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Potential Addiction

fixupOn my birthday post, several people commented on the line that “Codependency is the addiction to the POTENTIAL of things.”

No one is a bigger potential sap then I am. I’ve owned three 100+ year old homes and married two losers. If that doesn’t make me a fixer upper addict, I don’t know what does.

I once bought a house that had trees growing in the gutters, multigenerational wallpaper experiments on every surface, knob and tube wiring, and a plumbing system that wasn’t hooked up to public sewers — it had a CESS POOL (which had not been pumped out in over 20 years… this lovely detail was disclosed at settlement).

Did I run away like my hair was on fire?

No, I paid top dollar for it.

Hey! It had good bones! I could see POTENTIAL! In 1917, that house was a showplace! We could Bring It Back!

But my colossal stupidity is not just limited to historic properties, no sir. I tried to save two marriages — one, to a guy with untreated mental illness (We Can Bring Back Sanity!) and another, a serial cheater (We Can Impose Monogamy!) I wear the chump crown.

What did I learn?

By the time I met my husband (yes, number three… I’m a slow learner) — I saw the camouflage shorts and the Armadillo World Headquarters t-shirt and the Chuck. E. Taylor hightop sneakers and thought “Okay, that’s who he is.”

(In fairness, he’s been completely re-outfitted since then and decided after 50 that he can no longer wear t-shirts unless he’s mowing the lawn. However, he still harbors a deep aversion to dry-clean only clothing.)

But my point is, I started to pay a lot more attention to the things that matter — character, kindness, integrity, work ethic — and I let go of potential.

In other words, I put down the spackle. A lot of why I ever thought life partners one and two were acceptable partners was on me. Even though I didn’t know what horrors lay ahead, I spackled over some serious red flags, thinking — “Well, I can work with that.” Or “That’s not the Real Him. The real him is that sparkly guy I fell in love with!”

Lessons learned:

a) It’s narcissistic to think you can save people. I know, they’re the narcissists and we’re the ever-loving chumps, but seriously, it’s whack to think you can save people or transmogrify them into Better Specimens. Who gave you super powers?

Our love isn’t magic pixie dust. It’s not going to make a cheater — someone with agency — stay home and needlepoint Bible verses instead of hooking up on Craigslist. We can be our most awesome selves, but our decency or fabulousness or patience or loving understanding does not COMPEL others to act.

They have to want the things we want. They have to be invested and reciprocal and empathic. We can’t MAKE them be those things.

b) Working at “potential” keeps all your energy focused on the Project. How convenient. We don’t have to work on ourselves or nurture our own potential, we can throw all our energy at a narcissist instead. We can enjoy the reflected glow of their glory! Hey, they might throw us a kibble of appreciation! (Still waiting?) But I must focus on them because They Need Me. Ooh. There’s a role you can play for life.

Potential is a huge time suck. Lives have been wasted on potential. Don’t waste yours.

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  • Amen! I most definitely learned this after my 13 year marriage. I always think back to what my old High School soccer coach said to me (dating myself here) in the late 80s when he asked me to join the team and I said no.

    “I see talent and potential come through here all the time and the majority of people simply waste it or never use it. Weather you play for the team or not is not my problem, it is your choice to use it.”

    Basically what he is saying is that the person has to choose to use their own potential and no outside influence will ever achieve that.

    • Great analogy!! We all have potential to do any number of things in life. I chose to raise 5 kids that are a credit to society. My husband chose to chase risky sex and perversions. He had potential; still does, but I’ve finally come to realize he doesn’t want what I want, and never will. Moving on.

    • I remember a sermon when I was a child about a little girl with potential. Everybody commented on what amazing potential she had. So she guarded her potential and was careful never to use any of it, and still had every last bit of her potential years later. The story didn’t end well.

    • Our love isn’t magic pixie dust. Ooof. Thanks for the gut punch. I needed it today.

  • Great article! The comment, “being addicted to the potential of things” also struck a chord with me. I’ve resigned from the job of trying to develop potential in others. Now I’m focused on developing my own potential. It feels much better.

  • Another, and perhaps the most important, aspect of “potential addiction” is that it’s a reflection of low self-esteem. If you’re willing to settle for less, it’s because you think that you’re deserving of less.

    There’s no greater indication of how a person feels about themselves than the person they choose as a spouse.

    • So Lulu, is it a bit like buying a bargain, you think you got your man at a bargain price because no one else saw his potential. Gosh – I love a bargain as well. I think this might be my problem, I don’t have the self esteem to go for the finished article.

      • Interesting point. I think it’s because a lot of people (but especially women) think that they’re being “mean” by having deal breakers or are arrogantly ignoring their own flaws. I know I thought to myself, “I have baggage, so who am I to judge him?”

        The difference between my baggage and his, in retrospect, is that mine could fit easily into the overhead compartment whereas he needed a whole damn cargo ship.

        It took a lot of time and therapy for me to be comfortable having deal breakers and accepting that other people’s issues were not my problems to fix.

        • I think many women were raised to be humble, especially where I grew up. I still struggle with wanting to tolerate other’s bad behavior because I’m not perfect either.

          The comment above about getting a fixer upper being like buying a bargain is pretty funny. Hadn’t thought of it that way before. I do love combing flea markets for that very reason. LOL

            • i got a resale shop. actually he was fools gold. looked great and had soooo much potential. He ended up spreading all that potential around his office by fucking ho workers…. lesson learned

        • “a lot of people think that they’re being “mean” by having deal breakers or are arrogantly ignoring their own flaws.” Great point, Lulu! That’s exactly the way I used to think and I’m working hard to fix it. We just need to remember that there IS a difference between us and the cheaters (aside from the size of our baggage!) – we were willing to work on ourselves; them – not so much.

        • I have felt throughout my whole mess that I am being mean, unresaonable and wrong by having deal breakers.

          • I tolerated SO much …ate shit sandwiches one after the other…he wanted out but was too prideful to let the world know that he was THAT guy. One day I told him that his rage had become a deal breaker and he was giddy…he said (literally smiling) “so you are telling me that I -as I am right now – am not good enough and you would end our marriage?! ” he seemed SO excited to have figured out how to push me past my limits and pressure me to “throw him out” so that he could escape unscathed.

            • Yes, it sucks when they show you that they have been waiting for you to make a move so they can blame you for the split. Then you’re the one who refuses to forgive, they just couldn’t meet your unreasonable expectations, etc. I would’ve felt better if my husband had clearly wanted to stay AND just couldn’t resist the temptation of cake. But now that I have had time to process, I realize that he never loved me, anyway, and our children and I didn’t meet his expectations. The years of anger and feeling abandoned can end, though. I just wish the nightmares about it would stop. Maybe when the divorce is final?

    • “There’s no greater indication of how a person feels about themselves than the person they choose as a spouse.”

      Now there’s a 2×4 of truth. Need to get a tattoo of this.

      • There are plenty of women here, myself included, who married out of college when potential wasn’t know really. Nor was our own…but these shape shifting qualities of their came right out. In my case I met my husband at 16, he was sweet and kind, and shy, a very like able person. He is still all of those things on the surface, NO ONE besides you all will ever understand what a shape shifter he is under that facade.

        • When I met X he was only 17! But, he had his own place, and he knew how to talk to people, and have fun, some skills I lacked. 35 yrs later, I had grown, and all he wanted to do all day was ‘shoot the breeze’ with the neighbor and her friends, and have fun. I learned that I’m ambitious, and want to continuously evolve into the best I can be. It’s like he was stuck (and also he loved deception).
          Yeah, I have always loved the potential of any damn thing! Four old house reno’s under my belt so far, LOL.
          Very insightful writing, CL.

        • Ring

          A shapeshifter. Yes! That’s what I tollerated. We bought a fixer upper, a house that couldn’t be dated because it was so old. The fixer and the mixer. I thought I had it made. He was never invested. Didn’t want to be fixed. He loved his lifestyle. I know that now. It’s the mindfuckery that gets me still. To think he didn’t want ME to ruin it for HIM with the pig of all pigs. It’s who he was.

          For any chumps on the fence, run as fast as you can and don’t doubt yourself. The reason it’s so hard to STOP thinking about them is because we always focused on fixing them. Poor fucktards are users. Run

          • Donna, so true “The reason it’s so hard to STOP thinking about them is because we always focused on fixing them.” Smack me on the head on that one. For me, just when I have realized that I have been doing that about everything and I came to terms with being fired (and quit anyway), the court comes along and tells me to keep doing it or I am a bad parent or being unreasonable. So even when we recognize it and try to get out, we are tossed right back in.

        • Yes, I was 18 when I met nowdeadH, he was 20…we dated 3 years then married. I will say that I am generally not against youthful marriage, I know a lot of people who have done well with it. Our problems stemmed from deep seeded pathology in deadH that would have come out at 24 or 32 or 40.

          Being addicted to his potential WAS one of my problems though…I could look at us as a couple and see that we had all the right pieces to be a couple/family who could do well for the long haul and it was true, trouble was nowdeadH was NOT on matter the good pieces of life in front of him, putting them together would have required work he was NOT willing to do and would have ruined the only coping pattern he had developed which was blame.

          I was paralyzed with fear…just like CLs column about what keeps us stuck. I was convinced I would ruin my childrens’ lives by leaving, I was afraid I would mis out in the great guy he was destined to be. Unlike most of you here, I never left…I cant look at that moment when I put my big girl panties on and did the hard thing.

          He was SO much more using and manipulative of me than I ever imagined…he had it down to a science exactly when and how to throw me a few kibbles to keep me hopeful coming back for more and I fell for it over and over and over again. I was raised by an alcoholic mom and I was used to being treated like crap and I was good at coping in it.

          To the outside world, I look like a devoted wife who rebuild my life quickly after widowhood, but that is SO not the case. I was a chronically abused woman who spent so many years grieving her losses that by the time he died, I had already grieved much of it and I rebuilt to salvage some happiness because he had already ruined way too much of my life and I refuse to give him any more years of me.

  • Well said Chump Lady. Sometimes we need to take a good, hard look at ourselves. Why we didn’t listen. Why we overlooked. Why we ignored. And what the payoff was in that, for us.
    Yup. If I focussed on him and improving him, I could have my needs met through him too.

    I don’t blame him for saying ‘I am tired of this. What about me?’ That he used genitals, not words, is on him ….

    But I am finding to my surprise that focussing on me, although very frightening in the beginning, is a lot more peaceful and a lot less frustrating. It really did take infidelity to make me grow up.

    • Patsy, me too!

      X’s scumbag cheating and financial theft was finally my deal breaker. The divorce process, with all of his unbelievable nastiness (at last no longer covert just for my “benefit”) and the resulting financial nightmare has been a terrifying, yet oddly satisfying experience. Everything I’ve accomplished since I decided I was done being married to a selfish loser is on me. I’m good with that.

      I’ve finally come to the realization that I’m far better off alone than I ever was or ever would have been with him. Was it worth the pain? I’m not sure. But being hopeful again for my future is a nice way to finally live again.

      I’m going to be fine.

  • “…character, kindness, integrity, work ethic…”

    (^This, ^this, ^this, and ^this.)

    (Give this lady an award.)

  • I truly needed this today. Even before I married my husband, there were red flags, flashing lights and sirens. And yet I was sooooo certain I could change him. Everything in my being was screaming NO!!!! I had panic attacks, lost weight, sleeplessness, nightmares, and a sense of dread. Because that is what an engagement is supposed to be like. Sigh…I proceeded with the wedding bc I was stubborn and I knew could help him and make him a prince. The first time we slapped me was in the car on the way to the airport for our honeymoon. I found out I was pregnant a month later. It is so imperative to listen your soul and the outward signs that are trying to get you to change direction. I certainly wish I had.

    • Hey, but where are you today? Did you get out? That’s the important thing. You learn from this crap! ((Hugs))

      • Working towards it. My heart is body is creeping closer to the door so I can walk out and then nail that fucker shut!

        • Please don’t wait if he is violent with you. Get yourself and children somewhere safe and go no contact with him. Take everything you can (car, , photos, cash) and document everything you can. Take photos, tell your friends, tell a counsellor, so there is a record of the abuse.
          I know mental abuse is also damaging but being killed by a violent partner is irreversible and one of the most common killers of women.
          I am not sure where you are living but often their are better programs to help women of physical abuse get away. Even if he is not physically hurting your children they will become damaged from seeing you hurt. They often go on to be abusers or abused. Take care of yourself.
          Good luck

          • Yes, a former coworker of mine from CT was just shot & killed last weekend as she told her husband she wanted a divorce. Remember, these people were not murderers…until they were. Get out now.

            • OMG, Chris W. That is heart-breaking. It is a lesson to all of us–we don’t know what they are capable of .

        • NolaGirl, please don’t tell him you are leaving until after you are gone and if you haven’t already done so, get some help from a women’s shelter. My ex escalated drastically when I said the words divorce, I nearly became a statistic. Jedi Hugs!

          • Nolagirl

            X was not physically violent. While he was having the affair he became very abusive. Every time I was with him I would grind my teeth. Even though they cheat in their minds we are possessions or objects until they don’t want us anymore. X wanted a divorce yet cheated fir years. He kept me a prisoner through control. The monster came out when I filed. I’ve never seen such anger. Everyone noticed it. Yours is also a physical abuser and your priority right now should be to get out while he’s not there. Possessions can be replaced. It’s not worth your life or your children’s. Safety first!

  • What I’ve come to appreciate is that developing the potential in others is something that I’m really very good at. Ex came from being a well studied hippy to a high level regulator in his industry, gone from scholarships over short terms, to top dollar with all the benefits doing something he believes in.

    I’m now writing books on what I’ve done professionally as guidebooks on how to do it. I’m taking my potential-building personality and utilizing it to crack my life-long desire to publish something. I would argue that is also the path that CL has chosen by making this community. It is a positive outlet for this aspect of your personality, without the need to put others above yourself.

    • I’m pretty good at developing the potential in others. I’m an early childhood and elementary educator- it is, literally, my job to develop the potential in others. However, you can grasp pretty fast who wants to reach their potential and who doesn’t give a darn- even in kids. Also developing potential in kids is different than developing potential in a spouse. That is not our job and CL is right, that is a very narcissistic thought. I married my husband thinking he was a little immature and we would grow up together. I grew up and he mirrored my actions but it became very clear that he never grew up or wanted to grow up because his selfishness is off the charts.

      Also, after working with children for over 20 years and studying child development I have grown to truly understand that these disordered spouses of ours have some form of attach disorder and there is absolutely NOTHING we can do to fix this. We must choose a spouse who is a solid mentally healthy person from the get go. There is some GREAT information on attachment disorder and how to break the cycle of it here: . They don’t bond to others properly and we cannot change that. The best thing we can do is teach our children differently. Teach them how to pick a truly good spouse and how to be a good spouse.

  • I read that article and when you gave that definition of co-dependency a light freaking bulb went off. I’ve heard many a definition and none really made sense to me – but the addiction to potential of fixing him(s) – so I could-a. not pay attention to fixing me, or b. fix him and therefore it would fix me, really really really hit home, if I can make him “more than he saw he could be” that would make me better than my “mommy and daddy issues”. A definite piece of the puzzle that fit for me – thanks CL, it always helps when there’s that one big step on the road to recovery that is momentous.

  • My problem was not addiction to potential. It was 5 steps beyond that: outright delusion. I saw all of the big honking red flags and convinced myself, “but he’s changed, he’s turned a corner, he’s a New Him,” — without any evidence to back that up. I didn’t think he was a fixer upper; I thought he was an already-fixed-up. Well, guess what? There was no New Him. The whole turning the corner thing was a fabrication of my mind, to justify being with a major, criminal-level sociopath, who sparkled like gold, just for me (more like fools gold, and for anyone with a vagina). I look back and think how could I have been so stupid, for so long…!

    • This is my story as well. Sure, she walked out on two husbands and unknown numbers of boyfriends, usually via exit affairs, but she claimed to have learned from her past mistakes and was reformed.

      And of course the power of my love was going to make her feel “safe” enough to not repeat such destructive behavior.

      Oops. I’m not saying that I’ll never believe that someone can be reformed, but if they haven’t been through several years of therapy, I’ll immediately say no thanks.

    • How could I have been so stupid for so long? It’s because you were the Sunshine. These creeps really know their game. Potentially, who knows, they could have become anything. They chose darkness. I felt the same way. We aren’t stupid. Stupid is seeking out strange. Well THAT can be his biggest achievement as his life falls apart. A scuzzy used up ho. Lol. She fucks anyone anywhere. Just couldn’t pass that up. She gets the bed wetter.

  • I married my first wife thinking would make her feel loveable. Six years later after several bouts of cheating by her, it was clear I did not have that super power. Learned not to spackle over that red flag. Now, I am married to a stable woman, Mrs.Fiestypants, without this serious problem.

  • I completely fixed up my man – like beyonce’s “Upgrade you”. He drove, moved out of his mum’s house, got a good job, all cos of me.

    Heck, when he was failing his studies, I went and studied it and then tried to teach it to him – ahahaha!!!! the absurdity of that!!! Still at least I know if I ever need that particular qualification – its in the bag. He failed any way and lost the job cos of it.

    It’s true, I am bit scared of investing into myself, its time to overcome the fear I think.

    • Ohmigosh – this! I essentially earned his degree, have always done his job applications, wrote all his cover letter and made customized resumes, and sought better jobs for him. I unfortunately wanted FOR him what he didn’t want for himself. I made all the excuses for his partial engagement with me and the kids, and I wanted more than he did in terms of security, family, future, dreams and honest, real love. Not the junior-high-in-your-pants-feeling kind of love, but real, honest, and caring love. The problem is that there isn’t enough spackle to use when it’s a 90/10 percent type of relationship, and we’re d r a g g i n g these douchebags behind us, begging them to be human. They’re not. They’re disengaged in everything good we gave freely, and ever brought into their selfish, inconsequential lives.

      • I think its time for us to leave the Victorian era behind us KibbleFree and stop trying to live through our man. It’s not necessary anymore, we are allowed into universities and everything 😀

        • Hey, MidlifeBlast – you’re exactly right, and we’re on the same wave length. What I didn’t mention is that while all my spackling was going on over 17 years of “marriage” and a wasted 23 years of youth, I was also coaching youth soccer for 13 years for both of my kids, I earned professional accreditation (only 5% in my industry do this), and earned my master’s. Because of my hard work, I’m completely independent, while he’s bankrupt, just got fired, and is squatting in a rental property that is being foreclosed on. He got nothing of my retirements, or the primary house. Oh, and the formerly married ho-worker dumped him. Awww – too bad. #sorrynotsorry

          F these douchebags. We’re all only as awesome or lame as we CHOOSE to be.

  • I like the old house metaphor. It makes sense to me now that there was always a crisis of some kind whenever I tried to divert resources to myself. If my ex were a house, he would have been a huge money pit. If I wanted to finish my education, suddenly the roof collapsed and the basement flooded and needed my attention. Start a new job? Oops, the pipes have burst and I have to stay home and deal with that mess. Exercise? Nope, the power just went out. Buy something for myself? Uh uh, because money needs to be spent on spackle and paint. And you better get out in that garden every day because the weeds are taking over. And on, and on, and on…stupid house.

    • Ha ha!! DoneNow that sounds like my ACTUAL house! But really though, I have a ton of craft stuff, DIY stuff and things that would be great if I actually made them, plus a fixer upper house I live in. I am sooooo addicted to potential, it stands to reason, I picked an undeveloped fool for a husband.

      Wait!? No he picked me, Narc alert.

  • I love the new definition of co-dependant. Yes, I knew he was selfish when I married him. Didn’t see that as a problem. I had attracted selfish sidekicks my whole life. Because I am a chump, a giver. Being addicted to potential is a wonderful, grounding was to think of co-dependancy.

    As we finalize all the details of divorce, his texts he thinks are zingers are actually quite pathetic. I don’t respond which I am sure eats away at him. He loves to argue. I have denied him the pleasure of showing of what he sees as his major intellect.

    He picks on the kids because that used to be my red button. Realize my kids are quite strong and can handle him. They see him coming a mile away. They went to therapy and told him point blank OW is not allowed on their time, their turf or any ‘family’ functions. He was pissed, but therapist told him he had to accept their feelings. Oh, dear….’My selfish feelings do not get to prevail.’

    His OW is largely viewed as a major downgrade by friends and our adult children. He is the only one that doesn’t get it.

    Me, I am free. Bought a nifty little house in a cool community while he spent the proceeds of the family home on lawyers. Yes, six figures. Can you imagine? I can’t. Just because he didn’t want to give me what I eventually got; what I had initially asked for. So Strange. Karma in another form.

    No remaking a guy for me. I am not even sure I want one anymore. Happy being just me and having no obligations to anyone but myself and my two furry kids, dogs, who bring me joy every single day.

    • I’m with ‘ya, StarbucksGal on the “not sure I even want one”! I have so much to catch up on for interests of MINE that I put on the back burner for Dracula over the last 20 years!

  • Great article CL!

    Since we are the same age, I would say this comes with time because when you are just starting out it is all potential.

    I never wanted to fix my EX, I accepted who he was/is — yep — red flags and all “because isn’t that what love is”?

    Now I see what is in front of me. Is this a ‘boy’ or a ‘man’? (Honestly, dating at my age is interesting.) Do they have: empathy (real not fake), kindness, the ability to deal with problems in a healthy way.

    • Bingo, Movingforward. It has a lot to do with our culture’s definition of love, and what we should be willing to do for love. Also, the many role models we have (in life and in the media) of people who go the extra mile for ‘love’.

      • So true. It would be worthwhile to disabuse people of the notion of “unconditional love,” while we’re at it.

        • Yep! I’m on that crusade myself! But every time I bring it up to someone, they balk at the idea of love that has boundaries, and expects fair behavior just to exist. They keep sputtering- No, no, love is beautiful and unconditional. You’re trying to wreck love!
          Lots of people just don’t get it.

          • They’re like children who still believe in the tooth fairy. Pat them on the head and move on.

  • I agree — the most important life lesson I learned was that you cannot change other people – you can only change yourself, and even then you have to desire the change. I will never lose weight simply because I desire to be slimmer than I am — I have to actually bypass those delicious carbs and that dark chocolate from Nirvana!

    One problem I have not been able to find a solution to (yet) is what to do about my easily bored self. One of the reason’s I was attracted to the Sparklers was that they were interesting and exciting. Most “normal” fellows bore me to death! I am sure that there are interesting good guys out there, and I have been protecting myself from myself because I was not ready to test the waters again — but my friends tell me I have unrealistic expectations. I want a mate that offers many of the same qualities I feel I have to offer (reciprocity), AND I want him to be able to initiate and hold up his end of the conversation. I am not talking about droning on about his work, or sports — but that he would read a book and have interesting commentary about it, or could have a conversation about what is going on in the world. Interest in something besides himself — willingness to appreciate travel and art and music. All this and good hygiene, too.

    Am I being unreasonable?

    • Have you asked yourself the following related questions:

      WHAT bores me about these normal guys?

      WHY am I so easily bored with them?

      If you can start finding the answers to these very important questions, you might have a better chance at happiness with a decent guy.

      For example, do you expect him to fill up ALL the loneliness, or to be on call when you need entertaining? This might be what your friends are really saying when they warn you about having unrealistic expectations.

      Many men out there may meet your criteria, but they might not be handsome, fit, or slim! And sometimes this is what we secretly hope for, and are disappointed.

      Have you considered going to group engagements that may provide stimulating male company in a no-obligation setting? is pretty good for this kind of thing.

      But seriously, I would be examining the whole personal boredom thing myself. I have taught myself to be interested in pretty much anything in modest doses, and it has been an invaluable life skill. Also, boredom is natural and therapeutic as well; we actually need boredom from time to time!

      • I don’t know why I find so many men I have met boring — generally I do not have this trouble with women. Maybe it is because there is not a dating component with women, and I am able to relax and enjoy them?

        What I do now, and have done for some time, is attend things I am interested in and participate. I keep conversations with men who are there focused on the event itself, and have sidestepped any personal questions they ask, except for saying I am happily divorced, when asked.

        I think part of my reluctance to open the dating issue is that I enjoy my freedom so much — I have more freedom now than I ever have in my life. I had to answer to my father when I was young, and then my husband, and then I had obligations to my children. I am now able to come and go as I please and when I please, and I probably have a fear that someone will try to reign me in or drag me down again.

        I read constantly and enjoy music, and go out to live music at least once a week, and I watch the news. I can carry on a conversation with myself if I need to! But I love a good exchange with another soul – man or woman. Probably one of the reasons I love this site! Several of the men at the live music have indicated that they are interested in finding out more about me — I am reluctant to change the status quo because it is so comfortable now.

        Also — I have not felt the physical attraction I used to feel when I was young and in a situation that had dating potential. Maybe I do wish that they would be more handsome, fit or slim. I keep myself up, and watch my weight and have been told I am attractive. Do men not feel the same obligation to make themselves presentable if they want to date someone? It seems they knew they needed to shower and shave and brush their teeth and put on clean clothes when they were younger and I was dating. Has all that changed? Being careless about those things leads me not to have a conversation with them in the first place. The boredom comes when they are presentable in those ways — but they cannot initiate or carry on a conversation about anything but their work or sports. I want to talk about other things — I want dinner conversation. I don’t want someone who is constantly on the phone talking or texting or surfing. There is no way for me to develop sexual interest if I have no mental interest, or if they have no sense of humor. Being interesting and funny is sexy, for me.

        • Portia, I very much relate to you saying how much you enjoy your freedom. When I was first separated, I was really frightened to be on my own. After I adjusted, though, I thought “no wonder so many of the younger guys didn’t want to “commit” when I dated as a young adult. They were enjoying their freedom too much! Now I understand how they felt. All my life I lived with other people’s oppressive rules. It feels wonderful to actually do what I want instead of always giving in to what someone else wants. It took awhile to understand that being alone is a gift too.

          • Yes, a very precious gift. It doesn’t mean you don’t want companionship on occasion. But you wonder what the price will be, and if it is worth the price you pay to give up that special freedom?

            • There’s a woman on a comment board I frequent who is older and likes her freedom. She fell in love, they are committed to each other but they live separately, spending overnights as they like. She wanted to keep her freedom too, it’s been working for her for many years.

        • I see men on the dating site, who are neither too young, nor too decrepit, who seem to have a nice home and a good job and like many activities. Then I imagine meeting one of these guys. Sitting in front of him in a restaurant, and feeling like a teenager, although my age and level of education, and even my job, are the same as his. Visiting his home, with the beige wallpaper, the usual furniture, carpet, brown sofa. No funny piece, nothing original. And wondering what I am doing there. I … don’t belong. I do frescoes on my kichen cabinets. I make comics. I draw cartoons. I buy a plane ticket and discover a remote place on my own. I chat with people all over the world, and invite them to my place. I can’t really put my finger on it, but something prevents me from associating with a nice average man. I’ll go for the geek who works all night behind his computer. I’ll choose the guy with long hair who dances on AC/DC. I’ll fall for the loner with a backpack. What’s wrong with me ?

          • There’s nothing wrong with you. You like artistic, creative people who are interesting. The fact is stability is nice, but it is not the only thing.

            • One of the things I have really learned from being single is the value of friendship – genuine, non sexual relating to and with others, based on common interests.

              There’s also a huge range of degrees of friendship, and it’s very fulfilling to have a range of people in my life, from casual acquaintances to intimate friends.

              Having had so many bad sexual and romantic relationships, it’s very healing as well to find real friends, based on mutual trust and respect. I find that my love life disasters have taught me to weed out equally poor relationships with friends as well, so I have real friends now, and not feckless, distant, exploitative individuals who were only friendly when it suited them.

              • 30 yrs ago I knew both my now-dead-narc-cheater husband and my brand-new-good-husband. My dad was always “nice” to my mom no matter how shitty my mom was (which was pretty shitty) and I naively thought that men who love you enough to marry you will always be “nice” so one could certainly gravitate towards an “exciting” person with no worries at all.

                oh my, I was SO wrong

                I totally missed the red flag of how shitty nowdeadhusband’s father was to his mother- it was cloaked in humor which was cruel and I ended up suffering decades of it myself.

                I find it sobering to admit to myself that if I had married nowgoodhusband all those years ago, I might very well have taken his kindness for granted and resented his steadfast reliability as “dull” (I think his first wife did – she tried to reconcile with him after sampling the other fish in the sea but she had already “burned the bridge” to cinders).

                I am now profoundly thankful for a man who buys too many pillow protectors and gets anxious if his car goes below 1/2 tank…he is KIND to me which was #1 on my list of hoped-for traits of a new partner. He can easily buy the gas (he responsibly saved and planned for the future to the point that we could retire at 50 if we wanted to) and I have a spot to fit all the superfluous linens he moved into the house.

  • Wow, to all of that. Once again CL you rock!!! Looking back (yes hindsight is 20/20) my serial cheater of 31 years STBXh stumbled on our wedding vows….video to prove it ” I_____promise to love only YOU! lol Everyone chuckled, while he choked and stammered to make a promise such as this. 1st missed RED FLAG!

    He was never in love bc pychopaths CAN’T love. Stupid me for spackeling our entire marriage. SMH…note to self, WARNING….potential addiction.

  • Great column, CL. Potential is my drug of choice.

    2 ex husbands and one ex BF. All cheaters.

    After I threw out the last asshole, I looked in the mirror, saw potential and have been working on it ever since. What a difference a day makes.

  • I really needed this today, you are always on time, CL!

    I’ve been putting my energy towards yet another guy with potential (non-sociopathic, thank God, but still emotionally not where he needs to be for a real relationship with longevity) and just 2 nights ago decided that I won’t spend another night worrying about what will happen with him. I won’t toss & turn another nights sleep away wondering why he’s not treating me the way I need him to or if he is even capable. Because, who cares? Who cares why he’s not or if he will? The fact is that he’s not. That’s the only part of the equation worth focusing on.

    I still have things about myself that need tending to and I’ve placed those aside for too long by focusing on helping others that I think need it more than I do.

    Am I addicted to tattered, torn, bruised items with the potential to be glorious? Yep! I think it’s time to save that for my antique furniture ventures only.

  • And this is why, if I ever date again, the main quality I’m looking for is integrity.If a guy can’t follow through on commitments or finish a project, he’s not for me!

  • I’ve yet to read the comments as I wanted to subscribe before there were too many more, but I did want to say that I think potential is a dirty word. When I would get depressed and ask my ex what she saw in me and loved about me, her answer was potential. After she ran off I realized that she was referring to my potential to be exactly what she wanted me to be. I think there’s an inherent level of arrogance in thinking that we know what anyone else is capable of.

    I never saw her as a project, but she certainly saw me as one. A failed one at his point.

    • So true, WWDSG!! They view us as “fixer uppers,” too. They can craft us to be their go-to boys/girls, the one who keeps their warm fuzzy home, who raises their children (almost singlehandedly), their dinner party companions, their tiger-in-the-bedroom, and on and on. But let us fail at just ONE of those tasks, and they have their justification for cheating. There are days I wish I didn’t now understand the cheater’s mindset as well as I do. It’s like a bite from the forbidden apple–Eden is not the same.

    • Wwdsg – stay mighty, man. The more I read your comments, the more I hope that your ex has an unfortunate run-in with an eighteen wheeler. She sucks large amounts of donkey bong!

      • Great typo! Knowing her past, she probably does indeed hit the donkey bong after finishing up with its other equipment!

        I’d say I’m at the 75% recovered point. There are still those moments when I think I was deficient or impossible to be around. I mean, the way she left sounds like the steps that abused or battered women take to escape their tormentors. The worst torture implement I ever used was a comfy chair.

  • My mother always said “You can’t change a man. Don’t try”. I suppose we could change that 1970’s wording from “man” to “person”.

    Changing people may be impossible, but I see no harm in renovating old houses if you have the skill to do it. And a bottomless pit of money.

  • Another common trait of the disordered that can make them very appealing is their supreme sense of confidence. The narcs and the sociopaths don’t feel pesky emotions like doubt, anxiety, self consciousness, fear or worry about consequences. They are completely sure of themselves, and do not even consider the possibility of failure, because they assume they are above that sort of thing. For a person like me, who tends to be the opposite — anxious, self doubting, insecure — it’s hard to resist the sparkle of such a (on the surface) completely confident person.

    My ex never had a moment of doubt, anxiety or hesitation. It was one of the things I loved about him until I finally realized — and it took me until well after Dday to realize it — that while self confidence is great, his was a pathological level of self confidence that was really disorder and narcissism. Even when things in his life go wrong — such as basically his entire life for the past five years — he is unable to drop the act and admit imperfection, failure or humility of any sort. He simply spins reality into a fairy tale where he continues to be Prince Charming.

    My rambling point — along with the fixer-upper, watch out for the person who seems to be far more confident than the normal person. Extreme self confidence is generally a sign of narcissism, but it can be very attractive to someone who doesn’t feel so great about herself/himself.

    • Good point, GIO. Confidence is definitely one of the main things that attracted me to my ex. Now I’m working to develop confidence in myself. It’s been a slow journey but I seem to be making some progress.

      • I used to find my ex’s silly remarks about how great he was, really funny and also embarrassing if anyone else heard them. I didn’t realise he meant them!! I used to think “aw bless that’s so cute, and kinda silly.”

        why why why didn’t I realise he actually believed himself?

    • Glad—-“he is unable to drop the act and admit imperfection, failure or humility of any sort. He simply spins reality into a fairy tale where he continues to be Prince Charming’ —wow, that’s an exact description of the XBF’s behavior.

      He reeks confidence but deep down inside he has no confidence, self love nor self acceptance. He lies to everyone but most of all, to himself.

    • So true, Glad it’s over. The ex and the skimebucket whore both think they are the best thing since sliced bread. Ughhhh.

    • Glad It’s Over,
      You nailed my STBXH to a tee. What attracted me the most to him was his self confidence. His great ability to walk into the room like he owned it. But what it turned into was an ugly arrogance, a “better than everyone” attitude, an attention whore, “what can you do for me” mindset…he was a narcissist through and through. He was able to make /others feel insignificant without me even realizing it, twisting my words and one up-ing just about anything I did or said. I was deeply devoted to him, built him up (constantly stroked his ego), did everything possible to help him follow his dreams, encouraged him and truly wanted him to be happy. I now know (thanks to a great counselor) that all those times I was thinking he was reciprocating my love, support and admiration for him…it was actually me just feeling good and about making HIM feel good. There wasn’t any reciprocation. He used me until there was nothing left and then walked out with his AP of 4 years (a co-worker, also married with children)…

      I only wish that I would have known that I was essentially substituting my own self worth for his… what I thought was mutual unconditional love, trust and respect was me being used and emotionally abused for years – unsuspecting and naïve. I’m still in the thick of the healing and grief process. Only 9 months since Dday. It’s been an incredibly painful and heartbreaking experience to lose my husband and have my family ripped apart. I’m trying to stay focused on my three young boys. I’ll be teaching them about integrity, truth, love, character…and how to properly treat people.

  • What a smart post. I must admit that I became addicted to not only “fixing” my timid forest creature, but to monitoring her activities after d-day to see if she would become human and respond to my repeated pleas to return to normalcy, her children, her sanity etc.

    All that happened was that she became more adept at hiding the ugly self that lurked beneath the surface.

  • This is a wonderful post CL! Chump Nation, I would appreciate some insight from you regarding something:

    My first husband was an alcoholic. I knew he liked to drink and have a good time before we married, but I realized it was a problem after the wedding, when I discovered he could drink enough to intoxicate several people and not show it – a high-functioning alcoholic. It wasn’t all the time either, he could go for long periods without a drink. But once he took one, it was binge time! Yeah, I was pretty naïve. We were married for 11 years when we were we started taking care of his elderly parents – whom we moved so they would be five minutes from us. His father was an alcoholic and wanted my then-husband to join him as a drinking partner – which he gladly obliged as I’m not much of a drinker. Combine that with my deteriorating health problems, and his addiction led to depression and more bizarre, self-destructive behavior. We limped along for another two years during which I either spackled or kept away from home, throwing myself into my work.

    The marriage counseling during that time was a dud, as hubby wanted to quit as soon as the counselor tried to make him own up to his issues. (The Counselor was excellent by the way, a physically intimidating, but warm and friendly Nebraska farmer’s son who was the head Professor of Psychology at a nearby University. This guy didn’t mince words when he saw disordered behavior. My husband had met his match, and he knew it.) That hubby #1 wanted a divorce as soon as his by-then widower father has passed was a shock, but in retrospect, not unexpected. He was an unhappy drunk, and thought that a new life (sans wife) would take care of everything.

    In the aftermath, I realized my picker needed some repair, and went about doing it. When I met Mr. Sex Predator, I had my boundaries firmly in place, watched him like a hawk for any disordered behavior, and passed him through my gauntlet of friends and family in case I was missing something. Time and again, he passed the tests effortlessly. My mom was the president of his fan club. We dated well over a year before we married,. Four months after the wedding, I discovered the sexts from the OMW on the iPad he accidently left in my car that he borrowed the day before.

    I read that Robert Hare, who is a pioneer in working with Cluster B’s, admitted the even he, after all these years, can be duped by one of his patients. They really can be that good at the “mask of sanity”. However, I feel so inept that I didn’t see what my now X#2 really was, and one of my greatest fears is that my picker will never be repaired. Not that I’m looking for a romantic partner, but I’m concerned about it regarding meeting new people as potential friends. Inside, I’m still a potential sap, just like CL, and I don’t want to turn into an outward diva bitch to protect myself – that’s not who I really am. This is my biggest struggle.

    • BR – I think that you should at least entertain the possibility that your last cheater was not a “normal” case. He sounds, to me, unusually adept at feigning a mask of normalcy. By your account, he fooled a good number of people; that’s kind of rare.

    • BR — your story sounds very much like mine. First husband — alcoholic.– we were together for 10 years. Second husband — had a secret sexual life — thank God after 18 months of marriage I discovered this and left him. I too felt that I had been guarded and very carefully checking him out before committing. The thing that my therapist keeps reminding me of is that these people are VERY GOOD at deception. They’ve often had a lifetime of practice. So — we don’t necessarily have the ability to detect a fraud at first. Especially if we have little or not experience being around someone who can lie to the extent that they do and then sleep soundly.

      • that is why i am never getting married again. i am not even sure if i will ever date again. the only problem is that everything i want to do i need someone who is super strong. *sigh*..

        i think i would rather be rich and single. Thanks to Diablo’s deception it will be a few number of years before i get financially stable again. But i will be one day and i am never going back to trusting anyone like that again. not with my heart, not with my health, not with my future, not with my kids futures, not with my finances……………..stick a fork in me, i am done.

    • Boudica; one of the most healing things said to me was, “If a really smart person wants to deceive you, of course they can.”

      Forgive yourself; you are mighty!

  • I definitely missed red flags and sirens; entitlement being the biggest one. Constant projection was another one. I didn’t marry the ex with the hopes he would change however. I accepted him and his flaws because I knew I wasn’t perfect.

    I did a fair amount of projection in that I expected him to act the way I acted in certain situations (e.g. not cheating,)

    I accepted the shabby way he treated me because I don’t think I thought I deserved better. I also definitely thought I could change his actions after his affair if I did the pick me dance to perfection. That was definitely very co-dependent of me. I did expect I could change him at that point and it took a long time, but eventually I realized what a complete exercise in futility that is!

  • I needed to hear this today because it’s been on my mind since I read it here, I was one of those that had an ah ha moment over that comment “Codependency is the addiction to the POTENTIAL of things.” It was like WOW, that is so much what I do all the time. Had I not learned this from you Tracy, I would have continued on my Mary way doing this in my life. It is crazy, that’s how I always ended up losing myself! I checked all the boxes, older houses, money pits that kept me in debt, stayed with jobs I disliked over a potential that I rarely saw come to fruition. And of course my soon X, always after him to grow up, love me more, stop looking at other women, tried to change myself to please him “pick me dance” so he’d treat me better. Wanted him to make me a priority in his life (loss cause, never happened). Yes, no wonder I was insane for a long time and completely miserable and DRANK to escape at times.

    My wake up call is that I realized I myself have potential that I can actually CHANGE! That’s where my effort has been going these days and it’s making all the difference in my life. Thank you CL and CN for waking me up and continuing to do so. Love you all! <3

  • During one of my husbands affairs he was terribly depressed and moody. I was a stay at home wife so I had lots of free time when he was off work. He does shift work so he’s off 3 or 4 days each week. He was treating me and the family terribly. I actually told my friend during this time “what would he do without me.” I felt he needed me to be there for him because he was so depressed. I ‘m sure he was angry that all of his free time was spent with me and not the ow. I told my h after dday when he asked what he could do. I said “be the best person you can be.” Well he kept cheating so that went right over his head. Disgusting!

  • I am not so sure if I fit in to the addicted to potential category…when I met my cheater we were both at the same level of education…we finished our PhDs with a year of difference, we both got good jobs, but as time passed, he seemed jealous of my success, and often said that he didn´t understand how I got so far without him (I met him during my first year of a PhD in a prestigious university) and he wanted me to attribute any achievements we had as a couple to him. SO, strangely, with time I realized that I accepted him with all his flaws (anger fits, criticism, workaholism,) and loved his achievements, while he always said that I disappointed him because I wasn´t the same as when we met (I didn´t wear mini-skirts, or weigh the same, or pay as much attention to him). So the fact that my body and way of acting changed when I had kids AND I developed my professional potential, bothered him. He wanted me to be the same student type as when we met while I appreciated all his successes as well as his flaws. However, I don´t think I could be with a guy who was just potential for too long.

    Having said all that, I recently went on a few dates with a wonderful man, who I had this feeling hadn´t developed his full potential, but I thought he was underappreciated. I helped him do a new version of his resume (which he really appreciated) and showed him all the much better jobs he could get in his field due to his experience, four languages he spoke fluently and knowledge of the world (he has travelled to more than fifty countries and lived in several of them). Then I realized that I was projecting too much on what I thought was his potential, when in reality he had developed it by being authentic and doing the things that he wanted to do at a young age (travel and live in as many countries as possible). Even though he had no property or a stable job at his age (50), he had lived a unique life and never sold out for conventional ways. Now, I have to think if I can live with that and not try to make him do anything that I think he should be doing, but just appreciate all his wonderful energy, stories, and outlook on life. I don´t need a home or kids anyway (I have my own) so why not….just thinking out loud…..

    • Now that is the same kind of thing I would do to my X chumpnomore. I related to it all. Never again for me too. 🙂

      • There is a saying (don’t know whose) that women marry men hoping they will change, but men marry women hoping they never will.

        I know my ex became more and more competitive (and ultimately aggressive) with me as I reached an equal educational status, became a successful professional and began to voice my own opinions. He always focused on the fact that I was no longer as young or thin or pretty as I had been when we met, but I think it also had to do with wanting the deference he felt he deserved. Closing the achievement gap robbed him of his god given superiority. Then the goalposts started moving all over the field.

    • He sounds like a fascinating friend, but I woildn’t be my careful self if I didn’t suggest that you need to avoid being used or exploited by a man who has never settled down and is now feeling old and in need of a woman with means to subsidise his lifestyle …

  • Right, I don’t believe narcissists have potential the way I don’t believe weaponized germs can benefit society in any way. Both are somewhat scientifically interesting if you’re wearing hazmat suits but I wouldn’t drop either one on my worst enemy.

    Despite all of the romantic movie/book/religious messages to the contrary, I knew a long long time ago that you can’t change someone else. And also that being attracted to bad boys is pointless. I just didn’t know about narc lovebombing. But if there’s one thing I’m proud of it’s that I walked away the minute I found out he was cheating and went completely no contact shortly after finding out he was a “sex addict”.

    If there’s one piece of advice I would give to anyone dealing with a serial cheater it’s that you can’t fix what isn’t broken. And serial cheaters aren’t broken….the just aren’t human in my opinion. Different species altogether. Sorry, but none of us is an advanced enough scientist or magician to change a crocodile into a human.

    I’m just pissed because after listening to my mom bitch about trying to change my dad for 30 years I thought I was doing a good job picking someone who matched value wise and interest wise so that I understood that what I got was “as is”. Apparently perfect matches equals cluster b personality disorder.

  • Here’s the thing: women were, and still are to an extent, conditioned to define themselves through men. If they did well we were the power behind the throne or whatever. If we made our needs important or didn’t go through all sorts of subterfuge to ‘get what we wanted’ then we were ball busting bitches.

    I think, for women at least, going through this is really about honouring ourselves and also realising that being strong and tough and smart and funny and all those myriad other traits that make up a fully realised human being is nothing less than we deserve.

    • Excellent Nord. I agree wholeheartedly, especially women who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. I remember so clearly the day my mother told me she’d never want to be Barbara Streisand and upstage her husband’s career and make him feel bad about himself. We definitely had it drilled into us that being the woman behind the man was our role in society. The sad thing is this type of relationship doesn’t work very well for men or women in long relationships. It’s too out of balance.

    • Nothing wrong with being a ball-busting bitch. The narc-man should have known better than to mess with us!

        • Hahahaha! Thing is, a real man would appreciate his woman’s strength and be proud of her ability to stand up for herself and not have to chase after and fix her fuckups all the time. Its these pissants who can’t handle it. Maybe thats part of the cheater puzzle – they need someone to ‘rescue’ at all costs and are intimidated by the above?

  • 1989: my dad tried to warn me when I started dating my then-boyfriend, now-cheating-husband. He said, ‘he’s never going to change’, ‘he’ll only ever treat you like a meal ticket:, ‘he will never grow beyond who he is right now’ (we were 15!).

    From 1989 until 2013 I was sure that just a little more caring and effort on MY part would transform him into the man I believed he would grow into when we were 15. It never occurred to me that, at 38 years old, I shouldn’t have to wait for my husband to be inspired to become a man.

    2013: he screws his best friends wife every chance he gets, in parking lots, back seats, park benches, our home when I’m away and his brothers under-construction house. Now, if that doesn’t sound like the behavior of a horny 16-17 year old – sex with whoever will let him, in any convenient spot, in his room when his family isn’t home – I don’t know what does. It certainly doesn’t sound like the actions of a grown man.

    If I live to be 300, I will have no bigger regret than not heeding my dad’s warning\wisdom.

    • Loop, your Dad was right to share his opinion even if you couldn’t hear it at the time. If he’s still available, and you’re so inclined, tell him that you appreciate the effort and know it was made out of love. Imagine how he would feel if he’d kept it to himself and never said a word. And understand that when people share their hard won wisdom, that effort may not be appreciated at the time. We all have our own decisions to make and our own journey to travel.

      • I hate that I didn’t see it as wisdom at the time. My dad is still very much available and I think I’ll take YOUR wisdom, Survivor, and let him know that it may have taken 27 years, but I now hear what he was trying to tell me loud and clear.

  • I’ve got three qualifications for my next romantic partner:

    1. She owns her own shit.
    2. She’s got her shit together.
    3. She falls within the range of physical attractiveness to which I’m, well, attracted.

    In that order.

    At this point, I want to see *realized* potential. That untapped potential crap is for tv dramas, which I don’t watch. 🙂

  • oddly enough, what consciously attracted me to XH was thinking he was mature, caring, and had already worked on his sh*t (he was in recovery). in fact, I remember telling a friend that i was attracted to him because he was NOT someone I would have to fix!

    now i know that early projections in relationships, before we know the other person, are actually about ourselves.

    many of XH’s deeper flaws emerged after our engagement. so much so that I thought about postponing marriage. I didn’t. enter years of spackle and deep compassion for his many FOO issues (his covert narcissism was birthed in multiple early traumas) and I was drafted into the fixer upper project. which I thought was marriage.. but then again.. I really did love him. which wasn’t about fixing him. it was love.

    that said, I agree with what CL says about the narcissism of being a fixer. for me, this behavior swiftly follows my compassion. but after my divorce from cheater and with the kids grown, I have thoroughly enjoyed practicing SELF compassion and working on my own fixer upper project – fixing my picker. lol

    • though technically it’s not narcissism if your interest is in helping other people.

  • I love this post, CL. It is so true for me as well – I have always longed to fix up an old house and I spend my free time shopping for used and repurposed things. I love the idea of making something out of what other people would consider junk. I never was allowed to follow my dream of buying and remodeling an older home because XH hated anything old or damaged; to him, if something wasn’t perfect, it was useless. He wanted everything to be new – his cars, homes, everything. If we had a car that was scratched or damaged in any way he was on the phone with a dealership within days looking to trade it off for a new model. Hmmm, another red flag missed…

    • Lizzy, that could be a little bit of obsessive compulsive there. Or just blatant entitlement. Something shinier is out there, and I MUST have it!

      New isn’t always better.

    • STBX is also obsessed with newness. Would never buy a used car or a used house. Always had to be brand new.

      Maybe some OCD, but also entitlement. Over the years, he expressed “I deserve it” much more often, when he wants what he wants.

      He’s made himself into a martyr for not divorcing me when I went through the mental health issues induced by his emotional abuse. That may well be why he thinks he deserved to cheat on me,

      • Snakebit, my current and nice husband’s ex is exactly like that. Had to have new everything all the time. Especially when they and later she could not afford it. The bill collectors still call all the time looking for that one, on a phone that was never in a house where she lived. Who rents a brand new apartment that costs more than they earn? Who buys a new car and never makes a single payment? People who deserve it and/or can’t stand the idea that anyone else has touched it before.

        We live in an older home that has some history to it and is far more interesting than what’s put up today. Sure, it’s more work to maintain. We drive older cars that are better built than those made today. Again, it takes maintenance. But we can travel a bit too, as our bills are paid and we save for our wants after we take care of our needs.

        Take care of your needs now. Crazymaking behavior takes some undoing. And trust that he sucks.

      • Snakebit–Fuck him. The disordered are famous for causing chaos (including to our mental health) and then (a) swooping in to be the ‘savior’ for the crisis they caused, and/or (b) blaming their cheating on the relationship crisis that they themselves caused. It’s lose-lose with a cheater. The only way to win is to escape them.

      • “He’s made himself into a martyr for not divorcing me when I went through the mental health issues induced by his emotional abuse. That may well be why he thinks he deserved to cheat on me”

        Oh wow this hits home. When his mother told him he was being stupîd to cheat on such a nice woman (me), he answered “but… she had depression !”

      • I think my ex also felt like a martyr. I was dealing with depression and trauma, so it was fine for her to pretend to love me and be all in up until the savings account ran dry.

  • I adored my ex from the day I met him and never once felt like he needed fixing. Rather, I convinced myself that my expectations needed fixing, which I now know was a load of spackle.

    Our relationship was truly the stuff of literature at first, and then it began a slow but steady slide into the toxic abyss. I was addicted to the potential that our relationship could be restored to it’s former glory. I think he wanted that, too, but instead of ever actually trying, he simply decided that it would be more fun to relive the excitement of screwing someone new. Meanwhile, he punished me for wanting anything from him, like time, or affection, or communication, or commitment.

    It was never so much me that he loved, anyway, but the newness of me. When my newness wore off, he sulked and stewed until he went out to find more newness. The thrill of the new distracted him from his fragile ego and his lack of confidence (despite my continued devotion and praise), and took the edge off of the clinical depression that he refuses to acknowledge.

  • I never thought of any of these I can fix him things. He mirrored back to me perfectly the persona he wanted me to believe. He mindfucked me for 20+ yrs in the marriage. All of the problems were mine alone.I needed to fix it all and jump higher in order to meet his needs. The hoop jumping was probably my co dependency until I quit giving a fuck. He manipulated me and my high level of trust to never assume he was lieing the entire time to escape from his family and have a really fun fantasy life with people who knew me and the kids.

    Nope. He portrayed himself as whole and every single problem he twisted into making all mine. Mindfuckery and emotional abuse.

  • That is the take away from all of this and thank you for making it so clear – it is time for me to make my own life. I am so guilty of putting my ex’s needs in front of my own. Heck, I do that with everyone in my life and I’m in counseling trying to figure it all out.

  • i met Diablo when he was 24. not too young, not too old. i have already had 3 serious relationships, i have already went thru being cheated on and lied to. i have already understood that it doesnt really matter who you end up, it is what you put into the relationship. i also sat him down and told him everything i wanted out of being married, out of my life,for myself and my children. i laid it all out and told him if he did not agree with it to walk away. But he stayed….. i foolishly thought that because he stayed meant that he agreed, that he wanted the same things as i did. he actually did agree with his words, he said i wanted too much but that it was exactly what he wanted out of life too.

    14.5 years later, he was still telling me i wanted too much. and changed it to i expected too much from him. !?!?! i STILL dont know where our paths separated but at some point we ended up wanting something different out of life. That was the hardest thing for me to get in my head, that we did not want the same thing out of life. maybe we never did, i dont know. maybe he lied from the very beginning. i guess i will never know. but when it hit me like a ton of bricks that we did not want the same thing out of life, i could no longer ignore it.

    looking back, i remember his potential. he has the potential to be a really great husband and daddy but he choices to be mediocre. he has the potential to have a great house, yard and vehicles but he choices to spend his money and time on crap. he has the potential in being a wonderful caring loving person but he CHOICES to do the bare minimal to keep the relationship going, not wanting to do the hard work to be awesome he choices to be half ass. took me a long long time to realize that what he COULD do and what he IS DOING are 2 completely different things.

  • This whole post reminds me of one of my favorite sayings: “Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and irritates the pig.”

  • I was definitely drawn to all the ‘potential’. Not just his potential, but OUR potential together, the potential we had as a unit, a family…

    Mind you, I have not fulfilled my potential… I trusted I would have opportunity to work on myself when we had the chance. First, I would support him and his interests and not stupidly spend money or waste resources we can’t afford. We had our whole lives ahead of us.

    He hasn’t met his potential. He receives plenty of assurances of his intelligence, his undoubted future success, his brilliance… But there is not yet anything to show for it but plans.

    Of course he blames me wholly. I held him back, took advantage of him, did nothing but argue and put him down… Funny that I don’t remember it that way…

    Time to focus on my potential.

    • very well said. exactly what i was trying to say. when i met Diablo he had great potential. he was 24. i also had not fulfilled my potential either. i thought we would grow together. i laid it all out what i expected and wanted. since he did not voice objections i believed that we wanted the same thing. i supported him, i picked him up when he was feeling low, i helped him and fixed his fuck ups. it never dawned on me or entered my mind that he was using me and abusing me. i believed in him and trusted that his interest was family first like mine. i was wrong. so very wrong. i didnt figure out (although i did see the red flags) until after the discard. i never thought he was capable of just walking away from us, acting like we dont exist. so much for loyalty.

      and yep just like you, it is all my fault. i did not treat him right. (and i am sure i wasnt being as i was in a bereavement fog) and i got boring……it is funny that i also do not remember it that way. huh. i guess this is what he is telling himself to make himself feel better for bailing on his loving wife and children.

      time to focus on my potential……..Excellent point.

  • Wow English Masta ( bator) must be nice to be the fucking king of english. English is my second language and I dont always chose the correct phrasing or have outstanding english spelling. I speak three languages fluently and write in one moderately well. Not everyone has english as a first language you culturally incompetent fuck.
    Oh , and how original of you… Yes , of course her spouse cheated on her because her grammar. They blame their cheating on the phases of the moon and that u didnt buy organic eggs… It aint new.
    Is ‘ fuck off ‘ in your venacular language police?

    • I’d like to see that pretentious fuck try to curse in one of your three fluent languages. Or any language that isn’t English, for that matter. Without using Google Translate, that is.

  • My response… Which looks a little outa place… was to the Mensa club member English Masta and his attack on a poster’s grammer. Seems CL has dealt with him appropriately… Cause I no longer see his post.

  • How about the corollary, addicted to unfulfilled promises? I had very limited expectations as to my STBX’s potential (though yes, I was most definitely addicted to the small expectations I had) but they were enhanced and fueled by my addiction to promises he made about everything from exciting travel adventures we would take together to the various hobbies and activities he would introduce our children to.

    In the Chump Annals of, “Pay attention to what they do, not what they say,” I listened to what he said for far too long and used it to fuel my hopium that, yes, we would one day take that cross-country road trip together as a family, we would finish our basement to make it the place where our teenagers’ friends wanted to hang out, and the two of us would take that romantic weekend trip to NYC.

    I never gave up on any of these hopeful promises, and actually took measures to make them happen for many years, but found myself thwarted at every turn with cancelled tickets, reservations, and excuses about why this was not a good time to start that project with one of our children or on our house, etc. (We still have materials and plans I ordered and paid for sitting in our garage, never to be used).

    On the few occasions when I did force something–usually a family vacation that was far less spectacular than anything his promises had led me to expect–he would act as if the burden of spending time with us was so onerous (and so ridiculous on my part for expecting it to be anything but) that it was almost not worth spending the money to do.

    • This! Mine also was a promiser. Honestly. I don’t know if I can keep it all straight anymore. Reciprocity, yes. Watch actions not words. Ok, but that’s gonna make for a bit of a disbelieving first part of the relationship. Don’t rush into anything. Right. Except I didn’t marry my ex until 3 years into the relationship AND then the mask came off. Don’t be selfish…do be selfish. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I think I’d rather be in an arranged marriage than try to date again lol. I didn’t marry the potential of my ex. He was already a very excellent dad and well established in his career and supposedly had what he wanted in life figured out. But yeah. He was totally the same with promises.

  • Pass the collection plate! CL hit the nail on the head today. I have poured so much energy into him that my own health has been all over the place. I am no good to my loved ones dead! So now I am trying to regain control of my own health!

  • I think all of this is the reason Reconciliation can never really work. I had thought my ex was a decent person, someone I could count on, a good father. I found out he was none of those things. He was like Satan when he was involved with the Whore. He kind of returned to what I had thought he was, but the damage was already done. You can’t unsee Satan in these people. At least I couldn’t and had to let it go.

  • Aye vato… U are the ‘ Masta….bator’ Y la verdad …. Yo no puedo leer muy bien en ingles. C’est dommage n’est pas? Shove it up yr Oxford dictionary loving ass. Muy profundo.

      • Oh! Can I have a go too?
        Jag kan förbannelse i främmande språk också! Du är en fitta och en jävla kukhuvud, “English Masta”!
        (Just to add yet another language to completely fuck this idiot’s head up – and one that a lot of people tend not to know :))

            • Sorry Lania. I was given a small project in Sweden and proceeded to learn the language. Then I analyzed the project and proved it was much bigger than initially thought. Once it was made highly visible in the company, it took only days before some male manager took my place. I have never touched the Assimil CDs since. That’s also the starting point of my cheater’s first emotional affair on a language site, that would evolve later in twu luv.
              This is why my spelling sucks.

              • Its quite ok – there’s no need to apologise.
                Your cheater is a vile piece of shit – and its fucking disgusting that he would do that. A cheater will use any means to find strange!
                I’m not studying this language (and I’m still learning – still a horrid beginner!) to pick up strange – its because its my partner’s native tongue. 🙂

  • You also can’t spell ‘master’ correctly, you twit. Unless you speak Ebonics garbage – which tells me all I need to know about your intelligence level – room temperature IQ, if you’re too slow to grasp it.

  • I have a hard time trusting that he sucks. I am hopeless in that department. Let me give you the most recent example.
    He had suggested to take care of the dogs while I was away. When I was about to drive to his place to get them back, he suggested we could go to an event that was taking place next to his appartment, something that I really like and he doesn’t. Then we ate at my favorite Creperie, and he ordered for himself what I usually order. His mom called him on the phone, he said “I’ll be with you saturday” and mentioned my name several times in the conversation, as if we were still living together. Then he told me that his stepfather had cancer, which I already knew.
    My conclusion was this:
    he is travelling to his mom’s place next week because he is so shocked and sad that his stepfather has cancer, he wants to visit them.
    And I melted inside: is he back to his old self, at last, the nicest guy on the planet, that no one noticed, the unpolished gem I was so lucky to find 15 years ago !!!
    Here is the truth (learnt it from a reliable source):
    I am in the process of buying his share of our house. Half is not enough to pay for a new house. He plans to travel to his mom’s place to ask for money on saturday. And on sunday, he will meet a lovely Russian lady in Paris and show her the city.
    I am petrified.

  • Whereas historic properties can often be more structurally sound and less toxic (no vinyl, chip board, plywood, carpet), than modern construction, not so with people. Some people are just plain broken, some simply suck. Despite the plethora of blogs that say “give this guy a chance, don’t be so picky, etc”, frogs don’t turn into princes. Many frogs are frogs because they can get what they want with a minimum of effort on their part. Character is pretty hard wired; even when experiencing extreme crises, values tend to remain the same. The only thing one can do with someone who is broken or just plain crappy is to walk away and stay away. Wondering if Narcboy’s Latest Conquest is learning this lesson right now. Marry a Cheater and get cheated on yourself.

  • That’s your definition of codependent. The addiction community uses it differently and it marginalizes abused spouses. And now you’ve just helped them continue to do so.

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