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Dear Chump Lady, How can I get my friend to stop being a chump?

Dear Chump Lady:

I’m a friend of a Chump. She is married to a proven emotional cheater. I think he’s currently having a physical affair — he’s lost 40 lbs and has improved his appearance tenfold. I think she’s in 100% denial. I’ve given her platitudes along the way for fear she’d shut me out and I want to be a supportive friend and show her she has a soft place to land when shit hits the fan. I’ve peppered our path along the way with realisms and my feelings on the subject and I do it with a velvet glove. But mostly, I’ve been supportive and just let her talk about it.

She has bent over backwards to make things work, but it’s forcing a square peg into a round hole. Things are coming to a head and it’s getting nasty. There’s children involved so she is hesitating to dump him. She’s told him twice she wants a separation as a means to work things out and he’s called her bluff both times. She never followed through so she’s all bark and no bite. He’s in it for her two boys’ social security benefits due to their father dying (he adopted them after their dad died). They both work, but she’s the meal ticket; the social security is quite a large monthly stipend. He’s an only child with HUGE entitlement issues. He spends money on himself like it’s water and pulls a Bart Simpson-as long as there are blank checks in the checkbook, there’s money in the account. She separated their accounts, but she always ends up bailing him out.

While I’ve been the supportive friend, I don’t feel like I’m being a true friend because I have so many things to say to her about the truth of the matter. Sometimes I think she can’t see the forest for the trees, but maybe she can, I don’t know. She’s a roller coaster. Everyone can see the relationship is OVER. Stick a fork in it, he’s done and doesn’t want to be with her. I want her to have dignity and pride in herself when all this is over and the way it’s going now, there’ll be none.

How do I deal with my opinions about the HUGE DOUCHEBAG that is in her life? Maybe not at all? Because it’s not about me; it’s about her. Do I just swallow it and continue to be the supportive friend?

Lacey

Dear Lacey,

I’m going to disagree with you on one point  — “he’s done and doesn’t want to be with her.” On the contrary, he refuses to leave for the very incentives you point out — she is his meal ticket. Your friend is still of use to him, so no, he’s not done at all. He will use and abuse her for as long as she lets him.

You just see the obvious douchebaggery. What you don’t see are the intermittent rewards — when he appeases and charms and makes promises and seduces. When he shares a few kibbles with her to keep her in the chump cycle. I’m sure from the outside whatever he’s doing looks like very little reward indeed — and you’re right — but she doesn’t see it that way. She believes He Will Change and puts inordinate value on the few kibbles he throws her way. Moreover, I’m sure she fears being alone again. Her first husband died, and being with an epic douchebag isn’t great for one’s self esteem.

So what do you do? You take the velvet gloves off and let her know she has the power to change her circumstances. When she starts to bend your ear about how dreadful Mr. Douche is you say, “And what are you going to do about that?” She says, “I’m going to ask him to separate!” And you say, “And how did that work out last time?” And she complains that he didn’t listen to her. And you say “So what are YOU going to DO about that?” (Hint, file for divorce, hint, change the locks.)

Keep reminding her she has agency. She has choices. She might think her choices suck, but choosing him is the suckiest choice of all. She cannot control him. She only controls HERSELF.

Unfortunately, same goes for you. You can’t control her, you can only control yourself. You can wave all the warning flags you want, you can try and bitchslap some sense into her, but at the end of the day, if she wants to walk this self-destructive path, you don’t control that. You may need to detach from this relationship if it gets too painful to watch.

You may worry that speaking to her honestly about her continued relationship with this wing nut will offend her and end your friendship — and it might. But I encourage you to be honest with her anyway. When I look back at my friendships during the Troubles, my dearest friend always told it to me straight, “He’s an asshole, leave him.” She never sugarcoated it, she never wavered in her opinion of what I should do. She was compassionate, but it got to a point where she didn’t want to hear anything more about him. Why? Because I was just complaining, spinning my wheels, I wasn’t DOING. When I was doing? That woman jumped into action — she financed my escape.

Basic business really — incentives and disincentives. She incentivized my healthy choices and discouraged my unhealthy ones with her Let’s Change the Subject.

Letting your friend complain on and on about Mr. Douche is not helping anyone. It’s not helping you — it drives you crazy. It’s not helping her — she stays stuck and vents to you. I think you can say to her honestly, “Friend, I love you. I can’t stand to see you in this abusive relationship. But you have choices. You can defend yourself against this abuse, you can stop enabling him. And you won’t. So I will discuss anything else with you — shopping, gardening, Olympic figure skating, but I won’t discuss HIM and this situation any longer.” Draw a boundary with her. Let her know you’re still her friend. But it pains you to see her with him.

Finally, if you’re taking off the velvet gloves, you might try this tack as well — her children. They lost their father — do they really need to lose their social security benefits too? She’s placing douchebag’s welfare above that of her own children. Call her out on it. Her children need her. Douchebag doesn’t need another new set of golf clubs or whatever the fuck he’s spending the money on. (Other women, undoubtably.)

People often hesitate to be honest with people who are acting destructively, because Oh No, It Will Just Throw Them Together, and Unite Them Against You. Seems to me, the worst has already happened. Douchebag has already united her against you and basic common sense. She has chosen the crazy.

Throw her a lifeline. I hope she takes it. If she doesn’t, hey, you did your best and that’s all you can do.

Ask Chump Lady

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  • Brilliant advice, CL! Dealing with a friend who is being drained of all dignity by her abusive, alcoholic husband. It is maddening.

  • Immature men with age regressed attitudes are incredibly draining.

    He isn’t motivated to change- he needs to find his ‘inner parent’ and stop freeloading off his wife because the physical and emotional strain will exhaust her and impact her health.

    She has two sons the last thing she needs is a husband who acts like an irresponsible adolescent.

    • only way to stop a freeloading leech is to throw him out and go NC. I should know because I had to deal with one. As long as he is under the same roof he will continue freeloading in any way he can..

  • Maybe the friend needs to give her the address of this website. It would be an eye-opener to this poor chump that she is not alone, and her cheater’s abuse is not only an ugly cliche but also quite calculated. It might alert her to the land mines ahead, her options, and how to move on. To have the perspective of someone other than a friend, who has been through it all before, and vanquished a leech, is empowering and priceless.

    • SeeTheLight,

      I agree. It is awfully difficult to get someone to overcome the “But OUR relationship is SPECIAL” syndrome; but perhaps hearing the cold, hard unvarnished truth might help get the friend’s attention and give her some food for thought.

  • Lacey,

    Tracy has given you some EXCELLENT suggestions and (short of kidnapping her and taking her away until she comes to her senses) there is not much else you can do.

    Until she internalizes that she is victimizing herself and resolves to to stop doing it, nothing constructive is going to happen.

    It might help if your friend could get with a good no-nonsense therapist who could guide her to the realization that she is a codependent enabler who is participating in her own emotional suicide and is not acting in the long term best interests of those children.

    This is a tough one. Good luck!

  • Tracy?

    It might be helpful if you would do a column on getting out of denial or…. “Why your dysfunctional relationships is NOT SPECIAL.” I’d love to see that one.

    • I agree! There were so many moments post-D-Day where I would waver between being firm in the NC and separation and second guessing whether or not he would be the “exception to the rule.” Even when his actions fit the mold of a serial cheater 100%, I kept thinking “Oh, but our relationship had something SPECIAL” (It didn’t)

      And today, I am glad to say that I took the final steps of going NC and blocked his numbers, his e-mail addresses and he does not know where I live now. I’ve never been happier with myself.

  • I think the most helpful thing you can do is give her the URL of this blog. If reading the stories here don’t open her eyes, nothing will. I wish I’d known about this site years ago.

  • Sadly, Chumps try to save other Chumps and they often try to save Cheaters. As CL so wisely says, there are limits to what we can do. We have to assess carefully whether we are helping or we are just becoming part of the problem. I hope Lacey’s friend wakes up. Giving her access to this blog might help. Ultimately, however, a person has to choose to open their own eyes. No one can open another person’s eyes for them.

  • I’ve had a friend since school days and she’s been involved with a married man for the past 10 years who keeps promising to leave his wife ‘after Christmas, after Groundhog’s Day, after Easter, this June, after August, blah blah blah fucking blah.’ Talk about a cake eater. I can’t even stand listening to the crap anymore and have distanced myself from her. They were high school sweethearts and according to her…. ‘soul mates’ dontcha know? I knew him in high school too. My friend has provided him a ‘bat’ phone on her plan and they talk on the phone every day. The wife got a whiff of the affair and put the kibosh to him leaving the driveway without her so my friend and him have only screwed about 4 times in the 10 year affair.

    I’ve tried to talk ‘sense’ to her but it does no good so I quit. And I quit listening to the bullshit too. I did invite her to like this page on Facebook though. It’s hard watching her totally wasting her life on this POS and getting older by the minute but I gave up. The last time she told me that he said he was leaving his wife, I just sat there and went….yeah right. Seriously, she’s been planning their ‘wedding’ and the rock she’s going to make him buy her this entire time. Jeeze oh hell oh bells. How many ways can you spell stupid?

  • Great advice from CL!

    One of my best friends helped me step up and set some boundaries with my ex-Wife. He saw me taking too much junk from her and allowing her to eat cake unfettered. I look back and am SO thankful he exhorted me to set boundaries as CL recommends here. It may have been the first time an adult in her life forced her to make a choice and stick with it. The advice did not save my marriage (which was well dead even at that time), but it did give me a sense of self-respect and power.

  • Dear Lacey,
    I will share my experience with you and it may help figure out what to do.
    What would you want under the same conditions?
    Would you listen?
    Would you want your friends to not tell you what they think is the truth?
    What are your values and morals?
    I always speak the truth about big things like this. ALWAYS.
    My friends and family know that is who I am and what I expect from others who are my friends.
    Does it hurt me when they tell me the truth? Absolutely! Do I always do what they say? No, but I always hear what they have to say, roll it around in my head for a while and usually take their advice because it is what I needed to hear, not what I wanted to hear.
    This situation is clearly driving you a bit nuts and you call yourself her friend. I would not want a friend who could not tell me the truth and I could not be a friend who would not tell the truth.
    I had a friend who was seeing a married man. I told her what I thought of that and I told her I could not be her friend if she continued to see the married man. She knew I meant it. After many discussions she came to see that the relationship was harmful to every one. Another friend did the same and I stopped being her friend. Some things are deal breakers.
    Anyone who knew about my ex and the whore-under-my-nose is OUT of my life. You didn’t speak up when you could have saved me the pain of finding out on my own? Who the fuck needs a friend like that?
    I think the best point is the one CL made about the children’s social security money. That should be a deal breaker for you and their mother. That money can never be replaced once it is spent. It is the gift that offers the kids a future (college, a down payment, a chance in life). If your friend cannot understand that and how it may be just gone, then she has bigger problems than her rotten husband.
    Speak up! Be proud that you have values and only the best of intentions for her and her kids.
    If she won’t listen about even that one issue, then is this really a woman that you want as a friend? Someone who turns a blind eye to her children’s’ financial security in order to be with a man?

    • THIS!!!

      “I think the best point is the one CL made about the children’s social security money. That should be a deal breaker for you and their mother. That money can never be replaced once it is spent. It is the gift that offers the kids a future (college, a down payment, a chance in life). If your friend cannot understand that and how it may be just gone, then she has bigger problems than her rotten husband.”

      ***

      Any woman who sacrifices her own children’s legitimate future to play the “pick me dance” with a serial cheater and financial leech is in my opinion an abusive mother.

      (Also I strongly suspect that very few if any judges would have a problem with this money being put into a trust fund for these children in the event of a divorce.)

  • Tough love isn’t working because your friend’s self-esteem is zero. She knows she’s in a bad situation & feels like it’s her fault. When you pressure her or get mad about the situation it makes her feel worse. Work on building her up so she is empowered to leave him. Reinforce her good qualities and keep reminding her that you & others will support her & her boys. That’s what she’s really looking for when she complains about him. She knows what has to be done, she just needs to believe she’s worth it.

  • Thank you for this. I have a friend who is desperately trying to get me to leave my serial cheater, and I guess it helps to read. I KNOW what I have to do.

    I threw my cheater out yesterday because his affair partner (who I guess is tired of the pick me dance, too) emailed me to tell me my husband is winking at her on Match.com even though they broke it off months ago. Does everyone going through this wonder if their spouse is mentally ill? I think he is, so there is that guilt, but I also sort of know in my heart that I have to end this thing and get to meh. I’ve been in limbo for eight months. I also have boys… and I’m sad to say that the three of us here alone are more relaxed without him here. I’m so sad for the kids that this has happened. But, I also know I was the best spouse I could have been – and while tempted at times, never crossed this line that my cheating husband blew threw a number of times.

    God. This sucks sooooo bad. And so does he.

    • Ok, I need practical advice. How did you get your spouse out? I am the primary earner, but stupidly, like a chump, put his name on the deed. He wants to stay in the house and ‘co-parent’. I’m in a no fault state, so cheater gets half of my savings, retirement and home equity. So sucks!! He is living it up at a ‘conference’ in the sun with the bimbo, while boys and I are snowed in. I’m seething. I guess I have to kiss the funds goodbye and just file. Lawyer estimates 2 YEARS to get through our over-crowed court system. I can’t imagine being in the same house for another 2 years.

      • How did I get MINE out? Well, honestly… I’m not sure if my cheater is NPD or horribly stupid, but months ago his affair partner began to tell him he needed to move out on me to get “perspective” on our marriage. So he got an apartment that she tried to move into. He has a shrink, the shrink asked him if he WANTED AP to move in with him, and he said “no.” He practiced a boundary with her, and she dumped him. We had a few good weeks over the holidays until the most recent round of shit started. We were going to get rid of his apartment lease until this nonsense happened.

        We have a crazy ass separation agreement from last fall that has a nesting custody agreement with him here a few days a week for consistency. However I’m so fucking pissed that his whore d-day’ed me all over again that I can’t IMAGINE sharing space with him. He knows by moving out that he is risking abandonment in the divorce, but he’s trying to be a “good guy” in all of it. SO. You know.

      • One sure way to get him out is to divorce him, but that will take a while.

        In the near term, if he got violent or otherwise abusive, it would probably be possible to get temporary orders that would order him to leave. Another possibility would be for you to get temporary custody orders and leave yourself. That may not be financially feasible, and you’d probably be looking at him getting 50% custody at least temporarily.

        My xW was all about that “stay together in the house and raise the kids” nonsense too; great, double down on that whole modeling dysfunction to our kids, along with continuing the death-by-a-thousand-cuts that was my life with her. Nope, that was a non-starter.

        Hey, if it’s going to take 2 months or 2 years, start first thing Monday! The sooner you start, the sooner it’ll be over.

        I live in a no-fault state, and have been the primary wage earner, had to turn over half our assets to her, and I pay substantial support. It’s painful to take a big financial hit, and it may be daunting to contemplate the mess divorcing your H is liable to be.

        Money is just money, and stuff is just stuff. The first thing is to get clear on the financial picture, and what would be considered an equitable division of assets in your state. It’s not obvious to me that he’s entitled to half the equity in the house just because you put him on the deed, but I’m not a lawyer. As I understand it, in a community property state, assets accumulated during a marriage have to be divided equally, but I don’t think that would necessarily apply to substantial assets you accumulated before the marriage. If I were you, I’d get a very clear understanding especially of that.

        It’ll make it easier to get to a settlement if you can set aside what emotional attachments you may have to the various things that need dividing (not easy I know), and just try for something workable. If the equity in the house is too much of the total assets, it’ll need to get sold. If not, it could go to one or the other of you. You may have strong feelings about it one way or the other, but if you let those come into play, he’s liable to use that to create or continue conflict. If on the other hand, you could say something like, “Here’s a split where you take the house. Here’s a split where I take it. Pick which one you want, or we can go to trial and have the judge pick for us.” there’s minimal fuel for drama.

        But it really is better on the other side. My life is so much more peaceful without her in it. Well, at least as peaceful as it can be with 2 teenage daughters. I don’t have to witness her shenanigans, or hear her bullshit excuses for the odd hours and company she keeps. Had enough reminders already of what an idiot she seems to think I am.

        I can go on trips by myself or with the kids, and just make a plan and follow it, without her monkey-wrenching it somehow: insisting on travel schedules that leave me exhausted, or passive-aggressive sabotaging, or going off like a bomb if I’m paying too much attention to other people or our surroundings and not enough to her.

      • Breathe,
        I don’t know how long you’ve been married, but even if you live in a no-fault state, your STBX should not have a claim on any assets you came into the marriage with. Even if you bought the house after your marriage, if the assets that went into a down payment came from your pre-marriage assets, you should be able to document that.

        Get to work and go through all your banking/financial statements, and his, if you can get your hands on them. You are looking for your balances immediately prior to the marriage. Look for withdrawals from your accounts that match up to down payments, major improvements, paying off his bills, etc. Find anything and everything you can to be able to prove that YOUR assets financed major purchases. Obviously, you should be doing this quietly. Make copies of everything, including HIS financials.

        Even IF you have to give him half, you have to be able to tell yourself that it’s only money, and no amount of money is worth staying in an abusive relationship. You can always make more money, but you can’t reclaim years of your/your kid’s lives or the peace of mind you lose every single day you let him stay.

        Keep in mind, as well, that every day he stays just increases the amount of money you may end up having to share with him. The sooner you cut him off, the sooner you can rebuild your life for yourself and your children.

        Get yourself a kick-ass attorney and kick his ass to the curb.

  • Though I also have to add that I think it’s HILLARIOUS that his affair partner is worried that my husband is looking for dates on match.com and is upset. HE MIGHT CHEAT ON HER. Listen here, sweetheart. He was cheating on YOU the whole time you were with him.

    It is kind of funny when the AFFAIR PARTNER demands fidelity from their married lover. DON’T HAVE SEX WITH YOUR WIFE. Dumbass that I am had NO CLUE that all the sex I was getting during the affair was, in part, due to the fact that she was trying to restrict him.

    When I’m not horribly sad that I have been so chumped, there is PART OF ME that sort of wants to see them together, with him cheating on her ass. He asked me if I’d ever consider being his ex with benefits. WTF is wrong with me? WTF is wrong with him?

    Jesus.

      • They have an insane belief in personal comfort and entitlement.

        Mine wants me to be his wife in every way but sex and romance. He had a bout of gastroenteritis this summer, and he wanted ME to take him to the hospital. Because he didn’t want to SHIT HIMSELF in front of his “soulmate.”

        He also doesn’t want to burden his soulmate with his END OF LIFE, medical power of attorney issues. He doesn’t want his soulmate to help check him into a mental hospital either.

          • Just to be clear, even if your spouse has mental health issues, they are not your responsibility. My ex did have issues and I put myself in harms way, which is wrong. You take care of you so you can take care of your kids.

            My ex wouldn’t leave the house either and he too said “a lot of people get divorced and live together after” UM, NOT.

            • My ex wanted to keep doing his laundry here, kept asking me and the kids what I was up to, wanted to keep all our finances together indefinitely …. Like your ex not wanting to leave the house, it seems they’re not quite clear on the concept of ‘divorce’.

      • They sure hate to lose their cake and lose their money. My ex was livid that I moved out of our home and into an apt with our son as soon as I could after dday (five months of hell living in same house as him before I could move out). He raged about how I “tore our family apart,” was “wasting all our money,” and “he didn’t even know if he wanted a divorce.” He insisted that I should move back into the house, because I needed to “just suck it up” financially. He claimed that people did this all the time and that his own mother had moved back in with his father after her affair with abusive AP didn’t work out (total lie).

        After I stupidly agreed to bogus reconciliation, he immediately started pressuring me to move back into the house. Thank God I didn’t. That was all he cared about, only reason for “reconciliation” was financial benefit for him.

  • Lacey, when you talk to your friend about the fact that she’s allowing this jackass to take financial advantage of her kids, you might also want to ask her; is this an example of marriage and adult life and love that she wants her kids to see?

    For me, this was the absolutely decisive question when I found out about the 2nd affair. It cut like a knife through all the ambivalence, fear, doubt, pain, anything that could have stopped me from kicking his ass out. I did not want my children growing up thinking it was normal or natural to be a chump, or a cheater, or that anybody should continue a relationship with someone who takes advantage of them and disrespects them so badly, especially someone who has had every opportunity to do the right thing, and keeps choosing to do the wrong one.

    • So true! And great relevant points Rebecca and not you. Hugs to all who are living with the fallout of a cheater’s f’cked up choices. It does, ALL of it, seem Crazy. Right NOW I encourage new Chumps to Get Out. Most of what you see behavior wise is the tip of the iceberg. It’s like one day that ex just went out the door one person and came back in another. Of course it’s only over the last few years of a relationship that you begin to sense the madness underneath. The financial infidelity in my situation was and continues to be my wake up call. Nothing made sense, why would anyone hurt their children’s future? (Let alone an ex you’d once shared many years with.) It was when I realized he was screwing his racquetball partner that it all clicked. He didn’t give a damn about his family, we could not compete with his most intimate relationship. And that is with his dick. karenE, this ” I did not want…wrong one” so perfectly said. Lacey, if I had had a friend like you I would have been grateful. My home became one when my ex moved out. it’s amazing what happens to your life when you no longer live with all those lies. My children are better off too.

  • I hope your friend gets the clue train soon. Whenever it happens, one day she is going to say how much she regrets wasting so much time. Don’t be the friend who says “I told you so, I told you to leave”, be the friend who says “you did what you had to do, it’s all good”.

    • Some people take longer than others. It took me two years and breast cancer to finally realize he really sucks after 31 years together. Now the legal ramifications are coming down on him and HE is prolonging the divorce that he wanted and he filed last June, the same week I started chemo and one month after my mastectomy. Wtf x 5000!!!

      • There are times I still struggle. He has been gone 2.5 years. Lots of craziness. Found our weddng picture in a drawer today and just lost it…incredible to me the monster he became!

  • Magical momma, I am so sorry for what you went through.. Yes sometimes it takes longer for us chumps to get it, that they suck. It took me almost 3 years, with sleepless nights, weight loss, the mental and emotional pain that I suffered with his horrific gaslighting while the douchebag slept like a baby every night, so I understand your pain…Hang in there and take this motherfucker for everything he got!! Show no leniency!! Yes he is a monster and he always was, he just hid it under a mask… the pain will ease up with time and your life will get better, especially once you divorce that fucker!
    I hope you are doing better health wise and my best wishes to you..BIG HUGS!!

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