Another inspiring chump letter appeared in my box today — thank you inspiring chumps for filling my inbox this week and doing my work for me. Giving the floor over today to “Uniquelyme.”
Dear Chump Lady,
Before I share my cautionary tale, I’d like to tell you that finding your site a few months ago changed my life. I am in a state of complete freedom. Your banner says it all … I left a cheater and gained an amazing life.
For those chumps who are still on the fence about leaving their cheaters, get a divorce lawyer now. Listen to your intuition. You do not want to go through what I went through. A little background on myself – I am well educated, financially successful, a great mom, attractive and have lots of real friends and great family. I was successful in all aspects of my life except my relationship with my serial cheater ex-husband. (Um, how could one have a successful relationship with a cheater?)
Twenty-three years ago, my ex had his very first affair when I was pregnant with our only child. He was drunk when he had sex with a co-worker in his car, but he did go back for more a few weeks later. He confessed to me after our child was born (perfect timing but he needed to get it off his chest – typical selfish, cheater trait) and I went through severe depression for months. The co-worker? She slept with the ex a few weeks before and after her wedding. I called and confronted her when I found out, and I still remember her screaming to my ex, “Why did you tell her?” She was terrified I would tell her H (all about herself), so she told him. He promptly threw her out of the house. Good for him. Chump he wasn’t. They were married less than 6 months at this point.
We worked on reconciliation but it was never the same. The trust was gone. I spent the next ten years being the marriage police, lowering my standards and expectations just to continue to believe that he loved me, and in the process lost my self-worth, self-respect and functioned on auto-pilot. He still had the upper hand because I felt I would not make it without him. I could relate to all that reasons why chumps stay as pointed out by Tracy. Somehow, I managed to stay sane and still be successful in other areas of my life. And yet, I was diminishing as a person while thinking I was making the right decision to stay. You truly do not know what you do not know.
Next affair that I knew of happened 10 years later. This OW was a piece of work. She told me “I know you’ve been married to him for a long time but I can’t help myself.” I threw him out and a year and half later, filed for divorce. He got scared and begged for forgiveness. I had no self-love at this point and was happy to take him back. I became even chumpier than ever. Twelve years after the second affair, he had his third one. Prior to the final affair, I had been going to counseling and working on myself for the past three years, and now I had strength and clarity. I threw him out so fast, his head spun. I went no contact unless absolutely necessary because of the divorce settlement. Divorce was final 4 months after the discovery of the final affair. No energy whatsoever was wasted on contacting the OW like I did in the two previous affairs.
It’s been seven months since I threw him out. LIFE IS FREAKIN’ GOOD! Do I have tough moments? Sure but not tough days or weeks. That is part of healing, but the alternative of spending the next 23 years of my life in pain and suffering (by choice, mind you) makes all the occasional grieving worthwhile. The joys now surpass the pain.
My journey right now is doing deep therapy work to find out why I allowed myself to stay and take the emotional abuse. No, I am not taking the blame for his cheating. That is on him 100%. (Don’t let anyone ever make you believe otherwise.) I take ownership that I allowed myself to be the victim. The answer for me? I did not have self-love. I gave myself permission to lose it while holding on to a marriage with a cheater (a losing proposition, by the way). I am working on truly loving myself and please don’t confuse this with narcissism. Loving yourself means you give yourself the love and respect you deserve from ALL your relationships, and realizing that the best relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself. Narcissists don’t even have a clue what true self-love means. With the help of my incredible counselor, my spiritual life, amazing books of authors who have been through a similar life journey and daily commitment to love myself – through my thoughts and actions – I am definitely on a healthy path. I want to be a healthy person who will attract only healthy people, so I am taking my time to love and know myself, so I know exactly what I want in a future relationship. Finding a future partner is not a “must have” but rather a gift. And if I never, ever find a partner who would love me the way I deserved to be loved, then be it. I would rather live alone than in quiet humiliation with a cheater. Even without a partner, I know for sure that I will continue to have a full life as I have today with myself, family and friends.
The ex? He is shacking up with the final OW and supporting her 100%. I didn’t waste energy contacting this OW. (I probably should send her a thank you card, though.) The ex sends me occasional, nice and polite emails to engage me in whatever topics, and I completely ignore them. His letter of apology was deleted so fast my computer nearly went up in smoke. Our adult child has chosen not to have contact with him.
I am not naïve to think that I am fully healed. I am not but I am getting there. The longer I stayed, the tougher the healing. So chumps, call a divorce lawyer today. Cheaters do not change. Don’t take nearly 23 years of your life to figure that one out like I did. Cheating is part of who they are. My ex, on the outside, is a kind, attractive, successful man and I believed he was just “broken”. He’s intact alright plus a jerk in disguise. You know who will get broken if you stay? You. Don’t do that to yourself. As Maya Angelou said, “When people tell you who they are, believe them the first time.”
I look back at my life and instead of being angry why I stayed as long as I did (I had to do work on that), I am grateful for today that I am finally free with an opportunity to have an awesome life on my terms. Please heed my caution and don’t waste another minute of your precious life on your cheater. Don’t join me in the Chump Lady Hall of Fame. YOU are worth more than that. They do not love you. Love does not hurt. The cheater, on the other, truly deserves their affair partner. Don’t think you are hanging on to a prized possession; you actually have garbage in your hands. Discard them. Now.