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Dear Chump Lady, I know exactly what to do. I can’t seem to do it.

unicorn_limboDear Chump Lady,

I do know exactly what to do. It’s just that it’s coming up on the first anniversary of the official DDay (it’s tomorrow) and I feel shitty about myself that I’m still here. It is so ridiculous to admit but I have some sliver of hope that he will “get it.” After everything — the hookers, the trannies, the lies, the interns, etc. — he could still fix things. I can’t believe it’s true, but it is. A little counseling, a few books, a vow renewal, any sign of caring — I would eat it up. I don’t want to be here, hanging off the edge of a cliff by my fingernails.

You talk a lot about needing validation and I completely understand that. On an intellectual level, I know I’ll never get validation but that’s so hard to accept. How can a person be so successful, smart, charming and popular but be so disconnected from reality?

I always — and still do — feel like he was the football captain and I was the shy, kind homely girl. He is super, mega, crazy sparkly; smashingly successful in his profession, good looking, tons of acquaintances who admire him, hordes of women chasing him. He appears so sensitive and kind to outsiders. I even think he could charm you — nobody would believe the kind of person he really is. I feel like a nobody without the validation of being his wife. That’s very scary.

Leaving his sphere of awesome is hard because it feels like blackness after almost a decade together. I am addicted to the drama, the game of catching him, playing marriage police and making him feel just bad enough to win his attention. I keep hoping to get some of that sincerity back, that caring, to provoke it by making him understand what he’s done – years and years of lying and cheating that add up to him being a complete asshole and a bad person. It’s so odd to me, strange and weird, that he’s just a void, a black hole, with no concept of the damage he’s wreaked on my entire life. He still vehemently defends his privacy, his integrity. How is that possible to hurt someone so profoundly and just not care or even care to understand?

I hate that this is totally out of my control, that the failure of my marriage is not my fault. I didn’t want any of this. I tried, I really tried and the ending has nothing to do with me wanting to be single or find happiness. It’s become survival. I wanted this to work. I know I will eventually have to jump. It’s a question of courage; that’s the reason for the therapy.

Thanks for everything you do. You are the one voice of reason with no skin in the game (I’m not your daughter, friend or patient). I’m sure there are many chumps like me creeping on your blog, too ashamed to admit we’re stuck in limbo.


Dear Emily,

You don’t need therapy to find courage. You just need faith in yourself. I’m all for good therapy, but it doesn’t hold a candle to action and self preservation. You said yourself you don’t need anyone to tell you what you need to do, (“the hookers, the trannys, the lies, the interns, etc.” Yeah, that’s BAD.) You know you need to leave. It’s not insight you need, it’s balls.

If I’m in a burning house, I don’t need a physics lecture on fire. I don’t need someone to ask me how I feel. (I feel HOT. Like I might burn to death.) And then sit back and let me contemplatively connect the dots. Huh… it looks like fire… it feels like fire… fire can burn you to death… but maybe a rain storm will put the fire out for me? Maybe a fireman will rush in and save me? Maybe there’s a really good explanation for this fire? Maybe I’m running a fever? Or… EUREKA! maybe I should run out of the burning building?

This is the way therapy works. Therapists are not allowed to tell you to LEAVE, to flee that burning building. You’re supposed to come to that conclusion yourself. Or not, and spend a lot more therapy dollars in limbo.

But you didn’t ask a therapist, you asked Chump Lady. So I’ll tell you — RUN OUT OF THE BURNING BUILDING, EMILY! IT’S FUCKING BURNING!

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t enjoy the validation of being Mr. Sparkles’ wife and resent the price of admission. But, but — I want Mr. Sparkles without his trannie hooker habit! No, they go together. You want to be a different person? ACT like a different person. Because the person you are ACTING like — reflecting your values — is that you will tolerate a lot of cheating and disrespect to be Mr. Sparkles wife. That’s the truth of it. If you don’t want to be that person, ACT like it. Run out of the burning building.

ACT, and THEN work on understanding in therapy. Do all your second guessing on the safety of a shrink’s sofa.

Oh, and Emily? He’s not that fabulous. I’m sure there are plenty of people who think Mr. Sparkles is a total douchebag. You’re drinking the Koolaid. This is what happens when you’ve been in the narcissist orbit too long. Try no contact for a year and tell me how the sparkles look then.

So what if you’re the only one who thinks Mr. Sparkles sucks? (Doubtful.) You’re also the only one who is married to him. It doesn’t matter if the rest of the world thinks he lights the moon, you’re the one who has to live with him — a guy who demonstrably doesn’t give a shit about being faithful to you. That’s either okay with you, or it’s not.

After awhile, Emily, limbo stops being paralysis and it’s its own choice. I don’t WANT to decide. I want circumstances to decide for me. How many failed attempts at him “getting it” do you need? Your husband “gets it” plenty. You have shown him through your actions that he can cheat and you’ll be there to take it. He’s heard your cries for vow renewals and book readings and monogamy and — he’d rather not, thank you. He doesn’t agree. You can accept his answer, accept his terms, and stay, or you can reject it and leave.

Or you can do what you’re doing now — stick around and be pissed off about it.

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.
  • Emily, your post makes me so sad. I practically could have written every word of it. I stuck it out for TWO decades with my sparkly, lying, cheating, perversion and dangerous sex, “everyone loves him”, so many friends, gaslighting freak of a husband (now ex.)

    Like you, I lacked the self confidence to believe I was anything without him. I felt so “less than,” so boring, so unlovable and a loser. Most of that comes from FOO issues and I’ll bet that’s true in your case as well. But decades with a sparkling turd liar tends to make you feel really small, even if you weren’t damaged to begin with.

    You say you know what you need to do, Emily, and there is only one thing I can recommend…… JUST DO IT. He is not going to get better. He is not going to make the effort. He is not going to stop cheating.

    What he almost guaranteed WILL do is get worse. More contempt for you, more lies, more cheating, more subtle abuse that is hidden from his “fan club.” The odds are very high that eventually he will dump you once he finds someone shinier and newer to play with.

    Be the proactive one. I was so terrified when my ex dumped me that I literally thought I was going to die. That was nearly four years ago, and I’M STILL HERE. I didn’t die. I got divorced. I got an apartment for myself and my son. I started a new career. I made new friends and spend a lot of time with my old friends. I’ve done new hobbies. I recently started dating a man who so far, seems normal, nice and honest. This is the ONLY man I’ve ever dated besides my ex, and I’m 49 years old. If I can do all this, despite how terrifying it all is, anyone can do it. YOU CAN DO IT.

    You are NOT nothing without him. HE is nothing. He is a freak, perverted liar and cheater. YOU ARE BETTER THAN HIM. Right now, you are worth more than he is, no matter how many people suck up the smell of his bullshit and think it’s roses.

    Emily, no one can summon up your courage for you. Heck, you don’t even have to feel courage. You just have to act. It’s just like jumping into a pool of freezing water. It’s scary, and it’s hard and it hurts. You have to put on your big girl pants and do it anyway. I think Winston Churchill said, “When you are going through hell, keep going.” Wise words. Because until you make that leap into the ice water, until you leave the cheater, you are stuck in HELL. Once you start the ball rolling, every day brings you closer to sweet freedom, that blissful meh Tuesday and an entirely new, healthy life that isn’t based on being married to a disgusting, perverted, lying piece of sparkling shit.

    You can do it.

    • To add on to GIO, when you DO manage to do this (put up your boundaries) – he will discard you. It’s like you never counted and you were never there and you really are not important. He will feel nothing for you.

      Forgive yourself for hesitating, because this is all PAIN.

      • This is an excellent point. A couple months before dday, I was so desperate, I gave my husband (now ex) a three-page letter detailing what I needed to feel better about our marriage. It ranged from big things (make me #1 priority, no more emotional affairs) to small (get my car washed every few weeks). I am not sure if he even read the letter. I found it tossed on top of his dresser, and there it stayed. But after I gave it to him, things really went downhill fast. He became even more dismissive, more blatant in his turning outside our marriage for attention (I did not know at the time that he was already into his two simultaneous affairs), more detached and cruel.

        I was fine as long as I kept my mouth shut, cooked his dinner and kept the house looking good. Once I dared speak up and actually had DEMANDS, well, he had no further use for me and the discard was swift and brutal. It was only a couple months later when we were sitting in Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf that he told me he didn’t want to be married anymore. It was two weeks before Christmas, I had loads of wrapped gifts for him under the bed.

        • Right there with you, GladItsOver. We are things, not people, worth even less than a stranger they meet on the street. I tell him he acts like I’m a kitchen appliance or a plastic doll to amuse himself with, just don’t dare have any needs! Those, he will pay lip service to, and secretly ignore. Do I sound bitter? LOL, I’m actually not anymore, I feel truly sorry for him- he can’t love in the real sense, or get close. I’m going to try and find someone who’s not afraid to feel intimacy, and treat me like the lovely woman I know I am. Hoping, anyway!

    • Glad & CL you are amazing, thank you for your wise words of advice. Emily, please know once you are ready to remove yourself from this horrible situation, you WILL feel better. You have the strength, you have the courage, you say you know it is what you need to do. We have all been there, and we know this being “on the fence part” is the absolute WORST phase. But, we will all catch you and make sure you don’t fall! We are part of a unique, amazing, strong community and we know you will be happier in your new life! Trust yourself. You know what you need.

  • Courage is what you need? You already have it, it’s not some amazing masked avenger feeling, you won’t feel like Wonder Woman or Batman. Courage is doing what you must despite your fears. You have courage, you’ve taken one step toward leaving by going to therapy alone, you took a second one by writing to Chump Lady. And wow, you knew your letter would be online and commented on and YOU did it anyway because you have courage. You made yourself vulnerable to get the validation you need to take your courage and do what needs to be done.

    Now, just take the next step toward leaving. And each one will lead you inexorably to your freedom. One step at a time, one day at a time, you face your fear and you keep going.

    I don’t think you lack courage, you are stuck because you can’t DECIDE to ACT. CL is right on, you’ve gone “tharn”, paralysis has set in with wondering “what if” and then always talking yourself into believing if you just wait it will get better. Stop wondering and do what feels right to you. Stay with Mr. Sparkles and be happy with him as he is, or take the steps to regain your happiness without him. Decide, once you do that, the rest will follow.

    • “Stay with Mr. Sparkles and be happy with him as he is, or take the steps to regain your happiness without him.”

      I tried the former and then his disrespect and devaluation became so blatant, I had to save what was left of my self respect. I pulled the trigger and went NC. I would probably have been discarded soon anyway as I later learned since he married the woman with whom I caught him within a year. I won’t sugar coat it, I was miserable and barely functioning. A friend said something to me that helped then and still does… “You don’t think your way into acting, you act your way into thinking. You can’t think up dinner but if you go to the store and buy food, turn on the stove, get out a pan and put food into the pan, you will have something to eat.”

      I was waiting to feel better to do better but it wasn’t working for me. I had to take action – beginning with baby steps – to reclaim myself. Yes, there are things I still miss but at the end I was living in the justifying zone and I can’t imagine that, if he thought about me at all, that my being a doormat made him more interested in pleasing me rather than less…

      There’s a book with an unfortunate title but that I think has a good premise, “Why Men Love Bitches.” The premise is that men are attracted to women who act like they matter to themselves and make themselves a priority. I was that woman when I met the Narcissist and then I wasn’t… The woman I was once would never have tolerated the disrespect and devaluation of the lying, OW, etc. Among my greatest regrets and sources of anger, is that I convinced myself for too long it was better to be with him and have the sparkles, amazing sex and lifestyle – even if I had to compromise my values – than to be without him.

      So, from my experience, sucking it up in the face of overwhelming evidence of assholery to preserve the “good stuff” is just soul sucking. A shift will occur when you start acting your way into thinking, including taking steps toward valuing and prioritizing yourself.

  • Emily, like GIO, I, too, stayed for over two decades with a cheater. He is attractive, successful and kind on the outside but putrid on the inside. That pretty much describes your cheater. Your story is very much like mine. Now that I am out nearly a year with practically no contact (6 months divorced), my vision is back to 20/20. Whatever was I thinking? Break it down, Emily. What is it in him that you admire? In my case, I admired how “fabulous” he was (I just shuddered when I typed that) in a lot of things. That I wasn’t going to do any better. Guess what? I worked on myself. Not the outside but rather my inside. What was I telling myself? Once I developed self-love, the journey to healing and seeing him for who he truly is began. I was getting self-esteem by proxy, and that’s why I “thought” I had to stay. Please listen to what you are telling yourself. You are obviously believing that you are nothing without him. That is a big, fat lie. Question if that is true. I can bet you it’s not true on any level.

    Nowadays, I cannot even imagine being in the same room with him and, whenever he comes to mind, all I can think of is how despicable he is. I’d rather be alone for the rest of my life than be with him.

    If you told me a year ago that I would be in such a place of peace and joy, I would never have believed you. I was so invested in saving my marriage that I forgot I mattered. My ex has long forgotten I mattered and I believed him. Unfortunately, Emily, you don’t matter to your ex because if you did, he would not treat you the way he does. His hold on you is that you believe his lies about you. As Tracy said, go no contact and see how you feel in a year. It will be hell in the beginning and Susan Elliott’s words are really true when you first walk out, “it wasn’t that the doors of heaven opened and let me in, but the doors of hell opened and let me out.” But it does get better. It really does. Your current situation? It will just get worse considering that nothing has changed in a year.

    I really hope you find the courage to leave and give yourself the gift of an awesome life. You deserve nothing less.

  • Science Geek Joke (you’ve been warned in advance):

    Three students are working in a university Physics Lab: an Engineering Student, a Physics Student, and a Mathematics Student.

    Somehow, a fire starts in a trash can.

    The Engineering student grabs a bucket, fills it with water and puts out the fire.

    The next week the three same students are in the lab, and the Physics student says to the Engineering student, “You only needed 2.2 liters of water. You could have put the fire out sooner if you hadn’t filled the bucket all the way”.

    Several more weeks pass. The same three students are in the same lab, and the Mathematics student walks up to the chalk board and starts writing out some elaborate mathematics and announces to the other two students, “This is why you can put out the fire”.

    The Engineering student has had enough and mocks the other two students. An argument ensues. A Psychology student is passing the lab and hears the argument and then asks the students what they are arguing about. The three Science students tell the Psychology student.

    The Psychology student begins stopping by the lab weekly. Every time he appears he begins by asking each Science student how the fire made them feel. Then he asks the Mathematics student and Physics student how the Engineering Student mocking their excellent work made them feel.

    At this point an argument always ensues, and soon all three Science Students are hopelessly behind in their labs.

    Moral of this story: Be the Engineer.

    You don’t need to by a Physicist, and the problem you are facing doesn’t require a Mathematical proof. Put out the fire instead.

    And for goodness’ sake, don’t be the Psychology student.

  • Emily,
    Well, my ex probably isn’t as attractive or successful as your husband, but most people who meet him say what a “great guy” he is. When we met we were both poor grad students, and he decided to go to law school while I worked to support him. After we had kids, I became a stay at home mom and put my career even further on hold. We were married for 20 years when I found out about the cheating. It took me two years to even save the money to walk away with the kids.

    I’ve had many hard lessons, but perhaps the hardest is realizing I don’t need a man to complete me. It sounds so sexist, so backward, so trite–but all those years, I told myself I had value because I was the wife of an attorney. At first I thought I would remarry, and I wondered what profession that new husband would have. But nowadays I am too busy with graduate school and my daughters, and I now realize I don’t really need a man in order to be a good person and a good mom. I’m not sure who told me to sell my soul in order to have a successful husband–was it society? my parents? my own delusional self? but make no mistake, that’s also what *you* did, and now you sadly know the price. Don’t minimize this–this is your moment of awakening. You need to find out who YOU are. I doubt you’ll ever know if you decide to stay with this man.

    If you’ve gotten this far, I think you will find the courage to do what is best for you.

    “Leap, and the net will appear.” –John Burroughs

    • Hi Emily, this line in your story stood out to me:

      ” It’s so odd to me, strange and weird, that he’s just a void, a black hole, with no concept of the damage he’s wreaked on my entire life.”

      I felt the same way about my ex. I remember telling my mother he didn’t seem capable of understanding the depth at which he’d hurt me over the years. It was then my mother said something very poignant –

      “He knew he was hurting you, he just didn’t care.”

      The more I thought about this, the more came to understand that she was right.

      The only one who can protect you from getting hurt again is YOU.

      • “The only one who can protect you from getting hurt again is YOU.”

        No truer words can be spoken Lyn. That is what it boils down to.

        The day I left those are the words that went through my head.

        To go one step further with this idea, The only one who can make your life better is you as well.

        Thanks for writing that Lyn, You and your mother are both wise and 100% correct.

    • See now I was going to ask if there was such a thing as an attractive successful non asshole. But then I decided screw worrying about it because it’s more important that I’m successful. Just out of curiosity Jade, what are you going to grad school for?

        • I guess it’s probably different for each person. For my own personal success I’d like to finish my four year and go to grad school. I want to know that I can successfully support myself and my son without any help from anyone else.

          My STBX who is describe as successful by others has an MBA and makes six figures. His work title has “Director” in it and he likes to be on all sorts of boards. Honestly though I don’t think his current employer is getting what they pay for. He’s distracted with his “extracurricular activities” and when I left he had to get a second job as a car salesman to make ends meet. I had to laugh at that job choice. As others have said about their narcs….he does like to hear himself talk. I guess a few other sign of success are supposed to be things like nice houses and cars.

          It all means jack shit. Honesty, kindness, empathy, hard work and perhaps the ability to actually save a penny mean more to me now. We never lived extravagantly due to divorce debt from his first marriage but even so I always found it weird how hard it was to make ends meet with our combined income. It was more important for him to spend money on stupid extraneous things than save for anything that mattered. Which I suppose is analogous to his emotional capacity.

          Sorry Arnold, you got a rambling answer to that question.

        • Success for me personally is being happy with who I am not what I am.
          If I am ever in a relationship again, I would define it as successful if it was as comfortable as an old pair of faded blue jeans. Worn thin but still holding together in the crucial spots. Totally comfortable and exceptionally durable. No bling needed on the pockets because the stitching is so durable and sound that the bling would just be an annoyance.

  • Dear Emily,

    Mine wasn’t sparkly at all…but everyone considered him a really nice, really GOOD guy.

    After 13 years the ugly truth surfaced. And it was bad. really bad. After dday and finally making it to 6 months NC, not only is my life 100% better, but some of the worst just seems like a bad dream. I mean NO ONE could be the monster I believed him to be! Right???

    Well guess what? Social services for the elderly in his Mom’s hometown tracked me down because they couldn’t find a family member (His Mom’s a very unhealthy 83 – not wealthy either). I love the woman very much but since all she wanted was for me to take her son back by trying crying, bribes, begging, etc. I had to go NC with her too.. And now no one can find him but they also won’t tell me anything because I’m “Not family”

    So altho’ it took me hours and hours of phone calls etc. Where I was mostly treated like a stalker if I got a call back at all from his scum friends….He finally calls me. The sweet, caring, good man I thought he was is BACK! I can hear the sincerity in his voice, plus he’s SORRY – finally, And he still loves me..he will call me and keep me informed re: his “Momma”

    Status 72 hours later? She had sent him $500- for a plane ticket, and he never showed – and apparently this is the 2nd time since we split up. Not counting the tax $ she sent him (which he didn’t give the IRS) the money to fix his truck (which wasn’t broken) and on and on and on.

    He was MY fire…and I am so glad I ran. They don’t change, they just use and use and use till you stop giving, or you have no more to give. I am so grateful to CL and this site for stopping me from giving a long time ago! I wish you the courage to run too Emily. Remember that there are ALOT of attorney’s out there. But also alot of CHUMPS! You deserve a life.


  • I was there too. The crippling fear of being alone trumping all sense of self-worth.

    Let me tell you Emily, the reality of being without him is much, much, MUCH less scary than you think it is. It’s actually a whole hell of a lot better than being with him.

    This is what emotional abuse does to you. It makes you afraid of things that are good for you. It keeps you trapped. It makes you believe you are worth less than you are. I felt like that with my ex. He seemed just so damn cool and sparkly and way more awesome than me. I thought that he was the best I could ever manage to get and I was absolutely terrified of being without him because I believed that being without him meant a life spent alone forever.

    That is SO NOT TRUE. It just isn’t. Never, ever keep yourself stuck in that mindset. It will eat you up inside and he won’t care. He really won’t. He won’t acknowledge that your pain was caused by him. In fact, he will flat out deny any involvement. He’ll make it seem like you’re just crazy.

    The worst and harshest truth of it is HE WILL NEVER GET IT. He won’t. Ever. He will cheat and cheat and cheat. He will never care. There’s no magical therapist, book, or vow renewal that will make him care. He’s empty on the inside.

    You already know that. You just have to take the leap. You CAN do it. We all did it. Some of us are still in the early stages of no contact and moving on and taking it one day at a time. Some of us are years out and have personal testimony to the success of getting FREE. It’s better on that side. It’s always better on the other side of abuse. Away from it. You know what you have to do. All we can tell you here is the only way to get there is just do it.

    Rip the bandaid of freedom off the hairy arm of infidelity and let the wound heal.

    • “Rip the bandaid of freedom off the hairy arm of infidelity and let the wound heal.” Kara, you are brilliant. I love that sentence.

      Emily, your husband is not nurturing and sustaining you, he is suffocating and killing you, slowly, by inches. You can leave him and live or stay with him and die slowly, day by day. My marriage was, literally, killing me. I developed chronic hypertension from the stress of living in an emotionally abusive marriage. When you are living in an abusive relationship, you are living with constant stress. Google stress and how it affects your body and your health.

      Dr. Jill A. Murray emphasizes in her book that “love is a behavior.” What is it in your husband’s behavior that indicates that he loves you? In your letter you mention him not caring to understand how he has hurt you. He understands. He just doesn’t care. It’s that simple. His behavior is NEVER going to get any better. In fact, the longer you stay, the WORSE it will become because you are telling him, by not leaving, that it is okay to mistreat you and disrespect you. I’ve been there, done that, won a prize and took home a t-shirt. Listen to everyone here, most particularly CL. However your husband APPEARS to everyone else, you are living the reality of his unfeeling cruelty. What payoff could you possibly receive as his wife that is worth your emotional and mental destruction?

      Leave him Emily. Don’t walk! Run! Call a taxi! Get a skateboard or a scooter. But get out. It will be painful for you when you leave, as it was (and still is) for many of us. However, that pain is finite – it will eventually begin to subside if you do the necessary work.

      I will quote Kunta Kinte in Roots – “Free a Fine Way To Be.”

      • The abuse that went on behind closed doors was incredible in my situation.
        I thank God for the cheating. It got me off my ass and out.
        IMO, despite how it initially feels, being cheated on was one of our biggest blessings as chumps. It is a bright line, something that most folks readily understand as justifying getting divorced.
        Try explaining emotional abuse to some folks as the reason you left. You’ll get blank states or eye rolling.
        Any if us that stayed with these asshole abusers might want to look within to find out why?

        • Same here, Arnold. Lots and lots of abuse behind closed doors, and attitudes thrown at me morning, noon, and night that came from a place in his heart that despised me. Then there were constantly words about how important I was to him, and how he loved me. Just words. After this last huge and obsessive affair he carried out right in front of me, and ALL the neighbors and our kids had it shoved in their faces, I finally had a reason to go, and make my own life! I don’t really see it as a favor, it’s hard to look at anything that painful, that went on almost 4 years, in a positive light. But, I do think they let down their guard, the mask of love slips, and we get a look at their distain for us. Then, if we stay, as others here have said, we participate in our own abuse! Sorry, can’t do that!

    • I read recently that co dependency is believing you have no options. Almost all of us chumps have gone through a period where we believe that with our XH’s. But in the end all you have to do is open the door and take the first step, and then another’s and another…

    • “The worst and harshest truth of it is HE WILL NEVER GET IT. He won’t. Ever. He will cheat and cheat and cheat. He will never care. There’s no magical therapist, book, or vow renewal that will make him care. He’s empty on the inside”. … thank you!

    • Amazing truth.. sometimes we just dont want to hear this or accept it but it still the truth and the sooner its accepted without any frills, the sooner the gates of hell are going to open to let us out… no doubt about this.. thank u Kara.. there’s so much of empathy and wisdom on this site.. we chumps are blessed.

      “The worst and harshest truth of it is HE WILL NEVER GET IT. He won’t. Ever. He will cheat and cheat and cheat. He will never care. There’s no magical therapist, book, or vow renewal that will make him care. He’s empty on the inside”.

  • Emily, I find your honesty very brave! You do see the truth, you are just scared of the first step, and most would be after years of emotional abuse that reduces your view of yourself. I have been there too. I know I have FOO issues & had no blueprint for “normal,” but I think most of us “Chumps” are trusting people pleasers that probably started way back. A lot of us feel disappointed that we threw a couple of decades (or years) to a bad situation that did not enhance us or our live/happiness. You know you can do it! Chump Lady has such a way of painting a verbal picture. (FIRE!) It does sound like your husbands crazy behavior and insensitivity are unacceptable for human inhabitation!

  • Don’t be ashamed you’re stuck, Emily. You’re most probably addicted to his treatment of you, which is gaslighting and abuse. I think of that as being in his ‘soup’. It’s overwhelming and gross, of course you’re confused. The guy you married is gone. Try to think about, and accept that. Have a funeral for that person!
    Something I’ve been thinking about alot lately is that my X turned out to be incapapble of giving me what I need. All the important things, that feed my soul, he can’t give. He can give me other stuff- attention, laughs, cuddling, very nice sex, someone who cares when I’m coming home. But he can never, ever give me love with faithfulness, real caring about my welfare, and the kind of fantastic sex you can have when someone is your one-and-only ( I know that, because we had it in the past, in the very beginning. That was awesome). He just fell short, over and over again, and betrayed me in every possible way until there was pretty much nothing left but memories and Hopium.
    Sound familiar?
    I’m moving outa here in two weeks! I’m opening the gates of Hell and stepping out (love that!), you will too, when you’re ready. Don’t wait forever! Getting your soul sucked away is what you need to stop! Good luck on your journey, Sweet Emily!

  • Emily,
    I and probably most here truly understand your hesitation. But as you said, you know what you need to do. You don’t have to leap off a cliff today, but you can work on your running start! You can take another (action) step every day if your circumstances won’t let you walk on a dime. It’s really hard to start a journey you never wanted to take but doing will ultimately make you feel better than thinking once you know your position on the stay or go issue. Just getting to that point is a tough one. I hope you’ll listen to CL and the wise ones here and save yourself!
    I’m in limbo myself at the moment. 16 mo. post DDay, found out my H of now 28 years was involved in EA with several friendly ho-workers after he started going out all the time, became really detached and I noticed him acting sneaky with his phone. I seemed to have caught it before things got to the ultimate ( I’ll never really know), but the damage was already done. I had already began to detach myself emotionally after living with his rejection. I was eaten up with anxiety. I was decimated when I realized what the real problem was. He got wise when I told him I didn’t feel the same about him and had been thinking about how I was going to get out. Since he has been doing well at making amends I told him I would put my plans on hold but would not promise forever ,no pick me for him. Told him if that’s who he was and wanted to be, he could have her(there was one in particular who seemed to be moving to the front of the pack). He’s doing the pick me dance for ME right now. And he’ll be doing it forever if we end up staying together. Despite his efforts, I’m still not convinced so I recently decided it was time for a check up on the stay or go, to see if I can clarify my continued ambivalence. The fog of indecision is really thick right now. Every day I learn something new though.

    Good luck to you Emily, just do it !

    • “It’s really hard to start a journey you never wanted to take”… such a true statement. But then after you have started and the momentum starts to build…. oh the relief. Because doing SOMEthing is better than doing NOthing. SOMEthing is forward moving. NOthing is stagnant. SOMEthing supports self confidence. NOthing supports depression.

  • Emily, there’s a reason we’re all so anxious for you to take that leap. We’ve been where you are and we know how hard those first days are. We also know how wonderful it is to be safe on the other side. I think most of us wish we hadn’t taken so long to get out. At the time it feels like you’re delaying the imminent pain, but what you’re actually doing (you’ll realize this in hindsight), is prolonging the torture. You’re just so used to the torture that you think it’s normal. Just wait til you get a taste of normal. 🙂

    • “At the time it feels like you’re delaying the imminent pain, but what you’re actually doing (you’ll realize this in hindsight), is prolonging the torture.”

      So very true! Well said, Jbaby.

      • Emily, if it helps, here’s another way to think about this, too:

        You think you are avoiding pain by staying in limbo – but it is not possible to avoid the pain in this situation! The pain is already there! You now need to choose which kind of pain you want: the long, agonizing chronic pain of slow decay, which leads to death (through all the paths folks here have laid out), or the quick, finite pain of a surgery, which leads to healing.

        Years ago, my mother had a hysterectomy after a prolonged bout with seriously painful symptoms. When she came home from the hospital, she told me that even though the fresh surgical incisions hurt, that was already less pain than she’d been living with! So even when surgical pain was at its worst, that represented an improvement – and of course the surgical pain completely went away in a short time.

        That has been my experience (less than 2 months after kicking my STBX out), and from the comments I think many of us chumps share that experience.


    Thank you so much for this, and phrasing the dilemma of hanging on the cliff edge.

    How to let go of living through them, and how to be decisive and put ourselves first.


  • Been there, bought the t-shirt. Leave now before you end up on the evening news as the “long-suffering wife” of the aforementioned super-sparkly douchebag extraordinaire. I promise you that life will be so much better once you are not living with the Prince of Darkness. Find your courage and never look back.

  • <>

    I just had to highlight this.

    Why do we weak people need to worry whether there are other people who agree with us. Why can’t we accept that our experience is real and authentic. Even when no one else comes forward with a similar experience that corroborates ours?

    • I have a problem with describing the capacity to bond deeply with another human as “weak”. If that makes us weak, then sociopaths are “strong”, I suppose, and if we were all aspiring sociopaths, then out species wouldn’t fare so well, IMO.

      I am kind of glad I have the capacity to bond deeply. Sure, it sucked bonding deeply with somebody who didn’t have a similar capacity, and in retrospect (with hindsight bias) it’s pretty clear I made a mistake (a.k.a. “broken picker” ), and that mistake lead to some temporary suffering (incentive to learn from that mistake), but I have a hard time saying I regret having the capacity to bond deeply or seeing it as a negative.

      In a similar vein, I don’t really see having the clarity to realize I had made a bad investment by bonding with somebody who didn’t share that capacity as “strength” either. Finding that clarity required wisdom, not strength, I think.

      So I’ll take acquired wisdom and the capacity to bond deeply over the inability to bond deeply and the foolish arrogance needed to not recognize I made a mistake even if the tuition cost was a lot of temporary pain (plus money and time–boy, don’t get me started … smile).

      I don’t think I was weak, anyway. Foolish? Yes, I was foolish. Too prideful and arrogant to realize I had made a costly mistake? Yep, I was guilty of that too. I “reconciled” after the first D-day, and looking back (hindsight bias again) it’s clear that was foolish.

      So… if you want to say we were foolish, I bet most of us were guilty of that to varying extents, but I don’t think most of us were weak simply because we bonded deeply.

  • I don’t know how to add quoted info on this site. This is what I was referring to:

    “So what if you’re the only one who thinks Mr. Sparkles sucks? (Doubtful.) You’re also the only one who is married to him. It doesn’t matter if the rest of the world thinks he lights the moon, you’re the one who has to live with him.”

  • “the hookers, the trannies, the lies, the interns, etc.”

    This is a seriously weird guy who is clearly addicted to some kind of danger. I don’t think he’ll give up (what he sees as) his need for “peak experiences” for you. I also agree with other above who say that he may not be as popular as you think. Sure, he’s got some sparkles, but others have surely noticed this weird, risk-taking behavior. Now you could, as CL says, just spread honey mustard on this shit sandwich and stay. I wouldn’t advise that. I honestly think that this guy will either give you an STD or dump you — on his timing — some day. If what you say is true (and I have no reason to doubt it), if you were my daughter my advice would be simple. Make a plan (quietly) and get out.

    He sounds like a seriously weird dude drunk on his own power. If you stay with him, the best that could be expected is that he will continue this behavior until he’s too old to go on with it, and then you’ll be stuck spoon-feeding Cream of Wheat to over-the-hill Lothario. Let him find another retirement plan. If you ask me.

    • I totally agree with this assessment — the future is him dumping Emily on his time line, giving her an STD, or letting her stick around to spoon Cream of Wheat at him in his dotage. Yeah… who could pass that up?

      • Reading this reminds me of something my mother and I use to joke about. We had both read a book in which the “hero” leaves his wife whores around but when he gets sick returns home to her loving arms to be nursed to his death. The tilte was “Uhura” Often joked that is what my Dad would do to her.

  • I just realized something with the above post. I think that sometimes these sparkly types want a “chump in retirement,” i.e. someone whom they abuse, who keeps the home fires burning, and then who takes care of them at the end. I guess this would be the longitudinal view, the long-term result of extended chumpdom.

    • David, that is so true. My XH seemed so fixated on our old age after d-day. We were both 43 at the time. During our false reconciliation period, he kept on saying to me, I thought we’d be old together! I thought we’d die together! So, clearly it was his plan for me to be his chump geriatric caregiver. Pass.

      • Yes, that is definately a scary bullet to dodge! The X also talked about that after I had lawyered up! Really weird, he never mentioned caring about our old age before! He knew he screwed up his safety net.
        One reason I had to get away was his increasingly outrageous acting out (usually drunk). One time he tryed to get the young, married woman who lived down the street to ‘show me your breasts’, then he grabbed her! She has a high-level military clearance, thank God she was nice and forgave him the next day (I didn’t). So, at least in my case, I’d probably walk in on him assaulting the CNA!( I used to really worry about the X grabbing the wrong person, who knew her legal rights, and I’d end up getting sued and losing my house or something over it).

      • river and PattyToo and others,

        I keep mulling over this “geriatric chump caregiver,” as river puts it so well, above. I could easily see an NPD going through life being abusive, but stringing along the Chump with that occasional rationed unicorn. NPD types NEED to have someone to “hold the fort,” take care of the kids, to the bills, call the plumber while they go on their romps. Then at the end of it, they can always express faux regret and they’ve got a nurse to spoon feed them their Wheetena. I’d bet that if we could chart an NPD-Chump relationship out long-term, we’d find this pattern. Remember, NPD types believe they deserve such special treatment, that they have provided splendidly in a material sense, that the Chump simply didn’t “meet my needs,” etc. So, the set-up is in place. This is the “Chumpcare Option.” So, I’d say: “Beware!”

        Janet, below, really did more than she had to, but in my book she gets mega-karma points for what she’s done. Just the same, reciprocity is the key to a real relationship, and I’m glad to see that she’s moving on. She can do so knowing that she did more than she had to for her former partner.

        • The occasional rationed unicorn.

          You know, you let a unicorn out of the barn once in a while, just to keep the Chump hoping……

          • David, I think you mean, “let out a horse with a carrot tied to its head, in low light, and let hopium do its work (or gas lighting, if need be)” 🙂

            • Psyche, all I can say to THAT image is SNORT!!!! I really shouldn’t drink anything when reading this site, it hurts when it goes up my nose!

      • EXACTLY, wow, my ex kept saying, “I just always thought we’d be together,” though he cheated on me for decades including individual affairs and group sex with family friends. It’s astonishing, really. Thanks for that insight.

    • David I think you’re right. Ex told me, after I kicked him out but we were still ‘trying to figure things out’ that we could work things out in maybe five years. Basically he wanted to go have fun and then come back to me when he was a tad older. One of his siblings said something similar ‘maybe you can get back together in a few years when he gets this out of his system’. I think that’s one of the reasons for his rage: now he’s stuck with young OW, I’m well gone, he knows there’s no going back and he doesn’t ahve nice Nord taking care of everything in his life for him while he goes and does whatever the fuck he wants. I was supposed to sit around and smile fondly in our dotage as we looked back on ‘our’ years ‘together’. What a crock.

      • Nord, this is true for me as well. Mine said (after he moved out) that maybe once I retired I could give him a call and he might be interested in coming along if I moved to a nice town. Can you imagine? He would go and have his last flings and live it up while I worked, raised our child, paid off debt, etc. Then once I retired to a beachside villa, he would be happy to tag along and keep me company (i.e., I could spoon him Cream of Wheat, as David says). It’s just unbelievable how entitled and self-absorbed these disordered folks are!

  • Emily I feel your pain. About 1 1/2 yrs out from Dday. after 23 yrs of marriage I was stunned to find out he had reconnected with an old girlfriend on facebook and wanted a divorce to marry her. In my state it is no fault equitable distribution; easy to get a divorce and so I told him to see a lawyer. Yep he still hasn’t seen one. I have got my ducks line up (have you?) been seeing a therapist and been visiting this site almost daily. 2 times I was ready to start out the door. 1st time a tree fell on our house. Stayed to see the reconstruction through. Just last month I went as far as to apply and get a lease. The day I was to sign it my H found out he has a serious medical condition that needs TX now. And so I stayed. I gave him the option of me leaving and the OW coming down to take care of him. That just erupted into a screaming denial of her. Yet somewhere in my broken heart is this little glimmer that hopes maybe thing s will work out. Belief in the unicorn that my rational mind just shakes its head in wonder at. Hope Floats. I stayed this 2nd time because I believe it is the right thing to do. I told him that if he wants the marriage contact with the OW has to go. The secret cell phone continues. 2014 is just around the corner and I believe it will be the start of a new year without him. His loss.

    • Caring for a sick husband is role of a wife (and vise versa). However, I think a marriage ceases to be a marriage if one of the partners has a girlfriend that he openly wants to marry, and a secret cell phone. That is a breach of the contract.

      Janet, I hope you save some of your energy to take good care of yourself, and keep working on that plan. You deserve better.

        • I stayed with my ex through several MAJOR life upheavals that, seriously, would have broken another person. Turns out he was cheating through them all. That’s what broke me, the fact that I gathered all my strength together to get us through those times (he barely functioned through them) and he saw no value in that. In fact, he not only didn’t value it, he shat on all of it by screwing other women while I was busting my ass to make sure we’d be ok. He has no character and if I could do it over again I would have walked.

      • agreed Arnold, I helped my ex through intervention and rehab, he walked out on the latter and nearly killed me for my trouble.

      • That’s what my therapist says- they are ADULTS and they will find a way to get along in life! Funny, I thought for 30 yrs if I left, he’d self-destruct, but that’s a game they play, playing poor helpless me.
        Also, we have to sell our house and he tried to tell the judge in court ‘I can’t leave the house, I have no job and nowhere to go, sniff, sniff’. My attny just laughed at that later, she told me there’s an assumption in society that adults will support themselves, and the judge ignored all his boo- hoo ing. Why did I not know that? He had me so fooled, for so long, I bought his plan that he was helpless, and it was my lot in life to prop him up forever. I feel like an idiot! Thank God for lawyers.

        • Thanks all for your comments. I have been backing off alittle from “helping” him and he can do for himself and really don’t plan to stay much past the the surgical procedure. Did this for me, would have been more stressed leaving him at this juncture and yes feeling guilty (chump chump chump).

          • Janet, I stayed for the medical, frankly if he was gonna die, I wanted to be a widow and I told him that. My kids were watching too. Would have been hard to explain about daddy getting chemo while he’s at the Super 8. It won’t last forever. Make a plan for departure including dates.

  • OK – I very rarely type “lol” because it’s rare that I actually “lol” and I guess I’m a bit of a purist. But, Tracy, I have to say, this…

    “But you didn’t ask a therapist, you asked Chump Lady. So I’ll tell you — RUN OUT OF THE BURNING BUILDING, EMILY! IT’S FUCKING BURNING!”

    … made me LOL!!!!!! THANK YOU!!

    Emily – We all have needed either ChumpLady or someone else in our lives to tell us clearly, “You in DAN-ger, girl!” The first, for me, was a very strong friend who said, “In how many more ways does he have to hurt you to prove to you he’s just a bad guy?” A little light bulb went on that day. I hope CL has flipped that switch for you.

    Big Hugs and Best of Luck –
    Oh… and PS – GO BE FABULOUS IN YOUR OWN RIGHT! It’s in you, I’m sure 🙂

  • “He’s not that fabulous. I’m sure there are plenty of people who think Mr. Sparkles is a total douchebag. You’re drinking the Koolaid. This is what happens when you’ve been in the narcissist orbit too long. Try no contact for a year and tell me how the sparkles look then.”

    So very, very true. My ExH did me the favor of leaving the continent for 4 years the day he left us – with no forwarding address/phone number. At first, it was terrible, but it very quickly changed to…peaceful. amazing. free. You are caught in a crazy, “this is my normal” orbit that will only spin off when you have no contact. And all the people you THOUGHT respected and admired your husband? His bullshit will catch up to him, and once they see you’ve broken free, they will confide in you that they had figured out he was a loser too, but were afraid to tell you, because you were playing the admiring wife part so very well.

    When my ExH left, I lost my identity too – I was HIS wife; a stay-at-home-mom; very invested in his career – and now I have none of that. But you can do this – redefine yourself as someone who is wiser and who can live and walk in truth. You’ve come to the right place here. Hugs to you.

    • As someone who has observed an NPD-Chump relationship, I can say that the above is so true. You get queasy watching an unequal marriage, as a selfish NPD constantly exploits a Chump. Just the same, so long as the Chump is saying, “Well, Wilbur can be a little difficult, but he just won the Ear-Nose-Throat of the Year award from his medical group!” then you don’t feel like you can interrupt. Often, these kinds of families are closed little systems, and visiting you feel like you are in a foreign country. So, you just go along and hope for the best.

      Then, when you hear the Chump has finally had it and has broken free, you (as an observer) feel so good that you almost feel guilty! Then usually a torrent of things come out, all kinds of folks chime in about what was bothering them. I don’t entirely blame the folks for not speaking up earlier, because, in the earlier situation, the NPD would just cut you off. NPDs like isolated family situations and they usually banish or exile anyone who might be competition or a challenge. (Heck, that’s why they often trade down in spouses, going for less educated/less professionally accomplished people…..) So, even good friends sort of wonder and stay silent. My guess is that there is often a “silent majority” out there ready to support Chumps who move on and that the reputations of Mr/Ms. Sparkles are pretty brittle.

      • You are so right about the ‘closed’ systems. My ex inlaws are disordered and I can never figure out who is worse, MIL or FIL but the upshot is that they have very, very few ‘outsiders’ in their world. It’s all their kids (the step kids get barely a look in) and whomever their kids are with. If their kids break up with someone that person is banished and the story is rewritten, complete with all their flaws. My ex definitely found someone who is less attractive, less educated, less worldly, less intelligent and much more screwed up – so she’s lapping up his shit sandwich like it’s filled with truffles.

        I’m glad I’m out and since getting out my life is suddenly full of people again – so many that I don’t have time for them all. Ex’s life is more empty than ever – just him, OW, his family and some of her friends, who are mostly two decades younger than Ex. It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.

      • “Heck, that’s why they often trade down in spouses, going for less educated/less professionally accomplished people…”

        David, you really do get it, thank you for your incredible insight.

    • ReDefiningMe–you are very right that people slowly come out of the woodwork. I was on a trip recently and spent time with some mutual friends, one of whom used to be professionally connected to my ex. It seems that ex’s rep is not as he presented it to me or the rest of his fan club. He can snow the younger, up and coming set, but the people who matter? The ones who make the decisions and can have real impact? They more or less had his number from the get go and it reflected in how his career has played out since. I was pretty shocked to hear some of the things I heard but now it makes sense: if he couldn’t charm them with sparkles he would put them down and discount them. Unfortunately that doesn’t work when the ones who don’t buy your sparkles can make decisions that have a real impact on your future. It made me sad and happy at the same time: sad that he’s living a life of delusion because he cannot face that his career stumbles are based solely on him, not on other people being stupid and happy that this means at least some small bit of this has already come home to roost.

      I also see that one of the reasons he got worse and worse in the last couple of years of our marriage is that all the upheaval we went through was directly related to his career and as I helped sort things out I questioned things, questioned him, and expressed my dismay at some of the decisions I was privy to (and there were a lot I wasn’t privy to and only found out about later). He couldn’t take that I was not seeing him as pure sparkles but as an actual flawed human being. So the series of OW filled that gap and when I kicked him out the one most wiling to buy his sparkles got the big prize. She’s very young and I wonder how long it’s going ot take for his shine to fade.

      • Emily:
        I can only speak from my experience and that seems to echo the experiences of everyone else here. As time goes by their behavior gets worse, their disrespect of you gets greater. They DO NOT GET BETTER! THEY ONLY GET WORSE! I know that without any doubt. As they expose their true selves they become less and less attractive in all ways. The Spackle you do makes them 5 million times grander than they are. No one sees them as fabulously as you do. Believe me when I say this. Your spackle overcompensates for them alot!!! You wait and see if they change and THEY DO, they get worse and the things they do get bigger and more painful.

        I think everyone has their tolerance of pain and it seems that you have reached yours but you are too scared for yourself because you have overspackled to the point of creating a statue in honor of your husband in your mind. It’s an inanimate statue and is not real.

        He is a very sick man and doesn’t give 2 shits about you as he continually shows. Please, Please realize your value. He clearly did which is why he originally chose you as his cover up for his inadequacies. He is using you for his benefit that is it. It’s that simple. Stop being confused. The list of bad far outweighs the good, I know I wrote my list after I left and the bad list was twice as long as the good list.

        Mine was a sociopathic psychopath and very clearly went through the three stages of Idealize, Devalue, Discard. For him, I was his armcandy, I see that now. He told me stories of two other “serious” girlfriends since his divorce from his 1st wife about 12 years ago. Each was categorized as a thing for him at the time. The first one was the jewish man’s fantasy of a non jewish blonde woman. The second was someone that everyone liked according to him and he met her after she divorced her husband who was a serial cheater and was happy to have attention paid to her. He told me this. He would always tell me how beautiful I was and loved the way I dressed and smelled. He even went a bought me a gag gift of a candy corn necklace. I told him I would never wear it. Wow, just writing this is making it all so clear. The current girlfriend who I don’t know but have only seen is not attractive at all and he told me she likes him very much and he is emotionally unavailable for her. The one thing all of us have in common is that he cheated and lied in each and every relationship and wasn’t emotionally available in any of the relationships. Hell he told me that he knew he shouldn’t marry his first wife before they were married but she was his escape hatch from him having to go into his family’s army/navy business which he didn’t want to do.

        When I had my d day, I knew that in order to protect myself I had to run and never go back. I went into therapy to deal with the trauma and all of the emotions and disbelief of what happened to help me slowly process what happened. I ran to my gynocologist to get tested for all STD’s and thankfully came out clean. When D Day happened. All of the red flags came together and I felt like I had seen into a crystal ball and I saw the entire future if I stayed and I saw nothing but pain and bad things happening and knew without one doubt I was being abused and had to get out. I sorted everything out for months afterward.

        I saw he cared about no one, I saw his son who hasn’t spoken with him in 5 years and he never had a clear explanation of why that was. I saw his ex wife who couldn’t stand him. I saw his daughter who speaks with him but shows no respect for him. I saw friends afterward who were so happy that I left and said he was a “weirdo”.

        I saw that I had finally seen the light and thank every day that I removed myself from a completely sick and shallow relationship with a sociopathic/psychopath that I had definitely spackled.

        So Emily, please realize that you will lose nothing by leaving, just a sick abusive asshole who is using you for his benefit at your expense!

        One day you will see very clearly as I did and as everyone else here has or is getting to the point of seeing that they lost nothing in leaving and would only continue to lose by staying.

        The payoff by leaving is gaining yourself back and then some! You will have balls of steel eventually as you make your way through the forest of insanity and become a much better version of you and you will eventually find happiness after you leave. I promise!

        It takes time and work but it is well worth it. Especially when you get to the point of WTF was I thinking? That is where I arrived last night and it made me laugh and feel mortified at the same time that I let myself get into such a mess in the first place. We are all human thank goodness and make mistakes and this is one of the most valuable mistakes you can make as it’s a big wake up call to how important you really are and what you have to offer the world.

        We have all been there or are going through now with you and we are all telling you the same thing. RUN EMILY RUN don’t look back and then work on everything that happened to get through to the other side in the light again!!! It’s all worth it. It’s abuse you are experiencing and only you have the power to stop it. You have all of the power don’t let anyone take that away from you ever!

        Wishing you the strength and foresight to save yourself, you are my heroine of today because you see what you need to do. I hope we gave you the kick needed to do it.

        We really are rooting for you as we know what it’s like

        • Thank you, Deborah, for this beautiful comment: it really spoke to me.

          Spackle statue… 🙂 perfect image

          Emily, hope you are deriving strength and hope from all these comments. We all wish you the best.

        • Emily,
          One more thing. He is not disconnected from reality at all. His reality is very clear and he never disconnects from it, it’s all about him.

          The irony is we all get disconnected from reality!

  • “Oh, and Emily? He’s not that fabulous. I’m sure there are plenty of people who think Mr. Sparkles is a total douchebag. You’re drinking the Koolaid. This is what happens when you’ve been in the narcissist orbit too long. Try no contact for a year and tell me how the sparkles look then.”


    Emily, my XH is a sparkly, smart, charming college professor who’s well known in his field. I thought EVERYONE loved him.

    Until I read his reviews on, that is. Comments include:

    “Attractive yet arrogant.”

    “Arrogant about his intelligence.”

    “Worst class ever.”

    “I hate this man.”

    There are a few positive comments here and there, but it’s mostly 80% negative. Many students agree that’s he tough and they learn a lot, but he has impossible standards and “likes to hear himself talk.”

    The first time I read his reviews several years ago, I was offended. Now, it makes perfect sense. He’s one of those people that you either really like or you really don’t, and more than their fair share DON’T.

    So Emily, CL’s right – you’ve been drinking the Koolaid too long, as did I.


    You may not recover your marriage, but you WILL recover yourself. Then he won’t seem nearly as sparkly. In time, you’ll be SHOCKED that you ever thought he was…

    • I love that you could read his ratings online! And I loved the comment ‘I hate this man.’ I totally snorted and laughed when I read this. Hysterical. I can picture a student writing that. Yeah, I bet your XH is his own biggest fan.

      • LOL, I just checked my ex’s ratings on the same site. One student said, “he loves to tell stories about himself” 🙂

    • This, absolutely.

      I have heard: ‘I didn’t care for him’

      and: ‘He was polite … but the most self-absorbed person I have ever met in my life’

    • I similarly thought my ex wife was extremely talented i her field. Then after the divorce I spoke with her prior business partners. The story I’d been told shortly before D-Day was that they were buying her out, for which they made payments over the course of a year. Turns out they were forcing out her out of the company the three of them started because of all the time she was wasting on her cheating and dragging her affairs into the workplace and lying to them about all the work she wasn’t doing. Turns out their nickname for her for several years had been . . . “The Idiot.”

      All this was especially weird since I was the attorney who negotiated my ex’s buy-out package. That’s right, she had me push to get “all she had earned” even though the reason she was being thrown out was her cheating on me. The apology from the business partners for not telling me about the affairs sooner was good to hear, though I still consider them all people pretty lousy folks.

        • Yeah, though after 22 years of gas lighting by the ex I was struck that the partners at least had *some* insight. One of the partners said, “As long as she was cheating on and lying to you and your marriage it was unseemly. When she started cheating on and lying to us and our business, it became a deal breaker.”

          That says all you need to know about their character. But at least it’s true.

  • I know how horrible you feel. I am in a similar position. I’ve spent so many years with my life revolving around him that I don’t even know what it feels like to go it alone. But his behavior is dangerous. And at the end of the day, you need to choose YOU.

    Whatever he’s doing, don’t think you’re the only one who notices it. I bet there are a whole bunch of people out there who think he’s a self-important dickhead and wonder how he landed such a sweethearted wife. Have faith in people’s judgment. What’s more, have faith in your ability to attract the RIGHT people into your world – friends, partners, etc. You are the prize here, not him.

    Let’s see how sparkly he is when he gets caught with a tranny and his picture winds up in the paper. You need to have faith, try to get excited about the good things that WILL be coming your way, and cut bait on this freak. After reading this column, I”m starting to think there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t wait to bask in it fully.

  • “This is what emotional abuse does to you. It makes you afraid of things that are good for you. It keeps you trapped. It makes you believe you are worth less than you are. I felt like that with my ex. He seemed just so damn cool and sparkly and way more awesome than me. I thought that he was the best I could ever manage to get and I was absolutely terrified of being without him because I believed that being without him meant a life spent alone forever.”

    I just had to say – what a perfect summary of my ten year marriage. He was happy to let me know how pathetic (his favorite), disgusting, and stupid I was. How LUCKY I was to be married to him; how everyone was constantly telling him that they couldn’t BELIEVE he had lowered himself to marry me. IT’S ALL LIES.

    One of the best, most difficult things you can do for yourself (I was lucky to have a GREAT therapist) is to make a list of LIES I TELL MYSELF. If you’ve spent any time at all with toxic people, you may a long list. Then comes the hard part – figure out the truth. Write it there, right next to the lie. But write the lies in pencil; write the trust in big, bold, Sharpie. Read it over and over; re-teach yourself. Believe it. Because for so long, we’ve believed that we’re less than; that we don’t deserve to be happy; that something is WRONG with us that makes them treat us badly; that we’ve to blame. The truth will take time, but you know it’s there. Find it – and when you start to believe it, life really can be beautiful again.

      • Patsy –

        Everyone’s list is different, but generally it’s the stories we tell ourselves to justify the situation we’re in…

        Some of my biggies –

        “All men cheat – it’s normal”
        “He cheats because I’m fat – if I was thinner, he wouldn’t”
        “I’m fat and disgusting” (see above 🙂 )
        “Nobody else would ever want me”
        “I’m lucky to be with him.”
        “My kids will end up criminals/pregnant at 12/suicidal if we divorce.”

        I kept a list, and have added to it over the years. It’s the black thoughts that run through your head when you’ve listened to his garbage, that once you say them out loud in the light of day – or try to explain them to the healthy people who love you – sound very strange and crazy. Does that make sense?

  • Call a lawyer. Pack up the financial paperwork you will need. Run silently. Yelling “Fire” sets up a panic. Run away from him and towards YOU.

  • Hi Emily… I am sorry you still find yourself stuck. I truly am. I know you have a family that is worried sick about you; that would do just about anything to see you get away from this man. I also know that you already tried leaving once, and you were miserable. And Emily… the fact that you are still here, on ChumpLady, talking to us, makes me happy – in spite of your stuck-ness. I know it was hard when you left him last time… I was in a similar place then and I was miserable too. But as Tracy says… that pain is finite. The pain of being with Mr. Asshole goes on for as long as you continue to be with Mr. Asshole. I am now divorced and free of the drama. I have ended my addiction to fuckedupness. You can do it too. You are worth so much more than this. You are not defined by being the wife of Mr. Asshole. You are a smart, young, amazing lady… who is looking for the person who continues to hurt you to make you whole. I did the same thing for a long time. But only I could make me whole, by moving away from what hurts.

  • Emily, you’re husband is a turd covered in sparkles and cologne. It’s not surprising that he has fooled friends or colleagues into thinking he’s spectacular. NPD’s are focused on self marketing the image they have manufactured. Underneath their facade is nothing but a vacant soul with an aggressive appetite to feed that emptiness.

    An NDP chisels, chip by chip, from their spouse’s self esteem. Love bombing you in the beginning and then piece by piece tearing you down. It’s not uncommon that chumps are often in limbo when it comes to splitting from their cheating lying spouse and that maybe a shit sandwich, if you plug your nose, doesn’t taste too bad.

    I can guarantee you Emily your husband will one day leave you in the dust when he finds a new chump to exploit. You’ll regret you didn’t get out on your own terms.

    Put down that shit sandwich and walk away.

  • Dear Emily,
    I could’ve written your letter. (Sans the hookers and trannies- I assume). I’ve been through the false reconciliation, which tore me apart, and at the end he left me anyway.
    I’ve been in pain, unable to do anything. I knew I should detach and stop caring, but couldn’t and it was eating me alive.

    Over the weekend I watched some youtube videos. This one by Byron Katie broke the spell:

    I thought I needed his approval, love, caring, attention and understanding of what he had been doing to me. And these needs (you can choose, add anything you need here) made me coming back for more abuse. I did this exercise several times (maybe will have to refresh it as well – don’t know) and I feel normal for the first time in years.

    She asks how do you feel when you think that you need his approval etc.?
    Happy or miserable?

    Hope you find your freedom and happiness.

    And thanks to Chump Lady and all the commentators – you are fantastic!

  • I agree with Red. Please the reason they are so Sparkly because they are sucking the shining light out of us. So please, Emily make the most difficult first step, next thing u know you will be running away from him and the whole fairy tale life.

  • “But you didn’t ask a therapist, you asked Chump Lady. So I’ll tell you — RUN OUT OF THE BURNING BUILDING, EMILY! IT’S FUCKING BURNING!”—Freaking hilarious!!

    And particularly simple yet insightful–> “You want to be a different person? ACT like a different person.”

    Thanks yet again CL!

  • HOly shit…this sounds like my ex.









    Seriously. I really wish I had done that but I stayed and hoped for the exact same thing you do now. That is my only regret. That and that I didn’t kick him in the balls when I had the chance. Jus’ sayin’.

  • “Oh, and Emily? He’s not that fabulous. I’m sure there are plenty of people who think Mr. Sparkles is a total douchebag. You’re drinking the Koolaid. This is what happens when you’ve been in the narcissist orbit too long. Try no contact for a year and tell me how the sparkles look then.”

    I would say without fear of exaggeration that over the 20 years I was married, no less than 100 times when I was introduced to people who knew ex but were meeting me for the first time, the very first words out of their mouths were either: “You poor thing” or “I don’t know how you do it.” I thought that was their affectionate, joking way of acknowledging that my ex is always “the life of the party”. Now I look back and think, WTF? I can’t imagine most wives hear those same words over and over again when being introduced to business associates of their husband. Now I realize that though some of those people MIGHT have been joking, most of them actually saw my ex as a pathetic attention whore, a man with no sense of social appropriateness and decorum, a man willing to make a constant fool out of himself as long as he got a spotlight. Pathetic.

    I sometimes still fall for the “Oooohhhh, he’s so SPARKLY! He’s so NICE! He’s so INTERESTING!” stinking thinking about my ex, but so what? That doesn’t change the fact that he was a horrible husband and he’s STILL a lying, cheating, perverted freak.

  • “Leaving his sphere of awesome is hard because it feels like blackness after almost a decade together.”
    That really resonated with me, but trust that he sucks and trust that he isn’t awesome.
    I am two weeks away from my one year anniversary of D-day, and I also feel the “blackness,” but the longer I go “no contact,” the LESS I can imagine going back to being humiliated and chumped. There are some things that I just. won’t. tolerate. Someday, my ex will just be “the guy down the street” and THAT will be awesome.

  • Emily,

    Perhaps you have seen the wonderful movie, the Wizard of Oz? The poor Lion was in search of courage the entire film.

    The Wizard discounts the Lion’s lack of courage, because he merely confuses courage with wisdom. Under certain circumstances, it’s acceptable to be afraid. The Lion is presented with an elaborate medal of valor for all his bravery against Wicked Witches:

    As for you, my fine friend, you’re a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate delusion that simply because you run away from danger you have no courage. You’re confusing courage with wisdom. Back where I come from, we have men who are called heroes. Once a year, they take their fortitude out of moth balls and parade it down the main street of the city and they have no more courage than you have. But they have one thing that you haven’t got – a medal. Therefore, for meritorious conduct, extraordinary valor, conspicuous bravery against Wicked Witches (CHEATING SPOUSES), I award you the Triple Cross. You are now a member of the Legion of Courage.

    Emily, you are now a member of the Legion of Courage. Chump Courage. We are an amazing group.

  • Emily,

    Many hugs to you. I realize how awful the limbo is and I am sure everyone here really ‘gets’ the disconnect between the head and the heart.

    I just have one thing to say. Please read, re read and internalize EVERYTHING people say here, coz they KNOW. They know the pain, they know the limbo, the awful awful journey out and the other side ! Do you see how neither one of them is saying, go with your heart, maybe your love will be the miracle to change him …? That’s coz from what it seems, that is unlikely !

    And I like to look at it another way …… There is just so much more to life than relationship drama. So much more….. we waste so much time on these messed up people, that we miss out on the beautiful things there are around us. Good places, good food, good people, good books ….. So on so forth ! One day all of us will die and none of this will matter……except how much beauty in life we have experienced ! Please just know that being held by the person you love is beautiful…. But so are a gazillion other things, like helping out someone who has been dealt a much worse card in life ! When you disengage from this drama, imagine how many more experiences (both good and bad) you will make space for !

    Be kind to yourself coz we only live once !

  • Emily –
    You said “I hate that this is totally out of my control…” but, it isn’t! This is totally something you can control. You own this.
    You’re so right about one thing. That mess of a thing you’re living with is one black hole. He doesn’t possess emotion. I don’t care how sparkly you think he is.. he cheated on you, so he’s an asshat.
    Let him have that privacy he wants so badly. Make your plan in the background. Don’t let him in on a thing. Get a good attorney and start putting a smile on your face. You are about to get your liberty an put it in Mr. Sparkle’s face.

  • Emily, sending many Jedi hugs your way. I have sooooo been there, done ALL that, had that horrible feeling that my heart and my head were at war.

    Then two things really helped;

    1) The realization that if I let this relationship go on one minute more after I found out about the 2nd affair (yeah, I was one of the ‘lucky’ ones whose cheating partner graciously accepted reconciliation when I did the pick-me dance after affair #1), my kids would grow up knowing that this is how the world works. There are assholes who take advantage of others and treat them badly, and there are chumps. And they would certainly certainly repeat the pattern (already multiple generations old in my ex’s family), on one side or the other. They would grow up watching me let myself be disrespected so fundamentally.

    2) The recognition that I CAN do what my heart doesn’t want. I could let myself feel all the pain, fear, longing, wishing, grief, anger, despair. I could accept that I had no control over how this had played out. And I could still keep living my life, day by day, protecting myself from further disrespect from this man. No contact is TOTALLY the way to go – it made me feel better right from the start, and every time I had to be in touch w/him, it made me feel worse again. (Still does a bit, 18 months after DDay #2, not at Meh yet, but on the road.) And lean on the people who do love and care for you, the ones who do treat you with respect and honesty – they will be your strength until your own returns.

    (BTW, most therapists won’t tell you to leave, but you should have seen the wash of relief on my therapist’s face, when I told her that the ex had approached me to reconcile (8 months after separation), and that I had easily, happily and clearly refused.)

    Good luck to you, let us know how it’s going!

    • “The recognition that I CAN do what my heart doesn’t want.”

      That’s exactly it, KarenE. That is the conundrum. We have to do what we do NOT want to do. Someone posted on here a while ago, (I forget who) a very insightful comment which I will paraphrase and which you have hit on– there are lots of things we do in life which are painful and which we do not “want” to do or which are not fun–> we undergo surgery, we go to the dentist, we eat our vegetables, we work out at the gym (haha), etc. We do these things because we know in the end that they are the right things to do for us and will ultimately make our lives better. Same with going NC with our cheating exes and STBX’s– our heart does not want us to do it, but we KNOW we have to do it. And once we step away, we realize how much better off we are than we ever could have imagined. These cheaters are simply poison.

      • Kelly, that’s it exactly. I think for a long time I tried to make myself FEEL as I thought I should, thinking that would then lead to the ability to DO the things my head knew were right.

        When I finally realized that I could feel all the things I wished I weren’t feeling, all the things he didn’t deserve (missing him, longing for him, grieving our relationship, dreaming of some completely unrealistic miraculous solution to this mess) and still DO the right things, the things my head told me had to be done, it was so liberating!

  • Emily sent this to my inbox this morning, FYI to all the kind chumps who posted on this thread.

    Thank you, CL, for taking the time to post and respond to the letter. I’ve read all the comments and truly appreciate the words and kindness of my fellow chumps. The support is overwhelming.

    I do feel myself slowly getting stronger. Therapy is helping, as is my job. He is no longer the centre of my world. My chump army reminds me that I am not alone. Even subtle parts of your message — the “fuck what other people think” part — is more helpful than you could imagine to me, since I’ve been trapped in Mr. Sparkle’s image factory for years and can’t see straight. My experience as a chump is typical, not some aberration, and I am glad to know that.

    The world is full of people, as you know, who want to remain neutral. Thank you for the work you do to help us see the truth.

  • Dear Emily,
    I read your post with tears rolling down my face cos i know exactly what you are going through. After 9 years of playing the marriage police and playing out the drama of catchin him and trying to get his attention back to me and then hating myself for what i puttin myself through.. i finally managed to walk out on him. But like ur spouse, mine too is so sparkly that i miss the sparkles.. live seems dreary without all that drama and heightened emotions and the met-downs and crazy make-up S$#… and my own unbelievable rage that frightens the living lights out of me.. reading all of the collective heartbreaks and courage in this forum has finally convinced me that i need to just “Delete him” and any thoughts of “his brand new life with his new wh&*%” who happens to be 20 years younger and who refused to listen to my side of the story of what he is capable of (can u imagine! i tried to advise her to lose him but he convinced her i am this mad woman who’s just so into him when he is so over me… that his wife he was talking about who covered his sad arse over many years..anyways).. left with one beautiful seven year old daughter who adores him, times ahead are difficult. Like you i’ve lived in the reflected glory of his huge social network, no friend of my own but i have a kick ass job where i earn twice as he does and where i’m at my best.. so all is not lost.. i need to start believeing things Tracey has written under “Why.. Why.. Why” about closure cos that’s where I believe I’m stuck at. I cannot believe that he could use me, use my youth and beauty and then move on to someone who eerily resembles me but who is 13 years younger than me.. this could also be my ego that’s taken a massive blow since i hate to admit i had prided and taken all that my natural beauty and youth had entitled me and which made a lot of things come my way a lot easier.. well may karma bits time for me now … i know i deserve a lot better, i know i will survive and i don’t need validations (that too in stingy measures) that he throws my way.. i know i can let go and move on… i just need to do it like Nike says.. Just Do It .. day 2 of my clean break … i have put my phone away.. try not to listen to my daughter go on about her dad and read and re-read a lot of the blogs that Tracy has put up on this site… this is how i am getting to meh.. and it will be sooner than later cos i have seen the light ..

  • But like ur spouse, mine too is so sparkly that i miss the sparkles.. li*F*e seems dreary without all that drama and heightened emotions and the me*L*t-downs

    well mayBE “karma bitEs” time for me now …

  • And Tracy… Thank you for this and all of the other great “tell-it-as-it-is” stuff you have put up.. ur voice seems to be the only voice out here in the cyberspace without a “make-quick-$$$-from-their-heartbreak” agenda and stating the unpalatable truth as it is… i especially found the below very helpful… thanks again.. I have read your response to Emily at least 20 times and it’s like what I would expect a person who really, really cared for me would say in order to rip off the blinders i’ve been wearing, to make me see my STXH for what he is.. and guess what ? U are absolutely right.. He aint thaaaaat fabulous@ its just a crazy mirror image I’m carrying around in my head… an aging Lothario trying to grasp at youth by hookin up with youth …. the time and money he pours out on age elixir (in the name of antioxidents and anti ageing products), working out like a 20 something… he is so investment in himself, no time for his wife or family.. its all me, me, me! Thank u for making me see it all! And I’m waiting for your book to come up.. im getting mulitple copies and giving them away for sure…

    “Oh, and ____? He’s not that fabulous. I’m sure there are plenty of people who think Mr. Sparkles is a total douchebag. You’re drinking the Koolaid. This is what happens when you’ve been in the narcissist orbit too long. Try no contact for a year and tell me how the sparkles look then. So what if you’re the only one who thinks Mr. Sparkles sucks? (Doubtful.) You’re also the only one who is married to him. It doesn’t matter if the rest of the world thinks he lights the moon, you’re the one who has to live with him — a guy who demonstrably doesn’t give a shit about being faithful to you. That’s either okay with you, or it’s not.”

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