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Enough with the Divorce Shame

The Unicorn of ReconciliationSo, I’ve been spending some time reading the writings of the Reconciliation Industrial Complex, and it’s been pissing me off. Specifically, I’ve been checking out the websites of the fear mongers, the false hope sellers, and the motivational speakers who promise if you send them $159 they will save your marriage.

Bunch of witch doctors. They may as well sell you a magic amulet to wear around your neck (made of powdered unicorn horn, of course) for all the good their “therapy” will do. But that’s not the most repugnant thing. What truly upsets me about them is that they tap into some very real fears and prejudices, about the specter of divorce, about being single, and about the institution of marriage itself.

Michele Weiner-Davis of “Divorce Busters” — actually gives pretty good advice on repairing your marriage after infidelity. Heck, I even agree with the forgiveness statement if you reconcile — I mean who wants a lifelong marriage of You’re On Probation Asshole? It’s what she does NOT say. It’s the advice that is missing. What do you do in the very likely event that your cheating spouse is NOT committed to saving the marriage? Does NOT do the homework, is NOT sorry, resents apologizing, can’t stay no contact with the AP? Does one thing on the list and neglects the other 27?

All this advice “works” because it assumes you have a cheater who is committed to fixing the marriage. It’s like selling a book on how to Be A Millionaire! And the first step is have $999,999 in the bank.

There’s no word about what you’re supposed to in the likely event that they keep cheating on you and are not one bit sorry. No, they just peddle fear — whatever you do, don’t be one of those DIVORCED people! It shamelessly sells the ridiculous idea that you can FIX THIS ALONE.

It’s right there on the home page — marital “problems are solvable…even if your husband or wife doesn’t agree!

Long before it was in vogue or politically correct to question the sanity of rampant divorce, Michele Weiner-Davis, M.S.W., best-selling author and marriage therapist, took a stand. She believes that the vast majority of divorces in our country are absolutely unnecessary because most relationship problems are solvable.

The “sanity of rampant divorce”? Really? Hey, if you get divorced, you might just want to question your very sanity. She also has “solutions if your husband is not interested in sex.”

Implied in a point of view that you can Fix This Alone — right down to your husband’s erection — is that if you FAIL to fix it, you’re the problem. That’s a conclusion most people don’t want to come to, so they’ll hang in there trying and buy as many motivational videos as it takes. Great sales tactic there, Michele.

If you don’t fix this, well you must be a quitter. You didn’t Do It Right. You are missing out on this bright unicorn land of Happy Marriage — and now you’re doomed to divorce, Land O’ Losers.

I despise this notion that to be “pro-marriage” you must want to save every marriage, whatever the problem. I despise the divorce shaming that goes along with this pro-marriage stance.

I value marriage. I was married to people who did not value me, or marriage. Now, I am. Divorce wasn’t this sad, awful scar on my life. The pain that endures forever — which is the gloom scenario they like to scare you with to buy their shit. No, divorce was liberation. I took it on faith. I deserve better than this abuse — and better is out there. I  asserted myself — and my vision of marriage. I believe in marriage. I believe in monogamy. I believe in mutuality and respect. I had marriages that were NOT marriage.

I love marriage. I love every domestic detail. I like picking up the dry cleaning. I like the regular sex. I love how after we fight, we make up, we apologize. I like the hugs. I like that we have a will, that if get hit by a bus tomorrow, he will sort things out for me and distribute my pinecone elf collection to the deserving. I like how my husband risks life and limb to teach my teenage son to drive. I admire how my husband thinks of thoughtful gifts for my parents, how he patiently listens to my mother prattle on about her summer cottage or my father’s ham radio hobby. I love his flannel shirts. I love that he wants to make me a Red Sox fan. I love that combined, we have three cool sons and we can compare notes on all things teenage boy. (Hot Pockets or frozen pizza?) I love that I’m going to grow old with someone who loves me. I love that my husband challenges me, and cross examines me, and calls me on my shit. I love that he lets me dress in him in pressed shirts.

Unicorns? I LOVE MY MARRIAGE. It’s precisely because I LOVE marriage that I hate to see chumps abused and sticking out BAD marriages. All marriages aren’t created equal. Every marriage cannot and should not be saved. If I hadn’t “quit” and left two hopeless marriages (both of which I tried desperately, and pointlessly, to save) — I wouldn’t have this good marriage now.

Oh, and as long as we’re being sacrilegious — I don’t even think marriage is the gateway to happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m deliriously happy to be married to my husband, but that’s because it’s him. If he was gone tomorrow, I’m confident I’d find a good life out there without him, and he’d do the same if I wasn’t here. I was single a long time — I had a rich, satisfying life. Being home alone with my son and my garden was a million times better than being in a bad marriage. No, a GAZILLION times better. (I have cataloged the horrors of my former marriages elsewhere, I won’t go into it now. Trust that they sucked. Epically.)


It’s all lies. Every human being, if they aren’t a sociopath, has a fear of abandonment. What makes divorce so scary is you have to wrestle that fear to the ground, hogtie the motherfucker, and step out on faith anyway. You won’t be alone. You are NOT unloveable. You have good values. You tried hard. You did the best for your children. The LAST thing a chump needs is a bunch of quacks yelling from the sidelines “YOU’RE DOING IT ALL WRONG!”

Fuck ’em.

Step out, chumps. Put down the crack pipe of hopium, and go gain that new life. It’s waiting for you.

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • It’s probably true that most relationship problems are solvable IF BOTH PARTNERS ARE SANE. By “sane”, I mean do not have a diagnosable personality disorder, an addiction to any substance or action, or inherent character flaws that make acting like a grownup impossible. Unfortunately, the very same folks who cheat are the least likely to pass my stringent criteria for saneness, thus making it pretty much impossible to solve their marital issues.

    I felt a lot of shame when my marriage ended. I was proud of being married for 20 years. All of my friends are in equally long term marriages. The difference is, they picked sane spouses, and I did not. I am no longer ashamed of being divorced, because there really was no alternative in my situation. I had to let my ex prance off into his leotard-wearing, glittery sunset. He’s happy there, and I’m happier without him.

    And OMG, CL, I hope to have a marriage one day like yours. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have a partner who genuinely had my back, who was trustworthy, who actually cared about me. Not so sure about the pinecone elf thing, but hey, I have a little wooden box shaped like a cat’s head, and inside I’ve saved every shed whisker I’ve managed to find from every cat I’ve owned going back a decade or so. So I’m totally on board with weird collections! 😉

    • All the (false) reconciliation period does, is give cheaters ample time to decide which kibbles they want and from whom. And they get to pretend they are committed to the marriage because they haven’t “left yet”…because even if you spend time away from home with an affair partner and not engaging with your family, the cheaters are still considered married by the hopium industrial complex.

      • My situation to a tee. He couldn’t believe that I wanted a divorce after 1.5 years of false reconciliation while he had two affairs going on…he didn’t leave me so, in his mind, that meant that he loved me and wanted to be with me. Such a mindfuck….

        • Mine told me he was in ‘no rush’ to get divorced even though he moved straight in with the OW after I kicked him out (due to his refusal to stop seeing her). I am guessing he was expecting me to give him as much time as he wanted to weigh up his cake options.

  • If I were a lesbian, and weren’t engaged, and you weren’t married ~ I’d want to marry you.

    That’s how awesome this article is.

    • Well, I pray you become a lesbian, for your sake, Jennifer 🙂

      But,seriously, CL, this is why there is a need for you to get your book done. Almost everything that is published out here devotes a real disproportionate amount of its content to reconciiation and almost nothing to the most trevelled path post cheating- jettisoning the cheater and divorcing.
      Somehave brief sections devoted to “healing alone” but the vast amount of the content is geared toward reconciling. this is despite the fact that only about 30% remain together.
      So, get that book out there. I want to order multiple copies for my family and friends.
      I would like to send a copy to my XW’s fiance, as well.

      • I’m working on it Arnold. Goal is to have it for sale January 2014. I decided to self publish (and put my snobbery aside). I’m sure with my “platform” (over a million hits, lots of readers, etc.) I could find an agent. I found that process (and the 50 different ways agents want things submitted) frustrating.

        Also, I’m afraid of the very real spectre that I would get published conventionally, get an okay advance, and then it’s not marketed properly and goes out of print or gets shelved. I lose all my republishing rights, and all my digital rights, most likely. As I also have art work, that’s a concern.

        The other thing that was bugging me, as I was writing, thinking I was going to have to get through the Gatekeepers of Publishing, who are not chumps, who may not get this POV — it was cramping up my writing. I felt like I had to explain, justify. Once I decided to self publish, it freed me up to write like I do here. (Only longer.) A lot of conventional publishing is geared to “how are you like a successful book that’s already out there?”

        I’m not. I don’t know of anyone else with this POV (and cartoons).

        Then I sat next to a woman at a blog conference who made $14K in 10 months selling a Dr. Who cookbook. Way more money in self publishing. That tipped me over. I think there are more chumps than Dr. Who cookbook buyers. (And I’m sure there is a healthy overlap — no offense to Dr. Who fans, who I’m sure are legion.)

        Anywho — I’m writing as fast as I can. And trying to keep up with the blog.

          • Wow, Tracy – you have amazing energy, I need some of that! You go girl, your book is needed to dam the tide of reconciliation bullshit books.

            • Tracy,
              I was always curious as to who does your illustrations. Is that you as well?
              They are as enjoyable as your writing. If you do them it is extremely impressive as they are as good as your writing which is excellent!

              • Thanks Deborah, yes, I draw the cartoons. I wish I drew more of them as I have blog posts, but they’re a bit of a time suck. (Well, not the drawing part, but the scanning them into Photoshop and adding color.)

        • I plan to buy multiple copies. Chump Nation is behind you, CL. Thanks so much for doing this for us!

        • I believe that when a book goes out of print, all rights revert to the author. That was boilerplate when I left trade publishing 20 years ago.

  • Totally agree. You are responsible for your own happiness. If you are not happy inside already, nothing or no one can make you happy. Before getting married or starting a relationship, you need to figure out why are you unhappy. Why is there a gaping hole inside your soul? Fix it, then start a relationship.

    And f**k society’s shaming conventions. If the cheaters and their APs can go around publicly without any shame, who the hell cares what society thinks? This same society also tolerated racism and bigotry for centuries. Pioneers are often few and isolated. Be a pioneer, stop staying in bad marriages.

    • Good point Life, are we really meant to believe that the cheaters and their AP’s are to have no shame or ramifications, yet we chumps should cower and cave in fear of society’s “disapproval” of divorce? Give me a break, they cannot be serious. Honestly, I find more disapproval of what my ex did than of divorce, I think these people are just snake oil salesmen.

    • When you look externally for happiness and satisfaction, you will always be disappointed in the end

  • CL-you are the best person to write a rebuttal article on what really happens while a chump is takes the advice of these “professionals in human behavior” while the cheater continues his/ her non commitment cheating behavior.

  • What a great article! I look forward to your emails. Just awesome.

    You give me hope everyday!
    Thank You.

    • Yes, thank you.

      Needed sanity for this insane life, and a reminder that it will get BETTER.

  • Ah, yes…Sounds like my older sister when I was contemplating leaving after discovering the years of serial cheating. “I can’t imagine anything worse than being alone.” “What will happen to (your son)?” “I’m older than you. I’ve seen more divorce than you have. It’s ugly. You don’t want to do this.” I think her words have been almost as painful as what that asshole did to our marriage.

    • Wow, talk about a Debbie Downer! Being with an abuser is worse than being alone. But I know many, many people, especially women, would rather stay than risk the aloneness. Hell, I stayed married for that very reason.

      My ex’s sisters apparently have a different philosophy. They all said, “Well, spouses come and go, but siblings are forever,” and to this day feel everything ex does is magical, as long as “he’s happy.” Of course, they are all cheaters themselves, along with personality disordered. One big happy family!

      • Debbie Downer!! HA! Cut the “wah-wah…” sounds!

        GIO – I have not had the pleasure of viewing one of your ex’s videos, but between his spiral and his family’s behavior, it sounds like you got out of one giant cesspool of disorder.

    • Far be it from me to tell anyone to tell their own sister to go fuck themselves. But I’ve been giving it the college try, sticking to the marriage for the kids, in the face of NO VISIBLE INTEREST in fixing anything from my wife (except for the odds in her favour). And here’s what my bright, kind, well-behaved, accomplished for his age eight-year-old son has to say about … not the situation, but himself.

      “Sometimes I think I’m so bad I wish I could throw myself away.”

      So if you give me her contact details. m_o, I’ll tell her to fuck off myself.

      Thanks so much for this article, CL. You nailed it, nailed it, nailed it.

      • ANR,

        What your son said just completely and totally broke my heart. NO CHILD should ever have to feel that way.

        Far be it from me to attack your spouse, but if she was standing in front of me, I fear I might be compelled to slap the taste out of her mouth.

          • ANR,

            You didn’t “let this happen” to your boy. Your selfish, cheating wife “let this happen” to your boy.

            That’s why what Tracy advocates is so important. Infidelity is abuse, it is emotional terrorism, not just against the spouse but against the entire family. It is a deadly parasite which slowly but surely destroys its host (the family). The silent, but deadly chaos inherent in remaining in a situation which has infidelity in its midst, wreaks quiet havoc on everyone involved. Of course, cheaters never consider these consequences and pretend that everyone will be just fine as long as the cheater is happy. I would really like to punch your wife in her throat and her stomach.

            I did not do my children any favors by not recognizing the abusive situation in which I was living and getting out. Even though I was the main target, they were also being abused. I thank God every day that they have turned out as well as they have, which leads me to believe that in spite of everything, I was still able to function as a reasonably decent parent through it all.

            Are you and the children in any kind of therapy? As Tracy says, all you can do is try to function as the sane parent and eventually, he will be okay. (((HUGS)))

      • ANR – That comment from your son is heart wrenching. Mine is 9 so I can completely relate. And it makes *me* want to tell *your wife* to fuck off…perhaps a deal in reciprocity?!

        That’s the utter confusion of living with a toxic, lying, cheating sneak…her crap makes the innocent think it’s them and not her who is F’d up. Stay sane and solid for him and he’ll be okay (that’s what I’m counting on in my case). I always listen to what my son says about his dad and I don’t discount his opinion, ever. I don’t chime in, but I do validate his feelings by listening and sympathizing.

        Hugs to you and your precious GOOD boy.

        • That it horrible. I can’t imagine. It makes me sad just thinking about that. Anybody have any sugged reading for our kids? I do not want my kids feeling that way EVER!

          • Hi Bud,

            DivorceCare has a program for children. Christian-based healing program. The adult program also has a session dedicated to helping you children. I get more out of face to face than with books.

            That said, I am reading DivorcePoison, which is mainly about parental alienation, but it does do a nice job of helping you see and head-off potential mind-fing with the kids.

            Hope that’s helpful to you. You care and love them….they’ve got that going for them right there.

      • ANR, your poor son. I know your steady love, devotion and sanity will help him overcome the destruction of his intact family. I’d like to slap your wife across her face.

        Very recently, my 17-year-old son said, “Mom, if anything ever happened to you, and I had to go live with Dad, I’d kill myself.” His dad is on his FOURTH living situation in just two months, going from couch to couch with whatever male “friend” will take him in. These lying cheaters never care how their actions hurt their children.

        • ANR

          Mine says she wishes she could put her Dad in a jar, but she also internalizes the pain. I have had enough of seeing her pay emotionally for Ex and OWs antics, and physically, in scar tissue. Mine is teenage, so listen, listen, listen! How did you reply? I said to mine, “Bummer you have to feel that way. Is it your issues, or his?” I have not yet broached my thoughts on his being character disordered.

          My ex did the let’s-go-to-therapy while I decide what cake dance, and I obliged. I think everyone’s cheater on this site is somewhere on some scale or other of narcissism or sociopathy. Mine is a narc, so can be played to some extent, but even now, DD is sick of even having to do that.

          Kids DO recognize it, which is why it is important to be the sane(r) parent. I was a meek little pacifist once, now I am Sigourney Weaver when it comes to DD’s welfare. You have longer to go, but do not be surprised if, when your son hits the teenage years and is no longer pliable, or believes in unicorns that they make some decisions for themselves. Meanwhile, CL covers this in other articles:you only get to control you. So while part of you wants to put on warpaint, sharpen every pointy thing in the house and kick some doors in, the rage and consternation that generates that buzz is better placed elsewhere: that is, being the only other member of the family who ‘gets it’.

          Another issue is does your son know why you broke up, in age appropriate terms? My DD couldn’t but not know. AP was a sister in law, now shacked up in this, the Year of Jeremy Kyle / Jerry Springer. But that is another story, which I may or may not tell.

          Meanwhile, strength and love to all -me included- who are currently reaping the Unending Punishment of Breeding with a Fucktard. And those who are also dealing with the Unending Punishment of a Cheating Parent. May we become and ever be Unicorn proof.

  • Tracy-
    Thank you. I have been getting your posts for a year now. My DDay was 5/13/12. As usual, I did not get the full affair picture for several weeks. Eventually it all came out when I found some stuff he wrote to his AP. Stupid “I love you with every fiber of my being” shit. He moved out in June 2012. I was devastated. I can’t describe the pain I was in. Seems like I was under water for a long time. My 23 year old daughter was horrified to see me on survival mode. It was the worst time of my life.

    Slowly, over time, I began to breathe again. I rode my horse, ate dinner with my friends every Friday, went to work and kept my house from falling down. I walked the dogs and folded the laundry. Sounds silly but that’s how I learned how to breathe again. Just doing it…

    A year DDay, I went on a date. Nothing serious, but got me thinking that I can live this new way and be ok. This July I met a really nice widower. We have hit it off. Kayaking, dinners, horses, hunting, movies…and sex. Really good sex. I can’t believe my good fortune. I have more in common with this guy than I ever did with my cheater. I still have scars but I can say that life is good.

    Your posts helped. A lot. You gave me the courage to get up and get going. Thank you.

      • suddenly,
        Your Dday is exactly one year before mine. It gives me so much hope to read how well you’re doing. I was devastated as well. Married 33 years. My kids also were horrified to see me at my worst moments trying to survive this. And I know what you mean about just doing it. That’s what I’m doing–getting through each day, working, seeing my son and his girlfriend once a week, starting to breathe again.

        Thanks for your inspiring story!

  • LOL: MWD outright sells codependency (a.k.a “It Takes One to Tango”).

    Apply that stuff to an unrepentant or serial cheater and see how that works for you 🙂

  • CL – I think you have probably saved my life, and given me more insight than any therapist ever has. See, I’m was a cake eater, and I won’t be anymore, but I was, and I am doing my best to change. I needed kibbles, due to FOO issues, low self esteem and insecurities, which obviously many people have and don’t cheat. But awareness if the first step, and moving the right direction. Ignoring many red flags, I married a man with a very unhealthy addiction to pornography. I was debased, ignored, neglected, criticized, and alone, and used all of that to justify an affair, instead of leaving him, because divorce is bad, and marriage is good. Marriage is the unicorn. But I believe that you are right, some marriages just shouldn’t be salvaged, and mine was one. I took the cowards way out, and I have to live with that, and the pain I caused many people the rest of my life. I am divorcing, now, and moving on, which I should have done years ago, even before we married, because really I was his chump for 6 years, before he became mine.

    I appreciate your insights, your challenges to me, which aren’t personal, but I use them that way.

    I just want to say thank you. I wish I had know about your site long before I did the unthinkable, and betrayed not only my spouse, and my child, but my self and my humanity. I read your site religiously, to remind myself of what I have done, and what I never want to do again. Sometimes it is very painful to read, but I need to see it. You are good people. Keep up the good work.

    • Hey, brave post, and welcome. Good luck on your new life. Sounds like you’re doing a lot of hard work on yourself.

      You really underscored my point — about divorce prejudice. That in a cheater’s mind, it is better to cheat than divorce. Now, I would explain that as cake, but I think cheaters, just like chumps, perceive status, and they realize losing a marriage (unless it’s an obvious “trade up”) is a loss. I think that’s why so many are aggrieved at being served papers, even if they have no intention of stopping to cheat.

      I mean, what is that mental calculus?! Hey, I might be a cheater, but at least I’m not *divorced*. Lo-SER.

      • CL , groceries considers her affair a trade up and many would. I’m not rich or come from big family etc. I chose to be more of a stay at home dad while operating small business. I use to be GM of small coy when we met.

        Now lets look at chainsaw man. He’s 13 years older than Groceries, 5 older then me. He comes from what looks like a good family- two sisters and brother. Father is ex world wide president of volunteer organisation and does a lot of work raising awareness and funds for a disease effecting the world. If I said it you would work out who it is.
        Chainsaw man is CEO of a $85m business in Australia and New Zealand. His ex wife has his two daughters full time and he sees them when he returns to NZ on business etc. from the outside he is a sucessful businessman, calm etc. he doesn’t exercise where I do boot camp 3 times a week. He’s spent most of the last 4 years living in Australia otherwise lived in NZ all his life. To groceries he’s everything she wishes for in a partner.
        Many would say Groceries had the affair to trade up and they think that’s ok. It somehow gives the affair validation but with an enormous cost.

        IMO it doesn’t come down to trading up. It’s about being with a person with different values and I have met someone who has good morals and a better aligned value system
        Who knows what they had planned long term.

        DMBC is brave in deed. I reckon she is saying what many cheaters don’t have the guts to say or recognize in their own behaviour.

        I wonder how many cheaters live in the future. Mayb they just switch off the past like us chumps need to and move on.

    • doingmybesttochange, if my cheater or his affair partner ever wrote such a message to me, I could probably find it in my heart to completely forgive each. Taking complete responsibility for yourself is a mark of maturity. Good luck to you on your journey in life.

  • Thank you for this, CL. The outside perceptions of divorce are one thing, but I had an even tougher time convincing myself that being divorced wasn’t some damning mark of failure stamped upon my head, especially once I started dating again and was afraid of what I should say when asked “the question.” My inner dialogue was always, “Yes, I’m glad to have gotten the hell away from the lying, cheating, financially inept, irresponsible, self-destructive XH, but what does it say about ME for having been such a chump to align myself with that loser in the first place? How dim-witted must I be to have not seen – or even suspected – what a train wreck of a spouse he turned out to be?”

    Thankfully, I can say that the man I’ve been dating didn’t even flinch when I told him I had been married for about 2.5 years, learned H was screwing around w/ his dingbat paralegal, H pretended to desperately want to reconcile and a few DDays later, and I finally divorced the cheater before what would’ve been our 4th anniversary. He’s never been married, no kids, no baggage whatsoever, and I was worried I’d appear like a second-round draft pick unworthy of any future dates. His only response: “He’s an absolute idiot, clearly. All the better that you’re available and much happier now.” That was several months ago and I am still catching myself being surprised at how decent, honest, thoughtful and kind he is to me, to his friends & family, to colleagues, etc.

    My friends who supported me and thought highly of me then, only respect me more now for getting the hell away from XH’s dysfunction. The shame and worry about being a “divorced woman” was built up only in MY head – and for what? Life is MUUUUUCH better, and shockingly easier now that I’m not running around having to put out all the (self-started) fires of the XH. I was awfully good at spackling, but my life is SO MUCH NICER, less stressful, simpler and happier now that I’ve finally put down the spackle. It’s also amazing to see how some people don’t need any spackle at all – there really are people who commit, who are honest, who follow through, and who can be consistently relied upon.

    So yes, screw the Reconciliation Industrial Complex. I read “The Monogamy Myth” and “Not Just Friends” and other similarly useless drivel in the aftermath of DDays 1 and 2 – and continued to set myself up only to be knocked down a few more times. I drank the KoolAid for awhile and suffered horribly through a few more DDays, lost 25 lbs in a matter of weeks, was completely useless at work for months….before finally finding my way over here (likely during my Amazon Chump days, when I was still trying to figure HIM out and why he would do this to me) and getting doused with cold water of reality that I so desperately needed then. And even though I haven’t been commenting as much as I used to, I still read each and every new post as soon as they’re up. This site was, is, and continues to be so unbelievably helpful. Thank you CL!

  • marital “problems are solvable…even if your husband or wife doesn’t agree!”

    A classic. People should be imprisoned for pandering such crap.

    • It also works at the macro level with wars between nations, power struggles between political parties, and genocidal persecution by ethnic factions.

      Works every time: you just got to figure out how to push their good buttons, and the Slobodan Milosevics of the world, for example, are magically transformed into lovers of ethnic Albanians and Kosovars.

      The fact that the political opponents he had murdered and the people who he had persecuted didn’t commit themselves to the proper “180s” really just show you how invaluable (literally) MWD’s advice is. It could save your life, your family’s life, etc.

      So do your 180s, twist yourself into a human pretzel, and you will win the prize.

      [sarcasm effect now off]

  • As I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, I’m the product of two very happily married people. My parents were in love and in lust until the day my father tragically died. They were married for 50 years, and my mother would tell you that it was not long enough. My mother is a huge believer in the sanctity of marriage. That’s why she supports gay marriages and why she believes that people who are unable to honor their vows should get divorced.

    I’m old enough to remember when it was extremely unusual for a couple to divorce, so there really was a lot of shame associated with it. One of my great aunts was divorced back in the 1930s. She’d married a man who was oh so very sparkly. He was wealthy, too, and their house was in the neighborhood that even then was known as the “Gold Coast.” It turned out that he was a racketeer, ran bathtub gin, and physically abused my great aunt.

    My grandfather, her brother-in-law, saw the bruises and told her that she deserved better, that what she had wasn’t a marriage. She divorced–quite a scandal at that time–and later married a man who made his living as a professional gambler, but he treated her like a queen and she loved him dearly for the rest of his life.

    So screw the Reconciliation Industrial Complex. Real marriages involve two people committed to each other, who can be honest with each other, and who work through their problems together.

    And the notion that one spouse can “fix” the other is repugnant.

  • My grandmother’s husband ran off with her best friend and left her with five children during the depression. The youngest was my mother, just 6 months old. Divorce was so shameful back then that her family told people he’d died in a car wreck instead of the truth, which was that he’d abandoned his family. When he died his obit listed his second wife and her two daughters as survivors, with no mention of the wife and 5 kids he left behind.

    I felt terrible shame over the divorce at first. I couldn’t even write the word “divorce” or say it out loud. I felt like a failure at the most important relationship of my life. But now I feel like a survivor and believe divorced people are some of the strongest, most compassionate people in the world. They came out of the woodwork to comfort me when I was at my lowest. I’m almost proud to say I survived divorce now, and I’m certainly not taking blame for his affair any more, thanks to CL.

    • I feel the same way Lyn. I’ll be the first of 5 kids my parents have that will divorce. They recently celebrated 51 years. What is odd is that my STBXW’s Parents will celebrate 50 next year. So I don’t understand why their 4 kids don’t know how to be married. This will be their 6th divorce and one annullment that they will be going through.

      • Bud, I, too, am the first of 5 siblings that divorced. Strong Catholic family but none of them dissuaded me from divorcing the cheater, and offered nothing but support. They didn’t know about the other cheating episodes (um, trauma). My parents were married for over 50 years when one parent passed away, and ex in-laws just celebrated their 60th.

        • I’m the first of 6, and my parents divorced when I was eight years old. Ex is the first of 7, but his sibs don’t commit and have baby-mamas and baby-daddys. His parents are still together and probably going on 40 years. Someone should do a study.

          • I have read pithy little lists that suggest you don’t judge someone by their family … Next time, I will. Ex in-laws married 50 years, but all of the others are divorced, baby daddies, mommies, back stabbing, silent treatment, drama…you name it. I will most definitely look at family and extended family – closely – next time (if there is a next time)!

  • I think one of the problems is that people have gotten confused about divorce and affairs. There is a study that showed that people in unhappy marriages who stayed together were happy later on – BUT these were marriages without abuse, addictions, or affairs. People are right to look at the first half of that and encourage couples to work things out. They just need to remember that this doesn’t apply when there is cheating.

  • CL – great post. Comes on a good day for me. I truly hope to one day be in a relationship like yours – one that shows mutual respect.

  • I lived and breathed what MWD advocated (and others like her) and wasted 23 years of my precious life. She indeed promotes codependency. By the time I divorced my serial cheater, I was quite proud and beyond pleased to announce to the world I was divorced. I didn’t have a marriage; I had an abusive relationship masquerading as a marriage. No wonder why I always felt a heavy burden. Nowadays, I tell everyone, including my son, to leave (immediately) a relationship with someone who cheats. Once is more than enough. Don’t wait around for the second time because it will come in about 99% of the cases. If I had a time machine, the first thing I would do is divorce the ex a lot sooner and buy ice cream sundaes with the money I spent on unicorn-themed books. I would have found happiness sooner.

  • Bud, I’ve been thinking about that very subject lately — the idea that because two happily married people are modeling a healthy relationship to their children, those kids must by default know how to “do” happy marriage.

    It doesn’t seem to be that simple. It often looks to me like a crapshoot. And I sorta WANT it to be a crapshoot, because otherwise I have seriously skewed my child’s chances for her own happy marriage.

    But just because someone is a wonderful spouse, it doesn’t necessarily make him or her a good parent. Maybe you’re both gloriously happy because your major psychological flaws happen to complement each other. Maybe you are completely gaga about your spouse but feel no strong bond with your children. You can be happily married but pass along major FOO issues anyway. (I’m glancing your direction, Ayelet Waldman.)

    The other end of the spectrum seems to hold true, too. I know people whose parents have unhappy or failed marriages but who learned things from their parents’ mistakes and figured out essentially on their own how to make a marriage work.

    • Like every other factor in life, nothing ensures we’ll know how to ‘do’ a good relationship if we grew up in a family that modelled that. All it can do is improve our odds, but it does improve them by quite a bit. Likewise growing up in a screwed up family doesn’t guarantee we’ll screw up our own, but it makes it much more likely (that’s why parental infidelity, especially same-sex parent, is one of the known risk factors for someone cheating in their own relationships).

      But narcissists especially hide who they are very well, and caring and highly empathic people may be more vulnerable to falling for their apparent ideal-ness, mainuplations, blaming etc.

      My ex told me early in our relationship what an asshole his father was, how he’d been so awful (unfaithful, violent and uncaring) that he’d pretty much forced the ex’s mom, who adored him, to divorce him. Then he’d gone on to have another marriage and another child, making both wife and child miserable and continuing to cheat. Made me think the ex ‘got it’, would value his family, treat us right, appreciate us.

      But he did EXACTLY what his father did – just to a lesser degree (2 affairs instead of many, serious threats of violence, rather than actual injury, same years of negativity and meanness). And I think only changes in social acceptability kept things to that lesser degree.


    • Ralley; I like your point of view on that. I’m sure there is also a different view about marriage in their generation. On my in-law side there are definately some family issues that have given my STBXW my self diagnosed BPD. She’ll argue she isn’t but I’m sure most that do suffer from BPD argue they don’t. The rest of the kids do seem to be full of themselves where I honestly thought my wife was not that way. but I have recently seen NPD tendancies in her too. At least in the area of entitlement. Completely not my way of thinking.

      Looks like I lost the crap shoot and should have picked a better person to be my wife.

  • I’m so glad you posted this, CL. I needed it.

    I went to mediation on Monday, the beginning of the divorce process after filing with the court. My STBX, me, our lawyers, and a judge to mediate. It went well – we managed to (at least temporarily) settle more in that hour than I have been able to in the past two years. No idea if the other party will actually do anything he needs to do, of course – his lawyer is a blustering bully just like he is and they seem to be reinforcing each others’ crappy behaviour. The judge spent most of her time talking to them, coaching them, and letting them know what was, and was not, acceptable.

    I was fine for most of it, but when it came to setting temporary spousal support in place (he stopped paying anything to me or the kids in July) he got stubborn and mean. He told us all that he was not going to pay spousal support because “she doesn’t deserve it”. You could have cut the silence with a knife – even his lawyer shut up. Then the judge advised them to take a break and go talk it over, as no judge would ever allow it…..

    It broke my heart again. 36 years, and to get this kind of contempt after everything he has done (and not done) was – I don’t even have the words. He was acting as if he was the innocent party through the whole thing, like I was the cheater and had left him and lied and refused to participate in settling things. If it hadn’t been for what I had learned on this site, about cake eating and kibbles and the dysfunction of the cheater, there is no way I would have been able to maintain my composure.

    To even imagine that I alone could fix this situation, that I would want to, is insane. But after years of this underlying societal message that I could fix this if I really, REALLY wanted to, and tried hard enough, and that Divorce Is For Losers, I went home on Monday and cried and felt like it will never be over, and it IS somehow all my fault.

    I know intellectually that this is not true. But boy, it sure helps to have somewhere to come to have that reality reinforced, and to get the message that life after divorce will be ok. I have no faith at this point that I will ever meet a decent man, but if I can finally get rid of the sad excuse of a human that I am married to I know I’ll be a lot happier. It’s a start.

    Oh, and STBX was told to pay the property taxes he owed to me. I asked him to put $426 in the bank, and he deposited $245. Petty, vindictive, and not someone I need in my life.

    Thanks all for letting me vent.

    • Oh, exrepeatedmeme, I’m SO sorry you had to go through this. How awful to be treated like that – even though it’s not surprising, considering the Alien Pig in Human Disguise you’re divorcing.

      Keep strong, keep the people who DO care about you close, and keep coming here for reality checks. It’s often what keeps me sane.

      Sending you Jedi mind hugs ((( )))

    • Just wanted to send you another virtual hug and let you know you aren’t alone. Very similar situation with my ex.

    • exrepeatedmeme, he truly is a sad excuse of a human being. I am sorry to hear of your ongoing ordeals with this petty bastard. I hope you feel some relief when your divorce is finalized (as was my experience). Keep your eyes on the horizon…you will get to the other side to a better life. We are with you.

      • Sorry to hear about this. One piece of advice I got from my attorney was to just stay calm and to let him do the talking. I did just that. It saved my sanity. Still, it’s a surreal experience to be sitting next to someone who you loved (maybe still do) and see them turn on you. Remember, this isn’t about you. You conduct yourself appropriately, he doesn’t. You can get through this one day at a time.

        Wishing you the best.

  • exrepeatedmeme, I’m so sorry to hear what you went through in mediation. I was married to my ex for 31 years and with him for 36, and in the end he also acted like he was the victim, and I should be ashamed for all the things I did that made him fall in love with his married coworker. I don’t know where they get off feeling sorry for themselves and like they’re the victims. My ex cried and cried for weeks and acted like he had no control over what had happened to our marriage. It was the strangest behavior I’d ever seen from a man who barely shed a tear in all those years. For awhile I thought he had a brain tumor he was acting so strange. You will be so much better off and happier once everything is settled and behind you. However, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my ex and wonder how he could treat me that way after so many years. It’s not like the pain disappears, it just stops hurting so much. Best of luck to you!

    • Thank you Lyn and KarenE – I will start thinking of him as the Alien Pig in Human Disguise now, which should make it easier!

      Lyn, my husband is doing the same thing – went from a man who never showed much emotion to suddenly crying, ranting in his e-mails about how he is the victim in all this, that it is time for me to move on and let him have “a little happiness”. And it occurs to me at times too that he must have something wrong with him. I think about a brain tumour too, or a stroke, or something physical. At least that would be an explanation.

      Someone posted on here once a timeline of how long it takes to heal, something like a month for every year you are married. I’m not sure that applies to long term relationships like yours and mine. I met him when I was 17 and we were living together 6 months later, which is just what people did back then. I think it will take me a long, long time to move on from this, and maybe I never will completely, but at least I’ve begun. And there’s a lot of life in the old girl yet.

      Hugs to both of you too!

      • I had a very similar reaction. When my STBX turned on me and revealed who he was or had become, I thought, “He must be sick!” I asked time and again what was wrong with him???? No tumour – just a lack of courage, morals with huge entitlement issues. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t show up in a CAT scan.

        • I did the same, actually contemplated that he had a brain tumor or cancer or something, could not believe/accept that the cold monster was the same guy who had been my “loving” husband as of the day before. Where did he go?

  • I also followed all the reconciliation advice, and it cost me 2.5 years of my life – not to mention my self respect. XH moved out without leaving a forwarding address and filed for divorce without telling me. Then he told me if I was had trouble paying my bills, I should move into a small apt and go on government assistance. This after I put him through grad school and waited 11 years to have kids.

    When I told one of my friends I fought and fought for my marriage, she said, “Yes, Red, but you were the only one in the ring.”

    I’ll never forget that comment. Funny how I never heard that from any of the reconciliation sources I turned to….

  • Since 50% of all marriages end in divorce I don’t get the stigma part at all. It must be from a more intimate level ( like friends, family, church who don’t know the details) My experience has been the opposite. Anyone who knows my H and I says “I can’t believe you put up with him for so long” and not that he was a serial cheater (this EA is a 1st) but he was just a bully and I just ignored it. Even my minister said ( and this was long before DDAy) said ” If he keeps bullying and doesn’t ask forgiveness you don’t have to continually put up with it”

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