Since the Ashley Madison hack broke, a lot of folks have emailed me to ask — hey, did you get a huge swell of numbers on your site? Are you awash with new chumps over there? Well, the numbers did go up by a couple thousand views per day, but it wasn’t outside the normal spikes the site sometimes gets. As far as I know, I’m not signing up legions of new chumps. There’s steady growth (the blog is closing in on 7 million page views), but it’s not like readership doubled thanks to Ashley Madison.
I would like nothing better than for the newly chumped to “leave a cheater, gain a life” — but that’s rarely the case in the beginning. If anyone is experiencing a surge in membership, IMO, it’s the Reconciliation Industrial Complex. And that makes perfect sense if you’ve ever been betrayed.
Commentators assume that these revelations will result in divorce. Oh, divorce lawyers are having a field day! Maybe it was divorce lawyers who were responsible for the hack! The New York Times went so far as to predict how the surge in divorce would affect the economy. I think these are naive assumptions from the un-chumped who assume that when confronted with years of shady dating profiles, of course you would end the marriage.
No, first you spackle. You grasp for any plausible excuse. “Market research. Yes, well, okay that makes sense.” Hey, people do market research. Just because your spouse happens to do air condition repair for a living doesn’t make that a lie.
Does it? Next, you run those lies through your head at 2 a.m. and try to get everything to match up. It doesn’t match up.
Next, you get hyper vigilant and check all their social media and cell phone bills. Does something not add up? Repeat spackle. Repeat 2 a.m.
Then you confront your alleged cheater: “HEY! THIS SHIT DOESN’T ADD UP!”
They fail to understand your hostility and get defensive. They Said They Were SORRY. About that thing they didn’t do, that you are unreasonably upset about. Let It Go.
The alleged cheater cycles through the three channels — Rage = it’s your fault, dance prettier. Self pity = it’s your fault and why don’t you make them a nice cup of tea until they feel better? Charm = how could you stay mad at one so winsome? You want to lose THIS? You, with your crazy accusations and paranoias? You don’t deserve their fabulousness.
Next, you Google and find a dozen unicorn sites that spoon-feed you hopium that yes, this is your fault, and yes, you CAN save this by improving yourself (aka “your marriage”) singlehandedly! Cheater not on board? Hey, they’re in a fog/have low self-esteem/are timid forest creatures/are merely guilty of market research, but take this opportunity to Make Your Marriage Stronger! You follow up the sites with a dozen books from Amazon with the same Save Your Marriage message.
You’ll stay in the unicorn morass for months, maybe years.
Until one day you recognize that all your efforts at self improvement, that Will Make The Marriage Stronger, don’t seem to be having any effect on the cheater. If anything, it’s actually emboldened them.
Spackle. 2 a.m. Confront. Repeat.
Finally, you realize this unicorn shit is not working and you start to think about yourself for once. I deserve better. I demand better.
That process takes ages, if it happens at all.
And all the good advice you fling at chumps — all nearly 500 comments of advice for newbies that we just gave — usually does not permeate chump skulls at first. It didn’t permeate mine, and that is exactly why there is a Chump Lady — to save you all from doing the stupid chumpy things I did.
So why do the majority of chumps not lawyer up and protect themselves from the get-go?
It’s the old Dr. Simon axiom “It’s not that they don’t see, it’s that they disagree.”
Chumps disagree with the notion that their cheater really IS a person who doesn’t give a shit about them. Who wants to connect those dreadful dots and arrive at that conclusion?
Chumps disagree with the idea that they must start over. Start the marriage over for the better? Okay! No, like REALLY start over. All those sunk costs? All those years? All that shared history and money? Custody of your children? Yeah, start THAT over. Let go of THAT and save yourself.
Unh-uh. No way. That’s terrifying.
Spackle. 2 a.m. Confrontation. Repeat.
Chumps disagree with the idea that they’re chumps. This is all a misunderstanding! A bump in the marital road! I don’t need to see a lawyer or an accountant, because there are things my spouse Would Never Do. Sure, they might have had a one-night stand/late hours Bible study/workplace flirtation but they would NEVER ransack my retirement accounts/put my health at risk/endanger our children.
They love me too much!
I love them too much!
See, I’m DIFFERENT, because I LOVE.
Until the day you can’t stuff it down another second. 2 a.m. isn’t cutting it. The doubt and sedition is 24/7.
That’s when people find Chump Lady. That’s when they read all the good advice you just gave them, because you’ve been there and did that. That’s when it all sinks in. Leave a cheater, gain a life.
Groundswell of chumps last week? No.
An incoming tide in the months and years to come? Yes.