Dear Chump Lady,
I stumbled onto your site like most people, after discovering my wife had been having multiple affairs over the last six years and trying to make sense of it and gain some relief.
Some of the things my wife was doing behind my back are hard to believe — giving away thousands of dollars and material goods to the affair partners, vacations together; helping to buy and furnish a house for one of them. She was able keep all of this hidden through separate accounts and under the guise of traveling for work (pharmaceutical sales). That and my blind trust of her.
Initially I wanted her out of the house and to separate, but she convinced me she wanted to “fix” our marriage and I agreed to work with her. You never do the things you tell yourself you’d do if something like this every happened. We’ve been through most of the things chumps go through — counseling, therapy, etc. — trying to reconcile our marriage. Things seemed to get better, only to have her become involved with some doctor or coworker again, sending everything back to square one.
During the course of this rollercoaster ride I’ve learned about borderline personality disorder, covert manipulators, sociopaths, addiction and a host of other maladies I never thought I would ever have to deal with. I also learned a lot about my own codependency issues and how difficult it is to do what’s best for myself when feelings and time are involved (22 years together.)
After the last episode last summer — she got involved with a married co-worker who lives on the other side of the country and has four kids — we (my teenage children and I) asked her to move out. To make a long story short, she tried to commit suicide and I spent the night with her in the ER and she spent another week in observation. We changed the locks on our home (at the advice of the lawyer I retained) during that time and she had to go live with my mother.
She enrolled in some personal and group therapy and she seemed to be getting better. After a few months and countless pleading to give her another chance (I know, I know) the kids and I agreed to let her come home for the holidays, although they thought it was a bad idea. We’ve been working on things and her crazy angry behavior has calmed WAY down but I still got the nagging feeling that the affair partner wasn’t out of the picture. After hacking into her phone records I saw there were calls and texts to the guy just about every day.
I’ve confronted her about it and she says she’s tried to get him to stop, but he won’t take no for an answer. I’ve reached back out to my lawyer after putting things “on hold” one last time. Even with all the great advice I’ve gotten from your site and from therapists, I had to give it one last try. I’ve talked it over with the kids and they say they’re fine if we separate. I guess I’m just sentimental, hardheaded, hoping for a miracle (take your pick.) I know this is the end, but I just can’t seem to pull the plug. (We were a happy famiIy for many years.) I know the scolding you’ll give me but I just had to give it one last try…
Interesting choice of screen name. Percival — a character in the epic quest for the Holy Grail. Makes me wonder if you think there is something noble and romantic about hopeless causes. Oh yes, my wife isn’t a borderline personality disordered serial cheater who is harming me, nope, she is a jeweled and precious object that I must save. Percival is not a chump — he’s a knight!
Dude, you’re a chump. Own it. I’m sorry you’ve been through this nightmare — serial cheating complete with suicide attempt — but it’s time to buck up and end this marriage. We can argue all day whether your wife is a heartless manipulator or a doomed, tragic character in her own bad romance — point is, she’s killing you with this drama. Whatever good times you reminisce about (and if she’s truly a borderline, I’m wondering how much spackle you’ve applied there…), you need to deal with the reality NOW. She won’t stop cheating on you, she feigns reconciliation, you could never possibly know if she’ll ever “get it,” she’s spent gazillions on her affairs (buying and furnishing a HOUSE?!), and when consequences began to dawn she reacts in the most extremely manipulative way possible — she stages a suicide attempt. God drama queen, way to make it all about HER.
Let go of the guilt and responsibility Percival. If she offs herself, you DON’T CONTROL THAT. It’s not your fault. You cannot save her. And it speaks volumes about her character — she’s got children — does she really want to saddle them with that sort of grief and abandonment? Oh sure, why the hell not, she wasn’t considering them when she was fucking around on their father and wasting untold marital resources. (I wonder how much college you can pay for with a furnished house?)
If you want to save someone, Percival, save your kids from this woman. To me the most disturbing thing about your letter wasn’t the cheater crazy, it was when you wrote “WE” asked her to leave, “WE” changed the locks…
Don’t put this shit on your children. YOU lead this charge, Percival. YOU draw those boundaries. YOU enforce the consequences. You’re terrified that she’ll off herself if you impose consequences? Oh, here’s a great idea! Let’s include the CHILDREN in that decision to make her leave so they can share the feelings of guilt and obligation too!
Do not use those children to bolster you in the hard decisions you need to make. It’s like you need the consensus, the strength in numbers. If you need that — please get it here. Get it from your shrink, your lawyer, do NOT get it from your teenage children. They need you to be the sane adult who stands up to this abuse. (It’s abuse, Percival. You’re being abused.)
I’m glad they’re on the same page, and it’s not much of a surprise that they’d be relieved to see you separate. But when you ask them to be part of the decision-making you’re putting them in the parent role with you, you’re giving them a grave responsibility that’s not fair to ask of them. Especially with a mother as volatile as the one they’ve got.
So Percival, man up. You say you know this is the “end,” but you can’t pull the plug. Listen, if you don’t pull the plug, IT’S NOT THE END. It’s more of the same nightmare you’ve been living. More cheating. More fake reconciliation. More drama. More lying. More financial abuse.
ACT first and then you can understand. End it with her, and then go untangle the skein all you want to. The important thing is to put distance there, to protect your castle and your children. I’m sorry your wife is sick — morally sick, mentally sick — but to stay with her is putting yourself and your children in harm’s way. Saving yourself and them is a quest you can achieve. Saving your cheater is not.
Don’t beat yourself up about the false reconciliations. Most of us have been there. Just stop looking back and hoping for a different reality. Lead the charge towards freedom, Percival. Godspeed.