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Dear Chump Lady, Can I date yet?

Dear Chump Lady,

Finding your blog has led to my freedom. Your perspective and the perspectives of all who comment here have guided me thus far through the shit sandwich I was choking on. In the past ten months, I have transformed myself into the strong and courageous woman that I used to be. I have accepted that I was married to a narcissistic fucktard and that, for some sick reason, I chumped myself into near oblivion at the hands of this asshole.

My question is about dating/relationships. I have reconnected with old friends, family that I had been isolated from and made quite a few new friends in the last ten months. In my quest to move away from what my life had become, I got a new job in a field that I had left behind for chumpdom, I moved out of the traditional suburb I hated and into the heart of the nearest big city with my children. I started to re-expose myself to the experiences I want to have. And because of the “infidelity diet” I was forced into, I have lost 100+ pounds (not totally a bad thing). Many people (including some family members) don’t quite recognize me when they see me now. I look totally different than I did before — not only on the outside but I know the way I look out from my eyes is different too. Not surprising since I was a dish-doing, laundress zombie with a permanent scowl until this wake up call.

When I socialize now, and sometimes even when I’m just buying tacos for the kids from a taco stand, the response from men is often overwhelming. I know my “picker” isn’t fully tuned up yet but when family and friends say: “Take time to heal” or “you need someone who can help you heal”, both sound depressing to me. The way I see it is, I’ve made the most of the time I have had since I discovered that I had married a fucker and leaving was the radical surgery required to heal me. Any other healing required, is up to me, not someone I meet at a party.

I smile every day because I left. I have clarity about what I am looking for and feel I have a keen bullshit detector. I don’t want to marry anyone and I have limited time because my kids are important to me. But dinners out, adult conversation, and dancing sound appealing to me. I’m not into casual sex so that may be a hurdle for some men but I think I can deal with it.

Should I wait to date?


Dear NTB,

Hey, first change your screen name, because you ARE bright. You’re incandescent. You’ve navigated this shit astoundingly well — you moved to a city you enjoy, you got a better job, you lost 100 lbs (!!!!) — and you’ve got a great attitude. You aren’t afraid to get out there and engage with the world. Your narcissist ex doesn’t have a mental hold on you. You aren’t looking for a fairytale ending, you just want a dance partner…

So, yes, I certainly declare you ready to date. I assume you’re divorced? I was a bit unclear on if it was 10 months since your divorce or DDay or just 10 months of being kickass. Obviously, don’t date if you haven’t filed for divorce. You may think me a moron for spelling that out, but you’d be surprised how often people do it.

There is some controversy over dating while separated. I don’t have a problem with it personally, so long as you’re honest with yourself and with anyone you date. Some states (I lived in one once) make you wait one year and a DAY of physical separation before you can even FILE. So a divorce can take up to two years on average, and I don’t think you should have to put your life on hold.

That said, most of us are still very wobbly during separation. This shit is consuming. And if you want a healthy relationship, you probably don’t have enough emotional wherewithal to be a full partner to anyone else. So I’d say in the beginning, just work on yourself, being around people who love and value you, fix that picker, and just heal.

However, I reject all that bullshit that you have to wait a month for every year you were married before you can date again. Who made up that nonsense? After 22 years of marriage, my husband would’ve been obliged to spend two years in purgatory. A person needs to get laid! I don’t mean to be crass, but we all have needs. Cheaters steal enough of our time and mental real estate, must we really give them MORE?

There is no timeline for grief and rebuilding. You may need years, you may need weeks. Personally, I think you must conquer most of your grief, and realize there are residual issues you’ll need to manage your whole life. We’re all battle scarred. Doesn’t mean we’re dead. Get back up on the horse, I say.

So you want to date? Here are my precautions.

1. Don’t self medicate with other people. Everyone enjoys ego kibbles, even chumps. It’s positively liberating to get out of bad marriage and realize that other people find you attractive and worthwhile. But make sure you know your worth before you get out there and date again, otherwise you may be tempted to self medicate with other people. What does that look like? It looks lopsided. You’re all about them giving you attention, and you don’t have much interest or energy to give back. It looks like neediness. You need this person to validate you, to lean on, to tell you you’re okay.

Know where you start and the other person ends. If you’re whole, you can enjoy kibbles without being consumed by the quest for them. If you’re whole, you can be a good partner and friend. You can reciprocate — you can give and take, and not get too unbalanced on either side. Healthy partners want reciprocity. Unhealthy people are cool with lopsided kibbles. Be healthy.

2. Don’t dominate conversation with talk of your ex. This is a buzz kill, especially in the beginning. If you have to talk about it incessantly and you’re not open to a new person and what they bring to the table? You’re not over it yet. Take more time to heal. Yes, you’re going to have to discuss it at some point, especially if you have kids, and especially if your ex is a disordered person who wants to get in your business — but you are responsible for managing that relationship, and not putting the burden of your history on a new partner.

3. Prepare to dump and be dumped. Don’t date unless you can handle rejection and dish it out. (That’s hard for chumps.) Which is just another way of saying — be comfortable with boundaries. You’re going to find some people cross your boundaries, or are perfectly nice, but just not your cup of tea. You need to dump them, and you should be okay with that. Conversely, you’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea either — and you may get dumped. Okay, you WILL get dumped — it’s part of the rough and tumble contact sport known as dating. Sure it stings, but it can’t destroy you. You gotta get back out there and not take it personally.

My husband heard it described this way — you’re an Armani suit, but you’re a size 8. Your date might be a size 12. It’s no reflection on the quality of your Armani suit, you’re just not a good fit. But you WILL be a good fit for someone.

If you’re not an Armani suit? You’re a lump of burlap with a bad smell? Work on that. Be a suit that someone would want. (Okay, this is a Chump Lady addendum, and not in the original advice my husband heard.) It’s important to work on being your best self whether or not you’re dating.

4. Know how to navigate your sexuality. This is what I hated about dating — how long can you be celibate before you tip off the edge and have sex with someone who is not wholly appropriate? Everyone is different on this, but I think most of us experience some sampling of the wares out there in the dating pool. If you’re not cool with casual sex, work on how you’re going to enforce your boundaries, and what you’re going to do otherwise. Hug friends. Get a massage. Adopt a puppy. We all need affection. It’s as human a need as hunger and thirst. So make sure you’re touching something — even if it’s yourself. (Hello BOB.)

Oh ick. Chump Lady is talking about sex. Well, yes, just because you’re a chump doesn’t mean you don’t want sex. (I know, we’re all supposed to be sexless… that’s what drove them to cheat on us, I get it.)

You need a fuck buddy? Get a fuck buddy. Have safe sex. You know, a nice romp with a nice person might be exactly what you need.

You’re terrified of intimacy right now? Be cool with that. Don’t force it. Take up contra dancing. Go be dorky in a group and swing around the room with someone. That works too.

Whatever you do though? Don’t sleep with your ex. DREADFUL idea. Common mistake, however, and one that I attribute to the bargaining stage of grief (okay, this person can’t be my spouse, but maybe they can be my fuckbuddy.) NO. Slap yourself. These are the worst sort of kibbles to give your cheater ex. It says What You Did Wasn’t So Bad That I Won’t Fuck You.

It was that bad. Don’t fuck them.

5. Be open. There are millions of people out there, get to know a few. Don’t get tunnel vision… I can only date Jewish dermatologists from Detroit. Okay, maybe you’re not that specific, but you know what I mean. Don’t narrow your options. The only criteria you need to have is character — which manifests itself into a lot of other qualities on your list like honesty and gainful employment. But beyond that there are a host of possibilities.

I never, ever would’ve considered a Texan that lived 1700 miles away from me — and yet, oddly it works. Thank goodness when he crossed my path I didn’t shut him down. A good person might cross your path too. Stranger things have happened. So keep your eyes and heart open.

NTB — enjoy the dabbling into dating. I hope you find a lovely dance partner or two.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Tracy,

    Here is my question……How do I find my self worth again? I’ve heard from x how I didn’t do this or I didn’t do that. I wasn’t doing this. We had sex though. It wasn’t sexless, but she loved sexting other people and sending them pictures….. She is already with someone else and says she loves him…..I have a hard time identifying what makes me, me. I allow her to occupy to much of my mind. And I don’t know where to look to begin finding my worth. It hasn’t been long since dday but I like to think that I am moving along. I just don’t want to start to head out there and date when I don’t know who I am.

    What did you and others on here do to find their worth?

    • Hi RCC:

      That you’re asking this question shows that you know you’re not ready to date just yet.

      While all infidelity is abusive, there’s abuse and abuse. Long term emotional abuse will leave deep wounds, and really, those have to heal. Your XW sounds as if she did what she could to hurt you. This is another way for the truly disordered to get their cake and kibbles, and it’s typical of abusers. They strip away their victims’ sense of self such that the victims feel grateful that the abuser pays any attention to them whatsoever. The abused starts to feel that they can’t do any better than their abuser.

      First, if you’re not in therapy, get some. Yes, you’re getting better because by leaving, you broke the cycle. Well done you! However, you will need to get some objective feedback on how you handle relationships, what’s normal, what’s not, etc. That will help you figure out part of yourself, since you can reestablish what was once important to you.

      Second, do something for yourself. If there’s anything you’ve wanted to do but haven’t been able to do for whatever reason, now is the time to do it (provided it’s legal). Ever felt that you should learn Latin? Enroll in a class or ask if you can audit a class. Want to learn how to cook? Get some cooking classes. CL took up welding, for pete’s sake, and has the burn scar to prove it!

      The point is that it doesn’t matter what you do; what matters is that it’s something you think you want to do. It also doesn’t matter if you take it up as a hobby or if you drop it after a couple of classes. If you really connect with it, congratulations! You have discovered some of your values! If not, that’s great! You have discovered some of your values!

      Also, think of “safe” venues for interacting with people. As CL says, we all need human contact. You don’t necessarily have to think about sex yet, especially if you don’t do casual sex. But we all need to interact with people in some way, even if it’s to have someone smile at us. If you ha

      • Kb,

        Yeah, I pretty much knew I am not ready to date. I am seeing a therapist and have been since she left when A was discovered. I have plans to do things I just have to get other things out of the way first. Like moving. I have been going out and not just sitting in my house. My councilor asked me what I value in myself and how do I measure my worth and I couldn’t really answer her. I’m trying to rediscover all of this.

        • RC, ask your therapist to define what she asked you, not judging but that kinda shit is bogus in therapy if you say you do not know and zie therapist does not help you work through it. Also, it took me a while to find a good therapist, if yours is not helping you do not be afraid to interview another one.

      • Hi RC,
        Here is a website that may help and there is an online book with worksheets that is free of charge. I have downloaded it this past week and will work on the worksheets over this weekend.
        This website along with CL’s has been so helpful to me in getting my focus back on me and helped bring me to Meh finally!

        I hope you find it helpful as I did and of course CL’s insights and advise are priceless!!!

    • Who were you before you married her? What was that guy like? What do you enjoy? Go find that guy, work on him. You can’t give someone your identity and your sense of worth. Stop giving her that power. If she thinks you suck, screw her. Consider the source.

      Speaking for myself, I didn’t have to find my worth. I knew it was there. I knew I didn’t want this shit to destroy me. I had a brief marriage though, and as difficult as it was to concede defeat — I had a life outside that one. And I built a new life. I made time for friends, took classes (I learned to weld), and I had a job then that kept me insanely busy along with single parenting. There wasn’t a lot of time to be idle.

      Stay active. Go be around people who are nice. Go volunteer somewhere — give of yourself. Get the hell outside your head. You’ll find yourself, and I’m sure you’ll like that guy a lot better than the chump guy you feel like you are now.

      • On a certain level, I really get what RC is saying. I completely gave up my identity (gradually) in service of the relationship with my STBX. I think it was part of some secret job description to which I as not privy which Narc/Psychopaths have filed in their secret files. I was discussing dating in therapy just the other day and I was telling my therapist that I knew I wasn’t ready. I suffered the classic covert emotional abuse with all the trauma inherent therein. Coming out of that relationship, I was suicidal, felt addicted and have gone through (and continue to go through – think Whitney Houston) withdrawal and on and on. My friend termed it as being under constant assault by my STBX and I find that to be an apt description. No Contact has saved my life, but there are those occasional days when I get the urge to contact him. That’s when I come here and re-read practically everything on this website. CL, you and this wonderful community of people have helped me keep it together on several occasions and I will never be able to thank all of you enough.

        I still struggle with being able to trust my judgment. Right before I moved out, this guy tried to pick me up under the guise of friendship. I made the mistake of giving him my work number before I realized that there was something wrong with him and he was trying to take advantage of my perceived vulnerability. Suffice it to say, I was happy to have caller ID at work and I never took his calls, but it took him about 2 months to stop calling.

        There is a saying that you attract what you are. That’s why I want to be in a healthy spot because I don’t want to attract another narc/psychopath into my life. I really enjoy being in a relationship and I really enjoyed the companionship and things that went along with being married. I LOVED being a wife and mother. I’m not looking to get married but I wouldn’t mind dating and spending time with someone, but I know I’m still a little too unsure of myself right now. I told my therapist I had believed my STBX to be this wonderful person and look how I had misjudged him. She led me into a discussion of how he never paid me compliments, he would never take me any place that I wanted to go or do anything that I wanted to do unless it was something that he really wanted to do as well, etc. She then suggested that once I started dating to pay attention to people who exhibited any of those behaviors and never see them again.

        The panic attacks (which would sometimes cause agoraphobia) have subsided somewhat (and I would always force myself to keep moving and leave the house in spite of the fear) but I still have a way to go before I will feel like that laughing, spunky woman I was prior to the Snake Pit disguised as a marriage. I have made a lot of progress, but I know I have a long way still to go.

  • Dear NTB: you are well on your way to Tiesday! But please be careful entering the dating scene…as CL said, it can be daunting. You didnt mention it, but perhaps a licensed counselor may help you sort these issues out. I went out on my first date last Saturday (dday was almost 6 months ago and he has been out of my home for 3 months). It was only dinner and I made it clear that’s all it was going to be. It felt odd to be out with someone other than my fucktard of 20 years, but it was nice. Take it slooooowly!
    Hugs, nmc

    • That was an informative and Lmao read. This site is awesome for recovery for chumps!! Thank u ALL 🙂

    • Thanks for the tip, NMC…I went out with someone last night that works for a company i deal with at work. Really sweet person and I had fun. I’m actually still smiling because it was nice to allow myself time away from the kids, with an adult, listening to music I like. We had good conversation and I think I will spend time with him again but I felt no urgency, desperation, insecurity. I really just felt like me. I have had counselling all along this journey and I agree, I couldn’t have done this without it. One thing CL said that made me smile was about giving yourself pleasure when you’re in a “dry spell”. I recommend it. We chumps are not good at receiving -being so busy giving everything away. It starts with yourself – receive pleasure from yourself, RCCola, and you will know you are still in there and that’s worth a lot. 🙂

  • Just wonderful, wonderful advice as always Tracy!

    and love that you said this.

    “Everyone enjoys ego kibbles, even chumps.”

    and it has occurred to me before that this factoid is something that also keeps US hooked into the cheater.

    off to see son #1 (and lovely GF) in Boston! tho ekthited!

    love to all!!!

  • I think for me at least the “one month per year” thing worked well. I knew I was intensely damaged, lonely, horny and based on my past life was probably in danger of of a disasterous rebound. I decided to take a year before dating, work on my own shit and recovery, did all the right things and I still wasn’t ready at the end of it. No doubt getting a leg over some strange stuff might have helped with some self esteem rebuilding, but I was so full of anger and pain women parted like the Red Sea anytime I was in the room 😉

    I worked very hard at getting over the infidelity of my wife of 24 years, her dumping everything ( including the kids) and running off with the OM. I went no contact as much as possible when two kids are involved, hit the gym, rebuilt my old friendships, found new ones, and took up a whole whack of new activities. Even doing all that, it’s taken two years to get to the point I feel I’m finally ready.

    • Hi Mike,
      As CL as said there is no time clock for this stuff. We are all individuals and each of our fucktards are as well. Although we each have some common ground, we are effected and affected differently by these horrible experiences.

      From what I learned in my recovering from this painful experience, you can not rush through the emotions. I fought them alot. My therapist said go easy on yourself repeatedly. I wanted to rush through it and get on with my life.

      You can’t it’s a process, it took time to get fucked up and therefore it will take time to get unfucked up. But with work and focus the time to get unfucked up is far less than the time it took to get fucked and the payoff is a lifetime of being unfucked!!!

      : )

  • I took a whole year to grieve, analyse everything to death, become totally independent, start new activities, make new friends and just feel fine on my own. I also got a good counsellor who pointed out that my ex of 23 yrs was a Passive Agressive Narc to a ‘T’ and that I had done everything in my power to make the marriage work, including trying to fix him, lose my self esteem and worth in the process and become a co-dependent chump!
    I wasn’t really ready to date after a year but my eldest daughter made me! She set up a whole profile on one of the dating sites and sat me down to show it to me and said” Mom, if you meet 50 new people and have 50 new conversations, what harm is that going to do?” I was doing ok, but I was lonely for adult companionship, so I did. It was really weird at first, and I met lots of guys that I only had one date with and knew right away they were not for me. But she was right, I got out there starting meeting people, had some great and not so great conversations, but I was always honest and kind to them if I didn’t want to see them again. Have to admit it wasn’t that long when I met the guy that I’m with now. We’ve been together for just over 2 yrs and we’re moving in together on Tuesday! I wasn’t totally healed when I met him and he knew that. I knew I would never get back or even want to get back with my ex and I was clear about that from the start, but I was still very full of anger. I didn’t talk too much about it to my bf but on the times when I did, he was so supportive. He was patient, understanding and totally supportive. I think it is possible to continue healing while rebuilding your life and a new relationship. It’s probably better to wait til you”re fully healed but if you meet the right one in the meantime, he will be patient and wait for you to get there.
    I’ve said this before but during that time I attended Buhhda classes and that really helped me a lot and still does. It’s a total different way of thinking but I have become very independent in all aspects of my life, but most importantly, emotionally. I realize that my happiness is my own responsibility and I don’t look to others to either give that to me or take that away. The other thing I think is important is that you have to know that you are just fine on your own before you go looking for someone. It’s ok to want to have a relationship, but not to NEED it!
    Good luck to you NTB, open your heart and mind but choose wisely!!!

  • I’m saving this post for later, because I’m not remotely ready to date yet. Kind of like when you get food poisoning and you can’t stand the smell of food for days. That’s how I feel about the thought of being in another relationship.

    When that nausea does go away (I trust that it will, eventually), I worry about jumping in too soon. I *love* being in a new relationship. But there are a lot of scars that cut me very deeply – it might be difficult to tell when they’re all the way healed. They may seem healed, but when you start touching on those relationship-emotions again, it might be a bad scene. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. In the meantime, I’m going to take all the time I need to get myself back together.

    • Yeah, me neither. IdontthinkIwanna. I could be wrong. Who knows what the future holds, but so far, not interested.

      Life is pretty cool. A life of low/no stress is something I might easily get used to having 🙂

      • I am in the same mindset as you both, LiningUp & TimeHeals. Not ready & not feeling like I’m missing out on anything. One might argue that we sound mildly depressed????

        don’t think so. more like I just got off a roller coaster (ie. CRAZY TRAIN) and want to hang ten next to a garbage can till I’m sure I won’t be sick.

        I have a sleepy kitty on my lap here and can hear my son playing video games online with his friends…a peaceful, drama free zone compared to the way I used to DREAD the weekends if I knew STBX wasn’t schedule to work and I’d have to deal with him for a straight 48hrs.

        Even my neighbor across the street said to me recently, “we hear laughter coming from your house constantly since STBX moved out. It seems like you are all doing just wonderfully.”

        The kids’ schedules keep me busy. I can finally concentrate on tasks at the office. I started working out again while listening to apps to refresh my Spanish. I’ll move on to French, then Italian. not so I can meet a sexy foreign stranger…I’d much rather use my mad new skills on an overseas vacation with old girlfriends!

        a girl can dream anyway.

  • RC,

    The answer is to FIND and LIVE YOUR VALUES. Most of us have normal values, very basic stuff like, honesty, integrity, decency, commitment, love, respect, treating others like we wish to be treated, etc. Cheating is such a profound betrayal, and the normal Chump reaction of denial is so deep, that we initially believe the lies our spouses tell us, allow ourselves to participate in the manipulation, and rationalize their lame justifications the cheaters use to denigrate us.

    Once you have discovered YOUR VALUES, and YOU are LIVING them, the rest falls into place.

    Seriously, the basic premise of your post is WHY DOESN”T SHE LIKE ME?

    Fuck that. That is why you feel bad.

    The real question to be asked is…why do you want a CHEATER? A totally immoral, lying, mean-spirited, manipulative freak.

    As soon as you ask and answer (correctly!), this question, your self-worth sky-rockets, “meh” is effortlessly achieved and maintained and life not only becomes worth living, it is actually something you look forward to every single day!!

    PS. The icing on the top of the cake, is that your crazy cheating EX cannot possibly figure out how LIVING ONE’s VALUES makes you now so enormously successful!!

    • I honestly don’t know how to reply. I don’t know why I would want her. I’m clinging onto the past I guess.

      • RC, what happened w/me was that for several months, I felt like I did still want the ex in some ways and some moments, and couldn’t figure out why, since it was extremely clear to me that he wasn’t who I had thought he was, and when I actually saw him there was pretty much no attraction.

        Then I figured out that what I wanted were certain qualities, experiences and feelings that I had, for 14 years, connected to him. But they weren’t about him, even though at some points he had fulfilled some of those wishes and needs, and for a LONG time I had pinned those longings onto him.

        They were about what I wanted in my life. So when I found myself thinking longingly about the ex or remembering good moments wistfully, I made a deliberate effort to figure out what it was that I was wanting.

        Now when I’m lonely, I’m just lonely, and when I’m horny, that’s about ME and how I feel, and when I’m wishing I could again enjoy certain kinds of family times, it’s about something I want to have in my life again one day. Whew! One more step towards ‘meh’.

        • Might be that I’m just trying to rush this shit. I want to be where a lot of you are right now.

          • Get a dog. I have two. I am never lonely. They have me too busy walking them and cleaning slobber off of walls.

            Or maybe I’m not loney because I can talk to anybody I want whenever I want, or just wave or…. Nope, it’s probably the dogs.

            • TimeHeals, you are SO right! We got two black kittens shortly before DDay, and I swear those critters have saved my sanity and stopped me feeling sorry for myself so many times!

              RC, I remember knowing, early on in this mess, that I would be OK. But it was so hard to go through all the SO-NOT-OK moments to get there! It didn’t take as long as I feared, though, and now looking back it’s mostly a big blur …. Hopefully you’ll find it the same.

      • RC,
        If you really think about it, you are not holding on to her. You are holding on to an imaginary relationship with someone that didn’t really exist. Really think about how she acted and treated you. I am sure you will see that she sucked. Once you separate the feelings from reality it will become so clear. It takes time but it will happen, I promise you, you just have to remove the cloud of the emotions and look at the facts connected to the real person you were with and how they treated you and made you feel along the way and what they did in the end.

        It hurts like hell at first and you will have some self blame and feel sorry for yourself but once you get through that, you will see it was on her and you just let it happen but you have stopped it and you can get your power back. She loses no matter what because she will not change and doesn’t that suck for her! Too bad.

        You are changing and isn’t that great for you! Yay!!! You have feelings, that beats the crap out of being a cold, selfish BIATCH! She lives a pretend life that isn’t real, think about how much that would suck for you.

        Embrace the pain and hurt and know that you can turn it around to bring you peace and so much joy and growth so that this will not happen to you again and you can look back one day and say what was that all about and laugh because you are happy to be rid of that mess.

  • That’s my point! What past?! You, and me, were married to CHEATERS. That is a bad marriage. As soon as you admit that to yourself, you are healing. If cheating is not one of your values, then you and your wife are NOT alike. You have FUNDAMENTALLY different VALUES. So why be married to that? It cannot work. EVER.

    The other part of this is also simple. CHEATERS make YOU feel BAD about yourself so they can feel GOOD about themselves. That’s their game. All disordered people play this game…they are the UBERMENSCH and we are the INFERIOR people.

    The easy way to defeat them is to play your game, not theirs. If you have good values and live by them, you cannot lose. EVER and no matter what shit life throws at you.

    Good luck, and please reject this shit your EX is throwing at you. She has no idea how to love someone and she is not going to start learning now. Rest easy, my friend.

    • Matt,

      Thank you for the words. I’ll be copying and pasting into my journal so I can re-read this over and over again. I do not share those values at all. I never ever shared them with her, and yet I let her chip away at me. fuck this shit

      • I think you might be missing what you THOUGHT you had. I have spent a lot of time grieving for the husband that i thought I was married to. He never existed. He was lying the whole time. I still miss “him”. The person walking around in his body? Not so much because I have no idea who that guy really is.

        Bury the woman you believed in and loved. She is dead. There is a cheating whore walking around in her body.

        • RC, ditto what Bev said. The woman you loved and knew is gone, probably never existed. It’s horrible and scary and a complete mindfuck, but that’s the sad truth. My daughter says that her father is dead, that there is a man out there who looks like him but is not him. That’s how I have to think about it. But realize that it takes the mind and heart some time to try to wrap itself around that terrible realization, and one day you’ll probably have to accept that you never fully can. Eventually it gets better, but I still perpetually fight against the desire to see something human come out of my ex, to believe that SOMETHING was real in our marriage and our family. But he never fails to disappoint me. Death would have been kinder.

          • Kelly and Bev,
            Yes I do miss what I thought she was. Stupid as I am I took her back the first time she did this shit, but never held her to anything. I made my forgiveness cheap a la chump style, and she continued the same shit for another three years. The person I thought she was has been dead for a long time and I just need to realize it and eat it. I’m in my head way to much like CL said above.

            I have goals that I want to tackle I just need to take the time and reacquire them and shoot. I know the person I used to be and I know the values I was raised with. I just need to stop letting her control my thoughts and let those values sink back in. After today I’ve given what I was like with her and I didn’t like myself much. I gave so much to her that I cant really look in the mirror and see that happy person I used to be. I’m going to be taking life drawing classes soon, and working on become a tattoo artist also.

            Thank you all for taking the time to give me words of wisdom and advice. I was down on myself and I was letting shit build on me. I’ve got this!

          • I have often thought that it would have been so much easier if he had just died too. I missed my ex terribly after he left, almost as if I was addicted to him. We had been together 36 years and I just couldn’t comprehend how he could walk away from a lifetime of memories. In reading Susan Anderson’s book about abandonment I learned thar grief from abandonment is different than grief from death. There are changes in your brain that make you long for the other person very similar to the way you might long for a drug you’re addicted to during withdrawal. Knowing that helped me realize that if you can break addiction from a drug you can also break away from an unhealthy relationship. Eventually the longing went away, although I still think of him almost every day. The memories aren’t as painful as they used to be, though.

        • I agree, bev. I miss the guy I thought I had– the guy who was romantic in unexpected but not showy ways, the guy who made me laugh, the guy who seemed to enjoy the same things that I liked.

          And then came the A, and the fog cleared.

          He was really a guy who threw a bunch of distracting sparklies at me for a while but then put them away when we started having those darn, time-consuming kids. His sense of humor was still there, but it never evolved over time– still the same dumb jokes from our young adult years, but they were no longer funny. And I liked the things HE liked– the things I liked were given short shrift.

          Once my XWH had his A, his true self that he had been showing me all these years but that I was too immature, naive, and chumpy to discern suddenly became very obvious. I am NOT in love with who he is, and I’m only sorry that I wasted so much time on who I wanted him to be.

          • That’s a great way to put it – “I’m only sorry I wasted so much time on who I wanted him to be.” – that’s my biggest regret as well. All the time and effort I took away from my own dreams.

  • I think I am in the minority here, but I dated fairly soon after filing for divorce in May 2012 (started dating in August 2012). In my case, my XH was a serious alcoholic, and I had already told him (calmly, kindly) in the summer of 2011 that I was thinking about divorce if he would not get help for his sickness. He told me that he just couldn’t do it. And for some reason, I still couldn’t pull the trigger on divorce, because I loved him and thought there was still a tiny shred of hope. The worst part of my marriage was that XH was too busy hiding his drinking to ever be home, or to eat dinner with me, or to go anywhere, ever, with me. I was so lonely and isolated that I was starting to develop physical symptoms.

    So, after the initial horror of d-day and a month or two of focused grieving, I felt that what I needed most was to rejoin life, and have fun, like I had been longing to do for years. I felt like the last 5-10 years were completely lost to sadness; I wanted to start living again, and I wanted it to be NOW. I wasn’t looking for love, or looking for a soul mate (gag), but just someone to be my pal. Okay, to be honest, I also wanted a little romance (i.e. sex), but mostly companionship. I tried a couple of online sites, and had a blast going on about 7 or 8 one-off dates, and ended up meeting my current boyfriend. Throughout the whole thing, I was honest and kind to everyone I met. I told them where I was at, and many of them were also pretty fresh off a bad breakup as well, so no one was shocked.

    Looking back, dating was the best thing for me at that time. It really gave me the sense that life does, indeed, go on. My shitty, shitty marriage was only one tiny story in a giant world full of people and possibility.

    I do not think there are any rules to returning to dating after divorce, except for being honest and kind with yourself and others. I knew I was ready for it because I really really just wanted to go out and have some fun for a change, so that is what I did. It worked out rather well for me.

    • I started dating earlier than I wanted to. An old friend through work started spending a lot of time with me. He’d also been through divorce and kind of showed me how to get back into life. It took awhile before I felt more than friendship towards him, though.

  • Everyone is different. I think when you know you’re ready, you’ll know. For me, it’s only been 4-5 months since D-Day/separation, and I already have an online dating profile. I cannot file for divorce until I get a promotion next year (so I can refinance the house in my name, so I’m relying on his income–he’s paying me more than he would in alimony at the moment).

    Anyway, I have a profile not because I am looking for a boyfriend or have sex with strangers, I just want to meet new guys my age. I have never been single in my life, and at 32 years old, I want to just have some fun.

    I would totally understand if guys were turned off by the fact that I’m still legally married, but I’d be up front about it and take it from there. If anything, talking to guys online boosted my ego a bit, and that helps me move forward with my life.

    So it just depends! OP, I feel like we have the same attitude and in the same place in a lot of ways, so if you’re ready, go for it!

  • I wonder sometimes if I didn’t miss my window of dating opportunity. As it is, I still don’t feel ready to put myself out there, but I do admit that a sort of companionship would be nice.
    Back before exH, I was happy to enjoy the company of others. But like many other’s here have said, there is a certain amount of isolating that an NPD tends to do to their partners. Let’s face it, the man did a number on my ability to trust. Now I look at everyone that shows an interest as if they’re trying to sell something. I always question their motives.
    I don’t trust ‘nice’. ‘Nice’ wants something. ‘Nice’ is manipulative. I’m cynical and I’m prickly, and I don’t know that it will ever change.
    It also doesn’t help, that as a chubby middle aged woman, I’m virtually invisible to men….
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sitting around waiting for prince charming, or wallowing in self-pity. I’ve accomplished a great deal since D day. Friends and family are astonished how well I’ve turned things around since getting away from the fucktard.
    Still, the last guy that approached me was a much younger married man looking for a booty call(oh hell no!!!), so I wonder if I’m still putting out chump vibes…..

    • Guys like that proliferate on “dating” sites and go on “fishing expeditions,” so don’t take it personally. Its tough on dating sites, no matter what. hang in there! (I have to keep telling myself that too!)

  • Chump Lady, this may be the kindest post you’ve ever made. Just melted my heart.

  • My cheater moved on fast. Separation papers weren’t even signed when he had a girlfriend (not the AP.) They’ve been on a holiday together and introduced their kids to each other. My Ex promised me he’d let me know before he introduced our child to anyone and had “no plans to do so” etc. etc. but no, he did it in a round about way that my child knew this person was his “girlfriend” before I did. And this is less than 3 months post DD.

    I can barely find my footing. I just wonder is this “normal” to introduce kids so soon?? I can’t imagine it but maybe I’m in the minority. Obviously I’m not ready to date. Have no plans to until I get my crap together a bit more.

    I find it very difficult.

    • Really, thensome, you’re expecting your narc ex to do something NORMAL?????? Of course not! He’s going to do what feels good to HIM, won’t even bother being honest about it (your child had to figure out it was the girlfriend), and he won’t give a care what effects it has on your child, or that he had agreed with you to do differently.

      I’m very sorry it’s like this, but this is part of the unending punishment of reproducing with a fucktard.

  • Thensome, no, it is not normal to introduce your children to someone that fast, especially if they are young. During my divorce, the court assigned a therapist for my children and she advised not introducing children to the new person and having them spend time together until the divorce is final.

  • I think that as I start dating it is better to explain to my future girlfriend that my stbxw was a cheater as opposed to saying I was cheated on. It would let them know it was their problem not mine. I really didn’t cause this shit and they need to know this.

    • I have a sentence on my dating profile which says that if you’re divorced and its because you were cheating on your spouse, kindly move on to the next bimbo.

      I figure, if a man can’t understand that, I don’t want him anyway.

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