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Dear Chump Lady, How can I trust my cheater again?

Dear Chump Lady,

I found the treasure trove of emails between my husband and his old girlfriend from 20 years ago. Some were of the sexting variety and others had him declaring his love and devotion for her, saying that he’s never forgotten her and how he always wished things had worked out between them all those years ago.

I’m embarrassed to say that I found those emails by snooping through his cell phone. Like so many others here, he was on the damn thing all the time and he seemed so disengaged from the family… mostly from me. My spidey sense was triggered and I went looking for evidence. This was before I found your column, so I did all the wrong things. I confronted him immediately and went batshit crazy. Screaming. Throwing things. The whole nine yards. He admitted to having an email relationship with her but says he never actually had a face-to-face meeting.

A year later, I found more emails. In these, he apologizes for “going off the grid” and says he was “terrified to lose his children” and that he was “getting through each day the best he can by focusing on being the best dad he can be.” I went ballistic again. This time, he swore that he would never contact her again. Ever. For any reason. He has been very attentive around the house and he’s never texting on his phone anymore. He seems truly remorseful, saying he loves me and that he is truly sorry that he betrayed my trust. We’ve gone away on short weekend trips and he seems completely normal.

Here’s the problem: I can’t trust him. And I can’t stop playing “marriage police.”

I look through his telephone every chance I get. I even do it right in front of him. I look through his emails, including his work emails. I watch him like a hawk at all times. While I want to believe that he’s being true and that he’s really sorry, I keep wondering if he’s found a way to keep his little email fling underground and that, if I just dig harder and deeper, I’ll find out that he’s a lying sack of shit who is still in contact with this woman.I don’t want to call her and ask (although I’ve been sorely tempted) because I’m afraid that if I blow up her life, she’ll have nothing to lose and she and my husband will just run off together.

I admit, I care about “appearances” way too much. We have a nice life in a good community of people. I want things to go back to normal and it seems as though they have. But I can’t stop the snooping and I still harbor so much distrust. To make matters worse, my husband travels for business quite a lot. I solve this problem by either going with him (which is boring and exhausting) or calling him and staying on the phone with him the entire time he’s in his hotel room. That means either hours of sitting in a hotel room while he’s at meetings or hours on the phone talking about the kids, friends, whatever. Anything to keep him on the phone so I know that he’s not calling her or, worse, there with her!

Is there any way to move past this? I have no evidence that he saw her or that it was a physical affair (although the emails were so raunchy or so lovey dovey that seeing them was bad enough). I keep hearing his words to her in my head and I can’t help but feel like I’m second best.

He agreed not to contact her, so I win… unhappy husband who doesn’t want to be here. Yay me! Will I keep snooping forever or will these feelings of suspicion ever go away? Do you think I should throw in the towel or should I give it more time? Living like this is not fun. Honestly, he does whatever I want because I think he’s afraid that I’m going to blow up and he knows he did something wrong and feels guilty about it. But every nice thing he does is colored by my feeling that he’s only doing it out of guilt or fear that I’m going to take the kids and kick him out of the house. Chumps, help me figure this shit out.

Newly Chumpified

Dear NC,

Boy, you really paint a cheery picture of reconciliation. Sounds like you (rightfully) have your husband on a short leash and neither you nor your husband is happy about that. You’re not happy because you fear he “doesn’t want to be here,” and it totally sucks to be the marriage police. And I imagine he’s unhappy because he lives under the threat of divorce and misses his cake.

Hypervigiliance is exhausting and it’s unsustainable. You can’t shadow the guy forever, or keep him on the phone for hours like you were a hostage negotiator. And yet, it is completely understandable why you do that — because you don’t trust him.

So the question comes down to — can you live in a marriage that has no trust for the sake of “appearances”? If I were of a unicorn bent, I’d ask you if you think trust can be regained, but I think in your case that’s especially tough. You gave him a chance to right this, and then a year later you found he’d betrayed you again with more contact. Worse you read all that crap where he essentially describes you as the great consolation prize so he can see his kids. (Who, let’s point out, he was quite happy to ignore for his cell phone once upon a time.) I’d feel like second best too! Who wants to be with someone who only “commits” if you hold a legal gun to their head?

I think you’re questioning yourself because you don’t have evidence of a physical affair. Are you overreacting to his sexting and professions of love for another woman? No. A cheater usually only cops to what you have on them and nothing more. You discovered sexting, so of course he’s going to say that’s as far as it went. He travels for work? And the sexting went on for over a year? My guess is it did go further. Grown ups don’t invest a lot of time in sexy talk unless they’re looking to get laid. Sure, there’s kibbles in an emotional affair — but a man who is in an emotional affair, IMO, doesn’t worry about losing his kids. A man who is fucking around does.

Left out of your letter is what exactly he’s doing to regain your trust. Why do you say he doesn’t want to be there? Is he acting that way? Resenting your company on trips? Is he in therapy? Reading any self help books? Or is the entire focus on When Is NC Going to Get Over This? Let’s wait her out!

I suppose you could just do the thing he fears — lawyer up and make custody arrangements — and see exactly how deep his remorse is.

But I think NC, the answer to all of this is not what your husband’s motivation are. You’ve put all your energy in What Is He Going to Do Next. You’ve been the goalie guarding home from his hockey pucks of chaos. Affair? Thwarted! You will NOT score!

This is not a marriage, it’s a power struggle. It’s time to ask yourself what YOU want. Is this relationship acceptable to you? It may be that he straightens up and flies right (IMO odds are long, judging by the letters I get from chumps, but that’s my cynicism) — and even then you’ll never be able to shake the distrust.

You ONLY control YOU. The shit sandwich you eat when you reconcile is that must live with the knowledge that this person could betray you again, and you can’t control that. No amount of vigilance is enough. If he wants to do it, he will do it. You have to know you’ll be okay wondering, and you’ll be okay if it happens again.

If you need more time to decide, I think you could set some conditions for reconciliation beyond don’t contact her. You could see a lawyer and find out what your rights are in a divorce. You could get your finances in order (especially if you are at all dependent on him). You could get a post-nup. You could get in some counseling for YOURSELF and demand that he do the same for himself.

In other words, NC, you could start calling the tunes – by stating what YOU need to heal. That’s very different than being in a reactive pose (what will he do next?!) See if he makes any effort to step up to the plate. He balks? You can bail without the what ifs.

Also know that it’s perfectly okay to divorce even when someone is doing the right things. You don’t owe anyone reconciliation. Trust is essential, and it’s not easily put back together. If it’s gone? Give yourself permission to admit that and leave.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • NC:
    That is an extremely toxic way to live. Not sure why you would choose that lifestyle for yourself but maybe you need to ask yourself that. His cheating emotional or otherwise is on him (I am sorry I can’t possibly believe it was only texts, no point to that). Your living your life this way is on you. I walked away from my relationship because the trust was completely broken and I never had any desire to be a police woman and didn’t need to know all details, just knowing once was enough for me. Just knowing that someone I loved put me in harms way both emotionally and physically without my knowledge or without a care in the world for my well being was more than enough for me to decide it was my job to make sure I wasn’t in harms way anymore, so I removed myself.

    I haven’t regretted that decision once.

    If you need support we are here for you, but you need to figure out what is best for you and remove him from the equation because he wasn’t thinking of you or the children when he was or probably is still having that affair. Remove your focus from him and put it on you. You can not control someone else only you.

    For safety sake I would immediately go to your gyno and get tested for all STD’s. Then find a therapist.

    • great advice, Deborah.

      NC – my heart aches for you. CL is so right – living this way is unsustainable. You will feel back in control when you start exploring your options with an attorney, and speaking with a therapist. I recommend you include working on boundaries with your therapist. That has helped me quite a bit – didn’t realize how “boundary-less” I was during the marriage, nor did I realize how much solid boundaries can help you keep crap people out of your life.

      All the best to you as you navigate this new life. MO

  • Newly chumpified,
    I feel for you, this is not easy, And as CLl says, you have to decide what you can live with…

    My two cents: I think unless the cheater is the one doing the ‘fessing up, they do not feel remorse. Guilt for getting caught, etc., but he/she does not truly feel badly for what was done to the spouse. That’s my experience.

    My exFIL apparently cheated on exMIL a couple of years before I met them. 27 years later, she has not gotten past it. In this case, though, I think he is the one who confessed. Weekend away with the brothers back in the home country (brothers all on 3rd marriages,, pressured to get drunk, etc). I was with exH for 23 years, and in all those years, I never saw them apart. ExMIL will not let exFIL even go to Home Depot alone to grab stuff for a home project.
    It is a very sad way to live. I used to tell exH how sad I thought it was. For all appearances, exFIL is remorseful. ExMIL can’t let it go (she even made reference to it a few weeks ago when they came by to see the kids.). Both deserve happiness, and she should have divorced him if she could not forgive after all this time.

    This could explain why my exH never confessed the first affair, as he saw how his mother dealt with it, though unlikely. His current behavior demonstrates his selfishness ans self absorption. After all, his closest relative is his mother, so how could he treat me this way, when he saw how it tore her apart….

    All I can do is send hugs. You have a tough row to hoe, and there is no single answer. Every situation is different.

    All the best.

  • “Left out of your letter is what exactly he’s doing to regain your trust.”

    Our marital therapist ripped me a new one for being the marriage police. At first I was utterly insensed. But as the anger dissipated I realised that the constant struggle was *miserable* … for me. Fuck what he thought.

    And that clarity brought about the most important realisation for me – that I was going crazy jailer precisely because he wasnt initiating anything to regain that trust. He resentfully went along with any requirement I wanted, but my spidey sense told me my heart wasnt in it. It was about a month before my spidey senses reached a crescendo… and I went back to the computer tracking software I had left unchecked. I found everything and then some.

    Trust your instincts. And… what would you think/feel/do if your friend were in this situation? Distancing myself always gives me a great deal of clarity.

    And finally – just throwing it out there – my experience is that they don’t change. Everything I’ve read on here from other chumps is that they’ve reconciled and 1/5/10/15 years later they are back in the same damn place. Except now it’s worse because they’ve wasted more time, money, and energy….. and feel much more stupid for trusting an inveterate POS. You’ve already done that dance once yourself.

    Hugs to you.

    • Its that damn Hopium!! My reconciliation has lasted 4 months. He did all the stuff, therapy, helping me through triggers. 3 weeks after I had my son (8 weeks ago) I just knew I couldn’t live like this. My hormones were’t clouding me anymore. So I said I didn’t need phone records anymore. I had promised that I would ask if I ever needed to see his phone. Set him up good to think I wouldn’t look. Then a few days ago I looked at his call log. Now this is hours before he is moving across country with us to follow a month or 2 later (isolate me much, I always knew I wasn’t going. I hadn’t even told my family we were moving). Contact with at least 2 of the 4 woman he was banging while I was pregnant. And that was just a day of calls.

      They don’t change. And really, even if mine was a unicorn & had, I’ll never feel safe with him again.

      I’m not going to beat myself up for trying. Its the death of a dream. We just have to look at the reality. I trust that there is a better life out there for me. I trust that my 3 babies will be ok. I just need to keep trusting that he sucks. And NC…yours sucks!

      • Congratulations on the birth of your son! So sorry that you have to go through this at the same time. Hugs!

        • Thanks, guys!

          I’m working hard not to beat myself up. I kicked him out in February, got a lawyer, blah, blah. Couldn’t divorce him until the baby was born. Then he smooth talked me into letting him live in the basement before the baby was born…bam. I knew in my gut he would do it again & we would divorce. So when I saw the phone it was like “Yep. Ok. And I’m done.”

          Stupid Hopium & spackle!!

          Now my neighbor just found out his wife cheated on him. We are forming a club. Sadly, it could be a large club…

    • Witty29

      Your right, quality of life is so much more important than spending our lives tracking the people we love and their actions.

      I just found tracking software had been put on my phone, it could only have been one of my daughters and I have a fair idea of which one. Which leads me back to a point I made to a close friend many years ago, if you have to check up on someone 24 x 7 is it really worth it? Walk away and be happy.

      On the subject of the cheater, there may be an OW with them now, but she’s not happy, she knows what he did to his wife and it follows suit he’ll do it to her. It;s not a good place to be.

      NC I’m sure everyone on this site is with you as you make your way to a happy and stable life. It may not feel like it at this moment, but you can do it

      Much Love

      • Absolutely agree. This was the first time ever in over 20 years of relationships I had snooped on a partner… and … well… finding info on the 50+ hookers he had shagged kinda bore out my instinct to snoop.

        Having gone through this experience, I have learned that my instincts are 100% accurate. So god forbid I get that same gut feeling in future, I will know that I can rely on them and save myself $100 🙂

  • NC – If your child was in the same situation, would you want them to settle for this type of existence? You cannot “keep him” from cheating on you. You will destroy yourself fighting that battle. When you drop a plate on the floor and it breaks, you can pick it up, say you’re sorry and even glue it back together, but it is never the same. Part of being a good dad is showing your sons how to treat their wife and your daughters what to expect from her husband. If you don’t want your kids settling for shit sandwiches, I suggest you don’t settle, either.

    • This is so true. I tried to remind my H of the glass he shattered as part of our wedding ceremony, and the words about trust that went with it. Yeah, he wouldn’t even let me finish the sentence.

  • NC,

    Only you know if it’s worth it but it sure sounds exhausting and unpleasant. I have to agree that a year long sex text affair without the actual sex is unlikely. Very unlikely. At this point, I’d check in with a lawyer and start slowly building your own life.

    I know in my situation, I discovered his sex texts and yes, it turned out to be a physical affair. The trust I had in him was fundamentally broken and for me, it was clear I needed to divorce him. While he made some lame excuses and “promises” to me, it turned out that he wasn’t going to change at all. It’s a difficult choice but for me, staying in a marriage where I was the only one that wanted it would have sucked my soul.

    I do wish you the best.

  • NC: I got the promises and he ended up in touch with OW again.

    Basically they need a personality transplant or extremely hard therapy work, and they can’t or won’t do it.

    He wasn’t going to change at all. He had always been a selfish person, that eventually involved an OW and he was always going to stay a selfish person.

    The end.

    Here is the absolute kicker: what are you prepared to live with? I swallowed the sh sandwich for 5 years, but eventually I couldn’t do it any more. He hasn’t changed a bit. And I wasn’t worth him changing for. [That hurt]. Nor were the kids worth changing for, but in his eyes he didn’t stop loving them, just me.

  • This story sounds all to familiar (As Im sured it does for probably everyone here).

    To your question: Can I trust my cheater again? The answer is no. You refer to him as the cheater. Would you trust a thief with a $100,000 necklace of yours? No to that as well.

    My story is different in the sense I was the police for a little but forgave each other time all too easy. When he started acting odd is when I would start snooping around again. Its utterly exhausting. You overanalyze every move they make.

    I can promise you it will never stop. By you staying all that says to him (and hes shown this to you) is, “Ok so I got caught but she forgave me, I have to tough out her little obsessive actions for a while and I can go back to what I want (or I can get smarter about it and live the best of both worlds). Its already happened twice”.

    My ex was got the OW pregnant after 2 weeks of knowing her and wanted to come back and was calling and texting all the time. She was paranoid about it and I guess they would get into fights about her suspicions. We would talk on and off. He would, and even up unitl this week from his last contact of me, would tell me that (and he is the one who would come back and say he wanted to leave initially) she cannot find out that he spoke to me because it would make coparenting awful and it needs to stop (then why would you call??). He says its about the kid but there is no way that is the only thing holding my ex or your H there. Not that I think love is keeping them there. I think their current situation is more beneficial than the other. It comes down to what has more assets. Would you really want himto stay because youre more of an asset? If he went to her it would be because he sees new, and perhaps better in his mind, assets in her. It doesnt know what pure love is. None of us were loved the way we loved because they cant. They want what they dont have. Its more thrilling. I promise you if he did ever end up with her he wouldnt be happy there either.

    Dont drive yourself crazy. Cut him lose. You WILL get hurt again and this is no way for your children to see you. Hind sight is 20/20 and you see what he did. He will do it again.

    I know this is hard but you deserve better than this. Know that!

  • NC – I’m so sorry that you find yourself joining our ranks, but thank goodness you found your way here. I only found Chump Lady and the amazing Chump Nation after I had invested 18 months (and THOUSANDS of dollars) on reconciliation and then finally realized that A) I would never be able to trust him again and B) Even though I could forgive him – 1) He could not forgive himself and therefore: 2) He would never believe I truly forgave him and would always believe that saw him only through this lens of judgement and disappointment.

    But the most powerful realizations came when I did what CL is recommending to you now. Put your focus on you. Ask yourself what YOU want. What is acceptable behavior to YOU. Another powerful one is: If this were happening to your son or daughter, what would you want for them? Somehow it’s easier to fight for another person that we love than it is to fight for ourselves.

    I busted my ExH when I opened a credit card statement and found charges at multiple seedy massage parlors. He immediately went to a sex addiction therapist and started attending 12 step meetings. I had already been in therapy (trying to figure out why I was so miserable in my marriage and what to do about it) and my Ex’s therapist recommended a book for me to read written by a woman who found out her husband was a sex addict (um, cheater) and how through the both of them attending 12 step meetings and al-anon (for the spouse or partner of an addict) that they saved their marriage. The book had the opposite of the intended affect on me. I just saw a woman who was paddling as fast as she could to “help” her husband stay on the path (and he didn’t always… he had slips, but hey… he’s an addict) And she had to live with this constant hyper vigilance or alertness. I thought their story sad and tragic. It seemed to me she just didn’t want to give up her handsome Dr. husband and their cushy lifestyle. But, it became clear to me that I was not willing to live my life like that.

    I’m out, divorce was final July 3rd. I’m moving to a new city in a couple of months and I’m excited about my future. I’m really excited that it’s not my job to be the moral compass for someone who doesn’t have one. You have a great deal to consider. I think you just need to ask yourself the right questions. And all of those questions should be directed at you. What do you want? What morals and behavior do you want to model for your children? I’m sorry you are having to go through this. It’s the hardest thing I ever had to face. But, I promise you, and you’ll here it 18 ways to Sunday from other Chumps here, Life is GREAT on the other side of this.

    Big (((Hugs))).

  • First things first. Get a lawyer. Find out if he is hiding assets. Second, once you have your financial well being in place, get a therapist. Not one who pushes reconciliation, but one grounded in reality. He has said he wants another woman. You feel gutted. You cannot unring a bell. Now you know. Your husband wants another woman. She hasn’t had the stomach flu in front of him, or haggled about money, or had stringy hair because she was up all night with a sick kid. What she is right now is his ideal woman. They may reconnect and marry. They might not. What you need to do is be as calm as you can and with the therapist’s help get him to understand you would never deny him access to the children but you want better for yourself than what he is giving you. Be prepared to say goodby to the false life that has been forced on you. Be prepared to be broken hearted for a while. Exercise, eat well, get enough sleep. Put your own well being in place of the marriage. Be grief stricken and mourn for a lost dream and somewhere down the road you will be ok.

  • The one case I know of where reconciling eventually lead to a healthy marriage (I know of several I wouldn’t consider happy or healthy), it took the offending party more than three decades to re-earn the trust of their spouse.

    I kid you not. For more than two-decades the offended party stated that they could not trust their spouse. They are now both nearly 70 years old.

    I don’t know if that’s a good baseline for a metric or not. It’s the one “unicorn” I am aware of in my own personal network.

    Heck of a price to pay for both of them, IMO. But I am glad they are both happy now. It only took the time from their mid 30s until nearly death for it all to sort of meld, and I doubt it would have happened without real atonement and all that time spent re-earning that trust.

  • (((Newly Chumpified)))

    If you are shooting for reconciliation, perhaps you would be better served by seeking accommodation of some degree of suspicion in your relationship rather than trust. Something along the “trust by verify” model.

    I would estimate that more than 90% of chumps have received a “promise” of no contact with the affair partner that has subsequently been broken. You can only truly trust your cheater again if you are able to forget that fact or pretend it doesn’t apply to you.

    • Count me in as part of the 90%. And while it has hurt me greatly, what makes it worse is that my oldest child (she’s almost 6) has said to me about how disappointed she sometimes feels about the divorce, and the words she used were all too familiar. She’s a chump too, and it sucks.

  • Forgot to mention that he probably has another phone he keeps hidden. Cheaters are so good at what they do that they get nice people like you to go nuts, then they are justified in cheating and/or leaving because….who wants to be married to a crazy person.

    • I agree with this. Since you went nuts on him, he knows to take things way underground. A 2nd cell phone is a start. Maybe even a P.O. box. Once they’re discovered, cheaters become very resourceful in hiding their cheating. If you pretend that you trust him, go for a few weeks without looking at his cell or email, and then check, maybe you can see for sure.

      On the other hand, will the absence of evidence be a reason for trusting him again?

      • In the keylogger of the computer tracking software I found *hours* worth of him trying to figure out the password keypath.

        I could also see where he gave up trying and went to Craigslist to email a few hookers…. lol

  • NC, all I have is what happened to me. 6 years into our committed relationship my ex cheated. He did all the right things, he was sorry, he opened up his computer to me, was accountable and treated me well. I forgave him, it took about 1.5 years for me to fully trust him again. Once I got there I was fine, thought the relationship was fine and never even considered he would do it again. It is possible to reach that point, at least it was for me. Problem is;


    He convinced me to marry him in 2005, I discovered his OW in early 2010 – like your husband he swore he never actually met her, they only phoned & emailed for a year. That was a lie, he only confessed to shit I already knew, he gave me an STD. I do not know how many other women he may have been with over the years. After divorce, I discovered he propositioned my close friend and at one point he was fucking a neighbor a few years before I found out about OW 2010. 17 year relationship, many of those years he was cheating – whenever he was distant he would attribute it to his depression. And I of course believed it…

    • I never understand the close friend thing. My ex fucked around with a close friend of mine and it really left me so angry. Just when I needed my entire support system he had ripped away a person who should have been a big part of it. And so did she. It’s such a sadistic move and is worse than most of the other women he fucked around with. He still acts shocked that I cut her out of my life. He really did think I was such a huge doormat that I’d put up with that shit from a friend. And she had the audacity to get upset with me when I sent her a rather biting email telling her what I thought of her.

      • well Nord, my friend turned him down and only told me after our divorce. She was afraid I would not believe her and so did not tell me he tried to fuck her. I was pissed that she would think I wouldn’t believe her after 20 years of friendship. But, she said she loved me and she was really afraid she would lose me if I didn’t believe her, that I forgive.

        the neighbor/supposed friend he fucked? she died of her alcoholism some time ago.

  • Oh, yes, that very handy ailment, depression.

    Why does their brand of depression involve immorality?

    • Me too. Apparently the only thing that lifted him out pf his depression- was chasing the neighbor slut!! When he’d stay away from her, because I demanded it to stay in the marriage, he’d lay on the couch for 12 or 13 hours a day with the blanket pulled over his face! Boy, I wish I’d had the guts to walk out three years ago, but then I’d probably be wondering if I tried hard enough, or gave him enough chances. It’s a losing game, hoping a morally bankrupt spouse will see the light and make changes. They just may not have it in them, that’s what I decided about X. Which is why he is X.

  • When a betrayed spouse offers cheap forgiveness they also set a cheap price on themselves. What you’ve done is you’ve slashed your worth and priced yourself into the bargain bin.

    A cheater has already lowered your worth by cheating on you, and when it’s discovered, so many betrayed spouses offer cheap forgiveness in exchange for fear of losing that very cheater.

    What you’ve done is given away your power and self worth to someone who didn’t value it anyway.

    • A cheater lowers their own worth, not the worth of the person cheated on. A person’s worth is not dependent on another person’s actions.

  • Trust is visceral; once it’s broken to this depth by another person, I think it’s an irrevokable injury. Betrayal is an active, chosen behaviour. No second chances!

    Newly Chumpified, your sense of being “the marriage police” makes your home a surveillance state. That’s no way to live.

  • I spent 5 years being the marriage police. On the rare times he left his cell phone laying around, I’d check it. I put tracking software on the computer. I looked through his car. I did everything short of following him around. And in those 5 years he cheated on me 4 times and I was MISERABLE! I’d look at what his complaints were about me and our marriage (as told to his ho-worker girlfriend via the computer) so I could change and make him happy. It didnt, then the problem was something else. Many times, he didnt even notice the changes or effort I was making. Its was all my fault he wasn’t happy and I “made him” cheat. He lied to me, he lied to our marriage counselor for a year, he lied to his ho-worker and he lied to himself.

    I finally realized, that even if he had stopped screwing around (some were “only emotional and some were physical affairs) and even if he had done everything in his power to atone for what what he did and how horrifically he hurt me – I could not forgive him and I knew that I would never ever totally trust him again. No matter how closely I watched him, no matter how many hoops I jumped through to make him happy, he kept right on blaming me for his unhappiness and that was his free ticket to Cheatersville. I ended my marriage because I wasn’t happy and I came to accept that I never would be, not with him. Trust is really the foundation (in my opinion) of marriage, and once that was shattered – it didnt matter how many renovations were made to the structure on top, it wasn’t going to last long before the cracks started to appear again.

    I have gone through a lot of pain, a lot of tears, money is a constant source of fear and stress. But, I do not regret the choice I made. It didnt have anything to do with what he would or would not do in the future, because that did not matter anymore. I could not forgive him or trust him, and that was the bottom line.

    • Well said, Angie. I had a similar situation being marriage police for 5 years. I finally realized and accepted the fact that he had NO respect for me. And I had ABSOLUTELY no trust in him and would always be looking over my shoulder the rest of our marriage. Having no respect and no trust makes for a miserable marriage. Thankfully, I’ve had successful, healthy relationships before getting married so I know that isn’t what it’s supposed to be like! It’s a hard road to navigate making the decision of what’s best for you. We’re with you, NC!

  • NC,

    From reading your letter, I have no idea whether your husband’s emotional affair was physical or not. What I do know is that he is an idiot who is now fantasizing about a lost love and making it into something that it isn’t. You are the real thing, and the kids are the real thing, and if that isn’t good enough, then it is really something about himself that he is disillusioned about. It never fails to amaze me how these arseholes can minimize a life together full of hard work, committment, family life and all that entails, real love and throw it all away for some idealized version of what if’s. It is some fantasy life they’re wishing for and for someone to see themselves in some fantasical way, when we know who they really are. This probably has little to do with you. But, having to police him all the time, just gives him kibbles too, and takes away from you.
    I suggest marriage counselling and perhaps some individual counselling for him too. Certainly the connection you once had is not there now and perhaps if you can work on that, then there is some hope, but what he is doing now is just escapism. It’s not going to work long term, but often there is no telling them that, unless perhaps it comes from a professional. I agree with CL though, that you can only control you and you need to start looking out for yourself.

  • NC,

    I am in a very similar situation to you, but a bit further along. Married 20 years, professional with my own practice, 3 kids, and enough income/assets to think we had achieved our dream. My wife had a 16 month long distance affair with a guy she met during an out of town sporting event with our oldest son (while I stayed home, worked and cared for the two younger kids). It was mostly phone/text/email but was physical on at least three occasions when the AP visited our town for his work.

    We are still married. The affair has been over for 12 months. While it was on-going, I was very much like you and my wife was very much like your husband. My gut instinct was going crazy and conflict was very high. My wife alternated between being loving and kind (eg, the model of the faithful loving spouse) or a complete asshole (eg, a cheater). When busted, she would be remorseful, acknowledge her wrongdoing, promise the moon to me and our kids, and quickly agree to everything I demanded (eg, no contact, etc).

    Most, if not all, of the counsel and advice here is to leave your husband. This is very good advice. If you follow it, you will recover and live a healthy life. So will your children. If you stay married, reconciliation is possible but only if both spouses change. Here’s is how it has played out for me so far (thanks to CL’s advice):


  • Oh boy. I remember the YEARS I spent being the marriage police. Looking through ex’s closet, in the back of his drawers, on the high shelves in the bathroom. Looking at his emails. YEARS. I occasionally found bad stuff, but he was so very good at hiding the REALLY bad stuff, and I was so scared of being alone, that I stayed. Until he finally dumped me for someone else.

    NC, don’t be me. Don’t waste years of your life on a marriage that is broken beyond repair. Your husband is only admitting to a “texts only” affair because you KNOW about the texts. No way that is all they’ve done. If he travels for work, he’s met up with her, and probably more than once. Cheaters ONLY admit what they think you already know, or are about to find out. They NEVER tell the whole truth.

    Almost certainly, he has another cheap cell phone with one of those minute-by-minute cards hidden somewhere, and he’s using that to communicate with her. This affair has been dragging on for way too long and has gone way too far to be over with just because he insincerely said sorry.

    The biggest risk you’re taking is that if he DOES decide to dump you for OW, he is going to prepare in advance to screw you over. Count on it. He’ll have already moved money, spoken with an attorney, taken steps to assure his future without you. You need to be the proactive one here. If you decide you’re done playing marriage police, you need to get a lawyer and get moving. If you decide your “marriage” is worth it, understand that he is 99% likely still in contact with the OW, may have other OW you don’t know about, and likely will eventually dump you for one of them when it suits his fancy to do so. I myself recommend you GET THE HELL OUT OF THERE NOW, but everyone has to reach their own decision and breaking point on their own.

    Good luck to you, and read here often.

    • you got that right, my ex saw a lawyer as soon as I found out about OW, I had no idea because he was all “I love you, let’s work it out”.

  • What you cannot trust is…what is in your H’s mind and heart. Leading a double life, whether an EA, PA, or EA/PA, requires special skills with deception, sneakiness, manipulation, and being a fake/fraud. Your H may be able to sustain this ‘Mr Wonderful Husband’ persona for the purpose it serves HIM (avoiding divorce and all the negative fallout and consequences for HIM, including losing the respect and regard of his own children, etc), but how will you KNOW if this Mr Wonderful Husband is authentic/genuine OR if it’s just contrived…a façade…an act…behind which he hides what is really in his mind and heart: OW. Right now, for HIM, it is in HIS own best interest to keep his love, desire, and regard for OW concealed. How to do that effectively: ACT the role of Mr Wonderful Husband. It’s a great smoke screen and effectively can trick a BS into believing that her H has ‘returned’ to her. For some chumpy reason, I chose to believe the words and actions of an established liar, manipulator, and actor. I allowed myself to trust again and had to learn the hard way that liars…cheaters…fakes….actors…CANNOT be trusted. Period. It’s like what they say: When someone shows you WHO they are, believe them. My point is this: You may have the picture perfect H in words and actions, but you will NEVER know what is really in his mind and heart. And, THAT, to me, makes all the difference in the world.

  • Stop being the marriage police. It’s only harming you and it won’t keep the inevitable from happening. Also, it gives him social ammo to shoot your way if/when he does check out for good. I can hear it now, “My wife is CRAZY. She used to insist on coming to all my work trips and would keep me on the phone at night to CONTROL me.” Spare yourself the humiliation. All of us here know exactly why you’re doing this. We get it and I don’t think you’re crazy. You’re just super hurt and angry.

    My advice as someone who is still with their SO: give him enough rope and let him hang himself. Seriously. If they are a narc, they’re compelled to act out with the OW. They can’t stop themselves. Stop policing him for a month. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open. Learn about the technology and install a tracking app on his phone. Install a key logger on his computer. Don’t check it immediately. Wait a month or so to avoid tipping your hand.

  • NC,

    I am in a very similar situation to you, but a bit further along. Married 20 years, professional with my own practice, 3 kids, and enough income/assets to think we had achieved our dream. My wife had a 16 month long distance affair with a guy she met during an out of town sporting event with our oldest son (while I stayed home, worked and cared for the two younger kids). It was mostly phone/text/email but was physical on at least three occasions when the AP visited our town for his work.

    We are still married. The affair has been over for 12 months. While it was on-going, I was very much like you and my wife was very much like your husband. My gut instinct was going crazy and conflict was very high. My wife alternated between being loving and kind (eg, the model of the faithful loving spouse) or a complete asshole (eg, a cheater). When busted, she would be remorseful, acknowledge her wrongdoing, promise the moon to me and our kids, and quickly agree to everything I demanded (eg, no contact, etc).

    Most, if not all, of the counsel and advice here is to leave your husband. This is very good advice. If you follow it, you will recover and live a healthy life. So will your children. If you stay married, reconciliation is possible but only if both spouses change. Here’s is how it has played out for me so far (thanks to CL’s advice):

    1. Get real about your life, your spouse, your marriage. Or, as CL’s says, trust that they suck. However good your marriage and family were before, it now sucks and is broken. If change does not occur, divorce must happen. Admit that to yourself. Don’t worry about what you can prove or what evidence you have. Your gut knows what happened. Also admit that to yourself, and tell your husband what you think. Don’t care about his denials or his response. This is about you. If he leaves bc you are being truthful to yourself, so be it. This self-honesty is extremely important. It takes two people to make a lie work — your husband telling the lie, and you believing it.

    2. Don’t spackle. Quick forgiveness is false forgiveness. Trust may be rebuilt, but only very slowly and in small incremental steps. To me, being the marriage police is a form of spackling. Spend some time thinking about a healthy marriage and play your part only. He should not have locked cell phones or keep his finances secret. Insist on access and if he does not give it, leave him. If you feel he cannot behave on a business trip, leave him.

    3. Don’t keep his secrets or the OW’s. My wife’s parents and siblings know and our children know in an age appropriate manner that the marriage conflict was due to another man in our life. They also know that I think this is wrong and unacceptable. The point is that you should do what you feel is appropriate and you should not refrain from doing something because you fear his reaction. He forfeited that right by having an affair and it also enables his affair to continue. In my case, I phoned and emailed the AP, told him to fuck off and leave my family alone. I told my wife what I did, that I did it for the kids’ honor, but that I would defend her honor only if she defended it first. I also called that AP’s employer and let them know that if he visited my wife again on a business trip, I would sue. He got fired.

    4. Reconciliation is rocky. The first 3 months or so, I distanced myself from my wife emotionally. At first, this was a subconscious reaction, then I did it on purpose. It was part of CL’s “leave a cheater, gain a life” motto. I needed this distance to see how I felt about my wife, plus I was just beat up emotionally at this point and had nothing left. The next 6 months or so were a combination of me clearly seeing how fucked up my wife was/is and how co-dependent I had been. A cake-eating cheater is an awful person. The only thing I can say is you have to slowly assess who your spouse really is. This is a private matter you do alone, not by talking to them. It’s about how you feel about who they are as a person.

    Next, I realized I needed to change. Not for her, or my kids, but for me. No more spackle, no more fear. It is about achieving “meh” for you and you alone. I decided to try this and if my marriage was there when I arrived great, if not, that would be great as well. I got my emotions slowly under control, thought about what I wanted from my life. Being cheated on is not on that list. Accepting cheating is not on that list. Realizing that I cannot make my wife love me is on that list. Realizing that life is uncertain (including my marriage) is on that list. Those were big ones for me personally. I now am much more deliberate about my life and more realistic about my wife. Do I want my wife to love me? Sure. Do I need her to love me? No. I just told her this the other day. She said she didn’t know if this was a compliment or not. I assured her it was!

    CL is right about cake-eaters. When they are cheating, they do know it is wrong, but they don’t care. They like the thrill and the power advantage. CL’s link to George Simon is the best advice ever. They will change if there are consequences to their behavior. I set a firm boundary with my wife about our marriage (and other parts of our life as well). I will end the marriage if they are crossed. This discussion was not hostile but realistic and honest. I repeated myself during our reconciliation about three or four times for good measure, again calmly and matter of factly. Now I don’t say anything but I try to live my life according to my needs, being a good husband, a good father and a good provider. I watch my wife’s actions to see if she is the kind of wife I want to be with. So far she is.

    Last piece of advice. Don’t rush forgiveness. You’ll start reconciliation with a lot of anger/resentment toward your spouse. In my opinion, that’s healthy and necessary as long as you control those emotions. For me, they started to dissipate when I realized they were well-founded and when I worked on my own life (my wife became secondary to me and our kids during this phase). She is not the key to my happiness. I am.

    The reality to all this is that your spouse fucked up completely. They were an awful person, and no part of the cheating is on you. It is completely on them. Never own even an inch of it. Your dignity is intact, your spouse’s is in shreds. Neither your husband or my wife has enough money to buy back the dignity they knowingly forfeited by cheating on us. No amount of money, etc., can re-purchase their dignity. A cheating spouse can only do so by proving through their actions that they have regained their dignity. It is hard, grueling work. They have to commit to do so through deed, not word, without any assurance you will stay by their side. That choice is your alone.

    For me, reconciliation has been worth it so far. I no longer worry about tomorrow which is a big improvement. I know what I am about. I no longer feel lonely in my own marriage and life. My kids seem healthy and happy. But I also know I wouldn’t do this twice and so does my wife.

    Best of luck to you, and thanks to the CL community for letting me tell my story.

    • Thank you for sharing 🙂

      I don’t know what the legal basis could possibly be, but for this…..

      “I also called that AP’s employer and let them know that if he visited my wife again on a business trip, I would sue. He got fired.”

      …. you are officially my new hero 🙂

      Best of luck 🙂

    • Matt–Your reconciliation wasn’t based on hopium. It was based on hard work, and the realization that you control only you. You learned what you wanted, the life you wanted to live, the husband you wanted to be, the marriage you wanted to have. You controlled your part of all of that. You set the boundaries for your wife, and you have a zero tolerance policy for crossing those boundaries. It’s her choice to stay within them or not. And she also has to accept that even if she chooses to stay within those boundaries, it’s still up to you whether you stay or leave.

      Best of luck to you!

      • Thanks. Your comments and the collective wisdom of this community mean a lot. I still read every single day. It took me awhile but you are right about the reality of the situation. Hope does not solve the problem. The only thing I would add to your comment is that I did not set a boundary for my wife. I set it for myself. I told her I would not be the husband of a wife who had another man calling her, texting her, seeing her, either secretly or openly for that matter. I also said if she wanted the AP, or that type of behavior in her life, I would accept that but get a divorce.

        You are right about personal choice, hers and mine. It is key to any relationship. Our is improving thankfully, but it is definitely one step at a time. Good luck to you as well, kb!

        • After Dday I jumped through every hoop my ex laid out for me…I stood on my own 2 feet, paid my own bills, did everything without him…in our last phone conversation I itemized everything I had done for him as well as for myself. I ended by saying ” I had hoped you would see that I only wanted you and your love but don’t need you and your love” I then when on to say, “I can’t protect you anymore, I nothing I do makes you happy, so I am done trying” he turned it around and then used it against me in the divorce negotiations saying he was “too confused” by what I said to think straight to demand what he wanted…chump nice gal me then responded with, “so what do you want then?” No answer…he got exactly everything he asked for and it was still all my fault..Matt, if you are ever in Arizona, please look me up! 😉

          • Oops, didn’t see you were still with your wife, please disregard my last sentence…lest I be an Ashley Maddison idiot lol but if you have a brother….lol

            • No worries! Sorry about your situation, but I am glad you stopped trying to make things right for him. Pick-me dances are very lonely to say the least! If they say it’s your fault you know the truth is 180 the opposite. Good luck with everything.

          • Ashley,
            I used to tell by XH the same thing.. I don’t need you in my life, but I want you there. It was always ment and told in the manner as you described and it was never thrown in his face as a negative thing. (I had always been very independent.) However, like the rest, he turned it around on me saying that it showed him that he didn’t really mean anything to me. Really??? That is why he was so far on a pedestal, because he didn’t mean anything to me?? That is why I did everything in my marriage that I could possibly go just to benefit him. What an idiot – good riddance.

    • Matt, best of luck. You are doing the right things. I realized just this past year I was co-dependent and I am finally coming home to myself. It’s absolutely liberating! In my case, I needed to divorce to see things for exactly what they were. I was too enmeshed in his BS.

      • It is liberating! Those are the exact words I say to myself as well. Becoming yourself, whether married or divorced, is the ticket. Good luck to your future.

    • Matt,

      I am in a very, very similar situation with you (I’d posted here before). Maybe you or CL can give me some insight.

      My wife had lied to me repetitively and cheated on me for over a year, declared she would accept a wedding ring from the OM, get busted, I told her I’d seen a divorce lawyer, she apologized, begged for forgiveness, I tried to reconcile. Then, she talked about the wedding ring with the OM again. I was ready to divorce but not yet because I want my two beautiful kids to have a chance to stay in an intact family.

      Now, I am not talking to her except about our kids.
      Things she’d done to try to reconcile:
      – changed her phone number
      – asked the OM to change his email password
      – changed school for our kids (the OM was the SAHD of my son’s buddy)
      – trying to please me and my family

      Things that hinder me for reconciliation:
      – she still deletes her email search history/phone log every now and then
      – she still downloads all the tragic love songs
      – she never voluntary tells me anything about her affair, only if she get busted then she acknowledge it
      – she still visiting internet sites of the OM’s interest
      – she still marked down the OM’s birthday on her smartphone (now deleted after I told her)
      – she still marked down their future renezvous date of Nov 26, 2027 on her smartphone, when my youngest princess goes to college, that they’ll either get married or meet at least (also now deleted)
      – they’d promised to look after each other when they get old and all the other vows…
      – she apologized to me and said this is all wrong, but never proved to me she doesn’t like him anymore.

      Matt, if your wife indeed not seeing the OM anymore, but still very much loves him more than you do, what will you do? How would you know you are not just the man to provide her and the children an intact family, but the man she really loves? How can you feel confident enough your will not be thinking about the OM while sleeping beside you at night? This is what I think I am in.

      Matt/CL, any advice (I know, CL you had advised me to go for the divorce path)


      • Don’t compete for her love. Do your own thing within your family context bc your wife wants “cake.” As for love & the OM, I told my wife once everything blew up, that she should leave and go for the OM bc our marriage was shot. She didn’t leave. My wife’s biggest fear after 12 months since DDay is whether I feel contempt for her. Never did, but felt a loss of respect. CL is right that that is no way to be married. My opinion is that at some point you have to tell yourself that it happened, it’s over, and move forward in your own mind. That has helped a lot. It’s not a game for second and third chances so if your marriage has settled down, live an awesome life and if your wife, of mine for that matter, cheats again, I would leave the marriage.

        About your questions, I guess I would say don’t try to think what she is thinking. Just judge her actions. If she cannot be a good partner, show & express her love, then you decide on that (rather than hypothetical questions). Those questions breed more resentment when enough exists already. SO I tried to stay away from all that. Hard, but can be done. Good luck

        • Matt and Andre,

          I really like the way Beyond Affairs Network handles this question of the other man or other woman and the lingering attachment the cheating spouse has for the other man/woman. Google Beyond Affairs Network (BAN). BAN has some good recordings of phone conference conversations you can listen to online as well. If you are trying to get back together after an affair, it’s a wealth of mostly good information. In your circumstances, another thing you might think about is post-nuptual agreements.

  • NC, my heart goes out to you. I relate to many of the emotions you’re describing and it is no way to live. In my situation (married 31 years) there were multiple incidents that raised my suspicions, but there were never any smoking guns. If I’d walked in on him in bed with another woman it would have been so much easier, but loved our kids and wanted to keep our family together so I stayed.

    On at least two occasions I tried to explain how deeply his attachment to his female coworkers hurt me and how inappropriate they. Both times he said he was sorry and that he’d try to do better. He never admitted to anything, but I thought telling me he “was sorry” was some sort of admission that what he was doing wasn’t appropriate. Anyway, in my situation I never did fully trust him again, and I was hyper vigilant and felt threatened for most of our marriage. I dealt with it by trying to stuff those emotions and figure out what was wrong with me. I even went to counseling once to see how I could improve so as to not feel so jealous and miserable all the time (while my husband was traveling around the country with his female coworker).

    Although my husband always denied they were anything more than friends, it turned out that was all a lie. In the end he blamed me for everything, said I’d done X, Y and Z that caused him to fall out of love with me. I discovered a journal where he wrote about how he adored her and was obsessed with planting seeds to break up her family so he could have her to himself.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is it didn’t end when he said “he’d do better.” Maybe what that really meant was “I’ll do better in trying to hide it from you.”

    So your feelings are perfectly normal. IMO you should definitely seek counseling and prepare yourself to leave in case it happens again. It is not you, or your problem, it is his.

  • Great advice from everyone, NC, and if you’re going the reconciliation route, Matt’s story is important. So is CL’s post, “Is it Real Remorse or Genuine Imitation Naugahyde Remorse?”.

    Remorse takes work, and Matt’s story reminds us that some of that work needs to be on our end to ensure that we know who we are, what we want, and where our boundaries are. Everything else is up to the cheater.

    I will reiterate that I am unconvinced that a long sexting EA will forever remain unconsummated. Your husband travels out of town. If you have experienced any “withholding of marital affection” prior to your discovery, then you already know that the EA became a PA. If your husband found a new technique, a small gesture during those intimate moments–those are other signs. Don’t buy the “there’s no time” argument. The physical stuff takes moments. Really. Affairs are all about quickies.

    At any rate, best to you, whatever you end up deciding.

    • I think kb is right on this one. I don’t think most adults have “emotional” affairs. I think all of them go physical if there is any opportunity for that. That’s my point about self-honesty. You need to admit to yourself what you think really happened, despite whatever your spouse says. 99 times out of 100 they are lying.

  • Dear Newly Chumpified:
    I understand completely how you are feeling now. I am sure most if not all of the other Chumps here do as well. You are trapped in the same place I was for 3 years. I have been married for 21.5 years and have two kids (age 17 and 10). My Dirt Bag Husband had an affair 10 years ago when I was 8 months pregnant with my now 10 year old daughter. I didn’t know it at the time. I was busy working a full-time job, being a mother to my first child, running a household, and being pregnant! Three years ago is when I found out about my husband’s infidelity. At that time, I still didn’t know about the woman he had an affair with when I was pregnant. I had just found some text messages on his phone that were obviously attempts for him to hook up with other women. I got him to admit that he had cheated with strippers and prostitutes at that point. He said he did that mecause he didn’t want any emotional involvement with anyone else. He just need a release by having sex with other women. So, he chose strippers and prostitutes. (Nice, huh?) After that, he was remorseful (or so it seemed), begged me not to leave him, said he loved me and didn’t want to be with anyone else, asked me to renew our wedding vows – said he would do anything I wanted to save our marriage. JUST DON’T LEAVE ME! ( he begged me) Blah Blah Blah. Fast forward 6 months later. I bust him having inappropriate communications with a woman on facebook. They were exchanging suggestive messages, sending pictures to each other, making plans to get together. I confront him about it, he claims it was just a fantasy, nothing happened, etc. (all lies!). He begged me again, said he loved me, didn’t want to be with anyone else – all the same stuff as before. JUST DON’T LEAVE ME! I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT YOU! (he begged) I insisted on marriage counseling, and through that I found out that same woman I had just busted him communicating with is the same woman he had an affair with years before when I was pregnant with my daughter. He said he would cut off all contact with her. He typed an e-mail with me sitting there telling her what they did was wrong, that he loves his wife and his kids and asked her never to contact him again. I watched him type the message and send it to her. He swore that he would let me know if he ever heard from her again. I had feelings of doubt over the past 2 years about it. My gut instincts were telling me something was going on – but I didn’t know what. I was the marriage police off and on for the past 2 years. I would check his phone periodically, check his email on his computer when he wasn’t home, etc. I just had this lingering feeling deep inside that something wasn’t right. We had conversations that I initiated where I asked if something was going on. The response I got from him was always the same. He always said he loved me and didn’t want to be with anyone else. Nothing was more important to him than his family. (all lies) Every time I talked to him about my feelings of doubt, he felt like he was just being punished over again. His solution in those moments was to preach to me about putting it all behind us, focusing on moving forward, and focusing on each day at a time. Oh, and he said many times – “You are just going to have to trust me if this is going to work out with us”. [Yea, sure! That didn’t happen!]
    Guess what – That same woman is still in the picture right now. I found out that he never stopped communicating with her 2 years ago. He just made up a secret email account that they used regularly to send their sexy messages to each other. They have also maintained an affair since the beginning of this year that escalated to numerous physical hook-ups when he was traveling for work out of town. She traveled to meet him in many of those places and they were together as if on little lovers’ vacations together during those times.

    What I am trying to tell you is that men like our husbands are so narcissistic and in such desperate need of things that feed their pathetic egos. If they find a woman that is willing to suck their dick 4 times a day and tell them frequently how great, sexy, good looking, smart they are all the time – they are going to gravitate to that woman. It doesn’t matter what we do, and the family doesn’t matter to them! They only care about getting what they want and what they think they need. The odds that your husband has had sex with this woman are more likely than not.

    I have learned that my my staying and trying to save the marriage – (by getting high on hopium, believing in the unicorn of reconciliation, and eating shit sandwiches every day) – I just let him know that his cheating was okay. In his narcissistic mind, I gave him permission to continue the infidelity by being willing to stay and swallow my self respect and my pride by trying to keep the family together. He took that as a pass. That is how the mind of a narc works.

    He was downright shocked and angry when I finally served him with divorce papers. I had found out that this same woman (the mistress – who is also married by the way) was with him in Boston while he was working on location. He was gone for 3 months filming a show. She had been there for 3 weeks living with him and working on the project with him. When I got confirmation of that, I filed for divorce the next day. I had the process server go to his hotel room in Boston at 6:15 in the morning knowing that his mistress would be in the bed with him. Wish I could have been there to see his face when he opened the door and heard the words “You have been served”!

    As crazy as this sounds, he was still maintaining his lie when he called me after receiving the papers. He said, “Why are you doing this now?” / “Couldn’t you wait until I got back home so that we could talk about this?” / “I really miss you and was looking forward to coming home.” I told him to turn around and look at his bed. I said “Your mistress is with you right now – Do I need to say anything else?” All he could say was “Okay.” I told him he would need to make arragments to stay somewhere else when he returned to town, and he went off – “I need a transition period!”, “You can’t kick me out of my house!” UNBELIEVABLE – RIGHT?!
    I told him “Your transition has been going on for the past 2 years that you have been having an affair with that woman. I hope it was worth it to you. Go FUCK Yourself!”

    By the way, that same woman is currently living with my soon to be ex-husband in an apartment about 7 miles away fom our house. They are apparently in love. I guess she must be planning on divorcing her husband so that she can be with mine.

    I am still in the process of divorce now. It will probably be January before it is final.
    Please do not waste as much of your time as I did. I can’t get those three years of my life back. He has stolen those years from me by lying and cheating. I waited longer than I should have, to file for divorce, and I know that now. My gut instincts were right all along – and yours are right too! My efforts to save the marriage were futile because he was still cheating, sneaking around, and communicating with the mistress. He just got more careful and diligent about it so that I would not find out.

    Trust yourself and take care of you and your kids. Do not allow the sickness of infidelity to take years of your life away from you too.

    I wish you strength. Trust your instincts – they are usually right!


    • Rebecca makes a very important point (actually, several excellent points) here. When you reconcile with a truly disordered cheater (not all, but many of the cheaters here are NPD or similar personality disordered) what you are telling them is that their actions really weren’t so awful. After all, you were willing to take them back, right? So in their heads, they really didn’t do anything that bad, all is forgiven and forgotten, and most importantly, THEY ARE FREE TO DO IT AGAIN, BECAUSE NOW THEY KNOW YOU’LL EAT THE SHIT SANDWICH. Disordered people feel contempt for those they use and fool, no matter how sweetly they hide the contempt behind pretty words.

      Personally, I feel the only marriages likely to survive infidelity are where it was a one-time event with a stranger. Like a hook-up at a sales convention, that sort of thing. And even then, it’s really hard. An affair that carries on over a lengthy time, has strong emotional elements, is with a person who is a part of the cheater’s life or still in contact, or someone from the past…. forget it.

      I also do not believe in giving second chances anymore. I read somewhere that giving a second chance is like handing someone another bullet because they missed you the first time. In my very painful experience, that is true.

      • I agree that if there is past emotional elements between your cheater and the AP, You have no chance. Instead of giving your cheater a second chance. Give someone else more deserving a first chance.

        Our cheaters are the ones who gave us chumps a second chance to find someone better.

      • I forgot to add that when there is serial cheating, forget it, even if there is no emotional ties to the AP. Serial cheaters have something wrong in their head and are not likely to ever change.

    • Rebecca, I also had gut feelings all along that things weren’t right. He was really good at turning my suspicions around to make me feel that something was wrong with me, that I was insecure and overly sensitive.

      One thing I’ve learned from my experience is to TRUST YOUR GUT. They are good at lying. When you’re high on hopium your head wants to believe them, but your gut knows the truth.

      The last night I opened the door to greet my husband after a business trip a voice in my head clearly said “there’s someone else.” It was so loud it could have been said by a person standing next to me. I was startled, but went on to greet him as always.

      Turns out the voice knew the truth. I believe to this day that my intuition was so tired of me ignoring it that it spoke out loud!

  • Matt,
    What boundaries did you set for your wife other than just “don’t ever cheat on me again.”

    • They are the obvious ones: (1) no contact, (2) no parent should do anything that harms the kids (infidelity qualifies), (3) chumped spouse should not model dysfunction for the kids (for the chumped spouse this means don’t live in fear or denial, don’t spackle, and don’t smoke hopium. For my wife, this meant don’t be a complete and utter loser which is essentially what she was doing); (4) a successful relationship rests on honesty, respect, individual integrity, empathy, reciprocity (this means no secret life, no fuck-ups beyond what normal people do, etc. I actually got exasperated at this point bc to have this discussion very clearly lets you and your spouse know they are about 3 years old emotionally); and (5) no other person in your marriage ever under any circumstances whatsoever (this applies to APs, in-laws, friends, work issues, what the fuck ever).

      But really the key, for me, at least, was admitting to myself what my wife did, all the shit I let slide during the time frame of the affair about her behavior, and finally realizing that if I wanted it to stop, I had to be willing to leave for good and be ok with that. It took me awhile, but I got there. My marriage was on life support for the last 12 months but I got better during that time. My marriage seems to be turning around. I hope it does, but if it doesn’t I will live my life the best that I can without her.

      Last thing…common to a lot of comments on this blog, my gut instinct used to be going crazy. It has calmed way down. I fully realize she may be deep underground with whatever she wants to do but it doesn’t feel that way right now. I don’t have amnesia about it all but I don’t live it every day anymore either. CL helped me a lot with this one. The cheating is on my wife. I reject 100% of it. I lost all respect for my wife. We are slowly coming back from zero. I did what I had to do and I am living the way I want to, being who I want to be. Every day is not a grind like it used to be. I have accepted the risk inherent in reconciliation that my assessments about my wife might be wrong. If they are, I know it would hurt, a lot, but I would leave for good in that case.

      Hope this info helps. My wife’s affair was 16 months’ long, the basic details of which are already posted. Once the smoke clears, not even the cheater can justify it. Some of our more difficult conversations would include the fact that no spouse wants their husband or wife to be with another person, emotionally, sexually or otherwise. If you have kids, no kid wants one parent being unfaithful to the other parent. It is wrong, indefensible, and it needs no more explanation than that. If you cannot get the cheating spouse to this point, leave for sure. If you can, you have a beginning at least. Good luck.

      • Thanks – everything you and others have to say here really resonates with me. Thanks so much for sharing what has worked for you so far. good luck

  • Newly Chumpified,


    I would like to reach into my pocket and offer you some hopium, but in all fairness and out of respect for your intelligence, I find I cannot. Like many here, I was a hopium addict, spending all of my time at the hopium house smoking that hopium pipe. As with many other highly addictive drugs, that can lead to certain death – death of your self-respect, death of your spirit, death of your soul.

    It is extremely difficult to let go of someone with whom you have shared so much even if it is now tainted by his infidelity, emotional or otherwise. However, I have found that in trying to hold onto the image I had created of my STBX, I had totally relinquished myself. Every time you stay on the phone with him, every time you accompany him on a business trip, every time you check his phone or his email, you give up a little bit of yourself because, at your core, that’s not who you are. You have become the monster which Husband Dr. Frankenstein has created. It is painful and maddening and at it’s very foundation, as with the monster, it actually becomes self-destructive.

    The number one thing I believe strongly in relation to cheating is that it is one of the highest levels of abuse that can be perpetrated inside a relationship. If your husband beat you profoundly enough to cause you serious injury, would you be writing to Chump Lady asking if you could trust your husband not to beat you again? How is the emotional beating caused by infidelity any different? In some ways, it’s worse. Unless he kills you, you actually recover more quickly from a physical beating.

    I don’t know your husband except through what you have written to Chump Lady. Based on that information all I can advise you is what everyone else seems to be telling you – you may continue to hope for the best, but plan for the worst. ALL cheaters, no matter what the cheating involves, lie. It’s what cheaters do. In order to cheat you have to be or become COMFORTABLE with a certain level of duplicity and deceit. That is a character flaw. Ask yourself if you can trust someone who is COMFORTABLE with duplicity and deceit. Apparently not, since you have assigned yourself the role of undercover detective and the marriage police. How long can you maintain those roles before the sheer weight of it breaks you down?

    After my STBX’s first affair of which I was aware (it was not his first affair, just the one of which I became aware), I became the marriage police. Like many others, when he was out, I would go through his things, check his email, go through his papers, etc. – until I didn’t. It was exhausting, debilitating and, when I look back on it, demeaning. Three years after that affair, almost to the month, he cheated again. I am out of the house, frightened of the future on many days, but much happier. I am reclaiming me and my long-forgotten value and self-respect. It is going to be a long road, but if I had continued in the marriage I believe it would have ultimately destroyed me.

    My heart goes out to you NC because it is painful and difficult to give up on someone that you love. Do you love the image your marriage has created more than you love yourself? Do you love you as much as you love him? If so, then ask yourself what do you owe YOU? If it is happiness and peace, then I think you have your answer.

    Good luck to you and I’m glad you found this site. Visit often.

  • It is hard to love when you cannot trust them because they have betrayed you so completely.

    As far as keeping up appearances, I wanted to do the same thing. I actually duped myself into believing I took vows and it was important to my kids that they have an intact family. But honestly, I was TERRIFIED to go it alone.

    Having gone through legal divorce and coming out on the other side, I can assure you that the only person you are duping is yourself. I still have my up and down days. You will too. Still, I was amazed at what I was capable of enduring in order to regain your dignity. Once I remembered what it felt like to be truly valued again, every day became easier to let go of the appearance and wish for the American Dream.

    I discovered that my neighbors and friends found my X to be an asshole all along. They were just being considerate of my feelings and the feelings of our kids. When they heard that I had filed for divorce, the neighborhood floodgates opened and I heard tales that made me so embarrassed to be associated with such a cheapskate, woman-hating dud. X is about as welcome in this town as cholera now.

    • C & L,
      It is funny, I heard a lot of the same from neighbors and friends on what an arrogant asshole he was. But he puts on a good mask being a cop/detective. He is just so important.. (wink, wink) I even heard from old high school friends (we never dated in high school but went to the same one) who claim to just despise him. It has been almost comical for me. Just smile and wave folks….the karma train will be around the turn shortly.

  • NC,
    Big hugs. I cannot wish this situation on anyone, even my worst enemy. I stayed for 23 years from the first affair and finally divorced him upon discovery of the third. He confessed the first one and I still went crazy. I was the marriage police for years, and when I let up, he had another one with someone else. I renewed my marriage police license and was now promoted to Chief of the Marriage Police. I then started trusting him again, and wham, another OW. I shudder when I look back at all the wasted years. From what I gather from mutual friends, his current OW is now acting as a marriage police. She won’t let him out of his sight. I have to smile when I think of this. There’s not enough four-leaf clovers in Ireland to bring her good luck.

    Only you can decided if you want to live like this. I died a thousand deaths and then when I thought I could trust him again 99% of the time, another OW surfaced. Cheaters think very differently from chumps so using your own reasoning to figure him out is a complete, complete waste of time. Invest that time on yourself and it will be a great investment. Policing the cheater? A losing proposition from the get-go. I wish you the best, the best for yourself.

    • I meant to add this – looking back, I am quite positive there were other OWs that I didn’t catch. Lots of doubt surfaced on different occasions, but hopium is a funny thing. Trust your intuition.

  • Dear NC,
    I am so sorry for what your are going through. Been there done that and I have to say it truly is horrifying. But here are my thoughts on why you are so unhappy and I say this looking back at my own situation in hindsight. After dday and the false reconciliation, I too had the nagging feeling that i was the consolation prize. Why did I feel this way? Well because despite going through the motions, STBX made it very clear how miserable he was at home. While he didn’t vocalize it, he basically moped around the house and sat his ass on the couch all the time. If there were social gatherings we had to attend, he was aloof. If i suggested that we go out in an effort to “reconnect” he refused and sat his ass on the couch. And as for the sex, it was very clear I was just being used for a physical release. So my point is that that you need to ask yourself whether he is treating you like a consolation prize and just going through the motions or whether he has opened himself up to you and really rebuilding your relationship and letting you know how wonderful he thinks you are. If he hasn’t, then i suggest you run not walk away because yes as much as it sucks to admit it in his mind you are the consolation prize and you deserve so much more.

  • NC,
    I’ll share the story of my friend and how she handled her marriage crisis when she discovered her husband engaging in digital (as in bytes not fingers) sexual activity. She actually found out that he had a post office box and credit cards devoted to nothing but sexting, phoning, webcam sex (and associated bills) he’d been engaging in for several years – when they were in process of buying a house and the credit report came in on him. He begged her not to leave him.

    Anyway, she told him:
    1) I don’t know if I’m going to stay with you
    2) I am going to counseling to help me work through this. You will financially pay for that counseling.
    3) If you even want me to begin to consider a reconcilement with you – you will NEVER engage in this activity again and the day you do, YOU will leave your family, and you will financially pay for everything; and, you will go to counseling on your own for as long as it takes & regardless of how much it costs until I AM comfortable that you have worked thru your issues or YOU WILL leave this house & you will PAY for everything for ever.

    And, she told him that she didn’t know if she would be able to stay with him but if the preceeding conditions were met she would at least consider it. And she made it clear to him that if she couldn’t come to terms with his behavior or if it destroyed her love for him, He again would have to leave and pay for everything financially.

    She engaged a lawyer, found out her rights and assets, and essentially obtained some sort of post-nup with at least having some of the assets in her name only. She didn’t nag, yell or plead. Just told him what her conditions were to even begin to try to work it out – and he could agree or not.

    and she held true to herself. She did nothing more than agree to stay until she may decide she would no longer be there. She didn’t badger him, check up on him, or make his counseling appointments. But she refused to have her head in the sand and had – still has – the mindset that she can decide to leave at any time with a clean conscience. Even if he is rehabilitated , she has always said that she has no fear of leaving if she decides she no longer wants to be married to him.

    Result – 8 years later – she remains married. He went to counseling on his own initiative for 5 years and she has not had an indication of repeat behavior. She doesn’t throw it in his face but she doesn’t deny that he’s tarnished himself to her – she has treated herself with integrity and respect and controlled her life.. And – she tells me that they’re by–n- large good, he’s come a long way but she will do what’s right for her first and foremost.

    NC my point is this – she created conditions early and held to them and would have walked (still would) and he knew it. She refused to do the heavy lifting for him in any aspect and he’s apparently made whatever amends were possible. She hasn’t lived in limbo – he has.

    • And that Marcie is a success story. Which strikes me as so sad. It’s one of those marriages that just endures. I can’t help but think she deserves better. I’m glad he did the things that were asked of him, willingly. But to lose respect and trust of someone is an awful thing. The whole marriage dynamic seems weird to me — the Fuck Up and the One Who Might Leave.

      There is a time where I might’ve accepted that. And I would’ve accepted it out of fear, that it would be the best I could do. Life didn’t work out that way for me, and thank God. I’m a good, solid, intimate trusting marriage today and it’s changed my perspective — it makes what you describe seem just awful.

      I know I can leave at any time, so could my husband. We’re whole people on our own. But truthfully, I can’t imagine my world without him. I would never choose it. And I can’t imagine living married life on a contingency basis.

      • Thank you for this, Tracy. I was in an unhealthy relationship for so long that I started believing that was the norm. Male friends have assured me time and again that there are healthy men out there who actually value women. I am working on becoming whole (getting there very nicely). I read that people who are a 5 (or put your choice of low number here) cannot expect to be in a relationship that is a 10. Even if a 5 meets someone who is a 10, the 5 will pull down the relationship. So, it one wants a relationship that is a 10, one has to become a 10. Makes sense.

      • CL, you deserve every good thing, including a healthy marriage. I am happy for you.

      • CL,

        I think your advice is great and your service to Chumps an unadulterated “good work” and necessary service to people in extreme need. I agree that a marriage, reconciled or undefiled, which is lived on a contingency basis is not healthy. I don’t agree however that a reconciled marriage necessarily means a contingent marriage.

        One thing that has been difficult for me in reconciliation is something you wrote some time ago that a reconciled marriage would survive only if the spouses practiced amnesia. A very compelling point and one that has haunted me for the last 12 months. I really had to work at this point, logically and emotionally to get a handle on my marriage after things had settled done and seemed to be going in the right direction. Was I just fooling myself and practicing forced amnesia?

        I don’t have one foot in and one foot out of my marriage. Both feet are in. I don’t hold a grudge against her. I guess it is the difference between she fucked up and she is a fuck up. It took me at least a year to tell the difference and she may prove me wrong in the future. About the amnesia, what I have found so far is that as each day passes new memories form and old memories fade away. Kind of a natural amnesia if you will. Your blogs about the South Africans helped a lot here. With eyes wide open, a person needs to move past the bad shit that life brings and strive to live it for the best, even in reconciliation. Thanks for all you wisdom. It has really helped.


      • Mine is a similar story to Marcie’s and Matt’s. Found the Dday text, confrontation, kicked him out immediately. Relented and let him back a little more than a week later, only to be on police patrol for six months. Found the email (Dday #2) and invited him to pack his shit and tell the kids why he was leaving. They already knew from the truth from the first time so he had to acknowledge the shit fest of his own design. I was sad for my kids but happy to see him face who he had really screwed over.
        I filed for divorce and started moving on with my life: got a new dog, new job, took the kids on trips and basically showed him we were not waiting for him to return. We had done that bs for 6 months: lies in our therapy sessions, temper tantrums in front of the kids and refusal to come clean about the details of the relationship with simpleton-skank. Watching us move forward without him was good, for him, but really for me and the kids. It forced me to be the bigger person, say less than I thought about their dad and to help them manage their grief and pain.
        He had cut off the texting/email contact right after I kicked his ass out, apparently all the appeal was gone and he saw (duh!) what a desperate sad sack she was. But I stuck to it, told him to go back to her because I didn’t want his lying ass back in my home. My kids aren’t liars, I’m not a liar, hell the dogs and cats have more integrity than him and dammit we have standards in this household, so you just don’t fit anymore!
        Well, that’s not the end. What I haven’t mentioned is that he had cancer a year earlier, which I had nursed him through. Not only had he betrayed me by sexting this simpleton ho, he dismissed my copious and devoted attention to his care during his numerous surgeries, months of cycling fevers and lengthy chemotherapy. I was rightfully pissed and was out with it to our friends, family and church. The first time I had kept his betrayal on the down low, this time, it was front page news. My son called him one night, of his own volition, and asked him when he was going to get his life together and stop lying. I cried while I listened nearby in the laundry room. Heartbreaking.
        The divorce paperwork was all complete and we were just waiting for a court date. He was furious I had filed for divorce, so it was hard to have a civil conversation. He would ask for conditions to return home and they were always the same: 1. Individual counseling every week (not this once a month bs he was trying to sell me after Dday #1). 2. Spiritual guidance from a pastor, not necessarily ours, but one that I knew and 3. Demonstrate a change for a substantial period of time, yeah kinda nebulous, but it gave me the control and he knew I was not playing tiddly winks anymore.
        Then, he had one of those scans you get when you are in remission from cancer, and it was not good news. New cancer. Now he was in the shitter and he knew it. Even if he went back to simpleton-skank, her drama would pale in comparison to the fate he was dealing with and she would never allow the spotlight off her shit show, and he knew it. There’s nothing like the recommendation of a stem cell transplant to save your life to get your shit back in order. He was in counseling, calling the pastor and making the changes like wildfire. In one of our talks about how we would handle this new cancer and potential reconcilliation I told him that I deserved to be a widow and I would end the divorce to make sure of it, that he was not going to make me look bad to the kids by skulking away dejected as if I had refused to care for him in his darkest hour. It was a mixed bag mess of a reconcilliation, but the counseling and spiritual guidance were in tact, he moved back in after four months absence. The next 8 months we bore down together to fight the cancer demon. We attended marriage counseling again and each did our own counseling and he talked about the affair and he did not hide from the scrutiny I put him under. But, the cancer thing was the first priority, so it was like our marriage healing was on hold for a large portion of that time. It was so overwhelming some days, I don’t know how I did it a second time, and with someone who had betrayed me. If you know anything about stem cell transplants, you have to keep everything spotless and germ free plus make sure all food is properly cooked, to the right temp and doesn’t set out too long. My hands smelled like bleach for months. I still loved this pitiful man but he would have to resurrect himself.
        So, at the first sign he was getting better, growing hair, walking upright and able to return to work, I struck back. It was right at our anniversary. He wanted to go out, I told him screw you, you effed up the last two with your lies, I don’t want to be around you. so I went out with a girlfriend and had a great time. And it pretty much went on from there, I was having my latent response to our reconcilliation, that was put on hold, and he could accept divorce or wait it out until I felt “right” about him again. I expressed every emotion or thought I had about him, his affair, the damage it did to me, to the kids, to people we were friends with and the physical toll it took on me and how I felt about myself as a result. NOTHING went unsaid. I purged and purged and purged. At home, in therapy, and especially in marriage counseling. I claimed my healing. And it took a loooooong time and I relished every moment of it. The desperate feelings from the two Ddays and the long hospital stay for transplant were over. I was not going to be denied my time to decide if I wanted this kind of amputee marriage for the rest of my life. I wasn’t going to say I was “stuck”, I had to choose it. That went on for a year. Not what you want to hear about healing, but that’s what it takes. Did I check his phone? Occasionally, but we had conversations about the affair ALL THE TIME. He spent hours relaying the story of the affair from start to finish. Such a pit of quicksand we throw ourselves into when we ask for the details of the relationship. Screw that! I didn’t create this distorted reality that was now my home. It was on him to bring the truth to me. And he did, over and over until I was satisfied I had gained what I needed to know to even gain the slightest kernel of trust in him again. Having him take the initiative to tell from start to finish how the debacle started and ended, was healing.
        So, can I ever fully trust him again? Hell no! And he knows it and is ashamed of it and where he has put our marriage. I told him that I used to have some very romantic ideas about us being meant to be, soul mates, etc, but I don’t now. He is sad about that, but it won’t change. Our marriage will always be less than what it could have been, always. I have told him that. But, he has done what he ought to fix what he did. And I know in that year of me and my feelings parade, when he was weak and worried about his own mortality, that he knew I might move on, and he stuck with me when I had nothing to give but hatred, disgust and half-hearted I love yous. Maybe he had to pay a penance, but I was going to be heard, respected and valued. He remains in therapy every week, over two years now. We talk every day about our relationship and at least weekly about the affair now. Its not easy, but some shit in life, like cancer, will show you how to navigate around less menacing minefields. I know not everyone has the cancer situation to shove it all into perspective. What do I think would have happened if there was no recurrance of cancer, probably divorce, but we would have gotten remarried within a year I bet.
        He brings up the Dday anniversaries, both of them, and apologizes and asks if I have triggers, things to tell him that are new. He tells me who he talks to, texts, friends on FB, no one if off the radar. He accounts for his time. If he’s at work long, there’s a loud machine in the background with a bunch of guys yelling, hard to recreate that audio, I know how the machines where he works sound. He fesses up to kids and talks to them about how his affair hurt them. He prepped them for the inevitable trip to see my parents, who hated him, of course, and helped the kids see how if their future spouses cheat on them, we wouldn’t like them either. He has done much to regain my respect by showing every day he is sorry and committed to the change he has made. He likes himself now. He stands up to his family, hell we don’t even talk to them much anymore because therapy has made him see the toxicity of his family interactions.
        I remain, because there has been change, change that is evident each day.

  • Matt and all others – thanks for all the very insightful information. I’m really trying to take everything you say to heart – learn from others in this same situation.

  • “Hypervigiliance is exhausting and it’s unsustainable.”

    Let me add that it isn’t worth it as well. I did it with my XW after I told her what I wanted (stay away from the then-potential AP) and that I trusted her to follow through on it. She said “OK, I’ll do it”, and then proceeded to start the affair. I found that if you have to play marriage police, it’s already over. The partnership is over and it’s now two individuals. The X has already made their decision and being the marriage police is only going to uncover things that you would rather not know, including the fact that the X no longer respects you as a partner. It also led to me losing weight and sleep from the stress, not to mention feeling like a weak person.

  • Matt,

    I give you a lot of credit. After I recieved an anonymous letter about AP2, I thought it was AP1, I told her to get rid of him. I often wondered if it were impotent of me not to talk to him directly. She fed all kinds of BS about him and I was completely taken off guard after 20 years of marriage.

    Months later after I found out about AP4 I did contact AP4s wife and she filled me in about AP1 through AP4. So I realized that she didn’t fuck up that she is truely a fuck up! I really couldn’t do the marriage police thing. That’s not marriage to me.

  • My ex (after several months of “reconciliation and after a Catholic marriage retreat” and after I kicked him to the curb (for five months on his own) left the country (to go back to his native Sweden). He announced this decision to flee after I met him at on our thirteenth wedding anniversary a gas station to “lend” him forty bucks for gas. (Why did I engage in ego kibbles?) He said he was leaving the country and his OW “because he loved me and my son”. He left his crack-coccaine-whore-bitch, the furniture we divided, his business and all his debt……I KNOW he will try to weasel his way back into our lives because we are “of use to him”……Chump Lady has made me stronger. I will NOT tolerate this behaviour, and I will not accept a cheater BACK into my life. The reconciliation unicorn is illusive. I KNOW that he will try to get back in MY country (Canada) and MY life by saying how “sorry” he is and that he “loves” me. I trust that he sucks and trust that once the trust is broken via an affair that it is over….I filed for divorce July 17th and can’t wait to finalize it in a month from now. Chump lady has made me stronger and I WILL NOT accept this loser back into my life. I hopes he finds a job at IKEA and fucks with Swedish losers. He deserves it.

    • Heather,

      I just read your comment, and almost feel off the sofa in shock. Your situation is way too similar to mine. I am still in the early days of this mess, but if possible I would like to connect with you privately.

  • Heather, I had to laugh. Your STBX should work at IKEA, screw the Swedish losers, and eat his doggone Swedish meatballs, too 🙂

  • NC, hugs to you – you’re in such a difficult spot!

    Just wanted to share my story as well, about policing or not, end results, and things I learned.

    My (now) ex actually TOLD me he was involved w/his first AP (although I had known for a couple of months that there was at least an emotional affair going on), I think he actually thought I would tell him to go for it (as I later found out a previous long-term girlfriend had done, to her regret). There was much chaos, he screwed her a few times despite my CLEARLY not being OK w/that, it was a huge mess for months, I thought there were unicorn sightings, I did the pick-me dance, and ‘won’.

    The ex did the absolute minimum he could possibly get away with to repair from that affair (although he did make somewhat more effort to improve what had been going badly in our relationship prior to the affair). He did, however, promise NEVER EVER would anything like that happen again, not even if he was miserably unhappy in the marriage, etc; he would leave FIRST if that was the case. That meant a lot to me, especially since he had been honest enough to tell me about the affair.

    I quickly realized I couldn’t be the marriage police, but because I’d known all along (possibly before he did!) about this inappropriate relationship w/his co-worker, I decided to just let go of watching over him and let him show me who he was. Letting go of policing him brought me a lot of peace. My goal became to be the kind of wife I wanted to be, the kind I would be in a good marriage, my caring, loving self, and to live the kind of life I wanted in as many ways as I could – which included being good to my husband.

    So that’s what I did – and his self-centeredness, negativity and entitlement wore away at that, but I mostly was able to be that person – who I am.

    Fast-forward 7 years. He goes out of town for 4 days a week for an extended time. He’s super-stressed w/the project he’s on, he’s horny (we always had a very active sex life), and he’s alone – something he’s never been able to stand. He passively resists my attempts to talk about protecting our relationship prior to his going out of town. He passively resists my attempts to stay connected with him while he’s away.

    So of course he’s miserable, and he decides that the solution is – to get his ego kibbles and sex from a co-worker in the other city. How original.

    Took me about 2 weeks to realize and confirm (people are so stupid about their cell phones and cell records), and another week to kick his ass to the curb.

    In the months following the separation, of course I missed him. I thought about whether I wanted him back, even theoretically. And I realized that I really, really want to be in a relationship with someone I don’t have to force to wake up and appreciate me, our life together, our kids’ intact family. I want to be with someone I don’t have to police or check up on. I want to be with someone who knows we’re lucky to have each other, who doesn’t take me or his kids for granted, who I don’t have to fight with to get him to pay attention to us or be nice to us. I want to be with someone who thinks about the people he supposedly loves before he acts, and who is able to take responsibility for his own choices. I want to be with someone who loves in a similar way to how I do – and I deserve that, too.

    I’m in my mid 50s, with two young teens and a meno-pot. I may never find that better relationship, and I’m ok with that. Because I’d rather be in peace alone, and know that ALL my close relationship are with people who care about me and respect me, as I do them. I’d far far rather be alone than be feeling the way you are right now.

    He did make a very serious attempt, about 8 months after the separation, to convince me to reconcile. But having figured out what I really wanted in a romantic partnership, it was incredibly easy to say no to that. I realized that I would never have that with him, he’s incapable of it.

    And that promise of his, not to ever get involved with another woman again? He claims he has no recollection of making it.

  • My health improved and sanity returned once I finally began to believe that good people do not deserve a life monitoring a cheater.

  • I had a similar experience. I found out the husband was cheating, and he called her in my presence to end it saying that he wanted to work on his marriage.

    After that, the next year was like NC describes. No trust, hyper vigilance on my part, and when I would occasionally let out some anger about the affair he had, he would actually tell me that was not going a long way to make him want to reconcile… It was actually a warning: “Watch it! If you do anything I don’t like, I will get upset and start having an affair again!” But I only figured that part out later.

    Same story, he spent all kinds of time being around me, and was in my sight most of the time. He made an effort to hang out at the dog park with me and my friends, but he was always a little aloof and bored looking, around them.

    We hadn’t been having sex (he’s a cerebral narcissist) but he made an effort a few times. The sex was pretty much mechanical, and not very good, and he would get upset if I tried to communicate in any way while having sex… I was just an object to him. There was no emotional connection. No communication. Certainly not a speck of love.

    Again, this all only became clear in hindsight. I point this out because your spidey senses will be telling you that “something still isn’t quite right… But wow, it seems like he’s making an effort”… And you want to believe, so you do.

    I have one clear statement here, and it’s all you’ve got to remember: If you have to ask the question, then you already know the answer. It actually IS that simple. nC, you’ve asked the question. You know the answer. It’s just not the answer you want to hear.

    A year after the affair and all the hyper vigilance, I decided it was ok for us to have separate vacations. We had done this for years. I’d come back and see my family in the states, and he’d usually go to Thailand with the boys (yes, another big red flag, but that’s another story).

    In short, he dropped me off at the airport, and proceeded to his “usual” hotel to have sex. How do I know this? I finally checked up on him by going to a forum that he knew I knew he frequented, and knew his screen name on. He didn’t even try to hide it.

    NC, and this is important… He said in the post that he’d visited the hotel after a “several months absence”. I want to point out here that we had been “reconciling” for a year, and he was hardly out of my sight in that time… Yet it had only been “several months” since he’d stayed at this hotel, in our hometown that I know he only used for this purpose. I can remember him going to the city for a meeting… And I know there was an actual meeting on the subject that day, and accusing him of popping into his hotel and having sex while he was there. He laughed and said that was ridiculous, there wasn’t enough time, and did I really think he’d get a room, drop his pants, have a super-quickie, and go? Well, he made me feel paranoid and that that was absurd. In hindsight, I was dead right.

    If your husband travels for work, and you’ve had to ask the question, you already know the answer. It takes very little time to stick your dick in someone, let’s face it. Just cause you were on the phone with him in his hotel room, doesn’t mean that there wasn’t someone else there with him. Just because you travelled with him, and stayed at his hotel while he was “in meetings all day” doesn’t mean that one of those meetings wasn’t for sex. I’m sorry to be harsh, but I speak from experience.

    It’s hard to understand someone being that cruel and sneaky, I know, because we chumps aren’t cruel and sneaky like that. But you have to remember that cheaters aren’t wired the same way.

    Also, you are only checking cell phones and computers that you know about. He will have other ways and means. For sure. That you don’t know about.

    I feel your pain. Despite all of it, I am seriously suffering from beaten wife / Stockholm Syndrome. I was never physically abused in our relationship, and he was a great actor. We spent lots of time enjoying life together, and I thought he was my best friend. But it didn’t change the fact that he was having affairs behind my back, and as others have pointed out, only telling me the truths that I actually caught him on. I still find myself with the rug pulled out from under me, wanting to have back the life I thought I had. And it’s hard. But we do owe ourselves more than that.

    A bit deeper digging on my part revealed hookers and other girls in our town going back for most of our marriage… Nearly 20 years!

    NC, it is the hardest step to take, and you will probably feel even worse than you do now for awhile, but you must take a stand. If HE wants to fix it, HE will. It is not up to you to fix it… But we are all fixers…it’s up to THEM, because THEY are the ones who did something wrong. If they don’t seem to be making any real effort, that is very telling, and eventually, you will find yourself getting out of it anyway. Or they may seem to be making effort, but something still feels wrong. That is even more telling, in my opinion.

    I wasted a year on mine. Other people tell the same story. Do yourself a favor and don’t waste any more of your precious time! If stuff is still going on, it WILL eventually come to an end anyway. I guarantee it. Best to cut your losses.

  • I remember about 6 months after dday. I had come home after work and XH had left his phone on the nightstand. He must have run out with the children. Of course I picked it up. He left a note on it just for me that read something along the lines…. I am not fucking talking to her, she is a fucking bitch, there is nothing that I am hiding on my phone. I am not doing anything that I shouldn’t and it went on and on. I guess he didn’t like me snooping around on his phone after he had given me reason to snoop. The funny thing is that he would go through my stuff/papers that I had on my dresser – letters from his family and such. I guess his snooping was okay but not mine…..And in all seriousness, if he was really serious about reconciliation, checking his phone would have been no big deal. After all, he put himself in this situation, not me.
    Trust, respect, love, loyalty – they are all gone. He is dead to me.

    • Casey, oddly I had a similar situation. I refused to play the marriage police, partly because I wanted to keep my sanity, partly because I take privacy very seriously–so seriously, in fact, that I once was a privacy activist (as I was at the time I found out about the affair). The evidence I got about the affair was provided for me by the OW’s husband–phone records and text messages. However–it’s interesting that ex didn’t offer to give me passwords to his accounts, and dismaying that he kept asking me what I was writing in my journal. I once asked him why, and he said, “to help you with your writing” (what?! Who needs help writing a diary?). During the divorce, he even subpoenaed the journals. I refused, and (through my attorney) informed him that the journals were part of my therapy and thus were private. Luckily he backed down on this point–but at one time I seriously considered burning them all in the backyard. It was incredibly stressful just thinking about attorneys picking over every word I had written for 8 years–how would they twist my words around? Would they find something to use against me?

      For me, anyway, constantly monitoring someone’s behavior would not be good for my mental health, and might not do much to rebuild my trust.

  • I’m at home today with a rotten head cold. I had late meetings the last 2 nights and was up all night w a sick child the night before. My H is a liar and a cheat. He made the usu promises. We went to counseling.
    I would believe him and try to keep up a good front for the kids. Then I would come across something or just have the gut feeling that he was lying. The stress is enormous. My son’s teacher called to say that my son broke down in class today. He was upset then turned very angry. His father uses anger as a tool to control people. Funny thing, I actually support the family and have for the past 10 years while he started a business and had fun playing with his 20 something lab tech. I was too busy working full time trying to pay the bills I didnt realize how ‘lonely and rejected’ he felt. Unfortunately he hasn’t been willing to give her up OR leave our house. I told him if he is in love w her he should go be with her. Im tired of being the only one trying to keep a broken marriage together. So why am I afraid to take the next step? He has said I should move out since he is (not true any more) the primary care giver! Now that he is drawing a salary I feel like I have to beg to get him to help w the bills. What is keeping me so frozen? The memory of what was (if those happy years where even real). After supporting us through the lean years, I thought the boys and I wd benefit when his company took off. Seems like AP is getting the dinners and presents and time that should have been ours.

    • If you’ve not lawyered up, it’s time to do so. Certainly your H is now at the point where he can pay child support, and if marital assets helped him build his company, then you may have a stake in the company’s profits. If you know he’s spending marital assets on the affair, then those may be recoverable, or help your settlement.

      In my case, I could probably fight for better than 50/50 in the courts, but given that we don’t have that many assets anyway, a court decision would end up costing more than it’s worth. I have considered a couple of settlements I could live with, depending on who gets the house. Each of those favors me slightly, and I have decided that if he tries to fight me on them, I’ll threaten to depose OW and hire a forensic accountant.

      You may have more to fight with and over. A lawyer might help you see your options.

      Best of luck!

  • There’s a lot of good advice here already. My two cents from my own experience: after affair umpteen (I’ll never know the exact number), I finally got him to agree to give me all his passwords for all accounts. It was a hollow victory. I knew that there was no limit to the ways he could STILL conceal things electronically, and that if I thought I had all the passwords I was a bigger chump than I was already.

    There is no way to track everything. It’s just not possible. And I finally knew, after many years of shit sandwiches, that I couldn’t do it anymore. You’ll know when you’ve reached your limit too.

  • The funny thing is, I really didn’t suspect my husband of cheating. It crossed my mind but I just didn’t think he would do something like that. Over the years, he’d get into this funky behavior and I thought it was work pressure, stress, that something was bothering him. But no way was it because he was canoodling with some woman at work. Yet, all the signs were there. I don’t think you can go through life being suspicious of your spouse and I figured it was something I wasn’t doing right and I expected him to forgive me my shortcomings as I did his. But eventually, all the twisty turns and lies overflowed just a little too much and bam – I had to deal with it and I did fall apart. Didn’t do the pick me dance. I mean – the enormous construction of lies, direct and of omission was awesome. What a web of deceit constructed by his truly! I only said you have a small window to come back and we work this out or that’s it. He went through the motions for a year but kept up the dalliance. But could not resuscitate. I felt like I was living with a stranger, a scary, dangerous stranger. I could barely talk to him because I really didn’t feel like I knew him anymore, or ever. I dislike the OW because I think she’s a skank and he’s not her first married man, either. But truth is, over the years, we’d gone through these episodes where he’s miserable, withheld sex, wasn’t emotionally available and I figured it was something else. But each time, there was another woman and he was enthralled somewhere else. then they’d break up and good old taken for granted wife and kids were there to soft land. So as much as I don’t like the OW, and I believe she thinks she rescued him from SO much unhappiness with me, I realize that she saved me from a very unhappy ever after and I am grateful to her in an odd way. In fact, I could feel sorry for her because his health is bad and now she’s got to take care of him. What’s that song…Isn’t it Ironic? But wow, it hurt so bad going through all that, but in the end, it’s going to be all right. It really is better on the other side. Really.

    • Thank you so much for posting that, Meadow.

      My story is not different to yours, except that I don’t have kids.

      I never suspected him of anything over our 20 year marriage, even though all the signs were there, because he just wasn’t that kind of guy. How many times have I heard people say that now.

      Thing is, I think with some of these guys, it’s very Jekyll/Hyde, especially when they are narcissists, and mine certainly is.

      I keep fluctuating between extreme sadness and extreme anger. Yes, that is grief… but it is also when I look at the two sides of his persona. On the one hand, there is the gentle guy who would always want me to have things I wanted, and seemed so genuinely joyous when he would make me happy… then there’s the guy who withheld sex from me only to go and spend it on everything else he could get his hands on… he had a Madonna/Whore complex. When I think of Dr Jekyll, I get sad. When I think of Mr Hyde, I get angry.

      My dad keeps telling me to remember to get my anger on. It is the thing that will keep me strong. The Dr Jekyll never really was, so I have to forget the sad part.

      People keep saying it gets better. I have run away from my home with him in Sydney, to spend some time back in California with family and friends, hoping that less contact would help in a big way. It has allowed me time to reflect on everything and try to get some perspective. If this was happening to anyone else, I would think they were crazy for having a second thought, but when it happens to you… you just can’t quite see the forest for the trees.

      In two days time, after a 3 week respite, I go back to Sydney. I will be moving in with a very kind friend, who lives a few blocks away from my home with him (of course, I couldn’t get him to leave, so to add insult to injury, I have to be the one to move out).

      Unfortunately, we also run a business together, and to protect my interests, I need to stay involved in the day-to-day running of it until we reach a settlement. I have been able to do that with little communication while away in California, as I can do all the work online.

      I’ve found it strange that he hasn’t even tried to reconcile in any way, for his own benefit… but then, I did tell everyone we know what he’d done, and I think that translates to no more benefit from ego kibble, so he just wants me out.

      Anyway, when I land in Sydney on Thursday, I have to face him in person, and start to go for settlement. He doesn’t yet know that I am going to try to recoup half of the $175k that I know he has moved to a bank account in Thailand over the past 5 years in little bits and pieces, and have solid proof of. He doesn’t know that I’m going to try to recoup all the money spent on documented hotel stays in our hometown over the past 15+ years, that I also now have records of. And he doesn’t know what a barracuda my lawyer is.

      I know when those things come up, the sh*t is going to hit the proverbial fan, and he will either get crazy or, more likely, try to sweet-talk his way back into my good graces with Dr Jekyll.

      I am so worried that’s going to get my “sad” back up, rather than my anger, and that I won’t be able to fight the fight I need to, in order to get myself out. And as I said, I still have to have some exposure to him in order to run the business and get my stuff out of our house.

      Thank you anyway for your reinforcement that it gets better. In my case too, I gave him a year to reconcile. He seemed sincere, as they always do, but still in some funny way was distant. Then, eventually I found out that he had been back at hotels with women. That was that.

      There is no way to fix these people nor to stay in it, unless you’re willing to accept less for yourself than you deserve.

      But it is also very hard to stay strong and get out.

      If anyone has any encouraging words for the times I have ahead of me, please pass them on, I could use the encouragement right now.

      Everyone take care of yourselves!

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