Dear Chump Lady,
My story is a bit different than others I’ve seen on your site. I didn’t find out about my boyfriend’s cheating until after he died. I have been from rage to grief and back to rage in the blink of an eye.
The bare facts are that my BF died in an accident about 4 weeks ago. I didn’t witness the accident, but was on the scene within minutes and I tried to surround him with love as he departed this existence. We knew each other for more than 20 years, first as friends and then lovers. We never lived together and in fact rarely lived in the same town. But he was my only sexual partner for the past 15 years.
The nightmare began four days after he died, while I was planning his funeral with his parents. A woman called his phone and left a voicemail that she was waiting for him at a bar. Very seductive message. I thought WTH? What did you do BF? In the couple of weeks after the funeral, I dug into his cell phone records, then his journals, then photos. I found that in addition to the woman waiting at the bar, he was in regular contact with at least two other women, intimately. As in hours-long phone calls, and photos of one of them sitting on an unmade bed (!) This went back a couple of years. Many of the phone calls coincided with weekends we spent apart on one excuse or another or times I was out of town. I discovered photos of a secret camping trip with an ex-girlfriend, which took place 14 years ago. The journals were even more shocking. He was having sex with strangers he met on the internet, women he met at sandwich shops and coffee shops, and prostitutes. Two men were mentioned, but that isn’t the most shocking thing I found — the phone number for a pre-op transgender prostitute. I never knew this man. His entire life was built on a quest for risky sex, secrets, and lies. I was the best thing that happened in his life, and he crapped all over me.
I suppose what I’m finding the hardest to deal with is that my anger is unresolvable. I imagine the confrontation I would have if he were here. I imagine my yelling and calling him a liar, cheater, fraud, sleazebag, and potentially diseased penis-man. I imagine yelling at him, is this how he wants to be known by his friends? professional colleagues? parents? I imagine his face contorting in sorrow and pain.
At the same time, I am glad that he isn’t here causing any more harm, deceit, and pain to me nor to anyone else. And — at the same time, I am grieving this man that I thought was my partner, and missing the happy times we had. And, at the same time, realizing that the happy times were an illusion.
Perhaps I should count my blessings, that I have my own house, separate finances, independent life, etc. I made an appointment to be checked for STDs next week. Assuming I have a clean bill of health, I should be able to go forward without a backward glance, right?
Thanks in advance for your help,
Well, unfortunately it takes more than an STD test to move on from this sort of crap. On the bright side, nothing makes “no contact” easier than death. So in a weird way, consider yourself lucky. You could’ve had that confrontation with him, and then you could have had months or years of false reconciliation and mindfuckery.
Look, the anger feels unresolvable with the living or the dead. It’s not as if he could’ve explained himself. His misdeeds speak for themselves. He’s 77 flavors of fucked up. His “explanations” would be self serving, blame shifting, gaslighting, or feigned apologies. He’s a guy who lived a double life as a sex addict (if you believe in those… horny motherfucker works too). He is a person who never committed to you in 20 years.
If you want to move on from this, ask yourself the hard questions about who you were in that relationship. Was it acceptable to you? Did you want to be his sometime, long-distance girlfriend for 15 years? You clearly gave a lot of yourself to this man, to the point you were there when he died and you helped sort out his effects. What did he do to earn that devotion? Be your part-time hiking buddy?
Yes, he did not deserve you. So in the future, set the bar higher for those you love. Demand reciprocity in your relationships. Value yourself. Maybe the whole long-distance lover thing worked for you, you preferred it. But those sorts of arrangements don’t lend themselves to deeper intimacies. It stays at a shallower level when you aren’t there to sort out who pays the mortgage, walks the dog, visits the elderly parents, rakes the leaves, nurses the other through the stomach flu. It’s perpetual dating. And hey, you had every right to expect the exclusivity that I assumed he assured you of. I’m just saying, IMO it’s a red flag that he never took the intimacy with you further. The guy wanted his freedom for some reason — and apparently that was to leave his calendar open for transvestite prostitutes. In that sense, at least he was a somewhat honorable cheater — he didn’t marry you, have children with you, ruin you financially, and then make you his chump. Small comfort, I know.
Go be the “best thing” in YOUR life. You won’t crap all over you. Go be awesome to yourself. Forget this guy. We all have lost investments here, Grieving. Every chump grieves who they thought their cheater was. You have the gift of irrefutable evidence as to who he was. And he’s not there to mindfuck you and convince you otherwise. He’s not there to hurt you anymore. If you learn from this experience, and value yourself more in your next relationship, those 15 years with him were not a waste. He’s dead. You get a new life.