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50 Shades of Subtle Nuance

You want to get my knickers in a twist? Accuse this blog of “black and white” thinking.

Ladies and gentlemen, some things are black and white, right and wrong. It’s okay to say so. Genocide? Never okay. Incest? Wrong. Child abuse? Wrong again. Rape? Bad. Mugging senior citizens? Not the done thing.

See how that goes? Judging those things as wrong was very black and white of me. I said those things were BAD. Unequivocally bad.

Probably because every example I gave was of a powerful person(s) exerting control over someone and rendering them powerless for some sick purpose. (Their extinction, an orgasm, a wallet.)

Other crimes are harder to call out, like cheating and stealing. Well, maybe they fell in love! Or maybe they really needed the money!

Last example first. Maybe a poor person really needed to steal that loaf of bread to exist. So it’s a powerless person taking back power from a powerful person (someone with bread to spare).

Cheating is often cast this way. It’s a sad sausage taking back power from the powerful societal forces of monogamy that compelled him against his or her will to stay in a loveless, sexless, marriage.

Versus the truth — that cheating is a way of exerting power over someone else unknowingly, using them to their advantage, and extracting value from them. It’s cake eating. Otherwise they’d have an honest conversation, or lawyer up and divorce.

Society still sees stealing as wrong, and our legal codes try to address degrees of wrong doing, extentuating circumstances, etc. It doesn’t stop seeing stealing as wrong, just because there are degrees of wrong or extenuating circumstances. There’s a baseline of wrongness.

To say you’re dumbing down to “black and white” thinking for calling something wrong puts you out of line with most legal codes and religious traditions in the world.

Now, may I make a subtle distinction please?  (Yes, Chump Lady is capable of subtlety, shocking I know.)

It’s one thing to say something is WRONG, it’s quite another thing to say what you are going to do about it.

Stealing is wrong. Are we going to chop off hands?

To argue that stealing is wrong does NOT mean you are in favor of chopping off hands. Get me?

A comment from Civilian Casualty Bride whose letter I answered the other day:

I realize that things are pretty black and white here, and that any amount of cheating by anyone means that the cheater should be abandoned on a deserted island immediately by people who never imagined the day before that they were capable of such a betrayal. That is not realistic.

Nobody made that argument.

I will cop to “black and white” thinking about cheating. Cheating is wrong, there is no excuse for it. None. Not in a world that gives people free choice about who they marry and viable options of therapy and divorce. Cheaters consented to marriage. No one forced them against their will to marry or agree to monogamy.

To say that cheating is wrong is very different than saying every cheater “should be abandoned on a deserted island immediately.”

That’s making the stealing-is-wrong-chop-off-their-hands leap.

Making that leap is a way to discredit people who call out something as wrong.

All of us must judge what our deal breakers are in this life, and weigh circumstances accordingly. I don’t argue for punishment for cheaters, or abandoning them on islands (although a shuttle service to Planet Narcissist would be nice). I argue for leaving them. Get away, go no contact, get on with your life. That’s punishment enough. Deny them of your awesomeness.

That’s for the folks you’re married to though. And obviously, even that is a very personal call. We all have different deal breakers. Some people reconcile. Some people divorce.

We all have to know our values and what we will and will not tolerate. Where our lines are. Some people draw lines more broadly than others. They may not vote for a politician who cheated. Or want their gallbladder taken out by a philandering surgeon.

Some relationships are chosen, and some relationships are unchosen. How you treat a cheating parent is different than how you treat a cheating spouse or friend.

The point of this blog is to get you to examine your choices. And realize that you HAVE a choice.

However, when you hang around people who do “wrong” things, and those values don’t align with your values, it chips at your soul. It erodes your sense of yourself. You become someone who makes excuses and creates extenuating circumstances to align their “wrong” with your value system. You spackle.

And then you often find yourself in the shit, when this person turns their powers of wrong on you.

Much better to call a thing a thing and know where you stand.

But I’m just black and white that way.

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.
  • I’d checked back on that post to see how she was doing and saw the reply. I can’t say I’m surprised. I wondered when your can of whoop ass was coming, though. I kept thinking that our responses were probably going to send her running right into her boyfriends arms. She’s part of a “unit” and wants to tweak the things that aren’t working. Learning that you can’t fix people takes time and maturity. I truly hope things go well for her, but I don’t think she was ready for our advice.

    • Not sure if this is gonna work…


    • I know I was so deep in denial it made it hard to hear the truth on this site at first. But as months went by and I no longer had the luxury of being in denial I started to understand and finally hear CL and all the rest of you powerful people on this site. And I am forever grateful.

      • Me too, MG. I remember coming here and being a bit taken aback by the intensity. I left but then sought it out again and knew I belonged here.

        • Same here…I kept on thinking that my cheater was “special” but all his rottenness has been confirmed by CL and Chump Nation. He was a textbook cheater, plagiarized the cheater manual that he got from CU (Cheater University).

  • To me the whole “black and white” is what each of us is searching for after infidelity happens. There isn’t a right or wrong to the choice of staying or leaving, but the circumstance really forces one to decide which route they are going to take. If you choose the path of leaving then you need to CHOOSE that path. Alternatively, if you choose to stay with that person there needs to be some commitment made to that path otherwise the road is much harder. I’m so thankful that I found this blog to help me on the days that I was feeling weak because it gave me the strength to keep going and get away from the mess of a wife that I had. D-Day was just over a year ago and I’m still bothered by it, thus me reading this article.

    Thank you for your opinions, CL!

  • “The point of this blog is to get you to examine your choices. And realize that you HAVE a choice.”

    I believe the main purpose in this life is to learn to make the right choices, and learn love through family life. CHOICE is The key word there. We all get to choose what our values are. We all choose where we set our morals. We also get to choose our boundaries.

    When I got married it was pretty black-and-white. I promised to be faithful to the person I was marrying. I chose that.

    Being in the midst of a marital explosion, I have had to re-define, remind myself of, and draw new boundaries. I get to choose what will bring me happiness, and I get to choose how I need to go about getting that happiness.

    Thanks CL!

    Fierce Mommy

    • It’s so hard to see the red flags when you’re busy being a chump and you haven’t been really burned yet. I didn’t see a single red flag when I was dating my STBX. I thought he was awesome. Everyone in my family thought he was fabulous. All of my friends admired him. He had the wool well pulled over all of our eyes. I’m a year past D-day and 3 months out from kicking him out, and I’m only just now beginning to look back and see the red flags I missed back then. Chumpy love really is pretty blind. Spackling is such second nature, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. I can only remember one moment when I questioned whether I wanted to marry him. It was a very short moment. There was no trigger for it, just a slight feeling of uncertainty in my gut. But when he lost his temper and yelled abusive things at me? When he told me about his sex issues and his porn addiction? Nope, those weren’t red flags at all. Those weren’t black-and-white issues in my mind. He was grooming me, and I never even noticed! I was just a happy chumpy frog in boiling water.

      Want to know the saddest part? I thought I was perfect for him, because I didn’t react to his temper. Notice that? *I* was perfect for *HIM*. Which was true. I really was great for him. But I never even thought about whether *HE* was perfect for *ME*.

      • “He was grooming me, and I never even noticed!”

        I so relate to this, and I so wish I didn’t. When I first met my ex, he told me that he wanted to explore his sexuality (I knew his sex life with his late wife had dwindled for obvious reasons, and he told me more than once that it had never really been great to begin with). I’m a pretty open-minded/progressive person, so the idea of exploration was fine for me. But that’s based on mutual respect/consent and absolute trust in my partner, and I see now that it was “fine” for me only in theory. Looking back now, I see how he was setting things up from the very start. “Hey, do you know what [insert arcane porn term] is?” “Ummm, nooooo . . .” One time in Costco, after we’d been together about half a year, he said he and his late wife used to play a game when they were out in public by “choosing” someone for the other to be with (not that anything ever unfolded from that). I thought it was interesting and a bit strange, but it didn’t really upset me that much as I had total faith in him at the time and have always felt pretty secure in myself. And of course I know that men have eyes in their heads and they will look at other women (I have eyes in my head too!). In retrospect, I see how from that very day something changed in me, and I started noticing other women everywhere we went, not in a conscious way, but somehow always at the back of my mind wondering who he would choose, and feeling bad about it. I think this put a tremendous weight on me that I’m just now starting to understand, and having done so much research on porn addiction, I now know there’s a name for the bobble head behaviour: it’s called ‘scanning.’ Being so hyper-aware of what he was looking at, and how he was looking, changed the way *I* was seeing other people. And I’d get this awful dread in my stomach like, “Oh, I bet he’s looking at her and wishing he were with her,” then hate myself for it. I could never really say anything afterward, as it suddenly became all about my “jealousy” or “insecurity,” but honestly, I had no basis for comparison. I have never been with a man who was like that.

        In a few weeks, it’ll be a year since I left him. I think I’m coming very close if not to ‘meh’ then at least to a full acceptance that the relationship is over. I don’t for one second regret ending things (I very much regret ever beginning things!), but these days my mind is filled with shock and horror over how far I could have allowed myself to be pulled from my own organic path. I let him fill my ears with constant comments about how *I* fit into *his* world–in fact he told me that meeting me was like putting on a glove. Now, I think, “Yeah, but it was YOUR glove. Never mine.”

        How did this happen? It’s not enough for me to recount each awful, shameful experience, though I understand that’s a big part of it. I have to see WHY. And, I think I am coming close to understanding my part in it. Not unraveling the skein–I get that that’s not possible. But I remember a day a couple of months after we met where he sat at my kitchen table and held my face in his hands. At the time, I was going through some real shit with my ex-husband, and he said, “When you understand how much I can support you, I think you’ll fall completely in love with me.” And I did, that very second. I absolutely swooned.

        I see now that for every moment since that day, I was trying to find my way back to that man. The man who said those words. Forget the fact that the words were fake–the man himself was a chimera. But I really think that’s what kept me hooked in. That was the flame underneath the pot that held the boiling frog.

        • FoolmeTwice,

          I don’t think your trust in his words was the flame underneath the pot, though I do believe your integrity was the fuel he used to manage the flame. If you were like me, you believed him because you mean what you say, and saying things to manipulate would be alien to you. I didn’t think the same way my sbtxh thought, he recognised that, knew I was an easy mark for ‘trust me, trust me’ because I was nothing but open and honest with him – lol – must have been like taking candy from a baby – chumping me! But then again, I’ve never stolen candy from a baby nor have I suspected other adults of being baby candy thieves – so my head wasn’t ‘tuned’ into sweet-stealing alert. It it now though!!!! 😀

        • I read something recently that really resonated. “You couldn’t pull him onto your path so he pulled you onto his”. It was never about changing my ex. It was about expecting him to stick to the path he gave lipservice to. Which was a match of values and goals with mine. I woke up one day feeling like I was living a life that WASN’T MINE. He slowly wore me down about him staying on my path and pulled me his direction when I no longer had the reserves to resist.

          And like you FoolMeTwice mine had a line. I’m a pretty independent gal but when he begged me to stay and said “I’ll take such good care of you”. Well damn if I didn’t spend the next three years waiting for that guy.

          It does feel good to be back on my path.

          • Well said. i completely agree. i was pulled or slowly dragged onto his path. and for me the line was more like “you are my anchor. you keep me grounded. i would be lost without you” and i fell for it. thinking i took such good care of him. that i was a good wife. and he appreciated all i did for him.

            and that is all i wanted. to be loved and appreciated. it never bothered me that i did everythiing.

      • Lisa,
        I totally agree about how hard it is to see the red flags while you are knee deep
        in their shit. I’m only three months out, seeing my lawyer soon, and I sit back
        and think about conversations/situations where I feel like I should have seen
        those red flags, and ran the other fucking way!! Hell, I just remembered a time
        oh, only 27 years ago, when he got so mad during an argument, he hit a solid core
        door with his fist and broke his hand. Chumpy ass me takes him to the ER cause
        he couldn’t drive in all that pain. I remember he said to me “I hit that door instead of hitting you, it’s a good thing that wasn’t your face”. Why in the HELL did I not run the other way??? I have been throwing things away around the house, and I came across 6 old letters he wrote to me years ago. It was all about him even then. They do not and will not ever change.

  • Something to note about people who criticize moral clarity as “black and white thinking”: they’re using a euphemism. What they usually mean is “right and wrong thinking.” And people who are uncomfortable discussing right and wrong? Who want to blur the line between right and wrong? Those people concern me. I don’t want my life tangled up with theirs. Because they are far more likely to do something that I would consider clearly “wrong” (cheat, lie, steal, etc.) and consider it “right” for them at that moment, likely to my detriment.

    Been there, done that. Never again.

  • Good post, CL..
    I’m glad this blog is here..I have you bookmarked on my phone…knowing I have choices makes all the difference in the world..I really like your straight no chaser style of writing…thank you for exposing these cheaters for the scum that they are and making this blog a safe haven for chumps…rock on! 🙂

  • Excellent post. I did a post on this exact same topic yesterday because I was accused of victim blaming which I was not. I was saying we have to have boundaries and not allow them to be compromised. Everyone has their own deal breakers and should not allow anyone to cross those boundaries because once a boundary is crossed a narcissist will keep upping the anti until you find yourself living a life totally unaligned with any of your values.

  • Great response CL.

    I too felt she could not take the advice to leave (although I really hoped she would be saved the misery).

    When I was with ex I did not listen to warnings— internal or external. I was told by my therapist at the time that he was wrong for me. She said I needed a warm person and he sounded cold and mean. I ignored her but knew in my heart she was right. Many friends told me to get out of the relationship when they saw him and saw the shell of a person I became. On my wedding day, my friend asked me if I was sure “this was the one” I told her “I did not know.” I had visions of my cheating father telling me that this guy was no good and not for me. I listened to no one. I was on my own train to destruction. Now I see and am off but yearn for even more clarity. I take full responsibility for my bad choices. I had hit rock bottom with this schmuck and am done with chumptom—shed the bright light please!

    She is in “love” she thinks he is a “good guy” she thinks she has “won” because he moved in with her and is marrying her. She has invested so much of herself and her life to let go now that the friends are falling apart. She knows that humans are complex and that if she is honest she is safe. She has made her choice.

    You have done well to respond CL.

    On the issue of wishing cheaters harm, what I get from reading your words CL is that we should move away from cheaters and what happens to them and put all of our energies into making our lives what we wish them to be—to become the people who do not court disaster, eat shit sandwiches—but to add life, joy and good in this world. That is what I get from CL. You call it my sister, you have my support and gratitude.

    • “She is in “love” she thinks he is a “good guy” she thinks she has “won” because he moved in with her and is marrying her.”

      She doesn’t realise that the thing that appeals most to cheaters about cheating is the fact that they can have a “safe” place (with their wife/husband/life partner) and their “strange/illicit/exciting” place (with their affair partner(s)). The safe place shields them from those feelings of operating outside moral norms, because they can blame their cheating on poor conditions there (dwindling sex life, boredom, whatever).

      So, when you marry someone who is shady, you’re really giving them a safe “home base” from which to launch their cheating fuckedupness.

      I don’t think that the advice given was too harsh, and it was given from a place of experience and care, but I can also see why she’d probably avoid this blog in future. I really hope things work out OK.

  • My liar, cheater, faker depended on me living in the murky gray during our relationship. It was when I went black and white his party ended. Truth, patiently waiting, stepped in. My sanity returned and I came alive. The birds started to sing, flowers blooming, the air smelled wonderful, cut grass tickled my senses, life was expanding, big and beautiful, my children got their mother back, music whistled all around…ahhh truth.

    Truth is black and white.

    What you do with it is up to you.

    • Yes, my ex-cheater had an expression he was fond of. “The truth is somewhere in between.”

      No, the truth is the truth, idiot.

      • Oh goodness, my H said that too! I think he got it from his therapist, who in her attempt to surround him with unconditional positive regard to get him to be ‘safe’ enough to attempt insight, ended up enabling him.

        He took her phrases ‘Patsy doesn’t make you feel safe’ and beat me over the head with them.
        His need to be a poor sausage who is victimised and reviled by me is overwhelming.
        She told him (when he told her he was back in touch with OW) ‘she has forgiven you’.

        That is unforgivable.

        • The therapist was concerned that your cheating husband ‘didn’t feel safe with you’? And what about the fact that his ugly actions will probably never allow you to feel safe with any man again, ever? And, after what he had done to you, why did she feel that he deserved unconditional positive regard? What a load of bull!

          • Patsy & lhc – My XH’s therapist “helped” him identify the same thing. I also heard “I don’t feel safe with you”. The kicker was a thursday night after his (sex addict) group therapy session when he came in and was telling me what a great session it was, they focused almost the whole session on him as he worked through his rage for me. “Wait, what? You’re rage towards ME…?” And the glee with which he proceeded to tell me all of the details of this exploration of how much he hates me… started to make my skin crawl. I slowly and methodically, carefully, got out of bed, got dressed and left my marital home at 11:25 PM never to return to it. So wild to think back on this moment. The level of crazy is still utterly confusing. I don’t try to untangle it anymore. I’ve learned to set it down. But, wow.

            • “And the glee with which he proceeded to tell me all of the details of this exploration of how much he hates me… started to make my skin crawl. I slowly and methodically, carefully, got out of bed, got dressed and left my marital home at 11:25 PM never to return to it.”

              My skin was crawling reading this FLBright, good for you to get out like that. It cannot be untangled.

          • Abusive assholes learn the psych lingo, I got the “I don’t feel safe” shit from my ex too when he started therapy. Projection on his part, in my case I was the one that wasn’t “safe” around him, in many ways.

      • “The truth is somewhere in between.”

        It is a Middle Ground fallacy and it benefits liars.

        If Bob says 1+1=2, and Joe says 1+1=5, the truth isn’t somewhere in the middle. Its still a lie. If you have a situation where there are two sides to an argument, you really have to verify each piece of evidence. Assuming things are in the middle is a lazy position that gives weight to whomever lies the best.

        • When people say “the truth is in the middle,” it may be true that determining the FACTS of a situation requires looking at both “versions” of the event. If two kids get into a fight, it may be that one kid feels innocent because at the moment the fight started, he wasn’t instigating it, but five minutes before, he might have said or done something that the other kids is reacting to when the fight starts. Once we know these things, we may have the facts of the situation. But if the second kid hits the first one in the head with a brick, no provocation would make it “right.”

      • Just the facts mam. I don’t care what fancy pants cheater dance reason my stbxh is telling. He cheated on his pregnant wife (me). End of story. Today I get the results from my full panel std test. Didn’t realize they didn’t cover everything at my ob testing. This will be completely comprehensive. Doc is pretty knowledgable because std testing is how he recently discovered his wife was chumping him. 🙁

      • Eureka! This reminds me that my STBX always said “It’s a paradox” when he wanted to claim two things at once that ought to have been mutually exclusive. It always annoyed the heck out of me.

        Suddenly, I understand why. In his mind it was only a “paradox” that he, in his own mind, was such a great guy, but lost his job/dated women 30 years younger than his wife/kept a secret bank account/etc. It wasn’t wrong, it was only a “paradox!”

        The word has been a bit of a trigger for me for years . . . and now I can articulate why.

      • Oh, I love it when liars try to define “truth” for the rest of us. I also got these gems:

        “Well there’s my truth, and there’s your truth.” – No, actually. There’s just one truth. The Truth.

        “I can’t prove a negative.” – He used this when I was accusing him of still seeing the OW. It was a way of victimizing himself, of course. I was attacking him, and poor baby couldn’t possibly prove that he was NOT talking to her/seeing her/etc. Of course it came out later that he was lying. Giant mindfuck.

    • Agreed! I feel like that murky gray has faded and I can see things much clearer – and in black and white again! I know it’s because I’m away from the mindfuckery. The gray is not completely gone but I know will continue to dissipate over time.

      • I will be the first to admit that I always swore that adultery and it’s consequences were black and white for me: if my husband were to cheat on me I would be GONE. So you can imagine my confusion when I discovered myself in the cold, murky gray waters of my husband’s infidelity. I had no idea what to do about this man or his affair partner who were experts at gaslighting, telling half-truths and force feeding me emotional garbage. I was so paralyzed with fear at making the wrong move and losing my marriage altogether that I compromised myself and my core values. Stbxh begged for reconciliation and I agreed…that little bit of hope still had not been beaten down by the seed of doubt planted firmly in the back of my mind. I knew, however, that reconciliation had to be a one time deal. There was no way I could survive another betrayal. And then…history repeated itself. Exactly one year from the original DDay I discovered that reconciliation had been a lie. This time everything snapped into focus very quickly, things were indeed very black and white. I knew if I remained married to my husband that my reality would be one of cheating, lies and emotional abuse for the rest of my life. I packed up and moved out upon discovery and filed for divorce the next day. Those murky gray waters are long gone for me as well. I know, as I always have, the difference between right and wrong, good and bad and my deal breakers are firmly set in stone. Life is not perfect. Even though I am surrounded by people and my dogs almost all the time I still find myself feeling lonely. However, knowing that I am living my life true to my beliefs…I have to say that is a really wonderful thing : )

        • Had the same feelings. Adultery was black and white – for me. I wouldn’t do it, period. When I found out it was not so black and white for my wife, I had to reevaluate what had seemed to be pretty core values – and not because of anything I did or even wanted to consider. Now I see that I very much resent being put in that position, and that it is not unreasonable for me to feel that way.

          Congratulations on your journey, sounds like it is full of promise!

        • Yes, I agree with this too. After I was chumped for the…ahem…third time, I finally became very aware of the pattern. Every other time he escaped with an excuse and a promise. But third time’s a charm I suppose, ugh. Anyway, after the third time I made myself a promise, I knew exactly what the next move was, I sat down and wrote out what I expected to happen according to the pattern. I promised myself that I would react differently this time, that there was no other way, that I couldn’t believe the lies and promises otherwise I’d just end up going through it yet again. And when it did happen exactly as I predicted, down to the minute, you could set a watch to this baby, well, I stayed strong and I walked. He of course couldn’t process any of it as this was a reaction he wasn’t used to experiencing. (See mindfuck channel post) but ultimately it was my resolve not to go through it anymore and the realization that I’d have to if I stayed, no matter what. THAT’S what saved me from this nightmare.

          • Well done, HM. I did something similar (noticed a pattern in his absurd behavior, started to stand back and observe). I wish I could say I left the first time, but I did learn eventually. I think part of what kept me stuck was morbid curiosity, if I’m being honest. I started to feel like an anthropologist in my own marriage.

            I wish I would have just walked.

    • Now that I am learning and learning about this… every day is sweet… every day is sweet for my daughter… We trust that we will treat each other decently. No problem is too big that we can’t handle..that I love her unconditionally… I give thanks every day… and I am taking care of my health because we live a very long time in my family and I want to enjoy ever single blessed minute of it.

  • Could not have said it any better myself. Beautifully put. Great article. Most of what is wrong in the world can be chalked up to “shades of grey” thinking – the premium spackling tool of the wrongdoer or his/her enabler.

  • I almost responded to the post you mentioned but decided not to do so. I was frankly struck how caught up her relationship was in the posse drama and did not think pearls of wisdom would have any impact. There was only one sort of solution she wanted to hear. An issue that troublesome before the marriage clearly manifests (somehow) during the marriage like all issues. She knew that. She took the time to define the problem and wants to create a solution to control the outcome.

    I resent the black/white cop out, which is dismissive. If you want to stay with someone who is unfaithful or in this instance waves a neon red flag that the relationship has some sort of critical flaw, that is your prerogative. It’s cool because it is all about choice. Some of us, though, do not want to be cajoled and dance around the relationship bush, preferring to call a spade a spade and go from there. That is our choice. Don’t disrespect it.

    • People that want to accuse our black and white position of being too judgey, harsh and absolute, do so because they know in their heart what they should do, but are in the early stages of chumpy denial. I think it’s wrong, and they are setting themselves up for more disillusion and disappointment, and pain and suffering, but meh is a hard won lesson, as we all know too well.

      She’ll be back. They always come back.

      • Yes. I’ve also known people who lament situations repeatedly, knowing what they should do, just for the attention. I don’t even think it’s deliberate, but they do it.

  • “However, when you hang around people who do “wrong” things, and those values don’t align with your values, it chips at your soul. It erodes your sense of yourself. You become someone who makes excuses and creates extenuating circumstances to align their “wrong” with your value system. You spackle.”

    This is the part of the whole STBXH serial prostitute/sugar baby/craigslist nightmare that I have the most trouble dealing with and getting over. I literally harmed myself, my psyche, my emotional being by staying in a relationship with a bad person. That damage will take years to repair.

    Forget about who he exactly screwed, or how many times, or how much he paid them. He was an emotional abuser who gaslighted and lied not just to me, but to everyone he knew, all the time. And I unwittingly became a part of that life, and it changed me. For the worse. My spackling, excuses, and rationalizations hurt me and other people. I own that, and I’m working on changing it and being more true to myself and my values.

    Now that the conscious and unconscious stress has been taken away (by NC, the greatest thing ever), and the cognitive dissonance between myself and the life I was actually living is resolved, I am a much happier person. People have remarked how much calmer and more at ease I am. I don’t snap at people as much, and become irritated less easily. It makes me sad that I was a less friendly, less considerate, and less kind person because of the residual effects of STBXH’s crap, even when I didn’t know it was happening. His “badness” truly did seep into and infect every part of my life, without me even knowing it.

    I think that’s why NC is such a blessing as well. It allows you to recognize the extent of the damage that was done to you, and work on repairing it.

    • This really resonates with me, DG. The “how it changed me” part. I started doubting some of the things I valued about myself, including “black & white” thinking. Now those character traits are roaring back and I realize I do value them and think they are what make me a strong and valuable person. I do stand for things I think are right or wrong, and I do have high expectations that my inner circle of people are going to behave in a considerate and respectful manner. How is that bad? But that’s what the XH said, Grey truths. Now I see where that led.
      So now it’s just me, working on myself, finding my True Self. It turns out, she’s pretty badass. His life? His drama? What will or will not happen with “all that”? Couldn’t care less.

    • DG – I could have written your post. I hated who I became at the end of my marriage well before Dday. My mom even commented that she hadn’t realized it but I even started to look different – took about 6 months after he moved out and therapy but one day she said, “Marie is coming back, it shows in your face.”

    • “People have remarked how much calmer and more at ease I am. I don’t snap at people as much, and become irritated less easily.”

      Same here. I was perpetually grumpy. Didn’t want to be around people. Ex used to accuse me of being anti-social and personality disordered (bit of projection going on there, as it turned out). Accused me of haring all her friends (not true – I liked them all apart from one very egotistical guy who was pretty hard to be around).

      2 years later I know she was very wrong about me – all the evidence I need for this is in my life right now.

    • “It makes me sad that I was a less friendly, less considerate, and less kind person because of the residual effects of STBXH’s crap”


      I regret every minute I spent not realizing how many wonderful, wonderful blessings I had because I was so completely devastated by that complete piece of shit.

      I’ve also actually discovered that I’m a really sweet, upbeat person, and I like myself a WHOLE lot!

    • My mind keeps flashng back to a moment about 8 months before D-Day when , after a crying jag, he said to me, half-disgusted, “Whatever happened to you?” I was so hurt that he no longer saw me as the strong woman he married because I was exposing some vulnerability to him. I realize I should have said right then and there, “What happened to me? YOU did!” So much healthier, already.

  • Talking about cheating friends/character of people you befriend…

    The husband of a couple we were friends with was “remaining neutral” when X cheated and left me and we divorced. He was the friend XH called to talk about how great AP was and how sucky I was, so I don’t know how “neutral” that is. Come to find out, the husband is every bit of a control freak Narcissist my X is. I don’t know that he’s a cheat, but he is verbally abusive, threatens to leave his wife a lot and disappears during these “episodes.” They would both say the other is a “great guy” and that is a reflection on both of their characters.

    I’m not saying that just because your friend/relative cheats, you’re going to cheat. But I think how you react to that person’s cheating says something about you. Just as how you would react to a friend/relative committing a crime says something about you. It may just say that you’re a super forgiving person with everyone, or it may say that deep down, you don’t think cheating/multiple DUIs are that big of a deal.

  • Wish I had time to write more, but just want to say SPOT ON, CL! I suspected she was not ready in any way to hear the wisdom the other day. I feel for her. I feel us collectively nodding knowingly, and saying honestly in empathy (NOT cynically) “Bless her heart”.

    • I agree. I hope she felt our genuine concern, even if she wasn’t ready to hear it.

      Maybe we at least put a bug in her ear, and she’ll be a little more aware of the flags.

  • There is nothing more stimulating than intelligent debate on hot topic issues. I recently watched an episode of The West Wing where character Ainsley Hayes, a republican, stated her reasons for not being in favor of resurrecting the Equal Rights Amendment to democrat Sam Seaborn.

    That clip illustrated the difference between debate and rock throwing, which is what cheaters resort to when their arguments dissolve into predictable, cliche reasons why they screwed outside of their marriage and behind their spouses back.

    May I also suggest that states that have “No Fault Divorce” laws are cowards and more interested in moving their dockets along than finding justice for the terribly wronged party? In our case, the chumps who got screwed out of making a very important decision about their future without all the facts.

    Cheaters LOVE to hold all the secrets.

    • I don’t have any problem with “no fault” divorce if there was “no fault.” I think if one party is cheating or hiding money or physically/emotionally abusive, the abused party should be able to file under “fault” and that should definitely be considered in property division and spousal support. In my Utopian fantasy…

    • I’ve been thinking along those lines recently and realized I was as harmed by my husband’s cheating, as I was from the physical and emotional abuse I suffered, in fact the cheating was worse. Physical and emotional abuse generally have consequences. That’s why I find it odd, that infidelity, and then trying to further cheat your partner out of their fair share of assets isn’t illegal, since you entered into a legal agreement with one another and you have to pay a ton of money to get out of it. I wish the agreement actually SAID something, in fact I’d recommend people put infidelity clauses into their prenups. Not sure how well they can be held up, but it’s worth a try.

      I’m not a religious person, but I can see why infidelity is way up there on the list of things God really frown’s upon. Cheating on and abandoning a spouse, particularly when they are older, or when they’ve never supported themselves, is simply wrong. That’s all there is to it: it’s fucking wrong. It wrecks havoc on society.

  • She didn’t want to hear it. Well, I think some part of her did or she wouldn’t have come here to ask her question. But, in the end, it was easier to think that she is a “special snowflake.” So unique that what happened to us can’t happen to her, won’t happen to her. It’s unfortunate because there is no way that story is going to end well.

    Right and wrong suddenly became hard to define when my STBX was dumping his family and hooking up with women he met on dating sites and siphoning money off to pay for his condoms and the pre-sex dinners he treated them to. Oh, it wasn’t exactly wrong. He never intended to hurt me. In fact, he hid these things to AVOID hurting me, get it? It wasn’t wrong, it was just misguided. Poor baby, he was trying to do the right thing. He was lonely and sad and grieving the ‘loss’ of our relationship. And the women he was involved with before I knew the marriage was over? Well, come on. Don’t you see that I wasn’t being a good partner to him? That if only I had been capable of true intimacy then he wouldn’t have needed anyone else? That he had to somehow escape the misery and stress of being married to me and he needed to feel good about himself again. They made him see what a good person he is and that he is not ‘broken.’ Sometimes you have to stop putting everyone else’s needs before yours, okay?

    Now, we are separated and it’s still hard to call anything wrong, you know? It’s all relative. Calling me a mooch who will remain dependent on him because I don’t want to take care myself is helping me. He’s tried to help me for so long, you see, and I just won’t change. The reasons for my dependence on him (that I stayed home to take care of our kids – that I am the primary caretaker for our daughter who is disabled – that I gave up everything to support him in his career) do not matter. He is simply doing what is right. Is it his fault we aren’t divorced but he is living with a skank who is younger than his oldest stepdaughter? That he is running up credit card debt and playing fast and loose with all of our financial agreements in order to treat said skank to a Hawaiian vacation? He deserves that vacation after everything I have put him through. That he pays for her dog to go to the groomer and the vet while telling me that he will not be compelled to pay for braces for our kids because that’s not a necessity? None of that is wrong. It’s actually right because it is correcting all of the horrors of his decades spent with me.

    It isn’t wrong that he has abandoned our oldest daughter (she is 14). That he spends less than 2 minutes per week with her and has refused any parenting time with her EVER? That’s not wrong because he is doing FOR her. It’s a sacrifice he is willing to make, though it is so terribly painful, because it’s best for her. Why is it best for her? Well, that’s kind of fuzzy but he is sure that it is somehow.

    He is committed to doing what is right at all times. Because he is a just a stand up guy doing his very best in a difficult situation. I’m such a judgmental, black and white kind of person that I couldn’t possibly understand that is a good person. Yes, no matter what I say he is still a good person.

    • Good lord! This just goes to show just how much people will turn a blind eye to bad behavior. I’m so terribly sorry. You’re so strong for your kids — don’t let him gaslight you! It sounds like you see things for what they are, so do your best to keep your dignity and get away from that guy ASAP. Hugs.

    • But wait….haven’t you already gotten the bit about holding grudges?? LOL
      My ex used to always throw at me that I held grudges (with other people) and it always made me feel less than him. You know the superior cop douchebag who just rug swept everything.
      It has taken me a while to learn this….. I don’t hold grudges. I give people chances and I have a very good memory. If people shit all over me they will get kicked to the curb. Yes, I do give people chances, some more than they deserve but why does this make me less than. It doesn’t. Using this information, choices can be made on how to proceed in the future.
      I can’t stand these idiots who throw the terms “judgemental” “grudges” and so on everywhere just to try and get some pity.
      The funny thing is that as you said in your last paragraph, HE created the difficult situation. Just don’t be judgemental about it. LOL

      • Casey, I sure enough did get the comment that I hold grudges! When he was telling me that he no longer “thought we had any future together” and I started to cry he told me that he “really hoped we could do this without any drama.” Needless to say, much drama ensued. He said he hoped I understood that he had moved on with his life and was in a much better place now and that he truly wished that for me, too. I laughed in his face (while ugly crying). So, he replied with the I-should-have-known-you-would-make-this-all-about-you-why-do-you-always-hold-a-grudge-and-how-could-you-want-to-hurt-me-right-now shtick. Um, maybe because you are a lying piece of human garbage who had the nerve to talk about your happiness with the new life you anticipated once you dumped me and the kids. You know, like before I even knew you wanted a divorce?

        • Oh.My.Hell.
          That conversation has happened between my soon to be ex and I more times than I can say. That EXACT conversation!

      • Oh, Casey, good Lord…the Grudge Thing! And here, 2 years after dday, I had forgotten all about it.


        Yup. He *always* accused me of being a grudge-holder…meanwhile, like you, I just had a good memory (and would make a squeak when somebody else treated me like shit.)

        A huge red flag: He never, ever, ever EVAR took my side. Just never. No matter what. I was always wrong.

        And you know what? That’s not true. I was usually right, and fair, and tried to see the other side. He just had such a monumental case of passive-constipation-aggression that it was axiomatic for me to be wrong.

    • ” And the women he was involved with before I knew the marriage was over? Well, come on. Don’t you see that I wasn’t being a good partner to him? That if only I had been capable of true intimacy then he wouldn’t have needed anyone else? That he had to somehow escape the misery and stress of being married to me and he needed to feel good about himself again. They made him see what a good person he is and that he is not ‘broken.’ Sometimes you have to stop putting everyone else’s needs before yours, okay?”
      That he needed to “feel good about himself again”… my idiot ex said almost the same exact thing as yours (could they be brothers or the same idiot). Broken doesn’t even begin to explain the evil that these people spew. NC is the only way to stop the merry-go-round of half-truth explanations from the cheating, lying SOB. They truly must have some kind of Cheater’s Handbook somewhere…..Lying does not equal truth any which color of gray that you may choose.

  • Well, you can’t save someone from himself, or in this case, herself. I felt sad when I read CCB’s response on the other post, but not surprised. Despite her being 31, she comes across as much younger (and her fiance is only 26) and some people simply need to learn from bitter experience. But a couple things did stand out to me in her reply:

    A definite tone of “You’re not the boss of me” in response to the advice she was offered here.

    An enjoyment of all the swirling drama created by her fiance and the cheating friends he’s so enmeshed with.

    I predict a very turbulent future for CCB, but I also suspect she’s actually okay with that. Just the thought of all the drama in her life makes me tired, but I think, despite her original post here, that she actually likes it. Some people love to live that way — it creates excitement, it brings them attention and it lets them feel like victims or martyrs.

    At any rate, I wish her well and hope things turn out okay for her. If not, she knows where to turn.

    • Yes, she loves the pick-me dance, the drama, the reason to attempt control, and how good she feels about herself. I would something get annoyed when Notyou reminded us the chumpiness can also be about feeling superior because we are so “good” and the cheater/AP are so “bad.” But she was right that we all have to beware of the seductiveness of codependency and martyrdom and our own brand of “centrality.” That’s what I am working on right now–how to value my “wild and precious life” without seeing myself as “special,”

  • My therapist was recently lamenting this exact issue, stating that society has become so solidly opposed to passing judgment on anyone for any reason that no one takes a hard-line stance anymore. He also made a funny joke about how all my friends say “It’s sad” and so I’m “mad,” but no one is willing to say my XH is “bad.” (Maybe you have to say it out loud to get the snarky juvenile-tone humor — it was funny at the time. And true.)

    I heard the best description of rape being about power (not sex) as follows: Imagine a person takes you to eat at a restaurant, but when you are done eating, they force you to continue to eat more and more and more until you’re sick and in pain. Rape is no more about sex and its enjoyment than this scenario is about the pleasure of eating. It’s about domination and power. Just the way my narcissist XH gaslighting me and using his powers of lying to manipulate my love for him was about power.

    My therapist also wisely said (as did CL) that we have laws against theft in this country, and my XH “ripped off your investment” of love and trust and vulnerability and intimacy (not to mention the money). Yet no one seems to think this is wrong, because XH “wasn’t happy,” and has created some impressive Revisionist History that he NEVER was happy with me, so he “deserves” something better when the “right one” comes along.

    I know I’m ranting a bit here, but I just had a long chat with one of our mutual friends last night, one of the few who IS calling XH on his bullshit, and we talked about how, if OW truly is the love of his life, wouldn’t it make more sense that: 1) she would wait for him to disentangle himself from me BEFORE he started something with him? and 2) she would respect him more for doing so? — Oh wait, that’s right, she’s married, too (now divorcing).

    It’s wrong, what these cheaters do, and thanks, as always, CL for taking a stance in this puss-ass world we live in. Some shit is just plain wrong. It is. Deal with it.

    • My therapist and yours must have gone to the “therapy school of decency and common sense.”

    • It is wrong, and as I said way up in the comments above, it’s at least as painful as physical and emotional abuse, yet there are no consequences.

      • Yeah,I asked some close mutual friends who seem to be letting him off scot-free, what if he had hit me? And they said, well, of course we would take your side! I guess it doesn’t count if the bruises don’t show (I guess they thought my rapid weight loss was just for funzies). I don’t anticipate they will be my friends any more. Sad.

    • Political correctness gone wrong with not being able to call people out on their shit, whatever happened to calling a spade a spade?

  • Recognising that something is wrong is only the start. As CL says, we then need to decide what we are going to do about it. If we are going to make a choice then it is important that we make an informed choice. Pretending that things aren’t really as they are will not turn out well.

  • The crimes mentioned by CL all have a societal impact. If we as a society don’t punish the thief, they could reoffend. Steal a candy bar? You get a lighter punishment. Rob a Brinks truck with AK47s? You do hard time.

    Cheating is a crime against ones spouse and family. It often involves stealing, libel, slander, and murdering the childhoods of innocent children. To many, many people this is a very black and white issue. And (sadly) there are no laws against it. If the wife decides to banish her cheating douchebag to a deserted island, that’s her prerogative, and no one else’s business. Remember: she didn’t get a vote in the circumstances that got her into this mess. That was done without her permission by her poor, put-upon husband. (Gag!)

    Such a large percentage of this country calls themselves good Christians, and I’m sure many cheaters probably see themselves this way. Yet they spit on the bible and the Ten Commandments – the same book they thrust in people’s faces while caterwauling about same sex marriage and abortion. Pick a lane, hypocrite!!

    Is cheating wrong? Yes! In every instance? Yes! Just ask anyone who has been cheated upon.

  • Hmmm,

    I read and re-read CCB’s letter and her replies. (Also, of course, everyone’s carefully considered responses to her stated dilemma). She opened her letter stating that she’d read all about ‘ego kibbles, cake and chumps’. If her letter had stated something along the lines of; ‘My fiance is a wonderful man, he worships the ground I walk on, everything is perfect between us, unfortunately we have recently discovered that a number of his good friends have been cheating in their marriages and my fiance is having difficulty reconciling his shock and disgust with his desire to support his best friend, who is one of the cheaters. How can I support him with this? Then I think the over-riding response would have been, to the effect of, ‘read more about ego kibbles, cake, spackling and chumpdom’ and show it to your fiance! There would, I think, have been a lot more sympathy for her fiance as we’d have ALL recognised a fellow chump being played! BUT, that isn’t what she said in her letter, is it? She listed a whole shit-load of red flags – the triangulation, the choosing friends who treated her like crap, the having to seek therapy herself for the emotional turmoil their ostracization had caused her and (unless she’d kept this therapy a secret from her fiance) him still choosing to associate with these people despite him knowing they’d harmed her psychologically – enough for her to seek therapy!

    Her reply, though couched in polite tones, I found to be both insulting and disturbing. Firstly, ‘People are more complicated than that’ …. No Shit Sherlock! Gosh, so my cheater ex was just ‘complicated’ – like he told me he was – alas, I didn’t have CCB in my life to point out my dimwittedness – and there was me thinking he was about as complicated as a puddle of puppy diarrhea – oh dear, jumping to hasty conclusions then, wasn’t I? And the other thing that had me sighing sadly was this; ‘ I haven’t drawn a line in the sand, because that’s not what partners do to each other’. Oh dear, CCB – are we letting our ‘BUT I’M SPECIAL – I’M NOT LIKE YOU SAD LOSERS’ indignation get carried away a bit there? Don’t be silly, and more importantly – read some more about chumps and their chronic, chronic inability to set boundaries – or, if you prefer, ‘draw a line in the sand’. You might not agree you are drawing lines in the sand, but you must have some dealbreakers in operation surely – even if they are unspoken – like ‘I won’t tolerate you beating the crap out of me’ or ‘sleeping with my sister / brother / mother / pet rabbit’. It may sound good, noble and so more more enlightened to spout rubbish like ‘partners don’t set dealbreakers’ but in reality it is stupid, irresponsible and dangerous.

    The final thing to disturb me about CCB’s response was her special thanks for Diana L’s advice. Now, Diana I really don’t want to offend you as your post has plenty to commend it, but your opening paragraph did read like an article from a fifties ‘Good Housekeeping’ magazine – perhaps titled ‘Stepford Wife and How to Play the Pick Me Dance Like an Expert’. And this was the advise CCB wanted! Hmmmm?

    For what it’s worth, CCB, it was seeing things in shades of grey that got many, if not all of us, abused. It was learning to think again in black and white that saved us from further abuse, and helped us to identify shit sandwiches as shit sandwiches – not butties with a creamy brown filling!

    Anyway, why come on a site that makes it clear spousal abuse (including cheating) is unacceptable, list a whole heap of crap forum contributors recognise for being crap, and then complain people are leaping to conclusions? What on earth were you expecting?

    • “it was seeing things in shades of grey that got many, if not all of us, abused. ”

      Yes, I very much agree with this.

      • Hi Lyn,

        Yes, I think the shades of grey thinking goes hand in hand with the ‘boiled frog’ analogy too. When I think back there were so many nasty psychological tortures my ex perpetrated on me – he was Master of the Silent Treatment, and did once actually step over my sobbing body en route to the fridge, pretty adept at the projection thing too – God, I tortured myself wondering what on earth I’d done to warrant some of his accusations! How I wish I’d known then what I know now – but it’s only when you’ve been abused and are looking for answers for why do you really find these things out – that it wasn’t me expecting too much of others (grey thinking) – as he told me I was, when I complained about the silent treatment, body stepping, being accused of attitudes / deeds I’d done nothing to warrant him thinking me capable of, but were the typical M.O. of an abuser. I wish they’d have taught me this stuff at school – more useful to me than ruddy algebra that’s for sure!

        • You know the “slowly heated frog” analogy is a myth, right? The frog will jump out.

          And if you put him in boiling water, the frog will just die, so it can’t jump out.

          That analogy is wrong on two fronts 🙁

    • The sad truth is that we all had to go through the experience of being cheated on by someone we loved in order to be able to give this advice. Maybe CCB has never been through this kind of thing before. We would like to point out what we think is the truth of the situation she’s in, but she either doesn’t want to hear it, or is enjoying the attention and drama (I think it’s the former).


      Potential cheating aside, if your partner’s friends treat you like crap that’s a bad sign. You have to ask yourself why. It’s not normal.

      • If I were her I would probably not want to hear it and not believe it, either. Hard to admit it. I think it comes down to self confidence and having wisdom passed on to you about the world and about people.

        But most of us don’t really have that wise person in our lives. And we’re all on our own choosing mates and trying to make our way in the world using wisdom from stupid pop songs and cheesy, unrealistic movies.

        In India and elsewhere some couples still allow their families to pick their spouse for them because it’s a tradition that’s worked pretty well for them (hopefully the days of having no choice are gone). Often these couples take years to fall in love, but when they do, it’s solid as a rock. And when they are older they report that it was very exciting getting to know one another. I’m not saying we should allow our families to pick our mates, or god forbid go into relationships where we know next to nothing about the intended, but I do wish it was a more shared experience in our culture. And the real merging of families.

  • Before I experienced betrayal firsthand and realized how utterly unfair it is, I thought there were “two sides to every story.” I even remember thinking I would remain neutral and speak to my friend’s ex who cheated on her, because I didn’t know “the whole story.” Who was I to say what really went on in their marriage?

    After my husband cheated on me, however, I realized that cheating is just plain wrong. My husband made a decision to lie to me every day, he chose not to tell the truth. He never said a word about being unhappy. Not one word. Even when he decided to leave he didn’t tell the truth, he blamed everything on me.

    Cheating is cowardly and selfish. I have no respect for people who cheat. I’m not saying I’m perfect, or that there weren’t things I could have done better. But I was committed to our relationship, and to our family. Cheaters are first and foremost committed to themselves, everybody else be damned.

    • Well said, Lyn!

      I’ve noticed that it seems like for a lot of people, “Well, you don’t know what really went on in the marriage,” seems to be a way to look for excuses for the cheater. Their spouse was mean/frigid/etc. They just had to, and if we knew the reason, why we would be OK with it! Sitting here, I can’t think of one reason someone is going to give me that I’m going to say, “Well, OK then. I guess they really did HAVE to cheat.” It’s my dealbreaker, and YES, I am going to think differently of any person that does it. (As the kids these days and the Narcs would say, #sorrynotsorry)

      • Back in grad school, I was a TA for an intro level course. Date rape, then as now, is a big deal. There was an incident of it on campus, and one of my fellow TAs, a man, decided to raise it with his class of freshmen. To his amazement, none of his students wanted to say that the woman was raped. Rather, the fact that the male student had had sex with her when she was passed out from drunkenness was excused. Yes, it was a terrible thing, but she wasn’t raped. No, she was “taken advantage of.”

        The point is that because the students knew the rapist in question, they wanted to make an excuse for him because he came across as a nice guy in other contexts. They couldn’t bring themselves to admit that indeed, he was A Very Bad Person who had done A Very Bad Thing. They couldn’t admit that they’d been fooled by the outward appearance.

        I think a lot of people make excuses for the cheater along the lines of “we don’t know what was going on in the marriage” without thinking very clearly. This isn’t the 19th century. Divorce is common, for the most part. We are not aristocracy, forced into a loveless marriage and bound to stay there because of the scandal and social disruption that a divorce would cause.

        If we’re not happy in the marriage, then we can leave.

        Cheaters don’t want to leave because when it comes down to it, the marriage suits them pretty well. Cake and kibbles.

      • I called my friend after my ex cheated on me and apologized for not understanding the depth of pain she was dealing with. I told her that I’d tried to be there for her (and I had) but that I had no idea how she was really feeling until it happened to me. So I guess when I hear of people who are still trying to remain neutral I try to remember that I once felt that way too, and it was out of ignorance.

    • People think they are more empathetic than they are when it comes to infidelity. I used to think I had a pretty good idea what it must feel like, until it happened to me and I realized I didn’t know jack shit.

      When you experience it, you grasp the gravity of the lies, deception, selfishness, disrespect — all of those things that get done to you on a such a fundamental level. I couldn’t put into words what it’s like. It’s tantamount to explaining the color blue to a blind person.

      What WE know is that you have to be an incredibly shitty person to do the things you have to do to cheat the person who loves you the most.

      • A woman my husband and I had bought a car from accidentally dialed my number after we separated when she was trying to call him. She was really embarrassed about her gaffe but I didn’t really care. I said, “He cheated on me and left me. Here’s his number.” And her response was so moving. A long pause, and then, “Ohhh, I’m so, so sorry. It happened to me too. There’s nothing worse.” And that was the first time I encountered another person who got it. That small interaction helped me a great deal.

      • “I used to think I had a pretty good idea what it must feel like, until it happened to me and I realized I didn’t know jack shit.”

        So true, Einstein. In fact I have to stop myself from getting pissed off with well meaning people who try to empathize who haven’t been through it, because they just don’t see the non-cheating aspects of it. They are sympathetic, but for them it’s just the fact that your spouse screwed someone else. They don’t see the other stuff, the emotional abuse. They just don’t understand the soul shaking, foundation crumbling, reality effacing effects. You are right, you really can’t put it into words.

    • So so true! “My husband made a decision to lie to me everyday…” Little things too in the march towards his planned abandonment. He was fiercely disengaged those last two years, even while fucking me. I think he got more kibbles working or at the club, and those two activities were full of cheaters. Looking back I was a single parent. When my children became teens my ex checked out. He was easily outshone. I was often the only parent who showed up to support our children. Me and my eldest daughter’s boyfriend (and his best friend!) LOL! So in the last four years of our marriage ex was spending lots of time doing wtf-ever else. I was happy with crumbs. My entire marriage was that. I think when the lie grew too big to ignore was when I recognized his actions pretty much told me all I needed to know. Funny thing, every time we went on vacation together he was plain miserable to be around. I don’t kid myself into thinking he has a better life, he’s the same POS with her as he was with me. Also his OW has a long line of conquests, MM, that she went on to marry then divorce, so I do believe they deserve one another :). As for that frog…it works when you have a lid on it.

  • CCB quote “I was hoping to get some help as a secondary party unwillingly dragged into a horrible situation”.

    “Whether fiance stays friends with John depends on John’s behaviour going forward”.

    Chump-in-training. Thinks HIS problems have to be HERS too. Hmmmm. I wonder if there’s a bit of mothering going on … he’s five years younger. The 26 year old guys I know are still busy in the bars and chasing skirts.

    Sometimes junior chumps just have to learn for themselves, from experience. Nice of the good folks at Chump Nation to spend their evenings composing thoughtful replies, but we have to accept that some young people don’t want to see the writing on the wall because it’s too painful. Recognizing and dealing with sociopaths take a lot of practice, experience and self-confidence. When we were 31, how many of us would have listened?

    • Hi Marci,

      Yes, even though her replies ‘rattled my cage’ somewhat – I do feel sorry for her – she is definitely a chump-in-training.

      It just occurred to me though, I wonder if her need to deny there are any problems whatsoever, or on the horizon, will mean that she will refuse to admit she has been chumped when the final outrage (not necessarily being cheated on – maybe left at home yet again while he goes sparkle with his friends – or him keeping tarantulas while she’s getting therapy for arachnophobia – you know what I mean)? Will her experience of receiving truth when she sought it out, make her so entrenched in her need to believe the Chump Lady Website so misunderstood her and her situation that she’ll put up with years of hell to prove ‘she really was special and not like us losers’! I hope not, but I suspect probably so!

      • Jayne,
        Denial is a huge factor. We’ve all done it! The problem with red flags at a young age is … it’s hard to accept that one’s chosen love has the potential to be a problem spouse simply because his/her moral code is set wrong. This fiance guy is STILL sitting on the fence with regard to his so-called FRIEND John … oh let’s not judge him…let’s give him a second chance even though he’s already proven who he is…oh and let’s hedge our bets by telling his chumped wife Liz we support her. Bullshit. They don’t support Liz. They’re trying to end up the good guys to everyone. What a stupid waste of time.

        They should cut off the whole toxic gang and crack on with their lives. All this therapy and ‘trying to understand ourselves’ is like Fred said. Sounds barely out of high school. CL, perhaps we ought to stick to mature adult issues.

    • I did go back just now and posted a final thought on CCB’s letter. John has already not been a good friend to the fiance–ignoring him, being part of a group that excludes CCB, so that whole spin on the situation makes no sense. They’ve been in couples counseling over that whole group of losers. What kind of couple gets “dragged into [the] horrible situation” of other people’s cheating? The cheaters are coming over and dragging CCB and Fiance over to Cheaterville for group discussion? It’s one thing to try to be “Switzerland” about a cheating friend. It’s quite another to get hoovered back by a friend who has not been much of a friend, eh? Like, “yeah, I was disloyal and abused your friendship and excluded the woman you love, but now, I HAVE A CRISIS.” Give me a F***ing break. Here’s the help CCB needs: if you want lots of drama and “horrible situations” in your life, keep running your life this way.

      • Hi LDJ – just went and posted a comment about your comment on that page – good points you made there! 😀

    • Not all of us young people put our heads in the sand, y’know. 😀
      I’m younger than CCB is – but to be fair, I’ve been reading a lot of CL over the last few months and think I’ve got a fairly good bullshit detector going.
      But yes, I read that sort of mentality into it too, Marci.

  • Cheating really doesn’t happen in a vacuum… it happens over years of mind fucking… breaking you down, to see that you are bad, everything in your relationship that is bad is your fault, “You are always… fill in the blank…” It is filled with rage so unnerving that it takes your breath away, and your mind.

    It takes slowly breaking down your boundaries and who you are… It takes triangulation so that you are hit sideways constantly from another person. It takes you being co-dependent and living in Stockholm so that you are so desperate to keep yourself and your kids safe from this lunatic, that you keep swimming like crazy through a toxic stew. You are a frog in a pot of slowly warming water.

    When the cheating finally happens… you are so lost. You start to believe that it really was your fault. You caused him to cheat because of that time that he raged because you asked him to get a casserole dish down from a shelf or asked him where he wanted to go on vacation this year or whatever…If you have done the ‘pick me dance’ and the untangling the fuckitude family etc. for years and years and finally he cheats. So at that moment, without a blog like this, reminding us we are good people, it becomes gray. How do I take care of my kids because we can’t remember a time when we didn’t live in this toxic stew. It seems impossible.

    It took me 32 years to get out… because he tantalized me with weeks and sometimes months when things were okay and I came to believe if I just worked hard, was nicer, kinder, blah blah blah, it would all work out. Well leopards don’t change their spots. Disordered people can’t change…

    I spent years wondering and researching if he had Asperger’s, suffered from depression etc. After a friend told me about narcissist, I have read and read on Narcissism. He is a classic covert narcissist. He can’t change. Between his vaporous mother and is vengeful, despicable father, he doesn’t even have the beginnings of the tools to make a decent human. I don’t’ trust he sucks… I KNOW he sucks… You know what else… He KNOWS something is very wrong with him too… and for the rest of his days.

    • Completely agree with you….After years of breaking you down you’re like a sheep to slaughter. It’s pure evil to just not go and get a divorce like an adult would do instead of cheating.

    • “Between his vaporous mother and is vengeful, despicable father, he doesn’t even have the beginnings of the tools to make a decent human. I don’t’ trust he sucks… I KNOW he sucks… You know what else… He KNOWS something is very wrong with him too… and for the rest of his days.”

      My god you just described my husband and his family.

    • “It is filled with rage so unnerving that it takes your breath away, and your mind.”

      Yes, my ex was a pure passive-aggressive, smooth and smiling on the outside, but hating me and our family on the inside….with a hidden ferocity that truly left me breathless once I realized what had lain below the surface for 25 years. Very well-put.

  • Thank you CL for this post. I sometimes wonder if I belong on this forum because early in my marriage, I had two extramarital affairs. I understand the jump from stealing to cutting off the hand. Really, I do, because I put myself through hell for 25 years trying to atone for my cheating.

    I married at age 18 to Mr. Wonderful who changed the day after the wedding, and I spent the next 30 years trying to get the original version back. His civic-minded approach to helping people in distress appealed to me at first until I realized that he only extended his services to attractive young women. In year one of the marriage, he showed up for breakfast after spending the night ‘counseling’ a female employee, and I raised my concerns. I was dismissed as ridiculous and selfish for my jealousy. His civic mindedness only escalated – long hours at the office, lots of attractive women needing his help, no time to spend with me, and strong mental and emotional abuse regarding my needs.

    Here’s where my break with my own integrity drove the next 25 years. I had not one, but TWO extramarital affairs, and experienced how it felt to be cherished and respected. The ex found out about one of my affairs, and I confessed all. I did everything I could think of to repair the marriage – full disclosure (verbal and written), no contact with the affair partners, scrupulous accountability for my whereabouts, complete understanding and patience for his pain, and responsibility for my actions for years and years.

    In hindsight, I see that he used my cheating to control and punish me. He administered a regimen of physical, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse that I stoically accepted because I felt I should be punished for cheating. I was isolated from all help and tried to pay penance by working two jobs, doggedly promoting his career, and assuming all home maintenance responsibility. Because he had a job that required travel, my guilt money financed his intimate relationships with women (and likely men) throughout the country. I chose to ignore all of the indicators of his cheating. If I happened to glance up from the trench, he reminded me of what a cheating whore I was and that I was lucky he didn’t kill me for what I did.

    My estranged mother’s death in year 28 of the marriage was the turning point. Despite years of rebuff, my family reached out to me, and I left the little house of horrors that had been my so-called home. For a year, I sought counseling, developed friendships, and reunited with family. Not fully recovered, I went back for six months of false reconciliation. Once again I left, but this time I went no contact. When I notified him through an attorney of my intention to divorce, he sent my father a suicide note. This prompted me to call the local authorities who confirmed that he had killed himself.

    Since then, my healing has continued, and I’ve come to see that my affairs were ignorant and selfish attempts to solve a problem. He was cheating on me, and I was trying to leave the marriage. Yes, it was wrong to have affairs rather than file for divorce. But, the punishment that I put myself through for 25 years did not right the wrong. Domestic violence centers use the statistic that a person in an abusive relationship tries an average of 7 times to leave the relationship before they are successful. I consider my two affairs as cowardly attempts to leave an abusive relationship. I know other survivors of abusive relationships who were only able to leave with the help of an affair partner. They too put themselves through hell for cheating, but they got away from their abusers without being killed. Until one knows the learned helplessness and Stockholm Syndrome existence of the abused, it’s difficult to understand why the abused don’t leave an abuser. Many on this forum understand that difficulty.

    Thanks for the post on nuance. It resonates with me. I believe I was wrong to cheat, but I also don’t deserve further punishment. Cheating is wrong and always will be in my mind. What we do about the choices after cheating is the nuanced part. Thanks, CL for your thoughts on this topic.

    • Honestly, I can’t think of many things more likely to get you killed than cheating if you are living with somebody who is physically abusive. There have been 13 such homicides here this year, and this is only one city of about a million people.

      Sounds like something to discuss with your therapist.

      • Yes, in hindsight, I was unaware of what danger I was in. It would bring me a lot of satisfaction to know that my story prevented just one person from trying to leave an abusive relationship by having an affair.

        • “I’ve come to see that my affairs were ignorant and selfish attempts to solve a problem.”

          I agree that this is what sometimes happens when people have affairs. I think my husband probably had legitimate complaints about our relationship, but he just couldn’t communicate them. He was a very fun-loving person in a crowd, but almost silent when we were alone. I can’t tell you how many times I tried to get him to talk about things that bothered me while he stared over my head at the TV, or told me “guys don’t think about stuff like that.” His own father was controlling and silent, and whether my ex inherited this trait or learned it from his father, it seemed to be a characteristic passed down in their family. Anyway, cheating is an immature way to handle what can be legitimate grievances. In my ex’s case I believe he just wasn’t capable of emotional intimacy with me. My counselor, after reading some of my ex’s writing, said she suspected he might be a highly functioning autistic. She said he was all about acquisition.

    • Oh my Ali Rose,

      Please read Chump Lady’s excellent posts on remorse. It does sound like you genuinely did try to reconcile and atone. I am so sorry your relationship with your husband was so abusive and unhappy and that he chose such a cruel way to punish both you and your father with his final abuse. Cowardly and selfish – and please, don’t get me wrong, I too have contemplated suicide in the depths of my despair, but I just couldn’t do that to the people I love, just couldn’t be that selfish.

      I wish you love and peace

      Jayne x

      • Oh Ali Rose, I KNOW how you feel. I too did the same thing. After 25 years of marriage I wanted to feel loved and special so I had a short 1 month fling. It was so wrong on so many levels. I did not gain the satisfaction I thought I would by getting back at him for having a long term 6+ years and still going affair with his ho-worker who also reports to him. He knew something was up and so he finds out the name and gets one of his police detective friends to run a check on the guy and then sends him an email telling him to get lost. I never did understand why he got so mad at me, he was doing the same thing. Oh but he did not know if he could forgive me. I did everything to keep him as you did.

        It always came back to me doing something so horrible, (1 month= to his 6 years) he just didn’t think he could forgive me (kipples for him) I even remember seeing in the news about a police officer that was killed in the line of duty and how everyone rallied around the widow. I wanted it to happen to him, then everyone would help me and feel sorry for me and I would gain so much being the grieving widow and the money and he would be gone and I could be happy. That is how it got for me. What kind of person was I to wish that. One that wanted out and didn’t know how to do it.

        • “One that wanted out and didn’t know how to do it.” Well said. I can relate to the wishing he were dead. I went down that road too. I’m sorry you know what all of this feels like, but it’s comforting to know someone understands.

          • You’re not alone here. I would hear of accidents on the radio and television or even major arrests and hope to God it was him, so he would be gone forever. He never was, until last year when his past finally caught up with him. Now we are free. Poor, but free. 🙂

      • Ali Rose,
        What a sad story and I’m sorry for you and glad you are out of that miserable place. Thank gawd he’s dead and can’t torture you or anyone else anymore.

        I’m reading ‘The Sociopath Next Door’ and I’m beginning to think that’s what my XH is. There was no guilt or remorse about the affair. He hurt many women and had lots of wives and girlfriends and cheated on them all. (I didn’t know about any of this when I married him) He’s good to me about money and he was generous in the divorce settlement but I think that’s because he really doesn’t care that much about money and he has his new mama OW to live with and she makes good money.

        Some of the signs were extreme impulsivity, alcoholism, no real friends and the fact he never showed any real signs of affection toward me. He’d wash my car and fill it up with gas and I took those as signs of love but I’m talking about holding my hand or cuddling with me in bed or coming up behind me in the kitchen and kissing my neck. He NEVER did anything like that EVER. On the weekends we’d make love and he’d rocket ship out of bed. No snuggling or cuddling. This was my husband. I truly believe he is/was incapable of bonding with another human.

        He left me and never looked back. Just like he did all the women in his life. No Pick Me Dance. He was ‘madly’ in love with me until he wasn’t. He went from my bed to hers within 24 hours. No transition period whatsoever. I never saw him cry ONE tear. He honestly didn’t give a shit. He would come over while I was at work and sneak his stuff out little by little until it was all gone. I was crazy with despair and heartache, considering suicide while he was going on road trips and vacations with his new Schmoopie. He never missed a beat.

        • Wow, Syringa, what a difficult grief that must be for you. He dropped out of the relationship almost like he died.

      • Thanks for your kind words. I suspect the reason you can empathize is because your hurt runs deep. I admire your ability to continue despite despair. Suicide indeed cuts w wide swath in who it affects, and it sounds like you understand you wouldn’t do that to your loved ones. One of the first things I read on Chumplady was the post on remorse. It cleared up a lot of things for me.

    • I have a friend that had an affair on her husband that “helped” her get out of her marriage to a very cold and manipulative man. I don’t know how I should feel about her using the affair to get out except that the man she ended up with was a serial cheater that was terminal. I feel bad for her because she still suffers from being caught at the affair and her husband goes on with sympathy for his loss, the affair partner eventually died. Her husband was not a chump, he had a girlfriend within the month. The affair guy would tell her “who else would want me, I’m always so sick and ugly”. She wanted to be “there” for him because of it, I just find that to be manipulative. If he had been healthy, she would have just been one in a long line of old flames.

  • Great post, CL!

    Like a doctor diagnosing a disease, it does no one any good to dance around what actually is the case. This is a moral diagnosis. Cheating is morally bad. It is a destructive relationship disease. If that is too black and white, then so be it. I would rather live in reality than deny it. Also, I agree with CL, how you address this moral badness (or not) is up to you. You are the one who will have to live with the consequences of that decision, after all.

    Minimizing the destructiveness or moral badness of cheating is unhelpful for all parties. It keeps the chump stuck and open for further abuse. And it enables further spiritual damage to the cheater (speaking as a Christian minister on that one). No one is served by the: “it’s not so bad” or “you’re too black and white on this issue” tact. The marriage/relationship is CERTAINLY not served by it.

  • Chump Lady, thanks for this, you rock – and you are an amazing voice of reason.

    I don’t know why I’m writing, I’m just despondent as hell and trying to make it through the day. My dday came Oct 18, 2013 when El douche told me he wasn’t sure he wanted to be married anymore – tired of my depression and drinking. Fair enough I own what I own. – I was depressed because he lost his job and our lives were turned upside down. So while he launched into his rant of me, I called him out on the red flags, neon signs, and sirens – and got him to admit his own shit. For the record, I should point out on d-day he admitted to “only” hooking up with “3-5″ escorts. Why I didn’t burn down the house, or at least leave him right then is because I’m a chump… And Because I’m a chump, I did the pick me dance briefly, (an aside: I’m currently doing the aloof, I don’t gives two shits dance) I searched phone and bank records. What I found out was: He fucked 15 whores, including one 3some . Some occurred on business trips, others just over lunch. He was on swap sites (sharing pics of me – kill me now), Trashley Madison, CL, sexting, and otherwise trying to find a NSA relationship…

    We’ve been together 23 years, he admits that these all occurred over the past 10 years. We have two children, both away at college – they are my joy, my life! And I hate, so flipping much the position he has put me in. Damn!

    He gas lighted and mindfucked like a true pro. It took 9 months for him to own shit I had evidence on. ( so why do I feel like I really don’t know the half of it ?)

    So anyway, he’s been going to SA meetings, individual counseling, MC, and is being ” transparent” ( yea, like it isn’t hard to go further underground – after all, the thrill is in the mindfucking as much as the fuck, right?), and he tells me he will finally have a post nup for me by weeks end. So my question to you and chump nation, what are the odds of him being a unicorn? (Funny thing, I was never into unicorns.)

    And I still don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do, maybe I’ll know by weeks end?

    In relative terms, I know my deal is nothing, and yet it’s my everything… Thanks for reading – this should really go to my delete bin…


    • No such thing as a unicorn. And BTW, you should have set HIM on fire!

      Hang in there.

    • Indy, living in a relationship with someone who is cheating on you for ten years may explain the drinking and depression. Or it may explain why you didn’t see that you were being abused. My XH (not the cheater) is an alcoholic; I married him knowing that. What that got for me (along with a ton of loneliness) was an opportunity to be married without experiencing the deep levels of intimacy I say I want but really wanted to avoid. So (as my former therapist used to say) your problems created a balanced but unhealthy system (like alcoholics want to drink and codependent want to fix drinkers). But nothing excuses the cheating. Here’s what I would say to you: do what you need to do to get yourself healthy. AA, counseling, rehab, whatever it takes. Don’t worry about the marriage. Get healthy. You may need to live alone to get there. I lost 25 pounds since D-Day. I am kicking lots of selfish people to the curb. I’ve finally figured out that I deserve to be happy. Get sober. Get healthy. Good luck. Will say a big prayer for you tonight. ((((hugs))))

      • Thanks for your replies, I should have said that part of the gas lighting was about “the drinking”, I’ve never been much of a drinker – very occassional. If out at social events, my limit was one, at home on weekends it might have been two-max. Hell, I can recall two recent incidents where douche drank so much he was puking his guts out. He’s also the guy who plays up his crazy underage college days to our kids. Me – never been drunk. And I haven’t had a drop since d day, which right now rather pisses me off…. I do own my depression and our therapist called him out on the accusation of the drinking…

    • Indy – Love and self empowerment to you and You deal does matter!— Your story is so close to my experience. 23 years together , children in college, stbx was a long running sexually deviant perv (shocking) a perv that gas lighted, mind-fucked and lied for decades.Be weary of SA recovery programs , I agreed to do sa therapy with stbx at the beginning and it sucked time-bombs big time and caused even more harm, such a waste. Some things are not fixable and it is wise to know when this is true, Have your own back and your children’s back. A man who has done what your h has is not going to get any better and most likely will get more perverted and creepier! How lovely huh. Protect your kids and their sense of reality and sense of right and wrong. Knowing what I know now if I was in your place right now. I would kick him out of my life as far as possible, I would block him from any and all access to me in every way possible and would never look back, I would never try to figure out his fucked up-ness or to understand his creepy issues or give him anything else of myself again ever, not the time of day or any respect or any of my attention not one tiny drop. I would never pretend he was anything except for exactly what he is and has been for decades. Nothing I gave was honored, nothing I figured out changed anything with him in any way. This is the kind of issue that in reality does not get better!! It is not complicated it is predictably creepy and disturbing and it will get predictably worse. You and your family deserve better . I hope you claim it with everything you have.

  • I, too, am black and white in certain things when black and white is the only answer. Cheating was black and white to me before it happened to me and then suddenly, I made it an exception because “relationships are complicated.” I agree that relationships are complicated when it is a real relationship – that is, both of you are operating on having full knowledge so decisions are made on an level playing field. Cheating robs you of that and that’s why it is NOT complicated. It’s quite simple: cheating is cheating is cheating. The cheater devalues and belittles the unsuspecting spouse. There’s no going around that. Anyone who belittles you should not be part of your life. The key here, though, is to not take yourself for granted. Value yourself that you deserve better. It took me forever to learn this but learn it I did and I am grateful.

    CCB, I wish you the best but please don’t think you can control your fiance’s behavior. Read Choice Theory by William Glasser for some insight on what I mean. I hope, too, that his actions are based on what he really wants to do rather than to please you. The latter equals resentment.

  • Oh, CL, you and YOUR black and white thinking! Who’s to say whether it’s truly “wrong” to cheat and lie and risk destroying your family so you can have sex with people outside your marriage? I mean, aside from, well, . . . every major religion humanity has ever developed and essentially every great moral philosopher produced by either the ancient or modern worlds?

    Yeah, the problem is YOU, Chumplady. Because if it weren’t for you, everyone would agree with the cheaters, right?

    Ugh. So glad you’re up to taking all these slings and arrows, CL.

    You put these thoughts in clear, strong language, for which many folks are extremely grateful. But you should never lose sight of the fact that you are standing squarely in the moral mainstream of worldwide society and culture when viewed from any point other than the very narrow perspective of a handful of whack jobs living within the last 50 years. Your words have the power of centuries and the faith of billions behind them.

    • I could not agree more, Nomar. Thanks.

      This selfish behavior has the potential to destroy the fabric of our society.

  • My heart goes out to everyone in chump nation. It is clear that we are all victims of abuse; not just from out marriages, but from other sources as well. Our advice the other day was a hard pill to swallow. Some called that she wouldn’t be able to. What I see in CCB is foo issues, a fear or being alone, I can fix this and everything else issues, a fear that she won’t ever find someone to have children with, fear of what everyone will think if she calls it off, lost money, comfort in her dysfunctional role, drama/attention issues, etc. we can’t control her chaos. Only she can make that choice as CL and others have pointed out. Leaving will be hard, staying will be a mistake. Good luck CCB! And Yes the decline in our society is a direct result of no longer being able to see things for what they are and as black and white.

    • “Leaving will be hard, staying will be a mistake.”

      Cheers to this! Leaving was the hardest thing I’ve ever done; and also the thing of which I’m the most proud.

  • Thank God for CL, this site and “right and wrong” thinking. It hasn’t just brought cheating and chumpiness into focus; it’s made me more conscious of how everything I chose either moves me closer to wholeness and integrity or further away. It makes no sense to see the wrong in a cheater did and not look at myself with the same standard. I applaud the thinking that says it is wrong to abuse others; to use them as objects;to lie, cheat, steal and betray those closest to you.

    • I simply took integrity and values for granted. I assumed everyone had them. Then I watched and accepted every rotten thing my husband did to me and to others. I had shame for being with him, but hoped that somehow our luck would change and all these people who could see right through him would see his good side. Nope.

      But even though I’ve suffered and wasted eight years of my life, I am so glad that I’ve realized the importance of integrity and values and I’ll always be grateful for that.

  • This blog is not an example of B+w thinking in any way nor does it indulge in black and white thinking!!! It is one of the only infidelity blogs that is not based on delusional thinking of any kind. Chump Lady’s writings and this blog are a much needed example of sane clear headed thinking based in factual truth and reality.. I have two decade of first hand experience witnessing what black and white thinking is and B+W thinking is based on delusion and lies.
    If you are a healthy person with the capacity for empathy, a person that has a conscious that is able to perceive the wholeness of life, then truly understanding what B+W thinking is on a personal level will not come naturally to you. It is difficult to fathom. This does not have anything to do with denying of evilness or goodness when it presents in life or in others. A normal person, with a solid sense of “self” will not easily get the profound shallowness and deadness of true B+W thinking unless they witness it first hand because it goes against common sense and truth and it is so wasteful and meaningless that it is difficult to believe that anyone would choose it.
    I witnessed B+W thinking in stbx for many years and found it very puzzling and difficult to make sense out of at first.
    I intuitively knew something was up when I would see him acting out these obsessive compulsive fake nice guy behaviors that in reality were deceptive, fraudulent and meaningless acts designed to counter and hide his own inner darkness and emptiness. A healthy adult does not look desperately outside of himself for reassurance from others regarding who or what he is. I could not fathom worrying about what other people thought about me like he did constantly. I now know this was how his fractured splintered self-perceived the world, himself and others. If a person is whole and knows who they are then what others think or say about them good or bad is a secondary concern at best and most often it is not important at all – “Know Thyself

    One common splitting behavior that demonstrates B + W thinking that a lot of chumps probably see play out is the “Madonna Whore Complex”. I know that I found myself reminding my stbx over and over again that I was not his mother all through out our entire marriage. I would ask him to please stop treating me like I was his mom and or responding to me like I was. It is clear to me now that he has a splintered way of perceiving others that is really off. He puts “wife” and “mother” in the same box and they are mental concepts and objects to him, The prostitutes, strippers, escorts, and mistress all get another box but they are still just objects he can use or buy to meet his needs and desires in an easy non-personal way. “Wife”, “mother” and “whore” are all impersonal concept or objects, in his perspective, that exist only to take care of his flat, robotic methodical, infantile needs. Needs that his false persona’s endlessly projects onto them. I learned that it is not necessarily better to be the perceived “good” object in the mind of a splintered person or the “bad’ object. Being either one sucks !!!

    Both the “mother” and “whore” can be either good or bad at any moment depending on how the splintered person sees them. The “wife” aspect is just as impersonal and meaningless to the person with a splintered sense of self as the “whore” is. Many would deny this however I have seen how true it is. To my stbx I was not an individual person with a life of my own, with needs, desires, rights, and a will of my own. I was “wife” a flat one dimensional concept that he perceived as a mere extension of himself, there to meet his narcissistic needs. If I served his needs well I was seen as good momentarily, if I frustrated his needs then I was seen as bad. For the most part he was totally indifferent towards me and whether he perceived me as good or bad was irrelevant.
    There is no dimensionality to this way of perceiving things or to this way of relating to self or others. “Good” and “Bad “are ultimately irrelevant in this case because they are about the same thing energetically. They both get treated as objects that exist to meet his needs. When there is fracturing and splintering of the true self internally , this splintering is then projected outwards onto others, and then nothing genuine or true is honored or valued in any real way.

    I also noticed stbx did this splitting of “good child” “bad child” thing with our children too- If one of our intelligent well-mannered respectful children showed spirit, anger or frustration towards him or spoke back to him, then he could not see this behavior for what it was ( e.g. a normal thirteen to fifteen year old asserting their natural desire to develop their independence at this age) instead, this was made personal to him. He would insist that because they had momentarily shown anger or spoken back to him, they were somehow suddenly a troubled child or may be” bad” because of what in reality is a normal natural part of growing up. This it the ” all or nothing thinking” that is an aspect of B+W thinking too. If they are being bad even momentarily then they are bad period. B and W thinking is based in delusion not factual truth.

    He also had an obsessive need to be seen as good?
    He would go to great lengths to appear to be a wonderful kind, respectful, trustworthy person, a great husband, and an involved parent in the public eye; when in reality he was an absent preoccupied parent and a covertly abusive cowardly partner that lacked authentic attune-ment with anyone in his life. He was a man that was consistently living a very perverted vulgar deceptive lie of a life that directly violated every person in his family. All the fraudulent nice guy behaviors were meaningless actions of a hypocrite, that were purposely acted out so to intentionally deceive others regarding his true nature. This is the inner splintering the leads to the outer splintering.

    B+W thinking can be the most one dimensional, inane, delusional and broken way of perceiving self and others. From my observations this has a lot to do with living through a “false self or selves” and lacking an authentic core “self” or a soul. The split is an internal split and an external split. Everything he sees outside is split because he is split and separated from his own self or soul on the inside. The Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hyde, both the good guy and the bad guy are lies, they are only thin flat one dimensionless shadows with little to no authenticity, depth, or true vitality or aliveness. B+W thinking has nothing at all to do with denying the true evil or misdeeds in the world, and it does not come out of common sense or wholeness. It has to do with a deep inner splintering that is continually projected outward onto others. It is delusion. I think a person has to be splintered from “self” to perceive the world in a splintered way.

    • Martha: holy crap, were we married to the same person???

      My STBXH has three children from a prior marriage. He always treated them like a “great father”. Bought them whatever they needed, went to the concerts and games, coached the teams. Except by living with him, I could see that in fact he didn’t truly have any emotional connection with them, or give to them anything of himself emotionally. He only “loved” them for what they could provide to him; pride that he had smart, attractive, capable children. When they failed in that, he tried to “fix” them; but never tried to understand or support them as growing human beings. I always thought that I had more of an understanding of how to be a parent than he did, and I have no children of my own.

      In fact, he promised that we would have a child together before we were married; and then after we were married when I tried to get a time frame, he cried and said he “just couldn’t do it again”. So I may never have a child of my own now; I’m young, but not sure I’ll be in a position to do that by the time I’m no longer able. Frankly, however, I side stepped a land mine. I always felt that I would never want to parent with STBXH, and I was absolutely right.

      So Martha, I totally get what you are saying. Thanks for the post, it was illuminating to see that someone else experienced that “splitting”.

      • Wow Martha, ‘I know that I found myself reminding my stbx over and over again that I was not his mother all through out our entire marriage.’

        – me too! He wasn’t brought up Catholic, by any chance?

  • Subtle nuance was what got me in trouble. It slowly but surely wears your boundaries down and before you know it your the frog in the boiling pot. I didn’t enforce my boundaries even when I “knew” that they were being crossed. How could I have known that this “baby” would come back and go world domination on me. I wasn’t expecting it because I had been conditioned to take shitty behavior as normal. I was looking at the wrong hand in a slight of hand game. While he was being a kind, trustworthy husband on the one hand, he was having alleged (as his narrative is) EA affairs with the other all through our marriage. Mindfuck barely covers all the shit he was shoveling out.

  • I believe that cheating IS stealing.
    It is taking something you both agreed upon to have only for each other, keeping you in the dark, and giving an outsider open access to it.
    Think if he was letting some woman into your home to steal from your jewelry box…. What is worse is it was intimacy with someone else & the object was PLEASURE!
    It is stealing your most precious hopes & dreams or whatever you want to call it, can’t find a word that encompasses all that is lost by the Chump.

    On CL’s response, spot on as usual. It is sad that the younger generation is growing up in a world where there is porn from the very start, which of course objectifies women from the gate of a young mans’ puberty/sexual life.
    I was at my daughters’ baby shower a couple of weeks ago (she is 29) and a group of really smart & very attractive girls (6 or so women) her age were saying that it is very hard to find a man who wants to make a commitment and/or have a family. (We live in a major metropolis in South Florida.) If this is something a person really wants, over time they probably unknowingly lower the bar and consider overlooking red flags like many of us did. (me too) I think CCB falls perhaps into this category of fearful thinking and wants to MAKE her dream/goal come true come hell or high water! But damned that waterfall, hold onto your barrel!
    You just can’t seem to warn people about something like this.

  • So easy for us chumps to understand the Black and White of cheating. Convincing the cheater is a waste of time. It’s the rest of the population, The by-standers are the ones that don’t understand, some don’t even care. Because of their lack of understanding or not caring we chumps end up looking like the crazy ones when they see us or hear us. This is where the most help is needed. How do we get these by-standers to understand. It’s simply one of those things that you don’t understand until it happens to you, but at the same time you wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Except for our cheaters.

    • How true Bud. I have to say I am not sure I would understand the great difficulty a person has getting over being cheated on, especially in a long relationship where you have given a major portion of your life to it. I wonder if I could comprehend the many losses if I hadn’t gone through it. Probably not.

    • I no longer buy the “Oh, you never know what goes on in a relationship” excuse. Those people get the message pretty quick when you ask them to imagine what if it was their sister, or mother, or so that it had happened to. Oh, wait, now it’s different? Total bullshit. How hard is it to have empathy for another person?

    • Bud, my young adult son has always hated to see his friends cheated on. When he found out about his father’s cheating ways, his distaste for cheating escalated to new levels. We talk about infidelity and its devastating consequences and I am hoping I am doing my share ensuring that infidelity is seen for exactly what it is – abuse.

      • What I was saying is not that I would have no understanding & always thought cheating was wrong hurtful, & have not done it. I was simply saying the degree to which it is devastating I am not sure I would understand if someone was talking about it years later if I had not gone through it. I was being honest, guess you folks are deeper & more wonderful than I.

  • If you choose to act knowing that it will cause harm to another person, isn’t that BAD??

    Could just be my black and white thinking of course.

    • Yep! No matter how you “color it” adultery is wrong! We chumps have every right to to be angry at the foolish perpetrators. Of course these cretins are so far gone and will try to make us chumps responsible by telling us they didn’t really do anything wrong! But I would rather not be in their shoes, I much rather prefer being able to sleep at night and know I’m not responsible for ruining my family. It is very black and white! Wrong is wrong and no matter what a cheater says or does to justify their actions they can never turn that wrong into a right!

    • Waiting for Karma, you got it. The key here is that cheating is acting knowing FULL well that it will cause harm to another person. My ex was very jealous of any guy that gave me attention so he knew that what he did was damaging to me. In the end, I believe that because he didn’t care or value me (even though on the outside, he pretended he did), hurting me was inconsequential to him. But that again is another sign of a disordered person – complete lack of empathy.

  • Oh, I so agree with the grey shades that kept us into chumpdom. Once I started to see the deep black of his adultery (and lies, broken vows, theft, deceit…), I was able to step out into the harsh light of the truth. Painful, like cutting out a festering wound.

    And I find that bystanders want to see nuances, shades. They want me to see “Well, he’s still a good father, right?” – euh, nope. Wasn’t, isn’t. He likes to play one, like he played good husband. Had me fooled for years, can’t really blame them. But still, I do.

    I read the news on Valérie Trierweiler yesterday – she wrote a book about her relationship with President Hollande. An “act of revenge”. Immediately shaded in grey tones by people in their reactions:
    “If he was such a terrible, cold man, why did she stay with him all these years?” – it’s her fault, or he wasn’t so bad.

    “She was a jealous bitch, hysteric, stole him away from his previous partner” – While I truly believe in “marry a cheater and you’ll be married to a cheater” it is also character assassination. She’d have to be a bitch to have it happen to her, so it couldn’t happen to happily married me… Sorry to admit that I thought along those lines also, when I was ‘happily’ married. I needed all the antidote and charms I could conjure up. I felt like I needed them more and more, to distance myself from the creeping feeling that something was very, very wrong.

    And finally of course people want her just to shut up about it. The book is pure revenge, damaging, probably untrue, or at least only her side of the story.

    Haven’t we all heard that? I have. Fence-sitting friends, that want to believe there must be good sides to my XH. What he did to me, tough. But they can still be friends?

    She – a professional journalist! – writes on the back cover:
    “Tout ce que j’écris est vrai. A l’Elysée, je me sentais parfois comme en reportage. Et j’ai trop souffert du mensonge pour en commettre à mon tour”.

    “All I write is true. I sometimes felt like being on reportage on the Elysée. And I suffered from too many lies to start telling them myself”.

    The book will come out today in French bookstores.

    • Having to hear others say “Oh but she’s a good person” or “There is two sides to every story” drives my blood pressure up. To hear my Daughter 19 say “Don’t punish Mom, she’s a good person” knowing what her mother did and agrees that it was wrong. However she doesn’t know ALL the evil things her mother did and said to me after D-Day. That is a hard pill to swallow.

    • Nope – sorry, Valerie actively participated in the hurt of other people, some of whom were innocent children, because she was so sure of her specialness; and then was so shocked – schocked, I tell you! that it could happen to HER.

      What goes around, Valerie. She thought his active demonstration of selfishness and cruelty to other people, his disloyalty and shallow connection, was a demonstration of his love for her?

      Stupidity hurts. Same as for us chumps. But we didn’t know, and idiot OWs do know.

      Sorry, no sympathy here. Don’t help hurt people, and there is less likelihood of getting hurt yourself.

    • It’s a tough situation, sometimes, not being able to be completely open about how you feel about a cheating ex. Only a couple of people know how I really feel. Our daughter (she’s 11) has no real clue about why her parents split up, beyond “Mum and Dad don’t love eachother anymore, and when you don’t love someone you don’t stay married to them”. She’ll figure it out one day, on her own.

      You can end up in a situation where mutual friends, who don’t know about the cheating, remain friends with both of you. Not sure if this bothers me so much – they don’t know, after all. In fact, very few people know about the affair. A few of my very close friends. I doubt anyone on her side knows about it.

  • ” It’s a sad sausage taking back power from the powerful societal forces of monogamy that compelled him against his or her will to stay in a loveless, sexless, marriage.”

    Hey?! I was in that same loveless, sexless marriage! I didn’t cheat! Oh yeah, I don’t suck!

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