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How To Leave Someone, How to Be Left


I think chumps are often misunderstood as sore losers. People can be incredibly tone deaf about infidelity — she left you? Hey, it’s all for the best. She had to find happiness. Life is too short to be bitter. Get over it…

You guys know the drill.

Chumps themselves struggle with whether to own our feelings of injustice. Do I have a right to be angry? Maybe this is all my fault? Maybe I drove them to it? Some therapist will tell you it’s half your fault, or you weren’t meeting their emotional needs. Another expert will point to the midlife crisis, and yet another the unnaturalness of monogamy.

Who are we to judge? People drift apart, fall in and out of love. Shit happens!

And chumps are cast as the folks who Just Can’t Move On. The pathetic hanger on who just can’t acknowledge the relationship is over.

As if the problem was just sour grapes. Well, you’re just unhappy that he’s happier with someone else. You’re jealous.

The societal narrative about divorce after infidelity seems to have shifted from — what are our obligations to one another? — to the Pursuit of Happiness. Some idiot abandons their spouse and children and we shouldn’t judge. Don’t we have the right to end relationships?

Well of course we do. That really isn’t the point. I’m about the biggest cheerleader for divorce around, but there needs to be a set of ethics about how to leave, and how to be left. We do have obligations to one another. You can’t just wander away from your spouse like someone you got bored with at a cocktail party.

Nobody’s super power is rejection. Marital dissolution is usually a sad and traumatic event. No one wants to be jilted. What chumps object to is the dishonesty, disrespect and outright theft. Couldn’t my partner have told me they were unhappy? Did they have to spend our retirement savings on hookers? I have to single parent on a fraction of my former household income and you think your affair is MY fault? The injury is bad enough. Spare us the insults, thanks.

Cheaters — here is the proper way to leave a relationship.

1) Own your shit. You are responsible for your own happiness. That doesn’t mean, hey, you’ll take matters into your own hands and sign up for Ashley Madison. It means your life satisfaction is on you. No one “drives” you to unethical behavior.

2) Communicate. If you’re unhappy, say so. Listen to your partner too. Self reflect. See “own your shit” above.

3) Do the work. A marriage and shared family life is a huge investment. People’s lives and well-being hang in the balance, so before you get naked with a co-worker, do the work to salvage your marriage. Get therapy. Make time for each other. Appreciate. And if you just can’t hack it, then you owe it to everyone to make your exit with the least amount of harm. Be honest and above board. Manage expectations. Don’t be a fucking cake eater.

4) Don’t date until you’re at least legally separated. Don’t bring a new person into your existing relationship. It’s not fair to anyone. You’re just eating cake. Leave and be alone. Quit looking for a soft place to fall. It’s not okay to self medicate with other people.

5) Give a fair settlement. You’re bailing on a commitment, the least you can do is be fair. You want your freedom? Be generous with the people you leave behind, especially your children. If you’re not sticking around to raise those kids, you owe it to your ex to be exceptionally generous.

Of course, if you were the kind of person who could leave ethically, I wouldn’t be Chump Lady and I wouldn’t have this blog. Fact is, cheaters, if you aren’t outright abandoning chumps, you’re happily dating while married, stuffing your gob with cake.

The biggest insult of all is that chumps are usually the ones who have to leave the cheaters. Cake loss is so very tragic. But chumps, I would argue you aren’t leaving your marriages — you’re simply aligning reality. This person is already checked out. Your divorce is making manifest an abandonment they already initiated. (And before you point out that cheaters use this excuse all the time — my wife doesn’t understand me, we grew apart, I was divorced in my mind — let me state the obvious here — by filing for divorce you are being OPEN about ending the marriage. Unlike a cheater.)

Finally, chumps — there is an ethical way to be left as well. If you’re going to eat the shit sandwich, do it on Royal Doulton china with your pinky extended. Keep it classy.

1.) Let ’em GO. In the words of Madea, “If someone wants to walk out of your life? Let them GO.” You don’t need anyone so bad that you’ll trade your dignity and self respect. Never perform the pick me dance.

2.) Don’t retaliate. Don’t set fire to their car. Don’t post the sex videos their company website. Don’t cc their mothers. Take all your evidence and give it to an attorney. You’ll get the car. You’ll leverage the sexual harassment lawsuit into a better settlement. And thank God you don’t have to spend another holiday with their mothers. Take the long view, chumps.

3.) Be awesome. The best revenge is a life well lived. Go be awesome without them. Chances are, you were already awesome, you just needed to get free of this nightmare in order to shine. Well, now’s your opportunity.

Oh, and fuck anyone who thinks you’re a sore loser. Cheaters are the losers. You were just chumped — and that’s not a permanent condition.

Ask Chump Lady

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  • As always – I’m Team Chump Lady! The Ashley Madison crew doesn’t need any more cash to keep the negativity going, and everything else you mentioned – pure words of wisdom. Hugs…

  • Leaving for “happiness” reasons always strikes me as selfish. And it is doubly so when done dishonestly through cheating. So much in life comes with times of difficulty. My little daughter doesn’t always make me happy. BUT I love her fiercely. The most rewarding things in life come when we walk through the discomfort and times of unhappiness. Cheaters are just so nearsighted. THEY are the quitters and foolish ones…not chumps!

    • I was shocked when my ex left me, as I treated her very well, was supporting her through nursing school, and treated her son as if he was my own. Her response? “I’m not happy.”

      I blame myself for having depression. I’m struggling to accept that I’m too difficult to love, that I suck the joy out of other people’s lives. Even knowing her history of chasing fleeting happiness outside of herself, I still blame myself.

      • WWDSG – don’t blame yourself for having depression. It’s a clinical issue that can be treated with medication and therapy, and your ex – THE NURSING STUDENT – should know that. If she blames your depression for her cheating, I’d question her credentials and tell her to find another line of work. Because last I heard, nurses were supposed to be compassionate and want to help people. Sounds like your ex is only interested in helping herself.

        • Whichwaydidshego,
          When you love someone, and they are going through depression, you want to help them, not run from them. It is very likely that she just needed the attention of various men to build herself up. I guess they are calling it kibbles. That is not your fault. It’s emotional immaturity. When a woman does it, I always suspect daddy issues. They are always trying to prove they are attractive or better than other women. You didn’t do anything wrong.

          Also, I wanted to tell you that I have struggled with depression. It was crushing when everything ended, but it really had been there for the past year. It was there because I didn’t feel safe in my relationship. My ex was making it clear that he didn’t belong to me or vice versa. I felt depressed trying to win him over and wondering why he didn’t love me. So, although I was initially crushed, it is starting to lift now.

          I looked up eye movement desensitization therapy (EDMR) on YouTube. Basically it’s kind of like meditating while doing eye exercises at the same time. I never would have believed it would help, if I hadn’t felt an enormous relief from anxiety following a routine eye doctor appointment. It was just a standard eye check to get my prescription updated. Look to the left, look to the right, etc. The eyes are very much connected to the brain, and the brain controls the nervous system. Something about the eye exercises calms our overloaded brains down.
          So I found videos on you tube where your eyes follow a light or object around the screen for approximately 15 minutes. I’ve been doing them occasionally, and I actually feel a whole lot better.

          Another thing I have done is some homeopathy. You get the pellets at the Vitamin Shoppe. Ignatia is good for acute grief. It helped me a lot when my dog passed. There are others for different kinds of broken hearts. You can google it or pay a homeopath to select one for you.

        • My X’s last OW is a nurse. I agree it surprised me that she was ok with cheating, then again, how many other professions ( counselors, etc…) that we have seen who are cheaters too. Sad.

          • Mine was a counselor. He cheated with one of his clients. But, he did nothing wrong. You can’t help who you fall in love with. I’m not sure who is worse, him or her for being stupid to have 25 sessions with her therapist and then think they will live happily after ever.
            I reported him to the regulations board- he shouldn’t be practicing.

      • WWDSG–Red is right; it’s not your fault.

        Look, even if she found it unbearable to be married to someone with depression, that does NOT entitle her to cheat. What she does get to do is say, “WWDSG, I am having a very hard time coping with your depression.” That opens up the conversation and the possibility of therapy so that both she and you could learn better relationship strategies to help each other. She could also simply walk out, citing that she can’t accommodate living with someone with a medical condition.

        Both of the above are ethical. Cheating isn’t.

        And anyway, while I realize it’s the depression talking, people with depression aren’t unlovable. While it’s a case of n=1, one of my best friends in grad school developed severe depression. She was a lovely, outgoing woman–very smart. Her depression was so severe that she ended up leaving the PhD program where she’d earned several distinctions. She had a long battle with her illness, as she had to go through a couple of families of antidepressants before finding one that worked consistently.

        She met her husband on a nature watch. He got a job on the other side of the globe, and she’s now made her mark in a creative field that’s about as far away from her graduate studies as you’d think would be possible.

        Her life is good, but it was a rough journey to get there.

        Hang in. You’re definitely worthy of love, and there’s someone out there for you. Just concentrate on being the best you that you can be. You’ll discover that the right person is the one who loves the true you for what you are.

        • Thank you both for the replies. I’d love to feel that I’m lovable, but so much of what I read says that if someone has a mental condition, run the other way. Hell, many commenters on this very site make similar statements.

          I have a hard time accepting that “simply walking out” is ethical. Even if there is no cheating. When sacrifices have been made, futures have been planned, etc, I can’t get my head around the idea that leaving with no warning is okay. To go from “I’m so happy and you support me so much!” to “I’m not happy and can’t count on you” with no discussions or attempts to fix things seems wrong to me. Though I think I might be in the minority on this one – a large portion of what I read says that pursuing personal happiness is of the utmost importance, that leaving with any excuse or no excuse at all is acceptable. If that’s the case, how can love even be possible? That’s probably my codependence peeking out.

          • WWDSG, I left my first husband because of a mental illness — but here’s the thing – he REFUSED to treat it. I mean, I dragged that man to the best clinic money could buy and he steadfastly refused to accept he had mental illness or invest in his treatment. That’s what caused me to leave.

            We all have baggage — whether that’s FOO issues, or divorces, or mental illness, or disabilities, whatever. It’s how we deal with it that is a mark of our character.

            Look, you might date someone who’s got the same kind of crazy you’ve got and it’s all good. 🙂

            No one owes us anything, including a relationship. Yes, it’s better if two people can commit to each other and work things out, but not everyone is capable of that. Better to find someone who IS capable. And of course, it’s much better to end things honestly than it is to cheat.

            It’s hard to admit you can’t hack it. Much better to say it was a Force Bigger Than Us Both, or the chump drove me to it. Don’t internalize your ex’s blameshifting, okay?

            • What CL said, if you treat your mental illness, take responsibility for managing it then blaming you because you have a health issue is bullshit. It’s no different than a “physical” condition like diabetes. If my spouse has diabetes and refuses to get treatment, eat right and take care of himself I might leave him. Especially after he has a foot amputated due to his neglect of his own health. Same for mental illness.

              Your comment is true that the comments on this blog are sometimes quite unwelcoming to those with mental illness. I try to reframe it that they are upset with a particular person, their own cheater to get past that. OTH, we all do share therapy options that have helped us treat ourselves for depression, PTSD and other issues.

          • WWDSG my cheater also blamed my depression. Said it made me too checked out to pay attention to him. Because of course I should be concerned with him rather than taking care of myself. But there are many ways to deal with depression and it’s on you to try them until you find something that works.

            The mental illnesses that people on here refer to tend to be personality disorders, particularly, NPD (clinical term for asshole) and my understanding is that they are very, very difficult to manage and impossible to treat if the person does not make a huge commitment to changing everything about themselves. But that doesn’t really work if you think you are Mr. Fantastic who just made a little mistake.

            • “NPD (clinical term for asshole)” – HA! So true, ca-chump. I used to jokingly call stbx an asshole all of the time. Even his own mother called him an asshole – although she made it sound like an admirable trait cuz her son was *perfect*. Of course that was all before I knew anything about NPD or how BIG of an asshole he really was.

              WhichWay, what you are going through is not your fault. Your ex’s unhappiness is is not your fault. If she is like the majority of those who cheat and/or abandon their partners, she will NEVER be happy. Please get help for yourself and remind yourself everyday that she is an asshole.

              • I was discussing NPD (in reference to a friend’s father) with my ex at some point years before DDay #2, He looked at me and said, ‘so that’s the clinical term for a jerk, eh?’. Little did I know ….

                PS. he HATES that I think he’s a certified narcissist. HATES it. And I don’t even call him that to his face. But if the shoe fits ….

          • Which Way,

            I’d suggest your “illness” might improve significantly without a cheater in your life. There’s nothing like betrayal, chaos, and gas-lighting to bring out your worst self, and removing those factors can work miracles.

            Also, whatever your quirks, there are good folks out there who have that in common with you. OCD? Keep your pet chickens in ths house? Recovering addict? Fluent in Klingon? Whatever. As CL said, sometimes it a matter of finding someone who is “the same kind of crazy”:


            Be open to self-examination, but don’t judge yourself by a cheater’s fucked up and poisonous yardstick.

            • THIS… I have always dealt with depression and always will, but I can tell you it became much more manageable when my cheater left me… While it is chemical, the constant self doubt that coincides with cheating and alienation of affection made it much, much worse…So I agree, your depression is probably exacerbated by being enmeshed with a cheater! They want it that way!

            • WWDSG, Nomar is right here. Yes I was anxious, depressed, and high strung and it was annoying at times for my husband. But perhaps part of the reason I as was anxious, depressed, and high strung was that he was abusing me, fucking with my head, spent every penny I had, had no idea how help contribute to our living expenses, etc. In other words he had no choice but to bail on me because he knew he couldn’t do a thing to improve our situation. He just inserted himself into a new scenario with his much younger OW and now he’s pretending to be everything she could ever want (love bombing) just to buy himself time. He’s a user and opportunist. He still doesn’t know how to be a contributing member of society, but I, even in the midst of my pain, have continued to put one foot in front of the other to improve my situation. He took the easy way out and simply reinvented himself.

              • There is no hell like living with a personality disordered spouse. One “picks up fleas”, as they say. I became my worst possible self living with two women like this. I was shell shocked after a while. Their cheating was a blessing as it woke me up and got me out.

            • WWDSG,

              I second what Nomar said about not internalizing her narrative. Remind yourself of the truth:

              You are the faithful spouse meaning a man of integrity. You are a MAN and loving husband who put his wife through nursing school and accepted her son as your own. That’s a pretty awesome guy just on that alone!

              How does your ex respond to that? With pure selfishness towards you (AND HER SON!)

              Don’t forget who you are, WWDSG, and don’t allow her lies and false justifications become your narrative. You don’t have to agree! (

              Hugs, man!

            • WhichWay,
              I have been dealing with depression and panic attacks for the past couple years. I caught my husband cheating 4 months ago and we separated. I just realized the other day that I haven’t had ONE panic attack since then. And my depression has improved about 50%. My body knew something was wrong before I had any idea. Be kind to yourself- and you have a lot of Chumps in your corner who are here for you.

        • When divorce was finally filed after years of limbo and self doubt my anxiety issues that had plagued me since the beginning of my relationship with the cheater ex wife went out of the window. I began to feel like my old confident self prior to meeting her again. I strongly feel that SHE was the cause of that anxiety.

      • The thing that really amazes me ( well, maybe not really, as I have come to realize just what pathetic assholes these cheaters are) is how , with easy access to no fault divorce, they chose to go this route. Don’t they realize , with kids, that you are going to be going to weddings, graduations, grandchildren’s baptisms, etc and if only they had done this honorably, there would be no resentment. Why torture and humiliate someone you once professed to love, by doing it this way?
        I’ve been in love before. It never caused me to mistreat others or abandon people. I never became cruel and devious because I fell in love with someone.
        How hard would it have been to simply initiate a divorce?
        But, I guess these cheaters are better than us, more deserving of fun and excitement, such that they have no qualms with having you subsidize their cheating. how many of us were paying for their fun, forking over money or services that they used to fund their exploits?
        But, we are peasants, put here to serve them. I think this I how most ,if not all, of them view their spouse and a lot of other people.

        • “I’ve been in love before. It never caused me to mistreat others or abandon people. I never became cruel and devious because I fell in love with someone.”

          THIS^^ When people are truly in love, it tends to bring out their best. They feel good and they extend that goodness to the others around them. Cheaters, on the other hand, don’t actually “love” anyone except themselves. The disordered types, which are most of the ones written about here, actually REALLY get off on the cheating itself — the excitement of the lies, the secrecy, the fun of knowing they are fooling their spouse. Sure, they talk about how much they “love” their AP, how they are “soul mates.” But that’s just a bunch of bullshit. If they truly fell in love with another, they would do everything in their power to cushion the blow to their chump, not turn into a raging monster out to screw that chump out of everything on their way out the door. They do not “love” the AP, and they don’t love the chump, either. These people are incapable of true love.

          • I agree , they are dramatically different than normal people. And, as has been explained many times, in order for them to preserve the image they have of themselves, they need to demonize the faithful spouse to justify what they are doing.
            But, it is a weird interplay: On the one hand, they have feelings of entitlement, huge entitlement, so, why the need to rationalize? I mean, they truly believe they deserve more than others, so why does the “lower status spouse ; need to be demonized and , thus mistreated?
            But, despite their feelings of superiority and entitlement, they still go about picking fights. criticizing and humiliating the faithful spouse.
            One would think it unnecessary since they are firmly convinced that they deserve this, and that you, as the faithful spouse are merely doing the best you can in your less evolved state.
            I guess I think, on some level, they may question their entitlement, so they use the demonizing as a secondary justification. Something like this ” I am better, more evolved, deeper, in ways you cannot possibly understand or relate to. People like ME need more than can be provided by a person like you. And, may I add, that even if there was not this huge disparity in our “evolvedness”, you are a terrible , horrible , deficient person who drove me to this((there, I have all the bases covered)).

            • My ex really does not know true love. I am finally starting to see the light.
              Trough out the course of our marriage he would buy a new computer every 2 years, the latest phone or other newer electronics.
              I see that he was trying to fill a void in his soul. You can only fill that with love, compassion and kindness and he does not have that!!
              He is trying to fill it with smoopie the “new electronic toy”.
              They run marathons, and now go far away for races and I am sure that stuff is not cheap!! I think he has like a 5 year cycle and I am sure give it 3 more years he will crash and burn!!!

            • There is truly no real understanding of their mindfuckery. When I caught mine I offered him EVERY opportunity to do the RIGHT thing. We were never married (perpetually engaged ) so this SHOULD have made it easy…..of course not. I told him if he were going to pursue MOW that we had “options”. I suggested we remain under the same roof but agree we had ZERO commitment, both do our own thing until we could afford to make the split. He, while having an affair, said “I’m not living with you while you’re seeing other people!”(you can’t make this shit up) I also said “If you don’t KNOW what you want you should take some things and stay at your Mother’s. You can’t live here and continue doing this and rubbing my nose in it.” “I’m not staying at my Mom’s.” Why?? I’ve asked myself hundreds of times…why? It’s simple…and it is BECAUSE!! Because he’s an asshole, because he’s disordered, because he is selfish, because he wanted to, because he could…because because because it IS and ALWAYS has been about HIM and what makes him feel good.

              It wasn’t necessary to destroy everything, yet he did and he did it TO and in front of our beautiful son as well. He’s been gone for 3 months (at Mommy’s coincidentally) and he behaves as though we are friends or acquaintances. Really wtf? Honestly, something was always “off” but the man who picks up my son every other weekend is delusional and pathetic, I actually preferred the masked man. My son cries to him about missing him and he pretends to not hear, must be nice to avoid every unpleasant consequence you’ve ever created and be “okay” with that.

              I believe, thank God, that I have finally reached “Meh” and I am thankful. I only wish I had found CL and my fellow chumps back in August when this shit show began, it would have saved me s lot of unnecessary shit eating and pick me dancing.

              As for him, he will end up sad and alone eventually . This is not the first time he has done this, and it won’t be the last.

          • GIO: “The disordered types, which are most of the ones written about here, actually REALLY get off on the cheating itself — the excitement of the lies, the secrecy, the fun of knowing they are fooling their spouse.”

            NAILED IT!

            X has always been about the secrets. Looking back, I feel it is because he needs to manufacture something “interesting” about his predictable behavior.

            • Exactly, GIO and Chutes, x was always into the “I know something that you don’t”, it makes them feel superior. But like with all rotten things, the truth will come to light eventually and they are left with a fetid thing that they will try their hardest to make right to the general public.

        • But my ex didn’t WANT a divorce. He wanted CAKE. Thought he could get it, too. since Schmoopie made herself available while he was out of town for work, 4 days a week for months. I know he never ever thought about what the possible consequences of his choice there might be (he told me so), and I think that’s partly because he totally thought he could get away with this affair #2, I’d never find out (took me 2 weeks) and also NEVER wanted to think there could be any chance of any consequence for any choice of his. Responsibility? At work, super-responsible. When dealing with his kids’ well-being or mine? ZERO.

        • Yes, if only they had done it honorably…. Difficult & painful, yes. But, see, now it’s just impossible. I think XH is just weak. He has never stopped to try to determine what he wants, he just moves on to the Next Thing, whatever that happens to be. Then, like an infant, he wants that instantly with nary a backwards glance. — Honor. I have it. He doesn’t.

        • i believe it has something to do with the way they think, which is NOT the way i think. i think that the sad little boyman really did love me and was completely convinced and truely believed that he would stay with me and the kids forever. so at the time he said his vows he honestly and truely meant them AT THE TIME!!!! That is the trouble with these people, that is why it was sooOOOooo easy for him to say it because he really meant it at the time he was saying it. he really did love me. he really did want a family, a house and all that comes with it. he was actually really happy with our life up until the day …………………………….he just wasnt. and then it wasnt his fault at all.

          i dont think they ever do think about the consequences of their actions. they are just not built that way. more like a small child (hence the name boyman) who doesnt think about how their actions affect other people and they must have instant satisfaction right now!! this minute!!

          “I think XH is just weak. He has never stopped to try to determine what he wants, he just moves on to the Next Thing, whatever that happens to be. Then, like an infant, he wants that instantly with nary a backwards glance. — Honor. I have it. He doesn’t.”

          yes, i have often said how the man i married was weak, spineless, no courage, he follows the crowd, he tags alone with anything and anyone who catches his eye and mirrors what he thinks he wants. i asked him so many times in the 14 years, “what do you want out of life” “what do you want from our marriage” and “what do you want from me”. I ALWAYS got an “I dont know” answer and i honestly believe he STILL doesnt know what he wants. right after our divorce was final, he was done with the married hood rat he hooked up with. she was nothing!! she was just someone who agreed with him at the time and made him feel better for his poor decision. when he said his wife did this and that, she enabled to believe i didnt “treat him right”. and she kept him focused on that all the time this was happened. But at one point he was tired of her, she never let him talk you see. she interrupted him when he was trying to tell her something all the time. (the boys told me she did this also) so he said he was “fixing to throw her to the curb because he was tired of her shit” that was my hint to start the pick me dance. he never wanted a divorce. he didnt want to lose me. but he never thought i would get sick and tired of it (even thou i told him over and over). when i didnt do the pick me dance, when i told him that was his decision, when i didnt beg for him to come back, i know it confused him. now a year later, he is STILL with her. not because she completes him, not because he is “in love” with her, not because he is a better man with her, not because she makes him happy, not because she “takes care of him” but ONLY because she is there. she lets him drink and she is doing everything for him that he doesnt have to do for himself. watching him with her just makes me realize that that man that i married really doesnt have any original thought in his head and he has absolutely NO clue on what life is really about. he is just an empty pit of misery and sorrow. with no real feelings for anyone, not even his own flesh and blood.

          it is so sad that i gave him 110% of my love, my life, my everything and i was so easily exchangeable with just anyone in the streets. and that is what is so scarey, because he really did mean to honor his vows, i totally believed him because in his heart, mind and soul he meant it. he just doesnt know what honor, loyalty, respectability, accountability and integrity means. i guess in a way, it really is not his fault. of course no way in HELL would he try to change. or try to be a better person.

      • WWDSG,
        I’m late to the comments so apologies if this has been put out there already but I felt compelled to reply.
        “I’m not happy” is a very individual statement. While, of course, implying that her unhappiness is your fault she’s neglecting to realize that she’s expressing her own feelings about herself. Is it your duty to ensure her personal happiness for the rest of your life? No. Obviously you want to make her happy and bring joy into her life but you are not responsible for giving her what only she can give herself.
        She unintentionally gave you some valuable insight into her psyche. You are not her savior and you are not her problem….all that, my dear, is on her.


        • I also want to sympathize with your illness. I can say with full confidence that if I had been examined between the ages of 10-17, during the hardest and most chaotic years in my childhood, that I would’ve been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. No question. I exhibited all the traits and behaviors from the trauma I had been living in since one of my earliest memories. BUT it would not have been a correct diagnosis for my WHOLE LIFETIME. At 19 I put myself in intensive therapy and was taught all the life skills I didn’t learn at home. At 31 now I would never even come close to fitting the BPD mold because I am removed from the chaos that created my hypersensitivity, the instability that fed my anxiety and the abuse that led to my inability to cope.

          Once removed from that environment, life improved, I improved. Now, when my marriage fell into a landfill 2 years ago then I uncovered infidelity 1 year ago some of those old traits rose to the surface….but only temporarily AND they were manageable. I’ve come to accept that I’ll always have anxiety, I’ll always be a little obsessive about cleanliness and order (my toddler is helping to alleviate that, lol) but something that I really focus on is my vulnerability to fall into depression/anxiety attacks/panic attacks/hypersensitivity when I’m too close to something or someone unhealthy. I agree with the comments above completely….once removed from the oppression, you’ll be able and so much more likely to heal.

          Please take it easy on yourself.

          • BetterJamie, great post. I was looking at a bulletin board that I have at work and seeing the little notes that I had posted on there was an eye opener for me recently. I suffer from clinical depression, it cycles off and on and I have been like that for as long as I can remember. I was finally diagnosed with it in my early twenties, my mom had always told me that only ‘crazy’ people needed therapy (foo issues too). I was looking at that board today and it’s got lots of religious quotes on it about being able to handle loneliness and not being alone in this world. Once cheater left I haven’t had those thoughts anymore. I’m alone, but I’m not lonely. I have lots of work to do but the depression lows are not nearly as severe as they were when I had my spouse. I felt the toxicity of that person, I heard the toxicity and I internalized it, but in the end it was x that was making my depression and anxiety worse. I may not ever be ‘cured’ from my depression and anxiety, but I am so much better without the negativity that my former spouse brought to our ‘relationship’.

            • Dee, I’m glad to hear that you’ve moved beyond that lonely place. I have too. I have said many times that I’d never felt more alone than when I was sleeping in the bed with my STBX. His presence, his oppression and his extreme lows made it so difficult for me not to internalize and take on that negativity.
              Hugs to you!

        • Thank you The Better Jamie for your explanation of “I’m not happy”. I had to hear this crap from my now ex hubs and blamed myself believing it was my fault! You just made it so clear and I feel much better!

          • Roberta, so simple, right?
            When I first realized this I had a *forehead slap* moment. They don’t realize they’re giving you this transparent view into their internal struggle and we are typically too used to being blames and too caught up in the drama of it all to notice.
            My STBX said this all the time about peace; “I want peace”, “I need peace”, “I need you to give me peace” and after becoming a slave to that need by basically ignoring myself, my own feelings and needs, he was still saying it. I realized he was asking for something I can’t provide. Only he can.

            They’re so self unaware that they haven’t figured out that the common denominator is them.

      • I’m overwhelmed at both the number of responses and the kindness that you’ve all shown. I usually think of myself as the “thread killer”, so to get such a response is amazing. I’ve of course seen your kindness offered to others on here, but I have to admit to getting a flutter every time I got a new message addressed specifically to me.

        I hope to one day be able to internalize what you’ve all said. My therapist has said many similar things, but I also come up with reasons why it’s still my fault. “But, I slept a lot!” “Yeah, but I didn’t agree to many activities (yes, money was tight with her not working, but still…)”, etc. I think I have some form of narcissism myself, but only about bad things. If someone has a bad reaction to me or does something to me, I clearly brought it on. But if someone says something nice about me, I can’t believe it. I’m working on it, but I have 36 years of programming to overcome.

        Thank you all so very much. I’m copying many of your responses into my journal so that I can carry them with me for the rest of my life. I hope that we all soon reach “meh” no matter what day of the week it is!

        • WWDSG,
          You are human, we serval built perfectly imperfect. Similar to what CL said above, we’ve all got our own brand of crazy. So many of my close friends have shown me their kind of crazy and dammit, I kinda like it! It’s just about finding people who get you and love your quirks.
          You’re doing a great job, keep your head up!

        • WWDSG, if you do see a therapist, consider creating a positive mantra with him/her. A simple sentence touching on your particular biggest difficulties with self doubt.
          Mine was- I am strong and dedicated and deserve to be loved and cherished.

          I think you need some continuous positive reinforcment to get the critical views your X placed in your head out. After telling yourself that you are a kind, thoughtful, dedicated and worthy man you will begin to believe it. Eventually you will embody it!

          It’s clear just from reading your posts today that you’re a good person. Now you’ve gotta start believing it 🙂

    • Thank you, Divorce Minister, for saying this. Why does our culture now think that our own personal happiness trumps all things? The Fruits of the Spirit don’t even include happiness, it includes joy and “Joy is a stronger, less common feeling than happiness. Witnessing or achieving selflessness to the point of personal sacrifice frequently triggers this emotion. Feeling spiritually connected to a god or to people.” ( ) I think joy should be our goal, not happiness, because joy is good for all people involved.

      • One of my biggest sore spots these days is the narcissistic emphasis on things like:
        Follow your bliss!
        Pursue your passions!
        Live your dreams!
        You deserve to be happy!
        Don’t let anyone tell you no!
        Do whatever makes you feel good!

        Not that there is anything inherently wrong with any of those things, but when they are taken as an excuse to do whatever the hell a person wants, without any thought of impact on others or consequences, then it is just another symptom of narcissism. My ex, not surprisingly, constantly says those things, and he means them — as long as they apply to HIM and him alone.

        • I completely agree Glad. Plus I’m not sure narcissists truly understand happiness, joy or anything related. They understand temporary pleasure and kibbles and that’s about it. Contentment is not even possible for their disordered brains. So when they say those cliched things like you listed, it makes me very angry.

        • I do not think narcs need phrases like this to encourage them. They do this naturally and need no encouragement or justification.
          I keep repeating this , and I am sure others have had similar experiences, but my first wife looked me straight in the eye and said, with all seriousness, that she deserved more time off, with no child care responsibilities, no household duties etc because : I have more friends than you.
          She was bright and well educated, so it was not a question of intellect that made her truly believe in this twisted logic. It was a sincere belief that she was better than me, better than the mere peasants.
          I could have argued until blue in the face, but she never would have gotten that there was anything in the least off about this view.

        • All those ‘inspirational’ messages about being happy should come with fine print about not doing it at the expense of someone else’s happiness.

          It’s the difference between the Wiccan rede “an it harm none, do what ye will” and Aleister Crowley’s “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

          • I’ve lived by the Wicca axiom my whole life Hopeful Cynic. I’ve read nearly every religious text there is and taken the good from them. Left the bullshit. “an it harm none, do what ye will” is a good credo.

            • Sometimes it is impossible to avoid hurting others but having an honest conversation and having respect for another persons feelings, rights and dignity is very different to lying, misleading, gaslighting, using and humiliating another human being while we have sex elsewhere – make exit plans – cause them to doubt their own sanity – and offer a dangling carrot to keep them sweet just in case!
              That kind of shit causes deep and lasting harm. Yes, relationships do end. Sometimes feelings change and love dies. It is unfair to everyone to remain in a relationship that we are deeply unhappy in when we know that we want to leave.
              My cheater was a coward who strung me along, manipulated the situation, deceived me for years and probably caused the maximum amount of harm to all involved.

        • Yes!!! THIS!!! This exact thing has been bugging the crap out of me!! All of this constant “follow your dreams” “you only have one life…do what makes you happy! ” These types of quotes should come with a destruction clause for idiots that says “Please pursue responsibly…. this does not mean be completely and utterly selfish and proceed in spite of eminent destruction to your loved ones, and most importantly your children.”

        • One day after BD, I was lying in bed sobbing, now XH came over so concerned and said “If you love me don’t you want me to be happy?”
          With complete incredulous shock I asked back the same question.
          He had no answer for me and I realized my happiness didn’t matter, just his.

  • Brava, Tracy! Spot-on as always. I’m especially obsessed with cheater point number 1, about owning your own happiness. I read an excellent book by Mark Kingwell called “The Pursuit of Happiness” in which he explores civilization’s notion of happiness from the time of the Greek philosophers. Kingwell’s premise is that our society is so affluent today, and our basic needs are met, that we become driven to selfishly pursue happiness at all costs. We chumps know what those costs are. We are the collateral damage in our partners’ pursuit of happiness (which is often elusive and ill-defined). There was a time not too long ago when people could find happiness in serving others and society at large and in meeting societal obligations (like, say, marriage vows). Today, not so much.

    • KarmaExpress, I am with you on the happiness issue. No one can make you happy. You are responsible for it. (People who suffer from depression not included in these comments) I am always so amazed at people who are always ‘looking for happiness’ like my XH. Buddy, it is in front of you, it is 3 great children and a loving wife, an career success… that is as good as it gets. You have to make it for yourself every day. You make it by being grateful for all your good things and you make it by doing good for others.(That is why we are chumps) Things, and shiny new people do not make happiness, it is an inner quality.

      • Ringin’, very well put. “That is as good as it gets.” But people like my ex aren’t grateful. He even told the MC that I had everything he was looking for in a relationship that could make him happy, he just wasn’t willing to work on it anymore. He wanted a “fresh start.” (Or maybe he said “fresh tart.”) All he had to do was reach out and grab it (within our relationship), and happiness was his. I can’t imagine our grandparents walking away from that. It’s just not what you did back then. But today, thanks to all these happiness gurus and happiness retreats (where my ex met Schmoopie), we’re sold a false bill of goods that life has to be and can be all shiny and sparkly.

        • “I had everything he was looking for in a relationship that could make him happy” How about him making YOU happy. Service to YOU.

          Naw, he’ll just start over again and again and again and again….

          • CalamityJane, you hit the nail on the head. He never made ME happy. Everything I suggested he just found some excuse. He didn’t like movies, cities, museums, traveling, or going out. Living with him was BORING. We went on a cruise years ago and when he left he said, “I wanted to jump off the ship”. Wow, I thought we had fun. There was no pleasing this asshole. When he met his OW he moved in within weeks. He planned a trip to Florida with her within four months. This was a man who could not plan anything. The pain of not being worthy enough to enjoy my company was tiresome. He was the one who never wanted to participate in anything. He didn’t know how to enjoy life. He used to say, “I am a simple man”. Yes, he was simple. His biggest interest in life was the thrill of the chase. It was always about having sex with other women and degrading his wife. I really doubt he will be happy with anyone he meets. He will do it again and again.

            • Donna, reading your post was reading my life….He was so BORING. I felt like we lived the life of 90 year olds. He worked 7 days a week, dday he told me it was because he didn’t want to come home to me. He also NEVER planned anything. Every trip, every weekend getaway, all me and there weren’t many. We did go on a vacation 1st time in 10 years in January. I thought we had a great time. Dday it was the worst vacation of his life….Dday was in April when I caught him cheating. He denied denied denied until I had the proof in my hand. Then came the hate from him towards me…and oh how he hates me. He is 50, schmoopie is 26. Within 3 months he took schmoopie and her 8 year old daughter to Disney World. That was always a dream to take my daughter there at 10 but of course it never happened. When he left he told me his goal was to make a million and have fun. All I ever wanted him to do was to have fun with me. Funny how that works.

    • “There was a time not too long ago when people could find happiness in serving others and society at large and in meeting societal obligations (like, say, marriage vows).”

      Service to others brings internal well being. True religion and/or philosophy promotes service to others to reach enlightenment.

      This is where true happiness resides.

      We have been bombarded with false avenues to happiness and it takes great strength to reverse its lure, but it’s possible.

      clip, clop, clip, clop, clip, clop (that’s just me leaving on my burro)

      • CJ, you’ve just given me a new insight. The cult of happiness is the new religion. People without a sense of serving others, a sense of moral duty and selflessness, only want to serve themselves. To “burro” your phrase of “false avenues,” they should beware false prophets: the happiness gurus who proselytize self-actualization to the detriment of others.

        • What is happiness anyway? The smile of a child – a glass of cold crisp wine on a sunny day – the laughter of friends round your table – the first rose of summer – the smell of the ocean – the silky coat and wet nose of your dog – finding the brand new book you want to read on the library shelf…..

          Happiness is surely not found in leading a double life, sneaking around, looking your kids in the eye and lying, having sex in the back of a car parked in lay-by when you are 44, knowing that you are a fraud and causing deep misery in others by your actions and mindfuckery.

          Sometimes marriages do need to end and, however its done, people get hurt. However it takes a certain sort of character to lie, cheat, deceive, gaslight, mislead and waste others time for months or even years.

          If lasting love and true inner happiness can grow and thrive in such a climate then maybe they truly do deserve it!

        • Love the quote by Abe Lincoln…”Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” I really believe that is true. And yes, service to others is another big factor too. For me one more “biggie” is being grateful and giving thanks for all the good things that are in my life today. It can be as simple as the gorgeous colors in the sunset today, or a hug from someone, the smell of fresh baked bread, a good book,or the sweet lovable feline furball in my arms……….It is easier to be happy when I am feeling grateful

          .Narcissistic cheaters on the other hand, carry around their own unhappiness with them wherever they go…..and it is always someone else’s fault. They appreciate nothing. They spend their lives in a perpetual state of emotional and spiritual hunger, longing for more and more without the faintest clue of what they want more of. Never being satisfied brings it’s own version of hell, in my book.

          Because we love them it is hard not to believe them when they say it is OUR fault. But that is just another of the many things they tell us that is not true. WWDSG, do not believe her. You are far ahead of the game….you have a heart, you care, you are an honorable man concerned with doing the right thing. Your spouse on the other hand, has none of these qualities. She has proven that.

          You carry the tools within you to heal and to go on to have a good life. She refuses to face
          herself, or the responsibility for her actions. The outcome to her selfish life is equally clear.

          Hang in there my friend….it will get better.

  • Well said. Everyone has his or her own version of the truth, for sure. My ex believes he did leave the marriage in a ‘good’ way. He will swear (and has) that he did not get ‘involved’ with OW until we were divorced. Which, of course, is bollocks. Especially since she was a longtime colleague. I never met her, ever. I wonder why. The best liars are those who believe their own lies. And at some point, it makes no difference to me. The end result was the same. But for him? The devastation he wreaked upon our family has followed him down through the years. And he still does not get it. Because he believes his own lies, and thinks everyone else should believe them as well. It does not work that way.

    • “And he still does not get it. Because he believes his own lies, and thinks everyone else should believe them as well. It does not work that way.”

      ^^^SO true!!!

      XH remarried 3 months ago to a woman our children have never met. Yet he had visions of setting up house with wife #2 and having the children from both families (total of 6) coming to live with them like one big happy family.

      Didn’t happen. Never will. Because when you make big, life-changing decisions for other people without bothering to consult them, you get what you get – which is usually left out of their lives…

      • Yup, my ex married the OW, kids had only met her once. Younger child is ok with it, as he is a sweet child who only sees the good and does not understand the bigger picture. Elder child refused to go to the wedding, and is now basically NC with her father…. But that is my fault. I must bad mouth them. Sigh.

        • “But that is my fault. I must bad mouth them. Sigh.”

          ^^^It CAN’T be the cheater’s fault for cheating and walking out. Nooooo. It HAS TO BE the chump’s fault for COMPLAINING that the cheater cheated and walked out.

          Because everyone sings the praises of those who throw them under a bus and back up over them a couple times, right?


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          • I think that’s a common thing with Narcissists – “It can’t be MY fault, so it must be YOURS.” Some of the Chumps I know IRL have been accused of parental alienation by their exes. “The kid that I never see or that I ignore when I have them or that I violently berate doesn’t want to see me! This is YOUR fault! Parental alienation!”

        • Yep, I get blamed for any and all issues between ex and the kids. And he desperately tries to create trouble to piss me off so that he can say ‘see! You’re an angry bitter bitch!’ Except I*m not. I just do no t care and generally ignore all his little attempts to get attention. So boring.

    • Olderwiser and Red…

      “The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love, and in order to occupy and distract himself without love he gives way to passions and coarse pleasures, and sinks to bestiality in his vices, all from continual lying to other men and to himself.”

      by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

      Curious how perfectly Dostoyevsky explained cheating and the consequences of lying 150 years ago…human nature…won’t change. But as CL says, society has changed and this giving in to passions, coarse pleasures and vices is now called “the pursue of happiness”. We are really swimming against the current today.

      • Aaaaahhhhh, Gaby, the more things change, the more things stay the same! I read that in college, but of course, did not remember that passage. Kudos to you…..And yes, my xh did say to our daughters, that now infamous, fatuous line: ‘Don’t I deserve to be happy?’ Ugh.

    • My cheater too believes her own lies. It really is a marvelous strategy. The chump then just can rationalize with “at least she has good intentions.” Prior to the affair, I actually found many of my wife’s “quirky” behaviors somewhat endearing, and I actually respected them because they displayed persistence and resolve. Now I look back and realize that her intentions really were selfish and her behaviors narcissistic, but by believing her own lies and integrating them into her life, I sure was fooled for a long time … until she cheated with such ease and entitlement, then it all made sense.

      • Yes, Buddy. They are good at fooling us for a long time. I said my husband had quirks too but now see them as narcissism. I just think we project our good character on to them and it takes something major like cheating for us to finally get it.

  • I think the rules apply for ye ole rational people who can look beyond themselves… Chumps included. What about those individuals who are disordered? I find it hard to believe my Idiot would have ever been able to follow those rules… And it aint because he is a slow learner. Its because he thinks he is above the rules.
    I do think there are cheaters who can look back and say ” yes, i can see that what I did was selfish and my approach was cowardly. I still chose to end my marriage and I am sorry that I took that route to exit” and Chumps” I shoulda, woulda, coulda too”
    But what about those mother fuckers that are seriously off the grid? What would the rules look like?

    • Clip I swear we were married to the same psychopath. Rules? What rules? They don’t apply to them. Therapists have said to me, he has “boundary issues”. He doesn’t respect anyones boundaries. He doesn’t believe any rule pertains to him. Law enforcement must draw these types of creepy, controlling, assholes.

      • Those sorts are special. They make their own rules, and change them at will. What’s really disturbing is that they feel exempt from the rules that govern others, but expect others to obey their rules, whatever they may be at the moment. That’s a heap of steaming crazy.

        • Bingo, TheClip. You can’t bring someone to following rules that they are incapable of either understanding or following. They’re not stupid. They’re not insane. They are mentally disturbed. Mentally ILL. Personality disorders are a mental illness….and unfortunately, with Cluster B disorders (rules don’t apply, magical thinking, confabulation, dissassociation)…there is little to be done for them, even if that person attempts to get help.

          Cluster B’s rarely, if ever, seek help. They see nothing wrong with their behavior. The ones who do are usually being forced (legally usually, as they have an affinity for the criminal). Psychologists and psychiatrists usually are not willing to take on one of these types, if they know what they are beforehand. Why? The NPD/Borderline/Sociopath just lies and manipulates the psychologist. You can’t attempt to help someone with faulty information.

          My XH didn’t see anything wrong whatsoever that he would have unprotected sex with someone in the morning, and then come home and expect that I would suck his dick. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with putting our kids in the seat in the car where he’d just gotten a sloppy blowjob from some whore. Nothing wrong with that. I won’t even go into the truly gory and disgusting things I found out later.

          Point is….TO THIS DAY, he blameshifts that “he had his reasons” for doing the things he did.

          Sick. Sick. Sick. Sick. There is no helping the ones that can’t even acknowledge that ANYTHING they did was wrong.

          • SphinxMoth, the unprotected sex is so fucked up!! I think part of their excitement is letting us know about the disgusting things because they are unimaginably sick creatures. My therapist said that without me to make him look good he would start unraveling. It has already started. I keep a copy of the script for HIV testing in my purse to forever remind myself to have NC. He is already trying to slither back into my life through my children, I have set clear boundaries. It is so much more difficult when your children are young, That is so difficult.

            • Donna, I too have a copy of my ex’s HIV test which I discovered two years after DDay (and in the heat of the two year long divorce). I too have a Sparkly peace officer ex who ran off with his stupid fuckbuddy. Not before pulling equity out of our custom home on twenty acres. He is such a great asshole that he, in the two years left of our marriage, spent all his time disippating assets, our 401k, the kids’ college funds, our son’s accident fund that our community donated, and on and on. I am so angry-still!- that I think I should file a complaint with his work because he willfully and deliberately wasted community assets which forced our second biggest asset to disappear. (My family court and lawyer were small town jokes and no help at all, ex “knew” people.) when he walked out he left with one vehicle, and sundry personal items. I was left to pay for everything he walked away from. One child in college and two headed there. Two of my kids have graduated from college (it helps to be earning poverty wages in a school district that hires only part time workers so they don’t have to pay benefits, sigh) and he shows up at graduations with his ugly Owife like he didn’t take a huge crap on his family. Ask my kids how they felt about having everything taken away from them. What people don’t get is I worked my ass off too to have what we had. And he destroyed our kids’ past too, not just mine. Not one is dating now. Hell, after modeling that!?!? My two youngest moved us out singlehandedly as I was a friggin’ basket case. It’s been five years and that asshat still won’t cooperate with me in regards to getting the QDRO done(legal paperwork that divides retirement account) and he vandalized our foreclosed home a month before I was to move 500 miles away. I waited for him to file because he is just plain evil. He actually believed he was entitled to the money I had negotiated to move out with. I have never been so humiliated financially. I can’t even get a job anywhere dealing with money. Not even at the local McDonalds. Meanwhile fucktard has purchased a new home, travels, and is his same fucked up self. Oh and has a whole new group of “friends” that think he’s all that. Some days I am just thankful to be away from toxic. Still a little angry, but I trust that shitty people get what they deserve. They are together now after all. Waahhhhhaaahhhhaaaa! Lol

              • Wow Ranny. You have endured complete devastation. Some people just like to see the earth burn. 🙁

          • My counselor says Cluster Bs are not technically mentally ill, they are brain damaged and that is why they cannot be helped. It doesn’t matter, it’s screwed up and a lot to deal with either way. It’s just an interesting thought and I’m sure there are different opinions on this. No doubt they are dangerous and it is best if we stay away from them. They don’t care about rules and boundaries much- just when it serves them in some way.

          • Dr. George Simon calls them “character disturbed” and I think I remember CL referring to them as morally retarded, LOL.

          • Actually there are effective therapies for Borderline Personality Disorder, several of them, It has to be carried out with a specialized therapist, but it does work! And I think the reason it can work is that Borderlines do feel a lot of pain, when not too upset themselves they can often be quite sensitive to others (empathy), and they do start to see a pattern where they are creating or contributing to the situations that make them unhappy.

            Mainly, Borderlines seek and can benefit from therapy because THEY suffer. NPD and sociopaths neither seek nor stick with therapy, because only OTHERS suffer from their disorder. They think they’re fine! And even if their disordered behaviour creates consequences in their lives that they don’t like, they’ll bounce back fast and find ways to blame it all on others. Ditto when forced into therapy.

            Kind of depressing.

      • Oh Irish! Law Enforcement does indeed draw these types. My STBX azzhole is cop and so am I. He lies and cheats his agency on a regular basis. And I wont even mention the things he “found” during prisoner searches that just happened to make their way to his pocket!! To him stealing someones money is unethical but stealing their property isn’t. His best one yet…” Im serving warrants tonite babe with the warrant squad.” Yea right. You can guess what exactly he was “serving” and it wasn’t justice to me and my kiddies,

        • Yeah. He was always bringing home stuff he took from impounded vehicles. He was a DWI enforcement officer. And was an undercover narcotics officer before that. He never felt any of that was wrong. He is definitely cluster B. Or cluster F if you ask me.

        • How about those “ride alongs”….. Eyes rolling……
          Ex’s other woman did “ride alongs” with him. He was even kind enough to pick her up at her house and shake her husbands hand. I never knew about her until dday…..
          Pathetic and comical all at the same time.
          Good riddance.

        • Good point. People who want to be respected even if they are narcissists choose some professions over others. I’ve heard here that some choose law enforcement. My fucktard ex was a university professor and a clinical psychologist. Chime in, all. They want worship. Where do they get it?

          • Good question Survivor! My former hemorroid blamed it on good ole absentee daddy, child abuse, and his whack job mama . Guess he decided he would be “in charge” and have power over others since he was i guess powerless growing up. And thats providing u believe any of it

    • My ex is diagnosed NPD and he is so far off the grid, I think he might be orbiting Earth by now. He has not ever seen how his own actions harmed others, he has never accepted responsibility for anything, and he has never been truthful to anyone. As others have said, truly disordered people like my ex are not curable. Something inside their brain is broken or miswired, and they are screwed up until the day they die. I could actually feel sorry for such people, except for the fact that they express their brokenness by harming other people with zero remorse.

      • Mis wired brains! Exactly. I equate it to my color blindness. I just don’t have the receptors to ever see certain colors. They don’t have the receptors to feel certain emotions. They never have and they never will. It’s nothing you can do about it.

      • Glad, I love this comment.
        I personally think mentally my X exists in a parallel universe, and some how is able to switch between there and here.

        Mine has shown no remorse, claimed I was abusing him if I mentioned his behaviour as I processed the demise of our marriage and has now moved on to his next thing to torture. Yet he sees no wrong in his actions, only entitlement.

        Anyone willing to confront his behaviour is seen as his enemy.

  • I think the reason why most cheaters don’t leave cleanly and ethically is because it really isn’t true love. If it were, they would try everything in their power to treat everyone fairly and honestly; they wouldn’t use their unknowing spouses as a back-up option/soft place to land; and they would be willing to suffer all the negative consequences of divorce and offer a fair/generous financial settlement–after all isn’t true love worth it? What’s money when you have true love and happiness?

    The truth is is that cheaters like to blame everyone else, especially their current spouse, for their own unhappiness. When I was with my XH, he said he was miserable because of me. After I filed for divorce from him and went NC on him, he then complained he was miserable without me. I think he just needs someone else to blame for all his misery because he can’t look inside himself.

    • I’m assuming by true love, you mean for the AP, not the abandoned spouse.

      In my case, I think it was/is true love for XH, and he just lacks any semblance of self-control and used it as a testament to that “true love” that he couldn’t wait even one more minute to be with her. I saw it on his face when the MC suggested (in our one & only session) that we do a recommended “connection” exercise every day for a month… then two weeks … Nope, still WAY too much time to be away from the Love of His Life. (I can still hear his voice crack when he told me he thought she was “important” to his life.)

      As to whether it’s true or not, I cannot say. But I will say that looking inside himself would be very upsetting, because it’s just one giant empty chasm.

          • Just to clarify. During our 37 years of marriage my ex lusted after many people. I do not know if he was successful with any of them because he is so good at smoke and mirrors and he always acted hurt when I called him out on this behaviour. He always without fail would say, “I am not guilty of the things you are accusing me of”!! Yeah right, pull the other one, it plays Jingle Bells.

        • Zyx321 ^^^^^ THIS! I never felt loved as much as lusted after. He was incapable of touching me in any way that didn’t lead to sex. I used to cover my breasts to keep him from touching me. And of course that infuriated him and he would say he didn’t get married to be celibate. I always felt used. And because he spent so much time with his porno whores, I never felt he was really with me. I was just the receptacle. In his head I was an 18 year old nympho. I get goosebumps even now remembering how violated I felt.

          • ^^^this^^^
            I often felt I was in the room by myself during sex with my x. On d’day I had enough courage to ask the question, without any emotion he confirmed my suspicion.

            Feeling violated is a good way to describe it.

            Hugs to you.

        • I agree. I was with a serial cheater. The only thing any woman meant to him was a piece of @ss. Period. End of story.

        • “Cheaters do not love, they lust.”
          I’ve written this before, but I once told my ex that I worried he could only enjoy sex if it was dangerous, illicit, immoral or in some other way “dirty.” In a moment of rare honestly, he replied that he worried about that himself.

          I think that’s the bottom line for cheaters — they love the “dirtiness” of their cheating, more than they actually love sex and absolutely more than they love either the AP or their chump. It’s the excitement of doing something wrong and secret that thrills them. Because of that, they get bored with having sex with a legitimate partner, and start looking for someone new to feed the addiction. Having sex with one’s spouse… how boring. There is nothing immoral about that. What’s funny is that as soon as they have the AP firmly snared, they will be bored by her/him as well.

          • My X’s sexual interaction was not just despicable it was illegal, which is in total contrast to the day to day persona he has created for himself. It is simply twisted how far they will go.

  • Personally, I think the reason they don’t leave ethically is because they’re all cowards at heart. They aren’t going to take a chance to be on their own unless they have something already lined up; aka a ‘soft place to land’

    If they leave on their own or their hoisted out on their rear ends, they want to try to remain friends with the chump so they can hedge their bets with this new relationship. It’s really quite pathetic and almost sad if they didn’t hurt so many people in their wake.

    People who are so uncomfortable being alone that they have ‘overlapping’ relationships will always be lonely. That’s because they can’t be happy with the one person they are guaranteed to be with until the day they die: themselves.

    • Cheaterssuck, yes, everything you said is so true! And true in my situation. My cheater said it was his “hope and expectation that we will remain close friends.” I told him I couldn’t be his friend at all; friends don’t do what he did.

    • cheaterssuck, exactly. Yes, cake and soft landings… Mine even said this: “I was waiting to tell you until it was a sure thing with her.” and “all I did was make a procedural error.” But I know it wasn’t “true love” with OW, because Cheater also said: “don’t tell anyone I said this, but she is not the kind of person I could ever be in a relationship with.” (though he still lives with her 1.5 yrs later because he doesn’t have a pot to piss in on his own). But also, “I don’t even know if it is REAL with her, or just another THING!” which at the time I didn’t realize, was an admission of serial cheating.

      Still, I am so glad that OW helped to expose his true character to me and I am glad I made him leave, and I am glad he is gone. It still would have been nice to have been treated with respect (by either of them actually). However, I know that is not realistic to expect from a total Narcissist.

      • TheMuse, a “procedural error”? As in, he didn’t follow the relationship manual correctly? “Oops, I misread the part that says ‘Be loyal to your partner.'”

        And my ex, too, admitted to mutual friends that he wasn’t sure that things with his three-week-old Schmoopieness was going to “go anywhere.” Who would throw away a nine-year relationship for someone he met three weeks earlier, and wasn’t sure if it would amount to anything? I think that’s even dumber than cheaters who think their AP is their twu wuv.

        • Yes, KE he actually said that… also this nugget: “All I did was take advantage of an offer someone made.” … “But then I realized if I could end up in bed with someone else that EASILY, there was something really WRONG with our relationship!!” said with great indignation. It’s actually very funny to think about now, he’s so so so disordered, to even think that way… but at the time I still thought he was someone else, someone trustworthy and worthy of me. I couldn’t believe it either, that he would just throw our whole life away, especially because he also claimed he had only known OW “in person” for two weeks. Two whole weeks! Of course that turned out to be a lie, he’d known her a year. Your cheater was probably lying about the three weeks, too.

          But in any case, yes: “I am probably making the biggest mistake of my life, and it will fizzle out with her, and my whole economy will crash and I’ll end up homeless on the street! But this is an opportunity that if I don’t take advantage of it, I will regret it the rest of my life.” Yup. Opportunity. P.S. I am just glad I am no longer his “whole economy”. Reading Vicki Stark’s book Runaway Husbands was helpful to understand that this does happen, where they just “poof” and end it all like a bullet to the head.

          • Take advantage of an offer? Like a 50% off sale on towels? “Oh, I think I’ll stock up on some women.”

            And yes, I suspect my cheater lied about only knowing the OW for three weeks. He goes on this self-improvement retreat every year and I suspect he had met her in a previous year… or two.

            I’ve just finished reading Runaway Husbands! It certainly did explain a lot about why my guy just up and left without looking back.

            • The “just three weeks” line or similar is usually a load of shit. Mine, months after moving out, ran into a former colleague in a computer store, went back to her house for a coffee, she was single now too, started seeing her just recently as a separated man.

              The truth trickled out bit by bit. He had been involved with her for several years and her husband had left because of their affair. It was to be made respectable by pretence until she came round and busted him as he attempted false reconciliation with me.

              If that is the path to true happiness then maybe I am destined to stay miserable.

              • Yeah, and “that blouse under the seat in my car is just something I found at the gas station and use to clean my windshield.” Then why is is freshly laundered and smells like perfume?

                Some people cannot tell the truth. Trust that they suck.

      • Muse, I had to laugh at the procedural error. How very novel of him to use big words. My EX’s procedure was to start dating first (three at a time ) until he found a pitiful whore to have sex. His procedure always included meeting them at a bar, saying horrible things about me, and then getting their phone number. If they only knew his criteria: 1. They must have sex with him quickly. 2. She had to be willing to go to a hotel 3. They must live in close proximity to a beach 4. They are willing to go to Florida for a special vacation (he has gone to the same place each time) 4. They buy into his ‘dream’ of sitting on the beach and retiring with him in Florida. 5. The bonus is if she will let him move in her apartment.

        This has played out numerous times in the exact same way. As soon as spring comes he starts over again. This year he is starting early as my daughter saw him with another woman and he’s living with his whore. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to know everything. But now it is laughable. He doesn’t claim his money and cant get a loan. Each one thinks she is the only one!! Guess that is the price they pay for going out with married men.

        • Yes, Donna, what a “procedure” your cheater had, LOL! Actually would be a good thing if someone did a “procedure” on this fuckhead cheaters

        • OMG Donna! My ex husbands whore would be perfect for your cheater as she has a condo she managed to screw her ex husband out of and it is on the beach in Florida! Plus, I understand she’ll meet any man in any hotel and she will even pay most of the time!! Yep! My ex found a real “generous” whore!!

    • Cheatersuck, this is sooooo true. They are just cowards looking out for their own self-interests.

      “they can hedge their bets with this new relationship. It’s really quite pathetic and almost sad if they didn’t hurt so many people in their wake.”

      Again soooo true. Using one’s spouse as a hedge in their investment in a possible “upgrade” is really one of the sickest human behaviors imaginable when you look at it for what it really is. The reality sinks in – my wife tried to replace me behind my back, keeping me around just in case the new guy didn’t work out. My money, my time, my energy, my sweat all was used and abused to support her secret life and her private investment portfolio. And guess what! the OM crashed and proved to be a scam! Who would have guessed?! But at least she hedged her bets and has me to fall back on. Fu##ing twisted!!!

    • So true!

      In one of his rare moments of truthiness, exh admitted to me that every single one of his relationships had overlaps. He wouldn’t flat out say he cheated on every girlfriend, but then what the hell is an overlap but cheating? (he loved to play the semantics game)

      He had no intention of leaving me for any of his side pieces. He had quite a nice set up and was quite happy to ignore me and fuck around and waste money while I worked, paid for the lionshare of everything, cleaned, cooked and otherwise made his life comfy. I’m sure he would have stayed with me forever unless and until he stumbled across we he thought was an upgrade.

      For those types, there is no love. You are just of use to them – until you’re not.

    • cheaterssuck, you’re absolutely spot on. Cheaters always need drama and enmesh their significant other in their ‘soap opera’ lives.

    • cheatersuck, you are SO right about the ‘soft landings’. My cheater ex actually said to me;

      ‘How could I possibly break it off with her, before knowing for sure if you’ll have me back? That would take way more courage than anything! Just like your saying I should have left you before taking up with her, how could I have done that? Without knowing yet if she’d have me? That would take WAY more courage than I have’.

      And the worst part was, he didn’t see how fucked up this way, acted as if my expecting him to do things honestly was just absurd, completely unreasonable, NOBODY would do THAT.

      And the funniest part; he said this when attempting to get me back! He was trying to cheat on Schmoopie with me! They really have no idea what idiots they sound like at such times, and how clearly they are showing us who they are.

  • I don’t know for sure that my ex was cheating or left me for someone else, but it would fit her pattern. All the same what you’ve written here reinforces that she didn’t leave ethically – The first I heard of how our life together isn’t what she wanted was when she was leaving me.

    I begged to go to couples counseling, but she said the time for that had been 8 months earlier when we had had a disagreement that I had thought was a bump in the road. She never suggested it at the time. She also said that she thought I had called couples counseling pointless; when I pointed out that I never said that, her response was “well, I wish I had known that, but it’s too late now.”

    • Your wife definitely did not leave ethically in any way. I can only prove emotional affair before my husband left without trying, without discussing, without giving one thought to me or our kids. These spouses have a hole in their soul. I think it doesn’t matter who they married, they would have abandoned and/or cheated no matter what. That’s just who they are.

    • Whichwaydidshego, you are indeed a victim of blameshifting. Leaving responsibly doesn’t mean leaving without any attempt to communicate concerns. If she was really concerned about the well-being of the relationship, she’d have done more about couples counseling than imagining what she might have heard you say about it once. She’d have raised the subject anyway, gone herself, or asked you to try independent counseling with a marriage therapist.

      If she were “owning her shit,” she’d say, “I thought about asking you to go to couples counseling, but doing so would have meant I’d have to work on changing myself not just getting you to change. I’d probably have had to take some responsibility for our troubles, and there was no way I was going to strain myself giving a damn about anyone but myself. But if I didn’t go, then I could say it is all your fault and leave in flurry of indignation or self-righteousness. I could say you were the obstacle to couples counseling and pretend that I made an effort to revive our marriage. So, that’s what I’ve chosen–the easiest way out. Don’t look so pitiful–it makes me feel bad and gets in the way of my terrificness. Yep, I’m a piece of work, but you’ve got to admit I had you fooled.”

      But she didn’t do this. She tried to make you feel bad about her decisions. In fact, she tried to pretend that her decision was really your decision (we call that “gaslighting”). So, in my book, she has still failed all the rules for leaving a relationship ethically.

      Depression may make your life all kinds of harder. But depression does not cause other people to be unethical jackasses–that’s all on them.

      • Nicole S, I think you’re spot on. She has a history of leaving marriages and jobs, but I was different, dontcha know. I was only too eager to buy her bill of goods.

        Eilonwy, I think I’m going to have to read your translation every day. I’ve felt that way, but since I’m an expert at blaming myself for everything, I constantly forget and reclaim the fault for it all. Your translation is brilliant, and definitely is true to her form. For the length of our relationship I was in counseling and on anti-depressants; she never attended any counseling or support groups, and anytime there was an issue, she was full of additional ways for me to combat my depression. When I didn’t take her advice, I was in trouble. She put more effort into justifying leaving me than she ever did in self or couples improvement.

  • While technically I left my cheater, he didn’t leave me – – because on the night of D-Day when he refused to even try to save our 16 year relationship, I still hurt from the pain of being rejected and abandoned by him, but more than anything else by the complete lack of respect that he showed to me by lying and cheating, then blaming me upon being discovered. This post is spot on. The T.D. Jakes “Let them walk” video is as helpful as is the Madea one in reinforcing the message that the Chump is better off just accepting reality and moving on as best you can, while retaining I would have been hurt anyway, had Cheater come to me and told me he wanted to break up so he could start dating someone else (we were never married, but lived together for 16 years, own a home together, he was “step” parent to my three kids who were little when we got together, i.e. we were a family by any definition).

    But that hurt is nothing compared to the utter disappointment of realizing he thought it was a good idea to lie to me, then to discard me like an easily replaced generic woman, as he never even attempted to say that he “loved” OW, just that it was a great opportunity that he couldn’t pass by, and that “all he did was take advantage of an offer someone made” etc. Biggest disappointment of my life. I’m still sad, sometimes angry 1.5 years later… but not “bitter”, I made up a phrase that helps me a lot of tough days, “Don’t be bitter – be better!” I am BETTER than this.

    Though this is a chapter in my life it does not define me. My actions define me, my honesty and integrity define me. But fighting to preserve my equity in my house that I paid over 90% of, is not “revenge,” or punishing him for following his heart, I mean dick, into OW’s cushy suburban existence. It’s self-preservation, and I am entitled and justified in that. The fair weather friends who buy his spin on what he did and why, well, that is just something that wasn’t meant to be either. Thank you CL for all your wisdom. I know I’m not the only Chump who says this site has saved my sanity.

    • “I still hurt from the pain of being rejected and abandoned by him, but more than anything else by the complete lack of respect that he showed to me by lying and cheating, then blaming me upon being discovered.

      “But that hurt is nothing compared to the utter disappointment of realizing he thought it was a good idea to lie to me, then to discard me like an easily replaced generic woman…”


      I think that’s what galls me the most. I felt like we spent 20+ years climbing the mountain of success together, only to be shoved off and replaced with a younger model once we reached the summit. SHE didn’t make any sacrifices to get there; I did. To know it was all in vain makes me want to spit bullets sometimes.

      The flip side is, OW is long gone, and XH’s 2nd marriage looks like it’s going to be a short one. Meanwhile, my career is growing by leaps and bounds, and I should be able to do a major lifestyle upgrade in the coming months. Which means the divorce only derailed me for a while. I’ll be back at that summit soon. Yee-haw!

    • TheMuse, sometimes I feel our situations are very similar. The time frame is about the same, too. You write,

      “But that hurt is nothing compared to the utter disappointment of realizing he thought it was a good idea to lie to me, then to discard me like an easily replaced generic woman — ”

      It has just dawned on me this week, and caused me to spin into another depression, that my STBX has been in a relationship with his OW for about 17 months. (It’s been 16 months since d-day). While I still struggle to get through each day and fine meaning and purpose in my life. Gain confidence to find a way back into the job market, come to terms with the fact that he used up every penny I had and then bailed on me — no looking back.

      While he, he’s just in a relationship that’s already a year and a half old. He’s already fucked her hundreds of times. I’m sure he can’t fathom why I treat him coldly and interact with him so little. To him, all this time has passed and it should be water under the bridge. To me, it’s an 18 month nightmare that I’m only having some relief from now and then as I navigate this pain to my new life.

      No wonder he can’t fathom my anger — AND, YES, BITTERNESS.

      • I think we are about the same time out… my D-Day was 7-29-2013, and I’ve been NC since 1-22-2014 (the last day I spoke to him and that was by phone), though I did text him once in April 2014 (he didn’t reply or acknowledge) to let him know that I discovered his emails to prior OW from 2007. I have good days and bad as I know you do, too, ML. Today I’m having a pretty good day, feeling good about myself, but here I am reading/writing here while I’m at work! It still dominates my consciousness 99% of the time that this happened, the man I loved for 16 years discarded me, lives with AP, lies about me to all our old friends. etc. and that based on what he told his attorney that I’m “vengeful” for wanting to keep the house I pd for 90% of, 100% of his food, his cheater cell phone, etc. and that he believes his narc version of our 16 yrs together and that he unloaded me in a kindly manner after being exposed. I keep repeating, I’m not bitter, I’m better. Better than he is, for sure! and you are too. Time passing doesn’t make what they did any better or less disgusting, cowardly or selfish. Hugs to you ~~

      • Nightmare…yes, ML! For me the nightmare is now 11 months old. Relief is coming in spits and starts and the pain is debilitating as I look for that sunrise on the horizon showing me what my new life is going to look like. I am now beyond wishing I could “just wake up!”

      • Moving Liquid, I was just thinking about this too. My ex has been with OW about a year and 9 months now. I feel way better than I did in the first year after dday, but I do still feel like I am still recovering and still think about him leaving me, etc., a lot….while he is just in his long-term relationship. Like, I know all of this still takes up a good amount of space as I continue healing, whereas for him, his marriage to me and our whole relationship is a little footnote. Well, who I am kidding. the were a footnote as soon as he chose her over me. Anyhow. I just wanted to say I was recently feeling discouraged about how much this is still affecting me….even though I am so much better than I was. I guess it might help if I ever date someone seriously again. Then my ex won’t be my last real relationship and I will have another point of reference in my thought process…

    • TheMuse…….I agree that CL has saved my sanity too and also is the ONLY site, and including face to face counseling that has really made all the sense in the world to me. I wouldn’t give this site up for love or money!
      And I’m glad too that you pointed out that you weren’t married to him (though 16 yrs) because sometimes I feel a little excluded here because most of the posts talk about being married. I wish CL could write something here about those of us who were not married but just as invested, hurt, devastated, gaslighted, etc as those that were married. Please include us too! 🙂

      • IHaveHate, I was in a common-law relationship, too (for nine years). When I read CL’s posts, I always assume that “married” refers to common-law relationships, too. To me, the only difference is that we have different legal proceedings to do when dividing up assets and children. Otherwise, I think we’re all in the same boat.

        • Karma……I didn’t even have that much! lol In it with him 10 years, every other weekend saw each other; lived in different states! (4 hrs away).
          I know some people can ‘do’ a relationship like this without infidelity issues (namely, me) but clearly the other half could not but of course never revealed this!

          • We lived together for 16 years, always said we’d marry “someday,” now I am glad we didn’t or he’d be asking for alimony and would probably get it. I was married before for ten years to my kids’ father, so I was leary this time around. However, marriage vows are important but lying and abuse are wrong no matter what. One of the other choice nuggest asshole said to me at DDay, “I left you a long time ago, Muse, I just never told you.” While it jives w/what CL said about one partner having “checked out”, I define “leaving someone” as getting your shit out of my house and actually TELLING me that you are “dating” others. Double life.

      • I wasn’t married to the douchebag cheater, either, but we did have 9 years together. We were engaged for a good portion of that time. Not being married doesn’t take away anything from the hurt you experienced.

          • yes a thousand times yes. for the first ten years I really wanted to marry him, even have kids, in my 40s (i already had 3). Thank god that never happened, as I see the horrible nightmare chumps have on here who have bred with their cheater. though I should say, my prior H that I *was* married to, was a cheater too 🙁

  • Cheaters can never leave ethically, unfortunately. If they could self-reflect, etc, they would not cheat in the first place.

    My ex wrote a letter to our eldest child telling his side of the story. He admitted he was a coward, but still made excuses.
    Why, yes, he cheated, but he was in love with her. And this was the first affair partner, not the last one. With OWife, yes, there was overlap, but she is not a home wrecker. Our marriage would have already ended even if he had not met her.
    He put others’ happiness before his own, and was drowning and did not know how to get out. His advice, put your own happiness first!
    He did not want to disappoint all the family, etc
    Babble like that. I will not put it through the UBT, but I am sure you all know my responses.
    I will say… Gee, dude, and why did your child attempt self-harm shortly after this?

    So, yes, Chump Lady, a great list of ethical behavior, but cheaters do not have it in them.
    Your list includes behavior which I am attempting to instill in my children as I teach them about healthy relationships.

  • It all comes down to that hollogram, that image. For the chump, the person they love is the image, the hollogram. For the cheater, identity and integrity are the hollogram. No one gets better, no one improves when he or she is stuck in the facade rather than reality.

  • So much easier to cheat and bail then to do the work that was needed to create a good marriage. At the end of the day I guess long term commitment, home, children, family, friends, money and support were not things he valued. Because he walked away to start a new life. I have struggled with the OW being the “solution” or that she provides him happiness. I know that all he has done was replace a person. He never worked on himself, never recognized the problems he was creating in our marriage, never worked through the damage he did to our children. She is simply a place holder. And when I take a side street off of the road to meh I wonder about this woman. I wonder how someone can knowingly accept destroying a family. I wonder why she doesn’t think it is strange that this man that is her “soulmate” (vomit) has an extremely strained relationship with his children. I wonder how she can deal with never being introduced to his kids or his family. I wonder how she feels when he drops her off in a store so he can meet our one child without having to introduce her. Or when he sees his mother and leaves schmoopie elsewhere. I wonder what her family thinks when they see he is still listed as married on his Facebook page? This has been her life for almost 3 years now. What type of person puts up with that shit? These are the things that keep me puzzled, but I know that she has to be as disordered as he is to put up with this.

    I am happier without him. I am living a good life. Children are doing well, house is still standing, bills are paid. The divorce was the best thing I could have done for myself and my family. I just will always wish he had left with honor, because cheating your way out leaves way too much pain behind.

  • I tend to think that most cheaters are so disordered, they can’t/ won’t possibly think of anyone else’s needs or feelings. My ex was most certainly that way. He strung me along (for years) while he cheated repeatedly on me. Looking back, he was always “working on things” and we were always “working on us”- except that I was the only one doing any real work. We spent months and lots of $ on counseling- worthless, since he continued to cheat the whole time. He moved out and then back in several times over the years- mostly back to his mother’s house or a friend’s house. Even when he was in the midst of screwing around with 2 OW (got one pregnant), he still claimed to love me/ wanted to come home, but “needed to work on himself”. I can remember standing in tears, in my foyer, begging him to tell me the truth. UGH. He never would come clean; it would have been the right thing to do, and he just wasn’t inclined.

    Leaving, for him, really would have been relatively easy. We had no children, no real financial entanglements, nothing to really prevent him from going. Except that I was willing to dance, sweep his deeds under the rug and too easily forgive. He was always looking for a better deal, IMO. Even when he left for good, he left his shit behind for months. I finally called and asked him to come over. When he arrived, I told him that his boxes needed to be moved. LOL

    • I forgot to add… one of his favorite lines was “I’m just not happy.” I could have slapped that out of his mouth. I guess that was supposed to be an excuse for: cheating, blameshifting, gaslighting, wasting my money, causing me a great deal of anxiety and heartbreak, badmouthing me to others, leaving me financially distressed, taking secret vacations, getting a drug addict pregnant, and the list goes on!

      I think he was just a miserable person, looking for “happiness” in the vaginas of others. Funny thing is, he cheated on his son’s mother (an OW from our relationship). She should have seen that coming. Now she’s playing relationship police.

      • My ex told our oldest son that he needed “to find his happiness again.” My son told me “He’s looking for happiness “out there,” but where he needs to be looking is inside himself.

    • Much Better Off Now……..Yes, my X was literally (as I recall 1x during a slow dance) always looking over my shoulder for the ‘next best thing’!
      I beat myself up for all of this because I had MANY flags in the 10 years, but I ignored or made excuses for every one of them! SICKENS ME!!

      • IHH- I think that this “happiness” thing for cheaters comes when they are miserable inside. They mistakenly believe that they will find “true love” or “happiness” in the arms of another or another or another…They’re deluded, plain and simple. It’s easier, after all, to seek out someone else than it is to look inside and fix yourself.

  • CL, you’ve helped me a lot, and I agree with so much of what you wrote.

    I disagree, however, with some of the perspective you took above regarding cheaters.

    Fact is, most cheaters *don’t* want to end the marriage. They want 2 relationships at once. They aren’t looking for a “safe place to fall.” They’re looking to continue standing up straight, while getting on their backs with a coworker on Tuesday nights.

    Your post above indicates that you believe that cheaters are unhappy, but just won’t say it and instead will bang the bar maid.

    My cheater, and several others’, were quite happy. Or, they suddenly used unhappiness as a post-hoc excuse, but even that alleged unhappiness (the cause of which is amorphous and ever-changing) isn’t enough for them to want out of the marriage. They want to work on it, go to MC to learn how to better blameshift, etc.

    I know some people were outright abandoned by their spouse who was having an affair. But in my experience and that of the few other chumps in my life, cheaters don’t want out of the marriage. They aren’t unhappy. They’re just selfish people.

    • JC, I wrote the Unified Theory of Cake. Yes, I believe most cheaters are cake eaters and perfectly happy having a chump on the line. That’s why they want reconciliation (on their terms). I don’t believe “unhappiness” drives them to cheat. It is what they probably tell themselves, however.

      Two things — there IS a subsection of cheaters who DO leave and abandon without a word. Read here, you’ll see a lot of chumps in that particular situation. I think the exit affair is pretty uncommon really. My educated guess is the cake eater cheats for awhile and when he/she has exhausted the supply, they “trade up” to a new host and leave. They can walk away because they were never really invested.

      The OTHER population of cheaters are the entitled cake eaters. People who want both. Those are the folks I write of that the chump is forced to leave. They guilt. They call chumps “quitters”. They beg patience. These people, IMO, are the MAJORITY of cheaters. Of course when pressed, they defend their cake eating by saying they weren’t happy or getting all their needs met. Therapists spout this bullshit too.

      This article is just trying to call that shit out. You’re unhappy? GO. Leave ETHICALLY. Don’t be a cake eater.

      Someone wants to leave you? LET them.

      Someone wants to eat cake at your expense — DIVORCE them.

      I think that about covers it.

      • I agree, CL. My scumbag XH was very happy with me keeping the home fires burning and building in him a fine and respectable life while he ran around on the side. He became unhappy and violent when I busted his sorry ass and told him I wasn’t going to tolerate his atrocious behavior. Then his story was that he’d never really been happy and cheated because he “felt separated” from me, I worked too hard, didn’t anticipate his unexpressed needs, yada, yada, yada. Total bullshit. He was unhappy because he got caught cheating and I didn’t think it was cool like he did.

        • Oh yeah….I was the one that (eventually) left, because his deal was multiple sources of the p-word. All these years later, he still tries from time to time to get me to come back. I could find some satisfaction in that if I didn’t know it was just ego with him. He’s made it incredibly clear to me that he is incapable of feeling anything.

          And yes, he blamed his behavior on his “unhappiness”, my “issues, and told some other folks we had an open relationship. I do know that on the 2nd d-day, his response to getting caught was to start cursing at me. Guess he thought a good offense would work.

      • Yes JC & CL…….raising my hand for the ‘abandoned and just left’ place in line! He never wanted cake; he began treating me shitty and alienating affection in hopes that I’d be the one to ‘quit’. Well, he got his wish 1 year after DDay. I quit! And he is real good with that, hasn’t looked back since, and carries on with his strippers.
        Sick fuck! And then there’s me……over 2 years from DDay and still dealing with the bomb that exploded. Unfortunately, time for me has not healed my wounds, it’s intensified my hate. Like I’ve said before, I guess its because I exited nicely (hoping he’d come to his senses; what a laugh!) and I’m not VERY out of the fog and see clearly. Now the anger has surfaced and I want to get it out……on him!!!

        • Same here time has done something, but I wouldn’t call it healing. It’s been two years now.

          I walked out, but since the day I did, he has not begged, cried, or tried. He simply shrugged and evaporated into the mist.

          I don’t hate him. I’m just puzzled by the whole thing. I think I’ve come to realize that I married a mirage not the real him. The real him is either crazy or a con man, or maybe a little of both.

          I still have trouble blaming myself for getting tangled up with him in the first place. But then all of us chumps are in the same boat with that one. How would reasonable, honest, nice people be able to spot a crazy person intent on deceiving us? No one prepares you to meet such people.

      • My present husband and myself became chumps through our spouses exit affairs. Both cheater ex’s are physicians, both married their physician colleague affair partners. Neither of our ex’s looked back for one second after they left – they were not looking for kibbles. They single mindedly and dispassionately planned and executed their exit. Both remain married to their affair partners after many years – more years in the second marriage than in the first marriage. How happy or fulfilled these cheater/cheater marriages are, God only knows – certainly, neither ex would never let on. My feeling – they blew up their families lives so profoundly when they left; the fall out was so bad for them both personally and professionally, that they can’t contemplate wreaking anymore havoc in their lives – their cheater days are long over. They only have each other now.

        • My present husband and I are both former chumps too. Neither of our exes hesitated a moment in tearing our previous lives apart, and neither of their replacement relationships lasted. Both of those exes tried for a return to their chumps, and neither got one. We met each other after all that dust settled, and have been happy for over a decade. Chumps are caring people. They do better together than serving narcissists. Too bad that only hard experience separates the good from the bad people.

    • JC, my cheater was both. He wasn’t happy, but clearly content cheating for years with a co-worker of his I knew (just for fun, they dragged their unsuspecting spouses along on many of their dates… I know now cheater would buy both me and OW new clothes from the same place before these events, just to be sure we looked our best for him, sitting across the table from him chatting amiably). After D-Day 1, I wanted to at least explore reconciliation and he did not, citing years of unhappiness. After more revelations, I kicked him out. Stupid chump, after a week or so, I begged to try therapy before we pulled the plug but he had already gotten an apartment and using a slew of his best business jargon, notified me via email that leaving me was his “best path forward.” From that point on, he has been nearly giddy to be free of me. He has not been honest in divorce proceedings and still a slippery SOB, but happier and nicer to me than ever, which brought its own special kind of pain — until I understood I was better off. Happy, unhappy? Who knows. Selfish, disordered, unable to face reality? Hell, yes.

      • Mine was some of both too. Ultimately, I am convinced he never intended to leave me for OW, because right up until the night of D-Day, he would say “I love you” to me daily, we were still having sex, making plans to remodel the kitchen, etc. but he was living a double life of Kibbles and Cake. The night that the mask fell off, it was like he snapped and realized what his life with me would be like now that I knew the truth about him and his cheating. I could almost hear the wheels turning in his head as he rolled the dice (mixed metaphors!) and decided to place his bets on the OW for the win. It was totally surreal but six months later, when I found the evidence of prior OW, and I contacted old GF on FB and found out he had never stopped seeing her for the first 9 years he was with me, I realized that he is extremely disordered (there was all the 50 shades crap w/him too, another whole level of disordered). I think my cheater and perhaps another small fraction of them, are sociopathic or psychopathic, shapeshifters in a whole different class.

  • God I love Madea! Rock on with her bad self.

    It’s true. I’d rather be “alone in the corner with a puppet and a gold fish” than spend one minute of my life with someone who causes me any pain or unhappiness.

    Effffffffffffffffffffffffffff that!

  • At least once a month or so, it hits me: “Thank God that long nightmare is just OVER” immediately followed by “I can’t believe I tolerated that for long”.

    • TimeHeals, I think those two things also, but then I follow it up with, “How could he have done that to me?” So I’m still struggling in a circle instead of really moving on. Therapy appointment tomorrow, thank goodness.

        • I think that every time I see X. He’s gross. If he was a stranger on the street and walked up to me now, I would be moving away quickly.

        • I’m nearing that day, Jen.

          Strangers become more attractive if you get to know them and they are good people. They become less attractive if you get to know them and they are bad people.

          I believe that the same dynamic applies to former spouses. It just takes longer. When I look at pics of my ex-wife, I no longer find her particularly attractive. She’s objectively average…and I know what lurks under the surface.

          • My first ex is by societys’ standards, a very good looking man. I’ve had friends be blown away when they see him for the first time. I can see that he is an aesthetically pleasing person to look at, but I have no attraction to him whatsoever. It is weird to me that my lack of physical interest is possible. The things he did and the falseness of his personality completely discount the fact that he looks like Keanu Reeves. It’s like looking at Rob Lowe in the movie Wayne’s World. Is Rob good looking? Well duh, of course he is. Is he attractive as that sleazy, stupid character? Nope!

            Now as I’m struggling to get to “meh” with the recent ex, I put a picture of the first ex and me together on my refrigerator as a reminder that eventually, I will be able to look at the new ex (should I have to) and just think “blech!” I know the hopium will wear off and I will get there. I feel no sentiment whatsoever towards the first ex, and I guess I used to, but even memories involving that sort of feeling are impossible for me to conjur up, as if they never, ever existed to begin with.

            I would also agree my second ex was not “unhappy” with me. I am fairly certain that if he had been, he would not have kept me around. He pretty much only did what he wanted to do. I think the other women were some sort of “kibbles” but also shared drug use. I don’t do drugs, so I alone was not enough. The drug thing is about pleasure seeking, and it’s highly selfish. He was very pissed if he had to sacrifice time away from those plans for me.

            Anyway, sorry to tanget and commenting so much. I can’t afford therapy and I am resisting getting on medication to work through the grief this time. This blog has been helpful to me because I know my friends and family are not going to want hear me ramble on about this while I work it out of my system. Step by step, I am getting to a place where I can leave it in the past.

      • I do too, ML. I can say in all honesty that I’m completely indifferent when it comes to him, but I do think to myself sometimes, “how f’ing DARE you!” It was all so offensive on so many levels.

      • Moving Liquid, I too struggle with the, “How could he have done that to me”. After he discarded me this last time the hardest part for me was, “Why did I put up with him for so long”. I realized my whole marriage I was working toward something and he was walking down his own sleazy path. His parting words were, “I’ll never get anywhere with you”. On my first appointment with my therapist, he said, “He is a narcissist” and “He is a very disturbed individual”. Over time he said he was ‘toxic’ and this last time ‘stupid’. To think I would have spent the rest of my life with him had he not discarded me like I was garbage was painful. Loving an asshole was my life. When I recently saw him I knew I was looking directly at a serial cheating, narcissist who could never change. He repulses me now. I had to forgive myself for loving this disturbed loser.

    • Oh yeah, me too, TH. I feel like it happened to another person a long time ago. And I can’t believe I tolerated a moment of it. That’s on me. (And thus this blog.)

      • That is how I feel as well. Like it was some sort of bad dream, or something I heard about that happened to someone else. But the main thing is, I’M SO GLAD IT’S OVER. Now all that is left is working on why I stayed for so long.

    • But when you are able to realize it…the freedom is intoxicating. I woke up with a start, sat up straight in bed and shouted “I NEVER HAVE TO SUFFER THROUGH ANOTHER HOLIDAY MEAL WITH HIS HORRENDOUS FAMILY” — huzzah!!!

      It was the silver lining. There will be more too…trust me 😀

  • thanks, CL, for yet another timely post. (How do you KNOW these things? Eerie!)

    I’m working on my own steps #1-3 (esp 3), but I so much wish he’d’ve adhered to his own steps 1 & 2. I’ve always felt he would never have even left a JOB with the lack of notice he gave me in leaving our marriage, especially after 16 years together.

    • “I’ve always felt he would never have even left a JOB with the lack of notice he gave me in leaving our marriage, especially after 16 years together.”

      I’m trying to think of something substantial to add, but failing. I’ll just say that this is spot on.

    • “I’ve always felt he would never have even left a JOB with the lack of notice he gave me in leaving our marriage…”

      Wow, NWBiblio! I could have written those words. My POS x-hole didn’t even have the “courage” to let me know in person that he was leaving. Thank goodness for email or I would still be waiting for him make it home!!

      • I commented to my ex that she didn’t even care about the pain she was causing. Her response:

        “If I didn’t care, I would have left you without telling you first, like I’ve done to other guys before you.”

        Thanks, I guess?

        • WhichWayDidSheGo, that is similar to something my Cheating Ex said: “I don’t know what you are so upset about, Muse. I stayed with you longer than any of the others.” I think it was the utterance of “The Others” that really got to me.

        • Whichwaydidshego, basically she is telling you it wasn’t you, it’s her. It’s just the way she is. She can’t do any better, she’s not capable of it. You are off the hook.

  • Thanks for the terrific post. I needed it today. I have put myself in a terrible position in order to get stuff organized. I have tackled 2 out of the 3 items. I don’t think I can live in the toxic shit storm of the serial cheating unicorn NPD asshat any longer in order to fulfill the 3rd item. I have 60 days to go, which I will spend getting paperwork together.

    Heading out now to run the stress off.

  • Excellent post, as always. It called to mind a particularly maddening experience I had while taking the state-mandated parenting class that was a part of my divorce process. The class was run by two family therapists and it was just brutal. The curriculum for the class was one thing (I could write a book about that alone), but one of the therapists added in her own two cents and suggestions throughout the class and it was one ridiculous comment after another. During the “Telling the Children about Your Divorce” segment, this woman suggested that if infidelity is the reason for the divorce, you could say something like, “Mommy has found a new person to love! Isn’t that wonderful?” I wish I were kidding. I objected to this right away, labeling myself as the scorned woman in the process. Unfortunately, it was highly unsatisfying as this woman just sloughed off my objection and moved on. I sat and seethed. I waited until the end of the class and after I’d gotten my certificate for the Court (I was going to get that piece of paper, dammit!), and then spoke to the therapist again about the harmfulness of this infidelity fiction she advocated. Again, it was an unproductive discussion. She was truly on a whole other plane of existence, where none of us are allowed to judge even the most despicable actions of another human being.

    Just writing all of this down is stirring up my anger again. How dare she ask chumps to tell their children that their blown-up family life is actually OK because now Mommy can be happy in a new relationship! It’s outrageous. Sure, let’s compound the destruction of their little lives by adding confusing lies on top of lies. What bullshit.

    • StrongerEveryday, that therapist’s behaviour is outrageous! She should have been the recipient of a state-mandated removal of her licence to practise. Then the remaining therapist could have told the class, “That other therapist has found a new occupation to love! Isn’t that wonderful!”

    • Stronger, that is awful. Truly awful. A person that would say something like that has NO CLUE of the pain you are dealing with. It’s so hard to be betrayed and treated terribly, then told to be happy for the other person who betrayed you. Our society has gone from one extreme to the other in how we treat cheaters. Used to be that being divorced, period, was a terrible shame even if you were abandoned. This happened to my grandmother and it was easier for her to tell people her ex had been killed in a car wreck. In fact she didn’t file for divorce until years later. The kids carried the shame and scorn with them as well. Now it’s like “hey, everybody deserves to be happy.” We’ve gone too far the other way, and the chump gets the blame for bitterness while the cheater skips on their merry way.

      • It’s true. I really hate that at the time I spoke up during that class, I instantly thought to myself, “Oh great. I’ve just outed myself as a woman who’s been cheated on, and now I’m the Bitter Scorned Woman.” Though I don’t carry the shame of being cheated on anymore–it was never my shame to carry anyway!–I hate to think that others will always judge a person who gets cheated on. It’s really unfair and I struggle to make peace with that.

        • Stronger, my ex-FIL recently said to me, “you don’t want to put that burden on her” (as in telling my daughter about the affair). I looked him right in the eyes and said, “I will tell her the truth. I will always tell her the truth because I do not want her for one second thinking that SHE caused the divorce”.

          This is certainly not the popular societal advice. We are supposed to carry on like nothing happened and never talk about the bad things. My daughter asks me all the time, “do you like OW?” I have never ever once told her yes. I always answer, “no I don’t, because she did bad things to mommy”. For now, this is all I’m willing to say. I am modeling to her that we do not have to like everyone and we especially do not have to like people who have indeed done bad things to us.


          • With Brave Wings, I completely agree. Age appropriate truth is the way to go. The divorce is the burden on your daughter; concealing the truth with some confusing lie or wishy-washy reason compounds the burden. It is up to your ex to reconcile his behavior within his own relationship with his daughter. It is not your job to make it OK for him.

            I’ve promised my children that I will never lie to them, but that there are some things they are too little to know right now. I will not tow some bullshit “we grew apart” line. It’s not easy, and as they grow it’s an evolving process. Let’s face it: family secrets do not stay secret forever. I refuse to contribute to the toxic cycle of secrets I’ve uncovered in my ex’s family.

      • Lyn……..’the chump gets the blame for bitterness while the cheater skips on their merry way’. SPOT ON!!
        I often say just that, that he got to skip away and pretend he did nothing wrong!
        Anger, hate, anger, hate, anger, hate, anger, hate………hey, did I just say anger and hate? 🙂

    • In my state, we have those “parenting classes” too – mandatory. Ours was given by a divorce mediator. In general, it was excellent. However, even though we are a “fault” state, we might as well not be, really. Our state wants “all” divorces DONE within a year, tops.

      So, this gal says to us, “People? Understand the following: we don’t care who you, or your spouse are doing, it’s all about Equitable Distribution; and, if you’re a jerk and drag the process on, you will hurt no one but yourselves, your pocket book, and your kids – you will settle, settle, SETTLE!!”

      • My state also requires co-parenting class for divorcing parents. My ex didn’t even bother to attend the session.

  • “I don’t want you to try to talk another person into staying with you, loving you, calling you, caring about you, coming to see you, staying attached to you. I mean hang up the phone. When people can walk away from you let them walk. Your destiny is never tied to anybody that left.” -T.D. Jakes

      • My middle name is Ruth. The name comes from a grandmother who died before I was born. The only other Ruth I know is a 23 year old woman who gave me her car for $200 after she bought a new one. I did not have a car, she kind of saved my life. I don’t need my ex to drive me around anymore. He was willing to do that because we worked at the same restaurant, and I took care of admin details he didn’t want to understand. I have transferred restaurants and am working on finding an even better job.

        Okay this is really silly but there is a Ruth in “Fried Green Tomatoes.” She reaches out to her best friend to escape an abusive husband by sending her a verse from the book of Ruth. If I remember correctly, he gets his with a frying pan to the head compliments of Cicely Tyson. Good story.

    • This has been bookmarked on my laptop for months. I watch it frequently and it helps so much. It helps also to see the affirmation and recognition on the faces of those listening. So many people have been through this kind of hurt. Which is sad, but the message is uplifting.

  • My goal is to live better! Yesterday I opened a savings account. It is a start and a symbol of my freedom. I filed my taxes and will put my small return in the bank. What I realized through all the pain of being a chump is that I am pretty awesome. Thank-you for the reminder, Chump Lady! When I think of all the skills chump’s share on this site I realize we are stronger than we know. Chumps are kind, caring, and good listeners. I am forever grateful for the empowerment I have gained through the experiences of fellow chumps. I hear get over ‘it’ often. Unless you are a chump you cannot even imagine the ‘it’ and the resulting devastation it causes. With each deposit I make, I will remind myself that I am working toward mightiness.

    • You are already living better, Donna, and it will get better still. The thing about chumps is that we are self-sufficient creatures by nature. We have to be, as we end up caring for others who won’t care for us in return. It’s a special and diverse skill set, and it will serve you well. You sound mighty already.

  • All these spouses that left for someone else, how has it worked out for them? Surely the cheater doesnt become a reformed character with someone new…or do they?

    • Iceman, they take themselves with them. Behind door number one is the lying, cheating, asshole. Their picker is usually set to vulnerable. Ex is with someone he cannot take out in public. People are actually coming up to me and saying what is wrong with him, have you seen her? People of character don’t cheat. Narc’s are never happy unless they are getting kibbles. Not being a dispenser feels so good.

  • “Leave and be alone. ..It’s not okay to self medicate with other people.” Yes, this. I think it demonstrates integrity…or lack thereof. See ya later, please don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out – I would hate to be liable for anything.

  • The happiness at all costs crowd are like the forgiveness at all costs crowd, it has to be their way only. Unfortunately, what we do and how we treat others has far more to do with our personal happiness than we like to think. When you lead an ethical life, your reward is the knowledge that your integrity was tested and won, and that is a foundation for happiness

  • At last there was a show on TV last night that gave an explanation about infidelity being the most used theme of comedy in theater plays called “Vaudeville”. I always wondered, why is this considered funny when in fact it hurts people so much. There is even a name in French for the Chump: “Cocu”, while there is none to translate “cheater”. The theatrical grotesque situation is always a husband, a wife, and a lover, that enter and depart the scene, saying stupid things, while spectators laugh. Turns out that infidelity was quite common in the 19th century, but people knew that they would remain married anyway, so the attitude was quite different, and this kind of show de-dramatized the situation. Now that people easily divorce, infidelity is a much bigger threat, because it leads to losing a lot more. An African man said that infidelity in his country is not an issue, having extra-marital sexual interactions doesn’t threaten the community (besides AIDS I guess…) and people walk long distances and are absent a lot. Finally, I envy the yoga teacher who said, if my partner wants to leave me, I watch her go, I choose to not be impacted. If this precious plate falls on the ground, I watch it break, I feel no pain, I choose not to feel any. I envy him, but on another hand, controlling yourself to suppress bad feelings is the highway to burnout in my opinion.
    Finally, I must say that I was quite surprised at the reaction of my sister after D-Day. She was interested in hearing the story on the phone, but once it was hanged up, she told everyone what a loser I was to have “f*cked up my sentimental life”. Glad to know that in the mind of my own sister, it’s all my fault ! I wonder if she truly believes that there is anything like universal “success” in this domain. The person who supported me through the hardest time was … MIL. I’m so grateful that she was on my side.

    • Now this is a chump column I’d like to see. When your own family turns on you, when you have to fight infidelity as well. I have two sisters and a brother who were supportive but another sister flat out took cheatzilla’s side and hasn’t said word one to me since the divorce…now it doesn’t hurt, and I’m fine with her out of my life, but I felt betrayed by my own family. I even told my kids I totally understood their mom’s family being on her side, that’s what families do, they support their brothers and sisters even when they do boneheaded things. Maybe CL can do an article on walking away from blood when the blood goes bad.

      • oh man, in my case it would be a book – how my family (read parents) turned on me. I will share the book when CL writes a column on this …. but in a nutshell – I was told after my decision to stay that if I had gone through with divorce after I filed – she would have been disappointed and it would not be possible for her to provide any financial assistance. After all, it was my poor decisions (staying home with three kids under the age of 5 – one of them an infant; not saving ALL my money from when I worked; etc) that contributed to my financial issues. I simply stopped talking to her after that. I shut down when I heard “saving ALL my money” – how the F is that supposed to work when you are married and have a TON of debt on you. how was I to say I’m gonna save EVERY PENNY that is mine??? this from the woman (read Holiest of saints in her opinion) who has been married 45 years. Yikes!!! I pity my dad … what exactly is her definition of marriage is something I still don’t get.

      • Scott, my family had my back after D-Day. However, when I went back to the cheating loser for a short and unsuccessful attempt at reconciliation, one sister went ballistic and did not speak to me much for over a decade. She had it all figured out, and chump that I am, I had to do things my way and in my time. Give it the old college try. She was right, of course, but those hard truths are easier to sort out from the outside than from the inside.

        If you lost a sister to cheatzilla, it probably means that cheatzilla’s PR campaign was underway well in advance. Your sis was probably being plumbed for information about what you knew, and being fed misinformation about what your shitty ex was doing. I am so sorry.

        • It happens, and life goes on, i dont think much about her now, but my thought is there are some chumps here who just get trampled by family…sounds like you went through a bad time with your sister too. You did what you thought was right, thats life…but it is your life, not hers so im not sure what say she really has… 🙂

      • A little cynical birdie is telling me that your sister is/was probably a cheater herself, and to support you against a cheater was a little too much like self-condemnation for her comfort level.

  • Fabulous, CL (although I think a bit of crazy is not unusual when chumpdom first hits. Hopefully it doesn’t get too crazy)

  • Now that’s what I’m talking!! I can start my day, head held high, me not crazy, YOU crazy. Its wishful thinking that the cheaters will ever own their shit though…. and I will NOT try to see good in my cheater as I move on, why? Lets just “get er’ done”

  • Sigh, I did most of the good stuff, I just wish I had found better support and the all of you sooner. I cried, I begged him to stay, I believed his blameshifting, I let him walk all over me emotionally and financially. In the end, by the time I came to my senses, what little I told him off was enough. I decided I didn’t have to set him right. or forgive him. I just had to set him far away from me.

    I’m just glad for the reality I’m living now. While some old friends aren’t as thrilled with me and cling to their less than ideal marriages smugly, (like I was some cautionary tale that would poison their wells!) I’m also overwhelmed with the kindness and dignity with which others treated me. My credit and my pride took a hit, but I’m still all right. I can repair those things,

  • Excellent post.

    I think it comes down to one person being an adult who can deal with things in a mature way – and the other person that is disordered/immature.

    During the final year of my 17 year marriage, my exH told me he wanted some space and to think about things. He kept his life the same with me – as in all of his possessions and office were still in the marital home – but he moved in with the OW. Heck, everyday he would come back, shower and change clothes, and use his office. Yes, shower and change clothes! We didn’t share any meals and we weren’t intimate. (So, all of his friends and the OW knew he’d moved in with her. However, he never told me.)

    I had no idea what to think of these obvious mixed messages.

    I will fast forward to his eventual return after 6 months, him lying in counseling and on-going and increasingly super weird behavior..bla bla bla to DD2 when he was coerced by the OW to confess.

    A week after DD2 – and meeting with the OW (yes) – I finally pulled the plug on the whole mess.

    To the outside world, my exH presents himself as an empathetic and mature adult. Who knows what he told everyone to manage his reputation because everyone believes our parting was amicable.

    Everyone believes he left me. However, I was the one that ended it. Go figure.

  • The only problem with the old saying…”The best revenge is living well” is that you have to be in the mindset to actually start living well. If you are depressed all the time and are damaged from what these Narcs have done to you then it’s very difficult to start living well with a good attitude. Take my situation for instance. I went from keeping my house very clean to living like a damn slob. My house is so dirty. I have never lived like this before. But, I just don’t care. The yard looks just as bad. I used to not understand people who are hoarders, but I understand it now. What is going on with my house is what is going on inside of me. Since my husband left me for that bimbo over 2 years ago, I have never been the same. I am damaged goods even though I pretend I”m not when socializing with others. I at least finally made progress by going out and socializing now. That’s about it though. I am a wreck in every other area of my life. I have also become lazy and never want to do anything at home after I get home from work. I can’t believe I live this way now. I hate my ex and I am very bitter!

      • Oh Maria, my heart hurts for you. I think it’s depression- if not, maybe complicated grief. It’s paralyzing- makes even doing the little things terribly difficult. My mom is a fellow chump; she’s been divorced from my father for quite a while, but then my grandmother passed shortly afterwards. She still has difficulty with just the small stuff. Have you thought about counseling/ therapy/ support groups?

    • Maria, me too, many days, especially this winter. I’ve been depressed for ages, but after the exploding family disaster, the really Bad Black Dog comes calling a lot more often.

      I hope this is helpful–I do know how obnoxious prescriptive suggestions can be–but I so fully feel your sense of total blech.

      I find that when I can manage to do one small thing–I don’ t hold my self to high standards, mind…it could be emptying the dishwasher…I begin to move a little more, and I feel a little better. I don’t over-do. There’s some very fine line between giving in to the rest your body needs after going through this horrible series of shocks, and trying to gently nurse yourself back into action.

      I also know that it feels better to be in a tidier space–so gathering up some of the clutter, grouping it together (dishes in the sink…nope, don’t have to wash them yet!), bills in a pile (no comment), I always have a litter of glasses, pens, scissors, and hair do-dads, where ever I sit. I put those in a box.

      Anyway, forgive yourself for feeling crappy. It’s really ok, and quite natural. And please know how many of us here share your sense of, well, I don’t really know how to define it either, but I can un-justify my value in a flash. That’s depression talking, and it’s not a rational beast.

      Please take care.

  • This post really resonated with me. My ex wife had an affair and I found out about 9-12 months in.
    An affair is the most hurtful thing you can do to another person. It happened in the same year that I lost a very loved grandparent, and I thought it couldn’t get worse.

    I remember all her lies. And I was going crazy to find one piece of evidence, that would be an anchor of truth and confirm that she was where she said she was…. and finding out that she’d lied again.
    Finding an opened pregnancy test kit in her cupboard, when we hadn’t had sex in months.
    Finding out that the trip to Paris wasn’t with her girlfriend from work…but with her affair partner from work.

    We had one major argument about sharing the load at home, and it went downhill from there. I couldn’t work out why I couldn’t resolve things with her. I only wish she would have had the courage to exit without an affair. While I was dealing with the pain of the discovery and breakdown of my family, she was all loved up with her affair partner.

    There was so much blame shifting: All the things I did. How unloved she felt. How unvalued she felt. How I neglected her. It was all about how I was the one that did all the wrong.

    I took a deep look at myself, and pretty soon I realised that there were things about myself that I could improve, but she needed to own her shit. I didn’t choose to have an affair. I tried to make things right.

    It’s been 18 months on, and I’m divorced, and have my kids 50%. I’m ok. I feel for my kids, and it hit me this morning, with my son trudging up the path to deliver the school books, shoes and other things to his other home. I hate it. That kind of life is not what I wanted for my children.

    I’m rebuilding my life now, and things work out in the most incredible ways sometimes. I feel lucky to have a second chance, and have met someone who shares my values.

    Most importantly out of this process, I keep my values intact. I have been true to myself. I have integrity. I have honesty. And I love my kids more than anything.

  • Sometimes Tracy just needs to state the obvious to remind us of the big picture.
    I am one of those chumps (personally, hate the term as it signifies victimhood), for whom this experience has been absolutely liberating in every sense and it’s been the proverbial catal yst for my new life (the one I truly deserve) to begin. Phew, that was one long run on sentence…
    I’ve caught myself saying recently that it’s the best thing that happened to me in regards to my relationship with socio-ex. I still get the occasional eyebrow raised when I utter this statement. However, it is the truth.
    In regards to the whole aspect of “how to leave a cheater”, and I know Tracy has an entire archive of posts written on this topic, I’m a proponent of protecting yourself no matter what. Unless it pertains to performing criminal activities, everything is fair game. I wouldn’t be worried with acting “classy and dignified” in a situation where cheaters are concerned. They don’t deserve anything. If there’s 20k in checking account, withdraw immediately and set up a college fund or pay off your car loan. Would I care where cheater is going live after I change the locks? Sorry, no. As long as no laws are being violated in your jurisdiction, there was no empathy from me otherwise. This may sound cold and cruel to some but knowing that I am actually a nice person, absolves me of any guilt. My own therapist’s advise has always been to emotionally detach and act in my own best interest. Not cheater’s. It surprises me greatly when I hear of fellow chumps helping their cheaters with making doctor’s appointments or helping with their moving expenses. To me it signifies some kind of underlining issue, maybe co-dependency or low self-esteem? On the other hand, I drew my biggest inspiration from strong independent women from my own life as well as the media. That famous scene from Waiting to Exhale where Angela Bassett torches cheating husban’s belonging on the front lawn comes to mind. Just kidding.

  • I’m going to admit my true chumpiness…..about 2 years before DDay, I told H that I wanted a divorce. I had been unhappy for years in our marriage and had made many attempts to talk with him about it. Each time, he would either ignore me or make promises that things would be better but never keep those promises. He came to me about 2 days later, told me he didn’t want a divorce because he loved me and promised he would try harder to make things ‘right’ between us. Of course, he didn’t keep that promise and chumpy me let him get away with it, again. Truth is, I loved him with my whole heart, but I certainly didn’t like the way he treated me. Or perhaps I didn’t like the way I LET him treat me – I guess I didn’t understand the difference then. Anyway, at the time I asked for a divorce, he’d been cheating on me for years, I just didn’t know it yet. If he had said yes to the divorce then, it would have been my choice, no one would have really been the ‘bad’ guy, everything would have been split 50-50, and I would likely have never found out about his cheating. But he didn’t. Fast forward to today – I have asked myself a thousand times, why didn’t he say yes to my request for a divorce?? Cake, of course, I understand that now too. He didn’t love any of these women – it was just about sex with them. I struggle every day with his choice to say no to divorce back then….in addition to his cheating and blaming me now.

  • My cheater used to have long heart felt talks with me into the wee hours of the morning occasionally. I’d own my shit, promise to be a better wife(aka have more sex with him, LOL) and he’d promise to help, you know actually help me raise the 4 kids he helped create. The next day though, he was back to his same old lazy self. It was all an act to get ME to change, not him. You can’t have honest conversations with these nuts. You just can’t.

  • I just finished reading “Will I Ever Be Free of You?: How to Navigate a High-Conflict Divorce from a Narcissist and Heal Your Family” by Karyl McBride. She basically says that you should consider yourself lucky when the narcissist leaves you because if you leave them they are almost always become ugly and cruel but if they have the “last word” by leaving you, they are more likely to just go away. Has this been everyone’s experience?

    • I would love to read that book!
      My Ex played cat n mouse with me for two years in court. He loved getting away with things like: me having to pay child support (10 years SAHM); having to pay his lawyer; having to pay extravagant medical costs for unnecessary procedures; not getting any alimony; not getting a fair share of 401K; having to pay costs for his ‘having to call the police on me’ for ridiculous things like feeding my baby a bottle that he insisted was full of breastmilk. (And he makes $16K/month while I made minimum wage).
      Anyways, he filed. He moved a new woman in. He threw everything dirty at me including the kitchen sink. He became “ugly and cruel”, and he always had the last word.
      …the interesting fact here is that Ex from Hell actually never was happy. No matter how much he won, he wanted more.
      This blog is the first site that I have found that actually gets the concept of Entitlement.
      He would file in court to get me ‘kicked out’ of my neighbor’s house because it was ‘too close to where the children went to day care’. He is as horrible a dad as there is & paid for a psychiatrist-man-whore to say that I was a (“.001%”) chance threat to my children & he used that so that I could not go to their school, go to their church, go to soccer practice, etc.
      (May I say that he never had a lick of legitimate evidence against me.)
      He paid his lawyer $65K to do this. Then he would brag about how he had put me in jail again. I would go to an exchange to get my children & cop cars would surround me. I had sandwiches in my hands to feed my children dinner & the police officers would push me against the car & not even let me lock the car doors. They would handcuff me & then Ex would bring the children to the exchange & say, “Looks like Mom didn’t show up”. I spent my son’s 9th birthday in jail and had to pay lots of bail money. (At one point Ex made a recording of himself saying “stop! Lily, you are hurting me. stop… ” to have me arrested. Ex is a gun wielding, experienced athlete and wrestler.)
      If I went to the Daycare when my children were not there, he would take me to court. If I called the daycare, they would not let me speak to my children, etc.
      To this day, he sits on a throne of lies, and like a sick drug addict he is surrounded with power-hungry enablers.
      So, to answer your question, some sick psychopathic narcs never get enough of the power trip of hurting a person whether they instigate the divorce or not.

      What was I thinking for the ten years I was with him?
      I wish I could stand today without trembling. I get victim-blamed regularly. I have to eat lots of shit sandwiches. I wish someone could see his true colors and put Ex in prison, rather than adoring what a wonderful father he is to five scared children, whose mother “went crazy and abandoned them”.
      May every man who sat back & helped him torture me, have to look me in the eyes one day. May they never forget the look that I will give them.
      Shoot, I have more to say, but I will end this therapy session. Heaven knows it all.

    • I left mine, and it was horrible and very hard. He was extremely ugly and cruel, alternating with love bombing and attempts to get my pity/sympathy. No contact was the only way to go, and even that didn’t always work when we had to engage in the divorce proceedings. Even now, two months after the divorce is final, I just got a love bomb letter that has set my emotional recovery back yet again.

      In a lot of ways, I do wish he had left me because then he would have discarded me and left me alone. In other ways, I’m glad I got to sit in the witness box and testify that I was divorcing HIM. Felt some empowerment from that.

      • I can understand that DG. Sometimes I wished I would have left mine and not been so chumpy but my silver lining is that he has gone away for the most part. His narcissism is out of control so I’m just glad to be away from him, I’m just so sad my kids still have to deal with him- this book helps kids too.

    • Nicole, I think that author may be in to something there… There is a difference In whether they leave or you do…In my case, I chumpily went through several D Days in our 34 year marriage. My ex husband was never one to go through any of those leave takings without a bed to get into, the big exit, tears, he-is-the-real -victim because I was not enough, well, anything for him, until he would change his mind and come back. Never any actual filing. I’m the idiot who allowed that to happen repeatedly. This final time, he set it up the same way, but this time I wept for four weeks myself, until I filed… And Holy Crap…. The difference was HUGE!

      The loss of control in the situation turned him into a raging, nasty piece of work, delaying things with every obnoxious trick in the book for over twenty months. I could not wrap my head around it.. This was his idea, once again, and he went ballistic! I went no contact after six months for my own sanity and that too drove him crazy, though now he maintains I am just the bitter discard that never showed my husband enough passion. It probably made it a little more inconvenient that I wasn’t going along with his Classic We Grew Apart drama, fought with a pit bull lawyer for my fair share (became obvious very early on he intended to defraud me, he’d already stolen and hidden six figures into a secret account by then, which my team found), but barely seemed to slow down his public narrative about being the wronged party the entire marriage! And he pulled some incredible trespasses over 34 years… It does still piss me off that I’m pretty sure the OW,and his very Catholic parents who have cut me off (but who were very happy I put up with all his shit all along), and the thousands of employees who work for Mr. Executive have no idea about the lies, multiple cheating, theft, massive steroid use, STD, etc– how could anyone want to be around that if the truth were out there?

      Anytime I still get glimmers of feeling like I’m to blame for the whole mess the way he would like it to be, I remember there actually is another person who knows what he is capable of, and it’s a member of his own family! She revealed to me that he sexually abused her, many times, when he was 13 and she was 8, and I would think someone’s old enough at that point to know very well what they are doing… I doubt she will ever come forth with this information now, some 45 years later, even with her parents, and in that state, the statute of limitations was gone years ago, so nothing will ever happen…. It horrifies me, but at the same time, makes me feel as though our marriage never had a chance when one person entered into it capable of such things and never losing sleep over them. Wonder if I could get an anullment? But back to the original thought… For a while after the divorce was final, he didn’t like the way some things shook out, and he and his aging drama queen atty sent quite a few Over the top letters threatening to sue me, my attorneys, and their entire firm, etc…. Now it’s quiet as he is buying a new, big, fancy house for he and the OW in another town, and recovering from the first of two surgeries he needs. Better to keep quiet and let him feel he is being the reasonable one, the braver, more mature one who left a dead marriage to find “passion” again, who just got screwed by his unreasonable bitter ex wife, as long as he stays GONE and out of my life…

      • Interesting (and awful). Your. situation certainly matches this author and psychologists views. I’m so sorry you had to go through that and for so long. I think we all know who the better person is in your story. Hugs.

  • For me, the hardest concept to get my head around was that my Ex did not see me as a person, with feelings, needs and emotions. My ex only saw me as an object with certain values. My value was only determined in how I could best serve him. He never said this to me — he was far too clever to say something like that. His actions clearly indicated what he thought. I had to stop listening to his words, and only pay attention to his actions before I finally understood. Being very verbal myself, this was quite difficult for me. I believe in communication and education and all of the other -tions that work for normal people. I could not understand a dysfunctional being who would actually do things that would ultimately harm himself, and destroy our relationship, for a moment of sensory pleasure. He was so glib and so arrogant that he thought he could talk his way out of anything — and being the verbal and trusting chump I was, his plan worked for a long time.

    In the real world, we find our confidence by interacting with others and finding where our strengths and weaknesses lie on a continuum of behavioral interactions. I may be above average in English Lit and average in Math. I may be talented in music and not so talented athletically. All of these little tests and interactions give you a concept of who you are. Normal people understand we all have value, even though our talents may be different. To dysfunctional cake eating cheaters liars and users, we are only more or less valuable to them depending on how much we can provide for them. Those of us who can provide cake and kibbles in several areas may be more valuable to them than those of us who can only serve in one or two areas. They will always be unhappy because they cannot find one chump who will serve them in every way they desire at any time they desire, because this is a physically impossible task. You cannot fill a bottomless pit. These people are like Sink-Holes. Once they open up, they swallow and swallow and everything that comes into contact with them falls into an endless spiral headed for Hell.

    So, once you figure out that even though you may have some work to do on yourself you are fixable, and no matter what these freaks do, they are not, you can free yourself with no guilt. It does not matter if other people understand this. If they have not lived with one of these freaks, they will have a difficult time. If they are like one of these freaks, they will never understand it, because they just don’t think that way. Think about how long it took for you to figure it out, and stop worrying whether others will or not Good luck and stay strong, and trust that they Suck and you no longer have to, because you are no longer involved with them.

    • Portia, the first paragraph of your comment was a *perfect* description of life with my ex-wife. Brilliant and not without appeal but ruthless and ultimately utterly alien from me, my family, and my values. Sometimes I wonder how any of us make it out of that sucking whirlpool of narcissism, sociopathy, co-dependency, and desperation that marriages to such people tend to become.

    • This is so hopeful, uplifting, and well written, Thank You Portia. I need to print this out and reread it often during the times I still feel so lost in the confusing, blame shifted swamp that was my married life for so long. Even now, much of what happened has not made any sense to me.. For someone who is proving to be capable from a very young age of incredible duplicity, some things just didn’t appear to have a lot of thought or planning to them, and weren’t even in his own best interest… I’m getting better with the fact I will never have explanations or closure in the classic sense, and am trying to stop looking for any kind of karma to come back and bite him for the things he’s done without blinking an eye. This entry helps….

    • I also had the realization, right after D-Day, that my Cheating Ex viewed OW exactly the same way, as his opportunity for him, weighing out loud the benefits to him of being with her instead of me, etc. In a way I even felt sorry for OW, because of the callous things he said about her to ME… I realized that he is truly just using her, quite the same way he used me. I describing why he wanted to be with her, he never ONCE said anything about what he could do for HER… just what benefits she would bring to him. Narc alarm!!

  • “You can’t just wander away from your spouse like someone you got bored with at a cocktail party.”

    This gets me every time. The x just up and deciding that he was going to plan his “escape” for twu luv. I wish he had just wandered away without the punishment of waiting until I found out about the supposed “EA only” that he was having. I’m not sure to this day what the reasons are that I deserved to be paid back for, but damn it was cold the way he CHOSE to do things. There was no integrity, no loyalty, no compassion in his reasoning. I don’t think on what his reasons were because I choose not to unwind the skein. Not my monkeys, not my circus. It’s just sad that he did not have anyone else’s feelings but his count. But it is what it is and I am learning to let. it. GO!!!!!

    • My story, too, DeeL!! ^^^^^^ I wished my XH had wandered away before I found out about the ho-worker and the full blown affair (no pun intended) he was having. There is just no way to untangle that skein and there is no way I even want to.

  • LIKE LIKE LIKE!! I even explained it to my ex. Good Lord, what was I thinking trying to explain relationships 101 to a 40+ narc? “It’s ok to fall out of love, it happens. I only ask for you to be honest with me.” gag me!!

  • I read an article on pa about qualities 22 men find attractive in women… Reading through that I cd spot the potential cheaters. See the red flags in what was said by some… But s comment from one guy to that article resonated with me .. Here is his comment verbatim –

    “fell in love with a beautiful 20 year old on the first date, asked her to marry me 6 weeks later, and it will be 45 years this September. How did that happen? Some essentials for both of you: 1.There is a suppressed covenant of good faith in any relationship. You have to mean what you say. 2. Don’t look like an unmade bed — you have to look at each other. 3. It doesn’t matter who is right — the fights cost more than what the fight is about, and most fights are because you didn’t fix the last one. 4.Don’t go to bed angry — settle it then go to sleep. 5. The sun has to rise and set on your significant other and it has to be mutual. 6. Keep your pants on — the world is full of distractions. 7. The ship has no captain — you are both paddling a very narrow canoe. We didn’t have a pot to plant our petunias in when we met. Got degrees, started careers, made a baby, bought a house, mostly cheering each other’s successes. Do it again? In a heartbeat”

    Cheaters don’t get this… They say shit like her ass has to be good or that she must be religious so she will be faithful ( note emphasis on HER being faithful :))….
    Assholes will be assholes. Us chumps have to learn to protect ourselves….

  • It’s so sad that there are no repercussions to infidelity — no impact on settlement, custody, even societal judgment as you say. Hey it’s your fault for not meeting their needs!

  • I needed to read this again today. Thank goodness for you Tracy and for all of you Chumps 😀

    I had a bad night last night…but thanks to Regina and all of you here I have regained my positive attitude and resolve 😀

    Thank you!

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