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Dear Chump Lady, Does it really get better?

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smileordieDear Chump Lady,

Does it really get better, or is that just another lie that people tell chumps to cut down on the suicide stats?

My STBX was a Boy-Scout-leading, Sunday-school-teaching, neighbor-helping pillar of our community, right up until the day I walked in on him and his skank in my guest room. He lied and minimized for a month, but eventually I learned that over the course of our nearly 25 year marriage, my cheater had 8 one-night stands, 3 long-term online emotional connections, and a physical affair that lasted almost 7 years, featured heavy BDSM, and involved my children as a cover-up. My cheater even brought this woman to our home as a guest, and I never suspected a thing. Has there ever been a chumpier chump?

I am SO chumpy that I tried reconciliation for 6 months, believing his promise that — having seen how much it hurt me — he would never do it again. Feeling nauseous when he touched me and crying every day on my way home from work clued me in that reconciliation might not be good for me. So I saw a lawyer, got a “fair” separation agreement, had him move out, and am now a shell-shocked single mother waiting the 12 months that my state requires until I can file for divorce.

I have more debts than income. I will likely lose my home. My high school senior is failing most of his classes, and may not get accepted to college as a result. My younger ones cry themselves to sleep at night, and have chronic tummy aches. All of them are angry at ME for “making Daddy leave,” even though they know HE broke his marriage vows. I am 50+ with no retirement savings. In addition to being old and fat, I am now also emotionally and psychologically damaged, so future relationships are unlikely to say the least. But I can’t imagine ever trusting anyone ever again, so that’s a moot point.

And yet people keep telling me this is “better.” Better than active abuse, sure. But better than what I thought I had? Not in million years. I feel hopeless. I work, I feed my kids, I force myself through the daily drudgery, I take a pill to go to sleep, then I do it all again the next day. There is no color in my life anymore, just bleakness. It’s like endless February with no hope of summer vacation.

So DOES it get better than this? Does anyone ever TRULY make it back to where they were pre-cheater? Or do we just settle for the grim existence we have, and call it “better” because no one is currently kicking us down the stairs? I’ll survive this, I know. But if this is what survival looks like, I’m not sure I care.

Kristen

Dear Kristen,

Does it get better? That’s entirely up to you.

Yes, the hand you’ve been dealt sucks. Please stand in line with all the other chumps. Maybe compare notes. With the unemployed, the abandoned while pregnant, the ones with incurable STDs…

You’re not alone in this. You have a lot of competition if you’re vying for the Chump Crown.

I could offer you sympathy — and please know you have my sympathy. Recovering from knowledge of a 25-year double life is indescribably, painfully difficult. (I’ve had a front row seat — that’s my husband’s story of his first marriage.) But sympathy alone isn’t going to cut it. You need to know this shit is not insurmountable. You CAN have a better life on the other side. Read Friday’s post, read the stories of mightiness here — you aren’t alone in your struggles and dark days. But infidelity CAN be overcome.

Because, Kristen, what is the alternative?

Are you going to spend the rest of your life lamenting that your choices suck? Is that what you think your children need right now?

You were married to a hologram. You thought you had a better life. That “security” was based on a lie. You miss the lie. Kristen, we’ve all missed the lie. And goddamn it, if reality isn’t there every morning smacking you in the face when you wake up.

You can face reality and start living in it, or you can curl up and die.

If you really believe that an authentic life, without abuse, isn’t better than living a lie, I can’t really help you.

Of course, the authentic life is NOT a fully formed new life yet, it’s just a start. And that’s where you are right now — you’re starting on the journey of a new life. So it’s one small, brave step, after the next, after the next, after the next. No one gets this shit handed to them on a plate.

The journey is humbling, Kristen. There is no way around that. Very few people get through divorce financially unscathed. If you’re over 50 and you have ZERO assets that can be divided, I would suggest that is a problem outside the scope of infidelity. That is the result of many years of financial decisions that made you vulnerable today. If your husband was stealing assets from your estate to conduct his affairs, that is money you can ask for back in the divorce.

But here’s the thing, Kristen — you have CONTROL over the finances in your new life. You can downsize your home, you can go back to school and retrain, you can get out of debt. You control that. You aren’t shackled to a sinking ship of a cheating husband. You’re “ugly” and fat? You control that too. If you want to lose weight, lose weight. Yes, of course it’s hard. The most rewarding things are hard. And no one is “ugly” except on the inside. Don’t internalize your husband’s betrayal as some judgement on your worth or looks. “Ugly” people are loved every day.

And as long as we aren’t internalizing judgement — don’t take shit off your kids. You didn’t “make Daddy leave.” Daddy chose to betray you. The divorce is a consequence of daddy’s choices. Don’t get locked into a narrative battle of Who Is The Real Victim Here — just live your truth. You have NOTHING to be ashamed of, and you are keeping things together for the kids. You’re the parent who is THERE, doing the work, every day. Hold your head high.

Know that when you do that, however soul crushing it is some days, you are modeling mightiness to them. You’re showing them how to deal with adversity. You’re demonstrating good character. But you have to believe in yourself to project that authority to them, so start believing it. This is NOT your fault. You did NOT make Daddy leave. You are NOT the villain.

Please focus on what you do have — your health. A job. Healthy children. Practice self care. If you feel clinically depressed please get help for that beyond sleeping pills. Exercise, join a support group, lean on family, find a therapist for you.

Kristen, I’m sorry you can’t have your old life back. To take your husband back would mean you have to learn to live with his cheating, lying, BDSM self. Which would be embracing a different kind of authenticity that’s not Eagle Scout Pillar of the Community. It would mean being married to THAT guy, the real him, the thought of whom makes you sob in the car every day.

You can’t go back. So please go forward. It’s a battle some days, every liberation campaign is. Don’t. Give. Up.

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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.
  • Kristen,
    Go to therapy!! Find a SANON meeting in your area. I PROMISE if you do these two things you will begin to see the “better”. At first it will be very short periods of time, then as you keep going to meetings and therapy they will last longer.

    I’ve been doing this for a year. It’s not easy yet but it is better. I’m willing to talk to you personally if you want to. Hang in there!!!

    Fierce Mommy

    • I am newly divorced. What is a SANON meeting? I have never heard of that. Hang in there Kristen. I was married to a man for 33 years that went to.church with me prayed with me all the while having an affair for probably a few years. I’m not even sure how long. He has know this woman for 15 years. I asked him 15 years ago if he wanted to leave me for this same woman. He did leave me for her after all last year. The pain is great I understand what you feel. Sometimes my heart hurts so bad I feel that a heart attack would be easier. You have children that need you. You are special you may not feel it right now but you are. I am counting that things have to get better than what they are now for both of us. This site has helped me realize that I’m not the only one going through this.

      • I agree with Hanginginthere,
        Sometimes I feel like a heart attack would be easier. My loss and grief are a force to be reckoned with. I am also glad for all the optimism.

      • I think she was referencing SA – Anon.. similar to Al-Anon, but for partners of sex addicts. There are also COSA meetings (codependents of Sex Addicts).

        Best of luck.

  • I know it’s hard to believe, but it gets soooooooo much better! I was with my ex husband for 14 years. Found out he had been cheating the whole time. I had a 3 & 2 year old, was newly pregnant and a SAHM. Went through the motions, when to therapy, worked on me. I read this site every day!!

    I had to file for bankrupsy. But 2.5 years later, I had a good job, met a fellow chump a year ago and am madly, boringly in love. He’s amazing to me & my kids. I was planning on just kicking it single mom style forevs. But the universe had other plans. I trust him completely.

    Chin up! I will never regret leaving him. I had no clue how shitty life was with a cheater (even when you don’t know) until I was with a real, kind person.

    • I also want to say, I was better before meeting my guy! It didn’t take him to see how much better off I was. Husbands like ours, never stop cheating. He was banging 4 woman at that time. Sexting my neighbor. That’s no life to live. Once I internalized that, trusted that he sucks, things got better!

      And the whole money sitch. He’s going to have to give you have his retirement. Cause it’s your too.

  • Kristen,
    You put succinctly into words exactly what I think a lot.
    I have to say, that what you and I had before was like slavery. Never look back. What you have now is reality. It is better.
    Join me on this journey. I am going forward, some days drudgingly. Give yourself a time frame. Okay, so I don’t have to be happy today, but I will be happy in two years. It is worth it. You gave your soul for a dream life. You can do it again, just in small doses. Give to future you.
    If you ever want to give up, write silly letters to other struggling chumps. You have a talent for writing; it shows your strength of expression and depth.
    You will make it to the other side, so will I!
    Xoxo

  • Kristen,
    I suspect many of your problems are the manifestation of living with an asshole for so long.

    Allow yourself to feel sad angry outraged. Create small lists of actionable items you can tackle beginning NOW. Address the trauma your children are dealing with by engaging the schools’ social workers and by locating trained therapists who can help your kids. Find one for yourself.

    You are already ahead of me in filing, so you ARE pretty strong.

    After years of systematic emotional rape and infidelity done so cleverly under the current for nearly my entire marriage, I have gained strong footing via friends, therapy and just talking it out. Weirdly, my shell shocked head of premature white hair is coming back in its natural color. The health problems I had been addressing these past 5-10 yrs are resolving on their own. I place 100% correlation of this to discovering my asshole’s long term, calculated duplicity and exploitation.

    The financial end is scary, especially if you left your career in order to further his. Know your legal rights to all of the assets. If he has been using marital funds to entertain “friends”, those need to be paid back to you and your kids. If you feel your job skills are out of date and cannot concentrate on enrolling in school to retrain, volunteer. Use Volunteermatch.com if you don’t even know where to begin.

    Start demonstrating to your kids that you and they are worthy of respect. You have value and it is not tied to a fucked up, soulless creep.

  • Kristin, it takes TIME but it will get better. It may never be a perfect life but…you know, it never was. It only looked that way. I suffered too. My financial future is much different now that I am divorced from my ex. I will be working for a good long time. HOWEVER, I am thankful to be living a life where I am not giving myself to someone who doesn’t value me as a person. I tried five years of reconciliation. It was false the entire time! In some ways you should be thankful that you came to a quick realization that reconciliation was not going to work for you. You are saving yourself wasted time. MOST cheaters are really not remorseful enough to do the hard work of fixing their mess.

    You should concentrate on making your NEW life what you want it to be. It will be a struggle. It will take a long time but you will get to the other side of the pain. Remember, an authentic life is worth more than how many dollars you have in the bank.

    My two teenage daughters are still struggling and their dad moved out two years ago. Therapy, lots of tears and many arguments. Sometimes I second guess myself about ending it with their dad but then I realize that I am by far a better mom to them without the crazy that their dad added to my life.

    Try therapy if you can. It helps. And concentrate on YOU! It will get better!!!!! The best revenge to your cheating husband is to life a great life full of happiness and joy!!! Think positive thoughts and positive things will happen!!!

    Good Luck!

  • Kristen, feeling nauseous when he touched you and crying everyday on your way home is not a life. Keep repeating that to yourself! Big Hugs Irene

    • Kirsten–Irene is right on target. There is the prefrontal cortex, reasoning part of our brain which struggles to make sense of what has just happened to us, that wonders HOW our cheating spouse could actually perform the obscene things that they do, that reads about how to build trust after an affair, that retrieves those positive memories from the past. Then, there is the limbic system–the emotional part of our brain–that screams “danger! danger!” every time the cheater is around, and pushes our fight-or-flight response. Once betrayal of that magnitude hits, the prefrontal cortex can no longer suppress or silence the emotional part of the brain. For a reason. Your STBX does NOT present a safe environment for you, he does not have your best interests at heart. Listen to your limbic system, and let it inform the reasoning part of your brain–the life you had was a convenient fiction, not a real life. It really hurts to get to that real life, a lot, but it is worth it. Hang in.

      • Tempest as always, a great post!!
        Kirsten, I think it is safe to say, most of us have felt what you are feeling. The terrible betrayal, the finally having some confirmation of what we felt in our gut. The horrible feeling of having found out your life yout thought you had was a lie. The financial boondoggles they have done that left us financially unstable, to the point of bankruptcy. TRUST THAT THEY SUCK. Say that over and over. Till you truly believe it. Know it. It does get better. It takes time. Lots of it. And taking care of yourself. I have 4 children still at home, and the oldest is 13. I was a sahm for 13 years. Homeschool my kids, the whole 9 yards. I am now broke, probably going to lose my home. My kids are split in half. The two oldest, who know more of what their father was up to, refuse to spend any time with him or even talk to him. The two youngest spend limited visitation but they fight amongst each other. My son has nightmares almost every night that his father is strangling him or killing me. There was a domestic violence issue that their father was arrested for. The younger two blame me for kicking daddy out, and long for reconciliation. I am trying to put myself back together, but its a slow process that moves forward, then back.. BUT, even as hard as it is now, it beats the hell out of being gaslighted, cheated on, lied to and abused. Keep on trucking Kirsten, you are in good company. I owe most of my sanity to the people on this board. Tracy never ceases to amaze me with her ability to put this shit into words. You got this Kirsten.Just remember how you eat an elephant. One bite at a time. Brave baby steps. One step at a time. And before you know it, you will be striding into a life of your choosing. Take care, and know we care!!! xo

  • In the beginning (after D-Day) I didn’t think it would get better. I didn’t think that I would be able to handle everything either. Unhappy children, piles of bills, things breaking in the house, poor grades, bad attitudes, sadness, anger, well the list went on and on. I felt like a person drowning. Every time I surfaced more shit would get dumped on me until I didn’t think I had the strength to keep treading water.

    One morning I woke up, pulled up my big girl panties and said, “that’s enough” I stopped feeling sorry for myself and my kids. I stopped looking at the bills as overwhelming and just started paying what I could. When things broke, I fixed them. When the bad attitudes came at me I deflected like I was wearing Wonder Woman’s arm bands. I refused to let him beat me in this game. If he wanted the other woman, fine, he could have her. If she thought she was so different and special, good, let her prove it.

    A month ago I was painting my house. I looked like hell, my house was trashed, crap everywhere and I realized that I was happy. Seriously happy. Like “thank you God for taking this man out of my life and giving me the opportunity to grow”. Really, it happens.

    My kids are doing well now. They help, they are kinder to each other and me, one finished college and the other is in her freshman year. The 3 of us have developed a routine and it’s working. I am in a relationship with a fellow chump, who is supportive and understanding. Life is good.

    The only thing I can tell you is it does work if you want it to. But that is your decision. Believe me there will be times that you revert back and think “I can’t do it”, but you can. Don’t let your ex win. Push yourself to be the best you can. Show your children how strong you are and they will be proud of you. Come here for relief, go to counseling for strength, stop treading water and start swimming!!!

    • Stayin Strong you are preaching to the choir! Kristen it gets better. Get some therapy and don’t be afraid to get meds if you need them. Helped me a bunch. I can now see that I was married to a narcissistic sociopathic boob! He can’t change anymore than sunlight can sweeten garbage! Come here often and daily. CL family kept me from losing it!! My life is so much better without my ex-azzhole. One day you will look up and you will be singing “I can see clearly now the rain is gone!”. I say it loud…I’m a CHUMP and I’m proud!!!”

  • Kristin, it sounds to me like you are dealing with depression, which is not surprising. Plus you are still in the early shell-shocked stage. Both of these things have blocked your ability to access your anger, which you NEED to do. Get to a therapist and have them help you unlock your anger, which will be the best ally and energy source you’ll ever find. Make a commitment that you’re not going to take shit from anyone anymore, including your kids. Tell them in a loving and age appropriate way that them dumping on you is no longer allowed or acceptable. Insist on being respected. Like CL said, stand tall with head high. Your kids are angry and they have a right to be angry – turning that anger on you is not their right.

    Daily drudgery is like a poison so do something at least once a week for yourself, even if you don’t feel like it. I know for me exercise is a life-saver that I don’t particularly like doing but I know that afterwards I feel so much better emotionally. I suppose the biggest thing that helped me was toning down the expectations. Once I realized I wouldn’t really feel happy for quite a while, it was actually a relief. I could let myself off the hook and just start being grateful for small things each day: a good cup of coffee, sunshine after days of oppressive clouds, a phone call with a friend, hearing my favorite song on the radio. Small things, small steps. And it DOES get better… and then worse… and then better. Three steps forward, two steps back. But that’s still moving forward!

    • “Once I realized I wouldn’t really feel happy for quite a while, it was actually a relief. I could let myself off the hook and just start being grateful for small things each day: a good cup of coffee, sunshine after days of oppressive clouds, a phone call with a friend, hearing my favorite song on the radio.”

      Yes, I think this helped me too. I just figured the first year would be hell, and then when I had any moment like noticing the sunshine on my face or anything that wasn’t misery, I was pretty thankful….

  • Kristen, we have all been there and felt if not the same… similar or worse. We look in the mirror and say … Why wasnt I good enough? Why ? Why ? And more why. You are enough. You are better than enough. You dont know that yet… but you are. And you will wake up one morning with some righteous anger that will push you forward and not be in this quagmire of shame , doubt and fear. We all trudged thru it… And we are no more chumpy than you. This part sucks and it hangs on for a long time… U hang onto the ‘ story of us’ and its what keeps you paralyzed. Ask me. Ask anyone here. You found us… Now listen good.
    You are not feeling so mighty now… Or attractive. U must find a way to change that internal dialogue. Muffin top, soccer mom hair, comfy slippers? Doesnt matter… Your husband wanted cake. And he would screw a dead dog if he thought he wouldnt get caught.
    Mine found a nineteen yr old… 26 years my junior and only eight yrs older than our child. And they live 6 blocks away… I dont have a nineteen yr old ass… And i am older than her mother. Dont compare yourself.
    Your kids are angry and afraid… Its easier to explain why a tornado ripped thru the house and carried their dad off vs the whore bag neighbor. And they will look to you to fix it… Because my guess is like most of us… You put up and shut up to keep the peace. You may have created a pattern that your kids have learned as their normal. I will tell you this… You must get up everyday and fake it… Until you make it. Your children are looking to you for a sense of normal… They are wayching you fall apart… And Dad gets to play the victim. He will look like he has his shit together…because he has had years of practice already. You need to catch up fast. Get to normal for your kids. All this shit is gonna hurt for a long time and it aint going away…my 86 yr old neighbor told me to get my head out of my ass and cry later. You can cry later. You need a plan.
    Keep reading. Keep learning. And remember everyday above ground… Is a good day.

    • Clip, I think you touched on something important here. The kids are responding to the fear and helplessness that their mom is exhibiting, which shakes the ground from under their feet as much as their dad leaving has. You’re right – dad looks like he has his shit together while mom’s new normal is having everything fall apart. Kids need their parents to be strong and decisive problem-solvers, even if the parents have to fake it for a time. At the same time, kids may not like dealing with painful truths, but learning how to do that is an important part of growing up. Also kids feel respected when parents are honest with them.

      Can’t improve much on your neighbor’s advice – that’s bloody brilliant.

      • It’s true kids respond to the remaining parent’s instability. However, it is natural to feel unstable, and thus imperative for the chump to get social support–if you can’t afford a therapist, find 2-4 friends who are REALLY supportive and insightful. Cycle through them as you hit rough patches. No one can do this alone, and having support from friends/therapist means you can be stronger for your children.

        • GREAT advice on the friends. I have a few friends who are divorced and/or divorcing. Some want to talk about it at length, others do not, and I respect that. But my friends who do? Oh, MAN, we sure do help each other, especially if one of us is about to act in a reactive way. We really do help each other a lot–sometimes you just need to vent, or to express shock/outrage to someone who GETS it. For months after dday, every time my kids would fulfill their duty to have dinner with the Uncle “Dad,” I would (fake) smile good-bye, and then call my friend who would talke me down, and give me a safe place to get out all my insecurities and fears, and the next thing you know, the kids would be back HOME, and I’d be all smiles (real ones.). I don’t know how I would have gotten through this without my friends and without the Chump Lady and all of you!!

      • I agree….the kid’s are definitely experiencing anxiety because of Kristen’s trauma. My guess is that they always looked to her for emotional security (sounds like Dad was busy a lot), and they fear the loss of it. Happened with my son. When I started getting stronger, he was fine.

        Kristen….we were all complete basket cases, devastated and gutted, but it isn’t permanent – just the first phase. Let your children be a reminder and a reason for you to pull yourself together and find a healthier way (like here) of dealing with your anguish and anger.

        I thought I would NEVER be the same, and I’m not, but I’m over it and I’m better, and I’m happy. It isn’t a lie. There is an end to it.

        • I agree that kids will respond to their stable parent’s trauma, but they also feel a lot of cognitive dissonance all their own–and act out accordingly. So, no matter how much progress you make yourself, Kristen, your kids will probably have rough patches. And that IS NOT YOUR FAULT.

          Kids don’t often understand the level of betrayal that infidelity causes, and all they can see is that they no longer they have the family structure they want. They may know dad was a jerk, but they want to love him anyway. They may know mom is working hard and doing her best (and then some), but that incredible dedication, ironically, only makes it easier to be mad at mom because they know she won’t turn her back on them for having feelings and being unhappy or disappointed.

          For me the hardest part of all my experiences has been navigating and helping my two kids to navigate their anger and confusion and unhappiness at losing the conventional family structure they had enjoyed. But, things are much, much, much better now three and a half years later. Keep in mind that it took you a couple decades to realize you’d been a chump; it is likely to take your kids a few years to see how they’ve been victimized by their father. And just as we all had to come to this realization on our own, your kids will need to reach that understanding themselves as well (if you try to persuade them, they will likely only feel more split and angry). Actions speak louder than words when it comes to parenting–they just take longer to be heard.

      • This final d-day I had to file because he never did. I saw him with the OW and I am pretty sure he has fucked a dog for a long time. He called her a dream girl. More lies. He was visibly embarrassed when I introduced myself. She has no clue he is cheating on her and is addicted to porn.

    • Clip, that’s good, about fucking the dead dog. I have similarly often said my Ex would fuck a hole in the ground if it gave good head. Sickos.

  • For me personally, life hasn’t gotten better…. Yes better I am not with a narcissist who cheated on me and broke my heart, and abandoned my kids and I. My life got DIFFERENT. Some parts I really love. some suck…. I have wonderful friends and `the support of my fellow chumps. so stay on a path. you will make it to a different place, AND YOU WILL BE OK. some days better than others. I myself is still looking for Tuesday and Meh…maybe next week

    • I think there is something to this. I can’t yet say my life is better (I was totally happy in my marriage until my ex suddenly announced he was leaving me for OW). I can say I am happy in general and I laugh and have fun. But it is different, and some things are hard. I miss having the husband that I thought I was married to. But when that happens, I remind myself that it was a hologram. I do hope that I will be able to say my life is better. I think that day is coming. Now it is just different and I am pretty happy. I read somewhere that most people return to their base-level happiness within a year or so, even after surviving trauma like genocide. I can’t remember the exact details or timelines, but I found it pretty fascinating. And the same goes for when people win a lottery or something, they return to their baseline of happiness, after a certain amount of time passes. (If anyone knows the actual research details, please add the in the comments…)

      But time is important. It takes time, and for each person it takes a different amount of time to work our way through the trauma and pain and come out on the other side…

      • At 15 months out I can say that in some ways my life is better and I feel that it will continue to get better. But will I ever forget it? No, I’ll wear the scars the rest of my life.

  • Kristen –
    Every day that you manage to get out of bed, go to work, and keep your household running is a victory that you should celebrate! I remember the days that you describe and please believe that it does get better. My youngest daughter also struggled in school in the days after her father moved out and complained of stomach aches and sleeplessness; my oldest was away and college and would call me crying so hard she couldn’t even talk. It was so hard to focus on my work, every day felt like I was living someone else’s life, nothing felt real… What helped me was to find some anger and use it to drive myself to action. I got myself and the kids a counselor; started reading about personality disorders and infidelity on the internet (CL is the BEST!), talked to my family and friends about what had happened (the TRUTH) and these things helped me realize that I didn’t ever want to go back to the way things were. Things WILL get better!
    I would also like to say that I think it is absolutely outrageous that there are states that require a one year waiting period before divorce – especially if there are no exceptions for marriages involving abuse and infidelity!

  • Kristen,
    It does truly get better. It just takes time. I know that is tough to hear.
    Financial worries and kids add a level of complexity to the mix. I love my kids dearly, but I know the healing took longer because I sometimes had to put them first, and put my own feelings to the side. Believe me, I was a zombie that first year, even the times the kids were with their father.
    I was fortunate that the kids never blamed me for their father leaving. He married the OW, became a new parent, and moved away less than six months post divorce.

    I have finally achieved that state of “meh.” The past few months have been tough in my household. Elder child attempted suicide, younger child feels left out given all the extra appts, etc., related to the hospitalization. Both kids are having issues at school. Elder child and I were in a traffic collision, and the car was totaled (new car payment and increased insurance rates, oh, joy! ). ExH and I head to court in a few weeks since he refuses to increase child support, although he moved away and the kids are with me the vast majority of the time.

    And how does this make me feel? I walk the halls at work humming! I am content. All this crappy stuff that life has thrown at me, and I actually feel awesome. As CL says, I am living an authentic life. No time to date as the full time single parent, but that’s ok at this point.
    Kids are well overall (elder child in therapy and seems to really be improving), and I am fortunate enough to have an awesome job that is flexible so I can deal with kid issues as needed.

    So, yes, it does truly get better. It is not easy, and will take effort: get into therapy, the kids, too. Work out the financial stuff.
    Look off into the horizon. That glimmer of light is your new life waiting for you. Go seize it!

    • zyx321, if you’re taking some kind of antidepressant, I would like to know which one it is, please : ) I really admire your strength and your attitude. I just don’t know how to get there! I wish I could feel like you do.

      • Jedi hugs, DoneNow. I wish I could say I was taking happy pills, but I did not take antidepressants. For me it was a strong support network, a good job so I did not have the financial stress, a good therapist (though I have not gone in almost a year) and time. Really, lots of time. Almost 3 years since DDay, and 2.5 years since our decision to divorce.

        My exH’s actions the last 4 months helped as well, finally nailed that coffin shut. He truly sucks. And that is tough to acknowledge, as we were high school sweet hearts; we were together out entire adult lives until he decided he wanted someone younger.

        You _WILL_ get there. Everyone’s road is a bit different, but I think my first step was finding CL. I wish I had found her right away, as my DDay and her start were about the same time.

  • Kristen,

    It is not a load of crock. Things CAN get better as CL shares. But that is not to minimize your major losses and grief. I encourage you to be kind to yourself. Celebrate what you have done successfully. Let those successes help you forward.

    Hugs,
    DM

  • Hi Kristen,

    I’m six months into this. My husband was a Boy Scout Leader, Sunday School Teacher, Church Elder, Fun Dad, the whole bit. They do this to create the image they want so that everyone thinks they are so wonderful. They don’t want to actually do the work to truly be this person. Here’s the thing, your husband, like mine, has a hole in his soul the size of Texas and they will do anything to fill it. Year 19 of our marriage is the year that my husband decided he’d try cheating on his sweet loving wife and abandoning his family to fill that hole. I’m betting it didn’t work. I’ve realized he was sucking the life out of me with his neediness. I definitely have bad days but I know it will get better. It will get better for you too. Go to counseling, discover faith if you haven’t already, do fun things even when you don’t want to. I found it really helped me to stop being sweet to him. I got everything off my chest and then went no contact. You can do this!!!

    • Exactly. It took me so long to realize that all of the pillar of the community crap is PART OF IT. Once you recognize narcissism, you can see that holding these positions and interacting with the world as a “great guy” are only to serve his fragile ego, to get kibble, make sure everyone loves him. It’s hard because if you were like me, you probably thought you were dealing with such an exceptionally good person. Maybe someone you thought, and who made you feel, was better than you. The goodness, though, wasn’t coming from his heart; it was coming from a hole.

      And it will get better. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was feeling like you were. Antidepressants help (and Wellbutrin even helps with weight loss!). For me, yoga helps. This community helps. Any little change in your life, any baby step, that makes you feel like you’re headed in the right direction will slowly lift this darkness.

      • Moony- I think we project our own goodness onto our spouse. We just assume that they are truly good inside like we are. I grew up with good people and thought everyone was that way so when I saw a pillar of the community I believed it was real. I’m sure you did the same thing. I don’t think it is our fault for believing the best in people. Sadly, I will not be like that anymore.

        • Exactly right. This idea that all people are good – because I’m a good person (and would never…not ever cheat) is an internally held conviction that I have struggled with since DDay (and at work prior to this). It is very difficult to “see” that others – especially a cherished partner, would act SO contrary to that ethic. But……when you pull it all apart (usually between 2-4 am when you cannot sleep), you find that there were hints, clues or outright flags that you forgive, dismissed or just believed were not true. That’s really hard to take – how could I have missed this?

          I’m not at meh – just starting to feel like I can do this. I am old, injured, slightly overweight (working on that ….get a Fitbit if you have extra $ …..I love it!). Don’t expect another relationship – pretty sure I’m damaged beyond all hope on that front. I’ve invested in God when I am lost, and a bit of wine when I’m down. Some days I feel like I’ve been discarded; and some days I feel pretty good.

          I’m not used to filling my days with WHAT I WANT, cuz that’s never been my focus. It’s always been about my family and marriage. It’s difficult, disconcerting, disorienting, frustrating and sometimes sad.

          But there’s NO way I’d have him back. He lied about who he was, he cheated and he spent massive amounts of money on heaven knows what. He’s selfish and pompous. I’ve been left with debt. And an injury that precludes me from working in my former career. I’ve been fortunate that his guilty “I’m a good guy” schtick got me my pension and savings unfettered.

          When you read all of our stories dear Kirsten – we have all been where you are at some level. Keep breathing. Be kind to yourself. Keep coming here. It’s incredibly comforting to know there is a place to come without judgement; where no one’s eyes glaze over when you want to discuss the Lastest drama or FB post; and where you will find encouragement and cheering. And love.

          This experience has made me more tender hearted – and compassionate. I cherish that. Not my former life.

          Keep walking ahead – and cyber hugs to you.

          • My narc cheater spent a lot of time and money on polishing his image. Suddenly, after a ‘hiatus’ of approx eight years (on the road), he decided to return to our home to become Superdad of the Century! (Applause here.) He told all of his co-workers that he was getting out of the business ‘because his family needed him.’ Interestingly, he retained a divorce attorney one week after resigning his job. Child support stopped not long after. He now stays home, when not on tropical vacations with his latest romantic partner, except for the weekly trip to school for PTA meetings and parks for scout events–you know, all the things you do on top of your own job, school, etc. without any expectation of reward, because you think that is what responsible, caring people do. We chumps know that turd stinks, even if it’s sparkly.

            Regarding thinking dark thoughts about turd from 2 am to 4 am, I now no longer need an alarm to ensure that I get up in time to take the kids to school.

  • Hi Kristen,

    Yes, it really does get better. That’s not bullshit — though I know that from where you stand it seems like it. We’ve all been where you’re standing to some extent.

    Chumplady is right when she says you need to take initiative. It’s honestly not meant as an attack on you. It’s just that taking the steps forward, despite all of the pain you are in, is what starts you on the road to recovery. Yes, your ex is a piece of shit who made you live a lie. Yes, you’re in hell right now. And no — it is definitely NOT your fault. But when you start pulling on your boots and getting stuff done DESPITE all of those facts, THAT is when your life starts to get better and better.

    I held on to this Nora Ephron quote like a mantra while I was powering my way out of my marriage: ““Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

    In other words, don’t let your ex’s abhorrent behavior define the rest of your life. You can absolutely do this — and we have your back.

    Best of luck,
    LilyBart

  • Hi Kristen,

    You’ll get some great support here, so keep reading. I’ll add my two cents in.

    My cheater left me at your age but it’s difficult to rebuild your life at any age. I have a child too and she was angry that I “made” Dad leave. And yes, I had to find a job too and learn to manage finances on my own. So is it better on the other side?

    Yes.

    I no longer have to deal with lies, half truths and the likelihood that he is off having unprotected sex with god knows who. If that isn’t enough to help me continue to move forward, I don’t know what is. I was walking on eggshells and being gaslighted. He blamed me for being “lazy” and just about everything else that was wrong in our marriage and our life together. I know now, without a doubt, those were projections and not true. I could not have learned that had I stayed with him.

    It gets better one day at a time. I focused on that. I kept at it and at it and I got therapy. I worked on myself and I worked on being a better parent to my child (I took the focus off my lying ex and put that energy into my child and me.) My world opened up. It didn’t happen instantly, it was an effort. I made new friends and travelled to new places. I took chances I wouldn’t have in the past. I met a nice man who believes in me and is kind – what a difference THAT makes! Most of all I believed in myself that I could get through it despite the old shitty messages that my ex liked to plant in my head. I am, and so are you, worthy of a good life and you can do this.

    I wish there were short-cuts to ease your pain and doubt. There aren’t. It’s work. You have to decide to make the choice (every day) to get away from that horror and move toward peace. You build on the steps one at a time. Some days will be difficult but you’ll find that once you keep making good decisions for YOURSELF and your children, the good days become more frequent. You build your self-esteem back up.

    I’ve been there and it sucks but you really do have the power to get yourself on a better track. Don’t look back to that life, it’s gone. Look forward and start imagining the life you want. You can do it.

  • Dear Kristen,
    You have my full sympathy. Please know that although you might not see us, you have plenty of company in this pit of despair/foxhole on the front line/whatever you want to call this nightmare. I keep telling myself that other unemployed older parent chumps have survived similar garbage (finding out one’s spouse is a criminal, liar, cheater, etc., discovering that life savings have been dissipated on some extremely unhealthy and unethical activities, witnessing family being destroyed, and so on). Another thing that keeps me going is my love of and commitment to innocent victims of this debacle–my children. If I die, my scary, bad (worse than Breaking Bad) STBX will get custody of our children. I can’t let that happen. Have you heard the expression, ‘Lose that zero; get yourself a hero.’ I used to think, ‘Where are the heroes?, Where have all the cowboys gone?’ Then I looked inward. I realized that I was going to be the unlikely hero in this story. (I do hope to experience a real marriage (i.e., authentic marriage based on two people living an honest life and supporting each other) someday, but I’m not waiting for Prince Charming to show up. I don’t wear a cape, and I am struggling to function (so, for all outward appearances, I don’t leap tall buildings in a single pound–on a good day, I can leap small puddles; if I look like any superhero, it’s the Incredible Hulk in the moment he is turning green out of rage), but all of us chumps who get up every day and put one foot in front of the other are heroes. I think that, as we move away from the chronic abuse we have experienced for years or even decades, we will gradually realize that of the 7 billion people on this planet, several BILLION are kind people, much better than the monsters we were shackled to for way too long to be healthy. As we become more exposed and ‘re-integrated’ into healthy society (because we spend less and less time with abusive cheaters), we will get mentally and physically healthier and thus get better at figuring out ways to climb out of the pit. (To me that pit feels like the Grand Canyon. But I’m climbing out, looking neither up nor down, just searching for the next hand- or foothold.) Another thing that helps is thinking of Uma Thurman in Kill Bill breaking out of the coffin. I plan to come back with a vengeance–all legal, of course!

    • Rockstarwife – you’re sounding great! It’s wonderful to hear. You’ve had a shocking time with the STBX horrorbag (as we all have, true, but I think you found Chump Nation quite early on after D Day – if I remember right, and OH MY – how you have ‘stood up to the plate’ under such adversity and now are not only pulling up your big girl pants – but have swapped ’em for superman’s Y fronts 😉 – is really heartening to read!

      Kirsten – Rockstarwife is a Chump taking initiative and working towards making it better – and, I’m sure she’ll agree, she was well fucked over by her ex AND felt overwhelmed at times by the enormity of the challenge her new reality forced on her. Take heart! 🙂

    • RockStarWife, your comment reminded me of the most inspirational feat of human triumph I’ve seen lately. Next time you’re down, Google footage of the guys freeclimbing Dawn Wall on Yosemite’s El Capitan. Like you,they were mighty, and took it one centimeter at a time…and then they scaled that seemingly insurmountable face. You’ve got this.

  • Kristin, To put some perspective on how your children are experiencing all this, consider how blind-sided, hurt, confused, and crippled you were…still are…in this situation where your world has turned up-side-down and crumbled all at the same time. Well, in essence, the same has happened to your children. They had the rug pulled out from under them, as well, AND they lack the maturity, life experiences, etc…the ‘tools’ to process, manage, and cope with what has happened. You are in chronic pain; you cannot wrap your mind around this; the loss is devastating. Same for your kids…even if they don’t know all the dirty details. I don’t know the ages of your younger children, but do some research on how to support young children in this situation. And, also, how to help your oldest child cope, as well. Remember that YOU are their ‘rock’…their ‘safe place’ where they can let all their pain, anger, sadness out…and they may even blame you… with the confidence that YOU will ALWAYS be there for them. Your love is SO evident to them that they can lash-out and/or rebel letting their emotions out without risk of losing you and your love. They are struggling to mesh the ‘daddy’ that they knew…with what they have just learned about him. This is an incredibly hard task for an adult to accomplish let alone a child. Be there for them as best you can; therapy may be in order (if affordable); stand firm in honoring your values as this demonstrates and models self-respect, self-care, character, integrity, and a show of not tolerating things which are intolerable. Do not ‘bad mouth’ their father, but let the truth and the basis for the demise of your marriage and the dismantling of the family stand as it is. Their father ended the marriage; of all the options he had, HE chose to end the marriage; divorce is the natural product of infidelity. YOU loved their father and would have remained with him…the family intact…FOREVER. That would have been your first choice. But, their father made his own choices without talking to you…without consulting you. He unilaterally chose to end the marriage ie divorce. The divorce is a reflection on HIM…his lack of character; lack of morals; screwed up values; etc, not YOU. Please keep all this straight in your head so that you don’t slide into feeling responsible…or guilt…for this divorce. And, while you’re second guessing yourself and feelings of self-blame (“ugly”, “fat”, etc), stop and take a look at him. Was HE model-material? Perfect face, chiseled jaw, flawless skin, perfect proportions, cut and muscular, with 6-pack abs?? Was he always loving, attentive, interested, engaged, kind? Did he gush endearment and appreciation toward you daily? Was sex always ‘the best!’? I could go on, but I know you get my point. Before you start down a ‘self-blame’ slope, get real. Take a real, honest look at your husband and see him for the myriad of flaws he embodies. Yet, you didn’t cheat. His disturbing list of infidelities is ALL HIM…HIS character revealed…and the reason why the situation is what it is. I am sorry…hang in there. IF he didn’t move out and you stayed together, your life would be a whole different kind of living hell. It would even potentially be emotionally harder and more damaging to the kids….and you would remain IN it. As it is, you are slowly progressing and moving AWAY from the bullsh*t that was your life…and into a life of truth and reality. Keep going…

  • OMG Kristen, I am RIGHT there with you.

    50s and live paycheck-and-alimony/child-support check to check.

    No savings, live with my elderly parent and teenager (my parent needs more care than my teen). Only asset is my 2005 SUV (with almost 180k miles). No college education. Facing a minimum of $15,000 in home repairs. We will soon be wiped out of cash, because dick-head just HAD to drag the divorce WAY beyond what was needed. God forbid the car breaks down or anything else major happens – I’m dead meat.

    While dick-head, so far, pays the A/CS, he does NOT attend to the other debts and issues that was agreed to in our settlement. Part of that is paying my attorney $20,000. He is behind. Guess who my attorney is looking to now?

    My kid failed two subjects in middle school last year because of his father’s abuse.

    Who would WANT me?

    Somehow, I have to summon the courage and strength to face each day. Some days I swear I have to live, literally, minute by minute.

    Most of my “friends” have abandoned me. Divorce is like a virus – nobody wants to be around you.

    I have, exactly, 3 years to figure out how to make a minimum of $50,000 a year. My alimony ends January, 2018.

    *****************************************
    Now the upside. The divorce is over. I have full custody of my teenager. THAT stress is GONE. This is huge. It has given me the energy to do what I need to do. I am going to the county offices this week to get help with some kind of budgeting. I still have a couple of friends, and I go out occasionally to divorce support groups. I have a LONG way to go, but I am DETERMINED to make it.

    I am trying to take things one step at a time.

    YOU CAN TOO. JUST GET MAD AND TAKE CHARGE.

    Here are my suggestions:

    I know you are in a difficult period, where you must wait to file. READ HERE about what to do with preparing financially and for what you will need for your divorce. It will SAVE you time and money. WHILE you do this – DOCUMENT EVERYTHING. And I do mean everything. Make it your second job.

    GOOGLE and CONTACT one of your local women’s organizations for HELP. Do not be too proud to seek HELP. They will help you find therapists, welfare if you need it, help paying bills if you need it, etc.

    GET yourself and your kids into therapy. Especially your teen.

    I know it is hard. I have had many a sleepless night in the past 12 months. But you MUST ACT. There IS no other alternative.

    • Yup– got it. me too…by the way, for all us over fifty-somethings, believe it or not AARP has some decent job resources (as well as terrific discounts!) don’t be proud!, save where we can. a couple years out from DDay, and one year out from divorce, I am definitely turning some kind of corner.

      I still have issues (crowds, dating, thinking straight), but I am so much better than I was, and I can look back and see the progress. Not only that, as my head clears, I can look back and see all the gaslighting bullshit that Ex pulled on me in the marriage. Soul death by a thousand tiny cuts.

      Be strong, this is the worst part. you’ll get through this–and there is nowhere to go but up and better.

      An inspirational story: a friend of mine was chumped 11 years ago, with a toddler and a middle schooler. Now, her daughter is about to graduate from college and her son is starting high school. And she just found a wonderful guy. There is future, there is hope, there is life after being beat down, and even after spending years scrimping to get by and raise a couple of kids co-parenting with an inconsistent fuckwit.

    • I found the local community college to be invaluable for pointing me towards getting my career together in the shortest amount of time possible — obviously most are in healthcare. Many of the classes online so you can work while going to school. It is worth mentioning that it can be much cheaper to do community college online in another state and just transfer some of the credit — I’ve found Kansas and Iowa to be cheapest even though I don’t live in either state. Plus student loans are my backup plan in the very likely situation that my cheater doesn’t pay alimony/child support regardless of any settlement.

      It might be worth asking the kids if they’d be interested in taking those classes with you. They can do some of this while in high school. Yeah it’d be wierd but get them on the right path at the same time.

      It’s not exactly therapy for depression but it is free – check on 7 cups of tea.

      • ca-chump, thank you SO much for that suggestion. One of the things on my “to-do” list was to go talk to a counselor at our community college.

        • Garden City Community College (totally accredited) doesn’t require transcripts or placement testing which came in handy for me.

    • Kristen, you got this! Life/marriage with a Cheater is NO LIFE at all. I am almost 50, fluffy -but exercise every day :)-and when I learned of my ex’s cheating there was NO WAY in HELL that I was going to allow myself to believe things about myself that were totally UNtrue. I am worthy. I am worth loving. Recognize that your husband is missing something. Mine was and I made excuses for him all the time. When I discovered his Cheating I realized that I could no longer be around someone that…TOXIC. My marriage was good, right up until that asshole started pursuing others. Great kids, great jobs, lovely home, toys, vacations, all the bells and whistles, and a great wife! Lol. My spouse however Sparkly (and our community loved him!) was disengaged, withholding, and absent in a crisis. He was a great actor, and had me fooled. Last few years were a struggle. On the other hand, Chumps are 100% competent. I raised three easy kids through their high school years before I realized that most kids are work. Not to say I was perfect but I was very capable (a cop’s wife) and knew what I wanted. Even faced with great challenges I knew I had the strength to move forward. Honor your grief, be kind to yourself, be a strong parent. Do the things you have always done. Seek advice. Legal and personal. The online community (and web) is a great resource. (For all those struggling financially there are food banks, housing, counseling, and training/job info. Community colleges are great. ) Use it. Reinvent yourself. There are many things you can do that will help you heal. Give yourself time. When I got angry I knew my life would be better. Exercise. Those endorphins will help and get your kids into activities too! Kristen, we all did the best we could, with the information we had available. Don’t gloss over who did the work though, Be honest with yourself. You did not blow up your marriage. Know you deserve all things good. Life is better, even struggling, even fat, even old (to this I call Bullshit!) is better than being with someone who is out to destroy every thing precious. CL and CN, rock on! Best blog and best community ever IMHO.

      • you just told my story. i loved being married. i loved my husband. i knew all his faults, and all his mistakes and i stood by his side thru it all. i knew he was weak and spineless, but he was MY weak and spineless. i loved him unconditionally. i was very happy throughout my marriage, and we had it all. everything i wanted out of life, we had it or was working on it. so i gave him BUNCHES of credit for that.

        i dont want to think that he “never” loved me. i look around my house and see evidence that he did. although he was weak, disengaged and absent often, he couldnt (wouldnt) talk about his emotions. we never actually solved any problem or issue. and most of everything was 90 % my hard work, dedication, integrity, loyality and effort. i still loved him. and i believe he loved me in his own way.

        somedays, i wish that i never found out. i think i would STILL be living this happy little lie to myself as long as i didnt KNOW. his married slut that he was with was the ONLY reason i divorced him. i am NOT saying that we were not going thru some hard times. but i would have forgiven him of just about ANYTHING and would have never left him except for him sticking his dick in some other woman. i even know and understand his way of thinking (i am not cheating on you because we are not together and are separated) but it is just too much for me to handle.

        but now that i know there is NO GOING BACK. i still love him. but i can never forget that he just walked away and deserted me and the kids. he isnt paying child support and we havent seen him since fathers day last year. i have gone thru hell last year and struggled with paying bills, feeding the children, anger, bad grade, behavior issues from both littlest one, broken heaters and keeping the children warm and not getting sick on the coldest days of the year, everything braking and falling apart around and no man to fix it, junk piles and trash everywhere (garage, yard, and house although the house junk is mostly mine, some of his)……and he isnt concerned in the least what has been going on.

        i dont know if it gets better. but maybe it just gets a different better. i was perfectly happy not knowing my husband was a cheater with no integrity. i already knew he was a liar, hider, sneaker, law breaker, very low morals and values, i knew he did shit behind my back and would lie by omitting the truth. i think i could have lived the rest of my life the way we were.

        one thing for sure is you cant go on the way you are going. you have 2 options, get better, be better, work better or stay in the funk that you are in. so in that choice, yes, life does get better. dont get me wrong, it hurts like hell to have your soul raped, your dreams shattered and your heart broken. i remember days were i could hardly even breathe, the pain in my chest where my heart is was over whelming, my thoughts were disassembled and fractured. it was all i could do just to get up and get thru the day. i couldnt wait to get back to sleep as soon as i woke up. but you just keep moving, keep grinding, keep cleaning, keep working, keep paying bills, keep loving your children, keep going…………

        because what is the other alternative?

        hugs to you. i wish we never had to go thru this kind of living hell. but you WILL get better.

  • It gets better. One foot in front of the other, day by day. Oh, and use the pills to help you deal. Things will get better once you and your kids adjust and once you take your life back. Will you ever be who you were before? Probably not, but do you really want to be? Give it a year – once the divorce is final. You’ll see.

  • Spent the weekend grinding out chores, and am glad to be waking up on a Monday morning with (half of a) clean house, some paperwork done at work, food prepped for the week for lunches, laundry almost done, etc. Yesterday while I was cleaning, I remembered the despair I felt when my kitchen sink sprang a leak and took out the floor of the cabinet beneath. I think the process of replacing the base of the cabinet, the plumbing below the sink, and the faucet above was kind of a turning point for me. They’re still working, and still look a lot better then the ones that were there. You’ll have realizations like that, where the things that seem overwhelming are the things you look back on and take pride in having accomplished.

    Your son is blowing his senior year out of the water because he is either depressed or angry or both. He needs to talk to someone about what’s going on, and not increase the damage done. Here’s hoping he has teachers who will let him do some make-up work to salvage last semester. He might have to adjust his classes this semester to not go deeper in the hole; he might be able to finish classes next summer. He won’t be the first to need some extra help finishing. Heck, even West Point has a prep school. http://www.usma.edu/usmaps/SitePages/Home.aspx Look around for good options for him if he needs an extra year, and make sure the lawyer you are working with will fight to have tuition there paid by Daddy Dearest. Other options for him include trade school, a gap year, military service, etc., while he grows up enough for college. His life is not destroyed by this unless he chooses to let it be.

    More students than not would probably benefit from some additional growing-up time between HS and college/university. It sounds like that might be the case for him. That’s not a bad thing. I know that can be hard to see right now, but please consider that perspective.

  • I ask myself this all the time! this is my dilemma. Married over 30+yrs. I too am over 50, Haven’t worked since my first pregnancy. all my skills in the work force are obsolete. I want to figure out what would be most financially advantageous to ME. plus why make it easy and just hand him and his roman hands and russian fingers what he wants. not to mention making it easy for the OW whores. All 10-20 30 yrs younger than me. my head hurts everyday! no self esteem no confidence nothing. everything has been stolen from me. Half my life! I feel unattractive. sagging boobs, virginia, and tummy. lost 40lbs of stress so the infidelity diet worked for me. I have unearthed a ton of info and am still trying to get it ALL before the come to jesus meeting.which by the way I am scared shitless of.

  • No, it doesn’t get any better. It changes who you are. It’s been 2 years and almost 3 months since my ex-husband left me for another woman and I am still suffering.

    • Maria, hang in there. Only a little while ago, I was still thinking the same thing but it actually does get better and for me, I thought it never would. I am 63 years old, my 2 adult kids have rejected me because they prefer their father and the grief and the pain was too much for me. But I woke up every day and slowly but surely I realise I am actually happy for the first time in my life, part from the days both of my children were born. The other woman who ‘stole’ your husband has not won by the way. She has done you a favour. You cannot see it at the moment but you will. Please speak to all the Chumps here and they will help you. How do I know that, because without this site I don’t think I would be here right now but I am. This site will give you strength and insight into your situation. Baby steps Maria. My best wishes to you dear.

  • Dear Kristen,
    If it can get better for the rest of us, it can for you too. My heart breaks for you right now but you will be ok. In the beginning, I didn’t want to be alone with my two young kids, so we would pack up and visit friends that live 30 minutes away. We would spend the night and just enjoy each others company. I began looking forward to these visits every few weeks, and it really helped me through that first year of being the single/chumped mom. (There will be bad days, lots of them, just hang in there)

  • Kristen,

    If you define your life “getting better” as in ” as good as you used to believe it was” – you are creating your own roadblock. Because you are subscribing to the old “fantasy was better than reality” theory. The term “ignorance is bliss” is an axiom for a reason – it’s true in a warped kind of way. People who believe in something wholeheartedly to the point of ignoring the facts in front of their faces are psychotically happy. But their happiness is build on lies and will eventually fall apart as soon as one tiny crack into the real world begins to open up.

    I was just like you for the first two years post D-day. I didn’t want new challenges or freedom or control of my own money. I wanted my life back – the life I too had for 25 years. Like your douchebag STBX – mine was a middle school teacher, church council member, always ready to lend a hand to our friends and neighbors and what everyone thought was a “great guy.” All a facade – and when I found the crotch shots of his phys ed teacher whore on his phone and confronted him outside our house so our daughter wouldn’t hear – do you know what this “great guy” and loving, cuddling, hand holding dream of a husband told me? He said he was still going to the golf outing which he’d booked with her because “she’s a part of our lives now too.” And he did – and he never slept another night in our house. In two months – he was living with her (she left a husband and two teens as well) in an apartment a mile and a half up the road from our house. But still I couldn’t believe reality – I kept waiting for my wonderful, perfect old life to come back – and it didn’t – because it had never been real to begin with.

    He’d been cheating on me – including women before the final OW – for almost ten years. He lied with the kind of easy fluidity that other people use to talk about the weather. It was just a natural talent in him. And that gorgeous 19th century farm house with the pool and barn and expansive lawns which he kept perfectly manicured and took such pride in? Mortgaged to the hilt to pay off his credit card debt which he then would just rack up again. When he left – I found out just how horrific our finances were. There was no way out from under it – he had used his credit cards, my credit cards (with my permission – I always let him handle finances because “he knew best) and our joint credit cards to buy cars, timeshares and vacation to Mexico, Disney World and more. No wonder I thought it was the perfect life! As long as you didn’t see the black hole of debt widening beneath your feet – it was heaven!

    I think the tipping point for me to stop looking for my “old life and my true husband” to reemerge was when I asked him to take over the maintenance of our property (especially the lawns) while we tried to market the house on a short sale. He lived two miles away at that point in a new house that the OW bought, and I’d moved the kids and I into a condo a few miles in the other direction and couldn’t continue to pay for the lawn work. This was the lawn he used to take meticulous pride in – and know what? He never set foot on the property except to scavenge for items I’d left behind. He never touched a blade of grass. He set to work making sure her house would have perfect golf course quality lawns. That’s when I realized – he really didn’t give a shit for anything or anyone outside of his own needs at any given time. Wherever he parasitically glommed on – that was where he put his effort.

    I filed for bankruptcy (he did too and wanted to do it jointly – but I said no thanks.) I went to work trying to figure out how to bolster my retirement (neglected because he always said his teacher’s pension would be more than enough to keep us in style) and started to learn a new routine. And a lot of days it sucked – I got up, fed the pets, went to work, came home, fell asleep on the couch, went to bed. Repeated the routine a lot. Men? HA! I felt invisible – and even if I had been visible – I had no interest. I felt neutered. Nothing. I felt…..beige for a very long time. And I spent many tearful moments feeling so sorry for myself and for the imaginary life I had lost.

    And guess what – I finally grew up. At 53 years of age, no less. So I’m going to give you some stern words from a fellow chump in her 50s. Time for you to grow up, put on your big girl panties and let go of magical thinking. You may feel like a drudge – but you have so much going for you. An HONEST life, most of all. You want to exercise without spending money for a gym? Get out and walk or dance to the radio in your living room. Your kids trying to lay a guilt trip on you? Remind them lovingly but firmly that their father was the bad actor in this – and it broke the marriage – not you finally realizing you couldn’t keep living a lie. They are old enough – don’t coddle them like they are 3 yrs old. “Tummy aches?” Take their mind off of it by playing some board games as a family, sitting down over a meal or – here’s an idea – give them some chores to help with so you don’t have to come home and do everything in the house yourself. They need to grow up a bit too. It will take more time for them – but they will.

    And most of all – quit siding with your ex in the “I’m ugly/old/fat” abuse heaping on your own head. What – are you going to base your self worth as a great mom, a hard working career person and the head of a household on an asshole who used his own children to cover for him so he could get his jollies off in leather thongs and a ball gag? That’s who defines your self worth? You are doing his job of abuse for him if that is how you treat yourself. Listen – no one gets to their 50s without a few physical alterations along the way. But you have control of your life now – you can do and be pretty much anything you’d like within reason. Start looking for things that spark you, not things that sparkle. Look for REAL pleasures like a great Groupon deal you can take the kids out with and enjoy time together. Your ex is living an inauthentic life. But you are free to really live – don’t squander it feeling sorry for yourself because you don’t have something that you never really had to begin with – an honest life with an honest husband.

    Good luck!

    • Love, love, LOVE this! Tough love, to be sure, but soooooo right on. Great post, Char!

      Cheaters can be so cruel when they “justify” (FALSELY!!) their shitty behavior by putting us down! It happens so slowly, over time, repeatedly, increasingly, that eventually we internalize their bullshit and feel *worthless* as a result. No! You are NOT worthless!

      Ugh. To hell with them. To hell with their lies. It DOES get better! It may take a while longer for some of us, but damn it–it DOES get better!

      You have a long journey ahead, Kristen–Big hugs to you!!!

  • Here’s a few unconventional suggestions, but they do help…and yes it gets so much better and thats a fact. The alternative is to walk around like a shell shock victim which would mean your ex got what he wanted, he got to destroy you. Seriously you cant give him bragging rights. You have to win back who you are inside yourself. Heres some help:
    1. Make a weekend list – weekends are tough, fill them with chores and activities
    2. Listen to upbeat music – music is instant emotion
    3. Make an improvement and stick to it, but make it small…for instance, dont drink soda. Or dont eat after 8 pm. Or only watch an hour of tv. Once youve done this for 3 or 4 weeks change the next thing.
    4. Lifes a marathon, not a sprint, you are allowed to feel this pain, you just dont want the pain with you at the finish line.
    5. Pick a project, plan it, do it. Could be painting a room, carving something or painting something, but it should be something with a definitive end. This builds your sense of self and ability to see the results of your work.

    • Great list, Scott. I would add two things that have helped me. I think these are super simple and a great starting point:

      Write a “proud list” of what you accomplished that day. Some days, dragging yourself out of bed is an accomplishment. Seriously, as an epic chump who manages long-term depression and anxiety, I count getting out of bed some days as a huge win. So is “not biting when my ex baits me” or “letting it roll off my back when my son tells me how great life is at his dad’s.” It’s amazing how much you accomplish each day and you don’t even realize it until you capture it on paper.

      Practice gratitude. Again, start small. As I wake up each morning, I find five things to be thankful for. They can be insignificant (thank you for this pillow, which is just the right blend of supportive and soft), and they can be big (thank you for this past weekend with my son, where we got lots of one-on-one time so he knows how important he is to me).

      Hang in there, Kristen. It does get better. XOXO

      • A warm, clean, soft, safe bed is a luxury to many, many humans. I remind myself every time (literally) I climb into mine, for I am truly thankful for it. So, you go and be grateful for your pillow. It shows that you can appreciate what is truly good!

        Keep going–look at you helping others even when you have your own struggles!

        • So so so true! I went from a custom home on twenty acres to a twenty foot fifth wheel trailer whose roof leaked every time it rained! Best part!?! I put our three kids through college and am proud I no longer deal have to deal with a disordered passive aggressive entitled Cheating Narc! Even in substandard leaky housing, life is so much better! 😉

  • Kristen, I’m sending you many hugs!

    It sounds like you’re being really hard on yourself for not feeling better. Give yourself permission to feel like CRAP for a full year after the final separation, and halfway crappy for another year or two after that! This is so normal, even healthy – we DID care, we DID try, and we’ve been screwed over.

    But in the middle of accepting you feel like crap, keep doing what you need to do. One day at a time, even one hour. Be strong for your kids, fake it ’til you make it if you need to.

    I agree that they are lashing out at you BECAUSE you are the reliable parent, the dependable one, the one who is there and who they know will always be there. If they say mean, unfair stuff, set limits, but help them recognize their own emotions as well. To an accusation that you made their dad leave, you can say ‘I know you’re upset that your life has changed so much, and in a lot of pain, but you may not say that it is my fault. None of us wanted these changes, but your father CHOSE to do things that make marriage impossible, and he made those choices many times over many years.’ Then ask about what they’re missing, what they’re upset about, what they wish could be different.

    I second getting therapy for yourself and the kids, and talking to your son’s school to know what his options are for catching up or changing tracks once things settle down. A lost year academically is no fun, but it’s not the end of the world, either. If you can’t afford private therapists, check out school options for the kids, and women’s shelters for info about therapy for yourself – groups are excellent as well!

    I’m a pudgy 56 yr old person myself, hope I’ll meet someone good for me but don’t expect it, and will now be working much later into my ‘retirement years’ than I ever expected. But it’s been more than 2 and 1/2 years since DDay #2, when I chucked the asshole out, and I have to say, the kids and I are FINE! We have ups and downs like anybody, I get stressed about my son’s grades and my daughter’s attacks of rudeness (ah, teenagers!), but we are HAPPY. Our home is full of warmth, love and authenticity.

    During the worst of things, I tried to really make a point of enjoying the tiny things. Lifting my face to the sun, admiring my cats, soaking up a hug from a friend, really tasting my lunch. These little moments of joy can fuel our return to normal – just give yourself time. If you can’t enjoy those little things, then you’re probably clinically depressed and MUST GET PROFESSIONAL HELP! Even depression is a NORMAL reaction to finding out your life was a charade.

    More hugs, Chump Nation has your back!

  • Kristin,

    It does get better. I walk in to my home at the end of a work day, and no one there is deceiving me, stealing from me, taking pleasure in the secrets that would cause me pain.

    In my opinion, what does not happen: you, and anyone else who gets put on this road, will not go back to who you were pre-cheater. You’re experiencing a profound loss of innocence. That can’t be undone. In exchange, you have the opportunity to gain wisdom, and to evolve into a new version of you. Not lessons we may have signed up for, but may as well make the best use of this challenge.

    Hang in there.

  • Hi Kristin,
    I know how you feel. Husband has been cheating for years. We’re just finalizing separation agreement. I’m not going for divorce right now just because I am taking advantage of his health insurance. Some people may not agree, but it’s $500 I don’t have to spend each month. We have two in college, he has a 2 year old with his girlfriend. We were married for 21 years and I knew 18 years ago that I probably shouldn’t stay. I was scared and, if I didn’t think about some things, I could pretend the marriage was ok. I will be 50 next month. I am a little overweight. I feel ugly. But I know I’m not and I am working on losing the weight. But I am an emotional eater and it’s very hard. I found a divorce group at a local church. I’m not a religious person, but it did give me a group of people to meet with weekly. There were men and women and it has changed my life. A small group of us have broken off into our own group and we do things socially and have really helped each other in this journey.

    It is terrifying. It is almost unimaginable to think of being out in the world “on your own”, but you can do it. You’ve raised children. You can do anything! Good luck to you!

    • I like your approach. I’m sure, like most cheaters, he hates having to pay any amount to you. Line up your ducks, don’t engage with him, milk him dry and before you know it, you’ll be at MEH. 500 a month is a lot of money…too bad for him, lol! LOSER

  • Kristen, thank you for a great letter. I’m in the same place, with different details. I’ve tried so hard to follow all of the advice I’m given: therapy for all, exercise, take care of myself. Then I have to care for the children, I went back to work, got them a dog, make time for fun, and still try and keep my finances together, take care of the house and plan a happy future for us all. Then there’s all the “unexpected” stuff life throws at us that requires lawyers, doctors, funerals, babysitters, and calling on neighbors for help. And it feels like there are not enough hours in the day and days in the week. I go week to week feeling like I’m falling further behind, getting weaker, not stronger. Then I try to pat myself on the back for just maintaining and not letting everything fall apart. Sometimes that makes me feel worse, not better. I know it will probably get better if I just keep chugging along, but most of the time, it feels like too much. You’re not alone. I wish we could all form a commune or something! I’ll be reading everyone’s advice to you.

    • DoneNow, you SHOULD pat yourself on the back for any day you make it through, any day you get anything done, every day like that means that you get closer to Meh and to feeling Ok again. Even if it doesn’t feel like that!

      Right now there aren’t enough hours in the day – that’s the way it is! Cut yourself LOTS of slack, get the absolutely most important stuff done and let all the rest slide. Just making sure things don’t fall apart completely is a HUGE accomplishment! Call on neighbours, friends AND family for help (people often would like to help, they just need us to tell them now), make lots of ‘pasta w/a can of tomato sauce’ dinners, let the pet hair accumulate in the corners and under the beds, leave the clean laundry piled on the couch for weeks at a time, everyone can find their stuff in the pile, and don’t worry yet about planning a happy future. Right now it’s survival mode, and take care of the kids mode, and that’s ALL.

      And one day you’ll realize you’re not feeling quite so pressured and rushed. One day you’ll have time for a nap. One day you’ll see that you’re pulling ahead of the mountains of stuff to be done, bit by tiny bit.

      It will happen, and you will feel MIGHTY! (‘Cause you’re already mighty now, you just can’t feel it yet.)

  • It’s hard to be strong when you realize you were living a lie throughout your marriage. My son told me it was a new chapter in my life. At first it was difficult for me to think of it as a positive change. Cheating changes everything. It is a selfish and thoughtless act. I was honest with my children. I had to give up some things to make ends meet. I had to reassure them that we will be ok no matter what so they dont have to worry. As parents we have to suffer in silence at times to be strong for our children. Finding a support system was also important. Lean on friends and family for support instead of your children. Going for therapy and taking medication helped me deal with the depression. It is a new chapter with a bumpy beginning. You can write the happy ending.

  • Dear Kristen,

    It gets better the minute that you discover that your life with a cheater was a lie and that you understand that you were abused. You will not, of course, feel better until much later…but as soon as Dday happens and you begin to enter a state of consciousness you will start rebuilding yourself without even knowing it.

    Just the fact that your body told you not to continue with the reconciliation (the nausea is a big sign) and that you were able to get a fair agreement shows how mighty you are and how you are changing and beginning to love and protect yourself and your kids. I cried for ten months everyday but I was strongest in the first two weeks after Dday when I visited lawyers, moved his junk out, went to my kids school and asked for help from psychologists and teachers…all of this while boy-scout-wouldn´t-hurt- a-fly asshole husband was with his skank on a trip. When he got back, what a surprise I had for him…but it still hurt like hell.

    Fast forward one year later, I am doing well above and beyond what I imagined and when I speak to him, it is a reminder of how lucky I am to not be the one who has to deal with his anger and lies! By the way, I am also beginning my 50s and I have realized that men flirt with me for the first time in 20 years (or at least I didn´t notice before, because as a chump I was never looking!).

    What helped me: I couldn´t afford a good therapist so I got online everyday and listened to any sort of video program that might help about everything from understanding narcissists, to recovering your inner-child. Anything that might help. There is a lot of trash out there but there is also tons of information and healing treatments that are free or almost free. Try everything until you find a voice that resonates with you. I promise, it will help and you will see you are not alone. Change your diet to one that not only makes you look better but also helps you with the depression.

    I also recommend any exercise that you can do, even if only walking around the block at first and noticing what things are beautiful and how lucky you are to be alive and becoming healthier every day. Form a women´s support group with a friend or friends or join a group. Read something inspiring together and comment it on every week.

    And tak to everyone that will listen to your story until you get tired of it and don´t want to talk anymore. It is very therapeutical. Also, help someone who has more problems than you do. Volunteer at an orphanage or write a gratitude journal. Or remember what you loved to do when you were 5 years old and do that again from an adults perspective (painting?, dancing? dressing up?)

    There are a million of free things you can do while you get your finances together, but you must heal yourself first. It will help you get perspective on everything else.

    If I did it and many other chumps in worse situations did it, then I am absolutely positivie that you will to. You will find that beautiful Kristen pre-cheater days again, but stronger and smarter than ever. You are mighty!

    • To add one more thing that helped the kids: “redecorate” the house with their advice. Take over the cheaters spaces (give it to the kids) move furniture around, take down anything that reminds you of him. Let the kids paint walls, change their rooms around, etc..Anything that will let them feel that your home is different but better. But do it as a new family. Make decisions together ….my kids loved this and it helped them immensely.

  • Let me add two things to my other post. I am an eagle scout and this pig gives us all a bad name. I still believe the scout oath and law are great foundations for being an ethical man. People like your ex make me sick.
    Second, dont assume men your age all want what men wanted in their 20’s. Ive been dating a former chump for a while. I think shes pretty but she is heavy. Shes just awesome company, funny, kind hearted and decent. Means a lot more to me than a great body. At my age, i want someone who will be anpartner, if she is heavy i dont care. If she is thin i dont care. And that wisdom is from being chumped. I never knew how important picking the my partner for the right reasons would be had i not been cheated on.

    • Thank you Scott for reminding us that there are decent, good men out there. Good for you for saying this! Beauty really is on the inside.

      • If the beauty thing really mattered most, which it doesn’t, then why did Christi Brinkley get cheated on? Why did Jennifer Aniston? It’s not about the chump, it’s about the cheater. They are wretched human beings who do not care if they leave a trail of destruction in their lives. That’s why Kristen probably needs to know the ultimate purpose of what she’s going through is not to just survive or not dwell in victimhood. It’s to thrive. The best revenge is success, and an even better revenge is to watch the dopey look on their face when their games have zero effect on you. Look at them like you watch a baboon in the zoo, as though you don’t understand what they’re saying, and they are kind of disgusting and smelly. Like you just smelled urine on them. When you’re to that point, you own their soul. And that’s a great day people…a great day. The goal, is Meh!

        • “Look at them like you watch a baboon in the zoo…” That is classic! I’m not at meh yet but I know I’ll get there. (I still want to fling poo at him like the other baboons. 😉 )

  • I feel strongly about leaving a comment. All you hear during divorce is “it gets better”, which is true, but the second part of that is, “Your life will never be the same.” “It gets better” felt like a disappointment because in my head, I imagined that for having my life blighted like a nuclear disaster, I would rise from the rubble like a phoenix. At minimum, I would get the Hallmark happy ending with a golden retriever.

    “It gets better” doesn’t work like that (at least yet). Life’s a bitch. It does mean, however, you eventually value your dignity even if that is all you have .If you miss your old life, you miss your old life, and that’s fine.

    On the darkest days, I held on because I was curious how this story was going to unfold. I figured a story that turned out this fucked up can only get more interesting. Treat your own life with the same curiosity. You deserve it.

    • There is something to that Dr. Part of me understood I think that the hurt, the scars, the pain, would alter me forever and I would never really be the same person. And part of me was a little annoyed at the beginning when I would hear people say, “hey, hang in there, stay positive, and you’ll be fine”.

      One of the reasons why I have repeatedly called infidelity abuse is because anything that dramatically alters your being, your brain, your personality, is unnatural and traumatic. Psychologists call it PTSD now, and it fits. Going through chumpdom is no walk in the park.

      That said, I also agree with you, that I believe God wouldn’t put me through this if there wasn’t something on the other side that was truly worth the effort.

      • In the early days, I didn’t see what possible good could come from an experience like that (seriously….PTSD isn’t for sissies). But having gone through it and come out the other side, my life is better for it….and I’m a better person for it. I wouldn’t change anything now, because it really was worth the effort. God always has a pretty good plan.

        • God/Universe only has 3 answers for you:
          – Yes
          – Not yet
          – No, I love you too much.

          Which one you think we all got? 😉

    • I agree “life does get better”, but it is not like “..ris[ing] out of the rubble like a phoenix”…Challenges, triggers, work, kids etc all happen and sometimes suck a lot. I am broke, thanks to the financial infidelity, got a car that just blew a rod and in the shop which will cost thousands. Not to mention I have to scrounge around and borrow cars to get my kids to and from school. My 8 year old son has become angry, whiny, completely dependent, and struggling in school. With all this going on now, I am still so much happier as I am no longer responsible (not that I really was) for making the unhappy, happy. I can handle things as I see fit and no longer have to take the Narcissists orders or worry about angering her. In short, it is the new authenticity of life free from the drama of a dysfunctional partner that simply makes the struggles we all go through more peaceful and easier to handle. In short, we all tread water, but being cheater free means we are no longer treading water with cinder blocks tied to our feet!

      • Cletus, you just put into words something I’ve been feeling and didn’t quite realize. Life is still not ‘over the rainbow’, it’s real life, just minus a narcissist. When my son is being lazy about his homework and dismissive about his bad grades, or when my daughter is being snarky as only a 13 year old girl can, I was getting resentful that my ex wasn’t around to help raise them. It’s so hard alone! When I have to have the plumber in for the 4th time in 2 weeks because of problems w/the heat, I was resentful about having to deal with all this alone.

        Then I just remind myself; when he was here, my ex only made things harder and harder. I was not only raising the kids and taking care of the house with only small contributions from him, I was trying to protect the kids from his negativity and temper, and trying to ‘manage’ him so he wouldn’t make things too unpleasant for all of us AGAIN. Less than a year prior to his 2nd affair, I had actually told him I wanted us to separate (couldn’t divorce ’cause we weren’t married), because he was just too hard to be around, and that neither the kids nor I deserved to be treated like that. He was clear that he didn’t want that, and actually smartened up a fair bit after that, bit his tongue on a lot of the nastiness … but was still not any actual use or help, just less unpleasant. And then of course, that ‘ultimatum’ was one of his justifications for cheating!

        So now I have to deal with everything I always did have to deal with, and some days are sure more fun than others. But I’m not always looking over my shoulder to see what kind of mood he’s in. I’m not always questionning how I do things, trying to avoid his criticism. I’m not walking on egg shells ’cause he’s in a pissy mood again, nor having to set boundaries. I’m not periodically upset by how he treats the kids, or how he treats me.

        And when I feel lonely, it’s because I’m actually alone. Is there any greater loneliness than the one we feel when we’re in a couple with someone selfish and entitled? (Besides, now I know how amazing and supportive my friends and family can be, and happily reach out to them in the moments of loneliness, or just let it pass.)

        “no longer treading water with cinder blocks tied to our feet!” YAY!

        • Leaving a cheater certainly doesn’t mean the clouds part and nothing bad happens ever again. The years following my leaving were nothing but a series of disasters and bad news on top of bad news. In three years time, two of my three children were diagnosed with incurable but “treatable” illnesses — totally unrelated illnesses at that. BUT, there is serenity and calmness in our lives.

          Bad things happen. But much better they happen when you are centered and at peace, which is what you never are when living with an abusive pig.

        • Wow KarenE..I was thinking EXACTLY this today, give or take a few words. I feel that I am doing the same things than when I was married but without the stress for myself or my children.

    • I agree–It gets better doesn’t mean (at least for me) that you get the Fairly Tale. It gets better means that you’re no longer living in constant psychic, emotional, spiritual and other…pain. You no longer worry that somehow your children are being harmed, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. You no longer feel like no matter how hard you try, it’s never good enough.

      You learn to take pleasure in making the right decisions for yourself, for the right reasons. (But for me anyway, it was quite frightening for a while, since I no longer trusted my ability to make good decisions. I wondered–where had that gone? And, I had chosen such a lousy husband, *Could * I make good choices?)

      Now I know I can. I’m settling. Things are starting, slowly to feel comfy, my life is getting more like a broken in pair of jeans, and less like 3 pairs of too-small Spanx.

      And for me, that’s Better.

      I really, really, really wanted to get old with a loving partner. And, maybe I’ll find some one. But the getting old part? I’m half way and a half there. I’ll never be able to look back on child rearing years with someone and laugh, or remember the times in that first crummy apartment with lousy heat. Those are things my Ex stole from me. (of course I remember my lovely daughter as a sweet child–but who do I share those special moments with? who else was there? just a shell.)

      So, that a loos. But like all losses, you need to identify it, grieve it, acknowledge it, and then move on to make new, joyous memories (which I’m finding quite hard–the new part).

      So, maybe Getting Better will be me living out my life alone with my dog, talking with my daughter from time to time, and that’s about it. That’s pretty OK, compared to daily emotional manipulation and abuse that I didn’t understand, and that catapulted me into a lifelong deep depression. I’ll take it.

      • namedforvera, I’m OK w/living out my old age alone w/my cats, too (and my books! So little time, so many books! Thank heavens for public libraries)! But once I get there, and the kids are all raised and independent, I also plan on doing some stuff I haven’t had time for so far.

        I plan to be a Raging Granny, w/a great hat! I’ll be 79 or 84 and lying in front of a bulldozer somewhere, or getting arrested at a protest of some kind, and writing irate and well-reasoned letters-to-the-editor, or for Amnesty International, or fund-raising for Doctors Without Borders, or marching arm-in-arm w/other old people and young people and kids …. I’m going to raise some hell about things I think are important!

        Wanna join me?

    • Yes, this is very important to really grasp. Life might get better, but it will not be the same. The new life is better because it is free of cheating, lying, gaslighting and abuse. That does not mean it is easy or that tweeting birds and romping forest creatures dance around your feet each morning. Life is hard, but is still beautiful.

  • Even though I an still in the midst of my divorce proceedings, i must admit…it does get better. When I compare the person I was 3 1/2 years ago on Dday, and the woman I am now, there is absolutely no comparison. And the life I have, even though I am waist deep in debt, complete with crying children like most of us here…much happier. You have to accept that everything they did was a performance for our benefit, none of it was real. My house was a mess, was literally falling down around me. I put on my big girl panties, you tubed some home repairs and got to work. The house still needs major repairs, but is livable. DSL was having a rough time a school due to the split,was able to get him free counseling at school. My list of friends dwindled to a very short list, but that’s ok, as they were the real people in my life. People have sAid that I look so much better than I was married to the ex, and that much is true. I took time for me, started indulging in what I liked to do and slowly took myself back. Is life hard, yep, exhausting. But at the end of the day, I have two beautiful kids who look up to me, a home that reflects my taste and peace when I put my head down at night. It doesn’t feel like it now, but life without the loony toon you were married to… Things will be soooo much better.

  • Kristen, I’m so sorry to hear what you’re going through. Infidelity sucks. As do all of the problems that get piled on top of a divorce…even when it’s not your fault.

    The one thing that I can say helped me was to take “one problem” at a time…if that makes sense. It all seems like too much to handle right in the beginning. And Lord knows, none of us want to waste time “taking things slowly” given how much time was stolen from us.

    But, rebuilding a life takes effort and time.

    I learned that I had to focus on one thing at a time. I had to rearrange my life so that I built new habits / ways of living to address that one thing, and then started thinking about the next thing. For example…

    Problem: I was doing poorly at work because I was distracted by my wife’s cheating and divorce.
    Response: I set time aside during the day to grieve and deal with divorce stuff, and spent the rest of the day being productive. I got through my divorce in 9 months, and although I occasionally still grieve, I’ve also gotten 2 promotions and a pay raise since my wife started cheating 2 years ago.

    Problem: My plan to pay off graduate school loans with 2 incomes is now obsolete.
    Response: Find a less expensive place to live and reorganize my life so my income better matches my expenses, and now I’ll those loans off *sooner* than when I would if I’d still been married.

    I understand that everyone’s situation is unique. All I can say is that it helped me to look at one problem at a time, spend a few weeks/months re-programming myself to live differently, and then move on to the next problem.

    After those few weeks, the problems don’t disappear, but I live my plan to address them each day, so I make progress on them. They get incrementally smaller each day.

    By no means am I where I thought I’d be when I looked ahead 20 years ago. But, I can say that I’m in a better place that D-Day…a much better place. And improvement gradually increases every month.

    Good luck to you!

    • Good point JC, if you look at EVERYTHING you need to deal with as this huge clump it is overwhelming and causes you to cycle into the whole, this wouldn’t be happening if only train. Break up the issues and they are more manageable and you can weed the ” have tos” from the “should dos”

  • After my son saw his family destroyed, he flunked out of his first year of college- a direct result of his heartbreak. Straight A’s first semester, straight F’s second semester. I was beyond sad, but I knew he was looking to me for help. We decided that he should come home and attend community college, which was the best decision he could have made. He graduated with high honors and is now attending a state university. Sometimes the very event that seem like the worse thing ever can happen turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

    Leaving my X was the hardest, most traumatic thing that has happened to me and I am in my late 50’s. Four years later, I do not date, by choice. I spent too much of my life taking care of others. I am content to be alone, even though it is not what I had planned for my “golden years.” My life is 1000% better than it was when I was married for one simple reason- I am free of the bullshit! Yes, it is hard being the breadwinner for my kids, who are in high school, college, and graduate school. Yes, I worry about retirement. But, I would live in a box and eat bologna sandwiches rather than go back to my old life.

    None of this is easy and anyone who claims otherwise is either a liar or a fool. But what is your choice? To crawl in a hole and die? Or to show your children, by your actions, that you are a strong, competent woman? Your actions are teaching them how to handle adversity, how remain calm in the middle of chaos. This is one of the most important lessons you can teach them and they will carry it with them for the rest of their lives.

    And the bullshit of dad as victim? Shut that shit down now! My X was/is very ill and believe me, I got cast in the villan role. But I was consistent. “Your dad doesn’t live here because he betrayed our marriage vows. That was something I could not tolerate. His poor choices destroyed our marriage.” Under no circumstances should you allow anyone, including your children, to shift the blame to you. The teenage years aren’t easy in the best of circumstances; kids that age are masters of manipulating parental guilt to their advantage. Don’t accept blame for circumstances beyond your control.

    • I like your style! Great advice on taking charge of your life and feeling good about your choices. I like the advice to be firm on your values with the kids. That’s so important.

  • I always wish that I had additional words of wisdom to contribute….but , alas, there are MANY smart women here….and we all write the truth!!!! Yes, it is hard, yes it sucks, yes it is unfair….but EVERY day it is “one foot after the other, till black and white begin to color”……My mantra was,
    ” keep swimming through the SH**. That tropical island with the umbrella drink is waiting for me”……and you know what? That island is no longer just a mirage, it is real and I am getting closer to it each day.

    Of course that are still days that I have to fight off the sharks. There are days that I sink down into the water a little bit to much,wanting to give up. But someone ALWAYS comes along and gives me either a forehead-thump or a lifting, helping hand. There are days that I stop to play with the dolphins, and see the goodness of life & I am grateful and count my blessings ( hate it when people say “be happy for what you Do have, but it is true).

    There are days that I jump on that ship of pirates…..they teach me to not take crap from anyone, that I am strong, and that the “Lord of the Manor” was really just a crook, a self-serving a**ho^^ after all….and just because my EX dressed him self up with all kinds of wigs and finery, it was all just make-up, a bunch of excuses, a bunch of deceitful lies.

    But then it is always back into the water, my umbrella drink is waiting for me…..and I will have one waiting for you. JUST KEEP SWIMMING!!!!!!

    • ThaT umbrella drink will be icy cold too Mzslates, in fact the bartender is bringing you one now, shoo shark!

  • I would rather be alone every day for the rest of my life than spend another minute with my POS Ex-husband.

    While married, my Ex once said to me, “I would never be seen with you at the beach.” My response, “Why?” His response: “Because you are fat.”

    How a size 8/10 could be heckled as “fat” is beyond me but that’s what he said. Nice, huh? Who would want that in their life? Not me, thank you very much. I am better off alone than to ever allow him or any man to speak to me that way.

    At first it was hard for me to believe I would find happiness after learning of how deep my Ex’s lies ran, but now? I’m happier than I have ever been.

    Kristen, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, you just have to be patient and believe in yourself. You will get through this and you will come out the other side stronger and wiser. Don’t sell yourself short. Remember, no one can make you feel like sh*t unless you allow them to. Do not allow what he did to you undermine your self-confidence. Only sh*tty people can do what your husband did to you and think nothing of it. As ChumpLady says, “Trust that he sucks.”

    • UGH. Mine gave me a hard time about being fat too. I have never really been out of the normal range for my height but he was seriously unhealthy overweight.

      • A narc always needs to be able to put us down, and they’ll use whatever they think might be a vulnerable point to do it. In our culture, ‘fat’ is one of the worst things you can say to a woman, so they say it, whether it’s true or not. My ex criticized me for not dressing fancier, pointed out women in tight skirts and high heels going to work. Yeah, I was going to dress like that to take public transit to my two jobs (where that kind of clothing would look, frankly, stupid), drop off and pick up the kids, and get the groceries. And of course, when I DID dress up to go out and looked, frankly, pretty hot, he’d completely ignore me.

        A good friend of mine used to get told by her cheating narc that she was looking old. Well, she left him 5 years ago, and today she looks 10 years younger than she did then, so I guess she found her anti-aging treatment!

        They just really and truly suck!

        • I had an eating disorder (anorexia) all through high school. Comments about my weight was definitely my Achilles’s heel. Well, not so much now but definitely when i was with my Ex. He brought back all those feelings I used to have about my physical appearance. Since I have been away from him, adding to that the fact that I am 47 my attitude is ‘take me as I am, or don’t take me at all’.

          That said, I do often wonder what my Ex’s OW/Wife’s Achilles’s heel is… she must have one — there must be something about her that he is going to use against her… I cannot imagine he married someone who he couldn’t control. No doubt he’s showering her with ego kibbles (they’ve been married 1 year now). She’ll be in for a real shock when Dr. Jekyll turns into Mr. Hyde.

  • Kristen, I am so sorry that you’re going through all of this – it’s difficult and miserable, I know.

    I think the key to your question is here: “But better than what I thought I had?”
    Unfortunately, the life you thought you had was an altered reality, engineered by your husband’s deceit, manipulations, and secrecy. He created for you a Kristen-version of The Truman Show, carefully orchestrating a reality that kept you in place, unaware, and as a source of benefit for himself on multiple levels, all while getting his serial-cheater jollies elsewhere.

    So yes, your life is harder today than it was compared to the life you thought you had. But just as you weren’t living the easy gazillion dollar life, you weren’t living that life either.

    When you understood your actual reality and how that reality was also your past AND your future, you chose against it. When faced with continuing to live a life shrouded in dysfunction, abuse, and all the other issues that come with infidelity, you already chose better for yourself.

    So, does it get better? Well, you decided part of that measure for yourself: You decided that despite the hardship and challenges it brings, the single life you have today was better for you than staying with his serial cheating ass. So in that way, it’s already WAY better.

    ‘Better’ is a question of what measure you’re using, Kristen. Is it financially harder? Yes. Are there self-esteem issues, self-doubts, fear? Yes. Is the stress and upset affecting the family? Yes. But the flip side is that you get to drive your own life, holding your principles and dreams for yourself as your guide. The upside is that you have the power to create a REAL life for yourself, by yourself, that you can enjoy regardless of your relationship status. The win is that you can work under your own steam to overcome the issues you face – your happiness, stability, and success is not contingent on a cheater’s choices. Trust me – that is loading the bases for a win far more than you ever could by living a life hoping he would change.

    Living an authentic life of your own making is absolutely better in my view. Getting to where you want to be is a difficult path I know. But I a confident that you have the oomph and character to make that happen, not just for you, but for your kids too.

  • Some great comments here.

    I’m in my 50s, too. I don’t expect my new life to be the way it would have been if I’d stayed with my STBX. The decisions I made back then with respect to career and direction can’t be unmade, and frankly, I’m not the same person.

    I suggest therapy. You’ve been gaslighted and emotionally abused. Therapy for your kids will also be good. Their dad should pay for it, too. You need professional help to deal with some parts of your life. Also, you should take advantage of the community support that’s out there.

    I think my life is going to be different, but also good. I started to wrest control of my life after Dday, one step at a time. I took charge of my food instead of eating whatever STBX liked. I’m now 55lbs thinner (okay, so I dieted, but the diet had me on food that I’d normally eat, not the starchy stuff that STBX eats). I started to take charge of my finances. I not only can afford my lawyer, but I have money to cover closing costs, some new furniture, and put money into an emergency fund. I decided against keeping the house, since I realized I’d not be able to afford it. Instead, I’m downsizing so that I can afford a new (used) car in a couple of years. I drive a 2004.

    My friends from 17 years ago are gone. STBX and I have been married that long, and I used to have a strong circle of friends. STBX, though, doesn’t like mingling with people. I will have to make new ones, but it will be easier now that I don’t have to worry about STBX saying one minute that yes, he’d like to go to dinner with friends and then, 30 minutes before we leave, he decides against it!

    Life is going to be a challenge, but I think I’m up to it. I certainly wake up in a different world than I did nearly 2.5 years ago.

    I filed in August, and while it’s not gone through yet, I can see the light on the horizon.

  • Kristen, I’m sorry to read about your situation. I’m sorry to read about all of our situations – It’s not how we planned things. I’m almost 2 years out and it does get better. I’ll be 50 this week, I’m over-weight (tho pretty cute in spite of it), I need to get a career asap, and I am paralyzed some days with grief and fear. BUT, I’m no longer living with or married to someone who put me down constantly and made a mess of our house and who shit all over our marriage by having an affair. So forward I go . . .. One of the worst phases of the whole thing was the time frame between D-day and actually moving out and finalizing the divorce – about a year. That limbo was hell. I would read this blog everyday and wonder about “meh” and doubted that there would be any for me – I just couldn’t imagine it from that place. I had to take anxiety meds to sleep (which was a good thing and I’m very grateful to have had them) and suffered the roller coaster of depression and anxiety every day. Now I still feel sadness and fear as I move forward but I’m not on the psycho-rollercoaster anymore. I sleep just fine at night without the help of my pharmaceutical friends, and things that used to trigger me are not a big deal anymore. It does get better even tho the future is an ocean of question marks. Do what you can to get out of the limbo stage, get your own new space, move on with life as best you can. The sooner you let go of him and the broken dreams and promises, the sooner things will get better. Painful to do, but so worth it!

    • “but I’m not on the psycho-rollercoaster anymore. I sleep just fine at night”

      That psycho-rollercoaster is scary to step off of because that is what we know, what we are used to. You’re off it now, so stop to think & reflect about those small moments where you can now do what you want exactly how you want: drip water on the floor getting out of the shower – he would freak – read trashy novels if you want, sit and relax after supper instead of washing the dishes right away – you name it – to now be able to enjoy the freedom to decide when and how to do those little things that make up daily life – that’s priceless.
      My XH was emotionally abusive; he was slowly killing the real me, because I couldn’t be myself, even at home. Kristen, you don’t say how your XH was but how you see yourself (fat, ugly) tells me he probably was very abuse too. Enjoy those little moments where you would have been criticized and put down for not being “perfect”. Enjoy and savour those little moments when you can be your own, true self without reproach; they are golden and will help you out of the sadness over time. Life is full of those little moments even when all else is not going well, so focus on those and move forward, one moment at a time, towards better days.

      CARPE DIEM

  • Like so many things in life – you have a decision to make – and that’s the decision to choose to be happy and at peace…in spite of whatever life is throwing your way.

    Yes, it is brutal. Soul-numbingly horrible. I wanted to die. I prayed a tornado would crush me in my bed. I didn’t even have the will to fight. But going no contact started to clear the fog. And I realized that the (primary) OW had done me a favor – she freed me from him. The rest of what the other chumps have posted is true, but it will take time to see. I’m not afraid every single minute. I can cook what I want. My kids are healthier and happier. I don’t have to be sick to my stomach every month wondering what money he spent or how much the credit card balance would be. I dont have to wait and wonder where he is or what he’s doing or who he’s doing it with.

    It is different. I’m 47 and single with 2 young-ish kids. I don’t date much – I have 100% custody and a mom with Alzheimers. Some days are really tough. This is not where I thought I’d be, BUT IT IS INFINITELY BETTER THAN A LIFE WITH A SHITTY CHEATER! Great advice from the folks saying to try small projects and set yourself up for little victories. Seek faith and be embraced by it. Surround yourself with beauty – music, free day at the art museum, a walk in a park, a sunset. Remember that life does have beauty in it, and rediscover that. Go to sleep early – nights alone never make you feel better if you’re struggling. And you aren’t ugly and fat. HE may have told you that (my ex did often), but you are beautiful, and you will believe that again someday. Get healthy. Walk or bike or whatever you enjoy to clear your head. And remember, your new life is beginning. YOU are writing the rest of the story. Don’t waste one more day. Hugs to you.

  • Dear Kirsten,

    I haven’t read everyone’s comments yet, so maybe I’m repeating here, but I really must advise two things: 1) re the bills. Sit down, work out a realistic budget for your household, don’t forget to allow SOME luxuries – everyone needs to treat themselves occasionally, even if it’s just a meal out in a restaurant once a month. Don’t forget clothes for you and your children, haircuts, toiletries, that sort of thing. When you’ve covered your basics – shelter, food, taxes, transport, utilities (water, gas, electric etc) TV licence (or whatever body has their hand out for a slice of your pie for that service in US) THEN see what you have left over to pay debts / creditors. Even if it is only a few dollars a month – heck, even if all you can afford is a dollar a month per creditor, call them all and explain your situation (they may accept / expect a copy of your Household budget plan) and make an offer to pay at least a nominal payment to your debts. Resist all temptation to offer any of them more than you can realistically afford after taking into account your families living expenses. Please believe me, because I’ve been there – drowning under the weight of the bills – once you do the budget and you stop internally pressurising yourself to meet the expectations of your creditors, instead of being realistic about the fact that you do still have to live and support your children, you really will feel a whole lot better! Your creditors should be understanding and helpful, but, if they are not then I’d advise putting your budget plan and proposed payment in writing and sending it to them. You can’t get blood out of a stone and frankly, should you die from a heart attack brought on by the stress of trying to make a dollar do the job of ten dollars, they STILL wouldn’t get their bills paid! I know an enormous strain will be lifted from your shoulders once you do the budget plan and approach your creditors with a nominal payment plan (they might ask to review on a 6 month to yearly basis – fine, that’s ok, you are aiming for some peace of mind and if in 6 months to a years time things are financially still the same then things remain the same! No one can foretell the future, so no one can truly take on debt with a cast iron guarantee that they’ll absolutely be able to pay back the principle – lots of shit happens to lots of good people who wouldn’t have dreamt of defaulting on a debt when they took it out. It doesn’t make you a bad person if life’s circumstances change so dramatically that you can no longer service loans / debts. Being realistic and upfront with your creditors makes you a good person. So be kind to yourself and ease your financial burden / worries.

    2) Re ‘fat and ugly’. That’s a rubbish script to be telling yourself – please bin it immediately. I know lots of men who love their women ‘cuddly’ – please don’t buy into the ‘stick thin’ fascism of the fashion industry. It’s not necessarily the be all and end of a sexual attraction. Hell, I’m naturally a ‘stick thin’ person and I ‘scrub up well’ so – I’ve been told I’m very pretty, but d’ya know what? Being thin and pretty didn’t save me from being cheated on, or from feeling like I was so repulsive I should have rung a bell when I walked around in society. Thin, fat, pretty, ugly – shit happens to good people regardless of their aesthetics! I have a wonderful friend who would tell you herself she is a ‘big girl’ – but men are attracted to her like bees to honey – because she is beautiful on the inside, because she is confident in herself, because she’s intelligent and witty and affable. You are feeling awful now (I know) but you will get your mojo back and then your happiness will shine through – and that is your attractiveness. Of course you are not happy right now – you’ve got a lot of shit sandwiches to deal with – who would be happy with that? Be kind and patient with yourself, you are going to be fine, I’m sure!

    Hugs

    Jayne x

    • PS – I don’t know how it is in the States, but here in UK we can ask creditors to suspend interest accruing on debts if we need to set up a debt repayment plan, so if you do go along the lines of setting up a budget plan and approaching your creditors with a nominal payment amount, don’t forget to ask them to suspend the interest (you’ll never pay off your debt if they don’t suspend interest, and that isn’t fair, is it – usury in my mind!) x

    • Jayne makes some great points.

      Kristen, a cheater will cheat on you whether you’re thin or “cuddly,” whether you’re Hollywood gorgeous or homely. Go look at how many celebrities are cheated on. If the so-called “beautiful people” get cheated on, where does that leave us mere mortals? Cheating isn’t about our looks.

      I will also enthusiastically cheer the power of budgeting. As I said, I bought the software, “You Need a Budget.” However, it’s basically the envelope method of budgeting. I decided to put myself on a budget wherein I met all my expenses with my income, not relying on STBX’s. I paid down a LOT of debt. I have money set aside for closing costs, legal fees, movers. I have an emergency fund. I drive a 2004 station wagon. I wrote out a check for over $400 in auto repairs a couple of months ago. I didn’t even wince. Why? I’d been budgeting auto repairs, so when one came up, I had the funds to cover it.

      I cannot tell you how much more in control of my life I now feel. It takes a couple of months before you allocate your funds realistically (figuring out how much you need to spend in groceries is a challenge!), but eventually it clicks and you realize that you’re so much more MIGHTY!

    • Heck, I wasn’t even 30 yet when my XH left me for a 46-ish year old! So my weirdo left me for someone older! Cheaters cheat, that’s what they do.

  • Does life get better eventually: YES
    Is the road to the better life easy: NO
    Does it take a long time to heal: YES
    Is being chumped incredibly unfair and wrong: YES
    Will you always have a scar from the experience: PROBABLY
    Is life what you make it: YES

  • Kristen, I know life sucks right now. It REALLY sucks. I have been there. I know how it feels. Here is my chump story:

    I was married to my STBX for 3 years, together for over 5. We had 2 children together, ages 2 and 3–only 10 months and one day apart. That wasn’t planned, obviously. My first daughter was born 14 weeks premature. I was told she wouldn’t live past the first 72 hours. I was told that I should never get pregnant again. My second daughter, the unstoppable force of nature, was conceived when I had a Mirena IUD. My ‘positive pregnancy test’ was the result of a CT scan looking for kidney stones. I managed to carry her to 32 weeks before my kidneys started shutting down, as they did with my first pregnancy. She is one of 266 successful live births, i.e. baby who lived to one year, to a mother with a Mirena IUD.

    Between February 21 and April 20 of each year, my daughters are the same age. My step-mom tells everyone I have the patience of Job… So, there is the background.

    My husband left in January, 2014, because I had the gall to yell at him for spending $500 on beer and energy drinks at the gas station from January 1-17, 2014. He also transferred $890 out of my personal account without my permission. I had a terse word or two for him.

    Two days later, I brought my girls home from a trip to the zoo, and he was gone. No note, no text, nothing. I realized we were separated when I found his toothbrush and a suitcase missing. I was a stay at home mom. He disappeared for weeks, taking his paycheck with him.

    For four months, I devoured any word of encouragement from the Reconciliation Industrial Complex. I bought books. I talked to my shrink. Nothing got better.

    Then, one night, he came home. Drunk, at 3:00 in the morning. He wanted to reconcile. I let him sleep it off on the couch.

    While he was asleep, his phone buzzed, so I looked at it. Who could be texting at 4:00am?… The woman pregnant with his child, that’s who! Well, one of the women. He conceived 2 children with two women between January and April. One was conceived when he decided to go to a concert out of town on our 2 year old’s birthday. She also had chicken pox at the time.

    After a HUGE confrontation that ended in him getting arrested for domestic abuse and child endangerment, I filed for divorce. I was unemployed and had an overdrawn checking account.

    I was a hot mess.

    The first thing that helped turn things around was when I got a job in June. I love my job, and I am good at it. So, that was a big step to ending what I call “The Zombie Stage.”

    The first real boost was the day I mowed my own yard by myself. I had never mowed a yard before. Ever. Sure, I locked my keys in my house, and almost cut my toe off because weed-eating in flip flops is not exactly the best idea. I had blisters. I was dirty. I was sore. Good God, I was sore. And sunburned.

    But I did it. All by myself.

    The next big accomplishment was when I changed my locks. I went to the store, bought the locks (which are MUCH more expensive than I imagined), and I took the old ones off. USING A BUTTER KNIFE. I removed 3 sets of deadbolts and door knobs with a fucking butter knife.

    So, I went back to Home Depot, and went to the power tools aisle. I asked the salesman for, and I quote, “a girl drill.” I explained that I didn’t want anything fancy. No frills. But, if it could come in pink, that would be awesome. He handed me a $20 purple one. Close enough…

    I have changed the locks by myself twice. Why twice? Well, the STBX broke in, and stole some keys. The second time took much less time due to my purple girl drill.

    But, more than anything, I took control of my life.

    Those things that someone else always handled? I learned how to do them. Sure, I had a wasp fly into my shorts and sting the shit out of me when I was exterminating his nest that he built in my grill. But, I won the war on that motherfucker and his whole family. Triumph, again!

    Also, I started back to school. With my girls gone, I found myself lonely and bored. I started an MBA, which I was always afraid to do. My first graduate degree was in nonprofit administration. I got out of my comfort zone.

    All of this activity was new for me. I was mowing my yard, chasing toddlers, painting the interior of my house, and even started taking walks with the kids in the afternoon to teach them how to ride their tricycles. I quickly went from a size 16 to a size 6. Talk about a confidence booster!

    This fall, I even started dating again. I’ve reconnected with old friends and made new ones. Life is good again. I am happy. Not every day is sunshine and roses, but at least now I love myself and I have faith in myself that I know I can survive and tackle anything.

    Over the summer, my 3 year old was having some issues. She couldn’t jump or run or pedal like my 2 year old, which is red flag. So, I took her to the doctor. Turns out, she has a very mild case of cerebral palsy. A year ago, I would have been a wreck. When I the doctor broke the news to me, my reaction was, “Meh, so what if she can’t run or jump now? She’s brilliantly smart, and we can get into physical therapy.” We have, and I’ve seen a ton of progress.

    Kristen, I want you to know that the pain really is finite. How finite depends on you.

    I know it is hard at the beginning. I was devastated too. But, reading this blog every single day, and realizing that the life I had was so toxic on so many levels helped.

    The man I married never existed. I married the guy who gets another woman pregnant. On his child’s birthday. When she had chicken pox. Put into that context, I could finally get past it.

    I couldn’t mourn the loss of my marriage because I NEVER HAD a marriage. I had a lazy, drunk jackass who spent all my money and was pretty lame in bed. Who wants to mourn that?!

    I saw my shrink. I realized that I can only control myself. And, I chose to live a better life. One that makes me happy. That is the tipping point, Kristen. You have to decide that you want and deserve better. That’s when it gets better.

    We are all here for you. Chin up. Go do something that makes you happy. Get a pedicure, or a new pair of shoes, or order a take out dessert from your favorite restaurant. Do something every day that makes you feel better. Do things that are a little scary and take you out of your comfort zone. Little by little, every day, you’ll feel better. You’ll heal. And, you’ll gain a life!

    And, until then, I found that a glass of wine and Xanax really works wonders during the Zombie Stage.

    • hahahaha, mowing the lawn was also one of my very first confidence boosts! I took some selfies and before/after shots of the grass and sent them to my very best friends who instantly cheered me on. I was beaming. I realized in that exact moment that I was going to be just fine. And, I am.

    • You’re truly awesome Kelli. I have a handful of “context” stories. Amazing isn’t it? All the shitty things they do, and you can sum it up with one or two stories?

    • Lol, Kelli, funny, especially the part about mowing your yard in flip flops! YOU GO, Girl! (Chump Boys too!) Any time we challenge ourselves to doing something new is something worth writing home about. We aren’t meant NOT to be Great! Living with a Cheater has taught many of us a valuable lesson. No more holding back, Get busy LIVING!

    • You are mighty – all the chumps on here are, whether we’ve allowed ourselves to believe it or not. Your children are blessed to have you as their mom.

    • “But, I won the war on that motherfucker and his whole family. ” OMG! Kelli, I love you!!! Rock the f*** on, girl! Keep showing your girls real GIRL POWER!

  • Dear Kristen,

    Like so many here I have walked in your shoes with debts mounting, the paycheck that only makes it to the middle of the month, hoping that the POS would do the right thing concerning the finances.

    If I may add one or two suggestions and both involve telling the truth. Please remember that his actions are not your shame to bear.

    First, I don’t believe that depraved people should be going on long weekends with young vulnerable boys alone in the woods. A heads-up to the local scouting higher-ups concerning his recent breeches to the Boy Scout Laws would be appreciated. You would do a valuable service to the community, not to mention poking some serious holes in his pristine reputation.

    Second, get yourself some spiritual backup, girl. You are churchgoers from the looks of your letter. Have you sought the support of your Elders, Deacons, priests, etc? I’m sure they wouldn’t want a soulless demon teaching bible study to any young impressionable children either. If by chance they are part of the RIC, change churches. A helpful resource is Divorce Minister’s site. As I recall, God did not stutter when He said adultery is evil and that it is grounds for divorce. Better to live simply, with authenticity and integrity than lavishly in deceit.

    Finally, it’s been really hard to admit that I’m a chump. I’m a well-educated citizen who contributes positively to society. For the longest time, I did not want to see that I was really blind to a lot of things, including my poor choice in a partner. Today, I’m proud to be a part of the Chump Nation. Two years out, my finances are balanced. I’m not living in grand style, but then again freedom, integrity and authenticity are priceless.

    Huge hugs. Things change in time.

  • Kristin, I hope by now you have taken strength and inspiration from all the wonderful posts here today! I personally am blown away by them. I concur with every single statement on this page today. It sucks and it has hurt me like hell for the last 18 months but I would rather be sitting on the horse facing forward, than backwards… it does get better once the initial shock and horror starts to lessen. Read Chump Lady daily and gain from all the collective wisdom and inspiration from Tracy and all of the Chumps who share their stories and how they are getting through it to the other side. Hugs to you!!! along with sincere hopes that you will grab the reins of the first steps you have taken and ride that horse to Meh.

  • Just want to jump in here and suggest that you get a full physical, too. Something in your words sounded flat to me. And while you may truly be suffering from some situational depression (and who among us hasn’t?), make sure everything else is in proper working order. Hypertension, thyroid function, and other undiagnosed conditions can just make a body feel ‘blah’. Please take the time to get a full work-up. Don’t let them just throw some anti-depressants at you, but if you need those, too – take them.

    And something else (cause I have been where you are). We don’t all get happy endings or closure or justice. A lot of what is voiced on this blog is a reflection of attitude – not justice.

    Your life sucks. It may suck for a long time. It may suck forever. But you did the sane and rational thing by cutting out an integral piece of yourself (your husband) because you understood that he was ultimately going to destroy you – like a cancer. Freeing yourself of your husband is like freeing yourself of a cancer. Many folks have survived cancer, but only by cutting out and letting go a huge piece of themselves. Those survivors never get those pieces back. Their bodies are never intact ever again. And the sacrifice is no guarantee of success. I’m guessing your feel like that right now.

    What these sacrifices buy us is only a *chance* at survival – no guarantees.

    Your sacrifice bought you a chance. A chance you never would have had in your marriage. You have no guarantee. You hate that. I don’t blame you.

    Congratulations on being brave enough to earn yourself a chance. I would put money on the odds that a year from now, you’ll be in a much better place.

    I wish you good luck and peace

    • “We don’t all get happy endings or closure or justice.”

      Can I get an Amen? Speaking as a guy who was married for 16 years only to find almost every minute was a lie, that she in fact started cheating almost immediately after we married, you are so, so right. I know two women both in long term marriages and both found out their husband cheated. Both had breast cancer after, one found out she had breast cancer 3 weeks after d-day. Talk about horrifying. There’s no justice that can ever set that right.

      The key is, just let it go. God says “thou shalt not commit adultery” and since I go to church, believe in God, and ultimate justice, I have to have faith he will impose his justice on her in his own way, and it will be far worse than anything I can “do” to her. So yes, I walked away from justice. But I didn’t walk away from attitude. I have my self back. I have my dignity. I have my passions. I have my children and they are a pleasure and I have a very good relationship with both of them.

      So it is attitude. It is understanding you don’t control anything to do with that freak show you were married to, or that the courts will do what they want to and make decisions they want to. Hey, it’s all out of your hands!! Start enjoying your time, your freedom, your goals. Watch every movie you ever wanted to see and never had time for. Read 10 books a month, or read none. Pick up the guitar or take piano lessons. Go to the little ceramics store on Friday night and make a coffee mug with your own designs. And yes, as a guy, I actually did this with my daughter at her college. What a great great night. I’m 6 ft 3 and 280 sitting in a tiny little chair painting a coffee mug while wearing a white big apron full of paint. I had to look like a giant to the little ceramics lady. What a riot.

      You get yourself back. You aren’t being sucked dry by an emotional vacuum. It’s horrible. It’s painful. It sucks, yes, yes yes yes! But you will look back and understand there are some real gifts in all of it. And that’s when you can find your inner Meh.

      • “The key is, just let it go. God says. . . .”

        So crucial. Not to get all preachy, but I was raised rigorously Catholic and am a practicing Episcopalian and never had the sense that anyone we can expect justice in this life. In the next? Sure, and then some. But not likely here. Not likely now.

        Rather, my sense is that God gives us that which we can bear. The painful part is that he seems to know our limit precisely and gives us exactly that much . . . and not one ounce less. Carrying that full weight changes a person, for the better I think. I am stronger for having survived it, and more compassionate when I people staggering under the weight on their backs.

        I know I was stronger than my ex-wife, so in a way it makes sense that I was given the heavier burden in the breakup of our family (parentally, financially, emotionally). Why? Because I could carry it, and she couldn’t.

        Anyhow, that’s the way I look at it.

        • Nomar, after more bad news several months ago I threw up my hands and said, “That’s it. I can’t do this on my own any longer. I can’t take any more pain.” And I joined an Episcopal church and it’s been a life saver for me. I turned my back on God since about the age of 14, but he was still there waiting for me. It’s beautiful.

        • One of the most healing things I remember from the early days is that forgiveness is really handing over the offending person to God for HIS justice. The perfect judge; the one with all the right evidence, the one who’s seen everything and knows what the perfect punishment would be. That was freedom for me. My exH had a truly nightmarish childhood, and I was all about making excuses for his behavior, and rationalizing why he did the terrible things he did, and I felt so guily about being angry with him, or wanting him to suffer consequenses. My counselor even told me “standing in the way of his consequences isn’t, and never was, your job.”

          So, now I know that he will be given the perfect consequences for his actions, at the perfect time. I may never SEE them, and that’s ok now. But I trust God to handle that for me, and what a relief that is. I’m free. We all can be.

      • Agreed, letting go of justice is key, we are taught as children to be fair and justice becomes a part of our psych. Unlike you I have no religion and so I don’t believe there will be any justice meted out to my ex by a god. I’ve come to recognize it does not matter, any justice would be moot to me. The only justice I need is to get my protective order renewed so I feel safe, beyond that I do not care. In fact if my ex were to have all the money and women he wants, I’d be glad, because then he won’t focus on me. Justice is a fairy tale, one we shouldn’t subscribe to.

        • I completely agree, Datdamwuf. Not counting on justice being meted out ever (in this life or an afterlife), I probably try harder than most to ensure that THIS life is as fair as possible for all creatures. Unfortunately, I haven’t arrived at the point where I’m glad that he has all the money and women he wants (while our kids and I are short on money that we are owed and I have no partner). Although my husband was a terrible partner to me, I am jealous of his new partner, who is sleeping across the street in his bed on the sheets that were a wedding gift my husband and I never used (until he took them when he left).

  • Kristen, gosh, you sound just like me. I wish I could tell you it gets better, but I am there in the dreary trenches with you.

    I just wanted to address one of your concerns. My kids, 10 and 13 at the time, took things hard too. I got them to counseling but the older child became very depressed her junior year in high school–so much that she couldn’t get out of the bed. I’m not really pro-meds, but they did help in her case. This year her attendance and grades are much better. Still going through big challenges with the other girl…

    Yes, she did apply to college. Her guidance counselor wrote a letter explaining the situation surrounding her poor junior year grades. We are still waiting to hear from some schools, and the results are predictably mixed. One school flat out rejected her. Two others took her. The second acceptance came along with a promise of a $20,000 scholarship for four years.

    So–if your son has already applied to college, make sure the admissions folk understand what is going on. Talk to his guidance counselor. If he hasn’t yet applied, try a school that considers factors other than grades. Here’s a link to a site I like, “Colleges That Change Lives”: http://www.ctcl.org/. My daughter was accepted by one of these schools. Finally–maybe he needs a year off just to process all of this. He could take a few courses at the local community college and see how that goes, then apply to colleges again next year.

    Sending hugs,

    Jade

  • Kristen, I’m where you are. I’m starting EMDR therapy this week. Other people here have said that it helped them. I hope it helps me. You may want to try it too.

    My biggest problem is my EH was not an asshole for most of our marriage. Things soured for the last year or so, after he became enamoured of the OW. I think if he’d always been a bastard it would be easier for me to wrap my head around now. I can’t hate him. I think I even still love him. I can’t trust that he completely sucks. I blame myself. I know what he did to me sucks and he was very cruel and emotionally abusive at the end but it is really a conundrum for me. My head goes round and round. I do think there is something seriously wrong with him. He even admitted to me that he knew he was being a bastard (he was one of the ones who thought if he was cruel enough to me I’d just go away).

    Anyway, I’m rambling, but I just wanted you to know you’re not alone.

    Hugs to you.

    • Your experience sounds so much like mine, Lina! Really, I could have written. It is hard to except. Hugs to you!!!

    • Same here, Lina. It is very difficult to wrap my head and heart around also because my XH was not a terrible,horrible person our whole marriage. Doesn’t make what he did any less dispicable, but it really is hard to understand!!

      • Lina – I am also in your boat. X was a very decent, loving husband for 33 yrs of our marriage until the A happened. That’s when he changed into Dr. Jekyll and that was certainly a conundrum. I didn’t know how to deal with it since it was so strange. He never yelled at before or swore at me before then. This is the hard part. A post a few days ago reminded me that he probably had this dark side in him his whole life but that is hard to understand when he was so ‘normal’ for so many years. I do wonder what is going on in his mind though – does he regret this? Losing everything we fought so hard to build? He won’t say. He never looked back. I wish I could say he was a monster, but he wasn’t. Very hard to wrap the head around.

        • That has been the difficult part for me, too. My X and I had many good years. We had fun, raised a family, shared a devotion to social causes. People thought we were the perfect couple and, in many ways, we were. Then, it was as if a cancer invaded my marriage. The affair brought out the absolute worst in my X and he became very distant and sarcastic. I still mourn what was lost, even though I would never go back. I have come to accept that which I cannot change and, in this way, have found some measure of peace.

    • I hope EMDR helps you, I was one recommending it. I also suggest each of you start writing the story of you life with you spouse. Write honestly, how you met, what happened, the timeline, write it all down. You might be surprised at what you find when you do, it might help you make sense of it. Jedi hugs!

      • Yes, Datdamwuf, my marriage looked great and off and on it was. People would come up to me and say how much they admired my husband and I and how great our kids were. Truth was I did a lot of it by myself (sure he helped when the kids were small…) but as time marched on he became more and more someone I didn’t know or even much like. (Of course Cheaters have a whole list of symptoms, I googled this after Dday.) Here’s the thing though, my ex always sabatoged our (or my) best moments and it was these choices that convinced me of WHO he was. On our wedding night he actually ditched me in our hotel suite to party with our friends! Special days, you know like my birthday, he would be absent. No gift, nothing. Says it all, doesn’t it?

        • I am so glad to find this part of the conversation. I love this blog and it has helped me so much. Sometimes, though, when I read about the serial cheating or Craigslist hookers, I start thinking my situation wasn’t so bad, that I don’t deserve some of the support here, that maybe I gave up on it too easily. There was one affair for a few months. He ended it and confessed. Yes, good that he confessed, but everything after that was horrible. Remorseless, blaming, angry, impatient, swearing, refusal to read the books. We couldn’t recover. And like Drew, there was a history of such selfishness, of not being there for me, of no acknowledgement of my birthday, of barely speaking to me when I was down. Drew, what was the “whole list of symptoms” if you happen to remember or have the link?

          • Moony, I’m not sure what Drew googled. You need and deserve support like all who come here. My ex started out great and very slowly became abusive as hell. VERY slowly, until I caught him cheating and then he escalated into the danger zone. Cheaters exhibit alot of the same things an alcoholic does – my ex was both.

  • Just remember at the beginning you do not have clear judgement, and that includes your ability to assess the situation. You have been lied to, cheated on, and you have lived for a long time on the basis of some concepts that were never true in the first place. Much of our behavior has been based on should haves and ought to’s, based on a premise that life is supposed to be a certain way — when it rarely is.

    Just accept that you really don’t know much about anything at all in your present state, and therefore, you need help. A really good lawyer, and a really good counselor. The lawyer can help you asses your true value asset wise, including retirement and marital property. The counselor should help you come to terms with who you really are, not who your husband and family and friends tell you you are, but the who you want to be. Then you go about reinforcing the good, and changing the bad, one step at a time.

    When all this is over, you will be different. Stronger and wiser. Your children will adapt — they may not move at the pace you would like for them to move, but they will eventually get to the different place. No one can stay at the place you used to be — that time is gone. I truly believe that when you get there you will be much happier than you were when you were living in the state you were living in before the truth became apparent. Good luck on your journey!

    • Yes, Portia is right. You may have more money coming to you than you realize. My EH had thousands in retirement that he tried to hide from me and I got half which enabled me to buy him out of the house.

  • Kristen,

    May I second what Jade has said. if your son’s grades suffer in his senior year, it might affect his admission to what is called “highly selective” colleges and universities, which are often well-kinown and somewhat (or very) expensive. Here are some additional options:
    1. Your son can sit out a year and try for admission in January, when schools typically experience transfers in and out as kids who are unhappy search for the best fit. Or he can wait a year and perhaps take one or two courses at community college or explore the work world. As a college teachers, I can tell you that more students than you might think fail ALL of their courses in the first semester because they aren’t ready to be in school on their own. So a year of working (and some responsibility for tuition paying, when the time comes) may lead to a far more mature freshman when he does get to college.
    2. My guess is that your son is likely to be attractive to many smaller schools that are actually a good fit for kids who are experiencing some life trauma. I have a freshman right now whose dad is in chemo–he is very worried about missing class but I am an old hand and know how to support kids in this situation. We are a small school and kids don’t get “lost.” To that end, if he wants a big U, perhaps look for the small branch campus for the first year or two.And community college is a great, inexpensive option that saves on room and board, too.
    3. The struggle he is having right now suggests that he needs to have stronger coping skills in general. I hope you have him in a therapy or counseling situation that will help him learn to manage his feeling but still stay functional when he is faced with situations he can’t control. If you have health insurance, it may pay for a few months of sessions. That may be all he needs.

    Finally, I know it freaks parents out when smart, hard-working kids start failing classes. Think of that as a symptom. Kids aren’t in a position to control anything but their own choices, so they act out–some drink or use drugs, some lose themselves in relationships, some shut themselves in their room, and some say “to hell with school. I’ve tried to be perfect and it didn’t save my family.”

    I’m going to talk about your situation in a separate post. But as several posters above have said, your kids are looking to you for stability. Of course they blame you. You are all they have; their dad betrayed everybody but like you, they want things to go back to where there were two parents and Mom wasn’t miserable, as if it’s “endless February with no hope of summer vacation.” So it is imperative that you learn to manage your own pain and fear of the future to model for them how to do it.

    • I would add that you need to be strong so that when he pushes, he pushes up against a sturdy mom who knows herself and can reassure him that he is going to be ok.
      That means, you don’t take responsibility for his father’s actions, you only direct yourself. And you will ALWAYS be available for and supportive of your boy, and you have the spine to back that up.

  • Now, Kristen, think about these sentence you wrote: “So DOES it get better than this? Does anyone ever TRULY make it back to where they were pre-cheater? Or do we just settle for the grim existence we have…?”

    The last two sentences are easy. You’ve had dozens of chumps tell you that we NEVER “go back” to some earlier, preferred state in life. You can’t go back to be the person you were before you had kids or before you understood that people– politicians and famous people (and your STBX)–can be screwed up narcissists. Every single experience we have in life alters us, moves us down some road or another. In the case of chumps, betrayal has blown up a false life, where we were being victimized and lied to and living that lie courtesy of a jackass cheater. There is no “pre-cheater” time–there is just the time when you were being lied to and abused and the time after you learned the truth. And if you see the alternative as a “grim existence,” things will never get better.

    CL is right: life gets better because you make it better. The other day, Tracy wrote that being mighty is hard work, one step at a time. At this point last year, for example, I was 60 DAYS out from DDay and already wondering if I would meet someone else. A year later, I think, from time to time, about dating but I am very happy in my little house with my cats, my work, my friends. But I’ve worked hard to re-build my life and I’m at a point now where I am pretty committed to living in this moment, right now, and not worrying about whether I will ever have sex again. 🙂

    So how does life get better?
    1. You choose to make your life better, one moment, one day at a time. I call it my “Great Big Life.” But in order to do that, you need to do some preliminary work to get re-aquainted with YOU. If your whole life goal was “wife and mother,” that might mean doing some thinking about who you are, what you love, how you want to live, what makes you happy.
    2. I did a lot of that work on Pinterest. At this point, I have 62 boards on things like prayers, confidence, kindness, vulnerability, gratitude, “daring greatly” and interests like DIY projects, gardening and sports. If I need to work on it or I love it or I want it to get bigger in my life, I make a board for that. You can pin articles from the internet about infidelity, about divorce, about finance, etc. I have a bunch of boards where I collect stuff for my work life. And it’s not just collecting stuff; I go back and read things and get back on course. You can do the same thing with a visioning board or a scrapbook. The thing is–design your life.
    3. Exercise. Get the stress hormones out of your body. Get into fresh air. I have 2 acres, so in a minute or two I need to go out and shovel snow again and feed the turkeys and deer. I lift weights, do hot yoga, run and walk. Walk with the kids or a friend or by yourself. If you have cable, you might have yoga and dance and other exercise stuff for free. Exercise helps you manage stress, re-build your health, get in touch with your body, and appreciate (as my yoga teacher would say) the life beneath your hands.
    4. Whatever your orientation toward a higher power might be, find a way to connect with the “you” that is not your feelings or the mental hamster wheel that is your brain on betrayal. I used heavy doses of prayer, sometimes minute by minute because the pain was so debilitating and I couldn’t stop crying for the first 2 months. I also do meditation and go to Mass.
    5. Read, watch, and listen. Read about betrayal and narcissism, starting with CL’s list above. Read books that inspire you; there are many fiction novels about women who rebuild their lives. Read biography and history. I put myself on a reading diet of people who tapped into their courage and succeeded in spite of the odds. Make yourself playlists for morning, for nighttime, for when you feel sad, for when you need courage, for expressing your pain and agony when you need to do that (I played Annie Lennox’s “into the West” a thousand times when my cat died during the “discard” phase and I was crying over EVERYTHING.)
    6. Live one moment at a time. Yoga helps that.
    7. Think about what makes you passionate about your life. At some point, your kids will grow up and you will have to find an identity other than “mother.” Does your work do that for you? If so, how can you tap that? If not, what avocation or volunteer work would feed your passion for life? Here is where I was so lucky–I love my work, my gardens, writing and books, and now I have time to nurture all of that. That’s the key to being ready for a new relationship some day. Have your big, full, passionate life and find someone who complements you and that life.
    8. Get a makeover. Seriously. You may not even need one! But a new hair color and cut, updated makeup, and some thoughts about a new wardrobe for your new life will help you. You may not be able to afford all of that, but ask your local Avon or Mary Kay rep if they have someone who can help you and buy one thing at a time. I lost 35 pounds so I had to have new clothes for work, but I spent 6 months on Pinterest figuring out how the new me wanted to present herself professionally and socially. I stopped going out in sweats, even to the store and threw away anything that made me feel dowdy. I don’t know if you are heavy or just believe yourself to be, but “What Not to Wear” shows that plus-size women can be knockouts. I still need to do the makeup thing, but I’m waiting for Spring to do that, as getting up for my 8 am class means I am putting on mascara at the red lights…Pick a signature perfume. I use a very old brand that I get at WalMart for $12–but I get loads of compliments and my car smells good…

    I’m 63. I made a lot of life decisions based on Jackass’s promises and so-called commitments (“you will never need to worry about retirement”). I will be working at least until age 75 so I am taking GREAT care of my health. I may never get involved in another committed relationship. But who knows? Who cares? I love my life. I am grateful that he shifted his destructive gaze to the MOW.

    Even if your life had gone one without DDay happening, even if your STBX was what you thought he was, at some point, you would face changes that required you to step out of your safety zone because that is what life requires of all of us. No one gets out of life unscathed. But take very seriously the horrific damage that narcissistic, abusive people do. Get help and support for your recovery. So what if it takes you 5 years or 10 years to build an awesome life that makes you shout with joy when you see a wren singing on the birdhouse you put up?

      • And thank you for that link to “Colleges That Change Lives.” I’ve already started looking into that. Frankly, I’m a much better person post-DDay than I was pre-DDay–and people like you have reinforced my determination to keep shaping my character rather than putting my head on a swivel looking for attractive men in their sixties….ha ha.

        • Pardon me–it was Jade who posted that link. But your budgeting stuff above is timely for me right now. I can’t keep tapping the retirement account! So glad to know you and our whole Chump Nation family.

          • Standing Ovation, LAJ. More than that — standing on the chair Standing Ovation! That was inspired and inspiring. Girl’s got it DOWN.

    • LAJ, I don’t know if it was the Annie Lennox I listened to half way through your post, or was it your words about finding what makes you happy? But you actually made me cry. Poignant, happy emotions make me cry. I second Jayne. You are beautiful–such great advice.

      I need to go wipe my glasses….

  • Kristen–one last thing. Take a baby step every day. Some days you’ll take two steps back, but over time, those baby steps end you up at (a) no contact; (b) divorce, and eventually (c)Yeah!! a much better, cheater-free life and I don’t miss him one iota!

  • Oh, PS–forgot the most important thing. Keep a gratitude journal. Even an old school notebook is good enough–just somewhere to keep a simple list of what you are grateful for, every day. Every day. Like today, I am grateful for the snow plow drivers and that i can stay home and build a fire tonight. And I have time to pay bills. Simple things. And start looking for opportunities to do random, even anonymous acts of kindness. Both will change your life faster than anything else I know.

  • All good advice here Kristen. Take it in, and utilize it! I remember the shock and depression well. I was so blindsided that I stayed. I didn’t want to disrupt the entire family while I tried to figure out what was going on. Initially I felt as you did, that my cheater husband would feel incredibly shitty about what he had done to me. I mean, how could he possibly bear witness to that kind of pain, knowing he caused it, and not feel shitty??? This blog has helped me immensely! I now know that most cheaters are very broken and disordered. They are expert liars and frauds. Because most chumps are giving and trusting, it’s not uncommon for us to try to believe the best: for a while I thought maybe my husband was having a nervous breakdown, then I thought he had some sort of OCD. At about 6 months post Dday he became more angry…. angry that I wasn’t healing fast enough… angry that I wasn’t over it. When I told him “I don’t think I can get over it” he answered glaringly “you can’t or you won’t?” … and the comments just became more and more nasty. I’ve finally come to my senses. I can clearly see his sense of entitlement. I’m over it. I’m waiting to tie up some financial loose ends before I file for divorce.

    The depression was horrible! Looking back, I can’t believe he watched me go through that kind of hell, and didn’t feel guilty, or apologetic. I wouldn’t say I was suicidal, but there were many times I would sleep most of the day. I would lay in bed, broken and confused, and wish I would dissolve into thin air, and be erased from the memories of anybody who loved me or needed me. I cried when my doctor suggested anti depressants (I guess that means it was an accurate diagnosis). In spite of all this, I was able to climb out of the pit of depression. I went back to school and got my degree (with his money), found a new therapist (he took over mine when I invited him for couples therapy), went to a retreat where I connected with a great spiritual advisor (many retreats are free to those who can’t afford to pay), and took up yoga. I’m a slow learner, and very analytical, which makes me prone to paralysis. It’s been almost 3 years now since Dday. I really do feel more grounded, and optimistic. I’m looking forward to moving on without him.

    Having been though this, the best advice I can give you is to focus on yourself and your kids. Don’t worry about him, or waste too much time trying to figure him out. Do things to lift your depression, meditate, write, learn and exercise. Your kids need you. My spiritual advisor just recommended two books to me: “How to really love your teen” and “How to really love your adult child” by D. Ross Campbell. Read these… and other inspiring books. There is light at the end of this tunnel. You are not alone.

    • “Looking back, I can’t believe he watched me go through that kind of hell, and didn’t feel guilty, or apologetic.”

      I also had a really hard time with STBX’s utterly lack of concern for my grief. How he could just watch my cry, not sleep, not eat and lose tons in weight and just not give a damn.

  • Dear Kristen, I just want you to know that you are not alone on this.
    This whole thing is a package deal, and it is all unfair.
    It is bad enough that you were faithful and your husband was engaging in all sorts of sordid things.
    On top of it you have to deal with your husband portraying you as the bad guy. This is very common. Honestly it sucks. I am sorry. It is very common for teenagers especially to buy into this. Also getting the kids to participate in the cover up just shows how much of a sociopath he is.

    Here is the deal: you know the truth. You have been chumped. There is not much else to do but pick yourself up off the floor and prove to the world that you are a class act. Be everything that he is not. Honest. Truthful. Caring. Hard working. Focus on getting yourself together. If that means losing weight, getting new clothes, getting your hair done whatever it is do it. If you need to go back to school do it. There are honest men out there, and once you are fully recovered your new better self will draw them to you.

    As for your senior, yes that is an age where they are deeply affected by role models. If their role model screws up they go off the tracks. It is a difficult age anyway. All you can do is offer love, caring and affection and wait for them to work through their feelings. If your senior doesnt go to college this year, then maybe next year. Maybe community college. Maybe take a year off to work. You cant change what has happened, all you can do is make clear that you are still there and you still care. Cook for him to show him that you care for him.

    Believe it or not it does get better. After 1 year you start to realize that you are going to survive, and after three years you reach a new normal. No you don’t forget what he did to you, because you still think about it. But life without him doesnt seem so terrible.

    • Kristen,
      When we have been abused for years by a serial cheater iit takes it’s toll on us as they have no respect for their loyal wife. We are so used to both wasting our energy on trying to fix them and taking the blame for their behavior we become depressed and suffer from low self esteem. You are not fat or ugly. You are loving, loyal and giving. You are there for your children. You were strong enough to throw him out. I think men who degrade their spouse and children by cheating are ugly. I think OW who sit at bars picking up married men are ugly. Both of them justify their disturbing behavior by blaming their spouses. I worked out every day for three months determined to lose weight. I lost 43 pounds and went from a size 16 to a size 8. I changed my hair color and bought new makeup. I accomplished this by putting all that wasted love into myself. It is a much better investment than spending one more second on the hopeless sleazy pigs. You are stronger than you know!

  • Kristin….It does get better. You do come out of this nightmare.

    For me though I really loved my husband and for many years he was a dream husband. He absolutely doted on me and seemed to adore me. We had so much fun. He was the kind of guy who came home with surprise trips to Reno. The guy who arranged with your boss to take an extra day off so he could whirl you away.

    But….he was, I found out after I married him, the guy who had been married four times before me. He ‘forgot’ to mention it. Did the same exact thing to all of his wives….was a fantastic husband until he met some woman who gave him more kibbles than his wife, and then he was gone. Just.Like.That.

    I’ve never found anyone even close that does the same things he did for me. The fifty bad coffee dates? I’ve been on them all. But your life can improve and have joy in it again, that’s true. I just don’t know about ever being partnered up again. It’s not as easy as some might make it out to be. I was fifty and fat too when my husband ran off to be with Schmoopie. She’s fat too though so I took that with a block of salt.

    I’m not as fat as I was but I’m still fifty something. For me, I have to be Extra Careful to not ever get involved with someone like him again so I see red flags everywhere. I went out with a professor on New Year’s Eve and he told me one of his resolutions was ‘to have a threesome.’ Yeah, right… Last time I saw him. The guy I dated before him didn’t have a pot to piss in and was looking for a woman to be his 401k plan.

    After many years of being single it still bothers me A LOT that they are together and I’m still alone. It seems to be working just fine!! From where I stand it looks like cheating pays off very well. I’d bet money they’re a ton happier than I am, although I guess I’m happy enough.

    On the bright side, I got a fantastic job a few years ago that I love and make a difference. I’m buying my house, got a new SUV and I have money in the bank. Something I Never had with the X. I don’t cry anymore over the whole mess. Yes, I get lonely but I call friends or exercise. I never dreamed in a million years that I’d end up alone.

    • Syringa, don’t believe for one second that “they’re a ton happier.” I do not believe this; it is what it has always been. A show. My aunt knew six couples whose spouses ran off with their affair partners. Five of them now say they have regrets and that “mistakes were made….” People who begin relationships this way aren’t successful. The challenges they experienced in their previous marriages will only be more pronounced in their current relationship and satisfaction decreases when the relationship resulted from two people who chose cheating over communicating honestly and who knowingly hurt others.

      • I feel the way Syringa does. I think that some cheaters do not have happier subsequent relationships. However, I think that some cheaters do. (Paul Newman, who cheated and left his first wife, for his affair partner, Joanne Woodward, and Humphrey Bogart, who cheated on his wife and left her for his affair partner, Lauren Bacall, stayed married to their affair partners for years, and all the cheaters/affair partners seemed to thoroughly enjoy their marriages that arose out of adultery. I can think of other cases, too.) I’m not counting on the Karma bus hitting my ex. I hope that the our (chumps’) pain abates soon. I often feel as though I have been hit by the Karma bus, although I neither cheated on my husband nor ended my marriage. (I think that the Karma bus often misses the people that are on the hit list and instead hits the innocent.)

  • Dear Kristen, I’m sorry you have found yourself on this boat. CL has given you good advice.

    I can Only imagine what you’re going throught, because eventhough I was also a victim of infedelity, I was not with my ex for 25 years and I did not have any children. So it must be tough. But infedelity, regardless of the lenght of time, it SUCKS. and it makes you question your self-worth, your beauty, your strenght and is NORMAL To question. But Kristen, you’re a tough warrior mom and that’s something your children will see in due time. Developmentally they might not have the ability to comprehend what has happened, but don’t allow them to blame it on you. This is your opportunity to teach them that cheating is WRONG and that you chose to live a life in DIGNITY instead. If you allow them to blame you, you are allowing them to believe that is okay to cheat.

    And Kristen, you’re beautiful because your actions say so. I can see you don’t feel beautiful, but the pounds can be shed off. You know that is harder to shed off? a faulty character. The beginning is tough, and if feels like never ending. But if you simply HANG IN THERE, in due season, God will see you through this. I don’t know if your religious, but In due time, if you remain in FAITH that it WILL get better, you will see it happen, I promise you that. God might not remove the mountain in front of you, but he WILL make a way through the mountain if you have FAITH.

    JUst hang in there Kristen, hang in there, better days are AHEAD of you, not BEHIND you.

    God bless you mighty mom.

  • Kristen, I am drinking a glass of Champagne with my friends in celebration of being FuckTARD free. I lawyered up and Mr. Feisty Pants was forced to buy me out of the property. I am going no contact all the way. I found out today the purchase and sale agreement on my new property was accepted. It is in a totally different area of the city. To answer your question, “Yes, it does get better”. Yes, it does change you. Please let it change you in positive ways.

  • Every single one of us on this board can internalize the message given in a speech at the 2014 ESPY awards by the late Stuart Scott and change it to fit our circumstances. In the speech, Stuart talks about fighting cancer, but his words can apply to any scenario: “You beat (infidelity/abuse/abandonment) by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.”

  • Everyone here, with their incredible stories of recovering from unfaithful spouses or SOs, lost years, lost lives, lost homes, financial ruin and broken families is testament to the fact you can survive infidelity and not only survive but become a person in charge of YOUR LIFE and grow from it.

    My heart explodes at the magnificence of these life affirming messages from all over the world. I love Chump Nation, CL and their commitment to educating, befriending and enlightening us, chumps.

    I get stronger every day due to the openness and generosity of every person here who has had the guts to tell their tale.

    Bully for everyone here. You are all my heroines and heros.

    Okay. okay, I’ll get off my soapbox…

    But I am getting a bumper sticker for my car that reads…

    CHUMPLADY.com SAVES LIVES.

  • Dear Chump Nation:

    Kristen the OP here. Thank you for your very kind responses. I was in a bitter mood when I wrote to CL, and didn’t realize how whiny my letter was until I read it again today. I think you were nicer than I deserved. Char, Dr. I Can’t Believe, Wayfarer and LovedaJackass, your responses were especially helpful.

    I’ve been lurking on this site for about a week, obsessively reading every article and letter (yes, I am an “Amazon chump”). Some of you sound a little bitter (like me), and some of you sound a little broken (like me), but ALL of you sound smart and strong and getting-to- mighty-even-if-you’re-not-quite-there-yet, so I hope I can get there too. It happens on Tuesday, right?

    I should clarify my comments about my financial situation. When my cheater retires in 15 years or so, I WILL be granted half of the value of the “marital shares” of his 401(k). My anxiety is that I have no idea how much or little that might be, and have no control over whether Cheater hides it, loses it, or whatever else. I could get a substantial amount or nothing. The rest of our savings were all in an account in his name only, the bulk of which he inherited from his mother and is thus untouchable as his “personal property” rather than as shared marital property. I was an idiot who believed we would always be together and that he would always take care of me, so I didn’t insist on having an account of my own. Now I know better.

    The suggestion about redecorating is already done. After dday, I repainted the polluted guest room a bright color my cheater hates. I love it. For my own bedroom, I bought new linens and a very girly spread, and painted it my favorite shade of purple. I also retiled the backsplash in my kitchen, ripped out the rotting wooden window sill in my bathroom and tiled that too. Reclaiming my home this way has been cathartic.

    OutofKibble, yours is the only suggestion that caused me any pain. I have actually given up on church altogether for right now. Not only is the leadership firmly in the RIC camp (they told me, “God has already forgiven stbx. You must too.”), but church was one of the places that he cheated on me. Any Sunday that I didn’t go – home sick or with a sick kid, for instance – he invited the OW instead. They sat IN CHURH with my kids on one side of him and her on the other holding his hand. Fellow congregants noticed, but no one ever thought I might appreciate an anonymous heads up. So until I can reconcile a loving god with cheating and school shootings and yet another Bush presidency, I’m putting my faith on the back burner. It may be just one more loss. Whatever.

    Here’s what else I got from you wonderful people:

    Stop with the self-pity. Practice gratitude. Fake it ‘til I make it.

    Get all of us into therapy. Give my boys somewhere to direct their anger besides me.

    Start moving, literally and metaphorically. “Just keep swimming.”

    Get angry (This is hard for me. Nice girls don’t rock boats.)

    Be a little more selfish (ditto)

    Be my own hero.

    I am very sorry that there are so many of us here – who knew that SO MANY people suck?! – but it’s a relief to find a place online where no one is telling me I need to live in hell for the sake of my kids, or that polyamory is the new normal, or that I’m a doormat for not throwing my cheater out the day I walked in on the truth. You people rock. Thanks again. I am so grateful to you all! I’ll be around… 

    • Your reply makes me heave a sigh of relief!! Dang, girl! You did all that to your house?? You ARE MIGHTY!! I was worried that you were really down.

      TAKE THE 401K MONEY NOW!!! He WILL spend it on the ho–and he CAN. Better to shield it immediately into your own account that he CAN NOT touch. FILE for divorce now.

      I don’t blame you about the church thing, as I am not religious. BUT. I will put it out there that if you have found comfort in church before, you might find a different denomination and/or congregation that is more aligned with your spirit and values. We have a minister here who would NOT spout that bull pucky.

      “God has forgiven the cheater.” But you don’t have to.

      Count me as bitter–but really only toward cheaters and looters.

    • I’m glad you found CL, you are now my new hero until you feel it in your own bones. You did not sound whiney, and you are beautiful.

      On a practical note, you need a new lawyer if he’s telling you to wait until your ex retires to get your share of the retirement, that is bullshit. That is a thing you can fix.

      PS: I painted my living room plum purple, it rocks! Purple is a happy color, you rock on!

      • And ask your (new) lawyer about that inherited money. The amount of the original inheritance might be protected (but he will have to prove it) and anything other than that should be split 50/50 depending on your state laws. You go girl – get angry and fight for what you deserve! You have EARNED it!

    • Please do stick around. You have a lot to contribute and there are always people new to the site who are shell-shocked and can benefit from your experience. You didn’t sound whiny to me–you sounded scared and worn down.

      This might be one of the most abusive things I’ve read here. Honestly, just when I think we’ve seen it all, you come along and say: “They sat IN CHURCH with my kids on one side of him and her on the other holding his hand. Fellow congregants noticed, but no one ever thought I might appreciate an anonymous heads up.” So good for you, kicking this HYENA and his OW to the curb and the whole church full of hyenas with them. (Our fellow chump Rumblekitty came up with “hyena” to name the type of cheater who is a predatory scavenger with no redeeming human value.) You are so lucky to be rid of this guy. He’s in a special category of suckitude.

      I have fairly expansive notion of a higher power, informed by many spiritual traditions, although I am a practicing Catholic with big issues with the Church hierarchy. I hope, given time and healing, you can separate your own relationship with a higher power from that toxic group of people who apparently are missing a few commandments from the list. But the great thing about your life going forward is that you get to please yourself, not me or anyone else! 🙂 You have probably only scratched the surface of the abuse you have experience over the years. Recovering from the kind of abuse a narcissist like your STBX dishes out will take time and work. But you are mighty and a part of this mighty band of survivors.

      • I am stunned by the church part too. That is mind-blowing. And to think NO ONE TOLD YOU. That is definitely not a church I would want to be a part of EVER after all that! Where is the integrity??? And like Miss Sunshine said, maybe someday you’ll feel up to visiting some other church or denomination or reconnecting with your faith in nature or whatever works for you. But if that doesn’t happen or if it takes a long time, that is so very understandable. The church-community side of your story is particularly horrifying to me…

    • Oh jeez here I go posting a huge post after I read your response! It sounds like you are on your way then, and your post was absolutely not whiney in the slightest! You’re grieving, you’re hurting, and your feelings are valid. Isn’t doing stuff around the house the best? I just finished painting my oak cabinets in the bathrooms white and the difference is fantastic! Is tiling hard? I want to install backsplash in the kitchen too but it looks difficult! 🙂

      Rock on friend, you got this!!! xoxo

    • Holy shit, this scum bucket and their ilk (aka the fuckers at that church) are disgusting. Simply disgusting.
      I’m not religious either (I can’t believe there is a God or higher power that allows disease, famine, torture and the very crap we’re going through with our fucktards, to happen to decent people, hence I believe ‘he’ does not exist) – but even if you are, theres a little phrase in the Bible that states ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’. Fucking hypocrites, every single last fucking one of them. I guess they can’t read, or they’re cherry picking their religious beliefs to suit themselves – which means they are full of shit.

      As for your ‘rules’ of life: gratitude is worth it, only to those to deserve it – not to be wasted on ingrates. Live like the warrior queen you seem to be turning into, not only for yourself, but for your kids. They deserve nothing less.

    • Kristen, I’m sorry that the church has become a trigger place for you. That’s just awful. I joined a small, local church after D-day who had a wonderful pastor who spent hours talking to me. He was so incredibly helpful! I hope you can find a supportive church where singles are welcomed with open arms. People who try to guilt the chump into forgiving too soon just don’t know what they’re talking about. I wanted to forgive more than anything in the world, but it has been very hard. I try to leave retribution to God/the Universe so I don’t dwell on wanting revenge. This frees me up to live a better life. I pray you find peace.

  • Do you at least feel any relief that you aren’t in the hell-hole that is limbo? Those 6 months of “reconciliation”?? I remember mine, and that time sucked. Then there were the 3 months when he still lived with me while we signed our separation agreement and he found a place. That was also when he started threatening suicide. So, yes, when he was finally out and I was alone, I felt some relief. But I also felt humiliation. Going out to mow the lawn and announce to the neighborhood that my marriage was over, taking off my wedding ring and having to tell everyone. I remember breaking down and crying with the saleslady when I bought my new bed. But, surprise, surprise, she had been in my place herself before. You are not alone.

    Things have not completely gone my way, as I have posted here before. But I have made huge,huge strides and I do believe the things that haven’t gone 100% how I had “planned” again must have happened that way for a reason. Even if I can’t for the life of me figure out what that reason is right now. I am proud of what I have done since ending my marriage. I’m proud of how I handled the infidelity and ended the marriage as well. I am fucking strong.

    I have grown so much as a result of the infidelity. I was in some stupid tiny cocoon of marriage and then my kids. A very very small world. And one where I didn’t feel very good about myself, didn’t have my needs met, didn’t even realize I had needs for myself. Now my world has expanded. I have so many more friends and I have developed much more self-confidence. And I have just grown emotionally and become more healthy. And I won’t settle for a relationship like that again.

    You sound like it’s somewhat early. It does take time. And I think it’s a two steps forward, one step back kind of thing. Please try to focus on some little day to day things, small goals that eventually can add up to something bigger. I had sort of a big picture plan or a big picture “possibility” and I took steps that would continue to ensure that it remained a possibility. Even if I eventually chose not to pursue it, it gave me a healthy direction and steps to take that would lead me there.

    Good luck! I REALLY do believe your life will be better than it was before. It may not be what you had planned, but it will be better!

    • Going out to mow the lawn and announce to the neighborhood that my marriage was over… That made me sad to read that! Sometimes I mow my lawn in a cute summer dress.

      Of course, I always mowed the lawn. The Coward could only rarely be bothered to do so. I just did both lawns yesterday. Changed the lawnmower’s oil all by myself, too. BOO YEAH! The lawns look great.

      YOU are strong.

      I also blabbed to many strangers in the retail arena about The Coward leaving me for his Facebook Ho, and found SO many of them had been in my shoes.

      And I love your advice that your life is not going to go 100% as planned. It’d be a rarity in any event, right? If there’s one thing this has taught me, it’s that nobody’s life goes according to plan. Sometimes it’s worse, sometimes it’s way better than you could have imagined. Either way, your character will keep you steady.

      • Miss Sunshine,

        My cheaterpants ex also “couldn’t be bothered” to mow the lawn and I ended up mowing the lawn (yet another task I took on in addition to cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, gardening, chaffeuring, finishing school, working, oh-and remembering to launder the f@cking bed linen once a week, etc….).

        Once when cheaterpants was out of town (at burning man no doubt plowing other women), I managed to change the spark-plug on the mower and sharpen the blades, made sure plenty of oil in the tank too. I hope you crank that lawn mower now and gracefully dance over the grass!!

        Kristen,

        like all things in which faith is required, there will be times of doubt-could things actually get better? I think you’ll find life does get better-so much better. It may take awhile to realize, but every step you take is a step forward, in a better direction.

  • Chump Nation has answered and I’ve nothing to add. Ya’ll rock, you know that, right?

    But, CL, can ya tell your advertisers that shit like this does not belong on your blog? “Why Men Fall In Love, 9 Powerful Words You Can Say That Remind Him Why He Needs You.” I turned off Adblock for you… 🙂

  • Kristen, it gets so much better. Today is the 18 year anniversary of my D-Day. It was hard, we had been together 21 years. But there was no way I would live with someone who could blatantly lie while looking in my eyes; who could go so far out of his way to screw another man’s wife; who nearly daily had phone sex with strange women; who was addicted to porn and frequented strip clubs, and who refused to apologize to me when I caught him. I had a complete meltdown the day after I confronted him, then pulled myself together and hired an attorney, left the house and went no contact. It took 15 months to get the divorce because of his foot dragging. But in that time I took care of myself, saw a therapist twice a week, started walking, tried new hobbies. I had 1 bad blind date and decided I could be very happy living my life with my interests and my good girlfriends. Then when I wasn’t looking, I met a fellow chump. We’ve been together since 2001. He’s wonderful, totally unlike my ex. So yes it absolutely gets better. Trust yourself, have faith, this can be a wonderful time for you to rewrite your life.

  • Does it really get better? Damn right it does. I’ll tell you why.

    No one that I have ever met or read about regrets getting a divorce. Divorce is heartbreaking, no doubt, but you don’t divorce from a happy fulfilling marriage.

    This shithead leaving your life is the wake up call you need to get YOU back.

    With these shitheads, they are typically selfish entitled assholes. And we as chumps put our wants and needs aside and tend to them, because we’re nice chumpy people. Now this is the time to tend to YOUR wants and needs. And once you tend to them, holy hell there’s that life on the other side that CL talks about. And damn right it’s better.

    So you have 12 months before you can divorce. Ask yourself, what do YOU like? What have you always wanted to do but didn’t because you were either scared to do it yourself or your husband didn’t want you to? Do it. You will find, slowly, that doing little things by yourself empower you. Learning how to change your tires. Start the lawnmower. Switching out a light fixture. Those small things all add up and liberate you.

    I can guarantee that when you start doing things you like whenever you feel like it, send us an update in 12 months and see how you feel then.

    Ever since he left me almost 2 years ago, I put all my energy into making my house MINE, even though I had no idea at the time if I was going to keep the house or not. These projects started small–I bought a small orange tree for $13 and have watched it grow. I purchased books written by women who provided step by step instructions on how to be handy around the house. I painted a piece of furniture bright yellow. I painted my entire house in colors that I liked. I went to a concert by myself. I read books in peace. I watched shows I wanted to watch.

    Throw yourself into things YOU love, and in the blink of an eye you’ll thank him he left. He did you a favor. These shitheads did us ALL a favor. It’s the universe telling us there’s more to life. Listen to yourself, love yourself. And that’s exactly how it will get better. It all starts with you honey!

    All the best xoxo

  • Dear Kristen, you are not alone, you have the whole of the Chump Nation here, and we know what you are going through and the pain you are in. Be kind to yourself. This stuff DOES get better, but you have to do one day at a time, and slowly your anger and your grief heals.
    My world collapse in 2007, and only now 7 years later am I on an even keel knowing that I will be fine. He was the love of my life, and only now can I see the narcissistic abuse. It’s like expecting a scorpion not to sting. They are what they are. You will discover that you have abilities and talents you never even dreamed of. Or that you did have them, but they got unsupported and ignored by the person ‘you thought’ was your friend. Another free asset is Al Anon, Adult Children of Alcoholics or any other 12 step programme. Yes, it is focussed on ‘alcoholics’, but the actual practise is to teach you to let go, and focus on yourself, so that you achieve serenity no matter what the hell he is doing. (Substance abuse and narcissism go hand in hand, so you aren’t in the wrong place).

    We are here for you, we got you Girl, remember: one day at a time. Don’t outdrive your headlights. Readjustment and healing takes T I M E.

  • Wow this post has been so helpful – thanks CL for putting up this letter and to all who responded! I had a day of weakened resolve yesterday – not seeing how I could keep beliving it would all come good / but the words here reached me – thank ypu

  • Kirsten, it is amazing to read chump nations replies. Please be kind to yourself. Cheating/infidelity is abuse. You are surviving a traumatic period of your life. And don’t take any crap from the oxygen thief you call your ex. I learnt during the first 12 awful shitty months that I had to make a list.
    Cheaterbeegone’s list
    1. Look after my daughters
    2. Keep working ( to feed and house my daughters)
    3. Stay sane ( to keep my job so that I could look after my daughters.)
    This at times was bloody hard work.

    What I discarded
    1. Stupid ex ( oxygen thief 2)
    2. People who could not see infidelity as abuse
    3. Ironing. ( I substituted all those crappy jobs with the word ironing)

    It’s hard, really hard. There is no ” normal” anymore there is just a new normal. IMHO.
    Cheaterbeegone
    XX

  • Kristen, the way you’re feeling is perfectly normal. It’s so hard to trust that things are going to work out okay. I’m three years out from D-day after a 36 year relationship, and two years out from my divorce. Believe me, divorce is something I NEVER thought would happen to me. My kids also moved away at the same time, so it seemed I went from having a family to being alone overnight. It was so disorienting. Here are a few things that helped me:

    1. Of course seek a good counselor, and make sure they are one that understands narcissistic abuse. You don’t want one who tells you to “own your part” of his cheating.

    2. Pay attention to any little glimmer you feel of happiness or joy, even if it’s just a few seconds. For me it was listening to music. I noticed that when I listened to music it made me feel a little better, so I started playing the piano again, and going to concerts, and took up playing the bongo drums at church. The more music I had in my life the happier I started to feel.

    3. On the really bad days it’s hard to believe you’re ever going to feel happy again. I put a calendar on the wall and when I had even a half day that I felt relatively happy I put a smiley face on the calendar. I noticed that as time went on there were more smiley faces coming closer together. On the bad days I could look back and say to myself “I have had some good days in the past and I’m going to have good days in the future.” It sounds silly but it helped me. I was desperate to do anything to make myself feel better.

    4. Sleep. Get as much rest and sleep as you can. You are going through trauma and you need to take care of yourself. Your emotions will be more stable if you get enough sleep.

    5. Realize that you have the power to make yourself happy. You just need time to learn how to do it after a lifetime of looking after other people. It’s going to take awhile but say to yourself “press on” whenever you feel stuck. The world needs people who inspire us by overcoming diversity. Your choice is “give in to despair” or “persevere.”

    My life is better and I feel happier than I did the last few years during the worst of the gaslighting and being ignored. I’ve learned so much about myself and about relationships. There are times that I really miss the sense of family I had, but my children would have grown up even if we stayed together. It’s just that the betrayal/abandonment combined with empty nest syndrome to complicate my grief. However, there are challenges no matter what stage of life you’re in when you’re hit with betrayal.

    Anyway, Kristen, reach out for help. You can’t do this alone. Divorced people are some of the kindest and most compassionate people in the world, lean on others who’ve been through this journey and you’ll one day find yourself offering help to others who are just starting their journey.

  • I Don’t have much to add to all these amazing posts except to say the difference for me……… is that today I have choices and the vast majority of them are happy choices. My life is my own.There is no one dragging me down. Anyone who tries is banished from my life.

    I do not have to prove anything to anyone, I am simply myself and that is good enough for the people who love me. I have a sense of balance and serenity which is very important to me. I am grateful for all I have been given.

    The side effect of adversity, for us chumps, is growth. It is what we embrace,….. what keeps us moving forward as we slog through hell …..and what keeps us moving onward toward Meh and brighter days. Believe me, those brighter days are coming.

    Chump nation….you rock!

  • Kristen,

    I am a little late to the party. I live in the Northeast and yesterday I spent much of the day getting ready to be stuck inside due to winter storm Juno.

    Everyone has given you great advice and I was glad to read your response and know that you’re feeling a little mightier. This is a club that no one wants to be a part of, but it’s far better to be part of chump nation than to die a thousand deaths being married to a selfish, narcissistic, coward. (Ask me how I know). It’s tough getting to the point of life that you’re in and have to start over but it does get better. One step at a time, one day at a time.

    Jedi Hugs to you!

  • I am 8 years out. Life is much better. The early years were tough. I slept on a friend’s couch for almost 3 years while I dug out of the debt my XW had placed me in. My credit score, which was 840 when I married her had plummeted. I got up everyday and went to work at two jobs minimum. Paid off all debts. Found a nice girlfriend. Bought a condo and have 2 cats ( we had 7 for a while when we took in a pregnant stray and she had 4 kittens. Found good homes for all of them.)
    My kids love me and we see each other a lot. I travel and play a lot of golf, now. I may buy a house this year.
    There were dark days, for sure. My retirement plans went by the wayside and I will have to live off my SS and some earnings at whatever job I get ( cannot keep trying cases much longer. It is too draining). My 401 K has been decimated from the divorce and trying to keep my heroin addicted son alive.
    But, I am happy and fearless. I need very little , materially to be happy.
    Kristen you are in the very early days and problems seem insurmountable. Just chip away at them as best you can.
    We all die, eventually. So, really, does much of all this make a difference? You are a lot younger than me. I was your age when this all hit. Never thought I could dig out, but I just tried and did not care if I failed.
    We are here for just a spit second in time and we can control how we approach things. Enjoy the little things and do not sweat the other stuff.
    We have all been where you are. Very painful, indeed, and scary. None of us deserved what happened. We were married to true monsters , who hid their true selves well.

    • Arnold, I feel so much for what you went through. To have your retirement savings decimated is just awful. A good friend of mine has a husband who talked her into using her teacher’s retirement to try to save their house when it was in danger of foreclosing (of course he didn’t use his retirement funds). He then decided to leave,c cashed out his retirement and moved to another state where it’s hard to make him abide by court orders to support her. He hasn’t offered a dime to her after their 35 year marriage. To make matters worse, he left after she was diagnosed with a deadly neurological disease. She’s now living on disability payments and the kindness of friends. Even she has reached meh. She was telling me just the other day that things could have turned out much worse, she could be living on the streets. Her attitude is amazing.

  • Kristen, Your letter hit so many chords with me because there were times I was so down that all the “it’ll get better!” meant nothing to me. Just get over it? Yeah, right. There were points where the pain was so overwhelming it became hard to function. That’s depression – it’s real and for me, it was something you don’t just “get over.” The tipping point into that level of depression in my case was seeing my kids pull away from me. They resented me for breaking up their family, then seeing their rejection caused me to spiral downward even further. And when your choice is between super sad, actively grieving mom or Disneyland Dad, who are you going to choose?

    A few things helped me off the floor: 1) a great therapist who helped me map a steady path toward recovery 2) a few wonderful friends I can tell anything to 3) exercise – lots of it. A good run for me is like taking a handful of anti-depressants. 4) Meditation, which helps me sleep and stay calm throughout the day. 5) Realizing that like CL said, the guy I married and loved was a hologram – he never actually existed. 6) Realizing that when I’m doing OK, the kids usually are too. They NEED me to be OK. 7) Understanding that I can’t always control how I feel, but I DO control hundreds of decisions each day, each one underscoring whether this breaks me or whether I will go on to have a healthier life.

    My biggest fear was that this has permanently broken me. It hasn’t, because I won’t let it. My therapist sent me this encouraging article, which is scientific proof that many people who survive the depths of depression due to devastating trauma go on to live better, happier lives than before. It’s called “post-traumatic growth” and it happens! http://blogs.psychcentral.com/leveraging-adversity/2014/12/post-traumatic-growth-three-words-every-depressed-person-should-hear/

    Hang in there, Kristen!!! Lots of hugs…

  • All I can add Kristen, is don’t let him win. Don’t let him be the one that defines who you are after this. Be mighty, be angry if you need to, and even if you don’t respect how you took his bullshit in the past, decide that from this day forward, you will never compromise your self-respect by letting him goad you into behaving in a way that makes you feel less than.
    His behavior is on him, and your kids will get it someday.

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