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Warning Signals

DangerWillRobinsonChumps, did anyone warn you? And I don’t even mean about the cheating, but that too of course. Did anyone close to you, a friend, family member, an astute coworker say — this person is bad news. You don’t seem like yourself. I don’t like that guy. I don’t like her. Here’s why. Did they point out the drinking or the unfunny jokes at your expense or  the incoherent, unbelievable stories and say — this is fucked up? Run.

And did it do any good? Did you just have giant reserves of spackle? Did you rally to their defense? Did you isolate yourself? Did you get mad at the messenger? Well, she doesn’t know him like I know him. He’s just jealous, that’s why he’s saying shit. They must have some Other Agenda.

Or, did  you say, I see how you might feel that way, but hey, I have it under control. It’s not what you think.

Or were they just that good that no one ever suspected? Or were you just that disconnected from others?  Your spouse is your first reality check. If that person is gas lighting you, if that relationship is where all your energy goes, it makes sense you wouldn’t hear the warning sirens. And if you’re with a narcissist, well, how dare you have any other God before me? You DARE to doubt the Great and Powerful WIZARD of OZ?

All my friends loved my ex at first glance. He sparkled, but not over the top. Just friendly, engaged, jolly sparkles. Wow, I like him! they told me. And they wanted so badly for me to be happy, and so it wasn’t so hard to see a good person. Because they wanted to see a good person. It’s not hard to make a good first impression if you’re trying, and you’re a practiced sparkly person. A dinner party. An evening. A brief introduction…

But there were some red flags. I didn’t know he was cheating, of course. I wouldn’t have known the signs. Besides, he was so keen! Calling me all the time. Almost too keen really. The biggest red flag was that he would cancel dates at the last minute. Not all the time, but often enough that after several months of this, I dumped him.

And then the Total Onslaught to Win Me Back. Lighting up my phone, calling, apologizing (but not changing as it turns out). And at that juncture — a good, dear friend of mine, Yoma, who is 30 years older than me and a former chump said “Dump him. He’s an abuser. He’s trying to control you.”

That charming man? That attentive, accomplished man who was so very sorry? Wasn’t this just some relationship drama? Everyone has a bit of drama sometimes, right? Just a blip on the ol radar? No, she said. He’s a creep. Dump him. And then she told her friend Alice, who didn’t really know me at all, told her some of the salient details, and Alice said — I dated a guy like that once. This is going to end really badly. You must break up with him.

I’d only shared a small portion of the mindfuck with them. A tiny portion. It was enough. They knew. And I didn’t believe them.

And that was the only warning I got. Everyone else adored him. And the big ray of sparkles shone down on me and I married him. It Had All Been A Big Misunderstanding. Yoma loves me and of course she was exaggerating her concerns. What she saw as controlling, I saw as alpha, type A, a bit driven, yes, a bit of a blowhard, but totally harmless. And okay, he was rough looking for a lawyer, kind of coarse, but Yoma was a snob. She admitted as much. She just didn’t like his blue collar background. Can’t please everyone!

I spackled. And God love Yoma, she never held it against me. She listened to me at every stage of the drama and later she single handedly financed my escape until my divorce settlement came through. But she was unwavering in her opinion of him — he’s an abuser. RUN. She never, ever sugar coated it.

And so I wonder about warning signals and spackle. How is it that people can come on infidelity boards, and even when they KNOW what they need to do, and a thousand perfect strangers will tell them — this is dreadful RUN! — they can’t do it. They won’t believe it. Nope, they’re a special case. It’s different for them. Hey, I see a unicorn! It’s slipping into the forest, I must follow it!

I remember being that hopium addict, that unicorn chick, and every once in awhile someone on a board would say — This stops when you say it stops.

Huh? ME? The innocent victim here? But, but! I have to figure out why! I have to WIN! I need to make this WORK!

Or they’d say “He is showing you who he IS, believe it.”

But, but… he’s so many things! Not all of them bad… and you don’t know him like I know him!

Well, exactly. They had perspective and I had none. They knew enough of him to know I was in serious trouble.

And even when I agreed with them, even when I let go of my investment, and got mad and walked away, it was still ages before I stopped untangling the skein of fuckupedness. What was real? What was a lie? Did he ever love me? Why would anyone do such a thing? It was a big shit stew and I was there trying to strain out the occasional dumpling going “okay, THIS was a good memory. I can salvage THIS.”

I created Chump Lady because I wanted there to be a place where you could get to the end of this shit SOONER. I did all the mental gymnastics and here is the contents of my brain on this subject. Please skip ahead in your recovery.

I’m Yoma. I’m the voice out there saying “This person is a creep. DUMP THEM.” I feel much of my job here is yelling from the sidelines: “Please don’t do anything stupid!” and “I already fell into that tiger pit! To your LEFT! Watch OUT!”

Infidelity turned me into that yeller. I am now the friend that is going to get in your face and warn you. And I don’t even know if it’s effective. Anyone who finds me here wants the message, so I’m preaching to the choir. Maybe it’s chumpy and codependent of me — I just want to change some minds. Thus my “blunt force therapy” I think it was called. 🙂

In retrospect, I don’t think the soft pedaling helped me. The kind people who didn’t want to judge, or call me out. What pushed me ahead (painfully) to leaving my cheater, were the sideline yellers, in my life and online and in therapy. What do YOU want? What do YOU think? Is this acceptable to YOU? Him? Stop thinking about him. He’s a user and an abuser. Pay attention to the evidence. Value yourself. And finally… Get OUT. RUN. You know what you have to do. Do it.

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  • My sister said not to date him, he was damaged goods. I didn’t believe her thinking “the love and support of a good woman is all he needs” Oh well at least she doesn’t say “I told you so!” CL you sound frustrated. You have created a safe haven for us chumps to say “Wow” it isn’t me. For my own self I am taking baby steps. You told me way back in January (I think) it was “Dday minus 4” Well now it is Dday minus 9 I will probabaly have to do the heavy lifting and all the work and I am working up to that point. I know you would probably like all of us to rise up and say “Get the Fuck out now!” all my ducks are lined up and the right moment will happen. I can’t say enough about how this site has helped me clarify and get my head in the right place. The other contributers have answered a few of my questions on the Chump Chat site too. Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks Janet! Sorry, didn’t mean to come across frustrated with folks here. I love the community here — you guys are awesome and I learn so much from everyone.

      I am frustrated with a family situation — some drama — I told someone today that I thought they were married to disordered person, who is using them, that the lies were showing, and I was concerned for their welfare — and they responded quote “Ha ha.” and “Fuck you.” So yeah, I’ll cop to some frustration.

      • Something I learned a while back is that as hard as it is to believe… some people do not want to be saved– even when the situation is clearly harmful or abusive. I’ve concluded that either they are perfectly happy in their own delusional (or head in the sand) world, OR, being in painful, dramatic, mindfucking relationships feels NORMAL to them. God bless them!

        The “fuck you” means that they’re afraid. They’re afraid that your right, but just can’t face it.

        • Thanks Laurel. Yeah, people who explode in anger (I got a voicemail cursing at me as well), makes me think I hit a raw nerve. If he thought it was completely groundless, insulting, misguided, whatever — you might say “Well, I can see how these red flags might give you pause, and thanks for your concern, but let me explain…”

          • Bingo. They were mad at you because they know you are onto something.

            What is the saying? “Thou doth protest too much.”

        • My guess is a large percentage of people truly enmeshed with a disordered partner (married or long-term relationship) will never leave. They might breakup, but go back over and over again, or simply stay in the relationship no matter how bad it gets. I am sure on some level they realize the fuckupedness of the situation, but cannot admit it, and will angrily defend their situation because to do otherwise is to have to face the truth, and also to admit that they are not (at least not yet) strong enough to do anything about it.

          Some are badly damaged by FOO issues, and feel they deserve no better than a disordered partner’s abuse.

          Some are disordered themselves and love the drama.

          Some are simply too afraid to face the world on their own.

          Those of us who are out, whether by our own doing or because the disordered partner finally threw us away, are actually the lucky ones.

          • I totally believe that, Glad. I learned about the cheating 6 months in, and 1.5 years later, I was out. My husband didn’t find out until 22 years in, and then the infidelity was his Get Out of Jail Free card. He served a longer sentence and mine was commuted earlier. I definitely see it that way.

            Once you realize that they’re disordered, when you see who they really are, and not who you hope they are (or who they pretend to be when they sparkle) — you realize there is nothing to miss. It’s just pain and chaos and the cycle of abuse. Honeymoon. Tension building. Incident! Hoovering. Honeymoon. Tension building… Incident! And that drama becomes your life. And it wears you down and some folks just don’t escape.

            This person just sent me an email to the effect of “The Truth of Our Love will prove the tests of time!”

            Okeydokey then. Good luck with that.

            • Wow, a “Fuck you,” a cursing-out phone message, an e-mail, hmmmm….

              I do agree this person doth protest too much…they trying to convince your or themselves?

        • This is extremely typical of domestic abuse cases. The abused does NOT wish to leave the abuser, for whatever fucked-up reason. Infidelity is a form of abuse, so the same would hold.

          Abusers often try to isolate their victims from their support systems of family and friends. This keeps the abused dependent on the abuser, and helps the abuser gaslight the victim. The abuser will often cycle between nice and nasty. This goes along with CL’s previous blog post about how the cheater is the one in control of the kibbles, so the betrayed spouse starts to think s/he’s doing something “right” when the kibbles start to come, and something “wrong” when the kibbles stop.

          About the only thing you can do for people in abusive relationships is to keep the lines of communication open. Don’t let the abuser cut them off. Instead, let them know you’re there for them. Eventually, once they make the decision to leave, they’ll let you know.

          This isn’t to say that when they’re entering the relationship that you don’t speak up, but more that once you see the relationship is there and they’re spackling like crazy, speaking up is often ineffective. You have to let them raise the issues, and then support them when they say that they see things as, well, wrong.

          • Very good point kb,
            I would call my daughters so often to vent my one daughter thought I was imagining alot of it. But I had to get there myself before I’d take action. Lucky for me he finally ” gifted” me with proof.

  • I don’t know if anyone saw the warning signs. If so, they didn’t tell me. And I think very few people are willing to take the risk of warning a friend that their new love is actually a disaster waiting to happen. Most people aren’t willing to hurt someone’s feelings, or tell a truth they don’t think will be well received.

    You are very fortunate to have friends brave enough to tell you right out what they are thinking. Most friends will think it, but not say it.

    • I’m extremely fortunate to have such a good friend. She was the only one who saw through him. And if she wasn’t the only one — she was the only one who said something.

  • There wasn’t previous infidelity (that I’m aware of), but my mother was NOT happy when we got engaged. My mom and other family members didn’t want to push me into his arms, though, so they tried as subtly as they could to get through to me. My mom told me that she was very concerned about his neediness– how well would things go for us when we had kids one day? Many of my family members felt that he was condescending toward them, and he could be very mercurial in behavior. When we would visit for a family dinner, as my parents once told me, “We never knew which STBX we were going to get.” He could be outgoing and funny, or he could be quiet and grumpy.

    But, I spackled. I was 19, wanted to find Mr. Right and have happily ever after, etc. He love bombed me with all sorts of romantic gestures (one huge one that swept me off my feet was the daily letters– literally, DAILY– when we were away from each other during our college vacations), I enjoyed his intellect and musical ability, and I saw what I wanted to see, especially once I applied the thick layer of spackle.

    And my mom was right– once the kids came, all bets were off. He hated playing second fiddle to them at times, so he found someone who felt the same way about her life as a SAHM. Unfortunately, five children are going to suffer when forced to live with these two needy vampires, though at least I’m the primary custodian of mine, so they won’t be forced to spend as much time with them.

    My family had the best of intentions. No one wanted to hurt me or to make him seem like forbidden fruit. I do wish that someone had shouted at me a bit.

  • MovingOn, my Mom also told me “you are going to have a hard life with him”, no details, just that, and boy was she right. Her own marriage to my dad wasn’t so great, so I guess I should have listened. I’m sorry she didn’t push me harder to really look at what I was getting into, but ultimately it was totally my choice, getting in AND getting out.

  • I vow to be that friend who speaks up. After surviving a Narc (just over 150 Narc-free days under my belt) I will do anything in my power to keep another woman from living through what I did for 11.5 years.

    My Mom told me (not long before I left) that she thought he was “imperious and creepy.” I asked her why she never said anything (other than the fact he made sure to keep me away from all family) sooner, and she told me that she didn’t feel it was “her place” to say anything about “my choice.” I quickly disabused her of that notion – if Mama can’t tell her daughter that a guy is bad news, who can?

    I love the language you use (cake, ego kibbles, spackle, the Unicorn of Reconciliation, sparkling) because you have it exactly right, in nice, tidy bites that everyone can understand. I hope you won’t mind if I quote you and link to you in a future post – Narcissistic Supply is so much easier to grok when it’s called “cake” and oh, so much easier to let go!

    Thank you for being here, Chump Lady!

  • My mother, who happened to have left my dad for another man detested my then girlfriend who I was going to propose to. At that time my future wife detested my mother and saw her as someone of low character to have cheated and left my dad for the other man. Ironic, since many years later I discovered my wife is a serial cheater.

    In hindsight I see that the reason they detested each other was because they recognized the similarity in each other.

    In hindsight, I realize cheaters are very attuned to sniffing out someone who is also a cheater. It takes one to know one.

    I should have listened to my mom as she’s an expert in infidelity.

    • I failed to mention my dear mom is on her fourth marriage. She can’t stand that my ex-wife cheated on her son. I just laugh….irony at it’s best.

    • That’s very interesting. My husband experienced similar. His ex-wife hated his law partner. The partner couldn’t stand the ex-wife. They both were cheaters.

      Takes one to know one?

      • Takes one to know one.

        Maybe they feel threatened? Like a predator that can’t stand other predators hunting in their area?

        Or maybe the other cheater is proof this person isn’t as special as they think.

  • My mom and dad were not thrilled when I found out I was involved with a man who was not yet divorced officially (I know – MEGA red flag right there – but you know, his then separated wife just “didn’t understand him” or give him enough sex) but they accepted the relationship with the one condition that we part ways until his divorce was finalized, so that my reputation was not dragged into the mess after the fact. He was only about 4 months away in our no fault state – but in 3 days he showed up at my work and said he couldn’t stay away from me. I was in heaven at the thought of being so wanted and longed for that I didn’t see that he was disrespecting my parents’ wishes and also putting me into the mix of eyes who would see me as the “reason” for the pending divorce. My parents were furious, and when things escalated and they found out he was taking me for day trips to the area garbage dump (yes – tres romantique’) to have fling time – they called him on it and told him he would never have another moment with me. They told me that if I insisted on marrying him they would cut me off completely and I’d never be considered their daughter again. For six months that continued – as I tried to find a way to show them how “wonderful” and dedicated he was to still wait for me in the midst of a lot of shit going down. I eloped, they cut me off and it was only after 10 years and my second pregnancy that they finally decided they may have been wrong about him.

    And they weren’t. Thank God, my mom – who hated him with the heat of a thousand white hot suns but accepted him for my sake late in life – passed before he was exposed in his latest affair. My father’s words were exactly the same as they’d been 25 years prior, “That SOB doesn’t have an ounce of self respect – so how can he possibly respect anyone else?” A year later, and he was gone, too. I think back and wonder what might have been, what years I could have reclaimed if I’d only listened to them and run as far away from my ex as possible. But his pursuit was obsessive, dogged, tenacious. I believed him because he simply would not let go of that pursuit of having me. If I’d only known the pursuit was for him to get what he wanted and beat my parents in the game for my loyalty – not because he couldn’t live without me. He’s proven that he is living without me just fine. But I have my children, so in the end, he did find something he couldn’t have no matter how dogged he was – their respect, loyalty and love. So maybe the scales balanced a bit in the end. I wonder what my mom and dad would think at this point.

    • No one warned me about my ex but there were red flags I ignored. And my ex did the same hard core pursuit of me–really made me feel like the most wonderful and wanted woman in the world. But he does that with everyone, it turns out. He even uses the same phrases that I heard a million times. I read them in his emails and I realised I was just another woman who meant nothing to him.
      But the funny thing is that everyone liked him. He was so charming and funny and just all that. In fact, after this all came out I was told by nearly every person who knew us that they could not believe it because he was so nice. then he started behaving horribly towards me and the kids and people slowly started to see.

      But not one person warned me because he was that good at his act.

      • They’re not very original for how special they consider themselves, are they? I found out my NPD ex used the same words on other women that had convinced me I was important to him.

    • Char, thanks for sharing your family’s story. Your parents sound like pretty cool people. It seems to me that his tenacious persuit of you was because you had the ‘goods’ he was looking for- unconditional Chump love.
      He didn’t deserve that kind of love, since he’d never give it to you, but they sure know how to track it down, don’t they? That’s what gets me so pissed off, these Cluster B’s or whatever they are, tying up good partners, just to be cruel to them, and cheat!

  • And CL – I think “blunt force therapy” is infinitely preferable. Whether or not people listen is their problem.

  • No one saw any signs in my case. Not even my observant older sister. The two of them became fairly good friends, and they even did a work related project together. ExH even officiated my younger sister’s wedding; he was basically a brother to her, as I started dating exH when my younger sister was 13.

    Hard to say why the signs were not there. i guess because our first real date alone was when I took him out for his 17th birthday. Neither of us had been in any truly serious relationships before. The drifting was gradual, and his nickname was “mellow” after all. He withdrew, but it was difficult to see…. And when I did see it, and was brave enough to confront him and made the attempt to work on it, I was gaslighted. He lied, and I believed him.

    The rest is history, though it took a total of 23 years for the story to be completed.

  • I’m pretty sure that my ex-husband had never dated before he met me (he was 24 when we started dating) so there was nothing to warn me about.

    When he first cheated on me, no one believed me that he did it. After a point, I thought (incorrectly) that people eventually believed that it was true. Strangely, that wasn’t the case. He cheated on me again, 18 years later, and I discovered the truth…No one believed that he cheated on me in the past or this time.

    I’m not sure what was more devastating to me, that he cheated on me twice or that my experience, my heartbreak, the utter devastation of my life was being invalidated by people I cared about and trusted.

    My ex-husband was someone that no one would ever believe he did something wrong, especially cheat on his wife. He was, well, just perfect. Beautiful, kind, compassionate, humble. He raised my children, he wouldn’t kill a spider, he wouldn’t wear leather or eat meat, he never said a harsh word about anyone. He was so ZEN.

    So, of course, I *had to be* the problem.

    It just about killed me, the horror of it all, and I’m not sure I’ll ever get over it.

    He did it, no one believed it, I lost my faith in everything and everyone, and he just waltzed out of my life when he was caught…exactly a few minutes after he lovingly kissed me and told me how much he loved me. (Who can do that???) And he moves on like it was nothing, with a new woman, living the Zen life with her, like nothing odd ever happened. A trail of destruction a mile wide left behind him.

    • Dear Carol,

      Sometimes I feel that guys, who have had bad reputation are better. The red flags are also clearer. Somebody might still get trapped. But with these wolves in sheep clothing, we are chump squares.

      I was quite in your situation. My ex had developed this reputation going for him that he was one of the most amiable guys and that he was supporting his wife in her career, a rare thing in his brand of social group. But, I stuck my ground…n yes was there with some undeniable proofs. But, even then, his social groups proclaimed that I was career woman, and he was pushed to cheating. So, some of such people, who can’t see it all despite evidences and behaviors to the contrary can’t be helped. period. One needs to just move on.

  • I’ve been bothered for years by the fact that I didn’t listen to the woman who inadvertently introduced me to my STBX. She warned me (very carefully so as not to seem unkind or judgmental) that the other women in their graduate program had all been hit on by him, and they all thought he was somewhat creepy. I listened to her comments, but I continued to date him (long-distance), and exactly one year later I was pregnant and married. In retrospect, it’s kind of telling that actually ON the day of our wedding, he was still asking me why I would never give him a proper answer to the question “Will you marry me?”.

    Today, I have the most wonderful children, so I don’t regret the marriage at all in that respect. However, I wish my children had grown up in a close and loving family, instead of being exposed to the dysfunctional, narcissistic behavior their father exhibited (and continues to exhibit today).

    So, I guess if I had to vote, I wouldn’t change my choice to have children with him, but it certainly wasn’t a true marriage.

  • I only wish I had those friends CL, when I told my roommate he was moving in she said that wouldn’t work for her she would move out. She wouldn’t tell me why, I know now it’s because he fucked her before we committed and while I wouldn’t have an issue with it my young friend couldn’t deal. I had a lot of female friends when I met the ex but almost all of them faded away within a year of his moving in with me. I think that was because he fucked them or he tried which made them uncomfortable around him, and either way they felt weird around me. Talk about perfect way to isolate someone…

    Last year one of my only remaining friends told me he had tried to have an affair with her a long time ago and she told him no way and be with his wife. I was pretty pissed she waited several years to tell me that. Her reason? She said she loved me so much and she was afraid if she told me, I would not believe her and I would cut off our friendship. She was afraid to loose me, in what world? I love her but I was devastated that a very good friend would believe that could happen and it spiraled me into “if only she’d said something I would not be here now” which may or may not be true. No, my abuser was really good at convincing me that my people were using/abusing me, or chasing people away or co-opting my people (the co-opt deserves it’s very own post).

    No one warned me, they just bailed on me or were sucked in by him.

    The world of woulda/shoulda/coulda is large and best ignored, it takes you backward rather than forward. This I have gotten better at and it’s important, fuck what you shoulda seen, fuck what you woulda done, here we are and we can make a new life now with what we are going to do.

    • I think I might be able to forgive the friend… maybe.

      It might be that if she had spoken up, there’s a chance he would have tried to turn it around and said “she made a pass at me, but I turned her down, and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, but …blah, blah”, and she probably wouldn’t be your friend all those years later.

      It’s up to you though. Honesty is obviously something most of us value, and forgiving somebody for not being honest is one thing, but trusting them to be honest when it’s not easy in the future is something else.

    • My STBX did that, too…..hit on my friends and roomates. Flirted with them in a way that crossed boundaries. I should have seen that as a really bad warning sign, but I didn’t. It helped to isolate me because my friends were awkward about it. Understandably. A few of them told me straight up that he had flirted with them (hard to explain that he crossed a boundary, but it just felt weird, so they told me). A few times, I saw it with my own eyes. Other times he did it behind my back. Hit on my best friend when they were both drunk. She told me right away, did the right thing. But it still hurt our friendship. Sucked.

      I would forgive your friend. Because most of the time, people do kill the messanger. She didn’t want that to happen. I’d give her the benefit of the doubt.

      Something similar happened to my sister. She was hit on by her friend’s husband. Didn’t say anything at the time, because my sister asserted her firm boundaries to him, so it was a non-issue that never went anywhere. But she did tell her friend about it later, when her friend brought up similar instances. Her friend was mad at her for not telling sooner. But I think it’s kind of a no-win. Most people are mad no matter when you tell them.

  • Not only did others not really see it…it took me 25 years to figure out that he had been creating a double life for 5, and having an affair (EA and PA) for the last 2 of those. Basically trying to create a soft landing. (Quoth he “I thought if I was really really cruel to you, you would leave, because I didn’t want you anymore, but I was scared.”)

    Woke up and decided that he didn’t like aging (who does?) so he decided I and our daughter were expendable…easier to blame me for his troubles, right? Find a new model. She turned out to be the psycho red headed gyno, but hey, he tried, right?

    So, he’s mostly off her (and she lives cross country—cuntry?) if anything is more NPD than him. So I’m waiting for the next fix-it gal to come wandering along and decide that baby-man needs to be made to feel better. ‘Cause that’s his gig…”poor little me…I’m so confused!? why do I feel so bad that I fucked that red headed gal and screwed over my family and they’re so mad at me?”

    It’s why I’m so eeeevil. I don’t forgive. I don’t understand. (He’s screwed up, poor sausage.) I don’t listen. I don’t even like. Anymore. (Once of course I was all love, loyalty and support. Another era, to be sure. I did say that once I’m gone, I’m gone. Not sure he really believed me.) Tant pis.

    I will say that most of his college pals seemed to think something was not quite right–but like the good chump that I am, I figured it was me. D’oh!

    • I think that’s a huge part of my story, too- he didn’t like aging! Well isn’t that just ducky, I’m three years older than him. I don’t LIKE getting older, but I’m workin it the best I can, staying really healthy and enjoying my super sons and their cute gf’s. Guess that was harder for him because he loves getting drunk, snagging girls, smoking, riding motorcycles, scooters, and acting out to get admiration from everyone in the world! It’s hard to age gracefully when deep in your psyche you’re 13.
      So, now he lost me, the woman who stood by his side for 35 yrs, and was willing to laugh at his silliness and love him anyway. His insane other woman is a (fake) redhead too! I’ve diagnosed both of them with my armchair psychologist skills, as Histrionic. They are a perfect match. Has anyone else ever heard of ‘equality of pathology’? It explains that people find others who mirror their level of sickness. I really think I got my issues mostly fixed over the decades, and he got even worse-then he met OW and he felt mysteriously drawn to her.
      A large part of me is glad he’s gone, because I learned here to bludgeon false hope with the fencepost! 🙂
      BTW- CL dont allow no c-word around here, and I agree-let’s elevate womanhood instead.

      • Yes, the aging thing had a lot to do with why this affair was ‘love’ and not just a sidepiece…not that he had any intention of telling me, of course, but he wanted to experience the unicorn kind of love again and try for a new life with someone much, much younger. I’m middle aged, she is barely out of uni. Not too hard to figure out.

  • This so reminds me of a poem by Portia Nelson… I read and re-read this endlessly when I was working my way out of my chumpitude… and maybe I still am.

    Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
    Portia Nelson

    Chapter One
    I walk down the street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I fall in.
    I am lost …. I am helpless.
    It isn’t my fault
    It takes forever to find a way out.

    Chapter Two
    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I pretend I don’t see it.
    I fall in again.
    I can’t believe I am in this same place.
    But, it isn’t my fault
    It still takes a long time to get out.

    Chapter Three
    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I see it there.
    I still fall in … it’s a habit … but,
    my eyes are open.
    I know where I am.
    It is my fault.
    I get out immediately.

    Chapter Four
    I walk down the same street.
    There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
    I walk around it.

    Chapter Five
    I walk down another street.

    Copyright 1993 Portia Nelson, all rights reserved.
    From her book:
    There’s a Hole in my Sidewalk
    The Romance of Self-Discovery

  • My daughter never liked my ex boyfriend. He ignored her when he walked in the door, and when I called him on it he asked “Why should I be forced to say hello to someone just because you fucked somebody thirty years ago?”.
    What an asshole. And that is precisely the term she used to describe him from the gitgo.
    I was always thinking “Well, yes, but…” . Now I use that term myself.
    CL, this site has helped me so much, especiall to stay NC for the last 16 months. Thank you so much for articulating the thoughts I need to hear.

    • OMG he SAID that? Asshole should be tattooed on his head. Please never date another man who would be so cruel to your daughter. Wow. That was a real “he’s showing you who he IS” moment for sure.

      • I’m thinking of that scene in the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo where she tattoos her rapist guardian’s chest and stomach. Instead of tattooing “I’m a sadist pervert and a rapist” on his chest, tattoo his forehead with “Asshole.”

  • CL,
    I love you exactly the way you are. There is absolutely NO doubt in my mind you saved me from years of pain. I blindly listened and followed evry thing that was offered to me here by everyone here because I could FEEL it was right and I trusted you all. Strangers. Some of the kindest strangers I ever met. Hell I trusted him right?

    And the result? I am happy, healthy again and look forward to each new day. My therapist says as a patient, I’m really “easy”. And I know that’s because of this site. Thank you, Thank you, and Thank you again!

    • Ditto what Toni said. All the advice on this site has saved me from falling into years of false-R. Probably would have wasted a decade on rough years, living with a narc, until Dday number 2 (inevitable), after which point I would have had much less resources to leave on my own. Thank you to CL and everyone who posts on this site. Kindness of strangers has been wonderful.

      • Me too! I DID reconcile exactly a year ago! He cryed, and promised specific improvements, and that he would give up OW. Guess what? You know, none of that happened. I told him I had an attorney on Valentine’s day, and had to leave my home the next day. I found Chumplady about a month later, thank God! I know me, he would have convinced me to try again, but I started to see what was really going on, and see how they all use that ‘cheater Narc handbook’
        I just found out yesterday that the Judge signed my papers- I’m really single now! Now all I have to do is make a new life, wish me luck! Many thanks to everyone here, I’m very grateful to you, and especially Tracy for your vision (and I love your hair, I think it’s perfect).

        • When the light bulb glows it really spreads the light. Thank you for letting us know that your life is taking a positive turn. There will be better days ahead.

          • Thank you! And one of the good things is that we are pretty nice to each other so far. I love, love, love being in charge of my life!

            • Oh me too! I’ve made more fun decisions in the last six months than I have in the last six years. I am so glad I am no longer under his thumb.

  • There were many warning signals: he would exclude me from events, told a couple friends he wasn’t really that into me, constantly flirted with other women, and on and on.

    Because of my history with depression and my shyness — and because he is so popular and successful and well-liked — I always thought it was me, that I was somehow seeing things the wrong way even though my gut told me the truth all along.

    That same gut feeling led me to snoop. And lo and behold, nearly every time I’d find something — an inappropriate email, a massive collection of tranny porn, calls to hookers, etc.

    I don’t know where this journey will end up, but I know that I ignored everyone along the way who told me to run. He sparkled, so much so that in the first couple months of dating I actually had a girlfriend refer to him as “Mr. Sparkly Pants.”

    Of course, all these years later I wish I had listened. I wish I could force myself to listen to that feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach every morning. But it’s a journey. These things take time for me. And then suddenly it will be over. But not till I’m ready.

    • hi sad
      hope all is well with you. you know i am still with my h but we tend to live separate lives. last week he pissed me off and i bought up the ow’s name. boy did tthat get him going. like i didn’t know they still had the secret cell phone and talk or text everyday. i’ve pretty much got my ducks lined up; have gone so far as to super clean the house and organized for the get away. this is a good stategy for you and it keeps you focused and uptone. working yet? sorry for the typing i have laundry in one arm

      • Hi Janet,

        I’m glad you’re getting organized. How does that feel? Hilarious how your h gets mad when you bring up the OW. Like mine, he hates to be reminded that he’s an asshole.

        I am a slowly on my way too. I have a job interview for my dream job on Monday, actually. I don’t want to put down roots here but I think getting out and meeting people, working, and reconnecting with life will give me some confidence again.

        • Getting out of the house having your own $$ and some positive reenforcement sounds great. Hope you get the job. When you get your act together you can always move on. Keeping my fingers crossed and will be sending positive thoughts on Monday!! Good Luck. A clean organized house is very relaxing; love looking in my closet.

          • I am on a roll apt. wise, I am having such a blast making it “mine” I forgot I could feel this way. He’s still in my head but at least I’m moving forward and enjoying all my little projects..:) i think I have a new friend… “Toni!”

            • I was Target today and looking at all the cool stuff they have thinking “Boy I could make my own place sooo pretty”

              • I am going through the same thing. Found an antique bed with curved footboard in storage that I forgot I had, found an antique walnut high boy a friend gave me, that just matches it, so I splurged and got all new bedding and a little rug from India to go beside the bed. No ducks, sports stuff, great out of doors, etc. It is all pale blue and white, with lots of lace and little roses. Yep, I deserve it.

              • Right now I’m a displaced person, since I’m living with and caring for my ill, elderly mother, but I literally cannot wait until I am able to set up housekeeping in my own place. I loathed our old furniture, but my STBX wouldn’t let me change anything beyond a lightbulb. No kidding. The house was decorated in the 1970s, and it could be a museum installation, even the old, golden shag rug. Ugly, ugly, ugly. My new place (someday) is going to be light, airy, and mine!

        • Sad, they all hate to be reminded that they’re assholes. God forbid anyone point out just how badly they’ve behaved.

  • Nobody ever said anything negative about my cheater before the truth came out. I’m very good at spackling and I covered for him a lot. I think my own family spackled as well. He never visited my parents or his own mother with the kids and I, he was always too busy doing something else and we all just accepted that. After the truth about the affair came out and what a disgusting pig he is, my best friend told me, ‘If you take him back, I’ll punch you in the face!’ Gotta love good friends who want the best for you.

    • I had a friend say something along those lines. He said ‘I know you love him and I know you two have been through a lot but at this point if you go back to him I will lose all respect for you and I doubt I could keep being your friend because I would not be able to deal with him’. It really surprised me because this was a close friend to both of us but he had seen enough and saw just what a complete asshole ex was/is.

      • Our close friend from NJ told me (behind x’s back) ‘he’s FUBAR, just leave so you can have a normal and happy life’. Now, this guy is even closer to x, they’ve spent tons of time together and x used to take his secretary to his house, when I would get to stay home with our boys (I knew there would be pot smoking going on). Of course he had to have a girl by his side WTF? Anyway, i did appreciate that he urged me to get away from nutjob, and I think it’s probably because he knows more about the extent of his cheating on me for all these years. He just doesn’t want to tell me the details.

  • Her father asked to meet me one evening at his office. This is after I’m engaged to her. He looks me in the eye and says “you don’t have to go through with this, it isn’t too late to break it off.” He gave me no specifics, but she was unemployed, not looking for work, living with a family that took her in and let her stay for free, and was thousands in debt.

    But she was such a ray of sunshine in my life, I was divorced with 2 young boys. We clicked the first night we met. 18 years, lots of good times but definitely not worth what she put me through. A hard lesson learned.

    • Not sure how I would have taken that if I was told those words. To bad he didn’t give you hard reasons why he was saying that. Chances are you wouldn’t have listened. Another reason they say “Love is Blind”. It’s also deaf.

        • My MIL said to me, upon hearing of the engagement: “You’re actually going to marry him?” She is said it with a smile, and jokingly, so I didn’t think much of it at the time, but it did strike me as a bit odd. Wonder if she could see the writing on the wall, too, and was just in denial? Or maybe her subconscious was talking?

    • Wow, her own father saw her for what she was! That’s really amazing that he warned you like that.

      I think my ex’s family were so incredibly relieved he was actually marrying a WOMAN, there is no way they would have said anything, even if they weren’t the biggest bunch of enablers on the planet.

  • You always point to something that really gets to me, really knocks me down. “Did they point out the drinking or the unfunny jokes at your expense or the incoherent, unbelievable stories and say — this is fucked up? Run.”

    He made unfunny jokes at my expense, for decades. And I let him get away with it.

    He continues to make incoherent, unbelievable stories. He elaborates, says outlandish things…just like his father did. They both gilded the lily and I never understood why. They were both successful men and had wonderful “real” stories to tell and never needed to exaggerate beyond belief.

    I chalked it up to lack of self esteem, but whatever the reason, if it didn’t affect me, I just let him ramble on. Big mistake.

  • No one warned me, but really, there wasn’t a lot to be warned about. He wasn’t terribly sparkly, but everyone–myself included–did see that he’d never spent any time on his own. If he’d been living in his mother’s household for a while longer, yes, I’d have stayed away from him as a momma’s boy, but he was still within reason (finished working his way through college, first decent job). He also made a lot of effort for me. He was worried about traveling and seeing new places. I traveled with him to D.C., where he discovered that he wasn’t going to get mugged every block.

    That’s not to say that there weren’t issues. In fact, the summer before I started grad school, he got really pissy about academics, so I dumped him. I then had knee surgery. He came to see me in hospital, had flowers, all sorts of stuff to keep me occupied. I wasn’t going to give him another chance, but my family persuaded me that he deserved one. I gave him that chance, and yes, he was a decent guy for many years.

    However, when I dumped him, I realized he was very insecure about himself and his abilities. When he made the move away from his family to be with me, I thought I saw that he’d become more secure in himself. These past few years, though, I’ve had to tread carefully around his ego. It’s not just that he can’t take it when someone has another point of view, he can’t take it when that person agrees with him, but for different reasons!!

    I realize that OW is able to feed him the ego kibbles of agreeing with everything he says as brilliant. And of course he thinks she’s soooo smart because, hey, she sees his brilliance! But OW doesn’t have to live with him. Yet. She’ll hate it when she sees that he no longer feels he has to be nicey nicey, and that he will dictate how the house should run, when the meals should be, etc. Oh, and he’ll be too tired to take her out or go anywhere with him. Or too broke.

    I’m not sure that I’d have been able to see things right away, but I think that I needed to break things off sooner, when it became apparent that STBX was a lot of maintenance for not a lot in return.

    • My H and the OW never see each other it is all text and phone and facebook. They haven’t seen each other in about 5 months as far as I can figure. She is in for a reality check when she sees the hours he puts into work and all the time she is alone or when she wants to do something and he is too tired or interested.

  • I love you Chump Lady and I love your articles.
    Everyone loved mine, except my Mom . When I told her we were engaged, she flipped out and said “He will hurt you.” I was stunned, asked what she meant, she said she couldn’t explain it, she just knew. After it was obvious that she was right, she had died and I couldn’t go back and talk to her about it or ask again.
    I think a lot of us chumps ignore advice or stay even when we know because as Rhianna says in the song with Eminem “we like the way it hurts” and “love the way you lie.” I don’t like it anymore.

    • Findingmyself,

      Wow…we must have the same mom! Mine said the virtually same thing! Actually she said he would ‘break (my) heart’. She was right. I listen to mom these days. He also really disliked her…I thought it was because of her stubbornness and attitude towards him…she would call him ‘Mike’ when his name was ‘Mark’. LOL! Know I see it was because she could see beyond the sparkle…and saw him for what he really was…and he knew it too.

      Glad she likes my soon to be husband…and he thinks my mom is a genius. What a different world it is now.

      As for me, I believed that we were good for each other. My picker was WAYYYYY off. I don’t think about it much anymore…I just put it down as loving someone who didn’t really exist. Whether that my fault or his, I don’t know. Truth is, it was probably a combination. I saw him as the white knight and he really wanted to be the Knight but he was human…and really flawed.

      I am reminded of a song by Don Henley song ‘The Heart of the Matter”…I’ve found someone new…and I don’t love him anymore.

  • I had an “anonymous friend” contact me by email to advise that my then-boyfriend was still in love with his ex and that she had proof. Pretty easy to figure out, with bf’s assistance, that the IP address belonged to his ex, who had created a phony persona and tracked me down (I think she also sent me a phony resume when I posted an ad for an assistant, but I digress). Chalked it up to loony, stalking shit, which was completely consistent with everything BF had described her to be. Of course my gut ached like crazy, and that insecure voice in my head kept thinking, “what proof”?
    I found out recently, that the man I ultimately married had indeed been corresponding with his ex-shmoopie during our courtship, even screwing her a few times, despite describing her to me in the most unflattering terms imaginable. This discovery came in the same tsunami discovery of multiple, on-going affair partners. It therefore came as no surprise to hear them described as “despicable”, “troubled”, “pathetic”,manipulative”, etc.).
    Parenthetically, I sometimes feel sorry for the affair partners – he was so disloyal to them in word and deed. I quickly snap out of it of course. They did not adhere to the most basic rules of societal decency in respecting marital boundaries, irrespective of their beliefs as to how special they were to him. Knowingly accepting a risk that exposes you to bitter consequences, and fueling another’s devastation along the way, are circumstances that do not evoke much sympathy (particularly from the victim).

    Wish I listened to my “anonymous friend”

    • Oh – and so you don’t think I am a complete moron for failing to follow up on the missive from the barely-disguised ex, she truly was a loon. Met my husband for their first date hours after having an abortion, communicated regularly with psychics, married her next boyfriend three months after meeting him because she saw an auspicious butterfly, etc. She also appeared on a realty show and was excoriated by the (very limited) fanbase as a complete nutjob.

    • I got an anonymous letter at work and then saw him with someone the next day. When I asked him if that’s who the letter was about he said no, it was about another girl nd the one who wrote it was another X OW. That’s pretty much when the ground slipped right out from under me. Found CL not too long after. Thankful!

        • I got one of those, anonymous letters (days before widespread email for FB) and the only words were, “Your husband is having an affair. If it was me I would want to know.” exHub came home from work and all I did was say, your GF sent me something in the mail today. it’s laying on the counter if you want to see it.. he never acknowledged it –

          I did in a twisted way feel sorry for this OW – because she was nowhere near seeing him for what he was. Undoubtedly he was very, very sparkly to her. By that time I had figured out what I was largely dealing with – took me a few more years to leave – but I had figured him largely out….she was undoubtedly tangled up trying to figure out why this wonderful guy wouldn’t leave the ‘crazy woman’ he was in process of divorcing… (lie,lie, lie).

  • Thank you CL. I can hear you cheering loudly from the sidelines and that’s what keeps me focused on the finish line. I don’t know that I would have been nearing the home stretch so purposely and with such determination without your encouraging words. Please never doubt whether you are making a difference. You are the adrenaline for this Chump. I have leapt over hurdles I thought were insurmountable. D-day was February 22 and I am running so fast, the sparks are setting my pants on fire.
    Interestingly, no one told me point blank during the course of the eight year relationship that my N was a douche, but hindsight, they all told me by their actions. Actions spoke louder than words, if only I had paid attention.
    Now that I have begun my dash to the finish line, fans are coming out in droves and lining the track. We live in a small town and I was concerned about leaving and the public perception. I was worried because this is his home town and generally you try and support the home team. I have two very public jobs here, so most people know me, or at least know of me. However, this is not my home town, so I was kind of wondering how the whole thing would play out. The smear campaign has already begun and I was worried whether people would believe it.
    I have been overwhelmed by the show of support by so many people in this town. I had no idea my N was so despised or that they were always fearful for me because they were well aware of his history as an abuser. I am so thankful.
    I have not been vocal about the end of our relationship but word gets around in a small town, especially when you have kids that have no filter. Two parents who I know from my son’s hockey team caught wind that I was trying to move my N’s fifth wheel out of the backyard before he got back from working overseas and moved into it. They called me and moved it the next day to a trailer park. Just like that!
    A woman who I don’t know called me to offer her assistance and advice regarding restraining orders and court procedures. She heard I had asked him to leave back in February and that I couldn’t get him out of my house. She is aware of his 18-month lock up for spousal abuse of his previous wife and she took it upon herself to contact me because she was concerned. She is not a lawyer, so it was not self-serving by any means. She works for the Justice Department and just knows the ins and outs of the system.
    A number of friends have insisted that I am to call them (day or night) if things go sideways.
    The one person that I wish would have said something was his ex-wife. She lives in this small town as well. He tortured the living hell out of her. He physically abused her. He smeared her name. I was actually thinking about this the other day and wondering why, as a woman, she wouldn’t have alerted me. Is there not an unspoken rule about these things? A pact of the sisterhood? It then occurred to me, that she was probably thankful that he had found another victim so the focus of his rage would be diverted elsewhere. I can’t say that I blame her. As tempting as that might be, I can say with certainty that I will be giving the heads up to the next woman in his life. I don’t think I could live with myself if I didn’t. Just interested whether the other Chumps here feel the same way?

    • ” Just interested whether the other Chumps here feel the same way?”

      I most certainly do feel the same way! I can understand not wanting to say anything because now he’s focused on someone else, but I for one will be speaking out if I hear he’s sucking another woman into his hell if it’s within my power! I moved to another town and hope never to see him again, but I will reach out if I can. We MUST stick together to stop these monsters.

      • I’ve considered giving the ex’s current gf (the OW) a heads-up, ’cause I’m pretty sure he lied his head off to her and she has NO idea who she’s dealing with, probably doesn’t even realize she’s the OW. BUT, on the off chance she did know and is as narcissistic as he is, I haven’t said a word to her. She’ll figure it out!

        But if I knew an ex could actually be dangerous, I’d probably say something. Probably also get written off as the crazy ex who’s just trying to make trouble for him, but at least when things started to go sideways the new gf would have a bug in her ear, buzzing and buzzing.

        • On a similar note, if (when) I ever date again, I’d like to proactively talk with the new-guy’s exes. See why they broke up. I’ve never done this before, but I have to say I would consider it. Not sure they would tell me anything of value, but might be worth a shot.

          • DuckLinerUpper, I TOTALLY agree with you. If I ever date a divorced guy I will pull his divorce file and do some investigation. The only’ tough’ thing is that the ‘golden’ guardian ad litem reports are sealed by the court. That’s the tough thing because those reports are well done, thorough and are revealing about how much time the parents spent with the kids, interviews with each spouse about what went wrong in the marriage etc.

            However, this I know certain. I will spend some time ‘vetting’ a potential mate. As we all have found out ‘Hoping’ is poor tool for success but actual knowledge is DAMN valuable!

          • I’ve wondered about doing the same thing. Contacting the ex(es) & really talking to the family at the beginning of the relationship – checking on references so to speak. How would that go? Would there be any sort of trust to share the truth approaching as an unknown entity? I’ve gotten the real picture when the relationship is in autopsy. What I really want is to hone my picker. Trust but verify. More importantly – trust myself. No benefit of the doubt. Doubt = don’t.

    • It warms my heart to read about how people in your community have reached out to help you! Yea! I’m so glad those new friends have your back.

      As for the ex-wife, she probably yeah was relieved he found a new victim, but also she might’ve been afraid of his wrath for telling you.

      I reached out and found my ex’s wife #2, who filled me in on a LOT. That’s when he went completely psycho and threatened me, and wished her baby dead.

      His first wife moved away and never spoke of the marriage. Whole new ID. I reached out to her too, to return something he’d stolen from her. I reached out through her church and she said, through them “How did you find me? And does he know where I live?” She just buried it. She’s was freaked out to ever have him back in her life. I get it.

      I imagine too she might have assumed you’d kill the messenger. You might reach out to her now, she might be relieved to know you’re okay and perhaps her conscience was bothering her. I imagine the town knows who he really is because of the way he did her.

      • I could easily blow up my ex’s relationship cos of proof he cheated on the OW as soon as he moved in with her. I felt bad for the violence she would soon know but I was afraid if I warned she would tell him or she’d believe and kick him. Catch 22, either way he might turn his sights back to me. I’m not putting myself at risk for her, I can’t do it. Turns out he already abused and she put an order on him, then she got it dismissed and moved him back in, I can’t save her.

    • I warned final OW, mainly because she’s very, very young and does not realise what she’s gotten herself into. I told her very clearly that he was banging others while banging her, that I had discovered a long history of cheating when I found out about her, etc. She doesn’t want to believe it so that’s that. I’ve done the right thing and now it’s up to her to deal with her decisions.

      I still think she’s a slag and a nasty, useless cow but I also think she really believes this is true love. But the cracks are showing…she is getting pissy about stuff, even in front of the kids, and her gut is most likely screaming and she’s ignoring it because to listen to it would mean admitting she not only fucked up three innocent people’s lives but she also fucked up her own by chasing after Mr Sparkly and deciding to do all this less than two months after meeting him.

      • I regret not asking for help. In hindsight I would have gotten it. But I’ve tried with the subsequent women in his life that risked having their entire life’s screwed.

        In the case of 2nd wife, I warned her (she wasn’t not an AP). She is a sweet woman and we had some communications during their marriage that to her credit she never shared with him. She left when she found out about his pregnant OW. She’s since many times said, I wish I had really listened to you but he said you were “name your lie”.

        His baby-mama OW called me months later after she’d moved in with him to ask me about his behaviour/vent, etc. I had never spoken to her before and the hair on the back of my neck rose as she described interactions that were EXACTLY as those I had with him 10 year prior. I bit my tongue about her being an OW, but I warned her and hold her to leave for the sake of her baby. She of course just went and told him and I was then the enemy.

        Baby-mama OW leaves and they reconcile. REPEAT several time. Then my kids come home from a weekend visitation and tell me he got married. To a 21 yr old single mom that he knew for FIVE DAYS (he was 45 at the time).

        I never spoke to Childbride. But one year later, I hear from my former SIL (X’s sis who I love) – who contacted me to tell me she had gotten Childbride and her preschooler, into a shelter because ex was off rails and she was trying to get Childbride legal help but couldn’t afford it. I paid for Childbride’s attorney; no one ever knew that that but my former SIL. Childbride went back to him and severed all ties to SIL before she finally left him. SIL shared what Childbride had told her…. EXACTLY same mindfucking – to the words – that he used on me – now 15 yrs ago and that Babymama OW had relayed.

        He reportedly is involved now with a woman in her fifties. My kids are young adults now and have limited contact with him. I wish her the best.

        My conscience is clear. The Childbride really disturbed me – because it really hammered how truly disturbed he was and because the poor thing was still just a baby herself.

  • Not here, not for me. Nobody said a thing to me for decades, and I really think it was a case that nobody knew. He’d charmed everyone, and everyone was as shocked as I was. Oh, except for his AP’s. They were not shocked :-P. But you better believe I’ll have better radar next time . . . if there is one.

    • Yep, Ex was a complete charmer. Everyone thought he was the greatest thing around…so caring, so loving, such a great husband and father. I thought so as well, other than what I saw as normal bumps in the road. I read a lot of it differently now but no, there were not a huge amount of warning signs. Other than the other women, of course, who seem to not have known about one another and all thought they had that special ‘something’ to get this handsome, charming, successful guy interested in them.

  • YES! I had warning signs, which I spackled.

    A few friends *did* tell me. One said my STBX didn’t bring out the best in me. My mom didn’t like him from the beginning because she saw him roll his eyes at me (I didn’t see this at the time). Another friend told me ON MY WEDDING DAY before the ceremony “Don’t do it!” She didn’t mince words. She didn’t worry about what I might think (sounds like Yoma). When we were dating, I specifically sought out the advice of an older, wise woman, who told me to leave him. My sister told me I could do better. TWO different therapists told me to leave him. (Yes, we went to therapy even when we were dating! Red flag? Ya think? Yes, I know that now.)

    I didn’t kill the messengers, though, I am proud to say. I thanked them for their candor, just didn’t take their advice.

    I even got advice from a few complete strangers – one on a plane. My gut was telling me that something was off, but I didn’t listen. In all those cases, I spackled. It was just inevitable relationship drama, right? (as CL put it). Yes, it’s hard, but I didn’t realize it was *too* hard. I saw weak links in my STBX’s personality, but chalked them up to inexperienced youth. I thought I could handle it. I figured other people didn’t see the good in him. They didn’t know him as well as I did. And I didn’t want to give up on love. He seemed to love me 100%, and I didn’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. Looking back, I can see that I was fearful of loss. I knew there were a lot of fish in the sea, but I didn’t want to lose *this* love. This guy. This one, after so much time and effort.

    So I spackled. I didn’t listen to darn good advice. Boy, I wish I had. This is probably the hardest thing, going forward – I need to forgive myself for not listening. I hope that someday I can. I’m not there yet.

    To my credit, there were plenty of friends who thought he was great. Most didn’t know me as well. Honestly didn’t see the signs. Some may have been too polite to say anything. So that conflicting message didn’t help me see the light any faster.

    I am glad for the ones who spoke up. I wasn’t ready to listen at the time, but it *completely* helped me see the fuckedupness as it unfolded. Helped immensely. It all got stored in my mind and I called upon their advice when I needed it, later.

    Right after dday, I read everything I could find about cheating and how to save my marriage. I mostly read Reconciliation Industrial Complex stuff, as you can imagine. So I was on board with that at first. But Google did bring me to a few articles from your blog, which I read, and pondered. But I wasn’t ready to hear the truth yet. I was *desperate* to keep this together for the kids.

    Flash forward to a few months after dday. I start to realize that the whole Reconciliation Industrial Complex stuff wasn’t really working out (shock). I *remembered* reading those articles on your blog, and went right back to see what else I could learn. Read every single post from the very beginning, then re-read them. Without your blog, I would still be doing the Pick-Me-Dance to the tune of air-raid siren narc-abuse.

    Your blog and the support here has probably saved me 6-7 years of false R. Now I am taking all the advice I can get, and following it. Accelerated therapy, as someone put it. It sure feels good. I’m grateful to learn from everyone else’s experiences, and am fully on board with advice. Bring it on. Thank heaven for everyone willing to share. I am soaking it all up.

    So don’t worry, CL, if you are the messenger and the receiver takes a potshot at you. You did a brave thing to say anything in the first place. Seriously, as most people won’t. You are a better friend (and human being) for taking the risk, and speaking up. And you never know, your advice may be sticking in their head, in spite of their denial, and may be more helpful than you think.

    • OMG DuckUL – your mention of the stranger on the plane! The only person that warned me was a stranger.

      I wish the people I trusted and cared about – namely my folks – had pulled me aside and said “WTF are you doing with him”? I really think I would have listened – because even at 18-19 yrs old and dating, I knew things were off and not right – but ‘hey’ everyone seemed to think he was a great guy and loved him, so must just be me being ‘picky’ or something right?

      Except for one stranger – some guy about 30 years old that was dating BF/XH’s co-worker. We spend a weekend camping with several other couples and this guy was there with his GF. I was 21. At some point this guy is sitting with me alone – and takes 30 seconds and says something about, others having noticed how badly I was being treated by then boyfriend/ XH – and that it wasn’t ok, and it would only get worse. This basic stranger leaned into my face, looked me in the eye, and basically said RUN.

      I spackled something about now XH being under family pressure or some shit….but I was embarrassed, really embarrassed that the comments were made because I knew in my gut they were true somehow. Of course when I mentioned it to then BF/(XH) he badmouthed this buy as a recovering drug addict, hypocrite….

      I’d forgotten that until I read your stranger on the plane comment.

  • Toni–yes…I was reading something recently about listening to how a potential mate talks about their ex(es)–where if they bad mouth them, run them down, tell you horrible things about their sex life…steer clear.

    When mine got caught the first time, he had all kinds of bullshit ready–he kept it a secret for a long time, this “just helping out the neighbor woman” while I was traveling for work. He told me that she “somehow developed feelings” for him, that he had no idea how that happened (and since he was clinging to the ‘we never had an affair’ meme)—and that the woman was just delusional, pathetic, abused (her husband supposedly beat her up), uneducated….blahblahblah.

    I believed it that time, but just barely. It never occurred to me that if he was just so concerned about this woman and her welfare, why would he run her down and make her look like a pathetic piece of crap?

    I didn’t trust him after that, but my family and friends encouraged me to “forgive”. He made a good show for awhile of being superdad to our daughter—until this latest D-Day.

    He tried the same bullshit story again, if you can believe that. Someone said something about them not being “original”—BINGO! He used what he thought worked for him previously.

    She’s needy (in response to the hundreds of hours of cellphone calls on the bill that I pay for), I am just a friend and I told her that but “somehow” she developed feelings for me. Didn’t work this time. My family and friends aren’t taken in by it this time, either. They are supporting me in my lining up the ducks–when he gets his ass handed to him this fall—there will be NOBODY to listen to his bullshit–nobody to give him the benefit of the doubt. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice—I’m getting a really good divorce attorney!

    • My cheater is a *helper* too! In response to my question about why he would risk his marriage for these pathetic losers, he told me that thing that attracted him to each of his affair partners is that they gave him the illusion that they needed him and that those who live unfulfilled lives are the ones most likely to be needy.

      He honestly thought that sending ribbon-wrapped dick pics to his disordered harem was “helping” them? Perhaps his penis has healing qualities? He’s a benevolent sexter? Pass me the smelling salts – I’m dizzy getting sucked back into this mindset. Must. Look. Away.

      • Wasted–

        LOL!!! The “helping” thing. Yep. He was over there every single day—while I was working my ass off, traveling, supporting his lazy good for nothing (around my house, anyway) butt. He said she was “abused” and her husband was in jail (for beating her, supposedly) and she couldn’t afford daycare, so he watched her kids for her so she could go to phlebotomy school (did she actually go to lobotomy school? because he sure acted like she gave him one!), mowed her lawn (silence in the peanut gallery, people!) and just was a “shoulder” for her.

        Benevolent Dick Sexting. I really have to figure out a way to work that into a sentence at work sometime!

        I’ve read a bunch of books on NPD/BPD/Sociopathy—they’re all kinda interrelated…but what I’ve distilled from all of them is that THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH US—IT IS THEM. You really do just have to recognize the crazy for what it is….listen to friends or BE a friend and step in forcefully, talk to ex(es), talk to his mother (find out if he’s a momma’s boy. mine calls his mother 15 times a day, and she him. when i did the math it turns out that he spends on average 7 hours a day on the phone with his mother. every. single. day. No wonder he “couldn’t” get a job.)

        Hard part is definitely seeing the forest for the trees. They are really, really sparkly. Know all the right words to get under your skin…they watch for your weaknesses, steal your thoughts and dreams and feed them back to you. Mine knew that I wanted to get out of the chaos that was my homelife (9 brothers and sisters. wild west parenting style) and into a “safe haven”. He stepped right into that “white knight” role—and has not worked a day in our 15 married years together, since he was so, so busy “protecting” me (and helping himself to the neighbor women).

        • Yep. We had that worker vs. lurker dynamic in my house, too. I was the worker, he spent his time chatting up his email harem and complaining about his dissatisfaction with life. Four days before my tsunami discovery, he spent the day emailing the harem, visiting the morbidly obese ex for a noontime blowjob, web-surfing and napping while I worked and daughter was in full time day care. For me, that day has become emblematic of our dynamic.

  • When we married, my former parents in-law were separated but not divorced; each brought an OP to the wedding. Ex-FIL, a long-time serial cheater, was there with his latest 30-something single mother; ex-MIL was there with her married lover. My mother took one look at the four people snarling and staring daggers at each in the front row on the groom’s side and said, “This will come back to haunt you in 20 years. Are you SURE you want to do this? It’s not too late to call it off.”

    I was in my wedding dress and just about to go down the aisle. I laughed and said, “But THEY’RE the reason he’s marrying me – he wants a NORMAL family, like ours – not a bunch of looney-tunes like his!”

    And it was true – so long as “our family” was just the two of us, and I was feeding him ego kibbles morning, noon, and night. He was brilliant but “broken” by his FOO, I reasoned, so I became his personal cheerleader to cheer him on and give him confidence to be all he could be.

    Which turned out to be an…

    Arrogant. Self-centered. Egotistical. Know-it-all.

    Just a few of the adjectives my friends and family have called XH over the years.

    But they just didn’t understand him, I reasoned. He’s well-read and well-educated (PhD), so naturally, that can be intimidating. Especially when he uses all those long, hard-to-pronounce, scientific words that even his colleagues don’t know the meaning of. Because really, what better way to dominate conversations than to throw out a $10 word that confuses everyone, so you can then spend the next twenty minutes using $1 words to explain it so everyone can see how smart you are?

    It was tedious, yes, and I often got bored, but hey! I used to model and be in beauty pageants, so I know how to smile and act interested while my thoughts are a million miles away. VERY handy.

    So what did I get in return for all my loyalty and support?

    Criticized. Put down. Minimized.

    In the beginning, he was a broke grad student living in a house that I bought and driving a car that I paid for. Yet when I won “Employee of the Year” one year and was given two round-trip tickets to anywhere in the continental United States and was told to pick travel dates, he said, “Tell them you want the cash instead. I could use some new wood-working equipment.”

    Years later, after I’d put him through grad school and a post doc, we finally got around to having kids. After I gave birth to our first beautiful baby girl, he said excitedly, “That was amazing! I feel like I should give you diamonds or something!” I laughed and said, “Well, if you insist!” But he never did. When I asked him about it weeks later, he snorted and said, “I never said that!”

    If my friends traveled or got new cars, it was because they made more money than they were worth or their parents bought it for them. But if HIS friends traveled or got new cars? Well, he’d be able to, too, if I didn’t spend all his money.

    Parenting was MY job; he was too busy (translation: not enough kibbles from kids). But whenever the children did well at school, it was obviously because of HIM. After I sat through two parent-teacher conferences where he spent the entire time talking about himself – who cares about the kids’ progress? It’s all about him! – I stopped bringing him along.

    SO MANY red flags!

    Clearly, I was a color blind chump.

    So when did it finally occur to me that there was someone else?

    After months of exceedingly long hours “at work” when the kids and I were feeling more neglected than usual, I decided I needed to say something about it, so I set a lunch date with him. I told him how unhappy I was that he was never home, that the kids were unhappy, and my friends had all told me that I should really “put my foot down” about how much time he was away.

    His response?

    “Really? Did they mention how they were going to support you when I divorce you for being such a f*ing nag?”

    I stared at him in disbelief. My first thought was…

    “OMG! He sounds just like (ex)FIL!”

    …and immediately lost my appetite.

    I went home, started checking phone and bank records, and that was that.

    My mother was right – 20 years after my wedding, his parents’ behavior had come back to haunt me.

    I married him because I thought he wanted to be like MY father. SPACKLE! Turns out, he was more interested in being just like HIS…

    • Funny how our moms advice turns out to be true. I wish I would have listened to my mom, too. Lesson learned. Now, I listen when she tells me things because I’ve realized she can see the big picture.

      • My mom cried when I told her I was marrying the ex. I thought she was just unhappy because he isn’t Jewish, not that my family is religiously practicing in any way. After our divorce, she told me she knew he was gay the moment she met him, and she never thought he would amount to anything more than a bum.

        Man, she was right about both counts. Even the religious thing came back to haunt me, as he was endlessly using his Christianity to explain why I was no good and eventually, as the reason why he had to cheat on me. These days, he claims his church cured him of being gay and a lying cheater. LOL, too bad I have proof that is not true.

      • “Funny how our moms advice turns out to be true”.

        Yep. I used to be smarter than my mom… until I turned 30 or so, and then it ocurred to me I wasn’t smarter, but then I discovered in my late 40s that she was really a lot smarter than me about some pretty basic things, and I should have been listening more carefully.

    • Sounds familiar. My cheater followed in his father’s stepsteps too. Seeing the devastation that it brought to his family over 15 years ago wasn’t good enough for him. He had to experience it himself and implode our family. And I second the parent-teacher conferences being about them. My husband wanted to talk about his own school experiences over and over in those meetings. I always thought – WTF, how is that helpful, this should be about our kids. But then I’d think I was just being too critical and let it go. Now I know he’s a narcissistic asshole with the mind of a 12 year old.

      • KayH – it’s shocking how many of these kids repeat their parents’ mistakes – it makes me fear for my own children.

        XH had told me for DECADES that he would, “NEVER do to me what has father had done to his family,” because of all the pain and heartache involved. Yet, here we are.

        “It takes a man to raise a man” pretty much says it all…

        • This is my ex exactly. Early in our relationship he would talk about what a jerk his father was, how he multiple people in the family wouldn’t talk to him and even those who did didn’t like or respect him, because he was an abusive, self-centered serial cheater. Made it very clear that although this was his dad, he didn’t respect him because of those things.

          Then he did EXACTLY what his father did, over and over again. (The physical abuse never got bad because I called the police the first time there was a serious threat, left for several days after the second one years later, and went to a shelter after the third, still more years later. He got the message on that. But he tried!!!)

        • “it’s shocking how many of these kids repeat their parents’ mistakes – it makes me fear for my own children.:”

          My FIL cheats on his wife with hookers. Just occasionally, but still, that sucks. She has no idea. I had no idea, either, until after I married my STBX.

          It must make it easier to cheat when your own father is setting that example. Still doesn’t excuse the behavior, though.

          I hope my own children make better choices, despite their father (and grandfather).

          • MY ex FIL cheated on his first wife and eventually ended up with ex MIL. But he cheated on her as well, they separated a few times, but are still together and ex MIL still thinks she got a big prize. FIL still acts like he’s the best thing around and can’t tolerate anyone not agreeing with him about anything. Ex SIL’s fiance was living with someone when they met. I married into a nest of cheaters who truly believe – and have openly said – everyone cheats.

    • Add my cheater to the list of those sons whose fathers cheated on their mothers. Maybe one of the really huge warning signs is that if the father cheats, the son will also cheat–especially if the parents stayed married throughout the cheating. If I ever again date a man whose father cheated on his mother, I’ll ask how much therapy the son went through.

      • Interesting that my ex has a brother who clearly chose to take a different path, despite the terrible example their father set. I think part of this is temperament (the ex is a negative and crabby guy, his older brother is easy-going and seems caring), and part may even be an indirect influence by the father. Their nasty father, as many narcissistic parents do, chose my ex as ‘the golden boy’ and his brother as the scapegoat. I guess with that it’s not surprising that one imitated the father, and the other became totally different.

      • Wow– me too. My wasband-character, his brother (who married the whore creature, and whose married daughter has refused to have him in her home for 10 years as a result…take that to the bank…), the FIL, a Narc of the first water, who brought his lover from overseas while his wife was starving herself to death out of depression and dementia–God it was awful.

        Come to find out, with the release of the 1940 census, that former MIL’s father was an actual bigamist–she was dead by then so didn’t have to know– not clear if her father & mother were ever married.

        Basically as earlier commenter said, just a big old nest of cheaters. Wish I had known 25 years ago…. they just normalize it.

        You know how snakes make a ball to overwinter?

        • I read a statistic online somewhere (unfortunately I can’t remember the source) that showed that there were several indicators that increased one’s likelihood of cheating, including things like:

          *Frequent job-related travel
          *Co-workers engaging in affairs
          *Family history of affairs

          As noted in my initial post, BOTH of my ex-inlaws came to our wedding with OP (while still married to each other), which is why my mother (and pretty much the rest of my family) totally freaked out. I honestly though XH was above it; perhaps I was projecting MY morals onto him? Who knows.

          Anyway, here’s an article that suggests that cheating runs in the family:


          Vera – a nest of vipers indeed! I will teach my children that in addition to education, employment, and credit history, they will also need to vet the family fidelity history – and teeth (omg, the orthodontia!) – of any prospective spouses. That they may learn from my mistakes… 😉

          • Hmmm. I didn’t really know my STBXs father that well, he passed away early in our relationship. His mother, on the other hand (the incessant caller) did do the “golden boy” thing with him. He’s the oldest of 3 boys and she milked that for all it was worth–being the center of attention loooooooong after his father passed away. When the younger two boys left home and got lives of their own, mine was stuck (willingly) with her neediness and psycho-pathology.

            Watch the relationship with the mother, if you are a woman wanting to become involved with a man. I am not so certain that Daddy’s girls have that same pathology–but boy when you have the Mother involved in his life beyond a call on Sundays….watch it.

            We didn’t live close to her for quite some time off and on, so we’d have to visit for a week or more each time. We had to sleep in separate bedrooms because his mother would insist on coming into “his” room and sit by his bed every night, where they would talk for hours. This…on top of clinging to him all day long, calling him incessantly when he would leave to go to the store, etc.

            She did get remarried. It was awful for that man, I felt so sorry for him. There was a cloud of suspicion over the relationship as well–his kids suspected that she “ingratiated” herself (nice word for fucking him while still married, btw) to him while he was either still married, or separated. They never, ever liked my mother in law.

            After D-Day, I knew that my family was informed at the same time that I was (an anonymous friend went to a couple of my sibs, trying to get them to step in and help me see this douchebag for what he really is)—what I didn’t know at the time was that several members of my STBXs family were ALSO contacted….in particular, the new husband’s kids.

            The son went to my mother in law and told her (and apparently, everyone else as well) about the affair, and showed them the proof that he was sent. Instead of confronting my STBX with this information, possibly be….you know….DISAPPOINTED??? or APPALLED??? that my STBX was dropping his daughter off at school, zipping over to his girlfriend’s house for a quickie…and then picking her up (I absolutely want to vomit when I think of him kissing my daughter’s cheek after his face had been…..wherever)…

            Noooo. In fact, when it all came out, she decided to come here and stay with him for a few months…to protect him from ME (apparently). Poor sausage.

            Then…the icing….her mother in law was very ill, and was probably going to pass away—and they all knew it. No one wanted to go anywhere, keeping close so that if something happened, they would all be together.

            My mother in law? She picked up her suitcase, made some quick plans with my brother in law—and went to Disney World. She WROTE A LETTER to her step son—“gee, sorry pal. gotta go see mickey mouse and be happy and give me a call when she dies so I’ll know it’s safe to come back.” Well, not really those words….but it may as well have been.

            She’s a piece of work—apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, folks. Always watch the parents and what they do, what they say and what they feel is acceptable behavior. If their family is nuts….so are they.

            • Funny, because I always thought Ex’s family was completely bonkers and it caused some real issues between us. But I thought he was onboard with setting boundaries with them. Apparently not. As soon as I kicked him out he went running to them, they took over and started running his life again and now he parents are once again saints and even the kids are not allowed to question their special brand of crazy. Naturally, I’m a terrible person because I called them all on their shit, albeit in a nice enough way. Just wouldn’t deal with their weird crap after a certain point and that means, you know, that I’m the problem. 🙂

          • *Frequent job-related travel
            *Co-workers engaging in affairs
            *Family history of affairs

            Ex had all three and then some. I really should have paid attention to this.

            • Nord, don’t beat yourself up. When someone takes vows before God and witnesses, you assume they’re telling the truth…or why else would they be there?

              You trust until you have reason not to. Then, you’re MUCH more careful in whom you trust again.

              As the saying goes, “Experience is a hard teacher. It gives the test first and the lesson later.”

              Sadly, some life lessons are as hard as they come…

              • Yeah, I know. I just look back adn think ‘wow, you were kind of blind and dumb on this one’

  • Wastedheart
    They did not adhere to the most basic rules of societal decency in respecting marital boundaries, irrespective of their beliefs as to how special they were to him.
    I like this very well stated and worth repeating. Oh course in my case “it was bigger than both of them” LOL

  • I never understood this as a warning sign until well after I was divorced, but over the 20 years I was married, I would say with no fear of exaggeration that at least 100 times, when I was introduced to someone who knew the ex, but was meeting me for the first time, the very first words out of their mouth was either:

    “You poor thing!” or
    “I don’t know how you do it.”

    Ex knew a staggering amount of people around town, he was very active in the chamber of commerce, had a gigantic circle of business acquaintances and friends, and has the typical charismatic sociopath’s ability to charm and befriend everyone he meets. So just about any time we went out, we’d meet someone who knew him.

    I always thought they were just joking, making an admiring reference to how much FUN ex was, just the life of the party all the time with sparkles and bells on. Now I look back and realize it probably isn’t normal for a wife to be told those words over and over and over again. Maybe some of those people were joking but I think most saw the ex as a pathological black hole of need, a clown constantly creating a spotlight for himself.

    Not a warning sign prior to marriage, but certainly a red flag throughout that I just did not understand. Oddly enough, towards the end of our marriage, the ex himself very often said, “I don’t know how you do it” to me, referring to my being married to him.

  • I’m in the situation where I’m the friend trying to reach out. Been there once before.

    It’s true that people will not accept help that don’t want to be helped. Spackle is very, very powerful.

    A good friend of mine, who has been chumped before, is engaged to a guy who is joining the military. He’s been to basic training and has not been assigned yet. They haven’t gotten married. Haven’t had a ceremony yet…he has already cheated on her. They aren’t even married yet and he has cheated on her ALREADY. He had sex with his drill sergeant while in training.

    She knows he did that. And she is STILL MARRYING HIM. Many friends have warned her. She has reacted to all of those friends much in the same manner that CL’s friend reacted. “Fuck you! Our love is strong!”

    I want to tell her to be careful, that if he’s already cheated during basic training, he will probably cheat on her when he’s deployed. But I know she’s not going to listen. She didn’t listen to anyone else and she’s dropping down money for a wedding planner.

    I feel helpless. But it’s clear she doesn’t want to be helped. I feel like all I can do is be there for her when he inevitably cheats again.

    • This is SO sad. We are all chumps here and we are chumps because we had some self-esteem issues and went into our crappy relationships ‘spackling the cracks’. Your friend is in an even worse state- she is going into a marriage and KNOWING that her fiancée is a cheater when he was with her. Oh, My!

      I would approach her this way. ALL of us want to be loved and cherished and that is fine. Try pointing out to her though the amazing women who stood by their man, had kids, worked HARD all through their marriage to keep things together and got ROYALLY burned when they UNKNOWINGLY were cheated on!! Maybe even invite an older, wiser former military wife chump to lunch with you and your friend. If THAT doesn’t work- tell her how BUSY she is going to be going into that relationship and policing his actions or snooping around. Either that or she is going to be the Queen of Denial.

      Good luck! Do what you CAN to impart some wisdom. Heck, Tell her about chump and see if she might start reading and educating herself. If she is STILL going to marry this guy, she might come to her senses a little earlier in the marriage. Sooner rather than later will at least spare her a FEW less years of pain before she wakes up!

  • If it wasn’t for your website and blog I would never be as far along mentally as I am now. It’s been just shy of seven months since I moved out. The NC was the hardest part. No one except for one or two other women pointed out that what my STBXW was really doing was cheating by being with another woman. I didn’t listen because I felt that they each had their own intentions. I spackled for four and half years until it became unbearable. Some of the hardest mind fuck to deal with is her saying I forced her to be with another woman. I “forced” you for four and half years? Yeah sure I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I asked her to please stop seeing her, that it was affecting our marriage. I am a vet with PTSD and I broke down after we started therapy when I found out just how much she had become someone else’s wife. After five months of pure hell, I tried to commit suicide. I ended up in a psychward. While I was there it was pointed out how destructive this relationship was to me by three mental health professionals. I was told that it was toxic and that in my mental state I was not to just go home but to seek extensive therapy for myself. When I was released from the Mental Health Clinic she would not return any of my phone calls. My father in law picked me up because it was the only other phone number I could remember. (they take everything away like you are in jail)
    She finally txted me and said she was furious with me for what I had done and that I had other choices. I was told not to contact the kids. I did not hear from her for five days. Probably some of the toughest five days of my entire life. Ten days later I caught them at the other woman’s house drunk and having sex. When confronted with everything she has shown no remorse of any kind and she has never said sorry for anything. Your articles help me see over and over what a chump I really was. Spackle hell, that is all I have ever done for 12 years that we have been together.
    It’s really too painful to go into all the details of it all, but yesterday she couldn’t wait to show me my 17yr daughters resume that she had put together. Well guess who was one of her references is? Yes the OW. Un-fucking believable! I called an attorney who had done some work for me in the past and asked if he knew a good divorce lawyer. He gave me her number and said she is brutal.. I replied brutal is good..I can’t wait to finally put this sham marriage behind me..Thanks soo much CL from a former “CHUMP”

    • Ian,
      My X of 12 years did not show an ounce of remorse. On D-Day when I was asking him questions, which he answered like a zombie he told me he cheated from day 1. No I’m sorry, nothing. With all the shock, hurt, and everything else that goes along with it I think the main part that got to me was that he was a total complete stranger. Please remember that there is something wrong with THEM…not US! Good luck and please keep us posted! ((((((HUGS))))))

    • Ian,

      Unless you have a lot of assets on the line, the brutal attorney will probably just leave you with a big big bill. Feels good at the time but it’s not an efficient use of money.

      Since she sounds like a total loser, best find one that’s like a surgeon and will excise that ugly growth with a few swift cuts and you can be gone before she wakes up from the anesthesia.

      • Ian, I have to agree ‘somewhat’ with the Chumpalicious. I don’t know how old your kids are so if you spend your money on legal fees prioritize paying legal fees for as much time with your kids as possible. Don’t walk away from your kids. They need you and you need them. Meaningful and continuing healthy relationships with them is what you need to move forward.

        Next, spend what money you can on therapy and rebuilding YOU. Any guy who serves our country putting his life on the line, suffering PTSD, meanwhile enduring the absolute CRAP that you have been dealt in your marriage is a HERO in my opinion! I’m cheering for you , want to see move forward, build a good life and achieve the state of ‘meh’ . . . BIG TIME!!! (((((Hugs))))))

  • CL, I just want to chime in and say you are doing a perfect job. Your advice in genuine and realistic. I struggled for almost 3 years post Dday before I finally left my cheating STBXW only three and a half weeks ago. Your site is the catalyst that made me jump off the waterfall. Thank you!

    It’s not easy going, but I know I’m heading the right direction. Please don’t doubt your effectiveness. If I’m ever in the position to give advice out there in the real world to a victim of infidelity, your site will be my first reference. Keep up the great work.

  • I just wanted to say that I have that robot, he was my first and he has a motion sensor, unfortunately he doesn’t have a asshole sensor. He says Danger Will Robinson at everyone. Yes I’m a geek 🙂

  • This is what I received 4 days prior to her leaving fir the New York Marathon in 2011:

    Just thought someone should tell you that what you are rumoured to be doing; going to New York ,escorted by your lover whilst allegedly un be known to your husband and children is a disgraceful ,selfish act.

    Not to mention that you are sharing the company on this trip with a group of people and this mere association could imply these people condone your sordid actions. You, have not stopped to think the position that your indiscretions have put these innocent people in.

    Everyone has heard of sleeping around to climb the corporate ladder ,but sleeping your way to a marathon. Really!

    A copy of this has been sent to your husband.


    Well she looked me in the eyes and declared there was no third person in our marriage.

    I should offer an award to whoever wrote this because they cared about the boys and I.

    Was it one of the fellow runners? Was it someone in chainsaw mans company?

    What do you think. The writer is somewhere out there.

    Even huge red flags with large neon lights and sirens don’t convince us chumps sometimes.

  • Most of the responses have been about people letting chumps know about warnings signs.

    I was hit by a different part:
    “even when I let go of my investment, and got mad and walked away, it was still ages before I stopped untangling the skein of fuckupedness. What was real? What was a lie? Did he ever love me? Why would anyone do such a thing?”

    That is where I am stuck.

    I have a signed settlement with the court; just waiting for the rubber stamp to be “official”. I am essentially divorced after over 30 years together.

    He has never discussed anything and has never acknowledged the affair. It is his personal life and none of anyone’s business.

    So how do I just put down the skein and never need answers? I wont get any answers.

    I know the affair happened with his law partner for many, many years. I have credit card statement that show where and when he was, but only since 2006.

    What was real and what was fake? Why? How could they both lie to me and his sons? How could he find it easier to never speak to his sons than just say I’m sorry? Who would do such a thing right under my nose? Why did she come to family celebrations and not just say she was sick? Why did he make us kiss and hug her in front of him? Why did she allow it? Was any of my marriage real?

    I have a friend who has screamed at me to JUST GET OVER IT! I cant make myself just put the questions down and walk away.

    I never see him or speak to him (or her). The finances are almost untangled.

    Will it ever go away? Will I just stop caring over time? How does someone just LET GO of 30 years of MY life without knowing what was real, if anything? Will it just take time?

    I really need help with this as it is killing me. I made a whole new life for myself and my kids are so proud and supportive of me. One year ago this week I was locked in a psych ward, so I have come a very long way.

    But this last part….

    • I truly went through the “crazies”, which is what I was told is the period of anger, dismay, rebellion, disgust, fear, hurt…all the pain associated with losing your life as you knew it. Perhaps we all needed to be locked up at that point. Somehow, we manage to cope, sort of.

      We are told to “move on,” “get past this,” “make a new life,” and on and on in an endless stream of mindless directives. We instinctively know to do those things, they are not the problem. The problem lies in the safety and sanctity of marriage and family. When that is destroyed, usually in an instant, our minds whir out of control. As time passes, we begin to gain a little control of our behavior and we start to take care of things in order of priority, i.e., we must have a place to live, we must have a job or means to survive financially, we must reach out to friends and family for support. One by one, we do what we instinctively know must be done, but the entire time, our hearts are broken and we cannot imagine how or why this has happened TO US.

      Take comfort in knowing that every single one of us chumps has felt those pangs of longing for the truth, whatever it is. I have come to the conclusion that the only truth that matters is that our was-spouses, lost their way in life. They fell into an age old trap. They did not do it to be mean to us, we chumps are collateral damage and boy does that suck.

      Instant gratification is a typical symptom of these dysfunctional individuals. They go on spending sprees, overuse alcohol, drugs, prescription drugs, and most importantly to us chumps, they over use the affections of someone other than us. They do all these things to make them feel better…temporarily.

      They live in a hedonistic world which shuts out the morals and values we hold so dear. We can’t stop them, we can’t help them. We can only walk sadly away and try to forget. It isn’t easy, but every day gets just a little bit better for me. Knowing he is such a rat helps. I don’t like rats, I don’t want to be near them and I certainly don’t want to have any contact with them.

      It is okay to question their motives, trying to find the “why”, but you won’t be happy with the results and you will have lost valuable time in finding your OWN, REAL happiness. I continually refer to the rat as “The Snake.” He is slimy to me now, something to avoid and thoughts of him make me sick at my stomach. So, I try to find things instead, that make me smile. Cat photos, jokes, cartoons on fb, happy music, great magazine articles, wonderful movies, new plants that are thriving on my attention, anything that makes me feel good about me. My matra, “I am worthy, I am a special person, I don’t want to think about the past any more.”

      I love you dear, you are doing much better than you think you are.

      • Rebecca, much Much Love from me too. Yoder, well put. I too think he lost his way, I saw him this morning, alone at a yard sale (I acted like he was invisible) but that’s something we used to love to do together on Saturday mornings. So where was the great love of his life? She doesn’t work. He told me quite some time ago that the other woman was a liar and a F-ing bitch. Why is he telling me these things? For sympathy I guess, but he’s not going to get it from me. I literally am amazed I survived the aftermath because I never, EVER thought I would or could. My daughter said I was just taking up space and air I was so out of it. I had truly lost my mind.

        Now it’s the little things…my cats, a pretty flower, a beautiful sunset. I still think about him/them constantly but I don’t want him back- I have pure moments of happiness now for the simplest reasons. This all happened because of his boredom and dissatisfaction with himself more than how he felt about me. He thought he could do better BUT I’m starting to remember what I’m worth, and he fucked up BIG time!

        • Rebecca, I understand your feeling of disequilibrium. I ran those questions around and around my mind trying to figure out how for almost two years. How could he do that (affairs, prostitutes, gambling, alcohol) while he claimed I was his best friend, the best thing that ever happened to him, ad nauseum now? Those questions eventually slowed down. I rarely think them any more. Maybe that will happen to you. I hope sooner than mine did.
          I took some comfort in Yoder’s reply.

          I remind myself of what’s good in my life–health, home, work, etc… Compared to most of the rest of the world, I have it very good. I’m okay. I have an excellent therapist. I work hard at recovery. I try to keep moving as someone suggested here. I need more friends–life stages make it obvious I have way more free time than they do with spouses, children, love interests. It’s hard but people weaker than I am do it every day, I must remind myself.
          Thanks, Yoder, for your comforting words.

          • I am reminded of something funny I saw the other day. “Your girlfriends will likely outlive your spouse, so choose them wisely.” Not sure which they meant to live longer, the spouse or the girlfriends, but it was accompanied by the coolest photo of two or three old gals really whooping it up. LOL

            After all, in my mind, he is dead already. A toast any one?

            • Yep, the man I knew is long gone. The moldering husk looked to become more of an upkeep problem than I was really up for, so it all worked out for the best as far as I’m concerned. Lotsa luck to her, but don’t call me or my daughter for any help with that.

              Future conversation between OW and daughter: “What are we going to do about your dad?” “What do you mean WE, kemosabe?”

        • They ALL really fucked up big time, didn’t they? Every one of them lost the one person who truly cared for, loved them. I feel nothing but pity for them. They are going to be sad forever, but every day I am going to discover something special in my life and learn to enjoy doing new things in new ways.

          When I am out with friends, business associates, family, never again will I have to worry about what disparaging remarks the snake might make, or if he’s not hungry after I spent hours in the kitchen, or whether or not he wants to go here or there. I can go and do anything I want…now. I may never watch another ball game. I might not, I don’t have to if I don’t want to. I am going to find other musicians who play at my level and I am going to pick with them whenever I get a chance. The snake never thought I was good enough to play with him or his friends.

          And just for therapy (and revenge) I am writing a screen play about how I got rid of the OW, permanently. I don’t need any snakes around me.

      • Yodar, your second paragraph is spot on. Thanks for writing that – it perfectly describes the mindfuck that we all go through.

        • I got so tired of “knowing” what I should be doing, taking care of. Knowing and doing are two totally different things. I wanted to be responsible, but I just could hardly drag myself out of bed each day or sleep at night. I was by definition, bed bug crazy. Somehow, our minds slowly grind to a halt and we sort of start over, taking one thing at a time. Isn’t the human mind a marvelous machine?

          • I was at that stage towards the end but couldn’t figure out why. The why is that he really didn’t give a shit if I needed him. It was all about what he needed and if someone else was faltering well tough shit, he’d go find someone else to feed his needs. It kind of sucks to realise I spent all those years with someone who really didn’t give one shit about me.

            • Nord, now that I am in charge, making every single decision about EVERYTHING, I am loving it. When he asks occasionally, “Why”, I just say, “Executive decision,” and that is all there is to it, he never questions anything. I love having him like a bug under a microscope, but I still can’t wait to get him OUT!

    • Rebecca,

      You need INPUT!! But your friends don’t make very good source material. They don’t really have any answers and that frustrates you both.

      There’s nothing new under the sun. Lots of information exists about the reality of the world, and these disruptive, dishonest people that populate it. Start reading and don’t stop!

      This blog mostly deals with narcissists and their personality disorder. Yes, you were had. So was I for 30 years. I was all warm and comfortable in my relationship and he was smothered and oppressed because he didn’t want his responsibilities anymore. How could two people experience the same relationship so differently?

      Let Peter Coyote explain it to you:
      Just the first 25 or 30 minutes or so. These people only LOOK normal.

      Jed Diamond’s work on male menopause was enlightening too. Especially since he was aware enough to watch it develop in his own self. As a young man he was smug in his self assuredness that that would never happen to him!
      This is the category where I put my ex. I think the syndrome is much worse if you have narcissistic tendencies which he surely did.

      This movie does a good job of showing two people wrapped up in the “dark ecstasy” of an affair. They get off on being bad. “You are so evil!” Dark ecstasy is a real thing. I’ve felt it. Google it.

      Finally, I like Dr. David Hawkins work for studying the spiritual angles.
      He was a classical psychiatrist before he became “enlightened” and wrote a book called Orthomolecular Psychiatry with Linus Pauling which deals with mental conditions brought on by vitamin and mineral imbalances. For what it’s worth, he considers narcissism to be the number one problem with the world.

      None of the above should be used to try to untangle the “skein of fuckupedness” — it’s just for getting the number of the bus that hit you and reorienting yourself to your new reality by looking at things from different points of view.


    • (((hugs))) Rebecca.

      Sorry your friend screamed that at you. That’s not a very good friend, IMO, but of course, she can’t possibly understand all of this until she’s walked in your shoes; hopefully, she’ll never have to.

      I agree with the staying in the present and just letting it go, but it is really, really difficult, isn’t it? So, I’d like to make a few points about the area of stuckness (if that’s a word) which I know that you already know, but maybe it will help to hear them again? I have to remind myself too.

      Its a sickness. Your husband is mentally ill and there is no cure. I have no doubt that he DID (and probably still does) LOVE you and as deeply as was WITHIN his CAPABILITY. But, that’s the word. Capability. His idea of love is not the same as yours and the rest of us… I could write volumes on this, but succinctly, he does not understand a lot of things because he simply is not able to. How can you explain the color green to someone who’s never seen? I really and truly do not think that he was consciously trying to hurt you or crazy as it sounds, realize that what he was doing was wrong. Oh, he knew it was wrong but only because he read it some where, but it felt so RIGHT for him and he figured that you wouldn’t find out or even need to know because he felt that it was “none of your business.”

      YES, its completely fucked up, but you have to understand that the playing field is NOT even!

      If your husband had lung cancer and had never smoked. At first you would think what was it that caused this? Second hand smoke, asbestos, radon in the basement, bad genes? After a time, it wouldn’t matter, because what matters is treating the illness. Now, your husband’s illness cannot be treated, just like some physical illnesses cannot be treated, either. The only person that can be helped is you. The difference is… this illness *feels* personal. Its not, however. Most likely, your husband is a virulent misogynist who seeks to control and overpower women. ALL women. Not just you. You blew his cover and tried to put an end to it and so you were dismissed because his NEED to control supersedes his ability to LOVE. And that goes for his sons too. He’s VERY fucked up.

      The fact that he included this woman in his real life and all the rest signifies to me that he’s also quite sadistic. Exceedingly cruel and I cannot imagine how hideous that is… because at least my husband hasn’t flaunted anything like that in front of me.

      So, how do we move forward and create this new life we didn’t really want to have to create? The others have already said this so well, but I think its little by little. And I think that you are doing very, very well. I recall that you have a job that you love and you have a lovely home and your wonderful, supportive sons. The fact that he’s not communicating with them is not anything that I can possibly even conceive of. He might as well be from another galaxy.

      I know… the pain is overwhelming and incapacitating at times, but just keep remembering that you will get there… You are already well on your way, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.

      • “Most likely, your husband is a virulent misogynist who seeks to control and overpower women. ALL women. Not just you. You blew his cover and tried to put an end to it and so you were dismissed because his NEED to control supersedes his ability to LOVE”

        You nailed the dirty little secret of the male world. See the 5 centuries of gynocide (witch hunting )that went on in Europe — sponsored by the patriarchal church too, I might add. Point that out to a man gripped by this insanity and they’ll just tell you you’re into “victimology”

        • I agree with that quote as well. As much as my ex surrounds himself with women I don’t think he much likes them or respects them. I look back at various things he said and did over the years and it’s pretty obvious now that he took on his father’s attitudes about women, which would not be out of place on Mad Men. Kind of scary because I’m pretty feminist in my views, meaning I think women and men are equal, end of.

      • This is about forgiveness; was part of the message at church this AM (no eye rolling pls!)
        “Forgiveness- accepting the past as past and and the uncertainty of the future”

        Thought alot about this. I think us chumps are so very against the actual word because in most cases we have been forgiving many people all these years. “Oh that’s alright ect…” No I don’t forgive you for tearing my heart out and stomping it on the ground, for treating me like a second class nitwit for 23 years. I accept the fact that you are a narristic egotist who thinks only of himself and chose to move on with my life. It can only get better being out from under your thumb and constant critiism.” Think about that you MF!!!

    • Rebecca, Oh my you have come a long way. You know sometimes I don’t think we will ever completely get over it. When you give someone your heart and soul and they trample it; well it comes back all bent out of shape. Like a car in an accident. An emotional wreck. I think that is what theraphy is for. When my therapist and I discuss the tx plan she has to submit to my insurance company every 3 ms one of the reasons we put is that I have a safe place to talk about this. I am blessed with 2 sisters that will listen to me but I try not to overburden them. If friends ask how I am doing I give them the Readers Digest version. Sometimes I walk the dog for hours and just talk to myself (dog likes this) I think in time it just hurts less. You know my Mom died 10 years ago. At first I missed her every day big time. Cried quietly alot. I still think of her everyday but am no longer sad. Then sometimes (like now) I start crying.

      • Never though about long walks before. That really would be good therapy. Just walk and talk to myself. By the time I got back home I would have told everybody off one last time and would be refreshed and ready to tackle the next thing in my new life.

        • Seriously, it does work, feels good,good for you (the walking) just don’t yell and scream,gestulating OK. And it gets you out of the house. Also I live in area with lots of woods and nature never disappoints.

          • PS people don’t think you are weird because now a days with all the the cell phones and wireless connections everybody is talking to themselves

            • Just remembered that I have done that for years while working out scenes. Same thing. When I get moved, there will be lots of nature around. Almost hit a deer today and have seen coyotes, dozens of rabbits, etc. Will look forward to early morning walks. Thanks.

              • I’m a writer as well, Yoder, and yup, I figure my neighbours always thought I was nuts with the pacing and talking aloud. I haven’t had time to walk at all recently, as I have a short term project and it’s taking all my time. But hey, it’s a bit of money and a step towards rebuilding that lost career. Gah, I need work!

              • Nord, did you ever write anything and think, well maybe I better do a walk thru, just to check for accuracy, only to find that Mr. Jones could not have opened the door and walked to the bed because there was no door where he was or because he was in a wheel chair or some other such nonsense? One time I shot an exterior scene of a car pulling into a garage. This was in Missouri. While editing, I put the clips on a big screen so as to see the details clearly. The license plate said, “Arkansas.” Glad it was a short scene and could be reshot rather easily. Go ahead and laugh now.

              • Hahahaha…I write things all the time that I go back to later and think ‘hmmm…that’s not making much sense, now is it’ which leads to loads of rewriting and then the story takes a turn and….yes, well, you know how that goes. 🙂

              • I so miss creative writing. Wish I could focus long enough to spin a good story. At present I am all jumbled up and tied up in a knot. I can see the time coming pretty soon, when I can sit down, relax and enjoy the solitude of creating in a vacuum.

              • To be honest I write better when I’m in a knot. Writing helps untie it. Usually. 🙂

    • this is hard Rebecca, I don’t go on to my best friend – I still see my therapist once a month just so I have someone to vent at that won’t mind. I have been separated for 3 years, divorced for one year with complete NC. I’ve been there with your issue, what was real, what was fake, did he ever love me or was he using me the entire time, how could he do that.

      I was an Amazon chump, I’ve read books on NPD, BPD and pyschopaths and no matter what I read I can understand on an intellectual level how a disordered person might think/feel but I cannot diagnose my ex, I cannot get into his head. This is a good thing, his head is not a good place. I can understand myself though, yes – that’s where I went, to understand me.

      I came to peace with the what was real/what was fake by realizing that it did not matter. What matters is how I felt, how things were for me during those years. From my perspective, there were quite a few good years in the beginning of that long relationship. If he was cheating during those times, if he didn’t really love me, I didn’t know it and I was happy being with him at the time. There were many wasted years at the end but you know, you cannot go back. So, I stopped trying to understand his fuckedupedness and instead focused on my own. I now understand why I stayed, how he broke down my boundaries, why my love was so unconditional and how I came to be in that situation. One of those reasons is that I always want to know the why of everything and I’m a “fixer”, well I can’t fix this – if you are like that, let it go. The person you knew is dead, you can’t fix a dead person.

  • Oh yes, I was warned – by a friend of mine that I later found out had been screwing her. But I went ahead and married her. I think my therapist broke his pick on this one!

  • When things were rough w/the ex (I spent years having 2 or 3 days out of every two week period longing to leave him – not good, eh?) I used to dream of being in IKEA by myself w/ an empty apartment to fill and a credit card!!!!!!!

    Now I can’t do much in the current house (which used to be the marital home), ’cause maintaining it is too expensive, but I’m gradually getting all trace of the ex out, and putting in my own little touches. Feels great!

    • Karen, good for you. Wipe traces of the snake out with the trash. Bring some color and freshness in, especially little things only you enjoy. You have no one to please but yourself.

      Although I am moving into a new house and old ball and chain is coming along, he has had NO say in anything from decorating to which room he is allowed to sleep in, not even whether or not the toilet bowl water will be clear or blue. I’m lovin’ it.

    • Paint is cheap and it really helped me remove the traces of the ex, try it. My living room is now Plum, a color he would never have approved and it’s beautiful.

      • I love plum! Am moving to a new house tomorrow and I had every wall painted white. It is a clean slate…I am starting over again.

  • Well, that’s weird. I thought I was replying/commenting on this post:

    Yoder commented on Warning Signals.
    in response to Janet:
    I was Target today and looking at all the cool stuff they have thinking “Boy I could make my own place sooo pretty”

    I am going through the same thing. Found an antique bed with curved footboard in storage that I forgot I had, found an antique walnut high boy a friend gave me, that just matches it, so I splurged and got all new bedding and a little rug from India to go beside the bed. No ducks, sports stuff, great out of doors, etc. It is all pale blue and white, with lots of lace and little roses. Yep, I deserve it.

  • CL, this post made me cry. Why? Because my wonderful therapist took a chance, cared enough about me to go unprofessional and said to me ‘Do not marry this man. He will make you very unhappy’.

    She cared, and I was wilful. I am also admitting after 20 years that my friends of the time didn’t like him. So I dumped them, and took on his friends.

    Chumps, ey.

  • I had a warning but did not listen, and I spackled too.

    I dated my ex in hs and all through college before marriage. In our last year at school, we were at his apartment late watching movies with friends. I had to get back to my residence hall (I had a job and had to be back to get “on call”). My ex refused to drive me back and wanted me to walk (he was not drinking!). It was VERY late and I was a little concerned about walking back alone. One of his friends ended up driving me home and in the car on the way back, the friend asked me “why are you even with him when he treats you this way?” Huh! This coming from HIS friend.

    I made excuses, but interestingly, this friend fell away from our lives shortly after graduation and all of us getting married and moving on. I guess he did not like my ex as a friend either!

  • My mom told me – this boy is bad news he makes u cry way too much.

    My dad told me – he manipulates you and wants too much control.

    My younger sister (16) then told me, he is pulling you down u ain’t the same person.

    One childhood friend told me – he is so immature. His own mother told me, he is like a little kid god knows when he will grow up.

    What did I do with all the warnings above – Spackle….Spackle …..Spackle away ! But no one sees the nice him, how he takes care of me like I am his princess etc etc….

    Dated him 5 years, last year of which WE were planning a (fairy tale) wedding together. Till I found out he was cheating on me , for almost a year, with my flatmate/ co worker/ friend (snake) ….. Lying to me every day, loving his cake, telling me how I was the love of his life, telling her that what they have is physical but he is obligated to marry me.

    One and a half months from d day, I regret I did not listen to the warnings. While he is still on with his it was ur fault , I am sorry, I will make it up to u, just marry me Tomorrow she made me do it drama…… I can see the monkey dance clearly now. The abuse of my emotions for him, using my ability to feel compassion against me…..

    Still in early days of No Contact but I realize I got out relatively early, am 27, still single, and still convinced a relationship of mutual respect and trust is possible.

    But CL really helps when I go into ‘that unicorn is so pretty’ … Maybe I am the one who is crazy mode.

    To other out there, do not ignore the warnings !

  • I was warned by a PSYCHOTHERAPIST whom I trusted, and who I knew was ‘on my side’

    – do not marry him, he will make you very unhappy.

    But I was willful, in control, my love was going to change him and we would conquer all!

    Well, this is my karma bus, which I humbly accept; and I am now a grateful member of Al Anon, learning to let go of control, learn serenity and trust in a higher power. Highly recommended to co dependent chumps.

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