Dear Chump Lady,
My girlfriend and I have been together for five years. We have a four year old daughter together. We are both young, 24 and 22. I have been working my butt off to put her through nursing school for the last three and a half years. She just graduated this last December (2012). We moved from up north to Texas. We love Texas and that was our dream to relocate as soon as she graduated. We left everything behind and moved out here on a whim. We had no plans, we just wanted a new life experience. We left everything behind literally, it is still in a pack rat storage container up north. We have been here a month and were closing on a house this last week.
This last week she was tired from a long day at work. I happened to pick up her phone and I see graphic texts of her and her SO. When I confronted her she came somewhat clean and freaked out trying to hold me in the hotel room. I went on a drive and returned a few hours later. She talked to me until 4am about what happened. It was pretty heart wrenching to think everything we had worked for she just threw it away. I tried telling her she had to go right then, but I decided to let her leave first thing in the morning. I packed her stuff for her and booted her out of the hotel 9am the next morning. It has been four days. Now it is just me and my daughter.
I have a large array of feelings towards the situation. In the texts it is clear that she was in charge. The SO was trying to tell her he had deep feelings and She pretty much said “this is what it is, we both have our separate lives when this ends”. I just don’t understand why she would move half way across the country with someone and chump them (me) like that. Is she just that scandalous and didn’t think she would get caught? From the look of the texts it looks like this went on for about a month. The weird thing is that she left the texts on her phone. It was like she was wanting to get caught but did not have the courage to tell me about what happened.
She had a terrible childhood. Her dad went to jail when she was 14 and abandoned her. Her parents disowned her from a young age. I know first hand they never told her that they loved her or showed her or any of the other daughters affection. She has felt stranded until I came along. I always had a can do attitude for her and supported her in making her life better. I am the only real person who has cared about her in her life. Is this a way of acting out because she is not happy
with herself and refuses to think that she is loved?
Fast forward to today. She is doing anything and everything to show me that she loves me. I am just not buying it…. Her dad did this to her mom and I personally think it is the only way she knows. She is trying to tell me how much she really does care. She is manning up to her mistake and asking that I just keep an open mind. She is admitting that she can never apologize for what she did but is going into counseling this week to work on herself. It just seems to me to be the typical bull shit a cheater would say to get back what they had. Her problem is that she craves attention from guys Facebook, her girlfriends-boyfriends friends and people she does not even know like a hotel desk attendant. I am starting to see that she is just scandalous and I just wasted a shit ton of my life and now will never reap the benefit of paying 30k for her nursing school.
Notable, she does have problems. She has been going crazy before this, not sleeping, non normal though patterns, and being a weirdo at times. I have asked her to see a counselor for sometime and to get on some sort of medication or meditation to help with her sadness/denial. She tells me all of the time she is just a worthless piece of shit like her family and can never do anything good. Is she subconscious trying to fuck her life up? I think she just may have succeeded!
No, I don’t think your girlfriend is trying to subconsciously fuck up her life. She’s pretty aware of her choices and a real expert at life fuckupery. It’s YOU I’m worried about. Subconsciously or not, you’re fucking up YOUR life staying together with her and trying to untangle the skein of fuckupedness. Why is that? Let’s take the focus off her (her dysfunction is slopping out all over the place), and put it back on you. Why are you trying to make it work with someone who would cheat on you and walk out on her daughter?
If you ask other people, Shawn, I’m sure you may get some reconciliation advice. Some “hopium” — you know, that false hope drug that’s so addictive. And you could waste a lot more of your young life on this person. But your girlfriend has SHOWN YOU who she IS. She is someone who is quite happy to have you foot a 30K education bill, raise a child, move cross country — and fuck around on you. She’s someone who likes to flirt openly with other men. Who has a family history of cheating. Someone who is okay with using people (you, that idiot she’s screwing as her fuckbuddy when he wants “more.”) THAT is her character. THAT is what you’re working with.
I’m not seeing any evidence that she’s sorry. Yes, she’s saying the right things. After she got caught. And no, she didn’t want you to see those texts (subconsciously). She just got sloppy. Cheaters do that. They’re so entitled and so used to playing you, they assume the consequences don’t happen to them. They like things risky.
I’m unclear on where it stands now. She’s been gone four days? Yet she’s also back in your life trying to make things right? I hope she’s still out. Here’s some advice.
1) See a lawyer. You need to document EVERYTHING. The cheating, what you’ve paid on her education, her flakiness, her leaving her child. I know you asked her to leave, but my read of it is, she’s okay with you having all the grown up child rearing work. Correct me if I’m wrong. Maybe you’ll get lucky, and she’ll just hand over custody. I hope so. In any case, work out the most advantageous custody arrangement you can. Always, always, always document her misbehavior. That’s what the courts want to see — who is acting in the best welfare of the child.
2.) Paternity check your daughter. I’m sorry to bring it up, but if she’s a cheater and this much of a flake, you can’t risk not knowing if you’re really that child’s father. It’s hurtful to mention it, and you may still very much want to raise her, but it could make a big difference legally.
3.) Know that you’re a GOOD person. Yes you got chumped. Learn from this. You’re a good man to be a father to that little girl and such an amazing source of support to your unworthy girlfriend. That 30K wasn’t a waste if it means that woman can support that child, or pay you child support. In future relationships, look for reciprocity. Someone who is self supporting and uncomfortable receiving so much from you. We do so much out of love, but look for a sense of entitlement in others. Cheating is based in entitlement thinking. She was okay taking from you, and playing you, and putting your future, and that little girl’s at risk. For ego kibbles! You deserve MUCH better.
4.) She’s still trying to manipulate you. STOP trying to mediate, reason, get her to counseling. It is NOT your job to fix her. She just pulls out her “woe is me!” card. Oh, she can’t do anything good! She’s worthless! That’s your cue, Shawn, to throw ego kibbles at her — No sweetheart, you’re worthy. You’re a good person! Bullshit. Her actions are NOT good. She wants to fix this, and BE sorry? ACT sorry. She can get a job and pay you back $30K. That’d be a start. She can get HERSELF to therapy without your prompting or help. She should be falling all over herself to fix this. She ISN’T. Shawn, that’s a CLUE.
5.) Consider moving back home with your daughter. See a lawyer about this first. I don’t know your job/house situation now. But I think you need support. Don’t let yourself be isolated. I know you love Texas (you’re nuts, Shawn, I live in Texas. Talk to me after August…), but Texas isn’t going anywhere. You need family and friends and a support system you’re not going to find in a new place. Keeping you here means you’re at a disadvantage, and she’s playing on that. Oh, Shawn has so much invested, he’ll NEVER leave me now! He moved cross country! We bought a house!
Shawn, I’ve been in those EXACT shoes. Moved to another state, bought a house, quit a job, got chumped. It took me over a year to extricate myself from that mess but I did it. And you can too. Don’t be afraid to quit a bad investment. I know how badly it sucks, I truly do. But there’s a good life on the other side of this nightmare, and you need to start moving towards it. Start doing the hard, painful work of saving YOURSELF. That’s the only person you get to save here. Well, you and that child of yours, if the courts will let you. You cannot save your girlfriend. She doesn’t want saving (she wants to play you) — and it isn’t your job.
Report back, please, and let us know how you’re doing.
I need to add one thing to this, CL. And I must say, I am not an advocate for reconciliation in most cases. BUT … it sounds like your GF is exhibiting signs of being bipolar, which is a serious mental illness (many people suffer it and aren’t diagnosed for decades, including celebrities like Catherine Zeta Jones).
You mention her not sleeping, having weird thought patterns. That, and self-destructive, risky sexual behaviour like an affair, is a sign of the illness. People suffering from bipolar may do things that are out of character, like gambling away their life savings in a weekend (when on a high) or spending weeks in bed (when on a low). A bout could have been triggered by the stress of school/moving.
I’m not suggesting you reconcile, but perhaps completely abandoning her in these circumstances is hasty?
Not to give legitimate mental illness short shrift, but I think in the context of infidelity you have to ***very*** cautious about grasping at an exception that can swallow the rule. The rule that applies to 99+% of cheaters? Is that they intend to cheat. And yet when caught the great majority of them would claim that they “weren’t themselves” during the affair. It was “like an out of body experience” or as if they were “on autopilot, not thinking at all.” And even if they don’t make such claims outright, it doesn’t take much for a sympathetic and desperate chump to give a similar interpretation of their actions (“It’s so unlike her! She was the President of her diocese’s Catholic Youth Organization in high school! She studied Emily Dickinson! She’s not the type to give her boss a blow job in his car at lunch!”).
Cheating ***compelled*** by mental illness is ***extremely*** rare. As in, unicorn rare. I wouldn’t begin to consider it as a possibility until you have TWO reliable diagnoses. And even then? I think that gun kicks as hard as it shoots. Because even though it might tend to reduce your partner’s moral culpability for their horrendous actions, it indicates that it will be very difficult for them to control their behavior and act differently in the future, putting you and your family in peril. That is, you are signing up for a life that is likely to involve other affairs, other heart breaks for you and your family (and perhaps more children to be abandoned by their mother suffers further decline). Would you continue enmeshing every aspect of your life with a partner whose mental illness compelled them toward, say, arson, or assault, or child molestation?
And how did that work out for you, Dottie Sandusky?
IMO, if a partner truly suffers mental illness that compels infidelity, the most compassionate thing you could do is detach . . . with love. Urge your STBX to seek therapy, meds, whatever help mental health professionals have to offer. But also take care of your child, and take care of the person who your child will need now more than ever: you.
I was also thinking that she was presenting as bi-polar, but I don’t see it as abandonment, if he leaves, at all. In fact, staying is ENABLING her. It is ONLY if he leaves, that she has any chance at wellness, because she has to learn to stand on her own two feet. Trouble is, she’ll probably wind up with another chump. Hey, she’s already got one waiting in the wings. Yes, its very sad, but until she hits rock bottom and realizes that she’s one sick patooty, who needs a lot of help, (unlikely) there ain’t a thing he can do but save himself, AND his daughter.
Sick mothers make sucky mothers. They abuse their children in some fashion or other too, ya know.
“Abandoning” her is freighted language. He should detach with love and protect himself and his daughter. The best thing he could do for her is let her feel the consequences of her actions, and not enable her illness.
I say this as someone who enabled a mentally ill spouse for years, and left finally when he refused to treat his condition (and I got a clue). He’s downward spiraled ever since. Thank God every day I didn’t stick around for that ride, or let my son grow up in that mess.
I don’t think it’s enabling to stick by someone the first time they ever exhibit bad judgement. She is someone who Shawn has been with for five years, someone who suddenly and one time cheated while exhibiting some other weird behaviour, someone who is the mother of his child and has otherwise been a good partner.
Sometimes, with mental illness, this is what happens. It’s not a choice and no, it isn’t even like alcoholism where there’s a progression. Sometimes bipolar can be a sudden psychotic break accompanied by uncharacteristic behaviour. And sometimes that’s what leads to diagnosis. There is no grey area with bipolar. If that’s what she has, and I’m not saying Shawn’s partner is bipolar, but if that’s what she has it is not a choice. It’s like cancer. It certainly can’t be mistaken for a character flaw and it’s damaging to suggest that it can, even if it leads people to make some wholly uncharacteristic choices on the road to diagnosis and recovery.
Having been a reporter and someone with mental illness, I know how this stuff works. I’ve covered cases where psychotically ill people commit crimes, kill people even, and are found Not Criminally Responsible. There’s a reason for that. But I digress.
What I want to say is that I support what you do CL and for narcissistic sociopaths like my STBX, hey, it totally makes sense to flush them like some used toilet paper. Unfortunately, life isn’t always so cut and dried, especially when we’re talking a potential mental illness like bipolar.
It’s sad that a community of strangers — who have been endlessly helpful to someone in my circumstances, to again reference my POS serial cheater — could end up directing Shawn to make a serious decision based on the politics of this site, which is to leave every cheater in every circumstance.
Shawn, as the lone voice out there that’s being drowned out, I will simply say to you to make sure you feel comfortable with your decisions. This is the mother of your child. This is someone you’ve been with for five years who is acting pretty weird beyond this cheating, someone who has a bipolar mother. Please don’t make your decision based on what some anonymous people online with an agenda — albeit a very good one in 99.9% of cases — are directing you to do. This is beyond the scope of this forum.
Sad, I don’t pretend to be an expert — I’m a chump. My blog nome de plume is pretty clear on that.
But I can relate to Shawn’s sad story — before I left a cheater, I was married for nearly a decade to a man who was mentally ill. I struggle with all these issues, and I didn’t “throw him out like some used toilet paper” — I spent 9 years invested in his therapy, and living with someone who was highly functional (job, education, friends, house) and highly dysfunctional (would fly into a rage if you threw out a sponge, hid money, had phobias about mail).
Also, FWIW, I’ve spent 20 years in publishing, many years of that writing for NAMI — the national alliance for the mentally ill, and the government on mental health care policy. I won an award for writing a did on a public service campaign for fighting stigma against mental illness. I also spent a year writing for Dartmouth-Hitchcock (Dartmouth medical school) and SAHMSA on schizophrenia.
So, I’m not an expert, but I’m not unversed on the issues either. You may put me in the “leave a sociopath” box, but I’d say leave a “sane” run of the mill cheater too. And I’d say think twice before you spend your youth — when you’re not married — with someone who may have a profound mental illness.
I realize this may hit close to home for you, if you’ve struggled with clinical depression. I’m not saying you or other people who struggle with mental illness are disposable, or undeserving of a committed partner. I would say, you didn’t cheat on your husband and you do treat your illness — two big things Shawn does NOT have.
That’s a different issue altogether, CL. Discouraging Shawn from staying with someone who may suffer a serious mental illness is not the same as encouraging him to leave a cheater. If that’s the case, let’s be honest about what we’re talking about.
Shawn, most of the people posting responses to your letter, unlike CL, don’t understand mental illness. For them it’s still the boogeyman down the street wandering around in his underwear and getting locked up in the Funny Farm. Or, it’s a deficiency of character or a choice and one should simply, “Smarten up.”
Neither of those things are true. Bipolar, if that’s what she has, can ruin someone’s life; you can become psychotically ill, hallucinating, and you may even take your own life. It’s not OCD and it’s not hoarding. It’s in a whole other category, kind of like schizophrenia.
But, and this is the most important thing I’m going to say, with proper treatment (which can take years to get down pat), people do get better and go on to lead happy productive lives. Whether you stick around for that or not is up to you. I’m not advocating either way. I simply see it as my duty to speak the truth in the face of all this misinformation and hasty advice.
Don’t make a decision based the politics of a website. Unlike the endless supply of chumps out there and I, you have not been deceived for years by a remorseless douchebag. Hell, I’d said run if you hadn’t described all her other weird symptoms on top of the cheating. But you did. And now it’s up to you to decide how to handle this. Whatever you do, don’t make your decision based on someone else’s terrible experiences being projected onto your circumstances. Your situation is different.
So Sad, you don’t think Shawn should factor in whether or not she is bipolar when deciding to leave his cheater? Do you think bipolar gives him an extenuating circumstance that compels him to stay and help her?
ETA to add, for the record, I would encourage someone to leave a cheater AND I would encourage someone to leave someone with an untreated mental illness. I’ve left both.
Frankly, even a person with *treated* mental illness when a lapse could mean sexual acting out — something that puts a chump and child at risk — is not something I would risk.
I know bipolar can be treated. My cousin who was hospitalized last year is on now meds and holds a job. He also has every other aspect of his life managed for him (apartment, bill paying), and has never been in a long-term relationship. FWIW. He needs a lot of support to behave in ways that other people take for granted.
Oh my goodness. This opens a completely different can of worms. Clearly not everyone is as sick as your cousin, CL. I had a high-functioning boss who has bipolar. He was a very successful guy with years of stability.
1 in 3 people will suffer some form of mental illness in their lifetime. If it doesn’t touch you in some way, well then you’re in the lucky 66.66%, CL. You can’t write off everyone who has a mental illness. What’s next, advocating sterilization? Society has changed. Treatments have improved. Life can go on for people with the worst of mental illnesses.
I’m not advocating Shawn reconcile. I’m just advising him to make an educated decision not based on the politics of your brand. I think that’s fair. This is not black and white. I don’t think we have the whole story with Shawn’s partner. She’s young and it sound as if she’s just started presenting with symptoms. That doesn’t mean she’s failed at getting better or is refusing treatment. It means her journey has just started. I’m not suggesting Shawn go along for the ride. I’m simply giving him a side of the story he may not have.
Shawn’s partner aside, mental illness doesn’t make someone a throwaway partner. I know my clinical depression doesn’t make me a waste of time. It doesn’t make me someone to be feared or avoided or written off. I am in the company of scientists, artists and presidents. This isn’t a choice or a lack of character or a weakness. We’re not broken people. This is an illness and it can be managed. You would never, ever tell someone to seriously consider (cheating aside) dropping their partner once diagnosed with breast cancer, would you?
You do amazing work for us run-of-the-mill chumps, CL. But I think Shawn’s case is not your typical situation.
I respectfully dispute the “It’s like cancer” analogy as applied to mental illness. Potentially misleading and unhelpful in these circumstances, IMHO. I’ve had many family members with cancer, and none of them have (correctly or deceitfully) blamed horribly hurtful conduct on their illness. None have avoided treatment that could help them. None have placed the nurturing of their illness above the welfare of their families. All that to say, even if Shawn’s spouse is truly ***driven*** to cheat by illness, there might be very good reasons to end the relationship prior to marrying the person, making more children, and devoting your life to them.
But I also think we all agree to that careful decision-making is called for here, and I haven’t heard anyone suggesting Shawn shouldn’t consult medical professionals or people who have more experience dealing with bipolar people.
But mental illness is an illness, just like cancer. It’s. Not. A Choice.
“You would never, ever tell someone to seriously consider (cheating aside) dropping their partner once diagnosed with breast cancer, would you?”
If a symptom of breast cancer was cheating on me and exposing me to STDs? Yes, yes I would advocate leaving.
Just breast cancer or depression or gout? No, of course don’t leave. But in Shawn’s case, we are surmising that the cheating is a manifestation of her illness. So whether she is culpable for her cheating or not, Shawn is still in harm’s way. So, yes, IMO he should leave and not risk further harm.
It’s fine to have hope for someone’s possible — even probable! if you want to be that optimistic — recovery. It’s quite another to invest in a lifelong relationship with them. Shawn is not married to this woman. They have a child together. I think he should get legal advice, and medical advice of professionals. It’s a big problem, and the “politics” of my site aside, it’s bigger than anyone here can address.
This is just an advice and support site, that’s all.
No, just because being bi-polar and having cancer are both covered by the word “illness” doesn’t make them ***the same***. Just as being bi-polar is not “just like,” say, claustrophobia, or anthrophobia (fear of flowers). None of those illnesses occur by choice; however, different illnesses carry different meanings, consequences, and moral obligations, and it’s not helpful to pretend otherwise.
These semantic issues are thoroughly discussed in a wonderful book by Susan Sontag, “Illness as Metaphor,” BTW.
I should also add that medication and counseling do help people get better, if your partner is indeed suffering from bipolar. And the illness is a real thing, not an excuse. Not saying she has it, just that you say some curious things in your letter that point me in that direction.
When we met she was taking an anti depressant. She no longer takes anything. She does take adderral which does not help any.
I am most certain she is bi polar. She laid around in the hotel for the first week we were here just depressed and sad. No matter what I did date night, going to the park etc.. She would go into her little cocoon the next morning. Her mother was diagnosed with bi polar and spent a few weeks in a mental health facility this last year. Once the mom had a few weeks of medication she was released and she seems to be doing a lot better now.
Okay, I’ll play the heartless jerk.
Someone who is diagnosed but refuses to take their meds? NOT a mitigating factor. What does that kind of knowing negligence say about them and their commitment to the welfare of you and your child?
Seems similar to me to someone driving when they ***know*** they’re drunk. Which says ***in actions*** that the person just doesn’t care if someone else gets hurt.
Let’s not pile on here with blame, guys. Bipolar is a legit diagnosis and not an excuse. I will advocate till the cows come home for the mentally ill because I have clinic depression and I know what a toll that takes on your life. It’s not a choice.
Shawn: It sounds like there’s a lot more going on here aside from cheating. Maybe this isn’t the right forum?
Having an illness of any sort is pitiable. However the sick person has to put in some effort to help themselves.
Have an upset stomach? I’ll run get some soup from the store. But if I return with the soup and find you on a donuts and cake binge my sympathy is going to evaporate.
Have a mental illness? I’ll go to counseling with you, but you need to take your pills and use what we’ve learned.
Enabling doesn’t help the afflicted, it hurts them.
Absolutely agree GreenGirl.
Sad, just because we’re saying “leave!” does not mean we think her bipolar is not legitimate. I can say it is character, another can say it is wiring or her illness. At the end of the day, Shawn and a small child are at the receiving end of horrific behavior. If she were an alcoholic who hit him in a rage, I wouldn’t get sidelined on the question is her alcoholism real (yes, it’s real. Addiction is real). I’d say, get the hell away from the person who is drinking and hitting you.
Can alcoholic’s get sober? Yes, with a lot of help. If they WANT it. Again, Shawn has no obligation to stick it out — and — most importantly — this woman through her actions is showing Shawn that she does not WANT the help. Shawn should not sacrifice his life to help her.
If her illness makes her unable to help herself, that’s sad. But AGAIN, it’s not Shawn’s job to save her. Just makes it more imperative that he leave.
Please don’t take these comments as insensitivity to mental illness.
I agree with Sad in Seatle. Sounds like this could be a legitimate mental illness. I would get her psychiatric help first and listen to the professionals! At least you can make a decision then with your eyes wide open. Also going on and off prescribed meds is common with psychiatric conditions and doesn’t necessarily mean she isn’t taking responsibility, it’s just part of the illness.
I just replied above to this issue.
Her being noncompliant with meds, and not taking responsibility with her illness, makes it that much MORE imperative IMO that Shawn leave.
I agree, completely. The point is that I do not see her trying to get well or even admit that she has a problem and if she can’t do that, then there really is no hope for a better life. My father was mentally ill and the bravest most wonderful thing my mother did was leave him. There is no glory in sacrificing one’s life for another who cannot be saved.
If he leaves and THEN, she decides to get her act together and for a sustained period of time, then we might (I said might) have something to work with, but not the way it is now. But, I too understand mental illness and its one of my life goals that we can get it out in the open and talk as freely about it as we do if we have a cold or some physical disease. While its certainly sad, I think that a lot of cheaters are mentally ill in some form or other. That doesn’t excuse them. For the compulsively active cheaters, I believe it’s the symptom rather than the disease itself.
CL, I just wanted to add that I saw somewhere that you said that you aren’t an expert. I don’t think that you have to have a college degree to call oneself an expert. You have years of experience and hands on “training” and have truly gotten a clear handle on what we are dealing with here. So, I believe that you ARE an expert in this realm. xo
I would also add: Shawn, I am so very sorry you’re going through this unholy mind-maze. I was married for 22 years and had two children with my cheating wife. Ending the marriage was the most painful experience in my life. It’s never easy for anyone. You are very early in the grief process. Take care of your health and make decisions as much as possible on objective factors rather than emotion. Good luck, my friend.
If she’s bipolar — consider that it isn’t poof! taking the meds and everything is okay. Yes, some can function. For many, it’s managing a life long illness with tons of relapses. Why would you sign up for that, or subject your daughter to it? Also, if you have a mental illness diagnosis, that will help you win custody — so Nomar, I beat you at heartless jerk thinking.
My cousin is bipolar. He’s had lifelong problems with it. Last year he locked himself in his apartment for three months and didn’t come out ever. Had a total psychotic break and wound up in a hospital. It’s heartbreaking.
Yeah, I agree with Sad on this one. If she has a bonafide mental illness that caused her to do this, I would not bail on her. It is just like any other illness. Not a choice and she should not be held responsible IF she has this buipolar deal and it caused this.
I would look into the diagnosis.
It’s okay to give her one chance to rectify things, and to get her illness stabilized.
I do believe that some cheaters do cheat once and never again, and if there are other things in the marriage that are good, and the person stops lying and deceiving then give the marriage might work out.
ADERALL?????????????? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Does she have ADD (attention deficit disorder)? Because if she doesn’t, how the hell did she get that. Its a narcotic and a controlled substance and not a cure for anything but ADD or ADHD or narcolepsy. And if she’s bi-polar, could make her worse.
Hun, I’ve suffered from depression most of my life. Most people would never know. And I can tell you this. Its not an excuse. If this is how she’s dealing with it, to feel better then my please, you are ON a sinking ship. Get thee (and young daughter) to a life boat and quickly! I promise you, that she will take you down, down, down into the depths of hell if you do not. Please read my comment above. Wishing you peace and safety! ~ Laurel
ps: I’m 57 and have an ADHD son (who’s 22) and one on the autistic spectrum who’s 18. AND, a sex addict husband. Just one big fucktastic family! Lots of firsthand experience with this.
Shawn, leave her. Please.
I too moved around for my spouse and I did it many times while he built his career. You know what he did? Fucked around the whole time. All of them were just flings that meant ‘nothing’ and ‘we were happy’ but you know what? When I found out it nearly killed me. I am not even kidding you. IT NEARLY KILLED ME.
You want to know why? Because I had found out about an affair years ago and he did all the right things to keep me with him. And you know what happened within 6 months? He had another sidepiece. I had no idea. He just got much better at hiding things. He would be ‘good’ for awhile, then fall off the wagon as it were.
You’re young. I wish I was as young as you. I had a very hard time leaving because I’m am a middle aged mother who stayed at home for years so he could pursue his dreams. You know what this means? I’m fucked. I’m also far away from home, so I’m double fucked.
Leave. Do yourself the biggest favour in the world and do not get back with this woman.
And get a paternity test.
Hi Nord – a big hug to a double fucked chump from another double fucked chump.
I agree with your post too by the way.
Do you believe you’re not worthy of someone who will return your faith and affection? Does the thought of a mature and even-keeled woman who actually reciprocates your love just sort of spook you?
Why does it feel so comfortable to pursue this woman and have her hurt you over and over again?
What sort of family situation did you come from? Why is it ok to sacrifice YOUR life for someone who is so troubled?
Do you really believe at your tender young age that she is the best you can do?
I’m afraid I believe she is very, very damaged, and this is the BEST you will ever get from her. She is going to get old very fast, and if you choose to stay with her, you look forward to looking back on a long life full of regrets. And you know what? You’re not getting younger.
Why not walk away, feel the pain that you KNOW you WILL feel now or later (will it be better later? No.) and cut your losses NOW. Take time to mourn, and then heal. Learn from your mistakes. Figure yourself out, away from her.
Realize that there are so many women out there who deserve a guy like you, who will be happy with you and allow you to feel your own happiness instead of draining the life right out of you. Your daughter deserves that life, too, you know.
If you won’t do it for you, do it for her.
Wow, good questions Stephanie.
I need to work on them for myself.
Great questions, Stephanie. That’s where the focus needs to be. Not on her, but on HIM. What does Shawn want? Is this an acceptable relationship for him?
Yes, I know I deserve someone who show me the same affection. I know there are other people out there for me I just have so much invested when do you sit down and decide that this is the tipping point… which i believe it is.. I guess it is hard to make a business decision on a relationship.
Don’t put your heart where your head belongs.
I can only say, when I was involved with someone who was seriously mentally ill, albeit highly functional, I had, one day, a moment of clarity. Whether he was ill, or getting help or not….. when he was in the throes of his illness he would take me down with him and NOT MISS A BEAT. It didn’t make him a bad person. It wasn’t his choice but in that moment, I knew I had to leave. It is very difficult because you think you can help…. but, they can only help themselves. She needs to prove herself outside of her relationship with you. You need to leave. I’m sorry, but, you need to leave. As someone said above, there is nothing heroic about sticking things out with a person who is fundamentally unwell – all that is is the fast track to codependence.
It is painful to even listen to your dilemma, to know someone you love has a built in excuse to abuse and mistreat you and your daughter. To know you feel guilty about not giving her another chance, when we know it may not turn out well. Most of us wasted far, far more of our lives on undeserving mates & want to help you not go down this road. When will enough be enough?
Stephanie – you raised excellent questions.
Good post – well said.
please heed CL’s advice here. She has hit this nail right on the head, and one of the most important parts you need to keep focusing on is: “Her actions are NOT good. She wants to fix this, and BE sorry? ACT sorry. She can get a job and pay you back $30K. That’d be a start. She can get HERSELF to therapy without your prompting or help. She should be falling all over herself to fix this. She ISN’T. Shawn, that’s a CLUE.”
The time and money and effort you have invested so far is NOTHING compared to the ongoing hurt, pain and depths of despair that this girl can pull you into from this point forward. It is so hard to have perspective on this when you’re standing in the place you are right now, but PLEASE know that no one can fix these problems for her. No matter how wonderful and caring and “the clearly better choice” you may be, SHE must have the intestinal fortitude and the desire to want better for herself and be willing to work for it.
I had to learn this the hard way with my own STBX, as these types will talk SUCH a good game… and they will “admit they have a problem” and “they know they need to do better” and “are willing to do whatever it takes to salvage the relationship” including putting in a few visits to the counselor — until it’s time to actually put concrete, consistent effort into making those statements a reality. Forget all those empty words, Shawn. Focus on her actions. Better yet, focus on YOU. Get whatever help and support you need to get you through this.
I thought my STBX had clearly hit bottom – he couldn’t sleep, was admittedly “going crazy”, acting like Jekyll and Hyde, drinking a LOT (people suspected he was also abusing drugs), angry, lying to everyone, burned lifelong friendships, got a public reprimand for fraudulent behavior from his professional licensing board (which was published as a “cautionary tale of what not to do” in national publications within said professional community), and I’d caught him cheating on me with his dingbat secretary — couldn’t get worse, right? Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to start digging out of that mess, right? Who wouldn’t take a lifeline from a loving and stable spouse, friends and family to get out of that hellhole, right?
WRONG. For him, it actually got WORSE from that point forward. He quit attending counseling sessions after a couple of weeks (b/c it was “too hard”), swore that the affair was over but he never stopped screwing dingbat secretary, never stopped lying to friends and family, got evicted from his office and apartment, fancy sports car got repossessed mere months after he’d leased it, clients ditched him, hasn’t paid taxes in years, fears his professional license is thisclose to being revoked (and rightfully so), and has no money.
He will tearfully admit to me he has self esteem issues, that he knows he’s a piece of shit and he ruins every relationship he’s ever had, that he’s a one-man wrecking ball, that he identifies with the traits of codependency and being the Adult Child of an Alcoholic…. but he wants pity, sympathy, attention and more ego kibbles from me as a result. He is not willing to DO anything to improve his situation. Not willing to stop/cut back drinking. Not willing to stop seeing dingbat secretary. Not willing to be honest and accountable. Not willing to go to a counselor (even when it wouldn’t cost him a dime). Not willing to take the resources that have been repeatedly offered to him. Ah – but he still wants to remain friends with me! Wants to know if I’ll take his calls! Wants to come see my new home and go have lunch to catch up like we’re old college pals! Despite proving himself to be an utterly despicable person, a shitty husband and loser of a friend — he still wants all the benefits of a relationship with me without actually having to do anything to EARN it.
Bottom line, Shawn – is that these people are like bottomless pits of despair. They will say whatever they can to get anything out of you, until they drain you completely dry. Read up about Narcissists, Cluster B personality disorders and Anti-social behaviors. Learn how to step away from the crazy, because you cannot fix this for her. You didn’t deserve this, it’s not fair, but you don’t have to continue to subject yourself to her problems that she is not willing to face and address. Good book: “Emotional Vampires” by Albert J Bernstein, PhD. My STBX nearly ticks every box on the checklist, and I bet yours will too.
You are not married to this woman, why even consider making such a commitment, after her cheating on you while you slave to pay for her nursing school education.
Also, I agree with chumplady, please do a DNA on your daughter. In some US states, if you wait too long after discovery, you will still be responsible for the rest of your life for a child that is not biologically yours.
See an attorney pronto.
My heart aches at the thought of a young child being exposed to more misery if you don’t leave now. You have a duty to do no harm to that child and not expose her to such a toxic parent. Otherwise, when that child hooks up with someone vile who abuses her with such deceit…
Even if she has a mental disorder or is just self destructive, do you want that in your daughter’s life? Do you want to invest everything in a person who is screwed up.
It’s really hard. I recently broke with a very old friend who has been swinging up and down for years. Always I looked for excuses, “she’s tired. She’s stressed. Her parents. Her boyfriend. Having problems at school. Having problems at work.” You’re looking for excuses too. Block her as best you can. The only way to deal with an abusive relationship (physical, verbal, emotional) is to cut off the abuser.
Shawn, Listen to CL as her advices is all good. When you kicked your girlfriend out you followed your gut instinct. Your gut instinct is rarely wrong. GO SEE A LAWYER ASAP. It doesn’t commit you to anything but makes your aware of your rights. You need to protect your child, yourself and your finanaces.
I was just reading the comments on bi-polar disorder. She is a nurse a health care proffesional and should know more than the average person about the risk of not taking meds like you should. You can argue that poiont alll you want.
Yes, she should know however that’s where the disease takes over. Often when they’re on a high or manic they don’t believe they need them ! This is very common in many of the psychiatric illnesses and it doesn’t matter if she’s a nurse! I believe Shawn probably will have a very difficult life if he takes this on, and it would be important to have her diagnosed. Should be abandon everyone because they’re ill?
Movingon@51 — I lived this one. Should you “abandon” them because they’re ill? No. You should leave them because they are not committed to the marriage as a full partner should be committed, IMO.
Now, you can say the reason they cannot be a faithful partner is because they’re ill. And that may be the truth of it. And you could spend a lot of time parsing out how responsible they are for managing their illness (responsible or cannot be expected to be responsible, because of the illness) — but it STILL comes back to sacrificing your life for someone who is ABSENT in the real ways that matter — the ability to be faithful, to make sane decisions, to act in a child’s best interest, to act in their own self interest, to be emotionally available as a partner, etc.
I spent years going round and round on this one. I left a mentally ill husband (depression, OCD, hoarding). All real illness with real shrink diagnoses. I stayed stuck with a small child thinking “in sickness and in health.” I excused his unwillingness to get help, to stick with treatment as “the illness.” I wasted a lot of my youth tending to a sick person’s chaos and neglecting myself. It got better — for me, and for my son — when I got OUT. I have never for one second regretted laying that burden down.
Did my ex feel “abandoned”? Probably. He’s still pissed, from what I can tell. And he’s been in a steady decline for over a decade (unemployed, untreated, uninsured). All I know is years of trying to get the guy help? Those efforts were rebuffed. Promises were false. And now he’s angry there’s no one there to clean up his mess and blame.
Maybe he’s a jerk. Maybe he’s mentally ill. Maybe it’s both.
I don’t think ANYONE should help a partner who is unwilling to help themselves, or (in case of mental illness) unable to help themselves (then what is the POINT? They’re going to resist you either way.)
Please consider expanding on this line of thought in one of your posts. In particular, how much “slack” should be cut for the mentally ill, given no one is perfect. Where to draw the line?
Ever A Fan
A person not being “perfect” has little to do with the issues to which this site is devoted.
I vote for damn little slack for any “illness” that “causes” you to have sex outside your marriage, lie about it, threaten your family’s health and welfare, and gaslight the person you betrayed into thinking it was all their fault. That person is a danger to anyone who chooses to hitch their wagon to that sick star.
Something else to consider: a person who is truly that “ill”? To the point they lack free will in matters of sex and intimacy? They aren’t mentally competent to be in a committed relationship, anyway.
Yeah, but, CL, as Sad points out, she is young and this appears to ne her first manifestation of the disease. She has not spent years avoiding treatment like your ex. This is a lot different.
What is this first manifestation of the disease?
The repeated cheating with one person? The 8-9 months before, when Shawn mentioned a therapist or meds and she did neither, but then she did cheat. Did she take Shawn’s advice and go see someone? No, but people here assert “a disease” like someone discovering a lump would wait 8/9 months….right!
so since as you mention it isn’t years, how much longer , after 8/9 months and then the cheating, should Shawn spend waiting to see what she does? Since years is implied as some kind of standard/ cutoff/justification, well then, how much time do you suggest Shawn waits, how many more sessions with current lover, or one night stands or how many more side pieces? Shawn should wait what exactly?
This it isn’t different
Sure it is different. 8-9 months is nothing like the years CL describes. This is he first forya into cheating. Before that, she was just acting somewhat weird. Less tha a year with the symptoms and one episode of cheating.
If she has this illness, and it was undiagnosed and untreated, perhaps it explains the cheating.
Fuck, I’d wait 8-9 months easy if I had a kid with her.
If she does not have the illness, I’d bail in a heartbeat. But, if this bipolar illness caused the cheating, I would give her the opportunity to get help.Just me.
The lump analogy fails, as bipolar may prevent her from percieving her illness vs a physical sign, like a lump would alert a menatally healthy person.
There is no volitional component if bipolar is as Sad in Seattle describes.
Just want to add that Shawn caught one episode of cheating. She could have very most likely been cheating for quite awhile (months/years)before then.
Yeah, but that is speculation, Rose.
Well said, Boo. “First manifiestation” is just a two-dollar way of saying “I just made *one* mistake.” BS. Eight months of cheating (hell, 8 days of cheating) is based on hundreds of lies (affirmative or lies of omission). And as for young? Like cheaters get *more* faithful, thoughtful, and ethical over time? Hardly. Almost always the reverse. And the fact that Shawn isn’t married makes this a no-brainer.
I was under the impression that the cheating was short lived, not 8-9 months. I will re-read.
I have no expertise on this illness. But the “I just made one mistake” analogy is off, because it fails to consider that the bipolar illness may impact/negate the volitional nature of the act.
CL, I understand what your saying and I agree with you on most points. I sympathise with you on your previous experience/marriage living with someone with a mental illness which made him unable to be a suitable partner and I don’t think that I could have lived like that either. Having said that, this whole scenerio brings forth so many ethical and moral questions in my mind. People don’t come with guarantees and life would be so much eaiser if they did. We aren’t computers (thank God!), and we do make mistakes, fall down, get sick etc. etc. So, just where do you draw the line? I always like to think Love should be ‘unconditional’ but now I believe the only love that truly is unconditional is that between a parent and child. Even when we get married there are conditions to the marriage: we vow to forsake all others and that is why I beleive that when cheating takes place, those conditions have been broken and the marriage is over. When someone intentionally cheats due to their own selfishness, then they are not worth having as a partner. But I also believe that this word ‘codependent’ is somewhat overused. If we put so many conditions on love, than love actually becomes a very selfish thing. No one is perfect and if we say, that I will only love you if you if you fullfill my expectations and be the person I want you to be, than that is not really love. Sometimes you have to accept people the way they are, warts and all. The relationship does not have to be perfect as none ever will be. People do need to have their deal breakers and boundaries however and I guess there will always be limits and conditions.
My brother married a beautiful, lovely woman and they were best friends and soulmates. At age 32, right after the birth of their second child, she was diagnosed with MS, and then a few years later she was also diagnosed with bipolar or manic depression. My brother’s life has been very difficult because of these two diseases: he had to work, raise the children, cook, clean, often care for her, and even mentally take care of all finances, decision-making and deal with symptoms of the disease such as shopping sprees, euphoria etc. His love never faltered though and he never left her, and did the best he could. They are still together and love each other very much. He is one of the best people I know, and has managed to find happiness, joy and love despite the many hurdles life has thrown at him. Is he codepenent? Most likely. Did he give more than he received? Most definitely, but even now he would not leave her and loves her deeply and she loves him.
All, I’m saying is that in Shawn’s case, the cheating may be a symptom of her disease that sounds like it has not been diagnosed yet. They need to have a diagnosis and see if she can be helped, and he needs to make a decision based on the facts, and what that may entail. I believe it is a personal decision whether he can overcome these things.
Yep, I agree. That is the “in sickness and in health “part of the vow.
Good points, Moving on.
IMO, the good thing about this blog is that it empowers people to decide where their deal breakers are.
So, if Shawn wants to get this woman help and see if things can be better going forward, why not support him in that decision. Why make him feel like a fool for event trying.
We only need to inform him to be watchful for true remorse and a stabilization of her illness.
We only need to let him know that it’s okay to cut her loose once her behavior becomes too harmful to him.
I agree, too, that the word co-dependence is often misused by layman and even some inexperienced marriage counselors.
Loving someone warts and and wanting to give them a second chance, is not co-dependence.
Depends. Do they want to get better?
If I may add: I am not condoning her actions or her lashing out. I do know that I saw a lot of this begin 8 or 9 months ago when she was finishing up physociolgy classes and statistics of children raised like shit from her classes. I am not saying she did not have prior problems but I saw her get pretty depressed learning about it. Hence this is when I tried to get her into a shrink to make a positive outcome instead of taking the statistics negative..
It is tough finding the line where the tipping point is.
She likely is mentally ill.
The thing is since you have only been together a short time, do you want to invest more in this person. Do you want more children with her?
You don’t have to completely abandon her. You can ensure that she gets the help she needs.
But buying a house together or marrying does not seem like a good idea.
You might want to research want the psych pros have to say about people who cheat early in the marriage. It is not a good sign.
I hope the best for you.
IMO, you’re untangling that skein. Okay… this thing triggered her going nuts.
Shawn, REDIRECT — back to YOU. Is this an acceptable relationship for you? Do you feel valued? Respected? Do you have hope for a future with this person that is grounded in ACTIONS by her?
It’s OKAY to make yourself a priority. Essential really. This whole thing sounds so codependent.
Best of luck Shawn. Like Nomar, I am about to euthanize a 22 year long marriage, I have one daughter just like you, and I was completely blindsided. The infidelity by my wife + the divorce is by far the most pain and suffering I have ever experienced BY FAR, and I still have a long way to go. I know you care deeply for her, and that is noble and kind. I understand she is afflicted, how hard that can be to deal with, I truly want her to get help and become well, but you must take care of yourself and daughter first.
I guess what I am trying to convey is I feel agony for you, for what you may embark upon, it’s right in your face and I don’t want you to regret and be where I am, almost assuredly you will staying in your current trajectory. When I was 24, I was a military officer living in Europe, I had my beautiful wife with me, we had a daughter five years later, moved a lot, built up a future, planned so much good stuff, then BAM, my world and nearly my life ended… All gone, in a wisp of painful, acrid smoke.
If I could have known how I would have ended up, I would erase it all in a second, even the “good times”, which feel absolutely foreign now and hollow. I want your young life to be joyful, full of happiness, and free of toxic people. It is not selfish to look after yourself first, and being a happy you will make for happy others, especially your daughter. My God, children are so receptive to emotion, and you want her life full of joy, nothing less as best you can. If you give her nothing else in life, make it joy.
People here care, have seen it all, and we/they want what is best for you and your daughter, and in turn will be something cherished by another caring women. Even in the best of circumstances, reconciling with a cheater is extremely difficult with a fully remorseful, non afflicted spouse/SO. Where you are is impossible IMO and experience, and however hard now, better than much later on. Not to vilify your SO, but she has given you front row seats to what you might expect from now out, and as many others will tell you, it’s a blessing not understood now.
Again, take care of yourself, and come back here to vent, lean on others, share your pain, you name it. Peace Shawn.
Shawn – Bi-polar disorder and depression run in my family, and your GF has many of the symptoms. I am not heartless. Like the others here, I distinguish between a personality disorder and mental illness. One is incurable (PD). The other can be managed but takes an extraordinary commitment by the person to seek help and stay the course. I am with CL and the others who advise you to leave. For you and for your daughter. Children raised in a family where bi-polar behavior is the norm are at higher risk of developing this disorder themselves. She needs to decide whether her family is worth getting the help that she obviously needs. Until then, run. It’s the only way to protect yourself.
I’m inclined to agree with CL. You are not a mental health professional. You have to think about your daughter. You can also support your former partner by allowing her to see her daughter, by being encouraging as she goes through therapy, etc. But you do not have to be in a relationship with her. This is not a knock on you, but you are not a trained therapist.
Now, of course, as Chump Son, my one rule is that you can do what you like. I will support you. I support Elle in her reconciliation attempts. It’s your call. But my own life experience and observation is that good people (chumps) tend to take on too much. You have a daughter to raise as a single Dad. CL has been blunt with you, but she is right. You should check into paternity. Raising a daughter as a single Dad will be tough. Again, you can encourage your ex from a distance. See if she takes ownership of her problems, addresses them, uses her resources to get herself together. In my opinion, taking her back right away will lead to a month or two of bliss but then the problems will likely come back.
Your ex needs professional help, and your first duty is as a father. So, I vote with CL. When your ex calls, you can support her verbally if she takes constructive actions and, of course, give her access to her daughter (maybe with you around). And, again, you are not a mental health professional. You are a brand new single Dad, and that’s going to be challenging, so only take on the challenges you absolutely have to at this point.
My two cents.
The more I think about this, the more I believe that good people can sometimes be inclined to take on more tasks than they should, to get over-extended. Just because we know that a person has a problem that is rooted in psychology, that stems from their childhood does NOT mean that we can solve it/should take ownership of it. In fact, a troubled person’s own decision to seek out therapy on their own is probably a positive indicator (though not guarantee) of success. So, again, I’m wary about a case like this one. Chumps are nice people, but we are not therapists. Therapists always cultivate a distance from their patients, precisely so they can be tough on them. I think one chump-skill I’d advocate is learning how to support, but from a distance. Some folks have issues that we cannot solve, and recognizing that is important.
Of course, if readers want to make a different decision, I support them. This is just my cautious take. In my own experience, mentally ill people sometimes seek to use chumps as “halfway houses,” i.e. as folks who will help them get through life rather than taking the tough decision to own their own problems and seek therapy/make real changes, all of which is hard work.
Good points. This is why I come back to reciprocity as the hallmark of a healthy relationship. Anyone who wants to use you as a “halfway house” for coping with grown up life isn’t a real partner. Anyone who expects you to shoulder a greater burden *all the time* (not just in rare times of crisis) is a user.
I think chumps need to learn to live with their discomfort when people we love are in pain (pain that the cheaters inflicted on themselves and innocents). We should not be the Marshall Plan and rebuild their lives.
You mean we shouldn’t commit to the following mindset: bending over backward to try and fix them in the hopes that when we do they will love us forever, and then when this doesn’t happen, slowly stewing in the rising bile of resentment and contempt that accompanies our failure to reform them despite each of our successive re-doublings of efforts because… gosh darn it, if we fail to reform them, then we might be failures who nobody can love?
If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were suggesting a codependent mindset is unhealthy and might quickly devolve into a manipulative power struggle where nobody wins, and where the person we are allegedly trying to help has much more practice in being manipulative 🙂
Time Heals, Brilliant comment! This can be the dark side of chumpdom, the naive, almost childlike faith that “I can fix it” and then the surfacing of great anger when it’s not fixed. CL’s “untangling the skein” is a great metaphor. There are some puzzles we can’t solve, and we can’t put that burden on ourselves. We are not mental health professionals nor are we the other person. Smartened up by experience, we will learn to fix the things we can and to leave alone the things we can’t.
Practicing distancing is smart. Shawn can always be supportive of this woman by offering her encouragement, sending her a card or letter, etc. He is not married to her, does not have to marry her, does not have to date her. Distanced helpfulness is good. If what he says is true, Shawn has a full enough plate already.
““untangling the skein” is a great metaphor. There are some puzzles we can’t solve,””
Well, if you think of it as “the Gordian skein”…
Time Heals for the win!
This was a completely spot on assessment.
Wanting to dig in and help “save” someone from him/herself is a nonstarter and, frankly, a symptom of someone who is deep in the throes of codependency and who needs to get help for his or her own issues.
I have always maintained that the best way to get control of a crazy situation (in this case, perhaps literally meaning mental imbalance) is to step away. You cannot get your arms around something you are smack in the middle of.
Dude, get away from the potentially bi-polar chick. They often act out sexually, that is true, and you don’t want to have to police her all the time to make sure she’s not doing things that could really have a negative impact on your physical health (not to mention your own mental stability). It doesn’t even have to be AIDS or HIV. It could be something as simple as the herp. That is something that NEVER goes away. Do you want to have to explain your rash to your next partner? You’re a young guy. Get out. And I’m with CL, use the mental illness issue as leverage in the custody fight. A mentally ill parent acting out is a disaster waiting to happen for children.
Well, what if it is a bonafide mental illness? You do not try to reform those folks. You try to help them find a cure or control.
Not if you’re getting hurt in the process. You can surely still try to help the person and not remain married to them (or, in this guy’s case, living together with child).
If the situation is toxic, and from what he has shared it is, and the person is not willing to help him/herself then you bounce and maybe try to remain “helpful” insofar as the person is willing to accept help from the sidelines. But don’t enmeshe yourself in a no-win situation.
No one should have to martyr him/herself to a toxic situation. Unless he/she is living the codependent dream of being someone’s true savior and one and only hope for healing. Then this is precisely the kind of relationship to dig into and really stick around to “help”.
Well, I disagree, in the case of marriage. Of course if there is some physical threat one should take precautins, like removing oneself. But if my wife has a mental illness that caused her to cheat(debatable here, I know. But for the purposes of argument, I will assume she does) it does me no harm to stick by her and get her help, provided she cooperates.
What if my spouse had Tourettes or Schizophrenia? I would not bail on her in that situation.
Totally agree, Arnold. We’re talking two different things here: remorseless, narcissistic assholes who cheat because they are remorseless, narcissistic assholes AND someone who cheated once who may have a serious mental illness. Shawn hasn’t been repeatedly chumped. His situation isn’t like ours.
Yeah, but < Kristina, you are inserting a couple assumptions that may not be true. How is he in danger of being hurt and what evidence do we have this early into the appearnace of symptoms that she is unwilling to seek help?
And, who says it is a no-win siituation? I would think her getting help, and stopping the behaviors would be considered a win.
Your analysis completely ignores the importance of loyalty. You make the common mistake of labeling reasonably loyal behavior with codependence.
I say "reasonably" loyal to mean that if she refused help and the behavior conntued, it would be unhealthy(or codependent, whatever that new age concept means) to stay.
I’m not loyal at the risk of my (or my child’s) well being. Everything else aside, she cheated on him. Deal break.
Leave a cheater, gain a life. Remain with a cheater…at your peril.
Yes, agree here too, Arnold. Every situation doesn’t call for the cut and run.
I think given this woman’s history and the fact that she likely does have a mental illness, giving her one chance to get some help and get her illness under control is an acceptable option.
This appears to be her first offense.
I would caution him against having any other children with her, though. Bipolar disorder is thought to be highly hereditary and I do think he needs a DNA test on the one child he believes is his.
He can still choose to father her, but he needs to be informed.
Co -dependent- the most overused, nebulous term to come around in a while.
It is not “codependent” to try to help one’s ill partner. It’s loyal.
How is he going to help her not screw other men? lol
lol, indeed. I guess he could buy her a chastity belt?
Arnold, I get the “Til death do us part” stuff. I really do. We all do. If we weren’t hyper-inclined toward loyalty, we wouldn’t have been so blindsided and devastated by the cheating. But I really think you’re extending that obligation where it isn’t owed when you apply it to extra-marital sex. I don’t think you will find any contemporary mainstream religious figure that says you have an *obligation* to stay with a cheater. And that applies to cheating by choice as well as illness. And I say that as a confirmed Catholic who got lots of advice from my Jesuit educated parents as I negotiated my D-Day, false reconciliation, and divorce. In fact, I’ve been advised by folks within the church that I am eligible for an annulment of my 22-year marriage because my ex’s serial cheating is evidence that she lacked the proper state of mind to take part in the wedding sacrament.
It is true that most religions release a loyal spouse from the obligation of marriage if the other spouse cheats. The Catholics do also allow an annulment of the marriage.
Still, most religious leaders will suggest an attempt to reconcile and if the cheater is appropriately repenting and remorseful, they do suggest trying to salvage the marriage.
Also, with reference to comparing the bi-polar illness to cancer, are most here aware that cancer patients are at high risk for cheating in a marriage.
Fear of dying does spark cheating in some, they fear they won’t experience life fully.
Or perhaps their spouse was the only person they ever had sex with because they married young, and when they fear they may die soon, they want to experience the variety of sex with another person.
If a spouse is under the mental stress of the threat of dying from cancer, and they selfishly have an affair…..just one and after dday, they are remorseful and realize how selfish and wrong it was, and they want to try to salvage their marriage, should a loyal spouse just leave, without at least attempting a reconciliation?
In that sense, there is no difference between the mental illness and the cancer because you know what? Having a serious illness is traumatic and it does cause a situational mental instability.
You know what you call a person who cheats on their spouse because they have cancer? A cheater.
Yeah, I had a Jesuit education, as well, nomar. But , what i think you are missing is that in this hypothetical, if the illness caused the cheating, her responsibility for the cheating is questionable. A mens rea type of deal.
I have no doubt that in Texas Shawn’s girlfriend’s illness would NOT rise to the level of legally excusing her behavior at all. Not even close. She knew right from wrong. That’s why she kept the cheating secret.
Moreover, keep in mind that I’m not saying Shawn should *punish* this cheating girlfriend (e.g, suing her or slashing her tires). Only that that to protect his daughter and himself the responsible thing to do is end the intimate relationship and certainly (barring a proven and prolonged healing) don’t marry the girl. That need for protection really exists separate and apart from the question of legal or even moral culpability.
By having the illness treated, lol.
Good analogy, Arnold:
There is a difference between evaluating the marriage and the root of the cheating and deciding whether or not to try to salvage things and co-dependence.
With my situation, it makes me laugh if someone says my attempt to reconcile with my ex was rooted in co-dependence.
For co-dependency to exist, at all, I would have first had to know about the affair, and somehow consciously enabled it. I didn’t have a clue, until I was alerted anonymously.
Also, a co-dependent relationship is, in psychology, one in which only one partner is making changes in the relationship and it includes a component of the rescuer getting something out of keeping the misbehaving partner in an unhealthy state of being or mind. ….Perhaps control.
Thus, if this person were to seek counsel and end her affair, Shawn would not be considered co-dependent for doing so. It would only be if she continued to act out and he continued to try to rescue her again and again and again.
But yeah, I’m with Arnold, co-dependence is a nebulous term, open to interpretation. It’s so overused as to be almost worthless.
There are also many psych pros who now think that the term can be harmful to spouses of cheaters and sex addicts (cheating being considered a sex addiction by some).
They say that PTSD is often labeled as co-dependency. There is a huge difference between the two, but someone with PTSD may seem co-dependent when in reality they are traumatized.
The root of cheating? Do you mean poor integrity, poor or non-existent boundaries, or are we talking about just penises and vaginas?
TimeHeals March 6, 2013 at 3:48 pm:
We are talking about not everyone case if marital infidelity is black and white.
Not every case of infidelity is the same. There are many factors that need to be considered.
For example the root of cheating could be a revenge affair rooted in trauma.
Is that a could enough root reason to NOT label someone for the rest of their life as an inveterate cheater?
I mean we don’t always get all the facts from a blog.
For example, I recently spent a few hours rooting around a woman’s blog only to eventually learn that she had 25 years prior cheated on her husband.
I was floored. Here she was whining and moaning and she herself was the one who cheated first.
I mean……since you asked me what I mean. 🙂 maybe we all shouldn’t give definitive advice without all the facts of the relationship in its totality.
Sorry, I don’t find these kind of excuses credible.
A person with good boundaries AND high integrity won’t cheat. Period. Full stop.
They very well might leave a relationship, but they won’t sneak around, lie, gas light, and so on.
If you want to pretend that some neurotic coping mechanism that leads to total lack of empathy and compassion for one’s partner excuses poor integrity and poor boundaries, go right ahead, but there are a lot of people that will see that only as a weakness to be exploited and used.
Mental illnesses are not some excuse people hide behind because it’s convenient. They are serious problems. To use the example of a film, in A Beautiful Mind John Nash loved his family, but his illness made it difficult to connect with them, or keep his job or just live a normal life. People suffering from mental illnesses have lashed out at their children, betrayed their spouses, and often do harm to themselves.
I had a friend who was bipolar and suffered depressive episodes. His final year of college, about two weeks before he was going to graduate, he was doing well in his classes, was going to start an internship, and had not had any serious episodes. He abruptly cut off contact with his family and friends for two weeks then shot himself in the head.
I do not advocate staying with someone who has a mental illness because you don’t know what they’ll do – they might not know what they’ll do. But it’s not the same as a narcissist.
I missed the part in that movie where he was screwing other women and putting his wife’s health/life at risk.
In the film he physically knocked her to the ground and left their son in a tub.
As for real life, I’ll give you the links:
Even if he was, if it was due to his paranoid schizophrenia, he would not be responsible for his actions.
Exactly, the paranoid schizophrenia is a mitigating circumstance and takes his actions out of the realm of being selfish, self absorbed, nacissistic, or feeling entitled
That part was in the X-rated version, which I prefer.
Beware, then GreenGirl, since that gun-toting boogeyman which you speak of is everywhere. 20% of people will be diagnosed with a mental illness in their lifetime. It may be you one day … no matter how “stable” or “together” you feel now.
This is an amazing ad campaign from Canada which I think should enlighten some of the people posting the fear mongering comments about mental illness. Give it a watch.
There are people out there with a mental illness which is minor/controllable who go about their normal lives with medication or therapy. There are people with more serious illnesses who need to be committed least they cause harm to themselves or others. I think before inviting one to co-parent with you, you should know the extent of the mental illness. That’s reality.
Also, about 2.6% of people will suffer bipolar: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml
About 30% of Americans out there will be alcoholics at some point in their lives. I don’t say “run screaming when you hear that happened to them” I say, “be aware of the consequences.” If they are treated fine. If they’re in denial, be careful.
Fear-mongering? I do think there is some fear mongering on this site. I just read a post from someone who, in response to a person sharing a personal story about the dark side of bipolar, started warning the first poster that they themselves might be diagnosed. Without bothering to distinguish between illnesses.
From Time heals Post: TimeHeals March 6, 2013 at 4:57 pm
[ ” Sorry, I don’t find these kind of excuses credible.”]
I can see that. And, that is fine. You are entitled to your opinion. But, IMO, you need to acknowledge that it is just an opinion.
Not every situation is the same. I don’t think anyone here is served well by implying that anyone who reconciles is a fool and by predicting that their spouse, even if repentent will cheat again.
Are we psychics or people who are trying to inform and educate so a person can make an wise decision given their particular case?
Predicting a person who cheated once and is remorseful will definitively cheat again is speculation, rooted in the reality of our own experiences. And, you know what, that is fine.
But how is this site any different than the TAM site where anyone who advocated divorcing a cheater was run off or made to feel like a quitter, if we here make everyone here who chooses to reconcile feel like a loser.
Let’s empower people to make appropriate choices once armed with the appropriate knowledge. Let’s encourage them to remain vigilant, as we all should have been anyway, but let’s support them in their own decision making process.
There are always extenuating circumstances in any situation. We are not privvy to all the circumstances in someone’s marriage. People lie.
Not only cheaters without integrity lie, people who have been cheated on SOMETIMES LIE, too. They do this to elicit sympathy or support their decision, or because they are in denial about their own faults.
For example many here assume that a cheater who tells the OP that their spouse refuses to have sex with them is ALWAYS lying.
But, statistics show otherwise. There are a high number of sexless marriages, in which there is no illness at the root of the lack of sexual desire.
The act of shunning sex with there spouse iss a choice.
I.e. one partner may consider sex too messy or tiring or too bothersome. Or maybe they are resentful because they don’t pull their weight financially or with housekeeping.
Monogamy and celibacy are two different issues.
Is it fair for one partner to expect a spouse to stay celibate simply because one spouse wants to withhold sex or is just to angry or tired to engage in sex?
My point, anyway, is that unless and until we know every detail of a marriage, we really shouldn’t be dispensing definitive, one-size-fits-all advice.
That is my only point.
Leaving a cheater is waaaay cool, if that is your deal breaker.
Choosing to reconcile, if you feel your spouse is appropriately remorseful is waaay cool, in my book to.
It’s up to the individual living the situation, not me.
I think there is a lot to distinguish a neurotic coping mechanism and a more severe mental illness.
I think people will go to extrordinary lengths to make excuses for cheating rather than point out the obvious.
Arnold, exactly. There is a difference.
Timeheals: I don’t disagree with you but than giving the opposing side equal time….
Is it at all possible in your mind to consider that perhaps a lot of people are in denial about their own faults, too. And those people go through “extraordinary lengths to make excuses” rather that confront the obvious?
So? What does that mean. It does not justify cheating, but It means we just don’t know the salient details of each and every relationship well enough to dispense one-size-fits all advice.
Cheating is wrong. Yes, we know that. There are always options such as divorce.
But then there are always extenuating circumstances and being bi-polar and on meds that destroy one’s ability to have impulse control may be a valid excuse. just maybe, right?
Are you aware that Ativan aka lorapzepam, dispense for anxiety destroys a person’s ability to excercise their frontal lobes enough to elicit normal impulse control.
In fact, some criminals take it prior to committing crimes precisely so they can destroy their impulse control abilities.
Is that a good enough excuse for someone who cheats? If they have been prescribed that drug?
What about someone given a date-rape drug. So, they have a one off, come home and confess, should they be forever branded a cheater?
Here is the wiki copy:
[ Lorazepam has relatively potent anxiolytic effects and its best-known indication is the short-term management of severe anxiety;…….
Criminals may take them to deliberately seek disinhibition before committing crimes (which increases their potential for violence). The anterograde amnesia and sedative-hypnotic effects of benzodiazepines such as lorazepam are sometimes used by predators on unwitting victims as date rape drugs, or for the purpose of robbery; however, alcohol is the most common drug involved in such crimes. ]
It is interesting that you mention the Marshall Plan. I was thinking about this in somewhat similar terms. The U.S. has often set out to build democracy in other countries, but it frequently doesn’t work out. Think Vietnam. Sometimes if you try to do too much — even if you are convinced that what you are doing is good — it doesn’t work, not for you, not for the other person. Good-hearted people (GHPs) can take on too much, and problematic people are always willing to out-source/offload their difficulties onto the GHPs.
It’s ok to leave someone who has NPD because there is no cure for it.
It’s ok to leave a sex addict because there is no medication for it.
It’s not ok to leave a person with a bipolar disorder because there are some medications which can minima the symptoms.
Is this what we are saying?
When, in fact there is a health hazard in all the cases since cheating almost always happens.
This is not a moral or ethical issue .it’s a simple issue of something being a health hazard.
If someone has a contagious disease he is quarantined to protect others around him.If someone has multiple partners, whatever maybe the reason for such acting out, volitional or not, we have to sexually quarantine ourselves from such people.You cannot have a sexual relationship with a person who has multiple partners.It all comes down to that.
Our sympathies are with the people suffering from such disorders and we may help them in every way possible.But if cheating is a symptom then there cannot be a sexual relationship.
Anyways, just because a person is mentally disordered does it mean that they can/ should have a relationship at the cost of a person who is not mentally disordered?
Aren’t we talking here again about wrongful entititlement, the very thing that wronged us chumps?
If the behavior stops, and she is STD free, I see no problem with maintaing the relationship. If she refuses treatment for the mental disease or if it is intractible, like the cluster b’s, then things are different.
As regards the cluster b’s vs bi-polar, in additon to the latter being amaneable to treatment, I feel the cluster B’s involve a lot more intent to hurt. Just too much of a volitional element in the cluster B’s, just like drug and alcohol addiction vs an invluntary change or dfect in brain chemistry in illnesses like schizphrenia or bi-polar.
You can’t have it both ways. If you believe NPD’s, Cluster B’s, etc. are “wired wrong,” than you can’t also argue that their cheating “involve[s] a lot more intent to hurt” or that it has more of “a volitional element.”
In the end, I really don’t care about causes as much as effects. If my house were burned down, it wouldn’t matter whether the match that set the drapes on fire came from a tree that was healthy or one that was infested with termites.
Great point about wiring, Nomar. I totally agree with you.
Perhaps it’s true that the results would be the same, but your reaction or sense of compassion may be different for the sick tree?
If feelings of compassion for the sick tree mattered more to Nomar than the soundness of the roof over his head, so that he is more worried about the tree’s wellbeing than his own, then Nomar would need to go get some couch time for his codependency.
He can still be compassionate about termite infestation while at the same time distancing himself from the tree and making sure that he has a safe and sound place to live that is free of the influence of termite-tree matches.
Maybe I missed it, but was there some allusion to Shawn being in physical danger?
Lol- yes, Kristina I would agree with you! Still I believe there is a difference between those that are truly sick and have little control over it and may not even be aware yet that they need medication and psychiatric help , and those that roam the earth looking for prey to manipulate and abuse with no empathy and or remorse for their actions.
Yeah, but , people are not trees.
My kid is a H addict. His behavior has damaged me, in many ways. I am still willing to take some more hits in the hope that I can help him.
I doubt I am “codependent”, whatever that means.
There are options and ways to be available to help a mentally ill person and still stay out of harm’s way.
I would say there is a big difference between girlfriends and children. If your relationship with your girlfriend goes bad, you can find another girlfriend, and she can find another boyfriend. Your children cannot find another father. For that reason, I agree that good parents sometimes take a few more body blows from their kids than they would from anyone else. Plus, the bad behavior of kids is often transitory, and they grow out of it. I did. My son who was arrested for buying pot at school did. My cheating ex wive? She did not grow out of cheating.
“I would say there is a big difference between girlfriends and children.”
I agree. When you have children either biologically or through adoption, you are taking responsibility to raise them. To teach them right from wrong and to live as an independent, responsible adult. If you succeed or not is a different question. However when you are looking for a romantic partner you should be looking for someone who is already a independent, responsible adult. It is not your job to teach them right from wrong.
Different relationships. Different expectations.
Yeah, but if a bona fide mental illness is at the root of the cheating, maybe I would cut my GF some slack, too.
The whole deal to me is not about the nature of my relationship, but the state of mind of the cheater. If I commit to someone, and that person becomes mentlllly ill, I stick with her unless she will not get help. But, this is not the right way for everyone, I know.
Yeah, I agree. I was thinking this was Shawn’s wife vs GF.
I just think NPDs and other cluster b’s have more control over their behavior than, say ,Schizophrenics. I am not sure about bipolar disorder. Based on that premise(which some may disagree with), I think it is perfectly consistent to argue for leaving a cluster b, but not someone who has a mental illness which is amenable to treatment.
I do, for whatever reason, care about intent and causes. That is just me.
How do you feel about the Mcnaughton standard, nomar?
That’s the idea that a person is only culpable if they know their actions are wrong? Seems to me improperly focused on the perpetrator of harm rather than the victim. Protecting the victim is generally accomplished by removing the bad guys (predators) from the population of general folk (prey). I don’t much care whether that’s a removal to prison or (with the mentally insane) removal to a mental institution. Hey, I wouldn’t mind either of those alternatives for serial cheaters, but I’m probably in the minority there. The only currently workable way I know to “remove” a cheater from my life is to end my intimate relationship with them.
McNaughton defense will not let the perp back out into society, necessarily. In fact a perp may spend a lot more time in an instituion than incarcerated id found NG by reason of insanity.
Intent is the key, to me.
Shawn can’t have his girlfriend’s illness treated. Isn’t that a basic tenet at CL, that we can’t fix other people? Hell, since he’s not married, he doesn’t even have a right to know her medical information.
Agreed, he cannot force her to get treatment. If she will not get help, he should , probably, bail.
We can’t fix someone who doesn’t want to be fixed.
But, yes, some people CAN be fixed.
No one is saying shawn must fix her, what we are saying is that if he decides to try to get her help, he is not co-dependent, or a jerk or a loser or a fool.
The difference is that NPD and other PD type people do often take pleasure in hurting or deceiving others. It is part of the disorder. NPD is also now thought to be impossible to cure, and it can not easily be managed.
Bipolar sufferer are not intending to hurt someone and once properly treated they can be successfully managed.
Are we saying Shawn, must stay with her or he’s a bad person. NO, no and no. It is obvious however that shawn is conflicted.
So, what we are saying is step back, get help, refrain from sex with her for now, get tested for STDs, and then access the situation, while this woman is in treatment.
Later, shawn will need to always be alert to her boundaries and alert to cues of cheating.
But in reality, I think all of us chumps should have done that early on, too.
People are human. People change for good or for ill. People can be influenced by the media, society, a group of friends or a best friend.
Sometimes good people do bad things.
Should we put up with it.
IMO, it’s up to the person on the receiving end and who knows the person best.
Yes. Some chumps are/were codependent, but not all were.
Yes, some chumps who take back a one life cheater are co-dependent, but not all are.
“Sometimes good people do bad things.”
You know the only book my cheater-ex would even have on her book stand (though she still wouldn’t read it) was titled, “When Good People Have Affairs,” a truly loathesome and dangerous work of ignorance and disingenuous psycho-babble.
Good people don’t cheat, and cheating isn’t just part of us all “being human.” You have a right to take back a cheater, but that doesn’t make it a smart or healthy bet.
Yeah good people do bad things, sometimes. In the case of cheating , with no mental illness driving it, however, the offense is just too egregious for me to let slide.
I’ve done some shitty things in my life. I am, for the most part, a decent person, I think.
Good points, Arnold.
If cheating is a deal breaker that is okay.
For some people forgetting their anniversary once too often is a deal breaker that leads to divorce. And, that’s okay.
We’ve all done shitty things, but as hurtful and destructive as serial cheating on your spouse and family? I would be highly skeptical of that.
Maybe I’m just a hard-ass about the idea that ***we are only as good as the things we do****. For this reason, I generally think the idea of good people doing bad things is nonsensical. Like, say, the idea of a triangle with four sides.
Having said that, I also believe that people can change. I was a pretty rotten teenager. Lots of pot and drinking and cutting class and telling my parents lies and drunk driving and such. I easily could’ve killed someone. But over time, I changed. Grew up. Wouldn’t do those things now.
I would say anyone who cheats is a bad person. But a bad person who, with a lot of work and humility and therapy, could become a much better person. Specifically, by acting in a way that helps, rather than hurts, others. In my experience, that kind of change is very rare, but I believe it is possible.
Yeah, I think they could change, too. But, this is an area where I just know I would hold a grudge and could not get past it. Same if somebody physically hurt one of my kids, intentionally. I’d fuck the person up, regardless of remorse.
Yeah, me too. During my false R I thought I might be able to not hold a grudge, but in hindsight I think I was kidding myself. Your analogy to harm to your kids is apt. Some pain is impervious to discussions of moral culpability.
Thanks y’all for your honest opinions. I could have posted on a different blog but i like the hard facts and people who have been in my shoes, not someone trying to convince me to do it for the kid or some shit like that.
I have stuck with my gut feeling and it is a toxic relationship for me and my daughter to be in. I am moving forward with my life!
I will add that while I will not be waiting for her, if she does make amends with herself and actually try and fix herself “by herself” I may consider reconciliation down the road but I will be very cautious and this will be months down the road. I am not going to push her to go through therapy/meds but I still have not decided if I will support her through the therapy if she decides to go that route or keep no contact.
IMO, Shawn, go as no contact as you can. But you’re going to have to see a lawyer, because you have custody of a small child to consider. If she’s truly bipolar, or just unstable, you need legal protections in place in case she decides to take your daughter back home, or somewhere else.
I don’t think you should make your leaving contingent on her getting therapy/help. Then that makes you the therapy police. Did you make an appointment? DId you take your meds? Did you do your homework? She shouldn’t do this to please you, keep you. She needs to do this of her own steam for HER.
Your decision needs to be for you and your daughter — “I care about you, but I cannot be collateral damage on your road to self destruction. I deserve better. Our daughter deserves better. I hope you will get the help you need, but that’s on you. This isn’t my job. I need to move forward.”
Then see what she does, for a very long time. Not a few months. Anyone can behave a few months, and hoover you back (google hoovering, btw, so you’re prepared). I think you need your own therapist to help you enforce these boundaries because it’s going to be TOUGH!
But please talk with a lawyer. This is too big, and too much is at stake with a small child and a new move/home purchase.
My leaving is not contingent on her getting help. Like I said I am leaving because I know this is a toxic relationship. I am moving forward with my life in a positive way. I am not going to sit and wait around in the shadows.
Stay strong Shawn and honestly, the most important aspect here is that you recognize the relationship as toxic and you are taking care of your daughter and yourself. That is what you can and should control. Everything else is beyond your control. Good luck to you and wish you all the best!!!
Funny how sometimes just a tiny bit of space and distance gives you clarity. Like the relationship is “toxic”. Things just snap into focus….. that’s a good thing.
Shawn, leaving the door open for a reformed (healed?) cheater to ***earn*** their way back into your life sounds like a very reasonable path. You sound like you have your head on straight. Stay strong, and good luck!
Good, very sensible thought process, Shawn. Good for you!
Shawn – good luck. Recognizing that this is a toxic relationship (ie you’re listening to your gut instinct) is huge.
We as Chumps often fail to recognize it. Then years down the line, after much investment – emotional, financial, time, our youth, children etc – we are forced at some point to admit that our gut insticts were telling us this was wrong, and we didn’t listen. One can get awfully good at stuffing those instincts down. The cheaters squash those instincts too by turning it back onto us Chumps.
Then, if we’re not careful, resentment can eat us up for the wasted investments.
Shawn, I do not for one minute believe you are abandoning your GF – as CL asks, are you being valued or respected? No. You have to put yourself first so that you can take care of your daughter and make her number 1.
Loyalty is big on my list of values, but you’re not married to her, even if she is the mother of your child. 8-9 months of cheating? It’s still cheating, no matter how you look at it, even if you throw mental illness into the mix.
I am so sorry she is manifesting signs of Bipolar, and I feel for you all. Take Care.
I agree with this decison. This is not like a marriage situation, where, typically, one signs on to stay in sickness and in health.
And, we really do not know if she has a mental illness, a PD, or is just a horny woman in search of strange.
Chump Son chiming in:
What an interesting discussion! I guess one person’s co-dependency is another person’s loyalty.
As always, Chump Son supports people in whatever decision they make. However, my own take on this tracks with CL’s and the other skeptics who have expressed themselves. It can be harmful for a child to be raised in an atmosphere where one parent is bipolar, so that is a consideration. But, again, Shawn’s future support for his ex does not/not/not have to include marriage, being involved romantically, living together, paying for her schooling, etc. He can be supportive from a distance. Chumps are not mental health professionals. They are good people with a tendency to have weak boundaries and weak filters as well as a tendency to take on too much. And that brings me to my next point…..
Some of the above contributions tried to distinguish between mental illnesses, those that were more malevolent (NPD) and those that were not the person’s fault and could be treated medically (bipolar disorder). Others compared Shawn’s ex’s problem to cancer. But here we might be best off talking about filters and distancing rather than absolute walls as the proper response, particularly in Shawn’s case, where he knows that his ex is the mother of his child. I think chumps, in general, need tighter filters, need more sensitive alarms and early warning systems, so they can keep people at a proper distance. Yes, we’d like to help people, but sometimes the best we can do is to give advice and keep ourselves sane. Moreover, there are some problems that, by their nature, if you join the situation, you become part of the problem rather than part of the solution. So, I think a future discussion could be dedicated to filters, distancing, and better detection instincts.
Now, if Sean were my son, and assuming everything he says is true (and I’m not saying that I doubt him, but let’s just lay that out there), I would tell him the following:
“Son, you need to get out of this relationship. Wish your ex the best and tell her that you support her in her efforts to get help. Your goal should NOT be to “stay together for the child,” to get married and try to make this into a perfect family. Your goal should be to raise your child (and I will help you out here; come home for a while if you have to) and, if things work out with your ex, to work toward, first, regular visitation with her daughter and eventually maybe even joint custody in the context of a friendly relationship between the two of you. In the meantime, son, you need to read some books on single parenting and decide what you need in the way of an education so you can raise your daughter.”
Now, this is assuming that my son did the paternity test and that it proved positive. I’m also assuming that I’d be there to help. But my advice would apply even if my son didn’t have a backstop or for some reason, I couldn’t offer it. Throughout, I urge him to support his ex, but from a distance.
I don’t see any abandonment here. I just see my son, in my hypothetical example, assuming a supportive role from the proper angle/distance/stance and applying an appropriate filter to his relationship with his ex. He used to be romantically involved with her, he produced a child with her, he paid for her education. He is now filtering that way down.
I’d be reluctant to have my son take this ex back. I could just imagine a heated and short-term happy reunion that produces another child, more complications, more difficulties, more tangled skeins for both he and his ex.
A deeper problem here is that we chumps have to be somewhat tough-minded in choosing partners, and we have to be realistic as to just how many problems we, as chumps, can take on board. The answer to this is not necessarily a brutal cut-off (though I would recommend that in some cases), but can also be cultivating distance and applying filters. In the end, if we do this for ourselves, we will be more effective in solving the problems over which our skills, inclinations and energy-levels give us some control.
My goodness, you are a smart man.
Well said! I agree with each word. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
No problem, Kristina.
Thanks for the kind words. And thanks to CL for giving us a space to express them. And thanks, too, to the folks whom I want to caution. I think cautious compassion should be the watchword for those of us with the helping instinct (often known as chumps). Caution in our compassion. Not all the world is the way we’d like it to be.
Thanks again, Kristina.
Here’s another one …