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Why You Can’t “Nice” People Out of Affairs

Well folks, I just finished my BBC radio interview with Ms. Allison Fern. I think you can link to it here. (Allison Fern, noon, April 14)

That was fun, although I probably spoke a mile a minute trying to cover a lot of chump ground. Essentially the topic of discussion was my reaction to that execrable Andrew G. Marshall (quack) piece on apologizing to your cheating husband. But the larger topic is really does the appeasement strategy with affairs really work.

As any number of chumps here who’ve worn out their tap shoes doing the “pick me” dance can tell you, no it does not. Cheating comes from a place of entitlement (I’m entitled to my partner AND my side dish fucks), and when you beg for your marriage, all you do is solidify that sense of entitlement.

But appeasement — that idea you can “nice” people out of affairs — is a very seductive notion to vulnerable people. If you eat the shit sandwich and agree that yes, the problem is you, and you can fix that — well, then you have CONTROL. You can improve! You can try harder! And thereby avoid scary outcomes like infidelity, or being abandoned.

But here’s the thing — you can’t nice people out of affairs because you didn’t “mean” them into affairs in the first place. Their decision to cheat is completely on them. We don’t control other people. Our niceness doesn’t win them back. And our meanness doesn’t compel them to hurt us. Besides what crime did you commit that is proportionate to the punishment of being betrayed?

Now, for the sake of argument, let’s say you really suck as a spouse. You might be a shrieking harridan who wears only appliqué sweatshirts and cares only for your tropical fish hobby and no one can reach you. You might be a slob of a man who natters on incessantly about the One World Order and never trims his toenails. In short, you might be utterly repellant. But your cheater still has choices! They can speak up! To a therapist or a divorce attorney. They can address their unhappiness or incompatibility honestly. They can take responsibility for their happiness and act accordingly. Cheating is a deliberate choice based in entitlement, cowardice, and crap life skills. At worst, it is a strategy to passive aggressively punish you and stay locked in an abusive dynamic.

But here’s what I think is more likely — you don’t suck. You’re saddled with a partner who has checked out of the marriage. Why? Because of entitlement, cowardice, and crap life skills. Why? Because that is their character — when the going gets less than optimal, they cast about. The cheater is devoting their energies and resources elsewhere, and someone has to pick up the slack. That someone is you. Chumps are usually hyper-responsible, conscientious  people who aren’t terribly high maintenance. We can shoulder more than our share, because hey, that’s what you do for people you love. We mistakenly assume they’d do the same for us. Our stick-to-it-tiveness is a reflection of our character, and cheaters know this. It’s why it’s pretty easy to cheat on you — you’re a trusting idiot.

Are you perfect? Of course not. None of us are. But the crime most chumps commit is that they love with their whole hearts. Cheaters don’t. They reserve compartments for various kibble sources.

So when you’re faced with cheating, how would appeasement work against someone who is  entitled? It doesn’t. They already think they’re entitled to shop when they’re unhappy. So if you sign up for the pick me dance, you’re dancing to their tune, to their constant, changing requirements for “happiness.”

I Facebooked a bit with Andrew G. Marshall. He claims he was taken out of context in that Daily Mail piece, and really if we knew his whole plan (which you can find out if you buy his book , of course) that you’ll see that apologizing to your cheating spouse is really just so you don’t scare your cheater off by shaming them. They don’t react well to anger and shame.

Since when are cheaters timid forest creatures who may be easily frightened away? Mustn’t upset them!

I would say a lack of shame is a very bad sign if you want to reconcile. What sort of people don’t feel ashamed when they do shameful things? Sociopaths, that’s who!

As for criticism and anger — those are legitimate responses to being betrayed. Stuffing that down is being inauthentic. So the appeasement strategy that Marshall advocates requires chumps to live inauthentically, and IMO, worse, internalize and accept their abuse. Yes, I deserved this. Yes, I’m sorry for making you do this to me. No, I will not scare you off with my pain and anger. The important thing here is YOU and your happiness. I will work harder to ensure your happiness by addressing my nagging and childrearing. And by doing those things I can make your scary abandonment go away. I’ll be good! I promise!

Chumps — you are NOT the problem. The cheater is the problem. Their entitlement is the problem. Reconciliation comes from a place of humility, not entitlement. You cannot reconcile without true remorse. People caught up in the high of an affair (which requires entitlement thinking to pull off) tend not to lead with humility. They lead with — let’s make a deal. How bad do you want me?

Appeasement is only a winning strategy if you want to keep a narcissist. Never criticize them. Never find fault. Accept their abuse and do not question it. It must be something you’ve done, because narcissists are never at fault.

Who wants to win a narcissist?

Not you.

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  • “But here’s what I think is more likely — you don’t suck. You’re saddled with a partner who has checked out of the marriage. Why? Because of entitlement, cowardice, and crap life skills. Why? Because that is their character — when the going gets less than optimal, they cast about. The cheater is devoting their energies and resources elsewhere, and someone has to pick up the slack. That someone is you. Chumps are usually hyper-responsible, conscientious people who aren’t terribly high maintenance. We can shoulder more than our share, because hey, that’s what you do for people you love. We mistakenly assume they’d do the same for us. Our stick-to-it-tiveness is a reflection of our character, and cheaters know this. It’s why it’s pretty easy to cheat on you — you’re a trusting idiot.”

    Ah, CL, this is SO it. How do you say it so well every single time? Thank you (despite your pointing out, correctly I might add, that we chumps are truly trusting idiots who not only trusted but picked up the slack for the spouses we thought truly loved us the way we loved them). 🙂

        • Add me to the list! I will be returning to those true words again and again. I need to remember that nice doesn’t equal love. Sometimes the really loving things to do don’t look “nice”.

          • I have A CHUMP LADY. Folder on my iPad where I store so many of the Incredibly precise stuff CL says & I go to it very regularly to keep on the straight & narrow, same & happy that I did the right thing by divorcing g my cheating narcissistic partner! .. This article hoes in the folder!

  • “Cheating is a deliberate choice based in entitlement, cowardice, and crap life skills. At worst, it is a strategy to passive aggressively punish you and stay locked in an abusive dynamic.”

    This is so true.

    So Tracy, I went to the link for the BBC show and didn’t see the interview posted yet. Do we just keep looking for your name? I want to make sure I know what to look for.

              • I just listened to it. Great job, Tracy. As a lot of posters have said, you are truly saving lives.

              • Thank you Tracy – well spoken – and well listened. It was truly a discussion – and with it you gained more respect for your position. One that I agree with completely. Where I’m now stuck is IF and I know we ARE correct in identifying this as abuse, why do we continue to expect our children to want to continue a relationship with an abuser? We’ve been abused as you stated, sexually, emotionally, financially, etc. So how do reconcile with ourselves that its “OK” to continue a relationship with someone who would commit/inflict this behavior on the other parent. Doesn’t that send a very convoluted message? We’re stating that we’re standing up for ourselves and we’re not gonna take it. But then we expect our children to be “nice” to the very people that abuse us? Which brings me to the situation/question concerns me greatly in all this heartbreak – How do we cope with, manage and deal with estrangement of children – especially with long term marriage, where because of the ability to “buy” the kids, the children “believe” that we were bitches or unstable or miserable and it was OUR fault? Help us understand that pain…

              • ” How do we cope with, manage and deal with estrangement of children – especially with long term marriage, where because of the ability to “buy” the kids, the children “believe” that we were bitches or unstable or miserable and it was OUR fault? Help us understand that pain…” This by Nain. How do we cope with our children from long term marriages, 20+ years? Mine are for the most part on “my side” but they feel that pull of obligation towards their father and he sure as hell plays the part of the martyr all day long. You did do an awesome job with that interview Tracy.

              • Nain, my 2 adult children (35 and 31) do not speak to me. My daughter hates me and my son pretty much the same. I was with my children 24/7 and I raised them but something has gone terribly wrong in the equation. I live in hope of some contact one day but I don’t think things will ever be the same again.

              • To Maree: I, too, am estranged from my three children (sons; 21, 18, and 15). My STBX spent YEARS telling me I was no good, and reinforced that belief in our sons. When I finally found the courage to file for divorce things got REALLY ugly. I was literally driven out of my home by my sons at the daily encouragement of their father. It has been 9 months since I’ve seen or spoken to them, even though we live 2.5 miles apart in the same town. It breaks my heart at how he’s poisoned our children and that they will grow to have unhealthy female relationships as well. I, too, hope they come around, however I know it may take many years. You are not alone, Maree, and I wish you peace. <3

          • I listened before bed last night and slept like a champ. Congratulations, Tracy (fellow Michigander), and thanks for waving the flag for Chump Nation. You’re as articulate on air as you are in writing, which is no mean feat, and you do us all proud. I really hope you keep going with this in getting the word out to a larger audience.

            FYI, I did a little digging (research background here) and found an article you wrote a while back about the female Oracle tradition in your family. That put into words exactly how I’ve felt chancing upon this blog–that I’ve found an Oracle. I’m willing to bet most of us (all of us) here would agree. Thank you for what you do, and for saying the hard words that ultimately give us all hope for authentic future selves and relationships.

  • Oh yes, so true, how many times did my ex say “I didn’t do anything wrong”. The rules do not apply to cheaters, they are so special dontcha know.

      • My ex’s oft-repeated lines were ‘it’s not a big deal’ (cheating, VERY convincing threats of violence), and ‘I didn’t do anything that hurt anyone ON PURPOSE’.

        So special, and why is everybody being so mean to him, now?

  • Man it all sounds so CLEAR. I wish I had known more of this when I was IN it!

    ego manicacs! Yes, I’ll take some more kibble, please. Yeah, go ahead and compromise yourself FURTHER for me.
    I did this. I agreed it was ME. I said I’d do MORE…better.
    I also stuffed it all down b/c I was told that I was being unreasonable, overreacting and not getting over it.
    In the end all I did was show him that what he was doing was acceptable to me.

  • “I’m not that kind of guy” and “The reason I won’t meet or talk to you is you accused me of stepping out on you.” Ah, yep.

    • Mine told me, I didn’t know how “lucky” I was to have him but that was before he pulled the plug. I actually believed him at the time. Now I look back, he was the lucky one.

      • “Mine told me, I didn’t know how “lucky” I was to have him but that was before he pulled the plug. I actually believed him at the time. Now I look back, he was the lucky one.”

        Yes! A long time ago, I told my ex not to ‘settle’ (for me). He said (with that stupid fake smile of his), “What makes you think I’m settling?” I took that to mean that I was “the one”.

        And he cheated. And he told me that I wasn’t “the one” for him. He was drunk for over a YEAR during our 4 years together, and I FORGAVE him, even though he never once apologized for his obnoxious behavior while he was drunk (abusive). He complained about everyone behind their back. He threw me under the bus several times during our relationship.

        It was only a few months after we broke up that I realized that *I* was the one who had been settling…


        • My ex was big on complaining about everyone behind their back as well. I fell into that way of thinking after awhile, then kept snapping myself out of it. Now that he’s no longer around I only complain about someone when I’m concerned or they really are bloody annoying.

          • My ex also complained about EVERYONE, even the few people he actually loved (like his mom) or liked. Constantly. But behind their backs, of course. To the kids and I it was much more to our faces. Then he didn’t understand why we started avoiding being around him ….

            Our daughter really started picking up this habit as well, but since she’s now working quite hard ‘not to be like him’, reminders help! Another reason to get the hell out!

  • Looking forward to hearing you on BBC Radio Surrey, once the link goes live CL.

    I think apologising to the cheater is a total waste of time. The chump is not responsible for the cheating. As CL says, you can be responsible for your spouse or partner choosing to leave you, but you’re not responsible for them lying, deceiving and having an intimate relationship with someone else. For a while I thought it was better that ex-H cheated than that he told me he didn’t love me anymore & left me. However, I have since realised that he would never have told me that he didn’t love me and left because it wasn’t really true. He didn’t cheat on me because he had fallen out of love with me. He cheated because it was offered to him on a plate & he could. He could because he is selfish & is all about him.

    After I found out, came all the lame blame shifting excuses about the toddler and the baby and how I was so tired, how our life felt dreary and lacking fun, how he felt hemmed in by responsibility (oh the hardships of staying in 5 star hotels Mon-Fri while your wife looks after a toddler, a baby & works part-time). Funnily enough, he had not mentioned a single word of his unhappiness or dissatisfaction before D day. There is even video footage of him at our daughter’s christening just a month or so before D day telling the assembled audience how happy he is and the respect & admiration he has for me for managing so much by myself!!!!!

    How can you possibly apologise for any of that? What good would it do, other than to debase yourself further in the eyes of your cheater? It would be an utterly pointless exercise that could only indicate to the cheater that you were going to continue to allow him to eat cake, because you were accepting fault in some way. I just can’t think of an argument that would sway me to come around to Andrew Marshall’s way of thinking – however much out of context he may have been taken in the Daily Mail.

    • Funny – my ex told me (and the kids) quite early on after I tossed him out that he would not have ever left or divorced me. So what does that say? That he was perfectly comfortable cheating with available women and pursuing them while keeping me at home as his soft landing. What a prat.

        • Mine threatened to get more child support out of me – he felt I wasn’t paying him enough (never mind that our state has a calculator that’s pretty darned simple). He also threatened to squeeze me for alimony, too. (No fault state, doofus). He’s one who never hired a lawyer and still misinterprets the decree – to his benefit of course. Absolutely bonkers.

        • Mine told me that he never intended to tell me either, and when I asked him what he thought would happen, he said that he “just always thought we’d be together,”….to which I responded, “how many of us”???

          • Ugh. Mine said, “I wish I had the courage to get out of this marriage a long time ago.” Right.

            However, it’s funny he never said that to me. It was only AFTER he got caught cheating that he managed to come up with that lame response. And you know what even if it was true and he wanted out he sure did enjoy his cake and eat it too while I wondered what the hell was going on with the drinking, late nights and generally dismissiveness.

            Nope being “nice” doesn’t cut it. I could in no way nice my STBX out of an affair than I could coax a rat not to eat garbage. I don’t have that kind of magic – nobody does.

            CL you are spot on. You can’t shame people when they feel no shame. Cheaters don’t want to feel the consequences of their choice to cheat and their lousy character. They can’t deal with it psychologically. So they blame and project and stonewall and make the person who was betrayed look like the bad guy. It’s just what they do. There’s no magic in that. None.

            • THIS! 🙂 that whole line about COURAGE. It takes COURAGE to LIVE HONESTLY. These people failed their spouses and then their families. How many of us pray our children never end up in a relationship with someone like that defective parent. I mean really. Mine tacked on “I just stayed together for our kids’ sake. 20+years?! Okay child number one was born before we married. After five years of dating! I know how did I miss that?! Please take your lying self out of my life. I guess that’s where all that stringing me along (and fucking me too) fit in. Ugh. Maree, don’t give up on those kids. If your ex was anything like mine he has been putting you down subtlety for a great many years. That has become your children’s truth. Give them time. Your ex can only stay sparkly for so long. But tough love is good. Work on your boundaries even with them. Let them work on their relationship with you. I realize a great many of my family relationships are challenging and it’s what led me to marry my ex. I am working on me and that seems to help my relationship with my children, who want to see me strong and confident again. It is a process.

        • Mine said to me ‘I never looked to replace you’ (i.e. she was a fantasy on the side).

          The entitlement is just horrifying. Such shallow emotion.

  • “They don’t react well to anger and shame.”

    Well, neither do I, but that was the humble pie I had to eat when my husband decided to dick around with another woman.

    I was not given a choice to be “nice”, although I made the offer as he was walking out of the door. That expired after a week. As Chump Lady says, sociopaths don’t give a crap. Even my attorney picked up on that he would feel no shame or remorse if we charged him with adultery.

    • My ex was the same doctor, walked out and never looked over his shoulder, not even for his 3 children. He see exposed and so was moving on, true sociopath style.

    • Thanks for the link. Very interesting. The age thing….
      I was thinking George Clooney right before the Mel Gibson example was made.
      Boy George doesn’t seem to be a rager though.
      (Maybe I just like thinking about him?)

  • Didn’t Marshall (quack) also recommend letting the cheater continue to talk to their AP? This guy’s whole outlook sucks, not just the apologizing part.

    • I know, right? Also I believe quackmeister guy said to let your partner move in and live with the AP. Seriously strange and unhealthy “advice”.
      What a creepy little turdman.

      • Haha, let your cheater move in with the AP was actually good advice, but for the wrong reasons. Better to let her have him…

        Yes, quackmeister (love that!) is truly an idiot. I’d like to see what he actually would do if someone he loved cheated on him.

      • “I know, right? Also I believe quackmeister guy said to let your partner move in and live with the AP”

        I would have no problem with this…provided that my partner would have been willing to allow ME to move in with *my* “AP”…

        How well do you think THAT would have gone over in the narcissistic world?


  • Awesome article! For three years I heard “I thought our marriage was ending anyway”. He never got the concept that no matter what he thought, there were other honest ways to go about dealing with our problems. Unfortunately for me, he is and always will be an entitled, coward with poor life skills. I couldn’t “nice” him out of that thinking and the harder I danced, the more I solidified the idea that what he did was acceptable.

    He never tried to earn my trust back or win back my love. He felt like he was doing me a big favor by “choosing me” over the OW and that he was entitled to my trust and love and of course never bringing up the affair or making him uncomfortable.

    Fortunately that asshat is now a little thing that I like to call “not my problem anymore”. I finally figured out my worth and walked away.

    I wish I could’ve read something like this right when it happened!

    • Cheaterssuck, I really relate to what you said:

      “He never tried to earn my trust back or win back my love. He felt like he was doing me a big favor by “choosing me” over the OW and that he was entitled to my trust and love and of course never bringing up the affair or making him uncomfortable.”

      That’s just it, hey? That there’s some kinda favour being done here, rather than just giving and receiving love. What a weird, warped fucking way to live your life. I met my X online, and in the early days, he showed me this spreadsheet he’d made of the women he’d met and shortlisted, and my picture and data was on there, too. I know, I know: WTF, right? Well, that knee-jerk reaction was mitigated by some (in retrospect, more than some) rationalizing on my part. “He’s a guy; they do things differently.” “He’s a project manager; this is how they orient.” And “Hey, he picked me!” Which was something he was reiterated, at many points during the course of our relationship: “I picked you!” See, I was doing the “pick me dance” even before I knew the whole thing had already been choreographed. Nice!

      Like you also said, my X never tried to regain my trust or win me back. The whole thing was about A) my “insecurity” B) my “moods” C) my “lack of trust” and D) my FOO issues. Even after D-Day and me confronting him with what I’d found on his hard-drive, the whole thing was all about him. “I feel so empty.” He actually said to me, “I can’t make this relationship work if you don’t trust me.”

      He actually said that. Not, “I’m sorry I’ve been shopping for sex on the Internet for the whole time we’ve been together, in categories that could involve the word ‘statutory.'” Not, “I know I’ve fucked up, but I’m determined to prove my worth.” Nope. The whole thing became about my lack of trust in him, not all his bogus behaviour that CAUSED my lack of trust.

      See, I know that he also cheated on his dying wife. He told me that himself, and at the time he told me, several months in to our relationship, I was impressed with his candour. Wow, what a standup guy! He was so contrite, too. Emphasized that his late wife had forgiven him. But I got chumped, too, and it certainly wasn’t because I was sick or depriving him. Nah, he just wanted a little piece of strange on the side, and he’ll always be that way.

      Six months out, I still get these texts and emails from him as though nothing has happened. My kids miss him a lot, especially my youngest, and that’s been tough. But whenever I waver, I look at my BFF and her partner. He treats her like an absolute queen, and his whole vibe is about how being with her is a privilege. The dude is just so proud to be with her; he can’t wait to update his FB status and post photos of her whenever they do something together. It’s all about joyful proclamation and representation, which is what I never had with my X. There it was all favours and the feeling of being beholden or somehow holding my breath in case I wasn’t towing some ever-changing line. “Hey, I picked *you* out of this whole bevy of beauties!” Well, whoopdefuckingdo. If I wanted to be a contestant on The Bachelor, I would have signed up for that.

      Anyway, thanks for sharing this. It really helped me today.

      • I suddenly had an epiphany after reading this.

        My ex “picked me” too. He had a LONG string of ex-girlfriends and ex-fiancées. I was the one who was, per him, “good enough to make him settle down.”

        Wow. I “pick me” danced my behind off before we were even married.

  • “They already feel entitled to shop when they’re unhappy.” Wow, that one hit me square in the face. I’m trying to sell a few of the antiques today, the ones he didn’t steal. He used to love to shop for them, hell for anything really. Perfect analogy there. He never stopped “shopping”. And even though he’s with his paramour (who made more $ and was “very generous”) he still won’t. Hell she’s already paid off his tax debt to keep him out of jail so all that loving loyalty isn’t necessary anymore. Whatever.
    Congrats on your continued success CL! You shine such a light on the darkness.

    • Yeah, and most of them feel entitled to shop around even when they are happy! Cause they’re such studs like that, playahs, irresistible to women, yolo. Barf.

      • My ex has admitted that at least one of his flings happened when we were extremely happy and he ‘can’t explain’ why it happened. Whatever, dude. Go wander your dick elsewhere.

  • I’d like to add that “being a good role model” also fails with narc-cheaters. Setting a good example of being a nice person? It’s lost on them.

    • But they LOVE it when we’re ‘being a good role model’! ‘Cause we’re so nice, and responsible, and we speak to them respectfully, and we get so much done … so they can go on eating cake and being assholes.


  • Here’s another one that just popped up on MSN Living:

    According to Dr. Clark (love to know what she is a doctor of), I need to “take responsibility for [my] part now.” An affair can also be a “turning point” in a marriage. Yes, that was the point in my marriage where I turned and RAN!

    These IRC buffoons are like the heads of a hydra– cut one off, and another grows in its place.

      • Nope, they always get it backwards! There can be no true reconciliation or remodeled marriage until the adultery is a permanent thing of the past and true remorse is shown. Then and only then can any pre-existing marital problems be worked on.

        I am old and have seen couples reconcile and build a good marriage after adultery, but in all cases the injured party immediately put the cheater out, laid down the law, went about building a new life, and created a situation where the cheater had to either go his or her way OR come to a personal epiphany and pretty generally a total breakdown. It happened to one of my best friends. She immediately, quietly and firmly put him and his things OUT, went no contact, and refused to even speak to him for six months. Eventually he got suicidal. At that point she had him institutionalized and insisted that he remain in therapy until he could tell her why and how he would be different in the future. After a year, he was allowed home on probation. He was one of the few who actually did the “work.” He has told me himself that he has spent the time since then being the husband and father that he should have been from the beginning. He also told me that every day of his life there is always this one moment when the enormity of what he did hits him like a ton of bricks and reminds him to be ever vigilant that he was an idiot and almost lost a magnificent woman. This is remorse.

        I believe that this is the exception and not the rule. I don’t believe that serial philanderers are capable of true remorse. I also believe that the “pick me polka” is the absolute worst thing an injured spouse can do and that it permanently closes the door for any real change in the relationship. I believe that if my friend had waivered even once, her husband would not have changed. People do not learn to be responsible unless they experience immediate and painful consequences for bad behavior…. and even then some of them don’t learn. They damn sure don’t learn if someone enables them to have cake!

          • She is one of the strongest women I have ever seen. Her identity and her values were and are NOT negotiable. Her husband was a local public figure and this was quite the local scandal. She endured a year of being stared at in public, having people try to finesse information out of her, and heard insinuations that somehow she might have been at fault. She kept her own counsel (except for a few of us who were close and supportive), held her head up, and gracefully went about her own business. Her attitude was that if he couldn’t fathom what he had done, she did not want or need him in her life, as she was quite capable of being content without him. I’m not saying it didn’t break her heart or cause her pain. It did, and she cried a million private tears; but she never let him see her sweat! And as she often told me, “I’d hurt so much more if I became less than who I am because I gave in to the fear of being alone. I don’t want a “man-in-residence.” I want a real marriage with a man I can respect; and he will either regain my respect or he can move on down the road.”

        • I believe the only reason my H came home was I kicked him out too. I followed the NC and filed for divorce.It hit him like a ton of bricks, and he was willing to do anything to get his life back(me). I’m not telling anyone that it’s easy, or that I have any guarantee he won’t cheat again, but he has done the majority of the work, and has shown true remorse. It’s been about 1.5 years now, and I’m finally feeling like we will make it, but I will never love or respect him the same way. I always say what bothers me, and I am no longer a door mat. I stopped being always agreeable. I just take care of me! I’m not mean or malicious, just real. Absolutely do not do the pick me dance! It’s a struggle when your heart is breaking apart, especially in the beginning, but essential to find if they are really wanting you back or just want to keep their cake. And if you can’t get somewhat healed to stay together it’s not worth trying. Trust me it’s too hard!

          • We are following a similar path, LML, and it is definitely not easy. Our journey has included separation for several months, investment in his personal mental health care, and demonstrations of remorse and reparations (both words and actions).

            I recently connected with a woman IRL who is the only person I know in real life who has successfully reconciled with her husband. She told me that it took 5 years, but that she is finally in a place where she has let go of the anger and honestly feels love and respect for her husband. She and I are meeting to talk and having phone conversations in between. This is such a lonely process — those who have not experienced this kind of betrayal really cannot understand, and the RIC has nothing to offer me. CL and the people on this forum are the most helpful, although for completely understandable reasons beyond their control, most have not experienced a successful reconciliation either.

        • I think your friend has the right of it, notyou. The one person I know who successfully reconciled did pretty much the same thing.

          • I’m always hesitant to consider a reconciliation “successful” unless the couple has remained adultery-FREE until death do they part. I’ve seen too many reconciliations that were considered ‘successful’, even over 35 years later…

            …until the cheater cheated again.


            • I hear you! I definitely would not say we have a successful reconciliation. I would say that we are “in process.” And I wouldn’t say “till death do us part” either, yet.

            • Agree, Gypsy. My reconciliation was pretty lazy on my narc ex’s part, and consisted mostly of me trying to nice him into being an honest, caring partner, while spackling like mad. So I wasn’t surprised, just disappointed, when he cheated again 7 years later.

              But a friend of mine did ALL the right things, kicked the cheater out right away, stayed calm and cool, he had to decide and beg to come back. He did ALL the things cheaters are supposed to do, in spades, and they did tons of individual and couple’s therapy. 4 years later, she felt safe enough in the marriage to have their long-planned second child. But 6 years after that, she couldn’t stand his consistent self-centeredness and their increasingly-obvious basic incompatibility anymore, and initiated their divorce. That’s when she found out he’d gone back to the OW while she was pregnant with that second child, and had intermittent contact with her ever since …

              • and this is really what you always get. Your cheater gets your trust back while still cheating, or resuming as soon as he/she is sure you won’t notice. Trust that they suck, too many have lost 10/15/20/30 years to cheating assholes. Learn from us, don’t loose your life to assholes. Mine was 6 years in, did all the right things, trusted again. Then 10 years later, same, same. Worst part is finding out that the cheating never stopped, never stopped at all…..

    • “An affair can also be a “turning point” in a marriage. Yes, that was the point in my marriage where I turned and RAN!”


  • “I would say a lack of shame is a very bad sign if you want to reconcile. What sort of people don’t feel ashamed when they do shameful things? Sociopaths, that’s who!”

    This is a really important point, not just in marriage, but in all relationships. A person who does not feel any shame, remorse or guilt over any bad doing of their own is a person who is dangerous on some level, and just about guaranteed to take advantage of others. Even if this person is just a coworker or a friend, be on alert and watch your back.

    And in a marriage, hoo boy. My ex does not ever feel a moment of shame, remorse or guilt over anything. His level of entitlement and ability to blame-shift is astronomical. Life is so much better without him.

  • I would bet money that many of our cheaters shared some of those same crap life skills. Communication, what was that? He had trouble discussing anything of importance.My ex in the last few years had a hard time making eye contact with me, engaging in meaningful discussions (conflict avoidance anyone?), had a swivel head when any woman walked by, made unilateral decisions ( I want a truck! I work soooooo hard! Bought it!) , was a bit of a loner (which explains why he spent so much time at his racquetball club -snort!), and had one hobby that if it weren’t for “his family he could be a pro!” And when anything really challenged us? Like our son’s accident… he was not to be found, he often dealt with things by running away. Yup his great act of support was running away. Oh yeah, laughing at what a loser he was and is. How I settled for that is what I struggle with the most. I was so unhappy in my marriage…he was such a sparkly personality and I never knew why he grew so hostile towards me. Cause I am so competent. I think they do project. I think we know our worth but each minute spent with someone like this just sucks. Oh the legacy these fucks leave.

    • Wow Drew, that sounds all too familar….
      The hobbies… and there I sat in full support of each and every one. But he did not support mine. Although, I didn’t have many because I was working, raising the children, managing everything else, and don’t forget, putting him on that pedestal.
      The other thing that hit me was after dday after I filed but douchbag was still living at the house, oldest son, 10 at the time, accidentally sliced his thumb with a knife. I immediately called the doctor and got him right in. So, me and the two kids were at the clinic and I texted db to let him know what happened, where we were, and what the doctor said. I even sent him a picture to let him know just how serious it was. The clinic is 5 minutes from the house. db never showed up at the clinic and we were there for for 1.5-2.0 hours. So me and my two boys handled it like pros. Even the doctor complimented me on how calm we all were and how great the kids are. One thumbnail partially removed and ten stitches later we arrived home to db just sitting at the house. What a fucking asshole!!
      The silver lining is this….
      I managed to handle each and every obsticle that was thrown at me without his support while I was married to him. Imagine how fucking awesome I will be/am now without him weighing me down.
      Rock on Chump Nation!

      • Hi Casey, this is an idea of how rotten my ex husband was/is. A few years ago I had a few little things removed from my back by a skin specialist. Next morning after showering the specialist instructed that I have to cover the spots with particular healing strips. About an hour after my ex husband left for work after putting said strips on my wounds, I started to have a problem which I was not sure what was happening. I looked in the mirror and my face was twice its normal size and red and my tongue was swollen. I called my ex who would not come home. I called my GP and he stated I should go back to the specialist which was an hour drive away. Being the can do person I am, I called the specialist rooms and drove there. When my specialist looked at me he stated that I was having an anaphylactic reaction to the strips. He kept me in for an hour after administering medication and wrote me a note should I have to call an ambulance when I got home. My ex husband did not even ask me what was wrong when he got home. He had absolutely no empathy for me whatsoever only himself.

        • I had to have a tumor removed from my leg and guess who couldn’t take the day off from work to go with me to the doctor to HAVE SURGERY!?! Thank God for my supportive mother. So happy that loser is not my problem anymore.

          • They are weak rats. The only thing I can say is that you are lucky with your Mum’s support. My Mother loved my ex. Enough said. No support there for me whatsoever.

          • I had a horrific birth with my first child and enrolled in a birth course for my STBXH and I to attend to prepare for the birth of our second child. STBXH did not come to the course as he had a “conference” to attend AKA screwing his colleague from work! He had absolutely no interest in the birth of his child….even text the OW 16 times when I was on the delivery table! They don’t get much worse than cheating scum bags like this!!

            • Oh Marley that’s horrible! They are all the so sick. My STBXH was texting his OW during my father’s funeral and myself and my mother had to ask him to put his phone away. Not surprising considering he wouldn’t cancel a meeting to take me to the D&C I needed bc I had a miscarriage (which we discovered at the first ultrasound when the fetus had no heartbeat. His response to that was “oh” and went home to nap ).
              Yet I’m still amazed at what horrible people they are!!

            • It’s sad how similar our stories are.

              I’ve always wanted a lot of kids – exH claimed he did as well, but we had trouble getting pregnant due to his issues…several of my pregnancies then ended in miscarraige. Once I’d made it past the first 13 weeks, and was over the moon happy – thinking we’d made it…woke up in the middle of the night to the worst pain ever; tried to wake him up – and he told me to “not bother him – he was tired.” I crawled down the steps and spent the night alone on the bathroom floor. I lost that baby, and the house looked like a crime scene. I made sure I cleaned everything up the next morning before he woke up too, because I knew he’d be mad if I didn’t. And he never even asked how I was, or said one word of sympathy. Talk about actions not matching words…turned out he was already back with OW, and explaining how the wife you supposedly left is having your baby would have been “inconvenient”.

              So yeah, sympathy isn’t these guys’ strength.

              • Just read this – it’s a year late. That is so horrible. My God! He is a complete asshole. Satan has a special place in Hell waiting for that bastard!

        • Maree,
          They are selfish, selfish people. Imagine if we treated them the same way they treated us…..

          There was another time that oldest son had a doctor appointment. db claimed he had “s.w.a.t training” and at the last minute was unable to take son to the dr. He had worked the night shift so sometimes we would schedule appts so that db could take the kids and I didn’t have to miss work. Kind of like how loving families work together.
          Come to find out, nope, he didn’t have training that day. Took his girlfriend 1.5 hours away to pick up a gun and fuck around.
          Some priorities, huh?
          I guess I feel like this…
          Screw me over all you want – just don’t fuck with my kids!

        • Newbie here, D-day the second was four weeks ago and I filed for divorce on April 1st (his birthday – hah!).

          My contribution to the “rotten to the core” stories? My STBX left while I was miscarrying his baby at the hospital. I did not receive one.ounce. of sympathy from him, and he had the nerve to complain about how he had to get up for work the next day (and no, he did not call off to take care of me). I felt like I was being strong for the both of us, when in reality he’d abandoned me emotionally and physically to deal with the grief and pain of losing our third child together alone.

          Icing on the cake was that a couple of weeks later, the doctor called to let me know that my miscarriage was caused by an STI my dear husband had given me and that we would both need to take antibiotics to treat it. When I got off the phone and confronted him, he admitted to sleeping with some random customer a few times after work without a condom 6 months before. Would he have mentioned this if he hadn’t been stone-cold caught, even though he knew how sad and guilty I felt about losing our baby (I know it wasn’t my fault, but I am a grade-A chump)? Nope.

          Luckily for me it only took me two D-days to decide to divorce him (well, two physical affairs he was caught at; I am not even counting the times I received messages from potential OW’s he’d been courting online and all the personal ads I’d found)… I hope to be completely free by November 🙂

          • I’m so sorry you dealt with that! And I’m happy you’re dumping the sociopathic jackass. You deserve better.

          • I am so sorry to hear your story. It does make you wonder why they do these things to us. The more I read on this site about how both men and women have been treated by their respective partners just breaks my heart. I do not know how someone can lie, cheat and deceive the person they are supposed to love. I could not do it.

          • so sorry to hear that. i’ve been through several miscarriages myself, so i can understand the pain. come to think of it, on my 3rd miscarriage in a row, XH didn’t seem to care, said he was too busy with work, didn’t even come home for a few days (he says he was sleeping at the hospital, where he works, but who knows), and i thought i was being a good wife by being so understanding and not “bothering” him with my problems. i guess he had already checked out by then and/or maybe he was already having an affair.

            and less than a week before XH told me ilybinilwy, i had surgery to remove a benign tumor. when he was giving me all his reasons as to why he started an affair. he said that i wasn’t feminine enough and didn’t care about my appearance enough and, as i was changing my surgical gown prior to surgery, all he could think about was how i hadn’t shaved my armpits.

            • “he said that i wasn’t feminine enough and didn’t care about my appearance enough and, as i was changing my surgical gown prior to surgery, all he could think about was how i hadn’t shaved my armpits.”

              This takes the cake. Why are we so invested in “not being a bother” and making things easy for them? He for damn sure did not do the same for me. Cheating aside, I’ve realized that he’s been a pretty crappy husband for the majority of our marriage – always taking but only giving when he absolutely had to. The lack of compassion for someone who stood by him and took care of him when he had no one else just makes me sad.

          • Calliope — this is a horror story. And it’s exactly the kind of story I think of — and get pissed about — when people minimize the harm of infidelity. “Oh, just a drunken one night stand!” or “Surely, it’s not as bad as domestic violence.”

            So glad you’re divorcing him!

      • Well done Casey. My son got really sick and had to be put in hospital about 6 months after my ex just up and left to be with the AP. I text him, got told I can’t come because I am away working… oh ok I said. Sent him texts all day, quite a few phone calls to let him know exactly what was happening. About 3 days after he was admitted to hospital, I get a text message from a friend of mine. I told him what had was happening and that my ex couldn’t be here as he was away working. He said, no he’s not he’s at home. 5 minutes away…..

    • Sounds very similar to my marriage. Whenever I really needed support my ex bailed! And in the end he said I didn’t support his dreams, after I felt like I gave up everything I wanted in order to support him. The only thing that could have saved my marriage was turning into someone I’m not!

    • They have ‘crap life skills’, AND they make no effort to improve them! Because they’re already fabulous, right? There’s nothing they need to change or improve; if something needs improving, it must be somebody else’s to fix, no? And nothing bad that happens could ever be their responsibility! And you, the chump, you’re there to take care of all that ‘life skills’ part, right??

      My ex worked SO hard gaining academic, professional and career skills, including a lot of ‘people-related’ ones. Never thought he was done with that stuff, always ready to improve himself. Courses, books, studying, practicing …. But he shouldn’t have to WORK at making our relationship or his parenting good, no! He shouldn’t have to be making an effort at home as well!

  • It makes SO much sense when you connect all the dots for us, CL. Wish I’d had you there when I was trying to “nice” my ex into “doing the right thing.” It was EXHAUSTING…

  • Just listened, Tracy. Great job! Now it’s time to go national BBC Radio, then telly, then WORLD DOMINATION. 🙂

  • Thought your interview went great, Tracy! Congratulations! Soon you’ll be on the Today show and my STBX will have to listen to you!

  • Good Job Chump Lady! Hope your agent is out there pimping for you nationwide as a run-up to your book. I whore the blog wherever, whenever I can. There are so many unfortunates out there (including myself) that are wandering in the desert. RIC is the mirage where you are the oasis.

  • Just listened.
    Tracy, you were concise, controlled, fair and as always, damned funny.
    I love your skill in giving the pain we all feel a strong voice.
    Carry on.

  • I watched “Wolf of Wall Street” last night, and it’s like a horrible case study of a malignant narcissist except the narrative seems to want you to feel kind of sorry for him or something.

    • I haven’t seen it for that reason, that it seems to be glorifying Wall St. and narcissism. (And misogyny — aren’t there a lot of hookers?)

      I read it was a “satire” — like we’re going to look at it and laugh at him, but I really think it’s like those humble brags. We’re not supposed to feel sorry, or laugh, we’re supposed to be in awe of the fabulousness.

    • “Did you think about the cultural message you’d be sending when you decided to make this film? You have successfully aligned yourself with an accomplished criminal, a guy who still hasn’t made full restitution to his victims, exacerbating our national obsession with wealth and status and glorifying greed and psychopathic behavior. And don’t even get me started on the incomprehensible way in which your film degrades women, the misogynistic, ass-backwards message you endorse to younger generations of men.”

      (from that link I posted.)

      • Oh yeah.

        There are hookers (all kinds), and… in the scene where his first wife catches him fooling around with the mistress who would be his second wife later (and he never stops with the hookers regardless of who the wife is), he says “I felt like crap. Grace [this mistress] moved in 3 days later”.

        It’s classic narc speak nonsense, nonstop, and he really seems to want you to feel either sorry for him or be in awe of him (I think they stuck to his book pretty well).

    • This is exactly why I would never watch it. I feel sick when I see news/movies/stories glorifying malignant disordered types these days. Too close to home, I guess.

      • this is why i can’t look at or buy paul newman’s tomato sauces anymore. now that i know his relationship with joanne woodward started as an affair while he was married with three young kids, and, according to rumors, cheated on joanne during their marriage.

  • “you are NOT the problem. The cheater is the problem.”

    Thanks, CL, for this message. I need to hear this over and over again every which way using different words, analogies, metaphors, imagery, etc. so that it really becomes entrenched in my brain.

    Appeasement didn’t work with Hitler either.

  • CL, off topic but I was watching the Good Morning America news this morning and there was a comment made by Cameron Diaz in relation to her new movie the Other Woman (how apt!!). I can’t remember her exact words but she said that people are meant to cheat. Monogamy is not natural. As I have said do not quote me on the wording she used but if young women are listening to her then they are going to feel that it is okay to cheat and to be cheated on. God help us when these airheads have a forum for their own warped personal views.

    • I love the “monogamy is not natural” kind of argument, as it really highlights cheater bullshit at its best. Lots of things aren’t natural: clothes, cooked foods, indoor plumbing, etc. Why focus on monogamy? Oh yeah….

      But if monogamy isn’t natural, then why marry? Or why vow to be monogamous when you have the option, especially in this day and age, to express your sexuality as you wish. As long as you let your partner know that you’re not interested in monogamy, then it’s all good.

      Cheaters don’t tell their spouses they want an “open marriage.” See, what if the spouse wants to be open, too? Well, then there’s competition and the cheater doesn’t want that. The cheater wants to eat all the kibbles and all the cake. The Chump’s job is to dispense kibbles, not wander off to get cake at regular intervals. Oh no! Cake is for cheaters only!

      That’s why they get so ticked off when the Chump wakes up and decides to take the cake away!

      • kb, I remember just before my ex pulled the plug I did ask him if he want an “open marriage”. He said no. I was testing him because I have only ever been with my ex husband. It was okay for him to stray but not me. I am glad I got out alive, seriously. I look back now and if I had stayed he would have been the death of me, literally.

        • I’ve heard that bullshit too–it’s a kind of evolutionary anthropological psychology. Men are meant to sow their seed, women are meant to sit around and tend the soil. Dirtbags (maybe another reason CL loves soil…).

      • If cheating is natural, what about lying, stealing, and murder? All the arguments for humans not wanting to keep their pants on apply to lying, etc.

        • Oh yeah, this is bullshit. When I started divorce the ex started accusing me of cheating on him. He was so upset that I might fuck someone else but it was totally OK if he fucked someone else. It’s more blame shifting and gaslighting, like he would tell everyone I was so jealous of him when in fact I don’t really understand jealousy. He was jealous because he considered me something he owned. I was not, ever – if he had only been willing to move on I would have been fine. But he wanted me and the OW. And so the serial betrayals which made me insane. Nice to be on the other side of that bullshit. I was not jealous, I don’t even get jealous, you either want me or you don’t and if you don’t? It will hurt for a bit but I’ll move on. It’s the lying that you do that causes all the damage.

      • Reminds me of something I heard since my “Cheated On” experience. Someone said that just because you want to do something or it might feel good to do something obviously does not mean you have to do it. Then they used the example of a baby that learns not to crap his pants and moves out of diapers knowing he can control himself. Once he is an adult, just because he feels the urge to take dump, does not mean he is going to do it right that minute just because it would feel good or give him relief. Nobody craps themselves in a restaurant, airport, shopping mall or job interview! When a person grows up part of that process is to learn to control your urges, bodily functions, desires, and act like a grown person. That is kind of how I see cheating….shockingly immature.
        Good to know Carmen Diaz is up for anything, I guess she is looking for takers (?) It is easier to see no harm in it when you are a purveyor and not a recipient of cheating. Lets not forget she is also promoting a movie I am sure she is being paid handsomely for, and that is what she really cares about.
        And how true kb if these people are so “evolved” why don’t they let their partner in on the whole thing & let then choose if they want to stay or leave BEFORE they stray? Kibbles n’ bits and bits and bits…………………..

    • Further to my comments. The Cameron Diaz interview has been repeated on Australian T.V. Cameron Diaz thinks that monogamy is not natural because humans aren’t made that way!! Cameron was on the Graeme Norton show and said “relax, everyone gets cheated on”. There you go, an expert has spoken.

  • CL, I heard you on the radio show. You were great! You were articulate, sounded very down-to-earth and packed a lot of information into a short period of time. I hope you keep on forging ahead in getting your message out there. I think your message could save lives, literally.

  • I think my ex had been involved in his EA or possibly PA for so long, and traveling with the OW (coworker/former grad student) for so long that he’d convinced himself that they were in love and I felt the same way he did about our marriage. Of course I was unhappy because who doesn’t sense that something is wrong when your ex never seems to have time for you? That didn’t mean I thought our marriage was over, though. In fact I kept trying to connect to him, only to be brushed off as he found something else more pressing to do. My thoughts at the time were that he was driven to work hard and accomplish a lot after growing up in a home where he felt second best.

    One of the hardest things about the divorce was he never said he was unhappy. But when D-day came it was all like “You are unhappy too, our marriage has been over for years” etc. That’s what was so surrealistic. Our lifetime of shared experiences meant nothing to him, which is apparently typical of narcissists. He had already discarded me and moved on with his life, he just didn’t bother to tell me about it.

    I guess the bottom line is there was very poor to non-existent communication in our marriage. It wasn’t like I didn’t try to talk to him, though. I turned myself inside out trying to connect with him emotionally. When D-day came and he laid all the blame at my feet for the failure of our marriage, I apologized and tried my hardest to be even nicer, which was of course the wrong thing to do. I really don’t know what happened because the girl I was at 20 would not have put up with that crap. I guess it was all the sunk costs, the years of being gaslighted, the fear of being alone and losing my kids that caused me to take the blame. That is until I found Chumplady.

    • Lyn-

      I know exactly how you feel. The girl I was at 20 would’ve never stayed with someone who cheated on her. Somehow the fear of being alone took over and that 20 year old girl was buried somewhere so deep I couldn’t hear her cries.

      I think that CL woke that girl up with a vengence! I finally heard her voice, listened to her and dumped that asshat. It took a few years but better late than never right?

    • oh no, it was much more than that Lyn. Your ex sounds like mine; he’s depressed but he promises that he will not shut you out, he does shut you out anyway. You are there, doing all you can to connect with him and he’s fucking with you while he’s having all the side fucks and emotional or internet affairs he can. And all the time he’s blaming you for the fails, don’t take it. If your ex was like mine? he slowly beat you down, he isolated you from your social group by telling you how they were not good for you, he swore you were special and without you he would die, he was an asshole. You will get your self back, I am, it takes time. Watch out for triggers, don’t let assholes fuck with you, be kind to yourself. Jedi hugs!

  • While I’m not exactly proud of doing the pick me dance for over 2 decades, at least I am living proof that appeasing a cheater is a complete waste of time. I, too, believed I was solely the problem and I just about morphed into a completely different person to please the cheater to, of course, no avail. And when my true feelings would emerge (can’t really stuff the hurt and anger of being cheated on), then I was told I made the problem worse. Even the stupid marital therapist told me so!

    Now that I’m out of the stupidity, it is so clear that there was absolutely NOTHING I could do to influence the cheater’s choices. NOTHING. Even in our “best” years together as a couple, he still cheated. Now that all he gets is radio silence from me, suddenly he is telling everyone he is deeply remorseful, wish he could turn back time, wish he were still married to me … while still living with the OW! I translate those words to “I miss the pick me dance kibbles” and “I can’t believe you gave me up so easily.” I guess living with the OW, with not even a peep from me, is too much for a narcissist. I took the fun away.

    • Uniquely, were you married to my narc ex? I too am living proof that you can’t ‘nice’ people into being decent, responsible, caring partners. I never thought it was all my fault, but I thought we both had responsibility, after the first affair, and bought into all the IRC crap. Stupidly thought that he’d work as hard as I did, making things better. And when he clearly wouldn’t, thought at least he’d appreciate what I was doing. And I was doing EVERYTHING you’re supposed to do, in double! I was SOOOO nice, and caring, and accepting, and gentle, and understanding of his ‘issues’ and difficulties ….. HAH! What an idiot I was!

      And like you, I still get the e-mails saying that he regrets what he did terribly, that he wishes he could go back and un-do it, that he feels one day we’ll be together again … all while still in a ‘committed’ relationship with the OW!

      It’s surreal, very very hard to wrap my head around. But at least I know I did everything I possibly could to build a good relationship with someone I once loved very much, and to give my kids a healthy intact family to grow up in.

  • Man, have I ever needed this post. I still blame myself for what a bitch I had become. All the lying, sneaking, neglect…it had taken a toll. Thank you for putting in perspective, Tracy.

    This really jumped out at me about ex: “I would say a lack of shame is a very bad sign if you want to reconcile. What sort of people don’t feel ashamed when they do shameful things? Sociopaths, that’s who!” He had been messing around with a couple neighbors. I told him it was humiliating to me (and isolating for our son who had no clue why he was no longer allowed to play with ho-bag’s kids and their friends). He told me “I could give a shit what those people think of me.” I said, “don’t you feel ashamed?” And he didn’t. No conscience. Frightening to me. What else has he done?

  • My husband told me I was his second wife when we got married, afterwards I found out I was his FIFTH! And yes he cheated on all of them including me. Imagine that. As we were walking to the attorney’s office to sign the divorce papers I asked him ‘Aren’t you embarrassed to be getting your FIFTH divorce????’ Nope, not at all.
    These people are absolutely incapable of shame.

    • Exactly! It honestly makes my blood run cold. What else are these guys capable of? Where does it end, this lack of shame, guilt, remorse?

      • My ex actually told me he wondered, since he got away for so long with serial infidelity, if he could have been a serial killer and gotten away with it. What kind of sicko even thinks that let a lone says it out loud to the person he betrayed? So glad I am free of that evil sociopath!!!

  • Chumps are usually hyper-responsible, conscientious people who aren’t terribly high maintenance.

    But the crime most chumps commit is that they love with their whole hearts.

    Dear CL – I have spent the last 12 months devouring self help info to satisfy my amazon chump mentality but nothing has resonated and summed me up so completely as the two lines above!
    Oh my god – what chance did I have if I am so obvious chump material.
    Please God can you give me another two lines to tell me how and when the pain stops and the person I was returns !

    • Just keep reading here Hopestar and you will get strong, find your core, and reach Meh. It’s not linear. The pain will recede in waves that slowly ebb out toward the sea. CL is my maintenance therapy now. You will find an even better you with a little time.


      • Hopestar,

        Time does heal and what you do with that time matters. Focus on you. I know it’s hard but if you take it one day at a time you’ll get there. You’ll have good days and bad days but know in your heart that you will be ok. Be gentle with yourself and check in with this blog as often as you need to. You can do it, you really can.

        • To Kelly, KarenE, then some
          Thank you ladies for posting – it is definitely my therapy reading here daily.
          I cannot wait to reach indifference but gosh it’s such tiny steps getting there ! – as for apologising to the ex – utter rubbish !!!
          Grief isn’t linear I know and each bad day takes a bit more out of me but it has to stop eventually right ! I hate that he still has centrality even though Im nc as much as possible with kids – that’s the problem –

    • Hopestar, my answer to this is always “Tuesday.”

      I just can’t tell you which Tuesday, but I promise you the pain is finite. It’s a grieving process and you work through it.

  • ‘So if you sign up for the pick me dance, you’re dancing to their tune, to their constant, changing requirements for “happiness.”’

    Nailed it, CL. It’s a waste of time trying to fix something outside of your control. Not to mention, you are working against a rigged game.

    I can look back in relief after my divorce remembering my ex’s view of marriage “utopia” where I always made her happy so that I would never have to worry about her cheating. No one is responsible for another person’s happiness or faithfulness. Period.

  • One quibble because I’ve told people that my ex felt shame but not guilt about cheating. Because he wanted to be perceived as perfect and it when people found out then his self-identified perfection took a hit. And same when we got separated. So he felt shame about his loss of standing, etc. I feel the word shame is very self-centered, while guilt applies to what you feel about hurting others. Like feeling guilt requires empathy whereas shame does not. Or do I have the definition wrong? Do guilt and shame actually mean the same thing?

    • From what ypu wrote, he felt humiliation….not shame, anotherErica. He felt subjected to sich awful loss against his will. Shame says I am bad AND so, deserve it. Guilt says I did something bad. Hope that helps.

      • Yep. The truly disordered do NOT feel shame, remorse or guilt. They do, however, feel HUMILIATION when they are exposed for what they truly are, or if their plans do not go according to schedule. Their sense of humiliation very quickly turns into RAGE, which is one of the few feelings truly felt by the disordered. Their rage makes them dangerous, because they will look for someone to use as a target.

    • I’m not sure about the labels, but I think you’re exactly right about the concepts. After 20 years of marriage my ex told me that he didn’t feel empathy. (I should have filed for divorce the next day.) Whatever his feelings about his cheating and the divorce, they were all self-centered. He never felt bad about hurting me because he thought everything he did was okay.

    • My ex dealt with a lot of shame too. He actually seemed puzzled by some of the things he was driven to get involved in and I made it worse by catching him in one of his more “confused” interactions. Of course then he turned it around and made it all my fault so fuck him. I still can’t figure out the logic of how I made him want to meet strange men on craigslist for bjs. Especially since at the time I was buying the stupid fucker a wedding ring that he picked out in preparation for our wedding. When I pointed out that he was arranging these trysts while we were getting ready to get married and two months after we started trying for a baby he argued with me on the timeline. Like whether or not it was ok behavior a week earlier or later.

  • Appeasement got us World War II, which while helping bring about the “Greatest Generation”, it isn’t something I want to see happen again.

    Same goes for being a chump. It’s something none of us wants any part of again, but maybe we can be our own “great” chump generation!

  • “If you eat the shit sandwich and agree that yes, the problem is you, and you can fix that — well, then you have CONTROL. You can improve! You can try harder! And thereby avoid scary outcomes like infidelity, or being abandoned.”
    I tried this for ten long years out of a 22 year marriage. And guess what I found out, that the game is rigged and you will lose. Cause in the end the rules change so damn much that there is no hope of you “winning” that fucking sparkly turd anyway.

    “But here’s the thing — you can’t nice people out of affairs because you didn’t “mean” them into affairs in the first place. Their decision to cheat is completely on them. We don’t control other people. Our niceness doesn’t win them back. And our meanness doesn’t compel them to hurt us. Besides what crime did you commit that is proportionate to the punishment of being betrayed?” Exactly, what “crime” did the chump commit that is proportionate to the punishment!!!!

    CL, thank you for this blog where we can just rant because we just need to do that in a place that others, unfortunately, understand!!!!!

  • It is no wonder they (narcs) don’t feel very good about themselves! Is it a mystery that when you lie, cheat, steal and treat those that love you like crap that you will not feel like an upstanding citizen? And when you then try to blame others for your misdeeds & try to pin your problems on them, do they really expect to respect themselves? At least us Chumps can look in the mirror and see a good person who is trying.

  • Thanks for an amazing post CL.

    My STBX told me I was sick, abusive, a bad mother and everything else and I believed him. I was getting sicker and sicker emotionally. Truly I was. Only now can I say that I’m regaining my health and happiness. I’m finding my footing and moving forward. I had put the blame all on me and almost a year out from Dday I realize that staying in that marriage might have literally killed me. Recently, I went to see my doctor and he said to me, “I think he did you the biggest favour of your life.”

    I think he might be right. I’m free.

    Thank you again CL. This blog has helped me enormously.

    • At first, you just can’t see that they did you a big favor. But a little while out, with NC, you do start to see that it was a favor. I found out about the affair after checking the cell phone billing. I confronted the ex and he left that very day. My life changed in a matter of 1 hour. He unilaterally decided our life and I was left out completely on that. Now looking back on it the devastation was immense but it was the Best Thing that could have happened to me. His strict adherence to NC was a Godsend. I did not see it as that at the time. I wanted my life, my husband, my intact family. He did not. The fog was total but once he decided that we would not talk about anything at all, it became very clear that I was not what he wanted. It hurt really bad to be put there but now it has been something that has helped me heal. I see him from time to time and I feel nothing. At first I wondered what happened to my “Kenny” but like he said that one is not here anymore. It was spooky how he said that but it was true. The man that I married, the man that I thought he was, was no more. Could he come back? Seriously doubt that. How does someone come back from pure evil? He would have to choose that and he would have to fight like the devil was on his ass to do it. My ex is not capable of it or would not choose to do that. I’m left with what I have today. I need to make my life work for me now and for my kids.

      • Don’t you wonder sometimes? It’s like they’ve been possessed, or abducted by aliens and replaced. Seriously, it’s like winning some shit lottery. I didn’t try to nice my way into reconciliation for many reasons. But the biggest one is like you said up above, the game is rigged.

        • I wondered about the “possessed” or “alien abduction” but in another post someone mentioned that they try hard to be a normal, loving person for a very long time but one day they decide that they don’t want to do that anymore and they just show you what they truly are. It’s been there the whole time but the mask finally slips or they throw it away and you finally are left with the scary, weird thing that is our ex now. You can’t fix it, change it or wish it away, they are what they are and that’s that.

          • “they try hard to be a normal, loving person for a very long time but one day they decide that they don’t want to do that anymore and they just show you what they truly are.”

            This was my exact experience. Ex pretended to be a normal, caring, hard-working, devoted father and husband for 20 years, though that was far from the reality. Then one day, he simply decided he wasn’t interested in doing that anymore. I believe it was when he finally found a woman willing to have a long-term affair with him that threw the switch. Of course, he STILL pretends to be God’s gift to the world, and believes it himself. You can’t change crazy.

            • Mine also found that woman who he could “be totally honest” with. What on earth could they be honest about, them both being cheating whores. Which reminds me his brother told me that my ex said about the new love of his life a few months before, that “she scared him cause she was such a whore”. Good to know that when you decide to turn your life plus your family life, all around you go for the whore. The funny thing about that is whore’s will show their colors and the ex found that out. Now he refers to her as “that piece of ass” that he lost his family for. How quick the butterflies have migrated as CL says……

              • They really are all the same, DeeL! My ex told me that the OW ‘understood him’ because she cheated and that ended her marriage (and her kids’ intact family). That’s why it was OK for him to be trying to cheat on her with me! I guess he felt she understood the cowardice involved in that, as well as the dishonesty, and would be OK w/it – although I noticed he didn’t actually tell her about it.

                He also told me that the OW hit on him big time at work, knowing full well that he was in a long-term committed relationship, with kids, and this well before he started filling her with ‘poor sausage’ stories about how awful I was. And I believe that, too, because despite being very good looking and giving a great impression, he has NO sexual self-confidence and has only ever been with women who hit on him very directly (my stupid self included).

                Maybe he actually feels better, being in a relationship with someone who is no better than he is?? ‘Cause I now see that he KNEW all along that I was a better person than him (which is not saying a lot, considering!)

  • OUT of the park!

    Well done Chump Lady. Looking forward to hearing that interview. Are you brushing up on your media skills? I think you are going to get called more and more, and I don’t want you being ambushed by Jeremy Paxman (top interviewer, top slot) next time you are on BBC.

  • Great interview Chump Lady! Was slightly weird (in a good way) to hear your voice. I was expecting a Texan drawl – silly me! 😉
    It is so good to hear a clear perspective about what is right & wrong in a relationship and that cheating is always wrong!

    • I’m not from Texas! I’m from Detroit! We talk flat in the Midwest, accent-less really (at least to my ears).

      Almost four years here — and I refuse to say “ya’ll.”

      • Detroiters are a special kind of breed who tell you like it is; no sugar coating. They are in your face, straight up, no bullshit kind of people. And a great deal of them are chumps; always trying to help the under dog. Always helping others. When they get knocked downed they jump back up swinging. It is no surprise to hear that you are from the “D”. I just added you to the list of Detroiters that I admire. Thank you for your insights. They have literally been my lifeline back from the fog. It is so enlightening reading posts from other chumps who survived their fall down the rabbit whole.

  • And, and – slightly frothing at the mouth here – Mr Marshall’s arguments were sooooooooo weak. He was an apologist for bad behaviour – because it flogs his relationship tutoring / courses & book sales. Urgh.

    I actually felt my blood pressure rising as I listened to him. It also angered me because so many people still buy into the perspective that you should forgive, do the pick me dance, work harder & win that cheater husband back again. This perspective legitimises affairs by saying that they are forgivable.

    • EL, we need to go on his page and tell him just how wrong he is.

      The thing he peddles that upsets me the most, is the assumption it is a level playing field. That this person is going to meet you half way.

      I have 5 years of shrieking Chumpdom that tells me it most certainly isn’t.

      • Patsy, mine met me halfway. He just defined “half way” at about 20 percent. It was a no-win situation.

  • One thing that struck me as especially odd is how he began by stating that he was addressing only a very specific kind of cheater and a very narrow set of circumstances. It was someone who was otherwise “a good man,” who turned (or was driven?) to cheating because of the sheer frustration of getting any of his most important needs met by his wife.

    And that’s part of what is so hard to resolve for a chump: Is it possible to be “essentially a good person” while carrying on a secret life? How can you separate the two?

    To me, unless it’s a one-night stand that leaves you racked with remorse immediately afterward, unable to live with what your actions have done to your sense of personal integrity, driven to confess what you’ve done to your spouse, then you are not, by definition, a good person. Your ability to manage the sheer logistics and emotional compartmentalization required by a longer affair is proof that you are fundamentally disordered. At the very least, you have a cowardly, conflict-avoidant and entitled way of dealing with problems in your most intimate personal relationship.

    None of which is your spouse’s fault. These problems tend to date back to childhood.

    So, how useful is this counselor’s advice, when it applies to such a thin sliver of couples dealing with infidelity?

    • yes that nails it, if it was a one off kiss or hookup and the person is driven to confess then I think you do have a chance. otherwise, no way. Emotional affair included, because it’s the lying and subterfuge that is the real issue.

    • Well, you may be essentially a ‘good person’ in other areas of your life but not in this part of it, where you have royally fucked up.

      ‘It was someone who was otherwise “a good man,” who turned (or was driven?) to cheating because of the sheer frustration of getting any of his most important needs met by his wife.’

      I cannot abide Marshall. Here he represents grown men as toddlers, whose ‘most important needs’ must be met by Mummy. Unhappy? ‘Use your words’ as they teach at Montessori kindergarten, unless of course your important needs are novelty and kibbles.

      Did any of you marry ‘to get your needs met?’ I never heard of this concept before my visit to Chump-legoland. I obviously have ‘needs’ (ugly word) like oxygen, water, the presence of gravity, anyone denies me those there will be consequences.

      Does he mean fucking? Because actually that is mostly what infidelity is. To be frank. “You are not meeting my needs, possibly because you are pregnant/sick/distressed/I am just not libido-inspiring enough at this moment in time, with my head up my own arse. You have driven me to find someone else who will fuck me for free, no strings attached – someone more like a pre-plucked rotating ever-ready rotisserie chicken. Heaven forbid any of this is my fault. I also importantly need intimacy, and because having genuine intimacy with you involves being honest, particularly about who I am, I’m forced to find it by lying to two women (including you of course, I had no choice) and myself. Do you have no compassion for my anguish?”

      The other American woman interviewed by BBC Sussex pointed out that all Brits apologise whatever, so sorry, sorry, sorry for the foul (particularly the fowl) language and our general standard of dentistry.

      But Marshall is a man who bonds with voles. And looks like one. He is all wind in the willows.

        • every time I see one I think of all our OWs in a line, slowly revolving. Since many of them could have been anyone, apparently, it’s fitting that their half-baked situation renders them headless. I realise this may seem unkind. To chickens.

          I cannot even begin to tell you how cool you are, Tracy, and how much you’ve made me laugh.

  • She said to her ass-wipe soul mate that she just wanted me out of her life. Fine. I opened a checking account in my name only and shifted my direct deposit to that. I took over paying the bills – apparently she was too busy to bother with that. That is how I discovered that “we” had over $20,000 in credit card debt. Apparently if you lie about one thing, you can lie about other things.
    I started doing only my laundry. I started working out. I stopped all contact with her. When she came to me to talk about something I just would not respond, other than to say bull-shit. Bull-shit became my favorite response.
    I never meant to hurt you. Bull-shit.
    I am not cheating on you. Bull-shit.
    I always loved you. Bull-shit.
    We did reconcile, I call it our second marriage, and it is different than our first. There are certain conditions that had to be met, and those conditions continue. I don’t tolerate the white lies any more. She had to prove to me that she could be trusted. We only have two credit cards and I review the charges on-line. I signed up with a service that reports my credit scores and any changes.
    Also, I never take advice from someone who has not gone through that experience for themselves.

  • “That someone is YOU.”
    Loved this line, like WAKE UP CHUMPS! Don’t order your spackle by the 55 gallon drum anymore! Maybe order Pest Control instead. Funny, funny response CL & oh so true.
    This is the only place to get a laugh when you have been cheated on & lied to that I have found, may God bless CL!

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