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The Compassion Trap

“What we want most is only to be held…and told…that everything (everything is a funny thing, is baby milk and Papa’s eyes, is roaring logs on a cold morning, is hoot-owls and the boy who makes you cry after school, is Mama’s long hair, is being afraid, and twisted faces on the bedroom wall)…everything is going to be all right.”
― Truman CapoteOther Voices, Other Rooms

When I was cheated on, one of the many things that surprised me about that trauma, was that I desperately wanted comfort from the very same person who had hurt me.

Isn’t that odd? Can you think of anything else in life where you’d do that? Would you go back to the restaurant that gave you food poisoning? Would you ask a mugger to help you find your wallet? Or invite your IRS auditor to be Facebook friends? And yet, when we’re betrayed — infidelity being one of the most intimate and traumatic kind of betrayals — chumps almost universally seek comfort from their cheater. Who, let’s face it, is usually in serious cake withdrawal and not one bit interested in your pain. In fact your pain is hugely inconvenient and mortifying to them right now (assuming they’re not sociopaths, in which case it’s only inconvenient).

We so desperately want cheaters to show us some compassion, to hold us, and say “everything is going to be all right.” But it doesn’t play out that way, does it? What usually happens is that the cheater wants compassion from the chump. Tell me you’re not going to tell anyone! Tell me you aren’t going to divorce me over this! You must understand that I am grieving too! (Grieving the affair partner.)

Chump Lady often gets taken to task for not being compassionate towards cheaters. My answer to that usually is — there are many other places on the internet that offer compassion to cheaters, and not just compassion, but in other quarters, celebration of their infidelities as sexy and risk taking. My business here is compassion for chumps. But, the argument goes — what if it were you? Can’t you imagine doing something horrible for which you need forgiveness and were being denied?

Sure. I’m not perfect. My husband and other loved ones show mercy on me for my failings — and I have a lot of failings. It’s a beautiful thing to be accepted “warts and all.” But I do not confuse that mercy with unconditional love. That I can do anything, and my family must accept it, and work harder to have me in their circle. Grown up love is conditional love. If I was a drug addict, and I stole from my family, I would expect that they distance themselves from me out of self preservation. As they say in recovery speak “detach with love.” Similarly, if I cheated on my husband, if I were truly remorseful, I would have to understand that I broke our covenant and no one owes me a second chance. My husband is not obliged to stay married to me, or forgive me.

But I see that expectation all the time! From cheaters who act entitled to as many reconciliations as it takes to Get It Right. And from chumps who think they must be the bigger person and eat this shit sandwich. That they must forgive and ask themselves what they did wrong and try harder to win their cheater back.

You can argue that people reconcile out of fear, or crappy financial consequences, or keeping it together for the kids. But I also think mixed up in there is compassion — a great big heart that is trying very hard to love someone who has grievously hurt them. That IS a virtue. A beautiful sacrificial thing.

And it’s that very compassion, chumps, that gets you played.

That may be why, to anyone who hasn’t been chumped, my posts come off to some as angry or unforgiving. In real life, I’m actually Chumpy McChumperston. Pretty trusting and gullible (ask my husband about the rattlesnake vaccination I got talked in to… or any contractor I’ve employed). But I’m not as chumpy as I used to be. I understand now the blues song that goes: “you mistook kindness for weakness/And you walked right over me.”

Cheaters mistake chump kindness for weakness — and they will walk right over you. It’s not that it’s wrong to be compassionate. I don’t want a life in which I never trust anyone again. It’s just that you’re casting your pearls to swine. Recognize that disordered people will use your kindness against you, and your strength and your generosity.

“Remorse” kept me stuck. My ex was operatic in his feigned remorse. It hurt me to see him in such pain. I could not imagine a world in which someone could MAKE THAT UP to play me.  Who could say things like “I swear to you on my father’s grave” or “you know how much I love you and <your son>, I would never do anything to jeopardize our relationship.” But he did say those things, and more, but his actions told a very different story. We meant nothing to him and our pain didn’t register with him one bit.

My husband reports that he got zero “remorse” from his ex. Absolutely none. Just a cold eyed stare. And so it made his path much clearer — he divorced immediately (after 10 days of false R). But I didn’t have that. I feel into the compassion trap. I was afraid of leaving, absolutely. But I also struggled mightily with the thoughts that I had to be a good person and not quit. Not let this person down — even though he had let me down in the most intimate and humiliating of ways.

My willingness to shoulder that unfair burden kept me stuck in that marriage. I should’ve wised up sooner and realized that he saw me as a mark. My sticking by him to him meant he got another chance at cake. The price of admission was some kabuki theater that he was “sorry” and sitting in a shrink’s chair once a week and spewing word salad about Why He Did It. (Never got an answer on that one. Other than once “I like being a narcissist. I like me.”)

The take away from this is NOT don’t show compassion or never trust again. No, it’s that chumps need to choose better. Compassion toward someone who is appropriately humble and acts contrite is very different than compassion for someone who acts entitled to it and does the same dumb shit over and over. Hold your compassion back and watch what they do. If you must love, go ahead and love. But detach out of self preservation. Have compassion for yourself. People with self esteem have conditions to their love. That’s okay. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you a wise one. Give that big heart of yours to someone who has demonstrated that they deserve it.

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  • Here, here… love with conditions! YES!!! I get so tired of hearing about this unconditional love??? Because what fucktards do is anything BUT loving! So, why oh why is that I keep hearing about this love without conditions? Doesn’t seem quite fair, does it?

    And no… we will never get the answer about WHY he did it. The best I ever got was– “selfish.”

    What I really wanted was to tell his family that he was “selfish” and…

    “Laurel was a wonderful wife and had absolutely nothing to do with my failings. I know that I must face the consequences, but I want you to know that she is a wonderful woman and I deeply regret hurting her, my children and the rest of my family.” I am going to go for help now… because I do NOT want to be the kind of man who could devastate lives in this manner. I do not know how I came to be so very lost. Its not who I want to be and I am going to fight like hell to overcome this shortcoming. In time, I hope that my loved ones will find it in their hearts to forgive me. I don’t expect that Laurel will ever trust me again and that is the consequence that I must face for breaking her heart over and over again. I am deeply sorry.”

    Hey, THAT is a man I would respect. I still wouldn’t stay with him, but I would absolutely support him in his quest to become a decent, whole, healthy human being.

    yeah, yeah… I know…utter fantasy!

    What actually hurt me the most… was that he actually ALLOWED his family to shit all over me. Now, here’s the clincher. He did NOT agree with them, however, he didn’t want to say anything because it felt “good” for “someone” to finally take his “side.”

    So, tell me someone… how can it feel good to see your wife being unfairly decimated? (rhetorical question)

    and what side? There was no argument. He was fucking around, behind my back and lying to me and I didn’t like that.


    • Ugh, the sides. I hear this shit all the time and I have the same response as you: there are no sides–he fucked around, lived a double life and I found out. End of. What fucking side is there but the one that I just laid out?

      I assume there is teh side, of course, that I somehow ’caused’ this to happen, or that ‘these things just happen’ or whatever but nope, this marriage did not end for any other reason than STBX’s wandering dick.

      • Yes, the sides.

        There is his family’s side. I never asked them to choose “sides.” But, they feel better about themselves by throwing me under the bus and blaming me. Good for them. They all suffer from low self esteem and insecurity. Good riddance.

        Unfortunately, I figure they’re all a little to close to throwing my kids under the bus, as well, because they don’t whole-sale approve of their father’s cowardice. I’m thinking my kids will be ok with that and see it for what it is.

        There is his friends’ side–whatever. If they accept this behavior, they are no friends of mine. I like the company of principled people. Good riddance.

        I love your take, Laurel. I will hold my head high, when the next person says, “Well, there’s always two sides.” Right. Neither of us is perfect, and he bailed on his family for a loser twat who made him feel better about himself. To quote Nord, “End of.”

        Love you guys!!

        • What I hate is that my inlaws try to suck the kids into ‘their side’ but luckily my kids don’t buy it. It’s pretty fucked up though that they actively help in the sides thing. What assholes. Good riddance is right.

        • The “two sides” I see is that in the same circumstances, one person chose to cheat and the other didn’t.

    • Laurel, that’s just once more way to screw you. They hate or resent us deep down, I don’t know why, and it isn’t enough that they betrayed us and decimated our families while pissing away the best years of our lives. Fooling others into thinking its our fault, or not theirs is at times I think part of their sick pleasure. My ex- was a bit like CL’s husbands’s ex-, just immediately cold and gone, so it’s not like he needed others to think badly of me so he could save face during any R. I just think telling others that it was my fault and casting his faults as mine in his explanations was simply another sort of idle amusement for him and another way to victimize me, or at least try. Hell,, could they show in any other way how little respect and love they have for us? I’d imagine more compassion for complete strangers

      • I think they try to blame us because they simply will not face that they are the ones who blew it all to pieces. To face that means they have to face themselves but they aren’t willing to do that.

        I also think there’s a healthy dose of self-loathing but they can’t deal with that so they project it onto us.

        I say let them. I am no longer willing to listen to any of it. Just give me what I want and go play in schmoopie boopie land.

  • Thanks for bolstering me up this morning. I was starting to descend into that soggy thinking of wanting comfort from him and feeling sad for him that he is the way he is. You helped me remember the times I cried from my gut (you know, that really, really attractive-open-mouth-I-could-be-going-crazy-or-dieing kind of cry) and he just watched, stone faced, and told me to stop it. Yeah, guess he doesn’t deserve any of my compassion.

  • “Grown up love is conditional love.”

    YES!! Thank you!

    I wanted comfort from the cheater before he moved out to be with his schmoopie. It backfired. He got angry with me for making him cheat on her with me, the wife. I begged and pleaded and did the pick-me dance for comfort. I insulted and castigated him–all to no avail.

    Then I tried to comfort him. You so totally got it: “Tell me you’re not going to tell anyone! Tell me you aren’t going to divorce me over this! You must understand that I am grieving too!” I heard all those things. And then I tried to comfort him. What a chump!

    I heard friends tell me not to be ashamed that I did these things–I can trust that I am a good person. He, not so much.

    I had compassion for him, and for my kids. I wanted the promise–my goals hadn’t changed, his had.

    Oh, well. I’ve learned a lot. Things are better now, at least for me. For my kids, I mourn their loss, of a real father. That is one regret I will always have. It may even be as bitter as my ex’s regret, because I love my children.

    YOU, Mrs. Chump Lady–YOU keep cheering us all on! Don’t let the turkeys take you down. Remember that small cowards like to try to PROJECT their worst characteristics onto successful people. When they call you bitter, consider that it is THEY who are bitter! They are bitter that you are calling them on their shit, they are bitter that you are creating doubt in their minds–“Is this reconciliation for real?” They are BITTER that you have principles and morals, and they are BITTER that you have a following of good people who are grateful for your encouraging words of rationality. They are BITTER that they might not be able to sell shit sandwiches for long–they fear that cheating and “unconditional love” may not be trendy for much longer, cause we’re on to that shit now. Power in knowledge and power in sharing!

    • I agree with Stephanie totally. Keep on the good work Chump Lady. We love you!

      I was reading a story of a cheater (by himself) on another website, a few days ago. I was stunned at his reasoning- Everyone has a right to be happy – but all that he cared for was his happiness. He never cared nor talked about the kind of pain he inflicted on his chump wife. There was some reference to a kind of guilt that he had for leaving then going back and then again planning to leave gain. Reason for contemplating leaving a second time again: He enjoyed the extreme attention of the chump wife in R-mode when he came back and kind of forgot the OW. But, as time passed, he felt that the charm faded off back to be a “boring life” with roles and responsibilities and realities of life facing him. He started remembering his fun-days with OW. I mean he had the courage to say this about the chump wife “I enjoyed the fact that she took the counseling seriously, and was trying to woo me back into marriage”. I felt a “lump” in my throat while reading it. A marriage with a wife of 12 years and 2 small kids, meant “so much nothing” to him. He felt he had the right to be happy. Howsoever, it destroyed his wife and children – they didn’t have the right to be happy.
      So, the point is: all of us have been in R-mode for a small period or for good number of years. See through clearly – it is about cheater’s happiness…it is his right…a fundamental right. You can be successful in R, provided you can keep him perpetually happy: whatever that means.

      CL: Do we get “Happiness Drug” somewhere?

  • The first thing I did was to run to his bed, seeking compassion. About the 5th or 6th time, he pushed me away. That is when I realized it wasn’t the other man’s wife with whom he had been sleeping, that was the problem…the problem was, he didn’t want me. That’s all it took and from that moment I began putting together a plan. Can’t stand to be with anyone who doesn’t want me around. I wanted compassion from the only person who ever gave me compassion in 35 years. Yes, it is strange, seek help from the one who hurt me. I had been so faithful, had never even considered anyone else, so I had no one else to turn to. Glad it only took a short time to figure that out. Now I am branching out and cultivating new friends and communicating with old ones. I will never limit myself to only one confidence again. Thank you cl, I thought I was totally bonkers when I sought compassion from him.

  • Bravo!
    What kept me stuck (for 18 years post-Affair #1) was the claim that I contributed to his needing to have an affair. So, sadly, I spent those years making sure I did everything right, so I would never be the reason he cheated on me. Although, I didn’t do anything to begin with! He just liked to make me think I did. It was easier than looking at his own self.

    After the second (that I know of) affair, I was stunned when he, once again, tried to blame it on me. But, in the days and weeks leading up to that moment, as I shared with him that something didn’t seem right, he assured me that everything was just peachy. He loved me, he was proud of me, we are going to grow old together, I’m sorry I hurt you back then. Bla Bla Bla. Then, the second he was busted again, suddenly, I was The World’s Worst Wife.

    Emotional whiplash.

    The truth is, I was a good wife. I wasn’t “colluding” with him to cheat on me. I did the hard work of reconciliation and he made me think he did too. But, he cheating again because he is disordered.

    I am free now. He can be sick with someone else. I never wanted to live like that.

  • During marriage counseling he sez it’s not fair to him to cut off contact with the OW because it’s so painful, he is “only” emailing with her and they are “just friends” now. Counselor tells me, he needs time, would I be OK if he just emails and shows them to me…just for a few weeks until he gets “over” her. Then he sez his email is private he won’t show them to me – I just look at the counselor when she asks if THAT’s OK too. Fuck no, just no.

    If your abuser wants you to go to marriage counseling it is not because he/she really believes both of you need to work on the marriage. The abuser thinks you need to be fixed and most counselors do not get this. As so what happens at first is everything is both of you, the cheating is a symptom! And of course your spouse is all too willing to blame you for their cheating and is almost as good at manipulating the counselor as they are with you. My asshole stopped going when the counselor suggested he should be tested for BPD – he raged out when we left the office and then started texting his OW.

    • Oh, I’m so proud of you for seeing so clearly!! Good for you! Your counselor, on the other hand, is an idiot. With a degree.

      Jesus. “Would it be ok if he maintains a relationship with his affair partner while he strings you along? You must accept some blame, you know.”

      The fuck???

    • Tell me you’re not going to give any more money to the idiot. I get better advice every time I get Chinese food.

      “You will soon make a change in your life”

        • I think most of them are, they are committed to saving your marriage even when it’s obvious the marriage is doomed. This all happened in 2010, I’m far away from it, I was just wanting to share with new chumps what can happen in “marriage counseling” with an abuser. This is the same counselor that told me a lot of people have difficulty with validation, so the fact my (now ex) husband could not validate anything I said was OK, he would learn it….no he didn’t.

          • that counselor should lose her license. That is just absolutely mind blowing. and the “private email.” oh yeah… my h had about fifty of them. He had two separate computer systems… and seven… YES, SEVEN EXTERNAL HARD DRIVES!!!

            But, here is yet another example of why “couple’s counseling” with a fucktard is not only a waste of time and money, but only deepens the wounds. It doesn’t help anything, except to feather the shrink’s pocketbook. And YEAH… they are doing this for $$$$$$$.

            Counseling for YOU. YES!!! but not with him.

            well, I guess we all get that now. :[

            I really can’t believe that she said that to you. She’s probably fucking your husband. Think it doesn’t happen?

            unfortunately, all too often. :[

            but… there are some wonderful counselors out there…

            couples counseling is for working out DIFFERENCES and communication issues.

            fucking around is not a difference. Its not a symptom of a bad marriage. Its a character flaw at best and a symptom of sociopathy at worst.

            HE needs to find out WHY AND HOW he could do such a hideous thing to someone he portends to love!

            but of course, that is just more fantasy. oh well.

            • I wouldn’t say all MC is bad. I had (and have) a great therapist. She started out with us both and was not nice about what happened to STBX. She told him flat out that what seems new will get old too, that he had literally destroyed my life and stomped on everything I knew to be true, that it was like a death, that we could not resolve anything until he admitted what he had done, etc.

              STBX was horrified by the whole thing and she became my therapist.

    • Wow, I can’t believe your counselor said that and went along with him emailing her. Counselor EPIC FAIL.

      But not all counselors are that way. They have been *great* for me.

      After I found about my husband’s affair, our marraige counselor told us there needed to be *no contact* between my husband and the OW. He didn’t like that. Between that and the lack of remorse, our counselor told us there is no point in trying to save the relationship. So we went to a *second* counselor. Once he found out my husband was still contacting the OW, he concluded that he was still in the affair. Period, end of story. Still texting? Still chatting on the phone? Still meeting up “as friends”? You’re still in the affair. There’s no point of this marraige therapy parade. Well good for him, he was right.

      And I’m so glad that the counselors called a spade a spade. They called it out in black and white, no bones about it. It really helped me see the light much more quickly. Because that’s what I felt in my gut already, they just gave me the strength I needed to accept it.

  • We are good people. We are introspective, we are constantly trying to improve ourselves, to earn our wisdom. So, it is natural, knowing we are not perfect, to accept the creed that somehow we are responsible for causing an affair.

    See, this is why this forum is so useful. Because cliches like that are harmful and downright abusive. I don’t accept that shit. The ex was FAAAAAAAAAAAAR from perfect, and I didn’t cheat, didn’t break my kids’ hearts. And I did have the opportunity, but I put my true happiness and my kids’ security first. I had the insight and the maturity to do that. I’ve considered, but I don’t purchase the idea that I’m to blame.

    So I sent his ass packin’ and I set about to heal and learn from this episode in my life, as well. And I’ve learned a lot, as usual.

  • In a book about affairs recommended by my therapist, there’s this part that also talks about adult love as conditional. It talk about how we chumps can’t be mindless machines pumping out love for someone not worthy of it. I really liked that part. It resonated with me.

    I think the biggest chump mistake is believing that asshole who cheated is just like us in their feelings and integrity. We’d be honestly mortified and begging-on-our-knees sorry if we ever betrayed someone in 1/10th of the way we were hurt.That is my biggest problem. It’s that I can’t believe anyone could actually be so awful, conniving and soulless.

    It’s hard to turn away from the only person you’ve really loved for a decade, to not share stories of your day, not seek comfort and accept that yawning embrace of sadness, which feels like a free fall. It’s a weird thing to want comfort from the person who destroyed you. But yup, I’m there. I totally get it. But he’ll never be sorry enough, never really care about anything but the damage to his reputation and financial consequences. These people are just wired wrong. I will eventually accept that.

    • “I think the biggest chump mistake is believing that asshole who cheated is just like us in their feelings and integrity.” Yes! I still have trouble during the divorce process to really believe he could do the things he does. And you know what’s funny? When we spoke about a lump sum in stead of monthly support payments, he said I could start a wanton life, spend all money, quit my job… as if! And then I realized: as I see him through my trusting, high moral fog, he sees me, from his perspective!

      And CL, you did it again, why did I ever seek support from the one that hurt me more than I’ve ever been hurt? When one night at the very and of our (false) reconciliation he said he saw me as a casualty lying on the street and now would like to offer me a hand to stand up and I refused (it was finally dawning on me not to look for his support). I could only react with: I was not a random casualty, you not only threw me down, but also kicked me when I was down. How could I trust your hand now to pick me up?

      • “And then I realized: as I see him through my trusting, high moral fog, he sees me, from his perspective!”

        OMG! Lightbulb moment!!

        THANK YOU!

        Wow! The way xH sees it, I am out to get him. Everyone is out to get him and make him feel like a loser.

        • Sheesh, light bulb is right. I often sit here and wonder how he can think the things he thinks about me, after 20 years of me being nothing like that. And now I see how: he thinks I’m like him. Thank god I’m not.

          • Thank you for this, D-c. I never really thought about it that way. He used to say things to me about how I could spend the settlement money (go for a bigger house, take on a mortgage) and that hopefully I’d find someone really great as well (assuming that I’m also going to rush right into a relationship because why wouldn’t I?) that I remember thinking were so totally disconnected. Why would I blow through my marriage settlement instead of being careful with my money? Why would I rush to hook up with someone right away when I have three kids who need me and a great life full of family and friends that I’m perfectly happy with?

            Oh. Because HE would. He’s the one who overspends on houses and their ongoing improvements. He’s the one who can’t be alone, so he’s going to make it work with the OW, no matter what. He’s the one who has very few people in his life, so he can’t conceive of a partnerless life, even if it would be the right and healthy thing to do.

            I have to tell myself that when I get angry– he’s seeing me through his lens, not mine.

            • No time to really write but just wanted to say that STBX said many similar things…and not just to me. He told the kids a week or two after i kicked him out that I would get over it in a month or two and find some new guy in a bar or something. I don’t really hang out in bars – and certainly not to pick up men – so it was so out of nowhere and bizarre.

              And yep, he’s an overspender, can’t keep to a budget, has no sense of saving for the future…sheesh, the projection is astounding. I am a saver and live within my means.

    • Totally agree. All I hear about is his rep and his money. Somehow this is my fault that his reputation has taken a big hit, he’s lost a lot of freinds and the financial squeeze is on because I was a SAHM and he now has to support two hosueholds.

      Well, I’m going to financially free myself from him somehow and then he’ll have little left to blame on me. ANd if you go to private forums you’ll see there is more wrong in his world. :=)

            • Datdamwuf, they seem to be working for me and others are posting. Can you tell me what’s not working for you? They aren’t ideal yet, but I’m working on it here, to get PM features and more functionality.

              To use, you have to register with Word Press. Then you’ll “see” the chats and can participate. 🙂

              • I’m registered and up till yesterday I could get there. today I get the following error (in IE and in Chrome)
                Surfin’ ain’t easy, and right now, you’re lost at sea. But don’t worry; simply pick an option from the list below, and you’ll be back out riding the waves of the Internet in no time.
                ■Hit the “back” button on your browser. It’s perfect for situations like this!
                ■Head on over to the home page.

              • NVRMD CL, somehow I got logged out and my password wasn’t working, I got in now. sorry to bother you.

  • I’m struggling with all of this. He seems so fricking happy and his girlfriend has become my 14 year old daughter’s best friend. It’s hard to compete with that when I’m the one telling her to clean her room and come home on time.
    Every post here has something relatable to me and my situation, and it should be clear. It should be cut and dry that this guy is a loser and I’m better off without him.
    But he involved my kids in this “new normal” and they seem to be perfectly fine with it! I just want to scream that just because you force normalcy doesn’t make it right!!! It’s all so messed up.
    I’m lost at how to just move on. I’m still hurt and having trouble getting past that.

    • I hate that my kids are freindly with her but I also realise that it’s self-preservation on their part. As one of them told me, if he doesn’t get along with OW it’s all fight fight fight with his dad and he can’t do it anymore so he deals. Sad that they’re put in this situation but it shows a remarkable maturity in a way. They’ve got their dad’s number and he will be the one who hurts in teh long run.

    • Pamela,
      I can relate entirely to what you are going through, right down to the 14-year-old daughter enamored with STBX’s girlfriend. Also, she has two young daughters (left her husband for mine) ages 3 and 6. STBX immediately pushed to blend our daughter with OW and her kids. So my daughter loves hanging out with them as well. They have all kinds of fun. And I’m the nagging mom who makes my daughter do her homework, etc., etc.,

      But a very wise friend of mine reminded me that I am my daughter’s only mom. OW can never replace me, and the fun times will eventually become less novel and exciting. When our daughter’s need someone who is there – someone on whom they can rely – we have always been there and they know we always will be and they will remember.

      Believe me, I’m still hurt as well, Pamela. And this is THE most difficult part of this separation and impending divorce. I will be better off without my loser cheater husband. But I cannot bear this emotional tug of war when it comes to my daughter.

      Please know that there are many here who understand and share what you’re going through.

      • Thank you for that reminder. In my head I know I’m their only mom, but my heart breaks at what those two are doing to them. And me.
        I keep hearing how it will get better and my kids will come to understand in the long run, but after how much damage I wonder..

        • So sorry Pamela. I think for me this pain you’re going through was the absolute worst part – after all we can live with loosing a cheating creep, but it’s unbelievably completely unfair how they get to take our kids from us (at least partially). It’s just salt (or acid) in the wound of the affair to watch the kids become friends with the perfidious affair partner and your smug cheating x as they take on the auspices of respectability and “family”.

          But here’s the thing: as jazzvox states above, you are absolutely your children’s mom and no one can usurp it. EVER. They can pretend all they want. Doesn’t change a damn thing.
          So as much as it hurts, remember that having some kind of father in your children’s lives is a gift you can give them. A gift to those precious little creatures. If his tramp acts nice to them, well great! It’s good that she’s behaving herself right? Look at it this way, they deserve to be treated well (even by crappy people). So, all the stuff mine gets from him and the slut? Well yay! Good!

          And here’s a slightly more catty and bitter take on it: IF it makes you feel better, remember that the tramp is stuck with his kids (that he has with YOU) for the rest of that relationship. She will NEVER have him all to herself. Trust me, you will get better and better with this over time, and it will probably just eat at her more and more. Ha!

          But seriously, hugs to you, and best wishes.

          • Same here– STBX is rapidly moving in his OW and her children. They’re feeding my kids all kinds of happy stories about how much fun it’s going to be as one happy family. It makes me furious, and I worry for my kids– sure, it’s fun and novel right now, but what’s going to happen when reality kicks in? Will there be a lot of fighting? Will STBX come to his stepkids’ defense every time our kids have a conflict with them because he doesn’t want to rock the boat with his schmoopie? Will my kids have their heads turned by lots of gifts and fun times, while viewing me as the demon because I don’t buy them something new every weekend and let them eat as much candy as they want?

            I’m trying to take it day by day, but it’s hard. I wish I had never had kids with him, and I’m going to be stuck with him in my life to some degree for another 14 years. I wish I were in a situation where I could do a full NC with him. Instead, I’m going to be dealing with the OW moving into my town, showing up places where I used to feel safe and comfortable… sorry, I guess I’m having a bad week! I’ll just keep on keepin’ on the high road since the only other choice is to go Jerry Springer on them, but I was raised better than that.

            • MO –

              Just keep on that high road! I am 5 years on in this, and I know it might not help right now, but it does get better. The depression I went through with realizing that I would have to be in contact with someone who has treated me like crap forever was hard. Some days it still is. Even at this late date this site and community have totally bolstered my spirits and keep me from falling into more relationships from hell!

              As far as the kids and the x and the OW (tramp) I just tell myself that kids are the best bullshit detectors ever. Sure they’re gonna eat up the fun and candy, but they will know who is there for them. I try to remember that even in an intact family, kids are naturally going to “hate” their parents when they make boundaries. It’s part of the job! You need to do it, because someone has to be the parent! And, I think you can trust them to know that you are doing it for them out of true love, not that fake fluff the x and the tramp shower them with. You will have some hurdles to face, but just keep telling them you’re doing it together.

              I used to just die inside when my kid went on vacations with them, but now? I hope they take my kid to do something fun! Please try to see the positives if you can. The kids deserve some goodies once and while and you save the expense! win win!

              We xchump single moms have some real extra crap to deal with, but we also have an opportunity to forge an incredible bond with our children without the toxic influence of a creep on a day to day basis. I am so, so, SO damn glad I don’t have to deal with him other than by email.

              As to the OW in your town? In mine my friends know who they are, and they are the ones that feel like outsiders. I’m the mom involved with school and sports, etc. He’s the jerk with the gf.

              And if you have a Springer moment? Sure, try to avoid it in front of the kids, but, don’t underestimate the value of some well placed anger. And don’t beat yourself up too much.

              You got this. Hugs to you.

  • Really liked this post. Reminded me that I am a good person with a big heart. Took such passive aggressive crap from the ex over the years that I bought into it. He really just slowly but surely made me feel like crap. And even though I *mostly* don’t believe it now, it’s always nice to find validation 🙂 I might be a bit of a sucker, naive, etc., but compassion is a beautiful thing… as long as you can find the right person to give it to and don’t allow selfish people to take advantage of it.

  • CL Thanks for the slap in the face; I needed it. You are so right about wanting just to be comforted. I miss so much what was (even if it wasn’t perfect) and can’t understand what went wrong.

  • My ex’a affairs started early on. Then tragedy hit, because of some of his business actions and my refusal to demand they stop. I ended up losing everything and pulling him out of a terrible and dangerous situation. Though I suspected the affairs and prostitutes, D-day wasn’t until much later. I only “suspected”, and didn’t ‘know’ because he was so abusive I was suffering from severe depression.

    Now.. I am continually ask myself if I had known about the infidelity would I have gone to the lengths I did to quite literally save his life.

    The answer is always the same: Yes. Not because he deserved it, or because I should be someone’s door mat, but because I am a good person. I couldn’t leave anyone in the spot he was in. Anyone. He can, and did, take away a lot of things from me, but not my humanity. Though I tried for years to find out why he did the things he had, to understand and apply my morals and standards to him, to seek comfort and compassion from him, I will never be the way he sees me. The way he is.

    Conversely, they will never have our standards.

    I’d much rather be me/us.

    • I am in that spot now. He is not well and I can’t kick someone when they are down. Actually, I am using the time of caregiving, to plan my exit. In a way, it has been a blessing.

      • Yeah Yoder, I did the same thing. We ended up having a pending law suit that I needed him to be able to function in… not for his sake, but for mine. I ended up with a good settlement, partly based on his ability to keep it together enough to testify. So I not only had to deal with d-day, learning he had betrayed me after I saved his miserable life, but had no choice other than to stay with him and help him keep it together. It was ridiculously hard, but I am the better person for it. I could have left his sorry ass a long time ago, I wanted to before d-day even. But…. i couldn’t do it and still think I was a decent person. In the time it took me to get him in a better place, I was a stronger person and more settled in my decision.

        Be strong, and mostly careful. If yours is anything like mine, he will milk the situation for all it’s worth. Be careful of codependency. It’s an easy trap to fall into.

        • Now that I realize I don’t care for him at all, in fact, can hardly stand to be in the same room with him, leaving will be such a relief. Just positioning myself so that I don’t leave empty handed. I am being patient and yes, I do see a light at the end of the tunnel.

          Thanks for the caution.

          • Good for you Yoder…
            I was on that teeter totter for only a few weeks, but was able to get 1/2 of a months rent, which may sound calculating, but after 12 years, and him stripping me of all financial stability I had to get whatever I could. In reality…if he stood before me RIGHT NOW, opened his arms, and tried to give me the comfort I am craving so badly, I would probably spit at him and send him on his way…seems my mind takes over my heart…Thank you all for that. He has attempted to slyly edge in around me in social settings and I will leave-on autopilot. Someday, Someone will hug me, and I will trust them enough to let them, that is my light at the end of the tunnel….

  • Thanks for this CL. I am in a weird place right now. Haven’t talked to him in several weeks and I still feel down. I don’t know if I am ever going to feel better, but I am not crying as much and that must count for something. My family and friends and family have been very supportive but I am still mopey. Lonely. Sad. But this is well timed because I need to be reminded that going backwards is the wrong way to think. Maybe it’s just that I am really starting to feel the financial pinch. Bastard.

  • The cheaters and APs out there do what they do because they think they can do “better” than their promises/vows to be with us, the chumped.

    No. They are opportunistic; they deserve each other. I’d like to think the chumps of the world are altruistic – and WE are the ones who deserve better.

    • You nailed it Really! It’s that sense of entitlement and hubris that will be their eventual downfall. These are people with serious character flaws, no integrity and no morals. They absolutely deserve each other and the best “revenge” for us is to let them have each other! They each got themselves a liar, cheater and a seriously flawed individual. Who would want to live with that? Not a normal healthy person that’s for sure. It’s definitely not a prize I would be bragging about.

  • If you are dealing with a partner who is NPD, then your “compassion” and “understanding” will all be turned against you and NOT/NOT reciprocated. Such folks feel entitled to special treatment.

    CL is, as usual, brilliant today. She shows how good qualities (like chumps’ compassion) can be turned into negatives in an exploitative relationship. Watch carefully! If there is no remorse (and watch over time; this is not a snapshot thing), then, frankly, extending compassion is likely a waste of time.

    Thanks again, CL. Another penetrating analysis.

    • yep. And one other thing for those who can’t kick him when he’s “down.”

      First of all, you are not kicking him, if you leave. You are ENABLING him if you stay!

      Two, you are not his mother. (he needs one, but its not you)

      Three, he was fine before he met you. He will be fine when you leave, too.

      totally fine.

      Four. what about YOU??? Who’s taking care of you? Are you taking care of you? hmmm… not sure about that. After all, if you are staying to take care of the big baby, it surely must be very exhausting. Think he would reciprocate if the shoe was on the other foot? If you do… I have a bridge for sale… Wanna buy it?

      and finally. If your husband held a gun to your head, but then… just before he pulled the trigger… had a massive heart attack. (if only!)… and was lying there— gasping for breath.

      would you help him so that he could then grab his gun and commence with killing you?

      he did try to kill you. He dug out your heart and annihilated your soul. So please tell me, why oh why is it you that needs to help him?

      Our spouses have decimated us. And fine. Call me a heartless bitch. I TRIED. I really, really TRIED. even WHEN I got absolutely nothing in return. (in the form of intimacy) And I daresay everyone on this blog tried just the same or we wouldn’t be here. We are all scratching our heads trying to figure out (and figure out) what the hell just happened, and WHY???

      there IS no rational answer. It seems (if we are women, that is… ) that we are married to the same man. Don’t they all sound exactly the same? We sound the same too. We’re traumatized. Lonely. Depressed. Lost… The one who we thought was THERE for us… him and me against the world… suddenly bailed and in the most humiliating way possible and has left us reeling in a never ending loop of WTF?

      I ASKED him what he was up to. He mocked me and he LIED. He hid his double life for years and years… and then he LIED AND LIED.

      so ya know what? He can fucking rot in hell for all eternity.

      sick? ha! well yeah… they’re ALL FUCKING SICK!

      all said with love.

      one day. I pray to God that I won’t be such an angry bitter bitch! but for however long it takes… this is my message.

      • Oh Laurel, well said, and ditto here, same man, same feelings, I pray he rots in hell- I understand in Dante’s Inferno the inner ring is reserved for the betrayers…just sayin’

      • You’re right, Laurel. It is as if we were all married to the same, despicable wretch of a human being, albeit super sparkly. And thank you for voicing what I and probably many others are really feeling on the inside. My dday was 10 months ago, my ex left me and our 3 young kids 7 months ago, and our divorce was final 4 months ago. But here I was today, almost ready to text him some bullshit fluff, because I was missing him and needing that comfort that I had been used to getting for 17 years. It was pure providence that I decided to check CL’s blog instead, and this oh so timely post knocked some sense into my head. I truly feel like some crackhead addict or something who’s been clean for a short while but has to be constantly on watch or will fall off the wagon and go back for more (abuse). WTF bullshit is that? he is the one who fucks up, yet I’m the one who suffers daily, fighting myself just to do the right thing by myself… Plus all the crazy shit I have to deal with related to exH, OW, and her kid, i.e., along the lines of what Pamela was talking about above. Yes, I don’t want to be bitter either. But how the hell does one not be bitter in our messed up circumstances???

      • I am sorry you are still so angry and I know everyone’s rock bottom is different. For some alcoholics, getting a dui is all it takes, for others, they seem to have to lose everything, i.e., home, job, spouse, everything. My Eureka moment came in less than sixty days. At that moment, I stopped reacting emotionally and began a rather long road of revenge (how sweet it is), working smart instead of working out of anger and lastly, trying to figure out how a 65 year old woman is going to provide for herself.

        First, I made him feel soooooo guilty he agreed to anything I wanted, so I made him sign a document I dictated, stating he would pay me X amount per month, then had it notorized and I filed it will the county clerk’s office. (Whether legal and binding…who knows, but shows intent.)

        Next (at this point he knew he needed me to take care of him) he begged me to stay, over and over, he begged me, so when I told him I had already filed divorce papers he said he would pay me back the money I had spent.

        Next, I told him I could never trust him again, he said I could look at his computers and cell phone. So, I did. Spotted a little two line e-mail, in among the inbox, stating, from him to her, “Don’t worry, I’ve got so many layers of security on my computers, no one could hack into it.”

        And that fact is true. He did not however, make certain his “sent” file was routinely emptied and deleted. What a treasure trove I found…55 e-mails explicitly validating their affair, with dates, times, places, their intentions, etc. It was like opening Pandora’s box because he did not know they were there and I of course, was not going to tip my hand.

        Next, I then took his cell phone, feigning mine not working. I kept his for 3 days and in that time, I sent OW on the goose chase of her life. I began texting brief, cryptic, messages. Apologized for not having been in touch with her. As she began to text back, I began drawing her closer, promising her outlandish things, like, “Soon we will be together forever.” By the second day I had her in the palm of my hand. I told her I would be going to our meeting place. Within 10 minutes I received a text, “Have plane ticket…see you tomorrow.”

        She flew (two states away) to meet me, er, him, rented a car, got to “their” motel, and texted me, “Where are you?” I texted back, at Bob’s, on the deck, drinking coffee, come on over.”

        Bob was a good friend of ours and I knew she had met him, but also knew Bob would have had nothing to do with such a person.

        Ten minutes later I received a text, “Where are YOU??? I knocked on Bob’s door and when I asked if you were there he said, No. When I told him I had just received a text from you, saying you were here, he said, “And he is not expected.”


        I replied with the following text, “(my spouses name) has not had this phone for quite some time.” I heard nothing for about 20 minutes. Then this came, “I am a fool.” I replied one last time, “You are a fool, indeed.” And I never heard from her again.

        He was almost immediately diagnosed with a life threatening cancer requiring immediate, massive surgery, followed by chemo and radiation treatments. Totally dependent on me, is exactly what I needed. During all the surgery, treatment and now recovery, I have manipulated the situation to my gain, including access to accounts that would drop your jaw.

        It ain’t over, but I am in control, not him and that has a value I could not have planned if I had tried. I think by fall he will be in a condition to take care of himself and I can leave, he will no longer be however, financially independent. Tsk Tsk

        • Wow Yoder. WOW. Standing ovation for leading the OW on a wild goose chase.

          I just hope you’re able to get that divorce and a settlement that you can be comfortable with. And that you’ve handled over all the financial information you now have access to, to your attorney.

          The relationship sounds totally toxic at this point and I hope you get out. I can’t help but think how sad it is to be nursing your husband with cancer, and feel contempt for him and power over him. Marriage shouldn’t be like that. Of course HE made that bed he’s laying in. Just hope you get out soonest.

          • That is a huge compliment coming from YOU! The day of the “chase” I was also texting back and forth to my daughter. She could not believe I pulled off the ultimate revenge. To be honest, I did not know if I could, either, but I so wanted ow to be embarrassed and she was. Now the “feeling like a fool” shoe was on the other foot and I relish in it, even today.

            Oh, I forgot to mention that I forwarded all 55 nasty emails to her husband, er,…use to be, husband. Have not heard from either one since that happened.

            I still have not said a word about his unfaithfulness to his family or friends and I am holding that over his head, as well as the nasty emails, just in case he would not agree to everything I want…they would make lovely reading in court.

            My exit has actually already begun, as I am taking tiny trips, first to the grocery store, then a half day to visit grand children, then over night (business), then 2 days. Will eventually work out to, one day I will just leave and will not return. Slowly putting things in storage that I will want to take with me, lots of things I do not want are being left to fill the house. He may not even notice I am really gone forever, for several days.

            I imagine it ending something like this, a text to me, “Where are you and when are you coming home?” My reply, “I’m not.” THE END

            He is a very smart man and will know immediately, that he has been had.

        • Yoder, I love you. I am a year out from D-day, well past the divorce, and I did get the ex- to give up a decent amount and let me out quickly, but by playing weak and needy to manipulate his NPD f@cked-up self. Yet I was just telling my mother this morning that I was forced to have contact w him over sale of our home this weekend, and it brought back such sorrow and anger, how could he? How can he not care? why does he not even see or ask about our children? I cried and cried all day. I actually pondered “forgiving” him so we voukd all play at being friends and I could try tomextract some screwed up comfort FROM HIM. I know, I know, crazy, dumb, pitiful, and CL’s topic as usual was eerily right on! But reading your comments as well made me realize what I really need, but I don’t think I can get it like you have– and that is revenge… retribution…karma….whatever word you want to use. I am so glad I read this, it has helped me so much. You rock!!

          • Kelly, I wish I had CL’s words of wisdom to make it better sooner, rather than later. One thing I can tell you is that your life will get better and your broken heart will heal. You will eventually find that it is not losing him that causes you so much pain, is is simply, losing. You lost your ground, life as you knew it. Now it is time to build a new life and it must be totally without him.

            Conversely, he lost everything that made him who he is and what is really sad, is that he doesn’t even know it yet. As you become happy again with a new life, his will be spiraling downward. When the, “You stupid idiot” fairly drops the bomb on him, it will be way to late to do anything about it. By then you will be living a new life and so glad the dumb ass that made you feel like a fool, is finally getting his. Sweet revenge indeed. You do not need cheating dumb ass in your life, you may miss and want him, but you don’t need him. Nor any more like him. Walk on egg shells, but keep a grenade in your pocket and do not do him any favors.

            • oh my, oh my… i LOVE IT Yoder! You rock! My h also goaded me with the “you can look at my computer any time you wish.”

              oops. he forgot that he has TWO COMPUTERS. (with seven external hard drives) and I was scanning a drawing for a client and noticed that he had left it open.
              He had saved so much shit— much of it encrypted. eew.
              and with a co-worker in another state!

              • Wonder if everyone at his business knows about all this? Quite sure many of them lost total respect for him. My h is scared to death his family and friends will find out. And they will, but not until I have what I want and need and I am out of here.

                He would never suspect I would not keep my word to say nothing. Hmmm, wonder how he will like it when someone lies to him? Never mind, redundant question.

  • Thank you, once again, CL. It’s a precious gift of understanding that you give to us. I’m stunned at the accuracy of your explanation, of this phenomenon, of wanting to be comforted by the one who caused us such grave harm. The prof’s would call it cognitive dissonance … You use your own experiences and hold a mirror for us to see and feel the pain in order to heal. You lend a voice to make sense of the cruelty. Amazing!

  • Thank you again, CL, for a wonderfully written post. Once again we are reminded that we ourselves are as worthy of compassion as any other being, and it is necessary and expected that we love ourselves first.

    Nothing has helped me heal as much as embracing this and truly loving myself. I know it sounds cheesy, but I am using love as a verb. That means all that effort that I would normally put into taking care of a partner I put into myself. If you really do that, it’s amazing how good you will feel. It is a way, way better investment of your energy.

    • Ananda,
      Thank you for this! I am going to keep this in mind tonight as a I get ready for be–sort of a tough time–and in the morning getting ready for work–another tough time.

      “That means all that effort that I would normally put into taking care of a partner I put into myself. If you really do that, it’s amazing how good you will feel. It is a way, way better investment of your energy.”

  • I have to say CL you so nailed it again. My d-day was a year ago, and I had to talk to my ex- on the phone yesterday about sale of the house, and damn if I didn’t want to appease him, wanted to get some comfort from him, and was disappointed when he STiLL didn’t really care. Why in the world did I somehow expect comfort from him? When will I realize that I am always looking for a glimmer of real emotion or concern from him, and that every contact with him is just another chance for him to disappoint me again….and he never fails to disappoint me.

  • The sooner one accepts that these folks are wired very differently thannormal people and that it is virtually impossible to grok their twistred world, the easier it is to just accept that they are fucked up assholes who need to be avoided at all costs.

  • The Compassion Trap exists because old habits die hard. Chumps tend to be “all in” when they marry. They emotionally bond with their spouses and tend to share all the highs and lows of life with them, even when it turns out that their cheating spouse is like one of those cloth-wrapped wire proxy-mothers used in 50’s era baby monkey psychology experiments (the chumps being the baby monkeys, of course).

    Closely related to the Compassion Trap for me was the Consensus Trap. It took at a long time to break the habit of trying to negotiate deals with my ex about co-parenting issues. Even four years out I sometimes fall into the old ways, even though my brain knows all too well that she will evade and flutter before making a deal that she’ll just ignore in the end and do whatever she wants.

    The key to both traps seems to be getting it through your think and chumpy skull that cheaters don’t give a damn about you, how you feel, or what you want. The are . . . Other.

    • Yes Nomar, its so so true. I feel like I ripped off this mask from my ex- and found that for 25 years of marriage I had been married to an evil looking scarecrow, not quite alive but not quite dead either, just sort of nasty and cold. Ughhh. Somehow people like us cannot quite process that in our chumpy little skulls….

      • 22 years here. Funny/scary image about the evil scarecrow! Sounds like a horrible nightmare.

        My own sense is that I just never knew my first wife. At. All. All know about her I’ve learned in the last four years, by ignoring ***everything she says*** and focusing only on ***what she does***. By that measure, she is selfish, dishonest, lazy, arrogant, lacking impulse control, and not nearly as smart as she thinks.

          • They are indeed. I too ripped the mask off STBX and wow, what an ugly reveal that was: mean, nasty, spiteful, rage-filled, cruel, petty…but always managing to be nice for five minutes if he wants something.

            You all are right: look at actions, forget teh words. They’re not worth a damn.

  • Again, love it! I was going through this a wee bit this weekend. I have gone NC except kids, finances and House. He, is not liking it and was a total jerk at drop off. I got in the car and wanted to text him “What’s wrong…do you hate me.” face palm. I figure that it’s going to take a long time before that goes away, just glad that I immediately laugh and say “What’s wrong? he’s a cheating asshat. That’s what’s wrong.” and drove off into the sunset….

  • But guys seriousl let’s just get a show of hands-how many of us had this gut feeling,instict,sinking feeling,call it what you want in their heart that he/her is cheating or something is just not rite or many of us asked but didn’t have solid proof?

    • Okay, felicity, here is how obvious my h was. He was referred to what would become OW, as a consultant. All conversations, communications, etc. were completed long distance. They talked on the phone, e-mailed, texted, etc. After about ten days of listening to his half of the conversations, I noticed their conversations had gone from all business, to chuckles, and of a more personal nature, often including brief, “Hey, what was the name of that…” to me, then back on the phone to her.

      I told him he was getting into something that was over his head. His reply, “Naw, just being friendly.”

      Then it all went south. Secret e-mails, secret texts, stepping out of the house to call her or take her calls, whispering on the phone. Leaving every morning for a couple of hours just to talk to her. I sat on the front steps and heard every word he said. He never knew I was there.

      Then I said, “You have gotten into something you are not going to be able to get out of.” He replied, “It’s all under control.”

      So that’s about when I went from guessing the worst to knowing the worst and began assembling ammunition. I just let it go until I knew I had enough to protect me and “prove” the crap he was doing. I waited patiently. It all came to a head on Christmas Eve, really crummy timing.

    • Gut feeling that the marriage of 22 years needed attention? Yes. Gut feeling that cheating had happened even once, much less countless times over more than a decade? None.

      • Yeah nomar I suspected that something wierd was happening.of course I was told I am bi polar and shizo and that I jump to conclusions.but I just had this feeling he lying through his teeth.turns out I was rite-he was seeing 4 women simultaneously. I knew I wasn’t crazy.

      • Yea, I was totally blindsided. This past year for 3 months I had pulled away from my Husband due to a lie he told me. When he told me he was cheating, and had many times in the beginning of our relationship, he said this last one was my fault since I had pulled away. Yea, 3 months. I mean, I was still banging you. I swear to God he said “But you weren’t really into it.” I really didn’t have any idea. I know now the only reason he told me was that the OW ex was going to tell me. He was good. Very good. He met the current OW at ala-non & she watches kids for a living. They would band in the truck at the meeting or he would go over to her house during naptime while he was at work…so freaking disgusting. Now he is banging her and a nurse at his grandma’s nursing home. I mean, who questions going to see your dying grandma?! He could be in the CIA, this guy.

        • Oh my goodness Tallula, that’s what I say about my ex. He was so meticulous (obviously) and so good that I could never catch him, even where he had 2 affair partners he worked with who he sometimes had group sex with, and even though these affairs went on for at least 17 years of our 25 year marriage. The CIA or MI-6 got nothing on him.

    • Yes. My gut told me. I asked him point blank. He denied, denied, denied.

      Would have bolted right then, but, bought into that whole R bullshit (mostly cause I have a kid). Even though I went through 3 years of shit, in some ways I am glad because I know I tried everything I could to give my kid a family.

      It’s on him that she’s from a broken home.

    • Yeah, 14 years ago while I was pregnant with our third child (which I now know is incidentally about 3 years after the affairs started), I had a VERY bad feeling, but no proof, that my ex was cheating with one or the other of two female co workers. My ex- looked me in the face and lied and lied and lied for years, convincing me, my sisters, my mother, my children, and some of my friends, that I was just “crazy.” He told me how much he loved and adored me, that he would never never jeopardize our marriage or family like that, that he loved me “madly.” He convinced me so much we all became “friends,” and we would stay with the one woman and her husband and children, both women would stay in our home when coming into town for business, etc. Fast forward 13 years (almost a year ago today, my D-Day)–caught him and found out he had been cheating for at least 17 years of our 25 year marriage, with BOTH women, sometimes having group sex with them, sometimes in my home while my children and I slept. Yeah I had a bad feeling, and I thought I was crazy, and so did everyone else. And then I thought I was mature and able to trust. I’ve learned from all this that if someone is willing to look you in the eye and lie to you over and over, it is very difficult to know what is the truth. I’m not sure I could do it differently again, if I had to do it over, knowing the little I knew and looking at the level of manipulation and deception, but I’d like to think I would. I am now dating a wonderful new guy, and I pity him if I ever get such bad feelings again, because he may end up paying for someone else’s sins!!

    • Honestly, I had a gut feeling going into the marriage that i was making a big mistake. Others have now come forward and expressed that they had huge reservations about my choices. But, they were afraid to voice them.

      • Ugh. The people who come out of the woodwork to tell you how your ex was screwing you over AFTER you divorce. I try real hard to forget what those people tell me. If I dwelt on it I could no longer have anything to do with them (WTF–would you let Jerry Sandusky shower with children until their parents found out?). Plus my head would explode.

    • I asked all the time. It was so obvious but without that proof all I could do was hope he’d finally give it up. He didn’t but I couldn’t let it go – I was going to keep asking. And then I had my rock solid proof – texts and pictures. I think there should be a thread on how we caught our husbands/wives because mine was quite clever!

  • You nailed this CL. I am gaining a life….. apropo of one of your posts a few back. But, read thru all of the comments here and damn, your all right on. God, it took me a while to wrap my brain around his about face. What he was doing vs what he was saying. I just couldn’t process it. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced – and we weren’t married or parenting or anything like all of you. It was all so unnecessary what he did with me….. where was the story of the frog and the scorpion? Was that you CL? Just someone’s nature…..

    Says it all. I so wanted him to comfort me, I dream about it – still struggling with that weird time from 4 to 6 a.m. – it sucks. Its always about catching them at it in bed. Yuck. I can’t imagine ever talking to this man again. Double yuck.

    OK – Off to gain a life.

  • CL does it again.

    I think that sometimes the chump-narc connection becomes like a physical addiction. After all, these narcs are “exciting” people at some level. They let you into their secret, exclusive club, they may be be high achievers, and even with the ups and downs, you do get the shakes of a roller coaster ride.

    Then they do something, like cheat in a marriage, that really lets you know where you really stand with them.

    Then the chump, who has over-depended on the narc for validation, has to fight the pull of hoping, of helping, of understanding. The chump has to suddenly put away all of their favorite feelings, the things they like and want to do! More than habit, however, the chump’s actual body chemistry has become adapted to the relationship with the narc. So, there is withdrawal. Cold Turkey. NC, as CL likes to say. And, of course, it hurts.

    It’s a hard path, but it’s the only path way to better. You will never look at the narc the same way again. That can hurt at first, but it’s liberating. You see ’em as they are, and you pick up great recognition skills that will help you and your kids.

    The Compassion Trap. A great concept. Another great concept from CL.

    Chump Son

    • Chump Son – exactly – I had to put away all my favorite feelings – literally, my hopes and dreams, my plans… that’s exactly what it was. I can’t imagine feeling them ever again….. I know that I will – I just can’t imagine it right now. But, other things are hopefully falling into place – funny, stuff that would likely have been very difficult to make happen if I was still involved with him. Don’t know how I lost myself, but I did.

      • Erika,

        You say it so well. “I had to put away my favorite feelings.” I guarantee you will take them out and use them again, but you’ll be more careful and will share them with people who are far more likely to deserve those feelings.

      • Erika, you will feel those feelings again, it just takes time. We all lost ourselves or we wouldn’t be here. But we can find ourselves again, maybe not quite the same, but new selves, authentic selves that are free of the suffocating lies and crushing betrayals, selves that are finally living in the light, and in truth and innocence again. We will have the scars and dare I say it, set-backs brought about by that endless looping back wondering WTF WAS that with our ex-???? But those times become fewer and farther between. And if you want to, and probably when and where you least expect it, you will meet someone who will bring out all of your favorite feelings again (love love love that phrase), and who will deserve them.

        • chump son and kelly – thank you for the kind words. I’m close to 6 months in NC – I can’t imagine how it must be for the others on this site…. having to navigate children and houses and friends and family!!! It must be just awful, beyond words. Yet, here everyone is, offering support and getting support in return. You guys are amazing – its all so humbling.

          Has anyone noticed (probably a stupid question)….. that when you happen upon a picture of the X, where once you saw that image and it connected you with warmth and fondness and since, now, if and when you see a photo…. it may as well be a new species of bacteria?

          Just noticed that the other day. It was just a photo (I certainly thought I had gotten rid of them all) – all that sense of fondness and connection is gone – pulled up by the roots – its a dead zone anymore. Brings home that I’m TRULY dealing ONLY with myself anymore, my projections, fantasies, coulda woulda shoulda….. Funny how that happens. And it dies so much slower than any real connection to him. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible.

          • When I see the ex’s pics, I’m perpetually stunned. Was that the predator I was married to for 25 years? Why did I never notice those cold dead eyes before D-day?

  • Very thought provoking CL.
    Compassion. I was full of it so to speak after d day. Groceries and I were very close and she played the victim and I the saver. Went on fir months but slowly her double life just became harder and harder to sustain. When I got access to her iPhone then I discovered the truth.
    It was only then I changed and was angry about the betrayal. The loss. The grief. Fearing the future.
    So my compassion has diminished because of her behaviour. And she has really become a cold hearted person
    In our different situations us chumps react to what’s in front of us.
    Apart from those who think a revenge affair will make us feel better, the rest of us simply aren’t wired to cheat. We are not all those things our cheating spouse are.
    We can’t envisage behaving like that it. Full stop.
    What’s interesting now in my situation is we are at a point where reality is really kicking in.
    I think it’s week 7 or eight since groceries moved along the road after living a few miles away previously and the boys still refuse to meet chainsaw man.
    I hardly communicate with groceries because the boys are old enough to. Apparently
    She now has shingles. I understand that is bought in by stress so while I’m thinking she lives in paradise maybe its not so sweet.
    They don’t have the family thing happening and only the affair and its maybe getting a little boring.
    It’s such a mess.
    It’s been hard saying good bye to a wonderful marriage and family.
    I have always thought that groceries will live in bliss with chainsaw man but it seems its not so easy.
    I wouldn’t want a life where every time the boys come over and the look chainsaw man in the eye and know he helped demolish our family.
    He’s making it near impossible now because every weekend he’s saying he’s more important and stopping the boys going over to mums unless they prearranged fir him to leave.
    Compassion isn’t the case but sadness.
    These people are intelligent but their value system is poles apart from us chumps.
    Their narcissist traits insulate them from real feelings towards kids and others that they hurt.
    I often think what I will do if their world implodes.
    Months ago I would have rushed to groceries side but not now. Fortunately the boys have showed real maturity and leadership in this whole mess.
    They have established boundaries ( not meeting chainsaw man ) but concurrently loving their mother and supporting her. They control what they are doing which is a huge advantage to me. Kids flock to the parent who is emotionally available to them, the parent that puts them front and centre.
    They have shown real compassion and forgiveness and hope she appreciates that.
    What I’ve learnt from you CL is that reconciliation is just too risky. We can’t control our exes. All we can do is live the best life we can. Sure we will be wobble but you and everyone here must get back on the bike.
    We must be compassionate and forgive ourselves first so that we can regain our strength to serve others better.
    What’s amazing is I’ve totally changed my attitude towards the person I truly loved. I used to protect her and support whatever she wished to do. Now I fell meh more and more. No revenge. Anger and frustration yes because of such a great loss and a complete mess this whole thing has become for everyone. So I hope I still have compassion towards her but I have some control over my feelings now and it is conditional love. Unconditional love is a crock of shit.
    In future we won’t be so blind and through our bad experiences we gain wisdom.

    Lets hope so anyway.

  • Wow,
    As the Chump turns…I have been really down…and kicking myself for it.
    Feeling sad alone lonely…Did I do the right thing?
    YES I did, I know I did………….but he’s so in my face with it…and her…
    Then, just now, his Mom calls, I’ve been NC with her too…seemed less painful that way, and guess what? He called her again (?) today asking her to send him more(?!) $. Guess the whores are running through the drugs faster than he can keep up..and Mom’s pissed..want’s to fly me to Savannah to have a girls weekend with her……Hmmm…awfully tempting……doubt if I’ll do it (I’m still afraid of his rage) but still nice to know Someone from his side in the last 12 years loves and believes me…I’m no Yoder (go Yoder!) but it’s nice to feel a little power for a change….

    • Honey, please… do it. fuck his little toddler temper trantrums. If he gets threatening, get a restraining order. How blessed you are that his Mom gets it and wants to pamper you a bit. You deserve it and you ARE powerful!

      He needs to borrow $ from Mommy? Oh, my… that is sooooo sexy. :[

      He’s probably doing the drugs as well. Sex addies love meth. Is he losing a lot of weight? Teeth rotting? That’s meth.

      Don’t take crap from him.


      it works.

  • Chumplady:
    This post spoke to me so profoundly. It’s as if you are inside of my head and you know exactly what I am going through now. It’s just unbelievable!
    My compassion has kept me stuck for three years. I have literally exhausted my efforts to try to keep the relationship together despite the cheating, lying and manipulating he dished out. His cheating was first with an affair right after I gave birth to our second child, then strippers and prostitutes. [He liked the prostitutes because of the control aspect – getting the needs met, paying a fee, and then leaving without any emotional connection]
    It went on numerous times over a period of about 6 years. I only found out about it three years ago, and we have been married for 21 years.
    He wants me to get over it and realize it is in the past. He says we have to move forward and be focused on today. He feels like I have been punishing him for three years for it, and he can’t take it anymore. He wants me to be happy and to focus on making myself happy. His opinion is that if we are each happy with ourselves, we can find our way back to each other. According to him, he has not cheated at all in thee three years since I busted him. (I don’t believe it) He wants to stay together, rebuild our relationship, keep the family together, love me, etc. (But, not willing to go to counseling together.) we have had ups and downs over the three years.
    Interestingly, every time I get to a place where I am starting to feel a little bit more safe and secure, something happens that derails it. I get a gut feeling and look on his phone or computer. I did that this weekend, and what a surprise! In his browsing history, I find that he was looking at a prostitutes’ website and reading reviews just three weeks ago. When I confronted him about it yesterday, he actually got mad at me for looking at his computer. Said it was not right for me to do that. And, he said he was looking at the woman’s site for his friend who just broke up with his girlfriend and hadn’t had sex in a while. (Apparently my husband used this woman previously.) Isn’t that charming? Friend having problems getting sex so he suggests a prostitute he has used for his friend. I feel like I am living in an alternate universe! He said that to me as though it is no big deal and doesn’t think I should have a problem with it. I guess on planet narcissist, going to prostitutes when you are having marriage problems is the easiest answer! Is that what this is, Chumplady?

    Obviously, I know that I am the biggest chump and I feel like such a complete idiot. I don’t like the me that I am today. In fact, I look in the mirror, and I can’t believe I am doing this to myself. Why have I stayed and tortured myself this way? Why have I been virtually putting him before me in my efforts to make the reconciliation work? My original reason was for the kids. That is the main reason I have stayed. I didn’t want to hurt them, disappoint them, and have them split their time between parents. I also have actual fear about what a divorce will create in my life. And, I am not sure how difficult he will try to make things for me.
    The truth is that I haven’t been able to get past what he did, because it was a dealbreaker for me. What he did was morally wrong, and he betrayed me in the worst way he could have. It destroyed the foundation of trust that was there, and I can’t get it back. By staying, I have gone against everything I believe about myself. I have sacrificed my own integrity and sense of morality in order to try to dig deep and try to get over it. And in doing that, it has caused me to live in a state of inner conflict for so long. It is just ridiculous! What the hell is wrong with me? When I think of life without him, it makes me feel good. I just want to be happy, and I want to feel at peace again.

    • Daisy, get your evidence, consult an attorney, move possessions or money or other things you need, make your plan and move on. It hurts like hell but it is better than a living death with the cheater. He’ll be distracted before you drop the bomb, and once these NPD/sex “addicts” know you got them they are too stunned and worried about their reps to hopefully fight too much. See Yoder’s April 8 post above – that woman layed out one kick-ass plan to get out and get even, but at least get out as well as possible. My lying cheating ex reacted as planned to my acting weak and needy and “begging” for his “help” in “getting through this” (these crazy fucks actually relish the thought of being your destructor and your savior all at once; I read articles on how to manipulate a narcissist and they were stunningly dead-on). But remember you’re dancing with the devil, and that these guys are wired wrong and capable of things we cannot fathom, so you can only do this dance for a brief defined period before you get out, and then you have to be NC! Good luck sweetie!!

      • Kelly, your post should be in bold face! You said it all in a nutshell. Stop for an hour and get off of the pity pot. Accept the fact that when the dancing stops, he will take you for everything he can get his hands on. I have a friend whose now X, gave her very nice jewelry…she slipped them in the hems of clothing hanging in the closet. Sure enough, he tried to claim the jewelry, but #1 she had them with her AND the judge said they were “gifts” and so, belonged to her. If you have a joint account he will drain it. Be the first. If you have time, you can do it slowly and deposit it in a new account at a new bank or hide it somewhere. He is going to spend every penny he can on his new chump.

      • Kelly said: ” I read articles on how to manipulate a narcissist and they were stunningly dead-on”

        I want to read these articles! Seriously, can you post the links?

  • As I had said earlier somewhere on this site we expect the one who has decimated us to heal us.

    He is the cancer and he is the cure.

    All of us have , without exception have felt this , feeling this , may feel this sporadically.

    That is how they enmeshed us, by “being” the man we always wanted.

    But we have seen the reality and our feelings will eventually catch up.

    When we see the truth our thoughts can quickly be redirected but emotions always have a drag time.They take a while to catch up, but they eventually do if we keep reiterating out thoughts a s a daily mantra.

    And if we waver, Tracy is always there to sync our emotions with our thoughts.

    Tons of gratitude, as always, to Tracy and each one of you here.

  • “I could not imagine a world in which someone could MAKE THAT UP to play me”

    My sentiments exactly. I still shake my head at the memory of his extreme drama. And it was all fake. And I stupidly bought into it, even though that little voice in my head suggested an alternative reality to what he was selling. Because who would make that up? You can’t make THAT up, right? No MAN would cry the ugly snot & choking cry if it wasn’t real, right? Remorse a la chump bait.

  • “Casting your pearls to swine.” YES. YES. Sadly, yes.
    My cheater definitely mistook kindness and empathy for weakness. I think because his supply of said virtues is in such short supply, he doesn’t recognize them. Expressed all kinds of “worry” that I might not be able to handle the divorce. I told him, in no uncertain terms, that I am stronger than he will ever be.

  • I looked up the whole quote re casting pearls before swine, because it is so right…I didn’t know it was from the bible. The whole quote reads:

    “Give not that which is holy to the dogs, neither cast you your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

    Wow, completely…right…on!

  • “Compassion toward someone who is appropriately humble and acts contrite is very different than compassion for someone who acts entitled to it and does the same dumb shit over and over. Hold your compassion back and watch what they do. If you must love, go ahead and love. But detach out of self preservation. Have compassion for yourself.”

    Totally agree with the sentiment: part of knowing that we all deserve compassion is that you yourself deserve compassion as well, and if somebody in your life doesn’t seem to understand that, then that’s where very firm boundaries and a strong set of core values are handy.

    If your compassion for somebody else involves neglecting compassion for yourself continually, then it’s probably time to step back and understand why you don’t have more compassion for yourself and why you allow mistreatment to continue.

  • This! “And yet, when we’re betrayed — infidelity being one of the most intimate and traumatic kind of betrayals — chumps almost universally seek comfort from their cheater.” This was exactly me and yeah it doesn’t seem to make sense. I realized my line of thinking was if my husband gave me comfort, that it meant he still had feelings for me. Irrational, but I needed comfort from someone and he was the one that was supposed to do that. Habit and I desparately needed to feel better. No surprise, I didn’t get that comfort. It’s been a long road of working on letting go of expectations but i’m finally getting there.

  • I will go further ~

    When you are being cheated on, you are living a betrayal. Everything this seems to be, it is. The fact that your spouse is choosing to stay physically with you changes nothing about the betrayal then, and the continuing betrayal now, of your marriage vows. This behavior ~ then and now ~ is not loving or respectful. Everyone knows this.

    But ~ and here’s the part that is the kicker ~ you still love the guy. Or, at least, you still love the guy you married. The guy who made you feel special; the guy you had hopes of spending your golden years with. The father of your children. Your husband. *That* guy. The truly sick and twisted part of betrayal is that it doesn’t automatically end love. You can feel angry, hurt, disgusted, humiliated, sad, worried, anxious, depressed, suicidal, despondent and furious at That Guy. And then, somewhere and sometime when you least expect it, he’ll do something that reminds you of your great love for him: he’ll say something sweet to your kids, he’ll look at you a certain way, he may even hold a menu and without warning your heart flies back to The Time Before when you were happy and complete in each other. Love is blinding you.

    So the solution, the only solution, is to do the thing that in your heart you are trying not to do. You must stop loving him. Pity him or not. Hate him or not. But find a way to stop loving This Guy. Because This Guy is not That Guy. He looks like him, sounds like him, and at times you could swear that This Guy really is That Guy. But That Guy would have never done this to you. That Guy meant it at the time when he promised his life to you. In every way that matters to your heart This Guy murdered That Guy. That Guy is dead. He will never come back.

    Mourn him. Grieve for him. Find a part of your memory to put that cherished part of him away ~ the way you box up old photo albums. Do it with as much love as you can ~ feel the love you *used to have* and then put it away. This will help you later ~ so you can realize that The Life Before wasn’t *all* a lie. Some of it was real. Lovingly, heartbreakingly real.

    When you have done that (and it takes time) you need to start getting to know This Guy. Rename him in your mind. I called my ex “Ted” (not his real name). I treated Ted like the stranger he was to me. And in time, I came to see that not only did I not *love* Ted, I really didn’t like him all that much. I certainly didn’t trust him.

    I found him to be selfish and cruel ~ the worst sort of cruel, actually, because he somehow felt justified for leading two women on but making sure he landed on his feet. And I asked myself: do I want to live with This Guy? Do I want to have sex with This Guy? Do I want to be bound to This Guy?

    I did not. So ~ with the help of my friends, family and this listserve ~ I plucked up the courage (and it takes courage) to tell This Guy that he couldn’t sleep in our bed anymore. Then I told This Guy I wanted a divorce. It hurt and its scary as hell. But it was the only honest decision I could make.

    And when I internalized *my* choices towards Ted, I could own them. And when I owned them, I was no longer the Wounded Wife anymore. That suited me as I’m a lousy victim, anyway. I allowed Ted to become my Ex and I looked at his girlfriend as his Next Wife, not the tart who broke up my family.

    When I could change *that perspective* my shoulders came down and the buzzing in my ears stopped. The panic attacks stopped. Life is still hard at times ~ but not as hard as what I did.

    • Wow Jennifer, that is beautiful, eloquent, and very very helpful. I am going to try your approach. I did kick my ex out, and I am divorced. But I keep trying to understand how my ex did what he did, and I can’t wrap my mind around it but I kept trying. And although I hate him, I also at times feel like I love him. But as you point out– that’s because he is two different guys. I am going to have a putting-away-of-the-cherished-memories ceremony and a re-naming ceremony tonight. The man I married is dead, I do not know or like this new one. Thank you!

      • Let yourself grieve then. Really grieve it. And, if you can, keep your “Ted” at bay until you aren’t feeling too vulnerable anymore.

        Best of luck ~


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