Dear Chump Lady,
I’m still friends with my ex-boyfriend’s cousin. She informs me that Joey’s life has descended into a complete and utter mess. A year and a half later, he’s still with the OM, but that’s really about all he’s doing. He’s 24, unemployed, lives in his grandmother’s attic, dropped out of community college, has no money (OM and Grandma pay for everything), is on fucking food stamps, and pretty much sleeps all day everyday. He doesn’t do shit around his Grandma’s house (Grandma is a 134-year-old diabetic who could use the help), doesn’t clean up his own dog’s dogshit and is basically wasting away his life.
It’s really of no consequence to me what Joey does or doesn’t do with his life at this point; I’ve long since moved on, with a new job and my own place. But I never imagined things would turn out QUITE like this. I never thought he’d bottom out like this. The kid I dated had goals and dreams and ambitions. This Joey…..fuck, you got me! I don’t know what the hell he’s turned into.
Also never imagined that even though I got cheated on, the OM would end up getting played for an even bigger chump, as his dumb, obsessed ass is stuck showering Joey with attention and gifts, rewarding him for being useless. Definitely not a role I ever played when he and I were together!
I’m not sympathetic in the least, but I can’t help but shudder at what he’s become. Getting cheated on and dumped for someone else sucks, but at the very least I was classy enough to wish him well in my head. Sounds like karma had better plans for him.
Even if the cheaters abandon true, loving relationships for something edgier and trashier, aren’t they at least supposed to live something resembling a normal life? In a a year and a half, Joey went from a young, independent professional who was getting job interviews left and right (that I’d help him prep for) to a fucking white trash bottom-feeder.
While I spent my Independence Day feasting on burgers and BBQ Schadenfreude, that shit still fucks with my head. Doesn’t mean I’m still in love with him. And it doesn’t mean I feel sympathy or feel the need to “save” him. The ONLY reason he’s in this place is because of HIS actions and HIS choices.
Personally, I think that sorry-ass motherfucker got exactly what he deserved. He made his bed and seems content to lie in it, even on workdays.
But I’ll say in all honestly that I’m uncomfortably “meh” right now, Ms. CL. What do we do when our cheaters hit rock bottom like this? I gained a life. He squandered his.
Yeah, what you are describing is the flip side to the Fear That They’re Going to Be Better Without You. It’s the actually much more common occurrence — Their Life Is Utter Shit Without You. And while Joey deserves it, and his nosedive is completely of his own doing, you’re a chump with feelings. It has to be painful to see someone you once loved behave so self-destructively.
I get that you’re pretty “meh” (but not so meh as to not get Joey reports from his cousin), but I think at some level you still believe in Joey’s potential. In my opinion, the real Joey is the white trash bottom feeder. When he had your ego kibbles to sustain him, all your energies and talents, he could rise to be the sort of person who appeared to have goals and ambitions. But he couldn’t sustain it. He went right back to being the sort of half-assed, predatory human being he’s probably always been. He traded you for a lower quality of kibble feed. He needs propping — from grandma, from the OM, once from you. The guy does not prop himself. Ever.
Once you were freed from kibble slavery — even though you didn’t want to be, he cheated on you — you took the opportunity to get healthy. And you focused all that love, care, and attention on your own success. And — no surprise — it paid off. Why is that? Because you, at heart, are not half-assed. You actually do have dreams and ambitions — more important, you have a work ethic. You made those things happen for yourself. To get your kibbles, my guess is that Joey had to pretend to be more like you. But he’s not really like you. And over time those cracks started to show.
You asked: Even if the cheaters abandon true, loving relationships for something edgier and trashier, aren’t they at least supposed to live something resembling a normal life?
Not really. Some are better at fronting, I think. Others are total train wrecks. And a lot of them, it takes years for this shit to catch up with them, because they just go through chump after chump after chump. But pretty soon the sparkle wears off. It gets harder to conceal the crazy, the umpteenth divorce/bankruptcy/career change. Joey is young and he’s tanking pretty spectacularly. I can’t even imagine the sort of fucked up he’ll be at 40 — can you? You dodged a bullet, Chris.
But I totally get loving the potential and wondering why the hell they would throw something so good away. You, for instance. Or Joey’s own talents and opportunities. I think it all comes back to entitlement. Guys like Joey don’t appreciate their gifts — or yours. Life to Joey is probably one series of gifts that he doesn’t believe will ever run out — so he feels free to squander them like so much disposable crap. There’s always more, right? More chumps, more chances.
At Chump Lady, I talk a lot about falling for sparkles. But really, quite worse is falling for potential. You see glimmers of Great Things Yet to Be Realized. Gosh, with just a little elbow grease and concerted effort, we could really make Something Together! Chumps enlist. And guys like Joey — well, they never put forth much effort beyond the initial glimmers. Because frankly, effort gets boring. Effort is… well, EFFORT. It’s a slog. The idea of delayed gratification, or team building, or a meta vision is lost on guys like Joey. He wants a nap NOW, today, this minute… and what’s on Netflix later… and could someone make me a Hot Pocket?
I was watching the movie Capote this weekend with my husband. Great film, if you haven’t seen it, about Truman Capote and the writing of In Cold Blood. Capote narcissistically falls into infatuation with one of the murderers he is profiling for his book. A sociopathic motherfucker who slaughtered a Kansas farm family for $40. But the murderer appears sad, and misunderstood. He writes a diary. And — most tantalizing — he’s a gifted artist. He draws just lovely portraits.
And as you watch the film, you can’t help but wonder What If. Gee, what if this murderer had a nicer childhood? What if he went to art school instead of juvenile detention? What if Capote can reach a deeper understanding about his motivations? And then you remember — oh, that’s right. This is the same guy who blew the heads off four people with a shotgun. He murdered a whole family in cold blood.
That’s who that guy IS — he’s a murderer. A murderer who draws pretty pictures. He had a gift, and he wasted it to be a murderer. That was his choice. And all the pretty pictures and sensitive diaries don’t eclipse his acts of murder.
Joey is a user, a slacker, and a cheater. All those choices blot out his glorious potential. His choices say essential things about his character — and tell us far more about him than his dreams do. Cheaters want us so badly to believe in their ideal selves and pay no attention to the evidence of their actual selves.
I think you’re still a bit caught up with Joey’s ideal self — who he could of been. Instead, remember who he really is — a guy who mooches off a disabled old lady and can’t be bothered to pick up dog shit. That’s the prize OM got. You escaped and life got better for you. That’s all the evidence you need, Chris. Keep trusting that he sucks.