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Dear Chump Lady, Please explain the paralysis

inert_chumpDear Chump Lady,

So, here’s what I’m mulling over at the moment.

I’m on the path to divorce, having totally separated my life from my soon-to-be-ex husband. The house is sold. I’m comfortably settled into a new apartment. I’m moving forward, making peace with myself, working on getting a life. Still up and down emotionally, but the momentum is forward-moving, so that’s good.

Often, reading your site, people mention being fooled by their cheating partner again and again. That was me, to a point. I was pulled back into his web many, many times. Almost 3 years passed between D-Day and the day I left it behind for good. So I was “fooled” many times.

But here’s an extra catch: I don’t really think I was fooled, in any real sense – at least after D-Day. Once I figured out that he had been sneaking around behind my back for a year, I did a LOT of digging and found a LOT of information about how deep a betrayal this really was. He told lies about me and to me repeatedly. He had a DUI under his belt, knew that I was petrified that he would drink and drive, so he would use that fear against me by telling me he was staying a bit longer at a friend’s house when he was really with his girlfriend. He used my trust and love against me. The handwriting was on the wall. And I saw it all, clearly when the shit hit the fan.

What’s more – he never really broke anything off with the girlfriend for those 3 years after D-day. And I knew it. Not just in my gut: I saw the evidence. I saw the correspondence over a couple of years. I saw the receipts for flowers and chocolates sent to her. I saw her thinly-veiled references to him on Twitter. I heard the messages from her on his phone. I was not fooled by him. I was 100% aware that it was happening, but unable to make a move.

I want to understand now what it was that kept me in place. I want to know if I’m the only person who experienced this weird paralysis. I did eventually get out of it, and that feels great – but I feel like I haven’t fully processed the major denial that kept me in that painful existence for an extended period of time.

So I guess my question is: How can you explain the irrational behavior of chumps who see exactly what is happening but keep working to maintain the status-quo, no matter how awful it may be?


Dear LilyBart,

So I had this friend who was a white South African spy (for the ANC, before apartheid ended). His name, honest to God, was Rocky. Anyway, Rocky was a spy for nine years but then he got found out, and when he got found out he was tortured.

He was very matter of fact when he talked about this. Because you see, he’d had training in military camps for the ANC. And he said they tried to prepare you for the experience. Some people have higher pain tolerances than others, and other people don’t have very high tolerances at all. But the take away from the training was — don’t worry which one you are — eventually everyone goes into “the wild blue yonder” and you’re in shock, you pass out.

He said the worst part about being jailed wasn’t the torture. It was the solitary confinement. He was in solitary for 13 months, and that was what breaks people, he said. Being alone.

I give you this grizzly story to observe a few things about pain. First, some people can endure a lot of punishment before it pushes them over the edge. Second, take it from a guy who was a pain professional — what everyone fears most is being alone.

You ask why were you “working to maintain the status-quo, no matter how awful it may be?” You endured a lot of pain in those three years of “status quo,” but you did it, I imagine, because you feared a greater pain — being alone.

And like someone in confinement, I think you believed you didn’t have a lot of choices except to accept the pain and numb yourself to it, lest your jailor banish you to solitary.

Perhaps you don’t like my example. Maybe you think it’s heavy handed. Here you are a woman with agency. No one arrested you. No one forced you to tolerate that situation. I’m comparing you — a free woman — to Rocky, a man who was powerless in the face of abuse by his captors.

And that’s the crux of it, isn’t it? You GAVE your husband your power during those years, as if he held the key to your life. Will he drive drunk? Will he come home late? Will he call the OW? Is he really this person I discovered he is? Is he still cheating on me? You put all your focus on what he was doing, or might do, or had done. All your drive and energy went there. For your efforts, you were rewarded with terrible pain. Yes he was betraying you and endangering you. The only energy you had left for yourself, you used to manage that pain with denial. To numb it. Vicious cycle.

Why not stop it? Because you didn’t want to step outside yourself and admit you were CHOOSING pain. The bargain goes like this — okay he’s doing those things, but he still comes home to me. I’m not alone. We’re not divorced. I can manage this. (You cannot manage it.) You go numb.

The pain was your price of admission to not have to deal with yourself. To not ask yourself is this ACCEPTABLE to me? If not, what am I going to DO about it? Who am I without this fucktard in my life? Can I create another life? What are my values? Am I willing to step out on them? Is alone really that scary? Because there are other people on this planet to love me. And maybe being alone isn’t as bad as this crushing pain and disrespect.

I’ve outlined before why we stay stuck with cheaters, the hope, the embarrassment of admitting to ourselves that we made a mistake of something as fundamental as choosing a life partner. But another reason get stuck is that we reject our agency. Our ability to assert ourselves. We allow our lives to winnow down to this one contest — keeping this marriage alive, keeping our partner with us, as if our whole life depends upon it.

That’s our cage and we make it. Allowing that man to keep cheating on you was not a life, but for a time you thought it was. Being a chump isn’t the whole of you. There’s a LIFE out there and it’s not a solitary void — it’s a FULL LIFE — one that you get to create. During those three years, you were not creating a life, you were creating a FRONT.

That’s very different than creating a life. And the funny thing is, fronts are way more painful. That thing you fear — the new life — is so much less painful than covering for a man who keeps cheating on you.

LilyBart, you’re not the only one who has experienced paralysis. In fact, I think paralysis is the norm. Everyone is shocked at first, but some are energized toward self-protection sooner than others. You don’t spend three years in shock. You spent three in denial, choosing that over a daring escape plan.

Not many people field marshall themselves out of this mess immediately after D-Day. Most of us need a bigger dose of poison before we’re cured. We need the multiple D-Days, the hopium crashes, and withdrawals before we say enough. Before we trust that they suck.

Stepping into the unknown is a matter of faith. You have to believe that better is out there, but more than that, you have to believe that you deserve better and can create better. You have to put all your energies back into yourself, which means redirecting those energy away from him.

LilyBart, you DID leave. You did find that moment where you’d had enough and you chose yourself over him. Please keep your eyes on the prize — a new life. Forgive yourself for those three wasted years. You needed that time to summon up the courage in yourself, and now that you’ve found that, don’t look back. This new LilyBart is the real you. The paralyzed LilyBart was a girl in a cage. You set her free. That’s the important thing. You set her free.

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.
  • The reason chumps stay paralyzed is simple: FEAR. CL is right. It is fear that keeps us bound in place, spackling and smoking hopium like mad while inside our guts are screaming to get out. Some people might call that fear “I’m doing it for the children,” and some might call it, “I’m stuck because of finances,” but the bottom line is fear. And the fear of being alone is the real, true reason in at least 90% of chump cases.

    I spackled and stayed for 20 years, while my gut screamed. I knew my ex was a cheater (though I had absolutely no idea how MUCH of a cheater he was), I knew he didn’t really love me, I knew I was WAY down his list of priorities, I knew he cared more about getting attention from others than he did about me. But I really, truly thought I was better off with all that than the alternative: being alone. I was certain that if I left, I would die alone. That I would never leave the house. I would just sit there alone inside, slowly withering away and dying. And the thought of that imagined dying was apparently worse than the reality of the living death of being married to a freak.

    But eventually, I divorced him. Hardest thing I ever did, probably the hardest thing I ever will have done in my life. I thought I might die. But here I am, and it’s coming up two years since the divorce was final.

    Not only am I alive, not only did I survive, but I’m living in a really cute apartment that I love. My son is with me, and he is doing great. I am dating a really nice guy who seems to genuinely LIKE me. I started a new career as a freelance writer, and it’s going well. I’m writing for some big clients now, slowly building up my finances. I see my friends as much as I can. I just signed up for a class at the community college. I walk a lot with my dog every day. I’ve tried all sorts of new activities I never thought I would do: skeet shooting, pool, a city scavenger hunt, online dating.

    CL is right. You just have to step out there, and trust that things will work out and get better. Right across from me on my living room wall is a sign with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Ironically, my ex bought me that sign. But the words are true, and they are what every paralyzed chump needs to take to heart: no matter how scared you are, you just have to take that step. Don’t worry about what comes next, just take that leap. Once you do that, you’ll see the next move, and then the next. Do it, and you will get to the other side of hell, I promise you. If I could do it, anyone can.

    • Great response CL! We all get there in our own time. I think the effort to make such a big change contributes to the inertia as well. I know it did for me. You have to unravel years of intertwined lives & the thought can be overwhelming. I remember apologizing to STBX shortly after DDay, partly because I’m an enormous chump but also partly because it meant drastic change. No more just going along in denial about how unhappy my marriage had become, now I had to face it. It took awhile to get through the process & I’m not quite on the other side. I look at it like this, it’s fine until it’s not, start there & keep going forward. Just like you’re doing. Oh & be gentle with yourself LilyBart, you’ve been through enough.

    • Here’s what I thought about myself at the end of my marriage: I am damaged. No one will ever want me again. I’ve been chewed up and spit out. I might as well join a convent. Everything I believed about love and life has been proven untrue. I don’t know who I am anymore.

      Here’s what I think about myself now: I am strong. I am full of life. I am wanted and loved. I have control over how I live my life. There are a lot of wonderful people to meet in this world. I am learning who I am. I have love to give.

      Letting go of my marriage meant facing all those things I thought about myself and dealing with them, and it was terrifying. But look at where I am now, compared to where I was then.

    • GladIt’sOver – thank you.. u just put into words every fear that chumps go through and more importantly, u have also shown us that there is life after D-day.. and a glorious life at that! .. reading this has bolstered my faith.. that all of this is worth it for the peace of mind and self respect that come with “moving on and getting over” a sick disordered person to whom I had given control of my life … thank you!

  • It’s simply HARD to leave the life you know and the relationship you thought you had. But eventually we get there.

  • One of the best posts ever. This describes it so well – “Okay he’s doing those things, but he still comes home to me. I’m not alone. We’re not divorced. I can manage this. (You cannot manage it.) You go NUMB!

    I lived in numb for a while. Until I couldn’t take it anymore.

    I didn’t fix my picker tho and selected another EUM/cheater. While I am almost three months no contact, I’m struggling with “You have to believe that better is out there, but more than that, you have to believe that you deserve better and can create better. You have to put all your energies back into yourself”.

    So I stumble along.

    My hope is that my kids don’t copy my relationship behavior.

  • Lilybart, I experienced the same phenomenon.

    For last two years I’ve felt often that I’m in a small boat in a storm, no control and having to control the boat subject to the conditions. In realky rough On a sailing boat you just take down the sails and ride out the storm. That’s how I’ve felt.
    I’ve also resigned from trying to find reason. The woman I was married to is not the same woman. She has different priorities and is on a different path to me and the boys.
    When it suits she detours ,comes over to our path ,says hello to the boys but rushes back soon after to the path SHE HAS CHOSEN. That’s very important. She has made chooses. No one else made them.

    I think many if us here have behaved post separation in a manner we wouldn’t normally expect. Nothing prepares you for this shit. It’s one of those nasty life experiences that you have to ride out.

    I think I’m different person now. I’m just processing what has to be done everyday. There isn’t 15 minutes that goes by that I don’t think about the ex and what happened amd what may happen. It’s probably all about fear. But what I do know I’m in better control of my life now and I’m in a better place emotionally etc. next year I will be in an even better place. Small steps, patience , peace, and focus will get me ( amd the boys)through this.

    It’s incredible the transition I’ve made in all this.
    I held my ex up as the ideal best friend,lover, mother, woman.
    She has now lost my respect, my pride of her, and of course above all else TRUST.
    This has only really just happened recently. It took many months, years to reach this position but that’s where I am at. It’s very sad but its a consequence of her behaviour and her attitude to me and very importantly the boys. I often think if I did what she did I’m unsure if I could still live in this community. I think I would need to move away and begin a whole new life.
    CL talks of being set free. Yes I’m close. I can almost feel it. It feels great and soon I will be there.
    Thanks for sharing your story.

    • You and I seem to be on parallel paths with our exes as far as what we accept, Baci. I know exactly how you feel. Nora Ephron once said about her divorce from Carl Berstein (I paraphrase) ‘There comes a day when you realise a whole 15 minutes has passed and you haven’t thought about it once’. And I notice that that is happening. Very slowly but it’s happening. I get caught up in things and when I finish whatever it is I realise I haven’t thought about him or the divorce for a whole stretch of many minutes! Sometimes as many as 30 or 40! Last week, during a series of meetings, I went -get ready – TWO HOURS without thinking about it.

      Then, of course, once those meetings were over I thought about it again but it really does start to happen, something I never would have believed. We’ll be ok, Baci. And we’re making sure our kids are ok. 🙂

      • Nord, that’s what I want to conquer as well — to stop thinking about it!!! I want to open my eyes in the morning and not have the first thought be about my ex and how he left. Sometimes I think I’m doing good and then a trigger brings everything back…

        • Nord and Lyn- I’m in the same boat. I have gone for brief periods (15 minutes?) without my brain cycling on it, but I’m hoping I can go longer and longer without it entering my thoughts. Triggers abound.

          • I don’t think it will ever leave totally – not for me or for my kids. It still comes up because he’s still around. It’s not a normal breakup where I would move on and not have to deal with the person. I have to deal with him regularly. Hell, he spent today sending weird texts to me, which I ignored except two that were about practical matters and the result? He told me I am mental. For no reason that I could tell other than I was ignoring him. Hard to not think about the ex when he’s always in my face. What a tosspot he is.


              Nord the ex is fucking with you. Thankfully Groceries leaves us alone because she has already begun her second life. She chooses to spend minimum time with the boys and therefore she wears the consequences of that decision.

              Keep on ignoring and hopefully he will phase out his messages.

              It’s hard not to think about it all though. Just pity the prick and in your mind devalue him. He has no worth

              • Oh, I pity him, and he has begun his new life and then some. But he’s not happy, it seems, so he needs to spend time fucking with me. I ignore him and it goes in waves. It’s just bloody annoying.

            • To all,

              Nord commented that perhaps ‘it might not ever leave totally’. (I paraphrase)

              ‘Tis so true…..My father was cheated on by his first wife all the way back in 1944, while he was away serving in WWII. And it still haunts him. (Yes, he is still amoung the living! Triumphing over adversities has this ‘side-effect; we live longer! Just ask Muriel!) And this is after 60 years of marriage to a faithful, wonderful woman who is my mother, with whom he has 4 children he dearly loves.

              He has triumphed over that, but it leaves a permanent scar. However, it also had a positive affect—–he taught all of his children (including the one he had with the cheater!) the true value of faithfulness and fidelity. Not a single one of his 5 children has ever cheated, but 3 of us have been cheated on!

              Therefore, all you ‘sane’ parents, the ones that do not cheat—–forge on and teach your children the ‘better way’! Most of them WILL listen and learn the ‘better way’, even though the sadness of cheating does not ever leave totally. We live well in spite of it!

              Forge on, my friends…..

          • Nord, Lyn andDuckLU- same problem. Waking up, being in this helpless, delicate moment and he is there. And the gnawing pain. However, I’ve had a day or two when I woke up and a thought of him was not the first one on my mind. Success!!!
            I’ve read that when an unwanted thought comes you can tell yourself to allow yourself a later time to think about it. Just not now.
            From “Time Cure” I’ve learnt to go back to pleasant memories (I don’t go to our relationship, though) and it’s been very, very helpful. Replacing traumatic memories with happy or neutral ones.

            • I don’t have gnawing pain anymore. When I think of him or the situation I’m getting very good at pushing the thought away and replacing it with something else in my life. It was a process, though, mainly because when I kicked him out my life had been reduced to him, the kids and his family – and that’s about it. As I fill my life back up he becomes less and less significant and it’s much easier to push thoughts of him out of my head.

      • Gawd, How I would LOVE to go 24 hours!! I’m going to meditate towards that tonight!

  • I think as a chump you are first in a state of shock, and your first instinct, at least mine, was to do anything to save your marriage. I think it was easier for me to move on because my XH moved out (without leaving a forwarding address), but even as he was preparing to move, I kept on begging him to stay, as people like Mort Fertel were saying, once he moves out, the marriage is over. Some sites, like Marriage Builders (though it is pro-reconciliation), recognize that the betrayed spouse is suffering from PTSD and that doing the “pick me” dance for more than 3 weeks is dangerous to the BS’s mental and physical health. I think when you are in that state, it’s hard to think clearly and act (though I definitely applaud, and am amazed by, the people who are somehow able to have the clarity and strength to file for divorce immediately after discovering their spouse’s affair). Once you are out of the relationship, you can much more clearly see how abusive the situation was (at least that’s what happened to me).

    • I think another that kept me stuck for awhile was that I thought I needed to keep the marriage intact for my kids, because you hear about all these studies about how children of divorced parents don’t do as well in school, psychologically, in their future relationships, etc. But it’s hard to take those studies at face value, because, as I think CL, has mentioned, it’s probably not the divorce itself that damages the children, but the conflict and dysfunction leading up to it.

      I think my “aha’ moment came when I realized that the happier I was, the happier my kids were, and that my XH’s continuing, betrayal, gaslighting, blame-shifting and angry outbursts would eventually wear me down and threaten my psychological health, which I needed to maintain for my kids (because their other parent was checked out and obviously not thinking about them at all).

      • I can’t remember whether it’s David or Chris who deconstructed this particular statistic a bit more carefully. It’s definitely worth a search of the blog to find out, though.

        For what it’s worth, I work with young adults, and on the occasions when they’ve talked about their home lives, and if they’ve had divorced parents, one common theme is the complete relief once the arguments stopped.

  • My first DDay came 6 or 7 years before the 2nd, decisive one, and leading up to that first one, I was totally paralyzed! I SAW that my now ex, then husband, was getting more and more involved with a secretary from his work (how cliched!), knew that it was at least an emotional affair, thought it was probably physical as well. And I just watched, did and said nothing, until he said something I couldn’t ignore. And then I still stayed pretty much paralyzed, although at that point, buying into the Reconciliation Industrial Complex bigtime, buying into the ‘half of this is the betrayed partner’s fault’ bullshit, working like crazy to ‘save my marriage’ and my kids’ family. And letting the affair go on, for several more months.

    I am a smart, well-educated, dynamic person who has NEVER been passive in my life, but that 3 months before the confrontation began and the 3 or 4 months after still scares me – what was I DOING? Or worse yet, not doing? What did I think would happen if I just stood there and watched? Did I think he’d show me who he really was? Well, I didn’t believe him when he did. Did I think the affair would go away on its own? Did I figure my ex would make the decisions, so I wouldn’t have to? Did I think he’d somehow come to his senses and see the value to those things in our life together that I valued? Was I scared? In shock? Confused? It was unreal, surreal, a freaky freaky time. And I was numb, so much numbness and pain. I think I really could not believe what was happening, how it was happening. My ex’s behaviour was completely incomprehensible to me, until I started reading about character disorders after the second affair.

    We all dealt as well as we could, we didn’t have ChumpLady and Chump Nation to speak truth to us with a 2 x 4 upside the head, and we did eventually make it out. When DDay #2 came, everything was crystal clear to me, and the ex was out on his ass within a few weeks (well, except for the part where he wasn’t finding another place to live …, but the relationship was OVER.)

    We do what we can with what we’ve got, and we have to cut ourselves slack. I too hope my kids don’t copy my relationship behaviour. I think they at least know there are people ‘like that’ out there, and that we have to watch what people do, not what they say.

    • “Did I think he’d somehow come to his senses and see the value to those things in our life together that I valued?”

      This. This one is the one that kept me from moving on for far, far, far too long. The cure?

      NO CONTACT. Just do it and stick to it. I can’t advise this one highly enough. If you need to take that first step out of paralysis, start with this one. The beauty is it requires you to do nothing while the payoff is ENORMOUS (at least it was for me).

      Trying to reason with your cheater and “nice” them into realizing how great and understanding and forgiving etc. (blech) you actually are is a recipe for frustration, humiliation, and anger/depression.

      I thought going no contact (nothing except absolutely unavoidable e-mails concerning children) would kill me….and it did for about a week. But I stuck to it and it was far and away the most important step I took to getting my life back. Far and away. I was frankly astonished at how much better I felt about myself and everything in my life after only a few weeks of strict NC.

      Odds are that your cheater has no freaking intention whatsoever of being swayed by your reason or your niceness but boy oh boy do they LOOOOOOOVE that you remain interested enough to still engage them with this nonsense.

      Fuck that and fuck them. If you are at the stage when you know in your bones that reconciliation is impossible, go no contact and NEVER LOOK BACK.

      • Definitely go no contact but be aware this will drive them mad. More than two years since dday and kicking him out and nearly 18 months of low contact (still have to deal with teh kids) and he spends an enormous amount of time trying to get me to engage. It’s bizarre but I stick with no emotion, no dealing with his fuckery, no reaction. Just the facts ma’am and the rest? He can piss into the wind.

      • Well said, Alyosha.

        In fact, I would go one step further. Go no contact, tell everybody, and file.

        The outcome depends on where the cheater is on the narcissistic sprectrum. (Mine got moved further and further along, until the IC flat out told me one day, he is a narcissist and he will not change for you, and he will not change for the children. And so it came to be).

        And that was never in your control.

      • Wowzer Alyosha..
        You just knocked my socks off with that writing. What Insight! You Go!!

  • I think the continuing manipulation, mindfuckery, gaslighting & other crazymaking behaviors are a BIG reason people stay stuck. They are being told that their “gut” instinct isn’t right, and they have learned to question it. Sometimes you family and your shrink side squarely with “hopium” which sure doesn’t help either. I grew up in a home with 2 alcoholic parents who also said “pay no attention to what you see, it is not really happening.” When you find out the 3 people (parents & spouse) that you have been schooled should care for you the most are screwing with your brain all the time, you learn to doubt yourself. This pain is EXCRUCIATING!” How alone are you when you don’t even have YOU??? It doesn’t get any worse than that. Then you throw in that you cared about all of these strangers so much more than they cared about you, and that you didn’t deserve it. I believe solitary confinement might even be better, because no-one is trying to convince you it is a figment of your imagination, you know it is true, you are in solitary confinement. No one is saying did you enjoy the great view, your vacation, the Ferris wheel, etc. Plus, add in the level of deception you uncover this spouse is capable of, it is not only hurtful, you are not only a chump, but here you are counting on this person with your mind body & soul like no one else, and basically, it is clear they could give a shit about you, your vows, your kids, your future, etc, etc, etc. They are a stranger!
    For me, I had spent many years with this person, this stranger, and like an alcoholic, I have to face the wasted years (25+) which makes it harder to let go. When the alcoholic quits or tries to quit, it appears the hardest part is facing the wasted years, the life they could have had, the people they hurt, etc (and no I am not an alcoholic)…..this is hard to face. Or when the stock market tanks, your broker wants you to be satisfied that it is a “paper loss.” A candy coating for a bucketload of CRAP!!
    For me, the mindfuckery was what kept me stuck, because it creates the fears themselves!

    • Regina, I really related to this part of your post:
      “How alone are you when you don’t even have YOU??? It doesn’t get any worse than that.”

      • Me too!!! That was the saddest part of the whole ordeal, that I had faded into nothing, nonexistence. Thank goodness I woke up!!

    • Thanks, what you said makes a lot of sense. I’m still with crazy man. Have a long way to go,but your thoughts help me to detangle the skein of fuckupedness. Thanks!

  • Man, this post brought tears to my eyes. You see, I didn’t choose to leave him even when I knew he was in love with someone else. I was so high on hopium I just couldn’t comprehend that he would destroy our family and abandon me. I actually thought that he was just confused and going through a midlife crisis. Surely, I thought, he would eventually come to his senses.

    He is the one who left, who set me free, which at the time felt like a mortal blow. He shoved me out of the cage and watched me splat on the floor. I will NEVER THANK HIM for that. But I guess at some point I did decide to set myself free too. Instead of laying there and dying (which was tempting) I picked myself up and went NC. I decided to live.

    • Lyn – I understand exactly how you felt. My Ex was the one who left – even though I should have been the one to do it years ago when it finally dawned on me that he truly, deeply did not care about me one bit. His #1 focus – even when we were dating – was himself and I was just along for the ride. However, I was so desperate to have that “ride” (i.e. marriage, children, the “perfect family” that I never had growing up) that I just stuffed away in my mind the glaring fact that I was married to a narcissistic controlling a-hole. When I finally, in my mid-40’s, starting asserting myself in the marriage – questioning his many crazy business decisions and his constant need to risk our financial security for “the next big thing” – he pulled out the “I love you but I’m not in love with you…I need space…etc.etc.” speech so many of us on this site were treated to by our Ex’s. He walked away from our home, our two wonderful, amazing boys, immediately was in a relationship with another woman (and yes I know she had to have been waiting in the wings) and has never looked back. I was literally in shock for over a year – moving, unpacking, working (even got a raise and promotion two months after he left), helping a preteen and teen boy come to terms with their dad abandoning them, caring for my mother, and so on…but I wasn’t really living. I wasn’t feeling anything…just a few bouts of crying now and then but basically just…numb. Splat on the floor is the right way to describe it! Now, a year and a half later, I am beginning to wake up! I am angry as hell at him. If I could legally tear him to shreds, I would. I have cried more since Christmas than I did for the entire 15 months prior…but it feels good. It feels real. I am coming back to life and deciding to LIVE. Good for you for choosing to do the same. We will survive and thrive and be better in the end for being released from the cage!

      • Nicole, my ex also lived by “looking for the next big thing…” He was all about acquisition and being recognized for his fabulousness. LOL

      • I wonder if, for some of us, due to various childhood issues and the many different family dynamics that we were subjected to, we unconsciously become conditioned to accepting less love, consideration and affection from our partners. Thus, we love our husbands/wives deeply and completely, while unwittingly, accept being loved less. We love them more than they love us, making allowances for their selfishness, self-centredness etc. and somehow always striving to make up for their shortfall in their affections for us. (Goes back to that child earnestly trying SO hard to be good in order to smooth the waters and rocky patches.)
        We hold it all together for years and when we’re chumped (it’s much easier for someone to be unfaithful when you don’t love your partner all that deeply – or love yourself more) we become numb, paralysed. To face that opens up a whole new Pandora’s Box – it’s not “just” the infidelity we have to cope with, as if that wasn’t devastating enough. Facing the fact that our partners did not love us as much as we loved them is excruciatingly painful. Even worse, is facing the fact that we did accept less, we handed over our power to them. Then, the ultimate pain as Regina and Lyn so aptly put it, how alone can one be when you don’t even have YOU?
        This can continue to play out with the friends we choose to stand by and any subsequent romantic relationships until we work on our pickers and examine why we accept less than we deserve.
        I definitely did not place myself in this category and I was not aware at the time that I loved my xh more than he loved me. I thought throughout our marriage that we had a truly deep love for one another. I really, really did.
        With hindsight however, I was aware throughout our years together of his selfishness and self-centredness, and I spackled – I had buckets of Polyfilla!
        I realize now that I did love him more than he loved me and that realization took me a long time to come to. Perhaps because I was so numb for a long time.
        I left him, some survival instinct kicked in and I was strong then – it was after the fact that I was numb and paralysed. The fact that the day I moved out, he moved on completely without a look back, probably had a lot to do with my paralysis.
        This site and insightful posts and replies has helped me deal with it all so much better – I struggled on my own for the first few years without CL and Chump Nation.

        • “To face that opens up a whole new Pandora’s Box – it’s not “just” the infidelity we have to cope with, as if that wasn’t devastating enough. Facing the fact that our partners did not love us as much as we loved them is excruciatingly painful.”

          Damn, Lynn. I resemble that remark.

          I went months and months waking up at 2 am every freaking night and just ruminating on my ex’s behavior and my situation till dawn. Months. It was killing me physically. I would ask myself over and over “why is she behaving this way?” “How can she do this?” “Why can’t she see how damaging this is to to me and everyone in our family?” “Why won’t she behave the way I would in her position?” Hahaha

          The answers were simple, of course. They were all the same answer, in fact, but I struggled mightily not to see it. Then one night, I just answered myself — “because she doesn’t love you.” “What kind of person treats you this way? A person who doesn’t love you.” ….and it was like a dam broke. (I’m a guy so it’s embarrassing for me to write this). My God was it painful admitting it to myself. Unbelievably so. “Excruciating” is exactly right, Lynn.

          Once I was able to do it, though, I could sleep again. The mind is a fascinating thing.

          • Alyosha,

            No need to be embarrassed. I am definitely a guy’s guy. Not a punch you in the arm locker room guy, mind you. So, I know what you mean. And, I have cried more lately than I have since I was a little kid. Man, it feels good. I don’t want to lose the vulnerability. I feel more alive. Counter-intuitive, I know. But, I feel better and clean, too. I sleep well after. Just some thoughts.

          • I agree the mind is a fascinating thing. Once I remember I told my ex in a dream “It’s okay, I’m strong enough for you to leave me now.” This was a couple of years before he actually left. Looking back I realize my subconscious knew what my conscious was denying.

          • Alyosha – you nailed it! The whole reason our Ex’s did what they did to us is because they do not love us. It is truly humanly impossible to do what my Ex did to me to someone you love. Plain and simple…yet so painful to realize. I am actually coming to terms with why I accepted the crumbs of affection that I got from him over the years…again plain and simple…because that was all I got from my dad. He was a cold, abusive (physically and verbally) man and I truly, deeply did not feel loved by him at all. I didn’t shed a tear at his funeral, and have only visited his grave once in the 19 years since he died. I had NO idea that a man could actually love a woman when I got married. I thought all men treated their wives with disdain…were controlling…were mean. I thought that because my Ex didn’t hit me and had a job, I had hit the marriage jackpot! My deepest sadness now is not that I am divorced, but that I allowed someone to treat me that way for so long. If it were not for my two wonderful kids, I would literally have no idea what the 23 years of my life that I spent with my Ex were for!? I cling to the hope that it was God’s plan for my children to exist on this earth and that is the reason…

          • Alyosha; If there is anything worse than a nightmare, it is a “daymare” when you can’t wake up and have it end! With a nightmare, at least when you wake up you can think “damn! I am sure glad that nightmare wasn’t real, cause that was hell!” With a daymare it is real around the clock, hour after hour, day after day. Do not be embarrassed, if more men had your depth and guts to face this kind of pain, many of us would not be going through this. I only wish for you someone who can appreciate it!! This is my wish for you. (and all of us Chumps for that matter!)

      • I was left too – after 10 years of living a complete lie. And I must have known it deep down, because I kept having the same dream, over and over. I was wandering around my childhood school, searching for my locker. And when I found it, I couldn’t get it open – and I would wake up terrified. After Dday – when he told me he’d been screwing around our ENTIRE marraige, the dream stopped – I ‘ve never had it again. So I found; and the meaning of this dream is ” In particular, to dream of a school locker denotes hidden feelings, knowledge, and attitudes that you need to learn and/or acknowledge. To dream that you cannot open a locker or that your forgot the combination suggests that you are unsure of where you stand in a particular situation. You feel you have lost some aspect of yourself. In other words, you are on shaky ground. If you cannot find your locker, then it symbolizes your insecurities about your role or position in a situation.” Seriously. I knew all along.

        And please, don’t ever feel guilty for not being the one to leave – we’ve all had enough guilt. The end result is the same. You are free.

    • Lyn I totally get that you never want to thank that piece of poo ex of yours but maybe just maybe you would have stayed in that mess a whole lot longer if he hadn’t been the one to call it a day. I was strung along for YEARS until the pressure of it all made me snap and I screamed at him and tried to rip his head off. Apparently that one incident was enough for him to finally go around bitching about me and I was the one to blame for the end of the relationship. Can you believe it? After years of him mentally screwing me and the kids and fucking prostitutes as well as a colleague it was still all my fault. And I did a pathetic pick me dance after being sacked because I bought into his shit. I hate the dirty bastard but I am so happy it’s over. I was paralysed and now I’m not. My pride may have been dealt a blow because I didn’t take charge and make the decision but hallelujah I am free. And that is all that matters.
      Good luck Lyn (and all the other chumps who needed a little help to see the light). I’m with you all the way.

    • Lyn,
      A sucker punch to the gut that left me facedown and unable to breathe… just like you, I got left – once after he dropped the bomb of infidelity (basically to terrorize me into changing – “I can’t raise the ante any higher”) and again after a 2-month reconciliation pick-me dance. I sometimes have a hard time cutting myself slack. I see so much power in all the folks here who finally got sick of the shit and left (or forced the cheater out) and I feel a bit of shame that I didn’t leave him first. Too hopped up on hopium, I guess… A “friend” told me that my stbx gave me a wonderful gift – the gift of being free from him and to live my life for me rather than for his sorry ass. I could consider it a gift if he had done it for me, but it was his own selfish needs that caused him to leave, not generosity. The real gift is the one I made myself – I created a space for my own power that allowed me to stand up and breathe. Another gift is reading posts like yours and others – knowing that I am not alone and crazy in all my thoughts makes it much better. Cheers and hugs…

  • ChumpLady, that was brilliant.
    I think Chumps also start to identify themselves BY the pain! We start to love the pain. I remember being proud of how much he could hurt me, and I would still hang in there, by his side. I’ll show that OW too! I’m way tougher than her!
    My X was that sub-set of cheater that loved me sooooo much, all while he was getting blown by the insane pot-head neighbor. This certainly added to my inability to act with my head, when he kept showing me love. It kept me hooked.
    Hey, it’s OK LilyBart, let’s all just learn, and not be fooled again.

      • This. Completely.
        I grew up with my primary parent being cold and unreachable. It caused a familiarity with not getting what I needed, not being treated “well” or with warmth in love. It didn’t reflect back to me that I was a person who deserved support/warmth/affection. When my husband caused the same feelings in me it caused me to hold tighter and try harder (instead of to run in the opposite direction) and it triggered in me a sense that THIS is what love is, even though it causes pain, it’s the same pain I grew up knowing so it felt right on some level.

        • Me too, it made me hold on and try harder! That’s what’s been so hard to come to terms with, that I tried so hard for someone who never had any intention of trying to meet my needs. I waited so long and so patiently I became a door mat. Wipe your shoes on me, I can take it! See how loyal I am to let you keep doing it? Enduring all this suffering makes me worthy of your love!

      • I’m raising my hand on this one too. Distant mother, absent father, mom died when I was 13, disapproving foster family held the threat of being sent away over my head, Although ex-NPD railed against the treatment by the adults in my childhood, it was projection. It took many months of therapy before the fog lifted and I saw I’d picked and stayed with a life that was unconsciously familiar to me.

        • It’s not always easy to lift the fog and recognize these issues. It’s so unconscious and so profoundly part of us.
          But that is the key before we can truly move on – we need to see why we make these choices, however unconscious they may be. That’s part of fixing our pickers. Spending time alone, having a good therapist and mindfully setting out to change it to regain our lives.

          • Sometimes it really doesn’t seem fair (fair? what’s that?) to have things stacked up against you like MANY of us have from the very start, where one bad situation seems to lead to another & another and it takes, books, shrinks, depression meds, Chump Lady & Nation, sleepless nights (or sleeping pills) and more pain than one can imagine surviving just to get to “Go,” sometimes 2/3 or more into our lives. I hope we will make it count for something. To regain sanity for ourselves and our children. I stopped the alcohol thing in my family tree. Maybe we can help our children and grandchildren with their “pickers.”

    • I remember feeling (fooling) as though it meant that I was a stronger person for hanging in there. That no matter what happened, I could take it instead of running just because we were having “troubles”….. Don’t all marriages have “troubles”?

      It was a load of baloney…… but I even bought my own excuses that I made up for him. I was SuperChump!

      • And I was more “adult”and “mature”. How convenient for him, while he could do his Peter Pan routine.
        Lyn, I also waited for my time to come. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it’s never coming!

  • One more thing, CL. You wrote “The pain was your price of admission to not have to deal with yourself. ” I think that’s true. On the flip side, I’ve often thought my ex’s affair destroying our family was HIS price of admission for not dealing with himself.

  • Best. letter. and. response. post. EVER.!
    LilyBart you are so not alone. I’ve wasted years in denial. And CL and other posters above are right with their answers. Only wanted to add that I think it’s a mix of two groups of issues. The first is your own personality traits that drive you towards being stuck and the second is the particular kind of emotional/psychological abuse that is happening. Related to chumpy personality traits, what comes to mind is being more empathetic, forgiving, understanding, rationalizing, less confident, more self critical. Related to the abuse, it’s designed to keep you frozen with a mix of hot/cold, deception, manipulation, blame mixed with dangled carrots for good behavior, all mixed with a lack of awareness on your part that this kind of abuse even exists (takes a while to catch on that this is a THING).

  • Karen I did the same thing. X had an affair about 8 years previous to this one. At the time I could see it and warned him of the apparent feelings this co-worker/ friend had for him. He still insisted it was just a friendship. I wanted so bad to believe he wouldn’t betray me and I was AFRAID. I didn’t want our marriage to end. Even after the affair ended he still insisted that it was just a friendship. He never could admit there was even an emotional affair, even when we went to counselling and the councillor told him that it was and there was no way in hell he could have another woman for a best friend. DHUUU!! I buried it and continued on because I loved him. This time I had to face reality. The marriage should have ended a long time ago with the first affair. Its so hard to let someone go when you have invested so much. 28 years is a long time and now even though I don’t want to be alone it is the best for me at this time. I am almost one year since I left. Still finding it very hard but I’m also glad that I’m not with someone who thinks I’m just apart of the fixtures in the marriage. I am a much better person that he is , I am much smarter than he is and I have so much more integrity that he does. This is the last time I will put myself into a position of being picked last, by someone else.

    • Almost my exact same story…the “best friend” coworker. Even when I woke him up at 2 am to let him know I’d discovered his journal, that I now knew the truth, he told me I didn’t understand what I read. That’s when I realized the expert manipulation I’d been subject to for all those years…

  • Just saw a great movie”the secret life of Walter Mitty”. There was a great quote in it. “Life is about courage and going into the unknown. To see the world, to draw closer, to find each other. That is life” I noticed it said “to find each other”‘which made me cry. It is not about finding any willing partner who will give you kibbles and screw you.

    • I LOVED the movie. I’m looking forward to it coming out for rental, so I can watch it again. Possibly more than once. It really struck a chord inside me, somewhere I’m not even sure of.

      • Yeah, I don’t know why it hit me the way it did but it had a real impact on me. Plus, I now need to make good on old plans to visit Iceland. 🙂

  • For me, the biggest fear and pain of dday were about my kids. Basically, their lives would be forever messed up. They would have a broken, divorced home, shuffled back and forth, and who know how much friction between me and their dad. Another pain was that I would lose time with my kids.

    So now…..all those things have come true. They do live in a broken home. They are shuffled back and forth. And I have lost time with them (I have primary physical custody but ex has lots of visitation). BUT….. here’s what I hadn’t expected….it’s still much better than living with the ex! The kids aren’t walking on eggshells at least 3/4 of the time (when they’re with me), I’m starting to rejoin the land of the living and am less stressed also, a better mom for them. They were already living in a broken home, we just didn’t have the certificated to go with it yet (divorce decree). Even though my main my “fears” came true, life is still better! Who knew?

    • DuckerLinerUpper,

      Well said! You had a broken home, but without the certificate. Now you have a better home, and your kids are benefiting.

      • Dr. Phil says “Children would rather be FROM a broken home than live IN one.” I have to agree!

    • Thanks Duck, that is very encouraging to me and words I will remind myself of. The kids are already in a broken home. And He broke it.

  • Also, Lilybart, you said “…he knew that I was petrified that he would drink and drive, so he would use that fear against me by telling me he was staying a bit longer at a friend’s house when he was really with his girlfriend.”

    Now that you mention it, it sounds familiar because mine did the same thing….I didn’t realize how messed up that is, until I just saw it written out.

  • I stayed in paralysis for quite a while too. I knew, I cared, but went for the kibbles I needed so badly from him… his promises to change, his reassurances that he loved and wanted me, the makeup sex. Yup, I was *that* chump.

    I agonized for years over whether or not to leave him…. until one day I woke up and no longer felt the agony of indecision. I couldn’t see it and make a move until I was ready, and when that day came there was no going back, ever. There was nothing he could say or do at that point that would make me change my mind like all the other times. I don’t know what did it, but one day I just had a clarity I’d never had before. Time’s up, Cheater; this Chump is moving on.

  • Excellent post CL
    It is only now with time that I can see that at DDay I was in fear. In fear of my marriage ending. I agree with many chumps posts about this time. I was numb, I am a strong woman, independent, funny and usually happy. I look back now and during that awful numb period I cannot remember laughing at all.
    A gf of mine insists that we should laugh at something every day. But what? When faced with crap from a numpty, what can make us feel good? So I made an effort to find something each day that made me smile or laugh out loud. It was hard some days. But for me it got better. Yes many times I think about the exh but it gets less and less each day. I’m sooo looking for the day that I realise I didn’t think about the numpty. And yes NC is good for reducing the crap and stress.

    BTW thank you CL for your continued support and posts as it makes it seem real what I went through, cos no one knows what it’s like unless they have lived the crappy ride.

  • Thanks CL and others. It helps tremendously to know that I am not the only one who went through the bizarre, almost creepy paralysis. I definitely relate to the posts about not having yourself any more. That was me for a long time.

    The cycle went something like this: Think obsessively about what is going on, know you have to leave, hate yourself for not leaving, doubt your worth, descend into fear, put off leaving. Rinse and repeat.

    Honestly, for me, I had to make a decision NOT to do what I was feeling, because I knew I had to get myself off that evil merry-go-round. I am glad I did that. I’m incredibly proud of myself for leaving, and I would recommend it to anyone who finds him- or herself stuck. Now, I just want to understand it fully. And this conversation has helped, so thanks again. 🙂

    • LilyBart-

      Yes, leaving is so much better! But at the time when faced with the decision about what to do, leaving almost seems to be a crazy thought… if you leave, your future life will look NOTHING like you thought it would. You’ve already been through the ringer and realized your past and present life were not what you thought they were. You’ve been forced to confront the questions of: who is my spouse? This person I thought I knew better than anyone and trusted more than anyone has been lying and betraying me. If I don’t know who they are, who do I know? If I can’t trust them, who can I trust? The experience has already feel alone in the world and you don’t want to accept it. You want everything to be better… back the way it was (you have not yet realized that the way things were before weren’t actually as good as you thought… that realization happens AFTER you leave) .

      So, you want it to make it better. Fix it. And if your spouse feeds you a few lines and at least sort of acts like he’s trying, then you cling to it. And these guys can talk. Action, they aren’t so good at… but different circumstances can allow them to hide their actions better and so the talk wins you over.

      Plus, we have probably been treated like shit by them for so long that we do accept the scraps… only when it becomes unbearable (and as CL says, we all have different pain tolerances) do we realize we want, no NEED, more. That we can’t live on what they’ve been feeding us.

  • Lily Bart,

    CL described who I was for over 20 years. People saw me as a strong woman who would never put up with serial cheating but I did. Three years prior to the final DDay, I went to individual counseling because I could no longer survive the way I was living. I still had no intention of leaving (he wasn’t cheating at that time, or so I think), I just wanted to reclaim myself. I didn’t feel right. I got stronger and stronger, and when the final DDay (3rd OW) came, I threw him out immediately, and I have never looked back. He came begging a year later asking for forgiveness, and I calmly told him I have moved on. No drama, just the facts because I have indeed moved on … not with another man, but without him. That’s enough.

    Learn from the past but leave it there. It has no room for where you are today – free with another chance to live an authentic life where you matter.

  • Although my situation was different in the sense that I reacted pretty soon after D-Day, I will say that there is something satisfying about saying “I’ve had ENOUGH.” Certainly it’s still difficult, but perhaps when you are truly done, you are able to get to that new life faster.

    For me I just reacted so fast and he moved out, and everything fell down so quickly, that I almost didn’t have time to say “ENOUGH.” It’s more like, after the dust settled, “WTF JUST HAPPENED?” haha

    I’m not saying one way is worse or better than the other, just different.

    Either way, it sucks royally, and we all understand. It’s chaotic no matter how you slice it.

    • Luna-

      I actually had a combo of what you’re talking about… 6 months “reconciliation” but then he did something that was the straw that broke the camel’s back and I guess I did go ENOUGH! But I packed his shit up and got rid of him so fast that I was also like “wtf just happened?!?”

      I think if I’d thought about it and tried to rationalize it I would have talked myself out of it… which might be another reason people that stay with their cheater for a while. Because, let’s face it, there are a lot of rational reasons to stay. It was only when I let myself be guided solely by primal emotion that I got the balls to leave.

      • I got rid of her so fast, I was the same way. lol Like “Um…wtf was that?” I had to laugh anotherErica. It was primal emotion. Sometimes I’m still like “wtf.”

        • yeah, it’s always going to be a bit of a wtf… because it’s such a shitty thing to do that you still almost can’t believe it happened. You almost can’t believe you went through that… that they put you through that.

          Yes – the primal emotion – I think we chumps don’t want to go by emotion because we think we need to be smarter than that… we must THINK… and we DEFINITELY don’t want to rely on these primal urges like what we think corrupted our cheaters.

          But, let’s face it, they weren’t going on primal urges. Most likely, they weren’t just out of the blue possessed with some kind of animal instinct that they needed to immediately mate with the nearest member of the opposite sex that wasn’t their spouse. No, they slowly let down boundaries, flirted, whined about their spouse, lied, covered their tracks, and lied some more. They “rationally” decided they deserved their cake.

          That’s why they’re sociopaths (alright, maybe an extreme characterization)… while we think the only way we could ever do anything like that to someone we care about would be if we let our basic urges take over and had no rational thought whatsoever. We know that if we thought about what we were doing for even a split-second we would know it was wrong, how much it would hurt our spouse and wouldn’t do it. Which is why none of us have cheated… because we can’t turn our brains off that long 🙂 But these cheaters made an active, rational decision to cheat. And THAT is why I can’t forgive.

          • And, continued to do it for years. My ex STBX wanted to have another baby while this was going on (I think). Again, WTF? That just gets me back to the fact that I really did miss some real signals. But, I was also lied to by a clever asshole who was doing everything she could to cover it up.

            I certainly haven’t forgiven, too soon to seriously consider. I am too bent out of shape.

            • oh yeah, much too soon for you… I’m much further out and I have “meh”ly decided I will never forgive. I read a whole book about it (remember, I’m a “thinker”, aka Amazon chump… other than that one time when packing my ex’s bags), I wish I could remember the title, about how you don’t need to forgive, you just need to accept that it happened.

              • If you come across it, let me know. I’ve read some Christian based ones that are good and some that are spiritual. I have had to forgive some horrible abuses in the past from family and others. So, I am familiar with the process.

                I am knocked out flat some days. Lots of changes. Even my partnership/business is ending. It’s good though. It’s just I have no idea where to go from here. And, I get overwhelmed thinking of all the shit I need to do. A friend of mine said “Some days you just have to stand there and hurt.”

                This one seems to be the hardest though. I think it’s because we have our daughter together. What jackhole would not consider the effect on the kids? But….I know the answer….. like most of us here….

              • Thirstyfish,

                Remembered it! It’s called “how can I forgive you? The courage to forgive, the freedom not to”. By Janis abrahms spring. I liked it at the time, but can’t locate it now to see if I still agree :). I also really liked the book coming apart by daphne rose kingma… It has some good writing exercises.

                Sorry you’ve had to deal w this shit before from others…. not only do the cheaters not consider the effect on the kids, they actually blame you for initiating the divorce even though they were the ones cheating. They suck.

                Lots of changes coming up again for me soon as well… the last time when all this shit came down I just tried to focus on the day to day and the things that were the same while still taking those steps that would result in both little and big changes for me in the long run.

                Good luck!

              • Thanks AnotherErica,

                I’ll look into those books.

                In the meantime, chop wood carry water. Keep your nose to the grindstone. One foot in front of the other. Trudge the road to happy destiny. Non illigitemi te carborundum…and ever anon. Ad infinitum.

          • aE, you’ve very accurately explained why the “but it was a mistake!” is such a big lie. First, it wasn’t “a,” as in “one.” To carry on an affair, the cheater had to engage in several actions. Second, these actions weren’t mistakes. A mistake is an accidental wrong. These people first let their boundaries down (and to be honest, I can see this as being a “mistake” for some people who themselves are prone to being swayed by narkles), but then they actively pursue their liaisons. It takes a lot of planning–a lot of choice–and that gives lie to the whole “mistake” crap.

            We Chumps do want to believe in “a mistake,” though. Because it means that our cheaters have seen the light and will never do it again.


            • yep, I don’t even believe one night stands happen without some active decision making… sure, maybe that “rational” decision making was over the course of a few drunken minutes – but when they were sober they probably decided to let themselves get drunk to excuse any future bad behavior.

              That being said, at least a one night stand doesn’t involve actively carrying out a double-life, so if I was going to believe in reconciliation, I would believe in that reconciliation. (then again, one night stands are probably the easiest to get away with so who would confess it… and if they’ve confessed or been found out about one, who knows how many it really is… in other words, reconciliation is for the birds)

            • What I told my ExH when he used that “mistake” line was
              #1) A mistake is not intentional
              #2) A mistake is not planned & connived
              #3) A mistake is not done over & over again. This is called a choice, not a mistake…but nice try!
              A mistake is something like bouncing a check, being snarky with your Boss because you didn’t get enough sleep, forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning, etc.

      • I was asking myself “WTF happened?” for well over a year after I ended the bogus reconciliation. In fact, writing this I’m just realizing that I haven’t wondered that to myself for a long time. Huh, I guess I’m getting closer to meh, little by little.

          • thirstyfish,

            I got stuck on the “forgiveness issue” too – and coming from a Christian perspective, it really haunted me until one of the folks at church gave me this definition of forgiveness to consider. He said that forgiveness is turning the other person over to God for judgement; taking that judgement and punishment responsibility off your plate, and trusting that God will know EXACTLY what happened; how to judge it; and how to administer the perfect consequence. Let me tell you, that was such a relief to me, and I was able to forgive my exH and move on then. The burden and guilt was totally off my shoulders.

            My exH had some seriously screwed up parents and a nightmare childhood, full of terrible pain and abuse. So I’d excused so much of his abuse of me and his terrible behavior – he’d learned it from his parents – he didn’t know any better – he NEEDED me to love him and fix him and be his family…

            But God knew all of that…the complete and total truth. And because He is all-knowing, like the perfect judge, He knows EXACTLY the punishment that is appropriate. What amazing peace that has been for me. No more trying to figure out what is true; what is fair; the exH has been placed in the hands of the perfect, wisest judge there is – and he is no longer my problem. Hope that helps a little…

            • Thanks ReDefiningMe,

              That helps a great deal. I do get stuck all the time on how little of the complete and total truth I know. What’s true? What’s fair? Your experience helps me see that I can let it go. Not my job to know it all. Thanks.

              • Thirstyfish; I got stuck here too; mind going around and around trying to figure out the “whole story.” We will never know, and what we do know will be through a distorted lens. It is like trying to build a 1000 piece puzzle with half the pieces missing. Cruel they often know what you need, but do not want to give it to you.

            • That’s how I’ve tried to approach it too. Let go of the anger and bitterness and trust God to deal with my ex. Takes the burden away so I can journey towards my new life without carrying such heavy baggage.

            • Dear ReDifiningMe,

              Thank you so much for posting this comment!! That is one of the most awesome things about putting our relationship with our Creator foremost in our life!! Has brought me so much inner peace, as well!

              Even God does not automatically forgive just everyone for anything. He has requirements and standards and he will deal (lovingly & mercifully) with all on the basis of those standards and requirements.

              The points you mentioned about your spouses’ messed up parents and childhood is pretty nearly universal with cheaters. That is another reason it is so good to know it is up to God to deal with it—only he knows ‘the rest of the story’!

              (To all—–l am LOVING reading through the posts & comments! So empowering, so strenghtening!! Thank you for sharing!)

              Forge on, friends….forge on!

            • oh yes this did help me because I told him he would have to confess his sin of infidelity to me our family and our priest but he said no .. at that moment I realise he don’t love me after 28 yrs together .. so I’m in middle of divorcing packing up my things getting ready put house on market and I’m moving to florida where I will further my education get career and I won’t look back ‘ I realise he never knew what a true treasure I am n guess what ” we all are a treasures . GOD BLESS all my new chump friends here be of strong faith stand up and take a bow I applaud each of you the next chapter of life will be my best revenge to live well DITO

  • I was completely paralyzed for six months. I don’t think I even breathed. I just sat there completely numb. I ‘waited’ for my husband to come to his senses, to just come home and act like nothing ever happened. We’d go on with our life like before. I didn’t tell a lot of people. I waited. And waited. And guess what? He never came home. Imagine that! He stayed in my life pretending to care deeply and maybe he did on some level. He was extraordinarily generous with the divorce settlement and then some. Did it make my heart break any less? No. It gave me hits of hopium on a daily basis.After devouring the posts here for weeks I realize that he didn’t do the mindfuckery that most of you have experienced. He didn’t even attempt reconciliation but he did let me catch him sneaking off to a motel room with OW. That’s how I knew my marriage was over. I thought we had an awesome thing going. We had just renewed our wedding vows at his insistence and three months later there he was with her at the Econo Lodge. I thought I would die from the pain. I cried every day for 16 months solid. I cried in front of my coworkers and I cried in front of my clients. I lost tons of weight and my hair fell out. That was six years ago and I haven’t even come close to falling in love again. I hope it happens some day.
    Finally him and the OW moved 3000 miles away. Thank dog I think I’m FINALLY getting to MEH!! Thank you Chump Lady for this site. I wish I would have found it sooner. I sent you some $$$ last week. God Bless You and all the other fabulous chumps here!~

    • Chumpchange, I cried forever too. I cried so much I discovered that Preparation H helped with the swelling under my eyes. The car was the worst, I couldn’t drive anywhere without crying the whole time. But eventually the crying became more sporadic and then it stopped. Anyway, my heart goes out to you. It sounds like maybe your grief has passed and you’re doing better now that you can focus on YOU.

      • It’s strange, the only time I really, really cried after ex first dumped me was when I had to tell our then-13-year-old son that his dad had left and we would be divorcing. What a fucking nightmare that was, I will NEVER forgive the ex for that moment.

        But after that, I barely ever cried again. There were times I WANTED to cry so bad, I felt like I’d explode if I didn’t let out the tears. But I just couldn’t do it. Maybe that was my subconscious telling me everything was going to be okay, and that losing that monster was really nothing to cry about at all.

  • I know I’m paralyzed. Afraid to make the final leap w/o having the details set up…yet. That’s my job right now. Despite the fear of financial insecurity, I’m meeting another atty next week. Just making sure I shut him out from all the best firms here.

  • The thing that paralized me was knowing my kids would be exposed to the weird (putting it nicely) people in his orbit, and I wouldn’t be around to cushion/spin/spackle. I just could not let that happen.

  • Great letter and post. I like the chump curled up in the bush. I was like that on Monday. Inert. But not from denial.

    I vacillate between beating myself up and cutting myself a break on this. Mostly, I get pissed about it. My STBX cheated on me while dating. She told me about it the night before I took the bar exam. Thanks for that! I dumped her right then. Then she called continuously and made all sorts of promises. I accepted her remorse and decided to continue dating. Ffffuuuuuccckkk.

    That was 11 years ago. I knew it then. I had been chumped before. I had therapy and worked on myself. I was never married but had long term girlfriends. Things were ok for a while. But now, who knows if it was ok? It could all be bullshit. At this point, I am unwilling to investigate. I have all the information I need.

    Then, things weren’t ok. I asked my cheater for a divorce before I knew I was chumped. The trouble was that she blamed me for all of our problems. She never took responsibility and just stopped apologizing for anything. Furthermore, she barely worked. And, we needed her to work in the marriage at least until one of us didn’t have to or had a better position etc..,. You know pay your dues stuff. The final straw was I asked her for help and she failed to be even remotely interested in helping our family financially. She picked meaningless fights at the worst of times (big job responsibilities due, promotions, or illness; oh and always late at night). There were many other things that were not loving.

    Then, with all of that, I caught her talking on the phone to some guy (was ex boyfriend; now doofus boyfriend). I knew something was just not right. That was 3 long years ago. She lied about the whole thing. Just a friend blah blah….my head went back in the sand. I knew enough then to visit a therapist with the sole purpose of deciding to stay married or not. I did not “know” she was cheating. But, I think I did deep down. I just couldn’t face it. I wasn’t ready. I can say this now and I hate it.

    Denial is a powerful tool. She told me who she was on a daily basis and I chose to ignore it. I was protected until I was ready. It sucks right now. But, a month ago was a lot worse and I’m getting better all the time. I don’t know why I stuck my head in the sand with this cheater. I thought I had learned lessons; did the hard work on self. So, I will do more work and get better. I’m not jaded about love or marriage. She fucked this one up. And, I did in ways but I was there to work for it. I didn’t have a chance really though.

    I look back and I wish I would have ended it when I caught her on the phone. I totally ignored my self. I can’t say I wasted 11 years because my daughter came to us in the marriage. But, I wish I could’ve saved those three years after the dopey ex-boyfriend call incident. What am I to do except forgive myself and move on?

    • With you on the cartoon – I actually think that it might be one of my favorites. It just really captures how you feel after dday. The chump looks so alone; scared and paralyzed. But the title lightens it up just the teeniest bit… so we know it’s going to be okay.

      And now that I’m overanalyzing it, I’m going to continue and have decided the chump also looks like they are in a cocoon and will soon emerge a beautiful butterfly!! 🙂

      • I know. God, I was laid out flat Monday. I don’t know why; but I did speak with ex on Sunday briefly. She was a little weepy. Made me think of all kinds of crazy stuff. But, mostly, I was thinking that she IS human and not that weirdo she turned into. Oh well, it’s usually full force NC and it’s good. I am up and down but mostly on the up. I am ready to break through the cocoon hopefully soon.

        • I had moments of that after dday with my xh: “I was thinking that she IS human and not that weirdo she turned into.” But getting past the finalization of the divorce has thankfully helped me stop dwelling on it all. I guess, at some point recently, I have just accepted that he just isn’t who I loved anymore (or ever? who knows!).

      • I can relate to the cartoon too. The first day I came home to my empty house I started trying to pack things up, attempting to sort through our 30+ years of life together. I found myself wandering in a daze through the house. Then I just laid down on the couch and felt so heavy I couldn’t move.

    • I had a similar experience with exams. I was working towards my masters and it seemed like he would always start some big confrontation when I had a major exam. I still wonder, did he want me to fail? did he just need to be the center of my attention, more important than that test? Wacko

      • quicksilver,

        It happened all the time with events centered around me doing well. Even in my blind chumpiness I noticed that the drama came at my big or crucial moments. I didn’t realize HOW selfish and weird it was until my friend said something like “Can she be anymore selfish?” It all kind of clicked. Examples are: night before bar exam, night before big job interview picked huge fight, night before my birthday caught on the phone for first time with AP, fight when big job/money opportunity came, major writing project for me personally and she gets one too!, and so much more.

        The year before I left my dream job (at the time) I won some awards that were based on peer recognition and the like. It mostly came from a big media trial I had earlier that year. She was out of town for the whole trial. I am convinced that she would have pulled some major drama if she were there. Wacko is right.

      • Oh, and I think it’s a lot of both wanting me to fail and her be the center of my attention. It was really twisted.

        • Yes, the jealousy they have towards you, knowing that you are ‘better’ than them, that you are pursuing virtuos goals and the only thing they have to their ‘credit’ is how slick they are with hiding what they are doing, how ‘creative’ they are at finding a way to be together with the AP!

          Yes, they want you to fail at all your endeavors, as it will bolster them and they can say, “I told you so!” or “Look at what a loser spouse I have every body!” In their minds, it gives them another justification for their cheating if you fail.

          Yes, so twisted!

          Forge on, friends….

  • I wish I wouldn’t have stayed paralyzed for 2 years but I did. I was paralyzed for all of the reasons CL outlined. I’m so glad that I finally decided enough is enough. My future is looking bright for the first time in a long time.

  • Enough about us for a minute. Let’s all support Chump Lady and donate to a GOOD Cause! Let’s make it worth her time. This should be her full time job.
    We’ve spent plenty of money on therapy. No one has helped me as much as she has. And you guys, Fellow Chumps.
    I pledge to support Chump Lady!!!

    • She made this site happen.
      I’m challenging all my fellow Chumps to donate to this site.

      • As soon as I sort myself out financially CL will be getting a nice, healthy donation. I’m working towards it and it will happen.

  • Chumplady do you have a slight love affair with the ANC?

    Please remember that it is a nationalist movement, in exactly the same way the National Party was a nationalist movement. One Afrikaner, one African, different sides of the same coin.
    I read history, and think nationalism is a terrible political construct. It entrenches a split ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality. It didn’t work for the Germans, the Japanese, the Arabs, the Afrikaners, and I have never thought it works for Africa.
    The ANC has no hesitation in invoking apartheid secrecy and other laws to stop examination of their conduct. Their police have started shooting protesters. Unemployment and deindustrialisation has increased under them (Moeletsi Mbeki). And most sad of all, they are getting more and more racist in order to deflect attention away from their infrastructure and service delivery failures.

    On the whole, I don’t think the ANC have done a terrible job, but they have created a lot of mess with their over-rapid transformation, cronyist cadre deployment, their difficulty in admitting skills shortage (created by apartheid), and the age old African problem of ‘now it is my turn to eat!’, resulting in incompetence, failure of planning and rampant corruption. All the things that whites were terrified of in the first place, and what kept them in line during apartheid. Rather the stupid Dutchmen than a thieving [ ].

    I have been told that there are many very able young people in the ANC, but they are stifled and kept out by the old Liberators.

    • No, just a lot of admiration for anyone who fought against apartheid.

      I have a tremendous amount of admiration for the late Rocky Williams. He was a friend of mine in graduate school, and part of the armed wing of the ANC. He was doing his PhD in London. He went back to reform the military, in 1991, under amnesty and became a Lt. Colonel in the new SADF. Before he died (in his early 40s), he went around the world helping new democracies transform their militaries. More on his life here:

      It’s sad to read how the ANC is changing. Jacob Zuma is disgraceful.

      • I tried to look it up how/why he died – couldn’t find it.
        Fighting against Apartheid was extremely hard, you were almost automatically targeted to be ‘watched’ if you were English-speaking and showed any kindness or sympathy for Black people. I know all about it, I was watched by the Secret Police.

        • One of the administrators of the local university spoke about his experiences in the South African military prior to the end of apartheid. Because his family was anti-apartheid, and because military service was compulsory, the standard operating procedure was to put recruits from families like his into the more dangerous assignments in hopes they’d be killed or–just as good–they’d change their tune after having to defend themselves from resistance fighters.

  • Chumpchange you are right.

    I have already donated, have you?

    DONATE TODAY. It’s easy.

    • Yes Chump Change and Patsy you’re so right.
      However, I am going to wait a bit CL, until the Canadian Loonie gets to be on par again or closer to it – otherwise I’ll just “short-change” you!

  • Yet more amazing insight from CL. Paralysis is definitely a common theme.

    It took me years to work through that properly & fully. At first I was so angry and determined that I would make him change, make him sorry, make him see the error of his ways, make him pick me. I focussed so much time & thought on him and didn’t really think about myself at all. A lot of this was fuelled by the reaction of those around me, who encouraged me to focus energy on him – in terms of revenge, reform or reconciliation, it was still all about him. Very few people actually said, but what about you? What do you want to do now, where do you go from here? I think I was also slightly caught in the headlights, as I didn’t know what I wanted – all I knew is that the safety blanket (however stained, torn & manky) was being ripped away and I felt a bit starkers without it.

    After we separated, I focussed on making him see the children. I changed the dialogue slightly but I was still determined to make him do what I thought he should (could also be called “the right thing”). I failed miserably. He endlessly bailed, endlessly changed plans at the last minute, endlessly re-jigged, re-scheduled & so the battle continued.

    It took me about 6 years to realise that I was wasting my time, to realise that I was still caught in the trap of trying to make him be a better Dad. I stopped thinking about him and started thinking about me & the children. What did I want to do, what did I want for the children, where did we want to be, go etc. What life did I want for us.

    I stopped thinking or caring about what kind of Dad he was & just got on with my life with the children. I never denied him access, never messed him around but just cracked on with my own life.

    It seems so obvious now, but at the time it was so hard to step outside the cage that I had made for myself. I can’t tell you how liberating it is when you finally let go. When you trust completely & utterly that they suck, but to a certain degree it doesn’t matter because you have let go. If you have children, you have to tolerate a degree of interaction but it is possible to mostly let their crap float by.

  • “Solitary Confinement”. YES!. That is how to describe it. I just wanted to plug in and share that the other evening I was thinking about my future and it then came to me…I am sitting on a goldmine of opportunities. I have been sitting and waiting, crying and begging for 9 months since D-Day. “HE IS NOT COMING BACK. HE LEFT ME. I AM OKAY…”came like a mantra in my head. I didn’t cry and I wasn’t panicked…I acted. I grabbed my laptop and signed into a popular dating service. Not to get married. Not to get laid. To find myself again. I am legally separated and really have no desire for anything more than a “wink” or a “like”. So instead of looking into bank records or stare at his mistresses face online, I check into this new world of opportunity and it feels really good. The focus is now turned on MEEEEE. ME. ME. ME. ME .ME.Me!!!!!!!!! Just by writing and rewriting a profile paragraph felt good. I am interesting, smart, sexy, funny, loving. Just because my husband left me as garbage does not mean someone else would. I never thought I would be here but I have me…YOU HAVE YOU…and it’s our responsibility to create our own HAPPINESS. Stir your own pot!

  • CL,

    I teared up reading this post. You took completely how I felt and put it into words. Heck, some of my feelings I didnt realize until I just read this.

    I always told people I was able to take more than the normal person (I would hear my friends say what they would freak out on their bfs for and I used to think Ive been through way worse and I wouldnt even act like that. Looking back I think they were the normal ones). I was so scared to be without I figured pain is better thn nothing and, hey, he did treat me well sometimes so that gave me enough time to recover.

  • I literally explained to him: you are dangling me and the children on a thin rope above an abyss, whilst holding – and fondling – your AP with the other hand. Not focusing on pulling us in and bringing us to safety.

    The power I gave him with that analogy! How wrong I was! There was no abyss… once I found the courage to look down, it was just a small step.

    I misused all the excuses, children, finance, our past and future together – finding out now that the children and finances are way safer now. And there is no OUR future, but my future is much brighter, even if I live it alone, but not as lonely as in my after-Dday nightmare.

    • Two years after reading about how my first wife wanted to ” stop having sex with strangers”, and a year and a half after she came home at 2 AM and described the body of the man she had been with to me, I finally got out. And, it took my wife’s sister’s urging to get me to divorce her.
      I was afraid of being alone. In reality, I was never more alone than when I was with that abusive asshole.

      • “I was afraid of being alone. In reality, I was never more alone than when I was with that abusive asshole.” I am sure it’s worse than being alone. Unfortunately, for many of us being abused is so normal that we don’t even see it. But our bodies do and we pay huge price for this “togetherness”.

  • It took me seven (7) years and five affairs to get out and then that wasn’t almost enough. I could not see while with my husband that I was the one “CHOOSING pain.” I was doing it for my children, my vows, etc. It’s hard to admit even now seven months after he left, that my front was just that, a front. I can now see clearly. I almost lost me and will never do that again. I love her too much!

  • I was told about his want of a divorce last July. We were divorced in Jan 2014. I am the of the LDS or Mormon faith. We were married in the temple and made covenants. It was a commitment on my part. He told me the Holy Ghost told him to leave me. He said the Holy Ghost told him to never marry me in the first place. He only married me because my parents put out money for the reception. I think he married me for lust. We have known each other for about 36 years. Most of that time we were married. I thought he was a great man. I loved him dearly. Still do but not in a romantic way. I became quite dependent in my marriage. I learned that to get any type of attention from him I had to be sick. Guess what, I made myself physically ill. I thought when he did things for me he was doing it out of love. No, he was gathering evidence against me. I have this terrible need to be with him. It makes me sick. His affair didn’t become public until Christmas 2013. He lied how he meet her to my children. We were still married. In our belief system you are married until the judge signs the papers. Anyway my one son told he was to affectionate with her to just have met her. I have found out that he has probably been seeing her since Oct 2012. I am currently being treated for Stockholm Syndrome. I think that tells you what my home life was like. He has told horrendous things about me. Two of my children believe him and our relationship is strained. He is very likable and believable. He knows how to hang his head and cry to gain sympathy. Yet, I still blame myself. I really am a chump. I was sexually abused as a child. Sex was difficult for me but I was doing better. Come to find out I was only good for two things in my marriage. Vagina and a bonus income. I bothers me that he is affectionate with this woman. He wasn’t with me. He hasn’t said a kind word to me in years. He kept me the crazy making cycle to keep me on the hook. My question is will this relationship of his last? He plans on marrying her. My sister tells me karma is a bitch. I don’t wish ill of him but I just want to feel like I didn’t cause all this mess.

    • I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I also was married to a LDS man for many years. When we first got married, I was not a member of the Church. Eventually, I converted and we were sealed in the temple a year later. He was having an affair during this time, and a week after our sealing the affair became more physical. The girl was underage and a Church member as well. I was devastated. For her, for her family, and for our family. How could he do this?? We have daughters! What would he think if someone did this to one of them? It had never occurred to me to “look inward” and think about what I might have done or not done to push him to do such a thing. Of course, in counseling this was thrown in my face. I got to hear all about what I wasn’t to him. And how aggressive our teenage babysitter was towards him.

      The entire experience left me in such a state of shock, I couldn’t throw him out like I should have, or even notify the police. The Church didn’t, they just “counseled” him and disfellowshipped him and asked us to attend in a different ward and different building so we would not be in the same as her family. They basically covered it up. She received very little outreach, just like me. I was disgusted, and it made me physically ill…. not to mention the emotional toll. It freight trained my emotional wellbeing…. fast forward to the divorce and he’s using my “mental illness” against me at every turn…. yeah, the affair that gave me such grief and turned me into an anxious depressed wreck is dismissed entirely because I should have “handled” it better. I tried to get help, but there he was undermining me at every opportunity. So I buried myself in work. My job required long hours and a lot of travel for six months of the year…. sometimes a few days or a week at a time at least twice a month. I really believe that period of time prolonged our marriage because I could at least get away from him once in a while…. But I was leaving my girls with that monster. I don’t know why I didn’t think he wouldn’t harm them, but he did. Played with their feelings, made them think terrible things about me being away for work or working late.

      You didn’t cause this any more than I did. I called bs pretty quickly when I was expected to take responsibility for my part of his affairs… because I knew up front and deep down that I didn’t cause him to run around with women. This man knew from day one that if he wanted to be there, then BE THERE…. if not then there’s the door; no hard feelings. When he tried to make me feel guilty for not trusting him, for not working harder to make our marriage work, I let him have it…. Told him he had it allllll backwards. HE’s the one who needed to be working his ass off to save the marriage, he’s the one who needs to be deserving of trust and forgiveness. This did not go over well with him at all, but that was just too damn bad.

      Let me tell you something about Karma…. it does come around. Fuck him and his Karma though…. get some good Karma for yourself instead. You deserve some goodness in your life. Get out of his head game and surround yourself with people who love and support you (for me that was my family). When you do that, you’ll remember how it feels to be loved again. You can stop blaming yourself for what someone else does when you have no control over what they do. You can trust that he sucks and that you really can’t count on anything that comes from him to be authentic. Understanding this concept is quite liberating…. it takes the guess work out of your dealings with him.

      Take care of you.

    • Two things, Michelle sorensen,

      First; Who gives a flip whether their relationship lasts?! Either way, it is a very sick ‘relationship’, so do not envy their sickness!

      He is stil making you crazy….’Tis typical, though, so work on getting past it……Keep reading all the posts and comments here.
      And, yes, your childhood experiences programmed you to accept his abuse of you.

      Dr. Laura Schlessinger has an excellent book on the subject: “Bad Childhood, Good Life”. I encourage you to check it out.

      I do not remember where I heard about this other web-site—–‘Human Magnet Syndrome’. (Maybe it was from CL?) Anyway……Maybe there is something there that can help you, as well.

      Best help yet, though——THIS site!! The best on the subject I have found!

      And, secondly, you absolutely, positively, did NOT cause all HIS mess!

      Forge on, my friends…..

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