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Carolyn Hax Gives Dreadful Infidelity Advice… Again

I must confess, I’m not a fan of advice columnist Carolyn Hax. I think her writing is turgid and her advice asks more questions than it answers. But on the subject of infidelity I find her particularly tone deaf. Tone deaf may be kind — frankly, I find her an apologist for cheaters in the “Hey, mistakes were made” school of WTFever. And when the subject comes up, she obfuscates with a sort of Harvard graduate word salad.

I suspect her POV comes from her own less than conventional “how I met my husband” story — she was separated from her then-husband Nick Galifinkas (her cartoonist), living back in her home town, when she took up with an old childhood friend. She divorced Galifinkas in late 2001  and was pregnant, with twins, when she married her second husband in November 2002. Washington Post gossip columnist, Lloyd Grove, broke the story and Hax responded here, if you want to read more (try the cached view). Hax and Galifinkas are still friends, FWIW. Critics have called Hax a hypocrite, for giving advice when her own life was taking a Jerry Springer turn. I don’t fault her for that. (Hell, my advice is predicated on my own crazy drama.) I fault her for excusing cheating.

A recent column from the Washington Post:

Dear Carolyn: I cheated on my ex. I’m extremely ashamed of this part of my past.

I understand now why I did it: to avoid facing a painful reality, and to avoid sharing my feelings with my ex because I was afraid of his reaction. I’ve grown immensely since then.

I am dating again now. I am afraid of sharing the details about my past with prospective partners because they’ll think, “Once a cheater, always a cheater” — which, granted, is what I thought before I found myself in that boat.

At what point in a new relationship do I open up about this? If it’s a deal breaker for someone, they should know as early as possible so they can make an informed decision about being with me, but I also want to feel that they know enough about me to understand me and possibly grant some compassion for the confused, hurting girl I once was. —  S.

You bring it up when it comes up, be it the first date or the 40th, as you would any other aspect of your past — that you and an ex used to love old movies, that you were in the AV Club in high school, that your mom used to scream at you for spilling things but was the soul of patience when you crumpled her car.

Do I minimize cheating by suggesting this? Perhaps, but that’s not my intent. I’m merely arguing that your infidelity was not some isolated, atypical appendage to the rest of your life that has to be offered up and explained. It was, and is, a point on your progression through life. A significant and bad one, sure, one you’d be wrong to go out of your way to conceal. But a date would be just as wrong to judge you solely on this incident.

That’s because your cheating had context that warrants just as much concern and attention from a prospective partner as this single outcome.

Your cheating was about painful-truth avoidance, right? So your immaturity is that meaningful context — including its source and manifestations (surely cheating wasn’t the only one) and your progress so far in overcoming it. The “details about my past” are the trees; potential partners owe each other the forest.

Conveniently, that’s also what you owe yourself — with the cheating and whatever else you have done and will do wrong, as well as the good things you bring to this earth. View yourself as a flawed, complicated and evolving whole, one who doesn’t lie to herself or others about her limitations, or exaggerate her gifts — and who deserves someone who will embrace her as such.

Once you’re comfortable with yourself in this way, the question of what, when and how to tell will all but take care of itself.

Dear Abby would’ve answered this in three declarative sentences. “Your cheating is nobody’s business. Don’t ask. Don’t tell.” (Not that Dear Abby would give such craptacular advice. She’d probably advise the reader to tell and let the chips fall where they may.) But when you put it so clearly, hey, people get judge-y.

Not that we can’t still judge her. Hax EQUATES a cheating past with high school AV club. Are you fucking kidding me? Then provides the caveat — “is this minimizing cheating? Perhaps. But that’s not my intent.”

OMG. The “intention” chestnut from Stupid Shit Cheaters Say, Vol. 3. “Okay so I slept with your sister. Did that hurt your feelings? Hey, that wasn’t my intent.” Yeah, we can say any stupid, offensive thing we want to, as long as we head off any objections with “that’s not my intent.”

Hax appears to be saying (can anyone tell what she’s actually saying?) that your past is really no big deal. It’s all part of the colorful tapestry that makes you You. I mean, shit, the reader actually has the good sense to say she’s ASHAMED of her cheating past (albeit with a lot of blame shifting crap about how her Pain Made Her Do It) — but Hax lets her off. “A date would be wrong to judge you solely on this INCIDENT.”

Singular. Again, another play from the Cheater Handbook. How does Hax know it was a singular incident that should be shrugged off like an embarrassing Audio Visual Club membership? And not, oh, say a five-year long affair and a double life?

But let’s not ask and find out. Let’s just wait for that poor chump to “embrace” you for being you. Because cheaters? You deserve that.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • “And when the subject comes up, she obfuscates with a sort of Harvard graduate word salad.”

    Absolutely brilliant.

    and the “not my intention” jogged a memory shortly after D-Day #2 when admittedly, I was a total fucked up, traumatized, harping mess. (“HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?”] and it WAS my intention to let him know how horribly he had hurt me. (yes, yes, I know… waste of time and breath) So, I did a search for that phrase in my email and sure enough… there it was:

    “I’m sorry if I hurt you. I always am. It’s not my intention.

    Please do not write to me or call me tonight. I’m at the breaking point right now; I can’t tolerate any more arguments.

    Thank you.

    [Fucktard]”

    well… there it is…

    The problem is… if its not his intention to hurt me, then it must’ve been his intention to love me. What is loving about conducting a double life for at least nine years (that I know of?)

    Of course it was his intention to hurt me. He hurts ALL women he’s romantically involved with. Should he also disclose that when he’s dating? Is he going to tell them that he fucked around on his wife for umpteen years? Of course he won’t!

    • What’s so typical in that email is that “Not my intention” then complains about HIS fragile mental state, as if it’s YOUR responsibility to make sure that he’s not stressed out beyond the breaking point. Again, it’s all about the cheater, not about the Betrayed Spouse.

      • Mine did that as well. Something about him ‘not being able to take anymore anger or stress’. Poor little kitten…all those consequences were just too much for him. Wifey is angry because she found out about all his affairs? Ruuuunnnnn!!!! Too much reality!!!

        • I actually believe my ex didn’t intend to hurt me with his affairs. I believe that he didn’t think about me at all, didn’t want to think about me, didn’t want to do something grown-up like make choices or decisions, didn’t want to ever ever ever think about possible consequences of any kind to his cake-eating and other selfish behaviours, didn’t want to think about how dishonest he was being, or about what the destructive results would be for our kids. That’s just how his head works. Sick fuck. And somehow it’s almost more insulting to be considered not worth thinking about than to be the object of intentional hurt.

          Then again, maybe he did want to hurt me, because I wasn’t providing so many of those lovely ego kibbles I used to give him! How dare I?!?

          I now choose to be with someone who WILL think about those things, who is incapable of not thinking about them. Someone who DOES make choices, and those choices include being honest, and protecting me from hurt.

  • “I understand now why I did it: to avoid facing a painful reality, and to avoid sharing my feelings with my ex because I was afraid of his reaction. I’ve grown immensely since then.”

    Are you kidding me? Who falls for this kind of “explanation”? I mean, it must work on somebody because the person asking for advice is using it in her letter to manage impressions, but who (aside from the advice columnist) does this work on?

    Simple test: try replacing cheating with some other violent act, and see if the sentence makes any sense at all.

    “I understand why I set your house of fire now: t o avoid facing a painful reality, and to avoid sharing my feelings with you because I was afraid of your reaction”.,

    Does that make any sense at all?

    • Yeah, I’d be more inclined to believe she’s “grown immensely since then” if she said something like “I cheated because I gave myself permission to. It was an immature, cruel way to end a marriage I was too gutless to end honestly. I couldn’t have an honest conversation about my marriage, because then my husband would stop giving me kibbles. I mean, he wouldn’t like the cheating, and that’s a buzz kill. So I just waited for things to blow up and I let him be the bad guy. Boy, I sure hope that doesn’t happen again. I think I’m ready to date.”

      • “Boy, I sure hope that doesn’t happen again. I think I’m ready to date.”

        Lol. Yes, exactly. First instinct if somebody you are datig uses this rationale should be, “How do I end this conversation and date?”.

  • I can see why someone would be hesitant to share their cheating past. I for one, after having been on the receiving end of the cheating, would run, very fast and very far away from someone who admitted to being a cheater.
    Having been cheated on has left me no gray area where cheating is concerned. There was a point in my life that I didn’t think about it that much, and if I was told someone’s sob story about how confused and torn they were, I might have found a way to understand. Not any more.
    If you’re a cheater, that tells me so much about who you are deep down, that I don’t feel I would need any more information to decide how I felt about you. (Goodbye!)
    But I feel like my reaction is a minority opinion. I think most people would give the cheater a pass, if the explanation was plausible enough.

  • Yes, she is capable of feeling ASHAMED of what she did… because that is an emotion that is all about her. I guess I’m surprised she is willing to admit what happened to future significant others at all but it’s probably because it’s likely to be found out anyway and she’s trying to figure out the best way to play it. And also because she wants COMPASSION for the poor, confused girl she was. Ugh.

    I love that cheating has a context… I’m sure murderers can justify why they had to kill someone as well… does that mean it’s okay? There is a right and a wrong way to handle things. And cheating on your spouse, no matter how you look at it, is the wrong way to handle things. And people that tend to handle things in this self-serving way tend to suck in general and also tend to not learn from their actions. They already justified what they were about to do as okay before they did it. They knew it was wrong, but did it anyway.

    • A-Erica, maybe they can plead Self-Defense Adultery……or an Adultery Insanity plea……”I was CRAZY about that guy”….. 🙂

      • Are you kidding… we hear the adultery “stand your ground” defense all the time. “She came on to me, it’s not my fault… I couldn’t help it.” Or, “she was really in a bad place and just came to me for comfort, what was I supposed to do? One thing led to another… she was just so so needy and vulnerable.”

  • Cheating does have a context. Impoverished sense of self, which is exactly what Hax says. She doesn’t say: your cheating has a context and that context is that you had a crap spouse and your marriage was junk. She says, that the context was immaturity and an inability to communicate. Fair enough. That’s probably pretty accurate. Cheating is about the cheater, not the betrayed partner, not the marriage. Both the betrayed partner and the marriage suffer as a result, and that is a cold, hard and unpalatable reality, but there it is. Cheating is selfish and self-centered and completely outside of the control of the betrayed partner.

    I’m going to swim against the current here and say that I don’t think this advice given by this Hax person is bad, actually. I mean, it is probably truncated and incomplete, but she’s responding in a column, so no doubt her space is limited. And after all, we can’t expect cheaters to lay down and die, can we? The cheater was divorced, which means she faced the consequence of cheating in that way. Moreover, she continues to face the consequence, which is: her karma now is that she was a cheater and she carries that along with her into her future relationships.

    It is up to her to be honest about the fact that she cheated (which the advisor advocates) and it is also up to her to understand why she cheated (which the advisor advocates) so that she does not do it again.

    I do not believe a cheater can change if he/she is forgiven or given a second chance in the marriage to reconcile. I think the ONLY chance that person stands for changing is to actually face consequences associated with being kicked to the curb. I believe that this person writing in has been somewhat self reflective and is trying, at least, to approach the future relationships with a degree of honesty. And hopefully that cheating episode IS a part of her past. The AV club thing was a bit of a stupid comparison, but the reality is, the past IS the past. It would do none of us any good to hold onto every mistake we’ve ever made in the past and get ourselves down about it so that it cripples us going forward. Even cheaters.

    Look, it would be like that woman who was blocked from this blog, the one who was so bent about the cheating that she was talking about going forward into relationships policing her new partner and parenting her new partner and how it would be acceptable and normal to sort of not trust any new partner. What the fuck? That’s not healthy. Learn from the experience of having been betrayed? Absolutely. Allow the experience of being betrayed to define yourself going forward? No fucking way.

    Same goes for cheaters. Figure out why you did it, work on the things that caused you to be so self destructive and unkind and unfeeling and hateful, make changes and then stick to those changes. But dwelling in the past and self flagellating will do absolutely no good in terms of healing.

    • I missed the part where the person asking for advice really owned the cheating like this :

      I did this, it was a mistake and a horribly immature way to behave, and I had no compassion or empathy whatsoever when I decided to do it. I feel aweful about what I did, so I will never put myself in that position or allow myself to do that again, and that is what I have learned from the experience, and that is how it has made me a better person.

      • You did not miss it. She did not say that. She said she was immature and took the responsibility for her choice. She also did not say: my BS was to blame. Which is significant since almost everyone blames the bs.

        Lol

        Look, I do not know if this cheater really has learned her lesson, but the fact that she is contextualizing her bad choices in herself seems to point in that direction for me, anyway, as a reader.

        Most of the former cheaters I have been subjected to on dates in real life use the old…she did not understand me line. No self awareness whatsoever. This person writing the letter seems realistic.

        Someone who burst out with what you said above with all that detail and laundry listing would scream overcompensation to me…like he was trying too hard to say what was expected. If he wept while saying it, I would throat punch him for the histrionic he was. Haha. 🙂

        • Sorry, I am calling BS. All I got out of her description was how she was somehow the victim and nothing about how she treated her former husband.

          “Woe is me” is not owning anything.

    • I agree with a lot of what you wrote Kristina. Hopefully many young, immature cheaters will learn from their past mistakes and go on to become better partners and people in general, but then there’s the narcs! They often don’t self reflect, take responsibility or change. How’s one to know the difference between the two?

    • Kristina, I also agree that people can be cheaters and — if dumped on their head — learn from it. But with the little I have to go on, I’m not buying it from this person, because in the few sentences she has, it’s ALL about her pain. I was a lost, hurt, confused “girl.” She did it because she couldn’t explain her “pain.” And (subtle blameshift), she was “afraid” of her ex’s reaction. All that may be true, but nowhere does she say — I hurt someone grievously and I regret it. I read — SHE hurts.

      I also (judging on the experience of my oft-divorced ex — three times and counting, although we may be up to four by now) — don’t think divorce is a consequence that always registers with cheaters. So just by virtue of the fact she got divorced I don’t believe she is reformed. Maybe she is, though. I hope so! Really I do.

      My beef is with Hax. She doesn’t know. I don’t know. But she’s ready to go in there and say hey, it was your past. It’s up there with AV club. A tangential detail. And you know, to many folks who haven’t been chumped and who would be inclined to not care, it probably wouldn’t be held against her. That’s probably the majority of folks, so no harm putting it out there. The ones who get flinchy? Let them know. That would’ve been my advice.

      I mean, it’s not a minor thing. To me, Hax could’ve answered her and NOT minimized infidelity. And some self flagellating is okay with me. I’ll take it over the sniveling about her “hurt” and “confusion.”

    • “we can’t expect cheaters to lay down and die, can we?”

      Well… “expect” , no.

      Wish? That’s another matter…. 😉

    • It may also be narcissim vs an impoverished sense of self(although some theories say that nPD is rooted in a poor sense of self).

  • Chump Lady, if you where an advice columnists, what would you advise this person to do? Become celibate, you don’t deserve a relationship because of your bad actions? Do the scarlet letter thing? Not that all the comments made here aren’t right-on, they are. Not that the advice given by Carylon Hax doesn’t suck, it does. But… what’s the right advice?

    I guess the broader question is, as a compassionate person you are to give advice to someone who has done something very hurtful and obnoxious, but who has recognized the harm they have done, and wants to go forward in life in a truthful manner with integrity. She feels she has learned from her mistakes. What do you tell her? “Don’t ask, Don’t tell,” and have her live with a secret forever afterwords. Or, fess-up on the first date, and let the chips fall where they may, inform your prospective boyfriend that you are in fact a deformed person not deserving of their attention? Would you do that if you were the reformed cheater on a first date? I know that’s an imaginative stretch, but weirder things have happened in this world. It’s desirable to reach the state of “Meh” in our relationship with our cheating partner, is it desirable when confronted with someone else’s cheating partner? Or, instead, are we to be eternally vigilant? Would you give someone else’s cheater, however reformed, a second chance with you?

    We criticize psychopathic cheaters for their inability to feel empathy towards us. What about the empathy of chumps? When is that appropriate? I was thinking about what I would say to this women if I had this question. Or, what would I do if I were dating this women and she confessed to having been a cheater, knowing that was the reason for the ending of my previous marriage. RoxieMonoxide has a zero tolerance policy. Totally understandable. I get it. That keeps things nice and simple. I’m not sure what I would do or say to this person. If I continue to date her, will I be continuously suspicious? The fact that she took the risk to confess this to me would be a huge plus in my book, however. But then do I say to her that I appreciate her candor, but walk away.

    I didn’t mean to create an Ethics 101 lecture. In my life I swim in grey-wash, and Chump Lady Land is a self proclaimed black and white zone, so I suppose this was not an appropriate comment. I couldn’t help but be a little curious what advice you would have for her however. BTW, thank you for the blog and your clear thinking, I always find it interesting and helpful.

    • IMO that’s what makes Hax such a Hex: Here’s a reader who actually has a *glimmer* of awareness (she wants guidance, though she still blameshifts to her “pain” or how scary her H was, or, or, or, . . . ) and Hex basically tells her, “Don’t sweat it. Whatever. It’s so important that your partner knows. It’ll work itself. Cheaters shouldn’t be judged, etc.”

      Some moral issues truly *are* black and white. Serial cheating concealed by a double life is one of those things, and it’s not a close call. It’s a dark, dark, dark shade of black, my friend. And we shouldn’t let our ***desire*** to reconcile, or feel better about ourselves, or alleviate our sense at the waste of years lost with a cheater, or have a sophisticated worldview, or anything else bleach the contrast between cheaters and the very real people who can share your life without shredding the hearts of our entire families.

    • What would I advise? Well, nomar below has a contest going to answer in three sentences! I’m not sure I’m capable of such brevity. 🙂

      Look, I agree with you and Kristina that everyone deserves some compassion. The probably with manipulative people — and they’re out there, especially the disordered freaks — is that they use that compassion to chump you. So, no — I don’t think you should tell on the first date, but I would discuss it before things get intimate. Before this person gets too invested.

      I’d really want to know more about it. And the language they used to discuss it, and how and if they take responsibility would be something I’d pay close attention to.

      I don’t think cheaters should go through life with a scarlet C on their foreheads. So many people are either cheaters themselves or accepting of reasons for cheating (such as “I was immature” as the context) that I don’t think they are resigning themselves to lonely lives. But to chumps — yes, I think it would be hard for a chump to get past it. And they should have that choice.

      Also, to really give that person advice, I’d want to know more about the cheating. Was it an exit affair? How does she feel about the OM? Did she confess to her husband? Did she file for the divorce? Or did she make him do it? Did this affair go on for years?

      Because anyone who can maintain a double life, IMO, is deeply fucked up, and yeah, I wouldn’t date them.

      One of my dearest friends was an OW (and also once a chump) and she just remarried. And maybe I’m an idiot, but I don’t think she’d cheat now. (She’s a senior citizen for one thing.) So hey, I live in the grey world sometimes.

      • I had a friend who cheated on his wife…. she left him. He spent some time in therapy and soul searching. This is what he would tell people, including his new wife when he met her.

        ” I spent 18 months on my knees. It was a dark time, but I ended up learning how to be a human, and not the dickhead I was. No matter how painful it was for me, it must have been worse on my family. The big difference was I deserved it. They didn’t.”

        Works for me….

        • “I deserved it” — yes. That’s what getting it looks like. He gets that HIS pain pales in comparison to the pain he caused. That statement is about humility — he was on his knees, it was worse for his family, etc. He isn’t putting it back on the chump. I think it’s also significant that he got it when he lost his wife and the respect of his family. Consequences.

          • hey, the answer might be for the cheater to hook up with another cheater (maybe there’s a hook up site for cheaters?) and have an OPEN fuckfest relationship. everyone wins! (although, its not as much “fun” when you can’t fuck over your partner doing the “sneaky sneaky”) :[

            its about honesty and integrity, but I don’t think its necessary to DIVULGE intimate details of one’s past— UNLESS she’s asked point blank. “Did you ever cheat on your ex husband?” For me, that would be a crucial question at some point and if the guy even waffles for one second or cannot understand what the big deal is or why that’s so important to me– then I’m outta there!

            I also believe that if she learned a lesson, then she learned a lesson and hopefully, won’t be stupid enough to repeat history. However, unless she’s done the hard work, its unlikely. That’s just the way it is. Based on her article, I don’t think that she’s arrived at the point. She’s still minimizing and justifying heinous behavior. However, I do give her a couple points back for at least coming clean. For me… I just have to steer completely clear of this kind of pathology. I’m too old and crazy–lol for that kind of crap!

            • ps: anyone ever hear of the book “The Ethical Slut?” I’ve never read it, but the title says it all. love it!

        • If someone said this to me, “I spent 18 months on my knees…I learned how to be a human” it would feel totally fake and way over the top.

          What I suppose it is, is that it boils down to personal preference. I don’t go for those sorts of deep dark brooding emotionally overt sorts of people. And based on his language, that’s how I’m picturing this dude.

          Kind of like the GEICO Gekko advert where he is watching a tape and says: “can you find one that is a bit more dramatic” and the tape spools to him falling on his knees and keening: “Somebody help me… I have a flat tiiiirrrreee!” In manner of stanley shouting for stella in Streetcar. It feels manufactured. Like he has designed a response that he knows others will view as him “getting it”.

          I am willing to bet this just goes down to personal preference in the way a person expresses self awareness. Because how most of you seem to feel that he’s getting it, I feel like he’s faking it and vice versa on the woman who wrote the letter above.

  • Dear Abby kicked ass. Here’s my take on the three sentences she would’ve used to answer this letter:

    “Dear S, You should tell any man you’re dating that you have cheated in the past before he becomes attached to you so he can make informed decisions. It wouldn’t be right ‘lie by omission’ and hide a wire fraud conviction from a potential business partner, would it? ‘Growing immensely since then’ should include a lot of time spent with a qualified therapist. “

    No adverbs. No blame-shifting. No bullshit.

    So, any other AVB fans wanna take a crack at setting “S” straight in 3 sentences? I predict any attempts will surpass Hax’s in helpfulness and readability. That includes any attempts you let your family pets mash into your keyboards.

    • I seem to recall her or her sister giving some realy crap advice on this type of thing, the ” Get over it” type of deal. She had some really outdated opinions on causation.
      In any case, I would like to know relatively early, like on the first date.

  • Dear S, You should tell any man you’re dating that you have cheated in the past before he becomes attached to you so he can make informed decisions. If you fail to do so, because you’re afraid he might not approve of your actions, then this is a good sign you haven’t grown very much at all, and you lack the integrity required of a mature, symbiotic relationship. Do you trust yourself?

  • My take, for what it’s worth.

    I think the letter-writer is too focused on herself, as some above have observed. She regrets her actions because of “the hurting girl [she] once was….” What about regretting the consequences of her actions? The effects on her partner at the time?

    Second, and this may sound weird, but I’d almost be more comfortable if she didn’t feel she had to mention this to a new partner. If the issue was resolved in her mind (“I’ll never do that again. If a relationship doesn’t work for me in the future, I’ll tell my partner up-front that I need some space, that I will see other people, and will work from there.”), then I’m not sure she’d need to bring it up. From her letter, I almost get the weird feeling that she’s “feeling out” her new partner on the issue of cheating, as if it’s not totally resolved in her mind/forbidden in the future. I think her message is, “Look, I’m so complex/rich/interesting/contradicted/once-hurting, here are my issues…..”

    I don’t know this person, so I hope all works out for her, but this is the “vibe” that I get. It’s a bit creepy. In some ways, I think, if the issue of cheating were really put to bed for her, then she wouldn’t need to mention it. She’d be writing differently. She’d be saying something like, “God, I really hurt my partner’s feelings” and not “I was a hurting girl” and, more important, she would have made a resolution not to do it again, a resolution to herself that was iron clad, so she would not feel compelled to discuss it with her partner.

    I think that if you honestly feel that you have put to bed some issues in your life, you could probably feel free not to mention them. If you haven’t, and you are still discussing them with advice columnists in terms of your own pain (and not the pain caused to others), then maybe they are not really resolved. This could be a kind of teaser/test for a potential future chump, an appeal that says, “Look how complex I am [Harvard word salad]. Are you still interested?”

    Again, I hope I’m wrong, but that’s how this hits me. Makes me queasy. I’d be interested to hear how others react to my reasoning. I always wish everyone their best, but that’s how this hits me. If someone tells me, “I’m so complex,” I get a queasy feeling that they are really celebrating their unresolved issues as some kind of pseudo-sophistication. I prefer folks who describe themselves more simply. In my experience, the simpler folks have resolved their issues. They recognize that we are on this earth a short time. And that we should make the best use of that time that we can in terms of b.
    being good people. They are not fixated on their own complexity. Nor do they advertise that complexity.

    Just my take.

    • Interesting! I totally agree that the “I’m so complex” folks are rather nauseating. Because isn’t that another way to say “I’m so special” and “understood only by a sophisticated/compassionate/enlightened few”?

      Tamara’s friend (above) just comes out and says “I was a dick.” Not. Complicated. I respect that.

      • Yes, “I’m so complex” used to be something that attracted me when I was young, single and stupid. As I got older (and after a brief, failed first marriage, one that ended quite honorably — no cheating or scandal — just a recognition of mutual incompatibility), I came to see the “I’m so complex” advertisement as a red flag. I much preferred people like my spouse at present, i.e. someone who knows themselves and can sum up what they want very quickly.

        Of course, there can be exceptions, but I think that Chumps are very vulnerable to charismatic or physically attractive people who say, “I’m so complex/contradicted/talented, etc. etc.” Such folks may even BE talented, attractive, etc. But confused people do not make good partners. If you are confused, then you need to sort things out. If you are a nice person, don’t overestimate your ability to help polish someone who advertises themselves as a diamond in the rough/so full of potential. You are not a jeweler. Life is complicated as it is. And if you have children, it’s your duty, as an adult, to figure yourself out so you can support them.

        So, the “I’m complex” thing is, I think, if not a red flag then at least a pink flag that something is off. If you want to have a successful family, you really need to find someone who is steady in most fundamental ways. Of course, we all have neuroses, but beware of this kind of artistic self-expression, this advertisement of complexity up front that might indicate problems.

        God forbid that I should ever be single again, but were I single, I would watch a future partner carefully. I’d actually prefer NOT to know about past indiscretions. If she has taken care of that part of her life and resolved it, then that’s fine. If she did tell me about something past that was problematic, I’d watch her carefully. Does she talk about his with regret? Genuine regret? Does she take into consideration the damage it caused? Or is her description all about her own “growth” and “complexity.” If the latter, I’d back off and find someone else.

        Just my take. The writer may be a perfectly nice person and I wish her the best. But the complexity-excuse is one to watch out for. I’ve seen folks use that, not just in marriages, but also in family relationships. “Oh, your father is really OK. It’s just that he’s so frustrated/complex/smart-but-unappreciated that he screamed at us all last night….” I prefer folks who know who they are and can say it in a sentence or two.

        Chump Son

    • David, I think I might agree with you on this one. One thing, though–she might be all twisted up with shame and worry–what if he found out from someone else? I’d be so ashamed–better to tell him myself.

    • Oooh I like “If the issue was resolved in her mind ….then I’m not sure she’d need to bring it up. ”

      Great point.

      I’ve read on another blog, people can say in the beginning “I cheated on my ex..” to use as a handy excuse when they cheat on you: “Well I did TELL you!!”

    • David,

      How interesting.

      I always found something very complex about my X though he portrayed himself to be a very simplemperson since he knew I liked simple people.

      For me a simple person is someone who is sorted out , period.

      And no wonder , when inspire of repeated requests I couldn’t get the truth from him I hacked into his mailbox.there, I found he was listed on adult frien finder and all possible sites.on one of his profiles he ssaid he was looking for ” a simple person with complex ideas”.

      Blech.

  • “I’ve grown immensely since then” S writes.

    Yeah, HOW? A few words describing how would help, like “I’ve had intensive therapy” or “I caused someone I loved pain and that sickens me. Never again.” I mean, something.

    STBX and OW are good talkers – they love to say what they’ll do, but they never actually do it. The OW told me “I take responsibility for my actions.” Again, HOW? What exactly can a person do to take responsibility for destroying a family? STBX has told me something similar – again, what sort of responsibility is he taking? He’s never actually told me what this “responsibility” is, just like S never states how she’s “grown”.

    Enough talk. Like I learned in eighth grade, when you write, when you speak, SHOW, not TELL.

    • but Really……. She didn’t MEAN to destroy your family. (eyes rolling) just more mindfuck. I’m finally catching on… just steer clear of the crazy. We can never win. We can never get our dignity back. Not from THEM, that is. They SUCK. Remember? That’s my new mantra…

      they suck, they suck, they suck…

  • I fully agree with you. And it was all about her, her, her. So what she was immature, so she says now as a cover for the whole marriage being a mistake so the cheating was an obvious pathway and an ” understandable one.” She knew of the vows and should have thought hard about meaning them when she said them. So if you are immature, don’t get married, don’t drag someone down your f&ck up path. And years later don’t use it as an excuse for your lack of morals.
    I was immature in my 20’s too ( still am) but knew better than to make the kind of commitment I couldn’t keep.
    When I read the book The Starter Marriage hers ago, those people went in thinking there was something off or that they could always leave…etc…
    From the post, I don’t think that person cared about her marriage so the consequences of the cheating didn’t matter either. She wanted to get married so she did, then she wanted to cheat, so she did. No introspection here whatsoever and I don’t count ” I was hurt, I was immature” as introspection though she and the columnist do. Pretend you are a-ok and write back after your next victim.

    • I was immature in my 20s but I never cheated on anyone. STBX was immature in his 20s and he, it turns out, cheated on everyone.

      Neither of us have changed.

      • Exactly Nord.

        It is my firm belief that cheating is character based, not situation based.

        Character doesnt change.

        • My ex admitted to cheating during the last 12 years of a 22-year marriage. My shrink was of the opinion it was longer, likely the whole marriage. She said that serial cheating and the ability to lead a double life for years are indicative of psychological problems rooted in adolescence or childhood. Whatever character deficits she had at 44 and 32, she likely had at 21 as well.

        • fallulah_g –I totally agree that “cheating is character based, not situation based.”

          My cheating ex would “cheat” on finances ( like exaggerating tax deductions), “cheat” at work by taking stuff that he should not (like office supplies, old “decommissioned” laptops, heck, he even once took vodka from the office bar and brought it home poured into an empty water bottle!), and “cheat” our insurance company (like making the claim and then pocketing the money and doing the fix himself). None of that is terribly “awful” and lots of people do those kinds of things. But taken all together, these situations and others like them show a pattern of character — and the infidelity fits that pattern too.

          Maybe the real character trait is entitlement — and cheating is a manifestation of that. Getting ego-kibbles from the AP, the larger tax refund, the boss (I did not get a big enough raise so I deserve that stuff) and the insurance company (they take all our money — we are owed some back!).

  • the only thing I learned from this ( I am on holiday so I don’t have to think so hard) is that “what goes around, comes around) and that her first husband is laughing his ass off.

    i’ve just started back into the dating scene and this is something that I would want to know and would probably be a deal breaker.

  • Hmmm. My dear Abby advice:

    Tell the guy. If he decides to not continue with you, accept it and make sure that you don’t allow his rejection of you to cause you to backslide. If he is willing to continue with you, earn his trust each day.

    I’ve mentioned a couple of times that since I’ve been back out dating, almost all the divorced people I’ve gone out with have either cheated or have been cheated on (one guy did both in the same marriage). I don’t go out with the cheaters again, because I don’t gamble when there are such poor odds. The typical sort of confession is: “Well, you know, the marriage was really bad and I got involved with someone else and then we got divorced.” Very little remorse, obviously no self reflection. Just a part of conversation. The thing that I find tremendously interesting is that they ALWAYS say things like: “But it would be different with someone like you…”

    And that right there is the key for me to know that they have not changed. Because implicit in that comment was that they cheated because of something external to them the first time. Bad marriage, no sex, bad wife/husband, blah blah blah. All those things may have been true. Bad marriage, no sex, bad wife/husband…but they don’t cheat because of that, they cheat because they don’t know how to DEAL with those things appropriately.

    It just is so simple.

    But I do think that they can change. Not the ones who have some kind of disorder — but I don’t think most of them do have a disorder. I think they are garden variety fucked up, most of them. And so those people can change and probably do deserve a second chance at trying to be happy.

    Just not with me. LOL

    • Guess, we’re all getting too old and “jaded.” thank God!!! lol

      what those lame dating responses tell me is: “I think that you’re attractive enough to sleep with, so I’m just going to spout out some bullshit response that I know is what you want to hear… hehehe…”

      what is the saying? “fool me once…”

      • Oh totally, Laurel.

        What is hysterical is that, when they say that crap, I then engage them in a long conversation about cheating and the choices we make and why we make the choices we do. LOL! I sort of pin their balls to the wall and it is quite funny to watch them process all this stuff and how they should answer.

        Real lightweights, paddling around in the shallows of the self awareness pool.

  • “I’m debating whether to be honest about my dishonesty”

    Doesnt that tell you everything you need to know? lol

  • I only stumbled upon this article today. You lost me when you claimed to not be judgmental and then dove head first into pearl clutching over people being pregnant when not married, and when you misspelled her ex-husband’s name every single time you typed it.

    • There are, on average, three types of these kinds of websites. Altruism-driven (a desire to help, with thoughtfully and ethically written articles that are careful to cite well-tested and easily-utilized tools devised by experts who want to see the world become a better place), Attention-driven (born from a desire to appear wise, knowing, and to accumulate followers who will re-affirm the paradigm wherein the writer is the wisest and most knowing person in the world), and Spite-driven (born from a desire to vent and to crit, generally most popular with people who are still as wounded as the author, and are attracted to an environment where their anger and spite are the norm). It’s pretty clear where this website lies.

      Personally, I’m not a cheater nor have I been cheated on (I’m just here because I dislike Hax enough to have googled to see if other people dislike her too, lol) but I have been a seasoned sailor when it comes to all kinds of advice columns intended for all kinds of audiences, and I’d say that sites like this are ultimately pretty useful to the social ecosystem, both as a rock which suffering people can cling to when nobody else really cares about or understands their issue, and as a healing-progress benchmark people can look back at when it’s time to say, “You know what? This kind of rage doesn’t sit right with me anymore. Time to move on, I don’t want this experience to hold me back anymore”

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