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Dear Chump Lady, So what does a good relationship look like?

Dear Chump Lady,

So after reading so much about dysfunctional relationships, and having lived through one for 30 years, I’m not sure I’d recognize a good partnership if it came up and bit me in the ass. What makes a good partner? How will I know if I’m looking at one?

Would you please write about this? Maybe suggest some books?


Dear Andrea,

Well your first clue when a good partner bites you on the ass (uh metaphorically speaking, unless that is your kink or something) is that it feels good. Not a super sparkly SWOON! and then creeping doubt, and icky gut feeling. Not good and then poof! Where’d you go? Not good and then not-so-good, and then good again, then pits of despair, then high-as-a-kite ELATION, then hypervigiliance, then gloom…

Just good.

Good character tends to be consistent. Good people are solid. They do the things they say they’re going to do, versus setting expectations and then feigning bewilderment that they ever promised anything. They own their selfhood, versus mimicking some trendy personality of the month. (Today I’m Gwyneth!) They act on their values, versus pretending to have values, and have shitloads of opinions, but never gets off their ass and does anything.

Good people aren’t all razzle dazzle. I’m not saying they don’t have certain charms or romantic abilities, but there is an absence of that narkle charm offensive. I WILL MAKE YOU LOVE ME, DON’T YOU LOVE ME? TELL ME AGAIN HOW YOU LOVE ME! YOU’RE THE BEST! Good people are straight forward in their interest, they don’t love bomb. Nor do they deliberately keep you off balance, comparing you to other people, goading you into the pick me dance.

But the number one sign you’re in a good relationship is reciprocity. If you do for a good person, they want to do for you. They get pleasure in pleasing you. Chumps have to allow that. Oh, that’s a hard problem? I’d love that problem! you’re thinking. No, seriously, chumps have to learn to take. We prefer the driver’s seat on the giving thing (perhaps co-dependently thinking we can control others through our service and prove our worth) and narcs just adore that dynamic. “Give me more, oh hey I suppose that will do (sigh), but you missed a spot.” No, a good person is all “Thank you! That’s so thoughtful! And next time, my treat, okay?” And then they FOLLOW THROUGH. Next time really IS their treat.

The reciprocity thing is the key. When things are mutual, copacetic and reciprocal, no one is chasing. Wooing? Sure. I mean chasing, as in the narc is love bombing you or being a withholding ass (which goads you into chasing them). A good relationship evolves organically, feels good, and gets better over time. It doesn’t feel difficult.

I’m sorry, that’s so frustrating. By God if it required huge amounts of effort and research, we chumps would be experts at finding good mates! We could earn them with gold stickers and extra credit points. But alas, they’re just gifts out there, and hopefully we’ll stumble across a gem, and know it when we see it.

But how do you find a good person? (Or improve your odds?) Wherever your best self is. I don’t think that’s online dating, because no one’s best self is there, just a PR attempt at a best self. I think you need to go where you’re happy, whether that’s a comicon, or a hiking meet up, or a political campaign, or a church, or an art class — wherever you’re doing your groovy, happy thing. Be friends first. Good people like the same things you like about you. You don’t like you? Don’t think you have a  best self? Work on that.

As anyone who reads here knows, I’m married to a good guy. After years in the trenches with bad marriages. It’s so, so, SO different. Part of my evangelical zeal to get you the hell out of bad relationships is so you can experience the joy of a good one. (And if you don’t want another relationship, that’s fine. Skip today’s post.) It’s like seeing the world in Technicolor after thinking it was black and white. Same for my husband (same bad trench). We’re super appreciative, and I think we’d just take each other for granted if we didn’t know how sucktacular it could be, so chumpdom can be a gift.

A good relationship isn’t devoid of conflict, but you work it out. You admit fault. You talk things through. You see the bigger picture. You try to understand that he doesn’t collect bad oil paintings of Texas landscapes just to antagonize you. That some people really do appreciate tumbleweed and want to honor barren wasteland by depicting it in home decor.

A good relationship is seeing him sprawled on the sofa after dinner, flipping through inane TV channels and he says “I’d like some fruit” and the only thing you have in house is a pineapple, but you go core a fresh pineapple for him, and bring it to him on the sofa and he beams. 

It’s the little things. No one is going to post pineapple on their Facebook page. It’s not a Caribbean cruise. Nobody is envying our domestic pineapple consumption. It’s those small acts that say “I’m listening to you, you had a hard day, let me do something nice for you.” He does the same for me. 

Finally, a tip from my husband for you ladies and gay men — he says the secret to making men happy is “The Three Effs” — food, flattery, and fucking. You do those things well, you’re golden. He should write a book.

Chumps happily on the other side — any advice? Book recommendations? What does a good relationship look like to you?

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at [email protected]. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • A year ago, I met an amazing and sweet man in a group activity doing my favorite thing in the world. Another similar activity the following weekend, and he was part of the group again. I remember thinking, where were the great guys like this when I was single? I was still with my cheater (I was pretty sure he was cheating, just didn’t have the proof).

    mr. wonderful (and I left that intentionally non-capitalized, because he IS wonderful, but he just is…doesn’t promote himself, not trying to impress anyone) asked me out in the sweetest way. I told him that I was involved with someone; I didn’t think it was going to work out, but in the meantime, I had to honor that relationship. His reply was respectful, hilariously funny and left the door open.

    Fast forward a few weeks, and cheating proof was had. I left the narc in my dust immediately. A month after that, I started dating my new guy, and he is more wonderful than I could imagine. Loves me for who I am, will cook for me, fix things in my house and misses me like crazy when I’m not with him. He goes out of his way to figure out what would make me happy, and he makes it happen. Has been there for me when I’m sick (and that’s no party), and still says there’s no place he’d rather be. He’s also a former chump, so he understands where I’ve been.

    I’ve tried the online thing. Met a few nice people and a lot of idiots, emotional infants and narcs. It was so very nice to meet someone who already loves to do what I love to do. I think one of the best things is that when we met, I wasn’t looking, didn’t feel like I had to live up to some profile or his expectations (nor was I wearing makeup and nice clothes).

    I knew I was going to leave the cheater, whether I found evidence or not, and I had made my mind up that I just wanted to be alone and please no one but myself. In fact, my objective, when I met mr. wonderful, was to redevelop my own life and interests, and take care of me, since the cheater was completely incapable after he got tired of the sparkle charade. God had other plans, and I couldn’t be happier that I listened!

  • I’m absolutely certain that I am in no way an expert on a “good relationship” since I am in the process of a bitter divorce but I would say that Chump Lady is on to something here! A good relationship to me is someone HEARING me when I speak, not just listening…..and me returning the favor in kind. A good relationship is giving and receiving support in all areas of life, in careers, parenting, friendships, financial, taking care of elderly parents, etc. A good relationship is communication. A good relationship is passion, attentiveness, joy in sharing common interests and experiencing life’s joys. A good relationship is interesting dialogue with plenty of humor mixed in.

    The number 1 MUST for me is mutual RESPECT! I did not receive that from my soon to be ex-husband in my marriage. Obviously, his five year affair showed me that, but looking back I can clearly see that I never really had it. If he had respected me AT ALL I truly believe his affair could never have happened in the first place! If I fail to see respect in any future relationship……..It’s over. That simple!

    • Yes, Respect. I’m sorry I left it off the list — but it undergirds everything else. He treats me with respect, he treats other people with respect, he respects himself. He has integrity and that flows through everything. As I wrote, good character is pretty consistent.

      My exes could do the superficial “nice” things, but there was constant undermining, withholding, and efforts to keep me guessing. Total cycle of abuse. Flash point incident, hoover-ing, “honeymoon” period, tension… another abusive incident. And there was just poor character — lying about small shit, bad mouthing, feeling intensely sorry for themselves, laziness. When you don’t respect someone, it’s just over. People who don’t have integrity don’t respect others. It’s about gaming the system — how can I maximize kibble production at your expense?

      • CL, respect is everything and then some. I met a lovely widower nearly 4 years ago and we are nice platonic friends to this day. The very 1st time we got to speak was at a bbq and he asked me why I left my husband. Little did he know I was pushed out but I let it be. I did say to this friend that he would like my then husband as he was a really nice guy but he had no respect for me, so therefore my children have none for me. Without missing a beat my new found friend said, ‘then I don’t like him”. That one response struck me and I realised that maybe I was in the company of a man who was genuine. He wasn’t trying to impress me because he doesn’t have to. As I said, I have known him for nearly 4 years and he is still the same lovely chap I met on day 1.

  • Andrea, I am glad you asked this question. I am concerned about this as well, especially given the excuses I was told when he wanted out of the marriage (I never did xxx; dude, i can’t do it if you never ask/ tell me!)

    My exH for all appearances was a great husband and father. He changed diapers, he suggested conferences in foreign countries so we go together, he made wonderful homemade meals., he purchased tickets to concerts, wrote loving cards, bought me a musical instrument that I played back in the day and said I wanted to start up again…the list goes on.

    In hindsight it was the little things: saying nothing when I was crying about how angry I was with my (mentally ill) mother was in the house and I did not want that to destroy our marriage, never being the one to initiate sex, spending 3 hours on a homemade meal, never being the one to locate a sitter, never suggesting some alone time away from the kids and mother in law.

    He retreated, and it was not obvious as his nickname was “mellow.”. When I asked about things (because things were off) and increased my efforts towards our relationship (he admitted he saw it) he did nothing. Three times this happened, and now i know each time there was a PA or an EA. Now I know it was because he “loved”the first OW, the one he denied was an affair, and stayed in the marriage because he did not want to “hurt me and he did not think I would be able to forgive him.”

    This is why I worry about any future relationships. ExH was really good on the surface, and most signs were visible after a long time. I fear wasting my time in another such relationship. I am currently having a discussion a good mutual friend. She is a very loving person and believes that people do bad things, but that does not make them a bad person.
    I disagree when the person does the same thing more than once, as in my case!
    In the case of my ex, she says he simply did not know himself and that’s why he did what he did.

    I do believe there are good guys (in my case) out there, and I know there a good women (I am one!), but I am not sure how I will find one given my life as a single parent, and employment situation at a small place.

    Hope springs eternal!

    • zyx321: we must have married the same guy! Everyone thought we were the perfect couple: shared the same interests, we were at an equal level professionally, he cooked and cleaned and was way better at house-keeping than I was, acted as a midwife when daughters were born, we went on wonderful trips as a couple and then as a family, designed and decorated a beautiful home together…He also did not admit to the affair with the first OW, and said EXACTLY the same thing to me: that he “stayed in the marriage because he did not want to “hurt me and he did not think I would be able to forgive him.”

      In hindsight, I also had the feeling that things were off at the same times he had his EAs and APs and he also did nothing to improve the relationship and did not do the “little” things which are huge (like going to bed at the same time, or initiating sex, or recognizing when I lost weight or looked specially nice for him, or saying “good morning” “good night”, having dinner with the family, remembering my birthday, and I can´t remember the last time he said “I love you”). And after the girls were born he also started to criticize everything that was “me” like how I talked, the food I ate, what music I listened to, how I smelled, my clothing, my friends, my family, my parenting style, my work habits, absolutely everything….He only liked what I represented as an image for himself (typical Narc) how much money I made, my job status, and that I was his daughters mother. His two brothers are divorced and don´t have any property or a decent job or any children so he felt he was the only successful one to show his Narc father that he could achieve what everyone thought impossible when he was a child.

      But I totally agree with CL: we chumps are Narc-magnets because we are easy bait, so I think the first step is unchumping by the “loving yourself” part and then, not looking for anyone, but enjoying what you like best. I want to believe that a loving relationship, as CL points out, is not difficult, but easy because it grows naturally on who you are, because that is exactly what a loving partner likes, not what he imagines you to be if he changed you, or what he thought you were during the initial sparkly moments. And the best about enjoying your own company and learning to love yourself is that even if you don´t find another partner, you will be happy just by doing what you like to do…….

  • Love is an emotion we should feel toward our spouses, but even when you love someone there will be times you don’t like them very much. Instead of looking for sparkles and brilliant, instant love Disney Princess style, I look for respect and trust.

    Can you respect him/her? Can you trust him/her?

    Does he/she respect you? Does he/she trust you?

    Is the respect and trust there when you are having good times? Are they there when you are having an argument? Is the other person dictating or expecting you to do all the work? Does he or she talk about you behind your back instead of talking to you?

    Above all, actions speak louder than words. If his/her words are “you need to trust me” but his/her actions are a secret phone, that says more.

    • I completely agree Greengirl.

      When I look back on my relationship with STBX, I can see lots of moment where he was so self absorbed and selfish. He did not respect me and our relationship. If you respect someone, you don’t exchange naked pictures with other women, you don’t spend all your time on your cell phone talking to other women when your wife is right there in person in the same room, you don’t get together with other women by yourself and not include your spouse.

      I also didn’t trust him. He kept telling me that I was just being too jealous and that it wasn’t attractive. No, deep down I knew the truth that he would cheat on me as he had with previous relationships. I was trying to protect myself. What I should have done was end the relationship.

      Oh well, can’t change the past. My future will be fabulous!

    • GreenGirl,

      Appreciate the insight. Respect, trust, and honesty are high on the list for me too. Early on in my relationship with my now-XW, we actually broke up because she had doubts and thought she was interested in someone else. We got back together after a short time (pick-me dance?). Were there things I could/should have done better? Of course there were, nobody’s perfect. I know I probably took on too much and “tried to do it all” and asked for very little in return. I don’t really know now if I was ever truly respected, and think she was likely ashamed to have me with her near the end. The effort to try to do things together ultimately vanished because some of those things were things that “I wasn’t interested in” or “no babysitter was available” (she wouldn’t get one), even though these were things I would do just to be with her. I wasn’t told of the new things she needed in the relationship until it was too late, and she read that as my not caring what she did. I will admit to not communicating what I as well as I probably should have due to essentially having paralysis by fear and worry, but when I ultimately did communicate my needs to her, it didn’t matter – she didn’t care anymore.

      I was simply happy to have a marriage – I was happy to have the attention I got, and looked past insults and harsh criticisms because I thought “that’s what a man does”. I was happy to be there and now know it was in many ways a one-sided relationship and not the partnership that I hoped for.

  • This is the one thing I lost- the ability to ever trust someone enough to give them my heart. I am very content in my life and have many people who love me. Romantic love? The thought of it terrifies me and I am just not willing to experience the pain I went through when my 30 plus year relationship publicly imploded. I see so many women my age desperately looking for someone to love. Me? I have come to embrace being alone and yes, sometimes being lonely. But I just can’t put myself out there again. For me, it was like losing a limb. It’s gone and I don’t want a prothesis.

    • Louise, you and I are on the exact same page. I was married for 37 years and whilst it wasn’t perfect, I just can’t imagine being with someone else. We both might be missing out but on what, I am not sure.

    • Louise, I feel that way too. However, I have been a loner all my life. I have good friendships with women and other couples. In truth, I probably would have remained a loner had not my cheater approached me, many years ago. I just don’t have it in me to flirt or pursue another relationship with a preponderance of men in the field who have histories to rival my cheater along with other baggage. And, if someone approached me again, mirroring my likes and dislikes, I would be highly suspect of their motivation. I too see my single peers desperately looking for companionship. I applaud their courage and optimism, but for now, I am best as I am regaining my footing.

      • Louise, Maree and SeeThe Light, I really appreciate your perspective. Being raised to believe that I need a spouse in part got me into this mess. While I still imagine finding an honest, loving, trusting and respectful romantic relationship I also realize that if I am not these characteristics with myself it will be impossible to recognize this on someone else in relation to me. (That includes romantic ; )) I have a long way to go and your wise living of your lives without any or much pining for a romantic mate helps me believe I can weather my storms of longing, disappointment, hurt and loneliness. Much cyber-love to you all.

    • I too am in the same boat – with the same man for 33 years – 28 of them married. I had no clue anything was wrong as he acted the same (none of our family or friends had a clue either – we were the solid, perfect couple). When he exposed the fact that he no longer loved, me, wanted out of the marriage, and had been having an affair for several months, I was nearly destroyed. Thank god I had a job that demanded my full attention (not something I could just do on cruise control), otherwise I would have gone stark-raving mad and maybe hurt someone.

      Okay, it has only been 9 months, and the divorce isn’t final yet (only waiting for the courts to bless it), but I just don’t see how I can ever go thru that again. And since I picked a good guy, good for 27 years anyway, I just don’t see any way that anyone could assure me that it wouldn’t happen again.

      • I have many of the same feelings after being with my ex 36 years. He was the only man I’d ever been with. I’m currently in a relationship but can’t envision ever marrying or living with someone again. I don’t want to compromise or sacrifice so much of myself any more. I don’t want to completely rule out a wonderful relationship, though, and will remain open to that possibility. I don’t want to rule out miracles! LOL

        There aren’t a lot of men out there looking for women in their 50’s. I accept that’s just the way it is. Older men look for younger women, and there are a lot more women in the pool for them to choose from.

    • I feel the same way. I was with my serial cheater nearly 27 years and I just love my drama-free life that I can’t be bothered. A dear friend told me that may change, but for now, I am happily single, rediscovering myself and having a blast spending more time with friends and family. After all those years of angst, I am savoring every minute of peace.

    • I’m in the same boat as you all — married for 25 years, together for 30 — all my adult life — but I haven’t given up on love. I liked being married and part of a couple. I want to do that again. Just better this time. But I think I’ll be pickier. Wish me luck!

  • As I’ve said before, I don’t have the world’s best picker. So I adopted The Rules as a framework for evaluating and implementing a subsequent relationship. They’re a series of books by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider. So far so good… I’m coming up on my fourth wedding anniversary, and it’s been (mostly) smooth sailing, despite blending a family of now seven kids. Hopefully the books can be as helpful to others as they were to me. I was clueless. Best of luck to all of you… May you all get to “meh” 🙂

    • I like that… simple (so I might actually be able to remember it) and true!

  • The difference in my marriage and my current relationship was highlighted for me yet again just last night. I live alone in a not-so-great neighborhood. My big, protective watchdog died recently, and I have suddenly become really fearful at night. When dating my XH, I would never have shared this information. He would have been disgusted with me, or at the very least would not have taken any interest in the topic. However, my boyfriend and I spent quite a while talking about this last night, coming up with things I can do to feel safer. In the middle of the conversation, I had the realization that THIS is what love is. There were no butterflies, nothing sexy about it, just listening and caring about another person’s life.

    In my marriage, I felt that I had to “spin” everything. I was always modifying and editing in order to avoid a harsh judgment, an angry outburst, or the worst, total indifference to something that was important to me (yeah, got that one a lot). I remember a time when I was talking to my XH on my cell phone, and my best girl friend was next to me, hearing my end of the conversation. After the call ended, she said to me “Wow, you really have to HANDLE him, don’t you?” I was so taken aback. I hadn’t realized how much I had to do that.

    In my new relationship, I have never felt the need to put spin on anything. I just get to be myself, and he seems to take everything in stride. I am so relaxed around him. He is actually interested in me and my life! He is on my team! And I’m on his. I thrive in this relationship, and feel comfortable sharing my best (and worst) self. Oh, and when my energy is not being drained by stress and fear of judgment, I have rediscovered my sex drive. Who knew?

    • river, thank you for sharing your story because it also describes my daily editing, and “walking on eggs” strategy to avoid the angry outbursts and harsh judgments of my STBX…and what you wrote at the end about rediscovering your sex drive because you are no longer “drained by stress and fear of judgment” must be totally right and gives me hope for the future (I just filed my divorce papers a few days ago)! Thank you!

      • Good for you SA, you are on your way!!

        I think that the future looks good for so many of us in Chump Nation. We are all actively engaged in trying to move forward in healthy ways and learn from the past. I am not as burdened with baggage as I thought I would be, and I credit this blog (CL and all of you) for that.

    • Oh yes, admitting to weakness was always a big no-no with my ex too. There were so many things I stopped telling him because I felt he disapproved of drama, or too much emotion, etc.

      • It Starts becoming doomed the minute you feel the need to become “unhuman” in order not to be made to feel too intense, drama-making, too clingy,insecure, too emotional..whathavetheytobitchabout.

        Love is ” Warts and All “…
        and THE GUY is NOT gonna see your Humanity as ” Warts”.
        HE was the WART.

    • I, too, feel the need to downplay the uncertainty in my life. STBX is not only a “glass half empty” kind of guy, he’s also prone to see that it’s shattered with the glass posing a high risk to people in seven counties. Thus it was that when my period went on and on and on, and I had to go in for tests to ensure that this was just perimenopause and nothing else, I downplayed everything. STBX would have gone full on drama queen, and I just didn’t want to deal with it.

      My parents weren’t like that. They might have been concerned about each other, but never went into drama mode.

  • This is a really interesting topic for me right now, and I’m looking forward to what Chump Nation has to say.

    While I haven’t exactly reached Meh, the last week was some kind of breakthrough – Toddler Boi’s girlfriend has apparently left him, and of course he is Fomenting Drama. He tried to drag me into it under the guise of concern about our kids (first time since he left….) and I was surprised how easy it was to tell him when he called that I wouldn’t talk to him on the phone and hang up. I had no concern, no interest – it was like one of those phone solicitors had called.

    So I am moving on, finally. That has inevitably led to thoughts of perhaps letting someone else into my life once the divorce is done. Sometimes I think that there is no room for anyone else now, that I am loving the space in my life that used to be taken up with Toddler Boi and always meeting his needs and wants. How wonderful to not have to share a bed, to be able to sleep comfortably and well! To make what I want to eat every meal! To listen to music I love, have art on the wall that inspires me, listen to silence if I want to.

    I don’t know if I can share again or adapt to someone else. And I don’t know if there is anyone out there that would love the things I do. It’s taken me a long time to get here, and I am not willing to give up much for another relationship. I guess that is what I want to ask Chump Nation – how much of your life do you give up for someone new?

    • ” I guess that is what I want to ask Chump Nation – how much of your life do you give up for someone new?”

      Substitute one word and that question will read, “–how much of your IDENTITY do you give up for someone new?” And, your answer should be: NONE.

      When we share our lives intimately with another individual there are going to be necessary compromises and accommodations with respect to things that are not essential to our personal identities. (Like CL’s accommodation of her husband’s taste in art.)

      It is when we begin to compromise values and principles in order to maintain a relationship that we start sacrificing our identities. Erosion of identity inevitably leads to inner conflict, resentment, and eventually deterioration of the relationship.

      People who are “in love” (or more likely “in lust”) don’t tend to have thorough discussions and clarification of values and principles. They experiencing such overwhelming “feelings” that they ASSUME the relationship will always be that “awesome.” But once the limerance stage fades (and it always does) they wake up to the reality that long term relationships are not about sex nor even about being ” in love”; they are about established common values and principles, integrity, respect, and endurance.

      • Well said, notyou!

        exrepeatedme, I think in a good relationship, it doesn’t feel like “giving up” — you want to share and accommodate. And it’s easier because of reciprocity — they’d do the same for you. Grown up love comes with certain prices of admission (which are NEVER abuse), but things like yeah, accommodating Western art, or in my case, moving to Texas, or blending families, or understanding my family expects annual migrations back to Michigan, etc. If you’re secure in yourself and your love for each other, these things may sometimes chafe, but they don’t undermine your identity. You gladly pay the price of admission to have this wonderful person in your life. Hope that makes sense.

        • Thanks, notyou and CL – I need to hear these things articulated.

          I think part of my problem is my age – when I was growing up it was just assumed that whatever Dad wanted, Dad got, at least with my extended family and acquaintances. Women and children dutifully followed when men were transferred for work, women were responsible for all the childcare, women cooked, women did the housework. It’s how it was.

          One of the smart things I did when I was married was to always take a week off by myself and travel somewhere for a break. I remember my mother calling me when I told her I was going on my first time alone after my youngest kids were born, her voice breaking in fear – she told me that it would be the end of my marriage as my husband would think I was having an affair! (And all I wanted to do was sleep alone for as many contiguous hours as I could. Three kids in two and a half years will do that to you.) There was always huge pressure on me to give in to what He wanted, not have a life of my own, so that I could “keep my man”.

          And I still see this reflected in the lives of the people I know who are my age or older. There is never a question that “the wife” will arrange her life around his. And there is always the unspoken implication that it was her fault if the marriage ends, that she is the one who will suffer being alone. The men seem to have very little incentive to change from the “take, take, take” that they were brought up with, there always being some poor woman out there to fill the gap.

          I so admire my kids and their friends for navigating these relationships in a whole new way. I am learning from them, and from all the wisdom on this site, but it is hard to get around 55 years of social conditioning. I guess I just have to hope that there is at least one man out there around my age who is going through the same process of learning how to build a new kind of relationship that leaves the assumptions of the past behind. I remain hopeful, but doubtful.

          • Where I was raised it was much the same, give in to what the man wants to keep him happy. I think it is a disservice to both men and women because no one can be happy completely giving up who they are for another person. For men to be raised to expect that, and women to be raised to give that, is a recipe for disaster. I resent the number of times my MIL told me to just “learn to like everything he does.”

          • I’m 54 as of a couple of days ago and I didn’t grow up that way at all! I’m sure there are plenty of 50+ men out there who also don’t think it should be all about them. If not I’ll find a younger guy, heh.

            • Dat, this is why I like this place – sometimes I don’t see the forest for the trees, and then comes a comment like yours that makes me think!

              I realize now how conservative this place where I was born and live is. It was pretty much a rural population back when I was young, and I was a rebel – first one in my family to go to university, to move into the city, to live in sin. We only got married when I was pregnant with the first because my grandmother started a terror campaign with the rest of the family, frantic that “that little baby will be born without a name!” unless we got married. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that many of the men I know, even the good ones, are very traditional and set in their ways.

              I have had more than one woman I know tell me to never get involved with a local man. I like to travel, so who knows, maybe one of these days I’ll come across someone a little more metrosexual. I love the place I live but I’d be up for a long distance relationship, might even move if it was to the right place. I would even be interested in someone younger, which I admit I still have a hard time wrapping my head around! Those “old timey” expectations die hard, but they do die eventually if you work on it long enough, I hope.

    • I’m in the same boat! I am in my early 30s and I don’t have children, so I was very quick to go no contact, other than brief emails about taxes (still married to the asshole, I plan on filing this year).

      I know I’m still young and ya never know what’s going to happen, but I too love the extra space in my life, physically and mentally. I know good guys are out there, but he hurt me so much and all the men in my life are such douchebags that I am convinced that I will be single forever. And that is OK!

  • A friend of mine once commented to me that the “deal breakers” in relationships are so often the “little things.” (or more precisely an accumulation of the lack of little things); and after reflection, I saw it is a point well taken.

    In addition to respect, honesty, and reciprocity, I think the exercise of common courtesy and good manners within relationships goes a long, long way toward promoting a feeling of being in a safe environment…one in which emotional intimacy can flourish.

    Call me cheesy, but I think that if more people treated their mates with the courtesy, tact, and diplomacy that they exercised during “courtship” more marriages and long term relationships would be of higher quality and duration.

    So often it is not what we say to our loved ones, but HOW we say it that sets the tone and carries the day….each and every day for years.

    • Notyou, you are so right! This is something I tried again and again to explain to my ex; you have to not only LOVE the people you love, you have to act like you LIKE them too!

      Courtesy, tact and diplomacy come easily to people who DO like they people they love, who recognize they’re lucky to have those good relationships, who DO respect others, who are inherently considerate and caring.

      And because I am like that, and I provide that, I feel fully justified in saying that THAT is what I want in any new partner who comes into my life.

      • Totally agree, tried to make my ex see that he should treat me at least as well as he treated his friends.

      • The worst for me was that the ex’s negative, critical, disrespectful ways were there in force for his kids too. Our son was I guess 7 years old when he said ‘I know papa loves me, but I don’t think he likes me’. Broke my heart. Told the his dad, made ZERO difference.

  • again, things to look forward to…

    but the pineapple story gave me flashbacks of my ex passive-aggressively asking me to wait on him hand and foot every night. He never did the same for me (though I would of course never ask him to either) and he was never appreciative like your husband. I also would feel like a bitch because unlike how you are with your husband, CL, I became resentful of it. I’m not sure if at the beginning I was happy to do these things, I can’t remember. And maybe it’s possible he was appreciative at the beginning? But somehow I do doubt it… or is that just what I want to believe?

    So I try to remember that it is actually good to do these small things or to ask and expect that your loved one do these things for you… that these actions can truly be appreciated and reciprocated like with your husband. That it isn’t always take, take, take.

    That is what I feel like he did… took from me and kept taking until I didn’t know who I was anymore or what I wanted. Or that there could be anything different.

    • I should be fair to my husband, he rarely asks for things and is more comfortable being the Giver. But when it comes to food and beer… yeah, he’ll ask, and I’m happy to do it. Then there is this back and forth “Oh no, I can get it.” “No I’ll do it.” “Really? That would be so great.” etc. (It must be a Catholic guilt thing, you can never just straight out say you’d like something without some penance first.)

      It might depend on that love language thing too. I think we’re both acts of service kind of people. I don’t resent it because it’s the way I show love usually. But I know what it’s like to be in that lopsided relationship of doing and being unappreciated — or worse, RESENTED.

      aE — there can totally be a different world from take, take, take. I’m living proof. I spent years jumping through hoops trying to please un-pleasable men. You’ve got to put the chump thing down, and the giving part comes back naturally when you’re with someone who appreciates you.

      • hmmm, that love language book… maybe a book I should get. Though I’m not sure you can understand your love language when you’ve been starved for most/all of them for so long.

        I also agree with what you said above about not taking something good for granted after you know how bad it can be – at least that I feel like that must be true. I think that is the one fear that I have, where I let myself take some blame, is that part of what led to my marriage turning to crap was that over time we did take each other for granted which led to the unappreciation and resentments. Luckily(?), he’s such a narcissistic piece of work that it can’t be completely that… and he really was un-pleasable.

        • anotherErica the love language book is really important…I have had it recommended to me by a number of people…..It tells you how you like to receive love and also what your love language is that you speak to others….it could help define why you have been starved…its a great read….in my self-help pile…that continues to grow…..It helps with the fixing the picker becasue it helps explain you to yourself

      • Yep, all of us have our ways. Like I might say that my beer is empty and I’m going to go in a minute and get a refill. Then I do it. My ex would say something like that and I’d say, “I’ll grab one for you”. But I never got that from him.

        Or simple shit like thanking him for any thing he did, taking out the trash or whatever. He never thanked me for anything. Even if I made some crazy awesome dinner, I’d have to ask him if he liked it – worse, I could never tell if he meant it when he said he did. Cos sometimes he would say he liked something and the next time around he would say he hated it. crazy shit.

        • OOOOooooo….my EX managed to turn Thank you into some sort of swear word…….in our email communications on OFW…..he would basically demand that I say thank you if he did something………..grrrrrrrrrrrr… yea not for stuff you are expected to do as a grown-up and if i had to ask…….ummmm not going to say thank you sorry……

          I see all of those interactions very differently these days….but here was a typical scene…there would be 8 loads of laundry overflowing a basket on the couch needing to be folded…..overflowing garbage can………sink full of dishes and a clean dishwasher needing to be empty……..and he would sit on the couch and say you need anything done? if I had a nickle for every time I told him that he was an adult and if he could not see the things that needed to be done…I was done asking (mostly because I got a huffy attitude when I asked him to empty the garbage) the whole thing was soooo unhealthy and resentful

        • There was lots of gratitude expressed both ways in our relationship. And my ex was perfectly happy to run to the store and get me something. And I also read the Love languages stuff. Sigh…didn’t help. I think next time I won’t think so much.

      • Tracy, I get the take, take, take because that’s all I had in my marriage. I have to learn and re-train myself that it is okay to receive. I’m learning ….

    • “That is what I feel like he did… took from me and kept taking until I didn’t know who I was anymore or what I wanted. Or that there could be anything different.”

      Brilliant. Somebody on here the other day used the metaphor of a bar of soap melting away until there was nothing left. I think s/he said it in the context of the cheating partner, but that’s also how I feel as a chump. A bar of soap melting away. My identity erased. “I didn’t know who I was anymore or what I wanted. Or that there could be anything different.”

      The whole process is so insidious. You enter the relationship thinking you’re smart, strong, interesting, and by the time you realize you’re the vanishing bar of soap, it’s like, ‘Wait–what? What the hell just happened here?’ I tried to explain it to my best friend last year. I said, “Even the sound of my own voice is weird. I’m with this guy who says he loves me and my kids, but when I talk to him, it sounds like how you hear yourself on an answering machine. “Is that really me?'” And then I go to work and start talking to my co-workers, and suddenly I’m plugged in again. It’s like, “Oh! There I am!” I sound authentic again. I sound LIKE ME. And they’re laughing at my jokes, and I realize, ‘Hey, I’m actually funny! I’m actually interesting!’ We sit around the lunch table and I don’t get that squirmy, rushed feeling feeling in the pit of my stomach like I do at my own dinner table as I tell the story of my day. Hurry up hurry up so nobody gets bored or starts looking out the window or interrupts with their bigger/better experience/POV.

      To me this kind of identity theft is the worst part of the whole chump experience. I honestly don’t know what a healthy relationship looks like. Right now I just know what it *doesn’t* look like. I know what I can’t accept anymore. Hopefully that’s a place to build upon. The only people I really feel like myself with at the moment are my girls and my support groups. One woman on another forum said, “A good relationship should be your sanctuary in life, not the reason you need therapy, antidepressants, multiple support groups, and alcohol.” I read that and I thought, AMEN.

      • FoolMeTwice,

        “I know what I can’t accept anymore. Hopefully that’s a place to build upon.”

        I am at that place too. I have had only one long-term relationship in my life, and it ended with me as a chump. I’m now in this state (and I hope I’m stating my thoughts correctly) where my mind actually feels relief when I hear women say that they are married or have a boyfriend because I don’t want anyone to think I will ask them out because there’s no ring on my finger anymore. I don’t want that pressure right now, but I also have this confusion about whether I’m even meant to be coupled again. To me, marriage doesn’t seem like something I need anymore, but is this a good thought to have?

        • CW – pretty much my same story… my first big break up in my life was my divorce from my cheating ex.

          Not sure how far out you are… but at first I was literally scared to leave the house without the “protection” of my wedding ring. And even now when I look for wedding rings on men that I’m speaking to or am just around in general – ya know, just to see 😉 , I probably feel both relief and slight disappointment when I see them. It’s kinda weird. It’s like I feel both, “phew! don’t have to worry about that”… and “darn! of course he’s married!”

          I would say I am completely commitment-phobic right now, so you’re not alone. Can’t see myself getting married again. Or even being in a serious relationship. I am ready for something… but I want to keep it light.

          • I’ll be a year out from being dumped in a month, took off my ring 3-4 weeks after it happened and have all the marital jewelry in a safe but haven’t looked at it since. I have this paranoia about not wanting anyone being interested in me but at the same time not wanting to become a hermit either (I guess that’s being commitment-phobic too). Marriage? I got a lot to figure out before I can even consider that route again., so we’ll see about that.

      • Fool –

        Yes… and I got together with him when I was so young that I really hadn’t had a chance to form my identity independent of him in the first place, so that didn’t help matters.

        I totally see what you’re saying about being able to be real with your coworkers, etc. and happier and more like the real you in a way that you weren’t with your partner. I think my ex and I stopped having interesting, witty conversations at some point… although now that I think about it, I’m not sure we ever really had many in the first place. My ex isn’t the most verbal guy, nor is he really a deep thinker and his sense of humor (well, when he had one) is more goofy than witty I would say.

        But even when I was away from him but still with him, I still didn’t feel as good about myself – well liked, confident, etc. as I do now that he is completely out of my life. Not sure if some of that came with age as well.

        It’s kind of funny that the most humiliating self-confidence deflating thing that can happen to you – being cheated on – can actually result in you feeling BETTER about yourself. Tells ya how fucked up your relationship really was in the fist place.

  • CL, I know your blog is all about how the affair wasn’t chump’s fault, but I do sometimes struggle with the fact that perhaps I wasn’t the best wife or didn’t fulfill all of XH’s needs, as he said, like the 3 Fs. When XH told me was leaving me, he said that some of the reasons were because I didn’t cook for him (I work a full-time job and we have 2 young kids), I didn’t flatter/praise him enough or I looked down on him somehow, and I didn’t try to seduce him for sex. Should I try to improve upon these things in my next relationship or should I just chalk up XH’s criticisms to blame-shifting?

    Ironically, when we first got married, I did wake up early to cook him breakfast, and XH begged me not to do so because it made him feel uncomfortable. Back them said he didn’t marry me for my cooking abilities, and my lack of cooking abilities didn’t seem to bother him until he started the affair. When he told me he wanted to leave me, he suddenly said that he wanted someone who was domestic, who would take good care of him, who wasn’t focused on a career. But he knew I wasn’t the domestic type when he married me and he always told me he wanted a wife with a career (and encouraged me to pursue one), but now he changed his mind and realized he wanted different things in life. He also insisted that he knew that I wouldn’t take care of him in his old age and kept on calling me selfish and inconsiderate.

    • blue,

      Your husband was clearly engaging in self-justification and blame-shifting when he said these things. These comments need to be filed under, “Stupid Shit Cheaters Say”…because about 99% of what cheaters say is, “Stupid Shit”

      He knew who you were when he married you. He decided that his DECISION to engage in an affair entitled him to “change the rules” once the game had begun.

      Had he been a MATURE adult, he would have used good conflict resolution skills to “renegotiate” problematic areas with you and NOT fled (in a supremely conflict-avoidant and passive aggressive way) into an extramarital affair.

    • Yeah, pay no attention to what cheaters say. You cannot drive someone to have an affair by what you “lack.” It’s all about their lack of character. There are mature ways to ask for the things you want in a relationship, there are loving ways — blame shifting isn’t loving.

      And who wants to praise an asshole? Were YOU getting the three Fs? Was there any reciprocity?

      As for improving in your next relationship — sure. We should all try and be our best selves. But give that best self to a person deserving of it — not a cheater.

      • I feel compelled to add: People who cheat come up with a thousand EXCUSES (because there are NO GOOD REASONS ) for their bad behavior.

        I believe that many cheaters are conflict-avoidant people who expected their mate to be a MIND READER. Not only that, one day these cheaters are going to wake up and discover that the OP is also NOT a mind reader…and then the excrement hits the proverbial oscillator.

        I don’t know about anyone else but I am not a mind reader. If a significant other would like more accommodation on my part the best way to get it is to clearly, earnestly, and in a non-threatening and non judgmental way articulate their concerns.

        Make book on it. People who cheat and don’t do the work to find out why they are a cheater will eventually recycle their same old tired baggage through the new relationship. Marriages that begin with adulterous foundations are already on shaky ground and have a dismal success rate (much lower than first marriages) of an estimated 3% according to the best anecdotal information that can be obtained.

        Something else, too. Part of my professional activities included teaching conflict resolution skills to children (in group settings where they could practice the skills taught and modeled.) Dammit, if children can learn how to effectively resolve conflicts, adults can, too. Instruction in conflict resolution skills should be a premarital requisite! The overly aggressive learn how to tone it down and show respect; and the conflict-avoidant learn that conflicts are not to be feared but to be regarded as problems that need to be and can be solved in a “win-win” way.

        • “Marriages that begin with adulterous foundations are already on shaky ground. . . ”

          I originally read this as “on skanky ground.” Had to do a double take. I guess it works either way!

        • “Make book on it. People who cheat and don’t do the work to find out why they are a cheater will eventually recycle their same old tired baggage through the new relationship”

          Awesome point notyou! They will also recycle it during false reconciliation. When I started reading CL’s blog and got a clue what real reconciliation was versus false reconciliation, my attitude whilst doing the pick me dance went considerably south. I even started arguments on purpose more than a few times. I kept waiting for him to tell me this behavior was making him unhappy, that it was unsettling, or absolutely anything.

          Until I asked for a divorce. Then he told me that things were not so great the last few months and demonstrated that he had cataloged all the times that “I missed a spot.” That’s when I knew he learned absolutely nothing from the three years we spend “reconciling” I also knew that all those cataloged moments would be used against me during his next affair.

          Major coward! Glad I left that mess behind.

          • My ex had a long list of things I’d done over the years to “make him fall out of love with me.” I remember saying “After 36 years I have a long list of things you’ve done to upset me as well, but they didn’t make me fall out of love with you.” It all boils down to the fact that he gave himself permission to have an affair, then created justifications for his decision.

            • ” It all boils down to the fact that he gave himself permission to have an affair, then created justifications for his decision.”



              Like you my marriage was nuked by a one-time, late marriage affair. Until it actually happened to me, I would never have believed my X capable of the kind of regression to adolescence and the juvenile behavior he exhibited.

              Self justification (rewriting of the marital history) is a defense mechanism against cognitive dissonance caused by knowing intellectually and morally that one’s behavior is wrong, but allowing “feelings” to override sound judgment and consideration for other parties involved. Also there is a psychological phenomenon called, “The Law of Association”** (See below) that comes into play.

              The following article written by Jed Diamond makes lot of sense to me when one’s marriage becomes a casualty of a one-time, late-marriage affair.
              (Serial philanderers are a whole other, personality disordered story.)

              This scenario does NOT excuse the cheater for tossing both spine and moral compass…but might give a glimpse into the mind of the one time cheater who has what is commonly referred to as an, “exit affair.”

              This theory also does not mean the the injured party does not need to take serious measures of self-preservation either!

              There is an old saying, “When you are up to your ass in alligators, it’s hard to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.”

              The way I see it, “When up to their ass in alligators, people of real substance and endurance never lose sight of the fact that their initial objective was to drain the swamp.”

              Why Mid-Life Men Leave Perfectly Good Marriages
              ~Jed Diamond

              “He says he loves me, but he’s not in love with me. He talks about leaving our marriage, but won’t tell me why. I’m devastated. Our children are hurt and confused. I love this man. What do I do? Help!” This is an excerpt of a letter, typical of many I am receiving every day, from a woman who is mystified about the behavior of her mid-life husband. Though, I hear most often from heterosexual couples, similar dynamics are present with gay and lesbian couples I’ve worked with. What’s going on here?

              Certainly one possibility is that these aren’t good marriages at all. Many relationships deteriorate through time, yet one or both partners are oblivious to the unhappiness and pain that their spouse is experiencing. There are marriages that should have ended long ago, but the couple stays together because they are afraid to leave. However, there are other marriages that are really quite healthy, though all relationships of any length have their ups and downs, yet one spouse feels driven to leave.

              There are, of course, many mid-life women who leave perfectly good marriages, but here I want to talk about the guys. Why do so many men leave their partners after 15, 20, or 30 years of marriage? The couple has often weathered many of the stresses of raising children, developing financial security, and seems to be ready to enjoy their later years. Yet, just when things seem to be going well, he becomes increasingly restless and wants to move out. His reasons are often vague and confusing. “I just need to find myself,” or “There’s nothing wrong with you. I just I feel like I’m missing something in our marriage”, or “You’re making my life miserable. I can’t stand it anymore.”

              It’s usually the woman who contacts me first. She’s emotionally distraught, hurt, angry, and afraid. “I don’t know what’s happened to my husband. He’s changed. We’ve had our good times and bad, but he’s always told me how much he loves me and how glad he is to be with me. All of a sudden it seems like I’m his worst enemy. I just don’t understand.”

              When I talk to the guys, I find that they share similar experiences. Somewhere in midlife, often following some kind of loss—a parent dying, children moving out of the home, an illness, a sports injury, a bout of erectile dysfunction—he begins to become increasingly irritable. Rarely does he recognize the connection between the loss he’s experienced and his feelings of dis-ease. At first he is not aware that he is becoming unhappy. When he begins to recognize that something isn’t right, he looks for the cause.

              Weeks, months, or even years can go by. All of a sudden things “click” for him. “It’s her.” Like a new born duckling who imprints on the first object he sees, these guys often associate** their wives or partners with their unhappiness. Though they are rarely conscious of it, the undercurrent of their thought process goes like this. “God, I’m really feeling unhappy here. This is terrible. I have to find out what’s causing it. Martha just made one of those remarks that I hate. She’s always saying things to irritate me. Now, I see. It’s Martha, Martha, Martha!”

              He then begins to see her less as a source of joy in his life and more as a problem to be confronted or, more often, avoided. He becomes increasingly unhappy. He alternates between withdrawal and demands for more attention, love, and sex. He wants to be held, nurtured, and told that he is the best, but he can’t get past his perception that she is the source of his unhappiness. Even when she is loving and nurturing, he interprets it as a jab or attack.

              She picks up on, usually unconsciously at first, his changed attitude. She becomes more irritable, defensive, and frustrated. Her negative attitude and behavior becomes additional validation that his perceptions were correct. “She really doesn’t like me,” he thinks to himself. “She doesn’t respect me. Nothing I ever do is enough for her. What’s the use?”

              Over a period of months and sometimes years, these negative attitudes and “self-talk” cause the couple to become more and more estranged. At its most extreme, he becomes convinced that she is bad. “What kind of horrible woman treats her man with so little respect and care?” he thinks to himself in despair. She becomes convinced that he is mad. “He must be losing his mind. He’s acting totally irrationally.”

              Enter, the other woman. Well, actually she’s been there all the time. She may be his trusted secretary who listens to his frustrations at work. It could be a co-worker with whom he shares dreams for the future. It may be his best friend’s wife who looks so nice and who gives him that certain look that says she thinks he’s someone special. It may just be the “feminine” in the world–All those anonymous, but lovely women that we see walking down the streets every day, or who gaze out at us from our television and computer screens. In the past she may have been someone he just noticed. Now he notices with ever more attention. “If only I had her,” he muses. “If she were in my corner, everything would be OK.” His fantasies may be sexual, but the need is for much more than sex.

              If the wife comes to be seen as the problem, the other woman comes to be seen as the solution. Somehow she must have the key to his future happiness.

              Since there are no secrets in the world of intimate relationships, the wife will “know” that there is another woman in the picture. She’ll know it even before she becomes aware of it. It will begin as an undercurrent of fear and anxiety. If the awareness finally bubbles to the surface, she may keep her concerns inside for awhile. When she finally voices them, he will most often tell her she is being ridiculous. “You’re imagining things,” he says. Or, “We’re just friends.” Or, “All men look at pretty women.” He may, in fact, believe what he says. She may accept his words and believe that her fears are ungrounded. He’s rarely aware of what’s going on until it’s too late. She rarely sees the underlying dynamic until he’s past the point of no return.

              It may be months or years before he actually walks out the door, but in truth, he has left long ago. The couple may come to counseling and he may say he wants to work things out. He often is trying to “keep his marriage from falling apart.”

              However, too often his internal mind-set has solidified: “My wife can’t give me what I need. She’ll never change. There is some female out there who has the key to my happiness. I’m going to find her.”

              Does this sound familiar to you?

              It’s one of the great tragedies I see in the world today. So many couples break up, just at the point when they could begin to heal old wounds and have the best relationship of their lives. What’s worse, neither really understands what’s going on. Like addicts hooked on heroin, they are pulled along a path that promises delight, but ends in destruction.

              • I’d have to say that I can see how this could happen, BUT to me, this kind of reaction is still often a sign of immaturity and entitlement. Because these guys don’t ask themselves what they could be doing to make themselves happier, they don’t ask themselves how they could make their wives and kids happier and thus their relationships better, they don’t ask themselves what they need to change in their lives to be happier. They don’t even let themselves realize that they don’t KNOW what’s bothering them, which might lead them to go see a therapist, to read some books, to talk to friends in serious ways.

                They look for an EXTERNAL person to set the blame on, and an external person to be the solution.

                But I can’t imagine how painful it must be to have this happen after so many years of an apparently good relationship.

              • “A one time late marriage affair.” My marriage was not perfect, but we had shared so much. Yes, my partner was a highly successful alpha male in a shark tank profession and always had a huge ego. Still, he truly was a loving spouse, until his fear of growing old and being knocked off the hill caused his need for adulation to kick into high gear. Enter the OW, who was a pro at sensing this void and seemingly filling it with massive amounts of complete and utter bullshit. The minute I met her I took immediate dislike because it was so clear she was full of false praise, but only to men. It was hard to see such a smart man be so stupid, but he needed the worship. I could love him, but I could not worship him.He eventually saw through her deception, but by then, his many deceptions made it too painful to stay. I just couldn’t trust him anymore and if you don’t have trust, what do you have? Sometimes, you just have to protect yourself. Reading today’s comments I realize I am still somewhat in self-protection mode.

              • Louise, every word you said completely resonated with me. Especially the last part–if you don’t have trust, what have you got?

                Thank you.

      • Thanks notyou and CL. XH said he felt like he did everything for me and I did nothing for him. But he was a difficult person to live with–moody, tempermental, blamed me for everything, including things that went wrong at work (because we had moved to a particular city for my career), conflicts between him and his parents (because they lived with us to help care for the kids). And he did from time to time say that he wished I dressed more femininely and fashionably (physical attractiveness is one of the top male needs identified by Marriage Builders).

        Ironically, his previous live-in girlfriend (before he married me) was very feminine, domestic, kept the house spotless, made elaborate dinners, called him a lot at work, but he said that her behavior gave him too much pressure and that he wasn’t attractive to the “domestic” type. And so I tried not to call him at work so as to not bother him, and then, after the affair started, he complained that I never called him and didn’t pay enough attention to him! And his other long-term girlfriend was very caring and giving but he wasn’t sexually attracted to her and she had “forced” and “guilted” him into being her boyfriend. Maybe you just can’t win with these types.

        • I agree that you just can’t win. My ex never wanted to talk on the phone, but I discovered he talked to his coworker for hours every day! This flabbergasted me because he’d never wanted to stay on the phone longer than to give me basic information. In the end he said my not talking to him on the phone was one of the reasons he “fell out of love” with me.

      • So would the female version of the 3 Fs be the 3 Cs?
        Cleaning, Caring and Cunnilingus? 😉

    • Sounds like all that man had was NEEDS. ” I want, I want, I want!” It is never our job to wait on another human being. I would hazard to guess that CL has a man who reciprocates. He is equally working on the relationship and probably engages in little caring gestures on a daily basis. I think of all the times my needs weren’t met. My ex ‘s challenge in the last years was sex. He was thinking of OW and fucking me. And I felt that! There’s a disconnect there. These guys start making up shit to give themselves a way out of their relationships. It’s not the fantasy, you see. There’s a reason so many of our cheaters would rather purchase sex and watch porn than engage in real life. Once I had our children he disengaged. I got a job, and he grew more unhappy. I had friends, time away from my job of waiting on him. Narcs are bottomless pits of need. I enjoy my freedom now. Freedom just to make choices and not have him constantly telling me I am not worthy. Subtly. Bottom line I want someone who likes, respects, and values me. I want someone who knows how to do grown up things without being told. That line, ” He liked the thought of having a relationship, he just didn’t know how, ” that is what I am going to steer clear of. Next time I will marry someone who can manage being a grown up (genuinely caring for others).

      • ” I want someone who knows how to do grown up things without being told.”

        It is great to find mates who are able to do this consistently…but please keep it in balance and try to be sure that you are not expecting a “mind reader”.

        We all tend to operate from within our own perspective and there are definite gender differences in thinking patterns.


        This is hilarious but helps illustrate my point:

        Let’s say a guy named Fred is attracted to a woman named Martha. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else.

        And then, one evening when they’re driving home, a thought occurs to Martha, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: “Do you realize that, as of tonight, we’ve been seeing each other for exactly six months?”

        And then, there is silence in the car.

        To Martha, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he’s been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I’m trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn’t want, or isn’t sure of.

        And Fred is thinking: Gosh. Six months.

        And Martha is thinking: But, hey, I’m not so sure I want this kind of relationship either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I’d have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily towards, I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

        And Fred is thinking: …so that means it was…let’s see…February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer’s, which means…lemme check the odometer…Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.

        And Martha is thinking: He’s upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I’m reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed – even before I sensed it – that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that’s it. That’s why he’s so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He’s afraid of being rejected.

        And Fred is thinking: And I’m gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don’t care what those morons say, it’s still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It’s 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600.

        And Martha is thinking: He’s angry. And I don’t blame him. I’d be angry, too. I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can’t help the way I feel. I’m just not sure.

        And Fred is thinking: They’ll probably say it’s only a 90-day warranty…scumballs.

        And Martha is thinking: Maybe I’m just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I’m sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.

        And Fred is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I’ll give them a warranty. I’ll take their warranty and stick it right up their…

        “Fred,” Martha says aloud.

        “What?” says Fred, startled.

        “Please don’t torture yourself like this,” she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. “Maybe I should never have…oh dear, I feel so…”(She breaks down, sobbing.)

        “What?” says Fred.

        “I’m such a fool,” Martha sobs. “I mean, I know there’s no knight. I really know that. It’s silly. There’s no knight, and there’s no horse.”

        “There’s no horse?” says Fred.

        “You think I’m a fool, don’t you?” Martha says.

        “No!” says Fred, glad to finally know the correct answer.

        “It’s just that…it’s that I…I need some time,” Martha says.

        (There is a 15-second pause while Fred, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)

        “Yes,” he says. (Martha, deeply moved, touches his hand.)

        “Oh, Fred, do you really feel that way?” she says.

        “What way?” says Fred.

        “That way about time,” says Martha.

        “Oh,” says Fred. “Yes.” (Martha turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.)

        “Thank you, Fred,” she says.

        “Thank you,” says Fred.

        Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Fred gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a college basketball game between two South Dakota junior colleges that he has never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it’s better if he doesn’t think about it.

        The next day Martha will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification.

        They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it either.

        Meanwhile, Fred, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Martha’s, will pause just before serving, frown, and say: “Norm, did Martha ever own a horse?”

        And that’s the difference between men and women.

          • OMG! I absolutely LOVE this!!! I cracked up the entire way through it!

            It is truly amazing how we torture ourselves with this stuff! I over- think things ALL OF THE TIME!

        • You’s Important that when a Woman talks about the Relationship, Maybe he could focus on THAT and NOT Get ” Distracted by other ” Shiny Objects ” that Don’t have FEELINGS…
          Just Sayin…
          or Else he may Very Well Only have his Shiny Toys to keep him ” Warm” on Lonely Nights.

        • I’m sorry, that shit has nothing to do with gender. I could easily have been Fred in that little story, I certainly wouldn’t ever have been Martha. that joke has everything to do with stereotypes and belittling women, nothing to do with how we are ‘different’. IMO of course.

          • datdamwuf,
            Has it ever occurred to you that being combative even about something as mundane as a gender joke it not appealing? It has occurred to me, and is why I probably would not find you an enjoyable person with whom to associate. Perhaps others in your life have felt the same way…

            • Let’s put it another way just to make it perfectly clear:

              How dare I have a sense of humor that isn’t in line with a pre-approved list of acceptable subjects to laugh at? I made a sexist a joke. Oh fuck, I just punched the women’s rights movement in its clit and sent it back five years.

              Or maybe… I can actually have a sense of humor and not give a fuck if I offend you. Maybe I’ll just live life on my own terms and decide what is proper for me to say and do and what isn’t on my own accord.

              Hmmm…I like choice #2 much better. So if you can’t lighten up and stop being a “tight hole” then don’t hang with me…..

    • Hon..If these things he complained about Bother YOU..I Mean, YOU.. then Improve them.. Learn to Cook, etc..
      These things will be things the Future men will NOT hold over your Head, then, cause they won’t BE there for them to pick you apart over…a.k.a use as an Excuse to be a shit towards you. Your Self Esteem will Rise..
      New Skills Always Boost Self Esteem.

  • Great topic. I haven’t dated anyone yet, I’m 8 months out from when I announced I wanted a divorce and moved. Divorce isn’t finalized yet so I’ve just been working on me and doing what makes me happy. I set up an online profile on a dating site but took it down, I’m thinking CL is right about those (just like she is right about so many other things). What have others done to meet new people???

  • For me, it is reciprocity. I cook great and our sex life covered up a lot of problems…
    So in my marriage, I would try and bring up an issue. I would state a problem, or a need
    … the immediate and automatic response: NO IT ISN’T. NO I DIDN’T. There was never, ever any meeting of half way. No listening, or acknowledging that I had said something of importance.

    It didn’t matter how I presented it. Softly, diplomatically, whatever. I ended up getting shriller and louder and more aggressive to try and get heard, and then I was just a bitch whose anger CAUSED the problem.

    If someone cared enough to forget about themselves and care enough about me to hear me? And move towards me with a view to mutually resolve the issue? To share their plans, hopes dreams, ask what I thought and considered my input? I would swoon. I would feel the most loved and valued person in the world. Together we would be a team with food and fucking. Wow. An unattainable dream.

    • Patsy, I feel exactly the same way! Same issues in my marriage…the denial, etc.

    • This is it. I went through the same stages when trying to be heard. At the end, I was a bitch and didn’t recognise myself anymore and wondered what happened. Before I knew what happened I collapsed physically and could not leave bed for an entire fall and winter. I figured it out, that my smiling-faced no-worries husband was sticking it to me every which way he could – with plausible deniability, it didn’t happen that way, it was just a joke, and word salad answers to everything, and his addiction to albeit occasional binge drinking was not a problem with alcohol except he’d mow down all sorts of other ideas and plans just for a chance to drink like that. Inside he was cold and dead.

      On the bright side, I had a good relationship once when we were 16 and 17 and not again until I passed 50. We were young and life was too complicated to spend the rest of our lives together but that was our goal and it didn’t happen. Anyway, it was a tremendous guiding light for getting out of bad relationships I had later and recognising good when it came along. Bad relationships are terribly sticky: good relationships hold without hurting.

  • I had early signs that my soon-to-be-ex was a soon-to-be-nightmare. I moved to another state to live with him, a place where I initially knew nobody. I made friends at work and in dance classes but nearly always felt uncomfortable with him. Whenever we were at a gathering with others, particularly women, he would act like he was enamored with them and look at me as though I were an irritant that threatened to cramp his style. Once he took me to a wedding of a close friend of his and ran off when we got there–I hardly saw him the entire evening. He ran to ‘rescue’ a woman from dancing with someone she did not want to dance with leaving me on dance floor alone. I was so independent that I was embarrassed to be embarrassed but really embarrassed nevertheless. The humiliation was so public, although the private humiliations were awful too.

    He acted like he was embarrassed with me, but when I brought this up he would apologize and say “he did not realize it” that “he loved me for who I was.” “When I found out what I long suspected and said I wanted an immediate divorce he said “no one will ever love you like I do.”

    The mistake I made then was to think that I was feeling bad because I was insecure, not that I was growing more and more insecure because I was feeling bad around him!

    When I am ready again to think about being with someone romantically I will gauge my ‘feeling-bad’ and ‘feeling-good’ meter. I will see the reasons of why I feel the way I do more immediately and move on immediately—no false reconciliations that feel bad-good-bad—not high and sparkly, just safe and loving—-like my entire self is not being undermined and deemed unappealing most of the time. Yuck, and everyone thought he was such a “great guy”—gross.

    If know myself and love myself and understand why I feel as I do, make myself a priority and not the other person ‘happy’ I think my picker will improve. I am practicing a lot with friends and acquaintances—how do I feel around with this person and why?

    • “The mistake I made then was to think that I was feeling bad because I was insecure, not that I was growing more and more insecure because I was feeling bad around him!”

      I have never thought about it this way but I agree that I felt like I was very insecure throughout our marriage. I kept thinking it was my problem for feeling jealous instead of his problem for not drawing boundaries.

    • Your EX was an Arsehole with a CAPITAL A.

      Oh..and I can Relate…
      When you’re Not Insecure by Nature, and Yet with THEM you Are…Believe Me, They’ve NURTURED Insecurity INTO You, because of Their TREATMENT…Things they’ve DONE.

      They’ll Tell you No one can make you Feel Inferior without YOUR Consent..and Yet, Some of these Arseholes that Dish out THAT Advice, do so to Absolve Themselves the Responsibility of Treating Others with RESPECT.

    • “The mistake I made then was to think that I was feeling bad because I was insecure, not that I was growing more and more insecure because I was feeling bad around him!”


  • Meeting new people is the challenge. Do something you love. I have been taking college classes. The art classes are great. Ceramics was my life saver in those first few years. (It is my son’s now as he misses the dad he once knew and is still grieving his absence in his life). Do things that make you happy. Do things you have never done. Travel. In time you will begin to feel more like yourself and then you will begin to meet others. I know it’s been a challenge for me, long term marriage, married young, and I recognize I just needed time. I teach for a living and am surrounded by women. So I am looking for another part time job. To get myself out of my rut.

  • Since I met my husband at 16 and was married for 31 years I didn’t have a lot of other relationships to compare ours to. I can tell you I loved him, was crazy about him in the beginning. He was bright, funny, strong, there were so many things I admired about him.

    Here are the things that I didn’t like about our relationship:

    1. He wouldn’t listen to me and respond in kind. If there was conflict and I tried to discuss it with him my efforts were met with denial or stony silence. He would never discuss his deeper feelings. He would talk about work and sports forever, though. After awhile I started thinking he might not have deeper feelings, but turns out I was wrong. Somehow I was supposed to be able to know what he needed and meet his needs even though he refused to discuss them with me.

    2. He expected me to like everything he liked. It felt like I was supposed to turn into someone else in order to be loved. Whenever I’d complain that I needed more social interaction and had a hard time living isolated in the country while he traveled all the time, he would get mad and accuse me of not backing “his dream.”

    3. He was always engaged in relationships with other women through work that made me uncomfortable. He didn’t have good boundaries with other women and enjoyed their attention. I didn’t feel very special to him and as the years went by I started to feel completely worthless. Sometimes after weeks of traveling I might find flowers in my car, which I thought was sweet. However, nothing I did or said could convince him to stop putting his personal ambition ahead of our marriage and family.

    4. Sex was great in the beginning but later started to feel like a chore. It was like I was just there for him to relieve stress. It seemed like nothing I did was ever enough. After awhile I lost desire, I suppose because I didn’t feel like he really cared about me.

    So my first priority in looking for a new relationship is CAN HE COMMUNICATE? When I talk to him does he look at me or stare at the TV screen? Does he care when I’m upset? Second is, DOES HE HAVE MORALS? That’s a harder one because I thought my ex was a pretty honest person. He came from a family that was at church every time the doors were open. But often I had this gut feeling that things were going on, and it turns out I should have trusted my gut. I will definitely listen to it in the future.

    • Lyn,
      Your ex sounds exactly like mine. I wanted to post yesterday in regards to the good advice my excellent therapist gave, but I was too busy. Everything you’re describing is a man who is not able to be truly be intimate with anyone, needs to stay on the surface and build a false self or facade. My therapist said he had ‘engulfment’ issues and can never really love deeply, feel vulnerable or connect with anyone. Our marriage lasted as long as it did ( 23 yrs married and 4 dating) because he kept me busy and distracted, ie I raised the kids and did EVERYTHING on the home front while he built the business. We started having problems once the kids were pretty much grown, the business was successful and I started asking for time and the real meat and potatoes of a relationship. He knew he didn’t have it to give and it scared the hell out of him and I was starting to see thru the facade that was him. It isn’t you and like my therapist told me, I had every right to be asking for those things in my marriage… The only problem was I should have asked sooner and even though the business was our living, it should never have been allowed to come first before our relationship or our family. And he should not have put his wants and needs above mine or our families but Narcs always do, although they can disguise or rationalize it. I ‘m not jealous of the Ow cause I know what her life will be- empty and a facade and as good as they like to make it look to everyone, I know that he isn’t capable of loving deeply and frankly I couldn’t be placated with the ‘ good life’ anymore filled with material stuff and not much else! I went on and found a good guy and the simple peaceful life we lead is so much more fulfilling . It’s not you.. You’re able to love and connect on a deep level unlike your ex and you know what’s important in life and you’ll find it if you dare to look!

    • this guy sounds just like my ex… and #1 – I think you have had it right in the first place about him not having deeper feelings. He might have told you differently after Dday about all these deep needs he had that you weren’t meeting, but I don’t think it’s true. It’s just more bullshit.

      It was actually very difficult for me to accept that my ex was as shallow as a person as he is… who only cares about appearances and doesn’t really have true morals and integrity. He only does the “right” thing because he thinks he’s supposed to or he doesn’t want to be known as someone who doesn’t. He wanted to appear perfect and for me and his family and his career to appear perfect, but that is it. I’m sure that’s why he was never happy… because he doesn’t know/can’t accept that perfection doesn’t actually exist. He doesn’t really want a happy, real life. He wanted the appearance of it for others to see and admire. And he could care less if it is empty inside – or only full of the unmet impossibly high expectations he had of me.

      • Shallow is it, absolutely! Always remember a super smart boyfriend I had in my twenties, who didn’t talk a lot. I always felt like one day he would open up about all his deep thoughts and feelings …. I would try to coax him into opening up more, by making him feel so secure, by opening up myself …. Took several years to realize, there weren’t any! What he said was all he thought or felt – and it REALLY wasn’t much!

      • I wonder about this, too, I thought my partner was such a soulful person, who felt emotions deeply and genuinely, and who truly cared about me. Now I wonder if maybe he was just very good at pretending to care about me. I think the only person he truly loved (and oddly, truly hated) was himself.

        • My ex actually told me once he had figured out how to get people he worked with to do anything he wanted. When i asked what that was, he said “I just act like I care.” I remember saying, “No, you really DO need to care!” At the time I didn’t know about narcissism but looking back his statement pretty much explains everything.

          • So true! I always thought my ex was the strong silent type but learned he was really the witholding, calculating type. He never exposes who he really is and keeps his cards very close to his chest. He knows how to appear to be what he thinks people expect, but underneath he’s just controlling and manipulative. Sad really. For some reason I used to be attracted to that. Maybe that’s the fixer in me, I used to try and get him to open up . I don’t find that attractive anymore! My new partner is just the opposite and we talk for hours about anything and everything and he openly and honestly reveals himself… What a difference !

            • Yes, I always thought I’d eventually get him to open up to me. It’s what I lived for! In the end he did open up to me by telling me how he loved me but didn’t want to live with me any more. I actually thanked him for finally sharing his feelings with me! He got a confused look on his face and said, “Well, you’re welcome but it’s not very good news for you.” That’s how pathetically starved for emotional intimacy I was.

  • Wow, this is awesome info from the Nation. So much of this is spot-on that I can’t even begin to comment on all of it. But I especially like the comment that feeling insecure comes from feeling bad around someone….I was there, too. Being in a household away from his arrogance and lack of support has helped me realize that I’m plenty confident in myself. I seem to be finding again the Me that existed before we were a couple. How awful that I was slowly buried alive over 30 years. But how wonderful to rescue myself now from that landslide.

    • Good for you Andrea. I too was buried alive for 37 years but I often stop now and think that I am back to being ‘me’ before the nightmare began. It is a nice place to be because I know that I will never let myself down. It is liberating.

  • Well, I had what Chump Lady describes for 27 years – then it went bad in year 28 without my having a clue. That is the reason that I am unsure that I can ever do that again because I just can’t trust that I won’t be chumped when it will nearly destroy me again.

    • bogie, it’s just IMHO, but I don’t think anyone can love that deeply and walk out one day without a glance. I’m not saying you didn’t feel your relationship was a good one, it’s just that’s a person who must be shallow in his affections. It’s a terrible thing and a stain on his character. He has to be lacking to do such a thing. I don’t believe “good people” abandon their families.

      He may have been happy enough to go through the motions, love to the degree such a shallow person is capable of “loving,” it might be a relationship free of drama and perfectly companionable — but I believe true intimacy has boundaries and a sense of deep commitment. You don’t fall out of love and give yourself permission to “fall in love” with someone else. It’s a choice, not an alien abduction.

      Folks here have recommended an abandoned wives site — can anyone give a link? That might be a group to check out from people who’ve experienced similar.

      • CL – My first reaction was to defend both him and the “us” that once was. Now I think you have given me something to think about. Thank you

        • Lynn – thanks for the link, looks interesting and I will have to get into it more deeply.

    • THIS!!!

      My theory is this…we each have a certain capacity to love. That capacity is determined by a number of factors: FOO, personality, personality disorders, etc.

      Growing up, my parents were very different with their love capacity. My father loved in bucket-fuls. He loved my mother so much. He truly adored her. She never appreciated that, and never really gave my father his due. That being said, he very much adored her.

      My mother loved in spoonfuls. She wasn’t a bad person…she didn’t set out with nefarious intentions. That was simply her capacity due to her FOO issues. So even though she loved in spoonfuls, she was loving to the fullest of her abilities, and she really thought she was putting herself out by doing that. If your capacity is a spoon, and your are spilling some of that liquid on the spoon, then yes, you really are extending yourself.

      This is no different than our cheaters. We love in bucketfuls and we think/expect that our spouses love with the same measuring tool. But that’s not the case. Our buckets are often met with spoons.

      For me the trick is now to find another bucket and pass on the spoons!

      • Carla – that comparison is a great explanation and makes it more clear to me. Maybe that is what happened and he found someone he could love with two spoonful’s instead of one. His statement that he “settled” when he married me bothered me so much. But now I think it could true and instead of being sad for me when I think of his statement, I can be sad for him; that he didn’t know what it was like to truly share bucketful’s of love.

        • bogie – he only has one spoon. Maybe he wishes he had another spoon, but he is limited to the one he currently has. He doesn’t have the ability to love or care for another person more than he did for you. He has a limited capacity. Yes, very sad for him because he is limited in his ability to love, but also because he was showered with buckets of love and didn’t have the ability to feel it or appreciate it. His loss – and your gain. You now get to opportunity to find a bucket – and you will then feel the joy of being fully and completely loved.

  • I don’t think I’m one bit interested in marriage. All I see is entwining my life with someone and then when that ‘someone’ decides to run that train off the track… they can… and that leaves you in the ditch. I just don’t think I can take that chance again. Something happened to me on that last go around. I’m not optimistic anymore about happily ever after shit.

    I would like to meet men to date and I’ve tried it all. I’m attractive, educated and employed. Kids raised. Fun and funny. I’ve done all the happy things for me. I’ve went to classes, church, organic dinners, concerts, gyms, vacations….pretty much you name it and I’ve been there and I’ve never met anyone worth a hill of beans.Mostly I go just for me so that’s fine. I recently met a seemingly nice man online so we’ll see where that goes.
    BTW ..I have a new hot boss but I wouldn’t touch that with a ten foot pole. We’re traveling out of town to a conference next week. Ha! I’m not even tempted to be a fool anymore.

    I know CL doesn’t think dating sites are a good idea but that’s what I’m trying now. We’ll see if it works. Stay tuned. The man I met is a professor at the college I got my graduate degree from. He’s handsome and easy to be around. Only been seeing him for about a month so way too soon to tell if there’s any real zazazu.

  • Book recommendation:

    Safe People: How to Find Relationships That Are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren’t by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.

  • FullSteam –

    After the DivorceCare class (which really helped me), it was recommended we all attend Cloud and Townsend’s “Boundaries” and “Safe People” classes. Good stuff for life, not just dating/marriage relationships. I have a family full of “boundary-busters” – it was interesting to see the paralells.

  • Great topic as usual – but it does make me a little sad because even now, I still can’t imagine meeting anyone I would trust enough to want to marry again – and I’m still in my 40’s. So then it makes me sad to imagine never having the experience of an authentic marriage. Sigh.

    I’ve think I have a decent “picker” now – maybe a tad too suspicious even. I also have been told by well-meaning guy friends that “most guys don’t want to raise another man’s kids…” and my kids have already had one “father” who made it crystal clear that he didn’t want them. I WILL NOT ever put them in a position of being resented by anyone else, especially because my son especially so dearly wants a “new daddy”. I’m in my later 40’s with younger kids, so most guys willing to date someone my age (aka 48+) have grown or nearly grown kids, and express excitement that “their kids are up and grown”. So, I’ve somewhat accepted that I won’t be dating until they’re grown – or another 10 years or so. Then I will have been single for over 16 years, and by that time, I’ll be so set in my ways…and so it goes.

    This is one area where I still shake my head and wonder what kind of soul-less monster steals decades of another’s life. I will never know what it feels like to have or raise children with a husband who loves them as much as I do. And that is so very, very sad.

    • I am right there with you – mid 40s and don’t see myself dating until my son is in college – in at least 8 years. Not sure I want to though so that’s fine.

    • Right there with you, ReDefining. My daughter, just turned 13, asked me a few weeks ago if I couldn’t find a nice boyfriend, ’cause she’d like to have a good stepfather.

      Breaks my heart.

      But I do know several people in their 40s with younger children who have found new partners, sometimes with kids themselves, sometimes not, or their kids are grown, who were happy to have a partner with kids, and to be involved with those kids. Just gotta take that SOOOOOOO slow, because, as you said, we never want our kids to experience that abandonment again.

  • Though it’s only been six months I’ve been dating Nice Guy, I already see such a difference between this relationship and my marriage.

    With Nice Guy, it’s easy. I don’t feel stressed or anxious. I’m not worried about saying the wrong thing, or not being “supportive enough,” or having to be a perpetual cheerleader who ignores all reality.

    With Nice Guy, there is no sparkling bullshit. He’s not “on” all the time, he’s not constantly looking for the spotlight or to be the life of the party. I’m not embarrassed or exhausted being with him.

    Nice Guy does not love bomb or mind fuck me. He just seems to genuinely like me.

    With Nice Guy, I can tell him what I need/want out of our relationship, and he listens. He follows up with questions. He tries to do what pleases me. In return, I try to do the same for him. I don’t feel neglected or ignored.

    I see Nice Guy as a decent, honest, moral person who has flaws like everyone else. I think he sees me the same way. Not like my ex, who presented himself as perfect, and hated me for my flaws.

    I can talk with Nice Guy for hours, just little stuff about our lives, our thoughts, our belief systems and interests. With ex, he would talk endlessly about himself. When I spoke, he would stare at me blankly, then usually change the subject.

    Nice Guy is thrilled to go to bed with me. Ex had to be begged, and often even then would turn me down.

    I think the bottom line is comfort, respect, compatibility and honesty. I had none of those things with ex, I don’t believe he is even capable of those things.

    By the way, I DID meet Nice Guy online, and I know quite a few people in serious relationships, or even married, who met online. It IS possible, but yeah, you definitely can meet some freaks, narcs, cheaters and weirdos out there.

  • married almost 9 years to a keeper guy (that I met ONLINE DATING:) )!

    Never once in the 11 years we’ve know each other have I ever seen him lie to anyone or had to perform mental gymnastics to make sense of something that didn’t make sense.

    He isn’t perfect but he is unfailingly devoted to me, his mother, and our collective children.

    He has a strong work ethic and runs his business and manages his employees with respect and ethically.

    When he have an argument – it has never become cruel or childish. I have never ever been called anything worse than “crabby” or “demanding”.

    We give each other space to do things individually but share many things together.

    He encourages me to get out of the house with friends – and has never accused me of something I didn’t do or become possessive.

    He calls to see if I want him to stop at the store for milk on the way home or to tell me to be careful on the driveway because it was very icy when he walked to his car earlier in the morning.

    We make decisions together.

    He asks me if I need help.

    He laughs with me and not at me.

    • “He laughs with me and not at me.”

      It always bugged me that my STBX laughed at me – for my food choices or what I was reading or whether or not therapy was a good idea. Sooo disrespectful but I never called him on it. I just changed what I did, so that he wouldn’t mock me. No wonder I felt so squashed.

      Him cheating and leaving probably is going to be the best thing to ever happen to men, devastating as these last 18 months have been. I’m just face palming all over the place at not having thought more deeply about what was going on with us for years in advance.

      • …best thing to ever happen to ME.

        Not best thing to ever happen to MEN.


      • They sneak it up on you, Andrea, little by little. The laughing at us, not with us, the criticisms, the little cutting remarks. They figure out where our limits are, and keep pushing them a little farther and a little more ….

        And because we love and respect them, we listen. And the with time, because they will be such a pain in the ass if we don’t conform to what they want, we most of the time do … to keep the peace, to avoid unpleasantness, because it’s often not a big deal (although the accumulated damage ends up being HUGE!). And because they make it hugely aversive if we set boundaries, we don’t …

        They take advantage of our good natures, and we spackle and bend over backwards, and wonder why we feel so crappy.

        Until we’re free of them, and it’s SOOOOOOOO goooood! Shoulda done it years ago.

  • …and he ‘flirts’ relentlessly with my elderly mother. Who would absolutely take off her orthopedic shoes and walk over hot coals for him if she had to.

  • I hear some of your stories and I wish I was at the point where I could trust my “picker”. But I’m just 7 months out from DD and not yet divorced. I feel sad cause I haven’t even been “hit on” and we live in a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. I was hit on by the stbx last weekend and I was really saddened by it cause he had not tried to contact me in 4 months. I was doing well with 4 months of NC under my belt. And I held my own when he was talking to me. I did not ask one question of him in his the entire conversation. I can only hope that he felt my disdain. I am so tired of this already and wish that I could just get to Meh. I am at the point where I actually have hours of good feelings and sometimes just joy at being alive and not being with a fucktard though, so I count that as major progress.

    • Deel,

      You say: “I feel sad cause I haven’t even been “hit on””

      If you live in a small town, then everyone knows that the divorce isn’t final yet and you are still trying to make sense of it all. Hey, and as the faithful partner, do you really want an affair while you are technically married? I know for me personally, and we all have our own distinctions, to have an emotional or physical relationship before the divorce is final would still be cheating in my mind (and yes, I realize I’m being faithful to someone who doesn’t care).

      Anyway, the point is that someone may be waiting until everything is over before approaching you. Someone may be kind enough not to be taking advantage of you while you are on the rebound – which could be worse in the long run. Someone may be waiting for you to be ready to receive them in a meaningful way because they already have deep feelings for you.

      Look at me – Ms sunshine this morning when usually I am more pragmatic 🙂

      • ” Someone may be kind enough not to be taking advantage of you while you are on the rebound – which could be worse in the long run. Someone may be waiting for you to be ready to receive them in a meaningful way because they already have deep feelings for you.” Thanks for that. Sometimes I just need to hear some good advice. And I need to work on my self-esteem cause I surely don’t need to be taken advantage of again.

  • Chump Lady: I wanted to give Mr Chump a little gift: a link to Liberace playing the polka! But I thought he might think that rude.

    But what I want to know: CAN he dance the polka? Can you? I youtubed it, and it looks great fun.
    Here England we do Scottish dancing, and in South Africa the dutchmen (Afrikaners) do the ‘lang-arm’ two step. Both of which are a hell of a lot more fun than individualist contorting!!

    • He’d like that! Do we polka? No, not really. But we’re game. I was raised pretty Waspy, it wasn’t part of my culture (but doing the hokey pokey at the country club? Yeah, unfortunately.) My husband grew up with a dad who liked polka music, and it’s a thing in German parts of central Texas. (Go figure.) But he didn’t do the polka hall scene like they have in the Rust Belt.

      The few times I’ve polkaed, it’s fun! A real workout! I never encountered the “lang arm” two step in South Africa — but I did get to do some ballroom dancing with a “colored” gentleman in Cape Town who took me to a shebeen that had the most amazing jazz orchestra. And he was a high school teacher and he took me to the equivalent of their prom there. One of my best and weirdest memories of that time was a 14 year old boy teaching me to waltz — to the Tennessee Waltz! I was amazed how popular ball room dance was there. 🙂

  • Oh Chump Lady! I’m so confused now!

    I’ve been detaching and have been mostly NC with my X. DDay was May 8, 2013 and I’m still processing (I know, I’m slow!). But when I read your description of a good partner, it totally describes my X throughout our entire relationship UNTIL Jan. 25, 2013 when he started a 4-month affair while I was setting up our new home in another state. Prior to that, there were NO SIGNS.

    I have prayed on this and examined and really looked at our relationship, and there was a lot of RECIPROCITY throughout our relationship. We enjoyed doing things for each other. He took care of me and I took care of him. In different ways, but still, we had that. Prior to starting his affair, he never kept me off balance, he didn’t compare me to other people, he showed me a lot of love and kindness and respect. We did the pineapple thing for each other. Then I went through some hard times – big problems at my job; I went through a brutal menopause and my sex drive nearly vanished; and my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. And then all of a sudden he turned into a lying, cheating, stealing asshole, as I have described here before.

    The whole time, he says he wants to come back. He came to the new state and worked on the house for 3 months so I could get moved in and settled. After that, I told him I wanted NC, and he has been respecting my wishes for NC. He has been sending me money to pay back what he took from me during his affair. He wants to go to therapy. He isn’t seeing the Ho or anyone else. He has apologized to me and to my family.

    Am I spackling? Or is this a basically good guy who fucked up? He says that once he did it, he felt like he had fucked it all up beyond repair, and then he just kept making one mistake after another. He seems really remorseful (not Naugahyde remorseful), and has been this way for months. I’m a bitch from hell when I talk to him most of the time. And he takes it and apologizes and wants to come back.

    Am I all hopiumed up and dreaming of unicorns???


    PS I love you and thank you, Chump Lady and Chump Nation.

    • LoyalGaga – I have the t-shirt from the place where you are now visiting.

      STBX had an affair about 8 years ago – lasted about 8 months. When I discovered the affair stbx did everything “correctly.” Whatever I needed to help deal with the trauma , he was there. Did MC, IC, etc. Seriously he was the poster child for remorseful spouses.

      That didn’t last so long. Even though he did IC, he quit before he ever got to his real issues. He did IC for maybe 8 or 9 months after D-day.

      So fast-forward about two years after our false recovery and he reached out to OW again. He learned from his mistakes that got him busted in the first affair. It all went super-secret underground. It wasn’t until 5 years later that I encountered BD 2. Same OW.

      I can’t speak to what your husband may do….but I can tell you that once they cheat on you, and although you really want to believe that they have seen the light – chances are they may screw around on you again.

      If your husband is doing all of the right things – bravo. Now get yourself to a lawyer and get a post-nup in place. If your husband has another affair (EA or PA) make sure your butt is covered. Take his a*s to the cleaners.

      Hugs to you!

      • Hi Carla!

        Thanks so much for your response. I also feel like once someone cheats, they are a cheater. Period. I probably wouldn’t feel so black and white about that if it was a one night stand, which I could probably get my head to come to grips with as a forgiveable “mistake,” (although my pussy never made the mistake of climbing onto another man’s dick by accident, but I digress) but when the cheating is an actual other RELATIONSHIP while still in a relationship with me, that person is a liar and a cheater, period. I am so sorry about what happened to you. I probably would have killed him on the spot if the same thing happened to me. Really, killed him. Jail and everything. Did you guys finally split up?

        • LoyalGaga – oh, you made me laugh about climbing on a dick by accident! Too funny.

          I agree with you. The fact that there was a relationship between them changes everything. I smoked the hopium the first time around. But this time – although the pipe was alluring – I put it down and faced the horrible reality of the destruction caused by my cheating husband.

          Yes, we did split. Separated now. We took care of all financial and property matters and I just signed the affidavit for the complaint in divorce. It should hopefully be final before the end of summer.

          This is never what I wanted – it’s not what any of us wanted. All we can do now is heal from this and move on – and hopefully find someone who knows our worth.

  • Tracy – this should be the tag line for your book: “I have an evangelical zeal to get you the hell out of a bad relationship!” Or, if you need to describe to someone you’ve just met at a cocktail party what you “do”… “I bitch slap people with an evangelical zeal to get them the hell out of bad relationships.” It’s a perfect line! LOVE!

  • Hi CL and friends,

    Thanks for this post and all the inspiring stories and tips. Andrea’s question is definitely related to mine. I’m taking a break from dating and finding my “happy place” and it’s good so far. I’m working on my health, enjoying hobbies, and being good to myself/being around sensitive, non-agenda-driven people when a crisis comes up. I’m not sure if a good relationship is out there for me, but if not, whatever.

  • I’m not going to reply to anyone specific because some of these posts have gotten heated. I too cannot at this time fathom being in a romantic relationship after 23 years of giving myself away to a master gaslighter and abuser. My life now is pretty lonely and I miss my little ones, whom after being their sole caretaker (daddy drove them to school and played super mario with them until Dday, I did everything else) but I’d rather stare at a wall on my lonely weekends or watch 8 episodes of Pawn Stars than to try to learn how to: cook, clean, earn, fuck, listen, support better “this time around” not because I think I’m perfect, but because I have never observed anyone else in my life or the people around me do that, ever. Am I the only one? People are who they are, I’m not a sales type person. I’m not interested in seducing anyone. Need the fantasy? Sorry cant help you. Flattery? Are you a 12 year d girl? How about respect? That’s so much sturdier than flattery. And no worries, you won’t be expected to flatter me since it makes my skin crawl, but I’ll expect respect.

    • Hi Whatawaste. Good post. There will never be another romantic relationship for me. I am 62 years old and met my ex husband when I was 18. We were married for 37 years and my best years are now behind me, I realise that now as he is after 20 year olds. Nothing says ‘you are old’ like your ex husband chasing babies!! I know that without respect and complete honesty, none of us have a leg to stand on. Cheers.

  • Sometimes I think it’s just a crapshoot. I read a bazillion books on relationships and worked on myself and knew all of the things about sharing interests and communicating and shared values. Yep, that worked out well. Not. No matter what whoever I end up with next (if anyone) he can’t be as bad as my ex.

    • PS, this was a guy who cooked, vacuumed, did dishes and laundry, participated heavily in child raising, loved my sense of humor, was affectionate, was an excellent communicator and emotionally intuitive, supported my career and was fun to hang out with. He would talk about the relationship. He supported and embraced my quirky spirituality. And the sex was amazing.

      The only red flags there at the beginning (besides love bombing) were that he did seem to not understand the concept of “lovemaking” or intimacy although there was incredible openness. And also that he would tend to shy away from me being sick. But then again I’ve run into that with other men and he was Very caring to start with.

      Honestly, it really is like he was replaced by another person. Or abducted by aliens. I understand that bad person was there all along, but he really went off the deep end with me and afterwards.

      • Kat – I’m not sure how you could have true openness without without intimacy… Not sure things were as open as you believe. Since apparently he was hiding who he really was from you. It sounds like you’ve bought into the story he’s selling but he is obviously not that great, because underneath he is the person that could do this to you. You deserve someone better and someone real! Fuck him.

        • I don’t think you can have long term openness without intimacy. Sometimes strangers can have extreme moments of openness because there’s less risk. And I do believe he didn’t know he was hiding himself from me. I think from the beginning our versions of fidelity were different but I do think this is the first time in his life where he was faced with how awful he is. I think before that he truly believed he was a good guy. Seriously, I have this spidey sense that normally goes off if I’m even in a little bit of risk and I felt so very very safe with him. What I’ve found out from another support group for wives of Sex Addicts is that a lot of them had what they thought was a perfect husband as well. The husband and marriage that others would envy and think was perfect. It’s almost like all of the other great stuff is sort of to make up for the imbalance. But yeah, I’d like someone real. It’s just hard letting go of all that shiny. Best times of my life, and then worst pain of my life. He might have been a monster all along but he was a really fun, romantic, affectionate, memory making monster to begin with.

    • Oh yeah, and he’d go dancing. So….ladies, if you meet your dream guy, run the other direction. I guess it’s the old saying, if it’s too good to be true………

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