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Dear Chump Lady, Am I guilty of splitting too?

Dear Chump Lady,

This letter was spurred by your post about Love, The All Purpose Spackle. My problem is kind of the opposite.

I’ve been thinking about the very singular prism through which I now see my ex. I think about the time I spend on your site and reading about other people’s experiences and stories, which helps remind me that he was/is a really bad guy. I have not had feelings of love for him for a really long time. All I see is his sickness when I think about him. I don’t even think I feel sorry for him anymore. I sort of just feel nothing.

I’ve been wondering if there is a place to move on to from here? Yes, Meh. I understand that concept, and while I don’t think I’ve got both feet over the border into Meh, I am doing the hokey-pokey with it.

At the recommendation of a couple of people in a previous post I am reading the book “Splitting.” “Splitting” meaning, seeing a person as either “all good” or “all bad” – I was unaware of this concept (except for the fact that I have been living it). This is completely true of my ex and how he sees me. I went from a very tall pedestal — (See, he went to massage parlors so he wouldn’t cheat. He didn’t want to have a relationship with anyone else, just me) to being treated with incredibly viscous and vindictive rage.

My question is — am I guilty of “splitting”?

Through this whole process, the demise of my marriage, I have continually asked myself, my therapists — what is my role? What do I need to look at myself for, what can I do to be a better me, a better partner, have a healthier relationship? (But never once did I think that there was anything that I did to “cause” him to seek sexual services in massage parlors, that’s all on him.)

Am I guilty of “splitting” my ex? And just seeing him as “all bad”? I’ve been referring to my ex as an NPD on this site (there is no official diagnosis) but while reading this book I think BPD is more accurate, although he definitely has MANY of the NPD traits as well. For example, when I heard about him winning “Man of the Year” from a prestigious organization for raising the most money for their cause, this past year, all I could think was that he just did it for the ego kibbles. It’s not an organization or a cause that he had ever expressed an interest in, but a friend of ours came to him and told him about the process and “Man of the Year” award that would go to the person who raised the most money, and BOOM – Done! So, any good thing that he does, I just see behind the mask to the puppet master looking for more kibbles.

Is there some place that I should be looking to get to? Is it NOT splitting when you are dealing with a mentally ill person and it is “normal” to continue to view them through the prism of their mental disorder?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I’m not a negative person. I don’t like to harbor negativity. I don’t want to end up bitter. But I truly think he is dangerous. Not in a physical violence kind of way, but he has a mean and vindictive streak a mile long and I definitely need to protect myself from giving him any opportunities to lash out at me.

Is this still just Meh that I’m looking for, or is this something else? I appreciate your wisdom and insights and all of your efforts here.

Thanks,

FLBright

Dear FLBright,

I think you’re untangling the skein of fuckupedness here. Let’s put aside the question of whether you’re “splitting” your ex for a moment, and ask yourself — is it okay with YOU to be married to a guy who frequents massage parlors?

Is that the kind of marriage YOU want?

Apparently it isn’t, because you divorced him. Now, some people might be able to roll with it. If they cared, they wouldn’t care deeply enough to do anything about it. Or maybe they enjoy an open marriage. Or maybe they stick their head in the sand. Or maybe they really believe him that massage parlor happy endings don’t constitute a relationship, and so this isn’t a threat to their marriage.

You aren’t those people.

Let’s ask the question another way — is it okay with you to be raged at when you’re not okay with massage parlors? Do you want to be married to someone with “a vindictive streak a mile long”?

No?

Then you’re not “splitting” — you’re exercising judgment. You’ve made a decision about your ex based on your values and what you want from a marriage. There’s nothing mentally ill about that. Recognizing that this person is not good for you does not make you bitter. It makes you clear about who you are and where you stand. FLBright is a woman who is not okay with being cheated on and raged at.

Now, your ex may have many other fine qualities that I’m unaware of. Perhaps he’s really good at his job, has a lovely singing voice, is kind to small children. He may be all those things and he’s still someone you cannot be married to. His bad qualities (cheating and raging) eclipse his better attributes, and on balance make him someone it’s not safe for you to be around. Again, this is exercising judgment.

Exercising judgment, yes, means JUDGING people. That’s not a bad thing. We chumps are so scared of being labeled “judgmental” when we enforce our boundaries. Oh no, someone will play the “bitter” card! Say we’re angry and unforgiving! That’s not it at all — what you’re doing is detaching from someone who is harming you. To do that, you had to judge what he was doing as destructive. Not spackle. Not say “but it’s okay to mistreat me, because I love you.” You had to judge him and remove yourself from his presence, because it wasn’t good for you. You could not feel safe in that relationship.

That’s not splitting. Splitting, as I understand it, is cycling through idolizing and devaluing. It’s black and white thinking. Someone is all good or all bad — and it changes quite often depending on what the Borderline or NPD is feeling at that moment. It really seems to have nothing to do with judgment based in reality at ALL. There’s a good article about splitting here, from the author of the Splitting book, Randi Kreger (for sale in the Amazon box now).

Splitting is a cognitive distortion and defense mechanism–a totally unconscious way BPs and NPs make sense of the world. It causes mood swings and contributes to arguments, criticism, and blame. For example:

  • Family members are seen as all good or evil; idealized and devalued. BPs and NPs put them on a pedestal (often at the beginning of the relationship) and knock them right off of it when the new partner invariably disapoints.

  • People with BPD (and sometimes the “vulnerable” type of NPD) see themselves as good or evil, idealized or devalued depending upon how they feel that day. When they see themselves as all bad, BPs are at risk for self harm or impulsive, reckless behaviors.

  • Situations are seen as great or terrible, e.g. losing a job means one will be unemployed for life.

Note — “idealized or devalued depending upon how they feel that day.” One thing I learned over at outofthefog.net — a wonderful resource on personality disorders — is that disordered people FEEL first and construct reality second. A normal person feels angry after they’re given bad service, or a friend snubs them. Action, then feelings about that action. A disordered person feels angry FIRST and then constructs a reason as to why they feel bad, so they trump up a reason to fit their feelings, i.e., “You snubbed me!”

Um… but you didn’t snub them. Why are they accusing you of this horrible thing you didn’t do? Because they’re a wing nut, that’s why.

FLBright, you have REASONABLE feelings based on how this person ACTED. Your ex saw prostitutes. You rightly feel upset by that. You didn’t one day decide that you couldn’t trust your ex and he’s a terrible person because you said so. No, you’re reacting to circumstance.

And you’re a nice person. You’re a chump. You’re self reflective. (Something disordered people are not). You’re asking yourself, gee, what was my part in this? How did I offend this person? What can I do to fix this? So, again, I see you as a normal person reacting to an abnormal set of circumstances — a guy who fucks around on you and then is mad at YOU about it.

As for labeling your ex an NPD — my feeling on that is, hey, if it helps you stay away from it? Label it. You can’t just higgledy piggledy identify ordinary people as NPD (try it with other people you know). If he’s ticking off the boxes? He’s ticking off the boxes! Trust your judgment on this. Normal people don’t score highly on the Hare psychopath test either, know what I’m saying? These people don’t normally waltz into doctor’s offices looking for help and diagnoses. If they go to therapy, IMO, it’s to snow you or because they think they’re smarter than the therapist.

FLBright — trust that he sucks. And trust that you do not suck. I think you’re fine.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • 🙂

    I haven’t read “Splitting”, but I would hope it presents some case studies that can help you not self-misdiagnose yourself 🙂

    If not, try googling : splitting case studies.

    If you read a simple explanation of splitting as a type of defense mechanism, you might be tempted to misapply the term (I think it’s the norm for first year Abnormal Psychology students misdiagnose themselves and their peers–smile).

    Case studies can be reassuring in that you see how practicing clinicians apply the term.

    • I diagnosed myself as NPD when I was 14. Later I learned that most people could be diagnosed as NPD during one point or another of their teenage years, the nature of teenagers. Of course I diagnosed my as something completely different when we moved onto the next chapter in the text book. Good times.

  • I wonder where all these massage shops are that are doing illegal happy endings. They could, and should, be shut down and the masseuses losing their licenses.

    My husband is a licensed massage therapist, so I guess I’m just used to being around body workers who are actually LEGALLY practicing and ethically running their businesses. All of the people in my husbands network are really trying to maintain a professional image and are disgusted at the idea of happy endings and wouldn’t risk their careers.

    Your ex probably had to find some seedy-ass places.

    Don’t feel bad about cutting him out. Really. It’s perfectly reasonable to distance yourself from someone who not just frequents these illegal shops, but helps perpetuate an ugly stereotype that makes it hard for professionals to get business, and then rages at YOU when he’s caught. That IS a reason to divorce. No matter what he says.

    • Kara – the short answer is – EVERYWHERE. Take a look as you’re driving down the street in any town and look for the single word “Massage”. One around the corner from where I live even advertises on the window for a “Table Shower”. Otherwise you can look at the back page of our towns alternative weekly paper. Plus, as I dug around I found there are message boards. May favorite was titled “Mongers”. The posts were for the other “mongers” about what place had been raided, who was the new hottie and how did you get seen by her, and which places were being surveilled so – Watch OUT! The number of different men on this site was astounding and the language and what they talked about to each other utterly demoralizing. Awful. There were about 10 different places in my town that my ex frequented regularly. He was going 3 times a week and dropping about 1K a month when I busted him.

      One of my favorite stories from the ex was a place that was an independent studio, just a lobby and the massage room and the girls’ boyfriend worked the front lobby and they only took cash. I looked at my ex incredulously and said “BOYFRIEND” do you mean “PIMP”???? The number of thoughts and emotions that I watched flicker across his face was comical, cartoon-ish! It was as though this idea had never, ever crossed his mind and his brain was struggling with how to put this information together with the “reality” that he had constructed.

      • That disgusts me. It really does. My husband spent thousands of dollars and over 500 hours of training and state testing to be a body-worker, and these people are poisoning the industry by being whores. That’s what they are. A massage therapist is a professional. Someone who basically rubs up a guy and then jerks him off is a whore. You’re probably right about that shop, “boyfriend” my ass.

        They aren’t worthy of sharing the massage therapist title.

        • Kara – I have 2 massage therapist friends who have had great careers and make a nice living for over 25 yrs now. I agree with you completely. My ex would get VERY upset with me because I would only refer to them as hookers, and he would try to “correct” me and say “they are licensed massage therapists”. If they are performing sexual services, they are hookers.

          • Just another note, Kara – It is possible with some of these places that the women are working under duress. Sex slaves.

            • That’s also true. There are some places where the massage image is a front for something else. It’s sad, but unfortunately its a scary truth.

  • “…and then rages at YOU when he’s caught. That IS a reason to divorce. No matter what he says.”

    Thanks for this comment, Kara. That says it all for me! How on earth does it become MY faulty when HE gets caught doing something unethical?

    • Obviously, I meant “fault,” not “faulty.” Or is there some subconscious finger/brain link thing going on here????

  • In a lot of accounts I’ve read here there were big problems with the X for years, poor behavoir, infidelity , verbal abuse etc… so yeah It’s easy to say “Well they suck” and dump all the blame on them, but what about cases where there really wasn’t any of that going on for over 20 years then they flip the crazy switch?

    I think in those cases we do need to examine our role in it all and even if we can’t find a reason still work to be the best people we can be. Sure their final actions sucked, and the infidelity is on them, but what if most everything beforehand didn’t suck and was very good? Sometimes I think there is lot more going on than BPD or NPD, possibly something yet to be diagnosed, but I wonder how anyone could hide such traits from everyone for years on end?

    • Poor ego integrity is easier to hide than a full-blown PD. Sometimes people can hide it for 20 years, and meanwhile be steeping in a steadily increasing resentment because they aren’t “allowed” (by their own choice, mind you) to be themselves. Some people are good actors, unfortunately.

      I think high-integrity is probably a character trait to look for: people who are exactly who they say they are, warts and all. None of us is perfect, but the ability to admit that we aren’t perfect, recognize our imperfections, and not externalize them is something most of us can cultivate, I think.

      • yes yes yes. This. the last phone convo I had with STBX ( and the first in a loong time) he kept saying “but I did good things too”, kind of plaintively. Well…kinda sorta. I’ve figured out that (1) in the heady days of courtship and our early marriage, when the emotions/hormones were running high, he was happy and mostly sort of engaged in the relationship. Then, (2) when our daughter was born, same deal.

        But both situations got old after a few years. So, we had a good run of about 10 years all told. Then our adorable small kid became a PITA early adolescent and suddenly I was a de facto single parent with a secretly resentful passive-aggressive partner on his way to becoming a cheating arsehole. Meanwhile me constantly asking in my ever-chumpy way how I could make things better for him. No answer (while he secretly seethed.) WE even tried marriage counseling–where he lied, both ot me, of course, and the MC. That was helpful. Even started one fuck-fest with an OW DURING an MC run…. entitled, entitled, entitled. And the ability to maintain that kind of compartmentalization and lying is beyond my comprehension.

        And another for example: Turns out he blamed me for 4 miscarriages, one late trimester termination (that was fun!) due to chromosomal abnormalities, and all around secondary infertility. But did he ever come with me to the ART appointments (other than specimen donation). No, no he did not. And did he ever say anything like, “gee I wish we could have a second child?” No, no he did not. But according to him, he was right there. Their ability to re-write history is remarkable. And blame, always the blame.

        • Yep, things got old after a few years, the sparkle wore off for them so they looked for fun elsewhere. Ex even told me that final OW was ‘fun’, which I agree she probably was/is as she was not even out of diapers when he and I met. And Ex seethed in his passive aggressive way, figuring out how to blame me for his resentment, which he never expressed. I just wonder how long he can keep the act up with final OW, whom was not the only game in town when I found out what was going on. She was simply the one most willing to take him on.

        • This is so funny – but not in a comedic way, or maybe it is.

          My STBX just accused me of, even though he couldn’t afford it, forcing him to file for divorce because I told him he was passive-aggressive. I reminded him that he IS passive-aggressive and I didn’t realize that telling him the truth was grounds for divorce. The divorce is costing him more than he thought it would, and he can’t afford it, so that’s my fault because I hired an attorney who, horror of horrors!, is actually representing me. Of course, I had already told him this was how divorce worked if you’ve been married longer than five minutes, but it’s my fault he chose to disregard the information.

          You really have to have a disordered brain to actually UNDERSTAND their whole thinking process. I am to the point where I just accept it, non-respond respond and say, “next please!”

          • Chump Princess, I am the one who is filing for divorce on grounds of adultery. He is openly living with the OW after running straight round there with a toothbrush and a bag of random clothes when I kicked him out (two days after D Day while he was telling me he didn’t know what wanted but texting OW promising they’d be together) and she is merrily posting on FB and Twitter about her ‘wonderful man’ and how ‘happy’ she is. Despite this he feels entitled to tell me he is ‘in no rush’ to divorce. I have hired a lawyer, am filing anyway and have named the OW as a co-respondent. He now sees himself as the victim as he ‘doesn’t want’ the divorce, I apparently was ‘too angry’ for him to ‘put things right’ and he can’t afford a solicitor. It’s all my fault. I’ve given up trying to work it out.

            • Alice, he’s a classic. My ex told my friend I was evil because I refused to stay married and allow him to have his “friend”, that the affair was all imaginary. Then he strung me along so I’d keep him on my health insurance. I filed for adultery, abuse and desertion – he said I was ruining him…he’s been living with his girlfriend ever since.

    • People who build pyramid schemes get away with it for 20, 30, 40, 50 years. That doesn’t mean they were good people all along and just suddenly changed. There are sometimes where someone suffers a stroke or something similar and their personality completely changes. Most of the time it’s not a personality change, it’s just a good mask they don’t feel the effort to wear any more.

      • LOL. I should add… “not compartmentalize them” to the bit about owning our imperfections based on your ponzi scheme example 🙂

    • Mike – In my case it didn’t happen overnight. There were flags early on that I spackled. Ohhh, spackle, spackle, spackle!! It was my ego at play. My Ex had declared his love for me 22 years before, our first year in college. And I went running in the other direction as I was not prepared in any way to settle into a life long relationship. In addition to the fact that, then, I could see clearly that this young man lacked the self esteem to stand equal with me. We remained friends during the 20 years, but at a distance. When he left his 1st wife he came to me and declared he’d always loved me and wanted to pursue a relationship with me. …I thought he had grown into his skin, and I was at a point where I was ready for that kind of relationship. Ours was a great love story that spanned decades! I thought I knew him. It turns out, the young man from 20 years before was still in charge. He had just figured out how to put on some really convincing masks. It wasn’t until we were married that those masks started to slip, and I started to understand who he really was.

    • I think the crazy switch after 20+ years has to do with something very much like addiction. This addiction-like behavior appears whether they are involved with an affair, a series of affairs, or prostitutes and/or pornography in all its forms. I also think if 20+ normal years are involved, these “addictions” come with a form of newly-minted narcissism the “addict” was developing at least a few years before the addiction began. All we can do is introduce the addict spouse/significant other to the best mental health professional in town (usually a PhD well versed in addiction), then walk away in the hope they will hit bottom. Walking away protects us emotionally from their very real harmful nonsense. If when we walk away, they don’t hit bottom, don’t use the help to get better, then we have our answer. This all really has nothing to do with us.

      FLBright, you are doing all the right things. Don’t second guess yourself. You are mentally healthy. He is not.

  • Well, my STBX exhibited several of his traits only two days after we were married, and I stuck around for the next 23 years trying to make a go of it, until the situation was absolutely intolerable. My question to myself: Was it REALLY absolutely great before the switch suddenly got flipped on Dday, or was it hopium???

  • “Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.”

    I think one of the reasons there’s so many problems in the world is people running around with their hands over their ears yelling, “don’t judge me” or “don’t force your beliefs on me”.

    Once upon a time we had definitions of right and wrong, and when someone did something wrong, even when it wasn’t technically against the law, their peers judged them for it. There are still societies that are “shame based” societies. Now that doesn’t mean things were/are perfect. Those were also the times of rampant prejudice and people who live in shame based societies today are discouraged from doing things like reporting rape.

    But unfortunately we seem to have gone to the other extreme where we are discouraged from “judging” anyone because we don’t really know them or their circumstances or “who know what really happens in a marriage” etc. etc. They are enlightened and therefore free from petty things like doing the right thing and how dare you judge them by suggesting that they may want to look into that little thing known as empathy.

    Quote Chumps live by:
    “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”

    Quote Cheaters live by:
    “If it makes you happy it can’t be that bad” and they forget the next line is “if it makes you happy why the hell are you so sad?”

    Cake tastes good, but it leaves you unfulfilled in the end.

    • Amen to that, GreenGirl! I once had a conversation with my students when we were studying The Scarlet Letter (long before the A happened). I asked them what they thought of the school’s disciplinary system. They frankly told me that they thought it was a joke– the disciplinary “write-ups” were easy to get around. They manipulated the administrators all the time and got them thrown out or “pleaded down.”

      So, then I asked them: How would you feel if, instead of getting written up and serving detention, you were forced to put your head in the stocks in front of school where people could stare at you, make fun of you, throw things at you, and what you did became public knowledge? They ALL agreed that it would be far worse to experience a public shaming and that it would definitely dissuade them from behaving badly.

      I hate living in a time where no one is supposed to be ashamed of anything. I’m sure that if I told people who weren’t close to me about the A, I would get that namby-pamby, “Oh, I don’t want to be judgmental” type of response. You know what? I don’t like people who cheat whether I know them well or not. I don’t want to associate with them. As far as I’m concerned, they’re not good people. If they can treat the people that they supposedly love in such a debased way, then why on earth would I ever want them in my life, even in the most casual way?

      We need to bring shame back. When you are allowed to gut your spouse and family and then walk around being treated as though you’ve done nothing wrong, there is no incentive to change or to behave.

  • CL, this has to be one of my favorite thus far. Really needed this one!

    I have a question though: My Ex used to split constantly. But then… he would be completely normal and make rational decisions. Thats why half the time I felt crazy. Does he have a problem?? in one instance it was clear he did but in other situations he was very rational and understanding.

    Is that possible in BPD’s? OR are they the same way all the time, Always splitting?

  • I struggle with this a bit, as I’ve had a difficult time rectifying the man I thought I knew with the life he was conducting behind my back for I don’t know how many years. I will never know how long he was cheating, although I suspect now, upon reflection, that it was probably on and off right from the beginning.

    Yet we had many good years together, a lot of fun, fantastic experiences and memories. But he was cheating on and off for much of that time and still came home and told me he loved me every day.

    I think he’s a shit most of the time and at the end of the day he behaved horribly during our 20 years together. I mean, the man fucked people I knew, it turns out, and was chasing at least 3 or 4 women towards the end. He ended up with the one who allowed herself to get caught, so to speak.

    I just don’t like thinking the father of my children is an asshole. Yet he is an asshole, something he proves on a regular basis to this day.

    • I should add that I went from being a pedestal to being the absolute worst person on earth. He literally hates me…still not sure why, other than the fact that I haven’t been quiet about why we divorced. My therapist, though, thinks it’s that he genuinely believes I ruined his life. He had it made: great wife, great kids, great home…and plenty of side pieces. He had not intention of leaving so when I chucked him out he sees that as me ruining everything for him. He has strained relationships with the kids, finances are a disaster for us both, he’s lost the friends we had because they were all basically my friends and now he hands out with his final OW, who is much younger and they hand out with her much younger friends. His career is stalled and his life isn’t very great at all. So he hates me.

      It’s kind of a mindfuck, the whole damned thing.

        • Pretty much. He actually told me at one point that I had destroyed his reputation. I was gobsmacked – as far as I’m concerned he did that all by himself and to expect me to help him retain that false rep he had was not going to happen.

          • They just don’t take responsibility for anything. that’s the whole point, right?

            I mean, if they did, they would be running around poking their dicks into anything handy. That’s not responsible!

            • They definitely have a problem with responsibility. I watched the ex pawn everything he possibly could onto anyone or anything else, including the care of his aging parents. Couldn’t be bothered. Especially if it was going to cost him money.

              Same thing with his kids. About the time they really started requiring some responsible investment of time and money, that was when he split.

              I wish I had a nickel for everytime I heard “It’s not my fault” or “It’s not my problem”

          • They don’t like the real truth to be told. They want to keep it a secret to everyone. I see this with my cheating wife. She has told me that I have made it worse for her by telling the few people I’ve told and those were only a couple family members and a couple of friends. Yes her reputation in her little home town is on the line. The hundreds of children she has taught through the years that love/loved her is on the line. And I’m the bad guy for not keeping her secret that she desperately claims is nobody’s business but hers. She keeps saying I’m out to get her….. Would she lose her job? Don’t know. These are things she should have thought about before she did what she did and continued to do. Yeah it’s all my fault she cheated…. Two things I believe are Character Matters and Shitty choices will get you shitty consequences.

            • Wanted to add. My cheater desperately whats to be liked/loved by everyone. For years she would get upset about something one of the people she works with would do. After this happened several times I would tell her to only keep a working relationship with them. You don’t need to be friends with everyone you work with, especially they way some of them treated her. That was never good enough for her, she needed them to be friends. For her I think it was her lack of self esteem showing.

              • Yep, Ex wants everyone to like him and is desperate to be the ‘nice guy’. And he is the nice guy to people and was to me until I figured out his secret life. Now he’s ‘evil guy’ to me. It’s weird. I have no need to be liked by everyone but people, in general, do like me, mainly because I don’t try. Ex has few real friends, if any, but loads of acquaintances, mainly from his work and mainly people who are ‘below’ him. He can’t operate on the same level with his equals. It makes him uncomfortable. I think it’s because they see through him and don’t kiss his ass and he can’t stand that.

          • Nord, after my ex left I kept looking at things he’d given me over the years wondering “did he love me when he gave me that?” I kept trying to figure out exactly when he stopped. It make me feel like some gifts were real and some gifts were fake, and I couldn’t figure out which ones to keep and which to get rid of. I solved the dilemma by putting away anything sentimental until such time as I can look at it more objectively.

            FL Bright, you sound pretty emotionally healthy to me. Something happens to us when we detach from people who hurt us so deeply. I know my ex had a lot of good qualities, otherwise I wouldn’t have married him or had children with him. But now it’s like there’s a curtain in my mind blocking the good memories, and memories of my previous life in general. Occasionally something will bring back a memory and I’ll feel grief, but it seems to strike when my defenses are down. I’d say the lack of feeling you have for your ex is a self-defense mechanism that allows you to go forward and not look back.

          • Nord – Mine told me that he had confided in two “women friends” what he had done and they both said that they could have forgiven him and gotten over it. So, I”M the one with the “problem”. Besides that fact that “I betrayed him FIRST!” Because I “chose the children over him!” By which he’s referring to when his oldest daughter arrived at our house for our weekend and she had a black eye, bloody nose, and fingernail scratches down her arm from his first wife (Their adoptive mother) and I suggested that maybe we should consider that his daughter should come live with us…?

            The only answer is that they are mentally impaired. Nothing else makes sense.

      • My situation is similar Nord, married for 25 years. He cheated I am pretty sure the whole time, but certainly for over the last 17 years with 2 co workers/”family friends.” I thought we really loved each other and supported each other, and had really good family times. It is hard to know what to do with those memories when you realize he had been cheating all along and in such a sick way. It’s like he mindfucked me and our children, how revolting is that?

        A big difference is that my ex left and never looked back, has no relationship with our children at all, and does not even care enough about me to be angry. He just moved on, found new Affair Partners (got rid of the old two after we split), and is apparently enjoying his single life. I know in the end I am happy he is completely gone, but a part of me feels that at least if he was angry I would know that his new single life was not so great and that there was something he may regret in what he has done.

        • I know the feeling of not knowing what to do with all those memories. They’re good memories but they’re tainted and it sucks that I can’t look fondly at them. Then again, my kids remind me that so many memories are of just the three of us, as ex was ‘working’ all the time and I did all the kid stuff solo.

          • Yup, my ex was usually “working” or “too tired” (he never ever slept overnight- I now realize because he was on his computer looking at porn, contacting AP’s, etc.), or “felt sick”–almost always. One example, we were in Disney a few years before D-Day with the kids, and we only had a few days. Ex made us leave Epcot early because he “felt sick”. I remember thinking “what is wrong with this picture?”

            • Ha! Mine made us leave a cool walk around a great city we were holidaying in because he had to go the loo and refused to go anywhere but back at the hotel. So we bailed on the wander so he could go take a crap at the hotel. And then he was too tired to go back out so we sat around watching telly while he dozed. Fun times!

            • My mother knows I’m suspicious of STBX, but I’ve not yet told her that I have definitive proof of his affair. Anyway, she told me just this past summer that Dick can’t be having an affair because he’s always too tired!

              Interestingly enough, even though he’s grabbing quickies with OW, he’s often too tired for her, too, which pisses her off.

            • Yes…yes….yes! The “sick” one who never gets enough sleep who always has to work late. I told him to go see a doctor about all of his stomach problems, his tiredness and his other sickness….never it usually has something to do with the kids being too noisy, work being too stressful or something I cooked for dinner….never mind the entire bag of potato chips he downed in one sitting or the half block of cheese and pepperonis. You described mine to a tee!

        • Kelly, His lack of emotion must be so difficult. I would guess he doesn’t feel anything at all though. He’s neither happy nor unhappy with his new life. He’s dead inside. Dead man walking. I think many people who do this kind of stuff are completely dead inside, using these actions to feel something, anything. I don’t believe for a second he’s happy in the way you and I think of happiness. I think people who partner up a lot (serial affairs or prostitutes) are after a manic-high experience, not happiness. There’s a big difference. Sending healing hugs your way. You and your children didn’t deserve this sickness in your life.

  • Two of our four marital therapists diagnosed my ex as a sociopath. The first one only met him for 45 minutes, and by the time we got to number 4 he was a lot more skilled at what to say and what not to say. Number 2 was so scared of him she said she’d call the police if he came back to the building.

    It’s hard to think positively about him in anyway knowing what he did (and probably not the half of it), that it was entirely premeditated, and when a lot of what I do remember is the bruises on my body , the dent in the wall from my spine hitting it, the various broken furniture items and doors…

    • Witty, so glad you are free of him now, hope you have a good therapist to help you. My ex escalated from rages to the physical after I told him we were divorcing. The last time I saw him, outside a courtroom, was when he agreed to go to mediation then brought a gun in the house. First he acted like he was going to kill himself then he raged out at me with the gun, talked him into emptying the bullets. I asked him to have someone come get the gun, he refused and the last words he said to me were “isn’t it enough you destroyed my life?” I ran to the car with him following, gun in hand. I made it out, the cops didn’t arrest him for it, only gave him a DUI – even drunk with a loaded gun in the car he convinced the cops he hadn’t tried to kill himself or me, that I was lying. I found one of his journals, in it he said he used anger as a means to an end. Abusers do NOT loose control, they are completely under control when they seem to be raging and maniacal, it’s an act. I saw my ex shut down his rage when I called the police the first time he got physical, it was like he threw a light switch. Scary as hell.

      • Wow – sounds like you had a lucky escape too!

        Yes, the light switch analogy is an excellent one. Don’t you look back and shake your head at how dysfunctional it all was? Sometimes I don’t know how we make it through.

        I have a magnet on my fridge.. it says “Life is tough, women are tougher” 🙂

        • Witty, working thru therapy it wasn’t just luck, it was that I was clear that he was considering killing me, deciding if he could get away with it and I became calm and did the right things. Sometimes we can reach that point when the risk is so great.

          Yes, I do look back and wonder how I could have agonized over giving up sex because I loved this person, I mistook words for reality, I was truly, blindly loving him for a long time. I realize that my ability to block out the negative and focus on the positive can be detrimental. My own subconscious mind blocked out the worst things, when I recovered those memories it was very painful and very freeing. We made it through because we were dysfunctional ourselves, and we will never be there again because we have worked through those issues. And yeah, we were lucky we didn’t die learning it.

          I have a button that says “the only thing I cannot resist is temptation” and now I just got another that says “badass”, because I am. (hugs)

  • Witty – I’m so sorry for your pain. I am humbled and amazed on a regular basis what some people have survived. I hope you are in a safer, happier place now.

  • I think there is a skill that Chumps need. It’s something that goes against our nature, but one that we have to develop. It’s called:

    Chump Ruthlessness

    Now, in the vast majority of human interactions, people should not be ruthless. We should be generous, patient, helpful. But if you find yourself in a relationship with someone who belittles you repeatedly — even if they are sometimes nice (and smart NPD-types will always ration out some niceness, just to keep you hooked in) — then you have to be ruthless. You have to be decisive. You have to go NC or to limit contact. It goes against our generous Chump-nature — which is a beautiful thing, by the way (a beautiful thing when directed at flawed but basically good people) — but we have to do it when we encounter the disordered. We have to make a triage-type decision that a doctor would make in an emergency. “You are not good for me. This is a relationship where I am regularly rebuked/berated/belittled. And I will not stand for this. Period.”

    I don’t think the author of the letter is splitting at all. She is consciously questioning herself and her own anger, which shows that she’s a good person. She is moving on, and she has a right to make judgments that are self-protective and (for many chumps) protective of their kids.

    So, Chump Ruthlessness, applied in those extreme situations where/when justified, is a skill set that we need and will (hopefully) rarely but effectively employ.

    Chump Son

    • Right on Chump Son, after the gun I went dead cold ruthless because I did NOT intend to die for that bastard. I’ve said before, that despite the PTSD and other damage ex did – it was a favor that his crazy train went so far. I finally believed who he was and went to the mat to get rid of him.

  • CL – thank you so much for responding to my letter and for helping me suss this one out. I appreciate all y’all that have confirmed my sanity and positive mental health, I’m taking that to the bank! Hugs to the Chump Nation.

  • I think many of us have gone to therapy and may still be so I want to second CL on “judgement”, every therapist tries to tell you not to judge and I tell them that is BS. My current therapist explained that the term is not meant the way I think of it. What they mean is a bit different. For example I did an exercise where my therapist took a stance and made a face and she asked me what I saw; it was hilarious – I was making judgements, like “you are angry” you are taking a shit”, etc. Finally I said, you are bent over in a tense position, frowning, you are wearing yellow shoes, your blouse is coming loose – she says bingo! You just saw me without any judgements.

    • Hmmmm, I’m not too convinced by this – what the therapist got you to make, so she could point it out, were NOT judgements, by any definition of the word. They were assumptions about what you thought was happening, to create the expressions you saw.

      A judgement implies giving a value to something, saying something is good or bad or in between. And we ARE allowed to judge other people’s behaviour. Any therapist who says we shouldn’t needs their own head examined! Neither therapy nor any other human occupation are judgement-free or value-free, and we just mess things up further if we try to pretend they are.

      Interesting that so many value systems, religions and morality systems around the world come back to a few basics; be honest, keep your word, take responsibility for your behaviour and its consequences, think of others AS WELL AS yourself (not INSTEAD OF, chump nation!), act respectfully to others, act in a caring way to the people who care about you. In other words, not to be an entitled narcissist!

      Often the most helpful thing a therapist can get you to do about your judgements, though, is to make them YOURS. Not ‘he’s a jerk’, but rather, ‘I don’t accept that kind of behaviour’. Not ‘she can’t do that’, but ‘I chose not to be associated with someone who does that’. Not ‘he’s being unreasonable’, but ‘what he’s doing is hurting my kids, and I hate that’.

      Then we get to come here to CL and just rant (as well as think, analyse and support each other), because it does us so much good!

  • As I boiled my situation down to the essential truth, I realized that my serial cheating ex was willing to kill me. Kill me? Yes. Did your ex have unprotected sex with other women and then continue to have relations with you? If the answer is yes, he was willing to kill you. How? By playing Russian Roulette with YOUR LIFE; possibly giving you AIDS (not to mention other STD’s). Russian Roulette is what it was… Remember this.

  • This is how good decent people, human beings, with normal to above normal empathy for their fellow humans, for the people they are in relationship with and for our world are taken advantage of. Deceptive predatory people like her “ex” know this and take advantage of it. Corrupt corporations, businesses, and institutions like big banking and pharmaceutical companies etc..also do this. They often take full advantage of the authentic, trusting nature, kindness, vulnerability and general goodness of the normal human being.
    Cheaters, philanderers and fraudulent predatory jerks of all kinds often count on the fact that their partner’s or the person they are using, are, by nature, genuine caring normal people that may also be naively trusting because they don’t even consider that someone that claims to care for them and have their best interest at heart would ever consider behavior that cheaters and narcissistic people often engage in with little to no regard or remorse. Cheaters know their partners do have the integrity of a normal human, More often then not the chump is a decent person and the narcissistic cheat knows that they are dealing with a genuine, kind, trusting and forgiving person that usually loves and respects the life of the cheat. They know they are with a person who most likely would not consider indifferently harming and violating other peoples lives with fraudulent deception and greed driven self absorbed violating behaviors as a normal thing. The fact is, people with normal to heightened human integrity, empathy often do not consider that someone they love and trust would knowingly choose to violate, deceive or to act in ways that they know would harm or deceive their partner, family or other people. This is something narcissistic cheaters count on in their partners. They even often enjoy knowing they are deceiving and violating a person, their partner that trust them and they feel entitled to do so. They do this for the thrill it adds to their predatory actions and behaviors. The deception is a part of the thrill. They take full advantage of the genuine authentic normal human qualities of others and use this to violate, deceive and use them for their own selfish desires and their own self serving greedy agendas.
    FLBright is obviously a very genuine decent and caring person. The fact that she is willing to question her own behaviors says it all. The fact that she is willing to look at her own way of perceiving others and that she obviously desires to have insight into herself, to openly question if she is behaving in detrimental way towards others or herself so she can correct this if she is. This act itself speaks volumes regarding her own personal integrity. Her integrity is very high. She is attuned with her world and understands that what she does and how she treats and regards others matters. She gets that the choices she makes and how she regards other people does effect the people in her life and the world around her. WOW FLBright answers her own question by the fact she is willing to make this inquiry.
    Would her “ex” genuinely do anything like this ever? He may pretend to for praise, aggrandizement or to deceive other into believing he is a “great guy” however has he or would he ever genuinely consider how what he does effects others? Has he or would he make better or kinder choices based on the understanding that what he does effects/affects others in his life? Has he or would he act with the intention to prevent violating or harming other people or the world? Her Ex knows full well that his actions have been perverted, predatory, self serving and deeply harmful to others. He is fully and well aware of the fact that paying for acts of prostitution is a predatory action that degrades his humanity and the humanity of others. He knows first hand, (pun Intended) that message parlors are hot beds for human trafficking and that these women are often controlled degraded, abused and used. The true nature of prostitution is predatory and inhumane period. In the larger picture it is predatory both and many ways. Does he consider how his actions choices, distorted perceptions and behaviors influence and effect his family, relationship, himself, the women or person he is purchasing, or the world? No, it seems obvious he does not care.
    There is another thing for us all to get out of FLBright’s inquiry. Predatory people will use others. They will use a person’s genuine kindness and integrity against them. They will deceive, trick, violate, degrade and harm people knowingly to get what they want, and to keep getting by with doing as they please with zero regard for other human beings or for how their greedy actions influence and effect the world around them. They will do this and will often feel no remorse about this at all. This is why to even consider the highly empathetic response, that is so normal for real human beings, is actually dangerous and not helpful at all. Only offer your empathy and trust to people that have earned it. We have to be okay with not having empathy for predatory deceptive violating persons. This can be hard for normal nice humans. We can be firm and even cold to harmful narcissistic people and we can do this without loosing our own humanness. This is what is truly at stake here, our humanness. We can remain human and have fulfilling authentic lives without participating with these deceptive empty coldly arrogant people. without participating with their lies and abuse in any way. There is no benefit in overlooking, continually forgiving, giving second chances to, making legitimate their deluded reasoning, giving the shadow of a doubt to, or accepting the normalization of abusive, predatory, distorted inhuman behaviors in any way. When something is wrong it is wrong. When we participate in the game with these predatory deceptive people it is likely that we will be the one used and seriously harmed. I love what Maya Angelo says ” When someone shows you who they are believe them.” When we STOP participating in their game, their game is over as far as we are concerned. Sure they can go find a new chump to cheat however Imagine if we all, ALL THE GENUINE KIND PEOPLE OF THE WORLD WITH NORMAL HUMAN INTEGRITY, stopped participating with people that violate and use us. What if we made non-participation with lying deceiving cheaters normal? What if we did not keep our mouths shut when we know someone is a predator? What if as soon as we get the inner knowing that something is not right, we know ourselves well enough to trust that knowing and to take action with out flinching, with out doubting what we know for even one second? What if on massive levels we refused to participate with cheaters of all kinds, with the predatory banking, the normalizing of open relationships and of prostitution and sexual deviance, what if we stopped buying that big pharm always has our best interest at heart Stopped normalizing cheating and prostitution and perverted human interactions and distorted ways of relating with one another???.. LOL The predatory humans can not flourish when participation is not normalized. It is not normal or human to allow ourselves to be used, deceived, confused and violated. Chump Lady your work, your perspective is exactly what our world needs now. No participating with predation, cheating, deception, double standards and arrogance. No participation with inhuman cruelty and greedy perverted entitlement and deluded thinking. This is how true FREEDOM for humanity unfolds, when conscious normal decent human beings normalize basic human integrity and teach and model basic human empathy. When empathic capacity and basic integrity in all humans is nurtured, seen as important, made normal and protected then narcissism and predatory behaviors against fellow humans is naturally no longer supported.

  • Martha L!! WOW, WOW, WOW! You are spot on, thank you for taking the time and incredible energy to put all of that out there. Thank you!

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