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Love Without Respect

I’ve tackled the question of can cheaters really love you while they are cheating on you (as many of them claim). My opinion is that betrayal and love are incompatible. Love is action. It’s hard to claim you love someone if you’re hitting them, or cheating on them, or robbing their wallet.

And yet, many cheaters report being perfectly happy in their marriages despite cheating.  Well of course they do, cake is delicious. What’s not to love? A faithful spouse and a bit on the side.  Apparently, when it comes to infidelity our brains are capable of compartmentalization. Your love for your wife is this nagging little background noise, while you’re engrossed in lust/love for your fuckbuddy. There’s Wife Love, and Fuckbuddy Love, and probably a bunch of little boxes of neurotransmitters for other loves — Breaking Bad, chocolate donuts, evening campfires…

Actually, I can see a cheater saying, “My love of chocolate donuts has NOTHING to do with you! I am large. I contain multitudes!” All these competing loves… is there any hierarchy? Is one pleasure as interchangeable as the next? If we claim love is compartmentalized, isn’t that rather narcissistic? Where are the other virtues like empathy, loyalty, or duty? Shouldn’t love be interconnected and not compartmentalized?

I love chocolate donuts, but I won’t eat them in front of you, because you’re on a diet and I don’t want you to feel bad. So I will exercise restraint around donuts for your sake. That would be an example of a connected kind of love. I put your welfare above my love of chocolate donuts.

But I am going to say for the sake of argument, that cheaters CAN love us (in a compartmentalized, stuff it down while fucking around kind of way) while they cheat. A reconciling chump will cling to that — but the cheater Loved Me All Along! You need that conceit if you’re going to reconcile, because how much more difficult would it be to admit, that no, the cheater didn’t love you one bit. (But they’d be game to love you again if you’ll perform the pick me dance.)

So let’s say your cheater loves you. Okay, I’ll buy it. What is inarguable, however, is that you cannot cheat on someone you respect. I think it is possible to love someone you don’t respect — but is the love of a superior being to an inferior one. It is not a relationship between equals. Cheaters may claim they love you, but they can never say they respect you. To lie to someone, to hide important truths about their life, to make unilateral decisions — these are acts of arrogance and disrespect.

After discovery, it’s a power battle. Who will be in the superior position and who will be in the inferior position? It can go in different ways.

If you get a remorseless cheater, they retain their superiority. The chump eats the shit sandwiches, doesn’t do anything to upset the cheater, and continues to perform the “pick me” dance to ensure the cheater sticks around.

In a “successful” reconciliation, the chump stays married, but does not respect their partner for their infidelities. Ironically, now the position changes, to something paternalistic — the superior being (the all-forgiving chump) loving the inferior being (the fucked up cheater for whom they have lost respect).

Then there is the rare path of unicorns. The chump leaves and doesn’t take this shit, and files for divorce. The cheater then has to respect the chump’s moxie. Wow, this chump will impose consequences on my ass! Then the cheater does the long, hard, humiliating work to earn the respect of their chump. The years of therapy, the financial reparations, the self reflection that yes, they fucked up and the chump owes them nothing. They limp along towards something like equality. We all know from painful experience how likely this outcome is.

So let’s change the argument. Instead of getting hung up on I can’t leave this person, because I still love them, perhaps the better question is — can I stay in a relationship in which I do not respect this person and they do not respect me?

If your cheater says “But I loved you all along!” — the answer is “Yeah, but you didn’t respect me.”

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. You either need it, or you don’t.

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  • When I found out, I told him I had lost all respect for him and he would have to try to earn it back or I would leave him. Not surprisingly, he couldn’t handle that. He began trying to blameshift and lash out, which I stood for all of about 2 seconds. We haven’t spoken since.

    It almost killed me, but I refused to be treated that way. So there is another way: the chump that leaves and doesn’t take shit… and the cheater just fades back into the hole they crawled out of.

    • Well yes, that is the path I recommend. 🙂

      ETA — I think your cheater’s response — to blameshift this mess to you — is pretty typical. If anyone is going to earn anything, I think most cheaters would like to be YOU earning the awesomeness that is THEM.

    • At one point during bogus reconciliation, I said something similar to my ex. We were driving down the freeway at that moment, going around 80. Well, he started RAGING in a way I had never seen before. Screaming “fuck you” “fuck you” over and over again, his face red, rage in his eyes, spittle flying out of his mouth. I had never even heard him curse before, it was an astonishing transformation. Complete, utter rage. I was terrified he was going to crash, and somehow managed to get him to pull over to the side of the road. I should have left him at that moment, but foolishly continued the bogus reconciliation for several more months.

      He actually later said that that feeling of rage was, “the most passion he had ever felt for me”, and that it was “exciting.” What a scary freak.

      • Yikes, scary. Him saying that rage was “exciting” is even scarier….unfortunately, I can relate.

        My ex loved a good rage, like most people like a good book, or a good bath. After raging (usually at me, but anything would do), he actually looked revived and usually professed his hunger (aka stepping over my sobbing body so he could nuke himself a Hot Pocket).

        • Same here. My ex not just loved a rage, he needed one. When things were quiet for a week or two, I knew I was in for it and soon. I also knew that he was busy lying and sneaking around, which I would eventually confront and then he’d rage. Lather, rinse, repeat.

      • I had the same think with my narcs first fuckbuddy he went MENTAL one evening driving to a bus stop with me and the kids to pick her up it was like a MADMAN I was scared to death we almost got into a horrible accident! I was done I had to file for a divorce!

  • Wow that clip– just been to church!. I agree, CL. Respect. That is the issue, no doubt. That’s the core of why the lying is so devastating, I think.

    My ex said he was remorseful–and since he was a guilt-ridden covert narcissist, I was able to use that as leverage in the divorce. Living in a no-fault state, there is no real leverage when divorcing a cheater, alas.

    Complicated, but working on finding the path to Meh.

    Adopting Mephista’s brilliant sig–


  • This makes perfect sense as usual!…My ex said she never stopped loving me and that she and her long term and long distance AP both said they were never going to leave their spouses. Somehow that was supposed to make me feel better about the situation, talk about mental gymnastics…It was all about cake, I was the stable father who would take care of her and the kids, while she went on a cake binge.

    As for respect, I spackled the hell out of that! She would make rude comments in public about how ridiculous being a college professor is, and would even call it a dead end job…For some reason being a part time fitness instructor and part time shop girl was much more worthy of respect!

    It is one of the things that hurts the most, the hypocritical beliefs cheaters hold…They don’t have to have career ambitions or contribute to the family, but no matter how hard the chump tries it is never enough for them…Yet, it also makes perfect sense…They have no self respect (to enter into the affair and the required behavior to carry it off long term demonstrates that) so how in the hell are they going to respect the chump?

    • My ex told both me and the kids, separately, that he had no plan to leave or ever divorce me. Which is exactly the opposite of what he was telling final OW just 6 weeks after meeting her. It didn’t matter in the end, because I kicked him out. But he also tried to denigrate my career (which I gave up for the benefit of his) and pretty much anything I had done both before and during our several decades together. He actually tried to put me down to the kids for waiting tables whilst at university. You know, because a good, honest day’s work earning tips so I could help fund my education was something to sneer at. What an asshat my ex and your ex and everyone’s ex is.

      • Yes, they play that classic game of making themselves feel ‘more special’ by putting us down. My X showed his respect for me and my desire to better myself by starting his affair just two months before the end of my degree, while I was studying on overdrive to pass the x-ray exams. His supposed reason for doing that? “I got so tired of being lonely”

    • “It was all about cake, I was the stable father who would take care of her and the kids, while she went on a cake binge.”

      Me too, man. I even thought after the sordid details with my now-XW were coming out was that “wow, she wants her cake and to eat it too”. And that was before I discovered this site.

      The hypocrisy of those who cheat is amazing. I know my XW didn’t respect me in the end, and don’t expect she ever completely did. She would often beat me down for my perceived “weaknesses” and ultimately left me for someone she thought was a “powerful” man. In retrospect, she was probably looking for a way out of our relationship from the earliest we began dating. It took her a decade to finally do it.

      • CW, I had the “he wants his cake and eat it too” thought before finding this sight also. It goes to show how similar these cases really are at the core.

        I am the stay at home, homeschooling wife. Homeschooling at his suggestion. But nothing I did was ever enough either. I could stay up til one in the morning for him, but I “never had time for him”. He would even try and make me feel guilty for wanting to tuck our youngest in more nights than I went out with him. He would also, need me to help him with his business at the expense of my educating our children.

        When he decided he needed a second job to help cover the bills, I offered to work nights. Told him to stay home with the kids at night. Well in hindsight, I can see why he had to be the one to get the second job. In his day job there was no access to “fresh meat”.

        You know I tell myself that I shouldn’t hate the OW cause if it hadn’t been her, it would have been some other woman, but that doesn’t really help.

  • ““Demand respect and you will never command respect.”

    There is a huge distinction between demanding and commanding.

    Commanding respect consists of first truly respecting yourSELF and then consistently behaving in such a manner that the other sees qualities which command respect. It is about how you behave– NOT what you try to verbally convince others is “right.”

    Demanding respect is yammering away at the other about all the reasons why the other OUGHT to respect you (“Look at all I have done for you! You ingrate!”) OR attempting to subtly manipulate the other with shame–which is really just another form of begging and is actually narcissistic. Codependents who play the martyr are some of the biggest covert narcissists– –when you examine their motive (control) closely. Everyone eventually runs from shamers and martyrs.

    • Well said Notyou! And something Chumps need to look long and hard at, and own.

      Al Anon 12 steps covers this really well.

    • Ugh, notyou…This one hit a bit close to home. I’m not narc, but I’m pretty upset about the total lack of respect. Problem is, once you’ve already established a pattern where your spouse doesn’t respect you and you’ve rolled over and taken it, it’s almost impossible to turn around. So, yeah, I demanded “respect” from my husband this morning. As usual it went all of nowhere because, as you say, it’s really about commanding respect to begin with. I chose someone who can never respect me now matter how much I contribute financially or otherwise. He simply doesn’t value me and I can’t make him change. My demands have to do with the pent up anger from the loads of disrespectful comments and behaviors he sends my way. It’s like, shut up already. I get that you don’t give a damn about what I think. Why rub it in my face?

      Sorry for venting.

      • KT, he will NEVER respect you or consistently act respectfully towards you, unfortunately. That’s not who he is.

        What can help to deal with that reality is recognizing and reminding yourself that his inability to respect you provides NO information about whether you deserve respect. You absolutely do!!! The disrespect is about him, not you!

        And if you can keep that in mind, it becomes much easier to do the one thing that is most effective against disrespect; walk away. No point in demanding, trying to command, trying to show him why respect is important and valuable and in his own best interests. Just walk away. Don’t engage in argument, don’t give in to his ridiculousness, just use your ‘you’ve got to be kidding’ attitude and go do something worthwhile.

        • Right Karen. I believe these cheaters are so self-absorbed and narcissistic, that they really cannot see anyone but themselves in the world. We are just bit players orbiting around their greatness. So respect, love, concern? They have it only if they choose to play that role….none of it is real and it has nothing to do with us. We have no ability to command respect, love or anything else from them because they are hollow people with nothing inside but what they decide to pretend to have in there that day. The only constant is their pathological falseness, that is their one true quality.

      • Precious KT!

        No apologies when you vent here!!! Safest place to vent! Please, vent more if you have no other safe place to do so. You will be relieved of a horrible burden and then all us chumps will fill you up with LOVE!

        Forge on, friend……

      • KT,

        I certainly understand your angst and frustration at the total lack of respect. I doubt if the STBX can even pronounce the word in relation to me. I don’t argue with him or try to make him understand that I deserve respect. He’s used to treating me a certain way and me allowing it. The only way to change that dynamic is through my behavior – not tolerating it. You can’t talk sense into someone with no sense.

        I have learned to simply shut down all contact with him when he shows the slightest sign of disrespect (as there is only minimal contact, this isn’t difficult). I don’t discuss it with him, I don’t try to get him to change, I don’t get angry. I won’t even answer questions that actually require a response on my part. Since he ignores everything I say, why bother talking any longer? He will either learn or he won’t. Either way, I no longer choose to suffer his ill treatment or disrespect. I’ve already told him with words that I refuse to put up with any more shit from him. From now on he can experience the demonstration of what that means. I have to show him by what I will and will not tolerate how to treat me.

        He doesn’t have to love me but if he is going to interact with me, it will be on the basis of respect or not at all. It will probably end up not at all.

      • KT,

        It is OK to vent when things hit close to home, and here is a good place to do it. We’ve all made similar if not the same mistakes, and we’re not judging you..just trying to motivate you to stay on the path. The path of behaving in such a way as to command respect. Whether you get respect is not even relevant, what is relevant is that you didn’t waiver and get into a pissing match with someone who is an emotional child OR regress into an emotional child yourself. Funny how they can still push just the right button and trigger a loss of resolve to preserve your own dignity and not engage..isn’t it? And you sure aren’t the only person who ever succumbed to that. So, pick it all up, go forth and outlast the living annoyance that is a disrespectful spouse.

        Yanno, Cl’s writing style is very engaging and her anecdotal style is easy to relate to, but when you look close she is espousing the exact same principles that some of us just put in more dry and technical terms. The message she sends almost everyday (if you break it down) is this: You were a chump (codependent) it didn’t work and has caused you much heartbreak. Therefore you need to look at yourself, do your “ME” work and change yourself because you cannot change your partner. The only person’s behavior you can change or control is your own. And you CAN do this. You are learning. So….break out of it. Learn to not do it anymore because it doesn’t work!!

        This is a most engaging little read. You may enjoy it.


        Two codependents were out walking one morning when they came to a shallow river. “I’m scared of getting wet.” said one. “If you really love me you will carry me across the river.” The first codependent naturally agreed to this but, as codependents do, added a condition to the agreement. “I am so scared of walking in the dark woods on the other side” said the first one. “If you love me, you will walk in front of me as we go through the woods to scare away the bad spirits. After all I am doing for you, carrying you over the river, that’s not much to ask.”

        The second codependent agreed to this condition, as codependents do, so they set off across the river. But before they could reach the other side, the first one started to make comparisons as codependents do: “This isn’t fair. All you have to do is walk ahead of me in the woods. Carrying you is much harder. You make me so angry!”

        The more anger he felt, the more exhausted he became from the strain of carrying his partner (as codependents do) until he couldn’t go any further. “I’m too tired.” he said “You’ll have to walk the last bit to the river bank yourself.” And with that, he let her down (gently but firmly) into the river.

        This hurt the second codependent very deeply because it meant he no longer felt any love for her. So, naturally, as codependents do she hid her sadness by getting angry, hoping this would bring the love back again. After complaining bitterly about getting wet she stormed off, forgetting about her half of the bargain.

        The first codependent was even more hurt by this because he now knew that there was no love between them any more. He walked sadly through the woods, feeling alone and lost and scared but naturally hiding this behind a mask of anger. However, he built up courage by working out what to say that would hurt his partner the most, when she got home.

        Unfortunately neither of them ever discovered that had they looked a little further along the river bank they would have seen a pretty little bridge where two lovers could hold hands and look at the view.

        Nor did they ever discover that the bridge led over the river to a path that went safely round the dark woods and on through a meadow full of green grass and flowers, just meant for lovers who wanted to stroll together, side by side, instead of taking turns to carry each other or walk in front of, or behind, one another (as codependents do).

        The rest of the story is here:

        • Whether you get respect is not even relevant, what is relevant is that you didn’t waiver and get into a pissing match with someone who is an emotional child OR regress into an emotional child yourself.

          This is EXACTLY what I need to work on. I’m so bent about his lack of respect and refusal to simply admit the truth that I find myself in tears almost constantly. Thankfully I’m in contact with OW husband and knew she was not home the other evening (so she was at my husband’s apt) and was able to save myself from some serious humiliation as I was on the verge of begging him to talk to me.

          Everyday is an uphill battle right now, but I have to say this blog has been amazingly helpful.

          Thank you, Thank you, Thank you CL!

  • I’ve been harping on this point with every brilliant post Tracy writes (and what a talented writer she is- no wonder she had an impressive career in DC as a political copy editor?), but to me it all goes back to the core of who the cheaters really are: NARCISSISTS. No matter what the excuse, and how you sugar coat it. Having the worst of all personality disorders (CL calls it eloquently the “character disorder”), is unfortunately what it comes down to. My friend who is an esteemed physician (without the God complex, thank you), said to me recently that during the first year in medical school they introduce students to the concept of narcissism in the context of all disorders, and end the subject lesson with “beyond cure” or something similar. Basically, they leave medical school with the conviction that once you genetically carry the narcissistic gene, you’re stuck with it for life. Therapists either refuse to treat them or they think of narcissism as a goldmine, because you spend your entire life and still possess zero self awareness.
    On topic of self-awareness: narcissists on any spectrum usually have very little insight into themselves. They hear others describe them as “selfish”, unable to see things from other perspectives, lacking empathy, but they either assume others are exaggerating or they refuse to acknowledge those traits pertain to them. The dead end of therapy.
    Another point I’d like to make is that Ive been watching my ex with my child and for the first time it dawned on me how little empathy is involved in raising his own flesh and blood. Talk about that nonexistent self awareness. Then he wonders why his child doesn’t like him. It’s a vicious cycle, really.

    • My ex was actually diagnosed NPD years ago. At the time, I really knew nothing about personality disorders, and I actually laughed with him and said I could have told him that for free. I thought it just meant my ex was really obsessed with being in the spotlight and self-absorbed. I didn’t know about the evil back then.

      On the topic of self-awareness, oh Lord, the disordered have absolutely none whatsoever. How could they, when their very selves are nothing but a facade? My ex endlessly yammers about what a “giver” he is, could anything be further from the truth?

      • Glad, I thought my ex’s lack of self-awareness was some kind of incapacity, maybe he had Aspergers? But it’s become VERY clear that it is a CHOICE. He’s quite capable of all the things he hasn’t done in his personal relationships, when he puts his mind to those things, like for work. But in his personal life, he doesn’t believe he should have to reflect on his own choices and behaviours, take responsibililty for his own choices and behaviours, think about how he affects others (including his kids), think about how his choices will affect him later on ….. None of that. He gets to do what he wants to do when he wants to do it, he truly HAS no respect for anybody, and that’s that.


        • Mine does have Asperger’s and it seriously doesn’t make them less insufferable. He has Asperger’s and was subsequently emotionally abused by his parents. This made him develop a nice thick layer of narcissism. He’s not just a narcissist, he’s a blind narcissist. When you have a shallow level of empathy relationships just don’t work out for anyone but you. Hate to say it.

    • Consider narcissists as vampires. They suck the life out of you little by little. As they become more beautiful, more sparkly, you just become more dead. You beg, you cry, you will do anything to keep them. When they have sucked the life out of you they just move on. My ex sister in law left a husband and children half dead. The kids never got their childhoods back.

    • You mention a narcissistic gene. Are you stating that narcissism is inherited? That makes me very sad and afraid for my children.

  • Forgot to add that not long ago on a dating site I’m subscribed to, one interested party revealed to me, once asked what he thinks of narcissists, responded with saying that he believes that there’s nothing wrong with being one, something about a way to protect one self from the world or something equally assinine. I didn’t stick around to find out if he was possibly referring to the idea of “healthy” narcissism, as psychologists describe it, I was turned off so quickly, I simply blocked his profile. Too risky.

  • CL, as always, is brilliant.

    In the pre Civil War South, slave masters claimed to have great affection for their slaves, to treat them like children in an extended plantation family. No doubt, they thought this was true. But, of course, they didn’t want to give their slaves freedom. So this “love” or affection, in this context, is really an extended form of the NPD/nark’s own self-love. I love you so long as you are suffering with me/dependent on me/giving me what I want. The nark men I’ve seen (and they’ve been men in my experience, thought I’m not saying narking is limited to the male gender) often really like small animals, little kids and anyone in situations that the dominate. They do not like barking dogs, adolescents or spouses who stand up for their rights. In fact, it is fascinating to watch how quickly they turn on people. I’ve been the “best friend” of a nark. When I was his BF, he always described me in these very elevated terms. As he betrayed his spouse and when I tried to give him advice, he immediately pulled away. (I wound up advising his spouse to leave. There was no hope.) I’ve seen nark fathers idealize a son when he’s little. I think they hope the kids will be clones. But then the nark father becomes incredibly hostile during adolescence. It’s almst as if the nark father is the real adolescent here, just becoming hateful and mistreating the kid because the kid — being a normal teen — has begun to individuate and make his own decisions.

    So, in short, I think the narks who say to their spouse, “I still love you” when having an affair are telling the truth. They are telling their truth, their nark-truth. Sadly, their love for the Chump can only exist so long as the Chump continues to not love/respecd him/herself. Because not respecting yourself is the core demand that a nark makes of any Chump.

    By the way, my “nark” I mean someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), a mental illness that is generally seen as incurable. Psychologists say that narcissism by itself isn’t always bad, but when it becomes extreme, as with NPD, it’s poison. It’s generally not poison for the person with NPD, but it is for everyone around him/her.

    Chump Son

    • The concept of compartmentalizing love is really difficult for me. My ex said things at the end of our marriage like “I love you but I don’t want to live with you,” and ” I love you but I’m not in love with you.” He also said “I care about your wellbeing,” but as he turned to go out the door he said “When I look in my future, you’re not in it.” This was all very confusing to me because my mind doesn’t work like that. I don’t fall in and out of love, I believe you are attracted to someone, you make a commitment to them, you go through things together, and your love grows. Some days you don’t feel like you love them, but you know that feelings are fickle and love is the commitment to stay through those days. I’m not saying I’m perfect, and I was about as codependent as they come after being raised in a codependent family. But still I struggle with “you teach people to respect you by what you put up with.” Shouldn’t people know how to treat others with caring and kindness to begin with? Is it your fault for “not teaching them,” or their fault for “not learning those lessons to begin with?”

      • Shouldn’t people know how to treat others with caring and kindness to begin with? Is it your fault for “not teaching them,” or their fault for “not learning those lessons to begin with?”

        Absolutely they SHOULD know. But they don’t, and don’t care that they don’t, and don’t care to learn to do things any differently.

        At one point I wondered whether, had I been much tougher and more demanding after the ex’s 1st affair, maybe he would have shaped up and there wouldn’t have been another one. Perhaps if I had been more clear in setting limits and boundaries, from the beginning, he wouldn’t have been so disrespectful for so long.

        But then I realized that, because of who he IS, that limit-setting would have had to be constant. He would probably have been unable to tolerate that, and our relationship would have ended earlier and differently (perhaps a good thing!). But even if he had put up with that,\, I STILL would have been living with someone who did not CARE about how I felt, about how hurtful his behaviour to me and to many other people was. I would have just had someone who behaved somewhat better because I wouldn’t let him do otherwise.

        And I don’t want that. I want someone like myself, like you, like the other chumps here! I want someone who treats me well because he DOES respect me. Who treats me well because he DOES care about how I feel. Someone who treats me well because that gives HIM pleasure!

        So I believe it’s not our responsibility to ‘teach them’ (although everyone might need a little reminder sometimes!), but rather to learn to AVOID people like this. We need to fix our pickers, and keep the narcs OUT of our personal lives, and only allow them on the periphery of any other areas of our lives.

        • Yes! I want a relationship with someone who will value my kindness. Value my compassion, not use it against me. Someone around whom I can be my authentic self – kind, caring and trusting. (I am changed by dday and will likely always have my eyes and radar on alert somewhat, but I still want my authentic self to be able to shine.)

          • Narks definitely use Chumps’ virtues (caring, kindness, forgiveness) against the Chump. For the narks, those good qualities are levers/opportunities.

            Some folks are very weird and kind of empty inside. It’s hard to accept sometimes, but it’s true.

      • Lyn my husband said the same things. He would text me that our separation was breaking his heart right in the middle of a texting conversation with the OW. The time that got me the worst was after I had discovered both their cars at his apartment and left them each a note so they would know I finally knew for certain.

        The next day he wanted to “talk”. He texted me that he was and always will be my biggest fan and that this was causing him pain beyond anything he had ever felt. The worst part about all of this was I knew he was planning on spending the weekend with her and her young kids.

        It is infuriating that they can be so heartless. I can’t imagine treating someone I don’t like the way he has treated me for 16 years while claiming to love me.

  • Great post – and it’s got me thinking…

    I’ve read quite a bit about gender differences in marriage – how men thrive and put the primary value on respect, and women do the same for love. Pondering how this affects the whole infidelity concept; for me, I was raising on “true love”, but even though my father was very supportive of women in the workplace, I don’t think either of my parents ever stressed that I should find a man who respected his wife. Interesting.

    I’ve also pondered over time the compartmentalizing of my exH’s “love and respect”. I do believe he respects my parenting, but clearly not me as a person (or women in general – he told me at the end of our marriage that he would never vote for a woman for President…). And I believe – in a more “meh” kind of way now (and this is also what I’ve told our children) that he loved us as much as he was capable of loving. I don’t have one single example in his life of him loving someone – as I perceive love to be. He just is incapable of it. Now, from the outside, it may APPEAR he loves people – just like he appeared to love us if you were watching from a distrance – but in private – not love, just self serving fakeness. Using the “as much as he/she is able” explanation takes the guilt off the “unloved” party, and makes it clear that there’s not one thing we could have done better or different to change the outcome – it stops the music on the “Pick Me Dance Marathon”.

    • I came to the conclusion that my ex just wasn’t capable of an emotionally intimate relationship, at least not with me. He was brought up in a family and culture that thought of women as second class citizens, and seemed more concerned about “keeping the upper hand” and not letting a woman “dominate” him than truly sharing his hopes and dreams with another person in an mutually reciprocal relationship.

      • Lyn,

        “I came to the conclusion that my ex just wasn’t capable of an emotionally intimate relationship, at least not with me.” I used this exact phrase to describe the situation with my cheating ex wife. Word for word. No kidding.

        I’m just curious… Were you often dumbfounded by your ex’s seeming complete inability to empathize? Back in the days when I was trying to reason her out of her affair I would say things like “imagine if you were in my place and I was doing the things you were doing. How would you feel?” etc. I would look her in the eyes at these moments and it would be clear to me that she just couldn’t do this. She didn’t have the ability. Period. She couldn’t even fake it (like she could most other things). It stuns you when you first realize it. Intimacy requires (1) honesty; (2) courage; and (3) the ability to recognize/anticipate/understand the emotional needs of your partner. My ex struck out on all three.

        I also have this fear that she will someday find true, fulfilling intimacy with someone else. It’s a fear because if this happened, then that would mean there was something wrong with me not her. Do you have the same kind of thing?

        Just curious.

        • Dear Al,

          If she ever manages to morph to a personality that is capable of true intimacy, it still would not mean there was/is anything wrong with you! This type of person is just not capable of true intimacy of any sort, in any relationship.

          If she ever does have such a relationship, it would mean that a true miracle happened & she became a person capable of introspection by changing her inner, core self.

          Not likely to ever happen, so perhaps putting your energy elsewhere, rather than letting that fear hang around……..IMHO

          Forge on, friends…..

        • Alyosha, yes I have the same feelings you do. There were times in my marriage I would ask my ex if anyone ever comforted him when he was upset or hurt. I couldn’t imagine any other reason why he was so unable to provide empathy in situations like that. For instance, when our 4 year old broke his arm he fussed at him for crying. Or when I told him “I cry myself to sleep at night from loneliness” and he just gave me a blank stare. It really hit me as to his inability to be intimate when he told me at the end of our marriage “I was unhappy and looked online for answers but none of them worked.” Seriously? Couldn’t he have just talked to me? No, that would require a certain kind of vulnerability, an admission of needs, which would require that he not be in control.

          Yes, I do sometimes wonder if he’ll find true intimacy with someone else. He seemed to find it with his coworker. I was with him 36 years and he never talked to me on the phone for more than a few minutes, but I discovered HOURS of conversation between him and OW (at 6 am on a Saturday no less!) I’m sure they talked a lot about work, and their mutual interest in horses, but my ex told others that “she really listened to him.” This drove me nuts because I used to beg him to talk to me, only to be greeted with stony silence.

          Maybe he will find a truly intimate relationship some day but he’s not going to find it with me. It takes trust to have that kind of intimacy and he broke that long ago. If our exes do find an intimate relationship it might be because of what they went through with us, but I kind of doubt my ex’s brain will ever work that way. Even his counselor told him his thought processes were very linear, another remarked that he might have a high functioning form of autism. My ex was very intelligent, a hard worker, the life of the party, but as for emotional intelligence he had a deficit. Either that or he just didn’t care.

    • My ex faked the love thing really really well. Sometimes it still confounds me how incredibly selfish and using he turned out to be because he faked compassion, selflessness, support and love so well in the beginning. I used to say he was the least selfish only child that I had ever met.

      • Kat, I could have written your comment myself. My ex husband is an adopted only child and at the beginning I always commented that whilst he was spoilt, he hadn’t been spoiled!! More the fool me.

        • I’m an adopted only child and I really got chumped. Being adopted has its own set of problems that can sometimes mirror NPD or BPD. Fear of abandonment does fun things to your psyche. That said, everyone is responsible for their actions. My problems made me a chump, but I’m not about to settle for half a life. Congratulations on losing the loser.

          • Kat, please do not think that I am in any way being derogatory to the adoption process or people who are adopted because I am not. I knew my husband was adopted when we were friends at 18 years of age(44 years ago) and it meant absolutely nothing to me because he was created the same way I was. I think a lot of my ex husband’s issue came from his toxic mother. I won’t even go into what I endured but it was just awful. I took her property and I was going to pay for it and pay for it I did. Just to finish, I was my ex husband’s greatest supporter and friend. They do not come any more loyal or supportive than me but it was not enough for him.

      • Kat, mine was the same way. He could appear to be kind and compassionate. Give me anything I asked for, even when I wasn’t really asking. Until it came to the one thing I wanted most – proof he wasn’t cheating. And like Alyosha, I would ask “how would you feel if you found out I had texted some guy 5000 times in one month?” His answer was always “I wouldn’t know b/c I wouldn’t check up on you”. Well, I bet if I gave him reason to check he sure as shit would.

        Anyway, his true narcissism started to show, when I began challenging his lies in earnest and making it obvious that he was lying. When I also stopped spackling, he stopped talking to me about anything but the kids.

        It’s still very fresh and it still hurts A LOT, but this site and my supportive friends and family are helping 🙂

  • I’m discovering how my mother in law’s narcissism and complete lack of self awareness (when I walk into a room I make memories for people and I’m the most important person in the room) really fucked (and still fucks) up my imbecile husband. She’s also a marriage therapist and social worker. The damage and lack of boundaries she pushes on people is suffocating, and she’s remarkably un-remarkable in every sense. Unfortunately she was a teenage mother so she’s young and will be in my life for a loooooong time. She would be beyond shocked if she knew her perfect son/perfect reflection of her has been in intense therapy trying to extricate himself from the inappropriate nature of their relationship. Personality disorders are fascinating. They’ve brought me to tears and to my knees my entire life, but still fascinate.

  • I’ve dealt with a love-bombing, harassing ex-cheater for months, who despite my being completely NC, has continued to send things via mail, email, text, and in every missive, he professes his undying love.

    Yeah, right. Of course he’s also neglected to ever own that he cheated, too, so there’s that.

    Truth is, I could care less what he claims or what he wants to call what he feels for me while he was falling all over however many women. I…and to me, I am the only one who matters in the equation at the point of discovery…cannot possibly respect or love a man who would treat me like that or who would conduct himself like that.

    So in my mind, he can blather on for as many more weeks or months as he wants about his “love.” I can’t hear him. There will be no power struggle, because I won the second I cut him out of my life.

  • Preach it, CL!! Recognizing this was the key to my breaking away from the narc ex, finally. Yes, I still loved him, and I believe in his own fucked-up way, he still loved me. But I was NOT going to live with someone who treated me with such disrespect any longer, and I certainly wasn’t going to show my children this example of tolerating disrespect in my marriage.

    My kids have asked whether I thought their dad loved them, and it’s led to long discussions ending in; probably yes, in his fucked-up way. They define this as the love that takes, the love that wants from others, without the flip side, the love that gives and takes pleasure in giving, the love that wants to see others happy as well.

  • At the beginning of bogus reconciliation, I actually expressed to my ex that I was concerned that he would never have any respect for me if I took him back. I said that it would show him that his infidelity wasn’t that big of a deal, and that I was willing to take abuse. Well, he replied that no, he would actually respect me much MORE for being willing to forgive him. What a bunch of shit. In reality, he NEVER had one drop of respect for me, and my reconciling with him DID merely excuse his abuse as far as he was concerned.

    Probably the main thing that bothers me now in looking back at the 20 years I threw away on that marriage is knowing the absolute CONTEMPT he had to have felt for me the entire time. How he must have enjoyed knowing how easily he could fool me, how quickly I fell for stupid lies, how he could treat me like an appliance yet I still stayed. I cringe a little bit thinking about all that, but I remind myself that the shame belongs to HIM, not me.

    • Oh Glad, I so know the feeling. There I was and my ex was fooling me all along, having affairs and threesomes with our “family friends” literally right under the noses of me and our children. And then it raises the whole bewildered train of thought, like why the fuck did he want to do that to me and us his family? So much passive aggressive disrespect and rage! While all along he acted like the most adoring and utterly respectful husband, always used to call me Mrs. “Kelly” when referring to me with others to demonstrate just how respectful he was of me, overdone to the point I used to get annoyed with him about it. So contrived, and all a mystifying act! When I handed him the divorce decree, he pretended to disbelieve we were truly divorced, and stumble back as if stunned and weakened, then announced that he still loved me very much. Then he promptly disappeared from our lives. At the end, at least we have that small mercy.

    • I know EXACTLY what you mean Glad. It’s like the last 20 years of my life have been one big lie! You make a good point though that it is HIS lie and HIS shame. I need to move on.

  • This is so timely for me. In the skein of fuckeupedness, I am still stuck on how disrespected I feel. I intellectually realize that in the ex’s life no woman is actually “special.” Whether he marries them or has them on the side, every woman is the “other woman.”

    He’s married another one and I struggle with not telling her he was still chasing and having sex with me through most of their courtship until I learned of her existence and went no contact. Yes, I still thought I was special and we had so much history (He even still told me as much! LOL) and we would work things out eventually but I was just a chump. I can now see, though, how little he also respects the woman he was living with and, I think, recently engaged to, the last time he had unprotected sex with me. They look so happy on fakebook but I have no doubt he hasn’t been faithful and would jump at the chance to get naked with me again. He doesn’t know that I know he got married again. This also speaks to the recent Revenge post. I do have fantasies of outing the NPD Evil Toddler so I’m obviously not at meh yet…

    • This happened to me as well – the sleeping with me while he was with the current. And i just asked below if he could have changed and now respects her. Forehead slap.

  • Hmmm. Well, I suppose at least my husband was honest.

    ‘I don’t love you and never will again’ [but don’t talk about divorce]

    • Patsy, my husband was brutally honest too. “I don’t love you any more. I am in love with her.” But at least that shortened the process:: Dday then he was gone for good.

      • Mine said to me one night after dday, as I lay on the couch, “I’m sorry. I never loved you. I just never loved you. I wasn’t a good husband. I never loved you.”

        Ew-kay, that’s enough saying that, please.

        He’s so fucked up in the head.

        • Mine kept repeating how he never felt any passion for me and never should have married me. Yeah, well, thanks buddy. I’m so glad you robbed me of 20 years of my life.

          • Mine said, “Every thing about MY LIFE is perfect, except for YOU.” Twenty eight years together, three beautiful children. What a fucked up LEGACY to leave your family. He is welcome to his new whore. Maybe SHE can make him happy. Her third marriage. His second. Best of Luck to them both. Lol

            • My exH couldn’t say the words “I don’t love you”. He wasn’t man enough.
              He did say, “I will always care about you, you are the mother of my children”.

              Then he went off radar for nearly a year… his definition of caring didn’t include keeping the promises he made or any concern for our welfare.

              • OMG Verity!! I got the same damn answer when I asked him if he loved me. “I’ll always love you because you are the mother of my children.” What bullshit. And..he would NOT come out and say that he loves the OW. He’d hem and haw, and say “I don’t know” over and over again. Coward! Just man up and say you love her! But within a few days of Dday he was with the OW; and apparently they plan to get married. Gee..but you couldn’t be man enough to admit to my face that you love her. And eff her. The bitch knows that he abandoned his family for her and has no problem with it. A couple of dysfunctional assholes. I hope they rot in hell together.

              • When I asked my ex if he loved me, during our bogus reconciliation, he replied, “I need a lot of zest and excitement in my life. If you can just do those things, I could give you your heart’s desire.” Sheesh, talk about word salad. It’s a simple yes-or-no question. At the time, this particular incident really hurt, but now I look at those words and just shake my head in wonder and disgust.

              • Verity and Sandy. Same here “I’ll always love you because you are the mother of my children” I also got a little of the “I am and always will be your biggest fan” What a load of horse shit. Last time I checked fans made clubs for the people they admired, not fucked them behind their backs! Mine is with the OW when it’s not his turn to have our kids. Our daughter is 17 and he won’t risk her finding out about the OW b/c then she would see that daddy isn’t perfect. Of course he hasn’t admitted a thing to anyone. His bitch not only knew he was abandoning his family, but abandoned her own as well. I’m taking bets on which of them will cheat on the other first!

    • Patsy, mine said the exact thing: ” I don’t love you anymore , the love cannot be restored, infact I don’t think I ever loved you but I don’t want divorce” I’m happy to live like this, many people live like this”…. He said all of these while having affair after affair… I took it for 13 years & I still cannot understand how mad he is is that I finally filed for divorce…probably the financial implications & loss of control !

  • When he was caught, my cheating fiancee was a puddle of remorse. Crying, apologizing, going to therapy alone, “doing the work” to win me back. He said that he always loved me, throughout the 50 or so extra-curricular fucktimes, that he would always be ‘in my corner’. I could still never understand HOW he could say he loved me when he manipulated me and groomed me to never bat an eye at his sometimes weird and emotionally abusive behavior (now I know = spackle). He saw the chump, and used the chump.

    After I threw him out, he hacked into my google account, read my personal journal, my chats with my friends and family who called the shitbag every name under the sun, and then he was FURIOUS to learn about my true feelings towards him now that I see the truth and read that I am actually looking forward to never talking to him again.

    With the character disordered, it’s like they *think they know love. They say and do all the things that they see people who are in love doing, mimic them, but never really feel it because all they can do is love themselves.

    CL, after reading this post, I can mark today as the first day in this three months of post-discovery hell that I said to myself “holy shit, did I dodge a bullet.”

    Thank you SO very much for your strength which sets me on the right foot every day.

    • Mine said he loved me more than he’d ever loved anyone. And I think to him he could compartmentalize. Before I found out all of the gory details (and figured out just how depraved he was), he did go to counseling and read books and try to win me back. Although everything sounded hollow to me. In fact if anything those attempts showed me that he truly didn’t love me as an individual. That was hugely disturbing to discover. Once the real shit came out shortly afterwards I told him that doing those things meant there was no love no matter what he said. One of the weirdest things he said to me right after that was “Why did you get pregnant if we weren’t meant to be together?” It was such a strange statement/question coming from a man in his forties. Especially after I’d just discovered that he’d been sending pics of his dick and planning to meet guys for NSA blowjobs about six weeks before our wedding. “MEANT?!” Like getting pregnant was up to fate? Or that I was just going to hang around while he got to have this other life? Clearly some part of him and his sense of love was locked in the teenage years. Selfish and unrealistic. And I do think it’s true that some NPDs are looking for that holy grail of unconditional love, never realizing that adult love is conditional.

      • Aaaa the pregnancy issue… my co-worker’s cheating whore wife got pregnant right around the time she was fucking 2 different guys she found online. Poor little chump he was, he had no idea until he discovered her three affairs almost 5 years later. The big question became: are the 2 children are apparently fathered even MINE? He was devastated having to go through the humiliating DNA testing, and unfortunately I never got to find out what were the results because shortly after he quit due to his severe depression. I remember him telling us that the whore wife used similar lines a la “why did you make kids with me if you knew about my past?”- she was a stripper for years right before they met, cough cough a prostitute is probably a more accurate description.
        Poor schmack probably was hoping to rescue her from her whoring ways but as they say, leopards don’t change their spots. Once a whore, always a whore.

    • Glad this post helped you MJD. 🙂

      On disordered people and love — I think they feel something. But I translate that something as “you are of USE to me.” So when the useful thing is threatened with being taken away, they lose their shit.

      And yes, they mimic the ways “loving” people act. They just can’t sustain it or connect it to anything else, IMO.

      • Yes, they lose their shit. I remember early on in my relationship with ex my hinky meter was binging like crazy and I distanced myself from him several times – and threatened to leave several more times, basically because he didn’t seem to get basic things about a relatinship. It all seemed minor at the time – nothing you could really point at and say ‘there! that’s why he’s fucked up’ but they were bugging me. Anyway, I loved him so it wasn’t hard for him to smooth things over but now I look back and realise that is wasn’t love that he had for me, it was desperation to have me there, because he didn’t have anyone else lined up.

        I’ve seen this with final OW. She wasn’t the only one, even when he was seeing her, but she was the most available and the most hooked, so she is where he landed when I kicked him out. And when she tried to dump him early on (probably when her hinky meter was screaming) he panicked and smoothed it over (I know this because he did it in front of the kids).

        Now she’s well and truly hooked and I figure he’s slowly stepping back, as he did with me, while keeping up the nice guy front. It’s quite scary to see it play out almost exactly the same way, with minor variations.

        I don’t think ex feels much other than a desperate need to be validated, and he’ll take that from whomever is offering.

        • Nord, same with my ex too!! Spot on about then not getting basic things about relationships, but hard to pinpoint one glaring thing, so easy to sparkle.

  • I’m just curious, and Sorry if this is a T/J. But say your cheater doesn’t respect you, and looking at my past yes, i agree with this assessment. Could he then turn around and be with a partner who he respects and – well – change?

    • Really highly unlikely. All cheaters lack respect but not all of those who lack respect in a relationship cheat. It’s possible I suppose for someone to grow and learn to respect in a relationship which can occur with a different partner. I think cheating is about more than just the respect issue and so isn’t likely to clear up just because this one thing is taken care of. Although I have always wondered about people who cheated but then went on to seemingly happily and respectfully long term partner with someone else. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie being an example. What do we really know about celebrities though?

    • People don’t generally get character transplants between relationships.

      End of the day, it doesn’t matter — if he’s disrespectful to YOU, is that a deal breaker? That’s who he is with YOU. He might respect his boss, his mother, his next GF — fact is, he doesn’t respect YOU. So you have to act on that knowledge and how it sets with you — not who He Might Be and His Potential.

  • I have been in both situations. His first affair I decided to stand by him. It was my choice and I really don’t think I forgave him deep down. I hung in there and made the best of it. When he all of a sudden said he wanted out of the marriage, I didn’t argue or took his feeble excuse as honesty. I packed up 28 years in about 2 weeks and left. I decided not to ride the fucked up bus any more. It crushed me but I kept my self-respect. I found out 2 weeks later that he was having another affair. Not to my surprise but crushing all the same. I have been though all the thousands of emotions one can go through in this situation but I have never grovelled and have taken the high road on all matters. I went NC as soon as I found out and now it has been a year and I feel it was the best thing for me. We still have to get the separation agreement settled and the divorce but he knows that he can’t control or disrespect me any more. I respect myself far too much to let him continue do that to me. Step away and they only have themselves or people like themselves to play with.

  • Thanks CL, pretty much nails my cheater. Of course he loves having me for doing the cleaning, cooking, the tough part of parenting, entertaining his friends, all-purpose safety net and low-effort lay. Respect? The man doesn’t even bother picking up his underpants off the floor and doesn’t clean up when he misses the toilet.

    But, off topic, I need new music. His favorite is electronic stuff from 10 years ago like Paul Oakenfold. Now I hate, hate, hate it. I’d love suggestions. To start off the list in the bluegrass/country I’d suggest written-for-chumps “Blue Moon” by the Railsplitters.

    • New music. Paolo Nutini. Citizen Cope. Patty Griffin (Peter Pan) actually her best album Is the one titled A Kiss in Time. Played that over and over. For a whole year. Some days with my ex in our 28 year relationship were great but another Chump said it best. These people never really feel or grow up. Every decision he made was of benefit to him. Moving away from family and friends. Financial decisions were the most obvious. He just kept refinancing. Affairs are expensive. I always felt like something was missing, in fives years of dating he still wasn’t ready to commit. The OW same exact courtship. Long distance. Concerts. He was good at a lot of things but not really successful at any thing that mattered. Relationships most of all. I think for a lot of these people there is something missing. CL’s tale of the little girl and cookies is pretty much spot on. My goal to not have the dysfunctional relationship I witnessed. And I still chose it. I know I deserve someone who will love me and not treat me like an object. And Chump Son is right these people fail when they realize they are no longer sparkley. Real people know it’s not all about appearances.

        • Not the same genre, but clever and very to the point for the lying asses we have all left.

          You Lie by the Band Perry

          I made it my theme song in relation to him for a good month

  • My ex said the following on different occasions:

    “I did/do genuinely love you for who you are.

    I do respect you a lot.”

    I told him that he did neither. He did not love me, he loved the fact that I was there to help him a lot. He never respected me, how can he? He doesn’t even respect himself. He has no concept of neither, he doesn’t understand what any of these things mean: love, understanding, respect, value. He thinks he does, but he doesn’t.

    Also if they go from ‘I care about you’ to ‘you ruined my happiness with the OW’ in the same breath… it is hard to believe them.

    • I finally started looking at my ex’s behaviour, instead of his words, and looking at what behaviours were most consistent, compared to which ones were rare.

      And I stopped spackling and making generous assumptions about him.

      Not a pretty sight, once my eyes were opened. Sigh.

      Now I teach my kids that love is a VERB. We judge people by what they do, not what they say.

      • Yep, my ex was the most excellent talker. Yeah, he was sparkly but what really got me was his talk on values. Which when watching actions became quite clear were non existent. I agree, I am also going to teach my son that lesson. It’s what you do not what you say. Which is frustrating for me because I am a woman of my word so I guess I assumed when you espoused excellent values you meant them. All of my ex’s words matched with my values perfectly. Now I have a hard time believing anything anyone says. Hopefully my kid doesn’t get my suspicions, just my wisdom.

        • Totally agree – I look at his actions, saying sorry but at the same time berating me for contacting the OW. Wanting me to do things for him but never helping me. His attitude has been horrible – that is what I see now. That beyond all the words, that mean nothing, there are the actions, or lack of actions that truly show his character, the double-standards.

          • Exactly! The cheater’s words and actions seldom line up. I listen to him then I watch what he does. Then I stop listening to him because his behavior consistently shows me that his words mean absolutely nothing. He IS his behavior and his behavior is shitty and indifferent to me and his children, except when HE NEEDS to feel admired and cared about so that it appears he was and is a good parent.

            Perhaps one day I will present him with a T-Shirt that reads, “Beware! I’m Full of Shit! Trust Me At Your Own Risk.”

            • Chump Princess, my ex is now specializing in saying things that make him LOOK like he’s going to do something admirable or helpful. I bet it makes him feel great! Then later, when he’d actually have to do it … couldn’t I just take care of it? He’s sooooooo busy (yeah, and I have a more-than-full-time job, like him, AND I’m raising our kids single-handedly because they refuse to see him anymore, AND I’m taking care of the family home alone, as well). I have learned to keep calmly persisting with my requests that he DO what’s promised to do. And since I no longer care if that pisses him off, it’s SO much easier!

              Hollow, that’s what he is.

    • Also if they go from ‘I care about you’ to ‘you ruined my happiness with the OW’ in the same breath… it is hard to believe them.

      Heck I got the “you ruined my relationship with the OW” on Dday! He was pissed at me because I had the NERVE to call the OW and identify myself. He wanted to “talk to her himself” once I found out. I never got any caring response from him other than “I will always love you. You are the mother of my children. I want a divorce.” I was one of those who never had the chance to do the old “pick me” dance. Once I found out on Dday, that was the end for him. No question about it. He wanted to be with the OW..the love of his life and his soul mate.

      • Sorry to say, but nothing surprised me anymore when it comes to character disordered. Mine had the audacity to resent me for contacting OW after I’ve found expensive text exchanges on his cell. After I “confiscated” the phone and left the house to talk to her alone, he promptly drove in a hurry to her apartment to “warn” her that crazy lunatic ex is in possession of his phone. The ironic and quite comic twist of events was that OW was already (still?) fucking someone else and that person made her call the cops and accuse my cheater of harassment (oh yes, he was in wuv.) Idiot skank turned out to be totally not interested in pursuing any kind of relationship with him and wound up taking him to court for stalking. You couldn’t write a better script yourself.

        • Monika,

          Thanks for making me laugh! Thanks for sharing that. That is just too awesome! Amazing how messed up a cheater is in their mind that they think they are the ‘one and only’ for their AP.

          My cheater’s OW was doing a total of 6 guys while she was cheating with my husband! Yeah….Sick! And one of the six was her husband! Yeah….Married with 2 toddlers & she is cheating with 5 other guys. Messed up broad…….Dime a dozen, those kind……She has since had another child, did not know who the father was until it was born and she could see who the baby looked like.

          Forge on, friends…..

      • I know, he even told me after he found out I had contacted her “I told you not to meddle” to which I responded “I told you not to cheat”

        But anyway it was 8 months ago and she only read my message this weekend, I managed to retrospectively ruin his happiness with her apparently. Obviously I am THAT good at ruining people’s happiness (they broke up a couple of weeks after I dumped him 8 months ago, basically because the rose-tinted glasses he saw her with were gone).


  • OMG..Chumplady breaks it down once again. I wasn’t married to my cheater but we were together for ten years. My parents and sister hated him (duh). My mom confronted me a few months ago. I was ready to defend my relationship until she looked me in the eyes and said, “Do you respect him?” I couldn’t answer her. I found CL shortly after that and the rest is history. Been NC for a month…on my way to the sweet land of MEH!

  • Spot on, CL. My ex definitely did not respect me. He used to make off-handed comments about things, that I never took seriously, such as how my job wasn’t that important…not as important as HIS, anyhow. After we were married and the mindfuckery ramped up, I started to realize that he was *serious* – he really didn’t respect my job or friends or hobbies or way I did my hair or anything.

    Once he even said it out loud. It was one of the worst memories with him.

    • I’d like to add that mine also said the “I love you, but I’m not in love with you” crap. Uggh. I can say that although i care about my ex, I no longer love him. It’s freeing.

      I do, however, love Breaking Bad. Yeah, science!

    • What made me wonder if my xh didn’t respect me was that he would tease me about something, even after I had repeatedly explained that I did not like it when he did that. But he would continue, long term. He did finally quite with a few things that I asked him to stop teasing me about though. So I was never quite sure, because he was just teasing me, right? It was a joke… I thought he just wasn’t too socially aware. (Which I also think is true.) I only occasionally had vague wonderings if he respected me enough. It didn’t seem clear to me at all. But now…if someone I was dating were to repeatedly tease me about things I had said I did not like or that upset me, I would make some pretty quick determinations that the person did not respect me enough. Live and learn I guess…

      • Teasing can be a GREAT way to be really, really aggressive to people, and then brush it off with ‘can’t you take a joke?’, or ‘you’re too sensitive!’.

        The measure is simple; is it teasing that makes you feel good, or is it teasing that makes you feel crappy? Someone can tease you about how ridiculous your new haircut looks, or they can tease you about all the admiring 0attention it’ll get for you; you see the difference!

        A lot of popular culture is built around ‘the put down’ (yes, I’m talking to you, Bart Simpson!!!). It’s really, really sick to consider cutting people down, showing off how stupid they might sound, or making them feel small to be smart and admirable. And lots of families, groups of friends and workplaces buy into this. Makes it horrible for anybody who’s not ‘on top’ at the moment.

        The rule in our house is; ANYTHING (from teasing to tickling to play-fighting) is only OK if BOTH people are enjoying it. Otherwise, it’s aggression, and gets treated as such.

        • Very true!
          I love the book ‘The Four Agreements’ because it focuses on this. It has helped me so much (thank you to my therapist for suggesting it). The first agreement is – be impeccable with your word.
          Being kind to people should be the norm, not the exception!! Especially with your partner.

  • ‘Love’ and ‘Respect’ go hand in hand. I honestly believe that if all cheaters went to a meeting and talked about that subject, most would conclude that yes, they did love their spouses, but they didn’t have respect for their spouses/partner. Just like CL pointed out “Cheaters may claim they love you, but they can never say they respect you. To lie to someone, to hide important truths about their life, to make unilateral decisions — these are acts of arrogance and disrespect.” My STBXW put on a dry-erase board on our refrigerator “I love you husband”. No, you don’t. Whilst, she is still seeing her OM, she thinks that I will be her cake. I asked for a divorce, and pending a divorce hearing next month. If the shoe was on the other foot, and I was the one cheating on her, it is a clear sign of disrespect towards her, our marriage, and our vows and I would clearly state through my actions that I didn’t truly love her. I decided that she can keep the other man. He also didn’t love his wife and his new born child and had no respect for his marriage either. Putting your spouse/partner in high regard and honor among all others is so important in a relationship. When a spouse cheats on you but yet claims that they love you is a complete lie. I found a quote that more or less relates to a man being cheated on “Just like a game of chess, the the Queen protects the King”. This also applies to anyone being cheated on as well. I loved and respected my wife (pre-infidelity) but I understood that I cannot change her, her behavior and her way of thinking. I told her on the phone that I lost all respect for her. Then I knew, that our marriage was over.


    So Robin Thicke and his wife are separating. So not surprising after he was caught in that picture with his hand on that 20 year old’s butt. Ugh. The man’s an idiot.

    “My only comment about the so-called scandalous photo would be that my wife and I are perfectly in love and very happily married.”

  • I have found my new favorite website here! You hit the nail on the head, Chump Lady. My ex demanded that the kids and I respect him, even though he acted in the most irreverent ways possible. My suspicions about him were right on, but I stayed because I had no proof. I went through a depression, and he actually stood over me, as I lay there crying my eyes out, and told me that I was just a “clerk”, although I was supporting the family, and that my sickness was affecting the whole family. It hit me that he never respected ME! My daughter, who was ten at the time, witnessed it, came up to me and said, “Does he really NEED to be here?” I have not suffered from depression since! We both went NC.

    • Oddly, once I got over the shock of ex’s cheating my depression, which had been around for longer than I realised, went away. I still have anxiety about money issues but depressed? Not for a very long time. Once he was more or less completely out of the picture I’ve been pretty ok.

  • This is great to remember! It doesn’t matter why the cheating occurred such acts are blatant displays of disrespect.

    During my brief reconciliation period, my ex had a million excuses as to why exactly he slept with my friend:
    ” I was in a bad place.”
    ” You were in a bad place.”
    ” We were in a bad place.”
    ” You want to end it soon after, so what’s the difference?”
    ” I had already mourned our relationship. The pain your feeling now is the pain I already felt.”
    ” You’ve never liked two people at the same time!?”
    ” You were depressed.”
    ” I’m sorry, ok?”
    ” I was scared.”

    A simple, “Fuck off, you didn’t respect me” may have silenced the mind fuckery sooner. I’ve moved out and enforced “no contact” but the pain of it all is still staggering at times. And yet, I cannot even express my elation of escaping such a cruel man!

    • ” I had already mourned our relationship. The pain your feeling now is the pain I already felt.”

      I got this SAME line, verbatim. Oh, so that’s supposed to make it all OK? Because HE “felt” it first? Unreal.

      • Yes, my stbxw said exactly the same, and that she had been going through it for 10 years. Why did I only now just hear about it? Because she’s a parasite who didn’t want to jeopardize her cake. I don’t think she respected me in any of our 30 years together. I see that only now.

  • These types are just incapable of respecting anyone, really. I remember my ex was so cold to his family, and I found myself being the one to entertain his family because he was on his computer all the time.

    And he wondered why there was “not enough physical attention” for him. God he sucks!

  • All I know is that my marriage was Fake, Fake Fake!! I burned every single picture and every single sweetie pie card he ever gave me because it was all total horse shit to me after I caught him with skank woman at the Econo Lodge. I never kidded myself for a minute after that, that he ever loved me OR respected me.
    I was married to a character disordered narcissistic POS. Plain and simple.
    The only time I talk to him now is if he tells me he wants to put money in my bank account. Money talks and BS walks. He left me to go be with his Twu Luv and I’m sure she doesn’t know that he gives me money to this day. I’m getting old and my hands are crippled. At least he must feels some guilt. Whoopey. He’s still a horse’s patuit. There’s nothing he can do to make up for the pain and heart break he caused me. Nothing.

  • Chump Lady, thank you for this post. It and the comments have helped me make some important connections in my head (and heart).

    And that chocolate donut example…well, we had a big fight once about another thing that was eerily similar. And I think it is right on target to say that the love is not interconnected. And that part about one pleasure being interchangeable with any other….ouch.

    But above all, I think it is the respect part that I need to learn the most about. My ex expressed his lack of respect through teasing of “playful” behavior. So I just assumed it was just teasing. But now I see that it was actually when he allowed his lack of respect to surface. I think it was also about control and putting me in an inferior position, but doing it in a way that when I called him out on it, I looked like I was overreacting and being too sensitive. He did it throughout our marriage, in various little ways, and it always upset me because I wondered why he continued after I had repeatedly, calmly explained to him why those comments/actions upset me. I just didn’t get it because I would never keep teasing/”joking” with someone in ways that upset them.

    • my ex used to refer to this as “pushing my buttons”. He would purposely say something that he knew would upset me… then he would get upset that I actually did get upset. Because he was “just joking”. Even the times when I would laugh it off (kinda) initially because I knew what he was trying to do, he would insist it was true/he was serious until I got to the point where I believed him and got upset… and THEN he would say he was joking. And THEN he would STILL accuse me of being sensitive and that is was just a joke. He was just “pushing my buttons”.

      Talk about a no-win situation, eh?

      • “Then he would get upset that I actually did get upset.” How true this was for me! By the end of the marriage I don’t think I was capable of showing any emotion because I wasn’t ever allowed to. When I would express a concern, I was told, “no, you don’t feel that way.” Finally I just shut down and didn’t show anything at all towards him. I guess that was when the Facebook affairs and eventually physical affairs started. And it was all my fault of course. These disordered individuals shouldn’t even be called human.

      • anotherErica, this reminds me of an ex-bf I had when I was younger and even stupider than when I was with the narc cheater. He would do stuff that really upset me, stuff that any living breathing human being could recognize would be upsetting to anyone’s significant other. At some point in the pointless ensuing discussion, I’d get so upset I’d be crying. And he’d say ‘you have to stop crying, you’re crying to make me feel guilty’.

        How sick is that? You see that the person you supposedly love is hurt and upset by something you’ve done, you actually feel a twinge of guilt, and your reaction is ‘you are crying IN ORDER to make me feel guilty, so stop it’.

        I didn’t know what gaslighting and blame-shifting were, then, but at least I recognized that as seriously pathological! If only my picker had gotten a little more fixed by getting out of that relationship ….

  • Another one that hit painfully home. My ex always thought he was superior to me. I remember once even articulating that thought to him and while he kinda laughed it off, he did not contradict me.

    It’s funny, I think he loved me (as much as he is capable at least) but still always thought he was better than me. We should probably all just be “flattered” that these cheaters actually considered us “worthy” enough to marry in the first place. There’s probably no higher compliment from a narcissist than being SECOND best 🙂 So yeah, I apparently would have been fine being second best… but not third… especially to a woman like the OW. Or maybe I was still second best in his mind, I was just a much more distant second place than I originally realized.

    I remember also telling him that he didn’t respect me during our “reconciliation” and he ridiculously tried to flip it around and say I don’t respect him (that’s his ridiculous counter-argument most times – even when it literally makes zero sense). And I was like, give me an example of how I haven’t respected you. And even he could not think of one and actually conceded he was wrong. Which never happens. But I think that is the crux to why reconciliation is such a unicorn… because by “forgiving” them, staying, means they will respect you even less. Or tells them that in fact you don’t even believe you are worthy of respect – which gives them even less reason to respect you.

    This has been the first article in a long while I actually thought about sending to my ex for him to ponder. But then I remembered I’m meh and don’t really care. He won’t ever get it.

    • I once joked with my ex that it seemed like he thought he was better than everyone else. He did not disagree with me either…

    • It’s like that old Groucho Marx joke: “I wouldn’t belong to any club that would have me as a member” Well, they don’t respect any woman that would have them as a husband.

      Looking back, I’d say that’s bang on. I also got the “You don’t respect me” bullshit. I knew exactly where that was coming from and exactly just what the OW was doing to him that he considered respectful.

  • I’ve learned so much here from you, CL and the community, and from counseling. All of us have or will learn the hard and long way that CL’s advice – even if we don’t want to hear it – is always accurate. The love without respect discussion really encompasses the whole of the issue.

    We believed they love us (and God knows we never even expected we’d have to wonder if they had “respect” for us?!?) – but they are incapable of loving anyone but themselves.

    We believed that they have our backs, that they couldn’t possible mean the hateful things they’ve said and done. Because WE would never do that to someone, least of all our spouse. But they don’t think like we do. We keep EXPECTING them to behave differently. To snap out of their “fog.” They don’t. They won’t. That is NOT WHO THEY ARE.

    The book “Why Does He Do That” gives pages of crisp explanation about abuse, and the reality that they benefit from being abusive – so they won’t change. There’s no incentive. Once I got this fact, I could look back and see so many examples of it. Narcs like themselves just as they are, thank you. Mine told me he was “drawing a line in the sand (that he wouldn’t work on our marriage).” No matter that you are on the floor weeping in agony.

    You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. We have to stop expecting them to act as we would. This expectation = pain. Because they keep showing us over and over who they REALLY are. (Loved your cartoon of the shark head behind the man mask … SO accurate.)

    As we’ve been taught, we don’t/won’t see it, because we spackle. We don’t want to believe it. (I still wake up in disbelief.)

    We eat the shit sandwiches (except for those who walked immediately – bravo!) because we don’t respect ourselves enough. Because we have not put ourselves first. We have made ourselves less in our own minds. Like you say, CL, it’s because we’ve drank the Narc Kool Aid for so long. I never even realized I was being abused. I thought that’s just “how it was” and pushed my own feelings aside. For years and years and years.

    This site helps us Stand. Up. For. Ourselves. Finally!

    The actions vs. words thing that CL has spoon-fed us from Day One of this blog is so right on, and another lesson that has taken me a long time to absorb. But again it is so accurate.

    He tells me: “We haven’t appreciated each other.” And, “I’ve made a lot of bad decisions.” The very next day, I leave town for the first time since DD. He brings her to my house. Oh that’s a surprise. Yep he kept making “bad” decisions … but NEVER changes his actions.

    He “says” he’s ended the affair at least 3 times. And every time, he’s been continuing it. Even after he agreed with a very pricey counselor that “He would be honest and open every day.” Unreal.

    He says point-blank: “I didn’t care how you felt about the affair.” !!! Months later, my counselor says, I have news for you: he has never cared how you felt about ANYTHING. Wow. She was soooo right. It was so clear by his ACTIONS. For YEARS. Talk about being a super chump. I just wasn’t listening. I believed his act.

    There is no respect here. As you say CL, trust that they suck. This is VERY hard to swallow. The anguish is crushing. But once you do – once you put yourself first, know that you only control you, and you really start depending and focusing on yourself, instead of their massive pile of BS – the pain diminishes. (I am 18 months out from DD#1, 7 months separated. My life IS better. I am getting to meh.)

    I have found the audios of Tara Brach ( to be extremely helpful in learning the art of acceptance. I have found the wisdom and caring words of this community priceless. Thank you and lots of hugs to all.

    • Thanks for sharing, Phoenix. I recognized the audacity of your NPD-ex when he said: “drawing a line in the sand (that he wouldn’t work on our marriage).”

      He dishonored the marriage by cheating (and more) and then made as if he was the burdened spouse who had to take a stand about what he would and would not accept from you.

      Since that term “drawing a line in the sand” means to create boundaries, it’s the usual narcissistic projection we all know: that they DARE to declare that they are doing something that they in truth are NOT doing, but that you ARE. And that they will use this twisted logic to ensure/self-justify their access to cake.

      • This is very interesting… My husband does this all the time. He told me the other day, “I’m not going to spend any time showing you that I love you. I’m putting boundaries in place. Either you trust me and know that I love you, or you leave. I’m not playing your mind games”. Okay. That little statement would make perfect sense if we didn’t have a mountain of past history where he shat all over me whenever I tried to trust him. That tends to make one question whether someone really wants to be with them. All I wanted was a freaking hug after he had just gone ballistic over our financial situation. Yeah, screwed up, I know. He treats me like an employee more than a spouse. I make most of the money. I’m our only real hope at this point of digging ourselves out of student loan hell. He screams in my face and calls me crazy, then gets upset when I break down crying and have panic attacks on my way to work. HE didn’t sign up for THIS. (This being the kids and debt we both got ourselves into.) HE’s going to LEAVE. HE doesn’t CARE if I fail my masters courses. Fuck him.

        • >>>“I’m not going to spend any time showing you that I love you. I’m putting boundaries in place. Either you trust me and know that I love you, or you leave. I’m not playing your mind games”. <<<<

          KT, your husband just said what should have been coming out of YOUR mouth, not HIS.

  • I do not believe that cheaters love. I don’t believe they hold firm moral values, and therefore have no clue how or what to love. I believe they chase whims and fleeting feelings, but never know satisfying joy. I do not believe that someone can love a person they don’t respect, as respect is ESSENTIAL to loving. Love is an appreciation for another person’s virtues (yes, I am paraphrasing my favorite philosopher), and if you don’t know what is virtuous, or don’t value what is virtuous, then you cannot love. It’s really quite sad, but cheaters are broken.

    Not all cheaters have NPD. Mine was passive-aggressive, and never felt that he measured up to others. He hid from confident people, as they made him feel worse. He stooped low to find a woman who was in no place to judge him. I suspect she has him by the balls, however, in that remarkable way that BPD women do. He thinks he loves her. I’m sure he feels something, but it ain’t love.

    • I agree with you. My stbx had OW for various roles he assigned them. He also purposely chose women whom he felt were beneath him “desperate” for the attention of a man. He uses them as long as they offer something new then moves on to the next available willing woman.

      He doesn’t want another wife, he wants me to stay. Why, because his ass is lazy and finding an honest woman who won’t cheat on him is his biggest fear. He’s been treading in the sesspool for so long he honestly can’t tell the difference between wife and ho. He is shallow and as long as they stroke his ego he thinks they are good people. Good luck with that!

      It’s scary out there, his next wife might cheat on him, lie, abuse him like his OW did to her hubby. She was a real gem cheating on her hubby who had some serious issues. Now stbx respected that, wanted to be with that,…..until stbx found out her lies to him. How dare she lie to stbx? How could stbx be so wrong! Not a good judge of character and stbx is seriously afraid of reaping what he has sown. My goodness OW was just using me as a step up!

    • Beautiful Miss Sunshine. You put that so well.

      I believe my ex is with a borderline personality (actually two border lines, and best friends who were willing to have individual affairs and group sex with him for 15 years). Shortly after D-Day, he told me he decided he loved one of them more than me and was going to marry her. As far as I know that hasn’t happened yet, nor has he moved 5 hours away to live with her also as promised. Now there’s a match made in heaven. I figure if he puts her off much longer she’ll go all Fatal Attraction on him….at least I’m hoping. 🙂

      • What is it with narcs and borderlines? My husband’s last EA (not sure if it went physical) was probably borderline. When he stopped contacting her when I told him I’d throw him out if he kept in contact, she went berserk in front of a group of his friends. Guess she thought she was super special or something. Guess what sweetie, you’re not. Neither am I. Welcome to my world.

        • X’s OW is Histrionic (At least that’s what I think), and A LOT like him!
          Alcky, shallow, gossipy, pot-smoker, pill-taker, clever and snarky, super self-centered and dramatic as hell. Multiple suicide attempts (then calls 911 to save her crazy ass).
          I read a great line once about what some people mistake for love- it’s two sets of disfunction saying ‘Hello’. That’s them for sure.

  • It took me ages to distinguish between love & respect. Sometimes when you are raised in a way where you learn never to receive respect, it is hard to understand what it looks like. This was how I was raised. I was never respected as a child, I was considered a lesser being, to behave exactly as instructed with no deviation permitted. I was loved but not respected.

    It has taken me a long time to work out what respect looks like, as opposed to gratitude. I’m a great pleaser. I feel secure knowing that I have pleased. But pleasing doesn’t earn respect and in many cases, it actually does the opposite. It is a deeply flawed strategy, because narcissists will never find you pleasing enough!

    So, to all you chumps out there, keep working on the respect thing. Respect yourself and then love yourself – respect matters more – in my opinion anyway.

  • My cheater used to tell me he cheated because of how bad he felt about himself after his STBX cheated on him. So his take-away from being cheated on was to cheat! Now that’s some powerful entitlement.

  • Yeah, no. I think you were right the first time, CL. Cheaters don’t really love… they’re not capable of that. They don’t know that thing. Lack of empathy. Big ole black hole right there where things like that belong. But I like how you put this out there, for the sake of argument. Because… the issue of love aside… nobody can argue that there’s no respect when someone cheats.

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