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A Public Service Announcement for Chumps

Hey, you there recovering from cheater divorce. Yeah, you — the chumpy one. Sit your codependent butt down for a moment and listen to me — KNOW YOUR WORTH.

Before you date again, before you draft your winsome profile, before you even think about entangling yourself with another person — KNOW YOUR WORTH.

You’ll see these words about dating after a bad relationship, (or series of bad relationships): “fix your picker.” You might skip over that, thinking “This wasn’t my fault. I didn’t make them cheat. They weren’t a Bad Person when I met them. This happened unfortunately. Better luck next time, right?” Wrong. I don’t care how hoodwinked you were by sparkles — how innocent, how happy your previous 20 years of wedded bliss were before they cheated  — you must work on that picker. If for no other reason, than after you’ve been through this shit — or really any shit, death of a spouse is another sort of loss — you’re vulnerable. And bad people can sniff out vulnerability like sharks sniff out blood in the water.

Vulnerability with a shot of low self esteem, and a side of hyper-responsibility (single parents, I’m talking to YOU), is an intoxicating combination that makes you catnip to disordered wing nuts.

Don’t freak out, it’s not inevitable that you’ll end up with one. But you are at a higher risk than most single people. I’m not saying never trust again — in fact, I hate that Oh Woe! There are no good ones left! doomsday crap. I’m saying KNOW YOUR WORTH. Protect yourself, shore up those boundaries, and know what you will and will not tolerate before you dip into the dating pool again.

Your picker is on you, chumps. When you know that you deserve good treatment, mutuality, respect, and most of all PEACE in your relationships? You won’t be so quick to succumb to the charms of a wing nut. Crazy people can only sustain normalcy for so long before the crazy starts to show. Do not spackle because you’re afraid to be alone. Because you’ve gotten invested for a few months and have high hopes. Remember what I say about hope — bludgeon it with a fencepost — operate with full lucidity.

How do you shore up your picker? Here’s some tips:

Do NOT rescue anyone. Healthy people don’t need rescuing. They pay their bills. They function like adults. They manage their crises. Sure, everyone has some bad luck sometimes. We can all use a helping hand on rare occasion. Bu how people meet the challenges in their life says a LOT about them. Good people do not presume.   If they lounge around on fainting sofas waiting to have their brow mopped while you bring them a hot toddy and your check book — fuck ’em. Steer clear.

Do NOT settle for lopsided arrangements. You need a partner, a friend, not a project. Healthy relationships are based on reciprocity. Don’t do for someone who wouldn’t do for you. And don’t presume reciprocity (oh, of course they would) — watch what they do. Do they pick up the check? Do they hurry to do for you like you do for them? Do they get pleasure from giving to you? Or it is all about them?

I see a lot of guys fall for this. They want to be a caretaker, feel needed and powerful, and are flattered by apparent “helplessness”. Choose a competent person with a job and their own money, guys. Find an equal. Women fall for the caretaker role too — they jump in as “mommy” and polish the jerk up, find them employment, manage their life. DON’T DO THIS. Healthy people aren’t looking for parents and life coaches. That’s not your job, okay? Your job is girlfriend/boyfriend. That’s IT.

Do NOT run yourself down. Oh, no one would want me because I’m a single parent/a special needs kid parent/I’m fat/I’m old… whatever. If you’re a good person and you’re responsible and loving? You’re a stock that trades high. Never forget it. Bonus points if you have all your hair and teeth.

Beware of people who lead with self pity. Is it always someone else’s fault? Do they see themselves as a poor sausage, and worse, do they want you to see yourself that way too? Do they flatter you by running other people down around you? Oh, your parents don’t understand you. They suck. She’s out to get you. He wants your job. Wing nuts isolate their victims. It’s us against them. Only you understand me. Wing nuts idolize and devalue you. Why? Because it’s always about them and they need an ally to help them get the things they want. The self pity is real. The pity for you was fake. You’re just of use.

Beware the love bombers. If it seems too good to be true? It probably is. Take it slow. Crazy will reveal itself. Anyone who moves too fast or “loves” you before they have a good long time to get to know you? That’s a red flag. Pay attention to how much they really know about you. Are they truly paying attention to your quirks and interests or are they feigning it with vague, over the top praise? Do you feel like your best self with them, like you do an friend who loves you warts and all? Or do you feel like you’re living a fantasy? Keep it real, chumps and don’t be in a rush. Let enough time elapse to let their character show.

Last but not least — DO NOT BE AFRAID to dump someone. If someone is pressuring you for a permanent commitment too soon (marriage, moving in with you), or on the other side, is vague and non-commital about exclusivity (after many months or years together) — DUMP. If you have deal breakers, abide by them. Don’t be afraid to “next” someone, because I promise you there is always a next. There are many, many people out there. You can afford to be choosey. Don’t panic if you meet a lot of sucky people, or decent not-quite-a-good-fit folks. You’ll learn from them, and may just enjoy something light and casual. Not everyone is life partner material, (assuming you even want that).

Be careful out there, chumps. A good heart is a terrible thing to waste on a fucktard.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
    • This made me chuckle…

      In Britain if you say someone “topped” themselves… it means they commit suicide!

      Funny how we both speak the same language… lol 🙂

      • oh, how funny! my wasband was from south africa, but that is one colloquialism that I hadn’t heard before!

        • A current colleague is south african – we laugh at the same jokes and all the Americans don’t get what we’re talking about.

          I love America but sometimes the reminders from home are a great treat 🙂

  • Agreed. This one is really supreme.

    One thing I learned about relationships, don’t be afraid to break one off. It’s too easy to think, “This one is the one, the special one, the only one….” In truth, if you develop a strong skill set, relatively resolve your issues, are a nice person, etc., then there will not be just ONE person out there for you. It’s possible to dump someone because you’re not ready, they’re not ready, etc., and yet you’ll still find someone good. I think that a lot of romantic literature prepares us to find “that one person.” The reality is make yourself a good person, and then commit to one person. But that’s not to say that there’s only one person out there, an idea that can cause us to become stuck in relationships. Narcs love this “only one” myth and will push the idea that “If we don’t marry now, we’ll miss something irreplaceable….”

    As Charles de Gaulle said: “The cemeteries are full of irreplaceable men.”

    There’s a lot of mush floating around in the culture that’s not good for Chumps. Some of it is on forgiveness. But I also think there’s something wrong with this “there is only one person for me” stuff. Get yourself fit, and you can succeed at a lot of sports. Get yourself relationship-ready, and you will find nice people. Then pick the best one and work on that.

    And if you want to help people, then partner up well, and you’ll have energy to help out at school, in the soup kitchen, at the shelter at Thanksgiving. But go to those places to help. Don’t go to those places looking for partners!

    Congrats again to CL for this amazing Chump-Affirmation-Clarification!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    As a final note, the tests CL develops also apply to Chumped kids. Although you can’t pick your parents, as you get older, if you find that one or both were narcs, then you have to build some pretty strong defenses, which is really just turning that partner radar back on the parents and clearly evaluating what they are really like, and not thinking that they are some idealized “mommy” or “daddy,” when they were not. So, these tools work in a lot of situations: family, bosses, friends, etc.

    • “As a final note, the tests CL develops also apply to Chumped kids. Although you can’t pick your parents, as you get older, if you find that one or both were narcs, then you have to build some pretty strong defenses, which is really just turning that partner radar back on the parents and clearly evaluating what they are really like, and not thinking that they are some idealized “mommy” or “daddy,” when they were not. So, these tools work in a lot of situations: family, bosses, friends, etc.”

      LOVE THIS!!!

      My parents definitely gave me the predisposition for relationships with narcs et al.

      It’s still a battle. A worthwhile battle though – it’s getting easier though 🙂

      • Fallulah_G,

        Thanks for the kind words.

        Us “chumped kids” have to look back at our parents and, in something very similar to what happens to chumps in bad marriages, we have to re-evaluate what happened. Just as marriage is covered in mush, so too are parents. We want Mommy and Daddy to be just that, but sometimes they weren’t. Now, this didn’t mean that the parents were all bad, but we have to see them objectively, as possibly impaired (a word used by someone else in an earlier comment) and figure out the consequences for us.

        In my case, my own father left me with an internal foghorn for self-criticism that would go off as an adult. It was a kind of criticism that wasn’t helpful. It’s helpful to think, “Well, I’m out of shape, so I should exercise more.” It’s not helpful to think, “Gosh, I’m out of shape. I’m so useless. etc etc.” I think chumps are susceptible to this kind of foghorn-self-blame. Sometimes, too, we are over-responsible in wanted to soothe others’ feelings, particularly if we grew up in a household where we were constantly walking on eggshells/through minefields always trying to soothe a parent. This sets you up for chumpdom later on. And unwinding some of that (and setting up boundaries and recognizing what you can and cannot do for others/what you should and should not do for others) means looking again at Mommy and Daddy and seeing them, not as M and D, but as people who may have been partial, impaired, selfish in ways they didn’t recognize, etc. etc. It represents the loss of an illusion, but the beginning of really seeing things as they are. It’s another pathway on the Road to Meh.

        Then you try to develop healthy mentoring relationships. Of course, we are never going to be perfect. Only narcissistic fools actually think they are perfect (and they assert this because deep down they know they are not). But we can certainly develop the kind of “picker” skill set that CL so directly and effectively describes above. Good pickers are what we need. Then you can pick, not just partners, but also the distance you want from certain people. Distancing can be a good thing as can no contact (in the really hard cases). CL’s ability to pull together ideas continues to amaze me, as well as the larger relevance of what she says.

        Anyway, thanks again for the kind words. Much appreciated.

        • Yes agreed – she hits the nail on the head every time 🙂

          Anyway.. well said again. My mother is BPD or some variation – I’m not sure what my father was but he died 2 months ago so it’s irrelevant now anyway. I’ve had almost zero contact with her for the last 22 years. I had no contact with him for the last 5 years.

          In the past I have had an inate ability to fall back into childhood patterns of coping when I meet a Narcissist or similar. Lots and lots of therapy have finally corrected that. Hopefully for good.

          Keep up the good work!

  • Great stuff to hear.
    I’m 5 years post split, and I haven’t dated yet, because I still feel my picker needs some work. Mostly everyone understands, occasionally I have people tell me I’m going to be alone forever if I don’t find someone RIGHT NOW.
    I’ve made the choice to not be with someone just to avoid being alone, and I feel good about that choice. I also feel that after all I gave to my marriage, I’m not ready to put effort into someone else right now. I really only have energy for me. It wouldn’t be fair to whoever I dated to make them do all the heavy lifting, while I’m still wrapped up in my own issues.

    • I can imagine what you mean about giving so much for so long and now only having energy for yourself. I’m not even there yet but it’s like you spent 20 years building your castle and it sinks into the swamp one day. You think “Oh well, maybe a tent will work.” Maybe like CL said, if you find a co-equal it’s not a net energy drain like we’re thinking of it. Good luck on fixing your picker.

      • That’s exactly right.
        And thanks, I think my picker is getting better, I may not know exactly what I want, but I’m damn sure on what I don’t.

    • BRAVO ROXIE! That is a bold decision on your part. You are one smart lady! I see so many jump right into one relationship after another and wonder why their second marriage didn’t work out.

      You are my heroine!


  • This could not have been written at a better time for me. I am hesitantly dipping my toes into the dating pond. Dating might be too strong a word…. ahem… I am surveying the landscape :). I have been separated for over a year, and although there are many loose ends that still need knotting off with X, I am trying hard to not wall myself off from the human race, aka the other gender. Thanks for the words of wisdom CL.

  • Well said Tracy!!! Thanks for the great post. Made me laugh and awesome advice for all of us chumps. I am definitely not ready to date at this point in time. I am taking the time to get my life in order and for some much needed introspection. I know my worth and I will be sure to heed your good counsel. I will definitely be choosey! As a mom to a beautiful little girl, I made her a promise even before she was born that I would do all I could to show her a what a good, strong yet gentle woman looks like in me as her mother. And I am certainly being tested on that. I have faith I will someday find a great guy. But I also have to be ready for when that time comes. I know my daughter will respect me that much more when she grows up to be a strong woman herself.
    BTW, just want to say you were spectacular on the “Mistress” panel on Huff Po. I am tired of affairs being glorified. The reality of them is that they rip apart marriages, families, friendships, communities. Not to mention the mental, emotional, physical trauma they bring to unsuspecting spouses and children. That is where the focus should be. That is the real face of affairs.
    And the ra-ra-ra cheerleader mistress (Sarah?)? Could she be any more shallow, clueless, flighty, or crazy? Wow. She was extremely annoying and quite ignorant to be honest.
    Thanks for all you do once again, Tracy.
    Rock on! 🙂

    • That’s awesome Rose. You can make a lot of good decisions just by saying to yourself “Which alternative will lead to being a better role model?”

      • Thanks Hearthbuilder! My belief is that when you are in a good place emotionally, mentally, and physically you attract good people. Surround yourself with positive, good people.
        I am not afraid to send the other ones packing when I am back in the dating game again. We can all afford to be choosey, no matter what age or stage of life we are at. I would rather be happy and healthy alone than be lonely and miserable with a cheater husband. I am finding my groove. Good luck to all of you too!!!! 😉

  • I have a feeling I’ll be digging this one out of the archives for years to come. Very nice.

  • This one scared me, comforted me, and propped me up. I too will be reading this more than once… I might even need to print it up!

    • I know what you mean Janet. I can’t honestly even imagine it. How ridiculous is it to be “dating” at this stage in my life? I’m not even thinking about it right now but someday I hope I want to. I’m no extrovert but I think I’m programmed to share life with someone special.

      My mother died young and my father leapt desperately into a rebound marriage with a complete narcissist. She savaged what was left of him and left him broke and broken. He swore off women all together after that. Now he’s like an empty person. My kids, who are so compassionate or even empathic, can’t even connect with him at any meaningful level. I’m not sure why I’m writing all this except to say that whatever happens, I don’t want to be like that.

      • It is never to late to find a good partner.. Chump Lady mentioned awhile ago she went to a wedding for a lovely couple in their 70’s. be open, be strong, and have faith that good men are out there. And do the inner work to heal so you are ready when the time comes. It will take time, but don’t sell yourselves short!

    • I think that a lot of chumps can sympathize with your desire, Janet.

      It seems as if the emotional upheaval of divorce will propel people into one of two directions: a rush to date or a reluctance to date. People who jump headlong into the post-divorce dating pool often do so without checking water depth. They end up crashing badly.

      I think that CL’s post tells us that we should be reluctant to date until we do the hard work of discovering our own self-worth. Until we can see our own self-worth, we’re not ready to date, since we need to have the courage to stand up for our self-worth. We shouldn’t feel that we need to settle for “good enough” or “okay.” The problem with we chumps is that we’re kind-hearted, so we have to gain the courage to stand up for ourselves by telling any date that we won’t tolerate people who denigrate our self worth.

      I know that I’ll need to spend some time getting my picker back in order. I will need to learn to trust again, and I’ll need to recognize the warning signs and be strong enough to break off relationships with men whose behavior raise red flags. That’s going to take time.

      I’m not going to say that I won’t date ever. I just don’t want to date at this moment.

  • I had an appointment with my terrific doctor today (who hugged me after I bawled while requesting STD testing), and she had almost the same discussion with me today as you posted here, CL. I’m not involved with anyone, nor have I been since the end of my marriage, but she was telling me not to rush anything, take time to get to know the guy if I do meet someone, etc. It was a nice message to receive twice in the same day from two people whose opinions I respect. 🙂

    One other thing– we were talking about my divorce, and she said that she had several patients who were cheated on but chose to stay in their marriages and work things out. She said that they were all still unhappy to one degree or another– that they couldn’t totally get past the infidelity. Just another reason I’m glad that I found this site– I could very well have been one of those women, still married to a man whom I didn’t trust and still struggling with the betrayal.

  • excellent post, CL, as usual. David, really enjoyed the Charles de Gaulle reference.

    As chump for many, TOO many years, now divorced and finally in true Meh (it actually does happen). .. .meeting another fellow chump (employed, hair and own teeth!) and subsequently dating him, has been a wonderful thing. Just something for fellow CL followers to consider . . . .enlightened and moving-on ‘meh’ chumps make great partners. . .empathatic and insightful and understanding.

    Thanks, once again, CL, for all your words and wisdom on this site.

  • I’d like to add another kind of person for chumps to avoid. Stay away from people who are on a mission to prove their worth through their accomplishments. At first they seem sparkly, accomplished, real go-getters. You admire their drive. But after awhile you get tired of sitting home alone while they’re out conquering the world. Go for people who actually have time to spend with you, who don’t let you keep falling farther and farther down on their To Do List.

    • I agree. avoid people who have a laundry list of activities they are part of. the more extreme the activity the more it is a red flag that they are constantly looking for the next thrill. trust me when I say you will always be at the bottom. being the better than nothing choice should not be an option.
      as a side note it is starting to become kind of funny. I get worn out just listening to them go on about how they do the gym 5 times a week, run, jog, ski, golf, race cars, ride horses, hockey, walk, fish, race boats, bike, baseball, volleyball, volunteer in 10 different charities, hunt, camp, quad, weight lift, read about becoming a better person, eat like a better person, save every child in need in a developing country, have a glass of wine with the woman who can do all of the above and still look like a model. I am just happy if I don’t fall asleep on the couch after working 10 hrs to support my kid.

  • Well, this list pretty much sums up the beginnings of my relationship with my ex to varying degrees. It took me a long time to figure out how things evolved and reading this just supports my conclusions: I saw what I wanted to see and yes, his sparkles were addictive. I’m now nearly at meh and am dating a little bit, but I’m going very slowly and I make it clear to anyone interested that I’m not in a rush and I won’t be rushed. Some aren’t interested but others respect that. Either way is fine because I want to do this dating thing in a way that I feel comfortable with this time and if someone isn’t interested in that then I wish them well.

    Oh, and dumping someone. I always had a hard time with that when I was younger if I had been in the relationship for a long time. Now I have had to tell several men that I’m not interested in any further days but have done it gently and the response has been great, as in ‘thank you for being honest’.

    We’re older and wiser, alot of us, and should use that wisdom to our benefit.

    • It sounds like being candid and honest (with yourself too) is a big part of it.

      • I think that is the key:finding out why I did not realize that I was dealing with someone that no one should ever get involved with. Look within. While it is true that these folks are accomplished actors, a healthier person would have run sooner.

    • sounds like a good plan! I’m also following the go-slow plan (currently it could be considered the stand-still plan though :)). The logistics of my schedule (ie. the kids) also helps to keep things slow because it’s not like I can just drop everything to see some guy all the time. The thing I really can’t believe is how some have already tried to introduce me to their kids and offered to meet mine. After literally one date. Umm… no! That might be the biggest red flag to me right off the bat at least – if you can’t even be responsible about your kids, then what can you possibly be responsible for?? No thank you.

      It’s kinda funny how much the traits I’m looking for in a guy have changed since the last time around. Responsible is definitely at the very top now. And is apparently more difficult to find than I would have expected in guys 35+. Next would be thoughtfulness and then after all the grown-up traits I hope he is also fun and funny (gotta have a hint of sparkle).

      • I have to have funny, but I also want kind and intelligent. Other than that I’m open. Oddly, men in a particular field of work keep wanting to meet me and you would never think they’d be funny but weirdly they are.

          • I was gonna guess engineering too… but as a future accountant myself, I shouldn’t be throwing stones 😉

            • LOL! It’s not a stone as much as an observation from what I’m experiencing … *everyone* seems to be in IT or engineering! lolol

          • I read somewhere on the net that for males in the IT field are most likely to cheat and for women it’s those in the teaching profession. I guess it’s up to you to believe what you want out there but wouldn’t you know it my cheating wife is a teacher…..

        • Is it bad that smart is losing some importance with me? As long as I find him interesting and curious about things, which means he needs to meet some basic level of intelligence, I don’t care if he’s super smart or went to a great school or something.

          Where I’m totally open is in all the details… like hobbies, profession, etc. I’m going to try not to hold guitar-playing against anyone (the ex plays…)

          • I agree – I never really had a list of dating criteria before anyway, but now it’s only two things:

            1) Are they a good person at heart, and

            2) Will they treat me well (with respect, integrity etc)

  • I am having a hard time imagining being OK with dating. Right now, I am enjoying my freedom too much, so it’s kind of hard to get my head around the idea.

    Now, intellectually I know that it doesn’t have to be some freedom-robbing ordeal that requires me to sacrifice everything up to and including good mental health, but… to be honest, my emotional response to the idea is “Blech!”. LOL.

    This too, I assume, shall pass.

  • TimeHeals, I can relate. I’m still married to my cheating-husband and lining up my ducks to get divorced, so obviously dating isn’t an option for me right now. However, based on the way I’m feeling, I don’t think I’ll be dating any time soon, even after the divorce.

    It’s kind of like when you eat some really bad food and get horribly sick. You can’t stand the sight or smell of that food for quite awhile. The bad memories are burned into your brain and it takes awhile for that to fade and you to be okay with eating that food again. Let alone craving it, wanting to eat it again. That’s kind of how I feel with dating/marriage at the moment. I ate a really bad burrito, it gave me stomach cramps and puked for the past year, and now the thought of refried beans makes me physically ill. I know someday this will fade, but it may take awhile in my case.

    • LOL. Yeah, that’s it, I ate a bad burrito.

      You gotta watch those bad burritos: they can make you sick, and then you might actualy hallucinate that you are a pinata, and then it only makes sense that somebody is trying to knock all the good stuff out of you with a stick 🙂

      • WOW! I like this metaphor even more than Snow White and her poisoned apple.

    • I am kind of the opposite. I feel like I have been dreaming about eating a banquet for the last ten years, and now I have woken up and realized that I wan’t actually getting anything at all, and I am hungry. I am also still married, so dating is a long ways off for me, but I find it quite comforting to think that I may get another chance someday to find somebody who genuinely wants a loving relationship.

      • Well, good luck, but as you work your way through the buffet line, watch out for those funky burritos.

  • I feel very lucky to have a good friend who has been a divorced, single mom of 3 chump for 20 years who just remarried. Our sitch’s almost mirror each other, same ages, super young kids (she wasn’t pregnant like I am) She dated the whole time inbetween, had fun, only really had one other serious relationship. She just said to me, have fun! Once you spent your 20’s and a bit of your 30’s taking care of a man, just go on a ton of dates and let them chase you!! Obviously, the fact that I’m pregnant and still married means I can’t date yet anyway. But, I’m in therapy working on my issues to ensure I pick better next time.

    Right now we have a serious family issue. My 45 year old alcoholic uncle was diagnosed with stage 3 cirrohsis of the liver and giving a few months to live if he doesn’t stop drinking. His new…yes…new wife called me. My husband is a recovering alcoholic, 11 years. Sober when we married. Alcoholism is rampant in my family, so I have spent years in alanon. She wanted to know what to do. Anyway, through our conversation she tells me her first husband was an alcoholic. Yea. But apparently my uncle was a better pick because he isn’t a mean drunk…just really self pitying. Yep. You see it over and over in alanon. 2nd, 3rd husbands/wifes…alcoholic. Heck, my husbands main OW he MET in alanon.

    After I got off the phone I just thought, wow. I must never pick the same type of person again!! Then I read this. Thanks CL. I’m happy being with me. I’m kick ass! I know my worth!

  • Great post today,CL, and exactly where I’m at. I’ve been separated for 3 yrs now(hopefully the divorce is on it’s way.) I spent nearly a whole year on my own, grieving and assessing the breakdown of the marriage and why he cheated etc. before I got back into the dating scene. Even before Dday I had been seeing what my ex had become and was totally turned off. He was an executive and business owner who was on a huge ego trip with a very large sense of entitlement. I and the kids were on the very low end of his priority list and I believe he is truly a classic NPD case. Anyway, I had some rotten dates at the beginning and then found the man I’ve been with for almost 2 yrs. We get along very well and are very happy and we’ve decided to live together in Sept. when my youngest goes off to University. He is just an ordinary man( but extraordinary to me) who has a decent job, pays his bills, looks after himself independently and looks forward to the simple things in life. He has no lofty goals in life and puts me and our relationship first in his life, which is like a breath of fresh air after what I’d lived with in the past.
    Before, we met he’d been dating a woman who had very little and he picked up the tab for practically everything because she could not afford it, and he says it didn’t bother him at all, but that is not why they did not work out.
    There is a large discrepancy between what he has and what I have and that leads me to my question. How do we function without this becoming an issue with us? I should also note that I’m having a Cohab agreement drawn up and he has no problem with it. What I have now will remain mine although if we end up being together for many years I will make sure he is fine if something should happen to me. I don’t want $ to be an issue with us, and yet I don’t want to feel taken advantage of either. How do we function equally if things are not even?

    • Pre-nup. Fortunes change. I don’t mean reciprocity in that you both have the same amount of assets, I mean that you should each be giving to the other. It should BOTHER someone extremely if the giving starts to feel lopsided. I think both people should have a generosity of spirit, one person shouldn’t withhold, or the other feel entitled. Reciprocity in terms of attitude is what I’m after. Not everyone has the same amount of assets, education, family money or whatever.

      I am, however, leery of big divides. Whether that’s age, education, or money. But if you’re more blessed in the money department, talk to a lawyer. Get it protected on paper — a good partner will WANT you to have that reassurance that they love you and not your resources.

      It’s a very personal thing for each relationship that you have to work out.

      • thanks Chump Lady…this was an issue for me…but, thanks to you, I have put in perspective and am getting one prior to my marriage. 🙂

      • CL is so right on this one.

        I know of a case of an abandoning husband-narc (leaving wife and three kids) who kept telling his spouse not to get a lawyer. Of course, she did get a lawyer. But the smart and right thing the husband could have said was, “Please, do get a lawyer. I know that after my affair, it is hard to trust me, so get your own attorney and make sure you are comfortable with what I’m proposing. In the end, I’d like us to have the same attorney, but I realize that, after this tough experience, you need to develop that trust.”

        That would have been both the right and the smart thing to do. Of course, he didn’t do that. He’s a high-conflict narc who wound up in a fight and the settlement worked out well for his now-much-happier ex. His ex did the right thing by getting a good lawyer. But my point is that a good partner or a good person or even a partially good person will understand your need for security and will not have a cow over it. CL is right. If they have a cow, that tells you something…something not good.

        • My ex stole a significant amount of money from me during our brief marriage.

          He agreed to repay some of it over a period of time.

          He stated that as a lawyer he could handle everything and no need to waste money elsewhere…

          My alarm bells were still going – I hired a lawyer who stated that the fancy and lengthy repayment contract wasnt worth the paper it was written on. Funny that…


    After my bomb, I talked to my therapist about my next steps…she told me virtually the exact same thing you said, CL…Know my worth. I said it over and over and over and over…until I started to believe it. I was guilty of so much of what you wrote with my ex and I did NOT want to do that again, should I ever be in another relationship again.

    I learned to focus on ME and what made me pick the assclown that I chose. Once I started working on THAT I learned SO MUCH about what makes Valentine tick and how to avoid the mistakes again.

    For example:
    DO NOT RESCUE ANYONE OR BE IN A LOPSIDED ARRANGEMENT-Holy shit…I lived this with my ex and yes, fucktards, did come out of the woodwork looking for a little rescuing and only giving what they wanted. Beware of these people—they WILL come looking for you.

    DO NOT RUN YOURSELF DOWN: words are powerful…’be impeccable with your word’ is something I learned from reading the “The Four Agreements”…if you say it and put it out there, then it will become a reality. I learned to be kind with myself with my words. I learned to forgive myself for all the decisions I made during that terrible time. When describing myself I no longer used the words ‘stupid’, ‘idiot’, ‘weak’…I started using positive words: loyal, fortuitous, cautious, good, kind, and loving. It took a while to get there but I did and then I felt like i had really ARRIVED in my life!

    LOVE-BOMBERS: Beware the con-artists! Remember the sparkliness of the ex???? Oh yeah, I dated men who were SO FREAKING SIMILAR to him initially. During one session, my therapist suggested I go back to my ex since I seemed to be attracted to men just like him. I looked at her like she had slapped me in the face, which was her point. I had to look PAST the sparkles and start seeing a REAL person. Its like peeling away the layers of an onion…only to find the heart of the onion rotten. Oh yes. That was an important discovery for me.

    I discovered the real work was ME. I had to really think about why I was attracted to someone who treated me so badly, why I thought it was ok and how to move past that and learn to love myself—warts and all. It was hard. There were days when I swear, if I didn’t have my dogs I would have stayed in bed.

    Don’t be afraid to DUMP someone: Yes, yes, yes!!!! YOU deserve something good in your life. Be it a person, a career, a car, a dress, lipstick or a hot-fudge sundae. DO NOT SETTLE. I believe there was a reason for me to go through all the shit I did. It reinforced how many people loved and cared about ME. How they wanted only good things for me…and if they could see the good in me then why couldn’t I? Anyone who is treating you sub-par HAS GOT TO GO. I dated many a person who would casually throw something in that was a deal-breaker for me. I had ZERO problem with grabbing my purse, standing up and saying: It was interesting meeting you, but that shit doesn’t fly with me. Adios asshole!

    So much freedom in that! Such empowerment!

    So, from one chump to another, you’ll get there my friends. Be kind to yourself…know that you are worth so much more than the shit plate that your ex is trying to serve you. Throw that shit right back in his/her face like the shit pie that it is.

    Thank you CL for that post…and thanks for letting all of vent in whatever stage we are at…we need the camaraderie, support, the real understanding.


    • ” Beware of these people—they WILL come looking for you.”
      Me Me Me Me Me to a T! Thank you V, nice to see it in writing!

      • Yep, me too. If they’re handsome, charming and funny and completely disordered I’m a magnet for them. I look back on earlier relationships and see that there’s some real truth in that. Never again.

        • Toni and Nord, yuppers! it take a while to get your true radar going but you will. And the stench of them coming! You can smell from a mile away! I swear there must be some odor, like a pheromone, that we secrete that clues those assclowns in.

          You’ll get there…

  • I would really appreciate y’all sharing your thoughts on this for me:

    A good friend of mine “met” a man on ChristianMingle… he is British, but was living in Washington State, but working in South Africa….

    It has been around 8 months. So far they’ve traded many many lovey dovey emails, and speak from time to time on the phone. He’s supposed to be coming back to the US for months to be with her (?!), but something generally comes up at the eleventh hour (they need to find a replacement gemologist (???!!)) before he can come.

    All my spidey senses are ringing off the wall – she is blissfully happy and smitten. In the very beginning I asked her to fact check as much as possible, and then I dropped it.

    She still talks about him daily and how he’ll be here any day soon…

    I figure either he’ll show one day and I’ll be proven wrong. Or one day soon he’s going to either a) ask her for money, or b) it’ll turn out he’s 70, 500lbs, and living with his wife and 5 kids.

    I’m happy if she’s happy but I cringe every time she brings him up…

    • Fallulah,

      Hmmmmm….smells fishy to me too! I was on a website and I met this guy too…who said he sold oil rig equipment…he sent me lovey-dovey emails…and he was handsome too. Told me his name was ‘Randy’ and that he was originally from Australia. This guy actually said he lived in the same city as I did…but, after weeks of texting and emailing, when I suggested we meet up for coffee he said he would when it was ‘safe’..which seemed an odd thing to say.

      So, he had given me his number…which was a number out of California (he claimed he had just moved here one year prior and that his ex wife had taken ‘everything’ from him)…I decided to call. He answered and started off with “Babe! so good to hear from you!. WTF? I thought….you’re calling me ‘babe’ now? He had an accent. NOT an Australian one. I have no idea what it was. But he sent me gifts (which I sent right back). Anyhow, I found out that this guy was not real. The pics he placed on the website were from another person —who didn’t even have a profile there. The pictures were basically stolen from the guys website (he was a amateur photographer living in NYC). I blocked the fake guy Randy…but it left me feeling creeped out.

      I would be cautious if I were your friend. Perhaps a little background checking is in order…especially after so many times he has not come to visit. There are predators out there…and I have heard so many stories of chicks who fall in love with these guys and then they ask you for money or some bullshit like that. They are con artists. Bastards.

        • Blimmin LOVE that show!!!

          There are a lot of sick people out there feeding their egos at the expense of the good hearted 🙁

      • Exactly – my warning is actually based on a friend locally rather than my own experience per se.

        OMG – she went through the same thing you described! He worked on Oil Rigs, he was supposed to be some culture or other, but when he finally left her a voicemail his accent was African. Very different from what he had told her.

        Ultimately he blew off his latest trip to see her because there had been an explosion on the oil rig and men had lost their lives… and did she want to contribute to the fund for their surviving families? Pffft.

        Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂 Sometimes I worry that I am too paranoid!

    • yep. no question about it. he’s jerking her heart strings. bastard!

  • My ex BF to a fucking tee and my ex husband as well. took me 14 years to get out of the first one and only 6 months to toss the second. . I wish I could put his name out here but as of the moment he got some other sucker, divorcee to marry his sorry ass, although if she even blinks about caring for his every want and need, ladies, beware, he will be on the prowl again.

  • Damn, I’ve been paying a therapist $100/hour to tell me what I just read in one CL post. Brilliant. I am 0-2 on the rescues, not going to try anything until I seriously rework my picker.

  • Some Thoughts.

    You know, we chumps like to help people. We want to be knights in shining armor or maybe Mother Teresas. But that’s not good in relationships. Your relationships should be strengthening and reinforcing and not draining. If they are draining, then that will not be good for the kids, and you won’t have the energy to save anyone else. I got to thinking about this after writing earlier about how good it is to find someone who strengthens you, then you actually can volunteer in the soup kitchen or at school or whatever.

    In addition, people who are really helping professionals — psychologists, narcotics counselors, advisors of various sorts — know enough to keep some distance from their clients. That’s the opposite of what a chump will do. A chump will become emotionally involved “helping” someone. This is not a good formula.

    Several years ago, my son was having trouble in school. I threw myself into helping him academically. I actually became part of the problem. He wound up going away to school (for academics, not behavior), but he did far better without me! Now, I was lucky to be able to finance schooling for him, but I’m convinced that even had I not had that option, I would have had to pull back, get a tutor, have him get more extra help, etc.

    Chumps are good people, but reformed chumps are stronger, better at boundaries, better at taking care of themselves and, as a result, are likely to be more helpful to others and better role models for their offspring.

    Just some notions here. CL has created a fertile garden for ideas that are good and that go straight to the heart of the matter. Her prose is like the bolt from a crossbow.

    • yep, I am one of those caretaker types… but now I feel like I’ve been there, done that. That’s why I’m enjoying being alone right now, I’m only responsible for myself and my little boys. Not another grown man. So I have ZERO interest in signing up for that again. I’d be much more susceptible to this “love bombing” I have heard of but never witnessed first hand… but not if it’s like insanely over the top/stalker-like… I think that might freak me out. But I recognize that I have spent so long taking care of others that I could be vulnerable to someone who offers to take care of me in some way. Well, in fact, that is what I am looking for. If I didn’t want to be taken care of a little bit then I would probably never date. I just want it to be in a normal, reciprocal way. Isn’t that what romance is?

      • Hi Another Erica, just wanted to comment on wanting someone to take care of you a bit, but worrying about love bombing. The first impulse is natural and healthy – but the secret is reciprocity, and TIME. You need to let yourself get to know the person over time. Even if they really do fall in love with you pretty fast (and sometimes people do), they should be FINE with taking time to make the relationship more serious and committed. Date for quite a while, once a week is great, the occasional e-mail or call in between. Wait months before you make it officially exclusive (you don’t have to be dating other people, but that has to be an option). Start acting like a couple then, but no moving in together. Enjoy the relationship, but keep your eyes open. Have a mental list of absolute no-nos. NO lies, no drug or alcohol problems or compulsive behaviours (gambling, shopping, gaming …), no moments of nasty temper, no putting you down EVER (do you do that to the people you care about?), and lots more that’s important to you. Every few months stop and ask yourself; ‘I know nobody’s perfect, but if (s)he stayed exactly the way they are know, would I be happy in this relationship? Would things between us, or things about them, have to change for me to be satisfied?’.

        Time, it honestly takes a couple of years to really know someone – and for the ‘butterflies’ to settle down. Anybody who really cares about you and is not demanding and entitled will be FINE with this, especially when they understand why you are being cautious.

        • Thanks Karen,

          Now I have CL’s post and your response to refer to in the future when I meet someone I actually do really like! Because taking your time is much easier when you aren’t really into them – if I actually meet someone I really do like I might need reminders on how to be smart about it. What you’ve laid out is similar to what I had in mind although I hadn’t thought about taking a step back every few months to evaluate… that is a really good suggestion! also having a list of dealbreakers. The few guys I’ve gone out with have definitely not seemed like they were the go slow type. So I was starting to question whether I was being way too cautious and if it would even be possible to find a guy that would go with that plan. But you’re right, anyone worth having would be willing to do whatever you need. And it’s not like these are ridiculous ideas – I think dating like this, especially since I have little kids, is really just being responsible.

        • That’s really great advise for dating. It’s a version of what I’m doing and I really like the last bit about stopping every few months and asking if this person, exactly like they are in this moment, would be a good partner for life. Well done!

  • “A good heart is a terrible thing to waste on a fucktard.” Thank you!! Brilliant post with excellent timing for me. Although, I’m finding knowing vs. believing & doing is my challenge. Will take a break from the dating scene to detox for a bit. But not giving up.

  • Hi CL,

    Thank you for this post, and all the others on your site. I’ve been reading your daily posts for the last few weeks and feeling relief and understanding in a way that I don’t have in my daily life right now. (I am surrounded by married couples – work, extended family, my son’s daycare class – everywhere).

    I fell for all of the things you mention here and in your other posts. Sparkles, rushing in, promises with words but not shown in actions.

    I feel most afraid right now because when I look around, I either see wing nuts or married couples. I am not feeling like I have a good perspective on anything – after divorcing the cheater, in the year after, I also separated from unhealthy family members – and have lately isolated myself into the daily routine of work and taking care of my son (then laundry and errands on the day he is with his father).

    I am afraid to ever take the risk of “picking again”. This process of moving on from the experience of living lies and a fake life with a cheater feels like it continues to hover.

  • Beware the love bombers. Sheesh. My H told me he loved me in 48hrs. I remember it gave me the creeps, my inner truth said ‘but you don’t know me’ – and I pushed that voice down.

    A few months in, I asked him what the colour of my eyes were. He didn’t know.

    Boy was my picker broken. How arrogant was I that I could fix him! It has taken over 20 years, but as they say, karma never forgets an address. Thats MY karma, of course. I should have fixed my broken.

  • I wish I would have read this before my last relationship, so many things I would have looked for and done differently..

    Thank you for your article/advice

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