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Dear Chump Lady, How do I forgive myself?

Jesus-says-meme-generator-no-problemo-i-forgive-you-baby-6f1da4Dear Chump Lady,

I stayed in a marriage with a serial cheater/sex addict. I know I should have been out of there thirty seconds after the first discovery but unfortunately I just emotionally shut down ten seconds after that first discovery. I stayed and ignored obvious incongruities and lies. I stayed and became immune (or total victim?) to manipulations and gas lighting because he was just such a great guy — he couldn’t possibly be what I imagined he was. I stayed and stayed and stayed. I was a long-time chump.

Until I left.

Now I am very slowly regaining the self that I lost. Trying to restore my life to one that honors the values that once meant so much to me — honesty, trust and respect. And I am getting so much closer to Meh about him and what he did.

So my question is — how will I ever forgive myself for staying, and spackling and trying to untangle the skein and all the other things I did as a chump? How do I own what I did to myself, stop beating myself up for it, and move on? Is there a proven process for that? Is there a way to attain Meh for me?


Looking for my own Meh

Dear Looking,

Great question. And it’s the right question. Instead of directing your focus at your cheater — how do I forgive him? You’re asking, how do I forgive myself? There’s so much pressure out there for chumps to forgive cheaters. That this forgiveness is ESSENTIAL. That we are failing our God if we don’t do it. It’s so often cast as this Selfless Thing We Do For Others. Forgiveness as taking the high ground. Who we are, the damage that was inflicted on us, is incidental. Oh, forgiving the cheater is good for us too! Whatever benefit to a chump conferred from forgiving a cheater is a byproduct. An afterthought. And we’re stuck in that same goddamn chump pattern we lived — What Is Important Here Is The Cheater. That they are forgiven.

If you forgive your cheater doesn’t interest me. I’ve written about this and I think forgiveness is simply acceptance. I don’t wish you dead. There, consider yourself forgiven. If chumps want to forgive in some higher altruistic sense and it helps them? More power to them. I would never presume to tell someone they MUST forgive their cheater. It’s a very personal thing.

The greater question, the one you posed, is how do we forgive ourselves for being chumps? For valuing ourselves so little that we ate those shit sandwiches year after year? That we did not assert our worth. That we spackled and colluded in our abuse? How you get over THAT is the journey to Meh.

As a chump, this is a hard thing to write about, because I never want to come off blaming chumps for acts  of infidelity. We get enough of that shit. Chumps don’t make cheaters cheat. Those offenses are all on them. Whatever the crime there is in being a chump, it pales next to the crime of being a cheater. There is no moral equivalence here.

But we must ask ourselves the hard questions of why we tolerated the intolerable, especially after infidelity was discovered. It’s one thing not to know — so many of us were in the dark for a long time. But we put up with the neglect, the verbal abuse, the gas lighting. We often did not assert ourselves as we should’ve. We set a very low price on our value. We chased. We pick me danced. Harder still, is coming to grips with why we stayed AFTER we knew about the cheating. We can dress it up a noble. That we stayed for our children, that we are loyal, we still loved this person who wasn’t behaving lovingly toward us and We Are the Better Person, that we were virtuous unicorns on the road to reconciliation.

We shy away from looking at the dark recesses of our soul. That we were afraid. Of judgement. Of losing our status. Of being wrong. Of losing our financial security. Of starting over. Fear made us cling, and fear made us reach for the hopium pipe.

Until you really start to unpack those issues, I don’t think you can get to Meh. It’s not enough to have the absence of the cheater. You need to take a good, unvarnished look at yourself and go — Christ, I’m not living like that again. I know my worth. I don’t miss that. What the fuck was I THINKING? Wake up from the chump spell.

I think that begins when you discount your cheater’s perception of you. Their judgments of your worth, and you start paying attention to your own true worth. I’m a loyal person. I’m kick ass at my career. I have a loving family. I raised three beautiful children. Whatever it is you love about yourself, you start nurturing that and you choke off supply to cheater thoughts. That you suck at sex, that you weren’t enough, that your thighs are fat, and your head is bald, that you’re lovable, but Not That Loveable. Whatever they said — doesn’t matter. Shift your alliances away from that person and back to yourself.

I made mistakes. I directed my gifts to someone who did not appreciate them. I tried to control the uncontrollable — if this person would betray me again, if I could extract an apology from them, if I could make them love me. Catalog your sins, look at them, and then forgive yourself. You did the best you could and you’re not perfect. Now you know better. Be different next time.

Being cheated on sucks. The pain is a motherfucker. But it’s one hell of a growth opportunity.

This column is a rerun. Feel free to comment!

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  • Needed this today. Made me feel stronger and happier than I have in a long time. Thank you !!!

  • I ask myself daily what in the HELL did you ever see
    in this clown? I have to say..its not what I saw in was what I saw in
    ME! a chubby ugly worthless terrified lil girl…
    it was easy to concentrate on him unstead of looking
    at myself and why I let him do the things I let him do…I have a different outlook takes time..but I found it was my absence of self respect that let it go on..I know better now and am working on self acceptance..that is all I have in me right now..and its enough..

  • Forgive yourself.

    Once you forgive yourself, the world opens up.

    Way to say it like it is, CL. Thanks.

    • I’ve been reading further down the vine and Tempest made a wonderful post about forgiveness. I want to clarify my position.

      I had to forgive myself for giving a “disordered” asshole one moment of my attention that belonged to my children. I was beating myself up over this and finally allowed myself to grieve these moments that are lost to the past and vowed to make it up to them in the future. This really healed me. And, mercifully, I have had the opportunity to be even a better mother to my great kids. Kids are so damn forgiving when we own up to our own bullshit.

  • Awesome advice once again Chump Lady! Being cheated on is one of the most humiliating and degrading experiences a person can ever go through, but you’re absolutely right CL, it’s also an opportunity to remember your own worth and to re-evaluate your boundaries. I don’t know about the rest of Chump Nation but I am forever thankful that I got the chance to rediscover my self-respect and pride, and I know for sure that I will NEVER allow anyone to disrespect me so terribly ever again! Xx

    • I lived 36 years with abuse because I was young, insecure and afraid to leave my hostile and violent acting husband. My recent divorce is what freed me from his abuse and has given me peace that I have never known! People ask me if I will ever forgive him..I say “No….never”! He needs to get forgiveness from God, his sons and all the other people in his pathetic life they he played! Sorry I just don’t care if he lives or dies! He is nothing to me!!!!

      • I think it might be a positive sign that he is nothing to you and you don’t care if he lives or dies. From everything I learned at church, my understanding was that forgiveness is basically an act of letting go. It doesn’t mean that what they did was okay (it wasn’t) nor does it mean that we have to reconcile or have any sort of relationship with the person ever again. As far as I understood it, forgiveness simply means that we should not seek revenge and we should try to get that person out of our headspace and stop harboring ill will towards them, because doing so could keep us from moving forward.

  • My problem is that I’m conflicted. I did put up with a lot of emotional abuse but at the same time I tried to stay true to myself. Most everything I loved and enjoyed were things he disapproved of and he wanted me to give up. And I wouldn’t. I tried to compromise. I asked him once if he’d give up sports which was his be all and end all. “That’s a completely different thing” was his answer. There was one set of rules for him and one for me. I feel like I couldn’t have won no matter what I did. I’m mostly over the self blame but I can’t really completely hate him. I’m not a saint by any means but I was the best wife I could be under the circumstances. I’m working on my self esteem. Maybe that’s the only way I can heal from this.

    • The thing is that you don’t have to hate him. In fact, actively hating your cheater is the antithesis of “meh.” Meh means you no longer care one way or the other, that your X no longer occupies mental or emotional real estate. Hate involves a lot of resources.

      Can you be angry? Yes, and it’s necessary to get angry in order to break away from the cheater. Anger is your way of realizing that the cheater violated you in multiple profound ways: your trust, your health, your finances, your time as a couple/family, your children, etc.

      So the anger is the tool that helps you break free, but hate shackles you to your cheater. Meh liberates you from hate. Meh is the state in which you no longer give a damn what your X does because you are living a life where X is irrelevant.

        • Yes! kb Yes!!! You said it wonderfully!!! I will use that when people try to tell me to release my anger because it’s not good for me. When it’s time I will let it go until then I need it to remain No Contact. Thanks for validating it!

      • Agreed kb! 100%. Hate implies passion; hate takes up your time and resources that can be used for other things. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference or Meh.

        Actually, just as all the cool people in Hollywood have decided that 30 is the new 40 or 40 is the new 50 or whatever age they are and don’t want to be anymore; I think chump nation should say that “Meh” is the new forgiveness.

        When you get to meh officially you have accepted what happened isn’t your fault, you don’t actively hate your ex or wish a slow, painful death to them. You are as indifferent to what happens to them as you would be to a complete stranger. You might feel bad if something awful happened but in the end it wouldn’t really affect your life.

        Yup, Meh should be the new forgiveness.

        • I never looked at it this way. I’m not at “meh” unfortunately but maybe I’ll get there someday.

          • You’ll get there, Lina. I’ve been at meh for a long time. I don’t think I will ever forgive the lying selfish sack of shit x, but I have forgiven myself for letting him waste so much of my time.

        • Great insight and comments KB and Cheaterssuck. One of the many reasons why I LOVE this site.

  • “I think that begins when you discount your cheater’s perception of you.”

    Yes. My cheater functioned with a worldview that made perfect sense if you only accept the premise that I TOTALLY SUCKED…with that as a given then his whole construct functioned well and he had nothing to feel bad about and he wasnt a failure cheater, he was a decent guy who did what he needed to to to amuse himself while married to such a loser

    except that I was – all the while – pretty great

    and after he had done MASSIVE damage and betrayed me profoundly, there were times when he was almost brave enough to admit that I was terrific and that must have been terrifying…if I were a great gal all along then he was the worlds biggest shit and he wasnt going to do that, so he told himself goofy little stories to salve his sad sausage self

    but like you said, even when I didnt know of the infidelity, I stayed for all the fallout from it. I gave love and devotion to this man who discounted me for 26 years and 9 days until God to a stop to the foolishness and ended the marriage the way some marriages end – in death – and thank sweet Jesus that Im not Mormon with one of those “married for eternity” deals, nope..I signed up for the Catholic “until death” program. yea.

      • Catholic here too & signed up for the “until death” program but I don’t have to live with the crazy. You all lift my spirits! You’re hilarious! Lol!

        • bahaaaa! im a believer…but since he has literally tried to kill me more than once…I changed my program to the “I dont give a shit what I said then” program and got the hell out!

          • Im POSITIVE that attempted murder is grounds for running like hell with the Church’s blessing. H told me a few times that he (war seasoned and trained in hand to hand combat) could snap my neck in an instant. The fact that my marriage was so toxic that I wasnt even bothered by that statement is chilling. It would likely have never occurred to him that saying things like that wasnt the way a husband shows love to a wife…oh I forgot, he didnt love me, never mind.

    • Unicornomore,

      I just had a “light bulb” moment. You’re totally right. My XH put me down for years, complaining about everything that was wrong with me and all the time doing this to make himself feel better about what he was doing behind my back.

      I believe I just climbed another step today. Thanks!!!

      • Thank you Unicorn, This was an Ah Hah moment for me too. That is what my XH did as well. Now I need to untrain my children, whom he contaminated as well, not completely but some.

        • Yes, Unicorn,

          I really liked this take, this angle – illuminating. My cheater may not have verbally espoused

          “she was a decent girl who did what she needed to do to amuse herself while married to such a loser”

          but all her actions basically said that. And I truly believe she believes this – that somehow she was more deserving of love than was I, and that I was responsible to bring love into her life, which was not enough, so she had to search for love outside, all the while, not feeling one iota of responsibility or desire to bring love into my life.

          One way.

          This was powerful for me: “I think that begins when you discount your cheater’s perception of you.” As I search inside my darker soul, I realize that I give power to her perception of me – I am still afraid of not taking care of her, of rejecting her, of kicking her out onto the street.

          But at this point, she has rejected me so thoroughly and selfishly, why should I care?

          • Buddy, you shouldn’t care. If you can put aside your big heart and kick her to the curb, you’ll feel better. Taking out the trash is a good thing.

          • Buddy, it’s hard because love may have been there once. I saw glimpses of the spouse my ex was capable of becoming, but his past choices made him who he is today (he is a shell of his former self). Sunk costs, children, time spent together, all those good memories, and years and years of marriage. I had to be really honest with myself though when it all came crashing down. Did I want this?!? No, I wanted and deserved better. I could not see wasting one more day in the company of someone who could so easily betray me (and his kids).

    • Trying to divorce a serial cheater who actually told me after 3 times getting caught marriage is for “better or worse”. The absolute nerve they have. I am Catholic . I talked to my priest along with two other priests from different churches.. I had to make sure it was ok. One told me that my husband was an ass and it was time for me to move on. Another told me that God did not want me to live in hell on earth it was my choice and my right to leave within the rules of the church. THe other priest said the stbx soul was in jeopardy and it was up to him to fix that. There are good clergy out there.
      At least we know we did everything we could. Divorce is their failure not ours.

      • Another catholic here. My priest told me that I would diminish myself spiritually by staying with an unremorseful and unrepentant cheater.

      • My priest told me to get a lawyer. When a Catholic priest tells you to get a lawyer, you know things are bad. He explained to me about not having to stay with an adulterer, and the real deal on annulments,etc. So many misconceptions out there. He talked about forgiveness, but it was more from the perspective of bringing peace to my own heart. I was so relieved, as I had feared getting the old school ‘love your husband’ shtick my mother was fed 40 years ago.

        • Carmella, that’s what my priest told me too. He told me I was a wonderful person and didn’t deserve to be treated that way.

    • Unicornnomore: “he was a decent guy who did what he needed to to to amuse himself while married to such a loser.”

      I’m trying to catch my breath after reading that. I’m now sure my cheater thought something just like that–his extracurricular boinking was just so that he could tolerate marriage to me–I don’t think he thought of me as a loser, but certainly an inadequate wife in so many ways compared to his wonderfulness. Really, the inequality of our spousal worth was so great that I should be grateful he found a way to stay in the marriage. And once I found out about his cheating, of COURSE I wouldn’t leave because he was so wonderful that even blatant infidelity by him didn’t equalize our marriage merits. MFer even put conditions on ME & things I needed to improve for him to be willing to go to therapy after D-day. Overplayed his hand–I refused and asked for a divorce.

      The hubris of these cheaters is amazing.

      • Tempest,

        “I’m now sure my cheater thought something just like that–his extracurricular boinking was just so that he could tolerate marriage to me”

        Cheaters MUST think of the chump as ‘horrible’. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to reconcile cheating in their own minds.

        Most cheaters DO NOT BELIEVE CHUMP ARE ‘HORRIBLE’/terrible spouses/lousy cooks/lousy in bed, etc.

        If a cheater ever starts to tell you these negative things about you, look them right in the eye and without blinking or raising your voice, say to them (with controlled anger), “You and I BOTH know that’s not true”. Repeat every time they say that.

        Most of the time, it rattles them.

        Cheater’s don’t cheat because of who WE are; they cheat because of who THEY are.

        • Gypsy–Although it’s rarely that direct (or certainly wasn’t with mine). What he claimed was that I had done certain things that slowly alienated him, leading him to find solace in the arms of a grad-whore. And those things I had “done” had the ring of truth, because they capitalize on (a) knowing your vulnerabilities and weaker skills, and (b) knowing chumps will feel guilty that they didn’t live up 100% to expectations. It wasn’t until I started re-reading X’s old emails after D-day that I realized how GOOD he was at emotional manipulation in a very subtle, intelligent way. Even though my inner-bitch is mighty, and I fought against his worst manipulations during the marriage, the subtle undermining and blameshifting was masterful to behold, and couldn’t help but sow some self-doubt in me. In the end, it didn’t work–I kicked him out and refused to accept blame for his wandering dick, but those subtle digs are the ones that kept me up at night thinking “If I had had lunch with him somedays as he asked, and done x, y, z….could I have prevented the marriage from slowly sinking to the point of his cheating?

          The only way to prevent those thoughts is to know that X was a serial cheater in his former marriage to a woman who excelled at traits X & Y, but was poor at A & B. I had traits A & B in abundance, but failed at X. In both marriages, X cheated copiously. Why? Because serial cheaters will ALWAYS find a flaw in the other person that “justifies” their cheating. This is a powerful realization, but the slow burn of his gaslighting is something I had to fight very hard against mentally (and I am no pushover).

          • Very true! There’s always some ‘flaw’ that compels them to act out. Mine was using the black of sex at home I was failing to meet his ‘needs’, but then I found out a bunch more of his secrets. He never was not seeing prostitutes. Ever. His prior wife was a prostitute (really) and he still saw other prostitutes, and she ‘wasn’t affectionate enough’, drank too much, wouldn’t go to swinger events enough… seriously! It kind of cracked me up the degree to which he will reach to find the reason that he is still a great guy and it’s all the other persons fault- but it also makes me nauseous. Especially since the subtle stuff really got to me on a subconscious level even when I knew it was untrue.

          • W is/was an absolute master at that – finding something with the tiniest kernel of truth and somehow elevating whatever it is to a major flaw. And realizing I am empathetic enough that I would take it to heart and see her side of it. And before I knew it, wow, in her eyes she would have reason to believe I must be a pretty rotten husband.

            The other trick was the fauxpology. “I’m sorry I did what I did/said what I said. But I want to share something with you. For some time now, you have been neglectful, not treating me right, (insert shortcoming or inadequacy). And your behavior upset me very much. So, do you understand now why I may have acted/spoken the way I did? And how I might have felt the way I did? Do you have something you would like to say to me?

            And I would sit there thinking four fingers was five.

            • @chumpguy … sorry, no. you were thinking a single (middle) finger was five. You held out a hand and that is what you got in response

              • Tempest: Excellent series of posts by you today. I have read them with great interest. I divorced my cheater ex 16 years ago – reached meh ages ago; nevertheless, reading these posts today continues to re-affirm the choice I made to leave a toxic marriage. I am celebrating 11 years of a very happy marriage to a fellow chump this month. However, it did take me 5 years to reach a point where I could fully commit to another man. So, for all chumps who have just had your lives collapse because of your spouses infidelity, and are in the bleakest and darkest time of your life – this too shall pass. Not quickly, sometimes achingly slowly, but with chump fortitude you will see better days. And they will be better than you ever imagined.

              • Tflan386–you are an inspiration. We have to heal with our eyes on the long game. I’m not sure how long it takes before chumps stop being felled by memories or glossing over the past on odd days. 9.5 months from D-day, 4 months after divorce, I am as far ahead in crafting a new life as I could be. But then odd days just make me want to shake my head at the complete waste of energy and emotion caused by breaking up a family for some cheap thrills. The days I am indifferent are more frequent than they used to be, but I’m still incredulous about having married a monster.

            • Chumpguy, my experience has been the same. I didn’t even recognize it until DDay.

    • So glad my story helped light some lightbulbs over peoples heads.

      Loser wasnt the right word…narcs would never admit they married a loser…he would have wanted to present me well but not value me at the same time…so revise my thoughts to read:

      he would have thought that cheating was a more noble manner of dealing with the angst of staying in a marriage that he never wanted and never agreed to and was pressured into against his will.

      Poor sausage, had no say at all in who he married (cue the eye rolling)

      this all makes so much mores sense than the single affair theory I had for years. If that had been the case, he might have relished his second chance at his family…could never figure out where his sense of doom came from, but it came from hiding the biggest ugliest secret ever.

      • Mine realised, with help from final OW, that he had been too young and immature to be married when he was and that was the reason he was driven to conduct secret affairs with any workmate who would take him on.
        If only he had waited a few more years and grown up first then he would have chosen a wife more wisely and spared us all so much heartache – no doubt he would have been a husband loyal and true to the lucky lady – but I snared him when he was little more than a babe in arms.
        OW worked her way through two failed marriages herself so her own choices were no more sound than his.
        Now they are both fifty plus so they can look forward to thirty years or so of their golden years with not a single indescretion.
        Put another way – I had his youth and she gets his old age.

  • I am working on forgiving myself. But the more difficult thing is believing that I can ever trust myself to see the reality of another person. At this point I feel that I can never trust another human being again. I don’t want to ever get hurt like this again and I don’t feel my picker is up to par. If I made this one huge mistake in my life I’m afraid I would make the same mistake again. Both my friend and my therapist say that I’m not the same person as I was. That I would pay attention to red flags and I would expect to be treated as well as I would treat another person. Maybe. But I’m not so sure.

    I have to forgive myself for putting myself last in my relationship. We empaths attract narcs and If it took me so long to figure my stbx out, how on earth would I figure someone else in time? I’m mad at myself for not taking care of me and of putting all my effort into making my narc happy. I’m mad that I’m a compassionate, empathetic person, but that’s is me. I know there is a chance that an empath can become a narc when something like this happens but I don’t want that. I want to be myself and also protect myself from others. I need to figure out how to do that.

    • Surrounding yourself with people that you want to be like. One in one hundred people are awesome. Go NC with the 99.
      (my strategy)

      • If you ever run across a chump with other interests in common, it will be a match made in heaven.

        • I’m also regretful that I followed advice that rewarded the ex for cheating on me. I feel that when you change something about yourself to deal with the cheating you are rewarding them. The entire pick me dance, I guess. I did rebel some, at least, so I’m proud of that.

    • I decided to take the risk of trusting again and Im glad I did…my fiance is a very decent man. He was chumped and dumped by a really cranky woman. He is kind and sweet and helpful…plus he has a high level Fed job so Uncle Sam puts his ass against a polygraph every few years and he has more money than me. I met him when I was 10 and dated him at 19. I think he is a bit an outlier though, 50 yr old single trustworthy financially independent men willing to date women their same age aren’t hanging out on every corner. He is a little silly (silly Federal Agent…strange combo) but I can do silly

      • Congrats on your upcoming marriage, Unicornnomore!! You have earned some happiness.

    • Dear fellow chumps who deal with this issue, i found a beautiful quote online that says:
      Forgive yourself for the blindness that put you in the path of those who betrayed you. Sometimes a good heart doesn’t see the bad.

      That is so true, we love from a good heart with pure intentions, and they don’t. I also have a problem with forgiving the cheater. But i did get to a place where I forgave myself. I forgave my self for allowing him to keep on disrespecting me by his cheating. After the first d day, i never put up boundries of what i would not put up with. I allowed him to decide how we would continue . Dr. Phil said “You teach people how to treat you” and it’s true. By accepting the first, and then the second and third Dday, I taught him that it was ok to treat me this way. When the last Dday came around last year, when he cheated on me with his 25 year howorker who was a family friend, I finally had enough. After 23 years of marriage I had enough.
      It was by no means easy, because I went to the whole list of emotions that comes with the devastation.
      But at the ripe age of 46 I finally put up my boundries of what was not acceptable, and kicked him to the curb.

      • If I ever found myself in a cheating situation again, I would leave IMMEDIATELY, because I understand some things about human nature – and certain kinds of people – that I didn’t know before.

        Infidelity is like getting pummeled by a truck full of cinder blocks, only the beat down is emotional. That we don’t think rationally or in our best interest is no big surprise. Throw in some ignorance – and that human trait called denial – and you get stuck in a quagmire. And you get even more beat down and more stuck as more shock and disappointment follow.

        All in all, I mostly acted just like anybody else would in that same situation. I should forgive myself for being human? I survived one of the most difficult things imaginable, and came out a much better person for it. I’m too proud of that to be ashamed of anything. At the end of the day, I.kicked.ass!

        Don’t concentrate on what you didn’t do in your weakest moment (that you didn’t bring on yourself!), concentrate on what you are doing for yourself NOW. To find the gumption to leave someone who was controlling you through abuse is no small thing. You have so much to be proud of.

    • foolmet2wice, I felt the same way. It took me a few years of working on my picker, but at some point it became a matter of theory vs practice, and it felt like time to take my new improved picker out for a spin. And lo and behold, I spotted the first (okay, maybe it was the second) red flag **immediately** because I had learned to listen to my gut instinct telling me “this guy is a player. Steer clear!”

      That was one of the most empowering moments of my life. So I’m writing to tell you it DOES get better. Give yourself the time and room you need to learn to spot those red flags for what they are. It feels so great when you do.

  • These days, it is my family and friends who ask me what I saw in him, now that they know he is gone for good.
    I do not explain to them that I loved being valued and admired by a tall, good looking younger man. That he lost the affection of his dad (divorce) at the same age as I did (death) and had the same disillusioned attitude towards life and people. That he enjoyed spending hours in the “flow” of creating something just like I did. That he was not interested in children, and had never been – something so many people cannot understand. That he loved computers too, had a superior IQ and our humor and conversations matched quite well. That he had been alone for most of his youth and was so happy to be with me. That we were a team of introverts who loved animals and were not so good at socializing (he was much worse). That he was not interested in women and I could feel safe in his company, at last, and find the comfort that I had been missing all along.
    What a joke.
    Everything changed at the flip of a switch after 10 years. He started saying nasty things, had fits of rage, cheated, lied, neglected our home completely, there was not much left to like. The cheating was not apparent, so I wasted years trying to figure out what was wrong, how we could restore what we had. Can’t really blame myself for it.
    Now I am terrified, because on dating sites all suggestions to me are bloated unattractive grey haired men I could never imagine touching, and when I go out it’s not much better, people take pride in sleeping around, or have quite vulgar conversations, or speak about their children for hours, and I go home depressed. It looks like I will never find someone I could love, I am getting older and most single men of the same age that I meet are repulsive mentally and physically.

    • Your story is very similar to mine. My stbx and I had virtually identical interests. About 10 years ago he started treating me different. He said that his feelings changed 4 years ago, which was when he met the AP. Unfortunately for me it took me over 35 years to figure him out. I haven’t tried dating sites, but I realize I need to find people with similar interests to me. I’m looking into volunteering with arts groups. I’m hoping I’ll at least find friends who have similar interests.

      • That’s a good idea. Use my interests to meet similar people. What do you call “arts group”, foolmet2wice ? How did you get to know them ?

        • I googled them. I live near Charlotte and found Blumenthal Performing Arts, The Actor’s studio, and others. Most arts groups have volunteer programs that you can apply for on line. Most counties have county arts groups that provide grants for local arts groups. Most of the performing arts groups look for ushers and box office workers when they have performances. The cool thing about that is that volunteers get free tickets. There are arts groups for visual arts, etc. In fact I was a founding board member for my little town’s art group. How the mayor got my name I’ll never know haha. I want to volunteer for more than performances, but any way to get my food in the door to find out other volunteer opportunities is fine with me. Hey, I’m working for free and as arts groups’ funding gets cut, I figure they need me!

          • Ha, Charlotte, of all places ! My American relatives live there. One of them visited and that’s when hell broke loose, ex got jealous that I was busy showing the area to someone else, D-day happened, etc. Anyway, thank you for the information, there may be similar groups on the French Riviera.

            • Now that my stbx is gone, I have little keeping me in Charlotte. It was fine when I was working and the cost of living is less that NJ, which is where I moved from many years ago. I have his family with in 2 – 5 hours from me. They were helpful in the beginning but don’t really want to talk about it anymore. I also have some friends here. Charlotte is not my style so I’ve been thinking about where I would want to live. I haven’t decided that yet and I don’t want to move before my divorce is final next year. Anyway, that’s why I want to volunteer with arts groups to find creative, tolerant people.

              • Foolme – I’m with ya sista. I too am waiting to leave town when the divorce is final. I moved to this town because of stbx and his family. With my kids grown and 2 of them living north of me, there is no reason to stay. I grew up in the Twin Cities, but don’t want to go back there – now I live about an hour south of Minneapolis. I’m thinking somewhere south and get out of this cold weather! My friend and I took a road trip down to Arkansas over Memorial Weekend to check out the area. I’m giving it a lot of thought….

    • Meh to me will be never be reached while I have to return to the much dreaded dating zone.

    • ChumpfromF—your last paragraph, regarding dating and what is available is EXACTLY HOW I FEEL and what I have experienced on dates.

      The XBF was a very handsome, sexy and fit man who looked and acted far younger than his years. The slugs and slobs on dating sites are the most hideous and repulsive fuddy duddy beasts imaginable. I cannot picture myself with any man after the XBF.

      • I too did the rounds of the dating sites. Net result = learned a fair bit about disordered people. Met a few nice boring slobs too. And realized why so many guys of a certain age are single.

        Best man I’ve met so far was a fellow chump who sat beside me on a plane for 13 hours. When he suggested we meet again, I gave him one of my disposable email addresses…he contacted me a few weeks later and we did date for a while. It is long distance though, so will take a while if ever for us to get serious. Fun in the meantime though.

        Good plan = accept that you may be single now for a long time and learn to love being independent. Not sure i’d give up my freedom now, but that doesn’t stop having some enjoyable relationships along the way.

      • Dating sites are not all slobs and slugs. There are plenty of healthy and handsome people out there of all ages.

        Maybe they won’t be an Adonis like your ex, but beauty fades and character is permanent. Hopefully the longer you’re a part from your ex, the less his attractive he will seem.

  • I’m not saying I’m glad my world was turned upside down and I was left for dead due to financial abuse and then cheating and abandonment, but because of this horrific experience I truly am stronger. I truly am learning about who I am, what I want, what my values are, what I want my mark to be. If I had stayed in that marriage (even before the cheating) I would never have gotten to where I am today.

    I thought I was weak and afraid and found out I’ve got more strength than I ever could have imagined.

    (Thanks in large part to ChumpLady and Chump Nation).


  • It took me awhile to realize I didn’t do a damn thing to cause him to cheat forgive me , I have forgiven me, forgive him, never! If only these assholes could just once look you in the eye and just say I’m so so sorry I hurt you and mean it. Not in their DNA. Great post. Chump lady and chump nation helped me forgive myself.

  • Such a great post CL! Thank you again for posting it.

    When I found this link below”

    I was able to really understand the mental way that these cheaters think and act. When I found the link above it answered all of my questions that I had during the time I was with him and also the years after I left and during the divorce process. Since finding the link above I have been able to forgive myself. I will never ever forgive him and her and his family and my family for the damage they have done. I have been in 100% no contact will all of them for many years now. Even with the no contact I still had questions; however, since finding the link above I don’t have them any longer. That is really when my healing process started for my soul.

    The relationship cycle that these things create is so evil that really no words can describe how much damage and pain they cause. Now I am fully able to say to myself I just did not have the information back then as I do now. I always had red flags about the ex and as CL wrote above about the fears of the leaving the relationship I had them all. I was in a deep deep fog for many years after the first D-Day. Also there were many years after the first D-Day I didn’t remember but now I do and now I fully understand I was dealing with PTSD. The more I read about these Cluster-B Personality Disorder things the more I see the ex and his ow (that he married) are and yes his family also and sadly many of my own family members are one of these individuals. What a diseases to world they are!

    I do not care about when people say you MUST forgive the cheater and the surrounding parties (the Other Person and family and friends that “help” these fools). I don’t believe in that. I do believe in forgiving myself. That is a very hard process. I fully think that knowledge is power to truly heal and forgiving yourself during this process to move toward Meh to the ex and mostly to yourself.

    • Beth, I listened to the same blogtalk radio episode you have linked above just a few weeks ago! You’re right, it’s so informative and helpful. Thank you for sharing it with us! Sending you hugs for your journey to Healing and Meh.

      • I have spent the past month listening to this post cast, more times than I care to admit. Every time my head thinks, how can he be happy with her… I would listen to this. As they say, their disorder is their’s and it is going with them where ever they go. No new woman, no new situation can cure it, because it shows up in an fMRI in a section of the brain that does not light up, like yours and mine. I find this so freeing. It has allowed me to look at people in a whole new light. I know longer think, well perhaps if I was nicer to you, you would be a better person. Now I know, I am dealing with a different species. For the next year, I am going to be practicing my Cluster B radar as a course of my regular life. Before I even consider dipping my toe into the love pool, I need to see these people coming. There are also some really great other podcasts too. Their books How to Spot a Dangrous Man and Women Who Love Psychopaths, are really great too.

        • Boudica Reborn and ringinonmyownbell you are most welcome and sending you hugs for your journey also. I read those books also. Great books.

    • The first few married years were great only because I admired him, fed his ego and shared his interests. After we had children I matured and began moving to the next level – partners in a marriage raising these wonderful gifts from God. Unfortunately, this is when I first discovered that there was something wrong. As my attention was now divided between husband and children, I realized I had been the one holding our “relationship” together. Slowly, I began to pull back to see what would happen. To my surprise our “connection” slowed to a near halt. I felt sick to my stomach. I’m no quitter and I respected my vows. I tried harder to make it work while hiding my growing disappointment.

      The kids were school aged when I wanted to return to work. He made this difficult (would not make lunches, dress them or drive them and I had to leave an hour earlier than he did) so I was forced to begin a new career with more flexibility – meaning I could work but I would also continue to manage the kids, grocery shop, make all meals as well as clean the home and perform the yard work/snow shoveling yeah!

      I discovered the affair when I called him at work in order to help with the kids one afternoon. We went to counselling. He wouldn’t apologize for the affair. He didn’t think he did anything wrong. He said he needed someone to “talk to”. I said what about me?

      I know it’s all bullshit now but he groomed me. Instead of leaving (I did kick him out for a month) we resumed status quo after the affair. I forgave him because he made it my fault. Fast forward 10 years and it didn’t get any better (no kidding). I stayed because I was not financially secure (yet) and yes, I did it for the children. Not because they needed him to be a father – but because he was/is a soul-less fucktard and I was damned if he was going to manipulate or inflict pain on them as he had done to me.

      It almost killed me – I became ill (fainting, concussion, gallbladder attacks) and near financial ruin (he bought himself two of everything but always questioned if the kids really needed new shoes lol) all the while the house fell down around us. He “lost” his job and took another paying nothing (just before he planned to abandon us).

      Funny how all my health problems disappeared after he left! I am 6 months out and 90% NC. The further I distance myself from the situation the more clearly I see it. Yes, I have battled with the reasons why I stayed and have second guessed myself to no end but I know I did right by my children. It’ll be a long road to full recovery but I’m happily on it. I know there were many other women and another whore at the moment (he’s all yours sunshine lmao). He is a lazy, sociopathic, narcissistic, wanker asshat who wanted endless kibble and no responsibility. NC is the only way to go – stronger every day and hoping for meh within the year. Thank you CL and Chump nation – couldn’t have done it without all the awesome people here :D!

      • He wouldn’t apologize for the affair. He didn’t think he did anything wrong. He said he needed someone to “talk to”.
        I got the EXACT SAME bullshit!

        • The ex said the same thing to me also. Never apologise for the affair. Said he needed someone to “talk to” also. When I asked him if he understood how I felt this was about 1 year later and he lovely and caring reply was “I think you are jealous” with an evil smile on his face. I knew then he would never get what he did was wrong and there was nothing I can do to save the marriage. From what I have read that is a very common reply from these monsters. Just pure evil.

          • I got that too “I’ve been lonely and he was someone to talk to – someone who shared similar interests.”

            And I thought the same thing “what about me?”

          • No kidding, but somehow the cheaters understanding each other isn’t complete until they check out each other’s genitals! And then of course it becomes their “Twu wuv soulmate”! Gag!

            • Very true Tempest and Roberta. Some of the many red flags I had with the ex. Their way of thinking and processing why they do is twisted.

      • ChumpNomore, your situation was my situation.

        I worked as a prosecuting attorney when my kids were young and had a 96 mile-a-day round trip commute to work. I really loved my work and was good at it! My husband decided that he wanted to work a 4/10 schedule so he could have Fridays off. He never consulted with me about it-he just did it! So what did that mean for me? He would be out of the house in the morning to work. He did not then have to get the kids to daycare or pick them up- that was my stress and worry 80% of the time. If he did on occaission pick the kids up from daycare so I could work late, I would come home to find him asleep in bed with the kids awake in bed next to him. They would be watching T.V. -still in their school clothes. I remember going out to the kitchen and finding that they had eaten sugar cookies for dinner! No sir, the STBXH wasn’t going to cook for them, bathe them, brush their teeth, read them stories or put them in pajamas. He would just go to bed when he was tired and then I could do it all when I got home! It was MY problem- not his!

        Later he transferred his job to Buffalo, NY and Houston, TX. The kids and I stayed behind. He would come visit us every 6 – 8 weeks but for several years I raised the kids alone, volunteered at their schools, helped them with homework etc., and put on the brave face. I told them that we were the Three Muskateers- all for one and one for all! I moved them with me with for a few months to my hometown and they attended my old elementary school so I could assist in the family home and help take care of their grandfather who suffered from Alzheimers. They learned to read to Grandpa, walk VERY s- l- o- w- l- y with Grandpa twice a day and go over family picture albums to help his memory. They learned about patience and commitment. They watched as my mother and I dealt with my father’s sun downing symptoms and Alzheimer related psychosis. Now my kids missed their friend and it was tough for everybody- but you know what? My kids learned about commitment and sacrifice. In 2011, my cousin and her husband visited bringing their sweet but severely mentally handicapped daughter so they could attend a 50th Jubilee celebration of another cousin who was a priest. My proud moment was when my cousin, commented on my kids who were then just 16 and 12 years old. She was amazed and impressed with how patient and unfazed they were being around and engaging with her disabled daughter in public as we walked around and enjoyed the local zoo. I beamed at her and told her it was from helping me care for their grandpa over the years.

        All of this meant that I ended up quitting my full-time job to try and run a criminal law practice from home around my kids’ schedule. My income took a severe hit and my STBXH blamed me for the last 11 years for not contributing significantly to the income in the house. Now that my 16 year-old daughter can drive, I am looking for a full-time job and about to go back to work. I have credit to rebuild, house repair issues, community debt he has abandoned, but I will do it this time and not hold onto hopium any more. So, I try not to think about the time wasted on him-instead I will remember that I sacrificed my soul and mental well-being for many years. I was a pretty good mom to my kids and they could count on me to be there when they needed me. Also, I am comforted by the fact that I was able to give back to my parents who gave me so much. You see, I will be fine because I am one of the three muskateers 🙂

        • Wow Hope49! You are mighty! Congrats for everything you did and the wonderful children YOU rise!!!!!

        • Beautiful! Hope49 you have plenty to be proud of. He’s a loser & he lost a good person-You! Your children are blessed because they have you!

        • He NEVER deserved you. But, you did get those children from him, the only good thing he had to give!
          Bravo for being a spectacular, dedicated Mom, and daughter!

    • I personally do not believe in forgiving anyone that has decisively and methodically committed acts of cheating, stealing, bashing or engaging in any other underhanded acts. I think the best bet is to move on and away from these people if not possible physically then emotionally. Call it karma, Law of the Universe or just desserts, these types of people get theirs in the end, usually when you have legitimately reached “meh” and don’t give a rat’s behind.

  • I agree that the fear piece is a major factor (some thoughts here: And I concur with CL a major part is unplugging the cheater’s narrative from our minds…we have to stop being defined by what they say. We don’t have to agree.

    Finally, I found it helpful–as a Christian–to remind myself that I have already been forgiven of my sins and mistakes as I have confessed them. It is a matter of flexing our spiritual muscle on this matter. As we are reminded of our failures and sins, we need to fight back reminding ourselves that has been dealt with (I John 1:9) and not allowing ourselves to wallow in self-pity/self-bashing.

    • DivorceMinister, from your blog: “Are you worried about how … your pastor will respond to you in this situation?”
      I went to talk with the pastor’s wife. She has no empathy at all. She looked at me as if I was annoying her. She said she couldn’t do anything since we were already living in sin, as we are not married. Oh great, now I must find a man my age who goes to church every sunday and is willing to marry, with such a filter my chances are down to zero, this is not America, there are less than 20 people in the church, most are unemployed or challenged in some way. The pastor’s speeches are brilliant, but I did find his wife’s attitude very demanding. It’s not that I don’t WANT a prince charming who proposes, it’s that he never showed up despite a very long journey in many places. I got the best option I could find, and it was not so great, thank you very much for the comfort.

      • CFF,

        Your story with the pastor’s wife reminds me of the disciples asking Jesus to call down brimstone on the hated Samaritans. Jesus rebuked them. Her response sounds less than helpful or empathetic. You have to wonder what sort of friend she would be to someone who is just dating and has a major/awful breakup. Yikes.

        Keep your head up, CFF! You are worth it as a person with or without a “Prince Charming.” As CL here keeps reminding all of us, know your worth. You are priceless!


  • I think the hardest part for me is that my STBX hit me on d day with some complaints with the marriage that were valid. He hit me at my vulnerable spots, where he knew I was vulnerable. And I did try to change, I tried to dance, I tried to cajole, I tried to fix the issues. And all he did was keep seeing that whore behind my back.

    I thought for a long time that my best efforts just weren’t good enough. Whatever I did to try to make things better, he found excuses on why it wasn’t good enough. He never really gave me credit for working on the marriage, which hurt almost as much as the relationship with the whore.

    Once he told me “I know you think you tried, but you really didn’t”… blew me away. Not trying would have meant throwing his ass out on Dday, which is what he deserved, but I continued to try to find a reason to stay in the R. Out of concern for my kids, out of fear, out of loyalty, ultimately out of love. I still loved him. Despite all he did to me. I wanted to make it work. I danced, I found a marriage counselor, I tried to tick all of his boxes.. none of it mattered.

    Chumplady once said most chumps are good loyal people and that loyalty can be exploited. That’s why I think it makes this even harder on us to disconnect. Why it takes many of us months/years to give up.

    • I tried as hard to fix it as hard as I could post D-Day, and it was miserable. Nothing I did was right, or enough, and the goal posts were constantly moving. She was the one cheating, but SHE was the one who was angry at ME during that Godawful time. Up was certainly down for a while.

      She went to a counselor a couple of times and then quit – said it “wasn’t helpful”. She heard some things she didn’t like so she simply stopped going.

      And now, as a result of this worthless pick me dance and process, which was by far the most humiliating part of this whole mess, she feels entitled to claim the narrative of “WE tried, but it just didn’t work.” She was unhappy in the marriage, but she nobly hung in and tried to fix it for as long as she could.

      Oh well, we didn’t cause them to have their problems, we cannot control them, and we cannot cure them.

      • I feel you Chumpguy… dealt with the same thing. Goal posts moving… I would address one thing and he’d find something else I did wrong. One day he actually told me the things I do around the house, cook, clean, take care of kids, laundry.. those didn’t show love. Then the next day complained I never made the meals he liked. He would contradict himself. Despite me asking WEEKLY what kinds of meals he wanted (see I do the shopping). Complained not enough sex.. so I started initiating him first thing in the morning (no kids, nights he always works out and is tired) and he complained about that!!! Wanted to do it more during the day…. HELLO we have KIDS and WORK. Nothing was ever enough and it was all my fault.

        He wants so badly to pin this whole thing on me.. wants it to be my fault SO BADLY that he will cling to the narrative that he’s the good guy and I am a terrible wife. That’s why he won’t admit the obvious fling with the whore.. if he did that, he’d have to admit fault. And he can’t do that. That blows up the carefully constructed reality that he clings to.

        • I’ve pretty much gotten to where I’ve written this kind of stuff off as her issue, and hopefully you have gotten there also. But every now and then I can’t help but ruminate along the lines of “Gee, maybe if I had been a little more of this, a little less of that, all this wouldn’t have come to pass.”

          But I do know deep down now if it weren’t one thing, it would have been another. From the outside it seems easy to decipher. Yours picks the one time it isn’t feasible to have sex and says that is when it has to be. And it’s your problem. And your fixing dinner isn’t exciting or spontaneous. But then you’re inadequate because you didn’t hand feed him sushi and sake in a tight kimono or something. And even worse, if you were really a good wife worthy of him, he wouldn’t have to SPELL IT OUT for you. WTF with these people?!

          But when you are in the middle of the briar patch, it’s not so easy to think clearly and extricate yourself.

  • We are nest builders for the most part. Unless you are abandoned then untangling the “stuff” you have accumulated through the years, the church you(might) attend together, the friends you share, the children you have can be overwhelming. You have probably made so many excuses for his/her behavior over the years that it is automatic. You are bound together by millions of strings. You may hate his guts but you still have to take scissors and cut each of those threads. All the while you are worried about finances, where to live, what to give up, how to proceed. It can be, and probably is, overwhelming. Cut yourself some slack. You did the best you could. I love the song that starts, “I can see clearly now the rain is gone. It’s going to be a bright, bright sunshiney day”. Hope your day is filled with sunshine because you can see clearly. He is not in your way any more.

  • Think about all the chumpy traits it takes to try to keep advancing a marriage: loyalty, self-sacrifice, responsibility, compassion, taking the other person’s perspective. love, and the ability to forgive. Those of us who were in emotionally abusive relationships, even before we found out about the cheating, had those traits in abundance. The problem is not with those traits; those are *desirable* traits. The problem is they were misdirected to someone who viewed our loyalty as a weakness, something to be capitalized upon.

    Some of us fought back for our own sense of identity, leading to a more contentious marriage; others of us kept silent and gave up ground to keep the peace. While not healthy, both strategies are honorable, but directed to the wrong target. Had we been in marriages with people *not* programmed to usurp all the good in us, and weaken us so as to better control us, loyalty and compassion and the ability to forgive would have led to a GREAT marriage. The shame is not on us.

    Wrong-footing us, making us think that our positive traits (like helping others) are actually flaws, is the ingenious strategy of cheaters and emotional abusers. When they convince us, insidiously, that up is down and down, up, they remove the solid footing on which our psychological health rests. Deep inside, most of us knew down was not up, but how many battles can one endure in one marriage?

    And most of us who stayed with men or women we knew to be emotionally abusive were subject to the slot machine effect–intermittent reinforcement leads to behaviors hardest to extinguish. in rats. in dogs. in pigeons. in chimps. in chumps. After those dry spells of little affection or love but copious criticism, we know that if we tough it out, and keep pressing that marriage lever, eventually we will get a pile of love coins from the cheater. Then the cycle starts again, as we continue pressing the lever, never knowing *when* the next love reinforcement will occur, but confident that it will if we try hard enough.

    We don’t need to forgive ourselves for caring and positive traits, or for being subject to laws of behaviorism that are deeply embedded in the human (and animal) psyche. We just need to say: NEVER AGAIN.

    • Brilliant, Tempest. Thank you.

      For me, it’s seeing our marriage was doomed from the start. We both seemed to unconsciously play the roles we saw in our own parents. My mother was the daughter of an alcoholic, so she taught me how to make my needs small and enable men who did whatever they wanted. His father was a selfish man who treated his wife like shit. Ta-Da! History did repeat itself.

      I won’t let that happen again.

      • Thank you Tempest, and Chump Lady, slowly I am unpacking all of this stuff and finding I was a rat.

    • I’m ashamed that I neglected my health for a marriage that didn’t exist. I’m paying for it in spades. More like two spades and a raspberry. Slot machines are cruel and unusual punishment. Thank you {{{Tempest}}}. Signed, one of the s a r a s.

    • Thank you Tempest, for articulating the concept I wanted to contribute, but was struggling to form.

      I do struggle with the idea that I should ‘forgive myself’ for being a chump. In a ‘successful’, ‘healthy’, ‘respectful’ marriage you could easily say the chumpy traits of tolerance, forgiveness, compassion, forebearance, trust, belief etc etc are pretty much necessary from both partners to make it work. It’s that or the very first ‘grumpy mood’ is the undoing!

      Whatsmore, if we’ve grown up in a family (and most, though sadly not all, of us have) we’ve learned that there are times when we may very well have not liked our family members a great deal, but, especially as children, there’s been little choice but to ‘suck it up’. I love my parents and my siblings but, honestly, there’s been many times I’ve hated each and every one of them (and I’d put money on that they’ve hated me too). Each and every one of them have said / done things that I’d considered disrespectful at the time, just as I’m sure I’ve done / said things that have hurt my mum/dad/brother/sisters. But, you know what…. I’m 52 and those same people are there for me now, just as I am there for them too. They are the people I go to in times of trial and tribulation, and they come to me to share their highs and lows too. They are family and they taught me how to be a chump. They also taught me real love (as opposed to ‘romantic love’), loyalty, forgiveness, compassion. They taught me how to share and how to care. If I must forgive myself for being a chump then I have to forgive myself for learning those higher lessons too because they came as part of the same package. I ‘put up with’ being treated like shit because there were times when I had to ‘put up with’ blazing rows and childish squabbles and having to accept that my family was NOT made up of perfect people. They weren’t , we aren’t … I haven’t met a perfect family yet, and would probably be freaked out by them if I did meet them!

      I gave my best in my farcical marriage. Had ‘The Great I Am’ possessed anything resembling a character or even balls, then it could have been a different story. Fact of the matter is the man validates his existence on this planet by taking pleasure in duping people. That makes him a sad, sack of shit and I don’t need to forgive myself for not second-guessing his mental processes.

      Anyway, that’s my take on the whole ‘how do I forgive myself’ debate 🙂

      • So true, Jayne–loyalty, compassion, & forgiveness in relationships with normal people helps create stronger bonds. No one is perfect, few families-of-origin are perfect, but laudable traits keep us going even in times of conflict. Why? Because those positive traits aren’t used against us (and using them against us to their advantage is the hallmark of cheaters and abusers).

        • So right, Tempest. We Chumps just keep digging deeper to give more, until we’ve reached our toenails and the demands just keep on coming. Then it’s time to go, as a matter of self preservation.

      • Jayne, I’m not saying forgive yourself for being duped. NONE of us could know that.

        I’m also not saying to call into question your good qualities of compassion and forbearance. I’m living proof that all those good “chump” qualities, when directed in a good marriage, reap great benefit.

        What i AM saying is that at some point in most of our narratives, the situation was toxically lopsided. We’re being patient and kind with people who are not being patient and kind with us. We’re directing a hell of lot more kibbles than the occasional “jack pot” kibble we receive. We’re weighing that small kibble as having infinitely more value than our kibbles, which are just assumed.

        THAT is the kind of shit treatment we need to recognize so we don’t take it forward. Not to not give kibbles or be an understanding partner, but to recognize when a relationship is seriously out of whack – and not tolerate it. That’s with or without cheating. Cheating is one of the more severe forms of disrespect and emotional abuse, but there are others.

        I spackled. I accepted a lopsided relationship. I invested way, way more than I got back. I own it, I understand it, and I won’t be that person again. Which is not to say I haven’t given a ton in my relationship now. (All my good chump qualities remain intact.) The difference is my husband reciprocates in spades. And that reciprocity feels VERY different than any relationship I was in before.

        • Totally agree [just in case it wasn’t clear from my post above–NEVER AGAIN means never allow our positive traits to be used against us, not stop using those positive traits in relationships. “Toxically lopsided” is an excellent way to put it–no more “toxically lopsided.”]

        • Sorry CL, I wasn’t trying to imply you advocate we should beat ourselves up for being kind, considerate peops, and I’m sure your good chump traits remain healthily intact 😀 (They must be or frankly, I’d have not been coming back here for nigh on 2 years! Your compassion and all round good egg-ness shines through consistently, and not up for question! :-D).

          Perhaps it was just my experience, but I feel we put up with the shit because, in truth, all close human relationships need ‘give and take’, a bit of ‘taking the rough with the smooth’. You know, ‘in good times and in bad’. We survivors look back with 20/20 hindsight and call it spackling abuse, and it was abuse. But, getting angry with ourselves and feeling we need to forgive ourselves for tolerating the abuse, when I think what we were doing was bringing positive traits, i.e. forgiveness, forebearance, compassion – trying not to hold grudges etc – the very things that are needed in a successful relationship.

          For me, right up until D Day and the grand unmasking, I’d have bet my life that ‘The Great I Am’ adored me and was the happiest man on the planet. Sure he had times of being an utter, utter dick, with his stonewalling and projections and his iffy attitudes to some things, but, at the same time, he told me daily that he adored me, he did sweet thoughtful things, we had a good life together. He certainly conned me into believing he was a solid human being with something resembling an emotional IQ. If I was tolerating his stonewalling, his utter refusal to admit wrong or apologise for random nastinesses – it was down to me accepting his ‘quirks’ and that ‘no one is perfect’. Of course, had I been able to see the future…… (or even just the hidden reality that is life with a man who obviously believes ‘love’ is merely a game of conquest and point-scoring).

          Anyway, I think everyone in Chump Nation who feels they need to forgive themselves, for loving and believing in an arsehole, should do just that. IMHO you brought love and you tried to make love work. That’s a beautiful thing, not a thing to berate yourself for.

          I’m not trying to be polemic, honest! Absolutely, I get ‘lopsided toxicity’. Absolutely. I just hate the thought of good folks giving themselves ‘down the banks’ for being good folks. (I know you’re not giving good folks ‘down the banks’ CL. It doesn’t read like that to me, but I still want to say to peops who ask ‘how do I forgive myself’ … ‘YOU’VE DONE NOTHING WRONG …. you offered the beautiful gift of your love to an unworthy – that’s it!).


        • When in the middle of false reconciliation and trying to keep to the steps of the great pick-me dance I took to journaling my dark thoughts and frustration at where I was at.
          Reading what I wrote a few years on is chilling – We must get back together at all costs – I will accept half truths and not ask questions that I fear the answer to – I will make far more effort than is returned – I will pretend to like TV shows that I have no interest in to show you how compatible we are – I will swallow my disappointment whole when you cancel plans at short notice for feeble reasons – I will cook special meals if you visit and treat you like a VIP – I will pretend to accept your parallel relationship with OW as you have sworn that it will end soon and I have to give you time – I will howl with rage and pain in the privacy of my garage – I will be tortured when you and she go on a trip together and accept a gift of blue glass beads as a gift from that trip – I will wear my beads to show how much the gesture meant.
          I could continue but I think I have shown the mindset that I was in. I was not ready to accept the truth that I so feared. The marriage was over and had never been great from the outset. Some things cannot be changed by the sheer willpower of one person and living a lie is not sustainable.
          If anyone reading this is stuck in that particular hell then please take heart. The reality is far less scary than you fear and the return of your self respect is a great confidence boost.
          I was not ready til I was ready but I got there in my own time and so will you.

    • I could kiss Tempest on the face for the lovely post.

      It makes people react really oddly when I tell people “I was a great wife, I really was” and its true.

      While no one is perfect, I applied myself to my marriage with every good thing I could muster.

      While my H said mean nasty, vile, hurtful, untrue things when he got mad, my upbringing (with disordered parents) taught me that losing my shit in an argument would never turn out well so no matter how ugly it got, I had an enormous amount of awareness and self control even in the worst fight. I never ever said anything “just to be mean”. (I did remind him of things he had said and done to me and the poor sausage thought that being reminded of his very own deeds was me being “mean”)

  • Understanding and accepting that my sense of self worth was low and that I had little respect for myself was a tough pill to swallow. Accepting that helped me see how I was preyed upon from the start and was so easily manipulated throughout the relationship. We had good times, yes, and perhaps son of them were authentic at the time for both of us. But in reality, I was a target for a disordered man and I forgive myself for ignoring the red flags or excusing them.

    It’s not sharing blame but it’s clarifying why you allowed such a huge garbage bag to sit in your life and stink up the whole place.

    Maturity and time has helped me grow and understand that keeping that in my life is a recipe for disaster.

  • Not sure if I speak for other Chumps who are “stuck” (i.e., tolerating the intolerable) but thanks for the continual kicks in the ass, CL! Today’s post made me cry as I evaluated my self worth (or lack thereof). May you never get tired of kicking… with every “kick” a little bit of empowerment energy is transferred from you to me. Hopefully soon I will possess enough energy to overcome the barriers to freedom. Your testimony to life on the other side gives hope we Chumps will survive this shit storm. Thanks for the support, Chump Nation. Happy Canada Day to those in Canada!

    • Walkingthruhell–kick down the barriers and get out. A better life is waiting on the other side. (We all worried whether that was true, but just being free of the daily mindfuck is so liberating in & of itself).

    • Walking, you will survive. Please, please, please believe that. Your life is too precious to waste tolerating the intolerable, you have too much to give to the world to have your time and energy drained by someone who does not deserve it.

      Today please do one thing to move yourself in the right direction. Forget your self esteem, forget that you are stuck. You are literate and you have a computer, and these are your tools to getting unstuck. Look up lawyers, research the divorce laws in your province, review your resources – who you can stay with, how you can get your own bank account, how you can set up a direct deposit from your pay. And then tomorrow do another thing, and the next day another……it doesn’t matter how high your self esteem is. It just matters that you look ahead and start moving. One thing a day, 365 days to Canada Day 2016 – you can be a completely different person this time next year.

      My one regret is that I spent so much of my life, my awesomeness, on someone who should not have ever had a claim to it. That I’ll carry the rest of my life. But I know now that life on the other side is so, so much better. I hope you will find that, too!

      • Yep, that’s how you do it!
        And I would add, WTHell, that if you get yourself away (separation, so you can think and breathe), a helpful device is to place pictures of yourself as a kid around your new home, or room, or piece of a friends basement- whatever you can get! Then, talk to those pictures, and parent that kid. Give the advice you wish you’d gotten, so that child can have a beautiful life.
        I found this to be very helpful, and it made me realize that I deserved MUCH better treatment, it kind of broke the spell he had me under. We all can find better love, or be alone and at peace for awhile, at least! Good luck on your journey!

  • The time chumps spend staying with a cheater, hoping and trying to fix their marriage and family, is a journey we each have to take so that when we do walk away, we know in our hearts that we did everything we could do to try to salvage something so important to us.

    My sister thought I was crazy for continuing to make effort with cheater. But when I did walk away from fake reconciliation, I knew it was the right choice. It was time for me to step up and take care of me. I knew I had given everything I could and that no matter what I said or did, he would not change to the person he needed to be for us to stay together. By that time, I understood that the only way we could stay together was if I accepted the abuse and allowed it to continue, something I was certainly not going to do.

    Have I forgiven myself? Not completely yet. I’m not sure how I will know when I have. The things that still haunt me are the years of manipulation, gas lighting and abuse that I allowed myself to overlook; the people pleasing trait that I have; and of course, my lack of self esteem. It will simply take time to work on all of these things.

  • I have to say that I don’t know how the story ends, but after much reflection I decided upon a course of action that has worked for me, at least so far.

    I agree with CL that “forgiveness” is more about accepting what is true. I did not want to believe people were capable of doing some of the things I found out about when I began playing Detective. I had a higher opinion of human’s then than I do now. In general, I find my pets have had better character and are far more loyal than most humans I know. So the way I look at others has changed, tremendously.

    I also thought some of my chumpy traits were “good”. I have learned to evaluate my thoughts and adapt my actions to a much safer way of living now. I have not changed the basic person I am, but I have certainly curtailed my chumpiness. I do not allow myself to get into situations now which would lead to me being abused or taken for granted. I am much more selective, more attuned to red flag behavior, more protective of my interests. I learned to say “NO” very effectively.

    I do not consider my success or happiness to be dependent upon being in another relationship again. My therapist asked me once upon a time what traits I would look for in a companion if I could “build” the perfect companion. My actual spouse only had 3 or 4 of those traits. I decided anyone who would be a true and successful companion would have to have a higher score. Evaluating possible friends and companions against my “wish list” has been a good guide. It may sound cold blooded, but essentially I am looking for someone who has the same traits I like about myself, and some traits that would be a good blend for me — so that we can fit together and complement each other. I no longer consider those who just don’t fit the pattern I need. There are some traits I just cannot compromise on — those are my boundaries.

    I think that dating sites may work for some people, but I find them to be cess pools full of liars and manipulators. Be careful if you decide to use this source. I know some people have found success, but I would guess that you should lower your expectations of success from these sites, and use them as a way to evaluated your ability to discriminate and recognize red flags. You may get lucky, but don’t expect to. You are not a failure if you do not find “twu luv” on a dating site. Instead, I would suggest going to places that you are interested in — if you like music, go listen or play, if you like reading or art, go where there are readers or art displays. Wine tasting? Animal shows? Country fairs? Antiques? Whatever your interests, pursue those interests. You will meet like minded people there, and you may find some new friends. If you meet someone who becomes more than a friend, great, but don’t count on it. If it happens, it happens. I think that is MEH.

    You cannot change the past. You can only use it to gain knowledge about yourself and your family and other people who were in your life. When you decide not to live in the past, but to look forward to the future instead, you are on the road to Meh.

      • I’ve thought about the traits I would like in my ‘new’ companion. Basically – I would want my stbx before he turned into an alcoholic cheater….. so sad…..

        • You want who your alcoholic cheater led you to believe he was. But in a real person.

  • One of the the conclusions I came to was that it takes good solid information about the whole magilla….the dysfunctional dance around cluster B fuckupedness. I had no idea, for the longest time, that my parents were cluster Bs. I just knew they were mean people….especially to me.

    Growing up in that crazy household installed some pretty disordered buttons in me. I didn’t know I had worth. I had no idea I had a right to not be beaten at the whim of someone. A right to personal needs …nonexistent. Everyone came before me. I was a nothing, barely entitled to breathe air and take up space in the world. No right to protest rotten treatment. I should just be profoundly grateful that I was allowed to continue to exist.

    Not the best tools for happy healthy relationships.

    Irresistible narc bait.

    It’s taken a long time to turn that around….a lot of soul searching…a lot of work on myself…and therapy. Lots of unlearning. Lots of practicing the opposite, even when it’s scary.

    Yes, I see the journey as forgiving ourselves, but also of getting ourselves better tools, and more knowledge of what we are dealing with. Then comes the courage to act, once we lay the groundwork.

    We chumps have grit we don’t even know about. We unknowingly used it to survive in the middle of horrible situations. We just have to claim it. We have an innate drive towards health. It takes time to discover what and where it is, but it’s in there, and it is our strength. That is why we eventually land on our feet.

    The cheaters…not so much. And they lose us in the process. They are very much poorer for the loss. We, on the other hand, once they are in the rearview mirror, we come out far, far ahead …..eventually.

    • You and me Tessie…narc bait to the extreme. Mom has BPD and dad has NPD (classic narc king and borderline queen ) What is amazing is that as HORRIBLE as deadH ever was…there was not a moment in a single day I ever imagined going “home” to my parents to help me if I had D. I used to joke that my horrible parents saved my M many times, now its not funny…their lack of presence contributed to me feeling trapped and scared in a terrible marriage.

  • I am a huge believer in positive affirmations, which are necessary to rewire the thought patterns that are entrenched in your brain grooves. This is especially important if there is a particularly hateful or careless comment someone said to you that replays itself over and over again in your mind. I have a friend who’s father said (probably in a moment of frustration) “Everything you touch, you fuck up.” The father probably forgot he said it two minutes later. This comment tormented my friend for the next 20 years. Until he found an affirmation that has been remarkably healing for him. Now he says to himself, with self-compassion, “Everything I touch, I make better.” The more he says this to himself, the more it manifests itself in his life, the more confidence he has, the more good-will he has towards others, and it’s true that everything he is involved with is better for his involvement.

  • July 10th will be a yea since D-day and I feel 75% better. I still hate and wish the a-hole dead though. Funny thing is that the people I work with say they like the new me. They say I have sort of bloomed and come out of my shell. I am me now, not the quiet, unhappy person that I was when I was trapped with someone who didn’t care about me and held me back. I love me!!

  • I used to ask the same question until it was pointed out that we don’t need to forgive ourselves! We need to care for ourselves, have personal boundaries, agree that no matter what we have value! So many of us accepted the shit sandwiches and kibble because we failed to value our personhood. Now that we see we can better guard our hearts and lives from those who don’t!
    Reaching Meh is important. But it comes when we place the proper care and feeding of our hearts above the jerks who yanked our chains.
    Good article!

  • Well, Tessie said it all. I decided to forgive Loki and everyone. I heard it can be easy. I walked around the block three times and said, “I forgive with all my heart” over and over and over. It worked.
    I am trying to use my tools to craft a better and safer environment for the future. I have a few tools and a bit of hope.

  • Cheaters cannot be the gauge from which you make ANY judgements about yourself. There is no way someone who cheats on you can give you any assessment fn your worth as a person. Forget it. And this took me time to learn.

    After the first DD I divorced him. And that’s not because I was some tough ass, it was because there was no way after everything else he was doing that I was going to stay. He was a boozer, minimizer, blamer and all around crappy husband by the time I discovered his affair. The affair was the deal breaker, so I said I wanted out of the marriage and then the shit storm really started. He became even more of an asshole (if you can believe it. Of course you can.)

    Cheaters are a whole different brand of fucked up. At first I did try to untangle that and look at “what did I do wrong?” business. Then as time went on I realized there was ZERO I could do about his choice to cheat. Nothing. And this has been the most helpful thing. I wasn’t perfect but I didn’t deserve the shit he put me through, nobody does. Cheaters are missing something very intrinsic to the soul. You aren’t.

    I turned away from that nonsense and discovered who I was and what I wanted out of life and a partner. I have learned about how I want to please people and be liked. I’ve learned about my own anxiety and fears. I have learned to be a better friend. I’ve learned that I am not broken or damaged. What he said about me was bull crap.

    Cheaters are hard enough on our souls. Be gentle with yourself and have some compassion for you. In time I suspect you’ll find that you are much better off without that cheater and that your life is yours again.

  • “Selfless Thing We Do For Others”

    Now the mantra is “it’s a gift you give yourself” – which I simply don’t buy. These idiots even tell betrayed spouses, “forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, and ultimately you wish you unfaithful spouse well.” HUH?

    What’s so wrong with ambivalence? Since when is it a crime against yourself to simply move forward and put that person in the past, where they belong? But now if you don’t forgive and wish someone well, you’re breaking the holy scripture of RID.

    This idea that somehow forgiveness is based on wishing someone well is moronic. Many people have done things in my past that I find horribly offensive, the worst of which is my ex wife. I put those people in their proper place, the past. No I don’t wish them good OR bad. I don’t think about them! No I don’t wish them well or have a fondness for them, I wish they simply leave me out of their equation and allow me to move forward. Don’t meddle, don’t interfere, move on, and move forward.

    I’ve said boredom with all this is the key, and I believe it. It’s unrealistic to expect betrayed spouses to wish someone well who murdered a part of your being. Cheaters love to push that because it makes their own guilt better. And this is more telling betrayed spouses how to act – “gosh, don’t hold a grudge or even move on with your life until you’ve made the poor cheater understand, it’s okay, I forgive you”.

    Forgiveness is about helping cheaters get over their guilt – that’s all it is.

    Pardon my french on this one, boo fucking who. Live with your guilt or don’t, not my issue. My issue is moving ahead and putting the cheater in the rear view. I wish her nothing, good or bad.

    • Scott – EXACTLY.

      You know what? If my STBXW wants forgiveness, she can start by actually telling me she was sorry for the affair and doing something – ANYTHING – direct to ask for my forgiveness. I am not expecting that to take place.

      If she likes, she can have one of those conversations with me in her head, the ones where I was never involved but that she used to guess and assume how I might react to her unhappiness and which became justifications for her affair. And in that conversation, she can ask for and receive forgiveness, and I don’t have to deal with it. 🙂

      • Yes! They want forgiveness? Stop lying, stop blame shifting, stop the false equivalencies, stop minimizing what they did. Show true humility and THEN maybe I’ll forgive you. Until then, stay out of my way.

    • I agree Scott. I just finished a chapter for the new book, entitled “I Didn’t Kill You, Consider Yourself Forgiven.”

      It’s nobody’s fucking business if you forgive or don’t. Suddenly there seems to be an insistence on chumps forgiving before we’ve even processed the offense. Or else you’re “bitter.”

      Ugh. I have a whole rant on that topic.

      • The cheaters expect your forgiveness, inasmuch as it means forgetting – as in pretending nothing ever happened.

        I was hurt, and then I was really fucking angry. The angry got me away from him and allowed me to see him and the whole relationship for what it was. Then, the angry got in the way of meh and I had to make a conscious decision to let the anger go. It was so toxic. That’s what I’m calling forgiveness. Letting go of all that shit I couldn’t change (like him facing cosmic justice).

        That was the first day I started feeling good again. Complete indifference feels wonderful.

  • I’ll just say this is hard, but essential. I’ve come a LONG way since my ex-wife’s affair. But there are still tiny moments of self-doubt — not that I deserved what she did, or caused it. I know fully well that neither was the case.

    The self-doubt comes into play now, in my current life. What signs about my ex-wife did I ignore, whether consciously or otherwise? Given the lowlife that she turned out to be (betraying me, being the OW helping to destroy her AP’s marriage, manipulating her support network, all the time claiming she “respects marriage”), I do worry. How did I (and my family and friends) miss not see what kind of person she really was? Do I miss those signs with people in my life now, whether romantic or otherwise?

    I recently had a drink with an old friend, C, who used to adore my ex, and still harbors a massive grudge, almost two years since I filed for divorce. C said, “I see her picture on Facebook, out with her friends, and I hate her! I hate her! She tricked us, JC. She tricked everyone!”

    I agree that my ex tricked everyone. And I forgive myself for being tricked. The hardest part is realizing how vigilant I have to be (and always should have been). As a chump, I’m a naturally trusting person (at least when it comes to love), so growing into someone with a healthy dose of skepticism has been a challenge. I’ll happily give myself a “most improved” award in this category. But “most improved” is not the same as “skilled.”

    I’m a work in progress.

    • Its because you’ve tossed away your rose coloured glasses. Life will never be the same again as a result.
      I think pretty much everyone here could attest to that. But its not all bad – you have the tools to call fuckwits out on their shit now.

  • My turning point in my marriage was after dday #5 when I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror anymore. I remember standing in my bathroom mirror one morning getting ready for work and crying at my reflection and asking myself out loud just how much longer was I going to tolerate such awful treatment!!!! And I was so MAD at myself. I knew I deserved better but I was stuck. I was mad at myself that I didn’t have the guts to stand on my own. I was frozen with fear. I became a shell of myself. I never smiled anymore. I literally told myself what a friend would tell me if they only knew…………he doesn’t love! Move on so you can enjoy your life again. Enough is enough. You will be fine! Go on now………..get over it……put your bitch boots on and tell him you are done!!!!! And I did! And I made it! And I am happy!

    Once he was gone my healing began and I forgave myself. I don’t blame myself for his cheating and I don’t blame myself anymore for taking such abuse. I have wasted enough time on him and the past. I am so glad it is over and I have the opportunity to begin again! I am thankful!!

  • I think this the hardest part for me, all of the “how could I not know?” and the “how could I be so stupid?” it’s what I think every time I have to look at him, which is a lot since he refuses to move out. I refuse feel any shame about his cheating, that’s on him. I refuse to keep it a secret. I refuse to continue a relationship where I was so incredibly disrespected and abused. But figuring out how to not beat myself up for not knowing better, even though I know it was nothing I did or didn’t do, that’s tough.

    • You did not know because you did not want to know. Denial is one powerful defence mechanism. Remember that song by Crystal Gayle in the 70s…tell me no secrets, tell me some lies. Dont give me reasons, give me alibis. Tell me you love me, dont make me cry, say anything but dont say goodbye…
      Hands up all you chumps who can identify with that old song.

  • I think the thing I did that most disappoints and disgusts me is how I let the ex hold a common slimy whore up to me as a role model of how women should be. I think a lot of it was on a subconscious level, but I really did buy into the shit that she was “better” than me. I bought into the cultural bullshit that superficial things are the important things. She may be younger, and thinner, maybe even prettier. But guess what, she’s a whore who dates married men cause that’s the only way she can keep her ego up. That is really the only thing i needed to know about this bottomfeeder. I felt “jealous and insecure” due to the way I was being treated. Not due to her superiority like he/she likes to think. I believe if I could have realized that sooner I would have reacted differently and seen him for the loser he is as well.

  • At various times in my life, I would have friends who would say about themselves, “I’m just too nice.” (I always found these people annoying and as our lives have gone in different directions, we lost touch.) In the (few) times I’ve ever thought that about myself, I finally learned that what I (and they?) are calling “too nice” is not knowing how to set limits and boundaries. Nothing ‘nice’ about it.

    And on another note, I agree that with Tracy that forgiveness is overrated and considered so wonderful–I am not sure why. What difference does it make if we forgive or don’t. Lots of times, forgiveness is just spackling.

  • I never felt the need to forgive myself. I worked with the information I had through my 30+ year marriage and made the best decisions I could at the time. I never shirked work, took on what I thought was an equal partnership in a respectful marriage, behaved honourably in all my dealings with X right to the end. No, it was was not my fault that he was dishonest, manipulative, and without empathy. He is a superb actor who took in many, many people, not just me. I had my faults but nothing, nothing excuses his treatment of me.

    What I am now is grateful. I am 57, divorced, and free of a malignant entity who would have made my life hell until I died. My kids and I have survived and are slowly rebuilding our lives without him or his dysfunctional family. I have discovered who my friends are, who really walks the walk, and have found resources (like here!) that have turned my life completely around. I am pretty sure that none of that would have happened if he hadn’t left to “find himself”. I was too stubborn, raised in the “for better or for worse” tradition of marriage, and would have been fooled until I died.

    Forgive him? No point. I don’t wish him well. I don’t care what he does, who he sleeps with, where he lives. I have been no contact with him for nearly two years and while I still think of him, it happens less and less. I am increasingly indifferent, which I suppose means I am approaching meh. And the thought occurs to me – if he did know that I forgave him, he would just think of it as another weak spot, something to exploit, an in to suck a little more life out of me. Screw that.

    I am also grateful that I have learned, a true gift at this point in my life. I can set boundaries now, finally knowing what they are. I can say no, a considerable feat for someone raised as I was. I know I don’t need a partner, that I am fine on my own. That I can build my own life now, sleep in the middle of the bed, eat vegan, take a shower whenever I want, work for myself and my goals. This has been a revelation, a gift.

    tI was a hard, hard road to get here. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.There are scars. I am not young. But it’s a helluva lot better than the alternative. All in all, It’s a good Canada Day, and I hope all of Chump Nation has a good one too, where ever you are – raise a cool one if you can, and enjoy it!

  • Hi, new reader/recovering chump here! How do I write to Ask Chump Lady?

    • The “CONTACT” bar at the top of the page should get you there.

    • You can also post in the private forums (need an account & password) for advice from other chumps. See top right-hand of the main page & click “Forums.”

  • Nothing pisses me off more than to hear ‘ you must forgive to move on’ If i had a dime for everytime I have heard that BS from someone’s mouth. Forgiveness… Is a word created by man to define an action that an individual does to ‘ let go’ of a negative emotion associated with a negative act. Many a guru, priest and those with numerous credentials behind their names will have you believe that forgiveness is the path to letting go of the emotional baggage, negative emotions and what is needed to heal. To heal you must forgive? Have love in your heart and understand the person who wronged you is un-enlightened as you are. Yes you forgave them … You can now give your self a pat on the back, embrace or accept that you are now healed and adjusted and all is well. Or be indifferent… Yep… Dont care… Cant touch this. Not this gal. Now, I dont have a bunch of letters behind my name… Nor have I laid prostrate to the higher mind but I have questioned these teachings and social remedies about forgiveness and its impact on myself.
    I was raped. It was a brutal assault on my physical being…. Nothing compared to the assault on my emotional being. I didnt forgive my rapist nor did I want to try and understand why he did it. Was his childhood crappy? Was he molested… Or is he just a twisted fuck? Probably. Would understanding his plight or pains help me to forgive him for raping me ? Nope. If i was ripped apart by a dog attack… Would I forgive the dog? Or do I keep a healthy fear of loose dogs? would I hate all dogs or just that dog?
    I dont hate all men. I dont hate sex. How did i move on without forgiving that POS? I chose to live despite him. It took me time and a lot of and I will say acceptance for a lack of a better word, acceptance that its done, i cant change it , so how much of my future life do I want him to have?I remember and I am wiser and stronger. He was never caught, and never suffered any consequences that I know of.
    After discovery my Idiot tried to minimize his actions by stating often ‘ I didnt rape you. ‘ my guess is he wanted me to weigh it out in my brain… Rape = really bad Infedelity= not so bad. Ya… He tried the mind fuck.
    All I know is i didnt desrve to be raped…. But it happened. And I didnt deserve the 2 years of lies, gas lighting, etc etc etc…. But it happened. I have not forgiven him either. And i am ok with that. I dont know if i need to forgive myself? I thought I did… But then I had one of those… Epiphanies….it hit me… BLAM… What did I do? Like seriously, what did I do? I shut his story of me off. I know who I am. Its not what he wanted me to believe about myself. I won’t carry that burden/label. What did I do? I was me. And thats enough. I AM ENOUGH.
    I dont forgive you Idiot.

    • TheClip, you are AWESOME. Not just enough. TOTALLY AWESOME. Package that and sell it.

    • Wow. TheClip–I am in awe. Exactly. I’m printing that out to carry around with me for awhile.

    • That was great TheClip and I’m with you on the idea of forgiveness. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve forgiven plenty in my life (as I’m sure you have too) but the idiots with their ‘holier-than-thou’ pressure on victims of abuse to forgive – it’s sick really. Almost as sick as the peddlers of ‘no one has the power to hurt you unless you let them’ (yes, I’ve met a few of these deluded sickos in my life too).

      I’m so sorry to hear you were raped. Thank you for sharing that. How disgusting was your cheater that he DARED to minimise his behaviour by using that. It makes me feel sick to my stomach. Further abuse.

      You are enough. As we all are.

      Thanks again x

    • Hugs, The Clip. I’m right there with you……we are enough, just as we are. You ROCK Girlfriend.

    • Well said TheClip, I am with you. I had to school my therapist on that and in the doing of it I found a definition of forgiveness I agree with. Forgiveness is giving up the idea that the past could have been any different. That’s it, just accepting that it is what it is and we live through it and we keep going, it shaped us, it is part of us and nothing changes that. I am what I am.

      • TheClip
        “I chose to live despite him”. This is powerful. Acceptance for me was the understanding of my selflessness and his selfishness throughout our relationship. It was understanding I couldn’t control or fix anyone but myself especially through forgiveness. I saw goodness and love when it was lacking. Staying with a serial cheating narcissist was never about fear or dependency. I truly loved him right up to the end. Just as he justified his behavior I justified my own. The support I gave him was because I believed he could change and step up. And he did many times. Until the next time. I was the strong, intelligent, compassionate, kind, and loving one in the relationship. He was childlike and lacked motivation, honor, and integrity. I gave him credit when none was due. What I saw in him was myself. He was an actor,an empty container mirroring my every strength and devouring my soul at the same time. I forgive myself for tolerating his lack of respect and abuse and for my inability to recognize he had all the power and control sooner. What I own is the fact that I did what mattered to ME all the years I was with him despite my inability to leave or recognize his narcissism. The abuse I suffered was relative to how I defined abuse based on living with an abusive narcissist father. My criteria in selecting a partner was to find a genuine authentic good guy. I chose a covert narcissist instead. No he never flipped over the dinner table full of food while we were eating dinner as a family. He never had raging tantrums like clockwork. It was a slow boil as Tempest stated. Full of never ending promise that never came. I don’t believe in forgiving infidelity EVER. If it happens. It should be a deal breaker. It’s a lack of the love and respect we were promised. Once that promise is borken it’s over.

  • “After discovery my Idiot tried to minimize his actions by stating often ‘ I didnt rape you. ‘ my guess is he wanted me to weigh it out in my brain… Rape = really bad Infedelity= not so bad. Ya… He tried the mind fuck.”

    One day I gave deadH a vivid animated and possibly eloquent description of the violation he had committed on my life and soul.

    His response was “If our children died, you wouldnt handle it so well” what a fucker …gosh you arent handling this destruction and betrayal as well as I hoped you would. Like your case, lets not take accountability for what we did, lets compare it to something worse.

    I responded that “death is not chosen, it happens, people deal, you CHOSE to do this, its worse”. It took him 7 years after that to drop dead…I handled it rather well, go figure.

    If your partner tries to minimize your suffering by reminding you that you did die or get raped, things arent going well.

    • We all did die a little bit and our souls were raped. Those are violent things, even if they happened without overt physical violence. The people who can justify that they did no damage because they left no bruises or broken bones are not worth our time. Find the people who matter and hold them close. Hold yourself close and tell yourself you are going to make it and going to be fine. And you will.

    • If we had to deal with the death of our children instead of infidelity from our spouse, we would have several advantages – it (probably) wouldn’t have been a deliberate act done over and over, and we would have our best support by our side to help us through it.

      I remember soon after my d-day, a coworker was diagnosed with cancer…and I was envious. I would rather have had that happen to me than find out my spouse was a lying selfish asshole.

      • Me too HC, so we all know that its not PC to discount other people’s pain to them and we wouldnt say it out loud, but the inside feelings were still real and agonizing..

        During the time of most intense soul raping abuse when my H had gone into full monster mode trying to get me to throw him out so he could prance away guilt free, I was watching a show on a Christian channel and this gal (who said he husband was a wonderful man who “never one let her down”) was describing her experience of being diagnosed with cancer, being treated and full recovery. I was like “really, THIS is your problem? it sounds like a freaking vacation to me” and like you I envied her (still do if you want to know the truth).

        Last Valentines day when CN chipped in to send the deaf refugee girl to school we remember that there are folks in the world with shit worse than ours, so I admit that to myself freely but I also honor my own experience.

        I got a lot of support when my H died….it is OK to speak of those things out loud, even in our death denying society, but having experienced both, I assure you that betrayal is still much more forbidden of a topic than death. I learned 2-3 months ago that he wasnt just a cheater, he was a serial cheater and because my kids don’t know that (I wont bring myself to reveal such a truth to my still grieving teenage D who loved her father deeply) I cant speak freely about it, so Im still keeping his secrets which forces to to live a dis-integrated life and I hate it, but I will do it to spare needless pain to my kids and inlaws.

  • Looking, I, too, stayed for way too long. Over two decades after the first affair, and for all the issues pointed out by Tracy. I needed to take an honest look within. It was painful but nothing beats the growth that comes from the journey of self-awareness. In the beginning of my journey, I beat myself up while looking within. I then discovered self compassion and loving kindness meditations. That was the start of my healing, loving and forgiving myself. Look for the works of Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer on self compassion. Their respective websites have lots of free meditation and exercises. Self-compassion, coupled with loving kindness meditation, were the final pieces that brought me to meh.

    • I agree about Kristin Neff – check out her web site: She also has a great TED talk you can find on YouTube on self-compassion and how it’s superior to self-esteem when we’re struggling to forgive ourselves.

      • I enjoy many of the works of people like Kristin Neff.

        Now, my narcissistic wife also in an introspective, holier-than-thou narcissist and is a huge fan of Kristin Neff, Brene Brown, Marrianne Williamson, and Thich Nhat Hanh and many others. But even though I guess that means she’s mustering up all sorts of self-compassion, and not allowing her AP to treat her badly, for some reason, she’s never been able to see that she treats me far worse than her AP treats her. And she is incapable of having any compassion for the destruction she brought into my life.

        Now I know that all this doesn’t mean I should not also study whomever I want to study, but still, sometimes it’s hard not to associate many of these teachers with my cheating wife.

        • Buddy, it’s hard not to disassociate things that your ex did so I truly have an appreciation of how you’re feeling. I believe the cheaters are wired so differently (lack of values, narcs, etc) that they have the profound ability to interpret anything according to how they want to interpret it. In other words, it’s a pick and choose. “Oh, I know what’s wrong but certain rules simply don’t apply to me” mindset. So when they read about compassion, they can twist it to suit their needs. Remember, they do not have empathy so they cannot see the “other side” of things. The same phenomenon explains why there are tons of Jesus cheaters.

          You may enjoy the work of Matthieu Ricard, the French Buddhist monk who is dubbed the happiest man on earth. His book on happiness is one aha moment after another, and I am now enjoying reading his latest (huge) book on altruism.

          • yes, they are so good at twisting to suit their needs, and ignoring the needs of others, at least those that require actual effort.

            I’l look up Matthieu Ricard.

      • I’ve seen Neff’s name mentioned on here before… if I’m remembering her book correctly, she cheated on her first husband.

  • Some of us stayed with our cheater because we were unaware of the cheating until he (or she) dumped us when the kids reached adulthood. I feel especially stupid for standing by an alcoholic who managef to erase his previous DUIs from his criminal record. The whole time we were married all he regarded me as was a happy family facade and an ATM for all his moves to improve his career while tamping down any career aspirations of my own. It is humiliating to realize all I ever was to this creep was a source of income and a glorified babysitter (that I will never regret as I love my boys).

    I still beat myself up about staying with him during the heavy drinking (I hoped he would stop – little codependent idiot that I was). If I had known about the adultery and the gambling I would have left his cheating ass ASAP. But stupid me just ignored the red flags because I was so happy he was my loving husband. Maybe being Asperger’s is part of my problem but nobody deserves to be cheated on.

    Message to anybody in a marriage: Not happy, just fucking leave before fucking somebody else!

    • Just Another Chump,

      I can’t order you not to beat yourself up, but please know you’re not alone. I did get away from my ex real fast, but that was because of my best friend and a bus ticket, not from any strength or intelligence from me. I didn’t intend to leave my husband, even though he had made it clear he didn’t care about me almost from the start. Once I left my home, my job, my friends, and joined him in CA and married him the following year, there was no love, no affection. I started to wonder if all he had wanted was a co-worker on his truck that would provide sex when he wanted it, with cooking and homemaking when we were off the road There was no cheating, probably just because we were together all the time. But everyone he introduced me to was a cheater. I was his third wife, and the second one was always calling his dispatcher. I jumped in to his world because I was love-bombed and thought he was my future. At least I never thought of him as my soulmate!

      Even though I was miserable and confused, and hated his steadily worsening drunkenness, I kept telling myself that our current problems were just because of money trouble, and we would laugh about this some day. What made me realize there was nothing to laugh about was a cartoon I saw. Two little old people were sitting in rocking chairs, staring into space. Over their heads was a bit of embroidery that said: ‘Just Didn’t Work Out’. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I knew that would be me, and I tried to resign myself to the idea.

      Then my best friend sent me a two-way bus ticket to visit her, because I sounded so sad on the phone. When she saw me she told me I looked ten years older. I fully intended to go back, but when the two weeks was up, I knew I couldn’t get back on that bus. And I didn’t.

      But if she hadn’t sent me that ticket, I would not have left. I would have stayed with him out of necessity. I don’t drive, had no friends there and my life totally sucked, but I would have stayed with him, having no one else. I often felt like a quitter for bailing after only two years, but these days I feel like I just followed the advice I see so often on this site: RUN. Run like the wind! I ran. It’s been 32 years or so now, and I’ve never been sorry. But I sure can’t take credit for my escape.

      • Pearshaped,
        It makes me sad to think there must be so many women in the position you fell into with that guy.

        I took gave up a lot for a guy who strangely enough was also a truck driver (of course, his narrative was that he had done glorious military things in the past).

        That ended a few years back, but only today I was going through old email accounts, deleting stuff. I found the keylogging records from when he used my computer, and realized all his dating-site trawling activity was there. I was so addicted to that guy, I remember feeling sad rather than angry when d-day hit.

        I did do the pick-me dance, the begging, the waiting, but then one day I drove away and went NC. My heart was begging to go back, but I finally let my logical brain make the right decision. His narc self must have been royally pissed off because he text-bombed me for months, but I never replied. He did come sniffing around my linkedin account the other day, but that has now been made private while I move to a new place.

        When I look back, why didn’t I run away when I knew he had left his first wife because she had to go on dialysis. His explanation? She wouldn’t have developed kidney disease if she’d just “taken care of herself”.

      • That is some wonderful best friend that you have. Be thankful for having such a great friend in your life, it’s not something common. Most just stay away from the mess in fear of contagion. Beautiful story.

        • Thanks, guys. Yeah, we’ve been best friends since our senior year of high school. We’ve been there for each other a lot over the years.

          She went through a horrible experience too. Her marriage was not much older than mine when her husband killed it. And I do mean killed it. It was his birthday and she had a party planned for that night, even though she was just getting out of the hospital after a gall-bladder operation. But when he picked her up from the hospital, he told her that his college guidance counselor told him how many things he would be eligible for if only she didn’t make so much money, or if they were divorced. So she said, jokingly,”Well, we’re
          passing the courthouse if you want to pick up the papers.”

          So that’s what he did.

          I learned all this when she called me that night asking if she could stay with me for a few days.
          She had endured the party with a lot of pain medication, thinking somehow he could not have been serious. I had been there, and I believed her that it was just her post-op pain that caused her to go to bed early.

          She had loved him so much. And I thought he was great. Then things came out, like worms after the rain. Holes punched into the wall, the ‘accidental’ breaking of things that meant a lot to her, FOO factors that had been ignored, a lot of hours spent out with his friends that excluded her, and finally, a woman that she never thought would become the OW

          I never would have believed he could be so incredibly cruel. But Chumplady has opened my eyes about how cruel people can be. And CN has showed me how people can come back after being blind-sided by the ones they love.

          Chump Lady and Chump Nation, you rule!

          • And oh yeah, the counselor was shocked when she went to him about what her ex had said. NO WAY would they suggest such a thing to a student, with the trouble that could make for the university! Well, of course they wouldn’t. But she had to make sure. Turned out ex was a great big liar, too. Who’dathunkit?

  • Chump Lady, THANK YOU for this public service.
    These are the issues.
    Awesome points.

  • Man, I have to admit that reading this, more than any of your other posts was painful and eye opening. Perhaps, because it focused on us, instead of the cheater, as you mentioned. They don’t deserve any more of our time. As others have said – great post and thanks! Hugs…

  • This is one area that has hit me hard. I look back at the last four years and go damn! How did I become such a spineless bag of poop. I hold more anger at myself than with her. My lack of being able to respond in a firm manner, has caused me years of pain and loss. I still cant figure out why or who I allowed myself to become. How weak and pathetic!!!!

    • because you are kind and giving…hopeful… doesnt make you spineless and pathetic! Those are admirable qualities…

  • Such a great post CL!

    I reacted the same way as ‘looking for my own meh’. I imagine it is the equivalent to the shock you’d have if you just witnessed a tragic accident. You just can’t believe what happened.

    The reasons I stayed — or more likely the reasons I did not leave — are complex. I was conditioned to stay, to put up with bad behaviour and to put myself second. That is how I was conditioned to understand unconditional love.

    I have had times too when I struggled with forgiving myself. (I could care a rat’s a** with forgiving the ExH.) In those times, not to be to Oprah-ish, but I remember that am not the same person I was before — I am so much stronger.

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