trust. I honestly am not. I’m confident because I know where my boundaries are. Might I get hurt again? Sure, of course. But that’s always on the menu, getting hurt, I mean. But as soon as I am shown that I can’t trust, I know better than to give many chances. Once and done.

                I know what I am doing this time in a way that I didn’t before, so I’m actually better prepared and ready for a healthy, really healthy, relationship if it comes on offer again.

          • Kristina,

            Great last paragraph. We did take a stand for ourselves. We may have compromised some along the way without noticing but when we got to something bigger that was so concrete and obvious that we KNEW we’d be losing all of our self-respect to look the other way, we stood our ground. The specific deal breaker may have been different for each of us, but we each had one. A place where we said, okay, I’ve given all I can give and if I give anymore it will compromise my entire sense of self I am and I’m not going to do that.

            • Kristina, I think I will trust again but I’m not sure how fully. I know it will take me quite awhile to find the ability to trust in someone and I’ll probably be skittish as all get out. This is why I’m taking things very, very slowly with anyone who flirts with me or shows an interest.

              Basically they’re going to have to show me that they’re worth me opening up. I’m not going to make them jump through hoops or ‘pay’ for what my STBX did but I’m not going to rush headlong into anything either; I’m going to take it step by step, and watch who they really are. If they don’t want to let me take the time I want and need then they can move on.

              Right now I’m in a bit of a flirt with a friend of a friend. It’s fun and I think he’s equally skittish so we’re just chatting a lot and slowly opening up to one another. I have no idea where it will go or if it will go anywhere but it’s good practice for me to just have this weird little flirt that involves nothing more than getting to know one another.

              • I think that’s right. Take things slow. Maintain your boundaries and just let things evolve normally.

                But I have to say, good of you to not make others pay for the sins of your ex. I think you’re super smart the way you’re handling it. That shows self confidence, more than anything else.

  • What I would say about boundaries is simply this: They are your own.

    You can’t police another adult human being’s boundaries. Moreover, I don’t think you can really know what a person’s boundaries are until you see them enforcing them all by themselves and not turning around and then saying: Oh!! lookie lookie, I just enforced a boundary, aren’t I a good boy/girl?. You should not have to coach people about their own boundaries or cheer them on for maintainting them. That’s a red flag. If someone doesn’t recognize when others are testing boundaries, then that’s a problem because then they can always say: But…but… but… I didn’t realize it was a boundary, I thought I was just being friendly or cool.

    Ultimately, the funny thing about boundaries for the ego-driven is: When everything is going along well and the ego centric person is feeling good and confident, typically they have no problem maintaining healthy boundaries. It is when they are taking a hit to the ego in some way that often they drop those boundaries and rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms (drugs, alcohol, shopping, sex/cheating, obsessive fixing of others, excessive gift giving etc.). People with self esteem (and strong boundaries) may feel bad about what’s going on in their lives, but they turn inward and seek strength from within, they don’t make things worse by making unhealthy choices that may feel good short-term but are self destructive long term.

    We are in charge of policing our own boundaries, and we can’t try to control someone else or help them police their boundaries. Ultimately, it is about keeping oneself safe not keeping the relationship safe or the partner safe from external temptation. It is about the self first. And if you find a person who is self soothing and who keeps him/herself safe, if they share that value, then that will be a safe person with whom to engage in a relationship, because by keeping themselves safe, they are naturally keeping the relationship safe. Plus, they aren’t keeping their boundaries in order to simply please their spouse, they are keeping their boundaries in order to be authentic to who they are as self respecting people.

    But the mindfuck, as far as I’m concerned, is that there are people who, when you give them that second chance (once they’ve crossed your boundary once) they may shape up for a while, short or long term. And it may all seem good, and they may in fact talk a lot about their stronger boundaries and walls not windows or whatever the fuck that psycho-babble is about in those reformed cheater books, but as long as those people are checking in with their spouse to “prove” how great their boundaries are with descriptions of how strong their boundaries are, the more skeptical I would be. Because that’s the cheater putting the onus on the betrayed spouse to help him/her maintain their boundaries and/or putting on a show of maintaining boundaries.

    It will fail. As soon as there is a critical episode of ego crisis, the cheater will cheat (or find another way to self soothe that involves a short-term, usually self destructive, fix like excessive spending or alcohol).

    • “People with self esteem (and strong boundaries) may feel bad about what’s going on in their lives, but they turn inward and seek strength from within, they don’t make things worse by making unhealthy choices that may feel good short-term but are self destructive long term.”

      I always put it as:

      “I have never gained strength, by making others weak.”

      Where my STBX overtly took a path of destruction cowardly turning outward from anything she had issues with, we turn inward to seek truth, the hows and whys to make things better, to have our inner self be our well of strength. I can not imagine going through life so numb to ones self.

    • Very, very true, Kristina. The ‘big’ affair that blew up my marriage was after several years of professional disappointment for STBX. Not only was he screwing current OW, he also, during this time, was grooming a number of ‘friends’ online, had a fling with a close friend of mine and was planning on hooking up with an old fling on a business trip. The best part of all this? OW knows about all of it (I told her when i was in freak out stage) so she either believed whatever lies he told her or thinks she’s special.
      Once I got my sanity back I realised that to do that, to screw around that maniacally was beyond cheating. It was something so fucked up that there was no fixing it. Ever.

    • I like it Kristina, the way you analyze and break it down… Well done!

      “Someone above mentioned the insidious grooming process that takes place in abusive relationships whereby our boundaries are managed lower and lower over time by another.”


      “And we forgot the taste of bread… the sound of trees… the softness of the wind. We even forgot our own name. My Precious.”

      And you don’t even see it coming. Low thresholds, getting lower become your new normal, and the marionette strings invisible in our cruel little dance.

      • Jay, you know what that is? That’s when the relationship, or the partner, becomes more valuable to the person than the person him/herself. That’s when jealousy (as in, the REAL meaning of jealousy — afraid to lose something) takes control and the person turns into a raw fish gobbling, baldheaded, bulging eyed wacko running around in a loin cloth trying to “protect” the precious instead of taking care of himself.


  • CL – another great post, as always. Boundaries are so important. However, in a relationship with a disordered person, it’s hard to maintain them when you are being so manipulated. Never again! And, a huge thank you for reminding me that there really are good people still out there. You give me hope.

  • My husband was seduced by ego kibbles and felt entitled since this was an “old girl friend” on Facebook. Altho he felt threatened if another man even called me (usually about church business) when this relationship came to light I was the one who was fucked up for being upset. He did not seem to get it (or care I quess) that it was inappropriate and disrespectful to me. Since he seemed to know where the boundries were I could never understand why he didn’t get it. Up until this time he was not a flirt and in fact was critical of men he worked with who were having affairs. Blindsided.

    • Janet:

      Me too. My ex was always critical of others who had affairs. He said he thought they were fools and the women were using them.

      Another Blindsided spouse.

  • “While I didn’t cheat, I didn’t have the firmest boundaries either, in that youthful desire to be “cool” with everything.”

    Yep. That about sums me up prior to the A. People have pointed out the way STBX showed me disrespect, but I wanted to be the “cool, laid-back” wife. What did it get me? A membership to The Brethren (and Sistren?) of Chumpdom. I don’t want to go down that road again.

    • MovingOn – too bad we could never be that wife because we were married to the wrong guy, huh? 🙂 At least to me it seems like no matter what I’d done I would have always been the shrew.

      My STBX (when are they going to stamp those damn papers already?!?) used to call guys “whipped”. You know, the respectful guys that would leave the party at a decent hour when his wife wanted to leave, or something equally horrible as that…

  • I personally do not have a problem with my partner engaging in innocent flirting. I feel that it’s ok and even healthy to joke and laugh with others of Both sexes. To me, flirting is NOT cheating, and flirting really only becomes a problem when either 1) it crosses the line into the inappropriate, like what CL said about sending/receiving bikini pics (i.e, something that shows lack of respect for a partner), or 2) it evolves into someone putting themself into a situation where cheating could take place (i.e., it’s fine to have drinks with a friend of the opposite sex, probably not a good idea to have drinks with a friend of the opposite sex whom you find incredibly attractive). I truly believe that freedom and space go hand in hand with love and attentiveness, as long as you have a trustworthy partner. Unfortunately, my problem has been the part about having a trustworthy partner…

    • I always thought that as well but STBX didn’t see it that way. I honestly think he was generally on the make at all times, alert to any possible kibbles he might be able to gather up. I’m not like that. I might banter and engage with people but it never crosses my mind to screw around. I suppose I’ll have to get to the point where I understand that people with appropriate boundaries can do the banter thing without it meaning ‘Maybe we can fuck in the future’.

      • Nord, I hear you. Even though that is my general belief, I’m not even at the point yet where I’m willing to go on a single date with anyone. Sad to say, I don’t think I even believe in love anymore… Theres only 1 couple I know thats been married for 10+ years and has a “good” marriage… :/

    • Sunshine:

      I used to feel as you did, that giving someone freedom and space was the key to a good relationship. Heck, even some books on keeping your marriage strong use to suggest this

      But, me, too, unfortunately, although my ex gave the impression of being super trustworthy, he wasn’t.

      I, too, used to think flirting was okay and healthy as long as it didn’t cross the line, but now I am not so sure.

      BTW: I never flirted, to me it was asking for trouble. I would never smile at men walking past me, because I knew they were flirting.

      Also, that is how my ex met his ‘ho.

      She was on the prowl for another affair and she smiled at him, he smiled back, at a deli, she kept showing up at the same time hoping to run into him again, and each time she would smile and wave.

      Finally this mild flirtation turned into a conversation, then lunch, then a drive, then dinners out, and then meeting at hotels and him taking her on his supposed business trips that were really trips to exotic vacation locales for three or four days at a pop.

  • I really subconsciously never thought about boundaries but now I have many. I have boundaries in place with in laws who were like parents. Only yesterday they had lunch with the ex and chainsaw man
    I just don’t have the emotional strength to include them when they accept chainsaw man has my replacement.
    And just now the boundary I have with the ex is being tested. Last night a close friend ( who she said propositioned her while we were married has died. Another older man.
    She has emailed me and in the past would be by her side supporting her and loving her. Now I can’t. I feel like an arsehole but its the realisation that its chainsaw mans role now.
    Maybe she expects this is an opportunity to connect. I just can’t. I’m only just getting through it.
    I need the boundaries to stop the emotional re connection.
    As for when we were married I didn’t need boundaries. I along with jay just knew what my responsibilities were. I just couldn’t imagine doing to the ex what she has done.
    This is the forth weekend and chainsaw man is there fir weekend and boys won’t go near the place. They also have boundaries in place to protect themselves.
    So CL many boundaries here down under. We can’t survive without them.

    • I think the words bind, bond, and boundaries may share the same root. We are bound together when we marry. The ring symbolizes what is inside the bond/boundary and all else without. A boundary violation sends it all to hell.

      Just as kindness is how we deal with our kindred, kinder, kin. But, as has been noted, the narcissists are an indifferent kind.

    • Baci, the inlaw thing is tough. I too saw my inlays as parents to me and it was very, very difficult to see how easily they took OW into their lives. I just had to walk away from them all. It was too painful and too much of a mindfuck to try and stay connected with them. It sucks because we were all very close and have 20 years of memories entwined. Oddly, MIL brings up times with me in front of OW, which makes OW go all silent and uncomfortable, and I realise that my inlaws are game players as well–despite me thinking OW is a pathetic young slag I sort of feel sorry for her because what my MIl does is actually just plain rude and insensitive. ANd OW’s boundaries are being crossed by my inlaws when they do this.

      Maybe one day I can be aroudn them at events and such but right now I don’t want to deal with them. They try to ring or whatever but I simply ignore them.

      • Oh, well, the OW’s actions are just plain rude and insensitive, doncha think? I have a hard time feeling sorry for her.

        • Yeah, I know, Stephanie, but I was her age once and she’s gotten herself hooked up with an older, charming guy who is very good at making a woman feel like the most special person in the world. It doesn’t absolve her but I watch it play out and I swear it’s almost textbook of how he snagged me and how his family pulled me into their weird family dynamic.

          So I feel a little sorry for her because she’s done big damage to her own reputation, she’s going to waste her 20’s on this idiot who will no doubt cheat on her at some point (he was involved with other women while still married to me and having an affair with her and telling her he loved her) and yeah, I just feel a bit bad for her because she’s too young and too dumb to see what’s staring her right in the face: he’s a narc who is slowly entwining her in his web and she’s soon going to feel she has no way out…and that’s when the fun will start–he’ll start pushing her boundaries in little ways and she’ll let those little things go, most likely, because she loves him and they ‘have something special’. She’ll try to fix him, she’ll try to talk to him, they’ll have deep talks and he’ll ‘understand’ why she is upset and promise to ‘get better’. Hell, the kids call him on his shit now and he says ‘I’ll try to do better’. Same old, same old. The man has not changed one iota. He’s just got a new victim and that’s why I feel a tiny bit sorry for her.

          • You are a good egg, Nord. You have tremendous compassion and I think it is probably going to shake out just as you are saying, in terms of him moving on from her.

            One thing to say: She’s living her karma, just as he is. Don’t feel too sorry for her. This is actually an opportunity for her to learn something about herself; she will be in a position (someday sooner probably than later) to make some choices that will either make a positive difference or the alternative.

            Your ex, on the other hand, just sounds like he is going to cycle through this life never really clearing his karma. Too bad, so sad.

            If I were you, I would just focus on myself and let the lot of them just be who they are without allowing it to intrude into your life too much. 🙂

            • Absolutely. I don’t actually deal with it much but of course I come here and it gets me thinking about things. I kind of wish them on each other–she’s a cheater as well as she was living with her boyfriend when she took up with STBX, so they both have a pox on their heads. I think this is probably her first time at the rodeo, though, and she thinks it’s true and undying love and he’s just been waiting for her magical self to find happiness. Meanwhile he’s been cheating since he was in his early teens…which I sadly was told by one of his mates shortly after dday. It was very a a ‘dude, you couldn’t have told me before I married the idiot?’ moment.

  • My in-laws are definitely out of the loop. My brother in law was driving me to pick up my car, after d-day, and he was apologizing for his brother’s “indiscretions” and how sorry the whole family was….. blah blah blah. When he hugged me good bye he tried to feel me up, and kissed the back of my neck. He then told me how much he was going to miss seeing my breasts and how he wished he could just fondle them, once.

    I can not make this shit up.

    He’s married, of course. I was so grossed out I just ran. Didn’t say a word.

    Guess that kind of shit runs in the family, huh?

    • Jesus, what a scuzball your BIL is. I’d tell the wife but to be honest, she’ll probably think you’re making it up due to the divorce, etc.

    • My God,
      Everyone at work knows what’s going on with me, due to an “anonymous” letter sent there etc. Yesterday out of the blue one of my coworkers said I had “really big titties” and that he would like to spend some time “alone” with them! WTF???!! I answered him with “don’t you have a girlfriend?” To which he replied “that depends” I told him to Fuck Off. I saw this happen before when my husband died, the macho pieces of shit that think you are so ALONE that you are dying for a “man” to come along…keep your chin up, but keep an eye out for the snakes in the grass……

  • HI all,

    I just got my separation agreement before Christmas and it was 2.5 yrs since D day. I have been in a relationship with another man for about a year and a half. He seems like a really good guy and we’ve been really happy so far, but I notice I still have triggers. If there’s any behaviour that even remotely feels, smells or sounds like passive aggressiveness, it sends me into a panic! This was my ex all over again. He would not express any issues or anger he had towards me, but would act distant and witholding, forgetful, irresponsible etc. and it really did drive me crazy. Of course, he never ever admitted to any of it, and made me think I was crazy. Not sure when the affair started but I believe it was going on for something like 3-5 yrs, and that’s when his passive aggressive behaviours really were on the high. That led to the gas lighting, blameshifting, and just general crazy-making which really was throwing me off balance, making me insecure, confused and questioning my own sanity for a very long time. Words did not match actions but it was always someone elses fault for his lack of everything, or he made me believe I was too demanding and unreasonable for asking for the things in the marriage I was asking for, such as some time, predictability, support, love etc etc.

    Anyway, I now know it was not me and that I was being jerked around by someone leading a double life and I had every right to be asking for those things in my marriage, it was his way of manipulating, punishing me, and eating cake. I took a big risk when I entered into this new relationship, but have been going slow, knowing it takes a lot of time to really know someone well, but I do get triggered. I thought this related to the topic of trust and boundaries that is currently being discussed on this blog. I know my bf would not ever cheat on me, and I really believe that. He has never cheated before throughout his life and he’s nearing 60. He has clear boundaries and I see that, and feel that and I do trust him very much that way. However, he has some baggage too. His ex was very confrontational, and if we have any issues or disagreements I see him almost shrink with fear when we try to talk things out. He avoids it at all costs but then seems to hang on to his anger or disappointment, and act it out very subtly, by withdrawing and acting slightly cold, sometimes resistive. It raises red flags for me. I had 23 yrs of that, and it is crazy making! I’m very open, honest and direct and don’t understand why it’s so difficult for some people to be the same. Anyway, not sure if we can work it out yet, but just wondering if anyone else has major triggers like this. Any advice?

      • Yeah, PA is crazy making. I dont’ care what happened in his last relationship, this is a new one and if he hasn’t learned new ways of communicating then he needs to go back to Relationships 101.

    • I’ve noticed a few triggers, but not with relationships (cause haven’t had a real one yet)… but other stuff… like when my 3 year old told me during Lady and the Tramp that one of the dogs was howling/crying when the other got hit by the wagon because “you’re SUPPOSED to cry when your friend gets hurt”. I’m sure he got that wording from STBX and I’m sure I’m overreacting, but I like always insist on going on and on saying “he’s crying because he cares about his friend and he’s sad that his friend is hurting and blah blah blah” 🙂

      No relationship yet, so don’t know about those kind of triggers. My STBX was passive aggressive though too so I am definitely not wanting that on my next go round. I’m with CL that maybe he isn’t right for you… you’ve basically got opposite triggers. Have you discussed it… possibly you could even go to a therapist so you have a third party since he is so afraid of confrontation, etc.

      • Thanks CL and others. Sometimes I wonder if I’m over reacting because of my recent past and everything I went through with the ex. apparently there is a syndrome similar to Post traumatic stress syndrome that bs’s can be left with. I’m going to give it a little more time and see, but I like the idea of discussing it with my therapist- haven’t seen her in a long time. Gee, I sure hope I haven’t got another crazy!

  • I just want to say that I love you all very much! Yet again a thought provocating post that helps. My days are getting better and I cannot Thank You Chump Lady and the Chumpettes! We CAN do this! XO

  • >