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Your Beautiful, Beautiful Brokenness

Here is a particularly toxic batch of spackle I see a lot. Making a virtue out of loving the “brokenness.”

Maybe it’s because I once lived with a hoarder that this sentiment totally creeps me out. He could look at a bunch of moldy tennis balls and see potential. I saw festering, useless items that he refused to part with.

But I get the romance in beautiful brokenness, really I do. The tragic fuckupedness that only your love can fix! The Pygmalion complex, where you’re going to take this gutter snipe and turn her into a lady. Or the fellow who’s a diamond in the rough, but with your heart of gold, he’ll quit being the antisocial, raging hermit. (Beauty and the Beast.)

Loving the beautiful brokenness is a kind of narcissism, I think. It’s really about how saving someone makes us feel — superior, helpful, noble. At worse, martyred. There’s something horribly condescending about loving someone In Spite Of.

Oh, but the lovers of beautiful brokenness don’t see it that way. They see it as an all-encompassing love that doesn’t expect perfection. It’s compassionate. It’s a love that hates the sin, but loves the sinner. As if the two things could be teased apart. Sinners are not defined by sin! (Doesn’t that sound Orwellian?) As if the person and the things they do are entities that should be judged completely separately and have no bearing on one another. Well, except as an excuse. I do Terrible Things because I am Broken.

Loving the beautiful brokenness is definitely part of the big spackle reserve people in reconciliation must draw upon. In reconciliation forums you see the term used all the time — well, yes, she keeps having affairs, but I must be understanding because she is the victim of sexual abuse and this is how she acts out. Or, well, he has a deep hostility towards women because of his mother, and that’s why he hooks up with prostitutes on Craigslist. He’s broken. These actions are part of his affliction. Or her syndrome.

Invariably there is some gesture at redemption. Therapy. 12-step. A label. But the truth about the broken person’s character is usually amply on display in their actions. He’s not all that sorry. She gambled away the mortgage payment. He relapsed. She broke no contact with her affair partner. He didn’t do the therapy homework. She had a long, flutterly excuse that made no sense whatsoever. He won’t find a job. Ad infinitum.

Being broken is a nice circular argument. Why did these things happen? Because they’re broken. Why did they get help, but this shit keeps happening? Well, hey, they’re BROKEN. We must be patient with these things!

And that’s the savior’s dilemma then. Patience. You can’t call them out on their shit, because that’s not very compassionate of you in the face of their brokenness, is it? Oh, and they got their FIRST. You don’t get to be broken by what they did, acting out. You’re just collateral damage. Nothing personal. Don’t think this is about you, okay?

Robert Hare, the researcher on psychopaths, once said in an interview that psychopaths are hard to spot. They’re pretty ordinary at first, but if he had one give away — it’s that they appeal to your sense of pity. They come across as rather sad sausages. Harmless. Perhaps a bit broken.

Compassion being total chump bait.

I don’t think we should cease to be compassionate people so we don’t get played. What a dark world that would be. No, I think we shouldn’t give compassion, succor, or aid to people who do not help themselves. You want to help a person who is leading the charge to fix whatever made them broken.

The world is full of countless people who have overcome adversity of the worst sort. I can think of two examples in my own life, of people I’ve known who experienced total depravity, and come out the other side terrific human beings. One fellow, who I’ve written about before is Rocky Williams, a friend of mine in grad school. A white South African man who was a spy for the ANC, was discovered after 9 years, imprisoned, tortured, and spent 13 months in solitary confinement (during which time his mother died). He escaped (I met him in exile in London), got a PhD, and then went back to a new South Africa and spent the rest of his life reforming militaries around the world. He became a colonel in a new South African Defense Force.

That shit should’ve broken him. If anyone had an excuse, it was Rocky. And he was the jolliest, most engaged person you’d ever want to meet. He said about prison, that he’d survived the worst and the world had nothing else to throw at him. He felt quite fearless as a result.

The other person, I won’t name, was a friend of mine who was an incest survivor and went to court many years later to prosecute her father, an MIT-educated engineer (happens in the “best” of families…). She had an incredibly sick, messed up upbringing. And her father abused her and her two sisters into adulthood. Again, this shit should’ve broken her. It didn’t. She got a lot of therapy, had a trial (he walked, the judge refused to let her sisters testify or have medical records put into evidence, so it was his word against hers, and who wants to believe such horrors?) She married a good guy, and now is the loving mother of three sons. A normal, tax-paying citizen.

Neither of these two people took the hideous injustices in their life and used them as an excuse to abuse other people. I find the “broken” excuse so toxic, because it disrespects the vast majority of survivors who don’t go on to ruin other people’s lives. I don’t think it’s abuse that compels people to behave abhorrently, it’s entitlement. It’s OKAY for me to hurt you because I feel hurt.

Mollycoddling “broken” people, loving their potential, and not judging them by what they’re actually DOING with their lives, is dangerous. It keeps you entwined in their lives without regard for your own well-being.

And guess who they’re going to hurt next?

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • You think you can “save” them because you love them and you are a chump who believes in unicorns.

    • Don’t forget the gaslighting and using guilt as a weapon: “Remember that time you rolled your eyes and sighed, and that was disrespectful”.

      Umm yeah, it was. It was disrespectful, and so was their demanding you stop what you were in the middle of working on to immediately provide ego kibbles for the 10th time in the space of an hour. It would be much better if you had said, “I’m sorry, but I need to have this finished by noon”, except… that had not worked the previous 9 times.

      So you see, they had to call you names, they had to regurgitate that laundry list of reasons why you suck, and they had to cheat on you.

      As for believing in Unicorns: part desperation, part arrogant self-delusion, and part not knowing any better, right?

      Took the second Dday for me to wake up and smell the coffee: this isn’t normal. This is really, real brokenness.

      • I found the laundry list of all my “sins” written on the back of MY Victoria Secrets catalog ( all my sins for the ammo for the marriage counselor ). Excuse me while I f’n puke.

        You cannot save them.

  • My ex uses his brokenness as a ploy for kibble. He loves telling people that he “did some terrible things” and “went through a sordid phase” but with the help of Jesus, he’s made this complete turn around, and now is a wonderful, honest, true man who just wants to inspire and give to others.

    Except of course, he’s still a lying, manipulative, cheating con man. His “sordid phase” of secretly having sex with other men started in his teens, and he’s in his late 40s now and still doing it. That’s quite some phase. His “sordid phase” of having sex with married women went on for quite some time as well, he’s probably still at it.

    I guess it’s just like the researcher said, using pity to snare new victims. “Brokenness” can be a powerful tool in the hand of a sociopath. I’m sure my ex has no problem finding women who are fooled by his charm and earnest story of redeemed brokenness. Little do they know.

    • The Christian thing — the ultimate Get out of Jail Free card. Wipe away that guilt and become above reproach. Just better not let that mask slip…..

      The ex informed the kids a couple of weeks ago that he’s studying a course on becoming a Disciple of Christ. Daughter says that’s great but she doesn’t see evidence of a transformed life.

      Evidence, smevidence. I want proof. Next time I see him, he better be walking on water.

  • Excellent post CL. There’s so much emotional inertia in a long-term relationship but it’s a fucked up skein that’s actually worth untangling.

  • I speak wth my XH very infrequently (it’s been many years since our divorce but we had kid issues to occasionally communicate about.). He would literally become FURIOUS at me – screaming fury, because I “just won’t believe that he’s a changed person” and understand that, he’s “learned from his mistakes” and I “just hang onto the past because I like being the victim”. Spittle inducing fury from him – I never understood why it was so important to him that I thought ‘he changed” 10 years after we split.

    And, that fury would come from me saying something like, “I need you to commit 100% to picking up the boys because last time you stood them up”, because the last time he texted them 30 minutes after he was supposed to pick them up to let them know he’s not going to be there because he has a headache, flat tire, stubbed toe, etc. (He had a “headache” and missed his kid’s graduation from HS last month Texted my son 5 minutes before commencement started. POS).

    I truly believe he is a sociopath – not just a total selfish A-hole. He remarried after our divorce and once when I picked up the kids and his wife wasn’t there he told me that he was facing an aneurism and was undergoing tests for the surgery – and his wife was very upset and scared so not to bring it up – but he wanted me to know as he’d not have visitation for a few weeks. No further word was ever said and he never had surgery, etc.

    After his 2nd wife left him, she told me that he hadn’t come home one night – and he told her that he’d passed out walking to his car after work and was taken to the hospital and probably had an aneurism – she lavished all sorts of worried attention on him, then figured out the lie when no medical EOBs or bills started floating in – and he didn’t want her going to the follow up dr. visits.

    • I wonder how many of our cheaters love medical drama.

      STBXH has always been a notorious hypochondriac. In fact, a former housemate of mine used to kid around with him about it, as she said that she knew that she tended in that direction. However, she told him to use the analytical skills he’d learned in college to examine the situation. If he did so, he’d see that what he thought were symptoms of some rare malady were more likely caused by his having lifted a lot of heavy stuff the day before.

      OW feeds into this. She has told him that she’s had visions of her death, that this is the year she’ll die. This is a calculated move to get STBX to pay more attention to her. Interestingly enough, he doesn’t seem to see it, but perhaps that’s because he’s so busy with his own medical drama.

      All of it is a way of showing how broken they are, that they need to be pitied. Oh, and fixed! I find it amusing to see how he wants to fix things for her, except now he seems to want to fix her credit rating, which is what’s leading us toward divorce sooner than later. She wants to fix things for him, too.

      I wonder how understanding she’ll be down the road when she discovers that he’s always the one with the headache. And I wonder how understanding he’ll be when he learns that she isn’t dropping dead this year, but instead has taken him for a ride in the car that he effectively bought for her.

      • OMFG! My stbx fuck stick thought he had “ass cancer” at one time because he was bleeding out of it. He was in drama mode for weeks because he hadn’t seen a doctor, just diagnosed himself.
        He would never tell me what was wrong because he didn’t want me to ‘feel sorry’ for him. WTF? If my husband has “ass cancer” I would like to know. Thanks! Turns out it wasn’t.

        Now I’m wondering if he wasn’t also taking it up the ass.

  • My father was physically abused by his father when he was growing up. He vowed that he would never do the same thing to his own children. He kept his word. He has always been a shining example for me of how you can overcome terrible circumstances and be better.

    Unfortunately, I’m not enough like my father. I also see myself in this:

    “Loving the beautiful brokenness is a kind of narcissism, I think. It’s really about how saving someone makes us feel — superior, helpful, noble. At worse, martyred. There’s something horribly condescending about loving someone In Spite Of.”

    I’ve been learning to own that. For whatever reason, I think that is a huge part of the reason why I got involved with XH. I think that I let someone who traumatized me from my past affect that choice.

    The good news is that I think my father’s example helped me to leave my XH. I did spackle, hoped my love would make him better and happier, looked past his shortcomings because I was supposed to take the good with the bad, thought that I would somehow “rescue” him from his insecurities, etc. When I found out about the A, though, that was all over. He never became a better man– he became a lesser man and for no reason other than the fact that he was spoiled and entitled. When our marriage hit a rough spot, he bailed. My father taught me that a person can be better than that. I knew that I couldn’t spend the rest of my life with someone who was perfectly happy to wallow in the mud and to take me down with him.

    I also know that I have to be better than that. I can also overcome terrible circumstances and be better. Just like my dad.

  • My fiance’s older brother is one of those people who uses his pain as an excuse to be hurtful to others. And unfortunately it’s ruined his relationship with my fiance.

    Family is really important to my fiance, and it pains him a lot that he can’t have a relationship with his older brother, but I’ve been pushing him to realize that he cannot help someone who doesn’t even think they need help. Every time he talks to his brother, he feels like shit and tells me the next horrible, hurtful thing his brother has said or done.

    He’s finally stopped trying to communicate with his brother. I told him if his brother REALLY gives a crap about re-building those burned bridges, he can come to us and humble himself. But that hasn’t happened. And I fully believe it never will.

    As much as it sucks, we can’t allow our sense of compassion or desire to be near to someone, be it family or a spouse, to allow THEM to walk all over us. It’s one thing to be compassionate to someone who wants help and is sincerely working for it. It’s another to waste compassion on someone who just wants to control you and bask in the limelight of your attention.

    • Kara, absolutely! I share this problem your fiancé has with one of my siblings. She uses ‘her pain’ to tear down my older sister and I along with our mother AND our deceased father! What we can learn from this ‘chump’ evolution is that the lessons we are learning from each other are applicable to others around us making our lives miserable!

  • I got back together with mine because he conveniently at the right time told me what a hard childhood he had; and oh how I pitied him! They know how to use people who have a kind heart. With the final affair he told me that I was the saint and he was the sinner! I think he was trying to elicit pity from me; didn’t buy it for a second. Entitlement !!!!

  • Hmm…I think I liked being the one to fix everything, to always ‘be there’ for him and to ‘understand’ him, etc., but I also figured he would be there for me. He was never really tested because I was the ‘strong’ one so when things went wrong in my life I just dealt with it. Then I couldn’t deal and nope, he wasn’t there, he ran like the selfish asshole he is.

    After dday he told me all sorts of ‘deep, dark secrets’ and ‘confessed’ to all sorts of things. He even shed some tears….sort of. My heart melted and I was already on the road to forgiveness. And then he told me to stop crying and get over all I had found out just 24 hours prior (multiple affairs) and I realised he was one cold bastard. So I kicked him out.

    But I thought that in kicking him out he’d come to his senses and realise that what we had was special and important and worth fighting for. He took me kicking him out as a massive insult and a manipulative ploy to humiliate him. Yeah, there’s some thinking for you.

    I did think he was broken and I still do. But it’s not my problem, I had to realise. It’s his problem to figure out and fix. Or not. I fixed everything for years and bought into so much bullshit based on love, commitment, history, etc. He didn’t think all our years together warranted even one serious sit down conversation after I kicked him out. Not one conversation after that. Two weeks after dday, when the kids were falling apart and I was literally a complete mess I called him asking for help with all of this. His response? ‘What is it you think I can do for you, Nord?’ He literally did not care one iota about me or the kids or what we were going through. IT DID NOT MATTER TO HIM. He was out having drinks with friends and was worried as to whether final OW was going to dump her partner to be with him. That was his focus. Not me. Not the kids. Him and what he would have to fall back on now that I had ‘humiliated’ him by throwing him out publicly.

    It took me months and months to let go of the idea that he could be fixed if only X, Y, Z happened and he did this, that and the other thing and if only he could ‘see’ one thing or another.

    It’s really hard to see these people for who they really are and to accept that they truly are awful and fucked up and yes, they really do mean to act this way and no, they really don’t give a shit who gets hurt along the way.

    Thank god he’s out of my life.

    • Nord, were you still thinking you were going to “fix it” when you kicked him out? How did you get past that? I know logically what is going on but it’s like parts of my brain still think this just can’t be happening. With everything that’s happened, I still can’t shake this thing in my mind that says “if I could just….” It’s not that I have any hope or desire to “fix things.” It’s more like I just can’t believe this is real; like I’m going to wake up and realize it was just a nightmare. At what point do you accept reality?

      • Yep, I did think if I just showed him the way he would have some sort of eureka moment and see the light. Hahhaahahahaha…how foolish I was.

        I have accepted reality but that doesn’t stop me from thinking a bit too often that this is just a nightmare and I’ll wake up at some point. I mean, who can behave as badly as my ex and then blame me and treat me like I’m the one who did something horrible? I’m not sure I’ll ever wrap my head around it, to be honest.

        • I still sometimes find myself wondering what the hell is going on in his head. It’s been a good 4 1/2 years and I still occasionally wonder “What. The. Hell?” Y’know?

          My friends tell me that they’ve run into him at restaurants or while out shopping and he’s still trying to tell them that I’m a huge liar and I have a problem and they shouldn’t believe anything I say about him. He honestly thinks he’s still the center of my universe and I’m trying to get back at him or something. He actually didn’t believe it when he found out I was engaged. He accused me of making it all up just to get under his skin.

          Real kicker is whenever he sees my fiance in public he doesn’t say a damn word.

          He’s not the center of my universe by any means and hasn’t been for a long time. But I do still wonder every now and then, how can anyone do something as fucked up as what he did and then so very blatantly deny it. Then try to turn it around on me, years later, to people who KNOW BETTER.

          I just don’t understand it. I’m sure a lot of us, even if we’re fresh from DDay or 10 years separated from our exes, still can’t wrap our brains around it. We probably never will, but that’s because we’re not messed up in our heads like they are. We can’t understand it because we know the difference between right and wrong and we know the kind of dishonesty that takes is flat out wrong.

          • Funny, because I’m more than 18 months past dday, we’re divorced, I have no interest in him other than the practical stuff and I STILL get emails telling me to ‘get over it’. He seems to believe I’m still sitting round pining away for him and wanting him back and just hoping against hope he’ll sparkle for me again. Or maybe he wants to believe that and can’t believe, after 20 years, that I simply do not give a crap anymore.

            I do believe he needs to have me-or someone-as the third person in his imaginary triangles…and now that it’s starting to dawn on him that I stepped out of that role a long time ago I’ll wager he’s going to start looking for a new triangle- and this is where OW is going to learn a very hard lesson.

            It should be enormous fun to watch play out. 🙂

            • OH, and I should also say that my kids are hilarious: they have blatantly said that their father does not react well when they mention I’ve been on a date – and they can’t wait for me to get a boyfriend so that he knows what it feels like. Awful that they see this about him but funny at the same time. Too bad for everyone that I’m not meeting anyone interesting at all right now.

              • You’re a little ahead of me in the process Nord but I used the exact same phrase in my journal the other day (imaginary triangles). Who would want that? It’s insane!

          • 17 years post divorce. I read her journal where she expressed the desire to “stop having sex with strangers”. I tracked her nights out for 6 moths(112 out of 180 until long after bar closing many nights).
            Yet, when I inquired if she would come clean, all I got was : “there were relationships where the chemistry became sexualized”.
            My Xw will take the truth and the details to her grave, I am convinced.

    • “Hmm…I think I liked being the one to fix everything, to always ‘be there’ for him and to ‘understand’ him, etc., but I also figured he would be there for me. He was never really tested because I was the ‘strong’ one so when things went wrong in my life I just dealt with it. Then I couldn’t deal and nope, he wasn’t there, he ran like the selfish asshole he is.”

      Yes, that’s exactly how it was for me. I handled it ALL and all he had to do was go earn a living and come back home. What a sweet deal for a mere $35 marriage certificate.

      And then I got laid low for awhile and found out how much he really cared. There’s no such thing as being a human being that needs some time to heal. No, you’re an object, like a car, and you either get yourself fixed or you get traded in.

      He recently sent me a letter, probably scoping out how chumpy I might still be, saying he longed to pull alongside me and help me with all that, but he just KNEW that I needed to deal with that alone for my own personal growth! Boy. That is a new one on me. That is fiction being written in VOLUMES, somewhere, on whatever planet he’s from.

      • Yep, got laid low after a few years of very serious upheaval and he showed exactly what he expected: good old Nord to hold it all together or fuck that, he was going to find attention elsewhere. Well, he got it and tells anyone who will listen just how happy he is and how desperately unhappy he was with me. He sure hid it well until the last few weeks but whatever. He is someone who can’t be counted on to be there through thick and thin. And that makes him a saddo.

        • “He is someone who can’t be counted on to be there through thick and thin. And that makes him a saddo.”
          Mine loves drama and creates it and then both thrives and exhausts himself. I accepted it even though it was very hard on the kids and me – he was unavailable most of the time. When I had some difficult times- not created by me – he either ‘disappeared’ or even later admitted wanted to leave completely. Or said he would like to have a magic wand – no work on his part.

          • Ex still tries to create drama by doing dumb shit that would have pissed me off a year ago and that I would have reacted to but now, even if it annoys me I ignore it. Drives him nuts because he doesn’t get his much-needed dose of drama so I figure he’s desperately looking for it somewhere else.

  • Many of these “broken” people have healed, have built up defense and coping mechanisms. One of those is telling their sad story (when they’ve long ago stopped crying) and another is finding a chump to manipulate. If you decide to marry a person with a tough past, make sure they really have overcome their problems and have not, instead, turned those problems into excuses for continued bad behavior.

  • I loved this post. I justified my ex-husband’s inability to make meaningful attachments, rudeness, and passivity for years. I blamed his parents for raising him in a house full of some very important secrets. He found out about the lies at age 9 and it truly messed him up. I thought with love and and support, I could undo the damage. You are right; it is narcissistic to think I have that kind of power. No one does. The “broken” person can only fix himself. And only if he wants to. My ex thinks he is just fine.

    • My ex thinks he’s ‘just fine’ as well. He uses those exact words. And he grew up in a family of secrets and lies as well. I thought I was showing him how to live openly and honestly but what I was really doing was being lied to and he was just taking it all behind my back. His family is still this way. After dday, I was still able to read his emails and his mother was actually sending him mails about whatever (bringing him food or meeting final OW while still seeing me and encouraging me to ‘wait it out’) and was writing to him that ‘this is our little secret’, to which he would reply with a big smiley face. It was beyond creepy to see a middle aged man having email exchanges with his mother like this.

      • That is creepy! Mine had almost no communication with his parents during our marriage. Now that we are divorced, he talks to them constantly. They thought I was difficult because I told them they should tell their grandkids the secret, because they would eventually find out. They told me it was never an issue until I came along.

        Basically, my fil was married before and had 2 kids. He got divorced, remarried my mil, took the kids ages 4 and 2 and moved to a remote state. They told everyone the kids were hers, too. Even my ex, who was their child together. He found out at 9 from a cousin. None of the grandchildren or neighbors, or close friends know.

        They were furious with me for telling my kids. I was helping my kids with a genealogy project and put the actual family tree instead of the one they all claim. They were not pleased, to say the least.

        I’m so glad these lying freaks are not my problem anymore! Good luck, OW!

        • Yeah, I think that’s going to be a red flag for me going forward too: Beware of families that insist on keeping secrets and projecting a fiction.

          Basically, it’s an integrity thing. Lots of people have mistakes in their past, and we all make mistakes. We don’t all insist on maintaining a fictional account of our whole lives, though.

          If you’ve truly moved on from the past, I can understand not wanting to dwell on it, but I don’t understand the need to fictionalize and insist that everybody else fictionalize it as well.

          • I totally agree. My new mantra is “Authenticity Now!” I spent years trying to please the ex and gave up huge parts of myself.

            I saw a sign on a building in NYC a few months ago that I can’t stop thinking about. It said, “To dream of the person you would like to be is to waste the person you are.” My inlaws went way further than just dreaming, but the result is the same.

          • Projecting a fiction. That’s exactly what ex’s family does. They sit around and pick apart a situation and then come up with ‘the story’ which they all convince themselves is the truth and they never sway from it. Hell, I’ve seen them, 20 years after the fact and when everyone knows the truth, stick with some long ago story that is complete and utter bullshit. It’s quite amazing and I used to point out the inconsistencies while laughing…I no longer laugh because I think the story they’re peddling now is that ex was ‘so unhappy’ that he was ‘forced’ to cheat to ‘find’ someone else who could ‘make’ him happy. No mention of the other affairs, no mention of the lies, no mention of anything other than the poor guy just had to find someone to ‘save’ him. Granted, they aren’t too keen on the final OW but as long as ex wants her they’ll go with the story that’s been built. When she’s gone she’ll get the same treatment.

            Oh, and I’m the bitter, scorned woman who is using the kids and wants to take him for all he has. They’re not even original in their weaving of fairytales.

            • First, Tracy—do you work for the NSA or something? I mean…your last three or four blog posts are written as if you were either in the room with me and STBXH, or YOU ARE MY STBXH. 🙂 Wow. It is just so….so….wonderful and disturbing at the same time that I am not unique in this fucked up situation. Thank you.

              Second, Nord—I’m beginning to wonder if we are related, or if somehow my STBXH found the time to have a completely secret second family with YOU—because you are describing my STBX and his family, what they do…down to the “this will be our secret” between the Mother and him.

              STBX is “depressed” (when asked why he has done these terrible things to our family)….he is “damaged goods” (but I told you that when we met!! It’s YOUR FAULT if you decided to stay with me!!)….he is “broken”….he “doesn’t know why he does the things he does”.

              He offered to get professional help once a few months ago, and I was all for it–when I was still thinking that there was some “lingering doubt” about his latest affair. That stopped him cold. “OMG! You think that there is something WRONG with me!!”….um….yes… are the one who brought it up and offered to get help….so…..WTF? (that’s when I learned what the term “gaslighting” really, truly meant).

              He has not brought it up since.

              But Nord…the mother and family thing—the sitting around finding a consensus of confabulation….something to show the world that they aren’t truly just fucked up!! The hard part is, that they KNOW…ergo, the reason for the committee meetings, the “phone tree” (oh yeah. that phone is lit up at all times, one with the other…each making sure what the official story is going to be, has it changed? do I need to amend anything?)….all under the guise of “family oriented togetherness”. I won’t even go into the bible thumping ultra God loving Christian coverstory they all cling to.

              Either way–CL—you need to be a professional profiler for the police or something, because you’ve got this shit nailed down….it’s amazing to me that you seem to be carrying me from one stage to the next through this hellish labyrinth he’s created in my head and in my life.

              • Abby,
                Ditto! And that is WHY you can believe it will get better…people see me now that remember the Dday and go WOW, i haven’t done much physically, they can just tell by looking in my eyes!

              • Thank goodness my ex inlaws are not religious. If they had thrown God into the mix I don’t think I could have taken it.

              • Most of my ex’s family are also hardcore fundamentalist Christians. This includes the sister who used to go to swinging orgies with her hubby. And they all cheat. Yet perfectly happy to talk about how they are saved and everyone else is going to hell.

              • This made me suddenly remember one of ex narc’s sisters saying, “Spouses come and go, but siblings are forever,” after he dumped me for the OW. His sisters are hardcore enablers and all nuts like him. Needless to say, the sis who made that comment dumped her first hubby for a guy she was cheating with.

            • Wow, Nord, I think we have the same ex inlaws. My ex’s family are mostly a bunch of liars, cheaters, delusional and totally encourage the ex in his insanity while blaming ME for his cheating.

              It’s amazing. During our marriage, I believed their spin that they are a Normal Rockwell, perfect family. Now I look back and realize they are incredibly dysfunctional, hypocritical, horrible people.

              I am actually still very close with ex narc’s older brother and his wife. The narc viciously turned on his brother after dumping me and starting his new life as an “actor” because brother was the only one who told narc he was making a mistake. The narc carried out an extreme smear campaign against his brother and SIL, and as a result, they no longer have much to do with the family. The brother thinks my ex is mentally ill and evil.

      • He was talking to his MOTHER about the affair? And she just went along with it?!

        That is beyond creepy. I don’t think there’s a word for how messed up that is. Yeah, he’s “broken” all right, and his mother ain’t helping. She’s just making it worse.

        I’m glad for you that he is not in your life anymore. I’m actually having trouble coming up with something to say to describe how messed up that guy is.

        • MmmmHmmm. STBXH’s mother does the same thing. She came to visit awhile back and stayed for a few months to “help him out”–and would sit in the kitchen or in his bedroom for HOURS (yes, beside his bed, tucking him in at night. He’s 40.) talking, and they seemed to believe that I couldn’t hear the conversations about how “wonderful he is” and “how things will all get better for him” when he manipulates this situation to his advantage.

          I did finally put the keylogger on the computers and I have more than a few audio/visual devices around the house. I have recorded his lengthy conversations with his mother while talking on the phone—they may be one sided, but I’d have to be utterly stupid to misunderstand when he talks about his plans after using up my financial resources. She knows and is complicit.

          It’s more than creepy. Once, a statement came all the way to the tip of my tongue, but I couldn’t spit it out, because it was just beyond the pale–but with someone who talks for an average of 6 hours a day on the phone with his mother—and she sits by his bedside tucking him in—and she sees absolutely no wrong in anything he’s done (yes, she was told about the affairs and she has chosen to snub the messengers)—

          I almost said to him, “Why don’t the two of you just ‘do it’ and get it overwith, already.” She sees him almost as a “significant other” without the physical part–and he has that same Oedipus complex going as well.

          But I am the one that is controlling and fucked up. Yeah. Right.

            • Arnold– Right after I wrote that and pushed “send”, I couldn’t believe I said it. That was something that I’d always just kept to myself–but always felt in back of my mind…”there is something SO WRONG with that relationship”–

              I’m angry, hurt, disgusted…at myself, at him. I can’t get back 20 years of my life that I’ve wasted on him, and maybe I went over the line a little with that last comment, but that IS what went through my head as I see them clinging to each other…like a couple. She is as bad as he is–she often initiates it, the constant closeness, I mean. It’s not like she’s alone! On the contrary, she has a HUGE family and innumerable friends and acquaintances (and that is not an exaggeration) to draw from, yet she treats my STBXH as literally…a significant other.

              She should be encouraging him to talk to his WIFE, not eagerly step into that role herself. This has always been an issue and it’s only gotten worse since the affairs were revealed (and both of our families were informed, so there was no “keeping it secret to save face”). You would think she would examine or at least question his behavior, but she doesn’t!

              Norman Bates? That ran through my head, a couple of friends snarked that as well recently, when his past behavior was discussed.

              It is just SAD. I am sad and angry and disgusted and horrified and desperate for answers.

              So, if I offended anyone, please accept my apology.

              • Abbey, it does sound like a messed up relationship and you are allowed hyperbole. This is a great place to speak your mind so don’t feel bad. You are obviously a thoughtful person who is hurt, humiliated, frustrated, etc….

          • Ex’s mother is on the cusp of tucking him into bed. Essentially when she came to visit with the whole family she would look at him and say ‘you look tired, you should take a nap’. And so he would. For hours. While I entertained everyone and did all the cooking, etc. He is her special precious little baby boy and he can do no wrong, no matter what. I was special as well until I started blabbing my big mouth about his cheatin’ heart. 🙂

        • My stbx’s mother also knew of the affair and was seemingly A-OK with it. She even emailed him links to things that the OW might be interested in. Super creepy, nasty and I am glad that I never ever have to see or talk to that beast again. Her son is a prince who can do no wrong.

        • Ex’s mother and father will never call him on anything. He is their special, wonderful boy (and they treat him like a boy) and as long as he tells them they’re the greatest parents in the world they’ve got his back, no matter what.

    • Solange: My story exactly. I really thought I could help him and for awhile I did but…. and now I think he resents the fact that I can do for him and take care of myself too. I don’t think it narcissitic to think that your support will help BUT only in the long run if they want to help themselves. I didn’t think I could fix him I just wanted to give him the tools and the place for him to feel loved and safe. O hwell lessons learned. Of course he wants the divorce but I have to do all the work to get it done.

    • I was raised in the Christian tradition and loving the sinner but hating the sin, turning the other cheek, having compassion, etc. are deeply ingrained in me. I still struggle with self preservation vs. helping others and where to draw that line.

  • Please listen to this video. It is important and it covers a lot! Specially the end 10 minutes about defense is most important 🙂

  • Hmmmm…I had not really realized that I did this until just now. :/

    He came from a broken family…a really jacked up one…where there was a lot of abuse—physical and mental. I thought my love could ‘save’ him. What a load of crap that was. I wanted to comfort him, nurture him, heal all the hurts of his childhood, young adulthood and wipe them away…Like Galadriel in Lord of the Rings…so soothing and regal. What kind of fantasy world was I living in? Sheesh.

    Later the gaslighting:
    HIM: You hurt me by telling me that the mere fact that I was breathing was annoying to you…

    ME: I only said it once, for fuck’s sake! Get over it! You were pissing me off! (I mean, really! I was doing in-vitro fertilization at the time and was high on hormones—-I was positively homicidal)

    He used that to the Nth degree. But also told anyone who would listen that I was the ‘love of (his) life’. Yah, whatever. HE is the love of HIS life.

    His family always kept everything on the down-low. No one shared anything. His mother and her 3 chicks were like an impenetrable circle…and the spouses were the OUTSIDERS. Should have seen that fuckupedness from the get go.

    But nooooooo, I needed/wanted to protect him for all that ugliness…never realizing that it came from within him.

    His extended family see my family at church functions and they had no idea that we were not divorced when he fathered his first child with OW. My aunt told them how outraged my family was at his betrayal and his family were visibly shocked and dismayed. His immediate family also believed that he was ‘unhappy’ and I was a ‘materialistic’ person and that he was forced to cheat. Whatever. That entire family is a clusterfuck, IMO. SO glad I am not a part of all of that anymore…

    I have no doubt my ex thinks the he is ‘okay’ too…and sees nothing wrong with him having an affair and procreating his two children because he somehow feels entitled to it. I also have no doubt that his current wife (the OW) believes he saved him from a ‘loveless marriage’ and that, of course, she saved him from that…and the cycle continues with him. Ugh. Makes me want to puke just thinking about it.

    • What IS this “forced to cheat” thing? Seriously? Adult, grown up people actually believe that you had absolutely NO CHOICE but to cheat, possibly transmit a deadly disease to your spouse, possibly bring true crazy to your children/spouse (a la “Fatal Attraction”, and destroy lives? Really?

      I see this often in the comment section here and have been saying it to myself quite often as well—“I can’t wrap my mind around…..”

      Well, I think that our ability to actually reflect and come to that conclusion is what makes us normal.

      I’m happy that I can now stand back and say…”I just can’t wrap my mind around that.” Because….in reality….who would WANT to? I would never feel comfortable in my own skin if I could say (and believe) “Yeah…he was forced to stick his dick into that woman. His wife just didn’t give him enough attention. I completely understand.”


      • Yup Abby, I am totally with you: BLECCH! I, too, am glad I can stand back and say I can not ‘wrap my mind around it”.

        I LOL’d at your ” “Yeah…he was forced to stick his dick into that woman. His wife just didn’t give him enough attention. I completely understand.”

        What a load of poo that is!

      • I know right? What IS this shit?

        “I was forced to cheat.”

        What I consider being “forced” to cheat would be if she held a damn gun to his head and demanded he put his cock in her lest she blow his brains out. But that wouldn’t be cheating, that would be rape.

        …In which case that would mean that under no circumstances has anyone who has willingly had sex with someone who is not their spouse been “forced” to cheat.

        Just can’t wrap my head around it.

        • Kara,

          Yep. Then step back and compare that statement “I was forced to….” with the other things he does in his life.

          Can you force him to do anything? Can anyone else? Really? Think about that.

          What it comes down to with NPD/BPD/Sociopaths…is that if it is not in their interest (what’s in it for me?)…..they won’t do it, dig in their heels resistance, you can’t make them, nah-nah nah nah-nah….lalalalalalalalala I can’t hear you!

          So where is all of the “forcing” coming from, then? I mean, does OW have fairy dust that she sprinkles on you, you know, kind of like the Imperius Curse from Harry Potter or maybe “Felix Felices” (liquid luck) that she dumped in your morning pumpkin juice to make you open to her “forcing” you to fuck her and lie to me?

          Geez. I think OWomen all have this arsenal–because from what I am hearing, all of these assholes (and their enabling families/friends) use this absurd reason for why the cheating took place.

          • Oh. And logically…if you can follow that twisted, mindfucky logic…

            If someone can “force” you to cheat, then I should be able to “force” you to be faithful.


            • Haha, Pottermore sorted me into Slytherin house and I’m not that selfish!

              Oo! I know! It was love potions XD

              Good point though. When it comes to just about EVERYTHING else, work, school, cleaning the house, helping with chores, you can’t make them lift a finger. There’s always an excuse.

              But when it comes to cheating, oh they were just helpless to resist, right?

  • Great post CL… Sorely needed this week. Thanks for reminding me to look at the core of who he is, not the apologetic words he throws at me these days.

  • Loved this post CL! It gave me a good laugh thinking back to MC….. The councilor talked about hating the sin but not the sinner. I just could not wrap my head around that one. Isn’t the sinner the one who committed the sin? Maybe I am just too small minded to grasp that. LOL Then again this was the same MC who also asked the douche bag of a husband if he could ever forgive me…. I hate to say this and sound conceited but I walked away from MC thinking are these people that fucking stupid!! And I even laugh at that because I am the blonde one. Yes, I amuse myself…..LOL How can you separate the sin from the sinner. It is not like my dog was out fucking around – where is the accountability. If I ran someone over, it was not my cars fault if I was the one behind the wheel. But I guess it is just another way to excuse bad behavior…..

    I am so happy I found this site some time ago and sincerely appreciate all that you do to help others. 🙂

  • Ooooooh. Good book I just started reading….”The Manipulative Man” by McCoy.

    First chapter after the intro? “Identifying the Momma’s Boy”….. 🙂


      • Toni–you’re welcome. I hope it does for you what it is actively, as we speak, right fucking now….doing for me.

        I’ve been reading tons of books, going to websites, all that…but this book (for me) just kicked my ass.

        I literally CONSUMED this book last night. Consumed. Each page that I read was an Oh My God moment.

        I was sick to my stomach after seeing that video posted here on Psychopaths.

        This book? The clearest, most concise description of these nutters that I’ve ever come across. How to deal with them, if you are insistent–and real, unvarnished truth about your chances if your man/woman has these signs/symptoms. There are even tests in there for you to take after each chapter to see if you need some “outside reality check” on your perspective of things.

        I want to send this to OW. I really do. I have wanted to forward CL’s blog to her, too—but what do I owe her, really? She’ll find out (or not) soon enough.

        If I had not been here at CL–I would not be making these leaps…you guys are the most awesome bunch of people I’ve ever come across. I mean that from the bottom of my “Kinda Dependent, Kinda Narcissistic, Kinda Workaholic” (but at least admitting it and getting help) chumpy heart.

  • The STBX did this. When we first got together, it was “Oh, my parents don’t understand me, they want me to be one way, but what I really want to do is something else…” Yes, fool me thought that he had unreasonable parents, that he had such a lonely upbringing.

    That he had so much potential, if they could only see it.

    Well maybe he did and maybe he didn’t. He seems to go after APs that that will say “Oh poor YOU! Such a hard upbringing! And you were abused (which may have happened, but his recollection is shaky)? And now your wife doesn’t understand and support you, you say? Well, I will!”

    He got the last AP (the current OW) with a sob story about how no one understood how tough it was to find out he was adopted (never mind that I was doing the work of trying to find out more information about what actually happened during his first four years of life; never mind that every day I would tell him that no matter what, I loved him and would help him get through it). Put it out there on Facebook; she asked him how he was doing, and the affair started from there.

    Never again.

  • I guess I was doing this, too. I felt so sorry for my first XW as she described her upbringing, the alleged seexaul abuse by her uncle, the alleged rape(the one where the guy she identified was never prosecuted).
    Shortly after her allegted rape , she was fucking a married guy amd had a lesbian relationship with her best friend. She told me, pre-emptively incase I found out about this stuff on my own, that she was acting out due to the trauma of her rape(so, she goes off and bones a married guy, and starts rug munching with her friend–OOOOkay).
    I bought this stuff. Gave her many nights out while I cared for our kids, alone, so she could journalize about all her pain/trauma.
    Well, she was journalizing, alright. I came across her writings describing how she wanted to stop having sex with strangers. Her “jouranlizing” ., apparently, required many nights out to 2 or 3 in the morning.
    WTF was I thinking,. I just could not believe someon was actually so evil.
    BTW, CL, thanks for splitting your examples of this evenly between the genders. One wearies of those sites where the male pronoun is predominently used as regards these nutbags.

  • In my case the hopium I was addicted to was thinking that I could actually reach my husband and get him to open up participate in a reciprocal relationship by showing him how I could stick with our marriage no matter what. I grew up believing that love is more than emotion, it’s a commitment. I guess I still believe that. Still, I wasted way too many years of my life trying to figure out how to reach the ex that I could have been living for myself. That’s what I most regret, putting so much effort into trying to figure him out instead of investing that in myself and what I wanted to do with my life. My counselor continuously reminds me that this is a “choice” I made, although when I was in the relationship it felt like I had no choice. Hopefully I know better now, I certainly value myself more than I did then.

    • Yep – right there with you. If only he could watch and learn from my example, right? The thing is my ex doesn’t want to learn. He wants a main patsy and some side dishes

  • I don’t think that I saw STBX as broken and needing to be fixed. Instead, I saw him as filled with potential. He was smart, funny, interested in everything. If he were broken, I saw this as a result of his brain chemistry, since his body releases too much adrenaline. I couldn’t fix that, but he was on medication that did make a huge difference. If he’d not found that medication, we’d never have married because his mood swings were that irrational. The year leading up to Dday, his medication quit working. He is on new meds, but he also took up with OW. I’d like to blame that on his being broken, but I know that he could still tell right from wrong.

    I think he sees OW as broken. She was abused as a teen, pregnant by age 18, and had two unsuccessful marriages. Her daughter has a severe medical condition, and her daughter also became a single mother. OW is perpetually short of cash. He can save her, and this is really evident in his texts with her.

    I do see the appeal of the broken individual. STBX’s father exuded brokenness. He was born into a poor family. His mother abandoned him and his two siblings for a couple of years. He had to live with relatives. While he purportedly had great communication skills on the job, he was horrible in social situations, and during family gatherings, he’d spend time with the family pets more than the people. He had a good ol’ boy charm about him, and in a one-on-one situation was quite a talker.

    Certainly it must have taken some fancy talking to keep married to STBX’s mother while maintaining a long-term mistress. i am convinced he had another woman on the side, too, as before his death, he wanted STBX to pay for the upkeep of some old race horses. The monthly price was nearly 4 times the average cost. He claimed he was supplementing the woman (!) who took care of the horses. I always thought that you didn’t supplement someone else’s monthly income unless you were getting something else in return.

    • This was my situation also. I didn’t see my STBX as broken. He seemed to have genuine potential to be a good father and husband. Was he perfect? No (and I did spackle away some red flags). But he didn’t have any past abuse from his family, nothing to make him damaged (he had an absent father but a terrific step-father from birth.)

      I didn’t think I was marrying someone who was damaged.

      Then we got married. He was verbally abusive. And cheated. Later, I found out about infidelity in his family, but that is no excuse for him. He had the choice to make good decisions, and he didn’t.

      I do *not* love his brokenness. Of that, I am grateful. His brokenness is dstructive, to me and to the kids. All I see is a future of pain and hurt, if I stay. The past three years of living with him and (trying to) raise children with him – well, they were the longest three years of my life. Walking on eggshells daily with the plot ending of being cheated on, was horrible, and I don’t plan on giving him another chance to do that to me again. His brokeness is not my problem anymore (he fired me from that job when he made the decision to put his dick in OW for the better part of a year.) I am released from the marriage, vows broken. If this was a brokenness that he wanted to change (and it didn’t involve a long-term affair) I would have stood by him in the marriage. But not now. No thank you. He can have all his brokenness to himself.

  • “Beautiful brokenness” lures in compassionate people and would-be saviors. Good people get sucked into toxic relationships due to this. And it happens all the time.

    People love to fix/save other people. This is the reason that cheaters will likely have an endless supply of OW/OM and Next Chump in Line to be with them (until those chumps find out better, and wise up). This happens even in extreme cases, where the person is severly messed up. Even guys who have *admitted* to being murderers get fan mail while serving life sentences in prison. And some women marry them – in prision! Talk about loving their brokenness.

    This is why I’m not expecting karma for my narc-STBX. Narcs may not get the karma they deserve (at least, not in this lifetime). Sad, but true. There will always be another woman/man ready to listen to their sob story and take care of their needs. *Always*. The world is full of compassionate people who either don’t know any better or are so needy that the know and don’t care. Either way, narcs have a steady line-up. And narcs don’t have empathy or compassion, either, so they won’t get karmaic remorse from seeing how their actions hurt other people. Narcs may be temporaily hurt by their own irresponsble actions, true – but it doesn’t even come close to equalling the hurt they have caused in other people, because narcs are always 2-seconds away from getting the Bigger, Better Thing to make them instantly feel better.

    I’d like to see my STBX get his karmic visit, but I have to let that go. If he does, fine. (Chances are low that I would be around to see it, anyhow.) If not, I have to be meh about it, otherwise I might be holding my breath for a long time. And I’m tired of holding my breath. I want to breathe.

  • This discussion is right on for me. I did not know my husband was broken, but when I realized it, I tried to be the “good wife”. His younger years were awful. He is a hypochondriac. Overly tense. Etc. I never dreamed he was a serial cheater. At 30 years, I knew he was cheating. He rubbed my nose in it. He said: I was boring, not interested in him, we both didn’t get what we wanted from the marriage, I knew, I was not interested in him, it is my rotten childhood ….. then, A one eighty, it is all his fault, I do not deserve this. Blah blah blah…he says he is going to therapy ..for me. Really? It is exhausting for me. He has virtually sucked the lifeblood out of me. I am a fixer, but not going to try to fix him, our relationship or anything related to him. It is on him now

  • I’m just going to leave this here:

    Love After Love

    The time will come
    when, with elation
    you will greet yourself arriving
    at your own door, in your own mirror
    and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

    and say, sit here. Eat.
    You will love again the stranger who was your self.
    Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
    to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

    all your life, whom you ignored
    for another, who knows you by heart.
    Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

    the photographs, the desperate notes,
    peel your own image from the mirror.
    Sit. Feast on your life.

    Derek Walcott

    • I turned to words for comfort after my ex first left. This poem in particular was very touching. Thanks for sharing it again.

  • I like this quote: if people hurt you, there is something wrong with them, not with you. Normal people don’t go around destroying other people.

  • Sorry, got that wrong: ‘If someone treats you like shit, remember there is something wrong with them, not with you. Normal people don’t go around destroying other people’

  • Holding my hand up as a guilty party here. ‘My Love’ was going to MOULD him for the both of our happiness!

    I am looking my own narcissism right in the face here. I lived through him, and that is my own problem to solve.

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