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Are All Cheaters Created Equal?

In my last post, about How to Leave a Scary Person, a “smart ass Texan” raised a very good point.

CL, learning of your story it seems as tho it is a tale of overcoming abuse , more so than cheating. I will will admit that I was looking to you as a model of not accepting adultery, and find out that your story is more dealing with abuse, which is NEVER acceptable and should NEVER be tolerated…. the “cheating” is a “footnote” on list of great reasons to leave… not THE reason to leave. Now knowing this I think many of your followers will think… since he isn’t threatening to kill me , or my kid… perhaps the simple fact that he is “just cheating” really isn’t so bad. I’m I alone in this opinion?

No, you are not. (And for the record, he never threatened to kill my kid — just wished his ex-wive’s baby dead… Oh!  that makes it so much BETTER, I know. )

Early on I wrote the post “A Spectrum of Cheaters” to make the point that cheating falls on a continuum. Some might have a one-night stand, others might be full blown sociopaths. I have never argued that all cheaters are the same, that they all have personality disorders, (that is, fall at the far end of the spectrum). I am of the opinion, however, that anyone who can conduct an affair and lead a double life for an extended period of time is profoundly fucked up, and yeah, probably clinically disordered. I am also of the opinion, based not just on my experience, but watching the same stories play out over and over again on infidelity boards, (and in the lives of people I know), that reconciliation is a unicorn. I also firmly believe that infidelity is abuse.

I’ve made those arguments a lot elsewhere, so I won’t go down that rabbit hole today.

Does my ex’s scariness cloud my opinion of infidelity and cheaters? Oh sure, probably. Is he more abusive than your average cheater? I don’t know, I suspect he is. He’s clearly some sort of combo plate of several different kinds of abusivenesses — which really is just all about control, gaining advantage, and entitlement. He was super, SUPER entitled.

I definitely concede your point, however, that because my ex was “an extreme case” that people would be inclined to dismiss my point of view. I get that all the time. Oh, well, he was a SERIAL cheater, that’s different. He was verbally abusive and had rages too? Yeah, my cheater is nothing like that. So I’ve got a fighting chance at this reconciliation thing.

As relationships with cheaters go, I got off very lightly. Really, I think if anyone should dismiss my advice it should be on those grounds. I was married to him a whole 6 months when his long-term mistress called. I’d been with him nearly two years at that point (dating and marriage). I spent the next 18 months mostly separated from him, as he moved back in and out of the house and I had false reconciliations. All in, I spent less than four years with a cheater. I’m a rookie compared to a lot of chumps.

Threats should NEVER be tolerated? They weren’t. The day after he threatened me, I was at a courthouse and he was packing his shit up in a duffle bag under police supervision. I did, however, “tolerate” his rages. Until I didn’t. The guy spent a lot of time in rentals on air mattresses. I spent a lot of time in therapy.

Back to the question of — OH, you had abuse, and so that’s a King’s X on the infidelity — I don’t think I’m that unusual. Infidelity involves all sorts of emotional abuse — lying, gaslighting, blameshifting. Those mindfucks are every bit as damaging, IMO, as someone screaming at your face.

Is my ex as bad as my husband’s ex? She never raised her voice to him or threatened to burn down his house. No. She just cheated on him for two decades, exposed him to STDs, and made him paternity check his children. Is that better?

What about the “loving” spouse who is the model partner, except for their pesky sex addiction? Or the person who invests decades of their live with someone and they run off and leave them for some high school sweetheart they met on Facebook? They weren’t threatened. They just lost their entire investment to date.

To me, leaving a cheater, leaving an abuser, required the same thing — freeing myself from mental slavery. I had to undo the mindfuck. That’s what this blog is — what I learned from this experience. And what I learned from other people who went through it. I thought I was so freaky, so different, and then I spent 6 years reading on boards going “Wow. Mine said that too. Mine did EXACTLY that.” The predicability of cheaters is not a phenomenon I have observed alone. Heck, when I was going through it, people on SI would tell me what he was going to do next, and damn, if he didn’t do it.

Part of the reason I wrote yesterday’s post was to demonstrate that yeah, I got taken in. And I got myself OUT. I wanted to de-stigmatize the experience of domestic abuse. I’m a smart woman and this happened to me. My ex-husband was a patent attorney with three advanced degrees. He did this shit to other smart women too. His first wife had a PhD in chemistry. His second wife graduated first in her law school class.

Class, smarts, station in life — none of it matters when it comes to being a chump. We all can be chumps.

And now on a different note — just fyi, guys. I’m out of town for a wedding, so won’t be checking in as often. But I’ll try to get a post in here and there. Thanks!

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  • From the depths of hell to elation, all in a couple of sentences.

    “Class, smarts, station in life — none of it matters when it comes to being a chump. We all can be chumps.

    And now on a different note — just fyi, guys. I’m out of town for a wedding, “

  • Another great share of insight and to the point are all cheaters equal I would love to hear your rebuttal to this week’s commentary to Pat Robinson.

  • I love you CL your clarity and no nonsense style just cut through all the bull shit. When I hit D Day I will have to give you much of the thanks!

  • Great post as always. There are times I feel like I do not “fit” here as my ex was not abusive, was not a serial cheater, etc. I just got taken, 13 years apart (he lied about affair #1, even after months of therapy, just said it was an infatuation. That set the stage for #2).

    Enjoy the wedding! Is it on the East Coast? My ex has left the kids, again, with their grandparents, to go out of town with the OW (also for a wedding)

    I would love you to call him out like Carol Cane to Billy Crystal in “Princess Bride”:
    ” LIAR! Liiiiaaaaarrrrrrr!”
    And hypocrite, going to a wedding after what he put me and the kids through this past year (as well as for how he acted in our marriage the last 13 years of it).

    He does not truly understand real love and commitment.

    But you get it CL, so have fun!

    • Hi zyx321 (great screen name, BTW, mysterious and sci-fi-ish, but easy to remember and spell!),

      I identify with the ‘only twice’ thing, especially since the ex dropped his first mistress like a hot potato once I realized he was actually sleeping w/her and I stopped sleeping with him. But he NEVER did the work needed to repair from that affair, and as you said, that ‘set the stage’ for affair #2, years later.

      What makes me identify so much even w/people here whose spouses were lying and cheating with multiple partners from day one is the OTHER behaviours the ex showed. The self-centeredness, the entitlement, the blaming others (especially me), the unbelievably stupid things he said, the self-centeredness, the lack of respect, the neglect of his kids, the self-centeredness, the negativity, the constant criticism, the self-centered attempts at reconciliation. And have I mentioned the self-centeredness??

      THOSE are the things that allowed both affairs to happen, THOSE are the things that made me a chump more than anything, THOSE are the things that it is such a relief to see echoed here by other people, whether their situations were in many ways worse or easier than mine.

      I was a chump, but I am not alone.

      • Karen, glad you like the screen name. I picked it because it is easy… But I do like mysteries and sci fi .

        I do like your insight about the self centeredness, but ex did not do too much of the other. Well, it was subtle. Subtle neglect of kids, subtle neglect of the relationship. I saw drifting, upped attention, asked about US, etc… To no avail. He denied anything wrong, then walked away.

        No criticism of me _until_ my vain attempt at therapy for the last 2 months (and before affair #2 was admitted… After that, he agreed the break up of the marriage was mostly him!).
        That was a bitter pill to swallow. He saw me doing more for us the last 3 years. He denied any relationship issues, so I made a huge sacrifice for him… and it meant nothing in the end. The happiness of the children meant nothing in the end.

        But it all comes down to the self centeredness. All about HIM, his feelings, his needs, although he never told me what he wanted/needed. How could I address an unknown problem?! In the end, it is simply justification for his actions.

        My mantra for him: lazy, selfish, lying, coward
        My mantra for me: I did the best I could with the information I was provided.

        And really, I do not regret my chumpness. I loved him, and trusted him. I see the best in people. I do not plan to change that!4

        I look forward to a real, adult relationship with someone who truly cares about me.
        I just regret that it wil take time given trust issues.


        • zyx321 and Karen, thank you for sharing you stories as they ring so true to my ears. My PTBX (P=Perhaps, but working on the S=Soon part) is a 2 time cheater with the same OM, but not a serial cheater. It took me a long time to accept just how self-centered she is as she has mastered the art of subtle control, living in a gray area where if I call her on her spoiled ways, then I am the bad guy. She never yells (nor do I). We rarely argue and she’ll leave the room with issues unresolved before an argument ever evolves.

          Other than the affair itself, her actions are never so blatantly bad that taken out of context they would seem anything but acceptable. But when you put all the selfish gray-area actions into context and let the story play out over time, the end result is always the same: she controls all aspects of the relationship to benefit herself at the expense of others, and she is unable to grasp that expense on us others. But since she is who she is, she deserves all she is trying to get, and for many years I strived to get her all she asked for, and still, of course, it was not enough. So she now thinks this OM will give her that to which she is entitled. Good luck STBX and OM!

  • The way I took your column was, some cheaters make leaving more difficult by physically assaulting (aside from exposing someone to STD’s) or threatening.

    It wasn’t to draw comparisons between cheaters! I never even considered the notion that my abandoning cheater was better, kinder, sweeter, less worthy of divorcing than your dangerous cheater. It was to acknowledge that some cheaters make the process of leaving all the more challenging or risky.

    Haha, “just cheating.” If you feel that “just cheating” is ok, you really HAVE been abused. (Not funny.)

  • I’ve given a lot of thought to this overal question – which types of cheaters are worse? The ones who are abusive? The ones who are basically good people, except for that pesky cheating thing?

    During the reality-check after dday, I thought back to all the people I knew personally who had been chumped, and processed that info to try and make sense of it. Did they hurt as much as I was hurting? Were they as devestated, more or less?

    I thought back to a family friend who had a *great* relationship with her husband of 10 years. They were best friends, had loving daily interactions, etc. All their friends loved to be around them, they had a great social life. Then one day, out of the blue, he announced that he is in love with another woman, and he is leaving. He left her, just like that. No explanation, no fighting, no yelling, nothing. He just left. She had no idea it was coming. There were no clues. No bad behavoir. No emotional distance. Nothing to clue her in that anything was amiss. This friend of mine is a smart cookie, btw, with good emotional intelligence as well. There just weren’t any clues beforehand. Her friends agreed. They never saw it coming, either. She was completely floored. In a moment, her whole life was whisked out from under her feet.

    I compared my situation to hers. In a way, she had it easier because she didn’t suffer through 10 years of abuse before dday. She had 10 happy years with a great guy who she enjoyed, and enjoyed her. On the *other* hand, dday itself was probably much, much harder because it happened all in one instant. She had to process all of those losses all at once, without *any* warning. That would be tough. She had everything invested in their life together, and he threw it all away. Tough, too, that the OW was one of her friends. Double ouch. In my case, the OW wasn’t a friend of mine, so I didn’t get the friend-betrayal aspect.

    So what’s worse….an abusive husband? A normal husband who suddenly leaves? When the OW is your best friend, or sibling? When the cheater was a bone-fide sex addict, with hookers and everyone else?

    The situations are different, but the results are the same. Cheaters abuse your emotions and the BS *loses* something very significant. Your ability to trust, to love. Maybe even some innocence. Your intact family. Your dignity. Your physical (STD) safety. Time with your children (via custody). Your self of self worth. Financial security (via divorce). Your residence/house. Extended family & friends. Life as you know it is gone. Even if you decide to stay with the cheater, you still suffer a loss of most of the above; I’m guessing dignity and trust take an even bigger percentage of the hit.

      • well put nomar seriously a sucker punch hurts justs as bad as lots of little jabs. sometimes worse because i think if you’ve been with a serial cheater (not my situation) that it kills you in little pieces. Just having the rug pulled out from under you is like a big concussion you wake up saying “Did you see that coming?” A broken heart is a broken heart.

        • totally agree. No matter the details, we were all completely betrayed and our sense of ourselves, our realities, and our significant others were destroyed.

          Knowing that someone had it “worse” doesn’t make me feel any better about my own situation. It just makes me angry on that persons behalf. And my having it worse than someone else definitely doesn’t make me feel better. (I don’t relish being a martyr like my ex). So I’m not sure what good comparisons are unless it’s to better understand your situation and help others with theirs. I believe we fellow chumps have a bond due to experiencing this type of betrayal, but does that mean we’re going to relate 100% to each other’s situations? No.

          I would argue chumps in the most pain right now, regardless of where their cheater was on the spectrum, are the ones “working on it”. No matter what pain I experienced with Dday and in “reconciliation”, now that the door has been closed on my relationship with my cheater, everyday I go on from there moves me to a better place. Where the memories of that pain become less and less vivid and I bring more good people into my life and my cheater takes up a much smaller part of it.

          That is why I come to this site. More and more I feel like reconciliation is really self-flagellation. I have little tolerance for it and the bullshit the cheaters continue to put the betrayed through. I find it increasingly difficult to be open minded at my support group. If their cheater doesn’t immediately try to do the right thing (which I have yet to hear of one), I just want to tell them to get the hell out. It’s hard listening to others try to be “understanding” of what the cheater is going through. I understand trying to save the marriage, because I did it myself, but when so much time has passed and the betrayed is still so completely miserable I find it difficult to be understanding. Or even to continue to listen to the same shit. I know I could never be a therapist, that’s for sure.

          • Another Erica: About 3 weeks ago my therapist said she could see I was moving from hope and denial into reality. Only took me about 9 ms and really this site helped alot. I go to one on one theraphy; don’t think I would have the patience for group or support. Must be hard to sit there and be supportive when all you want to scream “It is NOT going to change!”

            • yeah, I did some one on one therapy as well. I still go back for some “tune-ups” occasionally when I feel like I need some unbiased opinions on how to handle something.

              At the last support group thing I kinda did say stuff like that. I might be starting to be persona non grata there… because it’s through a pretty pro-reconciliation group. I am the only one that has left… other than one other that left her husband a long time ago. The funny thing is even though I knew about the group for a while I only got in touch with them after I had already kicked my husband out. I did need the support because I was feeling lost and definitely still angry, etc., and they have been helpful. But I wonder if I’d gone to them while I was still in “reconciliation” if they would have talked me into trying more.

          • Thanks for sharing your thoughts aE. Your post really resonated for me. In my book you’re THE Erica.

              • What a week. I had:

                1. The anniversary of my mother’s death
                2. My 20th wedding anniversary (my daughter posted on FB “Happy anniversary Mommy and Daddy!” Don’t tell me god is not cold.
                3. My daughters started therapy (finally)
                4. My wife asked if we could delay the divorce and try MC which we started yesterday (the therapist gave me a homework assignment to court her, ask her out on a date, stare into her eyes, … Even WW said “He’s probably thinking ‘Why do I have to court her? She’s the one who was unfaithful.'” As Kelly always says, you just can’t make this stuff up. )
                5. To top it all off? Wait for it… D-day number 2 today. New guy.

                Holy shit. I found this site within a week or two of d-day number 1 so I really have no excuse for my stupidity. How many times have I read the play book and I still fell for it. I guess it’s not as bad this time but then it just happened a few minutes ago. At least this site kept me from taking hook, line, and sinker. I guess I just got the hook (the bit that hurts of course). I wish I could just sit down and talk to someone who’s been through this.

              • Oh my! What a week. I have often thought that it would be easier to go through all the bad stuff at one time, rather than having is spread out over a year. Constant reminders. Having visualized what you are going through, I may change my mind. So much to absorb at one time. Your Dday #2 is exactly what scares me about getting involved in another relationship. Even if we are very, very, very careful, cautious and thinking clearly, we can lose our not so stable heart to someone new and still be totally crushed if they decide we are not the “one.” It is so difficult to do without the love of another, but when all comes crashing down, it is devastating not just “difficult to do without them.” I know you will weather the storm and stay strong for yourself and your children.

              • Don’t be afraid to love again. Take it slow and don’t ignore your hinky meter this time. I know I ignored mine with my ex and now that I’ve slowly, slowly started dating I am really quick to shut down anything that doesn’t feel right, even if it’s just ‘he’s nice but not for me’ kind of thing. I may get burned again but no way am I going to let this experience stop me from living and loving.

              • Thanks Nord, I am just so tired…just plain worn out. I have, of an evening, increased my number and quality of face book friends and with the new book coming out (on Amazon as of yesterday) my fb lit up like a switchboard. People I have not heard from in years and lots of new ones, friends of friends, are just pouring out congratulations and good wishes. Gee, when writing it, I had no idea the timing of its publication would unleash all the kind words at a time I would need them the most. So, I am trying to get on with my life and who knows, maybe someone special will waltz into my life. That would be lovely. I do have something to look forward to, just have to get the cheater well enough to take care of himself. Oh, and his lifelong friend tried to commit suicide a couple of weeks ago and it was all up to me to get him in two different hospitals, ship him to a hospital in K.C. upon his discharge, get his household goods shipped to K.C. and find a storage unit for all of it, get his house cleaned, arrange for painters, carpet cleaners, services all disconnected, pay final bills for him (25 so far) and get his truck repaired and ready to sell. All so that he can get his house sold. I have been babysitting to grown babies. Narcs and bi-polars, both of them. I need a little pot of money to exit, so that and my conscience are the reasons I am doing this. At least I can sleep at night. Soon I will be out there and already planning some fun things to hit the ground running.

              • Non-fiction. The new one is Byron Berline: A Fiddler’s Diary. I write non-fiction because up until now, everyone’s life seemed more interesting than mine. How silly of me. Check it out on Amazon. I don’t even have my copies yet.

              • Kelly, this is such a sad site, we are all going through so much dung in the heap and I can’t believe a little comment about a new book actually brightened someone’s day. I just perked right up at your comment. I have had little enthusiasm for the book coming out…just too down to realize that should be something positive to look forward to. Thanks for the kind words.

              • HeartBuilder – apparently I can’t reply to your message, so I’ll do it here…

                But I think you need a new therapist. Or maybe one just for you. I don’t think the right solution to this problem is for YOU to go courting HER. Maybe that would have been something you could have tried PRIOR to the affair (or apparently, plural affairs). In my mind, the cheater is the one that need to make this shit up to us, then maybe once they’ve proved they are willing to take responsibility for their actions, then you can try to work on “improving” the marriage. And that doesn’t mean you do all the changing. Has she acknowledged anything she could have been better at in the marriage? I don’t think my ex ever did. He said what he did wrong was that he didn’t better communicate to me all the things I was doing wrong. Nice, huh?

                By having Dday #2 with a new guy (an actual new guy within the past couple months, or new meaning you just found out about him?) that doesn’t sound like she’s trying to take responsibility.

                Have you gone to your own therapist? Been to a lawyer to find out what the steps would be if you go the divorce route?

                I swear these cheaters just try to string us along, wear us out… testing the limits to see how much we’ll let them get away with. I just know they’ve got some fucking balls after what they’ve put us through to then be demanding more and being further critical of us.

                Another thing that struck me after Dday was how I just assumed we would tackle this “problem” as a team. Figure out how to get rid of the girl without anyone suspecting why, work to improve our marriage (all that R bullshit I completely bought into), TOGETHER. But my ex was still just looking out for himself the whole time. He was trying to play both of us to try to cover his ass and contain the problem. By continuing to just look out for himself and disrespecting me and our marriage, it left me no choice but to start my own team as well to look out for me. And then that problem he was desperately trying to contain ended up fucking exploding in his face. Whoops, guess he played that all wrong.

              • I do have an individual therapist and a family attorney. I asked the MC guy how long he’d been doing marriage counseling and had he ever dealt with adultery. I also told him I didn’t think the assignment was appropriate and that he didn’t appreciate the situation but beyond that I think I was too shocked to say much else.

                I gather the original d-day guy dumped her when it looked like she might come available soon or else she caught him with someone else. I think this happened about 2 or 3 weeks ago. She said in our 1 and only MC session that she should have recognized him as a player. Seriously. I’m not making this up. You can’t.

                I was still getting bad vibes (too much texting/FB, no angst if that makes sense, just an overall feel of someone who’s in love not hanging by a thread I guess). Through blind stupid luck, I got access to her iTouch and sure enough, she’s got a long string of messages with another guy (very explicit). She walked right out of our MC session in tears and started sending schmoopie texts. At least when I say unbelievable I know you’ll believe it.

            • Heart Builder; What was your wife’s HW assignment. Court her? WTF!!! Your therapist seems to think you weren’t giving her enough validation so that ENTITLED her to cheat? No offense I know you have a soft heart and you want this to work but REALLY!

              • It’s funny but I think her assignment was to enjoy being courted. Like Erica said maybe a long time ago that would have helped. I don’t know. It sounds like a good formula horribly misapplied. Like using E=MC2 to find the area of a rectangle. I don’t mean to pick on religion but there just seems to be so much chauvinism built into what he suggested that I actually thought of Pat Robertson when he said it. I looked and the MC guy’s bachelors degree was in theology. Not that there’s anything wrong with that I’m just noticing trends more lately.

              • Heartbuilder,
                I wasn’t able to reply to your post either (?) and I don’t have a lot to add since everyone else has said it so weel but the whole situation sounds like BULLSHIT to me.
                I’m so sorry for you, I really am. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, everytime someone here tries a R and it blows up I just feel more determined NOT to attempt it for myself.
                I didn’t even make any strong statement in the first few weeks after DDay because I really doubted I had the strength to not take him back. But lucky for me his weakly constructed “paradise of whores” AND me collapsed on top of him and he was so “high” on his affair (and God knows what else) with “homeless girl” that he was throwing it in my face out in the open. Repeatedly.
                It gave me enough time to gain some distance and by the time he started trying to get me to feel sorry for him it was too late.
                I pray I will learn from my original cluelessness as well as everyone else here who is kind enough to share.
                WE BELIEVE YOU!!! Let’s all continue to learn and get through this together, we are here for you!

            • HeartBuilder: I am going to be straight with you here. When my marriage 1st started going down the tubes I went to a Christian marriage Counselor (alone since my husband wouldn’t) Now I wanted to try and save my marriage (at this point I didn’t know there was an EA with an old girl friend) and I am deeply religious. I just knew something was wrong. Her advice and direction was insipent( not sure I spelled that right) The book she gave me to read (I don’t remember the name) had all these couples who were so willing to do the work and so self realizing. Like Ladies Home Journal “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” About 6 sessions later and no real movement forward the question was Well what do you want me to do? I was looking for quidence and some help and it was getting me nowhere. I now see a regular old therapist who is helping ME. My belabored point is I think the ajenda of a counselor with a degree in theology is the sancitity of marriage and it gives a twist on their advice. They don’t see the sociopath lurking in the background. And if they do well no one is perfect. Keeping the marriage together is the first priority.

              • Thanks Toni, I can hardly believe it myself. I feel like the kid who just watched a dozen of his friends burn themselves on the stove and I walked right up and touched it too.

                Janet, I think you’re right about the sanctity of marriage thing but that’s not the part that bugs me. I was a huge fan of marriage until this. I can’t articulate it but there is something really demeaning to me about forcing the traditional male/female role assignments. I think there’s a human element to this that doesn’t fit into gender roles.

              • HeartBuilder – That sucks that you therapist wanted you to court her. That is what pro-reconcilliation therapy does quite a bit. Completely not fair to the betrayed and also ultimately does not solve the real problem.

                I hear you about the theology, but honestly I don’t think that’s the problem. Your therapist just sucks, period.

                After my dday, we went to a *Catholic* marriage counselor. He was an older guy, extremely traditional and guided by theology. After just a few sessions with us, he told me that my husband was still in the affair and encouraged me to leave. No beating around the bush. Just came out and said it.

                It’s because he was a good therapist. Theology encourages him to keep marraiges together, but there are deal-breakers. God is pretty clear about adultery. Your marraige contract has been broken. You are free to go.

              • HB, hope this posts somewhere reasonably close to,yours…….

                It is terrible when the supposed licensed “professional” contributes to the abuse. Seriously, are these people in some secret coven to spread more angst and destruction throughout chumpdom? Do they get some evil thrill out of playing us this way? Have their methods EVER ONCE worked? Sometimes I seriously wonder. And when I read your post about what you have been going through again (still…..?) I became nauseous. What you said about a child burning himself on a stove after seeing so many others do the same is so smart and so true, but like each of us you must take the steps you need to take in your own time. I know the feeling of desperately wanting to believe the person you loved and to whom you were married for so long still exists and will be back somehow. That person, who probably never really existed, will not be back but sometimes it takes the heart some time to catch up to the mind.

              • HB, I am so sorry to hear what you have been through. I have to echo what Kelly said. Don’t beat yourself up about trying to make things better and not succeeding. You will follow the path you need to and get where you need to be in your own way. I knew I would fail at R, but I still felt like I had to try. I don’t know if it was a mistake (obviously it failed), but it was a step I had to go through.

            • there is something really demeaning to me about forcing the traditional male/female role assignments. I think there’s a human element to this that doesn’t fit into gender roles. Well put and yes I agree. Hang in there.

          • “More and more I feel like reconciliation is really self-flagellation. I have little tolerance for it”

            EXACTLY aE!

    • I think you covered it all, and well. I talked to an old highschool friend last night and learned an interesting story. Her ex remarried a very nice woman that my friend actually liked and was pleased her ex might be happy. Her ex’s sister also married about the same time, to a horse breeder. My friend’s new wife also loved horses. Yep, my friend’s ex’s new wife, ran off with his sister’s new husband. Shocked the whole town. What a scandal. Really sucks.

    • Yes Duck…even your friend’s case is very very hurting (that is more similar to mine)! In my case, until the discovery of cheating, onlookers felt as if we were a prized romantic couple and we spackled (as co-narcissists: got all the attention that my ex mustered showcasing my achievements and my abilities in ways, which I couldn’t have done. He is a marketing man!). And then it was all gone…in a day…then as time went by and I was in R mode for next 1-2 years…I discovered his other abusive side…one similar to CL’s and yours. I always thought whether he was the same person or some UFO had changed him with some other guy…but no…

      My conclusion after sleuthing is:

      “These guys are abusers. The abuse varies but is quite dependent on the pair and their kids as well. For example: chumps and “dependencies” (what we chumps consider being in LOVE as well) of chump, the position (power imbalance between the two partner: both initial and trend), the position of chump & kid (absolute: mothers/ fathers with smaller kids are at greater risk as well as kids themselves, financial position), the kind of support system of abuser (his/her friends, relatives and status) are some of the key predictors of this abusive index.

      If chumps know these predictors and how they are working in their individual case, they can work on some of them to work through their getting out, separation or divorce and also save their kids.

      • Definitely, my friend’s case (and your similar one) was *very* hurtful & horrible. I can’t imagine how devastating it would be to have a seemingly wonderful life/marriage and then have it all cave in, in one day. In my case, I was actually a little bit relieved on dday because it was my ticket out of the marriage – I didn’t have to put up with bad behavior anymore. In that sense, I did a bit of the grieving process ahead of time. I was also kind of relieved when I found out about the cheating because it showed me that I wasn’t crazy (as my husband’s gaslighting tried to show). Two reasons to be relieved on dday, and it was a silver lining on that dark day. I was grateful for it.

    • “During the reality-check after dday, I thought back to all the people I knew personally who had been chumped, and processed that info to try and make sense of it. Did they hurt as much as I was hurting? Were they as devestated, more or less?”

      Reminds me of Emily Dickinson’s I Measure Every Grief I Meet.

      I measure every Grief I meet
      With narrow, probing, eyes –
      I wonder if It weighs like Mine –
      Or has an Easier size.
      And though I may not guess the kind –
      Correctly – yet to me
      A piercing Comfort it affords
      In passing Calvary –

      To note the fashions – of the Cross –
      And how they’re mostly worn –
      Still fascinated to presume
      That Some – are like my own –

  • I agree with everyone else. Pain is pain, but it comes in different forms.

    My ex didn’t beat me. He didn’t yell in my face. He never physically struck me.

    But he did make backhanded jokes about how “stupid” I was. He made jokes (that seemed to only be funny to him) about terrible things happening to me. He gaslighted, blameshifted, guilted…all the things in the narcissist handbook. He made me feel like I didn’t deserve anything better and I was terrified that if I didn’t have him, I would die alone. He destroyed my self-esteem and I became co-dependent. My existence was one giant effort to please him, and it always seemed like there was nothing I could do that was ever good enough. I did things I really didn’t want to do out of fear of what his reaction would be. I had to beg him for 5 minutes of attention away from his computer screen or game controller.

    When we finally split, I spent 7 months in therapy. Un-doing all the damage. Thankfully I was in therapy when I discovered one of the other women he’d been hiding from me. He tried to tell me he’d only been with her for a few weeks, but (unlike his jokes would suggest) I’m not stupid and did the math. The timeline didn’t add up. I found out he’d been hiding her from me for much longer than that.

    But even if he hadn’t been lying to me about that OW in particular, I found out there were many more, so the one I caught hardly seemed to matter in the face of all the others.

    Hindsight is 20/20 and looking back on it, it doesn’t surprise me at all. Thinking about my relationship with him is like watching a movie of someone else’s life.

    So did he beat me? Hit me? Throw me around? No. Did he abuse me? Yes. Did it hurt? Absolutely. Sometimes my skin still crawls when I run into him in public.

    • Kara, I agree with all you’ve said. And the last line really struck me. “Sometimes my skin still crawls when I run into him in public.” I never thought of that. I got rid of OW so neither he nor I would ever have to deal with her again. I never thought about having to “run in to him around town.” Guess I will have to get rid of him too. I will just live where he will not be. Pretty easy, now that I think about it. Once I am out of here, I don’t EVER want to see him again, for ANY reason.

  • Yes… pain, is pain, is pain. The pain of betrayal isn’t any harder or easier to deal with than abuse, because it IS abuse. I can tell you that, although I grew up with a home filled with domestic violence (thank you for the broken picker parents!), it wasn’t until Dday that I was genuinely able to understand the pain/ emotions/ chaos of the victims on my caseload. And I have been doing this work for a LOOOOOONG time. Another one of the gifts my cheater has given me… REAL, TRUE empathy for abuse victims I work with.

      • Major empathy, because it frees us from that illusion that these bad things will never happen to us, because we would see the signs, we would handle it differently, we would make sure the person treated us respectfully, we would get out so fast the person’s head would spin, we would get help to protect ourselves …..

        I know that illusion serves a purpose, because it’s damned scarey to recognize that those bad things, and many many others, CAN and MIGHT happen to us, we are not immune for whatever reason (what, cancer, me? No no, I only eat organic, and have a positive attitude!). But the illusion can cause us to be judgemental and superior w/people who truly deserve our empathy.

        I say, let’s save the judgement and superiority for those who DO deserve it, the self-centered jerks!

        • I totally get that. I think part of what kept me in the relationship was me refusing to believe that he really was that bad for me. (I’m thinking about the Trust That They Suck blog CL has here.)

          I kept telling myself “Everything’s fine. He’s not like that. He loves me. He said so. If I just stopped bugging him about the porn. If I just let him have friends. If I just wasn’t in his way all the time. He’s the best I’ve ever had and the best I’ll ever get. I should feel lucky that I’m not like other girls who’s boyfriends cheat on them all the time.”

          If I just…If I just…If I just…

          If I had just realized that he was a piece of shit and I didn’t deserve any of it and none of that bullshit was my fault.

          • Kara, I am so glad I am over all the bull shit. I bought it and bought. I was so in love and so trusting. A Narc will get all the attention they can and when it is not enough (it never is) they look elsewhere untill they find someone else who will give them another share. We must all have time to ourselves, time for thought and reflection, time to just “be.” Here is a quote from Bell Hooks, “Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be along, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.” A narc is incapable of being solitary, true for any cheater. Unfortunately, when they cheat, they leaves us chumps without ANYone and as a result, we end up in the “solitary” frame of mind and crave the love we are missing. Sometimes it takes a long, long time, to gain back that ability to enjoy being solitary. It is not easy, but it is necessary. Eventually, we will learn once again, to be solitary and be fine with it, but only in that it will allow us, once again, to be able to love another, without using them as an escape.

  • I also think that the cheating and the physical threats my ex made against me are part and parcel, all cut from the same cloth.

    “I am entitled to whatever I want, and if you’re not giving me enough ego kibbles, or are making me feel bad about my behaviour, I can do WHATEVER I want (whether it’s an affair, violence, cold sulking …) in reaction to that. Because I am entitled to the kibbles, and I’m entitled to any kind of rage or revenge if I’m not getting them. Any effect those reactions have on any others (you, the kids, my mother, the OW) is irrelevant, because I am ENTITLED.”

  • Karen just summed up Lundy Bancroft’s book, “Why Does He Do That?” (Like off this site, above.)

    Sad, but true.

      • It’s very good. In a way, it conveys a disappointing result. Part of us would like to think that these narcissistic characters are very complex, are hurting from childhood wounds, are under pressure, etc. etc. ad nauseum. In the end, however, Bancroft shows that such folks are really rather empty and shallow. That often they just do bad stuff because they think it’s OK, they think that they are entitled.

        I believe that some of them are faking lots of their emotions, imitating what they see in others but not really feeling things. Now, they do feel a narcissistic rage when challenged or when questioned. But they have no sense of reciprocity, which is why they can get very angry when you question them, but they have no sense that you might be hurt by something they do. In fact, if you do mention that you are hurt, they will dismiss/minimize it. “You’re being over-sensitive.”

        They are also delusional, which helps them in denial. So, if you bring something up, they will deny it happened or its significance.

        Anyway, Bancroft’s book is good. He focuses on physical abusers. But, if my memory serves me right, he basically concludes that they do not have deep self-conscious reasons for what they do. Yes, they probably grew up in abusive families, but they left the suffering little kid they may once have been behind them long ago. Now they have hardened hearts and a thoroughgoing sense of entitlement. They can minimize others’ pain and just get away with whatever they can.

        This is a good article on narcissistic fathers.

        I don’t necessarily agree with all of it. The author seems to think that it might be worth it to deal with such people. Well, maybe. But I wonder about that. Even so, he really points out some interesting aspects to the problem, like the Dad whose idea of “spending time” with the kids means spending time while doing on of Dad’s hobbies. It sounds incidental, but I think it’s a real red flag as to what a person might be dealing with, if you are a Mom or a kid or an adult child of such folks.

        • David, I think you described it perfectly. It would not matter who or what I was to him, it would never be enough. He just uses people up and moves on to the next ones. So tired of baby sitting. Can’t wait to get out of here. SOOOOO over this.

          • Interesting info in the Psych Today article, thanks David. And rings so many bells here. Before the separation, we took multiple vacations to where the ex’s father lives. Beautiful place, but it got boring and annoying for the kids, especially as they got older and their interests changed. They told us very clearly that they didn’t want to go there again for a while. (And none of us are close to the ex’s father – narcissistic abusive adulterous ass that he is. The tree wasn’t growing far from the apple in this case.) Last winter the ex went there by himself (and paid a fortune, booked it last minute). Fast forward to early this year, the ex starts planning vacation time with the kids, and just assumes he’ll take them there again, at the time he prefers. And is all astounded when they refuse! And doesn’t suggest anything else.

            Now he’s going to take them for … can you guess? A long weekend in the city where the OW lives!!!!! Fortunately the kids like going there, lots of fun stuff to do, and don’t mind that it means they’ll probably meet the OW (who they don’t know is an OW, just daddy’s girlfriend). It’s actually quite impressive how he plans his time w/the kids around his interests and wishes.

            I just keep reminding myself – kids need one sane parent, kids need one sane parent. And I keep thanking whichever gods intervene in these things that in my jurisdiction (Quebec), from age 12, the KID chooses how much time they spend w/each parent. (Because prior to that age, the default is 50% of their time w/mom, 50% w/dad.) Surprise surprise, our kids have chosen to spend 85% of their time w/me – quite spontaneously. And the only time the ex half-heartedly protested was in a period when HE was feeling lonely. Sigh.

            • Thanks Karen and Yoder.

              I often contribute as “Chump Son.”

              On this tendency of taking vacations that fit the parent, I have a few words.

              My father was a big hunter. He had some good father qualities (though I suspect that many of them do), but he was also an “air raid siren screamer” and quite difficult. In any case, he was a hunter. He wanted me to become a hunter.

              In high school, I became fascinated with politics. I also was an avid wrestler and an enthusiastic comic book collector.

              So, what did I get for my birthday? A shotgun.

              Now, to be fair, my father always said to me, “That’s your gun.” But the point is he could only give a gift that he would have wanted. I wrestled three years in high school, all four in college, and coached for six years. How many matches did he attend? One. Just one.

              And yet, I think he was utterly oblivious of this oversight. Were he still with us, he’d be perplexed at this criticism.

              The key with kids is to support them in what THEY do (so long as it’s not unreasonable/dangerous). Narcissists can’t do that. So, now I have a shotgun. Actually my brother has it. I have no interest in hunting. (I’m not against hunting, but it’s just not my thing.) And I have a shotgun.

              A smarter father would have gone to a comic book convention with me, or asked me how I could have improved my wrestling.

              I hope this doesn’t sound like whining. Honestly, some of the “air raid siren” nights he gave us were very difficult (yelling for hours about how hard he worked, how he suffered, etc.) I think, however, that this symptom of the dad (small “d” is purposeful) who can’t think of needs aside from his own is a key indicator. The real Dads (capital D is purposeful) are those who can sit in the stands of a sport that does not interest them, who can go through a piano recital (even if they were never musical), who can go to the school play, or whatever and AFFIRM their kids for who THE KIDS are.

              So, hobbyholism in men is a sign of narcissism, if you ask me.

              My two cents.

              Chump Son

              • In reading your post it reminded me of a present my husband gave me: a sewing machine. Now outside of Home EC in grade school I have never sewn, have no patience or interest in it. When I asked him why a sewing machine he said”Well my grandmother had one” It sits to this day in the basement unused.

              • David, I understand your growing up with lower case dad. Mine was tops, it is my mother that is still a problem and she is 95. Hasn’t spoken to me in years. In her mind I am worthless, haven’t accomplished anything, and so on. The first Easter Sunday I went to church wearing hells, nylons, white gloves and a hat, she said, “You look like a little girl playing dress up.” That’s just one of the many gems I remember. By the way, I was a teenager.

              • Interesting, David. My STBX is a hobbyholic. He flits from hobby to hobby, completely engrossed in each one. For a while, he collected action figures. He thought I should collect something, so he got me horse figurines to collect (I am not a collector, though I do like china and crystal–and those would have been nice gifts!). He started taking water color lessons, so of course I got painting supplies. Recently, he’s joined a fraternal organization. The ladies’ ancillary group runs a monthly breakfast. We attended a couple of times last summer. This was before Dday. We’ve not attended since, but my suspicion is that he doesn’t want to be seen in public with me anymore, since it would raise awkward questions with his lodge brothers if he were seen with OW and with me. If he’s seen with OW, they’ll assume she’s me.

                He assumes that I’ll want to do his activities, but the reverse is not true. I’d not thought of this as a kind of narcissism before, but yes, it is.

        • thank you for this article. Makes me want to send it to my ex. He’s so delusional maybe he’d think I’m ONLY sending it because his dad is a big narcissist. Not because he is also one 🙂 At least my ex does seem to be less of one than his father. I guess that’s good. Maybe my kids stand a chance! And because I actually stopped enabling my ex and walked away they stand a chance. I was never as good of an enabler as his completely selfless mother anyway.

          My favorite selfish parenting acts that my ex does are how he complains and talks to me about how much he MISSES the boys (I worry he says it too much to them as well and possibly guilt trips them). How depressed he is on Sundays when they leave and how empty he is… and then the weekends he gets them he goes and plays his regular soccer game (couldn’t possibly switch leagues to play on a different night of the week) and then the next day he’ll take them to the Y so they can be watched while he works out. And most times he also takes them to the in-laws so they can help with them and now that it’s warm out he also just leaves them completely in their care to go jet-skiing. It’s just another example of how they SAY one thing and DO another. As much as I can, I try to organize my schedule around the kids schedule. Not the other way around. Sometimes it’s not possible (especially because I have them much more). But the visitation schedule is set and he agreed to it… I don’t know why he can’t do this stuff on the 70% of the time he doesn’t have them. He is completely unwilling to change his schedule for anyone else, even for his own kids that he MISSES SO MUCH and doesn’t get to see everyday.

          Sorry, went on a bit of a ranting tangent there…

          • I’m so sorry your kids will grow up with this, anotherErica! I hope that with time they figure their dad out, because it’s got to feel icky to the kid that their dad does this number on missing them, then clearly makes choices that mean he spends less time with them. I don’t badmouth their dad to my kids, but in all sorts of OTHER situations, I point out that we need to watch what people DO, not just what they say … hoping they’ll learn to apply it where it will most help them!

            At the time of our separation, the ex happily accepted a custody suggestion that leaves the kids with me 80% of the time. A few months later, he was calling and texting the kids really often for a few days. I said, in my usual cheery ‘trying to encourage a good relationship with their dad’ voice, “oh, papa must be missing you”. To which my son, 12 years old at the time, replied “papa really misses us when HE’s lonely.”

            One sane parent, one sane parent!

            • Do not spackle the actions of a deficient dad. Do not criticize. The actions will speak for themselves.

              The good Dads and the good Step-Dads (and there ARE some out there) are the one who will sit in the stands and watch the girls basketball game, who will sit through the piano recital, who will watch the dance performance and who will say afterward: “Fantastic. You did great!” Or they may say, “Hey, you didn’t win this time, but you did your best!” Believe it or now, there are folks out there who are capable of being interested in people for being people and who do not have to have their own interests mirrored in whatever they do.

              A good test, if you are thinking of getting involved with someone, would be to test them REPEATEDLY with invites to support your children in the children’s activities. Some folks, the people-oriented ones, really take joy in that.

              Just a suggestion. When divorced with children, you search — not for a partner who sparkles — but one who could be a good Dad. They do exist.

              • David – good suggestions, but I have to say the thought of anyone else being involved with my kids freaks me out more than anything. Like I do literally freak out when these dating site guys mention meeting my kids. (although I think I’m right to be freaked in that case since I barely know those guys and I think they are just saying it for the convenience factor). I guess at some point I won’t want to keep those two parts separate, but for now I do. Like far far away separate. The thought of my kids having to deal with any more change or getting attached to someone only to lose them or anything like that kills me. Sure, they’re resilient, I just don’t want them to have to be. I know that if I were to get serious with someone it would have to be with someone that I think would be a good dad. I guess I am just not ready to get serious yet. I complain about not meeting any “good” guys… but then if I met that guy right now I wonder if I would just try to run away?! hmmm, something to bring up to therapist at next tune-up?

            • I just wonder what is going to happen when, gasp!, the CHILDREN actually have their own activities. Will dad be able to step up then? Sources point to no.

              • anotherErica,

                You are totally right to be skeptical and protective. Some guys out there will know that a single Mom is likely to be looking for a good Dad, so they will act that way. Their goal is much more short-term.

                At the same time, you have every right to take your time. A person not only has to find someone good, but that person has to be ready for a serious relationship. If you are not ready, you are not. Nothing to apologize for. Take your time.

                That said, there may well be good partners/good Dads out there. There are. But there is no rush. As CL says, take time to refine your picker. You are definitely on the right track. There is no need to apologize for being cautious. You are doing the right thing.

          • Erica,

            You are not ranting. You are just expressing yourself, and you have every right to do so.

            This concept of “father-entitlement” comes from tradition and from the NPD personality disorder. I find it amazing to think that fathers think that their kids “owe” them something. Heck, the kids did not create themselves, they were created! We, as parents, have to support our kids. Now, I know that some kids can be difficult, and there may be cases where we have to say, “Enough is enough!” But those are relatively rare cases. In most instances, we should be grateful to have kids and pleased as punch to sit through their plays, dance recitals, piano performances, wrestling matches, you-name-it. If we are not, then we are not being good parents. Period.

            I think we should look for partners who want to do this, who take pleasure in helping/encouraging others, who understand that, in life, we are just little links in a long chain and that our job is not to glorify ourselves, but to reinforce the next link in the chain, our children.

            My two cents.

            Chump Son (a.k.a. David)

            • I’ve met a few nice guys through Match (and a few creeps, but so far they’ve been pretty obvious!). One of them just told me last week, on a second date, that he wanted me to know that he’s not looking for a full-time, let’s-move-in-together girlfriend, because he has a 13 year old son (as well as a 19 yr old) who is his priority, and will be for quite a while. He wants to have a girlfriend he could see like once a week, do some e-mailing or texting, spend the occasional no-kids weekend away. He was so relieved when I said that was exactly what I was looking for, and that it would take me a long time to mix any boyfriend w/my kids. Nice to know there really are people who will understand our reluctance and slow pace!

              And it’s a legit concern that your kids meet a new partner, enjoy their company, get attached, and then that relationship ends and it’s one more loss in their young lives.

              A friend of mine who has her now-12-year-old daughter half-time found a solution that works great for her. She separated from her daughter’s father when their child was 8. She started dating a great guy shortly thereafter, but really really didn’t want to complicate her daughter’s life w/a stepfather, or her own w/all those complications. But her boyfriend, who had waited so patiently, did want to spend more time with her! So after several years, when it was clear the relationship was going to last, she and her boyfriend (whose kids are grown) bought an up-and-down duplex. She and her daughter live on the main floor, he’s in the upper. When she has her daughter, they see him quite infrequently. When she doesn’t, she can spend much of her down time w/him – but still have her home, and her independence. Sounds like a hell of a deal, to me!

              • Good for you Karen! I am no where near dating, or even wanting to, but I love hearing about someone who wants to put his daughter first! In fact, I greatly admire ALL the guys on this site that share, they are out there apparently! 🙂

              • yes, I am glad to know there are guys out there that are looking for the relationship to progress slowly. I knew there must be, I just haven’t met one yet! But it’s probably better this way… had to meet some other guys so that I could start to better figure out what I’m looking for and refine my picker (as everyone agrees we chumps need to do!).

              • Karen,

                I don’t know this guy, but I like his priorities! If he puts his kids first, he’s doing the right thing. This is certainly a good sign!


            • I find this notion of how fathers think their sons “owe” them something very interesting. My STBX very much has an exchange mentality. This past weekend, I had relatives over for a couple of days. STBX bought the fixings for a fairly expensive surf and turf meal. The relatives thanked him for the meal, complimented him on the food (I fixed it, of course), and made appreciative noises about the extravagance. Ever since they left, he’s been talking about how he hoped they appreciated the meal, that it was expensive, etc.

              This kind of attitude used to irritate me. I know that some people fixate on the dollar amount, but I’ve always appreciated just the gift. I’ve spackled over when the gift has been awful (the “special” meal courtesy of the local supermarket’s carry out section comes to mind). Hey, it’s the intention that counts, right?

              Now I see his obsession with how much he’s spent on the gift as part of his entitlement. He spent X much money. He’s entitled to X much admiration for spending that money. If he doesn’t get as much ego kibble as he thinks he’s entitled to, then he’s entitled to compensatory action.

              Like having an affair.

        • David, reading this makes me realise that my ex FIL is also an N. The whole family skeeves me out, to be honest. I can’t believe I spackled them all for so long.

  • I could be wrong on this. But, I think if you really had access to the cheater’s past, in most cases you would see that the qualities that led to cheating were always there. Thye hide this stuff fromyou during courtship.
    I also think that , with a few exceptions, cheaters have to have some type of personality disorder. I do not think it possible for a normal person to live such a dishonest life and sleep at night, like the cheaters do.

  • I went to amazon and looked at your book, Yoder. I will order it , as the guy seems pretty fascinating. Football playe with a scholarship to Oklahoma becomes a sought after studio fiddler who meets some of Charles Manson’s group- amazing life.

    • Arnold, I really was not trying to hype the book. Bless your heart. Just spit it out before I really thought about what I was doing. Chump Lady, forgive me. Byron is truly a fascinating study of intenseness.

        • He has been married since the sixties and happily so. Been one of my friends for three decades. Hoping to get h well enough I can be gone for a while because I will be shooting a documentary after the first of the year. As I said, I am doing everything I can to keep busy and build a new life. Can’t wait to get out of here. AND I really am working on a screenplay about how I got rid of OW. The more I work on it, the funnier it gets and ashamedly, I just well with pride that I actually pulled it off. It is almost therapeutic. No, it IS therapeutic. It was just days after Dday and I was so angry, made, hurt. By the way, the subject of the book was in The Rose with Bett Midler.

  • Okay, so how does a guy (or gal) get away with doing these things over and over to different women? Is there ever any chance for the exes to warn the new people?

    • Actually, I am from another state and thus, hometown as h, so I don’t know a lot of his friends, which would make it difficult for me to do so. I want him as far away as possible and know nothing further about who he sees or what he does.

      If we were from here, it would be easier, but you risk having it back fire on you. Basically, if they are already in love, the ow would not believe you.

    • The problem is these people are such good liars. Any story you hear was made up by a bitter ex, pity the poor sausage.

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