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Dear Chump Lady, I need to be needed

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im-not-a-nice-guy-they-let-you-walk-all-over-them-im-a-good-guy-we-have-too-much-self-respect-to-be-treated-like-crap--204daDear Chump Lady,

I’m a little over three months out from my STBXW meeting a new guy, and beginning a divorce a little over a week later, after being together for 12 years, married for 10. I have read all the usual advice for moving on, and I’m doing it the best I can: find new hobbies, reach out to new people, forge new relationships, rediscover yourself, learn to be happy with yourself. Ultimately, I keep coming back to: “This advice doesn’t apply to me.” I wonder if many chumps feel this way?

In therapy, I’ve begun to understand that the concept of “innate self-worth” is apparently a thing — that you have value simply for being who you are. But the idea that this applies to me seems absolutely ridiculous. My innate self-worth is zero. Instead, my overall worth has always correlated with what I can do for others. This has become uncomfortably clear when reviewing my marriage in therapy. Your post titled “When You’re the Parent in the Relationship” was incredibly difficult for me to read, but necessary. “You need to be needed.” Yep. 🙁

I have no idea how to develop real, actual, innate self-worth. I can think of many examples in my life where I stopped or reduced the “service” and discovered how much less I actually mean to people than I thought. The idea of improving how I feel about myself without being able to “prove” it via feedback from others seems bizarre. It’s like I’m ignoring all this evidence to the contrary.

I also recognize that this is probably the best opportunity I’ll get to fix my self-perception, which is the only path I see to not repeating these same mistakes in a future relationship. But I’m completely lost as to how to make real progress here.

Thanks,

Theory

Dear Theory,

Well, you can begin by reframing “doing for others” as a Bad Thing. It’s not. Being a nice, caring person isn’t pathology or even chumpiness — it’s being a decent human being. We need more of you! What’s a Bad Thing is doing for others who don’t reciprocate. 

That’s your fatal flaw, Theory, and that’s what needs a tune-up — your ability to recognize and value those people in your life who reciprocate.

And — shocker! — this really isn’t that hard. You’re a giver and you just need to find other givers. (They’re out there. Ask me about my blog numbers…) You need to avoid takers, and develop boundaries to dump, or limit your exposure to, people who prefer lop-sided relationships.

The reason your marriage dynamic felt parent/child is because the only people we don’t demand reciprocity from are children or elderly parents — vulnerable people. However, eventually we teach children to be independent, and we owe our parents a certain deference because they once raised our defenseless selves. The only other people we should be unilaterally generous with are charity cases. Don’t marry a charity case, Theory.

That leaves us with ordinary adults. How can you identify an adult?

a) Adults know how to do Adult Things — like balance checkbooks, unload dishwashers, and carry life insurance. They can support themselves. They come into relationships with mad skillz such as punctuality, returning phone calls, and a firm handshake.

b) Adults are not sad sausages. Sad sausages have 17,000 excuses why they cannot be punctual, balance a checkbook, or unload a dishwasher. It’s the February Solstice. They stubbed their toe on an orphan. Dishwashers make them break out in a hives. Sad sausages feign helplessness — and “Help me!” is chump kryptonite.

Pay close attention — do they really need help? (Adults sometimes do) or is this a convenient excuse to welch out of responsibilities? Are they never reciprocating because they’re sad, but feel perfectly entitled to your help? Sad sausages feel above reciprocity. It smacks of equality and respect. Sad sausages have the manipulation channel firmly set at self-pity. Avoid the pity vampires!

c) Adults reciprocate.  Real adults feel uncomfortable with an imbalance — they WANT to return the favor. Healthy people respect your time and your acts of service. They demonstrate appreciation with actions — they thank you, they’re present, they reciprocate.

Your job as a chump is to LET PEOPLE RECIPROCATE. I know it will make you uncomfortable (Must Right The Imbalance Immediately!) — but fight that urge and accept kindness. Good people are like you — they WANT to HELP. You want to attract a better class of friend? Don’t shoo off anyone who wants to give of themselves.

The chump will brush it off, “Oh no. I simply couldn’t…”

Let that self-effacing shit go. Say “thanks” — and then reciprocate in kind later.

The only people comfortable in a relationship where you do all the giving are TAKERS. Takers never question the lopsidedness. It’s all in their favor, why would they? The bigger a chump you act, the more you will attract takers. So, have some boundaries.

In therapy, I’ve begun to understand that the concept of “innate self-worth” is apparently a thing — that you have value simply for being who you are. But the idea that this applies to me seems absolutely ridiculous. My innate self-worth is zero. Instead, my overall worth has always correlated with what I can do for others.

Okay, Theory, I think you’re confusing things here. People who think they are splendid for simply being who they are, are narcissists. Why should they ever do for others? They’re SPLENDID.

People who know their worth, on the other hand, have boundaries. You can’t treat me like crap. I deserve better. That’s knowing your worth.

You should correlate your worth on what you can do for others, but that doesn’t mean accepting exploitation! Being of service to each other is what we were put on the planet to do, Theory. It’s being human.

Learn to exploit and manipulate others for your own personal gain is what narks, sociopaths, and other Cluster B freaks do. Don’t be of service to others! Make them serve you!

We don’t need more freaks, Theory. We just need more discernment.

Rock on with your good-hearted self. Just don’t waste your gifts on the undeserving.

 

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Ask Chump Lady

Got a question for the Chump Lady? Or a submission for the Universal Bullshit Translator? Write to me at info@chumplady.com. Read more about submission guidelines.
        • You ROCK, Maree……You really do! Sixty-four never ‘looked’ so good!

          But l’m gonna ‘smack’ you for thinking you are an ‘old gal’! Not by a mile! My Mom is 82 and don’t you dare call her old! I will call you ‘old’ when I stand at your grave and not before then!

          ROCK ON, Maree! You are indeed a beloved fellow chump…..{{{{HUGS!}}}}

          Forge on, all you truly GOOD men and women….ForgeOn!!!!

        • Happy birthday Maree from an Aussie chump named Marie, we are not old, I’ll be 64 in August. I like to think of us as excellent vintage cognac. Cheers to you!

  • Chump Lady is right! Listen to her and start setting boundaries – I know it is a difficult lesson but it’s well worth the effort!

  • Don’t know your faith background, but I tell you what helped me regarding my self-worth issues. What I discovered as a Christian is the more I was grounded in the truth of being God’s beloved child, the more I was/am able to set healthy boundaries with others. Humans are intrinsically valuable because we all were made in God’s image. And God is a GOOD Father according to Scripture. Would you allow your child to be treated a certain way (like your stbxW treated you?)? Act accordingly.

    • Interesting comparison, Divorce Minister. I NEVER allowed my children to be treated the way my EX treated me, although he did try. I’m still puzzling over why I allowed him to treat me that way.

      • Me too! I’m puzzled over why I allowed my ex to treat me the way he did too! I think a big part of the reason is I took my vows seriously, I bought into the shared responsibility crap and thought I could be better and stop the infidelity, and I found leaving scary. That being said, I’m glad I left.

    • Listen to DM and CL. When you read how God and Jesus love you it becomes easier to accept that you are special and deserve to be treated well.

      You have instrinsic value without doing anything. You are special, loved and unique.

      Remember to act as if you have value. then the acting becomes real.

      Best of luck. Welcome to CN

    • I didn’t allow our dogs to be treated the way X treated me. I did fight back to X’s criticisms, but I stayed. Slap, slap, slap that former me.

    • So true, DM. And my totally secular rule of thumb applies here too! “If this was happening to your best friend, what would you tell them?” The truth is, we give totally sane and logical advice to others that we love, and we demand that they be treated respectfully. But when it comes to ourselves, suddenly that doesn’t apply? C’mon y’all. I’m the chumpiest parent-in-the-relationship doormat ever. Let’s put our oxygen masks on ourselves first, before helping the person next to us.

    • Yes, one thing that helped me was reading somewhere that I am a “daughter” of God. It really struck me (though I am not usually that religious). Theory, you are a child of God as well, as DM says. What I realized was that my goodness, kindness and trust were all part of who I am and there is nothing wrong with that. Good people should not be discouraged from being good, that’s silly.

      Just don’t throw your pearls before swine Theory, meaning don’t waste your goodness on the wrong people…sadly your STBX was one of them. You need to use your power of discernment so that you give your gifts to those who appreciate and on occasion reciprocate them.

  • I always figured being needed is secondary or lower than to be wanted. I need to make myself whole and happy first and formost. Someone else really can’t make you totally happy that comes from within they can do things to make you happy but not to be totally happy inside. I figure two happy people get together and enjoy that happiness. My ex doesn’t get that. To be needed is nice but only for the right reasons. I don’t need some one to complete me or be my soulmate. To me that’s bullshit. I don’t believe in love at first site either, lust maybe, not love. I had a guy I once dated tell me after one date he loved me. Excuse me! WTF! I told him love me? After one four hour date! You don’t even know me! That is a huge red flag to me. If I see in the future I have to point out how the guy should act or be old enough to know better as in I have to be the mom believe me the guy will get kicked to the curb in a new York minute.

  • DM, I’m not even a Christian, but you just make so much darn sense all the time.

    Theory, you darling! I identify all too well. You don’t need to be needed. You just need to ‘Be.” It sounds like before you even met your wife, you had been conditioned to see yourself through your usefulness to others. Usefulness is a good thing. But when you only exist to please others, you give them the will to be capricious and decide when you are no longer useful. You were made useful. You still are. Don’t give someone else the power to erase you.

    I’ll bet when you were still trying to be seen by your distracted wife, whose brain was already on Safari for Fresh Furry Supply, that you found yourself furiously trying to predict and influence her reactions to you like a gigantic Rube Goldberg mindfuck of marbles, Dixie Cups and old leather boots.

    I have good news for you. Leave that shit alone. Take a walk alone. It’ll feel like a bed of nails at first- that’s the pain of your own flesh being redrawn to your bones. What a joy to be the one who decides how you will be useful from now on. You are needed, but you get to decide who gets the grace of your service, and who reciprocates and replenishes so that you can serve another day.

    How can you know what you have to offer when you are depleted and unaccustomed to your own company? I’ll bet you are more than you know.

    • Your comment rings very true. I allowed my worth to be tied to how useful I was for her, and that is something that she gets to determine.

      When I found out about her cheating, and she told me she wanted a divorce, she came up with reason after reason as to why she was unhappy for all this time (but didn’t ever bring it up) and also why she was pushed into acting out. With each reason she came up with, I’m sure she felt more justified and confident in her decision to leave and less guilty about her decision to cheat. Even so, some of those reasons have really torn me up.

      One thing she said to me: “I needed someone to take care of me. And you did, and you were great at that. Now I need freedom. I don’t need to be taken care of – but that’s who you are!” She meant this in a kind way, but it has been a dagger in my back I’m still trying to reach to pull out. I was useful for her to overcome her past demons, but now I’m no longer useful in that way, so I have no innate value left.

      Another reason she gave was that she wanted to “explore alternative sexual lifestyles” (whatever that means), just not with me. This cut me so deep because I stayed with her through seven years of a mostly non-existent sexual relationship as she came to terms with abuse in her past that was affecting her in the present, and then working through it. I give her credit that she did make an incredible effort and was able to overcome her past. However, she did so while I placed my own needs below hers, and I see now how much of a mistake that was. With the tables somewhat turned, she could not be bothered to even discuss how she felt with me before finding someone else to go have her new fun sex life with.

      The combination of these things makes me think that she needed me for a long time, but never really wanted me. I have yet to figure out how to accept that without a large amount of self-loathing. I know logically that her choices are a reflection on her and not me, but internalizing this is going to be a long journey.

      I feel incredibly used, but ultimately, I am the one who put myself in the position to be used. I hope I can get to a place where I don’t allow this to happen in the future. I will work on being the person who decides how useful I am in the future. Thank you for your comment!

      • While I am no therapist, cheating on one’s husband seems odd behavior if one has truly healed from an abusive past. Strikes me as an example of running from her issues than having overcome them in truth.

        You don’t have to agree with her, Theory. I know it is hard, but why would you take her word as truth when she is a proven liar who clearly has a messed up view about true love?

        A normal, healthy person would recognize your sacrifices out of love as just that. You set aside your sexual “needs” so that she could heal. And you were the faithful spouse during that time to boot. That speaks to your good character. You didn’t decide to cheat on her when you wanted sex. That is what she did and speaks to her bankrupt character.

        Finally, don’t beat yourself up over having “put myself in the position to be used.” It is reasonable to expect fidelity from a person who has vowed such fidelity publicly. What isn’t reasonable is her so flagrantly breaking that solemn vow!

        • Thank you for this response. It’s good to be reminded that she is not a trustworthy source on all of these things I’m currently struggling with.

          • Yep. Like I said above, the “If this were happening to my best friend, what would I tell him/her?” rule applies.

          • DM speaks the truth. She’s disordered and you shouldn’t base a thimble of your value on her messed up reasonings. You were there, you made yourself available- and she is awful. The sooner you stop putting that on your shoulders the sooner you start realizing you are the catch she is never getting back, and you move forward

        • Dm is right. I hope that you can internalize this message. A healed person does not hurt other people deliberately. You love her so her words sound logical to you. She is actually talking a load of crap.

        • Theory

          You never pushed her into acting out. And what exactly does acting out mean? Cheating? Lying? Disrespect? Acting out describes childish behavior. Your dealing with a womanchild. They put that knife deep inside us with their words and actions. Her words are lies. It’s the cheaters narrative. We tend to dwell on their parting words. Rewrite that script with the truth each time they come to mind.

          • “We tend to dwell on their parting words. Rewrite that script with the truth each time they come to mind.”

            Thank you, this is very helpful.

      • Theory–welcome to the ever-shifting sands of the cheaters’ rationale for their bad behavior. If you had given her lots of freedom, she would have complained that she needed you to take care of her and that was the reason for her affair. The main characteristic (and best predictor) of cheaters is blameshifting. We chumps give them ample opportunity to blameshift because when the to-be-cheater criticized us in the past, we worked harder to please them. Then, they cheat and just ramp up the “you’re-imperfect-so-I-banged-the-coworker/student/neighbor/soccer coach/teenager who cleans the pool” narrative.

        And don’t take it personally if you conclude your STBX never loved or wanted you; we were all just spouse-appliances. You might like your stainless steel new convection oven, think it useful, and perhaps even like to look at it. But you can’t love it, especially once it outlives its usefulness. Sad, but we were nothing more than convection ovens.

        • Theory, you aren’t her therapist. (And heaven help that one that is!) It sounds like your ex wife has loads of issues (cheaters usually do) and you are now free from those. You need YOU now. Turn that kind heart around and show yourself compassion.

        • Well, Tempest just described 26 years of my life.

          and to think that when he gave me the blameshifting laundry list of my failures, I actually LISTENED to it !!

          • You didn’t meet my needs ” get a free affair card” in the game of life.

            See – the rules can change without you being aware. They twist any given situation to make you responsible for their terrible choices and actions.

            No matter what – you lose.

            Mine ranted at the MC for an hour with a list of all my faults which caused him to be the flaming, cheating ass he is.

            Then the MC said “Lucky – how are you going to bring Rev McNasty back to you in this marriage ?!?!

            WTF -?!?!

            I put down my heavy bucket of spackle, stopped untangling the skein ( read what CL says about this ) and went out and got myself an authentic life – Chester free!!!

            You are worth 100 of her and you will be amazed at how good it feels to let her go!!!

      • From the start you were in a “no win” situation. Yes, she used and took complete advantage of you till she had no further use for you. Right now you are beating yourself up for not seeing her for who she really was/is and this may take some time. When I broke up with my sociopath/narc getting over him was easy, getting over how much crap I endured took some time. I harped (to myself) on how much time I wasted, why on earth did I let him get away with xyz, where was my head, etc. In my opinion this is healthy because we were stupid, we did make excuses for these asswipes. We were totally used and no they NEVER loved us, we were just useful for a time. We should have pulled our heads out of our asses long before the final break up. First step is not to even try to understand her behavior as that will get you diddly and anything she said was complete garbage, utter nonsense so don’t even go over that in your head. The next step is to chalk it up to a very long, expensive learning experience. She is and always will be a miserable defect. So go ahead and beat yourself up a bit for being a chump, but please not for too long as you have wasted far too much time already. A better life is waiting.

        • x2 here! Getting over my ex was easy. Beating myself up for enduring being treated like crap by her for so long – still working on that.

      • Theory, I hate to say it, but you are exactly like too many of us. Good people who were used and discarded. You are not the problem. It’s all on her.
        Consider yourself yourself very lucky. I wasted 30 years on a disordered narc. She asked for the divorce two weeks after we dropped or youngest off at college. She had been cheating the whole time, and was grooming the last one for two years prior. At the end I asked her if she ever loved me and she sat silent with those dead, empty shark eyes. I knew then that she had used me to be a stay at home mom to play around, and planned her exit when she no longer had an excuse to stay at home. She found a much richer (old high school boyfriend) to leach onto.
        They are just average, pathetic losers who think they’re special but really aren’t (if you just look at their actions).
        I know it hurts like a bitch, it still does for me 1year divorced, but you will be much better off in time. Be strong. Take care of you!

        • The saddest truth is that a narcissist is incapable of loving anyone but themselves. My XH was also a victim of child sexual abuse and healed himself by having numerous affairs. A therapist who specialized told me that children who were sexually abused & received no treatment many times grew up to be adults who were often frigid with their spouse while having multiple affairs. They were unable to be intimate, emotionally intimate. They were unable to trust. Nothing we could do would ever be enough to heal this hurt. The narcissistic injury.

  • Hi Theory,
    I am reading off of my phone but thought I would mention “Human Design” please take a look at it. It helped me discover self empowerment and self worth. Put the focus on you. I agree with CL to be or associate with people who are like you and share the same values. No more charity cases. No more pity. 🙂

    I love you CL and CN by the way…this place is my therapy.

  • Givers have a hard time taking, just as takers have a hard time giving.

    I wonder how many of us married takers? In my marriage, that particular balance was there, and it worked for a while. Until I needed something, like concern, kindness, affection, support, love. At those time, the inequality was glaring.

    The first example that comes to mind is when we were on our honeymoon. We went to Jamaica, and like a giddy fool, I started to jump on the bed and almost sliced my finger off in the ceiling fan. Admittedly, not my brightest move. My groom’s reaction? Not concern; he was royally PISSED at me. He made me go to the infirmary alone and gave me the silent treatment when I got back.

    I should have run right there and then. But like the giver I was, I apologized for ruining our first day on the island.

    If it happened today, I would have taken a plane to the states that day to visit the infirmary. And an attorney.

    • Sometimes I wonder if there’s some universal manual these assholes use because that’s exactly the kind of thing my ex ass would do. I think it’s because they can’t stand to see you happy and will take any opportunity to knock you down a notch or two? I just know that I wasn’t allowed the slightest mistakes or errors. Sometimes it was the humiliating reaction like you described where he’d scold me like you would a child, or he’d pull the passive aggressive number… “Ooohhh, it’s okay, baby! I can just go do XYZ myself”, always in this obnoxious sing song voice that let me know my mistake had really put him out because then HE had to go do whatever it is I screwed up for him, usually something he should have done himself since he already knew I couldn’t get anything right anyway, right?

      • During the discard a friend told me that he couldn’t stand to see me happy. She was so right. I think it was because he was so miserable himself.

        • I believe this completely. I get on with most people and was always smiling friendly and good company. He liked this until the novelty wore off then bam… criticism ignoring gas lighting with a teeny bit of love bomb action if I started standing up for myself.

          I had a very traumatic miscarriage. What did he do in the hospital when we were alone in an Emergency cubical and I was bleeding out with no doctor for hours? Nothing. I had to give him instructions and beg nurses for help myself. My now 9 year old could have done a better job of comforting and speaking up for me. That was Red Flag number 856 million.

          • ChapterPhoenix- I tried to leave you a reply, and it went all the way to the bottom way down there! Anyway, your account of your miscarriage brought back memories to me, and I hope you have healed! Hugs

        • Lina

          The Limited worked so hard to wipe that smile off my face. I started to notice this about him and called him on it. Now I believe it was his mask slipping.

      • I dont think that he didnt want to see me happy, but he surely didnt want to see me steady and balanced…there was probably a fear that if I were steady long enough I would figure his game out, so he told me odd things just to upset me…just enough to throw me off balance. If I called him on his shit, he would say he was kidding. It was a million little things…once (in the pre-email era) we were moving and he told me that there was no mail delivery to the house I was trying to arrange all the logistics of the move and that just send me reeling. I wonder who he was screwing then.

        • sorry, I didnt finish the story. There was mail delivery to the house and he knew it…I dont even think he listened to what he said to me…he just spewed stupid shit at me all day. Like Lastinline above, I was sharply bashed for any small error I made but his mistakes were not to be mentioned.

      • The universal manual these assholes use is called “disordered personality”. And it knows no borders, social class or language. The more I read the more I understand. Chump Nation is one great support community and I am grateful each day that I found you.

        I want to share with you something about boundaries and red flags: I am divorced since July, Limited Contact since April (two kids together) and managed to go No Contact since November. Began to feel much better and then a former high school colleague resurfaced and began showing me attention. It felt really nice, smile was back on my face, I was having long chats with this guy. He was also divorced and we were sharing our stories, bla, bla, bla.

        But then on my birthday, while we were in a group of old high school friends this guy goes on calling me in front of everyone else what I told him my ex was calling his schmoopie whoopie. My former brother in law was there as well as we’ve been going to the same high school. He is on team X, and quite a miserable sort of a person.

        Of course the guy I was seeing said he was “joking”. My gut feeling was: asshole. Another one bites the dust. Whatever issues you are having buddy, it is not my problem. Fuck off!

        I am slowly beginning to learn what that self love everyone is talking about really is: not allowing people treat you like shit. From. Day. One. Loving and valuing yourself more than valuing the superficial attention someone might give you. Paying attention to the actions of people rather than their words. I might be in the process of fixing my picker 🙂

        Hugs to everyone!!!!

    • Giver. I married a taker and i’m certainly the giver. I’m going to fix that and am working on it daily. I refuse to ever be a parent again to a grown adult.

    • I wish my “taker” wife would have bounced a few times on the bed on our honeymoon 🙂

      I recall running yet another errand on our honeymoon, driving the island myself in a yellow convertible with the top down feeling alone and frustrated hoping this wasn’t, but somehow knowing it was, all a mistake. That was twelve years ago. Damn.

      • Buddy, I hope this gives you a bit of a laugh. I was married nearly 39 years ago now and the ex did not have to lift a finger to do or organise a thing for our big day. However, when we left our reception and went to our hotel, my ex had a HUGE headache and could not sleep. The spineless creep that he is and the fool that I am, he had me running out to the boot of our car in my night attire in the rain and pitch black to get some headache tablets that he kept in the wheel well of the car not in the glove box. I think that was an omen which I just did not see. It makes me laugh when I think of how naive I was. Like a lamb to the slaughter !!

        • I’m guessing those weren’t “headache” tablets but something that he wouldn’t have wanted a cop to see if he were to be pulled over.

          You do raise an interesting topic: my cheater used health issues to control me and manipulate me – or did she? Health is such a gray area, so it is easy for those with narcissistic and sociopath tendencies to use somatic and psychosomatic issues to control those closest to them. As a chump, I did so much work in the marriage because she had a headache or a pain here or there. Drama in everything.

          At the same time, maybe this class of users and abusers really do have: fibromyalgia, headaches, IBS, Chrons, chronic fatigue, Lyme disease, etc. That is why dealing with a narcissist/sociopath with health issues is so challenging. Are they really sick or not?

          But it is odd when they are too sick to have sex with you or to get a job, but not too sick to attend Pilates twice a week and have sex with the AP. They are too sick to drive the kids on a 2 hour trip, but not too sick to drive themselves to a spa with private hot tub rooms.

          • You raise an interesting point, Buddy, and one I’ve overlooked. My cheating, pathological lying ex really did have Crohn’s disease, but the headaches and fatigue? I know now he used all of his illnesses, real or imagined, to play the sad sausage role to the max. My kind and nurturing heart always was there to soothe, forgive, and spackle. When I needed something or was sick, he was too busy or too stressed to help out.

          • My ex would frequently say he had a headache when he did not want to do something, usually something around the house or for me and the kids. One day, I had a migraine, a true migraine and was taking care of our preschool children while he was in the bed. I went into the bathroom to vomit because of the pain, when I came out, he whined, “I have a headache.” My response, “Think it is a tumor?” and walked out of the room. I’m sure he whined to his “not my girlfriend” and his disordered family how cruel and heartless I am. At that time I was a ER nurse and my “give a darn” was permanently broken.

            • The aches and pains were never ending. And he had an excuse for everything. He could t go to a movie, never read a book, was so busy and couldn’t plan anything in a advance.. Itust have been exhausting.

              • This is my cheater.

                I don’t doubt but that he suffered from migraines. I don’t, but everyone I know who has them says they’re debilitating. However, he always had headaches. Oh, and when his father was battling pancreatic cancer, XH went to bed, saying that the pain in his back was late stage pancreatic cancer. WTF? No, it was because he is stupid when he lifts heavy objects (weak back, and his lifting technique is poor, so he strains his back all the time).

                I realized that his complaints about being sick were all meant to get attention. “Look at me! I’m so sick! I’m a sad sausage!”

                He’d either refuse to do anything a normal person would do, or he’d go completely overboard.

                When I told my family he was a cheater, they wondered how he managed to stay healthy long enough!

          • LOL, Buddy!!
            Too sick to hold down a job, but not too sick to have a cocktail at 8:30 in the morning!
            Too sick to look at the bills, or write a check, or vacuum, but not too sick to get all dressed up, and spend the day at the Gay Pride festival with the neighbor and her Posse.
            Too sick, (or was it too dumb?) to cook a dinner for me to eat when I get home, but not too sick to barbeque with the same neighbor, because she wants him to….. and on and on

          • My H2.0 was married to his XW and she had an ailment for any possible responsibility. She could not work, care for their child, clean etc but when she wanted a new life she managed to move away and start a whole new life.

            Her list of things she cant do because of various ailment is so long..she simply cant bear to drive at night, work, clean, cook, take D to concert and the most recent was that she cant dye her own hair because it gives her ear infections. She cant do her hair because of a shoulder problem. She may very well have headaches (her primary ailment) but I think she figured out how to avoid virtually anything she simply doesnt want to do.

        • My ex expected me to make breakfast for his relatives the morning after our wedding. He just neglected to tell me. I know now I was set up, big time, to look incompetent, but at the time I wrote it off as the big doofus having too much on his mind.

          • There were so many red flags…..one now that stands out is I became very ill quickly within a few short hours. I thought it was the start of a cold….. within hours I couldn’t see out of my one eye….I called my husband to come home to take me to the medical clinic. He said for me to drive myself. I couldn’t see. When he came home. .he looked at me and said “I don’t want to be in the same room with you let alone my car…don’t touch anything”.
            I had a serious sinus infection that infected my eye.
            He was a complete ass….no sympathy. No compassion. I was too sick to notice until later.
            God forbid if I were to have had a disease…..he would have let me die.

            Good riddance….

            • Tracy, I swear you, Lyn and me are married to very similar blokes. About 10 years ago I had some flat warts removed by my skin specialist during my annual skin check-up due to, too much exposure to the harsh Aussie sun. The next day I followed the specialist’s instructions and had my ex husband place the recommended bandages on the wounds. He left for work and without me knowing what was happening I started to have an anaphylactic reaction to the healing strips. My husband was already at work. After calling my local doctor who said I should go back to the specialist who removed the warts, which by the way was one hour away, I called my husband and he would not come home. I had to drive myself to the doctor’s which was 60 minutes away. I was kept under observation for one hour and allowed to go home. My husband did not even ask what had taken place or how I felt. Reading this makes me realise that I was just a fool thinking I had someone who cared about me but never really did.

              • Maree–I drove myself to every single doctor’s appointment & surgery for 24 years-prenatal appts., LEEP procedure, 2 impacted wisdom teeth (which I chose local anesthesia only so that now-X didn’t have to take time off work). Thank goodness we don’t have to rely on them any more (“rely” meant loosely here).

              • Wow – you bring back a red flag memory for me, from years ago. I had just returned to the states from Australia (on business), long flight and I was getting funny cramps. Made it to LA and then home. H had clients (nice husband and wife) showing up while I’m fighting jet lag, but, hey – that was my duty. Making them dinner and entertaining. Suddenly, I felt sick and went up to the bathroom to puke my guts out and was up there for over an hour…I swear it was two. I was puking bile. Finally, H comes to check on me and I can’t move – rushes me to hospital and I have an emergency appendectomy, just in time.

                Back then, it wasn’t done laparoscopically, so I was in hospital for 4 days recovering.

                H left me there that night and the next morning took his clients to the beach for a beach day.
                The only visitors I got were my work friends because I was still trying to take orders from my successful business trip.

                We sort of laughed about that afterwards but it sure wasn’t and isn’t funny now.
                I dunno – I could have had an infection. At the least, I just wanted some TLC.
                I was SO scared!

                And, well, 10 yrs later, he left me in an out-of-town Radiation clinic for out-patient radiation on breast cancer for 8 weeks all alone.

                Hell, but hells bells, during our breakup he actually accused me of not being there to pick him up an hour away for some simple shoulder surgery. I had 4 big dogs at home to take care of and it was a 5am appt. My friend did it cuz she’s up that early. I still can’t believe that’s the only thing he could come up with! And, sweet Jesus, if he ever had a cold………….

                Fucking Narc.

            • Oooh, oooh, my turn! With my last baby, I drove myself to the hospital in labour, pausing to pick up the other kids from school (because H couldn’t be expected to get them) and waited while H and the kids had lunch at McDonalds before driving the last stretch to the hospital. My daughter was born less than two hours after we got there.

              • I am lost for words, truly what a loser. Please tell me that he is no longer your husband, please !

              • I guess I am lucky. My husband at least drove me to the hospital when my water broke. But he did make me drive myself to the e.r. once when i had a systemic allergic reaction to an avacado. I had an itchy rash all over and my fingers, toes and lips were swelling up. It was after midnight and he had to work the next day…When I had the flu he would not even bring me a glass of water.I banged on the wall and shook a chair so it would bang against to wooden floor…go try to get his attention. Later he admitted he had heard the banging. I asked him why he didnt come upstairs then. He shrugged and said. ” I dont know. I didnt know what you wanted.” WTF?

  • OP here. CL, thank you to CL for responding to my letter, and so quickly (I think I wrote all this yesterday!), and for the kind words.

    You have absolutely nailed this part: “LET PEOPLE RECIPROCATE”. What I thought were two separate issues with myself are actually linked – the other issue being that I’m incredibly uncomfortable for stuff like Christmas or my birthday (which happens to be today, heh). I am planning to work on this in therapy, too, but I am seeing that it’s all a symptom of having low self-worth.

    This is probably the most eye-opening thing I’ve seen about my situation in a long time: “The only people comfortable in a relationship where you do all the giving are TAKERS.” Oh my goodness! :\ It isn’t just that I happen to have chosen someone who could not reciprocate, it’s that behaving in this way makes me a TARGET for it. I am actively sabotaging my potentially healthy relationships in this way! I am very grateful for your perspective on this. I feel like something clicked.. I’ll have to wait and see how it actually takes shape in my future approach to relationships, but I am optimistic about it right now.

    I will respond to some other comments later when I have a bit more time. Thank you so much, this has been a very helpful birthday present. I am taking your advice and just saying “thanks” :]

    • You’re not alone. I have always felt the same way about Christmas, birthdays and any form of recognition. Therapy helped me realize that I should be able to accept gifts and compliments without being embarrassed. I am worthy of being appreciated like anyone else. I just need to come across with an attitude of gratitude and not one of being cocky. There’s a big difference. Best of luck on your journey! And Happy Birthday!

      • Same work in progress here, thanks CL and CN for these invaluable insights, and thanks lostntx for articulating the reframing this challenge around gratitude, so helpful!

      • Yes, “embarrassed” is spot on! I hope to get here eventually. It seems silly that I can’t handle receiving a small gift on the days when it is most common and appropriate to do so.

    • Same here. My friends do kind things for me and I feel so grateful for even the littlest gesture given to me, that I start crying. I can’t help it.

      Happy birthday, Theory (btw, I LOVE Theory of A Deadman, your tag makes me think of them)!!!!

      Spot on again, CL- I was a giver in both marriages to takers. Learning to make peace with that, and grow, heal, and prepare myself with practicing setting boundaries, saying no and sticking to it…so far so good- over six months out from him, and I think I’ve been doing pretty well so far!!!

    • Happy Birthday Theory! I think you sound like an absolutely wonderful guy, you just need to find a girl that’s as sensitive to the world as you are, and then you will be appreciated. Not all women get deep thinkers.
      I hope that your letter being chosen today is an omen for this being an awesome year!

  • Sounds a lot like me. Thing is, by the time everything about his infidelity came out, I had basically dropped my expectations down to nothing. I was the one frantically scurrying around, trying to do everything I could think of to make him happy and finally approved of and be satisfied with me, all while he put it all under the microscope and found a million reasons for why nothing I ever did for him even counted.

    I finally realized that he was a greedy, selfish user whose entire goal from the start was to make me a servant to him. He treated me like the hired help. He’s trained me very well to never ask for anything. Even now, just thinking about voicing a need or asking for something of someone else comes with this overwhelming sense of shame. Who am I to be asking someone for something when what I should be doing is seeing what I can do for them, even though it’s never good enough anyway? I’m not allowed to want anything, much less need anything. So to have the nerve to actually ASK for something causes so much anxiety and negativity inside. I feel this horrible shame for needing anything because I’ve been trained that I don’t deserve it and have no right to bother others with my needs. I feel like everyone’s going to laugh at me.

    So, I’m left a lot like you. I’m working on things in therapy now. I can’t even go to the grocery store without panicking because I could never get dinner right. Everything I see in there is a calculation: will HE like it? Ooo, that looks good! Oh, never mind, HE wouldn’t like it and would make fun of me for liking it. This is just one of a million examples of how takers get so deep into your mind that you stop functioning properly. Self worth? Hell, I’m not sure *I* actually exist beyond the flesh. It’s an unbearable position to be in when you can’t even stand to be in your own skin unless you’ve done something in the last five seconds to make yourself worthy of breathing.

    Takers are psychological wrecking balls.

    • LastInLine, I think you nailed it here!

      I’m pretty sure that I had plenty of self-worth prior to my 20 year marriage. But in true narc form, as soon as we got married, my narc started with the guilt and the shaming.

      I think he picked me very carefully out of the crowd for someone with both the potential to make him look good and the ability to be retrained, like Pavlov’s dog, to give while he took, and to give up myself to do that.

      It worked out for him beautifully until 20 years later when he decided that he was getting enough kibbles elsewhere. He cast me aside by leaving little hints around about his many affairs. He did this purposefully so that I could no longer deny it and would take action to end the marriage. That way, he could again be the innocent. I was the big, baddie who ended the marriage. It wasn’t his fault. I should be ashamed. Typical.

      I never found a therapist who worked for me, but the one good piece of advice I did get was that I needed to get angry at how I had been treated. Givers find this challenging too, because we think must have done something to deserve to be treated badly. It took me about 8 months to a year to understand that I should expect to be treated as I treat others and that yes,I really SHOULD be angry at the takers who didn’t do me that courtesy.

      Today, I am with a man quite a lot like me. We are both givers. Early on in the relationship, a good friend who knows us both gave me a little advice: She said, “Remember that you deserve to enjoy this relationship and it is ok to expect and to receive pleasure from it.” I took that advice and tried to take a little bit. This boyfriend who, like me, is a giver, enjoyed letting me take. That made him so happy that it made me happy he was happy… So I got to give at the same time. It taught me a lesson.

      Today we are engaged and happy. We both give. We both take. And we are very happy. It’s funny how good a balance feels.

      Try to keep in mind as you move forward that these roles should be even, and specifically look for a person who will enable that give and take between you. I find it is really about patience.

      • “I think he picked me very carefully out of the crowd for someone with both the potential to make him look good and the ability to be retrained, like Pavlov’s dog, to give while he took, and to give up myself to do that.”

        I swear they’re always the same. I asked my ex why the hell he even married me in the first place when everything was going down and he knew he was totally busted anyway, and in the same tone as you’d ask about the weather, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “You looked good and that’s good for business. You were a trophy I put up on my shelf for show. I took you down from the shelf when I needed you for something, I’d dust you off, show you off and then put you back up on the shelf”.

        That was in reference to his career and his way of telling me I was a trophy; an object. He even complimented me on just how good I made him look and how much easier it was for him to climb his career ladder with me holding down the fort at home. Then he went on about how he ” compartmentalized ” everything. I was in one box, the kids were in another box and the other women were in another box. All that meant that what he did in one box didn’t impact what was in other boxes. What happens in box C stays in box C, and so on.

        What’s just as pathetic as what he said is the fact that it felt good to me to hear at the time because it felt like a compliment. It was the first time in forever that I’d heard that I’d done SOMETHING right, even if it was just being a good resource for him to use. How desperate does one have to be for validation of worthiness that being told you were ” good for business ” by your own husband makes you feel good for a moment? I even started trying to figure out how we could build on my good-for-business status.

        Good grief.

        • I’m so sorry to hear about your situation, LastInLine. It is surprising to see how letting your boundaries be pushed in little-by-little over a long period of time can leave you in such a stunted position. Like, “how did I ever let it get to this point?” Yet I’ve read so many stories like mine and yours where this happens.

          In my situation, I’m wary of painting her as just a “taker”. I realize how much easier it would be to paint her as the complete villain to help me move on, but I’m just worried that I’m going to miss something I did and need to improve upon. In some ways, she was giving and was a good partner. I guess the most I can say now is that (aside from the cheating), I don’t think she did what she did maliciously. She was in a bad spot in life, I was in love and felt that I needed to be of service to be loved back, and she grabbed onto the lifeline I was offering. Perhaps I would have done the same (aside from the cheating!), were I in her situation.

          Or, maybe this is just more chump behavior, spackling, etc. Or, maybe the actual truth/intent/whatever doesn’t matter. I need to move on and find a way to heal, regardless of some of these specifics.

          • Theory, you’re spackling. She cheated on you. And she blame-shifted. Whatever her finer qualities — she fucked up this relationship and treated you with profound disrespect. You’re still thinking codependently. You didn’t MAKE her mistreat you. You don’t need to “improve” upon something that would’ve prevented her cheating on you — you need to improve upon your boundaries and not accept abuse.

            Cheating on you was malicious — at best it was maliciously indifferent to your welfare, your health, your emotional well-being. At worst it was calculatedly abusive — you ceased to be needed. Next!

            Stop making this about YOU. It’s about HER. She sucks.

            That’s not making her the villain — it’s about her actions. She SUCKS.

              • Thank you for this. I am doing my best to trust that she sucks (I love that phrase) whenever doubts like this creep in. I hope to make some good progress with everyone’s feedback today. Thank you!

          • Hey Theory! You need to read Dr. George Simon’s books. They are on CL’s recommended reading list.

            From your comments, I am pretty sure you have not read this very vital information! He also has a blog & web-site you may want to check out—Manipulative-People.com.

            Hang tough! You can get through this! Tracy & this Nation is the VERY best ‘place’ you could be right now!

            Forge on Theory……ForgeOn, all y’all……

          • Theory, even if you were the shittiest husband in the world – it still doesn’t give her the right to cheat on you. If she was that hateful of ‘what you did to her’ she could get a divorce or at least have an honest fucking conversation about things that pissed her off. Nope – she chooses the passive aggressive shit of having you AND some random fuckbuddies too.
            Shes a worthless piece of shit. A cheater is NOT a good partner. In any way, shape or form. Period. Its the same as those idiots who say “My ex is a cheater but s/he is a good mother/father”. No. If you are a cheater, YOU ARE A BAD PARENT.

          • Theory–CL is right; you’re spackling.

            What you’re trying to do is explain her behavior by saying that she was in a bad spot in her life.

            I get what you mean. My XH was in a bad spot in his life. His father had died the previous year and his workplace was dysfunctional. He showed a lot of classic symptoms of depression.

            But loads of people with depression do not cheat on their spouses.

            I realized intellectually that I did not want to be married to someone who had “have an affair” in their coping toolbox. As time passed, I trusted more and more that he sucked. At this point, I cannot recognize him as the man I married; he’s changed so much.

            I’m really glad he’s my XH now.

            • “What you’re trying to do is explain her behavior by saying that she was in a bad spot in her life.”

              Yes, you’re right. It’s going to be a hard habit to break, but I need to do so. Everyone is in control of how they choose to respond to situations, regardless of their past or present circumstances. I will do well to remind myself of that when I find myself thinking negatively about myself. Thank you.

        • LastinLine: An F in the “human being” category for your X; an A for honesty. Yup–we are all just objects used for their impression management. Mine did the same thing–respectable wife to take to academic parties and do 95% of the parenting while he was off living a life worthy of the underbelly of society on Adult Friend Finder & other sites. They’re sick, and calculating.

          • Oh, Theory. I think it’s almost a standard reaction for us to look back on, recall the details of and pick apart every little thing we did or didn’t do because we want answers and explanations. We’re looking for clues as to where we went wrong. I know for me, although totally futile after the fact, I wanted to figure out where I really, REALLY went wrong and at which point or points I could have noticed the clues or where I ignored the clues that could have spared me such a long time spent in that hell.

            On the one hand, I think it’s totally unfair because we were only judging things based off of only bits and pieces of stories and suspicions we didn’t really have proof of being true and couldn’t verify. On the other hand, as unfair as it is, I think it’s important for us to look back and realize where we went wrong; where we didn’t trust those little gut feelings; where we let the first, second and third chipping away at our boundaries go without fighting back. The fact is, we live in a world full of assholes and whether it’s fair or not, we have to have our OWN backs sometimes and learn from our own misjudgments if we have any hope of protecting ourselves from it in the future.

            I think in your case, it’s unfair to judge yourself based on where you are now. Things are still really fresh and your hurt feelings are still really raw. I know at first, I let myself sink into a horrible abyss of illogical, untrue and destructive thinking because it’s what I needed at the time to protect myself. I got so hyper-vigilant about keeping myself safe from my fears of it happening again that I shut out the good with the bad and I’m still working on my inability to trust men. That’s not because I think for a second that women aren’t capable of the exact same things, it’s that men are who I’m attracted to, therefore my trust in women isn’t really a point for me.

            Just don’t be so quick to hold yourself to a healthy standard yet. You may have had the propensity to be a victim before which is how your ex sniffed you out, but you know yourself that your current level of unhealthy thinking didn’t happen overnight. You won’t break overnight, either. It took you a good decade to get where you are now!

            • Tempest:

              The more I read other people’s stories, the more they all seem like clones. Outside looking in, we should be able to gamble and win with each predicted move they’ll make because all you have to do is figure out what next step would be their best interest, no one else’s best interest, give them whatever they want/need in the moment, etc and we’ll know exactly what they’re going to do before even they do.

              Predictable little assholes… Ugh.

        • LastInLine:

          ” All that meant that what he did in one box didn’t impact what was in other boxes. What happens in box C stays in box C, and so on.”

          At least they are smart enough not to shit where they eat, so to speak! Problem is, they never washed their hands, so eventually all the boxes got Norovirus!Lol!

          It reminds me of an ecard I saw awhile back, which said, “I want to get back together with my ex. Just kidding! I’d rather shit in my own hands and clap!”

          Yes, when I got at the contents of everything he ever posted online, which I did (this made it much easier to see he was the problem, not me), he was telling the 12 year olds he was trying to get to suck his dick, on sites like SugarDaddy, the old classic, “my wife doesn’t understand me” and my personal favorite, “We’re great business partners. But the marriage was over a long time ago.”

          Poor sad sausage. It must have been rough. His idea of “great business partners” was me working 12 hour days at home while he got his knob shined by 12 year olds at a local hotel. That, of course, leads back to his first statement, which actually wasn’t a lie. I don’t understand his behavior at all! Who knew, he wasn’t technically telling a lie!

          But anyway, it amounted to not wanting to lose his money nor his reputation when his stepford wife started to wise up. So he made sure to be careless, so that I’d look like some crazy person and leave him.

          The story is always the same, isn’t it?Well, in both cases, they lost their trophies. I sit on my own shelf now!

  • This sure resonants with me this week as I have been struggling with this concept.
    My self worth needs work. Thx for this CL and Theory – wishing you luck on this journey.

  • Theory, I’d like to address this comment in your letter “I have read all the usual advice for moving on, and I’m doing it the best I can: find new hobbies, reach out to new people, forge new relationships, rediscover yourself, learn to be happy with yourself. Ultimately, I keep coming back to: “This advice doesn’t apply to me.” I wonder if many chumps feel this way?”

    My counselor advised me to do these same things when I was just a month or so past of DDay. Like you, I made attempts but I very quickly realized it was way too soon for me so I stopped. I had too much on my plate trying to make sense (ha!) of the crazy mess that my life had become, much less where it was headed and how I was going to get there. So here I am now, 2 1/2 years later with the divorce behind me and I am starting to do some of those things – I’m making new friends, spending time with friends, learning more about myself, what I want, etc. So, the advice is good when the time is right for you, but only you know when that is.

    • Good point. Theory is 3 months out from D-Day! The fact that he’s self reflecting and trying to heal is admirable, but grief takes time. If you’re a newbie, be patient with yourself.

    • I think when the shock of it all is new, we all try to rush this a little. I can remember only a couple months after D-Day feeling very lonely and deciding to jump on dating sites in order to prove others would find me interesting and desirable.

      Clearly, it was too early. But what it did do for me was add perspective. I met some nice people and quite a lot who were totally disordered like my ex.

      But when I realized I wasn’t ready for this, I didn’t stop right away. I actually realized that my meeting new and varied people could be useful. It became a game to try and understand the inner workings in their brains, the dynamic they tried to push when meeting someone new, and ultimately I think it gave me the chance to try and fix my picker a lot faster by getting feedback.

      Once I’d met enough crazies, and believe me, there were more crazies than not on the dating sites, and I felt I’d learned as much as I could, I stopped and began then to work on myself and my perspectives.

      I think the trick in doing this early on in your rehabilitation is not to take it seriously. Do not do it with a view to finding a new significant other. Do it merely to get yourself out there and get feedback on your own perceptions and how you deal with new friendships and relationships. Then stop and reflect and learn to be happy on your own. And most of all give yourself plenty of time.

    • I don’t think I would know what to do with myself if I wasn’t trying to heal in some way. I had spurned myself into reaching out to new friends on week 2 of D-Day because I just felt that if I didn’t start reaching out to people and stop isolating myself, I felt I was not going to survive in the long run.

      Since then, I’ve been trying to keep the momentum going on different things I’m doing to heal, so that I can stay as far away from depression and other dicey emotional states as possible, while hopefully progressing toward a new, healthier normal.

      I’m open to suggestions, though. What kind of things helped you during your interim time? Or did you just kinda go through your normal day-to-day, letting time put more and more distance between today and D-Day, without any other concentrated effort?

      • Theory you are going to feel sad, that’s normal. You are going to feel angry, that’s normal. You are going to be enraged, that’s normal. Don’t let anyone else say differently. Recovery is a process. It’s going to take time and a new focus on yourself. If you are sad, that’s fine, be sad. You won’t be sad forever. I don’t think you can skip over the pain of this shit, you have to face it.

        I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, got IC and surrounded myself with people who cared about me. I also ditched people who were “fence sitters” and a whole shit ton of ex-inlaws who never reached out to me. I got a job, went on a holiday and focused on being a better parent to my daughter. I took care of me and yes, there were really hard days but I knew that I’d be ok.

        And do not take one ounce of blame for her cheating – she had loads of other choices. She’s a grown ass woman, not a baby woman child. She did this and you are free to walk away from all that fuckery.

      • Theory,
        I kept doing my day-to-day stuff. Routine can be good. The weekends without my son, I would panic at the though of being alone. So I would hang out with my sister. Four months out, I started doing a wine MeetUp that I enjoyed. I felt like I needed to get out and make some friends doing something I liked. I was now the only non-coupled person in my life! That was hard. Six months out I tried online dating. TOO SOON!! Ten months out, I took a break from dating all together only to meet another disordered dude. Now I am on a self-imposed dating moratorium and it’s great.

        And, Happy Birthday!!

        Whole Foods makes AMAZING cakes. Go get yourself one. I do it every year. That, great red wine and pizza from my favorite place eva!!!!

        • One other thing I did was clean up my Facebook friends list. All his friends went bye-bye. I knew they would take his side, be fence-sitters or a voyeur into my life (or all of the above). Cut that out before it happened. I rip band-aids off. None of that pulling it off inch by inch stuff.

          I also started reading different books once I was able to sit down with a book and focus on the words on the page. No more romance novels for me. I read Max Lucado and stuff like that. I am now trying to read C. S. Lewis but find it….difficult.

          I also ate nachos every night. Brown a pound of ground beef and I had protein for nachos for days!!! It was awesome. (I didn’t want to cook at the end of the day).

          And I re-decorated my bedroom. Got all those Cheater cooties OUT!!! Out, damn spot, out!!!

      • Theory, everyone is different. I’d left and gone back to give the shithead another chance, and learned quickly enough that things were getting worse, not better. So finally I had had enough. I spent a lot of time doing what I enjoyed but the ex didn’t. I spent a lot of time with friends I enjoyed, and the ex didn’t. I didn’t date for several years, but ran with a crowd of good people and loved every minute. Because after 16 years of progressively hellish behavior from the ex, I wanted MY life back. I moved to a place of my choosing. I traveled with friends. I read a million books. I cooked nonvegitarian foods. My career flourished. Only after I was confident that I’d reclaimed myself did I find myself in a new relationship. With another former chump, so no reciprocity worries.

        Time and distance are key, but introspection and dusting off your bucket list are helpful too. Good luck to you, and Happy Birthday!

      • Dear Theory, it all takes time, in my case it’s nearly 2 years since I found out about my ex cheating with someone 25 years younger than himself, reason he gave he was bored, she’s fun and I’m old. But since he moved out six months ago things are so much better for me. I do see him occasionally because we are in the process of selling our house, but guess what he’s not happy, he’s in debt, has no friends except hers, his work mates think he’s an idiot, but hey he’s having fun!

        I have bad days when I over analysis our 26 years together, and yes admittedly still think I didn’t do enough and I spackled like hell. I think when you finally realise that it’s their poor character and nothing you did or didn’t do, is the time you can move ahead with your life and let them suffer the consequences of their selfishness. As for the love of his life, she’s a gold digger who comes from an Aian country, they are welcome to each other. He said he would drive me into the ground but that’s where he’s heading.

        The best thing you can do is not blame yourself, you are a decent person, tell yourself a hundred times a day “I did nothing wrong!” You are not messed up, she is. She’s selfish, it’s all about her and her needs, cheaters are leeches simple as that. Let her go to feed of someone else.

        All the best to you, you’ve come to the right place at CL, we are all supportive, all of us have been through emotional hell and shared our horror stories but things do get better as we all realise our self worth. We are not the sum of our cheating exes, we are so much better than they will ever be.

      • Theory, just between you and I and CN I slept almost all the time for over a year. I did what I had to and then crawled back into bed. I wouldn’t tell anyone that hasn’t been through what we have. It sounds terrible and so lazy but I had to escape the horrendous pain and sleeping was the only way.

        My first therapist tried to push me into things too quickly and was very judgmental (that’s why she’s my former therapist). She told me I was stubborn and self absorbed. Not what I needed at that time at all.

        We all cope as best we can and have our own timelines.

        • Thanks for sharing, Lina. One and a half years out, I still feel like a robot that barely functions. I am often enraged, worried, and depressed about what is going on in my divorce case, which seems like one long series of hellish episodes (like American Horror Story). Even dissolution (finalization of the divorce) will not end the nightmare–it will just change it. Reconciliation would bring another nightmare. I get up because I care about my kids. All of my aspirations I can think of have died as my marriage and subsequent divorce squashed the possibility of attaining them.

      • Theory–forget trying to concentrate on anything (in my case, my concentration has returned about 15 months after D-day). I found exercise to be my best outlet–I ran almost every day after D-day, including wind sprints. It (and gin gimlets) were the only thing that relieved the anxiety.

      • I may be in the minority here, but I believe part of the healing process is learning to enjoy being alone. What is so bad about alone? It isn’t some kind of disease, a social disorder that is somehow indicative of an underlying psychiatric condition. What I did to heal was to relish my time alone in as many ways as possible. I traveled alone, I tried new restaurants alone. I took long walks on the beach, cooked all my favorite meals, bought myself a bike and rode it everywhere. All those things I set aside to marry, work full time and raise a family, those are the very things that became my priority.

        I didn’t give a thought to “fixing myself” because, quite frankly, I didn’t (and still don’t) view myself as broken. I did the very best I knew how in the face of a terrible situation. I loved honestly and authentically and I gave it my all. The fact that X was willing to so casually throw it all away is on him, not me. So for me, my healing was devoted to doing those things that made me feel better, that permitted me to again experience joy. I think once you are able to be happy on your own, you may be ready to be happy with someone else. Other people can never be in charge of your happiness; the acceptance of this fact is the first step to healing.

        • Thank you Violet! I like to be alone too. I trust myself with my feelings. Walking on the beach, watching the waves, makes me feel the hugeness of this world, and makes my problems feel smaller. I also love riding my bike, and walking around my new neighborhood, saying Hi to everyone I pass!
          The X was usually seeking out large groups, but I like smaller social encounters. I know now, my way is valid, too. It’s fine to be by yourself, and I am glad others feel that way, too

        • Violet, I agree that one needs to find comfort in being alone…which is how I lived in my marriage. The week before he died, I invited him to join me in an hour long drive to DC where I planned to eat at a french bakery and go see the Da VInci at the Smithsonian.

          He refused and gave me a ration of shit then called to give me more shit. I hung up on him. I walked through a park and saw couple together and almost fretted but then I decided to find contentment in my solitude. I had decided to be happy with what life gave me and not dwell on what was missing.

          After he died, I was ready to date way before the world or my kids would have been OK with…I had been alone so long I was intrigued with the idea of companionship. 6 months after he died I had my first date. 7 months after he died I was reacquainted with an old beau who I later married.

          On the trip to Turkey where we got engaged, my H2.0 told me that when we went places, I acted like I was alone (and this was a guy who was single for 12 years !!)…he was right…I had to relearn how to do interact as a duo

        • Violet, I like this. I too was happy with myself. Even when I gained weight pregnant. He won’t. Lol. I spent a lot of time Alone. I spent time raising my children, holding down the fort, supporting our marriage and the decisions ex made for our family. He was a peace officer who worked long, wacky hours, so I simply made the best of it. Once he had seniority though he was too busy Hanging out with sketchy friends and no longer spending time with our family. Which is what I guess normal people do, they prioritize spending time with those they love. Cheaters, IMHO, always seem to be running away….

        • This is another common piece of advice that I hear, and it sounds good, but how do I actually go about making this a reality? Being alone is when it’s easiest to fall into bad thought patterns or depressive moods. Maybe it just eventually clicks after you heal enough via time and spend enough time by yourself? Although I understand this is something I should do, the idea of being happy being alone seems completely foreign to me.

          • Everyone is different, Theory. You may not be the kind of person that craves solitude (I do). Don’t force yourself, if it’s not good for your particular make-up. If you need people around you, I guess you’ll have to work on that! If you live in a city, they all seem to have meet up groups, or you could explore something you’d like to learn (I’m interested in environmental activism, so I’m learning about that). It can be comforting to have a teacher, so maybe you could take a class.
            Just wanted to express to you that you may be more of an extrovert, and being alone may not be the thing for you!

        • Violet, I adore your post. I am not broken. He is. I’m going to follow your lead and make a list of the things I love doing. Then I am going to live an indulgent life (hehe) and do these things. Even if it’s simply napping in the day on the weekend, or sitting for hours on the beach without moving! Anything I want to do. Netflix marathon. Whatever. Because as Winnie the Pooh is quoted as saying, “A grand adventure is about to begin.” And that adventure is mine. My indulgent delicious adventure without a passive-aggressive, narcissistic cheating ass. Go me!

      • I went where I wanted when I wanted and felt free for a few weeks.Then my children started to feel it and I hit a slump. I would wake up with diarrhea every day. I lost weight. It looked good though. People said I was looking so relaxed. My blood pressure was great. But inside I was feeling turmoil. I was glad to be free and fearful of the future. I got pissed over the wasted time later. I kept a journal. I wrote and wrote. I still do. The. I re- read what I wrote and realized that while I felt confused my thoughts were quite lucid… He was a selfish fool. I let friends whisk me off. My children and I found solace by the seaside. We live on an island. I teach so my students were a great distraction. But I hated mornings… Waking up to the reality. Now I love them for the peace. I plan to take up some local hikes and dancing. It is so easy to fill his void with fun things since he was not much fun in the end.

        • Mandie101, I wrote a lot too following dday, especially in the year or so after. I wrote in my journal, I wrote long emails to friends, etc. The emails to my very closest friends validated my feelings and what I was experiencing and that was invaluable to me in my healing…

      • Theory, others are right, that it takes time and that you will feel lonely.

        But I agree with you that it is healthier to try and find distractions than it is to sit at home and feel sorry for yourself.

        But here’s the key, it doesn’t all have to be directly about healing and self-discovery.

        Case in point: I’m not a very private person, so when I found out about my cheating narc, I didn’t keep quiet. I went out and told all my friends and acquaintances what had happened.

        That is a very interesting experience in itself. Some shy away from you. My theory is that they are either closet chumps themselves, or cheaters. Let them be. They are on their own journeys.

        Then there is the other group. They are all supportive in their own ways.

        Growing up, I did a lot of waterskiing. An ex-boss and I had always talked about going waterskiing. We had been out of touch for awhile, but when this happened he asked me on Facebook what was up. I told him. He had, in the previous years, had a couple kids with his wife, and bought a place at a river with a boat.

        He and his wife very generously started inviting me up to waterski on weekends. I think they realized that I needed to get away (we continued to live under same roof during divorce proceedings), so I began to look forward to the drive up to the river, the skiing, hanging out with his gorgeous baby daughters, and having a good lunch with wine in between, and meeting their other friends and family.

        I’ve moved back from Australia to the US now, but I will never forget their generosity, and how it slowly pulled me towards meh.

        In short, don’t try to hide your situation from those around you, and let them help you. For normal people, it is a good feeling to know they could help you, and it actually gives you normal relationships and friendships to cross-compare to your own disordered person you are leaving.

        Smile. It will be OK, and you will get you back. But don’t shy away from connecting with those around you. Some people are generous and understanding. Let them help you.

        • I am so glad you shared this, Tequilatamm. Over the weekend I told people. After three months. And I’ve felt so much better!

          Since D-day I’ve nursed a suspicion that I am flawed and deserved to be treated like shit.

          But “not my circus, not my monkeys” is so empowering. Not my secrets to keep.

          I told STBX’s beloved little sister (the one he molested for six years as children) and I know he’s crushed.

          I love that Annie Lamott quote: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.”

        • I have fortunately been reaching out to friends, old and new, and sharing what has happened as best I can. The support I’ve gotten has been absolutely overwhelming and positive from almost everyone that I’ve told. Sometimes I worry about keeping up the “momentum” of reaching out long-term, but I just have to take it a day at a time. I’m glad you were able to find support in the same way!

    • Yes, Theory- Chump Lady is right – give yourself time.

      I too tried to rush it- tried to rush being mighty too soon, too fast and had to draw back a little — I wasn’t ready…most of the first few months after he left, I spent in bed or the couch, did as little as I had to, sleep was my refuge…then work was a healthy distraction, then as time passed, it got better…

      I told myself when he first left that I would not hide from this process- no matter how bad some days or nights were for me, that was the biggest challenge for me— trying to smother or squash my feelings of anger, sadness, etc. as it came (and comes now and then)… I took on this grief process for yes, the second time around. The first time, it took a few years, I’m not going to lie, but I overcame and survived. This 2nd time around, the process hasn’t been as hard, because I didn’t have to “re-invent myself” as much; I didn’t have to start over (as much) as I did with the 1st one…

      I also told myself, my then-counselor, my circle of friends that I was giving myself at least 6 months from when he left/divorce was final (either or) to get re-acclimated to being single, to being on my own for the first time in 24 years — I went from EXH#1 to now-EXH#2 within 6 weeks. I’ve spent the last 22 – 23 years being someone else’s “Mrs.” and I’m tired of that.

      I appreciate my space again. I appreciate having my time to myself. I appreciate being to do as I please, to make decisions on my own without having to “check” with him. I am a mom first and foremost- that takes up most of my time, which he interfered with and damaged and created way too much chaos and drama to where I couldn’t even parent right…now, did that happen overnight?! Of course not, but it’s better now than it was 3, 4, 5, 6 months ago and will continue to get better.

      I still have bad days, more like moments these days, and they are fleeting. I am aware of why I am feeling the way I am at that moment, and that’s the best feeling for me – being aware of myself, being clear-minded.

  • Dang. Somehow I missed the post about Parenting In Marriage. I did that. The Cheater Ex worked…until he didn’t. By the end I was so exhausted. He was already cheating and dong even less. Once I kicked him out, life became simpler. I did less. I had time and energy to spare. It was a Godsend to have my son. I poured my time and energy into him. Slowly, I started venturing out on my own.

    As time has passed and I have had time on my own to figure out who I am outside of a couple, I find that I don’t like to cook! Holy Cow! I used to cook every night. I am finding a creative outlet that I let go to the way side during my marriage. I am spending time with really great people like my sister and new friends I met through a single parent MeetUp. I watch shows that *I* like. I am taking care of myself physically and medically. I go to Church and do devotions each morning. All of this pleases me greatly. And I am happy. And I find that I can give of myself, my time and my energy when I do these things.

    When the time is right to be in a relationship again, I will know if it’s right. This person will make life easy. Not harder. Happy and content. Not energy-draining and soul-sucking. Doing for me will please him. I will be pleased. 🙂 And vice versa.

    • Your last paragraph is perfect: “This person will make life easy. Not harder. Happy and content. Not energy-draining and soul-sucking. Doing for me will please him.”…

  • The one thing I never understood: while away, he would not send a message for days, and would never miss sending one when something unpleasant happened. Still to this day (we never broke contact), I receive stuff like “I got flashed on the highway”, “my credit card was rejected”, “I have lost the hotel bill”… It creates negativity inside me, I no longer feel “needed”, but I feel “not protected” and “used”.

  • This is an excellent post.

    Cheaters are takers, period. They suck the life out of you as you try to please them, repair the relationship and remind them how to be adults – it’s soul sucking. For years I tried to right a marriage that crashed and burned. It wasn’t worth fighting for but I believed in my vows and my ex, so I continued on well past when I should have dumped the jerk.

    Theory, cheaters want you to feel less than, it’s the way they operate. Don’t let them. Cheating has nothing to do with you and CL is correct, we are meant to be caring and kind people just not to those who don’t care for our well-being. There are good people, lots of them, who don’t cheat, lie and manipulate others and you will find them. You are one of them!

    After I kicked my cheater to the curb he got angry at me. I didn’t cheat, lie and manipulate but he was so used to be backing down he just carried on doing it. I finally learned not to react, engage or justify and he still tries to create drama now and then. I don’t bite. Don’t let a cheater define who you are. You are free to create a good life for yourself and you are worthy of love. Keep giving to others, be kind and stay away from those who want to bring you down.

    • My ex does the same – still tries to create drama and arguments. Once I learned to ignore it he amped things up but I just will not engage in his bullshit, so he gets angry as hell. Whatever, is what I say. I just carry on and let him piss into the wind.

      • Yes, let them piss in the wind, drama queens, centre of their own little kingdom!!!!! I refuse to engage with him now. He can blow off to the OW. He’s a 5 year old in 60 year old body, throwing tantrums and cake all over the place. Things not going right for you asshole? Tell someone who cares because I don’t! They end up pissing on themselves in the long run.

          • 2 dolla gold digging whore who announced at his workplace when she came in looking for work, that she’d sleep with anyone of them if they gave her a job. And she is the love of his life!?!? Hey asshole, how’s life in the gutter?

    • After I kicked my cheater to the curb he got angry at me. I didn’t cheat, lie and manipulate but he was so used to be backing down he just carried on doing it. I finally learned not to react, engage or justify and he still tries to create drama now and then. I don’t bite. Don’t let a cheater define who you are. You are free to create a good life for yourself and you are worthy of love. Keep giving to others, be kind and stay away from those who want to bring you down.

      ^^^^^^^THIS^^^^^^^^^^^

      EXACTLY!!!!

  • How about when they are a taker with you but a giver to others? Or when you are giving something in particular and in a disagreement they say they resent it because they don’t want to owe you?

    I see that a lot in my CW. Almost absurdly tries to please some with low relevance/acquaintences, trying to maintain some image. All this while neglecting their spouse. The “don’t want to owe you” theme is just like the “you’re not the boss of me” mentality.

    Feels like it’s more important for them to maintain 20 loose connections than the one that should be most critical.

    • “I don’t want to owe you” is key. IMO narcissists have score cards. They don’t give without quid pro quo, or with a calculated appraisal that this will kick your chumpiness over-giving into high gear.

      Narcs do impression management. See the Nice Vs. Kind post. They give to get.

      That’s different than giving freely, but recognizing when things become toxically lopsided. That’s not quid quo pro, it’s just practicing discernment.

    • Happy Birthday, Theory!!! You deserve to have a great day!

      Untold, I think you’re ex is nice to 20 other people and not to you because that’s the narc coming out … the image of being a giver, but in reality they aren’t, or they can’t sustain it. I thought mine lost the ability to care towards the end, but reading this has reminded me of events earlier on, like ignoring me when I burned myself on the stove, laughing at serious news, other things … My counsellor lets me dwell in the past because I’m the type that knows how to move forward and is doing so, but wants to understand the past and know who I’m dealing with (my ex and I still have business dealings).

      And conniered, what you said, “this person will make life easy. Not harder. Happy and content. Not energy-draining and soul-sucking.” is something my ex would say about his 3rd (the OW), that she makes life easier for him… and that his first wife and I were energy-draining and soul-sucking That’s what bugs me is that he’s looking at me as being the one who sucked the joy out of his life, like his first wife apparently did. That’s hard to get my mind around.

      My ex would say to me (now knowing it was during his affair), “I’m not responsible for your happiness.” Aw, come on!!! Not even a little bit? Even if we’re not responsible for someone’s happiness, we have to hold some accountability for their unhappiness, don’t we? We don’t have to be chumps or givers to think that, do we?

      • Champ, that guy says that because the current OW does make his life easier. She gives and he takes. She just hasn’t figured out the game yet. You and the first wife proabably got to a point where you saw the imbalance and wanted to correct the situation and he couldn’t have that. You set boundaries. The current OW is not. Plus, HE never said he was giving to her. And if he is, he can’t sustain it. It doesn’t give HIM pleasure to do for her or give to her.

      • Champ, your ex will say the same “engergy-draining and soul sucking” thing about his third wife when he’s drained the life out of her. It’s called projection.

        • Champ my ex said the same to me, “I’m not responsible for your feelings.” Oh ok. But when I found out about his affair? OMG I had done EVERYTHING that caused the wee baby to run away and cheat. How come he’s not responsible for my feelings but I’m responsible for his? See this? It’s a mind fuck. All cheaters do this.

          I look at the site every day and what makes me sad is that every cheating story is pretty much the same. Cheaters play by the same shitty handbook. There is NOTHING original about a cheater.

      • I don’t think one’s happiness should be dependent upon another person. I do think that if you love someone, you want them to be happy. So certainly, if your partner is not concerned about your emotional well-being, that is a huge red flag. At the same time, all of us bear responsibility for our own happiness.

    • My interpretation of what ChumpLady is saying there about your narc taking from you and giving to others?

      That is your perception. But it is untrue. They may be giving to others now, or making it LOOK like they are, but, like the Godfather, they have an agenda. Someday they will ask those they’ve given to for a favor. Heaven help you if you don’t oblige.

      It’s also possible they’re not really giving, but they want you to have the impression that they are. Smoke and mirrors. Image management to make you feel like the bad guy.

      Nothing is done out of selfless kindness in a narc’s life. They only give in order to get something. Usually the something involves kibbles and/or cake. Make no mistake!

      • My narc ex did one up on what I’m hearing here. He would promise other people that I would do for them, then take the credit for doing them a favor. WIN-WIN!

          • I was accepted just fine, but never knew if it was because I made the effort or because he made the effort to procure my efforts. By the end it wasn’t even “Friend called and could really use help with ____” (to which I’d offer up some help), but “I told Friend you would do ____ for them next week.” That didn’t sit so well with me.

          • I can relate. Every year end we gave out bonus’ to people who helped us out. Landscaper, housecleaner, etc. Every year I had to twist his arm to give them this bonus that they definitely deserved. He’d make a grand gesture of presenting them a check. Guess who always got thanked. Not me.
            (it came from 1/2 my money)
            Same with when ‘we’ would take people out to dinner. Earlier, we would agree to pay for the meal and when the check came, oh, they all gushed over HIM. Thanking HIM.
            Yeah, it was my idea and 1/2 my money too.
            When a couple treats me to dinner I always thank BOTH of them.

        • Yep!

          “IOH can make a few loaves of banana bread for tomorrow’s meeting!” Awww – your wife is so great, such a great cook, blah blah blah.

          He’d tell me at 10pm, offhand. Apologize and say I didn’t have to… he’d MEANT to call… he should have asked me first but he knows I love to cook and everyone else just got SO excited.

          So I’d be the bad guy to everyone at his work if I didn’t… because he wouldn’t say that’s what happened. He’d say I decided not to. Poor Cheater, with his flaky, spiteful wife… making him look bad in front of his co-workers. I’d rather make the damn bread.

  • Yes, agree with CL. Be the good caring person you are. Be unselfish, be all those things to the people in your life who do same. You need to know who you are and ask am I getting any of this back? Sure, love is supposed to be loving another without expectation of love in return. That is charity. That is parenting… A relationship does have boundaries and is a partnership. BUT be careful, even those who seemingly are giving back to you, are they or is it kibbles? All I can say is listen to your GUT. If you gut is screaming at you.. really get in tune with why and don’t ignore it. Dig and you will find. Don’t spackle and brush off that you are being untrusting etc… if your GUT says imbalance there is imbalance. Sometimes you just can’t define it because Narcs and other disorders are real good, real good. Your gut is your radar. AND if you think about your pending Ex you will have to admit it has screamed and screamed at you over the years. Denial is wow… Self awareness is bliss. My ex he did enough of the right things and I gave gave gave and justified it with he is just quiet and not outward like me.. He is closed up, it was so consistent it was normal. quiet and closed up .. RUN. But said and did enough to make me think I was nuts while my gut screamed.

    I read another article of CL’s that is even more concerning to me. In that her husband truly expressed love in all ways like warming her car up, love making, making be deals about special occasions. He kept the romance going the entire 20 some years, he help with house. He sounded like a total prince. BUT the entire marriage he cheated. I am sure even with all that her gut screamed. But I am sure it did not make sense to her beings he was the ideal mate. WOW.. When you listen to yourself, you CAN continue to be who you are and find healthy people to be who you are with.

    • “I read another article of CL’s that is even more concerning to me. In that her husband truly expressed love in all ways like warming her car up, love making, making be deals about special occasions. He kept the romance going the entire 20 some years, he help with house. He sounded like a total prince.”

      ^^^This was my STBX. H was always doing nice things for me. Saturday morning bagels and coffee (even though he didn’t drink the stuff), gifts after the all-boy ski trips, flowers just because, and then one day he told me he wanted a divorce! My head was spinning. He was still bringing me coffee and cleaning out my car and checking the tires, but the flowers and gifts stopped. I thought he was my prince but instead he was just a NARC who got off on the fact, that I’d tell everyone how wonderful he was to me. It took me a very long time to understand that he was doing this for his own reasons and not because he was showing me he loved me!

      • Same thing with me. I’d find flowers on my car seat when I’d complain he was going on a business trip AGAIN. He’d scrape my car windows in the morning, heat the car up for me. I asked him after we separated why he did these things and he said “I always enjoyed doing things for you, but it doesn’t mean I love you.”

      • Me too, although some of the nice things had tapered off by the end (we were married 25 years). On D-Day I learned that he had been living a double life for over 15 years. Were there moments I had had flashes of intution? Yes, but then I dismissed them because after all, who could believe such a “nice guy” would do such things?

      • Oh yeah. Still bringing me coffee every morning while making plans to abandon me on the sly. When I asked what was up with that he said, “That’s just the kind of guy I am.”

        What a prince.

        I think it really meant that that was the kind of f’d up guy he was.

  • Yes, I agree also. WOW being a giver it is SOOO hard to take. I am unable to do this, but this is not fair to the other person in a healthy relationship. I need to work on that. If I do take… Like parents make me dinner. I gift for that 10 fold to make up for a more their giving to me. I have, however, learned to say no.

  • Theory, I was you in female form. With absolutely everyone in my life, including strangers. My parents, especially my dad, never told me I was worth anything. I never heard I was smart, beautiful, kind, funny – nothing. They were, however, experts at pointing out what I wasn’t. This turned me into a giant blob of needing to be needed.

    When I found out that my X was cheating, there was a gift for me at the bottom of that shit pile. I really took stock of myself and not in relation to how others treated me, which was the way I measured my self-worth. It took me a couple of years, but I realized I am a fine person who deserves to be treated well. The saying “You teach people how to treat you” is so true. And the best part is I don’t need anyone one else to tell me I’m a good girl. All I need is me telling me that and everything else falls into place. This new attitude sure separates the assholes from the people of substance. Assholes can’t deal with others good self-esteem because it’s impossible to take advantage of someone who thinks highly of themselves. People of substance celebrate it. It’s a hard row to hoe, but worth every inch. I am self-contained and I love it.

    I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here at Chump Nation, but remember to tell your kids how great they are. They really need to hear it and it will make a world of difference for the rest of their lives. They’ll be less vulnerable to cheating assholes, that’s for sure.

    • Uneffing…..I think I am realizing the same. My mother couldn’t say nice things about ME either. Well, if it made the light shine on her, she could. That made it about her. You see how that works?? At 45, I am realizing this. FORTY-FIVE.

      Anyhow, I DO make a point to “catch” my son doing good things. I tell him he is handsome and I that I love him. I remind him of the things he is good at and I spend time with him. I do not overly berate him for being a picky eater or being a toe-walker or that he likes to talk a lot (my mom tries her bit with him. I become Mama Bear). It just serves no purpose. He already KNOWS those things. I tell him “he can” when he says “I can’t”…you know, like, you CAN actually get your face clean in the shower! And, you CAN put your clothes away! haha. Teaching independence with love.

      • Conniered, I finally got a clue at 51 so you’re way ahead of me! Keep on telling that wonderful son of yours he’s the best!!

        • You bet I will!!!! I think he is no danger of being a Chump. He never warmed up to the disordered dude I dated for about 4 months. That’s probably what that dude saw in my son…..lack of adoration. My son could take him or leave him depending on the day. Maybe we are saving each other.

  • I thank my experience of being walked over by my narcissist ex wife as being the thing I needed to understand the difference between “nice” and “good”. Among all the negatives there are about being a perpetual giver, the sheer exhaustion of not having your deeds reciprocated is simply something I am unable to do anymore.

  • Hi DM–

    I always remember Matthew 22: 37-39: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

    I think a lot of Chumps don’t notice that the commandment is also to love oneself. In fact, I remember that one of our campus ministers argued that it’s not possible to love one’s neighbor unless one loves one’s self, since if one doesn’t love one’s self, then how is it possible to show that love to one’s neighbor?

    In the world of Chump Nation, this translates to knowing one’s self-worth. Once you know this, then you have a better idea of when it’s appropriate to reach out, and when it’s not. You also know that when someone shows you a kindness, that you should respond first by a humble thank you, but then in kind (not in excess) when that person needs a kindness.

  • Another thing on the needing to be needed thing — it can be controlling. If you don’t value yourself enough, you can do this thing where you’re trying to get your needs met in unhealthy ways. I’ll be so nice you’ll find me worthy! I can nice you out of that affair! I’ll get all As and you won’t drink!

    We codependently think that our behavior can MAKE someone behave. Which is its own kind of weird narcissism. We don’t control other people. Only ourselves. So when you assert your self-worth and set a boundary, it’s scary, because we have to let go of the outcome (that we thought we controlled!) They Won’t Like Me. They Won’t Stop Doing the Scary Thing.

    They don’t like you? So what. Find other people who do like you. They won’t stop doing the Scary Thing? Get the fuck away from them.

    See how that works, Theory?

    • Yes, I do see how this can be viewed as a roundabout controlling type of behavior. As though I need to keep the relationship “unbalanced” so that I can feel comfortable with it (there’s no way they can leave if I do everything correctly, right…? (nope)).

      Up until D-Day, my tendency to give in this way was celebrated/appreciated by my STBX. I unknowingly took her from an abusive home situation when she moved in with me, and I ended up teaching her to drive, make a budget, write a resume.. it certainly created the unhealthy parent-child dynamic that persisted throughout our relationship.

      It worked for us for a long time (until it didn’t, of course). Many times, she said to me “you saved me” in a sweet way, and I was proud of being able to help her in that way. Now I feel ashamed at the kind of husband I was, and angry at myself for feeling so low about myself that I behaved in this way which allowed me to be so.. used, I guess. And she now has revised her view of my behavior throughout our marriage as controlling and condescending.

      I’ve got a lot of work to do on myself. Hopefully I can get to a better place eventually.

      • Do not take your stbx’ accusations of being controlling too much to heart. That’s one of the top 10 blame shifts. I definitely did too much without reciprocity but I was not controlling, nor abusive. My ex started accusing me of both when the shit hit the fan. This from a man that attacked me after I asked for a divorce and ultimately pulled a gun on me. Your stbx is not a reliable source. Ask other people you TRUST if they think you have this problem.

        • Actually, I have asked others close to me for their take on her various accusations / reasons, and the response is usually something like “are you fucking serious?!”, or laughter, or even anger on my behalf.

          I will try to focus more on their perspectives than my own or my STBX’s, as they can likely see the situation more clearly than either of us. Hopefully that will prod me down the road to eventual “meh”. Thank you for the reply!

      • Why do you feel “ashamed” for the kind of husband you were? It sounds to me like you are still blaming yourself for her shitty behavior! There is nothing wrong with helping someone, there is nothing wrong with removing someone from a bad living situation. I understand that you think you took on too much of a care taking role with your wife. From what you have written, she was young and vulnerable and lacking some basic life skills. But you tried to help her learn these skills, which is what loving partners do. That doesn’t make you a damaged person. It makes you a caring person. Please quit blaming yourself for something that is not your fault! Your kindness did not make you cheat. Her bad character did. Her calling you “controlling” is just her way to make you the bad guy. Stop that bullshit in its tracks.

        • Hmm, my reasons for feeling ashamed are kind of fuzzy and tough to explain.

          In another comment, I talk about our sexual history. I placed my sexual needs below her emotional needs consistently for years while she recovered from past abuse. At the time, I remember considering whether I should leave the relationship, as there was no guarantee that things would ever improve. Ultimately, I chose to stay because I felt that I would be happier with her in our current situation than without her.

          Thankfully, things did eventually improve. Once we began having what I would consider to be a healthy sexual / romantic / etc. component to our marriage, I looked back and realized that if I valued myself more at that earlier time, I would probably have left. It was weird to think that, but I chalked the situation up to being “fortunate” that I had low self-worth at that time, because it all worked out. Until it didn’t, of course.

          Now, I see how much the amount of self-worth I *did* built up over the past few years was all on the foundation of being a “good husband” and about having successfully gotten our sex life on track. These two things meant the world to me. Now, I need to rebuild self-worth from a foundation of being comfortable with myself, and with a non-existent sex life. That seems absolutely fucking impossible to me.

          Why did I stick around years ago? Why didn’t I have an ounce of confidence or self-worth and go find a more healthy adult relationship then? I think that’s where my shame comes from. I was a “good husband”, to the point that it was to my own detriment. It’s clear now that she did not deserve that honor. And for my decision to give her that support anyway, I’ve now just put myself in an emotional position from which I am unsure of how to escape.

  • I am going to say something quite controversial and this doesn’t apply to you Theory. But it is just ongoing discussion around this concept of ‘giver’. Because cheaters can be givers as well, my XH was an extreme ‘giver’ and his ability to give (and the response of those he gave to) was wrapped up in his self worth as well but also wrapped up in his desired reputation. He wanted his reputation to be that of a ‘giver’. When he didn’t get the response he wanted from people due to his generosity (i.e. he wanted extreme gratefulness and adoration), the devalue and dismiss cycle began.

    He ‘gave’ to ‘get’ – his giving had strings attached. But this was not immediately recognizable – I didn’t understand this for years.

    • Free, my ex was a “giver,” too, the kind who would go out of his way to help a woman with her groceries or give career advice, but then he would rage at home. I think part of it was to give off an image as a “good guy;” also this was part of his networking strategy so that he could use those people later if needed.

      Also, he and his family would give to us, even things that I didn’t want or ask, but then they would try to guilt me into letting them control me. E.g., his sister would give us extra stuff from Costco, which I never asked her for and would buy all these sweets for kids which I explicitly asked her not to do. Then, because she had bought us all this stuff, she felt she had the right then to criticize my housekeeping skills. Then X would say that if it weren’t for her we would never have any toilet paper in the home and so we owed her this and that. Now that I’m divorced from him, of course we have enough toilet paper in the home.

      Another thing is that X insisted that his parents live with us because we needed them for child care. I never wanted them to live with us and take care of the kids, in part because I don’t think they are the best caretakers (in their 80s, don’t speak English, can’t navigate the streets or take public transportation (we live in the city)). Also, frankly, his parents aren’t economically self-sufficient and don’t have their own home so we were really taking care of them. But X insisted and said that I could never have a career without them. Then we suddenly have to listen to everything they say, including their criticisms of how I raise the kids, keep the home, etc., and now I owe them because of this huge favor they did us. Now that I’m divorced from him, I have a nanny, which my X mostly pays for, so of course I can have a career without his parents. And his parents still live with them for some reason, which he insists is because he needs someone to watch the kids when he has them (which is only every other weekend) if he needs to go to work while they’re with them.

    • I too was fooled by the covert narcs giving nature. It’s truly image control. Yet I believe their entitlement is ever present when we observe both their expectations and actions. They really do mirror others to maintain the “Good Guy” image at all costs. The only way to live with this disorder is to keep them on Socialthe pedistal. The cost is losing ourselves one bite at a time.

      • They give to us when love bombing, they give within the cycle of abuse. That’s what it comes down to, like with the rages. He rages, then he tells you he would never hurt you and he’s broken inside (pity party) and soon you are comforting him. Then he’s good to you for a while, rinse and repeat

        • My ex asshole bought me a new car not long after I found out he was cheating. Now he whines about having to pay it off and how he’s broke because he has to pay rent and bills for her and me! My heart bleeds for him! The reason he bought it and this came out of his mouth was because he didn’t want to appear a bigger asshole than he was because he needed our car to drive the slut round in style! Wanker much???

      • Donna, “mirroring” is a great descriptor for how my STBX behaves. We had a conversation about his cheating the other day. I used the word “sordid” to describe his webcam porn/prostitute behavior.

        He LITERALLY repeated the word after me. “Sordid…,” he mused, “Yes. what I did was sordid.”

        He genuinely seemed surprised.

        I now think a big part of our relationship consisted of me assuming he was on the same page and him mirroring my assumptions.

        I doubt I would find him attractive if I met him today. I’m trying not to make assumptions anymore.

  • I’ve been watching some youtube videos by Lisa A. Romano, a life coach and someone who divorced a narcissist, whose videos I’ve found very helpful. Her theory is that co-dependents (whom she defines as people who seek self-worth through validation from others) have faulty subconscious programming/negative thinking (due to a narcissist/negligent/abusive/alcoholic parent) and thereby, by the law of attraction, attract narcissists into their lives. Part of healing is to fix this faulty programming.

    See, for example: How to Stop Attracting Narcissists into Your Life:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-dRdoSaUI8

    Btw, I am not associated with Lisa Romano in any way or receive any kind of $ for promoting her stuff; I just found her videos very interesting and helpful.

    • Thanks for sharing that young. In my case, I had a chronically ill parent. I read that the same type of programming can happen in that situation too. The needs of the sick parent dominate the family…

  • Today’s post is a great message, as usual.

    It occurs to me that this message is suffused throughout the posts on this website. Before I began reading Chump Lady, I was saddled with the then-rueful thought of “My ex-wife burned our entire 10-year marriage to the ground– from D-day to moving out and no-contact– in barely four months.” Reading CL changed that to the now-mighty “I successfully refused to tolerate her cake-eating for even four months.”

    • Oh yes!!! This is great Chumpling! Yes, I remember viewing DDay, the whole thing in the same way. He cheated, he chose that Ho, he does not love me. And over time, it became “I kicked him out because that’s unacceptable behavior”. What’s wonderful about that is that’s how other view me too! I am strong! I don’t take crap! I”d rather be single than with a lousy cheater!! Love it!

  • Theory, Three months out from Dday and I was going to work, in the middle of a nightmare divorce, juggling adolescents, and just focusing on taking care of myself. My family calls it extreme self care. I was so angry that I swam in our local lake (for hours) and walked our country lanes because I needed to balance myself out and get out of my head. I was with the guy for 28 years, twenty married. We were young too when we met. Here’s the thing though I have always struggled with my past (alcoholic, disengaged, Narc parents; sexually abused as a child by biological father) and it does affect my choices. I married a man who saw me first as a toy, and then as something he needed to get through his life. I was extremely competent. Gave and gave. I did note the imbalance though. The decisions he made that I simply had no say in. We transferred for his job once, a done deal way before my input was given, and I now believe he did it because he had secrets, didn’t want me close to friends or family, and because he was entitled. I think the best thing is that we can learn from our pasts and try not to repeat the mistakes we made. I believe too that Cheaters have an entirely different take on life, they are wired differently, and we are lucky to be away from them. Happy Birthday, treat yourself to something thoughtful.

  • Theory, it takes awhile to develop a sense of value after you’ve been discarded. Sometimes I tell people it took being thrown away like garbage to realize I had worth and to start loving myself! Self-esteem gets better as you set small goals and meet them, or face fears and conquer them. Every time you do, you get a little stronger. Don’t beat yourself up, love and encourage yourself every time you face a fear or take a step in a positive direction. It’s really hard if you’ve been raised in a critical home to learn to encourage yourself.

    By the way, I came across this excellent website today and thought I’d share. This article has to do with learning to live alone. Really great advice here. http://christinedunkley.com/2015/11/17/i-dread-being-alone/

  • Hi Theory, I would recommend you spend time doing stuff that is just simply fun. You might not be able to even imagine anything as being fun right now so look back at your whole life to try to find even just one or two moments where you experienced pure joy. For me I remember anything connected to being in nature, especially around trees, and dancing (like stupid disco dancing as a student). That is what led me to take up dancing nearly two years ago. I threw myself in and did it non-stop until a couple of months ago when I got sick. It’s a completely pointless activity which is expensive and of no use to anyone, but I love it! For you maybe it would be art, cycling, star-gazing – whatever catches your fancy. The point is to explore the other sides of who you are.

    I’m saying this as a life-long people pleaser who learned the hard way like you. Another point I’d make is that for me I think I definitely thought with all my people-pleasing that I was getting something in return. I thought if I was really really good, and really really kind, and really really nice, and really really generous – that people would love me and I would be safe. Newsflash – doesn’t work that way! One of the things I’ve had to work on accepting is that actually some people will never like me, love me, care about me, want to spend time with me etc. This world is never safe! But still, there are other people who will love me even when I’m a shambles and useless and sick. And even though it’s not safe, there are wonderful things to do in this world. I think I’m working towards being a more giving person in a way, but actually really not expecting anything back this time.

    • I’m not going to beat myself up for giving too much. In a normal situation, when you give, you get a “Thank you”. When you’re with a narc, and you don’t know it (yet), you don’t get a sincere “Thank you”, if you get one at all. It takes awhile to realize that you’re not getting anything in return. That doesn’t mean that you’ve been doing it to get something in return; it’s just that civilized society acts in a way that gives you feedback, gratitude, reciprocity. When you’re dealing with a fuck-up, it takes awhile to clue in, so you keep giving NOT because you’re looking for return on your investment, but rather because you’re a caring person.

      So yeah, there comes a point where you’ve got to realize that you’re not getting anything back, but that doesn’t mean you’ve been suffering low self-worth all along. You’ve just been acting normally. A healthy partner would be grateful for having someone help with their resume, or teach them to drive if they hadn’t the opportunity to learn. Just because it’s your wife or husband and not your child doesn’t mean it’s the parent/child dynamic here. If she in turn taught you how to tie a tie because you never learned, it’s just nice, simply nice, and you’d appreciate it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being helpful as long as it’s appreciated and reciprocated.

      My low self-worth came AFTER my ex devalued and discarded me, but looking back, I didn’t have low self-worth during the relationship. It’s just another narc’y trick!!!

      • This is a good perspective for me to consider. Helping someone out doesn’t automatically put the relationship into an imbalance. It’s when this happens only in one direction that this can become a problem. I certainly don’t want to turn into a mean or selfish person by painting with a broad brush, and I think I’m doing well at separating her behavior from what is normal and should be acceptable in an adult relationship.

  • Cheaters are not grateful people. They feel they are entitled to whatever is given to them.

    Humility is not in their vocabulary.

    Another thing I have just realized is their profound deep distrust of intimacy is as important to them as their lungs, heart, liver or kidneys. It is embedded in their very being. It colors their world.

    Cheaters need chumps to function in society. We are chosen because we do not see or play their game. Chumps are BLIND to this incredible abuse because of OUR trusting nature. We are okay with being needed. Hell, we’ll share, we’ll give. We assume they will, too. We’re fools in their eyes, but useful.

    The worlds cheaters are truly the most comfortable in are the ones of lies, deceit, vanity, sex and distrust. Cheaters cheat with their own kind. They “get” each other.

    We are a light for cheaters to navigate their dark world. A light they would gladly distinguish for a fuck. The only thing cheaters trust is the physical orgasm.

    Only God can enter their hell of soulless abject poverty and deliver them. We do not have the capacity.

    If you are hoping they will see what a great thing they had or have, forget it. They think of us as fools, chumps. They choose hell. We are astounded that this is their choice. Well, it is. Believe it and move on.

    I great book by CS Lewis is The Great Divorce: A Fantastic Bus Ride from Hell to Heaven a Round Trip for Some but not for Others.

    This book is only about 129 pages. It took me forever to read because the honesty and logic of it damn near killed me and I had to put it down several times. I dare anyone to read it.

    • Thanks for the recommended book…just ordered it and can hardly wait! My husband is moving out on the 5th of Feb and I will be free to read away! I am so excited!

      • Good luck. When I got to a part where I recognized myself, I had to put it down for a month to wrap my head around it.

        Bottom line is nobody can make anybody change. It comes from within. We all, cheaters included, are on our own path.

        This is a book where it does not matter if you have a God or not. CS was a genius in matters of the human heart.

        • I am a strong Christian…but must admit that the last ten years I have often felt “distant” from God in many respects. This “marriage” has drained me of that joy and I feel as if God has had to carry me the whole while (which I am grateful for). I am excited to get back to my primary relationship with God w/o the focus always being on trying to survive my husband’s issues. I will start with that book among other things. I am sure that some of the stuff I have to face requires looking at my own failures and lack of trust in Him.
          Thanks!

    • I love C.S. Lewis.
      He is intelligent and he is a Christian. What he writes is useful to intelligent people trying to explain what is so wonderful about being a Christian to other intelligent people, who bring up arguments that make sense.

  • I’m a bit confused- are you against new hobbies and throwing yourself into new ideas, or have you already done that. If your current life has always been about building others helping others fixing others, then you likely don’t have time for actually doing your own thing. I am confused why he just says- nope. That’s not the issue. Why? Why not? Interpretive dance, do it yourself taxidermy… If you are chronically the person who saves others and does it all, you deserve some sort of fun thing, even if it’s amongst all the fun things you currently do. Even just to shake off the cobwebs. Fine you already experimentally send cows into atmosphere to test their milk production. And you know what those weird jellyfish who don’t stung feel like. Figure out when the next ‘learn to macrame’ class in your area is running and go make a rug, and don’t help the old lady who lost her glasses. (I dare you)…. Or do. What’s so wrong with finding shit to do?

    • I’m not against finding new hobbies and so forth. I’m pushing ahead with this common advice despite my (irrational) worry that it just won’t help me individually because I don’t feel like it’s going to really help me feel worth anything. Hopefully I can push enough that the irrational worry fades away and I’m in a good position eventually.

      Practically, though, I struggle to make progress on “finding shit to do”. I have no idea what hobbies I might enjoy, and perhaps this is because I previously spent a lot of my time taking care of most of the adult responsibilities within our relationship, so I didn’t have much free time. Now that I do have more free time, I don’t know how to fill it.

      It seems ridiculous, I know. How can I not know what I would enjoy doing right now? But it’s really been a struggle for me. I’ve made a bit of progress, and have a couple ideas I hope to pursue soon, but I guess I thought this part would be a lot easier. Most people talk about finally feeling free to do what they want to do, their bucket list, going traveling, and stuff like that. Turns out that I don’t have a bucket list, a travel list, any hobbies, or any projects that I was actively suppressing, so I don’t have a backlog of stuff to start scheduling or looking forward to.

      I’ve got to figure out the stuff I want to do before I start doing it, but it’s been tough to get advice on how to do that. The idea of not having this backlog of stuff that you want to do seems very uncommon.

      • Theory, I’m really glad you wrote “I struggle to make progress on “finding shit to do” because I have been worried about this too. When the drama and divorce shenanigans die down, I’m worried I won’t have anything to do, nowhere to go, no friends…and I’ll die alone and they won’t find my body for months.

        I think I have spent too much time in my life accommodating other people’s wishes: mom, daughter, husband.

        We have to get used to the idea that this is now Our Time. I have a feeling when we make space in our heads (by clearing out thoughts of betrayal and memories of our married lives), our true interests will show up.

        I’ve decided to treat my new life as a buffet. I’m going to try all kinds of things (like a taste test) and then see what happens. I tend to be pretty introverted so this is actually a plan to change some old habits.

        I’m not very motivated at the present moment – mostly I want to sleep during my free time – but that’s probably just a response to stress.

        My book club is reading Amy Poehler’s ‘Yes Please’ and it’s a wonderful inspiration. The section headings are titled: Say Whatever You Want, Do Whatever You Like, Be Whoever You Are.

        • Roaring – cos I had to move furniture for carpet fitting recently, I found myself carrying bookcases downstairs on my own (everything on my own) – those bastards were heavy and every step I was thinking … ‘ careful Jayne, you could actually die now and all anyone would know was when the neighbours complained about the awful smell coming from next door’! I’m planning on getting sibling cats for my birthday (I work, and I hope they’ll keep each other company while I’m at work) … but there’s a part of me thinks ‘they can munch on my dead carcass’. Bad isn’t? Oh well! You have to laugh – what else can you do, really? 😀 xx

      • That’s pretty interesting. I’m sorta similar. I have many things I’d like to do that are not easy to do, like swim with whales, visit Australia and swim in the reef, I used to have hang gliding but I have a bum knee. Anyhow, I guess that’s bucket list material since I can’t do those things without time off and the cash. However, I really get joy from watching the hummingbirds in the summer at my feeders, and over time I’ve come to embrace the fact that my mother was absolutely right! I AM lazy. I like lazy, I don’t have to accomplish anything if I don’t want to. HAH! I work my ass off at my job but I haven’t found any passion for other things lately. Maybe it’s because I’m passionate about my work and that’s my biggest thing. I dunno.

      • I understand how you feel. After d-day the simplest things seem insurmountable. I couldn’t concentrate on anything, not watching tv nor reading, even chatting to friends was a chore. All I could think about was how hurt I was, how I wanted my ex back, what could I say or do to convince him he made the wrong choice. Honestly I really thought he’d come to his senses, but no, if anything his emotional abuse got worse. Bringing her into the house to screw, buying her expensive jewellery, taking her on expensive holidays, while I sat minding the house and the dog, can’t believe I was so stupid!

        Now I take no shit from him, barely in contact except for the sale of the house, sleep like a baby and am starting to enjoy life again. Also recently I have thrown out a lot of his shit that he left here, destroyed photos of us, threw out his golf gear, balls, gloves and the like and smashed his six iron a few times against the concrete for good measure. When you get that cheating shit out of your head, release the pent up anger, then you can concentrate on YOU and what makes you happy. I love painting and drawing but haven’t done any for years. I love museums and libraries but shithead didn’t. So now is the time to find out what I like and what my niche is.

        Happy Birthday ?

      • I guess my ‘do new shit’ meter is high. That’s part of figuring it out, finding new things. I think you’re right- you don’t have a bucket list because you’re off trying to help other people do theirs or deal with their stuff… Well. Welcome to your new life, where you matter. You matter a lot. In fact, you have worth! Congratulations!. I currently try to follow the ‘do I have time?’ ‘Can I afford it’ ‘will it hurt me’ … If the answers are yesyesno… Just do it. Painting, even though you never took art? Awesome. Maybe you’re secretly pollock. Volunteer somewhere weird. (That will get your save people mojo going but not make your whole life revolve around them). Skydive with someone you haven’t seen in 10 years. Offer to put together your fun run at work. say yes to anything you used to think ‘gosh i don’t have time I’m busy saving the world’ …. Because you won’t know you love geo caching until you try it…

        You sound great, and also like you have been very subtly abused for years so you have nothing internal left. Sad. I want more for you. I hope you learn to get outside that. Yep, over it: also important. But I feel like to get over things I sometimes have to just get away from them a bit. So… Leave the empty shell and sadness aside for a night and let yourself pretend you matter, and once you like how that feels you might start to believe it a bit. (Kind of the reverse of how they pull you apart by treating you like you don’t matter so you come to believe it)

      • Theory, I totally understand you. My life was my marriage. Probably a mistake but we did EVERYTHING together. Best friends, yanno? So, my identity was attached to him.
        I’m not really a hobbies-type or creative but I picked up candle-making for a distraction – I was newly not working. That didn’t work.

        Then I picked up the very expensive hobby of Orchids.
        Wow, did that cost me money. But, I met some lovely friends.
        Also, I hate gardening…so that’s out.

        I was so lost when I quit work, it was a challenge, so I started adopting dogs and cats…and getting into rescue. We had the house built for this and H was involved in that too, eventually.
        He wanted to be involved in everything I was too.

        Right now, I’m divorced and have moved on and sitting in my really cute, fresh (green kitchen) little new (old) home and still don’t know what I want to do. I just want to enjoy the moment to unload boxes – it’s a little like xmas to see where you’ll put things, and I’ve got all the time in the world. And, the things will go where *I* want them to go.

        I was married to a very controlling man who decorated my last house and wouldn’t give me a say.

        Suddenly, my personality is written all over my paint and little remodel I did and it has MY signature.

        I take one day at a time. When I was first going thru the divorce, I wanted to show the world I was okay and threw dinner parties and went out a lot. Today, nah. I just want to enjoy my moments with my dogs, my new digs and I think the other pieces will automatically fall into place.
        Have faith, my friend.

        Being alone is completely relaxing…yep – with the right music and dogs….and I’ve never been alone in my life until now. Ready to turn 60. I’m READY! Alone, here I am and loving it!

      • I just did fun things so when I looked back at this period it would not be completely filled with memories of my dreams being crapped on. I’d have good memories sprinkled in.

  • Ok, what with one thing or another, I’m late to Theory’s birthday party. Happy Birthday Theory! 🙂 Can I suggest you find time today to go onto YouTube and look up all the songs and tunes you loved before you even knew your cheater wife existed. Hook them into a good sound system, crank them up and have a little boogie ’round the speakers! 😀 I’ve suggested it before for fellow Chumps, and I stick by it. It’s an absolutely brilliant way of connecting back to you. It reminds you of who you were and what gave you joy before the X came in and took over your life and thought processes. Music (and smells) have the power to instantly transport us emotionally, go back and connect to the you that existed in peace. Desert Island discs asks castaways to select just 8 records to take with them on their desert island (along with the bible and the complete works of Shakespeare, guests can take a book and a frivolous luxury – nothing that will help in getting rescued!) and then guests are asked which record they would save should a wave come washing in to drag the records away. Suffice it to say, I’ve wrestled with the 8 disc selection for years and I just can’t do it! Thank god I’m not rich, famous or influential – I couldn’t cope with being invited on the show! But, you know. a great many of my ‘desert island discs’ come from way, way before I even knew ‘The Great I Am’ existed on this planet, and every time I go back to listen to my favourite tracks I am reminded of all the joyous memories I made before he screwed my life up. I find it really powerful.

    Maree – Happy Birthday for tomorrow darling! 😀 I point you on the ‘desert island disc challenge’ too 🙂

    Both of you know, the key to it all is finding your joy and having a bop ’round the kitchen to something like ‘Three Little Birds’ or something madder like ‘I’m a Blue Toothbrush, You’re a Pink Toothbrush’ – whatever! whatever puts a smile on your face!

    Bestest, Best Wishes for a fabulous New Year to both you; Theory and you; Our Darling Maree! 😀 xxxx

    • PS – and cos it’s your birthdays I absolutely forbid ‘Suzanne’ or ‘Suicide Is Painless’ or ‘Everybody Hurts’ OK!?! – ‘Maree – ‘Man, I Feel Like A Woman’ 😀 Theory – ‘Ace Of Spades’ NOW GO ON – GET DOWN WITH THE KIDS! 😀 😀 xxxx

      • Jayne, thank you so much for your lovely wishes. As an aside, I am a tremendous Eagles fan and I have just heard of Glenn Fry’s passing which saddens me a lot because damn he was a good sort, always and not to mention a fine singer. I saw the Eagles here in Melbourne about 10 years ago when they visited and it was the best night of all time, even if it was with the ex!!

        • Maree – I have just been floored by the same news! I can’t believe how many of my ‘heroes’ have died in the last couple of years. I was stunned by Bowie, Alan Rickman – well ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ is a film that never fails to have me a sobbing, snotty mess. My beloved Guru Terry Pratchett (I’ve finally ordered his last book – I’ve been avoiding it, though I have almost all his work – I’m gutted to face to face his last 🙁 ) last year, just a couple of years ago; John Martyn, what the fuck is going on! Am i just getting too old!?!

          Well, I say honey. desert island disc your fave eagles disc(s) ( Now for the programme, I might just be able to manage 8 record collections, but I can’t do just 8 tracks, I can’t! You can’t make me! I’ve been trying for years – I can’t do it!) and have a good boogie to it. OK, it doesn’t change the fact that we are chumps. It doesn’t change the fact that our exes were bastards who tortured us, it doesn’t change a fucking thing – but for one hour at least, we feel genuinely joyous – that’s good enough for me, and I’d be happy to know that Maree had one hour in her birthday where she felt really joyous – that would be great! 😀 xxxx

        • I am also very saddened by the loss of Glen Frey. I grew up with him and probably watched 10 concerts, traveling from city to city. His lyrics on his webpage – well, I chumped up and sent them to the X. He was a great songwriter and singer. Glen, not X.

          I also had this band prior to my marriage of 35 yrs, so, you see how old I am…and I have memories from both times.

  • You have my sympathies on your miscarriage, they are so hard to get over, and really traumatic. That must have been so lonely for you, he could have at least held you and shown some love! I know how it feels, and I’m sending you love right now ChapterPhoenix!

  • Happy Birthday Maree, from one Aussie chump to another. Long time lurker, been almost going to post a few times over the years and held back but today is the day. Finally at meh thanks to CL & CN, you guys rock!

  • Theory,

    Happy belated! Hopefully this comment isn’t coming too late, as well!

    My situation is **very** similar to yours, and so – unfortunately – I might be one of the best qualified to offer some hopefully-helpful thoughts.

    Here’s what helped me: Ignore everything that she said. EVERYTHING. Focus on what she DID or DIDN’T do.

    My cheating STBXW verbally accused me of all kinds of crap after she started her last affair, and told me that she wanted to divorce, etc., etc., etc. But she never did anything; in fact, she blamed me for not “giving” her a divorce.

    Think about the absurdity of that; we’re talking about a white, college-educated, 40-something woman here, not someone trapped in an arranged marriage in a third world nation and facing stoning if she leaves her family.

    In our cases, our wives took, then cheated, then tossed invective after invective at us; to top it off, they didn’t handle the situation like an adult, didn’t take responsibility for their destructive actions, and didn’t really apologize to anyone that was harmed.

    Who wants to be with someone like that? Not me, and NOT you, bro!

    • Sephage,

      This is perfect advice: “Focus on what she DID or DIDN’T do.”

      I too have spent hours agonizing over my STBXW’s words. But she’s a lying abuser. Why do I bother? Her words mean nothing. Focus on HER actions!

      I have also begun focusing only on her actions post discovery-day. It makes it easier to see her psychosis. For example, she has continued to act in ways that harm me. Also she is unwilling to make even the simplest of logistical commitments, and then she will renege on those. Sure, it’s almost impossible not to focus on the ten-year relationship and marriage we had. But, since I would NEVER reconcile with a cheater, I redirect my thoughts to her actions post-separation.

      My STBXW has a PhD and a JD. She is 39, and has been in any number of long-term relationships before us, so she KNOWs exactly what she is doing. Her cheating and subsequent continued betrayal is all premeditated and vicious.

      NO CONTACT is the only option. (Limited contact if you have kids, and only lawyers when negotiating divorce.)

      Theory, my heart goes out to you. I am barely past two months D-Day. I am just 10 days no contact. But every day away from her I earn, the better I feel.

      • Trying to focus exclusively on her post-D-Day action is.. wow. It’s uncomfortable to think about it in that context right now. I think it will be useful for me to do some writing on this. Based on another comment above, I’m planning to write out something titled “The Truth” which I can read over whenever doubts and negative feelings begin to take over. I think it will help me for this writing to focus on her behavior after everything happened. I can’t trust anything she’s said, and I don’t even think I can trust anything she’s done before she blew up our marriage.

        Thank you for the condolences. I hope that you also find your way out of this dark place.

    • Sadly, this all fits my situation very closely, too. I’m sure many others have experienced the same thing. I’ve been shocked at how much all of this is just a predictable pattern that happens to so many people that get blindsided in this way. I have been trying to follow the “ignore what she says, trust what she does” advice as much as possible. I was told this very early on by close friends who saw what she was doing vs. what she was telling me, ultimately trusting her actions which said very clearly that she did not care how I felt or what happened to me, aside from helping to placate any guilt she felt for how she went about things. I have to remind myself that trusting what she says now about *anything* is foolish, given what she did with my trust during our marriage, and how selfish her behavior has been ever since. Thank you for your comment!

      • Theory, I’ve found this to be a strange aspect of this unreal situation, as well: “how much all of this is just a predictable pattern that happens to so many people that get blindsided in this way.”

        It’s like they have a disease with symptoms. A horrible, destructive disease. Invasion of the Body Snatchers- level. And, at least for my situation, STBX has absolutely NO interest in questioning his behavior and choices. He doesn’t even recognize them as ‘wrong’ (and this is a man in his fifties trolling for teenagers). He’s got twelve nieces and a stepdaughter.

        I feel like a tourist in Crazy Land.

        • At first for me, it really was like my STBX had become an addict of some kind. Her behavior went all over the place within a couple days and completely changed when it was all said and done. Between “I’m not sure if I want to be married” and “yes, we’re divorcing”, she went from blaming to defensive to remorseful to incredulous to ashamed to angry to apologetic to relieved. Once she got there, all energy was redirected into justifying her decision and behavior: demonizing me, moving out, causing logistical headaches, changing as much as possible about her surroundings, behavior, routine, who she associates with, and so forth. This entire process took her *maybe* 2 weeks, and I’m sure it was aided by the fact that she had begun emotionally detaching herself gradually over the end of the marriage.

          I now see that all these quickly-changing behaviors were just words – words she was using to try to help herself feel better at the time about the consequences of her actions. I don’t trust these words because I don’t believe she felt the feelings that would normally be behind them. She knew she was leaving long ago, and was scared to do so in an adult way, so she did things the more painful and childish way by withholding her unhappiness and cheating. She didn’t care what happened to me in the process as long as she got what she wanted at that moment, and I’m confident she would do it all again in a heartbeat if she had the chance.

  • I totally agree about the reciprocity. Sometimes, I have a hard time letting other people give back.
    I’m not sure I’m loving the signs of being an adult though. haha

    1) Punctuality. Eh. I just try to arrive at work before my boss who is also not very punctual but a good person and easygoing. It’s sort of a game to see if I can be first today. (Note that I’m salary and also stay late to make up for it).
    2) Balancing a checkbook. I like my non-balancing system where I subtract my monthly expenses from the total amount in checking after payday, leave $800-$1000 in there and transfer the rest to savings. I have no problem not bouncing checks with this system. It also keeps me frugal, because I want to be able to transfer a higher number into savings for things like a not-so-old car.
    3) Unloading a dishwasher. I think I should get extra props for this to make up for the other two. I do not have a dishwasher. I get to hand wash and hand dry before unloading the dishes in their rightful place.

  • PSA to anyone else who may have related a little too strongly to the Sad Sausage description: Clinical depression is real. Sometimes, as CL says, adults do need help. Get it. Your relationships will thank you. So will you.

    • Unfortunately recurring depression is often regarded as a weakness. If I had had recurring cancer, it would be widely considered that by doing chemo I was doing all I could and shouldn’t be abandoned. But I had depression instead. Despite counselling, medication, a sun lamp, and various other attempts at helping, the depression kept coming back. I’ve been accused by more than one person (including the ex, of course) of not fighting hard enough to overcome it.

      Sorry if it’s not related to your point. I’m obviously still very torn up over feeling like a failure for not getting better quickly enough to save my relationship. But then again, who’s to say she wouldn’t have left ianyway, or f I really had had cancer? Anything to make myself feel responsible.

  • here’s my dilemma: before I met the cheater, my self esteem was already bruised and battered from being raised by a covert narcissist, controlling and overly critical mother. Then cheater made sure I had zero self-esteem and self-worth left. Couple it with depression and anxiety and you’ve got one strong and independent person with healthy self-esteem, lol. So now I’m not even sure if I can handle any kind of dating scene because if someone criticizes me, I retreat to what I call my “hole”, which is avoiding social interactions all together. It takes me a ridiculous amount of time to get over setbacks and critical comments. I really envy those who found life long partners who are supportive and considerate when dealing with partners with low-esteem issues. Not to be Debbie Downer but being middle aged, I am quickly losing hope that I will be able to find happiness again. I don’t need to feel needed, but I need someone who will build me up.

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