Dear Chump Lady,
There is a lot of talk on this site and others about how — in retrospect — cheaters left clues that we can now see. Some chumps realize that their ex broke a lot of dates, or were vague about their past, or forgot their birthday, or said really insensitive things. However, in my case I’ve done a pretty thorough post-mortem on our marriage and can’t really find ANY clues that my cheater would turn out to be one.
Up until his affair, my husband was always self-deprecating and seemed open to sharing his feelings. He worked hard, followed through on his commitments, and put me first in his life. It wasn’t until the affair started that he became withdrawn and moody, dropped most of his friends and social activities, and expressed frustration with our life together.
I’m a problem-solver and really struggle with the lack of prior evidence that should make all the pieces fall into place now that I know about the cheating and lying. My friend says that regardless of the fact that we all thought he was of good character, my husband has now shown us who is really is… and since he’s nearly 50 we have to assume he’s set in his ways and can’t reform himself. I’m not so sure. I don’t know whether it’s possible for someone to hide their poor character for that long without SOME signs showing up.
Is it possible that there are guys who are not narcissists or liars but suddenly become so with the onslaught of MLC and/or an OW? What causes this?
I think you’ve got a classic case of untangling the skein of fuckupedness. You’re a problem solver, and if you could just pinpoint what causes this kind of infidelity, presumably you could Do Something Different to prevent this from happening the next time. Develop a vaccine.
Sorry, Suzanne, I have no such guarantees. We don’t control other people. And while that’s a realization that can make us feel vulnerable, the flip side of it is that we’re not responsible for other people’s choices. That’s the scary thing about love and trust. We can do our very best at marriage, and all it takes is one person to drive it into a ditch.
Yeah, but WHY? They weren’t swerving around the road, or driving drunk, until suddenly one day yep, there you are flipped over backwards in a sewage trench wondering what the fuck happened.
Is it easier to point to a cheater and go, oh THAT explains it, this is personality disorder? Not really. It’s a different sort of agony to be with someone who wants to cheat on you and also stay married to you (the cake eater). In that case, you rack your brain going… was everything a lie? How did they maintain a double life for so long? Was I just of use to them?
Doesn’t sound like you had a cake eater. Instead, yours is a guy that couldn’t go the distance. Perhaps after years of vanilla, he wanted to walk on the wild Neapolitan side. (Or maybe you’re Neapolitan and he craves vanilla… I dunno.) You don’t say whether he ended the marriage and left for his affair partner, but it sounds like the marriage is over (i.e., “post-mortem”). Painful and definitive.
While not every cheater is a personality disorder, every affair is narcissistic. At some point, he gave himself permission to cheat on you. To break his commitment gutlessly with an affair. That is an issue of character. I believe good character is reinforced over time. But I also think there are people in this world who simply fail to appreciate their blessings. Who want to believe in their exceptionalism, especially as they age. Is this all there is, they might think? I’m a middle-aged insurance salesman with two kids in a small town? Because really, in my heart I’m a poet of sonnets. So I’m going to chuck my day job and find some starry eyed English student 25 years my junior who will tell me, hey Bob, you’re a POET. Who won’t see me as a regular man, but as a guy with exceptional Potential and Talent.
My grandfather would’ve called a guy like this a bum. But for some reason in our culture Man Children and Women Children are celebrated, despite the fact that the odds of being a successful poet of sonnets after a career in insurance is .00000000001 percent to nil. Folks today don’t appreciate the enormous blessing of being ordinary person with an ordinary life. (I’d like to air drop those people over Soweto.) Instead, everyone today is a gifted student. Or they could be an undiscovered celebrity! Being a regular Joe who earns a paycheck and raises a family isn’t enough, because you can’t sing an aria on the Voice or have your own reality TV show. I’m not saying your husband left you because he thought he was going to be a STAR, I’m saying whatever he had, he felt it wasn’t enough. He deserved MORE. And he didn’t have the guts to have that conversation with you, he just unmoored his boat for Fantasy Island and left.
Did you see the New York Times last Sunday? There was an interesting article on a researcher of happiness. One of the traits of unhappy people is that they compare their lives to others a lot. If you need a reason for why he did this, midlife crisis, or whatever — I think a simpler explanation was he wasn’t happy. He played compare and contrast and thought he could have more, at your expense. That’s not on you. That’s on him and inability to appreciate. You can’t be 77 flavors of ice cream. You can just be you. I’m sorry he didn’t appreciate what he had. My guess is that he’s not going to find eternal satisfaction elsewhere. He’ll just keep playing musical chairs and find himself sitting on his ass alone some day. Or coupled and silently resenting, doing a play act of commitment. His unhappiness is his problem. You go build a good life without him. Just because HE can’t value a good woman, doesn’t mean someone else can’t. And most of all you can value yourself without him.