Stay in Touch

Check out CL's Book

Dear Chump Lady, Is this a unicorn?

unicornposterDear Chump Lady:

I potentially have that mythical unicorn in my life. It shares its body with the original transformer that sadly still becomes my spouse on occasion.

In the morning light with dew on the grass, the unicorn seems legit. Doing and saying the right things. Making good changes and taking responsibility for his choices. Going to counseling on his own, developing better relationships with all. When he sees me in pain, he knows that he is the sole reason I cry. Got the truth after a couple weeks of gaslighting/denial, not willingly but eventually admitted / shared details nonetheless. He has agreed to all boundaries and for the most part I do believe he is heading down the path of a better life, with or without me.

However, I see remnants of the transformer’s personality in his underlying choices.

For instance, I requested that he acknowledge a few hard days I have most every month. Instead of doing as I ask, he chooses (for my benefit) to NOT say anything on those hard days; he identifies that he believes that he is protecting me from pain on those “special” days and he chooses to ignore them because we are moving forward. I called him on his bullshit but truthfully his thinking/decision making is so skewed that he talks himself into believing that line.

For instance, we finally told our college age kids the truth (for over a year they had been rebuilding a relationship with their dad based on his BIG LIE that he only sexted her when in reality they had multiple sex overnights and were just getting started with their affair because they both deserved some happiness). He was upset, not because of what the truth would do to his kids, but upset that he should have been given adequate time to prepare how to tell his kids.

For instance, this past month, I brought up divorce. 95% of the time, he appears to want to continue the marriage and actually does “think” of me when making some choices. However, his yearly vacation with a relative became a priority and a reality over this last holiday weekend of the summer. He “asked” me if he could go. I told him it was not my decision to make. When he made the commitment to go, I told him that I was floored that he made the choice he did with the marriage hanging on a thread. Instead of the obvious truth (that he really wanted to go), he again talks himself into another bullshit story about the other person’s happiness with the annual trip and also that I probably needed a break.

The first question I asked the marriage counselor over a year ago was whether or not he was possible of true change, not just the surface rust changes, but the soul busting changes that govern underlying choice process. I have stuck it out for a while to see what changes he was capable of making. Divorce is now an option to explore given the rare but continued surfacing of the old husband.

The unicorn that I am married to reverts to a transformer when pending decisions require him to make a difficult choice.

Looking for your input. I actually do see the real remorse (not just the genuine imitation naugahyde remorse); however the default transformer just will not allow the permanent conversion to the unicorn. Don’t think that will change.

Honestly, maybe it boils down to how the affair has changed me: weary, untrusting, doubtful and just plain disappointed. Maybe I don’t believe in unicorns anymore.

Thanks for your column. It provides an angle of sanity to turn toward instead of the daily stupidity.

Chump Loving Life

I’m confused CLL. You say your husband is “making good changes and taking responsibility for his choices” and then give me chapter and verse on how he’s not doing that.

He doesn’t comfort you when you have a bad day — and does the mindfuck that it’s really for YOUR benefit. He takes a trip alone with a “relative” (you sure about that?) — and says it’s really for that relative’s benefit, and you “needed” a break. And he attributes his inability to tell his kids that he had an affair to… inadequate preparation. I mean, maybe he had a flip chart and PowerPoint, CLL, and you were just too hasty!

It seems to me, when pressed into an uncomfortable situation, he reverts to mindfuckery and probably gaslighting (a trip with family? Really? Why aren’t you invited?) Yeah, I wouldn’t be very trusting either, CLL. What exactly has he done other than go to counseling by himself? Do you have a post-nup?

I only have a letter to go on, but it looks like you both have issues saying what the hell you want. When he asked if he could go on that trip – yes, I would object to the whole parent/child dynamic, but you should’ve said exactly how you feel about that. HELL NO I DON’T WANT YOU TO GO ON THAT TRIP. Instead you say it’s his choice, and then get pissed when he chooses.

You’ve stepped into the mindfuck bear trap. Because he posed the question as a Mother May I kind of thing (grrrr), you’re quick to back off to not be seen as controlling or parent-like. I Trust Your Best Judgment on This. When of course you trust no such thing. He, naturally, does what he wanted to do in the first place. And the no win is, if you object, you’re the bad guy, and if you consent, you’ve fucked yourself.

Instead, take a step back and stop focusing on him and his purported motivations. “..Truthfully his thinking/decision making is so skewed that he talks himself into believing that line.” Do you want to have to take his temperature each day on how much he wants the marriage? Oh, today he’s 95% in!

Why not ask yourself — is this relationship acceptable to ME?

Do you want to play marriage police? Do you like that parent/child shit? Do you want a marriage where every time he fucks up he says really it’s for Your Benefit?

My take is the guy is a spineless, manipulative dude. He’s very quick to cloak himself in righteousness at your expense. Hey! He’s just misunderstood! Why can’t you appreciate him and how much he does for you! Like giving you a BREAK by taking holidays with other people! He’s really a Very Nice Person whose only fault is how much he considers others. And there you go, picking him apart, like nothing is good enough. He doesn’t comfort you when you’re sad because you’re ruining that whole “moving forward” thing. It’s for your own good. If you could just suck it up, we could all get past it, but you there with those emotional days. He was only thinking of your happiness when he was ignoring you.

Are my only choices to see this guy as a unicorn or a transformer? I just see him as a cheater. An unreformed one.

Figure out what you want, CLL, what you stand for. Is this enough “sorry” for you? (((Big hugs)))

Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at Read more about submission guidelines.
  • What do YOU want? What really is the deal breaker for you?
    He is playing his game and learning more and more what he can get away with,
    No matter what you you try to call him, keep cheater at the back of your head. They do not change. Only you can! 🙂

    • I’m loathe to say “they do not change.” I think unless someone is congenitally wired to be a sociopath, cluster B sort, yes, they can change. It’s just do they want to?

      At the very least you need someone who says “The buck stops with me.” No excuses, no mindfuckery. I cheated. It was wrong.

      Next, they need to act with that knowledge and put the entitlement thinking away. No special trips after they blow up the marriage. No putting a veneer on selfishness with “it was all for YOU” (or someone other poor unfortunate).

      As long as that shit is around, no, I don’t think they’re very sorry or reformed.

      Which is different than saying no one can be reformed. The problem with entitlement is that (if you’re empathetically challenged) it feels great. Hard to give up the kibbles and the awesome view of yourself.

      • Maybe some distance between them would be good. Six months? A year? Then maybe CLL would figure out what she wants and see him for who is really is. Not just a break – a break with actual distance – no talking, texting or any of that shit. I think as long as you stay it is too easy to end up deciding over which is worse: the shit sandwich or the shit burrito. I say walk away and then after some time look back and see that it doesn’t matter because everything on the table was just shit anyway.

        • The distance won’t just give clarity… it will give peace. When you have peace, you will see him for what he is… cheater dood-y. He is still capable of turning on the sparkles and you get caught up in that… right now… with distance… you won’t even be able to see the sparkles, the are such weak lights and so ephemeral. I am where you are right now… two kids out of college and one in her HS senior year… I have been responsible for my siblings since I was a kid, taking care of my cluster B ex and taking care of my kids. I am filling out my bucket list, and doing them one by one… I don’t want sparkles, I don’t want a moon of a guy who can only reflect/take my energy and light. I am a sister who is doing it for herself. Standing on my own two feet and ringing on my own bell.

      • The “For Instances” I identified in my letter are the most recent occasions when the new and improved Elvis leaves the building. It really is difficult in a letter to paint an accurate portrait. Assume that he really has made some astounding, positive changes. He is a totally changed and involved father, he is accountable, he is an open book and he is a better person than he was a year and a half ago. If these boundaries were not honored by him, I would have been gone a long time ago. My husband has been all his life the people pleaser, the favorite son and the happy go lucky guy everyone loves. HOWEVER, he had the emotional maturity level of a kindergartner. And that total lack of emotional maturity led to his choice to fail his family.

        For the record, his fishing trip to Canada was with my brother so that particular item is not a concern.

        I am trying to approach the ugliness of this thing maturely. Our daughters know the truth now and they have always been my primary concern. I want to model a positive approach to this. Part of me says I should have thrown him out day one; however, I did not want to regret that choice later in my life. The logical part of me believes that with 25 years invested in the marriage, I owed it to myself and to the girls to see if this was salvageable. I don’t believe that my choice shows them that they are rugs for the men in their lives; I believe it shows that important things in life are worth not giving up on a whim.

        For me, my choice to explore whether the marriage is salvageable was the right one. The changes in my husband are positive if for nothing else his continued relationship with his girls. I think the comment from Lioness about whether this is a deal breaker is part of the equation. The other part of the equation is whether I can ever view all the good changes as enough to tolerate transformer appearances.

        Thanks for all the support and input. I really do appreciate the insight.

        • I took my hubby back 13 years ago for the reasons you are describing; he was remorseful, seemed to really want to change, was an open book, etc. I really wanted to keep our family together and so I let him stay. But you know what? I was never he same girl. The last 13 years have been a slow and painful erosion of our love, commitment and connection.

          When I found out 6 weeks ago that he was cheating again, I wasn’t even surprised. I wasn’t even mad. I was just DONE and kicked him out of the house IMMEDIATELY. I had stuck it out SO LONG for the kids and in the end it didn’t even matter, he chose himself again instead of his family. And you know what? It’s been so FREEING! Like I’m finally able to breathe again! No more moments of doubt, no wondering, no more choking down shit sandwiches (aka your described “for instances”).

          My kids have been great and are transitioning way better than I ever thought was possible. All those fears for the last 13 years about how they and I would feel being a “broken family” haven’t materialized. We are fine, and are better every day. I’m nowhere “meh” yet but I’m not continually curled in a ball sobbing my eyes out either.

          You KNOW what you want to do, that’s why you’re asking CL to validate your feelings of doubt.

          Big hugs to you sweetheart, this sucks, I know. Good luck with whatever you choose.

        • CLL, I have had those times in my marriage when I “thought” he was making real improvements and finally growing up, only to be disappointed when he occasionally slid into transformer mode. Then I realized two things; first, that if he truly had changed there would be no appearances by the transformer and maybe the transformation was all an act to get what he wanted from me (which was that I wanted to believe he could change and if I believed he had he was free to secretly carry on as he always had). Second, when I really was honest with myself, I really didn’t want to spend any time in the presence of the transformer at all, ever. Just knowing that I would occasionally have to deal with that crap was enough for me to finally say enough. I’ve been married for over 20 years and spent a few years in this limbo-land of being on the fence about whether he was REALLY capable of change…what a waste. The truth is he never did really change, it was all a carefully constructed illusion to keep me in the dark to what was actually going on.
          Only you can make that choice for you, but I think we’re all just telling you to look at him with eyes wide open and that the times he becomes the transformer, he’s telling you who he really is.

        • He’s a people pleaser, except that he’s quite happy to not please you.

          And then say his disappointing behavior was really what was good for you.

          Or it was all for the benefit… of someone who isn’t you.

        • Dear CLL,

          I hope reading through the various experiences and kinds of advice others on the list share is helpful to you. There is one line in your response above, though, that concerns me. You explain your current situation by saying, “I believe it shows that important things in life are worth not giving up on a whim.”

          I think you are being far, far, far too hard on yourself. Leaving an adulterous spouse is not a whim. You deserve to end your marriage without feeling guilty (if that is the choice you reach). You deserve to deeply ponder divorce without feeling guilty. There is no sense in which the decision you are wrestling with here is whimsical. Someone you trusted betrayed you. Acting on that betrayal–whether you ultimately go or stay is not whimsical. You are facing a hard future no matter what you do. You are courageous. Your actions have been thoughtful and carefully attuned to how they will effect others.

          I hope the decision you make gives you confidence and peace–and I hope you never feel like you have to justify it to anyone (including yourself) who tries to frame it as light-weight or easy or escapist or a whim.

        • I am you and you are me. The only difference is that I am actively learning how to co parent with this guy and not necessarily looking for reformation. I just don’t think you can change the fabric of a person’s character. I think what it requires from the cheater, especially the disordered ones, is a lot of behavior modification if they chose to do so.

          I see a lot of inconsistencies with my unicorn wanna be. The default is always the same type of bullshit that was there in the past. The biggest difference is I know what it is and how to address it. There is still a ton of covert and passive aggressive crap that doesn’t jive with his new found “authenticity”. I call it out. My only immediate goal is for him to at least be a better father to his kids.

          As for martial reconciliation… I didn’t kick him out like I should have initially. My kids still do not know of the farce of the marriage. I know there is NO WAY I can ever be sexually intimate with him again. What he did was bad, deep and dangerous not only to me but to our kids.

          How am I supposed to be reconciled with the fact that this guy used with intent and purpose for 17 out of 20 yrs of this “marriage”? I don’t care that he’s able to present himself as some sort of good guy. That’s just smoke and mirrors. So, I learn better communication techniques in therapy, as well as co parenting skills with a narc. It’s not forever. It’s until I get my high schooler launched and my feet set on my path out.

          Don’t be fooled.

      • I’m loathe to say “they do not change.”

        Will they change for the OW/OM? That’s the thought that drives me crazy.

          • Why? Because he was perfect for me once, then changed from the man I knew and loved for 21 years – kind, caring, considerate – into this lying, cheating a**hole, seemingly overnight. There were never any signs. No red flags. And while cheating may be a narcissistic act, he is not npd. I can find nothing in our past that foreshadows this. Nothing to explain it except possibly MLC. So if he snaps our of it and changes back for the OW, the hurt and betrayal will be magnified. I’ve filed for divorce. We are battling out custody and support issues. I know his cheating was a deal breaker, and know, at least intellectually that oneday I won’t care, but right now I still do.

            • Expat, at a certain point you have to stop trying to figure out what flavor of fucked up it is (MLC, NPD, jerk-itis) and just get away from it.

              If he woke up one day back into the kind, caring person you miss — he still knows where to find you.

              The fact that he’s not being that person? That’s who he is NOW and for the foreseeable future. You have to make decisions with the reality you live in, not the one you wish still existed.

              If he wakes up to be that wonderful person for someone else? He’s still NOT being that person for you. I’m sorry. I know it’s painful. ((Hugs))

              • “jerk-itis”

                At first I read this as “jerk-tits.” Think that might have to be my new nickname for my serial cheating ex wife.

              • Yep, that’s what I’m thinking: you have to work with what you really have, and not what you wish you had, and it doesn’t serve any legitimate purpose to worry about something you can’t control. All worrying does is keep you wound up and under more stress.

              • I have to read this a few times. I have often thought what if he’s everything to the next woman. Now I see that doesn’t matter. What matters is the way I am treated.

            • Ditto, ditto, ditto on each and every word! It’s so confusing and unexpected! My mind still reels and I am two weeks away from my divorce court date!

            • I feel fairly certain he( your h) was /is NPD but hid it well for years. MLC IS BULLSHIT.
              The vast majority, an overwhelming majority, of affairs go undetected , forever.
              You found out about one. Odds are astronomically high that you know about the tip of the iceberg.

              • This is a fact. My tip of the affair iceberg with my NPD tendencies, pathological liar and serial cheater revealed a very serious deficit in moral code, integrity and honesty. I have been chumped for nearly my entire marriage. I would say probably the entire fucking time including the grooming/dating period because this jackass has no boundaries.
                My only current issue and focus is now addressing why the fuck I didn’t protect myself and addressing those things within myself to make me stronger.

          • Watching a movie with my kids over the weekend, the Girl had a long-time crush on the Guy, but had given up and started dating someone else, because Guy was basically being a douchebag. Upon hearing this, Guy begs Girl for another chance, as new guy had asked her to marry him. Guy says to Girl, “I’m going to make myself be the kind of man you deserve.” My youngest says, “Well, that’s stupid.” I asked her why and she said, “You should be someone who IS the kind of person you deserve ALREADY, not someone who has to MAKE themselves into that.”

            😮 Please God, remember that when you are grown up, youngest!!!

            So there you have it. Are they the kind of person you need/want/deserve, or do they have to force themselves to be?

            • Yep, kids understand the here and now much better than parents, who can be addicted to ***potential***. Just try to get a small child to eat the foods that they ***might like someday*** and see how well that goes over.

            • Kids are brilliant! When I age appropriately explained what cheater Dad did to me, my 9 year old daughter said “so he was lying to BOTH of you at the same time? (meaning that when he was with the OW he told her that he loved her and then came home to me and said the same thing).”! She also said to me “children want to know the truth” when I asked her if she was upset that I told her….brilliant!

          • Agreed. I’ve never actually seen anyone become perfect for the new person. And I’ve seen this play out up close and personal in several instances. They are ‘good’ for awhile and get better at playing the game but underneath? Same old, same old.

        • They won’t change for them either… they can keep a charming and interested mask on for a while, maybe even a couple of years, but disordered, immature, selfish dood-y is just that and can only spackle their mask on someone else for a little while. So stop torturing yourself. Leopards do not change their spots. If it turns out to be a ‘great marriage’ it is only because to make it work the OW has had to turn herself inside out… think starfish eating sea urchin. It is just ugly.

          My STBX has gone back to his OW. I get the phone records. He only communicates via text with her when he is heading up to her neck of the woods (can we spell booty call.) So once or twice a month. It is radio silence between those events. That is exactly his personality. She is probably thinking and he is telling her, oh he is so busy, he is a famous scientist, blah blah blah… but that is him, Mr 100 words a day and 10 of them are for you. She thinks when they are living together it will be better… poor heart… she has no idea. I am actually very worried about her… she is not a very stable person… she has lots of wounds and FOO issues. She was devastated the last time. Had to change jobs, had to have an abortion… really ugly business. She does not trust he sucks…she thinks it was just bad timing etc. We have mutual friends and when he finally moves up there and begins his rage, gaslighting and triangulation, I will be there to clue her in on what is going on with him, if she ever asks me.

          • That’s the thing, isn’t it? I see final OW absolutely sure she’s got herself a real prize and that he would NEVER cheat on her or hurt her or do anything horrible to her. Well, he’s still the same selfish asshole he proved himself to be with me. He still lies, he still manipulates, he still makes promises he has no intention of keeping. She is, I’m quite sure, spackling like crazy while he plays her like a fiddle. Then again, she’s pretty manipulative herself so they might just be the perfect match. I say have at it as long as they keep me out of it.

        • I was thinking about that very thing this morning (I work long weekend hours, so I luxuriate in Monday-morning sleep-a -thons.) And I realized, “Damn, my therapist is right! (ka-ching!) He just used me up as a narcissistic supply…. once he was done with me, he was *done*. 25 years. Nothing on earth I could have been would have changed that.”

          And you know what, that’s NOT on me– it’s him. These people, as therapists says, use people up, like vampires, and then move on.

          The only thing we do wrong? We’re too giving, too tolerant, too loving…too forgiving, too willing to give it one more college try….

          I’m sorry to say this, but what I hear in your letter is a cheating passive aggressive controller, hoarding his grudges and deciding when he will or won’t dole out emotional ‘reward’ to you. And in all kindness to you, I don’t think that’s a healthy life.

          I’m lonely now, but it’s my own honest loneliness, not the confused loneliness of a person who can’t figure out where the abuse id coming from. My experience was that living with one of these nice-guy abusers was like living in the fun-house mirror room. Really, really hard to see what was going on until I got out of there.

          I am so very sorry.

        • No. He will be the same asshole to the other person as he was to you. There’s a reason they are serial cheaters. It’s a cycle. Why some cycles lasted longer than others is part of the skein of fuckupness. Why waste your energy on that?

      • Who does this stuff(long term cheating) who is not a cluster B disordered type? Kind of a res ipsa deal. Cluster b’s do not change.

  • Hm…my ex went away on a Labor Day weekend also. Three months after dday.
    Said he had to “go think by himself alone.”
    Turns out she was there to help.

  • I would be very skeptical about your husband changing at this point. I’m not sure that you need to worry so much about him as much as about you. Can you live with the “disappointment”? If not, go find your happiness without him. When this happened to me, I had a long conversation with my mom and she asked me “do you think he has what it takes to change and do what it takes to fix the marriage?” And really I knew the answer to this but I put spackle over it and hoped! I just didn’t want to deal with the idea of divorce.

    The disappointment continued for me. He would occasionally show signs of change, just enough to keep me off his back. While behind my back, he was continuing with his affair. I finally got divorced after wasting six years of my life waiting for him to change. And I realized I was never going to get over the disappointment. It was with me the entire time!!!

    I am so glad I am finally FREE!!!!!

    • I agree – I think it’s very rare but very obvious when someone really wants to change after cheating. It’s like the movie where the girl only gives the guy her first name and he goes through the city trying to find her phone number…if someone is really trying, it will show. And everyone here is worth (and could find, if they want to) that kind of effort. This guy sounds like he’s just covering his bases.

      • “…just covering his bases.”

        There is apologizing and sincere remorse and change. That involves taking full ownership of what you did. You are sorry, you mean it, and you follow through by making sure that you do not do it again.

        And there is also apologizing “as if”. You say the right things and even do (some) of the right things, but it isn’t real. It’s simply saying or doing what you’re “supposed” to feel, say and do in a given situation, even though you could really care less. The term “as if” apology came from my therapist, it’s not just my construct. He felt it was a distinction I need to be aware of.

        I don’t know, CLL, whether he is sincere or not. This is a pretty cynical group here (I wonder why?)
        Maybe he does mean it, and maybe he is a unicorn, but the phrase of “covering his bases” really caught my eye.

        • “And there is also apologizing “as if”. You say the right things and even do (some) of the right things, but it isn’t real. It’s simply saying or doing what you’re “supposed” to feel, say and do in a given situation, even though you could really care less. The term “as if” apology came from my therapist, it’s not just my construct. He felt it was a distinction I need to be aware of.”

          I have spoke about this very thing with the counselor. If cheater is not able to make the gut busting changes that actually affect future choices, then the “as if” results may be as good as the cheater can do. The reality: a combination: there are aspects of the reconciliation that reflect the true change AND aspects that are only “as if” results. Very difficult if not impossible to recognize an “as if” action from a true change.

          • Hi CLL

            True change requires the cheater to change their default responses. You know the response they have when no one is looking, no one is expecting anything, when there is stress or disappointment – that response.

            If a cheater mostly does the right thing with a crutch (the BS, the therapist, etc) then the right thing is NOT their default response.

            Ideally you want to be married to someone who sets their own healthy boundaries. Someone whose first impulse is to tell the truth, even when the truth may be inconvenient or painful. Someone who naturally considers their spouse’s feelings. NOT someone who has to be reminded to behave that way by books, or therapists or by the BS.

            Because when the rubber meets the road, a person always reverts to their default response. The question is, can you live with his default response?

            • I love your explanation of the “default response.”. Unfortunately my husband’s default response was always to lie, and then it was my job to try and get him to tell me the truth. He’d often be honest eventually, but only after I’d cross examined him for hours. Thanks for the post!

          • I believe true change requires someone to do a fearless moral inventory, similar to the 12 Steps. That program is basically about how to change, just not about how to stop drinking. Which is why it takes so much damn work! You can think about change, talk about change, write about change, make promises about change, imagine yourself changing… but without doing the painful work day in and day out, it’s never going to take hold internally. What’s necessary is a brutally honest self-critique that deconstructs the ego, which is something entitled people find almost impossible to do.

            • NeverAgain!! Absolutely. I was just talking with my brother about the brutal accountability of 12 step programs and how addressing our armor covered egos takes Herculean resolve.

              If we chumps who are now propelled by our desire to lead more meaningful lives wrestle with our egos – how, oh how, will our self absorbed cheaters be up to the task?

              • So true! It took me a long time to figure out my ex would never change. He was the only one happy existing as he did. One thing about the disordered, all people in their lives are interchangeable. And not worth a damn.

  • CLL:

    I am all-too-familiar with the “mean mommy” dynamic that you describe. It’s a trap. It’s a game that you can never win. Look at the choices he gives you. You can either:

    A. Say “No, I think you should not go on this trip. You should stay here and work on this marriage.” Then you are a cruel and punishing mommy. His response: “Why are you being so mean to me and my relative? Oh, cruel and punishing mommy — this is why I cheat!!”

    B. Say “Yes, you should go on the trip.” Then you’ve inadvertently fed into the mommy dynamic AND given your seal of approval to the selfish thing he was going to do anyways. His response: “Great! Thanks, mommy! Now you can’t complain about this EVER, because — hey — you gave me permission! No take backs!”

    C. Say “I don’t think I should have to make these decisions for you. You should be an adult capable of making the right decision for your marriage.” Then he’ll accuse you of playing mindgames that he CAN NOT WIN. His response: “No matter what I do, it is wrong! This is why I cheat on you! Now, I’m going to go on this vacation to clear my head, because you’ve basically forced me to make that decision.”

    It’s a giant mindfuck. I was also given this brand of logic over day-long arguments that ended with him leaving to “clear his head.” And coincidentally, the OW was ready to meet him. But of course, I drove him to it…

    If any of this sounds familiar, I recommend leaving this situation as soon as possible. Nobody deserves to be a pawn in someone else’s shitty life choices.

    • All of that was just one giant flashback for me, LilyBart. Sorry to see you went through that too. But at least we are both out!

    • LilyBart – dear lord -you have written the textbook examples. That should be required reading for anyone going into marriage. It’s one of the best flags of what you are dealing with – because who in their right mind plays that game with someone they supposedly love and think of as a life partner?

      I had this pulled on me so many times – the “relative” was instead his asshole best friend from high school Paul – and after D-day, after I found out old Paul had been covering his ass while he took the whorebag to the fishing cabin to screw, my ex actually had the nerve to say to me that “I’d become more a mother than a wife” to him…when HE IS THE ONE WHO PROMOTED THAT DYNAMIC with his stupid mindfuck game!

      It’s such a common thread between all cheaters/narcissists. You’d think they’d bottle an antidote by now.

    • Just piling on here. I said yes to her going to a Jazzercise conference in Las Vegas! I said yes to her nights out with the girls (at least one of which I knew was having an ongoing affair). All because I needed to work on my issues of being too controlling that contributed to her cheating (per our MC sessions)! Man was I mindfucked! Can’t say enough now how happy I woke up and she is only a small part of my life (coparent).

      • Can I snort at “Jazzercise conference in Las Vegas”? As if Las Vegas isn’t cheesy enough? How can you keep her from her patterned lycra leotards and tap shoes? God, you’re SO CONTROLLING!

      • Sounds like that MC is a flunky. Does not know the difference between healthy boundaries and controlling. It does a disservice to situations where there IS true controlling going on. This seems to be the ideal way for a female to successfully triangulate a MC–play the controlling or “I’m afraid” card and then watch the MC run to rescue the damsel in distress (while she goes and does guys on the side). I am not saying there aren’t legit situations where control or abuse needs addressing. However, you objecting to such a conference would have been a healthy boundary for the marriage and not an example of control. Drinking out with the girls is a recipe for disaster…too much temptation and lack of accountability. Wish I had realized that up front as well in my first marriage. Oh, well. It is nice to be free from that relationship.

      • Wow TD I did the same thing…You want to go out with all the divorced girls from Junior League after D-Day because your friends are so important?…sure you could use some time…Oh you are going to a Zumba Conference?… did not know there was much to confer about but sounds like you will have fun!…You are going to have yet another girls weekend with your college friends?…sounds like a blast, I will watch the kids so you can have some time…..they are so damn unoriginal and as a chump I was so gullible.

        There is also the converse…Dear I have to present a paper at a national conference…her response…what am I supposed to do with the kids while you are in CA?…I don’t know act like a responsible adult?

        It is mind boggling!

        • My cheater was presenting papers at local conferences every 15 days and then would go out dancing with his “colleagues” while I watched the kids: Never invited me once, even though I am also an academic and know all these people…and I also love to dance…Idiot.

          • Mine went out dancing with the guys from her AA group. Part of her “recovery”.
            Two weeks after my dad died , she announced that she was flying to Chicago with a man from her AA group to ” visit museums”. How considerate that they decided to share a hotel room to save costs.

    • 2 years post D-Day, Divorce should be finalized any day now (hopefully!), many months solidly at meh and this!! I’m long past trying to untangle the skein (mostly) but your description of the Mommy/Son dynamic just gave me a major “ah-ha” moment! So, thank you, LilyBart, for your accurate description of this. My STBX did this all the time (and still does with things related to our children) and chumpy me used to fool myself to thinking it was flattering that he asked my permission to do things! But, it always made me feel weird and I could never quite understand why he would ask when I knew he was just going to do it anyway. It’s such a passive/agressive manipulation tactic – damned if you say yes, damned it you say no.

      CLL – I feel for you, I really do. I was you exactly 2 years ago. And I was fooled for about 2 months that his remorse was genuine but when I started looking deeper, I discovered he never stopped seeing his whore. But still, I clung to what we had and for months, I felt like I was living half a life – one half where we were in pretend mode that everything was fine and the other half where I felt like I was going crazy with my suspicions & worry & fear for the future. When he finally moved out 6 months later…the sense of relief was palpable. I’ve not looked back since. Limbo land is very difficult – I encourage you, as CL has said, to think about what YOU want. At the end of the day – if he does everything right, is this relationship still worth saving? Only you can answer that.

    • I agree!

      A remorseful WS would realize that now is not the time to go off by himself, and never even asked the question. He would have just told family member himself “sorry, but I’m going to pass this year, I want to spend time with my wife and kids. You have fun!”

      That is owning his own shit and considering the feelings of others, instead of the usual selfish WS “me, me, me” thought patterns.

    • YES! Very familiar. Now, just throw in his actually mommy to add the triangulation element and you’ve got it!

  • Ugh Ugh Ugh. Triggers. First, my DDay/separation was around this time of year. Second, the “Can I go on this trip?” thing is EXACTLY the kind of thing the X did to me all through the marriage and still does pertaining to the kids now, and it makes twitchy.

    It’s so manipulative, because (at least with my ex) it’s a statement of fact, that he IS going to do it, and by telling me, he wants me to be OK with it. And if I have any sort of objection to his plan, even if it is reasonable and has to do with reality, then I’m being unreasonable and controlling. It’s a way of controlling someone or setting yourself up to be the poor little special sausage.

    That right there would make me want to tell CLL to rethink things, let alone everything else she’s mentioned. He wanted you to be OK with him going on the trip (and like Chump Lady, I too am suspicious if it is really with the relative or REALLY with the OW.) He wasn’t checking in with you to make sure you two didn’t already have plans, or if it was financially feasible at the moment, or given the circumstances, if you were just OK to be left alone. He just wanted you to be OK with him going.

      • One year ago today I said no more. Decide. All in and things change or get out. He said, “we have no future together.” Did he do me a favor? Yes, yes, he did. I am better off without him. But it still hurts. How we chumps survive this shit is a miracle.

        BTW he and the tramp have been “temporarily” living together since I kicked him out in May. Proof positive that the promises and faux remorse and tears and declarations of, “this isn’t me; this isn’t the man I want to be,” are one giant, final mindfuck.

  • “Honestly, maybe it boils down to how the affair has changed me: weary, untrusting, doubtful and just plain disappointed.”

    Please look at your statement again. I think you will find your answer in your own words. There is nothing your husband can do to change the pain he has already caused you. If you are like me, even hearing “I”m sorry” will get very old because it will never erase the pain that you feel. You are a changed person. His affair has forever altered your life story. It is now up to you to decide how your story will unfold. Why allow someone who has shown you how deceitful and untrustworthy he can be have another moment in your story? Wishing you all the best on your journey.

  • CLL,

    Transformers? Unicorns? Sounds like your marriage is a never ending hell of bad summer blockbusters by Jerry Bruckheimer!

    Kidding aside – I honestly think you are more “Breaking Bad’ than either of the other movies. You are creating your own baby blue hopium and you still like it. You haven’t hit rock bottom, in spite of all that you’ve endured. You sound muddled as to your direction and feelings regarding him. And I think – only my opinion – that you are secretly hoping that your the alien monster that you see as having taken over your wonderful husband’s body will somehow disappear and your husband – and your life – will magically reappear. I know that movie – I lived it for a LONG time myself.

    You are setting yourself up if you keep letting him play that odius mindfuck game “Mommy Dearest”. Mine did that ALL the time – when we’d discuss how to make things go more smoothly and be more considerate with each other’s feelings – he’s use the “mommy may I” approach on everything. It’s a Kobayashi Maru – a true “no win” scenario. (Sorry – my inner Trek nerd is showing) You will look bad either way – to him or to yourself or to both. And it is one of the cheater’s most effective tools – our own guilt and desire NOT to mother our spouse. They play that for their purposes to perfection.

    What you wanted when he asked about the holiday was for him not to WANT to go -to arrive at the right answer without being prompted as to your feelings. I hate to tell you – but cheaters/narcissists will always choose what THEY want. Always. And if they are forced to choose otherwise – by guilt or fear of your reaction – they resent YOU as the thing keeping them from happiness.

    You need to decide when you’ve had enough of these reconciliation sequels. I suspect you have not at this point – and are asking Chump Lady and Chump nation to nudge you toward it. No can do – hopium is a tough drug and at the end the addict has to decide when they just don’t want it anymore. When you reach that point – you’ll know. It might be something he does – it might be something you realize for yourself. But at some point you’ll let go and see that there is more for you in life than sitting through this sad old plotline with this one bad actor. Best of luck – stay strong!

    • CLL, I totally agree with Char. I was where you were, torn by indecision about whether STXH could or was actually changing. When enough is enough for you, you will know it. Sometimes you need to give yourself a little push or trick yourself into it, though.

      For me, I moved out to get space and perspective, telling myself that I wasn’t making any permanent decisions. After a few months living alone, I got the space and perspective, and it became clear to me that I was in a totally toxic and unfixable situation. My decisions were much easier then.

      I’m pretty sure that I knew all along when I moved out that it was over, but my mind needed the little pacifer of thinking that I hadn’t made any irrevocable steps, I could always go back. I think getting some space and distance from him, living apart if possible, could really help you clear your head.

  • A genuine unicorn is someone as CL describes in my opinion. You can’t have effective change without fully owning past wrong-doing. The entitlement must be addressed as the cancer and the lies feeding it must be dismantled. Without owning the wrong-doing fully, the lies are still in place as I see it.

    CCL, why not call him out on the mother/child dynamic explicitly? E.g. “I am not your mother. However, I feel going on this trip would be insensitive to me and damaging to our marriage at this point considering what has happened. You are free to choose what to do, but if you choose to go, it will hurt me and tell me that you do not truly value saving our marriage.”

    It is good to own our own feelings. If he makes the “family member’s” feelings more important than you, that is a major red flag. Wife or husband’s feelings ought to matter more than ANY family member’s feelings (assuming it is not the OW, here). That’s my two cents.

    • It’s logical, well thought out and you’d think it would work…but it won’t – see Lilybart’s post above as to why. No matter how rationally put – you cannot beat them at the Mommy game.

      • Char,

        It’s not about beating them at the game or even playing it. As I see it, you are strengthening your own agency by owning your emotions and making them explicit. Likely, you will be called the bad guy no matter what. However, YOU will know what you feel and that you made it clear. That way when they try to mess with your head, YOU will know the truth and that will set you free (i.e. you told him/her specifically what you would feel and how you saw the action). Power comes in knowing and owning your feelings. You don’t control their reactions but you do control you.

        • Agreeing with DM and LB. It is a no win and you should recognize that, but you also have to live with yourself and the regrets or no regrets of how you handled the situation. “……..owning your emotions and making them explicit.” At least you will be the one with integrity.

          My oldest and I got a backlash from x shortly after dday when oldest called x to tell him that he didn’t have any integrity. Of course, I was blamed for that and told that I was coaching. Nope – not gonna own that. Thank you karate for drilling core value words into my children’s heads with kicks, punches, and blocks to go with them.
          INTEGRITY!: Choosing right over wrong! Always! INTEGRITY!

        • i agree with this. i hate the “if you loved me you would know what i want” game. and that is exactly how i see the whole “it is not my decision to make”. Who cares what the reason why, or even how he asked her. the thing is he did ask her and instead of saying what she really felt, or owning up to what she really wanted. she tried to TEST him by saying it is not her decision, and then get mad because he did not make the decision she WANTED him to make.

          in my opinion, she did not give him enough information to make a good decision. basically saying “i dont care what you do” because well, it is not her decision to make. SINCE WHEN does a spouse asking you about plans, make it NOT her decision to make. yes, he SHOULD have figured out that she didnt want him to go because they were just starting to work on fixing their marriage after a really bad thing happened. i didnt catch the whole mommy dearest thing out of it but i guess i am one of those people who when asked something like this i would have said what i really wanted to happen, why it would bother/hurt me, and leave it as its your decision to make. THEN if he still choices to go after having ALL the information, you know you are fucked because he doesnt care.

          and please tell me that your “specials and hard” days are NOT your freaking monthly menstrual cycle. if it is, then what is it that you want him to SAY about that. is there ANY right answer for that? i actually prefer my spouse NOT to say anything if at all possible. i mean if you complain you are having cramps, what do you want him to do? if your menstrual really knocks you out and you are in a fetal position laying on the bed, again what is it that you would want him to do? some if not most men are uncomfortable by our monthly bleeding. if you want him to say or act a certain way then you better tell him what it is that you want him to do.

  • And who knows if it’s even ‘counseling’ that he’s going to, alone. I wouldn’t trust this guy to go anywhere alone! Maybe says he’s going to counseling and then meets OW.
    Also, I agree that it’s the ‘mommy’ role when she says ‘do what you want (about trip) and then gets upset when he doesn’t make the ‘right’ choice. I agree with Chump Lady: “Hell, no! Don’t want you to go!” At least ONE of them can be honest…and it better be her, cause it aint him.

  • Chump Loving Life, I thought I was seeing unicorns too. Self doubt creeps in and makes me think unicorns are traipsing through my yard. They are so beautiful and beguiling with the light of the moon shining down on them. I go out to find them because I so very much want such a beautiful, albeit elusive, creature. The only thing that happens though, is I step in their steaming piles of shit. Shit is real, unicorns are not.

  • Something to bear in mind, CLL: even if your spouse is a truly remorseful cheater, that doesn’t mean you are obligated to reconcile, or that reconciliation would be healthy for either of you. Whatever you have after your D-days, it will not be what you might have had without cheating. As says asks, is that what YOU want?

    Unicorns are impressive, but they’re kind of weird. A horse with a HORN on its head? Really? That’s a horse that’s part rhinoceros, you know. Or part narwhal or triceratops.

    Call me dull, but I prefer a horse. If you’re that kind of person, reconciliation might not be for you, even if your spouse says and does all the right thing, all of the time (not just 95% of the time).

    One more thing to consider: character is not about what you do MOST of the time. It’s about what you do in that little sliver of time that is the most difficult. So, no, 95% doesn’t impress me. As a wise old basketball coach who once stated it, “That’s about as useless as six days of clean living.” How many of our cheaters defended themselves by explaining how there are 24 hours in a day and seven days a week so they were only actually screwing their APs a small percentage of the time?

      • My mother’s response, when she heard that STBXH was cheating, was to wonder when he had time. I told her that is absolutely astounding how very little time it takes.

        Her other response was that for a man who has so little time in the first place, that he carves out even a few minutes here and there for Schmoopie means that he’s stealing time from his marriage.

        Mom has never read CL, but she sure gets it. I <3 Mom.

    • i would love to believe in happily ever afters. unfortunately, it never works out. i did soOOOoo many things, compromised my morals and values, forgave all sorts of bad behavior in the name of marriage. because i wanted my marriage to work, because i thought he wanted the marriage to work and we had a common goal to reach. only years, and years later finding out that he has no goal. like NONE at all. no goal in his life at all, nothing, just to drink as much alcohol as possible and do as little as possible to be happy.

      it took me forever to figure that we do not want the same things out of life and even longer still thinking our marriage actually meant something. i was wrong. now i am struggling with how to move on from it. hope kills.

  • Why do you want a man who cheated on you, lied to you, lied to his children, manipulates you, lessens you? Do you know what congruency is? It means that words and actions match. Example: you step on your child’s foot. If you say you are sorry and put your arms around him he gets it because your words and actions match. If you just walked on by and casually said, “Sorry.” He would get that message.
    By your words and body language he knew you did not want him going on that trip. He set you up, you walked into the game, stumbled thru the mind fuckery, he went on the trip. That shows he has little respect for you. Years ago Dr. James Dobson wrote that you cannot truly love a person you do not respect. You might be asking too little of both of you. You need strong boundaries and he needs congruency. Until you have both you will live in this limbo.

  • I assume your sign off “Chump Loving Life” was sarcasm, clearly you are not loving your life.

    I stand by my stance that the only time a Unicorn is at all possible is if the cheater comes clean before the spouse is aware he is cheating. If the cheater has enough integrity that he actually realizes ON HIS OWN that what he is doing sucks and realizes ON HIS OWN that he is fucking up and wants to stay with his spouse. If the cheater ON HIS OWN stops cheating and does whatever is needed to make it right. Well, then, you might, maybe, have a Unicorn.

    If you busted him and only then he is remorseful, fuck it, game over.

    PS: my ex went to therapy after he realized I thought he should, it was bullshit. All he was doing was talking to the therapist for 50 minutes a week. I found his work book when all the shit went down, he’d filled out exactly one exercise, the first one that took all of 5 minutes. See, he didn’t go to therapy ON HIS OWN, he went so I would think he was making an effort. Just like your husband couldn’t decide ON HIS OWN that skipping that yearly trip right now was important to working on your marriage. You simply CAN NOT teach another person how to have empathy and integrity.

    • Yes and, it’s impossible for us to know what level of awful his affair was. Was it a one night stand? Was it a year long affair with a business colleague? All cheating is bad and unacceptable, but I’d think the chances of being remorseful and forgiven really can only apply to a fling or short term affair.

      I can’t help but feel this guy will throw in the towel simply because it’s too much work to behave. The poor CLL will have yet another slap in the face.

      • I know someone who was told this by their cheating ex, that it was ‘too hard and too much work to try to make things right’. So it was easier for him to go off with someone else and get a ‘fresh start’ and ‘clean slate’. Which he is sure to sully at some point all over again.

  • I just had to chime in on this one. CL, I read you blog every day. It helps me feel like I am getting a dose of reality with which to evaluate my situation. I just want to say a few points, a) I am still with my husband, b) he has given me a post-nup with infidelity clause, c) polygraph tests passed, d) counseling, e) full acceptance and remorse for his wrong doing, his hurtful actions, behaviors, etc., e) fully focusing on conquering his admitted addiction to self-pity and entitlement attitude, and on and on. He even talked with our children to apologize to them as well, telling them that he acted as a selfish boy, not as a man should act and that he is going to do everything in his power to be the father and husband that we deserve and that he so woefully failed to give us before. He had to go on a TDY for work. He arranged for his own polygraph at the end of the TDY just to reassure me. He would NEVER go away without me by choice, he just wouldn’t, he wouldn’t even ask.

    Ok, so right, it would appear that I have all the elements of true remorse. I do believe he is committed to change. And, yet, I am still in pain. I still have lost what I thought was my life. I still have trust issues. I still have nightmares. For me, I’ve decided to try. If he fucks it up, the infidelity clause of the post-nup is quite generous. If he truly changes, then my boys have the father that they are currently loving and adoring and need and I have the husband that he should have always been. And, yet, still the pain, the nightmares. I don’t know if those would go away if I left though, anyway. So, I am trying. My point is, though, that you should know that even if he is truly a unicorn 100% of the time, it does NOT make the pain go away, nor the nightmares stop. It just doesn’t.

    • Never said it did, TL. I often make the point, nomar did just above, that you’re never obligated to reconcile. The cheater broke the marriage. Everything that comes next is a gift. Just because it’s a unicorn, doesn’t mean you have to stay married to it. I always come back to — is this relationship acceptable to YOU? And everyone has to wrestle with that for themselves.

    • Thanks for this post TigerLily. I have often wondered if everything had gone the unicorn way, where would my emotions be? Your comments are very helpful.

      • Linda,

        I’m glad it was helpful. I think it is important to recognize that no path is an easy path. And, those holding on to hopium (myself included) need to be realistic and understand the ramifications of the possible outcomes. That the “best case scenario” that can exist in reconciliation is still fraught with struggle. I do hope to overcome the pain, but I will not take any meds to do so. I will not dumb down my reality. I know my boundaries, I know my reality and all I can do is make the best choice I can for me and my children based on those things. That is all any of us can do, right?

    • TigerLily, hoping it gets better with time. That’s one advantage of separation. It’s easier for the past to be the past.

    • Thank you for your post, Tiger Lily. I want to second what you have said here: A “unicorn” does not mean everything is easy. I, too, am attempting reconciliation, and I, too, have a “unicorn.”

      He is remorseful, he goes to therapy, he did the post-nup with the infidelity clause, and he even gave me a pile of cash (which he had to work two jobs to secure, because we are not wealthy at all) that I get to hang on to and use for any purpose I see fit (i.e., attorney’s fees, support for me and my two kids for a few months if I decide he needs to go). He has checked every item on the Genuine Remorse list and then some. He has gone to great lengths to make me feel secure, and to make amends.

      Having said that, this is not the end-all, be-all of reconciliation. It does not mean everything is sunshine and kittens. Reconciliation is still a long, hard road, as far as I’m concerned. There are still triggers, I still have sad days, I still have a maelstrom of emotions surrounding the affair and our marriage – and he still occasionally bumbles the way he handles these things. We take steps forward and steps backward. The lows are still very low.

      You are absolutely right to point out that a unicorn (if it does exist) is NOT a magic fix. I would say that a unicorn is only the starting block in the race. If a unicorn exists, it does not mean everything will be fine, and it does not mean the race is won. It only means that the race *might* be worth running for a while to see where it goes. All any of us can do is to make the decision whether or not to run that race based on healthy boundaries, self-love, our own best interests, and the best interests of our children.

      I would also say that I think leaving the cheater is the more simple path to healing. Notice I didn’t say “easy!” I said “simple,” as in straightforward. Reconciliation is really bumpy and twisty. On top of that, there are hard truths to face – such as the truth that even a unicorn does not guarantee that reconciliation will ultimately be worth it.

      And, as Chump Lady says, no one is owed reconciliation. Not even the Most Magical Unicorn in All of Unicornland is owed that 🙂

      Leaving the cheater to gain a (different) life is a perfectly reasonable, perfectly valid, perfectly healthy thing to do, even if the cheater is the King of the Unicorns.

      • LMM,

        I must admit, I am very glad to see someone attempting reconciliation, but from a similar viewpoint. Recognizing boundaries, facing reality and making choices based on those constructs, realizing that these are choices to be made.

        If attempting this route, the first and foremost thing must be that actions and words match. I see so many attempting reconciliation, who want to overlook when words and actions still do not match. I think it is why I come to ChumpLady. I like the dose of reality to make sure that I am holding my marriage to my standard, my boundary – actions and words match ALWAYS. I agree showing “real” remorse is only the starting point, the very very very beginning point. Warmly, TL

        • There are a few of us here at Chump Nation who are trying to see if reconciliation might work. I too have a husband who has done a lot of work in word and deed to express his remorse, and apologize and reconnect with me and with our children. We are now 3 years post DDay, and while it is not the searing pain it once was, I can’t say that I’m at meh about the affair either. Not even close. I think it takes longer to get there when, as someone above noted, the past is not even the past. It’s true that we BOTH have changed. Right now I see our marriage as a shattered dish that has been repaired. The cracks are still visible and there are a few pieces missing here and there, but you can still use it. There are days when I am glad that the dish is still useable and functions exactly as a dish should, and there are others where I mourn the cracks and missing pieces.

          • Your broken plate analogy is perfect, Still a Chump. I’m four years out, still with my seemingly remorseful cheater, and I feel the same way you do.

    • TL, the first time my (now) ex cheated he did everything right after I caught him and the pain does go away, the trust returns. You do get past it. The problem in my case is that 10 years later I caught him cheating again. That is the reason I have such a strong stance against reconciliation unless the cheater confesses rather than being caught. However, I think what your husband has done with the postnup shows true commitment. The poly? Not so much, sounds more like grand standing, there is a reason they are not admissible in court. If you are the one insisting on the poly fine. If he’s doing it himself, I’m paranoid it’s a easy way to fool you.

      • Dat,

        I am far more worried about those spouses that refuse to take them, that speaks volumes to me. It is one tool among many, one resource among many. I don’t want to be a detective on a daily basis. This allows me not to be. He knows what that means to me, and follows suit. That is what it is, whatever that is worth.


    • Tiger Lily, I would never question anyone’s decision but every time I hear about polygraph tests I sort of freak out, because I cannot imagine living in a marriage where I felt that I needed to polygraph my spouse. I was advised doing this at the very beginning after dday I simply said no way.

      I don’t know how it’s going to end up for you but I’m glad that at least you’ll know that the father of your children gave enough of a shit to try to make things right and that he’ll hopefully be the dad your children need and deserve.

      • Nord,

        Thank you. I do appreciate what you are saying. If one chooses the path of reconciliation, it seems near impossible to do without having some mechanism of safety. If you choose reconciliation, then (in my mind) you choose a life of safety mechanisms to coincide with the trust building process. I see no way around this.

        Each of us must choose what this means to them. To me, it does NOT mean playing detective, having the onus on me to prove my cheater is no longer a cheater. I won’t do it. This is not to say that I don’t have complete access to everything, I do. But, I also know that if he really wanted to, there are ways around it and I am not playing that game. The onus is on him. Polygraph is just one of the ways that this plays out. It was my choice to try to reconcile or not. He knows it and I know it. I am trying, but yes, it does require some mechanisms for my safety to do so.

        • I too have chosen reconciliation, and I agree with the comments made by TL and the other posters regarding the subject. It’s not simple, but then again none of the choices after cheating are.

          The pain is (mostly) gone. What helped me the most was simply realizing that cheating was my wife’s deliberate choice. So it’s up to her to change her behavior. If she does, our marriage and family will probably work. If she doesn’t, I will divorce her. It’s the flipside of the “You’re not the boss of me” attitude cheaters employ. Well, you’re right. I am not the boss of you, so fix yourself or the marriage is over.

          The other thing that has happened in reconciliation is that all the bullshit that went on during the affair is gone (lying, gaslighting, manipulating, blame-shifting). It’s crystal clear where the responsibility lies and it is not with me. In my own opinion, in the aftermath, whether reconciled or divorced, I would rather have my course of conduct than hers.

          Finally, even in reconciliation, you just decide to move forward in life, to value yourself and those you love. This shit, even if it happens again, and as painful as it may be, will be overcome.

  • My ex did this all the time. He could never turn down something he wanted. I never made him choose, never voiced how I felt. Just let him go. His choices invariably led to his affair. “It just happened.” But I know better. I look back on twenty years of mindfuck and gaslighting and playing a role I did not want. Cheaters are always going to put themselves first. Above spouses, children, financial security. Every day my ex made small decisions that tore our marriage apart. Look really hard at your life, CLL, there are patterns to behavior. My ex always bailed when life reared its ugly head. Looking back his choices always disappointed me because they were WHO he IS.

    • Drew, you are so right and the saddest thing is that my kids see this in their father. They KNOW that he will always put himself and his wants and needs first. And he will put whomever is his chosen enabler second. And anyone who questions him or calls him on his shit? They will be treated like crap.

      It’s sad and pathetic and I feel for my kids as they struggle to deal with the fact that they’ve got kind of a loser for a father.

      • Yes, Nord, my children, all in their early twenties, are still in shock. Walking out on your financial responsibilities to your family resonates for years. My eldest was a junior at a very expensive private college thousands of miles away when her father ditched us. She scrambled for two years and finished her degree. I can only imagine how that mindfuck has influenced her life. And that is only one of three. I hate what these monsters do to their children. And it is a struggle. One thing though my first always wants me to come East for our big holiday. She no longer wants to deal with her father or his relatives or his drama on what is to her a celebration of family.

  • Chump Lady,

    Sorry, if it wasn’t clear. I’m not the best writer. I meant to really address the main point to CLL. To point out that even if she does have a real unicorn, it is not the end all, be all. She shouldn’t think that a real unicorn, if it does exist, is a magic fix. It just is not. And, I hoped that hearing that, knowing that might be helpful to her. I know you know that!


    • No worries, TL. I’m so sorry for your continued pain. If you’re getting everything you’re supposed to get, remorse vs. the naugahyde sort, as you rightly point out, it’s still not a magic balm that makes it all the pain go away.

  • If you are finding the “just leave the marriage because it is making you feel awful” choice hard to make, let me assure you of one thing: getting away from this man will have a positive effect on your health. Physical and mental. You sound as though all your energy and emotion are being used up just second-guessing him. That is not a loving situation.

    I watched my mother “stay for the kids” although all of us urged her to leave. She stayed, eternally wishing for the unicorn, and when she was diagnosed with the cancer that eventually killed her (at age 65) what did cheating father do? Just went out and started another affair, while she was dying in the hospital.

    Setting an example for your daughters is in fact important. And you are right that once a partner breaks the trust by cheating, it changes you forever. Cheaters don’t seem to get that part…because you are the same chump they’ve always fooled and you don’t look any different to them. But I bet he looks very different to you now you know the real him.

    Cut yourself a good deal and go for mental health. If you’ve been a year in therapy and still have doubts then the only person benefitting is the one sending the invoice. Your daughters will admire your choices and the ole Cheater can figure out how to relate to them without you doing the supporting role.

  • CLL –

    If you want to continue down the reconciliation road. Continue. But now it’s time for YOU to be honest with yourself.

    If you feel ANY resentment for something that is said, done or asked then address those feelings immediately. NO EXCEPTIONS.

    Create boundaries. If you feel that by creating a boundary it may be used against you, you will have resentment. Address it.

    Keep this emotion on your shoulder to gauge yourself with your ex-cheater. If you feel it, something is rotten in the relationship.

    You need to be honest with yourself at all costs. Cost is the cheater going back to his old ways. If he is in it for the long hall he will do whatever it takes to keep his marriage in tact. You will not feel resentment being honest with yourself if he leaves. This will make the attempted reconciliation NOT a waste of your time but a learning experience about who YOU are.

    We will be here. You can come back to us with your tail between your legs or your head held high if it doesn’t work out. We won’t judge. You will be welcomed and have a ton of love.

    Personally, I hope we never hear from you again.

  • Your children’s as well as your pain is beginning to be too much of a burden for him. I think you said it’s been a year? Ya this isn’t going to happen for you. He is too selfish to make things right and to make you happy. It doesn’t fit into his personality. I tried this shit with my ex wife for 4 years. The first year into reconciliation was like year 4. Time to call it what it is. This is a DIVORCE!

  • CLL, as usual Chump Lady has covered the essential bases. What I can add is this: As I read your letter, I didn’t see how your life had changed. Just how he has changed some behaviors and how you feel about that. Even if you don’t leave your husband, or you don’t leave him now, you can take on the whole “gain a life” transformation. You spent a long time in a marriage in which one party, your husband, was clearly not an adult and essentially failed as a husband and a father. I would suggest that continuing to put major amounts of energy into that marriage, for now, is a mistake. You have laid out minimum basic requirements as to fidelity, counseling, etc. Do you have your financial and employment ducks in a row? As a couple, are you operating with an eye on that fact that the marriage might fail, in terms of how you allocate financial resources? More important, are you falling in love with your own life? You? Who do you want to be or do in five years or ten? How strong and healthy are your friendships? How is your health? What makes you happy? If you pull your energy into transforming yourself, into your own growth and happiness as an individual, it’s likely that you will know what to do with your marriage. So often, the chump is idling in “codependent mode,” spackling and reacting and avoiding the blows of emotional and sometimes physical abuse. Kick yourself into full gear and see if your husband can tolerate a happy, fulfilled, energetic, independent woman.

    Second thing: Do whatever you need to do to learn how not to get into the “Parent/Child” mode with your husband. That might mean some individual counseling to talk about and role play the moments where you get sucked into being Mommy to him. I personally left a marriage (not to a cheater) because there is really nothing in a marriage for me if the partner over 50 is not a grown man, emotionally, socially, professionally and psychologically. That’s not to say he has to be perfect–just a grown-up, equal partner. Both of these changes don’t start with him. They start with you. And whatever you choose in the future, they will stand you in good stead, speaking from my own experience. Good luck! You deserve a great big happy life. Go for it.

    • Yes, being in a relationship where both parties bring their whole best grown up selves would be a drastic improvement over the relationship I had with my entitled lying self absorbed cheating ex.

  • I would use the free weekend to prepare to leave the marriage, gather documents, etc., even if undecided what to do. Be prepared, It is easier to be prepared to go even if you decide to stay.

  • Just because someone expresses remorse and attempts to make good on bad does not mean you owe them anything. That’s nice he giving it a good college try, but you don’t owe him forgiveness or reconciliation. You are trying to convince yourself– Stop trying to convince yourself and see what you really see. You are under no obligation to accept what he is offering. He broke the marriage and it is not your responsibility to fix it. Stop trying to let him off the hook; let yourself off the hook.

  • Chump lady’s take: “He’s very quick to cloak himself in righteousness at your expense”

    Bright red flag. Highly, highly manipulative. The self-righteous martyr is a BIG problem. “Everything I do, I do for you”. Poor sausage – no one understands how giving and understanding I am . Hah – not so much. Behind the scenes, it’s pretty much: “Everything I do, I do to please myself”.

    It’s all about impression management.

    • Yeah, my ex tried that crap. ‘I gave you so much Nord and you never appreciated it’. So of course he had to cheat. Over and over again. And while he provided for us nicely he didn’t do it alone and he wasn’t the martyr he liked to portray himself as.

      If I ever hear that shit again I will run like the wind.

  • Reading this letter, it just sounds like a lot of work on the part of the person who did nothing wrong. The entire situation just sounds exhausting!

    I don’t have anything of value to add except that this reminds me of the Maya Angelou quote: “If a person shows who they are, believe them the first time.”

    And CL’s response piggy backs that quote–believe who this person is, and from there, is that acceptable to you? Only you know the answer.

    All the best to you, whichever path you may take.

  • I think that 99% of the time, it’s best to divorce after infidelity. My two reasons for that:

    1. True reconciliation requires extreme levels of self-reflection, humility, remorse, selflessness and gratitude on the part of the cheater, to say nothing of maturity and self control. But by lying and cheating, the cheater has already shown that they do NOT possess those qualities, so expecting them to suddenly be able to act like a person of integrity makes about as much sense as expecting your dog to balance your checkbook. It’s just not going to happen because it is beyond the dog’s capabilities and not in the dog’s nature, no matter how much you might wish otherwise.

    2. I think a great deal of the time, reconciliation puts BOTH spouses in ugly positions that are not sustainable long term. For the cheater — AND UNDERSTAND THAT I AM NOT SAYING THE CHEATER DOES NOT DESERVE THIS — it means spending a very long time, potentially the rest of their life, acting like a POS who barely deserves to still have their spouse. Not many people are going to live like that for long. For the betrayed spouse, it means a very long time, potentially the rest of their life, as marriage police, as the person with “moral superiority”, as the person who gets to “rub the face” so to speak, of the cheater in their wrong doing and demand compensation. While the cheater IS a POS, in my opinion, I don’t think that whole situation is a very healthy mind frame or way to live for the betrayed spouse.

    On a final note, CLL, I see the situation with your husband asking to go on that trip as passive aggression on your part. You write that this is a yearly trip, so apparently you have not had a problem with it in the past. He asked if he could go this year, you told him to make the choice, he made a choice to go, and then you punished him for choosing wrong. If you didn’t want him to go, you should have simply told him that this year, you needed him to stay home. In fact, this is an example of what I’m talking about in my reason #2 for not reconciling.

    I hope all this made some sense, it doesn’t seem the caffeine is working yet.

  • Have to throw in my 2 cents too.

    Seems to me that one of the most important unspoken premises of a marriage is that your spouse comes first. In a normal non-abusive marriage there is the trust that your spouse will always put your interests first because they love you and want to see you happy. It hurts them to see you unhappy. In a secure, trusting relationship it is safe to do that because you know that you can also do that for your spouse and trust that you will not be taken advantage of.

    Bottom line Honey, he has failed to put you first. After all that pain HE CAUSED YOU he not only is refusing to put you first, he is manipulating, gaslighting, and mind fucking. Worse he is not really taking responsibility because he is refusing to comfort you when you are in pain caused by HIS ACTIONS. He is saying clearly that your feelings don’t count with him, and he is unwilling to do the hard work of taking responsibility for the pain HE CAUSED to make that pain right with you. If he won’t even take the time to comfort you, Honey, he is not really there for you at all. It’s a clear message. He is not willing to do the right thing with respect to your feelings. On the surface it looks good, but at the center it is rotten with deceit. He is just going through the motions so it looks good.

    A hallmark of being involved with these guys is that we get to a point where we make our needs so small that we practically disappear. We learn to live with emotional starvation.

    Honey, why are you willing to settle for so little? you deserve so much better.

    • Tessie, this is really good advice. I remember by the time my husband left my needs were so small. I even remember telling him “all I ask is for us to go to dinner, or see a movie occasionally, and even that is too much of a demand for you!” What I failed to see at the time was why that was enough for me.

      • Geez, Lyn!!! There is a chump script too. Word for word, except I added ‘been given some flowers sometime, and have my hand held’.

        I told him 4 times how important flowers were to me, in ‘reconciliation’. He still couldn’t be bothered.

      • Yes, near the end of my marriage, before I knew there was another woman, I begged my husband to just spend one night a week at home with me. He refused so I knew our marriage was in trouble. But I just went numb. In the end he told me to leave when I should have run years ago.

        • Moving Liquid, I agree that I also went numb. Numb and depressed! I guess our minds shut down to protect us from the truth. I used to describe the depression that came over me like a very heavy blanket that physically weighed my shoulders down. Since the divorce was final, my depression is gone. My counselor kept telling me that once I got through the grief I’d probably be happier than I ever had been. Turns out she was right. I still feel a little down when a trigger hits, but I get over it pretty quickly. It feels good to be in control of my own life.

  • The true question that needs addressing is CAN YOU change back to the person you were before Dday. Can you feel comfortable when he leaves the house that he is where he said he would be. Can you feel comfortable not checking phone records, Internet histories, and believing in his words. Can you stop your skin from crawling when you have flashbacks of the discovery that your life that you knew was selfishly taken away from you, by the person who was suppose to be your protector and best friend? I know I could not. I tried reconciliation and it did not make me feel comfortable or secure. He SAID he was remorseful. He SAID that he wanted our marriage to survive. He said I was the love of his life. Seriously? But like you, when I had “my days” he would distance himself. I felt no comfort or reassurance when I laid in bed sobbing and he was in the other room, turning up the volume on the tv in order to drown out the sounds of my pain. He thought I needed/ wanted that time alone; huh? He always would defer to me regarding plans and comment that I am the one in charge. Again seriously? I had doubts & a lot of them. It was making me literally insane. Finally, I came to the conclusion that I no longer wanted to second guess everything. I no longer wanted to play FBI agent (which was a nickname he gave me). I no longer wanted the uneasiness that was constantly lurking in the shadows. I wanted peace. Hell – I DESERVED peace. I wanted the old ME back. I came to the realization, it was not him that needed to change; but rather me. I would rather live with the uncertainty of my future without him, then live in a tattered marriage clouded with uncertainty. I wish you luck. And remember ultimately you deserve peace.

    • I should have known my husband was having an affair when I told him I was so lonely I cried myself to sleep at night and all he did was give me a cold look. A normal husband would have put his arms around me and asked how I felt, how he could help, but mine just walked out of the room. In looking back at that incident, I realize he was glad I was feeling lonely and miserable because he wanted me to leave, but at the time I took his silence to mean that I was the one with the problem. When he finally told me he wanted out of our marriage he kept saying it was “because “you’re unhappy.” It felt like someone was beating me and then saying they had to leave because I was crying. The manipulation was really crazy making!

      • Oh God Lyn. They really are nasty pieces of shit aren’t they? I totally understand what you mean about the crazy-making manipulation / emotional abuse. Once D-Day happened horrorbag installed a revolving door to the house and one of his many reasons for leaving (again) was because I ‘looked sad’ – he’d, by that time, trained me not to mention ‘his mistake’ – by walking out should I have the gall to bring the subject up (I was a mess and hadn’t found Chump Lady, had never heard of narcissists, had never been cheated on before and – up to D-Day – was being told daily I was the love of his life, he’d never been so happy). Massive learning curve on a subject I’d had no ruddy interest in! He did actually step over my sobbing body en route to the fridge. I named that abuse to him – earned me a week of silent treatment and a stern letter telling me I was a horrible person for implying he was abusive!

        Oh God, how I wish for a shotgun, sniper-training and a cast iron immunity from prosecution!

        (I’ll be back to plain Jayne soon – I promise – just dining on shit sandwiches at the moment and not happy about it)!

      • Lyn, I hear you loud and clear. My husband ultimately blamed my anxiety and nervousness for the demise of our marriage. But he left out the part where he used every penny I had, refused to work for anyone, and we were about to be homeless. Legitimate reasons for a reasonable person to be fucking anxious. Doesn’t really matter though, he was already fucking someone else.

        • Mine blamed my emotional health as well. However, this didn’t stop him from working too much, drinking too much and screwing around.

          Now that he’s gone my emotional health has never been better. I have tough days but they aren’t nearly as tough as when he was here.

      • Ah, yes, 2 instances stand out in my marriage:
        a) I agonized about whether or not to accept a job, cried– great for me, not for him
        b) several times I cried in our bedroom saying I knew I was angry and bitter about my mother living with us, I did not want it to destroy marriage ,etc.

        He sat there and just looked at me both times: no comfort, etc.
        A truly caring person would have offered comfort, suggestions, etc (yes, you are angry and bitter, let me help you find a therapist)
        Now he uses the angry and bitter excuse to daughter for a reason the marriage ended (Your mother was angry and bitter with Grandma in the house, I tried to reach her , but could not, and realized over time I was no longer in love with her).

        Daughter fortunately is wise beyond her years.

    • Blindsided: I love this post. It is absolutely exactly how I felt.

      I’m happy I left and reclaimed my life, and have changed for ME. I no longer think or worry about what he’s doing or what could have happened. It didn’t work for me, I didn’t like who I was or my life, so even if he could have changed, it didn’t matter. The relationship was too “tattered” as you say for me to live in it any longer.

  • CLL,

    Just had a very depressing meeting with my solicitor, so probably not in the best head-space for giving careful, considered advice but if I could go back in time…..

    RUN! Don’t waste another single precious second – I remember the avoiding issues thing – (‘I want us to move on, it makes me really sad to have to think about how badly you thought of me’) – his way of exercising control.

    RUN! I remember the ‘and also that I probably needed a break’ – or something similar – (‘Yes, I want to save our marriage but I’m not moving back because you are enjoying your independence’! -WTF). At what point were you asked if you fancied a break? I know I told him that I was lonely and hated coming home to an empty house – but hey, forget that – suited him better to tell himself I was Miss (or should I say, in his head, Mrs Independent).

    RUN! Especially if you live in the UK – if you haven’t divorced within six months of finding out about the affair, you can’t use infidelity as ’cause’, as it’s deemed that if you stay chasing Unicorns beyond six months then you condone the affair. And please believe me – sticking around and trying to choke down those shit sandwiches earn you no kudos whatsoever. Doesn’t matter if you had a ‘perfect marriage’ up until the second you found out you didn’t – the divorce will all be about how ‘not perfect’ the marriage became in the aftermath of D-Day.

    I’m sorry, your husband isn’t my stbxh, but I swear, apart from actually marrying the con artist that was my nightmare, my next biggest mistake and biggest regret, was walking even one step down the reconciliation path.

    Tough day today. Believe me.

    • Jedi Hugs Jayne! It will feel better tomorrow. If it helps, my ex was so canny he started spending a night a week in our bed (no sex) after he’d moved out for 4 months “to work on his issues”. Turns out his lawyer told him if he didn’t spend some nights at “our” house, I could file for desertion…some people are quite manipulative and smart about it.

      • Thanks Datdamwuf 🙂

        UK law must be different – apparently desertion is only possible if he’d have relocated to another planet – not just moved to his sister’s spare house 🙁 Forget about leaving me penniless and struggling to maintain this soon to be repossessed house (his maxed out interest-only mortgage) – facing homelessness, without a single asset (including aforesaid house) and nothing to be done about it. I am so angry that this could be LEGALLY OK – WTF is wrong with the world!

        OK …. I’ll be OK … any minute now :-/

        • Hugs, Jayne, Dear, I too lost my beautiful home. Foreclosures are the thing when marital funds are being channeled into new lives and the OW. It’s amazing how much work our exes place into dissipating assets and fucking over their family’s hopes. Nothing I could do about my home but please let your court/lawyer know what’s happening especially if your ex makes a lot of money. Put things into writing. To banks and lien holder. Also once the house is sold you need to inform the owner of your readiness to move but that you will need money (moving expenses were $3000+ for me and that did not include moving the household furnishings!). In the US people qualify for this and the spouse who abandoned the property has no right to that payout. ((((Hugs))))

  • Oh, CLL, bless your bleeding heart. I know exactly, but exactly, what you are feeling. My H is just like yours. See this for what it is: my H thought because his *actions* were different, that he had changed. But when an opportunity arose for him to make the right decision, he always made the selfish one. I’m sure he could give you chapter and verse on all the choices he made with me in mind, but I assure, those choices cost him very little. Eight months after D-Day, he asked me (what am I, his mommy??) if he could attend something that was a bit of a tradition for him and some of his friends. Unlike you, I said loudly and clearly “NO”, because his douchey friends knew what was going on while I was still in the dark. You don’t have to be the amazing Carnack to figure out what he did.

    I told him outright that just because he changed his behavior, it didn’t mean he had changed his mindset or thinking. And that is where true remorse begins. You may want to read up on Narcissistic Personality Disorder. These leopards cannot change their spots. NPD is like skin color, eye color, and height.

    There are no unicorns. There are, however, jackasses with broom sticks tied to their foreheads.

  • This reminds me of when Tory Spelling told whatshischeatername that the decision to go back to Canada to film was his to make, and then she was floored when he decided to go.

    CLL, yes, you do owe it to your marriage and your daughters to see if the marriage can be saved and only you will know when you’ve put in enough time to make that decision. Keep in mind that at any time along the path he can turn to you and say, “I think we should separate” because it’s really hard work for him and he just may not be able to keep it up.

    Decide how much time you’re willing to live this way and don’t go beyond it. Otherwise you will waste 5, 10, or more years in a tense, unhappy marriage for what? So that you could go your separate ways then?

    My feelings just from the letter are that he is sorry. But whether he’s capable of doing the work, well, that is not at all clear. He may end up just wanting to take the easy road out. You’re in a tough spot, for sure. Keep us in the loop as far as how it goes.

  • CLL, it’s difficult to get back that feeling of trust you had before the cheating happened. IMO it’s virtually impossible. The most important thing to focus on is your own life. Make yourself as strong as possible, gather around friends and family, prepare yourself as much as you can for living life on your own. Try not to focus on him and what he does or doesn’t do. You can’t control him. Just focus on you. Decide what YOU want to live with, and what you don’t.

  • We also need to change:

    when his annual trip came up, now is the time to us back-burners like, forever, to say: no. This time, YOU stay at home, I am off to the Carribean.

    But we don’t. We are chumps.

  • Hi CLL:

    I think CL’s posts on true reconciliation and on whether it’s genuine or genuine imitation naugahyde remorse are apt.

    The other point is this. Even if he is 100% genuinely remorseful, you are under no obligation to reconcile. He broke the marriage when he cheated. That marriage is forever gone. What you’re exploring now is whether you can create a new marriage. He has to show you that he’s trustworthy and worthy of your respect. You have to be satisfied that you can trust and respect him enough to love him and stay married. He is under obligation to prove his trustworthiness to you. You are under no obligation to take him back.

    I think that we’ve had one successful reconciliation on this site. If I remember correctly, “Mike” said that he’d reconciled with his cheating wife. He arrived at the point where he realized that he controlled only him. He set boundaries for himself, not for his wife. One of those boundaries had to do with whether he was a person who was okay with having been cheated on. He can’t keep his wife from cheating, but how he deals with it is in his court. It isn’t for her to decide.

    It might be worth exploring where your boundaries are. Right now, it looks as if you’re focusing more on him. Think about where he is with respect to your boundaries. Is he crossing them? Does he cross them repeatedly? If so, how do you feel about that? Is this a deal breaker for you?

    Remember, your husband broke your marriage. You are giving him the gift of time to see if you can rebuild out of the ashes. The answer may be no. That doesn’t mean that he can’t be a good parent to the children. If he’s truly reformed, he’ll continue to be the involved parent he currently is. It just means that you can’t be married.

    Talk to your therapist. Figure out your boundaries. Consider whether you’re spackling. Then decide whether you’re better off with him or without him.

  • I love the wisdom of the contributors on this site. I also love the humor that helps us find relief, and the smack-in-your-face reality checks at times when needed.

    My advise to CLL is to stop looking so much at the unicorn and turn more inward. Get personal counseling – not marriage counseling. Get more educated on psychology and the issues that you speak of. Look to the widget on this site, and I would add some other books as well, like: Emotional Blackmail by Susan Forward. You are expecting to know who he is, but I think that you have not been introduced to your true self. I am not saying that it is an excuse for his behavior, but we all have issues. It’s way easier to point out what we see in others than to reflect on our own insides.

    Know who you have been, who you are right now, and who you want to be in the future. Then, decide if you want to stick with what you see around you or if you need to get out in order to live the life that you want and rid yourself of toxic sludge that is preventing you from having what you should.

    • In regards to “looking inward” (love that advice!), the book that I will forever say changed my life was Dr. George Simon’s “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing”. (Thank you CL for recommending it). It was such an eye-opener to see all the ways he was manipulating me and to actually have strategies on how to handle those manipulation tactics. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you do. I have one of those “nice guy”/covert agressive cheater-types so it was incredibly difficult to see through what he was doing but one thing that helped me is to start thinking “what if that was me? what if I cheated and desperately wanted my h to forgive me? how would I act?” And you know what, viewing it from that lens, he did NOTHING that would indicate he was genuinely remorseful but he sure talked a good game.

      • HappyXchump…thanks for response – I just ordered this book because I am dealing with a cheater who is a master manipulator! He is saying and doing all the right things and he is showing true remorse and taking full responsibility for his actions and blaming no one! And all of our friends and family just keep making comments about how much he has changed and what a great man he has become and the courage he has had to own up to his awful mistakes! And I just want to scream and say “don’t you see it, this is what he does, he knows what to do or say in any situation to look like the good guy!”
        I am just playing along for now because all our money disappeared during his affair and all the bills were WAY behind – so I’m getting everything in order – I still need a job and the lawyer fee…but I am slowly but surely making a way out and when he gets his divorce papers I don’t want to fall into his trap again – I don’t want him convincing me to stay because he is a changed man because I am having a hard time some days and I hope this book helps me to fight back because I am scared to death of starting over in a new life and I know he will fight the divorce….and all this has made me so physically sick and weak some days I don’t think I can go on and don’t know how much longer I can pretend but I just have no other options right now…believe me I have tried everything…it’s just going to be a long road for me as I am sure has been for others and I am so thankful for this website and all of you!

        • Dear somuchhurt,

          So sorry you are going through this. I think I’ve banged on enough for months now about the evil manipulations of my stbxh – and so many here have such awful tales of being mind fucked, it is truly hellish isn’t it? Hard to explain to people who, I guess like we did, took things at face value and believed the ‘show’ and the ‘words’ – not even knowing they have to look deeper, hell, not even knowing there is a ‘deeper’ to have to look for! (If that makes any sense at all). And it is so very draining, I know. At the very worst times of it all (around D-Day) when asked how I was, the very best I could say was ‘I breathe in, I breathe out’. At the time this sometimes felt like a real accomplishment, and not just the snarky, pithy comment it may have been received as. Despite the fact that I’ve had a hellish day eating shit sandwiches, I have to reassure you that it really does get easier. I can’t say you’ll ever forget it, nor can I say there will definitely come a day when it will lose the power to hurt / anger you (though Tracy assures us that the day will come … on a Tuesday, rumour has it)! but hang on in there! Keep dropping in here, marvel at the fact these people actually manage to function in society without having been tarred and feathered on a weekly basis, and draw the strength from your own indignation at having been treated so badly. If you need to keep quiet while you get your own things in order, then definitely do so, you’ll be smarter than I was, and I would advise everyone in the whole world to be smarter than I was!

          Looking forward to hearing you get stronger and mightier – I’m sure you will (be kind to yourself – you are just learning to walk, don’t expect to be able to run, just yet 🙂 ).

          Very Best Wishes,

          Jayne x

          • Thanks Jayne and I look back now and wonder why I didn’t see it sooner myself? The red flags and signs were there but so was all the good sparkly stuff so I guess that’s what I chose to focus on.
            His job requires him lots of phone calls and issues and long hours sometimes – and I remember making a comment to someone once saying “my husband could have an affair and I would never know his job is the perfect cover” so now I also wonder if he has done this before? Anyway hope you are ok and everything works out for you

  • I understand the dilemma with the husband asking to take a trip. My STBX is from another country and naturally he needs to visit his family so he takes trips without me a couple of times a year.

    His OW is from the same country. An old GF he met up with on facebook. His first trip (August) to meet the OW was just months before we were to celebrate 20 years together. He told me a friend was unable to take a cruise that was already booked and asked if he could go for him. He gave me one day to decide before the ship was leaving. I told him no. It felt wrong and there were things going on in our life with the kids and our home that would make it difficult for me. He told me he was going anyway. The morning he left for his cruise I stood in the door crying. He was screaming at me and telling me I was selfish for not wanting him to be happy. Then he walked out the door and I spent the week broken hearted, taking care of the family, texting him that I hoped he was having a good time and all the while he was screwing his OW.

    Second trip (October), he decided he needed to visit our son who is also in another country. Didn’t ask this time. I just overheard him telling someone else he was going to visit our grown son for his birthday. What could I say to that? I had no idea what was going on. He spent one week in a town one hour from where our son lives, and didn’t show up to visit the kid until the day of his birthday. I knew something was up by then but couldn’t prove it.

    DDay was in November. That next February, while we were supposedly reconciling, he called and asked if he could go to his country with a male friend that had offered to pay for the whole trip for both of them. I was shocked he would even ask with me knowing the OW was there. He promised he would not go see her. Then the person he was supposed to be going with had a medical emergency and couldn’t go but his plane ticket was non-refundable. I could not tell him not to go see his family, but it hurt me. By this time, I decided it was up to him to make a good decision and since I told him no before, I knew it really doesn’t matter what I say since he does what he wants anyway and makes me feel bad for telling him no.

    Of course he went alone on the trip. I found out a few weeks later that he did not drive to the OW’s town to see her (as he had promised), but they did meet in another town. Well, to him that was not being deceitful and he chewed me out for thinking he was lying. (according to him he only met the OW to tell her it was over and that he loved his wife) I sent him the definition of deceitful since he clearly has no clue.

    I have finally filed for divorce two years after DDay. It takes time to get your self-esteem built back up. It takes time to realize you are worthy of love and respect. It takes time to shake off the fog and see things as they truly are. That unicorn I thought I saw was just a raggedy old horse with a horn glued to its head.

  • Please hear my heartfelt appreciation to all of Chump Lady’s faithful followers and believers. My head is swirling with all the wonderful advice. I feel truly blessed to be the recipient of all of words of wisdom. Thank you for sharing a piece of your life with me. I believe that insight comes from examining how others walked through this desert and came out thirsting life again.

  • My dearest CLL,

    My unicorn was wonderful after the first time he cheated. Remorseful, teary, affectionate. He sent flowers and apologized frequently. He was attentive and loving, even when I was enraged or sobbing uncontrollably.

    For about six months.

    He went to therapy because I wanted to go. He took zero initiative to read books or talk to people or make changes on his own. “That’s not who I am,” he said.

    Then his affair turned into “a mistake.” He couldn’t understand why I was monitoring where he went all the time. He accused me of being impatient and irrational. He wondered why I wasn’t better yet. He would insist he was being trustworthy, “because I said.”

    The last few months we were together (when he was cheating on me again), he insisted that I never loved him and that he had been miserable for six years. “Life is too short,” he said. “I had to find some way to fill the void you left, Duchess.”


    I believed. I really believed for a long time. And, sadly, part of me still sees glimpses of a unicorn, I swear. (It’s my imagination, of course. I finally went full NC. I’ve almost made it a month.)

    You want to believe. I get that. And I think my cheater wanted to change until he discovered just how hard it is to do so. He’s not that guy. He’s not a very responsible person anyway, and likes to ignore anything unpleasant.

    It’s hard to say if your cheater will change, but, thus far, I have not met one who has. I know that’s a hard thing to hear and I’m sorry.

    Many, many hugs to you.

  • I didn’t reconcile because *I* am worth more than that. I guess there’s a bit of personal doubt about whether such a decision is selfish especially when there are children. The problem is staying is a sacrifice of ourselves. We literally climb up on an alter and stab ourselves in the heart with the knife our partners used to stab us in the back.. And it seems to me that whether it’s in the short term or long term that person invariably betrays us again which is worse than the first time because all we have to show for it is time lost being dead. Going is the death of an old life. Staying is the death of self. Maybe a cheater can change enough that they develop the ability to pull the knife out and resurect you. Maybe romantic sparkly vampires who live in glass houses and attend high school are real. I’d rather pull the motherfucking knife out myself and walk away. Besides, being a corpse is a really bad role model for my kid.

    And I guess I also don’t get how anyone would want to work it out with someone who is treating us horribly. CL calls it out as abuse and that’s true. If my husband had choked me until I passed out and hit me no one would be encouraging me to work it out. It wouldn’t matter whether or not he didn’t know it was wrong or had some foo issues related to violence. It wouldn’t matter whether he told me something I did or said set him off. If he’d roofied me and taken advantage of me the fact that I wasn’t aware of it Does Not make the violation any less awful. Sure, these are examples of physical assaults but don’t tell me that infidelity doesn’t affect us physically. That our health and safety isn’t put at risk. That our emotions and livelihood aren’t damaged. I can’t think of any other situation in life where we work to forgive and cohabitate with someone who has violated us in such a way. I really agree with Dat. I think only the cheater that confesses and seeks help voluntarily BEFORE they are caught. Because there’s a huge difference between making amends and trying to “fix” something. It’s hard to tell CLL. Is your husband making amends? It sounds more like he’s trying to fix it instead. You however deserve to be commended for trying. I could never do reconciliation because it’s not who I am. But I think you at least will know that you put your all in one way or another. You were authentic. Whether you stay or go be proud of that.

    Thanks everyone for the laughs today. Nomar I also read jerk tits at first. And Disgusted…Lmao at jackasses with broomsticks tied to their foreheads.

  • CLL, I have posted below my favorite poem. It has always served me well. It smooths my heartache and gives me perspective when I feel like the spinning will never stop. I am certain there are several chumps that are familiar with it, but for those that never read it, I hope you find some comfort in the words. Namaste chumps. ………………………………………………………….
    Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
    As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
    Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
    Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
    If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
    for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
    Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
    Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
    But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
    and everywhere life is full of heroism.

    Be yourself.
    Especially, do not feign affection.
    Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

    Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
    Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.

    You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
    you have a right to be here.
    And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

    Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
    and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
    With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

    ~ Max Ehrmann 1927

  • One more thing I thought of. Have you checked your marital assets lately?

    I have just applied for social security benefits. I had a SSI worker call me to tell me that I could get more money If I applied for widows’ benefits rather than than my own. Widows’ benefits from shithead cheater hubby # 2. HUH??? To my knowledge I made more than he did as far as maximum earnings go…..right? …..wrong! While I am happy to be getting more money per month. (actually thrilled!) But I just have to shake my head in shock. Seems SH hubby #2 was making a lot more money than he was telling me, and lied his ass off to me during the times we were really struggling. The times he managed the money and would not let me near the bills, the times we wound up declaring bankruptcy. and the time he was cheating with schmoopie # 1.

    Yeah, I don’t have to wonder where the money went. Anyway it seems like a bit of delayed justice that I get some benefit from being royally screwed over by him so long ago.

    My point is, that in my suspicious little brain, I would wonder if this great turnaround would be him buying time to move and hide marital assets so you would get very little to nothing if you chose to leave. I would certainly keep tabs on the assets.

  • I haven’t had time to read through all the comments yet (am at work), but will do it later as this letter is very interesting to me due to this comment:

    “He “asked” me if he could go. I told him it was not my decision to make. When he made the commitment to go, I told him that I was floored that he made the choice he did with the marriage hanging on a thread. Instead of the obvious truth (that he really wanted to go), he again talks himself into another bullshit story about the other person’s happiness with the annual trip and also that I probably needed a break.”

    Did you say nothing because you were afraid that he might get angry? The reason I ask is that I was put in this situation constantly in my marriage. She’d “ask” to disappear for a while on one of her trips, but really she was telling me. I found this out after I said no a couple of times. Her response was anger.

    Also, this “family trip” sounds pretty suspicious to me. Why aren’t you invited?

    Take care.

    • …meant to add that I learned not to say “no”. I rationalised this by telling myself that I didn’t want to be controlling.

    • For the duration of our marriage, he has had a couple yearly trips that have been just his, one being with my brother fishing in Canada and another was a bowling trip with buddies. I have never been invited and until the shakedown of his affair, he never “asked” me if he could go (just always just made plans). I am sure he felt entitled to his away time.

      My decision for not telling him whether he could go or not had nothing to do with anger. Last year, a few months after dday, he also made the choice to go AND it was the first time he asked me if he could go. I said the same thing. I suppose this year I was really looking to see if he had made any changes. Maybe I am passive aggressive. However, I see it as assessing whether or not he has grown over the past year to actually put me in front of his own desires. Once again, he did not.

      Today was his birthday. I bought him a few workout shirts/shorts and put them in a box on his dresser. I must be an idiot but when someone gives me a gift, I open it in front of that person so he/she can see that the gift meant something to me. He comes out of the bedroom and tells me thanks. Opened it without including me and I told him that I was hurt that he chose to not include me.

      I just really think the main issue in this current situation is lack of respect/insight into what respect is appropriate in a marriage. I told him I am tired of being disrespected and consequently I am in the spare bedroom for the evening. The entire scenario is tiring and just wearing me out physically and emotionally.

      Thanks again to all the encouragement and wisdom.

      • CLL, you are not passive aggressive. You are expecting someone devoid of empathy to display some. That is an impossibility with people who are character disturbed. It is very difficult to come to terms with because we can’t fathom that our partners can be this way. As heartbreaking as it can be, when you finally admit this to yourself, you’ll feel free. And the best part? You’ll stop feeling like it has anything to do with you specifically.

        Let go, or be dragged.

        • My choice; neutral zone, quiet, and free of him. 🙂 I am ok with that.

          Disgusted, as I mentioned in my letter, that was the first question I asked our counselor about (whether he has the capability of true, heartfelt change). Honestly wish the counselor would have simply said no. Have a great Wednesday.

        • I was just going to type that. I put my STBX out of the main bedroom months ago. He still uses the master bathroom attached, but that’s about to end also. I just brought down a box today to pack his toiletries and put them in the guest bathroom.

  • CLL…. I’m so sorry you find yourself here…. But think you already have your answer! I hope everything works out for you and keep us updated!

  • CLL,
    I’m also in a reconciliation of 1.6 months. I’m finally emerging out of the anger over the last month, and moving into acceptance that we are going to make it. For a while, he didn’t “help” me. What do i mean by “help.” I think it’s the thing men do when we are sad or upset, and because we are emotional creatures, we “feel helped.” I think it’s more of truly listening to your pain with an open heart that we need, and as woman we know it’s real. Does that feeling come from trusting the person/spouse you are talking with? I say yes and no. I believe it is instinctual, and I personally know when my H is really wanting to comfort me. I now have that comforting feeling that I was craving for months and months after the discovery day. If you are still not feeling comforted by him, I want to ask, are you being completely open about how you feel? Is he really trying to reach out to your little girl side? Can you cry, and he understands it was because of him?
    When I started being pissed off about real life again, and opening up to him without ANY reservation, it freed me to see his reaction.
    I feared him running back to her, but thanks to the prenup(the most brilliant piece of the reconciliation puzzle), I was ready to Test(wishing I could find a better word) his true loyalty and commitment for reconciliation. Don’t hold back any feelings, anger, or sadness about the affair. That is the best advice I can give you. If you hear her name, or see an affair on the TV, and it affects you, let him know!( Men definitely are not mind readers like us.)
    In the past, even before the affair, if he wanted to go or do something, and I really didn’t want him to, I would BITE MY TONGUE.( Which today I think shows what being a true chump is.), and let him do whatever he wanted to without expressing my feelings. Today, I am a free woman! DO NOT BITE YOUR TONGUE! DO NOT HOLD BACK! If you need to express, express, end of story. If you didn’t want him to go, why didn’t you just say it? Marriage is about discussing issues, don’t feel that you should make an excuse in your head why he should go, if you think it say it. Don’t Chump anymore. You don’t even need a valid excuse, just “I really don’t want you to go.”
    I have told myself, if he fucks it up again, I am done! I will take that prenup, and block him out cold! He knows this, all our families know this, our friends know this, our kids know this, and it is all on him now. If you want to put your life in the headlines, he should never make it you feel bad for it. Remember, he has been having a great time sneaking around and playing teenager with another woman at your expense. Screw his feelings of you telling the kids. Let him see your anger, and then you will move forward either with him or without. There were many times during this process, I almost just pulled the plug, but he stayed true and wouldn’t let me go. Isn’t that what you need to see? Jump, if he is true to you, he will stay and fight for your marriage, if not LET HIM GO, because he really is just a unicorn.

  • No prenup on my end, no post nup available in my state.

    He is there to comfort me; I just don’t feel that comforted by him yet (same timeframe out from dday as you). He feels empathy for the first time in his life. It finally dawned on him when we put the divorce card on the table that he failed himself, me, marriage, family, and the life we built. Interesting now to have that epiphany of failure in spite of watching me struggle for so long.

    I do love him, never stopped loving him, and used to think love was enough when he was a non-participant in our family for YEARS. Love is not enough now. If the rest of the marriage parts are defective, I just can’t see a reliable vehicle arising out of the ashes of the dead marriage.

    Interesting discussion yesterday about grief. My overwhelming emotion and continuing emotion is an utter sense of disappointment. Disappointment in him and the marriage. Disappointment in me for not being able to get to that forgiveness point in order to make this reconciliation possible.

    LivingMyLife, I am happy you see a light emerging and wish you the very best. I plan to take the next few months (90 day wait in our state for a divorce) to continue to see if there is any possiblity of salvaging/rebuilding a new marriage.

    Thanks for your insight!!!

  • >