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Dear Chump Lady, Should I give him another chance?

cakemanDear Chump Lady,

My husband and I are in our 40s with two young children. This past year, he started an affair with a 25-year old woman, (he said it was only an emotional affair), and then moved into another apartment (he said it was to be closer to work–he works frequently at nights) that he wouldn’t tell me the address of.

For the first few weeks, he would come home a couple of nights per week; then he wouldn’t come home at all. A couple of months later, in August, I moved with the kids into a new apartment (our lease was up and I wanted to move to a safer, cleaner apartment for the kids) and told my husband that I would be limiting contact with him to just email about the kids and finances. To protect my and the kids’ legal and financial interests, I filed for divorce a little more than a month ago.

The past few weeks, my husband has been emailing me and texting me about how he can’t live without me, how he thinks he we can have a happy marriage, that he will do anything to restore our marriage and family. He also sent me a draft of a no-contact letter he would send to his mistress. Should I give him another chance?

I did expose his affair to his family and friends a few days after I found about it. After that, he said that he had ended the relationship with his mistress, but I found out later that that was not the case. Also, I’ve recently discovered that he changed the beneficiary of his life insurance policy from me to his sister (my lawyer is in the process of taking actions to try to remedy this).

Should I proceed with the divorce as I originally planned? Surprisingly, after I went no-contact on him, I’ve been feeling pretty good, and, in fact, much happier than I was when I was with my husband, even pre-affair. My kids seem fine as well. Looking back, I think he was sort of emotionally abusive–he and my in-laws would criticize me, he would blame me for his career problems, and a lot of times I felt like I was walking on eggshells.

However, I talked to a pro-marriage counselor, who thinks it’s possible for my husband and me to have a great marriage, much better than the one we had before, if he shows through his actions that he is repentant and is willing to take the lead in restoring our marriage. If I don’t give my husband a second chance, I feel like I might be depriving my kids of the chance to grow up in a happy, intact family. But it looks like recovery would be a lot of hard work and painful (reliving the details of the affair). The counselor said this would be temporary and worth it in the end, as the best outcome for me and my kids would be for me to have a happy marriage with the father of my children. I also think, who would want to date a divorced woman in her mid-40s with two young kids? Even my attractive single friends are having a hard time dating.

I’m also suspicious of my husband’s motives, though he does sound sincere. Maybe the OW dumped him. Maybe he realized how much he would pay in child support and decided divorce wasn’t worth it (this past year, he has been telling me that he wants to leave me, that I’ve been a horrible wife, that he’s unhappy with me and needs to find his happiness). Maybe he’s trying to confuse me and gain the upper hand in divorce proceedings. Maybe he just still wants to eat his cake and have me around as a back-up option.

Any thoughts you could provide would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks,

Alice

Dear Alice,

Gee, I don’t know who I want to slap harder. Your husband, or the quack who told you taking him back would be “worth it in the end, as the best outcome for me and my kids would be for me to have a happy marriage with the father of my children.”

Okay, I’m going to slap the quack first. (I’ll get to your husband next.) Your quack is making a value judgement — it’s better for families to be together, regardless of the evidence. And he’s selling you hopium — despite infidelity, abandonment, and on-going emotional abuse, oh hey, you can FIX THIS, just pay those therapy dollars, dredge up the affair details, and tug your cheater by the ear to marriage counseling.

Small caveat: if he shows through his actions that he is repentant and is willing to take the lead in restoring our marriage.

Now, you might argue that Chump Lady makes value judgements that reconciliation is a unicorn and “pro-marriage” therapists like this guy are quacks. I would argue that I give advice based on EVIDENCE. I don’t peddle hopium.

So let’s look at the evidence of your husband’s “repentance.” He wrote a DRAFT of a no contact letter to the mistress. Is that what sorry looks like? No, sorry looks like not hedging your bets. His draft is contingent on what YOU do. (Don’t divorce me.) “Look at my pretty letter” is not actually sending the letter and taking the initiative to break up with her. That would look like saving your marriage. This looks like a lame gesture.

He’s promised you before that he had ended it with her, and you found out that wasn’t the case. So I would argue you’ve already give him “another chance.”

Let’s look at the other evidence — he’s so sorry and cares so much about his children that he changed the beneficiary of his life insurance policy to his sister. I’m not smelling the repentance.

Oh, but he could change it back because you’ve got a lawyer on it? Okay, he’s STILL a man who is capable of spiting his children in a divorce because he’s a selfish son of a bitch. Is your pro-marriage shrink going to give this guy a character transplant?

Here’s more evidence — you are the kids are HAPPIER without him. No one is treading on eggshells. Do you want to risk him coming back and abandoning them again? This is a man who is capable of walking out on his family and not leaving a forwarding address.

“The best possible outcome” for your children is a home life without dysfunction. The best possible outcome is when you have sane, committed, loving parents — and those households do not always include fathers (or mothers). Quack is saying that being raised by a single parent is Less Than. Fuck that shrink. Yes, most of us thought were were getting the gold standard, of two loving parents for our children — and then life happened. And you know what? You can rebuild, reinvent, and do MUCH BETTER than the crazy-ass, abusive chaos you were living with.

If you want to make a decision based in fear — namely, this is the Best I Can Do because I’m in my 40s with kids and no one will ever love me again — I think you’re making a HUGE mistake. You’d rather gamble on your husband’s demonstrable bad character and an emotionally abusive marriage than take the risk you could be happy alone or love again?

I don’t know a lot of reconciliation unicorns. I do know a LOT of middle-aged divorced people with kids who’ve moved on and remarried. I’m one. My husband is one. A bunch of readers of Chump Lady did it. I know a nice man down the street who married a divorced woman in the 1960s who had FIVE children, who he helped raised, and they’re now in their 70s and still together. Oh, hang on the couple across the street from me, he married a woman with FOUR children, and they’re still together 24 years later. Oh, and there’s the woman in my art class who was a single mother, with two failed marriages, who married a divorced Englishman with two kids. They’ve been together 30 years. And there’s my aunt, with two kids, who left her alcoholic cheater and got remarried in her 40s to her high school sweetheart whose wife ran off with the town priest and left him with two teenagers — and it’s 28 years later and they’re still together.

I just gave you FOUR examples of older people with kids who met before the dawn of internet dating.

Alice, I live in nowhere Texas and I can swing a cat and hit a couple who happily remarried in middle age. This is not dreaming the impossible dream.

My advice to you is go ahead and divorce him. His “sorry” should not be contingent on what you do or do not do. If he’s for real, he should be just as sorry after the divorce as before. So, go ahead and impose those consequences and get on with your life. If he wants to do the hard work and court you after the fact, well, then you’ve got your life — and that insurance policy — in order.

But my guess is the “sorry” will evaporate as soon as the child support is calculated. I think you’ve wasted enough of your life on this loser. Time to gain that life without him.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • simetimes your answers verge on dangerous. I hope people weigh their options and do what is best for their children.

    • What exactly is dangerous Walter? “Best for the children” is nice trope to keep chumps in their place.

      Do you really think people do not “weigh” their options and give cheaters chance after chance after chance? Do you really think any chump makes a decision to divorce lightly?

      Chumps do not break up families — cheaters do. It’s a ridiculous play for cake that so many cheaters make that they do not file for divorce, so the chump has to be the Bad Guy to the kids.

      I could go on, but your “dangerous” comment has pissed me off. Guys like this asshole who leaves two small children without a forwarding address and makes his sister the beneficiary of his life insurance are DANGEROUS. Telling someone to remove themselves and their children from harm is not dangerous.

      • But Walter’s barb is not backed up by any thought, nor cogent argument. Just an accusation, that is all. Walter has not offered any reasoning behind his jibe.

        Thus I can only conclude that he has a taste for free cake, or he is a quack who should use spell-check.

        Oh, and Walter–what’s best for children is never on the minds of cheaters. No, that is left up to the chumps, Walter. And where a life with a cheater is the alternative, then the best option is to remove children from such a life of chaos and abuse. Chumps, unlike navel-gazing cheaters, are quite adept at making GOOD decisions, at getting shit done without a lot of help. Often, though, we really could use a good reality check–someone like Tracy to help us regain our steady focus and gather up the tatters of our self esteem.

        Cheaters abuse chumps and children with reckless abandon. I’d say they are the dangerous ones, Walter.

            • Walter, are you saying it’s better for Alice to reconcile with her husband and expose the children to emotional abuse? How is that healthier for the kids?

              Alice, before you decide, please do yourself a favor and read Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. If any of it rings true in your situation, the best thing you can do for your kids to is divorce. And from my own experience–get them to counseling. They will need help sorting out their father’s behavior.

        • Stephanie: “Navel-gazing cheaters”! Classic! I laughed out loud at that one! My day is never as good without checking out the Chump Lady blog. There is always something that will make me laugh.

          Chump Lady: Are there people that actually make their living by being pro-marriage counselors? I personally have not heard of such a thing. Are they listed in the yellow pages??? Wait – I just Googled it. There is actually such a thing!
          http://www.marriagefriendlytherapists.com/

          I suppose by the job title alone, we could assume that they are going to be “pro-marriage” regardless of the actual circumstances? Am I right? Slap the Quack indeed!

          Oh, Pro-Marriage Counselor, where were you when I was still hopped up on hopium and believing in unicorns? Could you have helped me save my marriage to a serial cheater that couldn’t get enough of hookers, strippers and affairs with other women? Could you have helped be stop the lies, deceit and betrayal that destroyed my family? Do you have magic pro-marriage band-aids and indestructible spackle??

          Alice: Please keep your eyes and ears open. Your husband has shown you who he is – Believe him. Actions speak louder than words. They really do, especially when you are dealing with a lying and cheating husband. No amount of lies he can tell you will change what the truth actually is. Find the truth and then decide what kind of life you want for yourself and your kids.

          I wish you strength. Dig deep and find your self respect.

          Best wishes to you,
          Rebecca

          • Rebecca, I looked at that site. They do say some marriages are beyond saving, but I wonder where they set the bar on that.

            What makes me uncomfortable with the language of that site, and those therapists is that a) they assume other therapists are not pro-marriage and b) they assume that people who divorce are not pro-marriage.

            I think one of the most tragic things about infidelity and its aftermath is that chumps ARE pro-marriage and they are the very people who are compelled to divorce. They were the spouse who was more committed, more invested, more all in than the cheater. And they got played. And their commitment is trivialized.

            I think chumps are actually holding marriage to a higher standard. Saying I will not tolerate a marriage in which I am disrespected and endangered. I want a marriage where I am cherished and valued.

            It is because the cheater cannot be a full and loving partner, because cheaters abandon, and cake eat, and deceive, that chumps painfully choose divorce. Because divorce is the lesser of painful paths.

            It does NOT make chumps anti-marriage — or the therapists that help them along that path.

            As I say often here, I am very happily remarried. I love marriage. Heck, I just wrote an article giving a shout out to monogamy. I take my commitment seriously. The difference? This time I have a partner who is on the same page with me.

            • CL

              You’ve hit the nail on the head. Chumps value marriage, they value their children. Cheaters know this, it’s their cake eating trump card. When a chump has had enough they become the villain who broke up the family.

              Also…dear Walter…you’re an asshole!!!

            • Somehow my Chump brain processes the person who cheats as not being “pro-marriage.” Silly, I know, to think that the person who totally ignores their wedding vows and promises of fidelity would be less than pro-marriage.

              My STBX and I had a therapist who said that I was the only one who had been holding the marriage together, but after listening to his narc spin, told me that I needed to do MORE to make the marriage work, even though he was the one with the side piece. I thought coming to marriage counseling to work on the marriage instead of castrating him and shoving his severed genitalia down his throat indicated that I was not only pro-marriage but that I cared enough about my children to keep them from seeing their father in that condition. I was able to put my family’s overall well-being ahead of my need for the immediate gratification of making the cheater suffer – and suffer horribly. What’s any more pro-marriage than that?

              As far as Walter is concerned, I am in the process of brewing him a nice, hot cup of shut the fuck up.

              • Wish I could post a recording of my loud laugh! Bwaahaaaa! A nice cup of shut the fuck up for him is definitely in order.
                CL and Chump Princess: I did everything I could to try to save my marriage and keep my family together too – short of sprouting a flower out of my ass! Some things just can’t be fixed. There is just no way to turn a shithead cheater into a good person!
                I just adore this site and all of the wonderful Chumps! I wish we could have a meet-n-greet sometime. Maybe a Chump Convention! It would be so nice to see the faces of so many that helped me get through some very tough days.
                Love y’all!
                Rebecca

            • I went to a pro-marriage therapist weekly for almost 9 months. The entire time my ex wife denied and gaslighted not only me but the therapist as well. After the second D-day, the therapist told my ex that continuing to see her “mentor/best friend/tennis pro” while we were in therapy was like sending me into a war zone for PTSD therapy. She kind of repented, lied about going NC and of course took the affair underground. A few months later after D-day 3, our therapist advised me to get a private detective , recommended legal separation ,individual therapy and canceled the marriage conseling. So yep eventually even the pro marriage therapists will throw in the towel.

              • I made the mistake of going to a pro marriage MC, she didn’t advertise that way. She talked me into continuing the “reconciliation” even after ex gave me an STD. Some MCs have a stake in their “success” at saving a marriage. it sucks.

          • Hmpfh. My thoughts…

            …Wally-boy is Alice’s VSTBHX–and he’s got a bit of tracking software on her computer. Is that you, Walter? Waaaaaaaalter? Really. No one but a cheating sack of shit would come onto this board and say something like THAT. Dude. Seriously. Your stupid is showing.

            And if he’s not? I still suspect he’s an unrepentant cheater nonetheless–no one could read “my husband moved out and wouldn’t give us his new address” and “he told me what a terrible wife I am” and redoing his life insurance to cut her out as beneficiary—and come to the conclusion that these children are somehow going to BENEFIT from this situation! Only a cheater could somehow interpret those things as “gee, it’s not that bad.”

            Alice, you need to listen to yourself. You wouldn’t have written the letter to CL if you didn’t KNOW in your gut that it’s 100% the right thing to do to dump this douchebag.

            I think you need permission. I think you’ve got Stockholm Syndrome and you need to have someone reassure you that this guy is a Fucktard and you get to be happy without him.

            Did that. It took me months to give myself permission to go through my XH’s things–even though I had thrown him out and he left pretty much everything behind. Yep. He knew that since I wasn’t “allowed” to go into his office or search his stuff when he was living there, I would “never” do it once he was out. He was going to come for his stuff, but always found an excuse to delay pickup—just another ploy to keep one hand wrapped around my wrist.

            I finally got the nerve to go into his office and turn on the Holy Grail (his computer). My heart felt like it was pounding out of my chest, like I was about to be electrocuted at any moment. Arrogant asshole didn’t even password protect anything—that’s how these guys think, Alice! They’re sooooooo smart!

            He told you that you are a terrible wife. What changed in the time he said that and now? I mean…did you go to “How to Be a Better Wife” classes? Why not ask him? Ask him. Sweetheart, give me your reasons for thinking I was a horrible wife, and then tell me how I’ve managed to improve without changing a thing!

            Kind of like losing 50 pounds in a week, right?

            I think you need to jettison this guy, pronto. You don’t want to tell me where you live, asshole? Fine. Forget where WE live, too—and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

    • I really hope you reply Walter. I triple-dog dare you.

      Since your comment was replying to CL’s advice to this woman, advice that very wisely tells her to get away from a man who is so invested in his own selfish wants that he walked out on his family and did not leave a forwarding address, I’m going to assume you were referring to CL telling her to go through with the divorce.

      And because of that, I’m also going to infer that you mean leaving a marriage is the “dangerous” part, because there are children involved. I’m also going to infer that you mean it would be better for her to believe this assdouche’s fake apology and stay with him, ahem, “For the children.”

      Would I be correct in assuming that’s what you mean? I think I probably am.

      Going in that same direction I’m going to assume that you are one of three things, or a combination of two:

      1) You are a cheater. You have cheated on someone before who left you and now you’re licking your wounds because she got custody, or something to that nature, so now you see CL’s advice as something that makes you upset because it happened to you. If this is the case, boo-frikkity-hoo. Actions have consequences. Alice’s husband quite literally ABANDONED his family by leaving to a new residence and left no forwarding information. Someone who is that cold of heart does not deserved to have her and the children back. She already gave him one chance and he blew it. There is no reason to trust that he won’t walk out on them again when his weenie gets a wiggle. Cheating is the action, being divorced is the consequence. Staying with someone who is that profoundly selfish and cruel is the dangerous thing. It tells the children that cheating can be gotten away with if you fake an apology hard enough. That’s dangerous. It tells the children that cheating should be put up with “for the kids” despite the destructive and damaging nature of the marriage. That is dangerous.

      2) You have never been cheated on and have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. In which case, you need to shut your mouth. Seriously. If this is your position, then you should probably close your mouth, open your eyes and use your ears. Read the stories of the people here. Listen to their pain. Understand that the actions of their cheating exes were nothing short of abusive. Staying in an abusive marriage for the sake of the children is dangerous, for both abused spouse and children. See above.

      3) You have been cheated on and you’re a unicorn chaser. In which case, stop fooling yourself. This man cannot be trusted, that should be obvious enough. For what good reason would there be to stay together with someone you can’t trust, who will betray you again and again, for the sake of children that person clearly does not give a shit about? Yes, mommy will stay with a man who doesn’t give a flying rats testicle about her or his kids because any marriage, even a shitty one, is better than being single and happy, because gawd knows that a happy, healthy, strong single mother is just not as good as when she’s with a man who clearly hates her.

      Yah. THAT works…

      CL gave her good advice. And I hope that Alice follows it and finds a happier life for herself. It seems like she’s on her way already.

      You on the other hand, have a long road ahead of you.

    • Dangerous?

      “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” (Michelangelo )

      The greatest danger when confronted with a cheater is that you will settle for an unreformed cheater (which is the most common kind). That goes for parents and children alike. Divorcing my serial cheating ex-wife was THE BEST THING I ever did for my two sons. Being a single for a while allowed me to have a relationship with them that was free of gas-lighting and chaos. Marrying a good woman allowed me to show them what a healthy relationship looks life, which will serve them well when they enter serious relationships of their own.

      • Walter, I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt and believe that your response is for Alice to really weigh her options. I think she has and just needed the final push from CL for the courage to stay on the right path. I gave my cheater 23 years of chances (was married for 26) because of our child. Do I regret it? A million times yes. It is no way to live. I wish there was a CL back then to bring me to my senses. Is my child better today because we stayed together? Unfortunately, I have no way of answering that because he may still have turned out who he is today (an incredible young professional) even if I left his father. Alice has given her husband a chance and he seems to want to ensure that he has something guaranteed before he makes a final decision. That’s not remorse; that’s hedging.

        Alice, you always have the option to divorce him and if he really wants you, tell him, “Then earn me.” Today, I read/heard this quote from two different places and I thought of it when I read your letter: “In relationships, make sure you are coming from a position of strength and not out of neediness.” Is that really true that you will not find a better person than your cheating ex? Please question your thoughts. A lot of times we scare ourselves with thoughts that are not even real.

        • How true Uniquelyme…..My EX went after OW who were all damsel’s in distress saying that they “needed” him…..I used to routinely say I am with you becasue I made the CHOICE to be with you, not because I needed you for something…there is a HUGE difference there…..Just wish wish wish I had a site like this that would have woken me up instead of hanging in for 17 years.

    • I cannot agree with this, Walter. It seems poorly thought out and in error, big time.
      I can see no danger in divorcing a known cheater, while staying seems to pose danger.

  • Oh Alice,
    I couldn’t get past the first paragraph of your letter. Your husband moved into another apartment away from you and his children but wouldn’t tell you the address??

    Please don’t waste one more second of your life trying to reconcile with this man.

  • Alice –

    I’m with CL on this one – he’s still trying to cake eat and manipulate you. Walking on eggshells, leaving without giving you a forwarding address, telling you he ended the relationship when he hadn’t – been there, done that, have the t-shirt. Watch what he DOES, not what he says.

    I did NOT want to divorce – XH’s the one who filed (without bothering to discuss it with me) – and I seriously considered fighting it. But a wise friend told me, “Let him go. Divorce is not the end of the world. If you decide later you want to give it another go, you can always remarry.” The hope that it would all work out some day allowed me to let him go.

    Fast forward three years, and I don’t want him back. He continues to behave like a spoiled, petulant child who’s never wrong, refuses to share, and turns a blind eye to the destruction he’s caused.

    The first time our oldest (D16) drove a car this summer, he didn’t get misty-eyed or congratulate her. No, he just said, “Glad it’s not on MY insurance!”

    When D13 won a local writing contest (and $50), he didn’t congratulate her – he told her to donate the money to HIS church (OW’s).

    And just this week, for S11’s birthday, he came over, lingered for an hour, and left the instant I went to use the restroom. Why? Because I’d stopped paying attention to him.

    They don’t change, Alice. They just get more self-centered. If he wants another chance, he can prove himself AFTER the divorce. Meanwhile, get on with your life. My guess is you’ll be much, MUCH happier.

      • Stephanie,

        He’s getting worse and worse now that he’s on his own. I get phone calls and Facebook private messages from his friends and family, all wondering how the kids and I are doing because every time any of them talk to XH, all he can talk about his himself.

        And you’re right – it IS unattractive. I just shake my head at some of the things that come out of his mouth these days.

      • Stephanie, that’s the thing isn’t it? Once you get out of their orbit and start really seeing just how selfish and entitled they really are the attraction goes away. I*m at that stage now. When I see ex I look at him and think ‘I got myself that worked up over YOU???’. He just doesn’t do it for me anymore and the only emotion I get related to him is anger when he treats the kids like shit.

    • I’M so proud of your kids!!!
      Congratulations to all of them on their accomplishments, and to you for teaching them, because he obviously didn’t.
      Great job!

      • Thanks, PattyToo!

        I am VERY proud of them too. They’ve been “through the wringer” the last three years, yet they still manage to win awards and top the honor roll. When D16 took her high school entrance exams two years ago, she was awarded academic scholarships from three different Catholic high schools. I am in awe that they can keep their heads on straight with XH moving out, the divorce, and two moves in two years. I don’t know if I would have done as well under similar circumstances….

  • You need to do what you meet to, but your husband has already gotten a second chance. And mine is a serial cheating asshat, but at least I know where he lives.

    Certainly don’t stay just because you are 40 wit small kids!! I get it, though. I’m 36 with a 4, 3, and a 2 month old. Living with your cheater sucks!! I did it for 5 months. I was pregnant for most of it. Fun times…

  • It never ceases to amaze me how clear things are when you are not IN them. I mean just who in the hell does this guy think he IS? He has got to go. You have given him a chance and he has done nothing but throw it in your…and the children’s faces. Good Luck, stay close, everyone here will be rooting for you
    XO

  • Walter, are you for real? I don’t want to get divorced. But I don’t want to be abused either. Tell me, what do you think I should do? Have my kids watch their mother deeply disrespected, fight the whole time to stuff her anger and pain down (unfortunately, like a boiling kettle the pressure builds up and it leaks out. There is a law of physics in that not based on’ vicious shrews’, Stephenson discovered steam power on it), whilst he gets the benefits of home and acts single so we can stay MARRIED? You are the one who is dangerous. Women are people, Walter. We are human beings with feelings with the same need to be respected and cared about as men, imagine that.

    Chump Lady, I have got to tell you this: I asked my IC today (been going for 5 years, Walter, whilst I tried to keep my marriage together single handedly) how many clients he had who had recovered from infidelity. His answer? ONE. One. And that is because the affair was found very quickly, she acted decisively and he really got it. He really really showed remorse at what a shitty thing he had done.

    • My pro marriage councilor told me to get out!!! The woman actually teared up my last session when I said that my STBX had been out of town for 3 of my then 7 weeks old’s life & the fucker took his cheating super duper underground. She apologized profusely, but if there was ever a sign that you sitch is jacked, it’s that.

      And people like Walter think we should stay. Maybe I’ll leave when I get an STD. Interesting how I’ve not had one panic attack since he left….

      • Same here Tallula. I looked for years at the source of my panic attacks and depression….everywhere but at my dead-ass ex, who had been cheating on me and gaslighting me for years. Even with the stress of D-Day and divorce, single parenthood, a stressful career, I never came even close to a panic attack again. It is amazing what living with lies can do to us, what our subconscious mind understands and tries to tell us, and how incredibly wonderful life can be when we are free.

    • “…because the affair was found very quickly, she acted decisively and he really got it. He really really showed remorse at what a shitty thing he had done.”

      ^^^THIS.

      I’ve come to the conclusion that whether you want to reconcile or not, you do the EXACT same thing within 24 hours of learning of the affair:

      1. Put their sh*t on the lawn
      2. Change the locks
      3. File for divorce

      It tells the cheater in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that you will NOT tolerate the behavior, and it cost them their home and family for thinking so.

      Sadly, most of us are too shocked to act so decisively. I know I was…

      • Red, perfect post. This is exactly what you do. I was too shocked too. In the words of same IC: ‘he has learned he has got away with it’.

        • I left immediately after finding out mine was a cheater. Even though I was about 6 weeks pregnant. If there was such a thing as a character transplant maybe this crap could be worked out but you can’t fix that in counseling. In fact before I knew anything about the cheating our couple’s counselor pulled me aside and told me to leave. She said that everyone has baggage but that my ex seemed to like to dump his on others. Wish I had listened.

          The really confusing thing is that my parents worked through and stayed together after infidelity. I’m not advocating for that by the way.

          • So did mine, Kat. That is my model and I suppose why I am stalling on divorce (him walking out on his job hasn’t helped either).

            My Dad was selfish to the core, my mother stuffed and took her anger and resentment out on me, and she died bitter (he cared about his first wife, who cheated on him, more than her).

            Great role model, huh. I need to do this.

      • I’d have done this IF I’d been in the financial position to do it. I will be doing it very, very soon.

        If you can swing it, this is the way to go. The only person I know who did reconcile successfully took all her stuff and simply left. She went NC. Her husband had to work for months to get her to even consider taking him back.

        • KB – EVERY reconciliation I’ve heard about involved the betrayed spouse ending the relationship with the cheater as soon as he/she found out about the OP. I always said I would walk away if this ever happened, but I didn’t. I went the pick me/doormat route, and it was painful and expensive.

          As for the finances, I’ve also learned to NEVER rely on anyone else for money. Another hard lesson…

      • Red, yes! yes! triple yes! As soon as possible, kick the cheater out. As someone whose cheater is pulling everything back together in his life, family, and marriage very well, I say yes! This. And, the x-cheater says yes, this too. The chump needs to have zero tolerance after d-day. Zero.

        Alice, your story about your husband made me physically sick. Move forward with the divorce. You mention nothing that makes me think he is truly remorseful. Nothing. Take care of yourself and your children. Get him completely out of your life for good. (((HUGS))).

        • Preya – it’s like discovering you’re part of a three-legged stool. Yank your leg and leave, and the stool instantly topples.

          I had the most power for about a month after D-Day. Had I left or kicked him out, things would have been VERY different. Woulda, coulda, shoulda…

    • Patsy, you know the answer, this guy sucks big time. My ex did the same, left and would not tell me where he was, despite our three children. I finally got him to tell me by threatening to serve him with divorce papers where he worked. You have tried, and you have given him a second chance. You and your children deserve more, and you see you are ALL happier without him. By the way, I was stunned to find out my husband was a serial cheater after 25 years of marriage. I am now engaged to be married to a wonderful man and I have never been happier in my life. I will be 53 by the time my marriage take place. Patsy, you will be fine…actually you already are. Don’t let fear control you any longer. I look back and wish I had had the courage to free myself from my husband when I was “young” … in my 40’s like you. So you go girll!! 🙂 (((hugs)))

    • Patsy,
      My MC told me the same bullshit… that sometimes the marriage can be even better after his affair. Really?????? So then, with that mentality, shouldn’t our marriage be fan fucking tastic if I went out and had an affair too??? The MC also asked my XH is he could forgive me for being angry about his affair? WTF!!! It makes me wonder if the MC would take their own advice if it happened to them. Stay strong. 🙂
      I am a month divorced and feeling better everyday. He would not leave the house until 2 days after the divorce was final. Have no idea if during that time he was shacking up or not. Didn’t care. Know your worth and lead your kids. They will eventually see what a strong woman you are and were for standing up for yourself.

      • Casey,
        So sorry to hear about your very bad counseling experience that added insult to injury. My very justified anger was encouraged by my counselor and my cheating husband’s counselor. Hard to believe people are paid to give such bad advice to people in desperate need of good advice.

    • Sorry, Walter has seriously annoyed me. I just have to add a comment that the (male, married) counsellor said also:

      he said ‘you [both] have taught me a lot about adding insult to injury in affairs, and you, Patsy, have a very very high tolerance for insult to injury’

      In other words, I have put up with a lot to try and STAY MARRIED. I tried really hard and had to admit in the end I was married to an asshole. Here is a good old British ‘up yours’, Walter.

      • Amen. I get seriously pissed off at the notion that I didn’t “try hard enough” with either of my marriages. Nearly a decade wasted on the first one, dragging him to shrinks and clinics when he had zero interest in treating his mental illness (or admitting he had one) — and FOUR fucking DDays with the second loser. FOUR.

        Amazing thing — I was a single mother for years, and been remarried for 3 years to a wonderful man (not my son’s father!) — and my son thrives. Imagine that.

        • Oh, and for the record — the first one is still mentally ill and untreated. In and out of employment. And the second one is still a serial cheater.

          I really missed out.

          • And your son, Tracy, by that theory, he really “missed out” too…. in living full time in a dysfunctional home with “parents” in an “intact marriage”, but either a mentally ill and untreated father, or serial cheater step father, and all that does to him and his mother.

    • My therapist told me that the bulk of his business consisted of counseling couples. He said , at best, 10 percent of the couples touched by one spouse’s infidelity stay together.
      Most people just cannot tolerate or forgive being abused like this. These are normal, non-grudge holding folks.
      But, this particular offense is so traumatizing and lif view altering, that there can be no reconciling for the overwhelming majority of folks.
      A cheater reveals his or her true character. One ,simply, cannot unlearn this about a cheater once one knows. And , on e you know what they are,what they are capable of, you cannot relax and be vulnerable again.
      There is just so much false propaganda out there re the prospects of successfully reconciling. It is accepted because people are so afraid of the truth. They want to believe the “stronger,better marriage” deal.

      • Arnold, that is so true. When the cheater’s true character is known, it is impossible to unknow it. What you said is profound, I don’t know why I had not thought of it before–
        “people are so afraid of the truth.” It is a terrible truth, but a truth nonetheless. It is truly our own fear that holds us back.

        • Kelly,
          I suppose there are some semi normal , non-disordered cheaters out there( although, for the life of me I canno grok how any halfway normal person could ever be capable of such incredible dishonesty and sadism).
          I think many of us may get a false impression of the character of a discovered cheater because we read their posts on sites likeSI.
          Even there, it is evident that many are disordered, just , perhaps, less severely than the average cheater.
          But , those cheaters posting on SI are not typical, not the norm. They are, for lack of a better phrase, ” the cream of the crop”. Most cheaters , IMO, are remorseless and continue cheating.
          Most cheaters leave to continue cheating and never look back, once busted.
          So, many of us, reading about these , relatively rare reconciliations, have the false idea that we are atypical.
          The average cheater never sets foot in a forum about cheating and recovery. They have cheated for the very reason that they are not introspective and are unemathetic.
          That type of person, the typical cheater is not found on the sites many of us visit.

          • Great insight. Yes my ex never looked back, would not even talk about why he did what he did for so long, backed away from any analysis of what happened, was never sorry, and just moved on. He has not seen our children in over 1 1/2 years since D-Day, because he would have to go to family therapy with them, and otherwise can’t or won’t explain himself to them, a counselor, or someone else (including I am sure himself). He sure isn’t posting on SI.

          • Good post, Arnold. The people who go to therapy, buy self help books, join groups like this one and actually feel BAD about the results of cheating are the chumps. Cheaters, and the disordered in general, do not do any of those things unless they are forced to do so in order to gain some advantage. Even then, they don’t really change, they simply learn better methods of manipulation.

            • What seems to be one of the hardest concept for some of us to understand is the fact that cheaters are, fundamentally, wire very differently than normal folks. Many of the “remorseful” ones proclaim” I am not defined by my cheating”.
              This is absurd. It is like Ted Bundy saying he is not defined by his killing.
              The typical cheater really sees the world very differently, through the lens of entitlement.

  • I read those “reconciliation” sites and they make me feel dreadful. Then I remind myself what an ass my STBX was and how craptacular life was when he was out drinking and acting like a douche. I LOVE the idea that people can overcome this crap but to be honest, at what price? It seems to me that the betrayed spouse takes a load and then some. (Hence my name here) Surely there has to be better out there for us and leaving a cheater is the way to that. It’s not easy but if you don’t show people how to treat you, who will?

    You know what’s dangerous? Staying with someone who so recklessly hurts you and your kids, who thinks selfishly over and over, who lies to you, blames you for their unhappiness and disrespects the life you’ve made together. If they can screw around on you what else can they do? Trust me, you’d be amazed.

    I say let this man go. He is not after your best interests and hasn’t been for a long time. Sure he wants back now that he has been “caught” but his words have been lies in the past and even now his actions aren’t matching his words. You want a fast pass to crazy town? It’s reconciling with a cheater.

    Get out, stay out and find a good life.

  • Alice, I’m so sorry, and I feel your pain and ambivalence, too. There’s a part of you that still loves him. He reminds me SOOO much of my X, especially the way he moved away from you, in the heat of an affair- like you suddenly stopped existing. That is just the wierdest feeling, and now he’s back, acting like it was a mistake and he really loved you after all! Part of you believes, because you want to validate that life you shared, it was so real, right? We had a family, and love?
    What I’ve come to believe in my heart now, is that my X is incapable of being with one woman, it’s so messed up. He loves me. He loves anyone else who smiles at him, too. It’s the ultimate deal-breaker, I won’t live like that, with someone who jumps ship so easily, but still cries and promises, and wants another chance. I guess there’s just a broken wire in their head, not sure if it can be fixed, but I can’t stand anymore pain from someone that close to me!
    Only you can decide what to do, but to me he sounds like he’ll hurt you again. It was too easy for him to do it the first time. Sending you strength and love, and hope your kids are OK!

  • I did the pick me dance and reconciled with my husband about 22 years ago when our daughter was 6. I did think that he had readjusted his view of marriage and me. Guess what happened next? I bet you can. 22 years later, I found out that he has been cheating all along. I do not entirely regret the last 22 years, but my decision to stay for my daughter (and I do and did still love him or the man that I thought he was) did not ultimately work out well for me. Time will tell how it worked out for my daughter. She is a good solid woman and says about her dad “you cannot reason with crazy” and “please g-d, don’t let me have the crazy genes!” I assure her that she does not! Finally, to top it all off, of course, my husband blames me for his actions. I am now in a better place- separated for 10 months.

    Alice, good luck. You and all the Chumps, deserve the best.

  • My favorite quote on the subject is: “Giving someone a second chance is like handing them another bullet because they missed you the first time.”

    OMG, Patsy, DO NOT GIVE THAT HORRID MAN ANOTHER CHANCE! First of all, you DID give him a second chance, and he chose (as most of them do) to lie and remain in contact with his affair partner. So he blew his chance right there. As for the moving out and not giving you his address, and making his sister his beneficiary……. what the fuck???? How does that show any possibility of reconciliation?

    Your MC is a stupid fuck, as many are. The fact is, your ex is NOT repentant at all. He showed you a draft of a letter, doesn’t mean he sent anything. My guess is the OW dumped him, or he is realizing how much $$$ he might be ordered to pay for support. In fact, I would BET one of those is the answer, not “remorse”, not “wanting to save his marriage”, not his kids. Cheaters don’t feel remorse and they don’t care about anyone but themselves, not even their own children.

    You know the answer. You are already feeling better without him! Just think how great you’ll feel when the divorce is final, and you are free to make a new, healthy life without that lying sack of glittering turd wasting space or oxygen anywhere near you.

    As for dating with kids, sure, it makes it harder. But there are LOTS of single parents out there and plenty of them are finding each other. It’s actually far likelier you’ll find eventually find someone new than not.

    Sorry for all the cussing in my post, but your STBX is really a piece of shit, Patsy, there is just no way around it.

  • Alice: I have been putting up with an Emotional cheater for over a year. 2x I was ready to leave 2x something came up (once a tree hit our house now he is having serious medical issues) This last time I had a lease in my hand ready to sign. Anyway that is not the point. I have become bolder in calling my husband out on my knowledge of this “affair” which he denies. Asked him if he wanted me to stay while he has surgery or if he wanted OW to move here to take care of him. Suddenly “he loves me” ( a phrase I haven’t heard in a long time) wants me here. Has become somewhat nicer to me. Serious cake eating. I am staying because it is what I want to do. But I read your letter. This man is not doing you any good. You can divorce him and you can always remarry (LOL) if you want to. I saw a Christian marriage counselor at first and they do have an agenda; they are pro marriage. This is not good advice. Too many points in your letter scream “This man is a skunk!” Get rid of the stink. You and your children will be better for it.

  • Alice – all of us are here having given our exes 1,5,10 or 50 more chances.

    Nothing changed because they are who they are.

    Leave him, and don’t look back.

    Best of luck!

  • Well, I go to court tomorrow. I’m approaching it as strictly a business transaction but I won’t lie. It does get emotional. I have to be the Dad that tears down my family because of her bullshit. Didn’t get any sleep last night. I thank God for this blog!

    I left over a year ago and not one iota of her wanting reconciliation. Not that I would have entertained it. I made the right choice. Now I have to mentally prepare for the big game tomorrow. I need to get my bad ass on!

    Alice, NEVER make a priority for someone that makes you and option!

  • Good luck tomorrow, TennisHack625. Be strong.

    Alice, listen to every single word out of ChumpLady’s mouth!! She is a psychic at times. She knows what she is talking about. I allowed lots of second chances, and he never ever reconciled. We would go to a therapist, they would ask if he had quit the affair, and he would lie. He never quit the affairs. Then he was cheating on the “soulmate.” Once they get delusional, they seem to stay delusional. The affair is truly a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. I tried over and over again to get the divorce, and he played game after game of false reconciliation for 10 years!! My four kids grew up with him living and working out-of-state, with two long-term affairs spinkled with numerous other dalliances. My divorce was finalized two weeks ago, and these have been the most joyful two weeks of my life, after 34.5 years of marriage. They lie. They suck. They eat a lot of cake. Believe it!!

  • I’ll just be one more voice in the crowd….my husband is offering to “repent” for the third time. He is lying of course, like he lied the previous two times. The first time I blamed myself, the second time I gave in to pressure to “keep the family together.” This time? Fuck this noise. I am getting out and nobody is going to stop me, least of all myself.

    Coming to a site like this, and seeing how many other people have gone through the same thing, followed the same pattern, heard the same lies (the EXACT SAME LIES!) should be an eye-opener for everyone.

    Our cheaters are not unique. Our situations are not special. We are going to go through this again and again and again until we choose to hop off the merry go round.

    Alice, you are thisclose to freedom. Do not get back in the cage.

  • Alice,
    Divorce him. If he really wants you back, truly feels remorse, then he can court you and win you again.

    FYI, my divorce agreement states exH and I have to keep one another as life insurance beneficiaries. Get it back in yours. I have it in writing: company, policy number, amount, and until youngest turns 18. This way if something happens, and he changed it, I can take the new wife/family to court and get the money for my kids. Yes, he was remarried and had a new baby less than 6 months after the divorce was finalized.

    Best to you, truly.

  • Hi Alice,
    As you know this blog is moderated by and contributed to by those whose opinions are that a truly satisfactory reconciliation after cheating is virtually impossible. I tend to agree. That having been said, there are exceptions to every case; and I could be wrong. I have been before.
    However, the real crux of this matter is how are YOU going to feel about it in both the short and long-term? There are so many questions that must be dealt with rationally as opposed to emotionally: How high is your tolerance for uncertainty when awaiting an outcome? How much of an olive branch are you willing to extend to this man and for how long? Is he a good father who spends time with and has a deep and loving interest in his children? Do you have religious or deep seated values that make you wary of divorce? You have to really know yourself when making decisions of this matter and may wish to consider individual counseling about any issues of your own that you think should be clarified.
    With respect to his “no contact” letter. If you suspect he is still contacting her, you could catch him flatfooted one evening and insist that he telephone her immediately (with you listening on the line so you can hear her responses) and break up with her. You’ll find out soon enough what happened and whether he is serious about reforming…IF he refuses to do it.
    With respect to the life insurance situation, I’d tell him flat out: If you are serious about this you would voluntarily reinstate me as beneficiary of the life insurance and make that irrevocable.
    You stated:
    “However, I talked to a pro-marriage counselor, who thinks it’s possible for my husband and me to have a great marriage, much better than the one we had before, if he shows through his actions that he is repentant and is willing to take the lead in restoring our marriage.
    [Yes, “through his actions” Believe only what they DO and NOT what they say.]
    “If I don’t give my husband a second chance, I feel like I might be depriving my kids of the chance to grow up in a happy, intact family. “[And this is a prime consideration for all mothers, especially if the cheater is an otherwise good and loving parent.]
    ” But it looks like recovery would be a lot of hard work and painful (reliving the details of the affair).”
    [This is not just “hard work” it is an emotional wringer. How one pro-marriage counselor does it can be found at this link http://www.davidclarkeseminars.com/apps/articles/?articleid=3813&columnid and as you can see it is pretty brutal on the cheater. And, dammit, the cheater deserves it. ]
    “Should I proceed with the divorce as I originally planned? Surprisingly, after I went no-contact on him, I’ve been feeling pretty good, and, in fact, much happier than I was when I was with my husband, even pre-affair. My kids seem fine as well. Looking back, I think he was sort of emotionally abusive–he and my in-laws would criticize me, he would blame me for his career problems, and a lot of times I felt like I was walking on eggshells.”
    [ You can. And then let HIM work to win you back. OR…..Even if you agree to try and work it out with professional help, you leave that divorce process open and on the table until I convinced past a shadow of a doubt that this man was truly broken and remorseful. Enough to make permanent behavioral changes.]

    Alice, YOU must do what you can ultimately live with, if your conscience is nagging you to give him another chance. Not because you “want” the man but because you truly believe it would be best for you and your family…IF you can secure a post-nuptial property settlement agreement with terms that are fair to you…and then have the emotional fortitude to keep HIM in the position of supplicant. You don’t have to get your divorce yesterday.. You can take your time and allow it to play out. But you have to be willing to do it. Very few of us do, nor are we willing to live with uncertainty for that long a period of time when all we want is relief.

    If the man has real remorse about hurting YOU as badly as he did, he’ll prove it and keep proving it over and over. He will prove to you than he can learn not to be verbally abusive. He will get personal counseling to correct his lack of proper interpersonal skills. He will go so far as to PRIORITIZE his relationship with you…right up to and including telling his family to get off your back…that you are his wife and his first and only loyalty is to YOU!!

    This is a tall order. I’m betting he can’t fill it. But you can put him to the test and find out.

    You are now calling the shots and “commanding” respect by your behavior. Probably prior you tried to “demand” respect by what you said. That never works. Showing someone that you mean business can work IF the person is sincere about wanting to have a truly good relationship with someone.

    Your ultimate decision rests squarely on your shoulders. Everyone can contribute their 2cents worth but only YOU can make the final decision, and only after you have come to terms that are the best ones.

    Best of luck to both you and your children.

    • Reconciliation or marriage with him “in the position of supplicant” sounds like no way to live to me.

      I’m skeptical that a man who walked out and left no forwarding address and whose grand gesture is a *draft* of a no contact letter is going to do the hard work and go the distance.

      Also, I always come back to — why would you want someone that you have to hold a legal gun to their head to stay committed to you? It doesn’t sound like he wants a marriage with Alice — in fact all this last year he’s been telling her she’s a “horrible wife” and he wants to leave her — he wants cake and no consequences.

      It’s very hard to live in this kind of limbo. I think you outlined a few good litmus tests — like a postnup (wouldn’t reconcile without it), and pop quiz on the NC with the OW. (But of course they can always hook up again for “closure.”)

      I think so many of us endure multiple DDays and false reconciliation because we’ve got a bad case of the What Ifs. She gave this man a chance (chances) and he kept the affair. At some point you have to walk. That she and the kids are much happier without him, to me, is a big indication that she knows which way she should go. She just needs that push and to put down the hopium.

      • CL,

        I think (and so does Dr. Clarke) that someone who cheated and expresses a desire to reconcile ought to spend several months showing remorse, humility, empathy, consideration, transparency, and whatever other form of amends it take to make a SUSTAINED show of good faith while also working on their personal issues that caused them to act a fool. This should be done BEFORE the offended one contemplates any type of recommitment. Sometimes if assholes “act right” long enough, it actually becomes a part of their behavioral repertoire. It is the exception, but I’ve seen it happen.

        Like you, I AM skeptical that he is going to be able to show sustained good faith of the necessary kind. ***But my concern is NOT Him. It is Alice.*** She is questioning her resolve or she wouldn’t have posed the question here. She may be an individual who needs to know that she has done all she can do within reason and dignity before she can have total peace with her decision.

        She is in the only one in the position to do that for herself, and so I suggested options that she might wish to consider. Didn’t recommend the “pick me” dance. Didn’t recommend she let him back in the house or in her bed. Didn’t recommend that she not finalize her divorce. That is one of the options open to her. SHE lives with Alice 24/7. The rest of us don’t.

        I am just as skeptical as you are, but come from the position that neither I nor anyone else can play her cards for her. Her happiness is her personal responsibility within her framework of values.

    • notyou, I checked out your link. I wish I could have seen that about 4 years ago. Some folks tried to sell me that “you took a vow” garbage and I was foolish enough to buy it. I’m not much of a Christian, but I do believe in being faithful in marriage and I believed that divorce was sinful–until I bothered to look up the correct Biblical passages. Perhaps my lowest moment was when an old college friend, now a campus minister, sent me several YouTube videos “selling” reconciliation as the Christian thing to do. I felt so guilty I became despondent. David Clarke is a breath of fresh air–thank you.

      • One more comment. I am not suggesting Alice give her husband “one more chance.” I think there is plenty of evidence that he is not repentant and has no intentions of changing. I think the David Clarke site is enlightening because it outlines what really needs to happen in order to reconcile. Alice, the onus is on your *husband,* not you, to start that process. Merely whining “we should get back together” from an undisclosed location should not be mistaken for actual remorse.

        • Jade,

          You are exactly correct. The onus is TOTALLY on her husband. And not only should Alice hold fast to this, from a Christian perspective God would require this from the man. And, yes, Dr. Clarke IS a breath of fresh air.

          As I stated before, my concern here is Alice. If she is wavering in her resolve and has any misgivings, she needs to put those to rest for her own long term peace of mind (reaching “meh” sooner than later.)

          A therapist who would require that the cheater do the things that Dr. Clarke requires would be able to help her achieve one of two things. (1) Either the man would “man up” go the distance, prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is sincerely remorseful and ready to build a truly healthy new marriage, or (2) it would any of Alice’s residual doubts that she may not be doing the right thing completely to rest, thus freeing her to move on with a peaceful mind. I see taking this one extra step as a win-win situation for Alice…not as “caving.”

          People can summon surprising inner strength with only a minimum of guidance from a professional IF the professional knows his stuff. The fact that Alice instinctively did the right things straight out the gate (no contact, separation, no pretzeling, no loss of dignity and maintaining self-respect, and asserting herself toward financial fairness) suggests to me that she has this kind of inner strength. Taking such steps are totally counter-intuitive and most of us do not initially do them in this situation. To behave that way requires control of our reason and not giving way to emotions and thus floundering in an ineffective puddle of drool.

          I will speculate this much. This is a strong woman…and a woman of action. Whatever options she explores…she will make it. Not only will she make it, she will do it in such a way as to take charge not only of her life but of negative emotions that only serve to hold her back. I could be wrong, but I don’t perceive Alice as one of those who goes on for years dragging that dead cat of bitterness and anger behind her.

          Our live are for us to LIVE and live richly, and in order to do that we must always take personal responsibility for our own happiness…solving our problems in ways that don’t create problems for others. Dealing effectively with the shit life throws at us and dropping it to focus on that which brings us joy and peace. Life requires that we be brave enough to take calculated risks and deal with the results, regardless of whether the outcomes are as we would like them to be.

    • Alice, I’m in recovery as of 8 months and let me say, my H does so much emotional support getting me through the emotional roller coaster. Your H doesn’t sound like he will do the challenging work ahead. There are angry days, sad days, and days that start out happy, and a song can trigger that gut wrenching feeling and bring you down again. If my H wasn’t able to help me through them, I’d be out the door! Are you sure he’s really sorry? Or is he afraid for his finances? Already changing his insurance policy to me is a big red flag. My H was so sad after I kicked him out he couldn’t even function, let alone worry about his life insurance. Be cautious!

  • I don’t know who “Walter” is–maybe the STBX?

    Anyway, Alice, it sounds as if you’ve already made up your mind.

    In the words of the late Ann Landers, are you better with him or without him? Since you say you’re happier without him….

  • “Love is a Behavior. . . . This truth that LOVE IS A BEHAVIOR is so critical to your life, because very often people in unhealthy relationships prefer to look only at the good times.” – – Dr. Jill A. Murray.

    Alice,

    Don’t listen to what your husband has said, is saying and might say tomorrow. You need to critically assess what his BEHAVIOR has most consistently told you that he feels about you. I will start the list for you. Telling you that you’ve been a horrible wife is not loving behavior. Moving out and refusing to give you his address is not loving behavior – toward you or your children. In any way blaming YOU for HIS problems is not loving behavior. Removing you as beneficiary from his life insurance policy is not loving behavior – toward you or your children. Cheating on you is not loving behavior.

    Each time my STBX cheated on me “he loved me,” and it was “the last time.” He began saying that when we were dating. Now, 28 years later, he has finally been able to maintain that promise, because I moved out, not because he was ever actually going to stop. Spackle, mixed with cognitive dissonance and a helping of fear is an amazing adhesive for a fractured relationship, but I don’t recommend it.

    Listen to Chump Lady, Alice. She is brilliant and insightful. Your letter stated that you were happier not living with your husband. Why would you want him back? So you can be less happy? How long are you willing to be Inspector Clouseau, constantly monitoring and checking up on your husband (because you will) until you are able to trust him again? What in his BEHAVIOR has indicated that he has become someone with whom you would be truly valued, cherished and loved?

    I don’t like passing judgment on people I don’t know, but seriously Alice, your husband sounds like one of those flaming turds from Satan’s ass. You cannot even identify what has accounted for his “change of heart.” The fact that you cannot is in itself problematic. My advice to you? Throw some dirt on that piece of shit and keep moving forward. If he’s sincere, you will find out soon enough.

  • Alice, in the wise words of CL, “Trust that he sucks.” Because from what you just shared, he does.

    Another gem from Maya Angelou… “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

    We are here for you. You can do it.

    • That Maya Angelou quote is one of my favorites too. Looking back on my relationship with my ex, I had warnings of his narcissism within two weeks of meeting him. Wish I had the sense to see it–back in 1983. Alice, don’t fritter your life away–your kids deserve better and you’ll have the rest of your life to discover how fabulous you are.

  • Go through with the divorce. Sorry to sound harsh, but he’s obviously had his fun with the mistress and now for some reason it’s all over. maybe he’s sick of her, maybe she’s realised what a loser he is and dumped his sorry ass. Either way – once a cheater always a cheater. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life constantly worrying what he is up to and who he is with, that’s exhausting. You deserve better. Sure, its hard going it alone, but its a lot harder being unhappy.
    Remember – a leopard never changes its spots.

  • My best advice Alice? read this blog from CL earlier this year.

    http://chumplady.com/2013/07/real-remorse-or-genuine-imitation-naugahyde-remorse/#comments

    If your guy is showing any remorse I’m not seeing it in your description. There is a motive here, all related to his comfort not yours, not your children.

    So sorry that they had to endure that the first go round. don’t set them up for a second. If your man wants to show remorse he has a lot of work to do, and you have a lot of observing to do. I wouldn’t make it easy, he’s supposed to be the adult here. You have the kids back. Take care.

    • Unfortunately true remorse isn’t always everlasting. My STBX showed what I and both sets of our family’s thought was true remorse, by going to individual counseling, couples counseling, officially telling OW no contact while she knew I was on the other phone line and he apologized sincerely to me and my family. Also, he was not allowed back to the house for two months, then I made him sleep in the other spare bedroom for another six months ( because that’s how long it took before I could even fall asleep with him in my bed). He lavished me with fine jewelery, weekend trips and pretty things from Victoria Secret to try and make me feel special again. He even quit hockey altogether for me ( one of my conditions, since the OW was a hockey groupie and he abused his hockey playing by saying he was playing extra games when he was really with her). He also would calmly listen to me rant and rave when I had triggers ( for a good nine months post affair breakup). Pretty promising, huh????

      It took four years post reconciliation for his next affair to surface. And during the whole time he never spoke of any issues he had with me or that he was unhappy in our marriage.

      They say people take the path of least resistance but taking him back and going through this divorce was equally painful. It took about a year for the anger to somewhat subside, but it never really went away . Six months for me to feel comfortable with him sleeping in my bed. Living in a small town I knew people gossiped about how they would never have taken him back. Playing marriage police, checking his emails regularly and cell phone records wasn’t at all fun, I did this for about nine months. I didn’t feel comfortable with him going out until a good year had past. And “I” was the one who felt guilty for that, not letting him have a life outside of me. How messed up was that, since he was the one who broke the trust? It took a whole year for things to feel semi-normal. But my ability to wholehearted trust him was never, never, ever going to be felt again.

      I really hope that you can look past hopium and learn from our mistakes. Please “trust that he does suck”. Maybe not right now, it could take years before the next affair, but he most likely will do this again.

  • I love this site so much for its great dose of “reality check”.

    I left my STBXW exactly 5 months ago to the day. I suspect she’s thinking about having another “go” at me. She’s being sooo nice in our necessary contact regarding the kids. I smell a rat. In the borderline forums, they call it “hoovering”.

    I haven’t weakened, but it is so reassuring to read the posts here. For us who are still making that journey to get them out of our lives and move on, it really helps to read the posts of those of you who have followed through. You all make so much sense.

    Thank you!

    • Yes, watch the “hoovering” Kraft, I always feel that tug when my pathetic, self absorbed, asshole ex suddenly acts nice like the man I thought I loved for 25 years . I have to tell myself over and over “trust that he sucks” and “what does he want?. As CL says, there is no “there” there.

      • This is so true! I get the text messages where he appears to be the caring person he pretends to be and I have to keep telling myself, “Pig-Faced Alien Hiding Under Human Appearance! Danger! Pig-Faced Alien Hiding Under Human Appearance! Danger!” I spend more time reading and re-reading on this site to keep me grounded when that occurs, because it is imperative that I remember that a caring person does not exist under that human suit he’s wearing. Nothing there but a pig-faced alien — and he sucks!

        • “Pig-Faced Alien Hiding Under Human Appearance! Danger! Pig-Faced Alien Hiding Under Human Appearance! Danger!”

          Princess, you are too hilarious! Thanks for the laugh during a slow-moving day 🙂

    • These folks are experts at masking their disorders. Just remember no normal person could ever act as they did.
      It is imperative,IMO, to familiarize oneself with the signs of the Cluster B disorders so as to see these nuts down the road.

  • God, I love Chumplady and this website!!

    I’m effing fed up of manipulators …and even more fed up of half the world seemingly enabling them and making us who see it for what it is feel like WE are the losers and paranoid.

    Chumplady should become a movement!!!!

  • Thank you all for your comments. H did say he was willing to work with a therapist, so I found one who seemed to understand that the cheater had to do a lot of hard work, “high cost actions” she called them, to reconcile the marriage. I asked H when he would be available, and he gave me a list of times for this week and next. I emailed him this morning, asking if a certain time next week (within his available times) would work for him, but I haven’t heard anything, though we did exchange some emails about my older child being sick, so it looks like H does not want to go forward with reconciliation.

    I also told H over the weekend that sending me a handwritten version of the NC letter was a non-negotiable condition, but he had plenty of weird excuses for not sending me the letter, like what if OW tries to kill herself or tries to harm the kids or sue us. Finally, he said he would send the letter. I asked him to text me when he sends it, but he hasn’t. However, a pro-marriage coach said not to push him on sending the letter, as H needs to hear from an authority other than me (like a therapist) why it’s important to do things like sending the letter, and that sending the letter isn’t the important thing; it’s H showing somehow that the affair is over, which he could do by other means.

    Part of me feels sad that H doesn’t seem serious about recovery, but part of me feels very relieved. My mom thinks I should not go back to him, that he’s just trying to get back with me because he’s afraid of losing money to me (she thinks he’s very cheap). My mom has been very traumatized by this as well and never wants to see him again ever (H has cursed at her through texts).

    The affair apparently began this past February (according to H). I only found about it in May. H moved out in June, and I’ve tried to maintain minimal contact with him (just necessary info about the kids) since August, so I guess I’m still trying to process things.

    Regarding the life insurance issue, do you think my lawyer should file a motion to try to get H to reinstate me as beneficiary, or should I just let it be?

    • Alice — it was very telling that YOU were playing secretary to HIS shrink appointments. If he were serious about R? He would BOOK HIS OWN GODDAMN APPOINTMENTS!!! You are catering to him — stop it. See what he does on his own steam. Oh that’s right… nothing!

      And that shrink? Full of shit. He needs an “authority” like a therapist to tell him to quit the affair? How’s that going to work — just move the therapist in with you to be his conscience? This person sounds as if they know nothing about infidelity. For MC to work, the guy has to be out of the affair. The shrink thinks he/she will tell him and that will make it so? That’s crazy.

      I’m sorry — but he’s telling you through his actions loud and clear that he’s not serious about this. Listen to your mother. Do not take this idiot back.

    • I agree with Chump Lady, Alice. The therapist says don’t “push” him, he doesn’t “have” to send the letter, why? He can “choose” to show you the affair is over “by other means.” Because HE doesn’t want to?? WTF? It’s what you want! It’s not about him anymore.

      Seriously, Alice, don’t you already know the reason that he refused to do this is because the affair is NOT over, that the affairs with whomever will NEVER be over. Don’t push him Alice, the therapist says, you know why? HE WON’T DO IT. That tells you all you need to know. The therapist just wants to coddle him, and he just wants to play you and fool you some more.

      This guy has told you in every which way he can that this is a zero sum game you will always always lose. Don’t play, get out.

  • I also have to say that part of me feels like a failure and ashamed for getting divorced. My friends used to think I had a great marriage. How could I pick so poorly? I actually thought that cheating on me was the last thing H would ever do.

    I think H changed. He used to be sweet and devoted to me when I was in college. We broke up a few years later. I dumped him because I didn’t want to marry him, mainly because of his parents (very attached, controlling, critical) and because of a certain sexual fetish he had (not violent or anything, but he could be a little obsessive about it). Looking back, I should have followed my initial 25-year old instinct.

    We didn’t talk for 6 years after I dumped him in our 20s, until he emailed me out of the blue, saying I’m his soul mate, etc. and we got engaged quickly after that. It wasn’t until after I married him that I realized how angry and bitter he had become (I think at least partly from doing a grueling medical residency and partly stemming from his upbringing by his critical parents). I remember doing Internet searches for “divorce” a few months after we got married. Perhaps H’s affair is a blessing in disguise. It does give me a “Get out of jail free” card out of this marriage, and I never have to talk to my ILs again! During our marriage, I kept on trying to convince myself that H was the sweet guy I knew during college, but I think he has fundamentally changed.

  • Alice, the things you wrote just have such a common thread. After a while you will see the ‘red flags’ in them.

    Ardent declaration of love, swift commitment being two of them. As for the FOO: I have told my children CLEARLY: no matter how much you love him, if his family and especially his mother is wierd?? RUN. Don’t look back. Because when the love wears off, guess which coping mechanisms are going to come into your life!!

  • I hope Chump Lady talks about this ‘personality change’ we all know about. How does a loving husband of 15 (or 8 or whatever) years, who we couldn’t imagine doing this, then do it in the 16th year? And reveal themselves to be this selfish, self-centred, uncaring person?

    Were they always like that? Did they ‘break’ inside when they got tired of a role? Were we blind? What the hell happened?

  • Thanks, again. Also, part of the reason I wanted to reconcile is that the divorce was stressing me out–worrying about custody mainly. It looks like H will try everything to gain at least 50% custody of the kids. And it seems like after I divorce him, I’d still have to deal with him because of the kids, like a never-ending saga, and that would be even more stress. I wish I could cut him out of my life completely, but I have to communicate with H for at least the next 20 years or so because of the kids. If we somehow reconciled, at least there would be hope that we would interacting harmoniously with each other. Now, if we divorce, I’m going to have to contend with him for the next 20 years or so. I’ve talked to people who are still battling their exes in court 10 years after the divorce was finalized, because of issues involving the kids. Is there any way to minimize this future/conflict stress?

    I guess the question is: I have to keep in contact with H no matter what because of the kids, so would it be better for me psychologically to divorce him and have our relationship be adversarial or reconcile with him with the hope that our relationship would be harmonious in some way?

    H did tell me that he ended the relationship with OW on September 1, so he says he doesn’t want to send the letter to OW for fear of disturbing anything that’s better left alone.

    I guess it’s hard to let go of the dream of a happy, intact family and that H would someday be truly remorseful for what he has done.

    • Alice, you have set up an either/or situation that doesn’t have to be true if your STBX cares about the kids. Others here who have kids can give you tips on minimizing conflict. I just want to say this:

      Your H told you he ended the relationship before and he did not. My ex told me that 4 times, every.single.time.it.was.a.lie. Listen to CL, his actions are his character, if he really meant what he SAYS, he would have showed you a receipt for the certified letter he sent to OW to cut her off, not given you a “draft”, a fucking draft? are you kidding me?

      I asked my ex to break it off with OW on the phone with me listening after the 3rd time he lied, he refused. Then he said “how would you know I didn’t just tell her to play along?” Then he convinced me he broke it off AGAIN, I am a chump. If your H is having an emotional affair then the ONLY way you will know if he really broke it off is to be in the room or on the phone when he does it. BUT, WAIT! even then – if the OW is dysfunctional enough to not mind that your H is married then you still won’t know if it’s really over. Can you deal with that again and again?

      Statistics say that it takes most women 7 tries to leave an abuser. After hanging on CL’s site I’m starting to think a similar statistic applies to leaving cheating spouses. And frankly I think cheating is abuse so that makes sense.

    • Alice, I think you’ve set up a false dichotomy here. Either an adversarial relationship post-divorce, and twenty years of shared-custody hell, or at least a chance at a harmonious intact family.

      Let’s look at the much more likely scenarios, which depend on your narc cheater’s level of disorder.

      First off, let’s take the ‘harmonious family life’ off the table, because that is not realistic, it is NEVER going to happen! ‘Cause it’s clear he’s not really remorseful or ‘taking the lead in repairing the marriage’, and that he has made deeply selfish choices for quite a long time. You were walking on eggshells! You and your kids have been happier w/o him around!!

      If he’s lowish on the disordered scale, you’ll have some friction over the divorce and custody (what, you’re taking away his cake? You mean person?), and he’ll be a somewhat selfish father. (You may end up w/more actual time with the kids than you imagine, lots of selfish ex’s slack off pretty fast from their parenting responsibilities – how much parenting he’s been doing while you were married is a good indicator here.) But it won’t be hell. And if you stay together, you’ll get more of what you’re getting now. On-going disrespect and his making the minimum effort required to keep things together, followed probably by another affair within a few years, perhaps better hid at that point.

      If he’s highly disordered, you may have custody hell and financial hell and all that goes with it. But if he’s highly disordered, and you stay with him, your life will go from bad to horrible, you will have increasing and increasing unhappiness and misery w/him, and his selfishness will strongly affect your kids. THEN he’ll dump you for a better chump when you’re worn out or depressed or just getting too old for him.

      So if he’s highly disordered, you get hell either way. But do you want that hell to be 24/7 and sleeping in your bed, or do you want it to be just a small part of an otherwise happier, healthier life, in which the people you deal with most of the time care about and respect you? Do you want your kids growing up IN that hell, all the time, or having one sane parent and one healthy, loving, happy home? Do you want your kids growing up seeing you in a healthy life where you don’t allow people to disrespect you, or in a life where you are miserable and a doormat??

      And if he’s highly disordered, you get to use lawyers, the law, and No Contact to at least reduce the hellishness of it all. If he’s in your home and your heart, you will be defenseless against who he is.

      Look at your REAL options, and then ask yourself what you’d tell a friend if she were in this situation. Then follow your own advice! You CAN do it, you’ve already been doing it.

      • KarenE nailed it. You know the old saying: “Better to have loved and lost than live with a psycho for the rest of your life.”

  • Alice,
    If you finalize the divorce, your relationship with him does not have to be adversarial. You simply have the custody arrangements nailed down tightly, and act accordingly from your end. Some people have a special email account set up so that exchanges of information regarding the children can be done in writing (date and time stamped)…tends to keep parents on better behavior when things are documented. Verbal interaction when children are exchanged can be kept to the bare civil minimum…because YOU don’t have to engage. Do your thing and depart. (Old truism, “If it ain’t in writing it didn’t happen.)

    As, for acting the ass and not paying child support or alimony? Well there is always the option of having the law give him an orange jumpsuit if he defaults. Consequences can help keep people in line when conscience won’t.

    This lady (who went through a traumatic divorce from a cheater) has become a divorce coach, and gives good online advice.

    http://movingforwardthroughdivorce.com/meet-nancy/

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