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Hurt People Hurt People and Other Bullshit

My cousin Mike as a child was a terrible bully. All the kids in town were terrified of him. I remember in the first grade telling someone that he was my cousin and they looked at me astounded — YOU are related to HIM? (I was a quiet, curly-haired uber dork. Bully bait. And he was this blonde, athletic neo-Nazi.)

He used to jump out of bushes and try and knock me and his sister Suzy off of our bikes. Or he’d tie us to a tree and punch us in the stomach. Or dunk us in the swimming pool until we nearly drowned. Yeah, he was delightful.

Anyway, he’s all grown up now and by all accounts a well-adjusted husband, father,  business man and golf aficionado. My grandmother used to say, “God, he was a rotten kid, but he’s so NICE now!” I dunno. I have my suspicions. If he had a torture chamber set up in the dungeon of a country club pro shop somewhere, I wouldn’t be surprised. But near as I can tell from brief encounters with him at family gatherings, he doesn’t remember any of our history. He shakes my hand and is quite friendly.

The point of this little save-it-for-therapy nugget is that as a child, when I would complain to his mother that he was being mean, she would say  — “Oh, that’s just because he likes you.”

Yes, that’s what boys do when they like you — they torture you and call you names. This was very confusing to 6 year old me, because I clearly felt that Mike did not like me one bit. Bullying me was great sport. But maybe I just didn’t understand boys? Maybe sticking my head under water was a sign of affection? Or attention getting? Did I have him wrong? This was my first introduction to subcontext — the idea that people had hidden motivations that were completely incongruent with their behavior. That there was a context (affection) beneath the other obvious context (aggression).

As much as I thought about bullies growing up (when I wasn’t trying to avoid them altogether), I heard that they suffered from low self esteem. They had issues at home that drove them to be bullies.

But then studies came out in recent years — with more societal openness and concern about bullies — that lo and behold, bullies don’t suffer from low self esteem . They think they are just splendid. In fact, that’s part of their problem — they apparently have too much esteem for themselves and not enough for others. If you want to read more on the topic, here’s an interesting article summarizing the research. It discusses an additional phenomenon about aggression — it’s a narcissistic kind of “self esteem” that is highly sensitive to insult. One researcher theorizes that bullies lash out when they feel this highly inflated sense of themselves is threatened by others. So best to keep the troops in line, let them know what’s what.

God, where was this research when I was a kid? My instincts were dead on. That suggestion that Mike “liked” me was utter bullshit. No, he slugged me in the stomach because he felt entitled to pick on younger, smaller, weaker kids. I don’t deny he was troubled or had issues (clearly!), but he had no business preying on us, just because he could.

I think there is a real danger in asking children to sympathize with someone who is abusing them. It teaches kids, especially girls, to be chumps. To see the “good” in bad behavior. To come up with convoluted reasons why people treat you like shit. Well, they had bad role models, a poor diet, shame issues, FOO issues, were abused themselves. And the trope you see all the time — hurt people hurt people.

No. Entitled people hurt people.

We’ve all been hurt. No one gets through life unscathed. It doesn’t give you permission to treat others like shit.

You see this hurt people hurt people thinking on reconciliation sites all the time. Or call-in advice shows, like Dr. Jenn. Some poor woman will call in —  “Well, I’ve been dating Bob for 7 years and he won’t commit.” Then she gives a long litany of Bob’s misdeeds and  proceeds to excuse every one of them with crap like “he’s confused, and very afraid to trust again. He was hurt so badly in his other relationship/by his parents/was scared by a clown as a child…” Meanwhile, Bob goes happily along being Bob. While she tries torturously to decode him.

Because there is SOME other reason, right? It can’t be that Bob likes to tie you to trees and punch you in the gut? The REAL reason somewhere in this mess is that Bob LIKES you. Let’s find the evidence for that. Isn’t that a better message than Bob is an asshole?

Why are we so reluctant to draw conclusions about bad behavior? Why do we need a host of motivating factors? Why can’t we believe that some people behave abhorrently out of a sense of entitlement and POWER?

Let’s take a historical example. How ridiculous would it be if I tried to explain Saddam Hussein by saying he suffered from low self esteem? When he was gassing Kurds, he did it out of deep feelings of inadequacy and residual rage he felt towards his mother.

Of course, that’s silly. We all agree he was a ruthless despot. He gassed Kurds because he could. Because they annoyed him with their demands for autonomy.

Or take the institution of slavery. There you had a whole culture of entitlement. Generations of slave holders felt it was perfectly their right and due to treat blacks as inferior, because they OWNED them (or they had to be owned, because they were inferior). Every slave holder wasn’t a personality disorder — they just operated with a set of cultural assumptions that said it was okay to keep slaves and treat them like shit. It was permitted. Encouraged even!

So knowing this about human nature, why don’t we draw these parallels to our personal life. Dynamics of power and aggression exist. People will try to gain advantage over other people for their own selfish purposes. Sometimes people will behave cruelly, because they see you as weaker or less deserving then they are.

Sometimes these people are wicked tyrants in foreign lands and sometimes these people are your cousin. Or your spouse.

Well, that’s the disturbing thing, isn’t it? The people close to us are not supposed to abuse us. They must have reasons that go beyond the obvious (i.e., it’s fun to fuck around). They have intimacy issues. They were threatened by your success. They were driven to it by your sexlessness. Maybe they really like you! It’s just that they can’t communicate that, because they fear your reaction. They feel shame.

I think you should be more patient with them. Love them through this difficult period. Be more understanding. Write them a letter telling them how you feel! Dialogue!

How’s that working for you, chumps?

Yeah. Didn’t work for me either.


Ask Chump Lady

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  • CL–I found your site when I got tired of seeing spouse-cheating as this quasi-normal thing in society. I married well and have never had to deal with cheating, but wondered if there were voices out there that didn’t think cheating was acceptable.
    Your work is outstanding!

    • There are plenty of us chumps who don’t think cheating is acceptable. What sucks is way back in the beginning of my relationship with my cheating wife. She expressed the same thoughts. Not sure if the other chumps ever had the same sort of conversations with their cheating spouses during their marriage. Turns out it doesn’t apply to my cheating wife if she’s not happy because of her so called Midlife crisis and found out she liked lying to me and the kids while getting drunk and screwing her old divorced High School boyfriend from 30 yrs ago.

      • Oh, I am sure we all have had the exact many conversations with our cheaters. Mine of course went on and on about how no one seems to take marriage seriously anymore. Shockingly neither did he, but don’t try telling him that. In his mind he’s a saint !!! Seriously… you can’t make this shit up!

      • Yes– my XWH also agreed long ago that cheating was a dealbreaker, the lowest thing you could do to a trusting spouse, etc.

        Apparently, not only does he think that cheating is just fine, but he’s also okay with lying since he clearly lied to me (or at least lied to himself at the time).

        • Mine did the same turnaround! When we first met, he told me he thought cheating was disgusting and would never, ever do it. He said if he knew of anyone else cheating, he would tell their spouse right away.

          Wow, how his tune changed!

      • My ex used to work for a disgusting philanderer that was doing the secretary, causing her to have way too much power in the business. And boy did she pull rank. He went on and on about it. Now that he’s the boss man, well, golly gee, that shoe does fit after all! It’s like he became EVERYTHING he hated. Especially the holier-than-thou-church-every-Sunday-don’t-associate-with-rabble-like-you-anymore bullshit.

        I got a letter recently saying that *he* forgives *me*. Super duper. Wrong approach, asshole.

        • OMG during false R my ex said he thought a male neighbor wasn’t really a friend to my female neighbor, he was cheating on his wife and has been for years. I was like WTF? I think he was trying to normalize what he was doing actually.

          • yep, they see the world as they actually are. I know so much about subliminal red flags now — much too late.

          • My ex also said he forgives me….for what I am not sure but I guess it was that I called him stupid once 5 years ago at a party when I had a bit too much to drink or maybe it was because I forgot he wanted a glass of wine in our honeymoon, or perhaps it was me defending waitstaff everyone by calling his mom out on being a lousy tipper…and yes those are just 3 of the reasons he gave for living a double life for 6 months while planning his escape. I remember when I got that email, I balled like a child and thought ” well if you have forgiven me why are we getting divorced?” Idiot.

          • I think it’s part of the “let’s move on” strategy of burying the issue and most importantly, shifting blame. It goes like this: “I forgive you” now your turn….. (crickets) “Ok, well, you’re obviously still living in the past, so good luck with that, you should get some help”

        • During my false-R days, my MIL and brothers in law asked my exH to forgive me for all my *sins* and give me *another chance*. My MIL specifically advised me to not inquire where he was going etc. I balked.

            • My ex in laws also ganged up on me at the beginning of this bs. MIL was all over me and ‘really supportive’ until the day I saw a lawyer. Then she bailed and we haven’t spoken in a very long time. This is viewed as me being ‘bitter’. Well, 6 weeks after I chucked him out she hosted OW for an overnight in her home so yeah, I think I needed to step away from that bitch.

      • My ex, too, used to say what a jerk and an idiot his philandering father was, how his cheating lost the father his first wife, who is a really great person (ex’s mother), how if he was unhappy in his second marriage he should just leave instead of cheating, how he couldn’t treat anyone well, and look at the results ….

        Turns out he’s doing EXACTLY what his father has always done, down to the smallest details.

        • KarenE

          My STBX – almost the same thing! Philandering father, married first wife young, cheated on first wife (STBX’s mother), married OW, cheated on her constantly, still with third wife. My STBX? About to marry his (as soon as our D is final) his third wife. He has become the thing he said he hated.

        • Holy cow! My STBX also complained bitterly about how his father treated his mother. His father had had a long-term affair in the city where he was stationed. STBX couldn’t stand to be under the same roof as his father. He resented that his father spent time with OW instead of with his own family.

          And yet now…

      • count me in too… hey… hmmm… seems we have a consensus here. Our cheating shitheads deplore that type of behavior in others. Well wudaya know?

        Oh, we could call it transference or acting out what they deplore…blah… but I dunno… the word, crazy certainly comes to mind here.

        • I think its more a case of them saying what they know we want to hear. What are they gonna say? “Oh being a lying, selfish, cheating asshole looks like fun, think I’ll give it a try”. Slight of hand, say all the right things so you don’t notice what’s really going on.

          Or maybe they’re just garbage.

  • Wow, insightful new look into the low-esteem thing with bullies. Never thought of it this way, because , as you said, we’ve been trained to accept this as, oh they like you! If that is how someone treats me who supposedly “likes” or even “loves” me, then I’d rather take my chances with a starving bear!!

  • “Let’s take a historical example. How ridiculous would it be if I tried to explain Saddam Hussein by saying he suffered from low self esteem? When he was gassing Kurds, he did it out of deep feelings of inadequacy and residual rage he felt towards his mother.”

    You forgot to add, “Above all, he gassed the Kurds because he liked them”. LOL

    • Ha ha, yes! This all put me in mind of the lyrics of a great Merle Haggard song:

      You must have been mad at me when you said I’m in love with you
      And you made me believe in you and that you wanted me
      If you really had love in mind and it hurtin’ me all this time
      I wonder what you would do if you hated me

      If love causes this much pain and revenge really played no part
      And you’re about to break my heart when you’re through with me
      You must have been mad at me when you said I’m in love with you
      And I wonder what you would do if you hated me

      You must have been mad at me

  • “They have intimacy issues. They were threatened by your success. They were driven to it by your sexlessness. Maybe they really like you! It’s just that they can’t communicate that, because they fear your reaction. They feel shame.”

    THIS. How many MCs told me “he’s so damaged by his past. But he’s not the type to cheat – no way.” And he was cheating under all our noses. Not all people who have suffered behave this way. Disordered bullies do.

    • shrink needs to go back and study psych 101.

      personality disorders.

      but even IF he is so very damaged. (hey, aren’t we all???) soooooo? and do I have to remain a victim and stay in abusive situation because he’s fucked up? This isn’t about for better or worse. For better or worse is like when someone dies or a job is lost or there’s a sick child— not fucking over they spouse and breaking every promise he made to her in front of God and a 100 or so of their closest friends and family.

      • ps: and WHAT is the cheating type? this is making me angry now.

        The cheating type is actually quite often the type who isn’t the “cheating type.”

        the really “nice” people. Thank heavens I’m such a bitch! 😉

        oh that reminds me… hilarious vid someone sent me years ago.

        • “The cheating type is actually quite often the type who isn’t the ‘cheating type.'”

          They come in all flavors, don’t they? There are the “nice” cheaters who seem to be model spouses yet live a double life, there are the narc-cheaters who are abominable to live with, there are the repentant cheaters who are trying to get better, but don’t….The list goes on.

          What is the cheating type? Anyone. Who. Cheats. !! There ya go.

    • I so totally agree! the problem was until I became astute, thanks to all you wonderful people, I wasn’t sure how to recognize them. Now I feel empowered. Not only do I see it coming from a mile off, I know what to do about it!

      Additionally, I didn’t have the ‘tools’ to recognize how common this behavior was. I was beating myself up for not seeing it before. They are quite good, until you get the ‘cheaters handbook’. That’s what I think of this site. You have educated me so much.

      I no longer feel unprepared to deal with this type of personality.

      Also, I felt bad about myself, why couldn’t I see this coming? Now I see so may people with the same issue. I’m working on becoming resistant to this ‘gaslighting’.

      Thanks goodness

  • CL, I had not heard the statistic that bullies have great self-esteem but it makes perfect sense. I am with ya on the being ‘more patient’ and ‘more loving’ because they are fighting a battle inside.

    My ass.

    I truly don’t think my ex cared what he did as long as it was good for HIM. And all this psycho-babble about him being ‘confused’ and ‘hurt’ is just that: BABBLE.

    I remember being the dorky 7 yr-old kid walking home from school with the other dorky girl named Janice…and then bullies surrounded us and called her a lesbian (at the time I had no idea what that word even meant)…and I stood up for her and said “No she’s not!” then I had to turn to Janice and ask her if she was or not to which she replied No,…..I don’t think so. Geez we were naive. Anyhow, after that I told them to F-off…which was apparently the ONLY thing another neighbor kid walking on the other side of the street heard because she told my mom and then I got in trouble. Anyhow….I am not sorry I told those rotten kids to F OFF and I was glad I stood up for my classmate. I really wish I would have been that passionate about my own situation when I coddled my ex believing he was freaking out and that he did not know what he was doing. Geez, the crap I told myself at the time.

    Glad my counselor told it to me like it was: He was an asshole. plain and simple.

  • Oh god, I so did this about my ex, for so long! Primarily FOO issues, and once things got really obviously bad and he apparently didn’t ‘get it’, maybe a bit Aspergery? But he had a good heart, underneath, I was sure! He did care about me, and his kids, and his mom ….

    And when it became clear that, no, actually, he didn’t have a good heart, underneath, then I told myself, well, probably quite Aspergery, and they’re very rule-bound, right? So at least an honest person, he does what he says he will, I can trust him for that.

    HAH! What an idiot I was. Spent so much time and energy trying to get him to UNDERSTAND. Trying to help him see how much better everything was for all of us, including him, when he made an effort to be less negative and critical. When he made an effort to be NICE to us (never actually managed nice, but got closer at least!).

    And the reward for all that effort? Repeat cheating, and since the separation neglecting the kids big time (and his mom, let’s not forget her), and now I’m having to fight w/him because he’s not living up to the financial agreement …

    Trying to teach my kids that it doesn’t MATTER why people treat you badly; if they do it more often than is reasonable, if explaining your position doesn’t bring about significant and immediate and lasting change, you just have to get them out of your life.

      • I did exactly the same thing! Don was angry that I snooped into his things and found a plane ticket with the OW’s name on it in his pocket and a receipt for a nice dinner for two after I became suspicious about a work trip. He of course lied his way out of it (I am a Chump Queen) and then was very angry about my snooping. I then excused his reaction to myself (and further anger down the road) as due to his mother never giving him any privacy, his terrible childhood (FOO issues galore), blah blah blah. In fact he was just a magnificent liar and manipulator. And my counselor said the same thing, only a little more colorfully: what a fucking asshole.

    • Exactly. And the abuser/bully/cheater is already so good at casting themselves as a victim, you don’t need to help them with your FOO or Aspberger theories, KWIM?

      • I KWYM. I spent so much energy into excusing my wife’s bad behaviour I missed the larger point that she’s already excused herself. She feels justified in taking out her anger on a seven year old and giving the time, affection and money that belongs to her family and giving it to some married rat. If she wanted to explore what made her behave like this with a view to correcting it, I’d be a willing, gentle and understanding helper for her. But she doesn’t.

    • That’s right! It doesn’t matter at all why they treat you shitty for DECADES, step away from that skein! All that matters is that you objected to it, and they didn’t care enough about you to stop.
      My bully X found what he was looking for, me, the perfect hostage. A too-trusting young woman who made excuses for his weird behavior, and overlooked so many other women he was way too interested in over all those years. I am happy my family finally got through to me to start the divorce I’d been waffling over for 4 years. I still thought he’d change someday – sometimes he was so nice!
      Love shouldn’t be exhausting.

  • OMG CL!!! My picture could have been included with this post. This post is so spot on. It reads like a biography of my entire marriage. Even when part of my mind was still clear enough to know that I was not being honored, valued or treated well, I explained it away with my STBX’s FOO issues and how if I just loved him ENOUGH, he would come around and be the man I knew he was underneath all of that assholery – correction – fucktardedness.

    I was as delusional as a mental patient in an old black and white movie. Early on my STBX extended the invitation to the pity party, and I accepted. Such a poor child he had been! He was emotionally abandoned by his mother, physically abandoned by his father and mistreated by his closest siblings. I ooohed and aaahed and boo-fucking-hooed and vowed to never let him down like those misguided people had done. Let’s just ignore the fact that I had my own issues as a child that did NOT turn me into a lying, cheating, sense of entitlement-having, character-deficient, personality-disordered spawn of satan’s hound of hell. I’m not saying I was some blameless, saintly individual, but I not gone out of my way to deliberately misuse, mistreat, lie to, betray or just generally hurt the people I love and care about.

    When he routinely gave me the silent treatment? I must have done something to hurt his feelings that reminded of some hurt from his childhood. Gaslight me? That wasn’t intentional – he just re-wrote things, like his mother. (Did I mention that Gaslight is one of my favorite movies and I introduced him to it? Hmmm – STBX doesn’t even look like Charles Boyer.) When he refused to do anything I wanted to do? He had a right to his individuality – I didn’t want to smother him (now I do – with the biggest pillow or largest plastic bag I can find). He suggested things he was interested in doing, then when I arranged for us to do those things, he complained, pouted and refused to enjoy it and by extension, ruined me being able to enjoy it? I would just try harder the next time to get it right. Cheat on me and rub my face in it? There was obviously something really wrong with me – just like he said. He was never shown real love so he had difficulty being vulnerable and showing me love and really understanding how much I loved him. And these things were just some of the things I endured during my marriage.

    Chump? I put the UMP in Chump. To paraphrase Malcolm X, “I been had, hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amok!” I worry about how all of this will ultimately affect my children in their relationships – although they’ve been telling me for a few years to leave the lying spawn of satan’s hound of hell. I’ve suggested that they all get therapy, and a couple of them were already doing it. They are far wiser than me.

    Thank you for putting this whole idea in a post, CL. Whenever I doubt that I’m doing the right thing, I can pull this up and re-read it. Thank you so much!!

  • I was teased mercilessly during my junior year by a guy I knew in high school. That’s exactly what people said to me: “Oh, it’s probably because he LIKES you.”

    I never, EVER got that vibe. I thought he was just an attention-seeking tool; any high school boy in his right mind with a crush on a girl would be sweet and kind, not malicious and awful. It wasn’t until I decided to stop giving him the response he wanted (discomfort, avoidance, attempts to ignore him) that he finally left me alone. I remember being so upset during the first few days of senior year because he was starting in again. But then, it was like a switch flipped– I can’t remember what happened to make me change my behavior other than being tired of his relentless campaign. One morning, I went to homeroom, which he was also in, and when he started, I looked at him squarely in the eye and said, “Dave, SHUT UP.” I then went back to whatever I was doing and pretended that he didn’t matter. He never bothered me again.

    The jerk in high school had a HORRIBLE mother who micromanaged her kids’ lives and bullied everyone in her path, but so what? That didn’t give him any right to treat me like garbage. I think that’s the way to deal with cheaters. They certainly don’t like you and shouldn’t be allowed to hide behind past issues. I think it’s best to give them a version of SHUT UP– show them that you’re not going to take any more crap from them. Then, go on with your life as though they don’t matter, which takes their power away from them.

    And the bully in question tried to friend me on Facebook not long ago. I imagine that follows the same logic as the cheaters who think that we’ll still be friends with them. I think not. Ignore!

    • I teach my kids that teasing, tickling, joking around are only ‘fun’ while EVERYBODY is enjoying it. If only the teaser, tickler, joker is having fun, and the other person is uncomfortable or hates what’s happening, then it’s called AGGRESSION, and it has to stop.

      I loved it when my kids were in pre-school and learned to frequently use that handy phrase; ‘stop it, I don’t like that’. And if the person won’t stop, you walk away or ask for someone to help. That can apply in SO many situations in life!

  • Great post! So true!
    I tried to untangle the skein of fuckeupness (before I discovered this sight) until I myself became horribly ensnared. I tried to make up reasons why this was happening. I knew he was an asshole………If I could just get to the bottom of WHY he would do this to me!! (he could have just left me) I had 23 years invested, and I think it is very hard to admit you have been chumped for that long! When I looked back, I knew that the bad treatment was escalating along the way, but didn’t want to face the wasted years trying to make this thing work. Kind of like an alcoholic, the longer you have been asleep at the wheel, the harder it is to come to terms with. It does screw with your head too when most info touts reconciliation

  • This is the most honest assessment of people and their behavior I have ever read. As you stated from your experience with your cousin – it really messes with your mind when you are told something different than what you know you feel. I have seen and experienced this many times in many forms. I have learned through yoga to listen more to my intuition but it is not an easy process because as you say you are supposed to forgive, give second, third chances which continue to negatively impact your psyche. It is only after getting away and the passage of time that you can clearly see how right your intuition can be in sensing when other peoples’ motives are purely about destruction.

    • Read “Gift of Fear” and you will never discount your own intuition again. That is hands down the best book I ever read for help with getting the “you” back in you or is that the “me” back in me? same thing.

  • CL,

    Chump Son finds this one spot-on (like so many of your posts).

    As the son of a rage-aholic father and an excuse-making mother, Chump Son (CS) was taught always to feel sorry for his father. Dad yelled at him (CS) all night over something minor? Why, Mom would say:”He doesn’t mean it. He really cares. Why, he’s had such a tough life, etc.” So, the dynamic was: Dad acts badly toward Chump Son (or others). Family trained response: Feel sorry for Dad because he has to work/he had it rough in life/he doesn’t like his job/he really does care, etc. etc.

    Please tangle yourself in the skein of his fuckedupedness and, above all, do NOT recognize the obvious.

    This is moral alchemy. Or, better said, immoral alchemy. We suffer abuse (as Chumps), but then we get taught to feel sorry for the abuser.


    Very often, in a family where the father is “off” in some way, Mom becomes the excuse-maker, the excuse-generator, the head of the clean-up crew. Where Dad should really be the one apologizing, instead he has Mom making up all kinds of reasons to explain his behavior. Children and adults can internalize this mechanism, and then years later when they get mistreated, when they get burned, instead of pulling their hand away from the fire (the disordered person), they wonder where they (as Chumps) went wrong or they invest energy in feeling sorry for their oppressor. Narcissists learn to play on this. They can be good at appealing for pity right after committing some emotional/verbal barbarity.

    Woe to the Chump Mom who does this to her kids!

    Now, I know that all of the above can be gender-reversed (with a disordered Mom and an excuse-making, co-dependent Dad), but Chump Son just writes from what he’s observed.

    Chumps are not in a position to fix abusers. Heck, we are Chumps! We are way too nice for that. It might be possible for abusers/the disordered/folks like the Bully Cousin Mike that you mentioned to change. They just won’t do it for us or around us. Possibly, if we tell them to take a hike (and mean it and stick to it), a bully type might hit bottom, find a different person and change. But that won’t happen for us. And, frankly, we should not care/that’s not our job. We need to protect ourselves and our offspring by learning that, in some relationships, as the old Kenny Rogers song goes, sometimes…

    “Ya gotta know when to hold ’em,
    When to fold ’em.”

    There is no shame in folding up your tent and walking away from an abusive relationship. Don’t become a co-dependent, excuse-maker. Bad for you. Bad for the kids.

    Chump Son

    • Well said, CS! The dynamic of verbal abuser and excuse maker is, I think, a very common one. So in addition to being confused as to why you were singled out for this awful behavior, the attention CANNOT rest on you — it must always be turned back to the narcissist.

      They suffer more. It’s never about you.

    • I concur. My dad ran off with OW when I was 8. I had 3 bad years of icky visitations before I said no more. Each time I would get mad at something my father had done she would say “he’s your father and he loves you”. She believed that telling me that would be better than insulting him along with me because I was half of him…it wasnt until I tunprned 18 and he did something again that pissed me off and she went to say ” he’s you father…and then she cut her self off and said ” fuck it, your 18 now, you can know the truth, he is an asshole!” Too bad for me that the stuff she said in the early years stuck more.

    • This sounds so much like my childhood. My mother would always defend my fathers drinking with…he likes his beer. If you defend an alcoholic you are an alcoholic. In other words, if you defend the problem you carry the same sickness. My father passed away over 10 years ago. My mother at age 84 still says he just liked his beer. My father would drink a six pack of beer and a fifth of wiskey every day my of my entire life.

      I decided when I figured out that my STBXW was doing drugs and guys that I would not repeat the enabling Freudian slip. You can’t divorce your father but, you can divorce your spouse. I lived an entire childhood with an addict. I will not spend the rest of my life with an addict and abuser!

  • I agree, CL. I am skeptical that most bullies manage to reform themselves in adulthood. In the case of my ex, he simply found a more socially acceptable means of channeling that energy–he became an attorney. Though he appeared to be a “nice guy” around his friends and colleagues, he had no difficulty unleashing that domineering energy on his wife and kids, behind closed doors. His sense of entitlement survived unimpaired. Evidence of this? His cheating, of course.

    Your allusion to slavery is apt. I felt myself a slave under ex’s roof…he expected total obedience, then when he finally got it, he declared the relationship “boring” and found other ways to entertain himself. Once I found about about his affair, I managed to see through all the fog and obfuscation and realize that I had willing given away my freedom. Interesting things happen to people who suddenly realized they are oppressed, and decide to take back their freedom. That’s how revolutions happen…

    If I’m not mistaken, Lundy Bancroft (in his book How Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men) points out that the “excuses” controlling men give for their behavior (such as “I had a bad childhood” or “I was abused”) amounts to little more than an excuse. Think about it, lots of people are abused as kids and don’t inflict the same thing on others when they are forming their own relationships. I fell into that trap with my ex–felt sorry for him because he witnessed his grandfather beating his grandmother. What did that do for me? Why yes, it made me a chump willing to accept ex’s “dysfunctional” behavior. A reason for a bad behavior doesn’t excuse it.

  • I love this.

    Ye old, the adulterer really does love you. They just have a funny way of showing it….

    Naturally, when someone fucks with your sanity, its because they suffer from low self-esteem; its because they feel deep seated shame and a lack of worth.

  • In the past I’ve read so much that said Narcissism is the mask on top of a deep deep shame. I think this has been the conventional wisdom on the disorder for decades. So it’s interesting that more recent research disagrees.

    It is easy, desirable even, to accept the conventional wisdom because when you come from the empathetic perspective, you WANT the shame to be the reason. Shame and low self esteem we (the empathetic) can understand, relate to, EMPATHIZE with. And isn’t that what we’re all doing in our attempts to understand the Narc? Figure it out, make it something we can understand, maybe even control and fix, but at the very least understand.

    What’s also very interesting in that research summary article is the consistent finding that those who are victims consistently display low self esteem…which is a strong message for us Chumps to remember – they target us because they NEED us, they need the people who can’t value themselves enough to prevent the abuse from occurring. Let’s work on truly feeling our own value, that seems to be the key piece here, the only way we’ll truly achieve separation from the abusive Narc.

    • Well said, Chumpaholic! When I met my wife I was amazed and grateful she’d have someone like me. For her, I guess that was half the attraction.

    • That’s why I like the works of Dr. George Simon so much — and Lundy Bancroft (came to him more recently) — but Simon in particular decodes the manipulative bullshit — no what you see is what you get. They really DO think they are better than you. They really ARE that entitled. He says the whole “shame” thing comes from an old school of psychotherapy that goes back to the Victorians that believes that everyone suffers from neurosis. That there are these subcontexts — like “shame” under narcissism. Where, in fact, actually neurosis is much less common and not so bad. Chumps are more likely to be neurotic — anxious, people pleasing, somewhat insecure. He said neurotics tend to try harder, be more self reflective. Narcissists don’t have ENOUGH neurosis. Sociopaths have no “adaptive anxiety” whatsoever.

      And now brain science is backing this up. Narcissists have less gray matter in the regions of the brain where empathy is supposed to be.

      I wonder if saying Narcissists really have “deep shame” isn’t just projection? We *wish* they felt shame.

      • Very interesting. I’m going to find more to read from those two you mention, thanks. I also once read that a Narcissist is created when a parent alternates between placing the child on a pedestal and then being deeply critical. I imagined that as a parent switching between saying “you’re a prince among men” and “you’re doing it all wrong”. Or, “being a prince among men is the only thing that is acceptable for you, but you’re not doing the things I want you to so that you can ascend to that throne”. That does seem like a pretty destructive way to raise a child. Now I’m questioning that long held picture in my head…

        One life changing book for me has been Dr. Wendy Behary’s Disarming the Narcissist. Have you read that one?

      • The longer I read here and the more I read our fellow chumps stories. It always seems to come back to the subject of the cheater being a Narcissistic Asshole. Now granted I believe ALL cheaters indeed do have some level of narcissism. But I would like to hear and read more about those that feel their cheating spouse is BPD. Maybe there is a fine line between the two. IDK?? I guess that is why I would like to hear/read more on that.

  • If this is how someone liked me I’d beg them to hate me. What is that saying? With friends like these who need enemies?

  • It’s funny that you write this because I have actually been wondering the impact of telling my daughters to accept their father’s behaviour, that despite how they feel, he still loves them. With friends like that who needs enemies???

    • Nat1, my kids are 12 and 13, and I’ve been trying to strike a balance between encouraging a good relationship w/their father, and helping them to live in the reality of who their father is. After we separated I completely stopped justifying or excusing his behaviour in any way, and have only a couple of times, when it seemed the kids really needed it, done the usual ‘coaching’ on better parenting that got him through the previous 13 years,

      Our daughter figured out about the cheating recently (about a year after separation), and we’ve talked more openly since then.

      What I’ve settled on getting across to them, for now, is that while their father does love them in his way, he has some severe limitations. And while they should enjoy the good moments they have with him, they should perhaps not expect a lot, as far as consistently being there for them, or making them a priority in his life. They’ve understood without my saying anything that he always comes first in his decision making, then his work. Sigh.

    • I felt the same way, when I found out about the cheating. I’ve never had an enemy treat me so badly (not just the cheating, but all the emotional fuckedupness that surrounded it his everyday behavior).

      At some point I began to recognize a pattern (this was before the cheating, even) that my STBX wasn’t there for me when I needed him. When I was sick? He was annoyed and pissy that I wasn’t taking care of him. When I had a challenege at work, or elsewhere? He was pissed and didn’t want to actually help. Oh, yes, he talked a great talk about how if I had a crisis at work, he would watch the kids while I got some work done. But when it actually happened? He was angry and emotionally abusive. Looking back, every time I needed help during our marriage, it was actually WORSE that he was there. I would have dealt with the challenges better by myself. That’s says a lot.

  • “How ridiculous would it be if I tried to explain Saddam Hussein by saying he suffered from low self esteem?”

    It’s funny you mention this because back during 9-11, there was a popular urban-myth going around explaining how Osama Bin Laden had been laughed at by a mean American woman (she apparently thought his dick was too small), and how it traumatized him and made him hate all Americans.

    Urban-myth, no doubt, but it sure was a popular belief. It’s as if we all needed some “reason” as to why Osama/anyone would do something so horrific. Because to have no reason at all is just unfathomable. Anyone else hear this urban myth and thought it was weird?

  • LMFAO, when my PI saw my ex he said to me “what the hell does any woman see in him? he looks like Saddam Hussein crawling out of his hole”. I try to think of my ex as Saddam now…he was right, he’s really changed appearance from when I met him. Back then he looked like someone who stepped out of Playgirl or a Muscle magazine and when you love someone you tend to see them through a filter both inside and outside.

    • Oh hahahaha DDW, that is hilarious. I will picture Saddam crawling out of the spider hole whenever I think of my ex too!

    • Dat,

      NO KIDDING! My divorce lawyer told me the same thing about my ex…he asked why my ex thought that growing a beard and mustache was a good look for him!

      And most recently my fiance mentioned the same thing. LOL!

      My ex now wears fedoras, white seer-sucker suits…he must think he is living the movie ‘the Godfather’ or something…

      • Oh. My. God… Valentine, I SOOOOO wish my ex would do that (beard, fedora’s and white seersucker suits….not necessarily in that order).

        Anyhow, then I would know that karma had finally really bitten him in the ass, I had achieved ultimate revenge, and I could stop dreaming that he would die in a fiery crash (actually I’m exaggerating, I believe I reached a level of Meh one Tuesday about a month ago). Only problem if I were you is that I might laugh until I had a hernia or something. Wouldn’t want to hurt myself.

      • Kelly, I tend to think of him UNABLE to crawl out of his hole 🙂

        Valentine, that reminds me of the Fedoras of okcupid on tumbler, all the “nice guys”…pretty funny and sad all at the same time. You know like I’m a nice guy and then the guys bio is racist or extremely sexist or even scary and all wearing Fedoras

        • DDW, no kidding…I would say my ex is sexist…idiots. Guess the fedora is a clue-in. They think they are making a statement like: Hey, I am cool AND hip!

          They really do live in in their own little worlds, huh? So glad I don’t live there.

      • Wow, that is weird… STBX is into fedoras, too….he does have some Italian in him, so I give him an excuse….but still.

        Started to hate the fedoras because he especially wore them when trolling the bars for women to flirt with (or more). Yuck.

          • That is so weird. My cheating ex is also way into fedoras. He has about 30 different ones, and he wears one all the freaking time. It’s his signature. Douche lid, eh? If the chapeau fits…

            Just further proof that there’s not an original idea in the bunch.

            Anybody else’s cheater way into bobble-head collections?

            • WOW…had no idea that it was a big thing…I mean, I see people wearing them as a kinda fashion statement but my ex is into them BIG TIME. Like expensive ones…not the kind you get at Charming Charlie or Target or something…

              Plus my ex really does NOT have a lot of facial hair…so he kinda looks like a teenager with spots of hair on his face but nothing really manly. WTF?

              ANR: Haha “Douche Lids”…LOVE THAT!!!!!

              yeah, I try not to laugh myself into a hernia either…it is really tough though!

              Apparently my ex thinks he is the Latino version of Michael Corleone. Insert vomiting emoticon here.

      • My STBX decided a year ago that he needed to grow a soul patch. It’s now a goatee. He’s pretty proud of it. He also took a Harley course. I don’t begrudge anyone taking the Harley course–if you’re going to ride motorcycles, it’s the one to take. I don’t begrudge people the choice for facial hair.

        But STBX looked really bad in his facial hair. He’s 52. He has his hair. The hair on his head is dark brown. The facial hair? Absolutely gray. It makes him look 10 years older, not younger, yet he seems to think that it makes him look like the young, leather-jacketed rebel on the back of a motorcycle.

        My mother asked if he still had his goatee. I said yes. She said that it made him look like an old man, and that she couldn’t stand looking at him with it. I don’t really look at his face either. Not anymore.

        • Wow, Andy also did the soul patch, goatee route while trolling the internet for girlfriends.

          Weird that so many guys changed how they keep their facial hair and started cheating around the same time.

  • If you lived in the Dakota’s I would have thought you were talking about my cousin named Mike.This is almost freaky! You just described him to a tee! Yikes I remember the part about getting tied to a tree,then beatin’ senseless.Such an act of cowardice! I was only a little kid and was easily overpowered by him.
    Now that we’re all growed up I guess the problem is mine because the past doesn’t exist except in your mind.I still have a hidden fear of Mike especially around water because of the time he held my head underwater for what seemed like forever! The possibility of drowning was real.Yes good times indeed! Sarcasstic but real.

  • I LOVE THIS!! My 5 year old son is very sweet and kind and pretty sensitive. He had a friend in school last year who he called his “best friend”. He started telling me this boy punched him in the face and pinched him after my son tried to cheer him up after some altercation with another child. My son was so hurt and upset and asked me why he did it because he was his best friend. I, being his mother said, “because he isn’t your friend. If he were your friend then he would never hurt you like that. He’d never punch you or call you names”. Great advice I thought. Then recently I realized, “wait a minute. Children learn by example. You can say what you want to them but actions speak louder than words.” Here I’m telling a 5 year old if someones your friend they won’t hurt you and yet he was seeing my so called best friend treat me like shit and I constantly took it no matter how sad it made me. Anytime I start to doubt my decision because of my broken family I remind myself that little eyes are watching. Broken families hurt, but are families nonetheless. Mom loves you. Dad loves you. Mom and dad can get along better apart and you will see healthier examples of how you are going to be treated according to your behavior. It’s so simple to say, hard to do, but so completely worth it. I had this child to love and cherish and to raise into a healthy and happy adult. I can’t jeopardize that because unfortunately the father is a narcissist. My son deserves better examples and it will start here with me!

  • YEAH G!! DAMN STRAIGHT. MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY. My friend quoted hurt people hurt people earlier this. evening and I was like yeah nah I don’t agree with that AT ALL. I’ve been hurt since day dot continuously still but I don’t hurt others. Its a bullshit cop out, an excuse and a quote I would image was made up by someone who actually hurts others. Just like the word crazy, conspiracy theorists all because why?? To deter the truth being credible … people who don’t like the truth have a whole lot to hide lol

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