Chumps, 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.