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Dear Chump Lady, Sex with the STBX?

Dear Chump Lady,

What do you think of sex with the STBX? I’ve lost weight and am looking pretty good. I want him to see and feel (with a condom) what he is missing. To fuck with him the way he did with me all these years. Thoughts?


Dear Nomorechit,

I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole. It’s very un-meh, and will really set back your healing. Besides, rewarding a cheater with sex is essentially just another form of the “Pick Me” dance. You tell yourself that, oh no, it’s different, because in your fantasy, you’re going to dump him. Hah! He’ll be dancing to YOUR tune now!

Really, why do you think he’d dance? Because he’s your “soon” to be ex? Oh no, he’s really going to lose you now! So maybe he’ll value you more? Because you’re thinner? He’s already shown you how much he values you by cheating on you — your BMI doesn’t change that. You think you’re going to “fuck” with him, but having sex with him just reinforces his centrality. To him AND to you.

Having sex with your STBX or ex is just the bargaining stage of grief, IMO. You tell yourself nonsense like, oh, I’ll fuck with HIM and see how he likes it. (He’ll like it very much. Cake is delicious.) Or, you think, well, I can’t have a marital relationship with this person, but maybe I can use them as a “friend with benefits.” (Bargaining.) You know, just downgrade the relationship. But lurking in there is the thought that it will be So Amazing, your belly will be so flat and your arms so un-jiggly that He Will See What He Is Missing and chase you for once.

Pray to God that doesn’t happen. When you’re trying to get one of these wingnuts out of your life, the LAST thing you want is for them to pursue you with a new ardor. (Ask me how I know.) It’s a dance we do with the disordered — the whole cycle of abuse. You’re missing your honeymoon stage of the cycle,  when it’s intense and the laser beam of sparkles is focused right on YOU, and the make up sex is mind blowing. Of course what follows is the devaluing, and then tension builds, and he’ll act abusively again, and try and make it up to you with more honeymooning.

You’re telling yourself, this time it will be different. You’ll get all the goodies without having to put up with the rest of the crappy cycle. Go ahead, devalue me! Cheat! I won’t care this time!

Of course you’ll care. Your head will be full of happy, love neurotransmitters from the sex. You’ll bond. It will still hurt like a motherfucker when he inevitably cheats on you or treats you like shit again. Don’t kid yourself. You aren’t a disordered person, you’re a chump. You can’t be like them and you shouldn’t want to be like them — using and abusing people.

Consider too if your wingnut is a Borderline or Narcissist Personality that the relationship has the quality of addiction. Read this fantastic article about breaking up with one of these wingnuts here by Randi Kreger at Psychology Today.  (Part 2 is here.) She specifically discusses how intense these relationships are and how our belief systems keep us stuck. Here’s another good article from the man’s perspective by Roger Melton, which specifically discusses how BPDs use sex as a weapon to keep you hooked.

Put down the crack pipe. And save your thinner, healthier self for a partner who deserves you.

Ask Chump Lady

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  • Thank you for this one CL! I really needed this one today!

    Ive recently discussed with my therapist that my Ex is Borderline (he has 7 of the 9 traits) and those articles are completely true! U always was worried that maybe Im reading him wrong or what if it is that easy? How can I really KNOW that this is his issue instead of just his issue with me? But these articles spelled it out exactly how it worked.

    The way the relationship worked absolutely makes you addicted to it. It is so incredible and they are so amazing and caring and there is this insane connection and then we would start fighting more and then everything changed and he would inevitibly cheat. It became a game of figuring out how to get back to good. And when he would come back, everything was amazing… until the next time or the next girl.

    I can honestly say I am concerned that I wont find my next relationship stimulating enough because of all the ups and downs Im used to. Ive never been a dramatic person, never really had any except him. I used to run away from it. Now I can honestly say I think Im bored because I have nothing to worry about, so I still worry about him. Not healthy at all really.

    What I would find interesting to find out is what type of personality would work with these BPDs? I wonder if their SO didnt make them the center of their world or brushed off their moods if that would help them calm down or be more successful in.

    • Oh and Nomorechit,

      Been there and done that for 7 years. It will definitely make him want you back, for a time. Itll definitely make you feel like you are on top and have the upperhand because he will think exactly what you are wanting him to, for a time. Then your feelings will start putting thoughts back into your head and what you thought you were doing for revenge, will turn into actual loving feelings for him again. But then the new sex becomes not so new and you will do something wrong and he will start searching again and you will be right where you were before. It will give you that high that you are looking for but you will ultimately crash and burn. Believe me.

    • Kristina,

      You wrote: “I am concerned that I wont find my next relationship stimulating enough because of all the ups and downs I’m used to.”

      I wouldn’t waste much time worrying about this. My first marriage wasn’t to a borderline but instead to a sociopath (no empathy or remorse and generally a “flat affect” but plenty of gaslighting); however, my sense from my last 3 years in a good marriage is that you will adjust much quicker than you expect. It just feels *too good* not to, like adjusting to a Thanksgiving feast after years of hardtack and bilge water. Okay, so maybe borderlines throw in an occasional cupcake, but really, isn’t that outweighed by the projectile vomiting caused by their rages and hyper-criticism?

      This analogy has clearly been over extended, but you get the point. Being treated well . . . feels good. You adjust. You find yourself whispering “thank you” over and over in your head, but you adjust.

    • No one works with BPDs. They’re seriously mentally ill and IMO incapable of healthy relationships. I wouldn’t bet my hopium on them getting “cured” to be a decent partner. I think all you can do is detach with love and recognize that you’ve got an addiction problem with a bad person.

      Will your next relationship be stimulating enough? I don’t know. Life is probably a lot more boring when you’re not high on cocaine. But then again, you don’t blow through all your money and die of an overdose either. Be alone for awhile and get healthy. Then I think you’ll be able to appreciate a healthy partner and you won’t miss the drama.

      If the highs are highs, remind yourself — the lows are lower.

      • Thanks Nomar and CL!

        Being alone is probably the best for me at this point I just have no clue how. I have not gone more than 5 days without talking to him. Im so used to taking care of someone else I dont know what to do with my time and I find focusing on myself somewhat boring.

        Its hard to find out who you are again. When I look in the mirror I dont see me, I see a caretaker for him. I find myself getting panicy when I go places fearing that I will run into him and his soon to be baby momma.

        I do admit, when we first cut things completely off because of her I cried in relief and thought to myself, “Im free. I have nothing that is worrisome, I dont have to worry about if hes going to get hurt or if there is something I can do to control it[he knew I had a fear of death and would sometimes make comments when he was in one of his moods that he feels like he is going to get into a crash and knows he wont live past 40 which would put me into a tailspin. He would then get angry at me for the reaction he knew I would have, making sure hes ok all the time, etc]. I can go out of town again with my family and friends and not get anxiety that hes going to use this time to cheat on me. I can do what I want and there will be no setbacks just because Im happy”. It was this relief that I hadnt felt in a while, but then it went away when I found out about her being pregnant. Started worrying about him shaping up for the baby and being this great Dad I thought he would have been to my children.

        I like the line,”If the highs are highs, remind yourself — the lows are lower.” Its the truth.

        Nomar, I truly hope that happens for me, that I find someone that gives at least half of what I gave to him (not to take away that he did great things for me when he was in the happy moods but it all went away when he cheated and what not).

        Therapy has taught me that I am somewhat brainwashed because I dont even believe my own experiences when it came to us. He would say thats not how it happened you didnt listen or understand and I would just believe, what a master manipulator and justifier he was!

        • “Being alone is probably the best for me at this point I just have no clue how. I have not gone more than 5 days without talking to him. I’m so used to taking care of someone else I don’t know what to do with my time and I find focusing on myself somewhat boring. ”

          People who have just sent their last kid to college feel like that too. After 18 some years you realize just how much of your time and energy has been spent taking care of him or her. Likewise someone who has just retired feel relief that “ahh, I don’t have to wake up at seven every morning, don’t need to deal with that jerk in the cubical to my left, never again deal with a costumer who takes out their bad mood on me.” Then there are hours of quiet and “what am I doing with my life?”

          To both types of people I say, fill the time. Volunteer at an animal shelter or boys and girls club. Take up marathon bike riding or join a knitting circle. Write that novel or learn to sky dive. Do something that is productive and makes you feel good about yourself. Get on a schedule, release your caring nature in a healthy, positive way. Go to a retirement home and just visit with people for a while – rejoin the world in a new way. Fill your weekends and down time with healthy outlets.

        • You raised a fear about being bored with a normal, healthy relationships.

          I remember a cheap steakhouse chains when I was a kid, based on the premise that if you can’t sell a quality cut of meat at a cheap price, sell the sizzle.

          Of course, the more gristle and fat on a cut, the greater the sizzle on the grill.

          Sparkle/sizzle appeals to the senses in the moment. If I was twelve all my life I still might be eating there. But–medium and defintely long-term–I know that sizzle is a is not a good thing.

          My ex sure sizzled. And, metaphorically, I spent awful years in the outhouse between meals. I pay more attention to my health now. Where my ex had sizzle, my partner has soul and grace. Once you develop a taste for the good stuff, you do not wish to go back.

          Poor choices are habits that can be broken. Tastes evolve when we open up to new experiences. Put the old habits in the trash.

          • Great steak analogy. The sizzle does not make the steak. Glad you found a partner with soul and grace.

    • If a person w/ NOT TOO SEVERE Borderline PD is getting VERY GOOD, specialized treatment, and either their family or their significant other or best of all both are very very calm people who can avoid taking the ups and downs seriously, and can set clear, calm limits, it can go a bit better. But it’s never easy!

      And Kristina L, what you’ve described in your ex is quite severe BPD, without treatment. That is never going to be better!

      • Well if it makes any Difference the lady whi got pregnant by him is a therapist… But she must not be that good to get info,ved with him… And I’m guessing the fact that he was telling me that he loves me AFTER he found out she was preggos is a good indication they are set up for failure 🙂

      • Good lord, with all of the reading I’ve done on psychology recently I never knew what BPD is. I thought it meant bi-polar disorder. I read where people talked about “borderlines” but I thought they just meant bordering on disordered. I finally realized borderline personality disorder is an actual thing this morning reading the two articles that CL linked. I read the Wikipedia article and instantly diagnosed my wife (in a completely unqualified way of course). I swear I used to be halfway smart.

        • It’s a huge revelation when you look at that checklist and go ‘yes, yes, yes, yes … OMG!’ That’s what finally happened when I recognized my ex was a huge narcissist. I was familiar w/that diagnosis, but hadn’t connected it to him because the narcissists I had known were very sparkly, very charming. My ex got by on good looks and sheer brainpower, but his social skills really aren’t very good. And I hadn’t realized that the arrogance could take some weird forms …

          I’ve found it much easier to trust that my ex sucks, now that I can ‘unofficially’ diagnose him – it’s made me aware how deep the problem runs, and how little chance there is (uh, NONE) that he will change. It’s also made me realize that it wasn’t that he didn’t understand certain things – he just didn’t care!

        • Hey HB,
          I have also diagnosed my ex-Husband as a BPD (unqualified of course). While BPD females might be irresistible, BPD males score higher. Casanova was probably a BPD!!! Yes. It is so much like it that you might forget after living with one for years that what it was like to have real men around…:)

  • You sort of want to “punish” him by showing him what he’s missing, but it sounds like you kind of want him to realize his error and beg to have you back…?

    First of all, he’s not going to be “missing” anything if you’re still having sex with him.

    Second, I agree with CL. He will say yes to the sex, but then the abuse cycle will begin again. No belly will be flat enough for him, no abs chiseled enough. And besides, he will still seek *new* sex, which is more exhilerating, anyhow. You can’t ever compete with that.

    You think you can have sex with him without getting hurt…..sounds unlikely. Sex and emotions go together, for most people. Pretty hard to separate those, especially for us chumps, who tend to be compassionate and caring in the first place. Sounds like a good way to mess with you own emotions, in the long run.

    Remember, too, that even with a condom, you can catch all kinds of nasty things from a promiscious spouse. Herpes…..crabs…..etc…..gross. Plus, has he showered after his latest booty call? He could be covered with microscopic particles from his lunch-time quickie with the OW. Gross.

    Speaking from personal experience… with the STBX is demoralizing. After dday, during false R, our marriage counselor told us that it would be “good for us” to have sex. So I did. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Emotionally painful, devaluing. As it turns out, it was dangerous, too (since he was still cheating, although it took awhile to realize this!), for the reasons mentioned above.

  • Absolutely agree 100%, CL.

    One of the very first signs of an affair is the cheater’s withdrawal from sex. Overnight, you go from regular sex to no sex. Now, they probably aren’t banging their AP anywhere near as frequently as you two had sex, but illicit sex is so different, so spicy, so risky. It’s a drug, and because they can’t get it, they can’t get enough of it. It consumes their waking thoughts. You don’t stand a chance.

    Losing weight isn’t going to change that. After Dday, I decided I needed options, which I would get only with a better paying job. To enhance my chances of landing that job, I needed to look more “professional,” especially since my job at the time allowed me to dress very casually. I decided to do something about the 50lbs I’d gained over the past decade, and since I had relatives who also needed to lose weight, we clubbed together a support group and, over the course of about 6 months, we each lost about 50lbs. In the meantime, I did get the better job.

    Am I more attractive to STBX? Hell no!

    OW is 3 inches shorter and outweighs me by over 10lbs from when I was at my heaviest. In his eyes, she’s really HOT.

    That’s the fantasy. To a certain extent, the fantasy exists in even healthy marriages. See that couple who’ve been married for 50 years and still look at each other with that sparkle? They’re not looking at the flabby arms, the muffin top, the paunch, the bald spot. But they still look at each other with desire. That’s what we wish our cheater would do with us.

    Unfortunately, the reality is that the cheater’s checked out a long time ago. There is nothing as exciting as illicit sex. The thrill if they get caught, the danger–all of that adds a lot of spice. You can’t compete, and you shouldn’t try. Nor should you have to.

    CL is right; you’re trying out a variation of the “pick me” dance, attempting to show your STBX that you’re oh so much better than OW that he’d be a fool to give it all up. Well, he’s already a fool, since he’s probably not getting it as much as he was with you. But you don’t have to be a fool, too.

    Remember, he didn’t cheat because you weren’t attractive; he cheated because he could. If he can have his fantasy of great sex with OW and great sex with you, well, he’s clearly doing the right thing. Cake and kibbles!

    Dump him to the curb. Live well. After you do the therapy, and after you meet someone who clearly deserves you, you’ll be happy. Everyone will tell you you look happy.

    And him? He’ll still be a cheater.

    • Also, CL, the article on the BPD from the male point of view is really interesting. From what I’ve seen of OW’s communications with my STBX, she’s got a lot of those signs. Wow, karma will be swift and sure once I’m out of the picture!

      • As I read the article, I definitely recognized a lot of the BPD traits in my wife and the codependent traits in me 🙁 but what was really striking was thinking about her messages with other guys recently. She goes on about how each of them really gets her and no one else does and she asks for advice on silly things that take no thought but she fawns over their answers like they were Einstein.

        • I heard the same. Her FB understands her. It comes naturally to him. I can’t imagine what those conversations were about. Of course he is going to agree with you. He wants what she’s got and is offering.

          Speaking of Einstein wasn’t he a bit off? Smart, but off a couple of notches?

          • Most brilliant people, the true geniuses, aren’t playing with the same deck of cards.

          • Gross! I just read about Einstein and he was a total pig! One more hero bites the dust.

        • Hey HB,
          I can’t stop laughing at everything you are saying about this discovery of BPD traits in your wife and their correlation with her activities. Hahaha…exactly. My ex talked to 3 women on the same day. He made each of them feel very special. He made them feel related to him in a special way. He would share his very small and inconsequential problems with each and get their perspectives and suggestions. Really.
          But, then – This was exactly how he made me feel special also. Anna, which shirt should I wear today and whether this tie goes with it? what should I tell this customer, who is getting over my head? what should we gift to this colleague? I mean, yes. That is how you make your spouse feel important, isn’t it?
          To learn his interactions with other women was disgusting. It is like you are operated upon. But that sunk thorn had to be operated upon. Today, I know. Beware of these guys. They are irresistible. So, they are DANGEROUS!

  • Let’s see… sex with somebody who treats me like crap? Blech!

    No, move on.

  • He’ll be thrilled to fuck you. He’ll also be thrilled to continue fucking the AP. In fact, with BOTH of you competing for his attention, it’ll be better than ever. For him. Not so much for you.

    Don’t do it. You are guaranteeing yourself heartbreak, a longer time eating the shit sandwich and the pain of ripping off the scab over and over, instead of letting it heal.

  • Well thought out and well said, CL. Thank you and my fellow Chumpies for saving me from the consequences of a poor decision. from my heart, nmc

    • Nmc, the desire for revenge is a very human one.

      I think that all of us would really like to demonstrate to our cheaters that they made the wrong decision. We’d really love for the scales to fall from their eyes, to see that really, we were the best thing that ever happened to them. And the revenge part would be to say, “you can’t touch that.”

      I think that part of the shit sandwich we Chumps have to swallow is the sure and certain knowledge that our cheaters don’t really care about whether we’re better than their FBs. All they care about are those ego kibbles. And cake.

  • Maybe it is me, but I couuld never understand the hysterical bonding deal described in reconcilliation. And, I really cannot understand the urge to have sex with someone who is actively cheating on me.
    No way am I making myself vulnerable to a predator/abuser like a cheater.

  • Super bad idea. If you really want to fuck with his head, get trimmed and toned but don’t let him near you. Ever. Again. Act like you couldn’t care less about sex. It’s just a physiological function anyway. You have other interests he couldn’t possibly understand because he doesn’t think with the big head anyway.

    Keep yourself in the proper frame of mind by playing a CD of good cheating songs — things like “You’re a Hard Dog to Keep Under the Porch” and “Before He Cheats” Those country girls — they get it.

  • Back when I was in big time spackling and pick-me dancing, I spent time on the “Divorce-Busting” site. They considered sex with your estranged spouse (and even ex-spouse) to be a tool for drawing the cheater closer to you. Ugh. I can’t believe I thought that credible advice.

    • Just the thought of sex with the ex makes my skin crawl! Can’t even stand to be in the same room!

    • I read one of her books right after dday. I got so pissed off reading it that I threw it in the trash on my way through an airport. It was two days later that I handed him divorce papers.

  • Don’t think I could do it. Have started to have “meh” moments ( when I started at this site didn’t get it now I do) As we are still living together it is driving him crazy that I just don’t care when he starts his sh-t. “Go argue with yourself” is my line these days.

    • Janet–It’s odd that our situations have so many parallels. I can start to have “meh” moments, too. I know that I am not putting up with his crap forever, and I don’t have to spackle over it, either. I’ve now come to be able to correlate his irritation at me with his fights with OW. I can sweetly say, “oh, gosh! You’re in a bad mood. Did you have a tiff with anyone today?”

      • The OW is the elephant in the room; never spoken of but I know they talk everyday. That does bother me; he’s probabaly nicer to her than me. I am just sort of living my life without him in it. He’s irrated because I don’t react in the same way that I use to. I am very calm because there will come a point where I will lower the boom and he won’t see it coming. And yes it freaks me out how our situations parrallel each other is some ways. (ie: we are both still living with H’s)

  • The interesting thing is my STBX tried this about a month after i went NC..I just hugged her and told her things will be ok. I made it very clear without saying no that I was no longer interested. She wasn’t used to this kind of behavior..The “chump” is saying NO to ME..The sad thing is she totally rejected me sexually and emotionally for a year before we even went to therapy. She wouldn’t even kiss me. In therapy I found out why. The OW. Any way I decided that I needed to loose the weight. I had put on 10lbs by drinking a six pack of Sam Adams every day after I was released by the Mental Health Clinic. The VA said working out and eating regularly were keys to helping with my PTSD. The funny part is she made a comment the other day about me being in shape..I thought to myself why are you being nice? Complimentary, what do you need or want from me now? The thought of having sex with her after the shit she pulled on me makes me nauseous. Like women say you put your dick in that? Nope not me anymore…

    • Like your ex, Ian, mine tried to get a little a few months ago. But it was SO easy to resist that man that I used to find irresistible. Because now I know that the man I loved and desired never existed, and the person that was in front of me that day looking all hopeful doesn’t care even one tiny bit about me, or even that much about our kids, really never did; every little whim, mood and desire of his came before anything else, always.

      I would have loved to let the OW know how fast he was willing to cheat on her! But I’m trying to keep all the drama out of my life, so I resisted ….

  • (Ask me how I know.) <—— made me nearly wet meself laughing 🙂

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