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Dear Chump Lady, “31 and can’t start my life over”

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30oldDear Chump Lady,

I hope you can help…I am the mother of a 31-year-old daughter. She has been married for 5 years. Son-in-law (SIL) has been cheating on her for these past 5 years.

Most recently the OW(23) came to my business to “tell me” that she wants my son in law to “leave her alone” and that she is pregnant with his child.

Needless to say I was shocked! OW also gave me photos and texts and emails from SIL to her as “evidence”…of course I presented this to my daughter and she told me that she has been dealing with this for the past 5 years. OW has called her and texted her. She has never said a word to us about this, except for one time shortly after marriage she shared that husband had an affair “before they were married” and that she found out after the mariage and begged me “not to look differently” at husband or to “treat him differently” and thas was a “one time thing” and she forgave him. I believed her and had no idea that this most recent OW was a new one and that there had been others.

My heart aches for her. And I don’t know what to do for her at this point. She say’s she loves him and he has agreed to get counseling, etc. His parents are aware and disgusted as well! I have read many of your blog posts and they have been helpful, but I feel great distance from my daughter at this time, and don’t know how to react. Your post about the 5 reasons we stay “stuck” spoke to me and describes my daughter. She is a clinical social worker — and not a dummy! — however, her decision to stand by him and make everything better makes me very sad!

The first thing she said to me the night I confronted her was “I’m 31 and can’t start my life over.” Thank goodness they don’t have any children yet. They have been together since she was 18 and SIL is 39. This was her first serious boyfriend and all of the OW have been younger than she is. SIL has all the markings of a sex addict (sadly a subject I used to give workshops on during my carreer in addictions), but I am at a loss at this time how to react to her and not push her away.

Please if you can recommend any readings or blogs or anything for me to better understand and deal with this would be GREATLY APPRECIATED!

God Bless,

Muffy

Dear Muffy,

Well please direct your daughter over here to Chump Lady and my new Resource box up there on the navigation bar, full of books and links to other sites that can help too. (Chumps — that’s where the Amazon box went!)  We’ll all be happy to give her an earful. I suspect she’s already aware of how to google and has found comfort in reconciliation sites (what we refer to here as unicorns or the Reconciliation Industrial Complex). She’s trying to do what most of us tried to do before we came to our senses — single-handedly save a marriage by herself. False hope sells.

Unfortunately you cannot take comfort in the fact that your douchebag son-in-law “agreed” to get counseling. (First clue — it wasn’t his idea. It was foisted upon him and he acquiesced.) For most serial cheaters, that’s the price of admission for cake. Okay, sure, I’ll sullenly jump through a few flaming hoops for you, now then, aren’t you OVER it yet?

Next he’ll play the sex addiction card and tell her it is her responsibility to hold his hand through his “addiction,” and any misstep from her could put him in a bad place to reoffend. This Is So Difficult for Him. Wouldn’t she like to waste the rest of her life as he comes out of his “affair fog”?

It’s all mindfuckery. The only thing you need to know about this guy is that he’s cheated on your daughter throughout their ENTIRE marriage. Which means her marriage is a farce. He’s never been faithful to her. Not before the marriage, not after the marriage. He got one great gift to be forgiven and he shat all over it. Multiple OW and now a child out of wedlock with one of them. Yes, nothing says “I’m sorry” like a paternity test and court-ordered child support.

Your daughter needs to wake up and realize that there is nothing here to save. This man has shown her repeatedly through his actions who he IS. She’s still holding on to who she hopes he is or could be. We call that drug Hopium. It’s a powerful hallucinogenic. Makes you see potential in the smallest little efforts. (It’s been 9 days since his last Craigslist ad! He agreed to let me make a counseling appointment for him! He said he was sorry!) You’ve worked in addiction? You’re daughter needs to kick this drug — her toxic love for him.

Because this is not a love that is healthy for her. However real it feels, people who love us do not expose us to harm and STDs. They don’t make unilateral decisions about our physical and emotional health. They don’t emotionally abuse us with lies and gaslighting.

But she’s only ever been with this idiot. She has no idea what healthy love looks like. It’s all theoretical to her. She chose the barbed wire monkey. No surprise this abuser snarfed her up at 18 when he was 26. Was he her prom date? Creeptacular.

I know as a parent you’re on the perilous line between wanting to help and slap sense into her, and yet not alienate her.

Chump Lady is all about slapping sense into her. I counsel here all the time that we only control ourselves. We can’t control other people. But when it comes to parenting, hey, you’ve got to give controlling others a try. (Generations of my family can’t be wrong!) You control your mouth. My mouth would say something to son-in-law like “If you ever come near my daughter again, I’ll stuff your balls down your throat.” Or “I’d like you to meet this threaded pipe. Not saying I’d hit you upside the head with it. Let’s just say my promise to not hit you upside the head with it is about as good as your promise to not cheat on my daughter again.”

You’re the Mama Grizzly. Roar Muffy! ROAR!

You afraid she’ll just go running back to him? HellOOooo — she’s already WITH HIM. Worst case has already happened. The mountain lion already dragged your cub into its den. Time to go after that motherfucker. I’m not saying you have to be armed with a SWAT team, but I do think that this calls for at least some stern disapproval, Muffy. Or spotting her the legal retainer fees.

Now to your daughter — You think you’re finished at 31?! Seriously? Do you know how many chumps here would give their eyeteeth for a do-over at 31? The fact that you don’t have children with this fuckwit is a GIFT! You still have 10 years of fertility left and time to fix that picker! Look, life alone in perpetuity with Netflix and a bowl of ice cream is infinitely better than marriage to a serial cheater! Ask us all how we know? WE LIVED IT! Chump Nation would like to give you a collective shake of the shoulders and implores you — LEAVE. Gain a life! There is a wonderful existence on the other side of this shit you’re living. Come over to the sane side! We’re here! We’ll catch you!

Muffy — please show your daughter this post and the comments that are sure to follow. Oh, and do please look at your son-in-law differently (despite the pleadings of your daughter not to). See him for who he is — an abusive, serial-cheating, piece of shit who is harming your daughter. If you see him that way, maybe your daughter will follow suit. We can only hope so.

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Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
  • Firstly Muffy, big hugs to you as I know this must be incredibly painful and make you feel helpless at times.

    But I implore you, please listen to Chump Lady, and get your daughter over here. Lifting the veil from her eyes may not happen over night but please keep at it.

    You need to decode some of his bullshit for her. And be prepared, she might not thank you for it at first. But plenty of us chumps here will tell you that it takes a while for our decoders to be set to the correct frequency, but once they are, it’s like a light bulb coming on. Or often more like a 100 zillion kilowatt searchlight.

    Oh, and I am one of the chumps CL refers to who at the age of 52, would LOVE to be 31 again and ready to rock. But I’m not, I am what I am, these are the cards I have been dealt and so I will play them the best I can and I will win.

    It’s not going to be easy for her, for me, for any of us. But the best things in life usually come after a mighty battle. She is a lucky girl – she has you watching her back, she has CL and all of us at Chump Nation.

    Best of luck to you. xxxx

    • Agreed. 31 would be better than 52. There’s lots of us who spent many more years with idiots than your daughter. Whatever you can do to shine a light on this scumbag for the purpose of refocusing her attention will help. Wish I’d listened to my mom…..she never liked my Ex. She said he he didn’t make sense. After the wedding she held her tongue, somewhat. But she was right – I’m sure she wishes as I do, that I had taken a second look at her concerns instead of “standing by my man”.

      • 31 and knowing what I know now would really rock 😉

        I would put it simply: you’ve been doing this for 5 years, so do you want to do it for 10 more and possibly bring kids into the mix only to have their family broken up?

        Reality checks are in order. She sounds like she has been beaten down/sucked into a cheater alternate reality.

    • It took me 18 months and three d-days and a trip to the police department but guess what? I now TRUST That he sucks! And I’m filing this week! Netflix and ice cream sounds pretty damn good. damn. If I knew this at 31 I’d be grateful. She will get there. We all do on time. It seems to take people a couple of years. Here’s to hoping she doesn’t waste her entire youth on this entitled asshole. It’s hard as hell to put down the hopium pipe. Today I had a catholic priest tell me to divorce him. If that isn’t a ringing endorsement I don’t know what is. I think when I explained to Father what Ashley Madison was all about it sealed the deal.

    • I would just consistently advise your daughter to bail and tell her you will help her get away as much as possible. Just make it you mantra : ” Leave him. He is a cheater. Cheaters are bad people .”

  • I started over a 35 pregnant SAHM with a 3 and 2 year old. 2 and a half years later, I’m a working mom of 3 who found love with another chump & I’m blissfully boring normal happy.

    My ex has already cheated on OW (probly #10 OW) take him!! Hahahaha!!!!

  • Yep Muffy I am one of those chumps that CL referred to as yes front eye tooth would be an easy swap for discovering earlier who I was actually married to! I was married to what i thought was a wonderful husband for 27 yrs and now I am 58, divorced, two daughters that are estranged from their Dad and they both have trust issues and have been very depressed. I’ve been seeking meh and with 3 years behind me, hope to realize meh on a regular basis very soon! Right on that you want to support your daughter but as we all know it will have to be her own wake-up of yikes ….who is this man? And get me away….no contact, leave this person and gain a life.

    • You and me both, Mehbound, only with one DD. “Tuesday is coming. Keep walking.”

      And Muffy- A mother protecting her young is the strongest force in the Universe. Use it. The disordered use your own empathy and social conditioning against you-they gamble all the time that no one will call them out. Time to cash in his chips. If it were a physical assault, would you deliberate, or introduce this arsewipe to Mr Lead Pipe?

      Here is what you seem scared of, and probably already know. The results of emotional abuse play out the same way as physical abuse in some instances (like PTSD. Or self-harm. Or worse.) Yep, you want your daughter to be independent, and she will be. But right now, EVEN IF you piss your daughter off, or estrange her, you need to speak your truth about sil, and set a boundary. And an example. That is what Mommas DO.

      It sucks, Muffy. My DD is 15, only time will tell if she picks a guy like her dear old Dad. But having been chumped (by doing what your daughter is doing-spackling-for 20 years), if I see so much as one square inch of red flag, she would be told. And he would be toast. At least, not welcome in my house.

      Have your daughter’s Dad and you discussed this?

      x-Meh

      • Apparently, we are soul-triplets ladies. I am with you, and we are mighty. (PS. Menopause actually rocks…I think that’s a State Secret.)

          • sorry to hear that. I had one ovary out for a cyst, and the works shut down, easy-peasy. I’m loving it, 4 years in. or out, or whatever. cheaper too!

          • Dat, sorry to hear you are having a tough time but once you are through it, you will be loving life more. I had a hysterectomy nearly 23 years ago and went through a very severe menopause but I managed and as namedforVera stated it is cheaper!!

  • Hi Muffy,

    I cannot agree more with CL here. Verbally kick that piece of shit’s ass and tell him, and your daughter, you want him out of her and your life. He is a liar, deceiver, has kids outside the marriage!—even the women he is fucking want to be rid of him–what is the prize here? Tell your daughter: “Are you going to wait until he give you AIDS, Hepatitis B? You want to die of heart ache when he leaves you when you are 50! Get out of this dangerous marriage.”

    Listen, I was 20 and 30 once. I felt like my life was wasted and I was way too old to do anything I wanted really. Some of us have this problem. At 20 we are all washed up. It’s an attitude that is reinforced by our family, society—you have to start when you are 5 to do anything you want or else— it is just way too late. She is attached to this creep from hell. Get people together to have a talk with her. Tell everyone what is happening so she cannot hide his shit and spackle him to her death for a love that is not reciprocated (understatement).

    Tell her that. Tell her she will feel sorry that she did not get out sooner when he becomes increasingly abusive and finally leaves her for another fool. You will not stand by while he wipes the floor with her. Help her get a lawyer.

    And here is my message to her:

    Muffy’s daughter,

    I know how you feel. You think that if you love him enough, he will change, and even if he does not change all that much, at least he picked you. That makes you feel worthy and valuable. Look at the evidence woman! Even his OW wants him out of her life! He is an abusive fuck. He is not like you.

    He does not sacrifice himself for others. He does not love you. He does not even care about your basic feelings and health. He is playing you for an absolute fool, draining you of dignity and self-respect. He is dehumanizing you. He actually reviles you. Look at his actions woman!

    If you wait another year to start over and figure out how you got yourself into this mess, you will be 32, 33, 34, 35, 36….45, 46—then when he leaves you for the “love of his life”…what will you do then? Kill yourself? Is that really what you came on this earth to do? Kill yourself when an asshole steals your life with your permission? You are a caring human being deserving of respect. This piece of shit you got together with when you were only 18 (God damn that is young to get attached to a cheater) does not respect you. Is it OBVIOUS that he does not respect or love you. He is using you until something better comes along that will not run to his mother-in-law to get him away from her. You are a social worker! Why the fuck does your life look like a Jerry Springer show!

    Take hold of yourself and throw this asshole out and do not take him back. You will absolutely be sorry you remained “true” to him–a person who will always fuck you over. Do you not care that he is going to have a baby with another woman? Does this not affect you at all? You have an entire life ahead of you. 31 is so young. you can heal from your misperceptions that 31 is too late to find yourself, build a life that you love and connect with someone who will love you for who you are. You have only one life and yours should be way better than living with a triple life cheater who subjects you to risk and suffering. Don’t lie to yourself that you are living a good-as-you-can-get life. It’s up to you to make this crucial choice for a better existence. I wish the best for you.

    • I should say a fetus outside the marriage, although with wanted pregnancies women do feel like they are babies—I should not have used the word “kid” but who knows? Maybe he does “have” a kid somewhere. That is the point, With liars, you never know what your life entails.

    • Muffy, tell your daughter even the OW has more sense… she is pregnant with his child and wants him out of her life. This guy is TOXIC believe me…TOXIC. He will kill your daughter for real or her spirit or her health. Get out now… I wish I had. I thought my life was over at 28 too. Who would love me? Was I loveable at all? Here I am finally at 59 and remembering who was that fun, adventurous curious woman I was before I met Sir Toxicity. So Run! Run! Run!… the first year will be hell but after that first year I woke up one morning to realize the earth had not swallowed me. My daughter was happier and calmer. You wouldn’t live with a seething volcano in your house and that is what your daughter has.

  • Gosh I wish I never got myself into this fetal/ baby stuff. Okay apologies, last word. Even women with unwanted pregnancies feel that they are carrying babies. All real. Not the point at all here, unless we delve into the OW, and we are not, I hope.

  • Muffy,

    My heart goes out to you. Few things are more painful than seeing someone we love get so horribly hurt and lacking the power to stop it. Powerlessness is such an awful, awful feeling.

    While I don’t know your daughter, I wonder if she is staying for a couple of reasons:

    First, I wonder if she is staying because of “sunk costs” feelings. She is afraid of finding another man because that man will not have as much history with her. I struggled with that one when I was divorced from my cheater. In particular, my concern was my next partner would not have known me as a college athlete, which was very important and formative for me. What I found out is that it wasn’t that big of a deal. Mrs. DM is great even not knowing me then!

    Second, as someone in the helping professions myself (I am a professional chaplain), I sense that she’s doing this in part to fix him. It is foolish to expect different results going forward. In fact, it is insane. You cannot fix what he does not want fixed as evidenced by his actions. It’s that simple.

    Third, I call adultery soul rape on my blog as that is how I see it from a pastor’s perspective (http://www.divorceminister.com/adultery-is-soul-rape/). He’s done this multiple times to your daughter. I doubt she supports such abusive relationships in her practice as a social worker. It is time for her to extend the same kindness and care to herself in getting out of such a destructive “marriage.”

    Finally, I was around the age of 31 when I started over. In fact, I launched my career (with God’s grace) while discovering the infidelity and being divorced. She can do it. Take inventory of all her gifts. I suspect she struggles with seeing her many wonderful gifts and valuing herself–being ravaged by adultery has a way of doing that. It may help to remind her of her immense value as a person as well as her many special gifts. For starters, it sounds like she is a very bright, faithful, and compassionate person. Those are great qualities to give to a worthy partner.

    Our 30s are a a great decade! I hope your daughter decides not to waste them on someone who treats her with such contempt and abuse anymore.

    Blessings,
    DM

  • I’m guessing daughter thinks no one else will love her. Sometimes we hang on to unhealthy relationships for no other reason than fear of loneliness. If daughter is honest with herself she can’t get lonelier than she is right now. Living alone opens up so many possibilities but she has to make herself do things. I always recommend Habitat For H. because you get so much more than you give and all the people are givers. Humane Socirt needs volunteers. Please tell her she has unlimited things waiting for her after she unloads that millstone around her neck.

  • My eyes were opened at age 55. The first affair that rose up in my marriage happened when I was 27. But I loved him! I had two very small children! I was a stay at home mom! I was willing to forgive! Etc, etc, etc. If my mom had not herself abused me as a child I might have been persuaded to leave him. But I stayed… For two more decades. And then I began to see the light. What a horrible struggle it was! Oh please tell your daughter now that CL has so much to share with her. If only I’d known then…..

  • Let me day dream a little…. 31…. When I was foot loose and fancy free! Man! Life was good! I traveled, spent allllll my money on what I wanted…
    No strings… Just flings and I was young and independant! At 34 moved across the country…. Met the idiot and at 35 had my child!
    Fast forward almost 47 and living in a city where I have no family, divorced, remortgaged, in debt and sharing a child with a fucktard… Yep… Things have changed a little.
    You mention your daughters husband may have a sexual addiction…. Having some experience from a past relationship( not the Idiot) my then ex was a sex addict and a sociopath…. I spent two years as a victim of sexual abuse for the pleasure of my then BF who manipulated me. It starts very insidiously… And next thing you know you are allowing some one to use your body in ways that are degrading and soul draining. I too am a professional and very bright… But feel under the twisted spell of this man that walked on water and was able to convince me that I had sexual hang ups and wasnt free enough. He played on every insecurity and was able to get inside my head and make feel shame about not being more sexually adventuresome( meaning … I should enjoy having sex with the prositutes he brought home… and enjoy the brutalilty of being bound and gagged)
    He went so far to confide in two my best friends about our sex life, complaining to them that I was prudish and timid in the bedroom…. He knew what to say and how to shame me… So I stayed. The light went out and I suffered in silence thinking there was something wrong with me.
    There was something wrong with me….. Him.
    I remember waking up one morning and thinking I am going to die here. So I left… And he persued me… My friends all contributed to secondary wounding by befriending him. He was still invited to functions and gatherings.
    It took a long time to get back to me. But I did. Fast forward 24 years…. And I am doing it again.
    Be the mamma bear… And dont give up on your child. She is afraid. She is clinging to something… The only thing she has known… And that is her comfort zone. She needs you to support her regardless of her decision to stay or go. She may take two steps forward… Two steps back… But atleast she is moving. Take her on vacation…. Show her that she can be ok. Encourage counseling. You cant do it for her… Just like her first steps… She has to initiate the first steps. And you can give her the side line encouragement. If you force it on her … Or push her timeline she will not learn what she needs to to it herself. A little nudge or hand holding is totally acceptable… But when she has her legs … Let go.

  • I have been “forced” out of a 15 year marriage with my husband who I have been with since I was 18. I also thought that if I tried a little harder, gave a little more, that he would appreciate and respect me. Unfortunately, it never happened. Instead he cheated on me and left me and our two children. It has been almost a full year since he left. I am just now beginning to let go and hope that I will experience real love, appreciation, and respect. It takes time, an extreme amount of courage and patience to let go and let yourself heal. It is not easy but I believe it can be done! Good luck!

  • Muffy, the thing your daughter needs to know is that she WILL be starting her life over eventually. Her cheater likes ’em young. In a few years he will decide he can’t handle being married to such an “old” woman and will dump her. And maybe by then he will have given her an STD or two.

    I know when you’re 31 it seems too late to start over. However, I know plenty of chumps who have had to re-boot their lives when they were in their 40s or 50s. I, personally, turned 50 while I was in the process of getting divorced. It can be done, and at least your daughter doesn’t have any children with the asshat. I have 5 with my narcissistic cheater ex. He did a lot of emotional damage to them.

    • i agree. you need to tell her that he will end up leaving her eventually, if he has been doing this their whole relationship, he will pick up and walk out on her. it is not a matter of IF he will leave but a matter of WHEN. she is not seeing that at all. he has lied to her and told her he wants to stay with her forever, so she is still trying. you can try to open her eyes but unfortunately i dont think she will be able to see it.

      personally, i would have heard my mom and then probably just dismissed it. it is a fine line to walk as a parent. trying to tell your kids what is for the best for them, especially after they are adults, is really hard. on one hand you want to tell her to pull her head out of her ass, and on the other you dont want to piss them off so they stop talking to you.

      that being said, i believe you should talk to her. tell her he is going to leave her one day anyway because people like that have no integrity, no loyalty, no morality. if he was able to do it in the past, he will do it in the future. it did not bother him to hurt her before, it is not going to bother him to do it again. her love did not mean anything before, it is not going to change anything in the future. All you can do is tell her how you feel and then try to be there for her either way. i suggest writing it all down, so you can say it all at once, one time. because if you keep hounding her she is just going to turn away from you. She already was hiding what was going on from you, after your initial reaction the first time she told you. she was not going to tell you again. your daughter DID not want you to know. the only way you found out was from the OW. your daughter is not ready to face reality yet. but since it was dumped on your lap by the OW, tell her how you feel about it. tell her this man she loves will leave and better now at 31 then later. tell her she has a better chance at finding someone to truely love her now and still have children (if she wants) then later after this man/her husband has beaten her down.

      tell her you love her, and you want the best for her and you dont think this guy is doing right by her and then you will need to stand back. (which will the hardest thing for you) …..i know that is all my parents could do for me, or anyone. i was not ready to believe my XH was a unloyal, unfaithful, undependable, unreliable, lying, thieving, moral corrupt, piece of shit that he is. if anyone had told me anything “bad” about my husband, i would stand up for him.

      good luck to you. i really hope that your daughter will open her eyes and ears soon.

    • I agree Elizabeth-he will definitely leave her eventually. He is just having her hang around until he finds a better deal. That’s generally how they all operate. I tried to make my marriage work with my ex for three years after dday. What I realized was that he wasn’t genuine in his reconciliation (thanks to Chump Lady) and that eventually we would have another dday. He wouldn’t have left, he would’ve just kept having affairs until I got sick of it. Most cheaters are some of the most cowardly people we’ll ever know.

  • Muffy:

    You’re a wonderful mother.

    Muffy’s daughter;

    i’m sorry this is happening. But he is dirty dirty dirty. He’s gross. He dips his wick into other women’s vaginas. That’s super gross.

    No kids?

    RUN RUN RUN.

  • You probably can help your daughter,I know my Mom helped me, but it took three years, because he was my whole world. She let me move into her basement, move out because he had ‘changed’, then move back in again after I heard he had OW in my home when I went to work. It’s all so pathetic.
    Stay in her corner, and she will see the light eventually. I think most people just do not understand Narcs, or sex addicts. I really think my X is a sex addict, and believe me, I tried so, so hard to change him. Or give him enough sex to keep him with me. NONE OF IT WORKS!
    One of my favorite things I learned here was when a chump said- who volunteers to be a human sacrifice to a cheater? WORD, and goodbye crazy cheater. Her age is really not the issue, her happiness is. Good luck

  • “I’d like you to meet this threaded pipe. Not saying I’d hit you upside the head with it. Let’s just say my promise to not hit you upside the head with it is about as good as your promise to not cheat on my daughter again.”

    Chump Lady, this was so freaking funny I actually spit coffee on my keyboard.

    Muffy, I’m glad you reached out to CL, and I hope you show your daughter this blog entry asap so that she can start opening her eyes. 31 is so young, and she can build a new life and family. It is truly freeing to live in accordance with your own values and principles instead of being held hostage to somebody else’s pathology. We’re here to help in any way we can. She can do it!

  • At 29 and married to a serial cheater for 6 years, I felt exactly like your daughter. I was with him since 18 and also felt like I was too invested to start over. But now I think about that and shake my head. I can’t believe I was willing to put up with living in that constant state of unease with him just to preserve my lost 20’s. It took about two years from my first d day to get divorced but I think I had to know I did everything I could to save the marriage. After finding him on a “dating for marrieds” website I realized this was well beyond my control. I also had a fabulous counselor that helped me gain the strength and self-esteem to really start questioning if this is what I wanted out of life. We have one precious life to live and to have mine so wrapped up in someone who didn’t give two shits about me was ridiculous! But again, it took me almost two years to realize this.

    Now it’s almost five years later and I am so glad I got rid of that loser! I’ve been remarried a little over a year and we have our first baby on the way. My husband now is loving, kind, supportive, my very best friend. I am so blessed to be where I am today but it took a solid support system to get here.

    I recommend you continue to build up your daughter independent of the marriage and encourage her to go to individual counseling. Being with my ex since 18 meant he manipulated a lot of formative years and I needed it pounded into my head what qualities made up a healthy marriage. I finally realized I deserved to be cherished and built up not used and constantly taken for granted.

    It’s a hard fight but so much better on the other side.

    • Rosie, it took me over 2 decades so you are way ahead of me. Brava to you! “Constant state of unease” says it all when married to a serial cheater. Now, sans cheater, I am truly living with ease.
      Wishing you the very best with your bundle of joy on the way. I’m so glad you are now in a healthy and authentic relationship.

      • Aw, thank you Uniquelyme! I really want people here to feel hopeful for the future. It’s the vast unknown which is scary but so much better “sans cheater”.

  • I was 31 and pregnant with our second child when my husband abandoned me due to his emotional affair with a co-worker, AND I had an older disabled child to care for. I hadn’t worked full-time in over 7 years. I went back to work at 7 months pregnant. This past year he moved on to a physical affair with another woman. I’m 32 now and the divorce is final. I was married 11 years.

    Your daughter doesn’t even have most of those factors in play. She doesn’t have kids with him, let alone a disabled kid or a baby, she’s only been married 5 years, and she already has a career.

    If I can “start over” at 32, your daughter can, too.

  • I was 28 and I never felt older – married to my cheater. I feel much younger now than I did then and I’m 59. Please tell your daughter her youthful feeling will return after she ditches him. He is the reason she feels so low that she can’t start over. It is part of his abusive plan to keep her where he wants her, feeling that he is the only one who understands and will put up with her. None of that is true. She does not need him – he has crippled her to get what he wants – cake. She will be much stronger and alive without him.

      • Yes! I now remember that I once told my cheater ex that I felt like I was 60 (when I was 40) but it is obvious to me now that all the stress he gave me made me feel that way. Now I am 50 and the last year of getting divorced (the divorce diet) and cheater free therapy has made me look 10 years younger, the 10 years I lost with my ex. So Muffy´sdaughter, don´t worry, you will look younger and feel better than you ever have before, and when you get your head on straight again and work through all this, you will attract someone as awesome as you feel in your new-true self. Look at yourself in comparison to most of us here: YOU ARE SO LUCKY!!! You are ONLY 31, you ONLY had to deal with 5 years of marriage to a cheater PLUS you had no kids with him! You have the Karma of the OW dumping him so you can skip the pick me dance and go straight to divorce and recovery! When you go No contact with him you will look and feel 10 years younger, get your self esteem back, build a great relationship with your awesome mother AND have experienced something horrible that will make you grow into a very attractive and more interesting person who can choose the best partner for you carefully. Most of us envy your status of having this experience so young and without children. You have an amazing life ahead of you IF you leave the cheater and a pretty horrible one if you stay with him. Easy choice…..

  • Muffy,

    Since your daughter was 18 when they dated, instead of forming her own identity in her 20s, it was quicker to simply make him her identity. That’s why she clings so hard b/c if she didn’t, she’d have to do all that hard work she avoided for over a decade. So she hides his behavior with excuses that everyone is fine. When, early on, you accidentally exposed who he really is, she quickly shoved it back under the blanket of excuses. Back then, the bulge was small enough to believe her that the problem was small, which was a relief.

    Now the bulge is so huge, it was inevitable the blanket couldn’t cover him anymore. Your daughter is horrified and scrambling to find more blankets. Weightier this time, so they can’t be ripped off so easily. Her identity is at stake here.

    I wouldn’t threaten the guy as suggested b/c one, that could get you in trouble if anything happened to him, two, it feeds his ego that he has your daughter wrapped around his finger, and three, your daughter will likely see him as a victim who needs defending from your “abuse”. She’ll cling even tighter in her quest to save him and her identity.

    Instead I would focus solely on your daughter. Like CL said, let her know that no matter how many times she covers with excuses, you’ll keep ripping that cover off. From now on, only truthful conversations will be permitted. Because he’s abusing your daughter, he’s not welcome in your home. You won’t be eating the shit sandwich.

    Since she’s been playing this rescue/cover up game for over a decade, what she needs is therapy. Tell her you’ll support her during this time when she gets professional help and like CL said, point her to this site, too. She sees herself as an old maid probably b/c she blames not being sexy enough for his cheating. If she read the articles here or even wrote to CL, she’d wake up that it’s false.

    Sadly, that’s all you can really do. Like CL said, you can’t control other people. Only steer them in the right direction and hope they follow that path.

  • My situation is similar to Elizabeth Lee’s. When I was 31, I found out that my then cheater was a serial cheater. We weren’t married and didn’t have kids, so the break-up, although emotionally unpleasant, was not legally/financially/logistically difficult. Years later, I met my current cheater. Between cheaters I got to do a lot. Now that current cheater is divorcing me at nearly 50, the break-up is much more difficult, not only for me, but also for our young children. Money that was supposed to be saved for the children was spent on cheater’s secret ‘extracurricular’ activities. How does Muffy’s daughter feel about her family’s money being funneled into child support for a child that she did NOT agree to create? Would she tolerate a business partner who made unilateral decisions that harmed her so deeply? Plus, how satisfying and bonding is sex when one knows that her spouse is willing to repeatedly expose her to STDs and shows no concern for her emotional health? If Muffy’s daughter won’t consider sparing herself, I hope that she will at least consider the fate of any future children that could come out the union with her serial cheater husband.

  • At 53, I definitely worried about starting over, and while it may be difficult at any age, it can be done. The reason we stay in these type of instances is because we don’t believe we can do better, and even more importantly, we desperately believe that the person will change or things will get better. As Chumplady states, we can only be responsible for us, and no matter how hard we wish it, other people have to want to change for the better. If they refuse that, it’s in our best interest to move on, despite the love, despite the hurt, despite the anger. My heart goes out to you and your daughter, because it’s rough and painful. Your daughter is smart and educated, and eventually, she’ll know that she can do better either alone or with someone who treats her as the queen she is. All you can do at this point is be there to support and love her. I wish you both the best and am keeping you in prayer. Hugs…http://intheknowwithro.blogspot.com/2014/11/narcissism-and-emotional-abuse.html

  • 31 is too old to start over again…She’s dug herself into a hole that she’ll never be able to get out of because she’s only getting older. If she were getting younger I bet there’d be a different excuse since she couldn’t play the age card. If he’s her first and only serious relationship, and it started when she was 18, I highly doubt she’s looking beyond that. It’s scary to realize that your only relationship is one that’s harming you. I remember fantasizing about marrying the first boy I ever dated/kissed and when we broke up in high school I had to mourn that teenage fantasy, however pathetic it may sound now. I wouldn’t be surprised if a similar fantasy is playing into this, with a whole list of other things to add complications to it.

    When I called off my first engagement many years ago, I was surprised how many people told me they saw it coming. I was a bit mad at first that they didn’t say anything then I realized that had they said something, I wouldn’t have listened anyway. I had to come to the realization myself. I’m so glad I did and that I was able to get out of a mistake before it got worse. I don’t know what it will take to knock some sense into your daughter. Be momma bear, maintain a clear stance that his actions are unacceptable, plant the seeds of confidence and courage, point out even the smallest examples of courage that you see from her. You could offer to cover the legal fees or something else along those lines too.

    Sadly you don’t have control over whether or not she sees the light. You see the light and you can control your own actions, what you say about it. You can be an example and that’s all you can ultimately do. Hopefully she’ll see the light sooner rather than later.

    I wonder what her response would be to: “If tomorrow you woke up and everything was perfect, what would that look like? Who would be present? Who wouldn’t be? What would people be doing? What would your life look like?”

  • Muffy, my condolences on having such a dick for a son in law. But a standing ovation for discovering this blog! I hope your daughter realizes soon that this guy she is married to is never going to change or become the man she sees little glimpses of. His actions are entirely who he is. Your daughter is choosing abuse over living a healthy authentic life. And that young pregnant OW has just figured out that he’s a fraud too, he doesn’t want to be a husband let alone a father. He wants to be the guy who is having sex. Doesn’t matter who. One hole is the same as any other. He’s the guy who’s drifting through life busy in his head, disconnected and disengaged. He has no intention of ever being a responsible respectable man and will stay Peter Pan for the rest of his life. What your daughter needs to do is to take a hard look at why she stays. I am sure she is surrounded by drama, and fun, and is spackling mightily. My ex was incredibly charming, successful, a great actor, but I always felt off balance, like something wasn’t quite right in my marriage. I wanted it all, and for a long time it looked good. I had the charade, beautiful children, house, toys, etc. It didn’t feel good. I spent twenty eight years with my ex, we were in our teens when we met, and our entire life together was…A…LIE. At 46 my ex walked out on his family and destroyed us financially while doing so. Imagine working hard your whole life and watching everything you’ve worked hard towards disappear. My family was my whole life. My children and I were devastated by ex’s crap life skills and selfish decisions. My ex existed for cake so when his cover was blown (his OW threatened to tell me, Cheating was my deal breaker) he just married his next idiot. That OW of your SIL’s!?!? That is all the evidence your daughter needs to cut toxic out of her life. Take your daughter on a cruise Mom and share your concerns. Your daughter wants the fairy tale. What she doesn’t realize is that she has chosen someone who will NEVER give that to her. He is incapable of it. If I had paid attention to my gut, or had anyone tell me flat out who I’d married (my ex was great at hiding it all), I would have run from this long ago. Five years later I am still picking up the pieces. I am 49 now and while starting over seems a little challenging at times I am thrilled to be making my own way. And I still do believe in love. I just know now what it should look and feel lIke. There is a man out there waiting for me, one who will be healthy and whole, one who will treat me well. We all deserve better. That is what I want. If not, that’s okay too. Living a truthful authentic life is best, not only for me but for my children as well. I have a life now something I would have never had with a disordered Narc Cheater. Best of luck to you both.

  • You’re a good mom, Muffy, for looking out for your daughter. But it’s tough if she won’t see it for herself. It’s not a whole lot different from SIL, really, in that the afflicted needs to see it on their own. I’m not sure you can make someone “realize” anything.

    One other suggestion would be to ask her to, once in a while, think about how she would counsel a good friend of hers (or even how she would counsel YOU, or her own hypothetical daughter) were she caught up in a similar circumstance. Some of us chumps are not very good at advocating for ourselves, so it helps to think how we would advise someone we actually care about (not always us, as it turns out).

    My own hang up was, as Divorce Minister alluded to above, the “time invested” thing — I was 16 years with XH — as I thought no one would ever know me and share all those “inside jokes” and memories. Your daughter has plenty of time (ah,yes, to see 31 again… I was just thinking earlier that was when I was in the prime of my life, health wise) to build a newer and better life with someone more deserving.

    But there’s also (for me) an issue of honor. I know my XH has no honor (and your SIL has **NO** honor!), but there’s something in me that insisted I fight and fight and fight for the marriage because *I* made a vow! *I* promised this thing between us was valuable and swore to protect it, and protect it I would!! — And sometimes that makes us look right past the fact that the relationship itself is diseased.

    I’m a doctor and I have to say your daughter’s marriage has about the poorest prognosis I’ve seen on this site in a long time: Only married five years, cheating the whole time, no remorse, dragged kicking and screaming into counseling?? Pull the plug before it gets uglier and there’s real suffering involved.

    As others have already said (because it’s important), she should leave now when she doesn’t have kids. Because once she gets her head out of her ass (may take a few years post-divorce, I know) and sees his true self, she’s not going to want anything to do with him — kids keep you connected to the POS for a very long time, and from what I read here, not very pleasantly.

    And if she feels we are too biased here on this website (we aren’t but she may feel overwhelmed), then try a couple of the books. You can spend your whole life denying the facts, or you can use them to set you free to a new better life. Thirty-one? LOADS of time!

    Good luck.

  • Muffy, all the advice from Chump Lady and the commenters is spot-on. I, too, would give anything to be 31 again and do things over, knowing what I know now.

    The best tangible Christmas gift you can give your daughter is a copy of Chump Lady’s book on surviving infidelity. I’ve read it twice and no doubt will dip in for a third time. But don’t wait until Christmas to give it to her. She needs this book NOW. It will save her sanity, dignity, and the rest of her life. It is the best guide out there to understanding cheaters and chumps and how to build a new cheater-free life.

  • I am pretty sure I have started my life over 3 times since I was 30. Each time it was better. Only one of those times involved being married and having to get divorced from a cheater.

  • Muffy, good for you for writing to Tracy and being part of our hardy little band of survivors. Here’s my question: where is your daughter’s father? If he is living and in the picture, get him into the mix. Or get an uncle, aunt, grandparent, etc. to be part of confronting him. These jackasses are great at My father would have taken a tire iron to the jackass your daughter is “married” to. The two of you can do a nice job at blowing the “cover-up” that your daughter has engineered to keep the sad secret of her marriage. You SIL is going to have a huge problem with his “impression management” if everyone in the extended family knows about the expected out-of-wedlock child, if everyone knows he’s a piece of f***ing shit.

    Second, sit your daughter down and show her the financials of raising Cheaterpants’s love child through college. Whatever income he has is about to take a big drop, and her income will be counted in figuring out the expected contribution, in most states. Sit her down with a therapist to get her to FEEL something about raising his love child for the next 22 years, and beyond that–graduations, weddings, funerals. And is she willing to drag her own kids through this ridiculous soap opera? They don’t deserve a Dad who can keep it in his pants? And she doesn’t deserve a faithful husband? This girl essentially needs to be de-programmed. Legally, she’s an adult, but she’s decided she can’t live on her own without this jackass. The fact that she came to you with her “impression management” effort to support her sham marriage suggests that she in fact does value your input and opinion. The trick is to say, over and over, that she deserves happiness. She deserves a faithful husband. That she desires to be loved and cherished by a wonderful man. That you have ZERO respect for the man she married. That she can be strong, and if she doesn’t feel strong now, that the effort of recovery and rebuilding will make her so. That your greatest hope is that she will have the courage to reach for happiness. That you will help her and hold her through the painful transition. That she at 31 is at the perfect age to re-imagine her life. Just as I am at 63. Please let us know that she has reached for life and not the death of marriage to this horrible person.

  • Ooops. I started a thought above and got interrupted….These jackasses are great at blame shifting, lying, gaslighting, and covering up, especially one-on-one. That stuff doesn’t work in a group.

  • I was also married to my cheater 5 years when I was 31. He may or may not have been cheating during that time but what I knew I had was an alcoholic asshole that was more interested in doing yard work the day I miscarried my one and only pregnancy with him. But I still thought he was “my person” and no one else would have me. I wish I would have caught him cheating instead back then. Maybe I could have started over and had a family with someone else. Instead I thought my love would make him stop drinking and give more than zero fucks about my desire to have a family. In the ten years that followed, he ruined my credit, stole tons from me financially and robbed me of my ability to have children. I know I will make the money back but damn if I don’t regret every single day wasting my child bearing years on that POS.

    • KitKat,

      Boatloads of good used kids out there wishing they had someone with love to give. If your finances make adoption not an option, there’s fostering. Some kids prefer a single parent. Just a thought . . .

  • I feel for your daughter. I was 29 when my husband walked out on me at Christmas and now in my early 30s. It sucks that while many of my peers are getting married, buying new homes, and having kids, I was getting a divorce. We had no kids, and frankly, I tire of the cautionary tales constantly perpetuated about how my eggs are going to shrivel up and self-destruct when I hit advanced maternal age. All of that beats the hell out of being married to a sociopath who lies and cheats. Even at my worst, I am better than him at his best. I am educated, pursuing my goals, travel, and sleep in whenever I feel like it.

    If she does not lead her life, he will do it for her, and it will be a fucktastic freakshow of Jerry Springer epic proportions. She is better than that.

  • 31? I WISH I had found out when I was 31. I didn’t find out until my mid-40s and had been a SAHM for far too many years. Your daughter needs to realise that she will survive, no matter what, but if she stays with this asshole she’s facing years of misery.

  • Muffy’s daughter:
    How happy are you right now? You might tell yourself you love him but really, are you content? Calm? Satisfied that all is right in your world? Or do you wake up with the thought of “What do I need to do today to make HIM happy? How can I make sure he stays with ME?”
    The stress in your life must be huge. You know what he’s doing and you spend all your energy trying to block it out. Do you really want to still be living this way in a year? In five years? In ten or twenty years? How many children from OW do you accept? If one isn’t your number, what is? Does he get to father five kids before you’ve had enough?
    He won’t change because he’s trained you from 18 years old to accept his behaviour. He was a smart guy to get you when you were young and mould you into his enabler.
    i guess what I’m thinking is that one day you will probably “get it”. You’ll understand that you need a decent and happy life away from this man. I just hope for your sake that it’s soon because honey, life is so much better on the other side.

  • Dear Muffy,

    First of all, I must commend you for coming to CL, in search for help, answers and support. You could have so easily thought, after confronting your daughter about this, that after all she was 31, a grown woman in charge of her own life, and stayed wringing your hands just watching from the sidelines, worried, upset and concerned for the daughter you obviously love and care for deeply. I sincerely hope you sit your daughter down and present her with this post. In the end, she will make her own decisions, but I hope she’s sees clearly how much you love her to have come here in the first place.

    There are a few things that stand out for me here:

    1) How curious that the OW came to MIL and not wife in her attempt to get SIL to leave her alone? Has she already tried to do this by letting your daughter know what was going on, and nothing has changed? Has SIL so denigrated your daughter that OW simply doesn’t believe she will be strong enough to end the harrassment OW feels she’s under?

    2) It’s my belief that people who choose Social Work as a career (I am one of these people) do so because they have a liberal philosophy in life. We believe things like ‘bad things happen to good people’, ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’, ‘at heart people are good they just don’t get the breaks’, ‘FOO issues influence decisions, making good people behave badly’, ‘No one is a lost cause’. Your daughter may well be battling her own ‘philosophy’ – trying to live within the goodness of her own heart, the ethics of her profession – forgetting that often her clients are victims of the same abuse she is suffering from. Her clients weren’t guilty of loving enough, and neither is she – in fact, I believe she has become a victim BECAUSE of her philosophy. It’s not that being liberal is wrong, it’s that obviously SIL sees her philosophy makes her a doormat.

    3) How does your daughter feel about this child being carried by OW? Did she choose not to have children yet? Have they been unable to get pregnant so far? How awful to imagine the position this must put your daughter in.

    4) If cheating isn’t a deal-breaker for your daughter, if fathering children with random other women isn’t a deal-breaker, what is your daughter’s deal-breaker? Is it physical abuse? Is it a certain level of physical abuse? Is it having your eyes gouged out by ‘the love of your life’ (as happened to a poor woman here in the UK)? When is enough, enough for your daughter? How can she be absolutely sure that the man she married, who has clearly broken his vows of fidelity, who felt no compulsion to at very least use condoms when having sex with someone other than his wife, not kill her one day, or you or anyone else she loves? As a Social Worker she is more aware than most of the depravities of the human spirit when it comes to harm they are prepared to do to others, what charm does she think she has that makes her more protected than her clients?

    I understand her concerns about 31 and starting again, but honestly, I’d love to be 31 again – not 20 years older having to start all over COMPLETELY, having been the victim of a cheating narcissistic psychopath.

    Best of luck to you Muffy, you are a mighty mum 🙂 Daughter – you have dedicated your life to saving others, time to save yourself – you can do it, you are welcome here for all the loving, understanding support you could ever imagine 🙂

    • Edit…. ‘Her clients weren’t guilty of loving enough’ should read: ‘Her clients weren’t guilty of NOT loving enough’,.

    • I’d like to add to point 2) … I think many (if not all) of us chumps here at CN share this ‘liberal’ philosophy, and found ourselves abused and caught in the abuse, because of these ethics. I don’t think the ethics are wrong. In fact, one of the horrors I faced when confronted with the truth, was thinking I would have to change my whole philosophy and attitude to other people in order to be safe again! I’ve come to realise that I can continue having a ‘liberal’ attitude, I just have to make sure my philosophy doesn’t leave me open to abuse.

      Last night I watched a programme about a Zoo Keeper in Australia who was raising tiger cubs. He clearly loves the animals. He clearly believes tigers are beautiful, awesome creatures. He had strong bonds with the cubs and the mature tigers kept at the zoo, however, I am certain he’d leave the cage the first moment a tiger started snarling and twitching its tail. I don’t believe this zoo keeper would change his attitude towards tigers, he’d still love them, he’d still think them beautiful and awesome, he’d just make sure he wasn’t endangered by them!

      I can keep believing in the basic goodness of my fellow man, I just don’t have to remain in a cage with them if they start endangering my life! Yay – big step forward to Meh for me guys! 😀

      • Just a thought that I wouldn’t call the “hate the sin but love the sinner” and “no one is a lost cause” a “liberal” thought. It seems to me to be a misunderstanding of some fundamental religious ideas (ones common in the U.S.) that we shouldn’t judge people. In the spiritual sense, I think that’s true: none of us are in a position to “judge” someone’s soul.

        But (as my nun friend would say) Jesus, Mary and Joseph, that has nothing to do with who we let into our life. I can look at a murderer and “hate the sin” and hope the sinner will change, but I’m not having him over for dinner or going on a date with him. We can acknowledge that even the most depraved people are fellow humans, we can respect that (like hyenas and jackasses and bottom-feeders) they have a spark of life in them. But we must educate ourselves and the next generations that some people are disordered and dangerous and if we want to live happy, productive lives, we need to stay away from therm. That if there is hope for those disordered, dangerous people, it does not lie in being “saved” by a spouse or partner or parent or close friend.

        • Well said, LAJ. These disordered folks can only save themselves, and I, for one, am staying the hell away from them. I now practice extreme self-care and that means not inviting anyone into my life who knowingly harm me.

      • The weirdest thing is that I’m a liberal person and I thought my ex was as well. In the 3 years since I kicked him out? He’s gotten very conservative, sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. I figure he was always this way and it’s just one more thing he hid from me. Really mind-boggling.

          • So it would seem. The stuff the kids tell me that dad is saying really blows my mind. It’s like a totally different person, with totally different views. He is a pod person and not well in the head as far as I can see.

            • Nord, my STBX blows whichever way the wind blows. If he’s exposed to liberal talk shows, he’ll sound like a liberal. Right now, he’s listening to conspiracy theorists on youtube, and of course he believes them and now sounds like a conspiracy lunatic. If he listens to right-wing talk shows, he becomes right wing.

              I think this is part of his poor sense of boundaries. He doesn’t really have a defined sense of who he is. He says he listens to all sides. In fact, he consumes all perspectives without any kind of critical filter. If he did, he’d probably have said no to Schmoopie.

              As it is, he is becoming more outspokenly racist. Schmoopie is suspicious of persons of color. Right now, she’s acting as his moral compass, so of course he’s skewed.

  • The truth hurts but living a lie hurts more. Make her face the truth. She might resent you at first but she will thank you one day.

  • Your daughter needs to immediately be tested for STDs. If that doesn’t wake her up, nothing will. That’s what finally worked for me. She also needs to immediately change her life insurance beneficiaries without him knowing just in case he tries to hurt/kill her.

    I was in the exact same situation as your daughter, except I was 34 and had been married 10 years, no kids thank God. My family & friends loved my ex and we all thought he was perfect, kind, & sweet. He had a 4 million dollar life insurance policy on my life.

    I found out by accident in year 9 that our marriage was a cover for his sex addiction. His credit card showed he had dozens of affairs with any low-life who could unbutton his/her pants quickly enough. He was on dating, porn & affair sites I’d never even heard of. He was meeting women & some men for random sexual encounters. He got off (literally & figuatively) on sleeping with me & other partners on the very same days, within hours of each other. He would have sex with me in the morning and then meet someone else at a hotel for lunch. He admitted to me that the deceitfulness of it all made him feel “powerful”.

    I know some people wonder how I didn’t know. Well, it turned out he was a sociopath with a genius-level IQ…a master deceiver & manipulator. We are both lawyers, and I never suspected a single thing – we had a great life, we had sex 3-5 times a week. And suddenly I felt like I’d been raped for ten years without even realizing it. I still vomit on occasion when I think about it too much (we’ve been divorced just over a year).

    I went into shock and could hardly function. I was deeply humiliated & sickened beyond belief. I felt like a failure – something I wasn’t accustomed to. I wondered why I wasn’t good enough for him, what these other men/women had that I didn’t. (That’s how brainwashed I was!) I am very empathetic and trusting. I’ve made a career of helping people. I was a perfect target for such a freakshow–as is your daughter. We believe in and see the best in everyone, and these empty, malignant souls feast on our trust and goodness.

    The shock of realization sometimes makes you unable to fully understand & process the depth of the evil and the betrayal. What really woke me up was sitting at my OB/GYN’S office with my feet in the stirrups, shivering, getting tested for dozens of STDs. My doctor was sympathetic & kind but also realistic: she said I needed to prepare myself mentally in the event I had an STD. He’d been with so many other high-risk people (including at least one heroin user) that she felt I was at a very high risk for diseases.

    She talked about STDs that could be treated; she talked about learning to live with STDs that couldn’t be treated. She talked about HIV and the advances in medication/life expectancy. The unfairness & shock of it all got the best of me as I laid there. I thought, ‘THIS ISN’T HOW MY LIFE WAS SUPPOSED TO TURN OUT’. I started sobbing inconsolably in her office & couldn’t stop sobbing for nearly 2 hours. Those six moths were terrifying, disgusting, fraught with anxiety attacks, restless, joyless, & filled with nightmares when I did finally sleep.

    Those six moths also drove home the depth of the betrayal. He’d selfishly risked my life & health in pursuit of his sex addiction–and your daughter’s loser husband is doing the same thing. Who could ever stay with someone who could potentially contract HIV, herpes, etc., on any given day in some new ‘fling’?? I finally realized how absurd/sick that was. I didn’t want him breathing air on the same planet as me, let alone to be in the same home & marriage.

    Go with your daughter and hold her hand when she gets tested. And I will pray that it will be the eye opener that she needs.

    One final note that Chump Lady touched on. My patents are awesome. When he & my Mom found out, after the initial shock wore off, my Mom coordinated a private investigator to find all the dirt he could on my soon-to-be ex. And my Dad continued contact with my soon-to-be-ex and ate two months of his shit sandwiches (he tried to convince my Dad it was my fault). My Dad ate shit sandwiches just long enough to make sure I had everything I needed to get out safely & with the best settlement possible. Then my Dad (a union sheet metal worker) calmly told my ex that our family had hired a PI, we knew everything, every last detail, the police also knew everything!, and to never again contact or bother me or my family. My Dad reminded my ex that he owned lots of guns, plenty of heavy eqiupment and lots of land, and that he’d find him & cut him into a thousand tiny pieces and joyfully scatter his remains Godfather-style across several states to make sure he’d never bother any of us again.

    I’ve never been happier since leaving his sorry ass. He was a huge loser and I deserve so much better. Not to be dramatic, I felt like I got cured of cancer when I got that divorce decree. I have never felt or looked better–people tell me I look 10 years younger. Don’t underestimate how amazing it will feel to take that giant cancerous tumor and remove it from your life permanently. You will never regret it. My only regret is that I wasted 13+ years with this loser!

    • Great survival story, Sara. Glad to hear you made it out alive.

      “These empty, malignant soulless people feast on our trust and goodness.” I had to change to soulless.

      Muffy, your daughter is with a master manipulator. He is without a conscience. Keep her close to your side. Listen to everything she says. Bite your tongue and do not go a day without speaking to her even if just to say, hello. When she tells you something ask her, “So how do you feel about that?” She will figure it out faster if SHE is the one to say or think it out loud and she will begin to confide. She will withdraw if you say anything against him. The cats out of the bag and he is working her big time. Right now, HE is all she knows and he has been slowly, slowly stripping her of any sense of self since she was an impressionable 18 year old. She has already worked long and hard to stay in her marriage and she thinks all marriages are hard because she doesn’t know better. Starting over for her is a nightmare because of what she has already been through with this mother fucker.

      You SIL is one sick asshole.

      Two of my daughters did not marry until they were 32. So 31 is not starting over. It’s a beginning.

      Encourage her to get individual counseling. Get some names for her with good recommendations. Just put it out to her without pushing too hard.

      And pray. Pray like her life depended on it.

      I am so sorry you are your beautiful daughter are in this position but there is HOPE with us.

      • Most importantly, be honest with her. You can be honest without calling names. You can call him all the names you want here, but keep it to “irresponsible”, “reckless”, “selfish”, you get the picture. Describe the behavior not the person. We already know WHO he is.

        Once she sees the light and leaves, have at it….

    • Great story Sarah! Maybe Muffy’s daughter will relate to yours a little easier since you’re both roughly the same age. I absolutely love reading mighty chump success stories! Rock on!

    • Sara, what an uplifting story. While the details of all our stories are different, the common denominator is the cheater who emotionally abuse us for their own sick enjoyment. I still shudder when I think of my ex and I don’t even know everything. I’m so glad that your monster of an ex is out of your life. Your parents rock.

  • Odds are that she can either start over now, or start over later. As others have said, he will eventually dump her, and at that time she might have kids too.

    It won’t be easy or comfortable, but it can be done. I was married to the same guy for 28 years and lived with him for 5 years before that (since I was 18). For the last year I have been putting my life back together after he had an exit affair (his one and only, thank goodness). She thinks it would hurt after 6 years? Try after 33 years and on the wrong side of 50!

    Just like they say when people moan that they are too old to go back to school or enter a new career – well how old will you be if you don’t do it? And it will be much easier if it is by choice than if it is thrust upon her unwillingly!

  • Dear Muffy and hopefully Muffy’s daughter! My cheater husband is a serial cheater who I found out 2 years ago (which was 10 years into our marriage) that he had slept with at least 60 women during out marriage. Our entire marriage! He said he was a “sex addict” and he needed help. Everything that Chump Lady describes about these serial cheaters is true. He manipulated me into feeling sorry for him. That he needed my help to get sober. That he was so sad and so remorseful and he would never do it again. It was all a lie. He recently tried to reconcile with me and I found out as early as last week that he has never stopped. He was going to therapy and meetings and still doing the nasty with the nasty women out there. His response after being caught is the same each and every time and I was a SUCKER who fell for it in the past. He cry’s, he’s remorseful, he starts going to meetings more, starts being a better dad. I am 42 soon to be 43 with a 9 year old and a 12 year old. Thanks to Chump Lady and the wonderful people here and all the reading I have done I can say that I am finally seeing him for who he is. A sick sick man who will pull me down with him with no regards for my well being. I would rather be alone than spend one more minute married to this man. What I would do to have found this out at 31. Seriously Muffy’s daughter…31 is so so so young and being alone is so much better than being scared every day of what you will find. Please don’t waste anymore of your youth on this piece of shit. Big hugs to you mama bear!

  • Muffy-

    Jeez, I feel bad for the folks on infidelity websites that do the pick me polka and spackle and try to fix everything by themselves by making the “Marriage a happier place to be”. I can’t imagine watching my own child go through this mess. Give her the link to this website (every day in an email) or better yet; ask to use her computer, log on to chump lady and then sit her butt down in front of it!

    Make her read the articles about reconciliation and entitlement and GINR (Genuine Imitation Naugahyde Remorse). That should be required reading for every betrayed spouse that is attempting reconciliation. Go to her house in the middle of the night and whisper the articles in her ear to give her subliminal messages if you have to. Whatever you can do to help her out of this mess will be worth it.

    I was 47 when I finally divorced and I’d sell my soul to the devil himself to have found out that I was married to a soul, sucking loser when I was 31. If she thinks she can’t start her life over when she’s 31; think of how hard it will be when she’s knocking on 50s doorstep!

    I do hope she will leave this cheater and gain a life!

    Hugs to you Muffy!

  • I am remembering the relationship I had with a man whom I met when I was about 19. Like a fool, I married him at about age 22… just to be contrary. (this was not Mr. Cheaterpants.) he was however emotionally and physically abusive. (And here’s me a super feminist Women’s Studies major at Prestigious Women’s college…talk about a double life…)

    The things we mask are legion.

    What I know now is that my parents steadfast ability (or at least the best they could do) to just be there for me, and give me shelter when I really needed it, was what allowed me to finally flee that relationship.

    What kept me there? Shame. Fear. Shame, and more shame. More fear. Humiliation. Not feeling like I was worth more.

    Please tell your daughter that no matter what has happened, what she’s done, what she’s put up with, whatever she is secretly ashamed of, in her deepest heart, you love her and you are there for her.

    What does she need for help? Just provide it. Make it easy for her. Everything else is hard for her, I promise.

    She knows the score. She just can’t say it, admit it. I’ll bet you. But just show her total love and forgiveness and you might be surprised when she takes you up on the offer.

    I can’t imagine the excruciating pain of watching a daughter (or son) so through this. I wish you peace.

  • Muffy, I can tell you that I NEEDED my mom’s rage for support. I’m 34 and only 6 months past D-Day, and just as Chump Lady describes, I grabbed onto any pathetic little scrap of hope that floated my way in a river of detritus. (Let’s be honest, I still do, but at least now I don’t outwardly react or respond. I stuff that shit down, have a cup of coffee, and stop by this blog for reinforcement.) For a while my mom tried to be supportive of my attempts to work through things with my STBX, and I thought to myself “Gee, it can’t be all that bad. Even my MOM thinks there’s hope!” He kept cheating, and it didn’t take long for everyone to see thought his actions. My mom turned into roaring mama grizzly, and that’s what I needed. Someone to look out for ME (since my ex sure as heck didn’t) and someone to knock some sense into me in weak moments. Did it push me away a little bit? Sure, because she was saying things I didn’t want to hear, even though I knew deep down that they were true. It wasn’t my mom that pushed me away, it was the truth. I came around pretty quickly after I sat with her words for a few days and realized that there is just no way around the truth. So please, do NOT coddle your daughter. That will give her ammunition to stay stuck. She might get mad, she might be hurt, but it will pass. Remember that you are not the source of the anger and the hurt, and you might just be her key to freedom.

    • …..’For a while my mom tried to be supportive of my attempts to work through things with my STBX, and I thought to myself “Gee, it can’t be all that bad. Even my MOM thinks there’s hope!”

      That’s a really good point Free Vixen. When other people look to be smoking the hopium pipe it does keep you stuck, makes you doubt yourself. Finding ChumpLady, and the strong ‘HELL, NO TO THAT’ message, with permission to get righteously angry about that abuse – that was what got me strong enough to see the truth and away from the fantasy my heart was desperate to cling to, regardless of the harm it was doing to me. There is no doubt Muffy’s daughter is being abused and the more people IRL who identify it to her, the more she is going to accept it isn’t her gaslighted, blameshifted, somehow unreliable, perception.

    • OMG. I am *55* and have to start over!

      Not because I was cheated on – but abused (although his favorite website was “barelylegal.com”). My soon to be ex-DH in divorce correspondence never misses an opportunity to hysterically describe how devoted he was to me. He verbally, emotionally, and worst of all financially tore me to shreds little by little.

      The first half of my marriage wasn’t that great (he would occasionally publicly humiliate me). I thought it was me and I put up with it and managed, stupidly. I married him young just like your daughter. He is 12 years older than me. It took me until late in the last half of my 30 year marriage to wake the fuck up and kick him the hell out. I felt like a shell of a person right before I woke up. People like your SIL chip away at their spouses brains sometimes in big chunks – but mostly in little chunks so you don’t notice until you’re sick.

      I damn WISH I was 31 again.

  • This is a tough one. I think I feel rather hopeless about it because even though I’m much, much older than Muffy’s daughter, I didn’t listen when my entire family tried to convey that my husband was a con artist and user. Instead I went deeper underground so that they never knew how awful it was. I lied about him and a few times I even sat them down and tried to tell them how wrong they were about them.

    Thankfully they kept loving me and they opened their house up to me because last year my husband cheated on me and dumped me, after using up all my assets, leaving me virtually penniless at 56 years of age.

    My shame kept me from being honest with my family which only made everything worse and made it drag out longer.

    Your daughter isn’t ready to face it yet, but I hope she gets there soon. Perhaps you can make a deal with her that you’ll give her some space if she promises to get individual counseling. And of course I hope she comes here.

    And Muffy’s daughter, trust us, your self esteem is gone, thanks to your abuser. That is why you feel so frightened and hopeless about starting a new life. Work on re-building that self-esteem and slowly you’ll be able to accept that it will never get better. Ever. Until you leave him.

  • “She is a clinical social worker”, ask your daughter to do an exercise wherein one of her clients comes to her with the same problems she has. Ask her to write notes and what she would advise the client. But I love him is bullshit, she needs to write down WHY she loves him, and why she doesn’t. It might help.

    The resource page appears to be broken (for me there are no books listed). Read “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. It’s about abusive relationships, you may think it doesn’t apply, it really does, what your daughters husband is doing to her is abuse. It would be much better if she read it.

    31 is the prime of life, I wish your daughter would feel that way, only she can come to the realization for herself so it’s a faint hope. It seems like our fight for equality has taken many steps back when a 31 year old woman thinks she is too old to start over. She is coming into her own, she is at her height in terms of beauty, physical strength and mental capabilities. But of course her husband is going for younger women…

    So, a piece of my story, in case it helps your daughter: I met first love at 18 and we were together for 12 years, broke up when I was 31. We were so young and in the end incompatible, but hell, we fixers think these things can be overcome. When my Dad died he cheated on me and I kicked his ass out 4 months before my 32nd birthday. I was so hurt, but not for very long.

    Within months I recognized he did me a favor, although I still loved him, it wasn’t a romantic love any longer, and if he hadn’t fucked up, I might have wasted more years with him. Loving him had become a habit despite the lack of intimacy and true caring. Habits die hard, and fear of being alone is in that mix too. The next few years were the best years of my life, I spent those years SINGLE with boyfriends or dates all along the way. I was on my OWN completely for the first time in my life and it was awesome. I was totally broke all the time, I had to work a second job, get a room mate to cover my mortgage, and for a while I got dinner by going to happy hours and eating the free food. In my thirties I was more beautiful and confident and happy with MYSELF than I ever was before. With the weight of my spouses problems gone I had energy to take care of me. I felt like I could do anything, and I did! I made so many friends and felt so powerful and capable it was amazing. Too bad I met my recent ex at 35, trust me, your daughter will find someone to love and be loved by, she hasn’t got an expiration date. She’ll just want to fix her picker before she hooks up with another user/abuser.

    My thirties were the best years of my life, I’d love to back and do it again :). In fact I am trying to do that right now but the damn DeLorean’s time travel flux capacitor does NOT work on my corvette. I KNEW those guys were ripping me off!!!! Oh well, 54 is not too late…31 is perfect timing…

    • How could I forget Captain Awkward! Her advice blog is awesome, lots of help with boundary setting and I recommend reading the Darth Vader boyfriend posts: http://captainawkward.com/new-here/

      Jedi Hugs to you and your daughter Muffy! I hope she will consider at least a trial separation to get some perspective. It think getting away from her husband for a while would make a world of difference.

    • Per the resource page, are you getting a broken link 440 error? Or just don’t see the book? The widget takes FOREVER to load! But that will change when I finally move this thing to the new server. (Had to get the site leaner and meaner first.)

      • Just went back, and reloaded in Chrome: I see “Great Reads That Help” but there is nothing listed. Then I see “Great Resources on the Web” and 3 site links. Your own book doesn’t show up either.

        However, it looks like whoever created the page optimized it for Internet Explorer, because I just tested it. I can see the cool graphic with all the books linked to Amazon when using IE. I no longer use Firefox so didn’t test that browser. Hope that helps.

      • CL, the forums are completely MIA on my iPad. On my PC I have to click an article to get to them. I suggest you have your designer put a forums link in the top bar. Thanks for the blog CL!

    • ‘In fact I am trying to do that right now but the damn DeLorean’s time travel flux capacitor does NOT work on my corvette. I KNEW those guys were ripping me off!!!! Hahahaha 😀

      My 30’s were great too! No longer the insecurities of my teens and twenties, nor the sudden awareness of time marching on as my forties (though forties were alright tbh -despite spending them with ‘The Great I Am’). Just entering my 50’s and being forced into starting all over again (would have embraced it so much more optimistically in my 30’s, that’s for sure) but age is just a number – so much better than the alternative!

      • I was hoping someone would get a laugh from that! I just remembered that in the movie you don’t actually get to go back and BE your younger self, you get to go back and maybe change things for your younger self. So, if I could get the flux capacitor to work, I’d just try to make sure I never met my ex at 35. I’m pretty damn sure I could have distracted my younger self from going to that party really easily, hahahaha

    • If I remember correctly Datdamwuf your corvette rocks!!! Who the fuck says we don’t get better as we get older anyway!?!? So many of our exes prey on the younger set because they are naive just as we all were at eighteen, twenty, etc.

  • This post is really resonating with me today. I have dumped the cheater, but have got stuck on the “gain a life” part too – it is so hard to suddenly start life over when you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck.

    I know I need to start looking after myself, and building a new life, but I feel so frumpy and tired and completely crushed. I would love to hear how Chump Nation got its mojo back, and found ways to move towards that new and more authentic life.

    • Besides leaving the cheater that’s what we all have in common here: recovering from them and regaining a life, or getting one we never had in the first place. As you know by now the path to Meh is windy but we must forge on putting one foot in front of the other — because there’s no choice. You’ll find that Chump Nation does anything and everything in order to get to that other side. For some of us the journey is longer. I’m trying to forgive myself for being upset that it is taking me so long. But meanwhile I have lost weight. I have gotten fitter. I go to therapy, church, and I volunteer. My life is definitely different, and that helps, but it’s still quite hard. I’m melancholy, but deep inside I think I am “cautiously optimistic” that I will experience joy again. We’ve all been so damaged by our cheaters we must be gentle with ourselves.

      Hypatia, do you visit the forums? You can find then in the right hand column under Chump Chat. You must do a quick registration before you can post. I get a great deal of comfort from them.

    • Hypatia, who were you before you took up with the cheater? What did you love? Who did you enjoy spending time with? What did you like to do? What were your hopes and dreams? What passions have you pushed deep inside you because you didn’t have time, because they annoyed the cheater, because you were making yourself small or twisting into some shape you thought he would like? Who do you want to be in a year? in five years? I decided I wanted to be confident, happy, grateful, and “vulnerable,” meaning open to learning, to new experience, and to love others, so I read books and watched movies about courage, starting over, and living an authentic life. I started a life re-design on Pinterest (without pinning lipstick, hair styles, or McMansions to remodel). I did therapy, I did exercise, I did yoga, I did prayer and meditation. And I did all of these because those things were the path to the life I want. If I had a different sort of life in mind, I might have learned to cook or put up drywall. So the first thing is to figure out who you are and what you want your life to be–and for me, that is an ongoing project.

      In a way, I was lucky in the first few months because the universe set me a series of immediate, crisis-level problems that I had to address–whether I felt able to or not. Then there was Christmas, and I set out to establish my own new traditions. I made new decorations, got a tree, wrapped presents for others (and myself!) and put them under a tree. I did community service and planned time with friends. It wasn’t the best holiday I ever had, but I was proud of how I lived that part of my life, and that propelled me forward. So take up your immediate challenges and decide how you will get through them. Choose. Be mindful.

      And let me say something about the importance of work. Having a job to go to is a huge bonus, even if you can only hold it together from the time you leave the house in the morning until you come back (as I did). Work fills the mind with things other than the cheater, the betrayal, the pain, the questions. It grounds you to the ordinary world outside your broken heart and connects you with people who will help you heal, often people you would never expect to play a role in your life. Getting paid for what you do and then learning to live on what you make alone is both empowering and sobering, but there is nothing like knowing you can take care of yourself. And then there is the work of life–laundry, chores, mowing grass or shoveling snow, transporting kids or pets. If you have kids, of course, there is no end to that kind of work, but for those of us who have no kids or have an empty nest–it’s a great time to clean, declutter, rearrange furniture and artwork, etc. Paint a room or two and make your space your own.

      No one can figure out this path for you. Be conscious. Figure out you and what you love. I’m a year past D-Day now, and still I think of my new life as a precious baby animal I must protect. I’ve got a little crush on someone (ha! at my age!) but even if something comes of it, I will move very slowly because I’ve worked so hard to build this life, and it is still new and fragile. There no pain like betrayal but there is also nothing liker e-booting your life from the ground up. Good luck.

  • Muffy, if you want me to talk to your daughter, I will. Contact Tracy and I give her permission to give you my email address. I was 26 when my ex confessed his first affair. I forgave him. Then another affair (I caught) 10 years later. I filed for divorce but withdrew it after he said he would do everything. Thirteen years after, another affair I caught. I was done. I was 52 then. And we have one child. I would give, not just my eyeteeth, but my eyesight to have a do over at 31. Look for my letter that Tracy posted sometime in August 2013 (A Cautionary Tale). I want to spare your daughter the years of pain. I separated from the ex for two years ago and divorced over a year and a half, and if I know what I know now about how great life is without a cheater, I would have bolted at 26. Do everything you can, Muffy, to save your daughter. Her emotional life is going to go only one direction if she stays … downhill.

  • Muffy, Yes she can start over at 31. I’m 34 and I am doing it and she can too. I left my POS XH a month before I turned 33 and I was with him for about 8.5 years. It’s now been a little over a year that my divorce was finalized and and almost 2 years since I left. Leaving my house, my dog, my marriage was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but after reading all of the stories here on chumplady.com, I’m so happy I did it at 32, and not at 42, or 52…and I am beyond grateful that I did it before I had kids.

    With “the clock” ticking loudly in my head, I completely understand her worries about starting over. My only regret is not having left sooner. My XH went to therapy for a year and a half after I found out about affair #1. He also played the “sex addiction” card after I found out about affair #2. And guess what, NOTHING CHANGED! It took him basically telling me that he didn’t love me, that I was a bad wife (because I had the audacity of going back to grad school), and that I deserved to be cheated on.

    Muffy, your daughter is so lucky to have you looking out for her. I wish that someone, anyone, would have said something to me. I’m about as stubborn as a mule, but I would have given anything for someone to have knocked me over the head and pulled me out of that situation sooner. I’ve been where your daughter is at now. And I can tell you that she’s afraid. She’s afraid that your scumbag SIL is the best she can do. She’s afraid that she’ll be alone the rest of her life. She’s afraid of the unknown.

    It’s been a tough road for me these last almost 2 years. It’s taken lots of therapy, yoga, mediation, support from my friends and family, and even a little Xanax to get me to where I am now and I’m still in the process of building a new life for myself. It’s been hard and scary, but I wouldn’t trade any of it. Especially if it meant staying with my XH. I have no doubts in my mind that I would have had a nervous breakdown had I stayed with my XH.

    She has to leave him. Do whatever you can to save her. However, don’t tip him off or let her tip him off if she decides to leave. If he knows she is leaving he will try to pull her back in or do everything he can to make her leaving as painful as possible. Once my XH realized I was leaving he did everything from pretending that he was going to commit suicide, to threatening to take me to court, crying hysterically “I want my wife back,” etc. (yeah he wanted me back so bad that he knocked up some woman 4 months after I left and married her before our divorce was final).

    Things will not get better for her if she stays. Counseling will do nothing. Get her out. Even if she hates you at the moment, believe me, she will be grateful that you did.

    Hugs and love to you and your daughter 🙂

    • Mary, your story closely resembles mine, we are around the same age and it’s also been 2 years since STBX left me for his co-worker. I just turned 34 and I’m starting over too. And once my STBX found out that I filed he also threatened to commit suicide, threatened to sell the house, etc. You’re absolutely right, counseling in this situation is a joke and a waste of time.

      Luckily I found Chump Lady shortly after D-Day in a sea of stupid reconciliation websites when I knew deep in my heart my marriage was over.

      But I think regardless of age, whether we’re 25 or 35 or 55, starting over is scary. Yes it’s certainly better than living with a piece of shit for a partner, for sure. But we have all been through it, and came out not only alive, but better, in our mind, body and spirit.

      If nothing else, I hope her daughter starts to read Chump Lady. I guarantee she will find common threads with these assholes.

      • Lunachick,

        Absolutely! I really hope Muffy’s daughter reads these comments so that she knows that she is not the only one. She is not alone. Almost everyone around me is married with babies and so I thought I was the only one going through this. I left my XH with my head spinning, not knowing which way was up or down. I couldn’t make sense of anything. It wasn’t until I saw ChumpLady’s HuffPo article “6 Signs Your Boyfriend is a Narcissist” did everything start to make sense and the more I read the posts and comments on this sight the less alone I felt. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but just knowing that I wasn’t alone helped tremendously. Since leaving my XH, I’ve met several women around our age in varying stages of this shit-sandwich and I find it heartbreaking how common our stories are. I pray for Muffy’s daughter to wake up and I pray for all of us to get to a place of, not just surviving, but thriving.

        • While we are in the suffering, it’s hard to see our way out, yet when we do find the light, life starts to change and does eventually get better with support from those who truly love us, and the belief that we are Fabulous, even if we have to be alone for just a little while. It just saddens me how abusers and cheaters work so diligently to make us feel bad about ourselves in an attempt to justify their bad behavior. And it really hurts to see our children go through that pain, wondering how to fix it. As uniballer1965 stated, there is a new reality once we start over and it will be so much better and rewarding for us and our families. Hugs…

          http://intheknowwithro.blogspot.com/2014/10/gaslighting.html
          http://intheknowwithro.blogspot.com/2014/12/win-oprahs-favorite-things.html

    • Both Feet, I’ve been dragging my feet all the way to divorce. I know it’s what I have to do. My husband has been cheating for years with multiple partners. We’re in our second year of “reconciliation” but I’ve actually been feathering my nest. I won’t lie… along the way I’ve been hoping to find something worth saving, but I’ve only found more deception (visiting hook-up websites, mapping hotels, and I suspect a second phone). I’m doing everything I can think of to prepare myself now for the begging and pleading sure to come when I ask for a divorce. Its crazy to think that after all he’s done that there’s even the slightest chance he could worm his way back in. I wish now that I hadn’t chased off his girlfriends… I would be so much better off if he had another woman ready and waiting for him.

      • Itsajourney, don’t kick yourself too much, my ex had his OW waiting and eager, he still didn’t want a divorce…

      • It’sAJourney, don’t be so hard on yourself. This is reeeeaaaaallllyyyyyy hard and scary stuff. I suspected affair #2 way before I had proof and I stuck my head in the sand for a year before I made the decision to look for proof (I shouldn’t have even needed proof… I had enough evidence of his suckiness just from living with him). A couple of days after I found my proof (text messages), our dog got sick and had to have $8000 worth of surgery. I stayed to care for my dog for 6 weeks and waffled back and forth as to what I should do. I went through denial, bargaining (the anger came later for me); I even did the whole hysterical bonding thing. I even told myself that the dog getting sick was a sign that we should stay together. It wasn’t until that he threatened to commit suicide because I wanted to stay with my best friend for a week to clear my head after we had a big fight where he gave me the I don’t love you, I’m not sorry, you deserved it speech. I packed up my half of the house and moved out a week later. I don’t know what your situation is, but I moved out before I filed for divorce. This helped. I was able to deal with him from a distance. I told him that I filed for divorce over the phone.

        Anyway, my advice to you is this:

        1. Get a lawyer now – DO NOT tell you STBX that you are filing. If you’re planning on leaving or moving out check with your lawyer first to make sure that you can’t be accused of abandoning the property. Before you do anything, find out exactly what you are entitled to, even if you live in a no fault state. Interview a few and find one you feel comfortable with (this could run you several hundred dollars, but many will offer at least the first half hour free or put the initial consultation fee towards your retainer if you choose to retain them).

        2. Get a therapist for you – I know that everyone is on a different path, but I’m of the opinion that divorce is just too hard to do without having the support of a therapist. Friends and family are great, but they are not trained to handle things like this and everyone has got an opinion. Having an impartial third party to talk to was invaluable through the whole process. They can help you focus when your mind is spinning. They will help you clarify your thoughts and help you through all the grief. The grief losing your current life, the grief of losing the future you thought you were going to have (no one gets married to get divorced), and the grief of the time that you’ve lost that scumbag.

        3. Get an STD test, like yesterday – you and your health come first now!

        4. Save everything – every text, every note, every piece of evidence. You never know if you’re going to need it. The text messages I found, forwarded to my phone, my XH’s suicide note, I kept it, he broke the door frame to the master bedroom, I took pictures of it, he sent me threatening message, backed up to icloud. Once you have the judgment for divorce in your hands, shred, burn, and delete everything. (I don’t know if this would apply to someone with children).

        5. Datdmwuf is right, it doesn’t matter if he has an OW waiting in the wings or not. He’s going to try to “hoover” you back in because he’s loosing the attention he’s getting from you. My XH’s wife #2, that he knocked up and married before our divorce was final, wasn’t even the OW I caught him having the affair with. I don’t know if he was already talking to her while I was still living in the house, but he found a replacement for me pretty quickly. I’m your SBTX will too. This stings, but just “trust that he sucks.” I always say that, that poor woman (wife #2) has no idea the amount of crazy she married herself into.

        5. Be patient and compassionate with yourself. This is about taking care of you now. I felt completely lost and broken when I went through all of this. It’s only now, almost 2 years later, that I don’t feel broken anymore. That I’m starting to feel whole. Treat yourself as you would treat your best friend if she were going through this.

        6. Keep reading chumplady.com and get support from your family and friends. This is a big deal and you don’t have to do it alone. Tell your story, own your story, but don’t let it define you. Drop anyone who judges and shames you. Keep those who support you and love you close.

        It’sAJourney, I wish you lots of love and luck and I pray that you find your way through this. I promise you that things are immensely better when you’re not carrying a 200lb. albatross around your neck. When the only voice in your head is not your own. When you honor the beautiful person that you are. :::::::::::::::HUGS:::::::::::::::::

        • Both Feet, thank you so much for the support. You too Datdamwuf. I know things are gonna get crazy because as much as I’d like to think I’ve about pulled it together, even a kind letter such as yours makes me weepy. I think maybe the hardest part is the feeling of being alone, keeping the secret (I can’t tell just anybody, and of those I do, I have to be selective on the details).

          You had some very good advice about keeping and storing info. I really think it would be a good blog post for Chump Lady! I know I should’ve packed his bags and kicked him out the first time, but I was so stunned and just absolutely leveled, it took me 3 months to realize what was happening, and then the story began to thicken; I became paralyzed.

          For those of us that are living with our POS spouses, your advice is SO crucial!!! Save EVERYTHING! Recently an attorney told me that any money he spent on his affairs, I was entitled to 100%… if I could prove it… Low and behold I can! Before I even knew what was really going on I began saving odd receipts. I’ve got over $20,000 in cashiers checks for money he sent them… (he bought one a 10,000 car). Thank GOD I saved these receipts.
          I don’t know what purpose they will serve, but I’m also keeping phone logs and any messages or pictures I find. I’ve got it all tucked away for the big day. My little envelope also helps bring me to my senses when I begin feeling wishy washy. I fantasize frequently about the bonfire party I’ll have when the divorce is final!

          • “I think maybe the hardest part is the feeling of being alone, keeping the secret (I can’t tell just anybody, and of those I do, I have to be selective on the details).” BothFeet gave good advice, find a therapist so you have at least one person you can pour your heart out to. It will help. Jedi Hugs girlfriend!

  • Dear Muffy, as one mum to another I really know how much this sucks.
    My daughter is same age as yours and recently divorced. It was a whirlwind thing and his previous marriage had lasted not quite a year…red flag…his wife was a crazy bitch with a violent streak.
    My daughter was pregnant within 5 months of meeting him and had a lovely baby girl. They bought a house and I kept quiet about my concern about his reckless spending, his disrespect for my daughter and, worst of all, I was chumped for too long to miss the scent of a cheater. You know these signs that we all know so well…mysterious meetings, phone trouble, stories that keep changing, long absences, odd working hours…all there.
    They had a nice wedding and I so wanted to be wrong. Within 6 months it was over. He spent every penny she had and messed so much with her head that she was close to total breakdown.
    In the past 18 months she has rebuilt her life. She stayed with me for a while then rented a place for her and her daughter. She is getting back on her feet and seeing a guy who seems caring.
    What I learned is this: she will be ready to face the truth when she is ready and not before. Do not critisise him or point out the obvious flaws in what she is choosing to believe but do nothing to support the delusion. Be there for her. At 31 her life is far from over but she will not see this while doing the old pick-me dance to his tune. This guy will not reform…you and I know it but she is still filled with hopium.
    When the time comes look after her and she will emerge from this shit.
    My girl met up with the first wife of this guy…the crazy one. She had been put through hell, cheated on all along, and discovered that he was on sites for bi-sexuals and orgies! Her STD tests were ok!
    Its bad enough when it is us but we feel so helpless as we watch our children being put through this. Be strong for her.

  • Muffy, I started over at 26, husband died. I am starting over again at 59, second husband cheated. It can be done. If she stays with that SOB, she will have to deal with the OWs child for the rest of her life! She needs to run, fast and far away, anything would be better than signing up for a life sentence of that shit!

  • Please, try to get your daughter to this website! I am 37 and have much less going for me than your daughter. I had no driver’s license (I now have my permit), have been a stay at home mom for a decade, and have had no independence. I have felt like a child being married to this man.
    But, I AM starting over. It’s difficult. Some days I get so discouraged, but I keep putting one foot in front of the other. We still have to live together for financial reasons. He’s not happy that I’ve chosen to separate. I could leave, but it would make both of us extremely poor, so he has agreed to give me time to get my life in order. I am applying for nursing school soon. I’m looking for a job and finally have gotten a call back from the government. I worked for them many years ago, so I know I can pass their tests and at least be a contender.
    If I can do this, then your daughter definitely can do it too. She’s far ahead of the game compared to many of us! I do understand the feeling of not being able to start over emotionally. It really does come from a deep fear and sense that you are no longer an individual. I completely lost myself in this marriage. But separation has helped me to heal and see that I am a person and can make decisions based on what’s best for me. Before, I felt like I kept having to give to him, even after finding out all of the traumatic things he did. It’s not healthy.

  • I am in my late 30s, and dday (discovery day) was a year and a half ago. I’ve been divorced for almost a year. And despite the hell of dday and all the grief and recovery since then, my 30s have been my favorite decade so far.

    I think early 30s is a perfect time to start over. I understand that starting over is incredibly scary, and I can imagine that having been with her partner since 18 makes it even harder since her adult years have all been spent with him.

    For a long time, I couldn’t even imagine my life without my ex. It was unbelievably difficult to go through the withdrawal of losing him because I loved him with my whole heart. It took a long time to get past the cognitive dissonance of it all and to start integrating that the person I loved had abandonned me for another woman. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how he could walk away all of a sudden, but I have come to accept that he must not feel things or love people in the same way that I do.

    As I head towards 40, I’ve been dealing with some sadness that I might have missed my window to have children. But at the same time, even if I don’t have any kids, I am thankful I did not have them with my ex. I have seen the stories on here and now I know that not having kids allows me to avoid being forever tied to him.

    Good luck Muffy and Muffy’s daughter. Divorcing a cheater is incredibly difficult (especially when you still love the person), but it it leads to a future with hope. The day my divorce was final I finally felt like I stopped dying inside. I felt free to begin moving ahead and rebuilding. And the rebuilding is hard, but there is hope and possibility and beautiful new discoveries.

    • I am thankful for not having kids with him because I can go No Contact completely. And I realize that had we had any children, I would have been thankful for them. I’m just looking for the silver lining in the situation I’ve been dealt…

  • Muffy, I’m 48. My D-day was 2-1/2 years ago. For the first year I was just trying to piece things together. I was completely blind-sided, and made all kinds of excuses for why my husband was cheating: nervous breakdown, traumatic family issues, midlife crisis etc… Going into my second year, I’ve been trying to rationalize leaving. It wasn’t until about 3 weeks ago I found out that he was fucking his secretary as long as 15 years ago! I feel like a complete idiot. How could I be so naive??? I’ve kicked my hopium habit, but it’s taken constant reminding by my therapist. Now I can see all the signs that should have sent up red flags. I so desperately wanted to be perfect wife, with a picket fence and blissfully happy home life. He totally exploited that.

    Both my parents are long gone. They had a wonderful and loving marriage. I suspect if either of them were alive today they would’ve talked sense into me long ago. I wish they were still around to rally for me. To give me strength, going into what I know will be a wild circus when I leave. I feel very alone, and have been spending the last year in counseling, doing yoga, reading self-help books, and even went back to college for a degree. I’m preparing for the worst. To have my parents support would be a gift beyond measure. Hang in there for your daughter. Sounds like it’s going to take a while for her to realize the reality of things.

  • Muffy,

    My mother never really liked my STBX. As a daughter, I had a certain lens through which I viewed my mother and her advice, as all daughters do. I believed that because my mother didn’t really see my STBX in our “private” moments, she didn’t have all the requisite information to judge him fairly. Suffice it to say, in my early 30’s I married the STBX (thus, starting over – I met him when I was 30). Fast forward and – even without her knowing about the cheating (I don’t believe) – my mother’s early warning proved to be correct. I often say I wish I had listened to her and saved myself the heartache. I’m so glad to have had my wonderful children but wish I had chosen a more worthy human with which to have procreated instead of the MindFuck of the Year Presidential Medal Winner.

    By being with this jerk since she was 18, your daughter lacks the requisite frame of reference she needs in order to mentally and emotionally evaluate her situation with any clarity. She’s never been with anyone but him. He’s groomed her for this role and this is what she knows and what feels comfortable. Her job as a social worker may even hinder her from seeing just how dysfunctional her relationship is, as she probably is in contact with people on a daily basis who have situations similar to or worse than the one she is in. It may actually be functioning as some type of adverse reinforcement. She’s spent a good portion of her adult life with this man and, thus, can’t imagine her life without him.

    Please lovingly explain to your daughter that her situation is never going to be or get any better. There is nothing she can do, no amount of love, affection, time or money that she can invest that will make her sorry excuse for a spouse stop abusing her in this way. He repeatedly had unprotected sex with anyone he so chose without any regard to your daughter’s physical and/or emotional well-being. He has casually and carelessly impregnated another woman while married to your daughter. You cannot scoop up a handful of diamonds while holding on to a bag full of shit. Your daughter has to be willing to put down that bag of shit in order to reach for and pick up her diamonds.

    I wish I knew at 31 what I know now. I would not be navigating this devastation and divorce at almost 60. Let my situation be a cautionary tale and terrible warning to your daughter. Let your daughter know that your support and her knowledge about her husband is actually a gift she has been given from the universe in order to free her for a better life. It would be wise not to squander it.

    Good luck to you Muffy – it is not easy, as my mother recognized and which I have recently discovered with my own adult children. Hopefully you can get your daughter to come to this site and with our support and yours, she can free herself from the shepherd for the devil to which she is currently shackled. (((HUGS)))

  • Dear Chump Lady and Your Merry Band of Survivor’s,
    THANK YOU ALL! The Love, Support and Great Advice has been overwhelming! I will continue on this site and did introduce this resource to my daughter today. She was pretty defensive and still doing the Hopeium Dance….I will continue to pray that she does read this blog and gain some strength and courage to TAKE CARE OF HERSELF…I’m not giving up! And for those that asked where her Father is in this, my husband is here, devestated, and due to some medical issues, processing this a bit slower than I am.
    With Great Appreciation, I am sending
    Peace and Positive Energy to all that shared with me!
    Muffy

  • Muffy and Muffy’s daughter–RUN DAUGHTER RUN RUN RUN. PLEASE! And Muffy, carry her on your back if you have to. We have all been there, it is a horrible mind-fuck, he will never never never change (notice my use of repetition and caps to PLEASE LISTEN!!). It feels awful to pull away, it feels like you will never survive, but you will and you will be better and stronger in many ways, and even if you are not at least you are away from that lying abusive POS. You won’t believe who you can be, who you are, daughter you have no way to know living this lie.

    I was 51 years old when I found out my “loving” husband of 25 years was cheating on my for most of our lives together. By then we had 3 beautiful teen and young adult children who were and continue to be devastated at the “loss” of the father they thought they knew and the “Family” they thought they had. They do not even speak to their father nor does ex seem to really care (D-day was 3 years ago and the youngest is 15 and has not seen his father in all of that time….Not. Once….).

    On D-Day and in the months after, did a part of me wish I could work it out with him, trust him, wash this away? Yes, of course. But you know what, I read everything I could especially on this site. I realized that he was truly never going to change. I decided that I was going to move forward. I kicked his dead-ass out, I remortgaged the house in my name, I continued working hard. I provided for my children, I negotiated a kick-ass property settlement agreement. I moved on. Did it hurt? As CL says, like a motherfucker.

    But I decided that when they put me in my grave, the last story in my romantic life was not going to be what that POS did to me. I was NOT going to go to my grave alone and unloved, which was a guarantee if I stayed with him, because he did not love me and would always cheat on me. I decided that instead, I was going to give life a chance to give me a man who really loved me and would be loyal to me, who would not betray me. And you know what, a year after the divorce I met that man, and I married him this summer. I could never imagine being so loved, I did not know what I was missing in my little farce of a marriage with my ex-sociopath.

    Muffy and Muffy’s daughter–you are only 31! I would give my eye teeth and a few other body parts to have learned what I now know when I was that young, and had the chance to re-marry and have children with someone else, someone who was not pathological, who was not a user, who actually loved me and our children. You cannot imagine what it is like to wake up at 51 and realize that the best years of your life were wasted by a grifter and his companions, and that you can never get those years back. Muffy’s daughter, you are believing what that beast wants you to believe, that you cannot go on without him. But you can, and you should, for your sake and the sake of any children you may have. Can you imagine the family life and father he would make to your children (he already apparently is having a child by another woman)? You owe yourself and any potential children more than to knowingly sentence them to such a painful life, one assuring them of dysfunction and abandonment.

    Muffy’s daughter: Do it for yourself. Do it for your future children. Do it for your mom who obviously loves you.Commit to get out and that you will one day have a true and loving relationship. Don’t let the sociopath win.

    • Kelly, I was hoping you would comment on this. I love your determination to LIVE! Your story proves again that there are great partners who will love us as we deserve.
      The betrayal is not who we are. It does not define us.
      I found a really nice guy too, not sure where it will go, but even if it ended tomorrow, I have experienced respect and admiration from him. More than I got from my Fucktard in 30+ years! Just for that, it is worth trying a new relationship!
      If we all stayed with our abusers, how would we ever know if better is out there waiting for us?

      • “If we all stayed with our abusers, how would we ever know if better is out there waiting for us?”

        Amen, FreeWoman. I am thankful for every day I have with my wonderful, non-sparkly, loving husband……And for the chance I had to rewrite the story (at least from D-Day onward). And you have done the same. So at least we know our ex-cheating bastards won’t be the last story in our romantic lives

  • Dear Muffy–

    I think it’s probably the case that your daughter doesn’t want to listen to you. Point her in our direction. We can do the Patent Bullshit Translator for her.

    I’m 55 and starting over, but really, I don’t think of it as starting over, but more correcting my course.

    STBX was my only really serious BF. I’ve known him for more than 25 years, and we’ve been married for 17. Dday was a little over 2 years ago, and I’ve been lining up my ducks since then, filed in August.

    I just finished my first major holiday without STBX visiting family with me. He had a miserable time at the house, but me? I had a great time! Yes, we did agree that not having STBX was a bit like a death–we mourned the man we’d hoped he was, but we did not mourn the man he turned out to be. However, in the six nights away from him, I slept more soundly than I have in years.

    31 is not too late. 🙂

    • KB our stories are similar. I’m 50 now, been married to him for 30. The world outside my marriage seems so foreign. I am trying to think of it more as spiritual growth. Our relationship is a stagnating sham. I know I need to take a leap of faith, open my heart to new experiences, and become my own person. Its scary! I’m lining up my ducks as well, and ironically, what should make me more confident also makes me very anxious (had my first ever panic attack 3 weeks ago). I’m staying the course, and dedicated to becoming a better person. I wish you strength for the coming months!

  • I haven’t read all the comments here, but it strikes me that either way, reconciliation or not, her life starts over. The fantasy life she had. The one where she thought her spouse was faithful is over. There is a new reality. So the only question is who will be in that new life. Will he or won’t he be a part of it.

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