Stay in Touch

Check out CL's Book

Love, the All-Purpose Spackle

spackle_free_zoneAnyone else notice this phenomenon? On infidelity forums, you’ll read a thread describing a thousand horrors and humiliations and invariably it ends — “but I love him.”

But I love him.

King’s X.

“But I love him” (or her) means I can’t leave. As long as I feel love for this person, it cancels out any horrible behavior on their part. “Love” is the way chumps give themselves permission to stay immobilized.

And who can fault you for love? It’s so virtuous. Especially unconditional love. Isn’t that the gold standard? It’s what we promise children, it’s what’s lacking in every fucked up FOO issue. Poor thing, they didn’t get unconditional love.

When a chump says I cannot act in my own self interest because I love this person, I think several other things are going on. It could mean “I can’t imagine starting my life over.” Or “I miss the person I thought they were.” Or “I don’t want anyone to think I’m a failure, so I’m going to fashion myself as a crusader for Love Against All Odds.”

And I also think there is some real confusion going on about love.

Of course we love our cheaters. Most people leave these relationships while still retaining love for their spouses. Maybe they carry some of that love with them for the rest of their lives. It’s not like you wake up one day with a searing, moral clarity about this person that makes it so easy to leave them. No, you love and you leave in spite of.

Grown up love comes with conditions. You don’t get to abuse me. You may not endanger me. You may well love, but  that doesn’t absolve you of responsibility for removing yourself, or your children from harm.

When you take marriage vows, you make promises to behave a certain way — cherish, honor, provide, be faithful. It’s not a vow to accept whatthefuckever. Yes, in sickness and in health. But  sickness and health are seen to be quite outside our providence. No one asks for cancer. But what if you’re poisoning your own well? What if your cheater breaks the contract? Are we obligated to stay beholden to the terms of a broken contract?

You know who also stays stuck because they “love” the cheater? The affair partner. Isn’t that what they tell themselves? It doesn’t matter who I hurt — because I “love” this person it’s all okay. King’s X.

Healthy love doesn’t require accepting humiliation and abuse. Healthy love is reciprocal — it’s not toxically lopsided. More kibbles for me! None for you! Healthy love doesn’t demand the “pick me” dance. Healthy love doesn’t lie and obfuscate.

Some “love” is not good for us, and it’s not really love at all. Pedophiles “love” children. The addict “loves” their fix. When deciding to leave a cheater, chumps can borrow the language from addiction recovery — detach with love.

DETACH with love. But detach. Love, but do it from a distance. Love yourself more than to tolerate abuse and disrespect. Chumps hate to read “love yourself more.” Oh God, I don’t want to be the narcissist. I cannot be accused of selfishness!

You know what’s narcissistic? Thinking you can fix this. Thinking your love alone — your patience, your fortitude in the face of punishment — can change your cheater’s behavior. It’s just the opposite really. Your tolerance of that behavior reinforces to the cheater that they may treat you this way. You’re still there. Unconditionally. Taking it every day.

The most loving thing you can do for yourself — and for your cheater — is to leave. By levying a consequence that matters — your absence from their life — they have the opportunity to face themselves, to get help, if they’re so inclined.

And if it doesn’t matter? They never loved you. Not enough anyway.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at Read more about submission guidelines.
  • As usual, this is a great posting. Thank you! This gets to the heart of what I, and I assume many of us, have gone through for such a long time in figuring out whether it was o.k. to leave. I really asked myself if that was o.k. so many times. I felt so disrespected, and that is what ultimately pushed me to go (about 28 months ago, long before I discovered this wonderful site). I recognize myself in the fear of failure/love against all odds part. And so many of the websites out there also reinforce this notion. I read a lot that said once one person in the relationship starts changing, the relationship itself changes. Although my ex wouldn’t go to counseling or do anything to show some contrition or respect, I would work on this for both of us! I spent 3 years from the time I knew about the cheating to when I left trying to be a better person and showing love. Ultimately I had to ask myself what my daughter would think if I stayed. I thought she would eventually either come to pity me or adopt my behaviors in her own grown up life, or both. I couldn’t face that. But I also think that when you have young children (my daughter is now 15 and my son is 18, so they are older and therefore easier in some ways), it takes the most effort to leave. Daily life is such a struggle then that the mental energy needed to go is really over the top. And all this stuff about love and respect got jumbled in my head for awhile. This write up is fantastic, and I thank you so much for it.

  • The problem with Infidelity Forums in general is that they are kind of like Alcoholics Anonymous.

    If you are an Alcoholic, then I guess commiserating with other alcoholics who are also trying to quit drinking gives you a support group, so you don’t feel alone in your struggle.

    If you are not an alcoholic or no longer have a problem with alcohol, though, you start to look around and realize that all these people you are hanging out with have a weird assortment of compulsive and dependency disorders (at minimum), and many of the “in group” have major issues that have kept them from moving on with their lives, and these are the people who are the group’s “thought leaders”;although, there is usually some dogma that the in-group subscribes to almost wholly, and it’s usually pseudoscience at best and nutty mysticism at worst.

    In short, the inmates are running the asylum.

    • Nicely put 🙂

      I attended a couple of COSA meetings for a while (like al-anon, but for Sex Addicts).

      Many were still with their partners of 20/30 years… their partner was still cheating at every opportunity. I got a scarey insight into where I would be in 20/30 years if I stayed.

      Quitting the COSA meetings was one of the healthiest things I’ve ever done! lol

      • I had that same experience! The women who were in the meeting looked so broken, and the men were all to happy to share their “struggle” – I told my SBXH, no way. I think that was the true beginning of the end for me. It’s still a struggle, but I am not about glorifying his fuckedupedness.

    • “…many of the “in group” have major issues that have kept them from moving on with their lives, and these are the people who are the group’s “thought leaders”;although, there is usually some dogma that the in-group subscribes to almost wholly, and it’s usually pseudoscience at best and nutty mysticism at worst.”

      There is a certain “Midlife Crisis” forum which has exactly this situation. Personally and professionally I find the notion of “midlife crisis” to be an excuse for a midlife jerk or jerk-ette to have a meltdown and cause cosmic collateral damage. Just substitute “depressed narcissist” and you will get closer to the truth.

    • I’m curious, TH — how do you see this site as different from other infidelity forums? Because I am criticized for those very things — not moving on with my life (because I revisit infidelity by writing about it), committing pseudoscience (wing nut is an umbrella term), and subscribing to dogma — leaving a cheater is better than reconciling with one.

      • You’re different because you actually encourage people to have better lives by actually leaving. And you also encourage us as visitors of this blog to share success stories with people who are still struggling and share practical advice to getting out.

        Most infidelity sites encourage the “keep trying” and “what did you do to make this happen” and “reconciliation” for the sake of “the kids.” You absolutely don’t condone that and you also see the areas, speaking from experience, in which that kind of mentality is harmful as hell and it’s much healthier to get out.

        • I agree w/Kara.
          You bolster our confidence with an opposing point of view.
          Life can be better without a cheater, yet so many encourage staying, condoning , sacrificing a Chumps’ happiness, peace of mind , and sanity .
          For what ?
          The sake of the kids ?( Bad argument.)
          To preserve the “marriage “? ( a mockery at best)
          Desperate to keep a spouse ?
          Fear ? Love ?
          All of the above ?
          CL helps to show us when enough —- is enough .
          To cut losses, start over. Sometimes you have to amputate a limb… to get rid of a diseased portion. A tough decision to make without , without a supportive advocate.

        • I could not agree more. When I discovered this site, I had a lot of residual guilt for not trying harder to keep the marriage together, and for telling the kids the truth about the infidelity (actually, they guessed that their father had cheated, and I decided not to lie to them). When I was trying to get myself and my money together to leave, I made the mistake of asking a lot of people for advice. The most common advice I got was “you took a vow, don’t break it by divorcing,” “stay together until the kids leave for college,” and “he’s a really great guy, you should forgive him.” With all this guilt laid on me, I was almost paralyzed in making my decision–and perhaps I waited too long, leaving only after he started taking his anger out on the kids.

          So, so glad I found this site. Take it from someone a student of architectural history: structural integrity beats the hell out of spackle. No amount of plaster and paint will fix a fucked up foundation.

      • If you don’t mind me interjecting…

        My experience with COSA was that people were mired in their situation. They were stuck and seemed quite happy to stay stuck. So CL is different because it’s about getting out of a shitty situation and improving ones lot.

        Incidentally I have found the alcoholics and addicts in AA and NA significantly more mentally healthy than those in COSA/Al Anon.

      • Well, first of all it is probably a Virtue of WordPress that content is a little more dictatorial in that it cuts down on in-group identification somewhat 🙂

        Then there’s the fact that the focus isn’t always on looking back (though you do re-visit the topic, and that is probably needed to reach new readers). Part of the focus is on the future and present.

        In fact, I seem to recall proscriptions against “untangling the skein of f*edupness” (which I would call obsessively and compulsively pouring over every detail and trying to figure out why the cheater would choose to cheat even though it’s probably obvious to most people that is not going to go over terribly well with their spouse). “Untangling the skein”, then, is a way to stay stuck and to continue to relive your own trauma.

        It doesn’t really matter why they cheated, right? Now to be honest, I don’t think every cheater is always going to stay a cheater. Hey, if it’s a one-off thing in a 30 year marriage, yes it’s still screwed up, and yes it was probably an act of narcissistic entitlement or… worse a spiteful exit affair fueled by years of well-fed resentment. In those rare cases where it’s a one-off event and where there is immediate remorse for the pain inflicted on the spouse, then I think it was just a terribly selfish act of some sort, and it was still wrong, but I don’t think everybody who cheats is a Borderline or a Narcissist 🙂

        I think you have pointed out similar exceptions in some posts. The serial cheater, though, is a special piece of work. Who knows why? Does it matter? The best predictor of future behavior is usually past behavior, and if that’s once in 30 years or uncountable times in 5 years, that gives you an expectations baseline, right? Better to get out early if it starts early because the risk is just too high that you are chasing unicorns, snorting pixie dust, and hallucinating leprechauns spinning straw into gold in the process 🙂

        In summary, I think anything could be a crutch. This site could be a crutch for some people despite the best intentions, but it isn’t selling what infidelity forums are selling which is dependency, denial, and staying stuck re-living the trauma over and over and just prolonging your own grief, and so the site has a lot more going for it, IMO, than you will encounter on any infidelity forum I have seen.

        These are only my opinions, and I think we all need to keep in mind that the after making a realistic assessment of the situation that may have brought us here to begin with, the bigger goal has got to be: rejoin the living, enjoy life, and get back to making plans 🙂

        Onward, upward, live long and prosper 😉

      • If I hadn’t found this site, and I still have no idea how I found it, I still would be trying to change me in order to make my cheating stbxh love me and choose me. I was on surviving infidelity for months, (months wasted) hoping to find a story exactly like mine that worked out. And guess what, I never did find a story that even worked out.

        This site woke me up in a way that I don’t think I ever would have woken up on my own. Sure, I would have moved on in some sad way, but I never, ever would have stopped trying to fix me so I could be right enough for him to stop cheating on me and for him to come back. Because look! I’m so much more perfect now! You don’t have to look for anyone else anymore…I’ve molded myself into the perfect woman now. MADDENING!

        With you, I have finally, after a freaking decade gotten to meh! My dream was always to not give a shit about him, and somehow, I was never able to let that last vestige of who I decided he was in my head go. Always had that fantasy that he would one day wake up and be that man I made him into be and never would be.

        It is so fucking freeing I cannot even express in words how light I feel right now. It’s finally fucking OVER! I never visit surviving infidelity anymore, cos I just do not care. And to be honest, I come here once every couple of weeks just to read your awesome posting ChumpLady, not to really “get over it” anymore. Because I am truly, fantastically, enjoyably freaking over it and him. In fact….I don’t even care about her. I just don’t. (Although she is now, after a year stalking me on the internet…creepy! And laugh out loud funny at the same time!)

        I recommend you to anyone I know who’s been cheated on. Online or in real life.

        Your site is the only one who got me out of my own repeating cycle and got ME back into my own head.

        To all of the people reading who are brand new to being cheated on, leave them. It will be the best decision you ever make. I promise.

        • Jewells, you made me laugh: I too spent far too much time on SI looking for that story that matched up with mine exactly – never happened. The ones that ‘work out’ seem to be on there for a very long time and continue to monitor, police, agonise, etc over their idiot cheaters. I realise that the ex did me a massive favour by not being careful enough – I hated getting divorced and seeing all that I had worked for for 20 years destroyed and left in a pile of rubble. But I hate more the thought that I might have blissfully gone on, unawares, while he continued to screw around behind my back. As my therapist said ‘If you hadn’t found out he would have happily stayed married and kept having affairs. You finding out and telling the truth about what you found out – he’s a serial cheater – is the reason he hates you and thinks you destroyed his life. Move on’.

          And so I have.

        • Thanks! This is just what I needed to hear… I am still pining a year after the fact. Wondering what went wrong – how he could have left me for someone he said he was just in lust with. I want to be where you are now… I long to be there and just not freaking care anymore!!!

      • See CL, that’s what I’m talking about when I speak about “clarity.” Anyone who would criticize you for “not moving on with your life” is lacking clarity or they apparently haven’t read your backstory. You have moved on with your life and have created a very good life for yourself. This forum is all about providing us with the benefit of your experience and giving us Chumps a different perspective than we get from most other forums. If a person is providing information and/or giving an informed opinion, isn’t that usually rooted in some element of lived experience? Hey! This worked for me and if you’ve had a similar experience, it might work for you, too! That’s not dogma, that’s perspective.

        I started out on another forum and the entire time I was there, I seldom felt empowered. It was healing to find other people who actually understood what I had been through and who gave me insight into infidelity and the causes, but there was too much talk of reconciliation, which really didn’t address my reality and kept me mired in feelings of sadness and failure.

        Then I came here and read your posts and the comments and it was the first time I felt that moving on was even possible. It was the first time since D-Day that I felt more than SAD and DEFEATED.

        None of is forced to follow any of your suggestions. However, most of the people who read and post here are looking for motivation and/or validation that is not available on most other infidelity forums. This site speaks to OUR reality. Most of us have tried spackling, the pick me two-step, cha-cha, salsa and electric slide, and we have hopped on and attempted to ride that Unicorn of Reconciliation, to no avail.

        This site is our Paxil without the side effects. Ignore those naysers and skeptics. I’ve noticed a severe shortage of critical thinkers left in the world, and they always have opinions. Let’s face it – an opinion formed without critical thought is just small talk.

        Your forum saved me from myself and I will always appreciate you and the great people who post here.

        • CL, screw the naysayers – I think you are doing this for the same reason I want to write a book; The Reconciliation Industrial Complex is fucking a lot of people over. Do these people say the same thing about the woman who wrote the horrible book “My husband’s affair was the best thing that ever happened to me”? Or “Just Friends”? I doubt it…

          And I agree with earlier posts, the forums I tried for the few months before I realized my marriage was over? All were about reconciliation, I posted on one of them asking how long had they been “working” on this reconciliation and were their spouses still attached to their AP? That opened my eyes, most responses were 1-3 years and yes still seeing the AP. But every one of them believed it was a matter of time before their cheating spouse came “out of the fog” and gave each other advice on performing a “180” to fix them. It was horrible, and when I responded that it was insane, 3 years waiting for them to detach from their AP? and why turn into a manipulator to keep their spouse? I was given a boatload of shit and protestations that they still loved their spouse and they were committed to their marriage. I wish you’d been around back then CL, would have made a world of difference for me.

          I’ve seen people ask why come here if you are over your ex, I come here to validate those who are in a bad place and aren’t sure if they can leave or should leave. I come here to share some of the shit I went through so others maybe can skip some of the worst of it. I especially come here because abusive people use the Reconciliation Industrial Complex ideas to keep their Chumps in place and I want to help combat that. And lastly, it helps to know I’m not the only person who spent way too long in a bad relationship, I’m not the only one who lived with a person who wore a mask and I couldn’t see it for years – I’m not alone in this.

      • CL I wrote to you in 1/13 and your advice was great. I think it’s not so much about moving on with your life but because you have reached a certain point with some clarity you help us muck through the muddle of all the emotions and muck that go along with infidelity as do those who contribute their point of view. I particularly love this post as I know I am still in love with my H and it is making it hard to leave but like you said; you have to love yourself more. (the character Samantha said that in Sex and the City).

        • Plain and simple CL, you and everyone here speeds up the healing and you all are beyond helpful and supportive with the proper steps to take and the best and most real reality checkers online! This is not a wallow wallow oh poor me place. We can cry as we should but then it’s all about taking care of important business, our selves and children if they are in the mix! I am certain that you cut the pain in half at least the recovery time and pain. I think that may be more than COSA or 12 Steps does for their participants, don’t know personally as I have never been to those meetings, but I know the speed of my recovery from this horror story was much quicker by having CL and all of you than not.

  • Chump Lady, you got it.

    “You know what’s narcissistic? Thinking you can fix this. Thinking your love alone — your patience, your fortitude in the face of punishment — can change your cheater’s behavior. It’s just the opposite really. Your tolerance of that behavior reinforces to the cheater that they may treat you this way.”

    What we Chumps have to face, is that we are also narcissistic. All Chumps should attend Al anon. Al anon is about: admitting we are powerless, letting go, detaching, facing yourself, protecting yourself. it is a real eye opener. Step 4 is: making a fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Horror of horrors, that involves the 3 Ms: martyr, manager, mother.

    Which Chump hasn’t tried to control, explain, ‘show’ their cheater the error of their ways, explained to them what love really is, used sarcasm, screams, insults, eye-rolls. You WILL be what I want you to be! ABsolutely the other side of the narcissistic coin. Reality is admitting what they really are.

    Yep, Chump Lady, you have hit the ball out the park on this one.

    • I’ve never heard of the 3 Ms before, but OMG that was me in my past relationships — martyr, manager, mother.

      Roles, which btw, are HUGELY resented by the narcissist (and yet expected). It’s a total no win.

      Someone once said to me “It’s takes two to psychodrama.” As you point out, it’s a dance — and to remain with a narcissist, you have to be the partner, the flip side, the counter-balance. Which means you’re just as fucked up as they are.

      Getting healthy means refusing these roles.

      • I, totally, agree. It is futile and somewhat egoisitical to believe one can control or change these monsters. I would not say, however, it rises anywhere near narcissism. That is a”whole ‘nother smoke”, IMO, replete with abuse, gaslighting, dishonesty and just evil.
        IMO, even the co-dependent label is , often , misplace. many of us were taken in by the masking done during courtship. We do not leave for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with co-dependency: kids, mortgages, finances, allegiance to vows, and , in a lot of cases,just bewilderment, as we had never even heard of personality disorders, never met someone like this.
        Ihated my XWs by the end. By the time the infidelity had surface, I had been subjected to so much abuse, some ambient but a lot overt, that i just hated them. Try listening to your wife describe, in detail, the physique of one of her hook ups. Have her announce, two weeks after your dad dies, that she is going to Chicago and sharing a room with a man from her AA group to ” visit museums”. Try watching her abuse your kids from a previous marriage, overspend, lay around and do no work etc.
        The infidelity was my get out of jail free card.

        • “The infidelity was my get out of jail free card.”


          Mine, too.

          And it was about fucking time.

          I was devastated, of course, and I danced the pick-me dance–the whole bit. But when I was finally able to brush myself off and pick myself off, I realized the infidelity was an opportunity for me, too. None of the crap I’d dealt with up to that point was going to be taken seriously by anyone, and I’d have been the jerk who broke up the family. So I got the bucket-sized spackle and went to work and tried to keep things together. And in the end, the infidelity made sense, really–of COURSE he was the type to leave. Of COURSE he didn’t love me–it was obvious! Of COURSE he was entitled! Of course!! And now I had something tangible. Now the final line had been crossed. Now I could get out of a bad marriage.

          I’m still hurting, but that will work itself out.

          Thank God for CL, and for all of my fellows here.

          • Me too, Stephanie. “I’d have been the jerk who broke up the family.” That’s what my STBX wanted, I think, for me to break it off and then he could maintain his image as the good hard-working family guy. But of course the affair was revealed and like you said it made sense! And of course he didn’t love me and thank God I learned about it and got out. And he is the jerk.

            I am also still hurting terribly but time will heal that.

          • That’s pretty much how it ended with me, also-he finally crossed that line. (Well, he crossed it around 4 years ago, I just didn’t catch him til last year. Now the last 4 years finally make sense, it’s all clear to me now.) He’d been such an absolute bastard (as opposed to mostly bastard?) in the year leading up til D-day, that by the end I didn’t much care who/how many he’d been screwing, as long as it wasn’t me anymore. Now he expects forgiveness, counseling, blah blah blah. He tells me “don’t take my family away”, which makes me a little pissy, b/c words like “take” & “lose” his family simply don’t apply. He threw us to the wolves, very cheerfully, I might add. The cheating was only the final nail in the coffin of our relationship.

    • Bud – I hope you have some wonderful people in your life today to give this particular Wednesday new meaning. Today I celebrate BUD and his strength!! Congratulations on all you are doing for you. Take good care. (((hugs)))

      • Bud, on my 32nd anniversary when I was still in the midst of settlement negotiations I threw myself an “uncelebration party.” Some of my friends got together and we drank wine and ate decadent chocolate desserts. People wore black. It was great fun and gave me something to look forward to instead of something to dread that day. Hope you find a way to celebrate your new life today!

        • Hugs to you, Bud. I understand how you are hurting. In a few days, it’s the “uncelebration” of what would have been our 24th anniversary. I think I will spend the day working on my new vegetable garden. Symbolically and literally planting new life. Do something kind for yourself today. Buy yourself a gift, eat something good for dinner, drink whatever you like best. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you need to feel. Then tomorrow, remind yourself that life goes on and this is all for the best, no matter how much it hurts right now.

        • Hang in there Bud. Have a good cry if you need to and get it out of your system. If you remember why you left her, what type of a woman she truly is, how all of this have affected you and your children, you’ll realize just how strong you were to leave her. You have the strength to do what is right, you can take care of your kids and you can hold your head high. Call a friend, go get a drink and celebrate that you are no longer with her. You have a new life now and I can bet that it is a better one. Hugs to you!

    • Bud – anniversaries are hard. It took me a long time – several years – before the date of our marriage, Dday, etc ceased to have any significance to my day.
      Be particularly kind to yourself to-day and the rest of the week. Can you do something different for yourself today? Something YOU wanted to do? If you can’t go ziplining/fly a helicopter/see earth from space, whatever you have on your list, then what about taking in a movie you want to see, do something for YOURSELF – or sit down and make a list of what you’re going to be doing by next anniversary.
      It sucks. It hurts. It brings out the sadness, pain, angst again.
      It DOES get better over time.
      Hugs to you.

      • Yes it’s tough. Wife left me some paperwork in my vehicle to go over. Sorry, Not today.

        The one thing that crossed my mind this morning was since the kids will be at their mom’s tonight. I was going to stop and have a drink and if I saw a young married couple there having dinner or etc. I would send over to them one of the gift cards I have. Maybe with some words of wisdom. Not sure what that would be other than “Don’t Cheat”. Any suggestions?

        • Ha! That may be a little too direct!
          The best marriage advice I ever heard was ‘choose wisely and treat kindly’. Short and sweet, and very true.

          • The best advice I ever heard is “keep both eyes open before you get married, but close one after you’re married.”

            Come to think of it, maybe I took that too literally. LOL

            What I wish someone had told me before I got married was “listen to your gut.”

        • I think I read a piece once where the author said marriage was simple – find someone you love and be faithful to them.

        • Best advice I got was “Always communicate. Always. Your spouse should never be someone you’re afraid to talk to. And communicate means to both talk and listen, and consider each others feelings.”

          Also, the biggest challenge of marriage is just dealing with day-to-day boredom. Paying bills, chores, etc. and not just those things, but understanding that not every day is going to be thrilling, and accepting it. The problem with cheaters is they cant deal with the reality that adult life is boring and responsible sometimes. My grandma told me that. Good advice.

          • I think that is where they (the cheater) will sometimes blame it on a midlife crisis. They were bored and wanted some excitement. As my cheating wife said to me once early on after she confessed. “When is it my turn to have fun?” Sure we all want to be happy and laugh but us mature adults all know life doesn’t work that way all the time. Raising three kids in a small town is not going to be all shits and giggles.

            • And they don’t want to have to take the responsibility for zinging up their boring adult life! They could find something interesting or different to do with their spouse, they could plan a fun activity for the whole family, they could find a cool hobby or sport, they could reinvest in their marital sex life, bring more closeness and spice to it ….

              BUT NO!!! That’s someone else’s job! And if the spouse isn’t doing that for them (along w/all the other life responsibilities), why, they’ll just find someone who, by simple dint of being new and forbidden, will provide novelty and excitement. (And if they think that will last, they’re seriously delusional!)

              In the end, it’s all entitlement!

            • Bud my H had everything he ever wanted, a good job, more toys that he never played with, a nice home and a wife who loved him and cared for him ( love those 3M’s mentioned aboved) and he wasn’t happy. Must be his wife’s fault.

              • Mine too. STBXH had it all–job, money, home, toys, wife who loved him. Couldn’t be bothered to put his energy into spicing up our lives, so he turned to his illicit women. And now it’s all my fault that it all came crashing down. I told everyone we know (who is everyone he knows) and now they don’t like him anymore (including our kids). Yep. All my fault.

    • Bud, your ex is not worth tears or anything else. You were there, she wasn’t. Fuck her. Can’t say anything else but fuck her.

      • That got me thinking. Don’t think I was teared up over her. I think it was more for my youngest (12yr old). and the BS he has to deal with and how unfair it is to him that he needs to deal with this crap.

        • Yep, I hate that my kids still have to deal with this shit. My older one has reached the point where he simply doesn’t deal but the younger one is running around trying to be ok with everything. He gets that his dad lies and isn’t to be counted on (too many times has his dad lied to his face for him not to notice – and it’s stuff that has nothing to do with me so I can’t be blamed on this) but he also loves him and wants to be around him.

          It all pretty much sucks and is a nightmare on a regular basis. Final OW actually showed up at a sports event recently. It was kind of fun because I got to see for real what everyone has been telling me: she is NOT attractive and is very insecure. 🙂

    • Hugs to you Bud! I think milestone anniversaries are especially hard. I was divorced just after 18, and 19 was not too hard. Last October would have been my 20th anniversary. I was very emotional, made worse by having to see my cheater ex and his OW that very day at my daughter’s band concert.

      That night after the kids were in bed, I took a bottle of wine, our wedding cake topper and wedding toasting glasses ( the pretty ones all engraved with our names and the date!) to the garage and smashed the hell out of them with a hammer. (I did NOT smash the wine — that was to help me enjoy the hammering more!) It was very symbolic and cathartic to smash the glasses and cake decoration in my very own personal “uncelebration”.

      Maybe you can find something symbolic to purge your wedding from your mind too. I did not want to burn my wedding album as my kids may want that some day — but maybe a picture of her you can burn or cut her head out and replace with a serpent!

      Tonight, I will toast you Bud! Here’s to your celebration of your new life!

      • The OW can never have what you had – love that started without breaking up a family. A clean conscience.

        • I often think that as well. I know of a couple that came together as an affair and 30+ years later the affair still defines them. They constantly defend cheating and say it’s the best thing they ever did. The 2nd wife, by the way, hates the 1st wife (who was the betrayed one) because the 1st wife wasn’t very nice to her when the cheating was revealed. 2nd wife also has done her best to put huge walls up around the 2nd family, making sure the kids from the first family are always on the outside looking in. It’s pretty gross and scary how successful she was in sidelining the kids from the first marriage and making her kids of primary importance.

          • This makes me think of my own childhood. My bio dad was a cheater. I think he was disordered as well, but he definitely cheated a lot. He left the family for one AP, and they married and stayed together the rest of his life. I was six years old at this time.

            The AP (step mother) always obviously resented us (my two older brothers and myself) for existing. She wasn’t exactly a warm, fuzzy lady anyway, and she was cold as ice to us. She used to say our bio mother sent us over there to spy on her and bio dad. Bio dad wasn’t much better. When I was old enough, at 13, I stopped visiting my dad. Brothers had long since stopped. I didn’t see my bio dad for years after that, he simply stopped bothering to call or have any contact with his three children. I only saw him a couple more times before he died 20 years later. He didn’t even go to my wedding, though he was invited. He never had any children with the step mother. I don’t even know if she’s still alive, and I don’t care.

            Cheaters hate any reminders of what they are, even if those reminders are their own children. It makes it too hard to keep up the image of perfection they like to project.

    • Strength and love to you Bud. My D-Day in April 2012 was 2 weeks after my 25th wedding anniversary and the day before my 52nd birthday. Honor yourself, mourn, surround yourself with support, and try to be peaceful. Pray if you can. It will get better. It is just so hard to wrap the head around, but you will get there. (((Hugs)))

      • Hugs Bud! It will get better.

        If it helps any, my divorce was finalized the same day we married so my anniversary turned into my unanniversary, my freedom day :-). Felt sorta like karma was working.

  • Really interesting post. You know how they say that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference? I’ve found that what was once a deep love has turned to something that is, at best, distaste. I have trouble understanding how you can love a person who treats you so badly.

    And,I’ve realized how indifferent my former… was all that time. In the aftermath of d-day he even say to me, “I think you just loved me more than I love you.” As if that was exculpatory; as if that explained anything; as if that made any sense at all, or justified the years of lying to me and telling me he loved me….

    When I finally realized the extent of the damage (light dawns over Marblehead…and around here, it really does!) the love I had felt just drained away. Just, gone. Poof. I would tell him, “I just don’t love you anymore.” And–it would make him cry! Incredible, no?

    I’m very sad to feel that all those years of love meant nothing but really, all you can do is offer love with best intentions (I guess that’s kind of zen.) I hope that disembodied love is floating around in the world somewhere, helping someone…

    • Namedforvera told my therapist my h was screaming that he hated me. She said it showed he still had feelings for me. It’s not that he doesn’t love me it’s that he doesn’t want me anymore. Now before you jump all over therapists in my case this make some sense and it would be too long and hard to explain.

  • Chump Lady has done it again.

    A long time ago, I referred to something I called “Chump Savior Narcissism,” the idea that we Chumps, if we just good enough, can “save” another person. We think we have some vast recemptive power, which we don’t.

    Connected to this is another problem. Sadly, we Chumps project our emotional selves (and we Chumps are emotional) onto others, not recognizing oftentimes the barren soil that lies within the narcissist.

    Chumps also need to recognize that they are making decisions for others, and not just for themselves. A Chump can decide to stay for all sorts of reasons — money, convenience, pride, social image, etc. — but, if there are children involved, then the Chump is deciding for the children and is modeling an unhealthy relationship. The Chump is passing on bad behavioral genes (spackling tendencies) to the kids. That is a weightier decision than just deciding for oneself.

    Great discussion, as always, CL. We should not let “love” make us blind. And sometimes the up-and-down relationships that we Chumps develop with the disordered are so emotional (at least for us) that we can confuse instability and intensity with love. A bad confusion!

    Chump Son

    • Very true David. That may explain why as soon as our exes were gone, we realized how “false” they were, how shallow, how little love or even concern was really ever there. We had been spackling and projecting all along. And they were happy to let us. And I must say that after getting to know my fellow chumps and our stories (so frighteningly similar, so much horror and sick games over decades for many), while I can agree that not every ex is a narcissist or sociopath (whatever words they are using these days), many certainly are. I’ll take your cheater and raise you a narcissist…..

      • Labeling a betrayed person as a narcissist is not right, IMO.
        Yes, they may have been misguided and naive and there may have been a little hubris in thinking we could affect change. But, calling that narcissistic is way, way over the top and hurts folks that have already been hurt enough, IMO.

        • Oh no Arnold, maybe I read the comments wrong, I am not referring to chumps/the betrayed as narcissists, I’m referring to the cheaters/our betrayers!!

          • I believe David and one other poster referred to a betrayed’s belief that he or she could affect change in a cheater as being narcissistic. That is way over the top and shows little understanding of true narcissism.
            I bet many of us here have been abused at the hands of a NPD and those types try to make the abusee doubt him/herself. This includes , of course, trying to convince the betrayed that it is the betrayed who has the personality disorder.
            So , I really question the wisdom of calling the belief or aspiration of a chump re the ability to love someone into changers narcissistic.
            It may be wrong and misguided. But it is nowhere near narcissistic.

            • I accept the criticisms, but I think I’ll hang onto my formulation. There’s a great article by a Dr. Alan Rappoport on Co-Narcissism.


              We talk negatively about narcissists here, but, as I understand it, not all narcissism is bad. There are degrees of narcissism. There’s the natural narcissism of adolescents. There are people who may be mildly narcissistic. Many people who are creative, who like attention, who like to write, can have narcissistic traits, can have degrees or varieties of narcissism but not be disordered.

              And then there’s Narcisissitic Personality Disorder or NPD. Which is what we are talking about.

              In any case, I’m not out to hurt Chumps, but we disagree on the use of the term narcissism. It has degrees, and it can be associated with creativity. When you get to NPD, however, you get to being disordered. When we refer to “narcs,” we are really using shorthand for NPD.

              Now, I will admit some shock value to the term Chump Savior Narcissism. My intent is not kick people who are down, but I also do not want to glorify them. Chumps who stick with an NPD partner take on a self-destructive and sometimes child-destructive (as in destructive for their children) imaginary savior role. This is dangerous, and I wanted to point that out.

              Nonetheless, of course folks have every right to disagree. In any case, the article above is really good and describes some of the sticky skeins that keep Chumps tied to NPD-types. The result is not pretty. So long as the Chump stays tied to the NPDer, that Chump is an ally of the NPD.

              In any case, no hurt was intended. (Hell, Chump son is an ex-Chump and, in his own way, was a savior-narcissist [“If only I could understand Dad just a little more, if only I hadn’t spilled the drink, made that noise, etc…..”]) But I did mean to speak plainly and will stick by my words. Even so, I appreciate the readers’ comments, both pro and con!

    • It’s great that she was able to use and refer to your knowledge from a long time ago to inform her advice today.

      • Again, I disagree with the use of “narcissistic” to describe the actions or motivations of a hostage to an NPD.
        These NPDs damage the hell out of their spouses a d allegiance to them is born out of fear, confusion , and disorientation brought on by abuse and isolation.
        I do not think narcissistic tendencies or a savior complex are factors in most cases.
        On the contrary, I have found most partners of NPDs to be beaten down, overly compassionate types.

  • This was great! There really is so much confusion about what marriage means, and how to accomplish this partnership yet still keep feeling desired, or true to yourself,etc. And there’s the little problem of (at least in my case) making this choice of a life partner when you’re all of 20 yrs old!
    So, yes, I’ll always love this guy, and of course he doesn’t get to keep mentally abusing me for another 30 yrs, I grew up, wised up, and figured out that was so wrong. And I just got this burning feeling that I had to get the heck out and go see how my life could be if I wasn’t dealing with his messes and drama 24/7! I get to put my own new life together now, and I sure bet it won’t be filled with motorcycles, Three Stooges, and alcohol! (Apologies if any of you love those, but I just don’t!).
    That idea you brought up of ‘unconditional love’ being the cure-all for FOO problems, made me think of what kids actually want and need IMO- love and structure. Love and boundaries. Love and fairness. Love all by itself, that can just cause alot of chaos, I had love from both parents, but NO order, and I got pretty screwed up! Glad I had the love, for sure, but that other element really did a number on me, so I made sure my own sons knew I had standards and expectations and there were consequences for them.
    But yes, I completely agree that you can go away from the goofy cheater but still love them. It’s OK. Just love yourself more! Something I learned here!

  • Chump Son, you definitely hit the nail on the head saying that chumps project their emotional selves onto the narcissist. Coming to the realization that my ex just didn’t feel the same way I did was hard.

    CL, this is a great post today. An issue I’ve struggled with a lot. To be honest I still feel love for m ex, heck I was with him 36 years. In the day I do okay but in my dreams we’re still talking, we’re still connected. I wish we weren’t, but try not to get too upset with myself. It may be be something I have to learn to live with for the rest of my life.

    One thing that became clear the longer I was away from him was how little I loved myself and how addicted I was to our toxic relationship. He was hurting me so much but I just kept thinking I could “save” him and our family if I tried really hard, if I was patient and selfless. Mostly I wanted to save our family. I still miss the times we used to share, and I hate that my kids now have to split their time between us. I hate that I won’t get to see my grandchildren as much, and that our long marriage failed. But the trade off is I’ve learned to love myself. I feel more comfortable in my own company. I’m not looking for someone else to give me a sense of self.

    Here’s my favorite excerpt from your post today: “Love yourself more than to tolerate abuse and disrespect. Chumps hate to read “love yourself more.” Oh God, I don’t want to be the narcissist. I cannot be accused of selfishness!”

    This is one of the best explanations of what makes a person grow up to become codependent in a relationship that I’ve found so far :

  • Teared up reading your post CL (and I haven’t cried for weeks!). Your words touched me deeply. Thank you for understanding how we feel and for your keen ability to express those feelings in words.

  • I think there is some ingrained thing in the human psyche, where we tell ourselves, if I love them enough and the right way, spread enough spackle, it will be all better and excuse all the lies and mistakes.

    Jane Eyre — yes, he’s way older than me and didn’t tell me about his wife locked in the attic, but it was meant to be.
    Pride and Prejudice — yes, he screwed over my big sister and is incredibly rude to all my friends and family, but he’s really a great guy and just needs me to help keep him “nice”
    Twilight — sure, he’s a killer, but my sweetness and purity will keep him from being what he really is

    How many romantic comedy plots center around a lie, concealment, or misrepresentation that one of the characters makes? Is this teaching us Lies=Love?

    • It makes me really mad when I think of all the movies/stories/fairy tales I’ve heard where a woman’s love saves her partner from himself. Take “50 Shades of Gray,” for instance. It’s such a popular book with young women! I told my daughter-in-law what bothered me most about the story was that the main character is shown to “save” her seriously f-uped partner by giving in to him. She loves him so purely, so selflessly that he changes for her. I told my daughter-in-law that’s not how it works in real life. She admitted that she hadn’t thought of that as she was reading the book. How many of these stories did I hear growing up? How much did they affect my concept of love in adult relationships?

      • Yes, we all started with Beauty and the Beast. A woman can still love a man even if he is a horrid beast who holds her hostage. Her love will save him and turn him into the man she wants him to be.

        • Which by the way was supposedly written by a noblewoman trying to convince a young woman to do her duty to her family and marry an old guy.

          The original author of B&theB wrote a bunch of fairy tales with horrible morals like defying your parents and marrying the wrong guy will get everyone killed.

    • I think so many of us were raised NOT to be quitters.
      To work hard, try our best, never give up , never quit.
      The mindset that keeps us trapped.

      • Exactly. I’ve never considered myself a quitter. I’ve come to the realization that I didn’t quit. She did. Of course she’d disagree.

        • I agree about being raised to not quit. My parents went through rough times when I was in middle school but they didn’t quit. They’ve been together now more than 60 years. They often say they never considered divorce. Murder, yes. Divorce, no.

  • I think 99.99 percent of the time, what really keeps a chump in place is FEAR. Fear of being alone. Fear that s/he cannot survive on her/his own. Fear that s/he will be alone forever. Fear that s/he is not strong enough to handle whatever life brings.

    Chumps say they cannot leave because of love, or because of finances, religion, children. Those things likely all play a part, but the bottom line is: fear.

    • GIO, that is exactly the same thing I thought when I read the post. Many of us prefer the devil we know to the one we don’t know. The thinking goes: as bad as things are, they could always turn out worse; my spouse may not treat me great, but at least he/she doesn’t drink himself into a stupor and then beat me (know that’s not true of everyone here).

      We stay for our own reasons that have little to nothing to do with loving the spouse and we’d might as well admit it. Fear is not a character flaw. The problem is that the kind of thinking I described above ignores the high probability that in most respects things will turn out to be better, not worse, after the break. Four years out I feel like he did me a favor when he bailed. Let OW try to read his mind, I’ve wasted enough of my life on that.

    • You are so right GIO. I drove to the courthouse this morning, drove around for twenty minutes, then left. I meant to go inside and file papers and I couldn’t get past my fear. Fear that my kids will blame me, fear that he will hurt me, fear that I will jump off this cliff and there will be nowhere for me to land.

      • Quicksilver, I literally thought I was going to DIE at Dday. I did not think I could survive the fear that engulfed me. I pictured a future entirely alone, homeless, no money, nothing.

        But I somehow managed to go ahead and file for divorce. I was stupid enough to fall for the con game “reconciliation” ex offered, but when it became obvious he was just trying to use me for money, I went ahead and finalized the divorce.

        Yes, it is terrifying. Yes, it is hard on the kids. Yes, there is no telling what the future will bring. But you HAVE TO DO IT. There is simply no other way. There is no future if you stay. Your kids will be sad, but they will survive. Do you really want them to think marriage means chump?

        Take a really deep breath, then jump right into the icy water. You will panic when it covers your head, but then you will pop to the surface and breath the fresh air. And sooner than you imagine, you will be out of the water and on the shore, thanking God you are no longer trapped in a cheating marriage.

        • Thanks Gio. I don’t want my kids to learn to expect this from marriage. That’s one of the things that keeps me taking these steps in the right direction. I am going to go back on Friday and this time I will park and walk into the building and find the DV office and put my name down on the list. I can’t think past that or I go into a panic attack. lol

      • Quicksilver – go back to the courthouse tomorrow, find a parking spot, park your car and GO IN! You can do this. You will jump off the cliff. In doing so you will reach the bottom and land on your feet. Your parachute might get snagged along the way, it may not be easy, but you will land in a life much better than the one you are living in now. Good luck!

        • I have to wait until Friday. I figure even if I drive down there five times, I will get one step further each time, and I will get there.

            • Thank you. All the wonderful chumps here at CL have done so much to help me travel down this path. It’s been agonizingly slow, but one day soon I will triumphantly announce my freedon.

              • You will make that announcement. I never married my stbx, yes, lots of people thought it was strange to be with someone for 2 decades w/o marriage, & I couldn’t easily explain it, but I refused to consider it. So I can only guess what a HUGE step that is, to actually file. Do you think it might help if someone supportive-and maybe a bit kickass, rode along to the courthouse? For me, taking things one step at a time is the only way I can handle this mess-take a step, & only then think about the next. And I’ve completely avoided thinking about my long term future, I can’t think any further than getting my kiddo & I into our own place. The apartment complex I’m looking at is brand new, all the amenities, yet is still part of the govt housing program-because we don’t have a single dollar in our pockets, we’ve lived paycheck to paycheck all along, because he punished me so thoroughly when I did work, we finally agreed that it was better if I didn’t. (When I work, I have to work with people, some of those people are men, & he projected his sluttiness onto me. Nobody else is allowed to play with his toy. Besides, I wonder if deep down he knew that if I spoke to a man for 5 minutes, & the guy treated me decently, then he was treating me better than stbx ever did) Where was I going with this? Oh, yeah, when I decided on the apt complex I wanted, I learned that it’s located on Hope Drive. I took that as a sign. 🙂
                You have the courage you need, it’s in there, & only you know when the time is right. I can’t wait to read the announcement that you took the step.
                Sheesh, I think I’m going to write a few quick sentences, & I wind up with multiple paragraphs. I’m counting the days til I can see the new counseler.
                I love this site & the people here. 🙂

    • I totally agree. That’s how I felt for the few days I contemplated staying with the XWH. There are days when I still feel fear because I’m alone– like what happens when I get sick? Will everyone really rally around me and help out? Maybe so, but I still won’t have that one person who will take care of me, be there for the kids when I can’t be, etc.

      Of course, then again, maybe he could never have been that person anyway. A friend of mine who had cancer said that he probably would have bailed on me if I had been the one to get it.

      I don’t regret leaving him, but I admit– I still feel some fear.

      • MovingOn, I also feel scared still, for a lot of the same reasons you list. I wonder what would happen if I got seriously ill, or if I had surgery. Who would help me out? I worry about the future, and managing to retire, pay for a home, carry the financial burden on my own. I admit to feeling fear that I will be alone the rest of my life.

        But I try to take a deep breath and remind myself to just keep on going. Although things are not easy right now, at least I am not being lied to, cheated on, gaslighted or embarrassed over and over again by my ex. If I had stayed with him, I had NO chance of a happy future. Without him, I DO have that chance.

        • Well said, GIO. I am a totally worrywart at heart, and getting divorced has, of course, exacerbated that tendency in me. But you’re right– there’s no choice but to keep on going, and even if something dire does happen to me, I just need to focus on moving forward, no matter what.

          • Laugh, I told my therapist that being alone is partly why I hit depression sometimes – like if I break my neck at home, will anyone even notice I’m dead before the cats eat me? If something happens to me, no one has my back – but then I realize, better this way then the abuse day in and day out.

  • Best post ever, CL. Am printing this out, bookmarking it, sending it to my support group friends with similar situations, etc. Even though I kicked out my cheater a year ago (and he subsequently left me for OW), I now understand that my love is what’s keeping me stuck. But you’re totally right: “You love, and you leave, in spite of that love.” And that’s what’s so hard. But what must be done. Thanks for this much-needed jolt/wake up call. Though Im sure I’ll have to read this post over and over for awhile before it fully sinks in. Im a little slow on this stuff… 😉

  • I think we paint too many people that became involved with these types with the broad brush of CoD. It is just not that simple.
    I read article by a guy named Richard Skerritt about PD’s and he points out that with the masking and mirroring, and the emergence of much of the abuse only after significant enmeshent (i.e kids, vows, finances, nortgages, friendships with in-laws etc) that staying too long is not an indication of codependency.
    Ask yourself if you ever really tolerate this stufff rom other people in your life, folks that do not hold the enmeshment card.
    I bet many of us do not ,and we only stayed out of confusion and loyalty and ignorance about NPDs et al.
    Nobody walks on me,in general, but I held on way too long to my XWs because we had kids and I was confused and I was loyal. I got no satisfaction or secondary gain from the abuse and it pissed me off a lot.
    Sometimes, i think folks throw out the coD thing with little analysis.

    • Absolutely agreed.

      My ex turned when I was now married to him, alone in a foreign land, no family, no job, no friends, no immigration or residency status.

      He couldn’t have isolated me better if he tried.

      I stayed…for a while… because what else could I do?

      • Witty, my situation doesn’t seem all that far off from yours. Ex isolated me thoroughly and now I’m working my ass off to get it all back again. This is the one thing I can’t forgive him for: leaving me fucked in a foreign country with little to fall back on…and then fucking me over financially.

        • Similar to my situation, together 20 years, thought were were great, living in a Foreign country, family, friends at other side of the world. Lost my job because we worked together. My daughter settled here and doesn’t want to go back home. Totally isolated, but hey, he didn’t mean for it to happen and do I not want him to be happy…. He does tell me the guilt of what happened has broken him but obviously not enough to change any of his fucked up selfish behaviour. OW woman still with husband while he clings to the hope they will be together on day… Think my process is not helped by the fact I have no support here…. Yep, trust they stuck!

          The most loving thing you can do for yourself — and for your cheater — is to leave. By levying a consequence that matters — your absence from their life — they have the opportunity to face themselves, to get help, if they’re so inclined.

          Cutting him out my life is the hardest thing ever. Thanks CL for these words working on this.

  • NPD’s can exhibit normal behaviours, that’s how they navigate their fuckedupness. These people are con artists, so good at it, they even con themselves. These folks are drawn to chumps. I should know.

    All I can say is that since my divorce I realize how much white noise my ex-wife gave off and it was exhausting to love her.

    It’s been two years since the divorce and detoxing from her drama has been a godsend. These folks are emotional vampires with their hunger to feed their ego and are insatiable.

    I wish I had kicked her to the curb after her first affair. Perhaps I would have if we didn’t have children. That’s another thing, she used the children and a broken home as a reason to save our marriage.

    The thing is I had two doors to choose from. Behind door #1 was donkey shit and behind door #2 was two piles of donkey shit. I chose door #1.

    Being in a no fault state meant that her cheating was irrelevant, that I’d have to see my kids half the time and give her a monthly alimony cheque. The court system is pro cheater and anti-chump.

    I’ve got 4 more years of subsidizing an NPD cheater. In the end that’s a small price to pay for my sanity and a better shot at a future without her.

    • Exactly. You stayed not because you are codependent or a narcissist who thought you could change her, but because you took your commitment seriously and had kids etc. And, there is a huge industry out there telling us that affairs are not the end of a marriage and can lead to a happier one etc (where is the vomit icon?).

      • It was hard when my counselor asked me why I stayed so long. She said that was the main purpose of my sessions, to figure that out. I told her I wasn’t the only one who was fooled. Many people were shocked, and even my son said if he “fell out of love with me years ago” as he stated, then he should win an academy award for acting.

        • Lyn, our first MC session my ex said “I never loved her” to the counselor. I think he told the truth that day, too bad he said he didn’t really mean it later. Seriously, I think it was one of the few times he didn’t lie, this is a man who said he loved me nearly daily…

  • Thank you so much for this, CL!!!!!!! It took me so long to get over believing that loving someone and even more, knowing they loved me too, meant we were MEANT to be together, meant that we COULD and WOULD find a way to make it work, meant that I should keep hoping and spackling.

    And this was not just about chumpdom of the narc-cheater type. My first husband was an alcoholic. A smart, sexy, fascinating man, who I know until this day loved me so much. And I loved him just as fiercely. I didn’t manage to leave him until his drinking killed the love I had for him – and that took 10 years. Probably about 7 years too long, at least 6. Years not only of pain and suffering (for both of us), growing resentment and despair, but also years of wasting time, when I could have been building my life on a more solid foundation, when I could have been building another kind of relationship.

    With the narc-cheater, at least I no longer believed that myth, that when we truly love someone, it HAS to work out. Other stupidities kept me tied in, investment, kids (and fear of custody shared 50%-50%), hope.

    I’m trying to teach my kids that love is as love does. And that even if you love someone, and they love you too, that is irrelevant when it comes to committment. The question is ‘can I realistically be reasonably happy with this person, the way they are, and the way our relationship is’. And if the answer is no, you see if things can realistically and persistently change. If the answer to that is no, you HAVE to walk away. With your heart breaking, sometimes, but you have to walk away.

  • CL – your post was great today! Thanks for always expressing things that I can’t. You really make me laugh and smile!

  • Love this post and CL. I’m so happy I found this blog. I will say that I was a student of the marriage fitness program. I was a believer and an A student in the program and I still believe that one person can make a difference in a marriage but I learned that at some point it takes two. This is all a process and while I didn’t end up with my marriage after all my efforts, I did come out a better person. It took me putting effort in ways I never had to finally realize that it WASN’T ME! He was going to do and continue to do all the bad behavior no matter what I was doing. Sure, he would accept all my “kibbles” but at the end of the day, he was going to do what he wanted without regard for my feelings. I don’t know if I ever would have been able to walk away if I hadnt gone through the program and for that I will always be thankful for the teachings. It was more about doing it for ME then him. I had to know I did everything possible to try and save the marriage. I will be a better companion to the next person whenever that may happen because I have NO unresolved feelings that I could have done more.

    • “I had to know I did everything possible to try and save the marriage. I will be a better companion to the next person whenever that may happen because I have NO unresolved feelings that I could have done more.”

      My sentiments exactly, and thanks for putting it so eloquently, Dazed!

    • Dazed, you’ve hit on an important point. With my alcoholic first husband, it was the love that kept me stuck. With the narcissistic ex, it was about the love until after the first affair, when I slowly realized that he wasn’t going to do what was necessary to maintain our relationship, he just expected me to do all that alone. But over the years between the first affair and the second, there was still hope, and most importantly, there was our family, our kids.

      So I did everything I could, I was the wife I wanted to be if I had been in a good marriage. I gave him everything I would have wanted from a spouse, and everything I could figure out that he wanted from one. He still wasn’t happy, or loving and caring, so I wasn’t happy either, but it was OK, and we were raising our kids, living our lives.

      So when the second affair occurred, it was actually quite easy to decide that the relationship was over, and to inform him of that. I did everything possible, and like you, I have no unresolved guilt or regret about my role in the marriage and its end. (Sadness and grief, of course, but no guilt.) I walked away knowing I had done my best, over and over again, for years, and this was on him.

      Now I’m trying to show my kids this same path; their relationship w/their dad is a mess right now, and (at my suggestion) he wants them to see a therapist together. Our daughter especially doesn’t think her father can do what would be necessary to improve the relationship. I told her she might be right, but this is her father, and she should give him the chance to show whether he can, or can’t. And if he can’t, then she’ll know, and not have regrets from her side.

  • Love this Post CL. I found this site – ONLY AFTER, I finally forced him to leave my home. Since then, I got a great job, sold the rings, sold the car and sold the house all by myself (in that order) – So I took steps to move on… but LOVE kept me holding on….

    But even after all that, I kept LETTING him coming back trying to Reconcile, except that when I would ask him to do the work – Talk openly and honestly about affair, go to counseling, and treat me with the respect I deserved – he would bolt, literally – just simply get up and leave! And Then when I would call him out on it, on being an immature coward, lying cheater. He would blame-shift, would be mad that I reacted to his actions.

    During all this time – now 1 1/2 years of this crap, of back and forth – I admit to being the biggest chump. I kept believing that we could fix this.
    Because – 1) we still loved each other – 2) we still had this great chemistry 3) there was no one else in his life – ever since the OW left him (bc he wouldn’t leave me alone)

    So yes, I was one of them – that stayed connected, stayed a chump, because I LOVED HIM! (excuse me while I go vomit)

    This is really said it all – ” They never loved you. Not enough anyway”

    Don’t ever leave CL – You keep me in check

  • This absolutely insane for a rational person to accept and wrap their head around, because chumps just don’t think this way. These people are seriously disordered, and we chumps are in so want of love that when they make it easy for us with their quick attachment scheme, we fall. After all, all of us have fallen for the personality disordered individual who are on this site. We are a cult, so to speak, of spackl-ers.

    I have learned a lot on this site about pattern behavior of the personality disordered, and about myself. My cheating ex, who is currently with her affair partner, is still trying to contact me for ego kibbles and validation. I am proud to say that I have been in strict “no contact” for 14 months after my 4.5 year relationship, and still have a little ways to go. I feel better than ever…I have my life back, and am re-inventing it in my own way…hang in their ya’ll.

    • I think it is critical to learn about the cluste B personality disorders,especially if you have been chumped. These assholes target the kind and compassionate.
      My therapist, way back when I first discovered the cheating and described all the abuse told me ” Arnold, you do have issues, primarily a low sense of entitlement. The nice thing about this is that, unlike a PD, you can fix this.”

  • After reading the comments, I almost feel lucky in some ways. I don’t love him anymore, not one single bit. I don’t even love him as the father of my child, b/c I would change that in a heartbeat, if I could. He’s simply not a loving dad. When we leave, I won’t miss him, I won’t have any doubts, if I never saw him again, it would be just fine with me. After 2 decades of mean, lying, cold shoulders, emotional infidelity, no kindness, respect, support, just what now looks like sheer hatred, he’s killed every ounce of love I ever felt. When he was fired from the job he had, we also lost our home-he’s a maintenance man for apartment complexes-we had a week to move. We were stuck moving to his parents house, after 8 months, where he showed us just how cruel he could be, I finally googled emotional abuse, & saw the light. By sheer coincidence, it was less than a week later that I discovered the cheating. It’s been almost a year since I busted him, I’m still getting trickle truth. But the physical cheating had been going on for 4 yrs.
    This part, the love I had, is a non issue. I’m glad for that.

  • For a minute I thought I was a flaming narcissist because I thought this post was all about me. 🙂 I had to look over my shoulder because I thought CL was spying on me. Thank you for this post – I was really embarrassed about how I used my love for my STBX as an excuse to stay in a relationship where I was not being properly cared for, respected, valued and loved.

    This post was just what I needed today. It re-focused me on continuing to move forward and not dwell on what I believe I lost but on what I may have to gain. When the Disordered Baboon’s Ass Who Was Shat Out By The Bride of Frankenstein dons his human skin, I sometimes forget he is actually a Disordered Baboon’s Ass. Thanks for the reminder CL.

    • Chump Princess, you touched a cord! The Disordered Baboon’s Ass in this corner of the world has been around more than usual recently (kid issues, of his own making, but requiring some input from me), and when he’s got that human skin on, it’s all too easy to forget, just for a millisecond, what a Disordered …. he actually is. So I get mad (that he couldn’t be more consistently like that) and sad (missing the good parts). Then he returns to prime Baboon’s Ass form, and I’m disgusted and fed up.

      No Contact is STILL the only way to go, even 15 months post-D-day, I so don’t need to have my emotions stirred up like this. It’s still true that the less I see him, the better I feel.

      • Yes, I go through this too! They can act so nice, and normal, and you ALMOST start to get sucked back in. If they weren’t such marvelous actors, we never would have fallen so hard for them, right? I have to constantly tell myself – he’s a fake. All the supposed kind attention, pretending to give a shit, it just means he wants to lull me into trusting again! I have to co-habit til our house is sold, no other choice right now. Today I just told him- you’re untrustable. I can’t let my guard down for one minute, I know what he’s capable of, no matter what face he’s putting on.

  • Something someone once told me in a chat room:

    “He busted your ribs? Detach with love? Honey, detach with the emotional equivalent of a two by four.”

    I love the sentiment.

  • Thanks for the post CL. Still in the primary phase of No Contact and this month would have been my wedding month… Which means extra attention on the part of the effed up cheater X reminding me of our ‘love’ and urging me to Spackle away his cheatiness ……

    It was a wake up call to read your article and realize it’s possible to love (the hologram) in some little corner of your heart, but realising that the monster is nothing like the hologram and is toxic.

    Loving from a distance is the way to go… And loving yourself enough is the only way to ensure that the distance is always maintained.

    Your words work wonders CL !

  • “The most loving thing you can do for yourself — and for your cheater — is to leave. By levying a consequence that matters — your absence from their life — they have the opportunity to face themselves, to get help, if they’re so inclined.

    “And if it doesn’t matter? They never loved you. Not enough anyway.”

    In every single case I’ve read about successful reconciliation, once the chump discovered the infidelity, he/she left right away. No discussion, no pick me dance. You want someone else? Fine. I’m outta here.

    It shocks the cheater into action. Sometimes it’s the end of the relationship; often it’s the cheater straightening up and owning his/her actions.

    I’ve seen this many times, but saw it again the other night on “I Dream of NeNe” – the reality show of one of the “Housewives of Atlanta” stars who’s remarrying her ex. She was chatting with her girlfriends and told them, “I didn’t want to get divorced. I still loved him. But no one treats me that way. He thinks he can carry on any which way and I’ll stay home and take it? No way. He needed a dose of reality.” Before they remarried, she insisted on a pre-nup.

    Now true, she was in a financial situation many of us aren’t. But I have to say I envy her her decisiveness. My first impulse when I discovered the infidelity was to leave. That “flight” instinct was on full throttle. But I fought it, did the pick me dance, and it cost me two years of hell. And yes, I spend most of those two years on infidelity forums, learning how to appease my cheater. Only one poster had a clue: he told me file for divorce. Everyone jumped all over him.

    I finally left those forums for good about a year after the divorce when, after many months of not posting, I logged on to give everyone an update. When I mentioned some of my lingering feelings for XH, one of the posters said, “You’ve been divorced for a year – why are you still even thinking of him?! Get over it!” Several echoed the comment.

    So…hang on for dear life, then forget all about him the instant the divorce is final? Nothing like being jerked around by your cheater AND your “support” site.

    Thanks for offering a safe place for us to clear our heads and commiserate, CL. You’re different because you “tell it like it is” and give us strategies for coping. No unicorns, no spackle. Like so many others, I wished I’d found you years ago. It would have saved me A LOT of heartache.

    • The comment you made “My first impulse when I discovered the infidelity was to leave. That “flight” instinct was on full throttle.”
      I was just the opposite. I remember saying to her “You’re out of here” before I crumbled onto the bathroom floor. Of course that didn’t happen. I also did the pick me crap! and she kept on cheating.
      Not that it matters but it makes me wonder how many of us wanted the cheater out of the house or the chump wanted out of the house?

      • Bud, my first instinct was to get as far away from him as I could and take my children with me. Run away – that was my first impulse.

        But if I had to do it all over again, knowing what I know now, I would put his sh*t on the lawn, change the locks, and file for divorce. The symbolic “kicking him to the curb.” Rejecting him for his behavior.

        When you lose your family AND your home in one fell swoop, it pretty much makes you re-evaluate your choices – RIGHT AWAY.

        • Somehow I knew that I should not leave, she of course had legal reasons to stay so I ended up letting her stay and disrespect me far to long. Looking back, what a chump I was…..

      • The first thing I did was tell ex, you decide if you want her or me. He said he wanted me and would cut contact, lasted 3 days. I then found him a hotel and told him to go there for a week, decide. He decided to move out because he needed to work on his issues. I figured we would divorce, fine so I started detaching but then I read that stupid “Just Friends” book and then he came crying and telling me he loved me, can we date and he lives separate so he can fix his issues. And go to marriage counseling, I agreed, then I was doing the pick me dance without knowing it. So much easier to hide an OW if you live separately.

        Dday was March, I told him we were divorcing in July after finding he was still lying, still seeing the OW. Anyone who’s read my posts know that his emotional abuse escalated to the physical the night I told him and his ability to lie to police and our friends was amazingly good. Long story short, I allowed way too much disrespect from him for too long – much of it because of the Reconciliation Industrial Complex advice, much of it because of a marriage counselor who was committed to “saving” my marriage. NEVER see a MC who is invested in saving your marriage, she really helped him fuck me over.

        • Bud, I knew I couldn’t live in the house with him and I didn’t want to be stuck taking care of such a big property. So I told him to stay away from me for about a month as I sorted through 31 years and packed. I moved in with a girlfriend and stayed with her until the divorce was final. Some people said “don’t leave the house,” but I knew I couldn’t take care of it by myself. My lawyer said it wouldn’t affect the settlement to move out. I was so glad to have that year to collect my thoughts and just focus on taking care of myself.

  • Seriously well put! I’ve been willing to accept fully that there’s something the matter with me that I let this person into my life and put up with so much disrespect. Love? Yes, but something bigger to do with ME and I’m figuring it out more each day. I need to respect and love ME FIRST. Then I’ll be okay!

  • Thanks for this post CL. I found it very helpful and to the point.

    When I found out about the affair I asked him to leave. There was a “pick me dance” during a trial separation during which he was telling me there was nobody else and I truly believed him and that we were both working on the marriage. Wrong. But, like I said, when I found out the truth I didn’t waste a day with telling him I wanted him out of my life.

    It’s been very painful but it’s been the only way I knew how to deal with it. He did nothing to “reconcile” and after his AP left town, he got involved with another woman inside of a week. Despite the pain, he showed me who he really was and how little I meant to him. I now see him very clearly and know that this man is not for ME. I have gone no contact and it’s the best way. I feel so much better when he’s not around and not messing with me.

    I don’t have any other thoughts other than hold on tight, this infidelity ride is quite the roller coaster.

  • I like myself, I don’t know that I love myself – I think you are right CL that we chumps have a hard time with that. But hey, if we don’t take care of ourselves, how can we take care of anyone else? And that’s a similar thing that maybe resonates. We need to treat ourselves the way we wish to be treated by others.

    • I have to agree with that. I can’t say I love myself either. I’m very comfortable with who I am. I do want to be better. Most definitely happier.

  • My stbx begged me to help him. He said that he wasn’t right in the head, that he didn’t know right from wrong anymore, and that he needed psychological help. This from a man who always hated doctors. He begged me to help him fix himself. That’s how he snuck back in. I kept thinking about my marriage vows, “in sickness and in health.” I also came from divorced parents who couldn’t live with each other, but missed and mourned what they’d lost with each other for the rest of their lives. I thought that if I loved someone, leaving them would only hurt me.

    Two nights after he came back home, we had this amazing conversation where he shared his insecurities and I told him how afraid I was that I’d help him and he’d crush me. It was two days after that I found out that he never broke contact with the OW, and had been telling her that we were just working out the terms of the divorce.

    When I confronted him, he said he was confused and had to leave to figure himself out. I knew in my heart that it was over, and I was remarkably calm. He must have hated that, because that’s the first time he started talking about suicide. Master chump that I am, I went hysterical, begging him not to hurt himself and telling him to go with her and be happy if that’s what he wanted. He hugged me, told me he loved me, and left.

    He’s been trying to get back ever since. He’s still with her and seeing up to five other women, but I’ve held strong. He used the suicide card with both me and the OW, and I finally saw throughout that, but not until a couple of agonizing months later. He even tried the suicide threats with my lawyer.

    I went NC in March, and that’s when I was finally able to begin healing. That’s also when I began seeing the pattern of emotional abuse that I didn’t even know was there. It’s impossible to see it while you’re still enmeshed. My amazing therapist has helped me see through his strategies and to realize that because of my past, I’m drawn to someone who is showing signs of pain and vulnerability. This is his hook. He cried when he told the OW that no one ever loved him before.

    Our beautiful capacity for deep love, understanding, and bonding are hideously used as a tool against us.

  • I love this! I was stuck for 19 months and then I found you CL! I was addicted to all the unconditional love, standing crap for so long! It was killing me! On DDay I weighed 146 pds. In less than a year I was 97 pds. And I am 5’6″! My only “social” life was doctor appointments and my cake eating ex left me 4 times! I finally helped him pack, went NC and I am presently waiting for him to sign our divorce settlement! He, however, is avoiding it like the plague! I guess he forgot that his bad behavior would have consequences and now he’s trying to hide! I find your site wonderful and it has given me my life back! Thank you!

  • >