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Dear Chump Lady, Are all chumps created equal?

Dear Chump Lady,

My question is: are all chumps created equal?

I’m not judging chumps by how long they stayed with the cheater or how many rounds of the “pick me” dance they did. I’m referring to previous knowledge. Several people have said that after they found out their spouse was cheating other people came out of the woodwork to tell them that they knew of the cheating ways. “If only someone had told me before I got married to this jerk what kind of person I was marrying! I would have…” seems to be the refrain.

So what about the chumps who did know? The people who knew this woman/man had problems but were determined to “save” them. The White Knights and Beauties of the world who are convinced that love will change the Beast into a handsome prince, only to find he remains a beast. When someone marries a person they know to be a cheater, an alcoholic, a drug user, someone how has anger management problems, a criminal, but proclaims to their horrified friends and families that love has saved them.

I’m not saying these types of flawed characters need to be shunned for all time. There are people with criminal records who have turned their lives around. There are people who would hurt other people in time of anger who have put themselves through therapy and learn coping methods so their fists don’t fly. There are drug users who went to rehab and are now clean, who have beaten their addiction. There are people who spent their college years getting smashed every weekend who don’t grow up to spend their kid’s college savings on alcohol. There are people who bounced from person to person without regard during their teens and young adulthood who later realize the pain they caused and, unlike NPDs, honestly felt bad and never had a wandering eye once the ring went on.

But as we all know there are people who never wanted to do the hard brutal work. People who fall off the wagon every few months. People who slip away to shoot up. People who have second cellphones and side dishes. People who think “that’s against the law” translates to “don’t get caught.” People who tell their spouses that they were forced to hit them.

When I see an affair partner marry the cheater, who then cheats on them, I have no sympathy. When I see someone marrying a person they know is a serial cheater, and then they’re shocked to be cheated on, I can only muster a “well what did you expect?”

Am I a heartless jerk for believing these people are only getting what they signed up for? Or are they people with personal issues who instead of dealing with them try to fix other people so I should pity them?


Dear GreenGirl,

These are my choices? I told you so, or pity? I suppose I tilt towards the “I told you so” camp, but I question whether people who knew someone was a cheater before they married them — either the person cheated on them previously, or they were the Other Person that broke up a marriage — are really chumps. So it’s not a question of — are all chumps created equal — but rather how do we define “chump.”

To me, a chump is someone who had no clue they were being cheated on. They are gobsmacked by this revelation. Devastated. Shocked to their core. To feel betrayed, you have to feel that this person had allegiance to you. Now, of course, cheaters who then get cheated on are often shocked, just shocked! that their cheater cheats on them. They do feel that allegiance, but not because of commitments or children or a Potemkin life they built with the cheater — but because the pseudo chump feels special. They are Different. The Great Exception.

To me, this is just another kind of narcissism. My Love Is the One True Love That Will Save Them.

And this narcissism is not unique to affair partners who then become pseudo chumps. People in reconciliation also display this kind of idiocy. I will prove to the world! To my horrified friends and family! that ours is the Great Exceptional Love Story. As someone who had four DDays, oh yeah, I was that kind of idiot chump. I should’ve gone with my gut feeling after the first DDay — run, run like hell! This is not salvageable! — the first betrayal, yes, you should feel sorry for me. Subsequent ones? I was just asking for that shit. I stuck around way too long.

If that’s pitiable, it’s a common mistake. I still think it’s a whole lot different than if I knew he was a cheater and THEN I married him. Once you’re married, you have a lot invested to compel you toward reconciliation, which isn’t the case when you’re dating. In my story, I did not know my ex was a cheater. On the contrary, my ex told me he was cheated on by two ex-wives. He had a very convincing, sad story. About how he had done therapy, and realized he wasn’t the best husband. How he wasn’t bitter, and forgave them. (All things, that now that I think about it, sound like utter bullshit, and not anything remotely resembling the chump experience. Being a “bad” husband didn’t drive them to cheat. And  — bitter? Yes. Forgiveness? No.)

If he had presented himself as he actually was — a serial cheater with a long-term mistress (among others) — hell NO would I have married him.

I did think I was marrying someone who had ordinary faults. Who could be insufferable. Who was alpha and macho. I did not think I was going to change him from jerk ass lawyer into a compassionate Alan Alda-type. I thought I loved him for who he was. I thought, ironically, that I was going into this with eyes wide open. What I didn’t realize was that his better qualities didn’t exist at all, they were a holographic projection, and his worst qualities were being tamped down until I married him, after which he let his freak flag fly. (Rages, drinking, etc.)

Once I discovered who he really was, I had a hard time believing it. That’s not unique to chumps, or pseudo chumps. Because to believe who he really was, I had to swallow a very bitter pill — realizing that I was not special. He did not love me. In fact, he never loved me. I was of use to him. I could spend the rest of my life trying to untangle apart the “love” bits from the giant skein of unloving bits — and it would not change his betrayal of me. It was an endless calculus, the kind you do with narcissists, of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin — how much of this is “love”?

Letting go and recognizing I wasn’t special to him was very hard to come to grips with, so I get how people fall deeper and deeper into chumpdom and try harder to change that narrative. I understand how affair partners fall into it, although I don’t feel one bit sorry for them.

My great grandmother had an expression, that I think translates originally from German, which went:

“If you don’t listen, then you must feel.”

Usually, this is said around small children. As in, if you don’t listen to me telling you not to hit that dog, you’re going to get bitten! But it’s a good life lesson as well — if you don’t listen to yourself, you’re going to feel painful consequences from ignoring your gut. If life shows you how this person is, and you don’t listen to that? Yes, you will suffer. Hopefully feeling that pain will make you listen the next time.

We think that those affair partners married to cheaters aren’t feeling the pain — but I think they are. Why?  Because the dimmer among us can go round after round of “if you don’t listen, then you must feel.” Okay, I felt it… but then damn, if I didn’t hit the dog again.

There are chumps, and then there are volunteers for pain. The chumps who listen, learn from it. The ones who don’t, keep renewing their pain subscriptions. And that is a pity.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • No AP/OW/OM gets sympathy from me if they, in turn, get cheated on. They have no boundaries – otherwise, they would not have gotten involved with someone who was married. So, to use CL’s great-grandmother’s saying, if they don’t listen, then they must feel.

    This wouldn’t apply to people who were unwitting APs. As in, they got involved with someone who represented him/herself as single. No, they were chumped too, unless once they found out they continued with the affair.

    In my situation, the current OW KNEW my STBX was married, loved the attention of being pursued, and decided to get involved with him anyway. From what I know, all of the APs knew he was married and didn’t care.

    And me? I had absolutely no idea anything was amiss until dday.

    So no, you can’t be a chump if you knowingly get involved with someone who is married. People who get involved with people who are already married are worthless waste of space piece of crap idiots who should have “homewrecker” tattooed across their foreheads (I suppose there’s still some bitterness on my part…). But seeing that can’t happen, I could only hope they would learn from their mistakes and work on themselves so that they have more appropriate relationships. And if that happens because they were (shock of all shocks) cheated on, that’s on them. Then they’ll in some small way, know what they themselves put someone through.

    When they are involved with someone who’s not a cheater (to their knowledge), and if out of the blue they find out they’ve been cheated on, then they can graduate to chump status. Until then, no, they’re not chumps, they’re users who got used.

    • All of the APs in my situation knew he was married. Several were messaging with him when he was chasing them, saying ‘oooh….but you’re married, this seems dangerous’ or other things along those lines. Only one woman that I know of flat out shut him down, saying ‘you’re married, this is not appropriate’ when he was trying to woo her.

      So all of them can suck a fart out of my ass.

  • “Because to believe who he really was, I had to swallow a very bitter pill — realizing that I was not special. He did not love me. In fact, he never loved me. I was of use to him. ”

    As one who has spent at least the past two years trying to choke down this bitter pill, I can relate. I was married to a monster for 20 years. Diagnosed NPD. The lies, the betrayals, the bizarre sexual exploits and manipulations, the financial devastation and now the continued abuse via not paying child support…..

    It is very clear to me that the ex monster never loved me. I was so stupid, I went through “reconciliation” with him, only to realize his only purpose in reconciling was to get out of child support and have me work full time and support him while he was unemployed.

    Now I just wish I could have my 20 years back. To have wasted such a big chunk of my life on a monster who not only never loved me, but clearly felt absolute CONTEMPT for me…. that is a bitter pill indeed.

    • Hey GladIsOver, I’m with you sweetie, except that I was married 25 years I could’ve written that word for word…. Oh, and except that my ex ran out on D-Day and never bothered to even pretend he wanted to try R. Because I made so mch more money than him he didn’t owe child support anyhow. How’s that for letting me know how worthless I had become to him? I want those years back and no trite comments (you can’t look back you can only go forward, don’t let him control your future, don’t give him space in your head) can salve my fury and bitterness. F@ck him.

      • 20 years here as well. He cheated for at least half of those years I now know. I don’t think he loved me either. I think I was a good front for him. I think I made him look like the good family man and was a charming companion whom everyone thought was so fabulous. So he looked fabulous by extension.

        Yeah, fuck him.

  • Another great post, CL, and I will comment further when I wake up in the morn (heading to bed now and checked in here) but I do have to take exception with Potemkin…those villages were actually built! I’m a history buff and have read extensively on this and Potemkin got a bad rap.

    but yeah, we try so hard and it’s beyond difficult to accept that they are fucked up and we probably didn’t mean much more than someone to feed their ego and when we became actual people they went off to find some other fantasy. Real life doesn’t support fantasy and my STBX seems to be a fantasy chaser. Even how he treats me now is like something out of a book or film. There is no reality in their lives. Weird.

    • Nord, yes exactly! My ex sees himself as a really special person who we (me and our kids) just didn’t understand, and he feels he is now just a noble figure who did us a favor by abandoning us. He tries to treat me like someone he somehow loved and still does, as if he still wants to “help” me and give me advice at times; but then at others he just ignores all of us. Considering the sick and cruel games and gas lighting over our married life, in addition to the cheating and perversions, that’s just, well, odd. I have often said that he thinks he’s the heroic actor in a one-man play and is reading the lines. We were just bit players orbiting around him. He uses strangely formal language and phrases that seem out of a script, like someone wrote it for him. I swear he practices it ahead of time. It’s so strange.

      • “I have often said that he thinks he’s the heroic actor in a one-man play and is reading the lines. We were just bit players orbiting around him. He uses strangely formal language and phrases that seem out of a script, like someone wrote it for him. I swear he practices it ahead of time. It’s so strange.”


        The above comment is VERY interesting. I know of a case like this one. The narc/dr./cheating hubby is always reading from some kind of script. He sounds like a refugee from Masterpiece Theater, telling his kids exactly how they should speak to him, elaborating these long lectures, and talking down to people in a really stilted, weird way. It’s as if spontaneity is impossible. I think this “scripting” is a warning sign of some really deep problem in relating to people as something other than just objects (wife, child, etc.) Anyway, this is a great insight into a symptom of narcissism.

        • Haha -“he sounds like a refugee from Masterpiece Theater”- David THAT’S IT EXACTLY!

          • Oh yes, the movie quality response to why would you do this, redux. I remember especially when he tried a new excuse for not breaking contact with his OW, he tearfully and with great drama told me this:

            “I thought I could come up out of that room and have a life again, I couldn’t do it. But at least it helped you! Look at you, you lost weight, you dress better, you are going out of the house more, what I did made you wake up.” and “Even if I lose you over this it was worth it to help you.”

            Yeah, I lost weight I was practically a skeleton, 20 lbs in 3 weeks, down to 106 lbs. This aged my face 10 years in a month. So, yeah I dressed better, I had to buy new clothes because the old ones were falling off my body. And yeah, I was going out more to get away from him when he was raging out of control. Yeah, he “helped” me, not.

            • Oh my god. When I was completely falling apart in the months after dday and he was flaunting OW in my face (I had kicked him out but he was over to watch the kids several times a week) he actually said ‘but look at you–you’re happier now. YOu’re going out more and doing things with friends’. I was going out because I couldn’t stand to be around him when he came over to see the kids and he was only over because he was living in a one room flat at the time and it wasn’t suitable for the kids….and I stupidly was trying to do the ‘right’ thing by letting him come over to spend time with them.

              I wasn’t happy, I was a fucking wreck and could barely function.

              • Wow- mine actually said that, “But *we* were so happy [when he was actively having his affair].” I said, *him*, maybe–he had me, his mistress,and his therapist all feeding him ego kibbles on a regular diet…3 women keeping him afloat–a regular cheater-Hindenburg. (Needless to say, I was lonely, isolated and miserable, but it was very much a pot of boiling frogs situation. Clear as day now, not so clear, then.)

                Also–apropos of the drama metaphor– mine is more addicted to fantasy than the actual sex, I think. And he moves everyone in his life around as if on a stage, in his head (he of course always has the limelight). He is very theater-centric, so it’s a good metaphor. But he always claimed that he knew what I was thinking…. he could blame me for being so awful–‘driving him to unhappiness’ because he wrote lines inside his head for me to say. He had whole conversations with me, in which I played no part. All of which gave him ‘permission’ to cheat b/c I was so awful. And he would talk to his friends about how unhappy he was in his marriage, aka, wife=bitch. Many of them were (were) my friends too. Especially nice.

                Lines that needless to say I would never have thought, said, or delivered.

                An alternate interpretation is that we are all Playskool figures, but ymmv…..

      • “Narcissistic Personality Disorder is similar to Borderline Personality Disorder only without the annoying empathy. Narcissists have such an elevated sense of self-worth that they value themselves as inherently better than others. Yet, they have a fragile self-esteem and cannot handle criticism, and will often try to compensate for this inner fragility by belittling or disparaging others in an attempt to validate their own self-worth. It is this sadistic tendency that is characteristic of narcissism as opposed to other psychological conditions. They usually turn that sadism on one particular person in their lives, the scapegoat. Because the narcissist cannot accept their faults, they spend their time trying to convince themselves that everything they do is perfect. When something goes wrong they can’t accept the blame so they must try to convince themselves and the people around them that the problems are coming not from them, but another source. In their mind, by blaming another, they absolve themselves of any wrongdoing, and they can continue to believe and strive to convince others that they are in fact, perfect. But they must first have someone to blame. Enter the scapegoat. The scapegoat is blamed for everything that goes wrong in the family, period. They can do nothing right, any praise or success they earn takes something away from the narcissist. In fact the more successful they are the more emotional abuse the narcissist will heap on them just to maintain their place in the family dynamic. They have to be inherently bad or guilty or wrong in order to provide the narcissist with the support they need.”

        Other people are important to the NP, they need a villain holding them back, the reason they haven’t had the great successes they were destined for. The Professor Moriarty to their Sherlock Holmes. The Wicked Witch of the West to their Dorthy. The Capulets and Montagues who don’t understand the true love the Cheater and the AP share. That’s why they can come off as scripted sometimes. If you are the perfect spouse you’re helping them as they struggle against a world that doesn’t understand them. If you’re calling them on their BS, you’re a villain. If you appear defeated, either you’re deliberately taking attention from them (how selfish of you!) or they have the opportunity to show how noble they are for understanding you and your weakness. But you’re always a supporting actor in their epic.

        I love the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, particularly the dialogue. When Sam is talking about stories at the end of the Two Towers, Aragon encouraging the troops in Return of the King, Gandalf talking to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring… But it is not suited for every day life. We know that. But in a Narcissist’s mind he/she is a dramatic hero, nobly suffering, willing to enlighten the poor supporting cast that doesn’t understanding their roles, to show the audience how they are doing to right thing or doomed by fate. If the audience doesn’t understand they pity the plebs. If the audience rejects them they will find a new one.

        And in the end, they are the main character, you’re a supporting cast member. 007 is needed for the next film. The Bond Girls are not.

        • GreenGirl, great explanation of a narc and it’s prettty much STBX to a T. I was fine to have around when I was his cheerleader and holding things together for him, soothing him, massaging his ego and making excuses (and blaming others) when he fucked up. Then I needed some soothing and ago massaging and attention and bam, he no longer had flings that I didn’t know about, he ‘fell in love’ with one of the flings because she was more than willing to tell him just how fabulous he is. And when she runs out of ego kibbles he’ll flagrantly find someone new.

          • Oh, and I’m now cast in the villain role: taking ‘his’ money, making things difficult with OW by continuing to exist and not give in to his every whim. He never rebelled against his parents so now he’s rebelling against me. I say go for it because I don’t need more than the two children I already have.

        • Hi GreenGirl
          Please refer to “Male Borderline: Surviving the Crash after you crush”

          Narcissists are not always borderline disordered (they lack psychotic traits), but Borderlines are always narcissistic, as each lacks capacity for empathy.

          My ex was a Male Borderline…this article painstakingly written should be in the syllabus of females in the dating/ marriage game. Please friends. If you can save yourself…save!!! This man is a nightmare…a disaster of the worst kind. He is not a typical narc…in fact he is unbelievably good (shows more than reciprocity…in fact will vow and you’ll tend to believe…that he’d bring the stars for you ;)). This is dangerous! Why? Because unlike a typical narc…he is addictive. He shows a world so full of fantasy to any female…then once you put your guards down…he is gone! But no…before you get your mind straight… he comes back…again gives you the required dose of fantasy drug…n then again he is gone! and actually our brains do secrete chemicals, which keep us drugged all the time, when we are with “Casanovas”…Until, off course a life time is gone (14 years of my life!). It is like you are a spent force…It is very difficult to un-drug yourself. Typical narcs are bad. But, you don’t get attached to them as deeply. BPDs are worse because they operate from a different level.

          Now you know…why even knowledge doesn’t help. Its the drug…the fantasy…the feeling of exceptional love…the bonding that this casanova creates.

          And then…be warned…they are deadly enemies to have!!!

          Yes, once you have somehow managed to rehabilitate yourself…not so dependent on his drug anymore…he is terrified…you are going to tell people, get out of relationship…anything…God Forbid!!! I must tell you how terrifying it all is…the victim believes that they will do as they say…you’ve to be really strong to come out of it…not all people have the required guts to come out of a BPD prison.

          Yes, Greengirl it is a two-way dynamic. If you agree to be in prison…you’ll be a drugged person…but as days go by there will be more craving and less drug…if you decide to leave…you’d want yourself dead than having to fight with him…he is so venomous!

          Therefore, Run as fast as you can…if you ever even come near a Casanova!

        • Holy Crap Green Girl! You should lecture! In a way it kind of explains how I fell for him too, such a dazzling (not in my case a sparkly, outgoing dazzle) loving, caring, me and him against the world I’ll be there/take care/love you forever you are my world kind of way. And it was veerrry slow and subtle in the beginning. Yeesh. I had Chump written all over me in big red letters…

      • Kelly, STBX and his entire family will sit around and discuss a person that they are ‘disappointed in’ (meaning said person called them on their bullshit) and they come up with ‘phrases’ that they all use. It’s like they all brainwash each other and agree on the ‘right’ point of view and then run with it.

        At one point I heard the exact same phrase from STBX, his mother, and two of his siblings–it ‘explained’ why ‘these things happen’. And it was complete and utter bullshit.

        • Oh. My. Goodness. First of all Green Girl, damn you are scary-smart and eloquent all at once, you really should lecture, you so nailed it….all! I loved so much of what you posted I can’t repeat it all (“The Professor Moriarity to their Sherlock Holmes…” for starters). Also, the “supporting actors in his epic”– too perfect!

          And oh yes, Nord, the canned phrases. My ex- will find one and use it in various settings– to me in an email, to one of our children in a birthday card, to a friend he sees on the street. He is unaware of how obvious it is that he is parroting the same thing over and over. He does not see our kids (has not seen them in a year, since D-Day exactly one year ago), yet he sent each of them the same Christmas card this past December, with the EXACT SAME formal and flowery, yet awkward note, word for word, in each card. We have 2 boys, ages 24 and 13, and a daughter who is 20, so the same message is sort of strange and inappropos. The notes were so similar we checked to see if they were mimeographed (they weren’t). He is certainly a tragic hero his own little world, and, as I often say, the most interesting man he knows.

  • I still think you can be a chump if you knew that your spouse had cheated on their last spouse and you chose to marry them anyway. If they told you a whole story about how horrible their spouse was and how they tried to make it work, etc., etc., and that they did therapy and admitted their selfishness and just generally did “the work”, then I think it is perfectly understandable that a reasonable person who has NEVER EXPERIENCED INFIDELITY BEFORE, could believe them. I really do not feel like you can truly understand infidelity until you’ve been unlucky enough to experience it for yourself. You don’t really understand that there is never a good enough excuse for it and that nothing can justify it. It probably just sounds like a really crappy thing they did to some faceless person you don’t know, but kind of understandable (at least given their explanation for how horrible their SO was), but that it sounds like they really did learn their lesson. And, of course, they would never do it to you.

    We’ve also said here before that the main problem with reconciliation is that the betrayal was to YOU. So the belief is that the relationship is so badly damaged that reconciliation is very difficult. But we have also said that we believe it is possible for a cheater to do the work and be a good partner to someone else. But are we now saying that they can’t?

    I know I personally would find it pretty much impossible to trust a former cheater (assuming, unlike CL’s ex, that they even come clean about it). But someone without my experience might just be chump-y enough to give it a try…

    • This rant is long, it addresses what you are saying and is titled “You’re So Special”, commonly used tactics, and used on the OW/OM as well. It goes back to what CL is saying, you think the person loves you and you are special to them, you are not. When I was going through my shit there was no CL and this site helped me (Martyr Man is another one that was helpful. The URL sometimes won’t load the first time, try again:

      • I remember reading that months ago and thinking ‘Bingo, it’s STBX’. I nearly sent it to the final OW but then thought ‘fuck it, let her figure it out herself’.

    • Hi AnotherErika,

      The experience that a number of us have gone through here is that with a “serial cheater”, one who cheats so often. It is very rarely with a one-time cheater. And serial cheating behavior is indicative of some personality disorder. Period. Such people might have Character Disorder (refer Dr. Simon) or BPD, NPD…They are not Normal People.

      R works on normal people…those normal people, who for some reason beyond their human control, committed cheating with one person in a weak moment/ period of their life-time. This normal person shall undergo an agony of a different kind. He or she might even be the one to disclose it to their spouse and ask for forgiveness. He or she might otherwise lack confidence and choose to keep the affair under wraps, especially if he/she is fearful; but he might feel trapped in the affair, nevertheless. Perfectly okay. In such a case, “R” might work, if the betrayed spouse gives a chance. Therefore, CL and others have repeatedly talked about “hard work that the cheater spouse needs to demonstrate” to prove that he is worthy of a second chance. This “hard work” is a proxy for his cheating being “a sin in a moment/ period of weakness”. Further, being clear on one-time is also a must by the same logic.

      Till date, Medical Science has literally not been able to get a breakthrough on personality disorders like NPD, BPD etc…and Character Disorder is a relatively new but plausible disorder. Only miracles can save these creatures and their codependent victims. Agreed miracles do happen!! But, then with such a small probability like 1 in 1 million or so (therefore they are miracles :))!!! Having undergone a wastage of almost a lifetime over such a “dream of miracle” from a lot of chumps like us…who were in R mode…before giving up…we can only be sorry for another chump taking that route 🙁

      However, this is your life or any other inexperienced person’s life, if anyone wants to make a choice knowingly in anticipation that a cheater might change with his/her special love. One is entitled to have one’s own opinions and still give it a try with such a person. But I feel it a duty of fellow chumps to forewarn such a person. Taking that warning seriously or not is on the other person. For more BPD information all females should look into And off course Simon’s books are there…I just wish no other life gets wasted like mine!

      • So, you are saying we could go ahead and trust someone that “only” had one affair? First of all, how do we ever really know it was only one? And once they cope that way one time it seems extremely likely they will try to do it again. Just like my ex started out with compromising his morals by hiding money and (just found out about this one) lying about some drug use. An affair was just the next step in his moral downward slide.

        I would say that the only thing that makes it likely my ex MAY not cheat on any future wife is how he got bit in the ass so bad by my divorcing him. He definitely didn’t do any work with me though. I think losing his “perfect” family and significant money might be the only way a narcissist could learn a lesson. But would I want to be with a person that does the right thing just because it’s in his best interest rather than doing it because it is right?

        I don’t believe there is such a thing as a real moment of weakness… and I don’t think an excuse of being “trapped in the affair” is anything more than just an excuse. “hard work” is not a proxy for it being a moment of weakness or a one time affair… it’s a proxy for them being able to take responsibility for their actions. Being willing to admit that they also contributed to problems in the marital relationship and not just blaming the betrayed spouse. And to working on those problems and at reestablishing trust. To being willing to really communicate and work to improve the marriage through increasing the intimacy.

    • I agree. Before it happened to me, I was open to the idea that that my XW had been a victim when she cheated with a married man. It simply never occurred to me that she had been instrumental in destroying another family. I was dumb as a rock about this.
      Like others who had never been a victim, my empathy for victims was not what it should have been. I knew it was wrong, byut had no idea of the type of trauma my XW had caused another woman and her family.
      So, I chalked it up to a youthful indeiscretion and overlooked it. Guess I got what I deserved when she serially cheated on me.

  • I agree that AP gets no sympathy EVER. In my case, she was around me and the kids for years; I wouldn’t be lucky enough to see that relationship fall apart because I think they are both really sick.
    Can I buy that biting dog somewhere and send it to them? That would be fun!

  • “As someone who had four DDays, oh yeah, I was that kind of idiot chump. I should’ve gone with my gut feeling after the first DDay — run, run like hell! This is not salvageable! — the first betrayal, yes, you should feel sorry for me. Subsequent ones? I was just asking for that shit. I stuck around way too long.”

    Four? Really? And here I was feeling chumpy with two of them 🙂 Yeah, reconcilliation can elicit some ironic hubris. Been there; done that, and I am not proud of it either .

    • I had two. One quite a few years ago, where I convinced myself (with his complete support) that it was a ‘symptom’ of something wrong between us. Turns out it was the only one I caught. He never stopped and it wasn’t the first. SEcond Dday all the skeletons fell out of the closet and wow, his double life was pretty shocking. And to be honest, even then I was making excuses in my head and trying to convince myself he was not a horrible person. Thank god my therapist sorted me out and helped me see that yep, he really is a horrible person.

  • This is a related concept. It’s called co-narcissism, when the chump feels “special” associated with the narc. Some chumps, as CL notes, feel extra-enlightened or extra-sacrificing and extra virtuous as they try to forgive. This is an error. In any case, this article touches on those themes and is worth reading:

    In the end, the narcs don’t care. We often project that caring hologram onto them, but deep down we are just of use to them. It’s a bitter pill to swallow. But it’s better to just take the medicine and move on than to waste time trying to squeeze emotions from a stone.

  • Anyone else ever notice these narc symptoms (which I’ve observed in men; a limited study, this one)?:

    –Hobbyholism: excessive devotion to one’s hobbies at the expense of family time.
    –Always complaining about the horrible burden of having to work to support a family.
    –Talking weird and stilted, the way Kelly describes above.
    –Idealizing kids when they are little, but pulling away and becoming critical when they become adolescents.

    Just four, but all are very telling.

    • David:

      Yup to all, I must’ve had a live one with my ex!

      Any have these additional symptoms?
      — distracting others in conversation to another topic
      –Inability to sleep, up all night, almost bi-polar-like, worsening with age;
      –claiming to work very hard at job or other tasks, and appearing to be working furiously, but in end accomplished very little;;
      –bringing AP’s into family life as “friends of family” and having wife and children unknowingly interact with AP’s, having APs provide gifts to wife and family (ie artwork) thereafter displayed in family home
      –abandoning children, family, community, after D-Day, moving away, does not see at all;
      –despite apparent hyersexual activity over course of marriage including group sex, multiple AP’s, was unable to perform well sexually in marital bed;
      –regularly claiming illness, hypoglycemic-type symptoms, chest pain, general illness and fatigue;
      —rarely eating in front of others, often finding excuses not to eat with family even during holidays;
      –insisting on super clean, organized and uncluttered house and car, raging about house being a mess sometimes even if it was not;

      I fear my ex may actually be more toward the sociopath end of the scale.

    • You mean like how the STBX had plenty of time to collect toys and electronics, but hey, had to get his work done so he couldn’t be with us? Like how he was always starting new “projects” but never finished them?

      I only got the weird scripted talk when he told me about the affairs, when he told me that since the affairs began, he had gradually been falling out of love with me (and only a few days before he was telling me that we’d always have our relationship), and when he “apologized for what happened”. In that last speech, he never actually said he was sorry for cheating – he said he apologized for “what happened” because I didn’t deserve it. Now just when I think “wow – is he saying he’s sorry?” he goes on in that speech to say that all of us made mistakes.

      Because my mistakes (trying to save my marriage; trying reconciliation; seeing he was not going to give up the OW and being so afraid of not being able to support myself and the kids that I agreed to a schedule for them to be together; ultimately letting the OW move into our house so that he’d be around more for the kids and me) are on par with theirs (destroying a family/sneaking around/betrayal of marriage vows/money spent on affairs).

      If they’re talking, they’re lying; if they’re being nice, they want something.

      The kids and I were useful. When we ceased to be of use, we were expendable.

      • Weird how him fucking other people changed his feelings towards you. How does that work?

    • Mine totally had the first two (and I was never supportive enough of those hobbies or appreciative enough that he went to work). He doesn’t really talk weird and stilted… but I find almost everything he says completely uninteresting. Yawn. I swear I used to think he was funny. I don’t know what happened. Maybe it’s just that I don’t like him now.

      I guess I still have the fourth one to look forward to 🙁 Right now he definitely idealizes his 4 and 2 year old…

      • YOu were probably the funny one and he took on some of that. A friend saw his narc sister last week and had lunch with her. She said to me after ‘I never realised how absolutely boring she is’. And I see that about STBX now. He was great when he was in his sparkly phase but once real life creeped in he was not so great and was, in fact, quite boring a lot of the time. Naturally, I spent my time creating fun times that he took part in but it was always me doing it.

        Now when he has the kids he and OW do all the things with them that I thought up over the years. So maybe she isn’t as imaginative as me.

    • Wow, hobbyholism was an everyday occurance…..he needed his TV, video games, gambling, theater-going, drinking, and vacation time….at least 4 hours of TV every day when he got home from work, and that was just getting started. If anything encroached on his hobby time he would be angry and rageful. And by anything, I mean those silly things like children and their needs, our responsibilities with the house, or other chores. Things that he should never have to do, and *certainly* not on his HobbyTime. Which was, pretty much, all the time.

  • Oh, I forgot – he loved when the kids were little. He’s great with babies.

    Teenagers are another story.

  • I have a friend who is not only a cheater, but a pseudo-chump. And he keeps dating morons who think they will change them. (Did I mention I’m not entirely sure I want this guy to be my friend anymore? …yeah…)

    The only people he didn’t cheat on was me and the girlfriend he had before me. He started cheating after we graduated high school. Don’t know what snapped in his head but he’s got a cheater’s rep now.

    Anyway, the last gf he had knew he’d cheated on her. More than once. But kept trying to keep her claws in him anyway. She’d make him stop talking to any and all female friends he had and would freak out any time she saw him talking to a girl that wasn’t her. She stopped letting him go into places where I worked (convinced I was trying to steal him when honestly I wouldn’t go back to him if he were single…) she’d withhold sex any time he didn’t do what she wanted him to do. All because he cheated.

    I kept wondering, why the hell is she still trying to damn hard to keep him? :/ Because she thought she was special when time after time it was clear that she WAS NOT. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, three times, four times, shame on me.

    That relationship ended, inevitably. And not only did he get a new girlfriend who has been cheated on by someone else, she also knows about his history of infidelity. …And now she’s pulling the SAME EXACT THING as the one he just broke up with. Don’t talk to his girl, don’t go here, you can’t do that because it will “strain the relationship!”

    So this girl was chumped by her ex, which being chumped sucks and no one deserves to feel that kind of betrayal and hurt. But why do that to yourself? Why willingly get with another person who has not just cheated once, but has a HISTORY of cheating? At some point that just becomes choice. But of course, she thinks she’s going to “fix” him. She thinks she’s special. Just like the last one.

    And he keeps choosing to date these girls with hero-complexes. Then complains about how crazy they are.

    Myself and another girl actually WERE special in some aspect and neither of us would touch that guy again with a ten-foot pole. This should probably be a sign to the girls who have been chumped and re-chumped by him.

  • I read these posts and I think “until the day I actually found out about the affair I would never have thought he would do it” He thought so little of other men who cheated on their wives. He had been cheated on with a girl friend and was very hurt by this. It never crossed my mind. This was his first and only infidelity. I think that’s why I have been so stunned to inaction and the reluctance to let go to the hope it will pass(but I now know it won’t). The OW knew he was married but as he says “It was bigger than both of them” Well good luck cause the divorce settlement is going to be bigger than both of them expect!

  • I think deep down I always knew. It was finding the proof that took a long time. All the crap that is shoveled towards you to cover up his lies and deceit hid it very well. I became bitter, distrustful, unhappy and for a long time thought I had lost my sanity. He deserves his life now. He is broke ( and will be for a long time), with friends ( who are just like him) and the only family is his stupid, sleazy father and brothers. But he has the OW who listens to him. He still goes to church, professes to have looked after me and gave me everything in divorce, and tells people lies about our end. I will never feel sorry for them. Karma is my friend and she will take care of them.
    As for me, I am returning to my old self. One day I will thank him for being such a fuck up. Life with him would have just got worse and as I got older my only option would have been to stay. This is my second chance and I am grabbing it with both hands.

    • Weird because I keep saying – and people keep telling me – that I’m nearly back to my old self, the one they knew years ago. I became very negative; I think, for a long time and I had no idea why. Now I know and I’m back to being a sunny, positive person. It’s kind of awesome.

      • it feels so great to be happy inside that it shows on the outside. I am loving my life now.

        • I spoke to the X a couple of days ago after 3 months of NC, and he is the same miserable person he always was, and now it feels so good to be able to be awayfrom the constant negativity….i feel much lighter, and very Meh!!!!

    • As the sister to a female narc, I must find some of the resources that got me through my teen years. But hearing everyone above mention the stilted awkward speech patterns and language? Yes, yes, so much yes…

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