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Dear Chump Lady, Got any happy stories?

Dear Chump Lady,

Have you ever thought about compiling a list of anecdotes or stories from those that have successfully made it to the other side? A list of small, but concrete, examples of something a chump noticed their new partner did that their cheater would have never thought of or done? Like you with your husband ordering you tea at the hotel… just little things like that.

I think I’ve gone so long with little to no expectations of my partner that I’m not sure what are some nice things I can expect from someone “normal”? And maybe being reminded of some of the nice things about being in a relationship will help me and others to actually want to trust someone and be in a relationship again as well. It seems like we chumps like to read “success” stories and they are kind of few and far between. (Probably because the success stories don’t come here as much because they’re too busy off being successful.) It might help chumps who are sitting on the fence about leaving? Just a thought…

Another Erica

Dear AE,

I hope fellow chumps will weigh in on this one. I know we have some readers here who are years out and engaged or partnered up again. I do think examples of normal kindness are all around each of us, however. Before you graduate to a full-blown relationship, I think it’s good to cultivate an awareness of reciprocity and kindness in others. Learn to spot the nice people, and encourage those relationships.

You’ve already mastered one skill — recognizing that your relationship with your cheating husband was toxic and jettisoning him. You stood up for yourself. You defined what you don’t want, what you will not stand for. The next step is to have a vision of what sort of relationship you DO want. Surround yourself with people who are more like you —  giving, reciprocal, kind, good natured. Figure out what sort of people give you energy, and what sort of people leave you feeling drained. Who brings out your best self?

My husband, right after DDay, actually made a list of all the things he would NOT miss about his ex. And then he made a second list of exactly what he wanted in his next relationship. He tells me I checked every box, except one (I’m taller than he is). But he had a vision — so when someone like me (lucky me!) crossed his path, he knew what he was looking for.

I think you can do this sort of exercise with other people in your life as well, not just potential partners. Part of life after infidelity is the rediscovery of yourself. Who is Erica? What kind of people does she like to hang out with? Set the bar a little lower while you’re still feeling bruised — don’t worry about a boyfriend, just make some new friends. Edit out the draining people. Invest more in the good people who’ve helped you along now.

I remember when I was going through my nightmare, I was overwhelmed by the smallest act of kindness. It took on such huge meaning. I think I felt like this because a) I had been in an abusive relationship and my sense of normal was fucked up and b) I was developing a new sense — an awareness of kindness — that I think I’d lost in all the drama.

I’ll give you a couple of examples. I was part of a drawing club and I shared with one older woman there, who was a realtor, that I was thinking of leaving my cheating husband and I needed to find a house. Not only did she take me out to look at houses, for the next three months, she let me store whatever I wanted to in her garage. Personal effects I didn’t want to leave, in case of a quick getaway. She actually didn’t even take the realtor’s commission when I bought my house, she gave it to a younger woman who was starting out in real estate.

We were not that close — I’ve lost touch with her. She just saw a person in need and she helped me out (to which I’m eternally grateful). Another fellow in that class lent me all his plastic tubs for moving (he’d just moved). And one day he picked me up some take out food and lent me some DVDs. I honestly felt overwhelmed with those ordinary acts of friendship. He was not dateable (gay), but I remember thinking — I need this sort of relationship. This person is so nice. Nice is awesome.

By the time I met my husband and had that fateful cup of tea, I had a better sniffer. I could distinguish the ordinary good people from the sparkly. I was looking for actions over sparkle. I’m not saying this is fool proof — but IMO it’s pretty reliable. I could be bullshitted before. When I changed my focus to actions, and had a vision of the sort of person I wanted to be with (a nice person, like that man from my art class who was so helpful and kind) — I recognized those qualities in my husband. Oh! He’s part of the Nice Tribe! These are my people!

As for stories on the other side… I know a LOT of them and I keep asking them to share their stories with me, like my aunt did. It’s a funny thing — it’s exactly as you write — they’re too busy off enjoying their new lives. Also, (my aunt being the exception), I think for many of them, infidelity was too painful and they don’t want to revisit it, or talk about it. They survived it, they’re happier now, end of story.

That said — I’ll rattle off a couple anonymous examples of people I know who survived this. I hope other chumps will chime in with their own stories of people they know too.

My friend’s mother was a single mom once with two kids, when she married a lawyer she worked for. They had two more children together. For many years, they were a family, but he turned out to be a cheater, and cheated on her with a woman at work. Like most cake eaters, he didn’t want to give up his marriage or his mistress. So my friend’s mom left — a single mother with FOUR kids — left her cushy country club lifestyle, moved to the wrong side of the tracks, and went to school to become a nurse. The father disowned his two stepsons and never spoke to them again.

It’s 25 years later. The cheater married his OW, shortly thereafter. He’s an alcoholic. He’s terrible with money and hasn’t paid his taxes in years. The IRS has put a lien on his home for its entire value, and he refuses to leave it. The OW also has a drinking problem and endangers her retirement staying married to him. By all accounts, it’s a dysfunctional nightmare.

The mom? After a few years, she remarried a very nice man who’d never been married or had kids before. They raised all the kids. They managed their modest incomes. They built their dream house and then fixed up another second home across the street from their grandchildren. They own both of their houses. They’re happily married and spend a lot of time with their grandkids.

My friend asked her mom to share her story here, in her own words, and she demurred. It’s too painful, it was long ago. She doesn’t examine it, she’s just grateful her kids figured out their father eventually. I hope they won’t mind that I shared it with you here anonymously.

Another story — when I was in college, my friend’s brother was in the military. He’d gotten married at 18, had a son by 19. He was doing maneuvers, when a field stove blew up on him. He had third degree burns over most of his body and was expected to die. While he was in the FUCKING BURN UNIT, ostensibly DYING — his wife came in to tell him that she was leaving him — for his best friend. Yeah, she’d been cheating on him. And she was taking their infant son with her. She gave the I Love You But I’m Not In Love With You speech to a soldier dying in a burn unit. It’s quite amazing his mother didn’t kill her then, God knows she’s wanted to all these years.

He recovered. He had hundreds of surgeries for his injuries. (His ears burned off, to give you an idea of how bad it was.) Several years after his accident, his older sister says — hey, I want to fix you up with this waitress I work with. I think you’d like her, she’s this attractive blonde. He’s game. A year later — they’re married. It’s 25 years later — they have two kids in college, (the first son’s grown up and has a job in computers). He retired from the military, lives in his home town, near his folks. He posts a lot on Facebook about ice fishing. He survived that shit and he thrived — in a normal, ordinary life. I messaged him on Facebook once about writing his story here — radio silence. Why would he want to share the most humiliating, painful story of his life? I get it. He’s a normal guy now with a normal life. As far as anyone else knows, the worst thing that ever happened to him was that accident. I hope he won’t mind that I shared his story anonymously.

Helen Keller said that the world is full of suffering. And the world is also full of the over coming of suffering.

I hope these stories give you some comfort. Just because people aren’t out there sharing their stories, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. They exist. Not everyone wants to talk about it though, and I think there are still feelings of humiliation at being chumped, that a lot of people don’t want to share except with the people closest to them.

I know all of you will be success stories too — moved on, with normal happy lives, perhaps ice fishing somewhere. I hope you’ll tell people though, and give some hope to other chumps along the path. That’s why I started this site. I’m just one chump — but my story is real — and there are many more out there just like me.

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  • I woke up to this post. It is timely, Ill tell you that. My success story may not sound like it at first, but it is.

    I had been dating this man for the past few months. He is smart, funny, not too sparkly, and not clingy (which has always been an absolute no no for me). We had gone for a walk on the levee, brought a bottle of wine, were enjoying the evening when a friend of mine jogged past. I called to her, and we had a 3 minute conversation. My date became really derisive and somewhat mean. I decided I wanted to go home, and we walked the 1/2 mile to my house. We came inside and he became very verbally aggressive. I asked him to stop, which he did, for a moment, then started again. I did this for about 20 minutes then realized… wait, I don’t have to do this. So I asked him to leave. He refused. Actually refused to leave my house. I repeated myself for about another 15 minutes then said “if you don’t leave my house, I’m calling the cops.” He still refused to leave, so I called the cops. He did leave before they arrived. He has since messaged me, but I won’t answer… ever. In his message, there was no apology. It was a tribute to narcissism.

    This is a huge success story for me. I stood my ground. I protected myself and made the good choice. I know I can trust myself, even a little bit more. Small step, I know, but a step in the right direction none the less.

    I am healing.

    • tamara,

      Congratulations! This is a great story. Your anti-narcissist antennae are now very, very strong, and you acted on them. It’s best to cut ties with these broken toys. One thing that Chumps do is that they “average out” narc behavior. (“Oh, Harold/Harriet was bad on Monday, but he was good the rest of the week!”) Chumps do this not realizing that the narc rations good and bad behavior to keep the Chump hooked.

      Now, I don’t want to mar the happy posts by dwelling on this too much, but I think your story is great. Just great. Well done. You defended your boundaries/borders like a pro. And I really admire that.

      Chump Son

    • Excellent, Tamara!

      As Maya Angelou said, “”When people show you who they are, believe them.” Thank goodness you were able to recognize the behavior and “cut your losses” early with this one.

    • Tamara, you rock. Learning to dump a loser, to not let some jerk run rough shod over your boundaries is HUGE. You hope to be lucky and not encounter anyone in your new life that requires such harsh measures, but there are freaks out there. You shut that shit down fast — and good for you!!!

    • Good job booting him out of your life! That is definitely a success story in standing up for yourself. That’s progress and it is great.

  • What’s the tea story? I would look for it but I have no idea where to look for it on your website. I would LOVE to hear it! You started feeling good about your husband then I think? I’d love to hear more about that!!! Please!!

    • The tea story…

      When I met my husband in New Orleans, I got the beginnings of a chest cold. He jumped into action and insisted on ordering me a cup of (expensive!) room service tea. He jokes that the tea has paid dividends. I noticed in that one act what a caring person he was, attentive, a person with initiative and kindness. Another time, another trip, I forgot where I parked my car in Washington, D.C. We were walking all around in the heat, and he never lost his patience. (My ex husband would’ve flown into a rage by that point.) He had the good idea to hail a cab and look — and we eventually found it. He joked with the driver and gave him a generous tip for helping us. Again — I noticed that he was an exceptionally kind and patient person. I was paying ATTENTION to those actions.

      Also, on the flip side, my husband isn’t sparkly. He doesn’t have lines. He’s charming in his own earnest way, but also somewhat reserved. I wasn’t even sure at first if he liked me That Way. (He did.) I liked his boundaries. I liked his respectfulness and good manners.

      Good guys and good women are out there. I swear.

      • Oh, that’s lovely! What a wonderful story.:) Thank you for sharing C!. And yes, I know what you mean about thinking people don’t like you because they aren’t sparkly or acting like they like you. But they actually really might like you. They may just be reserved, and then when you get to know them be incredibly kind and respectful people and loving people. I always think people don’t like me if they are reserved, but then as I get to know them that isn’t the case at all. They do like me, I mean. Your husband sounds like a great person.

      • I wonder if somebody should create a Chump match-making service?

        Now, I know that this is complex, but think about it. There are hook up sites all over the place. Imagine if chumps could meet. Imagine. A site where nice people could seek serous, non-exploitative connections. I’m not even saying relationships. Most Chumps are not into the idea of getting all hot and heavy right away (and they shouldn’t be; that’s how they get into trouble with Mr./Ms. Sparkly). If there can be Christian Singles and affair websites, why not Chump Singles? Or even Chump Friends? Just an idea.

        Sorry, CL, for suggesting more, and this is not necessarily a job for you. But there is something to be said for a meeting place where folks share the same assumptions about what’s right. At this moment, I only offer this as food for thought, as a playful idea, as another current in the development of Chump Nation.

        Your devoted reader,

        Chump Son

        • I have thought about that too… but yesterday I met a ‘chump’, he told me about his wife, her affair with the neighbour, how she took all and the children – it came very close to home for me. I really sympathized. My friend, who knows him ánd his ex-wife very well, informed me afterwards: he has a very bad temper, drinks, beat her up all the time and the neighbour was her exit-affair, because she was too chumpy to dare divorce him by herself.

          Okay… sometimes there are two sides to a story. And my bull-shit antenna needs a lot more work before I can trust it.

          I’m in the ‘small favors’ stage, I get very emotional when friends show their true colors, by thinking of me. Doing small things, sometimes even not so small, to help me along. People say it’s reaping what I’ve sowed, but every act of kindness surprises me immensly. And makes me very thankful.

          Because I’m at the point that understanding your best friend, confidant, lover, etc. can cheat and abuse you, makes you think about friendships and people. Why wouldn’t they cheat and abuse me? What if loyalty and commitment are figures of my imagination? That has to heal first, before I can even think of further steps.

          But… a real bona fide chump, sounds like a possibility then!

  • Tracy, this was difficult for me to read in some ways and I hope that you won’t take offense at this because I guess we all have different variations on a theme and its like some forms of cancer are common, while other types are more rare and its the rare ones we also need to heed– the rare ones that don’t appear until its too late. We need to look for those signs too.

    While I’m definitely in the minority, my wasband was, is and will always be achingly NICE, by any measure. However, he’s a depressed schlump, now, that is; not when we met. When we met, I was a (dancer/singer/actress) aka: a waitress. ;] Then my dear brother died and my first, fiance, then husband supported me while I went to design school. We got married and started our family a year later. He changed ALL OF THE DIAPERS, (when he was home, of course.) He did as much for me as was humanly possible. Oh, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have found such a wonderful, supportive, kind, devoted man! I felt so safe; so secure. blessed.

    But then we moved to the boonies when the baby was one. We had no family, friends and he commuted 4 hours a day into Manhattan and back. I was lonely with a hyperactive toddler. I couldn’t make friends because no one would let their child within 100 feet of my baby. I was yelled at… (horrible mother)… He was yelled at (horrible, aggressive toddler)… slapped in a pizza place (by another mother at 19 months)… Well… I won’t go on and on except that the second child is autistic.

    Then… several years later, my husband lost his job.

    Look, nice people cheat. Nice guys who bring you tea and boxes of imported cookies from South Africa (bought in Canada) even though you’ve left him. They come and put in your dimmer switches, change the light bulbs you can’t reach, fix the windows, hang your art work…

    And then… lie to your face and cheat behind your back. They make you feel ugly, undesirable and unloved; not by the good things they do, but the things they don’t do (that they should) or things they shouldn’t be doing.

    WHY? Because he hates himself. and why does he hate himself? His parents did a real number on him– especially his mother, but his father too. His teachers who failed him did a real number. The hooker that he tried to have sex with when he was in Amsterdam when he was 18 did a real number on him. (I only found out about that two years ago after D-day #2).

    My husband brought me up in the early years. He made me realize that I was deserving of good things and of love… He was the most wonderful partner I could’ve ever hoped to have had and he was (and still is) a superb father.

    Still… there WERE some red flags and even though this thread is supposed to be about good stories and I want to hear them… I just want to list some other things to be weary of.

    My husband’s other relationships never lasted more than a year or two. He had tons of “platonic” girlfriends. That’s a problem. I was never for one second jealous, but a straight man with a lot of women in his life is suspect. (he also had a lot of male friends, however, THEN, that is, not now). and the biggest, I think is what is his relationship like with his mother? Is it healthy? My wasband was in therapy THREE times a week when I met him. I thought… oh, how evolved. Well, he never should’ve stopped! He told me when I first met him that his previous GF “emasculated” him and told him that he wasn’t “aggressive” enough. It wasn’t that he lacked aggression. He possessed intense passivity, which only emerged after we were married, when he was out of work, and relied on only one agent to get him a new job. (only one example)

    Nice, attentive guys are definitely, as you say the ones to look for, but its not the only thing and you can have a really nice, caring, devoted person who also will be the one who eventually cheats on you. For me, turning it around in my mind, that my husband isn’t actually nice at all… has been the most difficult thing to comprehend.

    Its possible to be too damned NICE. Nice people sometimes say one thing and do another. (in secret)

    and that, of course, is anything but nice.

    A nice man will admit his faults. He’ll seek help when he’s faltering. He’ll keep his promises and value his cherished family and will put them first, above his petty selfishness. If he doesn’t do these things, then the superficial niceties that he’s so adept at, don’t mean a damned thing.

    To end on a positive note, I just want to add that I did what I said I would never do. I joined match.con. ugh… talk about sifting the wheat from the chaff! I’m also going on a sunset Hudson River meetup cruise— by myself this evening. Its hot as fucking hell here in NY.

    Oh well… this is progress! I just got sick and fucking tired of moping around my gorgeous apartment, watching the George Zimmerman show. ya know?

    • Good for you! And on the heat I have no sympathy. It’s in the 100s in Texas.

      My first husband was “nice” when I met him. Very helpful, thoughtful, etc. All that stopped after I married him. But there were other red flags that weren’t about niceness.

      Sure, I think people who were nice can cheat, but IMO those are the outliers. I think most future serial cheaters show their entitlement and boundary pushing pretty early on.

      In any case, I hope everyone can take away from the stories that people DO survive worse — and go on to thrive — after infidelity.

    • I really think there are at least two sorts of cheaters–the narcissists and the passive-aggressives. Like Laurel, I was married to a passive-aggressive. My xH had also been in therapy right before I met him, and important women had each done a number on him–the birth mother who gave him up and later lied to him, his adoptive mother who was always a victim of one or another thing, the long-term girlfriend before me who’d cheated and left him for another man.

      He really wasn’t that in to me, but he figured I would give him children, and I did. We married, against his passion.

      I don’t want to go on and on, but I, too, missed the red flags–actually, I saw them and figured they were more of a burgundy color. My xH was “nice.” Women were comfortable around him, thought he was so gentle and kind. It takes a long time to know what’s up with a passive-aggressive, by nature. They aren’t sparkly and aggressive up front, not obviously off-putting to someone who knows to steer clear of a narcissist. They’re helpful just enough, especially when other people are watching.

      Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to posting a nice story when I get one.

      • Me too Stephanie, me too. I think that wicked passive aggressive streak, leavened by just a touch of narcissism, gives you a really very nice person who does themselves, you, and the relationship in, by never being able to articulate their own actual desires…and then blaming you, the partner. How to watch out for this in the future, I do not know!

        I really thought I had found the one non-abusive partner in my life. He was so sweet to me. (Early years.) He was kind. He was gentle, loving. He was a terrific daddy–not so hot when the kid became a teen, but absolutely wonderful when she was young. I give him that.

        So it really wasn’t sparkle with this guy — although I do have a gigantic sign tattooed on me that says, “if you’re narcissistic come and pick on me….”. I think we were in love. I know I was. But he always held back, I now know. Too late.

        What I need to learn a la picker, is how to identify that passive aggressive, too nice by half shit. Once I’m ready. At the moment, I can’t even contemplate a partner. I do wish I had one, but then again, I like my own self too.

        If anyone has a success story of renewing following entanglements with a PA/PAN,I would surely love to hear it!

        • Oh, mine articulated his needs, all right. Not so great at responsibility, initiative, caring about what I wanted. A lot of it is my fault for not articulating my own needs. I ended up doing a lot for myself on my own. If I insisted he come along, I was punished with his irritability, whining, pouting.

          Oh, well, live and learn.

          I have no partner for now, either. I have no time, raising my kids (they are grown up, but still need a mom at home), working full time an hour away from home, and taking care of rehabbing my sorely-neglected home (I bought his half from him). Some day I’ll be ready–that’s my end-goal.

          • This could be me. My soon to be ex is a workaholic & has some anxiety although he can be nice & charming when there are people around. I got extreme irritability with anything that took away from work or wasn’t entirely his idea. Our house is falling apart because he could never get on board with any repairs which we could easily afford. He has done a 180 on the irritability part since d-day and has been showing up as a kind, respectful husband and dad. But he has done more rug-sweeping & deflection than a decent job with transparency & remorse for a 2-3 year long distance emotional affair that became sexual. Trust can never be rebuilt in that case so I’m like out. But I’ll have to figure out how to get him to pay for or take care of repairs that are so much worse due to his neglect

        • My cheater is the too nice guy/passive aggressive guy/self centered (narc tendencies but not a narc)/hero complex guy. He LOVES helping people. Just not me. The OW is a damsel with a history of TERRIBLE choices including a rapist fiancé/baby daddy, a BF that stole her identity and bankrupted her and an alcoholic STBX that hit her, stole her 401k (I would leave my marriage for her if I were him too ???????). I know he got sucked in by “helping” her. And when she told him she loved him and he was “the nicest person” she’d EVER met I had no chance. I love(d) him but never told him he was perfect.

          The problem with the nice guy people pleaser is he will NEVER speak his actual mind and then suddenly it’s all your fault you aren’t a mind reader. If he had said “when you don’t initiate sex often or hold my hand enough to me it means you don’t love me anymore” then maybe I could have done more of what he wanted, but apparently in nice guy land speaking your truth and clear communication means “I want more sex.” Helpful! And not the same shit every other husband on planet earth has ever said. Too little too late now!

          I just hope that the train wreck blows up in his face shortly. Then I can laugh to myself at his choice in the next great love of his life ?

      • Yup, cheating ex is a PA as well. And I bet he’s getting his affair partner all the tea she could wish for and more (he’s the knight in shining armor type, she feeds him cake, he gives her tea). I fell for it, loved his attention and his general nice-guy attitude.

        It took me twenty years to figure it out! And I don’t trust myself to be able to see through nice-guy PA’s and real nice guys. How should I know? Most differences only come to light later, when he’s reeled you in and the honeymoon is over.

        I truly hope to find one of the nice ones, but until I know how to sort them all out, I’m not getting into anything. My kids don’t need any more drama and neither do I.

        Love the succes stories though. My mom is a prime example, chump to the n-th degree, she stayed in her abusive marriage far too long. Then vowed never to date again… she’s married now to a genuine nice guy. I know they exist… just not how to sift through all the fake ones.

    • This is the exact same story as mine. It’s the passive agressive ones you need to watch for along with the full blown narcs. I’ve dated both the narcs are a lot easier to spot than the PAs. I think now if a man doesnt have a passion, doesn’t know what he stands for says the women in his life ‘made him feel like less of a man’ that is a major red flag. To me it means that you could be put in the box of the ‘woman who made him feel emasculated’ so that he can jump on to someone else who makes him feel more than. They can’t deal with conflict, can’t deal with anyone that makes them feel like that are not the most awesome human being on earth. You can never fill up one of these guys, they are so empty on the inside they need constant assurance….and when you fail to give it…..they will definitely have someone on the side to help them build up their flagging self confidence. My partner was ‘the nicest guy in the world’…when I tell everyone about what has happened for the second time, people just scratch their heads. He is worthy of an oscar win!! Luckily he also cheated on his wife before me, so I have a lot of support and he just looks like a douchebag!

      • Bingo!

        “You can never fill up one of these guys, they are so empty on the inside they need constant assurance….and when you fail to give it…..they will definitely have someone on the side to help them build up their flagging self confidence.”

        Thanks guys… I’m back from the cruise around Manhattan which in a word— sucked. Oh well… Now, I know. Scratch that one off the list.

        Its good to know that I’m not alone and I think the PAs are especially difficult, precisely because they are so passive. The put down is often something that they don’t do rather than the more typical “putting you in your place” behavior of a narc. My husband never does that. There’s also the cerebral, intellectual snob- type narc, that still has grandiose ideas and a massive disdain for women. This disdain, however, comes out as a kind of disarming charm. They aren’t at all sparkly. In fact, they appear to be phenomenally grounded… even tempered, obliging…

        The cruise brought memories of our blissfully happy days as a young, carefree couple in Manhattan, 25 years ago… We had so much fun… I feel totally fucked. I feel like I won’t be able to go on a date without breaking down into tears. That’s sure to win ’em over, huh??? :[

        Sorry, I’ll shut up because this thread is about happy people who’ve made it past the “I’ll never trust another man ever again…”

        I think I’ll try some dancing meetups. After all, I love to dance!

        • I think that these PAs are actually really hard to get over as well. Because they look so good, and they really do treat you well. Everyone thinks you have hit the jackpot with them. It’s so covert what they do behind the scenes that you basically have to be a detective to work it out. The other thing I have noticed with these PA Cheaters is that they don’t seem to have a natural progression of emotion. ie – They never get angry….at anything. It’s like they are completely incapable of it, and when you get angry, you feel like the worst person in the world.

          I still feel bad about blowing my lid right after DD1. I made him ‘pay’ for his infidelity. I screamed and raged and he held me, and I said some really spiteful things for a while there until I learnt to trust again. Then as soon as I was happy again…DD2.

          PA’s are super dangerous in my opinion. I think I have been attracted to them because my first serious partner was a full blown narc, so I have gone the opposite way.

          Guess I just need to find someone not ‘ssoooooooo nice’. Just a normal functioning human being….don’t know where to find one of them though!

          • Nice guy PA Ex here as well. If I had a dollar for every time I heard ‘but he’s such a nice guy’ I’d be a millionaire. He is a nice guy….as long as you go along with his program. Which I did, for years and years. Then I stopped going along with it in light of dday and Mr Nice Guy disappeared fast and a very angry spiteful man took his place. He’s like a little kid who’s been told he can’t have his way and boy, is he pissed.

            This time around I want a straight shooter, like me. We’ll see if that guy is out there.

            • are they really that nice? Maybe until they get you on the hook they are. Mine never SAID anything mean to me, but somewhere along the line, I did figure out that he did think he was better than me. I even mentioned it off hand to him once or twice over the years that I felt that way and I know he didn’t deny it. Probably just pretended he hadn’t heard me say it.

              And I know he never went out of his way for me. I specifically remember parties where he would abandon me and run around being so “nice” to everybody else. Seriously, I would finally catch up with him and then he’d be off somewhere else. Meanwhile his roommate or someone would check in with me occasionally (since I didn’t know many people there). I chalked it up to just that he wasn’t really a “gentleman” he was kinda clueless and I’m a grown up who can handle it anyway. And I guess he was clueless. And I could handle it. But I shouldn’t have really had to. Basic good manners is not that much to ask from your partner. Other guys (like his roommate) displayed more manners to me and cared enough to check on me.

          • My father was a full-blown narc and my sweet “puppy-like” husband was about as far from that as I could possibly get, but its so far, its almost like coming full circle.

            Don’t feel badly Melissa. I screamed my bloody fucking head off at my husband after my D-Day #2. And then… one day when I came down to his slimy basement lair where I made him stay, I discovered that he hadn’t changed the dehumidifier water and it was starting to smell moldy, (which makes me nuts) so I took the bloody bucket full of water and dumped it straight on top of his head!

            Yes. that was a blatant act of ACTIVE- aggression on my part and it felt good.

  • Thanks, CL, for sharing this! It really IS an eye-opener.

    My parents were happily married and I grew up in a happy home. But I had a front row seat to both my best friend’s parent’s and XH’s parent’s divorces. They were both ugly, and both my friend and XH were deeply scarred by them. It’s been 36 years for one, 24 years for the other, and both sets of parents are still talking smack about their former spouses. Both fathers cheated and remarried OW, both mothers remained single, too leery of men to try again.

    So this was the frame of reference I had when my marriage fell apart. I knew I didn’t want to put my kids – or myself – through that, so I fought my flight impulse to leave XH, and instead engaged in the “pick me” dance, determined to put my marriage back together. It didn’t work. My self esteem plummeted.

    Then, like you, I started noticing how nice other people were. They’d hold the door, say “hello,” smile, engage in polite conversation – I’d forgotten what that was like. Then one day it occurred to me that EVERY man I encountered – the postman, store clerks, a neighbor walking his dog – EVERY man treated me better than XH did. It was a revelation. It was literally a “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” kind of epiphany. XH had left so I finally decided to stop wearing my wedding ring.

    Then, the troglodytes appeared.

    That’s the problem with low self esteem and the Law of Attraction – that invisible “kick me” sign on my back was like catnip to losers. It took me awhile to figure it out. Where were all the hot doctors and lawyers who always used to flirt with me? And why had they sent guys with bad jokes and missing teeth in their place? Oh – and why were they all MARRIED?

    THAT part surprised me. The great numbers of married men, out trolling. Did XH do that? Probably. But after a little trial and error, I did discover the perfect comeback line: “No, thanks. I just got rid of my own cheating husband. I don’t want someone else’s.” The look on their face is PRICELESS!!! Makes me laugh every time.

    Fortunately, the troglodyte era seems to be waning, which means my confidence is returning. I like the idea of making a list of what I’d like in an ideal mate, CL – thanks for the suggestion!

    Thanks also for letting us see there IS love – and trust – after betrayal. You just have to look through the sparkle, watch what they DO, and move forward from there. A new adventure awaits…

  • This is a great post. I’m not sure I have any idea what a really nice guy would be like. I can’t imagine a man truly treating me well, not secretly being a monster. My ex comes across as incredibly nice. I used to tell him how much I admired that about him. But that “niceness” was just to create the image he desperately needs to project. I sure found out the UNniceness that lay behind that mask once he decided to dump me.

    My ex is the only man I’ve ever been with, and I often worry there will never be another. I don’t trust myself to choose well, I don’t trust men not to be wolves in sheep’s clothing and I don’t seem to have whatever that sparkle or sexiness or SOMETHING that other single women have that attracts men.

    I love the success stories, though. They do give me hope.

  • I don’t know of any real success stories, people do pick themselves up and move on, but I can’t say I’ve ever met anyone who wasn’t permanently damaged in some way by infidelity who was married 20+ years.

    I got over two cases of it before I was married, the realtionships both less than two years, but I’ll probably go to my grave pulling bits of shrapnel from the bomb that blew up our 24 year marriage.

    I have a friend whose first wife blew up the lives of his family more than 35 years ago, he’s been very happily married to another woman for the last 20, but he still gets visiblily upset when discussing what happened in his first marriage.

    I’d like to hope we all get a second “I do” moment that feels like the total trust of the first time you exchange vows, but looking at it from a male standpoint, it must be exceedinly rare.

  • Two success stories for you. Niether of them mine. So I’ll be brief.

    Friend: Her husband of 20 years cheated with a lovely woman on the softball team. One who dated every guy on that team, married or not. Guess it was his turn. She finds out and he waffles’; he needs to decide if he wants his wife or softball girl. My friend told him, if he was still thinking it was too late, get the heck out. During the divorce she finds he is a porn addict as well. She recovers the costs of that unknown hobby in the divorce. She was not looking for love when she want to a party and met a man about 3 months post divorce. They have been together ever since. Five years of dating. Eight years married. They both have better spouses (they consider their previous long term marriages as ‘training’). He thanks the cheating husband every day because he did him the biggest favor of his life by divorcing my friend. They have a great house, life and retirement ahead of them. They are a partnership. They are happy. What more could you want?

    2nd story: Aunt: raising 4 kids in the South with a spoiled mama’s boy for a husband. One who preaches his Christian beliefs but has no substance to back it up. He strays with an employee, a dock worker, of his company. This woman is not attractive. She is also a bit psycho. My aunt endured the ‘pick me’ dance for church, community and children. To no avail. He bounces back and forth between home and skank. This woman would call the house and threaten the children.

    This guy was not prize. He never put anyone but himself first. He eventually hurt my aunt and my cousins in the worst way possible. But they finally divorced and she moved on. She worked 3 jobs to keep the house and kids together. It was really, really tough.

    A man who had been a business partner of the child-man husband went through a terrible divorce under similar circumstances but it was about 2 years later. His wife got everything, he took a lamp and a quilt. He stated he would have a better wife, a better home and a better life away from this woman.

    That man, once his divorce was final, and he was more stable became my uncle. They celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary last year. They have a great house, and great life.

    Nice stories, nothing spectacular, but what they all wanted when they started out in life my friend and my aunt have achieved through perseverance and never giving up.

    My story is not that great. I don’t have the desire to date yet. But I’m not giving up either. I do what I want, I have a great house and great life. I spend my money on what I value. I travel to places I want to go. Life is so much better than when I was playing the ‘boiling frog’. Love that scenario from yesterday.

    It also comes down to personality I think. Some people love life in Cleveland, others couldn’t have a good life in Hawaii. Get the perspective that you will make a great life on your own and you win!

    • “His wife got everything, he took a lamp and a quilt”.

      A lamp and a quilt? LOL.

      Sorry, but for some reason it made me remember this scene from “The Jerk”:

      Navin R. Johnson: And that’s the only thing I need is *this*. I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray… And this paddle game. – The ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need… And this remote control. – The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need… And these matches. – The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control, and the paddle ball… And this lamp. – The ashtray, this paddle game, and the remote control, and the lamp, and that’s all *I* need. And that’s *all* I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one… I need this. – The paddle game and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches for sure. Well what are you looking at? What do you think I’m some kind of a jerk or something! – And this. That’s all I need.

      • OMG. I burst out laughing when I read that!! thank you!!
        That is the best movie ever. I love that scene. I just need this, and this… and that..

        That movie is on this week on cable somewhere AMC? TMC?

    • I love that line: some people love life in Cleveland, others couldn’t have a good life in Hawaii.

      That is Ex to a T. We moved to come great places during our marriage because of his job and while I admit I did bitch at times (mainly because I was sick, sick, sick of moving) I made the best of it, found fun things to do and made sure the kids were enjoying themselves. Him? Everything always somehow went belly up with him, mainly at work and now I know it’s because he was a) messing around with underlings and b) he couldn’t handle his rise to the top…and thus has sunk back down.

      Water does indeed seek its own level. He’s now living with an underling, his career is stalled and he’s once again dreaming big but stuck.

    • I love the Cleveland/Hawaii comment! So true!

      I lived with my STBX in a beautiful place. My dream state. In a beautiful house. But it became ugly to me. If you could “see” emotions, you would have seen nothing but eggshells on the floors and walls. When I went outside my house, I saw all the places my STBX had taken the OW on dates, where she worked and lived (close by). It just became ugly. I chose to move across the country to a place not often chosen. But it is a million times better.

  • This topic and these comments are unbelievably pertinent and helpful to me today. I’m trying to get past the analyzing and guessing about every guy I meet: what on earth is the REAL truth about his last relationship? What is his former partner’s version of the truth? I know I can’t trust my picker anymore, so I’ve just been looking for fun people to hang out with and maybe I’ll hit gold someday. If I ever do get involved again, I’m going to make absolutely certain that I meet his friends, family, coworkers, canvass the neighbors (okay, maybe not), and see what kind of impression he has made on them. Is he a passive-aggressive whiner who says the whole world is out to get him? (I married that guy already.) Is his wry sense of humor really masking a depressive outlook on life? (Ditto.) Is his somewhat-mysterious diffidence really a sign of his vapidity and insecurity? (Yep, again.) Next time I’m interested in someone,I’ll ask myself what can he bring to a relationship besides just being a warm body to hang out with? I don’t mind going to the movies by myself or getting a nice restaurant meal to take out and eat alone as a picnic — in fact, I vastly prefer it to a bad date. Thanks for the insight and the validation, fellow chumps.

  • I am trying to imagine even wanting to be in another relationship, and I am coming up empty.

    Intellectually, I understand that I probably might not always feel this way, but I have to get pretty abstract in my thinking right now to even come up with that 🙁

    The best I can do right now, I think, is think it would be nice to have close friends here locally (I’m a transplant, so no close friends here), so that there’s folks who I share some kind of bond with to hang out with and go do stuff with sometimes.

    • TimeHeals,

      I understand what you are saying. At my age and after what I’ve been through with this man I thought I knew (I clearly did not) and the humiliation he is still putting me through, I can’t imagine what dating would be like at this time in my life. I have my daughter to consider (who is still five years away from high school graduation), and I don’t want to expose her to any more drama. She’s having a hard enough time as it is with her dad on the prowl for any woman that moves (formerly a dad who was completely devoted to her — the soccer coach — the whole deal) who now tells her to stay away from his iPad because she may see something she wished she hadn’t. Yet she still desperately is trying to hold on to “old dad.” It breaks my heart for her. So I am learning just to spend a LOT of time alone. She’s at overnight parties, or he has her for the weekend — and there are very few real women friends that I have here in this town. The ones who are married are frightened by me (what could happen to me could happen to them — I might be contagious), and the ones who are divorced really do not want to relive their pain by being around me. I planned a fun afternoon Sunday going to see Spamalot with a a girlfriend, and even she stood me up! Forgive my pity party today, but the loneliness has just been overwhelming this weekend, and I’m having a hard time finding ways out of it. Still trying, though! I think I am going to look into volunteering somewhere — I’ve got to get my mind off myself for awhile.

  • I do not yet have a happy story, but can share two things:

    Last xmas, first one post D-Day, I took the kids to the local “you cut” tree farm, chatted with a nice elderly gentleman while the kids were running around. Kids and I then hiked around to look for a tree. Went to pay, and the gentleman had paid for it already and left.
    Random act of kindness to a stranger in desperate need of some kindness.

    Good friend of mine: tough divorce from a cheater in her twenties. Wonderful marriage in her 30s, but her husband died of cancer after 6 years. Three years later, met another wonderful man, and they have been happily married for 12 years.

    Gives me hope.

  • I’ve contemplated writing my own success story for here, but time is a big issue why I haven’t. I just want to point out that a success story does not necessarily involve a new partner. While I suspect mine will at some point, I have been leading a fantastic single life — so much so that many of my married and partnered friends have told me they’re jealous of my life now.

  • CL, the tea story was lovely.

    I was single for 6 years after my divorce and it was the best time. I transformed. My current husband isn’t sparkly and I confused it at first with being boring – so not! He’s far from a doormat but he asks what I would like, he opens doors for me, he’ll make an effort to please me in quiet ways, and although we have grumpy days the man has never ever said anything hatefully or disrespectfully to me, or raised his voice to me. Ever. We’ve been married 8 years and raised our respective children as a family. It’s not always been smooth or easy blending families but we always had commitment and respect for each other and love for each other’s children and I count my blessings every day in finding him.

    Prior to meeting my husband, I had a LTR after my divorce. I almost cried one night on a date with this guy early on, because he was taking me home late from somewhere, and I said I craved McDonald’s. And he turned around and drove 10 miles out of his way and ordered me what I wanted from Mickey D’s. I apologized all the way there and told him he didn’t need to do this, and he looked at me and basically said he was more than happy to do it because it was something I wanted … my ex NEVER would have done something that simple for me without complaint – if he even did it. That guy told me I was pretty and smart and he enjoyed being with me; he and I went our own ways eventually but he always has a place in my heart because he taught me what it was to be treated well.

    Conversely, in the dating world I recognized the red flags easily from men and moved on quickly.

    • Ok, this is the problem I’m having right now! The guy I’ve been seeing is so non-sparkly that I’m feeling like he’s boring. I have a strong feeling that I am the problem. I am sooo used to drama and lack of humility that this calm, modest guy is not really keeping my attention. I keep going back and forth in my head. With my ex, it was so easy dating. Everything felt so right. With this guy, the only guy who has thus far not set off red flags, it feels so awkward, forced, lacking romance. I guess I need more experience to figure it out. 🙁

      • Sometimes you meet perfectly nice people that still aren’t a good fit. It’s okay to “next” someone, and expect that you might get “next-ed” too some day. If he’s not doing it for you, and you’ve given it some time, move on. But if you really need drama? That’s on you. Fix that! Life throws enough drama at you, you don’t need some jerk in your life manufacturing it.

      • Jbaby, I have a chump friend who has gone through this. She’s been seeing this very nice guy for a few years but always feels like something is missing because there isn’t that Pa-Pow! she had with her cheating ex. We’ve talked about it a lot and I pointed out that the sparkles didn’t get her anywhere, this guy is nice, respectful, adores her and they have a great time together adn maybe this is what a real relationship is like and the one she had with her ex is the fake one. We’ll see how it turns out.

    • During my divorce I went out with a man I’ve known as a work acquaintance for many years. He knew how gun shy I was about relationships and could sympathize because he’d been through divorce as well. We went to see a movie one night and a scene reminded me of what it was like to watch my husband of 31 years walk out the door and not look back. Well, I got to crying and couldn’t stop. I was embarrassed and managed to glimpse up at my friend expecting to see a scowl. What I saw instead was the most compassionate look I’d ever seen. He said quietly, “you know there are many people who care about you.” That blew me away. We have been dating for several months now and although I don’t think I want to get married again,I have been so blessed to have a companion to find out what a different kind of relationship feels like. It still surprises me that he asks about my feelings. Even if this relationship doesn’t work out, it has shown me that I am capable of attracting a nice person. It’s been 6 months since my divorce was final.

    • Delfiren – there is more than hope – there is a whole life out there just waiting for you to grab it when you’re ready. Get rested – physically and emotionally. Be good to yourself. Know your value. Good things will happen.

  • The main thing that my fiance does that my ex didn’t is actually not a little thing. It’s a pretty big thing:

    He communicates.

    He tells me how he feels, he talks to me, he listens. He respects my feelings, needs, desires. He shares the same passions and wants the same things out of life, and has a drive and motivation to better himself for the sake of not just him, but for our future life together. He is actually excited about building a life with me.

    My ex? He only ever did anything for himself because I did things for myself. He hasn’t been to a single college class since we broke up, has switched jobs at least 4 times, moved three. He is going absolutely nowhere. He would talk about joining the military, but he later confessed to me that he was never going to do that. He just said he would to make me freak out. I think the only reason he went to any classes was so that he wouldn’t feel like I was smarter than him. …I AM smarter than him.

    It goes without saying that trying to talk to him was like talking to a brick wall. Any attempts at getting him to either respect my feelings or just act like an adult usually ended in tears or making me feel like a horrible person.

    But with my fiance, it’s so different. I feel like I can fully trust him. Like I have found someone who 100% deserves my complete trust. Before we got together, after all the garbage I went through with my ex, I decided that the next guy would absolutely have to prove that he deserved me. Not the other way around. So I actually asked him “Do you DESERVE me?”

    Oh yeah, he does. And our wedding is 12 days away 😀

      • Thank you! I pick up my best friend from the airport this Wednesday and my brother, who I haven’t seen in 5 years, on the 20th. We’re so excited. 😀

    • congrats!

      Communication would be very nice… I remember that if I ever even disagreed or anything with my ex he would say I was “yelling” at him. Um, my voice was never raised, I was just trying to talk with him. It’s possible I could have gone about it in a better way (can’t remember now if I broached the subjects “sensitively” enough), but I do know for a fact I wasn’t running around screaming about it. The screaming didn’t start until Dday 🙂

      I was working on my list of things I want, and my first one was actually:

      Someone who respects my feelings and doesn’t make me feel defensive about them

      Not only did my ex not do this, but the few guys I’ve talked with since the divorce have made me feel this way. I have actually stood my ground anyway, but they did their best to try to make me feel like there was something wrong with me.

      • Weird, I was always accused of yelling and being mean to him when I’d try to broach things and I too can’t remember if I was ‘sensitive enough’ or if he was just a big baby who couldn’t deal with anyone questioning anything about him or seeing him as less than perfect. How odd to be reminded of this. Even on big issues, such as when he quit a job early on without telling me until after the fact and I was, unsurprisingly, pretty upset. This was me being controlling or something and in the end me made me feel badf (or I ALLOWED him to make me feel bad) for questioning him making this huge decision which would have an impact on me and my life without discussing it with me first.

      • I often felt this way too. My ex would accuse me of yelling at him or being controlling if I asked him to do something like take out the trash.

      • I once told my ex, after everything had gone to hell, that being married to him was like having a bucket of ice water dumped over my head day after day after day. I’d forgotten about that until somehow this post triggered the memory. But I do remember how awful it felt, and how much better it is to be free of all that.

  • My own happy story is how I finally left Mr. Charmer with no more cake. I was involved with a man child that is now 55 years old. He told me when I met him that he was divorced for a year and a half (which I found out was on paper only – he and is ex troll had been seeing each other most of the time they were divorced and prior to getting divorced). She is very insecure and co-dependent and will do anything – including putting up with him still sleeping with other women to keep him. So basically I found out they have been screwing around the whole shitty 3 years of my involvement with him. I did see the flags and chose to ignore them because I had low self esteem from being jobless and some other reasons at the time when I first met him.

    He has 3 step children with his EW from 2 previous relationships that she had that didn’t work out. I believe she had what we call “accidental pregnancies” to try to keep those losers around. The other men didn’t stay, but he did and had a daughter of his own with her. The EW controls him through the “children” all of whom are adults now. His biological daughter is now 19 yrs. old and she is the youngest. He hangs out with and parties with his 2 step sons like they are his buddies. His 3 stepchildren from his ex all have children out of wedlock (more accidents) and only one of them plans to marry. He acts as though this is all normal and okay behavior. His biological daughter dresses very skanky and acts very promiscuous- this started even in her early teens. She already has numerous tattoos on her body, one that makes a very loud statement that she is sexually active. He seems to think nothing of that and makes excuses like – “Oh, they’re just kids”. He would always have pictures on his cell phone and his computer of her – some even with provocative poses. Dealing with that family became absolute hell as his EW told the daughter lies about me to alienate me from her and her father. He never took a stand to set boundaries and tell them that the lies and their treatment of me were unacceptable. I also endured the rages, gas lighting and big drama that he brought into my home and shared with myself and my sister that lives with me.

    As if this dysfunctional family wasn’t enough to deal with, he had an old friend that he was “dating” prior to meeting me. This friend was and still is obsessed with him to the point that she would try to text or phone me and inform me that he was still having sex with her – the one time she did that it was on my birthday – such a great gift, huh? The EW also tried to torment me about her relations with him as well and it became a huge fuck story circus.

    Both of these women (his ex wife and his ex girlfriend are very homely and have no integrity or dignity and continue to play this goofy game with him). The ex girlfriend is still in therapy (originating from some other issues, initially) and it’s obvious that she isn’t sharing much about the abuse she suffers from the Charmer – because she still thinks she’s madly in love with him and that maybe he might change his mind and choose her. Both of the women still play the “Pick Me Dance”. I could go on and on about the stories and crap that he put me through, even been told to write a book about the clown. I know I must be co-dependent to put up with it for that long. He would always try to “pull me in” by telling me how much he loves me, hasn’t felt this way about any other woman ever, that the other women were telling me lies because they want to be with him, and blah, blah, blah bullshit.

    Needless to say he hasn’t received any of my cake in about 7 or 8 months, but I have allowed him to help me with things around my house or maintenance of my property (I am a single home owner), etc. Then he starts to realize the cake is not available anymore and he starts to get angry and tells me I’m just using him to fix things or when I need something. Oh, well – what goes around, comes around I guess.

    I am trying to go No Contact now and to keep him completely out of my life, although sometimes I find it entertaining to continue to use him for help to fix things like my car or for little projects that need fixing from time to time. I guess it’s my sick little way for payback. It’s also easy for me to do because I have absolutely no feelings left for him knowing he has NPD, probably bi-polar, and is an active alcoholic.

    I am just glad to be out of the shit storm and that I am more informed about NPD, especially because of all the great information that you so kindly share with myself and other victims of narcissistic abuse. I will continue to pray for the other women to wake up and leave their abusers and find a better life.

    • Welcome to the blog NMFC 🙂

      Hey, call Angie’s List or something. Don’t give that creep ANY foothold into your life. It’s not payback. It’s staying in his orbit, and no good can ever come from that. No contact — total, no exceptions! is the ONLY way to go with these nuts.

      • I agree, CL. To these people, any attention is kibbles, and your having them in your life at all gives the seal of approval they need so much! Even though the ex and I still co-own the family home, where I live w/the kids, I now call a handyman for anything I can’t handle. The ex does the yard work – when I’m not there.

  • Not my own story, but here goes:

    My great friend, I’ll call her Molly, was married to a cheater… she walked away having to pay half of the debt he ran up cheating. The divorce took ages. It was ugly. He stayed with the OW.

    In another part of town, a great guy is cheated on by his wife. He is friends with Molly. Molly helps him move out of the house he shared with his cheater wife. They commiserate and become better friends.

    Molly and her great guy end up getting married and having two beautiful kids together. A few years later, Molly is diagnosed with cancer. She is courageous and strong, but what’s even better is her great guy is a doctor who can help her to get the best care she needs, and he’s by her side the whole way through. Had Molly stayed with her weak, cheater first husband, he probably would have dumped her and left her to fight alone.

    Molly is now several years out from her diagnosis and cancer-free. I shudder to think what she would have gone through if she and her second husband hadn’t been strong enough to leave their cheaters. He’d probably be miserable, and maybe my friend wouldn’t be here.

    They are a great couple, and they give me hope.

    Oh, and from what Molly tells me, her ex-husband is a total loser who can’t so much as use the bathroom unless the OW knows. That also gives me hope of a more evil and selfish nature. 😀

    • MovingOn,

      I loved your post; I can so relate to my own past. I had to LOL at your last paragraph; all so true. These people have to know your every move…how annoying!!! I am happy to be free!!!

      • Heh…final OW is glued to Ex’s side 24/7 because she seems to know that if he’s out of her sight he’s probably up to no good. He literally works with her, lives with her and does all social activities with her. He told the kids that the reason our marriage didn’t work is that we didn’t spend enough time together. This meaning that we spent time at home doing normal family, home stuff, not out partying it up. Hahahaha….

    • MovingOn –

      The term you’re looking for is schadenfreude – pleasure from someone else’s misery.

      Your friend’s ex’s story reminds me of a woman who lives on my sister’s street. Apparently she’s a bullying bit of baggage – aka OW/wife #3 – who told her 70 year old next door neighbor to “Not even THINK about trying to steal her man.” The 70 year old took one look at the bloated, alcoholic, 40-something spouse and said, “I’ll try to resist him.” LOL!

  • It’s funny I mentioned this, I’m not even looking to date now… school has started for me and it’s intense and I really am trying to focus on that. I think you can be a success story without being totally partnered up again, but I’m not sure it’s a total success until you’ve at least had some kind of positive romantic relationship after that shit sandwich your cheater served you.

    So, I am checking off the boxes one by one in becoming a “success story”. I’ve made new friends… and the ones that actually keep their commitments, the thoughtful ones, are the friendships I expend effort into as well, and the ones that don’t do much, I don’t worry about too much either. I am also learning not to take it too personally and just kinda go with the flow. Not burning bridges or anything, I’ll see them in groups and be friendly, but I’m not going to be going out of my way trying to coordinate hanging out with them (it goes without saying they don’t coordinate things). I basically had a break up with one of my “best” friends 4 months ago as well. I think I was a bit of her chump to her narcissist as well and she essentially deserted me during my separation (must have been annoying that I wanted to talk about my stuff so much). And when I told her the deal? She responded with how I was the third good friend to do that to her and she must be the worst friend in the world, no the worst person. In other words, it was all about her her her (alright there was probably a very brief apology in there as well). But yeah, I had real friends that had stepped up, and even brand new friends that had stepped up and I was just realizing more about the kind of friends I deserve and want to have around me and she wasn’t measuring up at all.

    Also, random acts of kindness: shoulda seen what a teary mess I was when my neighbor came over and took care the of leaves in my yard for me last fall

    Now I’m in school and recruiting and everything starts soon. So, my career is up next. It’s almost weird to be thinking seriously about MY career after all this time. Weird but cool. And maybe taking it seriously for the first time ever, actually. Having two kids and being on your own will make you take these things much more seriously than you did when you were young and responsibility-free with your future cheater by your side, dulling your ambition.

    I think I wanted to see this, the happy stories, probably because I am lonely even though I’m not really looking to date at the moment either. I did the internet dating thing a little while ago, and I will say I did learn some things but I would not say it was a super positive experience and it definitely didn’t result in any second dates. So I was just looking for a reminder that good people and relationships do exist and I guess I wanted a little bit of chump romance to live vicariously through.

  • I have a couple of examples that give me some hope!

    1. I have a very good family friend who was cheated on by his wife repeatedly. He had 4 sons by this woman, and it took him 20 years to leave because he didn’t want to leave his kids. He eventually left and this cake eater turned the children against him, he spent years trying to get through to his kids that he didn’t just up and leave his wife.

    A few years after he left her, he met a widower. Within a year they were married. They have now been together 25 years. They live a normal, quiet and happy life. He had another child with his second wife and now has two wonderful grand children as well.

    When I found out about DD1, he told me to run and never look back. His ex-wife is now miserable and alone and constantly whinges about her life. Her children can’t stand her.

    2. Another family friend was married to a woman and had 5 children. She cheated on him repeatedly and used to talk down to him. When her youngest child was 2 years old, she left the family home and never looked back, leaving him to raise 5 children on his own.

    It took a very long time, but he too eventually met a widower and they have been married now for 8 years and are very happy together.

    Conversely his ex wife married again and a couple of years into her marriage she found out that her husband was off having sex with Thai prostitues when she stumbled over a file full of photos of him and his new ‘friends’.

    • Do you mean they met widows? A “widower” is a man who’s wife died. A “widow” is a woman who’s husband died.

      Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to hear these success stories about your friends ending up happy in better marriages. But unless your friends are bisexual, I think you mean “widow.”

  • I agree with the others that have pointed out that a success story doesn’t have to mean you are remarried or even in long term relationship. I think the more we work on our selves, the more we figure out why we tolerated such crap behavior from our ex’s, decide what we don’t want and what we DO want in our lives – that is when we will recognize the right partner when he/she comes along. When a person is weak and insecure, they settle for anyone and even when the red flags are smacking them over the head – well the are just too afraid and hurt to want to go down the road of break up and heartbreak. So they stay. I have a lot of work on myself yet to do. But Im proving to myself, everyday, that you know what? I can not only survive on my own, but thrive. My marriage ended, and even thought I thought at times it would crush me, it didn’t. I do hope that someday my future will include love again. But Im not going to wait for anyone to save me, I can save myself just fine. 🙂

    • Well said, Angie!

      Absolutely, success is not just about pairing up again. Making healthy relationship choices in every aspect of your life, investing in yourself, and being a good parent — IMO are hugely successful.

      • “Absolutely, success is not just about pairing up again”.

        Thank goodness! Because IdontthinkIwanna 🙂 At lest not while I am still busy enjoying the fact that I can sometimes leave yesterday’s socks laying on the floor for hours on end. 😉

  • Success story from a friend:

    She had three kids with a successful guy, then found out he was having sex with men on the down-low. He had no intentions of giving up cake or his wife/family. She left him, moved to a different country and started a new life. Now her children are grown – they are happy and love their mom. She is re-married to a great guy. Her career is climbing and she is financially secure (thanks to her own career and wise choices).

    As for me, I have miles to go in my journey towards my new life. I sure hope that what CL says is right: “success is not just about pairing up again. Making healthy relationship choices in every aspect of your life, investing in yourself, and being a good parent — IMO are hugely successful.” Because that’s what I’ll be doing in the foreseeable future.

    I do have a small victory to share. It seems tiny, but it was big for me. I tend to be a people-pleaser, and it has been part of my downfall with my STBX. So………I was in a store looking at some furniture with my young children. One of the salesmen came over and was chatting – friendly, charming, charasmatic, and oh-so-sparkly. Really, really sparkly. The kind of sparkly that makes you blush a litte bit because the attention is so flattering. He was geniunely kind and fun with my active kids who were sitting/playing on his furniture, and I was grateful for that, since I really needed to sit down. He was working in tidbits of his sales line (fair enough). Then he wanted to show me how comfortable the couch is, he invited me to lay down on it. I didn’t want to lay all the way down. I told him, no thank you. He persisted, with so many sparkles, the whole room lit up. In my earlier days, I would have layed down on that coach for at least a few seconds to appease him, and because i was so taken in by the sparkles. But not now. I firmly told him no, I’m not going to lay down, and felt no guilt about it at all, and didn’t miss the loss the of sparkles because of it. Like I said, a small thing, but it meant a lot to me, in the moment.

    • Small things count! I think just the fact that you can pick out the sparkly behavior is HUGE! I know I still have trouble with not being attracted to it. I am learning… and so are you. We’ll both be OK, eventually, by taking these baby steps in the right direction.

    • Good for you! In the past I would have laid down too, then felt horribly uncomfortable with my self afterwards, Little things DO count!

  • I am a happy story. I was telling a friend recently that I think I am currently living in one of those happy, golden phases of life, where you know that you will look back on it and think “Now THAT was a great year!”

    For many years of my marriage, I was sinking deeper and deeper into a depression. Due to constant anger and neglect from my partner, I felt inadequate, and was often envious of others. Two summers ago, I remember seeing a couple in my neighborhood doing lawn work together and I cried because I was jealous of their partnership! I was in such a bad place for so long.

    Now, I am about 14 months past d-day, and the divorce has been recently finalized. So much of my negative internal monolog just disappeared on its own once XH was no longer in my life (no contact is key). XH has made it clear that he wants me back in his life. That will never happen. Sometimes I remember how it felt to be in that horrible, one-sided relationship, and my blood runs cold. I am not consumed with anger. It is just so clear to me that my life is 100% better without him. I am a naturally happy person, and it seems like once he was out of my life, my old self was able to resurface pretty much intact.

    I will finish up nursing school in about a month. I have my own funky little apartment in a beautiful little town (shared with two awesome dogs), and I have a really fun new relationship. We make dinner together most nights. I exercise. I have a garden. I have a few good friends. I know my boundaries and my values, and I speak my mind. To me, that is damn near perfect.

    Some things I noticed about my new relationship in comparison to my former one:
    We sometimes talk about me and my life (imagine that)!
    We do things together for the sake of being together, not to network or ‘make an appearance.’
    We don’t keep score.
    I am not afraid to disagree.

    I feel that I have made it through the fire swamp of infidelity, and have arrived safely on the other side. So many wonderful people helped me to get where I am. I wish there was more I could do for those going through it now, other than just to say have faith. There is a land of milk and honey on the other side, and you will get there if you keep walking.

  • I am so very glad you posted these two stories. I have just assumed I would never really get over this disaster. Survive, I am good at surviving, but not really get over it. Figured I had my chance at happiness and would spend my golden years frightfully alone and would just have to deal with it. You’ve given me inspiration. Thank you.

  • Since CL’s own Birthday story and her happiness was such a motivator for me, I hope I can share a few bits of my own progress that I feel I’ve made after deciding once and for all to “step away from the crazy” and divorce the cheating XH.
    1. I’m able to focus on my career again, and my colleagues at my law firm have commented how great it is to see me be “my old self” again. The partners see that I’ve bounced back, and have placed their confidence in me to handle some big projects. I’m thrilled, and it’s amazing how much I can accomplish when I don’t have to waste my energies putting out the fires that XH kept starting for himself.

    2. I’m much better at reinforcing my boundaries. Since I’m also a lifelong chump Daughter to my philandering dad, I’m getting better at detaching from dad’s drama and “needs” that were such a drain on me. The more I reinforce my boundaries with the crazy family members, the less they try to projectile vomit their drama onto me.

    Still keeping No Contact with XH, even though he keeps trying to contact me, email me, and leaves me voicemail messages “wanting to be friends.” Ugghhh. NO. His current boredom with dingbat OW, poor career prospects, and rejection by his friends and family are NOT my problems to solve. I don’t get why he keeps at it, but I don’t respond at all. I keep ignoring him. Delete and dismiss.

    3. I’m dating a REALLY sweet, thoughtful, non-sparkly guy. I am also taking things at a glacial pace, but he has been nothing but understanding and CONSISTENT. He calls and shows up on time and when promised, always follows up, and is just plain thoughtful. His actions match his words (and YES, I’m watching for this now), he volunteers for Habitat for Humanity every month (and has for years), and is a reliable, thoughtful guy to his friends and family. Pays his bills on time. Lives within his means. Takes pride in his work and works hard. Listens. And I catch myself being *shocked* by this All. The. Time. Recent example: He’d heard me griping that my cable DVR wasn’t working, and I’d missed a few episodes of my über-guilty-pleasure TV show (So You Think You Can Dance). So over the weekend he surprised me when he downloaded all the episodes for me, ordered pizza and we spent the evening watching the hours of episodes I’d missed. Didn’t have to be anything sparkly or extravagant – but it was thoughtful and he knew it would make me happy. It’s too soon to say where things will wind up, but it is good to see there are DECENT, GOOD people out there.

    4. I laugh a lot now, have met several great new people and am enjoying my new condo in the artsy section of town. I’ve been working out again. My friends are great and I feel like I’m enjoying my friendships with them more now than I did before the DDays, likely because I’m no longer squandering my time and energies on someone who is a bottomless pit of need and demand. I still read ChumpLady’s posts almost daily, as I still find them helpful and reaffirming.

    For me, dealing with this betrayal was more painful and devastating than the unexpected loss of my mother in a car crash a few years ago. At least with a death, there’s a finality there, and I will never have to question how much my mom loved me, supported me, and wanted me to be happy. That was a terrible loss indeed, but it was nothing like the purposeful, deceitful, ongoing, manipulative pain caused by XH’s affair and the never-ending lies.

    I am definitely more resilient now than I’d ever thought I would need to be, but I can definitely say that things ARE much better. I am doing well, and I think my mom would be proud of me.

    • It’s interesting to hear that your experience of betrayal was more devastating than losing your mother unexpectedly in a car crash. I’ve got a couple of friends who lost children unexpectedly, and they say the pain from that didn’t hold a candle to their husbands betrayal and abandonment. I read somewhere that the emotional wounds from this experience are equivalent to open heart surgery and take about as long to heal. I definitely feel emotionally stronger and more resilient after having survived this experience. I also feel like that heavy blanket of depression that weighed me down so many years has lifted, mostly because I figured out that I can love myself more than anyone else can. I don’t have to look to someone else for emotional fulfillment or happiness, I can find it for myself. I remember when I found my ex’s journal and discovered what was going on with him and his married coworker. It was so good to finally know the truth and to know I wasn’t crazy or imagining things. I remember thinking that the truth had set me free.

  • Just wanted to share a recent moment of realizing how NICE people can be – and how much better life is, around nice people.

    Took the kids to a music festival in the city where I went to grad school. Met up w/my grad school roommate there, she and I shared a hotel room, the kids had the one right next door. Went to the music festival. Another day didn’t go to the music festival, strolled around and went to the park and zoo instead. Had brunch w/one group of friends, dinner w/another. Swam in the hotel pool.

    And through it all, my former roommate was pleasant, easy-going, FUN, spontaneous and flexible, nice, and FUN! The kids mentioned how easy it was to make her laugh – so they kept saying silly things and telling her jokes. We changed plans a zillion times, we got lost driving somewhere, it was broiling hot, some of the food was great and some was so-so, and EVERYONE stayed pleasant and nice and FUN.

    Why does this seem amazing to me? I think of travelling w/my ex, and how difficult everything was, and how I spent half my time trying to manage his moods, and the other half trying to keep the kids ‘in line’ so they didn’t impact his moods. How any change in plans or delay or anything not quite as good as promised made him crabby – often, but not always, so I never knew what I would have to deal with.

    My friend reminded me of some of the things I’ll be looking for if I ever feel ready to have another partner. (Pity sexual orientation isn’t actually a choice, ’cause I would switch teams to be w/her or someone like her if I could!) And she reminded me of how people who actually value me treat me, and of the huge value of real friendship and real NICENESS in life.

  • Great to see the stories! After my divorce I dated and I learned that my tolerance for bullshit was pretty low. Take for example the one guy who, after I told him I was not going to be with anyone who did drugs had the audacity to pull a joint out of his pocket and light up. Really? At first I was like: FOR REAL? Then I got my purse and said “Adios!” and he was stupefied and I would actually leave but I did and I never looked back. Believe it or not, there were a lot of those guys….guys who, on a first date , would say they ‘dabbled’ in this or that…or only did it ‘occasionally’. yeah, whatever. I was outta there. I guess they thought I was playing games or something but they soon found out that I wasn’t.

    When I met the man who is now my fiancé (holy moly, 3 months until the big day and counting!!) I asked him if he did any illegal stuff…he said no and looked at me like I was a little off…LOL! Anyhow, he is not sparkly, he is not a liar. He is a good, solid man. I can ask him to do something around the house and he does it. When we talk with each other, its like the most comfortable thing in the world. He is not needy. I do not need to constantly tell him how fabulous and great he is. He is self-assured enough to know who he is and what he stands for. I can be myself ALL THE TIME. We can be goofy together. He is my best friend. I hope to grow old with him, laugh and dance with him, sing and play the guitar with him. I can hardly wait!!

    I feel like I have come home.

    • Good to hear your happy story.

      I too dated several guys that when I questioned them about any illegal habits or alcohol use would either lie or minimize their consumption of booze or whatever. Usually I found out they were alcoholics or potheads – and it’s something they initially hide from you at first. Then the true colors come out and you start to discover all of their other issues (like lying, cheating, etc.),

      My ex boyfriend told me he wasn’t a big drinker and that he was divorced. Well, I found out he was divorced but still screwing around with his freaky ex wife. Not to mention they would go out boozing together and then sleep together when I wasn’t around. I also found out that he is a permanent fixture at a local bar, which he sometimes attends more than once in a day. Yeah…..he’s a real great catch – if you want a total NPD asshole. I can’t tell you how many times these guys lie their ass off just to keep some chumps on the hook that they can ping pong back and forth to.

      Well I have had enough of his bullshit stories and I don’t care how many times he’s told me that he loves me and only wants to be with me and all of the other lies that will always spill out of his big mouth, it doesn’t mean anything anymore. I realize that he probably doesn’t even have any concept of love and is just needy for chumps to make himself feel like he’s special.

      I am trying to go total NC now, and even though I am currently not dating anyone, I look forward to maybe someday meeting a decent man that indeed has a heart and soul and wants to be totally monogamous. Also one that doesn’t want to hang in a bar all the time.

      It’s just good to hear great stories like yours to show how you overcame the pain and grief by wasting time on some person that never even deserved you. Now you found a treasure that was worth waiting for. I wish both of you the best!

  • Tracy told me to post here….my success story…I am a long time chump lady fan and follower. I have been here solidly for a year. I had two emails replied to with CL’s posts and inspired the “State of Meh” cartoon from one of my posts (bought a mug and a shirt). Its been a year and six months, since I moved out of my old house. One year and a month divorced. I was an amazon chump, then got to so serious in therapy and support groups….I help mentor new chumps now.

    What is really strange is that time recovering from my gas lighting cheating ex was one of the most trying times of my life and one of the most exhilarating all at once. The best and worst of times. I recently went through my iPhone photos and realized what a kickass year I had. I started to live again. In the marriage I let myself be micromanaged and I let myself be beaten down mentally. Watch those key words fellow chumps. I allowed it. We control how we respond to the narcissist. The key is mentally and physically to tell them to fuck off…and say you do not deserve me. Stand up and walk out. We all have our faults, but we don’t deserve gas lighting, blame shifting, infidelity, and mental abuse. That shit is wrong and we all call bullshit on that.

    I rebuilt myself last year. Did some acting worked on my music had a blast. I did a lot stuff I forgot about myself. Then I found a pretty, sweet, good hearted, ex-chump that got me…my sense of humor etc. Life is great. I have not gone life merging crazy with new gal like my supposed strong willed ex did with her bf, where he moved in to my old house. I am getting real close to complete Meh. I got to praying for my ex and him (I know weird but it helps me). Their’s is a bed that I would not like to sleep in. Lying, cheating, and stealing. Now don’t worry I hold them accountable. Trust me fellow chumps its the cheaters that need to be embarassed and ashamed not us.

    My smiles have returned. My blood pressure is coming down. This blog saved me literally….since as a gaslighted ex spouse the mindfuckery is and was maddening. Being validated and heard is such huge medicine to get to that magical place…the other side. This forum and blog is a safe home, where others know and feel…understand when your white picket fence image of your marriage comes crashing down and the spackle that you plastered falls off the walls of the image…the mirage and you lay there emotionally gutted like a lake trout from the cheating..yeah…it hurts like a motherfucker. Thank you all…thank you Tracy. It saved me from putting my fist through a casual friend who said a year ago “hey just get over it”. I had my posse online in my corner. Its not bitterness….its binding our wounds so we do not stay permanently broken from this shit. New gal loves how driven I was to get well.

    I have beautiful dreams now…..anxiety has lessened. I can make decisions for myself now on my terms. It feels great. I am getting a lot better controlling my reaction to my ex.

    So invest in yourself fellow chumps, volunteer, pray, know your worth, guard yourself from abuse, stand up to that bullshit, put boundaries on those narcissists, get yourself some real monkey love (we deserve it), trust they suck and dream new dreams….let go of the old potemkim houses and build real homes.

    PS…your kids don’t mind apartments and rental homes….they don’t give a shit about the granite counters or leather sofas. They want you. They want your time. Make a home even if its modest. Most likely… you were probably the one that gave a shit about them. Keep doing that.


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