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Dear Chump Lady, I can’t leave the cake eater

cakemanDear Chump Lady,

I am stuck. It has been 2 years since I discovered my common law partner of 20 years was cheating. I found his email open revealing about 7 months of deception. I need not go into details. We were in marriage counselling at the time, guess it wasn’t working!

So here’s the issue. Until this May 2013 we stayed together trying to make sense of what happened. Things became worse to the point where we agreed to a 1 year trial separation. I am living in the house and he has an apartment. Financially, emotionally, mentally it has been very hard. I left work on stress leave and now am unable to return to work.

Now financially it is even harder but I am getting by. The main issue is that we will go for periods of no contact (1 or 2 weeks) without a word even. Then we will connect…he wants me to come over for dinner, he bought me lovely gifts for my birthday, he sends multiple emails saying he misses me and hopes there’s no one else. Just as I start to feel stronger on my own he connects with me again. We have been intimate a few times during these reconciliations.

It is confusing me and causing me to feel hopeful for a total reconciliation. I asked him during our last reconciliation (there was no sex this time) doesn’t he find going weeks with no contact and then acting like everything is okay confusing as I do? He said he doesn’t analyze things like I do and as for our relationship “it is what it is!!!!!!!!!!!”

I had to leave the room…how could he say that? What does that mean? Why am I still considering allowing him to take me out for my birthday dinner? My psychologist likens our relationship to putting a plant in acid once a week and then returning it to fresh water and wondering why it won’t grow! I get this analogy and I know she is right. Thing is (not sure why) I am still in love and do still have hope that we can make things right between us.

So I guess what I want to know is…how do I break free and be okay with it? I do suffer from self confidence issues (obviously) and am trying to work on getting stronger and healthier.

Any advice you have would be most appreciated. (By the way, my psychologist recommended your site.)

Thank you,


Dear Dana,

It is what it is?

Boy, this guy is the king of nebulous non-commitment. (It didn’t skip my attention that he’s your “common law” husband either.) What is it? It is the IT that dare not speak it’s name! IT cannot be defined! IT just shows up for dinner and the occasional fuck. Let’s not name IT. Just accept IT.

How’s that working for you, Dana?

Is this the sort of relationship YOU want? Are you cool being with someone who can go entire weeks without speaking to you, but expects you to stay committed to him and not date others? Let’s put aside the whole cheating thing for a moment, and entertain the preposterous notion that he’s being faithful to you right now — if this is all there was — you live separately, he dates you on occasion (but don’t call him your boyfriend, or common law husband, it just Is What It Is), and you fuck when he’s feeling like it — would this be ENOUGH for you?


Oh, but it’s temporary. He moved out in May. You’re giving yourself another year of torturous limbo, even though you seem to have already spent two full years in limbo already. You’re hopeful. Because nothing says I’m committed to this relationship, Dana, like moving out and getting his own apartment.

He’s got you doing the pick me dance. Maybe you don’t feel like you’re directly competing for the OW, but he’s got you dancing all the same. If you just don’t rock the boat, if you give him this space, if you show him how patient and caring you are… he’ll come around! (“Pick me!”)

This isn’t what reconciliation looks like. You could find a bunch of nuts on the internet that will blow smoke up your ass and tell you to be hopeful. (“Stand for your marriage!” comes to mind). Thankfully, your shrink is talking sense to you and you came here. This is a community of chumps who gets it — we’ve left cake eaters and gotten to the other side, and you will too.

Dana, you’re giving this idiot ALL YOUR POWER. Why? You’re agreeing to life in a holding pattern, and by either quitting or losing your job because of stress leave (you didn’t say which), you’ve made yourself economically vulnerable to him. BAD IDEA. Are you thinking at some level if you’re dependent on him, he won’t leave? He’ll feel more tied to your shared life together, and see he has obligations?

How’s that working out? Sure, just give him more control! He likes control. Maybe he’ll pay your house note in exchange for cake. Because that’s what you’re giving him now — CAKE. He gets the relationship all on his terms. Drops in when he feels like it. Keeps you on the hook with pleasant lies like he “misses you.” He doesn’t miss you, Dana. I’m sorry — he misses CAKE.

People who miss you? They clamor to be with you. They ACT like they miss you. They make you a priority. What goes on when he’s away from you? Is he pinned under a rock? Does he saunter home and fall into a bear trap? Is he kidnapped by terrorists?

No — he tunes you out. Probably explores His Other Options. And when he needs a Dana kibble fix, he comes calling. Guys like him need fall back kibbles. He gives you just enough — starvation rations, really — to keep you hooked. Doesn’t take much effort on his part. A few presents. Some texts. Dinner.

But to you it’s huge. You see hope. You cling to your shared history.

Put down the spackle, Dana. Quit chasing unicorns. Dude’s a cheater. A cake eater. A vat of acid. How do you break free and be okay with it? GET ANGRY! Get mad at yourself for accepting so little. Recognize your worth. Get mad at him for his cake eating, for his devaluing of you. Get mad at yourself for YOU devaluing you.

You set your own price. And you put yourself in the bargain bin. To be Dana’s significant other — it’s all yours for this tiny investment. Some lame ass texts that he “misses” you. Dinner and a movie. For THAT he gets your undying commitment and financial risk?

No, no, no Dana. Set your price higher. You don’t trifle with a loser like him. Your relationship deserves a NAME, for fuck’s sake. When you ask him “what is this? I’m confused” — he’s above all the petty “analyzing” you do. You know why? Because if you thought on this long and hard enough YOU’D SEE IT’S A SHIT DEAL. “Let’s not over think this” means — let’s not THINK. You just shush.

You went along with that before. But now you want to be strong enough to stop going along with it. I get it.

Your shrink’s analogy about the plant in acid not being healthy is a good one. But I would point out that the problem is — when you take a bath in this acid, it doesn’t feel like acid — it feels like REWARD. If it felt like acid, yeah, you might connect the dots sooner.

No, the rewards of irregular love are addictive. Science says so. This shit affects your brain chemistry. Sleeping with him will set you waaaay back. This is why no contact is so, so important. Kicking a cake eater to the curb can be like kicking a drug. The longer you stay absolutely no contact with him, the stronger you’ll be. But you have to tough out withdrawal. You’re an addict who wants a hit. You want a toke on the hopium pipe. He cares! He brought me a pretty present!

Every time you repeat that cycle, you reinforce it. You’ve been doing the limbo rock for over 2 years. Every time you open your heart to him, and he devalues you — you erode your self esteem and make it that much harder to break out of this shit. You need those kibble scraps that much more. Your attention winnows down to Just Him. What is he thinking? What is he doing? Where is this going?

Force yourself to face yourself. Who gives a fuck what motivates him. What moves YOU? What is Dana going to do for Dana?

Take your life back. Need work? Find a job. Distract yourself madly. Fill the world with people who do value you, who you enjoy. Volunteer. Find an improving hobby. I know you think I’m spewing banalities at you (an improving hobby? Really?) — but I mean it. Start working on eclipsing this mother fucker from your life. Stop making HIM your life and start making What Interests Dana your life.

Dana wants a real relationship with an available man? This guy isn’t it. When Dana is clear with what Dana wants, the course of action will be clear. Dump the cheater, gain a life.

Just because he doesn’t care about saving this, doesn’t mean you aren’t lovable and worthy, Dana. Read that again — he doesn’t want to save this. Not the way YOU want to save it (he moves home and commits to you, and moves heaven and earth to fix what the hell is wrong with him). That’s clear in his actions. You’re just not accepting the message. You’re clinging to his cruel bullshit about missing you.

Stop looking to him for validation. He’s a sugary carbohydrate piece of shit. You deserve better than cake man. And better is out there, Dana. Much better. Being alone collecting cats is better than eternal limbo with a cake eater. What you’re living is HARD — find the courage to step away from the crazy. It gets so much easier when you do — and we’re all here to encourage you.

Ask Chump Lady

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  • I’m sorry but I don’t think Dana has had enough of that shit sandwich yet.
    She got out of the house and had enough income to live alone and now she has a shit mustache from taking a big bite every time she can.
    Left work on stress leave??! WTF. Must not have kids.
    Try working and raising two kids by yourself and your favorite sister, the one that was a second mother to you growing up in a looney bin is dying from cancer at the ripe old age of 41. And you have to get up and go to work ANYWAY!!!!! I used to go into the file room to file and just cry and cry but I still had to do my job and pay my bills. At the same time my ex is trying to get custody of my kids and 3 weeks after my sister died I had to move 200 miles away in order to retain custody.
    I don’t have those same work options at this point in my life but I will still get away.

    Your ex LOVES that you have turned into mush. Go out and get a job or sell everything and move away from him. Tell him you’re spending that ridiculous year far enough away he can’t just show up.

  • Not done…….the day my sister died…because she lingered for 3 weeks, my Mom called me at 7am to tell me she had just passed. I was already dressed for work and went in. My manager asked me how Beth was and I told her she had just died and they said “What are you doing here?!!” Because that’s what an adult does and I was in such shock I resorted to my default, do what you’re suppose to do.
    Volunteer my butt….get a job, if it needs to be a low stress job, fine.

    • Jane, it’s not the pain Olympics here. We’re not competing with Dana, we’re trying to support her. She doesn’t have a job. That’s her reality. I already said it was a bad idea to lose that, but perhaps it was her idea, and perhaps it was NOT her idea. Fact is, she might have to explore other ways back into the work force and volunteering is a great way to do that. It’s also just good for your soul. She gets by, financially she wrote. Hopefully that isn’t relying on her cheater’s income, but I worry that she is.

      Yes, many of us don’t have the luxury of stress leave when DDay hits, because we don’t have such generous employers. If there were stress leave, I think a lot of chumps would be grateful for it!

      It’s great that you were able to soldier on and work while all that heartache was going on. You’re coming at this strong. Dana’s not where you are. You can see that as a moral failing on her part (suck it up! don’t indulge yourself in collapsing into a heap!) — or you can just accept that is where she IS. We’re trying to help her move FORWARD from that place.

      • I understand the supporting part, but I honestly don’t think she has hit bottom with the cake eater….I know we all bounce back and forth but this just seems different.
        If she didn’t already have the two previous years of known chumpdom under her belt that would be a different story too. It does take a while for the horror of what it really is to sink in, but she has had that time, she GOT AWAY!!!!! I flippin can’t get out of the house.
        I know there are some of us who have several reconciliations, but where they while cohabitating? I don’t know, but to actually have a separate place to live and your own income??????
        I want her to realize what a leg up she has…I will gladly switch places with her….she can come live in my trap with my jackass for a week and I will get rid of the cake eater for her once and for all and then she can have her place back and be well on the road to freedom.
        I think that’s why her therapist sent her here, she needs a wake up call.
        She is like the woman running from the house of horrors with the insane psycho killer and she’s gotten all the way to town and goes back to get her lipstick.
        Wake up Dana!!!! I do support you or I wouldn’t care enough to be mad.

        • Hit bottom? The bottom is different to all of us. Just because some of us were not married, didn’t have children or were in it for 30 odd years doesn’t mean we suffer any less.

          Yes, I realise we are a bit luckier to not have gone through more years of their crap, or go through the other pain to see one’s children suffer. But pain is real and it is bad, and it hurts as much. Don’t disregard our pain please.

          • Of course everyone’s bottom is different. And we all know that until the pain is worse than the fear or whatever we are weighing it against we can’t get past that limbo or where ever we get stuck.
            Sometimes it happens over time and sometimes it’s a moment or realization. But if it hasn’t happened, then someone hasn’t hit their bottom. The fact she is still seeing him and having a hard time means she’s still stuck.
            Maybe reading what all of us has to say will strike a chord and help her see more clearly.
            I don’t disregard anyones pain, sorry it came across that way.
            Then there are those of us, like myself who isn’t stuck mentally or emotionally anymore…because I was just like Dana, but are stuck by present circumstances.
            I envy her position as far as being physically independent, but obviously she isn’t emotionally free.
            The order and circumstances is obviously different for all of us.

  • Run, Dana, run. Get away from him and keep going and don’t stop. You won’t believe what life has in store for you once you have drained the poison from your life. Go for it!

  • Dana: you are not even legally married to this man so you don’t have the painful legal aspect to go through. Not sure what you have going jointly financially but protect yourself and get him off any finacial paperwork. Is the house in your name or held jointly? Any credit cards, loans ect.. Right now he’s got the best of both worlds while leaving you in a quaking heap of misery. Do you really think he isn’t seeing other women? Time to get back on your feet girlfriend. Next time he calls don’t jump up to the bell like Pavlo’s dogs. Ignore him. Make a date to go out with friends for your B Day or go to the movies alone or a trip out of town. Don’t call him; don’t return his calls. See a lawyer to know your rights as a 20+ yr live in girlfriend (commom law my ass) CL is right this is classic cake eating time to stuff it in his face and move on

  • Dana,

    “Distract yourself madly”. This is the ticket. Dig deep down, figure out what those interests are, and start taking baby steps to “distract yourself madly”. When do you find yourself weakest? Make sure you are busy then. For me, it was the evenings because that was my time with the cheater. Look up everything possible to do within 50 miles of you during those times you are the weakest. Arm yourself with back-ups to your back-ups of distractions. You WILL find yourself in some of these distractions! It’s quite the amazing process of empowerment. You don’t need him. You are all that you need.

  • Dana it is what it is means, your a good old fashioned booty call. I was like u once in another relationship. It feels good for a few hours, then u feel like shit until he comes over and the cycle continues. It only keeps lowering your esteem further. Here’s how u get esteem back. Just say no! No to any “niceties”. It gives you power to say “NO!” Practice it!!!! Refuse his presents!! Refuse to answer texts, phone calls, knocks on your door! Every time u think of his romantic lines, remember he says the same bull shit to her. His words mean nothing unique or special for u. He just wants what he wants CAKE! Good luck and practice! “NO!”

    • Dana,
      The bottom line is you have made him everything to you and you mean nothing to him except some comfort and ego kibbles when he feels like USING you because you are putting yourself there to be USED by him. This is the cold hard reality of the situation. You can’t understand this but it’s true. Go through the pain, it hurts like hell but it will stop hurting so much with time and practicing caring for you and bettering you. NO MAN or WOMAN is worth degrading yourself for, I mean NO ONE!

      Please respect and love yourself enough to know you don’t deserve being treated this way and that he is a shit without a conscience or any feelings for you. If he did have these things he would never treat you this way without respect and would never hurt you.

      LOVE DOESN’T HURT and it doesn’t make you quit your job from not being able to function properly. It gives you strength to build yourself up and have a better life.

      This isn’t your fault, this is who he is and will always be. Don’t let him break you under any circumstances he isn’t worth it. He is low life scum who manipulates and uses for his own benefit.

      The adjectives are not good that sum him up. Please read all you can to give you strength, this guy is mentally fucked up and missing basic human qualities that he will never have.

      He will not save you, he will suck you dry until there is nothing left and he will not fix himself, he is lazy and will never do the hard work. All of these fuckers are LAZY, they go the easy way so why continue to make life easy for him.

      STAY NO CONTACT FOR GOOD! It makes it easier, I promise. Out of sight, less in mind and eventually out of mind. Even when you are in contact, he put’s you out of his mind whenever he wants to and thinks of you in fleeting moments when he wants cake and tosses you a crumb.

      Is this what you want for yourself? Are you a homeless dog just wanting to barely survive? I don’t think so.

      Run for your life and build a much better one for yourself you are so WORTH IT!!!!

      Challenge yourself to learn who you are again and to love and take care of yourself. It will not be easy but it will feel better and better each day to know you are not allowing yourself to be used and abused by an asshole! Eventually you will come out the other side so much wiser, stronger and happier. Face you and how you got here so it never happens again. This pain will help you become a better you, I promise.

      Love to you and we are all here to give you advise and the strength you need to push on to the side of the AMAZING DANA!

      • What Deborah says. Every time I get back in contact, even for the kids, it sets me back. Buy a new phone. Change your number, change your locks, set yourself free.

        Do NOT look to someone who doesn’t care about you, for care. YOU are your own best friend, even though you don’t believe it right now. Protect and care for you, Dana.

  • Dana it is so hard to accept that ITS OVER. Me, married 21 years, dearly loved family house and other properties, it STILL isn’t enough for him to commit to me and move heaven and earth to find out and fix what the hell is wrong with him.

    You aren’t alone in your humiliation and pain. But really? We have to recognise what is in front of us – they DON’T love us any more – and REFUSE to tolerate that disrespect. Yours lies to you with sweet nothings, mine treats me like I am not worth noticing.

    Aren’t we worth more? Can’t be be around people for whom we count? That is what I am choosing. Scares me half to death, I can’t believe he is choosing the huge $$$$$ cost to keep cake – but its their choice and they are making it.

    Wake up and be brave, you are not alone. Don’t let him USE you any more.

    • Well said, Patsy. We were married for 33 years and it was the hardest and scariest thing ever to leave all that but he made the choice to have a gf for 5 years and to me that means we are through.

          • Hey Smart Ass,
            Haha. Love your name. But no, I pulled the plug after I got an anonymous letter about his affair and knew it was true. Nope, I could NOT have stayed. It was hard to let go of the long history (of earlier happier days) and the blown up future plans, plus financially it would have been way better for me. And he gave no apology and continues to deny he had any affair, although I confirmed it. That was and is still hard. Why can’t he admit to it? (I’m not in contact with him, BTW). But I didn’t realize what a POS I was married to.

            Good article!

            • Thanks ,
              I meant to harm. I am just so surprised by how many on this site seem to have multiple DDs . I wonder how may women are “one & done”.
              I would have thought “once” was enough to end a marriage.
              No , not a true
              drunken one night stand, but a full blown affair.
              I wonder a “one time” mistake that last a year or two is considered a “one time thing ?”For me such a length of time would be the hardest part… to know how long I had been fooled, made a “chump” of.
              I think so many cheaters think they will be forgiven… I suppose it comes with being a” cake eater”.
              Take care !

              • Actually, I suspected an affair over 4 years ago, but he was such a magnificent liar. And I stupidly told him then I would leave him if he were cheating. So he just went underground even more. It was easy–they worked and travelled together. But I could kick myself for not fully checking it out and ending it back then.

                And I agree that a one night stand is one thing but having sex with someone else over and over and over…unforgivable!

  • PS – go back to work. Work gives you a rythmn, work makes you get out of bed, work gives you status, work gives you value, people are neutral at work (they don’t abuse you like this ass is).

    Please, please get out of your house and go back to work.

    • Patsy such good advice and you are so right not just for Dan but for me today. I have been hanging around too long. Was planning on moving when our house was damaged in a storm and figured I would stay and help him get it back in order. Told him when it was done I would be moving . That next morning I read a text to the OW that said ( and I quote) “She told me she would move when house is done. Yeah. When she does I want you to give 2 weeks notice and move down here where I will take care of you and we will be so happy” yet to my face he still refuses to acknowledge she exists and tell me I am breaking his heart by saying things like that!

      • janet, get this loser out of your life. Texts like that just show they see women as objects. Things. That make THEM feel good.

        Ugh, the dehumanising and disrespect of it all. He’s moved on, you do too. All the best, J.

        • This is why people stay with abusers, the lows are so low and the highs are high as hell. CL’s link above is to an article that talks about it in broad terms. Your own brain betrays you, I call it the reptile brain – it’s not the smart part…

      • Janet, I’m sorry you have been a victim of gas lighting. It is a horrible experience. My ex used to do stuff like that too.

        • Lyn, if this is gaslighting it is sooo stupid. I have known about the OW since 7/12 when 320 text messages showed up in 1 weekend . After that he switched to a “secret” cell phone that I discovered later on and routinely check on which is how I know about the above text message. If I know what is true it can’t be gaslighting ( poor Ingrid Bergman wasn’t sure) but some pathetic attempt at lying. It is so beneath him and unneccessary. Makes me sad to see what this affair has done to his moral character.

          • Janet, it hasn’t done anything to his moral character….. It simply revealed the TRUE character that always existed just underneath the surface.

            • JP I just refuse to believe that He wasn’t perfect by any stretch but he was decent and had strong morals. I blame his increased use of alcohol, his underlying sense of entitlement (something this site has helped me understand) and then this EA that is so not like him. So sad, so mad but getting stronger and madder and he won’t know what hit him when I move on.

  • Hi Dana,

    I feel for you, really. I was in a thing without a description for far too long, I dated my ex- then we broke up and then we got back together again. In the middle bit lasting 2 years, and then after DDay #2 he tried to have a non-relationship relationship. I’d get the little emotional treats that kept me hooked (looking back they were not even that great), but when I wanted to get closer he would shout we were not together, making me feel I was nuts. He did not miss me because he did not act like he missed me, but I still believed him. I loved him and I thought we could work something out. How blind I was and hopeful, that I did not see this man did not really love me, ever. There was always an excuse for why were not together.

    We did get back together and he cheated AGAIN. And now, a few months down the line, 3 months without seeing each other, I still get the little texts, which would have hooked me in the past but now, I see through them:

    – He can’t stop thinking about me – Well he sure did when he was screwing something else!
    – He will always have feelings for me – gee, thanks.

    -He will always be interested in me – can’t even begin to try and figure out what that means

    But get this, during the whole non-describable situations, he expected me to be single, free and available to him. Not to date anyone else, be faithful, be helpful and caring. And he? Free to ignore me, not available, probably seeing other people, unhelpful and not caring (because we are not together!!!).

    Ah, it looks like I don’t make sense… But Dana, honestly – move on. Make a decision to move on. It still hurts, I still love him, it is hart to believe it is OVER but it is. I am not interested in his crap. He took our relationship, did a poop on it and then flushed it down the toilet. I have no interest in recovering it from the sewage.

    Also No contact will make him realise that it is over. That you are not here to be called upon when he feels like it. It is hard and I am still in the middle of it. My friends and CL here really make me stronger and not to cave when I am weak.

    • You make perfect sense AC.

      It is so hard, loving someone who doesn’t know how to love.

      Dana I hope you see you are not alone!

    • He took our relationship, did a poop on it and then flushed it down the toilet. I have no interest in recovering it from the sewage Great line AC

  • Here is a simple excercise, write down what he does for you that makes you feel good and what he does that makes you feel bad. See how often he makes you feel good as opposed to feeling bad. That should help you figure things out in black and white.

  • Dana, maybe these links will help with some of this.
    One issue that hasn’t been addressed directly is that you are a victim of gaslighting……it’s part of the cheater lifestyle but it can be so insidious. Even keeping someone in debt is a form of gaslighting.
    Here are two links that express it better than I can…with CL’s permission of course.

  • If you stay, you enable, therefore empower them. If you leave, they still are enabled but, are not empowered. Either way it’s a tough shit sandwich to eat. I’m not a cat person but, even I would rather spend my life with cats than a cake eater. He’s not the person you thought he was.

    Move on, after all…he did!

  • This was my situation, only mine didn’t admit to the cheating. He assured me there was no one else even in marital therapy. He did return home and his cheating ways continued. There were a ton of lies around the time he was away.

    I cannot stress enough that this is NOT a healthy love. Step away, get support, go no contact and refuse his texts, gifts and anything else. I wish I had done this. It would have saved me so much more pain. Surround yourself with loving friends and family.

    I know it’s difficult. But he expects you not to set boundaries and rules. Because you love him and want the relationship to work, it’s very hard to do this. And he KNOWS it. Trust, he KNOWS that about you.

    There is better. Rise above it. Hold on because it’s a hell of a ride. But you really have to believe that YOU deserve better. And you do.

    • Mine wouldn’t admit to it either. He still won’t. Thankfully the last time I saw him was a year ago when he came into my place of employment. He tried to tell me he didn’t know the woman I caught him with is.

  • *Force yourself to face yourself. Who gives a fuck what motivates him. What moves YOU? What is Dana going to do for Dana?*

    This is the hardest thing, I think, for Chumps to do: forget whatever the fuck it is that motivates him and start thinking about what motivates and moves us.

    Dana, this guy is a complete asshole and he’s playing you like a fiddle. Get the hell away from him, get into therapy, figure out why you’re willing to put up with this shit and get on with your life! Really, stop sitting around hoping he’s going to choose you. So what if he does choose you? Then what? You’re going to sit around waiting for the other shoe to drop, trying to be perfect (good luck with that), trying to not rock the boat at all and you know what’s going to happen? YOu’re going to completely disappear and then he’ll more than likely cheat again.

    Take it from someone who knows how hard it is: walk away now. NOW.

    • I agree that the hardest thing is to stop trying to figure them out, and to start focusing on what YOU want. So so hard when you’ve spent a lifetime putting others’ needs before your own.

    • Nord,
      The worst part of these fuckers is the constant lying. It’s so crazy making. I love the lies in your face when the proof of the lie is right in front of them. It’s the first thing they do by instinct. Then they admit half or 1/4 or 1/8 truths. That’s what sent me running the lies, deceit and total disrespect and manipulation. I knew I could trust nothing he said anymore or trust anything I thought we had. It was all fake and fantasy. It was a horrifying realization and one I will never forget but regardless, I respect myself too much to wait and see what happens next.

      The minute the list of bad outweighed any good, I was gone. I have never regretted leaving for one millisecond. I was horrified after when I realized how really sick and fucked up he was with leading a double life his entire life. Completely mismanaging his business and money and life in general and how his son wouldn’t have anything to do with him and his daughter who speaks with him has no respect for him and uses him. His ex wife can’t stand him with good reason I see now.

      The part that sucks is that we Chumps are all left with the baggage, anger and pain to sift through because Lord knows they don’t and that part is a struggle until you figure it out for yourself. But the only way to get there is to leave and start going forward and take a good look at yourself and figure out what you want and need after you leave and go no contact.

      It’s been 8 months now and I still get angry sometimes at both him and myself but it’s a whole lot better without that fucking asshole loser in my life and I know without a doubt that I deserve soooo much better and I know he knows that as well. The thought of him in a physical way turns my stomach to the point of nausea. I would never want him to touch me in any way, it revolts me completely. All I see him as now is a creepy,sad, angry man who uses women in relationships for attention and new business connections and goes to massage parlors for hand jobs. ewwwwww it’s really revolting and kills me that I fell in love with someone like that last year. I am now happily cynical when it comes to men and in a healthy way. They must now prove their worthiness to me with good character and values and words that match actions or I am gone!!!

      The upside is he has been forever removed from my life and I know that will never happen again! : )

      • Deborah, I feel exactly the same way you do. I was living in Crazytown while married to my ex (4 months out for me, still raw). He lied so well and so often, and told me he loved me while cheating for at least 5 years that I know of. I now don’t believe a word he says. I can’t believe I was married to such a sick fuck for so long. And when I broke it off, he completely left me with the baggage and of course he admitted to nothing and apologized not at all. I am also revolted by him and can’t believe I loved such a selfish POS. I continue to be angry and sad but am getting better every day. And as you say, he is out of my life for good and I know I will never get together with another Narc.

        • Stuckinjax,
          The funniest and most honest thing my asshole did was he bought animal t-shirts for us. Mine was a chihuahua because I own one and he bought himself a pig t-shirt because he is one! LMAO….That about sums it up for me!

  • Dana, you said “I left work on stress leave and now am unable to return to work.” Does this mean you don’t feel capable of it or that your employer doesn’t have a job for you to return to? That part is unclear to me. If it’s the former I encourage you to try returning to work even if you don’t feel like you can, I know this sounds like “suck it up” but it really isn’t. If that job is gone, get your resume together.

    I told my boss at one point I needed to go on disability and he encouraged me to continue even if I couldn’t do as much work as normal. I am grateful to him for that. I think having a job really helps keep you on track, it keeps you grounded and it helps to know there is something you HAVE to do no matter how depressed and anxious you feel.

    You are what I call ‘tharn’, it’s from the book Watership Down. It means you have frozen, you are stuck, your mind is looping and you can’t get on track to DO anything. So what you have to do is force yourself to DO one thing for your self each day, do ONE thing toward your independence each day. Start small, make a list of all the pros and cons of your relationship. Not how it was when it was good, how it is NOW. Then pull together your financial paperwork. See where you are on a practical level. The guy doesn’t love you, you can do better.

    Once you look at your finances, I think you should see an attorney before you cut things off with your asshole because once you do he will not be nice, I can almost guarantee that.

    • Agreed about work. I was a SAHM for nearly a decade before this happened and I think it made it harder as I didn’t find work right away–was in no condition to look, to be honest – but if I had had work I think it would have made healing faster as I would have had something to focus on, rather than moping around the house and just feeling absolutely panicked. Then again, I’m glad I was here for the kids because I am not sure they would have survived if I had been working and not here for all their meltdowns.

      If I didn’t have kids I would have been very happy to be working during this.

    • Dat has good advice. I was a SAHM for the second decade of my 20 year marriage, and the terror of supporting myself and my son kept me stuck for too long. Now I am a freelance writer, and although money is STILL a huge struggle, I make my way, I have some stability in my life, I have deadlines to hit and I have an identity that has nothing to do with my former marriage.

      Dana, I relate so strongly to your post. Though the details are very different, I understand being so low, having so little self respect and self worth, that the terror of leaving the cheater was stronger than the desire to live. I really thought I was going to die when the ex dumped me for OW. Yet here I am, still alive, making my own way and gaining strength. You can do this too.

      He is a piece of shit, your ex. He is with someone else, probably several someone elses, and he calls you up or sends a text when he wants a fuck or is bored or his other women aren’t available. That is the reality. You can do so much better than that. He sees you as nothing but a booty call.

      When I was foolish enough to reconcile with my ex, one of my brothers wrote to me:
      “GIO, not only does he not love you, or even like you, he HATES you.” Dana, that is true of your ex. He hates you. Don’t fool yourself otherwise. And don’t take it personally. He hates everyone, because that’s how disordered cheaters roll.

      Only you can take back your life. And life is so short. Don’t waste another minute on that POS, cake-eating loser.

  • How do you kick Limbo? How do you kick heroin or cigarettes? You just stop.

    There is no other short-cut back to sanity and re-taking control over your own life.

    It’s easy to see and say when you aren’t wrapped up in a destructive addiction, and it’s almost impossible to see when you are caught up in one.

    The first step toward having a better and more productive life is to just stop doing whatever it is you are doing that is making that an impossibility.

    In this case, you stop talking to the cheater. If he wants another life, give it to him. Just say, “Here’s your brand new life without me in it. Good luck with that, Jerkwad”.

    Delete his contact information from your cell phone, change your email address if you have to do it, and do whatever else it takes to sever all ties.

    Then go through withdrawal, then find YOU again. You’re in there somewhere, but you somehow lost yourself or you wouldn’t be focused on him like he holds the key to regaining your life.

    He doesn’t hold that key. You do. Chasing him like he has the key is just a way to stay stuck.

  • You deserve better, Dana.

    As the saying goes, “Place a low value on yourself, and rest assured the world will never raise your price. ”

    It’s up to you. What do you want?

    • Nomar, I’ve never heard that saying. I need to write that down and display in a prominent place. Wonder if my husband would notice if I taped it to his backside!

  • Dana – many of us lived that limbo, wishing and hoping. I’d say almost 100% of us, looking back, regret the time we wasted in that limbo and wished we had cut loose much much sooner.

    I am alone and collecting cats – and I am very happy 🙂

  • Sorry, but I’m with Jane on this one.

    I think our Dana needs to sack up a bit. This all feels a bit too victim-y to me. No marriage (he’s been abusing you for 20 years, Dana) and now no job? A therapist, and now a team of internet commenters have been brought in to motivate you, but still you give him cake–for 2 years it’s been made more obvious that he has no respect for you, but still you’re stuck?

    I’m getting a lot of helplessness here. Ask your therapist to figure out why being helpless and dependent (On him? On working taxpayers?) works well for you. Because so far, it’s working for you. You get to complain, you get to be the victim, you get to be helpless, AND you don’t have to work, you don’t have to decide, you don’t have to make a go of your life. You don’t have to exercise your own two legs, your spine, your brain. Maybe it is working out for you.

    Is this, or is this not what you want?

    If it’s really not what you want, then fight for your integrity, Dana. Fight for it. That means getting up, taking a shower, and taking your life back. For some people, it means getting help for a substance abuse problem, too. This may or may not apply to you, but if it does, this is priority #1. You will need to get a job–this is where you will gain your independence. Everyone here who told you to get a job is correct–it will be the biggest source of self-esteem, freedom, distraction, new relationships, satisfaction, proof of your mettle. The only person THAT mettle matters to is YOU, Dana!

    If you do nothing to get your integrity back, you will be stuck where you are. Done. It’s really that simple.

    I sound harsh. I am being harsh. You need harsh right now. For too long, you’ve been in limbo, at everyone’s mercy. You need a kick in the pants, you need no more options for helplessness, and YOU need to make the changes you want for YOURSELF. Do you realize that? YOU are the ONLY PERSON who will make this happen? Not him, not your therapist, not your boss, nobody here–YOU. Nobody here is going to say the magic words to change your life. YOU have to change your life.

    Someone in your life, perhaps when you were a child, perhaps it was this dude, made you feel like you couldn’t do anything, made you feel like all your efforts were futile. Use your therapist to figure that out WHILE YOU TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE.

    You can do this. This could be the greatest turn-around story! But it will only come from you!!!

  • Dana:

    I agree with Jane above that you are being gaslighted in the extreme. I was too. It’s awful and it’s disorienting. I believe it is the most cruel thing one human being can do to another, and it’s so easy for them. It’s like breathing. When I finally complained about it I was told I was just “into Victimology” (it is what it is!)

    You need some help breaking through the Fuck You Barrier. Hire a PI (borrow money if you have to) and have him document just exactly what your man is doing while separated. Get some photos of something that with Make. You. Mad. so you’ll get off the dime. I wish I had.

  • Dana,
    We all feel for you, we have all been there.
    My exH, in marital counseling said “I am content with the directions things are going.”
    But where were they going?? He had not said he wanted a divorce, he denied there was another woman (and when he did finally admit it, said she had nothing to do with the end of the marriage).

    Time to take deep breaths, and break away. you deserve someone who will love and appreciate you, and who truly cares about you. This guy clearly is a lying, lazy, selfish, coward.

    All the best.

  • Dana…
    your relationship is very broken.
    It’s not coming back.
    It is beyond repair.
    That is the harsh reality.
    Most times men are stupid.They say what they THINK they should say.He knew, he really did… know how much cheating would hurt you. He thought that would put an end to your relationship. It normally does. Knowing this he did it anyway. He thought you would pull the plug…. he is giving you right of first refusal. TAKE IT !
    I liken this to what we all do when we see an old g-f. We chat for a bit & tell each other that “we should get together, lets plan a lunch date…” all with good intensions, but really knowing that is what is appropriate at the time. We really DON”T mean it , but it sounds good at the time. The “appropriate” thing to say.
    That is what he is doing… he THINKS he is saying , doing the “appropriate” thing .
    He is telling you what he THINKS.. YOU want to hear.
    He really doesn’t want this to work out … he is just too cowardly to say it.
    You are hanging on… he thought you would have dumped him(rightly so) by now.
    I think you need to focus on WHY do you want him back in your life ?
    You should be working on WHY you are a willing party to your own demise… those are issues that should be addressed in therapy.
    Need some distraction ?
    Do a little “window shopping” sign up on Senior People Meet, POF… you don’t have to go out just yet,( altho a nice coffee & conversation, date would be a nice diversion) just imagine a new, nice guy in your life.
    Here are a few articles for you…. think about it.
    You’re better than this,you just have forgotten it.
    He is no longer an allie… he is your worst enemy !
    You will be better you just need to heal.
    Further… I would rather my tax $$$$ go to you than ” corporate welfare” but that’s whole other blog !
    You’ll be fine, really you will.

  • Dana, the others are right. This relationship is not coming back. It will NEVER come back. It’s gone. It’s been gone. It will always be gone.

    I can absolutely, 100%, rest-assured, money-down GUARANTEE you that he is sleeping with other women. He is. Do you think he’s sitting with his thumb up his butt during those times where he doesn’t contact you? NO! He’s sticking his dick in another woman, and another, and another.

    He has everything under his terms, his control, inlcuding your thoughts when he’s not there. He’s defined the relationship as a booty-call, and that is definitely how he’s defined the relationship with all the other women he’s humping. He’s very, very likely saying and doing the same things with other women that he’s currently doing with you.

    After he’s sent you a text saying “I miss you!” and you let him come over and have it with him, he will leave your house, text someone else the same thing, and go to her house. That’s what he’s doing during the weeks apart from you. He’s telling every other woman he’s fucking that he misses them all, sending them texts, buying them gifts, etc.

    It’s like he’s a dog-walker and all these women are on his leashes. Giving them small amounts of kibble-crumbs to keep them going. Just enough not to leave, but not enough to make a decent relationship.

    Cut the leash and run. Don’t even bother to turn around and bite him, just run. You will never have what you want from him because he doesn’t love you. Sorry, that is painful to hear, but it’s true. “Commonlaw marriage” be damned. Really? 20 years and no actual documented marriage? That should be your first clue. He spent that time with you with no solid commitment and then cheated on you. And now he’s telling you to just shush whenever you ask about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was never actually faithful to you at all. Guys don’t just suddenly turn into assholes like that. They always were assholes.

    Which is where “sparkle” comes in. They know how to mind-fuck you. If they wore their crap on their sleeve, they’d never get laid. They have to be sparkley and charismatic and give you little treats here and there to reel you in and trap you. And once you’re trapped, it is very, very, very, VERY hard to get out.

    But Jane is right in stating that YOU HAVE A WAY OUT! Take it! You’re not legally bound by documents or children or formal comittment. You have your own place, he has his. That’s a situation a lot of chumps here would only dream of. Take the opportunities you have in front of you to TAKE YOUR POWER BACK. And, yes, you should start by getting back in the workforce. After that, when you have a little money, get a new phone with a new number so he quite literally CAN’T contact you via phone anymore. Change your e-mail address too. Change it all. It’s a lot easier to go No Contact when he is actually incapable of locating you.

    And for the love of all that is holy, get a productive hobby. Read new books (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is my fave). See some movies, rent dvds. Pick up a video game. Do something that occupies your hands. And yes, I said hands and there’s a specific reason: So you don’t reach for your phone and text HIM. Every time your hands get the urge to text/call him, pick up a book instead. Pick up a game controller. Pick up a pencil and draw. Just. Don’t. TOUCH. THAT. PHONE!!!

    And excercise saying NO. NO. NO. NO. Don’t let him guilt you when you say it. It’s a powerful word and it’s a word that will create the steps to climb out of your emotional hole. NO. NO. NO.

    He needs to hear it.

    • I will take exception to your saying: ” “Commonlaw marriage” be damned. Really? 20 years and no actual documented marriage?”

      I do not believe in marriage UNLESS you want children and that’s so you have a contract to care for them. My ex convinced me to marry him after many years and it was after he got this fucking LOCK on my shit that he either started cheating again or just stopped hiding it, I’ll never know which.

      In other words, we don’t know if Dana didn’t get married for similar reasons, ie; it’s a piece of paper, the commitment is in the words and actions of the people in the relationship. FWIW, my best friend is a lesbian in a state where she cannot marry and is 20 years in a committed relationship. So it’s not just that some of think the marriage certificate is unnecessary there are also gay people in Chump Nation who may have been unable to marry even if they wanted to.

      • I think you misunderstand me. I didn’t say marriage as in a piece of paper (and btw, I’m married and child-free, so its not just for procreation. I take exception to THAT.)

        She said “common law marriage” and not only did he cheat on her, he’s pulling the “we’re not together but I miss you” thing. It’s likely SHE may have seen it as a marriage, but he didn’t. If he hadnt cheated on her, or saw their relationship as a marriage honoring it as such, this wouldnt be happening and Dana wouldnt be here. That’s a completely different situation than a lesbian couple who would love to be legally married but can’t because of anti-homosexual legislation.

        • I don’t want to speak for Ddw, but I’ve known other couples who prefer not to get married until children come along. Being married makes things simpler with respect to custody, especially with respect to which partner can make decisions about the child’s health. The reasons for staying unmarried range the gamut from a deep-seated antipathy toward the property aspects of marriage, a dislike of the religious history, etc. In other words, there are a whole host of principles behind the decision not to get married. From a pragmatic standpoint, though, it makes sense to get married if there’s a child because both parents get to have a legal say in the child’s care.

          That said, regardless of whether or not there was a formal marriage proposal, after 20 years of cohabitation, Dana would be under the natural assumption that they were in a monogamous relationship. After all, if they weren’t, the X could leave.

          Apparently the X says he does want to leave, but then he doesn’t want to leave. This is classic cake-eating behavior.

      • Speaking as a Gay Chump, I think you’re comparing apples to oranges.

        Your lesbian friend probably WOULD be married if the state she lived in allowed it, regardless of whether or not she wants children. By the way, I’m a bit perplexed by your statement that you don’t believe in marriage unless children are involved.

        Assuming that it’s a loving relationship, shouldn’t couples have a contract to care for each other? This is especially crucial for LGBT couples in matters like hospital visitation, property inheritance, social security, health benefits, and as we saw in the Supreme Court case last spring, inheritance tax.

        Dana being in a multi-decade relationship with no marriage certificate IS rather unusual. Especially since most states don’t even recognize common-law marriage anymore (which will probably end up working in Dana’s favor). If Dana was with another woman, I’d totally understand. But for Dana not to have been married all this time most likely speaks to her ex’s indecisiveness.

        I’m not judging though. Long-term heterosexual coupling without marriage is unusual but it’s not unheard of. I think Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have been together since before I was born. AND they have children. Same for Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon although they eventually broke up. They spent YEARS together and had a few children but never tied the knot.

        • I’m not a an attorney but take this for ‘common knowledge’. In Colorado a common law marriage is very much recognized. If you decide to separate in this state after representing yourself as husband and wife, for any length of time (any!) you have to go through all the legal machinations of terminating a marriage.

          It is very real. But it is very dependent on your geography. Get a professional opinion on this one.

          • Yeah, that’s also important. The legal recognition of her marriage could depend entirely on her location.

            My point is, in her situation, it is strange that he would spend that much time with her with no move to a legal marriage. He ended up being a huge cheater. So I’d say that was an indication of his intentions. Why would he feel it necessary to get all the benefits of a legal marriage if Dana already considered them married? No work for him and he can keep her around while he does whatever.

            I did not say that marriage only counts if you have a license. I knew a couple who never formally got married but were faithful for 40 years.

            • The point you made was that somehow not having married meant there was no commitment, I disagree with that. I may not have been clear, I was saying that I do not believe in marriage – I see no point to marriage unless you are having kids. I am not alone in this. I think a commitment is sufficient, I was with my ex for 12 years before we married. I would never have married my ex if he hadn’t insisted upon it for so long I finally gave in. I also mentioned some cannot get married only because they cannot. I do not believe you need a contract to be in a committed relationship. Yes, I know there are a lot of financial perks and there can be issues if you are not, such as hospital stays. And yes, it is likely my friend would have married if it was allowed in my state.

              By the way, it is highly unlikely that any “common law” marriage is recognized where Dana lives, there are only a handful of states that recognize it.

              • shoot, my last bit is missing; My first long term committed relationship lasted 12 years, we were very young and grew apart in what we wanted. Mostly he changed his mind about wanting children and I did not. We never married, we parted amicably and it was very easy to separate our finances. We are still friends to this day.

  • Dana–I know that a lot of people have suggested that you haven’t quite hit rock bottom. I’m going to suggest something else: talk to your shrink about the possibility of depression. That you took a stress leave and never went back is a huge red flag for me. Depression requires medication, and if you’re on meds but still don’t have the energy to look for a job, then you need your meds adjusted.

    The best thing Dana can do for Dana is to ensure that she’s able to function. If you have depression, you’re not functioning as you should.

    It’s hard to accept that the relationship is over. We go through Kubler-Ross’s 5 stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. However, it’s not a straight-line journey, and not everyone goes through all of the stages.

    What you need to know is that there is nothing you can do to salvage the relationship. It’s up to your cheater to make the move, and he isn’t showing you that he cares.

    I’d like to tell you that the presents are a good sign. Sadly, they are not. My STBX gives me presents (buys me lunch, gets stupid stuff he thinks I’d like) for one of two reasons: he just did something really nice for/with OW and wants to give me something to even things out OR he just had a fight with OW and wants to make sure that I’m still in his corner.

    So the presents are part of his gaslighting campaign. Don’t fall for it!

    In the meantime, check with your shrink regarding depression, and start detangling your financial assets from his.

    Best of luck.

    • Yes,
      I agree you are probably depressed…. but also realize that you are / or need to grieve.
      This a loss in your life…. disappointment, delusion, it is a death of what you once knew & loved.
      It is really best to go NC, that way you will be able to accept the “death of a dream”.
      Once you realize , your relationship is gone , you grieve and make plans for your life.
      Yes, heartache, hurt & hardship… but that is part of the journey to acceptance & healing.
      Kind thoughts for your better life !

        • I would add that for me the Kubler-Ross’s 5 stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance didn’t go that way. After depression I needed to get ANGRY again in order to meet acceptance, hope that helps. Get pissed off at the way you are being treated.

      • I think it is important to stress the part about there has to be 2 people wanting this to work. You can’t make the relationship work if the other person is out there doing ‘whatever’ ‘it is what it is’ crap.

        Heavey lifting only goes so far when the other person drops the load.

      • “Death of a dream” BINGO!!!! That’s the part that depresses me over and over again. Even after truly understanding it and accepting it, it never fails to sting.
        Death of a dream, because at first I wanted things back to how they were in the beginning when they were good and he really loved me but then I realized that was only the set up, the grooming, none of it was real. That’s a large bitter pill to swallow.
        There’s no ‘back’ to go back to.

    • I thought depression was a given.
      And anger and all of those steps of grief and they overlap. Some days I’m furious and other days I’m hopeless. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
      Dana, the fact that you quit work and probably don’t get out much plays right into his hands. These jerks like to isolate us. Even if you just go out and have coffee somewhere, go to the library, anything at this point.

      The one point that I keep thinking about is this. The two of you agreed to the year apart, but did he suggest it? If so, it’s not a trial separation, it’s him setting up his banquet table……..the OW on one side, Cake on the other, and lots of dishes of kibbles in between.

      Dana, don’t give him the satisfaction. Come visit us often, we understand and we do care.

  • Dana,

    I too went through the limbo denial pick me dance. Let just say the fog cleared up when he demanded that I was to communicate separation of our financial and property assets to his sister. That was when I realize that I better take back control of my life from the pathetic coward and the enabling sibling.

    It’s time to take back your control! Here is a quote that I heard from a Dr. Mable John that resonated with me. “Women sell themselves short by not knowing what is their worth. Know your worth!”

    Dana, know your worth!

    • Given that Dana and her X are not legally married, she really does need to know her own value! If her state/country recognizes common law, then she may have legal protection and some rights to his assets. Additionally, if there is common property or financial dealings, that needs to be addressed, too.

      Dana, besides talking to your shrink, you do need to consult with a lawyer. Most have consulting fees that are very reasonable. At least you can find out your rights, if any, and if you don’t have any, then that’s valuable, too.

      Please be very suspicious of any kind of gifting. It is true that financial control over your future is one way these people keep you dangling on a string. The sooner you break free, the better. He’ll try to throw the money in your face, but given that he’s lied and cheated, too bad.

  • Dana, I want to give you Jedi Hugs if it will help. We all want you to be OK, don’t be too overwhelmed with the responses.

    You might also like to visit Captain Awkward to learn about boundaries and bad relationships in a way that is very helpful. That’s actually where the “Jedi Hug” comes from, it’s a mind hug 🙂 that a little boy who was introverted taught us via comments 🙂

    you might try this as your first intro to the awesome awkward army, truth and comedy in one:

  • Dana,

    I feel your pain but, seriously, run, don’t walk, to the nearest door marked “exit” in this relationship. Your common law partner has an incurable case of shit-flinging baboonitis. Luckily, it is not contagious, but it is dangerous to the sanity and well-being of anyone who lives with or has regular or intermittent contact with someone afflicted with the disease. If you continue to have contact with your former common law partner, you will be buried under and suffocated by the mound of shit being irregularly flung at you. Just as you remove some of the shit, he is back to cover you with more shit. Save yourself because you cannot save him or the relationship. No one can maintain a relationship single-handedly, which is what you are trying to do. I agree with kb that you are probably suffering from some depression. That is a common by-product of being involved with someone who is afflicted with shit-flinging baboonitis.

    I speak from experience. I had a recent encounter with my STBX who I believe was the one to introduce the shit-flinging baboonitis disease to the country. He appears to have contracted it at a very early age and has quite an advanced case. I am still reeling and digging myself out of the shit from our most recent encounter.

    Please read Chump Lady’s response to you. You cannot and will not heal as long as you put him before your own well-being. It is very difficult – we all know how difficult it is – to face the end of a relationship when you still care about the person. We are all doing it or have done it in order to save ourselves.

    It will not get any better until you make it better. Listen to everyone when they have advised you to become involved with something to give your days some activity and some meaning. You deserve better, Dana, but you won’t get it unless you are willing to go after it.

  • Dana:

    This is a very uncomfortable undercurrent of helplessness underscoring your Dear Chump Lady letter. I’m very concerned for your mental and emotional well-being. My heart absolutely breaks for the state that you’re in.

    I know what it’s like to hit an emotional rock-bottom like this. My cheating ex left me homeless and absolutely devastated. I even relapsed on drugs after over a decade sober. I’d lie awake at night and just SHIVER…even on those humid summer nights.

    The first step to getting your mental strength back is to get your physical strength back. I joined a gym and fought through locker room crying fits and not did I end up in the best shape of my life, but when all was said and done I was the lightest I’ve weighed since college! It didn’t piece together my broken heart overnight but it was a very crucial first step! It planted the seeds for my current “Meh”-ness.

    Mental and physical strength have a very, very symbiotic relationship. And right now you need all the strength you can get. Your latter makes it sound like you have literally NOTHING going on in your life (no job or anything) except waiting for your ex to call or text. That’s going to KILL YOU on the inside if it hasn’t already. And your ex sounds fucking sick enough that even if you get to the point where you’re just sitting there, emotionally and spiritually dead, a mere zombie with a pulse, then it’s all good in his CakeWorld as long as he gets his kibbles.

    You need to LOSE HIM. And you need to get back to Dana. It’s hard to let go of two decades, marriage license or not. I can’t even begin to imagine. However amazing of a man he was, he’s been replaced by a narcissistic vampire who’s figuratively sucking the life out of you. Do you really need the bite marks on your neck to wrap your head around this? He’s draining you one drop of blood at a time.

    At the end of the day, it’s all about you. Unlike most Dear Chump Lady letters, you didn’t really elaborate on who the OW(s) is/are or what he’s got going on outside the four walls of your home and your less-than-part-time relationship. It’s probably better that you DON’T know the details.

    All you can do at this point is keep YOUR side of the street clean. But you’re really going to have to get off the couch, take the battery out of your cell phone, and pick up a broom. Like Socrates said in The Peaceful Warrior: “Take out the trash.” And your ex and his ridiculous behavior, trying to play you like a 17-year-old jilted cheerleader is a WHOLE LOT of a mindfuckery that needs to be bagged up and left on the curb. And like the doofus football player in my cheerleader analogy above, he ain’t coming back except to hit it and quit it.

    Your letter has sparked some hard-hitting commentary from Chump Nation, and I don’t want you taking some of the more “constructive” criticisms to heart, especially given your fragile emotional state.

    THIS WAS NOT YOUR FAULT! You were played and abandoned just like the rest of us.

    BUT—If you continue to wallow in your misery and allow yourself to wither away, eventually it won’t be your ex’s fault anymore. It’s time to take your heart back and take responsibility for YOU. Whether it’s a part-time job, a hobby, a dog, a cat, a gym membership, arts and crafts—ANYTHING!

    Leave your ex on the curb with the rest of the garbage. That’s sure how he treated you and where he left you (until he gets horny and wants to take you back out of the garbage bag). Time to throw that shit right back in his face and take back your integrity with silence and self-reliance.

    Keep us posted. We’re all on Team Dana. :))

  • CL,

    That link to the, “Unpredictable Love” article was interesting! I had not seen it before. Behaviorists (and I was most heavily influenced by behaviorism and learning theory in grad school) will tell you that it goes to the potency of intermittent reinforcement (a component of Operant Conditioning) being the most effective schedule for shaping behavior. Operant Conditioning works whether it takes place formally (with intention) or informally (as in a set of life experiences provided inadvertently or intuitively by the “shaper” but which still profoundly affects the behavior of the “shapee.”)

    The accounts of B. F. Skinner’s experiments with pigeons and rats is fascinating, and the principles of Operant Conditioning learned from animals are transferable to humans. Example? Slot machines. If you sit down and put coins in and after a number of trials in which there is NO payoff (reward), you will move on. If you win big right out the gate, you may put more coins in…. but are more likely to move on if there is a lull in the payoff schedule. BUT if that machine sucks you in by rewarding you intermittently with the payoffs varying in size from small to enticing , you will sit there and continue playing…hoping to hit the “BIG ONE.” (Unless you understand how the machine can condition you, set a definite limit, and walk away when that limit is reached. OR don’t play at all if you know you have addictive propensities.) Research shows that payoffs trigger the release of endorphins (brain pleasure hormones) in levels commensurate with the “size” of the payoff, and if the rewarding payoffs happen…just…often…enough the gambler can become addicted.

    Now take this principle and apply it to the concept of going “No Contact” with someone who has been suckering you along (and in a way “addicting” you to them) with intermittent reinforcement. If you can get away and stay away from the person who is manipulating you, AND (even better) if you can find and experience for yourself what we call healthy replacement behaviors, you can stop the cycle of the manipulator Hoovering you in. Typically in highly dysfunctional manipulative or abusive relationships this means going “No Contact” and for a sustained period of time (and being able to withstand extinction bursts on the part of the manipulator…in the form of stepped up “Kibble” payoffs.) No Contact is NOT to punish the person who has been manipulating you. No Contact is for your own protection, to give you time to DETACH and think about your part in the cycle…not to FEEL but to THINK rationally about how you got “played” [aka. “conditioned”] …..and how you can stop it. It is one of the hardest things you can ever do but one of the most effective ways you can get yourself off the, “slot machine” and back in control of your behavior. Typically you need a support system and what you will work your way through is much like the 12 step program for AA. CL articulates sound psychological principles here and she does it in an entertaining and engaging manner while also facilitating a support system.

    I agree with this statement from the referenced article, “Behaviorism and its offshoots tend to be among the most scientific of the psychological perspectives. The emphasis of behavioral psychology is on how we learn to behave in certain ways. We are all constantly learning new behaviors and how to modify our existing behavior. Behavioral psychology is the psychological approach that focuses on how this learning takes place.”

    (Please excuse any typos. I type fast and furious when I’m on a roll.)

  • I agree w/everybody here, Dana, and just wanted to add a reminder;

    In the end, it doesn’t matter whether you love someone, or whether you believe they really do love you.

    It matters whether you can treat each other w/caring, respect, and affection, pretty damned consistently. Only small and infrequent infractions of those three allowed, followed by taking responsibility, regret, and repair.

    If you can’t do that for each other, or they can’t do that for you, you NEED, you MUST, you HAVE TO stay away from them. It’s about protecting your health and your mental health, it’s about requiring at least respect from the people around you, it’s about not wasting your love on somebody who consistently throws it in the garbage, and wants more.

    ‘Cause your ex makes being a crazy cat lady sound GREAT!!!!! Never mind all the other, much better options that will be available once you manage to climb out of this hole.

  • Dana, here’s a real simple three step plan:

    1) Tattoo this to your right hand: “He’s a sugary carbohydrate piece of shit.”
    2) Next time he comes over for a booty call BJ, read your right hand before commencing.
    3) Use your right hand to slam the door on his sugary carbohydrate piece of shit ass as he leaves.
    4) Take a shower and go *do* something.

    Come here for the advice, not math lessons.

  • He misses you?
    And, hopes there’s no one else?
    CONTROL FREAK! Please, please don’t fall for this moldy old crap. If he really missed you, wouldn’t he just come on over and spend his time with you? If he wants there to be no one else, wouldn’t he fill up your life with him? All he wants is you to commit, while he doesn’t!
    CL’s advice to persue your own interests is right on. You might meet someone new, that likes what you like! Get out there and figure out what’s fun for you, and forget that poser. 20 yrs of trying is way too much, he’s just a time-suck. Good luck, and may the Angels be with you!

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