Today’s post is from Steve, who’s been with the blog almost from the start. He recently wrote to say he’d gotten engaged (now happily remarried), and I asked him to share his “leave a cheater, gain a life” story. So here it is! Enjoy! — Tracy
First off my entry has plenty of Chump Lady quotes. Like a marine when bullets start flying they rely on their training….the voice of their drill sergeant keeps them going….move forward… keeps them alive. Back in 2012, I had two letters discussed on Chump Lady’s blog. I was the “state of Meh” guy. I proudly have a shirt and coffee mug with that great image drawn by CL.
I am a male chump almost four years out….and by going on message boards and divorce groups the male chump population is unfortunately a growing, burgeoning group. Maybe men are more forthcoming now about being cheated on than in the past. I was gaslighted to new levels of mindfuckery. What was the most disturbing, wake up call was that who you thought were friends, neighbors, and co-workers with a general sense of morality, decency, and values DID NOT share your beliefs. You are jolted by a perverse alternate reality. I always said my Potemkin marriage village got blown over by the wind and I saw that cold, barren snow.
Chumpdom can appreciate that remark and I know that we all lived it in some part. I know men have cheated and have been colossal brutes to their wives from the dawn of time, but I was shocked how suburban moms closed their ranks fast and ran with my ex’s narrative. All the while dismissing me as crazy, while her boyfriend moved into my old house.
But ahhh the other side……I always said that I mentally put my intestines back into my gut then applied multiple rolls of duct tape. Then climbed the ropes like Rocky. My kids, exercise, work, CL blog, family, friends, therapy, prayer, support groups, playing in my band, and my faith got me through it. I understand others working through their demons and pain with self destructive behavior. It’s not recommended, but I understand. As CL says, this hurts like a motherfucker.
I am very strong now. What I told others in my support groups is that somewhere in our marriages we left dreams by the side of the road. Most likely your mentally abusive spouse told, yelled, and spat repeatedly at you how worthless, weak, unattractive, and talentless you were. Hearing years of that bullshit makes it hard to shake. I know. Like CL says we thought this was our spouse. The person who knew us intimidately supposedly. A trusted source. NOT!
So time and being actively committed to kickass really works. What also really helped me was breaking the victim trap and realizing my mighty. Mind you this is not spackling my ex’s actions and behavior. We can not control their behavior, but I absolutely can control my response. And with self-reflection and therapy I realized I should have drawn stronger boundaries in my marriage and taken swifter action.
So I started living out loud without the condescending voice of my ex muzzled in my brain. I tried out and won a part in a short film that was played at film fest. In the film was one of my band’s songs. I cut an album and a pro video with my band, what’s the best part….my kids saw me co-write the songs, record them, then they were in the videos. Instead of the image sketched by their mother, they saw their father kicking ass. Working hard, talented, and involving them on the process of dream fulfillment. Maybe your dreams are something different ….each dream has its worth. Take the steps and as Shia Labouef says on YouTube — Just DO IT!!!!!
My bond with my kids was never in doubt. I get my kids 50% of the time. My love tank with them is full. I was always a hands-on Dad. It pains me to think back on how they perceived me, where I cowered to their mother. No more. I do not editorialize, but I am firm and not to pushed around. Being mighty does not mean being a self-centered idiot. It’s calling bullshit on Narc’s tendencies to prey on chumps’ good-hearted nature. Oh yeah, public service announcement, Chump Dads: Do not settle for standard visitation schedule, push for more time with your kids in your parenting agreement. Your cheater wants to spend time with the “love of their life”, not your kids so NEGOTIATE.
Also on the other side with support groups and mentoring other chumps, I have a group of new amazing friends. I lost the old friends who really didn’t share the same values and just didn’t have my back. Like anything there is a community of people that get you, if they shared a similar experience. Helping new chumps navigate the waters has helped me extremely. By coaching you see how little energy you should put in the past relationship and move on. Move forward.
With therapy and self actualization I fixed my picker. As CL says I went out and found me some real monkey love. I found a super sweet, affectionate woman, who gets me and my quirks. She’s smart, successful, great mom, maternal to my kids, and sexy as all hell. Going through previous marriages with disordered people builds up your appreciation level. What’s great is that it’s a two-way street on caring, loving, and thoughtful gestures. Instead of trying desperately to constantly win someone over…. and get scraps of love. Before with my family of origin (therapist speak) the disordered relationship is what I thought I deserved.
We bought a dream house and married. How I describe the new marriage is that it’s just an easier vibe. Now I am no fool. Relationships and especially marriage takes work and continuous connection. From counseling I can tell you, everyone after a certain point in any marriage needs to choose love. Love is a choice. And that’s not saying you go back and just eat crap sandwiches. It’s that my wife loves politics, so it means I am going to the DNC convention with her. She knows that I am crazy baseball fan, so she will be shucking peanuts with me at Wrigley Field. That’s real love.
We had some amazing vacations. What’s really really great is that I do not have to walk on egg shells and I am my real self when we were on vacation. In years past it was a ball of stress. Chumps it’s great experiencing life and travel without that knot in your stomach…..because of the cheaters’ constant disdain for us. I am very considerate to my new wife. Brought her breakfast and coffee, but here’s the kicker she really appreciates that stuff and the love is reciprocal. She has dated jerks. I am kind, romantic, goofy, successful and most of all a stand up guy and she appreciates those qualities. Chump guys find yourself a nice chump woman. If she has her head right she will go head over heels for a sweet, nice man….seriously. Next week we go to Paris for our delayed honeymoon.
One last thing — like many chumps I spent hours, days, and sadly weeks trying to figure out what was the license plate on the truck that hit me four years ago. Unraveling the skein of fuckedness. We wish for a verdict — your day in court — but it will never come. With co-parenting our kids I still get angry at my ex’s actions. I spoke to my therapist about it. She had the best line. The problem is that we expect people to act rationally and do the right thing, but as she said, “Quit expecting to get milk from a chicken.”
Chickens can’t produce milk PERIOD. This is not to excuse their behavior. Chumps hold to your boundaries, call your cheaters on their bullshit, but quit wasting time trying to figure out why they act the way they do. The untreated disordered will not play nice PERIOD. Just raise your kids with love and leave those nasty chickens alone to sit in their own chicken shit.