Hi Chump Lady,
My husband and I are 28 years old and have two small children. We’ve been married since we were 20 and he’s always had problems with “needing” attention from other women. The first time he cheated we had only been married a year. He claims that he only made out with her, and that he felt horrible after the fact. I stayed married to him and forgave him. I assumed that it was a one-time mistake and that he learned his lesson.
Fast forward to soon after the birth of our first child. We were horribly stressed because of financial issues and he started trying to find casual connections on Craigslist. He’s a nerd and his social skills aren’t the greatest. He wasn’t able to seal the deal, so to speak, and he apologized all over the place. Granted, it took him 3 months to fully cut off contact with all the women, but he seemed to be on board with our marriage after that. Last Friday, I found out he’s been meeting a female friend for lunch and lying to me about it. They chat online all the time. She’s engaged, but in an open relationship with her fiancé. (Lovely, right?!)
I confronted him and he accused me of trying to keep him from having friends. I truly have no problem with him having friends, hanging out with groups of men and women, etc. I do have a problem with where this relationship was heading and his lying. Over the years I’ve really encouraged him to make friends and have tried to help him learn how to better interface with others. He seems to be using his new-found social prowess to undermine our marriage. He told me that we didn’t have a “connection” like he has with this woman. I was devastated. I’ve been there for him. I work full time, cook dinner, make sure we have sex frequently (never enough, though), and otherwise try to show him that he’s loved.
Here’s my question: WTF do I do? He hasn’t full-on cheated since we were much younger, but I think it’s only a matter of time. He lies frequently and seems to resent any infringement on his ability to do whatever he wants whenever he wants. He tried to blame me for the fact that he lied about going out with this girl alone. The blame shifting really twists me up in knots because I really do love this man. I’ve told him that I understand if he’s not happy and wants out of the marriage. He cries and says he loves me and wants to stay with me. The next minute, he’s cold as ice again. I refuse to waste another decade of my life with this man only to have him discard me like a piece of trash when I’m nearing 40. Do you think this is doomed or am I being overly sensitive?
You’re not “overly sensitive” — he is blatantly disrespecting you! So I guess that puts me in the “doomed” camp.
I know you want to see hope here and you “really do love this man,” but you’re not giving me any evidence of his remorse. Apparently it lasts for entire MINUTES before he is “cold as ice again.” But he cries and tells you he wants to stay. Well, of course he does. We call that “cake.” He’s quite content to have you work full time, raise his kids, have sex with him, and try harder to please him. He’ll enjoy all that, thank you very much, and he’d also like — oh, NO, excuse me — he NEEDS the attention of other women too. We call that ego kibbles. It is Good To Be King.
This is a shit deal for you, Katie. From where I sit you have absolutely nothing to work with. Your forgiving him — and “assuming” it was a one-time mistake (chump mistake there) — resulted in his lasting gratitude. That is, if gratitude is expressed in Craigslist ads and shady co-worker lunches. He’s playing you. And no offense, because we’re all chumps here, but apparently it’s not that hard because you allowed him THREE months to “cut contact” with MULTIPLE women. And he’s feeding you lines like he only made out with her, couldn’t seal the deal, and the co-worker is in an “open” relationship.
Katie — he’s had sex. He’s sealed the deal. And his purported lack of social skills hasn’t kept his dick in his pants. This guy is a serial cheater. But… but.. but! He SAYS otherwise! Of course he does. He likes this arrangement. Best you stay in the dark. When he gets sloppy, or you get suspicious, he shuts you up with preposterous lies that you’re desperate to believe because you’ve invested deeply in a life with him and you’ve got small children. Awesome for him. Your fear, your willingness to believe fairy stories, keeps you stuck and keeps him in cake.
Look, I could tell you I only ate one cookie. I really NEED cookies (and I do, chumps, I do. Mad respect for those of you who can kick gluten, fat, and sugar — but they bring me joy). But let’s say I told you I only had that one cookie. That thing you saw me eating? That was a rice cake. Yeah, they make them to look like cookies now. My pants don’t fit. I’ve got powdered sugar on my lips. And when you check the pantry, I have a giant supply of cookies. Which I just look at. And stroke sometimes. Because I “need” to. But I never eat them. Okay, I TRIED to eat one, once, but it made me gag. I couldn’t finish it. I fed it to the dog.
You might say… Tracy? It looks like you’re eating cookies. More than one cookie. Like, cookies are a big part of your life.
Really Katie? Really? How DARE you insinuate that I eat cookies! Yeah, so my pants don’t fit — but that’s because I have some hormonal bloating and Banana Republic changed the cut of their Martin fit trousers. Pants have NOTHING TO DO WITH COOKIES! God, you’re so dumb. Everyone KNOWS pants and cookies are entirely different things. Sold in separate departments at the store. I pity you. I was enjoying a RICE CAKE, and I added a little powdered sugar. Does that make me a CRIMINAL? Gee, must be nice to be someone who can get by on just wheat bran and root vegetables. I already gave up cookies, but now, NO, you want to police my rice cake consumption too? Where does it stop with you, Katie? Can a person have a snack cake without you making a federal case about it? YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME.
(Yeah, I can mindfuck with the best of them. Learned from a master…)
Does this kind of crazy talk sound familiar? He’s gas lighting you. Since you asked WTF do I do? I’ll tell you — leave him. It only gets worse from here if you invest more. He has shown you who he IS, (over and over) and now it’s time to believe him. I know it’s scary with two little kids, but people leave bad marriages every day. They recover and get better lives. And the kids recover too. Stick with this asshole, who is flagrantly disrespecting you, and you will model dysfunction to your children. Don’t live on false hope (and I don’t know how you even manufacture that, this guy’s actions say Not One Bit Sorry). Be brave and get out. Lots of good chumps have gone on ahead of you and survived. You will too. What you’re living right now is the nightmare. It gets better when you wake up and end it.