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Good Shrink, Bad Shrink

shrinkTo paraphrase Forrest Gump, “Mental health care is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”

Reading the comments here at Chump Lady, it sounds like chumps’ shrink experiences are a mixed bag. Some awesome super helpful shrinks, and some dreadful “what did you do to make them cheat” sorts of shrinks.

So today I thought I’d ask for the Best Advice you got from your shrink — or if you had a bad shrink, the Worst Advice you got. Then we can compare and contrast.

If it’s good — hey, think of how exponentially helpful that $150/hour you spent will be for the chump collective. If it’s bad? Well, there’s snark.

I had both kinds of shrinks. The first marriage counselor we went to actually looked like this cartoon above, right down to the sweater vest and patchy facial hair. (Note to my enemies — do not ever piss me off. You may wind up a cartoon.)

Let’s just call him Dr. Hug, a Leo Buscaglia-wannabe sort. We sought him out for marriage counseling. (Because he was on the plan and a short walk from Mr. Cheaterpants’ office. Nothing too taxing.) He listened to my horror story — and I mentioned how he threatened to kill me, “hunt me down and burn down my house” if I told anyone about his cheating. And how he wished his ex-wife dead for speaking with me, and said he would piss on her baby’s grave.

Now, I don’t have a Ph.D., but I think if someone walked into my office and said that, I might stir from my Zen torpor. “Hmm,” I’d think, scratching my patchy facial hair, “We have a larger class of freak today.”

But no. Dr. Hug stared at us wanly. And said to continue. So I added, “And I want him to take an STD test, but he won’t.” And Dr. Hug said to the cheater “And how does that make you feel?” And the cheater answered, “Like I’m being punished.”

Which of course infuriated me. I looked to Dr. Hug for any signs that this might have infuriated him also, or at least caused a twitch across the Zen placidity of his face. Nope. If they taught you not to judge in shrink school, this guy was GOOD. Like maybe he spent his residency in Tibet in a Buddhist monastery Zen. Or had a laudanum habit, I dunno.

As we got up to leave, he gave us his one and only nugget of wisdom: “You two need to learn to dialogue.”

Really? Because I didn’t really think my cheater had a communication problem. He didn’t mumble. He enunciated pretty clearly “PISS ON HER DEAD BABY’S GRAVE.”

I know he meant dialogue as in to speak honestly and openly with one another about our inner selves. Well of course that would be nice. But that’s like taking your car to the shop after the engine threw a rod and the mechanic saying, “What you really need here is a car that runs.” Apparently there’s a small industry for stating the obvious.

Anyway, as I’ve recounted before, my disgust with Dr. Hug resulted in me calling the practice and asking for a verbal steamroller who could stand up to my ex. And they gave us Janet — a tiny, fiery woman with a potty mouth. She called the cheater on his shit. And she called me on mine.

A good shrink, IMO, should make you squirm and examine yourself. Problem with infidelity though is, that’s a double edged sword. We chumps are so good at blaming ourselves, that the wrong shrinks who encourage that “I drove them to it” mentality can be so harmful. No, I mean examining yourself as in “What am I doing here? Why am I taking this shit? Is this acceptable to me?”

The wisest thing Janet said to me in those sessions was “ARE YOU LISTENING TO THIS? THIS IS WHO HE IS!” So when the cheater said patently stupid shit like “I like being a narcissist!” she told me to tune into that. It wasn’t a joke. It was his character. He was revealing himself. He had been all along, but I was being such a codependent chump I wasn’t listening to his actions.

And hey, a shout out to Janet. If you find yourself in central Pennsylvania in need of a good therapist, call her. If you want to do the same for your shrink on your comment, why the hell not? Advertise the good ones, and maybe the bad ones will dissolve into their sweater vests. Or stop getting columns on HuffPo anyway. (We can hope…)

So lay it on me, worst advice, best advice.

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.
  • Ahhh, the wonderful world of marriage counseling. Is it just me or the objective is to have you come back for as many sessions as your insurance provider will allow? Totally profit driven industry.

    • Well, any industry wants to make money. I don’t think people (especially social workers or pastors) go to into those professions to get rich. Psychiatrists, maybe. But yeah, there’s probably an incentive with bad shrinks to let the conversation go on and out without measurable goals and benchmarks.

      Just like some lawyers want to run up billable hours. Shrinks aren’t immune.

      Speaking for myself, I probably wanted more shrink hours in those early days than my provider would allow!

    • GOOD shrinks like to help people get better as fast as possible. Then those people send along their friends, colleagues, acquaintances and distant relatives. The good shrinks never lack for patients.

      But because it’s a field where the work is done with so little direct feedback, it’s easy for the bad/lazy/ill-trained or narcissistic ones to just drag things out ….

      • Friend of mine is a counsellor. She says not to bother with MC–usually because by the time you get there, it’s too late anyways.

        • People often do go to MC too late – but in my mind, that’s a reason to encourage them to go earlier, rather than write it off entirely! I do know couples who didn’t wait so late who were very much helped by a good MC.

          But sometimes MC ends up having another purpose; to help us figure out that it’s not going to work to ‘fix’ the marriage, to help us feel that we’ve tried our best, to help us cope with the emotions of separation. A better separation is also a legit result from MC!

          Of course, when you’re going in to MC with a narc as your partner, the best possible result is that the MC helps you see your partner clearly – and get the hell out!

  • “Dr Hug”. lol I had one of those. It was while I was dating my narc. I was already having anxiety, but, in true chump fashion, I figured there was something wrong with me, so I went to individual therapy. Looking back, I can see that it was the gaslighting during the damn courtship phase that was causing the anxiety. Arrrgh.

    Anyhoo, ‘Ms. Hug’ basically told me that I need to work on myself. Gave me lots of things to work on, which I did, faithfully. When I brought up bizarre behavior of my (narc) boyfriend, she said “You should be grateful that you have someone who loves you.” That seriously messed me up. I must say, though, she wasn’t the brightest therapist. She didn’t seem very tuned-in during our sessions, either. I really don’t think she should be practicing. Another friend of mine went to her, too, and said the same thing. But she was covered under my insurance….so at the time, it seemed like a good idea. And I didn’t have much to compare it to.

    I went to two more therapists while dating my narc, and both called the truth as it was. But I was convinced that the relationship problems were my fault, so I continued on. Damn, I wish I would have listened.

    One marriage, two kids and one dday later, and I had two great therapists who saw the truth and called it. I listened this time. And thank goodness they were good therapists, because another ‘Ms Hug’ would have been disastrous. In all, I had a pretty good ratio of therapists – 4 out of 5 ain’t bad.

    • Ducks, yep. I’ve seen a few! The most recent, bright spark, asked me what I was majoring in at uni (I have gone back to uni, yes) and I told her this time around I was doing a double major in Geography and Anthropology. Her reply? “What is Anthropology? Palm hit face so fast….. that was the last appointment I made. The best was a guy we drove a six hour round trip to – no BS, called a spade a spade, was a “Passionate Marriage” advocate, the Schnarch, Crucible Method. He was good, and the first to get the cheater to look at himself, PROPERLY. And, amazingly for all of you, cheater-pants took it all on board, and did the work, and continues to work on his shit, daily.

      Have been following the Chump Nation for quite a long while, LOVE it! Mine cheated with one only (his narc ex, of nearly 30 years earlier, herself a cheat, multiple guys – on him) for a fair while (yep, that has been over investigated!) but I am not “over it” nearly five years after Dday, and one child’s uni fund used up in shrinks, etc – you never get “over it” even with a fully, completely horrified remorseful cheat. He gets it. But I can never be “better” – shit, we had it all, but fucktard had a breakdown and screwed it all up. Waah, waah, waah. Yep, Even I am sick of me.

      • Everyone’s sick of me and it’s been 3mos. I’m shocked at the lack of support after years of doling out friendship kleenex and love without thought or judgement, shocked. I’m so alone. I guess always being viewed as the strong one has a downside. I can’t find a therapist right now – huge city, lots of neuroses I guess. So chump city is my elixir! Had 2 days of emotional puking and now I need to tap my rock star self again. Totally got triggered all day yesterday, looked for a fun pic from the summer, found a pic of an email from hee haw ho I’d forgotten about. Sob sob waa waa. Sniffle, phone ring its the obgyn to book my std test. Sob sob cry cry. Husband says why do that I didn’t sleep with her? Well, taking your word puts me at risk for an unknown slime ooze from your serial cheating buck toothed scuzz factory, which is like the Rotten Tomato award of humiliation, and jumping ass naked into those frozen stirrups is the Academy Awards. And I’m a classy gal. Then I threw up on the subway platform 2 stops early during rush hour – boy, you’d think it’d get less embarrassing every time, but it really doesn’t! At 45 no one says, aw pregnant? They grab their kids and noses and whisper ‘fucking drunk at 8am’. Plus I was going to the consulate, which allows no phone or liquids! No fucking water bottle on hand! And I had to run, crying all sour coffee puke-like because I had retched before the stop I needed and those Yankees like you to be on time for appointments. Then at the cashier, no credit cards worked, so i cried in front of all those manly armed guards, not once but twice because i had to go to the atm and come back. Then I cried some more because what I really wanted was my husband to pick me up and tell me oh I am so sorry and wipe the hair off my face. Waa waa sob sob. I’m laughing while I write this, it was that funny of a day. That was all before noon. Maybe I should put on my heavy Roots wool socks, hold a bottle of maple syrup in one hand a bottle of molson in the other, click my heels and pray to the hockey gods: can I not be in kan(ada)sas anymore? Eh??? Then drink the molson, poor the maple syrup down my pants and socks-skate around the living room cranking bryan adams. I’m changing my name from Nic to I Am A Rock Star. Mostly because the public puking and public revulsion is as close as I’ve been to feeling like one in a while. I’m adding an asterisk to be removed when I am ready to really rock again. *!!

        • I am so sorry you had such a horrible day. I will say this line made me laugh though, “That was all before noon.” I am hoping next week is lightyears better…

        • I am so sorry that this is happening to you right now. I hope you get some rest, it sounds like you are having a really rough time of it. If you can’t do that now, I hope you get some soon.

          • Honestly, I have to laugh, how could you not? It’s seriously funny. If this shit, all of it, is the worst thing that ever happens to me, I will have had a charmed life. This community gives me so many smiles and so much hope. You are all my rock stars. Thank you all, especially you chump lady.

            • Lol. Yes even in my worst early days (I puked for six months straight, usually in the shower because that’s where he liked to f#<k me) I could see the humor in it. He ran off with his racquetball doubles partner. He gave up his family for someone who'd already been another's OW. That is seriously funny stuff. And then he MARRIED her. What I want you to do is write all this down in a journal because at the end of your journey you may be able to sell it! 🙂 Sending sincere hugs.

  • I could probably write a book…

    Well, o.k. Maybe not a *book* but definitely a short story about my experiences with shrinks throughout my life!

    In all honesty, I’ve met some good ones and some not-so-good ones. Although the tidbits I got out of therapy wasn’t always along the lines of “advice”, I can pinpoint some of the more memorable ‘highlights’ as follows:

    Good: “One of the best ways to deal with an anxiety attack is to NOT CARE if you have one.” I’ve remembered this to this day.
    Not-so-good: “All of your problems (anxiety/panic attacks at 19 years old) are because you are sexually repressed.” I then told him that I was still a virgin. He quickly ushered me out of his office…

    Not-so-good: “Your husband’s lying is a MARITAL issue”.
    Good: My verbally abusive cheating (now deceased) husband and I had not been intimate for several months. In our first counseling session, we each took turns describing our ‘complaints’. My h. was very vocal about sex, or lack thereof. I described his use of porn (he was addicted)…his cyber-cheating…his quest for ‘power’ and control in the marriage. The counselor looked at me, looked at my h., looked at me and turned to my h and said, “YOU HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO BEFORE YOU EVEN *THINK* ABOUT HAVING SEX!”

    Not-so-good. After describing my h’s. desire to have sex outdoors, his use of porn, cyber sex, his verbal abuses and desire to control me, etc., the therapist asked me, “Why are you so INTOLERANT?” (?!?!)

    And last, the BEST ADVICE I EVER RECEIVED: “Although I’m bound by ethics not to diagnose your husband since I’ve never met him, I STRONGLY SUGGEST you do some research on Narcissistic Personality Disorder.”


      • Very sound…I was told to research all in that Cluster B category…BorderLine, Narcissistic, Anti-social…..since they all look soooo very much alike….

    • My therapist clued me in that my ex is NPD. That’s when all the pieces started coming together for me.

      • My therapist was our marriage counselor (I see her individually now). After I found out about the others (on top of the current relationship he was having), she looked at my point blank and said, “He doesn’t have a conscience.”

        That was when I KNEW I was dealing with crazy. I could feel it, but noone could confirm and I had been so lied to and gaslit that I didn’t trust myself. I always thought I was to blame. But she had seen him in action; she had seen what he did to me. And she knew. I don’t think she was supposed to say that – but it was one of the best things should could have said. It helped me pull myself out of the blame.

    • Yeah, after my most recent D-Day (20 years after the first — don’t ask), my cheater suggested that maybe I should have a shrink to talk to. First thing she said when I told her why I was there was, “Is he a narcissist?” Didn’t know what she was talking about…

  • We had a brief experience with a typical/lousy therapist during our marriage, then I had a life-changing awesome experience with a different one post Dday.

    The first we visited after exH REALLY freaked me out with one of his night terrors (bed-wetting, pulling out his own hair, tearing his clothes, and punching himself in the face). He finally admitted some serious, gut-wrenching childhood trauma to me (which I’d kinda figured, just didn’t know any details). So we go together to the therapist, who told him his real issue was that he “wasn’t happy”. And since grown up life, marriage, and children didn’t make him “happy”, he should go do whatever it was that made him “happy”. So, apparently since that answer required exH to actually DO something himself (instead of having ME do everything, as was typical), that was the end of that counselor.

    After Dday, I knew I was drowning, so I went to a counselor recommended by my church, my DivorcCare leader, and a friend, with the caveat, “He is a straight shooter – if you want fluffy feel-good bullshit, this is NOT your guy.” So true. As I’ve mentioned before, he called me out the very first session, “You’ve done a perfect job of analyzing your husband; but I haven’t heard you say a single word about you. DO YOU EVEN EXIST IN THIS MARRAIGE? Whatever happened to you? Who you are; what you want; your needs? ” Spot on for me; and likely for many other chumps.

    He’s also very big on “Lies We Tell Ourselves” – writing them down, then writing the truth. Example “My ex cheats because I’m fat” is the lie – “My ex cheated because he wants to and feels no guilt.” is the truth. I keep the running list at home, and add to it and look at it from time to time. Pretty empowering.

    He’s also big on looking at actions not words; as past behavior as the best predictor of future behavior – basic stuff, but very powerful. And his primary mantra overall: “Know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Amen.

    • “…he called me out the very first session, “You’ve done a perfect job of analyzing your husband; but I haven’t heard you say a single word about you. DO YOU EVEN EXIST IN THIS MARRAIGE? Whatever happened to you? Who you are; what you want; your needs? ” Spot on for me; and likely for many other chumps.”

      Spot on and true for me.

  • It wasn’t really advice, but my therapist (who started as a marriage counselor for me and my now Ex) said that working with me was great for her because I was so determined to be happy.

  • My therapist listened to me for at least 3 sessions and one day, after a particularly good tidbit of information about what a fuck my ex was, he put his hand up as if to stop me and said,”Your husband doesn’t care about marriage, he likes to hold hostages.”

    He’s never blamed me for anything, and I’ve told this guy EVERYTHING I could think of for about 3 months through the worst of it. After I told him how my X was raised; from people who cheated on each other the whole time he was growing up, my therapist would just shake his head and tell me this divorce will be the best thing that ever happened to me. So far, it’s looking that way. 🙂

    • “Your husband doesn’t care about marriage, he likes to hold hostages.”

      THIS. I used to joke that I had Stockholme Syndrome. Except, yeah, I probably did.

      • Stockholm syndrome, trauma bonding and infantile regression are all real. I’ve been in enough therapy that I can now recall a crazy fight (any fight, 23 years of it) where I was being verbally psychologically and abused and how I would acquiesce and fawn and eventually beg for forgiveness. It goes deep and its hard to admit you got broke. I think it’s why Cool Hand Luke is one of my favorite movies.

  • I had a good one. He had worked with my wife on some prior issues and with us both when we first got married and were working through how to integrate her two children from a prior life into mine. While never breaching confidentiality, he supplied me with the “sparkly turd” image of wife early on in the breakup, before I found Chump Lady. Told me that if I put whipped cream and designer clothes on a turd, it was still a turd, as I recall. He then proceeded to tell me that we were going to use the next few sessions to find out what it was about me that allowed my now ex-wife and her drug addict boss/doctor to shame me for seven months before taking any action.

  • Worst Shrink Advice: In marriage counseling, before D-day and during false reconciliation. Responding to virtually everything that either of us said with a nod of the head or by turning to the non-speaker and asking, “So, how does that make you feel?” Absolutely no substantive guidance about what anything meant, and no practical discussions about what our options for action might be. Totally. Worthless.

    Best Shrink Advice: After the last D-day and I filed for divorce, I got into individual counseling and found a female psychologist who decades earlier had divorced an alcoholic who had then moved 2 hours away and shacked up with a barmaid and to whom she’d had to send their kids to visit on a bus one weekend every month. She could relate. She gave me loads of great advice, but perhaps the 3 best nuggets fell under the heading of “YOU ONLY CONTROL YOU”:

    1. You don’t control what goes on at your ex’s home, so don’t try (by demanding, asking, threatening, or begging). That includes homework, unsavory friends, time spent on the internet, hygiene, what they eat, Mom having sleepover dates,—ANYTHING. The only exception would be immediate threats of imminent bodily harm, such as taking heroin around the kids.

    2. Don’t count on your ex doing anything she says she will do. She lied to you about every important thing while you were married. Why would you think she’ll treat you better now that you’re adversaries? Sure, she will agree to anything you ask to shut you up, but then she’ll do whatever she wants and you’ll be furious when you discover her dishonesty. Save yourself the heartburn. Don’t try to build consensus with a liar.

    3. Don’t think you can control your teenage kids or expect them to do what’s best for them. They love their mom, and their mom is desperate to not lose them. So don’t be surprised if she parentally love-bombs them with expensive gifts and lax standards at her house. And don’t be surprised if they fall for it–at least for a while. Given a choice, teenagers will almost always pick to live in the most permissive situation available. Their grades, socialization, and diet may well suffer in the short term, but they will figure things out on their own in a few years.

    • I’ve learned to manage numbers 1 and 2, but it is number 3 that I am having so much trouble with. I can’t help worrying how much damage they’ll do to themselves before they “figure things out.”

      It may be good advice, but it sure speaks to a hole in the family court system–sure let the kids drop out of any class that is “hard,” ride a motorcycle without a helmet, or stay out as late as they want (because one parent refuses to be anything but fun and games)–we wouldn’t want to abridge anyone’s right to be a wretched excuse for a parent.

      • I hear you. In my case, one of my sons was arrested for buying marijuana at school (a class A misdemeanor, one step below a felony) right after I filed for divorce and he was on deferred adjudication (meaning any further infractions while in the ensuring year and he’s off to prison) for the following year. Stupid ex wife bombed him with with the newest phones and video game consoles and and $1,000 video cameras (his hobby) and kept driving him to our local skate park where all his pot smoking buddies were and where his probation office had specifically asked that he not go. Oh, and let him drop out of all his extra curricular activities and AP classes. And let him eat endless junk food (he was obese and had been advised to lose weight by our PCP). When I tried to implement boundaries at my house, he hit the eject button and asked to change our 50-50 custody arrangement to the standard every-other-weekend-at-dad’s arrangement. Then his mother moved 2,000 miles away and told him how amazing it would be in the new state (promised house with a pool, cool tech-savvy schools, etc.). It tore my heart out to see him slipping away from me and endangering his future.

        But amazing here we are 5 years out from D-day and . . . he’s a transformed kid. He figured out the new situation was a scam (they lived in a grim HUD foreclosure in a crummy suburb with horrible schools), went online to finish high school and enroll in college a year early, moved hundreds of miles away from his mom and her new hubby (a former AP), found his nerd tribe, and hasn’t been in any trouble since. He’s even lost all his extra weight (though started smoking–that’s another story). And overall, our relationship is on very solid ground. I think we actually enjoy each other’s company. And I am hopeful for his future.

        All to say, I really to think kids figure this stuff out if you don’t keep them in the middle of a tug of war and you give them a few years to grow up and judge both parents by their actions.

        Good luck!

  • What ticks me off is how they (therapists/ marriage counselors, whatever their title is) act as if they cannot provide you with their own personal opinion. Yes, I get that they’re ethically not suppose to (still not clear on the actual policy, and maybe this depends on their own philosophy), but I’ll take someone’s biased opinion over 45 minutes of “and how do you feel about that.” Best therapist I’ve had was one that laid it out on the table without beating around the bush. “Yes, your cheating husband is an asshole!” and her other brilliant line “C’mon girl, you’re not stupid, use your intuition to filter through his bullshit.” Now that’s what makes me come back for more. $30 copay or not. ;))

    • I totally agree. And I asked a professor of psychology about this and she said “Oh, we can’t tell people what to do, or what we think. They have to draw those conclusion for themselves.”

      Why? I asked.

      “Because if they don’t like the outcome, then they can blame US.”

      Seriously. I mean, what if you went to a regular doctor and described your stomach pain. Stabbing, throbbing, nauseous-like? And they had you guess your diagnosis because gosh, if they guessed wrong you’d blame them and file for malpractice. “Just connect the dots. I’m sure you’ll arrive at appendicitis on you own.”

      • I was in a couple situations where I could feel medical doctors (perhaps residents) posing proposed treatments or tests in such a way that the decision WAS mine. “How does that sound to you? Should we go forward with this?” Not “This is what needs to be done. This is what we recommend you do.” I felt that they were indeed trying to avoid any possible backlash.

    • My Shrink never charged me a co-pay, only what insurance would cover…What made her amazing is though she could not directly tell me what she thought, she had the uncanny ability of directing me there through questions or expressions…If I was rationalizing or saying something patently chumpy she would roll her eyes and I knew when I got there because she would smile… I think this is what makes a good shrink…not telling you directing you, the discovery is better when you make it…Also, when I got there she would then tell me what and why she thought whatever.

      • Okay. But why can she tell you what she thought in the beginning? Why is it a game of hot, hot, cold, noooo…. getting colder… WARM!

        I suppose it is a balancing act. Eye rolling means you’re getting warmer.

        • I think sometimes it is because, if you discover it yourself, it’s more real, more important, more true. Bit different than appendicitis. No one needs to own the appendicitis diagnosis in order to do what needs to be done. But we chumps sure need to own our “aha” moments in order to keep to the path of non-chumpiness, in the face of hopium and love-bombing.

        • I think part of her approach was recognizing that right after DDay I was going to therapy to heal, BUT WITH the intention of saving my marriage and family…If she would have bluntly said leave the narcissistic fuckwit, I probably would have thought her a quack and quit going … this way I would break my hopium addiction myself (from the beginning her main goal was to get me to understand that played no part and could not control my wife’s behavior and always insinuated that she was disordered, but I held on hope anyway)…In the end forcing me to see the light, rather than her telling me was the only way I would become unstuck…I don’t know if that makes sense, .

        • I had a yuppie one that would move her head in circles, and say,
          “Sooooo, have you thought about…(the opinion she wanted you to have.”

        • At some point, people do have to decide for themselves, since this will result in action. While not quite analogous, it’s a bit like going on a diet. Your doctor can tell you to lose weight, but you’re not going to do so until you decide for yourself that you both can and will do so. The motivation has to come from within.

          I train dogs on the side. The old school of training would compel the dog to do something, either through negative consequences (think leash corrections) or through positive consequences (think luring into a sit). Dogs execute behaviors faster and more precisely if they figure out for themselves the behavior that results in the reward. The challenge for the trainer is to break the behavior down into small enough components that the dog can connect the dots.

          I suspect the really good therapists will let you connect the dots, but will break things down into small enough bits that there is less risk of failing to make those connections.

  • Oh, and I should add, that when I was wrapped up in still wanting to “save” my marriage and my seriously disturbed exH, good therapist looked at me with a wicked serious face and said, “Please be clear, for the healthy and safety of you and your children, reconciliation of ANY type is NOT, and never will be, an option for you.”

    And when asking what to ever say, if I ever meet a great man to he wants to know how I ended up with Wacky-Jack Cheaterpants, good therapist advised, “Say that you met your exhusband, and he was a very convincing Good Guy. But that he was and is very unstable and unhealthy. And it’s hard to predict and recognize the signs of that when you aren’t that way. And that you’ve learned, healed, and are ready to move on.”

  • Well my disturbed, alcoholic, mentally ill XH IS A THERAPIST!

    Only time we tried marital counseling: My intake with the counselor, he drew all these interlocking circles, put an “X” for me somewhere in them, as an attempt to illustrate how “codependent” I was. He didn’t just acknowledge that I was hurting. – just somehow damaged.

    Second / third meetings together: He and XH spent half the sessions talking shop. Who they knew in common, who was working on what research project, different industry trends…… when we did discuss “issues” he and my XH were both the counselor with him allowing XH to as things like, “I’m sure when I said that, you felt confused”.

    I pulled the plug.

    After split I met with a therapist a couple times and my take away from stayed with me. She said, “when you have a dysfunctional view of the world and your place in it, things that other people see as harmful or inappropriate, are completely normal to you.”

    • HA! Marcie, you just reminded me…

      My cheating exb/f and his affair partner were BOTH in therapy at the time they cheated! In fact, his AP was married, and her h. was also in therapy. The husband’s therapist was CONFIDING IN *HER* about what her h. was saying in his sessions!

      I also asked my exb/f if he told his therapist about his meeting someone else online while in a LTR with ME. Exb/f said, “NOOOOOOO!”, like there’s NO WAY he would tell his own therapist the TRUTH!

      • Oh I paid! But while it took me a few more years to finally pull the plug on him – that summer that everything blew up and we tried MC, actually was the beginning my pulling my head out of my butt.

  • Well, here is a topic that I have true passion for!!!! I had an EXCELLENT individual therapist who put it all out there and called me on my shit and gave me great advice. She basically told me to watch his actions. Told me that I cannot make him into someone he isn’t. She heard all of the mess and watched me cry and she watched me go thru all of the emotions as a result of my life imploding. She helped me see how strong I am. I’m a smart woman and I didn’t need to take his shit anymore. She was WONDERFUL! I don’t need a therapist anymore. My problem wasn’t me. It was the piece of excrement I was holding on to like he was a prize! He was just a piece of stinking shit!

    Our marriage counselor also was fantastic. She didn’t take sides but she asked the hard questions and made him uncomfortable. Of course, he didn’t like her and didn’t want to go back after the first session. We made it to session two. He wouldn’t participate. She asked him if he had anything to add to conversation. He said no. She asked him why he was there. “Because SHE made me”! She asked to speak to us individually. She spoke to him first and then had him go to the waiting room. She brought me into her office and told me she has never met anymore quite like him before. He clearly doesn’t want to fix the marriage. He doesn’t see that he has done anything wrong by carrying on a five year affair. She asked me if I was prepared to divorce. My answer was YES. If he didn’t want to reconcile why would I continue to go down this road. She basically told me that I was a smart woman, beautiful and had a lot going for me. She essentially told me to ditch the dead weight and go on to be happy. He wasn’t worth my time! It took me a year and one more dday to “get it”! When we left that appointment that night he told me that the therapist was a bitch and he was NEVER going back to see her. And…..we didn’t. And…….now he has last half of his money, we have sold our dream home, one daughter hasn’t spoken to him or seen him in ONE YEAR and the second daughter is VERY close to writing him off as well! He is a loser!!!!

    LOVED my therapists! They both helped me to eventually see the light!

  • Ah, therapy.
    In hindsight my first therapist during the first MC was very sweet, but not very experienced. Then H did not like going, felt she took my side, etc. I thought it was ok, we’d learned to communicate, I’d explained my issues with his parents lack of boundaries, etc.
    No, but it turned out then H _HAD_ had that affair, but did not ‘fess up.

    I thought we had learned skills to communicate, and if we could get through that time, we were good. Ha!
    Some stuff in between, but most importantly, 13 yrs later, he wants out of the marriage, but cannot even use those words! Just, “not end up like my parents” and “I am content in the direction things are headed… ”

    Last MC was good, asked point blank if there was anyone else, etc. H denied it for 3 months, but I had insisted he go to IC. So, finally, he started confessing; it still took 3 weeks, and I do not know much in the way of details, except finally some truth, which meant the marriage was over: cheated years ago, in love with someone else, but they stopped socializing months before (yeah, right).
    There are moments of self realization (root of our issues was exH’s lack of honest communication…. Don’t you love the word salad? Um, it’s called lying!)

    but for the most part no attempt at personal responsibility on the part of my exH.
    Dude, cheating, then not ‘fessing up, will affect the relationship, ad not in a good way.

    I do not fault the therapists. Counseling does no good unless the person wants to be there and is truthful. But I wished the first one had pushed us more, and had insisted that we also get individual counseling. Turns out that is really what exH needed (and probably me, too)

  • Best advice: Your husband is a narcissist and incapapble of change. Do not let your marriage be a model for what your daughters’ think is acceptable in a marriage. Worst advice: Your husband wouldn’t have cheated if he was getting what he needed at home.(can’t make this shit up- I later found out he was related to the OW!) There are days I think I also could write a sickly funny book about my life in the fishbowl. Most days, I am so happy for that shit to be in my back mirror that I just laugh at the insanity of it all.

    • ” I later found out he was related to the OW!”–see, now that should just go to his ethics board right there and then–he KNEW he shouldn’t even have taken you on in this case!

      Shit like that pisses me off.

  • Never had enough MC appointments to actually receive advice – good, bad or otherwise.

    The first time, STBX left the second session saying “Well I just got ganged up on by two women” and refused to return. (Because the therapist happened to deem a statement I made regarding STBX’s behavior to be valid.) The second attempt, about 5 years later, STBX went to the first session and declared “This guy’s not going to help us at all!” And again, refused to return. I went to a second appointment alone, during which the therapist said to me “I felt sorry for you during that session with your husband.”

    Still, I remained in that so-called marriage for another 11 years…

  • I never went to a marriage counselor (because we were merely engaged, not married at the time), but even when I suggested we go to a relationship counselor, he said he was “too busy with work” so it would either have to be late at night or I go alone. Obviously, no shrink was available at 10:00 PM so I ended up going alone.

    At first, she merely sat and listened to my story, my insecurities, and how I wish I could trust him. She sensed this, and because I spackled like hell, she didn’t see any of the red flags and gave me some good advice. “Sounds like this girl is the complete opposite of you, who has your life together” and “Remember, he fell in love with YOU. So why would he fall for someone who’s your complete opposite?”

    Then, when I actually found out about the affair, I called her up and she was very understanding and let me come in the same day. She listened to me cry and scream about how I trusted him, I confessed that I didn’t reveal all the dirty details, and at the end of it all, she said “You need to take action and be free. Don’t stay in that abusive environment.” She helped me plan my move into an apartment complex, kept assuring me this was the right thing to do, and whenever my ex threatened me with legal action, she would call him out on it. “That’s not how the law works. He’s just trying to intimidate you.” Even when my ex would love bomb me, she would remind me “Remember what he did to you. He consciously had an affair for months and months. This may not even be the first one. You can’t let him take advantage of you. You WILL find someone better. Even if you don’t, it’s better to be happy alone than miserable with someone else.”

    I honestly don’t think I could’ve done it all without her. (Or at least it would’ve taken months and months longer of false reconciliation)

    Honorable mention to all my friends and family members who came in after the fact and helped me stay strong in staying away from him 🙂 Also to the many quotes about break-ups and leaving cheaters on Pinterest!

  • Bad one was devoid of emotion. Noted that my cheater seemed immature and that he may now be “ready for an adult relationship” with the affair partner. Put another way, he didn’t want to be married to his mommy anymore. Nothing in this about his responsibility to actually grow up. Fired!

    Good one integrated logic with emotion (she left me wail like a baby if I needed it). Felt like there are two sides in any break-up but never pushed me to empathize with his side or allow his story to be an excuse for the pain he caused. She made clear that an affair is a devastating way to end a marriage with hard ensuing consequences. She also told me a variation of what Chump Lady tells us over and over again: It is not my responsibility to tell him what to do or not to do. (This is getting stuck in the flypaper.) It is my responsibility to decide what I will do or will not do.

    She also made me examine why this relationship had been acceptable to me at all. The really important questions of “Why did I find a completely uneven relationship acceptable? Why did I not value myself more?” Have given both lots of thought, arriving at a much better understanding of myself. Can say with confidence that I am not likely to repeat these dread mistakes because I now know that I have worth.

    Also I could tell clearly that she was not a therapist who strings her clients along for the money. We both decided at the same time that I was fine on my own and welcome back as needed. I feel lucky to have found her.

    • I could have written the second part of this post. Probably the first too but we didn’t go to MC. He certainly turned me into his mommy by refusing to take any responsibility and then resented me for it in the end. sigh. I know he chose cheating as a way to make me file for divorce, since he didn’t have the guts to end the marriage himself.

      • Marie, we are so very lucky to be rid of them. Mine would likely never have left if he did not have another woman lined up to take care of him. She can have him. My life belongs to me again. And so does yours. Hugs!

  • My therapist is awesome. He has guided me over the past eight months to being “able to see him (cheater) for who he really is.” And he told me the story of the snake, if you don’t know that one, just ask me. It was similar to what CL said about her second therapist. I have stopped pining for someone who thought I was so worthless that it was OK to lie to me and secretly fuck other women behind my back.

    At times, I have thought my therapist was engaging in moral relativism, and we have had deep philosophical debates but I realize that he was just getting me to see what I was ‘married’ to for 16 years.

    After listing to all of it, my therapist asked me had Cheater ever had any psychiatric treatment? No, I said, “why?” — he replied, “Because this is some fucked up shit, Margaret.” His honesty and humanity is priceless to me, well worth $150 hour that isn’t covered by my insurance.

    At another session a month or so ago, after listening to my tale of my first cheater 20 years ago, my therapist said, “You need to stay away from these freeloaders.”

    If you get a therapist who tries to blame you or give you that crap that well meaning friends and strangers do, which is “surely on some level you KNEW…” put them in their place. No, I did NOT know, because he LIED to me, don’t you fucking understand that? And by lying to me for years, while eating the cake at my house that was paid for by me, he was saying that he DID like the life he had there, duh – not that I drove him to deceive me so he could keep all of that for himself and still have his pieces on the side!! And he robbed me of my Fair and Open and Honest Chances to be with a man who would have truly valued me.

    He is a person who by his actions says that he answered the call of Evil. That is all.

  • First therapist (a Jungian, Christian who I love to this day), 1989 when we were dating:

    do not marry this man. He will make you very unhappy.

    Second therapist (gay Jewish marxist atheist, who I am very fond of), 2 years post BD when he got tired of my chumpy bleating:

    he is a narcissist. He is not going to change. He is not going to change for you, or for your children.

    He has straight out said that he has a narcissistic character disorder. That they (him and H’s IC) had initially given him the benefit of the doubt, but had moved him further and further down the spectrum as time went on.

    He also said: you and [cheater] have taught me a lot about affairs, and about adding insult to injury after affairs…

    CL, I might just have to challenge you for that Chumpy crown, the abuse that I have masochistically sucked up. Hopium is a terrible drug.

    • Damn! Forgot to add the worst: an IMAGO weekend where neither I nor the IMAGO therapists noticed that he very carefully revealed nothing about himself.

      IMAGO is a wonderful theory, but as in all others, it requires reciprocity. Narcissists don’t do receiprocity, ergo IMAGO is useless in a narcissistic dynamic. IMO.

  • I could never convince my STBX to go to counseling. I am a big procrastinator, and I should have at least gone to IC after DDay #1. By the time I actually called someone and was about to make an appointment, he was admitting he “had fallen in love” with OW #2. He kept saying that counseling wouldn’t help. Of course he just did not want to risk being told the truth – that he was a narcissistic jerk. He also didn’t want to do any work on our relationship. When it got hard, he checked out and moved on to someone else. I am sure that when that relationship starts being difficult, he will move on again.

    • Gotta hand it to STBX–he’s right that counselling won’t help him.

      Now, perhaps a pair of stylish yet practical cement shoes….?

  • Best advice: the war is over; it’s time to go home. Do not engage; do not fight with him and do not reply to sarcasm with sarcasm. Focus your energy on yourself and your child. Firm up your exit strategy and follow through.

  • My ex-wife’s mother was a Marriage and Family Counselor. She got this certificate taking a one year online course. Her husband cheated on her throughout their marriage and she revenge cheated on her husband in last few years before her husband left her for someone else. Her image and livelihood was dependant on keeping the mess of her real life from her clients and social circle. Her divorce was described as a mutual decision of two people who love and respect each other but have grown apart. Yep….they’re from California…lol

    Of her three children two are divorced and my ex-wife followed on her father’s footsteps as a serial cheater. This family is wacky to say the least and a hot mess.

    Fortunately, my ex mother-in-law is no longer a Councelor. She now sells a Fleece Clothing line from her website. Her biggest selling items are fleece vests, most of which are purchased from Marriage Counselors in her area.

    Oh…her advice to her serial cheating daughter was to work on forgiving herself. Lol…

    • Oh, P.F., I am barfing over the last line. I am glad you can see the humor in it’s dysfunctional absurdity – shows your resilience.

      • Cheaters are real good at forgiving themselves….my ex is a prime example of a reoffending self-forgiver.

        • Yep. I’ve written before of how my ex told me that every time he went and fucked some guy in a gay bathhouse, he forgave himself afterwards. And when I was dumb enough to agree to bogus reconciliation, he told me that he had forgiven himself months earlier for his affairs with the two OW. So I had better work on forgiving him quickly, because otherwise he didn’t see how the marriage could work.

          I have had to work on forgiving MYSELF for staying with that fuck bucket for as long as I did.

          • Yup, it’s ME I have a hard time forgiving, I should have see through his selfish sparkly narcissistic bullshit decades before I did.

            • Anger at myself for allowing the shit show to take over my life was the topic of tonight’s counseling session. Self-forgiveness is a bitch.

          • It must make you a little happy he is gone. Oh my gosh what a moron he is, “let him go, let him tarry” isn’t that a song? Phew!

    • Fleece? [snort!] You can’t make this sh*t up.

      Ex MIL went from “fleecing” patients to peddling fleece outright.

  • Great topic!

    Several brushes with counselors. During marriage, when told “This isn’t all about sex” my H walked out and promised never to return.

    After bomb drop, we went to an intensive marriage counseling weekend with a very skilled therapist. It was much like an intervention, in hindsight. Very very difficult but it started to give me some keys to understanding and acceptance that my husband had some very serious issues… like the gauzy curtain I always chose to view him through was pulled away and I saw the man himself.

    We actually did 3 weekends with The Big Shrink, and it ended up being life-saving for me. His best advice? “You will soon see that your husband finally doing something about his deep emotional problems, having an affair and being so vicious to you, was a blessing.”

    That was true, and what I saw and heard and learned in that man’s office has changed my life, for the better. I now understand that my husband was really counterfeit about his whole life, who he was, how he viewed the world… it was shocking in a very sad way. To have your rose colored glasses gently removed and then watch, in 8 hour sessions, the man you loved simply melt down like a bar of soap going down the drain was an incredibly powerful experience. I began to understand (and am still working on it) what a voluntarily tortured soul I was married to, and how I was so unimportant to him, and always had been, And I saw my husband for the weak, cowardly man he is, not the honest knight I chose to believe he was.

    This therapist didn’t let me off the hook, either- it was a soul-wrenching experience where I really came to understand some of my defenses and weaknesses… but overall, the sessions helped me to ‘get my groove back’ and reduced the pendulum swings of emotion that I had lived with for so long.

    • ” I now understand that my husband was really counterfeit about his whole life, who he was, how he viewed the world… it was shocking in a very sad way. To have your rose colored glasses gently removed and then watch, in 8 hour sessions, the man you loved simply melt down like a bar of soap going down the drain was an incredibly powerful experience. I began to understand (and am still working on it) what a voluntarily tortured soul I was married to, and how I was so unimportant to him, and always had been, And I saw my husband for the weak, cowardly man he is, not the honest knight I chose ”

      Oh wow, yeah! Yeah!

  • CL, you made my morning, I laughed out loud at much of your post and giggled through the rest of it.

    Best Advice: My therapist asked me why I was still choosing to stay with him, and I said, “well, it’s partly about me…” and she said, “No, this is ALL about you.”

    Worst Advice: From a male marriage counselor, who knew my husband had affairs and a pornography problem and lied and kept secrets: Are you saying that he was abusive to you? THIS man doesn’t have an abusive bone in his whole body.
    ( I couldn’t make that up, and if I did make it up, I would have used a better cliche. I’m still stunned when I think about it)

  • I could probably do with speaking with somebody but I have battled through the pain and heartache on my own even with everyone, except 4 good friends, taking my ex husband’s side. He is the type of person who can steal money from a job and I got the blame of making him do it, by my own family. That is how liked this bloke is. If he could bottle whatever he has (is) I would make an absolute fortune. I simply can’t afford to see anyone and it really won’t change the outcome of my situation. So therefore, it is one day at a time. It has been extremely tough but I am getting there. Also, I must admit that coming to Chump Lady is like therapy. Just reading about everyone else’s issues does help me through each day. This site is like group therapy.

    • As an aside, my brother’s daughter has a Ph.D. in Psychology and is a brilliant academic, she is also a gorgeous buxom blonde and she has screwed around with that many married men it is disgusting. That alone is the main reason why I will not seek out assistance.

      • Maree,

        My daughter is a clinical psychologist (Ph.D.) and is married, about to have her first child and would NEVER screw around with a married man, except the one to whom she is married. Not all psychologists are the same or equal – trust me. If you pick one and you feel that they are not a fit, look for another one. If I judged all therapists on the MC to whom the Cheater Turd and I went, I would have missed out on the help I’ve been getting now (and the Cheater Turd is also in mental health – he’s mental alright).

        I know it is difficult to trust with that kind of information in your head, but I would just like to say that it could be a kindness you could bestow on yourself, when and if you are ready, to see a GOOD therapist.


      • You’re judging an entire profession because you know one messed-up jerk who practices it? Wow, you’d have to stop seeing MDs, dentists, stop using the services of plumbers, and electricians …

        Sometimes it takes a few tries to find a good therapist, but a good one can be a huge life-changer. And there are often free or very cheap counselling services available through women’s shelters (you don’t have to have been physically abused ….), universities, etc.

        • KarenE, point taken and thank you. We all have a tendency to generalise and I am no different. Suffice to say, I will continue to battle through. I am old now so I do not need to waste anyone’s time including my own.

          • Wow, Maree, I hate to hear what you just wrote. I’m not saying that you have to find a therapist. I’m saying that I hate to hear you say “I am old now so I do not need to waste anyone’s time including my own.” This is your one precious life, Maree, no matter how many years you have left. Please don’t give up on yourself, or on it.

          • That you are not young is the reason you deserve more. 🙂

            The young need therapy to fix their pickers so they can recognize the sparkly turds when they see them. Those of us past our first flush of youth need the therapy to relearn what normal feels like. We might choose not to enter into a romantic relationship, but I think that over time, exposure to our disordered spouses affects how we interact with others.

            For example, when I first married STBX, I had a good social network of people whom I liked. STBX was a bit of a social hermit, always a bit afraid to be around others. My friends would want to do something after work–not go on a drunken bar hop–just catch a mid-week meal. STBX wouldn’t go. He’d never go out on a Sunday. Social gatherings were on Saturdays only. And then he became “too tired” for those.

            I live in a town with a very large transient population. My friends moved to different parts of the country. I’d stopped attending church, one of my social outlets, because STBX never went and it was time I could spend with him. The result was that after 7 or so years, I had no real friends around me anymore.

            Part of therapy will involve the work of learning to reach out to/recognize overtures of friendship. It’s been a long time. My social skills are more impaired than they should be.

            • kb THANK you for writing that.

              You have written about the perfect dilemma (of slow isolation). And learning to reach out to other people…

              I am not alone!

          • Maree, keep on talking to us. I for one think you have a good point: you currently find it hard to trust anyone, and there ‘are’ a lot of narcs in therapy.

            So take it easy, take it slow, and learn to reach out in your own time. We are here for you, and we do know what it is like.

            Don’t give up on your kids either. Think how hard it was for YOU to see him for who he is….

    • Maree, he’d have to be able to bottle being a malignant narcissist to bottle what he is.

  • Finding the right therapist is like buying a pair of shoes…there must be a good fit. The job of the therapist is not to make decisions for the client but to empower the client to make good decisions for self. Validating a client’s distress is necessary for rapport, but is only one facet of therapy. Venting has a place early on but if allowed to continue indefinitely, the client does not progress into a solution-focused frame of mind. Clients tend to dislike open ended questions, as they typically want relief and want it right now. But open ended questions (properly posed) are a necessary component for clients to “own”, think through and solve their own problems. Clients must learn by examining all options and selecting what will work best for them. If clients don’t acquire the necessary skill set for coping and progressing, they tend to lapse as soon as they leave therapeutic support. The object of therapy is not to, “give the man a fish”, but to “teach him how to fish.” Therapy is much more about thinking accurately and realistically than it is about “feelings.”

    I like this list of what therapy is and is not.

  • My XH and I went to counseling after I found out about the first of his cheats. We went to a lovely lady who after a few sessions gave me the worst advice by saying: “You have to give him a little leeway and understanding. After all, his father cheated and this is what he has learned. His upbringing wasn’t a Beaver Cleaver household.” Really? Who’s was? Certainly not mine. But then, shortly after, during a one-on-one counseling session, she gave me the best advice ever: “Your husband likes the idea of being married. He just doesn’t know how to do it. Get yourself a good support system and find your way out of this mess. You don’t belong here.” Well, I stayed through until the 3rd cheat came to light and he actually decided he wanted a divorce, but I had my system in order, had set aside some money and actually had an escape plan. I was just waiting for the right time to show itself.

    • “Your husband likes the idea of being married. He just doesn’t know how to do it.” So TRUE. Looking back I can honestly say ex liked the idea of a family, but did not know how to do that either. My ex’s OW was a marriage/family counselor whose father left her mother for his OW and to this day declares on his realty page that OW “is the LOVE of my life”! I had taken enough classes in college to recognize what my issues were (hell don’t we all know what our issues are?!) but didn’t know too much about his. They definitely have an impact on how you choose to live your life. Knew little arguments were never about those little surface things. The bigger question was did those actions communicate love. And they did not. Informal counseling worked well for me. Talked to everyone I knew. And stumbled upon women who were Survivors. Spent a year in Divorce Care. Spent two years licking my wounds. Going out with coworkers but spending a lot of time by myself. Walking, swimming. Then moved back home. Probably not the best move. But under the circumstances…. Know now to pay better attention to my gut. And am trying to be selfish. To go after my own dreams.

  • This happened to a co-worker. Married almost 30 years. Found out husband cheating. Ask for chance to fix marriage. After third counseling session the therapist saw/heard something in the husband’s demeanor and asked for a private one. Called the wife and had her come in for private session. Told her to get a divorce, husband was serial cheater, was never going to stop and she needed to get on with her life. At first I thought it was cruel the way he did it but now realize he was taking hopium out of the equation. I was transferred and lost contact but hope she found some peace because her life exploded over the course of five therapy sessions.

  • I am one of the lucky ones who got a really good counselor.

    The best thing she told me was: “The issue isn’t why he did what he did, the issue is why you stayed so long in this painful relationship. Finding that out is the key.”

    Other great advice she gave was a couple of months after my ex left when I was whining “How could he do this to me?” She said “It’s time to stop blaming him for what’s happening today. YOU are in charge of your life and he has nothing to do with it now. He isn’t making you miserable, you are making you miserable.” Although it was very hard to hear her say that, it forced me to stop trying to untangle the skein and focus on rebuilding my life.

    • I was also lucky to have a good counselor who, herself, had been involved with a narcissist. She didn’t appreciate this until her relationship was over. I told her my story through my tears and without hesitation she said I had been hoodwinked by a master who was most probably a narcissist. She told me I had been emotionally abused and that this man did not care for me and if I let him into my life again he would harm me further. She explained what narcissism is and everything seemed to fall into place. She hugged me at the end of the session and said she would get me through this. She also thanked me for trusting her with my situation. I came away feeling relieved that I wasn’t going crazy but I also felt terribly sad for my ex. She told me that he will never be truly happy with anyone and true intimacy will elude him. Since then I have read everything I can lay my hands on about NPD and it has helped me to understand what has happened. It was good to be able to talk to someone who could explain how I have been catapulted into this post traumatic stress. I have had 5 sessions with her now and each time I feel stronger and mo0re able to cope with my new life.

      • Any chance of a precis of what she said?

        I am finding it quite hard to wrap my head round someone not connecting.

        • Patsy, I found the “Why Does He Do That?” book by Bancrot and the “Character Disorders one by Simon (both listed on CL’s Amazon scroll) to be HUGELY helpful in understanding who the ex is and the probability of his changing. Very eye-opening, although it’s hard to be reading one of those books and see your children’s father described so exactly!

  • BTW, Chump Lady, your cartoon reminds me of the day we did depositions and my soon to be XH told my lawyer during questioning that I made him cheat on me with his latest because I insisted that he put his profile on Facebook. If I hadn’t “made” him put it out there she would never have found him and they wouldn’t have hooked up. My lawyer looked at him and said, “So, you are saying that your wife “made” you cheat? Kind of like “the devil made me do it?” To which my X answered, “Yes. I bear no fault in this at all.”

    • Hahahahaha! Do these idiots not understand how IDIOTIC they sound???? Hope you put that one in ‘Stupid Shit Cheaters Say’, ’cause that’s a classic!

      • No. The one I put in “Stupid Shit Cheaters Say” was when he looked me in the eye and said, “After this is all done, I’d like to date you.” That was some real stupid shit.

  • Couple thoughts: I presently have a FABULOUS therapist. She’s the owner of the terrific “fuck me narcissist” vs. “fuck you narcissist”. She happens to have a Ph.D. in Psychology (as opposed to an MSW, CMHP, MD, ect.). Don’t know if that makes a difference. But.

    She has told me that therapy is a profession, like ministry, the theater and a few others… that attracts narcissists (oh! yay!). So you need to be careful–it’s very easy to get drawn into that net if you’re a chump, and then find that you are feeding the therapist’s needs, instead of the therapist helping you.

    I found her by asking a distant friend who is a family therapist–but someone who I thought was a human being with tremendous integrity, honesty etc, herself. It was a good call.

    She’s very chill & laid back; good sense of humor — that works for me. But she’s smart & knows what to double down on. (I have a lot of “Teutonic” childhood abuse in my past that makes me a sitting duck for abusers–think The White Ribbon, if you’ve seen that amazing movie–and if you haven’t, see it! It’s on Amazon.)

    I did have some ups and downs: I had a long terms MSW social worker who had been very helpful, but frankly we had exhausted the relationship, and when the shitstorm hit, she was of no help whatsoever. Then it became all about her and not helpful. So, you need to know when it’s time to go.

    I tried somebody else who had a trauma perspective on cheating– a very important thing–but she was very much in the sex addiction area, which didn’t work out so well. And she was about 25 years younger that I am, and frankly for me that didn’t work either. Very nice, probably good, but not the right fit for me.

    So– trust your gut, and keep looking until you find the right person. For God’s sake stay away from people who espouse any kind of co-dependency line– that’s just code for blame the victim, or as the cartoon says “what did you do to cause your partner to fuck somebody else?”. You *must* find someone who understands that cheating is abuse, and causes trauma.

    There. My $.02 Good luck and bon chance.

    • What do you mean by this?
      “She’s the owner of the terrific “fuck me narcissist” vs. “fuck you narcissist”.”

      I bet a lot of professors are narcs, too. My STBX absolutely thrives on being in front of the classroom and dazzling the students.

      • Just that, it’s a concept she uses: Fuck you narcs are the arrogant, bossy, I-don’t-care-what =you-think types–aggressive and dominant. Fuck me narcs are the “poor little me” come over here and make me feel better, it’s all about meeeee. Neither kind has any empathy whatsoever.

    • NamedforVera,

      I agree, there are a lot of fucked up people in the helping professions–pastors, counsellors, teachers, social workers,psychologists, psychiatrists. These people can end up there because they have a hero complex, or like to control others, or want to fix whatever’s fucked up in their lives by “fixing” others or “the system”. Thank God there are good people in between these duds, because otherwise, who’d keep those professions going (says a teacher married to a preacher!)

      • The ow is a social worker who looks like and works for my therapist narc mil and reports to my (not msw)h. Hey Dr Freud, Oedipus called and he wants his story back. Its (theirs, not generalizing, i only know this particular one) a business of fucked up people wanting to look better by surrounding themselves with more fucked up people and then gloating about their degrees while wearing mom cargo pants and yes, fleece! And a lot of crystals and navel gazing and jazz hands! when they enter a room – i have an msw so you must be so impressed with me! Just writing that makes me walk to the corner crouch down and start blibbering my lips with my finger. But while they fuck up my life with this shit show, the material they give me is Gold! Pure gold I tell ya! His ic asked him which of us he was married to and who he’d like to divorce. He almost threw up. If he can extricate himself from mommy maybe we can work this ou-…aw fuck, back to the corner to blibber some more.

        • Wow. That’s some heavy-duty dynamics going on there, Rock Star. Hang in there, and I’m really sorry you had such a crap day. Hopefully tomorrow will be better. As my Swedish grannie always used to say, “Tomorrow the sun shines.” She’s been gone since I was a junior in college, but I think of those words often these days.

          If it’s any consolation, I’m a Yank on the other side of the border, in what sounds like similar straits. Tomorrow in your honour I will stand to the right on the escalator and grab a roll-up-the-rim at Timmie’s on the way to work while proudly wearing my Maple Leaf toque and wishing us both peaceful days ahead. PS–thanks for letting me know the verb for doing that thing with your lips. Blibbering. I like it. I like it a lot (and I do it a lot). 🙂

          • Thank you 🙂 I made that word up btw. If you see a woman in the subway wearing a red sox cap throwing up in her mouth, c’mon over and say hey! She’s not a drunk, she’s me & I’m a chump. Maple leafs season ticket holder, cheer for whoever’s playing them. Taking one of the kids to the game tonight…

            If we can’t have peaceful days ahead, may we at least have minimum one huge belly laugh a day. And your granny was a rock star.

  • Oh, and I happen to believe that MC with a cheater is (almost definitionally) pointless. they lie. It’s what they do. Why bother? My EX *started* and affair while we were doing MC…. with a straight face. He lied to me, his IC, our MC, probably Dr. Hoe (his OW). And of course, himself.

    • You know, I never thought of it this way. Of course you’re right! I remember being in MC during false R and I *knew* he was lying to me and to counselor but he wouldn’t come off his lying position. You can’t get anywhere if they stick to the big lie.

  • The MC sucked, she was so focused on saving our marriage at any cost (to me) that she advised me very badly. After we attended one day of a two day IMAGO workshop where we were doing an empathy exercise that required us to explain how we felt and then try to put ourselves in each others position. I found it pretty easy to do but my ex told me he “I can’t put myself in your position when I know you are wrong”. So I talked to the MC about this later – told her if he cannot empathize how can we do this? Her answer was so bad; she told me many people had trouble with this and he would get it – just give him more time.

    Same MC in a later session asked my ex if he had considered being tested for Bipolar Disorder. He was indignant but calm with her stating he was not BPD. When we got in the car he went into a white hot rage over this, accused me of sabotaging him, all that rage got funneled to me (as always) and refused to go see her again…. Of course I agreed with him, that no he wasn’t BPD, I’d say anything to stop his rages. She put me in danger that day, thoughtlessly and cluelessly.

    I’ll post a funny one later, at least funny in hindsight – not at the time.

    • Fucking IMAGO therapist was the worst. We went twice and it was all about STBX. I don’t think that dummy even remembered my name the second session. I asked for the divorce 2 days after that last session. She wanted to do a “closure” session. My closure was “fuck you.” Not Paltrow like, I know.

      I had better success with the book. I kind of like that.

  • Well, my insurance only paid for three visits so I was pretty screwed. What I did was probably not such a good idea, I went to several and used the three at each and got an array of thoughts. I also went to one the local church had that they paid for.

    In one visit, the therapists dad did the same thing to her family and my appointment was spent with her very angry and pointing out what she had made him in jr high and how she took it back, and throwing a pillow around. I did not return, I felt horrible for her.

    In the one from the church set up, that was the worst. This person didn’t have her degree and so that is why I guess the appointments were free. I think I may have been married before she was born, but I hated what she said “obviously he is showing you by cheating he doesn’t want you so since he doesn’t want you, you should let him have a divorce” and ok, another downside this was the catholic church who had this setup so it was really amazing that came out of her mouth in that church office.

    How does a person sort through this in three visits? I got a whole bunch of books at amazon and I was thinking of getting myself through a lot of it and then use a new batch of three visits.

    • wow. Just. wow, Deb. (The middle one reminds me of what my IC said about how many therapists are narcs themselves and need care from their clients.)

      But I so much take for granted the Mental Health Parity laws in my state (Massatuckets) that mandate psychological care when needed. They might dole it out in 8-visit increments, but you get the care you need. Period. What a blessing!

    • I have no benefits…lost those in my divorce. Was a stay at home mom for years and now am only working part time (as someone still needs to take care of these kids and he’s nowhere to be found!!) Unfortunately, this means I’ve never even had 3 visits. You’re right though Deb…what will you get out of just 3! It sucks.

      • Sick of, have you checked with a local women’t shelter? Many have free/cheap counselling, and you would probably qualify – don’t need to have experienced physical abuse.

    • It is shocking that in spite of all this mindfulness we’re still a draconian culture when it comes to mental health. Insurance will cover the heart surgery, but what not what might have prevented it.

  • Best one was from a priest who was counseling us. He told me I had to accept 50% of the blame for her affair because I must have done something to make her have an affair. I told him I did not even know about the 7 month affair because it was kept that secret (she was good at covering tracks). After asking him how / why would I ever accept any part of the blame for something I knew nothing about he told me that its obvious I will never be able to get past this until i can accept this blame. I had a few choice words for him and walked out. I am not a Chump!

    • Hey, I gave your name a K, just because we have another Chris here. Sorry for any confusion. WordPress is a bit limited on the comment features.

  • I never got to do any kind of marriage counseling at all. My STBX just announced that he wanted a divorce and said he had someone else, or as he calls it, “an emotional connection.”

    So I only got to go to therapy after D-day mostly for my children and I.

    Our counselor was very helpful though (she’s in the Seattle area for anyone who is interested). She listened, gave us excellent advice, helped us navigate the emotional mess we were in and also gave us tools to move forward and examples of what to say or do in specific situations. For example, when I told her that SBTX was abandoning his parenting responsibilities she said to talk to him about (and I did) but that I was not his mother and that he needed to do those things for himself without being told. And so that is what I have done, but the result is that he is still an absent father. Well, at least the kids have me present…

    So I’m not sure if I’ve been helpful here but what I liked most about her is that she listened and did not jump to conclusions (like other therapists I have seen). She seems to see the bigger picture with clarity and helped us identify emotions, verbalize our needs and make a plan of action. I miss her!!!

    I’m now in Orlando and can’t seem to find another one as good as the one we had.

  • LOL – Didn’t go to a shrink for dealing with infidelity/divorce. I went to bad forums on the internet the first round, and that did enough damage all by itself, thank you.

    When I was 22 years old, though, I was temporarily paralyzed for a couple of months (Guillain–Barré Syndrome), and I was pretty depressed about that until I went into remission, so my neurologist sent a shrink to my room a few times.

    His advice, “Think about something else”… and then he proceeded to fill the 3, one hour visits with talk about his audiophile stereo system. He was pretty proud of that. Oh, and he wrote two prescriptions: one for Xanax, and one for Tofranil.

    Took the Xanax once, and I sat there watching Quick Draw McGraw on TV while thinking “How did they think of this? These Hanna Barbara guys are geniuses”.

    Never took that again. I nixed the antidepressants pretty quickly too. Took them for a couple of weeks.

    So what do I know about Psychiatrists (as opposed to Psychologists)? They can write prescriptions (some of which can shut down most intelligent function), and at least one of them spent a lot of money on his stereo system 🙂

    • Hilarious! Thanks for the great laugh and reminder of Quickdraw McGraw and Bubba Louie. Haven’t thought of that in years.

      • I want to come to the defense of a good psychiatrist. Saw a MC with EX several times. He managed to gaslight her pretty well. Saw my own therapist, who was okay, but to whom I found myself explaining narcissism. Found my way to a psychiatrist when I was experiencing deepening depression while I tried to work on keeping marriage together (all the while EX cheating on the sly with same affair partner). Tried an extended course of antidepressants and they were beneficial in helping me get my emotional health back. It was like needing a cast or a brace to help heal. Eventually went off psycho meds and ten years in I continue to see the psychiatrist every quarter for a check in. He’s helped my understand the underlying mental pathology of the narcissistic disordered. He’s been fabulous with helping me support my children as they have had to come to terms with the fact that they’ll never have the father that any kid would want. And he’s been great in helping me fix my picker. I’m a bit of a wonk/nerd and this approach has just worked for me. I guess so much of this is in finding the right personality fit ( was going to say chemistry here but didn’t want to confuse that with pharmaceuticals!) with a mental health professional.

        • Thanks, otos, for this perspective. I’ve been on and off antidepressants/anti-anxiety meds since I was 25, and while I’m not crazy about it (badump-chuck), it’s a better alternative than spending months at a time languishing unbathed and catatonic on my couch while my kids pack dill pickles and Goldfish crackers for their school lunches and lie to their friends about why they can never come for a sleepover. Psychotropic meds aren’t for everyone–Quickdraw McGraw is proof of this–but prescribed by the right people for the right reasons, they can be an invaluable step stool. Whatever works, works. Personally, I think that eschewing something that could conceivably help, or apologizing for something you know helps, takes chumpdom to a whole other level.

          Really happy you’re working through the whole narcissism quagmire, and hoping I’ll eventually be able to do the same. I’m just now finding out what that means outside the lay context.

  • At the beginning of bogus reconciliation, I said we needed to go to counseling. Ex was fine with that. I picked some MC off our insurance list, made the appointment. The entire hour was ex discussing his various infidelities, both gay and straight. In detail. I don’t think I said more than ten words. At the end of the hour, the MC actually said he thought we should not reconcile. I wish I had taken that advice, it would have saved me seven more months of being fucked with, lied to, abused and cheated on.

  • I had two shrinks. One MC before I found out my husband cheated on me. She was a total Dr. Hug, she said things like “why don’t you two take walks together” and “why don’t you tell him to put down the video games and have him pay attention to you?”

    All that did for my husband was to justify his behavior, like “SEE? The marriage is DEAD now.”

    My other shrink was also an MC but she was my IC, and when I told him what he has done, she was dumbfounded, and is convinced that he has a tumor or something physically wrong with him. Her best advice: “He did you a favor. Your self esteem and ego is intact, and while you can come to me if you need anything, really, you don’t need to see me anymore.”

    So I got a good and bad one too. Dr. Hug emailed sometime later to check in with me, and I told her of the affair. Haven’t heard from her since.

  • The first counselor I stumbled into all by myself (no reconciliation …sudden wife abandonment syndrome) I was one hot mess. Beyond devastated. She sat there all prissy with her big honking wedding ring on and her husband (who was also a counselor) in the next room telling me that ‘I would be fine.’ It took me YEARS to get to ‘fine.’ I told her it was easy for her to say. I went a couple of times until I found one much better.

    Her name was Karolyne and the first thing she told me was that it wasn’t my fault at all. She assured me that often in relationships both people are at fault in the undoing of it but NOT in the case of cheating. She was very clear about that. She also assured me that X and OW would have a crap ass life, she even said ‘money back guarantee’ on it. She told me nothing like that can last because it didn’t start with an ounce of integrity.

  • This is so apt. I have an appointment with my new therapist in half an hour. Fingers crossed she is a good one! It’s weird how your posts seem to coincide with what I’m going through almost every day. Love coming here!

  • Many years ago, I was in therapy for my own anxiety and phobia disorder. I had been with this particular therapist for around six months. One day, as I was discussing some issue or another with my husband, the therapist said, “Glad, if all of your fear and anxiety disappeared overnight, the very first thing you would do is leave your husband.”

    I was really struck with those words, because I KNEW it was true. I didn’t leave, I stayed for several more years until the ex dumped me once he started his affairs with OW. But I knew perfectly well it was my own fear holding me hostage.

    • GIO .. ditto. I have never been to therapy but I knew it was me who was holding me back. I am a very loyal person to the detriment of myself. Not any more though.

    • Thank you for this post, Glad. This was me too. But a prexsisting anxiety disorder coupled with years of soul destroying gaslighting left me with severe Stockholm syndrome and trauma bonding. I’m still a little ashamed to admit that if it wasn’t for the affair, I would still be with him, supporting him, worrying about him and taking the abuse. Working on forgiving myself. It’s hard especially since he uses the crazy card in his post d smear campaign. I’m not crazy, I’m traumatized. Doesn’t help that everyone just thinks he’s great.

      • Waste, I have no doubt that if it wasn’t for ex’s affairs and final devaluation and dumping, I would still be there with him today. So in a sense I am thankful for his cheating. Or rather, not that he is a filthy, liar and adulterer, but that he finally gave me the push I needed to get the HELL OUT OF THERE.

        Going ahead with that divorce was the hardest thing I have ever done. I am proud of myself for managing to do it, even though I was literally sick with fear. Waste, don’t beat yourself up. I understand exactly what you are going through, I still struggle daily with anxiety disorder and phobias to many things. That doesn’t mean either of us is crazy, but yeah, the trauma, I hear you about that.

  • Actually the best piece of advice came from my best friend who has always been so wise. She told me one day that I ‘was swinging at a ghost’ when I tried so hard to get my X to be a real person and see how badly he hurt me.

    • Brilliant point, Gio. We try so hard to get them to see the symbolism, the meaning behind stuff, but they can only think concretely.

      It is a waste of our time, energy and breath. It is also a waste of our self-care.

      • Yes, metaphor was completely wasted on my ex. He was very concrete. Even his counselor told him “you have an extremely linear mind.”

  • Our first marriage counselor was very insightful. My exH was NPD/sociopathic but I had no idea at the time what that was or what to do with it. We went to see this counselor because he had dropped the “I haven’t loved you for over 10 years, been unhappy, want a divorce, and you must feel the same” bomb. Although I hadn’t been blissfully happy I had not considered divorce. I pleaded for counseling, wanting to save our 23 year marriage and four children’s intact family. Naively I thought he was just suffering from some sort of depression. In the course of the counseling, once I was feeling like things were improving, he dropped the bigger bomb, that he had been unfaithful for over a decade and also that he had met someone who he thought he was in love with. (Of course just the tip of the iceberg that was his double life.)

    To say I was stunned was an understatement. This was done 5 minutes before the session was to end after I thought our marriage was on the mend. The counselor asked my husband if it would be alright if she met with me alone to process this. He agreed of course (anything not to have to deal with my pain). I came in the next day, justifying that he had told me all about it and it was just 15 encounters with online escorts. I could forgive him. She could tell I wasn’t ready to face the truth. She gave me a book, The Sociopath Next Door, and the business card of the best divorce attorney in town.

    I was too afraid to read the book, but my sister did and said my husband’s face should have been on the cover. Needless to say it took me four long painful years of pick me dancing, giving kibbles and cake, to realize she had been soooooo right.

    After the divorce I went back to her for a few sessions and it was the best thing I ever did. I asked her, “what did you see?” She told me that as I was sitting there weeping in pain, he was smiling in triumph. She said it was chilling how little he cared.

    Ironically, I have now BECOME a marriage and family therapist. I think my experience has been invaluable in dealing with couples where there is a NPD. I call them on their stuff and address the elephants in the room. Everyone has the right to have their experience validated by their therapist.

    • OOOOOH! IIWII, please give examples?

      Because the standard therapy advise is, because narcissists are so shame based and their defenses are activated so quickly, to treat them with as much empathy as possible. Otherwise they run.

      So I would be very grateful if you replied in how YOU handle these asshats and the pain they cause.

      • Patsy,
        I go with the actions speak louder than words route. If there is infidelity involved, and with narcissists that is almost always the case, that is what needs to be addressed before anything else. Ususally, the cheater wants to blame shift responsibility for the infidelity to the partner. I call them out on this. Their reaction to this gives me and their partner alot of information which I then point out. If there is not true remorse and a willingness to DO what it takes, answer all questions honestly, DO what makes the partner feel safe, there is no point.
        Not many truly DO, they just SAY what they need to say to maintain cake. I often use some of the terms that Chumplady uses here and I have referred many a heartbroken partner to this site

        • Absolutely. Asshat (love it) actions ALWAYS speak louder than words. I’d suggest an imaginary mute button on him as you’re escaping. They do lie when they open their mouths.

      • No Patsy!! I labored under the same asshat shame theory until someone here blessed me with the truth–I think it was last week. My memory is completely deleted so please forgive, can’t remember who said what–but essentially, even if that’s true– do you still want a life being treated that way?? It’s not about his damn fake shame it’s about your joy!

      • Patsy, that’s the standard advice for INDIVIDUAL therapy, and even that is being questioned. Reading Dr. Simon’s second book, about character disorders, can really help you understand a different approach.

        Therapists specializing in treating narcissists have to tread VERY lightly, because otherwise they just flee the therapy. But if they tread too lightly, no change occurs, so what’s the point anyway? And ‘traditional’ (psychodynamic, interpersonal, or schema-based CBT) therapies for narcisissm, we’re talking 5 to 7 years, because shifting someone’s basic way of functioning is so much more work than helping an otherwise fairly healthy person out of a depression or helping them learn to manage their anxiety better.

        I think one of the most useful things MC can do when there’s character disorder in the couple is just help the healthier partner SEE who they’re with. The goal of MC is NOT to keep the couple together at any cost. It’s to create healthier relationships, and sometimes the only way to do that is to help the couple break up ‘better’!

  • The obvious fact is that everyone suffers and that almost all go through periods of deep suffering and darkness. Some, inexplicably, seem to experience more suffering than others. If you are in darkness, recognize the fact that you have plenty of company. If you have failed to admit the universal human experience of suffering, then this recognition should make you more compassionate and sensitive to people’s hidden pain in the future. By rejecting the unwarranted illusion that ‘everyone is doing well but me’, you will become a far more open human being, sensitive to the sufferings of others, and willing to listen and help. What is far more important, you will not look on this Christian way of acting as a chore or burden. Even if things are going well, compassionate concern for others will constantly remind you that life is not always sunshine. In a wounded world marked by the mystery of the original fall of the human race, life cannot always be beautiful, but it can be filled with meaning.”

    Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R

  • Oy vey- this is a topic I could write a book on. Prior to X I had no experience with therapy, but before, during and after our marriage… I earned quite a bit with a wide mix of them. Highlights:

    Diagnosis shrink: My x was of the alien abducted his brain variety, so when he went batshit crazy, I thought he might be bipolar based on some friends advice. I found a prominent specialist and asked her to evaluate him. She did, in a session with us both. She turned to me and said, “he’s not bipolar, he’s a sociopath. Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do for them.” My mouth and stomach hit the floor, and x just shrugged and said he was late for an appointment. (Good shrink who helped me avoid more denial)

    MC1 (before above diagnosis): X, in the midst of raging full on narcissist affair, tells her– I’m staying at my parents because this is all very stressful. And she keeps showing up unannounced, stressing me out a lot. MC tells me I need to respect *his* boundaries and not to go check up on him. The next day, while he’s supposed to be at work, he stops answering my calls and I drive by. He’s there with the whore and I walk in on them. He tells me the MC told me to respect his boundaries and I’m going to make the marriage fail. (Worst sucker shrink ever)

    My IC: She’s pure awesome sauce. She does have an opinion, and is direct but also compassionate. Best advice tidbits:

    – The only consistent thing about your husband is his constant inconsistency. Your lives are on such dramatically different trajectories- do you really want to reduce yourself to the chaos of his path?

    – Don’t mistake that you’re not in danger here. Even though he may not be physically violent, his behavior has been severely emotionally violent and traumatizing. Your mental health should be protected by the man you’re married to not violated.

    – The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

    – Radical acceptance (highly recommend reading about this topic): sometimes shit happens and it’s not right or fair or explainable. You can let tragedies destroy you too or you can accept them in all their awfulness and counteract them by living as best and full a life you can.

    – Mindfulness and the “rational mind”: you have both an intellectual/thinking mind and an emotional mind. Where they intersect- and when are both in harmony- is your rational mind. If your thinking side is saying I want XYZ but your emotions are all anxious, fearful, etc- you’re not rational. You’ll know you’re on the path to the right solutions when what you think and what you feel match.

    • “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.” Mine said that too. I didn’t listen. So I felt.

      • Dr. Phil said that a lot–I wonder who said it first?

        (I used to watch him while I was breastfeeding–no cable…)

    • In all my reading, I never learned about radical acceptance, but that is precisely the philosophy I adopted. Really shitty things can happen to the very best (and worst) of people. It’s kinda of is up to each of us to slog through the chaos and find how we want to live our life and who we want as part of our very short journey on this earth. People can be incredibly cruel and incredibly kind, but that cannot diminish how amazing this life is. I know I have some distance from the pain many of you are acutely experiencing, but I would trade none of my experiences because they have made me who I am. Older and a little beat up, but still standing.

  • Wow. Just wow. Reading all the replies here has been very enlightening.
    1) First marriage counselor: assured me that “your husband is Rock Solid” in response to my insecurities about his lack of concern for me. I had had some serious and valid misgivings about my husband and what kind of father he would be based on some recent actions (inability to tell his dying father he loved him, neglecting our pets, dismissiveness towards me) – my intuition was screaming HE’S NOT SAFE. GET AWAY. DON’T BRING KIDS INTO THE WORLD WITH THIS MAN. (“I think I’d be different with kids,” my husband said.) But when my trusted counselor of two years (one year IC and one year MC) assures me he is “rock solid” and I should have no concerns, I decided I must have overreacted. I dismissed my fears and we promptly got pregnant.
    Fast forward two kids and two OW later . . . . one week after the birth of our second child husband trades me in for secretary.
    2 ) My priest: “That boy is hurting.” in reference to husband’s “pain.” (or feigned pain)
    3) My associate priest, in casual conversation at the church picnic, upon learning that I was now a dumpee: “Well, only accept responsibility for YOUR half of the problem.” As if he is being kind to me, saying I should only take the blame for my HALF of the problem!!!!
    Thanks to these two dumb-ass comments from my priests, I blamed myself for a long time about the affair with the second OW (I didn’t find out about the first OW until years later). Why else would a handsome, successful, talented business person walk out on his wife of 16 years, toddler daughter and one-week-old son? Of course his wife -ME – drove him to it. I really fell for that bullshit.

    1. After he left me, I begged him to go with me to marriage counseling. I was desperate to save the marriage. Later I realized my husband came along just so he could CLAIM that he “tried to save the marriage” but at the time I took it as a sign he might actually want to salvage the marriage. We each had Individual Counselors (at the same practice) that we saw weekly separately and we came together (all four of us) for several Marriage Counseling Sessions to “work on the marriage.” My husband never really engaged and sat stiff and quiet in the sessions. We took separate cars and according to the phone records he was chitchatting with OW entire drive to the counselors and he would call her has soon as he would leave. At the third or fourth joint session, his counselor commented, “We need to see some real movement toward reconciliation (on husband’s part) or we will need to switch these joint sessions from Joint Marriage Counseling to Joint Divorce Counseling.” I could not believe my ears! This counselor was giving up on us! How dare he????? My husband just sat there, nodding his head. I stood up, glared at my husband’s counselor and said. “I don’t need joint counseling for divorce. I need an attorney for that.” and I walked – well, actually I stalked – out of the room, slamming the door as hard behind me. While it was painful for me to hear, it was the beginning of clarity and the end (or at least the beginning of the end) of my serious addiction to hopium. I filed for divorce a few weeks later. I continued to see my own therapist individually for about a year and a half and he was supportive and wonderful. Of course, my husband didn’t think he needed counseling so he wrapped his up. Later, the man who had once been my husband’s therapist ended up leading some parenting/family/marriage small groups at my church over the years, and my (new) husband and I make it a point never to miss his classes. He even came to our wedding!

  • I sent the 8 pg document I found that my ex left on an old computer to my counselor to read. It was the one he named “The Secret” and detailed all the things he loved about his married coworker, her children, etc. I told my counselor that was the biggest glimpse I’d ever had into his interior life. It was full of how much he “adored” her, etc. He took the alphabet and thought of a word for each letter that reminded him of her. It was so detailed it was spooky. Anyway, my counselor told me that it was devoid of emotion and was more like someone trying to think through emotion. She said he might have something like Asperger’s autism and that reading it made her feel sorry for him because his whole life was about acquisition.

    Hearing her say that made me feel better because it validated my experience of not being able to connect to him on an emotionally intimate level. My counselor said she didn’t think he was capable of it. He was, however, an intelligent scientist and well known at his university. She said we need people like him in the world, but they aren’t that great to be married to. LOL.

  • We had a marriage counselor tell us that our problems stemmed from a lack of communication and advised us to acknowledge each other by using the phrase, “what I hear you saying is.” Omg! From then on, my ex prefaced all of his self-centered justifications and blame-shifting with “what I hear you saying is…..” It drove me mad!

    • Oh man. When mine did same I asked him when he learned “Reflective Speak.” As if.

  • Hey, does anyone want to name names? If you have a shrink you’d like to recommend, perhaps start a link over in the forum? It could save a fellow chump the time and trouble of winding up with the Wrong Sort of Help.

    It’s great to read that the majority of folks here found GOOD help, versus the sweater-vested, asleep at the wheel sort.

    • Happy to name a name, though I live in a smaller city so it probably won’t help many people. I’m technologically ignorant — how do I start a link over in Forum?

  • I do believe there are some really good therapists out there. But some that are really flakey at best and damn right unethical at most.

    I knew someone who was a long term AP of a married guy who was in process of “leaving his wife ” for like 5 years and of course never did. Both the AP and married guy were getting counseling FROM THE SAME THERAPIST who had them in group sessions together and provided counseling individually. Really?

  • The best thing about my counseling experiences was that my EX showed his true colors. He didn’t tell the truth, but he did rant and yell and interrupt and name call and swear in the office just like he did at home. I was appalled and was all set to spackle, spackle, spackle. But when the counselor said, “We will have to set up some rules for communication because the ways you are verbally abusing your wife make it impossible for us to do any work here,” a light bulb went off! We never made it beyond two sessions since he found the counselor “biased,” and “ignorant,” and “fucked-up”–all of which he told her. But just hearing a professional label his behavior abusive was all I needed to move toward getting unstuck. I guess I didn’t need counseling so much as I needed confirmation.

  • Best advice:

    -you will never get what you want: acknowledgment, understanding, emotion, empathy… You don’t get any of that. You get FREEDOM.

      • “You will never get what you want: acknowledgment, understanding, emotion, empathy… You don’t get any of that. You get FREEDOM.”

        I feel like putting this on a T-shirt.

  • I’ve only been in individual therapy for 6 months. I test drove and dropped a therapist FAST because she stated the reason Asshat cheated in all of those colorful ways was because I was too INDEPENDENT. I needed to become more doormat like to make him secure and happy in our marriage.

    I basically asked her : WTF!!?? Asshat and I had dated a while before getting married. He knew I was self sufficient- work, travel, grad school, life before him, and able to emotionally connect to other people ( that interdependence idea). According to this therapist, not being a co-dependent mess drove him to fuck other people.

    I listened to my spidey sense and fired her Lululemon-clad ass.

  • There was no shrinking Us. Buttwipe was lying the whole time. My Hugger said later, ‘Ohh, maybe that’s why he was sweating like crazy the whole three times he came.” And boy did he punish me for Therapy, being weak, yadda fuck. My original therapist tried to get me to look before I married but I wanted to god damn Be Married. He recommended our–come to find out later– unlicensed in the states couples counselor. I ‘cheated’ on that therapist by seeing Hug therapist by myself later on. I didn’t stick to his rules so he refused to see me last year when I really hit the skids. He saw me through, and I mean years. The whole shebang, death, cancer, marriage, whoops, divorce, and then bang. I swear it’s his original theory; I repeated the same pattern with my own therapist! Who could do that? I mean, who does that? Okay folks: the damn doctor who found the cancer? Tried to kiss me in the ‘bone density’ room, post surgery. I had to PUSH him away. I couldn’t make this shit up. A detective called me last week, cause I did ‘yelp’ on him, along with 15 skeeved out other women. I’m past the statute of limitations but did help his current victim by telling the detective (yes he’s real, I called the actual police department.) He’s head of one of the main Women’s Breast Health Center’s here. I have (had) a friend who still goes to him–when I told her? She was upset that he hadn’t hit on her!! How can I not be utterly psychotic?

    • Good for you for helping to shut that doctor down. What he did redefines despicable.

  • My very first therapy appt was with somebody my doctor recommended. It was just after DDay and I was a complete and utter mess. When I first met her, she was extremely obese and could hardly walk and I sort of thought – gee, this woman must have issues of her own.

    For the next 45 minutes I cried and poured my entire heart out. But, I kept noticing that she yawned all the time and actually seemed to have fallen asleep twice. I wasn’t sure if this was normal for a therapist or not. So, I suddenly quit talking, my eyes dried up and I waited for a response. She said:

    “Get one of those puzzles a child would use with huge pieces. Put all the pieces together except one and let your husband put that piece in place.”
    NO SHIT!

    I reported her to the hospital and guess I wasn’t the only one. She was fired shortly thereafter. Just glad I gave therapy another chance but it was one of my worst experiences – ever.

    • The Yawning Therapists! One of my band names!! I thought I was the only one!

      • Years ago, I had a therapist who seemed to actually fall asleep during a few of our sessions. Don’t know whether I was that boring, or he just was really, really tired.

        • I saw an old psychiatrist once, just when Prozac was coming out. I wondered if I was chemically imbalanced, I am, but they haven’t invented my medication yet. He worked out of his home, which at that time was okay-ish. I said something about staying in a bad relationship because I didn’t want to be alone and he said “Well that’s what most women do.” Then, in his big leather easy chair amid walls lined with scholarly books and a BASSET HOUND at his side, they both nodded off.

  • …and he wore ‘I CAN’T FEEL EMPATHY’ like a badge, after he earned it in therapy. I ‘got’ him to therapy and went to His Arrogant Shrink’s office with him for awhile. He was fascinated by the Asshole’s success. The best he could do was ask him to try and say three nice things about me…WHICH HE COULD NOT DO!! I was mid cancer the whole time and so fucking muddled, but when someone can’t say three nice things about you…?!! That Dick therapist adored their $275 fifty minute, Good Ol’ Porn Watchin’ Boy ass sessions.

    and years ago I heard, ‘When people tell you who they are, listen. And people do tell you who they are.”

  • When I remember his name I’ll post it, but I don’t want this to be (it auto typed ‘goobled’)

  • Sing with me, chumps! (to the tune of “Yesterday” by the Beatles)

    I’m not half the man I used to be
    I’ve got “issues” hanging over me
    Oh, I believe in therapy…

    (by Paul Aldrich–sadly, I couldn’t find a youtube link where he sings it, it’s awesome…)

  • Oh, my. I see a theme developing here 🙂

    My XH lied, lied, and lied to cover his lies for 18 months. First 12 were before he admitted the affairs. That whole year I kept saying to Ms. Hug THERE IS SOMETHING GOING ON HERE and asking her to push him on it. Her answer: “Well, I don’t want to push him underground.” YOU DIPSHIT! He already WAS underground! When I finally got him to confess to the affairs, she said, “I guess I want the fairytale ending for my clients.” She also gave us a sexual compatibility quiz (she probably got that from Cosmo magazine) and ask XH how many sexual partners he had had in his lifetime. When his answer was “dozens,” she giggled — giggled! — and said, “Michael, you slut!!!” Last straw for me was when he brought wine to our session and offered her some. She accepted. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP.

    • “She also gave us a sexual compatibility quiz (she probably got that from Cosmo magazine) and ask XH how many sexual partners he had had in his lifetime. When his answer was “dozens,” she giggled — giggled! — and said, “Michael, you slut!!!” Last straw for me was when he brought wine to our session and offered her some. She accepted.”

      Good Lord, are you sure your ex wasn’t balling that therapist as well?

  • Ok, because I can’t stand to see more people screwed over by Christian communities, I’d like to do a post for people searching for help in them.

    1) People will tell you talk to your pastor. Think carefully about what you hoping for in that meeting–pastors only get 1-2 courses on pastoral counselling, if that. A good pastor will tell you what s/he can or cannot do for you; a shit pastor will take you in for free “counselling”. Just because they sound good in a pulpit doesn’t mean they can help you.

    Having said that, many will know of community resources for you to potentially tap into, and may be able to be there for you like a friend.

    2) Forget those “marriage weekends”. Just…forget about it….

    3) Beware of “prayer counsellors”. All they have to do is add the word “prayer” on the shingle, and they don’t need ANY qualifications, or have to belong to any professional group or ethics board. They offer cheap counselling for sweet fuck all.

    4) Christian counsellors. If you thinks someone/something is good just because they’re “Christian”, please, let me electronically bitch-slap you. A counsellor is good or bad. Use your eyes, ears, and fucking brains God gave you to figure out if this person is a good professional FIRST. I’ve had an excellent Christian counsellor. But not all Christian counsellors are good.

    Basically, think of comparison shopping. Talk to the person on the phone–ask what professional groups they belong to, what approach they take, and depending on your situation, you may need to ask them specifics (like NamedforVera pointed out the co-addict versus the trauma model for spouses of sex addicts/cheaters).

    Good ones will go over their ethics with you (like how far things remain confidential), as well as admit that if this is not a good fit, they may recommend someone else for you.

    • As a pastor and professional chaplain, I generally agree with you on these comments, Chump in the Sand. Not all counselors are equal and discernment is needed.

      Pastors are NOT trained counselors. However, some are more trained and gifted in this area than others. A pastor or chaplain who has done Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) is more likely to be a better counselor than one who has not. This is an intensive pastoral care training program with a real-world practicum usually working in a hospital/ER setting. And I agree that a pastor who is great in the pulpit may be abysmal doing pastoral counseling. These are different gifts and skills. Some have both but certainly not all.

      I had some HORRIBLE counselors who were billed as prayer counselors. They did incredible damage to what was left of the marriage. And I had some amazing prophetic prayer counselors who God used to bring incredible healing to me after the fact of my divorce. So, it can go either way.

      • Oh, I do believe in the power of prayer. But don’t forget, in your position, you probably have enough discernment and wherewithal to know a) if you have an actual mental illness (and therefore know where to go for that), b) whether you need talk therapy more, and c) to read through Christianese bullshit.

        Your average chump, in a vulnerable situation, likely does not have this going for them. And prayer counselling is unlikely to work with a couple on top of it–you had individual.

        Also–CPE, as you said, is more in a hospital setting. That’s a hospital setting. So, a good pastoral minister is likely better in a crisis or short term, rather than the longer slog of marital counselling.

        • I know I’ve posted it before, but bears repeating: Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.

          Just because we want it, or others want it for us, doesn’t mean it’s good for us or that God wants it for us. I *thank God* that my prayers for reconciliation weren’t answered. Or, rather, that they received a different answer than the one I was looking for and that took a while to become clear.

          • True, nomar. I am reminded of Jesus talking about God, the Father, who only gives His children good gifts (e.g. bread and not a rock, etc.).

          • Nomar, good for you for seeing the positive in your situation. It would be so easy to blame God for not “fixing” the cheater.

        • Agreed that, generally, pastors/chaplains are better for short-term situations. However, a good pastoral counselor ought to have the gumption to call the cheater out. After all, a cheater is breaking one of the Ten Commandments! A pastor is called to be prophetic that way at times (i.e. think Prophet Nathan confronting King David concerning his adultery and murder).

          This moral and spiritual perspective plus authority is something a secular counselor cannot offer. I say this to point out that pastors/chaplains have unique professional roles to play other than just referral agents. However, I am discouraged to have discovered few pastors/chaplains up to the task from my own experience. Discernment is needed here just as with going to a social worker/therapist.

          • I believe a good minister can have a positive role to play. I just believe it is better in conjunction, or as a support to, people going through therapy, as opposed to couples going to a minister in hope of getting therapy for free.

            • Chump in the Sand, I agree. Free therapy it is not. The minister has a different role to play professionally. And I agree that seeing multiple professionals is a good idea (e.g. a minister and a therapist, etc).

          • I spoke to my monsenior a couple of times. He said simply that if she feels no remorse she can’t be forgiven. As far as marriage he said this is not his area of expertise. At first I was upset about that but then realized he was just being honest.

            • To all people involved in their church:
              please, please, please PLEASE alert all people involved in counselling, of two essential books:

              ‘I don’t love you any more’ by Dr David Clark, and
              ‘Tough Love’ by Dr James Dobson.

              These are biblically based therapists and pastors who say the forgive, doormat, love them through, turn the other cheek look at your sin counselling is deeply unbiblical, wrong, and guaranteed to end the marriage.

              These two counsellors are absolutely unequivocal about CALLING CHEATERS ON THEIR SHIT. It is THEIR personal and deep sin, and nothing to do with the marriage. Especially Dr David Clark. He is tough!

              • Patsy, I really appreciated Dr. Dobson’s classic, LOVE MUST BE TOUGH. I read it shortly after my making some gut-wrenching discoveries. It made a lot come into focus. Same lines and lies. It was downright eerie how the lines laid out in the book coming from adulterers/adulteresses were coming out of my (now) ex’s mouth. I haven’t read Dr. Clarke’s book but have heard him speak on radio (I believe) and appreciated what he shared as well. I do take some exception to Dobson’s thoughts as he makes some statements towards shared responsibility, which I find unhelpful. That’s my take, though.

  • I believe the MC we went to has to be one of the worst – or maybe not. During the stint with the “first” (first as in “acknowledged” cheating while we were married – if you don’t count the prostitutes/dominatrixes) OW with whom he was making plans to run away, I immediately suggested MC as a way to save the marriage. As he refused to find a therapist, I had to go through his insurance and find one and settled on the one to which we went. He always makes it known almost immediately that he is in the mental health profession. He comes across as very “zen” and contemplative (actually, that’s just a lack of true emotion, but who knew?) as he always does when he strives to appear detached from and above the situation in which he finds himself. After speaking with us during the first session, she tells us that we are not having any problems that she can detect that cannot be resolved through counseling. However, I AM NOT ALLOWED TO BRING UP THE CHEATING.

    Yes, you read that correctly – the reason that brought us to therapy could not be a topic for discussion. He was not going to bring it up because he insisted that the reason he was unhappy was because of me, and I was not allowed to bring it up because it was her belief that it focused attention on the affair and took the focus off the problems in the marriage. The affair was merely a “symptom” of discord in the marriage. Of course, I was so distraught it never ocurred to me to challenge her on that shit.

    She and my Cheater Turd developed quite the rapport. He talked more about his problems at work and his disdain for the habits of our children than he spent talking about any problems in the marriage. I was lead to believe that I didn’t understand his needs, I wasn’t supportive enough, I needed to give him more space to pursue his interests, I should stop complaining about his unilateral decision making which constantly left me filling up holes in our finances and about which he was constantly complaining. She told him that he should stop pouting on vacations and that he was too emotionally fragile to really deal with all of his hurts and problems, so he shouldn’t even try. Talk about being fucked and not getting a kiss!

    I had a friend when I would tell her this would say to me, “She’s full of shit! I’d like to kick her ass!” My daughter the psychologist seemed befuddled by her unwillingness to speak about the cheating AT ALL. Of course, Cheater Turd would come from the sessions quoting her as if she was an Oracle – all things which kept me beat down, spackling and dancing.

    The therapist I saw when I was dating Cheater Turd and my current therapist (I’m noticing a common denominater here) were both very good. Both of them asked all the correct questions to bring me to certan realizations that have really been helpful.

    One of the best things my current therapist said to me is, “I can’t diagnose ‘Cheater Turd’ without ever having met him, but based on what you’ve told me, there is definitely something seriously wrong with him that probably cannot be fixed.”

    • My exW is a LMFT, and she was rather adept at getting the counselor on her side, too, as you describe in your situation. I particularly hate how counselors (and pastors, sadly) treat adultery as a symptom. As a civilized society, we do not accept this sort of reasoning in the even of a rape. And adultery is rape of the soul. It is pure wickedness to make excuses for such evil.

      • Agreed. Sadly, though, there are still people out there that will ask,”What was she wearing? Where was she and at what time? How was she behaving prior to the ‘attack’?”

        Wish there were more chaplains like you,FSA!

        • Sadly, our “civilized” society does blame victims of rape. That’s why there are so few reports and so few convictions when rape is reported. Worse, even with a conviction the perpetrators get very weak sentences (see Steubenville for a high profile case)

  • It took four marriage counselors (I’m a Chump) for me to understand that the whole process was pointless. X put on the show for all of them and then reverted to being a selfish shithead as soon as we got into the car, blaming me for “a huge waste of time and money.” Obviously, I was in a hopium-induced coma for years.

    Worst one was a dope who — in the middle of the first and last session — told us our son “sensed we were arguing” when he called in the middle of the session and asked me if I bought honey mustard when I went shopping.

    Best advice was from my individual therapist: “Delete.”

    • The MC was pointless in itself, but seeing how your ex handled it probably helped open your eyes to who he was …. But that hopium is powerful stuff!

      Great individual therapist!

  • Best advice:
    He is a sociopath and DOES NOT care about you!
    Cover your back. Protect yourself.
    Get a lawyer
    Separate your finances.
    Go NO contact.
    Give your children time, they WILL see him for what he is but their relationship with him is NOT your business.
    Grieve…. properly.
    And…. she was clever enough to get me to come to these conclusions by myself.
    Amazing Lady.

  • Second OW was a therapist, and still is. That’s how she started encouraging my ex to confide in her by telling him of her background. They met at the gym.

    Worst advice from an older priest I met after first OW: “Just pretend nothing happened.” Yeah, sure.

    Best advice from my last therapist, “Our sessions are not about him. It’s about you. We’ll spend time on you.” And so we did and I just got stronger and stronger and divorce was final after 4 months from the final Dday.

    Best advice from a younger priest after third OW: “If you stay, you are enabling him.”

    • U, first DD I went to the church and was just sitting there crying when our parish priest comes in and asks me what’s wrong. I tell him my husband is leaving me, he is having an affair. My POS was not leaving me I just had to dance faster, better and harder. Anyway, he tells me nonsense he wouldn’t do something like that. OK. Fast forward 7 years and my asshat ex says that he has gone to talk to the priest, has started “therapy” (once counts as therapy where he learned that he just doesn’t love himself enough and that is why he messes things up). I love my religion, I ponder and think and think and think. Now I have to go and talk to our parish priest, he is around 80 years old, old school and does not believe in anything but fire and brimstone homilies. I’m dreading this, cause I don’t wanna go back, don’t make me go back. I go and visit with our priest and ask him if asswipe told him how he went about the second DD, he had not, so I proceed to tell our priest. Poor father is throwing up his hands literally and at the end he says Do not talk to him. He needs to fix himself and you have tried all you could to be there for him. Blew me away. I was so glad to have gone after that. NC from my priest, ya I will definitely take that!!!!!

  • Worst: My first therapist’s job was to let me weep and weep. I guess I paid a lot of $$ to sit and cry in her office. She was on her computer most of the time and had a million stuffed animals in her office (I am not a stuffed animal fan, frankly). I really do not remember one word she said, or I said, honestly.

    Best: After the divorce and my move across country, I found a good one on the rec of a friend PhD. The first thing she said, after I poured out my woes, was: ‘Did it ever occur to you that your exhusband is a fucking asshole?’ What?? What?? NO, no one ever said that about my extremely successful wealthy smart funny accomplished husband. But thank you for that insight. B/c truth be told she was right. And I never ever saw it. Nor did legions of his fans. He was a legend in his own mind, and his mother, father and sister agree (which is, of course, why he is a legend in his own mind). And so do most of his colleagues. B/c why? He’s a rainmaker. No one questions the one who brings in the $$.

    • One of mine said that as well…

      Exact words, “What an asshole. You did nothing wrong. What he did is highly inappropriate (younger client). He’s a dick.”

    • “He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” – John Bright.

      Love this quote. Tape it to your mirror and read it every morning!

  • I don’t remember her name but she was great! I only saw her one time and she told me that my wife was stuck in a fantasy that she will never get out of. My wife has a serious personality disorder and her AP has a worse one. She told me to divorce. Not at all what I suspected but told me what I needed to hear.

  • My first brush with a therapist was after the DDay and she was wildly inappropriate and unethical but I had no idea until later. She had been cheated on too, how do I know that? She told me ALOT about it, she told me crazy shit she did – it was supposed to make me feel better I suppose but really, my sessions ended up being more about her than they were about me. Topper, when I realized she was not helping me and told her I was going to find someone else, she made it clear that she was hurt. She kept asking me why I wasn’t happy with HER. I didn’t see her anymore and I didn’t see anyone again until my ex pulled the gun on me. I went to the women’s shelter after that and found the best damn therapist EVER. She had me validated and functioning in a few visits, she strengthened me. She was excellent but took a job across country after 9 visits. After that I went through 3 lousy therapists until I found one that was reasonably good and helpful. That last one referred me to EMDR when I couldn’t get past the PTSD shit and that saved me. Literally saved me.

    The EMDR therapist, Robin was so damn empathetic that I didn’t think I could even see her after the first visit. When I told her what had happened to me, the look in her eyes made me cry, I could not stop crying the entire 2 hours. It took a herculean effort to go back but she was able to guide me through my memories and bring me back from the brink of insanity. The kind of insanity where I would wake when the icemaker dumped ice and be sure my ex was in the house, hell if a cat twitched an ear I’d be up out of bed and ready to run. Hyperalert does not begin to describe how I was, and every time I saw a car like his I would freak the fuck out. She got me out of that, she got me to a point where I could say “thank you” I am OK now. I would go back and work out more of my foo with her but I can’t afford her now. Important part is that the PTSD is almost entirely behind me, that is massive. I would give my EMDR therapist’s name but I’d have to ask her if it’s OK first. If you are in eastcoastchumps group and want it I can email it to you personally.

    • I’ve only recently heard about EMDR, and it sounds like it could work for me where talk therapy has only taken me to a certain point. Would you be willing to share more about your experiences?

      Since I’m new here, I’m just learning people’s stories, but I must say this is one of the most extreme things I’ve heard. You sound like a total champion. Hats off to you.

      • FoolMeTwice, since my therapist has a site online I will post it here:

        I don’t know where you live so that may not be helpful, you still have to find a therapist you are comfortable with. EMDR sounded like BS to me but it freakin works, there is a site where you can find EMDR certified therapists and lots of info.

        • Thanks a lot, Datdamwuf. This is a great set of links. I’m in Vancouver BC, and I’m pretty sure I can find a good practitioner here.

          As for EMDR sounding like BS, right now (and to quote one of my favourite movie lines), “I’d piss on a spark plug if I thought it would help.” I’ve been in an out of counseling most of my adult life, and while it’s helped a lot, I think it’s taken me only to a certain point. Of course I’ll keep going, but I’d like to explore alternative therapies as well. I figure, if I keep doing what I’ve always done, what I’ll get is what I’ve always gotten.

          Since I’ve been reading on this site, I’ve found myself really curious about people’s user names. May I ask how you chose yours?

  • EMDR helped me immensely as well. Under an almost hypnotic space I heard the words I was saying and realized how I would never go back to someone that broke such a strong woman. It took three sessions. The third and last one was the most valuable.

  • Right after dday, ex gave me the phone number of the minister at his church, and suggested I go and talk to him, as I was falling apart. I’m not even Christian, I’m Jewish, but I was so desperate, I went and spoke with the minister a couple of times. He was nice, but really basically useless. I later found out that not only did ex have ME go and counsel with the minister, he also had OW seeing him, and ex was also seeing him. I realize now how very exciting that had to be for my ex. He was sort of showing off for the minister, “Look at these two women under my spell!” and the triangulation and general mind-fuckery of it all gave him plenty of cake.

    The minister was WAY over his head with my ex. He was a young guy, and I am sure he had zero experience with a truly personality-disordered person like my ex freak. Ex dropped that church a few months later.

    • Like I said in my earlier post- a good minister may be a support, but not a replacement, for therapy. Big mistake.

    • Wuf, I am very grateful you admit you fell apart. I went crazy with the pain also. I would attack myself to the point of blood black eyes and broken bones, and FEEL NOTHING because I was so devastated and the hurt was so huge. My IC wanted to admit me. I could have easily had my cheater (emotional violence only) arrested for serious assault and nobody would have believed him that I did it to myself. Luckily I am crazy not disordered and wouldn’t do something so unjust.
      I look back now and have compassion for that deeply deeply traumatised person. Although the thought that I lost it so badly frightened me for a while.

  • We went to two shrinks. The first one was pretty scared of my X I think. He projects anger and barely controlled violence from every pore and she always looked like she was ready to bold from the room. I remember she had us play a card game that was pretty fun. It was answering questions about each other- like the Newlywed Game Show. We aced it. We each got every question totally right, although that had nothing to do with him cheating on me. The second one was a really old guy who rambled a lot but I thought he was good. He told my X he had “a very serious personality disorder” and in addition was probably on the autism spectrum. He told me I was normal, if a little sensitive, and then he said that I had to think about the next 50 years of my life and make sure I live them with someone who’s capable of being happy and giving happiness. (Implying that this was not my X) He recommended further testing, medication, and ongoing treatment for my X. I felt totally vindicated and partially saintly for having lived with him that long.

  • I found a really good counselor this past year. I’d always went to women before but this time I went to a man on the recommendation of a colleague. This man did so much for me. My self esteem was thrashed. He made me see that I’m really a good person and a great catch and he thinks my X was insane to give up gold like me. He wasn’t hitting on me either. I’d recommend him to anyone. West coast. Spokane area.

  • Vikki Stark (who wrote the book Runaway Husbands) does sessions via Skype or phone (or in person, if you happen to be in Montreal). I spoke with her a few times via Skype because I figured a few sessions with her would be worth a slew of sessions with someone who didn’t understand and/or gave bad (or damaging) advice to me. She is more expensive than average (I think, I’ve never seen a therapist before), though I am sure that depends on where you live, but it was totally worth it for me because I was able to just jump right in and know she GOT IT. I probably saved me money because after three sessions I stopped and decided I would take a break and could always meet with her again later if I needed to. There was SO MUCH I did not even have to explain. (She survived the same thing herself…) Her website for the book is:

  • I have been very fortunate with therapists. I started years ago with a wonderful man who treated me for free for a long time because I was in grad school and had no insurance. I was not the only person he helped in this way. He gave me so many important concepts–most notably the reverse Golden rule: “If I won’t do it to ya, I won’t take it from ya.” I’m still working on making that the default in my life. And he told me “I might as well have been raised by wolves,” which helped me to understand that I needed to re-educate myself on how life works. That seems a lifetime endeavor. Second therapist was the stuffed animal, baby-doll type, Gestalt training. She was warm, wonderful, but tough as nails and never let BS slide. After some years “off,” I had a burglary in my home and a subsequent meltdown and found my current therapist. She is amazing. When the relationship with the b/f suddenly changed, I went into major crisis and spilled about 10 years of stuff I hadn’t told her about the marriage I had ended as well as what was happening with cheater b/f. She almost looked shocked but by that time I had figured out that part of my own problem was spackling ALL of my life ALL of the time, including in therapy (although I didn’t have the spackle metaphor at that point.) She gave me great advice about paying attention to what was happening and taking care of myself for a few weeks until it became clearer what was going on, as the b/f had just had death in FOO. She said it was a good time to work on me. So when D-Day came 6-7 weeks later, and I told her I had found a FB page with one “friend” and had a huge blowout with him about it, I said, “I can’t go back, can I?” And she said, “No, you can’t.” We just talked about this in our last session. She said, “How could you go back? You can’t unknow what you know.”

    She’s awesome. I would not have made it through this without her. I am probably a lifer in therapy, given my background and my determination to be as healthy and happy as possible. I see it as the equivalent of going to the gym to take care of the body or to church to take care of my soul or to school to learn a new field or skill.

  • The best advice I got didn’t come from my counselor, but rather from my family doctor. Right around this time last year, I went to her to renew a prescription (a simple 5-minute appointment) and wound up talking to her for almost an hour. At that point I was in total Crazy Town and had started self-harming, which I hadn’t done since my mom’s worst manic episodes and alcoholic rages back when I was in high school. Anyway, after telling my family doc what was going on, she said, “X is a very sick man. For your sake and your daughters’ sake, you need to move out.” 6 months later, I did just that.

    The funny thing is what happened later that day. I was a lot later getting home than I’d planned, and I was kind of wandering around the house in a daze. I was so weirded out by the whole interaction, and it was obvious some heavy shit had gone down. So when X asked me what had happened, I told him exactly what the doc said. Since we share a family doc, you can imagine what the impact was (and yeah, I know that she probably stepped over the line by telling me). My X said several times afterward that I was really different after this–and he was right. It was the first time I’d had outside validation that the problem wasn’t me, it was him, and that my own health needed safekeeping. After more than 3 years of focusing exclusively on the health of other family members, it was the first time someone acknowledged that I had needs.

    After D-day and discovering what was really on my X’s hard drive, I went crazy trying to find out how this could have happened to me. To him. I scoured the Internet for information on sex/porn addiction, and found a wonderful website called POSARC. There I read about the trauma model as opposed to the co-dependency model. There was a checklist of symptoms related to relational trauma, and I was experiencing every single one. That really saved my sanity, at a time when my sanity really needed saving.

    Where I’m at now, I realize that his infidelity and Youporn addiction has nothing to do with me. Those issues existed way, way before I showed up on the scene, and they’ll probably be with him for the rest of his life. He’s very unlikely to seek help, for this or anything else, and to date has done pretty much squat to acknowledge (much less redress) what happened. Where co-dependency factors in is in the 6 months AFTER D-day, and the choices I make from here on out. Even though his choices were his choices (and I didn’t “cause” anything), I do think I fit the profile of a Co-dependent. To a T. My time in counseling now won’t have anything to do with him. Instead, I’ll focus on why I keep getting myself into these bullshit relationships, and I’ll heal myself. However long that takes, and whatever I gotta do. I just turned 50, and I refuse to believe I’m on this earth to suffer and be miserable.

    • Similar story . . . and also so thankful for CL and for POSARC. It’s unbelievable how much impact just having outside validation makes. It’s the years and years of psychological abuse and gaslighting, I think. I’m finally moving beyond needing therapeutic validation. Thank God, because that’s a scary place to be, especially seeing that therapists have the same statistical likelihood of being wingnuts as the general population.

  • I finally got a good – well, okay therapist locally. She just listens though. So, in addition, thought I’d try a hypno-therapist -over the phone-! weee. I just wanted to add her so she could help me with overcoming a smoking habit I picked up during this (no excuse) but…

    Sooooo….4 sessions later, $600 bucks, she still hadn’t produced one thing about quitting smoking. Kept saying….we’ll get to that after x amt of sessions. Meanwhile, she sounded like a girlfriend. I’d tell her my issue – she’d say, I KNOW EXACTLY what you’re going through….and go on to repeat her own experiences and her girlfriends’ experiences…blah blah…and I’m like WTH??
    She had never been married – only boyfriends, and boy, did SHE know what I was going through after 35 yrs of marriage! Yes, I was 1/2 to blame. okay. That shook me up for a entire week so I cried and cried, then I realized – what? Then I asked her what was wrong with *her* picker that she couldn’t find a good boyfriend.
    I guess that ended the 4 sessions. Good riddance S.Cal gobbly-gook hypno?-therapist!
    She actually put ME to sleep with her commentaries…

  • CHUMP LADY has been the very best therapy I could have ever hoped for to help get me through the most painful of experiences. Being able to lay my crumpled guts on the table and not being ridiculed, pacified or placated has been the most therapeutic of all counselors.

    Thank you, Chump Lady and my fellow chumps for your compassion, insight, truth and being able to so eloquently and often hilariously express it here. You saved my life.

  • annd, for the record, this forum and all the wonderful people in it has been the best therapy I could ever have had. I am on my way to happiness as a result, not because of the few ‘pros’ I’ve been to. There is something very catharic about hearing everybody else’s true experience, feeling their pain, seeing them go through so many challenges, coming out the other side, writing about it, exposing raw emotions, expressing words like we want, and knowing – we all sort of know what we’re all going through. I feel a tremendous connection to the Universe through this group and it has given me the best strength, even over my family, who have been great. Keep writing, Chump Nation! We’re doing a world of good.

  • Best advice if you have children with your cheater ex:

    The kids’ counselor encouraged me to tell my kids the truth about what happened. She said that it was very important for them to know that they could trust me. My ex wanted me to avoid direct questions the kids asked and to let our kids believe that we had just grown apart. That went against my instinct to tell the truth, and it was such a relief to hear a counselor encourage me to tell the truth in an age-appropriate way.

  • Best healing moment with my rockstar therapist came when she said to me “I never know what another person is thinking. Even if they tell me.” And, I heard it. What she meant for me to hear and I internalized it was that I needed to trust my self. I didn’t know who I was then, but I started to listen to my self and it began to tell me my story and how it ought to be.

    Worst advice I got from a therapist, who is my STBX, a LMHC, was this: “Trust me.” hahahaha. She sucks.

  • “A good shrink should make you squirm” well the ounsellor I saw, 18 months ago, asked me why I didn’t go. At the time I thought “what kind of fucked up question is that?” How can you go when you have 3 kids and a mortgage and, well, a marriage to someone you promised to love through sickness and health, come hell and high water, etc etc? She then went on to suggest it was some how my parents fault and we should examine that next time. I had seen her a couple of times and felt energised by our conversations, but that last time, I felt drained. I had nothing to talk about and got bored half way through the session. So, that was the last visit. 18 months ago. But funnily enough this morning I had a revelation, so maybe she was on to something. This morning I realised I was blaming myself , because I knew it wasn’t right, I knew I wasn’t happy, but still I didn’t leave. I let him hurt me, I really do only have myself to blame because I could have avoided all of this if only I had believed I was worth more, and in truth maybe that does have something to do with my parents, afterall. I didn’t leave because I really believed they would say it was all my fault, that I had made a wrong choice, that I fucked up. But see I fucked up by staying, by not trusting myself, I gave up those years of my life over something so stupid. It doesn’t really matter why he did what he did, I couldn’t have stopped him. But it was my responsibility to ensure that I was happy, and it was my fault that I wasn’t. I don’t know if the counsellor would have helped me come to that same conclusion, maybe I would have got there quicker. But I feel ok. Maybe knowing why I did what I did and accepting what I did will help me to forgive myself. Today I don’t give a flying shit about him.

    Rambling I know, and I think I am pn topic but maybe not explaining myself very well :\

    • Not rambling, Nat1, just illustrating a point; a good counsellor can tell us what we need to hear, but sometimes we’re not quite ready to hear it. And when somebody does tell us something important, it sticks with us, percolates somewhere in our brains, until we see how important it is!

      This counsellor helped you a lot, without probably even realizing!

  • I realized that in my ex I married both my parents’ worst qualities. My Mom was sparkly, a favorite child and an alcoholic-read that checked out-who cheated on my Dad (a pattern there) and my Dad was a workaholic- read THAT checked out-and perfectionist (nobody measured up) but a Chump as well because it’s easier to just go along with the status quo than it is to do something new-read that scary. I love my parents but I want a better relationship than the one they modeled.

  • I went to my therapist because I thought I needed help coping with my marriage to a man who felt entitled to a girlfriend.

    On the first visit, she told me that our time would be spent helping me find the strength to divorce him.

    She helped save my life. Naturally, he hates her.

  • I am a chump and a marriage and family therapist…first counselor I went told me to just “forgive”…social worker, non trained in marriage therapy obviously. The second counselor I went to was a better listener but her goal was “to help him want the old comfortable pair of jeans (me) rather than new shiny ones”. Wth! I finally decided to go out of network and see the therapist that my grad school classmates were raving about. Love her. Wish I could afford her $100 fee a little more often.
    My DD(s) happened during my last semester of grad school and I let one of my profs really have it when he suggested that the betrayed partner just needs to get over it, forgive and move on. Bam!!!! He won’t be making the mistake of teaching that bullshit to future therapists again.
    At the moment my specialty is middle school girls (I work in a school) but one day I would like to open a practice that specializes in infidelity. In my everyday work now, I find the most rewarding part of my job is helping young girls find their voice and stand up for themselves in a healthy and assertive way…helping them deal with bullies, mean girls and everyday assholes.
    I agree with many folk on here that say there are good and bad people in all professions…I sat in class with completely clueless morons so i know this is a fact. If you are looking for a therapist, try getting a free consultation first and find out their stance on infidelity. Good luck on the hunt and peace to all on this journey.

  • Wow! I have to say my experience was similar and different in many ways. I had a therapist that sat in the room and made me feel that I wasn’t cutting my cheating husband any slack and added guilt to my misery for a long time. Maybe she was trying to make me see that I had to make choices the real hard choices ??? We moved a few years and found another therapist who finally started to put him in his place and then we stopped using her because no extended medical coverage for this kind if therapy???

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